The truth is, I probably listen to my own poker podcast as much as any other one. Act local and all that jazz, right? No offense, esteemed poker elephants, but I’m not in your neighborhood, and also not as interested in peering over the hedges as you might think. Certainly other poker shows are far more important or relevant to the poker zeitgeist than mine! Still, most of us listen to what we are comfortable with, and many podcasts aren’t much more than just conversations that you wouldn’t mind taking part in.
Much of poker media content is free. Your personal taste and natural inertia will guide you. Now, barrier to entry is a source of, and incitement to, excellence: If you played a drinking game with my mistakes as host you’d be in the hospital. Consider this resource your refund.
The flip side of all this is that you may not know much about the programs you don’t listen to. Further, since most of the available guidance to the market beyond plain hype is either click-bait articles, dated click-bait articles, or corporate’s skewed, often censorious algorithms, I thought I would do us the favor of organizing a comprehensive, rated list of the current poker podcasts.
Buckle up, there’s a lot more yammering out there than you thought. Yes, you should expect to disagree with some of my opinions. (If I had nothing to say, why would I say it?) Yes, I’ll make updates and corrections if need be; comment taken below.
So, loosely, from the best and then rapidly losing order from there:
There is no other podcast that hits the triune target of strategy, personality, and depth as well as Jennifer Shahade’s novelty on the usage of the deck. Shahade’s narration, with its paradoxically drawlsy bursts, placeless accent, microscopic lisp, and unanxious rush seizes the listener, like music in 3/8 but on poker strategy. Unlike many pod hosts, who seem to think the listener wants to hear them sink into their sofa and yell at the dog before starting, Shahade’s method is to go straight into the subject matter; she doesn’t lose momentum in the post-mortem, either. So the length is right, the subject on point, and the guests unarguably interesting: What more do you want, o podly consumer? Rating: QQ
Yet the best is not always the most important. Billy/DGAF is in the middle, right now, of documenting the live cash game scene post Black Friday, and more importantly, the truths of the game. There won’t be another podcast like this, as Billy is an authentic live grinder in a world of staked equity lottery wonders. He sucks and is great, he wins and he loses, he ages gracefully and disgracefully into poker. BIlly tells his story and hawks product with a voice that is both dead and expressive. Unlike the poker elephants Jennifer focuses on, who will come and go, graced by this and that, Billy is poker: he plays with you every night, know it or not, and is everywhere the live game is. On Sessions, you get to listen in on this entire world, all of it trivial and universal and personal – just like poker itself. Rating: JJ
Andrew Brokos is the pontiff of a certain circle of thought and personality. He’s got a gargling, somewhat repressed voice, as weedy as those cobwebs he’s kept attached to his face. However, that is nothing, as he’s undeniably versed in poker and its communication: that’s what matters. Continuous, reliable programming of what poker players both need and want are here: high-level strategy, combined with non-trivial human interest. That’s a winning combination. Andrew’s agreeable and smoother co-host Nate Meyvis provides good cop, good cop back-up that works. Thinking Poker shares length with many other podcasts, but actually works with a more focused long-form, as opposed to the five minute, say hello prop-ops, or the aimless hour of poker gossip that is the methodology of many other, less popular and fading shows: lesson there, boys and girls. Admittedly, some things have always gotten in the way. As with many introverts, Andrew must bombard us with the stuff he likes, so we have to listen to his mousy taste in music for extended breaks. (Thanks to the second interlude, I’ll have to forever associate this poker podcast with a depressing woman who does not inspire enough sexual devotion from her man. Cue horn of lament.) Again, that’s just his extraction for entry – nothing is ever actually free. Notably, Andrew and Nate have been on the ball with AI poker developments, not only interviewing scientists but reporting on their play against the machine. Thinking Poker smartly kicks off the pod with a strategy segment – Andrew knows to satisfy his audience first before indulging himself. This pod is hundreds of hours of serious and moderately fun content – and they are not stopping, having just unveiled a new, far more navigable website. Rating: AKs
Love him or hate him, right or wrong, Matt Berkey rises above the field because he is not a trivial man or the typical, resentful social media bottom-feeder, high on memes, weed, and pirated personality. Matt has a singular way of looking at poker that inspires those who like him and which often invigorates those who dislike him. With a talented set of equally off-path pros to spar with, including arm-waving weatherman Christian Soto and herb mesmerizer Nick Howard, the “vlogcast” – it is available on video, as many podcasts are – presents clean, lengthy, and interesting to the point of obscure takes on the scene, regardless of Matt’s latest preflop seppuku or the daily scourging of his detractors. There are a few downsides. The litany of productivity theories will eventually grow tiresome, as will the interminable auto-biographical twaddle. Sometimes things are best just being what they are: there is no truly masking or outwitting the time-eating tedium of the poker war, which, in its dangerously unproductive, amoral abstraction, relentlessly rewards the most present, silent minds who have turned briefly away from life’s greater joys, not necessarily the sympathetic but scatter-brained seeker types attracted to S4Y. Rating: Five syllables
