Friday, May 30, 2008

Looking Back at the BBT3

So. With Thursday night's Riverchasers tournament now in the books, I find myself looking back over the BBT3 and trying to assess the landscape. I am looking very much forward to this coming Sunday night, when Miami Don's Big Game will roll into town for one last gasp for everyone who has yet to win a BBT3 tournament like I did to get your place in the upcoming June 7 BBT3 Tournament of Champions. But to me, it feels like the series is already over with RC this week, and it has me feeling nostalgic already. Plus, might as well get this post in ahead of all the end-of-BBT stuff we'll be seeing next week. As usual, I get the distinct sense that my feelings here at the end of the three-month challenge are different from most of you out there, so why not share it here and let some monkeys people get their hate on, right? It is a Friday after all.

If you recall, after the first two BBT tournament series, man was I fucking drained. I was pissed. Nobody could enjoy the BBT more than I do, but I like really taking trying to win seriously. I'm proud of that, of course, but it does increase my stress / agita during BBT season every time it happens. And by the end, I have always been so effing happy to see it go. The constant focus on not coming out and playing LAGgy tonight because of leaderboard points, or everyone else folding to the money back in the first BBT and not just coming out and playing poker. The change in the atmo in the private blogger tournaments is palpable when the BBT is in town, like it's all a lot more serious, a lot more meaningful. Personally I do not play much differently whether it is BBT time or otherwise, but I can say as a fact that many of the other players in these events do, again in particluar when it comes near the "points bubble" as well as very early in the tournaments. Anyways, in the first two BBTs, I enjoyed myself immensely but at the same time I could not wait for that shit to be done by the end. I made no secret of it here on the blog, so it's not like I'm making any earth-shattering claims here. I know my sentiments have been shared by many, who I'm sure all love the BBT overall just like I do, but who have written about sharing similar feelings to my own after a few grueling months of several-nights-a-week pressure tournament poker. And I've seen the exact same stuff written about several times over the past few weeks here as the BBT3 comes to a close. But you know what?

I think I'm going to miss it this time.

I really think I am. For the first time after a BBT series, I'm not even itching for it to be over. I'm flat-out enjoying it. I'm enjoying the play in the games. I'm enjoying watching guys like Lucko and Tuscaloosa Johnny absolutely crush the field by final tabling and making the points with dramatic consistency. I'm enjoying the chase for the ToC and for some seriously fatty prizes coming up next weekend. Maybe most of all, I'm enjoying the blog posts that are generated by the seriousness of the BBT tournaments -- the rants and the more analytical stuff. Frankly, I think just about the only truly +EV poker blog posts over the past few months have been those about play or plays in the BBT3 tournaments, while otherwise I think it's been a pretty dready time for quality blog posts, other than maybe Iggy who I am happy to report is officially back and better than ever with his ubers and his actual focus on actual poker again over at G&P.

"OMGWTF what did he just say? Did he just say he likes the posts on poker blogs about the BBT3 tournaments? Even the rants?"

Yes. Even the rants. I've said it before and I'll say it again. For the first time out of any of the BBT series, I personally believe people have acted more or less completely appropriately throughout. On the blogs, in the chat box, everywhere. So the BOOOOOOOM thing got started. But who the fuck is gonna tell me they actually care about getting BOOOOOOOMed? Give me a break. Yeah some people in the chat called other people bad players. BFD. So some people posted some rants about horrible poker players making some bad plays in BBT tournaments again them. Boo fuggin hoo.

Yes, there were and continue to be a few posts and a few blog comments from people who are upset, some with good reason and others with less good reason. There have been a few posts and comments that maybe should not have been posted as written, from some surprising corners of the poker blogosphere. But really, it hasn't been a problem, not from my end anyways. And not for the vast majority of you out there, from what you've been writing on your blogs. And to me that's great. People have not been assholes and for the first time at the end of a BBT challenge, there's no pull inside me for the series to end just so people can stop taking themselves so seriously. I am very happy for this.

I'm sure another reason I personally have derived a lot of enjoyment from the BBT this time around in particular is that I have played well throughout the entire series. Scott Fischman took me out in 3rd place in the BBT3-opening Big Game a few months back, winning me basically my buyins for the entire series right in the very first event. That was key. But since then, I must have cashed a good 8 or 9 times in the BBT3 tournaments, including something like four separate times in the Mookie which has been a rare treat for me. I've made a lot of money overall in the series, and I tromped all over the Stud 8 event in the Skills Series to win my seat in the June 7 Tournament of Champions.

I remember in the BBT2, the first time we did a ToC format for the grand prize, I was very frustrated by the end. And I'm sure in no small part that was due to my inability to win a BBT2 tournament and play my way in to the ToC. That feeling sucks. By the second half of that particular two-month challenge, I did not want to miss a tournament for any reason, lest I be sitting out the night my proverbial number was going to come up, and I put a lot of pressure on myself on each and every event to make this one the event that I would win. After trying hard as shit but repeatedly coming up empty, and because I do choose to make a concerted effort to play winning, profitable poker in the blonkaments, it really wore away at me as the challenge rolled on.

But not this time around. Like I said, I won my profits for the entire series in the very first event. I won my ToC seat around the middle of the challenge, removing that monkey from my back after failing to win a single BBT tournament over two months in BBT2. I have felt very little pressure for very little time in the BBT3, and it shows in my overall happiness with the series. In fact, that leads right into I think the biggest reason I am so pleased with the BBT3 -- I have not taken it too seriously, for the first time out of three of these challenges. I haven't been actually mad about anything I've seen in any tournament, any chatbox, any blog, anything as it pertains to the BBT. I did not put undue pressure on myself in any of the events, even before I won the Stud 8 tournament to officially nab my spot in the ToC. I have even regularly skipped events whenever I had other plans, including most of the Thursday Riverchasers tournaments during the challenge as a result of Lost running original episodes pretty much all throughout the series, and this is something I skipped regularly again even before winning my ToC seat. I had no interest in participating in a large-dollar prop bet with Lucko, but I've really enjoyed watching that big bet and some of the donkeys who had the cojones to even pay up for that thing. I've even had a very profitable challenge overall when it comes to my own side bets on particular players' ongoing BBT3 performances. I understand that I have made some good money for some of the other regular BBT players as well through this series, so glad I could help those of you who had faith in me and my own play. I don't think there is any coincidence that my play has been so solid over the past few months given that I am not taking these games too seriously and that I am maintaining a light attitude about the whole thing. I only wish everyone could view it the way I do.

