Daniel is arguably one of the best and most influential poker players in the world. He was named the 2013 WSOP Player of the Year, the 2013 Bluff Player of the Year and the 2013 Card Player Magazine Player of the Year and was ranked #1 on the GPI rankings to finish the year. He is a performer at heart and has acted in movies along with appearing on numerous TV Shows both poker & non-poker related.
I’ve been involved in poker since the late 90’s and have worn several different hats throughout that period, most notably as a professional poker player.
In my teen years, I helped run a game in a private club which also included running “The Sheet.” The sheet was a credit line we gave to players when they went broke in the game and wanted to keep playing.
One thing was always understood about the sheet, you were going to get stiffed on occasion, but it was still worth having. Mostly, it was the losing players who borrowed money on the sheet, and because they were given this credit line it helped keep the games going longer, which meant more revenue through rake.
These games were full of losing players and the rake was astronomically high. I remember my first night in charge of running the game, we started the game at about 11pm and by 5am every single chip that started on the table was raked. The game was 8 handed, yet somehow the players failed to notice that they were ALL stuck! All 8 players were losing.
It was a $10-$20 limit hold’em game with a 5% rake up to $10. It was a loose passive game so it was common to hit the full $10 per hand with few exceptions.
In addition to the rake coming out of the game, the lowest denomination chip available was $2.50 white chip. The dealers smartly put a lot of those chips in the pot in the hopes of getting a bigger tip. They’d get $2.50 every hand, and often as much as $15 for a bigger pot.
There was probably $400 to $500 coming off the table an hour. Seems like it would be an unbeatable game, but the players where so bad I could still beat it for $35-$45 an hour.
In the months I helped work the game and play in it, I can honestly say I never heard a single player say a word about the rake. It was surreal. I was aware of it, of course, and how much higher it was than the session fee games I’d play during the day that charged a measly $5 a half hour to play. In that game, maybe $125 came off the table per hour, but my win rate was similar in both games. Pros dominated the session fee tables because they understood the concept of rake and how it affected their bottom line.
While my win rate in both games was similar, the underground games didn’t go regularly. They would run for a time, players would go broke, owe money on the sheet, and not come back for a while until they could pay it off. With that much money coming off the table per hour, it crushed all the losing players that didn’t have extremely deep pockets.
Before I started playing in these games I played in a club that had no rake and didn’t charge for food. Players were expected to tip at least $2.50 a hand, but didn’t always. If the waitress brought you food, you were expected to throw her a chip or two.
They did it this way because they believed they could get around the laws related to running an illegal gaming house. Since they weren’t taking any rake, they believed what they were doing was above board. The Ontario government didn’t agree, but that’s another story for another time.
They ran a sheet at this game too, but also had a unique way of keeping games going in addition to that. This may seem controversial, but they tracked what each player won or lost and at the end of the month, they gave the biggest losers free money to play.
They understood, that without those players the games wouldn’t run. They were the VIPs that kept games going.
There is something genius about this idea, but it’s oft putting to do in such a confrontational manner. Partly, while you want to keep the biggest losers in the game, you also don’t want to wake them up to how much they are losing by doing some kind of losers leader board! The way this club handled it was subtle and appreciated by the losing players. The guys who ran this club, there were three of them, all shared one characteristic: they were charming.
They knew how to deal with suckers in such a way that wasn’t patronizing. They empathized, but didn’t mock them.
So why am I telling you these stories? Because, especially this last one, helped shape my long held views on rewards systems for poker and what they should look like. All rewards should go to losing players, as the winning players will get them in the end anyway.
What reward do the winning players get? They get to play in good games and make a living. The reward they get is the right to play. You don’t shut the doors on anyone. If someone has the buy in, they should be allowed to sit down and play.
It makes zero sense to give the winning players, who are already making a profit from your more valuable customers, additional money. It’s asinine.
You don’t need to cater to the winning players. As long as you offer good value games with enough losing players, they will happily show up and earn. They don’t need any extra incentive to come play. If the game is profitable… they will play.
This doesn’t make me anti-pro, I’ve been a pro for half my life! It’s simply me being aware of the ecological balance of a poker game that will always have winning players, losing players, and the house. If the house take isn’t covering their expenses and their sheet, then I don’t have a game to be a pro in.
If the WSOP didn’t make a substantial amount of money over the summer via rake, then there just wouldn’t be one. It isn’t a charity. They run these events to show a profit. They charge what they deem fair. For me, as a pro, if I don’t think their pricing is fair… then I wouldn’t play. If I didn’t think I could beat the game because of a combination of field strength and rake, then I simply wouldn’t make the investment.
At no point would I begrudge the WSOP for what they choose to charge. I might not like it, but I’ve always believed in a free market. Offer a product or service, and if people see value in it, they will pay for it. if not, so be it.
I’m fully aware that many pros who read this may be upset by it, but it doesn’t make it any less true. As a customer, a losing player is more valuable to a poker game than a winning player is. It really shouldn’t anger you- it’s an obvious fact.
I’ve used this example before, but it illustrates the point so well I want to close with it again:
If you ran a raked game at your house and could send a limo to pick up the two biggest fish in your game, or the four best pros… who gets the limo?
Have been thinking about poker tournaments and how much they have changed over the years. In some cases for the better, but in other cases I’m not so sure. I started on the tournament circuit in the late 90’s and every tournament felt special to me whether it was a $100 buy in at the Commerce or a WSOP event. Heck, I felt that the one table satellites in the late 90’s were prestigious and filled with big name players. There were no small buy ins, the lowest being $2000 so buying into a $200 satellite was still very much a big part of the WSOP experience. Of course, that’s all changed now with buy ins as low as $365 to meet player demand and it makes business sense for them to do that. The WSOP takes up a lot of space at the Rio and they have to think of innovative ways to keep those tables full.
I’ve been thinking about what a perfect poker tournament would look like. Something I would be really excited to play and it looks a little something like this:
Everyone Starts At the Same Time: This is a big one. I’m one to take advantage of late registration when its available to me, but being able to mosey in five hours after the tournament has already started makes it all feel less prestigious to me. There is something special to me about every entrant being in their seat for the shuffle up and deal. My tournament would start at noon (of course) and registration would actually close at noon. If you aren’t in line by noon, you would be absolutely shutout of the tournament with no exceptions. Not even for Phil Hellmuth! Registration would be open well in advance so you could avoid the lines altogether.
