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The Inside Straight

by CP The Inside Straight Authors |  Published: Apr 09, 2008


Online Qualifiers for World Series of Poker Now Taking Place

Plenty of Options Available

By Bob Pajich

Winning a World Series of Poker bracelet is an achievement that all poker players would love to experience, and online sites are currently running WSOP qualifiers, giving players many options for winning a seat in the $10,000 main event, and even the smaller buy-in events.

Here are some ways that players can qualify (all times are Eastern time):


Bodog will send at least 100 players to the main event, with prize packages worth $12,000. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:15 p.m. and Sundays at 3:15 p.m., a $270 main-event qualifier takes place. One prize package is guaranteed in each of these tourneys. Players can win a satellite into this qualifier for as little as $1.

Cake Poker

Cake Poker is awarding prize packages of $12,000 and $2,000, the latter of which must be used to play in the $1,500 no-limit hold'em event (No. 52) on June 30.

The direct qualifiers for the main-event prize packages take place on Sundays at 5 p.m. with a buy-in of $215. Players can win a satellite into this qualifier for as little as $5.50. The $2,000 prize-package qualifiers take place on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. ($11 rebuy) and on Saturdays at 5 p.m. ($22 rebuy).


At DoylesRoom, players can win $10,000 worth of WSOP buy-ins during the site's Vegas Legends Tournament Series.

The main-qualifier buy-in is $110, and it takes place on Sunday, April 20, at 4 p.m. For every $13,000 in the prize pool, a $13,000 prize package will be awarded. The winners can use the money to buy into any WSOP event(s) they want. Winners also receive leather-bound copies of Doyle Brunson's Super/System and Super System 2, clothing, and a poker strategy session with Brunson. Players can get into this qualifier for as little as $1.10 through satellites.

Full Tilt

Players who qualify for the main event at Full Tilt are automatically playing for an extra $10 million. That's what Full Tilt will give to any qualifier who goes on to win the main event.

Full Tilt has a large schedule of qualifiers in which packages worth $12,000 and $2,000 are awarded (each week, at least 15 $12,000 packages will be awarded from now until June 22). The site will even hold qualifiers for the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world championship.

Daily multitable qualifiers for the $2,000 packages have a buy-in of $75 or $26. Players can win tournament tickets worth those amounts in qualifiers for as little as $2.20.

Qualifiers that award the $12,000 packages to the main event take place on Tuesdays ($200), Wednesdays ($300), Thursdays ($1,000), and Sundays ($500).

On Sunday, June 15, Full Tilt is holding a $535 qualifier for the main event that guarantees that 150 seats will be won. And on Sunday, June 8, a $1,060 satellite in which at least two $52,000 prize packages for the H.O.R.S.E. event will be held.


The PokerStars prize package for the main event is worth $12,500, and the site is offering its players cash bonuses for certain achievements during the main event. As long as players agree to wear PokerStars gear, they can earn $50,000 by making a TV table. If a qualifier goes on to make it to the final table, he will receive a bonus of $1 million.

Direct qualifiers into the main event run for as little as $33 (with rebuys), and satellites for those qualifiers have buy-ins as low as $2 (with rebuys).


Join the UB Army by winning a $12,000 package through UltimateBet. Each Saturday at 8 p.m., UltimateBet holds a $530 direct qualifier into the main event, but qualifiers for this tourney are running around-the-clock at the site.

Several $5.50 (plus rebuy) tourneys for the daily $55 qualifier, which awards seats for the $530 satellite, take place around-the-clock.

Go to the Advertising Index to find out where the ads for these sites appear in this magazine. Many ads contain special promotional codes for deposit bonuses exclusively for Card Player readers.

Hustler Casino Carves Niche Out of L.A.

Now Spreading $8-$16 Hold'em With $40,000 Progressive Jackpot

By Bob Pajich

The Hustler Casino in Gardena, California, has worked hard over the last several years to carve out a niche in the crowded poker market that is Los Angeles. It opened a new tournament wing called the Crystal Room, enabling the casino to offer big tournament events and larger weekly tourneys.

The buy-in for the weekly tourneys is $125 or $255. Hustler guarantees the prize pool of every weekly event to be $15,000 or $20,000, depending on the buy-in. As a bonus, the $255 buy-in tourneys are deep-stack events in which players start with more chips than normal. They take place on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The $125 tourneys are rebuy events, and they are held on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The Hustler's casino games include blackjack, pai gow, and baccarat, at around 45 tables. The cardroom spreads everything from $1-$2 no-limit hold'em to the biggest seven-card stud game around. That's right, on most Saturdays, Larry Flynt's stud game takes place on table No. 55, right next to the folks battling over $80 pots in a $3-$6 game. The minimum buy-in for Flynt's game is $200,000, and the stakes are $2,000-$4,000. It's often filled with all-stars, trying to fleece a very good Flynt in his own casino.

The casino recently added $8-$16 limit hold'em with a bad-beat jackpot that's seeded with $40,000. Players must have at least aces full of tens cracked by quads or better.

When Flynt built his Hustler Casino, he said that he wanted to bring a little of Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and with the intimate décor (that Flynt designed himself), low lighting, and casino design unique to Southern California, he's done it.

Visit for more information about the Hustler Casino, which is located on the corner of Redondo Boulevard and Vermont.