I, for one, will officially go on the record as saying that I am not at all sick of the BBT this time around, and that I will definitely be sad to see it gone here starting next week. I definitely will not miss the huge fields in our regular weekly tournaments, but the increased attention overall to what we do in our blogs that the BBT has brought is obviously well worth the increased participation, and once again we've seen some new blogs spike up as a result of the challenge which is of course always a great thing. I have no need whatsoever for a BBT or other crazy prize package in order for me to take the blonkaments seriously. But it sure has made this whole thing fun as shit, knowing that some 47 of us will be duking it out next Saturday night for $28,000 worth of prizes in a freeroll on full tilt. How can that be anything but awesome, whether you have a seat or not? Last time around, I watched the BBT2 ToC from the sidelines but still enjoyed myself immensely as my buddy jeciimd powered his way to victory and to the 18k Aussie Millions prize package. I can't wait for that to happen again next week, and this time to get to be a part of all the fun. a 28k freeroll paid to the top 4 spots out of 47 runners, many of whom are poker suckcocks? I'll take it any day of the week.

I don't want to spoil anyone on the Lost finale from Thursday night so I won't include any real details, but I will just say this: I found this episode to be quite a letdown. In fact I felt like I got almost no information of any value whatsoever, and the episode seemed like it was going nowhere fast for a lot of the time. Maybe it's just me. I will be watching it again tonight so perhaps my opinion on that will change, but in general it was certainly not the huge cliffhanger or anything like everyone had been claiming who had seen the pre-spoilers. I just love how off most of those things end up being most of the time. The Lost haters talking about how the show "jumps the shark" in the final few minutes by showing who was in the coffin? Does anyone care now that you know who was in there? Why would we care? Big deal guys, B F D.

Check out the donkament tonight at 9pm ET if you're around. You can't beat a $1 rebuy with a bunch of monkeys for Friday night pre-bars entertainment, if you're into that sort of thing. I am probably not there this particular night due to some other things I have going on in the evening today, but I suppose one never knows. And check back here next week for some more BBT retrospective, and I will also plan to give a little more color to some of the people I think have a good chance of cashing in the Toc, and some that I don't. Otherwise, I hope everyone has a profitable weekend, and maybe I'll see you out on the virtual felt. Just stay the F away from me at the 1-2 6-max PLO8 tables on full tilt. I am crushing.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Omadraw, and the Mookie

Man I had my most fun night of poker in a few weeks last night. These last few days, in fact, I have been consistently winning more than I'm losing, and I'm doing it at tournaments, sitngos and in various forays into the Omacash tables. 1-2 6max PLO and especially O8 are my latest fad games, and I am enjoying them immensely.

It's fun getting into a new game with some poker friends together. Now, I've been into Omaha for some time, you guys know that. I've been saying for the better part of a year now that PLO is actually my #1 favorite poker game to play in tournament format. Yes nlh would be second, but PLO is the game for me when it comes to donking it up mtt style. But lately, Goat has been playing more and more Omaha for I believe the first time in his life, and I can't help but let myself get sucked in for the ride.

Omaha is awesome. I mean, if you don't know the rules, you will get creamed, but if you are a solid poker play and "get" the game, it can be a real blast. Anyone who has played a lot of PLH and PLO will know this is true, but PLO is a much bigger game than the same-blind structure of a PLH game right next to it. Omaha is just a bigger game, betting-wise, than holdem at the same limits, by nature of the number of nut hands made and the amount of draws that can be chased. Pot-limit is the shizznit and it's the only form of Omaha (high or high-low) I ever try to play. There are good reasons for this.

Limit Omaha high is utter and complete bullshit. With four cards in everyone's hand, the number of draws in this game is sick. On the flop especially with two cards to come, you're getting frigging 10 to 1 or better to call in most situations in most games. 10 to 1 or better to call? You might as well chase with every stoopid flush draw (even 6-high) and two-pair draw (i.e., just a pair of 5s or something) for at least one bet on the flop. Everybody might as well chase on the flop. It is a truly dumb game, and only morons play that game over the long term I would guess.

Conversely, no-limit Omaha high is also not quite the right formulation for the game IMO. In nlh it makes some good sense to have no-limit betting because there are so many situations where you can have the current nuts and be a huge, huge favorite to win the pot. Pair over pair allin preflop, you are roughly 82%. Get called allin on the flop by just two overcards like AK, and you are 75% to win the hand. Get in before the flop dominating someone like AQ vs. A8, and you are what, 75 to 80% again? There are plenty of opportunities early on in hands where the strongest players should want to be able to get all your chips in because you can be a prohibitive favorite to win the money in the middle at that point in time, even on the early streets of a given hand.

In Omaha high, however, this is really not the case at all. As any experienced Omaha player knows, most hands are not more than a 60% favorite or so over most other hands before the flop. Again, with four cards to choose from underneath, that makes really for 6 different two-card holdem hands to play on the flop, turn and river at the same time in every single hand, and it is simply very difficult math-wise to build up a huge edge to win over another four-card hand before the flop over that range of six separate two-card holdem hands playing at the same time for both of you. Even after the flop, in Omaha most draws worth playing have at least 30-40% chances of filling by the river, and many draws are even favorites over things like flopped sets and flopped straights, which may often represent the current nuts in the hand and yet in extreme examples can be behind quite a bit to the biggest Omaha draws with two cards to come.

So with how much harder it is to be significantly ahead both before and after the flop in Omaha, it stands to reason to me that this is not a game over time that any player should want to be playing in no-limit format. It is just too easy to get it all in with the literal nuts on the flop, and yet when the cards are flipped, you are at best racing and often times a substantial dog to win the hand through all nine cards. This is just the nature of the game in Omaha, and that is why I prefer the pot-limit format almost exclusively when I play Omaha, either in high-low or the straight high format. When you can bet the size of the pot on the flop, it effectively prices out all but the largest draws (which aren't going out anyways no matter what structure you use to the betting) or the lesser draws in multiplayer situations, both of which are ok with me and frankly are not much different from no-limit structured games. But the doofus with the regular old oesd or nut flush draw, 8- or 9-outer type on the flop in Omaha, that guy can't effectively call your pot-sized bet on the flop, knowing that you're going to pot him again on the turn if he does not fill his draw. That's why PLO is such a great fucking game to play and to get really good at.

Anyways, I've had some success at PLO cash lately, but over the past week or so I have actually been playing and winning at O8 cash. Omaha 8 or Better, 1-2 pot limit. 6-max of course because I'm a Man. I never thought I would willingly play any form of O8 for actual cash money, but for whatever reason I've been at it and I've been really enjoying it lately. Of course the players are so awful it is funny, they play horrifically poor starting cards and play them poorly even when they hit the board, so that is always nice. Those of you who are solid split-pot poker players would notice right away that a good half or more of the players at this level simply do not understand the basics of split-pot poker, the whole not raising heads-up at the end with just the nut low sort of stuff, the whole you're-obviously-getting-quartered thing, etc. So with this much fishiness sitting at basically every shorthanded low-limit O8 table on full tilt, you can open up a little bit and play some of the A3- and high-card hands and try to hit a flop and stizznack someone. Which they let you do quite a bit with those second-best hands and those 3/4 - 1/4 pots.

