The PokerNews Interview: Blair Rodman
Blair Rodman has been a professional gambler since 1985, covering poker, golf, blackjack and just about anything worthwhile for the serious pro. He's also a poker author, having co-written the popular stick-it-to-the-pro book Kill Phil. Over his long tournament career, Rodman has taken second place in two WPT events, and has made numerous other final tables, but he had yet to win a major poker event until the 2007 WSOP. Late in the Series, in one of the last events, Rodman finally did it, winning a bracelet in $2,000 No Limit Hold'em. His long quest finally at an end, Rodman took some time to look back on his accomplishments and talk about where he's going from here.
PokerNews: We're a couple of months removed from the WSOP now. How does it feel right now, having won your first bracelet?
Blair Rodman: Two months into it, I still reflect back on it. It's still kind of hitting me that I've got that first bracelet, and it's been a long time, a long struggle, and a long time coming, and every once in awhile, I just stop and think, "You know, I got a bracelet now!"
PN: Let's talk a little about that event. A couple of well-known players at this final table — Roland de Wolfe and Joe Pelton. Had you played with either of them much before this?
BR: I played with Roland a little bit. Hadn't played with Joe. It was an interesting table. Actually, it was a pretty tough table. Those guys never really got off the ground. I knocked out Joe early and Roland really couldn't get it going, so neither one were a big factor in that tournament.
PN: You came in to the final table sixth out of nine on chips, with a 2-to-1 deficit to the chipleader, Stan Crawford. How did you approach things?
BR: I came in with the approach that I was going to play aggressively. I had worked hard and I knew a bracelet was in sight, so I wasn't trying to work my way up the money scale. I was going to get out there and try to get a hold of some chips and take it all the way.
So I got aggressive early and lost maybe 40 percent of my stack and finally moved in with 2-2 and got called by A-2, which I was kind of surprised by. Anna Wroblewski called me there – she called a big part of her stack with A-2 and had me in bad shape, but I did flop an ace. And I came right back and I re-raised Joe Pelton with K-Q. I thought he was making a move and he moved in with 10-10. I was pot-committed, I called, I got lucky and won that pot. All of a sudden I was back, I was near the chip leader, and I was just taking it from there.
PN: Anything else you remember from the final table that helped you get to the win?
BR: There was a key hand when we got down to three-handed. Actually, I gave it to Steve Rosenbloom who printed it in his Chicago Tribune column the week before – where I limped in the button with 10-9 and flopped 9-9-2. It was checked to me and I made a big bet at it. I wanted somebody to put me on a steal and play with me, and Klein Kim Bach did that. He raised and I called it, and then he checked the turn when it came a 2, and I made about a 30 percent of the pot bet, which he called. Thinking he might have an ace and thinking that an ace might be good for at least half or maybe the pot. Trying to get him to think I was on a steal. Then the river came an ace, which I thought might have hit him. He checked and I moved in for about two million and he called me in a flash. He had a 2 and that knocked him out right there. With 30/60 [thousand] blinds, we all have like 2.7 million – it was a huge hand that put me heads up with a 2-to-1 chip lead.
PN: Heads-up lasted four hours and included several lead changes. How were you feeling throughout this match? It seemed pretty grueling.
BR: It was very grueling! I started out with a 2-to-1 chip lead and Amato [Galasso] was – I didn't know him, I hadn't played with him except for the night before and throughout this day. I knew he hadn't played a lot of tournaments and had never been in a spot like that. I tried to run over him early and it worked until he hit a series of big hands and turned the tables on me. And all of a sudden, I was down 2-to-1 in chips and I had to refocus and say, "Wait a minute," and really put the clamps on.
I just started limping into a lot of pots and he did also, which was good because now I get to see a flop before I have to commit a lot of chips. I thought I could outplay him. We got into this long heads-up battle, which – I was extremely tired at the time, which wasn't really what I wanted to do, but I felt it was what I had to do to win. It worked out in the end. It was really grueling and he played great, and it was – by the end of it, I was more relieved than anything, because I was completely exhausted. As days go on, like I said, more and more it sinks in what happened.
PN: How did you come back from that deficit after losing the lead there? Are there any hands that you remember in particular that helped you regain the lead and eventually win?
BR: I was trying to play more aggressively with him. I was really pounding on him. I was limping pre-flop but I was betting at most flops, especially if he checked them. It went back and forth, we'd get back to about even, and – I went through the hand by hand on [WSOP Live] a few nights later, and he hit a lot of hands. He held over me a bit on the cards, but I picked up most of the pots that nobody was stabbing at, and then I got back to where I was within range and moved in on the turn, he trapped with top pair. He checked it twice and I moved in when I picked up the flush draw. He called. He had me dead to it, and I got lucky and made the flush on the river, which put me in the lead, and then I never gave up the lead from there.
I just kept trying to pound on him, and a few hands later I picked up a big hand with 10-10 on the button. He had 4-4 and he moved in on me. And that got me in good shape. I think he went on a little bit of tilt, and I just kept the hammer down and finally got it all in and got lucky. We really hadn't – other than the tens against fours – had an all-in confrontation before the flop. I picked up A-J and moved in on him. He had A-K and called me – like, oh no, now I'll be back to about a 2-to-1 deficit if I lose the hand – but luckily I caught a jack and ended it right there, which I was very happy for.
