Bill Boyd – Father of Vegas Poker; Perception in Poker; The Rules Guy Returns

bill boydMen Of Action — Bill Boyd

The First Modern Poker Room Manager

by Bob Pajich
Bill Boyd could handle the other teens swaying back and forth to the motion of the boxcar. It was the hobos and the desperate drunk WWI vets who made everyone sleep with one eye open. Boyd was a watchdog during those years, eyes on eyes, eyes on hands. Riding the rails was romantic for about a day, and then a hobo tries to steal your shoes.

Boyd was one of those kids in the 1920s who woke up one morning, saw the smoke billowing from the snout of a big steam engine, and said goodbye to all he knew.
Every one of them had a reason. Boyd’s had something to so with an extremely religious father and an incessant pang to see the west.

Sixty years later, Boyd would be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame for his mastery of five-card stud and contributions as a poker room manager to modern casino poker operations. The way poker is dealt in casinos is largely because Bill Boyd decided it was the best way.

At the age of 16, Boyd walked to the rail yard of McNeil, Ark. (pop. 622 in 2000), found an empty boxcar that could’ve smelled of oil or hay, and climbed in. He left his religious family and a future running a general store in a small southern town.

A truly good life had started.

The next few years took Boyd all over the America. He also did a stint in the National Guard in his late teens. He traveled with some of the most colorful people in American history. It was dangerous. There were thieves and murderers among the hobos, people hiding from society, people who were running from something. No college can offer an education as well rounded in human nature. It was on the road where he learned to survive.

He worked in factories and harvested wheat, worked in oil fields and built dams. The scenery changed, but poker under the bare electric light bulb was the constant.

On one leg of his trip during these vagabond years, he walked into a Montana saloon with his last $13. Hours later, he walked out with $1,300. From that point on, he was a man of poker.

Hall of Fame Manager

By the time Boyd was 24, he not only played, but managed poker rooms in San Francisco joints. He then followed a friend to Las Vegas and on Labor Day, 1946, he was dealt the first ceremonial hand at one of the four tables in the Golden Nugget’s first card room. It simply changed the history of poker.

From his 1997 obituary in the Las Vegas Sun:

“He was one of the most respected players and card room managers of all time — no one was more loved than Bill Boyd,” said Jim Albrecht, longtime director of the World Series of Poker and an employee of Boyd’s at the Golden Nugget in the late 1970s and early ’80s.”

“From an organizational standpoint few, if any, have done more for poker than Bill. And I can’t count the number of his ex-employees who are now managing card rooms across the country.”

Although located in the Golden Nugget, it was his poker room. Boyd leased the space. He got 18 percent of the cut. He hired and fired the dealers. He set the rake. Johnny Moss ran one of the other games in town at the Dunes. Moss, a confirmed cheater, did little to stop tainted play in his room and the rake was whatever he wanted it to be. He believed it was part of the game. Boyd did not.

Boyd abhorred foul play and did all he could to keep it out of his room. He was the first manager to have dealers deal from the center position. Before that, players actually cut and dealt. A good mechanic in those games made more than some guy fixing Chevys.

From Godfather of Poker by Doyle Brunson:

“He hasn’t gotten enough credit for being one of the main contributors to poker; however, he’s largely responsible for keeping honest poker going in Las Vegas back in the early days before the WSOP. He made the rake reasonable so the poker players would get a fair shake.”

Also, add Bill Boyd to the list of Poker Hall of Fame members who shot a person in the line of duty.

According to Brunson:

“Though there was cheating in other card rooms when more began to open in Las Vegas, Bill didn’t put up with much foolishness. He was old school. In fact, he shot a guy, Nick Simpson, who controlled the cheating around town, mostly in casino games.

“At the time, there wasn’t any mob presence in the poker rooms. Nick tried to move on Bill’s poker games, but Bill Boyd ordered him to stay out of his card room. Nick didn’t do it, they argued, and Bill got a gun and shot him outside in the alley; he got him right in the rear end.

