Saturday, May 31, 2014


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!  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Back to Vegas II...

I decided to get a good night's rest and get geared up for the bigger events this weekend and next week.  I woke up at 5am local time, can you tell I have little ones at home, and tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep.  Planned out today, play this $75 turbo mega satellite and then play another $235 and we'll go from there.

Turbo was gross... I won't play another turbo mega.  These guys had no clue and would tank for two minutes every decision.  Levels are ten minutes short.  We literally went through two levels with the blinds increasing, without the button even making one round around the table.  It was frustrating.  I also didn't get any cards.  Just watching guys tank folding and asking for counts and then folding, and tanking before acting preflop was just ridiculous.  Half the table got it, the other half acted like they were at the final table of the Main Event and making Million Dollar decisions.

An Asian kid, who had little clue was getting run over by the deck.  I noticed how when people run good the rest of the table hates them, like it's their fault luck shined on them that day.  Also, if they are aggro people don't like them, too.  I remember telling this to Caufman Tally, who's a little aggro, and he seemed surprised by that.  Yeah, when you constantly beat people, they don't like you.  It's a side effect of being good.  Everybody was bitching about this Asian kid, not because he was good but because he was lucky.

Me, I was fine with him getting chips because I knew he'd likely lose them.  To start his heater, with a little under 2k in chips he limped under the gun at 50 100.  He got raised to 500.  He called. Flop came 7710.  He bet, his opponent shoved.  He called, his opponent had Queens he had... J7 suited.  Yeah, limping J7 never going to win you a tournament.  Calling a raise for more than 1/4 of your stack with J7, again, never going to win you a tournament.

The next hand he cracked Queens again when he had Kings.  One of the grumblers complained about him slowrolling the guy... even though he was the one who shoved.  Yes, he hollywooded (which sucks in a turbo) when his bet was raised, he stewed like he had a decision and then he shoved, but not a slowroll.  I started to explain the difference but stopped.  If this guy thinks disguising the strength of your hand by taking a while to act is slowrolling I'm not going to tell him different.  Hopefully, he'll move confidently and quickly every time he has a big hand against me.

Later I got 10s on the button, the Asian Kid limped, the grumbler shoved over the top.  I thought this was a good spot to flip, as I didn't think the grumbler would shove his stack size with any super-premium hands.  He's also seen the Asian Kid limp terrible hands, so, most likely his shove isn't a big hand.  I probably had at worse to fade Jacks in his range, but I had most of his other likely holdings either crushed or 50/50.  The Asian Kid shoved when it got back to him.  So much for flipping.

The grumbler had Ace Jack o/s.  The Asian Kid just Kings again.  Flop put a jack out there but the rest of the board was uneventful.  So two players had me beat.

Anyway, nothing really out of the ordinary so far.  I'm kind of glad I'm not just running over people in these small buy-in events.  Let's get all run good in the Milly Maker and the other 1k ish events.  

What's been useful for me is getting comfortable with the west coast style.  Seems most of these players are from LA and the Commerce casino.  I barely recognize or see many players from the Gulf Coast so all my reads are new.  They play a little more aggro, rarely does the hand get folded to late position, but they are also foolhardy in what percentage of their chips they are willing to risk with subpar hands.

There are a few types I'm noticing from world series to world series.   In the $185 buy-in three guys were talking about playing the $10-$25 games at the Aria, and Bellagio.  Talking about winning 20k in a good night.  Why aren't you there?  They also were targets.  Either the cash games have some big fish in them, or cash players just have no clue how to play tournaments.  I can't tell you how many people I was happy to see at my tournament tables yesterday who I later saw sitting with big stacks in the cash games.   Maybe I'm chasing a windmill when I should be fishing in the cash games.

Back to the types, I keep seeing....  There are old guys who play a style that the game has passed up.  Yet, they struggle onward wondering why it's not working for them anymore.  You can see it on their face when they get attacked, by threebets and are constantly being isolated.  There are kids, who are all gamble and just pounding the accelerator, who can't quite grasp that 100 mph the entire tournament doesn't always work.  There are guys just there to look cool and tell their friends they played at the WSOP.  There are the grinders trying to survive the minefields like me.

There are the folks who like me years ago, are trying to hide their inexperience, but whenever they talk they reveal too much.  Or if they don't talk when their bet sizing is off, you know.  You can see it on their face, their hands are practically face up.  I remember Mimi Tran eviscerating me at a WSOP mega satellite years ago, seeing I was the fish and just attacking every chance she had.  Now I know what she saw, that indecision, that inexperience, that weakness.

