Nice Little Score

Before I get into a recap of my recent run of cards, I want to offer my condolences to my friend CC who lost his mother recently after a short time in hospice.  It's been a rough year for him and I know he's been battling in life and in poker with a lot to bare on his shoulders.  I'd be remiss to say my thoughts haven't been with him and still are.
"I didn't know you went by Billy, saw you in the updates."
"Thanks, I didn't know I went by Billy either."

In the lead up to the NOLA circuit event I was able to take advantage of the Thursday satellites which Harrahs was adding seats to and running rake free.  For example, a $170 buy-in to a 10 person sit n go provided a $1700 Main Event seat.  Harrahs then threw in a $400 seat to second place.  Just about every one that ran also had a $40 last longer for third place ($400 cash or another seat).  I ran very good in these and got heads up 4 times and made some sort of deal in all but one after I had a $1700 seat in my back pocket. We also did a three way chop a couple of other times.  Not counting the seats that I stockpiled I also ran at a profit just from the cash won (you take the $1700 seat and give me the $400 seat and $650 cash etc).

Those that played a lot of these also reaped the benefits.  Steve Bierman won a ton of seats and went deep in the Main.  Piyush Mittal (one of the heads up deals I made) parlayed his Main Event seat, won at a discount, into a deep run.  Joel Doney played a bunch of them and chopped the reentry tournament for a big score.  Bruce Little won a bunch (I got heads up with him twice) and ran deep during the week in multiple events.  Ron Held played some and won a ring.  I watched one player Jaron Bailey just get it in good over and over in the satties only for his opponents to suck out.  Then I saw him deep in the Main. Nice, his runbad was over?  Kind of but not really as I heard he took one of the worst possible beats (mentioned on especially for those stakes and with his large chip stack... credit to him as he took them all in stride.  I'm guessing he still ran at a profit with his Main Event cash.

So my week started with a decent run in the re-entry. 

I had a few fun hands on day one.  Ari Engel was on my right.  I had three bet him a few times when I picked up QQ.  After the last raise I had the sense he was ready to fight back.  He opened.  I raised.  Chris Bourgeois called from behind.  Ari pushed.  I repushed and Bourgeois almost beat me to the pot his trap with KK working perfectly.  Ari had JJ.  Flop came out in this order J... Q... A.  Ari took the lead, then I did.  10 on the turn gave it back to the kings.  Queen ball on the river gave me quads in one of the most exciting runouts I've ever played.  Later after rebuying Ari took the same seat.  

I found QQ UTG and opened.  Folded to him in Big Blind and he completed.  Flop came 557 (I think).  At this point he had been shoving a lot with 2/3rds starting stack and that being somewhat short at this stage of the tournament.  He checked I bet and he called.  Alarm bells went off in my head.  I think he shoves 68. I can't remember if board was two toned but if so he probably shoves flush draw.  I suspect he shoves if he had a 7.  Really the only hand that would go check call?  Exactly a five.

Turn was a brick he checked and I trusted my read and checked.  River... a queen lol.  He measured up his bet and went for most of his stack.  I shipped it for the rest and as he called I said Queens and he stepped away beaten by a queen on the river again.

I wasn't done coolering people.  I also opened the button with Kings.  The small blind called.  Flop came three diamonds Xd2d3d.  I had the King of diamonds.  Checked to me I cbet and get the call.  Hmm.  Turn is a king.  Okay.  Same action.  River is a 2 or 3.  Checked to me I bet and then he went all in.  Huh?  Okay I have second nuts I call.  He had 23.  What a run out.

Later in the night I still had a decent stack and the following happened.  For some reason on the last break our dealer 10 seconds into it started to deal.  I said "No way you started shuffling in time we are 15 seconds into the break now," he asserted that he did.  Normally, I'm all about getting that last hand out every level but here we were way past it.  Whatever. I think I run horrible in these spots lifetime.  I had to really pee and of course I catch a hand.

AK in ep.  I open and a player to my left perks up after seeing his hand and I can tell he's considering a raise.  He calls.  Hmmm.

