Saturday, July 10, 2004
Maria Sharapova Poker Blog
"The single greatest key to winning in poker is knowing thy enemy — yourself."
Alrighty then, I'm back. Do I even have any readers left?
If so, all ten of you prepare yourself for tasty poker goodness.
Hot Poker Action!
You know what cheers me up when I'm feeling bad?
Rolled up aces over kings.
Check-raising stupid tourists and taking huge pots off of them.
Stacks and towers of chips I can't even see over. Playing all-night high-limit Hold'em at the Taj, "where the sand turns to gold."
Let's play some cards!!!
Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker!
Hell, I STILL can't believe Andy is dead. We've lost one of the elite, one of the good guys. Here's Andy's obituary from the LA Times.
What made this all the more shocking was Andy had emailed me Friday afternoon - letting me know he was interested in talking about the poker blog phenomena in an upcoming article. Thanks to Felicia for passing along the poker blogs to Andy. Andy was wise to recognize her talent for tournament writeups.
Damn, the WSOP just won't be the same without his brilliant recaps.
There are a littany of wonderful posts about Andy throughout RGP, but it takes a ton of digging to find the gems. Not many people are as well-liked across the spectrum of the PokerScape as Andy Glazer.
I never pass up the chance to bash Phil Helmuth in this blog (see archives and nuggets below for a veritable plethora of examples) but I'm going to post Phil's eloquent post on the passing of his close friend:
Hi All, the most impressive thing about Andy Glazer to me, were his impeccable honor and unquestioned honesty.---
Andy lived with us for over a year, and my sons remember him saying,
"Go ahead and play video games today, and if you parents catch you,
I'll take the heat." They also remember him taking them to Stanford
day camps in the morning. My wife, upon hearing that he had died,
said, "There weren't many nicer guys out there than him."
I first met Andy in a hot tub in Esalen, when some stranger in this
spiritual place (Esalen) was talking about, of all things, a poker
tournament! When he found out my name, he stood up (naked!!--all 6'
4" of him!!) and walked right over to say, "Glad to meet you Phil, my
name is Andy Glazer." I tell this story often, and Andy loved it!
A great friend, always willing to listen
sensitive and caring about others and how they would react to anything
that he did
a great writer--the best poker writer out there for sure!
a "Trekkie," "Highlander," and Star Wars fan to the Nth degree
he used the above three shows as metaphors for what was happening in
WSOP poker tournaments, do you remember him writing, "There can be
Passionate--he really wanted to win the WSOP, preferably, he said,
with me finishing second
He just finished "The Idiots Guide to Poker," but Andy was no idiot
I believe that Andy was quite happy at the end, working with websites,
poker sites, Card Player, and persuing his dreams (writing books, and
winning poker tournaments). He was in cloud nine in Australia earlier
this year when he won TWO events there, one walking just off of the
plane--after being up all-night (pot or no limit Hold'em)--when my
wife and I visited with him over there. The other a Stud tournament,
Stud being the game he had an absolutely remarkable record at, making
more final tables than not when he played stud tourneys!
And he sure knew how to follow his dreams! Here is a guy that was an
attorney in Atlanta and went out to visit Esalen on a "two week trip"
that lasted over 20 months (gutty!)! He lived there, cooked there,
gave messages there, and slowly figured out that he wanted to write.
When he met me he had written his first book, "Casino Gambling the
Smart Way," and was interested in collaberating on my life stroy
tentatiovely entitled "Poker Brat."
He followed me on tour, finally to the WSOP, where suddenly he said,
"I just accepted an offer to write articles about the final tables."
Those articles became legendary, and he was proud of the feedback that
he received from the non-gambling writers out there! Next thing i
knew Andy was following his dream, and he landed in LA where he
continued to pursue writing along with a few other projects.
Andy went for it in life! And the straight up way he dealt with
everyone was inspiring. No BS, you knew where you stood, and I don't
think anyone was on his bad list. I saw him breifly in ireland last
week, where I am right now, and he looked healthy and happy. By the
way, he had passion! I know of at least three times he was in love,
his "three great ones."
I have much more to say about Andy, but not today, I'll wait and tell
those at his funeral on Thursday in Long Island. Andy was my close
and great friend, and I'm afraid that the world will be a little bit
dimmer without his brightly shining light. He will especially be
missed on the poker tour, by all of his friends and fans there.
