Griffin on Cheaters and Borgata; Jason Mercier – Not So Serious; Ed Miller on Plays He Never Makes; Chasing Kills




Gavin Griffin: Poker Questions Asked And Answered

Griffin Sounds Off On Cheaters and the Borgata Tournament Scandal

by Gavin Griffin     

People in the poker community often come up to me and ask about whatever is on their mind. Some of these questions are good questions, and some are bad beat stories in disguise. I’ve been through quite a few things in my poker career and I like to help whenever possible, and in this new Card Player series, I’d like to share my experiences and knowledge. Feel free to ask any poker-related question, and I’ll do my best to answer it in the space below.

Question: I don’t know if you’ve been following the mess at the Borgata, but if so, how do you think it should be handled by Borgata and the New Jersey Division Of Gaming Enforcement? — Steve R.

Gavin: Well Steve, I have been following the situation at the Borgata, but for those who haven’t, I’ll try to do a (quick) recap. The Borgata just wrapped up their Winter Poker Open series and it started with a $500+$60 three-starting day unlimited re-entry tournament. On each of these day 1s, the end of day chip leader received $2,000 and the person who was second in chips received $1,000. Sometime during the tournament, staff was made aware that there were some counterfeit chips introduced and by the time they had reached the final 27, staff found it necessary to pause the tournament and get the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement involved. They have since made an arrest and cancelled the tournament. They haven’t reached a conclusion in the investigation as to what to do with the remaining 27 players or the money that is still up for grabs.

Let me preface the rest of the answer to my question with two things. First, I am not an expert on an issue like this in any way, shape, or form. I haven’t read the New Jersey gaming code, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t work for a casino. Second, I think the Borgata should ultimately do whatever the NJDGE tells them to do.

I’ve been following this story since it broke and I feel like I have the facts of the incident as we know them down pretty well. In addition, having read almost the entire 2+2 thread, I know my view on this will be unpopular.

First off, I think everyone who played the tournament should receive their rake back. The players pay an entry fee on each bullet they fire at this tournament. For that entry fee, the Borgata is expected to provide a venue where the players can play, dealers, tables, floor staff, security, cards and chips. Perhaps there are a few other things I’m missing here, but those are the most important and security and chips are the most germane to this discussion. I think the Borgata fell short on providing this service. Many of the dealers, who are the players’ second line of defense against cheating, themselves being the first, were inexperienced and unable to protect the integrity of the game. The floor staff, by all accounts, missed this issue as well and ignored the first few instances of the fake chips being found. Finally, the chips themselves were basic top hat and cane chips with no edge marks and stickers in the middle. In addition, they’ve been in use for several years and for the casino’s regular tournaments. They appear to be incredibly easy to counterfeit and, had our villain been even slightly competent, the deception probably would have gone undetected had he decided not to flush the remaining chips in his hotel room down the toilet. Because they fell short on providing the services they should have, I think the casino should take a little hit on this by refunding everyone’s rake in full. It wouldn’t be incredibly difficult since you are required to have a player’s card to play the tournament and every entry was tracked via these player’s cards. Simply send a check for $60 or whatever multiple of entries each player bought to their address on file.

Secondly, I think the final 27 should each be paid 27th-place money and then the remaining prize pool chopped by chip count. I know ICM (Independent Chip Model) is usually considered the more fair way to chop tournaments but it becomes messy with more than 10 people left so it’s better to just do it with chip counts. Since places 450-28 have been paid out, I don’t see any way to not pay out 27-1.

Finally, though there has been quite a bit of talk about it, I don’t think the Borgata should refund everyone’s money. There are several reasons for this, but I’ll outline two. First, I think setting a precedent that venues need to refund their players in situations like this really opens up a slippery slope. Now people may try to introduce a few chips into a tournament and then when they bust and it’s discovered, attempt to have the tournament refunded. This would eventually result in a cessation of all live tournaments world-wide. Second, the amount of chips introduced to the tournament totaled to less than 1 percent of chips in play. A similar amount could easily have been added in higher denomination chips at color ups. Not only that, but many people are talking about getting busted by the guy because he had put extra chips into play. What if he gambled more with his stack because he had extra chips and the players at his table benefited rather than being hurt by the introduction of these chips? Since everybody had the same likelihood of being at his table and could have been helped or hindered by the addition of these chips, I don’t think full refunds should be issued.

