Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Recapping Vegas -- Part I

So here I sit in McCarran airport as I type this shortly before 6am on Tuesday morning, trying fruitlessly to arrange some thoughts in my cloudy, murky head as I look back on yet another annual Vegas trip, replete with the usual bouts of debauchery, degeneracy, and just general excess as I always seem to fall into whenever I come out here these days. I feel this exact same way -- this feeling of not being all there -- every time I depart the fantasy universe that truly is Las Vegas to return to the Real World every summer. It's just the last rite of passage that I really need to go through if I want to truly live the Vegas experience to the fullest. I drank far more this weekend than I ever drink in a year outside of Vegas. I smoked more cigarettes this week than at any time since, well, Las Vegas last summer. And, something I didn't believe could ever be possible: I actually slept less on this trip than I have probably over any four-day period in my entire life, including prior Vegas trips.

Counting today, my last day in the desert, the earliest I went to sleep on any day of this trip was around 4am, and that was my first night into town after a long and draining trip when my other friends were still just straggling in for my brother's bachelor party and everyone was not quite geared up for the true Vegas experience. Friday night saw me playing cash poker at the MGM with Chad, CK and Blinders until sometime after 3am, and even then I ended up staying up gambling and then pondering whether or not I really wanted to play the WSOP that I had been hoping to play on Saturday. On Saturday I headed to the Venetian at noon local time to start the $560 buyin Deep Stack Extravaganza, and little did I know I would be playing there until around 3am before heading back to the MGM, where, once again I couldn't sleep. In fact, I was so wired from the Day One action, and so hungry from having been firing on all mental cylinders for so many hours straight, that I ended up meeting up with Chad for a very late-night meal at the Studio Cafe, a place I've been frequenting in the MGM since I was nearly a teenager. It was a great opportunity for me to debrief about the day, to pick Chad's brain about some thoughts and questions I had heading into Day Two, and just generally to decompress after what had been a very draining day or me to say the least. But I watched the sun turn the mountains to the West of Las Vegas pink with its first rays out my hotel window before I even considered being able to actually fall asleep on Saturday night, so abuzz was I with the anticipation of playing in my first ever poker tournament Day Two. And then on Sunday night I once again ended up at the Venetian blasting my way through the rest of the DSE field until sometime after 3am. And if you think I could sleep after winning almost 51 grand in far and away my largest ever poker tournament score, then you haven't been picking up what I've been putting down over here for the last several sentences. After the big win, I couldn't have kept my eyes shut with staples, glue or any other adhesive known to man. I'm not sure I had ever been that far from sleep in my entire life. But believe me, I didn't catch a wink of sleep after my Sunday Venetian score this weekend until after 8am on Monday morning. By then I knew I would need to pick up my check from the Venetian on Tuesday afternoon due to a technical error they were having with their system on Sunday night, and thus I had already rescheduled my flight back to the beach and my family for Tuesday morning super early. So that left me with one more surprise night in Sin City to actually get some sleep for a change, and what did I do? Well, I'm here at the airport waiting to board my 7 o'clock plane back to the east coast, and I haven't slept a single wink yet today, thanks to a late-night gambling session that happened purely on a whim, but which I did not want to let go after I started winning money hand over fist and I was having such a blast playing a bunch of table games that I haven't really played since I used to frequent Las Vegas in my former life. Before I knew it, three quarter blackjack tables and three hot craps setups later, there it was, 5am, with a flight outta here scheduled for just minutes after 7, completing the circle of me not getting anything that even resembles a good night's sleep on any of my nights in town.

But of course, the total lack of sleep or any kind of rest at all that seems so hard not to do basically every time I'm in town contributes in a big way to my feeling the Day After, or even the Morning Of, of just a general in ability to function as a productive member of Real World society after three or four days in fantasy camp. Throw in the drinking, the smoking and just the general partying that goes on every time I'm in town, and it's no wonder that I'm sitting here today having a good deal of trouble even putting together coherent sentences at all, and certainly not doing a good job of capturing the essence of what makes one of these Vegas runs so very special in my life.

As I look back on this particular trip to Vegas as compared to my forays in recent years, it certainly ranks up there as the weirdest of the trips I have had. From a purely poker perspective, I began the poker portion of my trip as I wrote about earlier by putting in a hideous session of 1-2 nlh cash at the MGM with Chad and CK, losing one and a half buyins and basically calling every value bet like a fonkey on the river as I managed to accumulate a host of second-best hands in spots where it was very difficult to put my opponents on a winning hand. Amazingly, I can read myself the post I wrote very early on Saturday morning just after that crappy cash session where I remember seriously considering not even playing the WSOP the next morning. Of course, cooler heads prevailed in the morning and I realized that I was letting my performance in an unusually unlucky cash session cloud my feelings about playing in a poker tournament, and that just didn't make sense to me. Of course, as I wrote previously, I was unable to register for the Saturday WSOP event, as I and probably about a thousand of my closest friends were all turned away thanks to the geniuses at the WSOP who couldn't even plan sufficiently ahead to make extra space for more than 2700 entrants, even when they had filled all of those 2700 seats more than 12 hours before that event was scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday, and you already know the rest of the story that ended up with me at the Venetian to play the Deep Stack Extravaganza event. It's just really funny to me that, for the first time ever since I've been making an annual summer poker pilgrimage to Las Vegas, I actually had reservations about even playing in any poker tournaments shortly after arriving, and then of course this ends up being the time that I record my biggest tournament score. It's just funny how life works some times I guess.

Along those same lines, I will admit here that one of my initial reactions to hearing about sprstoner's and then LJ's incredible WSOP performances this summer -- other than elation mixed with a healthy portion of jealousy at my fellow bloggers' tournament success of course -- was that it, too, left me looking forward that much less to my own upcoming tournaments in Vegas. I know I complained to a few of you out there over the girly how now, even if I went on a sick run and managed to make it deeper than ever before into my WSOP tournament, there was just no way it was going to seem great to anyone, or even feel great to me myself, after seeing these people I know and like have such deep runs, make WSOP final tables, etc. I just remember specifically feeling bummed about that turn of events, solely from my own perspective, because I really felt like I was suddenly thrust into a no-win situation for me, where even if I made it to, say, the top 100 again and cashed for say 5 grand or something in the WSOP, I still simply wouldn't feel like I had accomplished all that much in light of others' recent serious triumphs. And again, this is not to suggest for a second that I was not thrilled to see these guys running so deep on the grandest of scales -- I think my body of work over the last several years makes it quite clear that I am probably more excited about any blogger's grand-scale poker accomplishments than anybody else out there -- but rather just to highlight the fact that I recognized that one of the effects of this great news was going to be the diminishing of what I considered to be even the most optimistic of expectations for my own performance heading into my trip. And, just like my previous point above, I just think it is really interesting and coincidental that this trip was the first time I have ever felt like I simply did not have the ability to do anything at this point that would really feel like a major accomplishment to me given the incredible job some friends had been doing already in the WSOP this summer, and then of course this ends up being the trip where I kick the most ass I've ever kicked in any poker tournament. Again, life moves in mysterious ways I suppose.

I should also mention that I saw without a doubt the weirdest thing I've ever seen happen in any poker tournament happen near the end of Day One of the Venetian DS event I played in. Rather than spoil that one with the details now, I will leave that for Wednesday's post all about Day One of my tournament. But suffice it to say, there was in fact more than one thing that went down during my tournament that were truly new experiences for me -- mostly not
positive ones, mind you -- and overall it leaves me also feeling like the actual poker tournament I played in was also quite weird when it all comes down to it. And that's not even counting how sickly I rallied on Day Two from 2/3 of the way down the leaderboard to the very pinnacle over the span of just a couple of hours, which in itself was really pretty amazing and weird.

One other thing that was different about my gambling experience in Vegas this summer was that I also dabbled this trip in both blackjack and in craps, also things which I have not normally participated in in past Vegas poker trips. Back in the day, when I was a young, single guy going to Vegas with friends and family 7 or 8 times a year, I was Mr. Craps, and since even before that I've been playing blackjack in casinos all around the country, so it's not that I don't know how or don't think these can be profitable over the short-term. But the very fact that these games are by definition not profitable over the long term is what has kept me largely away from those games since I had an epiphany about my gambling proclivities sometime around Y2K and really stopped gambling altogether until getting back in to poker a few years later.

In all, it was an exciting and really amazing trip, far and away the most fun I have ever had during a short weekend in Sin City, influenced largely of course by me playing probably the best poker of my life, certainly on the largest stage and in the most significant spot I have ever played in. I learned all over again in a major way how incredibly draining a poker tournament can be, and after putting in probably 40 hours of poker in a 3-day span counting my marathon cash session on Friday night plus the next two full days at the Venetian, I can say with confidence that my mind hasn't been as worn down in as long as I can remember as it was when this thing was finally done around 3am on Sunday night / Monday morning. Every time I close my eyes -- even still, now 36 hours later -- I see pocket Kings, pocket 9s, J4 of clubs, etc. I couldn't even come close to playing even reasonably good poker at all on Tuesday, even though I had originally expected to do nothing but play poker tournaments from start to finish on this trip, and when I tried to log in to full tilt for some quick online satisfaction, I found myself donking away by not even being able to focus on the hand, the community cards, anything. I will just need a few days away from the game to clear my head, as that much high-stress, high-tension poker really threw me for a loop. But it goes without saying that this weekend will not be one I will ever forget, and I look forward to spending the next couple of days posting all about my performance in the $560 buyin Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza tournament, following it up with a recap type of post at the end of the week about my post-trip thoughts, and my impressions in general of Vegas and of the trip as a whole.

I plan to be back on Wednesday with my recounting of Saturday's action in Las Vegas, which mostly means Day One of the Venetian Deep Stack event. See you then!

