Category Archives: Poker

It’s Phil Ivey A Fish?

Phil Ivey is considered by many the best all-around poker player in the world, however, lately when he sits at an online high stakes table in Full Tilt Poker there is a growing number of players willing to play against him. And, perhaps counterintuitively, he will generally finish his session in the same fashion that your drunken neighbor’s night, at the weekly homegame, inevitably ends: with heavy loses.

In fact since poker’s own Black Friday Ivey has dropped a whopping 6.4 million dollars in 194,847 hands played over a span of less than three years, he is amazingly the big fish in this games only surpassed by “The Great Dane” Gus Hansen who is down a cool 17.5 million dollars since Black Friday. Maybe just “The Dane” will be more fitting?

So has Ivey suddenly become terrible at poker? of course not. He is just facing the same problem that many poker players suffer in casinos and poker sites all over the world: bad table election. Simply explained, if you sit the ninth best poker player in a game where the other eight best players happen to be seated, he is bound to lose his shirt.

Easily the biggest factor that comes in play at bad table selection is a poker player’s ego, and we’re not talking your regular nobody can beat me at “whatever silly sporty thing”, no, poker player’s ego is in a league by itself. It’s such a psychological conundrum that should need teams of doctors devoted to it, if not entire universities, just to get a shot at solving it.

So, next time you visit your local casino and find a hundred regular looking poker players, you can be quite sure you just found one hundred persons who feel sorry for the other ninety nine poor souls that are about to be torn apart by their superior poker skills. It’s easy to see then, why this poker masterminds can’t be bothered to take a minute to walk around the poker room looking for the most lucrative tables. But you should. Because in poker success is measured very easily: how much you win.

Of course there are benefits to sitting in a game with a bunch of players better than you. You’ll stand lo learn a lot of useful lessons on how to beat yourself, and all this for the mere prize of the contents of your wallet. Is it worth it? Phil Ivey thinks it is. Or is he just another fish?


Cover of "Rounders (Collector's Edition)&...
Cover of Rounders (Collector’s Edition)

Rounders is a 1998 film about the underground world of high-stakes poker. Directed by John Dahl and starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, the movie follows two friends who need to quickly earn enough cash playing poker to pay off a large debt. The term “rounder” refers to a person travelling around from city to city seeking high stakes cash games.

The movie opened to mixed reviews and made only a modest amount of money. However, with the growing popularity of Texas hold ’em and other poker games, Rounders has become a cult hit.

In the movie there are of course a lot of poker scenes LDO can you name the poker variants played in the movie AND in wich game/scene? the comment that names the most poker variants AND the scenes where they are played wins.

example: they are playing 7 stud in the judge’s game, etc.

The 5 best scenes from the 5 worst poker movies

Poker in movies is cool, intense, and dangerous – unless you know anything about the game. Then it’s cringeworthy and laughable.

NOTE: it’s difficult to pick a “best” scene from bad movies, but if you take “best” to mean “provides most amusement to poker geeks” then it actually becomes pretty easy.

5. Deal (2008): scene

This film has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 3%, which is really difficult to get even if you’re trying to make a ridiculously bad film (Snakes on a Plane has 68%). Even Burt Reynolds couldn’t save this one.

About the movie

With cameos from a myriad of famous poker faces, this film follows online poker hotshot Alex Stillman as he tries to conquer the live poker arena – specifically the World Poker Tour. Oh, and he also has to find love because Hollywood can’t produce a film without a love story.

The best scene

Alex’s first foray into the big leagues sees him at a final table with Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, and not-Jennifer-Tilly who evidently decided she’d rather be an actor than a poker player for this movie.

In this clip he runs top two pair into a set and everyone treats him like a contemptible piece of shit for going all-in and losing thiscooler. At least they set up sympathy for the protagonist early on… but he is a bit of a cocky douche, don’t worry.

4. Casino Royale (2006): the slowroll showdown and “tip”

While not strictly a poker movie,  a significant amount of time in the film is spent at the poker table (Bond runs into more cold decks than he does beautiful women and henchmen). It’s not actually a terrible film in my eyes, but from the perspective of a poker fan it’s pretty awful.

About the movie

Bond, James Bond, is picked by the British Secret Service to compete in a high-stakes poker game in a bid to win terror-funding money. Oddly, the CIA have done the same thing but sent Felix Leiter instead of Phil Ivey to try and win it for them.

The best scene

It has to be the final hand – not only do a flush draw, two sets, and a straight flush manage to checkthrough the turn, every last player slowrolls – especially Bond, who waits for all his opponents to reveal their hands before flipping the nuts. Then again, this is a man who even slowrolls his own name when he introduces himself.

My favourite moment, unfortunately not shown in the video, is when Bond tips the dealer with a worthless tournament chip.

3. Lucky You (2007): least subtle collusion ever

In this film, The Not-So-Incredible Hulk (Eric Bana) and ET’s girlfriend (Drew Barrymore) find love in Las Vegas. There’s also some poker involved, and for some reason both Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr. are there.

About the movie

Lucky You is the story of a man with a dream, who via grit and determination makes it to the final table of the World Series of Poker.

Wait, no – replace “dream” with “serious gamblingproblem” and “grit and determination” with “sheer dumb luck” and that’s bang on the money.

The best scene

The first scene, in which the protagonist is desperately trying to get money from a pawn shop, pretty much sets the tone for the entire film. However, the best scene is definitely the least-subtle collusion ever in which Eric Bana mucks the best hand on the riveragainst his father to ship him the pot.

OK, fine – do what you gotta do to resolve your daddy issues. But when it’s at the (televised) World Series of Poker final table… people are going to notice.

