Archive for category Vegas Summer Reports

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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I’m Not Mad…

Poker, you have been a cruel mistress this last year or so. I’m not mad at you, I understand that you have to do what you have to do. I’m just disappointed. Like all of your lovers, you led me on. And you continue to do so. I remember what you told me in 2014…

“You are a world champion Chris. And I love you. Look at that shiny gold bracelet. You have proven yourself. You can do this. You’re going to be rich and famous. Everyone loves you and they will love you even more. You have nothing to worry about.”

As I think we both know now, this was bullshit. Sure, I’ve made money over my career. But you always convince me that it will be more consistent. That the next victory is right around the corner. Every time you hand a victory to some idiot that I know can’t play at all, I’m convinced that I must have another one coming any day now. Every time a friend wins and I celebrate their victory, I think that I must be next.

And then you forsake me again. This time for an entire summer. I played my ass off this year and you were nowhere to be found. You bailed on me again. All your promises were just so much pillow talk. You miserable, lying, cheating, tramp. I had people depending on me.

This wasn’t even my money. I sold a ton of action this year. And now I feel like I let those people down. Sure, I did my best. And I know, variance is huge in tournament poker. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. You better straighten out your act poker, or we are done. I’m not kidding this time.

Please call me. I miss you. I miss winning. We were so good together.

For Investors 

Total Cashes for the Investment Package – $7,352.

I skipped the Wynn Main Event, so I have $1,600 left. I’ll be playing every flight of the $100k iNinja event in Council Bluffs, Iowa at the end of the month which will cover the rest of the package money. It’s a much better investment anyway with a much softer field and much better shot at making us a profit. Checks will be sent out in a few weeks when I get back to Minnesota.

I hate losing other people’s ,money so much more than losing my own that I’m considering a few different approaches to future tournament play. I may find a full time backer or sell investment packages for an entire year like an investment fund. This would cut down variance drastically. It would certainly still be possible to lose money, but there would be a much more consistent return and much lower chance of a total loss. I will let you all know what I decide.

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Vegas Summer Scheduling

The great summer poker carnival starts in three weeks and it’s time to make plans. If you haven’t booked a trip yet, check hotel and flight rates first because they will vary widely for the next two months. Once you find reasonable flight and room rates, you can use the links below to create a tournament schedule.

WSoP Schedule

Planet Hollywood Goliath Series

Golden Nugget Grand Series

Venetian Deep Stacks

Binion’s Poker Classic

The Everything Spreadsheet

The Aria will be having a summer series along with the High Roller and WPT500 events, but I have not been able to find a link to the schedule, though it is in the spreadsheet above. If you find a link to the Aria schedule for the whole series please send it and I’ll update this post.


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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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Playing Vegas – Caesars

I’m in Vegas for the next eleven days and I’ll be trying out various rooms for small no-limit cash games. Last night I played in the new open-air card room at Caesars. It was an interesting night, with some very good, and some not so great, things about the card room itself.

The Good Stuff

There was no wait to get into a $1/2 no-limit game, with seven tables running and a seat open right away. The dealers and floor people were friendly and getting into a game was easy. The service was good, though my Bailey’s Coffee wasn’t very strong. My favorite feature was the $4+0 rake structure. Low rake in cash games is really important, probably saving a typical player around $9 an hour versus a typical $6+1 structure that we see in many rooms across the country.

Between the great rake structure and the very soft games, there is real money to be made in these cash games and this might be one of the best rooms in the city from grinding $1/2 no-limit holdem games. $2 an hour in comps and double tier credits toward the best rewards program in the industry also helps, especially if you are trying to get a diamond card by playing poker.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

After my cash game broke, I decided to give the $150 tournament a shot. The field was small, but looked soft, and was in fact remarkably soft with only a few solid players in the 30 person field. The field was small, mostly because local grinders wouldn’t consider playing a tournament with the juice and structure we were subject to.

This was my mistake. I should know better than to play a tournament that I haven’t done any research on. $117+33 is awfully high rake, especially consider that we have a $200+35 in Minnesota every Wednesday and larger events drop below 10% in juice. Maybe I’m spoiled, but 22% rake is painful.

The structure of the tournament was fine until we went from 2,000/4,000 to 4,000/8,000. This was obviously a terrible jump. Especially considering that we then went to the 5,000/10,000 level. Why get rid of 3k/6k instead of 5k/10k like most rooms would if they wanted to speed up their structure? I have no idea. If you get rid of 5/10 levels you avoid any spot where the blinds actually double.

And why didn’t I notice this jump earlier in the tournament? Because it wasn’t there earlier. We actually played the 300/600 level. Confused? So was I. The tournament director explained that they had changed the structure recently, and it sounded like he knew a mistake was made and would be corrected once they had used up all the printed materials they ordered recently. Let’s hope it happens soon.

My final issue with the tournaments at caesars, and indeed all of the Caesars properties in Vegas, is that they do not facilitate chops. This has lead to open theft in the past when players have agreed to chop a tournament and the player who is paid first place money simply walks off with the cash rather than paying out the chop. Refusing to pay out the chop as it is agreed to is simply a disservice to the players and should really make you think twice before chopping anything at a Caesars property.


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For Investors

Well folks, as those of you who have been following along on twitter probably know, we haven’t had a great WSoP so far. One cash for around six thousand and a bunch of irritating bustouts. I assumed that I would make day two more often than I have and that I would be skipping more events, but that hasn’t happened. I have been very good abotu getting sleep and being ready for tournaments, which means that I have played nearly everything I had scheduled. Unfortunately that means that my $60k estimate is going to fall well short of what I am going to play this year.

The stake, with the small cash, has about $12,000 left in it. Since I am sure everyone who invested wanted a piece of the $10k HORSE event, and I don’t want anyone to miss out on that, there is only about $2,000 left. I will use most of that on the Draft Kings event tomorrow and end the stake with the $10k HORSE.

This means I will be selling a little mroe action. Since I had a significant piece of myself and am obviously down, I’ll be playing some cash games over the rest of the series, but I plan to play the $1,111 Little Drop event and will be selling action for that at 1.3 as well. Contact me if you are interested in buying a small piece of that.

I am also selling the Main Event starting now. Action in the main often sells at 1.5 or even higher for established players, and I have already bought a few players at 1.4. I will be selling at 1.4 myself for the main, so every percentage point will cost $140. People who invested in the earlier package have priority and I will take requests for the next few days without locking anything up to make sure that they have a chance to get in.

Contact me via twitter @foxpokerfox for the best response times.

There is still poker to be played, and I will be doing my best to turn this thing around. Thank you all for your continued faith.

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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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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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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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“Chris Won a Horse Playing Poker”?

I do not immerse myself completely in the poker world like so many of my peers. I have made many good friends in the poker world, but I also have friends and family outside of it and many of them have no idea what happened last week. This is my attempt to explain it in layman’s terms, for those friends and family who aren’t familiar with poker or with high stakes poker tournaments.

What Happened

I won the $10,000 buy-in HORSE World Championship at the World Series of Poker.

