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The Inside Straight

by CP The Inside Straight Authors |  Published: Sep 12, 2007

Brunson and Tomko Golf Invitational Had Millions at Stake
Top Poker Pros Battled on the Golf Course in Two Events
By Kristy Arnett

One week in August, a number of top poker professionals who are usually confined to sitting in windowless casinos or in front of a computer screen descended upon the Bali Hai Golf Club in 100-plus degree Las Vegas heat to play golf for millions of dollars.

Staples in the biggest games poker has to offer, including Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, and Erick Lindgren, took their competitiveness and passion for gambling from the felt of the poker tables to the greens of the golf course. The worlds of high-stakes poker and high-stakes golf converged, and the result was the Doyle Brunson and Dewey Tomko Golf Invitational.

It was created by Doyle Brunson, Dewey Tomko, and High Stakes Entertainment. The event was modeled after Jack Binion's Professional Gamblers Invitational, which was discontinued a few years ago.

"Dewey and I played in that golf tournament years ago and really enjoyed it. Jack left Las Vegas and the event was no longer happening, so we decided to re-create it," said Brunson.

The invitation-only ordeal consisted of two events. The first was a three-person scramble in which the teams competed for a $9 million prize pool that was generated by each entrant putting up $1 million. The teams were: Doyle Brunson/Dewey Tomko/Vince Van Patten; Erick Lindgren/Daniel Negreanu/Josh Arieh; and Russ Hamilton/Phil Hellmuth/Bill Walters.

The second event was a two-person best-ball tournament. It had a $250,000 buy-in. The teams were: Doyle Brunson/Dewey Tomko; Bill Walters/Hilbert Shirey; Russ Hamilton/Phil Hellmuth; Daniel Negreanu/Erick Lindgren; Mickey Appleman/John Hanson; Janet Jones/Vince Van Patten; Butch Holmes/Al DeCarlo; David Grey/Huck Seed; and Phil Ivey/David Oppenheim.

Before each event, players were treated to breakfast at The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino, where all opening and closing ceremonies took place. Once at the golf course, players were given an hour to warm up. This turned out to be a major negotiation time. Whispers of side bets and gambling opportunities continued throughout the entire event.

"I can't say any of the side bets that have been made right now, but they are much bigger than the event itself," said four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and 1996 World Champion Huck Seed.

In preparation for this ESPN televised event, many of the players took time out from playing poker to focus on golf.

"Daniel and I have been practicing a lot," said partner Erick Lindgren. "These guys are all good, and they're all hustlers."

Phil Hellmuth was fresh off his 11th WSOP bracelet win, but was excited for a competition away from poker.

"I am absolutely not as confident about my golf game as I am about my poker game, but I have been playing great. I have been hitting great shots. I just think this event is fun," he said.

With national television coverage, huge amounts of money and pride on the line, and a few of the most notorious gamblers on the poker scene today, the road to crowning two championship teams was action-packed with nail-biting finishes. The shows will air on ESPN on Saturday, Oct. 21 (event No. 1) and Saturday, Oct. 28 (event No. 2) at noon PT.

WPT China: First Step Into a New Frontier
Traktor Poker Tour to Debut in September
By Bob Pajich

With 1.3 billion citizens, China is looked at by businessmen from all industries as somewhat of a golden goose, a country so big that corporations around the globe are desperate to gain a foothold there.

World Poker Tour Enterprises (WPTE) has done just that by entering into an agreement with the government-sanctioned China Leisure Sports Administrative Center (CLSAC) to promote, brand, and exploit a national card game called Traktor Poker through the new Traktor Poker Tour.

"Obviously, everyone has their eyes on the Chinese marketplace," said Peter Hughes, WPTE chief operating officer. "For us, it's really about building the brand, getting the brand in front of mainstream China. We look at this as a long-term investment. It's not necessarily going to be a game changer at this moment."

WPTE will put on up to 15 Traktor Poker Tour competitions in provinces throughout China within the year. Tour details are still being worked out, but the first event is set to take place in September.

Traktor Poker, also known as Tuo La Ji, pits teams of two against each other, similar to four-way gin. A double deck of 108 cards (jokers included) is used, and the players try to make tricks using tens and kings. The entire deck is dealt out every hand. It's considered an official sport by the CLSAC, and Westerners have described it as a cross between bridge and gin.
Players will not pay to compete in the events. It's not yet known how teams will qualify, but it will be similar to how heads-up tournaments take place (think NCAA basketball).

The winners of the regional tournaments will meet in Beijing sometime next year to play for the championship, which will be televised by the state.

WPTE is paying the CLSAC $505,000 a year, which increases 10 percent each year, for the rights to run the Tour.

Not all of the events will be filmed for broadcast, and the contract that WPTE has with the CLSAC requires the CLSAC to broadcast only the championship event on state-owned television, but WPT China will try to find local stations to broadcast filmed events.

This deal is the biggest step that WPTE has taken to expand its brand outside the U.S., and company officials hope that WPT China will enable the company to gain a foothold in the biggest market in the world, Asia.

Caesars Palace Poker Classic on Horizon
Casino Giving Away Many Free Seats
By Bob Pajich

Caesars Palace in Las Vegas is gearing up for its first Caesars Palace Poker Classic, which will take place at the landmark casino Oct. 12-24. The 13-event tournament will feature a mix of games with buy-ins ranging from $550 to the $10,000 championship event.

