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Capture the Flag -- Abe Mosseri

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Jul 01, 2010


Professional high-stakes cash-game player Abraham “Abe” Mosseri was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At a young age, he began to play backgammon, and was soon one of the best players in the world. He then made the transition to gin rummy and started playing for cash in various underground clubs around the city.

Abe MosseriAfter he made the switch to poker, Mosseri’s career really took off, and he quickly found himself playing with the game’s elite at Bellagio. He now splits his poker time between Bobby’s Room and the occasional foray onto the tournament circuit.

Mosseri sat down with Card Player to talk about tournament poker versus cash games, and why he’s OK with flying under the radar and being one of the best players nobody talks about.

Julio Rodriguez: You’ve played games all of your life. How did you get to be one of the regulars in Bobby’s Room?

Abe Mosseri: I started out playing backgammon and then I moved on to gin rummy. When I started playing poker, I jumped right into the $100-$200 games.

JR: Hold on right there. You started at the $100-$200 games?

AM: Well, I know that it wasn’t the typical way to do it, but I had made a lot of money playing backgammon and gin rummy, so it wasn’t like I was starting out from scratch and trying to put together a bankroll. At the time, there wasn’t much higher than that online, and I was playing as big as I could find. I don’t know what it was about online poker, but I did very well right out of the gate. It wasn’t long before I was playing as big as I could find live, as well.

JR: What would you say is your best game?

AM: Well, my World Series of Poker bracelet is in triple-draw lowball, and most would say that is my best game. I don’t know if I have the patience required to really excel in the no-limit and pot-limit games, but I’ve managed to more than hold my own in the limit mixed games. I think I’m just too much of an action junkie, and in no-limit games, especially tournaments, that’s a recipe for disaster.

JR: What effect, if any, do the dwindling tournament field sizes have on the side games?

AM: There are so many tournaments. They are just killing each other, in my opinion. Ideally, there should be a smaller series of tournaments that people compete in, just like golf. Every week, there’s a new tournament, or every month, there’s a new series. Players go not just for the tournament, but for the side games, as well. The problem right now is that they’re all trying to do their own thing, and it’s cannibalizing the field numbers, which obviously has an effect on the cash games.

JR: Some players have said that the WSOP used to be just an excuse to get together to play cash games.

AM: That’s right. Nowadays, people are infatuated with winning bracelets. Even the [Phil] Iveys of the world are signing up for two or three events at the same time and making crazy side bets just so that they can add more bracelets to their collection. The World Series of Poker used to be more like an all-around poker festival. You played the tournament that day, and when you busted out, you joined the other losers in the side games. It was poker all day long, regardless of how you did. Now, there’s another tournament starting later in the afternoon or at night, and the cash games take a back seat.

JR: Does it bother you that tournament players get all of the attention?

AM: Actually, it does bother me a little bit that the people who get all of the recognition are the tournament players, or should I say, the tournament winners, when in reality it’s the winning cash-game players who deserve it. At least that’s what I and a few others in Bobby’s Room believe. It doesn’t eat me up inside or keep me up at night, but I do get annoyed when some of these one-tournament wonders think they are the next big thing. Most of them have nothing on a good, consistent, winning cash-game player.

Hey, Bobby’s Room is open, and anybody can play. You don’t need a special invitation or anything, but there’s a reason that those tournament specialists stay away, for the most part. In the long run, their style of play just doesn’t translate well to cash games. Obviously, there are exceptions. Guys like Doyle [Brunson] and Phil [Ivey] can flip the switch and compete in both arenas at an advanced level, but most players have trouble with the transition.

I always find it funny when I see certain players being interviewed about games that they never play outside of a tournament. I mean, I understand that it has to do with the media and that it’s what the readers and viewers want, but you just don’t go up to Phil Hellmuth and ask him about lowball. If you want to know about lowball, you ask Billy [Baxter] about it, or any of the guys who play it day in and day out, for that matter.

JR: Of course, the anonymity of cash games has something to do with the appeal, does it not? I’m sure that most cash-game players wouldn’t enjoy having their results posted for all the world to see, as they are in tournaments.

AM: (Laughing) That’s the other side of it, isn’t it? We would like some more attention, but not too much, if you don’t mind. I guess that it goes back to what I said earlier about the recognition. Some of the unsung players, myself included, who are grinding day in and day out wouldn’t mind a little bit of time in the spotlight, but we’re not looking for “Joe Public” to know every little thing that goes on in our regular games, either. I guess that I’m happy if just my peers know what’s really going on. Earning the respect of your fellow poker player is a far tougher accomplishment than finding yourself at some random final table.

JR: Does Bobby’s Room still get its fair share of whales?

AM: They’ve been few and far between, to be honest. The economy has affected pretty much all stakes and limits, including Bobby’s Room. It used to be that we’d have a random guy who nobody knew come into the game with a lot of money and not much of a clue. These were guys who probably knew a little bit about limit hold’em, but not much else. They just wanted to say that they played with the likes of Doyle, Chip [Reese], and everyone else. Nowadays, it’s rare to see those types of guys just walk into the game, although part of that might be because they’ve started to realize just how big of an underdog they are. Nobody likes losing, and after a while, those house edges in the pit start to look pretty small compared to what they give up to sit with us.

JR: Do you believe that the game is ultimately sustainable?

AM: The game will always be around; we’ll find a way to sustain it. You know, three years ago, we were playing $3,000-$6,000, and now we’re running it at $1,500-$3,000. We’ve obviously made some adjustments, but most of us are still going strong. As soon as things turn around with the economy, you’ll see the game pick up again.

Every new player helps the cause, whether he’s just playing $3-$6 at his local casino or jumping into his first WSOP event. There’s a trickle-up effect that takes place. Eventually, that money makes its way to our table, and hopefully in front of me. Spade Suit