Saturday, June 30, 2007

Event 49

I got stuck in the outside tent for event 49. First time I've been there this month.

It was kind of hot but why should I mention the heat when I can also talk about the smell?

I drank water and folded most of the first hour.

I played king queen twice. Once defending my blind. Once from the button as the preflop raiser.

Neither time worked out for me and I was down to 2275.

Then the following key hand occurred:

Guy under gun pushes all in. He only has 125. Two guys in middle position call. I look down to see the ace and king of spades. It's probably correct to raise here. To put in a big bet and try to get heads up with the guy who pushed under the gun. Turn all the other money dead.

If the blinds were bigger I'd absolutely play more aggressively. But with blinds at 50/100 I talk myself out of it. I decide to disguise my hand and call from the button. I like having position. And maybe I can win a big pot from an ace suited kind of guy if an ace hits. Sure I can lose if (when ) his low kicker pairs. But that's poker.

And who knows? Maybe one of the blinds behind me will put in a big reraise to try to take down the pot and I'll gamble with them.

So I'm not in love with my call here. But I did it. I've been feeling good about post flop play lately and I don't mind seeing the flop 6 handed.

And of course when I make a weak play like this I am completely willing to let it go if I miss.

Problem was I didn't exactly miss.

No. The flop was an intriguing jack and 10 of spades, along with a red 9.

One of the blinds leads out for 300.

Older guy to my right makes it 700.

It's my turn to act.

Damn. The older guy has a straight. That's the hand that reraises here.

He doesn't want the board to pair. Doesn't want the 3rd spade to come.

I stare at the table. There is 1750 out there. I need to call 700 to see the turn.

Before I act I have 2150 in front of me.

I can reraise all in but the older guy is going to call me with his straight. I'm not getting him to fold what is the best hand right now. If I raise all I'll do is get the first guy to fold. But as long as the board doesn't pair I'm not scared to keep him around.

A call feels right. The initial raiser folds. And we go to the turn with my Ace King suited 42.73% against my opponent's king queen off. At least I think that's my worse case scenario.

But just doing our homework: If he has two pair I win 44.75%.

I'm also an underdog versus queen jack. 49.7 vs 50.30%.

I know it's only .3 but that .3 will get you every time.

So no matter how you slice it I'm a dog.

Yet my pot odds were still strongly encouraging a call.

I need to be getting 58 chips for every 42 I put into the pot. (1.38 to 1.)

And in reality I got 1750 for the 700 chips I put in. That my friend is (2.5 to 1.)

An easy call. The older guy with the king queen is actually severely under betting here. He thinks he's trapping the initial bettor but with my flush and straight outs he's giving me a nice discounted look at the turn.

And have I mentioned that I have a royal flush draw? Remember that time I hit a royal flush in tourney 49 at the World Series of Poker? Shouldn't we be getting the ESPN8 cameras to my table? Immediately?

Turn comes and I miss. No spade. No queen.

He pushes all in for his last 1200. And that specific number is gonna get alot of laughs at the math conventions this fall. Because when you add it to what's in the middle, it means I gotta call 1200 to win 3650. Which is roughly my odds of winning the pot.

(Insert laughter, applause and then more laughter.)

If I call and win this hand I will have 5100 chips.

If I call and lose this hand I will have 250 chips.

And I'm getting slightly better than 3 to 1 to call with a hand that is also a 3 to 1 dog.

So mathematically this is a borderline call or fold.

I sat and thought about it. If I fold I would have 1450 remaining. Which is plenty.

But if I call I might be about to jump to 5100 total chips.

I'm not here to win a last longer bet. I am here to acquire chips.

And there is a huge pile of them in the middle of the table.

I also felt like since I had him covered I would sort of receive a "get out of jail free" card. In other words I'd still be sitting at the table if I lost this hand. I wouldn't have alot of chips. But with 250 I'd find a good spot to push and have the chance to double up and so on.

If you know me well you know I do not fear the small stack.

So I called.

I really was so sure I would hit on the river. However according to the 10 witnesses I missed.

20/20 hindsight says that if I had just put in a big raise preflop, the king queen guy probably folds and I battle the all in guy for a 750 chip pot.

So "20/20 Robert" says shame on you "Saturday afternoon Robert" for just calling.

(Of course "Tequilla Robert" wants to point out that if the spade hits then "Saturday afternoon Robert" was a genius for just calling preflop since it allowed him to play a big pot with a royal flush draw.)

I can't fold a royal flush draw. What can I say? I think I saw Phil Ivey push all in with it once on television. Yeah. That's probably where I learned it.

Speaking of Phil, you always see guys like Ivey walking out of these tournaments like get me the hell out of here and to a cash table immediately.

I started thinking about their numbers. If guys like Phil play cash games normally with $4000/$8000 blinds and a tournament like today costs $1500...well then it just must be so hard for them to take it seriously.

The buy in is almost silly. It's less than half of what Phil usually pays for a small blind.

Compare that to me. I've been playing the $2/5 no limit these days.

So using the same proportions as Phil Ivey, the $ equivalent for me would be if I played a WSOP tournament that cost 75 cents to enter. Then I could know what $1500 feels like to Phil Ivey.

Thus these WSOP tournaments turn into turbos for these well funded pros. They may as well try to get alot of chips or else get out of there and use their time in a better way.

And yes for 75 cents I ain't folding a royal flush draw either.

So down to 250 chips I finally feel comfortable. For the first time all day. No one loves the small stack like I do.

I immediately doubled up to 550 with ace queen suited. Boom. See that's all it took to win a hand.

I then stole 150 pushing all in from under the gun. My favorite small stack spot.

I picked up 9,10 suited in the big blind with 600 chips behind the line after paying the 100 blind. A guy limped in from middle position. I checked my option and out came a 2,7,8 flop.

Sure looks good to me. If he's hit something like top pair (with say a hand like ace 8 suited) I'm actually a 53-47% favorite with my over cards and open ended flush draw.

So while my pushing all in might seem a little drastic I'm actually in great shape if he calls.

And I'm plenty happy to take it down with just a draw.

He does call and shows an 8. However I hit one of my many many outs on the turn to double up to 1450. Boom. Just like that.

I'm back.

And best of all I had my fearless on. I was ready to keep attacking. And suddenly my table image was the guy playing too many pots. This kind of recovery gives me the freedom to trust myself and play looser.

I always feel like I have a chance when I'm short stacked. It's my secret weapon.

I like to think of it like the 1970's Oakland Raiders having punter Ray Guy. The Raiders could throw 3 straight incompletions deep in their own territory because they knew on 4th down that Ray Guy was going to come in to punt it deep to protect their field position.

My version of Ray Guy is surviving with the short stack. I've seen so many comebacks that it always seems possible. Coming back from 250 was going to be a great story.

I got involved in a few more pots. Anytime I had anything at all that was playable. Pocket 3's Ace 8 suited. Rather than tightening up I was looking for my next spot to double up.

And in this rush of playing alot of hands I suddenly picked up ace king in early position.

Now that I had some chips in front of me there was no need to push all in.

I thought that if I push all in I'll probably just win the blinds. But now that I started this hand with 1450 chips I am ready to go back to playing smaller ball poker. So I raise the 50/100 up to 300.

The guy one seat over to my left reraises to 1300. Basically putting me all in.

My initial reaction was to fear his big pair. If I am paying attention he did make a pretty big raise from early position. Obviously he wants to get heads up with me.

