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The Inside Straight

by CP The Inside Straight Authors |  Published: May 21, 2008


Las Vegas the Hot Spot for Summer Tournaments
More Events, Variety to Satisfy any Player
By Kristy Arnett

During the summer months in Las Vegas, the only thing hotter than the temperature is all of the poker action. Things begin to heat up at the end of May with the World Series of Poker, but that isn't the only tournament series in town.

Running nearly the duration of the WSOP is The Venetian's Deep-Stack Extravaganza III, which begins on May 29. There are 45 events, including a $5,000 buy-in championship tournament on July 13. Leading up to that are preliminary events with buy-ins ranging from $330 to $2,500. The starting chip amounts for the tournaments are as follows: 4,500 for the $330 buy-in events and the $540 buy-in pot-limit Omaha, H.O.R.S.E., and Omaha eight-or-better events; 7,500 for the $540 and the $1,060 buy-in events; 10,000 for the $2,500 and the $5,000 buy-in events. The blinds levels are 40 minutes for the $330 and $540 events, 60 minutes for the $1,060 and $2,500 events, and 90 minutes for the $5,000 main event.

Powerhouse Caesars Palace is trying its hand at a deep-stack summer series, as well, with its Mega Stack tournament, which will run June 1-July 9. For the no-limit hold'em preliminary events, the buy-ins are $225 (5,000 starting stack), $330 (10,000 starting stack), and $540 (12,500 starting stack). All prelims have 50-minute levels, and players can pay a $10 add-on/staff bonus to receive an additional 2,500 in chips at the start of the tournament. The series ends with a $1,000 buy-in Mega Championship. Players will start with 25,000 in chips and the blinds levels will increase every hour.

For those looking for a variety of games other than no-limit hold'em, the Binion's Poker Classic is back for its second installment. Buy-ins are as low as $100, less than half of the events are no-limit hold'em, and everything from limit hold'em to razz is offered. The $100-$300 buy-in events have 30-minute levels and feature starting stacks of 2,000 to 6,000. A bonus of 2,000 in chips is available for $10 at the start of all preliminary tournaments. The $500-$1,000 buy-in tournaments have 45-minute levels and 10,000 starting stacks. Rounding out the series is a $2,000 buy-in championship event on July 7. Players will start with 25,000 in chips and enjoy 60-minute levels. The series will run May 28-July 8.

There's no need to leave Downtown Las Vegas if players want a change of scenery from Binion's, as the Golden Nugget is hosting the monthlong Grand Series, June 6-July 6.

It will feature 30 events, mostly no-limit hold'em, with buy-ins ranging from $225 to $500 (45-minute levels), and culminating with a $1,080 buy-in Grand Finale event (15,000 starting stack and 60-minute levels) on July 5. Starting stacks for the prelims are between 3,000 and 5,000, and players can purchase bonus chips at the start of each preliminary tournament for $10.

The Orleans Open will begin on July 5 and run through July 20. The buy-ins increase as the series progresses, from $200 (4,000 starting stacks), to $300 (3,000 starting stacks), to $500 (5,000 starting stacks), to $1,000 (7,500 starting stacks), and concluding with a $2,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em championship (10,000 starting stacks). The blinds levels are 45 minutes for all events.

If players want bracelets but would rather not participate in the WSOP, the Bellagio Cup IV is perfect. This year, the series takes place July 1-17; it features a shortened schedule, with only six preliminary events leading up to the $15,000 buy-in World Poker Tour main event, which begins on July 11. The prelim buy-ins range from $2,000 to $5,000, and, as always, winners will receive a gold Bellagio bracelet and a $25,000 seat in the WPT Championship on top of first-place prize money. The poker room also has exciting news about changes to all of its tournaments, starting June 1. Check out the next issue of Card Player for full details.

Full schedules of all of these tournaments can be found at under the Tournaments tab.

Note: All buy-ins mentioned in this article include entry fees.

PPA Hits 1 Million-Member Milestone
Announces Voter Registration Drive, PokerPAC
By Bob Pajich

The Poker Players Alliance reported that it went over the 1 million-member mark in late April. The milestone took the grass-roots organization a little more than three years to achieve.

The PPA also launched a voter registration program and a political action committee (PAC).  The voter registration drive is called, "If You Play, Have a Say," and the PPA set a goal of registering 100,000 poker players as new voters this year.
The PPA has set up a website where people can register to vote in their state:

The voter registration drive will have its presence known at this year's World Series of Poker, which begins on May 30, where it will have an on-site voter registration booth. On-site voter registration drives also will take place in selected states.

The PPA's newly formed PokerPAC is open to dues-paying members of the PPA, as well as PPA board members and employees. PPA Chairman and former Congressman Al D'Amato is the PokerPAC chairman. Former Congressman Toby Moffett is the vice chairman, and Annie Duke will serve as an honorary PokerPAC board member. The PokerPAC will be used to sharpen lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

Spade Club
Benefits of the Club

SpadeClub's recently revamped community section is now featuring even more blog utilization! If you have an exciting poker story to tell or need some tips to improve your poker play, post a blog on your player profile! All SpadeClub Exclusive members can now easily search blogs for topics, keywords, or player names. They can keep up with their favorite player's blogs, post comments, and even moderate their own blog comments. SpadeClub members are standing by to read what you have to say, so become an Exclusive member now and start your own blog!

