Friday, March 30, 2007

The Final Four, and the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments

Lots of stuff to get to in Hammer Land today, as I prepare for the biggest weekend of Georgetown basketball since Patrick Ewing (senior) was throwing down tomahawk jams for John Thompson (junior, the father) at the old Cap Center in Landover, Maryland in 1985. Believe me when I say that I can barely contain myself at the thought of my beloved Hoyas actually playing in the actual Final Four. Since before I was at Georgetown, which was the time that bridged Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson's stints at the school, the once-proud basketball program had been floundering. Sure we did have that one run to the Elite 8 in Iverson's last year there in 1996, but even then we didn't even manage to win the Big East or the Big East tournament, and UConn was better than us at basically all times while AI was thuggin' it up. And other than that one year, Georgetown was basically off the college basketball map for most of the time since the early 1990s when Mutombo and then Mourning graduated on to the NBA.

I can honestly say that I never really thought the Hoyas would get back to the Final Four again. Ever. It's just that John Thompson the elder had really burned out after his heyday in the mid 1980s. He always coached great defense, but he simply didn't bother much with recruiting anymore by the time the mid 90's came along, and his teams played stoopid, stoopid basketball on offense. Even after JT finally retired to focus on his business ventures in the world of Las Vegas slot machines, the team redickulously hired longtime JT assistant Craig Esherick, and the result was more of the same: stupid basketball, even worse recruiting, and going nowhere. I think we backed into the Sweet 16 one year under Esherick when we lucked out and got to face 14-seeded Weber State on the round of 32 after they had upset someone in the first round of the tournament, and even then it took a last-second putback by NBA utility man Don Reid to win that game as it was. But the overall point is that, since the late 1980s, Georgetown had been completely off the map when it came to the college basketball scene, and with all the poor decisions that were made regarding the program like the hiring of that stiff Craig Esherick, there was no reason to believe it would ever change.

But it all did change the day that John Thompson III was hired from Princeton, where he had played and coached under coaching legend Pete Carill. I remember being disgusted, furious even, that the team would even dare to hire another member of the John Thompson family. After JT the elder had run our program into the ground for the better part of his last 10 years at the school, and then they had moved on to lifetime JT assistant Esherick who had only further worsened the decline, the thought of brining in JT's son as the next coach made me want to vomit in my shoes. And yet, from almost the moment JTIII stepped foot on the Georgetown campus, this team has begun taking on a different air. They play well, they play confident, and most of all, they play smart. I haven't been able to say that about the Hoya basketball team in at least 20 years. But JTIII is finally living in real life the hypothetical that everyone has been talking about for years -- running the Princeton offense, but with actual players, with actual talent. And it's working like a charm. I don't ever recall seeing a team play this smart of basketball, get this many easy baskets, and frustrate teams this much by making them work hard for every basket, while themselves pouring in open layup after open layup after open layup, even from the halfcourt offense. It's an amazing thing to watch, really, and I suspect that people will really get a kick out of watching the team play when they tune into the Final Four on Saturday night at 6pm ET, in particular those people who do not usually watch all the tournament games until it gets to the end like this. There is honestly no other team in the nation that runs an offense quite like Georgetown (other than Princeton), and people are in for a real treat when they see us do our thing tomorrow night.

So, on to my picks. As you may have noticed, I have made picks against the spread -- for entertainment purposes only, of course -- on each of the past two Fridays, going 1-1 two Fridays ago, and then 3-1 last Friday for a total record of 4-2 so far in this year's Big Dance. I'm looking to further extend this streak today as I pick the two Final Four games for you here and now. The first game is, of course, my #2 seeded Georgetown Hoyas going up against #1 seed Ohio State, and although this line opened up at OSU minus 1 point, the smart money appears to have been on Georgetown this week as the line quickly moved from OSU by 1 to Georgetown by 1. So currently your line for the game stands at the Hoyas minus 1 point. As I've said earlier this week, I think the Hoyas can win this game. It's not going to be a blowout, that's for sure, but I'm going to go ahead and predict a small win by the Hoyas. After watching all the NCAA Tournament games, I am very confident that we are a better team overall than OSU. I have no doubts whatsoever that OSU's alleged freshman center Greg Oden will be the best player on the court, but OSU has not played well so far in this tournament overall, and Georgetown's biggest weakness in the tournament so far -- our big man Roy Hibbert's penchant for getting into foul trouble early and often -- has also been a problem for OSU with Oden. Those two ought to foul each other out of this game before all is said and done, and it's a pretty safe bet that both big men will spend more time on the bench than either team would like. But, whether Oden is out there or not, I just think the supporting cast of my Hoyas is stronger than the supporting cast of OSU, and I think that discrepancy gets all the greater when the two big men are out of the game. In all, I think Georgetown will pull out a close one, which means I have to go with Georgetown, even minus the 1 point. It's going to be close, but if I think the Hoyas will win, no way I can pick the other team just because of a paltry one point spread. Go Georgetown!!!!

The second semifinal game on Saturday night pits defending national champion and overall #1 seed Florida against #2 seeded UCLA in a rematch of last year's finals. Florida, who as I mentioned was already ranked #1 in the nation coming into this tournament, has had a few close-ish games, but unlike teams like Georgetown and OSU, has never been in serious danger of losing as the games have gotten down to the final minutes. They look strong, have arguably the most all-around talent in the country, and have a clearly wonderful coach in Billy Donovan who I believe is in his third Final Four now since the year 2000. That's pretty impressive right there. As such, Florida is favored by 3 points over UCLA, whom I believe actually has one of the two or three best coaches in the country in their own right in Ben Howland, former Pittsburgh head coach who has his team in their second straight Final Four. UCLA started off the season hot as ballz, but then went on a bit of a cooler in the second half of the season before making it into the tournament as a #2 seed, dispensing with both #3 seeded Pitt and then regional #1 seed Kansas with relatively little trouble as they held the lead for almost the entire game in both of UCLA's games this past weekend. UCLA has looked very good thus far in the tournament, and like I said they have hands-down one of the best coaches in the country on their sideline. In the end, however, I think I will have to go with the experience and talent on this Florda squad to just barely squeak one out against a very formidable UCLA team. That said, with Florida favored by 3 points, and with the very real possibilitiy of UCLA winning the game outright, I think the prudent bet is on UCLA to cover the 3 point spread.

So there's my picks for the two Final Four games on Saturday in Atlanta. Georgetown minus 1 point, and UCLA plus 3 points. Hopefully my streak of solid sports picks over the past year on the blog can continue, in particular with respect to my Hoyas. And rest assured, if Georgetown wins on Saturday, I will drink myself into oblivion that night, and just for you guys, any of you lame enough to be playing online poker late on Saturday night, I will try to log on in my hammeredness and if you come find me, I'm sure I will be truly entertaining to you all, and if you ever wanted a cheap and easy chance to dupe me out of my money at the virtual tables, you will never have a better chance than that (unless of course the Hoyas win the title on Monday night). Either way I will be back on Monday with my picks for the national championship game that evening.

One other big item to discuss today is the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments. This is a brand spanking new series of blogger tournaments, or more accurately, a new challenge that tracks the bloggers' performance in a set of existing blogger tournaments, and it's an idea that Al, Mookie and I have been kicking around for some time. I know when I was down in AC for the WSOP Circuit event at Caesar's a few weeks back it is something that Al and I were discussing, and frankly it's an extension of an idea that I myself have wanted to do for sometime, even since back in my Cardsquad days. Basically, the idea is that we will be tracking points based on the bloggers' performance during each of the MATH, the Mookie, Al's Riverchasers tournaments, and I think Miami Don's Big Games as well, and at the end of it all there will be a Tournament of Champions for the best of the best performers from these events. The best part is that Al, being The Man Who Knows How to Get Stuff, has managed to secure a bunch of really fucking cool prizes to award to our top finishers in these events. Although there are probably more prizes to come, and certainly the exact details of everything are still to be worked out, it sounds like we will already be providing a large full tilt weekend tournament buyin, a Nintendo Wii game system and a Nintendo DS Lite system, and probably various cash and other prizes as well. The overall point is to attract interest to the regular blogger tournaments, to reward the best performers over a fixed period of time in these events, and to pay out some great cash and other prizes as a result of people's play in tournaments with the larger group. We've set up a new page on blogger just for the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments, and you can check there to see updates as we move forward as far as the prizes, the schedule and the scoring. What we do know is that the first event should be the Mondays at the Hoy tournament on this coming Monday, April 2. Be sure to check back here on Monday (like you wouldn't have anyways!) for updates to The Battle, and potentially for some news about the MATH tournament on Monday evening, and I'll make sure to get you all the latest and greatest information.

OK I'm going to go post this now so that it gets up at some semblance of a reasonable time today.

Go Hoyas!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Mookie, Lost, and an Interesting Suckout Hand

To begin today, I want to offer big congratulations to Miami Don for crushing the Mookie last night. This was the first Mookie I've played in in a few weeks, and I played well, busting several players in the earlygoing as I got a few cards, hit a few flops, and bluffed the shit out of Schaubs on several occasions ;). I got lucky once on a 30-something percent shot when a too-large reraise from me actually gave me too-good-to-fold pot odds to get the rest of my chips in preflop with AQs against what I figured was Schaubs's lower pocket pair, but what actually turned out to be pocket Kings. The Ace on the flop helped keep me in the game and build me a nice stack early, saving me from what was truly an unusually poor sizing of my raises. It's nice when the cards aren't working against you all the time, like I usually feel like they are. Anyways I forgot what eventually got me knocked out of the Mookie, but like I've said before, if I can't remember it then that usually means it was nothing recockulous, most often something like I pushed to pair into pocket Aces, or 9s into Tens, something like that (Edit: Just read Mookie's live blog, turns out I pushed 4s into 8s preflop on a short stack, go me). That Mookie tournament is always a great time, I have got to say, although being on Lost day still makes it very hard for me to play in it. Last night I was only able because the Hammer Wife went to sleep really early after a long day with the Hammer Girls, so I just watched Lost on delay on the DVR while playing out my time in both the Mookie and the Dookie.