I think about how he has watched me play alot of hands in the past orbit or two and that I appear pretty loose. I did call afterall chasing a flush draw. He also saw me push with the 9,10 suited draw. And play ace crappy kicker (8). I'm not a guy who usually plays ace 8. And I think showing it down will be of value to me.

So with my image in mind perhaps when he raises here he's coming over the top with a much wider range of hands than just aces or kings.

What if it's something like pocket 8's or pocket 9's?

In that case I'd be a 45% to 55% underdog. I'd need at least (1.2167 to 1) odds to call.

I had 1450 when the hand started. So I'd be putting my remaining 1150 out there to potentially win 1800. That means I'm getting 1.565 to 1. So as long as he doesn't have kings or aces here then I can feel good about the call.

I push my chips in and tell the dude that "I'm sure I'm trailing you but I gotta call."

And he says "I'm not so certain."

And turns over Ace queen.

He he.

This is awesome.

Here I was getting the correct odds to actually race a pair and this guy turns over a hand that I dominate?

Instead of my winning only 45% of the time versus a pair, his holding ace queen means I'm suddenly close to 75% to win the hand.

I'm 3 to 1 to get back to 2850 chips. And I'm feeling real good about this table.

And then the dealer burns a card, deals out 3, and turns them over.

This particular flop brings two queens and suddenly makes him 98% to win.

A jack appears on the turn giving me a straight draw and jumping my odds up to 9%.

I really still believed here.

But the river wasn't one of the four remaining tens.

The gentleman with ace queen told me "sorry" as he raked in the chips.

I was happy to comeback from 250 chips.

I was happy to race ace king versus ace queen for the opportunity to get back up to 2850 chips.

I was not happy to be out the do'.

If he has a big pair at the end there at least I can blame myself for making the call.

But when ace king loses to ace queen there isn't anyone to blame.

And what fun is that?

Friday, June 29, 2007


Went to the bank. Got my hair cut. Put gas in the car. Air in the tires. Yep yep yep.

I finally made it to the Rio by 3:15 pm. I bought in for tomorrow's tournament.

Then I got on a list for the 2/5 game. It ended up taking around an hour to get seated.

It was alot of the usual stuff: Two pair or sets taking down huge pots from top pair top kicker.

Only two hands worth mentioning. The first one I wasn't involved in.

Tight guy to my left limps. Aggressive guy raises to 20 preflop. I fold. Guy to left calls.

Flop comes queen, queen, jack.

Aggressive guy bets something. Maybe 40. Tight guy calls.

Turn is the third queen.

Aggressive guy bets again. Something like 60.

Tight guy raises. Maybe 120ish.

Aggressive guy calls.

I'm fascinated. They can't both have the queen. And if you are not holding a queen there I'm not sure how you reraise. Or call a reraise. One of them is about to look really dumb.

The aggressive player seems like the better player. So it's hard to imagine him not having the queen and calling that bet.

Yet there's no way the tight player reraises the turn without it. Unless he's so bad that he's holding a pocket pair and thinking he has a full house and completely ignoring the threat of quads. Hey it's all possible.

River comes and aggressive player checks. Tight player bets 150.

Aggressive player is counting out the chips. He's really thinking about the call.

Oh dear. I am shocked. And the fact that he's calling (and not reraising) is damning evidence that he sure doesn't hold the 4th queen.

Aggressive player puts the 150 out there. And turns over pocket jacks. Poor guy flopped the full house and then lost track of all time, space, and dimension when the quads hit.

And of course the tight player turns over the queen.

Ridiculous. It's one thing to hit quads. It's another thing to get paid off on them.

And the real genius here is the tight guy doing the wrong thing at the right time. In this case it was the reraise on the turn. Because once the tight guy reraised on the turn the aggressive player was able to say to himself "There's no way this other guy has quads. Anyone with quads would obviously smooth call the turn and hope I bet again on the river."

I of course would have checked the turn. And then the aggressive guy wouldn't have put another penny in there.

This is such a key poker concept. Disguising your hand. And often that is done by thinking about what a player with your hand would do....and then doing something different. I get myself into trouble doing this. But sometimes I also win huge pots because the other player cannot put me on my hand.

Some young kid then joins the table and tells me "You look like you're good at math."

"That's because I'm wearing my math outfit" I say.

At this point it's my big blind and I have around $900 in front of me.

There are 5 limpers. I look down at pocket aces.

Yep. Here comes the hand I lose every session.

I decide not to joke around and raise it $50. I kind of hate this move. I do it to isolate and not play 6 handed. But I use the word "hate" because I feel like my raising to $50 screams big pair here. And I hate letting my opponent know my cards.

So when the tight guy to my left (from the quads hand) calls I can't say I feel great.

He knows my hand. I don't know his. And he has me covered with over 1k on the table.

Despite his call opening up all sorts of interesting pot odds, everyone else behind him folds.

We're heads up and he has position.

Of course I fully expect my usual paired queens flop.

Instead the dealer at the Rio offers me a 2,6,9 board.

Not so bad looking.

I fire a half pot sized bet of $65.

Tight guy to my left starts counting out chips and shoves $150 out there.

Shit. Damn it. Cracked again.

I calm down. I am probably beat here. This is the same guy who bet his quads on the turn rather than calling. He is not making a move. He thinks he has the best hand.

It's very likely he has pocket 9's and has hit a set. Or pocket 6's.

However he could also have pocket 10's, jacks, queens or kings. And still think he has the best hand on a 9 high board. If I have a hand like ace king he's forcing me to fold.

I have to call $85 if I want to continue to compete for the $345 that's presently out there.

That's over 4 to 1 odds. So if there's at least a 20% chance I'm ahead then calling isn't horrible.

As I'm sitting here deciding what to do that young kid makes another joke to me about how I'm figuring out the math. I give him a big smile as if everything is honky dory and I don't have a worry in the world. And then I toss my $85 out there. I'm hoping this intimidates the guy to my left. Lets see if he fires another bullet on the turn.

Turn is a 10. I quickly check. Shockingly, he checks behind me.

Huh? Is he scared? Maybe he has jacks or queens and fears kings or 10's?

I raised to $50 preflop so he certainly can't be slowing down because I might have 7,8.

Dealer turns over an ace on the river.

Yes he does.

I bet $100 into the 400 plus pot. I actually wish I had gone all in here. Cause making the extra $100 was nice. But the chances of him calling my all in if he has a set are decent. And perhaps the all in would look desperate. Or like I had ace king and finally connected.

However $100 was my bet because I wanted to get called. It was a value bet. It also was small enough to give him the chance to reraise me to something like $300.

But he didn't reraise. He just called. With pocket 9's.

He had me crushed on the flop. And if he bets the turn I probably fold. But he let me back into the hand by checking.

Afterwards everyone at the table was asking him "Why didn't you bet the turn?"

His explanation was that he was being greedy. He figured if he showed weakness on the turn that I'd bet the river and he'd get more money out of me. He was scared I'd fold on the turn if he bet.

Meanwhile if that ace doesn't come on the river I check.

What a gift that pot was.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I'm back in Vegas after a 48 hour trip to Los Angeles.

It feels real good each time I take a couple of days off from poker.

I definitely get burned out from playing. Other guys seem to be able to sit there all day. Hour after hour. Day after day. Not me.

In fact I think the biggest challenge I'll face the next few months of the Vegas Year is going to be logging enough hours at the table.

I've been doing well lately and having winning sessions but unfortunately this business only makes money when I'm there.

So not only do I need to display discipline at the tables. I also need the discipline to show up to the casino every day. Treat it like a job. Because it is.