This is lighthearted, yet complete commentary by two jovial tournament dorks who seem to simply love poker and their own camaraderie just as much. The “Choochoohuahuas” certainly love to yap: Grant and Jonathan have created an astonishing body of content, so much you have to apparently buy the back episodes on disk: the internet ran out of room for all that yak. The Guys do have an unfortunate weakness for judging play they may not understand; they seem to be aware of it, though. The main thing is, G. and J., even if you disagree with them, go through their own logic far, far more completely than any other poker strategy show, while simultaneously doing it in a fun, clear way. Neither double down on their opinions and take natural joy in both teaching the game while poking fun at each other. The bottom line is anyone who enjoys thorough if standard mid level analysis is going to find voluminous pod fod here. Rating: Dash Money
No poker show list is complete without the 160 lb sleeveless gorilla of podcasts. While Joey has a knack for clowning around, for coming up with clumsy questions and bumbling about when a serious guest comes on, the pure poker pull of his circle of high stakes beasts and legends, combined with his persistence, enthusiasm and ridiculous brosonality makes for fun, if meandering listening. Further, he’s really quite the businessman and entertainer: where the act begins and the real Joey ends is not actually as clear as one might think – pretty clever to have no sleeves and still have something hidden there. Interesting to hear his hints of fury at the GPI on the Chip Race Pod, somewhat ironically, regarding their oblivious dismissal of The Second Hardest Working Man in Poker Media. Further, he has a direct line to Doug Polk, one of the sharper and more fair observers in the scene; an ace in the hole for Joey, and a clearly profitable relationship between two young old hands with a lot more fans than illusions. Rating: Three Shout-outs
A heavy “Poker Headlines” podcast, very cleanly presented and usually kept to a conscientious under an hour run time. A lot of on-the-spot coverage, which is a nice touch. If you are interested in keeping up with poker world events with a focus on tournaments, want the commentary to be on the succinct side while skipping the usual yuks, this might be the best one out there. Supermen poker writers Lance Bradley and Donnie Peters are predictably sharp. The Fives is especially good around the WSOP, as they more than triple the coverage frequency. The longer episodes tend to lose significant steam. Rating: KJo.
Never mind the pretenders, the real part deux of 2+2 is this obvious, still corny spin-off, with Host Adam, Dropsman Roscoe and Sidekick Terrence reemerged intact. The real change is the addition of the one and only Daniel Negreanu as star, expert, and sponsor. Daniel, intermittently on the show, is animated and offers reasonable opinions; his common sense, upbeat approach is often accurate, rakegate and whatever baggage he brings aside. (Daniel takes a lot of unnecessary grief; he can barely urinate without some worry-wart wondering if it’s good for poker or not.) The hawking of product isn’t overdone. (It’s interesting that irascible upstarts like Alvin Lau spend their time trashing viable but relatively minor paths like S4Y when the true sources of paltry information come straight from the overlords- but that is how the food-chain works: the aspirants eat their own first.) If you like these guys enough to care about their opinions on various non-questions and miss the 2+2 podcast’s breezy coverage of the scene, this is easily your show. Friendly and accessible and silly, DAT is the closest thing to being in these Hot Shots’ home game. Rating: A9s.
aka “Poker Between Two Ferns,” is another high-quality strategy show, presented by Jack Laskey and possibly still a Zach, depending on the unclear show notes. If you can wade through the stuffiness and fade the aggravating, plodding speech rhythms, Just Hands is revealed to be (literally) quietly one of the most useful pods around for the low-stakes student of the game. There are many interesting guests and the emphasis on some lesser known players is invigorating. This is the podcast where Berkey originally explained his compelling, dangerous-to-himself-and-others style in complete detail, to the consternation of the bewildered hosts, who recovered from their confusion and showed their chops by being able to deconstruct it. Early episodes feature a lot of self-congratulation, which is trying, but perhaps the hosts’ skills earn it. In many ways it’s a higher level Poker Guys without the circus- for better and worse. Rating: Two snare brushes.
is bare-bones, unironic, hardcore dedication to the tournament scene. Bernard joined his podcast with PokerNews in 2018, allowing him significant visibility. His web portal there features a very nice time-stamp content guide; we’re dealing with professionalism here. Bernard is clear-voiced and organized, but often repetitive in dealing out his weekly trivia, needing an editor more than the teleprompter he seems to shout from. Bernard’s pods follow a similar but natural story-line, where he hypes wins and prize-pools and money and prestige, as if anyone is impressed by that anymore, and only by the end does he get into any strategy or nuance or issues of real interest. If you are deeply immersed in the tournament scene, or can get through the opens, you will find good content, as Bernard eventually elicits opinions from serious players in the games on key subjects. Such a perfect platform, with a strong and competent history thanks to its knowledgeable host, could use an upgrade: sometimes hidden gems just need to be polished. Rating: QJo.
