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The Inside Straight

by CP The Inside Straight Authors |  Published: Oct 10, 2007

Teenager Wins World Series of Poker Europe Main Event
Annette "annette_15" Obrestad Takes Down $2 Million
By Bob Pajich

Tiger Woods was 21 years old when he won his first major tournament. LeBron James was 18 when he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sidney Crosby is now the face of the NHL after he became the only teenager to win a scoring title in any of the four major American sports at the age of 19.

And then there's 18-year-old Annette "annette_15" Obrestad, who just joined those sports figures who have at times been described as prodigies when she won the first World Series of Poker main event to be held outside the United States recently.

Obrestad outlasted 361 other players at the five-day £10,000 no-limit hold'em event in London's Leicester Square. Because of the exchange rate, the buy-in was almost $20,000. She took home more than $2 million for her victory.

Her win was truly historic, for several reasons. With it, she shattered the record for youngest poker player to win a WSOP bracelet by more than two years (she turns 19 next week), and also passed Annie Duke as the woman with the most money won in WSOP events. Duke has just over $1 million in cashes, and has played many, many more WSOP events than Obrestad, who won't be able to play in the WSOP in Las Vegas until 2010.

Duke also won $2 million in the 2004 Tournament of Champions, which was an invitation-only event sponsored by Harrah's. When Duke won that event, she held the record for the largest tournament poker prize won by a woman. This also was broken with Obrestad's victory ($2,013,102).

The main event, which was the third in a series of three held in London, generated a prize pool of more than $7.3 million. Comparatively, the $10,000 World Poker Tour Gulf Coast Poker Championship that was just held in Biloxi generated a $2.46 million prize pool, and the $10,000 Legends of Poker championship held at The Bicycle Casino in August generated $4.6 million.

The final-table participants represented not only the continuing youth movement to poker, but the international one, as well. The average age of the final nine players was 25, and the players represented five different countries: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the U.S., and the UK. Only three of the final nine were over the age of 30, and none were older than fifth-place finisher Theo Jorgensen, who is 35. The last American standing, Matthew McCullough, finished third.

The top nine and their winnings in U.S. currency were as follows:

Internet players have followed the exploits of Obrestad through the years, even though she's been playing only since she was 15 years old. She started her mighty online bankroll by playing in freerolls and earning real-money tournament chances, which she cashed in.

She has a cult following on the Internet, and whenever she's playing online, railbirds serenade her with marriage proposals and cheers of goodwill. Yet, she is so shy that when WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack asked her to say a few words after her victory, she shook her head and accepted her prize without a sound.

Caesars Palace Classic Starts Oct. 12
By Bob Pajich

The Caesars Palace white marble façade has lit up the Strip for 45 years, and for the second time in its history, it will host a $10,000 poker event that's open to the public.

The Caesars Palace Classic (CPC), which runs for a dozen days in October, starting Oct. 12, will conclude with a $10,000 championship event that has a $1 million-guaranteed first prize. It will take place in the largest tournament room in Las Vegas that's open year-round (the Amazon Room at the Rio, where the World Series of Poker takes place, is a convention hall for most of the year), and one of the most beautiful, to boot.

Card Player and are the exclusive media outlets for the CPC. Video and print reports from most of the events will be provided, and the championship will be covered from start to finish.

During the last year, the poker room has gone from a fine-looking start-up - joining other casinos opening poker rooms, thanks to the booming popularity of poker - to one of the best places to play poker anywhere in Las Vegas. Jim Pedulla, the poker room manager, just celebrated his one-year anniversary in his position, and the room reflects his friendly and outgoing personality.

"Coming into the room, it was lacking personality," Pedulla said. "It wasn't very difficult to drive revenues once we got everyone into the mindset that we wanted to take this poker room and turn it into something that poker players weren't used to, which is exceptional customer service."

The way the room is run, from top to bottom, has noticeably changed. The staff is friendlier, the tournament schedule has never been more ambitious, and Pedulla is starting to see more and more customers return to the room when they visit Las Vegas.

"I think the players love consistency, and they like a staff who is there for their needs," Pedulla continued. "It's almost like fine dining, and I think that's what separates us from the rest."

As soon as Pedulla arrived at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, he envisioned it hosting an annual major tournament. Caesars already had hosted a successful $10,000 World Series of Poker Tournament Circuit event, and the very popular NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship is filmed there, but this is the first time a full-fledged poker series will take place there.

The full schedule includes 13 events, with buy-ins ranging from $340 (the ladies event, Oct. 21) to $10,000 for the championship event. Most of the events are no-limit hold'em, but a $1,060 Omaha eight-or-better event (Oct. 18) and a $550 pot-limit Omaha event (Oct. 20) will be held.

Leading up to the CPC, Caesars started spreading a ladies tourney on Tuesdays and a pot-limit Omaha tourney on Mondays, each with a $75 buy-in. Winners of these weekly events also received an entry into their respective tourney.

And starting in November, Caesars will begin holding a weekly Omaha eight-or-better tourney on Wednesdays with the same buy-in. Pedulla and Tournament Manager Jason Halperin believe that players want to play in tournaments other than no-limit hold'em. He said that they're listening and spreading them, and are happy to do so.

More information about the CPC and its many qualifiers can be found at both and the Caesars Palace website.