OK, enough about this 4-card bingo shiznit, back to nlh for a minute. Wednesday night I cashed in the Mookie yet again, my third cash in the last four weeks according to faboo tournament host Mookie himself in the girly. This time I busted in 11th place after at one point being in second place out of I think 17 players remaining, and once again I busted restealing with 97s. Of course, I got called by KTs. King fucking Ten. The ultimate donkey hand, the single most dominatable hand there is to instacall with against someone who has just put you allin. I mean, just think how hard this guy was trying to give me the courtesy double-up there. That is final-two-tables Mookie tournament poker right there, you gotta love it. The ole' KTs allin instacall. How could KT not be ahead, right? And it was sooooooooted.

I should not complain too much though. Earlier on in the Mookie this week I laid a stoopidsick runner-runner beat on someone, I believe for all my chips. Got allin behind on the flop, then hit runner-runner hearts out of nowhere to nail the improbable flush. And what's more, I was down from the 3000-chip starting stack to a measly 300 chips or something just a few minutes in to the tournament this week as it is, only to come back to over 30,000 chips at one point when down to two tables remaining. But how I got to 300 chips is your standard story. I made TPTK with big slick on a King-high flop, and eventually blew off almost my entire stack with bets on multiple streets before my opponent flipped up his pocket pair for the flopped set.

The funny thing is, the board was not coordinated at all, so when he smooth called my bet on the flop and again on the turn, it was obvious as shit that he had a set, two pair or something that beat just top pair in some way. And yet, I simply could not fold TPTK with AK. Not in the Mookie, not with all the donkshits who will double you early in this thing with top pair second kicker, second pair Ace kicker, just an inside straight draw, any two soooted cards, you name it. I knew I was beat, but the solid blonkament players out there will recognize this feeling I am describing 100%. Obviously if this were a normal opponent, you're beat. It's clear as day. And yet, this is the Mookie, these are no "normal" opponents, o9only abject cocknoses as you know. So you end up calling or betting through your stack down through the river, only to find you are a victim of the fact that sometimes even donkleshits pick up big hands and hit big flops. It happens, with some regularity in the blonkaments. If you're a solid player, you know exactly what I'm talking about. And if you're not, well, don't worry about what I'm talking about here, it's all just a joke I guess.

Btw, jeciimd folded pocket Kings preflop -- on purpose -- in the Mookie this week for at least the second time he's done this in a blonkament in the past year or so. If the man ever blogged, I would encourage you all to go to his site and let him have it for that kind of decision. Of course he would have been up against AK and TT in that particular hand, and would probably be sitting on his much sought-after BBT3 Tournament of Champions seat, having won his first Mookie this week like I won the Skills event way back when to play my own way in. And speaking of which, Thursday night at 9pm ET of course is the Riverchasers, the last RC of the BBT3, and the second-to-last of the remaining BBT events in total. I will not be there for the Riverchasers this evening, as Lost is running its much-anticipated two-hour shocking Season 4 finale starting at the same time as the tournament, but I expect the crowds will swell as everyone takes their last crack at winning their way in to the ToC. And congrats to Tuscaloosa Johnny for taking down the Mook this week, securing his donkiness forever with the big win in addition to even further reducing the maximum number of players in the ToC to I think maybe as low as 47 by this point in time. I'll have to verify that last one.

Best of luck to everyone tonight at the RC, and let's please hope that Lost does not truly jump the shark like the Lost-haters have been proclaiming all week ever since the spoilers hit the intertubes a few days ago.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Skills, Mookie and Smooth Calling with Draws on the Flop

Another holiday weekend, another awesome time with the family. We headed out to the same indoor waterpark for the weekend that we went to last fall, and the kids went nuts for it once again. It was great. And I got to see how much they had each grown during the just seven months or so since we were last there. You out there reading this, and me, we all know how little time seven months really is. It's nothing. You don't change over seven months, I don't change over that period of time. But for these kids, seven months is sick. My youngest daughter, K, is 2 1/2 now, so compared to when we went to this waterpark last year, K is now basically 25% older than she was then. Even my older one, who is 4 1/2, is a good 12% older today than when we were out there last year. So I got both girls moved up to the next level of waterslides which was great, and on top of that, my oldest M is now a swimming fool. Throw one of those kid-life-jacket things on her and she will just tread water and doggie paddle in the middle of the pool for 15 minutes straight. Good, good times.

And, I played no poker for a few days there either, which was also all good as far as I am concerned. Ever since I got sick a couple of months ago and was basically unable to play poker at all for a few weeks, not playing on a given night has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I still play most nights, don't get me wrong. But I also skip a night entirely with much more frequency than I had been previously, which used to happen almost never. Now, I am not playing a whole lot if at all on most weekends, and while I used to be a regular Iron Man on full tilt, I'm sure these days I am nowhere close. And I don't even care. Although I don't have a whole lot more than a few sng wins to show for it, I am liking my game over the past couple of weeks since getting back into the poker rotation after my recovery, and I'm sure the good results will come in time.

The good results were nowhere to be found in this week's Skills Series game for me, however. I did manage to play very solid for the first couple hours or so of this thing, maintaining and even growing my starting stack, but eventually I got called by pocket Kings or something and IGH around the middle of the field. Other than my one big BBT3 win in the Stud-8 Skills event a few weeks back, I have just not performed well overall in the Skills games for whatever reason. I have won blonkaments this year in nlh, rebuy nlh, O8, PLO and Stud-8, so it's not like I don't know how to play these games and play them well. I'm just not playing them right, for whatever reason. I think I have finally solved my issues with playing too loose early in these events, but I still seem to be missing something with my middle game now, where I still think in the end I am opening up and taking double-up chances with more marginal hands than I probably should be for that point in the tournament.

I saw in the a.m. that blonkament killer Surflexus managed to win his second BBT3 title in the Skills PLH tournament on Tuesday, succeeding not only in adding to his already very impressive resume of blogger tournament victories but also in further shrinking the series-ending BBT3 Tournament of Champions in a refrain that has become more and more common as the BBT3 has rolled on towards its conclusion this coming Sunday evening with the Big Game. What are we down to now? 47 seats maximum in the ToC? This thing is so much sicker than I ever thought it would be, as we march on towards basically better than 1-in-12 odds of every player in the ToC of walking away with at least 2k in cash to be used at the World Series of Poker event of your choice. Surf's winning a second event this week only serves to further ease the burden on the rest of us tournament winners in the upcoming ToC, and that I think is all good.

Speaking of the Skills game, I was on the girly chat last night with a fellow blogger, and we had an interesting exchange about a hand at our table where my IM chatter's opponent bet out for about 25% of this blogger's remaining stack into a large pot on a flop of something like AT9 with two suits, and this blogger ended up pushing allin on a raise on the flop with a king-high flush draw and an inside straight draw for what he figured to be 12 or 13 outs. He got instacalled on his allin flop raise, with his opponent holding top pair and the nut flush draw, which filled on the turn and sent my blogger friend home also somewhere in mid-field.

