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.  


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