Visualizing Hand Ranges

[FF] “I keep hearing people talking about hand ranges, but how do you know what a hand range looks like?” Figaro the Fish inquired.

[NN] “There are 169 unique starting hands: 13 pairs, 78 suited non-pairs, and 78 offsuit non-pairs”, Nate the Natural began to explain. “The standard way to display these is a 13-by-13 grid with the pairs going down the diagonal from Ace-Ace in the top left to Deuce-Deuce in the bottom right, suited cards above and to the right, and offsuit cards below and to the left.

A good example, which is also the simplest place to play around with some percentages is the Poker Hand Range web site.

{Nate shows Figaro the site on his phone.}

[NN] “Drag the slider around or type in a specific percentage to see what various ranges look like.

[FF] “Hey, that’s pretty cool.”

[NN] “You can also tap on any specific starting hand. Or even click and drag to quickly select multiple hands. This does NOT update the percentage, however, so you can’t use this site to figure out what percentage a certain set of hands comprises.”

[NN] “For that and much more, you should get the free Poker Stove application.”1

[FF] “I’ve heard of that, but I thought that was just a PC app. I use a Mac.”

[NN] “There are more than a few Windows emulators you can use, like Parallels and Boot Camp.”

[LL] “I have Parallels,” Leroy the Lion chimed in, “but I almost never run it because it’s a huge resource hog. Fortunately, there’s a lightweight way to run many Windows apps under Mac OS. It’s called Wine2 (which originally stood for “WINdows Emulator” but was backronymed into “Wine Is Not an Emulator”). You can find instructions for downloading and running Poker Stove in Wine. Just make sure you get the latest version of the Poker Stove installer. I first got one file that was 732 Kb, but after installation it said it had expired. I then found another version that was 1.4 Mb, and that worked.”

[NN] “So there you go. The primary purpose of Poker Stove is to calculate equity by comparing two or more hands, but it lets you specify a player’s cards by Hand Range by tapping on the player’s button then the Preflop tab.”

[NN] “The Hand Range feature is pretty good. If you select any subset of hands, it will tell you what percentage that corresponds to.”

[FF] “That’s great. I can visualize a hand range this way much more easily than I could memorize a list of hands.”

Hand Ranges in 10% Increments (edited Poker Stove output)

Hand Ranges in 10% Increments

Footnotes:

  1. The Poker Stove application has a slightly different idea of the order of hands than the Poker Hand Range web site, but they’re pretty close. Poker Stove uses preflop all-in equity against three random hands, while the Poker Hand Range web site lets you choose from one to three opponents using unknown criteria.
  2. Wine also runs on Linux.

2014 WSOP Main Event Winner – Martin Jacobson

[GG] “How about some love for Sweden!” Gloria the Gorgeous beamed.

[RR] “Yeah, congratulations to Martin Jacobson, the first Swede to win the WSOP Main Event”, Roderick the Rock complied.

[SS] “Once the last American, William Tonking, was knocked out in fourth place,1 either Sweden or Norway or the Netherlands was going to have its first champ”, Stan the Stat noted. “Amazingly, all three of them currently live in London!”

[LL] “They’d be better off in a tax haven like Monaco”,2 Leroy the Lion suggested. “Monte Carlo’s not a bad place to play poker.”

[SS] “Jacobson certainly knows that. He’s cashed three times for about $90,000 there since 2009. And Jorryt van Hoof has won some money there too.”

[RR] “Speaking of the Dutchman, he started the final table with the chip lead, and he still had it when they got down to three.”

[SS] “But Jacobson was looking sharp, having moved all the way up from second to last to second in chips.”

[GG] “Even before he took the lead, I was sure he’d win it all. He looked so confident compared to the other guys. Too bad he already has a girlfriend.”

[LL] “You still have hope; they’re not engaged yet, as far as I know. But he’s certainly a ten in my book, as in the $10-million-dollar man.”

[GG] “From a ten thousand dollar buy-in.”

[RR] “Appropriately, he held Ace-Ten to eliminate van Hoof in third place, and he sealed the victory over Felix Stephensen by turning pocket Tens into a set of Tens on the final hand.”

[SS] “Jacobson won ten final table showdowns and lost ten. And fittingly, he’s cashed in ten tournaments this year. Ten more facts about Jacobson…

  1. Got into online poker while training to become a chef.
  2. Led the Main Event in chips after Day 1A and Day 6 (27 players remaining).
  3. Became the first November Niner to start 8th in chips and win.
  4. Won exactly one quarter of the 328 final table hands.
  5. Became the oldest winner since Jerry Yang (39 in 2007) but is still only 27 years old.
  6. Joined Joe Cada, Jonathan Duhamel, and Greg Merson as World Champs born in 1987 (four of the last six).
  7. Got all the money in preflop on the final hand,3 which has happened the last six years.
  8. Won with three-of-a-kind, only the second world champ to do so (Bobby Baldwin topped Crandell Addington with three Queens in 1978).
  9. Became the third foreign World Champion in the 2010s, already matching the three in the 1990s and three in the 2000s.
  10. Collected the second biggest first prize in WSOP Main Event history, behind only the twelve million dollars that Jamie Gold won in 2006; the field was only the fifth largest though.”

