Poker Heros

Poker heroes and villains

Poker heroes and villains

When it comes to watching sports on television or in person, it’s all about me. I want to be entertained. I want Poker heroes and villains. I want to have someone to cheer, and someone to boo. I want to laugh. I want to curse. And every now and again I want to see a moment thrilling enough to force me to get up out of my seat.

Poker used to provide that for me. It was the foundation for some of my favorite “reality shows” a decade ago. Not only would I watch the World Series of Poker every year, but I would watch the World Poker Tour on The Travel Channel, “Celebrity Poker Showdown” on Bravo, “High Stakes Poker” on GSN, “Poker Dome Challenge” on FSN, “Poker After Dark” on NBC and I’m sure a handful of other now-defunct shows.

I didn’t necessarily watch because of the poker; I already got my fix of bad beats at the hands of my little brother, who like millions of others briefly wanted to become a professional poker player after watching Chris Moneymaker win the 2003 World Series of Poker. I watched because of the characters I had become connected to while watching all these shows. I developed this bond because they all talked at the table and revealed a human side of themselves I either liked (Antonio Esfandiari), disliked (Phil Hellmuth) or was simply apathetic to (Joe Hachem).

It was similar to my love of pro wrestling. When it comes to the art of the squared circle, I’m not a purist who watches for five-star matches replete with every move from an arm bar to a wheelbarrow. I love the guys who can get on the microphone and rile up the crowd.

Like many others, I started to lose interest in poker as a televised sport before it was hit with its “Black Friday” in 2011. The shows became stale, there was never an influx of new young stars to mix things up and there were only so many times I could hear the same jokes from the same players and commentators.

But I was told the World Series of Poker main event final table was the one time where poker once again felt like it did a decade ago. For three days in the fall it was once again a spectator sport, drawing big crowds for a nationally televised event worth millions of dollars for the nine players at the table.

After attending this year’s “November Nine,” I came away yearning for the characters that made me fall in love with the game as I tried to stay awake until the final hand.

No tickets were needed to watch the final table, but there were times when it felt like a library card might be needed. For the better part of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the quietest place in Las Vegas was the Penn & Teller Theater, which has been the home of the “November Nine” since 2008.

The characters, drama and banter (ranging from collegial to contentious), which made poker such a fun sport to watch a decade ago, were completely absent inside an eerily quiet 1,475-seat theater where ushers roamed the aisles like teachers through a classroom to make sure no one was on their cell phones.

The only voice that could be heard from the stage during each hand was that of Jack Effel, the vice president and tournament director for the WSOP who doubles as the play-by-play announcer for the in-house audience. The players had their own cheering sections inside the theater, which made up much of the live crowd that diminished with each day as players were eliminated.

Michael Ruane, 28, had the most boisterous section, with many of his friends dressed as pro wrestlers from the 1990s. Las Vegas resident Qui Nguyen, 39, had a ton of local support as they chanted, “Who win? Qui Nguyen!” each time he collected chips. And those cheering for Kenny Hallaert, 34, mixed in some European soccer chants. But people watching a crowd filled with friends and family is only interesting to a certain point.

I knew I wouldn’t have any real connection to the “November Nine” coming into the final table, but the truth is I had no real connection to them after watching them play for a dozen hours either. It’s inherently hard to connect to people that don’t say anything, or show any emotion.

The oldest and most recognizable player at the final table, and the chip leader when play began, was 50-year old Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy, who had previously won two WSOP bracelets. While normally engaging, Josephy was mostly silent for the first two days and even went against the grain by wearing glasses and a hat on the final day, which he never does and previously said he was against.

“There’s more tension at the final table,” Josephy said. “Everyone is tense. They’re playing for money that many people haven’t seen in their lives. It’s understandable that people don’t talk but everyone is friendly. Everyone likes each other. This is a group of guys that really like each other. Everyone is nice.”

Effel echoed those sentiments after the second day of play as the chips for the final three players, Josephy, Gordon Vayo and Nguyen, the eventual winner, were put away.