What That Means

The World Series of Poker (WSoP) is an annual event in Las Vegas. It is the largest and most prestigious poker tournament series in the world and none of it’s competitors are even close. The prize for winning a major WSoP event is a lot of cash and a gold bracelet. It is like a trophy, but sought after more than any trophy. A bracelet is somewhere between a Super Bowl ring and a championship belt in boxing or a win in a major in golf. There are around fifty of them given out each year for fifty different tournaments. Tens of thousands of players come to Vegas every summer to try to win one.

The $10,000 buy-in HORSE Championship is one of the more prestigious events for many players because it has a high buy-in and involves five different games. The field is one of the toughest in the world every year, with world champions everywhere and almost no amateurs. First place this year paid $507,000 and a gold WSoP bracelet. 200 players entered the event.

This does not mean that I won $507,000. Well, I won it, but I don’t get to keep all of it. When players don’t want to play events with big buy-ins with their own money, they sell pieces of their buy-ins, usually to other players. This is known as “selling action”. I sold a significant percentage of my action so that I could play $50,000 worth of tournaments this summer, primarily with other people’s money. I didn’t sell it all, and I came out with a nice payday for myself, but I definitely do not get to keep half a million dollars. A big chunk of that money goes to my investors, who made out very well, and I have to pay taxes on the rest.

What It Means to Me

This win means a lot to me. The money is not life changing, but it means that I have a comfortable bankroll and get to go on a nice vacation to New Zealand soon. The prestige and recognition in the poker world are wonderful too, though I can’t pay the bills with those things. Making a bunch of investors happy is great since they are also my friends and family and they made a lot of money investing in me this summer.

The biggest change for me is job security. After this win I can sell action to play in any tournament I want, any time I want. I will always have my own money to play smaller games that pay the bills on a monthly basis, but now I can play the big stuff whenever I want. That makes my life a lot less stressful going forward.

This win is also an affirmation. I knew I was a good player. I have lived on my winnings for twelve years, far too long to just be lucky. Now I have a bracelet to prove it, and very few people would doubt that I play very well. All the time spent studying and working on my game feels like it paid off in spades with this win.

Did I Get Lucky?

Absolutely. But I also put myself in a position to get lucky. Picture a wide receiver who catches a pass in the end zone at the Super Bowl while he is laying on the ground. The ball is deflected by a defensive back and lands in his hands. He gets very lucky and catches the game winning pass! He certainly got lucky, but luck favors the prepared.

If you were on the team, lined up against an NFL defensive back, could you have made the catch? Could you have run to the end zone that fast? Would you still have your wits about you after being leveled by the safety in the end zone? Could you put in the work to be in such great shape that the team would even let you walk on to their spring practice, let alone make the team and start in the super bowl? There might only be 200 people in the world who would even have a chance to do what he did. Only 200 people who could put themselves in a position to “get lucky”.

There are probably a similar number of people who could win the event that I won. Just a few hundred people who are good enough to stand a chance to win. I was one of those people and then I caught some cards and played well and “got lucky”. I couldn’t do that wide receiver’s job, and I assure you that he couldn’t do mine. There is not enough luck in the world for either of us to reach the top of the other’s chosen profession.

So yes, I got some cards. You have to catch better than average cards to win this event. The best player in the world, whoever that might be, would not win this event more than 1 in 50 attempts. But you have to be very good to get there, because an average player would not win it in 10,000 attempts.

Where Does the HORSE come in? 

HORSE is a mixture of five different games. This tournament was played with a rotation where we played eight hands and then switched to the next game. One of the reasons this event is so prestigious is that the players have to play well in all five games. It’s like a Decathlon for poker players. The HORSE stands for Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight or Better. Over 30+ hours of poker, we played over 200 hands of each of the five games.

Did You Play with Anyone Famous?

Yes. In the past I have played with almost everyone you have seen on television, but this event in particular is always filled with super stars. I played with Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Nick Schulman, Vanessa Selbst, John Cernuto, Jen Harman, Mike Matusow, Elky, Jeff Lisandro, Max Pescatori, and Justin Bonomo. Other big names that played the event include Phil Hellmuth, Erick Lindgren, Michael Mizrachi, Huck Seed, David Benyamine, Josh Arieh, Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Negreanu, Brian Hastings, Barry Greenstein, Mike Sexton, Jonathon Duhamel and Phil Laak. Before the start of the event, I could have told you at least a few sentences about almost every player in the field. There were not a lot of soft spots.

Why a Bracelet?

I know, it seems like a weird trophy, but that has been the tradition since 1970. It has become the most coveted prize in poker, but it still seems odd to me. It does take up less space on the flight home than a trophy though!bracelet1 The bracelet is solid gold, so I’ll probably just keep it in my safe deposit box and break it out for special occasions.

Here is an interview I did right after the victory. It was at the end of more than twelve hours of the toughest poker of my life, and then the biggest win of my life, so I actually barely remember doing the interview, but it does capture the moment in a unique way.

I hope this explanation helps. A poker tournament works like any other tournament. Just like a chess tournament, everyone buys in for the same amount, and that money is put into the prize pool and distributed to the winners according to a payout structure. I won one of the most prestigious events in poker and I’m very happy right now, but I’m still playing and there is more work to be done this summer at the World Series of Poker. I look forward to seeing you all when I get home or the next time we are both in the same place.

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Random Thoughts

I just don’t have enough free time to write blog posts on all of the topics that I have jotted down for blog posts over the last few weeks, so I’m going to dump them all here in a string of random thoughts. It’s my blog, and I’ll be random if I want to. I’ll even end sentences with prepositions. If I want to. And I do.

I’ve never been so annoyed to bust a tournament as I was when I busted the $1,500 Stud/8 event last week. I was incensed. With 16 players left I could see my second bracelet from there. Two bracelets in a week. I wanted it so bad. A nice run and another $6,000, but no bracelet. Apparently I have set the bar pretty high for myself now.

I highly recommend that everyone get their money off online poker sites that are not legal in the US. It looks like most of them are in financial trouble, and Merge, Lock, Cake, and others are all looking really bad right now. If legal online poker comes back to the US, the DoJ will definitely shut them all down and if that happens you may be screwed out of your money. I told people to get their money off of Ultimate Bet years ago and I’m telling you now to get it off online poker sites unless it’s money you really don’t care about.

If you are in Vegas, check out, a great little site for scheduling things during the WSoP that I started with my pal Brian Turner. The site has really taken off and we aren’t sure quite what to do with it once the series is over.

PNL Poker is hosting a WSoP Main Event Qualifier at Canterbury Park on Sunday June 22nd. I won my main event seat at one of their qualifiers at Running Aces and the way they set these tings up is interesting. The winner gets approximately 80% of themselves, while all of the other entrants get .5% of them. I know I will have 36 people rooting hard for me in the main event, and if I win it I get to give $50,000 to 36 of my friends! Check with @roosterpoker on twitter for complete details.



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I haven’t written a blog since winning my bracelet because I really didn’t know where to start. The obvious place is to thank everyone who helped me get to where I am, though I’m sure I will miss a few people since there are so many names on the list. I’ll go over the whole experience at a later date, and I’ll be answering lots of questions in an Ask Me Anything post on on Saturday at 3 pm if you are curious.