One fear tactic I use on myself is the reminder that I don't have to be doing this. I could just get a real job. And then have to show up there everyday. And probably make less money. And most likely not have the freedom I have right now to make my own schedule.

When faced with this alternative, suddenly just getting my lazy ass to the poker table every day seems like such a more reasonable option.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. (Part II)

Just when I thought I had seen it all...

The Vegas Year says "No you haven't..."

Can you see where this one is going?

That's right. I attended my first coed bachelor party.

Finally. Right? It's about time!

Although what I mean to write is that my wife and I attended our first coed bachelor party.

We did it in style Friday night at a Crib Suite in the Palms.

It was real classy.

And fair too. The strippers were male and female.

Moms out there don't you worry.

These photos make it all look much more "pornographic" than it felt.

In fact the whole experience was alot like watching a bad SNL sketch.

Except it was funny.

And also had an ending.

(Why the cheap shot at SNL? I have no idea. Sorry Lorne.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Event 38

Today I was seated next to Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.

Fascinating character. The thing that surprised me the most was reading afterwards that he was born in 1981. To be that young and already in control of the table is impressive.

Mizrachi said that he hasn't cashed yet in the 2007 World Series.

The guy to his left asked him how many events he's played in thus far this Summer.

Mizrachi said he didn't want to count.

I mention this little tidbit because I've been hard on myself for not doing better this past month.

I am disappointed not to have gone deep in any of the tournaments.

It can be so easy to get results oriented at poker and of course it makes me question my game.

I'm too tight. I'm too loose.

I make my share of poker mistakes but mainly I'm just not running well in the tournaments.

And so it was probably real good timing for me to hear Mizrachi talk about having similar results without seeming overly concerned.

So I was in seat 8. Grinder was in seat 9. Seat 6 was Amir Vahedi. And soon afterwards Rene Angelil took over the 5 seat. This was a pretty good action table.

Amir and the Grinder both set the tone by playing real loose. The $50,ooo entry HORSE tournament was starting the next day so both players made their strategies real clear.

Either they wanted to get alot of chips in this event (Grinder was shooting for 200k by day's end) or else bust out so each could still be fresh for the HORSE tourney.

Amir showed us he wasn't kidding. He said "lets gamble" as he called off the remainder of his stack on straight draw and missed. Mizarchi lasted a little longer.

We had started with 3000 chips but I dropped down to 1000 and struggled in that range for two to three hours. I didn't give up. I actually got pretty excited about small stack play. I dare call it fun. The decisions are so black and white.

It was a good reminder for me in terms of psychological perspective. It's easy to get so caught up with Joneses. In this case the Joneses are the "must build up chips or bust out crowd." But I stayed in a good state of mind waiting for my double up or go home hand.

I showed such ridiculous patience in level 4 that despite blinds up to 100/200 and 25 ante I only had 650 chips remaining.

You're never supposed to get that low. Most poker players would have made a move while they still had at least 1000. But I ignore my M if the spots aren't right.

I made some crazy short stack lay downs. I actually laid down ace queen and pocket 3's. I had the small M. But in both hands I was pretty certain that the raiser who entered the pot in front of me definitely had me beat.

However other times I made moves with hands like queen,8 suited. My cards weren't that important. It had more to do with being first one into the pot as the small stack. As opposed to calling off raises with the remainder of my stack.

It might seem counterintuitive but against most players I'd almost rather push all in with 8,9 suited than call all in with king queen off.

So when there's a limp, a raise and a reraise in front of me, and the guy who reraised is shaking, I can comfortably throw away my ace queen. Even with a small stack.

I rallied back to 3000 which suddenly felt like so much. Even though I was simply back to the starting amount. On other days I might be concerned to be in level 4 and be so far below average. Yet today it just felt good to be alive.

I ended level 4 with 2900 chips. And I felt great.

Blinds for level 5 began at 150, 300 with the same 25 ante. Not too bad at 700 a round.

I think ahead. I can afford to burn off an orbit or two waiting for a hand. I don't mind going down to 2200. And me being me, I'll probably let it burn down to 1500. That gives me two orbits to find a hand. A sample of 20 starting hands. I'll find something to play with. I'm happy to win blinds. I'm happy to try to double up.

My favorite time of poker tournaments is when the blinds finally kick in. Play opens up. There finally becomes enough chips in the middle worth fighting for. And no matter what size your chip stack, the formula is simple: If you can win (steal) one set of blinds/antes per round, your chip stack will never dwindle. That's how I think about it. I look for one hand per round that's mine. One hand to come in for a raise with. And hopefully it's something that I don't mind showing down with if I get called.

I find that my table mates always accept the one hand per round formula. Anytime people start raising 2 or 3 hands an orbit, everyone gets suspicious that they're stealing. But raise and take the blinds only once per orbit and you're a model citizen.

I get no playable hands so I fold for the first 9 hands of the orbit. I pick up ace king under the gun in the 10th hand and make the easy push all in for my last 2200. As a small stack I love to bet under the gun regardless of my cards in this spot. I've watched way better hands than mine in early position fold here because they fear coming into the hand and getting reraised behind them.

In other words if I push all in under the gun and some dude with 6000 chips calls my 2200 with his ace queen, he has to fear someone behind him reraising all in. And he doesn't want to play for all his chips with ace queen. So quite often the ace queen guy in early position will simply let it go. Let go the exact same playable hand that he would have called with in late position or from the blinds.

As tight as I had been playing I really expected the fold here. But the blind woke up with pocket 10's and calls. To make matters worse, the big blind tells me he folded an ace. And a guy in middle position says he folded king queen to my initial bet. This means that I've lost 2 of my 6 outs.

Incredibly I flop two kings and double up to 4k with 32 minutes left in level 5

I'm starting to believe that it's my day.

The guy to my right in seat 7 has around 15 to 20 thousand chips. He seems like a novice and from what I've seen he's been a luck machine all day. He actually says at some point that his secret is positive thinking.

I decide to try it for a hand. I think king and look at my first card. It's the king of clubs.

I think king again and peak at the second. This one is the king of diamonds.

Holy shit.

That's all I had to do?

Positive thinking?

And to think I've been sitting here this whole time thinking negatively.

On this same hand a guy had limped under the gun for 300. With blinds now at 150/300/25. there is already 1000 out in the middle when the action gets to me and my kings. I should raise here. I absolutely should.

But I also want to do something drastic with my tournament. I need to double up. I'm guessing that if I raise here everyone will fold and I'll only win 1000. However if I smooth call, no one will put me on kings.

I want to play big pot here and if I let the blinds in and I get sucked out on, oh well.

However by just calling here instead of raising I'm setting up two intriguing possibilities:

1- It gets reraised behind me and I can re-jam all in when it comes back around.

2- Later in the hand I take down a big pot because no one suspects I'm so strong.

Of course if an ace flops or someone hits two pair on me I'm not going to be happy. But it was just one of those moments where I thought "If I raise and they all fold I'll only increase my stack from 4 to 5 thousand. But if I call here I am giving myself a chance to double up over 8500."

So just like we learn in The Cincinnati Kid, I choose to do the wrong thing at the right time.

Intriguing option #1 fails when no one raises behind me.

In fact the small and big blind both join the party. Oops.

At least we still have intriguing option #2.

Flop comes out king, 9,8. Two spades. They all check to me. I bet 1000.

Both blinds fold and I'm probably just going to win a small pot.

But then the under the gun guy makes it 2500 and it hits me.

This is too good to believe.

He is slowplaying aces.

