Thursday, May 05, 2016

Suggestions for Fellow Minions

Here are my unsolicited suggestions for Monkey's Minions candidates that I'll pass on to the Monkey himself:

So, in no particular order here are my endorsements of players that I know who have submitted or probably will submit.

Gene D, alright, I lied, this first one is in order.  My man's always going to be my first recommendation. This is the guy that got me into poker and steered me in the right direction when I thought "Big Slick" was the nuts no matter the board. Any of my future, my current and  my past successes in the game wouldn't have come without him listening to me in the early years and steering my learning process.

Gene, my partner at GCP (and there would be no GCP without a fateful conversation years ago), is a family man, poker advocate, all around great guy, and a player with the style and patience to succeed in the WSOP main event.  Coolers, bad beats, and bad luck aside, he's got to be a favorite to cash.  He's not going to bluff off 200 big blinds.  We know that.  He's also able to pick off a bluff and to play against his image, to pick up chips in those long periods of being card dead in a 10 hour day and survive and advance.  We know that too.  Lately, he's played less.   He's a family man first.  Having to forsake the long hours of tournament poker, the travel and the weeks away from home that go into is an easy trade when you put your wife, son and job first.

That doesn't mean that his love for the game has diminished any less.  I'm sure this chance to play in the Main Event, possibly cash in the Main event, and represent Team Monkey might mean as much or more to him than any other applicant.  He's literally been a lover of poker since BEFORE Chris Moneymaker, growing up with the game, grinding in the student union in college, early games in back room of pool halls and bars, all the way to him winning a Casino Championship in the WSOP-C series and qualifying for the National Championship.  I'm pretty confident he'd have many people willing to buy into the cause.  Reading Will's requirements this year it almost sounds like he's describing Gene.

Kenny Milam, is another mentor of mine.  Kenny shared some of my biggest successes with me and used to be a backer/partial backer of many on the coast.  As such he's always been willing to put players in action in the past.  Kind of cool that the Minions might be able to put him into the biggest tournament in the world this year if he applies.  Kenny's also a good friend, and another all around great guy.  He too lives poker and probably plays online, in a bar, or at a casino every single day of the week.  He has results at this level too.  The last two main events he's lasted just a little bit longer than me (argh! silly bragging rights).  His bust out hand last year when he also finished in the low 200s... King King.  That's fitting of minion I think.

Steve Bierman, is relatively new player that I've been helping fine tune his game.  His progress from one year ago to now is incredible.  He's already in the top 100 of earners in Louisiana and he's only been playing for a little over one year.  Like the players above I can't say enough about this guy either.  He studies poker digesting almost a book a week, grinds cash and tournaments and is laser focused on getting better.  He's also got a pretty good coach (ahem).  His intangibles are a gift for gab at the table and an ability to get under somebody's skin when necessary or to charm somebody into a fold when it calls for it.  Even when he was a neophyte, his fearlessness and his presence earned him results maybe you'd think somebody with his lack of fundalmentals shouldn't earn.  Since then he's fine tuned his game, plugged some leaks, and probably is one of the best tournament players in Harrahs New Orleans.  What growth.  The pic above is after he crushed the January Million Dollar Heater at the Beau (Steve's in the middle Jeff Sager on the right, the fat guy on the left?  I don't know).

David Chocheles, kid has been on a bit of heater this year.  David has joined Steve, I and others (hello cash gamers Lee McAllister, Ben Saxton etc)  in regular little group study sessions of poker.  Yes, we are poker geeks who meet to talk poker.  Always room to get better replaying hands, strategizing, discussing poker books and training sites.  David's in my opinion has really grown as a player.  He's fearless and puts people to tests and grinds out results.  I'm a big fan of his game, and consider him one of my toughest rivals in the local tournaments.  Like I've done with Steve and others on this list, I've also bought small pieces of David in the past and will continue to.  Think he's a good investment. I believe David played in the Main a couple of years ago, and won't be overwhelmed by the moment.  A worthy selection.

Joe Hebert, another local player, I believe in.  Joe's had some deep cashes and is a devoted player.  Not many hands that end up with a fold on the turn stick in your head over a poker career.  But the fact, I remember one with him over a small pot, that I thought he played super creative, based on stack sizes, probably is a testament to his ability.  It may be the only such hand that's affixed itself to my long term memory.  I think Joe, who will play a pretty impressive schedule in Vegas this year, would also be a worthy minion.  I know that he, like Monkey, came out to play a small charity event in Metairie last year, with the goal of helping out the cause not to exploit a soft game.  Speaks to what kind of person he is (Monkey too).

Chris Canan, who I don't think has applied, yet, reminds me of Steve.  He's the Saints super fan that looks like Coach Payton above.  He's been devoting himself to the game and focused on improving.  He's playing a lot at the world series this year  and is strictly about tournament poker.  He's shown a similar trajectory to Steve and is willing to put in the time.  I think he'd be a great selection too.

