Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

Inside Straight

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Sep 11, 2008


Congressional Letter Asks for Clarity on UIGEA

Letter Takes Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board to Task

By Bob Pajich

Four members of Congress signed a letter that was sent to both the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve System, requesting that the departments provide members of Congress more clarity on the rules and regulations that will be used to implement the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

"As proposed, these regulations do not provide clear guidance to the public, in particular those who engage in online skill games, or regulated industries regarding what constitutes 'unlawful Internet gambling,'" the letter said. "We believe that implementing such vague law and regulations, while holding the public and regulated industries liable for noncompliance, is an abdication of federal government's responsibility to both the public and regulated industries. In addition, vague UIGEA law and regulations could be unnecessarily burdensome and costly to public and particularly small businesses."

Signed by Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Jim Gerlach (R-Penn.), and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the letter goes on to request that the two departments responsible for writing the rules and regulations that will be used to implement the UIGEA – the first draft of which was presented in December 2007 – define exactly what "unlawful Internet gambling" is.

The UIGEA law is so far-reaching, confusing, and intrusive to the banking industry that both banking officials and employees of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve have expressed their concerns about the UIGEA since its inception. Simply put, banks say the current system cannot handle processing all of the information that the UIGEA will require them to process. The lack of clarity on what exactly constitutes unlawful Internet gambling is the tallest hurdle on a track full of them that the federal government has to navigate before the rules of the UIGEA are in place.

Don't confuse the letter's intent as a sign that these Republicans wish to see online gambling taxed and regulated. The authors – Biggert, Shays, Gerlach, and McCarthy – say they voted for the UIGEA and support it, but go on to write: "However, we are concerned about the legality and operational viability of a rule that leaves so much to interpretation and, accordingly, urge the [Federal Reserve] Board and Treasury to take a deliberate path to a workable rule as we have outlined in this letter."

But the oversight of not defining unlawful Internet gambling – or the purposeful ambiguity by the UIGEA's main authors, Reps. John Kyl and Bob Goodlatte – is giving members of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve System serious problems as they draft the rules. They expressed their concerns during an April hearing when they told members of Congress that they doubted banks would be able to follow the law because of how unclearly it was written.

The representatives of the Board and the Treasury Department told members of Congress during April's hearing that they had an extremely difficult time writing the UIGEA's rules because of the lack of clarity. Without the actual law undergoing a revision, the two departments burdened with the task of coming up with the regulations for banks, as well as the banks themselves, will be flying blind as the federal government looks on.

2008 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Begins

A Look Back at Previous Winners

By Kristy Arnett

The Legends of Poker tournament is one of the few stops on the World Poker Tour that has withstood the test of time, having been broadcast in every single season. The shortened 2008 WPT schedule had nixed a number of destinations that were featured in 2007, but The Bicycle Casino, and its Legends of Poker, was not one of them. The $10,000 buy-in main event is scheduled to begin on Aug. 23. Here is a look back at previous WPT Legends of Poker champions:

Check for full coverage of the 2008 Legends of Poker tournament.

High Stakes Poker Picked Up by GSN

TV's Premier Cash Game Returns for a Fifth Season

By Bob Pajich

High Stakes Poker, the TV show that enables poker fans to see what it's like to play for six-figure pots, will return for a fifth season. Both GSN and Poker PROductions, the show's production company, have confirmed that High Stakes Poker was renewed.

Details about when and where the show will be filmed and when new episodes will appear are still being worked out. The renewal came weeks after the last contract with GSN and High Stakes Poker ended. High Stakes Poker also lost its Monday night poker partner when GSN decided not to renew the World Poker Tour.

Since then, the WPT has found a new home at Fox Sports Network.

High Stakes Poker has been part of the GSN family of shows since its conception, and the show has formed a cultlike following that stays updated and discusses the action through forums and video-sharing sites like YouTube.

The show features a mix of professional players and very rich businessmen who fancy big action, and is hosted by Gabe Kaplan and A.J. Benza. Some of the clips on YouTube have been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Amateur Golfer Wins Heartland Poker Tour Event

Shane Sigsbee Wins $206,273

By Bob Pajich

A 23-year-old budding professional golfer and options trader is $206,273 richer after winning the Heartland Poker Tour event that concluded at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana, recently.

"This feels pretty good," Sigsbee said. "Now it's off to the golf course."

The final table ended up being the shortest in HPT history, lasting only 42 hands. Sigsbee outlasted 479 other entrants to take home the top prize. More than 1,200 entrants tried to qualify for the event by playing in satellites leading up the championship.

The top nine finishers were:


Shane Sigsbee (Chicago, Illinois), $206,273


Jason DeWitt (Granger, Indiana), $103,136


Frank Berrettoni (South Chicago Heights, Illinois), $61,882


John Sladek (Mount Prospect, Illinois), $48,130


Paul Lieu (Aurora, Illinois) $41,255


Ryan Henline (Luckey, Ohio) $34,379


Alexander Tinsley (Wauconda, Illinois) $21,727


Brian Johnson (Grand Forks, North Dakota) $18,565


Jerry Matlock (Elgin, Illinois) $13,201

Sigsbee, who graduated from Notre Dame, said his short time as an options trader prepared him for the poker tournament. He also won a $3,000 entry into the HPT Championship.

