Tuesday, July 07, 2015


I bricked two flights of the 777.  I felt I played well despite getting few cards.  In Flight A I double up by attacking my table who were all week.  Dream table draw.  Then a late comer arrived and they put him immediately to my left.  A gregarious Russian who immediately played every pot in position on me.  That made things harder.

I wanted to say, "Hey, Ivan these people are just giving us their chips slowly, why don't we just take turns instead of beating each other up."  Nope, didn't happen.  He got crippled.  Then I got got run down.  Then he got some chips, then I made a comeback and to be honest with all the poker I played since then, I don't even remember the bustout hand.

I do remember the second flight...

I sat down and promptly lost the first two hands.  Made top two with AQ, my queen giving the other guy a gut shot straight.  Next hand I flopped a queen and a different guy rivered a straight, and I had to pay off.  Fun.  Nothing like begining a tournament with a half stack.

I switch tables and like my new seat.  Again, a bunch of players looking to fit or fold but no real action drivers.  A sponsored pro got moved to my right, but she wasn't active.  I thought I might be able to grind a stack up, then they moved a dangerous active player... to my left.  This becomes a theme for the week.

Regardless, I grinded and went deeper in that flight than I did the first but always at like 8 to 15 bbs.  On the hand before a break later in the evening, I got AhKh and there was plenty of action before me.  I shoved and got called by the right player who had queens.  I flopped an ace.  Another player had mulled over calling and I would have beat him too.    Didn't matter I finally had chips.

Go on break and I allow myself to think I'm going to run this up.  They were going to back up in a few levels and then the money would break early in day two.

We return and the player to my left open under the gun.  He gets called by a player who kept calling from way behind after giving a speech saying he just didn't believe his opponent.  Action folds to me in the big blind, I look at Kings.  I think I might be able to overshove and elicit a call.  I'm also happy with what's in the middle.  I push.

Player to my left, as he did all night made the correct decision and folded.  The other player gave the speech and then called off for all his chips (I finally had people covered).  He showed A... J.

So, the runout obviously not good.  I barely have any chips left.  I win a multi way pot to quadruple up and then promptly lost my still smallish stack when I shoved AJ and the bb called with... Q10 for most of his chips.  Oh... yeah.  That's why they call them minefields.

The WPT event went much better if I have a chance I'll blog about some big hands I played.  Made a call that is probably top five of my life.  I chipped up huge, ran KK into AA of the big stack, got a compliment from Mike Sexton for not going broke in that spot, then tried to bluff off a girl who's probably unbluffable (mistake) and then min-cashed.

I next played the Planet Hollywood survivor tournament.  Gah...  198 entered and five got 10k in cold hard cash.  I finished about 11th or 12th when an under the gun player tried to blow up.  She put out a third of her stack (on a steal?)  Folds to me in bb.  I look at Aces and shove.  Obviously, she had no plan, but she did have me barely covered.  After a quick tank, she angrily calls with J10.  Run out is Kxx... wow.  I win this pot, I'm getting 10k, my investors will be in the profit for the week and life is pretty good heading to the Main Event.

Turn is a Q.  Players start oohing and ahhing.  I know it's coming before it hits.  9 ball river.

Tough, tough beat.  I played some of the better poker of my life the last two tournaments so I'm eager hopeful that continues in the main.

So yesterday, I took the day off and did some things like meet up with Monkey and the other Minions.  I wanted to play more or something but the schedule did not allow it.    

I did get to sweat Kenny Milam and Steve Bierman a bit in the Main.  Both played great and Kenny overcome a couple of early coolers to get some traction.  Steve started hot, took a couple of body blows and still finished the night with almost a starting stack.  Plenty of chips for day two.  Also, had a nice long chat with Ben Saxton about some of the projects he's working on.  Going to talk to him about some main event coverage as he has a press pass.

