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Why is Gambling Down in Las Vegas?

A professional blackjack card counter & gaming mathmetician says one of the reasons is the "lack of comps."

Max Pescatori
(2016) 4-time WSOP bracelet winner! Full audio of this Q&AHERE

Q: Watched you in the GPL today and you called out your opponents cards, 9-7, how do you do that? You guys are pretty good.

MP: That was actually pretty good to get a little more respect in no-limit. It’s difficult but sometimes you get a really good read. You kind of have a feeling of what the other player could have. It was a really good bet and a really good read. I’m proud of myself because, in the end, that’s what we’re trying to do, to show that it’s not just gambling. It’s a game controlled by, yes, luck but also good play and good reads.

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Max Pescatori Interview

High Roller Radio has interviewed some of the greatest gamblers, casino insiders, sports bettors, authors and poker players. Here, our interview with Max Pescatori, an Italian poker playing legend, 4-time WSOP bracelet winner and ambassador for the game. He is a mixed game specialist.

Q: The WSOP is quickly approaching. What’s your plan this year? What events? How many?


MP: Definitely, I’m going to try and defend my two titles. I’ll mainly focus on mixed games because I have a higher edge in those games. Being the defending champion, I know it hasn’t happened too many times for someone to repeat, it’s not something you can plan to do, but I’ll stick to my best games, basically all the mixed games. I’ll skip most of the Hold’em events. It’s hard for me to play Hold’em and then go back to Razz. There are so many events, I need to pace myself, so I try to play mixed games and I don’t come in on the first level. I do miss some opportunities in the early levels but it’s always worked out for me to come in around the third level. I’ll probably play 25 events, something like that, and then it depends on how I’m doing. This year should be easier to cash because they are paying 15% of people, which I think is a great thing. It’s bad for the stats but it’s good overall. I truly believe it’s best to pay 15% because the bubble comes early, you have a chance to bully people on the bubble, so it’s good for everybody. More occasional players make the money, they go home happy, but also the pros have an edge in the earlier levels. It’s great.


Q: You have four bracelets, the fist two in 2006 & 2008, then the two last year (2015, $1,500 Razz & 10k world championship of Stud Hi/Lo). Are they all equally special? Or is one more important than the others?


MP: They’re all different. The first one was an explosion of joy, it’s like winning something you don’t know you are capable of. There is still video around of that victory and that explosion of happiness I had with victory. The second one was more of a statement. It was like, ‘Okay, anyone can win one, this must mean I’m quite good.’ After 2008, there were a few things that set my game off. In Italy there was legal poker and, for some period of time, I was working hard to help the game grow in my country. So, I got distracted by a lot of situations and I went through some personal problems as well. For a few years there, I didn’t really play a very good game. Then, later on, I felt a new wave of strength and, in 2014, I had already had a good World Series of Poker. I came close in the $1,500 HORSE event, finishing 5th. I was in a gigantic pot, as a favourite, going to the river to be chip leader. Instead, I got knocked out. So, heading into last year I had already felt the vibes of playing really good poker and, yes, 2015 was just amazing. I truly dominated the table, Eli Elezra and I were just destroying the table, which is really hard to do in Razz when you get to a final table. We were just playing tremendous poker. Once he was eliminated in 5th place I couldn't see a way to lose. It was such a dominating performance of poker that there wash’t really that explosion of joy. It was more like, ‘I’ve done it again, it’s fantastic. It’s a three-peat and it’s awesome.’ The 4th one was amazing because of the two guys I had in front in me, three-handed with Daniel Negreanu and Stephen Chidwick, who are really amazing players. I actually was down to holding just 10% of the chips in play. I went to dinner, came back and took it down. There was a lot of media around, cameras, and it was the first time since 2006 that I really felt that same joy and happiness. To do something that’s almost impossible for a poker player, two WSOP bracelets in one year, it’s just unbelievable.


Q: I’m heading down this year to play the Omaha Hi/Lo event, it’s my favourite variant of poker. Any advice for a guy like me? A recreational player? And, what do you think of Omaha Hi/Lo?


MP: When I first left limit Hold’em that’s the game I played, Omaha Hi/Lo. I really was at the top of my game around 2003 in that game. Then I moved into other games so it slid back a bit. I’m probably better at Stud Hi/Lo. First of all, don’t leave home without an ace. So, don’t play any hands without an ace. You shouldn’t be overwhelmed, they can’t take your chips all at once. Just play your game, relax, play the way you like to play. It’s hard to change strategy going into a tournament and when you try to change the way you play it becomes more difficult.


Q: The Poker Hall of Fame, you’ve been on the ballot, is that something you think about? Or, are you going to let the cards fall where they may?


MP: Of course, it happens once you have a great world series like I had but, arguably, I deserve to be in the nominees. There are so many you could argue should be on that list. In Italy, I’ve really done a lot to change the game. We call it ‘Doganata.’ People thought poker was dark rooms and shady people. Instead, what I’ve done, through the help of several companies and media, is to change that perception. It’s nice when a 12 year old comes up to me now and says, ‘Oh, there’s Max.’ They come and take a picture, you know, I didn’t just play poker, I did a lot to promote the game and in a fair way. So if happens that I get nominated again it would be great. I think I will be nominated again, I have a big following in Italy, because the people vote on it. It would be nice to get a European in there too because sometimes I think Americans forget about us.


Max Pescatori Thank-you! 

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