Archive for the ‘Poker World Commentary’ Category

The 5 Best Poker Movies

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

While poker movies aren’t always accurate, they’re entertaining all the less.

After all, who wouldn’t enjoy poker being a critical part of an enthralling story?

In this post, I want to go over the 5 best poker movies (in my opinion), but I won’t spoil them.

1. Rounders

If you haven’t seen Rounders yet, do it immediately!

Rounders is a classic starring Matt Damon. He’s a talented poker player, and an intelligent law student. However, after some questionable bankroll management he finds himself out of the game. After his best friend is released from prison, Damon is put in a tough situation, and poker is the only possible way out.

2. High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story

If you’re more interested in real life poker stories, you’ll enjoy High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story. Stu Ungar was the real deal back in the day. During his poker career, he won 5 WSOP bracelets, including the Main Event 3 times. He had a fascinating career and life, all of which is revealed in this movie. It was released about 5 years after he died from a heart attack.

3. Casino Royale

Okay, poker may not be the sole focus of this movie, but who doesn’t love James Bond. Poker is fairly central to the plot of Casino Royale, where Bond must defeat a weapons dealer both on and off the table. While part of the newest generation (Daniel Craig), it’s an instant classic with all the features of a Bond movie that we all love.

4. Shade

While Shade might not be rated as highly as these other films, I personally loved it. The movie is all about poker hustlers and gangsters – what more could you ask for? Not that it is fairly recent (2003), even though it’s set a bit in the past.

5. Deal (2008)

Deal isn’t the best made movie, but I loved the premise and still thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s about a young kid, early 20’s who just graduated law school. He hates his job, but loves online poker. He quickly gets good, and with mentoring from the best player out there, he ends up entering the equivalent of the WSOP. It’s a fun movie that most young poker players especially will like.

The Pros Are Jumping on Twitch: Get In On the Ground Floor

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

I recently wrote about a brand new poker streaming platform that is based on Twitch TV.

In that post, I predicted some pretty crazy results, and so far, they’ve not only been met, but exceeded.

Seriously, this is a chance to see exactly how a pro plays in real time without any holding back. It’s the best educational opportunity for a poker player that has existed online, and at least for now, it’s free.

Featured Streamer: Daniel Negreanu

Heard of Daniel Negreanu before?

The guy who’s been near the top of the player of the year leaderboard for over the last decade. He’s one of the few pros who have successfully transitioned from high stakes live games to high stakes online games. He’s not afraid to try something new.

Recently, he created his own stream on Twitch so that his fans could watch him as he plays on PokerStars. Not surprisingly, it quickly became one of the most popular streams, with 150,000 viewers and over 4,000 subscribers in his first week alone. Just a week later, he had over 200,000 viewers and more than 14,000 subscribers.

One of his sessions consisted of playing $400/$800 8-game. Even if you’re not familiar with that type of poker, the large wins and losses are still fascinating, and you get a little insight into how Daniel approaches the game. During this one session in particular, he won right about $50,000 – not too shabby.

Who Else is On Twitch?

New pros are hopping on every day, so Twitch is looking better and better every day. Right now, the most popular poker channel is Jason Somerville, who streams both omaha and no limit hold’em games. Somerville is a professional player who has also won a WSOP bracelet. He’s an amazing player and streams 7 days a week. He currently has over 95,000 subscribers.

One of the best things about Twitch right now is that you get to watch many professionals who aren’t big names. For example, Alex KP is a professional out of Denmark who focuses on Omaha. He has a solid 4,000 subscriber count and streams some really fascinating play.

Twitch is an awesome platform for both poker entertainment and education. Don’t be afraid to look beyond just the most popular streamers. Try to find players that you like and that play the games you like to play the most.

Life After Poker: What Jobs Can You Get?

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Many players decide to play professionally for awhile, but eventually decide to rejoin the traditional workforce for one of many reasons.

There’s no shame in this. Perhaps a big unexpected expense came up and put excess financial strain on your family, or you lost passion for the game over time, or maybe the games got worse or became illegal. Whatever the reason, know that while it will be difficult, and you may have limited options, you do have a future after poker.

There are 3 main paths that former professional poker players are typically drawn to.