Boyd Looks On At World Series of Poker
“I don’t know if that’s where he was aiming, but I reckon Nick got off easy. Bill probably wasn’t prosecuted in those days. Like Texas, many things were handled between people without too much outside interference.”

Boyd also was the first to use plastic coated gin cards and in 1963, was the first to spread Omaha. He called it Nugget Hold’em. Boyd would run the room, site of some of the biggest games in the history of poker, for the next 34 years. He was elected to the Poker Hall of Fame in 1981.

Mr. Boyd

Boyd may have been the best five-card stud player in the world. He spent decades playing in the stratosphere with the likes of Moss, Nick Dandolos, Sailor Roberts and Brunson (just to name a few). According to the Sun obituary, he won a $100,000 pot from Jimmy Casella with a pair of deuces in a no-limit 5-card stud game.

Al Alvarez wrote about Boyd in his Poker: Bluffs, Bets, and Bad Beats:

“At that time the great master of five-card stud was Bill Boyd, a courtly gentleman from Arkansas who was usually referred to, even by his friends, as Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boyd… was generally recognized to be the finest five-card stud poker player in America.”

Boyd won the five-card stud event at the first four World Series of Poker gatherings (’71,’72,’73,’74). It wasn’t offered as an event again. People joke that Boyd killed it with his prowess, but the truth is it was a dying game, a game played by old men like Mr. Boyd.

Amarillo Slim said “I’d rather catch frost on my winter peaches than play stud with Bill Boyd.”

People liked him. He sounded like a genuinely nice guy. He respected people and they gave it right back.

Here’s what Sam O’Connor wrote about him in Tales of Old Las Vegas:

“Bill had an easy manner and a way of engaging in brief, good conversation. He nearly always wore a sports jacket with duck vents and, when he was standing, he would rock forward and his tiptoes, trying to be just a little taller. Bill gave everybody a friendly smile and a firm hand-shake, employee and customer alike.”

And from Alvarez’s The Biggest Game in Town:

“Boyd is a sober-suited old man who looks like a family doctor and manages the card room at the Golden Nugget. He is also the undefeated champion at five-card stud – so good that in the end no one would play against him, and the event lapsed from the World Series.”

When the Mirage opened in 1989, Boyd was honored by being dealt the first hand.

Brad Boyd, Bill’s son, said his dad’s superb observational skills set him apart from other players, and once they left him, he stopped playing.

He retired from poker in 1982 and passed away November 21, 1997. He was 91.

perception pokerUsing Obvious Plays to Your Benefit
By Jeremy Miller
There are certain situations where it can be more than beneficial to take obvious plays and turn them into your favor. Have you ever called down a bet that was so clearly a bluff only for your opponent to showdown the nuts?

This may very well have been an example of a time where someone exploited their hand’s perceived strength in order to achieve the maximum payout. This sort of understanding is not important when you have an obvious hand, but instead when your opponents are likely to misread your hand as being obvious.

Think about times where you flop a set. If you call down a flop and turn bet on somewhat draw heavy boards, a blank river would provide an opportunity to squeeze value out of your hand by pretending that you missed your draw. If you play your hand in a face up manner, you shouldn’t be surprised if you are able to get your opponents to pay you off, but the key is to never have the hand that is most expected.

If you are attempting to confuse your opponents by representing a different hand, you should be careful that you aren’t jeopardizing your chance of winning in the process. There is a significant difference between making the best out of a natural circumstance and trying too hard to create a spot out of nothing.

Playing a big hand like it’s nothing could very easily end up costing you all of the money that you would have otherwise profited had you played it in a more straightforward manner. When it comes down to it, poker is always going to be about making the best out of situations that present themselves, and not about forcibly creating profitable situations where they otherwise would not likely exist.

Pre-Flop Benefits
When you are in a pre-flop situation and are playing your hand in a somewhat straightforward manner, you should be aware of the advantages that you will have at bay after the flop is dealt. If, for example, you have three bet K2 suited in an attempt to steal the pot pre-flop but instead garner a call, you need to be ready and willing to assume the role of aggressor on the flop.