For Caesars Palace, it's not just a poker event. It's a chance to do a little showing off.

"When you think of Caesars Palace, you think of quality, upscale, top of the line - and that's what people are going to see with the Caesars Palace Poker Classic. They're going to see prestige," said Jason Halperin, Caesars Palace's poker tournament director. "It's an opportunity to showcase what Caesars Palace poker is all about."

Caesars Palace will run satellites for all of the events starting Oct. 12. Single-table satellites, in which players can win lammers that can be used toward any tourney, start at $65, and a $550 mega-satellite will run every day at 11 p.m. during the tournament. People who make it deep in the $550 satellites will win seats in the championship.

Players who play in the $1,040 sit-and-gos can use their lammers only for the championship. Also, two mega-satellites will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21 (noon and 7 p.m.), the day before the main event is scheduled to start.

This summer, Caesars Palace placed the finishing touches on its 33-table tournament room, which sits back from the main poker room. Also, a tournament cage was added in the back that is used for registration, which keeps the crowds trying to get a seat in a cash game manageable.

In September, Caesars will be giving away a seat in the $10,000 championship every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Whoever is dealt the best hand each day during those days will win a free seat. Caesars Palace also gave away 15 seats in August as part of a freeroll that required players to play 60 hours in the preceding month.

Registration for the Caesars Palace Poker Classic begins Oct. 11. Card Player will be covering the championship event with live chip counts, videos, and reports, and also will be reporting the results of all of the events.

Poker Coming to at Least Two West Virginia Counties
Voters in One County Rejected Referendum; Too Close to Call in Another
By Bob Pajich

Table games, including poker, are coming to at least two of the four West Virginia counties that have casinos, and depending on the results of a recount, a third county also might allow table gambling.

Voters in Ohio and Hancock counties, which border Ohio and Pennsylvania, already voted to allow table games to be added to the casinos and racetracks that already exist there. In both counties, voters approved the table-game referendum by about a 2-1 margin. Voters in Jefferson County rejected the measure, leaving its lone casino, Charles Town Races and Slots, with only slots and dog racing.

Mountaineer Racetrack is in Hancock County, and Ohio County has Wheeling Island Racetrack.

On the weekend of Aug. 11, voters in Kanawha County passed the table-game referendum, but the outcome was so close that a recount is most likely. The referendum passed 25,544 to 22,511, and the results have not been certified, since several hundred votes from a few voting precincts have not yet been tallied as of press time.

The casinos in Jefferson and Kanawha counties - if the measure fails in Kanawha - can request another table-game referendum in two years.

Bodog Begins Fight Challenge Poker Tournament Series
Grand Prize is Trip for Two and Tickets to a Bodog Fight Event
By Kristy Arnett

The Bodog Fight Challenge Poker Tournament Series will give players a chance to battle a mixed-martial-arts fighter from the safety of their own homes. Instead of in a ring, players can face Bodog fighters in an online poker tournament and win prizes worth thousands of dollars in the process.

There are six qualifying tournaments, held once a month until Jan. 17, 2008. The buy-in is $5.50. The top 30 percent of finishers in each of the six qualifying tournaments receive points reflecting the place in which they finish. Prizes such as autographed gloves and "swag bags" are awarded to the top-six finishers.

Bodog fighters compete in the qualifying tournaments and can be identified by special fight avatars.

Points accumulated during the qualifying period will rank players on a tournament leader board. After the six qualifying tournaments, the top 30 percent of players with points on the leader board will compete in a final tournament on Jan. 31. Bodog fighters are excluded.

The prize for first place in the final tournament is a trip for two and tickets to a Bodog fight or Bodog-sponsored event. Bodog also is awarding the winner $5,000 worth of Bodog fight gear. The top-five finishers will receive prizes, including a plasma-screen television and a custom Bodog poker table.

Harvard Law Professor Forms Poker Society
GPSTS to Teach People How to Use Poker Strategy Every Day
By Bob Pajich

A Harvard law professor with a special interest in Internet law has formed a University-based think tank called the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society (GPSTS), which he hopes will take root in colleges and universities everywhere and will use poker as an educational tool to teach everything from basic life skills to war games at military colleges.

"Poker is one of the best metaphors for teaching life skills across a variety of disciplines," Charles Nesson said through a press release. He couldn't be reached for a comment as of press time.

Nesson officially made the announcement on Aug. 19, in Singapore, at an international conference called "State of Play." The society's website,, went live the same day.

Nesson believes that poker and its strategies could be used for the good of the world. The goal of his society is to offer strategic-thinking workshops to secondary schools, colleges, and community centers, using poker as the tool.

Harvard will have the first GPSTS, and the society eventually hopes to hold NCAA-style championships featuring teams of poker players representing everyone from graduate students to professionals from all walks of life.

According to the press release, Nesson believes that poker concepts could be used to "teach basic life skills, strategic thinking, geopolitical analysis, risk assessment, and money management. The goal is to create an open online curriculum centered on poker that will draw the brightest minds together, both within and outside of the conventional university setting, to promote open education and Internet democracy."

