The wonderfully eclectic mix of players you get at Goliath every year is part of the beauty of what is rapidly becoming the must-play annual small stakes poker event in Europe.
You could be sat beside a World Series of Poker bracelet holder, a Late Night Poker Legend, even a former World Heavyweight Boxing Champ this year (more on that later)….and on the other side you might have a person who barely knows the rules, someone playing poker for the very first time, anyone from age 18 to 80 with their eyes firmly fixed on the guaranteed £100k first prize. The atmosphere at this event is fantastic, in my experience most tables are very chatty – as players have plenty of time to get to know opponents owing to the structure on offer.
Lets talk tactics
While we all love to have fun at the poker table, and a friendly table is always desirable, don’t forget what we’re in Coventry for – to win the 2019 Goliath – so what’s the best way to go about taking on – and taking from – each of these styles of players?
A common misconception is that it’s easy to play against inexperienced amateur players. It’s not! Think about it this way; if your opponent calls every bet you make, which is what a lot of amateurs do, you’re going to go to showdown every time. If you’re always going to showdown, both of you will be turning your cards up and the best hand wins. It’s obviously 50/50 whether you have the best hand or your opponent does if 100% of hands go to showdown, so you need to pick and choose which ones to play, and if against a player who likes to call every bet, make sure you bet big when you have it, and don’t throw away chips bluffing when you don’t!
We’ve all been in that situation, thinking “How could he call there?”. In reality if you’ve seen a guy keep on calling bets then it’s pretty likely he’s going to call yours too, so don’t waste your time bluffing. What you do need to do against inexperienced calling stations is play good hands in position and make meaty value bets to get paid off. A polite ‘unlucky’ or ‘cooler’ is the only comment you should make too (when appropriate!), not only is coaching opponents a bad idea in terms of your own profitability, it’s not good for the atmosphere at the table. No-one likes a know it all, and some people have come to Goliath to play, not pass. No gamble no future!
At the other end of the spectrum you’ll find really experienced professionals who are very, very good at poker. You only have to look at last year’s champion, Florian Duta, to see the kind of calibre of player you might be sat across the table from at Goliath.
Florian went into 2018’s Goliath fresh from taking down a $1600 event at the Wynn in Las Vegas for nearly $430,000 a couple of weeks previously and has almost $2million in live earnings.
There are plenty of players as good as Florian in the Goliath field, guys who’ve won big titles, who you’ll recognise from TV, who have been there, seen it, done it.
The good news is though, there’s are plenty more bad players than good, so without playing scared or making it too obvious, my advice would be the same if you come up against any really good player….play with someone else!
Obviously in a cash game you could leave the table if the going got tough, but in a tournament you’re stuck thanks to the random draw. But if you do find yourself sharing a table with a Florian Duta, one of the Grosvenor Poker pros or any other good player, you’ll more than likely also be sharing it with 8 other players who will be far less dangerous and far more likely to lose chips to you, so take them on instead!
Of course there may be unavoidable situations where you end up tangling with the good player, but just tread carefully, be aware they’re more likely to make moves on you, more likely to trap, will seize on any weakness and will treat you ruthlessly. In any kind of marginal spot, especially out of position, just let it go and concentrate on being a thorn in the side of the other players on the table.
In between the newbie and the experienced pro is where the majority of the Goliath field sit – recreational, know what they’re doing but play for fun and to hopefully win some bonus money, rather than rely on poker as their sole income.
They will not be as skilled as the pros, but you’ll have to work out where their weaknesses lie. Do they play too many hands? Do they over fold? Do they call too light? Can you push them around? That’s where the fun of poker lies, working out the best strategy to take on each and every opponent.
As mentioned earlier, one of those opponents you might face at the 2019 Goliath is former World Heavyweight Champion boxer David Haye. Along with my fellow pros Joe Beevers and Katie Swift, we’ve spent the last 10 months or so giving David training sessions as he goes from having never played poker or even knowing the rules of the game to playing in this year’s Goliath!
If you find yourself at David’s table, by all means ask for a selfie in between hands, but other than that, his chips are there to win like anyone else’s. When you first play with a star, be it of the poker world, sports world or anywhere else, it can feel different to facing any ‘normal’ person, but you soon get to see them as just any other player.
In one of my first ever tournaments I ended up sat with Patrik Antonius and Chip Reese, who was making jokes with me about how famous the other guys were.
I’ve been knocked out by Doyle making a horrendous play, I was still in the WSOP Main Event when Helmuth was shouting over the top of my table about the ‘idiots from Northern Europe’ and I’ve accidentally given Phil Ivey a rub down, asking to see his big chips without realising he’d dusted them all off! I’ve lied to Negreanu when he’s asked whether I was a sponsored pro or an online qualifier, and I’ve doubled through Antonio Esfandiari by selling him a fake tell.
There are two things I’d tell you about sitting at a table with famous guys like them. First, they’re hard to win chips from, so attack others…and secondly, facing ex-sportsman is definitely easier.
Whoever you come up against at the Goliath, make sure you consider the type of player they are, where their weaknesses are, and most importantly of all, how best to relieve them of their chips! Satellites are now running only on GrosvenorPoker.com.