Sundays in Jerusalem
Being back on PokerStars is always a thrill, and I particularly love playing from Jerusalem. I wake up at 10 AM here, still hours before anyone wakes up in the US. This gives me plenty of time to enjoy the city and get some physical exercise in before the grind.
My biggest successes here so far were in two slightly off-beat events, the Saturday Super Knockout and the Ante Up tourneys. I think it's natural that I'd have more success in these formats, since I only play a few tables at once. For my WSOP preparation, two to four is ideal because it's enough tables to generate some volume without making me feel the need to autopilot.
For instance, in the Ante Up tourney, you may only need to flick in five chips to enter a pot of 2,500 (the bring-in stays constant while the forced ante goes up). At my tables, the action would be raised around 80 percent of the time, so the other 20 percent, I'd be getting 500-to-1 on the call. If I was playing a lot of tables, it might be hard for me to remember to take those 100-to-1 odds, even with total garbage.
I've also been active in the chess world. On my last trip to Saint Louis, I gave a number of lectures to girls to promote "A Queen Within" and to get young girls involved in chess. In one of my classes, I talked about how, in chess, it's important to play people who are better than you. I suggested, as a rule of thumb, to try to play stronger opponents 70 percent of the time. A nine-year-old girl in the class asked, "But if you are supposed to play someone stronger 70 percent of the time, how does that work for the person you're playing?" I immediately gave her a gold star (okay, actually a World Chess Hall of Fame magnet). When I related this story on Jared Tendler's "Mental Game of Poker" podcast, he said it gave him hope for the next generation. Jared and I also talked about how to overcome chess tilt and compared the routine of Grandmasters to poker pros.
In poker, we don't want to play people stronger than us 70 percent of the time, or we'll be out of money quick. Though I do remember this concept as a silver lining when I draw a tough table in major events.
The WSOP Circuit event was in Saint Louis at the time, so in between playing in my first live official events for PokerStars, I gave tours to some of my poker friends of the World Chess Hall of Fame. I also talked about poker in a STL Chess Club lecture on a recent battle between Magnus Carlsen, the world's number one player, and US number one Hikaru Nakamura. Both players have dabbled in poker; Magnus has talked in interviews about how he enjoys playing online, while Nakamura played the WSOP Main Event a few years ago.
Based on rating and talent, Hikaru is one of a handful of prime candidates to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship one day. However, he has a dismal score against Carlsen specifically (ten losses without a single win) and a serious mental game battle to overcome.
Arrangements for the PokerStars Isle of Man International are going very well; some of the biggest stars in chess are signed up.
One exciting IOM International entry is Almira Skripchenko, a professional poker player with over $250,000 in live earnings, also one of the top female chess players in the world. Almira said, "I played in IOM once, more than 10 years ago and was glad to hear the tournament was on again.It will be an occasion to meet many friends of mine from both worlds (of chess and poker)."
We also just added our top-ranked player of the field, French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He's number 11 in the World and only 24 years old!
Two Supernova Elites, who also hold international chess titles, are also psyched for the IOM tournament. (More on all of this in a future PokerStars blog post.)
Next up for me is live commentary at the US Chess Championships in Saint Louis with Grandmasters Maurice Ashley & Yasser Seirawan. If you've caught the chess bug, you can follow along at uschesschamps.com. Beyond that, I look forward to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and hope to see some of you there!