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Card Player Profile: Max Pescatori

Max Pescatori Talks About His Recent Limit Hold'em Win at the L.A. Poker Classic


Max PescatoriMax Pescatori’s career tournament earnings are about $2 million, and in the past four months alone, he has garnered more than a quarter of a million dollars in prize money. Judging from his worldwide tournament appearances, it would be hard to deduce that Pescatori makes his home in Italy. His hot streak began during the Doyle Brunson Five-Diamond World Poker Classic, where he cashed in two preliminary events and then came in 28th in the championship. He followed that up with a trip down under for the Aussie Millions, and he had $127,000 to declare when he was through with that series. After that, it was off to the Los Angeles Poker Classic, where he took down a preliminary event and cashed in two others.

Lizzy Harrison: In L.A., you clinched your first victory of the year when won a $1,000 buy-in limit hold’em event. You are known for specializing in no-limit hold’em; what made you decide to play that tournament?

Max Pescatori: I thought that it would be a nice change, since I rarely play limit hold’em. I also thought it would be good practice for the World Series of Poker; I don’t often have the chance to play limit tournaments. Actually, winning the tournament was great. I built a decent chip stack at the beginning, and I continued to chip up gradually. I ended up entering the final table with an average chip stack. There was a streak where I won a few big hands, and I really never looked back from there. When it got down to threehanded play, it seemed like nobody would get knocked out. Then the blinds got really high, and things started to go my way. It was great to be victorious.

LH: Prior to the tournament, how much limit hold’em experience did you have?

MP: I finished in 15th place in the $5,000 buy-in limit hold’em event at the World Series of Poker last year. I do not practice limit hold’em very much, anymore, but it used to be the game that I was best at, because it was the game I started out playing. The good thing about limit is that you can not get knocked out of a tournament in one hand. It takes multiple losses or bad beats before you end up losing. This is an advantage to players like me. At the same time, in limit hold’em there is always space for your opponents to catch up, so bad beats are more likely.

LH: How did you get in to a limit hold’em mindset before playing the tournament?

MP: I really didn’t think I was ready to play limit, since I hadn’t played very much lately. But, as I mentioned, I used to only play limit hold’em when I first started playing, and I think that the skills that I developed stuck with me. I obviously still have some of the knowledge that I gained previously. I think that it would be very difficult for a player who has only played no-limit to play limit well.

LH: What skills are crucial to limit hold’em players?

MP: You have to be more aggressive, especially in the later stages of tournaments. Your opponents can only three-bet you, so sometimes it makes sense to raise them before they can raise you. There are also other limit strategies, like attacking the players that just sit back. There are no antes, and that really changes things.

LH: How should you protect, but at the same time get value out of, your big hands?

MP: Don’t try to disguise them, especially if you are in a tournament. You should go ahead and bet your big hands the whole way. Hopefully, one of your opponents will come over the top of you. This is especially true if you are an aggressive player; it would look suspicious if you tried to slow-play. You will get callers because they think of you as an aggressive player.

LH: What about drawing hands, how should they be played?

MP: You have to chase. You should never fold a drawing hand in limit hold’em. You can play them in different ways, like you might bet with a flush draw or you might just call, but you should never fold.

LH: Is bluffing a big part of limit hold’em?

MP: There is some bluffing. You really have to understand your opponents. Sometimes they will check and call in order to induce you to keep betting. You do not want to try a bluff on players like that. Other players, though, are easier to read, and you can tell when they are on a draw. If they look scared on the river, they might lay down their hand to a bet or a raise. Bluffing in limit is much different than bluffing in no-limit.

LH: When, and why, did you decide to make the switch from primarily playing limit to primarily playing no-limit?

MP: In 2003, I decided to focus on no-limit hold’em. I began to hear a buzz that it would be profitable to play in World Poker Tour tournaments. I didn’t start to play right away, though, and I missed the train for the first load of poker celebrities. That was actually the easiest time to become famous as a poker player. The first WPT event I played was in Aruba. Now I specialize in no-limit hold’em.