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Inside Straight

Reviews, News, and Interviews From Around the Poker World

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Nov 14, 2008

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Poker Players Alliance Spending Big in Washington
Since 2005, the PPA Has Spent More Than $2.3 Million on Lobbyists
By Bob Pajich

The best way to get an audience with a member of Congress is to hire a lobbyist to go on the attack. Checks worth millions and millions of dollars are being written to Washington, DC, attorneys each year to do just that. It is what greases the creaking wheels of Washington.

When the Poker Players Alliance announced its intentions to go to bat for poker players (as well as industry members), founders said the PPA would plant poker issues right in front of members of Congress, and it looks like it has done so.

So far in 2008, the PPA has spent $629,750 on lobbyists, according to OpenSecrets.org, an organization that keeps track of lobbying spending and campaign donations.

That amount was used to hire 22 lobbyists working for five firms (both PPA Chairman Al D'Amato and Executive Director John Pappas are listed as lobbyists on OpenSecrets under two different firms, Ogilvy Government Relations for D'Amato and Patton Boggs LLP for Pappas).

In 2007, the PPA spent $900,000 bending the ears of politicians, using the same five firms, a $360,000 increase from 2006 ($540,000) and a $640,000 increase from 2005 ($260,000), the first year the PPA existed.

The PPA counts dozens of politicians with whom it has had sit-down meetings, while hundreds more received e-mails, phone calls, and letters supporting online poker rights.

The PPA clearly has relationships with a handful of congressmen. It has brought politicians like Rep. Robert Wexler to the World Series of Poker, and helped both Wexler and, most recently, Sen. Robert Menendez write bills that would define poker as a game of skill and even set up a framework for an online poker industry in the United States.

As an organization, the PPA has done an outstanding job of keeping the online poker community abreast of the issues and bills on the table not only in Washington, DC, but on a local level. Recently, the PPA filed an amicus brief on behalf of the seven online poker sites that were placed on a list of 141 gambling sites that the commonwealth of Kentucky is trying to seize, and also sent out a call to action to its 13,000 members in Kentucky.

But its main focus has been trying to convince politicians that poker is a game of skill and should be exempt from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, or any other law that targets online gambling indiscriminately by lumping poker into that category.

It will take a few more years to know if the money was well-spent, as politicians debate the far-reaching rules of the UIGEA and the confusion it has created. But these lawmakers are very busy trying to save the economic future of America, as well as the free world, and for many, the issue of the legality of online poker is a featherweight compared to the greater tasks at hand.
But every once in a while, in those chambers where laws are debated and made, politicians talk about poker, and that has something to do with the PPA and all of those lobbyists who are hired to hammer the talking points home.

Go to PokerPlayersAlliance.org to support poker's lobby efforts


FIDPA Spreads
International Poker Rules
Marcel Luske Heads Organization to Provide Tournament Standards Around the World
By Kristy Arnett


Poker continues to become an even bigger global phenomenon, and while the game is a part of different cultures and languages, some think there is a need for universally standard rules for tournaments. The Federation Internationale de Poker Association (FIDPA) is attempting to do just that.

FIDPA is an independent, international governing body for the poker industry that is focused on establishing standardized rules to broaden and increase participation on a global level. The organization stemmed from the International Poker Federation (IPF), which was founded in 2002 by poker pro Marcel Luske. The IPF was created to raise the standards and awareness of poker in Europe, but Luske soon realized the need for that worldwide. In 2007, Luske and fellow poker pro Michelle Lau founded FIDPA, and went on a mission to establish a standardized set of rules, policies, and procedures that would enable the players and industry to play and operate with consistency.

FIDPA put forth the The International Poker Rules (The IP Rules), which incorporate and reference the latest version of the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) rules, as well as consider input from leading poker authorities from around the world, to compile the fairest rules and procedures from an industry and player's perspective.

Lau also realizes the importance that standardized rules may have on legalizing Internet poker, stating, "One of the most important things that we are establishing, along with organizations like the PPA, is that in order to have the public and government recognize poker as a legal, skill-based game, we need to have a standard base of rules to ensure that the game is played and operated with fairness."

The organization has gained steam, and poker rooms are seeking FIDPA's endorsement to ensure their players a fair place to play. Bellagio, the World Poker Tour's official Las Vegas casino, became endorsed by FIDPA in July. All of its tournaments follow The IP Rules.

"When players come from Europe to Bellagio, they are going to feel like they will get the same rulings here as in back home in Europe," said Bellagio Tournament Director Jack McClelland. "We have a lot of international players, and we would like to make them feel comfortable."

FIDPA continues to spread its word, and recently announced its official endorsement of the World Poker Congress, an annual meeting that acts as a connection between land-based and online poker operators, and recently took place in Budapest, Hungary.

"In order to take the steps and make the changes necessary for the growing poker industry, events like the WPC are essential," said Luske in a press release. "The WPC brings together the casinos, cardrooms, leading industry professionals, and the players onto one playing field, seated side by side. The lines of communication across the seas and the tables must be open in order to grow, improve, and learn from each other. The WPC is an event that can help with this challenge."

Any cardroom seeking information on adopting The International Poker Rules to obtain FIDPA's endorsement can contact FIDPA at (702) 308-2808 or fidpa.com@gmail.com.


Caesars Palace to Run Mega Stack in November
Tournament Series Features Deep-Stack Events
By Kristy Arnett


The success of the first installment of the Mega Stack tournament at Caesars Palace this summer has inspired the poker room to run another version of the deep-stack tournament series, and it all kicks off in November.

Satellites begin on the first of the month, and the first of 18 preliminary events starts on Nov. 2. Buy-ins (including entry fees) range from $200 to $540, and players begin with lots of chips. For the no-limit hold'em events, here are the starting chip amounts: $225 events - 10,000 (7,500 + 2,500 for a $10 add-on), $330 events - 12,500 (10,000 + 2,500 for a $10 add-on), $540 events - 15,000 (12,500 + 2,500 for a $10 add-on). There is also a $200 buy-in pot-limit Omaha event and an Omaha eight-or-better event. Both start players with 2,500 in chips, plus 2,500 more for a $10 add-on. Blinds levels are 50 minutes long for preliminary events.

