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Watching the Big Guys Live

I have been a poker pro for more than seven years now, and I can say that it’s been a whole lot of fun. But sometimes, watching poker can be fun, too! For quite some time now, I have been the reporter at some fairly large European poker tournaments, and this has been both a pleasant pastime as well as very educational. Over the years, I’ve been an eyewitness at some spectacular events. For instance, I witnessed an epic battle at the Master Classics. When down to threehanded, “Chief” Rob Hollink missed one hand on the button because he came back too late from his bathroom break. Yet, he still came from behind to beat one of the biggest stars in poker, Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott. Also at the Master Classics, I saw back-to-back wins from Christer Johansson and Koray Saka, and I was there at the main event when 15 minutes before closing the tournament was still threehanded yet managed to finish in time. I’ve seen Marcel “Flying Fox” Luske make at least one final table at every Master Classics, not just because of his talent but also because of his unparalleled desire to show the world and the people in Amsterdam that he is truly the best. And at the World Heads-Up Championships, I have been able to watch American stars like Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen, Paul Phillips, and “Miami” John Cernuto do their business — quite impressively, to say the least.

There are some people who claim that watching pkv games poker is like watching paint dry — a useless and boring activity. I disagree. If you are someone who is constantly trying to improve your game, watching other good players in action is an excellent way to learn new things. Actually, that is precisely how I made my first steps into playing poker for a living. By watching the good players play and by trying to copy the good traits of some successful players, while taking notice of some of their specific weaknesses, I learned not to make the same mistakes that they were making. When I was still a dealer at Vienna’s Concord Card Casino, I was able to watch high rollers and other good players from close distance. While not all of them impressed me to the same degree, I could see firsthand the players who were winning and the players who were acting like they were winning, and I was able to make a fairly good estimate of the reasons why poker players could be successful or not. I know that a lot of dealers are not interested at all in what’s happening at the tables, but I was. I wanted to learn exactly what was needed to become a successful player, so that once I had made the step myself, I would not fall into the same traps as others before me had done. I still believe that a willingness to learn, a true desire to improve my own game, and modesty regarding my own abilities in relation to others have helped me grow steadily as a player to the point where I am now. And even after all these years of play, I still don’t mind at all looking at how other people do things, as I am confident that there are always things that could be improved, renewed, or both.

Watching the Big Guys Online

As I already discussed in one of my previous columns, there are quite a few (in my view) high-quality players in my home country, The Netherlands. They are all people I know fairly well and have played against on numerous occasions. Two of them play on the Internet a lot, and for much higher stakes than I feel comfortable playing. Because it seems that they are more than holding their own in the biggest online games, I don’t mind at all watching them play all night long. I want to see how they do things and why they make certain decisions, so that maybe in time I can incorporate their moves into my own game.

So, when I heard that Rob Hollink was in action in one of the biggest games on the Net, $25-$50 no-limit hold’em at UltimateBet, I decided to log in and observe him as well as one or two other good players. One of the biggest moneymakers online, Prahlad Friedman, was also sitting at the same table as Rob, so I knew that this would be a highly educational night for me. Over a period of four or five hours, I made notes of everything I saw and every noteworthy decision that either Rob or Prahlad made, in order to analyze what was going on in what I perceived to be the “Champions League of Poker.” And even though I have just recently made the transfer to playing online, I am certain that just watching them play will give me many new insights. I believe that my online game will almost certainly reach a much higher level than it would have reached without doing this kind of research or analysis.

Some Final Words

A couple of days ago I dropped by Ed de Haas’ place; he lives just around the corner from me. When I arrived at his mansion he was playing online, and since I like watching his game a lot (and also because he likes to be watched), it came as no surprise that I would sit down to see him in action. I have rarely seen so much money switch hands in so little time, and Big Eddie did his part by combining some expert plays with a few minor lapses of judgment; but overall, he won a lot of money in a fairly short period of time. It makes me feel a little humble, to tell you the truth, seeing people win or lose as much money in one hand as I make in an entire year of writing. Big Eddie made me feel even more humble when he saw a table with a lot of Scandinavian online pros, and said, “See, Rolf, let’s make these guys a little hot.” On a table where the biggest stack was $6,000, he bought in for $50,000, and then chose the “sit out” option. Then, when the big blind reached him, he immediately cashed out his $50,000 again. Laughing at me, he said with a big smile of triumph, “Rolf, you see, they are all hot now.”

When I left his place and stepped into my car, I wasn’t too sure that I had actually learned anything. I looked back at Big Ed behind his computer screen, still with a big smile on his face. He was on his way to booking a monster win. ´