Spade Club

Benefits of the Club


SpadeClub's unique badges of achievement, displayed on each player's profile, add another level of competition to the game. Badges are awarded for first-place finishes, final tables reached, hands played, and bounties you've earned in all cash-prize tournaments. Badges can also be viewed by each player's avatar in the SpadeClub game application. SpadeClub members know to look out for those players displaying the most and best badges!

To learn more about SpadeClub badges and to start earning your own, please visit


Free 10-Day Trial

SpadeClub currently offers all new members a FREE 10-day trial of Exclusive membership. Try it out while it's free, and learn about what joining the club has to offer you!

Refer-a-Friend Program

Want your friends to join, too? With SpadeClub's Refer-a-Friend Program, for each player you refer who becomes an Exclusive member, you'll receive $20 in Membership Money, redeemable for a full month of all-access SpadeClub Exclusive member privileges.

To view more SpadeClub promotions, visit

SpadeClub Spotlight

SpadeClub's first $40,000 monthly tournament produced a winner on March 2. Ryan "isuckatpoker" Monlux of Oregon took down a field of 569 players to claim his $10,000 first-place prize. This win, along with three other cash-prize final tables, puts Monlux at the top of the SpadeClub money-won leader board for the year. Although he no longer thinks he sucks at poker, he still thinks he has a lot to learn and would recommend SpadeClub to anyone looking to improve their game.

To view complete interviews with SpadeClub winners, please visit

Tips From the Table

User Vivian "koko" Shepardson says:

Fill out the interest section of your profile. It's an easy way for other members to get to know you. Reading about and getting to know the other players on the site gives me a sense of community. It's surprising how much we all have in common. My favorite thing to do at the table, other than win, is to click on other players' avatars, which opens up their profile pages and lets me find out more about them.

Submit your own tips from the table along with your SpadeClub screen name to: If we publish your tip, you'll receive a free SpadeClub T-shirt along with the pride of being published.

PokerStars Releases Schedule for Latin American Poker Tour

Tour Will Stop in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Uruguay This Summer

By Bob Pajich

First Europe – then Asia – and now Latin America.

PokerStars recently announced that it has launched the Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT), and players can already begin to qualify for the first event, which is scheduled to take place May 3-5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Two more tourneys are scheduled for this summer – LAPT San Jose in Costa Rica, May 22-24, and LAPT Punta del Este in Uruguay, Aug. 7-9. All events have a buy-in of $2,500.

The PokerStars European Poker Tour is in its fourth season, and, with large buy-in tourneys packed with the best players in the world, has been a smashing success. Its Asia Pacific Poker Tour completed its first season last fall with a schedule as abbreviated as the first LAPT schedule, but the APPT still attracted large fields and opened the poker market to Macau.

Satellites for the first event are taking place at PokerStars, and start for as little as $2.20.

Huck Seed Wins Canadian Open Heads-Up Main Event

Defeats Brad 'Yukon' Booth in Final Match

By Kristy Arnett

After four years of cashing in every NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship – with his most recent cash being his second third-place finish in the event a few weeks ago – 1996 World Series of Poker Champion Huck Seed was sick of getting close and not winning a heads-up event. One weekend in March, Seed won the 2008 Canadian Open Poker Championship heads-up main event after defeating Brad Booth in a best-of-three heads-up final match.

The event took place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino. The buy-in was $5,000, and the 64 players created a prize pool of $290,160 after 2.5 percent of it was set aside for charity. Seed also finished third in the inaugural Canadian Open two years ago, so, determined to win, he played heads up against Booth, a Canadian poker pro, for more than five hours before claiming the $100,000 first-place prize. Also finishing in the top eight were Shawwn Buchanan, Joe Hachem and Gavin Smith.

Chip Leader Disqualified at World Series of Poker Circuit Final Table

Player Gets the Boot for Unsportsmanlike Behavior

By Bob Pajich

The first event of the World Series of Poker Circuit series at Caesars Atlantic City attracted a whopping 1,056 players, and the final table was marred by a bit of weirdness when a player, who was the chip leader at the time, was disqualified in fifth place for unsportsmanlike behavior.

The $300 buy-in no-limit hold'em event, which attracted one of the largest fields in Circuit history, was won by Frank Panetta, a 76-year-old former real estate developer from Brick, New Jersey. He won $76,104.

But Panetta's victory was overshadowed by the antics of Lesley S. Thornburg, who, according to a tournament report written by Nolan Dalla, the WSOP media director, received two warnings for unsportsmanlike behavior during the event's first day for "a ceaseless display of loud comments and baiting tactics lasting several hours."

With seven players left, Thornburg ended up all in against Andy Santiago, who had Thornburg dominated with A-Q versus A-7. But, a 7 on the flop gave the unorthodox Thornburg the chip lead, to the dismay of the remaining players, who were forced to further endure Thornburg's tactics.

Two hands later, Thornburg again caught lightning in a bottle when he called an all-in raise by Edward Sullivan, who held pocket sevens. Thornburg held pocket fours, but a 4 flopped and knocked Sullivan out of the tournament. He earned $15,855.