Flop comes A high three diamonds (J8). Yep, I have the King of diamonds.  For some reason despite crushing this flop I have an ush-ka-ush-ka feeling looking at my opponent.  I check and he bets small.  Call.  Turn is another Ace.  I check again.  He bets small again.  I'm not sure what I'm up against but it feels like he's betting for value.  Jacks, Eights, at least another Ace.  I can't put him on a flush with the King in my hand and the Ace on the board and pegging him for a solid hand preflop.  Ace Jack?  Ace Queen?

The river is a Queen I check again fairly confident should he bet again I have to be beat.  It seems a terrible spot to bluff and AceQueen is now a full house.  AceQueenD made a lot of sense. Ace Jack less likely but that was already a boat.  As said hard to give him a flush.

He bet a fair sized bet.   And despite the fact, I legitimately can not conceive a hand that I can beat there (maybe Kings to which I'm blocking maybe 10s with the 10d--maybe) I couldn't let it go and pay him off.  I think even KKs have enough showdown value they check behind and 1010s probably don't play it that way.  He shows pocket 8s.  We discussed the hand later and think we concluded he should have checked river as that's a bad, bad, card for him.  Only perhaps AK can call him that he can beat.   Yet that is exactly what happened.  Although, my opponent was generous to me in the discussion of my I play I really got to fold that river if I'm playing well.

That hand meant I'd be short stacked in the re-entry returning for Day two already in the money.  I picked my spots and felt somewhat comfortable until a table change and running through a dire stretch of cards with no hands to shove. Then, I got the other side of the "shuffling"  before break.  I'm about to be the big blind and short and we finish a hand a full 20 seconds before the break.  I have my ante and blinds up but players are trying to stand and want to leave.  The dealer purposefully tarries even though I'm urging to get the hand out.  He literally just wanted a longer break and lets it go.  After what happened the night before I was doubly upset.  

 Oh well, I make it to the redraw (I think) cashed for whatever having made some pay jumps when Joel Doney busted me. Since I was freerolling it was all profit.    

I started to have an odd situation arise as the week went on.  I had so many $400 seats it looked more and more likely I might not be able to play them all.  Especially as I had to jet up to Brooklyn Thursday for my friend's Friday night wedding.  Yes, for those paying attention that meant an early Saturday am flight to jump into the Main.

This timing also meant I couldn't play the Wednesday deep stack one of my favorite events.  Oh well.

Many people told me I should skip the wedding especially when I told them my friend is a poker player... he'd understand they said.  As this was such a great opportunity to fire in a lot tournaments I can't lie and say I didn't think about it.  However, last year during the Main Event in Vegas (where I had won a seat in advance) another one of my best friends was getting married.  I missed it, and he understood but I still feel guilty.  Though only meeting his bride briefly I really like her and wanted to show up for both of them. 

 Retrospectively, could I have somehow jetted out from Vegas put in an appearance at the Wedding and returned for the main?  Maybe.  I don't remember the dates specifically and taking place on Cape Cod made travel a lot harder than it was to get in out of New York so it might well have been unfeasible.  I also had to buy in the winners of my satellites so probably it was impossible but nonetheless still bothers me.  So I decided this time the right thing to do was to go to the wedding.  If I didn't play all my seats oh well.  Surely some of my other friends were making sacrifices to be there too.

Oddly though once I committed to that decision I had this strange sense of impending success.  Coupled with my buddy telling me in advance of this "I have a good feeling about us this week," it started to feel more and more right.

Once at the wedding the groom told me he too had this feeling I was going to do really well in the main.  I'm pretty much a numbers guy and do not really get worked up about "feelings" but had this odd sense that things were going to go well.

In preparation for my trip inspired by a short conversation with a friend who saw his ranges were way off in the 6max, I decided to print out some poker materials including hand ranges.  Recently, I've felt like something has been a bit amiss with the hands that I'm playing so I felt review was in order.  Prior to leaving I got the chance to play with two very good players: Michael Lech and Dan Lowery.  Anytime you play with players better than you... you should be focused on learning from them.  

