Friday, February 24, 2006

Deal Me In 3-3

(I'm only going to post these when they have some value to blog readers. Writing about the basics of hold'em serves you no purpose, but they are the subject of many of my columns. It is for novices, after all. I assume you aren't one of them.)


By Johnny Kampis


University of Alabama student Shannon Storr, who took some time off to play online poker, recently won $205,000 in the Aussie Millions tournament in Melbourne. We recently chatted about his efforts.

Q. How were you able to finish fourth in the Aussie Millions? What was the key to your success?

A. I made it very clear by my style of play that I was at The Australian Poker Championship to win. I wasn't interested in sitting back and trying to finish in the money. To propel myself to the final table, I used naked aggression and my ability to manipulate others into doing what I wanted.

Q. How did you get into poker, and how long have you been playing? Where did you get your start?

A. I started playing $5 house game tournaments with my college friends back in November of 2003. I made my first online deposit to PartyPoker in April of 2004. I've played online probably 95 percent of the days since I made my first deposit. It wasn't until about June 2005 that I started playing stakes that you could actually make a nice living off of. It is pretty amazing to see where I am now compared to where I was when I started 30 months ago.

Q. I understand that you dropped out of school at UA to pursue playing poker for a living. Is this temporary, or do you hope to make it a career? Do you plan to hit the tournament circuit?

A. At this point I plan on playing it by ear. I'm not going to swear that I'm going back to school in the fall of 2006 or whether I'm going to continue to play poker professionally. I finished fourth at the Aussie Millions for $205,000 and second at the Canadian Poker Championship for $75,000, so poker is very, very, very good right now. I will say that it is going to be hard to go back to school when I can, potentially, make eight times as much as a poker player then I would with my civil engineering degree. I've done quite a bit of traveling so far in 2006 and will continue to travel internationally until I turn 21 on June 7th. I then plan on moving to Las Vegas for the month of July to play all of the hold 'em events at the World Series of Poker.

Q. What advice would you give to novice poker players?

A. Poker isn't for everyone. A very small percentage of people who ever play poker can beat it over a long period of time. In my two short years I've seen it turn people's lives totally upside down. I've seen it make happy people miserable and make wealthy people struggle. If I could offer one piece of advice to amateur players it would be to play within your bankroll. You can't make a living playing poker just on skill. You have to have the ability to manage your money wisely and determine what types of games are best for you.

Reach Johnny Kampis at

The kid seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders except for this line..."I will say that it is going to be hard to go back to school when I can, potentially, make eight times as much as a poker player than I would with my civil engineering degree."

Now, I don't disagree with his thought of playing poker for a living if he thinks he can cut it. Early results are, obviously, very positive. But I doubt he could consistently make eight times what a civil engineer makes. He uses the word "potentially." That I will give him.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Making money, earning a living

Making my way, anyway I know how. But that's just a little bit more than the law will allow.

Just brushed my teeth -- one of those everyday daily grind things – and looked at my toothbrush holder and noticed it has holes for four brushes. Of course, this isn’t the first time I noticed it, but it’s the first time I thought it would be nice if there were a second toothbrush in the holder. I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon, but I look forward to the day.

Yes, welcome to my crazy, neurotic – and sometimes romantic – brain. The brain that occasionally spits out a wise and well-timed poker move and other times helps me self destruct. The past week has been a struggle. I thought it was going to be a gangbuster month, but it’s looking much, much less than extraordinary on the poker front.

As my luck and my attitude towards the game sour, I’ve become serious about other means of income. I’ve made no decisions about the future, though I am leaning toward going to grad school and obtaining a master’s in marketing. If I do that, I don’t plan to go the financial aid route, but will try to support myself by doing these televised games (good money, but not enough games right now), writing, and, yes, poker.

I seemed to have been born with a knack for making money (paid my rent in college by scalping football tickets, paid for video games in high school by selling baseball cards, etc. etc.) and am pretty much debt free other than this mortgage payment. I’m a good money manager. It’s helped me be successful at poker.

Although the columnist ambitions of Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu initially discouraged me from trying to sell my own column beyond its home of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group, I’m now launching a nationwide email offensive to newspapers editors. I think I provide a pretty good service, with a mix of columns on strategy, on-the-scene reporting and miscellaneous subjects like pro interviews or lists of the best poker books to read. And I say so in my emails. I’m also only trying to get $10 per paper per week, so it’s economical. It’s an inexpensive way for them to fill some space with a topic that should be of interest to many readers, and all it requires from me is to include their email address when I send out my weekly column. Truly a win, win. We’ll see what kind of response I get.

I’m not sure my heart’s in this college poker book. I’m just not certain how to write it and I don’t think I really care so much about the subject matter. I’m trying to sell another book, a guidebook I won’t divulge too much about yet, to Fodor’s. Although rejected by my agent, I just don’t see how this idea wouldn’t sell. As always, time will tell.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An easy buck, but for what? (Part 2)

I enjoyed the comments that were posted following the first installment of this topic. Some agreed, others disagreed, but they all made good, strong arguments for their viewpoints.