Andy was a one of a kind, and I will grieve him, whilst I celebrate my
memories of him, and his life. Thank you for the the support, help,
understanding, and patience that you had when you dealt with me,
Love, Phil Hellmuth jr.
Well done, Phil. Andy was your greatest apologist, tis true.
Also, I love this Andy Glazer tidbit from LoveAndCasinoWar:
Andy Glazer has written some of the best poker articles out there over the past few years, and his latest is no exception. I love stories about misread hands, and his is a doozy.--
Without even looking at the river card, which had been dealt off a bit to the side, I reached for my first two hole cards, and I announced as I was flipping them face up, "flush going in," meaning that I had a flush at least and I'd see about the low when I looked at the river card.
There was only one problem. You know how you hear about those people who spontaneously combust, or who get abducted by aliens? Well, something similar must have happened to my 5c-6c, because when I flipped the two cards up, they were the 2h-6h. That's right. Not two black clubs. Two red hearts, and one of them the wrong rank, even.
I'd have paid $500 for a videotape of what my face must have looked like when I turned those cards over.
There's just too many great Glazer articles to link to, damnit. So I'm just going to post to his last ESPN column, entitled: Are Poker Superstars Possible?
Alrighty then, time to bang this out. I've been gone nearly a month, amazingly enough. And came close to deleting this monstrosity of a poker blog, if you can believe that. In that vein, a buddy forwarded me this insightful article from Wired news about blog burnout.
Bloggers Suffer Burnout
Authors of some of the most popular political and general-interest weblogs are calling it quits or scaling back their sites, claiming that the pressure to post or moderate reader feedback is too much to handle.
Alot of folks write for 'themselves' and that's cool, but I'm not one of those people. I write this all out for you, gentle reader. Because, as a voracious reader myself, this is the type of blog *I* would freaking love. Thanks to anyone who gave advice and/or encouragement during my break. As I've said many times before, I'm just making this up as I go along. Insight is always deeply appreciated.
Maria Sharapova enjoys a snack.
Big news from the patron saint of the poker blogs: Wil Wheaton was picked to play in the WPT Hollywood Home Game. Someone make me a damn tape, puhlease! From The Man himself:
It is absolutely killing me that I can't talk about playing in the WPT Hollywood Home Game last night.---
I'll have to save the specifics for the forthcoming story (working title: "lying in hollywood") but I think I can safely say (without violating any of the NDAs I signed) that I had an incredibly good time, and that everyone involved in the production of that show: the Travel Channel execs, the series producers, Mike, Vince, Shana (sigh) and all the poker pros . . . every single person there is So. Freaking. Cool.
It's a classy production they're running there, and I still can't believe that I got to be part of it. I can't wait until I get to play with them again!
Wow, here are four ESPN poker articles listed on their home page this past week:
Poker's Taking Over The World
Poker Ain't Like It Used To Be
Does Poker Qualify As A Sport?
'Rounders' in real life
Thanks to Jeff's blog, I was tipped off to a 300 person $200 buyin NL tournament here on Friday night. First place paid over 10k, but more importantly, it was the free beer for participants that put my ass in a seat.
I honestly didn't have any aspirations in fending my way through the dead money packed like sardines in the gym. We only started with 200 in chips and the blinds began at 5-10, meaning after three orbits of folding, you would be down 25% of your stack. Crapshoot, indeed.
Abridged version: lots of newbie players (FISH! There, I said it). Lots of young guys in sunglasses and baseball caps trying to look cool. Lots & lots of calling stations. It was amazing - I even saw an old guy call an allin with 23 SOOTED!
My cards started off cold so I simply decided to drink as much beer as possible until I got a playable hand and could move in. There were guys just giving away chips and I wanted a piece of it, if possible. Finally, down to t150, I get Big Slick and move in, get called in two places (a5 and Q9) and triple through. Yikes, Q9?
An orbit later I get AA, manage to stack off preflop after limp - reraising from UTG, and triple through yet again, called down by AT and A3. Geepers, suddenly I'm big stack and I'm slicing through the free cold beer like a hot knife through butter.