Poker Academy Harnesses Years of Poker Research
Company is an Offshoot of the University of Alberta's Computer Science Department
By Bob Pajich

Kurt Lange, the CEO of Poker Academy, the company behind the poker software products Poker Academy Prospector and Poker Academy Professional, believes his company offers the poker world the best software to teach people how to win at poker. The reason is the lineage of computing that has gone into all of his products.

For several decades, the computer science department at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada, has dedicated substantial resources to writing programs that could beat humans at games. A wing of that game department has been writing and rewriting programs to "solve" poker. That is, these computer geniuses have been obsessed with building a computer that could always beat a human competitor.

As a direct offshoot of this research department, Poker Academy not only has all of those years of research at its disposal, but, oftentimes, former students working for the company to build programs to help make the poker geeks among us better players. The pedigree line behind the products is matched by no one, Lange says. University of Alberta researchers have been working on "the poker problem" for the past 15 years. Poker Academy also is located in Alberta.

Lange says the players who would benefit most from his products are those who are willing to work at the game.

"There's so much meat and substance and power behind the software that people who are going to put in an active effort to really improve their game are going to get a lot more reward out of it than the causal player," said Lange.

It's powerful stuff. The artificial intelligence behind the software is the same as that which tied Phil Laak into knots recently during a "Man vs. Machine" poker exhibition that took place at the Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference. The day after the event, people were able to go online and play the actual software that was used.

"Statistically, we have put more research into the AI development than anyone else," Lange said. "One of the key things is that it's being developed by people who are really passionate about poker. There's really no one in the company who doesn't play poker on a regular basis."

These researchers want to become better players, and they are in the position to write software that could help them - and it's available to all of us.

Lederer, Raymer to Instruct at H.O.R.S.E. Academy
World Series of Poker Academy H.O.R.S.E. Edition Takes Place in November
By Bob Pajich

H.O.R.S.E. tournaments are becoming more and more popular, and always attract the toughest players in the business who pride themselves on being able to play all forms of poker, and not just hold'em.

On the weekend of Nov. 2, the World Series of Poker Academy will pull into Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to conduct a seminar dedicated to this kind of tourney. The intensive three-day seminar will focus on the five forms of poker that make up H.O.R.S.E.: hold'em, Omaha eight-or-better, razz, stud, and stud eight-or-better.

The instructors will include two-time WSOP bracelet winner Howard Lederer, his sister and fellow WSOP bracelet winner Annie Duke, WSOP Champion Greg Raymer, two-time WSOP bracelet winner Mark Seif, WSOP $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event runner-up Andy Bloch, Joe Navarro, an expert on nonverbal behavior, and others.

Each day of the Academy will feature lectures, live hand analyses, and interactive workshops with students in the Caesars Palace poker room. And some participants will walk out of the seminar with more than just their notes. At the end of the second day of the Academy, a H.O.R.S.E. tournament will be held in which the top four finishers will each win a seat in the 2008 WSOP $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. event.

On the Academy's final day, another H.O.R.S.E. tournament will be held, with the winner receiving entry into the 2008 WSOP main event. The cost of the seminar is $2,199. More information can be found at

Jordan Morgan Wins World Series of Poker Tournament Circuit Event in Tunica
He's Now $216,852 Richer
By Bob Pajich

Jordan Morgan finally got his ring.

The Internet poker whiz, who's known as "iMsoLucky0" in the world of online poker, won his first major live poker tournament when he took down the World Series of Poker Tournament Circuit event held at the Grand Casino Tunica recently. He won $216,852, bringing his total live-poker tournament winnings to more than $1 million.

Morgan was one of 138 players who headed to Mississippi with the $5,150 buy-in to try to win the title, and he pulled off the win against a tough final table.

The top six finishers and their prize money were as follows:

The next WSOP Tournament Circuit event will take place at Caesars Indiana, Oct. 17-Nov. 7 (the $5,000 buy-in championship starts on Halloween).

California Poker Players Conference at Hollywood Park
Lecturers Include the PPA's John Pappas and a Host of Poker Luminaries
By Bob Pajich

Hollywood Park Casino in Southern California is inviting players to register for the first California Poker Players Conference (CPPC) that's taking place at the end of October. The two-day conference features an all-star lineup of some of the most important people in poker today.

The conference (Oct. 20-21) will be hosted by Mike Caro, and features more than a dozen speakers who will be talking about everything from winning poker tips to the future of poker in America. Registration is $200.

The speakers and their topics include: World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack (the 2008 WSOP), Lou Krieger (Seven Top Winning Tips), Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas (Poker in Politics), Marsha Waggoner (Girls in a Man's World), Russell Fox (Poker and the IRS), Vince Burgio (Be a Poker Pro), Barbara Enright (Read Your Table), and others.

The CPPC will be held in conjunction with the always popular National Championship of Poker, which takes place Oct. 17-Oct. 28. This tournament features a dozen events with buy-ins ranging from $125 (with multiple rebuys) to the $1,070 championship no-limit hold'em finale. All of the events except the third one are versions of hold'em. The third event is a half stud eight-or-better and half Omaha eight-or-better tourney with a buy-in of $340.

For more information, or to register for the conference, please visit

Florida Poker Sees Titanic Boom
Law Changed the Stakes July 1
By Bob Pajich

This summer, Florida legislators changed the law to allow poker rooms to spread no-limit, raise stakes, and extend hours. The bottom-line results, for both the state and poker rooms, already have been impressive.

The law allowed poker rooms to spread no-limit hold'em with a maximum buy-in of $100, raised the maximum bet from $2 to $5, and allowed racetracks and jai alai centers to keep their poker rooms open during events. Changes went into effect on July 1.