Readers Forum


I wanted to take a minute to respond to Daniel Negreanu's column, "Is it Time to Change the Main Event?" which was printed in the Aug. 15 issue of Card Player. Let me start by saying that I am actually a big fan of Daniel's, and enjoy watching him play poker on TV; however, I think he really missed the boat with this column. Daniel's main point is that ESPN and its audience want to see "name" poker players win the World Series of Poker main event. I would ask Daniel, how exactly did most of the name players make their names known to the general public? Without the main event, many of the name players today could walk into their local poker rooms without even getting a second look. How many people knew who Sammy Farha, John Juanda, or Phil Ivey were prior to their main-event appearances?

In addition, is there more drama in a welder from Idaho sitting at a final table trying to earn his kid's college fund or a seasoned pro for whom it is just another tournament? The antics of pro Phil Hellmuth in a recent televised WSOP tournament is a good example of why people are pulling for the everyday guy sitting at the table. Every time Hellmuth was in a big hand, he went to the sidelines and bought insurance from Phil Ivey. In the end, the drama was taken away from the tournament and focused on Hellmuth. Thus, the drama becomes artificial and self-serving.

The lure of the main event is that any person can go from playing poker in his monthly basement game to winning millions at the WSOP. Daniel and the other pros may be a little too detached from the average person to realize that point. So, while I enjoy watching Daniel and the other pros play, I don't need to see them at every tournament, and I certainly wouldn't change the format of the main event to help them gain more TV time. If they do happen to make the final table - no disrespect intended - I probably will be rooting for Jim-Bob from Tallahassee to knock them out.

Steve Vesper
Burlington Township, New Jersey

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JCC Celebrity Poker Shootout a Success
More Than $89,000 Raised
By Kristy Arnett

The JCC Celebrity Poker Shootout at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas attracted poker pros such as Evelyn Ng, Andy Bloch, Steve Zolotow, Barry and Allyn Jaffrey Shulman, T.J. Cloutier, Eli Elezra, David Benyamine, and Erica Schoenberg to play and raise more than $89,000 for charity. Tournament director Matt Savage donated his time to run the event.

All proceeds from the tournament, which had a $450 buy-in and $200 rebuys, were donated to the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada. The JCC is currently responsible for nearly 500 educational, social, athletic, and cultural programs in the Las Vegas area that promote Jewish values as well as contribute to the greater good of the entire Southern Nevada community. It also runs one of the largest food pantries in Nevada.

Schoenberg was one of the lead organizers of the event, and also the winner. She won the first-place prize of a 2008 World Series of Poker main-event seat and plans to donate any winnings from the tournament.

Full Tilt and ProPlayer served as the event's sponsors.

The money generated at the event will go toward building an independent facility for the JCC and the Jewish Family Service Agency (JFSA). For more information on these worthwhile organizations or to make donations, go to or

Ladies Tournament at Treasure Island Every Monday
$120 Spa Certificate an Added Bonus for the Winner
By Kristy Arnett

Monday night is no longer just for football. Treasure Island will celebrate the opening of its weekly ladies tournament, called Poker Sirens, on the night of the first NFL Monday night football game on Sept. 10. Players will be treated to the extra bonus of competing alongside actresses from the Sirens of Treasure Island show, who all will have bounties on their heads. Players who knock out a siren will receive various prizes.

First-place winners also receive a $120 gift certificate to the spa in Treasure Island, called Wet. The tournament begins every Monday at 7 p.m., and players can register anytime. The buy-in is $65 and players start with $3,500 in chips; the blinds change every 20 minutes.

Omaha Tournament Weekends at Binion's
$150 Buy-Ins Every Second Weekend of the Month
By Kristy Arnett

No-limit hold'em has held the title for most popular variation of poker for the past few years, but Omaha is hugely popular in poker rooms, as well. Binion's, the legendary gambling hall and hotel in Downtown Las Vegas, is capitalizing on that popularity by holding Omaha tournaments during the second weekend of every month.

On those weekends, each day features a different tournament. On Friday, it is pot-limit Omaha, Saturday features pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better, and Sunday offers limit Omaha eight-or-better. All tournaments begin at 5 p.m. and have a $150 buy-in.

"The first Omaha tournament weekend took place in August, and we got very positive feedback from the players. We are expecting really great turnouts for the upcoming weekends," said Gary Dewitt, the poker room manager at Binion's.

Tournament dates for the rest of the year are Sept. 14-16, Oct. 12-14, Nov. 9-11, and Dec. 14-16. For players who cannot make one of these scheduled weekends, Caesars Palace runs a Monday pot-limit Omaha tournament that starts at 5 p.m. It has a $75 buy-in, $3,000 in starting chips, and 30-minute levels for the blinds.

J.C. Tran: Man on Top of the World
By Bob Pajich

J.C. Tran has been at the top of the Card Player Player of the Year standings since the beginning of the year, thanks to a great start after racking up a win, a second place, and a sixth place in the first three World Poker Tour championship events he played. By March, he already had won more than $2 million. It was a start that mirrored that of his friend and last year's Player of the Year Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.

The 30-year-old Tran is now facing the same challenge that Mizrachi did last year during the second part of the year, because he has a bunch of great players right on his tail, looking to take over the Player of the Year lead.

Tran was kind enough to take some time during the preliminary events at The Bicycle Casino's Legends of Poker tournament to talk with Card Player about life and the race.

Card Player: So far, how would you describe 2007 for J.C. Tran?

J.C. Tran: It started off just unbelievably. Right off the bat, I played three major events and made the final table in all three of them. I mean, it was overwhelming. I really didn't expect it.

CP: You started out 2007 very strongly. What do you attribute that to?