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Big, Big Score in the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza

Boom chacka lacka!!!! Last night I chopped the prize pool with the final four finishers in the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza $560 buyin nlh tournament for a cool 51k and change in Cold Hard Cash!!!

This is easily my biggest ever poker score, and I can honestly say that so much went on in this tournament that I have never, even been a part of before. I can't wait to post all about the experience, and really the crazy weekend I had here in Las Vegas overall this time around. I hung with some old blogger friends, met a few new ones as well, and had yet another amazing meal in one of my favorite restaurants in the world. But most of all, I played poker. Like a motherfucker. Nine or ten fruitless and frustrating hours of cash on Friday night / Saturday morning, and then what proved to be about 15 straight hours on Friday on Day One at the Venetian, followed by another 12 hours or so straight through on Sunday to get to the chop. In the end, after several frustrated and frustrating attempts, we finally got unanimous agreement on a chop -- something I was pushing hard for, mind you -- when down to four players remaining, and the four of us divided up the remaining $231,000 and change in the prize pool almost exactly according to chip stacks, leaving both me and the guy who had just a few hundred chips more than me each nabbing more than second place money, while the chip leader who had close to twice as many chips as 2nd and 3rd place took home 70 grand, and the fourth place guy agreed to 37k for his take in our four-way domination of the event.

I have so much to write about this, but right now is not that time as I have a million things to do today and still haven't slept or even come down to earth at all yet. This whole week I will probably spend reviewing the whole crazy trip to Vegas, from The Venetian tournament in separate posts for separate days, to some of the awesome perks we got this time as a result of my brother's -- shall we say "reputation" among the MGM/Mirage/Bellagio crowd based on his past experiences in their casinos, and of course, by popular demand, some discussion on my amazing meal at Prime in Bellagio, for the second year in a row. I want to cry that place is so great. But more on that later in the week. I promise I will be working on these posts all week and that I'll get each one up as soon as they are good and ready. I will try to target a post every day of the week like usual, but being that I will be on vacation with my family this week I don't want to make any guarantees.

51 grand, all to sit and play poker for 27 hours over two days. Whoever thought of this was a frigging genius.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day Two FTW!

What a difference a day makes.

On Friday night, actually not even that early on Saturday morning, I sat right here in this same spot and wrote from a kind of stream of consciousness my feelings about the poker I played that night with Chad and CK and Blinders, and how, even though I repeatedly lapped up Blinders' chips with my usual aplomb, I just generally had a horrible session at the tables otherwise and really just could not get anything going. I remember sitting here only about 28 hours ago typing how I really didn't even feel like playing in the World Series today, the very thing I have always looked forward to the most about my annual trips to Las Vegas over the past few years. And believe me, I really felt it when I wrote it, as I purposefully sat right down and wrote about that session within just minutes of returning from the scene of the carnage to my room here in the MGM.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, however, sleep had done its work to help me start getting my head set straight about the whole thing. The conclusion I drew draw about what happened in Friday's cash session was, quite simply, that I allowed myself to play cash poker when I would never even think of denying that I am really a tournament guy and not a cash guy. And then I kept on doing that, over a span of probably 8 or 9 hours in the afternoon and evening, even though I could feel myself not getting anything going and getting more and more frustrated all along the way. And even though I had a lot of fun sitting with Chad and CK and chatting it up, overall I let myself spend that entire day at the cash tables when I wasn't enjoying myself and wasn't playing well, instead of coming out here and doing what I set out to do. A week ago I was writing here about my plans to play a poker tournament every single day of my Vegas trip, and yet here I am just a handful of days later, playing frustrating cash for 9 hours on Friday and not even playing a single tournament until Saturday? It occurred to me when I awoke on Saturday that that is ridiculous. And I resolved to change it.

So eager was my subconscious mind to put that whole cash session behind me, that I did this cute thing where I woke up on Saturday bright and early, like around 7am, even though I had been up like every night of this trip until a good 5am or later the night before. Even after just two hours of shuteye, I simply could not sleep without starting to take care of my issues from the night before's decision to play cash: I was going to go and register super early in the morning for WSOP Event #51. I already wrote earlier on Saturday about that whole thing, and how Harrah's once again funked up and left themselves woefully short on space for the last weekend $1500 nlh tournament of the 2009 World Series. The end result of all this was a record turnout for the Venetian's $560 buyin nlh tournaments, as every table I sat at on Saturday had at least two or three people who described having been shut out of the WSOP that morning and thus ending up at easily the next most popular tournament series of the summer in Sin City at the Venetian.

So fast forward to the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza. 792 runners started play for $560 apiece at 12pm sharp, with me seated at Table 75, Seat 10, which I love the more I play live poker because I can be very close to the flop which makes it as easy to see as possible. This was especially good because it would prove to be the exact seat I would sit in for the ensuing nine hours. Nine hours of what was probably the live tournament with the most shenanigans I have ever seen, nine hours that started off (as usual of late in my sparse live play) with me bleeding chips in drips and drabs while trying to make something happen, but then slowly but surely morphed into me being the table chip leader, and the guy that everyone was afraid to get mixed up with.

Unfortunately I don't have the time right now to write up the entire tournament -- which I obviously will do later this weekend -- but suffice it to say that I have now officially made my first Day Two ever in a live tournament, out of maybe five chances now (three WSOP events and one WSOP Circuit event at Caesar's in AC). I played extremely well, saw some of the craziest things happen that I have ever seen in a poker tournament (if I forget, somebody remind me to tell the stories of the two pocket Aces hands that went down), and I survived a couple of ugly-ass suckouts, luckily both against relative short stacks (JJ < 99 allin preflop, and J8 < AK allin on a KJ8 flop when of course the turn and river brought running pairs), one won big race (66 > ATo, probably my most significant hand of the whole tournament on Day One) and then unfortunately lost one big race just a few minutes before we stopped play on Saturday evening (AKo < JJ) on a hand where I had already raised and I was forced to call someone else's push for like 3-to-1 odds knowing full well he was holding a pretty high pair (I figured Queens). But I really played great poker on Saturday, the best I've played in a tournament in quite a while, and in just a few minutes I will jump into a cab and head back up the Strip to the Venetian to to see if I can catch a break early and try to regain the stack I had around 1am last night.

I enter Day Two with 157,000 in chips (starting stacks were 15k), having been as high as 300k earlier before losing the AK to JJ hand. Of the 792 who started, we are down to the final 48 as play resumes today, with the top 72 finishers getting paid. The Deep Stack tournaments are known for the top-heavy nature of their tournament payouts, really weighting the big prizes to the final table and especially to the top 3 spots, even moreso than other poker tournaments in general, so right now I stand to make only like $800 or something if I bust in 48th. But we're already well into the money, something which I did not focus on a bit until we went hand for hand starting with 73 players remaining. Luckily hand for hand did not last three hours like my last big tournament cash in Vegas in the WSOP shorthanded holdem event back in 2007, but rather only took I think 2 or 3 hands until 2 players busted at the same time. OK so with 792 runners and 15,000 starting chips, divided by just 48 players remaining, the average chip stack to start play on Sunday will be 247,500. So instead of 2x the average stack if I had just won the AK vs JJ race, I will instead sit down to a stack that is just 60% of average, making me what I figure is somewhere around 31st or 32nd out of the 48 runners remaining.

Needless to say, I will have my work cut out for me if I am to really make a push in this thing, and I'm going to need to win some pots and hopefully get a little lucky early to get myself back into position where I can muscle some people out of pots. Just a few pocket Aces in the first couple of orbits ought to do the trick, don't you think? Just two Aces maybe, I'm not trying to be Astin here. But I will definitely need a little bit of luck and some really hard work to last deep into the night tonight. And whenever I am finished, I will update here as well as continuing the posts I've already started describing the tournament in more detail (nobody forget those two AA stories I have coming, both are pretty awesome) as well as some of the awesome perks we got to enjoy this time around courtesy of the MGM, thanks to my brother the insane-0 gambling maniac.

Wish me luck!

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

WSOP Bad Beat

Took a big bad beat this morning, when I got up early to head over to the Rio to register for WSOP Event #51 and discovered to my dismay that the f-heads who administer the Rio have done it again, they maxed out at 2700 entrants as of Friday night around 11pm. There were a bunch of idiots sitting and sleeping in line in the registration room in the vague hope that, at some point this morning, Harrah's was going to open up a few new tables to increase the capacity for the event. And while I'm sure they will eventually open up a few new tables in the event, there's no effing way I'm going to sit around and wait for these donkeys who seem every year to find ways to muck up the administration of the WSOP. It's amazing, really, how much they can never seem to get the WSOP even close to right, basically since the minute they moved it out of Binion's a few years back.

Anyways, I considered my options for maybe 10 minutes, and one answer just seemed very clear, especially in light of the shitcocky experience I had playing cash for about 9 hours on Friday. I hopped in a cab, and within a few minutes I was at the Venetian, where I signed up for today's Deep Stack Extravaganza event, a $560 buyin tournament that lasts two days, has a great structure and 50,000 starting chips. Really, it's a significantly better tournament than the $1500 WSOP event today -- I don't think anyone can argue that -- and while I freely admit that my preference would have been to experience the mystique and cache of the WSOP, all things equal -- in the end it's not a bad outcome for me. I'm hoping to get Chad to join me out there, so we can chop it when we get down to heads-up and piss some of our mutual readers off but good.

So that'll be me at noon today. I'll still be playing in my first poker tournament of the trip, but instead of donking it up against 3000 Mookie-winner types at the crowded, cramped Rio, I'll instead be playing a much more skill-focused nlh tournament at what is probably the best poker room in Las Vegas.

Wish me luck, hatahs!

