Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Good Are The Poker Super Stars?

Have you ever wondered how much better the Poker "Super Stars" are compared to other players?

Yesterday I checked out and put in names of some of the top star players--Negreanu, Hansen, Lindgren, Hellmuth, and others. What I found was rather interesting. These stars may not all be that super. For some reason, my perception was that these players were winning a lot more often than they really have been.

It is the big payday wins that set these players apart. Winning a major poker event once is a big deal financially. Winning a big twice is even bigger. A third win is unreal. And being on TV is a huge opportunity to cash-in even more.

Hansen's three WPT wins is amazing. Indeed, all these super stars had big paydays.

Embrace The Risk

That's why when you play a poker tournament, I keep writing that you need to "embrace the risk" in the game. Because the game is about winning, not cashing. (Check out Hellmuth on and you can see the difference in his numerous cashes versus a win. While he has cashed the most at the WSOP, I am sure he would trade all those small cashes into another bracelet.)

There are years where some of these star players had few cashes, never mind wins.

Wouldn't it be nice to know how many events they each entered and how often they failed to cash. In baseball, if you get a hit three times in 10 at bats, you will probably be in the Hall of Fame. What is the hit rate in poker? 1 in 20? 1 in 40? (What about online? How many tables do the online poker elite play every day, every week, every month?)

The Bad, the Good, & The Ugly

Overall, it has to be tougher to win today because:

* The competition is better
* The fields are bigger
* There is more luck in the game or Hellmuth would win them all:)

On the other hand, there has to be less pressure because:

* The top stars get sponsored and risk no money in the events
* The top stars are their own brand and can run and market themselves like a business
(Clearly Hellmuth, Negreanu and Hansen are great examples. While Lindgren, Flack and other star players may not be taking full advantage.)
* This stardom also leads to other deals or appearance fees (Annie Duke for example.)

If you check out Chris Moneymaker's poker record, you can see why the rumor every year at the WSOP is that he is broke. He has really done nothing since 2003--that's a lot of losing. Oh, the win was $2.5 million, but he only got half of that, and the IRS took at least another he had over $800,000. And, everyone says he has or had other deals in place, so maybe he is not broke.

There are many players who you see win one event--and never see them win again. Is that because they just got lucky or is that because they don't play all the time? I don't know.

You Can Be The Next Poker Star!

My conclusion--and please let me know what you think--is that the top Poker Stars are better than you and me. They have an edge in that they have more experience, play all the time, risk little or no money, and therefore, less pressure in the risks they push during the game. They deserve credit for being the best before other players understood the game as well as them. And they deserve credit for being at the right place at the right time.

However, I believe that you can win a big poker tournament if you study the game, get experience, and get lucky. The challenge ends up in being able to afford the buy-in into these big events--and that is why satellites are so important for so most players. Of course, satellites tend to be even more difficult to win since they may be more luck driven or require a different skill set.

No comments:

What's Your Poker IQ?