Big stacked or not, respect didn't mean much in this tourney, you simply could not bluff in this game. Callers galore. However, I did make one move on a WPT wanna-be kid when he made a big stab on a heads up pot on the flop and I came over the top with nothing from the big blind. He turned and stared at me through his sunglasses for a full 20 seconds before I burst out laughing. Drew, a friendly knowledgable tablemate, exclaimed, "He's looking into your soul!" and then I started teasing the kid a little. Dumb, I know, but I was
Geez, I hate writing about my play like this so let me cut to the quick. I built my stack up to about 2,000 without any memorable hands - just steady poker. At the five hour mark, around midnight, we were down to four tables from our original thirty. The blinds were suddenly doubling every thirty minutes and with volunteer dealers, we weren't seeing many hands in the time allotted. They were only paying the top 15 places so I was playing to win the damn thing, nothing less. But alas, my cards went ice-cold and I went out in around 35th place, missing my nut flush draw on an allin. Boooooooooo. I lost to a really shitty hand, too, but I'm not complaining. One other thing, I must have seen five or six different players, mostly old-timers, fold their hands when it was checked to them.
All in all, I had a great time, met some cool folks, and realized that these local tournaments are serious +EV. I need to tackle more of them, fer sure. I found this poker tournament event site called Texas Hold Em Events that tracks upcoming events.
I haven't played any poker since the tourney - I was planning on rebounding by playing in today's $200 NL Sunday tourney on either Party Poker or Poker Stars. But because I didn't get home in time, I played in the 1000 player $30 NL tourney to blow off some steam instead. I only misplayed one hand (the last one, of course) and finished 12th, damnit. I'm looking forward to counting how many times I went allin.
If I can ever get rid of this modem, I'll be playing multi's every nite instead of once a damn month. One thing that I've never really accepted until now is that more of the bad players *fundamentally bad* are playing tourneys more than ring games. And that's good to learn, after all this time.
Here's a humorous anecdote from RGP stalwart, Irish Mike, about said newbies:
I thought the following comment was funny and illustrates the impact of TV on new poker players. A young guy sits down in the $10/$20 HE ring game I'm playing in. He looks scared and clueless. He plays the first hand he's--
dealt and I check raise him on the turn with the stone nuts. He stares at
me through his sun glasses and then says, "How much you got left?"
I actually felt bad about giving the sunglass-wearers shit, but that's what happens when you have an all-you-can-drink-event with degenerates like me attending. The Internet Poker Pro has this perfect bit of advice about getting players to "like" losing to you. Can I get an AMEN?
The fact is that any kind of winning player, certainly in pot limit games where the pool of players and potential players is very limited, must accept that it is much better for players to “like” losing to them than to fear or dislike them. For most losing players Poker is a recreation, it must be felt to be enjoyable and they must “get something” from it. It is far more profitable, and fun for all concerned, for them to get a feeling of camaraderie and entertainment, than sly looks and “see you next time” grins.---
I found some interesting tidbits about Poker and it's continuing popularity. It's still hard to believe, especially the action on Party Poker. 45,000 players?? Sign up now, folks, you're missing out on the biggest fish tank in history.
Ray Cooke's latest Cardplayer article details pokers cultural ascendance.
Hell, I coulda written this:
As the game gets more public attention, it also gets more governmental scrutiny, and that perhaps casts a shadow on the long-term picture. These stories are a warning, and underscore the importance of the poker industry distinguishing itself from gambling.---
Popular culture embraces and then abandons many fads and trends. But, as long as people keep writing about it, poker has the potential to avoid the fate of pet rocks, the Rubik's Cube, and disco, and be woven ever tighter into the fabric of the national identity. Our game has an allure that transcends faddishness. The growing press coverage reflects the increasing solidity of poker's place on the national scene.
Moving along to the poker media saturation toteboard we have Curtis Hanson slated to direct a new poker movie, "Lucky You."
Not many details out yet, but apparently this movie is very close to coming
to fruition. With the team it has behind it, it may have some box office appeal.
"After exploring the world of rap contests in 8 Mile, Oscar-winning director
Curtis Hanson will helm the drama Lucky You. Set in the world of
professional poker, a young player tries to beat the odds and his own demons
in order to win a world championship. The script is by Oscar-winning
screenwriter Eric Roth."
It sucks being a cable-less loser and missing the new ESPN 2004 WSOP poker coverage. Ah well, reading about it ain't so bad. And I found this guy writing recaplets of the hands. Weirdly enough, it's devoid of commentary and simply lists the hands shown and how they were played.
I've been diagramming televised poker episodes for my own edification and I thought I'd share. Actually, what I really want to ask is if anyone else is doing this so I don't waste time duplicating their efforts.--
Anyways, here's the first episode of the 2004 WSOP on ESPN
It's pretty much a hand-by-hand recap of the show with the detail that
people do for other television shows. If people think this is a good idea and not something other people are already doing, then I will continue posting these.
