Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life and Poker, running good and playing bad.

As poker players we learn to accept our fate somewhat.  We get it all in on the flop, see our opponents hands, and know what chance we have to win the pot.  In some ways, waiting for the next two cards to come is the most exciting part of poker.  It can also be the most agonizing, especially on the money bubble, or at the edge of a big money jump.  Do we need a miracle?  Do we have to worry about half the deck improving our opponent?  It's out of our hands.  The deck, or fate, is predetermined, nothing is going to change the order of the cards as they hit the table.  All we can do is wait.

To me, those moments, where the fate of my tournament life is out of my control is not only exhilarating but also  a teaching moment.  There are times in life, where there are things that are not in your control.  All you can do is wait.  What's done is done and what will be will be.  Nothing you can do in the meantime can change things.  When you become a parent, these times magnify in intensity, especially when it comes to your health or your child's health.

When pregnant with our third child we discovered a heart issue the doctors picked up on a sonogram and verified in subsequent tests.  In a quirk of nature sometimes this particular condition could heal itself as the child develops.  Sometimes they don't.  We had our son early so that if things didn't improve we could get him the medical attention he needed.  After birth all we could do was wait for the next two cards to come. What would the tests say.  Essentially it was a flip.   We prayed, our friends and family prayed for us, and we couldn't be happier.  Maybe prayer helped.  Maybe it didn't.  I know on a card table it can change the order of the deck, but maybe in life it can.  We won.  He's been healthy and vibrant ever since.    

Still, even if this most dramatic of life events, playing poker, on some level helped me control my emotions, when all we could do was wait.  Instead of a dealer revealing fate, a doctor would do some tests and show us the results.  On the flip side there's no exhiliration at all, only agony.  However, as a poker player that waiting, that moment before the reveal can be marginally more tolerable.  Half your stack is at risk, if you lose it, you lose it and you play with less chips.  If my son has a condition, regroup and deal with it, we are still in the game it's just a setback.

The last couple of months, I've had some similar scary personal events.  Again, fate is out of my hands.  Medical tests and results would reveal if my family would have to deal with some unfortunate things.  A couple of times they'd have scary consequences.  So far, we've gone ~two for two.

We aren't quite out of the woods on one but things look good for my son.  He's been sick on and off for a while, they did some tests and he had a sky high white blood cell count.  Google it and there is a very scary word that comes up for kids starts with a L.  Some follow up testing and a massive drop in the white cell count suggest that we are out of the woods on the really scary L word,  However, we still aren't quite clear on why he can't stay well but our big fears have been relieved.

The second one other was far less threatening than an on call doctor suggested to us.  In that case our daughter, already sick couldn't move her neck without crying.  The concern of course is meningitis and the on call doctor sent us to Children's hospital to get evaluated.  She essentially told me that regardless of the fact that our daughter lacked other important symptoms we had to go.

By the way, the doctor delivered this grim news in a condescending, you are a bad parent to even question this, kind of way.  Whoops.  Alright, this may be serious?

The irony is the doctor that looked her over five hours later when we finally got seen said in almost the exact same condescending tone that she didn't have meningitis, as though he questioned why we even brought her.  He delivered what was good news in a I couldn't be bothered kind of way as he told us she lacked the other symptoms (you know the ones I mentioned to the on call doctor) to worry about it.  Like we wasted his time.  Can't win with these guys.  Did he really think we wanted to spend five hours in a children's hospital waiting room, thinking our three year old might need a spinal tap and other painful prodding?  That's how we wanted to spend our Sunday night?   In some ways, poker is a metaphor, and tool for navigating life, and in some ways it falls short.  Sitting at children's hospital hearing screaming, crying children, and seeing sick kids doesn't have a parallel, especially when you have a little one on your lap who possible has to undergo a lot of pain.  

Now, we have one more flip to go.  If I had to pick two to go our way and one not to, I'd pick the first two.  The good news is, this is probably the least likely to be scary for us, so we are going into this one as a big favorite.  There's a small chance it could be bad, but we are running good this month.

Now, enough of the vaguaries of my family's health.  Just needed to get that off my chest a little bit, and I know I've hinted to some friends about these things so there's the update.    

Now, to the MSPT in Baton Rouge.  That was a bit of a roller coaster personally.

Won some satties playing great.  At one point in the span of an orbit I made a killer call with just a pair of twos, and then later I open folded kings.  Jacks bet, Aces raised and I got a stone cold read of massive strength.  Not queens strength, probably not the other two kings strength but aces.  I peeled my cards back in a way that I hoped the dealer would see what I was doing.  Then I mucked.  Flop came qq9.  Jacks checked.  Aces bet.  Jacks folded and Aces showed his hand.  That was sweet.

Then I played a mega on Friday trying to earn another Main Event ticket.  Two from the money, I misread a hand.  Literally thought I had Q9.  In battle of the blinds.  I got it in on the turn on an AQ10...Q board.  My opponent called and showed QJ... Coolered.  I then turned over 9... 8.  Wow.  Plenty of chances to get away from the hand had I read it right.  Think all those drives back and forth to Baton Rouge caught up to me.

I considered not playing Friday and just coming back Saturday.  Haven't made a mistake like that in a long time.  The early restart on Sunday made me reconsider it, and I played Flight A friday night.

That started off poorly, when in the big blind, I literally misread my very first hand and thought I flopped two pair.  This time I checked before the turn, and saw I just had top pair no kicker.  Luckily I scooped the pot when my kings were better than the pocket queens of David Weinstein.  Instead of steadying me again, I think it kind of tilted me.

A steady diet of getting pipped by kickers of flopping pair and flush or combo draws in the blinds but not getting there quickly had me at almost half my starting stack.  Then I played a hand as badly as I ever did.  I thought I had been playing way too passively with my hands and decided I was going to ramp up the aggression.  One of my favorite disguised hands to play is low suited connectors because I think I don't go nuts when I hit the flush and can get away from it when beat, or get paid when not. Also, my image was fairly tight, I had people concede the blinds to me when I raised AA and KK earlier (yeah, that didn't help my tilt either) and I showed.  So, if I hit them I knew I might get paid.

