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Kill Phil
by Blair Rodman
Book Picture
The Kill Phil strategy is designed to take advantage many feel is a weakness in no-limit hold'em tournaments -- the over-emphasis on the all-in move in the later stages. It's both instructive overall, by analyzing players and their styles and covers much territory often neglected or skimmed over by other books and theorists.
Read a review of Kill Phil

The 'Kill Phil' strategy, and the chipless all-in move

Blair Rodman is one of the better-known poker figures. In addition to scoring well in tournament play, he has now co-authored an interesting poker book, Kill Phil. The premise of the book is that anBob CiaffoneBob Ciaffone is one of America’s best-known poker players, writers, and teachers. He has numerous poker tournament wins and placings, the most prominent being third place in the 1987 World Championship. He has been a poker teacher since 1995, with his students having earned well over a million dollars in tournament play.  Bob's website is  inexperienced tournament player has a better chance of doing well by playing tight starting hands and either moving all in or folding than by trying to play normal poker. “Phil” does not stand for a particular player; it’s a symbol of an outstandingly successful tournament competitor who is naturally reluctant to have his whole tournament riding on the result of one hand. Just to make sure we get the message, there is a picture of Phil Hellmuth on the cover, who wrote the forward to the book. Mr. Hellmuth’s most important message is that you not take the book title too literally!
Can such a style really work? It is not the optimum way to play for an expert, but I think following Rodman’s advice is a fine quick fix to make weaker players competitive. Let me tell you a couple of stories to support that opinion.
A long time ago, one of my best friends, a top professional player, had a daughter whom he was trying to get interested in poker. His daughter did not know anything more than the rank of the hands. He had her employ a strategy almost identical to the “Kill Phil” strategy in Rodman’s book. (Blair will be the first one to tell you that he did not invent this way of playing; he is only refining and popularizing it.) Anyway, the daughter finished second in a no-limit hold’em event with about 100 players in it. She shook like a leaf during the entire event, and found the experience so stressful that she gave up poker. But let me tell you that if she could do well playing that way, anyone can.
Here is an experience of my own while facing a Kill Phil-style player. In 2004 I was one of the last three players in a $500 buy-in event at the World Poker Open. The other two players were Bob “Buzz Saw” Mangini and Billy Shaduck. Buzz Saw raised all in about every other pot once we got to threehanded. Playing with a $2,000 ante and $10,000-$20,000 blinds, with stacks in the $100,000 to $300,000 range, we could not sit back and wait for a solid hand and pick him off. I was hoping to hold as much as a dry ace, but the best hand I held in an hour was K-6, with which I chickened out and folded to an all-in move. I was winning a pot from Billy every once in a while to stay alive, and Billy, the short stack, was picking off Buzz Saw sometimes. But Buzz Saw was carving me up like a soft piece of lumber. I finished third, and Mangini went on to win the event. This Kill Phil aggressive style of play is murder to face if you are shorthanded and hit a dry patch.
A while ago, I wrote negatively about the modern rule for going all in, whereby a player waves his hand and says, “All in” (instead of actually putting all his chips into the pot). Others, such as Mike O’Malley, also have found fault with this method. Here are a few of the problems that can occur when the chips are not actually put into the pot:
Someone may not realize the player has moved all in. This occurs in cases such as a player is a little hard of hearing or is inattentive, or there is a lot of background noise coming from a lounge band. There is nothing like saying “raise” when you think the bet is $1,000 and, in reality, someone has moved all in for $9,000. Also annoying is saying “call” in such a spot and finding out you are matching a sum nine times larger than you thought. The player doing the betting may win a bunch of extra money from such an error — or he may be bluffing. Certainly, a ruling that verbal action is binding and the wager goes will not be received with joy by everyone involved all that often.
The TV viewing audience has to have the situation explained to them. Everyone seems excited — but why? It looks like a small pot. Mike Sexton now has to explain that the player has proclaimed himself to be all in, and there is really more than $1 million being wagered. Actually, the viewer just got up to hit the fridge, not realizing this might be a dramatic moment.
It is a lot less stressful to say “all in” than to actually cut chips into the pot. It’s nice and smooth to just say the two words; there’s no fumbleitis. If I am bluffing, I relish the chance to cut the chips smoothly, but I am sure many do not, especially Internet players who have little live experience. I actually have gone all in and started cutting chips into the pot and had some pundit tell me, “You do not have to put the chips in.” Duh. Thanks for the info, kid; I live in a cave on the far side of the moon and didn’t know that.
So, what should we do? I suggest that every player have a plaque that says “all in” on it. Just stick the plaque into the pot when you want to bet all of your chips. That way, no one will mistake what you have done. It doesn’t aid the player who wants to cut his chips, but at least the other two problems are nicely solved.
My book Omaha Holdem Poker has been out of print for about a year and a half. The reason is, I wanted to do a rewrite rather than just a reprint. I wanted to have lots of actual hands in it, as my co-author Jim Brier and I did in our work Middle Limit Holdem Poker. The new work will be titled simply, Omaha Poker, in order to be less confusing. If you have a copy of the old edition, you will not need to spend money on the new one if your game is limit Omaha. But if you like pot-limit high, be sure to buy the new book. It is loaded with info not available anywhere else. I expect to have it ready sometime in March.
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