To learn more about SpadeClub's Club Rewards, please visit

World Series of Poker $40,000 Giveaway

June and July's $40,000 monthly tournaments will have a whole new prize structure - including four seats to the 2008 World Series of Poker main event, complete with $2,000 to use toward travel expenses.

If you want to represent the SpadeClub community in the 2008 main event, become an Exclusive member today and compete in June or July's $40,000 monthly WSOP events. The tournaments take place on June 1 and June 29. First- and second-place winners receive a $10,000 seat in the WSOP - plus $2,000 in travel expenses!

And the better you do in the WSOP, the more money SpadeClub will put into a prize pool for a one-time freeroll in August. You also could win a player representation contract for years to come!

Find out more by visiting

SpadeClub Spotlight
SpadeClub's second $40,000 monthly tournament winner, Kristy "Guesss" Arnett, lives in the largest playground around, Las Vegas, Nevada. Arnett started playing poker almost five years ago in college, during her "broke freshman year," with friends in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During an embarrassing moment, when she revealed her K-A-2-3-4 straight (or so she thought), she learned fast that her friends' rules were not suitable for the real world of poker. She soon started playing online and got hooked. She stated, "I think playing online is the best way to learn, because I've gotten to see so many hands and wasn't afraid to try new moves because of the anonymity." Arnett considers SpadeClub an awesome site for players of all levels to improve their game, because they can try out new moves without hesitation and still have the chance to win thousands.

SpadeClub's latest $5,000 weekly winner, Tim "TimnGail" Couse, was first introduced to SpadeClub by Mike "Koozman" Smith and John "Bigslick" Bovee, fellow SpadeClub players and friends. Couse has been playing steadily online and in casinos around his hometown of Lake George, New York, for more than four years. Although he still recalls his first tournament, where he busted out in less than a minute, Couse is now very proud to be one of SpadeClub's $5,000 weekly winners. He remarked, "I've played many sites throughout the years, but in my opinion, SpadeClub is the best site I've seen to date, because the cards come out like real-life tourneys and the competition is great!"

To view complete interviews with SpadeClub winners, please visit

Poker Players Fight the Law in South Carolina
Recent Raids Put Home Poker in Spotlight
By Bob Pajich

In South Carolina, authorities have taken up the task of wiping out home poker by investigating and then raiding games with the force that is usually reserved for drug busts. The law that the police are using to nail these players has been on the books since 1802, and it restricts the playing of any type of game in one's home that uses dice or cards.

The latest raid took place on April 4, when police concluded a 10-month investigation of a poker game in Charleston County in which four houses were watched. On that day, the sheriff's department busted into a home where the largest stakes were being played, arrested 27 people, seized $62,000, and took everyone to jail, where they were booked and forced to post bond. A total of 65 players who played in any of the homes were charged, and 19 already have pled guilty to the misdemeanor. They were ordered to pay fines ranging from $154 to $257, and will have to go to civil court to fight for the return of the monies that were seized.

Bob Chimento was one of the players charged with gambling on April 4, even though he wasn't at the game. He said the stakes were too high for him there, but he did play at one of the other homes that were investigated. He played on Oct. 15, the same night that an undercover cop happened to be there, and a warrant was put out for his arrest.

Chimento was one of 23 people who were at a $20 tournament in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, that was raided in April of 2006. All but five players pleaded guilty and paid small fines. These same players were also charged in the most recent bust, the only players from the 2006 raid to face more charges. Chimento is one of a group of five who have asked for a jury trial in both cases.

A poker hobbyist who says that he has played only three times since August, Chimento is now at the forefront of the fight for getting this antiquated South Carolina law changed.

"The reason we're fighting the law is because we want to get our state representatives to change this law," Chimento said. "We're just a bunch of average Joes playing cards. We want to be able to play cards in our homes. They're trying to intimidate people to quit playing poker."

The tactics, no matter how much publicity the raids are getting in South Carolina, doesn't seem to be working. Games can be found every night of the week there, and public opinion based on local newspaper and radio polls are reporting that 85 percent of those polled believe that players are getting a raw deal.

The way the police are conducting the raids may be the most disturbing thing about the situation. At the game in 2006, Chimento said there was a knock on the door, and then "… all of a sudden it was like a commandoes SWAT team raiding a bunch of crack dealers. It was like the SWAT team that you see on TV, busting into your home, guns drawn, ski masks on, in full protective gear, and demanding that we put our hands on top of our heads," Chimento said. "At first we thought we were getting robbed, and then we realized they had police written all over them, and we were like, 'Oh, my God, check this out.' Someone easily could have been killed that night."

He and the other four players who are fighting the charges are hoping for a jury trial, but Chimento thinks that once it goes to trial (there's no indication of when the 2006 case will take place), there's a good chance that they will be convicted.
If and when that happens, they will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, which could take a closer look at the law than the lower courts are able to do. This is how they're hoping to change the law.

South Carolina Home Poker Bill Stalls
By Bob Pajich

The South Carolina bill that would legalize home poker games will not be voted on this year. The bill was sent back to committee without debate at the end of April, ending its chances in 2008.

Introduced by Rep. Wallace Scarborough in January 2007, it has remained in the Judiciary Committee since then, and this is where it will stay.

Scarborough introduced his bill after hearing about a poker bust that took place in 2006 in which 22 people were charged under a law that has been on the books since 1802. Although it's been amended several times since then, the law is still archaic when deciding what games people can play in their homes there.