"Options trading and poker are very similar," he said. "It's all about managing risk and taking advantage of probabilities."

This event marks the halfway point on the HPT's Season IV schedule of events. The next event will take place at the Soaring Mountain Casino in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, on Aug. 24. Satellites for the $1,640 event are now taking place with buy-ins as low as $41.

PokerStars Promises Bigger Prize Pools for Flagship Events and WCOOP

Guarantees Have Been Increased

By Kristy Arnett

PokerStars, the largest poker site in the world, continues to make strides to stay ahead of the game by offering more guaranteed prize money. Not only were increased guaranteed prize pools announced for a couple of its biggest regular tournaments, but the World Championship of Online Poker series, which begins on Sept. 5, promises to provide the biggest prize pools that online poker has ever seen.

The 2008 WCOOP is guaranteeing $30 million in prize money during the 33-event series, including $10 million for the $5,300 buy-in no-limit hold'em main event. Ten events are to be introduced, including a high-roller no-limit hold'em event with a buy-in of $10,300 and a $25,000 buy-in high-roller heads-up tournament. The series begins with a $215 buy-in no-limit hold'em six-max tournament that features a guaranteed prize pool of $1 million.

In addition, the Sunday Million will now have a guarantee of $1.5 million, an increase of 50 percent. The $215 buy-in Sunday Million runs weekly at 4:30 p.m. ET. Satellites run around-the-clock for as little as $3.

The Sunday Warm-Up is also offering an increased minimum prize pool of $750,000. It also features a buy-in of $215 and is no-limit hold'em, and runs just before the Sunday Million at 12:45 p.m. ET.

World Poker Tour to Be Broadcast in India

WPTE Signed Contract With Indian Sports Network

By Bob Pajich

World Poker Tour Enterprises will soon be introduced to one of the largest audiences in the world: India.

WPTE has signed an agreement with Zee Sports, which is India's first private sports channel, to air episodes of the World Poker Tour. The first episodes will air in September.

Zee Sports will broadcast 19 two-hour episodes from season four, and will promote the WPT heavily on its network, which also broadcasts football, cricket, tennis, motor sports, and golf.

Top of the Player of the Year Standings Will Be Harder to Crack as the Year Progresses

The weeks following the World Series of Poker are a time when tournament players head home for a few weeks to either lick their wounds or pop the cork of a bottle of Cristal champagne to celebrate their performances.

There are plenty of smaller buy-in tournaments running around the country during this time, but players have had to wait several weeks after the conclusion of the Bellagio Cup IV in July for the next major, the $10,000 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker championship at The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, Aug. 23-28.

Now's a good time to check the Player of the Year leader board to see who might be popping a bottle of bubbly at year-end to celebrate his Player of the Year award.

Every player in the top 25 has put himself in contention to win Player of the Year honors, and even though one of the most successful players in the history of tournament poker currently sits on top of the standings, if any of these players string together a series of top finishes, the race could change drastically. And, of course, the winner of the WSOP main event in November will vault into contention.

But the formidable players who now sit at the top of the standings will not completely disappear in the remaining months of 2008. Just take a gander at the lifetime tournament winnings of the current top six to confirm this.

Leader Erik Seidel has cashed for $8.9 million, John Phan for $4.2 million, David Benyamine for $2.6 million, Michael Binger for $5.6 million, David Pham for $7.5 million, and Erick Lindgren for $6.7 million. That's $35.5 million among them. They also hold 14 WSOP bracelets among them, with Seidel owning eight himself.

For those sitting behind these players, it's definitely not over, as two final tables in major events will put anyone into the top 10, but the closer we get to November and December, the harder it will be to overtake these champions.

Look Out

Steven Merrifield of Fairmont, West Virginia, is starting his tournament poker career like many of the well-known pros did – by cashing in a few smaller tourneys to build a bankroll to be able to start swinging for the fences.

Merrifield started his breakout run in March by finishing seventh in a $500 event at Caesars Atlantic City for $7,640. Three days later, he finished eighth in the $5,000 WSOP Circuit Championship for $40,419. A month later, he finished second in the $5,000 WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Indiana for $94,597. With that bankroll, he headed to the WSOP in Las Vegas, where he scored big.

In event No. 13, $2,500 no-limit hold'em, Merrifield took second place for a score worth $428,949, which was one of three cashes he made at the WSOP. He currently sits in 31st place with 2,318 points.

Dipthrong Gives No Respect to a 'Donk' Bet on the Way to a Big Sunday Online Win

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 $200 Full Tilt Poker Sunday no-limit hold'em tournament

Players 4,173

First Prize $147,382

Finish First

Stacks dipthrong – 191,085; Villain – 127,521

Blinds 1,200-2,400

Antes 300

The Villain raises to 7,000 from the cutoff. Dipthrong reraises to 21,600 from the button with the J 6. There was no small blind in this hand. The big blind folds.

Craig Tapscott: What's your read on the Villain?