I push all in.

He instacalls and turns over aces. Everyone expects me to turn over ace king.

I surprise them all with my set of kings. How's that for not reraising preflop? Not that I could have probably gotten away from them on an undercard flop but that sure was pretty.

This hand put me up close to 9000.

Did I mention that I think it's my day?

We orbit around again and I'm down to almost 8000 in chips. But after where I've been most of this afternoon I feel like a big stack.

The next big hand I pick up is ace king in middle position. I raise it up 3.5x the blind.

Here's where it gets interesting. The guy in the big blind has been defending his big blind all day. Pretty much every time. He's really loud about it. He likes to taunt people and tell them he always wins his big blind. Over and over.

I've now seen him reraise multiple times from that spot (with medium range holdings) so when he reraises me here to 3000 I can't say that I fear him.

I absolutely do not put him on aces or kings. He does not need a hand that strong to make this move.

This guy was also talking too much the past hour about how he likes to race small stacks. I've seen him do it with medium pairs. I've seen him do it with ace queen. I am not folding here.

I go back and forth on whether to raise or call in this spot.

You call here with ace king because it is a drawing hand.

You raise here with ace king because it plays strongest when it sees all 5 board cards and raising will guarantee that.

If I just call and I miss the flop then I have put 37.5% of my chips into the middle without knowing where I am at in the hand.

The advantage to calling when I miss is I can fold and get away from it on the flop. If all my chips are out there my tournament life is on the line.

The advantage to raising when I miss is I get to see 2 more cards without having to make a tough decision.

The advantage to raising when I hit is the other guy will not be able to fold on the flop when he sees an ace or king come out.

One other thing to consider is that he will act first on the flop. If I acted first then maybe I could do a stop and go. Call now and then push on the flop. But since I have to act second what do I do if the flop misses me and he bets? Leave 37.5% of my chips out there?

One final thought on calling. If I miss the flop I still have 5000 chips left. Compared to where I've been all day that feels like plenty to keep playing.

However in the end raising felt much better than calling against this specific opponent's range of hands. I thought there was a very good chance I was either way ahead versus a weaker ace or racing against a smaller pair. Thus I didn't mind getting all the money in as soon as possible against this type of opponent: A guy who plays alot of hands and is good at getting away from them post flop.

So we get all the money in there. He turns over his pocket 10's. If I can hit an ace or king I become a legitimate contender. I'd have an above average 17k stack with around 75% of the tourney field gone. Of course the downside is if I miss I'm out of the tourney.

I missed.

Walking out of the Rio I thought about how I could have just called the preflop raise and fold if I miss on the flop. But it also wouldn't be good poker to call off 37.5% of my stack.

Ace King versus anything but aces or kings is not a terrible way to go out. If you told me beforehand that in level 6 of this tournament I'd be racing AK vs pocket 10's for a $17,500 pot, I'd gladly take that proposition.

Winning this pot would have put me in a position to make the money.

For lack of a better conclusion, I think this is just another day at the office in tournament poker. In a cash game it would be an easy fold. (Although not necessarily against this specific player). But in tournaments at a certain point you get your chips in with the best hand you can find and hope for the best.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Same. Except Different

Last week I played a WSOP tournament ridiculously tight folding over 90% of my hands.

I really wasn't looking to play that tight. That wasn't my pregame strategy.

But with blinds still small and no playable hands it quickly became my reality.

The tournament I played yesterday was quite different.

This time I had alot of playable hands.

No big pairs.

But a plethora of small pairs and suited connectors.

So I decided to get in there and gamble.

In the first hour I saw 14 flops which is alot for me.

There are two school's of thought for early tournament play. One school says to fold and play tight since you can't win too much. (Small blinds, no antes). Thus there's no reason to really get involved without a playable hand.

The other school of thought is to play as many hands as possible. The blinds are cheap so it doesn't hurt your stack so much. But it's a chance to amass some chips while everyone else is playing too tight.

Usually I let the cards decide. I certainly don't need big pairs to play at this point. If anything I prefer the suited connectors and stuff since they're so much easier to play post flop.

So 14 times in that first hour I had what I would deem playable cards.

No monsters. But plenty of opportunity.

Hands like: Jack 9 suited. Pocket 10's. Ace 5 suited. Queen, jack suited. Pocket 7's. Ace jack.

Post flop things didn't really go my way. I stole one large pot from a guy with a reraise on the turn. But overall I was mostly happy that I gave myself a chance to get lucky.

My opponents were usually overplaying their starting hands. If I could connect I could probably win alot of chips. It didn't happen for me but the chances were there. And that's what I play for.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I left my mansion at 430 PM and reached the Rio around 4:48. I navigated my way through the concrete desert parking lot, past the mist sprayers and into the air conditioned reality of the World Series of Poker.

I reached my 2/5 no limit table and bought in for the 500 max in chips.

It's now 5 PM and I was ready to get to work. Lets see some flops.

Or even a few too many. You decide.

By 5:45 PM I was down 100 to 400 bucks.

Lots of chances. Lots of draws. Lots of outs. Over and over again. Nothing hits.

I felt pretty zen about it. My calm soothing logic was at some point I will hit and connect with the cards and drag in a big pot of chips and money will magically appear.

I folded for awhile. I hadn't played a hand in around 30 minutes when around 6:15 PM I decided it was time for me to come in for a raise to 20 from early position.

What else could I do with 5,8 suited?

Incredibly I still got 4 callers.

Cause that's how I roll.

Now if I actually had a legitimate hand like a big pair then this is such a nightmare to have to see the flop with 4 opponents. But this hand is suddenly alot of fun for me to play. The best part is since I raised it initially, if I can hit the flop my hand will be very well disguised.

I will also benefit from my display of preflop strength. Since I raised to 20 preflop there is a decent possibility that if I bet an ace flop, everyone will fold.

So I am sort of in a position to win this hand if high or low cards come.

Reality brings a queen or jack high flop with a couple of rags. Can't remember what they were but the two of them were definitely diamonds. It was so wonderful to pick up a draw with my crap hand.

Then things got even better when for some reason the small blind led with a 20 dollar bet.

I paused and acted slightly confused. As if I had my aces and was still ahead of his top pair. I stared at him with a look that said "I'm not going to raise you yet. I'm just going to you call now in position and see what you do on the turn."

I'm not sure if he was looking back at me.

I love that he bet here for me. I got a great draw. He's letting me call the 20 without gaining any information about my hand. All he knows is I raised preflop. And since he is out of position I'm dying to see what happens next. Does he quit if another diamond comes? Or will he keep firing?

Turn comes and it's no help for me. This time he leads out for 30.

I think there's 170 out there.

If you know me, you know I love chasing flushes as much as the next guy. But at this moment in time I think I might actually have the correct odds to call and chase for once!

Can we stop the poker game and give me the deck of cards or something?

Like it only took me 4 years of playing poker to finally get myself into a situation where I have correct flush chasing odds going into the river.

But odds or no odds, who the hell is this guy in the blinds who took over the lead in betting from me on the flop? I'm the one who raised preflop! Who said he could take it away? Doesn't he know who I am? 30 bucks isn't getting me to fold. I bought a bottle of Hummer cologne this week at Target because I thought the yellow bottle was funny. That's what 30 bucks means to me.

Heck we already know I'll spend at least 50 bucks for you guys to see my opponents cards.

30 shouldn't even be spoken about.

Lets forget I even brought it up.

So I call the 30 and the river brings the ace of spades.

I miss my flush draw. I have 8 high. I rock.