Footnotes:

  1. The last three players standing were all Europeans, a first in the history of the WSOP Main Event.
  2. See this article on Felix Stephensen’s taxes {Footnote added 11/20/14}.
  3. See all of the WSOP Main Event final hands.

Stan’s Lists – Poker Hall of Fame

[SS] “Have you guys seen who’s going to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame next week?” Stan the Stat polled.

[LL] “Yep”, Leroy the Lion confirmed.

[RR] “Me, too. But who’s the guy who isn’t Daniel Negreanu?” Roderick the Rock inquired.

[SS] “Jack McClelland. He was once an amateur trying to make a living playing poker.1 He didn’t have much success and would always complain at home about how badly the tournaments were run. His wife altered his career track by telling him, ‘If you think you are such a genius, why don’t you go and fix them?'”2

[SS] “So, McClelland began working at the World Series of Poker in 1984 and became an assistant tournament director the following year. He TD’ed events around the world for the next quarter century, including the inaugural events for the Commerce Casino in Southern California and the World Poker Tour before retiring last year.”

[RR] “That’s cool. Tournament directors are always underappreciated”, Roderick noted wryly.

[SS] “Of course, you all know Negreanu, but it’s still impressive to list some of his records:

  • 1998: Youngest WSOP bracelet winner when he won the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event at age 23 (a record that stood for six years before Gavin Griffin broke it)
  • 2007: Record four consecutive WPT cashes,3 where he also won two events (tied for the record with five4 others) and made three final tables (tied for the record with several others)
  • 2007: First player to be WSOP Player of the Year (2004) and WPT Player of the Year (then-record 2,600 points in 2007 that stood for nine years)
  • 2013: Only two-time WSOP Player of the Year
  • 2013: First player to win WSOP bracelets in the U.S., Europe, and Asia Pacific5
  • Career: Most total Player of the Year points
  • Career: Tournament poker’s all-time money leader (almost $30 million after his 2nd place finish in the 2014 Big One for One Drop pushed him ahead of Antonio Esfandiari)”

[SS] “Here are all the inductees.”

Poker Hall of Fame

Year Inductee Bracelets
1979 Johnny Moss 9
1979 Nick Dandalos 0
1979 Felton McCorquodale 0
1979 Red Winn 0
1979 Sid Wyman 0
1979 James Butler Hickok 0
1979 Edmond Hoyle 0
1980 Blondie Forbes 0
1981 Bill Boyd 4
1982 Tom Abdo 0
1983 Joe Bernstein 1
1984 Murph Harrold 0
1985 Red Hodges 0
1986 Henry Green 0
1987 Puggy Pearson 4
1988 Doyle Brunson 10
1988 Jack Straus 2
1989 Fred Ferris 1
1990 Benny Binion 0
1991 David Reese 3
1992 Thomas Preston 4
1993 Jack Keller 3
1996 Julius Oral Popwell 0
1997 Roger Moore 1
2001 Stu Ungar 5
2002 Lyle Berman 3
2002 Johnny Chan 10
2003 Bobby Baldwin 4
2004 Berry Johnston 5
2005 Jack Binion 0
2005 Crandell Addington 0
2006 T.J. Cloutier 6
2006 Billy Baxter 7
2007 Barbara Enright 3
2007 Phil Hellmuth 13
2008 Dewey Tomko 3
2008 Henry Orenstein 0
2009 Mike Sexton 1
2010 Dan Harrington 2
2010 Erik Seidel 8
2011 Barry Greenstein 3
2011 Linda Johnson 1
2012 Eric Drache 0
2012 Bryan Roberts 2
2013 Tom McEvoy 4
2013 Scotty Nguyen 5
2014 Daniel Negreanu 6
2014 Jack McClelland 0

[SS] “Some notes:

  • No new members were added in 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, or 2000.
  • Doyle Brunson is the only person inducted from 1979 to 2001 who is still alive. Sailor Roberts is the only person inducted since 2002 who is deceased.
  • Thirty-three men were in the Poker Hall of Fame before Barbara Enright became the first woman in 2007. Linda Johnson was the second in 2011.
  • Negreanu and Chip Reese were both enshrined at the age of 40, which has been the youngest allowed since 2011, a couple years after the public nominated 23-year-old Tom Dwan.
  • Men Nguyen is the eligible player with the most WSOP bracelets, seven, who hasn’t been inducted. Layne Flack, Ted Forrest, Jay Heimowitz, and Jeff Lisandro are next with six.
  • Phil Ivey and his ten bracelets aren’t eligible until 2016.
  • Six members are primarily famous for non-playing accomplishments:6
    • 1979: Wild Bill Hickok – Legendary lawman and poker player who was shot in the back and killed while playing five card draw (holding two pairs, Aces over Eights, now known as Deadman’s Hand).
    • 1979: Edmond Hoyle – Died before poker was invented, but he’s honored for his role in codifying card game and other rules.
    • 1990: Benny Binion – Conceived the World Series of Poker (1970), which took place in Binion’s Horseshoe casino, which he had created from the Eldorado Club and the Apache Hotel.
    • 2005: Jack Binion – Son of Benny and President of Binion’s Horseshoe casino, which hosted the WSOP from 1970 to 2004 (and the end of the Main Event in 2005).
    • 2008: Henry Orenstein – Although he also played some poker, the inventor is best known for creating and patenting the hole card camera, one of the keys to the poker boom on television.
    • 2012: Eric Drache – Although he had three 2nd place finishes in WSOP stud events, he’s best known for putting together the first satellite tournaments for the WSOP in the 1970s.