Now, this is a rather obvious example given that any three bet steal in position needs to be prepared for some post-flop play, but it still illustrates the point that your K2 can masquerade as a hand like QQ. Without seeing your hand or having a good read, your opponent won’t likely be able to decipher between a good hand (QQ) and what you actually have (K2).

You can also find yourself in spots pre-flop where you are out of position and creating deception. If you have limped into a pot with a big hand and the other players simply call the blinds, you are going to be able to fire out on all three streets against reasonably weak hands. The trouble with this move is that you will frequently be exchanging inherent, immediate value with big hands for the sake of squeezing more value out of lesser hands. In other words, AA vs. 89 is going to profit more in an unraised pot with a 9 high board than it would in a 3bet, Q high board.

You need to be able to effectively calculate your risk and reward in these positions, but this is no different than most any other situation in pre-flop poker. For the most part it will be better to obtain the “easier” value when and where you can, but this doesn’t mean that passive play can’t be used to confuse your opponents from time to time.

Post-Flop Benefits
Post-flop play is, without a doubt, the time where you are really going to be able to make the most out of some interesting situations. You are going to have a lot more room for creativity and maneuvering when you are beyond the flop. Stack sizes become more relevant, there is more ability to mix things up, and most importantly you will have a better idea of where you stand in the hand.

Trying to trick your opponent into thinking you have a suited connector is a much better idea on a draw heavy board that missed than it is on one with all sorts of completed hands. The more information (cards and action) available to you, the better you can position yourself to confuse your opponent.

Actual examples are usually the best way to illustrate any point. Let’s say that you have a decent pocket pair, use pocket jacks for example. The flop is all low cards and you lead out. The turn is another low card so you fire another bet and your opponent calls again. The river delivers a king. Now the odds are that you are still ahead because it wouldn’t make much sense for your opponent to call you down with a king alone, however the king can potentially be one of the best cards in the deck for you.

It is important to note that a queen or ace would be of roughly equal value in this scenario. Given how the hand has played out, it would make sense to your opponent that you had an over pair that is now beaten by a higher card on the board. If there were several draws in play, a missed draw coupled with an over card could create an optimal situation for a bluff. Since you know that your opponent might have been on a draw from the beginning, there is little to no reason to fire again on the river.

If you are truly behind, you are going to get raised and will be forced to fold. If you are ahead, the scenarios are both positive: either your opponent checks back or your opponent bets out. If they bet out and you are confident that your hand is best, you have earned an extra bet. If they check back, you have avoided risking any further money and have managed to take down the pot. If you play your hand as straight forwardly as possible, sometimes your opponents will do their best to get you to fold. Plus, your worst case scenario (calling a bet against a better hand) is much better than your worst case scenario if you bet out (being raised).

There are virtually infinite situations where these ideas can be put into play, but a few definitely stand out the most: raising on boards with missed draws, raising/betting out on over cards when you actually have a much better hand than the pair you are representing, and inducing bets from aggressive players who aim to face folds. While these are hardly the only times where obvious plays can work to your advantage via deception, they are premier illustrations of how perception is everything in poker.

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rulesThe Rules Guy — How To Conduct Yourself At The Poker Table

The Rules Guy Chimes In On Poker’s Unwritten Code Of Conduct

by Card Player News Team

Most players learn poker’s explicit rules pretty quickly: the “one-chip rule,” for example, or “verbal declarations are binding.” But not everyone seems to have digested the game’s vast book of unwritten rules, admonitions like “don’t berate other players (particularly bad ones)” or “say ‘nice hand’ even when you mean something entirely different.”

Enter “The Rules Guy.” TRG believes that civility and sportsmanship are never wrong, and that bad behavior (even when you’re simply trying to get an edge) is bad for the game. Have you got a question about how to conduct yourself at the poker table? Email TRG at


To Get Respect, Show Respect

Dear The Rules Guy:

Sometimes, I’ll do things I know are crossing the line — but not too much. Like, I might keep a really dirty stack or “forget” to post my blinds and antes; obviously, I know better, but I do it because it drives some of the nits nutty and sometimes I can get them to tilt a little in their effort to felt me. Therefore, I think this kind of minor “rule breaking” can be a positive EV move. What do you think?