“When you’re playing for $8 million you’re paying attention to every little thing that you do,” Effel said. “You’re hoping somebody else makes a mistake so you can capitalize on their mistakes. They’re more interested in playing poker than talking.”

It makes sense, of course, but it also makes me nostalgic for a time where the stakes didn’t make players go into their shells. The walkway leading into the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio in Las Vegas is lined with oversized photographs of past WSOP main event champions. I didn’t recognize the past eight champions, all in their 20s, who looked more like fraternity pledges than poker champions. But I stopped when I got to Jamie Gold’s photo. Ten years ago Gold, who was a talent agent turned television producer, won the 2006 WSOP main event and $12 million, still a record, while outlasting a field of 8,773 entrants — also a record. It was the high water mark of a game that would soon see a significant dip in interest and participation.

Gold was an antagonist and a polarizing figure during his improbable run a decade ago, and one of my favorite players to watch. He talked big while bluffing with nothing, sweet-talked players into reluctantly folding better hands by telling them he would show them his hand and even flashed one of his cards to Michael Binger at the final table, causing Binger to lay down the winning hand. The reasons his antics were frowned upon by purists were the same reasons I enjoyed watching him play.

“You need to have players talking to have heroes and villains,” Gold told me over the phone after the first day of the final table. “Once you take away the character side of it, you’re killing the entertainment value and the reason why advertisers, sponsors and viewers would want to watch. I wasn’t that special, but I had an opportunity to create a character by speaking. Viewers want to watch personalities and have a storyline and an arc play out on television. For the most part, poker on television has become this mundane, mind-numbing endeavor.”

Even worse than the television viewing experience, however, is the live viewing experience. At least viewers at home are able to see the players’ hands while listening to the entertaining trio of Lon McEachern, Norman Chad and Esfandiari in the broadcast booth. But not even the personalities of the announcers can make up for the disconnect between the viewers and the players at the table.

Until that connection can once again be made, my poker needs will continue to be met away from my television — relegated instead to losing money to my little brother.


2016 WSOP Champion - Qui Nguyen

2016 WSOP Champion – Qui Nguyen

2016 WSOP Champion – Qui Nguyen

Of all the eye-catching numbers coming out of Qui Nguyen’s victory as the 2016 WSOP Champion early Wednesday morning — the $8 million first prize, the nine-hour heads-up duel, or even the 6,737-player field he outlasted — perhaps none is more surprising than this:

He is 39.

The former Alaska nail salon owner and failed professional baccarat player is the oldest winner of the $10,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em tournament since 2007, snapping a string of eight straight 20-somethings to grind through the biggest and most prestigious tournament in the annual gambling festival.

“To see somebody like him win, it’s going to give more people hope,” said Ryan Riess, who won the 2013 Main Event at the age of 23. “There’s going to be a lot of guys that may be in their 40s or 50s who may have been discouraged seeing all the younger players win.”

A Vietnam native who lives in Las Vegas, Nguyen eliminated San Francisco poker pro Gordon Vayo on the 364th hand of the final table at around 3:20 a.m. Wednesday to end an 11-hour session that followed an 11-day run in July to winnow the field down to a “November Nine.” Over three straight nights this week, Nguyen played more than 18 hours, including 200 hands from “shuffle up and deal” on Tuesday afternoon to the confetti cannons that celebrated his winning hand.

“It’s absolutely a grueling grind,” said Jason Somerville, who won a $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em bracelet in 2011, at 24, and has finished in the money at the Main Event twice. “Remember that you’re not just playing long sessions: You’re on the biggest stage in poker; you’re under the bright lights. That whole thing is a pressure cooker like none other in poker. It’s really unique in life.”

From its origins in barrooms and basements, poker has emerged as a billion-dollar business — the World Series of Poker alone includes 69 events over 51 days in which 107,844 entrants played for $221,211,336 in payouts. As the game grew, it attracted not just older Texans in cowboy hats but young chess, math and computer prodigies who played thousands of hands online in the time it would take traditional gamblers to play one-tenth as much.

That’s enabled younger players to compete with — and even surpass — their more experienced competition. Young player say their age gives them the stamina necessary to outlast fields that now run in the thousands.