And speaking of the Dookie, you bloggers are seriously the worst razz players on the earth. Not to sound like slb or anything, but this is now two or three consecutive blogger razz tournaments where I have been eliminated because of a donkey who was so far off about his and my hands that the clown is even raising me on 5th and 6th street when I am significantly ahead and only one of a few possible cards for him combined with only one of a few possible cards on consecutive streets for me can give him the victory. I love when that happens. Almost as much as the donkponent seems to love when he hits his fucking 3-outer-combined-with-my-3-outer to knock me out. Unreal. Last night in the Dook I'm on an 7-low draw on 5th street and some guy with 89K showing on his board raises me on 5th (I love it). It's almost like he maybe thought we were playing stud high or something. Then on 6th I hit a brick and he picks up a 7, and he still bets enough to get me allin even though he's still behind. Again I'm wondering if the guy even knew what game we were playing. Naturally, the river pairs me up, and comes low for him so he ends up winning. I had to be a 70% or better favorite on 5th when I bet at him and he raised back at me, and I don't know the numbers of 6th but I'm guessing I was probably still a 60-something percent favorite at that point as well. Wtf. You guys suck at razz, so eat it.

Anyways, congrats again to Don for a job well done last night, which he describes on his blog as "Decent cards, good timing, a couple of suckouts against shorties, and one crucial hand." Now there's a man's description of a victory right there. Admits he got decent cards and owns up to the couple of suckouts which are always present in any significant mtt score. Like me this past Monday night in the MATH when I wrote about how my slow-played KK narrowly escaped disaster against Columbo's slow-played Aces when a King happened to hit the flop. To me there is just no point to denying that you got a little lucky at points and/or got good cards on your way to a nice mtt score. I would never lie and say I had good cards in an mtt if I didn't actually have good cards, but you wouldn't find me lying in the opposite direction either. What's the insult in admitting that you got some good cards for a change in an mtt? Do people think that takes away from your accomplishment? Maybe someone who is insecure about their own mtt prowess might think that, but surely I don't. Getting good cards is just part of what often goes into producing an mtt victory, be it the MATH, the Mookie or the friggin nightly 26k on full tilt. Anyways, in response to some recent goings-on among the blogger tournaments, I guess all I'm trying to say is that to say that someone was a card rack in a tournament is not an insult about their play in any way, shape or form. For the most part, if someone was a card rack they probably still could have fucked it up by playing badly, and if they won with good cards, it generally means they played well with their good cards. In a lot of ways, a number of good hands and good flops more requires you to play good poker than if you got nothing but shit dealt to you for two hours like we have all been treated to far more often than we would like. Denying that you were a card rack when you won an mtt when you clearly were and everyone was there to see it, however, that's kinda weak and silly in my book (and incidentally I am not talking about Don last night in the Mookie at all, that was just the springboard to this discussion). Don't be insecure about getting good cards to help you win an mtt. Almost every mtt I've ever won has included some good cards. And I wouldn't deny it. Because it doesn't take away one whit from the fact that you have to play well to win any mtt of any significant size. And that's my thoughts on that.

Now on to last night's episode of Lost. It was interesting and all, don't get me wrong, and I wouldn't be surprised if those two new characters are still alive and that we haven't seen the last of them -- getting buried alive on a show like this never usually seems to take -- but really what was the point of yesterday's show? You guys know how I feel about this sort of thing after the debacle with the car episode from a few weeks back. This week's show was surely not as horrible as that one -- at least with Nikki and Paolo, the backstory we got to see was all new and didn't seem totally forced like all the silliness with Hugo, Cheech Marin and his mom, the old car in the garage, etc. We already know Hugo's backstory, so for that car episode to just give me more worthless flashbacks with Hugo and then tie it all together with starting a stupid car that has yet to make another appearance on the show, that one was an abomination. Last night's wasn't bad like that. But it wasn't good. It was boring, when it comes right down to it. It reminds me a bit of what happened with the X-Files after a while -- once we the viewers know there is this massive story going on, the Others, what they're trying to do with Jack, Locke's father, what are they all doing on the island in general, etc., to have a show like this which is nothing but background and otherwise doesn't advance the real story of Lost at all, it's always going to be a letdown. I want to know wtf is happening with the Others and the characters we know who are over there with them now (Sayid, Kate, Jack and Locke). I don't care about these two new people, and if they think just throwing in that one scene of Paolo hiding at the Pearl Station and seeing Ben and Juliette having that cryptic conversation is going to sate me, then they don't know their audience. At all. I already know most of you thought it was a pretty worthless episode too, because if you like Lost and I know you do, then last night's show didn't do much for you. Looking forward to something better next week, though the scenes didn't do much for me either as I recall. Although I suppose one could do worse than a catfight between Juliette and Kate. Mmmmmmm.

Lastly, I got berated pretty good about a hand I played about 5 minutes in to last night's $75 bracelet race at 9:30pm ET, and I thought I would get everyone's take on who played it well and who played it poorly. I was UTG and open-raised the big blind from 20 to 60 with JTs. This is one of my favorite moves, raising it up preflop from early position with a high suited connector like QJs, JTs or T9s, one that can make a lot of nut-type of straights as well as decently high flushes and some nice high pair and two-pair hands, and it adds some awesome and much-needed variation when like me you're otherwise only preflop raising with pairs, high Aces and maybe high Kings, etc. So the guy immedately after me, UTG+1, reraises my 60-chip bet to 200. The action folds back around to me, and I make the executive decision to call for another 140 chips here. It's not a greatly +EV call, and surely if he had gone allin I'm folding in a heartbeat, but at the same time if I'm willing to open-raise from EP with JTs because of its tremendous potential then I want to be the kind of guy who will call another 140 chips early in an mtt with it as well.

So the flop comes down J94 rainbow. I check, and my short-stacked opponent moves all in for his last 700 chips into the 430-chip pot. I've got top pair and was hoping he would bet when I checked, so I make the call. He flips over pocket 5s. He proceeds to berate the shit out of me for my play of the hand -- in particular my call of his preflop reraise -- while we both watch a raggy 2 come on the turn but then a dirty fucking 5 fall on the river. So the guy sucks out the ridiculous 2-outer on the river, and berates my play for at least the next 5 or 10 minutes of action in this tournament.

Question: Did I play this hand badly? Did he? What did either of us do wrong in this hand, in your view? Should I have been subject to this anus's long-lasting diatribe in the chat about how horrible I am at holdem here? What do you think about the way this hand was played?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Busting Huck, Negreanu's 6-Max Philosophy, and WPBT In Vegas

The last few nights have been kinda weird for me online. As I have written about several times before, immediately following a big mtt win for me online, I tend to play like a total asshole for some time as my hubris-filled brain typically has needed some time to come back down to earth about my own play and the size of my roll in order for me to play my best poker again. I have tried everything I can think of in the past to counteract this tendency, but to no avail as each of my biggest mtt victories has been followed up by a good couple of months of worthlessness. First there was the cooler that lasted basically all of last summer right after I won the party 40k, and since this was my first "major" mtt win online I don't even think I realized how my inner donkey had taken over until sometime near the end of the summer. Then it happened again last winter after I won the pokerstars $11 Rebuy Madness in September, where I didn't win another major mtt until New Years Day of this year. Even after my big HORSE win on January 1, it took until late March for me to win this bracelet race tournament on full tilt. Generally speaking, I have just not played good, solid or smart poker at all after big wins, so this week I've been trying really hard to take it easy after winning my way into the WSOP last week.

I was happy to see that I came in 2nd in the Hoy on Monday night, my first real night of play after winning my WSOP seat on Friday, as just not tilting out early like a hubrisian asshole was enough to satisfy me, let alone actually cashing and playing well enough to win if not for the luckbox to top all luckboxes flopping nineteen boats and 14 nut flushes in just a couple hours of play. Similarly, I played solidly again in Tuesday night's WWdN, lasting to the top 20 out of 59 entrants, and only going out when my allin raise with K♣Q♣ was called on a flop of T♣7♣5♠. My opponent flipped up pocket Jacks, a call I can't begrudge anyone from making with the overpair there, but leaving me with a full fifteen outs, all of which failed to hit despite my roughly 55% chance of winning that hand on the flop. But my point is, I played well again and did not donkarooni which was nice.

Other than these blogger tournaments, I have purposefully been taking it easy online for the past few days, opting only to play one other bracelet race since Friday (not even sure why, to be honest, but we'll get to that), and then I was back to my 8:30 and 8:45 satellites into the nightly 30k guaranteed tournament on Tuesday night as well. Long story short, I donked out of the rebuy sat when I ran top pair on the flop into pocket Kings, but in the $14 turbo sat at 8:45pm ET, I managed to consistently build my stack and then held on to final table the event and win my entry into Tuesday's 30k guaranteed. In the end, I was too tired to make the deep run that I wished I could have in the actual 30k, but I did last into the top 50 out of 317 entrants, and more than that, I had the opportunity to bust my first-ever full tilt pro after having sat at the table with numerous of these guys in my days on full tilt. Maybe 30 minutes into the 30k, I was up around 5000 chips from the 3000-chip starting stack, due mainly to three perfectly-executed stop-and-go plays with top pair good kicker in the earlygoing, and then at the top of my table shows up none other than 2000 WSOP winner Huckleberry Seed.

Huck was already on a bit of a short stack when he arrived, sitting at the time on around 1900 chips, and he did not play many pots as the action began with him at the table. There was the typical annoyingass observer chat going on that seems to follow any time one of the name pros is at your table, but otherwise things were pretty uneventful, and Huck was playing pretty tight. Maybe 10 minutes after he sat down, I open-raised a pot 3x from UTG+1 with pocket 9s, and Huck then called from the SB and the BB called my 3x raise as well. We saw the flop three-handed:

As you can see, the action was double-checked to me, and I opted to bet the pot, my standard flop move when I believe I am ahead and/or want to represent that I am ahead. I didn't think either of the other two players had played their hands so far like they had pocket overpairs -- no reraise preflop and no bet on the flop either -- and therefore the only hands I realistically had any concern about were AQ or KQ. Going with the odds of all the possible hands that these two players would have called with preflop and checked the flop with, I figured my 9s were most likely best, so I bet it out as you see above. Huck sat for just a few seconds and then pushed allin for his last 1745 chips. The big blind folded, and I was left to contemplate what Huck's move meant there.