2. In Time (2011): a four-outer for your life

Between this and Runner Runner, Justin Timberlake has a knack for appearing in terrible poker scenes. Like Casino Royale above, this is by no means a poker movie. However, this scene is so laughable that it merits inclusion.

About the movie

This is a film where time is currency (literally, the amount of time you have left to live). This naturally would lead to some pretty intense gambling.

The best scene

Without a doubt this is one of the more ridiculous plays made on film, especially because Justin Timberlake isn’t betting his net worth – he’s betting his entire existence. Having recently acquired a lot of years, he immediately heads to a casino and bets over half of it on a gutshot – and binks the river to take the pot worth over a millennium. He didn’t even have the nut straight!

Of course there’s still time for a slowroll even when you only have 30 seconds left to live.

1. All-In (2006): the whole damn thing

This film is so bad that I’d forgotten what it was called (perhaps I’d repressed the memory like a traumatic childhood experience) and actually found it simply by Googling “worst poker movie ever”.

About the movie

In retrospect, the word “poker” is a redundant term in that search – it is actually simply one of the worst films I have ever seen in general, let alone poker-related films. It simply has no redeeming features whatsoever*.

I don’t know how deeply in debt Michael Madsen was [erm, that’s a joke – lawyers] to take a part in this but both he and Dominique Swain of Lolita fame star in this monstrosity.

There’s a sub-plot about evil doctors, as broke medical studentsraise money through poker – a bit like if Scrubs developed agambling addiction and a drinking problem.

The best scene

I really can’t narrow this down. It’s either the overly-evil corrupt doctor teaching at the hospital, or Ace (yes that’s the main character’s name) proving her skills by getting her money in with queens against aces and hitting a set on the river.

Just watch the trailer, it says more than I ever could.

Did we miss any terrible poker scenes in any movies you can think of? How about some surprisingly good ones? 

Did Phil Ivey cheat?

English: 2009 WSOP Seat 3 - Phil Ivey - 9,765,000
English: 2009 WSOP Seat 3 – Phil Ivey – 9,765,000 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barry Carter looks at the legal battle between Phil Ivey and Crockfords Casino and asks whether what he did could be considered cheating, as they have alleged.

Despite being universally considered the best player in the world as well as being a key figure in the story of the Full Tiltscandal, Phil Ivey has garnered perhaps the most mainstream media attention for a non poker related story.

That is his alleged cheating at Crockfords Casino in London playing Punto Banco. Ivey had his £7.5 million winnings confiscated and is now taking the casino to court to reclaim them.

More than likely this will get settled out of court. Money aside, both parties stand to lose a lot in the form of bad publicity for their future endeavors if this gets dragged through the legal process.

But either way, was what Ivey did cheating?

Edge sorting

The argument being made is that the cards being used had small design flaws, which made it possible to identify what card it was from the pattern on the back. Ivey is alleged to have brought an associate who was adept at spotting these design flaws, which gave him an edge.

Ivey and his associate would then request the decks be changed, until a deck with design flaws on the back was used, which he then requested would remain in play.

Casino error
The casino has argued that Ivey “acted to defeat the essential premise of the game” but Phil himself has said that it was the casino’s error and he was an advantage player, who played within the rules of the game.

This technique is much the same as card counting in Blackjack, which, although it will get you banned from a casino, is not technically a form of cheating. Although Ivey did influence the decks that were in play, he never influenced the way in which the cards were dealt. He simply observed and made decisions based on his observations.

The casino was well within their rights to change the deck at any time, but they wanted to keep Phil happy and playing.


The big question is how can a casino, which is prepared to host high stakes games as big as these, make such a fundamental mistake of using a deck of cards with design flaws on the back?

One would argue this was incompetence. If I were a cynic I might suggest that it was because they are fully aware of these design flaws and would want to use them to their own advantage.

So was it cheating? I don’t think it was, not even close.

Ivey didn’t influence the outcome of the cards one bit and was privy to the same information the casino was. I’m not saying it wasn’t calculated or even a little bit shady on Phil’s part, but any blame has to go to the casino for allowing such a vulnerability in the first place.

For me, Ivey acted within the rules of the game and Crockfords had ample opportunity to influence the action that took place to ensure Phil did not have an edge. It is sour grapes and incompetence on their part, and they should…..

Fourth question of the promotion: Defeat NTIT at HU and win 100 dollars

All In
All In (Photo credit: banspy)

If you somehow knew for certain that your opponent’s holecards are Red Aces and you had the chance to pick two cards that have the best statistical chance to beat him, if you played to the end of the hand, which two cards will you choose?

Humberto “El Tiburon” Brenes en busca de un lugar en el Salon de la Fama del Poker

Humberto Brenes es uno de los jugadores de poker más reconocidos en América Latina. A mi entender, tiene todos los méritos para ingresar al Salón de la Fama de la Serie Mundial de Poker y por ello, ha lanzado su campaña a través de redes sociales #votetiburon

El costarricense busca convertirse en el primer jugador no estadounidense en ser elegido al prestigioso grupo de apenas 44 integrantes. EL tico subió hasta el tercer lugar del ranking de jugadores que más gananias (cobros) ha tenido en la historia. ¡Ya son 72! Además, tiene dos brazaletes de la Serie Mundial de Poker.

La idea de los hashtags #votetiburon y #voteshark es atraer a usuarios de redes sociales para que voten por él antes del 15 de agosto en el sitio oficial de la Serie Mundial. Aquí les comparto el link:

Habrá incentivos para los aficionados que voten por él, entre los que destacan torneos gratis, artículos de PokerStars, y varios tiburones de plástico se rifarán en los próximos días.