The championship event has is a $1,060 buy-in and runs Nov. 18-20. Players get 25,000 in chips, and the blinds levels are an hour long. All tournaments begin at noon, with the exception of the two Omaha events, which start at 3 p.m. A full schedule of events can be found on CardPlayer.com.


North Carolina Police Bust 39 for Playing Poker
It's the Second Big Poker Raid in a Year
By Bob Pajich


North Carolina continued the "Carolina way" of busting up poker games when authorities raided a home where people were playing poker for cash. Fayetteville, North Carolina, police charged 39 people for illegal gambling, a misdemeanor, and the owner of the home where the games were being spread also was charged with illegal alcohol sales.

After searching their cars, police charged several of the players for drug trafficking after finding illegal narcotics. Some of the players charged for illegal gambling are members of the Army, stationed at nearby Fort Bragg.

Taken in the raid were three poker tables, two pool tables, four flat-screen televisions, surveillance cameras, and $12,000 in cash. An additional $11,000 was seized from the home's owner.

Last year, North Carolina police busted a tournament in Benson, where they seized $71,000 of the players' money. Rounded up in that raid were professional players Michael Gracz and Chris Bell.

In Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, more than 100 people have been charged for illegal gambling for playing poker over the last two years. Four of those charged are fighting the authorities in court. South Carolina doesn't clearly define whether or not poker is illegal.

That's not the case in North Carolina, where playing poker for cash is absolutely illegal. The state's highest court struck down a challenge to redefine poker as a skill game, putting it in the same category as blackjack and craps in the eyes of the law.


Russ Hamilton Reportedly Behind UltimateBet Cheating Scam
Company Hired by Kahnawake Gaming Commission Fingers Him
By Bob Pajich


A gaming consulting firm run by the former New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement director has uncovered the man mainly responsible for the cheating scandal that bilked players out of more than $6.1 million on UltimateBet.com, and he's a former World Series of Poker champion.

Russ Hamilton has been named as the main person behind the scam, according to a report published by IGamingNews, which references the commission's interim report. The full report is due in November.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), which licenses many of the online poker and gambling sites, hired former New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Frank Catania Sr.'s Catania Gaming Consultants to find out who perpetrated the cheating scam that used "superuser" accounts for three and a half years to view opponents' holecards. The firm named Hamilton, who won the WSOP main event in 1994. According to IGamingNews, he gained behind-the-scenes access as part of UltimateBet's affiliate program team.

The scheme was uncovered by online players who noticed questionable play and began charting the suspicious players. Under pressure from these players, the KGC was forced to do a complete investigation, which is coming to a close. Other names of cheaters are expected to be released soon.

The KGC will try to work with law enforcement authorities to prosecute the cheaters. So far, about $6 million has been returned to players.

The company also will have to remove all employees who are named as threats to the security of the site, even if they have ownership stakes in the company. UltimateBet also will be fined $1.5 million.


The Scoop
With Adam & Diego


Welcome to The Scoop, the Card Player TV weekly program that features poker's old-school superstars and new-school Internet hotshots. Every episode of The Scoop discusses in-depth strategies and explores important issues within the poker world.

Howard Lederer has more than $4.6 million in tournaments winnings, two World Series of Poker bracelets, and two World Poker Tour titles. He recognizes that Internet players have a clear advantage of learning games at a much quicker pace, but that nothing replaces the wisdom created only by time.

Howard Lederer: In one of the tournaments I cashed in this year, my whole table was just Internet geniuses. One would sit down and two [players] who didn't necessarily know each other would say, "So, what's your screen name?" Then they'd start talking about a history they have that might be deeper than the history I have with guys I've been playing with for 20 years in terms of the number of hands we've played together. Obviously, through e-mail, the forums, the books, and the statistical programs, it's just mind-boggling the kind of exchange of ideas they are having now.

Diego Cordovez: You read stuff in posts now that goes beyond any books we had 10 or 15 years ago. It's real in-depth, serious stuff.

Adam Schoenfeld: I said this a couple years ago, when I first read The Theory of Poker and he [David Sklansky] first described Bayes' Theorem and I dismissed it: "Yeah, that's true, but who could ever do that?" And now these kids are applying it exactly every hand - correctly, in most cases - and it makes them super hard to beat, so I have to rethink it.

HL: One thing that I definitely believe is that there are 23- and 24-year-olds who have played more hands of poker than Doyle Brunson, but Doyle Brunson has a lot more poker experience than them. It's not a linear thing. It's not like, "Oh, I've played 5,000 hands today, and therefore I've got as much experience as a guy used to get in three months many years ago," because you have to play some poker, and then you have to think about it for a while, and then you have to grow a little bit older and mature. There is a process that still has to happen in real time.

DC: One guy was telling me how he played 24 simultaneous tournaments, and he was explaining that he lined up the screens so that he wasn't even watching more than one game at a time. It would just pop up when it was his turn to act. He developed all these models so that just based on what the chips were, what the hands were, he had a game-theory-based approach to act in an optimal, non-exploitable way. I thought, this is phenomenal. It's a way that you can make a lot of money playing a lot of games. But when you sit down with good players and bad players and are playing a bunch of different games, now it's a whole new game.

HL: This person who does that has clearly developed an ability; within two seconds, he's able to process whatever that screen has to offer him at that moment and then make a very good game theory decision.

DC: I play up to six, although I really am not capable of playing more than four successfully, I don't think. A big part of my game is getting a good feel for what's going on, who's on tilt, who's playing what. I can't just work it off of a statistical program. I want to see what's going on. The concept of just having a pop-up and looking at that in isolation with no context, I don't grasp at all. Do you ever try multitabling? I mean, you are definitely old school.

