Archive for category Minnesota Poker

The Resurrection!

By now you may have heard that I, along with my business partners, have acquired the iNinja Poker Tour. I’ve written a bit about it, but I thought it would be fun to do a little write up here and get some input from friends and family.

When we started Next Level Poker, we had a set of competitive advantages we really believed would help us succeed.

  1. All three of us had the highest standards of integrity and were all familiar with playing tournament poker for at least part of our living. We believed that players would appreciate the things we could offer including great structures, lower rake numbers, and no extra fees for things like trophies and prize packages coming out of the prize pool.
  2. I developed a set of technological solutions that would make our competitors look like dinosaurs. When they were driving across the country with an RFID table or flying a film crew in to film the final table, I could do a solid broadcast out of a backpack using newer technology.
  3. We saw that many tours were doing the same old boring thing.  Basically “Here’s a no-limit holdem tournament with a normal rake and reasonable structure. If we put a guarantee on it, people will come and the casinos will pay us.” We thought that adding fun new things would interest players in trying something new.
  4. We believed that we had skill sets that would allow us to save money by doing most of the work ourselves. We had a writer, a photographer, a lawyer, a tournament director, two players who can do commentary on live streams, and a host of other skills that would allow us to handle everything without paying for outside help.
  5. We had a huge number of friends in the industry who all wanted to support the new tour. We thought these sponsors could help us a great deal with promotion and offer extra prizes and giveaways that would make our events even more fun.
  6. We believed that all these would add up to a tour that could offer a great experience to both the players and the host venue at a much lower price point than many of our competitors.

Some of these things were true. We did have the skill sets to do most things ourselves, though we had to learn a few new things. We were able to offer a lower price point. Players did have fun. After a few hiccups, the technology worked.

Sadly, some of these things were not true. We definitely learned some lessons.

  1. Most players only care about the size of the field and how much glory and cash there will be in winning first place. Value is not nearly as important to the average player as field size. Low rake numbers and good structures are things people say they want, but in reality very few players show up for a tournament based on those things. Our facebook poll showed us this, though our actual experience showed even more how true it was.
  2. Our sponsors are amazing and they are our friends. And they did help make our first event a great experience. But there was little they could do to bring in players. That’s just not what they do. They aren’t in the poker tour promotions business.
  3. Our friends in the poker world were supportive, but that wasn’t something we could count on to bring in players, because as I mentioned earlier, most players only care about field size when making their decision about whether to play a tournament.
  4. While we were able to offer a great experience at a lower price point, the casino doesn’t care how cheap you are if you don’t bring in the players. You have to produce numbers.
  5. While we had the skill sets to handle everything, that didn’t leave us much time for promotion. Without heavy promotion, we weren’t going to generate the buzz that starts the snowball effect that we needed for a large field.

So how do we solve those problems? We are an unknown tour, starting during a time when a new tour has not become successful in many years. The deck was literally stacked against us since without big fields we couldn’t draw players and if we couldn’t draw players we couldn’t generate big fields. We needed that buzz.

The solution fell into our lap.

I was on the pro team with iNinja until the very end of the company. I maintained contact with Issac Tucker after the tour stopped operating and we had a few discussions about us taking over iNinja, but nothing became of it. Until the spring of this year when Issac decided that he wanted the company to continue to operate. It was his baby, his first business, and something he was proud to have built. It bothered him that it was now sitting in the yard growing weeds. He called me again and offered me a deal that was too good to turn down.

And what did iNinja have? They had big fields and a ton of buzz. They had a reputation for creating big prize pools and running “can’t miss” events. They had exactly what we needed. And we had the things that iNinja lacked. Fiscal responsibility, business sense, the ability to run things on a tight budget. It was too good not to take Issac up on his offer.

So now we own iNinja. Issac is no longer part of the business, but he has been a big help in getting things up and running including sending us all of the old graphics, all of his contacts, and offering advice on how to get the deals done with poker rooms.

The future of iNinja looks bright. We have the right people, the right brand, and the right approach. We are going to resurrect the brand from the dead. That’s why we are calling the first year of the tour “The Resurrection”. It is back from the dead and it will be stronger than ever.

I always enjoyed playing iNinja events. They made poker fun. I was tired of the same old grumpy poker players with headphones in their ears folding every hand waiting for aces and telling the bad beat story when they got cracked. iNinja was relentlessly positive. It’s a big lesson we learned from them. While we will continue to offer a great value because we feel like it’s a responsibility to the community that has been so good to us all these years, we will refocus ourselves on fun, promotion, and making sure that people show up to our events and have a great time. iNinja always crushed guarantees. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that continues.

You can learn more about the resurrection of this amazing brand in my interview with the RecPoker Podcast, in our press release, and in an article written about us in CardPlayer Lifestyle Magazine. Links below. Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you at an iNinja event in the near future!

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WSoP by the Numbers

I always loved the Harper’s Index…

Money invested since May 28th: $51,000

Money won since that date: $237,000

Amount I needed to win in the main event to get even for the summer: $29,000

Finish position in the main event that would have gotten me even: 352nd 

Percentage of the field I needed to outlast: 95.13%

Percentage of the field I actually outlasted: 99.57%

Number of times I got all-in behind and had to suck out: 1

Number of times the suck out happened: 0

Hours of poker played in the main event: 59

Hourly rate for those hours: $3,642.59

Swaps in the main event: 1 (for 1%)

Action sold: A little more than half

Copies of my book that sold in the 60 days before the main event run: 9

Copies that sold since the start of the main event: 17 (order at

Minnesota players in the final 50: (Christian Pham and Brandon Myers)

Other things of note –

I am now over a million dollars in live tournament cashes though I have primarily been an online and cash game player. I cracked the million dollar mark in career profits in cash games about four years ago and was quite pleased with myself. This milestone also makes me happy.

My girlfriend Jordan was the best poker valet ever. Throughout the main event run she brought me everything I needed, made sure I got good meals and as much sleep as possible and was super supportive. I’m lucky to have her around and living just a few blocks from the Rio.

I’m rooting like hell for John Hesp. I played with him quite a bit and he is charming and funny and would make a great ambassador for the game if he ships this thing.

One of the guys I played with quite a bit on day 5, Paul Senat, killed a man with an AK47 in a club in April. It appears the death was accidental, but whatever the club is, I don’t want to be hanging around if there are loaded Kalishnakovs on a shelf in the back room. He was reasonably pleasant to play with and his girlfriend was on the rail bringing him Starbucks.

Patch deals are back! Just a few years ago, poker endorsement deals were basically dead. This year people were getting $2,000 to wear an 888 patch on day 6. We have 50 people left and they are paying $2k a day? That is amazing! Kudos to 888 for spreading some cash around and bringing patch deals back to the series.

I am about to launch a poker tour. If you have a venue near you that would benefit from an inexpensive tour that can bring in people, get in touch with me I will do everything I can to book it. This is not a Minnesota or Midwest tour, and in fact we don’t expect to be running a lot of events in the already saturated Minnesota market, but we are happy to go anywhere, including overseas. More news about this soon.

The tremendous show of support from friends and family really took the sting out of the loss and made the run a ton more fun. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. When you do well, and thousands of people are genuinely happy for you, it really makes you feel like you are living right. I’m a very lucky, and very happy, man.


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A Great Week for Tournament Poker

There are two great tournaments happening this week in our area. If you live in the South West twin cities, the iNinja Club ring event features a $260 buy-in with a $100,000 guarantee. With six starting days and a great structure, this event should be huge. If you live in the northeast metro or in Wisconsin, the PPC Poker Tour is in town at the Turtle Lake St. Croix Casino and I am the featured pro for this tour stop. That means I will be there every day from the kickoff event Wednesday night through the main event and playing cash games whenever I’m not in a tournament.

I will have to skip the Senior’s event for a few more years, but the green chip bounty at Turtle Lake should be a ton of fun and the main event features a $320+30 buy-in which is remarkably low rake for a tournament of this size. The cash games should be great all week with $2/5 no-limit and PLO expected to run all weekend. I’m really looking forward to this event and I think it is a tremendous value.



ininja Club

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2016 WSoP Package

My 2016 WSoP Investment package is finally up for sale to the public. It is about 60% sold at the moment, but the big investors have already bought their chunks and I expect most of the pieces sold from here on out to be smaller. You can read about it on the investment page HERE and check out the list of events at the package page on Tasty Stakes.

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Give a Little

Before the PPC event at Turtle Lake last week I publicly took the Reg-Charity Pledge and and promised to donate 2% of my tournament winnings to their charities. It was tiny gesture really, costing me a few hundred dollars at the most, but I wanted to get the ball rolling because I want to be able to support them and the great work they do. I was also hoping that I would have a cash in the events to be able to make a point about how a very small amount of money can go a long way if it is spent wisely.

Unfortunately, that worked out perfectly when the eventual winner busted me on day two not long after we reached the money and I was stuck with a min-cash. While I hoped for a higher finish, it gave me a perfect opportunity to make my point about Reg-Charity and how much good we can do if we practice effective giving. says it perfectly on their site –

“The idea behind effective giving is to rely on science and rational decision-making in order to find the interventions most effective at reducing suffering in the world.”

Since I only pledged 2%, and only cashed for $492, my donation was going to be tiny. The minimum donation on their site through Paypal was $50, so I rounded way up and it gave me an easy number to work with. The following idea came from the speech given by Andrew Barbour when he accepted his bracelet after winning the HORSE World Championship this year. Andrew told me about and is a big supporter of what they do.

If you were to donate enough money to ALS to buy one Quality-Adjusted Life Year, it would cost you $56,000. That means you basically gave someone a year of reasonably good life. This is admirable indeed. But with that same $56,000, you would be saving over 500 life years by donating bed nets to prevent Malaria in Africa or providing deworming treatments for 17,000 children. Children in Vietnam, India, Kenya, and other developing nations who are affected with these awful intestinal parasites are in pain, unable to study, and often have stunted growth and malnutrition problems because of the infestation.

This is the idea behind effective giving. You decide what is more important, but organizations like Give Well and Reg-Charity help you see how effective charitable organizations are.

So what will my $50 do? It’s hardly any money right?

It could provide approximately 8 hours of quality life for an ALS patient, six months of quality life if it is used for malaria prevention, or it can provide deworming treatments for 162 children. I went with deworming treatments and chose to have my $50 go to the Deworm the World Initiative.


And why publish my receipt? Why do I need to talk about my donation? Doesn’t that make me look arrogant or like I am seeking attention and approval?

Well, it’s only $50. I have given away a hell of a lot more than that, so if I was looking for a pat on the back I could do better than to brag about donating $50. I don’t think it makes me look too bad. But more important is the idea that I have an audience. People are reading this blog and some people care what I think and what I say.

So, if I can influence a few people, this blog post is a great use of my time and if I can help one more kid have a happier life, free from intestinal parasites, then I don’t give a damn if I have to post every receipt from every donation and make Phil Hellmuth look modest, I should be doing it.

Using the idea of getting the most bang for my buck, how can I get the most bang for my time? A blog post that takes me an hour to write and post will certainly raise more money for charity than I make in a typical work hour, so it is very efficient.

To help make it efficient, please help me out. Check out and and tell your friends about them. And join me in taking the pledge to donate 2% of your poker winnings to a Reg-Charity approved organization.

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My favorite things about Turtle Lake

I’ve been at Turtle Lake for less than 24 hours, but I already love the place! Here are my favorite things so far –

  1. I played real no-limit holdem last night. I was only able to play for a short time, but I’m looking forward to playing more in the next few days with $1/2 games running every night and some $2/5 games Thursday through Sunday with Friday and Saturday for sure.
  2. I just had a $7.99 lunch buffet. Yeah. $7.99. And it was good. The beef roast and mashed potatoes were fantastic. I have paid as much $90 for buffets in Vegas, with $25 to $30 being pretty much standard, so eight bucks is pretty amazing.
  3. Free hot dogs and cookies in the poker room!
  4. E-Cig use allowed at the tables!
  5. The poker room is upstairs by itself basically on a huge balcony with a view of the casino below. It’s a very nice venue to spend a day playing cards.
  6. The players are friendly and happy and having a good time. I remember this from previous trips to Wisconsin, being surprised at how happy most of the players are and how much fun they have. It could be the beer, or possibly the fact that their football team actually wins. Having only lived in Michigan and Minnesota, I’m not sure what it’s like to live in a place with a good NFL team, but apparently it makes people smile a lot more.
  7. The staff are as friendly as the players. And a few of them aren’t tough to look at…



We have crushed every guarantee on our qualifiers so far, and it looks like the field is going to be big for tonight’s $120 buy-in kick off event tonight.

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The PPC is Coming to Turtle Lake!

The Player’s Poker Championship is coming to town and I will be the featured pro! I’m really excited to work with the series and to be able to spend some more time at Turtle Lake. While I have played their $2/5 night and loved the no-limit cash action, I think the games will be even better while the PPC is in town. If you are a cash game player, come on down for cash games all week long.

Turtle Lake is only a little over an hour from the twin cities, and the PPC brings big turnouts to it’s events, so I expect big fields and big prize pools. Qualifiers for the event start Tuesday, August 25th and the full schedule is below. Please come out and support these guys, I want to see the PPC get a strong foothold in the Midwest and bring big prize pools with smaller buy-ins to our area.

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Tournament Season in Minnesota!

The fall is tournament season here in Minnesota, with at least one series, and often multiples, running every weekend. The next few months feature the best selection of tournaments in Minnesota history. Here is a schedule as well as a few of my thoughts on each series.

Midwest Poker Classic at Running Aces – July 28th to August 9th – I love this series! There is a player of the series contest, with the the top two points earners getting main event seats and a nice variety of events so I won’t get bored playing every day. The structures are fantastic with a reasonable amount of play even in the smaller morning events. I will be playing every tournament for the first few days in an attempt to build up some points for the contest. If I am in the running for player of the series I will stick around to the end and play the main event.

Poker Player’s Championship at Ho Chunk Baraboo – August 4th to August 8th – If I am not in the running for the two seats at Running Aces I will be heading down to the Wisconsin Dells to play my new favorite tour, the PPC. My pal Mark ‘PokerHO’ Kroon will be the featured pro and I am working with the tour on the Turtle Lake stop just a few weeks later. The chance to play a smaller buy-in event, have a good time with the boys from Wisconsin, and still have a shot at serious money and a trip to the Championship in Aruba, add up to a great trip.

All-in for Africa at Running Aces August 15th – The All-in for Africa events are an amazing fundraiser with a nice prize pool and tons of bounties. The donated bounties might actually be worth more than the prize pool itself with over $4,000 worth of bounties already on offer as of last week. If you bust me in this event you win a $350 Main Event entry, $85 Main Event satellite entry & $45 Main Event satellite entry in the Turtle Lake PPC event donated by the PPC, along with a pair of Blue Shark Optics glasses and a signed copy of my book. That’s $500 worth of bounties just on me!

Poker Player’s Championship Turtle Lake August 25th to 30th – This will be my first event as a featured pro for the PPC and I’m really looking forward to it. Turtle Lake is a great place to play poker and there should be excellent no-limit and pot-limit cash games throughout the five days of the series as well as the tournaments with nice guarantees and a shot to win a trip to Aruba. Come out and support this one so that we can bring the PPC back to the area again as soon as possible.

Poker Night in America: The Tour August 27th to 30th – Canterbury will be hosting this $1,650 buy-in event with three starting days. Re-entry is allowed in each flight and and playing multiple flights is allowed, so this should be a big prize pool and we can expect some of the best players in Minnesota, especially those with deep pockets, to generate a fantastic final table.

Mid-States Poker Tour at Running Aces September 12th to 20th – Neither Running Aces nor the MSPT has a page up for this event yet, but the dates above are confirmed on the MSPT site. It’s a tournament. Play it if you want.

 Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park October 3rd to 18th – As much as I love the other series that are running during tournament season, the FPC has been the premier tournament series in Minnesota since it’s inception more than ten years ago. The fields will be large, the structures will be good, and the prize pools will be huge.

There are a number of other events coming up, including the Canterbury $100k, the Aces Hallow Scream, and the Aces Big Turkey tourney. All these events make me happy that I play live poker for a living now instead of grinding online. I miss online poker, especially Poker Stars, but I don’t miss it as much as I used to now that we have so many events in Minnesota.


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Things I Should Cover…

You know how it is when I haven’t blogged in awhile. I catch up by covering everything with a simple list. So…

1. This WSoP completely sucked. Losing $60,000 of mostly other people’s money is no fun. Writing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of checks last year was a lot more fun. This was the worst summer I have ever had at the WSoP. Yuck.

2. I’m happy to be back home and grinding cash games at Running Aces. No stress, no hassle, just people I know, dealers I like, great floor people, and small games that I can beat regularly without any stress to my bankroll. It’s nice to not have any stress or have to worry about investors.

3. The Poker Player’s Championship is coming to town! I’ll cover this in more detail soon, but the PPC is a great tour and they crush guarantees wherever they go. The tour will be at Ho Chunk Bingo Casino in Baraboo, Wisconsin August 4th to the 9th and then at the St Croix Casino in Turtle Lake August 25th to the 30th. The Turtle Lake event will be my first tour stop as the featured pro, and I would love to see you all there. I know the no-limit holdem and PLO cash games will be rolling every night during the tour stop too.

4. Bluff Magazine has stopped publishing online, so I could use a writing gig. Anyone know somebody who wants to overpay a mediocre poker writer?

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Tough Stuff

Running bad is the hardest thing to write about. Not only do I want to forget about it and play more to book a win and feel better, but it’s hard to write about losses without sounding like I’m telling bad beat stories or sounding arrogant when I’m talking about how I expect to do better than I have been. Even so, I should definitely keep up with my blog, even when I’m running bad, so I collected some interesting hands from the Monster Stack tournament today. I lose most of them, but there aren’t many since I was only in the tournament for two hours.

My first big pot was at the 75/150 level. I had about 16k after stealing a few small pots, and my opponent had a similar stack. I raised from middle position with Ace-Queen offsuit, and got one call from the big blind. I was in the five seat, and he was directly across from me in the one seat, which turned out to be very important to the play of the hand. I had a perfect view of his face and eyes directly in front of me. I raised to 400 and he called, while both blinds folded.

The flop was TT5 with two hearts. My opponent stared at the board for just a second, looked up at me, waited for ten or fifteen seconds, and checked. This very slow check in a spot where the player will almost always be checking, is bullshit the vast majority of the time. What does he need to think about here? Does he have a ten and he’s trying to decide if he should bet it? Nope, he just doesn’t want me to bet or wants me to keep it small if I bet so he can call.

I didn’t think my opponent was a pro because of appearance reads and behavior, but I didn’t know much else about him. He was also not a rank amateur because he knew the game, made reasonable sized bets, and didn’t exhibit the behaviors of a new player. This knowledge of him, along with the stall before he checked to me, told me that he probably had a flush draw, a small pair, or two big over cards, and didn’t want me to bet him off his hand. I can’t be sure with so little information, but I thought it was likely that he held one of these hands.

I bet 500 in the pot of 875, and he called fairly quickly, further convincing me that he didn’t have a tough decision to make earlier in the hand and that the slow check was just an attempt to slow me down.

The turn was an non-heart 4, and he checked to me instantly. I checked behind because I wasn’t terribly sure of my read and because I wanted to keep the pot small. Encouraging him to bluff the river with missed over cards and flush draws was also a good reason. Most players will never bet a small pair for value on a board like this, so I could call a bet on most river cards, knowing that I was beating his range easily if he bet.

The river was another off suit 4, and this changed things quite a bit. He would now check any ace and probably call a bet, bet his busted flush draws for fear that I had an ace, and bluff with 33 and 22 while check-calling with 55, 66, 77, 88, or 99. Unless he made some miracle like trip fours from his busted flush draw, or my read was bad and he did have a ten, I was set up perfectly to call any bet and check behind any check. If he checks I usually lose, but I am just throwing money away bluffing in this spot when almost all of his checking range will call a bet and beat me.

This is one of the spots where I don’t have much of a hand, only ace-high, but I am ecstatic to see my opponent bet the river. I watched his eyes count the pot, and he bet 1625 into a pot that was 1875. I stopped, thought back through the hand to be sure that this was a good spot to call light, decided that it was, and called. I genuinely expected to see 22 or 33 most of the time, and grinned a little (only on the inside) when he showed me a pair of deuces that had been counterfeited by the double board pair. I won the pot and was up over 18,000.

It was not only some live reads, but also a lack of tells that helped me make this call. I thought my opponent was a player who would likely have shown some excitement if he had flopped, or rivered, a monster. I had seen nothing to indicate real excitement, thus my read for a weaker hand range was even stronger.

After watching the table for about 45 minutes, I was starting to feel more confident. My opponents were mostly passive, their bet sizing wasn’t scary, and I was comfortable playing a few extra hands. My opponent from the previous hand raised to 400 in early position, and I called with the seven-nine of diamonds in late position. The big blind also called.

The flop was 974 with two clubs, about as good a flop as I can ask for. The original raiser lead out for 700. I knew that there were draws on the board, and while I wasn’t that scared of one of them having the draw, I was worried about one of them assuming I had the draw if I just called. If I call and the third club or a ten, six, or eight falls, it kills my action, and if a four falls I would be losing to the over pair that is a big part of the original raiser’s range.

I raised to 2,000, and was surprised when the big blind reraised to 5,200. The original raiser, now faced with two raises, looked unhappy but eventually folded, so he almost certainly had an over pair to the board. I thought about the big blind’s range. He could have any two pair since he was in the big blind, and also a lot of draws. I didn’t know much about him other than the fact that he wasn’t a known pro or dressed like an internet wizard, and given the tournament we were playing, I went with the assumption that he is often going to be an ABC player who does not have a ton of experience or education.

My only fear was that he had top pair and a flush draw, because the nine was the non-club card on the board. A set of fours is going to be rare here since he was in the big blind and his range is so wide. It also seemed odd that he would three-bet the flop cold with a draw. He either has top pair with a flush draw or a big draw here every time. If he has one of those hands, he is going to call off all of his chips now, and I don’t want a club to fall when he has a straight draw and ruin my action, so I went all-in and he called immediately as I figured he would.

He rolled over the Ace-nine of clubs, hit a club on the turn, and my stack was down to 4,800 at the 150/300 level. Depressing, but my motto this year is –

“Never, ever, ever, ever give up.”

and I haven’t given up yet. I don’t think I have any quit left in me when I’m playing tournaments these days. I will fight to the end, regardless of my stack.

An orbit later, a new player in the cutoff seat raised to 700. He didn’t look like a strong online player, no hoodie, no headphones, and he was well into his thirties. Strong online players are the only group that I am careful about restealing against. They know when a resteal stack is behind them and won’t raise hands that they won’t call a resteal with.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “resteal”, it basically means to shove all-in over a late position raise with between 11 and 22 big blinds. This is a very basic definition, but it fits for this example. The math is simple, and I have even done seminars on it and worked with many students on correct resteal strategy because it is such a powerful weapon.

I had Queen-Ten off suit in the small blind and went all-in, knowing that the math was there and that my play was very profitable in the long run. He folded and I was up to almost 6,000 chips.

