Monday, July 30, 2007

How's the Gambling Going?

When non-poker playing people inquire about my career they'll usually ask me something like:

"How's the gambling going?"

Or the inquisitive:

"Have you been lucky lately?"

I also get wisdom like:

"It can all change on the turn of a card."

This last metaphor rubs me the wrong way because obviously ALL of life can change on the turn of a card. Not just poker. You wake up in the morning and feel a lump. The phone rings in the middle of the night. A tire blows out on the highway. Etc.

Poker actually feels much more predictable to me than life. In poker every time I make a decision I have true percentages and real odds from which to base it.

That's probably not true with many investments. Exact odds? How much will a stock go up? So much of the financial world is subjective. If the advice could be given objectively then no one would ever lose money in the stock market.

But in poker when I can put my opponent on an exact hand then I know my exact odds of winning. And the way I see it that's not gambling.

If I am armed with information of how often I will win then each situation that arises can only be considered either a good or bad investment opportunity.

There is no luck. There is no gambling. Just good and bad opportunities.

I'd like to talk about two such business opportunities from this weekend at the Wynn.

In the first one I held pocket queens and limped under the gun. Loose guy on the button raises to 30 and I call. Flop comes 8 high flop and he pushes all in.

It's the same hand we see all the time. I've got to figure out if my overpair is good. It's always a tough spot. You feel dumb if you fold it and it's the best hand. But after you've played the game awhile you feel even dumber when you call and your opponent shows you two pair or a set.

I thought it through.

I decided to trust my read. I also concluded that he was the type of player who would check here if he had actually flopped a set.

So I called and turned over my queens. He looked at them and grimaced.

Good for me.

I just had to survive two cards.

The dealer put a 10 down on the turn. And my opponent suddenly got all happy.

Then the dealer puts another 10 on the river. Now my opponent starts getting really happy.

Runner runner 10's for quads.

Instead of me taking his stack, he takes mine.

When he pushed all in on the flop and I called I was 91.62% to win the hand.

But I lost.

What can I say? I loved that situation. It just didn't work out.

I don't see getting my money in as a huge favorite as gambling. I felt real good at 91.62% to win. Obviously I would do that again and again. And if I kept losing then I'd just have to lose my money. I felt strongly that I was ahead when my chips went in. That was the result of my working hard for hours waiting for that specific situation and then trying to get as much money in the middle as possible.

For me gambling is reraising all in with a draw. I'm gambling that the other player folds. And if he calls me I'm gambling I hit my draw.

But for me to get all my chips in when I've trapped someone isn't gambling. It's me working.

Backing something that is 91.62% is not gambling. It's damn good investing.

After losing my stack I rebought. I wasn't hitting too much. I made a couple of decent river calls to stay afloat. Doing this gives me more satisfaction than flopping the nuts and winning a big pot. Particularly when I call down someone with bottom pair because I think they're trying to buy the pot. It's not so much about catching someone in a lie. It's more about having the courage to trust my read and call someones over bet in a spot where I could look (and feel) really dumb if they show me the winner.

If they show me top pair then I'm an idiot for calling them down. When they show me Ace high I'm a genius for calling them down. Lately I've been surprised how often these river calls are correct.

I chased a few times with the nut flush draw in multi way pots but did not hit.

I snuck in a few times with small pairs but hit no sets.

And then I had my second big hand of the day. The only other time besides the pocket queens that I was all in. My second big investment opportunity.

It began with me limping in with 5 8 suited in middle position. A woman in late position raised to 25.

By the way there were three women at my table. Two of them were dealers playing on their off day. And the third woman was a rounder. One guy made a joke about how we needed one more woman to "even it out" (since there were four men) and one of the woman dealers says "No more women. There are already too many here. I'd rather play with men." I loved how she wants to avoid other women. Almost like pros avoiding each other in pots at these tables.

After she made it 25 there were 4 callers so I called the extra 20 and saw the flop with my 5 8.

Flop comes 4,6,7.

I flop the straight.

The small blind leads out for $50 with pocket 10's. Amazingly the guy to my right calls.

I'm in an interesting spot. Normally I'd absolutely raise here to charge draws and protect my hand. But I only have a couple of hundred and at this point my stack is not getting anyone to fold.

My smallish stack also means I can stomach playing this hand to the end. If I have a grand in front of me and a third diamond hits on the turn then I probably gotta fold to a big bet. But not with my stack.

If I push all in the woman to my left probably folds. So I actually call here hoping that she either calls the 50 or raises. And if she doesn't raise then I'm just going to get the rest of my chips in on the turn. At this very moment I'm 90.71% against the pocket 10's in the small blind.

A 6 comes out on the turn and it's definitely a scary card. If either guy had flopped a set then he just hit a full house or quads and I'm drawing dead.

Suddenly I'm real happy not to have more money on the table. The small blind leads out for $75.
Incredibly the guy to his left and my right smooth calls again!

I don't think either one has a full house but like I said I'm too short to worry. I push all in and they both call.

Here's the crazy thing. Even though the board paired the 6's I am still a very solid 90.91% to win against the pocket 10's. My odds of winning this hand have actually increased since the flop.

The small blind has 4 outs with his 10's. He needs one of the two 10's to hit. Or he needs one of the two remaining 6's to hit. Otherwise this pot is mine.

And the dealer turns over a 10. Double damn.

I'm defying all sorts of math. It's pretty hard to lose back to back all ins where I'm over 90%.

It's pretty sick. Yet from what I've seen at the poker table on a daily basis it's almost expected.

I stand by what I wrote up top. These hands do not feel like "gambling."

Yes losing twice as a 90% favorite is bad luck. Kind of like getting struck by lightning.

However my job at the poker table is to do exactly what I did. I sit there for hours and find spots to get all my chips in when I have the best of it. And I did that twice on Saturday to perfection.

I should be celebrating.

This was tough mentally because I played some really good poker this weekend.

My decisions were correct. That should be all that matters.

But instead because of the results I feel like I did something wrong.

Life is funny. Just think how I was 90% probable to have a great Sunday.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pubic Diary

Keeping a blog is like having a public diary.

It's fascinating to see all of the personal information people share publicly.

From time to time I've thought that maybe I shouldn't write about my internet poker experiences because of all the 2006 legal ambiguity related to funding the sites.

And then I just read about this guy's blog.

Oh dear.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Et tu, Brute?

A rough time tonight in Caesars Palace for yours truly.

I hadn't been there since May 4th. Now I know why.

What can I say? It was wonderfully humbling. It built character.

I entered the poker room at 7:15pm and it was real quiet. There were only 6 cash game tables in use. I've seen bigger card games going on in bars where you're not supposed to play poker. There were a bunch of dealers standing around in the corner waiting to deal to tables full of players that didn't exist.

Now in Caesars defense it was a Tuesday night. And Tuesday might be the slowest time of the week here in Vegas. If it's not Tuesday then it's Wednesday, with Monday and Thursday both still connected to the weekend.

But what do I know? The line to PURE was still a display of complete insanity tonight. I'm not sure what party was going on inside but it looked more like New Years Eve than a Tuesday night. The weekend never really ends here.

The poker room was quiet but still had a bunch of NBA players in the back corner playing poker and hanging out. I tried to take a peak but didn't recognize too many of the guys. I think I saw Antoine Walker with chips in front of him. I'm pretty sure I didn't see any referees.

I should also mention that it rained in Vegas during Tuesday afternoon. I think I may have cried tears of joy. My metaphor for the rain was it felt "just like a sunny day. " It brought the temperature down to the 80's. The humidity was also weird to feel.

I guess I gotta say two things here.

1- Yes I know I'm discussing the weather and for that I apologize.

2- The Summer in Vegas has been a scarring experience.

The ups and downs of poker are one thing. Living in 115 degree heat has been very tough mentally and physically. My wife and I can't even go outside for a walk on most days. The casinos are too cold. And outside is too hot. This might become a reason in the future that we can't live permanently in Vegas.

This topic came up a few weeks ago and I suggested that we move to Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
This way I could play regularly at the Borgata. But Howard P. says Egg Harbor is "a bunch of farmers." I'm not exactly sure why that's a bad thing. I'm from Brooklyn. I don't really know farmers.

Most importantly I haven't bothered to look to see if "The Egg Harbor Year" is available as a blog title. If our government would just legalize deposits for internet poker then I could have the freedom to live anywhere in this great country.

