Archive for February, 2011

NFL Shuts Players Out of a Charity Poker Event

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

According to Showbiz411, the National Football League recently prohibited some of their players from participating in a charity poker tournament. Last Saturday, some 25 NFL players turned up at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas for a poker tournament to benefit the Starkey Hearing Foundation. The charity provides free hearing aids children and adults around the world. Big name celebrities and poker pros were also in attendance for the tournament that was donating all proceeds to the Minneapolis-based foundation.

But before it came time to “shuffle up and deal”, the NFL got wind of the tournament and ordered its players not to participate. They were told they could watch the event and cheer on participants, which they did, but that they could not play. Apparently some of the league’s most talented players, including Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald, made the trip to Vegas in order to participate in the tournament.

The NFL has had a long-standing battle against online gaming. In 2006, they fought to ensure that the UIGEA did not include language that would negatively affect fantasy football played on the Internet. News of prohibiting their players from participating in a charity poker tournament shows they haven’t softened in the least with regards to their views on poker or gambling.

Last year, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith, participated in the WSOP Main Event. I was on hand for Day 1D in which Emmitt announced “shuffle up and play”, an errant rendition of the traditional “shuffle up and deal” calling announced prior to the start of live tournaments. Apparently the league takes a more relaxed approach with what their retired superstars choose to do with their free time than they do with their working players.

Poker Rap Makes Fun of Prahlad Friedman

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Prahlad Friedman, the high-stakes phenom/rapper/vegan/sellout, is the subject of an auto-tune rap video created by TwoPlusTwo Forum member SrslySirius. And it’s much, much better than any rap Prahlad himself has created. The tune pokes fun at Prahlad for signing a sponsorship deal with an online poker room that cheated him out of millions. A few well-known pros get thrown under the bus in the last verse. Have a listen:

Ohhhhh snap!

The Importance of the Final Table

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Anytime you reach the final table in a large multi-table tournament, you are sitting in one of the most important poker games in your life. Unfortunately, this fact is lost on many players. For many players, and I used to be one of them, just reaching the final table is seen as the goal. You toil and grind for hours through a tournament filled with emotional highs and lows until finally… you’ve reached the final table! *Exhale!* High fives are given all around. All is well in the world. We can finally relax and have some fun playing poker!

This approach to tournaments is a leak. If anything, tournaments should be approached in the exact opposite fashion. Rather than sweating and pulling your hair out of your head about whether or not you’ll reach the final table, remain mostly disinterested in that stuff. Instead, focus on making the right decisions and on nothing but the other players at your table.

If you are fortunate enough to make the final table, then you can switch into the tense, competitive zone that many of your opponents have just abandoned now that they’ve reached their goal. Making the final table was never reason to exhale in your mind. Playing perfectly at the final table until there are no decisions left for you to be made is your reason to exhale.

The reason final tables are so important is because of the sums of money being played for. The difference between winning a tournament and finishing, say, sixth, can be the difference between being able to absorb an impending mega-downswing versus going broke. It can be the difference between finally moving up and playing higher stakes or continuing to toil at your current stakes while waiting for that “big break”. It can be the difference between driving a Mercedes or driving a Kia. There is so much at stake at final tables that playing with anything less than complete focus and intensity can be a huge financial leak.

For example, let’s take Bill the online poker pro. Bill grinds tournaments nearly every day. A very capable player, Bill has managed to make $40,000 playing poker over the past year. Bill reaches a final table where first place is $45,000. Six players remain in the tournament. Bill is towards the bottom of the pack but still has a comfortable-enough stack of 20 big blinds. Sixth place in the tournament pays $10,000.

The next hour of Bill’s life will be the most important hour of the year in determining his income. Anything can happen for Bill here. He can finish 6th and have an annual income of $50,000 or he could win the tournament and have an annual income of $95,000. And it will all be determined over the course of about the next hour!

Do you see how important final tables can be?

For Bill, it is nothing short of imperative that he remain completely focused on his final table. If he should be the victim of a bad beat or cooler, there’s nothing he could have done about that. “That’s poker,” as they say. But one thing Bill simply cannot afford to do at this final table is commit a mistake. He must play perfectly. Everything beyond that is out of his control.

When playing at a final table, be aware of the magnitude of your decisions on your overall financial picture. A final table is not the place to make speculative all-in calls or four-bet bluff all-in preflop. Early in a tournament, if you want to make a play that you regard as being slightly bonehead, that is somewhat forgivable. After all, you weren’t worth that much in the tournament to begin with. But at a final table, you are worth a lot relative to your original buy-in. Save the speculative, cute plays for another day when it won’t cost you as much if it backfires.