This is when things turned weird. Here's what Dalla wrote about the situation:

"Then, all hell broke loose – literally. Holding on to a perilous chip lead, Thornburg lost self-control and began jamming chips into the pot with reckless abandon. Warned by tournament officials (repeatedly) to stack his chips properly and obey the rules, Thornburg crossed the final demarcation of everyone's patience when he shoved half of his stack into the pot and then later announced, "All in." Fed up with the annoying and confusing antics, officials announced Thornburg's immediate disqualification. Lesley Thornburg, a general contractor from Richmond, Virginia, earned $19,026 in prize money."

Thornburg's chips were then removed from play, and the tournament continued fourhanded.

Ask Jack

Have a question about a specific tournament poker rule or past ruling you've encountered? E-mail Bellagio Tournament Director Jack McClelland:

Dustin: I was in a tournament and was pretty short-stacked. I made it through the blinds, and just as I was to get the button, my table broke. I was put right into the big blind again! I think tournament directors should avoid doing this. Was it wrong that I had to pay the blinds twice?

Jack: No, it was not wrong. It's kind of the breaks of the game, or the rub of the green, as we say in golf. When a table breaks, players, unfortunately, just have to go wherever they land. It is the luck of the draw.

Dennis: In a tournament, I looked at my cards and liked what I saw. When I thought it was my turn, I announced a raise, but there was one player to act before me. He raised. Am I still obligated to raise?

Jack: No. In tournament play, you have to act in turn for the act to be binding. But to those who abuse the rule and act out of turn intentionally to try to slow someone down, I would give a warning or two and then a penalty. If it is an accident, it's an accident; no harm done.

Everest Poker Signs Sponsorship Agreement With World Series of Poker

Will Have Name on All WSOP Tables

By Bob Pajich

Everest Poker has signed a multi-year deal with Harrah's to become the sole poker-related table sponsor for the World Series of Poker. This means that the Everest Poker logo will appear on every table at this year's WSOP, as well as on the inner ring of the final table of all of the events.

The deal also includes the hanging of banners and logos on barricades used to control the crowds. Details of the deal, including the number of years and how much Everest Poker is paying Harrah's, were not released.

The 2007 WSOP was broadcast to more than 350 million households during more than 2,700 broadcast hours, so Everest Poker is looking at some serious exposure through this deal. Everest Poker, owned by GigaMedia Limited, also will use the sponsorship to bring as many of its players to this year's WSOP as possible. Everest Poker isn't open to players located in the U.S.

World Poker Tour Enterprises Loses $9.6 Million in 2007

'Transition Year' as Revenues Fall

By Brendan Murray

The NASDAQ-quoted World Poker Tour Enterprises reported full-year revenues down almost 26 percent to $21.7 million at the end of 2007, compared to $29.3 million in 2006.

WPT Enterprises had a net loss of $9.6 million in the year ending December 2007, compared to net earnings of $7.8 million in 2006. The main reason for the loss was the drop in revenues and a $2.3 million write-off of online gaming software. The 2006 figures were also bolstered by a gain of $10.2 million from the sale of PokerTek stock.

Quarter on quarter, fourth-quarter revenue dropped 14 percent between October and December 2007 to $5.1 million, compared to $5.9 million in the same period in 2006. The company also had a net loss between October and December 2007 of $1.8 million, compared to a net loss of $1.1 million in the same 2006 period.

The company had no debt at the end of 2007, and total cash, cash equivalents, and investments of around $31 million.

Chief Executive Officer Steve Lipscomb said, "2007 was a transitional year for WPT Enterprises. We have been focused on shifting our business from a traditional media and entertainment company to a multimedia entertainment and gaming company. We plan to derive future revenues from sponsorship, television, and online and mobile subscription opportunities.

"Augmenting these new initiatives is our online marketing strategy that will focus on improving the product, localizing the content, and executing a compelling marketing plan to drive players to our site."

For the first quarter of 2008, revenues are expected to be in the range of $4.5 million-$5 million.

Venetian Hosting Another Deep-Stack Extravaganza

Nightly $300 Buy-In No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments at 6 p.m.

By Kristy Arnett

The Venetian is known for deep-stack tournaments, and because of the overwhelming response to them, the poker room has added another Deep-Stack Extravaganza to its schedule.

Every night at 6 p.m. from now until April 25, The Venetian is hosting a $300 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament. With a $10 staff bonus, players get a total of 7,500 in starting chips. The blinds levels are 40 minutes long, and registration begins at 4 p.m. the day of the tournament. Call (702) 414-POKR for more information.

Golden Nugget to Host Grand Poker Series

Events Will Run June 6-July 6 and Begin With Montel Williams Celebrity Charity Tournament

By Kristy Arnett

The Golden Nugget, located in Downtown Las Vegas, has announced that it will join the summer poker action by hosting a monthlong tournament June 6-July 6 called the Grand Poker Series.

Festivities kick off with Cards, Celebrities, and a Cause, a celebrity charity tournament hosted by Montel Williams to benefit multiple sclerosis awareness and research. The buy-in for this event is $1,000, and it is open to the public. Half of the money generated from the buy-ins will be donated to the Montel Williams MS Foundation, while the other half will be awarded in prize money.

The rest of the events, excluding the championship, feature buy-ins ranging from $200 to $500, and include no-limit hold'em, H.O.R.S.E., limit Omaha eight-or-better, pot-limit Omaha, pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better, and seniors and ladies events.