This podcast features poker’s new odd couple, staid pro Jake Toole and manic amateur “Barstool” Nate. (Apparently there are Barstool fans and Barstool is something that might have unions and “poker players love barstool”; it’s all very unclear.) Jake tries haplessly to keep Nate on track, but basically “Barstool” spins freely, unleashing whatever is in his head, including every poker term he’s ever heard in a humorous string of light cringe across episodes. In the key chapter so far, entitled Poker 101: How To Get Better at Poker, the two start by being unable to even agree on the subject matter; basically this is comedy. The theme turns when Jake finds himself unable to quite describe how to, in fact, get better, all while Nate bombards him with his all-you-can-eat-spaghetti-night of ideas. Toole isn’t just stymied at what a beginner should do, first contradicting himself over the usefulness of a famous poker book: he really is at something of a loss at how to describe the nature of the game and its fundamental incentives, eventually punting their imaginary beginner over to Upswing or Run It Once (the latter being a disaster for the novice. One for two, if the Barstool fans are counting.) The winding conversation demonstrates how the ability to describe how the game works beyond the mere mechanics of what most winning players employ by rote is a genuinely tall order. No wonder so many are lost (and no wonder there are so many of these damn podcasts). In true comic fashion, and having long since forgotten the listener questions they were supposed to answer, beginner Nate provides an answer they can agree on: start somewhere, anywhere. An enjoyable listen with a big future, but I’d still slip Nate his meds every now and then, if I were Jake. Rating: K10o
Recently the GPI pulled some names out of a very small hat (probably borrowed from Ali Nejad) to decide this podcast is the best one. Ok, but pretty high standards to live up to – until you think for two seconds and remember what a pile the GPI process is. My first experience in listening to the Chip Race is some bloke praising his sponsor, so it seems like hand fits glove so far. Lots of pleasant scene chatter and microstructure mulling unfolds; the tournament scene really does seem to require United Nations level of discourse, my research has revealed. Once we get past this stuff, Chip Race hosts David Lappin and Dara O’Kearney (is there another one, too?) start to show their stuff. The interview with Jungleman is definitely amusing, as the less than racy, cordial pair have no response to Dan’s blunt commentary on his notorious indoor sports video. Other interviews go smoothly as well: what’s happening is Lappin and O’Kearney have that subtle ability to avoid their own feet – not one that all poker interlocutors have. Basically, lots of decent listening for the tournament crowd, and plenty beyond as well, all at a pleasant pacing. Rating: 99.
The one true queen of poker hostesses, Sarah Herring, presides over a professionally produced main-stream show. It’s endless NVG, minus the keyboard trolls, plus the interviews. All harmlessly done. Rating: PG-13
For the Equity Lottery enthusiast, this appears to be the best strategy one – maybe the only one. I find this bizarre, given that nearly half the existing podcasts are tournament scene gossip channels. Clayton Fletcher, who tends to sound a little, uh, mellowed, does a yeoman’s job of handling his apparent monopoly. Enough said. Rating: 60/40
Queens may be easy to identify, but If there is any one true voice of the poker forum crank poster, it surfaces here, in a seemingly endless trail of episodes (bottomless in themselves) hosted by the nasally Todd “Dan Druff” Witteles, best known for getting yelled at by Abe Limon. A strange, mission-focused name for a podcast, really, and worth being concerned about. In any case, the underbelly of poker served up by the tortuous and tortured Dan Druff (one of the most masochistic pseudonyms ever devised), who has morphed over time into a sort of poker 3 AM radio host who has the empty night to fill, a night that is full of unknown Deep Ones, those players you don’t personally know but are out there, watching for your latest screw up, or I guess, fraud. For such paranoia, the night and poker scene really are full of terrors. “Real cash money” he promises in the latest episode, apparently through some dusty freeroll on some site somewhere, in order to celebrate his return to health. This is not trivial: August 15, the date of this pod, is a key one for Todd, as he announces his escape from depression, more specifically, the horrifying state known as Anhedonia (and not Colson Whitehead’s lazy conceit). More importantly, this date is also the assumption of the Virgin. It is trivial of course, to debate whether the Mother of God was pulled uncorrupted to heaven, or that a lying or misled human vanished: the point is the mercy that the suffering human conscience cries out for. Todd needed to retrain his focus on greater meaning to escape the darkness of whatever web he had spun for himself; we all at some point must share Todd’s moment in order to better confront the spending down of one’s life, which dims like a preset-theater light while the day continues to shine outside. Reorientation can be difficult, but our basic human mythology exists for ornery radio hosts, too; one can be glad and reassured by Todd’s escape. As for the pod itself, Todd promises to “break the mold of boredom” but I’m not sure he knows what that means, as he often delivers on this promise all too well. If you can stay in touch with this one, you’re braver, tougher, or more committed to the game than I, and I think you will find value for it: he and his set of followers are both trouble and always looking for trouble. Whatever your opinion, Todd certainly brings the content: set aside a year to catch up on what must be a kind of cultural history of poker. Rating: 87s.
is pretty much the mirror opposite of Sessions or the Poker Zoo. Jeff focuses on poker tournament’s golden 1%, and generally handles his assigned task well. He’s a competent interviewer but really does babble over his guests a bit and tends to repeat himself: in one interview, Kevin Martin can barely get a word in for long stretches. Speaking of, Jeff is also a popular streamer and brings in a few of his fellow Twitchers. It’s light stuff on the whole: we get to hear a lot of softballs knocked out of the infield. Perhaps the best thing Jeff does to expand himself and his audience is interview a few interesting non-poker players, although his choice of personalities appears to be RNG’d. Nevertheless, if you love poker elephants, or if there is that sign-my-chest gene in your family, this is your bag. Jeff’s website is nice, too: slick, eat-off-the-counter stuff. Rating: three scarves.
