Why I’ve Accepted the Challenge

On one hand you have someone who played and studied a specific format for most of his playing career and was the self proclaimed “best in the world at it.” On the other hand, you have me who has a total of approximately 6 weeks total playing this format in my 46 years on the planet.
He will try to tell you he hasn’t played in a couple years so that somehow evens the playing field, but I haven’t played this format in about 10 years, and when I did, it was for approximately a 6 week period. It was shortly before Black Friday.
So let’s not kid ourselves with the false narrative that this is a level playing field.

We are playing his specialized game NLH heads up.
On his specialized platform, the internet.
On his specialized terms, a cash game with no raising stakes.

There is no possible interpretation you can come up with that credibly denies I’m the underdog going into this match. The cards are stacked against me, and I accept that reality. It’s akin to Steph Curry challenging Shaquille O’Neal to a 3 point shooting contest to decide who is the better basketball player.

I will, however, do my best. Regardless of the outcome, as long as I put in my best effort I will find satisfaction in that. I’ve always believed in setting goals, but more importantly, focusing on the journey toward those goals. While others may mock my lofty aspirations, it doesn’t stop me from trying to achieve them. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Clearly this is something that created a lot of buzz in the poker world and poker fans want to see this match. What does it all mean if you win or lose? Nothing really. It may mean that one player is better at a very specific form of poker than the other, but we already know that. There are some details that need to be ironed out, but I’ll play the match.

I thought it would be more fun and exciting to play deep stacked freeze outs where you start 250 bbs deep for 1000 hands and make it a best of 5. It would be unlikely with that many hands that it goes past that so it is essentially a cash game freeze out. He refused. He wants $200-$400 the whole way through for a set number of hands. Again, we are playing on his turf and by his rules.

As far as showing my hole cards goes, he is already a big enough favorite and that would only increase his advantage allowing him and his team to dissect my play.

As far as how many hands we play, I agreed to play between 10k and 25k hands and that is still to be decided.

Many have suggested adding a charity component to this match to do some good in the world, but he is anti giving to those in need. Charities don’t care how money is received, be it through a promotion or anonymously, but he has an issue with people using charity in promotion otherwise I imagine we could have done something positive with this. He refused.

So in the end, why am I doing this? To give the people what they want. For many years now this man has made a living off of trashing me on a regular basis, well past an unhealthy obsession, regurgitating the same attack lines over and over. Not because he truly believes I’m an evil monster, but purely for personal gain disguised as standing for some noble cause.

I take offense when poker media calls this a “back and forth.” How disingenuous? I have never made a video targeting this man, I have barely referenced him in the last four years, while my name is on his lips constantly. Where is the evidence of a “forth” in this case?

Maybe this was all part of his long game plan. Attack me endlessly, bully me, mock me, in the hopes of getting me to agree to a high stakes poker match. If that’s the case, well played. You have your wish.

A few hours ago I got a call from Seth Palansky informing me that there was an error in the calculation from the WSOP POY point totals accrued during the Las Vegas leg.

Apparently, they credited me with a cash in an event I didn’t cash in, the $1000 NLH Online Event. Those events typically take longer to process and add to the site because screen names need to be verified to figure out who the person is that played.

Approximately 213 points were awarded to me in that event. No one knew of this error that affected mine, and about 15 other players POY score until after the WSOPE leg in Rozvadov.

It’s an unfortunate situation, but mistakes happen and life goes on. I’m genuinely happy for Robert Campbell because I know how much it meant to him and I also feel he was deserving, having won two bracelets this year.
He is also a nice guy which helps.

When I got the news, I was oddly not phased by it whatsoever. I surprised myself. Not a single negative emotion or feeling of loss. Obviously, had I known the correct point totals it would have changed my strategy in Rozvadov, there are several hands I can think of off the top of my head that would have been played differently well before the closing Colossus event which was also affected.

One obvious example, In the 25k Short Deck event on the bubble I folded QQ to a single raise because I felt the cash and points put me in really good position to win POY. Had I known I was further from the lead than I thought, by 213 points, I would have went with that hand, and who knows what would have happened from there.

In the end, I have no regrets. I went out to Rozvadov clear on the goal ahead, strategized to give myself the best chance to end with the most points, and based on what I knew, I accomplished that. As far as the journey goes, I can only see it as a success. I left Rozvadov feeling good about my decisions, and that hasn’t changed with today’s news.

About 90% of my call with Seth had nothing to do with this miscalculation. I wanted to take this opportunity to address the many flaws with the POY system that I have been discussing for year. We want the stretch run to be about people chasing final tables and wins, not max late regging, hoping to double once, then grab the points from a min cash. It’s silly, and I felt silly doing it.

I’ve been the most vocal about fixing this system for years, and to their credit, they did make some adjustments to improve it. Specifically, giving a lot more weight to wins which count for double the points you get for second. This makes it a lot more difficult to win POY without winning a bracelet, and I think that’s a good thing. For example, two second place finishes would get you the same amount of points as one win. Obviously it’s more difficult to get heads up twice than it is to win once, but someone who wins multiple bracelets should be rewarded handsomely in terms of POY points.

I’ve discussed several of my ideas to improve the system on Twitter, but here are the cliffs:

1. Limit the number of cashes that count towards your total to 12. This gives more people a chance to win POY and focuses on quality over quantity. It no longer incentivizes people to chase min cashes down the stretch.

2. Decrease the value of a min cash in mutlti-heat, large field reentry events. It is not an accomplishment to cash in Colossus when you have 9 heats with a reentry in each.

3. All min cashes should not be treated equally. A min cash in a 3000 player field is much easier than a min cash in a 100 player field 10k buy in mixed event. It’s significantly harder to cash in the latter, while the former is hardly an accomplishment at all, especially when you are paying 15% of the field.

4. Decrease the main event points awarded. You would still make this the premier event when it comes to points and get a ton, just slightly less than you do now. This is important when decreasing the number of cashes that count.

5. Divide points by number of entries. If you play in an unlimited reentry event and use 4 bullets, your point total should be divided by 4. So for example, lets say you win an event that would get you 1000 points, but rebought three times. Now, you would get 1000/4 for 250 points.
I’m less invested in this one, but many people seem to feel strongly about this one.

