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Four-Time Bracelet Winner Adam Friedman Talks Dealer’s Choice

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Jun 01, 2022


Adam FriedmanDuring this series of strategy columns, I have been interviewing 2021 WSOP bracelet winners. These champions have provided observations, tips, and strategies for you, the readers of Card Player, about the specific poker game in which they captured their bracelet.

The Event: 2021 WSOP $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Championship
The Winner: Adam Friedman

The scene was set. A top poker professional was on the verge of capturing back-to-back-to-back $10,000 WSOP championships. After battling through a field of the best poker players in the world, the poker pro was one of the final two players vying for the title.

With all of the lights and cameras pointed down at the heads-up battle, only Phil Hellmuth, the Poker Brat himself, stood in this player’s way.

In 1989, this epic poker scene was set for two-time main event champion, Johnny Chan. While Chan was the overwhelming favorite, the young kid from Wisconsin went on the beat the “Orient Express” to capture his first of his record 16 WSOP bracelets.

In 2021, the scene was set once again. The Poker Brat had just captured bracelet no. 16 in the $1,500 2-7 no-limit lowball single draw event. Having final tabled two other WSOP bracelet events within the previous two weeks, Hellmuth was on a roll, playing with extreme confidence.

And once again, he served as the roadblock to poker immortality. This time, the challenger was Adam Friedman, who had won the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice championship the last two times the tournament was played (2020 was skipped due to the COVID-19 pandemic). However, Hellmuth was unable to prevent the trifecta and the Ohio native made poker history as the first ever back-to-back-to-back bracelet winner of the same event, giving him four titles overall.

“I think Adam’s feat is the best I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed four-time WSOP bracelet winner and good friend, Anthony Zinno. “Winning the same unique and difficult championship tournament three times in a row is the most amazing impressive feat I have ever seen in poker. He is an incredible mixed game player and also a sharp all-around poker player.”

Dealer’s Choice is a unique format where during each orbit a game is chosen by a different player at the table. In the $10,000 WSOP event, the game is chosen from a list of 20 different games ranging from variations of hold’em to Omaha, to stud and draw games. You not only have to be able to play each of these games well, but also decide which games to choose based on your opponents’ apparent weaknesses.

I spoke with Adam for my radio show. You can watch the full interview on my YouTube channel (BernardLeePoker) or listen on iTunes.

Bernard: Congratulations Adam! What an unbelievable accomplishment to go back-to-back-to-back, the first player ever to achieve this feat at the World Series of Poker.

Adam: Thanks Bernard. It was incredible and I’m so fortunate that the cards went my way for the third time in a row.

Bernard: Did you know that if you won, you would make WSOP history?

Adam: I knew about the record after I repeated in 2019. I was told that a repeat bracelet winner had only happened about 7 or 8 times prior and Johnny Chan was the closest to winning his third in a row, getting heads-up. And of course, we all know who beat him.

For me, it was a hopeful goal that I set out to attain, but I know how unlikely it is to win any tournament. You need some many things to go your way. You need to win the flips. You need to have the freeroll hands go your way. And for me, I was so fortunate that it happened again during this third time.

Bernard: Like many players, you started out in no-limit hold’em. But how did you transition to the mixed games which make up the majority of the games in Dealer’s Choice?

Adam: I first started out in poker by seeing Rounders and loved it. So, I started playing in college and after graduation took a year off to play poker. After a deep run in the 2005 WSOP main event (he finished in 43rd place with a field of 5,619 players), I decided to take another year off and things went well in cash and tournaments.

I started out with limit hold’em and also played no-limit hold’em primarily from 2006 to 2010. However, after those years, hold’em became somewhat boring to me. I saw all these mixed games and decided to randomly experiment. I was having a ball learning these games and really enjoying playing poker all over again. I started loving stud as I was figuring out these nuances, but of course it can be a very frustrating game as well.

Bernard: For players who might be interested in trying out Dealer’s Choice, what advice and/or strategies would you recommend?

Adam: First, have fun! Poker is supposed to be enjoyable. Don’t get frustrated with the differences, embrace them. With 20 games in the mix, you really have to work at all the games and try to be as good as you can with all of them. Work at all the games and ask other players that you respect their advice on certain situations.

However, for players just starting out, don’t try to learn all the games at once. It can be overwhelming. Try to learn one game at a time and focus on games that you have some similarity to. For example, if you are a no-limit hold’em player, start with either limit hold’em or pot-limit Omaha. Also, you can learn games that are similar variations such as stud, stud eight-or-better, or razz. This will all depend on how you learn.

Bernard: After a player learns the games and wants to give a tournament a shot, what would your advice be to a first-time Dealer’s Choice tournament player?

Adam: As you are starting out, you are of course going to have some games that are weaker than others. I would advise to play the weaker games much tighter so you don’t put yourself in difficult and/or marginal situations. The mistake you make folding preflop is much less damaging than chasing a hand to the end and losing a big pot.

Also, carefully watch players that you think are good at the game and try to learn from them. See what hands they are starting with and what hands they are raising with. You can learn a lot by watching these players during the tournament.

For games that players may feel they are very good at and even possibly one of the best at the table, I would try not to force the issue. I see a lot of players who think they are very good at a game, try to play every hand but end up losing since they deviated from good strategies. Also, don’t make it known that you feel you are an expert at the game by only choosing that game. Mix it up a little bit with other games you feel comfortable playing.

Bernard: Of all the 20 games, which ones would you say are critical to learn?

Adam: Two of the games that are very prevalent in Dealer’s Choice that you need to be very good are the split-pot draw games: badeucy and badacey. You need really need to understand the basic strategies of these games as experienced players will just take advantage of the novices by calling these games.

Basically, even though they are split pot games, you need to focus on the badugi part. I have seen so many players that are only drawing to the low part with only two suits. So, these players are only playing for the low and then drawing dead for the badugi half of the pot. So, players who play this way are basically drawing dead before the cards are dealt.

Bernard: How should players decide what games they should choose?

Adam: Depending on the situation, I will play my best game versus my opponents. But often, I will also choose games that my opponents are weak in. I will pay close attention to what games my opponents’ try to avoid or feel uncomfortable and I may choose those games. In general, you want to choose the game that you have the greatest advantage over your opponents, even if it is not your absolute best game. If you have a huge advantage, that game will often make sense to choose.

Bernard: What would your advice be to get better at the games that players do not have as much experience with?

Adam: The obvious answer is to play thousands and thousands of hands of the specific game either live or online.

But also, it would be a good idea to seek the advice of players that you truly respect and are really good at specific games. Don’t be afraid to put your ego aside and ask for their advice to improve your game. I’m so fortunate that I’m really good friends with some of the best players in the world and I am able to ask for their advice.

Bernard: Congratulations again and good luck this summer trying for back-to-back-to-back-to-back titles.

Adam: Thanks so much Bernard. Look forward to seeing you in Vegas. ♠

Bernard Lee broke into the poker world after a deep run in the 2005 WSOP main event. He has two WSOP Circuit rings, and is an author, having written for Card Player, the Boston Herald, Metrowest Daily News, and ESPN, where he was a host of the show The Inside Deal. His radio show and podcast, The Bernard Lee Poker Show, recently celebrated its 14th anniversary, and his latest book, Poker Satellite Success: Turn Affordable Buy-Ins Into Shots At Winning Millions, is now available on Amazon as well as D&B Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BernardLeePoker or visit his website at or YouTube channel at