This situation is a real disaster and will hopefully be resolved by the Borgata and NJDGE soon. Whatever the results, I’ll definitely be following the story to its end.

Question: What do you think the poker community should do to combat and punish players that cheat live or online? — Justin T.

Gavin: This is a very tough question and I’ll try not to sound like judge, jury, and executioner after my last answer. I think the first thing we need to do is something that’s been seen on forums and websites over the last few years. Make it clear who is doing the cheating or scamming, how they did it, and make it difficult for them to get access to situations where it’s possible again.

Once the cheats are outed, we as a community should do our best to make them uncomfortable to be around poker. Mention it at their table, tell them they’re not welcome, whatever. If they can be prosecuted, they should be. Finally, we need to push hard to get online poker regulated in more markets throughout the country. What we’ll hopefully see in New Jersey is the cheat tried, convicted, and sent to jail for at least a little while.

In order for something like that to be possible with regards to online poker, the cheat’s actions have to be illegal and they won’t be illegal until there are regulations in place. I would hope that if Russ Hamilton and the Ultimate Bet situation had happened in a regulated in environment, say Nevada today, he would be forced to forfeit the profits from his cheating and spend some time in jail. Only when we have a fully legal and regulated online poker industry with consequences for peoples actions will we see a drop off in these scams.

If you have a question for Gavin, send it to


jason mercier

Poker Pro Jason Mercier Talks Faith, Goals And Business For 2014

Florida Native Opens Up About Religion, Determination To Win Three Live Titles This Year

by Erik Fast

Jason Mercier exploded onto the live tournament scene in 2008, winning the European Poker Tour San Remo main event for nearly $1.4 million after winning his entry in an online satellite. Still in his twenties, Mercier has already managed to become one of the most successful tournament players in the history of poker, winning 18 career titles and accruing more than $9.8 million in live tournament earnings, along with another $750,000 in online tournament winnings.

Mercier recently announced himself as a Christian after a few years of quietly grappling with his beliefs. Religion is not a topic often discussed in the poker world, but Mercier felt compelled to be open about his faith in a blog on his personal website, which discussed his beliefs and a recent commitment to finding balance in his life away from the poker table. Card Player caught up with Mercier during the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure to talk to him about his recent revelation, his goals for the year and more.

Erik Fast: So Jason, your grandparents just got in…

Jason Mercier: Both set’s of grandparents. All four!

EF: Both sets, and your parents as well. Is this the first time that your family has been able to come out and see you play poker professionally?

JM: I think it’s like the fourth time my parents have come out to watch me play.

EF: You’ve been mentioning on social media that you’ve spent some more time recently around your family and friends from your youth, and how that’s been a really good thing for you. So it must be cool to be able to include them in your work, as opposed to having the poker world and the family world being so separate.

JM: It’s nice for them to be here. A couple of my buddies have been here as well, and it’s nice because a lot of times I leave Florida and it’s like, “Okay, seeya in a month!” or whatever. It’s hard to maintain contact, so it’s kinda nice to have a piece of home with me.

EF: In the blogs you recently posted, you said, and I’m paraphrasing, that ‘in way, you feel as if you haven’t shown the poker world who you really are’. When you have two separate lives, split between poker and family, do you feel that you sort of end up acting like a different person in the poker world than you do at home? And if so, how do you think making a concerted effort to balance the two worlds better will help?

JM: It’s interesting, in regards to that, sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was subconsciously acting for the cameras that come around at events, and you don’t even realize why you are doing certain things. So I’ve learned to be open and honest and just act like the cameras aren’t even there. That’s something that Daniel [Negreanu] taught me, and it is definitely something that I’ve been working on. I’m just trying to be a good person and have everybody fall in love with me, if they haven’t already! (laughs.)

EF: Was there any particular misconception about you that you might be hoping to dispel with your recent focus on being true to yourself?

JM: I want people to know that I have a sense of humor and am not too serious of a guy. I’ve gotten people on Twitter and other forms of media who have come to the conclusion that I’m an arrogant prick. I think that the people in the poker media and my friends who know me would disagree with that characterization. That’s something that I’ve realized that I can’t control, so I’m just going to try to be as good of a person as I can be.

EF: Another thing that you recently brought up in your blogs is your faith, and your decision to discuss it publicly, something that you’ve been hesitant to do previously. Can you talk a little bit about why you might have thought that your faith might have been less than well received in the poker world?

