Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nice New Year Score, and Goals for 2010

As I mentioned yesterday, I had a nice score in the Ultimate Bet nightly $120 buyin sniper (knockout) tournament with a 20k guarantee on Tuesday night. Really, Wednesday morning of course, but you get the idea:

Being that this isn't that big of a score, and it's only a third place finish, I just don't think it's worthy of the time it takes to do a full-out recap post. But this score, and this run along with some of my recent poker tournament success, can serve as a great jumping-off point for my post on goals for 2010.

Suffice it to say that in this tournament on UB the other night, I absolutely crushed it. In addition to the probably 12 or 13 bounties I won on my way to the end of the final table, I was basically the chip leader in this thing from about 100 players left all the way down until a couple of hands before my elimination, which I thought I would share here. We had been playing 3-handed for some time, probably a good 20 minutes or so without anyone so much as moving allin let alone being called for all their chips, and then the 2nd place guy won more than half the third place guy's stack to give him almost as many chips as I had. A couple of hands later, I picked up 88 in the small blind, and when the UTG short stack folded to me, I put in a standard pot-sized raise of the 5000-chip big blind to 16,500. My opponent, who had just 50k fewer chips than me at this point, called my preflop raise, and we saw a pretty flop of 632 rainbow, giving me the overpair and almost surely in front, so I led out immediately for the full size of the pot. My opponent thought for a few seconds and called, which on this board and given his play shorthanded up to that point could have been almost anything, as I had seen him call a flop bet with any pair, even third pair and no kicker, plus with an inside straight draw, and even two high cards conceivably depending on what he was holding -- though a hand like AK or AJ seemed unlikely since he had not reraised me before the flop. But he called my raise preflop, so he had to have something decent. The turn card brought a rainbow 4, putting four to a low straight on the board but not scaring me since my opponent had called my raise preflop and would not likely do that with any hand with a 5 in it other than 55. I was not thrilled with the connectedness of the board so I only led out for about 2/3 the size of the pot, which my opponent again called after just a few seconds of thought. I barely had time to ask myself "Could he have actually flopped a set?" when a miracle 8 hit the river, giving me top set in the most unknowable of ways, so I figured why not just go for the tournament win right now and put this guy to the test when he clearly has something he likes and cannot possibly put me on the hand that I have:

But no. Turns out, I had been what I affectionately* call "pokerstarsed":

and a couple hands later I was out in third place, winning $3300 but leaving another $4500 on the table for the first place winner, the guy who finished in the spot that I fucking owned in this tournament. It was mine, but then that hand above took it all away from me and left me winning over 3 grand but once again feeling queasy after it was all said and done.

* this is not actually done affectionately. I fucking hate pokerstars for creating this new concept in online poker lore.

The reason I find this hand and this run to be a good segue into the 2010 goals I've been mulling over this week is that it covers one of my main goals as far as my poker play for the coming year: my play at final tables. More on that in a minute, but for now let's begin with five goals I have cobbled together this week as I've thought about what it is I am really looking to get out of this game and where I am looking to improve (or keep improving) in 2010:

1. Play more deep-stacked events. This one is fairly simple, but the numbers do not lie: give me some nice, deep stacks, and my results skyrocket as compared to the regular-stacked tournaments available in most tournaments in most live and online venues. But just think of the success I had in 2009, most of which did in fact occur in deep-stacked events in one way or another. There was of course my biggest-ever win, the 50k in the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza back in June, a tournament that is so deep up front with its 15,000-chip starting stacks and 25-50 starting blinds that the entire tournament series even has the "deep stack" concept right in the name itself. But while that was the only large officially-named "deep stack" event I played in 2009, much of my other poker success during the year also came in other tournaments where the stacks were quite deep. There was this $3300 this week as well as a win of this same tournament at the very beginning of 2009 on UltimateBet, both of which are tournaments that feature much deeper stacks and slower, more plentiful blind rounds than the tournaments available at any time on almost any other poker site out there. And even on full tilt, I took 2nd place (thank you, suckout) in the nightly $30 rebuy for a little over 5 Large in the fadll of 2009, and of course there was my largest ever online win of 27k and change in the Mini FTOPS just last month, also in -- you guessed it -- the $30 rebuy, both of which feature extremely deep stacks thanks to the rebuy feature and the fact that people at your table can just keep buying and buying and buying as many chips as they need to survive the rebuy period.

So what does all this mean specifically with respect to my poker play in 2010? Well, I really need to find a way to get in more time in some of the deeper-stacked tournaments available to me. So I should play some more on UltimateBet this year, a site where my ROI is sick and yet I really don't find myself drawn to playing there all that often, probably due to the cheating scandal and really the I think shoddy way the company still continues to handle the fallout from that scandal. But this is something I should definitely think about for 2010, because as I've said here many times, no poker site out there offers tournament structures regularly as good as those on UB, nobody. This also means I need to try to play the special tournaments on full tilt sometimes, the ones with the special levels like 350/700, 3500/7000, etc., because those are the closest things to the deep, slow structures that have been so profitable for me over the past twelve months or so of my poker action. I would also like to try to head out to Atlantic City or Foxwoods for at least one of the large tournament series events, which in most cases are slower structures with hour-long blinds and lasting over several days. And, lastly I will definitely give serious consideration to participating in the Venetian DSE tournament series again if I do make it out to Vegas again this summer for my annual poker jaunt.