Regardless, there are a ton of great players and friends that I haven't mentioned here.  Plus, I think all the past Minions are still deserving.  Several keep binking big cashes too.  My apologies if I missed anyone.  Happy to add on to my blog post later, I'm sure there are some obvious choices I'm missing.  Regardless, I don't envy Monkey there's going to be hard choices.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Monkey's Minions, WSOP Thoughts...

hat they gave everybody that cashed the main event
Wow.  I'm honored and humbled.  For the third year in a row, I've been selected to be a minion.  Huge thanks to Will Souther who runs this little investment group and to all the people that buy shares of the players.  It's the high point of any poker player's year to play in the WSOP Main Event and to have a seat locked up in April is thrilling, awesome, and comforting.  Thank you so much everybody!

My first two years I lasted the longest of the Minions (that's why I got asked back) and last year did the same cashing as I made making a run to almost the top 200 players.  (Btw, had they paid the top 15% the first year, as they do now, I  would have cashed then too).  In the aftermaths, I don't think I realized how well I ran to go pretty deep both years.

Last woman standing Kelly Minkin, me, and tournament chip leader at the time on my left. This table also featured 2015 November Niner Thomas Cannuli who stood out as an awesome player and several other studs.  HARD.  Maybe, I was lucky to be so card dead then.
The first year I was all in once (that tells you all you need to know in how that went  KK no good v. jj).  Last year, I was all in only three times.  On day two, I could only beat a bluff and called off after maybe the longest tank of my life.  I was good.   Then I had AA, I saw a 3bet and then a 4bet before me including November Niner Matt Jarvis.  

Neil Blumefeld at final table
I knew I didn't have enough chips to make them fold and knew they knew it too, so while I had a chance for a triple up I had two fade two players instead of one.  They both called. I beat AK and 1010 to right the ship on a day when eventual 2015 November Niner Neil Blumenfeld made a terrible play against me to cripple my chips earlier.

I say terrible because I asked Neil about the hand afterward and his rationale for calling me was garbage.  I wish he had said "I had a read," but instead he gave a rather silly reason for calling four streets of bets by me.  He literally could only beat a bluff or the exact hand I held (which he didn't even consider a monster draw that didn't get there).  Truly a nice guy, but it was hard to pull for him in November because that hand stood out so much for me.  So many other players have a fold button in that spot. But he was running insanely good so a lot easier for him to call.

My third all in hand last year... again my downfall was all-in with Kings this time v. Ace Queen.  Weirdly when the kid called I felt I was doomed.  Sometimes you just know when you are going to hold, sometimes you just know when you are going to suck out, and sometimes you just know when it's over.  I readied myself to leave the WSOP.  This time the flop and turn were clean.  As the dealer peeled the river, I allowed myself to think just for a second maybe my gut was wrong, maybe there is no such thing as a sixth sense.  In my head, I allowed myself to consider with that double I was going to have some chips to battle and they were about to move us to the TV table.

I liked my chances against the other players-it actually might have been my softest table of the Main Event crazy as that sounds considering how deep we were.  Since Norman Chad scouted us in the early morning and decided we'd make good TV, I planned on ratcheting up the aggression if I had any chips.  Pretty sure most of the players didn't want to risk busting not only because of the money but for the chance to show their family they made the telecast by sticking around that table for as long as they could.  Felt like a bubble situation +100.  Who knows if that plan would have worked but my focus wasn't about the TV it was about leveraging the table to accumulate more chips.  

Then the dealer turned over Barry Greenstein, an Ace on the River, and my Main Event was over.  I was gutted.  Just like Monkey who went out v. Elisabeth Hille Kings were my downfall again.

Anyway, I now know that I got extremely fortunate in one perspective, that I battled for days with very little chance of elimination.  I felt I played really well too.  For example, I didn't go broke and almost folded (yes) top set correctly (again Kings (that hand) that improved) vs. a flush in a blind v. blind battle (only three hearts on board).  Yeah, that one will stay with me forever.  I also hero called multiple times against some aggros including v.  pro Dan O'Brien to keep accumulating chips.  That said, it's a marathon and it's as much avoiding land mines and potential disasters as it is making good decisions.  Some things you can control and some things you can't.  My strategy to pot control and limit the variance worked both years.

I hope I run as well as I did the last two years, and I'm putting in the work (studying) to play as tough as I did last year.  Thanks again everybody for the opportunity.
Also, I will be playing some prelim events and probably get to Las Vegas a week or so before the Main Event.  I will be selling a package for those events and can facilitate anybody that wants to purchase shares of the Minions.  Email me at ezedcota (for spambots sake separating this address... now you  obviously plug in the old @ sign)  then end it with if you want information about what I'll be playing.  Though it's probably easier if you contact Will directly (details on the Poker Monkey blog) if you just want a piece of the minions.  Shares are $200 a pop for that.  I'll be buying as I always do to support the other minions.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Spring Poker Classic

I'm here at the Golden Moon one of the two casinos that make up Pearl River's Resort in Choctaw, Mississippi.  The room is modern and new.  Plenty of amenities to make the three hour drive from New Orleans worthwhile.  None moreso than the possible overlay in the Main Event tomorrow.