1. Investment Banking and Trading

Many poker players find their way into the financial industry. There are many similarities between poker, financial transactions, and trading.

All of these professions require a strong analytical ability, being able to dissociate emotions with your decisions, and knowing how to read situations.

These professions are some of the few where a hiring manager won’t dismiss you based on being a poker player. You’ll get a few interviews just because it sounds interesting, but you’ll have your work cut out for yourself to get the job.

2. Go To School

Even if you’re older, going back to school is still an option. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, consider an advanced degree like an MBA.

A new degree will help make you more appealing to a potential employer. The best part is, you’ll have some down time so you can still play some poker and help pay for school.

Getting a degree gives you more options than the limited jobs that are highly related to poker.

3. Entrepreneurship

Poker players are a rare breed, and share a lot in common with entrepreneurs. It’s tough for many poker players to go back to a standard 9-to-5 job. You get used to the control, the freedom, and the constant challenge as a poker player. All of these benefits can apply to being an entrepreneur.

But there are many types of entrepreneurs out there, so you have a fair amount of flexibility. Most poker players are best suited to bootstrapping their own company, which gives them full control of all the aspects of the company.

Realize that this option isn’t right for everybody. Starting a new company can take months or years of work before you start seeing significant revenue. If you have no backing or savings, your options will be more limited and less feasible.

Should You Put Poker on Your Resume?

For most jobs, it’s better to leave poker off your resume. The average hiring manager thinks poker is gambling, and doesn’t understand the skills that a good player has developed.

If you are able to explain the gap with any other freelance work or education, that is a much better option. If not, you’ll have to hope you get an interview and have a good explanation of the skills that poker has taught you.

This post isn’t meant to be depressing, just realistic. It is hard to get a normal job after having an unconventional job. The longer you’ve been out of the workforce, the harder it will be. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible, just that you have to treat job hunting like poker and embrace the variance.

A New and Improved Form of Poker Training That You Need to Try

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Big money stakes are nothing new in the world of poker. They are also nothing new in the world of business.

Amazon is a mammoth of a company that spends hundreds of millions on a regular basis to acquire promising up-and-coming companies. In late August of 2014, Amazon spent about $1 billion on a streaming site called Twitch.

What is Twitch and Why Does it Matter?

The people who are most familiar with the Twitch streaming service are video games. There are over 100 million users on Twitch, and the majority of them have signed up to watch other players stream gameplay. People usually watch if the streamer is particular entertaining or skillful.

Some streamers have so many followers that the actually make a living playing and commenting on video games.

Could Twitch Cause a Revolution in Poker?

Most recently, Twitch has announced that they wanted to start streaming live online poker. While making up a small percentage of overall Twitch viewers, several poker streamers have already attracted more than a million views. Considering this is still an extremely young platform, it is a promising sign.

If you head over to Twitch and search for poker, you’ll see a wide variety of players streaming their live play. The best players typically attract the biggest crowds, so start with the most popular channels.

How Does This Help You as a Player?

Live coaching sessions are incredibly expensive, especially if you’re a player at the micro stakes games. With these free Twitch streams, you can get a similar experience.

On top of the streamer typically commenting on his thought process, you can also interact with other viewers and the streamer in the chat box. This gives you a great chance to ask questions when you are confused or curious in real-time and get immediate feedback.

In this sense, Twitch streams could be considered as completely free group coaching sessions. It’s a great idea to add them to your plan to improve as a player. Streamers (the coaches) get paid when users click ads surrounding the video and chat.

Since poker streaming is still in its infancy, you have a unique opportunity to learn from good players in relatively small groups, which allows you to get more help before the best streams become flooded with players.

An Elite Class: 3 Players Who Have Won 3 WPT Titles

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

There have been numerous cases of amateur players winning big poker tournaments. This possibility is a good thing. Not only is it exciting and draws attention to the game, but it gives bad players a reason to keep playing, which is good for the overall health of poker.

But some players consistently have great tournament results, showing that they are the real deal. A much smaller pool of players from this already small group of players have exceptional results and end up winning multiple tournaments.

There isn’t a much bigger poker tour than the World Poker Tour (WPT). As of now, there are exactly 3 players that have won 3 separate WPT events, thanks to recent wins by Anthony Zinno.

