"Joe Navarro is the man."
Although it's been said before, a couple hundred more people are in agreement after attending Camp Hellmuth 2 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Navarro, a former FBI agent, stole the show during his seminar on non-verbal behavior. Yes, the show included Cindy Margolis, Phil Hellmuth, Antonio Esfandiari, T.J. Cloutier, Scott Fischman, Thomas Keller, Cyndy Violette, and others, but it was Navarro's thoughts and insights that will keep one's thoughts at the poker table where they should be: paying attention to others.
Watch others. Conceal yourself. Keep focused.
Although the big-name poker players were the draw of Camp Hellmuth 2, the poker seminar would not have been complete without Navarro's intelligence. ESPN Poker Club winner Michael Brunner agreed.
"Joe Navarro held the best seminar," he said. "He gave information both on how to look for tells and how to conceal everything. I think it helped me a lot on the second day's tournament and I made sure not to give anything away."
Brunner, along with three other ESPN Poker Club winners -- Bobby Boyette, Herb Nelson, and Gregg Hansen -- won their trip through the Camp Hellmuth promotion held in November and December of 2005.
Brunner proved that his poker abilities are not limited to online. The new and incredible poker room at Caesars was home to his seventh-place finish (out of 210 players) in the second camp tournament, which happened to be his first live final table.
"It was nerve-wracking [at the final table]. I've only played very low-limit hold'em in a casino and had never been to Vegas, so other than my experience at ESPN.com, I was in a new spot," Brunner said. "I was just trying to rely on what they taught in the seminars and how to bet properly, etc. There were lots of good players and it did a lot for my confidence to get to that point. I held my own."
Brunner walked away with a pair of limited edition Phil Hellmuth-autographed Oakley sunglasses for his seventh-place finish, in addition to the lessons he learned.
"I learned from Antonio [Esfandiari] that you need to be aggressive even if you don't have a hand," he said. "If you make the right bet and study the table -- even with garbage, you can win the hand. Learn the discipline as well. Know that you can give a bluff up and say to yourself, 'OK, it cost me some money,' and move on."
Boyette, also making his first trip to Vegas, said the experience he gained at the camp was far more than he could have imagined.
"It was awesome. I had a great time," Boyette said. "I couldn't ask for anything more. I was lucky to sit down with all the big dogs at my table. Antonio across from me, Navarro to my right, then Hellmuth sits down! When he got up, Mark Kroon [one of the world's best online players] sat down. It was really cool just to have him bust me out."
Cloutier also gave Boyette something that he will always value: his chip cover, an old coin from Caesars. Boyette isn't planning on letting it go.
Esfandiari also taught Boyette a valuable lesson about tournament poker.
"When I busted out, I was steaming," Boyette said. "Antonio looked over at me and said that he only cashes in 7 or 8 percent of the tournaments he's in. He said, 'Don't feel bad, just get it into the center with the best of it. Don't expect to win all the time, just have the best of it going in.' I'll never forget that."
Hansen also realized that the pros are just regular people, even at the table.
"All the pros were good natured and they played like an ordinary person, not anything special that proved that they were a professional," he said.
One of the more innovative parts of the camp was the heads-up challenge. Hosted on UltimateBet, the site that sponsors Hellmuth, Keller, Esfandiari and others, the campers were divided into two rooms. The first room had Hellmuth and the second had Keller. The two then proceeded to play heads-up in front of the campers, discussing their each and every move.
Keller was fantastic. It didn't matter that he actually won in the matches, but his explanations of moves and usage of the crowd noises to confuse Hellmuth proves that a poker player will do anything to get an edge on his opponent.
Hellmuth countered Keller's skill by getting extremely lucky with J-3 suited and flopping a flush to Keller's K-K. Getting into the mind of Hellmuth was like pulling teeth as he took this match very seriously. However, Keller's light-hearted approach to the matches made this portion of the camp one of the most memorable.
"They didn't have that good of hands and they were playing them anyway." Hansen said. "T.J.'s [Cloutier] advice was to save money on poor hands, so that you have the money to bet a good hand."
At certain parts of the camp, the pros actually contradicted each other, but in order to become a winning poker player, you have to play the style that fits your game.
Cloutier, in his 21 tips, discussed the question of players playing the exact same hands in different fashions. Some would raise, some would call and he discussed how players aren't predictable, that's why they are pros.
Another innovation for the latest Camp Hellmuth was the addition of a Q&A featuring all the pros. Getting grilled was an understatement, in terms of the questions that were thrown at them. Players like Fischman and Shawn Rice showed incredible professionalism in their responses. Giving campers full access to the mind of the professional poker player was what the camp was all about, and once again, it was a success.
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Andrew Feldman is the ESPN Poker Club's columnist, producer and tournament director. To contact Andrew, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.