I would like to thank the following people for loving me, believing in me, supporting me, backing me, being there for me, and helping me to get to this wonderful place where I could achieve my goal of becoming a world champion.

My wife Lisa Jaster is the greatest, most supportive, poker widow imaginable. She has supported my poker career since the day we met, never flagging in her belief in me. At times when I doubted myself, she stood fast and assured me that the money was coming. I know many players who have significant others who don’t like what they do, and I can’t imagine how much harder it must be to try to make it in such a tough environment when the person who is supposed to be there for you is against you. I couldn’t have done it without her telling me, sometimes daily, “You are the greatest poker player in the world”.

My close friend, coauthor, writing coach, and business partner, Adam Stemple was a huge help. Without him I would never have started playing poker for a living. Adam is a brilliant Stud/8 player, and things I learned from him literally helped me win this event. I definitely would never have finished No Limits without him joining me on the project.

My parents, Kathie and Randy Scott have never flagged in their support. Many people would be afraid to tell their parents they were going to start playing poker for a living, but I knew I had nothing to worry about. My father is an engineer and my mother was a teacher, so I had a good foundation in math and logic from a young age, and they both handled my rebellious side remarkably well.

I am deeply indebted to a number of friends in the poker world. I will certainly miss some names, probably quite a few, but some of the important ones include Kou Vang, John Hayes, Matt Kirby, Blake Bohn, Josh Sexton, Tom Hammers, Dr. Al Schoonmaker, Grant Hansen, and a host of others who helped me become the player that I am. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with me.

A number of people have also been very supportive and believed in me over the years. You can’t win this kind of event unless you believe you can win it. It can be tough to solidify the belief that I could play with the best players in the world, but I had people telling me that it was true and those people made it so much easier. Cal Spears and Adam Small from, Betsy Stemple, and the whole Minnesota poker community, all deserve some credit for this win too. Thank you all for the good vibes!

My sponsors, who kept me going and believed in me, should probably be higher on this list. Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus, Minnesota made me a member of their pro team a year ago, and I am glad that I have made them proud. Blue Shark Optics also added me to their pro team this year, and wearing my Blue Sharks at the final table gave me a significant advantage over my opponents.

I would also like to thank Bluff magazine for giving me a chance to publish my thoughts every month, and the Poker Player’s Alliance for supporting our right to play online poker.

I should probably thank the people who invested in me for the summer, but their thanks will be coming soon enough when they get their big piles of cash. I’m going to try and win another bracelet this summer, and I hope a few of my friends get them as well. Let’s bring some more bling home to Minnesota!

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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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Screw Sheldon Adelson #boycottvenetian

We really need to get online poker back in the US and get it regulated. I’m tired of the mess that online poker has become and I’m very frustrated with the politics involved. I wrote a full length article in Bluff magazine six months ago where I spoke my mind about Sheldon Adelson and his campaign to outlaw online poker in the United States, but here on my blog I don’t have to be so diplomatic.

Sheldon Adelson is the CEO of the Sands Corp, which owns The Venetian and The Palazzo. They have also owned online gaming licenses in the past, as well as hosting an NAPT event sponsored by PokerStars. Now Sheldon Adelson claims that online poker is immoral and dangerous and he gives us the usual argument…

“Think of the children.”

Think of the children? Seriously? That’s why you want to take away my freedom to do what I want in my own home? Because you are worried that kids will get a hold of their parents credit card, and instead of buying porn or a new pair of Jordans, they will play online poker? And somehow this will ruin their lives? Because they played poker?

This is America. We don’t give up our freedom in exchange for safety. Well…

Adelson1Actually we do… But we say that we don’t.

Sheldon Adelson is an immoral, unamerican, scumbag. He has openly claimed that he will spend money to influence elections as long as he is allowed to do so. He has also declared that he will spend whatever it takes to stop online poker. A guy who previously owned an online poker license in Europe, who has made his fortune from casinos, wants to protect me from myself.

The bill that Adelson’s group has proposed would be a complete federal ban on online poker, which would actually force states like New Jersey and Nevada to shut down their online poker programs, put people out of work, and flex the muscle of the federal government to take away the rights of the states.

This jackass is a conservative? A republican? Apparently he’s a hypocrite and not much else. This man, who will spend millions of dollars to get what he wants and subvert democracy, is a perfect example of what is wrong with this country. Though the majority of Americans support online poker, one billionaire can make their votes irrelevant.

How do you hurt a capitalist? You don’t give him your money. That is why I will not walk into the Venetian one time this summer. I won’t eat there, I won’t drink there, and I sure as hell won’t gamble there. I joined the Venetian boycott as soon as I found out about it last year, and this year the movement is growing.

Don’t go to the Venetian, don’t support anything they do. There are tournaments all over Vegas and you don’t need to support someone who is trying to take away your rights. Don’t give your money to someone who doesn’t like poker and wants to take away your state’s right to license online poker sites. Don’t support filthy hypocritical scum like this just because they are holding a tournament and you don’t feel like walking down the street to the next tournament. 

Capitalism works when consumers are smart. Stop patronizing an establishment where your money is going to fund sleazy politicians who will vote to take your rights away. Just don’t go. Boycott the Venetian!

If you are concerned about this issue, you should also join the Minnesotans for Online Poker facebook group and join the Poker Player’s Alliance.


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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Vegas Trip (by the numbers)

I know I’ve been slacking on blogs this week, but I have been putting my writing time to use working on a novel. Two novels actually. When I get tired of looking at one of them I switch it up and work on the other one for awhile. It’s possible that one of them will make me money some day, which is something I probably can’t say about this blog, so the novels take precedence sometimes. I’m headed back to Minnesota late tomorrow night, and while I may spend the evening tonight grinding cash games, my Vegas summer schedule is basically over and it’s time for a wrap up.

WSoP Cashes: 0

Years since this last happened: 5

Final tables made in 30 days in Vegas: 8

First place finishes: 2

Action sold: $5,230

Backer’s return on action sold: $14,711.25

Number of people who bought this action: 1

Return On Investment for this person: 281%

Age of single malt scotch we consumed in mass quantity to celebrate: 18 years (this scotch could vote!)

Amount of time it took me to bust the razz event after PokerNews published an article calling me a Master of Razz: 47 minutes

Miniature cupcakes consumed by me at Blake Bohn’s dinner party: 7

Hookers rebuffed: 39

Hookers not rebuffed: 0

Current lifetime record in “Ho or No” prop bets: 17-0

Members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins who think my Ho or No record is comparable to their 1972 season: 0

Single table tournaments chopped heads up with John ‘The Razor’ Phan: 1

Total single table tournaments played: 1

Hours of audio books listened to while grinding cash games: 34

Date that two-time bracelet winner Frankie O’dell called me the worst mixed-game player he had ever seen in his life: June 25th

Date that I final tabled the triple stud event at the Venetian AND won the HORSE event at the Nugget: June 25th

Times I had played two final tables in one day before June 25th: 0

Cups of Bailey’s and coffee consumed: 24

Cups of Bailey’s and coffee paid for: 0 (gotta love Vegas)

Words written: 17,000

Days in Vegas: 31

Days I missed my wife and dogs: 26

Regrets: 0


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.