How's that for a reason to legalize it? Freedom.

Okay. Now that I got all the small talk out of the way- Have I mentioned lately how hard poker is?

Tonight I went hours without hitting a hand. When that happens the game gets real difficult. It almost becomes a comedy sketch anytime I'm in a hand. When you haven't won a pot in few hours everyone is looking to play with you. If you listen carefully you can hear the laughter each time I raise.

Everyone at the table knows I have ace king. Just like we all know the flop is coming out 2,2,9.

If I bet the flop I'm getting check raised.

And if the flop just so happens to come out ace, ace, king, well then you can bet your bottom dollar that this time I have pocket 9's,

There were a few sequences where I thought to myself "Just don't get killed."

I also reminded myself that it's fine to fold for an hour. Or two.

I lost money on the evening because my draws let me down. I basically treaded water winning a few pots calling down aggressive players. But I gave all those chips back chasing my draws.

Chasing draws is a big part of my game. I do only expect to hit 1 out 3. But hitting 1 out of 3 is good enough for me to make a profit.

The 1 out of 3 thing is interesting because it's kind of like a good baseball hitter with a 333 batting average.

And so if I chase 6 draws in an evening where I'm 33% to win then I should win 2 of these hands.

But some nights even Derek Jeter goes 0 for 6.

(It would be great to check with the Elias Sports Bureau to find out if Derek Jeter has ever actually gone 0 for 6. When you play as many games as he has it almost seems like a mathematical probability. Then again he doesn't usually bat 6 times in a game. Most of his games are probably only 5 at bats. So the sample group of Jeter having 6 at bats games just got alot smaller.)

(Then again, the way I'm running tonight I'm probably gonna lose any more "bets" I make. So the fact that I think Derek Jeter HAS gone 0 for 6 in a game means it is probably not a fact. Although I can still hope it makes me feel better about not hitting my draws.)

One more word on draws: It's not usually good poker to chase. However I'm into chasing draws at cash games because most of the time the price I'm being charged is reasonable for what I can potentially win.

Like if I'm sitting at a table with 500 bucks and some other guy with 500 bucks makes it 15 to go, I'm very likely to call with any playable hand. I win entire stacks doing this.

But of course when my draws don't hit, each time it's suddenly another 50 or 100 bucks down the drain. Every third hand when they hit I'm a genius. And the other 2 hands when they miss I'm just trying to lose as little as possible. But when they don't hit at all it's trouble.

Overall I didn't play my best game tonight. I wouldn't say that I was on tilt. But there were a couple of times where I had the best hand and I don't think I made enough money with my cards. I think I was a little tight. A little gun shy. A little scared that somehow I was going up against the nuts.

The experience did make me rethink the timeless question(s):

Are there unlucky seats? Unlucky tables? Unlucky nights? Unlucky Casinos?

Alot of gamblers believe in luck.

Yet luck might also be able to be proven mathematically.

Over billions of hands of poker luck should even out. But in just one night of play anything can happen. And the randomness of having winners and losers in a given evening seems much more likely than possibility of everyone breaking perfectly even.

Perfect math should actually create a more random distribution of winners and losers. (In places where skill is not involved). Just because the guy next to you got pocket aces doesn't mean he won't be the next person at the table to get them again.

Thus there will be sessions with only bad cards where the key will be for me to lose as little as possible. There will be sessions where the deck hits me in the face and my only job is to see how much money I can take from the other players. And in between there will be plenty of "medium sessions" with lots of close tough decisions. It will be these sessions where perhaps skill matters the most.

But I mainly asked the question(s) above regarding luck because tonight in the middle of my session I wrote a note to myself that I already knew how the evening was going to end. I just had the feeling I was sitting at an unlucky table. And I've been through this story before. We all know it means I should probably just leave. Just like there are nights when I know I'm taking the other players chips. Tonight my antennae told me that it was my turn to lose chips.

Why not use the antennae I've attached my head?

Instead I'm sitting there watching my chips disintegrate. Just vanish into plain air.

I kept thinking to myself "Uh. Robert. If you leave now you'll still have X dollars."

My X was dropping by around 50 dollars an hour. If I was a stock, you'd sell. There weren't any real disasters. I never went all in. But hour after hour I bled.

My ace kings never hit. My pairs never held up. And whenever I made some sort of hand on the know. Someone drew out. It happens.

Yet I stayed at the table because there were a couple of poor players. I also stayed because I thought that as long as I wasn't on tilt, the cards had to turn around. I guess you could even argue I didn't stay long enough. Since I chose to exit with a manageable $295 loss.

I left at that point because I couldn't stomach losing 5 at a table I deemed "unlucky."

But why did I stay as long as I did?

I tried to give myself the chance to fight back.

I've read that in the big game Gus Hansen has been down over a million and come back to being even on multiple occasions. So asking me to win back a few hundred dollars isn't exactly unreasonable.

So the question remains.: As long as I'm not on tilt. And as long as there are poor players at the table. Should I stay at a table where I've been losing money?

I'm scared to say yes. Mainly because I don't want to become superstitious like that.

However if it continues to happen. ..

If I continue to have a foreshadowing feeling in my veins on losing nights...

Well then you can be damn sure at some point I'll adapt my superstitions.

I'll start avoiding black cats. I won't walk under ladders.

And most of all I'll stay away from Caesars Palace.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Stomach

Don't tell me but my secret plan is to win enough money on a daily basis to bribe myself into this lifestyle.

If I could make a grand a day doing this, suddenly it wouldn't matter if I enjoyed playing poker. The opportunity would just be too good. Playing poker would become a necessary sacrifice to help me achieve other goals in life. I want to have a family, Making money supports that cause. Poker has become my way to come home every night with money.

(If I were an investigative news journalist this is the angle I would explore. That somehow someway I've managed to get myself to a point in life where the responsible thing for me to do everyday is to actually go and play poker. That's not easy to do but I did it. Most people have better career options. Like if someone was going to pay me 6 figures to write for them I'd probably go and do that. But since I haven't nurtured a career in writing, no one is calling. So here I am. I'm like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. I can't quit. I've got nowhere else to go.)

The idea of having children certainly motivates me. A family provides a great reason to get out of the house and go to work everyday. I'm thinking that this family/money angle might be the best way to hook me in to a job like this. I'm pretty sure I don't love playing poker enough for a living that I would choose to live here and do it for low pay. I'd rather get a job and live someplace where the temperature isn't 115 degrees.

I appreciate all of you who sit there and waste time at work reading my poker anecdotes and hand histories but what this blog doesn't really provide for you is the virtual reality experience of being inside my stomach.

Poker gets real stressful when you need to win. It's a different game when you have to make money. Every time I enter a pot my results actually matter. This weekend at the Wynn I was the only guy at my table playing to eat. Everyone else was on vacation. Literally. And figuratively.

It's not everyday I get to write a sentence that's literal and figurative.

I'm not completely sure how I got to the point where I'm sitting at the Wynn playing for groceries.

Oh yeah I remember. I was an English major in college.

You see this is what happens to Liberal Arts majors. This is where we end up.

We play poker.

And of course since I majored in English you guys get the added bonus of my blog.

Someday if things get real bad for me I'll do a public service announcement warning college kids to get a degree in something that actually gets them a job.

But in the meantime us Liberal Arts majors just got to learn to stomach the big losses.

Before this July I wasn't a 4 digit a night guy. Yet my past 4 sessions I've experienced it 4 times. Obviously the good sessions are even better. The bad sessions much worse.

The good nights I try not to get too high. The bad nights I try to let go of as quickly as possible. But sometimes it takes a few days to get that feeling out of my body. Out of my stomach.

When I worked down at the Board of Trade my mentor said to me "Yeah we'll see how good you handle it the first time you lose 60 grand."

It's awful to think of losing that much. Yet playing that high could also mean winning that much. As I move up the poker food chain the game remains the same. There are bad players at every level. The only thing that changes is the color of the chips.

The next step in my poker education is to develop a color blind stomach.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Weak as in Weak? Or Weak as in Strong?

Three hands of interest from a 2/5 session.

#1- My first orbit at the table. I'm in the big blind. It gets folded around to the button and he raises it up to 20. I smooth call with ace queen.

An ace comes on the flop. I check. He bets 30. I call.

Rag on turn. I check. He bets 50.

I ask him to show me his chips. I want to see how much he has left. To see how far I'm going with this ace queen here. I see around 120 left in front of him. I can afford that. I call.