Bob Hooks: The Forgotten Texas Road Gambler

“Seat open.” It’s a common poker expression Bob Hooks has heard and barked out countless times going back to his days as a Texas road gambler and then later as the poker room manager at Binion’s Horseshoe during the first World Series of Poker. The 84-year-old is no stranger to poker, even if the game has passed him by. But today is a new day. Today, Mr. Hooks is getting a new chair.

Whatever figurative sentiment might be read into that, the reality is that on this otherwise ordinary East Texas day, inside, in the Best Western hotel room that Mr. Hooks now calls home, a space has been cleared for the delivery of a brand new La-Z-Boy recliner. While the hotel’s manager and Hooks’ de facto caretaker, an eye-catching blonde named Kristi Michels, readies the room for the new piece of furniture, Mr. Hooks lingers in the hotel’s lobby with a cup of coffee in his hand, eyes firmly fixed to the East.

His sleepy gaze is the kind formed by years of staring down the white lines cutting through the surprisingly lush Texarkana plains. No matter which direction he turns, Mr. Hooks can recall a story, and more often than not it’s a decades-old poker tale long lost to history. To the East — which is today’s focus — is Shreveport where he tangled on countless occasions with T.J. Cloutier and Doc Ramsey; behind him to the West lie the bright lights of Las Vegas, a path previously pioneered by Benny Binion. If he were to look South, Hooks might recall the miles he racked up chauffeuring Johnny Moss to Waco; and to the North is where Hook’s own story began.

The Grand Old Man, Boss Gamblers & a Poker Education

Located 10.3 miles north of his hotel hospice, Edgewood, Texas, is Hooks’ true home. That’s where he was born on August 18, 1929, the first of Alex and Inez Hooks’ four children. His father, a well-respected baseball coach at Southern Methodist University (SMU), once played first base for the Philadelphia Athletics and also at one time held the state record for the shot put.

“Daddy would get the shot put and he would throw it all the way [along his walk] to school — about 2.5 miles — and all the way back,” Hooks recalls. “That’s how dedicated he was.”

Like many young boys in small towns, Hooks longed for adventure. In Edgewood, a dry county to this day, adventure came in the form of bootleg liquor and poker. When he was 16, Hooks learned about both and took advantage of the former to excel at the latter.

“I had no car, no bicycle, no shows, no TV, no nothing,” Hooks relates. “I’d see these guys going out in the woods to play cards. So to get away from home I’d go out and watch them play. This one guy would come and let me watch. That’s how I got started. Every one of them would get drunk but I never did. When the game was over, I’d have [all] the chips because they drank.”

One time, Hooks won $16 in the game. That might not seem like a lot, but in 1945, for a 16-year-old boy, it felt like life-changing money. With his father on the road, Hooks returned home to share his fortune with the family.

Bob Hooks is #89. (Photo c/o
Bob Hooks is #89. (Photo c/o

“I go home and there’sJerry, he’s my little brother, two years younger, and James, he’s 10 years younger,” Hooks says. “I come in and I’ve won $16. You’d have thought I won $16,000. I went into the living room and said, ‘Y’all come on in here to the bedroom.’ I threw that $16 on the bed and said you get what you want. James didn’t get nothing, you know, he was just six years old, but Jerry, who turned out to be the banker, got two or $3 of it. That $16, I thought that was all the money in the world.”

Six years later, Hooks’ younger sister Mary was born. By this time he had followed in his father’s footsteps and made his way to SMU on a football scholarship. During his time on the team, the SMU Mustangs upset the fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish 27-20 in an October 13, 1951 game that was ranked as the 16th greatest moment in SMU Football History — an accomplishment Hooks recently relived when the Dallas Morning Newsran his team photo in their paper. Looking back, this is one of Hook’s proudest accomplishments.

It was also at SMU that Hooks met upperclassman Kenny Smith, who became a noted chess player and one of poker’s first true characters (every time he won a pot he’d doff a top hat he claimed was from the Ford Theater the day Lincoln was shot and proclaim, “Whatta Player.”). Together, the pair embarked on a lifelong friendship that included a fair amount of time spent at poker tables.

One memorable hand between them took place at the AmVets, a poker club Hooks opened in Dallas. According to the lore, Hooks limped into the pot only to have Smith put in a big raise. Hooks, who held pocket kings, then three-bet all in and Smith went into the tank for more than three minutes. When Hooks couldn’t take it any longer, he grabbed Smith’s cards, saw that he had two aces, and put Smith’s chips in himself.

“That’s a true story,” Hooks recalls with a laugh. “There wasn’t any more decisions and he was aggravating me. He’s got the nuts, the world knows it, and he was sticking it to me. [That was the way] we ribbed each other.”

After graduating from SMU, Hooks returned to Edgewood and began life as a family man and poker player, though he kept his occupation under wraps. “In a little town like that, ain’t nobody know I gambled when I was young,” Hooks says. “A poker player was like a bootlegger.”

Hooks married his wife, Cynthia Gready, in December 1952, and they had four children — Bobby, Larry, Catherine and Ronnie. In his early 20s, Hooks finally got a car to call his own, and he put it to good use, becoming a Texas road gambler. Over time he developed a reputation as a solid player, and before long some of the game’s best took notice, including Doc Ramsey.

Hooks in action
Hooks in action

“Boss gambler” refers to the head honcho of the poker scene in any particular area. These days it’d be players like Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu, but back then players were notorious more than they were famous. In regards to Ramsey, boss gambler is a term Hooks uses with great respect.