Phil Hellmuth was 24 when he won the Main Event for the first time in 1989 (in a field of just 178), but five of the eight winners since 2007 have been younger than that, including 2009 winner Joe Cada, who was about a week shy of his 22nd birthday.

Somerville noted that Nguyen was only 39.

“It’s not like he’s 65, which would really be surprising,” he said.

Nguyen didn’t take the traditional route to the final table. Nor did he make his name playing online like the younger generation of players.

Instead, he used his earnings at the nail salon to finance a baccarat habit that busted him before he turned to poker. With only one WSOP finish in the money and less than $53,000 in career tournament earnings heading into the Main Event, he was one of the least accomplished players at the final table.

But Nguyen used an aggressive style that forced Vayo to fold a better hand dozens of times down the stretch until his stack had dwindled and his choices were limited.

“He kind of played like a 20-something. He was very aggressive, very courageous,” said Somerville, who has more than $6 million in earnings — about one-third online and the rest in live tournaments. “There’s a lot of ways you can be successful in poker. There’s not just one way to do it. But there’s no shortcut to putting the hard work in: studying, practicing training. You really have to put in the hours.”

Nguyen and Vayo did that — all in one night.

More than 10 1/2 hours into the final session, Nguyen held a 5-to-1 chip advantage when he was dealt a king and 10 of clubs. Vayo got a jack and 10 of spades and pushed in his last 53 million chips.

Nguyen quickly called.

The two players stood together at the rail to watch the five shared cards come out.

The flop — the first three community cards — was a king-nine-seven, giving Nguyen a pair and Vayo the possibility of a straight.

Then came an inconsequential two, followed by an equally harmless three.

Nguyen was the winner.

The two players hugged, and Nguyen’s supporters bounced over the rail to celebrate with him.

In addition to one of the biggest prizes in poker, Nguyen receives a $50,000 bracelet made from 427 grams of white and yellow gold and more than 2,000 diamonds and rubies totaling more than 44 carats. The centerpiece opens like a locket to house the hole cards from the winning hand.

“I’m so excited. I don’t know what to say,” Nguyen, wearing his trademark raccoon baseball cap, said on the TV broadcast. “I just tried to remind myself to never give up, to never give up. It was tiring, it was tough, but I wanted to stay aggressive and never give up and thankfully for me it worked out.”

Vayo earned $4,661,228 for finishing second. He’s 27 — the youngest player at the final table.

Cliff Josephy, a 50-year-old former stock broker who was the oldest of the “November Nine,” was eliminated in third place and collected $3.45 million.

Daniel Negreanu, a six-time bracelet winner who is 42 but known as “Kid Poker,” said older winners could become more common because of laws against online poker in the United States.

“Without the ability to play poker online, younger players have a more difficult time amassing the experience necessary to be competitive at the highest levels,” he said. “The barrier for entry for younger players is more significant today as a result. Until that changes, you can expect the average age of the winners to increase along with it.”

But Riess said he didn’t think the presence of two older players among the final three was an indication that the trend toward younger winners is going to reverse any time soon.

“It’s definitely wide open,” Riess said. “There are a lot of great players that are older and a lot that are younger. But as a whole, I think the younger players are still ahead of the game.

“If the over-under was 30,” for next year’s Main Event, he said, “I would bet the under.”

Source: ABC News

Limping online poker

Is Limping a Good Poker Strategy

Is Limping a Good Poker Strategy?

A lot of poker players have moved away from limping when they play Texas Hold’em. It’s true that putting together intricate bluffs that cross several streets or putting down a three-bet is trendier, and limping has become a lot less popular than it once was. However, just because it isn’t popular doesn’t make it a good strategy.

Using Limping as a Poker Strategy

Some players say that if you never limp preflop, you’ll be a tougher opponent. However, when you take any weapons out of your arsenal, you make yourself easier to fight. Basically, you’re reducing your opponent’s worry down to the opening range.

Why have so many people come out against limping?

Well, the objectors talk about how limping represents a passive sort of play. They assume that limping before the flop means that the action after the flop will also be passive. However, if you use the “aggressive limp,” you can solve some of the other issues that may come up as you move through the streets and end up on top.