Another rag on river. This time I don't check. I figure I'm going to call his bet here anyway so the much stronger play is for me to lead out for 120.

He immediately starts complaining how I must have hit two pair.

Damn. He actually has ace king.

And I really think he was going to fold it here. But this Israeli guy to my right kept egging him on by saying stuff like "He's been raising with nothing all day. Good bet. You will make him fold his nothing."

And of course the real problem here is I don't think he has nothing. I think he has ace king.

So "we" (and by "we" I mean the Israeli guy) are certainly not going to get someone to fold his top pair top kicker here by mocking them for constantly bluffing. No. Ace king is a hand he can proudly show down and then whine about if I sucked out on him.

And so he finally calls. I loved how close he came to folding it. And I really think he may have if not for all the table talk.

Still, betting and losing, rather than calling and losing, did wonders for my constitution.

#2- A few hands later this same guy's lady and I are in a pot together. I'm holding suited connectors and flop a straight flush draw. She has two rags that have hit middle pair. I should also mention there's an ace out there.

We start betting back and forth. I figure she has the ace but am happy to chase my many many outs. We eventually showdown (I miss my draw) and she starts yelling at me.

Yes yelling.

She's telling me how bad I am.

I had no need to mock her for putting all her chips in with middle pair.

But for her taking my money wasn't enough. She just couldn't stop herself from criticizing my play and telling me how terrible I am at poker. How I must be on tilt.

It was like sitting with a person who was pretending to be crazy. Except she really was.

My only regret is I didn't take a photo of her for this blog.

Oh and that I didn't throw something at her. Like my chair. Or the table.

Our government needs to make internet poker completely legal and acceptable again just so my fellow human beings don't ever have to sit with this woman.

One other note to self here: When I sat down, I took the seat of a guy who had been begging and pleading every possible way with the poker host for a table change. There was a reason why he wanted to leave this table. Usually it's because a table is tight and has no action. But in this case after sitting at this table for just 10 minutes I'm pretty sure it was to get away from this couple. Just something to consider in the future.

#3- There was a crazy guy a few seats to my left who would make it 40 dollars to go every time he had the button. On one particular occasion when he did it again I joined the party (two callers) with my suited 8,9.

Flop comes ace king 2. Everyone checks including crazy guy.

Turn is a rag. I bet 50. Everyone folds except for crazy guy who calls.

River is a 9. I have a pair. But I obviously still can't beat an ace or king. I can beat a bluff though. So I check to him. And then something really strange happens.

He smiles at me and says "I'm weak." Then he stacks up 16 red chips and shoves out an 80 dollar bet.


"I'm weak"?????????

What the hell does that mean? What is he trying to get me to do?

Usually a person who says they're weak would only have the courage to do so when they're strong. Unless he's trying to mess with my mind. And scare me into folding. By saying that he's weak.

I want to fold. And calling here seems like throwing 80 dollars away. But I just can't get over his words. "I'm weak." Why say that?

I finally look right at him and say "If you bet 80 when you're weak how much do you bet when you're strong?"

He says nothing.

I count out 16 red chips. I stare at him again and say "I'm weak too."

Now I'm not 100% sure I'm ahead here but I can definitely come up with enough reasons to make the call. His bet fits the description of someone betting the river because they know it's the only way they can win the pot. He hasn't shown any aggression since preflop. Why bet now?

I am also damn curious at this point to see his cards. To see why he played each street the way he did. 80 bucks to satisfy my curiosity.

And of course it was "only" 80 bucks out of my pocket so that you guys can read about it now.

But a funny thing happened on the way to finding out his hole cards...

He threw them into the muck.

I didn't show mine either.

Although it would have been alot of fun to see his expression.

(Not to mention the new material I'd be providing the crazy woman with to yell at me about).

Monday, July 16, 2007


I had a really ugly Saturday night.

I'll spare you the hand details. It makes no difference.

Lets just say that bad things happened to me at the poker table more often than they are mathematically supposed to.

Emotionally it was a very rough experience.

And what bugged me, just as much as the experience itself, was also seeing myself actually get upset from poker results. It doesn't happen that often anymore.

At this point I'm a pretty damn cool customer no matter what goes down. I can say "nice hand" and move on. I see such awful beats everyday. They don't usually faze me. I almost expect them to come.

So I can genuinely say that the first couple of times I got sucked out on Saturday night I was genuinely amused.

And then it happened a few more times and it started to feel personal.

But I stuck around and played good poker. And waited for good situations.

And finally found them.

And then it happened a few more times after that.

And that's when I decided it was time to go home.

I still feel dirty.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back to Cash

I played some cash games the past 2 days. Overall I was pretty card dead so really my best achievement was not forcing the action.

I was at a 2/5 table yesterday for 90 minutes with a Dutch guy who was an amazing poker maniac. I've really never seen anything like it. Sure I've seen aggressive play. But this guy put on a clinic. Mainly because he was hitting crazy draws. And when someone plays like a maniac AND hits his draws it's complete chaos for the table.

In just an hour and a half I watched this guy turn 500 bucks into 4000. He kept felting people. They'd have something like pocket jacks. He'd normally have something like 6,8. Over and over again.

Who knows? Maybe I was lucky not to get a hand. Although after watching him play for a little while I was convinced that if I got anything at all I was going to either double up or give him my stack as well.

He was raising to 25 without looking at his cards from early position. He was raising preflop to 55 anytime he was in late position.

Please universe. Just give me 2 playable cards.

I finally got in there against him with king queen off. He raised it to 55 and I called feeling like I definitely had the best hand.

Flop came king high. All 3 cards were diamonds.

I checked to let him bet and he obliged. 50 dollars. I called. Raising is fine here but I don't want to bet and lose him. I want him to keep betting.

I got a bad turn card. A 4th diamond.

I checked again. This time he only bet 35. It almost seemed like a joke bet. It either means he has a flush and doesn't want to lose my action. Or he has nothing at all, is also scared and sort of betting small to see what I do.

This would have been a good spot for me to reraise him and find out. But due to the size difference of our stacks I really didn't want to commit any more of my stack to this hand right now. Not without a diamond.

If I raise him to 135 and he calls, what do I do when I have to act first on the river?

So I just called again.

The river was even worse than the turn. A 5th diamond. It happens so rarely. The board flushing. Why now?

Now the irony here is I would check against this guy in this spot if I held a big diamond so that I'd be giving him a chance to bet. If I lead out with a bet he might fold. But my hand being what it is, I'm only getting called by a better hand. Also what do I do if I bet and he reraises me all in? He was doing that pretty much every hand to all the smaller stacks.

So I check.

In front of him at this point he has around 3k in cash. He picks up all thirty 100 dollar bills and throws them out into the middle the table. He's putting me all in.

If there were 4 diamonds on the board I can actually consider calling this bet. He might be bluffing with nothing. And my pair of kings would probably still be the best hand and I could win the entire pot.

But with 5 diamonds on the board and him all in, if I call and he's bluffing, the best case scenario is we're still chopping the pot. We'd both have flushes. So I'd be calling off my entire stack in an attempt to simply split what's already out there. And of course if he has a diamond, I'd lose everything.

I ask the dealer to count his bills (as a joke) and she actually begins to. But before she gets too far, I toss my cards into the muck. I'm pretty sure he's bluffing. But I'd rather just give up on the 140 bucks I've put out there. Protecting 140 is not not worth losing another 300 or whatever I have left in front of me.

For what it's worth, on the very next hand this Dutch guy does the exact same thing on the river. Once again he tosses out his thick stack of hundreds. This time on an ace high board.

After some deliberation the small stack calls and shows ace king. Dutch guy turns over 6,3 for a runner runner full house. He was definitely setting the table up (in my hand) for doing the same move a second time when he knew he had the nuts and would get called.

It was an really amazing display of poker. He was good enough to get away from cards later in the hand the few times he was behind. But otherwise he just kept up the pressure with his constant betting. It was beautiful to watch.

Unfortunately after 90 minutes he got up and left.

Let the record state that I still hadn't won a single hand yet at this table.

Here I was at the best table I'd even seen. I dream of tables like this. Yet at the same time my seat was one of the coldest I'd ever sat in. Life is funny like that.

After he left I finally got some starting hands but still kept missing flops. Or having the second best hand. By now I've bought in for 900 total having fallen down 400 dollars which really isn't that much at 2/5.