Several years ago I complained about the POY system and many people said to me, “Why don’t you just stop whining and adjust your schedule?” I was faced with either:

A) Give up caring about POY and continue to play a schedule of events that gave me little chance to win, or

B) Start playing the large field smaller events and pick up the “free points” you get in those events to give myself a real chance.

I ended up choosing B) but never felt great about it. In Rozvadov, dropping a stack to accrue points while I was in another event, felt kind of gross, even though it was the correct strategy and aligned with what others were doing.

I was proud of putting in the hard work necessary to win, but when I win POY I don’t want there to be any doubt in anyone’s mind as to whether or not I was deserving. I hope for a system that rewards quality over quantity, and I do believe the WSOP will work towards that and get it right eventually.

It’s difficult to create a system that everyone likes, but I think my ideas would benefit the grinders who make deep runs in large field small buy in NLH events, as well as those who put up stellar results in the $10k Championship events. What we need to do is start seeing min cashes for what they are. Hardly an accomplishment at all when you look at the bigger picture.

So what is my takeaway from this experience? Well, I always try to look a the responsible version rather than the victim version.

The victim version looks like: OMG I got so screwed I would have played differently and THEY screwed me with this mistake!!!!

I prefer the responsible version: if this is something I care about, I need to verify for myself that my point totals are correct as they happen. Double, and triple check. I trusted the WSOP to have it right, but I should still verify my point totals to ensure they are aligned with what the website showed. I didn’t do that, but I will make it a habit in the future.

With age comes wisdom, I truly believe that. Had this happened to me when I was a cocky, 25 year old kid, I’m sure I wouldn’t have taken the news the same as I do today. I can honestly say, not s single emotion of loss or upset. My life is awesome. I love the grind, I love the journey, and I don’t live in regret.

Congrats again to Robert Campbell, you are absolutely a deserving champion despite this unfortunate error. There should be no asterisk beside your name in the record books. You put together an incredible WSOP and WSOPE and no one can ever take that away from you.

I recently tweeted out the question as to whether or not people think it’s cheating if a player in the United States circumvents the TOS of a site and uses a VPN to play online poker on their site. The majority of respondents (76%) to the poll don’t think it is unethical or cheating.

So what are we talking about here? If you follow the letter of the law, breaking the rules is cheating. The next question for me is, who exactly are you cheating? You are cheating the US Government who is unjustly infringing on your ability to sit on your couch and play online poker.

An argument can be made that you would have an advantage over other Americans who choose to follow the unjust law and/or don’t want to risk getting caught and having their funds seized. Many American online players will leave the country to play in a big online series which has other costs associated with it. Travel and accommodations.

So the player who takes the risk of playing illegally from the US doesn’t have to incur these expenses. Once the cards are dealt, there is no inherent advantage for the VPNer. Having said that, if the VPNer gets caught, which is a real possibility, they risk losing all of their funds.

In a recent case, Gordon Vayo was found to be playing illegally from the US and went on to win $600,000 in a tournament. His risky decision cost him $600,000. Had he made the trip and incurred the expenses of travel and room, he would be about $596,000 richer. Things got worse for Vayo when he tried to sue, claiming he was outside of the US. It was later found that he was, in fact. playing from the US and was counter sued for $280,000. The charges were later dropped against Vayo, but had they not been, his decision to VPN rather than travel would have cost him nearly one million dollars.

Vayo didn’t have a competitive advantage once the cards were dealt. He simply got to play from the comfort of his home rather than a hotel room. As we’ve touched on, this proved to put him at quite a DISADVANTAGE since he not only didn’t get paid his winnings, but had all of his funds stripped away. All those that followed the rules and left the country didn’t have to worry about getting their funds confiscated.

So are the other players in the tournament being “cheated” by a player using a VPN? I don’t think so. Is the online operator being “cheated” by this player? No. There really is no victim here outside of the player using the VPN when he gets caught. He pays the ultimate price. No one else is affected whatsoever.

You could argue that a pro playing from home makes the tourney tougher and takes equity away from the other players. True, but that same player could enter the tournament by simply traveling outside the US to play. He takes away equity whether he is on his own couch, or a couch in Mexico.

Whatever side of the debate you are on, I can respect that, but I personally don’t think less of a person who chooses to take that risk. I don’t think they are hurting the integrity of the game one iota.


The real puzzling thing for me is why do sites care to waste money and resources on policing this? The US Government isn’t spending a dime to do so, so why should a company outside of their jurisdiction be held to policing something they aren’t morally opposed to? Why is the onus on the company to assure that US players aren’t playing from the US? If the US Government doesn’t want its citizens to use a product, they should police it themselves. It’s absurd to put that on the service provider. Let’s take a look at an absurd example to illustrate my point:

The country of Angola doesn’t want it’s citizens to be able to purchase Hollywood movies on Itunes. The country forbids it. Should Apple be responsible for making sure that no one in Angola is able to download music on Itunes? Should Apple spend one red cent to adhere to a government regulation that is outside that government’s jurisdiction? Of course not, it’s absurd.

But online poker companies do. They bow down to the US Government and eat it. Why? In the hopes of being able to re-enter the market if online poker is regulated in the future.

Is there any oversight happening in the US Government to ensure these sites are policing whether or not people are using a VPN? I highly doubt it.

I don’t have a problem with a site saying, “Yeah, yeah, we won’t let US players play on our site” as mostly lip service, but to actively seek people out who are doing so, and confiscate their funds, seems like its just not in their best interest whatsoever. What do they get out of it? Being sold the pipe dream that they will have a chance to reenter the US if regulation ever happens at the federal level. I wouldn’t hold my breath folks. It’s not happening any time soon or likely ever.

“If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”
-Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been involved in poker since the late 90’s and have worn several different hats throughout that period, most notably as a professional poker player.

In my teen years, I helped run a game in a private club which also included running “The Sheet.” The sheet was a credit line we gave to players when they went broke in the game and wanted to keep playing.

