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Poker As A Career

By John Reger Contributing Writer

With the popularity of poker as high as it is right now, the game is seeing more and more people who have crossed over from other careers to make playing poker their full-time occupation.

Poker players have always had other occupations while they played the sport, but it was more of odd jobs to keep their stakes up so they could play cards. Work wasn’t really a polite word used in poker circles.

It is a trend that will continue, I believe. There are more and more hobbyists turning professional, and as purses increase it will make it more financially viable for business professionals to enter the game.

It didn’t used to be that way. Most of the older, more established players were poker players from a young age or worked in a profession associated with the game.
Several of the games' top players began as dealers. Gavin Smith, Erick Lindgren and Evelyn Ng learned the game while they were working, making the transition to the sport.

“I saw the same people winning all the time,” Ng said of her days as a dealer. “I knew it was a game of skill that I could really put my mind to and I would probably do well in, and I think it was a good guess.”

High PressureA lot of the older players, like Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim and Johnny Moss, played home games in Texas and made a dangerous living trying to avoid getting robbed while building their bankrolls.
Now, however, it seems more and more players had respectable careers that they threw in the muck to play professionally.

Barry Greenstein was a software engineer in Silicon Valley. Mark Seif was an attorney who worked in the District Attorney’s office in Los Angeles. Humberto Brenes is a successful businessman who owns a television station.

The recent winners of the World Series of Poker’s main events were business professionals first, card players second, but that quickly changed after capturing poker’s spotlight tournament.

Greg Raymer was an accountant, Joseph Hachem a chiropractor and this year’s winner, Jamie Gold, was a Hollywood agent.

Even the smaller events are seeing players who are more hobbyists than professionals.
The recent winner of the World Series of Poker circuit event, Jim McCorkle, was a golf professional.

McCorkle won the $1,000 no-limit game at Caesar’s Indiana , winning $56,254 for his first big victory.
A qualifier for the U.S. and British Opens, McCorkle tried to qualify for the Senior PGA Tour but didn’t make it and decided to start playing cards again. He had played in Las Vegas in the 70s, but not seriously.
In the tournament at Caesar’s, McCorkle entered the final table as the chip leader and never was seriously challenged.
It was ironic that one of the players at the table was named John Shanks. It was even more ironic that it was McCorkle who knocked out the player, whose last name is a forbidden word in the golf community.
McCorkle and John Rolnick were the last players, and it took 34 hands before McCorkle knocked out Rolnick, who has been playing professionally for 20 years.

As more and more people start entering the game, expect to see more success stories like McCorkle's. People are figuring out that they don’t need to keep their day job to make a living playing professional poker.

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Harrington on Hold 'em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments, Vol. 1: Strategic Play (Paperback)
by Dan Harrington, Bill Robertie "Like all variations of poker, no-limit hold 'em looks like a card game..."
Key Phrases: continuation bet, five times the big blind, probing bet, Gap Concept, Sam Farha, Amir Vahedi


Top notch; very pleasantly surprised, February 15, 2008
Reviewer: M. Grapenthien (Chicago)
No limit hold'em, obviously, is a complex game. So complex that there has never been a good comprehensive treatment in a book form; I had thought that this was because it involves more "table feel", experience and intuition that can't be easily taught or expressed in a useful format.

Harrington and Robertie have done just that. Harrington is the 1995 world champion, and the only player to make the final table in both 2003 and 2004, overcoming the two biggest fields in World Series history (839 and 2,576 players, respectively). Robertie is a top backgammon player and author of several excellent books on that game.

Among the top players, there are drastically different styles of play, from conservative to super-aggressive. One problem I expected was that given Harrington's solid, fairly conservative style, he wouldn't be able to give much useful information on playing at the other end of the end of the spectrum, styles such as those employed by Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen.

I was wrong. The book does a fine job addressing the relative merits of various styles, playing against each type of opponent, and even choosing one for yourself. This makes sense; no matter his own style, to be successful he has to have spent a lot of time thinking about, observing, and combatting all different types of players. Further, a playing style isn't cast in stone; even the most conservative players have to switch gears and become much more aggressive at times, and vice versa.

A few more notes on this idea: first, Harrington's own play as described isn't as conservative and cautious as many think. Second, a fairly conservative approach is demonstrably the more sound one for the student, and anyone without many years of experience. Hyper-aggressive play would be much harder to teach well, and also much harder to pull off successfully. The players who thrive playing these aggressive, gambling styles have exceptional talent as well as lots of experience and a great feel for the game and their opponents, and are faced with difficult decisions under lots of pressure much more often. For those who insist on trying, it probably still makes more sense to learn a fundamentally sounder style first and then proceed from there.

