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Phil-anthropy: An Interview with Phil Gordon
One of the biggest names at this World Series of Poker Circuit event and representing Team Full Tilt, Phil Gordon was the center of attention for much of Day 1. The target of flashing cameras and autograph-seeking fans, Phil was able to escape for a few minutes to speak with us about poker, pending litigation and charity.
Phil, let's start by talking a bit about this tournament. It's the first Circuit event for the Council Bluffs Horseshoe, how is it going in your opinion?
First of all, I think this is a hidden gem; this is a great poker room. The staff is very friendly. The people are very friendly. There are a lot of great amenities, restaurants and bars; this will definitely not be my last time visiting the area. It's a fantastic place, and it's pretty much unknown.
Right on, tell us about the table you just moved to. We've seen you making some really strong plays and you seem to be really comfortable.
Yeah, you know, I haven't been getting out of line really. There are definitely a few players here who play a bit too tight, so I'm looking to take advantage of that. There are really only two players at the table who like to re-raise. I've always been a preacher of the fact that aggression is the great equalizer, so for their sake, I'd like to see them re-raising more than just flat-calling.
I probably have more experience than anyone at the table, and when you're playing against someone that's better, you should play hyper-aggressively or at least more aggressively than you would otherwise.
We've seen you at a lot of these Circuit events, with so few big name pros showing up what is it that draws you?
Well, these events, including the World Series of Poker Championship, are the most prestigious tournaments in the world. I'm in a unique situation where I can't play in the World Poker Tour Events because of their draconian policies towards the players, therefore I'm going to play as many Circuit events as I can until they come around, which I hope will be soon.
Would you care to share your thoughts about the lawsuit and what's going to happen in the future?
I think they're going to lose. I think they're going to lose, and I think they're going to have to finally start treating the players fairly. If you compare the release you have to sign to play in this event to the release you have to sign to play in a WPT event, you can't even compare it. Harrah's is eminently fair to the players in protecting their names, likenesses and images and the World Poker Tour is not.
Alright, having seen the caliber of play here today, has it impacted your strategy at all going forward in this event?
I like my chances. These guys don't get a chance to play against a lot of "name pros," and they generally play too tight. They're more willing to fold; they're don't really want to defend their blinds or re-raise you; they play very passively. I'm looking to minimize the number of big confrontations I get in, and I'm looking to steal two to two-and-a-half big blinds each time around.
I want to control the small pots, kind of a Phil Hellmuth or Daniel Negreanu style. That's not been one of my big strengths, but I'm working on it, and I think this is a great format to test those skills. I haven't had more than a third of my chips in the pot, and hopefully I can continue to do that. When I won Bay 101 a few years ago I was never all-in in the entire tournament.
A lot of great players really stress the importance of that concept.
Yeah, I mean look at it this way, if you're never all-in, you can never be all-out. (Laughs.)
You mentioned that these players are playing too tight and too passive, and it's interesting because a lot of pros have told me that amateurs love to come after them.
Well, I do see both, but in general I don't think that's the case. When they're playing against people like Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu, people just fold too much. It gets in their head when they're in the pot that they're just going to get outplayed, and so they just fold and when the players fold it's easy to pick up chips. When we get back from dinner we're going to be at $200/$400 with a $50 ante, so there's a lot of money in the pot already. You're really not looking for confrontations.
Cool, to get away from this event for a second, tell us a bit about how your charity work's going. What kind of growth has the Bad Beat on Cancer organization experienced in the last year?
We've been doing great. We've raised about $2 million in the course of the last five years using poker as a fundraising vehicle. It's just amazing the number of people who step up to the plate and pledge. Paul Wasicka, who was at the final table of the WSOP Main Event, pledged 1% of his $6 million, so I can't give him enough thanks. Phil Hellmuth donated $25,000 at this World Series, and we had several other deep finishers who pledged.
We are going to step up this year and do something a little bit different. I'm still working out the details with Harrah's and with the other players but what I want to do is going to be called the "Bad Beat Seminar Series" and every Saturday and Sunday you'll be able to get a one hour seminar from one of the world's leading pros.
It'll be a group seminar, two or three hundred people we hope, and it'll cost $100, plus you have to pledge 1% of your winnings from the WSOP. But if you look at the value you get for $100 compared to the WPT Boot camp or even the WSOP Boot Camp, it's a no-brainer! Also for $500 you can get a badge that you can keep which will get you into all the seminars. So I'm really hoping to get that series kicked up and raise two or three hundred thousand for the foundation.
How far into the development of this project are you, is it going to go through?
I think it'll go through, yeah. I know the players will donate their time, there's no question about that.
I think there will definitely be a demand from people wanting to attend.
Yeah, I mean if you're entering a $1,500 tournament, you might as well spew another $100 and listen to Chris "Jesus" Ferguson talk about being short-stacked or Howard Lederer talk about Zen and poker. It'll be people like Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey. The players who the people want to hear are the ones who are willing to donate an hour of their time to a good cause.
That sounds really cool.
Yeah I think it's going to be great, we'd love to have you there.
I'll be there, thanks for taking the time to talk.
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Phil Gordon is one of the surprisingly numerous pros who have found a way to use their success in poker to fuel charitable ventures. It's refreshing to speak with someone who is as passionate, if not more so, about philanthropy as the game of poker. Unfortunately for Phil, the good karma he's been racking up did not come to bear on the event today.
He got his money in pre-flop with pocket kings against an opponent's big slick but was unable to dodge an ace. Severely crippled, he managed to hang on until the next level before being sent to the rails. In support of Phil-anthropy, this is Matt Showell.