Footnotes:

  1. In his tournament career, McClelland has won $77,490, including taking down the $200 Heavenly Hold’em limit event at the Commerce for $33,966 on September 8, 2000.
  2. Quoted in Where Are They Now – Jack McClelland Poker Works.
  3. Tied with Kirk Morrison, who also cashed in four straight WPT events in 2007.
  4. Darren Elias joined the group by taking down the Borgata Poker Open and WPT Caribbean Main Events consecutively in September and November 2014 (first player to win consecutive events). {11/10/14 update}
  5. Jeff Lisandro matched him this year with a WSOP APAC bracelet.
  6. Non-players are required to have “contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible, positive, and lasting results”.

    Note: 1997 inductee Roger Moore is not the famous James Bond actor but a poker pro with $635,200 in career tournament earnings, including $144,000 from winning a bracelet at the 1994 WSOP in the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud event.

Related Links:

Stan’s Lists – WSOP Player of the Year


[SS] “Did any of you follow the WSOP Player of the Year1 race in Australia?” Stan the Stat asked the table.

[LL] “I actually streamed the last two events, so it was an interesting side story”, Leroy the Lion noted.

[RR] “Was it anyone I’ve heard of?” Roderick the Rock inquired.

[SS] “I doubt it. At least not before now.”

[LL] “A German named George Danzer was battling an American named Brandon Shack-Harris. They’d separated themselves from the pack over the summer then traded the lead a few times in Australia.”

[LL] “It came down to the last two WSOP APAC events. When Danzer busted out of the High Roller tournament, Shack-Harris was still alive in the APAC Main Event and could leapfrog to the title with a 2nd place finish.”

[LL] “Shack-Harris eventually got it all in with pocket Jacks ahead of Frank Kassela’s A♠9♦, but busted in 17th place when an Ace appeared on the board.”

[LL] “But late entry to the High Roller event was still open! The American jumped in but, alas, failed to cash, let alone make it to the 4th place finish he needed, crowning Danzer WSOP Player of the Year.”

[RR] “So, nobody in the November Nine is close to catching them?”

[SS] “Nope. The short stack, Bruno Politano, leads the November Niners with just 99.33 points, so the best he can do if he makes history by going from ninth to first is overtake John Hennigan for third place in the POY standings.”2

[SS] “Winning the Main Event is currently worth 500 points, but that hasn’t always been true. In fact, the POY formula has changed quite often through the years:

WSOP POY Formula Evolution

  • 2004: The WSOP Player of the Year race debuts, probably inspired by the WPT’s award, which began in 2003. Each event earns the same number of points based only on the players’ finish. The Main Event does not count.
  • 2005: Players earn one point for each dollar in prize money they win.
  • 2006: The new $50,000 HORSE tournament is also excluded from the rankings.
  • 2007: A new points system debuts but lacks any adjustment for the field size.
  • 2008: The $50,000 HORSE tournament starts counting.
  • 2009: The Main Event becomes eligible again, although POY Lisandro fails to cash in it.
  • 2010: Bluff Magazine takes over.
  • 2011: Field size and buy-in become factors in the formula so larger fields and higher buy-ins are worth more. WSOP Europe events count for the first time after being ignored for four years.
  • 2013: WSOP Asia Pacific debuts and counts in the standings.”

WSOP Player of the Year

Year Winner Points Runner-Up Points Margin
2004 Daniel Negreanu ? Ted Forrest ? ?
2005 Allen Cunningham 1,007,115 Mark Seif 799,950 25.9%
2006 Jeff Madsen 1,467,852 Phil Hellmuth 1,190,002 23.3%
2007 Tom Schneider 255 Jeff Lisandro 225 13.3%
2008 Erick Lindgren 245 Barry Greenstein 235 4.3%
2009 Jeff Lisandro 355 Ville Wahlbeck 320 10.9%
2010 Frank Kassela 290 Michael Mizrachi 240 20.8%
2011 Ben Lamb 909.05 Phil Hellmuth 755.25 20.4%
2012 Greg Merson 981.13 Phil Hellmuth 889.33 10.3%
2013 Daniel Negreanu 890.22 Matthew Ashton 665.75 33.7%
2014 George Danzer 923.50 Brandon Shack-Harris 806.70 14.5%