OK, OK, I can't go an entire post without slagging Phil Helmuth, especially after complimenting him earlier. Phil is endorsing just about every poker product known to man these days and I'm fully expecting a Phil Helmuth breakfast cereal next. But if you really love Phil, go buy his new professional chips sets FEATURING his face (FOUR different face shots!) on the chips.
Phil Helmuth's poker chips.
Because I have the pulse on poker society, here is an interesting Fortune article about, God forbid, POKER, and the impending World Poker Tour IPO.
Fortune.com - Investing - A Poker IPO Is In the Cards
While on the topic of Poker & TV, I found this random snippet with two responses about some problems with Celebrity Poker.
Bravo may drop celeb poker show because of drinking and bad remarks.---
Absolutely NOT true. Cingular Wireless dropped sponsorship because of
contestants drinking shots of tequila and swearing, but Bravo defended the
show and said they will find a new sponsor.
Bravo is in discusion regarding an amicable break relationship break up.
The drinking and language is not what Bravo envisioned going into this
venture and it continues to get worse. Go to Bravo website for more
detailed breakdown of situation.
Forbes magazine has an interesting article on Harrah's & the WSOP.
Harrah's poker profits.
One interesting tidbit is that the TV rights to the WSOP were sold to ESPN for a whopping $55,000 per year. Although not mentioned in the article, this deal was presumably negotiated by the archaic Becky Binion Behnen regime.
Damn, I don't think I've ever linked to the CanadianPokerPlayer web site before. I suppose that's because only the feature article is published on the web site. Cmon, get with the program, eh? Put the damn content online.
Speaking of great poker content, here's an excellent article about Phil Helmuth, from 1991. I'm surprised I haven't pimped this before.
THE BIG BLUFF
Telly Savalas was at the table when Helmuth sat down to play in the poker room at the Dunes. Hellmuth played almost constantly for three days, and he won.---
Helmuth might have gotten rich right then. The problem was that when he'd take a break from poker he wouldn't lie down; there were other games to be played. At the craps and blackjack tables, Helmuth quickly lost all his poker winnings. On each trip from Madison to Las Vegas the pattern was the same. "I became pretty much of a compulsive gambler," Helmuth admits.
SOON AFTERWARD, HELMUTH BEGAN telling people that he was the second-best tournament player in the world, below only the masterful Johnny Chan, who had now won the World Series two years in a row. The boast earned Helmuth a joking nickname among the old-line players: Number Two.
And even my favorite blogging WPT touring pro, Richard Brodie, is mentioned.
TWO DAYS AFTER TAKING OUT THE POKER loan, Phil Hellmuth is back in action for the start of the 1990 Hall of Fame Poker Classic's climactic event, the $5,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold'Em game. He takes seat number nine at his assigned table, turns up the volume on his Walkman, and stares intently at his fingernails. His air is grim and concentrated. Richard Brodie, a curly-haired, California-based pro, sits down across from Hellmuth and, with mischief in his eyes, wishes him good luck. Hellmuth ignores him.
"Giving me the silent treatment won't help you, Phil," Brodie needles him.
Hellmuth dials down the volume on his headset and sends Brodie a cutting look. "Playtime's over," he says.
Speaking of which, Mr. Brodie has a brand new Lion Tales up in his poker blog.
What, no TV? The 2004 Bellagio Festa al Lago Championship.
Celine Dion's husband, Rene Angelil, was in seat one. Ted "Teddy Bear" Forrest was glued to my left hip in seat four and Tracy Scala, who had knocked me out of an earlier event when he made a Straight to beat my top Pair, had seat five. Dan Alspach, who made the final table at the recent televised Plaza event, had seat five. David "Harpo" Levi, a major-tournament regular, had seat seven and a scowling Asian man named Tommy who apparently was a high-stakes cash game player had seat eight.---
I still have oodles of great poker content to pass along but I'm wanting to play. Thanks for stopping by and please check back daily, because I plan on updating pretty often.
And so I leave my comeback post with one last thought. You know it's coming....please consider signing up on Party Poker with bonus code IGGY. Or better yet, you Party players really need to check out the nightly 10k tourneys on Pacific Poker - they are currently losing money on those and from what my buddy Dann says, the tourneys are uber soft. Please use my link to sign up, if you would. There are no sign up codes there but you do get a 25% deposit bonus when you begin your account.