Freezeout: This means no rebuys or reentry. If you lose all of your chips, you are out of the tournament. I’m aware this will make the prize pool smaller but I much prefer events where every decision is “life or death” for a player. The players with deeper pockets don’t just get to gamble when they get short and jump right back in. If they bust… on to the next one.
Buy in: I could have my opinion swayed on this, but during poker’s heyday $10,000 was the elite class when it came to a buy in. Those were always special. When I started playing in the late 90’s only one $10k event existed all year, the WSOP main event. There were a few $5k events, but the WSOP main event was king until the WPT came along and offered a series of $10k events that were all aired on TV. Typically we associate prestige with high buy ins, but I think a $10k is accessible to lower buy in players and still worthwhile for the killers who play $100k buy in events.
Format: As many of you likely are aware, I am a big fan of mixed games and much prefer them to straight no limit hold’em. They typically play much faster and I just find them more interesting in general. So, this tournament would be an 8-Game Mix until we reached the money. At that point we would switch to straight no limit hold’em to the finish. Some mixed game players won’t like this idea, but I think they are being really shortsighted for a number of reasons. Explaining those reasons would require a separate blog telling the story of when Jeffrey Pollack was convinced by Howard Lederer and Annie Duke to change the Players Championship at the WSOP, orignally created with this format, to mixed games all the way to the end, despite ESPN’s insistence that they wouldn’t air it on ESPN. I think that did a ton of damage to the turnout and the prestige of the event. Actually, I don’t just think that, I know that is true. The turnout without TV dropped significantly after the change and the event has never been the same since. So my perfect event is 8-Game until the money, then no limit hold’em filmed from that point on.
Omaha 8 or better
Stud 8 or better
Pot Limit Omaha
No Limit Hold’em
2-7 Triple Draw
Structure: I’m not a fan of playing excessively long days, but I’m also cognizant of the fact that many non-professional poker players can’t take a week off work to play a poker tournament. So my solution to this dilemma looks like this: play four two hour levels each day with no dinner break. With three 20 minute breaks that would mean the event starts at noon and you are done by 9pm on the dot. Restart for day 2 would be at noon the next day. Since we are playing two hour levels and we want this to be no longer than a 4-5 day event, that means starting the structure much more shallow than most, and having some bigger jumps along the way to speed up play. Starting stacks on level 1 would start you with 100 big blinds for the big bet portion of the mix and go up pretty aggressively from there. Event would need to be between 16-20 total levels.
Big Blind Ante: Outside of the stud portion of the event, we would use the big blind ante format. For those unfamiliar, this just means that the big blind covers the ante for the entire table once a round. Paying roughly the same price per round, just not slowing the game down with everyone being bothered to make change and ante every hand. Theoretically we could do this for Stud as well, but we will leave the purity of that game alone for now.
7 Handed: Because the mix includes 2-7 Triple Draw, 7 handed seems like a great number of players per table. Plenty of leg room, not so short handed that you feel too much pressure early on, but also not the boring formats of 9 or 10 handed poker that wouldn’t be feasible for a Stud tournament anyway.
Chess Clock The most important consideration for my perfect poker tournament is a chess clock rather than a shot clock. Currently, shot clocks are used in many events that allow players 30 seconds to make a decision with some time bank cards available for tougher decisions. This is a step in the right direction, but a chess clock is far superior and punishes the right people: the ones who tank with 7-2 off suit from under the gun to just waste time. Here is how it could work:
Each two hour level each player is given a 5 minute clock. The dealer would have a tablet in their tray that would track each players time separately. After every two hour level, the clock is reset to 5 minutes. The clock for each player wouldn’t start ticking until after 10 seconds. If a player acts within 10 seconds, no time comes off their clock. After that point, the player has as much time as they like up to 5 minutes to make their decision. If a player runs out of time on their 5 minute clock, they must now make every decision within 15 seconds for the remainder of the level. After that, they get their full 5 minutes for the next level just like everyone else. The time doesn’t carry over.
Those are the main ideas surrounding this concept, but there are a few other bells and whistles that could really add some prestige to it if there was a sponsor willing to fork over the money:
Added Money or Prizes: Don’t think anyone would complain about this idea. Lots of ways to add money to the prize pool, but a couple ideas I really like:
$10,000 to the Chip Leader at the end of each day.
A Car to the Winner. Tesla would be my car of choice!
Four Events Per year: One for each season. With four “majors” of sorts, you could, instead of giving a car away to the winner of one event, you can give that car to the player who performed best based on points system across all four events. Theoretically we could also do 3 $10k events with the year end final at Bellagio, Aria, or wherever, in December being a $25k buy in worth a few more points on the leader board and a slightly better structure.
TV Coverage: Yo ESPN, what’s good? Maybe the best place for it, but I wouldn’t hate on NBC Sports or PokerGo being affiliated in some way. PokerGo is the premiere poker streaming service in the world and it’s not close. Possibly a deal where the early stages would be streamed live on PokerGo then switch over to ESPN, NBC Sports, or wherever, for the final table.
Side events Since the structure for these events will start out pretty fast, that means more players will bust on day one. That would suck for a player traveling across country to play, so it would be important to offer side events starting the next day. Those events could vary in terms of format.
So this is my idea of the perfect poker tournament. What is yours?
Recently I posted a tweet that was way too harsh in tone and the responses were predictable. I was referring to negative traits of certain poker players that aren’t a good addition to the game. Nick Jones pointed out that my tweet was actually contributing to one of those traits, being a hater or complainer. I realized he was right so I chose to delete the tweet and phrase it in a more positive tone, instead focusing on what attributes make a player attractive to a game.
Be Generous/Give Action
Both saying roughly the same thing, but the first tweet was too antagonistic towards certain player types so after giving it some thought, I deleted it.