But this guy might rock even more than me.

How is that possible?

Because he gives up. He checks.

And I'll tell you what. I don't think he's trapping me. I think he has at best what has now become a middle pair and he's terrified of that ace.

And he should be. I raised preflop. I must have an ace.

And so I did what people do with their aces. I bet $100.

He thinks it over. And lays it down.

Who knows? Maybe he was on a flush draw too. Maybe not hitting the flush saved me money.

Or maybe he was just too good to call a 100 dollar bet on the river after an ace hit. That's a hard call for alot of people to make. Especially from the blinds where you suspect that everyone who raises your blinds preflop has an ace.

That a great challenge at the table. To figure out which guys you call and which you fold to.

Which guys have the chutzpah to bet when they miss.

And which guys are so tight they won't bet their ace high on the flop.

When you bet with the best hand it's not bluffing. Even if you don't know it's the best hand. If you raise preflop with ace queen, miss the flop but still bet, you very well might still be ahead. Yet alot of guys won't make this bet. They can't stomach it. They feel like they missed. So they check. And these are the same guys who make too many good laydowns.

After this 5,8 hand the guy to my left (was not in hand) asks if I had ace king of diamonds. And that is pretty much how I played it. My preflop raise could definitely have meant I had a big ace. My calls on the flop and turn (instead of reraising) screamed flush draw. Obviously I didn't fear another diamond coming. And of course my betting at the end when the ace came fits the description too and provided the perfect ending. I must have the Ace king of diamonds. He read me perfectly.

Betting the river there wasn't that big of deal since it was the only way I could win the pot. This took the pressure off of me. I obviously can't win if I show down my 8 high. Strangely enough betting and bluffing here feels more relaxing than many times when I'm siting there "hoping" my two pair is good. That's way more stressful.

The only other big hand I played was with 3,6 off from the blinds. Flop was 2,3,6, so my hand was probably good. If someone has 4,5 they'll probably get money from me. Like all poker players I'd love to see another 3 or 6 clinch the deal.

Me being me, I check the flop. I haven't been playing aggressively so I don't want to scare anyone away. Also how am I supposed to be called a weak player if I don't play weak?

Truth is, if a card comes that counterfeits my hand I'm fine with folding. (In a tournament I'd bet here. But in cash games I'm way more patient.)

Guy in bad mood bets 25. I call. So do others.

Turn is an ace. I check. Bad mood guy bets 75 dollars. I can't fold two pair to a guy who has been arguing with every dealer. He an "expert" on everything. So he certainly knows how to fire bullets at pots.

River is a king. I check. I had a hand similar to this one yesterday where I said how I like to check here on the river to give people who have missed their draws a chance to bluff. An added benefit is that it avoids me betting and getting reraised and facing a much tougher decision. The only way I'm really losing money is if he checks it down. But that's okay with me too. I don't need to play for all my chips with bottomish two pair.

He fires out 100. I think it through. I don't think he has the straight. I don't think he has more than a pair. If I'm wrong then I'm writing this call off to the I called because "he has to bet, it's his only chance to win the hand" school of showdown poker.

This is also a great example of playing within your limits. For 1000 bucks I'd have a hard time calling. But for 100? Easy call. Pot is too big.

He immediately mucks. I didn't even have to show it.

And that was that.

My only two decent pots of the evening. And I held 5,8 suited and 3,6 off.

Whatever profit I made off of those two hands I gave back seeing a whole bunch of flops with an assortment of small pairs, suited connectors, etc.

I came 9 to 15 outs away from a few huge pots but never got there.

I did get aces one time. I raise to 15 from the cutoff. Hopefully it seems like a steal from late position. Please someone make it 45.

Instead my small raise entices both blinds to call.

Uh oh. Here I go again with the aces...

Flop is queen, queen rag. Yes. Again. I laugh to myself. How many times do we need to watch this rerun? I'm stuck in poker groundhog day.

Is it just me you do notice how every time I get aces the flop comes out with paired queens?.

Maybe this is all part of something larger. Like maybe whenever I get pocket aces, someone types 4,8,15,16,23,42 into a computer located down in a hatch on a deserted island, the board pairs queens at the Rio and an angel gets its wings?

It could happen.

So both blinds check to me on the paired board and I don't fool around. I throw 5 red chips out into the middle and both guys fold. That's right. I take down the pot with pocket aces!

It's good to be back!

After 3 or 4 hours I'm treading water, fluctuating back and forth around 500.

I'm up to 552. Down to 468. Back up to 522. Down to 472 after multiple preflop calls with my small pairs trying to hit a set and take away a big pairs stack.

But I can't hit. It'll come sooner or later. I watch yet another guy call off his entire stack with pocket kings on a jack high board after a guy with pocket jacks goes all in. The guy with kings is shocked. But he shouldn't be.

One interesting hand I witnessed: board is ace high with 3 clubs on the turn. Young guy in blinds checks. Old guy on button thinks about betting, decides not to, and turns over his pocket queens.

Yes, the river hasn't come yet. But he made a mistake. So now we all know what he has.

Action continues. Dealer turns over the river, some rag.

Now our young kid in blinds has to act first. He seems really disturbed to have seen his opponents queens. This surprises me. If anything queens look weak on this board.

And incredibly, the young guy mucks his hand and quits the pot, his action acknowledging that he couldn't beat queens.


As a poker player I think you have to bet there. You have to make that guy with the queens figure out whether you not you have the ace or two clubs. You have to put him to a decision!

Going all in might look suspicious. But fire out 75 or something. Make some kind of value bet.

These internet kids today....when I growing up in Texas in the 1950's the question wouldn't have been whether or not we'd bet that river. The only question would be if we'd show the bluff afterwards.

Anyhow later that evening I hit two pair with my jack 10 suited and won a pot that put me back at exactly even. 500. It seemed like a good time to exit.

Not such a great evening in terms of if I'm trying to save up money to buy an NBA basketball team. But I was really happy that I hung in there and didn't go broke trying to make a profit on a night when the cards weren't really falling for me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pair the Board

I played some 2/5 NL at the Rio. The action doesn't seem as crazy to me as it was last year.

Perhaps poker players are collectively getting smarter. This has to be true in terms of what starting cards to play. But plenty of weaknesses still exist. Alot of these guys are unable to control their emotions. They've just busted out of a tournament and they're wearing tilt on their faces.

I've also seen plenty of bad post flop play. That seems to be where the money is made at these games. Like most people, playing post flop was always my fear in the beginning. Gotta get all the chips in preflop so I don't have to make any decisions post flop. But now I'm starting to love it.

I'm getting better at having a read or feel for where I'm at in the hand. So I'm folding hands that might seem absurd. (ie. I flop an ace with ace jack from the blinds but lay it down after a flop bet). And yet I'm also calling with crap like bottom pair when I think the other player is betting because it's the only way for him to win the pot.

These (my) moves appear fishlike to some. But of course it's the players who don't get what I'm doing that are the exact same players that I'm winning money from.

I'm choosing to have less variance by engaging in fewer coinflips. I must be playing with bad players because despite playing pretty damn tight I'm still getting paid off most of the time when I hit.

Most of the money I'm make tends to be from players calling me down with hands like top pair top kicker.

Here are a few of the hands:

Very early I end up in a decent sized pot ($229) calling down a 60 dollar bet on the river with 10,7 on a jack,10,6,3,2 board. I thought I was ahead on the river and that he had been on a draw but I checked it to him because I really didn't want to bet and get reraised.