JM: It’s just one of those subjects that, at the poker table, no one ever really talks about Church or that they do believe in God. It just seems like in the poker world, most people just think that if you believe in God that you’re ignorant or stupid. But, coming out with beliefs in the blog I’ve gotten almost nothing but positive responses. People just want to learn more about what I believe and why I believe it. It’s been cool to see the responses and see a lot of poker players say that they’ve gone through similar experiences and believe in God themselves.

EF: Were you really worried that a lot players in the poker world that you were friendly with would actively be against or react negatively to your beliefs, or did you just not want to put your faith out so much that people had to react to it?

JM: One of the things that I guess prevented me from talking about it was mostly my own insecurity about it and not having a good enough grasp of what I even truly believed in. My friends in the poker world that knew that I was a Christian would poke jokes about it sometime, and I wasn’t confident enough in my beliefs to do anything besides brushing it off, saying it was my parents’ thing. Better defining my own faith has helped me in the process of feeling more comfortable in talking about it.

EF: So you’ve been actively talking about finding balance in your life as a poker player recently. This kind of seems to fit in with a recent trend among many poker pros to focus on their fitness and physical health. It used to be that back in the day, many poker pros seemed to fit better into the old school gambler profile, while many of today’s pros are approaching their poker and their time away from the tables more analytically. What are your thoughts on that?

JM: When I posted the blog about balance, one of the things that I was really struggling with was not getting enough sleep. That’s something that I’ve had problems with over the past five or six years. I would go months with only four hours of sleep a night and then crash, talking a couple weeks off and sleeping 12 hours a night. Realizing that trying to get the same amount of sleep every night, at least seven hours, has definitely helped me. Not only am I better rested, but that helps me stay mentally focused at the poker table, and also helps me exercise more efficiently, which then in turn helps with sleep. It’s just kind of all connected, you eat better, you sleep better, you exercise better and you play better, and they’re all interconnected. Doing all of these things is part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

EF: So I also recently heard that you were looking for action on Twitter for a no-alcohol prop bet.

JM: Yeah, I actually haven’t been drunk in over four months now, and it’s something that I’ve been trying to stay away from and wean myself off the party scene for now. It’s not necessarily something I should be doing, because it’s not healthy for me. I drink four drinks, don’t sleep well, and that all carries over to the next day. The bet thing, I just threw out there and was surprised that I’ve been asked about it like a thousand times.

EF: People like prop bet stories.

JM: They do. Maybe I’ll put $100,000 down on dunking a basketball or something.

EF: You’ve also recently publicly made an effort to set more concrete goals, both in poker and away from the table. Can you tell me more about what those are?

JM: I’ve always been like, ‘My goal this year is just to make X amount of money.’ This year I wanted to set a goal of actually winning tournaments. The first four years of my career, 2008 to 2011 I won 13 live tournaments. In 2012 I won zero, and in 2013 I won one. Winning tournaments is definitely something that I’m trying to focus on, so I set the goal of winning three live tournaments this year, one of which I want to be a major title, be it a WSOP gold bracelet or an EPT of WPT win.

EF: You also mentioned some goals away from the tables, including possibly starting a charity?

JM: Yeah, I kind of want to start something like the Jason Mercier Foundation, and then formulate my ideas about what exactly the charity would do. I’m excited about possibly going on some missions trips with my church, and helping out either through my own charity or just helping to fund programs they already do. Just kind of trying to take a more proactive role in helping the world, and it’s something that I’m excited about.

EF: I recently spoke with tournament high roller superstar Phillip Gruissem, and he also has made a commitment to charity as a result of realizing that just playing poker with the goal of winning as much money as possible for himself wasn’t satisfying to him. Is that close to how you feel?

JM: You play poker and you spend so much time on it and all you are chasing is money, and while that helps you do the things that you want to do, it isn’t the end all, be all of happiness. I’m setting goals now for how I want to set up my life and live it during the next few years. Maybe down the line I might play poker less, so I’m formulating my ideas and making a plan.

EF: Along those lines, you’ve recently undertaken your first business venture. Can you tell me about that?

