What I Learned From the WSOP Final Table
I spent over 15 hours the past few days listening to the online telecast via Bluff Magazine and watching the ESPN broadcast of the final table. This may have been the most talented group of nine players to ever appear in the final table.
The first thing: Congrats to all the players! Congrats to Moon! Congrats to Cada! It was really super poker.
The second thing: To the poker players who criticized the play, give me a break. If there is one thing I've learned when it comes to a small group of poker players is that they love to criticize--especially anonymously and/or without any credentials to do so. Until you are under the pressure of playing for a Main Event bracelet, give it a rest.
The third thing: To the moderators on the Bluff Magazine online telecast and Phil Hellmuth, super job. I really enjoyed the poker commentary.
My Learning from the WSOP
1. Don't Play Too Tight.
I think Shulman played real tight at the final table. While he got unlucky with pocket Jacks, he either didn't get good cards or he didn't want to gamble. He folded pocket 9's against a re-raise from a worse hand. It would have been a race, but it seemed to me that he was always leaning to the fold rather than a willingness to gamble. Maybe that was the right thing to do--after all, Hellmuth was his coach.
But...Poker is gambling. It is impossible to control the risk in the game. Did Jeff get a "read" that his opponent was stronger than him? Or, was he was avoiding the risk?
"Risk is Good."
2. Even The Great Players Don't Read Their Opponents All that Well.
I was really surprised that the players did not appear to, or could not get, a read on their opponents. Hellmuth did a great job of reading players from the booth. Even Hellmuth said once, "I wish Cada would look up at his opponent" when Cada was making a key decision.
Ivey misread an opponent's strength. I guess if he can fold a winning hand, anything is possible.
I believe Buchman is a great player. Yet, he lost all those chips with A-Q at a time he was outplaying his opponents. Later on, Hellmuth tried to get Buchman to realize his play was wrong, but Buchman resisted and stated the math was right.
I agree with Hellmuth. Why risk everything when there was no urgency? He was the chip leader and on his way to winning the main event. I think the math in this case was not in assessing hand probabilities, but in the overall risk-reward probabilities of the game itself. But, I'm not sure since I'm not a pure math guy.
3. Super Aggressive Equals Super Wins.
I think Cada was super aggressive. I don't believe he even cared much about his opponents hands when he made those re-raises/all-ins with small pairs. The one thing I took away from Cada was that maybe winning poker is forgetting about "reading" your opponent. Just play more aggressive than your opponent.
Maybe this is what Cada learned from playing 20 events at the same time online. If you have a pocket pair or a big Ace hand, make a move with it and hope for the best.
I think one reason Cada had a problem with Moon throughout the event is that Moon was making super aggressive moves with and without hands. At least Cada needed a small pair to make those plays. Moon did not.
Overall, I believe being aggressive is the way to play winning poker. But, maybe, it is time to look at being super aggressive like Cada.
What was your impression of the final table?
Maybe poker is headed back to those days of the "all-in specialists." These players had one move in their arsenal--an all-in pre-flop move. If they won and doubled up early, it made them more dangerous. These all-in specialists went broke because opponents knew that they could outplay them by trapping them or calling with a wider range of hands.