Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ups and Downs

Been a hectic couple of weeks.

Had some very bad news hit me right as I arrived in Austin for a college reunion type weekend.  My wife has been having some complications with the pregnancy.  She had an extra appointment slotted in and I understood that when I made the 8 and a half hour trek that I might have to turn around and come home.  Possible we'd have an early delivery or get some really bad news.  So five minutes before seeing all my old friends she told me there was some issues with our future son's heart.  A google search provided only scary and extreme causes for the enlargement.

Now, normally when I get worried about my kids I'll do an Internet search and find only two things:  Take your kid to your doctor or probably nothing to worry about.  Just about anything you search for healthwise is 50/50 with those results.  This time, quite different results arose for my wife.  They consisted of scary ideas like heart transplant or even cancer causing the abnormality.  Cancer in a newborn?  I had never heard of that--course just this week I see an article on a former Big Brother cast member's baby that has cancer.  Scary thoughts.  Also, it could be nothing.  Nothing at all.  She set up an appointment with an At Risk specialist for when I returned home.  So it was a waiting game.

My wife told me not to come home immediately and at least see all my friends when they arrived in town (mostly Thursday and Friday). Hard to put on a brave face when there are all these unknowns going on, but I knew I was helpless and I could be helpless at home or helpless in Austin.  Still, staying brought more problems.  I didn't want to dump all this bad news on my friends who were in town for a fun weekend.  So, the first day I just had to put on my best poker face when they asked about the due date and we talked about kids.  I think I was a little in shock with the news and at moments I'd get overwhelmed and have to kind of excuse myself when my mind dwelled on my son.

I decided Friday to come home and be with my wife early Saturday morning and revealed the bad news to a couple of friends to give them a heads up.  Before that I was a bit of a fun sponge when we were out on the town and got voted the LFG.  That's something we dub one of our friends every trip: Least Fun Guy.  I think I took my ribbing pretty good, and I had no problem with it as at that point none of them knew my plans were to get up early and get out of town.  Clearly I had other things on my mind but how were they to know.

Saturday morning my wife told me to stay for the game and to try to have fun at least one day as there was nothing me coming home would solve.  Instead of driving home Monday, I decided to comback early Sunday, and make the best of it in Austin.  I think I had a much better showing and even managed to clear my head for a few thoughts.  I think having told a few friends made it easier and kind of got the weight off my shoulders a little bit, and allowed me to relax a bit.
The game was fun.  The conversation at the bar afterwards when the 15 us just talked smack and recounted old stories though was the highlight.  I took my fair share but enjoyed it.

So, I returned home and we had a couple more doctor's appointments.  Good news is, the really scary possibilities on the Internet are less likely.  What's most likely are one of two things, one is a condition that can be treated with medicine and the other one that will need surgery.   The second possibility has some scary outcomes, heart surgery on a newborn--ugh.  If it's the second our newborn will need to be airlifted to Children's hospital for the procedure.  While the really bad causes haven't been totally ruled out we were assured they are far less likely and are hoping it will just take medicine.

After an appointment yesterday, we moved up the date of the delivery and have been scrambling to get things done.  Suddenly, everything is happening at once.  I spilled the bad news on facebook even though I kind of subscribe to the maxim face your problems don't facebook them (..thought apparently I have no issues with blogging about them), however, the utility of social media is when you need to tell a lot of people about something and may not have the time to keep them individually updated, facebook is a great resource for this.  I've really received some nice notes and inspirational messages from a ton of people on my friends list, so I glad we posted what we did.

As far as blogging, writing has always been therapeutic for me and this is less about whining about what I going through and more about dealing with it.  The worst thing about this is it could be not much at all and a bunch of pointless worry.  There are folks with tangible problems and mine, hopefully will be illusory.  Anyway, that's the outcome I'm hoping for, so prayers much appreciated this week.

What's weird is while this very bad stuff has been going on, some really cool things have presented themselves at the same time.  I'm really excited about an opportunity which in the coming months hopefully I'll be able to share with everybody.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WSOP Academy Review

This past weekend I had the opportunity to work the WSOP Academy in New Orleans.  Jeff Madsen was the lead pro with Layne Flack his right hand man.  I mean this in a good way... it felt like the seminars were led by a rapper and a rock star.  Madsen's grip on the microphone looked like he was about to segue into a Beastie Boys's lyrics at any moment, and Flack, he's just an affable and gregarious presence.  As some one in the class said he could have easily been a stand up comedian.  I got more a lead guitarist type vibe.