The championship will start on July 5, and it is a $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em event. Along with the first-place money, the winner will receive an exclusive bracelet. Registration for all events is open now.

Second-Annual Jennifer Harman NSPCA Charity Event, April 18

Top Poker Pros, Celebrities, and Sports Stars Slated to Attend
By Kristy Arnett

The second-annual Jennifer Harman Charity Poker Tournament, benefiting the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, April 18, in Las Vegas.

The buy-in for the event is a recommended $330 donation. Optional rebuy donations for $200 will get players additional tournament chips during the first hour, and a $200 add-on donation also will be available. The winner will receive a $10,000 seat in the 2008 World Series of Poker championship event.

The NSPCA is a local no-kill animal shelter. Last year, this event raised $130,000 for the organization. Pros and celebrity participants confirmed to participate include Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Vanessa Rousso, Carrot Top, Jeff Brushie, and defending champion Kirk Morrison.

Card Player Player of the Year

Brandon Cantu Puts Himself in the Mix

With so many major events now taking place nearly weekly both here and abroad, the Card Player 2008 Player of the Year (POY) race is continuously shifting. In mid-March, two more players muscled their way into the top 10 on the leader board by taking down events on two different continents.

Brandon Cantu put himself in third place by winning the World Poker Tour Shooting Star at Bay 101. He earned 2,280 points and $1 million for the victory (and also collected $40,000 in bounties and chip-leader bonuses that are part of the Bay 101 experience). Cantu won a World Series of Poker bracelet in a $1,500 no-limit hold'em event in 2006, and now has more than $2 million in live-tournament winnings.

Michael McDonald remains at the top of the standings with 2,920 points. Phil Ivey is only 310 points behind McDonald.

It's still early enough in the year for one victory in a major event to vault a player into the top 10. This happened to Michael Schulze, who beat out 358 players to win the European Poker Tour Polish Open. For the win, Schulze received more than $952,000 and 2,160 POY points, good enough for eighth in the standings.

Frenchman Bertrand Grospellier has won more money this year in tournaments so far than anyone else, and he had to win only one event to do it. The $2 million that Grospellier won at the EPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will most likely be exceeded at the $25,000 WPT World Championship, which takes place at Bellagio April 19-26.

Last year, Carlos Mortensen banked $3.970 million for winning this event. In fact, Kirk Morrison won $2.011 million for finishing second, making this event one of the greatest of any year.

Look Out!

Quinn Do has been playing major tournament poker since 2005; that year, he had three six-figure cashes for $761,760. That included a WSOP bracelet in a $2,500 limit hold'em event and a victory in the $3,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em event during the WPT Five-Diamond World Poker Classic. But in 2006-2007, he endured a minor cold spell in which four-figure cashes became the norm. His best cash during this time was for $57,815, and that came this past December. But he recently made his biggest career cash when he finished second in the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, where he won $908,000 for his performance. Do's last three six-figure cashes came within six months of each other. He could do it again.

Upcoming on the Tournament Trail

Two of the biggest events of the year will take place during April. The first is the WPT Championship, which is the climax of the Five-Star World Poker Classic. The WPT Championship event will take place April 19-26. In Europe, the EPT Grand Final will take place April 12-17 in Monte Carlo.

The winners of these events will make millions of dollars as well as enter the POY race in a big way, making April one of the best months of the year for tournament poker.

Playing Suited Connectors in No-Limit Hold'em

By Isaac Haxton

I play high-stakes no-limit hold'em cash games online. I provide exclusive coaching videos for Card Player Pro, powered by PokerSavvy Plus. My columns will center on hands taken from my videos and will explore full-ring and six-max concepts. As a Card Player reader, you'll have access to clips of these hands and others. In addition to the columns, you can watch videos on for a richer learning experience. In this column, we will look at a hand that demonstrates the power of semibluffing with a big draw on the flop.

The first player folded, the next open-raised to $18, the next two players called, and the cutoff called. Of these players, everyone except the first cold-caller had more than $600, and he had about $250. I decided to call from the big blind with the 10 9. With so many callers in, unsuited high cards go way down in value, but pocket pairs, suited aces, and suited connectors go way up. I would be calling here with any suited connectors or one-gappers down to 5-4 suited and 6-4 suited.

With the pot size at $90, the flop came K 7 6.

I flopped a combo gutshot-straight and flush draw, exactly the sort of flop I'm looking for in a multiway pot with suited connectors. The action was on me to start, and I had to decide whether to check or lead out. With a big draw like this on the flop and anywhere from three to 10 times the pot left to play, my goal is almost always to let other players put a bit more money into the pot before I raise all in. As this column will show, these spots tend to be very profitable, since a big draw has a very good chance of beating even a set if I do get called. David Sklansky coined the term semibluff to describe this type of play, in which you are hoping that your opponent folds to your bet, but you have a strong chance to improve to the best hand if he calls. Moving all in with a combo draw on the flop is the archetypal no-limit hold'em semibluff.

So, am I more likely to set off a chain of events that ends with me shoving by betting or by checking? In this case, checking is best. If I lead out for anything more than half the pot, a raise will probably be to $200 or more, and I will very rarely get a fold when I shove. There is also the somewhat shorter-stacked player who might just shove over my lead. Finally, I might get called in one or more places, which would probably be bad news, especially if my opponents will fold one-pair hands if a club comes on the turn but play them hard if the turn blanks. If I check, there is a good chance that there will be a bet and one or more calls, and I can make exactly the sort of shove I'm hoping to make.