— A Tiltboy


Dear Tiltboy:

Just so The Rules Guy is understanding your question: You know that what you’re doing is bad, but you believe (a) that it’s not too bad and (b) that it gives you a slight edge. And therefore you want TRG to give you permission to break the rules?
As the cool kids on the Internet say today: NFW.

Just because something is a little bit bad — and having a dirty stack is the kind of minor infraction that would clearly fall into the category of a “little bit bad” — doesn’t make it right. (Even a rules nit like TRG has been known to have a dirty stack, on those increasingly rare occasions when he has enough chips of varying denominations to warrant a little stack-cleaning. The haphazard stack feels luxurious — but TRG neatens it up pronto.) And, obviously, you won’t get away with “forgetting” to post your blinds and antes for very long; most dealers will stop, or slow down, the pitching if the blinds and antes aren’t right. (And honestly, don’t you feel sorry for the poor dealer who has to remind someone for the third or fourth time, “Small blind, please, sir”?)

TRG will concede that these are trivial actions, but what you’re doing is a form of angle shooting. Agreed, you’re not really breaking the rules, but you are exploiting them in order to take advantage of someone who’s on a short fuse, is losing badly, or is, like TRG, a bit of rules nit. You’re trying to encourage tilt.

And you might well say, “Exactly! Encouraging tilt is a part of poker strategy.” And TRG would say, “If you can needle a player into making a bad call or an ill-timed bluff, go for it. But don’t do so at the expense of the rest of the table.”

You may have a specific target in mind, but your actions affect the entire table. Every time the dealer has to pause and request your blinds, every time that counting your chips out takes an extra 20 seconds because your stack is messy, you slow the game down for everyone. Let’s say the collective impact of your transgressions is one less hand per hour (and if you add in everyone’s collective cluelessness, it’s surely more than that). Maybe the pain is spread equally and no one really suffers — but it’s still pain, and there will be players who feel that pain, sometimes acutely.

And at a more philosophical level, do you want to win by being an ass? By being annoying to the point you can get someone to want revenge? Very unsporting. Reasonable people can disagree about what’s fair in poker, but TRG wants to believe that treating people and the game with a certain degree of respect is simply the right thing to do.

It’s the weakest and most clueless players who are obviously disrespectful, the ones who refer to opponents as “donkeys” (to their face) or use that drippingly sarcastic tone to say “Nice hand sir” or “Good call, buddy.” But respect has a lot of trivial components that every poker player should adhere to: Keep the game running smoothly.

Post your blinds promptly and in the correct denomination when possible. Keep your stacks neat, with the large-denomination chips in front and clearly visible. Don’t slow-roll, slow-fold, or slow-call. Don’t muck your cards in a flamboyant, disgusted, or petulant way. Don’t stare off into space for 30 seconds as if you’ve forgotten you’ve got cards. And don’t “help” the dealer by counting or moving the button, unless a mistake is about to happen.

Remember, too, that sometimes players are new to the game and clueless in a very forgivable sense. Newbies deserve immense slack. If you’re sitting next to one, help him or her with the mechanics in a neighborly way, or ask the dealer to (a good dealer should help without prompting).

The quest for edge — for positive EV — is what inspires people to learn how to play better or create new ways to play — but angle shooting should not be a strategy. If your game depends on it, you’ve really got no game at all.


Down For the Count

Dear The Rules Guy:

Like a lot of tournament players, I like to turn up the aggression once antes kick in and, if I am successful, I usually have tons of small denomination chips. I think a lot of ante chips can be usefully misleading: shoving in a few stacks can (I think) intimidate people from calling. So I don’t like it when someone is contemplating a call and someone else helpfully chimes in with an estimated amount. What’s the etiquette here?

— B


Dear B:

TRG likes your thinking, and TRG vows to try for the small-chip/big-stack intimidation-thing if he ever wins a pot once the antes kick in. And TRG has very strong opinions about bet counting, both from rules and strategy perspectives.

