Episode 186: Alan Boston (fixed)

Alan Boston has long been known as a sports better, but now he’s back on the east coast, making a living in the Foxwoods Poker Room. Alan tells his stories with characteristic bluntness and candor, from Stu Ungar and 1980s Las Vegas up to modern-day no-limit hold ’em.


Intro 0:30
Strategy 4:17
Interview 33:27


1/1/2 NLHE effective stacks $300

Here raises to $6 in the CO with 7h8h, Button calls, makes it $22 from the big blind. Hero calls and the button folds.

Flop ($49) 10c 8c 6c. Villain bets $20, Hero raises to $85, Villain calls

Turn ($219) 2d. Villain checks, Hero checks.

River 8d. Villain checks, Hero?

31 thoughts on “Episode 186: Alan Boston (fixed)

  1. Great song to end. Carrie Underwood? Not too familiar with the newer artists. Thanks again for having me on. I hope no one gets bored. I hope what I thought was brilliant is not mundane.
    To expound further on the 3 way stud hand lets say villain shows 6939 36 spades others different, when he bets 8, there is a good chance he has 6789 or fl draw and just the 2 dry nines, so when you have the buried queens with the obvious jacks behind you, you must raise to knock out the jacks so in case that 9s is villains entire hand, if you both whiff, you can still win the pot, denying the jacks his shot at making jacks up. That may clear any confusion. Also, we do have plenty more to talk about, so fear not if you are squeezed for a guest one day. We never got into, how I became a gambler, my experience on PAD, final tabling first event I ever entered in WSOP and my days as a Red Pro etc etc etc. Great job though. You guys are terrific. Be good and continued success at the poker battles.

    • Thanks very much, Alan. It was a pleasure to have you on and to meet you after years of listening to you on other shows.

      • Thanks for having me. You both do a terrific job allowing guests to go talk at length while still keeping a logical sequence. I would be honored to return. There are a myriad of topics yet to be addressed. I am both surprised and happy that people seem to like it. Thanks too for turning me on to some new music. I am jazz and classic rock. Anything passed 1975 is a bit foreign to me. Keep up the good work. My phone is on when needed.

    • Thanks again, Alan. We’ll be happy to talk to you again sometime, and it sounds like plenty of our listeners will too. All of the music on the show is from this group: http://palmyra.bandcamp.com/. It’s gotten a lot of compliments over the years, certainly more than any individual guest (though you’re well on your way)!

  2. Really enjoyable guest interview. Alan Boston maybe diversive, but, hes always entertaining, and real.

    I would much rather listen to a ‘life-grinder’, than High-stakes baller, who no-longer knows the value of a $20 milkshake.

    Thanks for the podcast.

  3. I just want to chime in and say: that was an excellent interview and podcast. I was riveted and hanging on every word the entire time, and Alan was very generous with his thoughts, strategic advice, stories and honesty. And seems like a cool chap too. I also want to add that these interviews – and I’ll group John The Lawyer, Alan Boston and Billy Sharkey together because JTL is the common connection here and the reason for them happening – are fascinating, wonderful and well, I’m just really grateful to hear them for the insight they provide into the many layers of the game / lifestyle.

    I know you guys – Andrew and Nate – are fans of unearthing the more interesting poker characters out there, along with today’s stars and high stakes successes, and what you are doing is a great service, historically speaking, for the game. You’re documenting important stories for the record, stories that might otherwise be lost or forgotten. Think about that for a second! That’s huge and important work. So thank you as always. Keep it up!

    Oh just one last thing – I realise the Billy Sharkey interview was tough going for some, and it was a bit meandering etc at times. But it was still a fascinating insight full of some real and interesting observations. You might adjust the format/length editing perhaps with ol’ Bill, but I’m more than happy to hear more from John The Lawyer and his motley crew, if we can call them that 😉

    • Thanks, Piers. I usually chastise myself for grandiose thoughts like that, so it’s nice to hear them from someone else!

      • Haha, no probs Andrew. It’s true, but yes perhaps those thoughts are better coming from us! Which is why I wanted to point it out.

  4. Great guest! In fact the last 2 episodes have been fantastic. Balls to anyone who bitches about audio quality. I agree with Piers regarding the importance of these interviews in the context of poker history. Keep this good stuff coming! The candor with which both men spoke about there personal struggles really hit home with me, as someone who has definitely gone to the poker table already tilting&chasing from blackjack.
    As much as many of the guests & subjects & strategy are fascinating, it’s the human element (intentionally or unintentionally) that radiates from the last 2 interviews that made them possibly the best ones to date. With apologies to John the Lawyer.
    Additionally, I enjoy the way the guests are given space to talk or expound on an idea or just tell a long story. Or just ramble a bit in some cases. Any comparisons to public radio may be apt, but I like public radio. Sometimes it makes me use my brain.