HL: I think I've tried four, and I've settled on two. I can play two ring games, hold'em ring games. Years back, before Full Tilt, I tried playing two triple-draw games. That was impossible.

DC: There is always this kind of friendly antagonism between the online players and the guys who are called the brick-and-mortar players, so it sounds like you are really categorizing yourself as an old-school player. You play on the Internet, but you are not playing the Internet style. You are playing the old-school style on the Internet.

HL: I'm trying to adapt to that new style. I'm a poker player, that's all I am. So, wherever there's a game, I'm going to apply the skills that I've been able to develop. I'm just never going to be that guy playing eight tables and be successful at it.

I think that some people may have misconstrued some statements I've made about Internet players to think that I don't have respect for them. I have a lot of respect for how much time it takes and how hard it is to get good at a wide variety of games. What I do firmly believe is that there is a player today who is amongst the Internet crowd, and that player will be the greatest player of all time at some point in his career. But we don't know who that guy is yet. That's all I'm saying.

Head to CardPlayerTV.com for more of The Scoop.


London and Aruba Events Mix Up Player of the Year Race

John Phan still has his lead, but many players are moving up the Card Player Player of the Year (POY) leader board, and they are one major-tournament title away from challenging Phan. Phan did increase his total points to 6,704 by taking ninth place in a $3,000 no-limit hold'em preliminary event at Bellagio's Festa al Lago tournament, earning $4,945 and 27 points. Currently number two, Erik Seidel also grabbed a small number of points in the World Series of Poker Europe $10,000 main event, where he finished in 19th place, and took home $51,510 along with 54 points. David Benyamine also strengthened his grip on third place with a strong performance at the European Poker Tour London tournament. He finished in 12th place in the £5,200 main event (£35,891 and 120 points), and followed that up by making the final table of the £20,000 EPT London £1 Million Showdown, where he finished in eighth place (£69,000 and 108 points).

While the top three all remained the same, major movement transpired during the last few weeks on the rest of the leader board. Young American Michael Martin scored his first major-tournament victory when he won the EPT London title and took home £1,000,000 along with 2,400 points. He now has 3,800 points for the year, which moved him past Michael Binger (3,792 points) for fourth place. Martin had earned 1,400 points already in 2008 with a fifth-place finish at the season-four EPT Grand Final, and a runner-up finish in the WSOP Circuit event in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Another young American who did well in Europe made his appearance in the POY top 10. Jason Mercier won the EPT London £1 Million Showdown and walked away with £516,000 and 648 points. This gives him 3,504 points for the year, and puts him in ninth place, between David "The Dragon" Pham and Erick Lindgren. Mercier built upon his breakout victory at the EPT San Remo in season four with a flurry of success this fall. He placed sixth in the EPT Barcelona event, and then went north to England. In London, he also made a final table in the WSOP Europe (£5,000 pot-limit Omaha), where he finished in eighth place and took home 136 points.

While the majority of the poker world was in London recently, many chose to head down to the tropical waters of Aruba for the $5,000 Aruba Poker Classic. Matt Brady walked away with the crown there, along with $1 million and 1,920 points. This put him in seventh place on the leader board with 3,640 points. Brady built the other half of his point total with consistent performances throughout 2008. Before his big win in Aruba, he already had appeared at six final tables and cashed 11 times to acquire 1,720 points.

With all of these young tournament professionals making noise in London and Aruba, it was easy to overlook the player who won the most points during the last few weeks. John Juanda won the WSOP Europe £10,000 main event. He took home his fourth WSOP gold bracelet, £868,800, and 2,160 points. Just four days later, he finished second to Mercier in the EPT London £1 Million Showdown to win £327,000 and another 540 points. This impressive run for Juanda earned him 2,700 points, and he now has 3,432 total for 2008, vaulting him into 12th place.


Major Player of the Year Events Remaining in 2008

The 2008 tournament homestretch is chock-full of big buy-in events around the globe that will ultimately determine the Player of Year race winner. Here is a look at the events, with buy-ins, that will award the most points:

October
Oct. 28-30, Caesars Palace Classic, $10,000
Oct. 28-Nov. 1, European Poker Tour Budapest, €4,000
Oct. 31-Nov. 2, WSOP Circuit event - Horseshoe, Indiana, $5,000

November
Nov. 3-5, Latin American Poker Tour San Jose (Costa Rica), $3,500
Nov. 5-11, Foxwoods, WPT World Poker Finals, $10,000
Nov. 9-10, World Series of Poker, $10,000 main-event final table
Nov. 11-14, Master Classics of Poker (Amsterdam), €6,000
Nov. 13-16, Asia Pacific Poker Tour Manila, $2,350
Nov. 14-16, WSOP Circuit event - Harveys Lake Tahoe, $5,000
Nov. 15-19, EPT Warsaw, $5,600

December
Dec. 2-7, APPT Sydney, $5,930
Dec. 5-18, WSOP Circuit event - Atlantic City, $5,000
Dec. 9-13, EPT Prague, €5,000 championship event
Dec. 13-19, WPT Five-Diamond World Poker Classic, $15,000 championship event


Look Out:
Allie Prescott
By Julio Rodriguez

In 2006, rising poker star Allie Prescott avoided near disaster when a well-publicized bet with Gavin Smith almost cost him a lot of money. In the top two spots on the leader board with just a few tables remaining in a $10,000 WSOP Circuit event at Harrah's New Orleans, the two player made a bet that would send either $700,000 to Smith or $1 million in Prescott's direction. The catch was that the winner of the bet had to be the winner of the tournament. As it turned out, both players made the final table, but Peter Feldman held on to beat Smith heads up and save Prescott's bankroll.

After a few more cashes, Prescott completely disappeared from the tournament circuit for nearly a year. "To be honest, I just got sick of poker," said Prescott. "I had done pretty well toward the end of the year that I quit, so it had nothing to do with how I was running. I really just wanted to take some time to travel and focus a bit on investing in real estate, which is something I still do."