What followed was some on-the-spot analysis of the hand between he and I, where this blogger opened the conversation on the particular point of his flop raise by pointing out that if he had just called on the flop, with a bet that large he would basically be declaring himself to be on a drawing hand with such a move. Not wanting to be so obvious about his holding, he figured an allin raise was better since he planned to get it allin anyways with a likely 13 outs on straight and flush draws on the flop.

The more I thought about it, though, and the more I think about it here now, I am really not sure I like this logic. I mean, let's assume for argument's sake that you truly are basically telegraphing that you're on a draw on an AT9 flop with two to a suit. I don't think this is necessarily true, with an Ace on the flop especially you could easily have some kind of a medium-high Ace here, an AJ or A8-type of holding, but again for the sake of this discussion, let's assume that you will basically telegraph the fact that you are on a drawing hand if you smooth call an opponent's flop bet at these blind and bet levels and with these pot sizes at this point in the tournament. My answer is: so what?

Sure, it is an obvious poker truth that the less you give away about your own hand, the better you will perform overall in this game. As a general poker maxim, there is no doubt about the veracity of this point. But, in this case, does it really matter if you betray the true drawing nature of your hand at this point, on this flop? My answer I think is no, and here's why. It's one thing when I am only on a 7- or 8-out draw, something that I would like to stay in for cheaply, but which I'm not about to call off my entire stack chasing after given my only roughly 1/3 chance of filling by the river. I think this is an especially important interest on a particular kind of flop, one that has only one kinda obvious draw on it -- say a K72 flop with two clubs, or a rainbow flop of T93 or something where your opponent generally can reliably put you on a particular draw, and will therefore be likely to know if you hit your draw on the turn or river.

But in the Skills hand from last night, remember the flop in question was AT9, with two suits. So first and foremost, given the bias towards high-card and Ace-having starting hands, the opponent in this hand likely had some kind of top pair hand as opposed to hidden two pairs or something like that. The likelihood of one's opponent having precisely one pair is one factor that I think weighs in favor of just making the smooth call in this spot. With a likely 13 outs working for my blogger friend, I worry much less about telegraphing that I might be on a draw, because the player with just one pair on the flop is not likely to go too crazy on the turn once I have smooth called his normal-sized bet on the flop.

But the bigger reason I don't mind the smooth call on the AT9 two-suited flop, even if you are sure your opponent will know you are on a draw by your smooth call, is that the two suits on the flop, combined with the two consecutive cards on the flop, and the fact that the two connected cards happen to be high cards as well, the bottom line is that I just don't think my opponent has any way of knowing if I've hit my draw even if it does fill. For example, if an offsuit King hits on the turn, I see it as a solid betting opportunity -- especially if I can reliably put my opponent on just top pair or some kind -- because he reasonably has to fear that I hold QJ for the oesd that just hit its mark on the turn. Similarly, if a 6 falls, he once again has to worry that I have just made a straight with an 87 in the hole. Technically, even if a Queen or a 7 falls, I can bet out and there has to be some chance in my opponent's mind that I have hit some kind of an oesd with semi-connected cards. Or how about if any flush card falls, and once again I can lead out with a good chance of successfully getting my opponent to fold based on the scare card.

So in this case, on an Ace-high board and one with several possible draws on both the flush side of things as well as several possible straights, I really don't mind as a rule if my opponent can sense from my actions on the flop (usually a smooth call) that I am in fact drawing. There are just too many possible draws I could be on on this particular kind of a flop for me to be too concerned if my opponent knows I am drawing. Let him know I'm drawing. On the AT9 two-club flop we've been discussing here, any 6, 7, 8, Jack, Queen, King or club give me a hand that could have filled on my draw. That is over half the deck that can have hit my draw on the very next card. So let him know I'm drawing on the flop, I don't really mind because I don't think it hurts me much with so many possible "hit" cards for me on the turn or river. Sometimes I prefer to smooth call on the flop with big draws -- in this case, an expected 12 or 13 outs -- and see if I can either hit one of my draw cards on the turn, or at least hit a card that is sufficiently scary to my opponent to enable me to win the pot. Sure, as a rule I am not a big fan of smooth calling a whole lot in no-limit poker, and I think a strategy that minimizes smooth calling in general other than in slow-play situations is probably a more profitable one than most people, say, in the blonkaments, tend to pursue. But sometimes, in just the right situations where there are lots of outs, lots of possible draws I can be on, and a higher than usual likelihood that my opponent has just one pair, I think the circumstances can line up to make smooth calling the flop on a draw a perfectly acceptable move, at least as a variation play if not as a downright good chance to get into a position to win the pot with big bets on the turn and/or river.

Hopefully that all makes sense to you. It was just one of the many poker conversations I have with girly friends on a nightly basis while we're out playing together in our regular private blogger tournaments. And speaking of which, don't forget the Mookie tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "vegas1"). This will be the third-to-last event in the BBT3, so everyone should be out in force to take one of their last shots at winning their way into the Tournament of Champions like I did. And since it's the Mookie, all the cockfonkeys especially should be chomping at the bit this evening to be the latest loser to wear the weekly Mookie belt. I have cashed in I think three consecutive Mookie tournaments though -- clearly a first time for that situation -- so who knows, maybe tonight I can make it four in a row. See you there, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

MATH Recap

Wow, it seems like I picked a terrible day to completely miss out on Mondays at the Hoy. Four of the top 8 finishers (and ITM players) came out of the massive BBT3 prop bet going on here as the 3-month challenge rolls on to a close, and it looks like once again LJ ended as a bridesmaid and not a bride. That has got to be at least three second place finishes over the past couple of BBT series for LJ, who has yet to win a Tournament of Champions seat like I did in Stud 8 a few weeks back, and definitely a good 4 or 5 if not more top-5 finishes just in the BBT3 running right now. Hopefully she can bust out with a victory here in the final four BBT tournaments coming up this week, culminating in this coming Sunday night's BBT3-ending Big Game.

Here is the list of the top 8 finishers who comprised the cashers in this week's Mondays at the Hoy, which sported 63 runners and a $1512 prize pool:

8. RecessRampage $52.92
7. MiamiDon $52.92
6. Pirate Wes $83.16
5. PokerBrian322 $120.96
4. lucko21 $166.32
3. jeciimd $219.24
2. LJ $317.52
1. Bone_Daddy84 $498.96

Congratulations to Eric, a guy I met in person last summer out in Vegas, for finally winning his BBT3 ToC seat here in the last week and getting some much-needed prop bet points in the contest, as well as to PokerBrian322 whom I would be remiss if I did not mention is utterly and completely and totally crushing the MATH over these past couple of weeks.