Who are the members of this exclusive club? Read on to find out.

1. El Matador: Carlos Mortensen

Carlos Mortensen 2007

Past Tournament Wins:

  • $ 9,600 + 400 No Limit Hold’em 2010 Hollywood Poker Open, Lawrenceburg

  • $ 25,000 + 500 WPT – No Limit Hold’em 2007 Fifth Annual Five Star World Poker Classic, Las Vegas

  • $ 10,000 + 200 The 2004 Doyle Brunson North American No Limit Hold’em Poker Championship

Carlos Mortensen is not only a great poker player, but also a bit of an artist at the table. He is known for his creative chip stacking displays.

He is traditionally a very loose and aggressive player, known for being fearless at the table. His success at the WPT has been spread out over time. Mortensen has also captured 2 WSOP titles.

2. The Great Dane: Gus Hansen

Past Tournament Wins:

  • $ 7,500 No Limit Hold’em 2004 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Caribbean

  • $ 10,000 No Limit Hold’em Championship – 2003 L.A. Poker Classic

  • $ 10,000 No Limit Hold’em – 2002 Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Las Vegas

Gus Hansen might be the craziest poker player in the modern era. He is known for his extremely loose and extremely aggressive play, both in cash games and tournaments.

He was the first to accomplish the feat of winning 3 WPT tournaments, and has had numerous cashes throughout his career, although he has not won a WPT tournament since 2004.

3. The Newest Member: Anthony Zinno

Past Tournament Wins:

  • $ 3,300 + 200 No Limit Hold’em Main Event – Borgata Poker Open 2013, Atlantic City

  • 2015 Fallsview Poker Classic, Niagara Falls

  • $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Championship – 2015 L.A Poker Classic, Los Angeles

The new man to this exclusive club is Anthony Zinno. Incredibly, he has achieved his 3 wins in just about 2 years.

His final two victories were also back-to-back, which also makes him one of only 3 players to win back-to-back WPT tournaments.

Zinno is the first of the new generation of poker players to achieve this feat, and likely has many more victories ahead of him. Can he become the first player to win 4 WPT titles? Only time will tell.

Is Live Poker Dying for Good?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015


That is the number of live poker rooms that have been shut down in just over 2 years in the United States. The most recent victim is the room at the Linq Hotel & Casino.

Poker has been a mainstay of the modern casino since its inception, but it’s becoming a less important part over time. Are people losing interest in table games? Perhaps. But the problem likely runs deeper than that.

Poker Rooms Have Never Been Cash Cows

Poker rooms have never been incredibly profitable for casinos. Compared to slot machines or other traditional gambling activities, poker generates a pittance of revenue.

There’s really no way for the room to make a substantial profit considering that there are typically 30 hands or less dealt per hour at a live table. Add in the wages of the dealers (albeit small) and you aren’t left with much.

However, people used to go to casinos to play poker and stick around to play casino games. According to the extensive calculations by each of these 12 casinos, this added revenue isn’t worth the space that the poker room takes up.

What’s Killing Live Poker?

So if it’s not limited revenue that’s changed in recent years, what could it be?

The Commercialization of Poker

With the popularization of online poker came an increased interest in poker by the general public. TV shows were created (and heavily watched), and Americans signed up and played online at an incredible rate.

This didn’t hurt the casino industry for years, so the mere presence of online poker probably isn’t taking casino players away from the table. In fact, the two markets don’t overlap too much. Casino visitors are there to gamble, and they may or may not play back home.

Are People Burnt Out?

When something gets popular, it often gets overdone to the point that people’s interest simply burns out.

While there are a ton of televised tournaments and online training sites these days, online poker is still going strong. If anything suffered from player burnout, it would be online poker, not live.

The Remaining Possible Cause: The Economy

Digging below the surface reveals that the casino industry is in trouble. In 2014, casinos had revenues of just $2.7 billion. While that sounds like a lot, it’s only about half of revenues in 2006, which were $5.2 billion.

People still like to gamble, but the recession has hit everyone hard. It seems like a logical step to take that having less disposable income means that frivolous gambling and vacations would be the first expense to be cut out.