Since starting his comeback at this year's World Poker Open in Tunica, Mississippi, Prescott has cashed 11 times and made four final tables, bringing his lifetime tournament earnings to more than $500,000. "About a month and a half ago, I think I was finally getting back to the point I was at before I left," recalled Prescott. "I was just at a point where I got really sick of the game and wasn't giving it my best effort. At this point, I just really like playing again, which, of course, helps me to stay focused and avoid dumb mistakes."

Prescott's re-emergence has not happened quietly, which in the poker world means that he must be doing something right.



Michael Martin Wins European Poker Tour London Main Event and £1,000,000
By Ryan Lucchesi


The European Poker Tour continues to produce the largest tournament fields and prize pools in the world, and the fifth installment of the PokerStars EPT London event obliterated all previous records as 596 players entered. This created one of the largest prize pools of the year, an impressive £3,349,200, with a £1,000,000 first-place prize. The original cap for the event was 500 players, and thanks to the quick addition of four tournament tables, a multitude of alternates also played. One of those alternates was Michael Martin, from the United States. American players have not fared well in London on the ETP, as only two have made the final table during the first four seasons. This year, the U.S. had two players at the final table, and for the first time, an American would win the title of EPT London champion. Here is a look at the final table when things began:

Seat 1: Eric Liu (USA) - 1,308,000
Seat 2: Johannes Strassmann (Germany) - 434,000
Seat 3: Philippe Dauteuil (Canada) - 476,000
Seat 4: Anthony Lellouche (France) - 1,022,000
Seat 5: Michael Tureniec (Sweden) - 1,331,000
Seat 6: Alan Smurfit (Ireland) - 396,000
Seat 7: Marcin Horecki (Poland) - 309,000
Seat 8: Michael Martin (USA) - 718,000

Anthony Lellouche came to the final table as one of the chip leaders, but both Philippe Dauteuil and Johannes Strassmann doubled up through him early, and he hit the rail in eighth place (£81,569). Eric Liu was the aggressor from the very beginning at the final table. He raised the majority of the pots preflop, and he continuously built his stack by winning most of the small pots that were up for grabs. Strassmann fell in seventh place (£120,723) during this stretch, and he was followed to the rail by a short-stacked Alan Smurfit, who was eliminated in sixth place (£153,351). The young Canuck Dauteuil went out next in fifth place (£195,766) before the players took a short dinner break.

Martin was able to come back from his stack falling to 95,000 with the blinds at 40,000-80,000 thanks to a series of three consecutive hands in which he tripled up (he was dealt pocket eights, nines, and aces), and then doubled up twice against Michael Tureniec. Liu was not so lucky, and it was Martin who eliminated him in fourth place (£234,920) a few hands later. Team PokerStars Pro Marcin Horecki fell next in third place (£303,439), and things were down to a heads-up showdown between two Michaels. The chip counts were:

Michael Martin: 4,800,000
Michael Tureniec: 1,205,000

Tureniec was able to score an early double-up that prolonged the match for two hours, but in the end, Martin made a huge call that all but ended things. Martin raised to 250,000 preflop and Tureniec made the call. Both players checked a flop of J 10 6, and the turn brought the 3. Tureniec opened the action for 380,000 and Martin made the call. The river was the J and Tureniec led out again, this time for 680,000. Martin thought for a moment and called Tureniec down. Tureniec showed Q-4 and Martin showed K-10 to win the pot. Martin won the tournament a few hands later, when his pocket fours held up against Tureniec's K-9. Tureniec took home £525,314 for his runner-up finish, and Martin claimed his first major-tournament victory, along with £1,000,000, while making the greatest comeback in EPT history.

Winner Spotlight: Michael Martin

Michael Martin had come close to live-tournament glory before his major victory at the EPT London championship. He finished in fifth place ($655,000) at the EPT Grand Final in season four, and was the runner-up at the 2007 Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam ($533,000). These cashes, combined with his £1,000,000 win in London, give Martin more than $3 million in career winnings early in his career.

Martin is 24, and he began playing poker five years ago while he was a student at Penn State. He decided to become a poker professional in 2007, after he graduated with a degree in English. The bulk of his poker education took place online, where he plays under the screen name "Martine23" and has cashed for $284,873. He has proven to be a fast study in the live world, as well, having booked three wins of more than $500,000 during his short career, all in Europe. Martin will see if he can keep his European success going, as he plans to play in every EPT event until the end of the year.

Jason Mercier Wins the PokerStars EPT London £1 Million Showdown

Some of the top poker players in the world - including Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, and Team PokerStars pros Daniel Negreanu and Barry Greenstein - were among the field of 85 players who took part in the £20,000 PokerStars EPT London £1 Million Showdown. On day 2, 14 players had survived, and two hours were needed to play down to a final table of nine that featured Team PokerStars Pro Isabelle Mercier (ninth place, £51,000), David Benyamine (eighth place, £59,000), Masaaki Kagawa (seventh place, £86,000), Isaac Haxton (sixth place, £103,000), Scotty Nguyen (fifth place, £137,500), Peter Jetten (fourth place, £189,000), Michael Watson (third place, £241,000), and Jason Mercier and John Juanda, the recent World Series of Poker Europe main-event champion.

Juanda started the heads-up battle with a chip count of 1,185,000, while Mercier started with 536,000. The young American was able to double up on the first hand, and a few hands later, everything was finished. Juanda was all in with the A J, and Mercier was behind with the K Q, but he flopped the nut straight on a board of J 10 9 5 3 to win his second major title (he also won the EPT San Remo in season four), and deprive Juanda of his second major win on his European trip. Juanda added £327,000 to his impressive European conquest (more than $2 million total), while Mercier now has $2,700,005 in career tournament winnings, thanks to the £516,000 first-place prize.


