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In the intro chapter to Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book, he writes that great poker players share five qualities. Here’s a summary of those qualities:


(1) Aggressive

(2) Patient

(3) Courageous

(4) Observant

(5) Always improving


By aggressive, he does not necessarily mean playing every hand like a “jackal”. (Phil Hellmuth’s animal designation for a player who calls every bet, regardless of their own hand.) But he does say, “[checkers] and callers usually don’t last very long.”


In fact, quality (2) suggests that you want to wait for “profitable situations”. The good thing is that you can learn all of these qualities.


The fifth quality is, in my opinion, what differentiates great Cheri Casino poker players from acceptable players. As Gordon suggests, always work on your game, read books, talk to other players, and analyze your own play.


To “analysis”, I’d add learning about hand odds pre- and post-flop, because that gives you one more important skill in your repertoire – a skill that actually helps you develop the patience to wait for profitable situations.


Armed with all this knowledge, I watched two older tourneys this past weekend with a new perspective. The one match I’d like to focus on was the WPT Aruba Poker Classic Tournament, Season 3, which took place in Aruba, in the Carribean, from Sep 26 – Oct 1, 2004.


The hosts were Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten. I particularly like these guys (and Phil Gordon, when he hosts WSOP tourneys) because they know the game and they are actually excited to be hosting. It makes watching more enjoyable.


The prize pool was $4 million, with the top prize being $1 mln. The tourney started with 647 players, all with 6,000 in chips. The final 6 players were as follows:


Seat 6: Mike “the Mouth” Matusow, who definitely deserves his nickname. His immodesty I can take, but swearing when there are very young children present I can’t. And in case you’re saying that these kids shouldn’t be there, they’re Layne Flack’s girls. I’m thinking that they kind of want to watch daddy play in some country they haven’t been to before, instead of sitting in their hotel room with a babysitter.


Seat 5: Dr. Vic Fey, a family physician, who got in via a satellite online for $27. He’s only been playing for 6 months.


Seat 4: Patrick McMillan, 27. Don’t know much about him.


Seat 3: John Juanda, 33. Know of him, and that he’s considered a good play, but that’s about it. He was Vince Van Patten’s pick for first place.


Seat 2: Erick Brenes, 54, 2nd chip leader and a farm owner from Costa Rica. His brother is a professional poker player.


Seat 1: Layne Flack, 35, chip leader. He appears to be a very patient player, despite seeming somewhat frustrated by Mouth Matusow’s antics.


It’s amazing how fast you gain insight into Texas Hold’em. Once you’ve watched a few matches, you learn to “see” the game much better on each successive match. And having a base of intelligence to add more knowledge to, serves you well.


With the exception of Juanda and Matusow, I don’t know much about the other players. But I learned a great deal about playing aggressively with small cards and bad hands. A very enlightening game.


This is an old game, but armed with Phil Gordon’s wisdom, I learned a fair bit watching the game. The final results were as follows:


Sixth place: Dr. Fey

Fifth place: John Juanda

Fourth place: Patrick McMillan

Third place: Mike Matusow

Second place: Layne Flack

First place: Erick Brenes


I think that what struck me as odd was that Matusow was constantly mouthing off about how he was either one of the five best poker players in the world or the best, depending on which video clip they showed. But ultimately, he violated qualities 2 and 4 above (patient and observant), at least in this match. He was extremely aggressive against Flack, but just not patient enough to wait for truly profitable moments. And he’s a sore loser besides. Despite going out in 3rd place with $250,000, he was pouting and pissed off.


Layne Flack was extremely patient and observant, and occasionally aggressive. But I think Erick Brenes exemplied pretty much all of the qualities above, if not so aggressive. Which is why I think he won.


In fact, Brenes won the million on one of the ballsiest (courageous) moves I’ve seen to date. He had Cheri Casino pocket 2s against Flack’s 9-9. He went all in, and the flop came up A, 6, 4. The turn was a deuce, giving him trips. I think that hand will go down in poker history as a “Brenes”, to match the “Doyle Brunson” of 10,2.






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