2. Play some more live poker. This is another goal I feel like I make every single year, and yet I never seem to meet my own perception of how that goal should work out, but I just cannot deny the skew in my results in live vs. online play. I made good money playing 1-2 nl cash at Bally's in AC last week, nearly two buyins in just over an hour and a half of play. In stark contrast to my results when I first set foot in a casino for a live poker tournament a few years ago, at this point I have cashed in my last four live no-limit tournaments in casinos, counting back to my last trip to AC, the win at the Venetian, and my preceding two visits to Bally's and the Taj in AC as well. And I crushed the only home game I played in as well during the year. I feel like I know I can win money playing online poker tournaments, but just like with the deep-stacked events as I discussed above, live play is clearly where my ROI's bread is buttered. This is going to be a hard one to fulfill as I mentioned above, in particular with a new baby at home and all, but at least some of the same things that will fulfill my first goal above will also work to fulfill this one. Sometime soon I will hopefully take a look at the big tournament series coming to the Northeast this year and see if there's something I can get myself involved in.

3. Keep playing less online poker. As I may have mentioned previously, this probably sounds odd coming from someone who just recorded his best year ever playing poker, just won his biggest-ever online score and who already won a few large here in just the first week of the new year. But the bottom line is, I played way less poker in 2009 than I did in 2006-2008, and yet I not only won at a much better rate in 2009 but I managed to win more money overall in absolute terms as well. So why would I not want to continue that trend heading into the new year? In addition to spending my time doing some other things -- including sleeping which is really at a premium these days, new baby and all -- this also takes some other forms in line with some little rules and guidelines I have been forming over the past year or so. First, I no longer sign up to play long, deep mtts one day after having a long night, whether due to work, baby, a deep mtt run the night before or otherwise. So for example, I played zero poker on Wednesday night despite being up working somewhat late, because I knew I was up until after 3am the night before at the UB final table and that I would therefore crash at some point around midway through any big nighttime mtt on Wednesday. Shit, I didn't play poker for nearly a week after my 27-hour 2-day poker marathon at the Venetian last summer, but that was a very smart thing for me given how fried my brain had become at the time from all things poker. Similarly, over the past year I have become much more in tune with my own mood and state of mind, and I plan to continue in 2010 what I started in 2009 of not playing the game on any night when I know my heart or my mind is not really into it. That one sounds simple but probably no one is as guilty as me of breaking that simple rule over the past four or five years. And lastly, I will most definitely keep those online poker balances low, another thing which I encourage everyone else out there reading this to do the same with, especially in light of the seemingly increasing threat of enforcement of UIGEA against the payment processors who still allow us to get money into and off of the major sites but who can disappear overnight (literally) if the U.S. government decides to make some examples.

4. Focus more on winning mtts. As I reviewed earlier this week, I did a solid job in 2009 with my stated goal of making sure to take advantage of my shots at the final table, to try to make sure I last at least until the top 3 spots where the real money is concentrated in most mtt payout structures. As I reviewed recently, I am sure I had fewer big mtt final tables in 2009 than in previous years due to playing just a fraction of as many tournaments as I had in previous years, but I did a much better job of making them all count, lasting until the final 3 spots in probably close to 80% of the final tables I made in the year. Now, surely a lot of this has to do with the fact that when I make a final table, unlike a lot of people out there I am usually one of the big stacks which already helps me to survive later into the leaderboard, but as anyone who's been there regularly knows, no-limit is a cruel, cruel game, and it only takes one mistake, one overplay of a hand or ill-timed push to bring it all crashing down in a hurry. But I managed to avoid that for the most part in 2009, really making my appearances at the final table count for me as far as making it to the top 3. But you know what? As 2010 rolls in, lets think about my last several significant poker tournament cashes. I chopped when down to four players remaining at the Venetian DSE last summer, taking just a shade under 2nd place money. I got the 5k payout for 2nd place in the full tilt $30 rebuy. There was of course the 27k payout for 3rd place in the Mini FTOPS. And now the other night's $3300 payout, again for 3rd place when first paid $7800 and I had the chip lead basically from 100 down to 3 players remaining. What is missing here? Tournament wins. Actually taking first place in the tournament, and, more importantly, winning first place money. Now, I'm not gonna kill myself over the Venetian thing -- that was a chop, there was serious money at stake and we were essentially playing a pushfest, and in the end there was no winner since we stopped playing with 4 left. But in those other big cashes, look at what I left on the table by not winning the tournaments. In the Mini FTOPS, I took that horrible river suckout to end in 3rd place instead of being 1 river card away from about 90% of the chips in heads-up play. Sure I won 27k for my 3rd place finish, but first place paid over 64k, meaning that I left $37,000 on the table by not winning that tournament. In the full tilt $30 rebuy, I won $5100 or whatever it was, but first place paid around 9 grand as I recall. So that's another 4k on the table. And just the other night on UB, again I won $3300 for third place, but first -- where my chip stack was for the previous three hours straight just about -- paid $7800. Another $4500 on the table. Are you seeing the pattern here? So yes, I am well aware that as far as problems go, this is a good one to have. But in the spirit of making some lofty goals that might be a real challenge to achieve, this is something I plan to make a concerted effort on in 2010. 2009 was the year of making the top three. Let's make 2010 the year of winning the whole damn thing.