One thing was always understood about the sheet, you were going to get stiffed on occasion, but it was still worth having. Mostly, it was the losing players who borrowed money on the sheet, and because they were given this credit line it helped keep the games going longer, which meant more revenue through rake.

These games were full of losing players and the rake was astronomically high. I remember my first night in charge of running the game, we started the game at about 11pm and by 5am every single chip that started on the table was raked. The game was 8 handed, yet somehow the players failed to notice that they were ALL stuck! All 8 players were losing.

It was a $10-$20 limit hold’em game with a 5% rake up to $10. It was a loose passive game so it was common to hit the full $10 per hand with few exceptions.

In addition to the rake coming out of the game, the lowest denomination chip available was $2.50 white chip. The dealers smartly put a lot of those chips in the pot in the hopes of getting a bigger tip. They’d get $2.50 every hand, and often as much as $15 for a bigger pot.

There was probably $400 to $500 coming off the table an hour. Seems like it would be an unbeatable game, but the players where so bad I could still beat it for $35-$45 an hour.

In the months I helped work the game and play in it, I can honestly say I never heard a single player say a word about the rake. It was surreal. I was aware of it, of course, and how much higher it was than the session fee games I’d play during the day that charged a measly $5 a half hour to play. In that game, maybe $125 came off the table per hour, but my win rate was similar in both games. Pros dominated the session fee tables because they understood the concept of rake and how it affected their bottom line.

While my win rate in both games was similar, the underground games didn’t go regularly. They would run for a time, players would go broke, owe money on the sheet, and not come back for a while until they could pay it off. With that much money coming off the table per hour, it crushed all the losing players that didn’t have extremely deep pockets.


Before I started playing in these games I played in a club that had no rake and didn’t charge for food. Players were expected to tip at least $2.50 a hand, but didn’t always. If the waitress brought you food, you were expected to throw her a chip or two.

They did it this way because they believed they could get around the laws related to running an illegal gaming house. Since they weren’t taking any rake, they believed what they were doing was above board. The Ontario government didn’t agree, but that’s another story for another time.

They ran a sheet at this game too, but also had a unique way of keeping games going in addition to that. This may seem controversial, but they tracked what each player won or lost and at the end of the month, they gave the biggest losers free money to play.

They understood, that without those players the games wouldn’t run. They were the VIPs that kept games going.

There is something genius about this idea, but it’s oft putting to do in such a confrontational manner. Partly, while you want to keep the biggest losers in the game, you also don’t want to wake them up to how much they are losing by doing some kind of losers leader board! The way this club handled it was subtle and appreciated by the losing players. The guys who ran this club, there were three of them, all shared one characteristic: they were charming.

They knew how to deal with suckers in such a way that wasn’t patronizing. They empathized, but didn’t mock them.


So why am I telling you these stories? Because, especially this last one, helped shape my long held views on rewards systems for poker and what they should look like. All rewards should go to losing players, as the winning players will get them in the end anyway.

What reward do the winning players get? They get to play in good games and make a living. The reward they get is the right to play. You don’t shut the doors on anyone. If someone has the buy in, they should be allowed to sit down and play.

It makes zero sense to give the winning players, who are already making a profit from your more valuable customers, additional money. It’s asinine.

You don’t need to cater to the winning players. As long as you offer good value games with enough losing players, they will happily show up and earn. They don’t need any extra incentive to come play. If the game is profitable… they will play.

This doesn’t make me anti-pro, I’ve been a pro for half my life! It’s simply me being aware of the ecological balance of a poker game that will always have winning players, losing players, and the house. If the house take isn’t covering their expenses and their sheet, then I don’t have a game to be a pro in.

If the WSOP didn’t make a substantial amount of money over the summer via rake, then there just wouldn’t be one. It isn’t a charity. They run these events to show a profit. They charge what they deem fair. For me, as a pro, if I don’t think their pricing is fair… then I wouldn’t play. If I didn’t think I could beat the game because of a combination of field strength and rake, then I simply wouldn’t make the investment.

At no point would I begrudge the WSOP for what they choose to charge. I might not like it, but I’ve always believed in a free market. Offer a product or service, and if people see value in it, they will pay for it. if not, so be it.

I’m fully aware that many pros who read this may be upset by it, but it doesn’t make it any less true. As a customer, a losing player is more valuable to a poker game than a winning player is. It really shouldn’t anger you- it’s an obvious fact.

I’ve used this example before, but it illustrates the point so well I want to close with it again:

If you ran a raked game at your house and could send a limo to pick up the two biggest fish in your game, or the four best pros… who gets the limo?


Have been thinking about poker tournaments and how much they have changed over the years. In some cases for the better, but in other cases I’m not so sure. I started on the tournament circuit in the late 90’s and every tournament felt special to me whether it was a $100 buy in at the Commerce or a WSOP event. Heck, I felt that the one table satellites in the late 90’s were prestigious and filled with big name players. There were no small buy ins, the lowest being $2000 so buying into a $200 satellite was still very much a big part of the WSOP experience. Of course, that’s all changed now with buy ins as low as $365 to meet player demand and it makes business sense for them to do that. The WSOP takes up a lot of space at the Rio and they have to think of innovative ways to keep those tables full.

I’ve been thinking about what a perfect poker tournament would look like. Something I would be really excited to play and it looks a little something like this:

Everyone Starts At the Same Time:
This is a big one. I’m one to take advantage of late registration when its available to me, but being able to mosey in five hours after the tournament has already started makes it all feel less prestigious to me. There is something special to me about every entrant being in their seat for the shuffle up and deal. My tournament would start at noon (of course) and registration would actually close at noon. If you aren’t in line by noon, you would be absolutely shutout of the tournament with no exceptions. Not even for Phil Hellmuth! Registration would be open well in advance so you could avoid the lines altogether.

Freezeout: This means no rebuys or reentry. If you lose all of your chips, you are out of the tournament. I’m aware this will make the prize pool smaller but I much prefer events where every decision is “life or death” for a player. The players with deeper pockets don’t just get to gamble when they get short and jump right back in. If they bust… on to the next one.

