World Series of Poker Official Report
Pius Heinz is the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion.
The 22-year-old professional poker player from Cologne stunned the poker world by becoming the first player in history from Germany to win poker’s most prestigious title. Heinz pulled off a masterful performance during the two-day final table session, which began on Sunday afternoon inside the Penn and Teller Theatre at the Rio in Las Vegas and ended late Tuesday night on a confetti-splattered stage accustomed to acts of magic.
With his stunning comeback victory, Heinz collected a whopping $8,715,638 in prize money – the third- highest payout for any poker champion in history. He was also presented with the game’s most coveted prize, the WSOP gold and diamond bracelet – which symbolizes poker’s supreme achievement.
The odds were stacked against Heinz from the start. First, he had to overcome the third-largest live tournament field in history, battling 6,865 players from 85 different nations who flooded into the Rio last summer in what was the first hurdle for all aspiring champions. Then, Heinz had to outlast an increasingly tougher field over the initial eight days of play, en route to inclusion in poker’s famed “November Nine” – which refers to the final nine players who ultimately make it to poker’s biggest game. Next came a nearly four-month wait during the interim between July and November, after which Heinz returned to Las Vegas hoping to write the latest chapter of poker history.
Indeed, Heinz’s biggest test was still to come. He arrived at the finale against eight formidable opponents with one of the lowest chip stacks -- ranking seventh in chips out of nine players.
Editor’s note: The following is from Jonathan Little’s Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, Vol. 1.
Re-published courtesy of our content partner Ante Up Magazine.
There is much discussion over which style of play is better, one where you try to play lots of small pots, called “small ball,” or one where you try to play a few large pots, called “long ball.” You have to play a decent number of pots if you want to make it in poker tournaments. Waiting for A-A, hoping to double up every time you get it, will not work in the long run. There are three main reasons for this.
First, if you play only premium hands, you will be playing about 7 percent of hands, which is much less than you need to play to maintain your chip stack.
Second, most opponents are observant enough to realize how tight you are playing, so you will rarely get action when you pick up a good hand. On average, you will lose the blinds every orbit but will only win the blinds every 0.7 orbits, meaning that you should expect to lose 0.3 sets of blinds on every orbit. This will clearly cause you to go broke over time.
Finally, even if you are patient and get all the money in as a 2-to-1 favorite, you will usually have blinded off your stack so much that even if you win the hand, you will just be back at the stack you started with. For example, say you have 20 big blinds and decide to blind off until you get a premium hand. If you blind down to 10BBs and get all-in with A-A vs. 4-4, you will double up 80 percent of the time to 20BBs, which is where you started, and 20 percent of the time you will go broke.
Waiting for a big hand is a sure way to go broke in no-limit hold’em tournaments. Weaker players often say that if they didn’t constantly suffer bad beats, they would do well in tournaments. They fail to realize that everyone will lose hands as a huge favorite throughout a tournament. You have to build up a large chip stack to survive these beats and still have a chance to win. If you are blinding off and waiting for a big hand, you are setting yourself up to get all-in, which leads to going broke. If you can avoid ever being all-in throughout a tournament, it will be tough to go broke.
That does not mean you should raise to three big blinds out of your 10BB stack and fold to an all-in reraise. It means that you should keep a large stack and maintain the aggression, picking up numerous small pots while still getting large amounts of money in as a favorite. Small ball is so effective because people fold too often. If you can make most opponents fold by raising to 2.2BBs preflop, and then betting 2.5BBs on most flops, by all means do it.
In the high-stakes tournaments, though, most players realize that when they’re getting 5-to-1 to see a flop, they should usually take it. Also, when they are getting 3-to-1 on the flop, there are huge odds to call or bluff. Because of this, the extreme version of small ball that is preached by a few of the big tournament winners does not work too well in high-stakes tournaments. I have figured out that if, instead of basically min-raising preflop, you raise to 2.5BBs and make reasonably-sized continuation bets, you will accomplish all the goals of small ball, while still getting some of the respect of a long-ball player.
When you raise more than your fair share of pots, people will eventually start to call. This isn’t a problem if you will be in position in most hands and can induce your opponents to fold postflop. Because of this, you need to size your raises preflop a little larger so you can later make flop and turn bets a little larger, which will get you many more folds. You need to be in position. If you are constantly raising hands out of position, you are destined to lose.