And then finally things turned around. A guy in early position raised to 15. One guy called. I called the additional 10 dollars from the big blind with my 6,9 suited.

Flop comes ace high with a 6. There's also one of my suit. I check. So do the other two guys.

Turn is a second of my suit. The initial raiser bets 30. Middle position guy folds. I call with my flush draw. I also think I might win here if another 6 or 9 comes.

River completes my flush. I check to let him bet. He obliges and shoves 80 bucks out there.

I know I am going to raise. I just want to find the right number. Because I want to get called.

I finally decide the move is to put $210 out there.

It's "only" $130 more for a pot already containing $395.

He calls. The poor guy had pocket aces. He didn't bet the flop because he flopped a set and didn't want to kill his action. So he let me catch up. We sort of both did what we're supposed to do. I guess he could have made a larger bet on the turn to get me to fold but he also doesn't know I actually have a flush draw there. Tough one for him.

I hit this draw but missed a few others. Incredibly I had two straight flush draws within the same hour. One hand was against a lady to my left who miniraised every time she had a big pair. She was real easy to play against.

I'm in there preflop with 5,6 suited. Some guy raised to 15. I called. And she makes it 30. What's so funny to me here is that I'm now forced to put out another 15 to win 75. So it's not like I'm upset by her raise. If anything she's building me a pot if I actually flop anything.

Flop was 4,6,7. And the 4 and 7 were my suit! If she has something like pocket queens then I'm a pretty big favorite here. Over 60%.

If she bet big to protect her hand I'd probably make a big reraise. But she kept firing out 20 dollar bets and so I took the discount and just kept calling.

I counted 20 outs to win the hand. 9 diamonds. 6 non diamond cards that would fill my straight up. Plus 2 sixes for trips and 3 fives for two pair.

I'm not sure I've ever had 20 outs before. It didn't matter though. None of them came.

And then William Rockwell sat down at my table. You may have seen William in ESPN's 2006 coverage of the WSOP Main Event. He's the dude who uses his feet to look at the cards and bet.

He was a really nice guy. And obviously an amazingly strong person. He didn't get much action. Most of the times when he raised everyone got out of the way. They might think they're doing him a favor but I was thinking the poor guy can't get paid off when he actually has something.

Meanwhile I kept fluctuating up and down. Friday the 13th was a night of flushes. It seemed like every pot was won or lost to a flush. I won a couple more with flushes. But then also had two sets go down in flames to flushes. Unlike the other players I charged their draws with pot sized bets. It made no difference. They called and they hit.

One other hand I'll mention.

A bunch of us limp in for 5 bucks. I'm holding pocket 5's. Big blind pushes all in for his last 85. This is usually an easy fold because you figure my best case scenario is racing two big cards. But then I thought some more about it.

My read was that the big blind was making a move with any 2 cards. And if this was true, my 5's are the favorite. I'm not dying to push 80 more bucks out there. But it's 80 to win around 100. And I'm the favorite. So I have to call. And I did.

The big blind had jack 8. That confirmed that I was a 53-47 favorite.

Whether or not an 8 or jack came out is insignificant.

All that mattered was that I laid 80 to win 100 dollars as a 53% favorite.

If I can do that millions of times, no matter how ugly those races look, I will make alot of money.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Locked Out

As you may have heard, it's pretty hot here in Vegas these days.

Last week it was routinely around 115.

And it's over 100 degrees outside every night. Even at 2 in the morning.

With that in mind, lets cut back to this past Saturday afternoon.

I had won my way into the Main Event late Friday night. I woke up late and was sipping iced coffee when I decided to check on something with the pool. A red service light was flashing and I wanted to see if I could fix it.

So I exited out one of the 4 doors that make up the back of our house. These 4 doors are glass and when put together give a wide view of the backyard.

I guess I could take a picture for you.

Anyhow the lock on one of these doors is such that the door handle remains loose from the inside even when the door is locked on the outside. There's nothing to adjust. It just locks automatically when you close it.

It's enough of a problem that earlier in the week my wife and I discussed our lock out options. Should we leave a key somewhere outside? Why doesn't my sister who lives in town have one? Etc.

From how I remember it, I stepped outside to the pool on Saturday around 1 pm.

My wife then followed. She came to look at what I was doing. But apparently we both went through the same door. The one that locks automatically.

What's really frustrating here is that 3 of the other 4 doors don't lock automatically. But the door we both went through did.

We were locked out.

It was 115 degrees and we're standing out there in the sun in our pajamas.

For me that meant no shirt. No shoes. Nothing but a pair of basketball shorts I've owned since the Fab 5 was at Michigan.

For my wife it was pajama pants. She was also barefoot and had on a tank top.

"Some" might call it slinky.

We have no keys.

No phone.

No I.D.

No money.


We don't even have drinking water.

Did I mention that it's 115 degrees out?

I've also been awake for like 10 minutes. Not sure if it's the 115 degree heat or the pressure of the situation but I think I'm starting to sweat.

So we decided to do what any married couple would do in this situation.

My wife went to get help.

And I stayed and tried to break into our house.

She went out to get a locksmith. Barefoot, she crossed the insanely hot asphalt on our street and ran to knock on a neighbor's door.

Meanwhile I was removing screens from windows, checking to see if any had been left unlocked.

A few minutes later she came back with a large man.

He had some tools and apparently he said he was going to break into our house for us.

I had mixed feelings here.

On one hand I wanna get back in. And quickly.

Yet as I'm standing there watching him try to knock our sliding glass door off it's track, part of me is rooting against him. Do I really want to see a guy be able to break into my house so easily?

Much to my surprise he wasn't able to do it. He tried a few methods. Removed a few exterior panels, screws, etc. But it didn't work.

We finally borrowed his cell phone and called a locksmith.

30 minutes later an Israeli club kid wearing a "God is a DJ" t-shirt showed up with some "break in" tools.

First we debated the price. Kind of a funny negotiation. Like how far can I really go here to get the best price? It's not like I can walk out on him.

The number finally looked bearable and he began to try to pick our door lock(s).

He couldn't.

Then he tried to "pump" his way in using a device that slips into the door crack and then fills up with air to create space.

This didn't work either.

He finally went to a 3rd method. Because I don't want everyone to break into my home I'm not going to share how he did it. But a few minutes later we were back inside.

He made me show him ID. To prove I lived here.

I wonder what happens at that point if I can't produce ID. I guess he calls the police?

We still haven't put a spare key outside. Or given one to my sister.

So this story is going to get even better the next time we get locked out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Where were you Monday morning?

I spent my Monday morning before the Main Event eating breakfast and drinking coffee.

Phil Hellmuth spent his Monday morning driving a race car around the Rio parking lot for some promotion. At least until he accidentally crashed.

The outfit you see him wearing is the same thing he actually wore to the poker table a few hours later.

What did we ever do before the internet?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

2007 Main Event

On Monday I played in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker and I felt real serious.

I did not expect that.

I thought I would be all laid back.

Cause I was free rolling and all.

But it didn't feel like a free roll. No this felt more like a golden opportunity. It's not often I play a poker tournament where I could win over 8 million dollars.

No. This mattered. And I had my game face on.

I've heard people fantasize about playing the Main Event, as if it would be a dream, but for me it was quite stressful.

I believe I could make money in this tournament. And why shouldn't I? I've spent the past 4 years playing poker. Studying poker. Talking about poker. Making money playing poker.

And when I'm not playing poker one of my hobbies is playing internet poker.

I like to calculate hand odds. You know. See how often different cards win.

That's my idea of a good time.

I could have learned French.

I could have gone to build homes in New Orleans.

Instead I race suited connectors.

The good news is the practice seems to have finally paid off. I felt so completely at ease today playing against my opponents. It was easy to identify who everyone was at the table. After sitting with them for 4 hours I was positive there were only 2 other players thinking beyond second level. I never had to race. I was never all in. I just sat back and accumulated chips, usually without showing down.

I got to my seat by 12:30 pm. My 20k starting stack was 19700. Not too bad for being 30 minutes late. I only missed two orbits.

Why was I late?

Two reasons.

1-I thought it was more important for me to have a real good morning at home than rush to simultaneously enter the Amazon room with 1700 people jamming through 2 doors at 12 noon.

2- I read that pros have been showing up at 1pm. So 12:30 is certainly reasonable enough for me. Kind of like I'm a semi-pro.