Gene D and I are finally at the same poker tournament at the same time.  Ruling out the rumor that we have merged into one GCP mega person.  Course we've yet to play the same tournament at the same time so perhaps that strange theorem still has legs.

Downstairs Gene has already won a mega for the this Main Event and will likely play tomorrow if he can get his ticket changed from his six pm start time tonight.  I'll play a mega later and join him tomorrow.  No idea if we'll have any company because the first flight only had 30 or so players in it.  While I'd prefer an overlay and fewer people to battle it out with... we told Paul and Eric, two of the guys running the tournament, that we'd promote things for them.  So... the cat's out of the bag people.  150k of prize money and probably too few people to fight for it.

Rooms are cheap.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Beau Rivage Update--Bubble Madness

At the Beau Rivage in yesterday's noon event I ran bad on the bubble to be the bubble boy.  Oh well, that happens.  Not even that big of a bubble, so I'm not bitching about that, however, the way things went down I've never, ever seen before and I will bitch about that....

So we are hand for hand and it's taking forever, even with just three tables.  The rule is players that are all-in have to wait until the floor gives them the okay to turn over their hands.  A good rule that keeps players at other tables from making all-in decisions based on exposed hands next door.  Of course if it's executed correctly, it's a good rule.

I go from a medium stack to a short stack as the bubble doesn't seem to stop.  I have two smaller shorties on my left.  The two short stacks in the blinds limp to the flop.  They check it and a third diamond hits the board.  They check again and straight card his the river.  Small blind bets small.  Big blind raises.  Small blind shoves and big blind starts to push out his stack to call.  Standard right?  Yes, until...

The dealer pushes her hands into both stacks.  She's so intent on keeping the players from exposing their hands that she literally stops the caller from completely pushing his stack to the middle and he pulls it back in confusion.  As her hands cover both their cards, she shrilly says, "DON'T EXPOSE YOUR HANDS!"  Okay, clearly an all-in and a call and nobody's going to expose a hand.  We get it.  Good job to her for making sure a hand isn't exposed I turn and watch the other tables to see if anybody is all-in elsewhere.  No.

When I refocus on our table somehow the big blind is now contemplating a call.  What?

I ask what's going on he already called.  How is considering anything?  The floor hears me bitching and asks what happens.  I tell him and he specifically asks if the second player ever took his hand off his chips.  Valid question, I don't know.  Maybe not?  I can't say for sure.  Although his motion clearly indicated he was calling and until the dealer stopped him.  I tell the floor I'm unsure, by the way, none of the other players at the table really say anything.  Of course until she stopped him it was clearly a case of a shove and a snap call.

The floor rules he's not going to make the player call off because of a dealer mistake (???).  So I guess you are allowed to pump fake?  What I should have asked him... if the dealer didn't think he called... why was she pushing her hands into his stack to keep him from showing his cards.  Same with the small blind.  How can she react to an all-in and a call... if there's not an all-in and a call.  In short why would she jump across the table to stop a player from exposing his cards if he hasn't called yet?  Little bit of lunacy.

Eventually, after tanking for another three minutes and apparently reconsidering his action... the big blind does call with a flush ( and snaps off the small blind (straight) who is now left with less than one big blind.  He has 2700.  The blinds are 2000-4000 with a 500 chip ante.

Incredibly, he antes twice without putting his chips into play.

So now at 1700 he decides he's going to shove.  An older man then re-shoves (Uh.... what?).  The blinds who were both going to obviously check it down and end the bubble shake their heads.  The small blind folds and the big blind considers calling  for the bigger stack then folds. After they are allowed to show, the older man shows Jacks.  I observe the dealer throw the full small blind in the pot.  The short stack shows 6-4 offsuit.  The board runs out 7x5d2d9d...10d.  Surely, the blinds folded a bigger diamond but the short stack survives

Alright, old men are afraid Jacks I get it.  Though, I'm not sure isolating a guy with under a big blind with pocket jacks on the bubble is ever more profitable then just checking him down three ways to make the money.  To be fair he didn't have a ton of chips, nobody did, so though I didn't like the result... whatever.

Now, it gets bad again.  The dealer ignores me telling her multiple times she didn't refund the excess 300 from the small blind to the bigger stack.  I say the short stack can only win 1700* 3 plus the antes.  Eventually, she ships the excess big blind  ($2300) along with  and the remainder of the big stacks chips on his overshove.  I'm 100% she still shorted him the 300 from the small blind.  She says yes, refering to what she threw over from the big blind.  I decide that I've said something twice and if the guy calling with Jacks doesn't want to get the full amount it's now on him.  Meanwhile floors are lingering nearby and have to be aware of this debacle but do not interject.

So the order is given to deal the next hand.  But then the Jacks guy feels he's been under refunded and we stop.  I tell the dealer to just replay the hand and figure out how much the short stack should have in front of him.  Why she didn't do this or the floor didn't step in and fix it is beyond me.  I was positive they'll discover he's $300 over.  They count it out rather quickly and discover hes like $2000 over.  Instead of pulling the chips and replaying the action.  I do the quick math $1700 x 3 (=$5100) + 6x $500 for the antes( = $3000)  = $8100.  How does he have 10,100?

