Poker Blog Round-Up 5th September

Hugo Martin of with a round-up of what’s going on in the poker Blogosphere…

Some poker players seem to have amazing recall. You’ll hear them talking about a pot that happened 10 years ago and they seem to have every detail perfectly memorised down to what drinks the cocktail waitress was serving to whom that day. Then again, some poker players can’t even get the most basic details of a hand they just played 20 minutes ago – you know the type: “Ok so the flop was K-J-Q all diamonds…no wait, there were two spades and a pair of 6s out there…no hold on, he re-raised with the 6s on the button…sorry I think he was the small blind…” You get the picture.

What we do all remember are the significant pots that pop up now and again on the long road that is poker. That massive pot you lose where you’re playing big for the first time and suddenly the rug is pulled from out under your feet and all of a sudden you realise that maybe you aren’t as good at this game as you thought. Or what about that big hand where for the first time you actually got inside your opponent’s head? Or maybe it’s the first big tournament win?

Whatever, it is these poker milestones that remain etched into our memories. You’d think that for Chris “Jesus” Ferguson winning the WSOP Main Event back in 2000 would be a pretty important moment in his poker career. According to Michael Craig, however, Ferguson feels that one of his most memorable hands in recent years is where he lost $2. Yep, that’s right, two bucks.

Ferguson seems to be one of the few pros who loves to play poker purely for the game itself and has willingly played without money being involved. He decided to set himself the challenge of seeing if he could turn a $0.00 bankroll into $10k online. To start out he had to play freerolls and build up from there. Recently, he completed his challenge and Michael Craig has been writing about it.

“Playing about 10 hours a week, divided among freerolls and some play-money games to promote the site, it took him a month to win $2. “I bought in for the minimum on the smallest game on Full Tilt. I got all-in with pocket tens against ace-queen. I lost the two dollars before the blinds came around. Some players remember hands that won or lost them hundreds of thousands of dollars or big tournaments. I remember that hand that cost me two dollars because it took me a month to make that two dollars. It was back to the freerolls.”

I must admit I like the idea of that as losing that $2.00 and having to step back down in limits encapsulates most players’ lives. Of course, if you’re a great player you naturally keep stepping up in limits, but even the great players encounter setbacks and have to rebuild occasionally. And maybe when we get close to the end we all end up playing small again – look at Johnny Moss playing 20/40 at the ‘Shoe for the last few years of his life.

Or what about Nick “The Greek” Dandalos who was found playing 5/10 in his latter years? “It’s action, ain’t it?” was his famous reply when asked why he was playing such low stakes. Puggy Pearson is another legend that springs to mind, cracking away at the 15/30 games after having been one of the top dogs in Vegas for many years. There’s no shame in it of course: the biggest sin a gambler can commit is to be out of action.

Seeing as I’m getting a bit philosophical here let’s bring ourselves back down to earth by checking out Phil “Cloud Eleven” Hellmuth’s blog. There’s not much about poker, but plenty of golf action. Phil is about to play some special golf match which consists of three players per team and each team playing for a million dollars a hole. Something crazy like that. Anyway, Phil has been getting plenty of practice (as he should, his partners are Russ Hamilton who is considered one of the best golf gambler/hustlers around and Billy Walters, one of the world’s biggest sport’s bettors).

Now it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce from reading Phil’s blog that he is kind of a sick gambler (if losing more in insurance/side bets to Phil Ivey than you actually received for coming sixth, about $76k, in a recent WSOP tournament isn’t sick, then I don’t know what is) so it comes as no surprise that Phil’s practice for this golf match is to play golf with a doubling cube. Yes, that’s right, the doubling cube they use in backgammon (in fact, I have heard of people using the cube to play scrabble and monopoly with so why not golf?). Using the cube certainly makes the game more interesting and Phil is dead keen on it:

“This concept of the doubling cube is fantastic! It really evens the playing field…After two holes, I kicked it up to $1,500 a hole. My reasons to kick it up were many. First, how often do I get to have Jeff on my team? Jeff is a clutch golfer who is used to playing for much higher stakes, and I knew that he wouldn’t choke until we had at least $30,000 bet on one hole. Denny’s ace was choking already, and we had just started to kick it up. The third reason to kick it up was that Denny had drank at least 10 drinks, and was throwing loose cubes to me. When someone throws loose cubes to you, it gives you a huge edge! ”

If you’re interested in golf then this is the blog for you; Phil goes on to describe a bunch of golf coups which makes a change from him whining or apologizing about his whining.

I mentioned Phil Ivey a second ago and he makes an appearance in Brandon Adams’ latest blog for Always Bluff. Adams is no stranger to high stakes poker and gambling and has written a great poker novel called Broke that is worth checking out. Anyway, his latest blog gives us more insight as to why Ivey is The Man – basically he never loses at anything:

“Phil Ivey busted early and came over to our table a bit drunk. He wanted to bet props. I took him up on it for some reason, at 10k per flop (I got 10k if it came 2/3 or 3/3 red cards, he got 10k if it came 2/3 or 3/3 black cards). I had an edge in the bet b/c I could, for example, limp with a black J-9 or go all-in with a red 2-7 (which makes for an interesting maximization problem, by the way, as you’re playing for nothing but you risk losing the prop bet option). All I can tell you is that this was the day for black. Black black black black, Brando is down 104k. If you want a “What am I doing with my life?” moment, lose 104k in props.”

Is it just that nobody ever sees Ivey lose so we never have a written account of it happening? Or maybe it’s just unthinkable that the “world’s best poker player” could actually lose so when he does lose nobody wants to document it for fear of tarnishing our love of Ivey being invincible? They always say that it’s good for your image to be seen as extra lucky and Ivey certainly seems to have no problems in that area.

Finally my mate The Paper has updated not once, but twice in the last two weeks. Due to being on holiday last week I missed an excellent entry which neatly sums up how hard it is to beat poker these days. The title How the hell are we oldies supposed to win against newbies like this? says it all really, but to further elucidate it seems that an old friend of The Paper has taken up online poker.

Like many new players he has voraciously gobbled up many poker books in his quest to crush the games. Of course, The Paper has loads of experience and thus much valuable knowledge, or does he?

According to The Paper this is what his old chum thinks of one of the more famous poker authors (note he’s also not shy of hinting at what he thinks about The Paper’s game):

“I’ve recently finished reading Sklansky’s "Tournament Poker for Advanced Players". I don’t much like Sklansky’s books, writing style, or words of wisdom and so I don’t know why I keep on buying them. Sklansky preaches a highly conservative playing style (one that The Paper might like I see from the reports on your blog). His wisdom is usually based upon the strength of a two-card, i.e. pre-flop, hand. This type of information doesn’t suit my learning needs nor will it make anyone a winning player in my view.”

In the words of The Paper


…and I like his reaction to this (rather well thought-out) critique of the same book:

“Sklansky’s "advanced" book contains nothing at all about positional plays, and very little to nothing about chip plays. There’s also nothing about spotting weakness, player styles, playing the player, betting patterns, managing and exploiting your table image, hand reading, gear changes, situational opportunities, mid-tournament strategies, pre-bubble tournament strategies, and so on. All in all it’s a very poor "advanced" book.”

(The Paper)… “WTF??? I mean seriously, WTF?? When did you start playing???”

Yeah, when did this guy start playing? If this is what new players are thinking about not long after they’ve taken up the game, then we are all done for. Never mind, Paper, he’s probably just running good. Variance will catch up with him and soon he’ll be boring you with bad beat stories rather than bemusing you with high level expertise.

Hugo Martin aka ‘Chimney Sweep’ is a blogger and writer for, a site for the European online poker community. The site features an online tournament search engine, player blogs and online poker news.