First I considered again the pocket overpair possibility. Although I could certainly see Huck smooth-calling my raise preflop with a high pocket pair, and even maybe checking the flop with the plan to checkraise me after I put in my continuation bet, the fact that he moved it allin with his checkraise screamed out to me some form of weakness. Many donks out there might do the allin checkraise with JJ or QQ, but a real-life professional like Huck Seed, I reasoned, would likely instead opt for a more reasonable reraise of, say, 3x my bet in the hopes of getting me to call. So I just wasn't putting the guy on the overpair here. And that left just AQ or KQ as far as reasonable holdings for Huck to be on here given that he had smooth called my preflop raise from the small blind. Would he make this allin reraise with AQ or KQ? Maybe. Actually I think with AQ, that hand is still strong enough to probably have warranted a reraise before the flop (remember this is 6-max holdem here), and probably also strong enough to not push allin here. The KQ was the only hand that I really believed fit well with everything Huck had done so far, and knowing that he was a professional player and not some online donkass mofo really helped me narrow things down like this. In the end I just decided that the likelihood of specifically KQ in his hand was sufficiently low that I had to make the call. So I did:

and Booooooooom!:

My first ever full tilt pro elimination! And of a former WSOP Main Event winner no less. Does that mean that I am going to win my own WSOP tournament when I play this summer now? It does, doesn't it? Now, am I correct that knocking Huck Seed out of the regularly-scheduled nightly 30k guaranteed tournament automatically nets me the $109 buyin in cash into my account, right? I know full tilt has this policy of getting the buyin for any scheduled mtt in which you knock out a full tilt pro, but I guess I don't know all the details as I haven't ever read the small print. How long does it usually take full tilt to pay up on these bounty payouts, does anyone know from personal experience?

Speaking of 6-max holdem, I finished that crappy Daniel Negreanu book over the weekend, the one that might as well be called Not Really Poker Wisdom But Actually Poor Advice for Anyone But Total N00B Hold'em Players, and he does make one point near the end of the book that I think is spot on. In his brief section on short-handed poker, Daniel makes the point that ring game nlh is about trapping and winning big pots, while short-handed poker is much more about winning the antes. As someone who has spent about a million hours just this year playing in satellites and in large buyin 6-max nlh tournaments on full tilt, I think this is a very insightful and spot-on commentary about the differences between no-limit holdem at a full table or a short table. Part of the reason that I have done so well in these 6-max events this year is that I am constantly putting in those raises to take down the pots before the flop whenever possible, and I do much less trapping than I ever do at a full ring nlh tournament. Sure it's fine to see a flop once in a while with my KK or QQ in the 6-max tournament, but in general I am basically always raising with these hands and always hoping to take it down before the flop, and move on to the next hand with the chips I've won from this one without taking the chance of having my big hand busted. Well said, Daniel.

Lastly, I want to mention here again the WPBT gathering in Vegas this summer. As most of you should know by now, the dates we are meeting are slated for the weekend of June 7-10. I would love to know how many of you out there are in fact planning on going out for that weekend. I will definitely be there, and I will be playing my WSOP event during that time as well, although I haven't quite figured out exactly which day I will be arriving, where I will be staying or, most importantly, which WSOP event I am going to play in. Anybody else out there planning on playing in any WSOP events over that second weekend of June? I think I mentioned this briefly earlier in the week, but on Thursday, June 7 at noon is the 6-max nlh event at a $1500 buyin, something which I would obviously love to play in due to my penchant for 6-max play this year. The other event I have my eye on is on Saturday, June 9 at noon, which is the regular $1500 nlh tournament. There is also a $2500 HORSE tournament that begins on Saturday night at 5pm, but that event is probably a distant third behind the other two events I mentioned above as far as what I am most likely to play in. Anybody have any thoughts as to which of these events I should pick for my first WSOP bracelet? Anyone planning on playing in any of these themselves?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

MATH Update, and Georgetown Mania

The last Mondays at the Hoy of the first quarter went down last night, a much shorter version than usual for this event as there were some interesting things going on that helped the usual 18-player field be eliminated early and often in this thing. Some of it was donkey play, but for the most part there was just some incredible card-racking going on the likes of which I have not seen in some time. In fact, we didn't even get to see the usual ATC-type of foolishness that has dominated the end game play in some instances in this event, because the one particular player's card rackishness extended all the way from the first hand to the final table, through the bubble and right up to the last hand of the entire tournament. And that card rack of a player was none other than....

Sir Waffles.

I mean it. I've never seen card rackage like this from start to finish in a blogger tournament in my entire life. No exaggeration. But hey, at least Waffles didn't waste his big early lead like he has at some points in the past. He made some good plays with his great cards, and managed to get a lot of donkeys to call his allin moves, and to push in on him when he was holding the best hand (almost all the time last night). After Waffles spent the entire first 30 minutes or so of the tournament promising to eliminate Iakaris when he got the chance, Iak threatened to ruin that possibility while at the other table when he dropped down to I believe just 18 chips left after a particularly bad run. Nonetheless, Iak, the Jack Strauss of the bloggers, managed to double up, then triple up, and then double up a few more times to build a good-sized stack by the middle of the final table, and in the end it was Waffles, myself and then Iak entering three-handed play as the tournament's three cash winners for the week, with me getting the benefit of a huge chip-up nearing the cash bubble after Columbo's limp with AA fell victim to my limped KK when a King hit the flop and then, of course, all hell broke loose after the flop on that hand.

So yes, that makes five cashes in ten MATH tournaments for me so far this year. And more importantly, I spent the better part of the night hoping, helping and praying for Fuel55 and Bayne to get eliminated before me, my two closest competitors heading into this week on the 2007 Hoy moneyboard, and when Fuel finally went down around the middle of the pack, and then Bayne in the middle of the final table, I felt a huge sense of relief and was able to open up my game. I have a lead to protect after all, and the bragging rights on my own blog are hard to put a value on as far as I'm concerned. In the end, Iak was the first of the three cashers to fall victim to a big flopped hand by Waffles, leaving me at a more than 4-to-1 chip deficit heading into heads-up play with the luckbox of the night. I played it pretty smart I would say given my short stack, making good reads on Waffles, meaning that most of the times I laid it down, he would show a set, top two pairs, top and bottom pairs, or at worst just plain old top pair. While I was busy getting 74o and J3o dealt to me time and time again, Waffles' luck continued as he flashed several Ace-high hands to go along with his consistent hitting of flops in a way that is highly rare during heads-up play. In the end I got just what I wanted, getting Waffles to call my allin raise on the flop with him having just middle pair middle kicker (just about the worst hand he saw in maybe 20 or 25 heads-up hands) while I had a flush draw, but that flush draw was not meant to be against Waffles on this night. In fact, just for good measure, Waffles ended up runner-runnering a full house on that hand anyways (just that kind of night for the donkey guy), so the flush would not have been any good anyways even if it had filled. So by the time the smoke had cleared, Waffles had smushed everyone in his path, eliminating probably a good half of the total Hoy field on the night to take down his first-ever Mondays at the Hoy title and climb his way onto the 2007 moneyboard with a $180 first-place cash, followed up by myself in 2nd place for $108, and Iakaris in 3rd place for $72, also making his first appearance on the annual leaderboard:

And here are the updated annual MATH moneyboard standings, as of the end of the first quarter of 2007:

1. Hoyazo $580
2. Fuel55 $458
3. Bayne_s $410
4. Zeem $330
5. VinNay $310
6. Wigginx $288
7. Manik79 $252
8. Byron $234
9. Omega_man_99 $210
10. Waffles $180
10. bartonfa $180
12. Santa Clauss $170
13. Smokkee $162
14. Chad $120
15. Ganton516 $114
16. NewinNov $90
17. Shag0103 $84
18. Columbo $80
18. PhinCity $80
18. jeciimd $80
21. Iakaris $72
21. l.e.s.ter000 $72
23. Julius Goat $60

So, back to this past weekend, one of the most enjoyable weekends I can remember in a long time. Not only did I win my WSOP seat in the full tilt bracelet race on Friday (see yesterday's post for details), but just before that on Friday I also got to watch my alma mater Georgetown University steal a victory in the Sweet 16 from Vanderbilt on a last-second shot by Big East player of the year Jeff Green to turn a 1-point deficit into a 1-point victory for my beloved Hoyas. Yes on the replay I would say it is fairly clear that Green traveled before scoring the winning basket, but #1 this violation was not at all visible except on the replay, and #2 and more importantly, I am of the camp that does not believe that violation should have been called in any event. Jeff Green made a great play, nobody thought it was a travel until seeing the replay, and in the end I do not think anyone is to blame for Vanderbilt's loss other than Vanderbilt. I know that is a hard line to take when I say on the replay that I fully admit to Green pivoting on both of his feet in the process of taking that last shot. But, all I can say is that I liken it to watching a slow-motion replay of Jordan going in on a fast break and counting three steps after he picks up the dribble. Or, maybe an even better analogy, like watching a game-winning touchdown pass on slo-mo and seeing an obvious tug on a jersey by one of the offensive linemen during the replay, one that was not visible in real-time from normal sight angles. Just like in that football analogy, Vandy had one clear and easy way to win that game -- stop Jeff Green from getting the ball, stop him from marching his way into position for an easy 4-foot bank shot, or stop him from taking that shot and getting it off cleanly.

So that was how the weekend began in Hammer Land. Georgetown in to the Elite 8 for the first time since Allen Iverson's last year in DC in 1996, and I'm going to the WSOP. Already a kickass weekend. But then, as I had alluded to in my posts late last week, my Vanderbilt friends who had purchased tickets to both the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games at the Meadowlands had already agreed to give me a ticket to the Elite 8 game if Georgetown managed to beat Vanderbilt, which we did. Thus, Sunday afternoon could not come fast enough for me, and as the hour got closer and closer, the clock seemed to be moving slower and slower and slower. Finally, after spending the morning playing inside with the kids, and then a nice spring afternoon at the park outside our apartment, 3pm on Sunday afternoon rolled around, and I hopped in the car to head over to East Rutherford, NJ for without a doubt the biggest game in Georgetown basketball in the past 20 years. For the first time in this year's NCAA Tournament, my Hoyas were actually the underdog, receiving 3.5 points playing as a #2 seed against the top-seeded North Carolina Tarheels.

