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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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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