I watched Lech make these huge value bets--correctly--on rivers with just top pair and sometimes with a mediocre kicker.  He knew to bet, and knew he'd get called with worse.  He had the button against me in the six handed event and pretty relentlessly raised my big.  I defended a fair amount but never had a hand I was comfortable three betting with although maybe I should.  I also saw Dan open maybe 1 or 2 more times per orbits than anybody else and win a lot of those opens many times after building a pot.  He used those extra chips to take chances with hands on short stack shoves others maybe wouldn't call.  It became apparent to me (obviously moreso with Lowery) that my ranges in position haven't been wide enough so back to the charts.  Which hands am I incorrectly folding?

On my flight to New York I discovered some interesting things.  I had gotten sloppy in my ranges.  Not only am I too tight in some spots, I'm too loose in others.  How did this happen?  I suspect my play in the weekly tournaments where I play an exploitative style has infected my overall play.  Not only that I played a fair amount of bar tournaments the last couple of years and that's had to have had an negative impact on my ranges.  Wow, it was pretty eye-opening how skewed I allowed my ranges to get.  I reviewed and reviewed those ranges and adding some notes to my memo on my phone.  I thought I knew these pretty cold but... no.

I had a blast at the wedding. Seeing how much Brooklyn has transformed since I was last there was eye opening.  Sometimes we may not see it in New Orleans, but man America is thriving in a lot of places that once looked bleak.  I've had the same feelings returning to spots in Philadelphia and Washington, DC it's incredible how improved, clean and sleek some of these places are...

Before meeting up with a bud at a Biergarten I had some time on my own and roamed the streets. A totally different place.  I must have some sort of subconscious GPS that took me to the exact pizza shop my friend took me too almost 20 years ago for one of my favorite slices of pie anywhere (um... keto diet takes a weekend off for weddings and real New York pizza). 

 I mean I googled pizza shops but passed on two until I found that exact one by chance.  Did I remember it when I saw it?   No, but my taste buds did. It was confirmed later when that night my friend took us all out for pizza to the same place.  

I went a little hard on Thursday night, about three for four times at the Biergarten we'd say it was our last one--it wasn't.  Nice to connect with a long time digital friend (we've traded group emails for decades) but never officially met for more than few moments if we have. So I planned to scale it back Friday. I even plotted an Irish goodbye and left just before the reception ended to get a good night (midnight to 6am) sleep.  I didn't want the temptation of an after hours place or... lengthy heart felt goodbyes to all the friends I hadn't seen in forever.  So my apologies for sneaking out but I did warn you if you were listening.    Of course, I got so worried that I'd miss my ride to the airport, I got zero decent sleep waking up almost hourly.  I did catch my ride.

TSA and the flight went smoothly and after my wife picked me at the airport I tried to nap a bit at home. That didn't exactly work so I headed to Harrahs a little late. 

"He's a soul reader."

 I see Michael Lech on my table again in late position on my blinds.  I think what makes me such a good target in these spots is I don't want to play a lot of pots out of position against good players and I don't want to bloat the pot either--so I'm more hesitant in making 3bets.  Nonetheless, we play an interesting hand where I had Ah2h.  The flop came two hearts and a paired board (maybe 8s) in a multi-way pot and it got checked around.  Lech the original bettor led a 2 turn for a very small amount.

I called with the intention of thinking hard about the river should he make a play for it.  I didn't have to worry about folding as it came a heart.  He then led a sizable amount.  I quickly called and he showed a whiffed AK (maybe King of hearts?).  Bailey the dealer misread my hand and said Deuces and 8s.  Lech said "He's got a flush, he's not calling with a deuce."

To which Bailey who has dealt me a lot and seen a lot of my correct hero calls said, "He's a soul reader."

So would I have called if I didn't make the flush?  Maybe because on the turn I felt good.  Maybe there are some rivers I fold idk.  I also would have had to have considered the fact I had the heart blockers so he's not bluffing as many missed flush draws.  Still with turn and river sizing even if I got skittish, I think at that deep a stack, I would have called just to see what the line meant.

