Always Work on Your Communication Skills*

* …and other fatherly advice.

I’ve been a Dad for over 30 years, which qualifies me to dispense plenty of fatherly advice. Especially when my advice wasn’t solicited. Even when it’s not being delivered to my kids.

There are a few things I find myself saying over and over, like a broken record (a concept that requires a tortured explanation to my digital-age offspring, but I digress). While it’s gratifying when the now-young-adult Basses stick the landing from time to time, perhaps the biggest benefit of Dad advice is as a reminder to oneself how important it is to conduct your life in a certain way.

Here are three things I hear myself saying frequently to the youngsters:

  1. “There are no secrets”
  2. “There should be no surprises”
  3. “Always work on your communication skills”

If you’re still reading, you might be wondering if this has anything to do with poker. After all, this IS as poker blog. Poker is life and life is poker and most good fatherly advice is good poker advice too.

I saw a thread on Twitter this morning about the World Poker Tour main event at the Venetian, which ended yesterday. I’ll let Jared Jaffee, a poker pro from New York with nearly $5 million in career live tournament cashes, explain in his own words below:

I don’t have a dog in this fight, don’t know Jared Jaffee personally (but might like to) and don’t play much tournament poker. But I do host tournaments and find this disturbing. 

Let’s break it down in Dad-speak.

There are no secrets.

I’m reading the tournament structure sheet to see if there is any mention of dividing the final 8 players into two 4-handed tables. Jared’s notes say the structure sheet is ambiguous as it states there tournament would be played 8-handed until the final table of 6, but also there would be a redraw for seats at 7 remaining players. It does say these things. Here are the exact words from the structure sheet:

PLAYERS PER TABLE: Play will begin 8-handed. Play will move to 6-handed for the Official WPT Final Table.

SEATING REDRAWS: There will be a full seating redraw prior to the start of each day of play, unless the tournament is already at 24 players or fewer. In that case, redraws will take place at 24, 16, and 7 players (or at Tournament Director’s discretion).

I’d call this both weird and susceptible to manipulation, but not ambiguous. Play is 8-handed. There’s an accordion-like phase when the tournament gets down below 16 players. The last two tables keeping compressing until there are 9 players remaining, with one table of 5 and another table of 4. Then the play expands back to 8-handed. This phase can be awkward, but it’s temporary. (In a 9-handed tournament, there would never need to be a table with only 4 players.)

The statement in the structure sheet that “play will move to 6-handed” is gratuitous. Play automatically moves to 6-handed when somebody busts out in 7th place. That’s how tournament poker works. Duh.

The seating redraw at 7 players is just plain weird. Or a typo on the structure sheet. But weird doesn’t mean ambiguous. 

The worst thing here is the potential for a redraw at the Tournament Director’s discretion. There may be reasons why this actually makes sense, where the need for a redraw would exist even if all of the players were anonymized. On the other hand, it’s virtually impossible to remove biases from the TD’s judgment when he knows who is playing and the relative positions and chip stacks. 

The structure sheet fails the Dad test.

There should be no surprises.

This piece of wisdom is a corollary to the absence of secrets. Secrets get found out and lead to surprises. This WPT tournament had 937 entries, each putting up $5,000. After three days of play and 927 entries going bust, now they tell the players the accordion is broken and going from 9 players down to 8 will not result in combining the last two tables. SUR-PRISE!

Have you ever met a poker player? A tournament poker player? A professional poker player? They demand transparency and predictability on the administrative details.

Have you ever looked at the acceleration of the payouts at the end of a major tournament? In this event, with 10 players left, a surprise is announced. 10th place paid approximately $74,000 while the winner pocket just over $750,000. The difference is huge. In a highly competitive game, of incomplete information, with this much real money at stake, there is no excuse for incomplete information (equals surprise) about how a marquee tournament will be brought down to its final conclusion.

The WPT was founded in 2002. This isn’t their rookie season.

The surprise fails another Dad test.

Always work on your communication skills.

Neither the WPT Tournament Director (Matt Savage) nor the Venetian Tournament Director (Tommy Larosa) was onsite and neither would speak to the players when objections were raised. No adult conversation in a high stakes and emotionally charged moment.

This is such an obvious, epic fail of the final Dad test that I’m going to bypass the explanation.


  1. I found your article very helpful. My experience in live games these past 5 years has always been small stakes poker tournaments. Overall,I have not broke even. However, I enjoy playing Texas Holdem both online & live. I’m now convinced that “cash games” not tournament play fits me best. Therefore, I want to learn from you to do better than “breaking even” in cash games.

Leave a Reply