It's like casting call. We need the amateurs at noon. Robert at 12:30. And all the Full Tilt guys at 1.

90 minutes later, at the first break I had 25,975 chips and I felt like a pro.

I was most proud of the chips that came from this gentleman who just played too many hands. I kept jumping in there with him and if I hit anything at all, I went to showdown. Each time at showdown he'd kind of grimace at my middle pair, as if he was unimpressed. All I could wonder was what the hell was he mucking?

He was gone pretty early. Like 100/200 early.

As usual I got in trouble with 5 8 suited today. It's really amazing. It finds me every time at the table. Maybe I just gotta stop playing that hand.

The best part here, the sign of insanity, is how I act surprised.

As if 5 8 suited is supposed to be winning for me.

Not sure why I decided the 5 8 was a playable hand in the first place but what's done is done.

I also won a few pots with queen 9 today. I can't stop playing that hand either.

Actually. You know what? The 5 8 suited hand can come off the chart. For those of you who paid money to come on my poker fantasy camp weekend it's time to take out your top 10 starting hand chart. I have an important update for you guys.

Please remove 5 8 from the chart. It is no longer the 5th best starting hand. Move pocket jacks from 6th to 5th and replace the 5 8. And then put queen nine suited into the 6 spot.

You know why school children shouldn't play the 5 8?

Well just listen to my tale of woe. I had the 5 8 suited in the big blind and received an 8 high flop. I bet but still they called. Well a second heart came on the turn and I bet again. But still they called. Well then the 8 of hearts on the river. It gave me trips. But it also put a flush out there.

Well what do you think class?

It was a runner runner flush so it's really hard to put anyone on it.

Or at least it was until they raised me.

And the punchline?

They both have flushes!

Guy 1 has jack 10 of hearts.

Guy 2 has king 6 of hearts.

Awesome. I didn't even need the extra 8 on the river. I was already winning.

In Level 3 we went to 200/400 and I got more aggressive with preflop raising.

I was at 25,075 when I won a big pot with ace queen to get up to 33125.

At this point we had already lost 3 players.

To anyone who says poker isn't a sport I gotta say that the whole endurance part is what really makes the case. It's freaking hard to sit there for hours and hours and not make mistakes. Like these guys who were eliminated were playing better the first hour or two. But then they just starting losing patience. It's kind of like they cracked mentally. They couldn't take sitting there for 2 hours at a time. Over and over. Till 3:40 in the morning.

And that only gets you to day 2.

It's fascinating really. Cause you can't really have a bad hand.

And 120 minutes can sure take awhile.

As can 8 days.

And there is a weird energy in the room.

An angry unshowered testosterone.

It sort of feels like a heavyweight fight.

But there's no ring.

Just felt tables.

I also swear I smelled dog food today.

I'm not sure I want to go deeper therapeutically with that one. Lets just leave it at that.

My table broke soon after but before I left I played a really interesting hand against a guy to my right. Can I say he's Asian? It's the most descriptive thing I can tell you about him. (And I have no problem at all if in his blog he's writing about the "European looking guy" he sat next to.)

He was a nice guy. We chatted a bit. He played pretty tight.

So on this particular hand he limps under the gun.

I look down in 2nd position at pocket aces. I call behind him. It's my favorite move. Plus there had been a whole bunch of reraising and stealing preflop which I was hoping would continue. On this hand it didn't and instead everyone folded to the blinds who both called.

So now the 4 of us see the jack, 9, 7 flop.

Both blinds check. The Nice guy to my right checks. I bet 1150 into the 1600 pot.

Both blinds fold. The Nice guy to my right raises me to 3000.

Damn. He has no idea how strong I am.

Although I guess I have no idea how strong he is. He limped under the gun.

This is tough. He could even have 8 10 suited.

He says softly to me "I got you."

I feel complete confidence from his energy. And I really believe that he also thinks he's doing a nice guy thing trying to help me.

Am I really going to play a huge pot with him after I've received this clue?

What happens if he turns over a set? I'll bust a fuse in my ego.

So I go back over the hand. He limped in under the gun. He could have jacks.

Damn I can't decide what to do. I'm dying to call. But I've been building up the chips real nicely and don't want to play a big pot with just anoverpair at this point. I'll do that when the blinds are bigger. He could have a set or two pair.

I finally ask him if he'll show me if I fold.

He says yes.

I fold.

And turns over pocket queens.


As if they were the best hand.

He he.

He asks me if I had ace jack. Or king jack.

It was an awesome moment.

Because he REALLY thought he had me. And I saw it in him. So I believed him too.

In psychology they say we fear what has already happened.

Obviously I have some issues with pocket aces.

Almost like I've been abused by them and now I don't trust them.

And even though it was wrong for me to fold here I felt good about feeling his strength from his body language.

After the dinner break we went to 200/400/50. 1100 a round.

I started out fast playing 5 of the first 10 hands. I got playable cards but I could tell people were getting annoyed. This was great for me. There were 3 small stacks. And I was picking on them.

And then a bad thing happened.

They broke my table.

I got moved to a table where a dude had 90000 chips. So much for my bullying.

At this point I had 31,275. The average stack was 30,355.

At this new table I fold the first orbit. I'm checking out the players. I'm in no rush. I take the blinds in position with suited connectors in the 2nd orbit. Then I pick up ace king suited a hand or two later and raise it up to 1500. Big blind calls.

Flop comes king, king, 7.


Betting occurs.

I underbet flop. He calls.

I bet turn, he reraises all in, I call.

He has king queen. Which is in big trouble versus my ace king.

And then a 7 comes on the river. Which gives us both full houses and a chopped pot. He gets his chips back.

So instead of being up to 45 I stayed at 30.

That really hurt.

It didn't put me on tilt. But was a certainly a set back.

Think about how hard it is to take some one's stack. 3 things need to happen.

1-I need to get the hand. Like here I picked up ace king and raised it to 1500.

2- I need to hit the hand. How often am I gonna flop trip kings?

3- I need to get paid off. And how lucky do I have to be to have an opponent in the hand with a worse kicker?

So to do all 3 of these things and then not get the chips left me frustrated.

On the last hand before the break the big stack raised under the gun to 1500. I called in middle position with pocket 9's. I thought about raising and the power of doing that but decided that there was no amount I could raise here that would matter to him. He has 90k. What am I going to do? Make it 6?

Can I fold this hand? Am I allowed to play that weakly? Can I just crawl up into a ball? How about some apple juice? Can we have nap time soon?

So I call the 1500 in position and see a 3,4,8 flop.

It's a dream. As long as he doesn't have an overpair to 9's.

He bets 3500. I call.

Turn is a 10. Now he bets 10k.

And he killed my courage with his big stack. Can I really put all my chips in here? He raised under the gun. He could definitely have a pocket pair bigger than 9's. All of 5 the 5 over pairs are possibilities.

Best case scenario for me is he has ace king or a small pair. But if he has a small pair then he could also have a set.

I think about raising all in. But in the end I didn't trust my read enough. So I folded.

That just wasn't my spot. I should have folded on the flop. Or raised if I thought I was ahead. But it was weak of a play to call a big stack's flop bet. He has enough chips to keep firing bullets.
I gotta raise or fold and be done with the hand.

We went on break and they announced that we had just lost 220 players in that last 120 minute level. That's almost 2 players a minute.

In the next level our blinds would be going to 300/600 and 75 ante. 1650 a round.

It was the first time all day I started calculating my M. My stack was now down to 23 thousand where I hadn't been since level 1.

Play got pretty wild after dinner. and so I started to think I was going to get involved in a race. The bigger stacks weren't letting small stacks steal blinds. Races were happening all over the room.

I kept waiting and folding. The guy to my left came in under the gun for 2000. I was in the big blind and looked down at pocket queens. I could definitely reraise here. But this is also a great spot to trap since we know that if I check he's going to bet the flop no matter what comes out.

So as long as there's no overcard to my queen, I'm ready to play a big pot right here right now.

The only thing I need to know for sure is that he doesn't have a big pair. Cause then I'm in big trouble. Would he raise aces to 2000 under the gun? What does his body say?

Sometimes it just seems like aces and other times it doesn't. Well for me this time it just didn't seem like aces.

So I went with my read. And I trusted it. Till the the end of the world.

There were 47650 chips in the middle on a 9 high board when we both turned over our cards.

I showed my queens. And then he turned over his cards.

