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A Good Friend and Teacher: Joe McGowan

by Roy Winston |  Published: Aug 30, '08

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I am taking the Labor Day weekend off from playing poker to relax and get ready for the next round. I have received more than a few emails from players that ask about how I transitioned from recreational amateur to professional. I would like to take some time here and tell the story of how I made the jump and give credit where it is due, in large part to a good friend of mine Joe McGowan. He is relatively unknown in poker, but he's the person most responsible for my game improvement.

I met Joe while playing. He was a local golf pro that owned a custom golf club manufacturing company. He had many touring pros and celebrities as clients. His poker game was easy to spot as the best in the casino. He almost always won, which I have not addressed but as a professional poker player the yard stick of your performance is the ability to win. Sound simple enough, but many "pros" are losing cash players. Joe was tough to play against but as we became better friends he took me under his wing and helped my game immeasurably.

Up to this time we had really only played cash limit games and Joe had some experience in no limit tournaments. What made Joe so effective was he made very few mistakes, played the right starting hands, played his position well, and most of all could read his opponents like no one I had ever seen before. He was able to put a player on a hand and used physical tells to assess their strength with great accuracy.

As we spent more time together he shared many of his secrets with me and also pointed out some of the deficiencies in my game, of which there were many. Next we started playing more No Limit at our local casino, mostly smaller games 2-5, but there was a lot of action and no cap on your buy in. At our local places we quickly became two of the dominant players. There were some notables that frequented the rooms, the biggest Perry Greene, multiple WSOP bracelet winner, and well respected player.

Interestingly enough several of the local pros that made a consistent living from the 20-40 limit game, whom I initially feared in a hand seemed easier to play against. Joe and I had become the dominant players in the game. Around this time I began to dabble in some tournaments. One day I turned on the TV and was watching a poker show and saw a childhood friend, Adam Schoenfeld at a final table. It spurred me on to try a main event tournament. With the LA poker Classic coming up, I thought it would be a good chance to try my new found skill set out for real.

I won a single table satellite for an entry into the main event at the LA Poker Classic at the Commerce. I was nervous, but I had read the books, watched the pros play on TV and did ok in my local games. Of course Gus Hanson was at my table and he was a scary player. With his reputation for aggressive play and great skill set I thought I would try and avoid him unless I felt like I had him dead. In the first ten minutes of the event I picked up pocket Aces and raised preflop getting one caller. The flop came Ace nine four and I led out with a pot sized raise. The other player moved all in and I of course called. He turned over Ace King and had overplayed his hand, allowing me an easy double up. I was nervous being all in, thinking am I missing something here? Then, after the hand I thought, is it this easy? I soon realized it wasn't.

One thing I never realized is the combined physical and mental demands of large field main events. Most last 4-6 days with 12 hours of play per day. The LA Poker Classic began each day at 3pm and ran until 3am. It was thoroughly exhausting and the mental concentration required is very high. No limit Texas Holdem is not a forgiving activity. You can play really well for most of a session and then one mistake, whether in a tournament or live action game and you're out or lose a lot of your chips.

I continued to do well in that event for the next four days when I wound up all in with pocket 10's against two jacks. I lost most of my chips. I did survive the day and wound up finishing 22nd and taking home about $39,000. Just like with my earlier gambling, starting with a win gave me a feeling of confidence, perhaps over confidence, and may have been the worst thing for me. I was now firmly hooked on the tournament trail. I had played one main event with over 700 entries and finished 22nd, how hard could it be? While playing on the second to last day I played next to a lawyer who was about my age, Tom Macey. We talked a lot during the course of the day. When you spend 12 hours playing next to someone you learn quite a bit about them. By that I mean not only their play, but as a person. I was very impressed with his play. He would quickly give me in depth analysis of the hands and what each player must have had. When there was a show down, Tom almost always called their hands correctly. His analysis mostly stemmed from betting patterns. I realized a few things, one is that I had a lot to learn and that a large part of my success was due to luck. In the same tournament I played next to James Woods for a full day as well. We kind of hit it off and became friends. We have reconnected recently and I enjoy talking poker with him. More later.

For more information on Roy Winston, you can visit his website: www.oraclepoker.net or send him an email. The contents presented herein on this blog are purely the opinions of Roy Winston, and are not intended to reflect or promote the opinions of any other person, group, or entity. If you like what I write than thanks for reading, and if not well, thanks anyway.

Roy Winston finished 16th in 2007 Card Player, Player of the Year race. He won the WPT Borgata Poker Open and finished the year with well over $2 million in tournament poker winnings. Roy plays online exclusively at Full Tilt. For more information on Roy Winston, you can visit his website: www.oraclepoker.net or send an email to: winstonpoker@yahoo.com with your questions or comments. The contents presented herein on this blog are purely the opinions of Roy Winston, and are not intended to reflect or promote the opinions of any other person, group, or entity. If you like what I write than thanks for reading, and if not well, thanks anyway.

 
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of CardPlayer.com.
 
 
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