Comparing June and July of this year, poker revenue in the state's 18 cardrooms increased almost 60 percent, according to state figures. Poker rooms generated $7.7 million in revenue in July, and the state gets 10 percent of that.

The change in hours also had a huge effect on the bottom line. Before, poker rooms couldn't be operated when a race or a jai alai competition was taking place. This sometimes caused the closure of the poker rooms for up to four days a week. Now, the rooms stay open while the events are going on.

The change has prompted many of the state's cardrooms to increase their number of tables, as well as staff. It also appears that even politicians at the local level are taking notice.

The town council of Orange Park voted to allow Jacksonville Greyhound Racing to open a poker room at its Orange Park Kennel Club, bringing the number of poker rooms in Florida to 19.

Online Poker Giant Takes a Stand Against Ranking Sites
By Shawn Patrick Green

PokerStars recently put its foot down on the online poker ranking sites, and the poker community noticed.

Poker ranking/tracking sites give users access to leader boards, tournament results, and individual player winnings. Some sites went as far as giving its users the ability to look up the ROI (return on investment), net winnings, in-the-money finish percentages, and other profitability indicators for every player on PokerStars and other sites.

It was the unmitigated access to profitability statistics that got some players up in arms. Enough concerned players contacted PokerStars about their privacy being breached that the site decided to do something about it.

"The view of a large number of our players is that they do not wish their ROI and profitability to be displayed in a public or subscription-based website," said Stephen Winter, manager of PokerStars game security.

PokerStars sent what was essentially a cease-and-desist letter to all of the major ranking sites, which theoretically could kill off what had become, for better or worse, a thriving industry in poker data.

The PokerStars Mandate
In a message sent out to all of the major online poker ranking/leader board sites, PokerStars wrote the following:

To ensure player privacy regarding certain player statistics and financial information gathered by websites (hereinafter "Service Operator") that collect and organize PokerStars players' results by various means, PokerStars has devised the following rules with which such Service Operators must comply:

1. No player profitability data (i.e. ROI, net profit, etc.) may be displayed on any player unless the player has explicitly opted into such display by transferring $0.03 to a prominently published PokerStars account owned by the Service Operator. This request must be acknowledged by the Service Operator by sending the $0.03 back to the player as confirmation within a reasonable time frame not to exceed five days.

2. Any player may choose to completely opt out of having any information about them displayed on the Service. To do so, the player will transfer $0.01 to the service operator's PokerStars account. This request must be acknowledged by the Service Operator by sending the $0.01 back to the player as confirmation within a reasonable time frame not to exceed five days. Note that the amount here is different, in order to distinguish an opt-out request from an opt-in request.

3. The use of the "transfer from user to Service and back again" method for opt-in and opt-out is required. This method permits these requests to be handled privately and securely without the disclosure of the player's e-mail address, real name, or other private information. Only the player's PokerStars user ID is required.

4. Both the opt-in and opt-out options must be prominently displayed on the main/front page of the Service (at a minimum, a normal-sized link on the front page to a more complete description elsewhere).

5. If the service's operation predates the establishment of these guidelines (December 2006), there shall be no "grandfather clause" for existing data. One hundred percent of historical profitability data must be removed from view until such time as a player explicitly opts in as above.

Any Service Operator found to be in violation of these rules risks having their access to PokerStars' game client restricted and/or the service impeded, including, but not limited to, the warning of players who access the Service while the PokerStars client is open.

From the Players' Mouths
Scott Fischman, a player who has made a name for himself both live and online (playing as "emptyseat88"), tends to agree with PokerStars' clampdown. He said that the poker industry, as a whole, tends to suffer as a result of the ranking sites.

"As far as the poker community is concerned, I think that, overall, the poker sites are being hurt by websites like these, because players are being shown the cold hard facts that they are losing players," he said. "Once they get a look at how bad they are actually doing, they may throw in the towel."

Poker pro Jordan "iMsoLucky0" Morgan said the policy was "a long time coming," and that it was a privacy issue that needed to be dealt with. He was not, however, keen on the issue of PokerStars monitoring its players' Internet browsing.

"They're protecting some people's privacy by invading the privacy of others," he said. "That seems like a problem. The sites definitely have the technology to monitor what you're doing on your computer. If they want to let people have their privacy, they should really let people have their privacy."

Progressive Bad-Beat Jackpots
Provide a Big Win for a Tough Loss
By Kristy Arnett

Once in a blue moon, a poker player could have the best hand that he ever had, such as quad tens or an 8-high straight flush, and still lose. In many cases, this would be devastating not only to his psyche, but also to whatever percentage of his bankroll he had on the table at the time, because chances are, he lost it all thinking that he had to have the best hand; that is, unless that player was at a casino with a progressive bad-beat jackpot.

Las Vegas has two major progressive bad-beat jackpots. One is a $150,000-guaranteed jackpot at participating Station Casinos, which include Palace Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station, Red Rock Casino, and Green Valley Ranch. The player who loses with quad nines or better is awarded the set amount of $45,000, while the player with the winning hand is given $30,000. All players participating in a hold'em cash game in any of the casinos receive an equal share of the remaining jackpot and are guaranteed at least $200.

Players in the bad-beat hand must use both holecards to qualify. Since it is progressive, the jackpot size grows every day that it does not hit. Every Tuesday, the qualifications for a bad beat decrease.

