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Capture the Flag: Osmin “Oddie” Dardon

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Dec 12, 2012


Osmin DardonWhen Osmin Dardon, better known on the tournament circuit as Oddie, first entered poker, he was the mark at the table. Nowadays, he spends his time searching for and beating the big fish in the biggest games in the world. Dardon spent two years playing the game before he became profitable and ever since then has had a rapid ascent up the cash game ranks, playing in some of the biggest games in the world along the way.

The West Covina, California resident has also had his fair share of tournament success, cashing for over $1.2 million. His most notable finish came in the 2008 World Poker Tour Festa Al Lago main event, where he took third place for over $500,000. Most recently, he took second in the Wynn Fall Classic main event for another $66,000.

Here, Dardon discusses his cash game start and where in the world you can find the best poker action.

Julio Rodriguez: Can you talk a little bit about how you got your start in the game?

Osmin Dardon: I started playing poker recreationally at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles eight years ago. A buddy of mine invited me out to play after dinner one night and I decided to join him. I had never played before, so we sat at the $2-$4 limit hold’em tables.

I had been drinking that night and felt like gambling, so I kept pushing the rest of the table to get all of their money in against me. I didn’t know the casino very well, so they explained to me that if I wanted to gamble, I’d have to head over to the other side of the room and play bigger. The next time I went to Commerce, I headed straight for the bigger games in the high-limit room. For two years I played in those games and just donated money to the pros. They were playing me and their cards, while I was just gambling.

JR: You owned your own business for 12 years before deciding to take a shot at playing poker professionally. When and how did you make that transition from gambler to winning player?

OD: After seeing the same people winning over and over again in the $10-$20 no-limit game and realizing that good players can win consistently, I became competitive. I wanted to prove that I could play just as good as the pros, if not better. It became my personal challenge.

The first thing I did was pay better attention to my opponents. If I saw them fold a certain hand, I made sure not to play that hand anymore. If I saw them turn over a winning hand, I made sure to play that hand as well. Pretty soon, I was playing a lot less hands, which was probably the biggest step I took towards becoming a better player. During my free time, I would talk about hands with some friends I had met and read a couple of books here and there.

I needed to start treating poker like my business. I had the completely wrong mentality. At first poker was my form of entertainment. Things started to change to when I adjusted my mentality to make winning my entertainment. It took two years, but I had become a profitable player.

JR: Because you also travel the tournament circuit, you’ve gotten the chance to play cash games in casinos all over the world. Here in the States, you’ve focused on games in Los Angeles, where you live and in Las Vegas, where you also have a place. What do you think the major difference is between the mid to high-stakes games in each city?

OD: The cash games in Las Vegas are interesting. Weekends in Las Vegas are much better than in Los Angeles because of all of the recreational gamblers that come into town with the goal of playing big. More often than not, they lose, so there’s a lot of money to be made if you know what you are doing.

That being said, in Las Vegas the average regular player is much better than in Los Angeles. Finding a big spot in Los Angeles is rare in the higher stakes games, but the overall skill level of the regulars in the game isn’t that intimidating. On the other hand, you can find plenty of good spots in Las Vegas, but you’ll have to fight with six or seven other really good, creative players at the table in order to get a shot at him.

JR: You’ve played some of the highest regularly spread stakes at the Commerce, including $100-$200 pot-limit Omaha. Is that where you’d prefer to play full-time?

OD: To be honest, I’ve discovered for myself a place where the games are better than Los Angeles and Las Vegas combined, and that place is Macau. If you are looking to play mid to high-stakes cash games, there is no better place on the planet than in China.

I was sitting in a 300-600 HKD no-limit hold’em game (~$40-$80) and I couldn’t find more than a couple good players at the table. These guys love to gamble. It’s a cultural thing. It’s almost as if they don’t realize that you can win in poker and they treat it like any other game in the pit. If a guy goes off at the Bellagio for a huge loss, maybe he loses $50,000 in a night. But every weekend in Macau, you’d look over and see guys losing 1 million HKD (~$130,000) a day while shrugging it off like it wasn’t a big deal. I’m a family man and I love my life, but if I was 21 again, I’d be over there every other week.

JR: Poker has become your profession, but when you first started out, you had your business to take away some of the pressure. Do you think players perform better when under pressure or does it hurt their play?

OD: I think it can go both ways, depending on the player. Some players are much worse when they’re playing for their mortgage payment. The pressure of a big pot can get to them and maybe force them to make the more conservative play in order to save their bankroll. Of course, if you are playing scared, you aren’t playing well.

Then there’s the other side of it. For instance, when I had my business and it didn’t matter if I won or lost, it showed in my results. I could lose $5,000 every other night, because there was no pressure on me to play well. I’ve had some good runs and some dry spells over the last year few years, but I still love to play this game. I think my ultimate goal is to move into a different venture and continue to play poker on the side. If and when that happens, however, I’ll be sure to continue to treat poker like a second business and not some form of gambling entertainment. ♠