TABLE TALK

Fred Faour: 5 ways that watching the World Series of Poker can help your game

Each of the nine remaining players will make at least $1 million. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The World Series of Poker's main event is down to nine players, and will be played out over the next three days. The final nine includes a past champion in Joe Cada, as well as a player from Houston in Michael Dyer. If you have not been watching the lead up, you have missed out on some opportunities to learn. The quality of play has been excellent, and there are very few players left who would be a surprise. If you have not been keeping up, it's worth going back and seeing how some of these players got here. If you were just waiting for the final table, you can still pick up a few tips to help your game at any of the local poker room tournaments. 

Watching on TV can be a great learning experience. Sometimes you learn what not to do. But even if you pick up a couple small things, you are getting free lessons from some players who are at the top of their games.

Let's take a look at the field: 

The chip stacks

1) Nicolas Manion (Muskegon, Mich.) - 112.775 million

2) Michael Dyer (Houston) - 109.175 million

3) Tony Miles (Jacksonville, Fla.) - 42.75 million

4) John Cynn (Indianapolis) - 37.075 million

5) Alex Lynskey (Melbourne, Australia) - 25.925 million

6) Joe Cada (Shelby Township, Mich.) - 23.675 million

7) Aram Zobian (Cranston, R.I.) - 18.875 million

8) Artem Metalidi (Kiev, Ukraine) - 15.475 million

9) Antoine Labat (Vincenna, France) - 8.05 million

How they got there

Manion won a sick hand with pocket aces against two pairs of kings to get the table down to nine and earn the chip lead. Dyer reached the final 10 with a big chip lead, and put on a clinic on how to work a big stack against a conservative group trying to make it to the final nine. Cada pulled off a sick bluff the day before but otherwise masterfully protected his chips. The play should be interesting from here, because a big swing can ruin your chances or get you right back in the mix. 

Here are five things to keep an eye on that can help your game:

1) Watch how the players manage their stacks

The two big stacks will likely try to avoid each other and pick off as many chips as possible from the short stacks. Manion played very conservatively until he got in with aces, so it will be interesting to see if he gets more aggressive. The middle range players will likely look for big hands to get all in with, while the shorter stacks will be in shove mode. They should provide a good lesson on how to use your chips depending on your stack. 

2) Pay attention to adjustments

There will be big swings, and how players react to that will determine the outcome. When the field gets from nine players to five or six, the range of hands played will likely go up. If you watched the last two nights, you saw some of that. When it was two tables with five or six players, the range of hands was much bigger than when it went down to one table of 10. 

3) Don't be fooled by the hero bluff or call

There will be at least one of these at the final table, and it makes for great TV. But keep in mind many of these players have been together for several days, and a play like that does not happen in the moment. They build up to it from going back and watching how all the hands have played out. Cada's bluff succeeded because he had been playing incredibly tight, smart poker. The bluff in that situation was believable. Players might set up a play like that over dozens of hands. In the end, most 0f the big swings will come when both players have big hands. Winning coin flips or getting in with the best is the most likely path to victory as opposed to the sexy bluffs. 

4) Position and patience

You can learn a lot from hands where there is very little action. Players in position pre-flop will often take down the blinds quietly with well-timed raises. While this may not make for great TV, it gives you a good sense of how to keep collecting chips while waiting for a hand to risk it all with. Players will be patient until they don't have enough chips to wait any more. To win, you have to get all the chips, so there will be gambling at some point. But the players will try to wait for the best possible moment. Big mistakes can be killers. Sometimes what looks like a small mistake or a bad fold can actually be the right play. This is a good lesson for any tournament player.

5) Listen to the voices

The commentators have been terrific throughout. Lon McEachern and Norman Chad have long been entertaining and informative. Antonio Esfandiari has been a terrific addition in recent years, but this year he made a deep run and poker pro Maria Ho has been a key contributor in his place. She has offered terrific insight. Many pros in that role will simply talk about how they would play a hand. But Ho offers several opinions on what a player could do in a given situation. There is not always one answer on how to play a hand; pay attention to the discussion because there are some really good nuggets of information there.

It should be a fun final table. Dyer's run is no surprise; Houston has a ton of good poker players. While he and Manion certainly have the advantage, Cynn might be an interesting sleeper if he can get his chip stack up. 

If you don't really watch poker on TV but like to play, I would encourage you to check out the final table. You can learn a lot of tricks to employ in your own game, and free lessons are never a bad thing no matter what your skill level.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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