The book is laid out well for learning. Each chapter starts with a discussion of the topic, touching on the theory. There are several example situations with the authors' answers and detailed reasoning, as well as the merits of alternative plays. Following each chapter there are problems, mostly from real hands. It provides a diagram of the table, the chip counts for each player, your knowledge of the opponents, etc... all the relevant information. The problems usually provide all this information even when some of it is irrelevant to the problem, which is a strength. A big part of the decision-making process in poker (as well as lots of other things) is recognizing and eliminating extraneous details to make analysis more managable.

This is the first in a two volume set. I thought this was odd, as this is first for 2+2 poker books, but the first volume is bigger than most of their others already. The book is self-contained; there are no partial answers or information that tell you to buy the second volume for the details. I don't think there has been an official announcement on when Volume 2 will be released, but I've heard sometime this spring.

The book is geared specifically toward tournaments, and especially toward those with well-defined formats, such as major casino/cardroom events and those on the Internet. For cash game players, a solid understanding of tournament and poker theory would be necessary to make the appropriate adjustments to cash play. Most of the book would still apply, but some situations would change drastically in a side game, where simply getting your money in with an advantage, rather than survival, is the main goal.

For those newer to poker, to get the most out of this book, I would recommend a few others be read either first or at the same time: "The Theory of Poker" by David Sklansky, "Small Stakes Hold'em" by Miller, Sklansky and Malmuth, and "Winning Low Limit Hold'em" by Lee Jones, especially for the newest players.


Many of the same comments apply to Volume II, which is more of a continuation of the first than a separate book (even the chapter numbering picks up where the first left off). It focuses on the endgame; the late stages where everyone left is in the money and the blinds are relatively very large. They use the ideas of zones and inflection points to give effective generalized advice about different situations, evaluating your chip position relative to both the size of the blinds and the other remaining players.

The last few sections cover short-handed and heads-up play, where strategy often changes radically. In most tournaments the table only gets heads-up at the very end and doesn't last very long, but the difference between first, second and third place is huge, even millions in the biggest events. Given that one position makes such a big difference, strategies changes dramatically, and most players have little experience heads-up, this material is extremely valuable.

A third volume is in the works, in workbook style with problems and examples, which should nicely complement and review the material in the first two.


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Headline: Caribbean Stud Poker

By Jordan Walters Contributing Writer

Born in the Caribbean Islands years ago, Caribbean Stud Poker eventually found its way to cruise ships. It didn't take long for those cruise ships to bring this entertaining game to casinos in America. The casino pit has always been a testing ground for many new games. Most of them are a flash in the pan, but Caribbean Stud Poker held its own and solidified its place in the casino.

For anyone wondering why this game made the cut, you only have to look to the atmosphere it creates. Caribbean Stud Poker is a fun game to play, and it's very sociable. Online players have been "hooked" to this game thanks to generous progressive jackpot payouts.

The game itself is played with a single deck of 52 cards. Up to seven players can enjoy Caribbean Stud Poker at any time. When you sit down to partake in the fun, you will notice your "space" has three wagering areas --Bet, Ante, Jackpot.

When the hand begins, you will need to place a wager in the Ante circle. For our example, we'll imagine that you placed a $5 wager. At this time, you can choose to partake in the progressive jackpot by placing $1 in the progressive jackpot slot. This must be done before the hand is dealt.

Once your five cards are dealt, you need to decide if the hand is worth staying in or not. The dealer will show one card to you. If you decide to stay in the hand, you must place a wager in the Bet circle, and it must be twice the amount of your Ante wager -- $10 in our example. If your hand doesn't look good, you can choose to fold and lose your Ante wager.

Once you place your Bet wager down, the dealer's hand is revealed and the hands are evaluated. Here's the kicker of Caribbean Stud Poker: The dealer must qualify for you to get paid on your Bet wager. To qualify, the dealer must have a hand that's at least an Ace-King. Anything less and only your Ante wager is paid -- even money payment.

This qualifying requirement can be a real downer when you have a great hand -- like a four-of-a-kind -- and the dealer doesn't qualify. If that's the case, you lose out on all that money. There's good news if you play the progressive jackpot. You will win the progressive jackpot payout regardless of the dealer's hand.

If you are going to play Caribbean Stud Poker and plan on playing the progressive jackpot, you need to shop around. Some casinos pay more than others for hands such as a full house and four-of-a-kind. Take some time and look for the best progressive payouts before sitting down to play.

The progressive jackpot payouts start for hands of flushes and above. A typical payout on a flush hand is $50-$100. A straight flush will usually win 10 percent of the progressive jackpot amount, and the royal flush wins the whole thing. Some jackpots are extremely high.