[SS] “The formula has changed too much over the year to compare point totals between years, but here are some other highlights:

  • Merson was the only POY to win the Main Event, and as a result he also won the most money ($9,785,354), dwarfing Lamb’s second best total of $5,352,970. Negreanu (2004) won the least money ($346,280), a record that is unlikely to get broken.
  • Lisandro and Danzer won the most bracelets, three.
  • Negreanu (2004) and Danzer reached the most final tables, five.
  • Negreanu (2013) and Danzer cashed the most times, ten.
  • Although it came down to the final event of the year, Negreanu’s margin of victory in 2013 was the largest ever percentage-wise, aided by bracelets in both Melbourne, Australia and Enghien-les-Bains, France.
  • In 2008, Lindgren’s 4th place finish in the $50,000 HORSE tournament, two spots better than Greenstein’s, made the difference in the closest-ever POY race.
  • In 2009, Lisandro failed to cash in the Main Event and had to hope that Wahlbeck didn’t go deep (he busted on Day 3).
  • The next three years came down to the Main Event Final Table. In 2010, Mizrachi needed to win the Main Event to tie Kassela but ended up placing fifth, two spots better than he started. In 2011, Lamb sealed WSOP POY honors with a third place finish in the Main Event, edging Hellmuth. In 2012, Merson needed to win the Main Event, which he did to leave Hellmuth second for a third time.”

Multiple Top Ten Finishes

[SS] “Bluff Magazine has sponsored and tabulated the WSOP Player of the Year results since 2010. In those five years, besides Hellmuth, four other players have finished in the Top 10 twice: Daniel Negreanu (1st in 2013 and 5th this year), David “Bakes” Baker (4th in 2010 and 5th in 2013), Michael Mizrachi (2nd in 2010 and 6th in 2012), and Richard Ashby (8th in 2010 and 10th this year).”

[SS] “Going back to 20073 adds Jeff Lisandro (2nd in 2007 and 1st in 2009), Phil Ivey (3rd in 2009 and 5th in 2012), and Tom Schneider (1st in 2007 and 10th in 2013).”

[SS] “Going back to 20054 adds Allen Cunningham (1st in 2005 and 10th in 2006). Hellmuth also placed 2nd in 2006 and 5th in 2007. Ivey also finished 6th in 2005.”

[SS] “Lastly, to go back to the beginning, in 2004 Negreanu was the first WSOP Player of the Year,5 making him the only two-time winner.”

Footnotes:

  1. Competing Player of the Year awards will be covered in future articles.
  2. Other players could end up fourth, supplanting Daniel Negreanu, or fifth, edging Ismael Bojang. {November 13, 2014 update: Martin Jacobson won the Main Event to move into 3rd place, dropping John Hennigan to fourth and Negreanu to fifth.}
  3. WSOP.com has the final standings for 2007, 2008, and 2009.
  4. Final Standings from 2005 and 2006 were calculated by subtracting Main Event and $50,000 HORSE winnings from the 2005 and 2006 Money Leaders.
  5. Sorry, I have no final standings for 2004 (nor even the formula I’d need to calculate them), so I don’t know who else was in the Top 10 besides Negreanu and Forrest.

Related Links:

Stan’s Lists – WSOP Europe and WSOP Asia Pacific Final Hands


[SS] “Congratulations to Scott Davies, this year’s WSOP Asia Pacific Main Event champion”, Stan the Stat announced. “The American pro won $737,907 (850,136 Australian dollars) to nearly triple his career WSOP winnings.”

[LL] “Go USA!” Leroy the Lion interjected.

[SS] “Americans have now won five of the nine WSOP Europe and APAC Main Events, just one fewer than in the last nine WSOP Main Events.”

[LL] “Certainly an overachievement given the lower percentage of Americans at the non-U.S. events.”

[SS] “Here are the final hands they won with (well, all of the champs):”

WSOP Europe and Asia Pacific Main Event Winning Hands

Year Event Winner Hand Value Runner-Up Hand Value Board
2007 E Annette Obrestad 7♥7♠ Three Sevens John Tabatabai 6♦5♠ Two Pairs,
6s over 5s
6♣7♣5♥2♣Q♥
2008 E John Juanda K♠6♣ Four Sixes Stanislav Alekhin A♣9♠ Three Sixes 6♦6♠2♦Q♣6♥
2009 E Barry Shulman T♠T♣ Three Tens Daniel Negreanu 4♠4♦ Pair of Fours T♦2♣K♦3♣Q♦
2010 E James Bord T♦T♥ Two Pairs,
10s over 9s
Fabrizio Baldassari 5♠5♥ Two Pairs,
9s over 5s
9♠9♦8♦J♠A♦
2011 E Elio Fox A♦T♠ Pair of Sixes,
Ace-Ten kicker
Chris Moorman A♥7♠ Pair of Sixes,
Ace-Eight kicker
6♠4♠3♥6♦8♥
2012 E Phil Hellmuth A♥T♦ Pair of Aces,
Jack-Ten kicker
Sergii Baranov A♠4♣ Pair of Aces,
Jack-Nine kicker
J♦9♥5♥A♦3♣
2013 A Daniel Negreanu 2♠2♥ Pair of Twos Daniel Marton A♠7♠ Ace-high 6♦J♠K♥T♥4♦
2013 E Adrian Mateos A♠K♣ Pair of Kings Fabrice Soulier 9♦8♦ Pair of Nines J♥9♠4♣K♠5♣
2014 A Scott Davies 6♦6♠ Full House,
6s over Ts
Jack Salter Q♣T♣ Three Tens 6♥T♥T♠8♠3♠