I think I should note that of the two reasons I gave for why I enjoy poker less than I used to is the feeling unproductive part. The taking advantage of others is of much secondary importance. While I wonder about these people, I also realize they are going to put their money up for grabs no matter what I do, so if I am the one to win it, so be it. I have, on a couple of occasions, suggested to a player that they take a break when they seem to go on tilt. But, yeah, most of the time I just take their money.

At least I'm trying to empathize a little, and depending on your view of this issue you either think that's a great idea or a terrible one. I think it all originates from this thought I had recently as I approach my 30th birthday in June -- I've spent the first 30 years of my life being pretty selfish. I'd like to spend the next 30 being a better man.

As the fourth decade of my existence dawns, I see myself trying to settle down soon. I've started dating a girl who I think has serious potential and if she's the one (or whenever I find "the one") I don't want to be trying to start a family and having to play poker for a living to support it. Even if I could cut it, which I probably could, there would be a serious stigma put on me as "the professional gambler."

You also must consider where I live. This is the heart of the Bible belt, where a state legislator tried to remove all books, plays and any other media depicting homosexuality from schools and libraries and where the former state Supreme Court chief lost his job for refusing to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments he had installed in the Capitol building. And these are no minority viewpoints. This is a supremely conservative state, the reddest of the red states.

It's really awkward here, as it probably is across the country despite poker's sudden popularity, to tell someone you play poker for a living. I always, always add that I'm taking a year off from a newspaper job to write a book about what it's like to try playing professionally. Why? Because most people would think I'm nuts if they thought I was trying to make a career out of it. Nothing will change that opinion.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Deal Me In 2-17

Here's the column for this week. Major pimpage to 100,000+ newspaper subscribers for five poker blogs, so if any of you in this column haven't linked to my blog, feel free to do so. :)

(Yes, my linkage is woefully inadequate. Maybe I'll correct that one of these days.)


By Johnny Kampis

I gave you a link recently to one of the best poker blogs, Guinness and Poker (, where the proprietor, who goes by Iggy, really drinks lots of Guinness and plays lots of poker. In between guzzles, he finds the time to provide one of the most informative poker Web logs on the Internet. And taking time from his writing, Iggy helped me pick out his top five poker blogs. Below is the list, with additional comments by him. Follow the links and enjoy.

Poker Works (

Linda, a long-time dealer at the Bellagio, provides perhaps the best inside information on the Web for the poker aficionado. Anyone who plays any serious poker in Las Vegas darkens the doors of the Bellagio poker room, so Linda finds many great stories to share. She recently blogged some on the big game between the top pros and Texas billionaire banker Andy Beal.

Iggy says, “This veteran high-limit dealer at the Bellagio has seen and heard it all. She is the blogmother.”

Tao Poker (

Paul McGrupp, a novelist from New York City, decided to combine his love of writing and playing poker into what has become among the best read blogs on the Internet. He spent most of last summer at the World Series of Poker live blogging the action there and his became the go-to site for the latest tournament information. He now travels the tournament circuit, blogging and churning out freelance articles, while also sharing his personal successes and failures.

Iggy says, “Hunter S. Thompson meets Hemingway. Pauly is living the fantasy life. People should pay money to live life like Pauly.”

Up For Poker (

An irreverent look at poker and life, this blog is co-written by three journalists from South Carolina and is as likely to discuss the whereabouts of Steve Guttenberg as the merits of going all-in preflop with ace-king.

Iggy says, “Three gifted writers, um, telling their tales.”

Cards Speak (

Known online as HDouble, this writer named Hank provides one of the best blogs that could help you improve your game. Deep into philosophy, Hank writes often about how having the right attitude will help you improve your play. Where else can you read about the poker wisdom contained within the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

Iggy says, “He doesn’t write often but when he does, Jesus. He’s our Abdul Jalib, best praise I can give.”

Double As (

Doubleas shares his personals poker development on his blog. For the last couple of years, he’s written about how his game has developed and what lessons he’s learned, his struggles and successes in an attempt at poker mastery.

Iggy says, “Hank is to limit as doubleas is to NL.”

Reach Johnny Kampis at

Monday, February 13, 2006

Here it is, Deal Me In

OK, I'm finally going to start posting my newspaper columns on here. These run weekly in papers in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Houma and Thibodaux, La. and Lakeland, Fla. And for these I am richly compensated -- not. It gets my name out there, anyway.


By Johnny Kampis

It shouldn’t be too surprising considering poker’s popularity these days that there are a number of Web sits with rich and helpful content. Let’s look at some of the best.