He's unsure of it and tells me he'd rather the dealer be sure.  I'd rather her do it too.  I shut up.  She doesn't put the chips in front of everybody and replay the action, instead just counts it out like I did quickly and for some reason makes the same conclusion.  The money is then refunded to the bigger stack.

Anybody paying attention to the math problem here and see the mistake we all made?  Only after I walked away did I realize he was only $300 over as I initially thought and not $2000 over.  Why?  We should have multiplied $1700 by four (shover, reshover, small blind and big blind).

I believe the confusion initially was when I was making sure the pot was right the short stack had pulled $1700 back and we knew to multiply what he could win by 3.  I kept saying she had to refund the $300 to the big stack from the small blind, because the small stack could only win $1700 x 3.   After we started to move on to the next hand, and the bigger stack questioned it, the player had taken his $1700 from the side and intermingled it back into his shorter stack.  Still we kept multiplying by three but forgot to accommodate the $1700 which had been on the side initially.  Again, had the dealer simply put out the antes and all the chips in front of the players (as I thought was protocol in these situations) the right answer would have been discovered.

Yawn.  I know.  Boring math and chip logistics.

Here's where it gets important again.

I'm in the big blind the next hand with garbage.  The guy who couldn't cover a big blind the hand before shoves.  The same old man re-shoves again.  I hate my hand and decide I can fold to the money now if the bigger stack wins.  First guy shows AK. Second guy QQ.      

The run out is xx10, j, Q.  The shorter stack has Broadway.  Now the QQ is crippled.  In retrospect... I believe the QQ would have gone bust had his stack been $1700 less and the shorter stack $1700 more (a $3400 swing). Positions would have been reversed and the bubble over.

Math is fundamental.

But wait... there's more...

So, the next hand I'm in the small blind.  The former short stack in the big blind, another player  calls from the button and says, "Don't worry, I know just to check it down."  The big blind says "absolutely, I'm just going to check it down."

The floor behind me says "Oh, so you guys are colluding?." The dealer almost just deals out the flop and then the turn without going through the pretense of them checking.  She stops herself and does it correctly.  Regardless, I bust somehow I had Ace 8, and was against AQ and A10 and we all flopped an Ace.  After that I walk away but pretty sure nothing was done about the blatant collusion.

 By the way, I'm fine with that to a degree.  It's always unspoken collusion in that spot and had the guy with Jacks not shoved, these two would probably would have never had actually spoken it.  They were more referencing his silliness but nonetheless, when the first guy spoke there was still action to be completed by multiple players,  One guy after him ended up folding. Plus, the big blind would have had an option to raise but agreed in advance of the other player folding to not take it lol... so in that regard, yeah, probably a penalty should have been administered even if the intent was not necessarily malicious.  You can't do that.

*It's possible a penalty was given after I left as I didn't stack around that long.

Never seen such a comedy of errors on the bubble before... just nonsense. To be honest, I care less about being the bubble boy and more about it being just handled terribly in three consecutive hands.    



Anyway, besides some sit n go wins I ran pretty bad at the Beau Rivage (though I did have a pretty good return off an investment in a guy who hit for a big score in the rentry).  Some of my events were rolled over for investors this summer using profits from the WSOP.  Obviously, haven't been playing a lot of tournaments (with big prize pools) this year...  if it's January and only now am I getting some of their events.  Course, I wanted to play in something with big upside.  The million dollar heater has that as there are few tournaments with 500k guarantees on a $345 buy-in.

A lot of waiting for nothing.  This is how they went:

1.  For the first time in a long time I didn't drag a single pot in a tournament.  Literally never had the best hand and though I made folds (and was shown better hands often)... playing well and losing the minimum wears on you.  When I finally busted it was like somebody put me out my misery.

2.  I got Peace-d.  Peace Marvel is Louisiana swordfish and tuna fisherman.  Good guy, good for the game... whose range, as Prissy Grior says, is the deck.  Lots of people have run into his hands and left wringing theirs after busting in odious fashion.  He limps.  Another guy limps.  I look at Aces in the big blind.  I put a hearty raise out there.  Peace asks if I'm picking on him because I'd raised him quite a lot.  He calls for what amounts to at least 15% of his stack.  The other player joins the fray.  Flop is KJ4.  Two diamonds.

I bet pot and commit myself.  Peace raises.  Uh...  King Jack I guess.  Not sure I can rethink things and fold.  I have the back door draws, the aces, and pairing the board if I behind.  Since it's Peace I could be way ahead also.  I call.  He shows K4.  Oh.  That's a perfectly reasonable Peach hand to limp call from early position.  I don't improve.