I checked, the preflop raiser checked, the first caller bet $18, the next raised to $96, the next called, and the action came back to me. I moved all in for $591. Everyone folded back around to the cutoff, and he called with a set of sevens. At this point, I was about 35 percent to win and the pot was $1,386. My equity in the pot was .35 x $1,386 = $485, a loss of about $100 relative to folding.

However, I was shoving into a pot of $300, so my semibluff would show a profit if I took it down just over one-fourth of the time and was called by a set the remaining three-fourths of the time. Of course, sometimes I'll be called by hands other than a set. I'm about 45 percent against A-K or 7-6, 33 percent against an ace-high flush draw, and, the worst-case scenario, 18 percent against the K X for top pair and a higher flush draw. I will average anywhere from 33 percent to 37 percent against a reasonable calling range from one opponent. I'm ignoring the situation in which I get called by two opponents, because it will happen very rarely and the math is a bit cumbersome. If I get it in against two sets or a set and two pair, that is actually pretty good for me, but if I am up against a set and a higher flush draw, I am in really bad shape.

If I expect that my bluff wins the pot a third of the time, over three iterations of this situation, my expectation is:

Called twice: lose 2 x $100 = $200

Take it down once: win $300

Net: +$100

This hand illustrates why semibluffing with big draws on the flop is such a powerful play. If I bluff $600 into $300 on the river, my bluff has to succeed two-thirds of the time to break even, but when I move in for the same amount on the flop with a big draw, I can "fail" more than two-thirds of the time and still show a profit!

To watch Isaac Haxton comment on and play this hand, point your browser to Card Player Pro, the complete online poker training site, at

aaaaaaaa Dissects His Opponent's Hand Range and Makes a Big Double-Barrel Bluff on the River

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: Full Tilt Poker no-limit hold'em $1,000 Monday event

Players: 440

First Prize: $110,000

Stacks: aaaaaaaa – 24,850; Villain – 25,522

Blinds: 200-400

Antes: 50

Villain raises from under the gun plus one to 1,000; aaaaaaaa three-bets from the button to 2,650, holding the 9 7.

Craig Tapscott: What's your thinking at this point with the reraise in position?

Daryl "aaaaaaaa"Jace: I three-bet because I thought my opponent was a weak player and would fold many times to my preflop raises. If he did call, I knew I could outplay him post-flop. And we're both 60 big blinds deep, leaving lots of room for play.

Villain snap-calls.

Flop: 10 4 3 (6,350 pot)

Villain checks; aaaaaaaa checks.

CT: Why no continuation-bet if you thought he was a weak player?

DJ: I decided not to bet because the only hands he would call that quickly preflop with are Q-Q, J-J, 10-10, 9-9, and maybe 8-8. The reason I don't have other hands in his range is that he would have to think about folding or reraising with them. He can't instantly call with them. If I bet, it's very unlikely that he folds at this point.

Turn: J (6,350 pot)

Villain checks; aaaaaaaa bets 3,300.

CT: What are you trying to define with this bet, his calling range?

DJ: I made a small bet due to the range of hands I put him on, and because he's shown weakness. He had either a flush or a set, which he's not folding no matter what I bet. I also really doubt that he's folding Q-Q, 9-9, or 8-8 if it has a club in it. The hands I'm trying to get him to fold are the hands without a club in them.

Villain calls 3,300.

River: A (12,950 pot)

CT: Could he have called with A-Q or A-J preflop, holding the A?

DJ: I figured he couldn't have the A because he probably folds A-Q preflop. And even if he did decide to call with it preflop, it would take him longer to do so. That was my instinct. Even if he did call that fast with A-Q or even A-J with the A, it's likely that he takes a different line on the turn or river. The only other hand with the A is pocket aces, which I don't think he can snap-call with preflop. He has to think about four-betting.

Villain checks; aaaaaaaa bets 10,000.

CT: Explain your thoughts on this nearly pot-size river bet?

DJ: I think with a big bet like this, he'll fold a king-high flush here a decent percentage of the time, mainly because it turns his hand into a bluff-catcher. I thought I needed to make a big bet here for a large portion of his stack. This will push him off his hand a good portion of the time. It's obvious to him that I'm never value-betting, even the king-high flush, for 10,000 on this river. If this situation were versus a good player, I wouldn't try this bluff.

CT: Why?

DJ: An experienced opponent would have a different thought process: "Hmm … the only hand aaaaaaaa can bet for value here is the A, and this would be a good spot to bluff at this pot." A savvy player would call me much more often.

Villain folds; aaaaaaaa takes down the pot of 12,950.

Daryl Jace, 20, is a professional poker player ,recently married and has a child on the way. He has won more than $1 million playing online tournaments. He recently won Full Tilt Poker's Sunday major event for $385,937.

Phatcat Living Large After His Biggest Online Win

By Shawn Patrick Green

Bodog recently held its inaugural Bodog Poker Open (BPO), and all eyes were on the main event and whether the winner would be a well-known pro or an unknown player. Well, the final table was stacked with notable online pros, so the chances were good that one would come out on top.

