Forum Files: Let’s Talk Players

Alex Weldon : July 27th, 2015

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With the tournament poker world still in its post-WSOP lull, conversation on the forums has turned to a discussion of players, rather than events. Would Bobby Baldwin have been recognized as the greatest player of all time if he hadn’t decided to get into the business side of things instead? Is Matt Kirk a good player or a degenerate gambler? And what happened to Viktor Blom? These questions and more answered in this week’s Forum Files.

Was Bobby Baldwin the GOAT?
Thread: What if Bobby Baldwin didn’t make the Tragic Mistake…

Bobby Baldwin was crushing poker in the early days of the World Series of Poker, winning two bracelets in 1977 and the Main Event in 1978. Soon thereafter, he made the transition from player to industry figure, becoming president of the Golden Nugget casino in 1984.

In this thread, forums poster “gangnam holmes” wonders whether, in making that transition, Baldwin passed up the opportunity to go down as the greatest player in history. I’m not sure it’s correct to call it a tragic mistake to take a secure seven-figure job over the life of a tournament pro, and unfortunately that discussion has more or less diverted the thread from answering the actual question.

In fact, Baldwin does still play poker, just part time, and in high stakes cash games. What his tournament record would look like if he’d continued down that road is anyone’s guess, but what is clear is that Baldwin is very, very good at making money, and ultimately, isn’t that what poker is about?

Who’s this Matt Kirk guy?
Thread: Matt Kirk – SHR Cash Game

Generally speaking, tournament players garner a lot more attention than cash game players, so when an event like the recent Super High-Roller cash game happens, you’re bound to see some unfamiliar faces. If you looked up Matthew Kirk on Hendon Mob, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s a nobody; he’s only had six cashes, and the most recent of those is from back in 2012. But there he was, sitting with the likes of Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Ivey, playing for six-figure sums.

Kirk is primarily a Pot-Limit Omaha player, but plays the same loose, hyper-aggressive style in both games. Between that style of play and the fact that he came out about half a million dollars behind in that game, it’s understandable that people would wonder whether he’s actually any good or just a complete maniac. Consensus in the thread is that he’s both.

Viktor Blom MIA?
Thread: Viktor “Isildur1″ Blom gone from HighstakesPoker?

Viktor “Isildur1″ Blom rose to fame as a high stakes Internet cash game player around the same time as Tom “durrrr” Dwan and Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond, in the pre-Black Friday heyday of Full Tilt Poker. Dwan has vanished from the public eye and now plays Macau cash games, while Galfond has become more of a live tournament figure, but Blom has continued to plug away online… at least until a week ago.

According to thread starter “markthecatwalk,” Blom suddenly went from playing thousands of hands daily to zero. Somewhat surprisingly, the thread eventually produced solid information about what happened to him: he’s gone back to Sweden for the summer to stay with his family, take some time off, and think about his future. That may not be as exciting as some of the other hypotheses which were put forth, but it’s good to know he’s alright and will probably be back at the tables soon.

Sangni Zhao: Low-Stakes Wizard or Complete Toolbox?
Thread: The Phil Hellmuth of Las Vegas 2-5 No Limit Holdem Live Games

You may never have heard of Sangni Zhao, but he’s certainly a legend in his own mind. He’s a low-stakes Vegas cash game regular; in his opinion, he’s the best there is at 2/5 NLHE. He recently did an interview with PokerNews in which he offers a little bit of advice about bet sizing, mixed in with a whole lot of boasting. Among other things, he says he no longer talks poker with his friends because “they all suck” and just “want to seem like they’re contributing to poker conversation” with him because he’s “a poker god.”

Needless to say, any low stakes player talking themselves up like that in a public medium is bound to generate a forums thread full of people looking to take him down a notch. Interestingly, a lot of posters have actually played with the guy and have a variety of takes on his personality and whether he’s any good or not. What I’m left wondering is why he’d spell out his strategy for PokerNews, given that it’s currently working out for him, but will now be highly exploitable by anyone who’s read the article; has his ego really gotten the better of him, or is the whole thing a gigantic level on his part? Perhaps his actual plan is to take the bluffing line he describes with a nutted hand instead, whenever he sees someone who looks like they read PokerNews.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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