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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Drag the Bar Review: Part I

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If you have paid any attention to my blog, Life Meets Poker, over the last few months you have seen that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the game of poker.  I have seemed to hit a lull in my game that has equated to a break even stretch that has lasted the better part of four months.  So, when I got the opportunity to join a training website with a bunch of well known players I have both watched and written about over the years, I jumped at the opportunity.
I have reached a place in my poker game where I have begun to think about branching out and playing other types of poker.  I have been almost exclusively a tournament player, with a focus on sit-n-go tournaments with a range of 18 to 45 runners.  Lately though I’ve been considering making a switch to cash games, or at the very least dabble in them, while waiting for that big MTT score that has yet to find me.  So the timing, once again, was perfect, as Drag The Bar offers training videos on everything from sit-n-go’s to cash games for all levels.  They even have a section on Backgammon taught by game player extraordinaire and multi-time backgammon champion, Bill Robertie.

When I first started on DragtheBar I was still primarily interested in MTT’s and SNG’s, so I will focus on those parts of the site for the first part of my review.  The first teacher I decided to make use of was Charles “Rakes” Lei.  Lei, who recently graduated from UCLA, has decided to try out being a full-time poker pro for “a year or two,” but has said that if he returns to school it will most likely be to become a teacher.  So I thought it would be a good idea for my first teacher on the training site to be an actual aspiring teacher.

The first video I watched was 4-tabling $12-$27 45-man SNG’s.  I have been playing 45s for years, but as mentioned, have hit a break even stretch.  It’s pretty common knowledge that aggressive poker players usually have the most success, but I have to admit that watching how aggressive Lei was in these videos was hard for me to stomach.  Not that I disagreed with Lei, but to see his successful strategy in action was a bit hard for me to process at first. 

Because these 45-man SNG’s are turbos, the blinds go up quick.  Additionally, they have a blind level that goes straight from 100-200 to 200-400, so a relatively decent stack can drop to under 10 big blinds, leaving you at a serious disadvantage the rest of the way.  Lei’s strategy calls you to be willing to push ace high, and in some cases king high, regardless of kicker, because you have to give yourself a chance not only to make the final table, but to reach the final table with a healthy stack.  These are things I believe poker players think of at one time or another, but to hear it come straight from the mouth while watching the plan in action from a well known, successful player made it stick a little more.  Rakes suggests that a very good player should make a final table in 25 percent of the 45s they play in.  For my “career” I am right around the 20 percent mark, but I feel his videos on this subject can help me reach higher levels in these.

The second teacher I took advantage of was Brent “El Rubio” Sheirbon.  Sheirbon’s poker game is one I would like to have one day.  He has made both a successful living in cash games and tournaments, both online and live.  At the same time he has been able to find a happy medium between a healthy life style and competing as a professional.  The video I focused on was the “MTT Re-Buy Strategy.”  The $3 re-buy on PokerStars is one of my favorite events.  While I have cashed in it a number of times, I have never been able to make it past maybe the final four tables.  I have often believed one of the reasons for my inability to make a serious deep run was because of not earning enough chips in the re-buy period to give me more room of error once the play returns to normal. 

When you hear unique perspectives on poker strategies from players you don’t think are good you may scoff.  When a well known, winning player gives you some unique strategy advice, it might be hard for you to understand, but you will take it more seriously.  That’s about how I felt with Sheirbon, initially, but once again, the results don’t lie.  Reviewing a couple of his videos, he implemented a strategy, particularly in the $3 re-buy that involved mini-raising any hand he intends to play, and if he is met with any kind of resistance at all, he pushes.  Most poker forum members would cringe at a style like that, but as he goes on to explain, it makes great sense.  Mini-raising, as a whole, is seen as a donk move.  Also, pushing all-in whenever you have a decent hand suggests you are afraid of post flop play, is also a donk-like move. 

Now, it is clear Sheirbon is no donk, and his plan is nothing short of genius.  What smells like a donk, looks like a donk, and feels like a donk, in this instance, is clearly not a donk.  But the more his opponents think that, the better.  Sheirbon made the point that at a $3 tournament most people aren’t looking at your style of play, so it’s pretty easy to keep this faux-image.  Eventually one player at his table seemed to catch on, but Sheirbon simply adjusted when in a hand with this guy, but this small obstacle didn’t stop him from keeping a well above average stack before the re-buy period was over.

What I initially took from DragtheBar, and being the first training site I ever really used, was that top players don’t think like the rest of “us.”  There is a reason they are successful.  The guys I’ve talked about, along with the rest of the impressive resume of trainers on the site, aren’t just a flash in the pan.  Even though I, or you, may not understand something right off the bat, you can instantly make your game better by implementing their strategies.  That alone is worth the price of admission.
The first part of this review was mainly how it pertained to me, and what resources I could use from it to become a better player.  In Part II of this review I will take a deeper look in all the options on the website, including the forums, blogs, and other training videos.

*Part II*

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