(Yes, even you.)
Poker is a game of skill. In the long term, skilled players will win and unskilled players will lose. However, to quote my favorite poker book of all time (“King of a Small World” by Rick Bennett):
“The short term can be much longer than you think”.
Great players can play perfectly and still go on massive downswings while weaker players can go on unbelievably long stretches of being saved by the deck over and over again.
In fact, over a small sample size, anyone with a basic understanding of the fundamentals of poker can achieve huge success– and many have. Here are four examples that should give hope to all you beginners out there. Poker success is not some impossible dream that only those with computer-like brains and borderline psychic abilities can achieve. As these 4 players prove, sometimes it’s enough to simply be able to sit upright at the table and let the cards do the rest…
Moon didn’t win the World Series of Poker, but he came damn close. After winning a satellite at his local casino and flying to Vegas to play in his first ever large buy in tournament, he took 2nd in the 2009 Main Event for over $5 million. His run of luck is something you have to see to believe. For 8 days he hit every flop. His run to the final table was littered with the corpses of more experienced and skilled players who were more than eager to play pots with him, seeing his lack of skill and knowing that he couldn’t keep hitting every board. Well, he did keep hitting every board and those players kept finding out the hard way. Since his big win Moon has continued his simple life as a logger. His largest tournament cash other than the $5 million he won at the WSOP is $13K, and his most recent cash came in a $135 buy in tournament.
Just like Moon, Yang won his 2007 WSOP Main Event seat in a satellite at his local cardroom. He managed to catch some huge breaks in the early stages of the tournament, surviving multiple all-ins with the worst hand. At the final table he turned into a hurricane of blind aggression and benefited greatly from some terrible play from his opponents, most notably this hand in which Lee Childs lights a pile of money on fire. If Childs makes the easy call here, Yang is out in 9th and we never talk about him again.
That one is tough to watch. Anyway, Yang used the chips he won from Childs’ blunder to continue his aggression and steamroll over the entire final table, winning over $8 million! Since then he hasn’t had much poker success and can be found playing low stakes live tournaments. Here’s a longer look at his crazy run toward that $8 million:
Gold won the 2006 WSOP Main Event at the height of the poker boom. It is still the largest Main Event of all time, with Gold taking $12 million for first place. It was an amazing win and a thoroughly entertaining tournament to watch on television. Gold was the dominant chip leader from day 4 on as the deck just kept delivering him the goods. He mixed in a lot of bluffs and even more table talk to confuse his opponents. This ensured that he would keep getting paid every time he hit a big hand, which he did with unbelievable frequency. Since his big win Gold has had all kinds of troubles. He was sued for a chunk of his winnings by a colleague who claimed to have made a deal with Gold before the tournament. It is also heavily rumored that he lost nearly all of his winnings playing in high stakes games in Hollywood. The fact that he can be found playing $100 tournies from time to time probably lends some credibility to these rumors. Anyway, here’s the run in all its 2006 glory:
Phillips, a total amateur without any previous major cashes, took 3rd in the 2006 WSOP Main Event in 2008. Amazingly, he followed that up by finishing 40th in the Main Event the following year! There’s not much to say about Phillips as a poker player. He wasn’t nearly as bad as Moon or Yang but was clearly overmatched against decent competition. He ran insanely hot and simply played ‘ABC’ poker to make his deep runs. It’s pretty easy to win with such a simple strategy when you keep having the best hand, as it turns out. Phillips is a great success story for the recreational player. If you know enough of the fundamentals of poker to simply play good cards and not make any huge mistakes, you too can ride a wave of run good all the way to the top! It might take you 100 years to find that kind of luck, but it’s possible!
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