There are the bookies and the drug dealers playing like there is no tomorrow.  They confront the dealers and imply they are a tough guy away from the table, but try at the same time to be gregarious and friendly at the table.  Their veneer of false charm is as empty as their skills.  There are thugs and douches who are all testosterone and no brains, and wives of players that are just killing time. Blend that all together and spit it out on a random table and that's what you have to deal with it.  In some ways it's harder than playing good players, and it makes me realize just how good the weekly regs in New Orleans are.  Yeah, they are exploitable in their own way, but fundamentally most are far better than the average fish here.

I think this is great practice as many of the Millionaire Maker's participants will be the same players here to take their shot in that event.  Every locale has a personality and a style, I think.  Tunica will call you down with top pair and Ace high, so value betting is vital and bluffing ill advised.  These West Coasters, that mostly populate this event, I'm starting to figure out.


Back To Vegas...

I'm.... Back!

I've been to the World Series a few times.  The first time I covered the event for a now defunct online Poker site when that whole poker media/poker industry were in their infancy and there was just an explosion of companies blooming around the poker boom.  It was an exhilarating time.  I watched a number of final tables.  I saw movie star Jennifer Tilly win her bracelet.  I also saw her with about fifty players left in the same tournament get up to leave when she had hit a miracle card to win the pot but didn't see it.  The ladies called her back to the table.  I wrongly thought to myself she's not going to last too much longer if she can't read the board.  Yeah...
she won that tournament.  Nice read.

I also saw her man Phil Laak and Johnny Chan battling at a final table.  I watched a final table where Chip Jett was in contention and talked to his (I think) father-in-law and then later he introduced me to his daughter Chip's wife Karina Jett.  At that point, these people were folks I had only seen on TV.  Because of ESPN's programming they felt about as far away from my skill level as a weekend duffer and Master's golfer.  I wasn't quite a fanboy, but on the inside I was geeking out a little bit.  ESPN had done a feature on the Jetts the year before so it was cool to see they (even as far down as they were on the poker pantheon) were down to Earth.   Now, that I've played poker for a while, I can't believe I ever revered some of these people or put them on a pedestal.  (Btw, not slighting the Jetts both seemed like good people).

My reporter's pass allowed me to roam in between the ropes and I watched every pro you can think of; and I remember specifically stopping to watch Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Phil Helmuth, Phil Gordon and Chris Moneymaker himself.  Back then I didn't know enough to know to rank those guys correctly.  Moneymaker had to be the best he won the WSOP right?  I kind of just took in the experience as a reporter but absorbed it as an aspiring poker player.  I wanted to be back to participate.  I was hooked.  I played a little around the fringes of the WSOP and did alright, but at that point the players on the other side of the ropes were literally a world away, though I felt I desire to jump in.

I came back and played a 1500 a year or so later.  That was brief, as it also was for three or four of my inexperienced friends that dipped their toes in the water too.  None of us came close to the dinner break.  With only 1500 in chips back then you really couldn't afford to lose a pot.  I also took what to this day is one of my worst beats.  No, it's not a typical bad beat story.  (I know I've repeated this on this blog before so sorry for the rehash).  I made a read on a guy that he was bluffing the river and called.  He wanted to muck.  I was happy for him to muck.

He started to and then at the last moment,  he sheepishly said something like "I missed" and turned over his busted straight draw.  Course, he hadn't missed the backdoor flush draw.  The dealer looked at me and shook his head.  I lost most of my chips to a guy that wasn't able to read the board.  My opponent didn't understand why the pot was pushed to him, and his first instinct was to push it toward me which made it even grosser... me having to explain to him that he won the hand.  So even though I was briefly in that world it was not for long enough.

A couple of years later, I came back for the National Championship and a short run of tournaments and I ran about as badly as you can.  I kept getting big hands and they kept getting cracked.  Or, these guys would get it in bad against me, I'd call and the dealer would just lower the boom and bring the pain on the turn or the river.  It bundled together in one long bout of agony.  Still, I knew enough about sample size to know that as gross as it was, I just happened to deal with a pitfall in variance at the WSOP.

While I was going through it, I couldn't even go outside to catch my breath.  That year there were fires in the mountains in the distance and whenever you stepped out you could taste the acridity from the smoke.  It's Las Vegas so it's hot.  You run bad, you are roasting, you literally taste fire and this place can feel like hell.