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Vegas, Day Two

Had an absolutely atrocious cash game session today, losing a little over $300 at 1-2 at the MGM but having a fun time sitting with Chad, CK and even Blinders for the last few hours. But my cards were so awful, words can barely describe it. Over about 8 hours of cash game play, I received no AA, no KK, one QQ (which lost to CK's K5s), one JJ (which lost to Chad's AQ), and one TT (which lost to KJo). One AK which I won with a reraise before the flop. And I literally did not hit a single flop on the night. I must have seen (or known they were out there) maybe 15 or 20 flopped sets at my table during that time, but I literally -- no exaggeration -- did not flop top pair even a single time over 8 hours of play, let alone a set. Actually, that's not entirely true -- earlier in the afternoon I flopped broadway with JTs on an AKQ board. I bet the flop and got called by a guy who obviously had top pair or two pairs. The turn was a Jack, I bet and got called again, and then the river brought a lovely Ten, putting broadway on the board and giving me the split for my efforts. And sadly, that right there was the literal highlight of my entire 8-hour session -- getting uberfucked and splitting a pot at the river. Fun times.

I don't recall ever having this tremendously bad luck after the flop in addition to perhaps the worst run of starting cards in my entire poker history. Getting so few playable hands over 8 hours, I ended up making some stoopid river calls of medium-sized bets because I simply couldn't bring myself to lay down the three good hands I was dealt all day long. It sucked so hard, right now I'm siting here thinking that I might not even feel like playing in the World Series tomorrow at noon. There's just nothing like 8 hours of horrible cards, horrible luck and horrible decisions to make you question who you even think you are fooling by dropping 15 hundy on a silly little luck-based card game.

Oh and by the way, putting my lesson from last night into practice on the three good hands I was dealt all day (if you can even call TT and JJ "good"), I raised it up to 20 each time after a couple of limpers -- this is ten times the big blind now, mind you -- and still got called by K5s to lose half a buyin with my Queens, and by AQ to lose half a buyin with my Jacks.

So let's review. A solid 8 hours of play, only one true premium hand in pocket Queens (if you can even call that "premium"), which I raised to 10x, got called by K5s and lost to turn and river Kings. Two "semi-premium" hands in JJ and TT, each of which I also lost after raising it up to 10x the big blind, getting called by KJo and AQo and getting outflopped or out-turned in each. I flopped broadway, bet all three streets and ended up playing broadway on the board for the split. Oh, and I also lost half a buyin against a shorty when I called allin with A2 on an A23 board and learned I was up against A3. And I did not flop top pair even one time the entire night long. Fun times, did I mention that already?

Poker can suck it.

Right now, it feels like my odds of actually playing in the WSOP on Saturday are about 30%. I guess we'll have to see if that changes with a few hours of sleep to help erase the memory of today's pokering from my data banks.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

First Stacking

Just seven hands in to my first live cash poker in Las Vegas, and I've already been part of a full-buyin stacking.

I bought in for $200 tonight with one pair in a 1-2 game at the MGM, when I picked up pocket Kings just seven hands in to my session. UTG limped for $2, UTG+1 also limped for $2, and I popped it up to $10 from third position with KK. Pissingly, two other idiots called the $10 bet behind me, even with the first two under the gun players still to act, and they of course also called the bet. I knew of course this was a bad situation for my pocket Kings, with four other players calling 5x the big blind to see the flop despite my very reasonable efforts to push them out by bumping it to $10. Obviously it wasn't enough, and I knew I would have to get a very favorable flop or fold to any action.

And that's when the flop came down 332 with two diamonds. I had the King of diamonds, but that has nothing to do with the story and I never considered the backdoor flush draw a factor in the hand. All I knew was, after I had kicked it up to $10 preflop, I'm surely not putting anyone on a 3, but there could easily be one (or more) flush draws out there, a bunch of overcards, and quite likely some middle pairs which are now overpairs to the board. The only hand I was legitimately worried about was pocket Aces, maybe at least partially because I have managed to run Kings into Aces three times in the past few nights already, but really by just limping and calling preflop, no one played their hand like AA since anyone with a brain would do whatever they could to limit the number of players in the pot with a raise in that situation.

Anyways, further complicating matters, the UTG player then led out into me, donk betting me after I had been the preflop raiser, which is almost never a monster since it is so much more obvious to go for the check-raise against the preflop raiser who is pretty sure to c-bet a flop like this. His bet was for just $10 into what was I guess around a $50 pot. UTG+1 just called, and I raised it to $50 with my pocket Kings. The two late position guys folded, and then UTG minraised me to $90. It felt like a punch in the stomach. Now that move realy felt like pocket Aces, a vibe I had already kind of been on even before his action on the flop. My first reaction was to grip my cards almost immediately to chuck them into the muck. But then that little voice started talking.

"You really think that guy limped preflop UTG with Aces? And then you think that, seeing another limper, a 5x raiser, and two callers of that raise, he then decided to just call along with his pocket rockets and knowingly take a 5-way flop for $10 rather than try to thin the field and/or build the pot with the best possible starting hand and a lot of action coming on this flop? You really believe that? Come on....you know he didn't play that hand like pocket Aces before the flop at all. The story he's trying to sell you just doesn't add up."

On and on the voice went, and before I knew it I had convinced myself that just calling the flop and seeing if the turn card changed anything was the right move, he probably didn't have pocket Aces given his preflop action, and I was just seeing things that weren't there because of my recent experiences with running Kings into Aces. So off went another $40 of my now just $100 stack remaining into the middle on my call. The turn card was an offsuit 4, making the board 2334 with still the two diamonds. As I was just processing the hand, the UTG player instantly announced all-in. He had me covered by about $60 or so.

I guess I'm just a sucker for the insta-allin move on the turn. actyper used is successfully against me an the BBT4 Tournament of Champions final table a couple of weeks back, and then tonight when this guy pushed so quick and with so much bravado, I very quickly let that voice again convince me that my one pair was sufficiently ahead of his overall range that I clearly had the roughly 33% equity I needed to call of my last $100 to win $300. I mean, the board is 2334, and he called a 5x raise preflop and donk-bet and minraised me on the flop. No way in hike he has A5 there, right? Donk-betting and minraising that flop with A5? Not a chance. 65, same story. I don't really see him donk-betting and then min-raising me if he has 44 on that flop either, as he would probably want to put in a significant raise to find out where he's at and try to get a higher middle pair to fold. So basically, either this guy has AA, or he has 22 and flopped a set, or I am ahead of every other reasonable hand since no hand with a 3 is worth calling a 5x preflop raise with, other than perhaps 33 which would mean he flopped quads and I'm just not going to spend time considering that.

So I struggled with it, but eventually I don't think I made a good move on the flop because I left myself no choice but to call off my last hundy on the turn when getting 3-to-1 on that pot. I mean, if the flush had completed, or if the only open ender on that flop would have filled with a 6 on the turn, then I would surely get away. But how do I really put my Kings behind his range here, I kept asking myself. And when I couldn't answer it anymore, I just shrugged, slid my chips into the middle and asked him to show me his pocket Aces.

He did in fact not have pocket Aces.

He did, however, show me the J3 of spades. Soooooooted donk FTW!

Although I forked over $200 with just one pair during my first orbit of my first cash session in the process, this hand just reinforced what I already knew in coming to Las Vegas after my last couple of live sessions at the casino -- I am going to make so much money playing poker here this weekend.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

V Minus One Day

Well, I made it.

For a while there it looked like work might try to wreck some of my big weekend plans, but in the end I wasn't having any of that. Nope, my 36 hours came and went, and somehow I was even able to finagle a Wednesday afternoon official beginning to my vacation and simply stopped working around mid-afternoon, though it wasn't easy. In the end it was late nights working instead of pokering, sleeping or just chillaxing both on Monday and Tuesday evening that enabled me to bust out everything I needed to get out before I left by just after 2pm ET, and then I was off.

Now, while I still technically have one more day until my trip to Vegas -- in exactly 24 hours as I type this, I will be somewhere over the airspace of the good state of Virginia from whence Hammer Wife was spawned on my way to Charlotte and then to Sin City -- really, vacation starts now in the Hammer household. Work is done for a while, and in a few minutes we pile into the new car for our first annual beach trek. Get in around midnight, I will stay up extra late to enact my plan as described yesterday for full night sleeping between Charlotte and Las Vegas, and then tomorrow the weather is finally supposed to break on the east coast, just in time for me to head to the 115-degree heat of the desert. Oh well, if I get a little beach time with the kids on Thursday before my four-day Vegas blast, I think I'll live.

I will try to get up on here tomorrow as I prepare for my trip to the desert, but those of you who have been longtime readers here will note that I tend to make the time to blog while in Vegas as much as I can. I'm bringing my damn laptop even though I'll have to remove it and have it scanned separately at the airport four different times over the next five days, so I better have something good to write about. I'm in town from Thursday night to Monday morning, so anyone who's around who wants to stop by, most of you have my cell number, and you certainly know what casino I'll be in on Saturday as I make my run to try not to humble myself in front of some of these incredible bloggers and their incredible performances so far in the2009 World Series of Poker.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Two Days

Man, work is really not going to make this week easy for me, that is for sure. Not only do I have ten million things to finish up before I disappear for a week-plus, first to the sands of the desert and then to the sands of the eastern seaboard, but I'm somehow getting new stuff, things that have to be completed this week, even from people who I know already know I am outta here starting on Wednesday evening. I just don't understand it, these people cannot really think I have the time or the inclination to actually bust ass on these piddly little things right now, do they? It's all I can do to keep from jumping right out my window and onto the street below and start running to the west at this point. But I am really being made to pay my penance before my departure, you can be sure of that.

At some point late on Monday, though, I came to a realization that has helped me to be in a happier place since it came to me. In the end, work simply can't make me work for any more than the 36 hours or so between right now, as I type this, and when the Hammer Family piles into the new car and sets off on another summer sojourn. Time is still the master of all things, including my bosses at work. They can make me bust a hump this week, but only for another 36 hours. And ultimately, I realized last night, I can live through 36 hours of just about anything if I know that Las Vegas followed by the beach lie on the other side.

