Thursday, February 28, 2019

I saw people with ten words and nine teeth

“You know the way most recreational players everywhere get incredibly tilted by beats and go on moaning and sniping for ages afterwards?”

I’m in the middle of responding to Lappin’s question about how Melbourne is.

“Well they do that here too”
“Oh. I thought that was the punchline”
“Almost always after 30 seconds or so, Aussie sporting values kick in, the guy says something like “Don’t mind me, I’m just annoyed I lost the pot but that’s the game” and it’s over”

Poker in the front

Ok, let’s get the poker out of the way first. I didn’t cash the main, and since I kept 97.5% of myself that more or less guaranteed a losing trip unless I did something special in the sides. I did cash 4 of them (almost half the ones I played) and had a number of promising shots but I didn’t run well when it really mattered. A 17th in the Terminator event (won in the end by Ioannis Angelou-Konstas, the winner of the last DTD Millions) was my best result. I looked to have a good shot at improving on that when I came back 6/36 in the Tournament of Champions (which despite the grandiose title was essentially a random 1k side) but could get nothing going and then ran AK into KK with 27 left. In the main event I grinded for almost two days never advancing much past starting stack before running aces into nines all in pre.

Taking on Danny Negreanu

When I’m at a major series like the Aussie Millions, I generally don’t write a blog during the series. I also postpone all my coaching and podcast commitments so I can concentrate on just playing. That was the plan this time, but as some of you will know already, I did end up writing one blog. Daniel Negreanu posted some ill considered tweets condemning certain poker player personality types and referring to them as a “cancer”, with more than a strong hint of “everyone should be more like me”. I’m always uneasy at attempts to pigeonhole poker players into one personality type, and the thing I enjoy most about live poker in particular is the diversity. Lappin wrote a great blog arguing for the defense of introverts, depressives and winning professionals. Before I read it I thought there would be little point in me writing my similar views up, but after reading it I felt there was a different angle to the one Lappin took that I could take, so I did. I finished it at 3 am local time, and by the time I woke up 5 hours later my phone was an ocean of notifications. One of Dnegs fans tweeted at me accusing me of trying to ride his coattails by being deliberately provocative, but in truth the last thing I wanted in the middle of the Aussie Millions was hundreds of notifications an hour. I could just ignore them, but that’s never really been my style. I like to engage with almost everyone who responds on social media to anything I write or do, but in this case that was incredibly time consuming (but I still tried). Ok if all you tweet is “you suck Dnegs is the best how dare you badmouth him” I’ll probably just read it and scroll on, but to be fair the vast majority of the Dnegs fans who waded in came at it a bit more more intelligently than that, and I’m always happy to defend my views against opponents.

Given the fact that Dnegs has at least 100 times as many fans and supporters as Lappin and I put together, I was very surprised that the reaction to our blogs was overwhelmingly positive. My new friend Jan Suchanek (a very shrewd man who is a giant in sports betting) counted it as 80/90 per cent in our favour, and the one poll I saw run backed that up. Davitsche tweeted that a major problem in the poker world is that people judge more by the status of the speakers rather than the validity of their positions. That might (or might not) be true in general, but wasn’t borne out by the reaction to this “debate”.


Dnegs quickly blocked me on Twitter, citing my use of the image of him in blackface (which I explained in a comment I posted on my last blog) , and refused to engage. He did however quickly row back on his original tweets in a blog of his own, which I largely agreed with. For me this was always a debate of ideas rather than anything personal, and it wasn’t about finding out who was “right” or “wrong” or claiming victory, but simply an attempt to influence what I saw as some objectionable and potentially damaging ideas by someone who is still one of the most influential voices in poker. Lappin tells me there was extensive discussion of the topic in a number of podcasts, mostly favourable to us, but some confused as to why we were apparently so hard on Dnegs when his blog largely agreed with ours. The answer of course is his blog came after ours at the end of the argument, by which time his views had apparently shifted considerably from the original tweets we were responding to. It’s unfortunate that some people are unclear on the timeline leading to this confusion, but not a big deal really. I’m less interested in whether people see me as too harsh (or not harsh enough) than I am in communicating and arguing my ideas.

Although it was far more time consuming than I’d like, I did feel that almost nothing but good came from the debate. A large number of players (both regs and recs) expressed support for Lappin and I in person, and admiration for our willingness to take on the behemoth, with the most frequent point made to me was that they were glad finally someone was willing to question his status as the Pope of poker, or at least the infallibility part. I also got to meet some great new people.

Cometh the hour cometh the Jan

Jan in particular had some wonderful perspectives. We spoke a bit about the fan worship people like Dnegs attract which is largely based on their perceived success in high stakes tournaments, as measured by the Hendon mob. The advent of the super high roller events has created a situation where players with access to backing at those stakes can inflate their earnings well beyond even what the WSOP main event winner gets, and by extension their status. It has always fascinated me how performance in some sports is measured by constant consistency, which is utterly disregarded in other sports. A shot putter can foul his first 5 throws, but if he throws the final throw farther than anyone else has thrown, he is at once the winner. By contrast a golfer can be flawless at the first 71 holes, but throw it all away at the last, or a snooker player can make all the tough one point pots but choke on the final colour.

