The opportunity to read the words of great poker players is without a doubt a valuable way to learn the game. The chance to have a few minutes to ask those same professionals about an aspect of the game is an even more precious way to learn from the best. The opportunity to spend nearly twelve hours soaking up information from a former World Champion is, as they say in the credit card commercials, priceless.
This is what over 100 poker players had a chance to do on Sunday when Greg Raymer came to the Little River Golf Resort and Spa outside of Pinehurst, NC, for the "Fossilman Challenge". The event, sponsored by the largest free bar poker league in America, the World Tavern Poker Tour, brought people from as far away as Minnesota and New York together for a chance to learn more about the game and improve their play from the 2004 World Series of Poker Championship Event winner. Even more important, there was a chance for a select few of the conference attendees to compete against Raymer, as a poker tournament completed a day of informative discussion and other entertaining activities.
The frivolity began bright and early at 11AM (OK, bright and early for poker players) on Sunday, April 9th, as the participants gathered on the practice green at the golf course for a putting competition. Raymer, who is also an avid golfer, challenged the field to come "closest to the pin" as he stood over his approximately 50-foot putt and stroked it at the hole. When it came to rest about four feet from the pin, the spot was marked and the rest of the field attempted to best the former World Champion. After several attempts came up short or rocketed by the hole, a gentleman stepped up and calmly stroked the putt dead center of the hole, earning a private tutoring session with the "Fossilman" for his efforts.
The focal point of the seminar, however, was the nearly two hour discussion on poker led by Raymer. During the speech, Greg remarked on his own course to where he is today. "I first played the Main Event in 2002, when there were 'only' 600 players competing," he said as he traced his history at the World Series. "Last year, there was almost ten times that many and I expect there to be somewhere between eight and ten thousand this year."
All the discussion wasn't about the World Series, however. Greg moved on in his speech to ways for many players to improve their game, be it at the cash tables or in a tournament. He pointed out the differences that some tend to overlook between the two, such as the different equities involved between tournament and cash game chips and how players want to push slight edges more often in a cash game than in a tournament. "If you get busted in a cash game, you can simply dip back into your pocket and reload," he reasoned to the rapt crowd. "In a tournament, however, once your chips are gone, you're out. Therefore, you have to play the game differently and it makes your decisions much different."
Raymer also touched on such subjects as reading opposing players, bluffing and the major difference between amateur and professional players. He made excellent points in poker reasoning and emphasized that players should attempt to put people on a range of poker hands at the tables, rather than attempt to put them on just one hand. Finally, he also stressed the importance of discipline at the tables, playing strong hands from a position of strength and the importance of playing bluffs strongly as well.
Players were looking forward to a poker tournament that would be a part of the day of events, but everyone also wanted to learn more about Raymer during the question and answer segment after his presentation. "I'm working on a book, but I'm lazy," Greg said in response to a question during the Q&A afterwards from one of the attendees. As the room erupted in laughter, he smiled and added, "I'm busy and I'm lazy, there's an interesting combination!"
From there, Greg took part in a heads up match on PokerStars against FunkiMunki, the pacesetter on the monthly PokerStars leader board. He gave a running commentary as the two played a very interesting matchup. Monki was a tremendously worthy challenger as he expertly slowplayed a flopped boat that was only displayed after the showdown on the river, taking nearly all of Raymer's chips after Raymer hit a set on the same flop. FunkiMonki soon after eliminated Raymer and earned $1,000 for winning the online matchup.
The tournament was perhaps the featured part of the entire day, and it was a highly competitive event. While I will pick up the story of what happened during that tournament in Part Two of this story, it is safe to say that the attendees at the "Fossilman Challenge" were more than happy to have been there. Conference member Danielle Anthony seemed to sum up the entire day best when she remarked, "It was excellent to be able to talk with Greg. There were so many opportunities to get autographs from and talk with Greg, and the chance to meet other World Tavern Poker players was great."
Ed Note: Play with Fossilman at Poker Stars