Many people misunderstood my meaning in that initial tweet. My choice, blame them for not understanding, or take responsibility for not communicating my position clearly enough. In this regard, choosing to stand responsible for my decisions or be a victim to circumstance (blaming others), I try my best to practice what I preach. Part of that entails admitting when you are wrong and apologizing. I have done that, and upon further reflection there were things about that first tweet I didn’t communicate well. Specifically, being a winner and being quiet. The other three are pretty clear, although people have a more narrow view of the term “nit” than I’d always learned. A nit isn’t simply someone who plays tight. A nit can have any number of the following traits:
-In a 9 handed game with 8 other players straddling, wants to play but not straddle
-Won’t Start Games
-Quits the second the live one quits
-Won’t agree to a neutral EV gamble if the live one asks for it, even for small amounts. Example, playing a $5-$10 NLH game the live one asks if everyone will do an all in flip for $25. A nit says no.
-Constantly changes seats to get a free hand. Funny example that lead to a rule change at Bellagio years ago. Playing 5 handed, a player would constantly change seats and at that time get dealt in even if he went from UTG to the cut off. He just kept trying to jump around as much as possible to get free hands. That’s a nit.
Under no definition I can come up with is a nit a desired guest at a poker game. Not in the 20+ years I’ve played the game. I stand firm that nits are most definitely bad for a poker game.
As for Quiet, it was a mistake for me to phrase it the way that I did. It was my bad. I should have replaced Quiet with rude. I agree with many replies saying that it’s much better to be seated with a quiet player versus one who never shuts up. I agree totally. I was more so referring to engaging in small talk when someone asks you a question. For example, a tourist sits down in your $5-$10 game and asks you where you are from. Rather than give him a death state and not respond, be human and talk to the guy!
I don’t expect players to change who they are and put on an inauthentic show. Not what I meant at all, and it’s on me for not communicating that well. I apologize to the quiet players out there who were personally offended by that. If your shy by nature, that’s OK. If you can smile and laugh at a joke occasionally, awesome. If you aren’t comfortable starting table banter, that’s totally fine too. If someone does engage you in conversation, just be friendly and try not to be rude.
As for being a winning player being a bad trait, many of you took offense to that since the goal of poker is to be a winning player. Of course it is and there is nothing wrong with that! Now, having said that, if you ARE a winning player that means you are taking money out of the game. The other players in the game would do better financially if you weren’t there.
Let’s look at another example, you host a 6 handed game at your house and have 5 players confirmed. One seat left and its between Larry, the biggest loser in the game, or Bill who is the biggest winner. What would be better for that game? To invite Larry or Bill? Obviously Larry gets that call every time.
The point of this is to realize that if you are a winning player, you are a taker. That’s the name of the game as many of you pointed out. Knowing this, though, I would think it would be worthwhile to find other ways to contribute to the health of the game you play in. One person tweeted at me that he is the biggest winner in his home game, but he gets invited every time because he brings the beer! Oh, and he doesn’t drink!
This is a perfect example of giving up some EV, not being a nit, and contributing to the game in some fashion. In the long run, you will more than make up for the cost of the beer.
My concern for the future of poker is if it continues down the trend of players not thinking about the long term, but just focusing on their immediate EV, you are going to see a further expansion of private games. Private games at the higher stakes are becoming more and more widespread. I don’t think that’s good for poker, but there is not much that can be done to stop that trend.
In the “old days” you come to a casino, and if a seat is open and you have the buy in, you get to sit down and play. This simply isn’t true anymore at the higher stakes. Private games occur in casinos now too, and that shuts out out the young upstart who wants a shot at those games. If the young upstart is a winning player, they will never let him play, unless… he offers something of value to the game. Whether its bringing a weaker player to the game, or maybe, just maybe, being likable enough that people put up with the fact he is a great player and is going to take money out of the game.
Now what if you are a tournament player? How does this affect you? Well, in the example I provided it really doesn’t. You get to be more of a short term thinker, more of a nit, and look to squeeze out small edges with little care for how pleasant the playing experience is. Or do you? It won’t have an affect on you in the short term, yes that’s true, but if you are a high stakes tourney player, for example, the fields are small and losing 3-5 weaker players because they aren’t enjoying the experience anymore, will have a significant impact on your EV long term.
Most every high stakes tourney in the world today offers a shot clock, yet still I have seen first hand, and heard straight from people’s mouth, that they no longer play in them because of the pace of play. Some players, even in the most automatic spots are still taking the full 30 seconds to act. A chess clock/time bank would be a better solution for the future, but that’s for another blog.
What is an automatic spot? An example: a player raises and you call in the BB. The flop is KK3 rainbow and you check call. The turn is a 2. If you take 10-30 seconds to check here, you are truly hurting the game. You are never going to check call this flop and lead the 2 on the turn. You are just always checking, but still, I see players even in spots this automatic burning 25-30 seconds of time.
Since my tweets on the subject, both the first which I admit wasn’t well written, and my follow up that I felt was a lot more fair, I’ve been personally attacked in a couple blogs for my position. I have never taken issue with people disagreeing with my takes, I’m an opinionated person and that’s to be expected.
Even if I think its unfair, I stand responsible for any hate that I get and always try to look at the feedback for opportunities to grow as a person. Sometimes people are genuinely looking to have a civil discussion about poker topics, while other times it just feels more like a smear campaign with ulterior motives. Either way, I’m 100% responsible for anything I say or do. If people choose to take my words out of context, or rephrase my views to fit a narrative, again, even if it isn’t fair, it comes with the territory when you choose to be public with your opinions. We are not owed what we deem to be fair press. We can’t control how people choose to present us. Sometimes they will flat out lie, while others may take liberties and twist your words to fit a narrative.
It doesn’t matter if its fair. If people aren’t getting what I’m saying, it’s up to me to do a better job of communicating my thoughts in the future. I am a flawed human being as we all are to a certain extent, but I am always striving to be a better version of myself and digesting feedback both positive and negative to look for areas where I can be better.
It’s true, I am no longer a grinder as I was for the first 15 years or so of my career. I’ve had success in poker that few will ever achieve, so it would be fair for some to criticize me as being out of touch with the game. It’s fair, but I also don’t believe it to be accurate. I’m constantly in conversation with both pros and recs at all levels, from low stakes, to medium, to high. I think about these issues often as poker has been my passion for half my life now.