Two hands later I was dealt the same Queen-Ten off suit, and raised when it was folded around to me. The button and the big blind called me, and the flop was A87 rainbow. I considered giving up there since I would often be called down by any ace and a big portion of my opponent’s hands included an ace. With nothing to back me up, I would have checked and folded, but it was close and I had a gin card left in the deck. I thought I had enough fold equity, combined with my gin card, to make a continuation bet profitable.

I bet, and the button called me, though he didn’t look excited about it. I figured he either had a mediocre ace or a pair like 99 or 66 and was calling a bet to see if I would shut down on the turn. The big blind folded.

The turn was my gin card. Think for a second about what my gin card was. What card do I want to see on the turn?

The jack was the card I was hoping for. It gave me a double-gutshot straight draw, and another over card to his pair if he had 99 or a small pair. I could confidently go all-in now since my stack was almost exactly the same size as the pot. He might fold a small ace here, amateur player do it all the time, and he would certainly fold most of his other hands. He thought for a while, and definitely considered folding, but in the end he called and flipped over Ace-Ten suited.

I missed my straight draw, wished everyone luck, and hit the rail.

There you have it, and unedited, rambling, account of my two hour trip through the Monster Stack tournament. Much of my summer has gone like this so far, but I’m still feeling good, playing well, and determined to never give up. I want it too bad to go home knowing that I gave away a chance at another bracelet.

The live reads in this article were all courtesy of my new Blue Shark Optics pro model. Check it out HERE and use my bonus code FOX2014 to save 10% on your online order.

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Who Wants to go to Aruba?

Really, who doesn’t want to go to Aruba? It’s one of the most beautiful islands in the world! The Poker Player’s Championship looks like a great event, but would I play it in January in Calgary? Probably not. Will I play it in November in Aruba? You’re damn right I will. I’ll be trying to win a seat in the qualifier at the Golden Nugget this week, but if I don’t win my way in I am definitely still going. Any poker pro who doesn’t use the tournament as an excuse to go to Aruba is just missing serious life experiences.

The satellites happening here in Vegas are also an awesome structure with 30 minute blinds, then 45 minute blinds, and 60 minute blinds at the final table. Buy-in is only $175, entry and re-entry is open until 9:30, and most of the players will be recreational players who don’t know anything about satellite strategy. While all that stuff is nice for value, the important thing is that if you win a seat, you get to go to Aruba!

Check out the structure and schedule HERE

The Aruba event includes a bunch of smaller prelims as well as a high roller and a big main event, all with great structures and the tournament crew is top notch. Play poker, drink rum drinks, and chill on the beach? Yes please. I’ll have another please. Thank you.

I’ll see you all at the Nugget this Thursday and Friday and hopefully in November in Aruba.


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Living the Dream


Yep, that’s me. A very long time ago.

When I was a kid, I was a skateboarder. I loved skating. If there wasn’t snow on the ground, I was on my skateboard. My dream was to have my own model, with my name on the deck. Every skater I knew had the same dream. I wrecked my ankle, found other pursuits, and never got that model with my signature on the bottom of the deck, but now I have the next best thing. A Blue Shark Optics model, with… wait for it… my signature on it!

I have been a fan of Blue sharks for many years, wearing them in tournaments and extolling their virtues. Last year I joined the pro team. After talking with the owner about what I thought the perfect model would be, he offered me a model and we went to work on getting it right. My model has soft arms, because I’m not sued to wearing glasses and I get sore spots behind my ears from some glasses. It also has adjustable nose pieces and a wrap around frame to keep out ambient light that causes reflections on the inside of the lens.

They look great, they feel great, and they are so good that even my signature won’t hurt sales!

I also want to offer a big congratulations to my pal Chad Holloway who got to live one of his dreams recently with the launch of his own comic book. The World Series of Zombies features many characters you will recognize from the poker world and will be for sale at The Rio while supplies last. I even bought a shirt with poker zombies on it from Run Good Gear!



Preparing for the WSoP

It’s almost time for the World Series of Poker and I’m getting fired up. Actually, I’m just getting ready. I’m too busy preparing to get too excited. You should be preparing too, making sure that you are firing on all cylinders before you go to Vegas to play for millions against the best players in the world.Here are some things to consider if you are getting ready to head to Vegas this summer.

It’s cold in The Rio and that can be distracting – Take a hoodie with you every day because some tables are much colder than others. There are some nice light hoodies over at the iNinja store and if you use my twitter handle @foxpokerfox, you get 20% off. You can also find some nice stuff at DoubleUp, RunGood, American Giant, or Blind Squirrel. All have great options for lightweight hooded sweatshirts.

You are also going to need to plan your trip – Here’s a link to the comprehensive tournament schedule of every venue in town.

Once you know when you are going, you need to book a flight – Google Flights is a pretty solid option. Spirit is usually the cheapest, but they also lead the industry in customer complaints. If you get the Sun Country or Delta credit cards, you can earn a bunch of free miles and also get your first checked bag free. Once you add in Spirit’s high bag fees, the prices are comparable, and the flights are much better on Delta or Sun Country. With the Sun Country and Delta credit cards I’ll be flying round trip to Vegas a total of five times this year for free.

Now that your flight is booked, you need a place to sleep – Trip Advisor is great for booking hotels and AirBNB can save you a ton of cash when you stay at someone’s home instead of a hotel. We used AirBNB for much of our huge vacation earlier this year and we loved every place we stayed.

If you are staying somewhere other than where you are playing, then you probably want a car. Vegas is a pretty easy city to drive in, just don’t drive down the strip during busy times, the parallel roads will be much faster. You can find the cheapest car rental prices HERE. Use the “smart book” option in the box on the right side of the page. Once you book your car, go back and check the smart book again every few days and if the price drops you can cancel your old reservation and rebook it at the lower price. This has saved me $350 so far since I booked my rental two months ago.

If Daniel Negreanu and Annie Duke want something banned from poker tournaments because it gives a competitive advantage, there is no doubt that it works. That is the best advertisement for Blue Sharks that I can imagine. If you are going to grind against the best players in the world and come out on top this summer, you need to order some Blue Shark Optics. The glasses are great because they block your opponent’s view of your eyes without blocking any incoming light. You can see them clearly, but they can’t see you, which is a huge advantage. If you use the discount code FOX2014, you will save 10% on your order.

Staying sharp over the course of a long tournament day is tough, and you need to be at your best all day long if you are going to beat the pros. When the blinds get high and the night gets late, playing your best is tough, but truBrain helps you play your best game all the time. I use it, and I have used similar products for twenty years. TruBrain is the best formulation I have ever tried.

You might also want to brush up on your game a little bit. Blue Sharks and truBrain can’t help you much if you just suck. Get better by signing up for a membership to Phil Ivey’s training site Ivey League for $10 a month with no sign up fee. I don’t know why they are so cheap when lesser competitiors charge three times as much, but it’s the best deal in poker training and you should take advantage of it while you can.

A few books to read on the plane will help your game too. I like this book and this book for tournament poker and of course MY BOOK for no-limit cash games.

If you plan on playing the events with huge fields, like the Millionaire Maker or Colossus, you should pre-register for them. The lines will be very long and some events will probably sell out, so skip all that and register ahead of time online HERE.

If you are going to be playing at the Rio for any significant amount of time, it is worth getting a box. Just go into the payouts room and ask about it and someone will help you. It allows you to skip lines and keep your cash somewhere a lot safer than a hotel room safe or your pocket. It costs $100 to rent a box for the entire series, and it’s one of the few bargains that The Rio offers.

Remember – Luck Favors the Prepared


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The Mayhem in May tournament, presented by my pals at iNinja Poker, starts tomorrow! I love tournaments like this. The reasonable buy-in of $280 brings in a wide range of player types and generates big fields, while the great structure and multiple starting days means that I will usually get to play a lot of poker. Even if my face wasn’t on the flyer, I would still promote this thing. The $1,200 stack buy-backs, $2,000 accumulation bonus, and six starting flights make this a very interesting event and I love new twists in poker tournaments.

I was going to write up all the details, but the flyer covers it all and gives me an excuse to post my picture on my own blog (again). High points include awesome structure with every possible level, stack buybacks, and a $100,000 guarantee for a $280 buy-in.

Mayhem in May 15 Flyer v6-page-001

Mayhem in May 15 Flyer v6-page-002

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How I Stay Sharp

I am proud to announce that I have signed on with truBrain to promote their product to the poker world. You’ll hear more about truBrain on this blog over the coming months, but I wanted this blog post to talk about how I found the product and why I signed on to work with the company that created it.truBrain_logo

About a year ago I wrote an article about nootropics, supplements that increase brain function, that was published online. I was immediately contacted by a number of companies that sell nootropic “stacks”, combinations of ingredients that claim to work together to help your brain function at peak levels. They all wanted me to endorse their product, but most were simply vitamins and Ginkgo Biloba, and probably weren’t very effective. When I saw the list of ingredients in Tru Brain, I knew it was different.

I have studied nootropics for over twenty years, starting in the 90’s when I played blackjack for part of my living. Counting cards really makes your brain work hard and I found that after three or four hours I just wasn’t sharp. One mistake could erase hours of profits, so I couldn’t afford to be less than perfect, but I needed to work more than three or four hours a night. My solution was to take choline, carnitine, magnesium, and multivitamins. With this combination I saw a difference in the amount of time I could play without losing focus. Soon I was playing five or six hours without making a mistake, making more money, and as a side effect I even found that I was sleeping better. I was hooked!

Over the years I kept up with research on what are now called nootropics. These supplements and nutrients can help increase brain function, and often a combination of them works remarkably better than a larger dose of a single ingredient. For the last ten years I have been using various nootropic formulations before a big day at the poker tables, and at one point I even considered creating my own product. The product I considered creating was very much like truBrain.

While I know that many high level poker pros take Adderall at the tables, I’m not interested in taking a drug if I don’t have to. The side effects can be significant and possessing Adderall without a prescription is against the law, so if I can get a similar effect from taking safe nutrients and supplements, I’ll skip the drug.

I knew that I liked the ingredients listed on their website, but I wanted to test the product, so they sent me a three week trial for free. I did research on Oxiracetam and discovered that it was probably a better option for me than the Piracetam I had been taking, and more effective, though they are closely related. I looked at their research, the team that created the product and their credentials, and the reasons they chose each of the ingredients. The more I learned the more I was impressed, and after a few weeks of taking it I could tell that this was the real deal.

The difference was remarkable. My head was clear, my focus didn’t wander, and I made more money at the tables than ever before. It was like flying with the wind at my back all the time. At the end of a long tournament I was still sharp when my opponents were wearing down. Plays that I usually only make when I am really sharp were now standard. I told them I would love to endorse their product…. As long as they keep sending it to me!

In 2014, I won a world championship against one of the toughest fields in WSoP history. Who knows what I can do this year with Tru Brain on my side! Tru Brain really is the perfect Nootropic stack for poker. It keeps your mind clear helps you stay focused through a long grind. At midnight, when the blinds are getting high and every pot is critical, it helps me stay focused better than my opponents who are often running on fumes.

You don’t have to take my word for it. truBrain is is offering a free sample pack for my readers in the hope that the poker world will discover their product. You pay the shipping and they’ll send you three of their brain drinks for free! You have 14 days to try the free drinks and cancel at any time, but I would be shocked if you don’t notice a huge increase in focus and mental clarity. I don’t endorse products that I don’t believe in. This stuff is the real deal.

Click here for the free sample drinks

Click here for a free sample of the pills (my favorite)

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So I Folded Quads…

It was an easy fold though, just an interesting tag line for a short blog post. I limped QQ under the gun in the second blind level of a WSoP Circuit event here in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and got two other limpers. A fail on the limp-reraise, but at a soft table I am not afraid of just seeing a flop and trying to make some money post-flop if the move fails. Pre-flop raises were getting five callers, and limps were often being raised, so it made sense at the time even though it didn’t work.

When the flop came AAQ, it looked like my plan had backfired into brilliance. I checked, an opponent on my immediate left bet, and I called. I often lead out into that kind of board, but given the situation and the opponent, I felt the check/call was correct. The turn was another queen, my bingo card! I could now get all-in happily, and he would probably be happy to get all-in with me and assume that we were chopping. He bet out small and I raised big, but was shocked when he only called.

What is he afraid of? He has to have an ace, and we have to be chopping the pot unless he is winning, so he should be happy to ship it in on me and take the freeroll chance, but he didn’t. I figured I would get a big bet in on the river anyway since he couldn’t possible fold his ace, right? I mean… right? I’m about to bust him!

The case ace rolled off the deck on the river. Ugh. There is no possibility that he can have anything but four aces, no possibility that he will fold, and my chance to win the hand is over. I checked and folded to his bet, showing my queens and laughing at the fact that I had to fold quads, something I have never done before. He showed me Ace-Eight and said that he was considering folding the river if I went all-in…


You were considering folding top full house in holdem because you thought I might have both remaining queens? I think he was telling the truth too. Astounding. I am not good enough to make that play. I was a little bummed out that my quads had to go in the muck, but it was offset by the fact that his timid approach to the hand had saved my stack when we should have gotten all the chips in on the turn. Then I would be left with a nice bad beat story, but no chips. I’ll take the chips.

Much of the Play here in Council Bluffs is very soft, with limping happening regularly at the 500/1000 levels and higher. Lots of passive play, and the few solid players are easy to identify. Anyone who knows the standard moves, plays aggressively and in position, and can size their bets properly, is in the top ten percent. Everyone else is playing at the skill level I expect to see in a $35 tournament in Minnesota. Amazing.

Of course, I haven’t made a day two yet, so I may be wrong about all these soft players. Maybe I’m the fish and should be limp/folding at 800/1600 with a 7k chips stack. Errr… No, that probably isn’t it.

My table did think I was an idiot early in the day today. With five limpers at 150/300, I raised to 1,800 on the button with Queen-Nine and had to call it off when a short stack shoved for 5,400. The short stack had Queen-Jack suited (huh?) and I four flushed to bust him. I watched the old guys at my table looking at each other like I had literally just lit a $100 bill on fire. They were baffled.

I forgot how much fun it can be to play with people who don’t know me. I can play up different table images, make different plays, and chat with people who try to teach me all about poker by telling me that King-Jack is overrated. Or this gem –

“This is a big event. You don’t go broke with a junk hand in an event like this, you just don’t.”

Yesterday I made a big bluff on the river to represent a flush and my opponent showed me a ten-high flush and folded. Yep. He folded it. He figured I had the better flush, so he checked and folded to my bet. I like it here. The large number of recreational players makes for a friendly environment too, with more chatting and less hoodies and headphones, though I am occasionally guilty of retreating into a shell myself. I even had free drinks for a few days before they took my expired Diamond card away. I thought it lasted a full year, but apparently my run as VIP ended at the end of March.

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The Last Hurrah

As I write this I am sitting on an 8th floor balcony in Peurta Vallarta watching the sunset over the mountains. It’s a perfect 75 degrees with just a hint of a breeze that carries in the salt smell of the pacific ocean a few hundred yards away. My pina colada is perfect. When I’m done writing this I’ll take it with me into the hot tub that is conveniently located out here on the balcony. I’ll be the first to admit that my life has not been hard these last few months. I never forget how incredibly lucky I am to be able to have so many incredible experiences and live a remarkable life.

Since I was quite young it has always been my goal to have unique experiences, see the world, and collect stories. There have been sacrifices along the way, risks I took when I was younger, the lack of any significant savings since Black Friday, A lack of job security and certainly some injuries and illnesses that could have been avoided if I had simply stayed home and watched television. But the stories wouldn’t be the same. The life wouldn’t be so rich. And regardless of the tough times, the sacrifices, and some close calls along the way, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m the luckiest person I know, and no amount of hard work changes that fact. Sure, I put in the hours, I studied, I worked hard, but I also took advantages of opportunities that very few people have ever had. I was born a healthy American male, big enough and healthy enough to be safe in situations that would be reckless for many people. I had a good education and good parents who raised me well and tolerated my rebellious ways about as well as anyone possibly could. I met the right people, and I started playing poker and studying the game at a time when there is a lot of money to be made.

And most importantly, I caught the right cards at the right times to win a world championship this past summer in addition to a significant sum of money. My friend Chad Holloway was one of the first people I talked to after the win, and his words ring more true every day.

“It will change your life.”

I see it every day. It did change my life. I know that I play HORSE well, but the best player in the world, whoever that may be, wouldn’t win that tournament one time in a hundred. The experience not only provided me with money, a host of new opportunities, and a hell of a story, but it made me a better person. I’m even more driven, even more certain that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, and most importantly I am more thankful than ever before.

I haven’t turned down an invite to a charity poker tournament since the bracelet, and while I rarely turned them down before that, I couldn’t have spent so much money on charity events without the big win. This weekend I played two charity events, both at Canterbury Park. Kudos to Canterbury and their staff for raising over $15,000 for charity this weekend. Steve Fredlund did a great job with All-in for Africa and Keri Marsh and Kelly Day kicked ass for Protecting Paws. I was lucky to be able to help out with both events.

This last few months has been incredible. First a trip halfway around the world to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and California to celebrate the bracelet win and now this amazing all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a week. But it’s almost over. This week will just be relaxing and getting ready to get back to work, because the party is over. When I get home I start out with the Check Shove Poker Tour event at Running Aces, and as soon as that ends I’ll be headed to Council Bluffs to play the WSoP Circuit event until April 19th.

When I return home from Council Bluffs, hopefully with a circuit ring, I have a ton of work to do with lots of students wanting lessons before the WSoP, work with iNinja and Blue Shark Optics, some other interesting deals in the works, tons of training videos for Ivey League, and preparation for the World Series. I want another bracelet, so I’ll be playing as many events as possible and have already sold out a $60,000 investment package without even advertising it.

After this week, it’s back to work. I’m going to bust my ass until the end of the WSoP, and hopefully I’ll have some new stories to tell by the end and enough money to do it all over again! Thanks for reading.

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Last Podcast Before Vacation

My last podcast before I am off on vacation for six weeks includes a review of upcoming tournaments in the area and an interview with Adam Coolong from the Wild Colonial Bhoys who wrote our theme song.

Learn more about the Wild Colonial Bhoys!

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Another Good Cause

Local poker player Boz Hanson works with people with special needs, and posted on facebook that one of his clients loves ice fishing and really wanted an ice fishing house. I know nothing about the subject, but I think we should make this happen. If we can make someone happy for a few hundred dollars, then we should do it. It looks like $250 will definitely buy the house, and another $100 for equipment and whatever else they might need would be nice too. Let’s get this guy fishing!

Donations will go to my paypal account, and I’ll ship the money to Boz once he decides what to buy. I am starting the fund with $50 and will close it when we are ready to buy or when it hits $350, whichever comes first. Boz will send us pics of the equipment, and depending on permission, the client enjoying his new ice fishing house. Thank you all in advance for your donations.


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Podcast #5 – Interview with The Joker

It’s not brilliant yet, and I didn’t have much time to record this week, but the audio quality is getting better and I have a theme song! This episode is simply a 20 minute interview with the Poker Joker, Marc Powers. We talk poker, Joker Gear, weather, table etiquette, and the economy in Flint Michigan. An excellent interview that includes the origin story of the Joker brand, something I have always been curious about myself.

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Podcast #4 with Kou and Isaac from ininja!

This podcast was recorded live at Canterbury Park and has some crowd noise in the background, but it’s longer than previous podcasts and most importantly… it’s not just me!

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Who Wants a Piece of Me?

ininjapoker Fantasy Challenge  ininjapoker logo

As part of my job as an ininja pro for the month, I’m giving away part of my action in the $100k event this weekend at Canterbury Park. That’s right, you can win a piece of me for free! To qualify, you have to do three things –

1. Tweet the following “I want a piece of @foxpokerfox in the @ininjapoker $100k event @canterburypark January 1st – 4th!”

2. Tweet your picks for a fantasy team for the event as well as pick for the number of entries for the main event and use #ininja100k in the tweet. This includes any five poker players except me. You can not pick me.

3. Play a qualifier for the 100k ininja event or play the main event itself. Save your receipt!


Registration for the fantasy challenge will end when the cards are in the air on Day 1A of the main event on January 1st. You can find a list of possible names on my Minnesota Fantasy Poker page, but you do not have to choose players that are listed on this page. I can not guarantee that any of these players are going to play.


Each position into the money for each of your players will earn you one point. For example, if 27 places are paid, and one of your players finishes 27th, you earn one point. If one of your players won the event, that player would earn you 28 points. In case of a tie, the closest to the total number of players in the event will win.


1st Place – 15% of my winnings on my first buy-in. If I have to buy-in more than once, you will win 10% of my winnings.

2nd Place – 10% of my winnings on my first buy-in. If I have to buy-in more than once, you will win 5% of my winnings.

3rd Place – 5% of my winnings on my first buy-in. If I have to buy-in more than once, you will win 3% of my winnings.

First place in this event will probably be more than $30,000, so we are talking about real money in this contest, and since entrants have to play at least one qualifier, I don’t expect to see all that many entries. Don’t miss a chance to qualify for this challenge and freeroll for thousands of dollars. Entering this challenge with a strong team may be worth more than the qualifier seat you have to buy to enter a team, so get up to Canterbury Park and get into a qualifier!

Qualifier Schedule

Top 10% advance to the Main Event.

Tuesday, December 30, 6:30 PM

Wednesday, December 31, 10:30 AM

Qualifier Flyer

Main Event Schedule

Day-1A: Thursday, January 1st 4:00 PM

Day-1B: Friday, January 2nd 4:00 PM

Day-1C: Saturday, January 3rd 10:30 AM

Day-2: Sunday, January 4th 2:00 PM

Main Event Flyer



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Podcast #3 – MN Poker Awards and More

Fox talks about the Minnesota Poker Awards, the new WSoP Schedule, and answers questions from twitter.

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Podcast #2

My second shot at recording a podcast. I spent zero time preparing or editing this podcast, so it is certainly not what it could be in the future, but it was a good practice run. I cover the upcoming theme song, the twitterpocalypse of the last few days, Minnesota poker news, and some listener questions.


Happy Thanksgiving!

I am waiting for my main computer to process a video that will take awhile, so I have some time to pop open my chromebook and write one of those posts where I talk about all of the things I’m grateful for. Actually, a list of all of the things I’m feeling thankful for would take far too long, so I’ll go with poker related things that I’m thankful for. Mostly.

I’m thankful for bad beats, because they have made me mentally tough. Very few things even cause a ripple in the calm pool that is my mental state these days. After eleven years of playing poker for a living, I am much stronger mentally and able to handle minor ups and downs in life without breaking stride. It also helps me focus on the big things because the small things aren’t distracting me.

I’m thankful for recreational players. We should never forget that this is their game. You may feel like the king of the table, but they don’t care, they are having more fun than you are, the casino would rather have them in that seat than you, and without them you would have to get a job. We should never call them idiots or fish, at least not within their hearing range, and we shouldn’t disparage bad play at all. I know I have been guilty of this on occasion, but it’s rare for me these days. The fact that someone does not play well in terms of profit does not mean they are stupid, it means they are having more fun than you are or they haven’t learned how interesting the game can be when you get good at it. Some recreational players are very intelligent people who make a lot more money than you do and are probably happier too.