JCT: This year, I skipped all the preliminaries in Tunica. I went in and played the main event only. I guess that helped a little bit, just being fresh. I was on top of my game, everything was clear. Sixth place was a good start right away.

CP: How important is it to have a fresh mind and body?

JCT: Oh, it's very important, because these tournaments, especially the WPTs, are always long and draining, and you can't really afford to make a mistake.

CP: But you also ended 2006 very strongly with two victories in November and December for more than $500,000. And you had a very good 2006 overall. How do you maintain such great consistency?

JCT: The most important thing is not to play too many events. You get burned out, and a lot of players don't know that. A lot of these guys play $500 and $300 buy-in events, and that's just too much poker. Your mind can work only so much. I cut down last year. I played mostly the West Coast events. I don't fly out to Borgata or Foxwoods and play every event there. I like to play with a fresh mind.

CP: How did this year's World Series of Poker treat you?

JCT: It was very disappointing. I went in with high expectations. I have done well in every World Series since my first one back in 2004, making a final table every year. This year, I came close. Mentally, I wasn't prepared. I was tired. I made a couple of huge mistakes. I can't blame any of the cards; it was all my fault. I basically gave it away.

CP: What would define a good WSOP for you?

JCT: For me, at least two final tables, at least one top-three finish, and to definitely cash in the main event. I mean, the main event, to me, is one of the easier events due to the fact that the field is very soft.

CP: You have been the Player of the Year points leader basically since the year started, but slowly, players have been sneaking up on you. Whom do you need to be worried about?

JCT: I need to be worried about all of them. I mean, they're all great players. Jared Hamby, James Van Alstyne, David Pham - they play all of the events. That's a big reason why I'm at the Bike right now.

CP: Tell us something that people might be surprised to hear about you.

JCT: I'm a pretty good cook. I don't cook too many things, but when I do, everyone loves it. I make the best baked chicken wings.

CP: What are some of the things that you think you need to do to get better?

JCT: I think I need to shift gears. I definitely need to be ahead of the pack, because when you play with these guys day in and day out, they're going to catch up with you. The day they figure out how you play, you're going to lose that edge. The most important thing is to be rested. You don't want to overwork your brain. Before every tournament, you want to relax and put your mind in relax mode before it starts.

CP: In your mind, what defines a great poker player?

JCT: A great poker player has to be consistent, year in and year out. And you have to have great money-management ability. You also have to be a good cash-game player as well as a good tournament player. A lot of guys think they're the best because they can play tournaments, but they can't play a lick in cash games. For you to consider yourself a great poker player, you have to do both.

CP: Is there anything you want to tell the players who have been chasing you in the Player of the Year race?

JCT: I want to tell them to take it easy. Relax. Go home and spend some time with your family. You don't need to play every day.

Online Hand-to-Hand Combat: Slimshaggy's Dead-On Read of Weakness From an Opponent's Flop Check Wins a Huge Pot
By Craig Tapscott

Want to study real poker hands with the Internet's most successful players? In this series, Card Player offers hand analysis with online poker's leading talent.

Event: PokerStars no-limit hold'em $100 (with rebuys) tournament
Players: 234
First Prize: $30,827
Stacks: slimshaggy - $356,200; Villain - $173,117
Blinds: $4,000-$8,000
Antes: $800

The Villain raises to $24,000 from the cutoff. Slimshaggy calls $20,000 from the small blind with the 6 6.

Craig Tapscott: What's your table image at this point in the tournament?

Shawn "slimshaggy" Luman: I was the big stack and had been very active since I'd obtained that stack, raising a lot preflop and taking down most of the pots right there and then. I also had folded to reraises a few times when I'd been played back at, so I had a very loose-aggressive image.

CT: Were you concerned that if you reraised here, you would get re-popped?

SL: Well, with 6-6 in the small blind, I'll call a cutoff raiser. I don't want to overdo it with my mediocre hand and risk being reraised. But, it's good enough to call with and see a flop.

Flop: J 10 10 ($63,200 pot)

Slimshaggy checks. The Villain also checks.

CT: Did you take his check in position as a huge sign of weakness?

SL: This was very important, because I strongly believed that he would bet any kind of hand here. Since the flop was paired, it was very likely that it missed me. Also, with the J-10 there, there are lots of draws he would want to protect against if he had anything at all.

Turn: 8 ($63,200 pot)

CT: Do you think sixes are good now?

SL: The turn card shouldn't have helped him, so I bet out, figuring to have the best hand.

Slimshaggy bets $31,400. The Villain raises $116,917 and is all in for $148,317.

CT: I don't think you expected a shove there.

SL: He does put me to a tough decision now. I already had decided that I thought he would surely bet that flop with almost any made hand that beats me. And add to that my loose-aggressive image, which makes it likely in his mind that I'm trying to buy the pot here.

CT: What kind of hand are you putting him on?

SL: He could have some kind of draw that he's trying to semibluff, like some kind of 9 or a club draw, or even K-Q, although I really think he would have bet the flop with K-Q. Adding all of that information together, I just decided that there was a very good chance I was good with my underpair here, and after tanking, I made the call.

Slimshaggy calls $116,917. The Villain reveals the A 4, having turned the nut-flush draw.

River: 10 ($359,834 pot)

SL: My read was right, and I won a nice pot to pad my stack.

