Friday, November 05, 2010


With my stack in the 12k range I pick up 8,9 suited in early position and raise to 500. 

Loose aggressive player to my left makes it 1800.

It gets folded back around to me.

1300 to win 2600 but more importantly the villain began the hand with approximately 10k.  We expect him to continue bet the flop at which point he will have committed a decent percent of his stack.  So from my seat in the world's largest poker room my implied odds appear to be approximately win his stack.

Moments like these are known in poker as a good time to flop a monster.

Flop comes queen, 8, 2.  

I check. 

He pushes all in.




All legitimate reactions. 

Later on I spoke to a rocket scientist about this hand and it was his belief that the villain either holds a big pair or is completely bluffing.  It's analysis like this that earns guys like that the big bucks.  

Why did the villain push all in?  Plenty of folks play their monsters this way on the internet.  They over bet and hope their bully move subtly taunts you into making a bad call.  These players try to get paid off by casting you as the unbelieving table cop in the independent film that doubles as their life.

Me?  I think he has ace king.  If he really has a monster there's no need to force me out of the hand.  This guy doesn't want to bet the flop and risk giving me the chance to raise.  So he pushes all in to take away any response on my part.  Other than my calling all in for most of my stack.  And who likes to do that?  

If I am correct that he has ace king then math loudly says I should call.  Oh sure I will have to survive the turn and river but there are great benefits if my hand holds.  My stack will be up over 20k and have enough chips to start snowballing.  I can fulfill my destiny and upset people by playing too many hands.  In fact making this call is exactly how I hyped "myself to myself" driving to Vegas.  I told myself I would play fearlessly, trust my gut and build up my stack or be done.  Well here's the moment big shot poker player.  Here's my chance to show everyone how good I am by calling this all in with middle pair after my opponent's actions have done nothing but insist that he has the best hand.     

If I am wrong I will needlessly give away most of my chips during level 100/200.  If I call and he turns over pocket kings boy will I feel silly.  An aura of shame will surround me.  I will be forced into drastic life changes.  I will obviously have to change my name.  Plastic surgery will be a consideration.  I probably won't have to fake my death again but minimally I will have to move a few thousand miles away and start a new blog.  I will miss playing poker but maybe I can start playing bridge?

I absolutely struggle with the decision.   Do I really want to move again?

If this was the river I think I trust my read and call. 

If the question is simply "am I ahead right now?" I would take the chance.

However I can't get past the consideration that if he is bluffing with ace king this villain still has a 25% chance of winning the hand.  The universe will still reward his awesome playing style 1 out of every 4 times he does this. Even when I make the correct call.  And something in me feels this coming.  

I suppose this is where poker becomes so tough mentally.  To get oneself ahead in a hand 75%-25% is a dream.  It's more than ideal.  Yet 25% happens all the time.  There are 250 hitters in baseball.  People also usually aren't rushing into having an operation that has a 25% fatality rate.   

And yet the way gambling works, anytime you can have disaster occur only 25% of the time you jump at the chance.

So if I am ahead I can call and my hand holds up 75% of the time.   Or I am behind, call and probably give away most of my stack which I am lucky and grateful to have accumulated. 

It's a 3 day tournament. 

I fold.

Villain flashes me a king as he mucks, purposely showing me a card that did not connect.  He wants me to believe he didn't have it.  That he folded ace king.   So perhaps he did have kings the whole time and was doing the internet over bet discussed above.  Or he got his chips in with ace king and got me to fold.  King queen would certainly be another option.  He could have raised with it preflop. Lots of players do that to find out if the other has ace king.  Then he got lucky hitting the queen and tried to make it seem like he was stealing.  All 3 scenarios are possible.  That's why we have rocket scientists.  And hole cams.  So we can figure this stuff out. 

In life sometimes our orbitofrontal cortex makes decisions for us.

Mine told me to fold.

Even though my ego really wanted to gamble.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Guy raises in early position to 300.   He's the same human who pushed all in holding ace 8 in the hand I described in my prior entry.

My pocket queens inspire and require an immediate response, so I bump it up to 850.

As I wait for his next move it becomes apparent that this time around he's much stronger.  From across the table I can see a vein pulsating in his neck.  If he's acting, then this guy has talent. I am fully convinced he has a top 5 hand.  I am desperately hoping it is ace king.  Unfortunately his aura may also indicate kings or aces.  Yes I have queens.  However I may need to get out of his way.  

He asks the dealer for time, then sits in silence with his arms crossed. I'm not sure what I've looked like when making important decisions in my life, but I cannot confirm that I have ever thought as hard as this guy is thinking right now.