Buy in: I could have my opinion swayed on this, but during poker’s heyday $10,000 was the elite class when it came to a buy in. Those were always special. When I started playing in the late 90’s only one $10k event existed all year, the WSOP main event. There were a few $5k events, but the WSOP main event was king until the WPT came along and offered a series of $10k events that were all aired on TV. Typically we associate prestige with high buy ins, but I think a $10k is accessible to lower buy in players and still worthwhile for the killers who play $100k buy in events.

Format: As many of you likely are aware, I am a big fan of mixed games and much prefer them to straight no limit hold’em. They typically play much faster and I just find them more interesting in general. So, this tournament would be an 8-Game Mix until we reached the money. At that point we would switch to straight no limit hold’em to the finish. Some mixed game players won’t like this idea, but I think they are being really shortsighted for a number of reasons. Explaining those reasons would require a separate blog telling the story of when Jeffrey Pollack was convinced by Howard Lederer and Annie Duke to change the Players Championship at the WSOP, orignally created with this format, to mixed games all the way to the end, despite ESPN’s insistence that they wouldn’t air it on ESPN. I think that did a ton of damage to the turnout and the prestige of the event. Actually, I don’t just think that, I know that is true. The turnout without TV dropped significantly after the change and the event has never been the same since. So my perfect event is 8-Game until the money, then no limit hold’em filmed from that point on.

8-Game includes:
Limit Hold’em
Omaha 8 or better
Stud 8 or better
Pot Limit Omaha
No Limit Hold’em
2-7 Triple Draw

Structure: I’m not a fan of playing excessively long days, but I’m also cognizant of the fact that many non-professional poker players can’t take a week off work to play a poker tournament. So my solution to this dilemma looks like this: play four two hour levels each day with no dinner break. With three 20 minute breaks that would mean the event starts at noon and you are done by 9pm on the dot. Restart for day 2 would be at noon the next day. Since we are playing two hour levels and we want this to be no longer than a 4-5 day event, that means starting the structure much more shallow than most, and having some bigger jumps along the way to speed up play. Starting stacks on level 1 would start you with 100 big blinds for the big bet portion of the mix and go up pretty aggressively from there. Event would need to be between 16-20 total levels.

Big Blind Ante: Outside of the stud portion of the event, we would use the big blind ante format. For those unfamiliar, this just means that the big blind covers the ante for the entire table once a round. Paying roughly the same price per round, just not slowing the game down with everyone being bothered to make change and ante every hand. Theoretically we could do this for Stud as well, but we will leave the purity of that game alone for now.

7 Handed: Because the mix includes 2-7 Triple Draw, 7 handed seems like a great number of players per table. Plenty of leg room, not so short handed that you feel too much pressure early on, but also not the boring formats of 9 or 10 handed poker that wouldn’t be feasible for a Stud tournament anyway.

Chess Clock The most important consideration for my perfect poker tournament is a chess clock rather than a shot clock. Currently, shot clocks are used in many events that allow players 30 seconds to make a decision with some time bank cards available for tougher decisions. This is a step in the right direction, but a chess clock is far superior and punishes the right people: the ones who tank with 7-2 off suit from under the gun to just waste time. Here is how it could work:

Each two hour level each player is given a 5 minute clock. The dealer would have a tablet in their tray that would track each players time separately. After every two hour level, the clock is reset to 5 minutes. The clock for each player wouldn’t start ticking until after 10 seconds. If a player acts within 10 seconds, no time comes off their clock. After that point, the player has as much time as they like up to 5 minutes to make their decision. If a player runs out of time on their 5 minute clock, they must now make every decision within 15 seconds for the remainder of the level. After that, they get their full 5 minutes for the next level just like everyone else. The time doesn’t carry over.

Those are the main ideas surrounding this concept, but there are a few other bells and whistles that could really add some prestige to it if there was a sponsor willing to fork over the money:

Added Money or Prizes: Don’t think anyone would complain about this idea. Lots of ways to add money to the prize pool, but a couple ideas I really like:

$10,000 to the Chip Leader at the end of each day.
A Car to the Winner. Tesla would be my car of choice!

Four Events Per year: One for each season. With four “majors” of sorts, you could, instead of giving a car away to the winner of one event, you can give that car to the player who performed best based on points system across all four events. Theoretically we could also do 3 $10k events with the year end final at Bellagio, Aria, or wherever, in December being a $25k buy in worth a few more points on the leader board and a slightly better structure.

TV Coverage: Yo ESPN, what’s good? Maybe the best place for it, but I wouldn’t hate on NBC Sports or PokerGo being affiliated in some way. PokerGo is the premiere poker streaming service in the world and it’s not close. Possibly a deal where the early stages would be streamed live on PokerGo then switch over to ESPN, NBC Sports, or wherever, for the final table.

Side events Since the structure for these events will start out pretty fast, that means more players will bust on day one. That would suck for a player traveling across country to play, so it would be important to offer side events starting the next day. Those events could vary in terms of format.

So this is my idea of the perfect poker tournament. What is yours?

Recently I posted a tweet that was way too harsh in tone and the responses were predictable. I was referring to negative traits of certain poker players that aren’t a good addition to the game. Nick Jones pointed out that my tweet was actually contributing to one of those traits, being a hater or complainer. I realized he was right so I chose to delete the tweet and phrase it in a more positive tone, instead focusing on what attributes make a player attractive to a game.

Negative Traits:

Positive Traits:
Lose Money
Act Quickly
Be friendly
Be Generous/Give Action
Be Positive

Both saying roughly the same thing, but the first tweet was too antagonistic towards certain player types so after giving it some thought, I deleted it.

Many people misunderstood my meaning in that initial tweet. My choice, blame them for not understanding, or take responsibility for not communicating my position clearly enough. In this regard, choosing to stand responsible for my decisions or be a victim to circumstance (blaming others), I try my best to practice what I preach. Part of that entails admitting when you are wrong and apologizing. I have done that, and upon further reflection there were things about that first tweet I didn’t communicate well. Specifically, being a winner and being quiet. The other three are pretty clear, although people have a more narrow view of the term “nit” than I’d always learned. A nit isn’t simply someone who plays tight. A nit can have any number of the following traits:


-Angle Shoots

-In a 9 handed game with 8 other players straddling, wants to play but not straddle

-Won’t Start Games

-Quits the second the live one quits

-Won’t agree to a neutral EV gamble if the live one asks for it, even for small amounts. Example, playing a $5-$10 NLH game the live one asks if everyone will do an all in flip for $25. A nit says no.

