The Degree All-In Poker Experience

I just finished a six-week around-the-country tour for the fine folks at Degree for Men deodorant. At each stop on tour, I gave a 45-minute seminar on some advanced aspects of no-limit play. Following each seminar, attendees had a chance to test their newfound knowledge at five "risk stations" that were set up around ESPN Zones. These five risk stations illustrated a scenario from a no-limit hold'em game. For each question answered correctly, the attendee was given an entry into a very important drawing: At the end of the night, Degree for Men gave away a free seat to the 2006 World Series of Poker main event to one lucky winner. Needless to say, each of the participants was trying hard to get each and every question right.

So, without further ado, here are the questions from the five risk stations … now, you haven't had the prerequisite seminar, but are you ready for the test nonetheless?

Degree Risk Station No. 1

A tight player in middle position raises three times the big blind early in a poker tournament.

With which hand would you be most willing to risk calling the raise?

A. Ad 4d
B. 8c 8d
C. Kc Js
D. As 9c

Degree Risk Station No. 2

  • There is $100 in the pot

  • You have five outs after the flop but know you have no way to win unless you get lucky and make your hand

  • Your opponent moves all-in for $50

Do you risk a call even though you're significantly behind?

A. Yes, risk the call.
B. No, don't risk the call.

Degree Risk Station No. 3

  • Blinds are $25-$50 and you have only $100

  • You post $50 of your money in the big blind

  • Everyone folds to the small blind who raises enough to put you all-in
    With which of the following hand(s) are you
    willing to risk an all-in call?

A. 7d 2c
B. Ts 9d
C. Ad 2c
D. All of the above

Degree Risk Station No. 4

  • You pick up As Ks, on the button with the blinds $100-$200

  • Everyone folds to you on the button and you raise to $700

  • The big blind calls

  • The flop comes 8s 3s 2c making you a flush draw; he checks to you

  • You bet $800 into the pot and he calls

  • The turn comes 7c. You bet half the pot and he calls

  • The river card misses you completely -- the Qc

  • Your opponent checks to you again; you're pretty sure he doesn't have a flush

  • Do you risk a bluff?

A. Yes, risk a bluff.
B. No, don't risk a bluff

Degree Risk Station No. 5

  • You raise before the flop with Q-Q and a solid player calls from the button

  • The flop comes Td 5c 3c

  • You bet about half the pot and your opponent calls

  • The turn comes the Js

  • You bet half the pot again and your opponent calls

  • The river card is a disappointing 9s, creating a board of Td 5c 3c Js 9s

  • Are you willing to risk a bet on the river?

    A. Yes, risk a bet.
    B. No, don't risk a bet.

OK, so tally your answers … no cheating. Let's see how your answers compare to the seminar attendees from New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Anaheim and Atlanta:

1. Answer: B. Risk calling the raise with 8-8.

A. Ad 4d is easily dominated by a bigger ace, and you'll only flop a flush about 1 out of 121 hands. Drawing hands go way down in value in no-limit hold'em.
B. 8c 8d is an easy call. You want your opponent to have A-K and have the flop come K-8-4. In this case, you'll win a lot of money.
C. Kc Js is death after an initial raise. Easily dominated, not much potential.
D. As 9c is too easily dominated for a call.

2. Answer: B. Do not risk the call, the pot odds aren't right.

Step 1: Count outs … five
Step 2: Apply Rule of four … 5 multiplied by 4 equals 20 percent
Step 3: Pot Odds … Call $50 to win $150, $50/$200 equals 25 percent
You have a 20 percent chance to win, but the odds require a 25 percent chance to win.
You should not risk the call.

3. Answer: D. All the above. Risk the call with all the hands.
Anytime you have more than half your money in the pot before the flop and someone raises you all-in, you're pot committed and must risk the rest of your chips.

4. Answer: A. Yes, this is a good time for a bluff.
This is a good time to bluff. The pot is pretty big. You've represented strength and your opponent has shown weakness. The Qc is a very scary card. Your hand is very unlikely to win unless you can bet and get your opponent to fold. In my opinion, a bluff is worth the risk.

5. Answer: B. This is not a good time for a bet.
You should check and probably call if your opponent bets. At this point, if you bet, your solid opponent will really only call (or raise) you if he has you beat. If he was on a flush draw (a very real possibility) he'll fold to your bet -- but if you check, he might just try to take the pot with a bluff. In my opinion, Q-Q is a medium strength hand when you take into account all of the betting that has occurred to this point.


After giving this "test" to more than 1,000 people in six different cities, some things are quite striking to me.

First, people are miserable at pot odds calculations. This was an easy, straight-forward calculation, and even after going over the exact way to do these calculations, people only got it right a little more often than they would have by flipping a coin. Keep this in mind when you're playing against inexperienced players -- they will very often not be able to tell if they are getting appropriate (or inappropriate) odds on a call -- in close situations, they invariably will call far too often.

Second, people seem to overvalue an overpair to the board on the river. Most professional players know that this is a mistake -- an overpair can still be a weak or medium strength hand. Over-bet the pot when you're playing against weak opponents and you know or think they have an overpair to the board -- these results seem to indicate that they will pay you off. They also seem to indicate that most players will continue to bet the 20th or 30th best hand possible as if it is unbeatable.

Third, when people incorrectly answered question No. 1, they invariably called with A-4 suited. In the seminar, I asked everyone who called with that hand rather than 8-8 how often they believed they would flop the nut flush. The average answer to that question was "about 3-5 percent of the time" -- people far overvalue their ability to flop the flush, and they will play suited cards far too often as a result.

Easiest $10 I've Ever Won

I can't end this article without relaying a story from the Atlanta tour stop. Dana is a 25-year-old public relations specialist that was assigned to accompany me to every media appearance on the tour -- radio, television, newspaper interviews. Erin is young and very worried about making a bad impression on people -- she's in PR! As a result, any time she says something even slightly offensive, controversial, sarcastic, or just with the wrong tone, immediate thereafter she says (very quickly) "just kidding."

Now, after six weeks of this, I was, in all honesty, a little tired of the "just kidding." But I sensed a chance to make some money:

"Hey Erin," I said as we boarded an elevator and headed for the 14th floor of a high rise in Atlanta, "I'll bet you $100 you can't go the entire day without saying 'just kidding.'"

"No, I don't want to lose $100," she countered.

"How about $10?" I said, setting the trap.

"Deal," she said, and we shook on it.

As we're approaching the 14th floor, the elevator seemed to be taking forever … "I hope we're not stuck in the elevator … " Erin said, and about one-tenth of a second later, she added, "just kidding."

Ten dollars added to the bankroll.

I'd like to thank Degree for putting on such a fantastic promotion.

Phil Gordon is a World Poker Tour champion, host of Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown," and plays online exclusively at FullTiltPoker. Phil Gordon's educational poker DVD, "Final Table Poker", is available at ExpertInsight.net and his new "Little Green Book" is available now.