3.  Play late in to the night, get some momentum get some chips, make some great calls  for big pots (King high, second pair on a wet board) and am playing well.  Shove on a guy on a flop where we are basically flipping.  He snap calles  I have Pair of Aces and the 10 clubs on a three club board.  He has pair of Aces and Queen kicker.  Hit my 10 on the turn and he hits one of two non club queens in the deck to eliminate me.  96% after the turn.  Yuck

Regardless... I think I ran bad in every possible way or situation.  The bubble being the absolute worst bubble I've ever seen first hand.  I hope I'm wrong and the $1700 chip mistake didn't save the old man the second time he shoved.  Gross if it did.  Maybe I should just not play at the Beau.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Political Interlude...

So... that's trump's logo.

And that's a Simpson Episode from 2000ish, predicting the future with Trump as President with almost the exact same logo.

Did, his logo maker really just swipe the Simpson's logo or what?

Pretty crazy, the one on the dais the only difference is five stars vs. three.  Everything else is identical except for the slogan.  Even the font is the same.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Finding the Path: WSOP Main Event 2015 part II

I started off with the most important hand I played in the last blog post, as after I played it, it was almost like I got rewarded for my bravery.   I experienced my first run good in any WSOP event (ever) immediately after.     That was a theme for this Main Event.  Every time, I made a brave play good cards seemed to follow me in the aftermath.  The good cards were the easy part.  Those few spurts of big hands didn't dictate my run, it was all the tough hands in between that propelled me in the tournament.

Nothing given.

There is a rumor that your Main Event starting table will be soft.  Soft?  Yes, butter on the hood of a car outside the Rio in typically stifling 107 degree Las Vegas temperature soft.  For me, that rumor is as valid as me dating Kim Kardashian.  One multiple circuit ring winner told me he wouldn't pay $6 for a percentage of any of his starting table.  I'd gladly have paid much more than for most of my table.  I guess I run bad at table draws.  This would be a theme for the week.

I sat down on day one with three open seats.  Two to my left and one to my right.  I recognized one player, a very successful circuit grinder Roman Israelivi.  I purposefully played a little cautious early as I've overextended myself in the past playing shorthanded to start off tournaments.  Think I tend to start valuing hands for six people, but my opponents aren't adjusting and playing regular 9 handed hand ranges.  In effect, I don't give them enough credit and overvalue my hands compared to theirs.

So, it's pretty uneventful early, until Sorel Mizzi
arrives at the table and, thankfully, sits to my right.  For the non poker players you prefer to be on a player's left because you will get to act after them.  Mizzi (who is only, heavy sarcasm on the only, 22nd all time in career earnings with over 11 million won) would have been hell to have on my left.  That's him pictured with a stack he's capable of attaining in any tournament he plays.

Regardless, I immediately know who the best player is at the table and I decide even in position I'm only playing small pots with him.  Then a player sits down and pushes a Russian passport to the dealer.  Another Euro on my direct left.  It'd be a theme.  Euros are typically aggressive and often raising and reraising you.  They make life hell.  They also can still play online poker and in some ways are probably more cutting edge than Americans in strategy.

On the other hand Euros can also be bad too.  Let's see how he plays, I tell myself.

After about five minutes, Sorel who is separated between me and the Russian by the dealer makes eye contact with ~Vlad.
Sorel "Oh, I didn't see you there!"
Ruskie "I was wondering when you'd see me."
Sorel "That makes things interesting."

Oh.... no.

Typically players from far flung places only know one another from playing the same stakes or level.  Sorel plays 100k buy-ins and generally the highest levels in the world.  Him knowing the aggressive kid on my left can only mean I'd have to take him very seriously.  Nice table draw.

I remind myself that all week in the other events I had an aggro player usually from Europe on my left.  I did fine.  I looked for a silver lining.  His position actually might keep Sorel in line.  He might not fear me, but in his eyes the second best player on the table is on his left.  It could be a good thing.  I tried to believe that.

I quickly notice that all but two players on the table were very active and aggressive.  They liked to threebet and apply pressure.  There were no gimmes here.

Midway through the second level as I treaded water I thought back to a dream I had a couple of months ago.  In the dream, I wrestled with this writing project I've been working on as well as trying to play poker on the side.  In the dream I was being told to find a path.  Find the path.  When I woke up it helped me with what I had been working on.  The main character's journey needed to be more about finding a path rather than reacting to the events around him.  As I had written it he was kind of being pushed on a ride rather then steering it.  Find the path.  His character arc needed it, he needed ownership for his trajectory.

As I was sitting there in level two, wondering how to survive on this table, those words came back to me.  I knew we would be playing there all day.  I had to find the path.  I could just bounce around all the good players I had to assert my way.  My objective was not to beat Sorel Mizzi or the Russian kid or any of the competent three betting players it was to find a path of survival.  It was to find a path to make it through each level.  It was to find a path to get some chips here and there.

Then it clicked.

The businessman from Philadelphia three to my left.  The probable rec player two to his left.  Those were the chips I was going to go after.  Of course, those were likely the guys everybody was going to go after.  So 3betting them might only induce more action.  I decided I was going to have to play tighter even then I normally play.