-Constantly changes seats to get a free hand. Funny example that lead to a rule change at Bellagio years ago. Playing 5 handed, a player would constantly change seats and at that time get dealt in even if he went from UTG to the cut off. He just kept trying to jump around as much as possible to get free hands. That’s a nit.

Under no definition I can come up with is a nit a desired guest at a poker game. Not in the 20+ years I’ve played the game. I stand firm that nits are most definitely bad for a poker game.

As for Quiet, it was a mistake for me to phrase it the way that I did. It was my bad. I should have replaced Quiet with rude. I agree with many replies saying that it’s much better to be seated with a quiet player versus one who never shuts up. I agree totally. I was more so referring to engaging in small talk when someone asks you a question. For example, a tourist sits down in your $5-$10 game and asks you where you are from. Rather than give him a death state and not respond, be human and talk to the guy!

I don’t expect players to change who they are and put on an inauthentic show. Not what I meant at all, and it’s on me for not communicating that well. I apologize to the quiet players out there who were personally offended by that. If your shy by nature, that’s OK. If you can smile and laugh at a joke occasionally, awesome. If you aren’t comfortable starting table banter, that’s totally fine too. If someone does engage you in conversation, just be friendly and try not to be rude.

As for being a winning player being a bad trait, many of you took offense to that since the goal of poker is to be a winning player. Of course it is and there is nothing wrong with that! Now, having said that, if you ARE a winning player that means you are taking money out of the game. The other players in the game would do better financially if you weren’t there.

Let’s look at another example, you host a 6 handed game at your house and have 5 players confirmed. One seat left and its between Larry, the biggest loser in the game, or Bill who is the biggest winner. What would be better for that game? To invite Larry or Bill? Obviously Larry gets that call every time.

The point of this is to realize that if you are a winning player, you are a taker. That’s the name of the game as many of you pointed out. Knowing this, though, I would think it would be worthwhile to find other ways to contribute to the health of the game you play in. One person tweeted at me that he is the biggest winner in his home game, but he gets invited every time because he brings the beer! Oh, and he doesn’t drink!

This is a perfect example of giving up some EV, not being a nit, and contributing to the game in some fashion. In the long run, you will more than make up for the cost of the beer.

My concern for the future of poker is if it continues down the trend of players not thinking about the long term, but just focusing on their immediate EV, you are going to see a further expansion of private games. Private games at the higher stakes are becoming more and more widespread. I don’t think that’s good for poker, but there is not much that can be done to stop that trend.

In the “old days” you come to a casino, and if a seat is open and you have the buy in, you get to sit down and play. This simply isn’t true anymore at the higher stakes. Private games occur in casinos now too, and that shuts out out the young upstart who wants a shot at those games. If the young upstart is a winning player, they will never let him play, unless… he offers something of value to the game. Whether its bringing a weaker player to the game, or maybe, just maybe, being likable enough that people put up with the fact he is a great player and is going to take money out of the game.

Now what if you are a tournament player? How does this affect you? Well, in the example I provided it really doesn’t. You get to be more of a short term thinker, more of a nit, and look to squeeze out small edges with little care for how pleasant the playing experience is. Or do you? It won’t have an affect on you in the short term, yes that’s true, but if you are a high stakes tourney player, for example, the fields are small and losing 3-5 weaker players because they aren’t enjoying the experience anymore, will have a significant impact on your EV long term.

Most every high stakes tourney in the world today offers a shot clock, yet still I have seen first hand, and heard straight from people’s mouth, that they no longer play in them because of the pace of play. Some players, even in the most automatic spots are still taking the full 30 seconds to act. A chess clock/time bank would be a better solution for the future, but that’s for another blog.

What is an automatic spot? An example: a player raises and you call in the BB. The flop is KK3 rainbow and you check call. The turn is a 2. If you take 10-30 seconds to check here, you are truly hurting the game. You are never going to check call this flop and lead the 2 on the turn. You are just always checking, but still, I see players even in spots this automatic burning 25-30 seconds of time.

Since my tweets on the subject, both the first which I admit wasn’t well written, and my follow up that I felt was a lot more fair, I’ve been personally attacked in a couple blogs for my position. I have never taken issue with people disagreeing with my takes, I’m an opinionated person and that’s to be expected.

Even if I think its unfair, I stand responsible for any hate that I get and always try to look at the feedback for opportunities to grow as a person. Sometimes people are genuinely looking to have a civil discussion about poker topics, while other times it just feels more like a smear campaign with ulterior motives. Either way, I’m 100% responsible for anything I say or do. If people choose to take my words out of context, or rephrase my views to fit a narrative, again, even if it isn’t fair, it comes with the territory when you choose to be public with your opinions. We are not owed what we deem to be fair press. We can’t control how people choose to present us. Sometimes they will flat out lie, while others may take liberties and twist your words to fit a narrative.

It doesn’t matter if its fair. If people aren’t getting what I’m saying, it’s up to me to do a better job of communicating my thoughts in the future. I am a flawed human being as we all are to a certain extent, but I am always striving to be a better version of myself and digesting feedback both positive and negative to look for areas where I can be better.

It’s true, I am no longer a grinder as I was for the first 15 years or so of my career. I’ve had success in poker that few will ever achieve, so it would be fair for some to criticize me as being out of touch with the game. It’s fair, but I also don’t believe it to be accurate. I’m constantly in conversation with both pros and recs at all levels, from low stakes, to medium, to high. I think about these issues often as poker has been my passion for half my life now.