Day 1 is today for me.  Run good time baby!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Landed in Vegas

For Package buyers:

Bought into the 777 for both flights yesterday A and B (just so I wouldn’t have to deal with registering again). We start play this morning at 10 am. If I advance through the first flight they will refund the second bullet. That will then be put to future events. Updates to come on twitter and my facebook. Starting bankroll for events is roughly $5550. (-$777 x2)

Just to reinforce, this package does not include my main event. That was through the Monkey Minions. If you bought a piece of that you have shares of my Main Event. This package is for all other events I might play.

 If I play under the total of $5550 you will get full refunds dollar for dollar (no markup). Here are the percentage breakdowns, I ended up selling a little more of myself than I planned to (as a couple of longstanding investors got in late).  Regardless, it’s good to be wanted.

Mike, Justin: 7.27% Morgan: 6% Tai, Joe C., Linda, Todd, Jerry: 5% Charlie: 3.635% Matt: 2% Ryan: .5%

I want to say a big thank you to all those who invested in me. Feeling good about this year. When I have a chance I will blog more about this. If you have any questions about any of this feel free to email me at ez ed cota  (at)  yahoo (dot) com.  (no spaces)

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Colossus Thoughts

Poker players inherently possess some common skillsets and qualities.  Many of our shared traits like critical thinking and a natural questioning of authority can make us good brave poker players.  That streak of independence combined with intelligence at times can produce a massive group who are all really good at doing one other thing besides poker and that's complaining and complaining and complaining some more. Since, we don't always agree it means any decision a floor makes will have at least one person foaming at the mouth.  Makes running a tournament tough to do as literally every guy in the room thinks he's the smartest guy there and he can do it better.
Yes admit it, we are all guilty of it but, that trait goes hand in hand with enjoying competitions of thought.  That said, when we all agree that something is wrong or "off" it'd probably pay to listen.

The WSOP this year listened to the players, perhaps more than ever, and a new pay structure in the Main Event promised more payouts and a flatter return at the very top.  Folks were happy.  They also experimented with new formats like a $565 buy-in with four re-entries and people were happier.  That detente seemed too good to be true.  It was.

The Colossus began and when the payouts were announced twitter almost broke.  The first payout line read less than One Million Dollars.  The event with over 20,000 entrants offered a first place worth a little over $650k.  In huge events people like to point out how much Harrahs rakes compares to the prize pool.  Generally you can say oh it's like second or third place.  This year it was almost a million more than first place.  Gulp.  Cue the torches.  Course when you spread out prizes for 2000ish of ~22000 entries probably that's somewhat bound to happen.

Still, regarding the payout, some of what the players clamored for the Main Event was applied to the Colossus and many objected saying that was a bad idea.  Why?

Probably because the Main Event is a 10k buy-in.  Especially for folks who satellite in sometimes even min-cash is a decent amount of money.  In real life it can get you a used car.  A flat payout structure for big money is not a bad idea.  Also, nine people all making a million dollars is a marketer's dream I'd think. Why pay 10 million to first when you can annouce nine millionaires.  While you get a used car with a Main Event min cash in a $565 tournament a min cash might get you a quality flat screen TV.   There's a big difference.  Having to beat 22,000 or so players and only winning ~600k for first seems like a lot of work for not a giant payday. 

(By the way, the WSOP has also been dealing with complaints about not letting players chop.  If almost everybody wants to chop all that money, isn't a flatter structure a better alternative?)

Some of this is simply about perspective.  Some pros view the Colossus as really a 2k tournament, having fired four bullets. For them having invested up to $2k and fighting 22,000 entrants they want a bigger upside.  Predictably it's the pros and semipros who have been going nuts, while the casual players I've talked to are just as happy to cash, and chase a half million as a whole million.  Unless, one of them wins it probably none of them will care if the first place doesn't make a million.  Course, for future years a one million dollar first place makes a better sell.  The WSOP says the Millionaire Maker is the spot for that.  I say if you have 22,000 people in a $565 tournament you need to find room for another spot to give out a million dollars for a nominal buy-in.

