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04/06/2007 No. 28
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday June 4, 2007

Mental focus is crucial to winning at poker. This is illustrated by the recent controversy over a giant golf bet between Ram Vaswani (said to be Europe's greatest poker player) and Phil Ivey (usually cited as the best in America). Ram had been regularly beating Phil at golf; it was perhaps inevitable that a man with the drive to win millions at the poker table would not put up with this for very long.

Phil started taking golf lessons, and playing obsessively to improve his game. But when they next met he did not tell Ram about this, and claimed that his handicap had not changed. Over a couple of days' play, Ram and his golfing partner lost a million dollars. Then the story of the secret sessions came out, and a storm exploded.

Broadly, American observers believe that Phil was performing an acceptable "hustle". Europeans believe that Phil was cheating. Golf is based entirely on the principle of correct and truthful handicaps; Ram lost not because he played badly, but because information was withheld which rendered the match meaningless.

In my opinion, Phil should say, "I proved a point" and waive the money. But I tell the story to illustrate a certain state of mind. I feel sure that Vaswani's anger over the whole business, and possible need to find $1m, lies behind his astonishing recent results at the poker table. In two months, he has made the finals of the EPT Grand Final, the PartyPoker World Open and the Grand Prix de Paris, as well as cashing in the WPT Championship.

This is a British sporting hero to be proud of: Ram is playing magnificently, and conducting himself with honour. His poker results (and, strangely, Phil's golf result) are also a lesson in how pride, focus and utter determination can take your game to a whole new level.

Your can read more byAnthony Holden at his website

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