Devin Porter

How to make the final table, get your mug on TV and boost your bank balance

The player

If you’re trying to avoid bubbling people will take advantage and you’ll lose a lot of chips, a lot of firepower

After honing his skills online, where he made some five-figure scores, 23-year-old American Devin Porter shot to fame with a fourth place finish in the 2005 Ultimate Poker Classic, and then proved it was no fluke by placing third in the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown in May this year. He then finished in the top 2.5 percent of Main Event finishers, before being signed by UltimateBet in the summer. Definitely one to watch.

Do you go into a tournament with a pre-game strategy?
I think that’s a mistake, because every table is different. The first step is to observe. Obviously, if you’re dealt pocket Aces you’re going to play them, but I like to play relatively tight in the first hour and watch everything. I see who’s going to gamble and who wants to just stick around because they’re playing with the pros. I do have a goal on the first day of a major event – I want to doubleand- a-half up. So if I start with 10,000 chips, I want to be at 25- 30,000 at the end of the day.

In the early stages what kind of hands are you looking to play? I’m going to play a lot of pots and see a lot of flops, because that’s when I feel opponents make the biggest mistakes – they either overvalue or undervalue their hands. I’ll take a lot of small pots, either by being aggressive or outplaying them if I flop a big hand. A lot of people play tight and just survive; but by the end of the day, when they decide to loosen up, it’s going to cost them 10 times more chips to get into a pot than it did six hours ago.

How important is patience in a big tournament?
On a scale of 1-10… 10. I play in a lot of pots and that’s true, but they’re calculated risks. I’m not going to play 2-9 – I’m going to play a hand that has a chance of turning into something. Patience isn’t necessarily about limping into the smaller pots, it’s more about big raises. You know, you limp in, then someone makes a big raise and someone else reraises. You’ve got to look down at your pocket Jacks and think to yourself, ‘They’re probably not good enough’, and get rid of them. At the World Series this year, there was a 30-minute span where I folded Kings once, Queens once and Jacks twice, all pre-flop. And I was shown Aces all four times. I was supposed to go broke there. I’m not recommending folding Kings pre-flop, but if you can’t you’re not going to make it – you need to be able to sometimes.

During the middle stages of an event when you’re doing well, is it okay to lay down big hands?
For the most part you’re going to be playing against players who are going to tell you what they have. If you hit top pair on the board and they’re betting like they have a set or a straight, a lot of times they do, and you have to lay down. The opposite is also probably true – if they check to you, there’s a good chance you can take it down – so throw a feeler bet out there. If they come back over the top, don’t be discouraged, because you needed to find out.

And presumably you’re going to steal a lot of blinds as they get bigger…
Only later on when the blinds are worth stealing. They start off at 25/50, so let’s say you steal every single hand around the table – 750 chips – but at the end of the day the blinds are 300/600. One blind steal is already more than that. I start kicking it up when there’s 10 percent of my original starting stack in the pot; so if I start with 10,000 chips, when the blinds hit 200/400 with a 50 ante there’s 1000 chips in the pot pre-flop. So you should definitely wait until the blinds get higher and then be aggressive.

How do you play when the bubble approaches?
It’s my favourite time. I have something I like to implement, it’s called ‘try the bubble’. If you’re near the bubble, try the bubble. You can’t do it when you’re short-stacked, but when you’ve got a medium stack or better, try the bubble, and more often than not you’re not going to be the bubble, whereas if you’re trying to avoid bubbling people will take advantage and you’ll lose a lot of chips, a lot of firepower.

You mean you actually make an attempt to be ‘the bubble’?
Well, you get aggressive and I don’t mean literally trying to go out, but you raise a lot of pots. Let’s say 30 people get paid – you want to come 31st. More often than not, you’re going to pick up a lot of pots. Okay, there are times when you’ll run into a hand and bubble, but if you take 30th place 10 times you just get your money back. But if you make the final table twice, you’ll get so much more. For instance, I came fourth [in the Aruba Classic] last year and it was $200,000. But if I’d just made the money it was only $5,000. I’d have to make the money 40 times to equal that!

Does your strategy change as you near the final table?
You don’t want to do something stupid to take you out of the big money. The top three spots are where the big money is. If there’s one place to go to the final table and you’re in second or third, the table is going to dictate. If the chip leader is being very aggressive there’s no point in letting your ego get in the way. Obviously don’t let them run the table over but there is a time to sit back; in a lot of cases it’s correct tournament theory, just because you might do something stupid and go out in 10th place, when you can play smart and make the top five.

Tournament highlights:

28/7/06 37th World Series of Poker 2006, Las Vegas $10,000 No-Limit Texas Hold’em World Championship; 204th, $42,882
14/5/06 WPT – Mirage Poker Showdown, Las Vegas $10,000 Campionship Event; 3rd, $332,937
26/9/05 WPT – Ultimate Poker Classic, Aruba $5,000 Championship Event; 4th, $200,000

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