Matt Brady Conquers Aruba Poker Classic
By Julio Rodriguez

The seventh-annual UltimateBet Aruba Poker Classic took place recently, offering tournament-circuit regulars a chance to break away from the norm and hit the sandy beaches on an island just north of Venezuela. With $1 million
guaranteed to the winner, the $5,000 buy-in (plus $500 entry fee) tournament attracted 551 entrants to generate a $2,672,350 prize pool.

UB team member Phil Hellmuth did not make an appearance until after his stack had been completely blinded from the tournament, due to a late flight out of London from the WSOP Europe main event. Yet, he made his presence known the next morning and joined many of the notables and satellite winners for some fun in the Aruban sun.

The final table was surprisingly loaded with talent, given how inexperienced much of the field was with live play. Brandon Terry, a 19-year-old player from Texas, had everyone talking with his ability to make Hellmuth-esque laydowns and to put pressure on much more seasoned professionals. He finished in fifth place for his first-ever six-figure score. After taking a one-year hiatus, tournament grinder Allie Prescott made a good showing with a fourth-place finish. Leading for most of the final table, Jeff "jpapola" Papola couldn't hit a combo draw for a monster pot and was sent home in third place. Swedish pro Johan Storakers was down to his last 2,000 in chips early in day one, but doubled up three times to put himself back into contention, ultimately leading him to the biggest score of his career, a $486,000 boost to his bankroll for finishing in the runner-up spot. The eventual winner, Matt Brady, has been one of the most feared players on the circuit for the last two years, due to his uncanny ability to sense weakness and his relentless aggression. The win was Brady's 12th cash of 2008, pushing his career tournament earnings over the $1,750,000 mark.


'ender555' Picks Off a River Bluff in a
Deep-Stacked WCOOP Event
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 2008 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker second-chance $1,000 no-limit hold'em event
Players 779
First Prize $144,115
Blinds 25-50
Stacks ender555 - 23,300; Villain No. 1 - 22,600; Villain No. 2 - 28,025; Villain No. 3 - 25,075

Villain No. 1 raises to 150 from under the gun. Villain No. 2 calls from under the gun plus one. Villain No. 3 calls from under the gun plus two. ender555 reraises to 800 from the big blind with the K Q. All three Villains call the 650 reraise.

Craig Tapscott: I would think you might like to see a flop with that hand; instead, you reraise, knowing you'll be out of position if you get a caller. What's your thinking here?

Joe "ender555" Ebanks: Villain No. 1 is a very solid player, but he's also very loose. He's raising any pair, any two Broadway cards, lots of different offsuit or suited connectors, and most likely some suited two- and three-gappers, as well. There are also two callers behind him with similar ranges, and with 650 in the pot, it's a good spot for me to make a big raise and try to take it down. If I'm called, I've got a good hand that plays very well post-flop.

CT: Let's talk about squeeze plays. What types of hands are good to execute one, and who are the best opponents to apply this move against?

JE: This tournament is special because it's so deep-stacked. I would squeeze with something like 10-10 to A-A, A-J+, and sometimes random bluffs with offsuit connectors or one-gappers, hands that don't have a lot of value. The reason I'll squeeze with them is to protect myself when I actually have a big pair. I don't want my opponents thinking I always have a big pair when I reraise. If you do it only with big pairs, it's very profitable for them to call with suited connectors and small pairs, because if they flop two pair or a set, they're most likely going to win a big pot off me.

When you throw in reraises with other hands like 9-8 offsuit, if they're still calling with small pairs and suited connectors, I will still win the pot with a continuation-bet a lot of the time. If they do happen to hit their hand, they will win only my c-bet and not my full stack, which is what they expect. Also, when I actually have A-A or K-K and I'm squeezing, they go way, way up in value for me, because my opponents are still putting me on a wide range, so they are going to play back at me a lot and call me down pretty wide. It's a high-variance play, but very necessary in deep-stacked tournaments versus loose-aggressive players.

Flop: K 7 6 (3,225 pot)

CT: Pretty good flop. But you're deep-stacked, and you could be behind.

JE: Well, on this flop, I'm happy I connected. But at the same time, I'm not willing to play for stacks just because I have top pair, second kicker in a four-way pot, 500 big blinds deep. I don't want to check, because they will expect me to be bluffing at this type of flop with A-J, A-Q, and whatever else I would squeeze with. If I checked for pot control, they would have a much clearer read on my range and it would make my hand almost faceup. So, I make my standard c-bet.

ender555 bets 1,475. Villain No. 1 calls. Villain No. 2 folds. Villain No. 3 calls.

CT: I don't think this is what you expected, two out of three callers. What's the plan now?

JE: At this point, their ranges are still pretty wide. Starting with Villain No. 1, he's a tricky player and has been putting lots of pressure on the table due to our very deep stacks. I think he's going to float here with 9-8, 10-8 suited, 10-9 suited, 7-6, 5-4, maybe 8-5 suited, and probably 10-10 to Q-Q. I think he would four-bet A-K in this spot preflop, because he wouldn't want the two players behind him to come into the pot, so I rule that out, but most players would still have that in their range. Also, he views my range as really wide here, so he could even be calling with some random hand, trying to bluff me on a later street (very unlikely). A slow-play is also possible with 6-6, 7-7, or even K-K. Villain No. 3 is calling here with any gutshot or open-end draw, and possibly two pair or a set, as well.

Turn: 9 (7,650 pot)

JE: The turn card is good for me. I don't want to bet, because I could easily not have the best hand. And I've got an almost nut draw, so if I bet and was being slow-played, or they got there with 10-8 suited, I'm going to get shoved on and be forced to fold a very strong hand. I also want to keep their bluffing range in the pot against me, so I check to allow them a chance to bluff.
ender555 checks. Villain No. 1 bets 4,850. Villain No. 3 folds. ender555 calls.

