How Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, & Ben Affleck’s exclusive poker game became the Incredible True Story in Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game: Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist The A-List Kingpin and the Poker Ring that Brought Down Tinseltown with Houston Curtis. Houston started the high-end private games of the elite stars and athletes and shares the intimate details missed in the outstanding film, now on Netflix. Find Houston Curtis at https://KardSharp.com

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  1. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    This Oliver Hudson playing at the 2005 WSOP main event in Las Vegas:

    Its an epic cooler. What gets cut from this short clip is the camera catches Oliver telling his friend Toby Maguire about this hand – and the expression on Toby’s face is just priceless. I was looking on You Tube for a clip that included that scene – It would only be 60 or 90 seconds longer than this clip.

    • #1
    • April 17, 2020, at 4:28 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest. 

    I thought the same while watching Molly’s Game: we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for Molly in the movie, but my bet is that she’s leaving out some of the less honorable, less savory bits of the story. Bits that are unavoidable in a world like that. Maybe it’s all in the book, but I doubt it. 

    • #2
    • April 20, 2020, at 8:08 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest.

    I thought the same while watching Molly’s Game: we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for Molly in the movie, but my bet is that she’s leaving out some of the less honorable, less savory bits of the story. Bits that are unavoidable in a world like that. Maybe it’s all in the book, but I doubt it.

    No, she white washed her story a fair bit. Even in the movie, her character states quite clearly, that she left a lot of money on the table, just to avoid telling the full story and naming names etc. My guess has always been that such a deal would involve a ghost writer – who would be diligent to verify her story. (I dont know if her book had a ghost writer – but given that names where not named – lawyers would have been less enthusiastic about fact checking)

    • #3
    • April 20, 2020, at 8:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest.

    I thought the same while watching Molly’s Game: we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for Molly in the movie, but my bet is that she’s leaving out some of the less honorable, less savory bits of the story. Bits that are unavoidable in a world like that. Maybe it’s all in the book, but I doubt it.

    No, she white washed her story a fair bit. Even in the movie, her character states quite clearly, that she left a lot of money on the table, just to avoid telling the full story and naming names etc. My guess has always been that such a deal would involve a ghost writer – who would be diligent to verify her story. (I dont know if her book had a ghost writer – but given that names where not named – lawyers would have been less enthusiastic about fact checking)

    I didn’t mean the names. I meant things she had to do to acquire and maintain the games, the players, the locations, the debt, and an unmolested existence in that business. I meant the drugs and I suspect prostitution or something close to it – or at least looking the other way on other vendors of those services serving her clientele. Especially on the move to New York, but in general. Millions (hundreds of millions?) changing hands and a business catering to the vices of wealthy and famous doesn’t go unnoticed by people – as was depicted in the movie – but I’m skeptical that was her first known contact with that element, and I’m skeptical all she did was count money, create spreadsheets, and browse the internet while the boys played. 

    • #4
    • April 20, 2020, at 9:25 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest.

    I thought the same while watching Molly’s Game: we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for Molly in the movie, but my bet is that she’s leaving out some of the less honorable, less savory bits of the story. Bits that are unavoidable in a world like that. Maybe it’s all in the book, but I doubt it.

    No, she white washed her story a fair bit. Even in the movie, her character states quite clearly, that she left a lot of money on the table, just to avoid telling the full story and naming names etc. My guess has always been that such a deal would involve a ghost writer – who would be diligent to verify her story. (I dont know if her book had a ghost writer – but given that names where not named – lawyers would have been less enthusiastic about fact checking)

    I didn’t mean the names. I meant things she had to do to acquire and maintain the games, the players, the locations, the debt, and an unmolested existence in that business. I meant the drugs and I suspect prostitution or something close to it – or at least looking the other way on other vendors of those services serving her clientele. Especially on the move to New York, but in general. Millions (hundreds of millions?) changing hands and a business catering to the vices of wealthy and famous doesn’t go unnoticed by people – as was depicted in the movie – but I’m skeptical that was her first known contact with that element, and I’m skeptical all she did was count money, create spreadsheets, and browse the internet while the boys played.