“Hooks, how old are you?” Ramsey asked when the two first encountered one another in a game down in Tyler.

“Twenty nine,” a brash Hooks replied.

“Twenty nine,” the 65-year-old Ramsey repeated. “Wish I had your age.”

“Well,” Hooks retorted, “I wish I had your money.”

A lifelong friendship was born in that moment, one that even resulted in Ramsey staking Hooks in his early days. Ramsey passed long ago, but Hooks remembers his friend fondly: “Everywhere you went he was the top cream.”

Hooks would know too, because he really did go everywhere. He played in nearby Dallas and would then head down to Houston followed by a quick jaunt to Long View — which doesn’t even take into account his out-of-state excursions. The miles seemed endless, but that’s what was required to stay in action. “Nowadays in one block you can find that many games,” Hooks reflects.

Hooks also went to a game every Monday night in Waco. That’s where he first met Johnny Moss, a Poker Hall of Famer who won nine WSOP bracelets including three Main Event titles. Moss became known as the “Grand Old Man of Poker,” and it was a well-deserved nickname.

“He was my hero, the best player around,” Hooks says. “I listened to everything he said. He wasn’t welcome in some places because he was so good, but they couldn’t turn him away because everybody wanted to play with Johnny Moss.

“He took a liking to me. I’d take him every week to Waco. He would swap me 10 percent. As time drew on, he wanted to swap quarters. I was getting to where I was a little bit better of a player I guess. Soon, people were calling me Johnny Moss’ boy.”

After more than a decade traveling the Texas circuit, Hooks and a partner opened the renowned AmVets Post No. 4 at 308 ½ South Irving Street in Dallas in 1969. It was an illegal operation, but because they were chartered under the AmVets ruse, the game’s rake was justified — generally 5-10 percent of the pot — as necessary to cover club expenses. Hooks ran the club successfully for a year, but eventually sold to Byron “Cowboy” Wolford in order to head out West.

From the Texan Plains to the Nevada Desert

Legend has it that Poker Hall of Famer Felton “Corky” McCorquodale introduced the game of Texas hold’em to Sin City when he started a $10/$20 limit hold’em game at the Golden Nugget, but before he did, he and Hooks had become fast friends.

“Ask me a question on who the best player is and I’m going to say Corky. Uncle Corky, goddamn,” Hooks says of McCorquodale, who would only don suits from Neiman Marcus. “That’s a high-dollar suit down here,” Hooks clarifies.

Unfortunately his friendship with McCorquodale didn’t sit well with Moss. As Hooks tells it:

“I’m gonna tell you something ain’t nobody else know. They didn’t care for each other. You know what Moss and them used to do to him? Corky would get broke and they would stake him. They’d give him $5,000, go to the hotel game, and he would win. He’d win $6,000, give them $3,000, and keep $3,000. Now after two or three months, he’d have his bankroll built up to $40,000-$50,000. They didn’t cheat him, you know what they did? They’d buy him Old Forester. I know what kind of whiskey he drank, and [they’d get him] a bottle. Johnny would get him drunk and win all his money. That don’t make Johnny bad, but Corky was so helpless it wasn’t even funny. Corky, I love that man. He always said to me, ‘Hooks, let your word be your bond.’ Truer words were never spoken.”

Around that time news made its way back to Texas that the games in Vegas were too good to miss. Hooks wanted to go, but he couldn’t convince Moss to go with him.

Johnny Moss, Jack Strauss and Bob Hooks
Johnny Moss, Jack Strauss and Bob Hooks

“We ain’t going out there. It ain’t worth nothing out there,” Moss said flatly. Hooks abided Moss’ command for a month, but the lure of Glitter Gulch was strong; Hooks eventually went without his mentor. As it turned out, Moss was unwelcome in Vegas. Apparently, he had borrowed money from singer Tony Bennettand failed to pay it back. Bennett, as the story goes, had connections to the mob, so Moss’ failure to pay him did not result in a welcome mat being rolled out.

So how did Moss later make it to Vegas and establish himself in the poker pantheon? According to Hooks, it was all thanks to one man — Benny Binion.

“You didn’t want to fuck with the outfit — I call them the outfit or the Italians — unless you were Benny Binion. Anyway, Benny loaned them $2 million one time and he never had any problems with them after that. So Moss got Benny Binion to smooth it over. The reason he was able to do it was that one afternoon in come two ‘security guards’ from the DunesJack Binion said they came down to get money. He said [the mobsters in charge of the Dunes] were broke. They had a junket that came in from New York. Binion said the dice had been hot for about two hours and the junket players won all of the Dunes’ money. Now they’ve got money in the bank, but the bank ain’t open. They called Benny to see if he had any money on hand, which he always did. Plenty of it I guess. I’ve been down in the room, a big old room with silver dollars, money stacked everywhere like hay. They walked out of there [with the $2 million], and from then on they [the Binions] never got any [trouble] from the outfit.”

Hooks continued to travel back and forth from Dallas to Vegas, and on one such junket Moss introduced him to Benny. The three met at the coffee shop at the Horseshoe, and Moss told Binion, “Y’all are hiring, here’s who you need to hire right here.”

Moss’ word carried a lot of weight with the patriarch, and the next day Hooks was offered a job. It wasn’t something Hooks asked for nor necessarily wanted. “Binion called me the next day and [offered me a job]. I had a family, farm, cows, and was hustling every which way to make a living, which was hard to do in those days,” Hooks says. “He called me, this was on Friday, and he said, ‘I’ll give you a call on Monday and you let me know.’ I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, I haven’t even talked to my family yet.’ It was hard because all my family was there in Edgewood. I had four kids.”

