Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Tao of Five: Michael Craig

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's time for a revitalization of the Tao of Five series where I interview prominent members of the poker industry with a series of five questions. This installment features author Michael Craig.

If you don't know, Michael Craig penned of one of my favorite poker-themed books The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time. During the research of that book, Craig befriended several of the players in the Big Game and a few other pros who would go onto to form the nucleus of Full Tilt Poker. Since then, Craig penned a strategy guide with Full Tilt pros.

The former attorney turned author made waves over the last couple years at the WSOP with three final table appearances including a runner-up finish to Jeff Lisandro in the 2009 $2,500 Razz event. At that point, Lisandro had already won two bracelets and he had to take down Craig to win his third and seal Player of the Year honors.

Tools of Craig

I shot the above photo at the 2006 WSOP. It is a perfect representation of the items that Michael Craig brings to the table. I've known Craig for several years and you will almost never find him without an elegant pen and some sort of notebook. Like a good writer, he's always taking notes.

I had the chance to correspond with Michael Craig for the Tao of Five and we spoke about a variety of topics including his book, Ted Forrest, Phil Ivey, Andy Beal, and what it was like to play against Jeff Lisandro.

So here it is...

Pauly: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 the highest), how crazy is Ted Forrest?

Michael Craig: I wish I knew some examples of eights, nines, and tens, because I would put Ted towards the maximum end, but not if ten means “drooling down your strait-jacket.” For example, in my second-to-most-recent communication with Ted Forrest, he called me from Thailand. The most recent was a meeting we had the day before you sent me these questions. It's the subject of a post, #882 – A Drift in Vegas, Part II – Will the Real Ted Forrest Please Come to Baggage Claim. In a single month, Ted has had his passport seized, learned he was the victim of identity theft, lost his luggage twice on the same trip, and, when he was rushing to an airport to make a flight to Larry's Game, his driver, unannounced, pulled off the road to take a dump in the woods.

Pauly: During your run at the 2009 WSOP Razz event where you found yourself heads-up against multiple-bracelet winner Jeff Lisandro, could you have picked a worse opponent at that time?

MC: I have tremendous respect for Jeffery, as much as I have for anyone in poker. But when we were three- or four-handed, I felt if I had half his size stack when we were heads-up, I could take him. (Mind you, most people would make me a huge underdog if our stacks were even and I'd rather run into him in a dark alley than play him heads-up in a high-stakes cash game, but this is the way it felt to me that day.) I had a good understanding of how he was playing and, contrary to the rest of the table, knew the best strategy was bringing the action to him as aggressively as possible. After the World Series, I wrote a blog about the experience that probably sheds further light on this.

Pauly: Let's chat about The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King. How much of what appears was part of your original vision (e.g. 50% or 90%)? I'm assuming that you were on hard deadlines, so if you had a six-month extension to finish it, how much better would have it been?

MC: More like 90% than 50% but I had two limitations on my "vision". First, I got the contract with Warner Books at least partly on false pretenses. I submitted the proposal in mid-April 2004 and we reached an oral agreement in mid-May. They were under the impression that I had done a lot more work and had a lot more access to information. For example, the sample chapter I sent them was completely made up and never made it into the book. Second, i was on an extremely tight deadline, so the vision could never crystallize; it was always a moving target. When we were making our agreement in May 2004, we settled on an October 1, 2004 deadline (later moved back a week to October 9). Up to that point, a brief telephone conversation with Barry Greenstein was my only connection to the first-hand information about the story. The stuff that fell out of whatever "vision" I had was primarily cover-your-ass material: I had done a lot of background/historical research about big games and big wagers and thought I would have to integrate that into the story if I didn't get enough "inside" information to tell the story for 300 pages.

With another six months, it would have been better but not tremendously. I'd have had more of a chance to connect up with Phil Ivey, though that probably wouldn't have meant anything. I probably would have been able to make contact with David Grey - he's told me a lot of great stuff since I've gotten to know them but it never worked out then. There are a few other characters in the story I'd have had the luxury to contact and get their versions. But in general the experience tells me that publishers setting ridiculously tight deadlines and authors ridiculously agreeing to them is a GOOD thing. Now if they offered me big money to rewrite it NOW, that's a different story. I'm a much better writer now, and my access to sources is so much better. I have to say that I mostly nailed it the first time but it could probably be 20-30% better now.

Pauly: Will there ever be a rematch between Andy Beal and The Corporation? If so, what do you see will change?

MC: Andy Beal has found a much bigger game. He enjoys banking much more than poker and his interest in poker can be strongly linked to his reduced banking activities during the first part of this decade. Although it is not impossible that he will play high-stakes poker again, a game between him and the top pros would be a strong sign that the economy has dangerously over-expanded. If they do play again, expect a war to break out because Ivey will want to play Beal on his own bankroll.

Pauly: Tell me something funny about Phil Ivey that we don't know about?

MC: I wrote a series of pieces for the blog called Looking for Ivey. But let me tantalize you with a bits:

(1) Phil considered contributing to the Strategy Guide and gave me a three-minute interview in which we talked about poker strategy. I wrote it off as a waste of both our time – until I recently reread the transcript.

(2) Buses make Phil Ivey sick.

(3) On the day Phil Ivey was born, Wayne Newton was headlining at the Sands, Totie Fields at the Sahara, Don Rickles at the Riviera, the Fifth Dimension at the Hilton, and Bobby Gentry at the Frontier.

(4) When once presented with a possible bet on the subject, Phil Ivey said wouldn't give up gambling for a year for $20 million.

(5) I saw Erick Lindgren call Phil "Pigpen" on European TV and get away with it.

(6) Several years ago, Ivey conceivably could have given up poker to trade stocks.

Thanks to Michael Craig for taking the time out to be a part of the Tao of Five. You can his read his blog here. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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