They were 9's and at first I thought this was good. But then I saw the 9 on the board. The whole thing was a blur. He hit a set. I trapped myself.

And of course if we're at lower blinds etc. I could have gotten away from this hand. Just like I did a little too well earlier in the tournament post flop with my aces.

But in this moment I think I got a little too concerned with becoming a smaller stack. And after being sick for the past week, I'm not sure I had the stamina to lay down queens on a nine high board.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play in the World Series of Poker. For myself. For the blog. For you the readers. For The Vegas Year.

Unfortunately the 8 million dollar fantasy is over. I gotta get back to the cash tables.

Photos are courtesy of my favorite person. If you click them you can see bigger versions.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Event #148. The Mega Satellite

The World Series of Poker's Main Event began on Friday July 6th at 12 noon.

My Mega Satellite occurred that same afternoon at 4 pm.

It's sort of strange to play in a tournament, to get into another tournament, while that second tournament is already going on.

Like I'm watching people walking out of the Rio having already been eliminated from their Main Event.

And I haven't even started.

They gave us 3000 chips and the blinds jumped up every 30 minutes to a bigger level.

The blinds may have been fast but the players were real slow. They took forever to act. Most of them would go into the tank for a few minutes every time they had to make a decision. This delay often felt torturous because whenever I glanced at the clock it seemed like the blinds were about to go up again.

And of course there's always one or two guys who anoint themselves Table Captain and insist on doing the dealer's job. This tactic just slows the whole game down. I haven't seen poker played at this pace since the 1780's when we were writing up the Constitution and still playing internet dial up poker with a paper cup and a string.

Lets play some hands people! Can we get 20 in every hour? Is that too much to ask for?

380 players entered. Top 18 got seats .

Lets get one thing straight. I don't have to acquire all the chips. I don't have to win.

I only have to outlast 362 players. Thus no need to go crazy early on.

Raise and reraise in front of me in level 1? That just means I throw my ace queen into the muck.

In level 2 I made some moves and picked up some chips. I got a little carried away and raised it to to 300 (at 50/100) in early position with 5 8 suited. I got 3 callers.

Once again I present for you the joy of raising with 5 8.

I mean it.

With aces I'm nervous right now. But with 5 8 suited against 3 opponents I say "Show me the flop!"

The 3,4,6 offering gave me an encouraging open ended straight draw.

One of the blinds led out with a 300 bet. I called. Other 2 guys folded.

A blank turn came and the blind checked. He might be giving up.

Sure I should be happy to take a free card here but I'm also into being aggressive anytime I can find place.


Because I don't think I play aggressively enough.

So it occurs to me that he's shown weakness here. He led out at the flop and now his check might mean he's giving up. Perhaps he has a small piece of the flop (or ace high) and I can win the hand right here right now with a bet. Lets try to get this over with. So I bet out 600.

In hindsight it's an embarrassingly small bet into an 1800 pot. But it can look like a value bet and it's mainly giving him a chance to get off his hand if he hasn't actually hit yet.

He took his shot on the flop. He got called. And now he's behind and being charged 600 to continue. At least I hope that's what's going on here.

Much to my dismay he calls and the river misses me too.

Again he checks to me.

There's that old saying "When the tide goes out we'll see who's swimming naked."

For me "swimming naked" is sitting here on the river in the mega satellite tent on a 115 degree day with my 8 high.

But what are my options?

I could shut down here. And if I knew for certain he'd call my river bet, there would be no point in betting.

But if I don't bet I can't win the hand. Period. So my job is to bet enough to make him fold.

The problem is he only has 1000 left. So he's getting great odds to call me. Even with a small piece.

However he showed passivity on the turn and the river so I thought there was a chance I could take it away. Maybe he has something like bottom pair here with a busted straight draw and will fold to a big bet. To stay alive in the tourney.

So I bet 1000 and put him all in.

I convince myself that he isn't going to call me unless he holds the nuts.

Unfortunately that was exactly what he has.

5,7 for a flopped straight.

Now as strange as this is going to sound, this hand was a confidence builder. Most players don't have the courage to keep firing bullets at the pot. And even though my play didn't work, it felt like an advanced move. To keep betting.

Sure I rationalized the choice as well because it was my only way to win. But I'm proud of the the courage it took. It didn't work. But it felt like something a professional poker player does.

So despite this big drop in my chip stack, I kept at it. I kept on raising. Just like the pros do. Small raises. Staying in the betting lead. And even with a smallish stack I was able to push these players around. I got back up to a healthy 3650 by the first break without ever showing down a hand.

My table broke soon after and I moved across the room. At this new table I played a key hand in my first orbit. A woman in early position raised to 800. I called on the button with ace queen.

This woman had been at my first table as well and I thought I had a pretty good read on her.

She liked to act like she was a beginner. She gave off the image of someone who only played big pairs and maybe ace king.

And she talked it up too.

"I always hope everyone folds whenever I bet" she said.

But she would do moves, like leading out on the flop from the blinds or betting in position when it was checked to her, that made her seem more savvy that she claimed.

So when she came in for 800 from middle position in an unraised pot, I didn't necessarily fear I was in trouble with my ace queen. She sure didn't have to have ace king here. She didn't even have to have a pair.

I had position. I had ace queen. I called. Lets play poker.

Flop was 7,8 ace. She led out for 1200. I'm either way ahead or way behind and we're about to find out which. I shove my stack out there.

She calls. And turns over 5,8.


Yes 5,8!

And you know what I think?

Good for her!

I love that she played it that way. I mean it.

I'm sure her plan was that no one was going to call her raise preflop. And of course when the ace flopped, her bet still makes sense. Like if I held a pocket pair I'd probably fold to her bet after seeing the ace flop on the board.

(Meanwhile of course I'm defending her play. Since I misplayed 5 8 as well earlier in this same tournament. )

When the chips got in the middle I was way ahead in the hand. But I still had to survive two more cards. The fact that there were still two 8's and three 5's left in the deck. And if either of them comes out I'm out of the tournament.

So you know what's going to happen here right?

Of course the 5 is going to hit.

And then I'm going to come home and turn on the computer and whine to you about how my hands never hold up in tournaments.

But not today.

She didn't improve. The Aces held up and suddenly I had some chips.

By the time we got to level 7, I built up to 10,800. The 112 players remaining had an average stack of 10,178. I was raising 1 or 2 hands per orbit during this time. I was getting playable hands and never limping in. Other players generally stayed out of my way.

With blinds at 500,1000 and 100 ante (2500 an orbit) I got up to 13k. With these blinds I can only last 5 orbits around the table and yet I genuinely felt healthy.

I moved to another table where I raised from middle position with pocket 9's to take down a pot.I raised because a guy had limped in under the gun for 1000 (with pockets jacks) and I was just trying to find out how strong he was. To see if he had limped with aces.

I really wasn't reraising to get a hand like pocket jacks to fold. But it's a great reminder of the power of aggression. I expected a call but I guess if you're holding pocket jacks you're also scared of bigger pair there. (It's also worth mentioning that the guy who folded the jacks made the final 18 and got a seat.)

A level later I grew even more up to 18,000.

I moved to yet another new table. My first hand there I called a 4900 all in from the big blind with queen nine suited.

Why? Because queen nine is the hand that I've never seen lose.

The guy who pushed in only had jack ten so I was actually the favorite. But you already knew the queen nine would win.

Blinds were now 800/1600 and 200 ante and I stole them twice in position to get up to 28k.

There were 80 players left.

I get out the calculator and do some math. I compute that by the time we reach 18 players the average chip stack will be around 63,000.

I'm in great shape. But I still have alot of work to do.

I get king queen suited under the gun and mini raise to 3200. This is a good time to make a point about starting hands. When I play super tight and very few hands I hate getting burned with something like king queen suited because it's at the bottom of my hand range.

But when I'm playing a wider range of hands I love getting something like king queen suited because it's a stronger holding that what I might usually have.

Does that makes sense?

In other words when I'm playing tighter I don't want to be holding king queen because people expect me to have a better holding and thus will be stronger than king queen themselves.

But when I'm playing alot of hands someone might play back at me with a weaker holding.

As in with something that king queen suited can actually beat.

So I raise with the king queen suited but before I can sweep in the chips, the small blind pushes all in on me. I'd fold to a big raise here but he only has 3700 more so I call.

He has pocket 5's and I fully expect to win.

I lose.

