Rafe Furst emailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in reviewing Phil Gordon’s DVD “Final Table Poker.” Since I had already pre-ordered it I said “Uh, yeah, sure!” The DVD arrived while I was in Orlando so I just got a chance to view it tonight and here are my thoughts.
Keep in mind that my review is based somewhat on the audience that he was aiming for and not necessarily whether or not Gordon’s advice rocked my thinking about playing tournament poker. I would love to see Gordon come out with a DVD on advanced strategy. If he can hit the target like he does on this one it’s likely to be a winner.
Also keep in mind that I went into this actually liking Phil Gordon. I’ve never met him but I did watch the first season of Celebrity Poker Showdown and I would much rather listen to Phil do analysis than Mike Sexton or Norman Chad.
First off, the quality of the video is excellent. The setting is an imaginary WPT type event staged at the Palms with a final table of six players. They have the lights, the crowds, and even a raunchy guitar riff intro that slightly resembles the WPT one. The only thing missing (unfortunately) was Shana Hiatt.
Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Bruce Buffer, and Matt Savage all play themselves (Matt serves as tournament director). The rest of the cast is perfect. Most are tongue-in-cheek nods at real players like Butch Dude (Dutch Boyd) the internet player who’s part of the “Cool Guy Crew” and female professional Harmony Jenson (Jennifer Harman). The players were certainly chosen to give the viewer a good chance to catch Gordon’s playing style against different opponents. And while some of the acting seems a tiny bit stiff, even Ferguson who sits motionless almost the entire tournament acts convincingly shocked when Gordon sucks out on him on the river.
Ok, so it could second as a WPT episode but how’s the instruction? Actually, the instruction is pretty good. I’ve seen McEvoy’s video and Gordon’s is clearly superior. It’s also better than Howard Lederer’s video. Now, the tough part is that Howard’s video is clearly aimed at beginning players. Gordon’s DVD is aimed at some sort of middle-market between novice and advanced players. He doesn’t slow the action down to tell you how to play Hold ‘Em but at he does make a few detours to explain things like pot odds.
One of the things I liked about the video is that sometimes Phil will go to great lengths to tell you what kind of play he’s setting up and then something unexpected will happen. For instance, Gordon raises trying to get the pot heads-up with Butch Dude but he gets a caller. All of a sudden the situation has changed dramatically and Phil guides you through his adjustment.
Perhaps that’s exactly why I liked the video so much. Unlike most other videos, what you’re watching is somewhat typical of what you would see in many televised poker tournaments. Instead of the best hand always winning, people suck out on the river. Also you don’t see the opponent’s hole cards so you’re left guessing just like you would be in a real tournament. There’s even some trash talking like when Buffer sucks out on Gordon and as he’s raking in his chips Buffer says “Hey, why don’t you give us one of those famous Celebrity Poker chip counts.” In other words, though it’s an instructional video, there’s enough drama to keep you interested in the game. You feel like you’re playing Gordon’s hands with him.
I would certainly recommend forking over the $24.95. It’s instructional and entertaining and unless you play professionally I’m sure you’ll pick up at least one tip or idea that will net you more than $24.95 in EV in your next tournament.