JE: So, Villain No. 1 bets, but I'm not ready to go away yet when I'm still beating a good part of his range. I've got a draw to basically the nuts, as he shouldn't have an ace-high flush draw at this point. Plus, if he's bluffing, I don't want to push him out of the pot.

River: K (17,350 pot)

JE: The river is very interesting, as it pairs the king. I'm losing to 10-8 suited, 6-6, 7-7, but that's it. The money will go in the pot if he has one of those hands. Since I think his range is much wider, with lots of busted straight draws, I'm check-calling. It also looks like such a great card for him to bluff here to win the pot. I could see him turning 7-6 into a bluff at this point, since that hand just got counterfeited.

So, I'm losing to 10-8, 6-6, 7-7, and K-K, and am beating a much larger and more likely part of his range that views this card as a good spot to bluff. I remember taking a while to call at the table, but looking back on it now, I think it's a pretty easy call.
Villain No. 1 bets 15,475 and is all in. ender555 calls. Villain No. 1 flips over the J 10. ender555 wins the pot of 48,300.
CT: Villain No. 1 is a very accomplished player, as we both know. Why would he make this type of move?
JE: With four players in the pot, I guess his thinking is that I would never put him on a total float (which is true). But it's still hard to win a pot with jack high in a reraised pot with four players. I think he should've raised the flop if he wanted to take a shot at the pot. A small raise actually might be profitable here, too, since my range is pretty wide and the other two players are going to be put in a very awkward spot.

Joe Ebanks, 23, started playing online poker as a sophomore in college. He built up his bankroll through bonus offers and sit-and-gos. He learned to beat low-stakes multitable tournaments before moving to no-limit cash games, but recently has turned his focus back on tournament play. Ebanks' accomplishments include winning of the Absolute Poker $150,000-guaranteed event for $62,000 and chopping the $500 $250,000-guaranteed event on PokerStars for $63,000. Probably his most impressive wins have come in the Net's toughest daily tourney, the PokerStars $100 rebuy event, which he has won five times so far in 2008.


SpadeClub Spotlight
By Lisa Anderson

SpadeClub's Bellagio Championship Series monthly qualifiers recently named another excited winner. Exclusive member Nick "AceHighFlush" Wright beat out the competition on Sept. 28 to take home the first-place prize. Wright will be awarded a $2,500 seat in the 2009 Five-Star World Poker Classic at Bellagio in Las Vegas. He will also be playing the Bellagio Championship Series finals for a chance to take home the $25,000 seat in the 2009 WPT Championship. When asked what he thinks of SpadeClub, he stated, "I think SpadeClub is an excellent place to play poker. You can practice your play and not have to worry about losing money, because it is only $19.99 a month. I have been playing for about five months, and SpadeClub has helped my game so much. Thank you, SpadeClub."

SpadeClub's largest monthly tournament, the $40,000 Mega Monthly, recently awarded an Exclusive member with his share of the prize pool. Eldon "EASY1936" Holland played one of his best poker games on Oct. 5 to take home the $10,000 prize, and he is excited to join the growing list of Mega Monthly winners.

To view complete interviews with SpadeClub winners, please visit www.spadeclub.com/news.

SpadeClub Gets Involved

SpadeClub recently hosted its first live event at the Festa al Lago tournament series at Bellagio in Las Vegas. The SpadeClub no-limit hold'em event took place on Oct. 1, and attracted more than 180 entrants, including sponsored player L.C. "nofussin" Hilburn, who won his free seat to the event on SpadeClub, and SpadeClub Poker Room Manager SCKenny. Many familiar faces in the poker community came to Bellagio to show their support, including Men "The Master" Nguyen, Marcel Luske, Michelle Lau, Gioi Luong, Diego Cordovez, Adam Schoenfeld, and many more.

SpadeClub was at Bellagio to meet existing members of SpadeClub, to sign up new members, and to let people know about SpadeClub and everything it has to offer. The event was a success, and SpadeClub Exclusive member Alcibiades "archiexxx702" Felix won the tournament to take home the first-place prize of more than $23,000 and the limited-edition SpadeClub no-limit hold'em event gold tournament bracelet. SpadeClub will be hosting another live event at Bellagio in November, so check the SpadeClub promotions page, www.spadeclub.com/promotions, to learn more.

Benefit of the Club
This Week in SpadeClub


SpadeClub has a new video series called This Week in SpadeClub, which includes the latest updates, news, and exciting promotions that SpadeClub has going that week. These videos allow SpadeClub members to listen to a brief summary of the latest winners or upcoming promotions. Every week, SpadeClub's Kenny "SCKenny" Goldstein gives members a poker tip. Check out SpadeClub's new community page to find the latest This Week in SpadeClub videos.

Promotions
"The Real Deal! Holiday"


SpadeClub recently partnered with The Real Deal!, a live interactive poker show at The Venetian, where audience members play along with some of poker's most elite pros! SpadeClub will be giving away two tickets to the show, airfare for two, and a two-night stay at The Venetian every month! The first "The Real Deal! Holiday" tournament on SpadeClub is Nov. 20. Keep your eyes open on SpadeClub to see how you can qualify and win your way to The Real Deal! at The Venetian.

Tournament Schedule

$5,000 Weekly
Nov. 16 4 p.m. ET
Nov. 23 4 p.m. ET

Bellagio Monthly Qualifiers
Nov. 30 6 p.m. ET
Dec. 28 6 p.m. ET

$40,000 Mega Monthly
Dec. 7 4 p.m. ET
Jan. 4 4 p.m. ET

To view a complete list of SpadeClub tournaments offered, please visit www.spadeclub.com/how-to-play/tournament-schedule.


Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier Takes Out David Pham on the Way to First Major Title
By Craig Tapscott and Bertrand Grospellier


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 will also 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.

