Monthly Archives: April 2009

The Study of Poker

The internet is overloaded with websites teaching poker strategy. Heck, I even offer poker tips and throw in the odd piece of advice from time to time. The majority of what I read is fairly repetitive, and sites often have a mish mash of poker strategy articles and lessons, with varying degrees of quality, from the poorly written ‘why am I reading this crap’ to the truly excellent ‘holy cow, I’m gonna use this’ type stuff.

A site I recently came across certainly falls into the “great site – with huge potential” category, and it’s called The name grabbed my attention because it was quirky, and actual does what it says on the tin, since it’s about the study of poker. I’m not usually one for doing site reviews, but what I love about this site is the structure of their poker lessons and general setup. There’s nothing groundbreaking and they don’t have any videos, which has become the norm, but I would seriously recommend to anyone wanting to learn how to play poker, since they start from the very beginning. I think even experienced players will get a refresher too, I know I have. Top marks!

Is Tom “Durrrr” Dwann the Best Poker Player in the World?

Tom Dwan has been on the poker scene for a while now, but I had never really paid too much attention to his offline exploits. I was familiar with his name and had seen reports of the online high stakes cash games for a while. But I’d not seen the guy on TV, so I couldn’t identify too much with him – unlike poker pros like Ivey, Negreanu, Hellmuth, etc, who I’ve watched and admired for many years.

This is the first time I saw a clip of Tom Dwan, at some point last year:

While Hellmuth doesn’t cover himself in glory with his usual antics, my first impression of Dwan wasn’t so great. He looked uncomfortable in the live poker environment, avoiding eye contact and so forth. He was also a bit too cocky for my liking. I thought to myself “stick to online poker kid”.

However, my opinion on Tom Dwan has totally changed since I watched that first clip on YouTube. He’s had a lot more publicity recently due to the Durrrr Challenge (which might finish before Christmas!), but my opinion has been shaped by his recent appearances on High Stakes Poker, Season 5. He has been a joy to watch, and has utterly owned the table.

Here’s a piece of truly world class play from Tom Dwan:

I’m not basing my thoughts on just one or two hands, but his overall play. He has been nothing short of magnificent. It’s funny to look back at the NBC Heads-Up Championship video and seeing a somewhat geeky guy, clearly uncomfortable with the surroundings, and then to see how he has evolved on High Stakes Poker – totally bossing the table. This kid can certainly play poker! I’m a big Tom Dwan fan, that’s for sure.

Characteristics of a Winning Poker Player

What are the characteristics of a winning poker player? Well, here’s some random thoughts I came up with:

Determined, Intuitive, Objective, Fearless, Studious, Patient, Analytical, Agressive, Competitive, Intelligent, Perceptive, Adaptable, Flamboyuant, Sneaky, Deceptive, Greedy, Obsessive, Compulsive, Addictive, Creative, Honest (to oneself, not opponents), and last but not least – High Boredom Threshold.

“Poker is not a card game – it’s a skilled wagering game that uses cards”. I don’t know who first said this quote, but it’s a good one – and so very true.  There’s not a single poker player who holds all the above characteristics / skillsets, but I bet the most successful have quite a few on this list! Which do you have?

Lady Gaga's Poker Face – a Poker Anthem?

A few months ago a friend of mine said “there’s this song called poker face by Lady Gaga- you should listen to it”. I probably replied “who the hell is Lady Gaga?” and left it at that, since I didn’t listen to it. That was until about a week ago, when I heard it for the first time and realized this is the song my friend had been talking about. Even though it’s a girlie chick song (so is my friend), I’ll admit that it’s quite catchy – not bad I thought. I listened to it a few times on YouTube and observed the lyrics to see what the song might reveal about Lady Gaga’s poker thoughts. Here’s a snippet from the chorus:

“Can’t read my, can’t read my
No he can’t read my poker face

Well, this is good to know. Lady Gaga clearly knows how to keep a good poker face. So far, so good.

“Cause I’m bluffin’ with my muffin”

Yes, Lady Gaga actually uses the line “cause I’m bluffin’ wth my muffin”. I’m not quite sure what to make of this line, other than it may be pure filth (lyrics also include “love – if it isn’t rough it’s not fun”) – dirty minx! Indeed I conclude that this song is nothing to do with poker, and this left me feeling hugely disappointed. What other songs can educate our youth of the joys of poker?

Well there aren’t too many songs I could actually think of, apart from a couple of classics. Let’s take a look at MotorHead’s “Ace of Spades”, which includes the line:

“I don’t share your greed, the only card I need is
The Ace of Spades”

Okay, so he’s going for a one-outer! Not good, not good at all.

“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools,
But that’s the way I like it baby”

Ah, such a shame. I was expecting better from this classic rock anthem. While it’s a better song than Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, and is a slight improvement lyrcis wise – it still leaves me a little cold. This brings me to the legend that is Kenny Rogers. From his classis “The Gambler”:

“He said, son, Ive made a life out of readin peoples faces,
And knowin what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.”

At last, some good old, solid poker advice. Is it any wonder that poker players wear sunglasses? It’s all in the eyes baby! He follows this words of wisdom with more…

“Said, if youre gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.”

Unlike MotorHead, Kenny is an advocate of playing poker the right way. Good on ya Kenny! This is backed up with the famous chorus line:

“You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.”

This is great stuff from Kenny Rogers. He’s teaching the fundamentals of the game of poker, and I’m impressed. Unfortunately he makes a big mess of the last line in this section of the song:

“Now evry gambler knows that the secret to survivin
Is knowin what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
cause evry hands a winner and evry hands a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

I have to disagree Kenny. Most poker players hope for an WSOP bracelet, or a TV appearance, or a big fat winners check (preferably all three) – not to die in their sleep. But hey ho, a good job nonetheless. You put Lady Gaga to shame. Actually, going back to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face – those of you following High Stakes Poker will be aware that Barry Greenstein often has a bet to slip in certain phrases, such as his recent “math is idiotic” comment. Well here’s one for you Barry – say “bluffin’ with my muffin”. I dare you!

Poker in Atlantic City

On a recent trip to New York I decided to take a visit to Atlantic City. It’s less than two and a half hours from New York by Greyhound, even if it’s not the nicest way to travel. I stayed at the Hilton Resort this time, which was cool, but they only had a small poker room and the cash games on offer are a little limited. So I spent most of my time playing at Caesars Palace and the Taj Mahal.

While playing poker at the Taj I was seated next to a Russian guy who couldn’t speak a word of English and didn’t really have a sound grasp of the game either. I only found out later that he was Russian because another Russian joined the table. This guy was involved in practically every hand, and I had him to my right. Happy days! I managed to hit a nice winning streak, including quad jacks, and turned what started off as a losing session into a winning one, with plenty of chips coming from the Russian next to me.

My next venue was the Borgata – which is a superb casino with an excellent card room. It reminds me a little of the Venetian in Las Vegas, my favourite poker room in Sin City. Anyway, I gotta tell you about this hand I was involved in at the Borgata, but don’t worry it’s not a bad beat story! We’re playing $1/$2 NL hold’em and I have JQ off suit. There are 5 players in the hand. The flop comes 289 rainbow and everyone checks. The turn brings the 10, giving me the nuts. Someone makes a medium bet, one player calls, and two fold. I raise it up, then the other guy re-raises, the other caller re-raises, and I also move all in. There is probably about $1200 in the pot that I can win. I suspected that one of the players may have the same hand as me, as he was playing super tight, but would you believe that all three of us had the same hand of JQ! It was a 3 way chop!