Deep Thoughts by Fox

I’m no Jack Handy, but…

I’m downtown tonight, staying at The Golden Nugget. I won a two night stay along with a tournament entry for the Poker Players Championship at Running Aces the day before I came to Vegas, so I decided to spend a few days downtown. I figured I would play some cards, have a few beverages, and get some writing done. Mission accomplished so far.

I spent the last two weeks in a beautiful condo thanks to my pal Donna Lawton and I’ve spent lots of time in the high rent district when I haven’t been playing poker. When I have been playing poker, it’s been in nice casinos with great service, clean air, and my every whim available in an instant. For a price of course.

Last night I went out with two friends for a few drinks on the strip. A $14 s’mores martini with real marshmallows, a few other drinks, and an excellent meal earlier in the night, made for a wonderful evening, and even my company was high rent. Two good looking people with of high IQ and sound mind. Then I threw a few things in my backpack and headed downtown. A short drive, but it might as well be a different planet.

The poker games aren’t great downtown, though you might expect them to be pretty good. The buy-ins are unlimited in most of the games, even the $1/2 no-limit, which is almost the only game available downtown. The players are definitely odd, but they don’t make as many mistakes as you might expect. After multiple trips downtown I have yet to find and really readable and loose table like I can usually find at Caesars or The Rio.

There are more players on drugs, with blatant mental health issues, and many more tourists, but they just aren’t soft enough. And there are too many grinders. Online grinders who don’t know much about Vegas and aren’t well off enough to be staying at The Rio and playing big games all day. There are a few at every table, and a few locals who may not fit your expectations when it comes to a solid local cash game grinder but they play fairly well. The games are also raked higher downtown, with The Nugget dropping a shiny silver half dollar every time the pot hits $5. Every time I hear the clink of that metal coin falling in the rake slot, it’s a reminder that something is different here. An unexpected sound at a poker table where clay or resin chips supply almost all of the noise.

I went for a walk on Fremont streets to get some exercise and see what there was to see. Not my first walk down Fremont street at night, not by a long shot, but the first time I have been able to clarify my thoughts enough to put them into words. Maybe it was because I was alone and just walking casually as an observer with no companions to serve as a distraction. Maybe it was the contrast after such a sophisticated week. But the Fremont street experience was especially powerful this time.

At first it felt like a county fair in a poor town, but there’s more to it than that. A lot of things in Vegas are fake. The whole strip is just a facade with fake landmarks and imitation ethnic food cooked by people who have never even visited the regions where the food originated. The entertainers are all actors and the smile on the cocktail server’s face isn’t real either. The grass is artificial turf and the statues are hollow. The whole things is more like a movie set than real life, but it’s so plush and polished that the suspension of disbelief is easy. When you are treated like a king, it’s easy to believe you are a king.

Downtown, the facade is worn and you can see through it in so many places that the holes in the curtain, and the tired actors behind it, draw my attention more than the stage itself. Things are gilded here, but the gold is worn off in so many places that the surface underneath is the real fascination.

My fellow wanderers, the other attendees of this strange carnival, seem so different from me that I am separated from the pack, watching as an observer rather than a participant.This was what troubled me. They were all enjoying themselves. Dancing as if no one was watching, drinking a cheap frozen drink from a container made in China, reveling in each other’s company as if it were all new to them. They didn’t care about the holes in the curtain, or what was backstage, or who else was walking by, because they were busy having a good time. I felt out of place, but not self conscious. Different, but not inferior. When I was younger I might have felt superior to these people, as younger people tend to do when they don’t understand something, but now I was just a little sad and a little confused.

These people are not beneath me, no one is. I don’t see the world that way. But they are in such a different place it’s hard for me to imagine being like them. Maybe I’ve spent too many years at the tables and now I’m always watching for the sleight of hand instead of enjoying the illusion. I’ve certainly lost my fascination with the magic of it all. Maybe I’m a little callous and I can’t relax like they do in this environment, but just last night I was relaxed and enjoying myself completely, so I know I’m not completely jaded by the life I’ve chosen, taking money from lesser players, hunting for the less experienced and those who don’t have the killer instinct that so many of my companions have. Maybe I just need to spend some more time around my old friends. Normal people. Real people.

I guess it’s just odd that it’s all so obvious downtown. The singer in the rock band has a wig on that doesn’t even remotely attempt to look like real hair. And the back up dancers don’t have on sexy matching outfits, they just aren’t wearing much. Their dance moves aren’t in sync either, but they look like they are enjoying themselves, like maybe they don’t hate their jobs like so many on the strip probably do.

I should really like it here. There are no trust fund kids with white belts and white shoes and $200 blue jeans. There are no pathetic two hour lines to get into clubs where acceptance into the club means you are accepted into a club of your peers. No hordes of tourists getting in my way because the sprinklers are about to go off at The Bellagio in time to soulless pop music. But maybe what I don’t like about the strip is that it looks down on downtown. And maybe that’s what bothers me. That I feel more comfortable in a place where I like the people so much less.

Or maybe I’ve been in Vegas too long already. Maybe I’m too jaded and I just want to be home with my wife and my two dogs and sit on my back porch. Maybe I miss making my own Sangria instead of paying $8 a glass for it. It doesn’t feel like homesickness. Vegas just doesn’t feel like my town anymore. Perhaps I know it too well and there really isn’t that much to like. Like a friend that becomes less interesting as you get to know them, or a new toy that loses it’s luster after a few years. I used to feel like I was home when I got off a plane in Vegas. Now it feels like a place that I used to live. I can come back to visit friends and see how things have changed, but I know it isn’t my place anymore.

Trivia fact – The condo that I’m staying is on the corner where Tupac was shot. I walk over the spot where he died every day. Seems like an odd twist of fate given my full name and the suspects in his murder.

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A Quickie

I’m going out for an adult beverage, so I’ll make this quick. And that means… A list!

1. I took fifth in the main event at Binions. It wasn’t enough to get me out of makeup with my big buy-in backer, so there’s no celebration, but it’s news in my life. The structure was amazing, easily the best structure of the summer.

2. My wife is awesome and very supportive and deals with the odd life of a poker pro very well. I’m lucky to have her. She’s also an awesome photographer, and if you ever need pictures in Minnesota, check her out at

3. I have a million notes about things I should write about in the blog, and not enough time. Longer blog coming up soon.

4. I still hate the Venetian and I’m definitely in favor of the growing boycott movement. Screw them.

5. The mixed-game dealers at the WSoP were pretty good last year. This year they are awful. I don’t know what changed, but we had a dealer who didn’t know any of the games and also didn’t speak English so that we could help her out. And she was stubborn. It was a nightmare.

6. I have been loving the cash games at Caesars. It’s mellow but very profitable. I could almost like playing there for a living. Almost. I still hate poker though.

7. I’ve been writing more fiction this week. Should fiction have a place on the blog? What if it isn’t poker related?

8. There is no number 8.

9. If you are looking for a place to stay in Vegas that is more than just a hotel room, check out The Platinum Hotel. I couldn’t be happier with the service, the people, the location, and the amenities. It’s a condo hotel, full kitchen, laundry, whatever you need is all in your room. And they are big. I love it.