CT: This event had a very strong field near the end. Top online pros shaniac, sheets, #1Pen, Pwnasaurus, BrooDog, gbmantis, Tmay420, Randers, and recent World Series of Poker bracelet winner Steve "MrSmokey1" Billirakis were all in contention for the $30,000 first prize. It must have been a very satisfying win for a part-time player.

SL: It was. It was one of the bigger $100 rebuy events I've seen, and one of the strongest final two to three tables I'd played at.

Shawn Luman, 34, is a very successful part-time player in live and online tournaments. He has won many top online tourneys, including the PokerStars $200 rebuy event, and has numerous deep finishes in the major Sunday tournaments across all sites. At the 2007 WSOP, he finished third for $224,249 in the $1,000 no-limit hold'em rebuy event, and also took second in the $1,000 no-limit hold'em event at the 2007 Scotty Nguyen Challenge III for $32,492.

Full Tilt Online Poker Series V Back With a Vengeance
By Shawn Patrick Green

The Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS), like any other poker tournament series out there, strives to one-up itself with each run. The FTOPS did it once again when it managed to blow its expectations out of the water with its fifth installment, much unlike this year's World Series of Poker. Pretty much every aspect of the tournament's 14 events beat out its predecessor, the FTOPS IV, held in May.

Here are some numbers to mull over for the tournament series:
Total combined entrants: 24,901
Total combined guarantees: $7 million
Total combined actual prize pools: $10.5 million
Percentage by which guarantees were beaten: 45
Total combined first-place prize money: $2.1 million

This run-through of the Series had not one, but two truly gigantic events - the $500 buy-in $2 million-guaranteed no-limit hold'em main event and the $2,500 buy-in two-day no-limit hold'em event.

The Main Event: Both Epic and a Bit Underwhelming
No one can deny that the main event of the FTOPS V was a tremendous success. The event lured 4,578 entrants and had a prize pool of $2,289,000. The first-place finisher of the event stood to earn a huge $396,000 payday for taking it down. Despite those huge numbers, that first-place prize was not the biggest prize to be won in the Series, which undercut the
tournament to a certain extent.

Also underwhelming was the stock of star power at the final table (at least, as far as we know; who knows who's hiding behind those screen names?). The two most notable players were pokerskibum, a player who had taken down a $100,000-guaranteed tournament at Bodog this year, and CrazyZachary, who recently had sat down with Brian "sbrugby" Townsend for some heads-up high-stakes poker. The marathon final table lasted almost two hours before CrazyZachary bested Clayton_27 heads up to take down the top prize.

A Two-Day Tournament Online?
While it wasn't the first time a two-day event had been held online, it was nevertheless a fairly unprecedented move for a major online poker site to hold such a tournament. Also unprecedented, at least for Full Tilt, was the event's $2,500 buy-in. The event had a conservative guarantee of $600,000, but actually generated a prize pool of $1,620,000 when it attracted 648 entrants. It offered a first-place prize of almost $397,000, the largest payday in the Series.

Notable Internet player Wade "soggy dogg" Woelfel sat at the final table but made an early exit when he busted out in ninth place ($31,000). It came down to a heads-up match between Viktor and Grndhg25, and Grndhg25 scooped in the final pot to snag the mammoth first-place payout.

Chatbox Cunning
Quick strategy from online poker's top pros
Annette "Annette_15" Obrestad

On tournaments with weak players and fast blinds structures:
"You just can't bluff if you're playing against weak players. Just be patient. If you have three calling stations behind you, you don't want to be raising with king-deuce. You might, however, raise with seven-six suited and hope to hit a flop. You don't want to get too tricky, though. You can't do too much unless you get cards in that situation. For example, when you get short-stacked and have 10 big blinds, if you shove queen-deuce, you'll get called by queen-jack. You can't do much without getting cards, because their calling ranges are so huge. As long as you bet your hands hard enough, you're going to get paid off when you hit. So, just be patient with them."

On flopping the absolute nuts:
"If you're playing against an aggressive player, you want him to bluff at you, but if you think he has a big hand, you can just shove it in and hope you get a call. It looks more suspicious if you just call, basically. It looks like you're trying to trap him."

Tournament Schedule
The PokerStars tournament lineup is one of the most robust of any online poker site, and is getting even more jam-packed every day. Here are some tournaments to look out for:

No-limit hold'em - $3.30 buy-in (with rebuys) - $30,000 guaranteed - daily at 8 p.m. ET
No-limit hold'em - $55 buy-in - $50,000 guaranteed - daily at 9:30 p.m. ET
No-limit hold'em - $11 buy-in (with rebuys) - $55,000 guaranteed - daily at 10 p.m. ET

Those interested in signing up for these tournaments can follow this link to see a complete schedule:

Scott Freeman
Burning Up
By Craig Tapscott

Quick, someone call 911. Send the Los Angeles Fire Department to extinguish Scott Freeman's blistering computer monitors. The dual flat screens stand ablaze with 15 tournaments simultaneously; a mouse scorches from resteals to all ins, to quick calls, and a snap fold at one table when the board flushes on the river. Good read. Easy laydown. Next.

"Damn," mutters Freeman as he takes a sip of water and continues to click, click, click away. The warm summer's day has just begun for the self-confessed competition junkie.

From the moment poker hooked Freeman during home games as a sophomore in high school, the drive to be one of the best firmly took root.