So...Vegas. In 36 hours I am on the road with the family, and in about 60 hours we're taxiing down the runway on the first leg of my two-plane flight across the country. In about 64 hours I'll be gazing down at the Rocky Mountains as the sun nears the western horizon, and in 66 hours I'll see The Lights. You know the lights I'm talking about. All things equal, flying into Las Vegas in the nighttime is the shizzle. It's all dark, basically for a good couple of hours except for little pockets of life here and there, and then all of a sudden, you go around a bend or fly over a mountain or something, and then you see it. The yellow of Mandalay Bay. The green of the MGM. The Luxor pyramid light. Each one the brightest thing you've seen in hours. And that's when you know your trip really begins.

Those of you who've made the cross-country trip to Vegas as many times as I have know this little trick very well I'm sure, but for those who don't, flying out from the East Coast really works out well if you play your cards right. The trick is this: stay up really late the night before your flight, and then fly out in the early evening eastern time, like, say 8 or 9pm being best. Or, you can just have kids, which will mean that you are perpetually tired enough as part of your natural persona to make this plan work. And, if you've stayed up appropriately late the night before, you are easily able to fall asleep shortly after sitting down in your seat on the plane. My move is to not even be awake for the takeoff and have no memory of it whatsoever, but anytime within the first hour or so of boarding works for me. Again, if you're me, it's a gimme that I'm out for the first half of that flight, and if I'm lucky, I'll get in two separate two-hour-plus naps during the roughly six hour flight from the northeast.

It sucks that Las Vegas is so far away from the northeast, but you do get to take advantage on your way out there. On a good flight, I can spend a good five hours of the 6-hour flight fast asleep. And for those of you who don't know this about me, that's more sleep than I'll get most nights of the week no matter what else is going on in my life. So, by staying up late the night before and making myself good n tired, I can not only pass the time on the long flight by not even being conscious, but I can arrive in Vegas at around 9pm local time, having already gotten in a full sleep for the night. And, since sleeping is very overrated on any Vegas trip, that's a major plus that you just can't duplicate if you're flying in from Chicago and certainly not from Denver or LA, etc.

The real move when you're flying from the East Coast is to go to sleep as close to the beginning of the flight as possible, get in as close to the amount of sleep you would have needed for that night anyways, and then try to be up for the final half hour to an hour of the trip. Like I said, there's the money shot when you suddenly see the sky lit up like it's daytime after two hours and about 1300 miles of pitch black. But more than that, the whole atmosphere on the plane that's about to land in Vegas for the weekend is so different from any other flight, really. I was going to try to describe in in my monkey grunt and curse word prose, but then I remembered that Bill Simmons the Sports Guy really captured the essence of it several years ago when he wrote about ESPN sending him out to Las Vegas for the weekend. Simmons wrote 5 or 6 parts of a fabulous read about that crazy Vegas trip, and it is in Part I where the Sports Guy did such a great job of capturing the essence of the cross-country trip to Vegas:

"One of my favorite parts of any Vegas trip happens during that final hour before the airplane lands in Nevada. People roam the aisles, giddy as schoolkids. The pilot sounds like he just washed down an ecstacy tablet with a Dunkin' Donuts "Big One" coffee. You find yourself babbling to complete strangers, swapping magazines and splitting a ginger ale with somebody who looks a cross between Yassir Arafat and Sam Elliott. When the plane lands, some passengers actually applaud with that "Here we go, guys!" clap. It's a surreal experience."

I completely agree. And that'll be me, in just 60 hours now. Work has me for another 36 hours, and they can do what they will to me during that time. But no matter what torturesome assignments they come up with, no matter what crass attitude they take with me, it's only for 36 hours. Then the next ten days belong to me.

Two days. Just 60 hours. In fact, to be accurate right now it's more like 59 hours and 40 minutes or so.

Not that I'm counting.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Three Days

Three days. Three days till Vegas.

So my plans are coming bit more into focus, and frankly it's not in a way that I particularly love. But it looks like, through a combination of factors, that my little plan to play a poker tournament every day is falling flat on its face.

For starters, there isn't a tournament I will be able to just jump in to anywhere near the strip on Thursday night at midnight when I get in. There's only one or two places with a daily tournament at midnight or later, and those are all in old Las Vegas or otherwise a long ways away from the MGM where I'll be staying, and I'm just not that ambitious to head over there within minutes of my arrival. I will already have four friends in the city for my brother's bachelor party when I arrive on Thursday night, and at least some greeting drinks will need to be imbibed before I can plausibly leave to plays some poker, so there just won't be time enough for me to get, for example, to the Rio for their 11pm nightly tournament that I understand is pretty decent for what it is.

So a poker tournament on Thursday night seems like it's out. Similarly, on Friday the Venetian has a great structure for their daily noon nlh tournament, but the issue there is that my brothers and friends are already registered for dinner at Prime at the Bellagio on Friday night. I forget the exact time of dinner, but assuming it is anywhere around normal dinner-eating time, then I don't foresee myself signing up for that great Venetian tournament because it typically lasts well into the evening and I know it saves the final table for the final day, which would also interfere with my World Series of Poker plans. Sure, I could skip dinner at Prime. But, #1 this is my brother's bachelor party and that is one of the few plans we have made that is supposed to be "set in stone" for the group to do together, and #2, the meal I had at Prime last summer when I was in town for the WSOP was to this day one of the five best meals I have ever eaten in my life, and I don't really want to miss that again. As I recall, my brothers and I split the raw seafood tower, and then I proceeded to eat far and away the most delicious, most tender fillet mignon of my entire life. I remember literally not using my knife at all because the meat was so tender, I could easily cut it just with my fork. And the steak had that kind of flavor that you wouldn't even consider using steak sauce or really any seasoning at all on. If the guy had come around trying to sprinkle some fresh ground pepper on it, I would have physically stopped him before he got close. That shit was just perfect last year, and while I'm sure Prime can't equal that experience from last summer, it should be a great meal and a great time with my friends celebrating the last of my generation in my family to say goodbye to his glory days of being single and fancy free. So, with Prime looming on Friday evening, it is unlikely that I will want to be playing anything more than a quick sitngo anytime on Friday afternoon.

If I'm a man, depending on what time we roll out of Prime on Friday, I may think about hitting up the Rio or someplace else for an 11pm tournament. The Rio is a good option for two reasons. First, they have a good structure tournament with typically bad WSOP donkeys playing it at that hour. Secondly, I probably want to register early for my WSOP event anyways rather than leave my ability to start on time on Saturday up to however good the logistics people at Harrah's have figured out crowd control at this year's World Series. So far the few reports I've seen have been mixed, but there've definitely been some stories of long lines shortly before the big events kick off, and people missing the first hour of their tournaments because they're stuck in line at registration, so I'd kind of like to get over to the Rio sometime on Friday anyways to get that taken care of. So, Friday night at 11pm at the Rio is a possibility for a poker tournament, but then I'll need to figure the likely effect of such a decision on my Saturday noon start time for WSOP Event #51. That one could go either way and will probably depend largely on how I'm feeling on Friday night after that sweetass Prime feast.

On Saturday, of course, I will be in the World Series, starting at 12 noon at the Rio. This is traditionally where I've had the chance to meet up with a few bloggers in past years, and it sounds like I may be able to do the same this time around. Sounds like at least BBT4 killer 1Queensup1 will be in the same event, so hopefully he and I can meet up and laugh about how Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies have somehow lost like 9 of 11 games but are still 2 games up on the Mets who cannot get out of the way of some of the worst teams in baseball, or something like that. So anyways, of course the plan is hopefully that I will be in the WSOP all day on Saturday, something which I will write more about later in the week as far as my expectations for the WSOP this year.

Assuming no final table of my WSOP event -- more on that later this week as well -- Sunday might be another good opportunity for me to get my poker on in a tournament forum. If I'm not in the WSOP, most of my bachelor party friends will be clearing out of town sometime before noon on Sunday, while I will be sticking around until Monday morning (unless I need to delay my departure due to some incredible tournament run or something), so if I'm not in the WSOP, then on Sunday I am basically on my own starting around mid-morning. Maybe that can be a day for me to check out the Venetian and play a tournament there for the first time in my life. Man I have got a lot of research to do still before I actually have any idea what my plans are this weekend.

All I know is, I'm on a plane bounded for the Left Coast in less than 80 hours. Unfortunately, I've got about 80 hours of work to squeeze in along with commuting, meal times, and of course some sleep sprinkled in as well, but don't worry. If this is anything like past years, this should be just about the longest three days of my life, so I should have plenty of time to get everything done that I need to get done.

More tomorrow on my expectations for the WSOP in light of some of the incredible stuff that's gone on this summer already.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

T Minus 6 Days and Counting

Six days and counting.

Get ready for the longest week of my life.

So does anyone have a handle on what the best local tournaments are in Vegas that run on a daily basis? As I mentioned yesterday, I am hoping to play a little tournament poker every day I am out there, but it would be great to know if, for example, the MGM runs a nightly midnight tournament, what the buyin, how many people usually play, etc.

If I don't get many good responses today, I will probably include this on my list for next week as far as things to look up and post.

Oh and it sounds like there will be a few bloggers in town next weekend after all, so we shall see about finding some time to get together and exchange pleasantries.

More next week as I buckle down for the home stretch. That cross-country flight on Thursday night cannot come fast enough....


Thursday, June 18, 2009


Man it is still all I can do just to stop thinking about that LJ stuff for even a short while. 10th place in the WSOP. 10th place. In the World Series of Poker!! It's gonna be a long time before I have fully absorbed that whole thing, it really is.

Despite just the overall excitement of three solid blogger WSOP cashes -- one nearly 20k and one over 200k -- over just the past week, another side effect of all that is that I am starting to get seriously focused on my upcoming Vegas trip. With me so totally and completely underwater swamped at work, I didn't even realize until late today that my trip is now just one week away. In fact, as I type this, I should be in Las Vegas exactly seven days from now.