Now I don't know about youse guys, but I watch a whole lot of college basketball. Maybe not quite as much as I did in my college days, before wives and kids and family obligations kinda took things over, but I still manage to watch a good little bit. So I know about Carolina, and all the talent they have on this team. Carolina seems to me to be the most raw-talented, purely athletic team in the country this year if you go player for player. They may not have the best big man in the country, and they may not have the best overall player in the country, but as far as top 5 or 7 players in terms of pure athleticism, UNC is just about as good as it gets this year. And they showed it early and often in the game aganist Georgetown on Sunday.

There were a lot of Carolina fans at the game. A lot. Part of the reason for this is that as a rule Carolina tends to travel very well as far as the basketball program goes. That's what happens when you make like 25 straight Sweet 16s, and something like 8 Final 4s in the last 20 years or whatever the stats are. They're sick, that's all you need to know. If my team always won at least 4 games in the tournament, and always won at least one title every 7 or 8 years it seems, I would probably follow them around every year in the NCAA tournament too, at least whenever they were playing somewhere within my immediate vicinity. In fact, one reason for the number of Carolina fans way up outside of New York City is that the Carolina fans are so confident that, even when their team was down 16 points to USC late in the first half of their Sweet 16 game, even at that very moment, the Carolina fans over at the Meadowlands were frantically offering to buy the Sunday tickets from anyone who would offer them up, for way more than face value. They were just that sure that their team would come back and overpower the less talented, less experienced USC team. And they were right, UNC used their athleticism to completely donk out USC in the second half, taking that game from a 14-point deficit to about an 8-point led seemingly in just minutes, going on a couple of different amazing shutout runs to put USC away early in the second half despite having been so far behind just a short while earlier.

Anyways, back to the Georgetown game. The atmosphere in the Continental Airlines arena was pretty electric right from the getgo, unfortunately led more by the louder Carolina fans, all dressed in their shitty Carolina blue shirts and shorts. And they really were loud. It didn't hurt that most of what there was to cheer for in the game was in favor of Carolina until the very end. Even when Georgetown took an early 22-15 lead, the Carolina fans were definitely more vocal, more into it and just generally more confident than the Hoya faithful, and with good reason. I remember first thinking we might really stick it to UNC when Hoya freshman DeJuan Summers hit a long jumper to put us up 22-15, but from that point on, UNC used its extreme athleticism to go on an 11-0 run that could not have taken more than 90 seconds to rattle off. That game went from 22-15 Georgetown, to 26-22 Carolina in the span of maybe two minutes of real time, as every time Carolina's guards got the ball, they pushed it upcourt using their extreme speed, dribbled right by half of the Georgetown team, and usually found toothless big man Tyler "Hillsbilly" Hansborough or freshman sensation Brandon Wright for dunks or layups, with the occasional jumper from a guard outside just to keep Georgetown honest. The fact that the referees were calling the game in the first half as if they had each dropped 100 large on Carolina minus the points didn't help matters either, as Hillsbilly could do no wrong on the inside on either side of the court, and the Hoyas were in the team bonus at around the 10-minute mark, while UNC did not make the bonus until the final minute or two of the half.

For the next 30 minutes or so of game time, from around 5 minutes into the first half until around 8 minutes left in the second half, Georgetown would make a little run here or there, but in contrast to Carolina who probably had 3 or 4 runs of 6 points or more during the game, the Hoyas' runs would be 4-0 and 5-0 at most. And the end result was that the Hoyas never got closer than 5 points, and spent most of the middle portion of the game closer to 8 or 10 points behind the simply faster and more athletic Tarheels. But one thing Georgetown was doing very well was using the back-door cuts to get easy layups. In a brilliant example of the "Princeton offense" at its best, there had to be no fewer than 13 baskets (not 13 points mind you, but 13 baskets) for Georgetown that were straight-up wide-open layups. And I'm not talking on fast break opportunities, which Georgetown had about zero of during the game. I mean in the half-court offense, with our big men setting beautiful back-pick after beautiful back-pick, and our guards and forwards repeatedly streaking to the hoop and getting themselves open for easy putins. And in doing so, Georgetown never let the game get completely out of hand. I recall looking up at the scoreboard around halfway through the second half and seeing it was an 11-point UNC lead. But that's as high as it got.

And then, mercifully, UNC finally went cold. After shooting I think about 145% from the field during the first 30 minutes of game time, finally they stopped hitting every shot they took and some that they didn't even take just for good measure. The referees stopped calling the fouls completely biased in UNC's favor, and even let Georgetown big man Roy Hibbert make some contact without calling fouls that they could have. And most of all, Georgetown kept doing its thing. And the best part was, as we hit the last 5 or 6 minutes of the game, Georgetown brought the lead back down to 6 points, the closest it had been early in the first half, and the nature of the crowd began to change. Those Carolina fans who had been standing through most of the game thus far weren't standing anymore. The clowns yelling "TAR" and "HEELS" on opposite sides of the stadium were replaced with similarly alternating chants of "HOYA" and "SAXA", and "Let's Go Georgetown!". At first these chants started slow, but as the minutes progressed, and the Hoyas first cut the lead to 4 and then 3 points with just a few minutes left, they grew louder. UNC would use their athleticism to bring the lead back up to 5 or 6 points, and the Carolina fans in the house would cheer, but it wasn't the same as earlier in the game. The fans were scared, for the first time all night. And you know what?

The Carolina players were scared too. You could see it in their eyes, in the way they handled the ball, more deliberately, with a little more care than they had been using previously. Always thinking about every shot, in retrospect I think they were thinking a little too much even. They stopped going to their bread and butter from all game which had been Hillsbilly on the inside, and instead opted again and again for 3-pointers or long 2-point jumpers, and they were not hitting them as Georgetown always had a hand in their face. Momentum had clearly shifted the Hoyas' way, and everyone in the stadium, from the fans down to the players themselves, knew it.

With a minute left, the game that we had all been sure was over just 5 or 6 minutes of game time earlier was once again brought back to 3 points thanks to a Jeff Green jumper from the baseline. Then when Carolina missed another shot and Roy Hibbert grabbed the rebound for the Hoyas, Georgetown coach John Thompson III called a timeout, and the play was drawn up that JTIII would later explain in the post-game conference was always designed for a quick 3-pointer from Georgetown junior sharpshooter Jonathan Wallace. The whistle blew to begin the play, and suddenly the entire stadium full of fans were on our feet, witnessing Georgetown's first opportunity to tie this game since early in the first half. The play worked to perfection, as the inbounds came to Wallace, who passed briefly to Jeremiah Rivers before Rivers kicked it quickly back to Wallace for the long-distance shot. Swooosh! Nothing but net, and the game was tied.

Hoya Paranoia was on now in the house. You could hardly hear a peep coming out of any of the Carolina sections. The stadium, which had seemed decidedly pro-UNC for the majority of the game, suddenly sounded more like a Hoyas homegame than a neutral-court Elite 8 game in the NCAA tournament. With the game tied and the shot clock turned off, Carolina took a time out and then ran a play that ended, amazingly, in yet another 3-point attempt for Carolina. It missed, as did most of Carolina's shots after the halfway point in the second half, and Patrick Ewing, Jr. went sky high and grabbed the rebound. With just two seconds left and the crowd going crazy, Jonathan Wallace could not get a shot off in time, and to overtime we went.

Despite the fact that the teams started off overtime on equal footing, with equal scores and each with no players fouled out of the game, it just didn't seem that way when you were there watching it live. The Carolina players (and their fans) were utterly dejected. They had held a comfortable lead for almost this entire game, and then here in the final minute of play the Hoyas had tied it up for the first time since about five minutes into the game, and Carolina had even missed a last-possession chance to win it and cut down the nets. The fans that had been so smugly supportive of Carolina all through the game were almost inaudible to start the overtime session, while the Georgetown fans were going crazy, having completely taken over the atmo in the stands and on the court. If you watched the game, you know that this overtime period was over even before it started, as Georgetown scored almost every possession down the court, grabbed just about every single rebound, and meanwhile Carolina didn't hit a single shot or even score a single point in overtime until a meaningless bucket from Hillsbilly with just 30 seconds left with his team down double-digits. It was incredible. It was obvious from just a minute or two into the OT that the Hoyas were going to win. Carolina was beaten. Emotionally. Physically. And on the scoreboard, it was done. Georgetown shut Carolina out completely in the overtime until the game was all but put away, outscoring the Heels 15-3 in the extra session to put the icing on a huge 96-84 win. I had absolutely no voice whatsoever by the end of the game, as I'm sure most of the Hoya fans in attendance didn't, because we were loud as hell and had a whole lot to cheer about as the game wore on. It was a great example of what playing all 40 minutes of a basketball game can do to an opponent, and how you can wear them down with a number of easy backdoor baskets while you make them push hard for every single shot, and work hard for every single shot, from the second the ball is first tipped until the final whistle is blown.

A few key stats really highlight just how bad the late-game collapse was for Carolina in this game, stats which being there live we didn't even realize the magnitude of until we got in our cars to head home and heard these numbers over the radio:

Over the final 12:18 of game (UNC led 75-65 with 7:18 left in regulation, plus the 5-minute overtime), Georgetown outscored Carolina 31-9, with Georgetown making 10 of 17 field goals while Carolina shot an abysmal 2 out of 22 field goals (yeech!). Georgetown made just 1 of 3 3-point attempts, the one make being the shot by Jonathan Wallace to tie the game with under a minute to play, while UNC shot a John Starksian 1 for 13 from 3-point land. In the end, thanks to all the backdoor layups for the Hoyas as well as some strong play from Hibbert on the inside, Georgetown outscored UNC in points in the paint by a 56-32 margin, including 7 blocks from 7-foot-2 Hibbert who picked up I believe 6 of those blocks in the second half and the overtime session.

