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Poker Tournament Trail -- Howard Lederer on $10K HORSE

Lederer Talks About Playing Against Quality Opponents in Smaller Tournaments


Howard Lederer WinsHoward Lederer defeated a tough field that included Eli Elezra, Matt Glantz, James Van Alstyne, Andy Bloch, Jerry Buss, Michael Binger, Scott Clements, David Singer, and Dan Shak, Ralph Perry, and Rod Pardey to win the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at the 2009 Festa al Lago Classic. The tournament win at Bellagio was the fourth for Lederer at the famous hotel and casino. His previous wins include a $2,500 no-limit hold’em tournament in 2003, another $2,500 no-limit hold’em tournament in 2004, and a $5,000 pot-limit Omaha tournament in 2004. Lederer’s previous victories all came at the Five-Star World Poker Classic, which takes place in the spring. Lederer now has career tournament poker earnings of $5,066,858.

Card Player caught up with Lederer after the win, and he talked about how he enjoys playing against familiar opponents that possess such high skill.

Ryan Lucchesi: This was definitely a quality over quantity type of event. What difference does that make in your strategy?

Howard Lederer: I don’t think it does. Actually, I think this highlights what poker is all about, which is beating whoever is in front of you. Whether that’s one great player like Ralph [Perry] or eight tough players like you were constantly up against in this tournament. If you’re playing with 19 players or a thousand players, you’re never playing against more than eight of them at a time. The way you win a tournament is you keep moving forward and beating the guys in front of you. Just because there were 19 players didn’t alter my strategy at all, I’m just trying to play as well as I can. I’m thrilled that I came through a tough field.

RL: You are well acquainted with playing against Ralph. Do you think a final table against an opponent you know so well basically plays itself in a limit format, or do you think there is still room for creativity?

HL: There is still a battle; you’re still trying to get into their head a little bit. There was one bad play he made; obviously he’s a very tough player, but when you’re in a heads-up match that we played for three hours, I’m sure there are some bad plays I made, as well. He made one bad fold, and I made sure to let him know about it to maybe get inside his head, maybe get him upset at himself. You’re still playing mind games. You don’t ever know that particular hand is going to happen, but when it does, you want to at least throw your opponent off his A-game.

RL: Do you prefer playing against opponents you know so well because it is a setting where you can use all of your experience and your knowledge of the nuances in the game?

HL: I do enjoy playing with players I have played a lot with, because poker is a mind game. There is more of that when you’re playing against somebody you’ve played with a lot. Playing against a guy like Ralph, Rod Pardey, Matt Glantz … there were so many players at this final table that I have played a lot of poker with and that are very tough players. So it’s fun, it’s challenging, and more interesting. The downside is they’re tough. When you’re playing in a big field with a lot of guys you’ve never played with before and they’re weak, the upside is that they’re bad players and you just show up with your A-B-C good game and you’re going to do better over the long run against those guys. Certainly this is more of a challenge, and I always enjoy beating a tough field.

RL: Do you feel that a social atmosphere emerged in this event?

HL: It was kind of like a cash game. That doesn’t mean we weren’t trying to rip each other’s throats out, in the figurative sense; it was nice. Even right here at the end, the blinds were 15,000-30,000 and the antes were only 2,000. We just agreed to play with a 3,000 ante, because that just felt like the right ante. Certainly it was more relaxed that way, but the competition was just as tough.

RL: Were you each trying to push your edge in specific games of H.O.R.S.E. during heads-up play?

HL: Look, Ralph is a very good stud player, but he is good at all of the games. If there was a game where I felt like he is clearly better than me, it would be stud, maybe all of the stud games. Maybe I had a little edge in the flop games. No one who plays in the big mixed game in Bobby’s Room is weak in any of the games. Even if you feel like, “Oh, I have a little bit of an edge,” it’s the kind of edge you feel good about over the course of a year playing big cash games against a guy. Here, we’re playing with maybe 10 bets in front of us, and no one is giving enough away where you would say, “Oh, now it’s hold’em, now I get to bust them.”