Ugh, my heart isn't into shilling tonite. Hopefully I can get this blog back to being worthy of getting a signup or two every month. I can dream, can't I?
One last note: Monty the cat is now at home. He's improving slowly but he still has some serious issues. But honestly, it's all gravy now. The fact that he made it this far is enough...
What's that? You want one more poker link before you get back to work? Well hell, pop on your headphones and listen to this NPR audio segment about poker:
A Peek Inside the World of Celebrity Poker - NPR
If anyone is reading this drivel, thanks again for stopping by.
It's good to be back.
Link of the Day:
I Fucked Alec Baldwin in His Ass
I can't decide whether to read this book now or wait for the movie, which I see as an Oscar-potential project for Halle Berry and Jake Gyllenhaal as you've never seen him before.
Monday, July 05, 2004
Damnit, this is awful news.
I kept hoping it wasn't true but it seems that it is.
Enough legit RGP posters have confirmed that Andy Glazer, the Poker Pundit, and the best poker tournament writer out there - hands down, has passed away. :(
My regular readers know that I am a huge fan.
Over the years, I loved receiving Andy's massive WSOP tournament missives in my email or online. In fact, Andy was truly the inspiration behind my 'destroying workplace production' uber posts because he had that effect upon me.
Here is the sad announcement, along with an address for cards below. Following that is Andy's last post at Finaltablepoker.com.
On Mon, 05 Jul 2004 11:16:41 -0500, NutNoPair@aol.com wrote:
>Andy Glazer died yesterday, July 4 2004, from some complications that
>included a blood clot.
>Andy was a great friend of most in the poker community, and a champion
>of poker in the media. his tournament reports were very well written
>and read by many. he will be sorely missed.
>Andy's funeral will be thursday, July 8, on Long Island NY.
>i do not know how to send condolences to his family but perhaps
>someone else closer to the situation will be able to write that.
>that is all the info that i have.
>wherever you go, there you are...
here is some more information.
(i posted this in the initial thread also, and reposted it here to
make it easier to find.)
there will be a memorial service for Andy held on
Thursday, July 8
at the Wandy Memorial Chapel,
1841 New York Avenue,
Huntington , N.Y.
at 12:30 PM.
Guests will start arriving at 11:30 AM.
Immediately following the service will be a motor procession to
New Montifiore Cemetary
in West Babylon, N.Y.
After the burial, friends will be invited back to the
Garden City Hotel where his sister will have a suite so that mourners can reflect on the passing.
Condolence cards can be sent to Andy's sister Donna Hall.
her address is;
Mr. and Mrs. Ken Hall
5 Serendipity Way
Atlanta, Ga. 30350.
greatbrit (firstname.lastname@example.org) Sent: Jul 5 2004 9:22PM
Stunned doesn't even come close to describing how I feel, Andy was
emailing us with his latest article just three days ago, and now he's
gone. Like all of us I've known Andy for years as a dedicated
ambassador to poker, always taking excruciating care to make sure his
articles and reports could be the best they could be. His fight for
honesty and integrity in poker is unmatched, up until the very end he
was heavily involved in trying to take poker to the highest levels. I
had much correspondence with Andy because of his connection with
finaltablepoker.com, and he had just started writing "Friday Night
Poker" for us. His second, and devastatingly his last, article shows
just how much he cared about the game, talking about his outrage with
the unfairness he saw at the last tournament he covered, in Ireland.
The last laugh is on us of course because Andy was too upset to go into
detail of what happened (hopefully others here can enlighten us more in
another thread, I know some of what happened) and so left us dangling
with a teaser saying he would explain it all in his next column.
For those of you already registered at http://www.finaltablepoker.com
you can just go there and read it, along with all his other articles and
WSOP reports in the archives. If not, and if you don't want to register
(name and email are required) here is the last article ever written by
Andrew N.S. Glazer, "The Poker Pundit", R.I.P. :
Poker is a Card Game
posted by Andrew N.S. Glazer, “The Poker Pundit”
July 02, 2004
Friday Night Poker No. 2
I’m recently returned from Ireland, where I had intended to cover a
tournament called the “Gaming Club World Poker Championship.” It should
have been called “The World Poker Joke.” Later, I’m going to write a
separate article about why I decided to write nothing about the
particulars of this tournament (e.g., who won), despite the expense of
getting there (I went to write, not to play); for now, let me just say
that with the exception of outright theft or certain forms of cheating,
practically everything that could be wrong with a tournament was wrong
here. The details will follow within a week or two.
