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Ask the Editor with PokerNews' Rich Ryan: Dream Final Table, Athletes in Poker, and More

Rich Ryan

This week marked the 100th edition of Five Thoughts since I started writing the (mostly) weekly column in April of 2011. My good friend and Editor-in-Chief of PokerNews Donnie Peters stepped in for me this summer while I was in vacation, so next week’s edition will officially be my 100th. I sincerely thank anyone whose read as little as one thought or as many as 495 over the past two and a half years.

A couple of months ago, DP re-launched this Ask the Editor column, and this week I am the lucky subject. Here are some questions sent to us via Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

What advice would you give a semi-pro poker player thinking about following the circuit for the first time? — “sbruner17,” via Instagram

In my opinion, there are three important things you need to address before stepping out the front door and pursuing the circuit. Planning, bankroll management, and variance.

Planning is important because booking transportation and hotels in advance will save you money. It will also help you keep some sort of schedule, which is useful even in the most independent workplaces. Bankroll management is essential because even the best players go on downswings. If you don’t have enough money to sustain your lifestyle on top of your poker bankroll, then I don’t think it’s smart to “take the leap.” And finally, when it comes to live poker, you must understand and accept variance. A month’s worth of live tournaments could be less than a single Sunday schedule on PokerStars. There will be plenty of days where it seems like the bad beats will never end, but understand that it’s hard for variance to balance out during such a small sample size of hands.

What are your thoughts on having several or more draw games in a mixed-cash game? Is it good or bad for the game? — @GregnLV, via Twitter

Is the cash game for fun or for profit? If it’s for fun, then go ahead. The more the merrier. It’s hard to find a good no-limit 2-7 or even triple draw game going. If it’s for profit, then it depends. If you’re a winning player at the games in the mix and want to attract fish looking for a good time, then add the games they want to play. Chances are you’re better than them at the games they want to play. If you’re a break-even player and think that adding games would reduce your win-rate, then it’s no deal.

How many pros are staking out their tournament buy-ins before it starts? It is common for them to hedge most of the buy-in? — @brimartinpoker, via Twitter

I believe there is a direct correlation between the price of the buy-in and the percentage of the field that is receiving staking/backing or has sold shares of their action. In smaller tournaments, where the risk to the average bankroll is minimal, there is very little. In super high rollers, 80-90 percent of the players do not have all of their own action. There is too much risk involved and it makes too much sense to swap with other players to avoid variance.

I find it interesting that you used the words “before it starts,” because swapping during a tournament is also common. This summer, fellow countrymen Michiel Brummelhuis and Jorn Walthaus both made Day 7 of the World Series of Poker Main Event. Understanding the power of variance and the top-heavy pay structure, the two swapped percentages of one another. It obviously worked out for Walthaus, but I doubt Brummelhuis regrets his decision.

What is your favorite interview/podcast guest (excluding Jerry Buss)? What are your favorite/least favorite parts about Las Vegas? Top three foreign cities? Best Donnie Peters story? Best Kristy/Lynn/Sarah story? And most importantly, biggest poker influence freshman year of college? — Jim Aguilar, via Facebook

I’ll answer your last question first. It was you, Jim. You helped me realize that I was just a huge fish donking around in MTTs on Full Tilt Poker. Unfortunately for you, that turned me into a monster, and resulted in your broken hand.

Yes, readers, I beat Jim out of a pot worth no more than $10 and he punched a brick wall because of it. True story.

My favorite non-Jerry Buss podcast guest is another basketball legend — Haralabos Voulgaris. Bob, who’s regarded as one of the best NBA bettors in the world, was informative, funny, and a great storyteller. If you haven’t already, I suggest you guys go back and listen to him talk about Games 6 and 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

My favorite part about Las Vegas is the first week of the WSOP where it feels like the first week of school. My least favorite part about Las Vegas is the absence of time. I never know what time/day/month it is during the WSOP.

Top three foreign cities, in no particular order: Melbourne, Paris, and Berlin. Paris gets such a bad rap because Americans are incapable of being polite.