Started by poker theorists David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth, this is the best discussion group for poker theory, and various categories are broken down by subject, making it easy to find what you are seeking. If you want to debate the merits of pushing all in with Ace-King in no limit Texas hold’em with Daniel Negreanu or Greg Raymer, this is the place to be.

This is the best site on which to view the Usenet discussion group, known as RGP for short. RGP’s best days are behind it. Several of today’s pros, like Chris Ferguson and Paul Phillips, used to post here, but now it’s filled with spam and political discussion. It’s a very popular and cluttered site, but if you wade through the muck, there’s still plenty of useful strategy discussion and general poker discussion within. RGP can also be viewed at And if you see FellKnight, tell him TuscaloosaJohnny sent you.

This home site for the popular poker magazine is a variable cornucopia of useful information. Not only can you read all of the magazine’s current and past articles here, but you can check the upcoming tournament schedule, get daily tournament updates, play poker for fun and prizes and read about any other poker news. This site has the poker odds calculator I mentioned in an earlier column and also has its own discussion forum.

Though not as clean looking as the Card Player Web site, Poker Pages has much of the same content, with tournament reports and strategy columns galore. This site also features a section on the history of the World Series of Poker for poker nostalgia buffs. There’s no shortage of online poker site ads either, which clutters the pages.

A hub for poker content, this is probably the best of the poker blogs. Started a couple of years ago by a player named Tom in Cincinnati who goes by Iggy, this site quickly became popular among the recreational set. Rich in both entertaining general poker content and personal stories of win and woe, it’s a fascinating read. Tom also has links to hundreds of other poker blogs, some more worthwhile than others. I’ll discuss some of the better ones in next week’s column.

Reach Johnny Kampis at

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

An easy buck, but for what?

Poker is a lazy man's way to make a living. There, I said it, and it's hard to deny the validity of that statement. I took (at least) a year off of working in the real world to travel the tournament circuit and play at home online to report on what it's like to take the plunge of playing professionally. I think I can sum it up in two quick thoughts:

1) I can make a living playing poker

2) I don't like the way it makes me feel

I had lunch with a former boss today and we talked about this in some length. I can make two strong arguments against playing poker for a living.

First, it makes one feel unproductive. Let's be honest here. Most of us are raised with the thought ingrained in us that we must contribute to society in some way. Now while there are a lot of poker players who would respond with, "Fuck that," there are still many who probably feel like I do, but won't speak up. When I'm at home playing poker online I feel like a slug. Sometimes I wish someone would just pour salt on me. Our waiter today told us his wife at home just had a child and he waits tables at Lone Star and bartends at a couple of watering holes in town to support his family.

I could have told him this. "Hi, I'm Johnny, I sit at home and play poker on my computer. I work a lot less than you (not at all, really) but make a lot more money than you. Hell Ben (that was his name), if you play poker recreationally online, you might be one of the people whose hard earned money I take on a daily basis."

Which brings me to my second point, to win at poker you must prey on the weak -- both the weak minded and the emotionally weak. The worst players are the dumb ones who don't know proper game strategy, yet hop in a $10-$20 limit game anyway and the ones who can't control their emotions and play on tilt, bleeding chips in the process. It's those two sets of players from which we make our money.

Michael (that's my former boss) made the argument that businesses have to prey on people to make their money. He said if he walks into Lowe's and buys a sledgehammer, he doesn't feel he's being taken advantage of. My counterpoint is that we all make our money from other people, the difference is the manner in which we take it. As long as you're not price gouging, operating a business is an honest way to make a buck. People know what they're getting into. Many people playing poker don't realize what they're getting into because they are too weak. The rising popularity of the game has made poker akin to a black hole, it sucks people (and their money) into a place they cannot escape. I wonder how many more clients Gamboholics Anonymous has now after the poker boom.

I had my best session of poker ever last Tuesday. I played my regular shorthanded $10-$20 limit game for three hours and won almost $2,000. I hit everything. But I wondered later about the people I took the money off of. A couple of guys probably lost $500 to me. Could they stand to lose that much?

How can you be a successful gambler and have a conscious, Michael asked me. I may have a consciousness talking to you now, I replied, but when I'm at the table or on the computer I'm all business. I never softplay anyone at the table, but there are some people I wonder about later. I wonder if they can really afford to be losing that much money and why they don't stop. I think the answer is simply because they can't.

A poker player with a conscience? Weird, isn't it?

So does this mean I am quitting the game? Nope. I'm still holding to the game plan. I'll go to Reno in March and to Las Vegas in the summer. I'll play some tournaments and try to win a bundle. I'll interview some pros. I'll write a book.

I just don't see the game of poker quite as I did a year ago. I don't see it as my ticket to riches and the way out of a life I thought I was bored with. Sometimes if you run away from something long enough, you forget why it was you were running in the first place. Sometimes you wonder why you were running away at all.