Hooks continues: “I was playing at the Redmond Club there on South Irving in 1970 and the phone rang. He said, ‘Well, have you thought that over?’ I said, ‘No sir.’ He said, ‘Well think before we hang up.’ I said, ‘Okay, I’ll take it.’ I didn’t know what I was making, didn’t know what I’d be doing. I knew I was going to be a boss, I knew that. I went out there within the next couple of days, moved in still not knowing what I’d be making.”

Before he left for Vegas, Hooks needed to tell his wife, kids, and kinfolk — all of whom had just moved into a new house. It wasn’t a negotiation, but a notice. With his family’s “permission” acquired, Hooks relocated to Vegas and immediately got to work on the graveyard shift.

“They wanted me to learn how to make the schedules, how to hire, and what they did when they caught them cheating. There was a lot of that going on in those days,” Hooks recalls. Indeed, cheating was so commonplace that even Hooks’ good friend Moss was involved.

“He had a girlfriend in Alabama,” Hooks says of the married Moss. “I’m not sure how to say this, but she’d help him get in cold decks. He wasn’t an angel. There weren’t many angels back in those days. She had tits this big. I’d never seen them that big in those days. She’d flop one of them out and all six of the players would be looking and bingo, you got aces.”

Even though cheating was rampant, Hooks was tasked with curbing it. “I’d go up there and they’d show me how they cheated. I wanted to know so I could protect players’ money.”

Learning the Vegas Ropes & the 1972 WSOP

In all his time working in Vegas, Hooks never saw a paycheck. He had free room and board, but all his wages were sent straight back to his family in Edgewood. On the other hand, as long as he had a poker bankroll, he could keep himself flush with spending money.

Bob Hooks and Jack Binion: "It's like the rookie telling Babe Ruth how to play baseball," Hooks said of the picture.
Bob Hooks and Jack Binion: “It’s like the rookie telling Babe Ruth how to play baseball,” Hooks said of the picture.

“One time I got broke playing a Las Vegas hero. I was just a country boy. He had 15 people around him, and it was just me and Jack [Binion]. Well, he broke me. I knew I could beat him. There weren’t a lot of people I knew I could beat, but he was one of them. I don’t have a big ego, but I knew I could beat him. My daddy had given us some stock, so I told Jack [Binion] I needed $3,000. I said, ‘I’ve got some stock I’ll let you have.’ Jack said, ‘No, you come on back to the table.’ He sent me $10,000. That was my first taste of big money. I asked for $3,000 and he gave me $10,000. He had a little confidence in me. Sure enough, I finally broke [the guy]. I never will forget that.”

Another thing Hooks got a taste of in Vegas was drugs. Of course it was commonplace back then, so much so that one of the world’s most infamous drug dealers, Jimmy Chagra, played in many of the high-stakes poker games.

“There was just so much money,” Hooks says of the drug culture. “Kids were getting like $10,000 for one kilo, 2.2 lbs. It was just everywhere. Girls had it, bosses had it, I can tell you people who had it, myself included. I sampled it. A lot of movie stars did it. Anybody who had money. You could go into a bathroom back then late at night, and someone would ask, ‘You don’t happen to have a bump do ya?’”

“I was playing dice one time out at the Sahara. There was this one lady at the craps table, bless her heart, she was about my age. I was about 50 then. We were going to shoot the dice. She was the only one at the table. She was shaking the dice, and bingo, out came out one of those little brown, amber looking vials that you put cocaine in. It just bounced right out on the table. The stickman kicked it right back to her and they kept on playing.”

Nowadays such a mishap might land a person in the slammer, but this was the early 1970s — which was also when Hooks left the Horseshoe to serve as an Executive Host at the Golden Nugget under Steve Wynn.

“One reason that Steve Wynn hired me, he wanted higher players,” Hooks says. “The Golden Nugget was way, way down there, and he was envious of the Horseshoe.”

Hooks had made dozens of connections in the poker world, so it wasn’t surprising to see some of the game’s biggest names, like Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston, visit him at the Nugget — always with a quid-pro-quo attitude of course, wanting a comped room or some other freebie.

“I said go on over to the Horseshoe, them your cowboy friends,” Hooks explains. “He said, ‘I’ve got a girl out there.’ I said, ‘Well, that don’t have nothing to do with me.’ I said to go on over to the Horseshoe to get a room. Well he did, and he came back with this long face. He said, ‘Bob, don’t tell nobody but that was a gay person. I went to kiss her and I found out she wasn’t a girl. Now don’t tell anybody.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to tell anybody until I get to somebody I know.’”

Hooks’ association with Amarillo Slim went deeper than a simple transvestite encounter. Hooks was there in 1972 when the fast-talking Texan “won” the WSOP. Eight players entered the Main Event that year, and a dilemma arose during three-handed play between Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, and Puggy Pearson.

“Didn’t anyone want the title of champion because there wasn’t any money for it,” Hooks explained. Indeed, being a professional poker player in those days was far from glamorous. Brunson didn’t want his name in the mainstream media, Pearson was indifferent, and Amarillo Slim, well he was a showman.

“Me and Jack got up in his office to decide who to give it to. He said, ‘Who do you think?’ I said, ‘Well, I know who wants it the worst, and that’s Amarillo Slim.’ We ended up giving it to Amarillo Slim. He wants to be it, he brags all the time anyway. He couldn’t wait to get it. He thought more of himself than the majority of people.”