Mark "dipthrong" Herm: He had been very loose-aggressive, but like many of the Sunday players, he probably doesn't know how to handle people playing back at him (that is, three-betting him preflop). Anyway, he had been opening up a lot of pots, so I decided to three-bet him from the button with my modest holding of the J 6, thinking that the reraise would take down the pot a large portion of the time. If not, usually a continuation-bet on the flop and in position will get a fold. Granted, I thought there was a chance this guy would flat-call my three-bet (because he seemed like an inexperienced, loose type of Sunday player).

CT: Is this a common three-bet for you with such a mediocre hand?

MH: It'd probably be better if I had some kind of hand that could hit the flop, like 9-8 suited, or J-10, or anything decent; but I'm not going to let this good spot pass me by.

CT: Why the bet-sizing of 21,600 for this three-bet?

MH: I made it a little more than three times his bet, which is a little big for a three-bet in position, in my opinion. But I thought he was loose, and I really wanted to discourage him from calling because my hand was so bad. Bet-sizing like this potentially could be flawed, because a good player might be able to pick up on it and try to narrow down your hand strength. Also, the three-bet on the button looks a little obvious. Again, the thing I took into consideration was that this was a Sunday tournament; people really aren't very experienced and they don't usually pick up on this type of stuff.

CT: Can you explain bet-sizings and what they can reveal about an opponent's hand? Give some examples.

MH: It's really hard to give absolutes for certain bet-sizings, and it's something that really has to be scrutinized over a number of hands of play with the opponents at your table. When I am playing well and focusing on my table, I always find myself going back through hand histories, and noting the size of preflop raises that people are making and what hands they showed down, if any.

Now, a lot of the regular players have standards for each level, but some don't, and a lot of inexperienced players give off a ton of information with their bet-sizings preflop. An example may be if the big blind is 2,000; an inexperienced player may make a raise toward the lower end of the raising scale of two to three times the big blind (for example, 4,450) with a weaker hand. And if he had a stronger hand, he might raise toward the upper end of the scale (for example, 5,875). A standard preflop bet-sizing tell that I revert to if I have no reads is that a raise of four times the big blind preflop usually means formidable strength and generally is not something I would look to play back at. Also, minimum-raises are generally weak, although, of course, there are always exceptions.

Along with these bet-sizing tells, I sometimes can utilize timing tells to try to read strength or weakness. Lots of times – not always, of course – quick reraises preflop from late-position players mean weakness. I think people try to make their hand look strong by reraising real quickly. If they really had a monster hand, they most likely would take a little longer to act in order to think about how they were going to extract maximum value out of their opponent.

The Villain calls 14,600.

CT: So far, this hand doesn't seem to be going according to your master plan.

MH: I'm not too pleased about the flat-call, but I still think I have the upper hand in this pot. I reraised preflop, indicating strength, and I have position, which is a huge advantage.

Flop: 10 3 2 (48,000 pot)

CT: When the flop hits, is this a 100 percent automatic continuation-bet (c-bet)?

MH: Yeah, definitely; if he checks to me, I'm betting exactly 100 percent of the time. I'll be betting on all the flops that I miss entirely, and those that I hit hard enough that I can call a shove from him. The only time I probably wouldn't c-bet is if I had a flop with which my hand had some showdown value. But on this flop, I definitely will be betting, because a c-bet on the flop is my best chance to take this pot down.

The Villain leads out with a 30,000 bet.

CT: Oops. Does this bet throw a wrench into your game plan?

MH: Not really. It's a ragged 10-high board. I immediately think this bet is weakness, because a simple player like this would check if he hit the flop or otherwise liked his hand. But this still kind of puts me in a tough spot. I pretty much have to put all of my chips at risk with no pair/no draw and only one overcard, while potentially drawing dead.

CT: There's a poker term that experienced players call this type of bet. Explain.

MH: It's called a "donk" bet. To be a little clearer, it usually happens when you raise preflop in position and an opponent flat-calls out of one of the blinds and then leads into you for a small bet amount. In this hand, he flat-called a reraise, so I would categorize it as the same type of thing.

CT: I've seen good players do this to entice some type of action from the preflop raiser, and usually with a monster hand.

MH: You're right. But almost always with these inexperienced players, a smallish lead-out or donk bet (not committing themselves) is weakness about 95 percent of the time, in my opinion, and raising it gets a fold most of the time.

CT: Reverse roles. Put yourself in the Villain's shoes, holding 9-9 or even A-K.

MH: Well, in this spot, I definitely would not have gotten to the flop with either of those holdings, because of the preflop action. That is, if I'm the Villain and I raised from the cutoff and got three-bet, I definitely would be four-betting (either reraising or shoving, depending on stack sizes). Either of those hands is just a monster in this spot, unless I had the preflop reraiser labeled as a complete nit.

CT: How would you play your hand against a very good player, like perhaps Isaac "westmenloAA" Baron?

MH: I probably wouldn't be as likely to three-bet in this spot against him, because it seems like a fairly transparent spot to be three-betting light in position to a late-position raise.

CT: Thanks. Now, back to the hand.

MH: I did weigh the possibility that he actually had a hand. I just thought I could get him to lay down a real hand, like a medium-pocket pair (such as 6-6 to 9-9), if he had played it that way. There was a lot of chips to be won (78,000), and I really thought he had air and was just going to snap-fold.