JM: Yeah, I just started a business called Doorstep Delivery. It’s a food delivery service that connects restaurants with customers, and I own the territory in Ft. Lauderdale, where I live. It just opened up at the start of January, and it’s really exciting. I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations, because my business partners are handling most of that, but I’ve been tracking it while I’ve been on the road playing poker. The idea of playing the circuit and having a machine at home, hopefully printing me money, is kind of awesome. I hope it’s successful, as my first business venture, and am looking forward to getting into some other things as well down the line.


ed miller book

Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Four Plays I Never Make

Miller Takes A Look At Some Popular Moves He Never Uses

by Ed Miller      A good mantra in poker is never to say never. If you never do this or you never do that, it’s very easy to become predictable. At the same time, I see plays that some players make that I literally never make. Some of these plays I eschew in an effort to simplify my strategy. Other plays I never make because I think they are wrongheaded. Here are four popular plays that I never make.

Bet Or Raise For Information

I never bet or raise to “see where I’m at.” Never. I think it’s a bad play.

First, if your opponent doesn’t fold to your bet, you often don’t actually learn where you’re at. Say you have A-8 and you bet a J-8-3 two-tone flop. Your opponent raises you. Did you find out where you’re at?

With most opponents, the answer is no. Your opponent could have a set or an overpair or top pair or a flush draw or a straight draw. You still don’t know where you’re at, and now you’re in a bad spot.

Or, even more often, you raise to find out where you’re at, and your opponent just calls. What does he have? Is he calling because he’s got a big hand? A draw? A bluff-catcher? You don’t know.

People don’t raise for information when they have the nuts. It’s always with a marginal hand. What happens when you bet or raise for information is you build a big pot with a marginal hand, and you still don’t know where you’re at.

It’s OK not to know where you’re at in a hand. Your opponent doesn’t know where you’re at either, so you’re on equal footing. It’s much better to play the hand through normally with a balanced strategy and accept the uncertainty with open arms.

Shove The Turn To “Go With A Hand”

I see players do this all the time. Say the flop is A-9-6. Someone bets, and the button calls. The turn is a queen that puts a flush draw on board. The player bets again, and now the button shoves all-in for nearly a pot-sized bet more.

The button shows A-10 for top pair, marginal kicker. The thinking here is that the player with A-10 on the turn has to either commit to the hand or fold it. If they commit to it, the thinking goes, it’s better to be the aggressor than to be the caller.

None of the above thinking is correct. Calling the turn does not obligate a call on the river. It just doesn’t. If you are playing a balanced strategy, you will sometimes call the turn only to fold the same hand to a river bet. It is not at all a foregone conclusion that your opponent will bet the river if he bet the turn. (If you do find a player who always bets the river after betting the turn, you should certainly not be raising the turn. You should just call down.)

Sometimes you will call the turn, it will go check/check on the river, and you will win. Yes, you want to shove the turn with some hands. But A-10 is perhaps the worst hand you could pick to do it with. You either want to shove with a very strong hand or a bluff. On this A-9-6-Q board, you can shove with Q-Q and you can shove with 8-7, but please do not shove with A-10.

Donk Bet The River After Calling Flop And Turn

This one is a little more complex. A player checks and calls the flop. The same player checks and calls the turn. Then the river comes, and he shoves all-in.

I never do this. I don’t think this play is wrongheaded like the last two, but I can’t think of the sort of hands it makes sense to play this way.

Such a river bet is very polarizing. To make the bet, you should either have a huge hand or you should be bluffing. But when you check and call the turn, most often you have a middling hand, somewhere between a monster and nothing. What hands, then, do you do this with?

It might make sense to play this way when the river card changes a lot. Say the river is the one card in the deck that completes all the straight and flush draws.

The thing about that, however, is that such a card is usually very bad for the person playing from out of position. Most of those middling hands you call the turn with are now junk. So if you’re removing the few good hands you still have from your range by donk betting with them, then when you check you will almost always have to fold to a bet.

I could be convinced that this is the best way to play in some circumstances, but in most cases it seems to me that checking the river will be preferable.

Finally, when I see players make this play, I find that they are rarely bluffing. So they are doubly shooting themselves in the foot. When they donk shove the river, I can just fold. While when they check, I can bluff and pick up the pot far more often than I should.

Unless you really know what you’re doing, my advice is not to make this play.

