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Capture The Flag: Mark Newhouse

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Feb 01, 2014


Mark NewhouseMark Newhouse isn’t even 30 years old yet, but already he considers himself “one of the old guys” in the poker world. This summer at the World Series of Poker, the veteran made the final table of the main event. At the end of the road in November, Newhouse went on to finish in ninth for $733,224.

Newhouse said he has weathered a lot of big bankroll swings and “emotional swings” throughout his years grinding out a living on the felt. He has managed to survive.

“I have had experiences in the poker world that I couldn’t have had anywhere else,” he said. “I have learned things in the poker world that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. I have been around.”

Newhouse is a regular in some of the biggest cash-game action in Los Angeles. He has been living at the Commerce Casino, where he normally plays $200-$400 or $400-$800 limit hold’em, for the past year and a half in order to have easy access to the cash games.

Newhouse said he has matured a lot over the years, and Card Player had the chance to speak with him about his deep run in the main event and what being a cash-game grinder has taught him.

Brian Pempus: Can you tell me about your WSOP main event run?

Mark Newhouse: I was just trying to take it step by step and get through every day. You get through five levels and eventually they start tearing down tables. You notice you are actually getting down there.

BP: You never let your mind wander and start thinking about the final table?

MN: My mindset was really just to make it through every day. I didn’t want to think about winning it on any given day. Once I got to Day 7, things obviously changed. That was a crazy day for me. I was chip leader…started short, jumped up to the top of the chip counts. The dinner break…if I didn’t have it when I did, I probably wouldn’t have made the final table. When I got the chip lead that’s when I started to think about winning the tournament and raising every hand. I tried to run everyone over and that didn’t go too well for me. But after the dinner break I went back with the mindset that I was playing a satellite and my only goal was making the November Nine.

BP: Yeah, we saw the chip leader of the tournament at the time play way too aggressive. Is it difficult to have a lot of chips and not be tempted to bully people?

MN: When you are the chip leader in the WSOP main event with two tables left, it is easy to get overconfident and let your ego get in the way. I thought I played well, but I definitely should have toned things down. But yeah, it is easy to think you have it and that it is time to start outplaying everyone every hand. That is never the case, and it doesn’t work.

BP: Can you talk about some of those hands you had with Anton Morgenstern? He doubled you up a couple of times and then there was the one hand where you had the full house.

MN: Yeah, I would say there were a few significant hands. The first one he bluffed me, and I don’t remember the exact action, but I had A-K on the river and he raised me and I folded. Maybe I shouldn’t have bet the river knowing he was a really aggressive player, but either way that hand he got me. The next one was a fairly standard hand; I won a race. The next hand I doubled through him, I think he sort of lost his consciousness. I don’t like this play at all. He opened, and I called with two deuces. The flop fell A-A-2, a dream flop for me. He bet; I called. The turn came a three, and he bet again. I raised him this time. He raised me back again. At this point I am almost thinking that he has A-3, and I might be out of the tournament right now, but my hand is too strong to fold. I moved all in for not too much more. He called me, and he turned over A-J. I was very, very surprised to see his hand. I think it was very overplayed. It was probably a case of him sort of losing his consciousness. At the end, maybe he felt he had committed too many chips to the pot and couldn’t get away from it. I think it is very unlikely that I am bluffing in that spot, given the amount of chips I have left when I four-bet him. There are absolutely no hands that I am value-raising that he is ahead of. In fact…if I had his hand I may have considered checking the turn. Betting is fine too, but after he bet and I raised him, I just can’t see any reason that a three-bet would be the correct play. At that point you call and make a decision on the river, because there is just no value. There is no worse hand that I am raising and calling a three-bet with.

BP: Did you notice him steaming before that?

MN: I had just doubled through him the hand before that. He had lost some momentum. When you are the chip leader and you start losing chips it’s easy for you to start losing your mind. It happens to everyone, and I know the guy is a good player. He probably, like I said, just lost his consciousness.

BP: Prior to Day 7, did you have any moments where you lost consciousness?

MN: Let’s talk about, I think it was 2011, I made a deep run in the main event and I lost a huge pot trying to bluff Pius Heinz, the guy who won it. After that I just shot off the rest of the chips. We can also talk about the 2010 LAPC (Commerce Casino), where I was chip leader days three, four and five, looking good to win it. There were 13 left and I was second in chips and I just literally gave all the money away. I have done this consistently deep in tournaments, and this year I was very conscious reminding myself that I am not going to ever lose consciousness in a hand, and I am not going to commit myself. I am not going to fire a third barrel when I know I am getting called just because I had invested so many chips into a pot. I reminded myself about this during the tournament. This year I was very aware not to do this to myself.

BP: Is this something that you can only learn with time and making those deep runs and grinding hours and hours on the cash game felt? In other words, experience.

MN: These are mistakes everyone makes. You have to make them to learn not to do them. Even after you have made them a million times it doesn’t mean you are going to stop making them. But you have to put a ton of effort into always being conscious when you are at the poker table.

BP: Can you talk more about why it’s hard to recover from losing a lot of chips after you had worked hard to build a big stack? This is whether it’s a cash game or a tournament.

MN: If you go from a very high peak and make a mistake, and know you made a mistake, sometimes in your mind you are constantly reminding yourself that you should have X amount, and questioning why you did such a thing. You have to let it go, and just think about the moment and where you are at now and what you can do in the future. Thinking about the mistakes you have made is not going to get you anywhere, other than just putting yourself in a rut.

BP: Can you talk about your online poker experience and how that has helped you get to where you are?

MN: Well, as far as online, I played online because of a backing arrangement where I had to. I was never really…I had some success…I won a PokerStars Sunday Million – but I never really considered myself much of an online poker player. Most of my experience online was trying to run up money playing the best players in the world in high-stakes heads-up limit hold’em and having crazy swings; just degenerate gambling.

BP: Do you still play heads-up online or heads-up in a live setting?

MN: I haven’t played online since it got shutdown here in the United States. I still play high-stakes at the Commerce casino. I mostly play limit hold’em. That’s my game. I haven’t been playing much heads-up since the Internet went away, because it’s hard to have a heads-up game in a casino. You can’t shut people out. But, yeah, my normal grind is $200-$400 or $400-$800 limit hold’em.

BP: Do you think your background in limit hold’em cash games has greatly helped you become aware of good spots to value bet in big-bet games?

MN: I think having a background in limit hold’em is very helpful. Limit hold’em players know how to play well postflop and read hands, instead of just knowing their push or fold type of situations. It’s a lot easier for a great limit hold’em player to become a great no-limit player, compared to the other way around. ♠