Dipthrong raises to 169,185 and is all in. The Villain folds. Dipthrong rakes in the pot.

Mark Herm recently won an unprecedented two Sunday major online events, on the same day. On July 13, he won the Bodog 100K event for $23,600, and then went on to capture the $750,000 Full Tilt Poker $200 buy-in event for $147,382. And the previous week, he had taken down the Full Tilt Poker Sunday Mulligan for $44,400. After grinder beginnings in limit cash games, he fell in love with tournaments, and with the aid of friend and mentor Daniel "djk123" Kelly, he began to have success.

Jeff Williams Keeps the Pedal to the Metal for a Deep World Series of Poker Finish

By Craig Tapscott and Jeff Williams

In this series, Card Player offers an in-depth analysis of the key hands that catapulted a player to a top finish, online or live. We also will reveal key concepts and strategies from the world's best tournament players, as we venture inside their sometimes devious and always razor-sharp poker minds.

Jeff Williams is a student and professional poker player who's currently enrolled at the University of Georgia. When he was 19, he won the European Poker Tour Monte Carlo tournament for more than $1 million, and has cashed in a number of other events since turning 21 for more than $500,000. This summer at the World Series of Poker, Williams finished second in the $1,000 no-limit hold'em rebuy event, good for more than $400,000. He plays online as "yellowsub86" and can be found playing high-stakes tournaments and pot-limit Omaha on all of the major online sites.


2008 WSOP event No. 5, $1,000 no-limit hold'em with rebuys



First Prize:






Key Concepts:

Hand ranges, sticking to a read, stack awareness

Hand No. 1

Stacks Jeff Williams – 1,000,000; Michael Banducci – 1,300,000

Blinds 10,000-20,000

Antes 3,000

Players Remaining 6

Craig Tapscott: How's the action been treating you up to this point?

Jeff Williams: The final table had been going well for me. I had seen my 680,000 chip stack increase to 1 million by this point.

The action is folded to Banducci on the button. He raises to 50,000.

JW: The small blind folds to me in the big blind with the A 9. A-9 is far ahead of Michael's button-raising range (because he's a good, aggressive online player), but I don't want to put in a reraise at this point, because my hand is fairly weak and cannot stand to be raised all in before the flop. Even if he elected to flat-call my reraise, I would be in a tricky spot. So, I decided to just call.

Williams calls 30,000.

Flop: 10 3 2 (128,000 pot)

Williams checks. Banducci checks.

CT: What's his hand range at this point?

JW: I think he has two big cards here, a Q-J or K-Q sort of hand, possibly an ace high. I do not think he has a pocket pair, since that's a great flop for almost every pair in the hole.

Turn: 4

Williams checks. Banducci fires out 60,000.

CT: What now?

JW: I'm sticking with my read on the flop, and I still think my A-9 is ahead. So, I deliberate and …

Williams calls 60,000.

River: 7 (248,000 pot)

Williams checks. Banducci bets 95,000.

CT: Is he taking you to Valuetown with this bet?

JW: Well, such a small bet on the river (less than 40 percent of the pot) is usually a value-bet trying to get a call from a mediocre hand. But in this instance, given that I know Michael is a very good online player, I think he is second-level thinking here and wants me to think that his small bet is for value, when in reality it's a cheap bluff. Also, all of the draws on the flop missed (outside of a 5-4 sort of hand, but I couldn't imagine him betting a pair of fours on the river), and my read on the flop was two big cards, and I went with it.

Williams calls 95,000. Banducci tables the Q 8. Williams flips over the A 9 and wins the pot of 438,000.

Hand No. 2

Stacks Jeff Williams – 1,200,000; Peter Gould – 800,000

Blinds 10,000-20,000

Antes 3,000

Players Remaining 6

The action is folded to Williams on the button. He raises to 49,000.

JW: Fresh off winning that pot two hands previously with ace high, I feel like I'm playing very well, and as such, I am trying to ride the rush and win every pot. Everyone folds to my button, and I look down at the 7 2. Normally, I don't recommend raising with "the hammer," but I thought the stack sizes were great to try to steal the blinds from the button (meaning that the two players in the blinds had too many chips to just raise all in, but they also couldn't really reraise me without committing their stacks). So, I raised a shade under two-and-a-half times the big blind, and …

Gould calls 29,000 more from the big blind.

CT: Does this worry you, since you're holding the monster 7-2?

JW: Not really. Peter had been splashing around in some pots and had noted out loud my aggressive button-raising (I had raised from the button a number of times previously), so I thought his range for calling my raise was quite wide.

Flop: 10 5 4 (126,000 pot)

Gould checks.

CT: Do you always continuation-bet in this spot?

JW: Against an opponent who I think has a wide calling range preflop, I will continuation-bet almost any flop, but especially one this good, since it contains only one Broadway card and easily could have hit me.

Williams bets 55,000.

JW: I'm obviously looking to take down this pot right here, and if he calls, I will more than likely be done with my theft attempt.

Gould calls.

Turn: 10 (236,000 pot)

Gould checks.

CT: Is it time to bet again after Gould has shown so much weakness?