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Boycott The Venetian!!!!

In this episode Fox makes a powerful enemy…

You may have heard of Sheldon Adelson, the CEO and founder of of the Sands Corp. here in Nevada. Sands Corp. owns the Venetian which is currently a popular poker destination, but may not stay that way for long if he keeps pissing off poker players. He has come out multiple times against online poker saying that it will be bad for families and for the business. This hypocrite runs one of the biggest gaming companies in the world and he says that poker can be addictive while blackjack is not? Seriously. But only online poker is addictive? His live action poker room is somehow different?

Adelson says this –

“”It’s a threat to our society — a toxin which all good people ought to resist,”

and another nugget of of hypocrisy here –

“”That skill base in my opinion is just a bunch of baloney. To get a card, that’s not skill based.”

and he is in support of strengthening the Wire Act to make online poker illegal.

In 1992 a law was passed, supposedly to protect amateur and professional sports form the evils of gambling, which makes betting on sports illegal except in states where it was legal at the time of the passing of the law. There were three other states with limited betting going on, but what the law basically amounted to was a monopoly for Nevada. The primary benefactors of the law, namely Vegas sportsbooks, spent lobbying money and probably a healthy number of bags of unmarked bills, supporting the law because it gave them an incredibly valuable monopoly.

Now Adelson wants the same thing for poker. He wants poker to be in his casinos, and in fact The Venetian just remodeled and expanded their poker room last year to make it one of the largest and busiest in the country. He just doesn’t want competition. Definitely not from the internet where expenses can be lower and lots of players can enter the market. I think he’s worried that the online poker rooms might kick his ass. What do we do in America when we run into competition?

I would like to say we get better and we learn from it and we offer a better service or a better product. The sad truth is that in today’s America we often just find a way to kill it. If our company is big enough, we do it by paying off lawmakers with campaign funds and dinners with lobbyists to get a law passed that protects our business and kills the competition. That is exactly what Adelson wants. And his company may have enough cash and influence to make it happen. They may try to take away our right to play a game of skill in our own homes because they don’t want to lose money. And who wins the battle of money vs. freedom? You know the answer to that. Freedom can hardly afford a lawyer.

But there might be a way to win this one. We are the source of the money. They make that money from us. If we stop going to the Venetian and the Palazzo, then their reason to oppose the law disappears because they aren’t making money from us anymore and there is nothing left to protect. We need to stop going to the Venetian. Not for a week. Not for the summer. Forever. If they don’t support us and our right to play poker, then we don’t support them.

Don’t just stop going to the poker room. Stop playing video poker, stop staying in the hotel, and tell all of your friends. When people hear about a boycott, they may not even care about why, they just go somewhere else. Sands Corporation is the number one enemy of online poker right now, and any real progress will be nearly impossible with their voice speaking out against it. Let their fancy new poker room sit empty for awhile and see if Adelson doesn’t change his tune.

I have some Venetian events on my schedule that I’ll have to skip, and I will miss the dinner breaks at the Lux, but I won’t go back into the place unless it’s to find some people at poker tables and tell them why they shouldn’t be there. If you have always wished there was something you could do, then now is your time. Stop going to the Venetian and the Palazzo and spread the word. Tell everyone you know. Post it on facebook and on twitter. Wear a Boycott Venetian t-shirt (I know someone who is working on getting them printed now). Do something.

If you are going to join the boycott, below are a list of excellent tournament series you can play instead. Cash games are great at The Wynn, Caesars, Aria, The Rio, The Bellagio, and a host of other rooms around town as well as The Golden Nugget downtown.

Caesars has a nice little series going in a beautiful, quiet, tournament room.

The WSoP has smaller buy-in deep stack daily tournaments three times a day in addition to the bracelet events and mid buy-in Carnivale events.

The Golden Nugget has a nice series going on, with a nice $1k main event.

The Aria is a great alternative to the crappy Venetian and their summer series is in full swing. The cash games are great too.

Binions has a nice series going on as well.

So go play somewhere else. You won’t see me in there unless it’s to hassle them about something. Clearly the Venetian doesn’t think we will do anything. They are so used to dealing with slot zombies that they really think that no matter what they do, we will just keep giving them action. Let’s show them that poker players are different and boycott the place. Anyone who plays there is giving money to a group that will spend it on lobbying efforts to stop online poker and we should let them all know how we feel about it.

Anyone who wants to make an effort to promote the Venetian boycott, or get the word about what Adelson is doing, should feel free to reproduce this blog post anywhere they like. If you want to learn more, follow me on twitter @foxpokerfox or read this article from the Poker Player’s Alliance.


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Two for One

I meant to write something last night, but I was tired from playing all day in the triple-stud event and had to get up early today to play the final table at 11 am at the Venetian. Then I was gong to come home and write about it after I busted in fifth place at about 12:30, but I was reminded that there was a HORSE event that started at noon at The Golden Nugget, so I went over there and played that for 13 hours. About 2 am we chopped four ways and I got the big end. I had the chip lead from three tables on, but when we got down to four players my opponents were all solid and the blinds were getting huge, so I feel good about the chop. I got more than second place money anyway, which is pretty nice for a four way chop.

That makes two final tables in one day, and a very tired Fox. I have a bunch of notes about things I should write about, and not a lot of energy left tonight, so it’s list time again.

1. The Nugget has the best chairs of any tournament venue in town and cheap food too. A $5 burrito and free bottles of water saved me $10 vs. the poker kitchen at the Rio.

2. The dealers at The Nugget were a little lost when it came to HORSE, with better dealers at The Venetian in the triple-stud.

3. The Nugget experience included a homeless guy attempting to bum money from me while I was getting paid out, and two hookers offering their services as I walked away from the cage. I declined both the hookers and the homeless guy and kept all my money, though I reassured the homeless guy that things would get better and told the hookers that it wasn’t them (it was me). Overall the Nugget experience was a good one, and the nice quiet tournament room is great compared to the loud 80’s music and slot machines at the Palazzo.

4. For some reason the Nugget only offers three free hours of parking. They don’t want to encourage people to gamble all day and spend a bunch of time in the place. That was odd. Free valet everywhere else I have gone to play a tournament, but $12 to park my own car at The Nugget. Annoying.

Oh yeah, I promised some people on twitter that I would tell the angle shooter story.

Late in day one of the triple-stud event, I bet the end in Razz with four low cards on board. I had paired up twice and had nothing, and the pot was huge so I expected him to call often, but it was definitely a profitable bet given a small but significant chance that he would fold a better hand. He thought for awhile, and said “I don’t think it’s any good, and flipped up two of his down cards to show me a made nine. The way he did it looked like a fold. I assumed he was folding. But I still should not have reacted at all, and I’m sure I did.

Then he asked me “Is that a fold? Is my hand still live?” I explained the rule to him, and that he would get a one round penalty if his cards were exposed and he chose to call, but that I thought his cards were already dead. I should have been silent. He then had the dealer call the floor and I asked him “Did you intend to fold?”