Later, I proved Bailey's point when on the river an opponent with just 10 high and a busted open ended straight draw fired at me.  I had pocket 5s (fourth pair) and tanked forever.  The board was Jack high and the line he took didn't seem to make sense to me.  He bet pre.  Checked Jack high flop.  Bet turn and Bet river.  The sizing seemed inconsistent with him having a hand too and I had made a physical read so had a lot of good info to call.  Nice to hear Jerry Monroe (the guy who beat me heads up years ago in the IP Main) give me some dap for my play.

The day stretched for what seemed like an eternity and again I found myself at Dan Lowery's table (we played in the re-entry).  He had a mountain of chips and was on my right beating me into pots.  Again, I took careful note of how well he utilized that stack to add to it.  I actually ran pretty good against him in battles of the blinds and otherwise.  Not any significant pots but enough to keep me treading water.  From the midpoint of day two after losing some pots I hovered between 10 and 20 bbs.  Sometimes ebbing to as low as 7 and maybe peaking at 30.  At one point I found Aces and got a double that I desperately needed.

Toward the end of the night with maybe four hands left I shoved AcQc and got a call from bracelet winner Foster Hayes who had Ace Jack.  I got the double and it gave me a little breathing room.  I was near exhausted at this point but enjoyed the surge of adrenaline.

As we were bagging the player to my left who I recognized but couldn't quite place filled out his name card.  He has a very specific and kind of a rare name.  The exact same first and last name as one of my good friends I had just seen at the wedding (and also a poker enthusiast).  I wouldn't quite call it a sign but I felt very comfortable going into day two.



I had an early scare right before my table broke as we neared the money bubble a new player sat down for less than an orbit. I had been up and down chipwise.  Again, vacillating between 10 to 20 bigs.  At this point, I was down.  He limped from the small blind and I shoved Ace Jack from the big.  I thought he snapped folded but rather he had snap called and then I saw his hand face up.  QQ.  Weird but I went through the motions of getting my stuff to leave but I had that same sense of calm, I had all tournament.  Sure enough Ace on the flop for the double.

I made the money and got put at a very tough table with Caufman Talley and Dustin Stewart.  Dustin was on my right with all the chips.  A couple of years ago Caufman busted me not far from the money in the same event.  I learned a valuable lesson that day from that hand, and I decided if I busted there I would make sure I'd learn more lessons.

We played for a while, and I kept tiptoeing through.  From behind me I heard Kevin Eyster get called for clock and saw we were on a payjump.  He need points for the global championship and clearly had a hand he was prepared to go broke with but was holding out hoping he'd hear payout before he got it in.  BJ McBrayer told the floor to stick around.

We finish a hand and then I get Ace King after Caufman had opened under the gun.  Though the payjump was not that big at that point, I wasn't just going to give Kevin that money so I stalled, too.  People starting to fidget in their chairs.  Then, I heard Eyster had put it in and lost.  I don't know if he made the payjump but I knew with his elimination I did.

In instantly said all in.  It folded to Caufman and he called.  I don't remember what he had or how I won.  I think I flipped with him and spiked a King although it's possible I had him dominated with the bigger ace and hit my kicker.  Regardless, that was a nice double.

Caufman at one point started driving the action opening maybe six or seven times in two or slightly more orbits.  I saw AcQc and pushed.  Oddly, I wasn't watching when it got to him and again, I thought three was snap mucked, I didn't expect a hand there, but no just like the queens earlier Caufman had snap called and opened his hand to reveal Kings.  Speaking of "feelings" this time I really felt I was going to win the hand and made no movement to leave.

Ace came on the flop.  My improved hand held and Caufman was gracious as always in losing.  I really like Caufman so I hated that my doubles were at his expense but as a competitor I really liked that my doubles were at the best player's expense.  Lots of conflicting emotions in poker.

I limp to dinner break and I'm running on 7 to 15 bigs.  Stealing some blinds and just hanging on really.  I'm fortunate that I run pretty good in the battles of the blinds against Dustin which is helping me stay afloat.  The payjumps started coming in 3 person increments and I started to pay attention to those.  Just outlast three people. Don't be rash.  Again, and again I exhibited patience and kept making more money.