To say that I can't wait is an incredible understatement. I mean, I will miss the balls off of my family like always, but as I've written several times before, this annual trip is literally the only time I leave the house for an entire year. I don't even play live poker maybe one other time a year these days outside of this summer Vegas trip, and this time around I will have several longtime friends and bth of my brothers out there as well as we celebrate my older brother finally getting off his ass and getting married in a couple of months. I also just found out today that a great friend of mine from law school who lives on the other side of the country will be making her first trip out to Vegas next weekend as well, so I'm hoping to catch up with her at some point on Friday or Saturday as well.

I'm also starting to formulate the beginnings of a general plan of attack as far as poker goes for my trip. Right now my working plan is that I would like, ideally, to try to play at least one poker tournament every day when I am out there. As I recall a few of the bigger rooms run a tournament at midnight or so, so if I'm a real man, I will arrive around 10ish on Thursday, check in to my room at the MGM, starting drinking immediately and try to get into a tournament late that night. Roll into my room at some point early Friday morning whenever my Thursday night tournament ends, and sleep through the morning. Depending on what's available, maybe hit up a late morning or afternoon tournament somewhere, but more likely take it easy, maybe play some live cash at mgm in the afternoon because I'll be heading to Prime on Friday night in Bellagio with my friends to hit up their kickass raw seafood tower appetizer followed by what is truly the literal best fillet mignon I have ever eaten in my life. After that, possibly a final late-night tournament to tune up for the piece de resistance of the weekend, and then on Saturday at noon I will be at the Rio to go and just try to represent like so many of our blogging brethren have done already this summer.

After that, it's all kinda up in the air. Of course my hope is that I have more WSOP to play on Sunday, and in fact that I have to change my flight on Monday to allow me to finish off the rest of the final table in WSOP Event 51, but of course that is probably just a pipe dream. But god would that ever be the perfect ending to what has already been an incredible WSOP season for our community, would it not.

Who else out there is planning to be in Vegas over that weekend? Weren't there a few people planning to play in the June 27 $1500 nlh tournament with me?

And I know one other thing I'm sure I'll be hitting up while I'm at MGM for four days in the desert: the pool!

Thursday, Jun 25
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Abundant sunshine
Low: 80 °F
High: 105 °F

Friday, Jun 26
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Hot with plenty of sunshine
Low: 84 °F
High: 108 °F

Saturday, Jun 27
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Hot with some sun
Low: 83 °F
High: 109 °F

Sunday, Jun 28
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Mostly sunny and hot
Low: 84 °F
High: 109 °F

Monday, Jun 29
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Hot with sunshine
Low: 84 °F
High: 110 °F

Next Thursday cannot come fast enough.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A New Era

It seriously is a new era for us poker bloggers.

Five years ago when I first started really getting into poker blogs and eventually poker blogging, we were basically a bunch of misfits and geeks who had a good time getting to know each other while talking and thinking poker. Very few of the guys heavy into poker blogging back in the day were really what I would consider to be any kind of truly serious players. Most people didn't play every day, many didn't play every week even, and there really weren't many stories out there of significant blogger scores in big poker tournaments. Hell, five years ago I don't even remember any of the blogger crew even playing in the World Series of Poker, let alone running deep. I'm sure it happened, don't get me wrong, but it was such a rarity to even have one of us playing in a big spot back in the day, which frankly is why I always loved what Al as able to do, and what Iggy did once back in the day, to organize the group to find a way to send some of us to the WSOP.

Things changed over the ensuing couple years, but very slowly. I remember when I cashed in the WSOP what, two full years ago now, there were at least four bloggers playing in the very event that I played in. Pauly cashed in a later event in the Series, and several other bloggers took a shot as well along the way in the various events. And I know at least three or four who played in the Main Event that year as well. If I had to guess, two years ago we probably had a good 20-25 blogger attempts in WSOP events. That would have been unheard of to all of us who had been blogging for a while already just a few years earlier, I assure you.

My how things have changed.

Just one week ago, sprstoner went on a sick run and finished 3rd in Event #13 of the WSOP. He took home a not-too-shabby 202 Large for his efforts. Two hundred two thousand dollars. Thousand dollars! I have to say, when stoner went on that run, I felt pride at "one of us" going the distance like that in such a big spot. I've never talked to stoner, I've never met him and I don't even know if I've ever commented on his blog (though I do enjoy reading it from time to time), but I still couldn't believe it. I remember when Ryan of absinthetics won the first event of the LA Poker Classic or whatever it was, probably four years ago now at this point. I think he won somewhere around 116k or something, it was sick. And this felt a whole lot like that, only moreso because it was a lot more money and it was at the WSOP (not to take anything away from Ryan, who won his event outright don't get me wrong). The point is, one of us in a large way was out there on the big stage, playing 3-handed for a m'er f'ing bracelet. When the eff did that happen?

And now look at what's happened just since then. CK, fresh off winning 2k from full tilt in the BBT4 Tournament of Champions, rips into the $1500 OE event at the WSOP (Event #25) and plows through more than 90% of the field on her way to her first WSOP cash. And then from Sunday to Tuesday this week, LJ set the blogger world seriously abuzz with an incredible run to m'er f'ing 10th place in WSOP Event #31, in $1500 HORSE. I freely admit it was the only thing I could think about last night. What a run. And in a lot of ways, this hits most of us a lot closer to home even than stoner's news from last week, despite the cash not being for as much from a pure dollars perspective.

Stoner is a blogger, he has a blog, he writes about poker sometimes, and he's played a few blonkaments with us over time. Maybe 5, maybe 10, probably not a whole lot more than that I would guess. But LJ, LJ is a whole different story. She is seriously one of us. She's played a million blogger tournaments and has played cash and chatted on the girly with most of you out there. She's come to multiple blogger get togethers and has met many of you personally, in Vegas or otherwise. She blogs (fairly) regularly and has taken the time to comment many, many times on many of your blogs about all different kinds of topics. She's a "homegrown" as anyone in our community these days when it comes right down to it, in a way that stoner is just not. And LJ just went and ran to 10th place in the WSOP.

I am speechless. Seriously. Those of you who have been around a while I imagine would have to agree with this. To think that in the span of three weeks we would have a 3rd place, a 39th place and a 10th place in WSOP events for people who are basically "regular bloggers", it is just mind-numbing to me. Has the skill level of our group as a whole actually been progressing all along to the point that the best of our group these days seriously are that much better than we were just a few years ago? Shit, a blogger in 3rd and another in 10th place? At the friggin World Series of Poker?!!

In about five years involved in this community, never did I ever think I'd see the day when I could run through 1300 donks on my way to a 27th place finish in the WSOP next week, and it would be pretty much ho-hum at this point. I would be whacking off but the rest of you would be sitting there wondering why I couldn't get past the final three tables in the WSOP and how I managed to donk off my stack that had been so much bigger an hour earlier.

This is going to be a strange visit to Vegas as compared to my last few pilgrimages to the WSOP. I'm sure I'll spend more time on this topic over the next week or so, but where my expectations would probably have been to cash and to make a Day Two for the first time in my life, now the bar has just been set so much higher, by people who admittedly have had more poker tournament success than me already as it is. But if bloggers can really run to the last ten of major WSOP events and be in position to run over the final table with a little bit of luck, then that changes everything, doesn't it?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bloggers Score at the WSOP, Take II

LJ finished in 10th place tonight in WSOP Event #31, $1500 buyin HORSE. Holy shit!!

More on that tomorrow.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

My Secret Obsession

I think I am obsessed with the New York Mets.

I'm serious. I just can't help it. It's like the proverbial car wreck when you drive past it on the highway -- I just can't help but pay attention to the biggest bunch of bums I've seen in New York sports in some time. And the Knicks play in this city, so you know I am really saying something there.

For those who didn't see the action this weekend, the Mets really came up strong to try to outdo their losing 2 of 3 to the Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies last week, which included the Phils smacking four home runs in the deep confines of Citi field off of Mets ace Johan Santana in a one-run loss in game 1, the Phils' first win of the series where Carlos Beltran lost it for the Mets when he dropped an easily-catchable fly ball near the center field wall that was basically right inside his glove, and then another loss in the rubber match when Phillies' free-agent signing Raul Ibanez slugged a 3-run blast in the top of the 10th to take that one down in extras. Well, the next team in the path of the Mets was the Yankees, as Subway Series 2009 began with three games in the new Yankee Stadium.

And that's when this happened:

I mean, what do you say at this point with this effing team? It's not like it hasn't been highly obvious that the team is poorly coached, makes no effort and is just generally an embarrassment to the sport in almost every facet of the game. The Mets have lost what, four or five different games this year just on errors in the field? And another three on baserunning mistakes? They've lost a game recently after missing third base in the top half of extra innings and then making two errors in the bottom half of that inning. They've lost a game this year when Carlos Beltran wouldn't slide into home plate and got called out trying to score what would have been the go-ahead run as a result. And now that beautiful play above, to which the Mets responded by crushing Andy Pettitte and the Yankees in game 2 of the subway series, only to return on Sunday for the rubber game and getting smushed 15-0 as their ace Santana once again took a beating, recording the worst outing of his career as the Yankees smacked 8 runs and 9 hits off Santana in just three innings of work.

Well, this weekend was it. I am officially starting the Jerry Manuel watch here. After what went down this weekend, I just don't see how Omar Minaya continues to retain any relevance at all if he does not dump the Mets coach on his scrawny, unintelligible ass. I heard on sports radio this morning that, even after Castillo's embarrassing drop on the pop-up from A-Rod to lose the game on Friday, all the Mets were out in the field on Saturday, all still catching flies with one hand. Good coaching, Manuel. You are an absolute dog.