I got called by four or five players and promptly flopped a flush.  I c-bet and got called.  Board KQx.  Not putting the caller on AK (felt he was the type to reraise pre especially with his big stack).  Maybe AQ or KQ.  Thought he might push back with bottom set.  Possibly he had a bigger baby flush or even nut flush.  On turn, another queen fell and I bet.  He raised.  Here he has a full house or maybe a semi-bluff with just the A high draw.  I was pretty sure he had exactly KQ.  Still I hoped he had the far less likely hand I could beat and called.

 Remember when I said I was normally good about not going crazy with a baby flush.  Yeah, at this point I find the fold button, not on this day.  Then when I called, before the river even fell I was mad at myself for calling.  On the river, I was kind of trapped.  I knew if he had A high draw I could only get paid by checking and calling his bluff.  If he had me beat I was going to pay him off.  When I checked, I got a strong read of strength on his shove, and even though I had put most of my chips in the pot, I could have found a fold even then.  No, titled Bill just called off.

Ugh.

Hard to believe I can play hands so well a couple of days before and then play so badly a couple of days later.  Despite being tired there's no excuse for it.  Pretty grim to have to show that hand on a table full of players that I respect and then take my walk of shame.

Oh well, on to the next one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Post Main Event

Hard to believe I haven't posted since the Main Event.

Wanted to talk about my bust out hand, a couple of audacious bluffs I pulled off, some giant folds and the thrill of heading into to day 3 with a shot at making a run, with most of the field already out of it.  Except...  I'm not going to right now.  I will though I promise.

Currently, I'm working on a couple of writing projects, so blogging has been kind of a dreaded activity.  I find I can only do so much writing without feeling burnt.  The blog (and the website) has suffered as a result, and to some degree poker is also on the back burner.

Still, I've been following it and popping up for some tournaments locally here and there.

I was excited that my partner in crime at GCP Gene D had another deep run at the IP.  He got no love from WSOP.com despite being a past Casino Champion there.  The storyline they went with, a good one no doubt in his tournament write up, was Austin Buchanan aka SkinnyDonk trying to get his ring.  He's cashed 26 times or so and no jewelry.  Equally significant to us locals was Gene's quest for gold.  Everybody has to give him credit for his perfomance, he nursed a short stack into the money, onto the final table and was probably just one double up from a possible top two finish before bowing out fourth.

I also enjoyed Tai Cao's deep run, I think also fourth, in another event.  Got to know Tai a little bit since meeting him in Las Vegas during the world series.  I also shared a final table with him after I taught the WSOP Academy in a nightly.  Real laid back guy who will probably win a ring sooner rather than later.  

As for me, I've made a lot of deep runs recently with nothing to show for it.  That's the frustrating part of tournament poker, I guess.  Feel like a pot or a hand away every time.  Even the weeklies I play in, I can't escape some gruesome hand and get busted.  The current trend is somebody calling off most of their chips with QJ and getting there.  Twice in my last tournament.  Maybe that's my nemesis hand.

Did have one weird hand history.  During an Aces cracked promotion at Harrahs, I somehow lost the minimum with them against pocket kings.  He flopped a set and boated up on the river. I thought the board pairing the low card might have been good for me because when he raised me on the turn I thought he had at least two pair.  So, I lose the pot and they go off to get me my hundred dollars in chips .

The dealer didn't ask if they were in play, and right before I looked at my hand I thought about saying something.  She was attending to something so I said to myself no big deal I'll wait a hand before mentioning it.  Then I spied Queens.  Lol.  Long story short I get my reduced stack in preflop against Morgan B who has Kings.  Not good.  I make a set on the river and double up just as they drop my $100 chip on the table.  I told her the only good news in that suckout was that I didn't have the extra $100 in play.  Though, as I drove home I thought about it, I might have found the fold against her had I had more money.   She plays fairly conservative.  I don't know.   Anyway, more to come soon,

Monday, July 07, 2014

Main Event Today

First off big thanks to all the investors who made this possibly.  I'm really focused and honed in on playing as optimally as I can and will take extra care in every decision I make today.  That said, I'm not going to be tentative if I think the correct play is to be bold I will be.

Also, a giant thank you to Monkey.  I sent Monkey a text earlier in the week expressing my gratitude and he replied he didn't really do anything.  I told him he was being humble, and I respect that, but without him Josh, BJ, Kai and myself aren't an hour away from the Main Event today.  Then as the week drew to a close I know that he scrambled to make everything happen and took himself away from his family to insure we all got bought in and everything was taken care.  So thank you also to Squirrel for letting us borrow Monkey to make this happen.

Regardless, with all that effort he can no longer credibly feign a diminished role in this.  He made this happen, even when bank holidays and uncooperative bank managers tied his hands. He made the trip for a clandestine 40k hand-offs in the middle of the night and persevered despite hiccups throughout the process. Speaking for the players we are all very appreciative and think this is a really cool idea that he made into a reality.

Really if I think about it, and having experience organizing satellites just to get one or two players in the Main Event, he made this happen, in almost no time.  He raised the money, steered the selection of the players, got us bought in a day in advance, and has created a sweat for a ton of supportive people.  This was done almost seamlessly despite all the obstacles, all in a fashion that almost made my head spin.  A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about who I'd be supporting from afar this year, and trying to decided if I'd be buying little pieces of people and of who.  Then a week or so ago this started to really get put together, and I must admit I had my reservations and even had my doubts about the feasibility of pulling it off.  Then I got into it, and decided I really wanted it.  Thanks to the help of a lot of voters, now, I'm here with a fighting shot in a tournament structure and field that I think plays to my strengths.  So huge thanks Monkey!

Back to the investors, many I know, many I don't (and I am one too), a huge thank you from all of us.  We appreciate your belief and your confidence in us, and we want to make ya'll money this week.  I think the other three players are really quality choices and we'll all have a great shot to weather the perils of tournament poker in this format.  I hope maybe we can get at least a deep run or two out of the four us.  I like our chances.  I'm stoked about today.