With the decision made, Brunson was allowed to cash out due to “exhaustion,” and Pearson and Amarillo Slim put on a show before the latter “won” the title. It was a disreputable turn of events, but of course the WSOP wasn’t held to any sort of standard in those days. Besides, Amarillo Slim proved a wise choice as he cherished the attention and set about making the talk show rounds, which included numerous appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Without a doubt, he did more to promote and recast poker in a positive light than anyone who had come before him.

Hooks Misses Out on Poker Immortality

By 1975 the WSOP Main Event had grown to 21 players, but it was still played in a winner-take-all format. Hooks played that year, as did his roommate and fellow Texas road gambler Brian “Sailor” Roberts. The pair managed to make the final four alongside Crandall Addington and Aubrey Day, and it was at that point the idea of a deal was brought up.

Sailor Roberts
Sailor Roberts

“Aubrey said, ‘Let’s just all count down and keep all we’ve got.’ I said, ‘No, you’re going to have to play,’” Hooks explained. “Of course he got knocked out. Now Crandall, he’s got that new suit and Sailor’s got a hole in his shoes. I only had like 19,000 and I’m raising every pot. I’ve got two sixes, Addington bet, and I called him. The board came {k-}{6-}{2-}, and he’s got {K-}{q-}. Bingo, I hit three sixes and there he goes. Well, I broke him, and me and Sailor tried to chop it but Benny Binion stopped that because he thought it’d make [the tournament] less authentic.”

Unfortunately, neither Hooks, who had sold a quarter of his action to Jack Binion, nor Roberts wanted the title of World Champion. “You talk about tight, you can’t get any tighter than we were,” Hooks said. “Didn’t either one of us want to win it. He had his reasons, and the IRS was after me all the time.”

Unbeknownst to Binion, the two struck a secret deal to split the $210,000 prize and played it out. “We gave them a good show,” Hooks said. “The hand I got broke on*, it was a legitimate hand. The hand he beat me on was all legit. It looked so good. It turned out you couldn’t have put a cold deck in any better.”

*Hooks couldn’t recall the details of the final hand, and the only thing the record books show is that Hooks lost with the {j-Clubs}{9-Clubs} to Roberts’ {j-Spades}{j-Hearts}.

Finishing runner-up in the WSOP Main Event would haunt some people, but that wasn’t the case with Hooks. For him it was all about the money, and he had struck a deal for his fair share.

“That’s what gets me more than anything. [Some people] would rather have a bracelet than a million dollars,” Hooks says when asked about missing out on the bracelet. “I can’t believe the egos of some people. All Sailor and I wanted was the money. Let us get out of here, you know what I mean. Good gosh, trophies and all that.”

Big Wins, Bookmaking & Befriending a Notorious Killer

While in Vegas, Hooks spent a year working at The Flamingo under Sam Boyd. One night, Hooks was at home (in an apartment owned by Boyd) after working a long shift and decided to head back to the poker room to check out the action. The high-stakes game had broken by that time, but Boyd lingered hoping to reclaim some of his losses.

“C’mon Hooks, you might as well get the rest of this,” he said. Hooks obeyed, taking a seat in the game, and promptly relieved his boss of his last $60,000 — his biggest-ever win. By comparison, Hooks’ biggest loss was for $76,000 at the craps tables — a thrashing he contributes to a combination of liquor and a two-timing woman.

Bob Hooks (left) and Doyle Brunson (center)
Bob Hooks (left) and Doyle Brunson (center)

Eventually being so far away from home and away from his family wore on Hooks. “I guess I was homesick,” he admits. “My family was back there and at the age where they needed their daddy there. They didn’t want to come out to Vegas. I should have made them come out I guess, but you can’t raise a family without being there with them. My daddy taught me that.”

With Benny Binion’s blessing, Hooks moved back to Dallas to open a bookmaking and craps operation, a business that proved extremely fruitful when Hooks applied the knowledge he’d gained in Vegas.

“Wasn’t no payoffs, but ain’t nobody get in our way,” Hooks says. “I made them shut the door down at 2 a.m. so the husbands couldn’t stay out all night and cause trouble. I tried to help with the law.”

Of course, cheating and the threat of robbery were always part of the business, but Hooks had both covered. “I wasn’t in with them, but I wasn’t against them either,” Hooks says of the cheaters. “They showed me the courtesy of leaving when I was there most of the time. Basically, there were some good guys, but there’s always bad ones anywhere you go.”

One of the bad ones was R.D. Matthews, a long-time associate of Binion’s that reportedly did wet work in Cuba and was embroiled in the JFK assassination as an associate of Jack Ruby. Out of respect, Hooks paid Matthews 25% of his profits, and that in turn provided him unendorsed protection.

“Baddest son of a gun, but when he knew that I knew the Binions, ain’t nobody looked at me crossway,” Hooks grins. “He came in one night to play and put his pistol down on the table. Drunker than hell he was. We were playing five-card draw lowball and he was drawing three cards (laughs). Every Friday, I’d look him up and give him 25 percent.” Hooks says it matter-of-factly — that’s just the way it was.

Hooks Nowadays

Even though Hooks left Vegas, he continued to visit his home away from home by frequently running junkets back and forth from Dallas. More times than not, these junkets coincided with the WSOP, which was held in May back in those days. Hooks played in the WSOP throughout the mid-eighties, but he never replicated the success he had in 1975. In fact, the records show that Hooks doesn’t have a single WSOP cash to his credit.

As Hooks sits in the hotel lobby, his eyes become resolute. “I don’t know whether I could win [today] or not,” Hooks says as he downs the last of his coffee. “It’s too different, the way the tournaments are. I see these guys make some plays that I just don’t see how in the world they put their money in there. They know something that I don’t know. That’s when I realized I didn’t know how to play [the game nowadays].”