I don’t presume to know what my win rate would be at the Aria $2-$5 game, but I do know some grinders who do play in those games regularly. Lastly, you don’t have to accept, or even like my opinions. You can disagree with my stances on issues related to the game. If you do, I would hope that you are open to civil discussion about it. Rather than attack my character, and who I am as a person, I think it would be more worthwhile to discuss why you think my thoughts and ideas are wrong.

I’d love to see a return to “I hate your ideas” rather than “I hate you.” Would do us all some good.

Right around this time of year is when I typically like to map out what my summer might look like, including most all events I may play depending on how I’m doing. For example, I may have something on the schedule that would appear to conflict with another event, and in that case, I would only be playing the secondary event if I was eliminated from the first one before late registration closed. I do not “double dip” and play two stacks. I haven’t done that even once in about 5 years. I used to do it occasionally when there were big bracelet bets on the line for Phil Ivey and I, but since then, if I’m still in an event, that’s the only event that exists. If I happen to bust, then I will reorganize my schedule and see whats available to me.

The lead up to the WSOP, and the post WSOP main event schedule this year is like nothing we have seen before. Not just the Super High Roller Bowl, but prelims at Aria as well as a WPT series at Bellagio in May gives you tons of options to play large buy in events.

The other big change is the number of fun events that will take place after the WSOP main event starts. In past years, all you had was the Little One for One Drop, but this year, in addition to the Big One for One Drop, there is a $50k NLH and a few mixed game events on the schedule. It will be interesting to see what the numbers look like for the Big One for One Drop this year. It’s at the tail end of the series and it’s quite likely that a lot of players will be short on money by then. I plan to play it, but that’s no guarantee. I’m looking to put up about $500k and will sell the rest of my action (if there are any takers) at face value. I hate doing this. Hate it. Reeeeally hate it, but a million is too much to put up for one 3 day event. It’s the only event I’ll sell pieces for and hopefully by then I’ll have had a great summer and make a run in that event as well.

Going into the WSOP there is a good chance I spend $600,000 in buy ins leading up to it at Aria and Bellagio respectively. Lots of $25k buy ins with unlimited rebuys so each one is likely to cost a little over $50k on average, plus a $100k with the same format right before the Super High Roller Bowl. Below, I’m going to list my WSOP schedule outline for events I may play. If the event is not listed, that means I won’t be playing it for sure.

June 1 3pm $100k NLH
June 2nd 3pm $2500 Triple Draw Mix
June 3rd 3pm $10k Omaha HL
June 4th 3pm $1500 Dealers Choice
June 5th 3pm $1500 2-7 NL Single Draw
June 6th 11am $1500 HORSE (secondary)
June 6th 3pm $10k NLH Heads Up (priority)
June 7th 3pm $10k Dealers Choice
June 8th 3pm $5k NLH
June 9th 3pm $1500 8-Game
June 10th 3pm $10k 2-7 NL Single Draw
June 11th 3pm $1500 Stud 8
June 12th 3pm $10k HORSE
June 13th 3pm $1500 2-7 Triple Draw
June 14th DAY OFF
June 15th 3pm $50k Players Championship
June 18th 3pm $10k Stud
June 19th 11am $1500 NLH Shootout
June 19th 3pm $2500 Big Bet Mix
June 20th 3pm $25k PLO
June 21st 3pm $10k 2-7 Triple Draw
June 22nd 3pm $2500 Stud 8/Omaha 8
June 23rd 3pm $10k PLO
June 24th 3pm $1500 RAZZ
June 25th 3pm $10k Limit Hold’em
June 26th 11am $1500 PLO 8
June 26th 3pm $3k NLH
June 27th 3pm $10k RAZZ
June 28th 3pm $5k NLH (6max)
June 29th 3pm $10k PLO 8
June 30th DAY OFF
July 1st 3pm $10k Stud 8
July 2nd DAY OFF
July 3rd DAY OFF
July 4th 11am $10 WSOP Main Event
July 8th 3pm $3k PLO (6 max)
July 9th 3pm $3k LH (6 max)
July 10th 11am $5k NLH (30 min levels)
July 10th 3pm $1500 NLH/PLO
July 11th 3pm $10k NLH (6 max)
July 12th 3pm $3k HORSE
July 13th 3pm $50k NLH
July 14th DAY OFF
July 15th 11am $1 million One Drop

Maximum Events: 39
Maximum Buy Ins:$1,414,500

With that hefty buy in for the One Drop I’m looking at about a $2 million investment this summer starting in May and taking me all the way through mid July.

For those of you who enjoyed following the journey last year via my WSOP VLOGS, good news, they will be back and pop up on YouTube DAILY. We will also have them up at the same time each day, midday on this side of the pond, and late evening over in Europe. I plan to spend a bit more time breaking down hands and have found a really cool new way to deliver it that you will see when the VLOGS start churning out. First day of the VLOG will be available June 2nd starting with the WSOP $100k and every day after that. I may get a pre-WSOP VLOG in as well.

Get your bankrolls ready people! I hope to see good turnouts for these events since many poker players who have gone the route of Crypto Investor just might need to put in some work at the tables again.

I’ve watched every minute of every game and have a really good idea as to “how they are doing it.”

1. System- this team plays like no other team in the league. Using a basketball analogy they essentially play a full court press all game on defense, and a transition fast break team on offense. If they kept a stat for the quickest team in the league that causes a turnover then moves the puck up ice, no other team would be close. They play an up tempo high variance game and constantly are looking for odd man rushes that lead to lots of high quality chances. Most teams win the puck, possess it, look for what options are available, then decide to make a play. Not this team. It’s instantaneous. Blind passes, stretch passes, quick transition and it catches teams on their heels constantly. They are more effective 5 on 5 in transition than they are on the power play in relation to most teams. Power plays don’t play to their strengths, but they more than make up for that with their 5 on 5 play.

The other key reason this system can work is that George McPhee drafted SPEED. There isn’t just one line to key in on, all four lines play a very similar up tempo style that depends heavily on speed in transition.

