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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

The Round Table – Howard Lederer Wins in Australia and He Knows Why

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Howard Lederer recently took down one of the biggest tournaments in the world, the $100,000 Aussie Millions Poker Championship . Beating out a field of 25 very tough players, Lederer outlasted what he likes to call, the ‘Internet geniuses.’ He shares how he did it and how much the game has changed through the years.

KL: You recently got back from Australia; I’m guessing that was a good trip for you!

Well, it was a great trip for me. First of all I love going to Australia anyways, but to be able to win the $100,000 buy-in tournament, my first one million plus pay-day! It was great to be back in the winner’s circle. It was a very tough field and it was good to knock off some of those Internet geniuses I have been hearing so much about and actually getting to play with them. I don’t say Internet geniuses lightly; I’m not mocking them in anyway. There were three that made the final table and I think I played with a couple more of them earlier in the tournament, they were tough! They were very impressive players and I hadn’t been able to play with them yet.

KL: Who are you speaking of when you say Internet geniuses?

I guess my definition of Internet geniuses are one of those 20 to 25 year old pros, whereas back when I was getting started you just couldn’t play enough poker by that age to be that good, but these guys were pretty amazing players. It was fun to really be in a situation where I was playing against them late in a tournament and come out on top.

KL: Coming from the internet, is their strategy completely different? Was your poker and their poker two different types of games?

The game has completely changed. There is so much information out there; there is so much of an understanding of the math of the game and proper play, that the game has become much more aggressive. I think 20 years ago there was this myth and it was a myth and it kind of wasn’t a myth, players played so tight, they were so unwilling to make a bad call that if you were just willing to add just one notch of aggression above how they were playing then, you could very safely win tournaments and certainly in cash games, without hardly ever risking chips sometimes. You just can’t do that anymore. You can’t just dominate the table like you could back then because too many people know what you are doing. They have seen all the plays on TV, they’ve seen all the plays in print, and they’ve talked about all the plays on the forums. They have just played too many hands, and seen all the tricks, and they realize that when you are playing against someone who is good and capable of all the tricks, that there are just going to be situations where you have to stick your chips in the pot and look a guy up and that wasn’t happening back when I was starting out. I wasn’t even aware of all those plays; I had to kind of see those plays in the wild just over the course of like the first ten years of my career you would eventually see every play. Actually you would have to see the cards turned up and go, ‘oh wow look how he played that hand, that’s pretty amazing.’ Half the time the guy might turn up a hand and you say, ‘wow what a horrible play, what was he thinking?’ Now someone has written about what he was thinking.

KL: How does that change things?

I just think there was much less information and it was kind of harder to figure some of this stuff out because you had to figure it out on your own at the table. I picked up some plays and I was a few steps ahead of the competition, I’m not saying everybody, but enough that I was a successful player. I didn’t have the knowledge 15 years ago that I have now. No one did, it was a different game. I think I played the game pretty well, but the game advances and as more stuff is written and more stuff is shown on TV and as these young players come in and change the game, that game changes for the better and it becomes a tougher game. Sometimes I think, boy if I knew what I know today 15 years ago, I would have 15 bracelets. That’s no knock on the people that I was playing against 15 years ago, it was just a different game. Fewer hands of no limit hold’em had been played in the world. Fewer books had been written, less theory had been thought about.

What is interesting is I think Gus Hansen is kind of the quintessential example of this, the more you study the game, the more you learn about the math of the game and you really actually approach it from a scientific point of view, the more aggressive you are supposed to get. I think 15 years ago the trend was you would start out as like a young novice playing like a maniac not understanding about starting requirements so there was this feeling like bad players were loose players and then as you got better you tighten up and you became a tough solid rock and you could beat games by being a rock and beating these bad players.

The next generation in the development of the game was ok, so we now know what tough, tight starting requirements are all about but that doesn’t mean that you can’t deviate in the right spots and after you have entered the pot with your good starting hand that you can’t find some truly creative and very aggressive plays to make later on in the hand. That game actually becomes a little wilder when you have a lot of rocks playing against each other, because they are fighting for these pots and everyone is entering with pretty tough hands and they are working very hard to win those pots. The game kind of crosses back over into crazyville, but it’s doing it in a very proper way as opposed to some guy that is very loose and passive.

Once you get past the loose and passive phase and you get into the idea that you are going to be aggressive but aggressive in a smart way, the game can turn into a very exciting game where from the outside looking in, it might look like it’s a maniac game but really it’s just really tough players that aren’t going to back down too much. I think that’s kind of the progression that the game has taken and I think that’s great. That pure rock player that was successful 15 years ago just wouldn’t be successful anymore. They would be getting run over by these good players. They wouldn’t even understand what was happening to them.

KL: So if the mass of players now are more aggressive, are they better as a whole than in the past or is it just different?

No, poker is weaker now than it was 15 years ago. There is no doubt about that either. As these mass of players, as a whole, have less experience, they are less disciplined and they aren’t as good as the players on a whole were 15 years ago but out of that mass of players there is a group, as I mentioned earlier, that I call the Internet geniuses, and they really are. The best players and going to be better than they were 15 years ago and that includes players like me, Erik Seidel, Chris Ferguson, Johnny Chan, we’ve all gotten a lot better. We’ve had to get better. So yes, the best players in the world are much better than they were 15 years ago but there are so many new and novice players playing that the players as a whole I think are weaker but the game has advanced and certainly the top levels of the game are advancing. There are a group of players, and that number is about a hundred or so, that are new to the game that have just caught on to the game, read everything there was to read on the game and they are playing 1000 hands a day and they are great. They are better than anyone was 15 years ago.

KL: Can you name any of those players?

I know some of the names of the guys that showed up at that final table in Australia. There was Durrrr [Tom Dwan] and Action Jeff [Garza] and Niki Jedlicka [Nikolaus Jedlicka]. I kind of hear about these guys but basically the difficult thing for me is I will be playing at a table and there will be some guy who looks like he is about 20 and after playing for a couple hours I will think wow, this guy can really play and then on the break I will go nudge someone and I will say, ‘who is that guy’ and they tell me he’s so and so and maybe half the time I will kind of recognize the screen name. I just know they are out there. That isn’t to say that the ones we are talking about today are necessarily 100 percent for sure actually great players, some of them may just be running hot for the last year. Five years from now there will be a healthy group of these young players that have established themselves and have been successful not for a year, but have been successful for five years and we are going to have to talk about them as one of the best players in the world.

*Editor's Note: You can find Howard Lederer playing online at Full Tilt Poker.*

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