Ever dream of grabbing your driver and joining Tiger on the first tee of the Masters? Or suiting up
and blowing three of your best ones past Barry Bonds? How about grabbing a pair of baggy shorts
and taking on Kobe Bryant, one on one?
Not likely, huh?
Well, how about sitting beside World Series of Poker winners, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson or Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth? Taking on “The Professor,” Howard Lederer? How about staring down his
sister, Annie Duke, the hottest star in poker today? This you can do – given a registration fee of up
to $3,000 -- because all of these poker pros become faculty at poker camps in Las Vegas.
Lederer and Duke run a fantasy and reality camp in Vegas a couple times a year. It is fantasy
because you can fulfill your dream to take on the best, and reality as well because they lecture, play
beside you in camp competitions, turn over their hands, and tell you how they approached a given
situation. Chris Ferguson shows up to help out, as do Phil Gordon, the co-host of Bravo TV’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown,” and another World Series winner, Huck Seed (his real name, honest).
The pros love it when a mere mortal breaks them at the table, dropping them out of the camp
tournaments. It is an occasion for great glee among the campers. How about shuffling back across
the threshold, dropping your suitcase, and telling your spouse and kids, “My tens in the pocket held
up against ‘The Professor.’”
Phil Hellmuth, Jr., youngest World Series winner in 1989 at 24, also gathers together some of his
pro buddies for a couple days of instruction in Vegas. Joining Phil are poker greats T.J. Cloutier
and Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari. Phil throws in a special guest lecturer, former FBI agent,
What is an FBI agent doing in the midst of a poker camp? Well, in poker, there are “tells.” These
are the scratches, tics, tremors, and flop sweat that telegraph whether you have a good hand or a
bad hand. Lying in poker is not only legal, it is encouraged. It’s called bluffing.
What does Joe do? He tells you what to look for, as he did in his FBI career, for signs of lying in a
crim . . . sorry . . . camper. Parties at the end of Camp Hellmuth are pretty good, too. The Brat
pours Dom Perignon.
If you’ve watched the World Poker Tour tournaments on The Travel Channel, you know Mike Sexton,
the co-host (along with Vince Van Patten). Mike is fond of describing Texas Hold ‘em as “the
Cadillac of poker games,” and saying, “It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.” Mike
hosts another Vegas camp, the World Poker Tour Boot Camp, and he too brings in fellow pros such
as Clonie Gowen to help with instruction.
Most of the campers are not ready to quit their day jobs. These are recreational players who want to
play better and move up to higher levels. If they are playing at $5 and $10 tables now, they want to
move up to $10 and 20, or $20 and $40 competitions. One Hellmuth grad is on his way to a
$100,000 net poker year but keeps his job as a software developer.
What about turning pro? Well, it sure looks inviting when you see million dollar wins and realize the
growing number of business opportunities that the stars now have through an array of agents,
publicists, and business managers. They endorse online poker games, clothing lines, and spirits.
Lederer has sold 500,000 copies of his instructional DVD’s. Annie Duke has a new autobiography
out, is producing a horror film, and is endorsing a Coca Cola product.
Yet, every pro will tell the story of being broke multiple times. Lederer cleaned toilets and slept on
park benches in New York while he was learning the game. Barry Greenstein, author of Ace on the
River, and a World Poker Tour winner, talks of having been a “negative millionaire.”
It takes an enormous bankroll to play with The Big Dogs. Phil Gordon says $500,000 for openers
and that sounds a bit on the light side.
So, you’ve ponied up three grand or so. Is that a lot? Well, how have your mutual funds done this
year? What would your return on investment be if you bought that fixer-upper down the street? How
much have you lost at poker this year to date? How much more will you lose if you don’t take such a
Grab your baseball cap and shades and head for Vegas. The Professor, the Brat, and the
Magician are ready to show you what makes them successful.
Then, you’re on your own.
Shuffle up and deal. Good luck.
© 2005 Murphy James