In retrospect, that was an interesting year, and should have been no surprise I ended up in hell.  I had written about Tunica as I was chasing Circuit points and that it reminded me a bit like the play Waiting For Godot, a purgatory in the middle of nowhere (that was a pretty good post you can probably find it with the search function).  Everyday I'd go deep in those massive fields and then lose a flip.  Wake up and repeat.  Later, I landed in Chester, Pennsylvania still in need of points, and that Harrahs casino was located in an area that can be at best described as blighted.  At worst, the first level of hell.  They had a gas leak and we all had to leave the tournament area.  The smell of sulfur was intense.  I was getting closer to hell.

I still experienced some success and broke the Groundhogs day effect in Tunica and went deep in two Chester tournaments to get me the points I needed to qualify.  In Vegas, though, success was but a dream.  Some call it Paradise, but it was Paradise Lost for me.  No, hell is getting it in good over and over again and it not holding.

This go around, I'm determined to have a positive mindset.  I feel like the blows I've suffered here previously, while not out of the ordinary in terms of variance, have to turn.  The Beau Rivage was like that and then finally things went my way in the last Main Event this year.  Tunica, I persevered.  Chester I pushed through it.  Granted saying "I'm due" is wasted thought.  Each tournament is it's own battle, each table, each hand an even smaller battle.  None have any bearing on the other.  At the same time, we all know these things go in streaks.

Yesterday, I landed and was a little tired.  I had considered late reging the 1k but thought better of it and just played the deep stack.  I have three of these $235 events on my package.  Thought it would be a good way to get back into the groove.  That didn't last long.

On the button I flop a set and a guy gets in a raising war with me, and I'm pretty sure he just has a flush draw.  I'm a big favorite 73% or so to win.  We get it in.  Board doesn't pair on the turn and then he hits his heart to win on the river.  That was fun.  My mind raced back to the lingering pain from the last time I was in Paradise.  I reminded myself I want to take these coolers in the small events.

I played the 185 on my own dime.  Survived more than half the field and got to the point it became a shove fest for most of the table.  I had no hands.  Then got it in good with King Jack on the button vs. a guy who got out of line with 97 o/s and called off after I shoved over his preflop raise.  He hit.

to be continued...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Death sucks.

Over the weekend a couple of beloved coaches from my alma mater died in a ballooning accident that made national news.  I won't link to an article to spare you the details, but the recap was chilling, horrific and tragic. I was busy all weekend but when I finally read about it Sunday morning, it was tough to digest or imagine.  Stranded in the air with a balloon that was on fire.  Horrific.  Kind of rocked me.

Things got worse, or at least, hit even closer to home as more bad news has come out.

My Beau Rivage friends have been sharing their sad thoughts about the passing of Cincere Mason, who was a joy for all to be around.  She twice beat cancer, she's a fighter, all seemed good for her.  After the floods in Pensacola she went to help a friend, that being the kind of person she was, and she contracted a bacterial infection she couldn't beat, and suddenly was gone so sad.  

The worst news of all, for me, as I'm closer to him was the passing of my friend's child.  The one that really hurt, heard about the loss of Matt S's  daughter over the weekend, it was like a kick to my stomach.  I've cried multiple times for him, and I don't cry much.  As a father of young children it's so easy to put yourself in their shoes and think how rocked you would be.  I feel for him, and also understand I can't even imagine what he's experiencing, my tears for him are one infinitesimal portion of the grief he has.  So sad, to lose a child, especially a bright, vibrant, beautiful little girl like Matt had.  I know if effected a lot of people near and far, as I got hit with messages as the news spread.  Everybody just aches for him.

He's got a long period of grieving ahead of him.  Nothing gives him solace or comfort now, and it's just agonizing to know that people are going through the loss of a love one, and there's little you can say or do.  I saw that the poker community has been great in helping Matt with the expenses of the funeral, which warmed my cynical heart a little bit.  Gene and I are also making a small donation too.  We are rooting for Matt.  We know it's going to be a tough, long slog.

To all those who have recently lost a loved one, my thoughts and prayers are with you.


I got so much brewing in my head that I need to cover.  What I hope to get to, but not today, is quick synopsis of finishing 10th at the latest Main Event at the Beau, also a second place finish there in an earlier event, chopping a couple of nightlies as the chipleader, and participating in the excellent WSOP-Academy that just wrapped up.

Phil Gordon, as well as pros Ben Logan and Bronson Tucker, I thought all did a great job.  I'll get to all that I promise.  Unfortunately, this post is a sad one.  Lots of death to digest recently.