Bertrand Grospellier was one of the top-ranked Starcraft players in the world before turning his focus toward poker. He's a member of Team PokerStars and was the first person ever to reach "Supernova" and "Supernova Elite" statuses on the site. He is a ferocious player online as well as live. The first big live score on his impressive list of deep cashes was a second at the 2007 EPT Scandinavian Open for $399,339. He would break through into the "live" winner's circle at the 2008 EPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $2,000,000, and most recently took second place in the PokerStars WCOOP $25,000 heads-up event for $320,000.

Event 2008 European Poker Tour PokerStars Caribbean Adventure
Players 1,136
First Prize $2,000,000
Finish First
Key Concepts Clearly defining an opponent's hand ranges in combination with your odds for fold equity, bet-sizing and making big calls, and playing with no fear by going for the win and not just to cash deep

Hand No. 1

Stacks Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier - 3,060,000 Ricky Fohrenbach - 2,500,000
Blinds 30,000-60,000
Antes 5,000
Players 8

Grospellier raises to 160,000 from under the gun with the A K. Fohrenbach reraises to 500,000 from the hijack position.

Craig Tapscott:
Is he making a move here, or could he have a big hand?

Bertrand Grospellier: I think it's unlikely that he's holding A-A or K-K, since I have one of each, so I think he may more likely be holding 10-10, J-J, or Q-Q, and sometimes the same hand as mine. Additionally, there's still a small chance that he's making a move. Considering all of that, moving in is clearly my best choice. The three possible outcomes I anticipate are:

1. He folds. This would help my table image even more, as forcing him to fold in this spot would definitely earn me even more respect from the table.
2. It's a split pot.
3. It's a coin flip. If I win, I become second in chips, and it seems like the right timing to take a shot.

Grospellier shoves. Fohrenbach calls and reveals the J J.

Flop: K 10 4 (5,120,000 pot)

Turn: 9

River: 6

Grospellier wins the pot of 5,120,000.

Hand No. 2

Stacks Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier - 5,300,000 David Pham - 7,000,000
Blinds 30,000-60,000
Antes 5,000
Players 7

Everyone folds to Pham in the small blind. He completes. Grospellier checks his option from the big blind with the 10 7.

Flop: 9 6 3 (155,000 pot)

Pham bets 90,000. Grospellier calls.

CT: Set this call up for us.

BG: The reasoning behind my call is that I have outs and position; therefore, I think I could possibly steal the pot on later streets. Additionally, I know that Pham, as the chip leader, would bet any flop in such a situation.

Turn: 8 (335,000 pot)

BG: I have the nuts!

Pham checks. Grospellier bets 250,000.

BG: I bet knowing that he will give me action if he has a 9 or an 8, and I'm giving him an opportunity to make a move if he has air.

Pham raises an additional 500,000. Grospellier calls.

CT: What range of hands do you put him on after that raise?

BG: I put him on a hand such as 10-9, a strong 9, a similar combo draw, or air.

River: 3 (1,835,000)

Pham bets 715,000.

CT: How do you read this bet size?

BG: It seems like a blocking-bet or a value-bet. Indeed, if I raise in this spot, I will be called only by a hand that beats mine. Even though it's very unlikely, given the rundown of the hand, that Pham is holding a 3, there is a tiny chance he made a boat. At that moment of the tournament, my stack is too deep to commit all of my chips in a marginal hand between the small blind and the big blind. So, I just call.

Grospellier calls 715,000. Pham turns over the 9 4. Grospellier shows the straight and wins the pot of 3,265,000.

Hand No. 3

Stacks Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier - 9,945,000 David Pham - 2,435,000
Blinds 80,000-160,000
Antes 5,000
Players 4

Grospellier raises to 400,000 while holding the A 2. Pham calls from the big blind.

BG: David Pham, even though he is short-stacked, is clearly my most dangerous opponent. He has frequently defended his blinds, both because he could afford it and because that's an intrinsic part of his playing style.

CT: What do you make of the flat-call?

BG: The call makes me believe he's holding a medium-strong hand. However, he also may be disguising a monster like A-A or K-K, since I've been very aggressive and the stack sizes at this point are very well-suited for a trap.

Flop: K Q 5 (900,000 pot)

Pham checks.

CT: Well, is he setting a trap here?

BG: Since he's shown a tendency to lead out when defending his blinds, I expect him to either check-raise with a strong holding or a big draw, or check-fold if he has missed the flop. Therefore, I decide to check behind in order to see his action on the turn.

Grospellier checks.

BG: Should he check again, I should be able to win the pot right there, with little resistance, and without having to fear a check-raise.

Turn: J (900,000 pot)

Pham checks.

BG: My hand is now much stronger, with the nut-flush draw and the gutshot-straight draw. With such a dangerous board (straight and flush draws), I don't think that he would check a strong hand on two streets and not protect it from all the draws. I therefore continue with my original plan, and bet out.

Grospellier bets 700,000.

CT: Bet-sizing is very important. What are you looking to accomplish by betting that amount?

BG: My bet is sized so that Pham cannot call me cheaply. It also enables me to possibly put him all in with good fold equity on the river if he does call, although a good player would rarely check-call in such a situation. Pham thinks for a few moments, and …

… moves all in for 2,030,000.

BG: That bet really caught me off guard, and forced me to quickly re-evaluate the situation.

CT: Share with us how you calculate the range of hands he's doing this with that helps you decide whether to call or not.

BG: I probably have 12 outs (possibly 15 if my ace is also an out). There is a slight chance (maybe 10 percent) that Pham is on a semidraw, with a hand such as the 10♦ 8♦ or the 10♥ 8♥, which would make me a slight favorite. At that point, the pot odds are 2.2-to-1, or 31.25 percent.

If the nine diamonds and the three tens left make me win, I have 12 cards out of 44 to win, which equates to: (100÷44) x 12 = 27.27 percent. I would therefore be slightly behind, statistically.

If my ace is also an out, my odds then become (100÷44) x 15 = 34 percent.

Everything then lies in my evaluation of Pham's range of hands. However, if my ace is an out 10 percent of the time, and if he's on a semibluff 10 percent of the time, the odds start leaning in my favor to make the call.