In the end, Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green shot 17-28 field goals over the Hoyas' last two games, and the team as a whole had a +12.7 points-per-game differential in the second half and OT over its last 3 games against UNC, Vanderbilt and Boston College. Very strong signs of the excellent coaching that this team is experiencing under JTIII. In fact, after watching this comeback, and the way the team has fought back throughout this tournament, and seeing all those backdoor cuts and well-designed plays in key spots where we need to hit big shots to stay in games, I am ready to state, for the record, that John Thompson III is hands-down the best coach in the entire country. I mean it. It's too early for the public at large to quite agree with this sentiment yet, but you heard it here first. Look at what he is doing with this team that probably has, realistically speaking, maybe 5% of the talent that a team like Duke or Carolina or UCLA gets every single year. Every. Single. Year. Who was the last top recruit who went to Georgetown? Can you name even one? Sure, Hibbert is a big guy at 7-2. But was Duke knocking down his door to go there? Did he pick Georgetown over scholarship offers from Kansas, UCLA and UNC? Not. What JTIII has done with this team is nothing short of phenomenal, and I'm telling you guys he is the best coach there is in college basketball today. Do yourself a favor and go watch his team play live one of these days. Watch how they execute the Princeton offense to perfection. Watch how smart they play the game -- something I would never have said in a million years when his daddy was the coach of the team while I went to school there. It's true. As long as JTIII is the coach, Georgetown is so back on the map of the college basketball landscape. And I couldn't be happier about it.

Going forward, I'll write much more about this later in the week I'm sure, but I think Georgetown has an excellent chance of beating Ohio State. I didn't think this when the tournament began, but after watching this whole tournament, I believe Georgetown is a better team than OSU, despite the fact that the best individual player on the court will clearly be OSU big man Greg Oden. The Hoyas enter their first Final Four in 22 years clearly as the hottest team in country, having won 20 of 21 games including wins over 8 ranked teams in that streak, and our only losses this entire season were to five teams that made the tournament, plus Syracuse who got jobbed worse than any team in history (literally) to go 10-6 in the Big East, 22 wins overall, and beating Georgetown in the last week of the regular season but still somehow missed out on a bid. Don't get me started on the Selection Committee and their sexual practices with respect to the ACC, let's not go there again.

In closing, my favorite part of being at the game on Sunday was with 10 minutes left and his team up double-digits, some fuckdink UNC fan in the row behind me made the comment loudly to his neighbor that "this Georgetown team only has two players". And see, that's exactly the thing that makes this Hoyas team so great -- in reality, they have at least five solid players, all of whom are capable of taking over for portions of a game and of carrying the team with huge contrubutions when it's needed. If this team only has two solid players, fuckbag, then who were those five Georgetown players in double digits that helped take this idiot's beloved Tarheels down on Sunday? With a very solid starting five players, some great size in the middle in Roy Hibbert, confident and cocky ball-wanting forward Jeff Green, and sharpshooting guard John Wallace, along with the best coach college basketball has to offer right now, I think Georgetown is not only set to go at least a bit further in this year's NCAA tournament, but the future looks bright for this team that has just two seniors -- our two lowest-scoring players who you've never heard of, averaging together exactly 0.4 points per game for the team. And I can't wait to watch it all unfold under JTIII's leadership over the coming days and the coming seasons.

I love this game!

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Can You Say W-S-O-P? [Take II], too...much...too..write.

Seriously. I never thought I'd say this, but this weekend was so crazy and so awesome for me, I really have no clue where to begin or how to possibly capture all the great things that went down. In fact, in deference to the great ones that have come before me, there really is only one proper way to attack a post like this, and that is to get liquored up to get it all out. Not having any Guinness on hand to get that done right, I'll have to turn to the next best thing, which for me tonight is Magic Hat #9, a great libation I discovered in my days living up in Boston during law school and at the start of my legal career. So here goes. How do I start this hugely fun-packed weekend recap post? For starters, yes I was at the historically awesome Georgetown-UNC game at the Meadowlands, and yes I think I soiled myself at least 18 times during my time there. But in the interest of keeping at least some of my readers, I think I'm going to save most of my Hoya talk for Tuesday's post, as today I want to finish up my bracelet race recap from this weekend. But don't worry, I've got plenty to say about my boys from DC and their incredible performance to make their first Final 4 in 22 years.

I guess I'll just start today with this:

Tonight will be the last MATH tournament of the first quarter, and I am definitely looking to hold on to my top spot in the 2007 money leaderboard for one more week and ice the first-quarter money title for the first year that I've been keeping track of the profits from each player out of this thing. So come on out tonight and try to take me down. In fact, just to make it interesting, $10 to your pokerstars account for whoever eliminates me from the MATH tonight, just because I'm in a freakin great mood after this weekend's action across the board. In fact, you know what? Make it $11, because that's the kind of guy I am today.

Why is that, you ask (other than Georgetown shutting out UNC in overtime on its way to Atlanta for the Final 4)? I'm getting there. But first I want to regress a bit to the summer of 2006.

It was June 15 of last year, not two weeks before the beginning of the 2006 World Series of Poker, when I first made the post here on the blog with the title above. I still remember the day like it was yesterday -- after playing in every low-buyin Bracelet Race I could starting when full tilt first began running these things in April of '06, I had just been on a little mini-tear, cashing in a few of the bracelet races and making two final tables over the previous few days. I was disappointed not to have made my goal of winning my way into the WSOP, but I was feeling so encouraged after making my second bracelet race final table of the week earlier that night, that on a whim I decided to pay cashish to enter that night at midnight's $216 buyin race, and the rest was history as I dominated, easily making the final table and holding on for one of the top few payout positions, winning my $2000 WSOP package and really putting the highlight on my first 6 months of being a successful and profitable mtt player and of running this blog to detail my daily poker comings and goings.

Fast forward about 8 1/2 months to March 1 of this year, when full tilt first started running the bracelet races to award these same 2k WSOP prize packages into the 2007 World Series of Poker. I made no secret here on the blog of my goal to win at least one of these things to fund a visit to the WSOP this summer, hopefully with the bloggers and the WPBT for an early June gathering and my first chance to see the big group in person since my WSOP visit last summer. In furtherance of this goal, as you no doubt are aware if you read here with any regularity at all, my online poker play has primarily focused on the bracelet races through this month, and it would likely stay there unless and until I won my WSOP buyin for this year. This focus has seen me play in almost every nightly 9:30pm ET bracelet race except for maybe 7 or 8 nights that I've been away or otherwise disposed at this hour during the month, but as I've written about here many times, most of these 9:30pm races carry a $26 buyin, meaning that they typically pay out the WSOP package to just one spot out of somewhere between 70 and 120 players. Very cripey odds, and not something which I have succeeded in winning through a great many tries both in 2006 and again so far in March of this year.

A few of these 9:30pm ET events, specifically on Wednesdays and Sundays, have a $75 buyin, meaning a payout of typically 3 seats out of that same roughly 70-120 person field. Much better odds than just one package being awarded, but also still very difficult to achieve for even an experienced and skilled mtt player. As a resut of all this, I have been focusing most of all on the midnight bracelet races on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the same tournament that got me into the WSOP last year, which are a $216 buyin but which pay the 2k WSOP prize packages to a full 10% of the field who enters. So, with usually around 70 or 80 players, full tilt has been awarding 7 or 8 WSOP seat winners every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night since March began (or more accurately, the actual awarding is happening more like every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, to be technical). Now, while my online roll has sufficient funds to buy in directly to a number of these events, from purely a bankroll management perspective I have elected not to buy in directly, since at $216 a pop, you better make sure you win 1 out of your first 10 of them, or else it would have just been cheaper to buy in directly to the $2000 WSOP event of your choice. So I've been trying to satellite in to these midnight races as often as I possibly can during the month so far.

Overlooked in all of these events is the Friday night bracelet race on full tilt, which is different from all other nights in that the 9:30pm ET bracelet race tournament is a rebuy event, at $30 a pop. I did play in this one once earlier this month, but the somewhat larger buyin makes it not too attractive to play in considering the likelihood of having to rebuy or add-on after the first hour, and with typically only 40 or 50 players, this thing still ends up only paying two players the 2k WSOP prize packages, so in all this thing hasn't ended up being particularly easy to win IMO. Nonetheless, while I was playing in my usual 9-10pm ET satellites into the midnight bracelet race this past Friday, I figured why not give that rebuy event a try and see if I might maybe be able to win my way into the WSOP directly instead of satelliting into the midnight bracelet race and then having to win that one too. Thanks to a last-minute flurry of entries, the rebuy tournament ended up with 65 entrants -- the largest I've seen this month for the Friday night rebuy event -- with just the two guaranteed WSOP packages likely to be awarded, assuming a normal amount of rebuys and addons along the way.

This tournament started off like most other rebuy events, with the other players playing looser than usual, and a bit more willing to make allin calls early, so I did my usual and generally tried to play the opposite, only wanting to get allin early with a truly premium hand. This led me to lay down AQ and even pocket 9s to allin reraises preflop within the first 10 minutes or so of the tournament, bringing my starting stack down from 1500 to around 1100 chips before I finally found AKs. Given the opportunity, I went ahead and called one preflop allin with this hand, finding then a third assclown up top of the screen to call the two allins as well with my personal favorite hand:

And, typically, the JackAce got rewarded with a recockulous runnerrunnerrunnerrunner bullshit board:

And I had to rebuy early. Luckily, I doubled up fairly early on this second rebuy when my KK held up against a huge donkey's pocket 4s, and then closing in on the end of the round, with nearly 3000 chips still in my stack, I took a cheap flop with JTs. Flopping top pair against a few players who showed no strength preflop, I bet out the size of the pot:

and surprisingly got smooth called by two of the four players who saw this flop. In laying reads on these two players, I considered the fact that neither had raised it up preflop so I wasn't particularly worried about AJ or KJ or something, which led me to put them on some lower pair than my top pair Jack kicker, some kind of draw or something, so I wanted to bet the pot again on the turn, which came a harmless-looking offsuit 2. But, when I noticed that betting the full pot of 1920 chips would only leave me with 1000 or so chips left, I figured what the hey, I was pretty sure I was ahead, so I just moved allin. Shockingly, one player and then the other called me as well. Obviously, I knew I must be way, way behind. Or was I?