One of the granddads of poker podcasts, apparently having run since 2007, this AM radio style talk show covers the scene in a digestible, rambling style. The deep polarity in podcasts are vanity shows by poker elephants, and enthusiastic amateur hours like this one. With the death and reformation of the 2+2 pod, which used key guests and a more clear host dynamic in order to straddle the middle ground, Ante Up could somewhat take over as a generalized poker content go-to, but has a little too much unfocused poker-dad bavardage to gain nearly as much interest. In one episode the hosts give solid if easy advice regarding a hand so egregiously played you have to wonder who listens to this podcast and reads Ante Upp: the games are apparently good out there. Overall, it’s hard to listen for too long to such aimless fare despite the amiable presentation. Worse, too many “ums” and pen clicking and knuckle knocking or whatever it is the slap-happy hosts keep doing – try a little editing or something, you aren’t really entertaining the morning commute. Rating: 97s
The mind wanders a bit while following the monotone patter of the very modest and pleasant Peter Clarke; nothing is every quite fair. Clarke is a self-deprecating and easy listen, tailored to the microedge pushing microgrinder, that funny creature so concerned with “leaks,” itself a funny term that anxious players use to imply that there is some caulking that would fix their otherwise perfect microstakes bathtub sailboat. Pray to the value god for guidance.
Clarke is good at this stuff, and I appreciate his honesty about what he is selling – I imagine him to be one of the good people in poker. He sounds honestly worried for your rake payments, worried for your exact vpips, worried about the population; and all the ropes and riggings that you need to sail the stormy NL5-NL50 seas. After all, many a weekend warrior and lonely loser has drowned there – clearly his well-known book is venerated by its sailors for a reason. Clarke does tend to get caught up with “weaker” and “stronger” players who all follow the algorithm weakly or strongly, but it’s all so sweet and basic and well meaning, you can’t go wrong. The only technical thing I will comment on here is that Clarke is confused about why his students’ blue lines are good but they lack red line: it’s not that they are “good at getting value,” it’s that the population they play in is bad at decision making versus their frequencies, a subtle difference that only makes a difference long term. The nitty regs, in other words, attracted to training like this are accruing a sort of unearned value that paradoxically holds them back from bigger games – the feedback loops of poker are fiendish and kind of beautiful. We can understand this because the red line is what allows you to actually have a good blue line – these things are intertwined and not entirely “fixable” in the linear sense suggested, in other words.
I’m actually for once interested in a mental game episode, his latest, as such a reasonable person as Clarke might have some non-bs to say. It’s a good forty minutes, as expected, with an emphasis on recognition of the problem and the understanding of what the game is as the easiest solution. There are other ways of solving mental game, however: Clarke provides an answer while still sailing by the protruding rock of Hunter’s theme – the lawyer rec wants to tilt, needs to tilt, and has sought out poker (and poker him) to explore this. “It’s my time” the guest clues us in. Repression, a scary word for the undisciplined, actually necessary for the professional in many cases, is of course not the answer for such a player, but the embracing of a personal strategy which serves its master’s purpose can be. Thus, joy in the game is found – but Hunter and Clarke will settle for peace. It’s all good.
What’s amusing, in the bigger picture, with these solid poker coaches and trainers is that they sort of give away the real news in between the line. Clarke acknowledges that basically NL50 players have very little fight, yet all we hear is how tough the games are. A promising episode is “Modern 3b Ranges.” Now, I’m not sure what his ranges are, as we have to buy them, but I get a big hint when he recommends that 3b/f from the BU as the way forward – some of you will know what I am talking about. Another hint from a little video investigation shows the bottom of a 4b range being AK/QQ. On the pod, Clarke advises that “lighter 3 bets come from hands we might sometimes call,” and we’re supposed to use the RNG to bravely take a risk. “Slightly wider than GTO” is our final big hint. Yes, this is a “tornado” of pressure, he promises. Modern poker is often just as silly as the old stuff, but hey, you’re here. Rating: A10s.
A likable pod, sponsored by PokerNews, with a solid narrative structure featuring pro and author Ben Hayles, hosted by Merv Harvey – hard to go wrong in entertainment with that name. Aimed at recreational poker players, this one is less anxious to impress than some of its competition, and does so all the more if only for that. Merv gives us the set up, including mercifully brief rundowns of local news, in the case of episode 87, the Australian poker scene. They segue to some obligatory nods to poker’s woman non-issue (clearly understood by their previous guest Sarah Herring far more pithily), then it’s onto the day’s subject. Pro Ben gives us a solid if slightly conservative interpretation of bomb pot strategy, and on we go, a solid pedagogical dynamic established between the two. I’d expect more of the same, overall. Ben is a very patient and reasonable instructor, and the novice will benefit from his unhurried common sense. Rating: QJo.