At the final table, you bring nothing short of your solid A-game doing everything you can to preserve your chip stack and build it when the right situations present themselves. Let your opponents be the ones making loose calls out of position preflop, getting into blind-versus-blind battles for huge pots with light holdings, and making overbets all-in when the only hands that are calling you are ones that have them beat.

A final table is the most important hour of your year in terms of poker income. Make it last.

Poker Xtranormal Videos

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Some of the funniest videos online are made by regular people on Xtranormal. The site creates a video based on text you create. Characters in the videos have a robotic voice which often directly contributes to the funniness of a video. Most Xtranormal videos are drivel, but the best ones can be downright hilarious. Here are a couple of pretty funny poker-related Xtranormal videos.

Guy complaining about his luck after a hand on PKR:

Guy buys into a juicy-looking $10/$20 PLO for $4500. Action ensues immediately:

Guy tilts while trying to explain his poker hobby to a female co-worker:

A guy’s wife comes to tell him food his ready while he’s involved in a big online hand:

And of course there’s this gem by JJS6866 from our poker forums. Unfortunately, you’d have to be privvy to the details from an epic thread that took place in our forums to really find this one hilarious (but it’s still probably not bad even if you don’t get some of the storyline). Quick cliff notes on what happened in that thread: member Lord Mushroom was backed by some other forum members for SNGs and insisted that his backers let him use their money to buy a piece of poker software to help improve his play. When they, of course, objected to the absurd request, Lord Mushroom refused to update them as to the progress of the stake and instead posted “$434″, the balance of the stake at the time, anytime a request for communication was made:

If you have a funny poker-related Xtranormal video, email it to me at cory@[the URL for this website] and I’ll post it here (assuming it doesn’t suck).

Five Tips for Becoming a Pro Poker Player

Monday, February 14th, 2011

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the pro poker player’s paradox which outlined some of the reasons against the idea of trying to make a career out of poker. But lest we become branded eternal pessimists, here are five tips for becoming a pro poker player should anyone choose to ignore our earlier commentary:

Play a Lot… like… A LOT!

If you are going to play poker professionally, you have to treat it like a profession. There are a couple of good reasons to play a high volume as a poker pro. First, it makes upswings and downswings a lot less dramatic. If you’re not playing a particularly large amount of hands per day, a severe downswing can drag on for months and months. If you’re playing a high volume of hands, a severe downswing should only last for a few weeks (perhaps longer if you’re playing tournaments). Conversely, upswings cease to become a distraction if you’re playing a lot of hands. A professional who plays sporadically might start to become over confident during an upswing which can lead to bad spending habits and life choices. A player putting in a high volume will see his big upswings level out sooner and can therefore maintain a more proper mindset for playing poker professionally.

By playing a high volume of hands, you’re much more likely to have a strong understanding of your true win-rate. This understanding can be imperative for knowing how much you need to work on your game and estimating your approximate income. To give you a rough idea of what I mean when I say “high volume”, a decent rule of thumb for multi-table tournament players would be to play 100+ tournaments per week. SNG players should be striving for even more than that. Cash game players (and as a side note: cash games are probably the best thing to play if you want to play professionally) should strive to play 10,000+ hands per week.

Of course, in an effort to play a lot of hands, one should never compromise their optimal amount of simultaneous tables or play for so long in a single day that they begin to make sub-optimal decisions. So if the idea of playing 100+ tournaments or 10,000+ hands in cash games in a single week seems overwhelming to you, you may want to consider working on your game and ability to multi-table while holding down your day job for a while.

Your Bankroll is Your Boss

One of the nice things about playing poker professionally is that you have no boss. A professional poker player only answers to himself. However, I would suggest you view this as not being entirely true. You do have a boss. Your bankroll is your boss. Your bankroll tells you what you can and cannot do. Just like you wouldn’t get very far in a “real job” by disrespecting, ignoring, or mistreating your boss, you won’t get very far as a professional poker player doing those things to your bankroll. If you are good and respectful towards your bankroll, it will let you know when you get a promotion. It is impossible to succeed in the long run as a professional poker player if you do not practice solid bankroll management.

This is not an article on the specifics of bankroll management (such as how many buy-ins or big blinds you should have). If you want that type of information, you can check out our bankroll management article or pick the minds of a few successful pros. Some good ways to reduce variance are to swap action with another trusted, strong player. For example, you can work out an arrangement with another pro where you swap 10% in every tournament that you both register for. It’s a bit harder to make swaps in cash games, but it can still be done. You just need to be swapping with someone you trust completely.

