UKIPT graduate Max Silver getting good EPT grades

Max Silver is a likeable chap. He's quick to smile, won't bemoan his bad beats (well, not too loudly), and isn't liable to Hollywooding. If he's thinking it's because he's got a genuine decision like whether to call off his tournament life in a four-bet complicated pot with third pair. You know, just the usual kinda poker situations.

I've been lucky enough to chronicle much of Silver's rise in the live game; from the relative spit-and-sawdust of the early UKIPT stops to getting chipped up here in a record 1,000+ EPT Main Event with a knockout of world number one Daniel Negreanu. I'd arranged to interview Silver at the end of Day 1 to speak to him about how you can best transition from big regional tours, such as the UKIPT where he won his first title for €72,000, to big ticket events such as the PCA High Roller - which he cashed in for $54,980 - and EPT Main Events. I suppose I should declare a personal interest of sorts, much like a member of parliament: his mother was the celebrant who officiated over my wedding ceremony this summer (and a wonderful job she did too).

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UKIPT champ Max Silver

Silver's followed up his UKIPT Dublin win with a £83,588 win in an EPT London side event and a couple of WSOPE final tables, not to mention some prodigious staking which took in some November Nine horses and one prong of the Jake Cody Triple Crown. More recently there's been back-to-back UKIPT High Roller results; a £20,800 win at UKIPT Isle of Man and a £59,906 runner-up to Vanessa Selbst in London. Silver wrote an interesting piece for the Full Tilt Poker blog here.

Post-flop studies
All in all, it's been a pretty textbook transistion for the UKIPT graduate looking to continue poker studies at EPT University.

"I definitely started out as one of those regular UKIPT guys, but I already knew a lot of the bigger names of poker before that. When I had my success that just gave me a bigger bankroll which allowed me to play these bigger events," said Silver.

"I was on this small poker forum and on that forum was Jason Somerville, who ended up coaching me for a bit, Steve O'Dwyer, who's now one of biggest names in poker. I knew Steve back when we were not very good at poker. Oh, and Vivek Rajkumar."

With Somerville as teacher and the almuni including the current EPT Grand Final champion it's little wonder that Silver's done well for himself. It also highlights the importance of studying if you really want to get ahead in the game.

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Jason Somerville

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Steve O'Dwyer

"That was a six-month thing towards the end of 2009. Jason decided to take on four or five students for a group coaching thing. For six months we had near daily training and it was a huge leap for my game. Before that I didn't really know what i was doing. I was doing okay because I was playing okay, but I didn't really know why I was doing what i was doing. He really broke it down for me and gave me the blocks to not only play better poker but to then apply that to any live situation in poker. I can work it out on the fly now."

"It was probably one of his biggest regrets. He did it for a share of profits for the six months of training, and then a smaller share for the three months after that. Of the five players I think I was the only player who ended up winning in those six months and pretty much as soon as the three months ended I had my biggest score, so basically he's seen none of my amazing success which he's been a big part of. I'll buy him some beers."

When quizzed on some of his live poker stats - all-time cashes ($889k), GPI position (210th), place on the England all-time money list (84th) - he was pretty close, but not so much to show him up as a narcissist.

"I keep tabs on myself. I think everyone does, but I'm not too obsessed with it."

Typical atypical play from Silver
I went down to the floor to interview Max at the first break but arrived 80 minutes too early, i.e. a level too soon. I was on time to see Silver play out a fascinating hand against Joao Simao though. It's the kind of nonsense I've watched Silver play on his way to four UKIPT Main Event final tables (one was 9th, so not the official final eight).

Simao, a big stack at the table, had opened to 1,700 from the cut-off and Silver three-bet from the button to 4,400. Simao slowly chopped out a four-bet to 10,800. He didn't snap-fold. Was Silver at it? He had a stack of around 60,000 behind. He made the call.

Simao led 8,000 into the J♦J♣5♠ flop. Silver quickly called. The Brazilian checked the 6♦ turn, Silver bet 9,200. Simao started slowly shaking his head and then looked at Silver's stack, which looked a little under 50,000. Simao out-chipped him heavily with 170,000. He put a check-raise forward of 18,700 total. Silver made the call.

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Max Silver and Joao Simao (left)

The 9♦ river was unlikely to have changed much (bar a backdoor flush). Simao shook his head a little more, then picked up a stack of blue chips to set Silver in. Again, there was no snap-fold. There was some verbal, but it was hard to hear in the bustling tournament room. Perhaps Silver picked up on something, perhaps he just wasn't given a reason not to hit the hero call button. Silver announced call for his remaining 35,200. He tabled 6♣5♣ for third pair (officially two pair, but you know what I mean) to beat an un-paired ace-king. That chipped him up to around 147,000, approximately twice the average chip stack at the time.

Post-hand hero call analysis
"I'm not the biggest into live tells, but he (Simao) looked a bit nervous and a bit happy when he four-bet so I thought he was nervous enough for me to call in position and potentially make some moves later on. I flopped bottom pair on paired board. He bet small and I called," said Silver.

Then, if you remember, things got really interesting on the J♦J♣5♠6♦ turn.

"On the turn I paired my second card so had three pair, which is counterfeited obviously. He took a while and then checked. I bet small and then it was really weird. He started shaking his head on the turn and I had no idea whether it was... um.. there aren't many hands there that are check-raising. It's insanely polarised to pretty much a jack. I think he bets aces or kings on the turn. I think if he has a flush draw on the turn then he'd shove over my bet rather than pretty much check-min-raising. I called. The river was the nine of diamonds and he started shaking his head again. Again, I was very confused because this was something that you'd assume would be very weak. He tanked for a bit then shoved me all-in. The river brought the flush draw, but I didn't think he had a flush draw. He could definitely be scared of me having some slow-played hands, like aces or a jack or even a flush at this point. I think his value his is pretty much a jack, which is hard when there's two on the board and he four-bet pre. I wasn't happy in this spot because it sucks to bust an EPT in a very marginal spot, but combined with how unhappy he looked I decided to call and was good against ace-king."

That, UKIPT-to-EPT hopefuls, is the kind of analysis and belief in your own ability that you have to have if you're looking to get stacked up in an EPT event. Also, getting shoved on by Daniel Negreanu when you have a bigger ace helps too. When I came back at the end of the next level, when the break was actually scheduled, I found Kid Poker all in for his tournament life against Silver. Negreanu's A♣T♣ looking unhealthy against Silver's A♥J♥. The kicker played as the board blanked out. World number one? WSOP Player of the Year? It's a nice scalp to claim.

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Daniel Negreanu: should have tried the putting-the-coat-on trick

This seems an apt time to get some advice from Silver on how to step up from regional tours into the EPT league.

"Start slowly. Selling action is a great way to minimise your risk at the start. i would say to start out with a lower mark up as you are unproven in these fields and you want to sell easily. Definitely don't think too much into mentally because you're still playing the same game. Just because you're playing an EPT doesn't mean that they're going to be five- or six-betting you light every hand. It's poker and you should be playing the same solid game.

"If you have a lot of friends that are very good at poker then you'll be better off swapping than selling. That takes knowing the right people and it's definitely easier to just sell action," he said.

But how much should you be swapping and selling?

"It really depends on your bankroll and how risk averse you are. Generally I wouldn't put more than 3% of my bankroll into any one tournament live or online."

Whatever's he is doing with that bankroll and six-high four-bet calls he seems to be doing something right. He's currently up to 195,000 heading into the last couple of levels of the day.

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Rick Dacey
@PokerStars in EPT Prague