  5. Alan and I share one thing. We give too much away and try to help people. 15 years ago when living in Jersey I was listening to a podcast of Boston for the first time and thought he was just brilliant. I hoped to meet him one day and from the start he intrigued me and still does. He has a huge heart and brilliant mind. I love when he does these type of interviews and hope he does more…..

    • Thanks. Goodness, sadly comes with a price. Get back east again soon, so we can do something we are both good at, eat dinner. Hope all is well. Thanks for positive comment. You r the man

  6. ok – Last interview I said was hard to listen to, this one was one of your best. I didnt know Alan before this but watched his PAD on youtube after listening to this and wow. And I want to sit in a stud game now actually.

    Alan – GL at the tables.

    • Thanks Mark. We did not discuss the PAD episode. I had barely played any no limit, they eliminated some great stuff because I used big words that the moron who narrates the show, did not understand. If you are ever at Foxwoods, I tend to play late, after my Great Dane is sound asleep. Feel free to say hello. I shall gladly talk for as long as you wish. Cheers.

  7. If DFW was still with us: take Alan Boston out to a steakhouse, get him drunk and leave the tape recorder on. What a wealth of material!

  8. Great interview. I could easily have listened another hour.

    Some of my fondest memories of the online era are of playing small stakes Stud on FTP while talking to Alan about this, that, and everything. I remember one night I sat down at his table, casually said “Alan, you start reading for college basketball yet?” and 45 minutes later we were talking 70’s movies and political theory. One of the few FTP pros who really fulfilled the vision of the “play with the pros” marketing.

    I still can’t believe Eric Drache is roaming the Foxwoods poker room on a day-to-day basis. Amazing.

  9. Thanks once again for the positive feedback. I am surprised that many like the interview. I poured my heart in to Full Tilt. I said no originally as I am not a poker player but Howard convinced me to be their 7 stud pro. That I could not turn down.
    No doubt we got into Night Moves and The Long Goodbye or a myriad of others from the greatest era in film making. Siskel and Ebert were relevant in my youth. 2 thumbs up meant I was going to see it. It allowed me to see unknowns like The Silent Partner (Elliot Gould 3 times in my top 10!!!!) and the Errol Morris documentary that on the surface was about pet cemeteries, Gates of Heaven. Things do come full circle as it was Errol Morris indeed who did those wonderful Full Tilt Commercials. Perhaps Full Tilt did not feature the greatest poker players, but at the time, they did have some people playing the biggest limits and therefore were respected. I am happy that u got that I truly tried to promulgate the “Learn Chat and Play” promotion. We even had a pot discussion game at 1100 pm nightly. A man from Bulgaria told me what vaporizer to buy. I am forever grateful. Be good and thanks again for letting me know my efforts were not wasted.

  10. Alan is an interesting guy and I liked this episode.

    Question for Alan – if you had to do it over again, would you still do coke, alcohol, and weed with a young friend who was bipolar?

    • He was not bipolar at the time. When he was diagnosed, his dr did not allow drugs but my doctor told me that the latest studies showed that weed could be helpful with bipolars and obviously proceed with caution. It was and I am happy that in my company I allowed him to. I poured my heart and soul and ruined good parts of my life in an effort to help Mitch. I spent 15000 on a lawyer that I did not have to get him out of a hospital he was railroaded in to. I would never have done a single thing to harm him. There was no way of knowing what was coming, so no, once the illness was diagnosed, it would not happen. Coke can make the illness worse. Prior to that, it is no big deal. What kid in their early to mid 20s does not do one or all of the above?

  11. Alan,

    Thank you so much for your anecdotes and information on bipolar. My roommate has been battling bipolar his entire adult life and recently went off his meds, again. I can relate to the constant talking, not sleeping for days, constant bodymovement, mood swings, wanting to yell at him, feeling trapped in my own house, scared for his well being, the helplesness, and depression that can form in your and their lives. I made the decision this past weekend to do whatever I could to commit him to the hospital. After three visits from the cops, we finally convinced them that he needed to be hospitalized. The initial feelings are relief that my life is quiter, easier, and he is getting hel0. But now after a few days, I feel depression setting in on myself. Even though it’s the right thing, I feel horrible for putting him in there. I remember when he is normal and how good he is, and what if they keep him institulationzed even when he gets better. I have no way to conntact him, talk to him, or get information. It really upsets me. On top of all of this, my other roommates work third shift, and he was really turning into my best friend. Gym partners, drinking buddies, smoking weed together every night, grocery shoping together, and of course poker.

    Do you have any advice on how to deal with these feelings? Do you share similar feelings after you would commit him?

