Saturday, August 06, 2005

Killing some time, book reviews

It's about 2:15 pm, and after an uneventful evening spent reading, I woke up fairly refreshed at 11. I'm now at one of my favorite wifi watering holes drinking a miller lite, and killing time until I meet my family later.

Last night I read "The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King. Inside Pokers Richest Game". The book is not a novel, but is supposed to be an accurate retelling of the on again off again, 3 yr., ultra high stakes, heads up poker matches between billionaire Andy Beal and the top cash game players in the world. Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Howard Lederer, Jennifer Harmon, Ted Forrest, Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, Todd Brunson, Gus Hanson, and several others.

Aside from being an interesting "story", I enjoyed reading more about the top poker players. Ted Forrest in particular makes a very interesting read. The accounts of the big matches, which were heads up limit matches w/ blinds between 20k/40k all the way up to 100k/200k, were supposed to be accurate, either the source was very reliable or multiple people verified the accounts.

Andy, an entrepreneur and banker, was a thrifty one who flew coach not first class but apparently when he set his mind to something he went all the way. Apperently he lost 200M in some speculative outerspace rocket project, but losses like that really didn't effect a guy pulling down 200m+ a year. Andy was initially concerned about be cheated by the pro's so he insisted on playing them heads up. The pros on the other hand were concerned about going broke at those stakes so they teamed up and each put up a share of between 100k and 500k, and formed a pool of cash to take on Andy.

According to all accounts Andy was a relative beginner at first, and his game improved dramatically during the 3 years they played. The pro's all agree that even at the beginning Andy was a good player. Now I wasn't there during all this, but don't be decieved! The pros fleeced this guy for millions and millions of dollars. He stood no chance! He might get lucky, and win a few sessions, and hid did, but he was dead money! I would be willing to bet that some of his wins were strategic, so he would get hooked in for more. If he improved so much during the 3 years, how could he have been dangerous at the beginning?

Andy always wanted to play for higher stakes, and felt that that would put the pro's out of their comfort zone. The pro's always resisted, as they should. IMHO, here is the real deal. Variation in heads up play against an agressive player (and Andy was ultra agressive) can have huge, wild fluctuations. The pro's would much rather chip, chip, chip away at this donkey, than risk any huge fluctuation, that at any time could threaten some of their bank rolls.

Some of his big losses came to Jennifer Harmon and Todd Brunson, now this is a stretch, and is based on no facts, but is it possible that guys like Doyle, and Chip let him win a mil once and a while, only so the sweet Jennifer Harmon, and not as prestegious Todd Brunson could fleece him? I don't know, but these guys are no dummies. He might chalk up his losses to the sweet pretty girl and Doyle's kid as bad luck, while comforting himself in the fact the he whipped up on Doyle and Chip.

Picture this: Andy Beal, in a black hat, dark black sunglasses, button down shirt, with a random number vibrator in his shoe, and some silly stop watch he had modified by cutting off the minute and hour hands (leaving only the second hand to refer to, so he could randomize his play), and 5 racks of chips on the table that he used a some sort of a visual abbacus to figure pot odds. This is all true! What a dork! I'm sure there were many, many chuckles at his expense, even though the pro's were all very polite to Andy, the same Andy that they complemented on his expert play! These are the same pros that highly compliment the play of actor Ben Affleck (who apperently is decent), actor James Woods (who I personally watched on TV play Johnny Chan heads up and he is not very good, though he did get lucky at the beginning), and any other donkey with a large bankroll.

One of the tactics the pros used to get Andy back in the game was to send one of his top employees, who also liked poker, an autographed copy of Doyle's new book "Super System 2". Andy had lost a ton on his previous visit to Vegas, and had sworn off poker and asked the pro's to never contact him again! The book trick worked. Thus was born the new and improved Andy, with all the ridiculous accoutrements.

Finally the New York Times (I think it was) did a story on the matches that portrayed Andy as a sucker. He was insensed and defended himself through an open letter in Card Player magazine challenging the pros to a rematch, Doyle responded in another open letter and the match has yet to take place. My prediction, this time the pros are going to relentlessly slaughter this guy. Also, don't be suprised if the royalties from some hyped up tv deal make everyone involved a winner!

I would like to add that I don't want you the reader to think I am overly glorifying the pros, this isn't really coming out right, but I think you'll get the jist of what I'm trying to say. Many people compare poker to other sports and say things like what are your chances of beating Michael Jordan in 1 on 1, or taking down Tiger Woods in match play, but anyone with a chip and a chair can sit down and play poker with the best and have a shot of winning. This is true, kinda sorta. Let me explain, in a full ring game you may come out a winner one time in 10, in a tournament you make catch a rush and make the final table, but in heads up play, with equal deep stacks, against Phil Ivey you had better just push all in on any decent 2 card holding, otherwise you will be beat (this is called big ball poker and pros hate it, they prefer small ball poker). Note: Phil still has the advantage.

I started reading Mike Cappalletti's book on Omaha hi low. Suprisingly it seems to contain excellent strategy. I'm going to start the next phaze of my poker education and delve into omaha hi low. I believe this will also have the added benifit of improving my overall poker skills, plus many claim a decent omaha hi low player can earn more bets/hour than at hold'em. My main focus will remain NL Texas Hold'em tournaments, and my quest for a big, telivised final table. Time to hit the online tables!

DB

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