On the Button: Ed Miller

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Ed Miller is a pro poker player, coach and author of seven poker books. He also writes instructional articles and has made dozens of instructional videos. His books have sold more than 250K copies and he specializes in small-stakes play ($1-$2, $2-$5). Our Mike Owens caught up with Ed to discuss his new book and poker in Las Vegas.

How long have you lived in Las Vegas? Is that where you’re from? I grew up in New Orleans and then bounced around the country for a few years: Boston, Seattle, New York. I moved to Vegas in 2003 to chase the poker dream. My timing on that turned out great, as it was the year Chris Moneymaker won the World Series main event.

When did you start playing poker? I started playing in 2001 on a lark. I saw a bright, flashing, online ad for Ultimate Bet. It lured me in, and I threw a few hundred dollars on the site. That money didn’t last too long, but I was intrigued, so I bought a few books, read them and fixed some of the terrible plays I was making. My interest in online poker waned, as it felt a little too much like a video game to me. But living in the Seattle area, I soon found out there were legal, live cardrooms all over the state of Washington. I was hooked.

Tell us about your new book, Playing the Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker to Dominate Your Opponents. If you ask anyone with some experience about how you play poker, chances are they’ll tell you poker is a people game, not a card game. That is, of course, true. But then if you watch those same people actually play the game, you’ll notice that the overwhelming majority of the time, they are making plays to the strength of their cards, not to the weaknesses of their opponents.
I’ve always wondered, why the disconnect? How come people know poker is a people game, while they simultaneously play almost as a slave to their card strength?

I think it’s because most poker players don’t know what they’re looking for. They know they’re supposed to be playing their opponents, but they just don’t know how. They don’t know what information is important and what isn’t. Or worse, they see information they think is important that really isn’t at all.

Then, when they try to act on what they’ve seen, they get themselves into trouble. Playing the Player is designed to teach you exactly what to look for and then, once you spot it, how to take full advantage.

What are some easy ways to take advantage of opponents? Many times, in no-limit hold’em, players will make a bet hoping to win the pot. If that bet gets called, however, then the player plans to check the hand down or fold to another significant bet or raise. I call these plays bet-folds, since the player is betting, but planning to fold to a raise or a big bet on a later round.

When most players get bet into, they assume their opponents are strong. But when their opponents are bet-folding, they are actually fairly weak and very vulnerable. So one of the main focuses of the book is showing you how to identify when your opponent is likely bet-folding, and therefore when you should raise, often with any two cards.

Are you strictly a NLHE player? I basically am these days. When I played 40-plus hours a week for my living, I played limit hold’em. But since I’ve gotten into writing books and teaching, with the overriding popularity of no-limit, I’ve let my limit hold’em game fall by the wayside. I dabble in non-hold’em games from time to time, but basically I’m a no-limit hold’em guy.

What are you primarily playing these days? I play mostly $2-$5 and $5-$10 no-limit hold’em live in Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to the new legalized online poker in Nevada coming near the end of 2012.

Where are your favorite places to play locally? I play almost anywhere they spread $2-$5: Aria, Venetian, Wynn, MGM Grand, sometimes the Bellagio.

What’s next for you? Good question. The new book is out, so I think I will probably play a lot of poker this summer and do plenty of private coaching. After that, who knows? I probably have another book floating around in my head somewhere.