PN: Speaking of WSOP Live, do you think it's a useful tool for poker players to check it out and see the hole cards, just to kind of go over the entire event, like watching the tapes as a sports player? Do you think that's useful?
BR: It's very useful from a poker fan's point of view. I think it's tremendously useful. From a poker player's point of view, I think it's too useful for other players. Basically, the players get nothing out of it and have to show their cards every single hand for the entire final table. I wasn't very happy about that. It was a nice thing in some ways that my friends, my wife who was traveling overseas, they were able to log in and actually watch like being there. I think next year, if they're going to do this again, it puts a strain on players to have to show their hand for nothing. There should be some kind of compensation. I know that Jeffrey Pollack has talked about offering that, and I hope he'll stick to that, because I don't think it's fair to players to be required to do this kind of thing.
PN: You've taken second a couple of times at WPT events. Are you still looking to win one of them?
BR: I'd love to win a World Poker Tour, but I've cut back on my poker quite a bit. I rarely travel to the East Coast, and I skipped the Bike – I'm just not that big a fan of the way that tournament is run. I'll play some of the World Poker Tours. I'll play the ones here in Vegas. I'd love to win one. But I'm not really up to the travel and the rigors of the poker tour, like guys are doing now. I've really cut back on my poker. If it happens, great. If it doesn't, then it doesn't.
I like to say, "I got the bracelet now, I don't have to kill myself trying to get another one." It becomes such a marathon, such a grind. Next year for the World Series, I'm going to really cut back on the number of events I play, unless they really change the way that they run things. I'm going to enjoy myself for a change. It wasn't any fun this year. It's too hard.
PN: What do you think of the improvements the World Poker Tour has made to the final-table structure?
BR: Well, I think that's great. They needed to do that. They were trying to get a final table over within their parameters of their TV-type things, and it was very hard because there's a lot of downtime at those final tables and the clock keeps running – they were trying to do it in five or six hours, and it really didn't allow for enough hands to determine a true champion. It was too luck-oriented, and for them to slow it down is a nice thing for them to do, I think it puts more poker play into it – I think it's great.
I think all tournaments need to keep that in mind. I think their structures really need to be looked at to try and determine what it is they're trying to do, and what their goals are: to determine the best player, to allow players the best experience for their money – and understand that there needs to be proper balance. For the everyday player, they don't want to sit there for the first three hours at a very small structure and waste that time when they could be doing other things, and then when it gets to the end have it be a complete crapshoot. I think if it's faster in the beginning, and slows down in the middle and the end, I think that's more ideal for most players, and it puts more skill into the game.
PN: You mentioned that you were cutting back on your poker. What else are you going to be doing with your time? Are you playing more golf?
BR: Yeah, I'm doing some writing. I'm writing for Always Bluff, Paul "Beanie" Nobles' site; I've got my website. And yeah, I'm playing a lot of golf, I've got some other kinds of writing I want to do. I did write an article for All In Magazine about my bracelet event, which was in this month, and next month will be a two-parter. I got some novels I want to do. I'm just kind of relaxing. I've been doing this for a long time, and I'm in – semi-retirement, you might want to call it.
PN: Tell me about your book, Kill Phil.
BR: Kill Phil's about, basically, No-Limit Hold'em tournaments. Its basis is a way for inexperienced players to play against the best players and even the playing field, just by using the all-in move. At the time we wrote it, the poker landscape was a lot different than it is now. I could see it was kind of going that way. Now, when you watch tournaments, you know, it's all in after all in. The big decisions are, what is the range of hands he's moving in with, what is the range of hands I can call with. A lot of situations. But back then, we outlined the strategy for moving in throughout a tournament from the rawest rookie player all the way up through experienced players. There's enough in there for everybody.
I wouldn't say it's outdated, I'd say there are some ideas in there that are still very valuable. The strategies need to be tweaked a bit, mainly because people's calling standards have loosened up quite a bit. People understand now that, in a lot of cases, they're not that big an underdog, and I think it really favors a call in a lot of spots where people in the old days would have laid it down in a flash, wouldn't even think about it. Kill Phil is – it served its purpose, it's still out there, and I think it's still a good book.
PN: Are you going to do a follow-up book at some point?
BR: I'm not. I went in another direction. I really didn't want to write another poker book, but my co-author, Lee Nelson, joined up with Kim Lee, who did the math work on Kill Phil and helped us quite a bit, and Tyson Streib, who posts on 2+2, is a very sharp kid. And they're coming out with a book, which should be out very soon, called Kill Everyone. It isn't exactly a follow-up on Kill Phil, but there's a lot of new stuff in there. To their credit, I've seen the raw manuscript, and I mean, there are a million poker books out there right now, but they came out with some really good stuff, and I think it's going to be a very valuable book.
PN: What's the very next event for you, do you think?
BR: Well, I just got back from Biloxi. I went down there because Ken Lambert invited me to come down, play the golf course, play the tournament. Golf course was fabulous. Tournament didn't go that well for me. It was a very nice tournament. They do a great job down there at the Beau Rivage at Biloxi. Now, I don't really know. I've got a couple golf trips planned, I'm relaxing for awhile. I'll probably play some at Caesars in October. Honestly, I haven't looked at the schedule. I'm sure I'll play in the World Poker Tours that are here in town. Other than that, I'm not sure!