"I read everything," says Freeman. "I spent all my time on online forums. My AIM buddy list is now filled with hundreds of players, and all we do is talk about hands all day. And I really don't play poker for the money, but for the need to be great at something."

At the 2007 World Series of Poker, that need was partially fulfilled, even if it did come with a dose of residual disappointment. The University of Southern California senior took a shot at the nirvana of all poker players' dreams, a world championship title. Freeman came close enough to smell what the ESPN final table was cookin'. A 19th-place finish would pad his bankroll with more than $333,000, yet once again raising the bar for loftier goals and pumping more tournament adrenaline through a fiercely competitive heart.

Craig Tapscott: Did you enjoy your WSOP main-event experience overall?

Scott Freeman: It was pretty crazy. I mean, just the number of different people I played with during the entire event was fun. The play was about what I expected, though, overall - awful. That tournament is such a crapshoot. It had nothing to do with that I'm somehow better than all of the great players who didn't go deep. There is so much variance. But I don't believe in luck. It's just math and probability.

CT: Online players made a great showing once again.

SF: There are a ton of live-action players who are very, very good, like J.C. Tran. But many known live-action players really have no clue.

CT: So, some online players have an edge. How so?

My main argument is that I'm sure I've played more no-limit tournament hands than Doyle Brunson. That is one of the online players' advantages.

CT: What is one of the key concepts of which some players lack understanding?

SF: The concept of fold equity is completely misunderstood by most players. They don't understand the difference of moving in with your opponent having a chance to fold versus calling off all of your chips. Fold equity is probably the single most important aspect of no-limit tournaments.

CT: What else?

SF: Assigning hand ranges. For every single decision you make, you must assign a hand range to your opponent. At this point for me, it's instinctual and unconscious, from playing so many hands.

CT: At the WSOP, what was the biggest flaw you saw in most players' games?

SF: Stacking off with bad hands. They don't know how to fold.

CT: What do you need to do to improve your own game?

SF: Putting in the second, third, and fourth raise when I know I don't have the best of it. And being able to reraise when I know I have fold equity or four-bet preflop when I know I have the worst hand. I see some of the better players doing it, like Imper1um and lilholdem.

CT: Come on. Nothing else?

SF: (Laughing) Well, I need to tilt less. I play so emotionally. I need to remove that from my game. If I played my best game at all times, I would have much better results.

CT: That's scary. Two days before we met for this interview, you won the Full Tilt Poker $1,000 event for $33,000, you've won a PokerStars $100 rebuy event and taken a second place for more than $44,000 total, and you won an Absolute Poker $1,000 buy-in event for $33,000 this year. (Freeman plays as SCTrojans online.) Will your need for competitive speed make you careless with your winnings at 21 years of age?

SF: My dad is a financial advisor, so I've been raised with a very good money mindset. It's never been an issue with me about blowing a bunch of money. I don't spend a dollar on anything. And it helps that my parents are really supportive.

CT: Any parting advice?

Stop trying to outplay your opponents every pot. You can do it by winning a ton of chips with the best hand, by getting the maximum value out of each and every hand.

Card Player Digital
Card Player TV

Poker players have been known to live extravagant lifestyles. Winning or losing thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on any given day is part of their job. When it comes to things outside of poker, many players spend their time and money very differently.

Card Player TV is giving viewers a look into that side of many poker pros' lives. Every week, a "lifestyle" video is released. This includes everything from a night on the town to a private tour of a player's home. Be sure to keep your browsers locked on to view all of the latest videos.

Card Player Mobile
In light of the new deal between Card Player Media and the World Poker Tour, it is now more important than ever that poker fans get Card Player Mobile on their phones. Card Player now has exclusive rights to live WPT tournament reporting, so you need not go anywhere else for updates and chip counts.

The next WPT event is the Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City. The $10,000 buy-in main event is scheduled for Sept. 16-20. Go to to get all of the breaking news and in-depth hand-for-hand coverage for free on your phone.

Power Poker: Haxton Pushes Back With 3 High
By Mike Sexton, the 'Ambassador of Poker' and Commentator for the World Poker Tour

The Caribbean Poker Adventure is always a fun tournament on the World Poker Tour. It combines a fantastic vacation with a phenomenal WPT event. It's where many online qualifiers get their opportunity to match wits and skills with many of the top pros in the world - and, let me add, they do so very nicely. Invariably, youth seems to prevail on the WPT in the Caribbean.

This hand came from the heads-up battle in which Isaac Haxton and Ryan Daut were fighting it out for well over a million bucks and a coveted WPT title. Ryan had nearly a 2-1 chip lead with the blinds at $100,000-$200,000 and antes of $20,000.

Daut limped in from the button with 7-5 offsuit. Haxton, with the 3 2, opted to take a free flop. The flop came A-Q-4 with two hearts. Haxton had flopped a gutshot-straight draw and checked. Daut, with absolutely nothing, bet $300,000 to try to steal the pot. Haxton made the call with the straight draw. The K came on the turn, and again Haxton checked. Daut now decided to check, also. The river brought the Q - which was no help to either player, but that sure didn't mean that both of these guys weren't going to fight for the pot.

Haxton, with the worst possible hand you could have, led out for $700,000. That bet didn't have much effect on Daut, however, as he raised to $2 million with the 7-5 offsuit! Incredibly, Haxton was a nonbeliever, and although he had far fewer chips than his opponent, he didn't yet want to give up on the pot. He came over the top and reraised all in for more than $6 million with the worst hand possible!

