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Phil Galfond: Not thinking outside the box – the biggest mistake low- and mid-stakes regulars make

$10 million online winner and one of the best poker pros in the world, Phil Galfond, took a little break from poker yesterday night and spent over three hours answering the questions of the poker community in a reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) live action.

He described himself as not having an exciting life spending much of his time “at home and the majority of it consists of playing poker, working on poker, working on RunItOnce (his poker training site) and watching TV.”

Galfond gave some very useful insights about the way he thinks about poker and the future of the game. He handed out advice to different poker players, from the low-stakes regulars to the high-stakes action-lovers. He also shared with the community some spicy facts about big-time poker players like Viktor Blom or Tom Dwan.

Here are some of the most interesting questions and answers from the AMA. You can read the whole AMA by clicking this link:

Q: @ Eifersuchtig2: What are some of your insights into PLO/Hold’Em that you only recently understood?

A: A flop decision isn’t just about your hand, the board, what you think your opponent can have, your equity against that range, and what you think he will do against a bet/raise/whatever. For each flop (in NLHE) there are 47 possible turns (as far as you know), and for each of those turns, 46 possible rivers.

Thinking about how your hand will play out against different parts of their range on each of those board run-outs is more important than what your equity looks like now.

If it sounds like a lot to think about… it is. However, you can usually group turns and rivers into categories and end up just thinking about a few of the most likely and most important (as far as EV swings) scenarios.

Q: @kreeeep: Best live cash game players? How much money are the western guys winning in Macau?

A: Tough question to answer. The obvious one is (Phil) Ivey… Then it depends what games you’re talking about. Most of the successful live players specialize in mixed games rather than NL and PLO.

Off the top of my head: (Patrik) Antonius, (David) Oppenheim, (John) Hennigan, (Nick) Schulman, (Huck) Seed… to be completely honest though, I’m not a specialist in mixed games, so I’m not very confident in my list. I’m sure I forgot some too, but I’m trying to speed through here.

As far as I know, the stakes over there (in Macau) are equivalent to $2,000/$4,000 sometimes, so it’d be pretty easy to win or lose $5 million. I’d expect that there are a handful of $10m+ winners from those games.

Q: @OutFlipped: I have heard you and Tom Dwan are pretty good friends. Just interested to know how that relationship started seeing as your job is to take each other’s money.

Tom and I actually became friends before we’d played much together. We met through our mutual friend, Dave Benefield, around 7-8 years ago. Tom was playing $50/$100 already, and I was just a lowly $5/$10 player 🙂

He was extremely generous, letting me watch him play NL (and later PLO) even after not knowing me very long. To say Tom had an impact on my early growth as a player would be an understatement.

Q: @OutFlipped: Have you been to Macau to take advantage of the supposedly incredible action going on over there?

A: I haven’t been. I’ve considered it from time to time, but it’s a pretty serious hassle… not only flying that far and staying there, but even just getting into games. It’s not like Vegas where you just pop in and grab a seat (though Vegas isn’t exactly like this either sometimes).

I also would need to sell action or get a full or partial stake. I’m not going to risk the money I’d need to play $2k/$4k… I just simply can’t afford it.

Q: @ memzy: In your experience, what would you say is the largest mistake low and mid stake pros are typically making?

A: I think that a lot of low-midstakes pros play a little bit too systematically, and fail to think outside the box. There are times and situations that call for massive adjustments, and if you miss these, you’re losing a lot of EV.

Auto-piloting is one of the most serious and most prevalent forms of tilt, and most people don’t realize there’s anything wrong.

Think through every decision, and be careful about declaring any play “standard.”

I think a lot of the auto-piloting and systematic play comes from people learning ‘rules’ when they learn to play.

Strategic rules, preflop charts, ‘standard’ cbet sizings- these are all crutches that help you play competently faster, but limit your growth potential.

You’re allowed to make any play you want on any street. Don’t be so sure that one is the right one.

Q: @Justachillday: How do you study as a poker player to stay ahead of the curve?

A: I study poker a lot less than many of my peers. I’ve never been good at learning by forcing work on myself. My attention span won’t allow it.

However, when I’m interested in something, I can maintain full focus for 20 hours.

So, I learn the most from playing. I think about hands while playing. I think about hands when I quit, while I eat, while people try to talk to me, and while I’m trying to sleep. It’s hard to keep my mind off of something it’s interested in.

I also love to talk poker. Making videos helps me stay sharp, as well as watching videos (not only on my own site… I have probably watched 500+ on other sites over the years too).

Talking to poker friends has probably been the single most important key to my growth as a player, if I had to choose one. Learning in isolation works, but I think it severely limits you.

Q: @ITargetPK: Who do you most respect in poker? Who do you find it hardest to play against?

A: Tough question. I have a LOT of respect for a lot of my opponents and friends in the game.

If I had to pick someone I have the most respect for as a poker player, I’d go with Ben Tollerene (aka Ben86/Bttech86). His work ethic and his mindset are incredible. Not to mention he’s just a great guy.

Ben’s one of the only people harder on himself than I am. It’s not a fun quality to have, but it’s one that can make you great.

Q: @ syeni: Do you believe that there can be another poker boom? Possibly when USA gets international online poker again?

A: I think that poker can grow a bit, and good things can and will happen if the US gets international online poker again.

That said, it’ll never be easy like it was 5-10 years ago. There are too many skilled pros now, so the influx of recreational players and cash will only go so far.

Q: @nothings_epic: Can you tell me something about these players that I don’t already know? 1) Yourself 2) Isildur1 3) durrrr 4) Ben86

A: Me: Couldn’t think of anything so I just asked my girlfriend- “great butt”

Viktor: can be spotted playing for massive stakes in his apartment eating a full can of Pringles and sipping on a box of apple juice. He owns a ton of movies, mostly comedies.

Tom: once tried to tip $100 to get us a bowling lane early, but was rejected because he accidentally was holding out a $1 bill. He usually has over 100 unchecked texts/voicemails on his phone.

Ben: is the only poker player I know who actually underestimates his skill and his intelligence. He and another friend of mine bet large lots of money on MLG Starcraft results.

Q: @ sweetChazz: In both live and online play, who are the most intimidating players you’ve ever went up against? What is the longest session you have ever put in? Both live and online?

A: Ivey is definitely the most intimidating, both live and online. Nice guy though.

The longest session online was probably around 25 hours but I don’t recall one specifically, and the longest session live was closer to 36 (and I’ve gone over 24hrs many more times live than I have online).

They’ve never been a good idea.

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