Also, a big thank you to my normal group of investors, many who asked about me playing the Main this year earlier in the summer.  For your continued support, I decided that I'll be giving you a freeroll.  Once the payouts and field is all settled I'll pick a pay jump into it where I'll set aside a part of my share.  Then based on how much you've invested in the past and how often you've invested you'll be assigned a percentage of that.  May not be much, but let's hope it's a lot.  However, I don't want to start divvying up something I haven't won yet.  Let's make it to the money and then I'll figure it out.    

And last but most importantly to me, thanks to my wife and my/her family who helped make this a reality too.  Jess, I'm sorry to be gone during a week of the summer we had made a lot of plans but this is an opportunity too good to pass up as you know.  Thank you for being supportive and for your pictures that will be forthcoming of our little ones that always reinforce my strength and focus in tournaments.  Thanks to your family for helping out with the kids this week.  Very much appreciated.  Also, Mom/Dad as always thanks for your support.

Anyway, I'm going to take some time get into the zone.  Then I'm going to go down and fight as hard as I can in a little bit.  Thanks for the opportunity.  I'm going to make the best of it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

World Cup, Poker, Monkey's Minions Millions...

As for Poker, continue to run pretty good since I've been back.  As I've mentioned, I've won two tournaments at Harrahs, then placed fourth, and then stone bubbled day 2 at the Beau Rivage 50k guarantee and stone bubbled a small tournament at LaBerge.   Besides a couple of painful interactions with Moe Moeini at the Beau (and I mean that as a compliment to him), I've been happy with how well I've been generating chips without hands.  I think teaching at the last couple of WSOP Academys in New Orleans was just as helpful to my game as it was to the students there.


I've gotten so much out of doing those hand labs I will gladly do them every time I get the chance.  I have a great respect for the WSOP Academy and the success of its students.  One of the biggest things I've learned through teaching is to pull the trigger in spots were I might just be a little too cautious previously.  As I told the students, and really reinforced with myself, its far better to make mistakes, in my opinion, by being too aggressive instead of being too passive.  Now, when I find a marginal spot where I think I could get something through instead of being cautious I pull the trigger.  It's amazing how many chips are just there to be taken, and how important it is to jump all over weakness when you sense it.  And the more experience you get the more you recognize it.

Also pokerwise, Monkey has selected me to be one of the finalists for his package to the Main Event.  I'm honored and think highly of the other names he's mentioned, I'm in pretty good company.  I will probably buy shares regardless if I'm selected or not.  As they say it's good just to be nominated.  I do feel I'd do great in a deep stack event at the WSOP against bad players.  Really, I'm chomping at the bit to have a chance to play a WSOP main event against the massive field where one unlucky hand won't cripple me and I can be even more selective in attacking spots.

Generally, the few WSOP-C/1k regional main events I've played I've gone deep in the tournaments and have a lot of day twos to my name.  This structure is even better and I'm well suited for it.  I think I play really well against bad players.  I don't know if I'd be the best candidate if was an elite field (though I'm not scared of anybody), but as the Main Event plays I love my chances to cash and to go deep.  No offense to some of the skilled players I play with in the weeklies where I grind results regularly, but the rest of the field in those are pretty exploitable, thankfully allowing me to beat the high rakes and turn profits.  They are also a great proving ground for learning how to best bad players.

To be honest the terms of Monkey's deal with just 35%  to the player is a bit low and almost prohibitive to doing it.  I've talked to people in general about the idea and they suggest with travel and expenses it could add up.  Also, it's a far lower price than I normally sell myself at.  But then again it's a chance to play in a WSOP Main Event....  I made a pledge to myself a couple year ago to try every new opportunity (within reason) that's presented to me.  It's led to a lot of fun and profitable experiences, and because of that pledge I think ultimately if I was selected, I'd do it.  By the way, I think this a great concept and I applaud Monkey for coming up with it.

And to be clear, I'm not whining about the 35%, because it is what is, I get it.  Monkey's giving two or three players a shot a Main Event seat mining his list of backers and stakers.  He wants to give his guys a great price and they are taking on players that don't have a personal relationship with or any loyalty to... this sounds reasonable on both fronts.   Similarly, I have a crew of great people who have invested in me in the past, many repeatedly, and I would want to give them freebie pieces of myself as gratitude should I play a Main Event.  If I satellited my own way in a non package event that's mandatory and always in the back of my head.  With the 35% I don't have a ton of room, but I would do something if selected.  The freebies might not kick in until a certain pay jump or something just so I could recoup my travel costs and then split up the profit on my end.  Nonetheless, I'd offer my previous investors some sort of freeroll (so I guess I wouldn't even be getting the full 35%).

Anyway, these are all great problems to have and I hope to have, as I'm sure all the candidates would.  Read Monkey's blog for more details...

On to soccer...

So, the U.S.A. advanced out of their group.  They did something no other team that played their first or second game in the sauna/hotbox/rainforest "city" Manuas did and that was advance.  The only team to win their next game after Manuas, thankfully was Portugal which beat Ghana to our benefit.  Everybody else lost their follow up game and in the games I watched all their announcers talked about them looking tired at the end.   Consider our opponents Germany also had an extra day of rest I was worried we'd get slaughtered.  We didn't get much of the ball but the 1-0 loss is fine.  We looked gassed and I'm glad we were still somewhat in it.  Sure I'd rather a win, or a draw (though it'd be meaningless), but we qualified and in tournaments sometimes that's enough.

Up next is Belgium, a team that dismantled us in a friendly within the last year I think 5-1 or 4-0. Whatever it was it was gross.  They have a ton of young talent that the smaller European countries seem to take turns in getting every 20 or 30 years.  They call them Golden Generations and for the most part these veins of talent tend to disappoint on the World Cup stage.  Somehow the bigger "soccer" countries which just reload, Germany, Italy, Holland, and to a lesser or perhaps, newer, extent France and Spain go the deepest.  But Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Czech Republic, Denmark, and now Belgium all take turns being special for a few years.  If you rank the 16 remaining teams they are probably in the top half (considering they are a 1 and us a 2 that's fair, though we are probably real close to top 8 as well.).

So, it'll be an upset if we win, but we are certainly good enough to pull it off.  I think it'll be a lot closer to the Portugal game than the German game, and with some extra rest we'll look good.  I doubt Jozy Altidore will be back or really able to contribute anything more than ten minutes.

