WPT Boot Camp
Mike Opton, Editor Casino City
of a boot camp didn't appeal to me. The prospect of grunting
and sweating while being yelled at by a drill sergeant was low
on my to-do list. But when they threw in the word poker, my
ears perked up. Poker was part of my life a long time ago, playing
with my high school friends every weekend, drinking beer and
just having a good time. It hadn't escaped my attention, being
an editor of gaming publications, that poker had taken the country
by storm. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call to
see if I wanted to mosey on down to Foxwoods
for a weekend-long WPT Poker Boot Camp.
my first time at Foxwoods,
too. My family oohed and aahed when we came upon this Emerald
City in a sea of trees. The soaring hotel towers with their
green colored glass features made quite an impression. As we
burrowed floor after floor into the self-park garage, we got
a sense of how popular the casino was.
checked in by a friendly and efficient staff, we went up to
our room. The rooms in the Grand Pequot tower are excellent
with beautiful furniture and a great view of the surrounding
trees. It's a much different experience than Las Vegas, where
you need to close your room curtains to get a good night's sleep.
morning I went down to the Convention Center where the Boot
Camp was being held. I signed in and received a schedule for
the next two days and a bag filled with great stuff for poker
players (poker simulator software, a book by Mike Sexton, a
DVD about the WPT Ladies Tour, cards, etc.) I also got breakfast,
something you need when you're going to be thinking about poker,
non-stop, for the next 8 hours.
Poker Boot Camp is the brainchild of Ron Rubens and Steve Berman,
two guys from Florida who previously put on information technology
boot camps. The way Ron tells it, last year he and Steve were
sitting together at board meeting of their local synagogue,
half dozing, when Ron wrote "poker boot camp?" on
a piece of paper. It didn't take long before hearts were pumping
and phone calls were made. One of them was a feeler call to
Lyle Berman, the Chairman of the Board for the World Poker Tour.
Lyle knows a thing or two about poker, being one of the world's
top poker players and having been inducted into the Poker Hall
of Fame in 2002. It wasn't long before Lyle called back with
good news. He suggested to Rubens and Berman that the World
Poker Tour create the Boot Camp and sign on Mike Sexton, a top
professional and the commentator for the WPT's television show
on the Travel Channel.
rolling in the summer of 2004, and by November a licensing agreement
was in place. Poker history was made Jan. 26-27 at the Hard
Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, with the premiere
edition of the WPT Boot Camp. Mike Sexton and Alex Outhred were
the instructors for the first event, which was a huge success.
As a novice,
I didn't know what to expect from my Boot Camp experience. The
Boot Camp is limited to 50 players, so I knew I wasn't going
to get lost in the crowd, but I was curious as to what the level
of knowledge you needed to keep up. Our instructors for the
camp were Clonie Gowen, winner of the WPT's "Ladies Night"
tournament and Rick Fuller, a full-time pro who came in 7th
at the Reno Hilton World Poker Challenge.
out by giving us some background about herself. Let me just
say, that if you're going to sit in a boot camp for two days,
you can't do much better than to be in the presence of someone
as attractive and intelligent Clonie Gowen. Clonie, short for
Cyclona (the name was chosen after a particularly strong storm
in Oklahoma impressed her father shortly before her birth) knows
her stuff. She started playing blackjack and poker as a teenager
with her boyfriend's family and lit out for Las Vegas after
high school to try her luck as a blackjack pro. Not finding
blackjack that stimulating, she found herself at a poker table
with a group of grizzled vets. "I bought in for $40 in
a seven-card stud game with a 10-cent ante. I lost my money
and was devastated - but I was hooked," she told us. From
that point forward, it was love.
Clonie and Rick had for the game was evident from the moment
they started their instruction. This wasn't a by-the-numbers
presentation. It was filled with rapid-fire information and
anecdotes that kept me engaged from the get-go. The basics were
taken care of in the first fifteen minutes. If you plan on attending,
the one thing you should have learned by now is the order of
winning hands. Other than that, everything is covered. Buttons
and blinds, raise, call, check, opening hands by position, technical
aspects such as real and implied pot odds, tournament strategy,
table image, and tells. Clonie also gave the women at the camp
some insights into how to play against men, and the men some
idea of the traps a woman might lay for them.
days, we had labs after instruction sections. Labs gave us a
chance to try out what we learned in real poker action with
feedback from the pros on how we did. The group was split into
two tables, with some students playing and others observing.
Identical hands, many from actual poker action from the WPT
tour, were dealt and we were on our own as to what to do. Once
we played our hands out, we watched actual WPT footage of the
poker pros playing out the exact same situation. This was not
only a great tool for learning and discussion, but quite entertaining
too. It was during the labs that I got a sense of how complicated
a game poker can be. Even with the same hands, the tables had
different bets and outcomes. Clonie and Rick critiqued the play,
and we could see what was missed and what was right on.
days of instruction went by quickly for me, and I absorbed a
lot of useful information about poker strategies and techniques.
At the end of the second day it was time to put my knowledge
to the test in a No Limit Texas Hold'em tournament for all of
the students. The final table was going to be on the casino
floor to give us the feel of an audience, if we made it that
far. Even with all I learned in the two days, it was a rookie
mistake that knocked me out pretty early. I'll just say that
if your opponent is betting all-in on a hand early on, he's
usually going to have a great hand. Trust me on that.
of the weekend was that the winner of the Boot Camp's tournament
was a poker newbie. Not only that, he was a reporter and part
of the press coverage, working for the New Haven Register. Pat
Ferrucci, who wrote a great article
about his experience, took all the lessons he learned to heart
and played brilliantly for over seven hours. Since he was a
reporter, he didn't qualify to keep the top prize, an entry
to a Foxwoods satellite tournament, but he was a hero to us
who are re-learning this great game.
looking to improve your game and learn from some of the best
pros in the poker world, I'd highly recommend the WPT Poker
Boot Camp. The next event at Foxwoods
in August is sold-out, but it looks like there's still space
available in the October event. A complete list of upcoming
events can be found on their website, www.wptbootcamp.com.