That’s not to say Hooks doesn’t give it a go from time to time. In early 2012, Hooks was actually staying at theWinstar Casino just across the border in Oklahoma. Hooks had used his history with Steve Wynn to secure a position as a room ambassador, which required him to bring in clientele and keep the games thriving. In exchange, Hooks was provided with a free room. It wasn’t a bad arrangement, but eventually Hooks’ failing health inspired him to seek out his doctor back in Edgewood.

The author, Chad Holloway, with Bob Hooks today in Canton, Texas
The author, Chad Holloway, with Bob Hooks today in Canton, Texas

It was during that return visit that Hooks spent the night at the Best Western. After visiting with his doctor, who informed him that he had a deteriorating hip and a fluid build up in his knee, Hooks took the opportunity to see some friends. Being back home suited him just fine, so after decades on the road, Hooks opted to settle down. As to what’s become of his family, Hooks is a bit reticent to share. There’s an unmistakable sense of regret and misfortune that clouds his eyes, but he does say that many family members have reentered his life.

As far as Vegas and his high-rolling lifestyle are concerned, those days are squarely in his rearview mirror. It’s been 20 years since Hooks last visited Vegas, and 15 since he’s conversed with his old pals Jack Binion and Doyle Brunson. While paying a visit to his past may not be in the cards, Hooks passes the time the same way he has for years. He still enjoys making and taking a bet, and occasionally antes up in a poker game at the local country club. However, neither of those things is on today’s agenda. Now it’s time to empty his mind of old memories and take a seat in his brand new chair for an afternoon nap.

“I’m not a saint, but I’ve been this long doing what’s right,” Hooks said before setting down his coffee cup and turning towards the door. “I’m going to go the rest of the little spell I’ve got doing the same thing. Yeah, I’m gonna do that.”

  • November 28, 2013
  • Chad Holloway

Is Gus Hansen a Degen?

Gus Hansen is not having the best of times at the poker tables these days. The multiple WPT winner has never had the best of runs on the online felt, but recently it seems he has started to spiral, leading many to ask, “Is Gus Hansen a degen?”

As of the end of the 4th of November 2013, Gus had lifetime online losses of$13,908,337. About $3.21m of these losses were before Full Tilt changed hands, but the lion’s share of the losses have been since Full Tilt re-launched with Gus part of the three man “Professional” Full Tilt Poker sponsored team.

I talked to Hansen back in March of 2013 at the Season 9 London stop of the PokerStars European Poker Tour. We discussed his losses, and why he thought he was on a downward trend with his online results.




Gus Hansen at WSOP 2006 Rio, Las Vegas
Gus Hansen at WSOP 2006 Rio, Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




As you can see, Gus seemed aware that he wasn’t optimising his chances at the table, but based on what’s happened since, I have to think not much has changed.

He claimed to be “rusty” but considering he’s been playing online consistently all year, that can’t be an ongoing factor in his losses. He’s had more than enough time to knock the rust off his game, so there must be other factors impacting his inability to win in any consistent manner. Maybe he’s not giving the games his full concentration, in his words “being Sloppy…” and playing while watching TV, or maybe he’s a little “lazy” and not working to improve his game. Back in 2002 he was one of the best players on the circuit, but the game has advanced a long way from those heady pre-Moneymaker days. If Gus hasn’t kept up to date with the cutting edge theories in the games he’s playing, while his competition has, it puts him at a massive disadvantage, and would significantly impact his winning potential.

Full Tilt Professional Gus Hansen

Gus Hansen at the Season 9 London EPT

Hansen also talked about his game selection. Gus consistently seeks out the best players online, and proceeds to sit at tables that maybe 3 players in the world could expect to break even at in the long term, let alone be a consistent winner. Sitting at these table, he then seems to be support several professional poker players around the world including “SallyWoo,” Alexander “PostflopAction” Kostritsyn, and fellow Full Tilt “Professional” Viktor Blom. Gus even seemed to know he was outclassed in some of his matchups, saying Alex “Alexonmoon” Luneau was the best 2-7TD player, while “SallyWoo” was the best FLO8 player. Thing is, he has kept playing them. Alex may not have been online in months, but he left the high stakes games with a big chunk of Gus’s bankroll. SallyWoo has also been a regular in the line to pick Hansen’s pocket.

So we have to ask ourselves, why does Gus keep doing this? It seems he’s outclassed at the elite end of the current online cash games, and has lost more than one fortune in playing them. His sponsorship deal with Full Tilt isn’t going to be enough to cover these losses, in fact I doubt it even scratches the surface. Hansen has some small live victories in the past 12 months, but these are equivalent to a very small drop in the ocean. We don’t know about Gus’s other income, including what he may have won playing live cash and Open Face Chinese Poker. Regardless of the other potential income sources Gus may have, it doesn’t change the fact Hansen seems to haemorrhage his bankroll every time he logs into Full Tilt.

I have to consider why Gus keeps doing this. He may have a requirement in his Full Tilt contract to play certain games, but what ever the penalty might be to break the terms of his contract can’t be worse than the losses he seems to encounter every month.

The question about Gus’s motives always seem to return to the statement “Is Gus Hansen a Degen?”

What do you think?

Third question of the promotion: Defeat NTIT at HU and win 100 dollars

All In
All In (Photo credit: banspy)

This one is actually two questions:

1- At any point in a hand in Pot Limit Omaha what is the highest number of outs you can have? you have to give an example with both players holecards and board, and enumerate the actual cards that you are counting as outs.