On the whole I'm happy with the world cup, and it becoming a bit of a cultural touchstone.  So strange considering I used to watch the USA play qualifiers in front of empty seats in places like Hershey, Pennsylvania against opponents like El Salvador (and be an underdog).  Now it's so popular it's getting push back as being too trendy.  It's a weird world we live in.  Soccer fans are a defensive bunch, and I try not to be one, but to give some perspective for twenty years this sport was played in the shadows, even when it was on ESPN it was the one sport the commentators openly mocked when covering it, so we've developed a little bit of a thin skin.  The irony is now they mock soccer fans for being too defensive as though we didn't go through years of low hanging fruit abuse.  In sports coverage, taking shots at soccer has always been the old reliable and unoriginal cheap shot.  Now it's mocking soccer fans.  Too hipster, too thin-skinned, too fadish,  too whatever.  Thankfully, most of the dinosaurs that really roasted the game have gone extinct (with the exception of that idiot Dan Shaunessy), and even the people that hate soccer (hey, I get it, some things aren't for everybody) at least respect it a little more or kind of "get" the world cup even if they are bored by the game.

That's said as Americans our last few international competitions (mens and women) have been like soccer on heroin.  Late goals, crazy results and twists of fortune that happen in injury time are what makes this game exhilarating... but reality is more times then not you get games like Germany-USA today.  Hopefully, some people trying out the game will stick around and build this national soccer culture.  Every couple of years we'll have a major soccer tournament in the summer to watch, it's better when it resonates.  

I've seen the trolling by Ann Coulter and Keith Olbermann too.  Funny, those two opposites can agree on one thing that's bad for the country... soccer.  Olbermann's main beef is it's confusing obtuse qualifications to the knock out stage.  He's a baseball guy it must be so hard for him to get you can advance in a tournament despite a loss.  Not like the college world series doesn't employ an equally obtuse double elimination tournament which sometimes becomes a series between two teams and then becomes a new double elimination tournament where the previous eliminations don't count.  Or the pro teams don't play series and you can lose as many as three games to one opponent and still win.  Yeah... it's different but it's not that hard to get.  Or somehow bad for rewarding teams that don't win all their games.

Olbermann also is tired of the chorus of soccer proponents saying "Soccer is coming.  Soccer is here."  The irony is soccer proponents like myself don't say that.  It's the rest of the mainstream media that says that or make some sort of prediction based on temporary popularity but when guys like Keith direct their mockery at the sport, they attack the fanbase (who as mentioned are long marginalized and mocked) as though it's them that are making these predictions.  Well, many of them take the bait every time and stupid inconsequential soccer debates ensue.  I could care less if people like the sport.  It's grown to the point I can watch it any time I want and that's enough for me.  If you want to join in on the fun.  Good for you.  If you don't I get it.  I turn the channel when pro baseball comes on and several other sports that make my eyes glaze over.  Oddly, unlike soccer haters I don't go out of my way to mock those sports and nor do I fault people who enjoy watching them.  It's not for me.

As for Coulter's race baiting and insulting of immigrants and deciding to use soccer as a frame to spew her hate through.  Yawn.  Another pundit who sold out and now just says things merely to shock and get the spotlight on herself for as long as she possibly can.  She's the Skip Bayless of politics.  I've no use for her. Regardless, Coulter and Olbermann have one thing in common besides soccer, those wet noodles don't like change of any sort.  I'm sure when boxing writers or horse racing scribes saw their sports dying they lamented the new sports like baseball or football as awful.  Things change pretty quickly and upon a time Cycling was the most popular sport in our country, and I know this is a shocker for a small window at the dawn of the depression.... soccer also held that role.  It's a little historical footnote sports journalists have buried.  Google it, even if you don't like soccer it's quite interesting footnote in history to see how and why the future NFL survived the Depression and though soccer, which in some places was outdrawing it at the time, did not.  Whoever the Ann Coulter and Keith Olberman and Dan O'Shaugnessy of their times were had to be equally whiny as their sports (soccer, cycling, and horse racing) faded into irrelevancy.

Anyway, rant over... go USA.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

All Around the Place

I sent out the final update via email to my investors.  Went deep in a deep stack for lint, and just missed a final table in an outside the Rio tournament.  I traded well again, as I had a piece of the dude that chopped/won that tournament and had a tiny sliver of a guy that finished ~21st in the Millionaire Maker.

Tough run in Vegas, considering every package event, I lost my first big all-in hand (one time I had my opponent slightly covered) as a big favorite.  While that in itself is not uncommon to lose as a big favorite, it's pretty unlikely for those hands to essentially happen consecutively every single FIRST time.  Literally, I couldn't get anything going in any event despite getting it in great (Sets, overpairs etc. etc. etc).

Just like last year, I came back to New Orleans and played in a weekly.  I mauled it.  Couldn't miss in a 5 hour turbo with the kind of card run I couldn't get over the course of a week in Vegas.  Poker can be cruel.  It's the only game where you can be winning a tournament wondering why all your hands are holding and you are fading everything, and be pissed about winning money.  Yeah.  Ridiculous.  Just give me a taste of that in one of those bigger events where I could have a chip stack and some momentum.  Alright enough
bitching.  It's on to World Cup time...

Soccer:

I think the sport is really catching hold stateside.  The metrics are surprising to anybody over 30, google some studies it if you think it's just a passing fancy and nobody cares about it.  In some ways, it's already HUGE, though the media and advertisers are somewhat unaware of how big it is among kids (I'm not talking participation I'm talking support of teams and players).  Even haters have enjoyed the World Cup so far.