Either way both presenting players had the presence to hold the attention of everybody in attendance, and both were able to impart a lot of excellent strategy and poker knowledge.  They quickly progressed the class from beginner stuff to thinking at a much higher level.

I was there to assist with the hand labs.  I rotated through the class with Layne and Jeff.  We'd each have a table and deal out hands.  After a hand was completed we'd turn everything face up and analyse what every player did.  Over the course of two days, I sat a little awed as the class went from wildly and passively speculatively in their hand ranges, to acting with an informed, ramped up and purposeful aggression.  I dealt one table and realized that within 24 hours these players had transformed from rank beginners to being the type of table I wouldn't want to be seated at.  They were applying pressure at every opportunity, and nobody was getting a pass.    


Not only were the going as far to multi-level each other, but they were practicing what Jeff and Layne preached at every chance.  Stack size, position, image, and other table dynamics were factored into every decision and even when I quibbled with a play they had strong arguments for making it.  I also loved it when a player late in the last session caught something I missed and created a teaching opportunity for a classmate.  I really enjoyed discussing the hands with them and I hope I was able to impart some tips to win them some more money in the long run.  I suspect we'll hear from a few of them in the very near future.

The Academy, run deftly and smoothly by Ace McFarland, was first class in every way.  He saw to it that catered New Orleans specific food greeted the players on the breaks with a buffet for lunches.  He also provided a private tournament with significant prizes on Saturday night, swag bags, and all the little extras to make the student's experience that much better.
From a strategy perspective, I found myself in agreement with almost everything that was taught.  A couple of times Layne solicited my opinion during the class and outside of it, and I appreciated the invitation.  Once when discussing how we'd play KQ under the gun with a set amount of bigs in a tournament (think it was ~15 to 20) he said he'd shove it close to 100 per cent of them time.  Then he asked what I'd do.  I didn't want to contradict any of the lead pros, and my logic might be wrong on my line of thinking, so I simply said I'd always play it.

I should have continued with my thought. (***My strategy thought below)

My rationale and logic may be flawed in this situation, and if I were having a debate about poker with Layne considering his results vs. mine I'd win a lot more money siding with him than me.  Still, I regret missing the opportunity to not discuss this with him in more detail though.  Just the conversation probably would have benefited the class (and me).

In retrospect, I should have picked those spots more, as the class was best when Jeff and Layne were playfully debating with one another.  It fleshed out different ways to look at poker and showed sometimes there is more than one right answer.  An imperative I tried to stress during the labs, was the thought process is more important for the students to learn than the short situational answers.

I hope in the labs that I was able to stimulate that line of thinking.  Of course, in the hands the results sometimes undermined the lessons when the hands played out, as the bad play would be rewarded and I'd be suggesting the right play which in that specific spot would cost the player chips.  Results oriented thinking is hard for any of us to overcome, but everybody seemed to understand when I'd make that distinction.

Another small point, discussed in the class was M and BBs regarding when it was time to shove.  I agreed with everything Layne and Jeff said.  Though, I think they missed an important consideration, that most books miss and one that I think serves me well in these circuit events and could help the students that I tried to stress during the labs.  Yes, there are rules and guidelines about fold equity and the need to accumulate chips but sometimes the scale slides.

Sometimes, you are at a table with people who have no idea about pot odds and having to call with any two.  You can tweak the dynamics and allow yourself to steal in those situations and survive a little longer, until you can find a hand worth doubling.  You might also scare them off when you have a hand that you want to get all the chips in the middle, so sometimes you need to finesse your big holdings.  Sometimes the opposite is true and they'll be calling off for high percentages of their stacks with hands you think they should fold, so you have to adjust the other way.  In the second situation obviously, you can shove bigger hands for value more readily than the first.

I get annoyed when a player will say something like "How can he call there?" when we've both watching that same guy make those bad plays all day.  You have to expect it.  I think this is a mistakes new players and even experienced ones make too often.  They know their hand has fold equity and when the guy doesn't fold when he should they get irate.  Yet, the evidence or information at the table was the bet size wasn't fold equity for that guy.  A subtle point, but maybe one I should have brought.

Anyway, I'm really enjoyed the chance to work the event and really liked all of the students.  They were eager to learn, open to instruction and correction, and all improved.  I expect to see many of them on the local circuit soon... and winning.  Ace and his chief of staff, who handled all the logistics, ran a first class operation, They selected two great instructors and I recommend it to anybody who's thinking about getting lessons in the near future.  I know they got one coming up in Chicago with Kenna James that should be well worth the trip.

