Poker Insider: Interview with Alex Outhred of WPT Boot Camp
Alex Outhred is a name you might not have heard of, but he is a very important figure in the world of poker. He has seen nearly every hand at every final table ever played in the history of the World Poker Tour. Each tournament, with his producing job, it is "The Insider" who makes the determinations what goes into each two hour segment of a WPT broadcast.
Alex is also the backbone of the World Poker Tour Boot Camp, the highly successful seminar that travels the United States. At each camp, would be poker professionals learn from the best in the game, including Mike Sexton, Clonie Gowen and Scott Fischman, yet it is Alex who has done the basic groundwork for setting up the course and, at many of the camps, steps up to teach as well.
While he does all of this, he is also honing his already skillful game for his attack on this summer's World Series of Poker. I had a chance to sit back on the phone with Alex recently and get his insights on poker and the WPT.
PN: Hey Alex, it's Earl.
AO: Earl! How are you, man? How's the game going?
PN: It's going great, man. I've been using the things I learned at the Boot Camp and have definitely noticed that I'm playing much better. I even hit the final table in a Seven Card Stud event the other night!
PN: Yeah, while everything we worked with at the Camp was No-Limit, the same things work across the board...
AO: It's great that you picked up on that, because it really does. It can work in a Limit ring game, a tournament...the things we teach are useful for any poker player.
PN: One thing I wanted to ask you about was how did you get involved with the WPT?
AO: Quite honestly, it was coincidence (laughs)! I've always had an interest in the game of poker, going back to when I played against my friends in high school and throughout my college days. I had gotten my degree to be a certified massage therapist and was doing that for a living. Unfortunately, I got in a car accident...that was my transportation to get around for my job, so I was in a difficult spot.
I was facing no car, which would make it almost impossible to do my job and make money, when I was attending a cancer fundraiser. My mother contracted cancer, so it is a very important cause for me. Anyway, I was asking around during this event and met someone who is with the WPT. I had done television production in college as well, so I knew I could do it. I got the job and it just took off from there!
PN: The rest, as they say, is history!
AO: Exactly! (Laughs)
PN: What goes into deciding what makes up a WPT broadcast?
AO: Continuity has to be one of the most important things. You have to make sure that the broadcast has a stream to it, that you don't have one moment a player with a monster stack and the next hand, he doesn't. We are, in a way, creating "live fiction" and trying to tell the story of the tournament in around thirty to forty hands. Believe me, there's a ton of stuff that doesn't even make the broadcasts.
Of course, we try to get in the best hands, where there are interesting moves that are made or huge pots that are contested. It can sometimes be difficult to get it down to the show you see on television.
PN: I know we all do it at home, so I wondered...do you sometimes yell at the monitors when watching a Final Table?
AO: (Laughs) Not so much, you'd be surprised. Normally, I do have some extensive notes of what happened during the event, so I am usually prepared for the wild stuff. That doesn't mean there isn't that occasion, when a one-outer or a runner-runner hits, that I will get a little excited!
PN: Because you work with the WPT, you don't get the chance to play the events. Is that something you would like to do?
AO: Down the road, yes I would. I could probably make some arrangements with the WPT to be able to play them, remove myself from any involvement with the particular tournament, and play. Normally, however, I am working the tournaments as well as producing the show afterwards, so I haven't done it.
Once I have the bankroll available, I would like to take my shots at the WPT satellites. If I got in, then we would cross that bridge, I'm sure.
PN: With the fourth season just started, how much bigger can the WPT get?
AO: I tell ya, Earl, you can easily see the continued growth of the WPT, even here in Season Four. With online satellites and such, there are more and more people making their run at the WPT and the professionals. You may have, in some events, 150 people directly buying in and there are something like 200 online qualifiers. More players are going to be coming, that's for sure.
PN: While you're doing all of the production work on the WPT broadcasts, you also are heavily involved with the WPT Boot Camp. How many have been conducted and how many are left to go?
AO: Let's see...(pauses)...I have been involved and will be involved with all of them. We have completed five of them and we have, I think, six or seven yet to go.
