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The "Professor" of Poker: Howard Lederer

Murphy James
The "Professor" of Poker: Howard Lederer

The progeny of two English teachers, Howard Lederer is one of the top No Limit Texas Hold ‘em poker pros in the world. His instructional DVD’s have sold more than 500,000 copies. And his cerebral approach to the game and his ability to communicate its nuances have earned him the title, the “Professor” of poker.

Called a “two bit losing gambler,” (at age 22) by youngest sister, Katy, in her book, Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers, Howard earned his stripes by playing (and losing) in New York’s famous Mayfair Club. He was cleaning toilets, sleeping on park benches, and running cigarette-and-sandwich errands for gamblers. He would earn a few bucks, jump into a game, and lose.

Howard’s experience with poker poverty is long gone. Today, Lederer snags top prizes of hundreds of thousands of dollars at the richest poker tournaments. He bested billionaire Houston banker, Andy Beal, in the richest poker game in history. His many business ventures bring in millions more each year. When not playing, he is often the commentator on televised events.

Along with his sister, Annie Duke, who is sandwiched between himself and Katy, Howard conducts poker camps several times a year in Las Vegas. Howard has the ability to describe an elegant game, eloquently. He gathers together a staff of other well-known pros who tutor at poker tables, to the great delight of hundreds of poker wannabes from all over the world.

In his instruction, Howard goes Zen at several points along the path to better poker: Stay in the moment. Focus on the hand in front of you. Make correct decisions, one decision at a time.

It is clear that he has a love of, and passion for, the game. Though one of the most knowledgeable pros, he admits that, even after 20 years of play, he doesn’t know everything about the sophisticated game of Texas Hold ‘em, which seems to be on TV, 24/7. He expects to learn more about the game this year, and be better at it next year, he says.

The big event of the year in the poker universe is the World Series of Poker, held each summer in Las Vegas since 1970. There are many different games of poker over the course of a month. The World Series culminates in a championship, No Limit Texas Hold ‘em event, which paid Aussie Joe Hachem the grand sum of $7.5 million for his 2005 win.

A coveted gold bracelet goes with a win in each of the events. The pros measure success by these gold bracelets in their trophy case. Howard has a couple of these, and in 2005, Annie snagged one as well.

How good a teacher is Professor Howard? Annie, now the leading female money winner of all time, has knocked Howard -- whom she calls “Bub” – out of three World Series of Poker events.

For the 2003 World Series of Poker, Howard kept a journal. When knocked out in 19th place, he wrote: “I was in shock.” And, “ I am sure that at that moment, every brain chemical responsible for aggression, focus, and feeling good drained out of my body.”

He reports that he couldn’t pick up cards for 10 days.

Then, the words of a champion: “I couldn’t wait to do again.”

© 2005 Murphy James