I don’t presume to know what my win rate would be at the Aria $2-$5 game, but I do know some grinders who do play in those games regularly. Lastly, you don’t have to accept, or even like my opinions. You can disagree with my stances on issues related to the game. If you do, I would hope that you are open to civil discussion about it. Rather than attack my character, and who I am as a person, I think it would be more worthwhile to discuss why you think my thoughts and ideas are wrong.
I’d love to see a return to “I hate your ideas” rather than “I hate you.” Would do us all some good.
Right around this time of year is when I typically like to map out what my summer might look like, including most all events I may play depending on how I’m doing. For example, I may have something on the schedule that would appear to conflict with another event, and in that case, I would only be playing the secondary event if I was eliminated from the first one before late registration closed. I do not “double dip” and play two stacks. I haven’t done that even once in about 5 years. I used to do it occasionally when there were big bracelet bets on the line for Phil Ivey and I, but since then, if I’m still in an event, that’s the only event that exists. If I happen to bust, then I will reorganize my schedule and see whats available to me.
The lead up to the WSOP, and the post WSOP main event schedule this year is like nothing we have seen before. Not just the Super High Roller Bowl, but prelims at Aria as well as a WPT series at Bellagio in May gives you tons of options to play large buy in events.
The other big change is the number of fun events that will take place after the WSOP main event starts. In past years, all you had was the Little One for One Drop, but this year, in addition to the Big One for One Drop, there is a $50k NLH and a few mixed game events on the schedule. It will be interesting to see what the numbers look like for the Big One for One Drop this year. It’s at the tail end of the series and it’s quite likely that a lot of players will be short on money by then. I plan to play it, but that’s no guarantee. I’m looking to put up about $500k and will sell the rest of my action (if there are any takers) at face value. I hate doing this. Hate it. Reeeeally hate it, but a million is too much to put up for one 3 day event. It’s the only event I’ll sell pieces for and hopefully by then I’ll have had a great summer and make a run in that event as well.
Going into the WSOP there is a good chance I spend $600,000 in buy ins leading up to it at Aria and Bellagio respectively. Lots of $25k buy ins with unlimited rebuys so each one is likely to cost a little over $50k on average, plus a $100k with the same format right before the Super High Roller Bowl. Below, I’m going to list my WSOP schedule outline for events I may play. If the event is not listed, that means I won’t be playing it for sure.
June 1 3pm $100k NLH
June 2nd 3pm $2500 Triple Draw Mix
June 3rd 3pm $10k Omaha HL
June 4th 3pm $1500 Dealers Choice
June 5th 3pm $1500 2-7 NL Single Draw
June 6th 11am $1500 HORSE (secondary)
June 6th 3pm $10k NLH Heads Up (priority)
June 7th 3pm $10k Dealers Choice
June 8th 3pm $5k NLH
June 9th 3pm $1500 8-Game
June 10th 3pm $10k 2-7 NL Single Draw
June 11th 3pm $1500 Stud 8
June 12th 3pm $10k HORSE
June 13th 3pm $1500 2-7 Triple Draw
June 14th DAY OFF
June 15th 3pm $50k Players Championship
June 18th 3pm $10k Stud
June 19th 11am $1500 NLH Shootout
June 19th 3pm $2500 Big Bet Mix
June 20th 3pm $25k PLO
June 21st 3pm $10k 2-7 Triple Draw
June 22nd 3pm $2500 Stud 8/Omaha 8
June 23rd 3pm $10k PLO
June 24th 3pm $1500 RAZZ
June 25th 3pm $10k Limit Hold’em
June 26th 11am $1500 PLO 8
June 26th 3pm $3k NLH
June 27th 3pm $10k RAZZ
June 28th 3pm $5k NLH (6max)
June 29th 3pm $10k PLO 8
June 30th DAY OFF
July 1st 3pm $10k Stud 8
July 2nd DAY OFF
July 3rd DAY OFF
July 4th 11am $10 WSOP Main Event
July 8th 3pm $3k PLO (6 max)
July 9th 3pm $3k LH (6 max)
July 10th 11am $5k NLH (30 min levels)
July 10th 3pm $1500 NLH/PLO
July 11th 3pm $10k NLH (6 max)
July 12th 3pm $3k HORSE
July 13th 3pm $50k NLH
July 14th DAY OFF
July 15th 11am $1 million One Drop
Maximum Events: 39
Maximum Buy Ins:$1,414,500
With that hefty buy in for the One Drop I’m looking at about a $2 million investment this summer starting in May and taking me all the way through mid July.
For those of you who enjoyed following the journey last year via my WSOP VLOGS, good news, they will be back and pop up on YouTube DAILY. We will also have them up at the same time each day, midday on this side of the pond, and late evening over in Europe. I plan to spend a bit more time breaking down hands and have found a really cool new way to deliver it that you will see when the VLOGS start churning out. First day of the VLOG will be available June 2nd starting with the WSOP $100k and every day after that. I may get a pre-WSOP VLOG in as well.
Get your bankrolls ready people! I hope to see good turnouts for these events since many poker players who have gone the route of Crypto Investor just might need to put in some work at the tables again.
I’ve watched every minute of every game and have a really good idea as to “how they are doing it.”
1. System- this team plays like no other team in the league. Using a basketball analogy they essentially play a full court press all game on defense, and a transition fast break team on offense. If they kept a stat for the quickest team in the league that causes a turnover then moves the puck up ice, no other team would be close. They play an up tempo high variance game and constantly are looking for odd man rushes that lead to lots of high quality chances. Most teams win the puck, possess it, look for what options are available, then decide to make a play. Not this team. It’s instantaneous. Blind passes, stretch passes, quick transition and it catches teams on their heels constantly. They are more effective 5 on 5 in transition than they are on the power play in relation to most teams. Power plays don’t play to their strengths, but they more than make up for that with their 5 on 5 play.
The other key reason this system can work is that George McPhee drafted SPEED. There isn’t just one line to key in on, all four lines play a very similar up tempo style that depends heavily on speed in transition.