And, indeed, that happened when Shawn "phat_cat1" Luman became the last man standing out of 596 entrants in the event. He snagged his biggest online score to date, $76,000, and the title of first-ever BPO champion.

Luman has almost $500,000 in lifetime Online Player of the Year-qualified winnings, but the 34-year-old poker player started, like many do, much more humbly. He played around with friends in both high school and college at Kansas State University, where he eventually got a degree in accounting. He then went on to be a CPA, and afterward became a CFO for a construction company.

It was at that time, around 2003, that one of his college buddies told him about all of the money to be made playing online poker.

"I was just starting out, I didn't have a lot of money, and I put in just 50 bucks at a time, or whatever," Luman said. "And a lot of times, I'd lose that within the first day. I wasn't much for bankroll management; I was in it for the big score."

He eventually learned the control that he needed to be successful, of course, and has become one of the winningest online players today. Card Player caught up with Luman after his BPO win to talk about his beginnings in poker, the BPO main event, and optimal tournament strategy:

Shawn Patrick Green:
What steps did you take in your formative years to become a better player?

Shawn "phatcat" Luman: I'd always done pretty well in poker and always thought I had a feel for it, and I have a math background, as well. But tournament theory and stuff like that were foreign to me until I started reading some of the online forums, bought a few books, and started talking to some players; that's when it really started to click. Back in late '05, I final-tabled the PokerStars Sunday tourney; it wasn't the Sunday Million back then. I final-tabled it twice in about a month. I had some other good results on Paradise Poker and PartyPoker, as well. Ever since then, I've just continued to learn and talk to better players and get better myself. I haven't looked back since then.

SPG: You said that one of your early steps while learning the ropes was talking to players. Which players were you talking to at the very beginning? Anyone we'd know?

SL: Yeah, Rizen was one of them, Eric Lynch. He's from Kansas, also; that's how we first started talking, and he also first started having success around the same time. He was really the first person I talked with, and we kind of climbed the ladder together and both started having some success. Another person I talk to a lot today is Steely, also known as NestOfSalt [Scott Wyler]. I still talk with him a lot to this day. Those two are the primary guys who have helped me.

SPG: How did the field of players on Bodog differ from that which you've experienced in other online tournaments on other sites?

SL: Well, generally, the play in MTTs [multitable tournaments] there is weaker, and that's something that I thought was pretty important in that tournament. Although, at times, it can be pretty deceiving, because so many people don't play on Bodog, and, especially in this tournament, a lot of the big-name players probably did play, but they could have had different names on Bodog, so you might not recognize them as big players. So, you have to keep that in the back of your mind. But, for the most part, I would give less credit to the players there than I would elsewhere. And that's a pretty important part of any tournament, I think, but especially this one; I would try to realize whom I was playing against and tailor my play depending upon whether they were a known player or not. It certainly can be a 180-degree difference between how you're going to play against a good player versus an unknown.

SPG: What do you mean by that, exactly? What kinds of differences do you see in your play?

SL: You can resteal a lot lighter against an unknown or random player – or until proven otherwise, you can. You should be less likely to do that against a good player, who realizes that you're in a good spot to resteal, and you should probably be a little more careful. With some of the unknowns, you can assume that they think that when you reraise them, you've got a monster and they'll fold.

SPG: What were the keys to taking down the event?

SL: Early, I built up a pretty big stack, but I ended up bluffing it off, and this kind of relates to what I was saying earlier. I got into a fairly big pot against someone I thought was a random player. I had an underpair to the board, and there was two pair on the board, so I had nothing, and I check-raised him all in on the river, thinking that he couldn't call without the full house – which he had. I got busted down to three, four, or five big blinds then, and that was still early in the tournament. I found out later that that was a really good player whom I just didn't recognize, and it's dangerous when you make those assumptions.

But I ended up building it back up, didn't give up, played solid, and wound up with a pretty big stack toward the end. I used that to my advantage when I could, and I played aggressively, but I tried not to get too far out of line.

SPG: Going back to the misplayed hand at the beginning of the tournament, when you get caught in a hand like that, how do you prevent yourself from going on a kind of embarrassment tilt? How do you put it in perspective?

SL: Actually, if you put it in the right perspective, I think you certainly can use a mistake like that to your advantage. Absolutely, you can, because you've got to realize that if you make a dumb play, or a stupid play, or an overaggressive play, the rest of the table saw it, and it's going to stick out, so you've now got this image, and you use that image to your advantage. You then try to look for situations where they think you may be doing something similar, and you do something completely opposite.

That's one of the philosophies I use a lot of times early in tournaments. I'll play loose or aggressively or whatever it is; when you've got deep stacks, you have some room to maneuver, and whatever ends up happening, whether it be a mistake or people thinking you're a maniac, or whatever, just use that image to your advantage later. Whatever it is, it can change from tournament to tournament; I don't think you should go in with a set plan. You have to make sure that you realize what your image is and play off that image. That can be a huge advantage, because you can turn those mistakes into positive results later.

Chatbox Cunning

David "DumbHick" Hickman

Note: These questions relate to his win in the Full Tilt $750,000-guaranteed event on March 2, 2008.