5. Update my blog, blogroll, categories, etc. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this goal because I know I probably won't ever deliver on it just like I did not during 2009. I remember sitting right where I am now and writing about my big plans to update the blog in 2009. That shit feels like it was just last week in fact. But now a whole year has gone by, and I still am no closer to updating the blog than I was back then. So who knows. But suffice it to say, I would really like to do a complete update on the blog. Consider changing the background, maybe change the template, definitely add my categories to the left column of the page to make navigating my copius archives more fun and easy for everybody, change my blogroll to one of those nifty automatically-updating ones blogger now makes available, and a number of other things like that. Whether this happens or not during the year in anybody's guess.

OK that is all I can think of for now as far as goals for 2010. As those who have read here regularly will note, I don't put anything into these yearly goals unless I honestly plan to make a serious attempt to achieve them. As I mentioned these are definitely some lofty goals, but I've always held myself to a very high standard and I can think of no reason why I can't work towards these importance items over the coming twelve months. Here's hoping all of you out there also get whatever it is that you want in 2010.

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Blogger The Poker Meister said...


How do you game select when it comes to MTTs? You showed a win from FT the other day, and now it's UB. What allows you to determine what tournament is best to play? I'm piqued particularly because I rarely see anyone post UB tourneys or hand histories - and I am considering throwing a few $$$ on there (given their 110% bonus + rakeback).

Also, how are the players in the cash games there? How easy is it to get money off of UB?


4:36 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

TPM -- I will try and do a post about my mtt selection sometime next week to get into this in a little more detail. Essentially I am looking for tournaments with a big enough buyin to keep out the extreme riff-raff, but otherwise a large enough field so that there is a solid guarantee for the prize pool, and the deeper the stacks, the better. There is just nothing worse than running good enough to final table something, running all the way to second or third place, and winning just $500 for your efforts, at least in my book.

Anyways, on UB this means I only really play the large 8pm and 9pm ET tournaments, cuz they're the only ones that meet my criteria during the window when I am usually able to play a tournament (and great deep stacks). On Bodog usually the nightly 8:30pm ET event is the only one I really ever play outside of their special events and tournament series, but god how I hate the Bodog client. On Stars it's usually the 8pm ET ($27.50 buyin), 9pm ET ($162 buyin, if I can satellite in which isn't hard) or 9:30pm ET tournaments ($55 buyin), and on full tilt it's the 8pm ET ($26 buyin), 8:30pm ET ($30 rebuy), and 9:30pm ET (the 50-50).

If I'm in the mood for an mtt on any given night of the week, it's usually going to be in one of those events listed above. Plus as many of the special events (the Bodog Poker Open, FTOPS, etc.) as I can get in, because they usually have nice big fields and in many cases deeper starting stacks.

No idea about the cash play on UB. I don't play cash there, and I probably won't. I don't know anyone who does either, sorry.

UB is probably the best site of all to get money off of. They will send you a paper check via Fedex or regular mail in just a couple of days, it is cut from a U.S. entity and it actually doesn't even bounce when you try to cash it! And I know of at least one other person who regularly gets Western Union cashouts from UB as well, which I believe are limited to $2300 or something but which you can pick up same-day by just going to a WU office near you after filling out some forms. Cash money, more or less instantaneously, and no paper trail as I understand it.

4:48 AM  
Blogger Fred aka TwoBlackAces said...

Nice score Hoy! I am thinking about maybe playing on UB, but have been reluctant given all the scandals/issues with the site. Do they offer Rakeback?

11:07 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

TBA -- No idea if they offer rakeback, sorry. I have just never looked into it.

And I hear you on the scandal issue, I don't love playing there either. But they really do offer the best structures of any online poker site, and the tournaments are amazingly easy to beat it seems.

Just understand, every single time someone sucks out on you crazily or makes an unbelievably bad call to beat you, you'll find yourself wondering....

2:05 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

Maybe waffles can recap your entire year next?

2:43 AM  
Blogger Tycou said...

nicely done. I have played UB for a while. i think it is a good site. unfortunately, i joined UB pre-rakeback. (they now have rakeback) To take advantage of rakeback, I have joined Absolute Poker, which is essentially the same as UB. i have found the cash games at AP to be very soft.

10:18 PM  

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