The other major bad-beat jackpot is at participating Harrah's properties, which are Paris, Flamingo, Rio, O'Shea's, Bally's, Harrah's, and Harrah's Laughlin. It starts at $50,000, and to qualify, a player must lose with quad tens or better. That player receives 30 percent of the jackpot while the winner gets 20 percent. The remaining 50 percent is split between hold'em cash-game players in all rooms.

For every $20,000 the jackpot increases, the bad-beat qualifier hand is lowered. Once hit, the jackpot restarts at $50,000.

Binion's Guarantees $10,000 for $70 Buy-In
Tournaments Take Place Every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
By Kristy Arnett

Known as "the place that made poker famous," Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel, located in Downtown Las Vegas, is running $10,000-guaranteed tournaments for a buy-in of $70 every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

"You can't play any tournament in town for such a low buy-in that guarantees so much money to the players," said Gary DeWitt, poker room manager at Binion's.

The initial buy-in gets players $2,000 in starting chips. An additional $1,500 in chips can be added on at any time during the first hour for $40. Blinds start at $25-$50 and go up every 20 minutes.

"The structure is very player-friendly. You get a lot of play for your buck. It has been very successful, and because of this, we are looking to add the Friday 2 p.m. tournament as a $10,000-guaranteed event in the near future."

These guaranteed tournaments attract an average of 125 players. In addition, all first-place winners are entered into a monthly Tournament of Champions (TOC) that takes place on the first Sunday of each month at 10 a.m.; 2 percent of each of the daily tournaments from the previous month is withheld for the TOC prize pool.

Card Player Player of the Year

Bill Edler Turns Two Chips Into a Championship

In what will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in the modern poker era, Bill Edler won the inaugural World Poker Tour Gulf Coast Poker Championship recently, and jumped into second place on the Card Player 2007 Player of the Year (POY) leader board.

The way he pulled off this victory would make Jack "Treetop" Strauss, who coined the phrase, "All you need is a chip and a chair," extremely proud.

With 17 players remaining in the tournament and the blinds at $4,000-$8,000 with a $1,000 ante, Edler was down to his last two $1,000 chips. Sixteen eliminations later, Edler held the champion's trophy high in the air (read more about it in Julio Rodriguez's feature story in this issue).

Edler's resiliency and willingness to gamble at all the right times are traits that very well could help him earn his first POY title.

Edler earned 1,248 points for the win, and he now has 4,696, only 714 behind current leader David "The Dragon" Pham. Pham and third-place resident on the leader board J.C. Tran both failed to cash in the tourney.

Edler has had quite a year. So far, he's cashed eight times, for more than $2.6 million in tournament winnings. He won his first World Series of Poker bracelet, won a $10,000 heads-up championship in which he had to beat Barry Greenstein in the final match, finished 33rd in the WSOP main event, made one other WPT final table, and barely missed another when he finished seventh.

He quite possibly is playing the best tournament poker of anyone in the world right now. He's that good.

A 'Little' Giant Waits in the Wings
Jonathan Little was poised to make a run at the Gulf Coast Poker Championship title and a major run at the top of the POY leader board with a big stack in the tournament late on day three. But, his large stack dwindled as the final table of 10 played down to a final television table of six when he took a number of heart-wrenching beats and finished in seventh place, good for 312 POY points. He now sits fifth on the leader board with 3,618 points.

Little has been consistent throughout the year, most notably placing fifth at the WPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January, and winning the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown in May. If this "Little" giant adds a collection of strong finishes or another title to his resume in the closing months of the year, he could become the youngest player of the year in history.

Crowded at the Top
The closing months of the POY race have become crowded with a number of seasoned professionals determined to make it to a photo finish. The players at the top of the leader board have been playing focused poker as of late, and it is hard to go from one major event to the next without seeing one of them at a final table.

Pham has the chip lead, and the experience, which makes him the favorite at this point. He won the POY award in 2000 and would like to claim another title, especially after finishing as the runner-up to Daniel Negreanu in 2004.

Edler seems to play for respect and titles just as much as he does for cash at this point, and he's bound to make a determined effort in the closing months of the year. And although J.C. Tran may have lost some momentum, he can't be discounted, either. And, of course, there are other fantastic players who could very well leap to the top. Just check out the standings for proof.

Online Hand-to-Hand Combat: Steve Wong Steals a Blind vs. Blind Confrontation
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.

Craig Tapscott: Why would a top professional play in such a low buy-in event?

Steve "S 18" Wong: Well, a true poker player can play and win at any buy-in level. It's always good to practice in these huge fields. At the time, I was playing in three tournaments simultaneously, and this was the last game I started, and ended up winning it. It was a pretty good payout for just a $5.50 investment.

CT: Set the stage for us. At what part of the tournament did this hand occur?

SW: We are down to the final two tables. I've played with all of these players for a while now, so I kind of know their playing styles. And in this hand, I'm in the big blind.

The Villain is in the small blind and raises to $36,000 when everyone folds around to him.

CT: What's the Villain's table image to this point?

SW: I didn't think he was very strong, and he seemed to be hanging in there to get to a higher rung on the pay scale.

CT: Do you have a history with this player?

SW: I know that the Villain likes to steal when he gets the chance. And at these high levels, he won't get that chance that often. That's why I think he's on a steal attempt in this hand.

S 18 calls $36,000 with the 6 4.

Flop: K 10 10 ($81,600 pot)

Villain bets $36,000.