He said “That’s a fold.” and pointed at his cards that were face up. I assumed the dealer had heard it, so I said “No worries about the floor, he folded.” which he took to mean that I wanted his hand dead. I did of course. He waited for the floor, and there had been so much commotion that no one else claimed to have heard him say that it was a fold. He took the penalty and called, winning a huge pot and crippling me. I fought back and outlasted him (he busted 7th, I was 5th), but he took at least $500 in equity from me with that move.

His name is David, and he has a total of about $27k in lifetime earnings, so maybe the money for a cash meant so much to him that being shady was worth it. Maybe he intended to fold and then jumped at the opportunity to change his mind. Maybe he’s just an angle shooting douche. Either way, I learned a lesson and I won’t react to that ever again. I’ve seen that angle before, but it’s never worked on me before and I’m more annoyed about that than the equity it cost me.

The question I have is about his intentions. This can not have been an honest mistake because 1 of 2 things had to happen.

1. He intended to fold. Which means he folded. He toss his cards forward and showed me some of them. Then he denied his intention to fold, lied about it, and essentially rescued his cards from the muck winning a huge pot in exchange for a one-round penalty.

2. He never intended to fold. If this is the case, then he sure had me fooled, which must have been his intention. He faked a fold to get a reaction from me.

I’m not sure which is worse, but I’m leaning toward #2. Either one is bullshit, but #2 is premeditated (1st degree scumbaggery) while #1 was spur of the moment (3rd degree angle shooting).

Luckily karma got him. He started the final table with 26 antes, and folded the first 25 hands, went all-in for his last 1k chip, and busted as the first guy out at the final table. Who has two antes in a stud game and doesn’t put the extra one in on 3rd street with any three cards? He was also in the HORSE event over at The Nugget and didn’t cash, while I went on to chop for the big side. I also removed his last name. He’s probably a dumbass who didn’t know any better and I’m over it.

Frankie O’Dell was also in both events, and busted in 4th in the triple-stud. He walked around the room Hellmuth style at one point raving about how I was the worst poker player he’s ever seen. Ever. It was just a little blow up, he didn’t mean anything by it, and I was laughing and egging it on. It was nice to be the worst player ever and make two final table in the same day. That has to be some sort of record right?

Also, it’s much colder at the Nugget than it is at The Rio, Venetian, or Palazzo, so bring a hoodie. I haven’t needed one at the other places, but I had to run over to Binions and buy a $15 sweatshirt because I was freezing. And can we all agree that an hour is way longer than we need for dinner? Did they think I was going to get a five course meal while I was on break from a tournament?


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No News is NOT Good News

No cashes so far. I chopped the only sit and go I’ve played, made a few bucks playing cash, and won a satellite the day before I left, but in actual tournaments I am 0/9 so far. I’m definitely getting the volume in though, which is easier when you bust early so you can reenter. I’ve made day two in both the WSoP events I played, but no cash in either of those, and it’s getting old watching all my friends have deep runs while I go to bed early so I can bust another tournament or two the next day.

Tomorrow is a $600 HORSE tournament at the Venetian, which will be nice since the 11 am events are actually in the newly renovated Venetian poker room instead of the Palazzo surrounded by slot machines and blaring 80’s music. Second worst music in a poker room, with Running Aces holding on to first place by a significant margin. I have yet to hear Twister Sister in the Palazzzo. I love Aces, but c’mon man, that music has got to go.

I feel like I’m playing pretty well, though I definitely blew it on a hand early today for about 15% of my starting stack.

I raised the king-queen of clubs from the cutoff seat, and both blinds called. The flop was a queen, four, five with two diamonds. I bet, and only the big blind called. The turn was the deuce of spades, and we both checked. I wanted to get a worse king to call me or a missed draw to bluff on the river, but I should have bet again and folded if he raised.

The river was the nine of diamonds, bringing in the flush, and my opponent thought for a minute and then bet a little less than half the pot. When is this ever a bluff? Against a random in a tournament in Vegas? Never. I thought it could be a worse queen, but I couldn’t beat queen-nine anymore, and a significant percentage of the time a random player will check and call with a bad top pair hand on the river. This left a fairly small possibility that he had a worse queen, almost zero chance of a bluff, and the rest of his range is either a better made hand that was going to check-raise the turn, or a flush. I called anyway and he showed King-Trey of diamonds for a flush. I wish I was better at poker. I really do.

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Scattered Mess

The title of this post refers to the blog in general. It’s a scattered mess. I would really like to make something out of it, maybe get a few advertisers or some sort of sponsorship deal that pays me a few bucks. I enjoy writing it, but I need to clean it up and find a little more focus if I’m going to get enough readers to make it worthwhile. I don’t know if I should be focused on entertaining stuff, funny links etc, or strategy and pearls of wisdom. Now that anyone can register and comment, maybe I’ll get some feedback from readers. Yes, I finally fixed it and you can register and comment. In fact I encourage it, a little discussion would be nice.

Speaking of a scattered mess, I can sense one coming now.

Congratulations to my pal Donna Lawton (@cure_mtm on twitter) on her fifth place finish in the Rio daily yesterday. $235 buy-in, $9k cashed out. Nice ROI!

I busted the WSoP Razz event yesterday late in level eleven. My day two table was super tough, with Max Pescatori, Peter Brownstein, David Singer, Perry Friedman, David Levi, and not a single fish unless you count me. Apparently PokerNews reporter Chad Holloway doesn’t count me as a fish in this event though, he did a great little write up about me an hour before I busted. There is no direct link to the article, but it’s about a third of the way down THIS PAGE. If Chad is going to put my blogs on PokerNews, I had better start doing a better job of writing them!

I busted the Razz event early enough to make it over to the Venetian for a $300 Survivor tournament. This was my first one of these, and I have been curious to see how well they work. A survivor tournament is basically a satellite for cash. The top ten percent get a little over eight buy-ins back. The rake is a little high for a satellite at $250+50, but the field is very soft. The structure is ok, but not great. Levels are fine, but starting with 12k and at 50/100 blinds makes it a little bit of a speed ball at the start. Profitable I’m sure, but not incredibly so. The slot machines and constant bad 80’s and 90’s music at high volumes are pretty irritating in the Palazzo room, but the staff was great and it’s comfortably spaced.

Pro Tip #1 – If you want something quick and cheap to eat at the Palazzo while you are on break, head over to The Coffee Bean and grab one of their egg and potato burritos. They’ll heat it up for you and while it will be a little bland on it’s own, the green salsa makes it a great little meal for $7. Finding food that cheap in the Palazzo is rare, so take note of it if you are trying to keep expenses down.

Pro Tip #2 – If you take my advice from pro tip #1, you may be tempted to try the egg sandwich instead. This is a huge mistake. I made this mistake for you, so that you won’t have to. Have you ever had an egg salad sandwich with a little dill mixed in? It’s a nice touch. Now picture  an egg sandwich with all of the dill you have seen in your lifetime somehow crammed into one sandwich. Now multiply it by a galaxy of dill. You are still two orders of magnitude below the amount of dill flavor that was in my egg salad sandwich.

You know when you get a strong mint and it feels like your whole head is full of mint and everything looks a little blue-green and cold through your mint tinged eyes? My whole world was dill. Everything looked green and I felt like someone had crammed dill directly into my brain through my nose. Did I mention the dill? Ugh.