JW: I think not betting this turn would be criminal, and the stacks are deep enough that I don't have to put my whole tournament life at risk if he in fact does have three tens or better. And the 10♦ is probably the best card in the deck for my hand, giving me a flush draw while pairing the top card on the board (making it unlikely that Peter has a 10).

Williams bets 100,000.

JW: Peter asks for a count of my stack, mulls it over, and …

Gould folds. Williams wins the pot of 236,000.

JW: Theft successful!

Hand No. 3

Stacks Jeff Williams – 800,000; Peter Gould – 1,000,000

Blinds 12,000-24,000

Antes 3,000

Players Remaining 6

CT: You're bleeding chips a bit at this point.

JW: Yeah. I had been getting played back at a fair amount, and had been slowly losing chips. Under the gun, I finally pick up a real hand – the A K. I make a standard raise with it to …

Williams raises to 60,000. Gould calls from the button, and both blinds fold.

JW: He'd been doing this a fair amount, but rarely had gone to showdown with these button-calls, so I could not pick up a read on what his calling range was.

Flop: A Q 2 (174,000 pot)

Williams bets 100,000.

JW: Great flop for my hand, as I have made top pair, top kicker. Peter takes a second, and raises my continuation-bet.

Gould raises to 262,000.

CT: Could he have flopped two pair, or a set of deuces or queens, or is he drawing here?

JW: Do I fold, saying to myself that he would make that raise only with a set of deuces or queens, or maybe A-Q? I think Peter is much better than that, and knows that I'm betting that flop with a wide range of hands, so he can raise with a wider range of hands than just sets and two pair. Do I call and look to get the hand to showdown? I think that if the stacks were about twice as deep as they were, this might be a viable option, but as it was, I didn't have enough chips to call here and then check-fold to a turn bet; I have to decide on the flop. Do I reraise and go with my A-K and try to win the massive pot? This is the decision I landed on after a long tank – mainly because there is just too much money in the pot, and my hand is too good to throw away. I don't want to see any more cards that could possibly complete his straight or flush or give him two pair.

Williams shoves all in.

JW: I think this is the ideal play with my hand, as a pair of aces could call with a worse kicker, or a whole host of flush or straight draws. Peter takes a moment and …

Gould folds. Williams wins the pot of approximately 698,000.

Williams eventually finished in second place, good for $406,330.

SpadeClub Spotlight

By Lisa Anderson

SpadeClub has two more Exclusive members who took home the $5,000 weekly tournament grand prize of $1,500 each. Every week, SpadeClub holds a $5,000 event, except for the first Sunday of the month, which is reserved for the $40,000 mega-monthly tournament.

Jerry "BlackChips" Savage was excited to start playing for his share of the $100,000 that's awarded monthly on SpadeClub. Savage enjoys the outdoors, but when inside, he is playing poker, and has been playing for about two years now. When asked what he thinks of SpadeClub, Savage replied, "You can play with play money on all the Internet sites, but that doesn't give you any real experience, because the chips have no value. For $20 a month, you can get all the poker you want. All you can eat, baby. SpadeClub has definitely made me a better player. When I don't like how I am playing on other sites, I will play some at SpadeClub to get myself straightened out."

Arthur "InntheBuff" Kliszak has been playing poker since he was in high school, but only recently has really started playing the game seriously. He thinks reading poker books and watching the professionals on TV is a great way to learn how to play the game and improve your skills. He also thinks playing on SpadeClub and watching what your opponents do in situations is a great way to learn the game.

To view complete interviews with SpadeClub winners, please visit


SpadeClub Exclusive members get a chance to turn their SpadeClub membership into millions with a $25,000 seat in the 2009 Bellagio Five-Star World Poker Classic championship event. All Exclusive members can play in SpadeClub's Bellagio Championship Series, which consists of a series of qualifiers to make it to the Bellagio Championship Series finals in April of 2009. Exclusive members who finish first in monthly qualifiers will receive a $2,500 satellite seat in the 2009 Bellagio Five-Star World Poker Classic and, along with the other final-table finishers, an automatic entry into the Bellagio Championship Series finals. The Exclusive member who takes first place in the finals will receive a $25,000 seat in the 2009 Five-Star World Poker Classic at Bellagio Las Vegas.

For more information and to view the tournament schedule, please visit

Tips From the Table

User John "johnboy3779" Skanderson says:

One thing people seem to have problems with is figuring out their percentage chance of winning a hand and pot odds. I have found one easy way to do both. After the flop, to figure out approximately what chance you have of improving your hand, you need to figure out how many "safe outs" you have. Once you figure that out, you simply multiply by 4 to get your approximate percentage. For example, if, on the flop, you have a four-flush, you have nine outs; 9 × 4 = 36. So, you have about a 36 percent chance of making your flush.

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

SpadeClub Gets Involved

On July 19, SpadeClub and Card Player joined forces with to hold the first SpadeClub Card Player Poker Classic of 2008. Entrants registered early for the event online at and received SpadeClub gear at the event. More than 160 entrants put up the $500 buy-in and were filled with anticipation as they took their seats at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. The poker tournament lasted about nine hours, and Christopher McCabe took it down, earning more than $31,000 of the total prize pool of $81,500.

