Article published in on April 3, 2006

“How To Make Money Playing Texas Hold’em Poker─Expert advice from Joe Fortin”

By Samuel Lieberman (co-authored by Dino M. Zaffina)

The history of poker is a matter of some debate. The name of the game likely descended from the French poque, which descended from the German pochen (“to knock”), but it is not clear whether the origins of poker itself lie with the games bearing those names. One thing that is agreed upon is that the game of poker has been around for almost 200 years.

The game of poker is played in hundreds of variations. One variation that has become extremely popular in the last 5 years or so is Texas Hold’em. Due to the televised tournaments, many people have been drawn to the game. One person is Joe Fortin,professional poker player and author of Texas Hold’em Essentials: How to Make Money Playing Poker and the DVD How To Make Money Playing Texas Hold’em Poker.”

Fortin started playing poker and pinochle as a kid with his family. He comes from a traditional Canadian family where Pinochle is a big game that is played in the French community. When Fortin was a bartender in Florida he began playing a lot of poker, but it was still mostly for fun.  It wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles and began working in the gaming industry that he desired something more from the game.

He began working for the Desert Inn bringing in high limit dice players. Fortin did that for a couple of years until he started working at The Gold Sheet (The oldest and most respected handicappers in the country. America’s No. 1 sports handicappers for over four decades). He is their Director of Sales. Fortin has been around the sports betting world for about a dozen years. “Being in this industry is how I got started in professional poker,” says Fortin.

Fortin started by going to the local casinos, Hollywood Park and Bicycle Club a couple of times. He would throw in a couple hundred bucks, but he pretty much lost it. He went back a few more times because he figured that there was a way to beat the system.

One day while working at The Gold Sheet Fortin was overheard by one of the handicappers talking about poker in the lunch room. The person that heard Joe talking was not just a handicapper; he was Chuck Sippl, one of the owners and one of the senior editors and a columnist of The Gold Sheet, who has also been with the company for 25 years, and is also a columnist for Card Player Magazine.

Sippl (a poker player for 25-30 years and mostly a “cash game” player) told Fortin that he could possibly help him out in poker. Sippl then proceeded to ask, “Do you want to learn how to play poker, or do you want to learn how to make money playing poker?” He waited for Fortin’s answer. Fortin replied, “I want to learn how to make money; that is why I play the game.”

Fortin and Sippl had a few sessions totaling a couple of hours. Nothing specific about poker was discussed, they spoke more about the overall picture of poker, not which hands to play, but more about the philosophy of poker. Sippl recommended that Joe read a little book called the “Hold’em Poker Bible.” This book, written by a lawyer, has been out of print since 1986, so Sippl gave him his copy. Joe said that it took about 45 minutes to read the entire book. “It consisted of approximately 100 simple tips,” said Fortin. “After many sessions talking with Chuck and this one book I instantly profited playing poker.”

The sessions with Chuck Sippl, peaked Fortin’s curiosity. Since he worked for The Gold Sheet, and the services that they offered their customers had been profitable for 8 years in a row (better than the stock market). Fortin decided that he may have something to bargain with, so that he could get more information about playing poker. He wrote a letter to each of the columnists for Card Player Magazine, approximately 15 professional poker players who write a biweekly column. Fortin wrote to all these guys, offering free picks for football games in return for poker lessons or tips. Only one person out of 15 wrote back. The only poker expert that wrote Fortin back turned out to being one of the best players in the world, Daniel Negreanu, of Full Contact Poker.

Negreanu wrote back and told Fortin that he didn’t bet on football, and that he really didn’t gamble other than poker, but he told Joe that he would help him. Joe said, “I have had an e-mail relationship with Daniel for a few years. He has helped me tremendously, from what I should do, how I should study, and to what books I should read. He helped me a lot. Any questions I had over the last couple of years, he would get back to me right away.  He is a really nice guy.”

Fortin’s specialty is “cash games.” He plays poker to make money. He said, “‘Cash games’ are the way that most of the poker players acquire the buy-in money for the tournaments. All the players that are seen playing on television pay at least a $10,000 entrance fee to get into these tournaments. The usual way these players get this money is by playing ‘cash games,’ playing against other people, just like it is played in a home game, but in a casino, and usually with big money. They make about eighty percent of their money playing ‘cash games.’” Poker players who compete in the tournaments are obviously hoping to make a big score (e.g., $500,000 or $1,000,000). The World Series of poker is almost $8,000,000. They fund their buy-ins by playing “cash games.”

Fortin plays in tournaments, but prefers to play online. Poker can be played at no cost to the player. There are approximately 150 websites that a poker enthusiast can play the game online, that offer either “real money” or “play money.” When Joe started playing he played online with play money, but then graduated to playing online for real money. He said, “The websites will start you off with $1,000 in play money.” Joe did that and built it up to $15,000 in a week, so he decided to start playing with real money. Joe explained, “There are various ways to put up the money, PayPal, Net Teller, Credit Card, or Bank Transfer.” Joe started with $50.00 and has never had to put anymore money in the account.

Since Joe’s main purpose of playing poker is to make money, this keeps him away from playing friendly games because he doesn’t want to take money from his friends. He very rarely will play poker with his friends, and if he does, it is for a social gathering.

Fortin has probably read 20 poker books. From the time that he started to learn how to play poker, he would read a book and take notes of the best information that worked for him. Over the years, his friends would ask to look at his notes. Fortin didn’t have a problem giving his notes to others since Sippl and Negreanu were generous with their advice. He quickly noticed that after reading the notes his friends instantly profited. That is when Fortin started his website Hollywood Poker Academy. Thereafter, he created a DVD (“How To Make Money Playing Texas Hold’em Poker”) and wrote a book (“Texas Hold’em Essentials: How to Make Money Playing Poker”). Joe simplified all the information that he has learned over the years.

