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Winning Wisdom

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Jun 11, 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: World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and World Poker Tour championships.

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.

Preflop Pocket Aces Math

Gavin:

Would you ever make a case for folding pocket aces preflop in a tournament? For example, if you are in the beginning stages of a long tournament, and there are four all-in players in front of you, you probably are not more than a 35 percent favorite to win if you put your chips in. If you were confident in your game and outplaying people without having to stick your money into a spot in which you would lose most of the time, would you fold? Or, would you always call in that situation?

Hello:

The only time that it's correct to fold aces preflop in a tournament is in a supersatellite or in some very specific endgame situations when prize pool considerations warrant it. Now, that being said, I'm never folding aces at any time preflop in a regular multitable tournament with a normal payout structure, because I'm always playing for first place, no matter what. The situation in which it is correct to fold aces preflop will probably never happen to me in my lifetime, so I'm not too worried that I'll have to confront this issue. In the situation you described, I'm happy to get all of my money in in this spot. Let's illustrate a bad scenario and see what the numbers look like. We'll take two black aces. Opponent A has the 5 4, opponent B has the J 10, opponent C has the 2 2, and opponent D, our only seemingly sane opponent, has the K K. Using CardPlayer.com's Poker Odds Calculator, we find out that 37.35 percent of the time, we get five times our starting stack early in the tournament; 62.65 percent of the time, we are out. I would take this any day, but let's look at a more normal situation, shall we? Again, we'll take the A A, but this time we will make our opponents a bit more sane. Opponent A moves in with the J J, opponent B moves in with the A K, opponent C has the Q Q, and opponent D has the K K. This time, the CardPlayer.com Poker Odds Calculator tells us that we will win a huge 50.52 percent of the time and tie 1.24 percent of the time. Would you be willing to flip a coin when getting 4-1 on your money? I'd do it all day, every day, until my special little sucker ran out of money. Poker is about many things, and one of them is knowing when you should gamble. Getting 4-1 on your money as a 37 percent favorite is a no-brainer, in my opinion, and as a 50.5 percent favorite, it can't really be argued.

Dealing With an Obnoxious Donkey

Gavin:

Congrats on your success. I had the opportunity to play with you during last year's World Series. We had a pretty obnoxious player at the table. My question is, aside from the obvious of trying to mentally block out a player, how do you mentally deal with a player at your table who is either reckless, abusive, or just plain rude for hours without it affecting your decisions? Thank you. Good luck.

Best,
Todd

Hi, Todd:

For the most part, I just try to ignore an obnoxious player at the table. I'll use my headphones or talk to other people to try to drown out that person. If that doesn't work, well, I just ignore it. If that player then becomes abusive toward other players or the dealer, it's time to get the floor involved. This is unacceptable behavior. I know that poker can be frustrating, and it's OK to needle your opponents a little bit to get under their skin, hoping to affect their decisions, but it is never OK to be abusive toward them or the dealers. Repeated name-calling, offensive language aimed at a player or dealer, and throwing cards are unacceptable and need to be dealt with immediately. Hopefully, I have enough mental capacity not to let their actions affect my decisions. Good luck at this year's WSOP!

Playing Back at Late-Position Raisers

Dear Gavin:

In poker, position is obviously one of the most important elements when considering what to do. Players often raise and bluff more because they are in position. It is difficult for players who are out of position to know if the raiser in position is bluffing or really has a hand. I think it is becoming very common for players who look down at a hand like A-3 in the blinds, after the button raises, to reraise. It is similar to shoving all in no matter what the action is with A-K. The blind is often reraised, and has to call off the rest of his chips with a hand like A-3. I know that it is hard to speculate and be general, but do you think it is profitable in the long run to reraise with a weak ace or just lay it down and let your opponent have it?

Sincerely,
John Feder

Hi, John:

You're right, it's hard to speculate and be general in this situation, but there are many situations in which this play is correct. If a player is consistently abusing your big blind or your small blind, you sometimes need to show him that you can put up some resistance. In these cases, it doesn't matter what your cards are, as you are reraising because you are sending a message. Because you have been folding so much from these positions, he will most often give you credit for a big hand and fold. If this doesn't slow him down for the next time, give him another reraise and see how he reacts. Aggressive players will find another target to pick on. Now, this doesn't mean that when you are both 200 big blinds deep, you should be reraising to send a message because the guy raised your big blind once. Poker is not a game of bravado, it's a game of brains. Be sure to always think one step ahead of your opponent and you will be rewarded. Good luck, John!

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