    Molly Bloom stated throughout her book and it was repeated in the movie that she purposely didn’t expose information that could lead to any legal or financial ramifications for those who played in her game. Brad Ruderman (Bad Brad) fell on his own sword setting in motion Mollie’s downfall a few years later. Whatever one can say about her, she could have sold her personal celebrity anecdotes to TMZ type outlets for millions of dollars. She could have accepted a plea deal which would have allowed her to recoup her $5 million tax-free. She didn’t.

    • #5
    • April 20, 2020, at 9:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest.

    Ed G, I do think Houston is a good guy. We all make choices in life, sometimes resulting in self-inflicted wounds. We are all broken. Houston was a provider. This world sits on the border crossing of legitimate, legal 9-5 careers (I know several no-name ‘grinders’ who toil daily to put food on the table for their families) and the darker side of the crooked nose crowd we saw infiltrate Mollie’s Game. Houston played in a legal game (with no rake) and didn’t use his cardsharp skills so his children could attend better schools. I have no problem with that.

    • #6
    • April 20, 2020, at 10:02 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Taras Coolidge

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest.

    Ed G, I do think Houston is a good guy. We all make choices in life, sometimes resulting in self-inflicted wounds. We are all broken. Houston was a provider. This world sits on the border crossing of legitimate, legal 9-5 careers (I know several no-name ‘grinders’ who toil daily to put food on the table for their families) and the darker side of the crooked nose crowd we saw infiltrate Mollie’s Game. Houston played in a legal game (with no rake) and didn’t use his cardsharp skills so his children could attend better schools. I have no problem with that.

    Dave, you forget.

    Houston says he did sometimes use his “cardsharp skills”, though only in what were, according to him, crooked games.

    I recall he says Armenian and Russian games were often crooked.

    On the other hand, it seems unlikely he was cheating on the day he lost a million dollars!

    • #7
    • April 20, 2020, at 10:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest.

    I thought the same while watching Molly’s Game: we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for Molly in the movie, but my bet is that she’s leaving out some of the less honorable, less savory bits of the story. Bits that are unavoidable in a world like that. Maybe it’s all in the book, but I doubt it.

    No, she white washed her story a fair bit. Even in the movie, her character states quite clearly, that she left a lot of money on the table, just to avoid telling the full story and naming names etc. My guess has always been that such a deal would involve a ghost writer – who would be diligent to verify her story. (I dont know if her book had a ghost writer – but given that names where not named – lawyers would have been less enthusiastic about fact checking)

    I didn’t mean the names. I meant things she had to do to acquire and maintain the games, the players, the locations, the debt, and an unmolested existence in that business. I meant the drugs and I suspect prostitution or something close to it – or at least looking the other way on other vendors of those services serving her clientele. Especially on the move to New York, but in general. Millions (hundreds of millions?) changing hands and a business catering to the vices of wealthy and famous doesn’t go unnoticed by people – as was depicted in the movie – but I’m skeptical that was her first known contact with that element, and I’m skeptical all she did was count money, create spreadsheets, and browse the internet while the boys played.

    Molly Bloom stated throughout her book and it was repeated in the movie that she purposely didn’t expose information that could lead to any legal or financial ramifications for those who played in her game. Brad Ruderman (Bad Brad) fell on his own sword setting in motion Mollie’s downfall a few years later. Whatever one can say about her, she could have sold her personal celebrity anecdotes to TMZ type outlets for millions of dollars. She could have accepted a plea deal which would have allowed her to recoup her $5 million tax-free. She didn’t.

    Understood and agreed. However, that doesn’t make her a sympathetic figure overall, nor does it remove my skepticism that the unsavory elements associated with gambling and at that level were absent here. $5 mil doesn’t go as far as you’d think with a lifestyle like the one depicted, an enemies list that would have resulted from divulging her info, and ultimately not much left in terms of marketable skills.

