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October 25, 2014

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JEFF HANEY:

A poker survival skill: Cash game play

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COURTESY of WORLD SERIES OF POKER ACADEMY

Mark Seif will be among the poker pros teaching a World Series of Poker Academy clinic this weekend at Caesars Palace on how to master cash games, which organizers say are vital to long-term success in poker.

On the surface, the distinctions between poker tournaments and cash poker games are minimal.

The most obvious is that when you run out of money in a cash game, you’re free to reach into your pocket to buy some more chips and continue to play. When you bust out of a tournament, you have to get up from the table and slink away (and usually go off to join a cash game).

Yet the differences between the forms of poker run much deeper. In fact, when the stacks are deep in a cash game — meaning the players have a lot of money on the table relative to the size of the blinds — pure poker skill carries more weight than it does at many stages of a typical tournament.

Mastering the strategy behind cash poker games is the goal of this weekend’s World Series of Poker cash game academy, a two-day instructional camp at Caesars Palace.

“Obviously there are a lot of people who are casual poker players, who might sit down and play some poker when they go to Las Vegas,” said Brandon Rosen of Post Oak Productions, the company that created and owns the World Series of Poker Academy, which produces educational poker events. “But there’s also a significant market made up of people spending significant amounts of time and disposable income to poker, live or online. If they’re serious about winning — and why shouldn’t you be if you’re spending that much time on it? — we’re going to make you better and your results are going to improve.

“It’s that population of people who might not consider themselves professionals, but are serious about their game and want to be able to generate income and have the results to be able to play poker indefinitely.”

Known primarily for conducting instructional camps focusing on tournament poker, which sell out consistently, the company held its first cash game academy last month in Atlantic City; it was led by professional players Mark Seif, Paul Wasicka and Alex Outhred.

Seif and Outhred return for this weekend’s event at Caesars. They will be joined by fellow pros Michael Gracz and Mark Gregorich on the team of instructors.

“Tournament players get the fame, the glory, especially when someone wins a big tournament, because of all the TV coverage and the online attention afterward,” Rosen said. “But a poker player’s longevity and success are largely determined by their cash-game play. Even good tournament players, if they’re cashing in 10 percent of the events they play in, they’re considered an excellent player, whereas most poker players have to earn their living at the cash games, to grind it out.

“For a lot of players, it’s often their success in the cash games that allows them to take a portion of their bankroll and play in tournaments. That’s the reason we’re doing a cash game academy.”

Outhred, for example, parlayed his success in the cash games in Los Angeles into some strong showings in major tournaments. He cashed in his first World Series of Poker event in 2005, and later made the final table in a World Poker Tour event at Mandalay Bay. Outhred finished in 54th place in a field of more than 6,700 in last year’s World Series main event, winning $135,000.

Seif owns two World Series of Poker championship bracelets, and Gracz has one World Series bracelet and a World Poker Tour title.

Gregorich, who competes in Las Vegas cash games, has advanced to the final table in the World Series of Poker in five separate forms of poker: no-limit Texas hold ’em; limit hold ’em; HORSE, or mixed games; Omaha high-low 8 or better; and 7-card stud 8 or better. He helped coach Orel Hershiser when the former baseball pro made his surprising run to the final eight in last year’s National Heads-Up Poker Championship at Caesars.

The cash game academy will include seminars, question-and-answer sessions, live play workshops and video hand analysis. It will also include a cash poker competition with a spot at stake in a special tournament for academy participants during this year’s World Series of Poker.

“What people like the most is when the pros are sitting at the table with them doing hand analysis,” Rosen said. “These guys are all really approachable and very passionate about poker. I think people appreciate being in that kind of learning environment.”

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