Though at some point, I thought to myself, I'm nearly two full days into this tournament and I haven't gotten anything close to a run good stretch of cards.  I need some momentum some cards back to back.

After a later redraw I end up at Steve Bierman's table.  He opens and is called.  I pick up aces and ship it and get it through.  That's nice.  I joke that I'm just waiting for aces.  A couple of hands later I open Jacks and two medium stacks get it in that both cover me.  I didn't love my spot but felt like I had to get it in there.  Pocket 9s and maybe A10.  I hold for a triple.

Then I get Aces and call Chad Chisolms 4bet shove when he has queens.  Just like that I went from one of the short stacks to probably top three in chips.  A triple up and then a double up of that will do it.  I finally had my run-good and it couldn't have come at a better time.

We redraw at 18 and I have Dustin (second in chips?) on my right again with Jon Guidry in between us and Stephen Song (the massive chip leader) on my left.  I look at the field and I decide I can't just coast.  The final table could be very good and if I'm going to win it, I got to start acquiring more chips.  

At the same time exhaustion was kind of kicking in.  I hadn't slept well after Day 1 and as Day 2 stretched on it became rather difficult to focus my week was catching up with me.  I probably had too many chips as I became I little bit passive and stationy.  Song and Dustin were divvying up my chips.

Dustin would open the button, Jon Guidry would call from the small and price me in from the big.  I'd whiff and have to give it up.  As short handed continued my chips started to dwindle a bit.  We weren't any closer to the final table.

In one of those button opens by Dustin, Jon called and I followed suit with A6 and the flop came Ace high.  It went check, check, check.  Okay, I'm good here.  A blank on the turn and Jon ships it for most of my stack.  W...T... F....

I tank and tank.  Another player later told me he thought Jon was bluffing.  I folded and he would say he had a set and hoped one of us checked a weak ace.  Hmmm... story has holes, but mutual friends that have played with him since say they think he has it.

Two other hands I'm not thrilled with...

My buddy John Cressend in search of his second NOLA WSOP-C Main Event final table in three years shoved from early position when I was in the small blind.  I felt he was not that strong there and at that point I had chips to spare.  I saw QJ o/s and remembered Lowery in similar spots calling with those kind of broadway hands.  My inclination was to call.  Then I thought about Song in the big and really didn't want to get blasted out the pot.  I guess I could have raised but I had a lot of chips and Song could hurt me. I folded.  

Song called with an ace and John's 55 faded the outs.  Of course I made top two. Something that lingered with me when I made the choice to fold the last thought I had as I released the cards was I'd hate to bust John with QJ.  Hope I folded for the right reasons.  Especially that late in a tournament you have to go for the jugular. Pretty sure John has that mindset.  He quickly went on a tear and propelled by those chips ended up fourth for the tournament.  Happy for him, but what might have been...

Another hand, I hated was Dustin opened again, this time me in the small and Song in the big.  I had Jacks!  Nice time to 3bet and see what's up.  As I contemplated my raise I see that Song might have peeked at his cards and was accumulating chips probably to call but definitely not to fold.  I also learned Song doesn't like to fold, wouldn't say Dustin does either, but I felt like if I raised here I was getting called by at least one of them, if not both and just bloating pots with a hand that plays poorly on a lot of flops out of position.  So again, I exercised caution.

Song did call.  Flop came out King high on a fairly benign board for my hand.  I checked with intention to call at least one street.  Song checked behind and Dustin bet fairly large.  I tanked for a while and then folded.  Song did as well.  Dustin let out a big sigh smiling as though he got one through.  I suspect he didn't have a king but he had something.  10s or Queens or 9s?  

Retrospectively, I should have, as always erred with aggression.  I don't like the way that hand played out.  I think it speaks to me playing poorly as the night went on.

All of sudden we went from being at 14 players forever to breaking for the final table.  One fell.  Then two went down quickly and then on the same hand we lost two more to get to 9.  Everything changed the tough final table I envisioned had a completely different complexion.  Song busted to Dustin (who now had all the chips) I think AA v. AK(?).  On the other table Foster had busted.