Clearly at a minimum there needs to be a middle ground.  The WSOP keeps citing a rule of thumb about first place being about 100x the buyin.  They've even gone so far as calling it the golden ratio and pointing to the hotly debated 10 million Main Event first place prize last year as a maximum that met that rule.  They say, if that $10 million was too much (and everybody agreed it was) why is this too little? 
Contrasting the Main Event and the Colossus is a bit like comparing Taxi-cabs to Porsches.  Sure they are essentially the same thing but they are also as different as they are similar.One critical difference is the rebuy nature of the Colossus.  Most casual players probably fired one or two bullets, but those with deeper pockets probably also went three or four deep if needed. Pros and semi-pros who didn't advance probably were closer to three or four.  So clearly, using the 100x rule ignores the obvious fact, many players were in for more than just $565.  So if you apply that rule it should be 100x a bigger amount.

Probably the WSOP has the average number of bullets a single player played.  I'm speculating wildly here but let's say the average is just under two.  Maybe there were enough rec players on one bullet in each of the flights to skew that average down, maybe not.  Regardless, I suspect though it's closer to two then it is one.

In that case voila you have a happy median.  If you apply the WSOP's "rule" to the rounded up 1k buy-in you end up with a million dollar first place prize.  In that scenario the twitter meltdown probably doesn't happen because there are two commas on the first line of the payouts.  Granted you can see the possible danger in basing the prize pool on multiple entries but I think in this case especially as it applies to first no harm no foul.  The amateur plucking down one $565 bullet has a chance at a million dollars.  The pro firing four gets the softest field ever and seven figures to go after. 

The other big problems yesterday?  The computers were down and nobody could get paid at one point  and a ton of growing pains (some people playing three handed for multiple levels, the WSOP reporting has been criticized etc. etc).  They'll get those right.  Every new event especially one as massive as the Colossus needs time to get it right. That said, we do complain a lot, but when we are all complaining about the same thing, the WSOP probably got it wrong. 

Monday, March 09, 2015

Big Hand in a tournament...

Still working hard on the project I mentioned a few months back ago, and unfortunately that has curtailed my "pokering" and my blogging a little bit.  I am a little behind where I wanted to be, as the project is tough sledding at times.  Regardless, I somewhat see the finish line so pushing hard to get there.

I have taken on another student, that I'm doing some poker coaching with and I think he's going really benefit to a few tweaks to his game.  Very impressed with some of the skills he already has, and he naturally does some things better then many other players.  As a result, I will be back at Harrahs a little more often then I have been recently.

Also, wanted to give a quick shout out to Kenny Milam who met with the Table Games supervisor at Harrahs on Wednesday to discuss tweaking some of their promotions and tournaments.  I had planned to sit in on that and talk about some other things but fortunately, I was deep in a tournament.  From what Kenny told me there are some bright opportunities ahead for tournament players in advance of the Circuit Event in March.  When things get more formalized we'll have them on the front page.  Also, I'll let you guys know how things go when I get a chance to speak to the Man behind the scene too.

Anyway, Wednesday's poker tournament as mentioned went well this week.  I wish I could attribute it to purely skill but I played a massive hand that propelled me to a heads up chop with Anthony "Binger" Bellao.  Btw, Binger played exceptional all tournament long. Considering, I had position on him for the final two tables with a monster stack and he just kept chipping up, it's hard not to be very impressed with how he played.

Okay, back to the hand, as I promised a couple of people that I would blog about it after it happened.  It was pretty crazy even for the Harrahs Donkley.  I had managed to chip up, maybe to table chip leader (or at least second in chips) when I looked at 6-3 o/s in the small blind.  There were exactly three limpers to me all with big stacks and I had the feeling the big blind was just going to check.  I don't like playing garbage, out of position even when the price is super cheap, but I had chips to spare and I think I'm reasonably good at not getting trapped post flop.  Plus, the possible upside in that spot is so huge, hard to pass up.

