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Poker Camp
by John Reger

It was apparent from my recent losses that my poker game needed some help. I have been playing for more than 20 years, but that didn't matter. I was getting pounded every time I played and couldn't figure out why.

Bad luck could have played a part in it. It happens to every player. I remember listening to Daniel Negreanu talk about how he went for a stretch of about two months where he couldn't catch any cards.

My problem, though, seemed to run a little deeper. Yeah, I wasn't getting the cards, but I was also forcing hands. That isn't uncommon. I played Hold'Em at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on a recent trip and didn't get a pair dealt to me the entire five hours I was there.

When I did get a playable hand, like Ace, King, I would get hammered by some guy who had stayed in with 5, 6 off suit and drew a straight on the flop. Then I would go on tilt and try and run the guy out of the hand. Not a smart move when you haven't even paired up and your opponent is holding a nut straight.

Even when I got what I thought was a dominating hand, I was getting abused. I played at Hustler Casino in Los Angeles and pulled a King-high flush on the flop. I bet it aggressively and watched what I thought was some fool stay right with me. Turns out I was the fool. He had a straight flush, and I lost about half my stake.

It was time for some professional help. Since I live about a four-hour car ride from Vegas, I decided to sign up for a poker boot camp.

The two largest ones are Camp Hellmuth, run by Phil Hellmuth and the World Poker Tour's Boot Camp. Howard Lederer also has a fairly successful camp.

Hellmuth's camp has several known poker players working as instructors, including Evelyn Ng, Antonio Esfandiari, Freddy Deeb, Mark Seif and Michael Mizrachi.

Players who work the seminar usually have a specific class or subject they teach. Like for the upcoming Hellmuth Camp on Aug. 11, Seif will talk about winning No Limit Hold'Em tournaments, while Esfandiari will talk about how to play more aggressively.

Hellmuth watches over a hand of cards and offers live hand analysis for the players.

The camp also has a retired FBI agent who instructs students picking up tells, controlling your emotions, focusing on your opponents, common tells to look for and a study of each body part and common tells.

The cost of the camp is $1,999 and includes some meals and a couple of parties.

The WPT boot camp is a two-day workshop that is held in many different locations and even has one on a Caribbean cruise.

Teachers include Mike Sexton, T.J. Cloutier Scotty Nguyen and Seif. There are also two or three teachers from the WPT academy, and they cover subjects such as aggressive play, changing gears, bluffing, knowing your opponents and learning from your mistakes.

The cost of $1,695 includes breakfast, lunch, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks for both days, single table Tune-Up Tournament, where you can win your very own WPT Chip Set, exclusive WPT Boot Camp Courseware, assorted WPT Boot Camp Merchandise, and participation at no additional cost in the Private WPT Boot Camp No-Limit Tournament, where the winner gets a satellite seat into a WPT Main Event.

I am going to visit both events and will give a report next week. My hope is that it not only improves my game, but increases my confidence. I have nowhere to go but up at this point.

5Dimes Sportsbook