I couldn’t be more pleased with having a rental car in the city. I have always taken cabs or walked in the past, but having a car is great. Every casino has a free valet, and the WSoP valet station is right at the back door of the Rio. Vegas is an easy city to drive in as long as you don’t try to cruise down the strip, and things like getting groceries, or hitting up a restaurant you heard about, are much easier with a car.

Pro Tip #3 – Get a rental car, but don’t get one from the airport. The shuttle from the airport, and then a shuttle from the shuttle stop, finally got me to the rental car place I had booked online as an “airport car rental” when in fact we were so far from the airport I could have booked a flight to a closer airport. Then they hit you with a big “airport fee” on top of your rental. This airport fee is significantly more than a cab ride to a better rental car company, and it would be fast too. And how the hell is there an airport fee when I had to take two shuttles from the airport just to get to the place. If it had been a shuttle fee it would have made more sense, there were more shuttles involved than airports.

I’m loving three things right now –

1. The My Stack app from PokerNews. Any time I am in an event you will be able to rail me just by watching the chip counts on PokerNews and I can update them from my phone. Now you don’t need to be a big deal and get coverage, because you can put yourself in the coverage by updating your own chip counts. Get it for Android or iphone in the app store.

2. The bottle of Glenfiddich 18 year that my pal Tom picked up for me. Damn that is good scotch, thanks buddy!

3. My new poker shades from Blue Shark. I didn’t wear them in the Razz event, but I have worn them any time I am playing no-limit holdem and they are great. I got the Hoyt Corkins model because they are light and easy to wear, and I’m really happy with them. If you stop by their booth at the WSoP, tell Kerry that you are a friend of mine and he’ll probably charge you extra. but he might give you a discount. It’s a gamble.

By the way, neither Poker News nor Blue Sharks is paying me to write about them. Not that I’m above that. If you want to pay me to write good stuff about your product, just shoot me an email. If I don’t hate your product, I’ll be happy to be bribed into writing wonderful things about it. I have a price, and at the moment it is not expensive. Not at all.



I Love Razz

Today was day one of the Razz event at the WSoP, my favorite tournament of the year. I’ve cashed the last three years in a row, and last year’s 17th place finish was my deepest run yet. I’m hoping this is my breakthrough year. It was a long day, which leads to short blog posts, and lists are easy, so…

Stuff you might care about –

1. I bagged up 23,000, well above average, and will be restarting tomorrow with around 130 players left at 2 pm Vegas time. You can follow my progress on twitter @foxpokerfox or on pokernews at

2. Also still in contention at Tom Hammers with a short stack and Adeel Qureshi with an average stack. Both are strong players and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them deep in the money.

3. My table was fun today, with Brett ‘Gank’ Jungblutt, Tom McEvoy, Cindy Violette, Marco Traniello, and a number of other well known players.

4. Our first dealer, in a $2,500 buy-in event, did not know that Stud poker games start with one card up and two cards down. She really didn’t know that. Not her fault, she did her best, but who the hell thought she should be dealing this event?

5. I played a $275 sit and go today while I waiting for the Razz to start, and ended up chopping it heads up. I knew my opponent was strong, which is why I agreed to chop, but I didn’t know how strong until after we chopped and I found out that it was John “The Razor” Phan. I didn’t tell him that he is the most profitable opponent in my PokerTracker database from back in the day, and that I had made nearly $22,000 from him playing cash games. I never thought he was very strong playing cash online, but he played great in the SNG today.

Going to sleep now.


Competition for the WSoP?

I’m finally on the ground in Vegas and excited to get started. So many people I know are doing well that I want to get in there and start crushing. I was rooting hard for Tom Hammers in the $5k HORSE, but he’ll have to settle for a min-cash this year. Still impressive in one of the toughest fields of the series.

I won a seat to the Player of the Year tournament at the Golden Nugget in a satellite at Running Aces. It was a surreal experience playing a tournament in Minnesota to win a seat for a tournament in Vegas and then flying to Vegas that night. I’m looking forward to the tournament on the 4th of July, especially with eleven other players from Minnesota in the field with me.

Tomorrow is the Razz event where I have cashed three years in a row, but for some reason the WSoP won’t list my cash in it for the last two years. Last year they list Jared Bleznich as cashing twice instead of putting my name in 17th place. Did I piss someone off at the WSoP? I even emailed them earlier this year about it and never heard back, but that’s customer service at the Rio. If I was a seven star I could probably get it handled, but poker players and customer service are both pretty low on the priority list at The Rio, so I’m not going to waste any more time on it.

Speaking of how irritating it is to play at The Rio and at Harrahs properties in general, why can’t anyone put together a contender for the WSoP? I know it’s an old brand that every donkey loves and they all think it’s important, but donkeys are easily swayed. Let’s start off by looking at the contenders.

The Venetian Deep Stacks 

The VDS was doing really well there for awhile, but they made a few mistakes along the way. They have raised the rake high enough that the smaller buy-in events aren’t any better than any other series, and are worse than some, driving many players away to other lesser known series. They also failed to capitalize on their growing series by offering a special trinket to make players feel like they have something important to shoot for. Sharks aren’t there for trinkets, but the sharks go where the fish go, and the fish go where the fame and fortune and pretty trinkets are. That is why the WSoP still survives. The fish want a WSoP bracelet because they think it will make them special and change their life. It doesn’t, but try telling a fish that. It’s their dream.

The Venetian needs to offer bracelets, rings, or maybe some sort of trophy that sits in the Venetian poker room that has every winner’s name on it like the Stanley Cup. A lapel pin or a badge might even work. Something that allows fish to say “I have a Venetian Deep Stacks xxxxx” and pretend that it’s prestigious and they have accomplished something. Add money, offer huge guarantees, do something bring in the fish and make it a big deal, and you can actually compete with the series. You have an awful lot of hotel room to fill, and those poker players will gamble on your gaming floor as well if they are staying at your property because it is their main focus. If they just pop over for an event here and there, and then head back to The Rio, then you don’t get that business.

The Aria

The Aria took over the title of the coolest place to play cash games a few years ago, but they seem less interested in drawing big tournament fields and making their mark in that arena. I’m not where they would put a big poker tournament, but it’s a huge building, there must be somewhere to put it, and any time they draw gamblers into that building they are going to make money. Everything is expensive, though much of it is worth spending cash on unlike the Rio’s twelve dollar burritos, and having people in the building makes them significant money. If they were to get serious about tournaments, I really think they have the clout to make their mark and challenge the WSoP as well.


When they sold the name, Binions probably lost all hope. They do run a pretty good series of their own during the WSoP, but it’s just a bunch of poker tournaments. Without something special, they won’t get any bigger than they are, which might be for the best since they probably have space for anything too big.

The Golden Nugget

The Nugget has a nice space for tournaments, but much like Binions they really don’t have enough space for a legitimate WSoP challenge. I would love to see the two properties work together to offer a downtown poker series and have five or six events a day with bigger buy-ins and some sort of place of honor for winners in both rooms. With the two rooms combined and a wide variety or events, they might be able to lure a lot of players downtown. Hotel rooms are cheaper, everything you need is nearby and food and beverage are cheaper too. Maybe other places nearby would even offer to help out just to get a huge number of poker players to come stay downtown during two slow summer months.