They say our country only has one major club team that elicits the same type of emotional investment that Europeans feel for their local clubs.  That's our national team.  Just the difference from four years in social media and the youtube videos of those massive congregations of people watching all over the country confirm the Men's National Team is getting a foothold in our national psyche.  Late winning goals are rare in soccer, and holding onto a thin lead, or scrapping to get that one goal, can make even a drab scoreline an electric game.  In a way, US fans have been spoiled with Donovan's heroics four years ago and Brooks' stunning header yesterday.  Still, they know now why a 1-0 game can be thrilling and edge of your seat stuff.
I keep reading accounts how one game captivated an American sports fan and changed him into a US fan (despite "hating" soccer) and you got to feel we added thousands of new converts yesterday.  That said our media, who I mentioned are behind the curve on this, just keep popping out bad articles by "journalists," and I'm referring to real journalists not just bloggers, just filled with errors.  Even worse are their strange opinions that reflect having a little bit of knowledge and trying to make broad statement or assumptions that only show how ignorant they are in the grand scheme.  One "reporter" said we should have lost the game 7-2 if there was any fairness in soccer.  Pretty naiive about the fact even great teams sometimes have to "park the bus" in front of the goal to hold onto a lead.  Such a massive difference tactically with soccer yet they only compare it to what they know baseball or basketball or football.

As for the U.S.  Klinsman was one of my favorite players growing up.  As a kid I lived in Germany and he's in my top three German players I rooted for all time.  I also went to an English school and supported Liverpool football club.  So every world cup I have three or more (depending on if other teams rely on Liverpool's players) passionate interests.  The USA is finally relevant so of course they are number 1.  I couldn't have been happier with them hiring a guy I have great respect for...

That said, he left Landon Donovan at home.  I'll never understand that decision unless Landon was somehow some sort of closeted cancer to the locker room.   Last night was a prime reason why you needed him on the bench.  The U.S. essentially collapsed when Altidore pulled up lame and things got worse when the kid with a ton of potential Aron Johansson came on the field.

Had Landon, skills diminished or not (and that's arguable in some ways), come in, I think the game is far more balanced and we would have created a ton more chances.  He's also great on the counter and instead of attacks stifling or whimpering out, he could have helped maintain some composure and possession.  Whether or not you agree with me, and many don't, his leadership was missing at the very least at times we were rudderless.

Another critique is Klinsmann has preached we are going to be the fittest team in the world.  There is such a thing as overtraining, and as U.S. player after U.S. player started going limp, I thought back to my high school soccer days.  We had a coach who put us through three-a-days in the hot August sun for two weeks before school.

He preached that kind of excessive training was going to give us that extra bit of juice to in the 90th minute and help us win the state title.  When 1/3 of our team started picking up injuries, hamstring pulls, and breaking down, I'd often wonder how we were getting in shape if we were watching from the sidelines.  In theory having a team of marathon runners would be an advantage but lots of people get hurt trying to become a marathoner in too short a time.  I hope Klinsmann didn't overtrain us.  We have to go the rainforest of Manus and after watching the England-Italy game there, I'm very worried about us leaving there needing points against Germany.

The turnaround between game 2 and 3 is much shorter than 1 and 2 and we already seem spent.  Us and Portugal going there is a huge advantage for Ghana and Germany.  We really got the shaft with that one.

Alright, probably more poker and less soccer next time.  Probably.  I do have world cup fever so no guaranteess.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Headaches Real and Imagined... and thankfully some Asprin

First some good news, which we'll explore later, but Package buyers we have 1% of a player still alive in the Millionaire Maker.  Also, I cashed 84th out of 1500+ people for some pocket lint in a deep stack yesterday.  I didn't get grossly unlucky and I feel the tide has turned a little bit.  I'm excited for the Deep Stack tournament at the Venetian.  Now the bad news.

Since, I've landed I've dealt with a fairly painful and consistent headache that fluctuates in its intensity from awful to annoying and also bouts of nausea.  At times, I've felt unsteady and on some of my down time, I've literally been in a darkened room, trying to avoid light and lying down.  It's bit like taking medicine on an empty stomach or drinking too much caffeine.  That feeling can be worse than the headache.  It sucks.

At times, on this trip, I've thought about not playing but I think making an honest assessment of myself, I've been playing really well, just been unlucky in some critical spots.  In fact, in some ways, the jitteriness has caused me to be a little more disciplined at the table--and surprisingly enough, once I'm there it's kind of like the pain and jitteriness is suppressed, I'm too focused to notice.  I thought it would be the opposite but it's not.

Why the headache?  I'm not sure.  Before I left my son kicked me by accident on the temple.  He backed kicked wildly and just connected in the right spot.  I reeled and I had a headache for about two days.  Then on my flight in I was hunched over my tray top table reading a book and the heavy guy in front of me hit the lean back button, without the resistance his seat dropped back and cranked my skull like a piledriver.  Both times I had a mini-black out.

My history with concussions is a lengthy one.  In fact, I've been watching all this NFL stuff with a really weary eye to my future.  I hope I don't have to deal with any of the crap those guys do.  MOST of my trauma was before I was 21 and I hope that will help.  As a kid I was a bit of a Troy Aikman/Eric Lindros type.  I don't know how many concussions I've had but I know its' a lot.  Some of them include getting hit on the back of the head with a metal baseball bat (had to see a neurologist had bouts of losing the lower half of my field of vision with that one), getting dropped on my head on a stone church floor (thanks big brother), taking a charge in junior high basketball and cracking my head on the court, getting knocked out in a head on car accident with a light pole and countless other spots.  Considering me and my brother used to box each other "for fun" with gloves we got growing up (he's currently 6'7+ and has always been a giant to me) and many times he'd land a haymaker and I'd see stars.  I feel like I've been lucky, to not be too effected by this up to now.

Nonetheless, nowadays even light contact with my head can give me a dull headache.

So, I suspect my pain is concussion related.  As stated, I don't think this has effected my play.  I talked to one of ya'll in the package and he said it could be a simple sinus infection caught on my travels and the dry air here screwing up my skull.  My kids have also been battling some cold/head congestion so it could be that too.  I haven't had fever so I don't know about being sick, but nor have I had uneven pupils or the really worrisome concussion symptomes that would demand immediate medical attention (according to google).

Regardless, I feel my head starting to clear a bit today.  I don't know if yesterday's slight good news had anything to do with it.

So, on to the poker.  I played the millionaire maker and having registered early I discovered I might have been on the toughest starting table in the enitre field.  With 7000+ in this, somehow when I sat down I looked at Noach Schwartzs, Randy Lew, a tough Euro who I've seen on a WPT final table, and old live pro who used to be on Poker After Dark (who was talking with actor James Woods during breaks).  The other guys had at least two players who's faces looked familiar to me, and I don't think it was from playing on the coast--so probably from TV too.  Talk about running bad.  We did have on
e spot on the table but he was on my immediate left.

