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When I Was A Donk: Hafiz Khan

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Dec 28, 2011


Hafiz KhanIn this series, Card Player asks top pros to rewind back to their humble beginnings and provide insights regarding the mistakes, leaks and deficiencies that they had to overcome in order to improve their game.

Hafiz Khan burst onto the poker scene in 2008 when he finished runner up to Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event for $1,094,976.
The California pro has since put up consistently good numbers, winning an L.A. Poker Classic preliminary event for $285,569, and numerous online wins, including the UBOC 3 main event for $245,188.

Most recently, Khan finished second in the 2011 Bellagio Cup VII main event for $379,460. To date, Khan has earned over $3.8 million in both live and online tournaments.

Card Player caught up with Khan to talk about his early progression as a poker player.

“Most players start off tight and then gradually loosen up their game as they learn, becoming more aggressive. I was kind of the opposite. I started off really aggressive and had to learn how to hit the brakes a bit. I think it was because I hadn’t learned how patient I could be in a live tournament. I felt that if I wasn’t getting hands, I had to force the action.

“My biggest problem was that I was bluffing in spots that really didn’t make any sense. In order to run a successful bluff, you have to tell a convincing story with your bets and patterns. Your line has to tell your opponent that what you are representing is better than what he’s holding. If you leave any room for doubt, you are going to get called down.

“I remember a key hand in the 2009 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in a blind versus blind situation, where I just couldn’t help myself. I ended up running a three-barrel bluff on a wet board against an opponent that was never folding and lost a huge pot.

“Nowadays, I take care to find the most ideal situations to bluff. If the board is showing the possibility of a missed flush draw or missed straight draw, I’m unlikely to bluff, just because it gives my opponent one more reason to be a hero. Personally, I prefer to bluff on really dry boards in spots where my opponent can’t find a hand he can beat.

“Also, when I decide to float someone, I can now abandon my plans to bluff if I feel the wrong card has come off on the turn or the river. Sometimes, a bluffing attempt is only made possible by a scare card and I’ve gotten much better at recognizing them when they come in.”