Who are the Best Players to Watch to Improve your Poker Game?


Source: Tom “durrrr” Dwan via Facebook

One of the best ways of improving your poker game is to watch how the pros do it on TV. The regulars who make it on to shows like Poker After Dark and the latter stages of the World Series of Poker have all made it to the top of the charts in the poker world by mastering the game and knowing what to do in every single situation. Here, we take a look at some of the best in the business and work out how they have made so much money from the popular card game.

For those plying their trade at online poker sites, one of the greatest people to emulate is Tom Dwan. The American made a name for himself playing in high-stakes online poker cash games and tournaments, and became one of the most exciting players to watch on television thanks to his highly aggressive style of play. The beauty of Dwan’s game is the fact that he would play an 8/6 off suit in the same way as he would play pocket aces.

This unpredictability has led players to fold winning hands against Dwan because they can’t read his play. Of course, most of the time he will only look to pull off these bluffs when he is in a strong position on the table. It would be unwise, say, to do it when on the big or small blinds. These are, in fact, statistically the worst positions to be in on a hand. Anyone looking to raise their game in poker should focus on playing the strong positions on the table, and only invest in pots on the blinds with particularly strong hands.

While all poker pros know that playing position is key, they do also draw upon some other skills that help them to prevail more often than not. These include trying to get reads on their opponents so that they can work out the strength of the hands they are up against. One of the best in the business at putting people on hands by reading their body language and betting strategies is Daniel Negreanu. The Canadian winner of six WSOP bracelets is renowned for calling out what other players have, putting him at a serious advantage in whatever hand he is in.

When you have someone at the table who is so in tune with picking up body language tells, you have to be a master of your own movements and subtle cues in order to stop the read. Phil Ivey is generally considered as one of the best in the business when it comes to this, and many professional poker players have failed to second guess the 2008 World Poker Tour title winner.

Watching these poker experts in action will almost certainly help you to improve your game. Some other notable mentions of players to emulate include Phil Helmuth and Patrik Antonius, who are also up there with the best around. 

The Greatest Upsets in Poker Tournament History

When the WSOP first started, it was entered and played by wealthy high stakes gamblers, who enjoyed the game and could afford to lose.  The type of player the tournament attracted were all from a similar demographic – and were seen by the world imagesqas something one would imagine from a movie.  Leathery skinned, cigar-puffing tycoons, playing for the big money in lavish surroundings.

The concept of an amateur entering and winning the tournament was relatively unheard of when the tournament began, as although there wasn’t a wide a field in which to play in those days, the competition was vicious, and amateurs were generally considered to be shark fodder in the main event.

  1. Hal Fowler – The First Amateur World Champion

In 1979, a low and middle stakes amateur player, Hal Fowler entered the competition.  Hal was an advertising executive so was not a particularly wealthy man, and had to be staked in order to enter the main event.  Legend has it that Benny Binion himself put up the $10000 buy in to the main event, so that Fowler could play.

Fowler faced WSOP champion Johnny Moss at the final table as well as other seasoned professionals like Chip Reese, George Huber, Sam Moon, and Bobby Hoff at the final table. At the end of the game to everyone’s utter astonishment Fowler played the winning cards to beat Bobby “the Wizard” Hoff in what would be one of the greatest upsets in poker history.

  1. Stu “The Kid” Ungar

Stu Ungar was predominantly a gin rummy player but struggled to find high stake games in Vegas, so decided to try his hand at poker, where there was much more action.  He would have done well to check out a site like Gaming Club NZ too, as there are plenty of high stakes games available online. This prompted him to enter the WSOP 1980.  He was a relative newcomer to the game when he entered the WSOP, but given his affinity for cards he picked it up quickly, with poker veteran and legend Doyle Brunson commenting that he had never before witnessed a player Improve their skills during an actual tournament.

Brunson and Unger faced off at the final table, with the poker community fully expecting Brunson to win, but the shock of the day came when Unger emerged the victor! Unger was the youngest person to date (in 1980) to win the WSOP main event, and would go on to be the only player in history to win the main event competition 3 times, but the biggest upset came with that first win, when the kid beat the teacher, and rates among one of the biggest shocks in poker tournament history.

  1. Chris Moneymaker

Thanks to PokerStars online satellite tournament, Chris Moneymaker, an unknown and unheard of accountant from Tennessee sparked what is now a worldwide revolution in professional poker.  In one of the most significant upsets in poker history, the 27-year old amateur purchased a $39 buy-in on the now famous PokerStars satellite tournament in 2003, and won, to earn himself a spot in the WSOP.

These spots were usually reserved for players with deep pockets, who could afford the large price tags on the buy-ins for the main event.  Chris, wit his incredible skill and insight into casino games went on to win the main event that year, taking home $2.5million – a mind blowing return on his initial $39 investment.  His winning made the dream of winning big a reality to the man on the street and re-ignited the popularity of the sport, and in particular the WSOP.