"Life's a Gamble" Chronicles the History of Poker and Mike Sexton
"Life's a Gamble" Chronicles the History of Poker and Mike Sexton
While one of the multitude of Day 1s in the WPT500 was playing out in the Aria tournament area, some qualifiers were getting a different type of gamble below.
Mike Sexton’s new book, “Life’s a Gamble,” had its launch party at one of the Aria’s restaurants this Saturday night.
The booze was free, the hors d'oeuvres were fancy and the Royal Flush Girls were around for players to awkwardly take pictures with.
It was in a quartered-off portion of the restaurant, a tiny slice of the glory days where Party Poker and other poker sites threw exorbitant parties the size of tiny villages.
Sexton’s book details that era of poker, and everything before it dating back to the start of the World Series of Poker. The book also details the era of Sexton, it’s an autobiography with an emphasis on gambling.
PokerListings caught up with Sexton at the launch to ask him a few questions about his new book.
PokerListings: What sets this book apart from other poker books?
Mike Sexton: My book is not a how-to book. That's the first thing. It's also a fun entertaining read and I believe all poker players, golfers, people who like action of any kind are going to thoroughly enjoy this book.
It's not just an autobiography about me, it's about the history of poker. There's also stories and chapters on the icons of poker and things that people might not know about them.
Stu Ungar, Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson, Billy Baxter, all the real legends of the poker world. It's a fun read.
PL: Is there one poker memory that sticks out?
MS: For me, personally, the best poker memory is getting inducted into the poker hall of fame. It's the highest honor you can get as a poker player.
It's not about winning a tournament or having a good year, it's a career achievement award so, nothing will ever top that.
But I got a lifetime achievement award, I've won a bracelet at the WSOP I've won a million dollars in the World Series of Poker Tournament championship.
I've had a lot of highlights but number one will always be getting inducted into the hall of fame.
PL: A lot of your book is about the history of poker. Where do you see poker headed in the future?
MS: Obviously poker is going to be expanding globally. That's good. They want internet poker to come back now to the U.S., that's number one.
You know, hopefully, in the future, what I'd like to see happen in poker is the action clock.
I'd like it to take place in all cash games and all tournaments to speed up the game and make it better and more fun for everybody.
I love what Party Poker is doing now too. Instead of qualifying people online for like day 1 of a tournament, they're qualifying you automatically to day 2, when you're playing for the money.
I think that combination is fantastic.
It allows so many more people to play, but now they can play at home. They don't have to spend a couple of days of expenses coming over here to play.
But now, they're in the money when they get here so it's fantastic. I think it's the future. They're doing a great job with it. They're bringing poker back to the people.
PL: So you've written an autobiography, you've been inducted into the hall of fame, what's next for you?
MS: What's next is that I'm starting Season 15 on the World Poker Tour that's what's next.
I'm excited about it, it's fun.
Party Poker is doing good things these days. We're going to a big event in Punta Cana later in the fall. It's an exciting time coming up. I'm not retired, I'm not going anywhere for a year or two at least.
So I'm thrilled to be around and I just want to continue to see poker grow and elevate itself in the eyes of the public and to do good things for charity like they're doing.
So I'm proud to be involved with poker.
10-Minute Crash Course in Texas Hold'em Poker
10-Minute Crash Course in Texas Hold'em Poker
Heading to Vegas for the weekend? Looking to try your hand at the game you’ve seen so often on TV?
Have no clue where to start? Here’s our 10-minute Texas Hold'em crash course to get you on your way.
Every couple months or so I'll have someone come up to me and tell me
that they're going to Vegas for a couple days and they always ask me
the same thing:
"What kind of poker tips can you give me?"
That question led to this article. So if you are going to give poker a
shot, read this article first and your chances of success will improve
Editor's Note: This article assumes that you know the basics of how to play the game of Texas Hold'em. If you're unsure of the rules, check out the Texas Hold'em rules and Poker Hand Rankings first.
Is Poker Gambling?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is no, with a but.
Poker is gambling insofar as you can't control which cards you get,
which cards your opponent will get or which cards will come on the flop.
But you can control when you put money into the pot.
By only putting money into the pot when the situation is favorable to
you, and folding when the situation is unfavorable to you, you can win
money in the long run playing poker.
You may still lose in the short term because of those uncontrollable elements. But if you regularly make better decisions than the majority of your opponents, you will more than likely make money.
Texas Hold'em is a game about hand strength. Only the best hand wins
at showdown. So you want to plan to have the best hand at showdown
before you put a single penny in the pot.
It all begins when you're dealt your two hole cards. You want to play only the best possible hands before the flop because they make the best hands after the flop.
Generally you want to be playing around 18-20% of
your hands at a full nine-handed poker table. It doesn't seem like many
hands, and it isn't, but it's the best way to show a profit.
Hold'em is often just as much about the hands you fold as the hands
you play. If you play too many hands, you simply won't be able to
profit. You'll be throwing away too much money with weak hands to make
it back with your good hands.
Before you even see a flop you want to think about what hands you can make with the two cards you've been dealt.
Your goal is to make "top" pair (no other possible pair in combination with the board cards that can be higher than yours) after the flop with a very good kicker or better.
Or you want a hand that has a reasonable expectation of making a big
hand (straight, flush, etc) on a later street. Check out the hands below
to see what you should consider as playable before the flop.
How to Play Monsters: AA, KK, QQ, JJ
These hands are already huge hands.
A single pair is often the best hand at showdown and these will often make an overpair to the board.
These hands are all extremely profitable and you should raise them whenever you are dealt them.
With AA-KK and even QQ you can and should re-raise.
These hands, when they hit the flop, usually make top pair with a good kicker.