I mention it now for two reasons. First, I’m still so incensed by what I
saw and learned that I want to make sure I’ve calmed down sufficiently
before I name names (and I will say that not every name involved was
guilty). Second, I was so shocked by what I saw that I thought it
imperative to urge my readers to take certain steps before attending:
when a new group puts on a new tournament, ask every question you can
think of. Assume nothing. If you get an answer that seems vague, you
should press for a clear answer. Many, probably most, new tournaments
will be worth attending, but before you ante up big travel money to
attend one, let alone big entry fee money, get assurances you’d never
think to require from most established tournaments.
Poker is growing very quickly, for many good reasons, and with growth
comes growing pains. The Dublin tournament virtually redefined growing
pains (Ireland, by the way, is a lovely country: none of my objections
had anything to do with the country or city in which the event was
held). In the human body, the fastest form of growth is a cancer, and it
takes radical steps like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to rid the
body of it.
I feel badly for a few good people who were associated with this
horrific event, and who appeared to have no control over the mistakes,
but there are others whose names will be stained, and deservedly so, for
the rest of their poker lives.
As an aside, you may or may not know that earlier this year, I took, for
about three months, a consulting position with PartyPoker.com (once
before I had also held a consulting position with a different online
cardroom). Although the reason I’m about to state isn’t the ONLY reason
I decided to resign at the end of March, it was the main one, and events
like what I have just seen have made me terribly glad I left. Even
though, I left that to go to PartyPoker.com and then left a six-figure
part-time position there, I decided I couldn’t sit on both sides of the
fence. I couldn’t be a journalist analyzing this industry while I was
also sucking at the industry’s teat. While PartyPoker.com of course had
zero to do with the Ireland tournament, the events I witnessed there
left me feeling better about my moral stance than I have rarely felt.
There’s nothing immoral about working for a cardroom, but I finally
decided I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too (despite what my growing
waistline seems to indicate). I’m a writer, and will of course write for
publications and websites that take ads; those that don’t take ads don’t
get many readers. I just don’t think it’s possible to be honest and
straightforward about the industry if the industry is paying the bulk of
your bills, and I’ve just had a very good demonstration of why that’s
true (“attacking” a rival cardroom’s tournament wouldn’t seem very
sporting if I were working for a rival).
Enough editorializing for now: let’s talk poker.
Andy Glazer, Editor
Friday Night Poker
THIS WEEK’S ARTICLE FOR BEGINNING/INTERMEDIATE PLAYERS
POKER IS A CARD GAME
By Andrew N.S. Glazer, “The Poker Pundit”
“Wow,” you must be thinking. “Poker is a card game, that’s big news.
Glazer must have tilted a few too many pints in Ireland.”
In point of fact, I tilted not a single pint in Ireland. This article’s
title stems from what you’ll see below in the Advanced article, entitled
“Poker is a People Game.” No, I’m not going to pull out that old Certs™
television ad that said “Certs is a candy mint…no, Certs is a breath
mint…no, Certs is two, two mints in one.”
I’m not going to do that because even though it’s clear from the two
titles that I believe an ability to play cards and an ability to judge
people are both important in poker, there’s poker, and then there’s
POKER. (The use of capital letters is shorthand for “high stakes.”)
When played at the level that most beginners and intermediates play –
and that should be reasonably low stakes, unless you’re so rich you just
don’t care about the money and want the excitement of playing with the
best – most of the quite excellent material that has been written about
poker psychology is a complete waste of your time.
“You’re sure about those pints, Andy? ‘Quite excellent’ material is a
waste of time? Is this your oxymoron column?”
The answers to those questions are, in order, yes, yes, and no.
Advanced players are often heard complaining that they can’t figure out
what a beginner is thinking because the beginner doesn’t know what’s
he’s thinking himself (if indeed he is thinking at all). One of the
reasons why the Sklansky-Malmuth line of books are considered poker
bibles by so many players is that (picking whatever arbitrary percentage
you want – let’s say 90%, and I won’t argue if you want to say 80%) the
overwhelming majority of players, some 90%, are not advanced players, no
matter what they think, and no matter how good their results are in
their private games, where they may win frequently, but only because
their opponents are weak.