*** I feel like for my level of buy-in and tournaments, and the level many of the Academy's players will first enter, KQ is played better by simply raising UTG.  Certain "too tight" players come over the top and I can fold.  Their ranges include hands that mostly dominate me and only a couple of hands I'm in a coin flip with that I lose value by folding.  For example, they'll three bet with AK, AQ, AA, KK, QQ (all crushing me), and JJ, 1010, maybe 99.  Arguably some of the tighter players will just call with the coin flip hands (but on the other side might fold them to a shove too).  So, raising allows me to get away from being in bad against some very specific opponents and hands.

Also, I feel shoving, shuts the door on a ton of hands I crush like KJ, QJ, K10, Q10, Q9 that might call from late position and then double me if they hit top pair.  Then there are other small pairs that will call the raise I'm flipping with that I, can play fairly well against, even out of position, post flop.

Other opponents have much wider ranges.  If they 3bet without putting me all in, probably I shove then.  If they put me in, I call off.  With them yeah, when they have a big hand I get it in bad, but same thing happens if I shoved from the start.  Also, the door is open for them to try to steal with some pretty crappy hands like loose players are apt to do against a player like me (who usually maintains a fairly tight image) including a lot of suited kings.

Table dynamics and situation in the tournament come into play obviously.  Some tables I want to try and double and have some bullets to play with and will take the risk of shoving right from the start.  Other tables, I might want to make as few shoves OOP as possible because I feel, even shortish, I can accumulate chips without hands.

Friday, September 06, 2013

WSOP Academy, 2nd in a small event at Beau, Donkley at Harrahs, and IP Bad News

Just read through the title before I started typing and it seems like I ended it with I pee bad news.  Maybe if I had some snow, I could test that out.  Yes, I'm juvenile.

WSOP Academy

First things first, I'll be working the WSOP Academy at Harrahs this weekend as the local "pro."  Inexplicably, Harrahs will also be hosting a WSOP Main Event satellite (during this event) on Saturday.  Huh?  It would be one thing if they started it after the Academy, they could have brought in the out of towners that are coming to the Academy and want to test their games and some of the local players.  Doing it concurrently just makes no sense.  Besides the fact nobody knew about his until Wednesday.

I would love it if Harrahs New Orleans would just give GCP a  call.  I'd be happy to help them massively improve their bottom line when it comes to poker.  So many little things they could do, cost efficient things, that could put them where they belong on the Gulf Coast.  Instead it feels like with poker they are just throwing darts haphazardly without a target and they never tell any of their customers anything.

Also, going on a short drive away is the WSOP-C event at the IP.  Why have a Main Event Satellite on a weekend everybody that would play it is at another WSOP event just down the road.  I had been hoping to find a sub for me to work the academy so I could play flight A (of three flights) on friday and if I made it to day two be free to travel to Biloxi on Sunday for day two.  It didn't quite work out, as most of the local pros are focused on the IP or the Saints opening game.

I'm excited about the Academy though.  Anytime you hear different viewpoints on playing poker I think you improve.  At a minimum the insight allows you to adjust against other players and at it's best allows you to rework your game.  Layne Flack and Jeff Madsen will be the head guys there with 9 bracelets between them, so they know how to finish and how to get to the end.  Also, they should be entertaining.

Anybody want to attend they have a couple of spots open with a locals discount.  Hit me at wild bill AT for details.


Man I wanted first place pretty bad.  However, the kid, Jonathan Hart from Jackson, MS that beat me heads up played great all day and deserved it.

I enjoyed the write up by Aaron Hendrix.  It's also insightful to see how other people perceive what you are doing.  On the final hand, he mentioned I cut my chips indicating I was strong enough to raise but just limped.  I didn't realize I was giving off that vibe.  In truth, I had just lost a big pot to Jonathan and wanted to see where I stood with my stack and how to go forward.  I was counting it and thinking.

I came to the conclusion that if I raised, and he reraised me, potentially I couldn't shove and get him off any hands.  He's probably committed once he reraised.  My hand was strong enough that I was fine getting it in, BUT I thought there were some other ways I could win the hand.  For example, if I limped and he raised I could shove and he could fold a lot of hands without it getting to show down.  I was also fine if he checked behind with AJ in my hand in position.  I was risking losing some value with that hand but I think limping allowed me more ways to win.