Schwartz played spewy, as he admitted himself (trying to chip up or rebuy), but early on the real star was the Euro who was punishing everybody.  I thought he was super aggro but after the first break where he had already chipped up to 4x he tightened up like a nit.  Either he changed gears or ran super hot early.  I don't know.

What was interesting is Randy Lew opened too much and I 3bet him a few times, and Schwartz was calling a lot trying to smash flops and stack people.  He just pissed away chips for the most part.  After I lost a couple of pots, I couldn't find a hand for a while.  Then my image of being tight probably got folds.  Again, back to the headache, and probably being on the worst table in the RIO, I felt I really picked my hands well and chipped up slowly just picking on weakness.  After the second break I really felt comfortable and thought they were buying the story I like to sell.  Ubernit.  Then I scooped a number of pots with 3bets.

When I settled in I realized if I'm going to win a million dollars I got to beat these guys sooner or later so why not sooner.

One hand I struggled with was when I looked at the beautiful AA in the small blind.  Schwartz had allowed his stack to get down to a little over 1k-ish.  A tight player opend UTG for a min raise (blinds 75-150).  Schwartz called.  In retrospect, I think I should have flatted, but I three bet (and I probably bet too big).  My thought was tight guy UTG range is pretty narrow near the top of his range, so he's probably going to give me action.  If not Schwartz had just committed 15% of his stack on the call.  I think he might be looking to get it in.

Instead both fold.  What probably I should have done was call or min-raised to induce.  Then check the flop, hope UTG checks and let Schwartz shove into weakness and call any board.

So, despite being a nit, now I've three bet a few times, and players I sense are readjusting their assessment of me.  A rotation earlier Lew opened in early position, the fairly disciplined Asian kid to my right called, and I looked at 6c4c.  I felt I could steal here, so put in the three bet and scooped the pot, but the Asian kid didn't like folding.  That's when I noticed my credibility was on thin ice bit, so time to dial it back.  Trending upward and feeling comfortable at the table, things started to feel good, had plenty of chips and all day play.

Then Lew opens again.  The Asian kid calls again, and I peel back QQ on the button.    

This is perfect.   If I am right about the table about to adjust to me, Lew might shove his fairly short stack into me, or... the kid to my right might play back.  So, I make it a little bit bigger than normal threebet to make them think it looked fishy...

Lew didn't bite.  The kid took forever and counted out his chips.  He was not Hollywooding and I was 100% I was way in the lead.  He just called Lew's bet with either a middle pair or AQ or more likely AJ.  I know AK, KK, and AA are never in his range, so I was insta-calling if he decided to go nuts and shove.  That's just what he did.  SWEET!

I get it in with QQ he turns over JJ...  I couldn't be happier with the way that played out.

Preflop we win 80% of the time.  After the flop ran clean, giving him zero additional back door outs and we jumped up to over 90%.  Things are looking up
.
On the turn, I couldn't be unhappier as he made his set....

Gross.  In my head I processed all the beats I've taken where my opponents have gotten it in with way the worst of it and my hands just didn't hold.  Losing two sets to two flush draws and now overpair getting cracked, I was angry.  I really played so well, but just couldn't win the big showdown.  Ugh.

So, I thought about it and decided I'd adjust the package.  Rather then play the 1k on Sunday, I'd play flight B of the Millionaire Maker ($500 more).  Play for a million or a couple 100k, I think everybody bought into the idea of chasing a million.  Course that meant I'd have to pull $500 out of the package elsewhere.   I didn't think about it too much, the bad beats had to end lets jump back in.

Flight B, we traded 1% with one friend and 2% with another.  Then I looked at a glorious starting table that had nobody I recognized and based on their play really a table mostly of people over the head.  Wow.  Great decision I think.  I immediately chip up, and hope we won't break soon.  I'm just stealing pots with aggression and everybody looking not to go bust.  Well, everybody but one.  To this point I hadn't been playing any hands with the lady on my right.  That would change.

I finally find a hand after stealing with napkins.  One guy limps utg (so weak), the lady limps behind and I spy AsKs, yum.  I put out a big bet.  The button who is probably one of the two decent players at the table has had I think enough of my act, but just called.  The lady quickly calls too.

Flop is beautiful.  AQ4 rainbow.  She checks, I put out a big cbet.  Button doesn't like it but folds, she instacalls.  Turn is a K.  Now, I'm just trying to figure out how to get her stack in.  She checks and I put a bet out that I thought if she called she might have to call off on the river.

...She raises.

Now, here is a situation of playing with bad players in low buy-in tournaments should instantly make me realize I've stepped in it.  This is why I think I'm such a favorite in these massive fields here and a good investment.  If I had the bankroll I'd play every one of these donkaments every summer.  Getting check raised by a bad call station/weak player I have a rule I should have minimum top two and most of the times that's not good.  Still, I was in the mindset maybe from my previous flight of people have wider ranges.  Easily one of those guys could have floated me on the flop and be making a move on the turn, thinking I'm full of it, just because I've been way too active.  Here I don't know.

I think it through... Set of fours.  No, she limped called she has to have more than fours right?  The board isn't a flush draw and most amateurs don't protect from weird braodway draws, so she wouldn't raise a set of fours on the turn would she?  Think she would wait to river or just have done it on flop.  Think we can rule that out.  Well, she must have hit her King.  This is where her hand got good.  Jack 10?  No, she can't be that bad to call Jack 10 pre and then post flop with only for a gut shot.  No way I hit my king for two pair and that makes her a straight.  Okay, she's got have two pair then, because she doesn't have a set of Aces, Kings, or Queens.  AQ?  KQ?  Hmmm.  AK also?  Her stack is such that I have to push if I'm continuing with the hand.

I push she insta-calls.  Jack 10.  WTF?