Meaning I'm looking for very specific flops and thinking I can maybe felt one of the big stacks in that hand.  The tables were unbalanced as most of the chips were on our table, so with these stacks in play, I think calling was correct.  When the big blind checked behind, it came one of those specific flops.  754 two diamonds.  Gulp in a good way.

I considered betting, not liking the two diamonds on a five way board, but also understanding anybody with a diamond draw in this tournament isn't going anywhere.  Maybe I could get some raggy hands to put chips in play before I flipped with the flush draw that was likely out there.  Several of my opponents weren't above doing just that.  I also thought this flop would miss most people (kind of wrong on that regard).

So, we blinds went check-check.  An aggressive player made a pot size bet.  The next player called.  Okay, might have to shove here but not quite a big enough pot to do...  I'm thinking to myself, when I see the third biggest stack at the table is considering shoving.  I turn to the big blind and say this pot is going to be huge.

He does shove.

I consider can anybody have 8-6 here?  It's possible but not likely, and I'm never folding second nuts on this board in this spot.  I reshove.  The big blind folds.  The next player shoves and the next player shoves.

Oh... somebody has to have 8-6.  Four way all-in always has the nuts, right?

I ask who's got the nuts?  Nobody responds and then I quickly table my 6-3 thinking I'm up against everything and will have to dodge the deck.  Surely, sets or two pairs, and a flush draw, maybe 9-6.  Not even sure I'm over 50% to win this hand with that kind of action against most hands.

Yeah, let's say there is two pair, bottom set, and the nut flush draw, I'm only 41% (thanks poker calculator).

Nope, everybody is disappointed to see my hand, then they start turning over their hands, flush draw, flush draw, flush draw.  Everybody had two diamonds.  I had to dodge five cards in the deck to potentially drag a monster potten.

Somehow, I'm actually almost 70% to win.  Wow.

Yum.  Normally, in those sure spots you never get out clean, but sure enough after it went brick brick, I had almost a quarter of chips in play with a little over two tables left.  Actually, the turn wasn't totally dry, it dropped a three, which meant a six on the river would give us a four way chop.  You can't help but consider that worst case scenario in those spots.  Fortunately, it paired the board (which most times in that spot would be a very bad thing).

Um... yeah, no way we aren't making top five at that point, even in that turbo tournament.  So that was fun.

Alright, til next time...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Guest Post: Mississippi Grind A Review

So my buddy, Eric, who used to blog on www.gulfcoastpoker.net has (for the most part) traded the poker circuit for the film festival circuit.  He graciously reviewed Mississippi Grind for us after seeing it at Sundance.  Spoiler alert, kid can write.  It's one thing for somebody outside "the life" to review a movie about poker and gambling and it's another thing entirely for somebody from within to give their opinion.  Here's his review of the movie that hits close to home for a lot us literally and figuratively.

by Eric Johnson
Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds give stellar performances as gamblers on a road trip down the Mississippi.

Some guys just can’t stop. It’s in their DNA. Faced with even less-than-mediocre prospects against the option to stand pat in a good spot, the gamble gets the best of them. It’s the action that separates them from the squares and in Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s MISSISSIPPI GRIND, it’s what separates Ben Mendelsohn from a stable life. Ultimately, it’s this pitch-perfect performance by Mendelsohn as a middle-aged degenerate that separates and elevates the film, allowing it to become a vital entry into the canon of gambling-centric films.

We meet Mendelsohn’s Gerry, fittingly, in a casino, having bought into a low-stakes poker tournament, where the usual grinder mumbling is interrupted by a new tablemate, a quick-talking, top-shelf drinking guy named Curtis, played charismatically by Ryan Reynolds. Curtis is everything Gerry isn’t – young, good-looking, confident – the natural born winner, and Gerry is drawn to him, perhaps projecting a younger, alternate-universe version of himself. Cut to hours later and we see the contrast, as Reynolds, a quick exit from the tournament notwithstanding, is trending positive, while Mendelsohn can’t help but fixate on his tough-beat bustout, despite cashing deep. Mendelsohn here and throughout perfectly nails the nature of poker players, and gamblers in general, for the vast majority of whom there will never be a success big enough, for whom second place is the first loser, as they’re left to spin a tale of woe of how close they came.