I ain’t bragging from my perch on Mt. Olympus. That’s exactly the
category I was in when I lived in Atlanta and did well for a period of
years in private games. I thought I was the bee’s knees (or as
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams would have said,
“the wasp’s nipples”), and only when I moved to California and started
playing against truly tough players did I start to realize how much more
I had to learn. This doesn’t mean someone who doesn’t live in a poker
hotbed can’t be a star – Josh Arieh just proved that – but I certainly
wasn’t, and neither are most of the “local heroes.”
If you have lofty poker goals, there’s nothing at all wrong, and indeed
much right, in going ahead and trying to learn poker psychology – what
kind of player is this, why might he be doing that, what are his
motivations for playing, and more – but you risk major trouble if you
try to incorporate such approaches into your $3-$6 game (or these days
perhaps even in your $10-$20 game, because so many new players are
jumping into higher stakes games).
The flat-out reality is that plain old boring ABC poker WILL get the
money at most lower stakes games. The brilliantly set-up bluff that
might well have bought you a $1,600 pot in a big game will almost
certainly lose you a $40 pot in a $2-$4 game, because while players at
that level may consider the possibility that you are bluffing
(especially if you have already lost a ton of money by bluffing far too
often), they are just, on average, too unwilling to let a pot go.
If you want to win at low stakes limit poker, you virtually must play
almost exactly the opposite of how you see high stakes no-limit players
going at it on television. You play very few hands from early position
and many more from late position. If you’re playing a flop game like
hold’em or Omaha, your hand had better have fit the flop unless you
started out with a monster (and even that’s not true in Omaha, where you
can safely fold As-Ah-Js-10h if the flop comes 7c-6d-2h).
It might feel awful, or at least boring, to play ABC poker, but Fancy
Dan moves just won’t work at lower stakes (such a move will work
occasionally, but certainly not nearly enough to pay for a collection of
such moves in the long run), in part because most of your opponents are
paying little attention to you or your cards, and in part because most
beginning players would rather stick their fingers into burning hot
coals than they would lose to a bluff.
This isn’t necessarily true in pot-limit or no-limit games (where even
games featuring small blinds can escalate into huge pot situations
rather quickly), but when playing low stakes limit poker, play without
too much flair or imagination, and quite a lot of discipline, and in
learning and employing this set of skills you’ll take the money. Of
course, the time may come when you aspire to more, and when that time
comes, this week’s Advanced article may be of more than a little help.
THIS WEEK’S ARTICLE FOR INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED PLAYERS
POKER IS A PEOPLE GAME
I’m not going to make you read the Beginner article, not if you’re truly
an advanced player, because if you truly are advanced, you already
understand most or all of what I wrote there: that the sophisticated
moves and knowledge of people necessary to win in high stakes poker
games are not merely unnecessary at low stakes, they will actually hurt
Once the stakes start getting high – and defining just what “high
stakes” are can be a difficult thing, often influenced heavily by where
you are playing and why your opponents are playing – the basic “ABC
poker” that I so strongly advocated in the Beginner article isn’t merely
a bit less effective. The shift is so dramatic that a big winner at low
stakes becomes a big loser at high stakes, and sometimes (though not
quite as frequently), the big loser at low stakes becomes the big winner
at high stakes.
The games really are THAT different, and that’s why probably the most
important piece of advice you’ll get this week is that when you’re
reading poker magazines or books, you must understand the writer’s
context. Is s/he someone who only plays high stakes, and who likes to
regale you with tales of big tournament wins or huge high stakes side
game plays that worked because they understood how their opponent played?
If so, clip and save those columns for the time when you decide you want
to play in that kind of game, and for the most part ignore those writers
who give advice about low stakes efforts, because if you think men and
women are different because they come from Mars and Venus, low stakes
and high stakes poker are different because one group comes from this
galaxy and the other that was long, long ago, and far, far away.
I’ve known this for a long time, of course, but I don’t think I ever had
it slammed home as hard as when I spoke with Josh Arieh after he took
third in the recent World Series of Poker. “You wait to play strong
hands from good position the whole time, you only fold or raise, you
never call, and you’re not going to be winning many tournaments,” Josh
said. “I could mention some examples of players who used to be
successful that way, back when the ‘average’ player was much weaker than
he is today, but I don’t want to be mean.” I then mentioned two names to
Josh and he cracked up, saying, “OK, we’re thinking the same way, you
can mention their names, I’m keeping quiet.” Their names shall remain a
As you’ll see in the next issue of Card Player Magazine, where my story
on Josh takes the cover, Josh was willing to share a lot of theory about
how to play no-limit, and even though he’s hardly the household name
that many of today’s superstars are, it was obvious enough watching him
and even more obvious listening to him that the only reason he doesn’t
win more tournaments is that as an Atlanta-based family man, he doesn’t
play nearly as many big events as his brethren.
