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Andy Bloch interview - Part 4: Poker

You are a very successful poker player, and one of the lucky few who are able to make a living from it.

Q: When did you start playing poker and how were you introduced to the game?

A: I played low stakes games occasionally in my teens and in college, but it wasn't serious.

I started playing poker in casinos in 1992. I played twice in Nov. 1992 on a business trip to Las Vegas, and started playing a couple of times a month at Foxwoods over the next year. On a trip to Foxwoods in Dec. 1992 I saw the results of their first "World Poker Finals" and decided it sounded fun.

Q: What are the key factors contributing to your poker success? Is it possible to become a successfully poker player these days without having a thorough understanding of the mathematics of the game?

A: The key factors to my success were study, analysi, and discussions with other poker players, and practice. You don't need a thorough understanding of the mathematics, but you do need to know how to approximate certain odds while at the table.

Q: Who is your favorite all time poker player? Which poker player/expert has most influenced your game?

A: Phil Ivey is my favorite player. Chris Ferguson has most influenced my game.

Q: The dream of every poker player is to win the main event of the World Series of Poker. You participated in a number of WSOP events during the years but never won one (afaik). What was your best accomplishment in the World Series of Poker? Is it still one of your goals to win the main WSOP event one day?

A: I had two final tables in 2001, playing in just 4 events plus the final. I didn't play in 2002 or 2003 because of the ways the owners were managing the casino and the tournament.

Q: You recently (October, 2004) won a No Limit Texas Hold'em tournament at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas netting you a very impressive $ 102,750. Could you tell us a little about this tournament (most memorable games, your best opponents, crucial hands)?

A: The Hard Rock doesn't have a permanent poker room so they use these tournaments as a way of marketing to their regular gamblers who are curious about poker. That means there are a higher percentage of true beginners at the Hard Rock than in similar buy-in tournaments, and at least one made it to the final table. The blinds go up very fast, which means you'll be forced to gamble, but if you know how to play when the blinds are a high percentage of the stacks than you can still have a big edge even late in the tournament.

Q: What is the total prize money you've won so far playing poker? Besides the tournament at the Hard Rock Casino mentioned above, which other major tournaments did you win?

A: I finished 3rd in two WPT tournaments the first season, winning $100k each time. I have four or five $40k+ tournament wins over the past 3 years.

Q: Which poker game do you like playing most? Which poker game has made you the most money?

A: I enjoy playing mixed games where the game switches a couple of times an hour or more. My best tournament results per event entered are in 7-card stud.

Q: What is your relation to Full Tilt Poker? How is Full Tilt Poker different from other poker rooms? Why should a player play at Full Tilt Poker?

A: I'm a representative of the company that licenses the Full Tilt Poker software. I help consult on the design of the software and act as an ambassador on the site.

Full Tilt Poker was designed by professional poker players and it has the best feature set out of all on-line sites. There's a button you can push to review the last 50 hands graphically, making it very easy to keep track of your opponents during a session. You can take notes on other players and color code them, so at a glance you can see who you've taken notes on and how you rated them. You can rotate the table so you're sitting wherever you like -- a very useful feature if you're playing multiple tables with overlapping windows on a computer with limited screen resolution The animation and sound are very smooth. The chat window is detachable from the table and you can move it and resize it separate from the table, and change the font. The avatars are a nice touch -- they can help you to keep track of your opponents, but there are a limited number of them and they are of a similar style to keep the table aesthetically pleasing.

Besides the software, players are attracted to Full Tilt Poker by the quality and number of pros that represent and play on the site. Few people will ever have the opportunity to play or chat about golf with Tiger Woods, but on Full Tilt Poker they have lots of opportunity to play with and learn from the poker celebrities they see on TV. There are even opportunities to win trips to meet and learn from the pros in person. Some other sites have one, two, or three pros, but Full Tilt has over a dozen.

Q: Do you have any personal and/or poker sites, and if yes could you give us a short description of each?

A: I run the WPTfan.com site, which is an online poker community and discussion group with over 4000 members where poker fans help each other improve their poker skills and talk about a variety of poker topics.

The topics I cover on my personal site, www.andybloch.com , range from poker to politics. I add a new story every couple of weeks, keeping family, friends, and fans up to date. I also have a biography at www.andybloch.com/bio and a list of frequently asked questions at www.andybloch.com/ftpfaq , plus a picture gallery and a page with materials relating to my legal appeals.

Q: What is the best strategy advice you would be able to offer to newbie poker players?

A: Learn how to do a thorough mathematical analysis of hands away from the table, and whenever you come across an interesting hand or think you might have misplayed a hand, take a note and analyze it later. That way you can learn the strategy details that are missing in the books you've read.

Thanks Andy for giving this interview, especially since you were very busy playing at the Monte Carlo Millions tournament at the time this interview was conducted. We would like to wish you continued success with your poker career as well as with your websites.

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