A guy, one of the two guys I thought who could play, says, I knew she had Jack 10 when she raised.  So now, I'm short.  Though PLENTY of time.  I saw Schwartz and Randy Lew milk their short stacks forever in flight A, I know how to play a short stack, I'm good I tell mysel.  But really, I wasn't I think I finally hit tilt.  This lady's gutshot was like a gunshot.  Enough with the bad beats.

In retrospect, the guy was right.  She has Jack 10 and only Jack 10 there.  I gave her too much credit and I know better because I play bad players all the time.  I know it sounds crazy but I think AK is a fold on the turn, or a call/fold when I miss the river.  I can make that fold, it's not easy, but it's totally doable.  And I didn't do it.  This time I put the money in when I was behind.  No miracle suckout for me though.

Later, in the big blind they let me see a flop where I make a pair, and turn a flush draw.  She checks to me on the turn and I bet 250, but only had an oversized chip and a pile of greens.  So, I announce 250 and put in the yellow 1k chip.  Then as she stews she watches me put up two green chips ($25) to make it easier for the dealer to make change.  Then she puts out the exact same chips 1 yellow and two greens.  Then she says she wants to call.  The players correctly inform her it's a raise.  What a shit storm.  I call.

River completes three spades, I was on a club draw.  She puts me in.  At this point, I can't fold.  I call.  She rivered the flush with J10 again.  Awesome.  If she just called the 250 on the turn I could still fold the river, and have a glimmer of hope.  I left steaming angry.  This lady also angle shot/or dumbly didn't post her blind and got away with it... which I've never seen before.  Mostly dealer error but I obviously was not a fan.

... So.  The millionaire maker was a bust.  I think I regret playing that second flight or maybe not taking a longer break in between.

I left the Rio poker room and went to my room and dealt with my headache.  Decided, I take the next morning off and then play the $235.  Had I not altered my package it would be the last $235 I was offering.  However, I'm out $500 so if I took the $235 out, I'd be out $265 and the package would have that as extra... sounds fair.  Course, I didn't notify anybody.

Therefore, that $235 is in the package and the extra $500 is on me.

I sit down in that 235 after a morning of reflection and decide to just keep putting it in good, and persevere.  Poker has bad streaks and for some reason Vegas has been bad to me.  It'll change.

We sit down, and I get AK.  I raise the limpers and get two callers.  I connect with a King.  I bet the flop and then the turn.  The board is Kq10x The river puts four spades on the board with another 10 and I don't have one.     They check to me, and I check behind.  First guy has KJ no spade.  The second guy?  Pocket f'ing 3s with a three of spades.  WTF?  How does he call pre, post and the turn.  Somehow I don't go into full blown monkey tilt.  I remind myself I want him to play hands and I think the morning off did me a lot of good.  Speaking to my kids, and my wife, I was reenergized.  If I was going to get sucked out again I could handle it.

Then, I see an update from my buddy and he's in the MONEY in the millionaire maker.  What?  Sweet.  Our first package cash of the summer.  Something positive from this trip.  7000 players are down to 700.  He's gone deep in one of these donkaments before so even though he was short we have hope.

Things started to change in the 235 deepstack.  I play well and chip back up for a while, and then blinds catch up to me (and everybody).  I get Ah8h and shove.  I get reshoved by a good Asian player, a guy who was berating the dealers for taking too long tanks forever, and shoves, and then a short stack in the big blind says "this is my chance to quadruple and puts his chips in."  They turn over KK, QQ, and Jh4h.  Both the K and Q of hearts exposed.  Unlike when I felt I'd lose with my sets, this time I knew I was going to win.  I was due.  Bam A in the window and clean all the way through.

We have 1500+ people in this event with 45k up top.  I pick my spots and despite the immensely talented WSOP ring winner and new bride
Natasha Barbour sitting down immediately on my left and quickly chipping up, I navigate a tough table for the rest of the day.  A german player had a lot of chips and was playing brilliantly.  He knocked out Natasha to become a monster chip stack when she made a move.

He talked like Arnold Schwarznegger.  Once we were waiting for players to be added to the table.  He said let's do the color up now, sell your little chips to the big stack.  Somebody, said we had another level to do that.  Imagine Arnold saying, "NO! When we wait... WE WORK!"  The table complied.  I couldn't resist needling him about that German efficiency.  That will be a catchphrase in my head for a long time, having lived in Germany I can't think of something more German than that mantra.

On the bubble, I desperately wanted to cash, even if it was for lint just to get some positive momentum going, I had to pull the trigger twice with AK.  The first time I double through the German, and the second time while on hand for hand, I had to shove on a new big stack in the Big Blind.  He released and we made our first cash of this trip.

Meanwhile, my buddy kept surviving.

On a break I found him, and peaked in on him.  It's been two years, and I think the last two times he's seen me I've had a goatee.  Despite making eye contact from afar I don't think he recognizes me.  Lol. The day prior I saw another player, Matt "WhatDaHell"  Chang, in the line to register for Flight B, that I hadn't seen in two years and he totally big timed me and didn't recognize me at all.  Who knew a goatee would make such a big difference.  He was steaming from busting the morning session, like me, and rather then big time me he thought I was just some random.  He immediately tweeted about it, which I read and then we talked when the lines snaked us by each other again and he apologized.

That was my third awkward moment of the week.  First?  Seeing Corrie Wunstel and thinking he looked down.  I kind of playfully asked if he was feeling alright.  He said yes.  Later I discovered he just busted the 25k mixed max.  Yeah, I get mad about busting a 1k, don't know how I'd feel busting a 25k.

The second?  Seeing my friend Blake Barousse in the hallway.  I was excited to see him as I knew that day he'd be returning to the table third in chips out of 12 playing for his first bracelet and like ~360k up top in a 1k buy-in event.   I tell him Congrats, and before I could ask him he when he'd restart he told me he just busted.  What?

One of the first hands he lost a flip QQ to AK.  God.  11 away from a bracelet and plenty of chips.  Gutted for him.  I don't think there is anybody that knows Blake that doesn't like him.  Never heard a bad word said about him, so bummed one of the good guys didn't get it.

So, if our horse in the Millionaire Maker didn't recognize me from afar, I'm sure that will just set up some future awkward interaction in the coming days.