The letter of the law is that it is illegal to play any games of cards or dice in South Carolina in one's home, including games like Monopoly. The state has no history of anyone being busted for playing board games, but at local levels, the law has been used to raid several poker games and charge several dozen people since 2006.

Bob Ciaffone: Poker Coach Now Democratic Delegate
Card Player Columnist Wears Many Hats
By Bob Pajich

Bob Ciaffone is a name that's familiar to anyone who has tried to improve his or her poker game, but the longtime professional poker player is so much more than the "Poker Coach," as he is known to Card Player readers. That title describes only one part of Ciaffone's life. Others that could be easily interchanged are arbitrator, advisor, publisher, and delegate.

Democratic delegate is the latest of the many hats that Ciaffone wears. On April 19, he was elected to be one of the five delegates who will represent the fourth district of Michigan at the Democratic National Convention.

Since Hillary Clinton was the only Democratic presidential candidate listed on the ballot (Michigan was punished by the Democratic Party because it moved its primary date up and candidates pledged not to campaign there; Clinton's name was the only one listed for the Democrats), three of those delegates are required to cast for Clinton. Ciaffone, who was nominated as a delegate by a Michigan Barack Obama grass-roots organization, made a pledge to cast for Obama, and he will.

Ciaffone moved back home to Saginaw, Michigan, from Las Vegas in 1995 to help take care of his aging parents. After spending his adult life registered as an Independent, he got involved in politics at a local level after switching his
affiliation to the Democratic party only three years ago.

By volunteering his time and taking on small tasks, he said that people quickly saw that he's a guy who can be counted on. He also joined the Saginaw-area Democrats Club, where he now serves as the vice president. Now he sits on the party's county executive committee, where he chairs the endorsement committee.

His quick ascent is a testament to Ciaffone's character, but it also shows how anyone can get involved in politics at a local level and make an impact in a relatively short period of time. Ciaffone encourages poker players to get involved politically, if not as intensively as he has, at least as letter writers to legislators to make their voices heard.

The advisor and writer side of him extends all the way from giving advice on how to play poker (four of his poker books are currently in print, and he has been a Card Player columnist for more than a decade) to something that Ciaffone is very passionate about: protecting the rights of U.S. poker players.

Ciaffone maintains a close watch on the legal climate of poker in America, particularly at state levels, where he says that about half of the state laws in the U.S. are antiquated and used to bust poker games arbitrarily. He's currently advising five men who are seeking a trial after being charged under a 206-year-old law in South Carolina. Ciaffone has prepared an amicus brief for the court for the defendants, whose poker game was raided in 2006.

Ciaffone became an authority on state poker laws in 1987, when he volunteered to present a paper at the London International Gaming Conference. The paper was called "A Comparative Study of State Laws on Social Gambling," and it was the first of its kind. It was then reprinted in a book called Gambling and Public Policy. Since then, and through his Fair Laws on Poker organization (FLOP - a nonprofit organization run solely by Ciaffone, dedicated to improving state poker laws), Ciaffone has been dispensing advice to players who may have been swept up in a poker raid.

All of the states that allow home poker games prevent the house from collecting a rake, which Ciaffone believes is fair. The old laws on the books don't usually define gambling by the objects used. For example, in South Carolina, it's simply illegal to play any games in one's home if cards or dice are used. He believes that the laws need to be revised to allow for social gambling.

"To me, this is the only reasonable way to do things, because when police take action against a poker game, it's really a horrific scene. If you've seen pictures of what's going on, you have men breaking through the door, they point guns at the people, they have them lie down on the floor, they're wearing masks, and it terrifies people."

Not to mention the fact that Ciaffone believes it violates Constitutional law.

Ciaffone says that he can't believe the directions that his poker life has taken him. From the smoky poker rooms of Michigan and Las Vegas to becoming a quoted expert on poker law and rules, he has adjusted and thrived in his role as a poker-playing American and defender of the game.

Ask Jack

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

Carol: Hi, Jack. I heard that you changed the rule on showing cards during tournaments at Bellagio. What did you do, and why?

Jack: Many players disagree with the rule that if they show one card, they have to show both. I decided to change the rule, so that players can show just one card [after the completion of a hand]. I wanted to make the announcement of the rule change fun. Daniel Negreanu has lobbied for this change for a long time, so [during the Five-Star World Poker Classic] I called him up and had the remaining players in the tournament take a vote. I asked how many of them thought it should be Daniel's way, and almost all of them agreed with him. So, I said, "As Steve Lipscomb would say, f--- it, change the rule!" It was a positive thing, because I did something that the players wanted.

Paul: After the completion of a weekly tournament at my home, we realized that the deck we had used at the final table had only 49 cards in it! One player, specifically, was upset, because he had been eliminated with pocket fours and a 4 had been missing from the deck. What would you do?

Jack: After the tournament is over with, it is too late to do anything. That is why in casinos, theoretically, the stub should be counted down every time that the dealer changes. If there is a shuffling machine, it automatically counts them. In a home game, you should try to do the same thing, especially once you are in the money. You should count the cards down as often as possible. It slows the game down, but it is for your own protection to keep the game on the square.

Asian Poker Tour Set to Kick Off
First Stop: Philippines
By Bob Pajich

The newly launched Asian Poker Tour will soon kick off the first of three events that are planned for this year. The first event will run from May 27 to June 1 at the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel in Makati, Philippines. It's a $2,500 event with a $1 million-guaranteed prize pool.