    • #8
    • April 20, 2020, at 10:56 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Patrick McClure Coolidge

    Define cardsharp skills please. Are we talking cheating? Or are we talking being able to read tells and taking advantage of another player’s stupidity or timidity? 

    I assume you mean he didn’t cheat, rather than he didn’t play at his legal best.

    • #9
    • April 20, 2020, at 11:03 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    “Good guy”? Unlikely, but certainly an interesting guest.

    Ed G, I do think Houston is a good guy. We all make choices in life, sometimes resulting in self-inflicted wounds. We are all broken. Houston was a provider. This world sits on the border crossing of legitimate, legal 9-5 careers (I know several no-name ‘grinders’ who toil daily to put food on the table for their families) and the darker side of the crooked nose crowd we saw infiltrate Mollie’s Game. Houston played in a legal game (with no rake) and didn’t use his cardsharp skills so his children could attend better schools. I have no problem with that.

    Says the cardsharp with a fondness for grift and a taste for a much bigger life than the one he had in Centralia , IL. 

    I understand that poker is a game of skill and not chance. Up to a point. For sure there’s a huge difference between say, me, and Mr. Curtis. I can and do kill at the nickel, dime, quarter game at the family gatherings, but I’m no card player. There’s things to know and keep track of that increase your odds. I don’t know those things nor do I keep track of those things. I play my cards whereas good players play their opponents too. And truly there is room to play there, but when you’re playing with other good players then odds and chance play a much bigger part as skill equalizes. How do you make a living at this whether you’re playing the Hochunk poker room off the expressway for tens of thousands or whether you’re playing Molly’s game for hundreds of thousands? Fish. Inherent to that is taking advantage of people. Granted there are different levels to that, but I think it’s inherent to making a living playing poker outside of catching lightning in a bottle and hitting a big pot. I think it’s hard to be a good guy in that milieu. 

    Maybe I’m being too cynical. I can imagine Mr. Curtis to be a charming guy, fun to hang with, and maybe even loyal and a good friend in many ways. That’s all good. There’s a big difference, though between that and being a good guy. Maybe my definition of good guy is different. I certainly don’t think people are black and white, so good people sometimes do bad things and vice versa. Not being a good guy doesn’t necessarily make you a bad guy either. 

    • #10
    • April 20, 2020, at 12:03 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Taras Coolidge

    @edg — Is poker any different from, say, baseball?

    There’s a huge element of chance there as well; but over 162 games the better team tends to dominate.

    The problem for the poker player is to have sufficient capital to survive a run of bad luck.

    • #11
    • April 20, 2020, at 12:38 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Taras (View Comment):

    @edg — Is poker any different from, say, baseball?

    There’s a huge element of chance there as well; but over 162 games the better team tends to dominate.

    The problem for the poker player is to have sufficient capital to survive a run of bad luck.

    I think it is different. For one thing, everyone gets paid in baseball, even the loser.

    Second, the luck of the draw in poker is a much bigger factor than the wind at old Candlestick Park, the length of the infield grass, or how many beers The Babe had before he came up to bat in the bottom of the 7th. 

    Third, when they talk about “fish” they’re not talking about the Yankees vs the Red Sox, they’re talking about the Yankees vs Class A South Bend Cubs affiliate (or even bigger skill disparities). An infield grounder in the majors is as close to a sure out as you can get, but in my son’s little league games that might become 50-50 or better chance of getting on base. In the little league we’re dealing with low absolute skill levels compared to the majors and we’re also dealing with wide relative skill differences between little league teams.

    An outstanding success rate for a batter is 28-30%. A great year for a team is a 50-60% win rate. Despite such low success rates, baseball players (good and bad) play under multi year multi million dollar contracts. If you’re playing poker with those kinds of success rates then it’ll be hard stay solvent let alone make a good living. 