I take in the behavior and decide if he comes back over the top with a reraise, I will fold. I've seen this display of adrenaline at the table before. The guy is nervous because he anticipates he is about to experience action. Not because he is bluffing.  I am watching a civilized version of fight or flight.  

He apologizes to me for taking so long.  I try to help him work through his decision by encouraging him to take as much time as he needs.  By now I figure he is going to raise.  Any second I expect to hear the magic words "I'm all in."  Yet for whatever reason he does not say them.  For some reason he just calls.  Maybe he is trapping me.  Looking ahead, I am not sure what I will do if he checks to me post flop.   

The universe bails me out with a queen high flop.    

Then, as if things couldn't get any better, the gentleman across from me acts first and pushes all in.  

See how EASY poker is?  

People saying you need to read books and practice playing the game to get better.  Not true at all.  All you need to be successful at poker is to flop top set every time. 

I call and turn over my cards so the table can see what a luck box I am. 

Mr. Ace 8 turns over his hand as well.  

Pocket kings.

Well at least he bought himself a good bad beat story to tell everyone back home. 

My set holds and my stack grows to somewhere in the 10k range.  

Have I mentioned how well I've been running lately?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Random Hand From Level 2

Guy in early position raises to 150.  

Action folds around to me in middle position where I appear to have ace jack.  

(How are you ever really sure?)  

If you're familiar with any of my poker books then you already know pretty much any response is defensible here.

Folding is acceptable.  It's a three day long tournament and all I have is ace jack facing an early position raise.  If I were a betting man I'm not sure I would bet I have the best hand at the moment.

Raising is acceptable.  I would quickly find out where I stand.  Perhaps I can get ace queen to lay down or ace king to shove.  Either of these actions by my opponent could benefit my ace jack.  

Calling is....well it's probably the worst of the three options.

Lets consider the positives to calling:

-I am in position.  I will get to act last throughout the hand.  Always a good thing.

-I can get away cheap later on if I don't flop well.  150 chips means very little to me with a slightly over 6k stack.

-I might flop lucky.  Not a very good reason to call.  But I'd be lying to you if I said I've never thought this way.     

Okay.  You talked me into it.  I'd much rather fold or raise but since you guys play such loose poker I will call and risk 150 chips to see if I can flop ace, jack, jack.  

The big blind joins our dance party.  Damn.  Maybe I should have raised to get him out of the picture.

Remember how I wanted to raise but you wouldn't let me?

You know what?  It doesn't matter.

Forget about it.

I'm not sure how it benefits us now for me to blame you the reader for this call.

Even if it was your fault.

The three of us see an ace, rag, rag flop.  

I told you I've been running well.    

At least that's what I thought until the big blind led out for 300 followed by the early position raiser pushing all in for around 1500 more.

Action returns to me.  Suddenly I have absolutely no idea where I stand in this hand.

I guess this is why you don't call raises preflop with ace jack.

Now it wouldn't be a disaster if I call the all in here and double up the early position guy.  I'd still be above average in chips and I may actually have the best hand.  I am here to accumulate chips and heads up I probably talk myself into making this call.

However when I look to my left I really have no clue at all what the big blind has.  And unfortunately he has a healthy stack.  What if I call here and he pushes behind me?    

While mulling this over I also recall it was the early position guy who raised preflop.  He could have ace king or ace queen.  Nothing he has done in this hand suggests otherwise.  If he has a pocket pair he probably folds to the blinds bet.  Instead he raised.  With two other players in the hand.  He must have an ace.

I chastise myself one last time for calling the raise preflop with ace jack and fold.  

The big blind calls the all in.

Whew. I am glad I folded!

I've obviously got mad skills, laying down ace jack on an ace high flop.  

Where is ESPN when you need them?

The cards are turned over.

Big Blind has..................................middle pair.  Wow.

Early position raiser has.................... ace 8 off.  Ouch.

I folded the best hand.   The hand that someone thought was good enough to call 150 with preflop, yet not good enough to stick around with after hitting top pair.

What kind of hand is that?

There was a point in time when I wasn't a good enough poker player to lay down top pair.

Have I mentioned lately how good I am?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Long and Winding Recap

WSOP Event 54.  $1000 No Limit Hold 'em Tournament.  3,844 players entered.    

First hand.  Human being under the gun raises to 75.  Everyone sitting between us folds.  I look down at pocket kings.  

Most folks probably raise here.  

I call.  

Mostly to annoy my readers.  

You know. 

In case I ever get to write about this.   

I also want the raiser to bet again on the flop.  

Oh sure this sort of greed has gotten me into trouble before.  Particularly when said opponent flops a set.  

I will give you that. 

That I will concede. 

You are correct indeed.

