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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Outplaying the Table - Q&A with Kenna James

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Kenna James is quite a character at the table. He never seems to be at a loss for words and is always having a good time. The million dollar man explains in this interview how being talkative helps him and also his thoughts on poker right now.

KL: How did you get started playing poker?

Kenna: I was working in a casino just as a dealer...playing on the side 1/2 hold'em and I just found that I was one of the better players in the game. I slowly moved up and graduated to higher levels and bigger tournaments. I just kind of found a knack for it and let my performance just kind of dictate where I was going to go. I could have gone into casino management but I just decided I wanted to play a game for a living.

KL: How quick did you move up in levels?

Kenna: I was probably playing 1/2, 2/4 and 3/6 for about 6 months to a year and then after that I played 10/20, 20/40 and 30/60 and from $20 up to $300 buy-in's on tournaments for the next three or four years. Then in 2002 I had a big breakout year. I won my first major event after about five years of really trying; it was at the Hustler Casino for like 60,000. I think I made 10 or 12 final tables that year and I played in the WSOP for the first time. I just started experiencing a lot of results. The hard work paid off and I have been going ever since.

KL: You are known to be talkative at the table and have a good time. How much does that help you?

Kenna: It does help me! It helps me because people don't go out of their way to bust me. In one WPT tournament at the Bike where I finished second I had one time where people were laying down pocket kings to me preflop. I don't think I will ever experience that again! But when you are running good, playing good and having a good time. people just don't want to mess with you. I try to keep a positive attitude and air of confidence and just have a good time and respect them as well. When you give respect, I think you get respect so it has worked for me.

KL: How do you handle an overly aggressive player?

Kenna: Call. The most feared action to an aggressive player is the call in this day and age, aggression is so much a part of the game. Everyone thinks aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. I think an aggressive player fears the call the most.
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KL: Check call?

Kenna: It depends; it depends on your position. Sometimes check call is the way to go...it depends on your position in the hand, the hand value. The particular player you are up against. In general how I handle super aggressive players is my favorite action is to call.

KL: With poker on TV now a lot of people know other peoples styles of play. Is it different from before...is it more helpful now that it is more out in the open?

Kenna: I think the game has a style in itself. The game has changed so much. It used to be ‘no set no bet!' Today people are pushing in with bottom pair, two over cards, flush draw, there's just no value. This is very reflective of our society. That's why poker is so great; it really is a microcosm for life. If you look at our society, now I'm speaking generally of course, people lose respect for money, there is so much money out there and poker has followed suit. It has been taken over by the young guns, so to speak, and people who have no fear and no value for money. In the 2005 WPT I finished second in, the gentleman who won, Alex Kahaner, called me for 2 million in chips with jack high after I had moved in. That's a comment on the game of poker today, so it's very interesting. You have to be able to balance that and then adjust your game accordingly.

KL: Do you play online?

Kenna: I do, I play all over. I played Phil Hellmuth heads up on Ultimate Bet a couple of weeks ago, I was beating him. There were 150 people watching us and his computer disconnected or something so we decided to stop. Phil said he was tired and wanted to go to bed, but of course we stayed up talking for a couple of hours after that. I don't think it was that, well let's just say Phil is the master of protecting his image. Not that I would have beat him, but I was in front. [Kenna laughs.] I'm not going to say he dodged me but...[he laughs again.] So, I play online, but I do enjoy looking at my opponent and the social aspect of the game.

KL: What is your take on the UIGEA [Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act]?

Kenna: My take on it? Well, it is their take on it really, they are doing the taking. It's really affected our community worldwide, not just people who play online. It's affected the poker shows from getting TV sponsors and advertisers so those shows now can't exist, which means poker shows will become less and less for the viewing public. This in turn means less money in the poker community, which means less people at the tournaments who can win their way in through satellites, which means less dealers, less jobs, less tournament directors, less massage people who work on them, less tips in the prize pool, less advertising in the magazines, less magazines, less people that work at the magazines. So the trickle down effect in the poker community is absolutely huge.

KL: What do you think will happen at the World Series this year?

Kenna: At the World Series this year, the lifestyle show I'm sure will be cut in half. The numbers will be cut in half. The real impact has yet to be seen, but I imagine the trickle down effect of the jobs and the people that are going to be affected and are affected in this industry is absolutely monumental and has yet to be seen.

Poker may return to the old days with 150 players per tournament. Really, when we are in a country that supports horse racing, bingo, state lotteries, casinos that spread pai gow and pan 9, where players have absolutely no shot to win, you really see the political bureaucracy and hypocrisy. That is really infuriating. It really is too bad and it really is just a law that is only going to protect the big interest land based casinos, but even then I don't think it is going to protect them because this internet brought those players into the casino, into the tournaments more and more. I think it is a loose, loose situation for everyone. Poker is the bright light of the gambler, because at least then the player has a shot to win. It just seems like now casinos and the government don't want people to have a chance to win. They have no shot in horse racing and lotteries, stuff like that. With poker you have an opportunity. In this country it is going to be less and less and it's truly a shame.

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