In the end, one opponent called with just 56 in his hand, and the other called with just 35 in his hand. Can you believe it? Two large allin calls with just oesd's, and both on the turn with just one card left to come! I was beyond shocked, and the harmelss 7 on the river gave me the pot and staked me to over 10,000 chips and first place among the 55 or so remaining players at this point in the tournament. Wow. I still can't believe either let alone both of those calls. But that's Monkey Hour during an online rebuy event for ya -- people will definitely be willing to take more chances than in a regular freezeout tournament, in particular in large pots, so when I am in one of those and believe I am ahead, I tend to try to push it for all it's worth and see if some monkey will pay me off. In any event, nothing more significant happened for me through the last few minutes of the first hour of play, and I went into the first break in 2nd place out of 48 left. Looking good so far. I don't even recall if I opted to do the add-on or not, as I had chipped up so nicely that I recall thinking I wouldn't need it.

The second hour ended up being theft hour for me, as I had only five decent starting hands (and no premiums) -- KQo, ATo, JTs, 88 and 99 -- all of which I ended up winning with thanks to sizeable flop bets, most of which were with nothing as the flops were just not connecting with me. Nonetheless, thanks to the couple of flops I did hit and a number of blind steals, which by the end of the second hour are significant enough to be worth stealing for sure, I ended a largely uneventful hour 2 still in 4th place, now with just 23 players remaining, with just the top 2 finishers winning the 2k WSOP prize packages.

I had my first big hand in over an hour near the beginning of hour 3, when a player named Vampyr (dork!) called my UTG preflop raise -- this time with me holding my favorite hand (but sooooted) -- and then I raised him allin when he led out with top pair middle kicker on the flop:

I think he made a terrible, redonkulous call here, with an easily dominatable hand against a guy (me) who had raised it up UTG as it is. If he wants to put me on a pocket pair below Aces, then so be it. But calling my allin reraise on the flop here was just plain fonkey:

And this big pot put me in 1st place out of 17 players left with 39,540 chips, with the average chip stack at the time right around 16,700. So, at more than twice the tournament average and less than two full tables remaining, I was starting to get that feeling again, one that I haven't had in a couple of months, that I might be on to something big here. I wasn't too excited yet, as I had already been in 1st place with just 4 players remaining in last Saturday's limit holdem bracelet race, and two consecutive cooler hands showed me just how fragile these leads can be even very late in the game, but I was playing well and making solid reads for the most part, and I had gotten just enough cards to get where I needed to be so far in this thing.

Speaking of laying great reads on players, about halfway through the third hour of the bracelet race on Friday I made a huge preflop call against two other allins with just a pocket pair of 9s. I can't quite say this was fonkey of me (almost, but not quite), but at the time I know I was thinking that when I am facing more than one allin and I hold a decently good pocket pair, it means there is already more than one Ace out and that is typically good news for the pocket pair. Now, to be honest I would much rather hold JJ or (gasp!) QQ to make a play like this, and pocket 9s is probably the very lowest pair I would normally call off my stack with against two allins in this situation, but what can I say, I did it:

Phuck! Big trouble for me. Bad call on my part, I knew it right away (and several railbirds let me know it as well, never fear). The flop and turn brought me no help, and I was literally chanting "9999999999999" as the river card was setting to fall:

BOOOoooooomm! In retrospect, although there was tons more poker to be played and I played it very well, this hand really set me up to make my run at getting into the 2007 World Series of Poker. This put me back in 1st place out of 13 left, with over 66,000 chips as compared to 2nd place's 36,500. A massive chip lead that I now had to make sure to protect, as remember only the top two finishers in this thing would win the 2k WSOP prize packages.

Anyways, I did nothing but steal on occasion, playing the bully with that hefty ill-gotten stack for the rest of the round, and near the end of the third hour came the final table, with me in 1st out of 9:

After quickly eliminating the short stack on the very first hand of final table play, about 15 minutes in, I tried this resteal:

which went horribly wrong for me in what turned out to be a button special. After the button open-raised the 2000-chip big blind to 5800 chips, and I reraised him to 20k with my big bullystack, he re-reraised me allin for just 7k more and at that point I clearly had to call, knowing I was behind but hopefully not dominated:

Another ill-advised play by me, and suddenly im in 4th of 7, and my WSOP dream is slipping away once again, mostly due to my own over-aggressiveness. Phuck! But at least I had built up that bigass stack to play with, meaning that I still had chips left after this bad turn of events and hopefully enough to do something to climb back into contention for the top two spots.

And climb back in is exactly what I did. I got a lot of those lost chips back just three hands later with AKs by smooth calling a button stealer's 3x raise, and then pushing in for my last 16k on the T-high flop, and he folded. Back up to 39,500 chips and 3rd place of 7, but at that point the top two stacks were 73k and 58k respectively, so I still had a lot of work to do to get back where I needed to be. Three or four hands later, the big stack at the table eliminated the shorty with the big stack's AKs against the shorty's JJ allin preflop, and we were down to 6 with me in 4th place.

And here is where all of these 6-max turbo satellites and the 30k experience I have really kicked in, because I am very, very comfortable with the 6-max game at this point. I know 6-max nlh tournaments about as good as anyone can, and all my turbo experience with those nightly sats was huge as binds were already 1k-2k with a 250-chip ante as we started 6-handed play, with top 2 getting seats. I literally felt a sense of comfort come over me as I realized we were down to 6-handed play, and I was ready to kick it into even higher gear as only I know how and get myself back up the leaderboard. With this new confidence, after taking down a pot open-raising A9o UTG, and then stealing the blinds and antes by open-raising with K6 and K7 in consecutive hands from the button and the small blind, I crossed back up into 3rd place again with 43k in chips, but with the two big stacks still sitting at 77k and 70k.

I then made this steal attempt with A3s from the cutoff position, another fairly standard move for me in fast-paced, high-blinds 6-max nlh:

But when the short stack reraised me allin for another 17k chips, representing half of my remaining stack, I made a downright bad call, at least my second of the night, but I had managed to convince myself that he could have anything since he had been so short at the time. Of course, if I could take it all back I would never make this call with that 3 in my hand, but at the time I thought to myself, this guy has KJ or something and I am slightly ahead, and I have a good chance to really chip up here against a guy who is definitely pushing with lower than optimal standards. Oops:

Of course I lost to the fucking biatchwhore Queens, leaving me with just 16k and in dead last among the 6 remaining players. Truly bad, bad call by me, not much else I can say about that.

Immediately regaining my composure, I stole the blinds and antes on the next two hands with allin preflop moves, and then, still on the short stack, I pushed allin from the cutoff with ATo (obviously), and got insta-called by the small blind (uh oh) who was holding the small blind special hand of KK (phuck me!). But then luck intervened again, serving up this board for my roughly 30% dog hand:

Woohooo! So I was back up to 37k, at the time just barely in 4th place of the 5 remaining players, with just the top two winning the 2k WSOP prize packages. So I still had a looooong way to go and lots of stealing and chipping up to do if I expected to fully recover from blowing that big stack I had been on just a short while earlier.

Then I had my biggest hand of the night. I found my raging nemesis pocket Queens in the small blind in an sb special of my own (finally), and the button went for the 3x open-raise steal, so I just pushed and prayed for a call:

My prayers were answered when he called, and then doubly answered when he flipped up pocket 9s:

My 82% hand held up. With Queens. With fucking Queens guys! Can you believe it? From worst to first at the final table over the span of maybe 5 or 6 minutes. My 84k was now back in 1st place over my opponents' stacks of 83k, 63k, 35k and 19k. Woohooooo, did I mention that?

I lost some chips a couple of hands later when the table shorty pushed allin and I felt I had to call with my pocket 8s. My favorite hand, AJo, hit the flop as it always does against a lower pocket pair in online play, and I assholically dropped about 12k more in chips making what I think had to be the right play against the short stack. I followed this hand up, however, with easily my biggest bluff of the night, against a guy I suspected was stealing from the small blind:

Although the small blind did call my reraise in this spot, when the flop came totally raggy, I read him for stealing so I figured I had to make my move and take advantage of my stack to scare this guy into folding in a spot where he really did not want to give up his chance at making the WSOP without a truly premium hand in a spot where I just didn't think he had one:

This was risky, but it worked, and IMO this is just what you have to do at the final table of these mtt satellites. You simply have to abuse the small stacks afraid to lose their shot, and push when you think you can win these hands with low Ms and bigass blinds. Although as you can see above it did not work for me on a few big occasions this night, believe me when I say this kind of play did work for me probably ten times more often than it did not. Again the key is just to make good reads overall, and build up a big enough stack with this aggressive kind of play so that you can withstand the inevitable big blind special type of hands that all of us will face eventually if we play aggressive enough over a long enough period of time.