There was some meta game play too.  I had limped the button a few times and I thought Jonathan was going to be ready to fire one of his biggish raises to steal pretty soon, so I might be able to get a big chunk of chips without showdown.

Turns out he had pocket queens and wasn't going anywhere.  What's elucidating is that if by cutting my chips like that he also got the read I was strong I was really trapped.  Kind of a cooler hand because with my stack size at that point I'm happy to get it in with AJ though of course I'd rather a pot with some raises in it, without cards on the table.  

Hendrix also referenced an Ace high call I made and said I put my chips in based on the size of the pot at the river.  Not really true.  I made the comment when my opponent went all in that I should have beat him into the pot based on this.  However, those spots are tricky, can you really bluff there when you know almost every hand has to call you.  You can't.  So, shipping it there looks like I misread him earlier in the hand, since I have to call just about anything silly to ship if you missed.  The river also put a third club on board.  Odd, that I'd say this with Ace high, but I was contemplating making a hero fold with it.  My gut told me he had KQ (two overs and open ended draw) and that Ace high was good, and the club falling might have been enough for him to think he could steal the pot.  After a good while, I picked up some confirming physical information and I called.  If he reveal a little bit I might have made the bad fold.

Earlier I called with King high which I thought was a better played hand.  I don't remember it now but it was basically based on read too.

I played a satellite and got knocked out AA v. QQ with eight left playing for three seats.  Think I would have won the seat had he not spiked the queen on the river.  I run so BAD with Aces in critical hands.

In that satellite I made a call with Q high.  Pretty standard I think.  SB completed I had Qrag o/s and checked.  Flop came AKx.  Check, check.  Turn x.  Check, Check.  River x.  He bet a smallish bet into me.

This hand I think we are both confident neither has an Ace or a King.  I think if he made a small pair he's got showdown value and would rather check call or check check.  Betting on the river is likely only a steal.  I have the nut no hand with Q.  The way the hand played out he either had some giant monster or nothing and nothing was far more likely.  So I called.  I was short stacked at the time so it wasn't easy but the extra chips allowed me to be in contention later.


Played on Wednesday and played fairly badly.  I made two calls for 1600 each early on which I could never win on, and on one at BEST I was chopping but unlikely even that.  I had AJ on a AKJ flop.  Turn another King.  River a Queen.  There are zero hands I beat and at best I chop with A9 which she never has--so fold, 100% of the time.  On the turn I knew I was beat and you could argue if I had listened to my gut I could have found a fold on the turn.

The other one, a different lady my friend Ms. Joan, rivered broadway and led into me.  It was disguised and despite my two pair in a vaccuum I think more reasons to fold then to call.  Not quite as bad but the real mistake was not pounding her weakish looking flop bet and dragging the pot then.  Thought she might make another weak bet on the turn and I could get more value but she didn't.

So... that was officially the point that I turned the corner from making smart calls to being a bit of a station.  There is an ebb and flow I go through where I lock in and play really good poker and then when I over think things.  Think I mentioned it in my last post.  It's something I have to be on guard for especially with the IP on the horizon.  Need to get back to that groove and just lock in.  Made a bad call when the board got ugly on my hand in the satellite early too, so the the indicators were there that things were shifting.

IP Bad News

Planned a big trip with all my college friends recently.  Of course it would be during the Main Event of the IP.  After they moved it up last year I thought this September date would be a good one.  My wife is also due at the beginning of October so was looking to slip one last trip in before a few months of sleepness nights.

Now, I can't go after the satellites or the Main Event.  I've had a lot of success there so I'm mad I won't be back.  Still, feel like I have unfinished business from last year when my Aces were cracked by tens (did I mention I run so bad with Aces in critical hands) who went runner runner for straight after we got it all in preflop with other action in the hand.  That pot would have carried me into the money I think and allowed me to contend for more.  Also, if there is a tournament I want to win it's the WSOP-C IP Main Event.  Second as I mentioned is a bitter pill.  Maybe next year.

Anyway, I'll see people for the noon event Friday.

**Let me bitch about Aces some more.  I finished second but during that tournament the one walk I got in the big blind in that tournament I had Aces.  One guy who limped called anything on every hand but one, didn't do it on when he limped and I had Aces, he somehow folds.   Even when I win with them I win nothing.  I don't even bother telling my wife now, as she's long advocated I just fold them (which is ridiculous results oriented thinking BUT I would have survived at least a hand or two longer in a ton of tournaments I've played with real money on the line).