Another huge benefit of this hybrid style that I play is that when you actually get a good hand, instead of winning only a decent amount of chips, you can usually get your opponent’s entire stack. If you min-raise preflop and then bet half-pot on the flop, you will find it tough to get your entire stack in if you make a strong hand. If you raise just a tiny bit more preflop, you can get all-in as long as your stack is around 80BBs or less, which it will be once you get to the middle stages of most tournaments, because the pot tends to grow exponentially in no-limit hold’em. People generally bet around the size of the pot or a bit less, so you tend to make small bets if the pot is small and larger bets as the pot grows. You don’t have to make larger bets. But it’s an option. It’s well worth the risk of raising by 0.3BB more before the flop to give yourself more options throughout the hand. Because you are raising to a slightly larger amount preflop, you should tighten your range. You need to win a higher percentage of pots preflop because you’re giving yourself slightly worse odds to steal the blinds. This is usually negligible though, as the extra 0.3BB you raise over a normal small-ball strategy will win the blinds a higher percentage of the time.
All winning poker players are aggressive. If you take the passive route on most hands, you will find yourself losing money. If a winning player thinks a play is profitable, he will make the play. In fact, not making aggressive plays that you know you should make is similar to burning money. In order to take home first prize, unless you get a great run of cards, you are going to have to take some risks. The best way to take risks is to be aggressive. This will give you a chance to play some big pots, and pick up numerous small pots along the way.
— Jonathan Little is the Season 6 WPT Player of the Year and is a representative for Blue Shark Optics. If you want to learn to play a loose-aggressive style, which will constantly propel you to the top of the leaderboards, check out his poker training website at FloatTheTurn.com.
Re-published courtesy of our content partner Ante Up Magazine.
To poker players, predominate is a word probably not often used in their vocabulary; however, to good players “predominate” is the way they approach the game every time they play.
The famous line from Rounders echoes in the minds of these players: “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”
The goal of every decent player is to be able to sit at a table and assess the players, then use skill to prevail. To these players luck exists, but does not control the game at the end of the day.
If a poll was taken of every player at a table one night testing the veracity of these statements, particularly related to games of deepstack hold’em, overwhelmingly the sentiment would affirm their truth and affirm their operation as unwritten rules of the game.
So why is it courts of law across the country have such a difficulty understanding poker at its core is a game whose outcome is primarily driven by the skill of the players?
Two recent cases highlight the basic flaws in justice when poker is put on trial as to whether it is a legal game of skill or an illegal game of chance. The cases are Com. v. Dent, 992 A. 2d 190 (Pa.Super. 2010) from Pennsylvania and Three Kings Holdings, L.L.C. v. Six, 2011 WL 2279039 (Kan.App.) from Kansas.
In putting variations of Texas Hold’em on trial, these courts applied what is known as the “predominance” test to determine whether the games were legal games of skill such as bowling and golf or illegal games of chance such as slot machines and craps. The predominance test, true to the definition, is based on what dominates in determining the outcome of the game, a player’s skill or blind chance within the game.
The judges found that in bowling or golf “though chance inevitably intervenes, it’s not inherent in the game and does not overcome skill, and the player maintains the opportunity to defeat chance with superior skill.” In contrast in poker, “a skilled player may give himself a statistical advantage but is always subject to defeat at the turn of a card, an instrumentality beyond his control.” The courts found this to be “a critical difference.”
Despite the testimony from experts in statistics, psychology and poker who testified to the contrary, the judges chose to look solely at the uncertainty of the turn of a card as the dominant factor in the game, which swings the balance to make poker an illegal game predominated by chance. The result of these cases led to the barroom game in Kansas and the home games in Pennsylvania being shut down and deemed illegal.
Player frustrations with these rulings and the fallacy of the courts logic aside, keep in mind a trusted lawyer’s maxim that “you can’t beat the guy in the robe in his court room.” However, you can look for these guys at the poker tables, with their lack of understanding of the game; they will be the ones with “sucker” written across their forehead enjoy teaching them a lesson in “predominance.”
— Marc W. Dunbar represents several gaming clients before the Florida Legislature and teaches gambling and parimutuel law at the Florida State’s College of Law. Follow him on Twitter (@FLGamingWatch) or his website (floridagamingwatch.com).