So here I am a few steals and bully moves later, with nice bigass chip lead over the rest of the field with just five players remaining. Three more eliminations to go, and the 2007 WSOP would be mine:

A couple of hands later, TT eliminated the short stack's A8o to bring us down to just four players remaining, with half of us slated for the WSOP prize packages. This is the part of the mtt satellites that I really hate, as it can take forever to finally burst the bubble for the main prize winners, and with the blinds so high, you just never know what can happen if you steal at the wrong time or run into a particularly aggressive restealer from after you in the action. Amazingly, three hands later, QTo eliminated the new short stack's A6s to get us down to 3 handed, mercifully fast, and now it was just one elimination left before I would be going to the 2007 WSOP. Unfortunately though, this is what I was looking at since the low stack had eliminated the last 2 players, allowing him to chip up significantly and basically drawing even with myself and the other previously larger stack:

Amazingly and happily, though, just two hands into 3-handed play, this went down between the other two players at the table:

HOSSSE went allin with A9 on Q89 board, and Vampyr up top had to call with top pair Jack kicker plus an inside straight draw to boot, a veritable monster in 3-handed play. He coulda laid it down, don't get me wrong, but the worse play I think was the unnecessary allin from the 2nd pair guy, when he had been basically even with the other two of us and all three vying for just two WSOP seats. And here is the lesson for the kids and the poker noobs out there: this is why you dont pushmonkey in a tournament like this. HOSSSE flat-out cost himself a WSOP seat because he pushmonkeyed about 75,000 chips into the pot on the flop with just second pair. Why not bet a much smaller amount and see if you can take the pot down with that bet? If your opponent has nothing, at this point in the tournament he is highly likely to fold and preserve his chances of still finishing in the top two spots. And, like what would have happened in this case, if your opponent then reraises you allin, maybe HOSSSE could have chosen to fold and save the majority of his stack for another hand. But instead he pushmonkeyed allin for a huge stack on the flop with just second pair top kicker on a board with an overcard and a possible straight out there, and he paid the price. Dearly.

So, on the very next hand, HOSSSE had to go allin with just around 9k total left, and myself and Vampyr checked it down, neither one of us with anything good:

but somehow my hand held up, and that was it! WSOP here I come!!

Just for good measure, here was the meaningless last hand of the tournament, when it was just down to Vampyr and myself, both already having won our WSOP packages:

Yep. The pocket aces that had eluded me all through the tournament, finally there on the last (meaningless) hand for me to take it all down.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention here, as I have so many times in connection with my big online poker wins, the Hammer Wife's role in all this. First, as always she is totally down with me playing on the computer almost every night. Not saying she loves it, but that she accepts it, and in a way that makes it all the better what my wife does because deep down I know she's still really not in to the whole gambling thing. But she has always let me do my thing, and for that I am extremely grateful and I know how lucky I am. Plus, on Saturday morning right after I won my seat, of course M, the older Hammer Girl, decided to pick that very day to get up at 4:40am to use the bathroom, and then decided she was not tired anymore after that. Having stayed up until just an hour or two before that to win my WSOP seat and finish cashing in the midnight bracelet race as well for that matter, there was just no way I could stay up at 4am after just getting to sleep after 3am, so once again there was the Hammer Wife stepping up and taking care of business and letting me get the recharge that I so desperately needed. To top it off, when Georgetown beat Vanderbilt on Friday night, the Hammer Wife once again was the first one to say I had to take the opportunity that some friends had offered me to go to the game on Sunday against UNC, and this was even after she had gotten up very early in the morning with the kids on both Saturday and Sunday morning to let me sleep off what had been a couple of consecutive late nights doing my thing. It's just amazing how incredibly lucky I have gotten in my life to have three such wonderful girls in my family, and absolutely none of any of this would have been possible without my wife. I know it sounds cheesey to read (it's cheesey just writing it, trust me), but it really is amazing how much great, awesome stuff has happened over just the past few years with the direct or at least indirect assistance of the Hammer Wife. Just look at how awesome this whole weekend turned out, between my WSOP seat and the Georgetown game on Sunday, etc. What a fucking poker win, what a fucking game, and what a fucking weekend in Hammer Land!!!

Now I just have to figure out which WSOP event I'm going to play in. Is everyone planning on heading out there the weekend of June 7-10 or what? Thursday the 7th at noon is 6-handd $1500 nlh. Sat the 9th is 1500 regular nlh. What's a hammerplayer to do?

See you tonight at Mondays at the Hoy, and let me know what you think!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007



WSOP Here I Come!!!!!!!!

Full writeup coming Monday. For now, just bask in it.

And in this:

Georgetown 66
Vanderbilt 65


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Friday, March 23, 2007

Lost, March Madness, and Negreanu's Preflop Bet-Sizing Mistake

No rant for today (it's been a while since I had a good one of those, I'll see if I can fire something up for one day next week. Quick...somebody piss me off!), but I do as usual have a lot to get to, both inside and outside the world of poker.

For starters, yes I was always planning to comment about this week's Lost, but it just didn't fit in with the plan yesterday and, despite what you all may believe, I actually do try to keep these things relatively short (for me, anyways). Anyways, I have to agree with the general consensus that Lost on Wednesday was great. I won't quite say it was the best episode ever, as I have heard and read many other viewers say over the past 24 hours or so, but no doubt I thoroughly enjoyed it. It seems that the writers are finally really back in their stride this year, and almost week in week out the show is back to its old formula of interesting flashbacks, good storylines with actual meaningful plots, and Lost's particular brand of answering questions but raising five more almost every week. For example, it was great to finally learn how Locke ended up in that wheelchair. And what a phucking asshole that dad is, huh? Unreal. And Locke destroying that submarine was certainly interesting to see, although to be honest I don't see why he would do that in reality. I mean fine, maybe he doesn't want to go back, but there's no reason why he couldn't stay there with the Others -- Ben already seems to kinda like and accept him to some degree -- and yet still allow his friends to return to civilization. But wtf was Ben talking about with all that stuff about the box that opens up to reveal whatever you want to be in it? Huh? And what on earth (if that's even the right question) is Locke's father doing in that room at the end? And another thing -- is Ben or is Ben not the leader of the Others? At first when they caught him he kept talking about the leader. Then we see him barking orders in flashbacks and in the present. Then someone suggests there might be another leader ahead of him, and there is this other guy recruiting Juliette for Porject Dharma in the flashbacks, and seemingly ordering the murder of her ex-husband. Then we see Ben's power in even getting that judge lady Isabelle or whatever her name was to stop the trial of Juliette by overrulling her just by writing some orders down on a piece of paper, and it seems like he might actually be the leader after all. Then Mikhail a couple of weeks ago laughs when they suggest to him that Ben is the leader, and is clear that he's talking about someone who is above Ben in the pecking order. Now this week, Ben once again appears to be in charge. What the fug is going on with those people?

This is what I mean about what makes Lost so great IMO. They are just so good at giving you just enough information in most episodes to whet your appetite -- enough to keep you going and make you not be able to wait for next Wednesday night. Personally, I'm basically counting down the hours to the next Lost starting usually around Sunday evening, when the kids are asleep and I'm starting to think about the beginning to another long week of my "other" job (other than playing poker) in the office. In many ways looking forward to Lost is one of the things that gets me through the first couple days of the week, in that I probably think about it almost every day at some point and look forward to my next daily dose of just-enough-information-to-get-by. I'll tell you one thing that jeciimd pointed out to me in the girly chat that I think is just about the most on-point comment I've heard this week about Lost -- remember back within the past couple of months, when all anybody ever wanted was for the damn writers to get back to the old island and give us all our old characters back that we know and love? How long ago was that? 4 weeks? 5 weeks? Well look at it now. When I see the scenes from next week and see Sawyer yelling at somebody, Sun slapping Sawyer, etc., I have to admit, I'm kinda bored by that. I wanna get me some more of the Others! That's the interesting shit nowadays on Lost, don't you think? Great job by the writers on making that transition since the show returned to air early in February. Awesome episode this week, and it seems like mostly everyone agrees.

Well it's Friday in late March, and that means we had another batch of March Madness games going down on Thursday night, as half of the Sweet 16 turned into the Elite 8, with the remaining 8 teams playing down to 4 more to round out the Elite 8 after Friday night. Thursday saw Ohio State try its best to lose once again, this time going down by 20 points just before the end of the first half (its largest deficit at any time to any team this entire season before Thursday had been 9 points), before finally deciding to be ballas in the second half, quickly pour it on early and often and basically tie the game up with about 12 minutes left, after which time the teams battled it out, seesawing back and forth in what ended up being a really great game. In the end OSU pulled it out, sending a very disappointed but I think overmatched Tennessee team to the rail after a hard-fought loss, so OSU moves on to face John Calipari's Memphis Tigers, victors over upstart Texas A&M last night in a game that a whole bunch of bloggers were picking to go A&M's way. That was another great game (what else is new for March Madness?), which saw two free throws with just seconds left ice the 1-point victory for Memphis, running its incredible winning streak now to 25 consecutive games as they head into one of the great matchups of the tournament with Ohio State and monstrous "freshman" Greg Oden. And I put the quotes around the word freshman there because, and let's be honest here, Oden looks old enough and scary enough to be my phuckin grandfather, let alone my father. I can only assume he was held back 5 or 10 times in grade school or something, because that guy grows a thicker beard than me in about a 5-hour timespan, he's obviously about a foot and a half taller than me, and he just has the look of someone who's been everywhere, done it all, and is ready to kick some serious ass. Most 17-year-olds I know don't quite have that look about them that Greg Oden has. And what a block to preserve the victory last night for his Buckeyes.

In the other bracket, UCLA eliminated Pittsburgh in a matchup of UCLA coach Ben Howland against his former team, and he was able to lead the Bruins to an early lead that they just never gave up throughout the entire game. Pitt played admirably I think against a UCLA team that was undefeated for a while and was the #1 team in the country for a good portion of the season before faltering a bit at the end there, and so departs the last Big East team left in the tournament other than my Georgetown Hoyas who will play tonight. UCLA's win sets up another awesome matchup on Saturday, this one against regional #1 seed Kansas who held on for dear life for a 3-point victory against the Salukis of Southern Illinois. The Salukis put up a great fight and really put a scare into Kansas on a couple of occasions when they looked like they might be ready to take a nice lead in both halves, but in the end the all-around talent and tremendous coaching of Bill Self enabled Kansas to hold on to round out Thursday's slate of winners and set up two much-anticipated matchups for Saturday afternoon / evening. That's one good thing about there being very few upsets of the high seeds so far this year -- lots of great matchups of #1 and #2 seeds like Ohio State - Memphis and UCLA-Kansas to look forward to on the second weekend of the Big Dance.

Moving to tonight's games, first you've got last year's national champion Florida favored by 10.5 over midmajor darling Butler. I definitely pick Florida to win this game -- I had them beating Old Dominion in this round in my bracket because I had identified the sub-bracket with ODU and Butler as weak because the high seed, #4 Maryland, is one of these overseeded bloated ACC suckjob teams -- and I think the switchup to Butler will make it perhaps a little harder for Florida. But in the end Florida has the talent, the coaching, and after last year the experience to win this game tonight. That line is kinda big to me so if I had to pick a side I would have to go with Butler, but in reality I would probably avoid betting this game at all if given the choice (hopefully you have the choice). For entertainment purposes only, of course.

