Class in Session: Howard Lederer on Day 1c of the 2008 Aussie Millions

Howard Lederer, Gavin Smith
Howard Lederer and Gavin Smith in the middle of the tournament.

They call him the Professor and it's likely Howard Lederer knows more about poker than most players will learn in a lifetime.

Lederer is one of the most well-known players in the game and his poker resume is as polished as almost any other pro. He has played in the Big Game and been successful; he's won WPT events and he owns a couple WSOP bracelets. When it comes to poker there is very little Lederer hasn't done.

In recent years Lederer has focused more on the broadcasting aspect of poker and on teaching the finer points of the game to others, and played less himself. In 2008 Lederer seems to have rededicated himself to playing: he promptly won the $100,000 buy-in preliminary event at the Aussie Millions. No small feat considering he was up against some of the best players in the world.

Now Lederer has his sights set on winning the main event and he took the first step in that direction by making it through Day 1c. caught up with Lederer just after the day ended.

How did your day go, Howard?

It was relatively uneventful. For a really long time I was never less than $17,000 but never more than $23,000. I was breaking about even but then at about 1:53 p.m. I lost a couple pots and got down to $8,000. Then I had a key hand where I flopped top pair with a ten kicker. I went all-in on the flop and I thought I was about 50-50 to have the best hand but the guy called me with A-7 for ace-high so I was in great shape.

I doubled-up there to about $17,000 and then I just started rolling from there. I don't even know how I went from $17,000 to $35,000. After that I flopped two pair against top pair and got up to about $60,000. I lost a couple pots to finish the day and ended with around $40,000. Nothing too exciting but it was a good day.

Howard Lederer
School's in session for the Professor.

What was your table like?

Well I played three different tables. I've actually never played the last heat in a major tournament before. I think I like it. I mean all the Iveys, Cunninghams and Seidels were all gone. That's not to say there weren't some good players out there but the great, great players were all missing.

The last day seems like the wrong day to play because you have to play the next day but if you can't play back-to-back days as a poker player then you are in trouble. I don't think it's a huge disadvantage to play the next day. I might do more of these.

Earlier this week you won the pro-heavy $100,000 buy-in event. What was that experience like for you?

Well it was my biggest win. I don't think it was my most prestigious win - I mean there were only 24 other players - but it was my biggest cash in a tournament and that was exciting. It had been a while since I won a tournament and I think I played well.

It was thrilling and it obviously makes the trip more than worthwhile.

What was it like playing against so many great players?

I cut my teeth playing cash games and I think I have a game that's built to hang in there with the best players in the world. That isn't to say that I steamrolled the competition and out-played everybody at the table but I think played well and deserved the win.

Not everyone in that tournament was the best player in the world either. There were definitely a few people in there who were taking a shot.

Howard Lederer
The Ledererian One.

Do you think the $100,000 buy-in caused some players to play more cautiously than they would have normally?

I didn't really see it - at the final table anyway. It seemed like everyone was there to play and the format forced everyone to play. I really liked the format. Pot-Limit before the flop and No-Limit after is very cool. I also liked the 30-second clock. I don't think I necessarily make a decision if I think for two more minutes. I'm a pretty deliberate player so it worked well for my game.

How do you feel your game stacks up against the best?

I have no worries about that. I feel like I can play against the best and I played in the biggest games in the world for 10 years and did well. I've just been busy doing other things the last few years.

I'm definitely a little rusty, though. I don't have my A-game back yet but I am planning on playing a lot more. I'm going to put in a lot of time at the World Series and hopefully after a year I'll be back on the circuit full time. Hopefully I'll sharpen my game up to a sharp point. Right now it can probably make you bleed a little but it can't slice too deep.

Howard you obviously do a lot of commentating; how do you enjoy that compared to actually playing poker?

It's different, you know, and I love that I can do both. Commentating on poker and really trying to convey the beauty and intrigue of the game to people watching at home is a challenge but it's fun and it's satisfying. I certainly wouldn't want to pick one or the other.

Is commentating a bit more relaxing than playing?

I think there's actually a lot of pressure when you are commentating. You are in the booth and you've got to come up with something good to say. A lot of people have worked hard to edit a good show and if you don't add some good voice-over to make it even better... There are a lot of people counting on you. I don't find it easy. I go in there wanting to do a good job and if I do I'm satisfied and if I don't then I'm not. It's just like [playing] poker in that respect.

Do you have a strategy heading into Day 2?

No. I'll just sit down and see how my table is playing. I've got a decent amount of chips but I'm not great. I could be out of there in 10 minutes or I could be on my way to a win. We'll have to see what happens. I don't really think there is a strategy besides accumulating more chips.

Thanks so much, Howard; best of luck tomorrow.

It's particularly frightening that Lederer can win a $100,000 buy-in tournament for $1.2 million and still not feel like he is playing his A-game. If he can really play better then there is no telling what this veteran player can accomplish.

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