There are countless DP stories, but I think my favorite was during my first WSOP. Anyone who played poker at Elon University knows that {j-}{5-} was my favorite hand because of the Jackson 5, including DP. Well, the day Michael Jackson died, we were playing in a very friendly $1/$2 game at the South Point. At one point, some jerk sat down and starting running his mouth about MJ, calling him a pervert and other derogatory terms. The first hand the gentleman played, DP stacked him with {j-}{5-}. The man, who had his {k-}{k-} cracked, stood up from the table and stormed off in a fit of rage. I remember DP winning the pot and saying, "That was for MJ." It was glorious.

As for my favorite hostess story, I think Kristy Arnett’s birthday dinner at EPT London this fall was a blast. It was a low-key affair at a nice Indian restaurant where we ate great and laughed a lot.

Do you think you are currently playing the best poker in your life? Or in other words, were you ever better than you are now? Also what's like coolest or most outrageous: bet you've ever made, bet you've ever seen, game you're ever played in (location and/or size and/or lineup) — Mike Sorosky, via Facebook

That’s a very good question. I think that I am playing the best poker of my life (when I can), thanks to the ability to get some hands it on Stars in Trinidad and my experiences over the past five years. However, relative to the average poker player, who is improving more and more each year, I am still a losing player. I don’t have the mental fortitude to play perfectly, I just don’t.

The most outrageous bet I’ve ever made was a $10 wager on the Jets to win the Super Bowl this year. The most outrageous bet I’ve ever seen is DP’s hair bet with Antonio Esfandiari and Jason Mercier. Donnie, who is someone that use to keep his hair basically bald, can’t cut his hair for a year and a half. He’s halfway through the bet and looks insane.

The coolest game I ever played in was the Elon $.25/$.50 game and the famed “Dowdaments.” Outside of Las Vegas, there are probably very few home games as tough as that one was at the time. It also led to me meeting DP, my current boss.

Do you think with the approval of New York State being granted seven new casinos will benefit the poker industry? — Adam Raulli, via Facebook

Yes, but not for a long, long time. This vote is one very small step in a lengthy process that includes town/casino proposals, more voting, construction, and several other things. New York is a massive market, especially if the state opts into iGaming and New York City gets in the mix, but don’t expect anything major for the better part of five years.

What do you believe is a good balance between poker and school? I am thinking of starting up my poker playing again, but am going to continue to work towards my degree. — Richard Alward, via Facebook

I would suggest that you continue towards your degree and focus on poker during your leisure time. Ryan Riess is a great example of a player who finished school and then shifted his focus fully to poker. I’m not saying that that strategy will turn you into a WSOP Main Event winner or $8.3 million richer, but it’s nice to have something to fall back on. Life is full of unseen surprises, and being a multifaceted individual never hurt anyone.

If you could put together your dream final table to play at, who would you include? What five athletes or celebrities would you like to see dive into poker? — Donnie Peters, via Facebook

Let’s see.

1Charles BarkleyVery funny, very entertaining, and I bet he’s turrible.
2Phil IveyOnly caveat is that he must take it serious.
3Rich RyanOf course I have position on Ivey. Duh.
4Matt Damon“Sorry, Matt, I don’t remember.”
5Curtis Martin“Wonderboy” is my favorite New York Jet of all time.
6Philipp GruissemPhilbort is not only a great player, but also hilarious.
7Jason MercierNo OFC on your iPad at the table, sir.
8Paul McCartneyHe must tell one Beatles story per orbit.
9Miley CyrusSomeone has to be twerking, right?

The five athletes/celebrities I want to dive into poker are Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn (combo!), LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Peyton Manning. All of these people are super competitive and, even in a charity event, they wouldn’t hold anything back.

Imagine how hard Peyton would study the game?

Who is Slow-Mo Kobe? — Greg Brzozowski, via Facebook

Very funny, Greg. That would be me. I still have a very mean, yet very slow, turnaround jumper from the elbow.

How do you choose a low buy-in tournament structure worth entering? — Merrill Peterson, via Facebook

Great question. Don’t confuse “deep stack” with “deep structure.” Just because you start off with a lot of chips doesn’t mean the final table won’t have an average stack of 12 big blinds. Look for tournaments that have more than 30-minute blind levels, or a structure that gets longer the deeper you go. Some tournaments will increase the blind levels from 15 minutes to 20, 30, etc.

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