Win A $1,000 Tournament Ticket To The Event Of Your Choice!

Generation Next - Reid Young Asks All the Right Questions

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Dec 24, 2010


After two years of premed classes at Wake Forest University, Reid Young decided that 12 more years of school just wasn’t a road that he wanted to travel. While growing up, he had always been curious about how and why people think the way that they do. So, a degree in philosophy seemed like the most appropriate choice. It also fit quite well with a new hobby of his — poker.

At college, Young enjoyed in-depth discussions about poker strategy and game theory with a group of friends who played online cash games. He’d discovered poker in high school during Chris Moneymaker’s fairy-tale World Series of Poker victory on ESPN. And like most young players, he read as many strategy books as he could get his hands on. But he still thought something was missing. So, he started to approach the game by focusing on how to think during a hand and discovering which questions to ask along the way.

“It’s important to formulate a good thought process instead of adhering to some memorized system,” said Young. “It’s not a good idea to play according to some chart or some predetermined way to proceed in a given situation, because when you’re up against good players, they will be able to adjust to whatever system you have going. That approach makes you very easy to play against.”

Young developed his game during a period when the games were getting tougher due to both regulatory legislation and the plethora of information available online. That makes his meteoric rise in stakes and success at the $5-$10 level even more impressive. Currently, he’s a highly regarded coach at Leggo Poker, because of his articulate and meticulous breakdown of situations that arise at a poker table. He also recently penned a poker tome of his own, titled The Blue Book: An Advanced Strategy Guide for No-Limit Hold’em Cash Games.

Craig Tapscott: So, you tossed the poker books out the window and taught yourself how to think during a hand?

Reid Young: Yes. Most books show you only the extreme examples of certain situations. When you see these extreme situations, they are easy to pick up on. But as you move up in stakes, the extremes are less noticeable and it’s more difficult to adjust, so you need to be able to pick up on other things. It’s more in line with this: If your opponent does a certain thing, what should you be thinking about? Then, you should understand the implications of the decisions that you make, and in turn make sure that you adjust to your opponents accordingly.

CT: Yet, you wrote a book yourself. What’s so different about it?

RY: The book teaches people how to think about poker. It contains a list of questions that you need to ask yourself. The barrier I found when going from $2-$4 to $5-$10 was answering all of those questions that I didn’t even know existed. If you don’t think about the questions, it’s pretty tough to get any answers. You need a sound understanding of what’s going on at a poker table to be able to make the right play and the right adjustment, and to achieve what you are trying to accomplish with each decision that you make.

CT: How did your degree in philosophy help your poker game?

RY: I focused on the philosophy of language. The focus is on what is happening when people use a word, and what is their sense of what’s behind that word. You can use the same thought process in poker. For example, a lot of players talk about leveling and the metagame between them and an opponent. Some people misapply and misconstrue the concept. So, once you understand how someone views leveling, you can find a leak in his game.

CT: So, what’s the difference between a good cash-game regular in $2-$4 and $3-$6 games and players at the higher stakes?

RY: Mainly, it’s river aggression. I think a lot of people have the willingness to fire two streets. They can check-raise and then fire on the turn, but when their opponents have a faceup bluff-catcher (meaning it’s pretty obvious that they have a weak top pair), they won’t ever bluff the river. Those players are really easy to play against. You can just call the turn with anything, and then fold the river every time that they fire.

CT: So, what’s the toughest aspect of a cash-game player’s life?

RY: There are so many good things about it that when bad things are brought up, they kind of pale in comparison. But it’s annoying to take a shot at a higher limit and get owned. Actually, it’s really just another puzzle that I have to figure out and conquer. So, I don’t really mind it. ♠