By checking to him I figured I only had to take one punch. I don't want to bet 50 there and get raised to 150 by a guy putting me to the test and suddenly forcing me to make a bigger decision. If I check and he pushes all in I fold. But his betting 60 fit my profile of him, which was someone betting because they missed their draw and it's the only way they can win the hand. I guess you can also say I gave him the chance to bluff since he can't call with a busted draw if I bet.

Despite the good start my stack dropped all the way down to 375 after I flopped top two pair with my ace nine suited in the big blind and doubled up a dude under the gun who simultaneously flopped a set of 6's.

It was a hard hand for me in that he limped in from under the gun. So when the board came ace 9, 6 there was even a chance he held pocket aces and I was drawing dead. I of course hoped he was holding ace anything. Ace king would be great. Ace suited anything would be fine too. Ace 6 would be best of all.

He led out for 15 on the flop and two of us called. The turn was a rag. He bet 60. Guy to my right folds. I made it 160. He went all in for only 104 more. At this point the pot was too big to fold for 104. This hand cost me a total of $284. I was mainly grateful he was a smaller stack.

NOTE TO SELF: As I think back on the Vegas Year I can definitely recall losing multiple big pots at cash games with two pair. They're hard to play. Two pair wins a lot of money against those top pair, top kicker guys. But two pair also gives it back against the flopped a set crowd.

Things brightened up quickly. My 375 more than doubled to 792 after I flopped an ace high flush. Interestingly I wasn't holding the nuts after the 5,6,7 of diamonds came. I obviously could have lost to a straight flush but I certainly wasn't folding. And neither was the guy to my right with his king high flush. Crazy thing was he only held one diamond. But the 4th diamond came on the turn. I thought it was gonna kill my action. Instead it heightened it.

In what was a dream sequence, he bet out on every street and I called the whole way. Then on the river after he bet $100, I raised all in for $3oo. The fun part was the $300 was in bills and not chips. Who knew it was much more fun to toss cash rather than chips into the middle? He called and paid me off with his king. (I know it's hard to lay down a king high flush but when I reraise him there what else could I have besides the ace? What have I been calling the whole way with? In other words- I can't reraise him there with the queen.)

Suddenly on a rush I pick up aces. Old guy under the gun makes it 10. French guy next to him in early position calls. I've seen that both these guys love to defend. So I make it 50.

Looking back on the hand part of me wishes I had just called the 10 so that someone could reraise behind me. Limping continues to seem like my best strategy with aces. The only way I win big pots. Limp, reraise and try to get another player to commit his stack to the preflop. Cause once that flop hits all chaos ensues.

The old guy who raised it under the gun to 10 folds. But the French guy calls me. He was playing alot of hands. In my head I put him on something like king queen suited.

So what flop comes?

Queen, queen, rag.

Come on universe! Let me win one time when I raise preflop with aces.

I can only seem to win with aces when I limp and lay low. The benefits are twofold. If I don't get it raised behind me it becomes MUCH easier to fold aces on the flop when the board looks scary. And of course quite often someone raises behind me preflop and hand turns into party time.

Nothing is more fun in poker than the reraise. And limping with aces is a great way to do it.

But at this moment in time I raise with the aces because I decide I don't want to play the hand against two opponents so at least let me isolate. That's what I'm supposed to do right? And of course the universe mocks me and my play with the paired board.

He checks the two queens. I check. No great poker here. I check because I'm not going broke with aces on a paired board. It's that simple.

He checks again on the turn.

Okay. Fine. I 'll take a shot. I bet 25 dollars.

It's such a small bet into a $110 pot. But it's an amount I could bet if I held a queen. I expect him to call me here with a hand like pocket 9's.

Now here's where I did something silly. I had bet that $25 knowing that if he calls or raises me I'm not going to put another cent into the pot.

That's an important part of why I bet. To gain information.

So when the French guy announced "raise" I should have beaten his chips into the middle with my cards being thrown into the muck.

But I waited to see how much he was gonna bet. And the way life works, he screwed up his piles after he said raise and put out 50 instead of 25 as his initial call. So when he reached back for more chips (or what he believed to be the raise part) the dealer called string bet on him.

This should still be an easy fold. But I decided to gamble.

Now I only had to pay 25 to call. Only 25 to stick around in a pot worth 185.

There would be 210 total in the middle if I call with my aces. Yes there are 2 queens out there. That hasn't changed. So I'm still either way ahead or most likely way behind. But 25 doesn't seem so bad. Maybe I suck out and hit an ace. Or maybe he checks the river.

Yet what pains me here is I would have instantly folded for 50. So this guy gets an extra 25 out me for under betting the turn.

And I hate to use even use this as an excuse or reason for my call but as the French guy was arguing with the dealer about his turn raise not being a string bet, I started to think that the way life works I really am going to hit an ace on the river and take his whole stack. It's one of those unfair life moments where if he had just raised correctly he would have won the pot on the turn. But because the turn ends with him fighting with the dealer, of course destiny is going to screw him.

Well so much for destiny. The rivers misses me with a rag. This time he bets 50.

Again, easy fold. A chance for me to save 50 bucks. It's what pros do all the time. Saving 50 bucks now is just as good as winning 50 bucks later.


It's "only" 50 to win 260. My brain ballparks I'm getting more 5 to 1 on my money. I think to myself that if I can win this thing only 20% of the time it's actually a profitable call.

So even though deep in my bones I know he has a queen (this specific player lacked the courage to bluff at the turn and the river) I talk myself into calling.

Among the reasons that sway me:

1- I pretend he's put me on ace king and thinks he has the best hand with pocket 8,9,10, jacks.

2- I've "saved" money because of his turn string bet. The 50 I'm putting in now on the river should have come on the turn. So basically I'm getting to showdown and see his cards at a "discounted price."

3- There was that time last month when I folded a hand that would have cost me around $450 dollars to see my opponents cards. And as readers of this blog you guys suffered because of it. This time I figured I 'd try to make it up to you by "buying" the blog a hand. A hand I could afford. This way we could all see his hole cards and learn from how he played the hand.

So I pay him off to see his queen. The only real question is what was his kicker?

He turns over queen nine suited. Which incidentally is the same hand that knocked me out of a Mirage event in May. In that tournament I held aces and a guy on the button called my under the gun raise with queen nine suited. He also flopped trips.

Queen nine suited gives me the creeps. Obviously I'm never folding it again.

You know it's taking me some time but I'm finally learning the secrets of poker.

Mostly I'm just surprised that more poker authors haven't written about the power of the queen nine.

But then check out this payback: A few hands later I'm in the big blind. Old guy makes it 10 again. This time from the cutoff. A 5 dollar raise is so absurd at the 2/5 table. Don't get me started.

The French guy who just took 150 from me with the queen nine, calls the 10 from the button.

Small blind folds. I look down in BB and see 10, 4 off.

I am so folding this hand. At least that's probably what I do in a tournament. But in cash world I'm being offered an opportunity. That's right. For only $5 I can enter a pot that already contains $27. For this to be a profitable play I only need to win the hand 18.5% of the time.

Now lets say hypothetically that the Old guy has king queen off and the French guy has ace 8 off. My 10,4 wins almost 23% of the time against those two hands. So against these card holdings it would technically be a mistake for me to fold here.

However the real benefit of my calling is that when I hit something (ie two pair) I can win a much bigger pot than I will lose when I miss. When I miss the flop with 10,4 it's real easy to fold. But when 10,4 hits it will be hard for my opponents to know I'm strong.