On the bright side, while it’s likely we haven’t seen the end of poker room closures, when the economy does finally rebound, it’s also likely that we will see many poker rooms spring back to life.

Negreanu and McClelland Join Exclusive Club

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

The Poker Hall of Fame is a big deal, in fact, it only had 21 living members until this year. Daniel Negreanu and Jack McClelland were the two poker players selected to join the hall of fame this year out of 10 nominees.

The other 8 nominees were:

  • Bruno Fitoussi
  • Bob Hooks
  • Ted Forrest
  • Jennifer Harman
  • Humberto Brenes
  • Mike Matusow
  • Chris Bjorin
  • Huck Seed

Any poker fan of the last decade can recognize the quality of those nominees, but even so, Negreanu and McClelland made strong cases for induction into the hall of fame that could not be passed over.

Daniel Negreanu’s Contributions to Poker

Negreanu has had a legendary career thus far, and there are no signs of it stopping any time soon.

There are few players with the passion and ability that Negreanu possesses, which is part of the reason why he is loved by most of the poker community. Affectionately named “Kid Poker”, the Canadian has won 6 WSOP bracelets, and has a whopping 31 WSOP final table appearances.

Negreanu is the last of a generation of players. He dropped out of school in order to play in underground games, and despite failing multiple times, his passion and determination was rewarded with the accomplishments as a professional poker player that we see today.

On top of being a great player, Negreanu has also served as an ambassador of the game, especially once onine poker exploded. He has been a PokerStars pro since 2007, one of the longest serving sponsored professionals.

Jack McClelland: A Poker Legend

The younger demographic of poker these days knows Jack McClelland as a prolific tournament director. He has hosted hundreds of tournaments and was the driving force behind the expansion of poker through much of the United States and other countries like Russia and Isle of Man.

After 5 decades as a poker director and player, McClelland called it quits in 2013. He’s seen it all during his career, from launching the first ever WPT event in 2002, to seeing it off as his last event, knowing that he had a great impact on its success.

While McClelland’s calling was in the administrative side of poker, that doesn’t mean he was a terrible player. McClelland had a solid 9 tournament cashes and one win during his career. While they aren’t Negreanu-esque numbers, most players would be thrilled to share similar accomplishments.

The Poker Hall of Fame is the ultimate acknowledgement of skill and passion in the world of poker. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t believe that Negreanu and McClelland do not belong.

More Changes for Zynga Poker – No Real Progress

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

For years poker players have been waiting for Zynga to convert their massive free poker user base, built on Facebook, into real money players. A stimulus like this could revitalize a, frankly, stale state of online poker.

While there’s still money to be won in online poker, the margins keep getting smaller as players learn to play more optimally. An influx of inexperienced players who learnt the game playing on a free platform would significantly soften the games. Zynga currently has the most play money poker players of any site, with Pokerstars not even reaching half that amount.

However, so far Zynga has only launched a real money platform in the U.K., using the same software as PartyPoker. That was early in 2014, and there has been little progress since then.

The Latest Change

Instead of focusing on converting more players (in different countries) into real money players, Zynga has recently overhauled their free money skin and setup to try and retain their players. The new Zynga poker platform created mixed feedback since its launch in September.

After just over a month of feedback (a substantial portion negative), Zynga has decided to split their user base into two sections.

Players have the option of using the newest Zynga poker platform, but they can also play Zynga Poker Classic, which is the exact same platform as players formerly used. While the two groups of players are not allowed to play directly against each other, it is a fairly simple process to switch from one platform to the other, and can be done as often as a player likes.

Why choose one over the other? If you’re still a play money poker player, and still not ready to take the jump to real money sites, the new Zynga platform offers a little more competition. There are leagues and other competitions that were created to add a little more variety and entertainment, although it pales in comparison to the entertainment that real money poker provides.

For experienced players: Don’t expect Zynga to launch any new real money platforms any time soon outside of the U.K., they’ve already shown that they are expanding extremely slowly, if at all.

For current Zynga poker players outside of the U.K.: If you’ve been looking for more fun and competition, there are many real money options out there, you’ll just have to get used to some new software.

