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When I Was A Donk – David Baker

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Aug 31, 2016


In 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 games.

David Baker has been a recognizable face on the tournament circuit ever since he made his first World Poker Tour final table back in 2006. The 44-year-old learned the game back in his college days at Auburn University, but it took some time grinding it out in the real world before he realized that poker was his calling.

Baker earned his World Series of Poker bracelet back in a 2012 $2,500 eight-game mix event for $271,312. In 2010, he went deep in the WSOP main event, banking $396,967 for his 17th-place finish. In 2015, he picked up the largest score of his career when he finished third in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship for $514,926. In total, the Katy, Texas native has more than $3.85 million in career tournament earnings.

Here, Baker talks about his first experience in the poker spotlight.

Back in 2006, I had made my first major televised final table at the World Poker Tour Festa Al Lago main event at the Bellagio. I got a little impatient five-handed and ended up moving all in from under the gun with A-5 offsuit. I had too many blinds (12.5 blinds to be exact) to just shove, and if I was in the same situation today, I would have just folded or raise-folded.

The strategy has changed a lot with a short stack in the last decade. I think people underestimate how important the bottom portion of your stack is and just how much damage a short stack can still do. The top half of your stack is always getting 1:1 on your money, but the shorter your stack is, the more those chips are worth.

I ended up getting called by a worse hand and I lost, busing in fifth place. At the time, I thought my opponent made a big mistake by calling with K-Q, but in hindsight, I realize that I definitely share the blame. It was a marginal hand in a situation with a lot of money on the line, and I should’ve waited for a better spot.

It’s very hard for A-5 to ever be in a great spot. I was in as good a spot I could hope for, and I was still only a 60/40 favorite to double up. I was essentially risking my tournament life to increase my stack from 12 to 15 big blinds.

As your skill level compared to the table decreases, you should be moving all in with a bigger stack to maximize your fold equity. But if you have a skill advantage, you can wait a little longer and you don’t necessarily have to be in desperation mode just because you are down to your last ten big blinds.