If you’re looking to “take a shot” at a higher buy-in poker tournament or at a higher-stakes cash game level, consider selling action. There are enough online poker databases out there that if you are a winning player, you can sell pieces of your “shot” to other players who can verify for themselves that you are indeed a winner at your current stakes. Just don’t do anything stupid like insist that your backers should let you buy software that will improve your game on their money.

Conversely, buying small bits of action in other players looking to take a shot can be a nice way to reduce variance. Just be sure you’re getting a nice deal prior to investing in another player.

Join or Form a Crew

One of your best assets in the quest to become a professional poker player is having friends who are also playing professionally. Joining or forming a group of friends who are all on a quest to succeed in playing poker for a living is invaluable. You can lean on these individuals to provide input on tricky hands, help calm your emotions when you’re on tilt, and generally make the life of a pro poker player more fun and less isolated. This is probably the best kept secret of becoming a pro poker player. Virtually anyone who has managed to do it successfully is probably part of a strong group of friends that all help each other reach their goals as players.

Hedge Your Bets

This tip is somewhat in direct contrast with our first tip, but consider maintaining other revenue streams outside of poker. This could be done in a variety of ways. One way is to keep a part-time job doing something you enjoy. By working 10-20 hours a week doing work you don’t mind doing, you achieve a few things. First, you keep your poker career in perspective since it is not your sole source of income. Second, an outside job can be a great way to spend time around people, specifically people who are in no way connected to the game of poker. There’s a lot to be said for spending time around non-poker players. Finally, a part-time job allows you to keep something going on your resume. In case poker doesn’t work out, a job will allow you to avoid having a big hole on your resume. You’ll be grateful for this when it comes time to figure out your next step in life.

Following this advice requires a lot of foresight and discipline. When you’re making $30 an hour playing online poker, it can be really, really tough to drag yourself to a job for 10-20 hours a week where you only make $11 an hour. But try to keep your eye on the bigger picture. First of all, you may not be making as much playing poker were it not for the balance the non-poker job adds to your life. Secondly, understand that poker may not be around forever as a viable career choice. There is a lot of value in maintaining talents and interests not related to poker. This way, when the day comes where you admit to yourself that you can’t play poker forever, you’ll have a little something going for you to fall back on.

Along these lines, treat poker like a regular job. This means you work regular hours, take regular days off, and even take extended vacations away from the game. Giving yourself at least one day a week off from poker is imperative though two or even three is recommended. Keep other hobbies and interests going. Have a group of non-poker friends that you hang out with at least one day a week. Join a club or an intramural sports league. You can even do some of your daily grinding in a Starbucks to feel less isolated. Get creative and do whatever it takes to keep other things going in your life outside of poker.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the biggest temptations associated with the life of a pro poker player is to take up the lifestyle of a partier. While there’s plenty to be said for cutting loose and enjoying spurts of living carefree, your life and your mind will deteriorate quickly if every night is a party. When you don’t have an office to show up at the following morning, it can feel like you have carte blanche on drinking and doing drugs at night and waking up whenever you feel like it. You might be able to get away with this lifestyle for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you. Your mind will suffer and as a result, your poker earnings will suffer.

Don’t interpret this as “never drink” or “never try a drug,” just do those things rarely and in moderation. The rest of the time, get daily exercise, plenty of sleep, and spend the time it takes to nourish your body with real, whole foods, not processed crap you throw in a microwave or have delivered. This is probably the most common leak found among poker players. A friend of mine regularly makes fun of how all poker players look like pears: wimpy shoulders and chest, big round, squishy mid-sections, and legs that haven’t experienced the sensation of “running” in years. Don’t become one of those players that sacrifices everything else in their life just to make a living playing poker. In the end, it’s really no living at all.

Poker Player Runs 70 Miles to Win Prop Bet

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Last Sunday, one of the craziest prop bets of all-time involving poker players took place. A hungover and sleep-deprived Ashton Griffin laid 3:1 that he could run 70 miles in 24 hours. He put up $900,000 to win $300,000 on the bet that specified he had to actually run the 70 miles, no walking allowed. Improbably, no scratch that, impossibly, Griffin completed the feat to relieve his friends of $300,000. Griffin’s “friend”, Haseeb Qureshi, stated that he was hoping an injury would prevent Griffin from completing the run.