I’m thankful for my poker friends. I’ve met some amazing people in the poker world and learned some very cool things from them. While there are a few bad apples, I trust the average poker player far more than the average person and I find that I like them more often as well. I still have friends outside the poker world and I’m thankful for them too, they help remind me that there is a real world out there and that not everyone lives in a toybox full of money and plays games all day long.

I’m thankful for variance. While it may make me crazy some night to lose money in a game where I know I am the best player, it also allowed me to win a bracelet this summer. While I feel really good about my mixed game skills, and think I am one of the best, it is unlikely that I was the best player in the field of such a tough event. Without three days of running good to go with playing well, I wouldn’t have the bracelet, the greatest night of my life, some extra cash and some extra endorsement deals.

I’m also grateful for those endorsement deals. I’m blessed to be able to work with companies that I believe in, and to be able to turn down offers if I don’t think they are a good fit for me. Ivey League, Blue Shark Optics, Running Aces Card Room, and are all great companies that I am proud to be associated with. I’m truly blessed to be able to choose the companies I work with and have none of them turn me down.

This year has been amazing for me, and this last few weeks has also been incredible, so I’m feeling awfully lucky these days. Thanks for reading. I leave you with my favorite holiday song, White Win in the Sun by Tim Minchin.

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Hand Analysis Spreadsheet

In my most recent video for Ivey League, I use my hand analysis spreadsheet to analyze a hand and teach the viewer how to use it. I also promised the subscribers that I would make it available, so here it is (you may need to right click to download it) –

Poker Hand Analysis Spreadsheet

The preview of the video is HERE and you can view the entire video if you join Ivey League for $9 per month. That is the best deal in poker training, with tons of awesome content for one low price. I’ll be doing at lest two videos a month for Ivey League for the foreseeable future, and there are multiple videos every week from other coaches too.

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More Tournaments?!?!

Sometimes it seems like the tournament trail never ends. If I’m going to make a real living playing poker I have to get out of Minnesota fairly often, but I get tired of the road. I’ll be playing tournaments almost every day of October, the series that are available are just too good to turn down, but there is good news. The first half of the month will be at Canterbury playing the Fall Poker Classic, which should draw nice fields, be run well, and feature free donuts in the mornings. I’m looking forward to it.

The second half of the month will be the WSoP Circuit stop in Hammond, Indiana. This is the largest stop on the WSoP Circuit, which is the only reason I usually play it. The rake is insanely high at WSoPC events, meaning that if you aren’t playing enough of them to qualify for the million dollar freeroll at the end of the year, then you are paying for those who do qualify. Paying double rake sucks, and Hammond isn’t exactly my favorite place to visit. In fact you can scratch everything anywhere near Gary, Indiana off my list of places to vacation, but it’s close to home and the fields are huge and soft, so I will probably head down to Hammond again this year.

I have also just found a new home for my poker training videos. Since leaving PokerXFactor. I have had a few offers from training sites, but nothing was exciting until this new opportunity. I’m looking forward to making videos this month and announcing where they will be when they are published in a month or so.

My newest article went up on Poker Update today. You can find everything I do for them in one spot because they were kind enough to create “The Fox’s Den” for all of my articles and musings. Two of the articles involve Minnesota players that you probably know. The Fox’s Den

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Joining the Team at Poker Update

I’m proud to announce that I am officially part of the team at Poker Update. I have been looking for a place to get some more exposure for my writing on a regular basis that offers the freedom to write about anything I like, and with Poker Update I have found exactly that. After working with the team on a few smaller projects, they invited me to become a larger part of the site, and they offered me what every writer wants.

They are going to pay me to write whatever I want and they are going to promote it to thousands of people.

Think about that for a second. What a great gig! I did have to set up something like a schedule, so I will be writing two primary articles every week and doing some interviews with pros and poker industry personalities. This will involve a lot of writing every week, so I could use your help. If you know a poker celebrity or industry person who is willing to do an interview, send them my way and I can get them some exposure. If you have a subject you would like to see me write about, let me know and I will add it to my list. The best way to send me article ideas is to contact me on twitter @foxpokerfox. If you follow @pokerupdate they will also be tweeting out links to my articles whenever they go up.

With my monthly column in Bluff Magazine, occasional stuff in CardPlayer (I’m featured in Final Table Take Down this month by the way), writing for Poker Update, this blog, and other random writing gigs that pop up, I’ll be managing my tendinitis carefully! If you see me shuffling chips at a poker table, remind me to cut it out because it makes my wrists and forearms hurt that much more and it’s a hard habit to break.

My trip to the Borgata was fun, though not terribly profitable, but I knew the 3rd, 5th, and 7th place finishers, and I learned some things while I was there. I’ll be covering the trip, and the venue, in an upcoming article on Poker Update. Congratulations to Blake Bohn on another deep run, he is an incredible player and destined to be the leader on the Minnesota all-time money winner list within a few years.

This weekend is the MSPT at Running Aces, which should draw a huge field with first place near $100,000, and as soon as that is over it will be time to get ready for the biggest tournament series of the year in Minnesota, the Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park. It’s a good time to play poker in Minnesota!


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Selling Action for The Borgata Open

I told my friend Matt Stout that I would try to help his Charity Series of Poker, and I keep my word, so I’m headed out to Atlantic City to play  in the event on September 13th. Matt is doing a really cool thing and if you are on the East Coast, and playing the Borgata Open events, please fit this one into your schedule.

Since I am going to be out there for the CSoP event, I’m going to play some of the great Borgata Open events as well. I’m selling action in the Heads Up and the Main event at a 1.3 mark up and have about $2,000 left to sell. Bank transfers or cash in hand tomorrow or Monday if you are interested. I’m sure this will sell out instantly, so I’ll sell in order of the first text messages or emails that I get.

The charity event for All-In for Africa was awesome, with a huge field and a nice prize pool, and they raised around$7,000 for kids in Rwanda.

I’m also writing for Poker Update on a regular basis now with multiple articles per week on strategy, tells, poker news, etc. Should be a ton of fun. Check out my first article HERE.

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Fantasy Poker Challenge

Fantasy Poker Challenge

As I’m sure you know, the Midwest Poker Classic is coming up at Running Aces and I thought it would be fun to run a fantasy poker contest. Everybody gets one chance to pick five players and the entrant whose team has the highest total winnings will win 1% of my action in the Main Event AND the HORSE event if I am able to play it. Either way you will have some sweat well into the last day of the series.

Qualifiers are not included, and results will be used as they are provided by Running Aces on their website or facebook. Seniors and Ladies Edge events will count. Every event except qualifiers will count toward total winnings. You must report the total winnings of your own team to me on twitter if you think you may have a winner. Your team must be submitted before August 1st by listing the team on twitter, tagging @foxpokerfox, and #fantasympc

In order to win, you must also beat my team, and while we can share players you can not make exactly the same picks that I make.

My Team – Myself, Kou Vang, Dave Gonia, Erick Wright, Peixin Liu

If my team wins, I will donate the money to charity instead. You can choose any players you like, but there is a fairly complete list available here –

The schedule for the 2014 Midwest Poker Classic is HERE

Glad to be Home

No matter how well my summer goes, and this one was fantastic, I’m always happy to come home after the WSoP. Six weeks is a long time in Vegas, and a long time to spend in a hotel, especially when it’s The Rio and there very few healthy food options. The mild weather feels great, seeing my wife and my dogs is great, and I’m happy just to be able to be outside and not feel like I’m standing inside a hair dryer set on high heat.

Unfortunately I won’t get to really enjoy the beautiful summer in Minnesota until mid-August when it is mostly over.  I have students scheduled all week, and as soon as I have caught up with my students I have to fly out to The Borgata for a Pocket Fives event. With a $300 buy-in and a $150,000 guarantee, the event should be a nice big field. There will be a bounty on my head, so my road to winning it will be a tough one, but I’m definitely going to give it a shot.

I get back from The Borgata at the end of the month in time for the start of the Midwest Poker Classic at Running Aces, which I wouldn’t miss for anything. The MPC runs until August 10th and then I will have some more lessons to give, which leaves me at mid-August before things really slow down for me. I will be having some sort of party to celebrate the bracelet win at Running Aces, but we haven’t settled on a date for that yet.


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WSoP by the Numbers

If you are a frequent reader of this little blog, then you know how much I love a list. While I will still be here a few more days, I think it’s time for a wrap up of this year’s Vegas trip using some of my favorite statistics. Some of them are in contrast with Team Ivey because a lot of people found that contrast entertaining earlier in the summer.

Bracelets won by Minnesota Players: 2

Bracelets won by Team Ivey: 1

Highest Rank for WSoP Player of the Year for a Minnesotan: 28

Highest Rank for a member of Team Ivey: 75

Members of Team Ivey cheering on the rail at Phil’s bracelet win around dinner time: 0

Minnesotans cheering on the rail of my bracelet win at 2:30 am: 12

Okay, we are clearly better than the 28 pros on Team Ivey. I think I’ve made my point. And that point is that Team Ivey should probably hire me. Because then they could at least match Team Minnesota. Barely. Now back to my stats for the summer.

Money spent on tournament buy-ins: $53,750

Money Won: $513,789

Times I was introduced to Gavin Smith on this trip: 2

Times he remembered me: 0

Times I have been introduced to Gavin Smith in my life: 11 (I started keeping track after the third)

Times he has remembered me: .5 (one time he said “have we met before?”)

Total Minnesota earnings not including the Main Event: $2,142,196 (thanks to MNPokerMag for that stat)

Trips to The Spearmint Rhino: 1

Time of day we left The Rio to go to The Rhino: 6:30 am

Rank of the next day’s hangover in my all time list: 3

Most ferocious response to my bracelet win: Tie – Kou Vang bear hug vs Robby Wazwaz chest punches.

Second best victory of the summer: $1,200 – Credit card roulette at Nobu, crushing the dreams of Matt Kirby.

And for my last trick, I offer you a picture of Tony Hartmann wearing pink bunny ears with purple lights in them the morning after my bracelet win.bunnyears (1)




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A Drink with Doyle

I just had to put that in the headline, because it’s the highlight of the trip so far. Doyle Brunson was on my right for day two of the $10,000 buy-in Razz event today, and we chatted a little. When I ordered a Bailey’s and coffee, my signature drink, he said it sounded good and ordered one too. I took care of the tip for both drinks because it’s as close I’ll get to buying him a drink. We discussed the joys of Bailey’s and coffee, our shared love for Flathead Lake in Montana, and he told a few stories from the good old days.

My starting table was tough, with Eli Elezra, Doyle, Allen Kessler, Frankie Odell, and no fish at all. When that table broke, my new table was no better, with Daniel Negreanu and Chris Klodnicki among others. I played a big pot where we piled in chips when I was a huge favorite over Negreanu, but the 60k pot went to him when he caught a 6 on the river. He got my last 1,300 on the next hand and I was out.

The trip so far by the numbers –

Bracelet events entered: 3

Bracelet event cashes: 0

Smaller tournaments entered: 2

Final Tables: 1

SNGs played: 7

SNGs won or chopped: 4

Cash results: +$1,400

Opponents ranked top 10 on GPI: 4

Bailey’s and coffees consumed: 14

Different games played: 13

Favorite game: Super Razzdugi

Second favorite game: Everything else sucks. I just want to play Super Razzdugi all the time. Seriously. It’s great.

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A Change in WSoP Plans

I was only going to do a few weeks this year. I told my wife I wouldn’t be gone so long. I told myself that I would spend more time in Minnesota while the weather is good and less time in Vegas when it’s 115 degrees outside. I was looking forward to playing more frisbee with my dogs and hanging out on my back porch reading a book. I was even going to set up the hammock next week. Then poker happened.

First the WSoP brought back all the $10k alternate game events, and I don’t want to miss too many of those, so I figured out a way to hit most of them at the beginning of the series in a three week stretch where I could do $50k in buy-ins in alternate games. I booked a flight, got a great set up at The Rio from a friend, and I was ready to go. Three weeks was more than I originally intended, but it was still a lot less time than I have spent at the WSoP for the last five years or so.

Then Rooster texted me at 4:45 on Wednesday afternoon to tell me that there was a WSoP Main Event qualifier at 5 o’clock at Running Aces. I like to support local businesses, and Rooster is a good guy, so I headed out around 5:30 and got there at 6. The good news was that the structure was the Sunday Optimum structure, which gave us a ton of time to play. The bad news was that almost everyone in the event was from Rooster’s Poker Networking League and it was a very tough field.

The news got worse when Josh Sexton was seated to my left. Just what I needed, a very strong and aggressive player who can three bet me all day on my immediate left. From two tables all the way down to three handed, Josh was on my left. In the end the news was good. After over 11 hours of play I won the seat and I am now in the main event at the WSoP this year.

Everyone who played the tournament has 0.5% of me in the main event as well, so I’ll have 35 people rooting for me pretty hard. How much fun would it be to win the ten million and be able to go around giving $50,000 to each of 35 people? That would be the best party ever! I like the idea of a satellite that only pays one winner but everybody gets a piece of them. Now everyone has a sweat and when people busted the event they weren’t so sad because they know they still have a shot at real money if the winner makes a deep run in the main event.I hope Rooster runs more of these next year.

I was going to play a similar event at Canterbury Park on June 22nd, but now my plans have fallen apart completely. After I won the seat, my wife said “Well, you might as well stay the whole time.” and my pal with the hook up at The Rio told me I could have the room at the same rate the whole time. And before I realized it I was changing my flight and arranging to be in Vegas for six weeks again this year.

Things I will be tired of hearing by the end of my six weeks in Vegas

1. “If I win that hand…” 

Sure idiot, that one hand was the one. Four hours into an event, with 8k in chips, you get it all-in as a 60/40 favorite, and you think that if you win that hand you are on your way to fame and fortune.

2. “The idiot calls me with…”

You came to the WSoP dummy. There are idiots everywhere, calling with any random trash. You’re probably one of them and someone is probably telling a story about you right now. If you can’t beat bad players, you can’t beat anybody. Quit crying and get back in there and play poker.

3. “Hey handsome…”

Leave me alone honey, I’m working. I know you’re working too, but you’re the 9th girl to ask me if I need a date tonight and the answer is still no.

4. “I’m running so bad.”

You might actually be running bad. You might also suck at poker. You know who cares? No one. Shut up and get back in there and “run bad” some more. I hope you run bad against me, but right now I’m the one who is running bad because I am hearing you whine.

5. “Bro, I was so hammered last night.”

It’s Vegas “Bro”, everyone you know was probably hammered last night. If you didn’t steal a tiger, no one is impressed. Congratulations on drinking a stupid plastic guitar full of cheap rail liquor and kool aid.

By the way, I’m still selling action, and now I am selling action in my main event as well. Check it out on my investing page. I have about $5,000 left in the $50k alternate games package, and about $2,000 left in the main event.

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Joining Team Blue Shark

While the twitter world heard about it a few days ago, I haven’t written about it here on my blog yet. I am pleased to be joining the team at Blue Shark Optics. I have been a fan for years, stopping by the booth and picking up a new pair at the WSoP every year, and every year they get better. This year’s crop feels perfect and I am a huge fan of the new Horn Sharks that I received a few months ago.

To be a member of a team that includes Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, Jonathan Little, Hoyt Corkins, and my pal Chad Holloway, is a fantastic opportunity. If you see me in a card room, I will almost always have at least one pair of Blue Sharks with me for you to check out. If I am in Minnesota, IChris Fox Wallace in Blue Shark Optics will usually have two pair in my truck. I chose the two pairs of Blue Sharks to have as demo models because I think they represent the two extremes.

The Hoyt Corkins Signature Model is a very modern style, with a lightweight half-frame and a medium sized lens. I don’t usually wear glasses, so I look for shades that I won’t notice once I am wearing them, and the Hoyts do a great job of that. If you usually wear a baseball hat, and you want ultra light frames, these are probably your best option.

The Horn Shark is my current favorite. I would have been happy with the Hoyts, and was happy with them for almost a year, but as soon as I got the Horn Sharks the Hoyts were relegated to back up status. The Horn Sharks are almost as light, with a much bigger frame because they are all plastic. They wrap around and have large lenses that don’t let any light in from the outside that might cause glare and they are ultra comfortable. I can wear them all day without my eyes bothering me at all. The big, full coverage, design also keeps my eyes from drying out, which can happen during a long tournament day in the desert air in Vegas.

The Horn Sharks also come in bifocals by the way, you can order them at 1.5x or 2x reader power for when you are looking at your cards and they will still be normal when you are looking across the table. My vision is pretty good for now, but I’m not getting any younger and I can see how bifocals would come in handy.

I’ve created a new category on the blog called “Blue Shark – Tells” which I’ll be using to post some new stuff related to live tells. I’ve done a lot of work with live tells in the past in seminars and really enjoy talking about the subject. Human behavior and body language are fascinating to me. I am always reading about the those two subjects, and this deal with Blue Shark will be a great excuse for me to spend even more time learning about them and writing about what I learn. I’m hoping to make a new instructional post on reading your opponents once a month, and you should feel free to remind me if you don’t see a new one for awhile.

A heartfelt thank you to Kerry and the rest of the BSO Team. I look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.

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Day 2 – Chip Counts and Seating Assignments

Chip counts and seating assignments for day two of the $750 Pocket Fives Main Event

FirstLastChip CountTableSeat

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

We are more than halfway through the Pocket Fives Poker Tour series at Running Aces, and while it is only a beta test to work the kinks out and figure out where we should be headed with this thing, I have already learned a lot and things are looking good for the future. Today’s six-max $50 rebuy event was a big hit with 80 players and a first place prize of over $2,000 and I think tonight’s Turbo Double Stack event will have a nice field as well.

I busted the rebuy event and I have some time to kill before the next event, so I wanted to thank some people and organizations that have been a big help in making this thing happen. In no particular order –

Running Aces was very gracious to allow us to run our beta test in their room and using their staff. This would have been a hassle at any other poker room, but my connection to the room, an excellent tournament staff, and a lot of flexibility in letting us run whatever we wanted to try, have made it a great experience. Extra thanks to Tournament Director Tristan Wilberg who was a big help in the planning and execution of this event and is one of the most knowledgeable TDs in the country, as well as Ryan Campione who worked his ass off running the rebuy event for us today.

Blue Shark Optics sent us four pairs of shades to give away during our celebrity event, almost $600 worth of glasses just to help us out with our bounty packages. I approached Blue Shark because I have been wearing them for years and I truly believe that they are the only option for poker optics, and I’m honored to be working with them on the tour. If you see me at the tables this week, I will have my new Horn Sharks with my and you should really try them on. You can buy Blue Sharks HERE, and they come with my personal recommendation.

Blind Squirrel Apparel created our tour logo and sent me a big box of shirts with our tour logo, a blind squirrel embroidered on the sleeve, and the BSA logo on back. The tour shirts look great and they are soft and comfortable. Much like Blue Sharks, I chose Blind Squirrel because I actually like their stuff. They make great hoodies in lots of different styles and all kinds of gear that is perfect for the poker table. Check them out HERE and get yourself some threads.

The LIPS Ladies Poker Tour and the Senior Poker Tour both helped us to run some fun events on Sunday, including helping us sponsor a lady into the event (more on that later). Check them out at venues all over the country where we expect both tours to continue to grow quickly. We look forward to working with them in future tournament series.

Our local pros were a big help promoting the events. Kou Vang, Danielle Anderson, Molly Mossey, and John Hayes helped us get the word out, looked good with our gear on, and were fun to work with. Thanks pros!

The most important people are the players who showed up and continue to show up night after night. There are too many of you to thank, but we appreciate the suggestions on how we can improve future events, the praise for this event, and your participation and help with testing out this format.

I look forward to another nice field in tomorrow’s $100 rebuy event and the nightly Deep Stack Turbo which seems to be a very popular format with the players. Thanks again, all of you!

See the remaining schedule HERE

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The bounty event was a ton of fun! Here’s a pic of all the items that were part of the bounty packages –

Pocket Fives Bounty Package

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Big Day Saturday

The Pocket Fives Celebrity Bounty Tournament is tomorrow at 4 pm, and I’m really excited to be part of it. There will be a bounty package for each player who knocks out one of our local pros. Our local pros will be John ‘JohnnyGStacks’ Hayes, Running Aces pro Kou Vang, Danielle Anderson – the star of Bet Raise Fold, and me. Each bounty package will include –

  • A pair of Blue Shark Optics valued at approximately $130 depending on the model
  • A signed copy of Bet Raise Fold, the documentary about online poker and Black Friday
  • A signed copy of my book No Limits
  • A Pocket Fives T Shirt
  • A Running Aces T Shirt

Other gear that will be in some packages include Bet Raise Fold gear, a hoodie and baseball hat from the Straight Flush Poker Tour and other prizes. This tournament is going to be a ton of fun!

We will also be running SNG qualifiers before the event, so show up early and win a seat into the Celebrity event or even the main event next weekend.

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It’s Go Time!

The Pocket Fives Poker Tour series starts tomorrow, and I’m wired just thinking about it. As many of you know, I am part of the tour as it’s ambassador, which is why we chose to launch here in Minnesota. We are very grateful to Running Aces for being our beta test for the tour and helping us work the kinks out of the system. Once this event is over we can make good decisions about where to go with the tour, which venues make sense for us, and how we should proceed with the tour. But first, we have to blow this thing up!

It would be a personal favor to me if you can make it to some events. Even if you just come by to say hi, I would love to see everyone I know at Running Aces in the next two weeks. This is also the first national tour to come to Minnesota, and regardless of my affiliation with the tour I can not guarantee that I can convince Aces and Pocket Fives to do this again in my home state if we don’t draw well. If you don’t play these events, I will not listen to you complain that major tours don’t come to Minnesota because this is your chance to support a major tour that is launching here and insure that it keeps coming back as well as showing other major national tours that Minnesota is worth a visit.

We put together a great schedule, and Running Aces was very willing to work with us on giving players what they want. The rake is low, the structures are amazing, and along with the first heads up event in Minnesota history, we are offering rebuy events, 6max and PLO events, a LIPS tour event, a Senior Poker Tour event, and multiple tournaments every day for the next thirteen days.

I can answer questions about events on my twitter @foxpokerfox, the tour twitter account is @p5spt, and @runaces will know details on specific events. The full schedule is HERE.

I’m personally looking forward to the big deep stack event tomorrow, the PPA sponsored event on Tuesday, and the big celebrity bounty tournament on Saturday, though I will be at Running Aces every day during the series.

We now have five pairs of Blue Shark Optics to give away, swag from Pocket Fives, the tour, the Straight Flush Poker Tour, the Bet Raise Fold documentary, and a host of other fun giveaways. Play early and often for the best chance to win!

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Good Times

What an incredible two weeks of poker we have coming up. First the State Championship at Canterbury Park this weekend, which I will be playing tomorrow, and then the Pocket Fives Poker Tour Event starts on April 1st with the Heads Up event and a $350 Deep Stack event with 30,000 starting chips with 30 minute blind levels.