That's all for today as the Hammer Family is still on vacation today, returning on Wednesday to our regularly scheduled programming. Thank you to everyone who came out and played in Mondays at the Hoy over the past three months, where I would guess we probably generated somewhere around $20,000 in prize pool just from this event since the BBT3 began. I hope everyone who wants to win a ToC seat will be in a position to do so in the final four events this week. Especially LJ who deserves it as much as anyone after the run she has had.

Don't forget, Skills PLH tonight at 9:30pm ET as the 4th-to-last chance to join me in winning your way in to the Tournament of Champions. See you there!

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Quickie, and MATH Pimp

Quick post for a holiday Monday. This feels like the tenth time I've posted on Memorial Day, partly because I'm a sicko about updating my blog and partly because I'm always coming on here to clarify for everyone that the Memorial Day Mondays at the Hoy tournament is on on ON!

Normally on a Memorial Day night, I would expect the MATH participation to be awfully slow. But instead, this time around here we are at the beginning of the very last week of the BBT3. So, with a grand total of just five events left in the BBT3, and therefore five more chances to qualify to win your seat in the June 7 BBT3 Tournament of Champions like I did a few weeks ago in a Stud-8 Skills tournament, I am guessing we will get a good turnout tonight for the last MATH of the BBT3. Personally, I will be there but in buyin only, as I most likely will not be free to play. But far be it from me not to donate to my own hosted tournament, so my buyin will be there and be up for grabs tonight as the BBT3 rolls into its last week on full tilt poker. Password as always is "hammer", so get in there early and reserve your spot.

One other quick "highlight" for your viewing pleasure today:

Yeah, that's me winning new Sunday Heads-Up tournament this week. Sure there were only six runners, which sucked, but it was a holiday weekend and I for one was remiss in pimping it this week in only its second week of existence. But despite the small-looking crowd, I stayed in there and ended up battling it out with five other brave souls for the second weekly SHU title on a holiday weekend, and eventually I emerged victorious. So yeah, there were only a total of three rounds of matches in order to take down this week's title. But I did have to come back from starting with 1500 chips to my opponent's 3000 chips in my 2nd round matchup, before facing RaisingCayne with 4500 chips apiece in the final. I dominated both of my matches and never fell significantly behind in either tournament, playing as patient and solid a game as I think I possibly could, including some well-timed bluffs in large pots and a couple of times where I hit my hand on the later streets. On the last hand of the tournament, I got it all in with flopped trips on an all-club board, and of course Cayne flipped up the made 6-high flush, but in what will forever be known as the "Memorial Day miracle", I rivered my 10-outer for the boat to take down the title. It's a very, very small win obviously, but with the redonkulous fields in these blonkaments lately, and with my lofty goal of 15 blonkament wins in 2008, I'm counting it. This one basically gets me halfway to my blonkament victory goal for the year here, and I've done that in just under 45% of the year so far. I'll take it.

OK that's all I've got for you today. As I mentioned, the Hammer Family is on vacation on Monday and Tuesday at a giant indoor waterpark in Pennsylvania, so I might or might not get around to posting on Tuesday, depending on exactly where I'm at and exactly what I'm doing. But either way, I should be back and better than ever on Wednesday, hopefully with some of those good old-fashioned hand analysis posts I've promised. Until then, you've got the Hoy tonight to hold you over and try to either win your way in to the BBT3 ToC like I did, or try to further shrink the ToC field if you're one of those lucky enough to already have secured yourself a seat. Either way, see you tonight at 10pm ET for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Friday, May 23, 2008

BBT3, and Addiction

So the BBT3 Tournament of Champions got a little smaller again this week, when OMGItsPokerFool used his luckbox powers to sneak away with another Mookie title, I believe his 465th. I was also very happy to see this morning that joining the coveted ToC as well thanks to this week's Riverchasers title is longtime blonkament player and also well-known luckbox Astin, one of the best guys in our whole group. Sure he gets dealt pocket Aces 10-12 times an hour, but I've always said, you still have to know how to play 'em, and Astin certainly gets paid with his constant nuts. So I think we are down to 49 or maybe even 48 players maximum in the Tournament of Champions, comprised of those who won each of the BBT3 tournaments like I did earlier in a Skills Series Stud8 tournament, meaning that almost 1 in 11 runners in the upcoming ToC scheduled for Saturday night, June 7, will walk away with either 2k or 12k in prize money to be spent at the 2008 World Series of Poker. Just. Awesome.

Wow. I just read Donkette's incredible ten-part saga of her story of addiction over on her blog. That is some seriously compelling storyage there, like one of those books that you simply cannot put down. When I first saw that Donkette's story was in 10 parts, my first reaction was like "ugh I'm not reading that". Well, I did decide to just start the first post just to see what it was about, and booooooom 15 minutes later I was done with it all. Seriously compelling stuff, wtg Lori on writing such a great story and on turning things around so well in your life.

It is amazing the more we find out about each other how many of us poker bloggers come from families where addiction of some kind abounded. And I wonder how many of the others of your families are from similiar situations as well, among those who have not ever spoken or written about it before. There is obviously some correlation, some of it obvious and maybe some not so obvious. I mean, our mothers, our fathers, our brothers and sisters, our uncles or best friends, whoever, they drank. Or smoked. Or did coke. Or gambled. You name it, and our families and friends growing up did it. And now here we are, 20 or 30 or 40 years later or whatever, playing online poker every night, competing for a chance to make it to the World Series of Poker, writing about poker, thinking about a form of gambling day in, day out. My own family is no different in the general sense, even if the specific form of addiction and some of the specific symptoms might be a little different.

As a father of two young children myself, I wonder sometimes. By playing so much poker, writing about it every day, helping create the BBT, and all this stuff, am I creating that very same environment for my own children? Are they going to grapple with some form of addiction or substance abuse when they grow up, and sit around thinking (and writing, maybe) about how their own father's habits led them down the road to addiction? Is there anything I can or should do to prevent that from happening?

I am really looking forward to next week here on the blog, where I plan to get back to some good old-fashioned hand analysis. Screen shots and all. I have so many great, fun hands saved up to post about here, I could never in a million years get to them all at this point. I had originally planned to get up some of these hands this week, but work was all over me in a huge way all through the week, keeping me from posting what I really wanted to, from devoting the time to the blog that I really wanted to, and generally even forcing me to post later in the days than I would like. Next week, the Hammer Family heads back to the Poconos on Monday-Tuesday for a brief vacation at the same indoor water park that we took the kids to last fall and they loved so much, so I am not sure whether I will post on those days or not, although sitting here now I can say that I plan to. But either way, come the middle of next week, I will be here with some honest-to-goodness hands to analyze and provide your opinions and thoughts on. Looking forward to that.

Not sure if I make the donkament tonight. Probably not. But I suppose one never knows....