2. Rolling four lines- That rolls into my next point nicely, the use of all four lines and all three defensive pairings. On most teams you will see all-star minute munchers on the back end playing upwards of 30 minutes a game. On Vegas, their top d-man in terms of average ice time is Nate Schmidt clocking in at just 22 minutes a game. Everyone plays. Most teams use their fourth line sparingly, as little as possible. This team’s fourth line is used often and have developed a real chemistry. They possess the puck, and while they don’t score a lot of goals, when they are out there, neither does the other team.
When defending this team, you can’t just focus on one speedy line and then take a break in between those shifts. They come at you in waves. Consistent in their approach, and while the 4th line plays a bit more of a North-South game, the other three lines played an incredibly similar style of hockey. Teams get no time to catch their breath, it’s constant pressure for 60 minutes.
3. Discipline- They don’t take penalties! I believe they rank as the second least penalized team in the league. Vegas also ranks in the bottom five in total hits. Outside of Brayden McNabb and William Carrier, this team isn’t built to punish opponents physically. They don’t take many dumb penalties being overly aggressive. The focus is on winning the puck, and turning it up ice as quickly as possible.
4. Trust- This is where I shower heavy praise on coach Gerard Gallant. The players love him. He was the perfect coach for the job. Unlike a John Tortorella, this is a players coach for a new team of guys who may be coming in with bruised egos after being let go by their previous team. The last thing they needed was a guy barking at them that they suck. Gallant earned their trust and has the players, to a man, believing in the system. Not many teams can say that losing their best player wouldn’t have a major impact on their success, but Vegas is unique, in that, no one player is bigger than the system. Somebody goes down, next guy up is plugged into the system and gets the job done.
5. Chemistry- This team had the opportunity to bond early with the tragedy we saw in Las Vegas a week before the home opener. They were out in the community showing their support after the tragedy, and while it’s hard to gauge how much closer an event like that can bring people together, I wouldn’t underestimate it. These guys seem to really like each other. This high tempo style relies on players knowing where each other is going to be and the chemistry on this team developed rapidly and is undeniable. They all share the bond of being either underestimated, underutilized, or underpaid by their previous team. They play every night with a chip on their shoulder. Every night there is a player on that team with something to prove. Whether it’s Marc-Andre Fleury showing the Pens that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, or William Karlsson putting on a clinic against Columbus letting them know that had he been given a chance, he could have been the all-star for them that he is for this team.
So in my last blog I covered a few key hands I played on day one and figured I would share some more that I jotted down to look at for review later. During the final table I didn’t really record any hands as I was focused on getting the job done, but on day two there were a few interesting spots I found myself in:
Stack depth 150 bbs
Ivan Luca raises middle position to 26k I call with 22 from the next seat and it’s heads up to a flop: 3h 5s 6d
Luca bets 30k I raise to 95k he calls
Turn: 3s check check
River: 8c he checks, I bet 400k and he folds 99
Thoughts- This flop gives me 6 outs against an over pair other than 77, but most importantly, there aren’t a lot of hands Luca will have that can 3-bet me on the flop. My raise also protects against free equity for him if he has a hand like QJ. When he calls, I think he’s either hit a piece of that flop or has an over pair.
I pretty much gave up on the turn and hoped I could catch one of my 6 outs. The river 8 was a good card for me, especially after he checks. I am quite sure at this point that I’m beat, but that 8 could help me actually represent 79 suited or even 88 which both could play the flop this way occasionally. In addition to those hands, if I did in fact flop a set I may often check back the turn (feigning weakness) to induce a river bet.
A standard sized, or small sized bet is going to get called a high percentage of the time. To get him to fold an over pair I’d have to size up my bet so I over bet the pot. It’s important to note, and also as a practice, that I also take this line and use this sizing with nutted hands like 7-9 and full houses. Otherwise my opponents will read into the fact that my bigger sized bets are bluffs, where my value bets are smaller.
There are pros and cons to that sizing. Cons are you don’t get called quite as often when you have a nutted hand, pros are your bluffs should work a higher percentage of the time. This one worked and put me in good position.
I raise to 75k from the small blind with Js 8s vs Justin Bonomo who calls in the big blind.
Flop: 7s 6c 2s
I bet 45k, Justin makes it 175k I call
Turn: 7c check check
River: Jc I bet 175k, Justin makes it a million, I fold. Justin had Ks Qc
Thoughts- This is a hand I could easily limp in with, but I want to have some kind of raising range from the small blind playing this deep stacked and J8 suited is a good one to throw in there. Notice my raise sizing is bigger than normal in this situation due to the positional disadvantage post flop. I don’t want to make it cheap for the player in position to take a flop.
My flop bet sizing is roughly 1/4 pot which I’ll do quite often with a wide range of hands. Its a lot smaller than I used to c-bet, but I put in a couple months of work with this sizing and I like what it opens up for me as a whole.
By the river, my dilemma is to check or bet for value. Then if I am betting, is this a good candidate to size up and bet big? Is this a spot where I want to bet 1/4 pot and maybe get called by a weak hand or even induce a raise? Ultimately I chose to bet 175k into 500k.
When Justin raised the river I didn’t think he had a flush very often. It’s possible, of course, but this hand either felt like 67 or air. In hindsight, despite the large size of his river raise I think if I’m going to bet I also need to follow that up with a call. There is only one really legitimate combination of hands he does this for value with, and it’s basically just 67. Nothing else. The issue is, there are A LOT more combinations of hands he could have that are total bluffs. The “math” alone makes this a clear call for me, but I chickened out and folded after using just one time bank.
I asked several people about the hand and it seems everyone liked my river bet, but I really don’t. I think I have a better chance to snap off a bluff with a check then I would get a call from a worse hand. The line I ended up choosing was the worst of all of them, the bet/fold.
There is another key factor that led me to fold related to “ICM.” Essentially, the value of my stack after folding was worth a lot of equity. If I call and lose my stack would be worth significantly less. Of course, had I call and won my stack would be worth even more, but overall it felt like my stack was already big enough to avoid this risk.
If I had a mulligan, I would have chose to check call a river bet, even a rather large one.