Joe Stapleton is an acquired taste for some, but the powers of our small pond that be have forced all of us to acquire it or skip a lot of video coverage. In some senses Joe has found a better, more suitable and still more local pond in the form of this podcast, as it’s opt-in. In fact, when Joe forgets he has to act like Joe Stapleton, he offers some amusing thoughts and shows a worthy attention to detail, exemplified in the “Bad Poker Movies” episode. Overall, the strength of this podcast are its harmless atmosphere and guest handling. Joe, unlike in his day job, allows them to speak at length, showing some chops we didn’t know he had. Despite some reliance on the podcast carousel usual suspects, Joe and James occasionally pull significantly interesting ones, so picking your episode then skipping the filler at the beginning is a good way to approach PIYE. Of late, Joe either has developed a perpetual cold or is moving into a sort of Jimmy Durante phase: could be an improvement, I’m not sure. James Hartigan magnifies the presence of Stapleton and aids nimbly in the interviews. He’s such a good straight man, with so little discernible personality, I would not entirely be surprised if he lived a second life as an MI5 agent. No one can hold back Joe from Joe in the end, however: at least one show ends with a novelty quiz so inane the guest can be heard squirming to get off it. (Hartigan, Stockholmed long ago, cannot help Joe’s victim.) So, if you need more light conversation and pure groanage in your life, modest opinions stated as if they are revelatory, and just love big poker personalities being put to easy questions, here’s the natural pod for you. Rating: Two puns.
This is one of a grouping of marginally acceptable strategy pods, rescued by the engaging twist of Husband and Wife sharing the felt. Unfortunately (but perhaps compellingly to some) Husband has a very creepy demeanor and voice, while also offering a blase surety of strategy that just isn’t earned. In one episode, somehow a “loose-passive fishy guy” has “no discernible post-flop” patterns, an unusually bald contradiction. The advice to charge draws alone makes only marginal sense; you can’t exactly decide which part of a range will continue against you. They then endorse the worst candidate to bet, while dismissing a far better one per the drawing logic, as Husband’s actual holding blocks some of the very draws they want to charge. As the hand lurches toward disaster, the hosts together pooh-pooh the skills of the villain, all while Husband button-clicks his way into a dubious shove on a board which was against him from the start. I don’t want to go any further, because the plus side to this pod is actually significant: the pair cover real low-stakes games and their action, talking about games the average pod listener really plays in. Your squishy tables are packed with aspiring students of the game who think like they do. This is, at the very least, breathing, live low-stakes poker content, and the conspiratorial aspect of the couple strengthening their marriage through plotting against the neighborhood is a bit hypnotic. Rating: K8s
This one is self explanatory and should be of interest exclusively to its scene. Home games are the ground roots of poker and it’s great that there is this media for those truly dedicated. However, the show seems to be losing its way a bit, and has spent some time of late schmoozing with circuit and casino crawlers: Robbie Strazynski continues his wriggle up the media ladder. Interviews and tour coverage are already done elsewhere, including by his very smiling self: Quo vadis? Rating: Badugi
Red Chip’s pod has somewhat fallen off the radar for low-stakes strategy listeners of late, as the focus for much of the year turned to hearing from Poker Elephants and other movers/shakers in the scene, and away from than the joys of winning and losing through the lens of wide-eyed former host and NL enthusiast Zac Shaw. That’s not to say new host Robbie, visiting from Top Pair, a mixed-games man and entrepreneur of poker media in general, has done anything wrong: the guests deserve to be heard from. As the idiots say, it is what it is… for now. I sense change. Rating: J10o
is a pleasant surprise in many ways. Hosted chiefly by the friendly Steve Fredlund, this pod aims, much like Smart Poker Study and His and Hers, at your average bewildered poker buff. While a good portion of it is remainder pile stuff, including some interviews that have been better covered elsewhere, the overall atmosphere is cordial and listenable, with a satisfyingly brisk conversational pace and no sense of hustle. More importantly, Steve has a developed vision and therefore his pod has a direction: he’s trying to completely overhaul his game: the podcast has become the documentation of his effort to gather information. At the same time he is refocused on specifically serving recreational players and in fact will be launching some sort of membership community in October 2019.