So rather than staying home and washing your ferret, why don’t you get out of the house and play some poker? The P5s event might be the biggest thing that has ever happened to Minnesota poker, and the more support we can give it, the more chance there is that the tour will come back here and that other national tours will take notice. Rain or snow, hell or high water, I’ll be there every day feeding the fish and buying drinks for the sharks.

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PPA Event Added!

In addition to all of the sponsors we are working with, and the LIPS Ladies Poker Tour and Senior Poker Tour, we are now working with the Poker Player’s Alliance to help raise awareness and raise some funds too! We are excited to be helping out our industry lobbying group as much as we can, and we hope to have an official PPA fundraiser at all of our future events.

Thursday April 3rd will be PPA Day, and we will be donating $3 per player in all three events that day as well as handing out PPA gear including shirts, hats, and patches. There may be a few things from our other sponsors that day too, including t shirt giveaways and free samples from Liquid Nitro. Please let all of your friends know about this event and get them all to come out to Running Aces sometime during the day of April 3rd to show their support, sign up for the PPA, and play a tournament to help support the cause!

If you aren’t already a member of the PPA, check them out at, follow them on twitter @ppapoker, and follow the Minnesota State director Mike Qualley @mqusicMQ. Join up and help support our right to play poker online, in card rooms, and in our own homes.

Speaking of our right to play poker, I will be debating Annette Meeks from the hypocritically named Freedom Foundation, on WCCO at 8 pm on Wednesday March 26th. Since her “Freedom” Foundation is somehow against our freedom to play online poker, I suspect it will be an easy victory. Most conservative groups that espouse freedom and the constitution, but really just want you to have the freedom to do the things they approve of, are uneducated and an easy target. The problem is that their supporters aren’t good with logic anyway, so giving her a sound butt kicking in this debate is really just for my own entertainment. These people rarely let facts get in the way of their belief system.


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The Realities of Tournament Poker

As a professional player, I am always looking for value in tournaments. I want the best structure, the lowest juice, and the highest guarantees. I want the house to bring in hundreds of fish for me slaughter, I want a comfortable chair, and a free food comp doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. I wouldn’t mind professionally trained dealers, knowledgeable floor people, and I want to play some alternate games and short handed events too. And what about a heads up event? Is that too much to ask?

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes, it is too much to ask.

There are a lot of reasons why you can’t have everything you want. The better the structure is, the more hours of labor the house has to pay. Dealers don’t make so much from the house, that can’t be to expensive can it? While the dealer hours do add up, they aren’t a huge expense. The floor people, tournament director, food and beverage runner, and surveillance personnel all have to be paid for those hours as well, which starts to add up to real money. And those food and beverage runners are bringing some free beverages, and when you are done with that beverage, someone has to be paid to wash the glass.

Chips, cards, tables, new felts every few months, and utility bills are all part of the program too. Someone has to be paid to design the tournament flyer, and someone else has to be paid to put that flyer on the website. The expenses go on and on. The truth is that you may feel like you are being charged too much, but the house may not be making money at all. Poker tournaments, even when they are profitable for the house, are the least profitable operation on the casino floor. The house counts on extra income from the cash games and the table games in the pit to make it worthwhile to run a poker tournament, and without that extra income most rooms would never run tournaments for us at all.

The biggest problem, and one that I have written about before, is that poker tournaments have to take place in the most expensive spaces in the world. Renting an apartment in Manhattan or Paris would be cheaper than renting casino floor space in most cases. As long as poker tournaments take place in casinos, the expenses will be high and poker will be treated like a second class citizen compared to table games, slot machines, and even cash game tables. One of the reasons we have great poker rooms in Minnesota is because the rooms don’t have slot machines and they treat poker as a serious part of their business instead of the afterthought that the game becomes in many full fledged casinos.

What do we do about this?

The only solution I see is to get poker tournament out of casinos, and that is not likely to happen any time soon. There is no reason to regulate poker tournaments in a different way when compared to say a chess tournament or a darts tournament, but most legislators and most members of the general public don’t understand this concept. They see poker as a gambling game and they create legislation that drastically over regulates it because of this perception.

In Minnesota, I think we could be very successful with a law that allowed the horse tracks to have slots and that allowed poker tournaments to be run anywhere that any other type of tournament can be run. This would allow Mystic Lake to run tournaments, and it would also allow me to rent a warehouse space in St Paul, get the proper licensing, and run my own tournaments. Anyone could get into the game. Cash games have been opened up this way in Michigan and there are now over 300 card rooms and the game is thriving.

Unfortunately this probably won’t happen. When Mystic Lake bought a piece of Canterbury Park, the agreement hinged on the fact that Canterbury would no longer lobby for slot machines with Running Aces. This leaves Running Aces lobbying by itself against Canterbury Park along with every native casino in the state, a fight it can’t possibly win.

All we can do is enjoy the two excellent card rooms that these laws have created, because they wont’ be changing any time soon. Luckily, Running Aces allowed us to use their excellent structure, a reasonable amount of juice, and a nice variety of tournaments, including a heads up event, in the upcoming Pocket Fives Poker Tour series. If the tour event goes well, we can continue to convince potential venues to give players more of what they want, but you can’t have everything you want. I wish you could, but you just can’t. It’s too much to ask.

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Pocket Fives Local Pros

Now that we have a schedule set for the Pocket Fives Poker Tour event in April at Running Aces, it’s time to talk about our local pros. We want to give local players ate very tour stop a chance to prove themselves as promoters, players, and ambassadors for the game, so we will be choosing a few players who don’t have significant sponsorship deals and making them Pocket Fives pros for the event. This gives them a chance to show us, and the world, what they can do on twitter, on facebook, on their blogs or other social media sites, and at local card rooms.

We will hold a celebrity bounty event on the first Saturday at every major series we host, and our Pocket Fives local pros will be bounties in this event. The bounty packages will include tour gear as well as Pocket Fives gear and items from our sponsors. This may include clothing from Blind Squirrel Apparel, glasses from Blue Shark Optics, gear and samples from Liquid Nitro, a signed copy of my book No Limits, and a host of other items from sponsors and the venue itself.

We have been very lucky to land a great group of pros for our upcoming event at Running Aces!

Danielle “dmoongirl” Anderson is a long time professional player and a high stakes cash game regular. She is on the Ultimate Poker pro team, is the star of the movie Bet Raise Fold, a documentary about the rise and fall of online poker, and maintains an excellent blog at Follow Danielle on twitter @dmoongirl. Our favorite poker movie star will be playing our celebrity bounty event on April 5th as well as the LIPS Ladies Poker Tour event on April 6th.

Kou Vang has won more money at Running Aces (over $120,000) in the last year than any other tournament player. In addition to a spectacular online poker career, Kou has won a WSoP circuit ring, and an MSPT bracelet, and over half a million dollars in live tournament winnings. He is also a member of the Running Aces pro team and we are proud to have him helping us to promote this event. We look forward to seeing Kou in our celebrity bounty event.

John “JohnnyGStacks” Hayes might be Minnesota’s winningest poker player. With $250,000 in live poker winnings, and $2,140,000 in online winnings, John has had an amazing career. Online players everywhere know the name GStacks and live players have watched him win an MSPT bracelet and barely miss a WSoP bracelet in the last year in addition to a number of big final tables. John will be playing our celebrity bounty event as well as most of the rest of the series. Welcome to the team Johnny!

Molly Mossey has been a regular feature in the Minnesota poker scene for years now, working on her tournament game and playing events whenever she can find the time. With final table appearances at both MSPT and HPT events, the only woman to do so, she has made a name for herself beyond her sunny disposition in the last few years, gaining the respect of her peers and winning the Minnesota Poker Award for Best Female Player. Molly will be playing in the LIPS ladies event representing the tour and will have a bounty on her head during the event.

A Short Interview with Kou Vang


Congratulations on the deal, nobody deserves it more than you. Are you excited about the series?

Yes i am! I can’t wait. The holiday event was great and I’m looking forward to the whole series. The series schedule looks phenomenal. I have been a long time pocketfives member and I have to say I am proud to be associated with Pocket Fives and Running Aces

You were one of the first people I talked to about the potential of launching a tour and your interest in it really made me feel good about the idea. As a tournament grinder, what do think a Pocket Fives Tour has to offer to be a success?

When I think of the name Pocket Fives, I think of them providing players with stats, rankings, forums, strategy, training, a place that provides every poker player the chance to be successful. I know the poker tour will be the same, giving players opportunities, a great structure, affordable buy-ins and value. Once again, giving everyone a chance to be successful. 

What events are you looking forward to? ($1k heads up, $300 Celebrity bounty, $750 main, all might be options.)

Wow, that’s like asking me which one of my kids i love most. Everyone loves heads up matches, they are always fun. The $1k HU should be a big draw, they are hard to come by. I love bounty tournaments, because of the added incentives of knocking someone out, and of course everyone dreams of  winning a main event. I love all of them! 

Congratulations again on a great year and we look forward to seeing you at some final tables during the Pocket Fives Poker Tour April 1st – 13th.

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Pocket Fives Poker Tour Event Schedule

I’m in a big hurry to get to the HORSE event today at Running Aces, so this is a quick and dirty version. I’ll cover it better and include a downloadable version in the next day or two, but here is the Pocket Fives Poker Tour Schedule for April. There could be very minor changes to the chip counts, levels, or starting times, but this is the basic schedule and there will very few changes if there are any.

DateTime#EventBuy-InChipsLevel Time
Tue April 1stNoon$350 Super Stack Day 1$30030k30
4pHeads Up – 1A – 8 players$1,10025k30
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20
Wed April 2ndNoon$350 Super Stack Day 230
4pHeads Up – 1B – 8 players$1,10025k30
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20
Thu April 3rdNoonN/L Hold’Em$25015k30
4pHeads Up – 1C – 8 players$1,10025k30
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20
Fri April 4thNoonN/L Hold’Em$25015k30
4pHeads Up – 1D – 8 players$1,10025k30
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20
Sat April 5thNoonHeads Up – Semi-Finals – 16 players25k30
3pN/L Hold’Em – Celebrity Bounty$30020k30
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20
Sun April 6th10 amSenior Poker Tour 50+$25015k30
3pLIPS Ladies Event$15015k25
2pHeads Up – Final 450k30
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20
Mon April 7thNoonN/L Hold’Em$15015k20
630pN/L Hold’Em$17520k15
Tue April 8thNoonN/L Hold’Em – Rebuy – 6max$505k20
630pN/L Hold’Em$17520k15
Wed April 9thNoonN/L Hold’Em – Rebuy$1005k30
630pN/L Hold’Em$17520k15
Thu April 10thNoonN/L Hold’Em$30020k30
Fri April 11thNoonQualifier$10010k15
5pMain Event 1A$75050k40
Sat April 12th2pmMain Event 1B$75050k40
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20
Sun April 13th2pmMain Event Day 260
630pN/L Hold’Em$17515k20

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Your Standard Update

If you’ve been reading for awhile, then you know how much I love numbered lists…

1. All the donations coming in for Alexander are great. We have raised over $300 and learned about what kinds of things we can do for him to get him up to speed with the other kids in his school. None of these people asked to have their name mentioned, but they all deserve it. Jason Senti, Mark Lazarchic, Wedding Day Sparklers, Foam Records, Poker Joker, Paul Skjerseth, Dan McCabe, John “GStacks”Hayes, and Caden Logan have all been very generous. If any of you ever need anything from me, just say the word.

Hit the button to join the list of donors and help a kid who really needs it.

 2. The Spring Poker Classic has started and I’m already up for the series. I cashed in the $2k lammers cash satellite last night. I bought in twice, so I made $1,560 for the evening, a nice start to the series. These cash satellites are great and I would play today as well but I am going to the Timberwolves game with my wife. Thanks to my pal Kou Vang for the Wolves tickets and good luck to him in the High Roller event tonight. Starting tomorrow I will be playing everything.

3. The Pocket Fives Poker Tour is ready to announce our first pro. (Insert drum roll in your head here) And the winner is …. (more drumroll) … Kou Vang! Kou made over $120,000 in tournament winnings at Running Aces last year, and he’s a great guy to have representing the Pocket Fives Tour in Minnesota. We’re glad to have him on board, and we’re looking forward to putting a bounty on his head during our Celebrity Bounty event on April 5th. We will be announcing two more pros for the celebrity bounty event in the next week.

4. Molly Mossey has signed on as our local pro for the LIPS Ladies Poker Tour event that is part of the Pocket Fives series. The Ladies event will happen on Sunday April 6th and Molly will be playing and covered in Pocket Fives gear! We’re honored to have her on board and look forward to working with her more in the future.

5. The schedule for the Pocket Fives event will be out in the next few days. We have it ready to go, we are just waiting for the graphics team at Running Aces to put a shine on it so that we can all release it at once. Look for it this week!

6. The Horseshoe in Council Bluffs tweeted out part of my book cover today as a little pic attached to an announcement of one of their tournaments. I’m not real mad at them, but I do wish they would at least tweet the whole cover or a link to a place to buy the book. That graphic was definitely created by Adam Stemple (@hatfield13) and I’m sure he would appreciate it if they were to at least tweet the whole cover so we can get some book sales. It was a great cover design though, I can see why they would swipe it! I’ve found my articles in hundreds of places around the web, sometimes with people claiming they wrote them, and it’s just too much work to try to get them all pulled down, though I should probably send a form letter to all of those people one of these days.


Upcoming Minnesota Tournaments

Tournament players in Minnesota used to just wait for the fall, but it’s tournament season in the spring this year! The next two months are filled with tournaments in Minnesota, which is great for me because I’ve spent way too much time on the road over the last few years and I’m happy to be able to stay at home and make money.

You can always fin d a list of upcoming major tournaments in Minnesota HERE, or by clicking on the Tournaments Tab on this site.

In two weeks the Spring Poker Classic start at Running Aces, and the schedule looks fantastic. All of the qualifiers pay out in lammers that can be used in any tournament, so it makes sense for me to play them, which means even more tournaments for me in this series. There are also two different points races, a $560 Deep Stack event with a $50k guarantee, a HORSE event, an Open Face Chinese event, a PLO Dealer’s Choice event (4 or 5 card) and a host of smaller events leading up to the $1,100 main event.

The Spring Classic is going to be great, and I’ve basically left the entire two weeks open so that I can get in as many events as possible. Part of being a pro is making sure that you can play when the best games are happening. Whether this means staying up late to play in a cash game that is too good to leave or working more on weekends than weekdays or working twelve hours a day for two weeks because a great tournament series is happening, you have to make hay when the sun shines.

A few weeks after the Spring Classic ends, the Pocket Fives Poker Tour event starts. I’m the nationwide ambassador for the tour, which is why we chose to launch here in Minnesota, and my goal is to make this the largest tournament series that has ever happened here. The marketing power of Pocket Fives combined with a number of great sponsors that we will be announcing this week, will make this a national event and we expect huge fields and big prize pools.

The schedule for the Pocket Fives event will be released this week, but I can tell you now that it includes an $1,100 buy-in Heads Up event, two events per day, and that it will run from April 1st to April 13th. We are also going to feature two rebuy events and a celebrity bounty event. Each player who knocks out a celebrity will receive a bounty package that will include some awesome gifts from our sponsors. I will be announcing the local pros who will be playing as celebrities in a series of interviews with them here on the site.

If you are a serious tournament player, you should really block off both of the upcoming series at Running Aces, put in some volume, and find out how good you really are!

Follow @runaces on twitter if you have questions about the Spring Classic and follow @p5spt for info about the Pocket Fives Poker Tour event.

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Vegas as a Tourist

I just got back from two strange weeks in Vegas. My Vegas trips are usually all work, sometimes long tournament days, other times playing cash games all night, but not this one. For part of this trip I was talking to venues about the newly launched Pocket Fives Poker Tour, and for a chunk of time in the middle I was a tourist. Yep, a tourist.

I have an old friend from Michigan who I try to take some sort of trip with every year. Sometimes it’s just meeting up in Chicago for a few days of drinking, sometimes it’s a road trip flipping a coin at every major intersection, and this time it was a week in Vegas. My pal, his name is Scott, had never been to Vegas, so I got to be the tour guide for the week.

The biggest thing I learned was that it sucks to be a tourist in Vegas unless you are hell bent on spending tons of cash. Just hanging out and people watching gets pretty expensive at nicer places, though there are always cheap drinks to be had if you find the right spots. We spent an entertaining evening at The Double Down, my favorite bar in Vegas, but you can’t do too many nights in a row at the Double Down before the hangovers start to add up. A trip out to Hoover Damn, walking around the strip, hanging out on Fremont street and watching the crazy people, all entertaining along with a trip to a Vegan doughnut place (Scott is a Vegan but don’t call him a hippy) and a few other destination activities rounded out the week.

The rest of my time was spent in poker rooms all over the city talking to poker managers and tournament directors about hosting an event for the Pocket Fives Poker Tour. I talked to nearly every major room in town and was surprised at how receptive they all were. I had to skip the rooms that Caesars owns because they are not allowed to book tours other than the WSoPC, and we chose to skip the Golden Nugget as well.

The impression that I got from the biggest rooms was that running a big series is a huge hassle for them. Months of waiting for everything to be approved by the legal department, the marketing department, scheduling a space, food and beverage, and hiring extra temporary dealers, all add up to a lot of work and a ton of scheduling. Even with all that, nearly every room I talked to was interested in having us sponsor at least one tournament as part of a series, and a number of them were interested in having us run an entire series. I liked the way one room in particular was excited to work with us and we booked a potential series in October, but we haven’t put pen to paper yet so I can’t announce the venue yet.

I learned that last year’s WSoP, with more daily events and the Carnivale series, really put a hurt on the rest of the city. The Rio covered so many bases that numbers were down everywhere. Players still think that it’s worth waiting in line for two hours to play a daily event, just because everyone else is doing it and they could win $50,000 for a $235 buy-in. They don’t care how high the rake is, how fast the structure is, or how badly they will get soaked for a $13 burrito, they just go stand in line because everyone else is doing it.

The improved schedule at the WSoP hurt other rooms so badly that a number of rooms are considering not having a summer series this year at all. In addition to non-Caesars rooms dropping their summer schedules, Caesars itself will probably be moving it’s series to Planet Hollywood and some of the regular series will be shorter and smaller. This is bad news for poker players. Less competition is always bad, and when it’s The Rio and their terrible customer service, it’s even worse news.

I didn’t book a summer series for Pocket Fives, which was kind of a relief, because I’m tired of spending half my summer in Vegas. I feel like I just go wherever the weather is worst all year long, spending winters in Minnesota and driving around the Midwest and then I head off to Vegas for the summer where it’s 115 degrees every day. I’m not doing another six weeks in Vegas this summer dealing with ridiculous crowds. Maybe three weeks. Maybe.

For more information on the Pocket Fives Tour, follow us on twitter @P5sPt

And yes, the rumors are true, the upcoming Pocket Fives event at Running Aces in April will include an $1,100 buy-in heads up event. I’ll announce when registration will open on the twitter account, and you will want to register early because registration is limited to 32 spots.

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The Pocket Fives Winter Open (so far)

While my day at the tables was uneventful (I finished with slightly over the starting stack going into day 2), Day 1A was fantastic in terms of player turnout and entertainment value. It seems like every big name in Minnesota poker showed up for this event, including a few of the big online players that don’t get out to live events very often. The amount of laughing and cheering was much higher than it is during a regular tournament, probably because the holiday spirit is still in people’s minds. We should definitely make this an annual event!

Pocket Fives did an amazing job of getting the word out too. What started as a little holiday event to lead into the Minnesota Poker Awards has become one of the best tournaments of the year, with over 300 entries and a prize pool that will end up around $100,000 for a $335 buy-in. Running Aces wasn’t ready for the deluge of players that showed up on Friday afternoon, but they coped with it well, calling in extra dealers and setting up tables in the aisles to get everyone seated as quickly as possible. Handing out shirts and card protectors to the alternates while they waited helped make the short wait a little easier.

While Running Aces and Pocket Fives were the driving forces behind this event, many of my friends helped out on twitter and facebook and some of them canceled plans to be here. If I started to list the people I wanted to thank I would have list a mile long and I would still miss a lot of people, but you know who you are and you know that I owe you one and I really appreciate it. Seeing a host of members from Team Poker Joker and Team Rooster Poker was great and they all looked like they were having a great time.

Breaking 300 entries for a holiday tournament, at a time when many players are at home with their families, is a remarkable accomplishment and it bodes very well for the Pocket Fives Open in April, which we expect to be the biggest tournament series in Minnesota history. The Pocket Fives Open will be the first of many Pocket Fives Live events and we hope to take the idea to venues across the country as well as overseas.

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the MSPT and how they are reacting to competition. The answer is simple. They aren’t reacting and we aren’t competition. I worked for the MSPT and I was a fan of the series before I worked there. Bryan Mileski does a great job and I’m sure he will continue to dominate his market. The last thing I would want to do is to try to compete with the marketing machine he has built and all of the good will he has generated in the Midwest.

Our goal with Pocket Fives Live is to take it to the biggest venues in the country, and I’ve also been talking to venues in Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean. Our tournaments will be a series more like the WSoPC, but without the incredibly high rake. We want to bring unique events to every place we visit and we are determined to make sure that we offer a good value for players in terms of structure, rake, and customer service.

Before we come to your town, we will ask what kind of events you would like to see and we will listen. We won’t bring the tour to venues that don’t treat their players and their staff exceptionally well, and we will do everything we can to make sure that there is a wide range of buy-ins so that everyone has a chance to win a P5s Live badge for their profile. If you would like to Pocket Fives Live in your area, talk to your local card room manager and have them contact me. Just tell them to be ready for a flood of players like they have never seen, because when Pocket Fives Live comes to town, everybody who is anybody is going to show up!

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this event a huge success and I look forward to seeing you all at the Minnesota Poker Awards at 6 pm tomorrow (Sunday) night. We’ll be four hours into day 2 when we start handing out awards, and hopefully many of our award winners will have to accept their award from their seat as they drag another pot on their way to the final table!

For updates on the Pocket Fives Winter Open, follow @runaces and @foxpokerfox on twitter and keep an eye on the live events page on

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Smelling the Holly

With the amazing rakeback promotion at Running Aces and the launch of the Pocket Fives Live event series, I’ve been working my ass off. My wife has been doing the same thing, putting in all the hours she can to grow her business, Silver Frame Studio. We haven’t seen each other very much, or spent much time with our dogs, or even stopped working long enough to smell the roses, in a few months. Being home for a few days for Christmas and spending time together without working is a welcome break.

It can be too easy to get lost in your job when you don’t have a boss and a specific set of work hours. In the heyday of online poker it was always hard to take time off because I knew that there was a chair in my office and if I kept my butt in it I would make money. That money was just sitting there, waiting for me. If I wanted something I could just walk into my office and make money to buy it. When we needed money, it was tough to do anything other than sit in that chair and grind out dollars.