Open Limp Preflop Outside The Small Blind

Unless I’m in the small blind, if I’m the first to enter a pot, I never open limp. Never. In most games, I believe that it’s always preferable to give myself a chance to win the blinds unchallenged. In some loose games, you will almost never pick up the blinds. But in these games, I almost always want to build the pot preflop with whatever hand I happen to be playing.

It would have to be a very peculiar situation for me to want to violate this rule. I’d have to think there was little chance to win the blinds, and the stack sizes would have to be just a particular size, and I’d have to have exactly the sort of hand that wants to play, but doesn’t want to build a pot.

And, in that case, how do I balance my limps? It would (or should) be fairly obvious to any thinking player what sort of hand I must have to limp. So I’d have to limp some other hands to balance. And I don’t want to do that.

This is another one where I could be convinced that open-limping outside the blinds is a good play. But in practice, I just never do it. And I think 99 percent of the time when I see other players do it, it’s just a poor play. ?

Ed’s brand new book, Reading Hands At No-Limit Hold’em, is available immediately for purchase at Find him on Facebook at and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.


dont chase

Chasing may be most costly poker strategy 
by Irene Edith


Have you read the book, “Winning Women of Poker: Secret Strategies Revealed” (published 2011; for more information, contact

It demonstrate swell the poker insight and acuity of some of the leading women in our poker world. And it presents the best definition of “chasing” I have seen anywhere.

Chasing is “attempting to beat a hand that is higher in value by continually trying to hit long shots.” Chasing is disastrous to your bankroll. Yet, so many poker players are prone to chase in search of the best hand.

Next to poor starting-hand selection, chasing may be the most costly strategy in poker. Players who chase are guilty of wishful thinking. They fail to consider the low probability of connecting when holding a long shot. Wishing doesn’t make it so.

The rare occasions when the chaser does connect will not make up for the many other times – most of the time – when he doesn’t get lucky. Example: You saw the flop from a middle position with 10-9 offsuit. That’s a viable starting hand (26 points, according to the Hold’em Algorithm).

The flop comes down: 7-6-2 rainbow. You now hold four-to-a-ten-high straight. Trouble is, it’s a draw to an inside straight. That gives you just four outs – the four 8s. The card odds are about 10-to-1 against connecting on the turn. Long shots rarely win! (That’s why we call them long shots.)

6-Outs Rule: What is a good rule of thumb we can use to distinguish between legitimate drawing to your hand vs. chasing? My co-columnist George “The Engineer” Epstein has his 6-Outs Rule, which he teaches to his students at the Claude Pepper Senior Center in Los Angeles.

It’s straight forward and easy to remember. “As a general rule, if you don’t have a made hand, you must have at least six outs to warrant staying in the hand after the flop.” I like that.

There’s a bet on the flop. Ask yourself: Should I call (or raise) or fold? What cards could I catch that could give me the winning hand? Count them (in your head). Then use the 6-Outs Rule.

Consider the above example: An inside straight draw yields just 4 outs – less than the 6 outs required by Epstein’s rule. On the other hand, flopping four-cards-to-a-straight, open at both ends (such as, 10-9-8-7), offers 8 outs – more than six outs, and worthy of your investment to see the turn and, most likely, the river, too.

With eight outs, the odds are just 4-to-1 against connecting on the turn. Contrast this with the 10-to-1 odds against making the straight on the turn with an inside-straight draw.

Exceptions: How about a hand where you catch a medium pair – say 9-9 – on the flop, and also hold a big Ace. Your outs: 2 nines and 3 Aces. That’s 5 outs. Much depends on the board. If your middle pair is top pair on the board, you may very well be sitting with the best hand. I would label that a “virtual made hand.”

We do not need to count outs when holding a made hand; just hope it holds up to the showdown. It would be much different if there were overcards to your pair on the board. Assume at least one opponent has a higher pair; then counting your outs is essential. And the 6-Outs Rule applies.

Cautions when counting your outs: Be careful not to count any of your outs more than once. This could occur if the same card would give you a flush or a straight. It’s still only one card – 1 out.

Likewise, don’t count a card that could give your opponent a better hand than you would make. For example, the card gives you a straight, but it pairs the board, giving your opponent a full-boat. Or the card that gives you a straight puts a fourth diamond on the board; you don’t have a diamond.

Chances are one of your opponents does. Not all outs are good, and should not be counted. Chasing can be disastrous! Avoid it.

We invite your comments. Email to


Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.