Interesting, that. It’s a fine line of camaraderie and marketing, and the sheep are going to be shorn by a lot of incomplete coaching, as a lot of them have already appeared on this pod. Nevertheless, this new story-line raises the bar for what could be just another forgotten drip of poker media and dubious strat output. Having played the typical reactive style that is neither here nor there (he mistakenly calls it “exploitative” whereas exploitation is a technical word measuring profitable distance from the optimal), Steve goes on something of a Listening Tour, recording the thoughts of many stronger players and editing them into whole series of advice. There are many high points for this show, including bringing on podcast pope Brokos, Grid star Shahade, and even troll pin-cushion Matt Berkey for multiple shots. Steve’s not afraid to interview pariah Alec Torelli, which I think is a good choice, as some of the animus toward this player is fair, but is certainly also just the poker chicklets clucking along with Rooster Doug. Sky Matsuhashi comes on to make a predictable hash out of a BU vs BB analysis. The podcast moves over time toward Steve’s improvement, including a promising GTO vs Exploitative teaser that I decide to check out: a relevant detail is that Steve starts with 50 bb work, so we can assume Steve is looking at tournament play for the long haul. This is a bigger hint than even the title of the pod, as the Rec Poker Podcast really has its most natural place on a low-stakes tourney grinder’s table. Like the baby sea turtles on the beach, some will survive. Rating: Three card protectors.
Another PokerNews backed pod, this one is hosted by agreeable Borgata poker ambassador and newly minted stream commentator Jamie Kerstetter, as well as veteran poker writer Chad Holloway. For now, the pod remains a trifle awkward, not helped by the goofy, heavy-handed intro, even having succeeded in their the stated focus on the mid-stakes scene. Holloway has an earthy baritone which tends to overwhelm the narration on some tracks, while Kerstetter’s proven wit seems to require the daily set-ups on Twitter. On the other hand, the source of wit is often common sense, and Kerstetter delivers this repeatedly, batting down absurdities in the community and pointing out things worth mentioning; Jamie is an excellent candidate to arbitrate disputes and will one day rise to positions of real importance in the industry – should she stay in it (I sense no). One thing LFG has also done extremely well is pick out lesser known but memorable characters such as Joey Galazzo and Ralph Massey for interviews; the stated mid-stakes mission is worth continuing. For now, it’s another fun personality and variety show that is best enjoyed by insiders and friends, but these two smart people should have the ability to lead this podcast, already nominated for a GPI award, somewhere bigger. LFG. Rating: 98s
I found this one nearly last, as it is miscategorized as a “poker video” on the confusing Cardplayer magazine website in one spot, and as a subcategory of videos on the menu bar. Not surprising, as the homepage is designed with all the simplicity of an airplane’s control panels. The mislabeling is apparently endemic; this pod is another standard interview show. It doesn’t say who the host is and you have to go to Itunes to find a release date. Cardplayer is the self proclaimed “poker authority” and “industry-publication.” The funny thing, that may be perfectly true, but if our industry can’t even reach bone-basic standards, not sure what the brag is worth. This stuff isn’t without consequence, because there is lots of good content here that you might not otherwise find. Anyway, the host turns out to be the very competent and low-key Julio Rodriguez. Basically, you’ll find many of the names you are looking for and a few surprises, too. Rating: 108o.
I honestly hoped this podcast was about heads-up poker: crushed. Anyway, this one is an interview show – when they finally get around to it – by some hosts who sound a little exhausted. With what looks like five years of content, I don’t blame them one bit. Basically these guys are the grown up versions of the dudes down the hall who kept laughing and hitting repeat on “Jesse’s Girl” while you wanted to sleep, somehow squeaked out the rent with a little tourney magic here and there, but shared a bowl with you the next day. (By the way, how does Carlos Welch appear on so many podcasts and still find time to actually play poker. Very suspicious.) Rating: 44
Another poker newscast/analysis pod to choose from, hosted by Mike Gentile and Nick Jones. Sounds reasonable overall but not gonna be able to listen to Gentile’s voice for too long. Rating: unknown
It is almost hard to describe the special relationship Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth have with each other and with poker. For one thing, they really can’t do anything wrong, or more precisely, anything with consequence, because they are so ensconced in the poker firmament – critique beyond observation is truly futile in that sense. The two are so immune, more so Phil than Mike, to outside information that it is often hard for players or the public to even interact with them in any effective way. At the table, their strategies are so bizarrely primitive (yet because of the way poker works, still competitive), all while being so certain of themselves, that they are like stone-age mechanics mocking the absurd lack of solidity of a rubber tire. In one memorable moment on Live at the Bike, Phil is so outraged at a cooler delivered to his buddy that he raves at the fearsome Garrett Adelstein – not exactly a novice to the game – to the point that any human with less experience and control would have had words or flattened the ridiculous, short-stacking, long-bodied narcissist: the Bill de Blasio of poker. Finally Garrett lets off some steam with a mildly sardonic comment about how well he runs. Phil freezes, shocked back to reality at what he decides is an “insane” comment.
Usually it takes a top-tier fiction writer to make up irony this rich.
With that kind of baggage, preparing to listen to the Mike Matusow podcast – already declared the best podcast by his legendary buddy and staker – isn’t exactly easy. I start backwards with the “Phil Hellmuth Special with Special Guest Phil Hellmuth, Part 1” (Again, how does one respond to this stuff?) Yet Mike somehow makes the show about himself – which is what, a relief?
