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The LPA goes to Boot Camp
When Mari Lou Morelli, a friend I met at the World Poker Tour Boot Camp, first told me that “the Boot Camp lessons have paid off,” I don’t think she could have predicted to what new grounds those lessons would take her. Since our two-day training at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles earlier this year, Morelli’s list of poker accomplishments has grown at an astonishing rate.
The WPT Boot Camps are held about once a month in different states and are taught by many of the nation’s top poker professionals. My Boot Camp was taught by the foursome of Crispin and Jules Leyser and lead instructors Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher.
The Boot Camp, geared for the novice to the advanced poker player, offers a unique approach to training by incorporating archived WPT footage, hands-on poker labs, and an actual poker tournament to support the invaluable lectures.
What was fascinating about the sessions I attended is the fact that eighteen of the fifty participants (36%) were women. When I asked Johnson about the large female turnout, she felt that it’s because more women are discovering how much fun and how profitable poker can be.
Johnson and Fisher’s insightful assessment is supported by the women Boot Camp participants I had met. One of them is the rising poker star Morelli, who had only been playing poker for about six months prior to Boot Camp. Within a month of playing poker, she took first place in a tournament at Hawaiian Gardens in Los Angeles.
Shortly afterwards, she flew to Vegas, where she won a few smaller tournaments. Impressed with those wins, a casino host encouraged Morelli to check out some of the WSOP action, which was taking place that same weekend. “I developed my passion for poker on the spot after visiting the event last year,” claimed Morelli. “I was so taken by the experience that I made it my goal to take lessons and return this year to compete.”
Signing up for the WPT Boot Camp was the first phase of preparing herself for the World Series of Poker. As a rookie, she wanted to make sure that she did not develop bad poker habits or make too many novice mistakes. Following the success of the two-day Boot Camp, she also attended the three-day Advanced WPT Boot Camp called the “Champions Event”. Morelli was now confident about playing with top women poker players at the World Series this summer.
Another participant supporting Johnson and Fisher’s assessment is Toni DeProsperis, a nurse practitioner with a year-and-a-half poker experience. DeProsperis was at Camp with her husband, Pete, to whom she had given the two-day training session as a Christmas gift. They have both played in a few tournaments since our training together, and this is what she had to say about her Boot Camp experience, “We can really assess our play now; the fear factor over worrying about not playing up to par is over. I am a lot more confident in my play and I see the confidence in Pete.” DeProsperis is thankful that we had such knowledgeable and experienced instructors. “Jan is small in stature, but she’s got a kick-ass attitude about poker...you feel like you can stand up to the pros – she gives you the confidence.”
An incident occurred shortly after the Boot Camp, which proved to DeProsperis that Johnson and Fisher are not only exceptional instructors, but also caring individuals. Immediately after our training session was over, DeProsperis had played in a single-table satellite and won a seat to a bigger event at the Commerce Casino’s L.A. Poker Classic. That event was a $330 + $30 rebuy tournament, and although she had never played in this type of tournament before, she got past the fourth hour with only one rebuy. According to her, people were playing insane, and that she had had enough. She was so upset that she called Johnson and Fisher to ask them about rebuy tournaments.
Despite the fact that the two poker professionals had a four-hour window between shooting a WPT event and getting on a flight for a tournament in Oklahoma, they both took the time to console her and to further train DeProsperis via the telephone. “They were so gracious,” she told me in amazement. “They both told me about how rebuy tournaments work, how much money to bring, how to withstand the type of pressure which comes with multiple rebuys.” Armed with this new knowledge, she played in her second rebuy tournament. This time it was at Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and they paid down to the top 18 players; DeProsperis finished in 11th place.
Johnson and Fisher also demonstrated their genuine interest in the progress of their students in the summer, five months after the WPT Boot Camp. This time, the two partners of Card Player Cruises were “out to sea,” operating their Alaskan poker cruise, where they had extremely limited internet access. However, Johnson and Fisher both found time to email poker tips to their students playing in the WSOP Ladies Event the following weekend.