This was a large weekend in sports in general, come to think of it. The Penguins won their first Stanley Cup since the Mario Lemieux years in 1992, beating the Red Wings on the road in a Game 7 of the Finals. And the Lake-show completed their run to and through the NBA Finals as well over the weekend, dispatching the Orlando Magic in five games as Kobe Bryant finally earned his place among the elite NBA players of all time in winning his fourth NBA title, and more importantly, his first as the leader of the team after his first three championships all as Shaquille O'Neal's sidekick. Kobe now with four titles, that really puts him up there indisputably in my view, dickhead though he may be. Just like Phil Jackson, who won his all-time record tenth NBA championship with the Lakers' victory on Sunday. Ten NBA titles. It's one thing when Red Auerbach won nine titles with the Celtics a couple of generations ago. But it's an entirely other thing to have done that totally within the time of free agency, when keeping teams and star players together -- and happy -- for more than one or two good years has become an immense challenge in and of itself. Red did his thing with Bill Russell there the entire time, either as a player or a player-coach near the end there. Now Phil has done it with Michael Jordan, with Shaq, and now in 2009 with Kobe.

And for those of you who discount with the Zen Master has done on the basis that he always had star players on his team, I ask you two questions: First, what NBA championship team did not have at least one star player on it over the past 25 years or so? Name one. The most recent Detroit Pistons championship teams is as close as you're gonna get, and even that team had the player formerly known as Ben Wallace, to go along with Chauncy Billups in the backcourt. So these winning teams always have talent, that's not debatable. And my second question to those Phil Jackson haters is what do you say about this year's team? This is, in my view, far and away the worst team of all of Phil's title-winners. It basically comes down to Kobe, and who else? Pau Gasol? Lamar Odom? Shawn Bynum? Let's face it -- this team was Kobe's and Kobe's alone, and the way I see it, this is probably Phil Jackson's greatest individual season accomplishment, maybe behind the 72-10 season in Chicago, but maybe not. I'm still trying to figure out how this particular Lakers team was able to get past the Dallases, the San Antones, the Nuggets, the Blazers, the Rockets and all the other teams like Utah, Phoenix, etc. that have normally been hanging around lately at the end of the playoffs on the Western side of the bracket. To Kobe and to Phil, this one is huge in my view, and frankly I would be very surprised to see Phil Jackson spend any more of his years coaching in the NBA. I could be wrong about that, but personally I believe the whole recent comeback to the Lakers for Phil was all about one thing: getting his tenth championship, and getting his name alone in the recordbooks for all time with ten titles won. More than Auerbach's nine, more than Scotty Bowman's nine in the NHL, and far more championships than anyone else has ever coached in baseball or football. I think Phil has accomplished what he set out to do -- probably much sooner than he expected, looking at his roster at the beginning of the season this year -- and I don't expect to see him sweating it out one the sidelines and screaming at millionaires for much longer.

Just a week and a half until I roll into Vegas with my peeps and a walletful of cash, destined for the donation pile in World Series of Poker Event #51 on June 27. Who else is gonna be man enough to plunk down for that?

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Coming Up For Air


So let's recap:

1. Yes, I am still alive.

2. No, I did not throw myself off a bridge after bubbling the BBT4 Tournament of Champions last Sunday night.

3. Work has been all-encompassing this week, just about the worst it's ever been for me as far as having my life taken over by my job. Due to various conditions and circumstances, I ended up taking on a boatload of work over the past couple of weeks, the end result of which as they all came together and were suddenly due at the same time, has been me getting into my office before 7:30 in the morning, staying around 12 hours, driving home and taking just enough time to scarf down a quick dinner before jumping right back on the pc and continuing right where I left off at home. Stay up until all hours of the morning trying desperately to finish everything that needs finishing before the next day in the office, and then rinse and repeat the next day. Every day this week, I've spent more than 16 hours struggling to get through everything that needed to get done, and it's only sometime today that I've had any chance at all to come up for air.

I thought while I'm free for what is sure only to be a momentary break, I would jump on here and let everyone know what's what.

Some other thoughts to share before I dive back down into the depths:

First off, my bust from the ToC last weekend. What can I say about it. I don't like the play I made calling off the rest of my stack with AT on the QT4x board down to 5-handed in the tournament. I've gotten a bunch of emails and girly chats about the play, so for the record I am here saying that, with a little hindsight, I don't like the play I made and I think the better play would have been to fold and wait for a better spot, especially given what was at stake.

But that's not to say that I can't explain making that call. I know exactly why I made the play that I made. It really comes down to two things: Hand Ranges, and frustration.

Let's take them in reverse order. As I tried to capture in my live blog of the event, I ran like Zeus and Jupiter rolled into one during the first 90 minutes of the ToC. I was dealt AA and KK once each, getting paid nicely with both as I recall, but the real story had to do with my draws. I must have hit three flushes and two straights, most of them on the turn, during the first hour and a half of the ToC. With the massive 5000 starting stacks that Al was able to secure for us for the ToC, the implied odds of chasing almost any reasonable draw are huge, and on top of that, you bloggers were not making properly-sized bets to price me out of chasing even from a pot odds perspective. I remember calling a couple of 2/3-pot bets on the flop with naked flush draws early in the tournament, knowing that I have more than enough pot odds to see two more cards if my opponent did not bet again on the turn, and knowing the tremendous implied odds if I could get paid off (and I did often). At least once, I chased an oesd on the flop by calling a bet of just half the pot. I mean, if there's a draw on the board and you're out there leading out for just half the pot, you damn well better have a set, or you are making a downright bad play. Even with a set it's probably a bad play since you can lose if that draw fills on the turn or river, but it's defensible with a set. But if two of a suit flop, or two high cards flop, and you're betting half the pot, you are just asking to get called by a draw and then end up paying if you actually had a hand when the flop came down.

So for 90 minutes in the ToC, I called every bet on the flop with every draw just about, and I swear I must have filled every single draw I saw, and I got paid time after time after time. It was without a doubt the only time I ran good in the entire BBT4, and I was lucky enough to have that happening in the Tournament of Champions, with $24k in free prizes at stake for the winners. I floated lucko on a steal attempt with my K2s and managed to flop trip 2s. I raised from early position with sooted connectors, and I flopped the flush. It was sick. I ran like god, and we all know how easy poker can be when you are running godlike. So that was me for an hour and a half at the ToC, and I quickly amassed a solid chip lead while probably eliminating a full ten bloggers along the way.

And then, poof! It was over.

For the last 2 hours and 40 minutes in the Tournament of Champions, I got no hands. Zero. I mean, I didn't see a premium pair, I didn't see a single pocket pair at all in fact, and I did not receive AK, AQ or AJ even one time during that span. Once we got down to about 20 players left or so in the ToC, my cards were finished. I still managed to win a couple of nice pots, but even those required me to make very marginal calls with very marginal hands and in both instances I got lucky to get in ahead. Once was the hand against F-Train somewhere down to the final two tables, when I called his allin reraise preflop for about 10k when I had raised originally from the cutoff for around 2k, and I flipped up the very dominatable A9o. Lucky for me, F-Train was sitting on A8o, and my kicker played and I got another elimination. On another occasion also down to the last two tables, I called another short stack (mostly everyone was a short stack compared to me almost all the way through this thing) with just top pair and a Jack kicker, and ended up being up against top pair with a lower kicker for another nice jump and another knockout from the ToC. But that was all I had going for me with the cards I was getting, and that only got worse and worse as we got down to fewer and fewer players left.

So, by the time I made that fatefull allin call with second pair top kicker at the final table, you have to put yourself into my shoes to understand how I could make an ill-advised call like that. I hadn't seen any hands for about 150 minutes. I was stealing like a banshee, but I had no cards. None. Nada. And it sucked. And those of you who play a lot of poker know how it is -- when you've been looking at a steady stream of 84o and J3o and Q6s for the past two and a half hours, forced to fold to raise after raise after raise from the big stacks at the table, and watched your own stack dwindle to less than half what it was at one point an hour or so earlier, and suddenly you pick up ATs, it looks like the stone nuts. I raised preflop with it, the first time I had had a hand when I raised before the flop in hours, and the table big stack called. The flop came QT4, so I caught second pair with top kicker, and I bet out again. actyper called. When the turn brought a rag (I think -- too lazy to look back at the screenshots at this point), actyper suddenly led out allin for about 3 times what I had left behind.

And this is where my second explanation comes into play -- hand ranges. I'm playing hand ranges here. That's what I always do. I did it when I called F-Train's allin with my A9, reasoning that he might push any Ace, any two face cards and any pocket pair there, and I got lucky. When I called the allin on the flop with my QJ on the Queen-high flop and ended up being up against Q9 or whatever it was, same thing. All I can do is put a player on a range of hands, given the way he or she has played a given hand from the moment the player first decided to voluntarily put money into the pot, and then I make my decisions based on that hand range.

So when actyper pushed so strong there on the turn, the first thing that went through my head was that he must be weak. As it turns out, this was a testament to how well actyper played the hand, because he sent me the absolute wrong message about the real strength of his hand, and I bought it. Partly because he played it real well, and partly, I am sure, because of the frustration of not having seen a good hand for 150 minutes. But in my head when I made the call, I figured I was sure he would push allin there so quickly with just about any Ten, possibly a few draws, and of course anything better than those hands. But any Ten and a draw were in my view squarely in actyper's range of hands to be pushing like he did there, again especially in light of him not having let me lead out again on the turn before check-raising me allin. So, my analysis of the hand ranges involved led me to believe that I was ahead of a significant part of his range, and drawing to probably five outs to another big portion of the hand. And looking at the chips in the middle, the percentage of my stack already involved, and the pot odds of calling off the rest of my chips, my analysis of the hand ranges led me to make the call. Turns out he had flopped a set of 4s, and IGH in 5th place.