First, if you are the raiser, you’re under no obligation to volunteer a count. If someone wants a count, let the dealer do it. Clearly, there are situations when you might want to emphasize the amount (like if the stack feels small and you want a fold). In your situation, you want your towers to represent strength, so you’re probably not going to say “three stacks of the smallest chips in play, which translates into a smallish bet I’m hoping you won’t call.” Push them in and let the towers do the talking.

Now, what about the players still to act? First and foremost: Don’t count for the player or the dealer. Scenario: Player raises all-in. Player is contemplating a call when someone says, “Looks like $4,200.” Player calls based on that amount. Actual bet is $6,200 but caller has to call (verbal actions are binding), then sucks out with an inferior hand. Disaster for the raiser that might have been averted if the dealer had counted the chips.

Second and possibly even more important: Don’t ask for a count until it’s your turn to act. Scenario: under the gun (UTG) raises and UTG plus one is contemplating a call when the hijack pipes in, “How much is that?” The hijack may be shooting an angle (like trying to encourage a call or preempt a raise) — clearly a breach of rules and etiquette — and even if it’s a genuine question, it gives way too much information to the players in between.

When it’s your turn to act, you can ask for a count, of course — but don’t do it as a stalling tactic and don’t do it as a form of face-saving hollywooding (you’ve got a routine fold, but you want to look serious, so you ask for a count).

Comments? Questions? Behavioral issues? Email TRG at

A Poker Life — Matt Stout

Stout Turns Small Student Loan Into Booming Poker Career

by Julio Rodriguez
It’s hard not to like Matt Stout. The gregarious New Jersey native has a big personality which he just can’t help but show off. If it wasn’t for the incredible poker skills he flashes at the table, most of his opponents would welcome him with open arms. The 28-year-old pro has been in action since 2006 and has amassed over $1.6 million in live tournament earnings, with another $3 million to his name in online winnings.

Stout enjoyed poker from an early age, playing five-card draw with his siblings by the age of four. By 19, he was competing online. However, if it weren’t for a simple mix up with some academic paper work, he might not have ever considered the possibility of playing poker for a living.

Poker Beginnings

As the youngest of four, Stout enjoyed a relatively quiet upbringing in his hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey.

Stout kept his interests diverse. He played hockey and was also captain of his high school chess and academic team. However, his after school activities didn’t immediately translate into in-class success.

“I was kind of a slacker during my early high school years. I was focused on chasing girls and other things, but after my brother was accepted into Johns Hopkins University, I realized I needed to step it up a little bit. I turned it around and was able to do enough to get accepted into the College of New Jersey.”

Stout sought a degree in business administration. He never finished school, though it wasn’t by choice. A clerical error forced him into taking a semester off.

“On the surface, it would appear that I dropped out of college to play poker, but that’s not the whole story,” Stout explained. “I turned 21 during my senior year and spent almost my entire winter break playing cards in Atlantic City. Long story short, a missing signature on some financial paperwork meant that the college didn’t get my tuition money and they decided to unregister me for all of my spring semester classes. Since I wasn’t anywhere near my mailbox to be aware of a problem, I couldn’t correct it.”

While in Atlantic City, Stout turned a $500 loan from a poker buddy into $8,000. Upon returning and discovering the problem with his registration, he immediately gave half of his winnings to the college for part of his tuition. Unfortunately, he couldn’t connect with his dean fast enough to get in for the spring semester, which ultimately resulted in some unscheduled time off. With no classes to attend, Stout headed back to Atlantic City.

“With my last $4,000, I started playing mostly $1-$2 cash games and some of the daily tournaments at the Tropicana and Taj Mahal, with a little bit of the Borgata thrown in there,” he recalled. “I wound up finishing second in a WSOP Circuit event for $32,000. Before long, my bankroll was up to $70,000. Given my results, even my parents encouraged me to extend my hiatus from school if I chose. It’s been nearly seven years and I’m still on the same hiatus from school.”

Becoming A Bankroll Nit

Stout started playing online poker at the age of 19, losing $1,000 of his student loan money before turning it around. He studied poker books and learned from other players, all the while increasing his level of comfort with the game. His bankroll management, however, left something to be desired.