I think it actually is. Matusow is a veteran and speaks with conviction. It’s not impossible to forget, for a few moments, all the craziness when someone who has been through it all answers calls and maybe more than others, makes himself available to the public. Sometimes people are just interesting whether they are behind the glass or not, and if anything, the podcast can remind us of how fragile and sympathetic those we are needfully wary of really are.
Still, bring your headphones. Rating: Four Rants.
Yet another tournament poker scene pod, this one from my home turf- do you think recreational players are beginning to like these things or what? Actually, this podcast has been around forever, and sounds like it’s syndicated: you know your podcast has made it when one of its sponsors is the U.S. government. (Yes, germs will in fact kill you, if our state’s citizens don’t first.) The usual numbers and hype, typically mixed in with short interviews where we learn, well, basically nothing. Given more time their guests, the pair warm up and do a much better job, as the recent Matt Savage section suggests. Big Dave (a writer for Ante Up and its “South Florida Poker Ambassador” – good to see relations existing between our country and other, healthier nations) and Joe Rodriguez are true gents; one of them forgives Shaun Deeb for being a shit because “he’s had a baby.” Joe occasionally sounds a bit like someone’s enforcer, adding a sort of amusing chill to everything he says. Overall, these classy guys handle their business and promote the healthy local scene. Rating: Q10o.
Sky Matsuhashi is a hype man and very, well, excitable. Interestingly, he’s a smooth and easy listen too, employing an almost suspiciously low-level of communicative complexity, as if he has taken courses in influencing people. The pod lengths themselves are also short and sweet: clearly Sky is the master of his audience. His newly announced goal, after years of podcasting and coaching, is to create a top-tier training site. The problem is, I’m not entirely sure he’s up to it, as this podcast is clearly best for novices and weekend warriors seeking quick fixes. The low-level of nuance and absence of holistic strategy (consider alone just the number of Tips and Tricks and Lists) is not really very “smart,” and his plan of delivering thirty second tickles a la Jonathan Little is one of the worst ways of communicating a game of infinite possibility. We hear a lot about “Bread and Butter” situations rather than analyzing what the overall strategy might be, or really why anything actually happens in poker. When confronted with a sizing question, he urges the listener to experiment with how much villains are willing to call, rather than building from theory and establishing a thorough foundation of knowledge for future play; in this respect, Matsuhashi bookends the many vloggers currently creating a new wave of fish by demonstrating how to play and think in poker’s most primitive mode. In a key episode on Miller’s Poker’s 1%, Matsuhashi perpetuates myths about the book which damage the listener, including confusing GTO with frequencies. To his great credit, Sky grasps the importance of the Events chapter, which is at least a start. On the previous episode, Sky gushes over what are some basically horrifying quotations from Alex Fitzgerald’s latest pamphlet. For one of his best episodes that I listened to, Sky bizarrely reads an effective article from Upswing, upping the value of the pod, I suppose. As I go deeper, it turns out Sky regularly recycles content from others, giving them full credit, of course… but still. Ironically, Sky is a man of standards and rules himself, offering unimpeachable bankroll advice and probably a lot of good things I don’t have time to discover, but this over-simplified study train just leads to being railroaded by better players and necessitating deconstruction by a better coach or training site before you move up to any significant stake. I’m experiencing deja vu, however: maybe the secret is that what Matuhashi is doing is just the way it has to be – I’ve argued this myself. In any case, Sky is INCREDIBLY EXCITED to INFINITE AND BEYOND. In sum, this is a practical, decent hodgepodge of thoughts that won’t eat up your day – great for your uncle who sucks at poker and who will never, ever really change, but probably not so much for the wayward contrarian who found this obscure site. Ganbatte! Rating: Q9o
As Abe Limon once pointed out, Dave Tuchman is wrong about everything. Still, this happy, ubiquitous blabbermouth who can’t stop talking about himself makes reliably upbeat and feisty content. It’s sports and sports-bet heavy listening. Tuchman is blessed in every way, always at the center of the poker universe, and just generally a decent sort. True, he’s slowly forgotten the whole premise was having a guest “under the gun,” but for David, it was never about them anyway. Is it just me or have his awful “aahhhhhmmmmmmm” disappeared? Nice. To hate Dave is to love him, I suppose. Rating: Two pints
A low-key personality parade hosted by the popular, reasonable interviewer Remko Rinkema, who ultimately just couldn’t compete with the hostesses our eyes and ears want. Poker insider Brent Hanks provides significant additional energy, but without expert analysis or interesting opinions or a novelty focus, this show is a little tame. “Are you excited?” “How do you transfer your live skills to the online realm, where you have less things to look at?” is the stuff they ask Phil Hellmuth. Yadayadayada. As a promo for Pokergo stuff, it certainly works. If you need to know what rattles around in Randall Emmet’s noggin, here’s your home. Poker trivia: there’s less things to look at on a podcast, too. Rating: Potato, potahto
Easily the most unreliable of the Corporate poker educators, the all-too-well-known Jonathan Little overwhelms us with a barrage of marketing and gimmicks, one of which is this quasi-podcast. (Check out A Little Coffee for yet more JLil.) Over the course of a few episodes, incomplete bet sizing reasoning, misunderstanding of 3b incentives and therefore continuing ranges, along with a general lack of nuance leads to some questionable recommendations. All this is puzzling considering the prestige and weight JLil throws around the learning community. Little’s focus on value betting as the lens through which strategy traverses does lead to some good outcomes, but is only half a battle-plan. In one episode, for instance, he praises a very lucky result which was derived not from the strategy but from misunderstanding the villain in the hand, a logic bender which missed the real educational opportunity. This misleading pedagogy from a reputable commentator and accepted expert probably isn’t apparent to the untrained eye, but is the sort of stuff that helps keep the games good by confusing low-stakes regs. Rating: A4o
is Andrew Neeme’s effort to expand beyond his popular if peaking vlog work. It’s not really clear why. The subject is supposed to be poker and relationships, and the subtext that, to rephrase the famous line, love is never having to be entertaining, will be liberating to some. I’d be afraid of sounding too negative if Neeme wasn’t perceptibly bored himself. Go fly a drone or something, buddy. Rating: Unfavorable.