Tournament Schedule

$5,000 Weekly

Aug. 24 4 p.m. ET

Aug. 31 4 p.m. ET

Bellagio Monthly

Aug. 31 6 p.m. ET

Sept. 28 6 p.m. ET

$40,000 Mega Monthly

Sept. 7 4 p.m. ET

To view a complete list of SpadeClub tournaments offered, please visit

$1.7 Million Adds Up for Math Whiz Watson

By Shawn Patrick Green

Waterloo, Canada, is claiming more and more poker success these days, as the city is apparently a breeding ground for online poker phenoms. The latest Waterloo resident to make a splash (no pun intended) is Mike "SirWatts" Watson. Watson had an incredible run online in 2007, and he already has pulled into the top 20 in the Online Player of the Year race for 2008, earning almost $300,000 in qualified cashes.

But up until July, Watson had never made a six-figure score. Well, July came and went, and he still hadn't put a six-figure score on his résumé – because $1,673,770 has seven figures in it. He won that sum when he took down the Bellagio Cup IV main event, which took place right after the World Series of Poker.

Card Player got in touch with Watson shortly after the Bellagio Cup main event to talk to the math whiz about that big win, how to play effective deep-stack and short-stack poker, and how he is continuing to improve.

Shawn Patrick Green: So, how does it feel to have a $1.7 million score?

Mike "SirWatts" Watson: It's amazing. It is every tournament poker player's goal. I always kind of believed I'd get there, that if I kept playing these tournaments, I'd eventually get lucky and be able to win one. But this happened so quickly, and with a bunch of huge hands … I won a huge coin flip on the river against [David] Benyamine. It was really unbelievable, the way that it actually happened.

Obviously, I've been doing really well online, and I've played cash games and done well, too. I actually had a pretty big year in 2007 – but nothing compared to this year, obviously. My goal this year was to get that first big six-figure tournament score; I'd never had one. I'd never won any of the really, really big online tournaments. So, that was sort of my goal, but I guess I overshot that a little bit [laughing].

SPG: [Laughing] Just a little bit. Well, Bellagio recently instituted triple starting stacks, which meant that you had 45,000 in chips to start. What's your plan of attack with that kind of stack?

MW: When you get into the deep-stack situations at the beginning of the tournament, that's when having played a lot of cash games online really starts to come in handy. I think a lot of tournament players who are purely tournament players are really uncomfortable when playing that deep; they don't know how to play with so many chips in front of them relative to the size of the blinds. They make some mistakes in overvaluing hands and not realizing the importance of position when they're that deep. So, my cash-game background helped me out a lot. At that point, you're definitely really looking to get involved in a lot of pots with the weak players, to try to make the nuts against them and get paid off, or just outplay them post-flop and take pots away when they're out of position and not willing to defend their hands.

SPG: What other kinds of mistakes are you seeing people make during the deep-stack portions of tournaments? In what ways can you exploit them?

MW: A lot of the mistakes involve the fact that they're not really controlling the size of the pots as well as they should with their marginal hands. They're getting too much money in with one-pair types of hands against opponents who are pretty tight players. Or, sometimes it's the complete opposite and people are afraid to get the full value out of their hands. They think, "But what if he check-raises me here? What would I do? There is so much money behind." So, it really comes down to not being afraid and getting a little bit of extra value when you have a marginal but best hand. And it is also important to be able to make big folds, to get away from hands when you have to.

SPG: How did it go when you jumped from online tournaments to your first few $10,000 events?

MW: I went on a terrible run when I started playing big live events. I think I was 0-17 for cashing in my first $5,000-plus buy-in live events. I didn't cash in a single one of them. I had had a little success in the $1,000 and $2,000 prelim events; I made a couple of final tables and had a few $20,000 or $30,000 scores. Finally, I finished 10th in the L.A. Poker Classic main event, which was still only like $60,000, but at least it got the monkey off my back. I had never gotten anywhere close to that deep in a main event before, but I did make it that far, so it wasn't like the Bellagio win came out of nowhere. I was confident in my game, and I knew that if I could eventually start catching some breaks, I could do it, but compared to my results beforehand, the Bellagio win was, well, pretty excellent.

SPG: You're having a very successful year online, as well. You're in the top 20 in the Online Player of the Year race. What advice can you give for playing in online tournaments, which, in general, have much shorter starting stacks than big live events?

MW: Online, there are a few levels when you're playing deep in the beginning, and most people just play really tight during those levels and don't play any hands unless they have monsters. You have to be a much more technical short-stacked player to do well in online tournaments. When you get down to stacks of 20 big blinds or less, you've really got to know when to shove, when you should be taking a shot at the blinds, and all of those things. You sort of work it down to a science based on the players you are playing against.

SPG: Do you think that your background in math helped that much, or do you think that there is a plateau to how much math skills can help in poker?

MW: The math definitely helps out a lot. Obviously, there is a very mathematical aspect of poker; it is inherently a mathematical game. But most of the math involved in poker is high-school-level stuff. Understanding math helped me pick up the more technical aspects of the game fairly quickly. But when you're playing at the higher levels, there are a lot of other things that are more important; it is not purely a mathematical game.

SPG: What other things are you talking about? And what other life skills can help you in poker beyond the math?