[SS] “Some notes about the final hands:

  • Davies had the best winning hand of any champ, flopping sixes full of tens, while Salter, who had begun the six-player final table with the chip lead, had the best losing hand with three tens.
  • The money went all in pre-flop in every case except Obrestad-Tabatabai, Mateos-Soulier, and Davies-Salter, each of which saw a flop first.
  • The winners had significantly better pre-flop hands than the runners-up, unlike in the WSOP Main Event. Only Juanda got it all-in behind pre-flop. Mateos was only other player who was behind before the shove, as he fell behind on the flop.”

[LL] “So, I was wrong, and the WSOP was right in having the Europe and Asia Pacific events alternate years?” Leroy the Lion inquired.

[SS] “Well, this year’s Asia Pacific Main Event field was the smallest turnout of the nine European and APAC Main Events with a significant twenty percent drop from last year’s 405 in Australia.”

[LL] “I know there’s two year’s worth of history now, but wouldn’t it make sense for the Asian Pacific events to be held in Macau1 instead of Australia? The Chinese ‘Special Administrative Region’ zoomed past Las Vegas to become the highest-grossing area in the world for legalized gambling in 2006.”2

[SS] “Yeah, Macau’s gambling industry is now seven times bigger than Vegas’s.3 I don’t know what the WSOP powers are thinking, but it seems like Macau could easily support an annual tournament series.”

[LL] “Maybe they think poker isn’t popular enough there yet. Baccarat, which is a boring4 and bad game for bettors unless you’re Phil Ivey, is surprisingly more popular, but poker is definitely growing.”

Footnotes:

  1. CNN, Wikipedia, and others spell it “Macau”, the modern Portuguese spelling, while the New York Times et al. have stuck with “Macao”, the original Portuguese spelling.
  2. The New York Times reported on Macau’s ascendence on January 23, 2007.
  3. CNN Money reported on January 6, 2014 that Macau had $45 billion in gambling revenue compared to about $6.5 billion for Vegas.
  4. From the subsequent baccarat link, you can get to this page that plays the game using Javascript and see for yourself.

Stan’s Lists – WSOP Europe and WSOP Asia Pacific


[SS] “Last year was the debut of the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific,” Stan the Stat began, “but it looks like it will be the only year with both a WSOP Europe and a WSOP Asia Pacific.1 Starting this year, the Asia Pacific event will take place only in even-numbered years, taking turns with the European event in odd-numbered years.”

[LL] “Sort of like how the Summer and Winter Olympics were held in the same year from 1924 to 1992 before the International Olympic Committee offset the Winter games in 1994?” Leroy the Lion analogized.

[SS] “Yep. It make sense for those infrequent quadrennial games, but I don’t agree with the decision here.2 I’m not the one flying all over the world to play poker though.”

[LL] “I’d certainly like poker to grow, but the Big One for One Drop is a bit of a precedent. And that field shrunk despite the every-other-year schedule.”

[SS] “On the positive side, this justifies combining the short lists of the Europe and Asia Pacific Main Event winners into one:”

WSOP Europe and Asia Pacific Main Event Champions3

Year Event Winner Prize4 Entrants Cashed Runner-Up
2007 E Annette Obrestad $2,013,733 362 36 John Tabatabai
2008 E John Juanda $1,580,096 363 36 Stanislav Alekhin
2009 E Barry Shulman $1,321,534 334 36 Daniel Negreanu
2010 E James Bord $1,281,048 346 36 Fabrizio Baldassari
2011 E Elio Fox $1,870,208 593 64 Chris Moorman
2012 E Phil Hellmuth $1,333,841 420 48 Sergii Baranov
2013 A Daniel Negreanu $1,087,160 405 40 Daniel Marton
2013 E Adrian Mateos $1,351,661 375 40 Fabrice Soulier
2014 A Scott Davies $737,907 324 36 Jack Salter

[SS] “Some interesting tidbits:

  • Daniel Negreanu owns these Main Events. Three final tables in a span of six tournaments (5th place in 2008) is beyond impressive. Only Dan Harrington’s three final tables in ten WSOP Main Events from 1995 to 2004 can compare (his win was out of a slightly smaller field, while the back-to-back final tables were from much bigger fields).
  • Three other players have reached multiple final tables:5 Jason Mercier (4th in 2009 and 8th in 2012), Daniel Steinberg (6th in 2010 and 9th in 2013 Europe), and Benjamin Spindler (6th in both 2013 tourneys).
  • Norwegian Annette Obrestad was the youngest winner at 18 (one day shy of her 19th birthday and well under the legal age limit of 21 for Las Vegas) and the only woman to reach a final table until 2014, when Ang Italiano finished sixth.
  • Spaniard Adrian Mateos was the second youngest winner at 19 (just three and a half months older than Obrestad).
  • Barry Shulman was the oldest winner at age 63, while Phil Hellmuth was the second oldest at 48.”