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

MATH Moneyboard Update, and Vegas Plans

One thing I have been completely remiss about since I got sick a few weeks back has been posting the current 2008 Mondays at the Hoy moneyboard. Although I am not at all pleased with my own place on that list, that is actually not why I haven't been tallying the total winnings every single week here. The real reason is that just tallying everything up, doing the addition and then renumbering everybody, that shit takes time. It really gives me a solid appreciation for all the bullshit Al has to go through with the BBT3 like four or five days a week. Anyways, without further adieu, here is your updated 2008 MATH moneyboard, including this week's results as well as the last couple of weeks which I have reported on but not with the moneyboard update:

1. PokahDave $1291
2. Pirate Wes $1076
3. columbo $928
4. astin $900
5. Breeze81 $825
6. dwal78 $750
7. pureprophet $728
8. iam23skidoo $698
9. Byron $685
10. Loretta8 $683
11. lucko21 $650
12. TuscaloosaJohn $635
13. twoblackaces $621
14. ChipyMcStacks $614
15. Shabazz Jenkins $605
16. cmitch $599
17 corron10 $594
18. fuel55 $593
19. PokerBrian322 $591
20. Tripjax $553
21. Roberto551 $545
22. zeroluck001 $528
23. hellory $514
24. wormmsu15 $507
25. surflexus $488
26. wwonka69 $483
27. Jordan $476
28. tilt_away $461
29. actyper $441
30. zackklemm $358
31. willwonka $346
32. Donkette $323
33. LJ $304
34. bayne_s $291
35. jmathewson_III $274
36. numbbono $261
37. Blinders $244
38. mattazuma $236
39. Miami Don $224
40. Donkey Shortz $215
41. katiemother $203
41. VinNay $203
43. DaBag $202
44. recessrampage $198
45. Wadzilla $185
46. Bone_Daddy84 $169
47. Hoyazo $152
48. buckhoya $150
48. Mike Maloney $150
50. ANIguy $149
51. BuddyDank $142
52. Martyr99 $134
53. chitwood $127
54. jimdniacc $123
55. cubanlinks $120
56. Evy35 $117
57. waffles $114
58. NYRambler $111
59. kevin_with_AK $106
60. lightning36 $103
61. BamBamCan $95
61. thepokergrind $95
63. que31dawg $92
63. Schaubs $92
65. bartonf $89
66. heffmike $81
67. HotPants29 $74
68. scottmc $63
68. jamyhawk $63
70. CheckinMyAA $62
71. PirateLawyer $60
72. peacecorn $59
72. RNallin $59
72. gydyon $59
75. DonkeyPuncher74 $56
75. RaisingCayne $56
77. pokerdad13 $55
78. jmill2525 $54
79. jeciimd $52
80. katitude $51
81. joanne1111 $49
82. AltronIV $47

So PokahDave has taken over the top spot in the moneyboard with his multi-accounting ways, while Byron and Loretta have also inched their way into the top 10 on the board over the past couple of weeks with some big performances. I think last year's eventual winner, Columbo, ended somewhere in the $1700s range for the full year, so these guys are on pace to crush that total if they continue their winning ways from the first five months of this year.

On to poker, I've been thinking a lot about my upcoming annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, and my plans are firming up little by little. As I think I previously mentioned here, I already have my air tickets on Wednesday evening, June 11, saying goodnight to my kids and goodbye to Hammer Wife here in New York City before leaving for a 9pm flight, arriving in Vegas shortly before midnight local time. My return trip leaves at 7am Vegas time, which is early as phuck but it's the only time I can get out of there and reliably make it home in time for dinner with the kids to end the weekend, so I'm going with it. Plus, if this Saturday night is anything like my last night in Vegas last summer, I won't be sleeping over the night anyways so I figured the earlier the flight is, the better for me.

So as for that first day, the plan is to do a repeat of what worked so well and was so much fun for me last year and head straight over to the 24-hour WSOP registration window at the Rio to sign up for the 2k buyin nlh WSOP tournament running on Thursday the 12th at noon. If all goes as planned, it will be somewhere between 1 and 2am local time when I'm there, and again if all goes as planned, there should be at least one if not two other WSOP tournaments playing down for the night as well at that time. Last year I hung around for a bit, started up conversations with Gus Hansen and Andy Bloch from the rail while we watched a whole bunch of name pros reach the money in the I thikn 5k buyin Stud Hi tournament at the time, and really had a blast before heading back to my hotel to get a good night's sleep ahead of my own WSOP tournament.

This year should be the same thing I hope, except that this time I will be staying in the Bellagio instead of the Monte Carlo like last year. I have always liked the Monte Carlo, and I think I've mentioned before that I had my biggest-ever run in craps at the tables in the MC, one day a good ten years ago or so now in front of my family and a whole bunch of friends where I was basically betting all the numbers and the Come on every single roll (all with max odds, of course) during what turned out to be about a 55-minute-long roll of the dice. It was sick. And as a result, I've always been partial to the Monte Carlo, and given the usually decent prices for a middle-of-the-strip casino, I have stayed there many times when I've been out in Sin City by myself.

This year, however, my sicko crazy gambling-addicted degenerate brother will be joining me in Vegas, and with all the casinos now owning one another after the last couple years' of mega-mergers, and with my brother living very close to Atlantic City and being down there playing for sick sums of money basically all the time, here's how it works. My brother calls the Bellagio, and they instantly look up all of his gambling activities in Vegas, Atlantic City and elsewhere, and immediately he is set up with a fatty suite on the upper floors of the Bellagio. So that's where I'll be. And FWIW, I'm the one who picked the Bellagio, because of all the strip hotels I think it is the closest one to the Rio, which should make the logistics of the whole trip as easy as possible.

So I'm already set to get out there and back, and I know where I'm staying. The next question is, what else will I do out in Vegas other than play in the WSOP? I would love to go out to at least one nice dinner while I'm in town this time around, and I wouldn't mind trying to get out to see a cool show as well. Anyone have any suggestions on the restaurant or show front for fun times in LV?

Don't forget Riverchasers tonight at 9pm ET. Password as always is "riverchasers". And for the first time in a while, I should actually be there since Lost is on hiatus for a week until next week's powerful two-hour season finale That Will Change Things Forever. Can't wait for that shit, and it means I will be chasing rivers with the rest of you tonight at 9pm ET on full tilt. See you then!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Evaluating Oneself

I played the Skills Series last night. I knew no-limit O8 with blonkeys was gonna be funny, but even I could not foresee the kind of play I saw all through the night. I have written previously about how I have actually noticed some improvement in games like Omaha from the group since the Skills Series and Riverchasers started playing them every week or two, but when no-limit Omaha came into play I guess some people just froze up and reverted to their normal blogger ways. I got donked out around midway through the field by two huge dumb suckouts that should never have happened, and shut down in disgust as for whatever reason I was far more frustrated than usual about the result of my night in Skills.

