Poker champ talks strategy with fans, young players

Ashima Singal

Poker is not about five guys chain smoking in a barely-lit backroom. It isn’t about compulsive gambling or getting luckyeither.

“It’s a mathematical and strategic game,” past World PokerChampion Phil Gordon said Thursday night. “Your goal as a pokerplayer is not to win the pot, but to make your opponent bet as muchmoney in the pot as possible.”

Gordon provided insight into the life of a professional pokerplayer to about 35 people Thursday night at Norris UniversityCenter. The game’s popularity has grown in recent years, he said,because of an increased visibility of the game on television.

Gordon currently hosts Bravo’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown” andthis month released the book, “Poker: The Real Deal.” His show hasfeatured many actors, including Ben Affleck and Mena Suvari.

Online poker is the best way to learn, he said, because playerscan “get an extraordinary amount of knowledge in an extraordinary(little) amount of time.”

Gordon said he plays online almost everyday on his Web site, Still Gordon said he prefers to play in livetournaments because the atmosphere is more engaging.

Before becoming a professional poker player, he worked as acomputer programmer until 1997.

No professional poker tour exists right now, Gordon said, but heexpects to see one in the next two years. Gordon said he thoughtmore than 5,000 players will participate in this year’s WorldSeries of Poker tournament.

Poker games can have incredibly high stakes, Gordon said, withsome pots as large as $6 million in tournament play.

Even though there is no official ranking, Gordon said he thinksPhil Ivey currently is the world’s best player.

“(He has the) infallible ability to concentrate unlike I’ve everseen,” he said. “He doesn’t chase, he’s able to find your weaknessand exploit it.”

Ivey, Gordon and other professional players are friends outsidethe game, Gordon said. He even recently attended one professionalplayer’s wedding. But after the ceremony, he placed a bet againstthe playboy’s marriage surviving.

“What’s the (probability of) staying married to this girl forfive years?” Gordon asked his friend in front of his new wife.”I’ve got $10,000 that you’re not.”

Successful players all have aggressiveness, patience to wait forthe right hand and courage at raising or calling at the right time,Gordon said.

Weinberg junior Ana Valenzuela said Gordon’s advice will helpher in future poker games.

“I usually play online,” Valenzuela said. “I watch celebritypoker all the time.”

For other students, Gordon’s advice on tournament play washelpful, said Masen Ewald, a Weinberg freshman.

“I learned about professional play,” Ewald said. “I (now) thinkabout it on a deeper level than just gambling.”

Reach Ashima Singal at [email protected].