Doyle Brunson's Super System: A Course in Power Poker (Paperback)
by Doyle Brunson "I thought playing Poker was tough..." 
Key Phrases: bet after the declare, scooping possibilities, real big pot, Pair of Aces, Full House, High-Low Split

Still the best how-to book on poker ever written, November 17, 2003
Reviewer:      Dennis Littrell (SoCal)
When this was first published in the seventies it caused a sensation. Immediately recognized as the most ambitious poker book ever written, it nonetheless was received with irritation by some professionals because it was believed that Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson and his collaborators gave away too much, thereby allowing the amateurs to catch up, thereby cutting into the professional player's take.

There is more than a little truth to this accusation. Poker is an ever-evolving superset of games with the individual games changing over time as the players learn how one game and then another should be played. Write a revealing book and the old games disappear more quickly and the "rocks" have to learn the new game in order to continue to make a living. Today's most important games are hold'em and seven card stud. Both are covered in this book, hold'em quite extensively.

What sets Brunson's Super/System apart from other poker books is first the prestige and celebrity of the writers, especially Doyle himself, but also Bobby Baldwin (also a World Champion); David "Chip" Reese, Doyle's expert on seven-card stud; Joey Hawthorne on Low-Ball; David Sklanski on Hi-Low; and Mike Caro (MJC) on draw poker. I used to play with Sklanski and MJC back in the sixties in Gardena when the only legal game in the California clubs was draw poker, both lowball and jacks or better. Sklanski has gone on to be one of the game's great theoreticians and the author of several excellent books on poker. Caro, known as "the Mad Genius of Poker," has formed his own "Poker University" and is partly responsible for this book's republication, and has become quite a poker entrepreneur.

Second, there is the comprehensive coverage of the games from five card draw to no limit hold'em. Not everything is explained and some of the tricks are held back. Reese in particular, in his chapter on seven-card stud is somewhat reticent. He presents a tight strategy that is sound but withholds more aggressive strategies that, in the proper hands, would make more money.

By the way, "no limit" really means table stakes since you are NOT, as is sometimes seen in the movies, allowed to go to the bank and get some money when you hold a killer hand! In fact, no limit is really no different than pot limit expect that instead of being restricted to the amount of the pot when betting, one can, if one so chooses, push in one's entire stack. THAT does make for some interesting psychological situations! One of Doyle Brunson's main points in this book is the huge difference between set limit poker as played in the clubs and indeed as played for the so-called world championship, and no limit poker as played by the rich and the top professionals. The latter game is much more of a psychological game in that you can lose pot after small pot and yet come out ahead by winning one great big monster, and also because it takes a lot of nerve to either call a huge bet or to make a huge bet. Furthermore as you're playing along you have to be aware that at any moment the pot can suddenly mushroom to gigantic proportions. Because of these psychological factors, some of the top players at limit have never been able to make a satisfactory jump to the no limit game. In Brunson's case, he actually was adept at no limit long before he became a top limit player.

Third, there are the brilliant caricatures of the players by Stan Hunt. Just to see those again in print is worth the price of the book.

Fourth are the poker odds and statistics by Mike Caro. Believe me they are completely accurate. I and a number of others players checked and rechecked them, hoping to catch MJC in an error. No such luck! I was a little disappointed that Mike chose to recall an odds story that showed him in the right, because I, among a very small number of people, actually did beat him out of a twenty dollar bet in the sixties on some odds we were discussing. Of course Mike would "give away" money just to support his carefully cultivated image as a "madman." One of his most notorious "plays" at draw was to pretend to have a pat hand, raise the opener, and then not bet after the draw and just show down his nothing hand, thereby giving away the pot. I mean eyebrows raised and heads shook incomprehensibly at this totally "irrational" play. Yet it worked because people then would call him when he really had something.

Caro was also an expert on poker tells. He wrote a book on the subject. He would, when playing, do parodies of the other players by betting and acting as they would in an exaggerated way. Sometimes he actually did unconscious parodies of himself.

Doyle Brunson on the other hand loved the psychological struggle and just being in action. In his prime he was arguably the world's best player at both limit and no limit hold'em. He had nerves of steel and an intensely competitive nature and a deep obsessive love of the game. He overpowered his opponents with a constant energy that was always, always pushing. He had a few tricks and his knowledge of the game was among the best, but perhaps his greatest gift was his ability to bet when he knew the other guy would toss in.

What you can learn from this book about poker is really almost priceless. Even though this book is definitely dated (and today's stars are a different breed) nonetheless there is wealth of information here for the casual as well as the professional player. This is, in my opinion, still the best how-to book on poker ever written.


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