As I thought about it into the night, I figured out why I was so frustrated, and it is only marginally related to the play I saw in the Skills game overall. I have been involved in a few situations over the past day or two where someone has made a definitively poor play against me, got rewarded for it, and then gone on to justify their actions repeatedly to me with various and sundry arguments used by losing players the world across. It's funny, because the people involved in these discussions with me are the same people who always seem to be involved when it comes to justifying their poor play instead of really sitting down and thinking things through.

Although I am sure there are multiple qualities that mostly all strong poker players share, one thing you will always notice about a truly great player is a drive, almost an obsession, to get better. Poker, and no-limit holdem in particular, is such a complex and deep game with so many nuanced decisions based on such a multitude of ever-changing factors like betting patterns, stack sizes, table positions, pot sizes, players left to act, etc. that anyone who thinks they always "get it right" every single time they play the game is dooooooomed to lose. You heard me right -- people like this have no shot. Anyone who spends half their time pushing with garbage and then ranting about people calling them down with slightly better garbage, but then the other half of the time calling down with the same garbage themselves, and then ranting about the people who pushed with slightly better garbage, those people share perhaps the most common flaw in poker, and, simply put, it does and will impede their ability to develop into a great poker player.

This is not my opinion, and this is not just a thought I had while in the shower this morning. These are cold, hard, facts of poker, and any strong player knows it's true. If you do not (or do not have the ability to) evaluate your play in a vacuum, and do whatever you have to do to see your plays the way that people who are not in your own head see them, then you are doomed in this game. Doomed. If you consistently overplay AK preflop, but you refuse to see it or refuse to consider it, you are doomed to keep losing money with AK. It's that simple. Everyone else will know it, some of your friends will try to talk to you about it, but they will fail to crack through the glass with you, and you'll go on losing with AK. And, if you're a blogger, eventually you'll bore us or make us laugh with your blog-bitching about how much you hate AK, how AK is just a "drawing hand" not to be pushed until it connects with the board in some way (I love that one), and other silliness like that. All when in reality, you are misplaying the hand, it is costing you consistent money, many people have tried to tell you (you should not need to be told at all btw), but you simply choose to deny deny deny instead of facing the reality of the situation. Poker is not nice. Poker does not choose to spare you from the math because you have hubris or blindess or denial as a major character flaw. And most of all, poker is not going to tell you when you are misplaying something or making a consistent mistake in some aspect of your game. It is solely up to you to discover that, to admit that, and to react to it. Others can help lead you to water, but ultimately whether or not you sit and drink is 100% solely and completely up to the individual player.

I know I've written about this several times before here on the blog, but really, if you care about your poker game -- as I believe the people I've been chatting with this week do -- you cannot be this person and expect to win. It's so bad with some people that most of us can literally predict exactly how their pattern of denial is going to go. I did it last night. Even though I told one individual that they would soon start claiming they had more outs than they actually did in their horrid suckout, and eventually that they were the favorite, etc., they literally went and did the exact same thing, right before my very eyes. It would be comical if only it wasn't really happening right before my eyes. First the suckout happened, it was some kind of a 6-outer on a bad call. And here, one thing I should point out is, the number of outs that a hand had does not change over time. It can't. It's just a math thing, it's nothing personal. Maybe some of you have been reading these super awesome Stupid/System posts and taking them a little too literally, I don't know. But hands can't really have 87 outs twice, and a hand can't have 6 outs when you make the idiocall, but then an hour later it changes to having had 9 outs, and by the time you go to sleep suddenly you had 12 outs. Then I get up in the morning and read on your blog how you made a smart call based on your 15 outs twice and thus you were the favorite.

No. 6 outs when you made the call equals 6 outs right then, 6 outs an hour later, and 6 outs the next day. And guess what? Nothing you write on your blog can change that fact! I know a lot of this stuff may seem simple and obvious to some of you, but equally obvious is that others do not understand this most simple of sillinesses. You were 25% or whatever when you made the call. Believe me, in an attempt to protect one's own ego and to remain in utter denial about this game called poker, anyone out there can doctor up a hand history, throw in a flush draw where one did not exist, tack on 8 or 9 extra outs and then claim you were a favorite in the hand. I have the hand histories, I have the screen shots, but I'm not going to correct you. You can say and think whatever you want in your blog, in the girly, in emails to me about the way a hand played out. Statistics are just numbers, and everybody knows that if you look hard enough you can manufacture just about anything from stats like that. Anybody can make up hand ranges for their opponents, not based in reality but rather instead by just continually adding in shitty hands to the opponents' ranges until you get the math you are looking for. There's nothing smart or unusual or sexy in doing that. Anyone can do it.

The thing that very few people can do is to actually objectively look at a hand that they participated in, and see it as if it was a hand played between two unrelated other players. And don't get me wrong, it's a hard thing to do. It can be dam near impossible for some people, or for many people on some nights. Shit, it's hard as hell for me to do quite often at the time I am playing. So you know what I do to combat that difficulty? Do I just refuse to think about my play and simply allow my initial unwillingness to face that I made a bad play cloud my judgment and prevent me from potentially learning something and getting better as a poker player? Or, alternatively, do I spend hours -- literally, hours -- reviewing screenshots and hand histories of most of the big hands I am involved in? Every. Single. Night. No exceptions, no excuses. I look at my big elimination hands from every tournament I play in, and since it's hard for me to see my own mistakes sometimes right after the fact, I usually do my hh reviews the following day. So I take an entire night to sleep on it and to let my own personal, egotistical connection to the hand fade away before taking the time to evaluate my play and try to learn from my mistakes.

As I said above, that is where the real rare ability / skill is. Show me a poker player who is under control, understands the game and who is ready, willing and able to question himself or herself, notice what may be otherwise painful to one's ego to notice, and is quick to react appropriately when a leak is discovered, and I will show you a winning player or at least one on the road to being a winning player. Especially in today's age of blogs, personal journals and IM and other instantaneous electronic communications, any schmoe can change the facts, use statistics to their advantage and claim they made the right play when they actually just played hand exactly like a phucking blogger would have. Keeping an open mind and being able to react to fix leaks after being able to discover them to begin with, that is one of the rarest skills in this game we all know and love.

Don't forget the Mookie tonight, 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "vegas1". I will be there going for my third straight cash. Who thinks they can possibly keep me from that goal?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

MATH Recap, and Poker on TV

61 runners came out for this week's Mondays at the Hoy tournament on full tilt, making for a cool $1464 prize pool and payouts to the top eight spots as has been usual during the BBT. I made another nice run, surviving for two hours at the superfast 6-max format with no good starting cards to speak of, including a big comeback I made from being down to under 500 chips late in the first hour after attempting to run a particularly poorly-timed bluff against a guy who obviously had the hand that I was trying to represent. I hate when that happens, but at the same time you simply don't have much choice other than to steal, push and represent hands when you are dealt nothing playable and especially when the tables are all shorthanded, all the time. And, at least if you trust yourself and you size your bets properly, the good players can still fold out when your bluff is obviously beat given your opponent's actions, leaving you with some stack to keep playing with, which is exactly what happened with me last night. An hour in I was down to 500 or so chips after having to fold to a reraise on a bluff I had tried to run, but then an hour or so later there I was at the final two tables of the Hoy. Unfortunately my luck ran out when I pushed with ATC from the big blind against a certain someone in the small blind, and that certain someone instacalled me with K8o. As insta as it comes. But I was behind and in fact dominated, so we'll let that certain someone feel like he or she made a good play there, and IGH in I think 16th place overall.