Footnotes:

  1. In 2013 the WSOP Asia Pacific event was held in April and the Europe event in October, in early fall (or late summer) like every other event.
  2. WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart explained that alternating years “allows for better organization and more marketing in each region. We also want to do right by the players, and provide more value for their travel dollar. There is a glut of poker tournaments around the world, and our vision is to each year put on a single global showcase that can’t be missed.”
  3. Updated on October 18, 2014 to include 2014 event.
  4. Prizes are in approximate U.S. dollars (converted from the original pounds, euros, and Australian dollars). The 2007 first prize looks disproportionately large partly because the pound was worth over two dollars then (it has hovered around 1.6 dollars most of the time since).
  5. The “final table” is defined here as the last nine players, but the official final table is just six (by which definition only Negreanu and Spindler have reached multiple final tables).

Related Links:

Zachary Elwood’s “Reading Poker Tells” Review

[DD] “The final book on tells that I read was the best of the bunch: Reading Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood. Mike Caro’s a poker pro who has written over a dozen books, only one of which was about tells. Joe Navarro was an FBI agent. And Randy Burgess and Carl Baldassarre earn their keep as writers. Elwood, on the other hand, is a poker player who has dedicated himself to studying tells since 2009. And it shows.”

[LL] “Well, it helps that his book is newer”, Leroy the Lion suggested.

[DD] “You’d think Elwood benefitted from having read the published literature, but he doesn’t really build upon what Caro and Navarro. He does occasionally point out spots where he agrees or disagrees with them, often the latter, backed by his own logic and evidence. He also takes some direct swipes at Dan Harrington’s chapter1 on poker tells.”

[LL] “So he isn’t standing on the shoulders of giants?”

[DD] “Not really. He contradicts a lot of Caro’s advice and likes Navarro’s book even less. In Elwood’s very first blog post on his Reading Poker Tells web site, he derided Read ‘Em and Reap as ‘useless’ except for one piece of advice that he later discovered dated back to Caro anyway.”

[DD] “But what I really like is that Elwood’s book is more usefully organized, splitting tells into ‘waiting-for-action’, ‘during-action’, and ‘post-bet’.”

[LL] “That pretty much covers everything… So the same behavior can mean different things at different times?”

[DD] “Yes, they really are three separate situations even when they relate to the same single poker action.”

[LL] “Except when post-bet and waiting-for-action coincide during heads-up action.”

[DD] “He means post-bet behavior that concerns the bet that was just made vs. waiting-for-action behavior when the player hasn’t bet on that street yet. Hopefully you’ll know the difference.”

[LL] “So, what are some of the good tells he describes?”

[DD] “There are so many that you really just need to read the book. In each of the three situations he gives about a dozen examples of weakness and a similar number of strength. A sampling:

  • Waiting-for-action weakness: getting ready to fold, especially in multiway pots, is usually for real, contrary to Caro’s claim.
  • Waiting-for-action strength: pre-loading chips is strong, not weak like Caro says (but then Caro seems to think almost everyone is an actor).
  • During-action weakness: slow check (pretending to be considering betting)
  • During-action strength: very strong betting motion is strong, since a bluffer wouldn’t want to call attention to themselves (again, contradicts Caro). In fact, most unusual during-action behavior is strong for this same reason.
  • Post-bet weakness: stillness, silence, and fake smiles.
  • Post-bet strength: shaking legs (indicated by shirt movement).

[DD] “Reading Poker Tells also has a short section on general verbal tells, but Elwood expands that to a whopping 438 pages in his next book, Verbal Poker Tells.”

[LL] “But you haven’t read that.”

[DD] “No, I don’t have a copy yet… But that’s a hint if you were thinking of getting me a Christmas present.”

Title Reading Poker Tells
Author Zachary Elwood
Year 2012
Skill Level Any
Pros Very well organized and researched. Uses No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em in most examples.
Cons Poor quality pictures.
Rating 4.0 (out of five)

Footnotes:

  1. The 2008 book is titled Harrington on Cash Games, Volume II: How to Play No-Limit Hold ‘em Cash Games.

“Ultimate Guide to Poker Tells” Review

[LL] “How about the Ultimate Guide to Poker Tells, which was published the same year as Navarro’s book?” Leroy the Lion prodded.