The tour will also stop in Macau, Korea, and Singapore in 2008, but dates and locations have not yet been announced.

The APT is owned by AsianLogic, a company that operates eight online casinos and two online poker rooms. Qualifiers for APT events are now taking place at, which is not open to U.S. customers. AsianLogic is a publicly traded company that's listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company bought the APT from online gaming company BetFair.

Player of the Year Race Welcomes Poker Guru David Chiu

David Chiu played just about perfect poker at the final table of the $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship, which concluded the sixth season of the WPT. While Gus Hansen steamrolled the table and knocked out four of his final five opponents from the tournament, it was Chiu who bided his time and waited until it was only he and Hansen left standing.

By this time, Hansen held more than a 5-to-1 chip advantage over Chiu (22.9 million to 4.2 million), and it looked like heads-up play would be a mere formality before Hansen won his fourth WPT event. As well as Hansen played (he dominated, is one way to put it), it was Chiu who ended up $3.3 million richer after the 78-hand heads-up match concluded. Hansen added $1.7 million to his tournament winnings, bringing his total to $5.68 million.

Chiu now has $6.2 million in tournament cashes, and occupies the fourth spot on the Card Player 2008 Player of the Year (POY) leader board with 2,880 points. This was his first cash of the year. Thanks to his runner-up finish, Hansen is tied with two players in the No. 12 slot with 2,400 points.

Chiu is a tournament veteran who became known back in 1996 when he won a $2,000 limit hold'em bracelet at the World Series of Poker ($396,000). In 1998, he won his second bracelet in a $3,000 limit hold'em event for another $205,000. In 2000, he won his third bracelet in the $5,000 stud event for $202,000, and then in 2005, he won his fourth bracelet in the $5,000 Omaha eight-or-better event. His WPT Championship win was his first WPT victory.

Tim Vance also put himself right in the middle of the POY race by adding 880 more points to the total he got for winning the EPT Scandanavian Open in February. He won a $500 event at the World Series of Poker Circuit event at Caesars Indiana, and then finished second in a $500 WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Las Vegas. Those cashes moved Vance up to No. 5 in the POY standings.

Erik Seidel still leads all players with 3,700 points, most of which came at the WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic, which was his third cash of the year. The 2008 race is again a tight one, though. Only 1,800 points separate 25th place from Seidel. The race will surely take on a new shape once the bracelets start being won at the WSOP in June and July. Stay tuned.

Look Out!
Cory Carroll's first cash of 2008 was a big one. He finished fourth in the WPT Championship event for $593,645, and this might just be the cash that will propel him into repeating some of his feats from last year, when he cashed six times, including a victory in a WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Las Vegas ($505,176) and a runner-up finish in the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown ($561,369). His fourth-place finish in the WPT Championship is Carroll's biggest payday to date.

Overcards Aren't Always the Killer
By Dani Stern

This column will focus on an interesting hand that took place during an online $100-$200 no-limit hold'em session on PokerStars.

The game was threehanded, and being played very aggressively both preflop and post-flop. This is fairly standard for high-stakes no-limit hold'em games online, especially shorthanded ones. The other players at the table were ADZ124 and AKULA1. I did not have a great read on Akula at the time, who was my opponent in this hand. He was playing fairly well and was very loose preflop when facing reraises, and was peeling a lot of flops when very light, as well.

Akula1 raised from the button to $600, which had been his standard raise. I reraised from the small blind to $2,200 with pocket tens, and the big blind folded. Akula called very quickly. The flop was a fairly innocent-looking 6-6-2 with two diamonds. I bet out $3,200 into the pot of $4,600.

With this bet, I was fairly certain a player like Akula would call with any pair, and often ace high, as well. Surely, diamond draws would also call, if not raise. He called.

The turn brought an offsuit king. While this is an overcard to my pocket pair, in reality, it is closer to a blank than you might think. There are very few hands with which Akula would have called the flop that the king helped, except maybe the K X, or a pure float. So, while not a total brick, an ace on the turn or a low diamond would have been far worse. Nevertheless, I wanted to give him a chance to take a stab if he had floated me, or to perhaps bet a worse hand for value/protection. He did not bet the turn, however, and checked nearly immediately.

The river was an offsuit 7. Once again, this was a fairly good card for my hand. Only 7-7 improved on that card, and if he had a flush draw with the 7, he may decide to call a river bet. The pot size at this point was roughly $11,000. Betting too large may get him to fold lower pocket pairs, but so may betting too small. Oftentimes, small bets that look like value-bets actually can cause more folds than a normal-sized bet. I decided to bet $7,200, an amount small enough that it wouldn't pain him to call with a worse hand, and hopefully would look like a possible bluff, as well.

Unfortunately, he had one of the few hands that he would play this way that beat me, pocket jacks. He quickly called the river with the pocket pair, but I still like my play in the hand. There is no way for me to know that he had jacks, as he would play nines or eights the same way, in all likelihood. Some players may have advocated a river check, in order to induce a bluff, but I disagree. Chances are, if he was floating the flop, he would have taken a stab on the turn. The only hands with which he would bluff are missed diamonds, but I think he would expect me to look him up light on such a dry board, given the context. I won't say that I never check the river in this type of spot - as I do quite often if I think I have the right opponent for it. But in this case, I was expecting to get called by worse hands more than bluffed by worse hands.