CT: What hand range are you putting him on here?

SW: If he had a 10, he wouldn't be betting here. The maximum he can have here is Q-9. I call, trying to represent the 10. I'm also calling to see what he's going to do on the turn, and then take it away.

Turn: 8 ($153,600 pot)

Villain checks.

CT: I assume that you are now pouncing on this weakness.

SW: It's a good turn. When he backs off like this, I decide to bet.

S 18 bets $120,000. Villain calls.

CT: Does his quick call surprise you here?

SW: Not really, because now I'm almost positive that he has Q-9 and he's hoping for a jack.

River: 8 ($393,600 pot)

Villain checks.

S 18 bets $384,000. Villain folds. S 18 wins the pot of $393,600.

CT: Obviously, you aren't putting him on any ace in this spot.

SW: When he checks again, I think that at least it will be a split pot. But why not take it all? I decided to put him all in. I've got half of my stack invested in this pot now.

CT: In situations like this, how do you know that your opponent can't call your all in?

SW: Because I was positive that he was going for more money, so if he calls and I have an 8, 10, king, or an ace, it's all over for him. By the things he was saying in the chatbox, it gave me the impression that he wanted to cash as high as possible without risking too much. So, that made it possible for me to make this move.

Steve Wong has been one of the most successful tournament players online over the last few years, winning the big Sunday tournament at PokerStars, as well as numerous other big buy-in events. He also has won more than $1.3 million in live events, including a second-place finish in the 2006 World Poker Tour Festa al Lago Classic for $542,000.

Imper1um's Empire No More
By Shawn Patrick Green

Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi's reign over the Card Player Online Player of the Year leader board empire is no more. It's not that he was a bad leader, it was just time to move on, and Matt "ch0ppy" Kay made sure that "move on" is just what Mizzi did when Kay reclaimed his throne. It looks to be a battle of the Canucks, as both Mizzi and Kay hail from the U.S.'s northern neighbor.

Kay snagged 536 points since the OPOY leader board was published in the last issue, compared to Mizzi's 12. That disparity was enough to vault Kay into the lead with 6,374 points versus Mizzi's 6,240. Kay earned the majority of his points from two second-place finishes in OPOY-qualified events. He earned 300 points on Sept. 3 for finishing runner-up in the Full Tilt $1K Monday ($59,200) and 200 points for second place in the PokerStars $100 (with rebuys) tournament on Sept. 16 ($25,328). His total winnings in OPOY-qualified tournaments alone come to more than $657,000.

Some New Combatants Enter the Fray
The last issue of Card Player saw Jon "PearlJammer" Turner enter the battle for the No. 1 spot by securing his place in the top 10. Since that time, two new faces have entered the coveted 10 spots. "Taknapotin" and Scott "SCTrojans" Freeman both made some huge finishes to add to their already impressive online tournament results this year.

Taknapotin moved into eighth place (3,906 points) in the OPOY standings when took down two big events. First, on Sept. 3, he raked in the final pot of the PokerStars Nightly Hundred Grand, earning more than $36,000 and 360 points. Then, almost two weeks later, he finished in first place in the massive $1 million-guaranteed tournament on Full Tilt, pocketing more than $204,000 and collecting 1,440 points.

Freeman earned 1,040 points and more than $88,000 in just two weeks over the course of four events. He made the final table of four OPOY-qualified events, two of which he won (the Nightly Hundred Grand on PokerStars and the $65,000 guarantee (with rebuys) on Full Tilt). Freeman now has 3,570 points, which puts him in 10th place.

Brains Count for Something
Seth "BrainGuy" Moody, a young neuroscience graduate (hence the screen name) from Canton, Ohio, took down the PokerStars Sunday Million on April 8 this year and never looked back. He made $170,000 for that win and almost did the unthinkable when he made the final table of Sunday Million again on Sept. 9, eventually busting out in a heartbreaking second place, within reach of what would have been an incredible two Sunday Million titles in just five months.

Nevertheless, his accomplishments have been impressive, and he has bumped his total OPOY-qualified winnings for the year to $342,000. He currently sits in 11th place in the OPOY standings.

Chatbox Cunning

Quick strategy from online poker's top pros
Jordan "iMsoLucky0" Morgan

On tells:

"There are some things that people see as tells, like someone's hands shaking, and it's kind of hard to know what that means unless you know the player. So, a lot of times, people will see something specific and will interpret it to mean one thing when they really have no reason to interpret it to mean that. I think that's what the problem is, so many people see a tell and they want to attribute it to something, but in reality, they should just be paying more attention to how their opponent is playing his hand."

On what helped him the most when he was getting started playing poker:
"They say that experience is the most important part of the game, and it definitely is. People think that they can just read a book, some online forums, or some magazine articles, and go out and play good poker, but you can't do that. You have to play thousands and thousands of hands and really pay attention and try to learn the game."

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:

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

Note: Results for all events in the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker will appear in the next issue.

Phil Galfond: Poker Laureate
By Craig Tapscott

Cash-game specialist Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond knows that he knows nothing, a philosophy that has served him well on the felt. By being a true student of the game, each poker hand is approached as a riddle begging to be solved. Armed with an open mind and a healthy detachment from results, Galfond strives to play mistake-free poker and learn something new each session.

"Most people's egos are too big," said Galfond. "They don't know when they're making mistakes and they don't want to know. They don't want to admit that they actually have something to learn."