2-  At any point in a hand in No Limit Holdem what is the highest number of outs you can have? you have to give an example with both players holecards and board, and enumerate the actual cards that you are counting as outs.

PS: if you think that somebody’s else answer is wrong, please point the mistake and then give your right answer. Remember that only the first correct answer wins the point.

The Science of Winning Poker

Bluffing still matters, but the best players now depend on math theory


July 26, 2013 6:56 p.m. ET

The World Series of Poker, 2010. Associated Press

More than 6,300 players, each paying an entry fee of $10,000, gathered in Las Vegas early this month for the championship event of the 44th annual World Series of Poker. The tournament ran for 10 days, and just nine players now remain. They will reunite in November for a two-day live telecast to determine who wins the first prize: $8.3 million.

Poker didn’t get this big overnight. In 2003, a then-record 839 players entered the championship for a shot at $2.5 million. The winner was an amateur with the improbable name of Chris Moneymaker. After ESPN devoted seven prime-time hours to his triumph, online poker took off and tournament participation ballooned, as did prize pools. The U.S. government’s ban on the major online poker sites in 2011 reined in enthusiasm, but the game has continued to grow in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

This growth over the past decade has been accompanied by a profound change in how the game is played. Concepts from the branch of mathematics known as game theory have inspired new ideas in poker strategy and new advice for ordinary players. Poker is still a game of reading people, but grasping the significance of their tics and twitches isn’t nearly as important as being able to profile their playing styles and understand what their bets mean.

In no-limit hold’em poker, the game used for the World Series championship, each player is dealt two private cards and attempts to make the best five-card hand that he can by combining his own cards with five cards that are shown faceup and shared by all players. Those cards are revealed in stages: The first three are the “flop,” the fourth is the “turn,” and the fifth is the “river.” Players can bet any amount they like at each stage.

Suppose you hold a pair of sevens, and before the flop is dealt you go all-in (bet all of your chips). One player calls your bet, and everyone else folds their hands. You both turn your cards face up, and you are happy to see your opponent show a pair of sixes. You are in great shape, since you have the better hand. But when the flop arrives, it contains a six, giving your opponent three sixes, and your own hand doesn’t improve, so you lose. Was your all-in play correct?

In terms of results, it wasn’t, because you lost all your chips. But according to the math of hold’em, a pair of sevens is favored to beat a pair of sixes 81% of the time. So if you can go all-in with sevens and get your bet called by players holding sixes over and over again, luck should even out, and eventually you will be a big winner.

Poker theorist David Sklansky once wrote that you should consider yourself a winner as long as you had the higher probability of winning the hand when all the money went into the pot. This attitude is consistent with the underlying mathematical reality of poker, and it can smooth out your emotional reactions to losses and wins. What matters is the quality of your decisions, not the results that come from them.

A few years ago, a young pro named Phil Galfond published a crucial refinement to Mr. Sklansky’s point. He showed that the right way to analyze a poker decision is to consider your opponent’s “range”—that is, the full set of different hands that he could plausibly have, given all the actions that he has thus far taken.

So if, for example, you believed that your opponent would only call your bet if he held sixes or a better pair, then at the moment he calls—before he turns up his cards—you should be unhappy. You want to see the sixes and be an 81% favorite, but you are much more likely to see a hand like eights, nines or higher, and against any of these your likelihood of winning is only about 19%. In fact, against this range of pairs from sixes up to aces, your “equity”—your winning chances averaged over all of those possible hands—would be just 27%.

Of course, in poker, you rarely know your opponent’s range precisely, nor does he know yours. In our example, if your opponent thinks you would never go all-in without at least a pair of tens, he probably won’t call you with anything worse than that. So his calling range depends on what he thinks your range could be.

In practice, this means that you should not make a particular play (such as an all-in bet) only when you have a superstrong hand, because this makes it easy for an observant opponent to deduce your range and fold with all but his own superstrong hands. If you sometimes make a strong play with weak hands—the ancient practice of bluffing—your opponent has a harder time narrowing your range down. This concept, known as “balancing” one’s range, supplements an expert’s intuition about when to bluff with logical explanations of why and how often it is the right play.

Calculating equities for ranges is too complicated to do while you are playing. Today’s top tournament players advise up-and-comers not to memorize formulas but to improve their feeling for ranges by playing with poker calculation apps that rapidly estimate odds by simulating thousands of hands.

Why this sudden leap forward in the strategy of a game that has existed for over a century? Computer analysis has contributed, just as it has wrought changes in backgammon and chess theory. But the real cause of the advances that have accompanied the poker boom has been the boom itself.

With 10 times more people seriously playing the game, the collective creativity and thinking power of the poker world has grown by at least an order of magnitude. The growth of poker theory is a perfect example of how innovation accelerates in interacting communities. Today’s poker players are in a world-wide arms race to discover new ideas and refine their playing styles, led by the younger generation of more mathematically minded pros. And collective progress comes from the application of collective intelligence: Putting more minds to work on a problem makes the discovery of new and better solutions much more likely.

Jason Lee

1. Each player is dealt two private cards. The goal: to make the best five-card hand using the five faceup cards shared by all players.

2. Player A gets two sevens; Player B gets two sixes. Neither player knows what the other has yet, but a pair of sevens is favored to beatapair of sixes 81% of the time.

3. After the shared cards are dealt and the players reveal their hands, Player B wins with three sixes, beating the odds.

—Mr. Chabris is a psychology professor at Union College, the co-author of “The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us” and a chess master. He played in his first World Series of Poker this year.