This race sets me back slightly since the entire pot was worth 16,600. I'm back down close to 20ish instead of being up close to 40ish.

Big difference. If I had won this pot I could have really snowballed with my aggression since most players were just trying to survive. However one of the benefits of my earlier aggression was that it got me enough chips where I could afford to lose a race like this and still have some chips. But now I had to become more careful.

After paying some blinds I was down to 17ish and my M was suddenly under 3.

I waited.

I paid blinds again and was down to 12ish.

The table was nine handed and it was costing 5700 chips a round.

The next hand was folded to me on the button and I pushed all in (with ace 10) to take down the pot.

It got folded to me again the very next hand in the cutoff seat and I pushed again to win the blinds and antes.

The back to back steals (for 11,400 chips) got me up to a healthy 23ish again. But I mention these two hands because I'm so aware that if either blind wakes up with a hand, my tourney could be over.

Blinds were now 1500/3000 and 400 ante. 8500 a round.

40 players left.

Guy to my right goes all for like 12k. Half my stack. I fold pocket 5's. Even if he doesn't have a pair I don't want to race two face cards. If I'm playing pocket 5's tonight you'd better believe I'm raising with them.

With 38 players left I had 23k. I bleed down again to 16.5 after paying blinds.

I gotta push with a hand in the next orbit.

Guy under gun pushes all in for his 29k.

I look down at the ace and king of hearts. I push all in as well.

I assume I'm racing something like pocket 9's or pocket jacks. You know, one of those hands that doesn't want to see an over card on the flop. So he's just trying to take it down now.

This is also the last hand of the level. We're going to 2000/4000 blinds and 500 ante so I need to double up and get some chips. I would have preferred to be first in but with ace king this is my chance.

But before we can race, the game gets held up because the big blind can't decide what to do. He's mulling it over for a few minutes. He has both of us covered in chips. So basically he's trying to decide if he thinks he's getting the correct odds to call.

There are probably two answers to this question.

Mathematically (pot odds) the answer is probably yes. He is probably going to win the pot more often than the percent of chips he has to put in.

But in a satellite the answer might really be no. Because unless he is instacalling with a big pair, he has to be trailing here. A guy moved all in under the gun, so you know he has something. And I called all in, so I obviously wasn't putting my chips out there hoping to get anyone to fold.

We both have to be somewhat strong.

On a personal note, the troubling thing for me about him taking this time was that I figured this guy probably had an ace and was taking away at least one of my outs.

Incredibly, the guy eventually decides to call, and turns over ace queen.

And perhaps more incredibly, the all in under the gun guy also turns over ace queen.

I pound the table with my fist. For the first time in a year.

I'm a 4 to 1 favorite but we all know what's going to happen next right?

There are two queens left in the deck. Or they could flop a straight draw.

The flop is all low diamonds. I couldn't tell you the numbers. I was just looking for face cards.

I glanced at the double ace queens sitting face up on the table.

Neither guy has a diamond. This is really too good to believe.

Last week I got knocked out ace king vs ace queen.

But not today.

Ace king beat ace queen. Like it's supposed to.

We go to break and I have 55k. Average stack is 32k. 35 players remain.

Suddenly this seat is mine to lose.

I come back from break with a plan. I just need to win 1 pot per orbit to stay in the 50-60k range. It's much easier said than done. But still, it's a plan.

We're nine handed and blinds are at 2000/4000 and 500. 10,500 a round. No one is safe.

I pick up queen jack suited under the gun. Hard hand to play from this spot. I can't limp. But I also don't want to commit too many chips. I raise to 10k. Guy to my left pushes all in for his last 10k. It gets folded around and we showdown.

He turns over 9,10 off.

Huh? Why? He wasn't even going to be the big blind the next hand.

My queen jack wins. And I don't take it for granted.

Even against a small stack like him that pot was just for 30k. (10k was mine so 20 profit).

That ain't small change at this point.

Then two hands later a guy makes it 14k from the button. I look down in the small blind at ace king. He has another 25k behind the line. I push all in. With only 30 players remaining lets put him to the test. If he has anything other than aces this is a tough call. Even with kings or queens.

He mucks his hand.

These two hands helped get me up to the 90k range.

I was at 87.5k when we got down to 3 tables and 27 players and redrew for new table spots.

At my new table I was the initially the biggest stack. However the medium stacks were idiots and playing pots with each other. I stayed out of their way and still managed to steal one hand per orbit to stay in the 80-90k range.

By the time we reached the next break there were only 21 players remaining.

Top 18 get 10k seats. 19th place gets $700. 20th and 21st place get nothing.

I'm still raising one hand per orbit and no one challenges it.

Blinds are now 5000, 10000, and 1000 ante. We're 7 handed so it costs me 22,000 chips every 7 hands. Even with a healthy above average 78.5k stack my M was less than 4. Sure I could fold once or twice around the table but at some point I might have to win another pot to survive.

I'm in great shape. But still very concerned.

No one can stomach the idea of playing this far and not getting the seat.

And it never ends well.

The guy who went out 21st had pocket kings.

His opponent king, 10.

The flop had a 10.

The turn was a rag.

The river a 10.

So gross.

When we got down to 20 players we went to hand for hand play. A guy with 25k in chips was in the small blind. It got folded around to him. Like I said, the blinds are 5000, 10000. So when he shoves his remaining 20k in the middle, it's "only" 15000 more to the big blind who was a big stack. (At this point I'm sitting there praying the big stack guy calls. He obviously has pot odds. And the chips. But most importantly, here's a chance to get rid of someone).

Big blind has 5,6 off suit so he's really thinking about it. Maybe he's not sure what to do.

He finally decides to call. Small stack has king, 6 off suit and looks like he's bound to double up.

Flop is 3,4 something. Turn blank. River a 7.

Boom. The 5,6 big stack makes the straight.

King, 6 guy starts yelling at the big blind. "How the hell could you call me with 5,6?"

(Answer: It was only 15000 more.)

When the King, 6 guy stops yelling, someone should tell him that it's not unreasonable to fold in that spot in a satellite tournament. Yes he was down to 25k but he had JUST paid his blinds. So he was good for at least 4 more hands. And there were 3 stacks smaller than him.

Why not wait and see what happens?

I took advantage of the smaller stack to my left in this manner. One hand when it got folded around to us I didn't even look at my cards. I just shoved my chips out there. Even if has aces he shouldn't want to race me. I could survive losing a race to him. But if he loses a race to me it's gonna cost him a seat.

With the king,6 guy on the sidelines we were finally down to 19 players. The action turned to the next table where there were two very smallish stacks. From here it only took one or two hands. But they eventually got all in and it was over.

The 18 of us who remained all won seats into the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event.

I signed up to play this Monday. Starting day 1d.

I'm very excited to play some deep stack poker. Deep stack poker is much more like playing a cash game. With 20,000 chips and blinds starting at only 50/100 you get alot of play.

In the smaller buy in events I can't call my opponent's preflop raises as much as I'd like to with my small pairs and suited connectors and other assorted junk hands. I don't have enough chips to see flops. But with 20k in chips when someone makes it 300 preflop with his big pocket pair, I'm more than happy to give him action.

Just like at the cash tables, I can call and see a flop. Like a human being.

The past few months as I've been planning my WSOP agenda I've thought that spending $10,000 on a seat for a single poker tournament was a waste of money. At my financial level I'd much rather play ten $1000 tournaments.

But for me to win a seat for 550 bucks completely takes the pressure off.

If I get dealt pocket kings in the first hand I won't be scared to play back with them if I get raised. For 10,000 bucks I'm scared I'm facing aces. But for 550 bucks I'll beat you into the center of the table with my chips.

And live to write about it.

It's all free rolling from here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

One Step Closer

I made it down to the Rio last night around 8:30 PM.

My goal was simple. Win a seat into the Main Event by playing the 9:00 PM Mega Satellite.

It's $550 to enter and they give away 1 seat for every 20 players.

There was a pretty long line extending down the main hallway leading to the poker cages.

From the back of the line it was difficult to even tell what we were in line for. Mega satellites made sense. Since they were going on all day. But there were also plenty of guys with 10k in either cash or chips wanting to sign up for the Main Event.

The real humor here was how entitled the 10k dudes were. And can you blame them? They're dumping down 10k and have to stand in a line for over an hour to do it? What kind of service is that? For the most part the mega satellite guys were way more polite. Most even showed patience. Except for me.