Galfond, 22, wholeheartedly admits that he still has a lot to learn. From humble beginnings online in the micro sit-and-gos, he worked his way up to the $1,000 and $2,000 games on PartyPoker. After dabbling in online tournaments with limited success, he's found a profitable home in high-stakes cash games and hasn't looked back.

Craig Tapscott: What skills did you bring from sit-and-gos to cash games?

Phil Galfond: Learning to be good at sit-and-gos really drives home the idea of putting players on a range of hands. Most players try to put their opponent on only one specific hand. In cash games, you have to re-evaluate your opponent's range on every street according to his actions.

CT: Explain the process you go through to do this.

PG: When you're putting an opponent on a range of hands, you're using three skills: first, psychology - knowing a player and how you would think he'd play certain hands; second, deductive logic. This is done preflop, and as the hand goes on, you can deduce what his range is based on the additional information you receive and can then narrow his range; third, math. Do you think he has a set of fours or a busted straight draw? Which is more likely because of the probability of it being dealt?

CT: You actually do this every single hand?

PG: I'd say it's more intuitive now. You just know what hands are more likely than others. You definitely don't have the time to go through all of the combinations at the table, which is why it's so important to study and look back at hands when you're away from the game. While every situation is unique, you do come across many that have a lot of similarities, but are just a little bit different. By studying, you have a jump-start on how to think about reoccurring situations.

CT: Do you throw math out the window a lot of the time and focus on player tendencies?

PG: Definitely. How loose and how aggressive are they? The more you get to know that player, you find out that he doesn't bluff rivers when it's a really heavy drawing board that misses, because he thinks you're going to call. Or, another player likes to check-raise bluff on rivers that look scary. It's really important to stop at every decision, even if it seems simple.

CT: What player do you respect the most?

PG: Brian Townsend is one example of a player who's beating the games pretty good. Yet, he still has the time and intelligence to sit there and realize that he has leaks, and can fix them and get better.

CT: What are the biggest leaks for cash-game players?

PG: Many players are too optimistic. When facing any decision, they look for the hand that they can beat. They think of a hand or a situation that they want to be true. Good players can do this, also. And another quality that most don't have is mental toughness.

CT: I know that you also mentor some players. What do you tell students who are starting out in cash games?

PG: I've always told players who are starting out in lower limits to do everything they can to get better, rather than focus on making money. You could be playing eight tables and the money could make a big difference right now, but playing two tables and taking half the time away from the table to study the game is going to get you to the $5-$10 or $25-$50 level that much more quickly. Getting there in half the time in the long term will make you a lot more money.

Ask Jack

Want to know how a multimillion-dollar poker tournament is run? Have a question about a specific tournament poker rule or past ruling you've encountered?

Card Player is giving you the chance to pick the mind of one of the game's finest - Bellagio Tournament Director Jack McClelland. You can send your questions to, and McClelland will share his 25-plus years of industry experience with you.

Rose: As a poker room manager, I often run into this problem in both no-limit hold'em cash games and tournaments. If a player comes out with a handful of chips, drops a few of them, and then drops a few more, is he obligated to include all of the chips in his hand as his bet? I think players use this shady technique to gauge the reactions of others, which is wrong. I tell the players that if they do not make a verbal declaration, any chips in their hand are included in the bet. Is that the correct ruling?

Jack: If the player releases the chips into the pot, they play. If the player brings his hand with the chips back across the line or away from the pot, they do not play.

Samuel: I run a weekly no-limit Texas hold'em poker tournament at a few local bars. Recently, I ran into the following issue: There were two players in the hand. Post-flop, player A checked, player B bet, and player A called. The turn brought player A a flush and he checked, and player B bet. Player A misread the board and thought that fourth street was the river, so he called and turned his cards faceup to show the table his flush. Player B had a straight (she did not show her cards at this point). The problem was that after player A said the word "call" and flipped up his cards, he then threw them into the muck facedown. This all happened before the river card was dealt, which was meaningless to both players since player B was drawing dead. Both players thought that they deserved the pot, and I was called over to make a ruling. I ruled that the verbal action of player A saying "call" and putting chips into the pot made his hand live. The river card could not be bet due to the exposing of player A's cards before the river. Both players had to check the river. Even though player A threw his cards in the muck, his hand was not dead. If anything, player A would be given a penalty after the conclusion of the hand. Is this right?

Jack: Absolutely perfect, A+.

Giving Free Cardds Can Hurt
By Mike Sexton, the 'Ambassador of Poker' and Commentator for the World Poker Tour

The World Poker Tour hosts two events at the world's largest casino - Foxwoods. One is the World Poker Finals and the other is the Foxwoods Poker Classic. Both are great events, not only because many of the world's greatest pros attend, but because of the participation of the numerous locals, as well. And they participate because of the satellite system set up by Foxwoods, which is far and away the best on the circuit. Tournament Director Mike Ward created an Act I, Act II, and Act III system that enables players to earn a WPT entry at a price that is affordable to everyone. Kudos to satellite innovator Mike Ward.

For the first time ever on the WPT, this final table had six players from back East. It also displayed the "power of the satellite," as half of the table got in via a satellite. And when the smoke cleared, the heads-up battle came down to two amateurs who are regulars at Foxwoods, Paul Matteo and Raj Patel.