The final table was one of the strangest I’ve played in 20 years. No one ever went broke when they were all in. I think it may have surpassed 10 straight all ins surviving. I went on a roller coaster after taking a beat against Bonomo on the river where I was down to 2 big blinds! I was able to run that up to 30 big blinds in the span of 10 minutes!
Unfortunately it did me no good as even with that lucky spin up, I still finished 4th. The final table for me came down to three key pots against Justin Bonomo:
My As Js vs his A-9 clean to the river and he hit a 9 to stay alive
My A-Q vs his 66 flop came J-T-4 turn 9, and I missed that one
My KK vs his AJ with Bryn folding an Ace, flop came A-4-3 and that was it
Three key big pots for me that made the ultimate difference and I ended up in 4th place for $521,140. Since I had to re-enter this one, that starts off the year with a $321,140 profit in event one, and I look to make a run in the $10k main event tomorrow.
I haven’t played a main event from the start in quite a while, usually going to the gym or doing interviews during the early levels, but with a torn ACL I plan to skip the gym and get there on time to try and build up a nice stack to end day one. Most of the super high roller players will skip day one entirely and play day 2 with a 30 big blind stack, but I’m inspired to play right now and feel like a good favorite to build some chips against a weaker field.
I’m certainly disappointed right now after that roller coaster ride at the final table, but in the end, it’s a good result and for the most part I thought I played well. I made a mistake against Bryn Kenney in one spot betting the turn and folding to a bluff, but aside from that I think I made good decisions throughout.
You are going to make mistakes in a tournament. Lots of them. The goal, much like a pro PGA golfer is to make the least number of mistakes you can, and make sure that your mistakes aren’t drastic errors. I think I accomplished that and have to be happy with a 4th in event #1 of 2018. More to come.
I haven’t done one of these blogs in ages where I go over my day with you all, but felt inspired to do so after my first day of play here in the Bahamas for PCA 2018. I just wanted to share a few key hands from the day:
Stack depth 250 bbs
Koray Aledimir raises under the gun at a 7 handed table to 2500. It folds around to me in the big blind and I re-raise to 13k with As Qs. Koray called.
Flop: Js Th 5d
I bet 7k on the flop and Koray calls.
I bet 100k
Koray tanks for a while, using a time bank extension and then makes the call with 5c 6c
Thoughts- I don’t normally three bet in this situation, or at least I never used to in the old days when poker was much easier, but felt like it’s important to have some type of 3 betting range in this situation and AQ suited is a fine hand to be doing it with.
On the river I chose a larger sizing to get Koray off a one pair hand which is his most likely holding as played. Sure, he could check back two pair or better on the turn, but it is far more likely that by the river he has exactly one pair. It was hard to see the 6s as a scare card in this spot. Had he not made two pair on the river, I don’t think he would ever consider calling me, but with two pair he has to call because theoretically I could bet AA or KK for value in this situation on the river. He beats that hand with two pair, but not with just one.
Stack Depth 80 bbs
At an 8 handed table Steffan Schillhabel raises to 3k from under the gun. Chris Huni calls from middle position, and Sam Greenwood calls from the button. The French businessman calls from the small blind, and I call 1800 more with Kc Jc
Flop: Kh 9c 3c
I check, Stefan checks, Chris bets 6500 and Sam Greenwood calls from the button. I check-raise to 20k, Chris folds, and Sam calls.
I bet 15k, Sam makes it 66k, I only have about 4k more and go all in. He calls and shows Ac Tc
Thoughts- this hand was a bit annoying because the dealer flashes my second card and my hand was supposed to be Kc Ts. He flashed the Ts and replaced it with the Jc. Lucky me! With K-T off suit I wouldn’t have lost too many chips in this spot, but with my stack size and the pot already bloated, it was a good spot to put some chips in.
When Sam called on the button and then called my check-raise I thought it was very lucky he had a flush draw as well. Either that or slow playing a a set. Once the turn comes considering my stack size and what’s already in the middle, there is just no getting away from a King high flush despite not feeling great about it when he raised.
That eliminated me early on and forced me to the re-entry cage. I’m now in $200,000 just a couple hours in.
Stack Depth 125 bbs
I raise on the button at a 7 handed table with Kh 7h to 5000. From the small blind Timothy Adams makes it 20,500. I call
Flop: Qd Td 7s
Timothy bets 45,000. I use a time bank and make the call. Timothy shows Kc 6c for King high
Thoughts- Obviously K-7 suited is a raising hand from the button, but I don’t really love it when Timothy raises me from the small blind. We were still relatively deep stacked, and as a general rule you want to play most of your big pots in position rather than out of position. Calling the 3-bet is marginal at best. I’m not entirely sure it’s correct, but it felt right in the moment.
When Timothy checks the flop I can absolutely justify a bet. I think sometimes you should bet, and sometimes you should check. The frequency is something you just need to figure out on your own! There is no “correct” play here in terms of it being either a bet or a check, you should have this hand in your betting range sometimes, but also in your checking range. You don’t want to ALWAYS do the same thing with specific hands on the flop or your opponents will learn your tendencies and really exploit you.
On the turn it seems like my hand rates to be the best hand so the dilemma is between protecting my equity or protecting myself from a possible check raise. I took the safer approach and checked.
By the river, if Timothy checks I’m going to have the best hand well over 80% of the time I’d say, but when he bets I can only beat a pure bluff. He made a big bet, so I didn’t think it was all that likely he was betting, A-T for example. It was either a slow played hand, a set of deuces, or an Ace high/King high type hand that he didn’t think could win at showdown. I think I have a stronger hand than I’m supposed to in this situation on average, so I made the call and picked up a key pot.
I ended the day with 438k in chips which is a nice stack, almost doubling up and looking forward to day two where the blinds will be 3k-6k. You can follow updates all day long at www.pokerstarsblog.com and also there will be a cards up live stream show at www.pokerstarslive.com so be sure to tune in!
For years now I have been posting an annual poker goals blog and 2018 will be no different. Each year I set between 8-10 poker specific goals and then look back at how it all unfolded. The goals I set are lofty, so I’m really not attached to the results in terms of seeing the year as a success or failure, but I’m a big believer in setting hard to reach goals. Not so hard to reach that you are living in fantasy land, but not so attainable that you rate to achieve the goal quite easily.