After I'd cultivate my nit image to a degree then I might be able to pick and chose spots to isolate them.  The better players would likely give me a wider berth because of my tighter image.  I didn't care if those two would hold position on me.  I liked my chances out of position against them better then playing pots in position against Sorel or the young beast who was on his right that sliced through the table that day.  They also didn't press the fold button as much as they should so there would be chips to win when we'd play.

I played very cautiously.  Then I got into a big hand with the man from Philadelphia who I three bet pre to isolate.  The board read 5577A.  Based on the action I decided we were chopping the pot by playing the board.  I held KQ.  He bet the river and I put in a stiff raise thinking I could get a lot of hands to fold and I was basically freerolling.  To my surprise he did fold...  AJ faceup.  Wow.  It's nice to win a bluff when you don't even know you are making one.  Surprised he gave me credit for a 5 or a 7.

Later, we played a pot where again the board double paired 8877Q.  I checked the river and he bet.  The way this hand played out it didn't make sense.  Time for the old hero call with King high after a long think in the tank, I can't specifically remember why.  There was a physical tell and the hand as played didn't make sense.  He turned over J10.  That built my confidence and I think showed the table I wasn't afraid to mix it up and had pretty good hand reading skills.  Unfortunately, just as my hero call for my tournament life put my opponent on an exit trajectory this pot seemed to have the same effect on Philly,

Privately, I rooted for him to regroup.

In the meantime, I played three hands with Sorel that I can remember that I won.  I 3bet Aces once and based on the run out prepared myself to call off and possibly go broke if he got out of hand after he made a hefty bet on the turn.  That was one of the pressures you don't expect of the Main Event, knowing situation-ally that the hand could possibly be your last if the decision tree went a certain way.  He pumped the brakes on the river and I might have missed value but stuck with my strategy of playing as small pots as possible with him.  I also played Queens in position and he to folded to my river bet with some action in between.  Maybe I held AK for the other hand where he also folded to me on the turn or river.

I remember losing one hand to him.  I had disguised a rather strong hand just by calling his raise.  If it was another player I think I would have threebet.  Think, but not positive that it was KK (given how I run with that hand in the Rio let's go with it).  The board had an Ace and though his river bet felt big and bluffy, I laid down.  Afterward I got the feeling he had it when he stacked his chips.

The businessman from Philly would bust later and my source of chips went with him.  The guy two to his left started to open up and I changed my strategy to going after him a little more and occasionally applying pressure to the other players who had gotten short.

The Russian at one point opened under the gun about seven times in a row.  It folded to Sorel who pitched it in every time.  I never had a hand and around about the seventh time decided if Sorel wasn't going to check the stealing I probably shouldn't either and folded my strongest (but still marginal) holding.  The next orbit he failed to raise and I said to the Russian:
"You forgot something."
"What do you mean?"
"You didn't raise my big blind."
He smiled, "Well, if you aren't going to call it I'm going to keep raising it."
I smiled, "I haven't had a hand.  I just can't believe nobody else has either."
He nodded.  Then he didn't raise my big blind the rest of the night.

He played two very interesting big pots.  He called off for about 30k on a river into a guy that clearly had it.  Later the same guy made the same bet and the Russian picked up his Cranberry and Gray Goose and said, "I'm going to call, but since this might be my last drink in the Rio this year, let me enjoy it."  He guzzled half of it.  Then called off.  The other guy on a stone bluff just punted the 30k he won earlier into a pot of 15k for no good reason and the Russian cruised through the last level with a big stack.

Whoa.  Before I knew it, the day was over.  My mini goals complete.  Level one check.  Level two check.  Dinner break check.  Level four check.  Bagging up CHECK!!!.

Somehow, I parlayed my tight highly selective play into a day one bag up.  I had a lot of little ups and downs but finished really happy to be on the plus side of the starting stack.  Then I received the news I was the last surviving minion and it weighed heavily on me.  Despite wasting my mental energy at dinner responding to some negativity on the facebook page I had put most of it behind me.  I know Brigette, Seville, Michael and Michael had to run bad to bust on day one.

Part of me still considered it a tiny victory albeit a Pyrrhic one.  Definitely it was one I wanted to win in November, but I reminded myself one of my goals was accomplished.  Two years running last minion standing, not bad.  This one felt hollow, especially with the idea of no having any company going forward.

By the way, the last vacant seat when our table was filled by another kid who looked an internet wizard.  I don't recall him playing more than a couple of hands so he probably wasn't.  He must have lost a decent pot because he seemed short most of the day.  Late in the last level, after folding for ten hours basically,  Israelvilli, short stacked shoved over the kid's open.  He called but more short stacked he had less and was at risk.  Roland showed Ace rag.  He had King King. Five cards later he left the tournament.  Played all day to get it in good with King King.  King King.

Did he really just fold all day?  I thought to myself I'm glad I found a path to navigate that table. That kid clearly didn't.