So I call the 5 bucks, It feels like I'm throwing money away. But I trust the math.

Flop comes 4,6,8.

I check my 4's. Old guy bets 10. French guy calls. I call.

10 dollars to see if the old guy bets again on the turn.

10 dollars to see if I can hit a miracle 4 or 10.

If I miss on the turn and the old guy bets again I'm done with the hand.

But then turn is a 4.

I check. Old guy bets 20. French guy makes it 40.

I might sometimes reraise here but these are top pair top kicker kind of players. I don't want to scare them away. Unless someone has 5,7, I have the best hand. I call the 40. Old guy calls too.

River is a king.

Both of my opponents have around 130 in front of them.

I pick up a $100 bill and toss it out there.

Old guy folds. French guy calls.

I turn over 4,10. He mucks his ace 8. He's incredulous.

I've taken 9 years of French but I couldn't really understand much of what this man said to me.

I think the best translation might be to say he was surprised by the 10,4. Of course he either didn't get or wouldn't acknowledge that I was the big blind. He also didn't seem to recall that it was only 5 dollars for me to see the flop.

However he made it real clear that he was shocked that I called his raise to 40. It was fascinating to hear his description of the hand. I really think his mind protected his sanity by remembering the hand differently than it actually occurred .

He kept insisting he made it 40 on the flop when in fact he had just called the old guy's $10 bet.
This is important because if he raises the flop I fold. But I can understand why his brain did this. It's gotta be too painful to accept that you called a $100 bet on the river after the board paired and neither guy folded when you raised the turn.

Sticking with my what's becoming my WSOP side game theme: you can't really still think your top pair top kicker is good there.

Of course this was just how he beat my aces. Out flopping me on a paired board. My 10,4 takes down his top pair top kicker. And his queen,9 takes out my aces. That's poker.

I think someone might wanna tell him he's overplaying the ace 8 there.

How do you say that in French?

Tu joue le ace huit toute de temps!

One more hand worth mentioning:

Older man sits down to my right. In the first orbit he folds every hand but then when he makes it 10 on the button he announces that his bet is "a nuisance raise."

I cold call from the small blind with ace jack. Big blind calls too as does an early limper. 40 dollars in pot.

Flop is ace, 7,8. Two to a flush.

We all check to the nuisance. He bets 40 dollars.

I reach for my chips. He has around 500 in front of him.

Then I reach for my cards and throw them right into the muck.

I couldn't call a 40 bet in that spot. I could definitely raise it to 100. But I couldn't call there. So I folded.

I think there was a very good chance I was ahead in the hand. Yet I still felt good about my fold. I didn't need to get involved out of position in a hand where I could easily be dominated.

If the flop is jack,2,3 I ain't going anywhere. But it's just too easy for this guy to have ace king or ace queen. Ace 7 or Ace 8. As I folded I thought about how weak that fold must appear to some players. But not to me.

I know where my money comes from. It comes from guys who call down tight players with hands like ace jack after they make top pair. And so I folded. And waited for a better spot.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Go figure

I arrived in Las Vegas this past January as a tournament specialist.

And when I say specialist I only mean that I was way more experienced at tournaments than cash games. This was true despite reading over and over and over again that most poker professionals make their living at cash games. Not tourneys. Tourneys have too much variance they say.

So I've now been here for almost 6 months tracking all my sessions. And some interesting statistics are starting to emerge.


I cashed in 4 of my first 14 tournaments including 2 final tables where both times I chopped first place money.

I've failed to cash in 9 of my past 10 tournaments.

Cash games:

I lost money in 13 of my first 22 cash sessions upon moving to Las Vegas.

I've had 9 straight winning cash sessions. I've only come out in the red 4 of my past 21 cash sessions.

What does this mean?

The temptation is for me to spend most of my time at cash games. However tournaments are still such a beautiful thing as they provide the unique opportunity for a 6 figure cash day. Playing 2/5 no limit it'll take me a year to reach 6 figures.

However my turn around at the cash games does wonders for something called hope. Not the Hope, Arkansas that Bill Clinton spoke of. But rather the hope that I can make a living doing this.

Hope is huge for me. I have no mentor. I have poker friends I can discuss hands with but none of us knows how to make a living doing this. If we did we'd be doing it. I'm trying. But definitely learning and figuring it out as I go along. I'm a work in progress.

Poker is humbling. Every few weeks or months I'll have a moment where I take a huge step forward and figure something out. But then there are still plenty of days where I clearly see how much I still have to learn.

And of course having success isn't necessarily an indicator. I remember reading a Doyle Brunson quote regarding who the best young poker player is. And Doyle said something that stuck with me. I'm paraphrasing here but he said something like "We'll see in 20 years who is still here and who went broke. Anyone can run well for awhile. We'll see how they all do in the long run."

I have no idea where I am on the poker totem pole. Perhaps I never will. I played with Kathy Liebert last year at the Borgata (I'm paraphrasing again) and she said something to the effect of "I don't know why people criticize other player's moves. The game is constantly changing. Maybe someone is thinking on a completely different level than you are. You can't assume they're bad players just because they buck conventional wisdom and play differently than everyone else."

I thought this was so wise. So often players criticize others just because they play differently.
And so they automatically assume this other player is the fish. Yet at the poker table our job isn't to correct or criticize. Our job is only to counteract the strategy we are facing.

One could even argue that bucking conventional wisdom is key. To remain unpredictable.

And then in 20 years we'll find out who was right.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Event 27

It was a minute or two after twelve when I finally found table 170 for World Series of Poker event 27. Despite the alleged noon start time the cards had not yet been dealt. The words "Shuffle up and deal" had not yet been spoken. I thought I was late but I wasn't. The tournament was.

In fact it appeared I could benefit from the late start. I needed to send an email and suddenly I had an opportunity. I took out my "Treo." For all I know it might not even be a "Treo" in my pocket. If you're an electronics company and want your device to be the thing I was sending messages on let me know. You definitely should. Because your device works so well. Much better than my old "Blackberry." Those things suck. That's why I switched to your product.

At five after noon the Rio cameras above us look down on me typing frantically with my thumbs. Suddenly from across the table I can hear the dealer lecturing someone that they can't use their phone to check messages. This dealer sounds a little crazy so this should be a fun one. I gleefully sneak a peak to see who it is she is lecturing and immediately see that it's me.

She's a cocky woman in her 50's and she's telling me over and over again that I won't be able to use my Treo once the tournament has begun.

Inside my head responses are flying.
I don't see any cards being dealt. Why is she bothering me? Isn't RIGHT NOW the best time to check messages?

Outside my head I only offer silence. Which worked well because she didn't stop speaking.


She said it in the kind of tone that one would use if I were arguing with her that I needed to use my phone during a hand. I didn't bother to look up from typing. I just wanted to finish as quickly as possible.

She kept going. At some point she finally paused to breathe and over the canned laughter in my head I snuck in a passive aggressive: "Look when I take out my phone it just means I want to fold."

I figure she hasn't heard that one yet from the dealer I told it to at Caesars.

According to the Nielsen ratings I have one fan at the table. One witness. The gentleman in seat 1 who seems to be getting a kick out of this dealer harassing me. (Note to Blackberry and Treo- This guy will buy WHATEVER phone I tell him to. I'm happy to steer him towards your product. Just me give the word.)

Maybe she's showing me that I'm not tough enough. Maybe I don't have my game face on. She wouldn't try this shit with Men the Master.

However as far as I'm concerned I'm the Zen the master. I'm not about to lose my cool over this woman. Not when it's so much easier to ignore her.