2. Rolling four lines-
That rolls into my next point nicely, the use of all four lines and all three defensive pairings. On most teams you will see all-star minute munchers on the back end playing upwards of 30 minutes a game. On Vegas, their top d-man in terms of average ice time is Nate Schmidt clocking in at just 22 minutes a game. Everyone plays. Most teams use their fourth line sparingly, as little as possible. This team’s fourth line is used often and have developed a real chemistry. They possess the puck, and while they don’t score a lot of goals, when they are out there, neither does the other team.

When defending this team, you can’t just focus on one speedy line and then take a break in between those shifts. They come at you in waves. Consistent in their approach, and while the 4th line plays a bit more of a North-South game, the other three lines played an incredibly similar style of hockey. Teams get no time to catch their breath, it’s constant pressure for 60 minutes.

3. Discipline- They don’t take penalties! I believe they rank as the second least penalized team in the league. Vegas also ranks in the bottom five in total hits. Outside of Brayden McNabb and William Carrier, this team isn’t built to punish opponents physically. They don’t take many dumb penalties being overly aggressive. The focus is on winning the puck, and turning it up ice as quickly as possible.

4. Trust- This is where I shower heavy praise on coach Gerard Gallant. The players love him. He was the perfect coach for the job. Unlike a John Tortorella, this is a players coach for a new team of guys who may be coming in with bruised egos after being let go by their previous team. The last thing they needed was a guy barking at them that they suck. Gallant earned their trust and has the players, to a man, believing in the system. Not many teams can say that losing their best player wouldn’t have a major impact on their success, but Vegas is unique, in that, no one player is bigger than the system. Somebody goes down, next guy up is plugged into the system and gets the job done.

5. Chemistry- This team had the opportunity to bond early with the tragedy we saw in Las Vegas a week before the home opener. They were out in the community showing their support after the tragedy, and while it’s hard to gauge how much closer an event like that can bring people together, I wouldn’t underestimate it. These guys seem to really like each other. This high tempo style relies on players knowing where each other is going to be and the chemistry on this team developed rapidly and is undeniable. They all share the bond of being either underestimated, underutilized, or underpaid by their previous team. They play every night with a chip on their shoulder. Every night there is a player on that team with something to prove. Whether it’s Marc-Andre Fleury showing the Pens that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, or William Karlsson putting on a clinic against Columbus letting them know that had he been given a chance, he could have been the all-star for them that he is for this team.

So in my last blog I covered a few key hands I played on day one and figured I would share some more that I jotted down to look at for review later. During the final table I didn’t really record any hands as I was focused on getting the job done, but on day two there were a few interesting spots I found myself in:


Blinds 6k-12k
Stack depth 150 bbs

Ivan Luca raises middle position to 26k I call with 22 from the next seat and it’s heads up to a flop: 3h 5s 6d

Luca bets 30k I raise to 95k he calls

Turn: 3s check check

River: 8c he checks, I bet 400k and he folds 99

Thoughts- This flop gives me 6 outs against an over pair other than 77, but most importantly, there aren’t a lot of hands Luca will have that can 3-bet me on the flop. My raise also protects against free equity for him if he has a hand like QJ. When he calls, I think he’s either hit a piece of that flop or has an over pair.
I pretty much gave up on the turn and hoped I could catch one of my 6 outs. The river 8 was a good card for me, especially after he checks. I am quite sure at this point that I’m beat, but that 8 could help me actually represent 79 suited or even 88 which both could play the flop this way occasionally. In addition to those hands, if I did in fact flop a set I may often check back the turn (feigning weakness) to induce a river bet.
A standard sized, or small sized bet is going to get called a high percentage of the time. To get him to fold an over pair I’d have to size up my bet so I over bet the pot. It’s important to note, and also as a practice, that I also take this line and use this sizing with nutted hands like 7-9 and full houses. Otherwise my opponents will read into the fact that my bigger sized bets are bluffs, where my value bets are smaller.
There are pros and cons to that sizing. Cons are you don’t get called quite as often when you have a nutted hand, pros are your bluffs should work a higher percentage of the time. This one worked and put me in good position.



Blinds 10k-20k
Stack Depth 100 bbs

I raise to 75k from the small blind with Js 8s vs Justin Bonomo who calls in the big blind.

Flop: 7s 6c 2s
I bet 45k, Justin makes it 175k I call

Turn: 7c check check

River: Jc I bet 175k, Justin makes it a million, I fold. Justin had Ks Qc

Thoughts- This is a hand I could easily limp in with, but I want to have some kind of raising range from the small blind playing this deep stacked and J8 suited is a good one to throw in there. Notice my raise sizing is bigger than normal in this situation due to the positional disadvantage post flop. I don’t want to make it cheap for the player in position to take a flop.
My flop bet sizing is roughly 1/4 pot which I’ll do quite often with a wide range of hands. Its a lot smaller than I used to c-bet, but I put in a couple months of work with this sizing and I like what it opens up for me as a whole.
By the river, my dilemma is to check or bet for value. Then if I am betting, is this a good candidate to size up and bet big? Is this a spot where I want to bet 1/4 pot and maybe get called by a weak hand or even induce a raise? Ultimately I chose to bet 175k into 500k.
When Justin raised the river I didn’t think he had a flush very often. It’s possible, of course, but this hand either felt like 67 or air. In hindsight, despite the large size of his river raise I think if I’m going to bet I also need to follow that up with a call. There is only one really legitimate combination of hands he does this for value with, and it’s basically just 67. Nothing else. The issue is, there are A LOT more combinations of hands he could have that are total bluffs. The “math” alone makes this a clear call for me, but I chickened out and folded after using just one time bank.
I asked several people about the hand and it seems everyone liked my river bet, but I really don’t. I think I have a better chance to snap off a bluff with a check then I would get a call from a worse hand. The line I ended up choosing was the worst of all of them, the bet/fold.
There is another key factor that led me to fold related to “ICM.” Essentially, the value of my stack after folding was worth a lot of equity. If I call and lose my stack would be worth significantly less. Of course, had I call and won my stack would be worth even more, but overall it felt like my stack was already big enough to avoid this risk.
If I had a mulligan, I would have chose to check call a river bet, even a rather large one.