Now I do the same thing with live games. With the $10/hr rakeback promotion at Running Aces extended through January, it will be another month of grinding. Adding $10 an hour to my win rate is just too good to pass up and I have to get those hours in, but once January is over I am going to relax on the live poker, maybe dropping to around 100 hours of live poker per month and putting more time into writing and booking more Pocket Fives Live events.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all that good stuff. I hope you eat well and spend time around those you love. I know I will. Once you’re done with that, I expect to see you at the Winter Open and the Minnesota Poker Awards, which both look like they are going to draw a huge field. Pocket Fives has also announced that the winner of the Winter Open will receive a special badge for their P5s profile as well as the gold badge card protector. I hope this becomes a tradition and players can chase P5s badges as a nice piece of bling to rival the rings and bracelets given out in other major events.

May the coming year see you all happy and healthy and may you run good against everyone but me.


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By Request …

This will be the first time I have written a blog post by request, though I may do more of them if people have good topic suggestions in the comments.

Robowolfman requested some sci fi, cyberpunk, Minnesota poker news, and daily reports from Running Aces. To fit all of those things into one blog post I think I need to do a unique take on today’s poker news.

The Cyborg in Seat Two

The game is terrible today, but where else am I going to go? The only place the multinationals can’t send spy drones are the casinos. They probably know that I would run to a poker room, but they are patient. So patient. They can wait years for you pop your head up before they hack a mil-sat and vaporize your head from ninety miles up. Years don’t mean much to them, not anymore.

What I’m worried about is the cyborg in seat two. He’s not playing very well, they never do. Any AI smart enough to beat humans I’m a live poker game could make a lot more money doing something else, so the bots we see in these games usually break even or make a small profit.

This one sucks, which is bad for me. They all scan the net to find info about their opponents, and my public info won’t be too hard to find, which is okay as long as it doesn’t connect me to the burn we ran on the offshore servers last night. If it does find out that who is looking for me, the question is how it will deal with that information.

A smart bot wouldn’t say anything to anyone. It would know how the situation would play out if it tried to sell me to the mob. But a stupid bot could get us both killed. If that idiot cyborg tries to contact somebody about selling my location, they will be inside it’s head in milliseconds and it will kill me and then kill itself before the security team can blink.

I hope that thing is smart enough to know better than to rat me out, because I really want to make it long enough to play the Team Battles tomorrow. Kou Vang will handle strategy, I’ll jam the comsats and make sure the team is secure, and the three runners we picked up will tear our opponents apart.

If things go well tomorrow, Kou and I should have enough money to pay the paramilitary guys to get us out of here and into orbit where we’re safe. We can run our operation from there. I will miss this card room, but I won’t miss the cyborg in seat two. He’s giving me the creeps.

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The Grind is Over – Let the Grind Begin!

The rake rebate promotion last month at Running Aces, combined with a few new students, a tournament or two, and working on the Pocket Fives Live events, kept me so busy that I didn’t have much time for blogging. I can’t promise that this month will be significantly better in terms of writing output. I had a lot of ideas saved for blog posts, but I’ll have to hit them quickly. And you know what that means… A list!

1. Voting for the Minnesota Poker Awards will close on Friday. Most of the races are pretty close, so your vote can really make a difference. I also got the trophies for the event today, they look great. The awards will take place on December 29th at Running Aces, and we hope you join us for the party!

2. I made my 160 hours for the rake rebate promotion, so I’ll have a nice chunk of change coming around the 10th of the month. It’s always nice to know there is an extra two grand waiting for you. I should make my hours again this month, though it will be a struggle again with the MSPT event, the Pocket Fives Live Winter Open, and Christmas all cutting into my hours. Poker will be a way more than full time job this year.

3. The Pocket Fives Live event for April is now on the Running Aces 2014 schedule and I’m really excited about it. We’re not ready to launch a full fledged tour yet, but we are booking more P5s Live events and heading in that direction. The April event will be eleven days long, from April 10th to the 21st, and will feature two tournaments a day. This will be a serious tournament series, and the first national series that Minnesota has ever had, so I’ll be pulling out all the stops to get as many people as possible to show up for this thing!

4. I have updated the tournament page here on, and added the P5s event as well as the Winter Avalanche at Running Aces in January and the Team Battles on December 17th.

5. We raised almost $2,000 for Philippines relief over the last two weeks! Thanks to all the players at Running Aces who gave up their mystery vouchers for the cause. I know I will miss some people here, but there were a few players who collected vouchers for me day after day and it was such a nice feeling to walk in and have someone hand me a pile of vouchers they had been collecting and I want to thank a few of them. Josh Sexton, Josh Oien, Tim Votava, Ryan Reider, Heidi Roggenkamp, John Somsky, Bernie Schneider, and a host of other players were very generous in helping out the cause.

Now I’m back to work, grinding out those hours and getting my hours in at Running Aces. I’ll see you at Canterbury for the MSPT this weekend too, hopefully at the final table.



Operation Grace

As I’m sure you are aware, Typhoon Haiyan, probably the largest and most destructive storm in history, hit the Philippines last week. Grace Willberg, a cocktail server at Running Aces, has family in the Philippines who lost everything and she has set up a fund to help them out. This week I am donating all my mystery vouchers to the fund, and collecting from other players who won’t make it on Saturday. It started with a conversation with Ryan Reider and Cory Canaday about how some people are donating 5% of their winnings from the Turkey Tourney and it blew up on Sunday to the point where people were collecting the vouchers from their entire tables and bringing them over to me. I will be collecting them all week long and donating the winnings on Saturday and I want to thank everyone who has helped get the word out.

Next week I will be doing the same thing from Licel, the chip runner at Running Aces who is also from the Philippines. Her family was devastated as well, and she has already sent them what she can afford, but we can work together to help rebuild their homes with hundreds of mystery vouchers. If you don’t’ see me, and want to donate your voucher, look for Ryan, Cory, Josh Sexton, or any of the other regulars from the straddle and ante games. I’m sure they will get the vouchers to me.

Thank you to everyone who spread the word. All I did was agree to hold the vouchers and bring them in on Saturday. The people who put it out on twitter, and convinced their tables to donate all of their vouchers, did a lot more than I did and they should be very proud of themselves. If I am in the room, you can find me on twitter @foxpokerfox and get a table and seat number from me, or just ask a floor person and they will usually know where I am.

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MN Poker Awards Nominations (help!)

I’m closing voting on the categories, and getting the categories up for nominations because we need to get some players voted into these categories in time for the awards to be given out at Running Aces on December 28th. I have some ideas for nominations, but I need your help with figuring out who should be nominated. You play with these people, and you can tell me who should be nominated. Once I have some names over the next week or two I will do some research, some very unscientific polling, and determine a list of nominees. Then the voting will commence!

Below are the categories and some potential nominees. If you think someone should be on this list, PLEASE post it in comments or let me know on twitter @foxpokerfox

Without further ado (I always wanted a reason to say that)…

The Categories and Potential Nominees –

Best Player

This category is fairly self-explanatory. If you think the best player in Minnesota in 2013 isn’t on this list, let me know who is missing. 

Blake Bohn

Kou Vang

Everett Carlton

Erick Wright

John ‘Gstacks’ Hayes

Matt Alexander

Matt Kirby

Dave Gonia

Ryan Hartmann


Best Female Player

This category is fairly self-explanatory. If you think the best female player in Minnesota in 2013 isn’t on this list, let me know who is missing. 

Molly Anne Mossey

Renee Kessel

Marinela Silseth

Danielle Anderson


Most Intimidating Player

Who do you hate playing pots with? Who scares the crap out of you or seems to be staring right into your soul?

John ‘Gstacks’ Hayes

Kou Vang

Blake Bohn

Tom Hammers

Mark Sandness


Nice Guy Award

If the nicest poker player in Minnesota isn’t on this list, then get me their name, because they deserve some recognition!

John Somsky

Brian Soja

John Morgan

Mike Schneider

Mike Lovelace


Best Twitter

I may need help with this one, because if someone tweets a lot, I tend to unfollow them. What is your favorite poker-related twitter account that is based in the land of 10,000 lakes? 







Most Entertaining Opponent

Who makes you laugh, tells great stories, and generally keeps you entertained at the tables? Are they on this list?

Jim Meehan

Tom Hammers

Jay Philips

Renee Kessel


Poker Champion

Who is the best advocate for the game? Who has done the most for poker in Minnesota this year? 

Bryan Mileski

John Somsky

John Morgan

Danielle Anderson

Mike Lovelace


Best Cardroom Employee

Who is your favorite card room employee? Do you know someone who does a great job, works hard, and deserves recognition? I need help with this one because there are too many people I would love to put on this list. The two names below are very good at their jobs and very popular, but there should be a lot of names on this list! 

Lisa Runyan – Board Girl (her words not mine) from Canterbury Park

Tristan Willberg – Tournament Director from Running Aces


I am skipping the Best Tournament category because if Running Aces won everyone would shout “Rigged!” and if Canterbury won Running Aces would be giving them an award. We’ll also skip the Most Improved Player and Underrated Player awards because I think there would be far too many nominations and it would be tough to choose them. The Most Aggressive category is partially covered by Most Intimidating, and the rest of the categories didn’t get enough votes to make the cut, so this list of eight categories will be the final list for the Minnesota Poker Awards for 2013.

As soon as I am comfortable that I have all the right people nominated, probably in a week or two, I’ll do a little write up of each nominee and their accomplishments and get the voting started.










Running Aces Grinder Guide – Part 1

Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering the $2-100 cash games at Running Aces with guides on how to beat the games as well as bankroll management, expected win rates, and how to maintain your sanity. If you have specific questions about the games, please post them in the comments on this article so I can get a feel for what kinds of things people want to learn about the game. Let’s start with three basic steps.

Step 1 – Buy My Book

It’s the best book out there for beating small no-limit cash games, which is basically how I see the $2-100 games. It will serve as a good study guide and be a better overall strategy resource than the basic tips I’ll be posting here.

Step 2 – Make A Plan

I know you want to play poker. One of the reasons I can write this stuff is because most players who read this would rather play poker than study, plan, or learn anything. If you want to be one of the winners, you have to study and improve or you will just be another aspiring poker player. If you want to do this in November and be ready to get started within the first few days of the month to make sure that you get your hours in, then you need to get ready for it now.

Plan out your hours and be realistic about how much you can actually play. If you can get forty hours a week, then you will make the maximum bonus easily, but doing that in conjunction with a full time job will be very tough and you won’t have time to do anything but work, play poker, and sleep.

Set aside a real bankroll. For the $2-100 games, a winning player who is fairly tight can probably get by starting off with $5,000. You can still play if you don’t have that much expendable cash, but it is possible to go on a losing streak and go broke if you aren’t bankrolled for the game. Don’t play with money you can’t afford to lose, because there is a possibility that even the best player can have a losing month.

You will also need to track your hours and your results. If you don’t know how many hours you have played, you could easily miss your goal number and cost yourself hundreds of dollars. If you don’t track your results, you won’t ever know how much money you are making. I use a spreadsheet on my phone. If you have an Android phone you can just put a link on your home screen to a spreadsheet from your Google drive. I created a spreadsheet just for this promotion that you can download and use HERE. It tracks results, hours, and automatically calculates your current rakeback level. You don’t need to fill in anything except your hours played and money won or lost on each day for the month and the spreadsheet does the rest.

Step 3 – Play Poker

This would seem like the easy part, but you need to stick with your plan, and if you have a few rough sessions to start off it can be tough to keep at it every night. I’ve had rough patches where I absolutely dreaded going to the card room, but I kept going anyway and made it through the rough spots. If you are serious about playing poker for at least a portion of your living, you have to be able to get back on the horse every time you fall off.

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Three Things

Thing #1

 The Fall Poker Classic is over, and while I didn’t make a lot of money I did manage a 4th place finish in the HORSE event and another small cash. It was a great series and Canterbury did a great job with it. Poker players always have complaints, it’s what we do, but from the dealers to the floor people and tournament directors everyone did a great job running this thing. When I post on twitter that Canterbury is the 2nd best card room in the midwest, I mean it. It’s also a little fun with the rivalry, and they know it’s all in fun. We are very lucky to have two great rooms in Minnesota, and if you head out of town and see how they do things in other places you will come home grateful for how professional our card rooms are.

Thing #2

I’ll be playing the Hallowscream tournament tonight at Running Aces, with five more starting days to come. I’ll keep playing them every day until I have a big stack going into day two. With the $1,000 stack buybacks, it’s hard not to keep playing, though I will stop once I have a big stack. Hopefully that happens tonight and I can take a few days off before day two starts on Sunday. This tournament is a great value, and first place could be as high as $30,000 for a $275 buy-in. I chopped it for the big side and the trophy last year, and a repeat would be awfully nice.

The Hallowscream is the last tournament for awhile after five months of playing tournaments every day. I’m tired of working on a schedule and I’m ready for a few days off. Starting with the WSoP in mid-June, I have probably played 120 tournaments in the last five months, and it’s been a rough stretch. I won three tournaments during that time, but they were three of the smaller events, and I didn’t have a deep run in any of the bigger buy-in events which was a little frustrating. I made money, but I probably would have made more money playing cash, which is what I’ll be doing for the next few months.

Thing #3

Running Aces has the best promotion for cash game players that I have ever seen, and it’s launching on November 1st. The tiered rakeback promotion is so good that I will basically be playing cash every day for November and December. If I can make $25 an hour, which should be doable, get $10 an hour from Aces, and have basically no expenses since Running Aces is just up the highway for me, I’ll be pretty happy. With the coupons that come in the mail, progressive boards, and whatever else I can scrape up, I should hit $40 an hour working on my own schedule whenever I want to show up and working in a great environment with many of my friends. That sounds like fun for a few months and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m going to do a more in-depth blog post this week about how to take full advantage of this promotion. A spreadsheet for tracking your results, strategy discussion, and some bankroll management advice, should help you get serious about the $2/100 game if you are ready to make some real money playing poker in Minnesota.


Win Fox’s Money!

Let’s play a game…

I’m going to pick five poker players for the $1,100 main event this weekend at Canterbury Park. You can pick five players as well, and if your team wins, AND beats my team, you win 1% of my action in the tournament. First place should be around $80,000, so you could win $800 in this challenge with no investment.

The Basics

  • You can not choose any of the members of my team
  • One entry per person
  • Entrants must tweet their picks and include my twitter handle @foxpokerfox in the tweet before the start of Day 1A.
  • Entrants must also tweet “Everyone should follow @foxpokerfox on twitter” before the start of Day 1A

My team consists of myself, Matt Kirby, Blake Bohn, Kou Vang, and Ryan Hartmann. In the event that one or more of these players does not play, my alternate is John Hayes. All six of these players are off limits for your picks in this contest. You don’t get an alternate. Tough shit.

That’s it. If you finish with the highest score, including beating my team, you win 1% of my winnings in the event. If you finish with the highest score, but I don’t cash in the event, you win a Running Aces t-shirt and a gold* Running Aces card protector.


All players who cash in the event will earn points for their team. Points are determined by subtracting the player’s finish position from 51 and then doubling it. So (51-FP)*2 = points. If you pick the winner, that person will be worth 100 points. Second place will be worth 98 points. Only players who cash will earn points. In the event of a tie, the 1% prize will be split among the winners.

I will announce my score once all of my players have finished. You will have to calculate your own score, and tweet it including my twitter handle @foxpokerfox, within 48 hours of the end of the event if you think you have beaten me. In the event of a dispute I will make the final decision as to prize distribution.

Some Thoughts

If it looks like I have taken all of the good players, check out the list in this blog post and you will see that there are an awful lot of good players left to pick from. Sure, I stacked the deck in my favor, but I can do that since I’m offering a free roll. A team like Lance Harris, Everett Carlton, Matt Alexander, Todd Breyfogle, and Erick Wright stands a very reasonable chance of beating me, and that’s just a quick bunch of names off the top of my head. There are probably at least 20 players that are in the same league as the players I chose for my team, so I think there is a good chance that someone will beat me, though it depends on the number of entries.

The Fine Print

This contest is void if it is illegal in the state of Minnesota. I would be very surprised to find out that it is illegal, but just in case. In no way should anything in this blog post be construed to mean that I will be giving away more than 1% of my winnings. One entry per household. I reserve the right to cancel or modify this contest any time before the start of Day 1A just in case things go sideways for some reason.


*gold colored

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Rules, Rules, and More Rules

Everyone has a different interpretation of the rules of poker, both what they should be as well as how they should be enforced. Some people think “pure” or “real” poker has to have certain rules, but I disagree. If it’s played with cards and betting, it’s probably “real” poker to me. There are certainly rules I dislike, but if I know what the rules are I can make my own decision about whether I want to play. And I am well aware that it is my responsibility to know what the rules are. The standardized TDA rules are a big help for tournament players, but each house still has some of it’s own rules.

During the Fall Poker Classic I’ve been playing tournaments in a new environment for a week now and I’ve noticed the differences from playing at Running Aces. We get spoiled at Running Aces because Tristan is an expert on tournament rules and a frequent contributor to the TDA itself, but Canterbury has done a fine job running these tournaments too, as they usually do.

Overall, the Fall Poker Classic has been great. The free donuts and coffee in the mornings are nice, the buffet is solid every night, and the dealers are excellent. The floor staff and tournament directors are also very good, and the problems I’m going to talk about with rule enforcement are not limited to Canterbury. In fact they are less common at Canterbury than they are at most other venues. They are just the subject right now because they are the place I’ve been playing this week. A lot of other venues could improve in these areas, and most of them need a lot more improvement than Canterbury.

I think that a rule that is not consistently enforced is a bad rule. If the rule can not be consistently enforced, then it must be changed. Canterbury’s cursing rule applies to only one word. Their “F-bomb Rule” applies to only the one word. All other curse words are allowed, although abusive language directed at players and dealers is unacceptable as it should be in any card room. I know players who disagree with this rule, but I’m fine with it as long as I know what the rule is and it is consistently enforced.

The problem is that consistently enforcing a rule like this requires vigilance. You have to let all of your dealers know that they must call the floor any time the “F-bomb” is dropped at the table and make sure they call the floor any time it happens. I also think it’s a room’s responsibility to let players know when they have any sort of non-standard rule, rather than assuming that the players will all get a copy of the house rules and read them thoroughly. An announcement at the start of each tournament is a good way to do this.

In the case of the last week or so, this rule has not been enforced evenly, nor has it been announced to the players. Since this rule doesn’t exist in the TDA, and isn’t in force at major events like the World Series of Poker, I would consider it a non-standard rule, and I think it should be announced so that players are aware of it. I can assure you that many players are not aware of it because –

1. I counted the number of times I heard an F-bomb at the table today, and in four and a half hours I heard it used eleven times. The dealer heard at least eight or nine of these, and the floor was never called and the player was never warned by the dealer. It was never mentioned.

2. I was not aware of it myself and I usually try to pay attention.

3. My pal Jordan Handrich didn’t know about it when she used it after taking a beat in a tournament yesterday. People at her table were surprised when she received a one-round penalty because a tournament director was standing nearby. This was what caused me to keep track today. Eleven utterances, zero penalties, zero warnings. Not only did Jordan not get a warning, she got a full one-round penalty, and is the only person that I have heard of that has received such a penalty during this series. It was not directed at a player or in an abusive way, it was just a word.

4. I asked a number of players today, and none of them had heard that this was a penalty.

This rule is clearly not being enforced consistently, and I imagine it would be a hassle to do so for at least a month or two, but if they really want to ban the word they could certainly make it happen. Either make the effort to make sure that this rule is enforced evenly, or get rid of it. The middle ground is bad policy.

There are rules like this all over the country. The famous “Charlie Rule” at many WSoP events, the changing rules on discussing hands at the WSoP, and some truly odd rules in other parts of the country that show exactly how good we have it here in Minnesota.

I played at the Greek Town Casino in Detroit two years ago, and saw two of the weirdest rules I have ever seen. The first was that the front of your cards was in effect as a hard betting line, meaning any chips that were in front of your cards were in the pot. Multiple times I watched players pull their cards back to the rail to peel up the corners and look at them, only to be declared all-in because their cards had moved behind their stack. Every player this happened to left saying that they would never play in that #$%^#@!!!! card room ever again. Any policy that sends that many customers away is a bad one, no matter why it was implemented.

The second rule was the strangest rule I have ever seen in a professional card room. The show-one show-all rule was interpreted in this room to mean that if you showed your cards to any one, at any time, they must be saved and shown once the hand is complete. I first saw this when the older gentleman next to me showed his hand to me, and the dealer placed it in it’s very own little two-card muck pile and showed the table when the hand was over. I was baffled.

Before long, the old guy to my right, and the guy to his right were both talking about how bad they were running and betting $5 a hand on who had the worst hand. The hands were verified because they showed the player to their right each hand before they folded it, and the dealer saved each hand and showed them to the table. When the under the gun player showed someone his girlfriend his hand, and the two old guys showed their two hands as well, I figured I might as well join the party to see how many mucks the dealer could keep track of at once. The player to my left got in on the action and showed me his jack-five offsuit before he folded it.

This created a total of five muck piles, and I started to wish that I still had a hand so that I could zip it across all the muck piles and mix them up. Then I could claim that someone else’s cards were actually mine, start a big argument over who had which hand and make a terrible mockery of the whole process. I settled for claiming the hand of the guy to my left when the dealer flipped over his hand before mine, but he deftly sidestepped my attempt to make a mess of things by claiming my hand when it was flipped over next. The dealer who was sure that she had kept track of the hands correctly just shook her head and shot me a pleading look that I took as “Please don’t make my life harder today” and I quit messing around.

There were at least three different muck piles for the next two hours, through multiple dealers and I had my fun by watching each tourist who sat down learn about the two weird rules and then marvel at how they had never heard of rules like that before. Maybe the strangest thing was that the regulars acted like this insanity was perfectly normal. They probably watched ten people every night learn about these new rules and look baffled, but they just kept on playing. I think they knew that there was no way they were going to get these rules changed, so they just endured them. Odd.

I also saw an interesting angle-shoot a few weeks ago. I was playing a tournament and a player was wearing ear buds and obviously not hearing anything that was happening around him. Mr Oblivious was second to act on the flop in a heads up pot when his opponent, whom we will call Mr. Angleshooter, looked down so that Mr O couldn’t see his mouth behind his hat, grabbed a five hundred chip and a twenty-five chip, said “three twenty-five” and threw in the two chips. Mr. O thought he was facing a bet of 525 into a pot of 500, and called. Something happened that caused a discussion about the bet, and the tournament director was called over.

The tournament director backed up Mr. A, and to be honest he probably didn’t have a choice. He could have invoked rule #1 of the TDA if he was sure that it was an angle, but I have heard this tournament director say “I’m done with rule #1, just gets me in trouble.” so I knew this wasn’t going to happen. As long as TDs aren’t willing to invoke rule #1, there will be angles like this one. People will abuse the letter of the law because no one is willing to stick their neck out to enforce the spirit instead.

The real lesson in all this is that you need to be constantly aware of your surroundings, know about any non-standard rules in the room where you are playing, and stand up for yourself when you can. If Jordan had known about the F-Bomb rule at Canterbury, she wouldn’t have said it. If she had requested a warning, maybe even demanded one and bullied the TD, she may have received a warning instead of a costly penalty. Rooms aren’t always going to be perfect, so we need to be prepared and careful and I think we should police the tables ourselves a little bit too.