Of course, in retrospect I can easily take a different view of actyper's actions in the hand. Here he has a significant chip lead with 5 players left, two of us set to win 10k to play in the WSOP this summer, and actyper called my preflop raise, called my bet on the flop, and then led out allin when a rag fell on the turn. Now, are those really the actions of someone with a weak hand? I mean, is actyper really gonna risk that entire huge stack he has amassed, at a time when he can pretty much just sit and wait this out for a while before having to make a move? I'm not so sure as I look at it now, with a lot more time and perspective to really review everything. But I have detailed notes on actyper, and generally I show him as an aggressive player who would much rather be the one pushing than the one calling, and at the time, all I can say is that I felt his range included enough hands that I was ahead of or was drawing to beat that I felt it was the right decision to make the call. Of course, in retrospect, seeing what he had, of course I wish I had just folded. But I really didn't want to be in last place of 5 players remaining, and I certainly didn't want to give up a bunch of equity in the pot against a guy who I could easily see at the time pushing with a bluff because he would expect me to fold rather than go out on the bubble. My sense knowing how actyper plays a little bit is that most of the people I've spoken with don't get my point about hand ranges, but I think that call was a lot closer than most of you out there is my guess. Still, I think in retrospect it is a call I would not make again, and one I wish I had not made on Sunday night.

So congratulations to actyper and to jj for taking down the 10k seats. I firmly believe that jj owes it to us as a community to come out for the $1500 WSOP event on Saturday June 27, even if he's not planning on using the prize to play in the Main Event itself. And congratulations as well out to ck and karmarules, who I understand may be katiemother (who recently made her blog private, also adding to my suspicions), for each winning the 2k prizes. Here I was listing jj and ck (and karma, frankly) as three of the big longshots in the ToC, and they managed to nab three of the four big prizes in the event. What a thrill to be a part of such a battle as the BBT4 ToC, and the hugest thanks of all again out to Al for putting it all together and for continuing to figure out unique and fun ways to send bloggers to the World Series of Poker. I will continue to say until my grave that, ultimately, that's what it's all about -- sending bloggers to the WSOP.

What else? OK so the Yankees can't beat the Red Sox -- that is 7 for 7 this year so far for the Sox as of this writing -- but how effing great have the Yankees been playing since A-Rod joined the team? I think I saw recently that they are something like 22-8 since A-Rod's return from a steroid-induced hip injury, and lord knows that Yanks' first baseman Mark Teixeira is enjoying the protection. I know I wrote about this a few weeks back, but at this point Tex is leading the majors in home runs with 20, and he is roundly understood to be one of the best free agent signings of this past offseason, when just one month ago you could not have found someone -- anyone -- who would have described the Teixeira signing as anything but an abject failure. Like I wrote about last month, what a difference a little protection makes, huh?

Oh -- and if you didn't see Jayson Werth of Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies absolutely single-handedly save the game last night in the bottom of the 10th inning last night against the hapless Mets, you should definitely go and check it out. Basically, with a man on first in a tie game in the bottom half of the 10th inning at Citi Field, perennial step-downer David Wright smacked a ball into the alley in right-center field. With a fast runner on first, Jayson Werth knows that if the ball gets by him, the Mets will likely score the winning run on the hit and the game will be over. So Werth just throws caution to the wind and goes completely balls-out, makes a sensational diving catch that even had the homerass Mets announcers screaming in amazement.

Remember back a few weeks ago, when the Mets lost a game in the 9th inning after Carlos Beltran was thrown out at home plate after refusing to slide in a close play? Even after the game, Beltran himself and his coach both excused his play and neither seemed to think it was much of a big deal. Well, Jayson Werth showed on Wednesday night just how much hustle like that matters, and in doing so he illustrated perfectly exactly what makes the Phillies a better overall team than the Mets right now. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the Mets are a loser team, and they've got no heart whatsoever, something they show time and time again, game in and game out.

So much more to say, but this is all the time I have for now. Hopefully back at ya tomorrow with more of the same.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Live Bloggin the ToC

12:25 pm ET: It's over!! Ck pushes allin for 20k and actyper hesitates before calling with Q8o and a massive stack. An 8 on the turn and ck's WSOP Main Event dreams are history. JJok and actyper will win the 10k prize packages, and karmarules and ck31 take down the 2k scores. Congrats to all involved in the BBT4 and the Tournament of Champions!

12:20 pm ET: karmarules was gone in 4th place before I could even open up the window to see how she busted. It's actyper with a sick chip lead, jj at 46k and ck at 20k, with the top two finishers winning the 10k seats.

12:19 pm ET: I busted on the bubble in 5th place when I took ATs, easily the best hand I received in the past three hours, and ran it into a flopped set on a QT4 flop where I just couldn't put actyper on a Queen. actyper, jjok, ck31 and karmarules will share in the 24k in prizes being put up by full tilt for the BBT4 ToC.

12:14 pm ET: actyper has opened up another big chip lead, up at 79k to jj's 41k and my 39k. All five players remaining are reasonably close other than actyper, with even the last place stack sitting currently at 22k. It's still wide open folks.

12:06 pm ET: ck's AT turns broadway and bests big chipleader actyper's QQ for another double up for ck. as actyper drops out of the chip lead, one hand later he is allin with AK vs the A7 of qrs, and AK holds. qrs is out in 6th, and we are up to the cash bubble in the ToC. I'm still at 39k, but that is now 4th of 5 after all the sucking out going on at this table.

12:06 pm ET: ck doubles up again with 55 against kickyourace's KQs. kick is out, we are down to 6. actyper remains out in front with 72k, and I am still second with 43k, with jj right behind me at 40k.

11:55 pm ET: Fourth break is here. Here are the chip counts:

actyper -- 60,230
hoyazo -- 43,423
jjok -- 41,032
karmarules -- 29,402
qrs1 -- 26,172
kickyourace -- 10,624
ck31 -- 9117

Still anybody's game as I've been saying. Blinds will resume at 800-1600 with a 200 ante after the 5 minute break.

11:52 pm ET: I just took out smboatdrinks after karmarules sucked out against him with Q9o over boat's AK. Down to 7 left, and my stack rises slightly to 40k, still 3rd place of 7 remaining.

11:50 pm ET: actyper's KJs outlasts iaatg's A5o allin preflop and iaatg is the first player out of the BBT4 ToC final table. Meanwhile, actyper's stack has swelled to the large chip lead, sitting at 73k while jj remains in 2nd place with 41k and me with 37k. Break time coming up again shortly.

11:37 pm ET: Massive postflop suckout by ck after smboatdrinks correctly instacalled ck's flop push with 93 on a 972 flop. CK immediately nailed a second 7 on the turn to double through smboatdrinks. Still all 9 of us remaining at the final table, with me at 38k in chips, back in 3rd place behind jj and actyper.

11:32 pm ET: I drop to 34k in my biggest chip loss of the night when my 33 runs into the final table short stack's AA. That puts me in 4th of 9, behind jj and actyper in the mid 40s, and now SmBoatdrinks at 35k as well. Still anyone's game, but if the short stack did not pick up AA again at the final table I would be ok with that too. ;)

11:28 pm ET: Heffmike is out on the final table bubble and we are down to 9 remaining. Unfortunately it was once again jj who recaptured the chip lead from me when his TT bested heffmike's AJ, putting jj now in first with 49k and me in 2nd place as the final table begins with 41k in chips.

11:22 pm ET: I just eliminated F-Train when he reraised me allin and I opted to call with my A9o after seeing F-Train push allin a few times in the past half hour or so. He flipped up A8o and my kicker held to bump me up to 42k and back into the chip lead. Seconds later, smokkee lost his first race of 2009 and we are down to 10 players remaining. I am in the lead with 43k, with actyper in 2nd with 39k and jj at 38k. Still anyone's game, but we are now just one player away from the ToC final table.

11:16 pm ET: Shabazz Jenkins is out in 13th place after KQ flopped a boat against him allin preflop. 12 runners left, all of my top 5 in odds are now eliminated. I've been stealing like a banshee, haven't had a good hand in over an hour at this point, and am happy to be clinging to my third place position with still 27k in chips. jj and actyper still each hold 37k for the top two spots on the current leaderboard.

11:07 pm ET: Update: I understand that stoner has just busted in 3rd place in WSOP Event #13, when his AK could not beat KK and he loses to the tough loss to swallow 3-handed. That said, I'm expecting that the $202,000 stoner just won will help him to swallow the loss, at least just a little bit. Congratulations sprstoner!!!

11:03 pm ET: sprstoner is down to 3 left in the $2500 nlh WSOP event #13. And I have lost my lead in the BBT4 ToC, as jjok calls down jamyhawks allin push with a short stack and with jj's 88. The 88 held and jj moves to 36k vs my 29k, and as I write this, actyper eliminates Snarf as well, jumping his own stack up to 35k and placing me now in third place.

10:55 pm ET: Third break, down to 16 players remaining in the ToC. As mentioned, most of the heavyweights from the BBT4 leaderboard have been eliminated at this point, although for the first time in a couple of hours I have a guy right on my ass at the top of the leaderboard. I am still in first, with 29,935 in chips as we break for 5 minutes, but jj has now climbed to 29,070, while actyper is a close third with 26,597 in chips. It's still anybody's game, but obviously I can't complain about where I'm at with just 12 spots left until the money positions in this badboy.

10:50 pm ET: Whoa! Somehow I missed this, but Jordan is also gone, out in 21st place, so that is yet another of the "Tier I" guys that won't be winning WSOP packages in the BBT4 ToC. The only guy left that I had in that first group is Shabazz Jenkins, who currently sits in 13th place out of 16 remaining.

10:48 pm ET: I elim LJ when I make the mandatory call of her short-stack raise preflop when I hold 66 utg. I hold against A5s and move to 32k, with 2nd place still jj at around 22k in chips.