Although you might think that using player psychology and
unpredictability are most important in pot-limit and no-limit, you might
be surprised to learn that Jennifer Harman Traniello – quite possibly
the world’s best limit hold’em player – feels that these kinds of skills
are just as important once the stakes get lofty, say once you climb
above the $400-$800 level. “Poker becomes a people game at that point,”
she says. “Amateurs who watch some of the big games from the rail are
sometimes amazed at the weak hands pros turn over in huge pots, but we
aren’t playing them because we got bored and decided to gamble it up for
$5,000 we don’t need. We’re playing the player, not the cards.”
If you want to succeed at high stakes, you have to make the kind of
sacrifices that most star athletes make these days. Yes, in the days of
Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, men chuckled at anecdotes about these stars
wandering in hung over, or even drunk, and hitting two home runs, but
these situations were the exception, not the rule (and I wouldn’t be at
all surprised if in many of these situations they were facing athletes
who were similarly impaired).
To get an edge in high stakes, most players need to work all the time,
just as the modern athlete works out all the time. Think about it: it
wasn’t so very long ago that “Spring Training” or “Fall Camp” were times
when baseball and football players who had fallen woefully out of shape
during the off-season were just trying to get basic conditioning back.
These days, athletes who want those multi-million dollar contracts stay
in shape all year, and use the preseason to fine-tune skills, not to
remind their legs how to run and get rid of a pot belly.
What does “working all the time” mean? First of all, it almost certainly
means you’re working harder when you’re not in a hand than when you’re
in one. That’s the easiest time to study tendencies, patterns, tells,
and styles, because you don’t have to worry about what to do with your
own hand. How many times have you heard me (or some other pundit)
correctly call a hand from the rail, only to freely admit how much
easier it is to make correct predictions about who has what when you
don’t have pressure on you? Heck, at the WSOP this year, I actually told
Nolan Dalla that a player had not merely a strong hand, but four nines
(two were on the board). Nolan thought that was such an absurd
prediction he offered me a $10 freeroll were I correct. I kept the $10,
and will always smile fondly when recalling Nolan’s statement “That’s
why you guys play these big tournaments and I write about them.”
How could I make such an absurd prediction? After all, wouldn’t it have
been more reasonable just to say “I think so and so has a monster hand,
like a full house?” Reasonable yes, but I had been studying the player
carefully for hours, and I saw not one iota of fear when he was raised.
I had never seen a player so relaxed, and that meant the absolute nuts,
which given this board was four nines.
Surprisingly, “working all the time” doesn’t necessarily mean reading
every new poker book that comes down the pike, because especially now
that every publisher on Earth wants at least one poker book in its line,
all kinds of unqualified people are getting the chance to influence
tomorrow’s players. Usually, these people aren’t horrible poker players
– they just have no experience playing against the big boys and girls,
and so can really just regurgitate what they have read in other books,
or talk about what they have experienced playing $10-$20. If playing
$10-$20 is your goal, some of these books may be fine.
If you want to aim higher, take a good long look at the book before you
buy it, and see if it addresses significant, complex problems. Also see
if you can find, in a quick glance through, some kind of statement that
you haven’t read somewhere before. That’s hardly a capital crime – I
freely admit that a significant amount of what I write has been
discussed before (perhaps not as ably, perhaps more so). I also venture
into new ground, because I have the experience for it…and experience, my
friend, whether it comes from reading the experiences of true high
stakes veterans, or from studying carefully all the positions you run
through in those games (not just the hands you win or lose: ALL the
positions), is what will give you a chance to learn your opponents, your
moves, and what, for lack of a better term, I think I’ll call XYZ poker.
Wow, I think that’s actually an original thought. Maybe I should quit
while I’m ahead.
Andrew N.S. Glazer is the author of “Casino Gambling the Smart Way” and
the soon-to-be-published “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Poker.” He is
Tournament Editor and a columnist for Card Player Magazine, and travels
the world covering major poker tournaments for FinalTablePoker.com. He
welcomes your questions at PokerPundit@aol.com
All Content Copyright Iggy 2003-2007
Information on this site is intended for news and entertainment purposes only.
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