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21/04/2006 No.44
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday April 21, 2006
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

I am a staunch defender of that maligned modern genre, televised celebrity poker. And not just because I commentate on it. I think it's fun; it has an element of The Generation Game about it, like watching a welder doing ballet. Most "professional" TV tournaments, being sponsored by poker websites, offer line-ups of anonymous internet qualifiers anyway. If I can't be watching the best players in the world, I'd rather watch someone out of The Bill than someone who hasn't left his house since he pressed the download button.


Besides, you can learn as much watching novices as you can professionals. Take Showbiz Poker, running nightly on Challenge TV. Some of the players (like Teddy Sheringham and Michael Greco, both regular players) have perfectly good tournament skills. Others haven't. Leslie Grantham provided perhaps the most entertaining moment when he called a large bet with the nut flush draw, hit the nut flush, and folded immediately.

In between, you see a lot of actors, comedians and sportsmen who play pretty well but make a lot of mistakes. These are the most enlightening errors I witness from the commentary box:

· They give too many cheap cards to opponents. With two picture cards before the flop, or top pair on the flop, they call or check too often and let other players catch up for free.

· They make minimum bets, usually the same size as the big blind. These bets are too small to protect their hands, and certainly too small to chase people away if they're bluffing.

· They get stubborn with weak aces, refusing to throw them away even after missing the flop.

· They let their chip stacks get too low for leverage, forcing themselves to go all-in with mediocre hands in the later stages.

In between, they chat, joke and get fiercely competitive. The shows are worth watching for pure entertainment, but they are also a valuable chance to learn from other people's mistakes.

. WPT Online!