However, this was not a typical cash-game situation; indeed, we were at the final table of the largest EPT ever organized, and Pham was my most dangerous opponent. It was crucial for me to take a chance to bust him. In addition, should I call and lose the hand, we would both have equal stacks, and everything would still be possible.

Grospellier calls. Pham reveals the Q 5 for two pair.

River: 7 (4,960,000 pot)

Grospellier wins the pot of 4,960,000 and eventually goes on to defeat Hafiz Khan for the championship title.


Play a Hand With Phil 'USCphildo' Collins
By Shawn Patrick Green


This year, the online poker world is Phil "USCphildo" Collins' oyster, and he's snagged pearls to the tune of more than a half-million dollars in Online Player of the Year-qualified finishes since the beginning of 2008. His scores have put him in second place on the OPOY leader board, giving him a very good chance of being crowned the Card Player Online Player of the Year.

We got the 23-year-old Charleston, South Carolina, native to send us a key, interesting hand that he played during his recent runner-up finish in a PokerStars $250,000-guaranteed event. The hand involved a big bluff for a big pot. We got Collins' thought process street for street and bet for bet along the way.

The Bluff

Info PokerStars $500 buy-in, $250,000 guarantee Blinds: 300-600
Player golden_fiish USCphildo
Stack 27,825 25,099
Hand Unknown Q J

Action

Golden_fiish raises preflop from the cutoff and USCphildo calls from the button. The player in the big blind, bdubs3737, also calls, and the flop comes A 10 2. Bdubs3737 checks, golden_fiish bets 2,400, and USCphildo calls. Bdubs3737 folds, and the turn brings the 2. Golden_fiish checks, USCphildo bets 3,600, and golden_fiish calls. The river is the 10, golden_fiish checks again, and USCphildo pushes all in for 17,700. Golden_fiish folds, and USCphildo takes down the pot.

Analysis

Shawn Patrick Green: Golden_fiish raises preflop from the cutoff, and you call with Q-J suited from the button. That's got to be a pretty standard move with your kind of holding, right?

Phil "USCphildo" Collins: Yeah, with our stacks, it seemed very appropriate. I wouldn't three-bet with it; I'd rather just flat [flat-call], especially since I have position, and just play a flop.

SPG: So, this is less about raising to define your opponent's hand (and possibly enabling yourself more opportunity to bluff later) than it is about trying to outplay your opponent post-flop?

PC: Yeah, I'd much rather just outplay someone on the flop. With a hand like Q-J suited that flops so well, it's really easy to play a flop. But if I had something like 6-5 offsuit, that would be a hand that, if I thought he was opening light, I might want to three-bet. Seeing flops simply has that much more value with Q-J; I could outflop him and then punish him for opening from out of position against me.

SPG: As far as hitting a lot of flops is concerned, Q-J seems to me to be kind of a tricky hand to play on most flops that it connects with, isn't it?

PC:
It does require good flop play to be able to play marginal hands when I could easily be outkicked if I hit my pair. I usually just keep flatting, and I usually let my opponent define his range for me. I'll let him be the aggressor, and I'm pretty good at being able to recognize when his range is so pinpointed that he has to have me beat, and I can get away from the hand without just handing him my stack if I got outflopped. Not too many people three-barrel bluff, so if I call on the flop and the turn, and they still fire a barrel on the river, I can usually fold my hand.

SPG: So, since you're prone to flat-call most action that you're getting from them if you do happen to connect with the flop, you're pretty much committing yourself to at least losing chips on the flop and turn if you're outkicked.

PC: If I flop a queen or a jack, I'm not going to fold on the flop or the turn. And I'm not a big fan of raising to see where I'm at, especially against bluffy opponents, with whom you can get so much more value out of a top-pair, mediocre-kicker type of hand by letting them bluff into you, and just calling them the whole way.

SPG: When the flop comes, it brings A-10-2, giving you a gutshot-straight draw and a backdoor-flush draw. The big blind [the other caller in the hand] checks to the initial raiser, who bets about half of the pot. You call, and the big blind folds. What is your thinking behind that call?

PC: I thought my call would freeze him with a lot of hands that he may be continuing with. The main reason that I did it, though, was that his flop bet was significantly smaller than the one I expected him to make if he had actually flopped a big hand with something like A-K or A-Q. His weak lead on the flop actually looked truly weak to me, and I thought there was a good chance that if I flatted him, I'd be able to take the pot away on the turn or the river.

And I like to do it with hands like Q-J here, rather than something like 6-5, because with 6-5, I have no outs and I'm depending upon only taking the pot away. But Q-J could turn into some other good opportunities; if I did make my backdoor-heart draw, it would be very difficult for him to put me on that. Or, if I turn a king, he might have something like A-K, or maybe he was weak-leading the flop with kings and thought he turned his miracle card, and I could win a huge pot and double through. So, it's nice to do some floats and bluffs with a few outs, just in case he does have a hand.

SPG: You said that he made kind of a small bet on this flop, but is that really that outlandish a thing to do if you flop a big hand, like A-K or A-Q? It's not really that draw-heavy of a flop, and there's not too much risk of someone catching up, is there? If you were in his position and had a big hand, wouldn't you rather milk something out of your opponents?

PC: Right. That's more about playing the player than what I think actually should be done. I like to lead half of the pot here, because I think that keeps my bluffing hands cheaper when I want to bet the flop, and it keeps my marginal hands like A-K profitable because my opponents will still be comfortable calling with a 10 or a weaker ace. So, I agree, but certain players don't understand that, and they really do bet bigger with bigger hands and smaller with weaker hands. I thought his flop bet was smaller than what he would have made had he had something really strong like A-10 or A-K.

And then his check on the turn kind of told me that he really was weak, since it was such a blank for [the range of hands that I put him on]. It paired the board with deuces, so there was nothing, really, that he should have been afraid of, a