Full Tilt Says Goodbye to Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom

Friday, October 24th, 2014

There are few poker fanatics that don’t appreciate the absolutely insane hands that Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom have been involved in over the years due to their unique and ‘crazy’ playing style.

However, it seems that Full Tilt is headed in a different direction with their sponsored pros lately, which started by letting go Tom Dwan earlier in 2014.

After Hansen’s and Blom’s contracts expired in mid-October, Full Tilt opted not to renew them.

Before you get worried about never seeing Hansen or Blom play online poker again, don’t worry, they’re still around. In fact, Blom won a massive $261K pot just a few days after being let go from the pro team.

A Look at Hansen’s Online Career

Gus leaves the Full Tilt team after losing approximately $20 million during his time. This has earned him the title of one of the most losing online poker professionals of all time.

Hansen is known for his wild playing style and playing a wide variety of games. Despite his outrageous online losings, Hansen is still respected overall in the poker world, largely due to his endurance as a player at the highest level and his 3 WPT titles, along with 1 WSOP bracelet.

A Look at Viktor Blom: AKA ‘Isildur1′

Blom took the poker world by storm in 2009, eventually being signed by PokerStars in the following year. The amazing thing was, that for almost everyone in the poker world, no one knew that it was Blom playing as Isildur1 on PokerStars and Full Tilt.

While professionals lined up to get their shot at the crazy-playing ‘fish’ at first, they soon learned that he might have been better than initial stats indicated.

Blom moved over to Full Tilt and joined their team of pros late in 2012. He finishes his sponsorship deal with net losings of approximately $3M on Full Tilt.

The Future of Online Professionals

It seems that both major sites owned by the Rational Group, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, are moving away from the professional branding that they have used so extensively in the past.

Both sites are trimming down their list of sponsored professionals, perhaps in an attempt to shift their player recruiting strategy.

Remember that until recently, the two poker giants competed against each other. There was always a heated competition to sign the best and most popular professionals in the game. Once combined however, there aren’t many other sites that have the funds to sponsor professionals at this level.

It’s possible that it’s just not worth it on both sides of the deal to continue these types of sponsorship deals.

Wherever online poker and its high stakes professionals is heading, don’t worry, there will always be action at the top of the game to give you the thrill of watching hundreds of thousands of dollars being won and lost in single hands.

Big Changes in UK Online Poker as Regulations Come Into Effect

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

September 16th marked the passing of the first main deadline associated with the newest UK gambling regulations. This Tuesday marked a deadline for online poker rooms to apply for a UK online gambling license. 

The deadline is in anticipation of October 1st, when the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act becomes active. Online gambling companies of all types – poker rooms, casino games and sports betting sites - must all obtain a UK license before the start of October if they wish to continue operating.

There is one further main consequence of this legislation, which won’t come into effect until December 1st. There will be a point of consumption tax on gross profits from any online gambling operator. This tax is 15%, and while it is unclear how this will affect poker room operations, it’s possible that they will increase rake or cash out fees.

What are Poker Rooms Doing?

The added expense and licensing process has already forced many small operators to shut down their poker and gambling platforms. However, most of the big brands will continue to operate as normal, so players will not see too much of a change as a whole.

Pokerstars, Full Tilt, Partypoker, 888 and Unibet are all expected to continue operating in the UK, assuming there are no hiccups with the licensing process.

Sites on the iPoker network on the other hand are choosing both options. Most of the major sites plan to continue operating, most notably Winner and Titan, which have both launched a localized version of their site on domain extensions. Mansion poker, however, is one of the first well-known casualties so far. The popular iPoker site closed down right before the application deadline, as of September 15th.

The iPoker sites that are adapting to the changing situations, Titan and Winner so far, are both owned by PT Entertainment Services, a subsidary of Playtech. Playtech is known for their poker software and ownership of poker rooms. The current users of the sites have been transferred over without any significant difficulties.

Due to the structure of the legislation, the rooms continuing to operate need to have an intermediary license until the UK applications are evaluated and accepted or rejected. Titan and Winner Poker are bth using an Antigua license, which is one of a few different valid options for now.

Online poker in the UK is changing in a major way behind the tables, but if all goes as expected, there shouldn’t be too many differences for the average player. We will keep you informed if rake, fees or related operations are changed in the future because of this legislation.