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

Malicious222 Drives a Lesson Home for Preflop Play Near the Final Table
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: $100 PokerStars no-limit hold'em rebuy tournament
Players: 214
First Place: $23,898
Stacks: malicous222 - 98,986; Villain - 76,265
Blinds: 1,500-3,000
Ante: 300

Malicious222 raises from early position to 7,700 with the 4 3.

Craig Tapscott: What are you thinking, raising from early position with this hand?

David "malicious222" Randall: I know it's unconventional preflop, but I think that this is very important. It allows players to catch a glimpse of the levels of thinking that go on late in a high-limit multitable tournament.

CT: I know that awareness of stack sizes is a key element of late-tournament strategy. Let's explore what many of the winning players focus on here.

DR: Well, when we look at the stack textures of the table, we see that no one has 15 to 20 big blinds, or what is usually a reship stack.

CT: Explain what you mean by "reship stack."

DR: I consider a reship stack anything between 13 and 22 big blinds. You have enough leverage to reraise someone and get him to fold, but you're not shoving so many big blinds that it's reckless. This is a topic that I go over with the people I teach very often, in terms of how to read ranges and how to execute strategy with this stack size. In addition, this was a very passive table, which is why I chose to open in this spot in the first place.

CT: Is this because raising from late position gets absolutely no respect these days?

DR: People are very sensitive to late-position raisers. They're very anxious to reraise them, so I'm often working on early-position steals at passive tables such as this one. And this tends to imply a bigger hand in the first place. I have been very active, so the other players are capable of three-betting me light, which happens.

Villain reraises to 18,465.

CT: What's the history between the two of you?

DR: In prior orbits, Villain had three-bet me three times in approximately 20 hands. I thought he was capable of making a light three-bet again in this situation. When he reraised to 18,465, I could just feel the weakness.

CT: Can you explain what the signs of weakness were?

DR: Mainly because it was a relatively small raise in comparison to my opening bet. An opponent knows you're weak, but he doesn't want to risk too many chips. This is why such light three-bets have been in style lately. Also, he had three-bet me three times previously, and I'd shut down every time, showing that I was able to fold if I didn't have a monster. So, I thought his calling range for a four-bet was very narrow in this spot.

CT: Why?

DR: Because I left in loads of fold equity. I'd also be increasing my stack significantly by taking down this pot.

CT: Many new players are still grasping the concept of fold equity. Please explain.

DR: Fold equity, basically, is a concept involving pot odds. If I make a reship, does a player have the right price to fold? I like to give my opponents no better than 2-to-1 to call me when I'm light, such as in this hand.

Malicious222 shoves all in for 98,686. Villain folds. Malicious222 wins the pot of 43,830.

CT: It still seems risky.

DR: Not really. I'd paid close attention to the prior activity of this player. When I analyzed the ranges and the odds of him folding, they were so high that it made this type of play worth it.

David Randall is a tournament grinder who has earned more than $800,000. His online forum and more well-known screen name is GhettoFabolous. He offers lessons to those trying to improve their multitable tournament game.

From the Well: Phil 'OMGClayAiken' Galfond
By Shawn Patrick Green

Phil Galfond, known online as "OMGClayAiken" and "Jman28," is one of the toughest cash-game players in the world. His daily life consists of risking hundreds of thousands of dollars in the high-stakes cash games online, and he recently experienced a $1.3 million upswing in cash games online. He has even taken his game to the hit show High Stakes Poker on GSN, where he ended his session a winner versus some of the best poker players in the world.

Galfond recently took part in the World Poker Tour Championship at Bellagio. Card Player caught up with Galfond to talk about what happened in that tournament, how he got into the high-stakes cash games, and about optimal cash-game play.

Shawn Patrick Green: Any interesting hands you want to discuss from the WPT Championship?

Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond: Well, most of the hands were standard. Early on, I won more flips than I lost, and later on, I lost more flips than I won.

I actually had one really interesting hand early that I wanted to brag about. It must have been 400-800, so it's the first day, and I'm about 80,000 deep and open from the button with J-4 offsuit. Amir Vahedi calls from the small blind, and the big blind folds, so there's about 7,000 in the pot. The flop is Q-8-7 rainbow, and he leads into me for 3,500, half of the pot. I make it 8,000, and he thinks for about 15 seconds and then calls. The turn is an ace, bringing a second heart, so it's Q-8-7-A, two hearts. He checks, I bet 13,000, which I think is OK; he has to fold maybe one-third of the time to make it right, or whatever. He calls, and the river is a king, bringing a third heart. So, now there's a possible straight and possible flush, and he bets into me for 22,000, and I call … and he mucks. He said he had 6-5, and I showed jack high. Besides J-10 or a pair plus a flush draw, I didn't think any hand played it like that.

SPG: Well, it's been said that you started out playing cash games insufficiently bankrolled. Why did you do that, and how did you overcome it?

PG: It was a bad decision. When I started out, I played sit-and-gos. I was a sit-and-go pro for a year and a half. And then I moved over to cash games, and I played well within my roll for a while, until Party [Poker] shut down and I started playing on UB [UltimateBet] and Full Tilt. I never really was at risk to lose all of my money; I'd play $300-$600, with a $60,000 buy-in, on a $400,000 roll, which is way under-rolled, but if I lost $60,000, I'd stop. So, I was never really at risk to lose everything, because I could, if I lost, step down. Some people have to chase their losses, and I could handle losing just the $60,000 and moving on.

SPG: So, how did you get into high-stakes poker to begin with, then?