To my mind success in poker is closer to golf (or snooker), but is often seen by fans as closer to shot putting. If you judge someone by their biggest live score, or even lifetime “earnings”, you may be missing the point. Some of the biggest losers financially in poker have way more in lifetime live ‘earnings” than some of the biggest winners. In the smoke and mirror world of the high rollers, even some “big winners” may be barely getting by, given what a tiny percentage of their own action many of them have.

Jan made the excellent point that a world where we are measured only on our biggest successes (and our failures are completely ignored in the reckoning) is one which favours the narcissist, who wants praise heaped on his successes and his failures quietly ignored.

Jan had another flash of insight.
“And you know what other world is just like that?”
“Twitter! There’s a like button but no dislike button. You can see how many people approved your message, but even if that’s 100 people, there might have been 10000 that disagreed. But there’s no button”

You can of course verbally respond, but that takes more time. And the true narcissist will find it too easy to stick their head in the virtual sand and click the Block button. As I said to Lappin, this is the world we live in now, narcissists blocking people while preaching tolerance.


As I mentioned earlier, I tend to postpone all ancillary work like blogs, coaching and podcast so I can concentrate on playing poker on these trips. In the case of The Chip Race, postpone isn’t really the right word as I tend to get whatever is needed out of the way before the trip. That means recording enough stuff ahead of time that Lappin can put out any shows we have scheduled without any further input from me. That’s normally not a problem, but as Lappin prepared to release the latest episode, a major story broke about headline guest Eli Elezra. Since we were totally unaware of this story when we spoke to him, we hadn’t asked him about it in our original interview. That meant if we put the show out as originally intended, we’d look like fools at best, and propagandaists at worst. I pointed this out to Lappin and suggested we needed to postpone the release of the show until we knew whether Eli was willing to answer some further questions. Thankfully he was: Lappin had to fly solo but did a brilliant job both asking the questions and editing the answers back into the show.

Speaking of the Chip Race, I may not have managed to do any recording out there, but I did manage to line up some future guests. I had the good fortune to be drawn at the same table as Josh , not because he’s a fish but because he might be the funniest person I’ve met in poker (it’s close between him and Firaldo). We met for the first time at the Aussie Millions last year, and speaking about the road trip he took around Australia after that and his experiences in the remotest parts of Queensland, he came out with my favourite line of the trip, the title of this blog.

Meeting the man who wrote the book about the Spice Girls

By now you’ve hopefully got the idea that the trip was a pretty packed one both on and off the felt (deep runs mean long days, and even in the tourneys I didn’t cash in there were no early bustouts). I also managed to cram in a decent amount of socializing: I had a lot of fun hanging out with the Sinclairs in particular (Jack and his Dad David).

They have one of the healthiest father-son relationships I’ve ever seen, and when you meet David (an accomplished musician, writer and journalist) it comes as no surprise that Jack turned out the way he has. In particular I enjoyed some Jack anecdotes David was kind enough to share that gave an insight into Jack’s wonderful and unique personality. It was also great to catch up with a lot of poker friends too numerous to mention here (I will however mention how uplifting it is to spend breaks with the chillest man in poker, former Chip Race guest Jesse McKenzie). It was great to catch up with Merv Harvey and take the opportunity to record another episode of the Postflop Poker Podcast. It was also a real thrill getting to know Jan, who invited us to his Super Bowl watching party, and impressed Mrs Doke with a seemingly endless supply of Veuve Cliquot. Give my French girl enough champagne, and even American football starts to become palatable to her. We also had a lot of fun hanging out with my (pre-poker) Melbournian friend Adam and his lovely girlfriend Yi who we finally got to meet.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

In an interview I gave on my last day in the Crown this year, I said that the crucial difference between the Aussie Millions and the WSOP is that in general people get more and more miserable as the WSOP, whereas the opposite is true at the Aussie Millions. The longer people spend in Melbourne the happier they get, and a unique atmosphere involving normally miserable foreign regs and good natured locals prevails. Melbourne, with its amazing food options and perfect environment for exercise (I ran almost every day there, and got out for a run twice several days) is the one poker trip I come back feeling healthier and happier than I did at the start.

I have very few regrets at this point in my poker career, but the biggest is that I didn’t check out the Aussie Millions earlier in my career. I put it off til last year as too far to travel for poker. Given that I’ve been playing since 2008, last year could have been my tenth rather than my first. I’ll try to make up for lost time by coming back every year until I retire.

The book has landed

My first poker strategy book, "Poker Satellite Strategy" is finished and finally available to order on Amazon:

.com Paperback version
.com Kindle Paperback (UK and Ireland only) Kindle (UK and Ireland only) 

It's also possible to get the paperback direct for $29.99 (including shipping) from (mail me at that address for payment options).

The book is more or less a brain dump of everything I know about satellites, focusing in particular on:

  • Adjustments you need to make from regular tournament play
  • What hands to shove, call and fold on the bubble
  • When to tighten up and when to keep accumulating chips
  • When it’s correct to fold Pocket Aces preflop

If you order the book before March 15, we are also throwing in a couple of freebies:

  • A 10 minute video on how to do COC calculations which should help you when you are reading the book
  • A PDF of the ‘Satellites in 30 minutes’ chapter so you can get better at satellites while you  are waiting for the book.

To get these  after you order, email with proof of your purchase and he'll send them on.



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