A player pulled off a dirty angle against me at the Venetian last year in a triple stud event. After he won a huge pot because of his angle, I managed to outlast him and finish one spot above him, while making his life hell for another five hours of play. I pointed him out to everyone, openly told the story of his angle, and refused his sad little offers of friendship. Some unsavory players won’t care that they are ostracized, but this guy did so I made sure that he was ostracized and I made sure the TD who allowed the angle knew that I was telling everyone about the situation on twitter, facebook, my blog, and standing in his card room, and that I was including his name in the conversation.

If we all policed things a little bit, the player and TD in this situation might behave differently in the future. The player certainly would, he was very uncomfortable playing with me. If I had been a little sharper I could have avoided the angle and then called him out for it after I won the pot, punishing him twice for his attempt to cheat me, and I have been much more careful ever since.


I Suck at Poker

I’m actually a pretty good player. I don’t make big mistakes very often anymore, though I have a lot to work on and I try to get better every time I play. But I still make mistakes sometimes that are very frustrating. I made one tonight in the $550 buy-in event at the Fall Poker Classic that is really bugging me.

I won’t name the player directly, because I don’t want to teach people how to play against him. I like the guy and dissecting his game on a public blog just wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do. We’ll call him Ted.

Ted is a smart guy. He is middle aged and has been very successful in life because he’s smart and he applies himself to things. He plays well, and has had some success. I’m sure that Ted is a winning player. Ted plays fairly tight, and it’s not his standard game to reraise light preflop or open a ton of pots. Because he’s a smart guy, and always learning, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him open up his game somewhat in the right spots, but he is much more Ryan Hartmann than Kou Vang if you know what I mean.

I moved to a new table with about 75,000 chips, which was a little above average stack. Ted was on my left. Within one round I looked down at a pair of tens in early position, raised, and was unhappy to see Ted’s reraise. My raise was to 4,500 (1k and 2k blinds), and Ted went all-in for around 25,000. I thought about it, but I didn’t think Ted was going to reraise with a lower pair very often at all, and he probably wouldn’t reraise Ace-Queen here either. Against a range of Ace-King and tens or better, I’m in bad shape.

TT has 34% equity


AK, TT+ which has 66% equity

I can’t call when there is less than 30,000 in the pot and I have to call 20,000. It’s close in a cash game if those are his ranges, though still a bad call, but in a tournament it’s a terrible call. Good fold by me. That’s one.

Within half an hour I looked down at a pair of jacks and raised again. I had raised a few hands in between and won the blinds. Ted had not played another hand. I raised to 5,100 this time because the blinds had gone up to 1,200/2,400, and Ted reraised me again. I was annoyed, but I really didn’t think Ted would try to push me around here, and he had more chips this time. It was irritating, but not a tough fold. Similar numbers to the first hand meant that I was making the right fold.

Fifteen minutes later I was dealt Ace-King second to act. I opened for 5,100, with 68,000 in my stack. Ted reraised me to around 14,000. He had also played a pot in between and had a stack only slightly smaller than mine. Could Ted be three-betting me without big hands? Was he really getting this many big hands in a row? I was about tired of it, but I still had to think. If Ted had a big hand here, I was throwing money away by going all-in. I had a perfectly reasonable stack if I folded, and we were getting fairly deep into the tournament.

On the other hand. I had folded to him twice already, and I had not let the irritation show, so an all-in from me would look like a big hand rather than looking like I was just fed up. There was a lot of money in the pot now, and we both had enough behind that I would have fold equity if he didn’t have a big hand. A hand like a pair of tens would fold here. I might even be up against another Ace-King, or I could be racing against queens or jacks.

Do you see the flaw in my logic here?

I was in early position. The table was full. Ted knew that there were still seven players left to act when he made his reraise. And he’s not a brash young kid who is would make a mistake by reraising light from early position against another early position raiser. His range is probably TT+ and AK. Again. And my Ace-King is a 41% to 59% underdog. I can fold and go on to the next hand, or I can get my chips in against a range of hands that is beating me, with almost no fold equity.

I thought I saw fold equity. I thought he might be reraising me light. I thought everything except the right thing. He has a big hand here, and I should make yet another fold. Against most players I would have called one of the first two times, and would definitely ship all-in here, but not against Ted. And Ted is a solid guy who doesn’t make big mistakes like reraising me without a hand from early position for a quarter of his stack.

I pushed all-in, he called with a pair of kings, and I was crippled. And very angry with myself. If he had flipped over queens, and I had won the race, I probably wouldn’t have even thought enough about the hand to know I had made a mistake, but that doesn’t matter. I did make a mistake, I made it deep in a tournament, and it cost me money. The game is already tough, and with house rake, the dealer percentage, tips, and taxes, I can’t make a lot of mistakes if I want to make money over the long term. I definitely can’t make mistakes like this one.

The good news is that I learned from it. I get a little stronger and a little smarter every tournament. If I keep that up, I think I’ll be pretty good at this game in another forty or fifty years. I also took 4th in the HORSE tournament, so I’m up for the series. And Running Aces has a great promo next month with tiered rakeback that can earn you up to $10 an hour if you play enough hours. I will definitely be grinding those games most days and should make some good money. At 180 hours for the month I’ll make $1,800 in rakeback, which helps quite a bit with the bills.

I’ll be back at it tomorrow, and hopefully I won’t waste nine hours of good poker with one stupid call. Because maybe I won’t suck tomorrow.

Don’t forget to vote for the Minnesota Poker Awards

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Announcing the Minnesota Poker Awards

I’m pleased to announce that Running Aces card room and have agreed to sponsor the Minnesota Poker Awards! The event itself will take place on December 29th at Running Aces, and I hope that it will become an annual celebration of all of our favorite things in Minnesota poker. I have a poll up where you can vote for which categories go into the show or submit categories using the (other) categories at the bottom. Each person can vote for up to eight categories and we will choose eight to twelve categories depending on how many votes each category gets.

UPDATE – You will not be able to vote unless you are a registered member of the blog. This is to prevent ballot box stuffing. Some people are finding that they can not vote, and this is the reason. Register as a member of the blog, and you will be able to vote as well as comment on posts. You can register HERE and then vote HERE.

When suggesting categories, remember that I won’t include anything that favors one poker room over another. With Running Aces sponsoring and hosting the event, I look bad either way if one room wins more than another. The poker rooms can buy their own trophies, these are just for the players.

In a few weeks, when I have enough votes on categories, I will start putting up nominees for each category. I just installed and set up the polling software, and I know it isn’t beautiful, but it will keep track of votes for now until I get my tech guy to work on it. The winner of each category will get an award of some sort at the event (I’m leaning toward a gold statue of a donkey), and recognition from their peers as a winner of the first annual Minnesota Poker Awards.

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An Interview with Kou Vang

Fox – Congratulations on joining the pro team at Running Aces, is this your first endorsement deal?

Kou – I’ve had multiple talks with poker sites and apparel companies in the past but nothing has worked out. I’m happy that my first deal is with my favorite card room!

Fox – You’ve been traveling to play poker tournaments around the country for almost ten years now, so you’ve been to a ton of poker rooms. What makes Running Aces stand out?

Kou – Running Aces stands out because they like to give back to the players with comps, a great structure, and low juice on their tournaments. I believe they are 2nd to none in the industry in these categories.

Fox – I know you have a nice trophy display in your home and you take a lot of pride in all of your accomplishments. What is your proudest moment in poker? 

Kou – Yes i do, are you are correct. I take great pride in it because of the sacrifices I’ve made to make this my career. Here is an example. Back in 2008, two weeks after having my first child, I left my wife and kid at home with the intent to get my son a wsop ring in Council Bluffs, Iowa. I was able to achieve that. It was an unbelievable feeling and my wife was not quite as mad since i brought home some bacon.

Fox – Are you primarily self taught, or did you take lessons and read books to develop your style? 

Kou – I was one of the cheap skates that couldn’t afford books so i went to Barnes and Noble to read for free at first. I think I am an aggressive person by nature and none of the nitty earlier poker books ever fit me. I pretty much had to go through all the trials and turbulence of the ultra aggressive online game to develop my style.

Fox – Who are your favorite players and who did you learn from?

Kou – I don’t think I’ve ever had a favorite poker player, but I’ve definitely played with some very tough guys. Shawn Buchanan, Sorel Mizzi and Kurt Jewels. Those three constantly applies pressure and you have to be alert at all times. Coming up in the poker world I watched John “Gstacks” Hayes a lot online and played with him nightly. Two of my best friends Mike “Rusostreet” Carusso and John “razorpoker” Razor were very successful when we we all came up. And i trolled them nightly as well!

Fox – What are your plans for the next few months? Any big events on the horizon?

Kou – I’ve been away from home too much this year. I have three kids, and I like to spend more time at home. Its really tough to go a whole week without seeing them. I’m just gonna grind all the local stuff till January then we’ll write down a line up for 2014.

Fox – As a pro, I know you have been through all of the ups and downs of supporting a family and grinding out a living at the tables. What is the toughest part of being a poker pro? 

Kou – Yes you are correct. I’ve had many ups and downs in my career. When you go on a big winning streak you tend to take money for granted and when you go on a bad losing streak u feel like you could never win again. Sometimes winning doesn’t even feel good but more of a relief. The toughest part of this career is keeping focus and grinding away every session understanding nothing is guaranteed. The months you make a lot money, you may have to keep some for next month just like a commission job. I treat this as if it’s my own business, down to every flop, turn and, river.

Fox –  What do you do outside of poker? 

Kou – I’m a father of three, so that keeps me pretty busy. I also help my parents with our Hmong mall on Maryland and Johnson Parkway, HMONG VILLAGE. Tons of great Asian food there.

Fox – Have you ever played cash games or do you prefer to stick with tournaments exclusively? 

Kou – I do play cash games from time to time, but nothin’ beats the feeling of investing $50 into a tournament to win 45k in one day!  Or $10 online to win $50k.

Fox – You’ve been on a great run lately. Have you done anything to change your game or was it just your time to shine?

Kou – Throughout this year I’ve talked a ton with some of my closest poker friends. John Hayes, Jared Koppel, Jason Smith , and Levi Berger who won a wsop bracelet this summer. In the past, I’ve probably been playing too fast and taking too many mediocre spots. All of us has been working really hard and debating daily to see what our best options are on any given situation. I would like to get my game up to world-class level.

Fox – Thanks for taking the time and welcome to the team. 

Kou – Thanks for the interview, I’m excited to join team Running Aces.


Minnesota Fantasy Poker

I’m working on a list of all the players who play major tournaments with any consistency in Minnesota to that people can play fantasy poker in Minnesota. I’m not advocating illegal gambling, I just think it would be fun.

Keeping track of a fantasy draft would be easy with twitter. Alternating picks via tweet for a regular draft, or if you were just drafting a group, or assigning some sort of salary cap, then using a hashtag would work fine. A tweet like –

I’ll take Kirby, Fox, Blake, Kou, and GStacks #FPCDRAFT

would cover the process of making an official record of your picks in a normal draft or a salary cap league. All we need for that type of league is a list of all the players who tend to play most bigger buy-in events. This would work fine for single large events.

For an entire tournament series the draft could be run the same way, but owners would be required to track their own players by checking results online. It wouldn’t be much work, and the possibility of sleeping a score from a member of your team would just be part of the game. I would recommend that anyone playing the events be required to own themselves on a team to prevent the possibility, as silly as it seems, of someone taking it easy on an opponent because they own them in a fantasy league.

I thought about assigning a salary cap number to each of the top 30 or 40 players, but I think the controversy would be a hassle and I don’t want people mad at me because I gave them a low salary cap number. If I can come up with a way to get some top players together to create salary cap numbers by voting then I could tell everyone that I voted for a higher salary cap number for them and avoid the hassle, but I don’t know if that will happen. I might be able to put up a poll of some sort on the site and let the public vote for salary cap numbers, but for now I’m going to avoid the salary cap idea completely.

All I need now is to complete my list of names and then I’ll put them on a dedicated page here on my site. Hopefully you, the reader, can help me with that. I didn’t want to list every poker player I could think of, because people may actually be drafting from this list and they won’t want to scroll through three hundred names to find the best players. I tried to include anyone who was a well known player, had strong results in the last year, or who plays all the higher buy-in events in Minnesota, but I am certain that I missed some people.

If I missed you, it’s not because I don’t think you are important, I just didn’t run across your name. If you think someone is missing from this list, please let me know in the comments. After a week or two I’ll reorganize it and put it up on a dedicated page where it will always be available.

Muneer ‘Moon’ Ahmed
Naz Al
Matt Alexander
John Alexander
Colin Anderson
Harry Behling
Steve Belland
Brad Berman
Blake Bohn
Rob Brerton
Todd ‘Sharkslayerr’ Breyfogle
DJ Buckley
Everett Carlton
Alan Carty
Hunter Cichy
Nesbitt Coburn
Cory Cove
Bill Criego
Adam Dahlin
Sam De Silva
Andrew Dick
Jeremy Dresch
Dan Dykhouse
Nate Fair
Jeff Fielder
Mario Filippi
Nate Franklin
Leo Fussy
David Gonia
Judd Greenagel
Tom Hammers
Jordan Handrich
Sam Hanson
Lance Harris
Ryan Hartmann
Tony Hartmann
John ‘GStacks’ Hayes
Blair Hinkle
Ryan Hohenstein
Mario Hudson
Matt Hyland
Ed Janezich
Roger Johnson
Mike Kachan
Renee Kessel
Matt Kirby
Jared Koppel
Steve Krogness
James Lawrence
Tony Lazar
Steve Lillehaug
Peixin Liu
Eric Loehr
Tyler Loney
John Lutgen
Ben Marsh
James Meehan
Todd Melander
Bryan Mileski
Hank Mlekoday
John Morgan
Molly Anne Mossey
Josh ‘Rooster’ Oien
John Olson
Bill Perpich
Jeff Petronack
Christian Pham
Tony ‘2putts’ Phaysith
Mike Pickett
Mark ‘PokerJoker’ Powers
Reg Powell
Bharathan Pulluvalil
Tony Purgoyne
Vladimir Revniaga
Heidi Roggenkamp
Brady Roth
Steve Rouse
Mark Sandness
Mike Schneider
Jason Seitz
Jason Sell
Jason Senti
Gennady Shimelfarb
Brian Soja
Anthony Soluri
Tom Stambaugh
Lee Surma
Bob Van Syckle
Kou Vang
Burke Veazy
Tim Votava
Chris ‘Fox’ Wallace
Sara Watts
Robbie WazWaz
Robby Westrom
Matt Williams
Mike Wilmes
Darrell Windingstad
Wade Woelfel
Erick Wright
Adam Younis
Brian Zekus
Adam Zych




Tough Table

In the past I’ve played with some of the best players in the world, and a few times in high buy-in events I’ve been at tables where every player was world class, but my table yesterday during the high roller event at the Midwest Poker Classic might have been the toughest yet. Playing short handed with these guys was no fun at all, and hopefully they didn’t like playing with me either.

Seat 1 – Todd @sharkslayerr Breyfogle 

Everybody in the Minnesota poker world knows Todd. He is sometimes a controversial figure, but there is no doubt that the guy can play. Todd has a frustrating combination of being fairly tight but not playing scared. Most players who are tight preflop are easy to push around or steal from, but Todd is not, and it makes it tough to get chips from him. 

Seat 2 – Ryan Gunderson

You may not know Ryan, but he is an online assassin who has just started playing live tournaments and is already showing strong results. Like many online players, he is very aggressive, tough to bluff, and he manages the pot size and stack sizes very well. Ryan played great and ran great, making it a tough day for everyone. 

Seat 4 – Matt Alexander

Matt has made more money playing poker tournaments in the state of Minnesota than anyone, and he is used to high stakes games so the $2,500 buy-in didn’t bother him at all. A fantastic player, and very comfortable playing short handed, I was just lucky that Matt was on my right.

Seat 6 – Me

I play ok. 

Seat 7 – Robby Wazwaz

Having Robby on my left is no fun. While I enjoy talking to him, he is very aggressive, willing to three-bet, comfortable playing short handed, and frequently underestimated as a tournament player. The problem is that I had to have someone on my left, and none of these players would be a good choice for that spot. 

We also had a strong cash game player, whose name I don’t know, come to the table and go broke after a few hours.

While I wasn’t intimidated, I’m well past that in my poker career, I was definitely annoyed. I probably shouldn’t have played the event, because there weren’t enough soft spots to make it profitable when anyone who cashes is going to have to pay taxes, making the effective rake something like 35%. The best player in the world is not going to make a profit in that field paying that much rake.

The event was fun and challenging, and Aces did a great job running it, but it was a really tough day of poker and I went broke on the last hand of the day, handing my chips over to Robby when he turned a flush in a blind vs blind hand where I made two pair. I probably should have folded, but I shouldn’t have been in the tournament anyway, there were great cash games running and I should have been playing them instead.

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Loving the Grind

OK, maybe I will never really enjoy the grind again. After a few years, and over a million hands of no-limit holdem online, it’s tough to really like playing no-limit cash games and I may never really love it again. I have admitted to being fairly burned out for the last few years, but poker is still the best job I’ve ever had and I really don’t have a tough lot in life. I’ve been to places where people have hard lives, and my house isn’t within a thousand miles of any of them so I don’t complain much.

I couldn’t get a job tomorrow that would pay me half of what poker will pay me this year. If I could just do something starting tomorrow that would pay me well, poker would go back to being a hobby, and then it would probably be a lot of fun. But I don’t have that option. I haven’t had a job in ten years, I don’t have a college degree, and my only marketable skill skill set is as a luthier (building guitars), which is not an option because of a serious allergy to a number of exotic hardwoods. Doing something else right away is not an option.

So what do I do about poker while I am working on finding something else to do at least part time?

I have been writing quite a lot in hopes of making the transition to a career as a full time writer, but I can’t make that leap until I have started making real money, which is tough as a writer. Writers don’t make a lot of money unless they are publishing best selling books or they are doing really well in e-publishing with their own stuff. I’m working on it, but I may not be there for a while. I have also been working on some web projects, but they are unpredictable and not paying the bills yet.

As for poker, I’m working on making it fun again.

The team battles at Running Aces the last few weeks really reminded how much fun poker can be and how entertaining it can be as a social game. I have been listening to books while I play, as well as some podcasts and occasional music, but that keeps me disengaged from the game, I’ll problem I’ll discuss in a paragraph or two. Avoiding interaction with other players definitely costs me money because I am not hearing them talk, learning about them, and picking up information that I can use to make more money later. I know my income suffers when I’m not at my best, especially in the tougher games in Minnesota. I can’t just sit and wait for the nuts or a big draw like I could in Vegas or California, making continuation bets and otherwise throwing my hand away if I encounter resistance without a big hand.

I have decided to start talking to my opponents. I stopped talking so much and using my ear buds more often because I was tired of the same lame ass bad beat stories and “I wish I had the nuts right here” or “Can I have my hand back” comments. Honestly I don’t know how dealers handle it. But I also miss the interesting conversations and learning about people’s lives. The poker table is one of the few places where people from all walks of life get together and talk, and that is one of the things that makes it interesting.

This summer I got to tell a convicted murderer to shut up, check raise a Methodist minister, lose a big pot to a stripper, and chop a trophy with my old mail man – all in the same tournament! The game would have been boring with headphones on. The problem is that I am so tired of no-limit holdem with the same people that it’s tough for me to grind out a living in the local games without listening to a book and checking my rss feed every five minutes.

During the team battles I had so much fun, and enjoyed the socializing so much, that I have decided to move more in that direction. Maybe I can find a way to have fun at the tables again, to laugh a little more and also be more engaged in the game so that I can make a few more dollars. Because more laughing and more money makes everything more fun.


Playing as a Team

If you are a Minnesota poker player, you probably know about the team battles at Running Aces. The idea was inspired by the never ending twitter battles between Poker Joker and Rooster, and Running Aces tournament director Tristan Willberg decided to make a legitimate team battle happen. The schedule included two $65 buy-in events, which I planned to skip, and a $230 event that I was definitely going to play. Then Brian Soja got himself a big stack in the Sunday Optimum right about the same time I busted out and I took his seat in the $65 event last weekend.

Our team was lots of fun, with Poker Joker himself cranking up celebratory tunes on a bluetooth speaker with every player we eliminated, Renee Kessel dancing, Jordan Handrich asking me “What range should I call with here?” and Steve Lillehaug drinking like it was his job. It was the most fun I’ve had in a poker tournament in a long time, and I’m glad I got the opportunity even though we busted after making the final four.

It would usually be almost impossible to get me to play as $65 event, but I’ll be playing every team battle from now on, and Tristan has assured me that there will be more team battles in the future. It’s like playing with a bunch of your friends, being able to root for half the table, and it brings backs the social aspect that is sometimes missing in more competitive games. I never had any desire to put my headphones on or check the rss feed on my phone.

The rules are fairly simple. You can not reveal the contents of your hand, but you can say pretty much anything else. You can tell your teammates what to do, or what you would do, but they won’t always take your advice (QJ isn’t a monster Renee). The rules have been amended a few times as you would expect in a new format, and they remain somewhat vague, but the format still works very well and there were no significant disputes. Friendly rivalries, meeting new people, and busting those people and celebrating, are all part of the deal.

I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s $230 buy-in event, partly because I have joined a very strong team, but also because the experience was so much fun. We may be there until 5 am because the structure is very good and it’s best of three instead of the single elimination that we had in the $65 event. This could mean a significant wait if you dispatch your opponents with two quick wins and another match is a rough best of three that goes down to the wire each time, but my plan is to play cash games in between matches if I do find myself with a significant wait. I might wander outside and watch the horses, and if I’m feeling frisky I may even lay down a bet on a long shot.

There are spots for a few teams still open, and if you can’t find a team I can post something on facebook for you and find you some teammates. I want this thing to fill up, because everyone is going to have a great time and the more teams that register the sooner they will run more team battles!

To give you an idea how much fun it was, the Optimum was three handed when there were four teams left and even though the Optimum is a much bigger tournament, the rail was about four people while one of the team battles had a rail of at least a dozen people who were all standing and cheering.

For full info on the team battles, click here.


Tournament Season

Tournament season is in full swing in Minnesota. Kicked off by the Tournament of Champions, tournament season runs through the middle of October with events nearly every weekend. Let’s break it down.

August 16th to 18th – MSPT event in Grand Falls, at one of my favorite properties. I don’t know if I’ll make it to this one, but I’ll definitely be at some upcoming MSPT events. Good luck if you are heading to Grand Falls this weekend!

August 23rd to 25th – The Twin Cities Poker Open at Canterbury Park. I’ve already got my seat, and if you are serious about poker, you need to get yours. An $1,100 event in the twin cities is too good an opportunity to miss, and the field should be pretty good.

