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Winning Wisdom

WSPO, EPT, and WPT Champ Answers Your Strategy Questions

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: May 21, 2008

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At only 27 years old, Gavin Griffin already holds one of the most impressive collections of poker's most prestigious titles. The former poker dealer won the $3,000 buy-in pot-limit hold'em event at the 2004 World Series of Poker, a win that, at the time, bestowed upon him the record as the youngest bracelet winner in history. Since then, he has accumulated more than $4.5 million in live tournament winnings, and made history again by winning the European Poker Tour Grand Final Championship, which boasted the biggest prize pool in EPT history, more than $2.4 million. Griffin continued his quest for major titles at the 2008 World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Classic, where he snagged a triple crown by winning the coveted WPT title and the $1.4 million first-place prize.

Now, Card Player is giving its readers a chance to send questions directly to the poker prodigy.

Poker fans can send Griffin their questions to gg@CardPlayer.com. The questions can be about anything from poker strategy to his opinions on certain aspects of poker or his life as a poker pro traveling the circuit. The best questions will be answered by Griffin and published in Card Player. If your question makes it into print, we'll send you a free Card Player T-shirt.

Bring on the World Series of Poker Main Event

Hi, Gavin:

What are your favorite tournaments to play and why (structure, location, bad players) are they your favorites?

- Ron

Hi, Ron:

My favorite tournament in the world to play is the World Series of Poker main event, and it's not even close. There are other tournaments with great structures, like the WPT Championship and the EPT Grand Final. However, the main event has a great structure, the most prize money, and the worst average player. People make so many huge mistakes in the main event, it is unbelievable.

Not too long ago, Justin Bonomo caught some flack on the Internet forums for saying that there are players in the world who are worth more than 10 buy-ins in the WSOP main event. I agree with him 100 percent. Good players are worth two or three buy-ins, great players are worth four to six buy-ins, and the elite players in the world are worth eight to 10 buy-ins in that tournament, and that is unheard of. There is no other place in the world where the best players in the game can earn as much. I can't wait for the WSOP main event!

Beating Large Fields

What's the most important thing you have learned about how to win no-limit hold'em tournaments with large fields?

- Damian M. Moorman, Dayton, Ohio

Hi, Damian:

The most important thing that I have learned about winning tournaments with large fields is that you can't win the tournament in the early stages, but you sure can lose it. I'm not saying that you should pass up edges early or that you should make some ridiculous laydown because it's the first day. What I mean is that you shouldn't press too much early and try to win every pot to accumulate chips. Yes, of course you should try to accumulate chips, but do so by winning small pots or by taking gambles with a slight disadvantage. So many times, I press way too hard early in a tournament and end up mad at myself because I made stupid plays that got me bounced early. Make sure that your decisions are sound and that your information is good, and then hope things work out your way.

Decision-Making Keys at the Table

Gavin:

I'm trying to learn to be a better tournament player. I think one of my biggest mistakes is that I am not analyzing all of the information that I should before I make decisions at the table. Sometimes I'll act, thinking only about my cards, and then find myself out of a tournament.

What questions do you ask yourself before deciding what to do in a tournament?

- Steve, St. Louis, Missouri

Hi, Steve:

There are several things that you need to take into account before every decision you make at the poker table:

1. What is my image? How can I take advantage of it? If you have a tight image, you can use it to your advantage by mixing in a few bluffs or playing some hands that fall out of your normal range, hoping to flop big to get paid off. If you have a loose image, tighten up, play strong hands, and let the chips come your way.

2. How has my opponent been playing? You always should pay attention to what's going on at the table, so that you know your opponent's mindset going into the hand. Did he just take a bad beat or lose a big pot? If so, you may expect him to try to get those chips back right away. Did he just get caught bluffing? Some people like to run another bluff right after they get caught, because people will think there is no way they would bluff twice in a row.

3. What does my opponent have, and what does he think I have? These two questions are very key. If you can deduce what your opponent's likely hand is and what he thinks your likely hand is, you can approach the hand with more information. Of course, poker is a game of incomplete information, so sometimes your answers to these questions will be wrong.

Just be sure to pay lots of attention to what's going on around you, Steve; that is the best way to be prepared for all of the inevitabilities.

Gavin Griffin is the newest member of Team PokerStars. Visit his website at www.gavingriffin.net.