When we get to the final table, Steve Bierman and I savored the moment as we had made our first significant final table together. A scenario he had brought up a bunch recently.  Pretty cool that the dude I have previously coached as he started to take poker seriously (and has gone on to a lot of success) was sitting near me 9 handed with 185k for first place up top.  It felt like the Harrahs weekly all over again but obviously not. 

Steve had a fair amount of chips but then busted early to John Cressend. I was disappointed for him but at the same time another very good player had hit the rail.  The whole idea I needed to be active with two tables left (a poorly executed one)  now seemed a misjudgment.  Had I a middle of the road stack I liked my chances getting toward the end at this table.  

I then discovered my run good was now way back in the rear view mirror.  As we limped to the close of the night, I got tired all over again and a steady diet of 82 o/s wasn't helping anything.  Plus nobody busted.  I put my meager stack into a bag and headed home.

Again adrenaline flowed too strongly and I could not get shut eye.  I watched the Game of Thrones finale and even as bad as that was it didn't put me to sleep.

DAY 3:

"Sick strategy get there late to ladder up."  Sley Sanchez

I had every intention of getting there early but had to take care of my youngest son as it was a Monday.  I had a small window I could drop him off at my inlaws and did so.  On the way to town traffic on I10 got bad.  It got its very worse after I passed an exit for alternative route to Harrahs.  Grrr…  Somehow I was behind a caravan of trucks maybe 30 deep all getting off at convention center like me.  I thought I had like 30 minutes to spare and by the time I got off the exit I was going to be late.  I talked with my buddy on the phone and quipped well at least somebody will be busted before I get there.  

I ran in three hands late to a Bronx cheer of sorts from my friends in the 11 am tournament.  Sure enough I had ascended a payjump as there was an early elimination. Okay... good result.  When I sat down not much had changed from the night before again more 82 o/s for orbits and my short stack got shorter.  One of the other short stacks either busted the first shorty or had found some spots to chip up.  Well, ICM wise when you are the short stack you don't lose much by being aggressive--time to get it in.

Before I had the chance, like literally on the next hand, a player shoved AQ into Dustin's Aces and I had laddered up again.  Wow.

Just needed to catch a hand.  I didn't have to be too particular.

Dustin opened my big blind and I spied pocket 4s.  I hate small pairs in this spot.  I have a modicum of fold equity when I open a hand but here I'm basically never getting a fold over the chipleaders open and best case scenario I'm 50/50.   Of course I need a double badly so I didn't think folding was an option.  I also had the the thought from a meta perspective you could argue Dustin should fold to my shove.  That sounds crazy but here's why...

As the giant chipleader he could freely attack the medium stacks who should be on standby waiting for me to bust.  As long as I'm there it handcuffs them.  It's literally the perfect spot to mortally wound three of his other opponents as long as I'm still alive and short.  

To be fair, at the same time eliminating me is a nice jump in money that's literally going into everybody's pocket.  Doubling me isn't the worst thing in the world as now there would be two stacks at 20ish bigs and the other three should want to wait us both out.  

Not to be... he called with ~K7 or so and might have made two pair.  For the first time in three days, I didn't feel like my hand would hold when the hands were exposed.  I knew I was getting busted in 6th place.

The eventual winner Chris Lane I thought played very solid albeit unconventional.  I've heard a lot of mixed opinions on his play but I've always thought he is very skilled.  There are some things I think he does maybe not great (and who am I to criticize... he won the event and has done well in many others but this is just a segue to compliment) but he compensates for it with other skills.  There are several players like this that I know of in our region who take odd lines or maybe do some things that are not fundamentally sound (myself included) but are able to amass chips other ways.  I personally think he's underrated and dangerous.  Congrats to him.

I thought Dustin played really well over the course of two days, and also thought John Cressend played very solid.  The other members of the final table John Templeton, Jon Guidry and Youseff Salah were super  nice guys and I would have been happy for any of them to win.

Anyway, got a nice score, and got overwhelmed by all the support from all my friends and peers in the poker community.  Thanks for being so supportive and gracious everybody.


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