August 30th to Sept 8th – The inaugural Keep It or Cash It MSPT event at Downstream in Oklahoma. I love the property, and the Keep It or Cash It idea is so good that I can’t miss it. Whoever came up with that idea is a genius. OK, it was Me, Mileski, and the poker room manager Dale at Downstream. We were drinking in a little dive bar in Joplin and in between terrible Karaoke songs, we came up with the idea. And it’s brilliant. So good that I’m driving to Oklahoma to play it.

August 18th and 25th – The $65 buy-in team battles at Running Aces, while the $230 team battle will happen on September 1st. These should be a ton of fun.

September 11th to 22nd – The Midwest Poker Classic at Running Aces. Awesome structure, a great schedule, and multiple events every day, make this series a can’t miss for me. Click the tab at the top of my site for a web version of the whole schedule. I’ll be chasing the player of the series points and grinding hard in every event.

September 30th to October 4th – The Ultimate Overlay at Canterbury Park with a $111,111 guaranteed prize pool. Hopefully next year we can get 20% of Blake Bohn’s winnings…

October 5th to 21st The legendary Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park. A great series with big fields.

October 24th to 27th – The HallowScream tournament at Running Aces was the best tournament of the year last year (hint, I can see the trophy from here). A lot of fun!

November 24th – The Big Turkey Tourney at Running Aces looks to be a great event! I’ll be representing Team Aces along with Erick Wright and Dave Gonia trying to take this one down. We have all committed to the event and we’ll be doing some fun giveaways as well.

December 6th to 8th – The MSPT at Canterbury Park will probably set an MSPT attendance record again. Another can’t miss event and first place might be over $100,000!

There are also MSPT events at FireKeepers, Ho Chunk, Meskwaki, and Canterbury Park by the end of the year, all great events within a reasonable driving distance!

That is a major tournament series every weekend and a lot of weekdays too, all the way until December 8th. Over 100 days of tournaments between now and the end of the year! I may not have to leave the state except to go to MSPT events until next year.





Hall of Fame Nominations

Canterbury Park announced this week that they are going to host the Minnesota Poker Hall of Fame. I won’t even go into whether there should even be a Minnesota Hall of Fame, I have heard that discussion enough at the poker tables this week. There is going to be one, and it makes for an interesting blog post, so I am going to post my thoughts on the people that should be in it.  Let me preface this by saying that I am not part of the hall of fame committee, I have no idea who is part of the hall of fame committee, and I have zero sway or influence at Canterbury Park. A few people at Canterbury aren’t big fans of yours truly, but they run a good card room and I’m sure the hall of fame will be done well.

If I were in charge, I would nominate (in no particular order) –

“Minneapolis” Jim Meehan 

Love him or hate him, Jim was the face of Minnesota poker for many years. When I first started going to Las Vegas, everyone that heard I was from Minnesota asked me if I knew Jim. He has a WSoP bracelet, Minnesota’s first, and he has been a figure both locally and nationally since before Canterbury brought legitimate poker to Minnesota. Jim is definitely a first ballot hall of fame inductee.

Lyle Berman 

Lyle is an excellent player and has some accomplishments under his belt at the poker tables, but more important than those accomplishments is his role in the creation of the World Poker Tour. Lyle helped start the poker boom by broadcasting poker the right way, with hole card cams and announcers who knew what they were talking about. Lyle might be the most important figure in the poker world that has come out of Minnesota, and I think he’s a lock to get into the hall.

Danielle Anderson

You may not have played with her in your local weekly tournament, but dmoongirl was a big deal online and more recently was the star of Bet Raise Fold, a documentary about the online poker world and Black Friday. Between her poker accomplishments and her starring role in an important poker documentary that the whole country is watching, Danielle belongs in the hall of fame.

Jason ‘pbjaxx’ Senti

Jason is a figure in the local poker scene on occasion, but he is most widely know for making the November Nine at the WSoP main event in 2010 where he won 1.3 million dollars. He’s also a great guy, a well known high stakes online player, and a world class pot-limit Omaha player. Jason belongs in the hall of fame, no doubt about it.

John ‘JohnnyGStacks’ Hayes

As far as I can tell, Johnny is the biggest winner in Minnesota history, with over 2.5 million in tournament winnings online, strong live tournament results including an MSPT bracelet and a 3rd place finish in a WSoP event, Johnny has proven that he is a world class player and that he belongs in the hall of fame.

The five names above seem like slam dunk first ballot hall of famers to me, and I think Bryan Mileski, Everett Carlton, and Blake Bohn should be in the running as well. None of them would be a bad choice, and all three show no signs of slowing down. Mileski will continue to grow the MSPT, and Carlton and Bohn will continue to win tournaments, so if we don’t put them in now, we’ll be doing it in a few years anyway.

Watch for players like Kou Vang, Matt Kirby, Jarred Koppel, and Erick Wright as well. With a little more longevity all of those names could end up in the hall. My apologies to anyone I missed, these were just the names I came up with off the top of my head. It’s a blog, not an article in the New York Times. For an NYT article, I would probably actually do some research.

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A Support System

I have had some success lately, more in terms of notoriety than in actual monetary profit, and I was reflecting on my way home tonight about how important it is to have the support of my family and friends. I have had many conversations with my students and other players at the tables about how their significant other, parents, or friends, aren’t supportive of their interest in poker. I can’t imagine how tough it would be to make a career out of playing poker if my friends and family were against it or thought it was a negative thing in my life.

The most important person for me is definitely my wife. She is amazing when it comes to dealing with the ups and downs of a poker career and the strange things that life as a poker pro bring into your life. Through swings in my bankroll, the nightmare of Black Friday, and the stress of long periods of running bad, she takes it all in stride. When I come home at 5 am night after night because we need the money, she doesn’t bat an eye.

Lisa Jaster

My wife is the nuts!

Last year during the Winter Freeze Out at Canterbury Park I hit the final table with the chip lead after having the chip lead for most of the day. I was running well, playing well, and felt good about my chances. My wife happened to call while we were on a break before starting the final table. I told her that I had the chip lead going in to the final table and that first place was $47,000. Her reply?

“Oh great. I’m going to bed, let me know how you did when you get home. Play well.”

Seriously? Who does that? If you had half of someone’s action in that spot, would you just drift off to sleep? I couldn’t do it. I might not get in my car and fly down to the card room, but I would at least be excited and interested, but it all rolls off her back like it’s nothing. When I’m running bad for a week or two and I get stressed about it, or I am worried about my bankroll, she just assures me that I’m a great poker player and that it will all be fine like it has every other time. She’s right, but it’s hard to just be confident of that when you are running bad and everything seems to be against you. When the whole world seems to be against me, it’s so nice to have someone who is on my side and believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

It would also be frustrating if my extended family thought it was a bad thing. Family gatherings would be tough if my family was anti-poker, but my parents, sister, grandparents, and cousins all seem to think it’s a perfectly fine way to make a living. It might be a little strange for some of them, but even my very Christian grandmother doesn’t seem to have any problem with it. Even my dogs are all for it. They think I’m the greatest thing ever when I come home late from the card room.

Many of my friends play poker themselves, and after playing for a living for ten years I have made so many friends who play for a living and understand how things are, that I don’t think I have any friends who disapprove. The friends I had when I started playing for a living are mostly still around, and none of them ever thought it was a bad thing. Some of that is a lifestyle and culture thing. If you grew up in a Catholic school and live in a conservative burb surrounded by doctors and lawyers, more of your friends and family might disapprove. My friends who hung out in Irish bars, accepted pretty much any lifestyle, and are cool with almost any way that you make a living other than politics, didn’t even find it strange.

If you have people in your life who don’t like poker, do everything you can to help them understand that it’s a contest of skill, that you are serious about it, and that you don’t have a gambling problem. Having their support will make your life so much easier.

I have seen the negative side of things from random people I meet who sometimes disapprove of what I do, but that is a nice filter to weed out people that I shouldn’t waste my time on. I had an apartment manager ask me what I do for a living, and when I told her that I played poker, she asked “So you have a gambling problem?”

Yes bitch, when I said professional poker player, I meant to say degenerate gambler. Thank you for correcting me when I misspoke. And I assume you have an apartment managing problem? And your husband the dentist, he just has an oral fixation? Your cousin the sanitation worker, do you just call him a dumpster bum? Does he love garbage? Grrr.

Luckily that attitude is rare these days, and poker has become a more respectable profession. I don’t get as much negative response these days, nor do I get the wide-eyed “Oh that’s so cool” response very often. Poker is a lot more normal than it used to be. Everyone knows someone who plays seriously, and even non-players mostly understand that it is a game of skill involving real money and that a legitimate living can be made from it. I hope that trend continues.

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Running Aces Pro Team

A few days ago I joined the pro team at Running Aces card room here in Minnesota. If I could pick any card room in the country to work with, it would be Running Aces, so I’m obviously very happy at how this worked out.

Reasons why I’m happy to be part of the pro team – 

1. Aces is the home of tournament poker in Minnesota. More tournaments, bigger buy-ins, and way better structures than any card room in Minnesota. Probably the best structured weekly tournaments of any card room in the country. I get bored with cash games, but I love playing tournaments, so Aces is definitely the best choice for me.

2. The staff is great. I have made quite a few friends at Running Aces, and the staff are friendly and very good at their jobs. The dealers, floor people, tournament directors, and even the cocktail servers are friendly and efficient. I like the fact that dealers are encouraged to be friendly instead of robotic, and it has given me a chance to get to now some of them pretty well.

3. They have made really good choices with the pro team so far and I’m happy to be part of a solid group. Both of my teammates are excellent players and good people who will represent the room well. Erick Wright was Minnesota Poker Magazine’s Player of the Year in 2012, while Dave Gonia won the Mid-States Poker Tour event at Running Aces in January for $90,000 and final tabled a bracelet event at the WSoP this summer. I’m sure any new additions to the team will be excellent players who represent the room well too.

4. It’s close to home. A twenty minute drive gets me to the card room, and now that I have a VIP parking pass I can park right up front and be inside in moments. The importance of a short commute is often underrated.

Of course there are some negatives – 

1. Wright and Gonia are both going to be in pretty much every tournament now, making the field tougher for me.

2. Talking to friendly dealers and watching beautiful cocktail waitresses walk by are both significant distractions. How am I going to beat Dave Gonia heads up if I have to deal with all of those distractions?

3. I have to behave in a professional manner. I hate behaving myself. I really hate it.

I am going to try to get a mixed game started soon. I’m thinking Monday night, $8/16 HORSE starting around 6 pm. Anyone interested? Aces will start any game we want, which is another great reason to play there.



Make the Game Great

I’ve been preaching game selection to my students for years, but sometimes it can be tough to find a good game. If you are in a small poker room there may not be many tables available, and even in fairly large rooms you may be playing a game where there simply isn’t a good game available at the moment. Table changes can take time too, and there is nothing more frustrating than getting a table change and ending up in the seat that was occupied by the donkey who was driving the action until five minutes ago. As an old friend once said –

“If you aren’t at a party, that’s your own fault. Everywhere I go there is a party. I bring the party. Sometimes I am the party.”

I’ve spent enough time playing with friends who tend to make a table great, that I have learned a little bit about how to make it happen. While I’ll never be as good at waking up a table as guys like Adam Stemple, Tom Hammers, or Mark Kroon, I can definitely wake up a bad table and at least get people talking and playing a few pots. If you are stuck at a bad table and moving just isn’t a great option, try whatever you can to get the table moving. Here are a few ideas.

1. Make people laugh. When people are laughing, they are friendly, they feel a sense of community, and they are enjoying themselves. They may start playing more pots, and the happy table may attract a genuine fish.

2. Buy them a drink. In poker rooms where you pay for your drinks, like we do here in Minnesota, buying just one player a drink can start a trend and your fellow players may start buying each other drinks. You can refrain yourself, just have one drink, or even have the waitress bring you a coke with a lime in it so that it looks like you are part of the party. I love to order a Bailey’s and coffee, which has very little real alcohol content, but smells great and lets me be part of the party instead of buying a few drinks and ordering a water for myself.

3. Show them a bluff. There have been times at a bad table where I will make a play with a slightly negative expectation just because showing off the bluff will wake the table up. This is good for two reasons. It may wake the table up for you, but it may not wake the table up for the other tight players. You will get action, while the tight players may be annoyed with your antics and leave or just be frustrated by the lack of action. When a good player leaves, it opens up a seat that may be a filled by a fish that brings the table back to life.

4. Bust somebody. When a table is bad, there is usually not a waiting list of strong players waiting to get on it. The sharks know that the table isn’t good, so they won’t be waiting to play on it, but the fish won’t know the table is tough so they will be more likely to be on the list. Tables tend to cycle, with bad tables either breaking or being refilled with fish as the sharks leave out of frustration and great tables developing long lists of smart players waiting to get in which turns it back into a bad table after a few hours. Getting this cycle moving faster when the table is bad will get you to the good part of the cycle faster.

5. Point it out. The average to strong players may leave if you point out how tough the table is. Fish don’t care if the table is tough, they think they play well and should have no problem beating good players, so if there is a fish or two at an otherwise bad table you don’t have to worry about scaring them off. You can be careful about when you complain about the table and how loudly too, just to make sure that the fish stick around.

6. Go home. If there really isn’t a good game, and you can’t wake up the game you are in, just take the night off. Get some work done, enjoy time with your family, or just get some sleep. The game will be better tomorrow.


Play for the Money, Chop the Ring?!?!

That’s right, not long after I get back to Minnesota, I’ll be walking in to RF Moeller and asking them to chop a ring in half for me.

“You’re chopping up your first place prize?!?!” – John Hayes

“Seriously?” – Tom Hammers

“You’re chopping what?” – Matt Kirby

Let’s start with a little back story and maybe it will all make sense at the end…

A few years ago I was at a final table where the idea of making a deal was brought up. The exact words were –

“Let’s chop the money and play for the trophy.”

To which I responded –

“Let’s chop the trophy and play for the money!”

No one thought my idea was nearly as good as the first suggestion and we chopped the cash up instead, but the thought stuck with me. How much fun would it be to chop a trophy? I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before, and I had this picture in my head of a big band saw ripping down through the center of a trophy and two players each holding up their half for a victory photograph. I liked the idea. And I tried to make it happen. At least fifteen times I have tried to make it happen, getting friends to agree to chop a trophy if we get to heads up.

I got as far as five handed at a tournament at The Wynn last year with a player still in who had agreed to chop the trophy if we got heads up. Wynn trophies are stone replicas of the Wynn building, big heavy things, and it would have been fun to hunt around for the right place to chop it neatly in half, but I busted in fifth and the trophy went home whole. Every time I play an event where I have a trophy chop agreed to ahead of time, the trophy must breathe a sigh of relief when one of us busts out. Like a turkey pardoned by the president on Thanksgiving.

On June 17th I played a satellite at Running Aces. Winners received a $600 tournament buy-in at The Golden Nugget for the Poker Player Championship, $400 for travel, two nights at The Nugget, and a limo ride. Not only was the satellite a good deal for $125, but Running Aces added two seats. I was pretty shorts tacked at the end, and it is very likely that I got my entry because of those two extra seats. I was already planning to play the event, and with a nice little satellite close to home, I couldn’t pass it up. I almost skipped it because my flight to Vegas was leaving that night, but I checked the structure and decided that I would have enough time to win a seat and still get to the airport.

Pay Flaherty, a fellow Minnesota player who also got his seat in the Running Aces satellite, agreed to chop the gold championship ring with me if we should get to heads up. The odds of this happening were slim, but as any poker player knows, long shots come in, and this time the prize took a bad beat the third place finisher busted leaving Pat and I heads up. I went on to win, running good in the heads up portion and flopping trips against Pat’s two pair, but he played well.

Pat isn’t just a Minnesota player, the odd coincidence is even bigger than that. I met Pat when he worked at the post office down the block from my office a few years ago. I often went there to mail off copies of my book. When he saw it was a poker book we started talking poker every time I dropped by. I knew the guy from Minnesota before I ever played poker with him, and there we were in Las Vegas, heads up for a pile of cash and soon we’ll be chopping the championship ring in half.

The Player’s Championship also has a large cup style trophy, like the Stanley Cup of Poker, which has the winner’s names engraved on it and it lives in the winner’s home casino during the year before returning to the Nugget for next year’s championship event. In the next month or two it should be sitting in Running Aces and will spend about ten month’s there. Maybe I can take it out for a night, like Lord Stanley’s cup. I checked before the event, and they will definitely NOT allow us to chop it in half. Tournament staff informed me that the idea of chopping the cup itself in half was not even an acceptable topic of discussion and I got some strange looks. I was just asking.





Preparing for Vegas

I’m headed to Vegas on Sunday night, and staying for a month, so I’ve spent most of the week at home getting things done and hanging out with my wife and my dogs. I’ll be playing poker at least 12 ours a day for the next month, so taking some time off right now seems like the best choice. Other than spending time with the family and resting up, I’m also preparing for Vegas in other ways. If you read my blog often, you know I love numbered lists…

Things I’m doing to get ready for Vegas

1. Looking at the new Blue Shark Optics product line. I can’t say enough good things about Blue Sharks and how much they will help your game. I know the good folks at Blue Shark, and they give me a great deal on a pair every year at the WSoP where I can try on ten or twenty pairs to find out what I like. Once a year seems to be about the right replacement rate too, I either scratch or break them by the time the WSoP rolls back around. There are no other shades that are even close to Blue Sharks, and with the strong fields in Vegas during the summer I will be wearing them most of the time. If you buy some, tell them I said hi and you might get a discount.

2. Getting some new cargo shorts with big pockets so I can carry everything I need for a long tournament day. Two extra cell phone batteries, headphones or ear buds, cash, wallet, cell phone, Blue Sharks, business cards, an E-Cigarette, and who knows what else I might need on a given day. The pockets on a pair of jeans or board shorts just won’t carry enough stuff comfortably and backpacks are banned at The Rio this year so I’ll need big pockets.

3. I just bought a new laptop so that keeping up with this blog and other writing I will need to do will be simple and easy. I bought a chromebook, and I love it. It starts up in 6 seconds, doesn’t catch viruses, and it’s small, light weight, and inexpensive. Perfect for traveling light and working in lots of different environments.

4. Buying protein bars. I have a lot of weird food allergies that mostly involve fresh fruits and vegetables, so it’s very tough to eat healthy in a casino. I’m also allergic to spending $15 on a burrito at the Poker Kitchen twice a day, so some protein bars in my pockets will save me some money too. Your brain power and mental toughness are badly degraded when you get hungry, and with a short break every two hours you will sometimes find yourself playing hungry if you don’t have a snack with you.

Some News

Have you seen the ridiculous amounts of money that Minnesota players are winning in Vegas this summer? Over $700,000 so far, and we will almost certainly break the million dollar mark by the end of July. Check out this list of cashes at

I’ll probably be playing the PPotY satellite at Running Aces this Sunday before I fly out to Vegas. Great satellite, and I was planning to play that event at the Nugget anyway. And they are adding two seats!

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Aces PotW Conclusions

While my week of grinding tournaments at Running Aces was very profitable, I won’t run that good every week, and I came to some conclusions I wouldn’t have expected.

1. The promotion is probably a very good one. Once you get a few cashes you are going to play all week to try to make sure that you get some of those tournament dollars. I think they should probably promote it more, maybe with a big board behind the tournament desk and a webpage with the rankings and an explanation of the way the whole thing works. The Player of the Week page on the site right now links to the PotW standings from the third week of February…

2. One of the reasons that the promotion is so good is that it doesn’t cost the house anything. The money for the tournament dollars comes right out of the prize pools of the tournaments themselves. 3% comes out of the prize pool of each tournament for the PotW promotion. The $100 in tournament dollars I won last week is probably a lot less than I have paid into that prize pool from the 3% of the prizes I have won in tournaments since it has been running. This means that if you are not playing enough tournaments to get some PotW money, you are subsidizing the people who are in the hunt. If you are just playing the bigger tournaments, then you aren’t likely to be in the hunt, and you are subsidizing the players who are playing all of the smaller buy-in tournaments to get those PotW dollars.

3. The smaller buy-in tournaments are really tough to beat. The fields are ultra soft, and they are better structures than most lower buy-in weekly tournaments around the country, but starting with 5,000 in chips and short blind levels, as well as paying a very high rake percentage, makes it tough. The $50 buy-in tournament I played came out to $34+$16, or 32% juice. It’s tough to make any money paying that much rake in a fast structure no matter how soft the field is. This isn’t Running Aces fault, that’s how it always is in smaller buy-in tournaments and the house has to make a few dollars. Making a few dollars requires them to take a larger percentage when the buy-in is small, so I don’t begrudge them their money, I just can’t make any profit playing these tournaments.

4. Winning one of the top two spots requires you to play at least eight tournaments a week, and ten is probably a better number to have a good shot at it. I thought Kat and I had the top two spots locked up on Saturday, but Tim Votava final tabled both events on Sunday and flew by us when neither of us could play on Sunday. Well done Tim. Kat and I ended up tied for 3rd and getting $100 each. With what I won for the week, I was about break even with the PotW promotion because 3% of my winnings was  close to $100.

If you wanted to play every tournament all week, or close to it, and you are a reasonable good player, you could average at least $300 a week, but you would be working a ton of hours and paying so much money in the extra PotW juice that you might be making an extra $2 or $3 per hour from the race. I’ll stick with the three $150 tournaments and the $250 Sunday Optimum for now, and I won’t always play those because the extra 3% I’ll be paying to subsidize a race that I’m not a part of irritates me.

The structures at Running Aces are good, but I play poker for money, and I have to go where the money is. These days it seems to be in home games with very low or no rake, so that’s where I will continue to play most of the time. They aren’t professional, and there isn’t great food in most cases, but the rake is right and the players are soft, so they are my best option for paying the bills right now.

I also heard zero response from my questions about a poker meet up group, so I’ll toss that idea in the muck. I figured I would get at least one or two responses since I get a few hundred readers a day, but as I’ve learned in the past, poker players don’t want to learn, they want to play. I also put up links to the schedules for every major tournament series on a separate page here on the site. You can get there by clicking on the Vegas Summer Schedule tab at the top of this site.

Follow me on twitter @foxpokerfox

Closed Circuit to Running Aces Staff – If I was a Running Aces pro, I would have all the PotW info up on a page on my own site already and you wouldn’t have to worry about it. I would also be working on helping you come up with a promotion for the PotW that makes it more profitable for serious players. Hint. Hint.

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Help Me Out

I’ve enabled comments on the blog so that I can get some feedback from you, the reader. I have a couple of ideas that I would like to bounce off you and I would love hear your thoughts on what you would like to read in the blog in future posts as well. Do you want strategy, hand reviews, local or national poker news, ethereal poker wisdom, or should I just be entertaining and irreverent every day?

If I ran a weekly poker study group for say $20 to come for one week or $50 for a month, would you show up? Should it be at one of the card rooms, bouncing back and forth between them, or at a more central location in the cities at a coffee shop maybe? Saturday at noon or a week night? I would present on some topic, answer questions, and everyone would help each other out. What do you think about this idea?

You can see a seven second tour of Erick Wright’s condo in Vegas HERE.

Congrats to Chad Holloway on shipping a bracelet in event #1 at the WSoP.