MW: Understanding people is a big thing. There is also pattern recognition and trying to pick up on people's tendencies, and so on. But especially live, a lot of the time you can build up a profile of someone. You can start to figure out where they're coming from and get inside their heads to figure out how they're thinking about the game and how they're approaching the tournament. Are they going to be scared when the big money is on the line, or is it no big deal to them? The psychology and a lot of other things definitely come into play.

SPG: What was the biggest "aha" moment you've ever had in poker?

MW: I think one of the biggest moments for me was when I was starting to become a moderately successful tournament player. When I started thinking more about deep-stack poker was really a key moment when my game started to improve dramatically. Also, when I started thinking about playing cash games, and about how it is sometimes good to control the size of the pot, and how you can get value later in the hand. I also started to understand that people aren't going to always pay you off when you bet, bet, bet. So, that was probably the key, when I started to figure out a lot more of the principles of deep-stack play.

SPG: How are you continuing to improve your game?

MW: It's all the same things, really. I'm still talking to my friends about hands. I've met all of these guys from Waterloo who are good players and great to bounce hands off here and there, people like "Timex" [Mike McDonald] and Steve Paul-Ambrose. So, a lot of it's talking to them, and I still post on forums. Also, a lot of it is just thinking things through myself. I've gotten to the point where I have all of the fundamentals; I understand enough about the general poker principles that if I sit down and really think about a hand, I should be able to come to a conclusion that is probably going to be correct most of the time. But it's not always automatic; you've got to sit down, think it through, and do the work.

You're always improving, and you're always growing, but there are some fundamentals, I guess. I think that if you understand poker on a theoretical level, you're going to be able to think through situations theoretically and more technically, and figure out the correct play. But, at the same time, situations do come up when you're thinking, "Wow, I really don't know what to do here," and you've got to try to get a second opinion. That's where talking to friends comes into play to get a different perspective on it, a different angle that you may not have considered as much.

SPG: Thanks for doing this interview, Mike.

Daniel 'djk123' Kelly: Always One Step Ahead

By Craig Tapscott

Dan Kelly, 19, is one of the top online tournament players in the world, posting wins and deep finishes day in and day out. He's certainly not a player you want at your table. Kelly's secret: When a player zigs, he zags, or he will zig if expected to zag – and so on. It's the deep levels of thinking that Kelly applies to each hand that have contributed to his fearlessness and made him difficult to play against.

"It's always good to stay ahead of the curve," said Kelly. "And that's how you win – by doing things differently than everyone else. I try to do what I think is best, and maybe it will start to catch on, but I hope it doesn't."

Another secret: Kelly always has a plan, even if it's difficult to decipher at the moment. A recent posted hand he played in a $1,000 PokerStars event exploded into a huge debate amongst the top echelon of online players. It all started when the action was folded to Kelly in the small blind; he had 25 big blinds. He decided to shove with the Q 10 into a loose-aggressive opponent with 30 big blinds, who instantly called with the J J. Of course, Kelly won when the flop came 10 10 4, but that wasn't the point. The discussion was about whether or not the shove had a positive chip expected value in that situation. The debate raged on with math and metagame thoughts supporting both sides, and was well worth reading.

This fact remains: Kelly has cashed in online events for more than $1 million during the last two years, so he obviously must be doing something right.

Craig Tapscott: Let's talk about that hand that has been so hotly debated on the online forums.

Daniel Kelly: The debate centers around making larger than normal shoves, around 20 big blinds. I do that a lot, and people can't wrap their minds around that move.

CT: Care to elaborate?

DK: Well, when you have a stack of 15-20 big blinds, it can be an awkward-size stack. If you have a hand like 9-8 or J-9 suited, it's not good to raise and call a reraise. And you shouldn't raise and fold when you're under 20 big blinds. You should be shoving or folding. It's much better to shove in some cases, because people aren't calling as wide as they should. Players are stuck on this idea of not shoving with more than 10 big blinds.

CT: How did you figure out if this was a positive-expectation play?

You have to figure out what an opponent's calling range is going to be and what your equity is going to be when you are called. It just takes a lot of practice to know which hands you should be shoving. The only way to get good at this is to play a ton and get a sense of how your opponents are playing at the time and what their hand ranges are. Let's say that it's folded to the small blind and the big blind has 10 big blinds or less. With an opponent who is unknown, you definitely can shove any two cards. He is just not going to call enough in that spot. Even against a good player in those spots, you can shove extremely wide, and the same thing goes from the button. And if the blinds have around 10 big blinds each, many times I will shove any two.

CT: You have the reputation of being a great preflop tournament player. What's the key to good preflop play?

DK: Bad players tend to reraise a raise preflop, and then don't have a plan. They don't know how to react to a shove. They might reraise while holding sevens and when reraised or shoved against, they tank. If you're reraised, you need to know if you're snap-calling the shove or folding. You have to have a plan when you raise.

CT: You obviously use your hyperaggressive table image to your advantage.

DK: Actually, people generally over-hype my aggressive image. It's easy to tighten up against some people and then get paid off very light. But still, some players know that I know that I'm very aggressive, so they think I'll tighten up eventually. So if I know that, I can still play very aggressively against them.