With low rake, good structures, and a nice variety, I think both rooms could be full and players would elect to stay at the properties downtown rather than at The Rio, giving them a chance to make some of that gaming and food and beverage money that is staying mostly at The Rio and Gold Coast the way things are right now. Once word got out that the real value was downtown, many pros would go there to eat the fish that would swarm into a big series downtown and the fields at the Rio might get tougher and smaller. Some people will always play the WSoP for the prestige they think that comes with a series bracelet and some pros who are independently wealthy, or just stupid, will always want to play in the toughest fields. Some people will also see downtown as slumming, but I’m happy to leave them at The Rio and The Aria while I eat all those fish downtown.


The MGM has a good card room, and they have Matt Savage, the most well known tournament director in the world. They also have a ton of players already staying at their long term condos during the WSoP, but they would need to get serious about a large tournament series to compete. A little gold lion statue for each winner might be neat, and they definitely have the space somewhere, but they don’t even have a tournament series going on this year, so while they might be able to compete, they don’t seem at all interested in doing so.

The Rest of the Field

While I love the Wynn, they really aren’t close and will probably never be that serious about poker tournaments, and The Orleans still has a reputation as a dirty hole in the ground, so they aren’t even contenders at this point. Obviously no other Harrahs properties will fight with the WSoP, so Caesars will stay where they are with a smaller series. Other poker rooms just don’t have the staff, the space, or the knowledge to compete, and most of them have no interest in doing so. The WSoP will be the 500 pound gorilla of tournament poker until somebody else starts working out and gets up near the same weight, and unfortunately I don’t see that happening any time soon. I guess I’ll see you at The Rio.


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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Cash Games in Vegas

I’ve already covered where to play tournaments in Vegas, but I get a lot of questions about where to play cash games and most people flock to the least profitable spots to play cash games against other solid players, local pros, and ultra-tight bonus grinders. If you are playing poker for money, then go where the soft players are and get away from the strong players. If you just want to say that you played poker in a room that will make you sound cool, then tell everyone you played cash at The Rio or The Venetian and ignore the rest of this post.

You will probably be playing $1/2 or $1/3 no-limit holdem games, and the best places for those games are the less glamorous rooms at lower end hotels. The Venetian will be the toughest place for these lower limit games because so many local grinders will be playing there. They like the room because the rake is low and the tables are comfortable with a wide range of tables to choose from. If you are used to the room and know who the regulars are, then it’s probably just fine to play there, but for the rest of us it’s better to go where every table is soft and we don’t have to worry about table selection. The Aria is nearly as tough as the Venetian. While there will certainly be soft players in both rooms, they won’t be as soft as some of the lesser known rooms.

The Rio will have a huge number of games and lots of action, but the chairs are uncomfortable, the food is expensive, and the dealers are clueless. And last year there were many instances of extra cards in the deck and nothing was done about it. The cameras don’t work well in the Rio, and there are better places to play smaller no-limit games.

Caesars has good $1/3 games, and the slightly higher stake can increase your win rate, though the rake is slightly higher. You will find more annoying drunk idiots at Caesars, but if you can tolerate them you will find that they lose tremendous amounts of money. The room is nice, the food is good, and the chairs are above average.

The smaller rooms are where the real money is. Put in a few sessions at a place like Planet Hollywood or Harrahs and you will see why they are so profitable. Your opponents will be lost, and some of them will be playing in a casino for the first time. If there is a big sporting event, like the NBA finals happening right now, Planet Hollywood will be particularly good because the sports book is right next door and the gamblers will come play poker and pay more attention to the basketball game than the poker table.

If you are playing at a room with lots of table choices, look for a game where people are happy, drinking, and laughing. If they are having fun, then they are gambling, and that’s what you want. Big stacks aren’t necessarily good, they often mean that the players have been there a long time and the fish have all been busted. Shorter stacks will often indicate weak players, and it’s not like that is all the money you can win. Once they go broke they will rebuy or leave and another player will take their spot and you can bust them too. If your table is quiet and tight, get a table change right away – don’t waste any time on a bad table.

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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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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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$10k HORSE – Day 1

Short blog today because I have to be back at the Rio for the restart tomorrow at 2 pm and it’s already 4 am. That’s good news though, it means I’m still in the $10k HORSE. Better than that, I have 56k and average is only 40k, so I’m in reasonably good shape. The field is tough, and I had to deal with Jason Mercier, Abe Mosseri, Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Alai, Jen Harmon Read the rest of this entry »

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The Rio and Some New Shades

I know, I took a few days off. Quit whining. I busted 17th in the WSoP Razz event for $5,900, and unfortunately it was to Phil Hellmuth who went on to win his twelfth bracelet later that night. And in case you were wondering, I was ahead when we got most of the chips in, but I didn’t stomp off whining about how I should win every event but the donkeys always put beats on me. Grrr. Read the rest of this entry »

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Razz with Hellmuth

Yet another short blog because I made it through another day of the Razz event. We come back with 18 left tomorrow at 2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m short stacked after losing a couple big hands. I was up to 170k a few hours before the end of the day, but ended the day with 54k. Still a fighting chance, but a little annoying to run bad when so much cash is on the line.

I played a lot with Phil Hellmuth today Read the rest of this entry »

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Still Playing Razz

Well a short blog posted very late is good news! I made day two of the $2500 Razz event with an above average stack and way above average skill level. It’s amazing how basic the thought processes are in Razz, even with some very smart players at the table. A number of people were confused by plays I made that I could easily have explained to them with a few minutes and a spreadsheet. We restart tomorrow at 2 pm in the Amazon room.

The Rio is the same old Rio, though slightly easier to deal Read the rest of this entry »

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Let’s Play Razz!

Today was my last day of rest for quite some time. I didn’t really rest, you never do what you work for yourself, but I didn’t play poker. I did walk through a few card rooms to confirm that things hadn’t changed significantly since I was in Vegas in the spring, and things seem to be about the same as they are every year at this time when it comes to cash games.

Tomorrow I play the WSoP Razz event. Read the rest of this entry »

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And Then Life Happened

I was going to write about some cash game strategy and talk about places to play in Vegas tonight, but we’ll just have to wait a day for that.

Once in awhile life comes along and puts everything in perspective. Today is that day for me. A very dear friend, one of my favorite people in the world, passed away after a long battle with cancer this morning. I took the day off today, and will take the day off tomorrow as well. Playing high stakes tournament poker when your head isn’t right is a recipe for disaster. Read the rest of this entry »

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Getting Started

Welcome Fox in Vegas, a daily report from the World Series of Poker and other major tournament series happening in Las Vegas. I was really hoping to have this thing off the ground sooner, but when no one bought it I slacked off for a few days. I’ll be playing approximately $80,000 worth of tournaments, lots of hours of cash games, and talking to players around the city in an effort to keep you abreast of what is going on.

Some things I will likely be talking about – Read the rest of this entry »

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