PG: I did pretty well in sit-and-gos. From there, for about a year and a half, I built my roll up steadily and moved to $5-$10 cash, which I was rolled for but wasn't good enough for, because I had never played in any cash games.

SPG: And how did you get into that? What made you decide to try that?

PG: My friend Peter Jetten played sit-and-gos, too, and had switched over to cash. He told me that you can make a lot of money at cash, so I tried it. I was probably a break-even player when I started, but I learned pretty quickly. I steadily built up to $10-$20. And then there were some good $50-$100 games, I guess two summers ago, where I was really at a $10-$20 roll, and I took shots at them and lost a lot, and then took shots again, maybe in the fall of that year, and ran well, and it stuck.

SPG: You've said before that one of the pivotal parts of your growth as a poker player has been just having smart poker friends and talking to them. What kinds of epiphanies have you had while talking to these people, and with whom, in particular?

PG: I've learned so much from all of my poker friends, and I'm sure, I hope, that I've taught them things, too. I guess the two friends I've learned the most from … one is Tom Dwan, "durrrr." I remember way, way back, I didn't know what I was doing still, really, and he was already a high-stakes cash-game player. I was eating with him and H@££INGGOL, and they were talking about a hand. I don't remember the action of the hand, but the way it went down, basically, is that H@££INGGOL had a top-pair/weak-kicker type of hand and was facing a big bet on the river. I was thinking, OK, this is pretty close, call or fold, I'm not really sure, and Tom says, "I would shove."

And it blew my mind, because I just didn't consider that you have the option of turning your made hand into a bluff, just because it was a spot where H@££INGGOL couldn't have air, so by shoving, he was repping a huge, huge hand. Even though he's good some of the times, the times that he's not good, he can push the other player off a hand. So it kind of started to make me think that every time you're faced with a decision, especially in no-limit hold'em, you have essentially unlimited options, and you have to look at the reasons for all of them.

The other player is Dan Quinn; he plays $5-$10 through $25-$50 online. He lives in Madison with me, and he comes over about four days a week and sits at the computer setup next to me, and we just play poker all day. He's just a really smart guy, asks all of the right questions, and really thinks about the game hard. So, just having each other in the same room for that long taught me about hands. You just can't help but learn a lot. So, just having someone to talk to is huge.

SPG: One of your other poker philosophies is that whenever the action is on you, you have the opportunity to make the perfect play. How does thinking like that help you improve your game?

PG: I definitely think that's true; it's much easier said than done, to think like that. Basically, what most people are thinking during a hand is something like, "OK, please, no club, no club," or, "Please don't bet, check." And that's really just wasted energy; it's wasted thought energy when you could be thinking, "OK, if the turn is this, what should I do? If the turn is this, what should I do? If he bets this much, how should I react, and why?"

So, anytime that you're thinking about anything besides the right way to play the hand, you're wasting energy. Also, if you can think about it as a challenge every time it's your turn to act to make the right play, the perfect play, it kind of becomes more of a personal challenge than a game in which you win or lose a lot of money. So, I think it helps you play better. It's like playing 10 hands at once; you get that much more experience because you're looking at all of the different scenarios that could play out.

SPG: What percentage of hands do you think is optimal to play in a heads-up match?

PG: The truth is, it doesn't matter as much as most people think; most people spend a lot of time talking about it. It's slightly player-dependant; if your opponent is folding the big blind a lot, you can open every hand from the button. Against a lot of players, you can open every hand from the button. If your opponent is not raising many hands from the button, you can't call a reraise from the big blind that much. But I honestly think playing anything between maybe 35 percent and 65 percent of hands heads up is pretty close, depending upon your style. It can definitely all work at high stakes.

SPG: How important is position in heads-up play, especially compared to a full-ring game?

PG: Position is really important in both. It's maybe slightly more important [in heads-up play], just because it's more often that you both don't have a hand, and when you both don't have a hand, it's better to be in position. But even when you both do have a hand, it's better to be in position to extract more value or to check behind to save money. Position is huge, and I'm very careful about not playing big pots when out of position.

Joshua VanDuyn: Drunk With Success
By Craig Tapscott

Destiny has a way of whispering your name, usually when you least expect it. Just a few years ago, scratch-golfer Joshua VanDuyn stood on the first tee of a U.S. Open qualifier, while sugarcoated visions of the PGA tour and championship trophies paraded in his head. Then he addressed the ball and swung, topping it into the water. Plop, plop. Destiny had spoken.

With those sinking sounds, a dream had capsized. Soon thereafter, it was back to school and a droll bartending job, at least until ESPN aired a Cinderella tale. You know, the one in which Chris Moneymaker went to the ball adorned in a pair of sunglasses and a PokerStars cap, eventually winning the glass slipper filled with cash.

Within days, VanDuyn was sucked into the world of online poker, slinging play-money chips and competing in freerolls after work at 1 a.m. "It took me a little time to realize that you could actually put real cash on the site," said VanDuyn. "Then I read in the chat that some guy had made $80,000. That got me hooked on tournaments."

After blowing through a few deposits and memorizing Phil Hellmuth's "top 10" hands, things clicked. Over a 10-day period, his tight and patient play resulted in three low buy-in tournament wins. He eventually would capture the PokerStars Tournament Leader Board that week, and $5,000 in a heads-up match with Tom McEvoy.