While there I roomed with my good friend from college who came with a crew of his New York poker friends.  He traveled to Vegas with the intention of satelliting into the Main Event.  Just like ten years ago when I was playing a 1500 and he had the same plan.  He's two for two going to Vegas with nothing close to the buy-in he needed and winning his way into the tournament he wanted to play.  Wish I could do that.  His buddies also became a bit of my support system especially with my friends from NOLA playing on different start days.  A great group of guys.

My friend had to deal with Phil Laak on his starting table, and doubled through him and won some crucial pots against the Unabomber.  He also made day two as did two of his friends.  We celebrated a little.  The only time I let myself really have any fun in Vegas was that night with a day off looming.  I think there is a lot of stress of making it through day one.  You kind of expect it, but it's not easy.  Especially with my table draw.  Definitely more a sense of relief than on any other night.

That said when I went to bed, I had one clear thought.  That was one of the toughest tables I've ever played, but I found the path and chipped up.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Toughest Call I've ever made: WSOP Main Event 2015 part one.

I look at his bet, it sat ominously in the middle.  A pile of large denomination chips simply sitting on the felt. In any other situation, about as nonthreatening as a stalk of celery, but in this case they looked like the barrel of loaded gun pointed at my forehead.

If I called it would cost me every tournament chip I had.

The power of putting an opponent all in is obvious.  If he calls and he's wrong then he busts.  Here, I could bust the Main Event early on day two.

That would be a bit like tearing up a power ball ticket before the drawing.  If I fold... I counted my remaining stack for the fifth time...  I'd still have plenty of chips.

"Discretion is the better part of valor."  That's a quote I recall in these spots.  Sometimes the bravest thing you can do in poker is fold.  But...

The hand just didn't make sense.

I felt I should call.

Still, this wasn't a $365 or a $1500 buy-in where I can just go with my gut and deal with the consequences.  Even worse, the investors who put me in will know I called off with a hand that only beats bluffs.  Did they really put me in the Main Event to bust in this fashion?  On top of that, some of them weren't happy the day before when I was the only one from the group of five to advance.  Me busting in this fashion might put one investor, in particular, in an asylum.

I told the table I needed time and everybody, all deep stacked, told me to take all I needed.  I looked at the bettor.  He nonchalantly stared into space.  Perhaps, a bit too casually.  I feel tanking for a long time always give you some piece of information from your opponent, whether you receive it consciously or just feel it subconsciously.  Something clicked, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I felt he had to be bluffing.

Now my head AND my gut told me to call.

I wanted to throw in a chip to indicate I was calling for my stack... but...

It's the Main Event of the World Series of Poker the biggest tournament in the world.  You only get one chance a year... if you are lucky.  The entire hopes of the group of investors were on my shoulders.

I can't think about that, I told myself.  Okay I asked, would I call if I had slid every single dollar of the $10,000 buy-in to the cashier from my own wallet?  That's a lot of dollars.  Would I wager $10,000 of my own money on a bluff catcher?

I studied him some more.  The answer was yes, I would put 10k of my own money on this.  I knew I would call.  Then I asked myself would I be fine getting on the plane if I was wrong.  Could I deal with the all the anger that call might bring if my head and gut were wrong.  Could I handle letting down Will Souther who organized the investment team and all the supportive and positive people who took a chance on me.  Would I regret the decision?

I felt strongly that calling was the right thing to do.

I knew this wasn't a time for discretion, this was a time for valor.

I pulled off a solitary chip from my stack and flung it into the middle.  It indicated I was calling.  My tournament life was a stake.  My heart went to my throat.  He didn't insta-show which I knew meant he probably didn't have the nuts unless he was cruelly slow-rolling me (a major breach of etiquette to not turn over a strong hand in that situation).  He turned and looked at me.  Uh oh, that felt like he might have something...  I could only beat a bluff.  Did I really just call of my stack early on day two with only a bluff catcher?  

His stare lingered.  It wasn't fear that his hand wasn't quite strong enough, no it was anger,  Finally I heard, "Nice call," he said it practically spitting through his teeth.  He flung in King Jack with the King of Spades face up.

Phew...  I just doubled.  By far the hardest call I've made in my life.  Not the best call (10 high National Championship) but the hardest.

I turned over my hand triumphantly, and the table oohed and ahhed.  The Irish kid who I heard tell his neighbor earlier he had recently finished second in a Pokerstars Sunday Millions or something like that was especially generous in his praise.  I didn't really hear it, my head was buzzing and it could have just as easily been Bono jibber-jabbering in brogue in the background.  All I could focus on was I had chips on Day Two, so many it was difficult to stack.  Wow...  that was hard.

I thought back to the investors, especially the ones who had the players backs on Day One after the one went ballistic on the facebook group page.  If some of them didn't stand up for us, I don't know if I could make that call.  Some of them understood poker is a game of partial information and you have to used your skill to make the best decision possible.  It's not always the right one, but it's the best one most of the time.

The single most important hand of the Main Event for me and I made the right decision.