Griffin broke the task up into 10-mile intervals. All running took place indoors on a treadmill. Griffin took short naps between each ten-mile run and completed the 70th mile with more than hour to spare. Without even getting proper rest for the feat, let alone training for it, Griffin managed to run nearly three marathons in a single 24-hour period. Apparently this was not the first time the young online phenom ran for cash. He also once ran 15 miles home from a sushi restaurant in under three hours to win a bet even after having eaten a pound of frozen yogurt (which was presumably also part of a bet) at dinner.

Despite demonstrating highly-questionable judgement in the things he’s willing to do to win a bet, there’s no denying that Griffin is a tremendous poker talent. He first came onto the scene a few years ago by winning and losing massive amounts of money at the highest stakes online. He was Isildur1 before Isildur1. A year ago, Griffin was the $25,000 High Roller Shootout at the North American Poker Tour event in Las Vegas. The score tacked $560,000 onto his career winnings.

Peter Eastgate Un-retires from Poker

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

2008 World Series of Poker Champion and one of the Nice Guys of Poker, Peter Eastgate, announced this week that he is returning to the game. This announcement comes less than a year after he announced his retirement from the activity that made him a multi-millionaire by the age of 22.

Eastgate, who sold his Main Event bracelet on eBay last fall, said in a statement through PokerStars:

“Sometimes in life, a person can feel lost and wake up one morning not recognizing who he is. Last summer, that was how I felt. Prior to winning the WSOP in 2008, my life was very much a good solid routine of playing online poker and hanging out with my friends and family. Winning the WSOP changed that. I relocated to London and started a new life, the life of a high-profile poker pro. For almost two years I was in a constant spotlight, traveling from poker tournament to poker tournament, doing thousands of interviews, and never had a chance to catch my breath. In the whirlwind that followed winning the WSOP, I lost track of the most importing thing in my lifeā€¦ myself.”

The former World Champ said that the past eight months away from poker have helped him reconnect with family and friends and figure out who he is and what he wants to do with his life. He plans to return to the game on February 21st by participating in EPT Copenhagen which is the largest annual poker tournament held in his home country of Denmark.

Welcome back, Peter, and good luck!

Phil Hellmuth Gets Friendly with George W. Bush

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Whatever people may think of Phil Hellmuth, no one can say he hasn’t ridden poker fame to spectacular heights. Last weekend, the Poker Brat crossed paths with former American President George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University. Both men were in Dallas to attend the Super Bowl.

Hellmuth posted a picture of himself with the President on his Twitter account with the caption, “Pic: me answering questions from George Bush + Condi Rice. George tucked my book into his inner jacket pocket!”

Party Poker sponsored pro Tony G has graciously offered to give $100 of his very own money to whoever posts the best caption to that picture on his Twitter account.

Hellmuth, originally from Wisconsin, was at the Super Bowl to root for the Green Bay Packers who won the game 31-25. Not a bad weekend for the Poker Brat.

Bellagio Bandit Stays At Property After Robbery, Enjoys Comped Rooms

Friday, February 4th, 2011

In December, news of a man who robbed Bellagio in Las Vegas for $1.5 million worth of high denomination chips caught the gambling world’s attention. That man, Anthony Michael Carleo, has now been apprehended by authorities. Information has come to light that suggests Carleo led quite the interesting lifestyle after robbing Bellagio.

  • USA Today reported that Carleo gave a $25,000 chip to a Salvation Army bell-ringer. This was discovered when a Salvation Army bell-ringer tried to cash in the chip and told police a stranger dropped it into his pocket.
  • According to Yahoo! News, Carleo lost $105,000 of the stolen chips back to the casino and even stayed there for a week in January enjoying comped rooms and meals.
  • The Las Vegas Sun reports that Carleo was caught when he tried to sell the high denomination chips to TwoPlusTwo.com forum members. During the attempted sales, Carleo was brazen enough to put a note saying “Biker Bandit” in an image that verified he did indeed own the chips he was offering up for sale. TwoPlusTwo user “provotrout” helped use the evidence Carleo sent him to lead authorities to him. He was apprehended after selling chips to an undercover officer.

Carleo’s motivation for his crime appears to have been tied to gambling debts owed to the mob. He filed bankruptcy in 2009 claiming to owe $188,000 in debts. The LA times reports that Carleo said to a poker dealer, “man, how easy would it be to rob a casino?” just hours before the crime.

He is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center on charges of robbery with the use of a deadly weapon and burglary with use of a deadly weapon.