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We’re seeing lots of final tables in tournaments these days at which several of the finalists have played only online poker and are playing their first brick-and-mortar casino tournament. Today, it’s not unusual for half of them to be faces you’ve never seen in the poker world. To many people, it might appear to be a fluke that they’re at the championship table fighting for the title against well-known players.

 

In the old days when there were fewer than 200 players entering the main event at the World Series of Poker — in 1985 when I finished second to Bill Smith, there were 140 entrants — we all used to remark that there was more “dead money” in the $10,000 tournament than in any other event. We meant that most players had practically no chance of winning, and that’s how the expression “dead money” got started. But if you still believe there’s that much dead money in today’s big tournaments, you’re dead wrong. In the old days, you could bet on a core of 25 to 50 players to win the “Big One.” These days, you could pick the top 150 players and give somebody else the field — and the field would be a big favorite.

 

With all the poker books, poker seminars, and opportunities to practice online these days, there is no longer any room for the dead-money concept in poker tournaments. Today, everybody can play on a certain level, although some players, the so-called pros, obviously are better than others. What the pros sometimes forget is that anyone with some basic knowledge of how to play the game can pick up a hand here and there, and suddenly have a whole lot of chips. And on any given day, lots of chips combined with some …