The DVD is 82 minutes long and filled with invaluable information, broken down into 18 chapters: (1) Protect Your Hand; (2) Track Your Progress; (3) Positioning and Starting Hands; (4) The Gap Concept; (5) The Blinds; (6) Suited Crap! (7) Middle Position; (8) Late Position; (9) Stealing from a Stealer; (10) Small Pocket Pairs; (11) Ace & King; (12) Suited Ace; (13) Losing Sessions; (14) Re-buy Tournaments; (15) Other Tournaments; (16) Bad Beats; (17) Building Bankroll; and (18) Categorizing Players. Fortin’s poker book is a compilation of dozens of people’s input and tweaking and reworking and playing out each method.

I play aggressively, but I play a conservative approach as far as my ‘money management’ goes,” says Fortin.It is like the stock market. I believe in the ‘stop loss’ method.” He explains, “For example, if you buy IBM at a $100 per share and you tell your broker, If it ever hits $90, get out of it, whether I am in the Bahamas or not.”  (Fortin’s Money Management Advice).

Fortin learned this method by sitting down at a table with a certain amount of money and losing all of it. He saw other people do this constantly. Fortin said, “When you are playing poker online, you are playing so many sessions over a course of a week or a year that if you can cap the losing sessions, so that you are only going to lose a certain amount that is set in stone; in the long run it saves so much money.”  He further stated, “The reason for this method is, as you are losing, your play begins to get sloppy. You start to play a little desperate. Players play something that they shouldn’t play. When a player starts to lose, he starts to break every rule. This term in poker is ‘Going on Tilt,’ which means that a player is losing his composer. This may happen to a player when they get unlucky. It causes a player to make mistakes, after mistakes. Whoever makes the least amount of mistakes is the winner.”

With poker, you are always learning. You are never going to say, I’ve learned enough, I’m done learning,” said Fortin. “You are always learning.” Many people share their poker experiences, knowledge, and thoughts with each other, but it is really up to the individual. Fortin says, “All the information is out there and readily available to people, but it is really important to have the ability, when you are actually playing, to follow all of these rules. Sports betting is about self-control and discipline,” says Fortin. “This idea pertains to any form of gambling. A player can have all the information in the world, but it is important to be able to put that information to use when needed. That is what sets losers apart from winners.”

Poker tournaments have a different strategy. In most of them, there are at least 100 players in one tournament, and ten players and one deck at each table. In Texas Hold’em there or only 5 cards face-up at one time. Fortin explains, “With tournaments there is a beginning, middle, and end. There are even different styles of playing depending on where you are at in the tournament.”

Generally, you play very conservative at the beginning of a tournament. In the middle of the tournament you need to start to get a little aggressive. Toward the end, you want to be like a Hyena, going all out, vicious, going crazy. More advanced players realize that there are three levels of play in a tournament,” says Fortin.

Fortin explained the strategy, “When you are at the end of the tournament and you have a lot of chips, you want to bully the people that don’t have a lot of chips because you are not worried that they are going to knock you out of the tournament. If you have $80k in chips and the other player has $10k and you lose the hand you are only going to lose $10k. Conversely, if you are the player with only $10k if you lose that could potentially be your last hand in the tournament.”

While playing in a tournament you want to always be aware of how many chips certain opponents have because you do not want to play against somebody who has as many chips as you, unless you have something that is very strong,” said Fortin. “It can change very quickly at the end of the tournament.”

Some tournaments are restricting professional poker players from wearing logos at the tables. Some tournaments allow it, and some don’t. Some of the big time poker players are fighting this ban because they are getting sponsored by certain websites or other companies. For example, Kristy Gazes is sponsored by Full Tilt Poker. She wears all their logos and hats.

Other players are being staked by individuals or companies. Staking depends on the skill of the player. Many of the cuts are 50-50. However, even when a top ranked player like Daniel Negreanu is staked, he may only keep 30% of the winnings and the person or entity staking him will receive 70%.

Fortin says, “A lot of players are being staked by someone. I think that there is more pressure playing with someone else’s money. Some players go a couple of years without making money.” The World Series of Poker last year which was at the Rio in Las Vegas, had approximately 5,600 entrants. There must have been 15,000 spectators watching over the course of the tournament.

The game of poker has really exploded because of the Internet. In places where there are a lot of tables like Los Angeles or Las Vegas it is no problem for someone to play with strangers. Living in Iowa for instance, in the middle of nowhere, you have no options, if it were not for the Internet. Those people can play on their home computers. There are some websites that have 100,000 people playing at one time.

Some people are concerned about playing with real money over the Internet because they are not sure where their money goes when they give it to the poker website, or when it comes time to collect. A lot of poker websites are affiliated with sports betting companies that have been around for over 100 years. Most of the websites are all off shore (e.g., in the Islands). Fortin does not recommend keeping too much in an account at anytime. He said, “Once you win you should cash out, but leave some money in your account.”

Fortin explained that there is a lot of fluctuation in tournaments and it is very difficult to make a living just playing them. He said, “Cash games are strictly about percentages and numbers, and patience. Tournaments are more volatile. They are fun because you are going to try to make a big score with a small amount of money.” On the other hand, “Playing limit Texas Hold’em in a ‘cash game’ is almost like being able to print money if you know what you are doing.”

For more information on Joe Fortin visit his official website at:


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