Gerry is always on the come, be it poker, sports betting, the dogs or the ponies – it’s his defining trait and it’s to Mendelsohn’s immense credit as an actor that he takes sad-sack Gerry and infuses him with such a charismatic desperation that we further pot-commit ourselves into his belief that the elusive big score is just on the horizon. We need him to make good and get there, just this once.

Gerry and Curtis team up, with plans to drive from Iowa down the Mississippi, hitting up the casinos, riverboats and cash games along the way, the destination a high-stakes cash game in New Orleans. For Gerry, it’s a chance to make good on some bad decisions he’s leaving behind. For Curtis, well, we’re not quite sure. He’s an out-of-towner and his motive for staking Gerry as they travel south is murky.

The film finds its best footing in this stretch, as Gerry and Curtis work the games, build a bankroll and we learn more about their respective histories. The filmmakers are careful to take their time – this is indeed a film about grinders – and never romanticize the lifestyle. Instead, we confront the lives of men on the road, constantly hustling, always moving on, an impermanence that mirrors the river they follow. We see the loneliness, the longing and the paths less traveled. Nuanced and anchored by deft touches in the details and a strong supporting turns by Sienna Miller and especially Robin Weigert, our feel for these men and the lives they’ve touched, and sometimes broken, only serves to invest us further in their quest.

Through it all Mendelsohn’s Gerry is our hope, our heart and our soul, mankind’s best and worst natures bundled in one, always battling for control of what comes out of his pocket and his mouth. It’s as accurate and riveting a portrayal of the misguided dreams and stark realities of a gambling lifestyle as you will find. By the time they hit New Orleans you desperately hope that Gerry can indeed fade the river.

Reviewed at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Super Bowl Thoughts

Once you get competent at poker, it taints your perception of sports to some degree.  As you grow as a poker player dealing with the element of chance you learn to not be results oriented.   You focus on making the right play-- the one that is most profitable, most often. The individual result of the play to some degree is irrelevant.  This kind of thinking doesn't translate to talking heads and/or evaluations of sports figures.  

Instead we have to suffer knee jerk reactions, overreactions, and hyperbole.  One play goes different and the majority of people have completely different world-views.

Here's an example, last night a Patriot defender made a great play to intercept the ball and here's what the talking points are:

1.  Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever.
2.  Tom Brady can play into his 40s
3.  The Patriots are one of the all time great dynasties
4.  Bill Belichek (autocorrect wanted to fix Blichek to bellyache, kind of funny cause he always looks like he has one) is the greatest coach ever.
5.  Pete Carroll made a TERRIBLE, maybe the worst ever, play call and cost his team the game, his legacy is forever tainted.

However, let's say the pass were caught for a touchdown, or maybe fell incomplete, and the Seahawks punch it in on a later down.  Here's what our world would look like:

1.  Tom Brady is one Super Bowl loss away from tieing Jim Kelly for most all time.
2.  Tom Brady is over the hill, last night was a passing of the torch.
3.  The Seahawks could be on their way to be the greatest dynasty ever.
3b.  Russell Wilson could be on his way to winning an absurd amount of Superbowls.  His desire to get six might be fulfilled.
4.  Belichek made a pair of TERRIBLE decisions, maybe two of the worst ever, and cost his team the game.  He should have called a timeout to give Brady a chance to go on a drive and probably should have let the Seahawks score as soon as possible to get the ball back, cause he'd only need a field goal to force overtime.  His legacy is forever tainted.
5.  Pete Carroll's may be the greatest coach ever.  Back to back superbowls and college national championships.  What a genius.

Everybody blindly believes the first five, and they'll always believe them because the results support that.