An intermittent pod resurrected every few months by Alex’s personal Siri, an occasionally irate, product-hawking kelpie. The Itunes podcast description states “One Outer interviews poker legends,” all of which are apparently named Alex Fitzgerald – possibly a good joke, who can tell. Either way, TheAssassinato is a long way off from the days of his interesting blog and dynamic tourney play, but even if the rainbow has ended, there’s probably plenty of gold still in the archive, nor should you ever doubt just how much such a player may have forgotten while still knowing more than you. CRAZY DISCOUNTS. Rating: One free webinar
I close with these because it’s with some reluctance that I research or rate the mental game podcasts. For the vast majority of players, the delusion that they have some Platonic A-game within, like the hidden six pack or 26-inch waist, is a useful illusion for players and the businesspeople who cater to this illusion – including casinos, hack poker coaches, and the entire industry of opportunists. (I’m not asking you to feel bad for the players, just to understand the difference between a theft and a grift). Tilt is the bewildered reaction of the mind when it cannot grasp a sudden and injurious event – yet instead of learning about the event, many travel down the path of calming or strengthening their nerves; in other words, dodging the problem. (Tendler, the true legend of this field, has the more powerful “inchworm” model to explain some of this: this remains the non-plus-ultra of mental game modelling – but his podcast passed away years ago.) Nevertheless, as you push your abilities, the need for mental discipline can be more than just a stand-in for poker IQ. Fortunately, as with Melissandre, most of the mental coach’s abilities are not magic or science but simple tricks and glamours, because what the mental coaches really are, are Life Coaches for people who won’t admit they need a mommy or daddy. Basically the good mental coach urges organization and goal setting, which just happen to be the basis of any successful human’s life.
Really, such hesitation on my part is mostly unnecessary, because it turns out a lot of mental game podage just isn’t mental game. In Mindset Advantage, Elliot Roe is just another host, or rather, one with an especially soothing voice, asking boring performance and business questions and getting answers we have heard a million times from the usual suspects. If fact, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t see omnipresent Matt Berkey on to receive a nice bromide shower – aha, episode 63. Roe elicits real gems from his guest: “Do the best you can with the opportunity presented to you.” Groundbreaking, this from a man whose own paid podcast (not reviewed here as it is part of a paid training program) simply astonishes with its brilliance. Elliot has the temerity to then go on to reciprocally push his guest’s product without any real understanding of it or who it is for or its limitations, the very ones which Berkey to his credit has absolutely labored to improve and adjust, the ones that really do matter to actual players investing in their future. The mental game coach is in other words, a very suspicious part of the poker industrial complex. For Sandra Mohr and the upcoming doco, Eliot is suddenly “Highlighting Women in Poker,” having last had a female guest on his podcast six months earlier: more glamours. Roe’s recommendation to Sandra? “take steps to decrease or eliminate tilt.” I mean, what do you say about this stuff? Maybe you need it, I won’t judge. As Judith Martin, a true giant of life’s mental game and master of our behavior in it, legendarily summarized, “Don’t, and don’t forget to.”
Poker on the Mind is possibly a much more useful podcast, specifically catering to the special demands of tournament poker, which really is something of a mental trip. Where chip value leaves the one to one ratio, unusual decisions must be made, and I can see, contrary to Mason Malmuth’s otherwise strong if curmudgeonly evaluation of where this stuff belongs, a real place for life planning and coordination. Further, the prevailing trend of the young doing better in the tournament scene suggests that the old need an extra, non-strategic leg up to manage massive multiday clusterfucks. (Insert little blue pill jokes here.) All I’m sure about is that those entirely inaccurate, bland corporate cartoons of Patricia and Gareth are extremely tilting! Must be a mental game thing.
Not on poker but the host is tells researcher Zachary Elwood. While I risk getting off topic, it’s a strong if unnecessarily partisan podcast that will interest the curious despite not being the usual self-help or sports or finance lateral that poker players generally slide along to.
Thanks to Chad McVean for collating into one list most of the existing poker podcasts, and to TBR members for help with a few details.