PCA 2015: Improve your game, with Jason and Vanessa

Part of what makes the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure so much more than just the biggest tournament series outside Vegas is the spread of additional activities and opportunities on offer. Poker lovers can watch episodes of Shark Cage being filmed, win free money from the pros heads up in the HU4ROLLZ area, or even find themselves asking their heroes to pass the salt in the players' dining area.

One other great bonus available to all PCA attendees is the series of Q&A sessions with members of Team PokerStars Pro. This morning Jason Mercier and Vanessa Selbst answered some questions on how to improve your game, no matter what level you're playing at.

Q. Is it as important to know when to step down in levels as it is to step up?

Jason Mercier: It's definitely more important from a bankroll standpoint than in terms of your skill set. If you've taken a big hit to your bankroll at a certain level, you want to make sure you don't go broke, plain and simple.

Vanessa Selbst: The converse is that smart, aggressive bankroll management is a really undervalued skill. You can't be too conservative. If you're a proven winner and confident at a certain level, with 40-50 cash game buy-ins, take 10 buy-ins and make it 5 buy-ins at the next level. Taking shots on a regular basis is a really important thing to do. To really get better you need to play tougher opponents.


Jason Vanessa Q&A audience.jpgFree advice from Team PokerStars Pro is also good for your bankroll

Q. For recreational players with limited time to study the game, what resources would you recommend?

VS: We didn't learn this way because they weren't around when we started, but poker video sites and poker forums have vast amounts of resources available. Sites like PokerSchoolOnline are great, and even just watching high level play can be really helpful. That's what I do to keep sharp.

JM: A good thing to do is to watch the Super High Roller events and try to understand why people are doing what they're doing.

VS: Obviously the Super High Roller players are at this crazy level, but watching the Main Event broadcasts can also be helpful. You can watch episodes from each day, but if you're a real junkie you can watch the full stream on EPTLive, which is really cool because you can pick up on more things, like game flow and player tendencies, and just get a really good feel for how people are playing the game.

Q. What are your thoughts on coaches?

JM: I don't necessarily think that everybody needs a coach. One of the things that helps me is meeting other pros and talking hands. Some of the closest friends I have now I met at the poker table. Talking through hands with someone whose game you respect can help raise both of you up to the next level.


Jason Vanessa Q&A Jason.jpgMercier on the mic

Q. Is it possible to be both a tournament and a cash game player, and would you recommend it?

JM: I dabble in both, but for most players I'd say it's better to figure out a niche, whether that's tournaments, Sit & Go's, limit hold'em cash or whatever. Figure out which game you're best at and try to get as good at that as you can. Although obviously dabbling in other games helps your mind and helps your game as well.

VS: I would agree with that. I play mostly tournaments now, but I started out playing cash games. Most successful deepstack tournament players are also really capable in cash games, though, as there are a lot of similarities. It's also worth pointing out that short-handed play is so important, and tournament players might be great at 8 or 9-handed play, but all of the money in a tournament is made when you're down to the final table. You're going to be playing 4 or 5-handed when it really counts, so getting some short-handed cash game experience can make all the difference if you're a tournament player.

Q. How do you adapt to changing trends in the game?

JM: It's interesting...I almost always min-raise when I open in No Limit, and it seems like no one is really doing that anymore. Most pros are opening around 2.5x, and some guys are even doing 3x and 3.5x. So I'm sitting there min-raising every time, and starting to think that maybe I should be raising a little more. Maybe I'll change it up if I ever start losing...

VS (laughs): What I try to do is to notice a trend and to stay on top of it, and try to be ahead of it. Like, for a long time everyone was c-betting all the time, so then people realised it doesn't mean anything and started calling with something like King-high to try and take it away later. So for a while I was not c-betting as much. But now I've noticed that people are on to that, so when someone checks back it doesn't mean they have something, they might just be not c-betting where they would have before, so I might attack a little more. Every little thing goes in trends, and the more that you can pick up on, the better you'll play.


Jason Vanessa Q&A Vanessa.jpgVanessa Selbst: trend-setter

Q. Finally, do you think there will come a time when artificial intelligence is better than the top players?

JM: I think it might be possible in limit games, but I don't think a bot will ever play a big-bet game better than the best human players in the world. There are too many variables that the human element can apply.

VS: I would mostly agree with that. AI is developing at a rapid speed, obviously we don't know what's going to happen. Maybe robots will be ruling the world in 30 years. At that point, poker will probably be more difficult...

For even more words of wisdom from Jason and Vanessa, hit play on the video below.



Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars Blog. Everything from the Main Event is on the Main Event page, while the LAPT event has reached its final table. Full coverage is on the LAPT Bahamas page and on EPT Live.


Adam Hampton is a copywriter for PokerStars.