On how to use aggression effectively when you have a big stack:

"Many times, especially when there are about two tables left, I can get a sense of which players are trying to just sneak into the final table and which ones are trying to accumulate chips, as well. I was able to take their betting patterns and get a read on how they all were playing, and whose big blinds would be easier to steal than others. It was mostly a combination of well-timed aggression and just trying to get a good feel for how the table was playing."

On how much he thinks winning a tournament with a large field is dependent upon luck, rather than skill:

"Playing well is the most important part; it's hard winning a huge-field tournament if you make too many mistakes throughout the course of play. But it's also hard to win a tournament without getting your money in bad at least once. So, it's important to find as many favorable situations as you can. You need to be focused, and you need to know the players you're playing against.

When you're navigating a huge field, you have more players to work through, and in order to make the final table, I think there is a little bit more luck involved, compared to a small field, just because there's much more play. This tournament lasted nine hours, and that's just more opportunities to take a bad beat or to possibly find yourself in an unavoidable situation. You have to use your skills to constantly accumulate chips in order to have a little bit of a cushion for when those types of beats or unfortunate runs of cards happen."

Marco Johnson: Crazy Good

By Craig Tapscott

Marco Johnson makes a conscious choice to lie low and let his game speak for itself, but that strategy was shot to hell this past fall. It happened during an Absolute Poker $1,000 no-limit hold'em event. Johnson questioned the final-table play of his heads-up opponent, PotRipper, and requested a hand history of the event. What he received from Absolute uncovered a superuser account that revealed holecards, which initiated the investigation that rocked the online poker world. Still, Johnson prefers to stay in the background – far, far away from all the drama.

"I don't want to be known as that guy from the Absolute Poker thing," said Johnson. "It's over. I don't want to be overly famous. I love the game and just want to make a good living."

Johnson first fell in love with poker while hanging out with his best friend Zachary, a nephew of poker icon Chip Reese. Reese's demeanor and words of wisdom inspired him. By the age of 15, Johnson was playing poker daily, learning his future trade. Instead of finishing college, he played limit poker by day at the local casinos, and by night, competed online in tournaments. At 21, he moved to Vegas, setting in motion a dream to become a professional player – and he is well on his way.

Last December, Johnson finished second to David Pham, cashing for $157,000, in a Five-Diamond World Poker Classic $2,500 event. Online, he's known as "Crazy Marco," and has won more than $1 million in tournaments across all sites. Most recently, he took down third place in a Full Tilt Poker Sunday $200 no-limit hold'em event for $56,000. The next goal on Johnson's wish list is a big finish in a World Poker Tour event. People may think he's crazy, but the brain behind the soft-spoken brawn knows what it's doing.

Craig Tapscott:
I heard you played in the San Francisco Bay Area with a fake ID.

Marco Johnson: Yeah. When I was 16, I started playing in the casinos. I knew I wanted to be a professional. At that time, all the action and best games were at the limit hold'em tables.

CT: At what level did you begin?

MJ: I started at $3-$6 and worked up to $30-$60, which was the biggest limit game in the Bay Area. Then I heard about the tournaments online. So, I tried a few on PartyPoker, and within my first 20 events, I had two cashes totaling $50,000. I was immediately hooked. Even though my tournament game wasn't that good, I still understood poker.

CT: Explain why you think you did so well.

MJ: I was able to read people at the table from my limit hold'em experience; also, adjusting to the table flow is one of my strengths. In limit, you're able to see and learn how players play their cards, because when you get to the river, people turn their hands up. It's not like no-limit, where many hands don't go to showdown.

CT: What do most players lack awareness of?

MJ: They don't pay enough attention to stack sizes and what position opponents are raising from. That awareness makes a huge difference in deciding whether you should be folding, calling, or three-betting.

CT: The online poker world can be a crazy place. You seem very frugal and responsible with your winnings.

MJ:In the poker world, I've seen a lot of money come and go fast. Some players are on top of the world one month, and the very next, they're asking for a loan. There are some substantial swings in this game. You have to be financially and mentally stable to be a consistent winning player.

CT: Whom do you respect in the online world the most?

MJ: Isaac "westmenloAA" Baron. He's just smart. He's the best at game selection, managing his money, and playing when he's in the right mood. I love his game. He understands that the goal of poker is to accumulate wealth, and not anything else. It's not about ego or being the best. A lot of the top players lack this mentality and tend to want to prove that they're the best. They choose games that they can't make money in consistently.

CT: Last question. Why are you so quiet at the table?

MJ: I just don't yell when I win or lose a big pot. I think it's disrespectful. You have to look at it like a business and maintain composure. You don't want to lose customers by rubbing it in. They might not want to come back and play with you again.

Dying With the Best Hand

By Mike Sexton, the "Ambassador of Poker" and Commentator for the World Poker Tour

The Mirage Poker Showdown was the kickoff event of season six on the World Poker Tour. It was also our inaugural event on GSN – the new network for the WPT. (The World Poker Tour is now seen on Mondays on GSN at 9 p.m. PT/ET, following High Stakes Poker.) And it seemed only fitting that the first WPT event on our new network had the guy many consider to be the premier player in poker at the table – Phil Ivey, and he was the chip leader. It's hard to kick off a new season better than that.

Incredibly, this was Ivey's seventh cash on the WPT – and seventh final table! Although he didn't win this tournament, later in season six, at the L.A. Poker Classic, he made his eighth cash and his eighth final table, and captured his first WPT title.