Anyway, back to my tournament, 170 made the money and gradually we whittled down to under 100.  After another break, I found an ace on the button unopened.  I shoved on a kid who I kept getting hands against and he stood up to me with 88.  I didn't improve and finished 84th.  $590.  We'll take it.  Really wanted to play for first, but sometimes you just need to get that first cash and get some momentum.  Nothing to sneeze about outlasting 1400 people.

I ran back to the main room to try see if my buddy was still alive and and caught the very end of Phil Hellmuth losing to Ted Forest for the bracelet heads up in Razz.  I took a picture of the hand that broke his heart and crippled Phil.  I looked for my boy but they had broke his table and I couldn't spot him anywhere.   Oh well.  At least yesterday was better than the days before it.

So, I went to bed.

When I woke up?  Good news.  We still have 1% of a guy that's still alive with under 180 left in the massive millionaire maker.  He snaps this off we chop up 13k.  Follow on WSOP.com... http://www.wsop.com/tournaments/chipcounts.asp?grid=1052&tid=13608 his name is Jeremy Halaska and he's from Ohio.  We met playing circuit events last year.  Great kid.  Great player.   He busts next we add ~$75 to the package.  Peanuts so far but it's a start.

Also, I have the $1100 tournament over at the Venetian tomorrow which should be massive.  They give us a deep stack and great structure so I'm looking forward to playing a tournament where it's not going to be shove/fold (like last night) until really late.   There is 300k guaranteed but I think they'll smash it.  I'll be playing something or other on my own dime today (already gave an extra small event to the package yesterday), so those with the bonuses have something to sweat.  Just to make it interesting for those not in the bonus, I'll give 1/4 per cent to whatever I play today.  Who knows maybe I'll snap something off.  

This week is definitely getting better.  Nothing like cashing and rooting for a friend to win a bracelet to be an aspirin for a bad headache.  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mistakes...

So I bricked another one of the small deep stack tournaments in my package.  I chipped up pretty quickly and despite playing at the best table I've played at so far managed to bulldoze my way to a chip stack with no cards.  I played pretty snug until I felt like I had established an image.  In late position I opened (don't remember the holding) and I ended up triple barreling a guy on a board that got wetter and wetter.  He found a fold and I wondered what he had on the turn that he couldn't call the river.

Later, I kind of fell into a hand that I felt pretty proud of... a guy in  late position to my left had been punishing the limpers, I didn't limp all day but I thought I might be able to create some free money, when predictably the UTG dude limped again.  So did UTG+1.  I was in mid position with Qd9d.  It didn't matter what I had per se, but I felt like that hand fared all right postflop if the plan I was fostering with awry.  So I limped.

As I hoped, the guy on the button put out a raise 4x the button's bet.  Just as predictably the best player at the table in the bb, jumped in with a call.  The two limpers followed suit.  Time for a back raise.  I thought the button was good enough to recognize this as strength, same with the big blind.  I think amateur players just focus on the fact I initially limped from mid position and don't give the raise any credit.  Better players recognize I could be making a sophisticated move with a hand.  I done just this with big pairs when the table dynamic allowed it.

When the first two folded, I was fairly sure I'd get through.  The first limper folded but the second limper was having none of that.  He called.  Big pot.  I was cbetting any flop.  It came Jack high.  He checked and he folded almost before my chips hit the center of the table.

So, I continued to chip up and then hit a couple of hands.

The best player at the table and I were chipleaders, until they moved a kid from England to our table with a ton of chips.  Nonetheless I felt we somewhat dodging one another.  Then this happened.  He opened from early position.   I looked at 99s and decided just to call.

Bam!  9 ball on the flop.  He checks to me.  I bet out as there are two spades and the board is a little bit co-ordinated.  He raises.  Been through this drill before.  Check-raising the draw.  Alright, I overship and he calls.  He has a pair and a flush draw.  We are about 70% to win.  Turn is dry.  River is the spade.

Sucks... without showdown I had doubled my starting stack.  My first real big hand and I was walking for the exit.

Now on to the mistakes.

Twice I felt I didn't listen to my gut.

I played a big hand in a tournament later that day when I opened with Jacks, a fairly solid player three bet me.  I called and flop came King high.  He led into me and did two tells (one bet sizing the other vocal) that let me know he didn't love the board.  I should have raised him there.  I immediately narrowed his range to just a few hands like QQ, 1010 or AQ maybe 99.

Instead of rasining I called with the idea I'd reevaluate on later streets.  A king on the turn slowed us down.  Now, it was a little harder for me to represent a King in my hand.  We both checked.  When he did, I knew I was going to bet the river to dictate how much more I'd have to put in the pot.  I led out and he called with QQ.

My mistakes in that hand were allowing myself to play a biggish pot with JJ against a capable and tight player.  Could easily fold there (that table unlike the deep stack earlier) was the easiest I played all week so plenty of other spots to get chips.  Next it wasn't listening to my gut and going for it on the flop with a raise.  Lastly the river blocking bet.  I shove there or bet large and I don't think he can call.

Now, his hand was transparent to me, but I'm not so sure my hand was face up to him.  I think I could easily have AK and check the turn to him, so hard for him to call off on the river, I think.  High risk but better to go for it than not.

Another time I didn't listen to my gut and push back I was also punished.  In a blind v. blind hand from a tournament two days ago I had 107 and flopped a 7.  Also was a 53--two hearts on the board.  I bet he called.  Turn was a third heart but was a 2.  I checked for pot control and he insta bet (strong is weak) and I knew he didn't hit his flush.  Also wasn't worried about A4.  Actually because he didn't bet pre as he did with any ace I wasn't worried about an Ace.

So I call.  The river is a four.  I check and then he bets out with strength (no verbal weakness either) and I study the board.  Only thing that beat me was a six.  How could he go from weak on the turn to strong on the river.   I call instead of folding.  I know I'm beat but I can't resist seeing why.  He shows 96.  He flopped a double gutter.

Ugh.  Listen to your gut, and don't call to see. Trust you are right and let it go.

Alright Millionaire Maker is just a couple of hours away.  I can't wait to play long levels (despite the short starting stack) and really focus.  Have some friends who made some deep runs, one is one of twelve with a shot at a bracelet today, go Blake B!