The final table was one of the strangest I’ve played in 20 years. No one ever went broke when they were all in. I think it may have surpassed 10 straight all ins surviving. I went on a roller coaster after taking a beat against Bonomo on the river where I was down to 2 big blinds! I was able to run that up to 30 big blinds in the span of 10 minutes!

Unfortunately it did me no good as even with that lucky spin up, I still finished 4th. The final table for me came down to three key pots against Justin Bonomo:

My As Js vs his A-9 clean to the river and he hit a 9 to stay alive
My A-Q vs his 66 flop came J-T-4 turn 9, and I missed that one
My KK vs his AJ with Bryn folding an Ace, flop came A-4-3 and that was it

Three key big pots for me that made the ultimate difference and I ended up in 4th place for $521,140. Since I had to re-enter this one, that starts off the year with a $321,140 profit in event one, and I look to make a run in the $10k main event tomorrow.

I haven’t played a main event from the start in quite a while, usually going to the gym or doing interviews during the early levels, but with a torn ACL I plan to skip the gym and get there on time to try and build up a nice stack to end day one. Most of the super high roller players will skip day one entirely and play day 2 with a 30 big blind stack, but I’m inspired to play right now and feel like a good favorite to build some chips against a weaker field.

I’m certainly disappointed right now after that roller coaster ride at the final table, but in the end, it’s a good result and for the most part I thought I played well. I made a mistake against Bryn Kenney in one spot betting the turn and folding to a bluff, but aside from that I think I made good decisions throughout.

You are going to make mistakes in a tournament. Lots of them. The goal, much like a pro PGA golfer is to make the least number of mistakes you can, and make sure that your mistakes aren’t drastic errors. I think I accomplished that and have to be happy with a 4th in event #1 of 2018. More to come.

I haven’t done one of these blogs in ages where I go over my day with you all, but felt inspired to do so after my first day of play here in the Bahamas for PCA 2018. I just wanted to share a few key hands from the day:


Level 1
Blinds 500-1000
Ante 100
Stack depth 250 bbs

Koray Aledimir raises under the gun at a 7 handed table to 2500. It folds around to me in the big blind and I re-raise to 13k with As Qs. Koray called.

Flop: Js Th 5d

I bet 7k on the flop and Koray calls.

Turn: 9c

Check, check.

River: 6s

I bet 100k

Koray tanks for a while, using a time bank extension and then makes the call with 5c 6c

Thoughts- I don’t normally three bet in this situation, or at least I never used to in the old days when poker was much easier, but felt like it’s important to have some type of 3 betting range in this situation and AQ suited is a fine hand to be doing it with.

On the river I chose a larger sizing to get Koray off a one pair hand which is his most likely holding as played. Sure, he could check back two pair or better on the turn, but it is far more likely that by the river he has exactly one pair. It was hard to see the 6s as a scare card in this spot. Had he not made two pair on the river, I don’t think he would ever consider calling me, but with two pair he has to call because theoretically I could bet AA or KK for value in this situation on the river. He beats that hand with two pair, but not with just one.



Level 2
Blinds 600-1200
Ante 200
Stack Depth 80 bbs

At an 8 handed table Steffan Schillhabel raises to 3k from under the gun. Chris Huni calls from middle position, and Sam Greenwood calls from the button. The French businessman calls from the small blind, and I call 1800 more with Kc Jc

Flop: Kh 9c 3c

I check, Stefan checks, Chris bets 6500 and Sam Greenwood calls from the button. I check-raise to 20k, Chris folds, and Sam calls.

Turn: Qc

I bet 15k, Sam makes it 66k, I only have about 4k more and go all in. He calls and shows Ac Tc

Thoughts- this hand was a bit annoying because the dealer flashes my second card and my hand was supposed to be Kc Ts. He flashed the Ts and replaced it with the Jc. Lucky me! With K-T off suit I wouldn’t have lost too many chips in this spot, but with my stack size and the pot already bloated, it was a good spot to put some chips in.

When Sam called on the button and then called my check-raise I thought it was very lucky he had a flush draw as well. Either that or slow playing a a set. Once the turn comes considering my stack size and what’s already in the middle, there is just no getting away from a King high flush despite not feeling great about it when he raised.

That eliminated me early on and forced me to the re-entry cage. I’m now in $200,000 just a couple hours in.



Level 4
Blinds 1000-200
Ante 300
Stack Depth 125 bbs

I raise on the button at a 7 handed table with Kh 7h to 5000. From the small blind Timothy Adams makes it 20,500. I call

Flop: Qd Td 7s

Check, check.

Turn: 3s

Check, check.

River: 2c

Timothy bets 45,000. I use a time bank and make the call. Timothy shows Kc 6c for King high

Thoughts- Obviously K-7 suited is a raising hand from the button, but I don’t really love it when Timothy raises me from the small blind. We were still relatively deep stacked, and as a general rule you want to play most of your big pots in position rather than out of position. Calling the 3-bet is marginal at best. I’m not entirely sure it’s correct, but it felt right in the moment.

When Timothy checks the flop I can absolutely justify a bet. I think sometimes you should bet, and sometimes you should check. The frequency is something you just need to figure out on your own! There is no “correct” play here in terms of it being either a bet or a check, you should have this hand in your betting range sometimes, but also in your checking range. You don’t want to ALWAYS do the same thing with specific hands on the flop or your opponents will learn your tendencies and really exploit you.

On the turn it seems like my hand rates to be the best hand so the dilemma is between protecting my equity or protecting myself from a possible check raise. I took the safer approach and checked.

By the river, if Timothy checks I’m going to have the best hand well over 80% of the time I’d say, but when he bets I can only beat a pure bluff. He made a big bet, so I didn’t think it was all that likely he was betting, A-T for example. It was either a slow played hand, a set of deuces, or an Ace high/King high type hand that he didn’t think could win at showdown. I think I have a stronger hand than I’m supposed to in this situation on average, so I made the call and picked up a key pot.

I ended the day with 438k in chips which is a nice stack, almost doubling up and looking forward to day two where the blinds will be 3k-6k. You can follow updates all day long at www.pokerstarsblog.com and also there will be a cards up live stream show at www.pokerstarslive.com so be sure to tune in!