This hand was the second hand dealt at the final table, and there was booming action right out of the gate. Antes were 3,000 and the blinds were 12,000-24,000, when Amnon Filippi (with 565,000) opened the pot from under the gun for 70,000 with A-Q offsuit. Two players folded, and Cory Carroll (with 1.3 million) called from the button with the A 7. Chip leader Phil Ivey, in the small blind, decided to join the party and called with A-J offsuit. The big blind folded, so it was three-way action in a raised pot heading to the flop.

The flop was K-J-10 with two hearts. Bingo, bango, bongo! Filippi, the preflop raiser, had flopped the nuts! Ivey was first to act and checked his jacks and straight draw. Filippi then bet 135,000. To his delight, Carroll (with both the ace-high straight and nut-flush draws) made it 355,000 to play (a 220,000 raise). Ivey folded, and Filippi, with the best hand possible, went all in, and Carroll called.

Everyone was on his feet. The turn card was the 6 and the river card was the 2! Carroll made his flush, won the pot (more than 1.2 million), and was the new chip leader. Filippi reported to the rail in sixth place, muttering, "Why me?"

The legendary Hall of Famer Johnny Moss once said to me, "Mike, in poker, you can't control the luck factor. All you can do is get your money in with the best hand." Filippi did just that. It simply wasn't meant to be for him on this night.

It was, however, meant to be for Jonathan Little, who won the Mirage Poker Showdown, captured his first WPT title, and became the newest member of the WPT's poker-made millionaire club. Congratulations, Jonathan.

Analysis of a Hand

By Dave Apostolico

In a recent tournament that I played, one hand essentially crippled me, and I thought that sharing my thought process would make for an interesting hand. Here is the setup: With the blinds at 200-400 and antes of 50, I was sitting on a smaller stack of about 5,000. Everyone folded to the player on my right, who limped in. This is an aggressive player who likes to play a lot of hands and always raises with strong starting hands. Sitting in the cutoff, I called, as well, with the A 5. The button called, the big blind checked, and we saw a flop fourhanded.

The flop came 9-9-5 with two clubs. The big blind (Player A) led out for 1,500. The player to my right folded, and the action was on me. I thought for a while about what to do. First, I had to put Player A on a hand. I had played with him many times before and knew he would lead there when holding either a 9 or a 5. I estimated his likely holdings as this: 60 percent that he had a 9; 30 percent that he had a 5; and 10 percent that he had a flush draw. Since he was more likely than not to have the 9, my initial reaction was to fold. However, I also knew that Player A would be afraid of the flush draw and would fold to a big bet if the flush materialized. If I called his 1,500, I would have 3,000 behind, which was enough to chase him out if a club hit, so I called.

My well-intentioned plans quickly went south when the player behind me (Player C) called, as well. Now, I knew that any chance of representing the club flush was gone. One of my two remaining opponents had that draw, and I was fairly certain that Player C had it. Sure enough, the third club came on the turn, and, just as I would have anticipated, Player A now checked. Were it not for Player C still being in the hand, I would have moved in for my remaining 3,000 and taken down the pot. Of course, Player C was still in the hand, and I had to check. To my surprise, Player C checked, as well. I wasn't sure what to make of that. My only hope (albeit a slim one) was that the river was checked around, as well, and my two pair with an ace kicker held up.

The river brought another 5, and now things got more interesting. The board now read 9-9-5-7-5 with three clubs. The flush was now dead. Player A bet out 2,500 and the action was now on me. Player A had either a 9 or a 5, and it was still more likely that he had the 9. If I called and lost, I'd have only 500 left. Of course, I knew I was playing for only a split pot in the best-case scenario. After much hesitation and against my better judgment, I called. Player C called, as well, and I knew I was dead. The only hand I could see Player C calling with was a 5, as well. Player A turned over his 9, and I mucked my hand. To my surprise, Player C turned over the A Q for the nut flush, which was as worthless as teats on a boar.

In analyzing this hand afterward, I think my biggest mistake was, of course, calling the big bet on the river. I have no excuse other than a momentary brain freeze born out of frustration. If the 5 hadn't materialized, it would have been an easy fold. That 5 shouldn't have changed anything, other than give me a better hand than a flush. I was still beat by a 9, and one of my opponents had to have it. The 5 provided an illusion of improving my hand, which I immediately recognized. Yet, in spite of this recognition, I still surrendered to the power of the illusion.

To complete the analysis, I thought that Player A played the hand correctly, albeit predictably. Player C, however, played it poorly. He had to bet the turn with the board already paired. I'll forgive him that transgression, though, since he took a calculated risk. His call on the river, however, was inexcusable. With the board double-paired and a big bet and a call in front of him, there was absolutely nothing he could beat. However, an even bigger mistake was his failure to raise preflop from the button with A-Q suited. There was close to 2,000 in the pot when he acted preflop. A raise to 2,000 would have taken down the pot. I'm not sure what analysis Player C did afterward, but if I had to guess, he lamented his poor luck on the river rather than his horrible decisions throughout.

David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker strategy books, including Tournament Poker and The Art of War, and Poker Strategies for a Winning Edge in Business. He is available for coaching, and you can contact him at