10:41 pm ET: And another early favorite goes down. Chad is out when he pushed allin from the small blind with K2s, and was instacalled by Vinnay who woke up in the big blind with QQ. Chad is out in 23rd place, and Tony Eusebio goes just a minute later leaving 21 blonkeys remaining. in the ToC. My 28k is now ahead of jj in 2nd place with around 22k in chips.

10:33 pm ET: And another early favorite bites the dust. 1ueensup1 is out of the Tournament of Champions in 25th place of 44 who started 2 and a half hours ago. I didn't see how it happened, but it doesn't really matter I guess. So far TJ and Queensup are both out in the top half of the field, leaving this a wide open race for the 4 wsop prize packages and the two 10k seats. Meanwhile I just raised with, won and showed my fourth hammer of the night. Eat it.

10:26 pm ET: Over 30k and still comfortably in first place after knocking out mclarich who pushed the turn with just an oesd and two unders on a K89 flop (he held 67). I could not find a reason to fold 97o to his stack that is barely a dent in mine, and I dodged 8 outs once for the big jump. Second place is now smboatdrinks at around 15k, so I am still sitting pretty way ahead of the pack with 25 runners left.

10:14 pm ET: Up over 25k as my Q9 outflops ck's TT and I withstand one bet from her before we both wisely check down the river. With 30 runners remaining, I'm just over 25k with second place (still ck) just a shade over 14k. Meanwhile I am out of the 40k per my earlier post. Right now it's just the ToC open on my pc, though that is likely to change as this thing wears on.

9:55pm ET: Second break, and I sit with 21,730 chips, still good for first place with 32 bloggers remaining in the BBT4 Tournament of Champions, about 4k ahead of second place which is ck31 at the moment. My stats through 159 hands in the ToC are pretty effing amazing if I don't say so myself -- I have won an astounding 24 hands preflop (15% of the total hands dealt at my table!), plus another 2 on the flop, 2 on the river, and an equally incredible 10 out of 12 showdowns, which is a testament to my having had AA and KK already tonight in addition to making two straights and a flush all in the first two hours of this thing. That means a total of -- get this -- 23% of the total hands dealt at my table have been won by me, and this at an event that's had 7 or more players at each table throughout and which has been mostly 9-handed. I'm suuuuure that will continue as the ToC rolls on!

9:46pm ET: I just elim'd pushmonkey when he pushed allin on a reraise with what turned out to be AJo against my TT. I got some chips from Snarf in the process as well, but could not get him to commit fully when I flopped a set on a scary JT9 board. The 8 on the turn prevented me from betting, but luckily I held against pm's flopped TPTK and I shot up over 22k in the process.

9:42pm ET: I just took another sickass beat to get essentially eliminated from a poker tournament, this time in the 40k where I got allin with QQ against 77 and A8s, and watched 77 make its set on the turn to send me essentially to the rail. It's hard to believe I still play this game sometimes. Although, I did just double back up and am now only about a third of the average stack with about 200 runners left until the money. Meanwhile, in the ToC I am just over 18k and still in 1st place wth 33 runners remaining.

9:24pm ET: Just elim'd dueyv when he bet half the pot on the flop and I called with an oesd. My oesd filled on the turn, he checked to me and I opted to bet out 2/3 of the pot, which duey quickly raised allin for another 2k more. Holding the nuts, I called of course, expecting to need to fade some outs to a boat, but instead duey showed ATo unimproved and was drawing dead. That bounced me up to 14k and second place, and then the very next hand saw Aposec push allin on a reraise to my pf raise from middle position, which I felt I had to call with AKo. He showed AJo, and somehow another favorite held up, vaulting me over 16k in chips and into first place on the leaderboard with 35 left out of 44 runners who started about 90 minutes ago.

9:20pm ET: Over 10k and into 4th place overall after F-Train instacalled me on the river with his 77, third pair on the board, and lost to my pocket Aces. At the moment the Asshat Frat Crew is representing in a really big way, with Chad in 1st, Don in 3rd and myself in 4th. Goooooo crew!!!!

9:04pm ET: Booom Tuscaloosa Johnny becomes the first of the Tier 1 favorites to be eliminated from the BBT4 Tournament of Champions. TJ flopped bottom set, but lost to flopped broadway. That's brutal. But what a run for TJ, over not just this BBT series but the last two of them overall.

8:56pm ET: First break. I have 8455 in chips, good for fourth place after 55 minutes of play. Meanwhile, at the second break of the 40k, I am 274 out of 480 with just under 5k in chips. Chad is in the final 20 of the Sunday Brawl on full tilt, already in place to win well into the four digits, and sprstoner is in 3rd place with 5 players remaining in WSOP event #13!

8:52pm ET: Up to 8600 in chips after I turned 12 outs, called a 2/3 pot bet against Aposec based purely on implied odds, and then rivered the nut flush. I raised aposec's river bet and he correctly folded with the runner-runner diamond flush showing on the board. I am currently in 2nd place on the leaderboard, but right above me in first with more than twice the starting stack is Chad, who I already had at 6 to 1 as one of the favorite to win this thing. Love that he has that sized stack early.

8:40pm ET: I just nabbed the rest of lucko's 540 remaining chips when he pushed allin ahead of me when I held QQ. He flipped T9s and somehow the biatches held, bumping me over 6000 chips for the first time and into 6th place and simultaeously eliminating one of the toughest players from the ToC field.

8:25pm ET: I got down to 4100 before caling a blind steal from lucko on the button with my K2s. I flopped two more 2s and just smooth called two bets from lucko on the flop and turn, including when I made quad ducks with the case 2 on the turn. On the river I bet out big for the full pot, and lucko called for most of his stack with 73o for the rivered boat. Up to 5900 just like that, good for 10th place out of 43 left as Julkeus has become the first player eliminated from the ToC.

8:07pm ET: First fucking of the night came early, and I managed to minimize the damage in any event. I called a 2/3 pot bet on the flop with a hidden flush draw, made my flush on the turn, but failed to get it allin thank god. The river made a 6-outer boat for aposec and I could have easily been allin there with a massive lead for the early double-up as my opponent held A and was n0t about to fold. Down to 4700 from 5000 starting stack in the very earlygoing.

8:02pm ET: Stole first hand dealt to me on the night with a 3x open-raise from middle position. That's always a good feeling.

8:01pm ET: Shuffle up and deal! I got Al, Snarf, Aposec, duey, F-Train and shipfaced at my starting table. GL to everyone who is playing!

7:48pm ET: Well so much for my nice stack in the 40k. QQ < KK on a Ten-high flop vs. a short stack took care of that one. Ahhh typical, dirty, poker. T minus 10 minutes on the BBT4 ToC!

7:32pm ET: Sprstoner (Shawn Glines) is in the final 8 at WSOP event #14!

7:26pm ET: Just doubled up early in the full tilt 40k, which started at 7pm ET. Called preflop raise with T9s and flopped flush, eventually getting the lone Ace of the flush suit allin on the turn and fading the 8 outs on the river. Gotta love full tilt mtt players.

7:05pm ET: T minus 55 minutes until the BBT4 ToC. Meanwhile, sprstoner is down to the final 10 of WSOP event #14.

5:35pm ET: 44 runners and counting have signed up for tonight's BBT4 Tournament of Champions. Get out here and let's see if we can break 50!!

Just kidding. This is a freeroll and you are only registered if you "earned" your way in by "winning" a BBT4 tournament over the past three months. But you can still come out and watch the junk-kickery!

4:20pm ET: Well, the day is finally here. T minus 3 hours and 40 minutes as I write this until the biggest day of the year in poker blogdom, as far as I'm concerned. Two lucky bloggers will walk way after tonight's BBT4 Tournament of Champions with $10,000 prize packages to the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event. Two more of the 44 runners in tonight's freeroll will snag $2,000 WSOP prize packages for their efforts, with just worse than 1 in 20 odds for everyone to win some kind of cash for the WSOP this summer.

Over the past few days I have done a little writeup on each of the 43 other runners who will be joining me tonight at 9pm ET on full tilt. You can go and read those in my previous three posts before this one. Here is a quick recap of my odds of each player to win, in alpha order as best as I could do in my current state:

125Will -- 20 to 1
1Queensup1 -- 5 to 1
actyper -- 23 to 1
AlCantHang -- 35 to 1
Aposec72 -- 28 to 1
Asphnxma -- 30 to 1
Bone Daddy -- 19 to 1
Buddydank -- 14 to 1
chiefroger -- 35 to 1
ck31 -- 32 to 1
columbo -- 16 to 1
cracknaces -- 7 to 1
Dr. Pauly -- 15 to 1
dueyv9 -- 28 t 1
ElSnarfGrande -- 10 to 1
heffmike -- 9 to 1
highonpoker -- 6 to 1
hoyazo -- 15 to 1
iaatg6296 -- 14 to 1
inguri -- 35 to 1
jamyhawk -- 22 to 1
Jimdniacc -- 17 to 1
jjok -- 27 to 1
Joanne1111 -- 15 to 1
Julkeus -- 20 to 1
karmarules -- 28 to 1
kickyourace -- 24 to 1
lucko21 -- 11 to 1
mclarich -- 24 to 1
Miami Don -- 11 to 1
nightranger -- 22 to 1
pushmonkey72 -- 35 to 1
pvanharibo -- 15 to 1
qrs1 -- 20 to 1
rake feeder -- 29 to 1
rubbishat -- 40 to 1
Shabazz Jenkins -- 9 to 1
ShipFaced -- 18 to 1
SmBoatDrinks -- 18 to 1
smokkee -- 12 to 1
tgrazz -- 33 to 1
Tony Eusebio 20 to 1
Tuscaloosa John -- 7 to 1
Vinnay -- 25 to 1

I'm looking forward to starting up the action in just over 3 and a half hours. In the meantime, go think about sprstoner who is right around average with just 20 runners left in WSOP Event #13, the $2500 nlh tournament that started with 1088 runners and pays out $506,000 and change to the winner.

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