What is an “aggressive limp”?

It happens when you limp with the expectation that your opponent will do something in response, especially something aggressive. Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a skilled opponent directly on your left. He keeps there-betting you over and over. Most of the time, people will tighten their opening range to fight off these three-bets, pushing him into some four-bets that will either close him down for the night or make him a lot less aggressive.

Here’s the point, though. When you refuse to limp in this situation, you have to focus on that player to your left, so you can’t isolate any of your other opponents and steal pots before the flop. If you do limp, you can expect isolation from that opponent, but your opponent’s isolating range is going to make that three-bet range look pretty small. So if you can limp a range that is stronger that what that opponent has as his isolating range, you’ll be able to attack when the board is in your favor. So you’re not going to do some of the passive steps that people associate with limping, such as check-calling down to the river, or keeping lines consistent with the amount of risk and. Instead, you’re going to sprinkle some check-raises to your game and really shake the table up. This is one of the most aggressive defenses you can use in any hand, either live or when playing online poker.

Hold’em poker is one of the most sophisticated games in the world, and the deep stacks involved with live poker make it even more complex. Instead of trying to find ways to simplify this game, it is going to be more profitable for you over time to push the envelope and defy expectations. When you go against the grain you surprise your opponents and make an impact that will last for several hands, if not the entire night. So keep focused on evolving your game and keeping your opponents a step behind – and taking aggressive limps is a terrific way to do that.

Put your poker skills on the line? You can practice as much as you need on the free online poker tables at Cafrino and get all the practice you need while winning real cash!

Big poker weekend winners

Big Weekend Poker Winners – 10/20/2016

Big Weekend Poker Winners

Congrats to our big weekend winners!! We had a great weekend at Cafrino. Were you a part of it? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more chances to win a Level 10 invite!

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And special shout out to poollady, who wins our Level 10 Bubble Boy award (a free ticket to the next Level 10 game). Join us all week long for cash tournaments daily!

Good luck at the tables!

xo Petra

Poker Bankroll

Golden Rules to Save Your Online Poker Bankroll

Golden Rules to Save Your Online Poker Bankroll

It’s a good idea to always protect your poker bankroll. When players are sitting at a table with chips or cash in front of them, they tend to be more careful than they are when they’re hitting the online poker tables and looking at a stack of virtual chips. Even some of the best players have a way of running through their chips in a hurry. While it makes sense that bad table players would also lose a lot of money online, that doesn’t make sense for good table players. Playing online poker takes more discipline and control, because you’re running into stronger opponents and you have a faster pace. Let’s take a look at some tips to help you hold onto your chips online.

Stick to your Poker Bankroll

You need to have a poker bankroll that is large enough so that it seems like it will last forever, even though you know that you don’t have a bottomless stack. One way to do this is to ensure that no more than 5% of your roll is out on the table at any given time. Or consider pushing that down to 2%. That way you won’t have to worry about going broke from a single game. If you get out of control, things can go south in a hurry.

Don’t keep Looking at How Much you Have

Remember, you’re limiting the amount of your bankroll that’s on the table. And the money you gamble with isn’t money that you need to make it from one month to the next. This is just gravy, right? So keep your eyes off your balance. Sure, when you win, it feels good, but when you lose, and you look at your balance, your spirits drop. You start to want to see that balance jump back up again. The problem is that, in poker, winning money takes a long time, as you go up incrementally. You can make more money than you lose, but it takes a lot longer to make money than it does to lose it. You’ll be tempted to jump limits and throw more money on the table, and before you know it, you’ll have burned through your poker bankroll.

Be Serious with your Decisions

Ever decision that you make matters when you play online poker. Each mistake will cost you money, even if that mistake seems small at the time. The more mistakes you make, the more obstacles you have been yourself and profit. So you’re going to want to limit the distractions. There are some people who play better when they’re multitasking, so they might have a movie playing at the same time. There are others who need to keep their eye on the game at all times.