    • #12
    • April 20, 2020, at 1:20 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. RufusRJones Member

    I read a book called the odds which was about sports gambling in Vegas before the Internet took it over. It was a really wonderful book. Those guys literally could not do anything else for a living. It wasn’t an addiction it’s just what they had to do for work. 80 hours a week. 

    I suppose you like the math of poker and then you get into the psychology. I’d rather fool around with options.

    • #13
    • April 20, 2020, at 1:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Taras (View Comment):

    @edg — Is poker any different from, say, baseball?

    There’s a huge element of chance there as well; but over 162 games the better team tends to dominate.

    The problem for the poker player is to have sufficient capital to survive a run of bad luck.

    I think the bigger problem for a poker player is to confuse luck with skill. I was looking for the story, but a few years ago there was an amature poker player who won a big tournament. He thought it was skill. So he went Pro, quit his job – bought a house in Vegas, a boat, sports cars etc etc… But then couldn’t earn on the daily grind to replace his paycheck.

    Story ends up in divorce, bankruptcy and eventually a murder – suicide.

    • #14
    • April 20, 2020, at 3:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. RufusRJones Member

    I’m too dumb to understand the “basic strategy” in blackjack. Cards make me nervous. 

    • #15
    • April 20, 2020, at 4:24 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Taras Coolidge

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    @edg — Is poker any different from, say, baseball?

    There’s a huge element of chance there as well; but over 162 games the better team tends to dominate.

    The problem for the poker player is to have sufficient capital to survive a run of bad luck.

    I think the bigger problem for a poker player is to confuse luck with skill. I was looking for the story, but a few years ago there was an amature poker player who won a big tournament. He thought it was skill. So he went Pro, quit his job – bought a house in Vegas, a boat, sports cars etc etc… But then couldn’t earn on the daily grind to replace his paycheck.

    Story ends up in divorce, bankruptcy and eventually a murder – suicide.

    Exactly: luck is a factor only in the short run. In the long run, luck evens out.

    When the cards are bad, the pro strives to lose as little as possible; when they’re good, to win as much as possible.

    It’s as if a baseball team were able to cancel games against stronger teams, while scheduling extra games against weaker opponents.

    • #16
    • April 20, 2020, at 8:23 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Taras (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    @edg — Is poker any different from, say, baseball?

    There’s a huge element of chance there as well; but over 162 games the better team tends to dominate.

    The problem for the poker player is to have sufficient capital to survive a run of bad luck.

    I think the bigger problem for a poker player is to confuse luck with skill. I was looking for the story, but a few years ago there was an amature poker player who won a big tournament. He thought it was skill. So he went Pro, quit his job – bought a house in Vegas, a boat, sports cars etc etc… But then couldn’t earn on the daily grind to replace his paycheck.

    Story ends up in divorce, bankruptcy and eventually a murder – suicide.

    Exactly: luck is a factor only in the short run. In the long run, luck evens out.

    When the cards are bad, the pro strives to lose as little as possible; when they’re good, to win as much as possible.

    It’s as if a baseball team were able to cancel games against stronger teams, while scheduling extra games against weaker opponents.

    Scheduling games against weaker opponents: isn’t that what professional poker players count on to make their profession work? When winning equals making money (or not losing money), the baseball players win 100% of the time and the poker players win …. what percent of the time? If they’re only playing against people of similar skill level then I assume that the win % is roughly equal amongst them and that overall it’s actually an overall loss. If I win 40% and the rest of my opponents win 20% of the time each, that means I still lose 60% of the time. 

    To me, in baseball there is actually not much luck involved: it’s about marginal differences in natural ability, preparation, and maybe how much rest one player got vs another. In poker it’s opposite: if you’re playing similar skill players then it won’t help me to know the odds of completing my flush or figuring the number of outs because presumably all the players (of similar skill) can do that as well as read tells and bluff. So all that is left to make a difference is the randomness of the deck and the shuffle. 