All I ask for in return is you to acknowledge the war crimes of your nation and admit that my opponent will not put me on pocket kings later on in the hand.  

And as long as we're talking openly here, can we also discuss the elephant in the room?  

The fact that the man sitting to my left has raised preflop from first position.   

Back when I played poker in Texas in the late 20th century this could only mean one thing:

He has aces.

Have I mentioned this is the first hand of the tournament?  

I have? 

Then why do I need to play a big pot against him right now with one pair?  

Why can't I see the flop and rely on my alleged experience?   

Doesn't anyone slow play anymore?

You would have raised?  


That's fine.    

Nothing wrong with raising here.

However at this point I would just like to move on and talk about the rest of the hand.  

Can't we move on?


Why can't we get to the flop of the first hand of the tournament without having a complete meltdown?

I know.  I get it.  

You would have raised and I called.    

We all get it.   

What can't you let this call go?   

Why is it such a big deal that I didn't raise preflop from the blinds with kings? 

Why are you doing this?

I just spent 5 nights in Vegas.  I've got hours of stories.   

If you're going to be this difficult about how I handled the first decision on the first hand we'll never get through them.  

Actually you know what?  Forget I said anything.

I don't mind waiting.  

I don't care if this takes months.  

Ask the other readers.  

Patience is my virtue.   

Unfortunately the way life works, all of you have to suffer through this delay just because a few people don't get it.  

Well one in particular.  

Okay. Lets try to keep this going. 

So I call and the flop comes out king,8,2.  All hearts.  

I've hit top set but live in a world where I have no flush draw. 

I check and let villain bet.  He obliges by sliding out 450.   More than twice the pot. 

We started with 3000 chips.  I raise to 1450 total.   

He pushes all in. 

Time to double up or go to lunch.  

I don't think he's flopped the flush.  

He must have a heart though right?   

Actually if he doesn't have a heart then this gentleman really has heart.   

I obviously call.   Worse case scenario, I'll have to hit my full house.

He turns over pocket aces, one of which appears to be the ace of hearts.  

Wow I'm happy I didn't raise him pre-flop.  

Lets take a moment to pause and discuss how good I am.  

All of you hacks....pushing all in preflop with your pocket kings and running into aces.  

Oh sure it's a great story.  But why get all your chips in around 20%?  

Why not be like Robert and wait a street to get your chips in when you're ahead 66% to 34%?   

That's the difference between good and great players. 

Good players run kings into aces.  Great players flop sets. 

Incredibly my 66% holds and I win the pot and double up on my first hand.

Before I could even stack my new chips a group of young ladies walked over to ask if I was a male model.

An older couple (who looked like the folks that rail Ivey) inquired to see if they could get me any fresh fruit to eat.    

The tournament director then tapped me on the shoulder to check if my seat was comfortable enough.  

This is what life is like when you're running well.  

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cliff Notes Version

I came in 217th of the 3844 players who entered event 54.

I came in 16th of the 246 players in a main event satellite that awarded 12 seats.

In a parallel universe I am still there playing.

In this one I am content to come home and wait till 2011.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One More Lottery Ticket Please

I am going to play a WSOP event in the next week.  

My loose aggressive character, the maniac who appears to play too many hands is well rehearsed.  He's almost too believable.   Like an undercover cop who has become what he was impersonating.  
I've also been running well lately.  

Hopefully it will last another week.  

Or two.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Human Zoo Part II

My wife and I saw another house for rent this past weekend.

Strangely enough when we met the owner outside he warned us that inside the place was a complete mess.

The excuse this time?

Professional slot players.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Human Zoo

Last month my wife and I drove up into one of the beautiful canyons that surrounds LA to see a house for lease. As we pulled into the driveway the rental agent came over to warn us that inside the place was a mess.

Then with a slight smirk she added:

"Two professional poker players live here."

Just imagine the thrill for my wife and I to be in the presence of professional poker players.

Normally one might have to move to Vegas, or at least visit the Rio during June to experience such variance. And here it was happening to us, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean.

I can't help it if I'm lucky.

Inside the living room were two desks, each with a computer monitor on top. Both screens displayed a certain popular online poker site. It was a Thursday morning and apparently the gentlemen who lived here were hard at work.

For those who have taken safari rides through African jungles, perhaps you can explain to the other folks reading this the richness of observing bohemian tournament poker specialists in their natural yet evolving E-habitat.

I didn't recognize the first guy but the second gentleman definitely looked familiar. And not only because he looked like a young Eric Bogosian. No, I was sure I had seen this guy before.

Thanks to the World Wide Web ("WWW" as I commonly abbreviate it) I would later figure out that I had unintentionally visited the home of Shane Schleger.

Sorry for the inconvenience dude.