And here’s another thing — this isn’t something you do to pass the time. You’re doing it to make money. If you’re playing because you don’t have anything else to do, you’re not going to do the mental work to make the right decisions, and you will lose. Get up and go outside if you’re bored, or start that movie. Don’t throw money away.

Put your poker skills on the line? You can practice as much as you need on the free online poker tables at Cafrino and get all the practice you need while winning real cash!

Cash Tournaments

Happy Friday! More Cash Tournaments Added!

Happy Friday! More Cash Tournaments Added!

We’re happy to announce the addition of the following cash tournaments, in addition to our existing poker cash tournament schedule…

$50 Cash Tournament – 9am PT / 12pm ET
$20 Cash Tournament – 2pm PT / 5pm ET
$100 Cash Tournament – 4pm PT / 7pm ET
$10 Cash Tournament – 7pm PT / 10pm ET

$50 Cash Tournament – 9am PT / 12pm ET
$20 Cash Tournament – 2pm PT / 5pm ET
$500 Level 10 – Moved to 12pm PT / 3pm ET
$100 Cash Tournament – 4pm PT / 7pm ET
$10 Cash Tournament – 7pm PT / 10pm ET

Share this post and comment with your username for your chance to win entry to the $500 Level 10 game!

We’ll also be adding even MORE $500 Level 10 Qualifiers! We are getting closer to resolving any remaining bugs at Cafrino and we continue to try and make Cafrino the best place to play free poker and win cash prizes. Join us all weekend for some great poker action.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for special promotions and giveaways.

Good luck! We’ll look for you at the tables.


xo Petra

Poker Freerolls

How to take real advantage of Poker Freerolls

How to take real advantage of Poker Freerolls

Optimal Multi Table Strategy

Want to know to take real advantage of Poker Freerolls? Before the arrival of online poker, you had to work to find a game. You had to go out of your house and head to a table or bring people over for a night of cards. It was also a lot slower, as you had to play one table at a time. Now, thanks to the Internet, you can play as many games at once as you want, so long as you don’t overload your own stamina (and your ability to pay attention). People who were playing 10-cent and 25-cent games didn’t have a chance of making serious money, but now if you can play 20 tables at once, you can bring in some bank (as long as you can pay attention). A lot of people think that multi-tabling is a waste of time and money, arguing that you can’t make smart decisions because your reaction time is cut down. While there is some validity to this argument, the other side is that since you’re playing so much poker at once, having a decent game running at such a high quantity means that you’re going to make more money than if you have your superior game going on one table. Let’s look at some tips to help you make money off multi-table play.

Learning How to Multi-table the Right away.

This is NOT for amateurs or novices. First try to build some confidence playing at the free online poker tables, start with one game at a time, and start increasing the number of tables until it feels easy and almost natural. Then, feel free to expand the number of games you are playing. When you have more hands per hour, you have more decisions — and a lot of decisions in a short amount of time. If you’re looking at aces on one table, but they time out because you’re considering making a huge river raise on another table, you’re burning money.

Prioritize your decisions.

When you have multiple tables going, your decisions are going to pile up. You have to sift through the easy ones, leaving the ones that require a lot of thought for more priority. If you’re playing ten tables, it’s unlikely that you’ll have more than one really tough decision to think about at once. However, you’re likely to have one tough decision and nine easy ones. It’s hard to block out the nine easy choices and focus on the hard one, but that can often be what separates those who make money from those who do not. Once you’ve focused on the tough choice, then you go back and make those other easy ones. Once you get good at this, you’ll be able to make those easy choices on autopilot while you’re still pondering the tough one, but don’t do that until you’re ready.

Know your limits.

Are you winning money playing four tables, but when you jump to six tables, you’re losing money? Stay at four. You might think that you need to push yourself to play six, but you’ll be able to do that when you’re ready. If you push yourself beyond what you can do, you’re going to hemorrhage cash.

Put your poker skills on the line? You can practice as much as you need on the free online poker tables at Cafrino and get all the practice you need while winning real cash!

Big poker weekend winners

Congrats to our big weekend winners!!

We had a great weekend at Cafrino.