    I imagine that pros (unlike celebrity thrill seekers) aren’t satisfied with the predictable long term odds of winning cards, and seek to improve things mostly by seeking out fish as opponents instead of sharks. Baseball players, on the other hand, being paid for performance win or lose, have other motivations which tend to inspire the competitive juices and a desire to beat and to be the best.

    • #17
    • April 20, 2020, at 8:40 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Taras Coolidge

    @edg — To continue the analogy with baseball, all major-league players might be said to be at a “similar skill level”. But similar is not identical.

    “If I win 40% and the rest of my opponents win 20% of the time each, that means I still lose 60% of the time.” The pro will make sure the total dollar amount of the 40% is greater than of the 60%.

    ”To me, in baseball there is actually not much luck involved”. Actually, in baseball (less so in football), it’s routine for a bad team to beat a better one in an individual game, if they’re lucky that day. For example, I think it was in 1968, when the New York Yankees, bound for fifth place, swept the pennant-bounfDetroit Tigers in a four-day series.

    • #18
    • April 21, 2020, at 1:16 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  19. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Taras (View Comment):
    @edg — To continue the analogy with baseball, all major-league players might be said to be at a “similar skill level”. But similar is not identical.

    Agreed. Better players remain a pro longer and get paid more. As I say, though, even the loser in baseball gets paid. 

    • #19
    • April 21, 2020, at 4:48 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Taras (View Comment):
    “If I win 40% and the rest of my opponents win 20% of the time each, that means I still lose 60% of the time.” The pro will make sure the total dollar amount of the 40% is greater than of the 60%.

    The pro will try to do that (assimg his actual success rate against other pros is as high as 40%), but there’s no way to ensure it. If the pro plays tight and only plays aggressive when he has the nuts then he’ll be easy to read and won’t win much. If he doesn’t play tight then he is subjecting himself to the whims of the other players and to the luck of the draw. How many hands at the WSOP come down to a toss up? Those dramatic all in moments where my AK is up against your QQ. 

    The only real way to win (get paid) consistently and long term with some amount of control is to play against bad players. I won’t belabor it, I realize this is just my opinion and I dont have facts and figures to back it up. It’s been an enjoyable discussion though.

    • #20
    • April 21, 2020, at 5:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Taras Coolidge

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    “If I win 40% and the rest of my opponents win 20% of the time each, that means I still lose 60% of the time.” The pro will make sure the total dollar amount of the 40% is greater than of the 60%.

    The pro will try to do that (assimg his actual success rate against other pros is as high as 40%), but there’s no way to ensure it. If the pro plays tight and only plays aggressive when he has the nuts then he’ll be easy to read and won’t win much. If he doesn’t play tight then he is subjecting himself to the whims of the other players and to the luck of the draw. How many hands at the WSOP come down to a toss up? Those dramatic all in moments where my AK is up against your QQ.

    The only real way to win (get paid) consistently and long term with some amount of control is to play against bad players. I won’t belabor it, I realize this is just my opinion and I dont have facts and figures to back it up. It’s been an enjoyable discussion though.

    I would merely substitute “players not quite as good as you“ for “bad players”.

    A figure I found online is 25 hands per hour in a live match. (600hph is considered slow for some computer poker!) So you can imagine how many hands a full-time pro plays in the course of a year: 60,000* is probably on the conservative side.

    Over that many hands, random chance is no longer a factor, and tiny differences in skill can give somebody a good living.

    *=300 8-hour days.

    • #21
    • April 21, 2020, at 11:24 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Taras (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    The only real way to win (get paid) consistently and long term with some amount of control is to play against bad players. I won’t belabor it, I realize this is just my opinion and I dont have facts and figures to back it up. It’s been an enjoyable discussion though.

    I would merely substitute “players not quite as good as you“ for “bad players”.

    A figure I found online is 25 hands per hour in a live match. (600hph is considered slow for some computer poker!) So you can imagine how many hands a full-time pro plays in the course of a year: 60,000* is probably on the conservative side.