Kickers are very important in texas holdem poker
because two players will often flop the same pair and it comes down to
the kicker to break the tie. When you have one pair your kicker is
almost always going to play.
For example, on a A♦ 3♠ 4♠ 7♦ 2♥ board, A♠ Q♠ will beat A♥ T♥ because the winning hand of A♠ A♦ Q♠ 7♦ 4♠ is better than A♥ A♦ T♥ 7♦ 4♠.
When you play tight you're going to be winning the battle of the
kickers and your loose opponents will be paying you off with worse
Top-pair hands you can also play if there is a raise in front of you
by just calling and seeing the flop. If nobody has raised in front you
should raise these hands for value before the flop.
These are the only weak aces you should ever play. The reason why
A-Xs hands are playable and other ace-rags are not is because they are
suited and can make the nut flush.
If you make the ace-high flush you're going to win your opponent's
entire stack if he has a smaller flush. That said, many players get into
trouble when they flop a pair of aces, only to be beaten by someone
with a pair of aces and a better kicker.
Remember your goal. You want to take a cheap shot at flopping a flush
draw. You don't want to get involved with a pair of aces and a weak
A-Xs hands should not be played against a raise unless it's very small and there are many players. Cheap flops are the key.
How to Play All Other Hands
All other hands should be avoided like the plague. It will just be
too difficult to turn a profit playing any more than the outlined
hands. Over time as you get better at poker you can gradually add more
hands, but when you're learning you want to keep things simple.
Good hands before the flop means good hands after the flop. Good
hands after the flop mean easier decisions for you. Keep it simple.
As soon as the flop comes out, evaluate your hand. Look at the board,
look at what hands are possible and how your hand stacks up.
Remember: you want to make top pair or better or
have a reasonable chance at a big hand. If you have a pair that's
smaller than top pair and there's a bet, get out of the way and fold.
If you have top pair with a good kicker, call or bet yourself. Entire chapters of poker strategy books are dedicated to playing on the flop so we're going to continue keeping it simple here.
Examine how the hand has played out and remember: top pair is a good
hand, but if multiple people are raising it may not be good enough.
If you have better than top pair - two pair or a set for example - you should often raise to get value from worse hands.
A note on draws: A draw is when you can either make a straight
or a flush on the next card. Draws are big hands because straights and
flushes are almost always good enough to win at showdown.
All draws are not considered equal however. For example 5♦ 6♦ on a 7♥ 3♥ A♦ board only has four outs - the four 4s - and the draw is weaker still because the 4♥ may also give someone a flush.
When you need the middle card to make your straight it's known as a
gutshot. The better straight draw is known as an open-ender. For example
8♠ 9♠ on a 6♥ 7♠ J♦ board. In this example there are twice as many outs as a gutshot.
Open-enders are much stronger than gutshots. Gutshots should seldom
be taken past the flop unless you get a free look or the betting is
extremely small. Flush draws have nine outs (based on 13 cards of each
suit in the deck) and are very strong.
You generally can call one bet on the flop and if you miss on the turn you should abandon hope unless the betting is small.
Usually by the time it gets to the turn there are only 2-3 players
left. When a player makes it to the turn he generally has at least some
piece of the board.
If you have the lead in the hand (meaning you've initiated the
betting) and the turn changes nothing you should often keep betting. If
the turn completes the flush or the straight draw you should often tread
If you bet and get raised, it's often best to just fold.
How to Play On the River
The last street, the river, is usually contested heads-up. Use the
information your opponent has given you throughout the hand to figure
out whether you should bet or call a bet.
Each play your opponent makes tells you a little bit more about his
hand. If he raises before the flop, then bets the flop and the turn and
now bets again on the river, he usually has a big hand.
Conversely if he raises before the flop, bets into you on the flop,
checks the turn and checks the river, he's usually going to be
weak. Again there are thousands of different variables and going through
all of them is impossible.
Use critical thinking to figure out what your opponent may have and act accordingly.
Why You Should Play in Position
Position is one of the most important factors in Texas
Hold'em. Position refers to your position in relation to the dealer
button, which identifies which player acts last during the hand.
Acting last is a huge advantage in poker because you have more
information. When you act last you know if your opponent wanted to check
or bet. You get to see everyone's actions before you decide what to do.
Nobody can see the next card or showdown until you say. You are in
complete control. Because of that, when you're in position you can play
more hands than you normally would because you will have the inherent
advantage of acting last.
Though poker is a game that you can beat in the long term, it's still
gambling to some degree. You make decisions and then random cards come
out. You control when you put money in but you don't control the deck.
It's that element of luck that makes the game interesting but it's
also that element of luck that can make the game extremely frustrating.
You can make every decision right the entire night and still lose the
session. You can make every right decision all week and still
lose. Conversely you can see some idiot in seat 10 play every hand and
win a ton.
It's the nature of the game. It's what keeps the fish (bad players)
interested, so embrace it. Look at each situation individually and make
the best possible decision.
If you do that every time you will be a successful poker player in
the long term. Try to downplay the importance of short-term results.
And last but not least: Have fun. Poker's a fun game, so don't take it too seriously. If you're ready to give it a shot online, check out the:
Every week we have a new question related to Texas Hold’em strategy made by our PokerListings experts. This is a chance to test your knowledge on the game of poker. When you have chosen your move, we will explain what we would have done and why on the next page.
You can also go directly to one of our partners and test your skills against other players.
What should you do?
Live $1/$2 game. Play is fairly bad and average player is pretty fishy.You jack your A♦K♣ to $12 from UTG. Folded to a bad player on the button who calls. Heads-up flop of 3♥7♥A♣. You bet out $18; he calls. Turn 8♠. You bet out $40. He calls again. At this point you're fairly sure he has a draw. River 3♦. What do you do on the river?
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