Next is a little team I like to call the Georgetown Hoyas battling it out with #6 seeded Vanderbilt, and as I mentioned earlier this week, this matchup looks fairly lopsided to me on paper. Of course that's why you always play out the games, but with Vanderbilt not even starting a center, and with their tallest player standing at just 6-foot-9 (on his tip-toes even), 7-2 Georgetown center Roy Hibbert ought to have a field day against this team. And the Hoyas have been real tough in almost every game this year when Hibbert was able to get his game on in the inside early. My Hoyas are favored by 7.5 in this game, and again I do think that is a fairly good line but if I had to pick it for entertainment purposes only, I would pick Georgetown to slightly best that spread and be one of the few teams to avoid a close game in this round of the Big Dance.

Oregon is favored by 3 points over surprising #7 seeded UNLV tonight in the first of the two late games, and even though the line opened at 2.5 and has now risen to 3 points, it seems to me that most people I know are jumping on the UNLV bandwagon, including several blogger types. Me, I'm sticking with Oregon. UNLV had a good little season this year, but Oregon quietly had a great season, not only compiling a 26-7 regular season record, but winning the Pac-10 tournament and winning its last 6 games heading into the NCAA Tournament in the process. And, they showed they can beat good teams, both at home and on the road, including big wins at Georgetown, Arizona, Washington State and USC, at and home against UCLA, Arizona and Washington State to boot. I see Oregon, another very well-coached team, ending the quasi-Cinderella season for UNLV tonight in a mid-single-digit victory, so I would lean towards a slight cover of the spread for UNLV in tonight's game.

Last tonight is UNC favored by 8.5 over USC, and this one is another real mismatch the way I see it. I think Carolina is better both inside and outside than an overmatched USC team that I am surprised has even made it this far in the tournament. Even though it's a fairly big line, I'm thinking Carolina is likely to win the game and cover this spread by the time the final whistle blows. I've had the feeling that Carolina and Georgetown have been set on a crash course to meet in the Elite 8 ever since the brackets first came out, and I don't see either team losing tonight in their Sweet Sixteen game as I think both teams are clearly better, stronger, faster and better coached than their respective opponents. And did I mention that if Georgetown wins the game tonight, I am going to the Sunday game at the Meadowlands, hopefully to watch that power UNC-Georgetown matchup live and in the flesh? Bring it on Tarheels. We'll break you just like Jeff Capel when he hit that halfcourt shot off the backboard to send the Duke-Carolina game into triple overtime back in 1994-1995 when Duke was so awful while Coach K(issmyass) was in the hospital and recovering from back surgery.

So that's it. After going 1-1 with my two picks last Friday, tonight I am giving up Butler plus 10.5 points, Georgetown minus 7.5 points, Oregon minus 3 points, and UNC minus the 8.5 points. So three favorites and just the one dog -- Butler -- on the entertainment purposes only picks for tonight, and even that dog I do think will lose the game overall, as all four favorites look to me to be poised to advance just like we saw in last night's games.

OK I did want to make one interesting poker point today before I sign off. You may recall me mentioning earlier in the week that I had recently bought a whole new spate of poker books. One of those was Daniel Negreanu's Hold'em Wisdom For All Players, a book I was hoping would be chock full of secrets and little tidbits as to exactly how Daniel reads other players so well and does what he does best, taking cheap flops with less than premium hands, and then making the best when he thinks he is ahead or his opponent his weak, and knowing when to fold 'em otherwise when he's just not feeling it. Instead, sadly, what I've found here about halfway through the book is largely a watered-down, thinned-out skin-n-bones poker text that barely even scratches the surface of anything that any of us would consider "advanced" poker concepts. I can't believe it. Why on earth would Daniel Negreanu bother writing such a lowest-common-denominator book on holdem like this? Having of all people Daniel Negreanu write a poker book on this simple a level is a bit like hiring Frank Lloyd Wright to design your kid's diorama-in-a-shoebox project for his second-grade class. I just don't understand it.

Anyways, one point Daniel makes in the middle of his book really struck me as downright bad advice, and I'd love to get your thoughts on it. In Chapter 13, Daniel basically advocates using bets between a third and three-quarters of the pot on the flop, and suggests that betting more than that will not likely change your opponents' decisions as to whether or not to call/raise or fold, but will just drain more money from your stack when you do end up losing the hand. To me, Daniel could not be more wrong about this. Now, as Sklansky points out very intelligently in his recent no-limit holdem book, bets on the turn can very sensibly be less (in relation to the size of the pot) than your bets on the flop, because on the flop you have 2 cards to come, and thus your opponents will have higher chances of making their straights, flushes and other drawing hands because they still have two chances to make them. Thus, Sklansky argues, your bets ought generally to be of a sufficient size on the flop to deter those players from drawing to their hands, in consideration of the fact that they still have two cards to come. On the turn, however, Sklansky correctly argues that now, with just one card to come, a much smaller bet (in relation to the then current size of the pot) is often sufficient to effectively price your opponents out of their draws, because your opponents will be facing much longer odds to draw to whatever hand they might be sticking around to try to hit. By completely ignoring this entire analysis and any mention even of this distinction between bet-sizing on the flop and bet-sizing on the turn, I think Daniel misses a key point here in the book and ends up giving advice that is truly terrible when applied to the most important situations in most holdem games.

As an example, imagine I have K♣K♠ and raise it up 3x. Two opponents call my 3x raise, and we see a flop of T♥9♥4♣. I like my hand here, and I'm fairly sure it's the best hand out there right now. However, with the Ten and 9 out there, a straight draw of some kind is not just possible but probably downright likely. And with the two hearts as well on the flop, anyone with two hearts in their hand is going to be tempted to draw at that flush as well. Now why on earth would I ever only bet a third of the pot here, or anything close to it even? As Erick Lindgren points out in his book Making the Final Table, draw-heavy boards call for larger flop bets than boards with no draws on them, and this is a perfect example of why. Let's say there's 1000 chips in the pot when the above flop falls and I've got the two Kings in my hand. If a player is on a straight draw or a flush draw, with two cards to come both of those hands are basically around 33% to win. That means they are 2-to-1 against filling if the players stay in to see both cards. At 2-to-1, that means that even if I bet the full amount of the pot here (another 1000 chips), then they will each be faced with calling 1000 chips to win 2000 chips, or 2-to-1. So, even by betting the full amount of the pot, I'm really only able to make chasing the draws here marginally inadvisable for them (it still is somewhat inadvisable because I am counting their odds of filling the draws over two cards, even though in reality I have the ability to bet again on the turn if no draws are filled by the turn card, but still). Now why in the world would Negreanu be recommending that I only bet, say, between 300 and 700 chips on this flop? That recommendation makes no sense at all IMO, and I can't believe Negreanu has allowed his name to be attached to that kind of a statement.

Now, you tell me that on a flop of Q72 rainbow, with 1000 chips in the pot, a bet of 500 ought to be enough to take it down when I hold pocket Kings, and I won't really argue that (though even still, his recommendation of the low end of a third of the pot is still I think far too low given what the donkeys out there tend to draw at on a regular basis in my games, and this is in both live and online play). But half the pot on a totally ragged, unsuited flop, that makes some sense. But recommending in his book that people just keep all their bets on all streets between a third and 75% of the current pot is generally terrible advice to be giving as far as I'm concerned. The much better advice the way I see it is a combination of Erick Lindgren and David Sklansky's from their respective books. Lindgren on flop bets, that draw-heavy boards call for larger, closer to pot-sized bets, while boards with no likely draws can be closer to 40-60% of the pot and should accomplish the same goal of chasing others out with less risk. And then Sklansky on turn bets, where he correctly points out that at that point in the hand, with only one card to come and therefore when players are facing just 17-19% chances of those straights and flushes filling on the river, you can bet more like a third of the pot, which itself is already enough to make those bad calls for your drawing opponents to chase. Think about it -- if your opponents are facing draws of less than 20% with one card to come, then their chances of hitting on the river are slightly more than 4-to-1, call it 4.1 or 4.2-to-1 for most straight and flush draws. So, if there are 1000 chips in the pot after the turn card is out, a bet of even 300 chips -- just 30% of the pot -- means they will have to call 300 to win 1300, which already prices them out of making the call if they know what they're doing. So that's the advice I'm giving on bet sizing in the poker book that I'll never write -- close to the size of the pot on draw-heavy flops, and closer to half the pot on no-draw flops, and around a third to half the pot on most turns. And to me that is far, far better advice than the generalized drivel that Negreanu includes in chapter 13 of his book. Does anyone disagree with this thinking, or think that Negreanu is right when he goes on about how "real professionals and those who aspire to make their games better" play small-bet poker, but the amateurs are the ones who bet close to the size of the pot on the flop? I think that's redonkulous, and for a guy of the skills of Danny Boy to makes those statements in print for all to see for all of time, I think he should be embarrassed.

Friday night. That means I'll be watching my Hoyas stomp all over Vanderbilt, while I hopefully satellite my way into the midnight bracelet race on full tilt. Wish me luck, on both fronts!

Oh and don't forget the latest WPBT event, Event #3 (Razz) is on the slate for this Sunday evening. Columbo's blog says this event is scheduled for 9pm ET on Sunday, but as of last night the thing was listed on full tilt for 8pm ET. Either way, make the time, make sure you check to see if it is changed from the current 8pm ET setup, and either way go get a token and play in this $26 buyin (tier I token) tournament for bloggers only. Come on, you know you don't want to miss Razz, easily the most frustrating of all the poker variations. This is an event that I won last year in the WPBT, and I plan to be there to take the thing down again on Sunday. Now if you haven't bought in yet, go play one of those $13.75 buyin heads-up sngs on full tilt and win yourself a token for half-price. See you Sunday night for the WPBT Razz tournament!

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