On just the third hand of the final table, with the blinds at $15,000-$30,000, Tony Cavezza raised it to $90,000 from the cutoff position (one in front of the button) with the 5 4. Patel, the massive chip leader on the button, looked down at two black kings and reraised to $175,000. The players in the blinds folded, and Cavezza, looking at more than $325,000 in the pot, opted to call another $85,000. The flop came J 8 5. Cavezza checked, and so did Patel. I question Patel's check, because with more than $400,000 in the pot, why would you want to give your opponent a free card here?

On the turn, up popped the 5, giving Cavezza the best hand with three fives. (Notice how the free card came back to bite Patel.) Cavezza led out and bet $100,000 (a small bet compared to the amount of money in the pot). Patel called him with the overpair and the flush draw. The river card was the 4 - giving Cavezza a full house and Patel a flush! Cavezza now moved all in for more than a million! After long deliberation, Patel opted to lay down his king-high flush (a good laydown).

This was an unusually played hand. I'd like to bet that both players would like to replay it. I'm sure that Patel would bet on the flop if he had a chance to play it again, and I'm sure that Cavezza would change the size of his bets on the turn and the river if he could play it again. On the turn, he probably would bet more, and on the river, bet less. (He made only $100,000 more after he drew out on the turn. Had he bet correctly - say, $200,000 on the turn and $400,000-$500,000 on the river - chances are that he would have made a lot more money than he did.)

To be successful in poker, there's one thing you'll need to learn: When you make hands, you have to get value for them. If you bet too little or too much, you lose that value - as was the case here. Although Patel didn't play this hand to perfection, he did take down the title and became another WPT millionaire. Congratulations, Raj Patel - not only for winning your first WPT title, but also for winning a satellite to get in.

How I See the World
By Brian Townsend

A young poker player sent me a long message recently. He is 16 or 17 and is crushing $1-$2 no-limit hold'em games online, and he wanted my advice on whether he should go to college. He doesn't want to go, but his mom wants him to. I didn't think much about the message at the time, and I responded with a quick: "Yeah, go to college." However, it got me thinking about my own mental development, and how college helped me grow into who I am today.

In high school, I would always race through work without ever really understanding the concepts behind what was taught. I continued this way through my first two years of college, when I was more interested in drinking than studying.

But at the beginning of my third year, I was required to choose a major. One of my friends was doing engineering, so I decided to give that a try.

Becoming an engineer made me much more dedicated to school, not because I loved it, but because I'd become challenged for the first time in my educational career. Engineering requires not only tons of thought, but tons of time.

I would like to say that I understood everything instantly in my engineering classes. I did well, but not phenomenally, the way I had the previous few years, but things clicked for me when I was teaching calculus.

I always had used brute-force techniques - just try something until it works - but by then I was tutoring partial differential equations. I needed a deeper understanding of the material because there were some very smart kids in the class who not only wanted to be able to get the right answers, but to understand all the theory.

This is tough material; just getting your head around the various operators and equations is hard enough, and gaining a deeper understanding of all the equations and operators is much harder. If first-year calculus is like a marathon, partial differential equations are like doing the Ironman Triathlon blindfolded.

So, I had to devote plenty of time preparing to teach. One evening, I'd left all of my prep work until late the night before, and I had to master Newton's law of heat flow. I thought, "What the hell is this talking about?" It was late, and I was completely lost. Wondering what was going on, and thoroughly frustrated, I looked up some other books about the subject and, in particular, Newton. What I found was how he discovered the equation. All of a sudden, in the library at 1 a.m., it all clicked. Everything I'd learned in my life made sense.

I'd realized that math is just an approximation of the world around us. Before, I'd thought that people had discovered these equations and they were the dead truth. That simply was not the case at all. Instead, people saw phenomena and then explained or approximated it with math.

I went from being a very good student to a top student. When I learned something new, I didn't see the equations as perfect truths, but rather as mathematical models of the world. For example, when you say that you're going to meet someone on the street corner in 10 minutes, you don't worry about any of the thousands of people who might bump into you, or the nerve-stimulation thresholds in the muscle fibers in your legs. Somewhere in your head, you have a rough empirical algorithm for the time it takes to walk a certain number of city blocks.

In engineering, the math is tougher and more precise, but a lot of it is the same. Describing electrons moving through wires, strummed guitar strings, ocean movements, and heat flows in rods is all the same problem to me, because the math behind them is all the same.

So, how does this pertain to poker? Well, poker is like that, but far simpler. The math you use in poker models is often simple probabilities, not partial differential equations. When I'm playing someone heads up and he raises when in the button position, I can approximate his hand range. You might argue that psychologies and personalities are tough to handle, but this is still a much a simpler situation to quantify than you'll find in other fields. Many factors can affect a hand, but that's a reason to use the math, not to ignore it.

Poker is an intensely personal, emotional thing. Bluffing all in doesn't feel like a random-variable blip any more than taking a beautiful girl out on a first date feels like a random money redistribution from your wallet to the restaurateur's.

That's what I learned that night in the library: Math isn't about magical correspondence, it's about function. Understanding that it's all approximations - but very useful ones - is what enables you to run the best restaurants, build the best cars, and make the most money at poker.

I hope this is a better answer to the young man's question, and that it helps others with this difficult decision.

Card Player Digital

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In the ever-changing battle between the U.S. government and the rights of everyone to be able to play online poker, knowledge is power, and Card Player TV wants to give power to the people whom this issue affects: poker players.