Here's the truth.  Yes, Pete Carroll probably made a bad play call.  (Even worse was how they botched things and seemed indecisive).  That said, hardly the worst play call ever.  Yeah, I probably run it, but actually his thinking was kind of right.  If he passed it, against New England's loaded up run defense he'd have three shots to win the game.  Run it on the next play and then call timeout if Lynch didn't score.  Then run it on fourth down.  How many times in 100 does the throw get picked?  1, 2, maybe 3?

Otherwise, you run it against their run defense, and then have to call timeout.  Which means on third down if you want two shots to win it, probably you have to throw it (with possibly the same result) or at least bootleg Russell, against a defense more prepared for that.  Possibly if you run it again, you get stopped on third down and you don't even get another play.  Would you rather have three chances to win it or two?

To some degree hard to argue with the talking heads, just give it to Lynch.  He'll get you the yard.  

Humorously, if he didn't, the same guys would be attacking Caroll for only getting off two plays instead of three.

Now, let's examine the conclusions, does the result really matter?
1.  Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever.  Win or lose he's in the conversation.  As Roy Williams once said after winning his first national championship, "I'm not a better coach today, then I was yesterday."  Tom Brady is a great quarterback period.  If he never won a superbowl he'd still be a great quarterback.  Yeah, four times ties him with Montana but also with Bradshaw, nobody thinks Terry Bradshaw is one of the three greatest quarterbacks ever.  
2.  Tom Brady can play into his 40s.  Possibly but unlikely.  If he stays healthy, maybe.  Football players seem to hit a cliff in regards to performance when wear and tear just brutalizes them at some point.  Obviously winning or losing this game changes nothing in regard to that--except for the reaction.  Lose and cue the retirement questions--just ask Peyton Manning.  He will only get worse, it's just a matter of when and how quickly.
3.  The Patriots are one of the all time great dynasties.  True, but that was true win or lose.  As for Seattle if they stay intact, who knows.
4.  Bill Belichek greatest coach ever.  Win or lose, he's in the conversation.  People point to him getting it done in free agency era as the ultimate proof of him being the greatest, but everybody has advantages and disadvantages in different eras.  That's not definitive of anything but his era.  Nor does it rule out the fact, a guy in a different era might be just as good in free agency as Belichek. We don't know.  He's great though, and maybe the greatest.
5.  Pete Caroll's legacy should never be questioned.  Win or lose.  Guy just wins, he's got multiple championships.  Plus he's a pimp.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Long Overdue

Sorry folks, been behind on blogging a good bit.  Wanted to get a quick one up but have been slammed time wise.  Previously, I referenced some health things my family has been dealing with, some have asked about them so I feel I should revisit it.  Btw, thanks for the support and nice notes some of you have sent even though I was a little vague about things.

1.  Me.  All good so far.  Need a follow up visit soon, but had two little polyps removed both benign.  Hopefully, they were responsible for my abnormal blood-work and I should be all good.

2.  My oldest son.  Looks like we turned a corner.  Appears that we've identified the problem and it's relatively harmless.  Felt like last year he was perpetually sick.  Since we've started up a treatment plan it's been effective.  At this point we think it was just a case of allergies manifesting in some weird ways and some atypical blood work when he might have been fighting two or three things at once.  His white blood cell was off the charts, but has returned to normal meaning we can stop googling Leukemia symptoms.

3.  My daughter.  She's had some weird episodes of dizziness/vertigo, since we thought we were in the clear with her.  Can be a wide range of problems.  We were referred to an ENT, who referred us to a neurologist.  Some of the possibilities are scary, some may be relatively benign.  At this point not trying not to worry about it until/unless we have too, but probably lots of test and appointments still in our short term future.

Literally felt like I spent more time in a doctor's office, Emergency room, or aftercare then anywhere else last year.  With all the big stuff going on, those kids couldn't stay healthy with flu, stomach viruses, bronchitits and you name it charging through our household every week or so.  Hoping 2015 is much, much different.  Regardless, in total things, have turned out pretty good for us and now we just can focus on my daughter.