    After the last time he went to,the hospital I said in order to return to the house he had to let myself or someone else control his medicine in order to stay. He agrees, but even with his insurance the medication (seroquel, kloninpin, and depacoat) is about 400$ a month, something he just can’t afford. Is there any programs that would help with this that you know of or did you ever have similar problems.

    Thanks for your the stories. I hope Nate and Andrew have you on again so I can here some degen stories. Although i listen to every podcast, I think this was very fortuitous with what I am going through.

    Thanks again and good luck all.

    • Jason: Thanks for the comment. Just in case others have moved on to other threads, let me say that I hope you can get the help you need (and of course I wish the best to your roommate, also). Unfortunately I don’t know much about what resources are available to either of you. But I am glad that you see the need to take care of yourself also, and I hope you do so.

      • I never committed Mitch. I got him on the proper meds and rode it out, constantly encouraging him to take his meds. There was a rule set down by Dr. Sussman that if Mitch did not take his lithium, he could not stay. Ultimately, there was something too painful about life, that when he was very close to stable, he chose, despite my best efforts to refuse meds. Refuse meds, he was not allowed in the house. Doctors orders, also, I do him no good by allowing him to get away without taking his meds. Unfortunately, when I choose to get high, I take a pill, snort a line, have a drink etc. Bipolars do the opposite. They stop taking their meds. But it is something THEY MUST DO!!!. You can feel sad about getting him to a hospital, and most mental health wards (I worked at a state hospital for a year), are miserable fucking places. They are beyond horrible. However, it is de rigeuer that he gets such help. It is the lesser of 2 evils. Your friend will have a shitty stay at a shitty place, but if they do not let him out too soon, like they did poor Mitch, if they let him out stable, it may be the trigger that forces him to know that he needs to take his meds. So look forward to that day. A brief miserable stay in a shithole, could lead to a lifetime of good times with what is no doubt a wonderful human. That is a trade off, you have to like. Please look forward to that day. Also, I have never heard of a ward that did not allow visitors. So please check on that also. I am not a doctor, so I shall not comment on his meds. Obviously, I am not enamored. Good luck. Feel sad for now, but it is something that must happen both for your sanity and his too. Best of luck. Let us know when your friend gets out. Give him a big hug from the podcast. Cheers.

    • As far as the price of the meds, apply for government aid. If he can not afford them, and trust me, I hope they reevaluate what he is on, search online for where to go for your friend to apply for help. It is absolutely available. Our mental health system is deplorable. We do not need gun control, we need the people who do the shootings to have places to go for help. I do know for a fact that aid is available for those who can not afford it. Apply, beg, implore and make it known that your friend WILL NOT MAKE IT, without his meds and that he CAN NOT AFFORD THEM. I am sure you will find enough help to make sure he can pay. Also search cheapest meds. I just found my 39 dollar script was available for 7 dollars. I am done. Good luck.

  12. I am leaving for John Mayall. I shall answer your painful comment tomorrow. I do not have answers. I am not a doctor, but I hope they try different meds. Also, you should be allowed to visit. It is usually limited to an hour, but it is entirely legal. Also there is usually a phone on the ward. I talked to Mitch every single day at 1200 pacific. I awaited the talk with alacrity. I feel your pain and will send a few more thoughts tomorrow. Hang in there.

  13. This was probably the best episode I’ve heard… can’t speak for all of them since I joined at about no. 110, but it was a great combination of an interesting, well spoken and honest guest, subject matter ( stud / old time poker stories / mental illness ) and interviewing technique. I agree with the post that you are putting together a very notable body of work with the Thinking Poker Podcast.

    I am also thankful to Alan for speaking to ways of helping bipolar people. I have gone through this is my family and the advice is solid – get help, make sure they take the meds.

  14. One thing mentioned in the strategy segment was whether or not the correspondent wants a call. While I agree we do, it would also be worth mentioning that just because we don’t want a call it doesn’t mean a value bet is wrong …

    If we make a pot-sized bet all-in, and we beat 60% of his calling range, our bet was good – on average in this situation we end up raking in the 3x pot 60% of the time – so our average profit here is 0.8x (0.6×3 minus our bet of 1. Note that if we checked back against that part of his range we make 0.51). However we would still prefer him to have air and fold, because we make a profit of the whole pot, 1x, in that situation.

    With a pot-size bet the above applies if we have less than 67% against his calling range, but we need 50% for a value bet in position. With half pot bets, we prefer a fold unless we are actually 75% to win if called.

    The reason we so often feel we “don’t want a call” is because we don’t want our opponent to have good cards. We can’t change the cards though, so the question is given we need 50% if called, do we have it?

  15. As much as i enjoyed that interview., i feel there was a lot more i could have learmed and listened to. You alluded to that also at the end. Roll on Alan Boston part 2.

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