The Man with No Leaks

Allen Cunningham

Last week we looked at poker players with "leaks."

Guys with serious tournament and cash-game winnings who piss it away at craps tables, golf courses and other money-sucking ventures.

poker reading focuses on the psychology of the game and not so much on arcane topics like game theory.

"How good do you think you are?" I asked.

Pete laughed, "No one should ever think he [is] at his peak. I'm always learning and, importantly, I try to be totally honest with myself."

When I pushed him, he said he needs to improve on understanding people. "At my level, you have to read people. I think I'm pretty good but I need to improve - especially reading body language when playing live."

Cards, Money and People

I fed Pete the standard line that at the highest levels you play people, not cards. "Well," he responded, "this is a generalization; but at the higher levels, in order to play people you need to have big money. There is huge flux in Pot-Limit games."

"How about backers?" I wondered.

"I play with my own money ... now," he answered. "I've had backers but didn't feel comfortable. But I will trade off a piece of action with a close friend mainly to reduce variance."


"Yes, it's true. We live off the fish. I love tourists, but a lot of my income is from regular contributors. Actually, if you were to ask me what the key to my job is, I would say 'entertaining fish' and never, ever say anything negative about them to anyone. If you do, you can be sure it will get back to them."

Keys to Success

I asked my friend for a few words on specific topics:

Long losing streaks: "They're part of life - all life. If they get really bad I'll take a break, drop to a lower level, or tighten up a bit."

Bad beats; going on tilt: "I have no tilt in me. I just don't get upset. Bad beats are part of the game and, for the most part, put on you by bad players who will give you back the money."

Longevity: "I can see myself doing this the rest of my life. I can also see myself doing something else. I did before; I could again."

Daniel Negreanu
The key to the game: thinking deeply before each move.

Leaks: "Nope, don't have any. I've never been tempted. Most of the guys who leak are 'action junkies.' I'm a poker player. I like that. For me it's more of a thinking type challenge than an adrenaline rush."

Last Bits of Advice

"Since you asked, sure," Pete said generously.

"The key to this game is to think deeply before each move. Make sure you make the right decision. If you do that, everything else will be fine. I never worry whether I'm behind or ahead - only whether or not I've been making the right decisions."

We walked out of the restaurant and I was feeling real good about the game of poker.

Author Bio:

Arthur Reber has been a poker player and serious handicapper of thoroughbred horses for four decades. He is the author of The New Gambler's Bible and coauthor of Gambling for Dummies. Formerly a regular columnist for Poker Pro Magazine and Fun 'N' Games magazine, he has also contributed to Card Player (with Lou Krieger), Poker Digest, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Titan Poker. He outlined a new framework for evaluating the ethical and moral issues that emerge in gambling for an invited address to the International Conference of Gaming and Risk Taking.

Until recently he was the Broeklundian Professor of Psychology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Among his various visiting professorships was a Fulbright fellowship at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Now semi-retired, Reber is a visiting scholar at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

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