Action Replay: WSOP

Tournament expert Paul Jackson takes an honest look at his performance at this year’s World Series of Poker – and some of the valuable lessons he learned from fellow pros

I ended up folding my hand on the river which, in hindsight, was a very poor way to play – a loser’s way

Phil Ivey, probably the best poker player in the world, once said in this magazine that he could not call someone a good poker player simply because they had won a tournament. I completely agree. On any given day absolutely any player with any level of ability could win absolutely any poker tournament.

If I walk into a casino every Saturday and place £1,000 on number 26 on the roulette table, when I do eventually strike it lucky do I suddenly become a good roulette player? If your answer was yes, then would you like to receive advice on winning at roulette following my storming success?

No, in order to be a good poker player you need to have a multifaceted game. And you only get this by testing yourself against consistently successful players. In this year’s WSOP I did badly, but I was pleased to play against Howard Lederer, who either had a good run of cards or utterly outplayed me.

Either way, I may have learned a valuable tool to help me in the future. Very often in a tournament, particularly when I am out of position to a pre-flop raiser, I will flat call with what I regard as a playable hand. The quality of the hand may change depending on the aggression level of my opponent and whether or not I think I may be able to outplay them post-flop.

If I hit some part of the flop (but don’t hit a big hand) and I think it’s likely my opponent has missed, I will tend to check-call. If my opponent bets, the size of the bet usually helps in the decision as to whether or not they have a hand.

Now, check-calling is regarded by many as a weak way of playing poker generally, but I like to keep the pot size under control when I’m not entirely sure where I am. If you check-call on the flop (and also on the turn if necessary) your opponent will often come to the conclusion that, if he has missed the flop and there is no obvious draw that he has put you on, probably the best option is to stop chasing a lost cause.


I attempted to use this tactic against Howard Lederer on four separate occasions, and on each occasion (he had raised in late position and I had called in the blinds and a ragged flop dropped) he bet the flop and turn and I check-called each time holding a small/medium pocket pair.

The amounts of his bets in relation to the pot and the texture of the flop left me of the opinion that it was likely that he did not have a hand and was continuation betting. However, he made progressively larger bets and eventually made significant bets (in relation to both our stacks) after the river card had been dealt.

In the past, when I was in Lederer’s position, two called bets from an opponent would normally lead me to give the betting up. But now, if I can identify an opponent thinking what I was thinking I may well try the same tactic that Lederer used on me.

I ended up folding my hands on the river which, in hindsight, was a very poor way to play my hands – check/call, check/call, check/fold is a loser’s way to play. I may have been better off re-raising on the flop and folding if he came back at me, or at least I could have had the courage of my convictions and called the river bet as well.


The check-call is not always a bad tactic, provided you have the balls (not shrivelled grapes like I had) to follow it through. Most tactics have their place at certain times and it’s important that as your game develops you become aware of as many tactics as possible. You may not like or choose to employ every move, but it is in your interest to at least be aware of them.

I for one have ordered a whole series of poker books and I intend to read every one in order to make myself a better player. I have never read a poker book before, but the way Howard Lederer dealt with me led me to the conclusion that I need to explore every possible avenue to be a better player.

Pin It

Comments are closed.