For the poker players, here's the nitty-gritty...  Let's preface it with the one hand history I had with this player.  (Incidentally, he went on a freefall after losing that hand and busted a level later.  When he did the players at the table sang his praises as a high stakes cash pro from L.A. and said he was playing really well until I ran him down.  He had a Sammy Farha vibe to him (was not Sammy

When I moved to the table, my stack had taken some lumps.  I entered day two with a decent stack but quickly lost momentum and chipped downwards after some run bad.  I felt the closest I had come to tilting during my entire run.  I switched tables immediately after getting five outed in a pot, I could have played a little smaller, and I lamented the lost chunk as chips were becoming more precious.

I sat down in the small blind and looked at Qd7d.  It folded to me rather quickly.  I like to raise my first hand at a new table.  I feel you get a little suspicious respect as players would rather only come at you with the top of their range until they have a better idea about how you play.  That said, I don't like to bluff too much out of the small blind.  I'll be out of position and when it's folded to you the big blind is giving you a much wider range.

I hadn't even stacked my chips and blinds were 300-600.  Go with the steal attempt, the tilt part of my mostly nit brain told me.  I picked up a 1k chip with then intention of making it 1300 and as I do I see the big blind, my future nemesis had a giant stack.  I hesitated.  I intended on calling a raise but why bloat the pot.  I'd limp and call, rather than bet and then have to call.  The 1k chip dropped to the table and I said nothing.

The player turned to me and asked if I meant to bet,  Well, I did mean too, before I saw his stack.   I wasn't about to say no as it roughly translated to "I'm weak here please raise me."  So, I just nodded nonchalantly.  He stared at me.  Though I didn't ask for it or suggest it was a raise or claim it should be, the dealer called the floor.  We all knew one chip was a call but I had dug myself into this spot and went through the process in a bit of gamesmanship as the floor obviously ruled it was a call.  The big blind studied me some more and he just checked.


Flop came out J7x (rainbow).  I checked.  He bet.  I called.  Turn a 10.  I checked.  He bet.  I called.   River a K.  Check.  Check.  He shows A6.  I flip over Queen Seven and he starts to seethe.  Probably I would have folded to his third barrel.  He's also mad he didn't raise with his Ace preflop especially with the way the whole thing went down.  I'm prepared for some action from him out of spite.

An orbit later I open my first hand from the hijack (Ad5d).  He immediately three bets me.  Something a little too fast about the action, I notice.  I also notice he still a little mad.  Folds back to me and I look at my Ace blocker and decide to go to the flop.  It comes out Qc4s3s.  I check.  He bets.  Ace high is good here sometimes.  I also have a gut shot and outs to the Ace if I'm not good.  I call with the intention of possibly trying to steal later and reassessing as the hand progressed.  Turn is Ah.  I check and he bets.  I call.  I decided I'm calling his value bet on the river now.  I hoped he didn't have AQ.  River is a third spade (eight or nine).  I check.

He gathers a massive stack and plops it into the center covering me.  I didn't expect that.

Okay, what does he have here.  The bet size smells suspicious.  It's bluffy.  Why would he do that?  I don't know much about him at that point but he has the baring of a competent or decent player.  He seems aggressive.

What's he putting me on?  Okay, say he puts me on top set (unlikely as most would four bet aces pre) he's getting max very value there if he rivered a flush.  That's really unlikely though.  Okay maybe second set (possibly I just call with Queens preflop) and thinks he can get me to call off my chips.  Hmm..  In that weird scenario a flush makes sense kind of.  He could also put me on AQ or KQ but wouldn't he be fearful of pushing me out of the pot.  He's not getting any value against those hands.  Maybe he thinks I'd call off with top two, but any other Ace or Queen I'd hold would fold.  He's losing a ton of  money.  Okay, Say, he thinks I have a set of 4s or 3s?  Really, would I play them like this?  No, wouldn't I protect my hand a little bit against the flush draw?  Same with my other hands.  It's hard for him to put me on a strong holding so the bet makes no sense.  It only makes sense if he's putting me on a weaker hand he wants to fold.

Okay,  So if he rivered a flush, this would be an incredibly bad bet.  Sometimes good players overshove the river to look weak and induce a call.  Does he know enough about me to think I might call.  I did just call two streets with Q7.  Maybe he's labeled me a call station.  That said, this is the Main Event, people aren't calling off unless they have a lot.  Again, a bad strategy for a good player.

Okay, this screams bluff.  He wants a lesser hand to fold and he's using the threat of extinction to push me off the hand.  What if he's turned a better hand into a bluff?   All he needs is any Ace besides Ace2 to beat me.  Ace4 and Ace3 are two pair hands.  The 3 and 4 also allow any other kicker to play.  Would he play an Ace this way?  No...  An Ace would have show down value.  Wouldn't he just check or maybe put out a value bet with say AK or AQ?

Would he play a set of Queens this way?  Most people don't check the river when they make their hand so maybe he's not scared of me having the flush, but still it's rather ham-fisted to simply shove a holding like that in that situation.  It might not be good but it's way to strong to simply bet out all the hands he'd get some value against.

This had to be a bluff and a bluff only  Finding the courage to call it, that was the issue.