Over the last two years as the happy-go-lucky "pbdrunks" online, VanDuyn, 28, has posted more than $1 million in tournament cashes. He recently chopped a live $1,000 no-limit hold'em event at the Wynn Las Vegas for $70,000, and won the Full Tilt Poker $1,000 Tuesday no-limit hold'em event for $71,000.

Success did come fast for VanDuyn, but it hasn't gone unappreciated. He loves his life, loves poker, loves nights out drinking with friends, and still loves to play a little golf, for a little money, on warm, sunny days away from the virtual felt.

Craig Tapscott: I've heard that you blame your gambling spirit on your mom.

Joshua VanDuyn: It's true. She's always gone to Reno and gambled, mostly blackjack. My grandmother loves it, too. And I happen to like the pit area sometimes myself, but not as much as some of the other poker deviants [laughing]. But it's fun to get away from poker at times.

CT: Why the name "pbdrunks"?

JVD: It was a website that my roommate created. It was used with my friends when we took a bunch of crazy pictures at bars, to post online.

CT: You had quite a run of big final tables online last year.

JVD: I made the final table in the Sunday Million on Stars two out of three weeks. The unfortunate part was that I finished ninth and eighth. That just sucked. But the next week, I made the final table of the Full Tilt Poker Sunday event, and then the next Sunday, the final table of the UltimateBet Sunday event.

CT: What's your strategy at the start of a final table?

JVD: Generally, I'll play tight until a couple of players bust out. I'll start picking up the action when it gets to about fivehanded or sixhanded. The big money means a lot to players who haven't been in that situation before. But against top players, I won't be as aggressive, because they'll recognize when I'm stealing.

CT: What clicked for you as you climbed the ranks?

JVD: In the beginning, I really played only ABC poker, but as everyone got better, I had to adjust my game. I started to ask myself, "What are these guys doing that I'm not?" Then, everyone really started going crazy online, about a year and a half ago. The play became very, very aggressive. You have to play kind of crazy now to keep up. It helps that I have a somewhat crazy image, and I use that to my advantage.

CT: Define "crazy."

JVD: For example, four-betting with 8 high, but knowing they're going to fold. Every once in a while, you get caught and look like an idiot. I would never do that against someone who is going to call me.

CT: Last question. What's your biggest lesson learned?

JVD: Bankroll management. I used to dabble too much with $100-$200 limit cash games. Even though I did run my roll up to more than $100,000 early in my career online, I've learned my lesson, because I've gone broke four or five times over the last three years. I don't take money for granted anymore.

Slowing Down on the Flop
By Mike Sexton, the "Ambassador of Poker" and Commentator for the World Poker Tour

Poker players from around the world love to go to Bellagio to play poker tournaments. That's because it's as fine a hotel and casino that you can find, the tournaments are well-run, players are treated well by the staff, and, perhaps most important, the prize pools are enormous!

This hand comes from the season-six Bellagio Cup III tournament. It was hand No. 124 of the final table (meaning they had been playing quite a while already). Three players were left, and the antes were 5,000 and the blinds were 30,000-60,000 (showing how good the structure was), when Danny Wong, the chip leader with more than 5.1 million in chips, limped in from the button with 7-6 offsuit. Kevin Saul, second in chips with 4.1 million, called another 30,000 from the small blind with the J 3, and Mike Matusow, in the big blind (with just over 1.5 million in chips), said, "Give us a flop."

The flop was 7-6-3 with two diamonds. This gave Wong the top two pair and Saul the bottom pair and flush draw (two big hands in a threehanded poker game). Saul led out for 100,000, Matusow folded, and Wong raised it to 350,000. With a pair and a flush draw, many players would probably just move all in here, knowing that whatever their opponent has, they've got outs to win the pot. Saul, however, opted to just call and take a card off before committing any more chips.

The turn card was the J, giving Saul a better two pair to go with his flush draw. Again, he led out for 100,000 (this time into a pot of nearly 900,000), and again, Wong raised it - this time to 700,000. Saul now moved all in, and Wong called him, needing a 7 or a 6 to win the pot (which was more than 8.2 million). The 9 appeared on the river, and Saul took a monstrous chip lead in this threehanded battle. He went on to capture his first WPT title. Congratulations to Kevin Saul.

This hand was obviously the key to Saul's victory. Once Wong and Saul limped in to see a flop, it was tough for both of them to get away from their hands. (The only thing that surprised me was that all of the money didn't go in on the flop.)
In poker, we always play what-if games. In this hand, "what if" Wong had made a position raise from the button instead of limping in? Chances are that he would have picked up the pot and increased his chip lead. And since Saul didn't raise back on the flop, "what if" the J didn't appear on the turn? It was possible that Saul might not have called a big bet on the turn with bottom pair.

And, finally, "what if" Mike "The Mouth" Matusow had come back and won this tournament? Well, my guess is that he'd still be telling the world how perfectly he played, how great he is, and that there was never a doubt that he was going to win his first WPT title on this day. But that didn't happen. However, for the record, although they've been shut out in the first six years, I predict that Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth will win a WPT title within the next six seasons. Good luck, guys!

A Good Story
By David Apostolico

Think of some of the best stories that you know completely outside of poker. Now, I'm not talking about actual books or things that you've witnessed firsthand. I'm referring to folklore and legend; the kind of stories that have been passed down from generation to generation and no matter how fantastical or apocryphal they may seem, they are accepted as true. You may have some from your own family. If not, just about any passage from the Bible would do.

