A Poker Champion’s Knack for Knowing

Poker Pro Vanessa Russo

Poker Pro Vanessa Russo

Making the Best Decisions

In poker, the way we used to delineate players who relied on their intuition was to call them “feel players.” This could range from amateurs who knew nothing about strategy to highly decorated players like Phil Hellmuth. Most players start out with some basic strategy combined with gut instinct. As they move up the ranks, their strategy continues to improve and they tend to rely less on feel. They have default hands they specifically open from each position. They develop strategies for certain board textures and learn how to categorize hands that need to be played a certain way. Eventually, at the highest stakes, they may even develop a strategy derived from running millions of simulations on a computer. This process is vital and necessary to becoming a top poker player.

But if everyone is using the same tools, what separates the best from the fifth best? Or twentieth best? Is it superior reasoning ability? Is it a better handle on their emotions? Is it just running more simulations or ‘working harder?’ Amongst the ultra-elite, what makes the difference?

Fedor Holz was the best tournament poker player I’ve ever played with. I have no doubt he would’ve continued to dominate the high-stakes scene had he retired to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. What made Fedor special was…

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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