Playing a Monster Hand Against an Aggressive Player

By Dani Stern

This column will focus on a hand played in a very deep-stacked heads-up no-limit hold'em cash game. While playing in deep-stacked heads-up matches, there are often numerous decisions you can make in any given situation. In my opinion, it is the best form of poker. Nothing else really compares in terms of complexity and psychological battles.

My opponent is very aggressive and loose. In any situation, he is fully capable of running an elaborate bluff.


Heads-up $25-$50 blinds cash game on PokerStars


Very aggressive, crazy, and loose

Stacks $21,500 (me) versus $13,000

My Cards


My Position

Big blind

My opponent raised the button to $200, and I reraised to $800 with pocket aces. He called, which he had done almost every single time I had reraised him.

The flop came A 5 2. I led out for $1,400. In this situation, some people might choose to check and slow-play. This is almost certainly a mistake. While you may think that with two aces in your hand, and only one left in the deck, it is unlikely that you will get action, in the long run, you are better off betting this flop, for three main reasons. First, if you check, he is probably going to think you are checking a medium-strength hand with the intention of inducing a bluff. Second, if you check, hoping he will improve his hand, it is very unlikely to happen. If he has a pocket pair, he has only two outs to improve. If he has something like K-Q, he will make second pair at best. Third, and perhaps most important, it will appear that you could be bluffing if you actually just bet out, because that is what he would expect you to do with something like Q-J offsuit.

He called, and the turn was the K. At this point, I thought that now would be the time to induce a bluff. There is a good chance that he could have absolutely nothing, diamonds, or just a middle pair. While he might have the ace, it is far more likely that he has diamonds or a hand that he will turn into a bluff (mainly because three out of the four aces in the deck are gone).

Some might think my logic for checking the turn is contradictory to my logic for betting the flop, but it is not. Your opponent has to be able to expect you to have nothing a fair amount of the time in order for you to correctly induce a bluff. Given the line I have taken so far, I have to think my check on the turn will lead him to put me on a bluff that I have given up on.

After I checked, he bet $2,250. At this point, I think my plan is working to perfection. He must have either a hand that is strong enough to value-stack itself, a total bluff, or diamonds. With this in mind, I decide to just call and check-call any river.

I called, and the river was the 3. I checked, expecting him to shove a very large percentage of the time, but unfortunately he checked behind with the K 8. His play on the river was obviously correct, given that he had a fair amount of showdown value against my range.

I only partially regret my decision to check-call the turn, despite the results. I was correct in my read that he likely had a diamond draw, and unlucky that he happened to have a pair, as well. One thing I had not considered, though, was how likely he would have been to shove over a turn bet on a semibluff. It would have been an extremely strong-looking line, and in his mind, he might have thought he could get me to fold some strong hands.

This hand is a good example of the many different decisions you can make when the stacks are super deep. The decision to bet the flop or not, how much to bet, and whether or not to bet the turn or the river are all decisions that help to define your edge as a good player against a weaker one.

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

In Favor of Action

By David Apostolico

A few columns back, I mentioned an interesting passage from Made to Stick – a great book about making your ideas stick. There are several fascinating concepts in this book that can apply to poker, so I'd like to use this column to examine one more. In the book, the authors cite a study by Eldar Shafir and Donald Redelmeier that demonstrated that paralysis can be caused by choice. In the study, a sampling of college students was given the following choices: Attend a lecture by an author you admire who is visiting just for the evening, or go to the library and study. Not surprisingly, only 21 percent chose to study, with close to 80 percent taking advantage of the rare opportunity to attend a lecture from the visiting author. There's nothing too radical about this revelation.

However, another sampling of college students was given three choices: the same two as above, plus a third option of watching "a foreign film that you've been wanting to see." Based on the first sampling, I think most people would guess that even less than 21 percent of students would choose to study now that they had an added alternative. Remarkably, when given three choices, 40 percent of the students decided to study. Counterintuitively, almost double the amount of students chose to study when faced with more alternatives. The authors concluded: "Giving students two good alternatives to studying, rather than one, paradoxically, makes them less likely to choose either. This behavior isn't 'rational' but it is human."

What does this have to do with poker? First, I think we can assume that poker players are as human as college students, and thus are subject to the same degree of irrational behavior on such a subconscious level. So, if you give your opponents more choices instead of fewer, they are more likely to suffer from paralysis. The best way to give your opponents more options is by taking action.

Let's look at a rather simple illustration. You are in the big blind and everyone folds to the small blind, who limps in. The action is on you, and you have position on your one opponent. You can check your option or raise. If you check, your opponent does not have any decision to make. If you raise, your opponent must decide whether to call, fold, or reraise. He now has three decisions to ponder rather than none. Let's say, though, that you check your option.

After the flop, your opponent checks to you. Again, you can check or bet. If you bet, your opponent again must decide whether to call, fold, or raise. However, if you check, you both will see another card, and now your opponent faces the choice of checking or betting. So, if you bet the flop, your opponent faces three choices. If you check the flop, your opponent will face only two choices the next time it is his turn to act. Plus, he will now have more information; he has seen the turn card and he knows you checked the flop. By not betting, you've given your opponent fewer