Who is The Best Tournament Poker Player?
I have played against some but not all of the top tournament poker players. Here is my ranking as to the top 5 players:
1. Phil Hellmuth.
I know he does the brat routine for the TV cameras, but I think Phil is the best tournament poker player I have ever played against. He is smart, aggressive, tricky, and knows how to take control of a table. The thing about Phil is that he works hard at getting better each year, and I think it shows.
2. Phil Ivey.
This guy is so intimidating. He lets his chips do the talking. You just want to fold when Phil Ivey comes in raising pre-flop. I mean do you really think you are going to outplay him on the flop, or turn, or river? Phil may be the best reader of his opponents hand strength. Since he doesn't speak at the table, this is something that casual poker players don't get to see. Maybe we will learn more about Phil's poker playing skills at this year's final table.
3. David Pham.
David is one of those players who doesn't stop raising pre-flop. He is so relentless. He doesn't get much TV time, but he always seems to be one of the top ten finalists each year in the CardPlayer Player of the Year.
4. Layne Flack.
Layne Flack can play any two cards and win. He is aggressive and smart. Layne has different speeds, meaning he knows how to change his style of play in the middle of a tournament. The one thing going against Layne is that he doesn't have that same intimidation factor that the other top Pros tend to have.
5. Erick Lindgren.
Erick is one of those players who I would describe as brutal. The guy is not just out to beat you, he is out to take all of your chips. He is smart, aggressive, and a great poker player.
The Common Ingredients of a Top Tournament Poker Player
Forget about terms like loose aggressive or tight aggressive. They use sheer aggression to win.
When you sit down at a poker table against these guys, they have an immediate edge. They are pros and intimidate the hell out of you. But it's not their celebrity that intimidates, it is their overall level of play.
Play their opponents more than their cards.
Maybe its instinct, but the top players know how to get a read on their opponent's strength. My belief is that they read betting patterns a lot more than they trust poker tells; although, they certainly can spot tells.
They know when to take a risk, and when to put an opponent at risk. They know the odds and the percentages. They know more poker moves than the rest of us. Most importantly, they understand that the fame and fortune comes about from winning.
The pros know how to take advantage of situations. They know who to trap and how to trap. They know who to bluff and who not to bluff.
The pros often seem to have more card luck than the rest of us. This could be their positive outlook to the game. Or, it could be that they play every day so they just have more experience and card sense than the rest of us. Most likely, it is all of the above.
Who is the best tournament poker player you have ever played against and why?