Folks, I just can't emphasize how strong this play is - to move all in for all of your money after you've been raised. Phew! And he did it with his tournament life on the line and more than a million bucks and a WPT title at stake. To be able to pull the trigger here is just awesome.

Because the pot wasn't raised preflop, neither player thought the other guy had an ace in his hand. When the board paired queens on the river, both were trying to represent that they had at least a queen in their hand. This was the logic behind their bluffing.

When you talk to any top poker player, the one common answer they all seem to give when asked, "What separates the top-tier players from the rest?" is, "They have heart." That means they are not afraid to make a play, whether or not they have a hand, when their gut tells them they can win a pot by doing so. Well, these guys both showed tremendous heart in this hand. Both deserve credit for the way they fought for this pot and for demonstrating what it takes to win on the WPT - "heart."

Haxton won this pot by moving all in with nothing, but Ryan "No Daut About It" took down the tournament and captured his first WPT title. Nice going, Ryan!

Handling Downswings
By Andrew Wiggins

We've all heard of that old saying that if you play poker long enough, you will run worse than you ever thought possible. It's true, and some of the reasons are hard to identify. Many people try to prepare for downswings, but when the downswings happen, they can't recognize or pull out of them.

As focused as poker players are on their results, it's surprising how long it can take them to realize they're experiencing a downswing. Sometimes it's denial, and sometimes the losses happen too gradually or seem too unlucky to seem like a full-fledged downswing. Whatever the cause, it usually takes a lot of losing before a player realizes he's in the biggest slump of his life.

In a normal downswing, players generally assume they'll come out of it, and they're often correct. A larger, longer one, however, deserves more attention.

My biggest downswing began this January. After the online-poker legislation passed last year, I pulled most of my money offline, but continued to select games as if I were over-rolled for $10-$20 no-limit. When I didn't have many buy-ins left online, I began to play differently, but I didn't realize it. Furthermore, I was just cocky. I spent less time studying the game, because I figured that I could keep playing my old game and winning.

I also was playing too many tables. Before the legislation, there were enough soft games that I could play eight tables with a good win rate, but that was no longer the case. This also compounded my other mistakes: Playing too many tables will both increase the number of tough decisions you face and reduce your focus on each one. I already was playing scared without having adjusted to the new texture of the games, and playing eight tables made me play even worse.

I didn't break out of my downswing until I made major changes, the first of which was to stop playing for a month and a half. I think everyone eventually needs to take a break: Playing while burned out is a bad idea, and if you play long enough, you will burn out. I didn't start playing again until I was living in Las Vegas with other poker players. This got me excited about poker and focused on the game, and it also enabled me to review hands with excellent players whenever I was unsure about the correct line. Having people to discuss hands with is a time-tested way to improve your poker, and building these relationships is a good way to fight the loneliness and inertia that the poker lifestyle so often brings.

Even more importantly, I studied the new games and adapted to them. The legislation had reduced the supply of new players, and the existing players had improved, so the games were playing much more aggressively. I was stubbornly playing the same game I had been playing for years, and my results suffered. They didn't improve until I stopped playing mechanically and began using all of the new information I'd been ignoring.

I found that my late-position raises were getting less respect and that I had a harder time winning small pots uncontested. Therefore, I needed to hold stronger hands in small pots, and I had to fight harder when played back at preflop. So, I tightened up; I played 20 percent fewer hands than I had been. When my opponents gave me action as I tried to "steal" small pots, I usually was holding a far stronger hand. Meanwhile, I reraised late-position raises more often, and called or four-bet more often when someone three-bet me. This not only thwarted my opponents' steals, but cultivated a loose image, which helped me to continue getting action; remember, I'd started folding the weakest 20 percent of the starting hands I used to play, I found myself with a good hand post-flop much more frequently.

Once I'd identified where I was losing money, the solutions were logical, but I couldn't find them until I'd admitted that I was losing. I also selected games carefully and played fewer tables, usually four instead of eight. Only then did I start winning again. It took me four years, but I finally learned the truth of that old saying. I ran worse than I thought was possible, but my poker is better for having gone through it.

Andrew Wiggins, 22, is a professional poker player living in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a part-owner of CardRunners.

Know When to Fold 'Em
By Dave Apostolico

The analogies between poker and business are astounding. A fundamental knowledge of one can be extremely useful for the other. For instance, there's an old poker cliché that remains a cardinal rule in both poker and investing - know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. As simple as this advice sounds, many find it very difficult to follow. The reason is twofold (excuse the pun): pride and greed. These are fundamental attributes of human nature. People do not like to admit mistakes and greed often gets the better of us. Success - at the poker table and in life, to a large extent - is directly proportional to our ability to overcome these feelings.

Folding a strong but losing hand is the hardest thing to do in poker. You could be playing for an hour and not receive a playable hand. Then, all of a sudden, you get a very strong hand but your opponent has you beat. Letting go of that hand is extremely difficult. We get emotionally attached. We feel a sense of entitlement. What we fail to do is keep the hand in perspective. Three aces are no better than a pair of deuces when you are up against a full house. In fact, they are a whole lot worse. We would not have any trouble folding those deuces. The aces, however, are likely to cost us a lot of money unless we keep our emotions in check. The ability to recognize when you're beat is a survival skill that will serve you well in investing. Nothing should be viewed in a vacuum. Those three aces cannot be played blindly. You must pay attention to what your opponent is doing and what he may have. Your hand must be considered in relation to the hands that your opponents may have.

