For Phil, it’s academic

Jul 3, 2006 11:54 PM

By Maria Carrillo

Special to GT

Former co-host of "Celebrity Poker Showdown" and professional poker player Phil Gordon has taken another step into the bustling business of poker with the launch of the new Las Vegas Academy.

On Saturday, June 25, I and a group of budding poker sharks experienced Gordon’s affable character and "Expert Insight" into the very popular game of Texas Hold’em Poker. In addition to Phil Gordon’s morning seminar, Andy Bloch, former member of the MIT blackjack team, held an afternoon seminar on blackjack strategy for those looking for that "edge" that would make them winning blackjack players.

The session started at the Regal Cinemas where the Las Vegas Academy had rented one of the Cineplex theatre rooms.

I had to wonder if the reason for holding class in a movie theatre, instead of a casino conference room, had to do with Andy Bloch teaching card counting. This is a technique that is frowned upon by casinos though it is completely legal in Nevada.

As we got more into the discussion of card counting, my paranoia subsided and I realized that a movie theatre was a good venue for an "academy" environment. It reminded me of my college days and attending lectures in big auditoriums.

Attendee’s received copies of Gordon’s "Little Green Book" on audio CD, Gordon’s Texas Hold’em computer game, Full Tilt T-shirts and free copies of "Bluff" magazine. In addition, continental breakfast was available including coffee, drinks, muffins and bagels. Not a bad haul for a seminar price of $199.

Class started with Phil Gordon’s presentation on poker. He led off with the six qualifying characteristics that make a champion player: aggressiveness, patience, ability to observe, courage and the desire to improve.

From there the lecture moved into more esoteric topics such as the importance of hand selections when you are in certain positions during the game. Particular attention was paid to the concept of raising the pot when you are first to act.

Ancillary topics included pre-flop statistics, raising and betting strategies, GAP concept and trap hands, table image, pot odds, hand outs, short stack strategy, risks at the river, tells and risking the bluff.

At the beginning of the seminar, Phil offered a money back guarantee to any student who felt that they didn’t learn anything from the material presented.

Since I started my poker journey one year ago, I have become a "seminar junkie," attending both WPT Boot Camps and a couple of free seminars occasionally offered around town. I was afraid that any information presented would be a repeat of material I had already heard. But Phil’s presentation of the Breakeven Point (BEP) in relation to pot odds and hand out calculations triggered the proverbial "light bulb moment" when a theoretical concept finally becomes clear.

I had always been able to calculate the number of outs I had after the flop using Gordon’s "Rule of Four" and after the turn using his "Rule of Two."

I could even calculate my pot odds (how much I’m getting for the size of my bet). But I was never really sure what to do with these two data points once I calculated them. "Do I call or do I fold?"

This has been a major leak in my game and one reason why I hate playing drawing hands. I never knew when it was mathematically appropriate to chase the draw. I know I’ve lost hundreds of dollars this year by throwing away drawing hands that the pot was giving the correct odds to call.

Needless to say, this little "clarifying moment" will more than pay for the price of the seminar in the future. Thanks, Phil!

Counting cards
with Andy Bloch

After a lunch break, we came back to start the second portion of the seminar with Andy Bloch. I’ve always had a wild streak in me, having lead the life of an adrenaline junkie searching for the next fix. The thought of "Bringing Down the House" is intriguing, titillating and completely fascinating. I was captivated by the thought that beating the house is mathematically possible when you have the proper edge, skill and bankroll to conduct business.

As it turns out, card counting is not difficult and can be mastered with the right dedication and practice. Andy demonstrated the technique using simulations during his presentation. The difficultly of playing blackjack in this manner lies not in the technicality of counting cards, but in the execution of making money without getting kicked out of the casino.

Andy’s presentation was sprinkled with video clips from a documentary, "The Hot Shoe" by David Layton, and showed that counting cards, while perfectly legal, is not for the feign of heart or those who don’t enjoy a good "cat and mouse" game. I can’t wait to try it.

After the presentations there was a 45-minute Q&A session with the instructors as well as the requisite signing of autographs and taking of pictures. Of the approximate 100 students in the seminar, roughly half of them traveled from out of town to attend the class. One student even drove to Las Vegas from North Dakota to attend the conference, which was a testament to Phil Gordon’s popularity and respect as an instructor.

It’s been said that, "Those who CAN’T DO”¦ Teach" and "Those that DO”¦ CAN’T TEACH". Then there are those rare individuals who CAN DO and CAN TEACH. Phil Gordon is one of them. His insight and knowledge into the subject of Texas Hold’em is paralleled with the likes of Brunson, Harrington, Malmuth, and Skalansky.

However, Phil has the ability to communicate the concepts and theories to even the most novice players with a very concise, detailed and organized train of thought. Something I have yet to see from the other luminaries of the poker world. Well done, coach!