The Card Player media team goes straight to the source to keep viewers updated on all of the latest happenings by tracking down politicians and organizations, such as the Poker Players Alliance, who have all joined the fight for poker. In-depth interviews and insight into the legal situation surrounding the game we love can be found by going to

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In addition to this ringtone, poker tips, chip counts, player backgrounds, and more can be found at

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Playing the Players
By David Apostolico

If you're sitting at a table full of players you know you can outplay, would you call off all of your chips in a hand in which you are a slight favorite? Ask 10 players you know and see what kind of responses you get. I know that much of the poker literature out there would encourage a call in that situation. While reading a recently published book, I was pleasantly surprised to gather some insights from a well-known pro who strongly advocates folding in the above situation.

"If I think no one else at the table can play the stealing game with me, I'm going to build chips by stealing and sometimes throw away legitimate hands where I might be a favorite." That's not my quote, but the words of Huckleberry Seed in the razz chapter of the Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide, Tournament Edition. While I would highly recommend the entire book, the razz chapter is particularly enlightening. It captures a very real discussion between Ted Forrest and Seed. You don't have to be a razz player to appreciate the poker principles discussed.

No matter what form of tournament poker you prefer, you're never going to find long-term success if you are not capable of outplaying your opponents. That does not mean getting all of your money in as a slight favorite. Rather, it's about controlling the game and seizing situations. Why take unnecessary risks if your opponents are giving you plenty of chances to win pots uncontested? As Seed states, he doesn't want to "deal with the variance of being a small favorite when [he] can accumulate chips by getting people to fold."

Now, it's unlikely that most players will find themselves at a table full of incompetent players. It is more common to find players of varying styles and perhaps one or two fairly good players. In these situations, avoid the good players and the loose players, and concentrate on stealing from the tight players. The paradox, however, is that the loose player may play a lot of hands and fold when pressured, whereas the tight player may play very few hands, but not give them up so easily. If you are going to outplay players, you are going to have to make constant adjustments. In addition to reading your opponents, here's two tips to maximize your skill advantage and minimize your variance when playing against inferior players.

First, be prepared to act at all times. You never know where your next opportunity will come from, so stay engaged and focused throughout play. Pay attention and be prepared to act, whether or not you have cards. Study your opponents and what's going through their minds. Anticipate their moves and think ahead. Be thinking what you'll do in the event your opponent checks or bets. And never make up your mind until it is your turn to act.

Next, keep pots situationally small. If you have chips, don't squander them needlessly. Yes, it's nice to build a big pot when you have a strong hand, but don't get carried away with the concept. Losing one big pot can wipe out a lot of the hard work that you put in building your chip stack. Playing big pots increases your variance and takes away your skill advantage. Keep yourself in a position in which it's easy to get away from a hand if need be.

David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker strategy books, including Tournament Poker and the Art of War, Lessons from the Felt, and the recently released Poker Strategies for a Winning Edge in Business.

Back to Basics
By Tim Peters

Limit Hold'em Hand by Hand: The Quick-and-Easy Way to Advanced Poker Play by Neil D. Myers (Lyle Stuart/Kensington; $19.95 with DVD)

How do you write a book about poker strategy? A game of imperfect information, a game predicated, at least in the short term, on the vagaries of chance, and a game played against opponents who embody the concept of irrational behavior?

Essentially, you've got two options: You can articulate a theoretical framework and explain how to apply it, as David Sklansky does in his excellent The Theory of Poker. Or, you can start with examples and use them to develop a framework for poker from the inside out. That's the idea behind books like Harrington on Hold'em by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie, as well as this solid if somewhat predictable new book on limit hold'em by Neil Myers, his second title after Quick and Easy Texas Hold'em. It's a solid text for those who know the rudiments of hold'em but are eager to move on.

Limit Hold'em Hand by Hand focuses on the most common situations you're likely to encounter in a limit game. Myers offers a perfectly reasonable starting-hand selection - no real news there - but he also notes that preflop play is easy. It's post-flop play that separates the good players from the bad ones, and most of the book focuses on the proper strategy on the flop and later streets.

Myers posits a particular situation: your holecards and your position, the "game conditions" (that is, "loose-passive" or "tight-aggressive"), and the action in front of you. How do you proceed? How do you play top pair, top kicker? What's your approach when drawing to the nuts? What's the best way to protect your hand, bet or check-raise? When should you check-call? When should you bet on the river?

It's a very real-world approach and fundamentally sound, which is great for beginning players. But standard strategies, no matter how intelligent, won't take you to poker's next level. Advanced players operate with a solid theoretical perspective and - this is the key skill - know how to turn theory into actions. So, even though this book focuses on the practical, Myers believes that "you absorb theory as you learn good poker." In other words, as you learn what to do, you'll learn why to do it.

Like most poker authors, Myers celebrates aggression, but he also reminds the reader that "the tight-aggressive style is not natural." If you're psychologically predisposed to tightness, you're probably less inclined to be aggressive; conversely, if you're naturally aggressive, you're probably going to find that a tight style is uncomfortable, even boring. But tight-aggressive is the correct approach, and if success is your goal, you must embrace it - and you must be willing to execute. You've got to be able to put in that third raise preflop or bet or raise the turn with middle pair.

Of course, all fundamental advice - all the standard plays - must be adjusted to the situation at hand (the old idea that you "play the player, not the cards"). But when you're typecasting your opponents, don't take it too far, counsels Myers: "Classifying people by personality types strikes me as a rather lazy way to attempt to understand people and how they play. A player who is winning may exhibit a personality and playin