“I had no idea how much money I needed for the swings,” Stout admitted. “The hardest lesson I learned came on the day I decided to play two tables of $5-$10 no-limit hold’em with just a $6,000 bankroll. When the session was over and I had blown through half my roll, I just went right to bed. I didn’t know how to handle it.”

That painful experience was the last lesson in bankroll management that Stout ever needed. In fact, the first $10,000 buy-in tournament he played in remains as the only $10,000 event he’s ever had 100 percent of himself in, and even that only happened because he managed to win two seats.

“I was just like any other aspiring poker player out there, drooling over these huge main event prize pools. I wanted all of the reward and none of the risk, which of course, isn’t possible. For awhile, I sold shares of myself to get into the bigger tournaments and after awhile, I was able to find a backing arrangement.”

Stout’s reputation as a tournament beast got him a pretty sweet stake for his bigger live tournaments on the circuit. Meanwhile, he was using his own money to fund other players in smaller events online.

“It’s a business just like any other,” he said. “There’s a lot of money to be made. Certain players have a high expected value, so if you know what you are doing, you can take advantage of that. It’s really easy to blow through hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in tournament buy-ins. When you know just how high the variance is in tournament poker and the guidelines or bankroll requirements needed to play in some of these bigger buy-in events, it becomes hard not to do some kind of business.”

Playing on someone else’s dime allowed Stout to play his game without allowing the money at risk to affect his decision making. Along the way, he managed to earn a WSOP Circuit ring, making several more final tables with some deep runs in major events. In 2009, he final tabled the WPT World Poker Finals at Foxwoods, finishing third for $265,710. Last summer, he took third in a WSOP event for an additional $192,813.

“A lot of people out there who talk about playing on their own money are guys who were very fortunate when they happened to take a shot. If they weren’t, and there are thousands who weren’t, you wouldn’t be hearing about them. That isn’t a knock on their skill level. I’m just pointing out that sometimes good players aren’t smart with their money.”

A Marketable Personality

American poker players are currently getting the short end of the online sponsorship stick thanks to Black Friday, but Stout has remained one of the more desirable players thanks to his reputation in the online poker community and outgoing personality. In addition to a deal with Bustout Poker, a clothing company catering to poker players, Stout has also secured a deal to represent online poker site Lock Poker.

Lock Poker, which started out as a small skin on the Cake Network, has since grown into one of the top online poker sites in the world and the highest trafficked site available to U.S. players. Lock Poker has sponsored the Card Player Player of the Year for the past two years.

“It’s been really cool to see the company grow into what it is today,” said Stout. “I’m really happy that the company has positioned itself to be a major contender for the long run and I’m proud to say that I was a part of that.”

Moving Forward

Though Black Friday certainly didn’t hurt Stout as much as others, it did put a wrench in his plans to settle down. Stout had just purchased a house in Las Vegas four months prior, with the hopes of splitting his time between online play and the bigger live tournament stops on the circuit. Instead, he has spent the better part of the last year bouncing between tournament stops, trying to get his online play in while he’s out of the country.

Stout spent the duration of last year’s World Championship of Online Poker in Costa Rica before a 7.6 earthquake hit while living on the 14th-floor of a high rise condo. Needless to say, he didn’t head back to Costa Rica the next time he felt the urge to grind online.

“If my living situation had a Facebook status update, it would read, ‘it’s complicated.’ Right now, I call Amsterdam, Jacksonville and Las Vegas home, depending on the time of the year.”

Stout’s time in Florida centers on his girlfriend Shannon, whom he has been seeing for the last year and a half. He’s kicked around the idea of finishing his degree and starting his own business, but he knows that poker will remain his focus for the foreseeable future, no matter how inconvenient it may get.

“There’s no turning back,” he said. “When I turned that small student loan into $70,000, I knew I had what it takes to play poker professionally. I was probably a little overconfident, but I think that’s what you need to be in order to be successful in this industry. Right now, I’m still confident I can still make a living playing this game, so that’s what I’ll continue to do.” ?

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