I will be on Minnesota Poker Weekly on KFAN Monday night at 9 pm on FM 100.3 in the Twin Cities.

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Player of the Week Race at Running Aces

I’ve been very frustrated with online poker lately, so I’ve given it up almost completely. I’m also trying to cut down a little on the amount of time I’m spending on the road and make a little more money, so local live poker games are the only way to do that. The games in Minnesota are tougher than any other place that I’ve played, but there is still definitely money to be made here and we are lucky to have two high quality card rooms in the twin cities. With the low limits on cash games, making more than about $25 an hour is tough, and even that number is only achievable by the very best players who have spent a lot of time studying. I do play in some home games where my income is a little higher than that, but tournaments are probably the best solution long term and I really enjoy playing them.

This week I decided to play a bunch of tournaments at Running Aces and see how tough the Player of the Week race is. I’ve talked to a couple people who are regularly in the running for the PotW race and run some numbers on my own, and I think I have a pretty good feel for how much I can make playing just tournaments at Running Aces. It’s not enough money to make me really happy by itself, but adding in lots of local series in the spring and fall, MSPT events, and whatever else I can find locally, I don’t think I will have to be on the road when I don’t want to. As of today I’m in the lead for the PotW race by five points.

The Schedule

Monday – The $5k freeroll is really a $50 buy-in tournament if you are playing it right. You start with 27,000 in chips that way, and they add $2k to the prize pool. Of course the $50 is half rake, which is the only reason this isn’t the best tournament in town, but with the added money, huge field, and terrible players, it’s still worth playing. I would probably skip it some weeks when I had a lot of work to get done, but it’s worth playing.

Tuesday – The $50 tournament at 2 pm may not be worth it just because smaller buy-in tournaments have such a high rake percentage, but the 6 pm tournament is $150 buy-in and a great structure. The 6 pm will be on my schedule every week when I’m in town.

Wednesday – In the past I have always played the $235 weekly at Canterbury, but if I have a cash at Aces already that puts me in the points race then I’ll play the Wacky Wednesday at 6 pm. The $50 rebuy at 10:30 am is probably profitable as well, but I don’t play tournaments before noon. Gotta get my beauty sleep.

Thursday – The $150 at 6 pm is the same as the Tuesday event and I will play this almost every week when I am in town too.

Friday – There are two $70 tournaments on Friday, and they are small enough that I’ll skip them unless I am in the points race from some good results earlier in the week.

Saturday – The $70 tournament at 9:30 is too early for me, but the $150 bounty event at 6 pm will only be on my schedule most weeks, and if I’m in the points race I’ll play it for sure.

Sunday – The $250 Optimum is one of the best weekly tournaments I’ve ever seen, and I’ll play it whenever I’m in town. If I bust the Optimum, and I’m still looking for points, I can play the $70 event at 6pm.

What I Might Make

I think I would be playing an average of $800 in tournaments in a typical week at Aces, and my ROI in those tournaments is pretty good, so making $1,000 a week should be doable. With $200 a week in PotW money, I’m up to $1,200 a week. Given that I’m self employed and have to pay my own health insurance, social security, etc., I wouldn’t be happy with $1,200 a week long term, but to make that on my “off weeks” when I’m not playing bigger stuff is pretty reasonable. Adding that to the bigger events, MSPT, local series, and the WSoP in the summer, I could get myself up to a pretty reasonable income and I might not hate poker so much if I was just playing tournaments and putting in less hours than I have been in the past.

It ain’t Vegas, or Florida, or California, but there is money to be made in Minnesota if you study hard and learn to really crush the games. In some parts of the country it is impossible to make a living playing poker, so we’re lucky to have this option even if players in some places are making more money.

Quick News Update 


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Some News

I have a long list of things I should talk about in my blog, so I’ll get right to it.

1. Erick Wright was named Running Aces ambassador and card room pro. Congrats to Erick, he’s a good guy and he works hard. I hope I get a gig like this myself some time soon.

2. I have some action for sale at the WSoP this summer. While my action in events $1,000 and higher is all promised to a backer that I have worked with since Black Friday, I am selling part of a package of smaller events. It’s nearly impossible to predict exactly what I will be able to play because there are so many events all over town and I have to work the smaller stuff into my schedule when I don’t have something bigger to play, but I will try to play at least $10,000 worth of smaller events in the $200 to $600 dollar range. I’ll be taking a portion of myself, and a couple people have already claimed pieces with offers like “I’ll take 20% of whatever you’re selling” but there is some action still for sale. Contact me at if you want in before it sells out. A more in-depth blog post is coming later this week about buying and selling action and if I still have some action for sale I will list the tournaments I’m likely to play.

3. I picked up some Koss Porta Pro Headphones and used them on Sunday for the first time. I’ve been through two pairs of headphones and at least five pairs of ear buds looking for the right thing for poker and I have finally found it. They sound great and they don’t block too much outside noise when they are turned off, so I can still hear what is going on at the table. The best $40 I have spent in a long time. And they fold up small enough to fit in a large pocket!

4. Aces finally changed their cell phone policy! Hallelujah! First Canterbury extends re-entry in the Wednesday night tourney and now this? I’m running out of things to complain about with my local card rooms. Now if they could just get a few more fish at the tables I would never have to leave town.

5. I chopped the Sunday Optimum at Running Aces this week. It wasn’t a huge score, but the extra cash was much needed in my household. The Optimum has the best structure for a weekly tournament ever. I had played it four times previously and never cashed, but this time things went my way. I suggested the chop and ran the ICM numbers because we probably had two more hours to play and I didn’t think the extra money I might make was worth the extra two hours given that I was getting over $3,000 in chop value and my opponents were not especially soft. I have definitely turned down chops in the past, but sometimes they are a good idea.

I also turned down the offer to “pay the bubble” which comes up in most small tournaments. I always encourage small stacks to make their own agreement amongst themselves, and if I’m a small stack I may agree to be part of one of these deals, but I won’t be part of them when I am a big stack. When there is very little chance that I will be the bubble, then throwing in $20 to pay the bubble is simply donating to charity. While I do donate money to charity, I have trouble offering $20 to a poker player instead of giving it to a more worthwhile cause.  I caught a little crap about it, but I have vowed to never bow to pressure that costs me money at the tables ever again. I’m at work, and I’m there to make money. We can be friends, but begging or harassing me will not do anyone any good in a card room.

6. I’ll be playing a ton of tournaments this week at Aces. I’m curious how some of the smaller tourneys are and whether the Player of the Week chase is worth doing on a regular basis, so I’m giving it a shot this week.



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Take It Down Johnny!

Huge congratulations to my friend John ‘GStacks’ Hayes on his MSPT bracelet! He won the Northern Lights events on Sunday, crushing the table and setting a record for the fastest final table ever. Johnny has won more money online than any player in Minnesota, and has been crushing live tournaments for years too. He took third in a WSoP event last year, and fourth in an MSPT event at Grand Falls this year. Johnny is a badass and I couldn’t be happier to see him win this one.

Jarod Ludemann took 13th in the WSoP National Championship a few days ago. He’s another awesome poker player from Minnesota that is due for a huge score.

I’ve had a lot of people interested in buying a piece of my action in the WSoP. While I am currently stuck in a backing deal with makeup in tournaments with buy-ins of $1,000 or more, I have my own action in smaller events and will be selling some of it in a few days when I have my schedule solidified. As soon as that schedule is up and for sale I will post it here and sell it on a first come first served basis, though I do have a significant chunk reserved for a few friends.

I’m in Michigan to see my new nephew for the first time, so I’ve been a little busy, but I’ll be back tomorrow night with a more in-depth blog post covering the Vegas Summer package I’m offering and some thoughts on selling action in general.

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News Updates

Quick and dirty news both local, personal, and national.

Local – The MSPT is in Walker with their final tournament before the summer break, and Bryan Mileski will be doing a radio show tomorrow night with Cory Cove on KFAN 100.3. Listen in to Minnesota Poker Weekly at 9 pm every Monday night!

Personal – I’ll be starting day two today at MSPT Northern Lights today with 39,600. Blinds will be 1,000/2,000 to start the day, and if I don’t make the final table I will be doing commentary on the live broadcast.

National – The WSoP has announced the Carnivale of Poker, a separate series running during the World Series this year. Most of the early events are Monday and Tuesday, switching to later in the week when the series gets closer to the main event. If you are comfortable playing multiple games (there are some mixed and alternate game events) and going to be in Vegas for the whole series, I think it’s well worth chasing the $100,000 that goes to the top ten point earners in the Carnivale series.

I’m also happy that it adds some mixed game events to my schedule, though I don’t know how many Carnivale events I can play. The rake is high because of the $100,000 for the points race, and I hate to subsidize a prize that I can’t win because I won’t be in town for the first two weeks of the series. It’s tough to beat a $300 + 65 event if you have no chance at getting back some of that $65 later, but it’s a great value for someone who will in town for most of it because so many people will be subsidizing that prize that you have a chance to win.

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The bad run is over, ready for Walker!

After one of the longest bad runs of my life, I chopped the Wednesday $235 last night for $3,600. Not a big score, but anything that breaks the bad run of the last month or two feels like a huge victory. Even though I’m a bankroll nit, very conservative with my buy-ins, I was getting a little stressed. Just when I was really starting to hate poker too.

Canterbury extended late registration through the end of the first break, which is something players have wanted for a long time. Kudos to them for listening to their players. I bought in twice, and my second buy-in was during the third level, so I wouldn’t have been able to get back in and chop the tournament without the new re-entry rule. I think the rule change had an effect on the field size as well because we ended up with 110 entries which is a larger than usual field.

I’m headed up to Walker for the MSPT event on Friday, and if I don’t make the final table (fingers crossed), I’ll be doing the commentary on the live broadcast. Also hoping to make day two from Day 1A so I can go fishing (drinking) with Kou Vang and John Hayes. I haven’t been fishing in at least 15 years, but I think I remember how to drink a beer in a boat.

Here’s a list of my top ten favorite things about the are around Walker Bay.

1. Northern Lights Casino – A great place to gamble, and they are very good to the MSPT entrants. Cash games are always good here during the MSPT, and the casino staff is awesome.

2. The Bikini Ice Fishing Team – This pic says it all.

3. They know how to party.

4. They have their own brewery.

5. Jimmy’s Restaurant is an awesome restaurant, and it’s cheap!

6. The Muskie are so big in Leech lake that local fishing guides actually use full grown Irish Setters for bait.

7. The people are friendly.

8. The lake actually has a lot less leeches than the name would indicate.

9. Did I mention that the people are really nice?

10. Matt Kirby will be there

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Links Everywhere

I’ve always thought those blogs with links everywhere were neat. You know the ones where they insert words into the post just to us them as links? Like if I said “I was playing on Bodog the other day… blah blah blah.” Anyway, I thought I would try one of those just to see how it went. By the way, I will always be a smart ass with my anchor text for links. It’s just become a habit. If you hover over a link in my blog, the text that pops up to describe the link will often be something snarky, funny, or ironic. And while it will probably never be anything too hardcore or offensive, do be careful clicking at work, there could be a dirty word in there somewhere.

I took my second shot at the Mayhem in May tournament tonight at Running Aces, but I continue to run bad and couldn’t manage to fade Nate Fair‘s three outer. It was a great tournament though, especially for those that managed to run a little better than I do. You should also remember that if I say something bad about someone in the local poker scene, it’s probably a joke. For example, I like Nate Fair, even if he is a huge donkey, so I can kid around with him. Someone will eventually take offense to something I write, that’s just how it goes, but I will probably just mock them mercilessly.

In other news, Russ Hamilton, former WSoP Champion, online poker cheat, and dirtbag, admitted all the shady things he did in the Ultimate Bet scandal, and implicated Annie Duke and others, including a company that is involved in the only licensed only poker site in Nevada, Iovation. Not only is their name, Ultimate Poker, similar to Ultimate Bet, but they hired a company involved in the UB scandal to handle their verification services. I’m sure your money is safe there, no worries.

I’ve also noticed that these blogs with tons of links in them always sneak in a plug for the things they are selling or promoting. Not that I would do that, I just noticed that some of them do it. That’s it for me, but I’ll be back every few days with more bloggy goodness. Until then, you can follow me on twitter.

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The Rooster and the Joker

It would make a great song title wouldn’t it? The Rooster and the Joker? I’ll have to drag my guitar out of the closet and see if I can whip something up. But it’s not a song, just a friendly twitter battle between a couple of local poker players that has turned into a team challenge. I am told that there is no money on the line at this point, just pride, but pride means a lot to poker players.

Josh “Rooster” Oien has put together ten players under the moniker Team Hammer Dong, while @the_poker_joker has a ten man team playing as Team Poker Joker, and a challenge has been issued for the Mayhem in May tournament at Running Aces. The teams will be scored according the PokerStars tournament leader board formula, and the winner will undoubtedly brag about it on twitter for months. The challenge brought up a few questions from people who were worried that money was involved, and there are legitimate concerns when it comes to teams playing in an individual event.

I highly doubt that anyone would engage in outright collusion in this case. I know many of the players on these teams, and can’t see it happening. Even if there were a little money involved, most poker players are not cheats and most of them know that the individual money involved in the tournament is much larger than any team bet that I have ever seen, so they would just cost themselves money by playing soft or chip dumping.

There’s also the question of how much it might hurt the other participants in the tournament. If you aren’t part of either team, then it is as likely to help you as hurt you.  A situation where someone would play differently against an opponent who isn’t involved in the bet is certainly possible, but it’s not likely, and that different play might make you money instead of costing you money. The chance that anything like this will have a significant affect on people who aren’t involved is very small, but it is there, which is why there is no money on the line in this case. If they choose to play differently because of pride, there isn’t much you can do about it except to know about the teams and take advantage of it if you see the right spot.

These same questions come up with backers and their horses, or people who swap a percentage in an event or at a cash game. Even friends can play differently against each other, and do you think a husband really wants to bust his wife when they are in the same event? All you can do is play your best, don’t play soft against anyone, and go back to being friends once the tournament is over.

In other news, and good news indeed, Running Aces finally got another phone charger. From the pic it looks like there are lots of cables there, so they won’t be full like the single Verizon charger at Canterbury. Maybe Canterbury will feel a little competitive and at least fix the broken Verizon charger in their charging station or get a bigger station like this one. Putting together something with more plugs wouldn’t be that tough to do and I imagine they’ll get on it soon.

I’ll be headed down to Running Aces tonight to try it out. I usually play the Wednesday night tournament at Canterbury, but I was running late and they close registration after the first hour. Great tournament, but as I wrote about last week, it’s a tough field. If late registration was open long enough I would have played it again this week, even though I haven’t won it since January.


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The Road Rules

I’ll be headed out to Running Aces to play the Sunday Optimum tournament today, and as always I checked the weather before leaving. Looks like it will be foggy by the time I leave tonight…

35E can be a lonely road at 4 am, which is usually when I leave Running Aces and head home. A foggy night on a lonely stretch of highway can be dangerous, but I’ve developed a set of rules to keep me safe on road trips and so far I haven’t had any problems. These rules were developed after years of reading horror novels and watching scary movies, and as long as you follow them you have nothing to worry about and can drive to Aces any time day or night.

1. If things look shady, get out.

This means that if we stop at a gas station, and Elvis (or a creepy clown) offers to pump our gas for us, and he has a gun on his hip, I’m out of there. If you aren’t in the car immediately, you’re screwed because I’m leaving. And if we stop at a country store and the owner has no teeth and a gorgeous daughter that’s flirting with me, I’m out of there too. Otherwise I end up killed or raped by her deformed brother in a creepy mask. Not my first rodeo folks, and I know better than to fall for the hot redneck girl in cutoff jean shorts when the situation is obviously crooked somehow. Nope, not the Fox.

2. It’s none of your business.

If you stop near a cornfield and a baby is crying in the corn, leave it alone. It’s not your baby. In fact it’s not a baby at all, it’s something or someone who is going to sacrifice you to the corn god. If you go investigate some weird sound in the middle of nowhere, I’m leaving. Good luck with devil baby in the corn field.

3. Finish off the killer.

If you find yourself in a bad spot, chased by a machete wielding killer, and score a few points on them, don’t leave them laying there and run off. They will wake up, and turn up when you least expect it. If you knock them down and stun them, take away their machete / chainsaw / scythe and cut their head off. Now burn the body and take the head with you. Keep it in your trunk until morning, buy a safe, and lock the head in the safe. Now dump the safe in a deep lake. No sequels, no coming back for you later, the bad guy stays dead.

4. Don’t go back.

Once you kill the bad guy, DO NOT go back to where it all started. This is a terrible idea. Move far away and never go back there for any reason. Let someone else deal with that shit. Whatever evil lives in that town, corn field, or old farmhouse, can stay there. Just stay away from it.

5. The cops can’t help.

If the police show up to help you, they are either in cahoots with the witches / inbred rednecks / corn worshipers, or the poor cop is going to get an ax in the back of his head pretty soon. Better you just leave them out of it and save either your life or his. The only exceptions to this are if you are in love with the cop, or it is dawn and they are coming to pick you up after the devastation is over.

6. Don’t get bitten.

Whether it’s a zombie or a wolf or a vampire, don’t let them bite you. If they get their teeth in you, it’s over, you are on your way to becoming one of them. If we hit a wolf on the highway, do not stop to check on it. While you are getting yourself bitten by a werewolf, I’ll be sliding into the driver’s seat and locking the doors. And driving away. Because you are an idiot and should have stayed in the car. Call the DNR if you want, but do not get out of the car to examine the injured creature unless you want to be stuck there with it as I drive away giving you the finger out the window.

7. Stay in the car.

How many times can I say this? If you get out of the car, the piece of shit won’t start when you get back in, and the crazed killing machine that is chasing you will have no problem smashing the window and dragging you out. When you wake up hanging from a meat hook in an old cellar or tied to an operating table in a barn in the middle of nowhere, remember that I warned you to keep driving.

8. Don’t be a jackass.

I can’t stress this one enough. If you are a guy who demeans women, a frat boy, or just a jerk, you have no chance. You will be one of the first to die. The same goes for women who are shallow, unlikable, or bitchy. You have to care about others, be strong, and have a troubled past, if you are going to stand a chance. And if you aren’t attractive, you’re screwed. The ugly ones never survive. If you put Joan Jett, Britney Spears, and an ugly girl in a horror movie, Joan Jett survives every time. The others die terribly. Be Joan Jett. A tough, troubled, dark haired, hero is the only one who stands a chance.

Be safe out there on the road in unfamiliar surroundings. Driving a foggy highway at night doesn’t have to be a death trap if you know the rules and exercise some reasonable safety precautions. I’ve driven through Iowa at night four or five times this year without incident, and I survived a trip through Wisconsin in thick fog a few months ago too. I’ll see you at Aces in a few hours. Unless you stop to help that girl on the highway half naked and covered in blood with no car anywhere nearby. If you do that then I’ll read about you on the news. Hopefully the scariest thing I see today is a three-bet from Erick Wright.



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Getting Ready for Tournament Season

Tournament season is starting early this year. Starting next week, Running Aces has their Mayhem in May tournament, with five starting days and stack buybacks. As soon as that is over, MSPT qualifiers start at Northern Lights, and after Northern Lights the tournaments start up in Vegas. The WSoP used to be a month, but summer in Vegas has turned into an 80 day poker party with eight major tournament series running. In addition to the WSoP, there are series at The Venetian, The Aria, The Orleans, Binions, Caesar’s, The Wynn, The Bellagio, and The Golden Nugget.

Kenny Hallaert created a great spreadsheet with every tournament series, rake comparisons, and schedules on that you can see HERE. I used it to plan my trip to Vegas, which will be shorter this year, just 31 days.

As soon as the Vegas summer mess is over, the MSPT starts back up.  The grind never ends, something we all asked for five years ago. Now that I have the chance to play a big tournament almost every week, it’s all about planning out my time. And of course I’m still working with students, making videos for PokerXFactor, creating content on Grinder U, playing a little online, and Bryan Mileski just told me that he would like to have me be a part of the new poker radio show on KFAN. Oh, and I have to write my article for Bluff this month. Did I miss anything? Probably.

I’ll see you next week at Aces, hopefully at the final table!

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The Toughest Game in Town

I played the Wednesday night $235 buy-in tournament tonight at Canterbury Park. I’ve mentioned this before on our podcast and probably in other spots, but that thing has got to be the toughest weekly tournament I’ve ever played. The Sunday Optimum at Running Aces is also probably pretty tough, though I’ve only played it a couple times.

They get between 70 and 90 runners on most nights for the Wednesday night tournament, and I know almost every one of them. And they all know each other. Because it’s the same damn people every night for years now. If you want to see how good you really are, or just play with some strong players to learn a few tricks, The Canterbury Wednesday is the place to do it.

Reasons why the field is so tough in this tournament –

1. It’s in Minnesota

I’ve done a lot of traveling, and I can guarantee you that the average player in Minnesota is much tougher than the average player in most other places. We have good schools, high literacy rates, and while there is some money here, there aren’t a lot of people with more money than sense like you might find in California, Vegas, or the East Coast. We’ve also had poker for a long time, so people have had time to learn. And to top it all off we have some serious poker coaches here.

Jason Senti worked for Blue Fire Poker, a top training site.

Mike Schneider is part owner of CardRunners, the net’s largest training site, and makes videos for them as well.

I work with PokerXFactor as well as running my own training site at and wrote a book on no-limit holdem.

My business partner Adam Stemple makes training videos for PokerXFactor and Grinder U as well as coauthoring my book.

Bryan Mileski’s Minnesota Poker Magazine regularly has strategy articles in it, some of them from me. What other state, especially one this small, has a professional magazine dedicated to it’s poker scene with in-depth strategy articles?

We all combine to make Minnesota games tougher, and very few states have as many opportunities for players to improve by playing bigger buy-in events as often as we do. There are at least ten events a year with a buy-in over $1,000 that are full of strong players, which gives intermediate players a chance to learn quickly from the pros they play with.

2. The same tournament has been running for a long time.

This allows the same players to get used to it and adjust to the structure and learn how to play tournament poker. There are no antes in this event, and everyone who plays it is used to that fact. Raising with weak hands doesn’t do you much good in this thing with no antes to steal, and every one who plays it regularly has figured that out. Minnesotans also tend to be conservative with money, and conservative is a good approach in this tournament.

3. Re-entries end early.

Since the re-entry period doesn’t last long, neither do bad players. In many other events where the re-entry time is longer, the bad players re-enter more often and juice the prize pool. They also don’t get as discouraged by busting early, so they tend to come back more often. Very few people bust in the first two levels, so re-entries are rare.

I’ve done a lot of traveling, and talked to other players who travel as well, and we all agree that Minnesota poker is tougher than almost anywhere else, and this may be the toughest weekly tournament in the country. That doesn’t mean you should be afraid of it, it’s a lot of fun and the environment is friendly. You don’t improve if you don’t test yourself against tough competition, and if you are a strong enough player there is still money to be made. No matter how tough the field is, I’ll be there again next week, and almost every week when I’m in town because it keeps me sharp. Assuming that I’m sharp in the first place.

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