Beating Bad Chances
  World Series of Poker
  World Poker Tour
  European Poker Tour
  Reading OtherPlayer’s Mail
  From the Other Side of the Table
  Poker Hollywood Style
  Cheese head Poker
  A Golf Story
  An Hand
  Champion of the Year Award
  Frank’s Top Moments in Poker
  The Next Poker Wave



Poker players didn’t succeed overnight. It’s a steady procedure of going from friendly games to high stakes.

A player is required to play so as to improve, and a player is required to fail to give oneself the motivation to improve on one’s play. Improving on one’s game is certainly a trial by fire.

Presently, one could avail of and read strategy guides such a Poker like the Pros or one could watch tapes like Phil Hellmuth’s Million Dollar Poker System, or even practice or play on the Internet ( is recommended!) However, some time back, the only way to learn was to get in a game. This chapter discusses some of the more memorable hands in and around Madison, Wisconsin; from the time Frank had been learning to play the game of poker.


Frank had begun playing poker in Madison in about 1985, and 1986 he’d been introduced to ‘Big Al’ Emerson. Big Al was a tough professional poker player, who originated from La Crosse, Wisconsin (currently living in Arizona) Al had been a great fellow: sociable, cheerful and dependable. Al and Frank had been good friends since Al started taking Frank on the road with him to Minneapolis and to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1986.

Once, Al visited Frank’s dilapidated rental home in Madison (he was still studying at the University of Wisconsin) to play poker - poker was permitted in Wisconsin if there was no rake. (A rake occurs when a person was taking money from the pot to go to the house.) Frank had been enjoying a little $1-$2 no-limit hold’em poker game there. Frank remembers that another old friend of his, Wayne Tyler who had been nicknamed ‘Tilly’, also participated in the game.

Frank didn’t’ know Madison Poker legend Dewey Weum (Dewey finished fourth at the 1997 WSOP) at that point in his poker life. Al and Frank, both had been winning by five in the morning and everyone else in the game had quit. They had started playing heads-up when the following hand had come up. Frank had opened by making it $7 to go with a pair of fours. Al had a pair of sevens; he called and raised it to $21 to go.

Frank called, the flop came a pair of twos and a seven, frank bet out $30 with two pair, and al had called and raised it to $100 to go with a full house (it was a great flop for Al). Frank deliberated for a long time, and then had reraised all his chips (roughly $450 in all). Al immediately called and showed frank his full house (sevens full of twos). Frank dazedly stared at Al’s hand realizing that he had had no outs.

He could have won only with a four-four finish! The turn and river had drawn blanks. At first appearance of Frank’s game, Al had busted everyone at the table. Frank had liked his opening bet of $7 with the pair of fours. It’s best to start to build a pot in case one flopped a set. He also liked Al’s reraise to $21 with a pair of sevens; frank felt that Al had been trying to gauge his real strength.

Frank liked his own call of$21 (additional $14) with the pair of fours. Frank liked his bet of so $30 on the flop. With the $30 he’d indicated that he had at least a pair. Frank had loved Al’s raise with the top full house. In this spot most people slow-play their hands. Although Frank didn’t think it was bad to slow-play just that sometimes one could trick one’s opponent by one’s strong hands too soon.

If a person plays slow-playing hand, then frequently an Ace or King or some other scare card could come off on the fourth street to kill the action. Frank’s reraise of all his chips ($450 in all) had been bad. A couple of times earlier in the game, Al had raised him the same way, with nothing, his risking his entire stack with two fours in a pot that had been raised on every possible occasion by his opponent definitely sounded like a bad play to him today.

Al had truly outclassed Frank in this match. Al had bluffed early, so that Frank would call him later. Frank was confused because Al bet all his chips with the nuts. In Frank’s world, he was used to people slow-playing hands. Anyway, Frank made a friend that night! That night, Frank remembered that Al and he had had a long discussion about how he could improve on his no-limit Hold’em poker game.

He was grateful to Al for it. Frank remembered Al talked at great length about what being a professional player was all about. Al had invited Frank to go on the road to some really ‘good’ games with him. Again he was grateful to Al for that. Frank remembered telling him that night, that he wouldn’t recommend being a professional player to his worst enemy. Frank said he loved Big Al, and thanked him for that last piece of advise but he was certainly glad he hadn’t heeded!


Back in 1987 or so, Frank had found a place called Players Bar on the east side of Madison where $2-$4 limit game was being played. By then, it had been two years since he’d been playing professional poker, and compared to the other player there, Frank played poker far better. This game used to begin at noon, every Saturday and go on until bar time (about 1:00 a.m.).

Although the game was on $2-$4 limit, Frank ended up winning roughly $300 every Saturday, which had been pretty useful back then. Both, the people and the atmosphere were the reasons Frank enjoyed playing in that poker game. (The fact that he had won every week helped!) Envision playing poker at a small round bar table that had been raised up high and meant for four people at the most, confined next to a pool table with the jukebox blasting all night long.

It does sound too confined and loud, doesn’t it? It had been that, but Frank had certainly had a great time! Mark and Al Kroon, the two brothers who owned the bar were two of the locals who had played every Saturday. Both of them had played well. (Afterwards, Mark had won a Four Queens tournament in 1995, and a free trip to the Super Bowl in 2003 on as ‘Pokerboy’)

One night, the following situation, involving Al Kroon and Frank had come up when no-limit poker was introduced to the game. They had been playing no-limit Omaha with a $1 blind. Somehow Frank had got involved calling a bet with a hand in which Frank had no pair, no draw, going for him. It had only been a stone-cold bluff (the sort that Daniel Negreanu or Huck Seed might try to do to a player!).

Al had bet out $25 with one card to come, and Frank had chosen to call his bet just to bluff him out on the end there had been both, a straight draw and a flush draw on the board. Of course, the flush card came off, and Frank had fired out Al’s last $42. Al had very good reason to be suspicious of Frank’s bet, and he studied Frank for a several minutes. Ultimately, he had folded, and then he had asked Frank to show him his hand.

Obviously, Frank couldn’t resist showing a bluff, because he had guessed it would get Frank a lot of extra action later, when he had a good hand. Then Frank had gone on to turn his hand faceup. But Al had not reacted the way that Frank had thought he would. The next thing he knew, Frank had been lying flat on his back on the pool table with Al’s hands firmly encircled around his throat!

Several times Frank had heard John Bonetti saying that he had someone by the throat! But Bono hadn’t literally meant it that way! Al had had Frank’s arms fastened to the pool table, and his legs had been hanging off the edge. Frank had been feeling totally helpless, as he’d started to lose oxygen. That’s called, bluffing the wrong guy!

Imagine this: All the others who’d been in the game had been trying to pull Al off Frank, and Frank found himself wondering if this had really been happening. I had happened so rapidly. One moment Frank had been smiling and showing off his bluff, and the next moment he had been lying defenseless on his back on the pool table right behind his bar stool, with someone’s hands around his throat!

Although Al hadn’t let go off Frank’s throat immediately, Frank had never really been worried about his safety. But, for the first time in his life, he had realized how delicate his throat had been, and how easy it had been for him to really get hurt. They had been playing poker within minutes, and Frank made it a point to sit next to Al the rest of the night. Frank didn’t want him to feel he’d been afraid of him. He just never bluffed him again….ever!

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