Just like opening night I decided to slip around to the side of the main room where 4 cashier tellers are sort of hidden to the side of the main cage. When the room gets crowded this area becomes reserved for Rio/Harrah's highest money level players, the "Diamond and Seven Star" card members.

I got to the side of the cage and saw 4 lines, each with only like 3 people in them. There was also a security guard. I walk past him and get into one of the lines.

15 minutes goes by and the line hasn't moved. The guy in front is apparently doing some wire transfer to get his 10k in the room. It finally works and I move closer.

At this point the woman I'm waiting to give my money to looks directly at me and says "Tell anyone who gets in line behind you that you're the last one and then I'm closing my window."

"Okay" I say. "And thank you."

This is great. I'm going to get in to the tourney.

A guy soon comes up behind me in line and I tell him that she's closed after me.

And then just when everything seems perfect, I get a little taste of Midnight Express.

I hear the woman in the cage, the teller next to mine say to a guy "You can't buy in here. You are not a Diamond Seven Star member."

Gulp. I hope my teller doesn't say the same thing to me.

But then it gets worse.

Suddenly Ray Romano appears in line behind me.

He's with Cheryl Hines (Larry David's wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm.)

And they're both with a casino host who wants to get Ray bought in as quickly as possible.

I'm caught in a double whammy.

There's no way I'm about to turn around and tell Ray Romano that the line ends after me.

The other pressing issue here is that the window to my right has just opened up. The same window where the woman has made it clear she WON'T take non Diamond card members. I have this fear that the casino host is going to tell me to move to that window. But obviously I can't move over there. So I decide I'm going to offer the window to my right to Ray, if it gets offered to me.

Meanwhile there's only one guy now in front of me in my line finishing up his business.

I am about to be next.

Just a few more seconds.

So I stand as close as I can to the guy in front of me. (As not to let the casino host cut my place with Ray). And I make eye contact with no one. I stare ahead.

The woman teller hands the guy in front of me his tourney entry papers.

At this very moment the casino host asks the security guard if he has checked everyone's ID.

Security guard says "Yes they need to be Diamond Seven Star."

The casino host then puts his hand on my shoulder and asks the security guard "Is he a Diamond Seven Star member?"

I hand my card to the security guard. And then this turns into poker. Because the security guard is staring at my non-diamond and seven star card. And he's looking real hard. But he obviously can't see any diamonds or sevens.

He asks me if I'm Diamond Seven Star. And I say "Yes."

At this point the guy in front of me has moved away. So I jump at the opportunity. I take back my card from the security guard and hand it to the teller along with my cash.

And she gives me the saddest look.

"I'm sorry. I can't take that here."

"What? I've been waiting on line for 45 minutes. "

I go into my blah blah blah when suddenly out of my mouth comes the real genius.

I flip it on them.

I turn to the casino host and say "I've bought in here before at these exact same windows. If I'm not allowed to buy in at them then the security guard shouldn't have let me stand here!"

It's the old "You should have policed me better" defense.

You know.

"If you had enforced your rules than I wouldn't have wasted my time in this line."

As if it was Harrah's fault that I got caught trying to cut the longer line.

Meanwhile I want to give credit for my stance in this argument to the philosopher Chas.

Chas created the timeless "You shouldn't have left it here" defense.

"You shouldn't have left it here" removes all personal responsibility for a person's actions. It can be used in any situation where one person (usually a roommate or friend) breaks, eats, destroys or otherwise eliminates another person's property."

It's not your fault. That other person "shouldn't have left it here."

So the security guard tells me that the solution here is that I need to be in one of the two lines to my left. This is actually great news for me. There's only 2 people in them. So I immediately drop my solid argument and move over. It's way better than getting in the main line.

At this point they shuffle Ray in to my former window to buy in with his 10k. And as if Ray Romano isn't already one of the more likeable people out there, he actually turns to me and says "They didn't just kick you out of this line so that I could buy in did they?"

And just like we're on his sitcom I sigh and say "No Ray. It's Harrahs...."

It only occurred to me later how funny my argument was. Harrahs has done plenty this year for poker players to complain about. However in this moment it really wasn't their fault. This was completely my bad. But I felt justified saying it because the customer is always right. Even when he's wrong.

"No Ray. It's Harrahs...."

As if Ray Romano has any idea what I'm talking about.

Now I'm in line behind one of Tobey Maguire's "people" who is trying to buy him. For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure I saw Billy Bob Thornton actually waiting in the long main line. But not me and Tobey's assistant. We got places to be.

After maybe 5 minutes of Tobey paperwork I finally get up to the window.

I put down my $550. And the teller guy looks at me and asks what I want to buy in for.

"Uh....the $550 satellite that's starting right now."

"No that's for $1060" he says.

Even though the Worldseriesofpoker website says $550.

Thu, Jul 5th
9:00:00 PM
1-Day Event
2007 WSOP ME Mega Satellite
No Rebuy/Add-ons
Structure Sheet


Damn you Harrahs!

I would have just bought into the $1060 but I didn't have enough cash on me.

But I was going to walk away with something. So I bought in for Friday's 4pm $550 instead.

The good news is at least with this mistake on their WSOP website I can get back to doing what I do best.

Complaining about Harrahs.

Also I'm sure Ray would have taken a photo for you guys. But I don't like to ask celebrities to do that sort of thing. Because I'm classy.

And so this was the best I could do shooting from my hip.

That's Ray and his left arm in the middle. And Cheryl to the right in the white shirt and jeans.

Did I already mention that I'm classy?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

One Hit Wonders

It's now Thursday afternoon. I've been out of commission since Sunday night. Yes it doesn't feel good to be sick for 4 days. But there's also an accompanying helplessness, knowing that the Rio has been hopping all week. The WSOP Main Event starts tomorrow. And I'm here in bed missing out on all the good cash games. Missing out on the satellites.

Being sick during this week is kind of like being sick for Christmas. Like it's fine to be sick if you're going to miss out on work. But to get sick when it should be the most fun time of the year just isn't right.

As Jimi Hendrix says "that ain't too cool."

I got that last Hendrix quote from an obscure song he recorded called "Hey Joe."

I say obscure because VH-1 was running a "one hit wonders" special last night and they had the audacity to call Hendrix a one hit wonder.

That's right. VH-1 classified Jimi as a one hit wonder because he only had one top twenty hit. (All Along the Watchtower.)

In my book, one hit wonders are bands that you can only name one song of.

Like The Knack with My Sharona. Or Dexys Midnight Runners with Come On Eileen.

Those are one hit wonders. You can't be calling Jimi Hendrix a one hit wonder.
To do so would be to pretend the songs Purple Haze, Fire, Hey Joe, Stone Free, The Wind Cries Mary, Foxy Lady, Little Wing, Castles Made of Sand, Crosstown Traffic, etc don't exist.

VH1 also did the same thing to the Grateful Dead, calling them a one hit wonder because of Touch of Grey reaching the charts in the 1987. I'll spare you my list of Dead songs. But lets just say there are plenty.

I'm just curious what VH1 would call the Grateful Dead or Jimi Hendrix if neither had achieved a top twenty hit. Would they both be no hit wonders?

Okay. My rant is over. Obviously I've been lying in bed watching too much television.

Back to reality, I plan on getting myself out of the house and down to the Rio for a main event satellite tonight. My lil' fantasy is that somehow I pull off a Willis Reed and this sick thing works out for me. Perhaps I can slide my way in there tonight and come home with a seat in the big dance.

Hope and faith can be found in the old line: "Whichever way your luck is running, it is bound to change." I've been running well at the cash games. And poor in the tournaments. But perhaps that is bound to change.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The Main Event starts this Friday.

So like all good Americans I might try to satellite my way in.

Who doesn't have that dream?

Yet the inside scoop is most likely you'll see me playing cash games the next two weeks.

I haven't played any poker at all since Saturday because I've been sick.

Being sick sucks. I forgot.

I don't get sick too often, so when I do get sick, I quickly go to the head space of "just get me healthy, and I promise I won't ever whine about any of my stupid problems ever again."

Medically speaking I am sort of surprised it took me so long to get sick after weeks of sharing chips and touching cards with my coughing sneezing wheezing table mates.

So my goal in life is pretty simple right now. I want to stop sniffling and coughing. I just want to feel better and get back to the tables.

Maybe now I'll go take some Nyquil.

Nyquil. The cough syrup I endorse.