    Over that many hands, random chance is no longer a factor, and tiny differences in skill can give somebody a good living.

    *=300 8-hour days.

    I know what good and not quite as good looks like in baseball. There are statistics we can use to tell the story of a baseball player’s ability, let alone the results of his performance. We know how fast he runs, how hard he throws, percent of strikes vs balls thrown, bat speed, amount of movement on the slider, etc. 

    What is the analogue for poker? There might be some, but I’m not familiar with them. Also, is there an analogue for poker players competing against other players of similar skill for 162 games per year (so to speak), year in and year out? The WSOP is more like a tournament and not a season. I imagine your average casino poker room has more than a slight variance in skill all competing together. 

     

    • #22
    • April 21, 2020, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  23. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m imagining a table, playing daily, 260 days a year (weekends off). Who are the greats of poker? Brunson, Helmuth, Negreanu, Chan, (I’m just naming people I’ve heard of). Let’s say the 20 greats of all time whoever they are. I can envision all of them breaking even over time; or I can imagine one losing a little and another winning a little over time. I don’t see how all of them make a living at it, and my bet is that none of them could under those conditions. The pie is finite, absent bad beats or a run of good or bad cards, coming out ahead, even over time, requires someone coming out behind. After awhile, that is unsustainable for the one coming out behind. Even breaking even isn’t making a living.

     

    • #23
    • April 21, 2020, at 12:48 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Whether it’s live tournaments or casino poker rooms, the winnings come from the fish unless someone catches lightning. Private games, to me, are a little different morally speaking. In my friendly/family private games there is usually a good player, a bad player, and a bunch of middling players in relative terms. All the table winnings come from the bad player and sometimes the middlers (rarely the good player – although it happens too), but we’re not playing for big stakes. We also don’t intentionally look for fish to feed the sharks and piranhas. We’re just looking to have fun for a few hours, drink beer, smoke cigars, and maybe come home with a few more bucks than we we started with. I had one experience with a less friendly private game and a chance for another. Turns out I was probably the fish. 

    • #24
    • April 21, 2020, at 12:59 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    @davesussman, I’ve been reconsidering and I was wrong to say that it’s unlikely that Houston is a good guy. I don’t know him, so I can’t know one way or the other – and speculation is unwarranted. Sorry.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation, though.

    • #25
    • April 22, 2020, at 10:51 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Patrick McClure, Coffee Achiev… (View Comment):

    Define cardsharp skills please. Are we talking cheating? Or are we talking being able to read tells and taking advantage of another player’s stupidity or timidity?

    I assume you mean he didn’t cheat, rather than he didn’t play at his legal best.

    Patrick, he is a self-described card mechanic. He learned it through magic as a kid and early on in his career, he admitted to using some of those skills nefariously at smaller games when the dealer button changed. That is, of course, verbotten and now not possible since a single dealer handles the cards. He discusses it in more detail in his book, and we touch on it during the interview. As I understand it, he hasn’t done this in poker games for decades.

    • #26
    • April 23, 2020, at 10:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Dave Sussman Contributor

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    @edg — Is poker any different from, say, baseball?

    There’s a huge element of chance there as well; but over 162 games the better team tends to dominate.

    The problem for the poker player is to have sufficient capital to survive a run of bad luck.

    I think the bigger problem for a poker player is to confuse luck with skill. I was looking for the story, but a few years ago there was an amature poker player who won a big tournament. He thought it was skill. So he went Pro, quit his job – bought a house in Vegas, a boat, sports cars etc etc… But then couldn’t earn on the daily grind to replace his paycheck.

    Story ends up in divorce, bankruptcy and eventually a murder – suicide.

    Very common, especially for large winners. We talked about Jamie Gold who won 12 Mil at WSOP. There are countless stories like this. They say (and I think Houston mentioned it) the worst thing that can happen to a poker player is to win a huge tournament and millions of dollars. 