No matter what your faith, I think we can all recognize the impact that many religious stories have thousands of years after the fact. What do all of these stories have in common? They are each individually a good story told time and time again. That's what gives them staying power and enables them to still resonate.

So, what does any of this have to do with poker? Well, each hand of poker is like its own individual story. A good bluff or slow-play has to be believed in order to be effective. There has been a lot of literature written on how to sell a bluff, and I won't repeat that here. However, there is more to the story than that which plays out in individual hands.

Every story needs a couple of elements in order to sell. First and foremost, it must be believable. No story is going to be believable without context. Don't expect to pull off a winning bluff during your first hand at the table. Bluffs take time and feed off reputation. Here's the critical part: While a well-timed bluff must in and of itself be a believable story, its chances of success rely on the stories told before. That is, if you've sold yourself as a tight player by telling that story time and time again, that is what will resonate. Your reputation precedes your play and is accepted as common wisdom. The good thing is that you don't need thousands of years for this story to stick. A few orbits of folding may do the trick.

Next, a good story needs a receptive audience. Not everyone likes science fiction. Some like mysteries, others like thrillers, and, of course, there are always the romance readers. No matter what story you want to tell, make sure that you know your audience. It's often said that against bad players, just try to outplay them. Don't try what Mike Caro refers to as "fancy" plays. The logic behind this reasoning is that these bad players aren't paying attention to the story, so don't waste your time developing a plot.

Many players - especially at the higher limits - are paying attention, however. This is your audience. You must direct your story to them and make it as airtight and believable as possible. Avoid holes and gaps in your story that will either cause skepticism or lose your audience completely. That's why it is usually never wise to show your cards if you don't have to, unless you are absolutely sure that it will enhance your story.

And it is almost impossible to be absolutely sure. Here's why: Your telling the story is only half of the story. How readers (or in this case, opposing players) interpret the story is the other half. How many times have you read a book or seen a movie and had a different take than your friend who read the exact same book or saw the exact same movie? When you show those cards, you may think you are saying one thing, but it could be interpreted differently. More astute players will question why you are showing your cards and question the authenticity of the story. The plot begins to break down. Firsthand knowledge isn't required for a story to be believable. Rather, it is the repetition of that good story told time and time again that becomes legend.

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

Poker Past and Present
By Tim Peters

Ghosts at the Table: Riverboat Gamblers, Texas Rounders, Roadside Hucksters, and the Living Legends Who Made Poker What it is Today by Des Wilson (Da Capo Press; $26)

In this new book from the biographer of David Ulliott (Swimming With the Devil Fish), Des Wilson makes an elegant and entertaining case for the idea that poker's current popularity can be directly linked to its long and colorful history. And he asserts that poker's air of disreputability is what draws people to the game: "The players, even the youngest, know it comes from the back alley, the gangsters' den, the Western saloon."

I'm not sure I buy it, but I like the idea, and Ghosts at the Table does a great job of exploring the game's past and how it gave rise to today's global poker explosion. Wilson divides the game's history into four neat segments: frontier poker, which began in New Orleans and spread west; road gambling, Texas-style, which turned players like Doyle Brunson and T.J. Cloutier into legends; Las Vegas poker in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s (including the rise of the World Series); and the modern era, when televised and online poker brought the game to the masses and the world.

Wilson must have logged thousands of miles, from Deadwood to Tombstone (Arizona), in quest of poker's ancient history, but you get a sense of the game's more contemporary evolution when he gets to the legendary private games in Texas in the 1960s and 1970s. Brunson and Cloutier figure heavily, of course, along with Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim Preston, Crandell Addington, and Sailor Roberts - men who "faded the white line" in search of "producers," wealthy amateurs who funded the game.

There's a constant refrain in these old stories: that poker really did deserve its moniker as "the cheater's game." As Tom Ellison, a riverboat gambler, put it, "A sucker had no more chance than a snowball has in a red-hot oven." Even the great players from Brunson's era had to be on the lookout for crooked games as well as stay clear of the law and robbery: "Winning at poker was the easy part; getting out of town with the money was the challenge."

Eventually, of course, poker's story comes to Las Vegas. Benny Binion gets a lot of the credit for starting and promoting the World Series of Poker, but Wilson suggests that Tom Moore inspired the event with a "Texas Gamblers Reunion" in Reno in 1969. Binion wanted to buy the concept to promote Binion's Horseshoe, but Moore told him to "just go ahead and do it." The rest is, as they say, history, and Wilson writes about some of the more memorable WSOP events, like the "fixed" 1972 main event, "won" by Amarillo Slim. (Wilson's profile of the complex Binion is indelible.)

But poker as we know it today really began in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker took down the main event after winning his way in via satellite. Wilson calls him, quite rightly, "the winner who changed the face of poker." Moneymaker made people believe they could beat the professional, and the Internet gave them the chance to try.

Given poker's surreal growth and development in recent times, it's probably inevitable that the last 50 pages of this fine book seem almost too cursory (where are the rising stars of online poker? how has the online game changed poker strategy?). But Wilson's ultimate point is undeniably true: that poker "endures, and remains as challenging and compelling as ever." I might even argue that it is more challenging than ever: A dedicated amateur today can amass more experience in a few months than Brunson and his generation could amass in a few years.

Every time you sit down to play, you sit down with the "ghosts at the table." This book will teach you their names and their roles in the ongoing, endlessly fascinating history of poker.

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