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Andy Bloch - Calculating A Way to Engineer Himself a Bracelet
Read a bit of Andy Bloch's bio and it's easy to see he's a thinking man's poker player. Seriously, the man holds two electrical engineering degrees from MIT and a JD from Harvard Law School.
PokerListings.com caught up with Andy on dinner break from the 2007 WSOP Event 50, $10,000 World Championship Pot-Limit Omaha where there was just two tables left and Bloch sitting about eighth in chips. Known as one of the best poker players in the world not to have a WSOP Gold Bracelet, we chatted with Andy about what it all means to him and just what's going through that head of his out there on the felt and elsewhere. Unfortunately he busted out just after dinner, but you can bet he'll be back in that spot again sometime very soon.
Andy, you've made your share of final tables, but no bracelets. Does being one of the best players on the planet without World Series Gold bother you?
I'm not losing any sleep over not winning a bracelet, but it would be nice. It's really another thing to add to your poker resume.
If you look at poker stats and lists that track and rank players; WSOP bracelets is one way they track them and when your name has a zero in that column it's kind of annoying. I might not be the highest money winner of all time at the WSOP who hasn't won a bracelet or cashed in the main event, but I'm one of them.
With two engineering degrees, you are a math guy. It sounds like you pay a lot of attention to a lot of the statistics.
It 's fun. At this point the money doesn't mean that much to me, it's more I play for the fun and the pleasure and the challenge and one of the challenges is to try to move up on the money list or try to move up on the all time number of final tables or cashes.
I made two final tables last year. I don't know if my seventh place finish in the triple draw officially counts, technically we play that six handed and I finished seventh so that doesn't really count.I think I had a ninth place finish in stud once and they might have counted that as final table. I've bubbled the final table before so I'm hoping not to do it again.
You are an experienced player taking on the best in the world, but this was a serious field and a tough final two tables. Anybody you are looking over your shoulder at?
Look at Doyle Brunson. He's won more bracelets than I have final tables probably to a factor of two. You know if you think about it that way, the experience factor might just work against me here because there are players with some more experience than me and certainly more Omaha experience.
Admittedly, Omaha is not your best game, but what is?
H.O.R.S.E. is probably my best game because I think I'm pretty good in all the games and I know how to take advantage of my opponents in all the different games.
With your engineering and math background do you actually sit at the poker table working out the probabilities on every hand, or do you play on feel a lot as well?
Well I'm not going to do any calculus when I'm sitting at the table, but I do try to figure out the probabilities. You can't know exactly what the probabilities are unless you know what your opponent's cards are. So you figure out the range of hands you think they might have then you work out the rest; Equity, expectations and what percentage I have of winning the pot against each one of those hands, then I get an average.
You want to get a feel for it, preferably then you can say I'm definitely a 4-1 underdog to win here and the pot is laying me 4-1. Then you have to say maybe I'm getting 4-1 and maybe that's the best I am. Maybe I'm 8-1. Maybe he's bluffing. Maybe I'm even money because he's bluffing. Maybe he's got some of my outs tied up. Maybe I'm drawing to half the pot. So all these things you've got to think about before you make the call.
You add up all the likelihoods and try to read your opponents and adjust it that way. Plus, you've got to think about the rest of the tournament. Are you going to get better opportunities later on or do you have tough opponents that you've got to gamble with?
So is that what attracts you to the game, the probabilities and the challenge in the fact that you can never really know them all?
That's all part of it. The thing is in poker once you have more than two players; there is no optimal game theoretical strategy. You always have to wonder about how your opponents play. Heads up is a great game too. Event though there is an optimal theory and a right way to play it.
With all that education, do you ever think about getting a real job?
I always do. That's why I went to law school. I'm always thinking about what I want to do with my life. I have used my law degree in various ways although I've never represented anyone.
I'd love to be Doyle Brunson. But there's only one Doyle Brunson. There's only one Phil Ivey. But, yes there's room for other people at the top of the poker world and as long as I think I'm playing well and as long as poker keeps going as well as it is; I'll keep going.
I'm not thinking of leaving the world of poker anytime soon, but I am thinking of cutting back. Playing only in the World Series and a number of major televised events. It does get to be a bit of a grind traveling all around and playing all the major events. That is why the World Series is nice because you get to come home for a month and a half and play in all these prestigious events, back to back to back. And you don't have to travel a lot except back and forth to your house.
With your lawsuit against the WPT still on the go, we don't see you out there, so your schedule must be a bit lighter?
Actually I spent most of the last few months before the World Series in Durham because my fiancée was at Duke taking classes there. So I only played a few televised events during that time. Poker After Dark and a pro am equalizer that I won. Australia, NBC Heads Up and except for one extra event in Australia that's really all I've played since the last World Series.
That wasn't that busy. Once a month, once every two months isn't that bad. I'd like to continue on with something similar to that. I'm looking forward now to going to the WSOP Europe in London, the Moscow Millions a month later. It's going to be exciting because I haven't been to Moscow in 18 years and I want to see if anything is the same and see if I remember what it looks like.
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Andy couldn't calculate a way to the final table of the Omaha event, but he's a threat in any event he enters and is sure to be back. Even a light schedule won't stop him from earning his keep on the tables over the next little while and you can bet we'll always find him doing the math on the felt at the WSOP, hoping to win that elusive first bracelet. Year in, year out!