I can't stand people who are rude to dealers. Some people really give them a hard time. Some people are really cruel. They don't get paid enough to take that abuse. I don't want to join that vicious circle. I refuse to be someone who berates dealers.

By now we're almost ready to start. There's an announcement over the public address system welcoming everyone and going over a few rules. One of the things they tell us is that we can't text message at the table during hands.

Then the guy probably ended his speech with the classic "Shuffle up and deal." I say probably because I'll never know what he said. How could I? I couldn't hear his words because my dealer was leaning forward pointing at me yelling "DID YOU HEAR THAT?"

I looked away and stared at the back of Johnny Chan's shirt at the table situated diagonally across from me.

As for poker on the day- I may as well have kept sending messages on my phone. It was a long run of cold cards.

In the first hour the
only hand that I voluntarily put money in with was 8,10 suited from the big blind.

That was the best hand I saw. In fact I was psyched to call the extra 100 when the button made it 150 with blinds at 25/50. It was 100 to
win 225.

Now I'm already a sucker for hands like 8, 10 suited. You really don't have to talk me into playing that hand. If anything, sometimes you probably have to talk me out of it. But after seeing 2,6 virtually every other hand that 8,10 suited sure looked real good.

Unfortunately no help came with the ace flop
and I ended level 1 about to be in the small blind with 2550 in chips.

In that first level I probably saw around 45 hands. This was alot for a live playing hour but players were playing fast. We didn't see many flops at this table. I might normally try to get involved somewhere based on position but my table had no limping. So when someone keeps coming in for a raise in front of you, it's hard to do much with your 2,6.

2525 is however still plenty of chips for when the inevitable double up occurs. At a certain point in every tournament you usually either double up or go home. I want to have as many chips as possible for that moment.

The first hand at 50/100 I pick up 7 8 suited in the small blind. Cut off seat makes it 300. I call the 250 more trying to make something happen and when big blind completes, I'm officially getting 2 to 1 with my 7,8 suited.

Flop is 9,10,queen. One of my suit.

Button and I check and cutoff makes it 900 and we both fold and I’m down to 2225. I might have led out with a bet if I was truly open ended. But against 2 players that darn queen took away my jack outs.

I still have plenty of chips. We orbit around and I pick up pocket jacks in very early position. Still at 50/100 I throw out 300...the first time I’ve done anything offensive today. Unless you count my calling raises twice from the blinds.

The guy to my left, who has been raising more hands preflop than one would think is realistic, reraises me to 825. There’s 1275 out there and I need to call 525 to be a part of it. Favorable odds are more than 2:1. In a small stack tourney it’s hard to get away from big pairs. Yes I could be up against a bigger pair here. And yes that would be a disaster. But I could just as easily be up against ace king and holding the better hand. I peek at the guy. I don't think he has aces. He doesn't seem to really want the call.

Sure if he was a tighter player it's more likely he'd have an overpair. If he was an old white guy it might be more believable. But this guy is young. And he’s been raising around 2 or 3 hands per orbit. There's no way I’m folding pocket jacks against him.

I think he has ace king. I think he’s making a move here against me the tight player. He’s seen I haven’t played a hand. He thinks he can get me to laydown here because he MUST have Aces or kings to reraise from early position against a guy who just raised his first hand in 75 minutes.

He figures the only way I can call is if I have aces.

But I'm not going anywhere. The only question now is how to proceed. Raise or call. If I call the 525 I will have 1400 left in front of me with 1800 out there. If I raise and push all in here I think he has to call with ace king. In fact he'd have to call with most hands. There'd be just too much money in the middle.

So I decide to use being out of position to sort of do a stop and go on him. My plan is to smooth call the 525 and take a look at the flop. If an ace or king flops I can get away from the hand. 1400 chips is still plenty for 50/100. But if it comes out all undercards then I'm getting the rest of my chips in there.

If it turns out that he has the overpair then I'm screwed either way. But by my calling and then pushing, if he has two big cards like ace king, I can make a smarter more informed decision for the rest of my chips on the flop. So I call.

Flop comes 2,3,9.

If I'm not going to hit a set then it’s as good as I could have hoped for. No overcards. No paired board. I can check and try to induce a bet from ace king but I also don’t want to give a free card so I keep it simple so I stick to the plan and push in for my last 1400.

I’m happy to take it down if this makes him fold ace king. And of course I like a call from ace king here too.

But he instacalls and I suddenly panic thinking “oh no- was it queens?”

No overpair.

Instead he turns over pocket 9’s.

Which at first seems good. Till I looked again and saw he hit a set.

I think I had to lose my money on this hand. That was my destiny today.

On May 21st I wrote an entry on "running well."

Here is part of what I said:
I've been running real well this week..."running well" isn't getting good cards. It's not even winning races. ...It's...not getting outdrawn by two or three outers when I have the best of it. People hitting take down big pairs....People hitting..runner runner straights. Those kinds of hands. Those are the hands that kill you. And by you I mean me.

I've gone out of back to back tournaments with pocket jacks. Today to the 9's. Last week to ace 10 suited. In both hands there was a point when I was better than an 80% favorite to win. But I didn't. And that my friend ain't running well.

One of these days I'm gonna win that hand. Double up. Get some chips. And play deep.

One good day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Standing in Line (AKA Vegas Fact #7)

Left Vegas on Monday. Returned here Thursday afternoon. Had an excellent time. And just like the brochure says I'm tan rested and ready.

As my wallet will testify I haven't played poker since last Saturday. I'm excited to get back to the Rio tomorrow. My goal hope and plan for the next month is to play as many hours as my attention span can handle.

The next tournament you'll hear my people talk about is World Series event 27 that starts this Saturday.

What are my people saying?

My people felt pretty good about last Saturday. My people just wanna make sure I stay away from calling. There were a couple of hands last week that I called in position that my people think would have been real interesting had I reraised.

Basically I want to get back to putting my opponents to difficult decisions. Even if I'm wrong and I run into aces it'll just feel so much better to my constitution than calling. And by my constitution I mean my stomach.

Sure calling feels easier at the time. But in the long run calling isn't easier. Calling is the big lie.

Speaking of calling, my phone has a camera. Below are some phone photos I took standing in line to buy into a poker tournament with Jennifer Harmon and Ted Forrest .

If a celebrity gossip rag like In Touch magazine ran these photos they'd add a caption to them like "They buy into tournaments just like we do!"

Vegas Fact #7
Pro players have to buy into tournaments just like the rest of us.

Dude. You know Jennifer Harmon? I think that's her.

Over there in front of us. Yeah to the left of the gray guy in the tan slacks and to the right of the guy on the phone.

I'm telling you. That definitely her.

I'm not stalking her. No I'm not. You told me that the pros were able to get past the lines and I'm simply gathering evidence that proves that she has to wait in line too.

Yes you did. You told me that they could go to a casino host or high roller cage and buy in that way.

Yo look away! Look away! The guy on the phone is starting to notice me taking pictures. Act cool.

Dude that is definitely her. Waiting in line. This is awesome.

I can't believe we waited in line with Jennifer Harmon. She's gotta be on my list of top 100 poker players that I'd wanna wait in line with.

Dude check it out. That's Ted Forrest to my right.

I can't believe we're standing in line behind Ted Forrest.

This is insane. He actually stands in line to buy himself into events. Just like Jennifer Harmon!

I can't believe that in just one day we knocked 2 people off my list of top 100 poker players I'd want to stand in line with! Dreams do come true!