    • #27
    • April 23, 2020, at 10:48 AM PDT
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  28. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    @davesussman, I’ve been reconsidering and I was wrong to say that it’s unlikely that Houston is a good guy. I don’t know him, so I can’t know one way or the other – and speculation is unwarranted. Sorry.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation, though.

    Ed, and I enjoyed reading the comments. Thanks!

    • #28
    • April 23, 2020, at 10:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    @edg — Is poker any different from, say, baseball?

    There’s a huge element of chance there as well; but over 162 games the better team tends to dominate.

    The problem for the poker player is to have sufficient capital to survive a run of bad luck.

    I think the bigger problem for a poker player is to confuse luck with skill. I was looking for the story, but a few years ago there was an amature poker player who won a big tournament. He thought it was skill. So he went Pro, quit his job – bought a house in Vegas, a boat, sports cars etc etc… But then couldn’t earn on the daily grind to replace his paycheck.

    Story ends up in divorce, bankruptcy and eventually a murder – suicide.

    Very common, especially for large winners. We talked about Jamie Gold who won 12 Mil at WSOP. There are countless stories like this. They say (and I think Houston mentioned it) the worst thing that can happen to a poker player is to win a huge tournament and millions of dollars.

    I am willing to take the hit.

    Jamie Gold isnt the worst example, I think Jerry Yang is the worst poker player to win the main event… By a wide range. He should be used as an example of how effective prayer is. (every time the cards where on their backs, he prayed for results – and rarely lost a race) The WSOP winners are in a special category, as they win enough to retire – almost regardless of age. Its the smaller tournaments where the winner takes down life changing money, that can really mess people up.

    • #29
    • April 23, 2020, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Scheduling games against weaker opponents: isn’t that what professional poker players count on to make their profession work? When winning equals making money (or not losing money), the baseball players win 100% of the time and the poker players win …. what percent of the time? If they’re only playing against people of similar skill level then I assume that the win % is roughly equal among them and that overall it’s actually an overall loss. If I win 40% and the rest of my opponents win 20% of the time each, that means I still lose 60% of the time. 

    To me, in baseball there is actually not much luck involved: it’s about marginal differences in natural ability, preparation, and maybe how much rest one player got vs another. In poker it’s opposite: if you’re playing similar skill players then it won’t help me to know the odds of completing my flush or figuring the number of outs because presumably all the players (of similar skill) can do that as well as read tells and bluff. So all that is left to make a difference is the randomness of the deck and the shuffle. 

    I imagine that pros (unlike celebrity thrill seekers) aren’t satisfied with the predictable long term odds of winning cards, and seek to improve things mostly by seeking out fish as opponents instead of sharks. Baseball players, on the other hand, being paid for performance win or lose,

    Actually no, in a casino game, you really dont get to pick your opponents too much. You play with the players who show up, and where the floor man seats you – at least initially.

    You can test you theory on pros winning on a TV show called “Premier League”. There are 6 seasons of it on youtube, unlike most poker programs, its a high buy in tournament ($100k +) but its played out over a regular season of 4 matches for each player. Points are awarded based on finishing place, with the highest 4 point totals going through to the final table, 2 more seats awarded through heads up play offs, and the remainder of players are eliminated. Its a multi million dollar final table, and through the 6 seasons there is a fairly regular cast of players. Link is below:

    Party Poker Play list

    I think in cash games, you’re correct. Pros look for fish, not sharks. Not in tournaments, particularly televised tournaments, where the goal is to burnish their reputations, build a fan base. These are the players that’ll write poker books, do commentary videos online (or as part of the tv coverage) and maybe open a poker training school or website. Its a low risk strategy, because only 15% of tournament players get paid in the first place – meaning that seeking out tougher games doesnt necessarily cost them anything, because they’re already a dog to get paid.

     

    • #30
    • April 27, 2020, at 6:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like