A common mistake of both poker players and investors alike is to hold on to a poker hand or investment because they have invested a lot and they want to at least get their money back. Beginning poker players are notorious for staying in hands until the end because they have some money invested in the pot. What they fail to realize is that the money is no longer theirs. Once bet, that money belongs to the pot. Whoever wins the hand will get the money. If you do not have a realistic chance of making a winning hand, throw it away. Of course, there will be times when it is worth drawing another card when the pot is substantial and there are some cards out there that will improve your hand to the winning one. However, poker players who consistently draw cards until the end of the hand in the face of overwhelming odds - because they want to get their money back - will be big losers.

It is never too late to fold a hand. Poker can change in a hurry. You may be the leader after the flop with two pair, but the turn may give your opponent a flush and, in the process, make you a long shot to win. Even if you've been betting heavily (as you should have) in the beginning rounds, it is now time to let go of your hand.

Likewise, it is never too late to sell a losing investment. If a stock you bought has depreciated 20 percent and the fundamentals have changed for the worse, sell. Too many investors tell themselves that they will sell as soon as it gets back to their original purchase price. The original purchase price is irrelevant. That 20 percent is gone. It is no longer the investor's money. Any analysis should be based on the current price of the stock and whether it is a good investment at that price and worth holding on to. In today's global economy, things can change fast. If the stock is no longer a good investment, sell. As simple as this sounds, it is a very difficult thing to do. The original purchase price creates a psychological barrier to letting go. Human nature being what it is, people do not like to admit that they made a bad investment. The original purchase price creates a false frame of reference. They want to hold on until they get their money back. However, that money is no more theirs than the money that the poker player has thrown into the pot. Whether you are playing poker or investing, constantly evaluate where you stand at the present moment and make a decision accordingly. Don't let your ego or a desire to get your money back cloud your judgment.

David Apostolico is the author of the recently released Poker Strategies for a Winning Edge in Business, which uses poker analogies to teach the reader how to win in all aspects of business and life.

Sit 'n' Win: How to Beat Single-Table Tournaments
By Tim Peters

Sit 'n Go Strategy: Expert Advice for Beating One-Table Poker Tournaments by Collin Moshman (Two Plus Two, $24.95)

Although you can now find sit-and-go tournaments (SNGs) in many brick-and-mortar cardrooms, online poker sites really catalyzed the popularity of these one-table tournaments. It's easy to understand why: They offer a quick tournament experience, and they pay, typically, 30 percent of the players - which is good for the bankroll and the ego. Strategically, SNGs don't play like cash games (obviously), but they don't really play like multitable tournaments, either. They require a different approach, and this new book from Two Plus Two Publishing is, to my knowledge, the first volume devoted to this emerging form of poker. (Other writers have discussed SNGs, of course; Lee Jones has a good chapter on the topic in his Winning Low Limit Hold'em.)

Author Collin Moshman articulates and expands on an approach that he says is "relatively simple, yet brutally effective." He urges you "to play a cautious game when the blinds are small and any pot puts you at risk for early elimination, yet aggressively when the blinds are large and you begin your quest to accumulate all the chips in play."

In other words, play tight when the blinds are low. Ramp up the aggression during the mid-blinds section of the SNG (in particular, look for chances to steal and re-steal). And during the final, "high-blind" phase, use "unrelenting aggression" to win. Moshman supplies plenty of examples to demonstrate how this simple strategy gets put into practice - not just how to play your hands, but how to play the players and the situation.

Not surprisingly, Sit 'n Go Strategy details the mathematical logic that makes Moshman's approach so powerful. The book begins with a somewhat counterintuitive observation: "The more chips you have, the less each chip is worth" (Sklansky fans will recognize this idea from his Tournament Poker for Advanced Players). If you approach SNGs with the idea of increasing your tournament equity (as opposed to your chip count), you'll avoid big pots in the beginning stages of the SNG: "Doubling up early only doubles your chip count, not your equity … This is because chips are worth less the more you have" (emphasis Moshman's).

Like many strategies, it isn't absolutely necessary to understand the theoretical basis. But it is absolutely necessary to be able to execute. You've got to be disciplined and teach yourself to avoid playing hands like A-10 suited or A-J in the early stage. And you've got to have the heart to move in with hands like Q-9 (or worse) during the high-blinds portion of the SNG. "Never allow yourself to get blinded off." That's Moshman's SNG mantra, which is good advice in any tournament, but especially important in SNGs.

The section on high-blinds play is definitely the best part of the book. It's relatively straightforward to play tight in the early stages of any tournament, but Moshman provides plenty of tactics and strategies for the high-blinds phase, including when to push, of course, but also when to call (even when you're calling all in) and when to fold.

After taking you through the three phases of a typical single-table tournament, Sit 'n Go Strategy concludes with some provocative discussions of the differences between SNGs and multitable tournaments, and the psychology of this popular form of poker.

Altogether, it's a very useful book for SNG players, though Moshman doesn't get many points for style or liveliness. Sit 'n Go Strategy is written with the deadpan dryness that is Two Plus Two's stock in trade. (Hold the personality, boys, we're talking strategy!) You may slog through the prose, but you'll be well-rewarded with the strategic insights of Moshman's book.

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