Were you a part of the winners list? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more chances to win a Level 10 invite!

$200.00 michealow
$100.00 pecosking
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And special shout out to 8srbetr, who wins our Level 10 Bubble Boy award (a free ticket to the next Level 10 game). Join us all week long for cash tournaments daily!

Put your poker skills on the line? You can practice as much as you need on the free online poker tables at Cafrino and get all the practice you need while winning real cash!

What are Sklansky dollars?

Poker Strategy 101: What are “Sklansky dollars”?

Poker Strategy 101: What are “Sklansky dollars”?

David Sklansky came up with idea of the “Sklansky dollars” (Sklansky dollars)  in one of his many books about poker strategy. It’s a term that you can put to work for you when you play Texas Hold’em.

Basically, “Sklansky dollars” indicate how much money you should expect to win out of the pot based on your equity at any point in a hand. They’re not real, of course, but they are a good way to evaluate the amount of money you win from your hands. Multiply the pot size by your equity, and then subtract the call amount from that answer. If this is starting to sound too much like algebra, let’s take a look at an example.

So, you’re playing an $100 No Limit poker game with an aggressive counterpart. You have AA, and your opponent has A-Q. The opponent goes all in before the flop, and you call, excited about what’s coming. Unfortunately, the board shows up like this: Q-3-7-J-Q. No, you didn’t win, and your $100 is gone. However, you’re going to win this situation a lot more often than you will lose it, based on that high pair you were holding, so this wasn’t a bad decision. A Sklansky calculation shows you what you can expect to win on the average.

So what’s your equity?

Well, if you use a poker hand evaluation software, poker utilities or a probabilistic poker calculator, you’ll find that if you have A-A against an A-Q preflop, your equity is 87.9%. That final pot size was $200 ($100 for each of you), so if you multiply that by the equity, you get $175.80. So you might have lost that $200 pot, but you should expect to win $175.80 on average every time you have A-A against A-Q pre-flop.

Get your earnings by taking out the call. So you take out that $100 you had in the pot, and you see that you had $75.80 in Sklansky dollars (your earnings).

Remember — real dollars and Sklansky dollars are quite different. In that last example, you picked up $75.80 in Sklansky dollars, but your real stack went down by $100.

What is The real benefit of the Sklansky Dollars?

The real benefit of the Sklansky dollars is that they show you whether a decision was wise or not. You’re not going to use probabilistic poker calculators and run a detailed analysis in the middle of a poker tournament or when your are hitting the free online poker tables. However, when you’re feeling sore afterward, understanding that this is a situation that you would win almost all of the time, you can feel better about your judgment. If you start questioning your judgment, then you’ll start making bad decisions, following anger and frustration instead of logical principles. That’s the surest way to see your account drain in a fairly short amount of time. You’re going to have bad losses like the one described above. That’s why it’s called GAMBLING. But if you make decisions with the right judgment, more often than not you’ll get the results that you expect. And when you’re on a streak when the luck isn’t going your way, looking at the Sklansky dollars in each situation can help reassure you and keep you consistent in your strategy so that, when the luck turns, you’ll be hitting those expected outcomes.

Put your poker skills on the line? You can practice as much as you need on the free online poker tables at Cafrino and get all the practice you need.

Cafrino Level 10

An easier way to win your way to the $500 Cafrino Level 10!

An easier way to win your way to the $500 Cafrino Level 10!

Hi Cafrino Players,

Now there’s a much easier way to get to the $500 Cafrino Level 10. Are you aware that you can buy and sell Cafrino Tickets in the Cafrino Marketplace? You can find the Marketplace link in the dropdown under your username.

1. Sign into your Cafrino account
2. Click your username
3. Scroll down to find the “Marketplace” link
4. Click the link and find the options to buy or sell Level Tickets

It’s that easy! Sell your tickets for chips, or buy your way into the higher level games.

Plus… follow us on Facebook and Twitter pages for promotions to win tickets and chips.

Good luck at the tables!

xo Petra

Put your poker skills on the line? You can practice as much as you need on the free online poker tables at Cafrino and get all the practice you need while winning real cash.