While Johnson’s reminders included staying away from certain trouble hands, the importance of position and not being afraid to go over the top of someone, Fisher admonished, “Don’t let your ego get involved, and be willing to give up the best hand sometimes when the percentages just aren’t big enough to support it.” That is how I won the Cherokee event. I truly felt in the zone…even tossed pocket Jacks and similar hands a few times when I was re-raised preflop. Didn’t want to take a coin-toss or worse for all of my chips.
“Keep calm and cool…Don’t get unglued if things don’t go right, and NEVER give up. A chip and a chair. Also, if you get short, have a plan, i.e. move all-in in the next X hands that come to you unopened. Doing this and picking up blinds and antes can put you right back in the hunt. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
It’s poker tips like these which enabled Morelli to finish in-the-money in 76th place out of 1,268 players in the 2007 WSOP Ladies Event, as well as earn her a seat to the WPT Legends of Poker Championship at the Bicycle Casino in August, where she played with the world’s top professional poker players. To prepare for the event, Morelli played in 8 satellites, winning 5 of them, including a $1,000 buy-in Mega Super Satellite, which won her a seat to the Championship.
Morelli lasted through Day 3, finishing in an impressive 54th place out of 485 players. Highlights from the tournament include taking a pot away from Dan Harrington, doubling up through David “The Dragon” Pham, and winning a $20,000 pot from JC Tran and Doyle Brunson. “I still remember and use everything we learned at Boot Camp,” Morelli shared with me. “Like what are raising hands, folding hands, and when to go over the top.”
Here is what Crispin Leyser had to say about the women’s participation, “I think Boot Camp is a fantastic, friendly and ‘safe’ learning environment for amateur poker players, and I think this attracts women who may otherwise be intimidated to just walk into a casino and sit at a table. So, some—though by no means all—of the female attendees are both less-experienced and slightly more fearful than the males. However, this often makes them much better students, with less bad habits to break and a more open approach to learning. The women usually do incredibly well in the student tournament with a higher percentage making the final table than the percentage of women in class.”
Although the percentage of women participating at WPT Boot Camp is fairly consistent, “I suspect that when Linda and Jan teach, there is probably a spike in the numbers of female attendees, as it adds to the sense of it being a female-friendly environment,” Leyser speculated.
How good are Johnson and Fisher as instructors? Leyser, who has taught at about 50 WPT Boot Camp seminars, gives them much credit for his success. “I can honestly say that I’ve become a better poker player and poker teacher working alongside Linda and Jan,” stated Leyser. “When I started teaching, I was not the best speaker nor did I present the materials well. Linda and Jan are clear and concise in their presentation—players of all levels get something out of it. I am now more relaxed on the microphone and am able to explain complex strategies better.”
The two members of the Women’s Poker Hall of Fame have both said on numerous occasions that they will do whatever it takes to get women in the poker world respected, to help them get over their intimidation and to help elevate the status of women poker players. Working closely with their Boot Camp students is definitely one way. “Women need to be coached to be more aggressive,” Johnson stated.
Aggression and betting/raising strategies were only a couple among a long list of skills covered at Boot Camp. Fisher offered, “Seeing students take chances is wonderful. Seeing them raise ‘in the dark’ because they know it is the right time to move it all-in is a thing of beauty. It shows me that they have gotten the concept that it isn’t about the cards!”
When the Boot Camp sessions end, it does not mean it’s the end of the training. All four of my instructors keep in touch with former students, and this is what Fisher had to say about following up, “We are very proud of those whom we have coached and welcome open lines of communication. Linda and I are always pleased to continue to assist.” Fisher also told me that it is rewarding to learn the results of poker players who have taken the Boot Camp course from them, because this proves that their students have spent the needed time to accomplish their goals and have had enough live and online table time to see that—in the long run—the things they taught at Boot Camp are true.