So before we look at the goals for 2018, let’s take a look at the goals we set for 2017 and see how I fared:
1. Cash for $2.5 million- I set this same goal in 2016 and whiffed pretty badly, but had a bounce back year in 2017 and was able to cash for $2,700,646. With so many huge buy ins across the world today, if you play a steady schedule of high rollers and don’t cash for at least $2 million, that’s going to be a losing year. Guaranteed. As long as the trend in poker continues to higher and higher buy ins, I’ll need to elevate this total for 2018.
2. Win 3 WSOP Bracelets- Well, we didn’t quite hit the mark on this one despite so many chances!
3rd in $10k No Limit Hold’em Tag Team
2nd in $10k Omaha H/L
6th in $10k HORSE
5th in $50k Players Championship
I was deep A LOT with a total of 8 top 20 finishes. The Players Championship loss stung as did the second place finish to Abe Mosseri when I was so close to finishing him off I could taste it. The last few years my luck has really seemed to even out in comparison to my initial start in poker where I had 8 wins to start my career with no 2nd place finish. The last few years the elusive win has been hard to come by.I’ve posted roughly 9 straight top 3 finishes without a win.
3. Cross the 100 cashes mark at the WSOP- We got this one done also. With fields paying 15% these days cashing for 10+ times during a WSOP is hardly all that impressive anymore. Imagine an average player who plays a full grind for 40 events. If he runs average, the average player should cash six times. If you are a pro player who plays the large field no limit hold’em events, it’s not a stretch to say you should be able to average about 10-12 cashes a year. In some of these events its as easy as doing a max late reg, then hanging in there for maybe 2-3 hours to lock up a cash! Currently I sit second with 103 cashes, 2 ahead of Erik Seidel and 24 behind Phil Hellmuth. While both guys had a 10 year head start, there are more events today with more places paid so racking up cashes is much easier than it was in the old days.
4. End the year #1 on the All-Time Money List- Erik Seidel came into the year posting back to back $5 million years. If he did that again in 2017 I’d currently be in second. Erik posted a respectable $2.2 million in 2017 which actually helped widen my lead by a half million.
Daniel Negreanu $35,319,815
Erik Seidel $33,277,777
2018 is going to see a massive challenge to this spot with the $1 million One Drop coming back. You will see loads of players spend $4 million+ in buyins throughout 2018. If I were to not cash in One Drop, it’s close to even money to assume there will be a new All-Time Money leader.
5. Win WSOP Player of the Year for the 3rd Time- This attempt was a bit frustrating after having an opening week where I posted a 2nd and a 3rd in $10k events and wasn’t even on the leaderboard. The Tag Team 3rd place ended up landing me less points than a Colossus min cash. An event I didn’t play but has as close to a guaranteed cash as you will find with all the opportunities to re-enter. I continued to post consistent results throughout, but the points system in place really didn’t reward those runs and I kept losing ground to people min cashing the large field NLH events. I gave up about 2/3 of the way in and chose not to attend the WSOP Europe to contend for the title. Needless to say I was a little bitter about the points system and felt it was kind of silly and disappointing. I do think next year’s POY system will be much improved from what I’m hearing.
6. Make the November 9- This one didn’t happen either as I had a really goofy WSOP run. I was on a short stack, 10-20bbs for quite a while and grinding hard looking for spots to survive and chip up. Then I just had the goofiest hands come up where a couple opponents, for shits and giggles played some really odd hands against me that I never could have expected in a million years!
Having said that, I pressed too much in the early stages and need to scale it back in 2018 for this event if I’m going to make another deep run.
7. Win $250,000 playing cash games- OK, so unfortunately I lost some of my records from the early part of the year and overall didn’t play much at all, but I’m pretty confident that I did accomplish this goal in 2017 by a nose. I played cash on Poker After Dark one session and think I won $140,000 and had a few other 6 figure winning sessions that likely had me hit this number.
8. Produce more content for poker fans- Safe to say that we accomplished this goal despite tailing off drastically by the end of the year. I produced a daily WSOP VLOG for the duration, Podcasts, and various YouTube videos ranging from Poker Tips, to Hand Breakdowns, to Poker related issues. I didn’t actually write many blogs but think I’ll go back to that in 2018. In a lot of ways I much prefer writing.
So all told that’s 5 out of 8! I’d say overall that is a good result and above expectation. Let’s take a look at the goals I have in store for 2018:
1. Top $40 million in Live Earnings- That’s going to require a $4,680,186 year from me which would just slightly be my second highest overall total ever. In 2004, before any $25k or above events existed, I cashed for a whopping $4,465,907 playing $10k buy in events. Those days are over, but it’s far easier today to post $4 million in cashes than ever before. It’s not easier because the game is easier, quite the contrary, but you are just going to see more and more high roller grinders shoot up the all-time leader board. Even players who are breaking even over the last few years will still show anywhere from $6-$8 million in earnings.
2. Win a WSOP Bracelet- OK so it’s been a few years since I won a WSOP bracelet. In fact, it’s been a few years since I actually WON a live tournament! So I’m modifying the previously lofty goal of winning 3 WSOP bracelets to winning just one. Not as easy as it looks!
3. Get to 115 WSOP cashes and/or close gap on PH- This shouldn’t be that difficult if I play a full WSOP schedule including maybe adding a few large field events I don’t typically play. It would either require 12 cashes, or just one more than Hellmuth gets.
4. Profit $2 million- So I’ve already established that I want to cash for close to $5 million this year, but that doesn’t guarantee a $2 million profit on the year. I expect to spend over $3 million in buy ins throughout 2018 so its going to take at least $5 million in cashes to make this a reality.
5. Finish Year Top 30 in GPI- For the GPI POY I ended the year in 40th place, but my actual GPI ranking ends the year at 73rd. Its tough to compete with guys who play a lot more volume than I do, especially in the smaller field high buy in events that rack up a ton of points, but I think top 30 is doable with the schedule I plan to play which should range between 65-75 events.
6. Final Table SHRB or One Drop- I’ve played some of my best poker in the Super High Roller Bowl but have yet to cash due to some bad luck each year when the cards are on their backs. I plan to be lucky in 2018 and make it to the final table of at least one of the two biggest buy in events of the year.