[DD] “I liked it just as much, partly because it covered different ground. My favorite section was right near the beginning, where they categorize players into five stages of tells:

  • Stage 1: no concealment of emotions – beginners
  • Stage 2: quiet with monsters but transparent with weakies
  • Stage 3: acting (reverse); most low-limit recreational players never get past this stage
  • Stage 4: minimizing tells – Vulcan poker (Navarro’s advice)
  • Stage 5: read opponents’ tells and give off only subtle reverse tells

[LL] “So now you have a goal beyond becoming a Nava-robot.”

[DD] “Not by much, but yes, for reading tells the co-authors say that exaggerated gestures are probably fake while subtle gestures are probably real. So we should obviously tone down our fake tells.”

[LL] “Doesn’t it matter how observant your opponents are?”

[DD] “Burgess and Baldassarre don’t cover that, but I think that’s important. Just like you need to know how deep your opponents are thinking.”

[LL] “Don’t waste a subtle tell on an opponent who isn’t paying attention to you?”

[DD] “Or maybe saying something may be more effective, since they’ll hear you even if they aren’t looking at you.”

[LL] “What else did you learn from what’s actually in the book?”

[DD] “Like Caro, B&B want you make your baseline assessment of a new player from their appearance. They agree that a messy chip stack means a loose player, but think you shouldn’t read into a neat chip stack anymore.”

[LL] “Because most players do that now as a matter of efficiency?”

[DD] “Something like that. They also disagree with Caro on what a number of tells mean. At least in limit poker, they think grabbing chips early means strength, not weakness, while prematurely starting to fold is weak, not strong (although later on, they say the opposite themselves).”

[LL] “Like a lot of poker, it usually depends on the player!”

[DD] “And the type of poker being played. The authors give long lists of specific tells for Limit Poker, High-Low Split Games, and No-Limit Hold ‘Em. Some great stuff, but unfortunately the real tells are mixed in with reverse tells, so it’s all very confusing.”

[LL] “That certainly doesn’t make it easy to learn.”

[DD] “Fortunately, they do spend on chapter on how to improve your reading ability. Like Navarro, they want you to become more observant. Their advice seems good, even though I hate that they use the terms ‘poker psychic’ and ‘intuition’.”

[LL] “So, you don’t believe in women’s intuition?”

[DD] “I guess it depends on the definition, but to me ‘intuition’ means ‘gut instinct based more on feelings than facts’. Yet B&B go on to tell you to build your ‘poker database’ of observations. Those are facts.”

[LL] “Maybe they didn’t have the guts to try to unravel the complicated deductive process, so they waved their hands and called it ‘intuition’.”

[DD] “Lastly, the book does have a decent chapter on hiding your tells where they recommend Vulcan poker. Sigh. And there’s an interesting bonus chapter on angle shooting,1 which was eye-opening, although I wouldn’t want to play in any game where I had to worry about that stuff.”

Title Ultimate Guide to Poker Tells
Author Randy Burgess and Carl Baldassarre
Year 2006
Skill Level Any
Pros Thorough coverage of tells, including the Stages of Tells and specific tells in various types of games.
Cons Occasional contradictory advice and intermingling of actual and fake tells. Low quality photos.
Rating 3.5 (out of five)

Footnotes:

  1. Angle shooting: the use of questionably legal tactics to one’s advantage. The difference between angle shooting and outright cheating can be razor thin and may even depend on the venue’s specific rules.

Joe Navarro’s “Read ‘Em and Reap” Review

[DD] “Navarro’s book was the most interesting of the four”, Deb the Duchess opined, “insofar as he’s not much of a poker player but rather a former FBI agent applying career skills from his profession.”

[LL] “Like interrogating suspects?” suggested Leroy the Lion.

[DD] “Yes, but without resorting to torture.”

[LL] “I think that’s more of a CIA thing.”

[DD] “There are non-poker books, some psychology books for example, that can improve your poker. Navarro’s poker book is the opposite; it’ll help you in real life.”

[LL] “To tell when people are lying to you?”

[DD] “Much more than that. Navarro actually trains you to be more observant… even before a single hand of poker has been dealt.”

[LL] “Sure, you need to know how a person normally acts, so you can detect a change in behavior.”

[DD] “You need to establish what he calls their ‘baseline behaviors': how they sit, where they place their hands, how their face looks, and even how fast they chew their gum.”

[LL] “Most players can’t chew gum and bluff at the same time.”

[DD] “While Caro briefly mentions some unconscious tells, Navarro bases most of his book on them. He believes that the limbic, or mammalian, part of our brains, betrays our emotions before we can stop ourselves a moment later.”

[LL] “So, player’s immediate reactions matter the most?”

[DD] “Exactly. An actor will likely then do the opposite, while other players will freeze and do nothing, a difference Burgess and Baldassarre explore in depth. But that immediate reaction is difficult to suppress.”

[DD] “A threatening board card or an opponent’s bet can invoke one of the three fear responses: freeze, flight, or fight.”

