Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

I picked up Michael Atherton's book on Gambling at the airport. Why not, it was a long flight. And while stretches of the book were a bit dry and historical/political, there was enough in it to justify the price. The cricket match-fixing section was interesting, and of course there was a poker chapter. Atherton makes his way to the Vic for the London EPT (2005) with the intention of mooching around and picking up background for the book, only for John Duthie and someone from Pokerstars to say "So, do you want to play then ?". Knowing what a freeroll is, he says why not.

Now, Atherton maybe a complete beginner at poker, but he's far from being an idiot. He was at Cambridge University. The year below me, in fact [1]. So when he is drawn in day 2, he realises that he now has 24 1/2 hours to prepare for this instead of just 1/2, and he does the rounds asking people for advice. Various gnarly pros (Channing, Tann, Flood, Kennedy etc.) tell him to lock it up and play tight. When "The Gentleman" tells him "I'm aggressive. Definitely aggressive. All the best players are.", Atherton says to himself "Why, then, are all the aggressive players telling me to play conservatively ?".

Good question mate. That is a very good question. Having asked it, unfortunately Atherton is unable to come up with the answer, although who can blame him it's basically the first time he's ever played the game. But this is the whole point. Someone who has never played before has no chance playing tight. If, however, he plays aggressively he will have some chance. A very small chance, but a chance nonetheless. The best advice anyone could have given him would have been this, IMO :

"You have one advantage over these guys and one advantage only. You don't care about being knocked out. There's no shame in it, it's not your money, you don't even have to worry about your sponsors - it's a one off deal and they're clearly happy to write the money off. Whenever you can, threaten your opponent with elimination. Play chicken with him. Because he fears busting out more than you do. A lot more".

Funnily enough, that new-found poker legend Snyder gives this advice towards the end of his book, and this is most definitely advice that I have never seen before for new players :

"If you have ambitions to compete with the best, is to start out playing a high-risk game and only slowly incorporate more conservative play as you gain the table experience to tell the difference between real danger and just fear".

At the moment I'm going to call that advice intriguing rather than correct, but it's something to think about. I'm not sure I'd say that to someone trying to make a go of the game off a moderate bankroll. But it would have definitely been better advice for Michael Atherton playing a one-off with someone else's money, I'm 100% sure of that.

And with that I'm going to kick off the fun here with the Venetian's noon tournament. Stay tuned, although updates are more likely to be every 2 or 3 days than daily.

[1] That's not something I've gone out of my way to make known but fuck it, what do I care.

(1) Mr. La-di-da Gunner Graham had an impeccable education but it didn't help him much in the jungle - be careful out there.
So, that would probably make you 39?


Lawrence ! Good to hear from you.

Yes, I am 39. 40 next summer, probably during the Series. Hmm, I can feel an apple martini night coming on ...

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?