7. Win Poker Masters or US Poker Open- I’m a sucker for any best all around player award and there will be a new one to shoot for this year in the US Poker Open which incorporates PLO and a mixed game event. My only concern here is that I tore my ACL about a month ago and it requires surgery. My plan was to have the surgery when I return from Bahamas in January, but I’m not so sure I will be physically able to play the US Poker Open less than two weeks after surgery. I may choose to postpone my surgery till Feb 15th so that I can play the full slate of events, but I’m still stressing over the decision and haven’t committed yet.
8. Hang on the the #1 spot on the All-Time Money List- I have held this spot many times throughout my career, even before high rollers were a thing. This run has been about four years long in the top spot, and I hope to hold it for at least one more year. It will be tough as you can all but guarantee at least one player is going to cross the $35 million mark this year.
9. Win a Super High Roller- I’ve had so many seconds an thirds the last few years it’s become quite frustrating to not close the deal. To finish off the year I had a chance to do so against Dan Smith heads up in the $100k at Bellagio. We got it all in on the flop where I was an 84% favorite to have him crippled and give me a chance to knock off my first ever $100k, but the river helped him and I bit the dust.
10. 120 hours of Poker Study- For all these other things to happen this part is essential. I expect to ebb and flow how much study time I have, but averaging 10 hours a month shouldn’t be too difficult and be really worthwhile. My study plan includes working with my coaches as well as watching a lot of game film on my opponents. For my entire career I’ve always felt like it was imperative to study what my younger opponents are doing. Without having a deep understanding as to why they make certain plays, it becomes more and more difficult to succeed in beating them. The challenge has never been tougher with a solid group of young Germans studying together as well as plenty of other great young players from across the globe, but that is what makes this game fun for me! If it was too easy, I genuinely wouldn’t enjoy it.
I posted a poll on Twitter mentioning that in 2017 I cashed for $2,792, 104 and asked if people thought that was more or less than the total number of buyins I spent on the year. I mention this because I think my 2017 was a good illustration of the illusion that players cashing for $2 million in a single year is a great accomplishment. In the old days, before super high rollers, you could all but guarantee that cashing for $2 million would mean the player had a winning year. Well, the truth is, if a player plays the full high roller schedule and cashes for $2 million, they are all but certain to have had a losing year, and that’s before expenses.
I felt like I had a decent year in terms of results, but when you break down the numbers into an actual profit vs loss, I essentially broke even!
Considering my average buy in on the year was $40,481 this is about as close as you can get to breaking even. In fact, after my $936,000 score I was up on the year but played a couple of the one day $25k events at Bellagio, rebought a few times, and ended the year in the red.
With the $1 million buy in One Drop coming back this year, and the Super High Roller Bowl, and countless high rollers held here in Vegas and across the globe, it won’t be much of a stretch to see players spending upwards of $5 million in buy ins. $5 million dollars. Just in buy ins.
Granted, most of the players do not fund 100% of their action, but that’s irrelevant to the jaw dropping numbers we will see in 2018. I do stake myself in these events. I have separate deals with companies like PokerStars and Poker Central, but this income is unrelated to my buy ins. I make the decision to play and risk money that I’ve earned. Having said that, I will likely be selling action into the One Drop as it just seems like a bit of a crazy amount of money to risk in one tournament. I’ll likely sell about 50% of the action and I don’t charge mark up.
Here is a closer look at my last 5 years on the circuit followed by the totals. I would have provided a longer history but I didn’t keep accurate enough records of my tournament play until 2013 so this will have to do:
In the next few days I’ll write a follow up blog with what my goals for 2018 as I do each year. We’ll also look back at how I did for my 2017 goals. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Let’s make 2018 a kick ass year!
I have some ideas that I think would improve the WSOP POY system that would give the player who had the best series the best chance to win the award:
1. Limit Cashes to the best 8- To win player of the year you are going to have to play 20+ tournaments so 8 cashes with 15% of the field getting paid is more than reasonable. Capping the number of cashes that count ensures that the cashes being used are all quality scores and also limits the advantage players who double dip in tournaments and play the full schedule have. That’s good for the average Joe. If he strings together some big scores in the smaller events, that accomplishment isn’t negated by a ton of insignificant min cashes that are inevitable for players playing 50+ events. If you play 50 events, you rate to cash about 10 times even in a bad year.
2. Min Cash to Win ratio at 8-1- In a 600 player field, the current system rewarded the winner the equivalent of 4 min cashes. That’s not a good ratio. A ratio closer to 8-1 seems a lot more fair. When creating the formula you can embed this once you have decided what a win is worth. If a win is worth 100 points, a min cash could be something like 12 points sliding up as you progress to the final table where you can create another formula that looks something like:
Win 100 points
2nd 75% of 1st place points
3rd 65% of 1st place points
4th 60% and so on….
3. Value the $10ks buy in events higher- It is much tougher to cash in a 100 player field in a $10k event than it is to cash in a large field event that pays hundreds of spots. It takes roughly 3 times more play, the structures are slower on day two, and you are also fighting against top notch competition in the Championship events when you near the bubble. It often takes 3-4 hours to go from 23 to 20 players. These events should be special since the strength of field on average is going to be special.
4. Field Size Cap of 8000- The outlier in the 2017 system is definitely the Colossus which has multiple re-entries that bloats the field size as high as 20,000. A win in this event should absolutely be weighted heavily, but the min cash shouldn’t be given much weight. By capping the field size it becomes less distorted within the system.
5. Must Win a Bracelet- This one might be controversial, but I like it. We have never had a POY winner that didn’t win a bracelet, but that is very possible this year. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require at least one win to be rewarded POY. In fact I think it adds a cool dynamic to the race. You may have a points leader at the top without a bracelet who in the homestretch needs that win to win the title. Yes, I’m aware that this would exclude me from contention in the 2017 race, but it isn’t about me, it’s about a system that absolutely guarantees the ultimate winner will be deserving.
By implementing these five adjustments the award will maintain it’s prestige for years to come. Even if just 2-3 of these ideas were implemented, I would see that as a positive shift in the right direction.