[LL] “Or as Tyrone the Telephone would say, ‘Hold on tight, take to flight, or boldly fight’?”

[DD] “Yep. Stay still like a deer in headlights, physically separate by leaning away, or go on the offensive by glaring at the bettor.”

[LL] “And how would I avoid making these automatic responses myself?”

[DD] “Navarro recommends a robotic approach. Do everything the same way every time: how you arrange your chips, look at your cards, hold your body and hands between actions, push your chips forward, etc. Don’t talk. Heck, don’t even move if you don’t have to.”

[LL] “Phil Ivey must be his favorite player.”

[DD] “But he also advocates wearing a hat and sunglasses.”

[LL] “So he must really dig Phil Laak’s Unabomber look. I’m surprised secret agent man doesn’t tell you to wear a scarf to hide your pulse and a surgeon’s mask to hide your nose and mouth.”

[DD] “Oh, and your feet, which he calls ‘the most honest part of your body’… Don’t tap them, wrap them around the chair legs, or move them at all.”

[LL] “If everyone followed all the advice in this book, poker players would die of boredom.”

[DD] “No, but it would make it more like playing online poker.”

[LL] “Without the chat box. And much slower. Yawn.”

[DD] “Believe it or not, I actually liked the book. Even if I never intend to follow some of his more extreme advice.”

[LL] “That does surprise me.”

[DD] “Well, that was just the section on hiding your own tells. His information about other people’s tells is excellent: Tells of Engagement and Disengagement, High and Low Confidence Tells, Gravity-Defying Tells (which indicate strength), Territorial Tells, and Pacifying Behaviors (which indicate weakness).”

[LL] “For example?”

[DD] “Like these:

  • Engagement: a nose flare indicates the player is going to play the hand (e.g., preflop).
  • Disengagement: unprotecting the cards is weak.
  • High-confidence: steepled hands are strong.
  • Low-confidence: wringing hands is weak.
  • Gravity-defying: raising heels or bouncing feet or legs are strong.
  • Territorial: spreading out is strong.
  • Pacifying: touching the neck or face is weak.”

[LL] “But what if they’re false tells?”

[DD] “He says those will appear ‘stilted or unnatural’. Also, you should note which players are actors so you can just ignore them. In the end though, I think you just need to give much more weight to their initial responses.”

Title Read ‘Em and Reap”
Author Joe Navarro
Year 2006
Skill Level Any
Pros Unique perspective on tells. Focuses on subconscious tells that are difficult to hide.
Cons Many of the tells may be difficult to detect or fake.
Rating 3.5 (out of five)

“Caro’s Book of Poker Tells” Review

After a tournament in which Leroy the Lion just missed the money and Deb the Duchess just made it, the two friends continue their discussion on tells.

[LL] “So, did you spot any new tells tonight?” Leroy asked.

[DD] “I did, but it definitely took a lot of concentration. It wasn’t easy.”

[LL] “Figaro the Fish is a fount of information.”

[DD] “You said new tells.”

[LL] “And you don’t need any tells to take his chips anyway. He’s very generous.”

[DD] “They say to start by focusing on the loosest player in the game, since you’ll be in the most hands with them.”

[LL] “Carlos the Crazy!”

[DD] “He’s practically straight out of first book I read, Caro’s Book of Poker Tells.”

[LL] “Everything he does is loud.”

[DD] “Caro has him pegged — his flamboyant personality matches his loose aggressive playing style. And he’s the perfect bad actor.”

[LL] “Strong means weak, and weak means strong.”

[DD] “Precisely what Caro says. Carlos will try to talk you into a call when he’s got the goods and try to get you to fold when he’s bluffing.”

[LL] “Which is most of the time.”

[DD] “Caro lists 58 specific tells in his book, half of which are acting tells, and I’ll bet that crazy guy has most of those. I’ll have to recheck the book to see what I missed.”

[LL] “What are the other half?”

[DD] “Subconscious tells, which Navarro explains much more thoroughly, and general tells, which didn’t seem that useful to me.”

[LL] “But despite the fact that the original material was published before you were born, you still found it useful?”

[DD] “Yes, beginners don’t know to hide their tells, and I guess even some intermediate players like Carlos are able to fool enough people with their acting that they keep doing it.”

[DD] “Caro is a bit repetitive though, which is the only way he was able to fill out a 300+ page book. The 58 tells fall under 25 general Laws of Tells, which he lists both with their specific instances and in a separate chapter. He spends another two chapters on Important Tells Revisited and a Play Along Photo Quiz.”

[LL] “At least all the repetition helped you learn the tells though, right?”

[DD] “I suppose I have to admit that.”

Title Caro’s Book of Poker Tells
Author Mike Caro
Year 2003 (originally published as The Book of Tells in 1984)
Skill Level Any
Pros The original book on poker tells.
Cons Many of the tells no longer apply, except from beginners and some stronger players who like to act. Photos are poor quality.
Rating 3.0 (out of five)