I have spent quite a bit of time putting the course together for the players. I have worked on the courseware, the information we are using, integrating Mike Sexton's book ("Shuffle Up And Deal") into the mix and working up the lab work that each seminar has.
The one thing we wanted to do with the Boot Camp was encompass all the ranges of experience of players. We wanted to do something that could be helpful to not only the newest of players, but also to those that have experience and are looking for that last little push that their game needs. I think we've done that very well.
PN: What are the players telling you that is interesting about what the Camp is doing?
AO: What's funny is the common things that players are picking up. Players are telling me they had never calculated pot odds and didn't use that in their games. Lots of people have problems with that part of the game, and they are really picking up that aspect.
There was one person who had never used the "feeler" bet. It was something he had never thought of before in his game, that he could glean some information from doing that. He said it really helped out his game.
With some, it's chip placement. With others, it was playing position. We do try to tailor the Camp so everyone gets something out of it.
PN: What is the biggest mistake you see people making at the Camp? I know you got on many of the players in Florida about limping...(laughs)?
AO: (Laughs) No, I'm not against limping, although there was quite a bit of it there! In some circumstances, the limp is the correct play to make, although it seemed overused during that Camp.
What I am opposed to is the minimum raise or the minimum bet after the flop. The purpose of the raise is to push people off their hands or draws. A minimum raise just isn't going to do that. After the flop or turn, once again, betting the minimum amount into a pot is not going to push someone off their hand. That's the thing that I would like to see people get out of their games.
PN: Do you find teaching poker to be as exciting as playing it?
AO: I really do! I studied some psychology while I was in college and I thought about teaching then. I love people and I love to try to get across information to them. I try to get across the information, when I am teaching at the Boot Camp, in steps, to allow someone to progress and become a better player. It's a great thing that I really enjoy doing!
PN: Are there other games you would like to get into the Camp?
AO: We've thought about that. Down the road, Omaha might be something we'll be doing. There are many aspects of that game that are tremendously different from Texas Hold 'Em, from the math to the starting cards, things like that. It makes it very interesting. We could probably someday do a weekend seminar on Omaha alone!
PN: So are you going to be playing any of the events at the World Series?
AO: Yeah, I am going to take a shot at four of them...a couple of No-Limit events, a Pot Limit and a Limit. I'm really excited about being in the first "short-handed" event. I have learned an incredible amount from watching the six-handed WPT Final Tables. While the usual tables at the World Series is nine-handed, this one is designed for six handed tables. I think I should have a good shot at that one, with the experience that I have learned from my work with the WPT.
I am looking to do pretty well. One of the things that I get sometimes at the Camp is, especially after Mike (Sexton) or Clonie (Gowen) or Ron (Rose) does something, then I get up there...sometimes people are saying 'Who the heck is this guy?'! If I can do well in these events, then I can build up a "resume", so to speak, so people might know who I am and won't think that I have nothing to add to the Boot Camp.
PN: Ah, you definitely have things to add at the Camp, Alex!
AO: Thanks, Earl.
PN: Final question...where do you want to be in the game of poker and, eventually, in the game of life?
AO: Oh, boy...
PN: Yeah, big question...
AO: Yeah, it is! Well, if the fairy tale works out, I'll have great success at the tables. Along with that success would come something else that I would like, and that is the respect of other players in the game today.
I'm lucky, I've got two industries at hand that I can work in, poker and producing. If the success doesn't come at the tables, then I would definitely continue to work in the poker industry. Teaching is a possibility, but poker people are the best people in the world to be around. I would really want to maintain some involvement in the game.
PN: Hey, Alex, thanks for all your time!
AO: Thank you too, Earl. Hope the game continues to go well for you!
I would like to thank Alex for his time before he headed off to Las Vegas. Alex has some articles that run in poker magazines, including Bluff Magazine, so you can catch up on some of his strategies and thoughts on the game. Also, you can learn from Alex at the WPT Boot Camp. Go to wptbootcamp.com to see where the Camps will be held for the rest of the year and maybe you too can learn from "The Insider"!
Ed Note: WPT host Mike Sexton proudly endorses Party Poker ...Can the Ambassador of Poker be wrong?