Here are the people who did cash in this week's Mondays at the Hoy tournament:

8. $51.24 -- Shabazz Jenkins
7. $51.24 -- Mattazuma
6. $80.52 -- Fuel55
5. $117.12 -- a10419
4. $161.04 -- willwonka
3. $212.28 -- twoblackaces
2. $307.44 -- actyper
1. $483.12 - wwonka69

So Evil Wonka uses his devil worshipness to win his second BBT3 tournament, thereby decreasing the field in the upcoming BBT3 Tournament of Champions to a maximum I believe of now 49 total runners. That is just awesome. And EW, obviously, is a dominating poker player to boot, so if anyone deserves to win multiple BBT3 events, clearly it is him.

So today I wanted to write briefly about something I saw written about by Change100 as well as Otis over at UpForPoker, and that topic is televised poker on tv. Basically, my question is, who out there actually watches poker anymore on tv? I sure don't. And I used to be a televised poker monster, believe you me. But I'm not surprised in the least to read Change's news that High Stakes Poker, the WPT and even potentially the WSOP are in danger of losing their television sponsorship due to poor ratings. And this gets back to my point above -- I believe the ratings must be sucking huge balls lately for these shows. Why? Because I don't even consider watching that stuff anymore.

Three years ago or so, you couldn't tear me away from the WPT or ESPN's WSOP coverage. I had the recorder set for Tuesday nights 8-10pm ET and I would watch every minute, every shot, every everything that was shown on tv when it came to poker. And I don't just mean no-limit holdem either. Anything the stations were willing to put on tv with regard to poker, I was willing to watch. Again and again and again. The huge Chris Moneymaker stone cold bluff against Farha shortly before he finally took down the Main Event in -- when was it -- 2003? Mike Matusow telling Greg Raymer he has "tiny little cojones", remember that one? Tiffany Williamson being an anushead, "I know you have Kings", all her stupid splendor. Alix Powers or whatever his name is starting that fight at the table with James McManus. I watched it all, and I hung on every scene and every hand shown. When HSP first aired on Game Show Network, I was all over that shit. I didn't miss an episode of the WPT for the first couple of seasons I remember.

But now, I don't even know when these shows are on anymore. Seriously. I just don't care. I don't even care about watching the World Series coverage anymore on ESPN. By 2007, I bet I didn't even watch a total of one full hour of coverage of the WSOP on ESPN. And it's not like I don't care about or love poker anymore -- if you're reading this then you can probably tell that I am still as in to the game of poker itself as I have ever been, and I play it as much as I ever did. But I just don't care about watching it on tv anymore. And it seems that many many other people share my view.

Do tell me, dear readers, do you guys still make watching poker on tv anywhere near the priority in your lives that it once was? Does anyone even know when the WPT airs originally on its new home on the Game Show Network? How does the amount of poker you watch on tv today compare to the amount you watched, say, three or four years ago?

Don't forget Skills tonight, 9:30pm ET on full tilt. I for one really can't believe how many people are winning multiple ToC seats in this thing at this point, it's really amazing. Hopefully I will join the ranks of winning two BBT3 tournaments tonight or sometime over the final eight events before the end of the three-month-long challenge. See you tonight at 9:30 on full tilt (password is "skillz" as always).

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday Heads-Up, Mondays at the Hoy, and Bloggers in the FTOPS

God do Mondays suck. Ever since my kids have begun to grow up just a little, I have noticed two significant changes in how I feel on Monday mornings. First and foremost, my weekends are awesome. Pretty much every one of them. Working the schedule that I do, I see my daughters more on each day of the weekend than I probably do during the entire work week. That's just the way it is. So we have a fucking blast together as a family on my weekends, one of the many reasons I have no interest in playing much poker during the daytimes on my precious weekends with my family. I've always been a nighttime-only online poker player, and as far as I'm concerned I always will be since it's not something that I secretly want to change. So #1, my Monday mornings always suck more these days because I have such a great, fun time with Hammer Wife and my kids on the weekends, much better than anything I used to do back before I had kids.

Secondly, I am tired as balls by the end of the weekend, pretty much without fail every single week. I roll out of bed after the 6am two-daughter ticklefest that wakes me up pretty much every morning these days, and dam if I am not literally sore every Monday morning in places on my body that I had completely forgot could even be sore. Now that the kids are fully mobile, a trip to the playground, a quick jaunt to the park, or even just playing tag around the house after a while can be draining as shit on a thirtysomething dad-type. Dam I have got to get into better shape.

So just about the only good thing about Mondays is this:

Mondays at the Hoy, 10pm ET tonight on full tilt as the BBT3 rolls on with I think just nine events left, which means nine chances to lock down your BBT3 Tournament of Champions seat. All you have to do is win one of the remaining nine events like I did a few weeks back and that's it, you're in. And with a maximum of 50 players now all playing for their share of 28k in prizes in a freeroll, this is sure to be the one of the biggest tournament attractions of the year among the world of poker bloggers. So with two full weeks left in the BBT3 challenge, I encourage everyone who is not yet in to the ToC to take whatever shots they can. Plus, I was looking the other day and had forgotten that there are decent cash prizes for I think the top five spots on the final BBT3 point leaderboard, with the players who finish in spots 6-20 will receive their very own full tilt jersey. And you won't even need to spend the 68,000 full tilt points or whatever it is to get it! So my point is, there is much to be played for here with a couple of weeks and nine events left in the BBT3, so I am expecting to see the crowds grow a little as the challenge runs to a close. Al has recently stated on his blog that he does not expect to run another BBT challenge for some time after the BBT3 is done, which I think is all goodness for a while, but again that just underscores the significance of playing to win for these last couple of weeks of May.

Speaking of blogger tournaments, this Sunday night saw the premiere of the newest weekly private tournament, one called the Sunday Heads-Up which is hosted by loretta8. In the end an awesome debut of 40 runners came out to play in the first regular heads-up blonkament, which as I mentioend last week I think has the perfect buyin of $26 a pop. This made for a fatty first prize of some $440 to the eventual winner, a player with whom I am not at all familiar, and nice payouts to the top 4 spots.

Despite having a real blast and becoming more sure than ever that this is a blonkament with staying power, my night in the inaugural Sunday Heads-Up kinda sucked in a way. Basically, I missed first the first 10 minutes or so of my first matchup, againts Vinnay, and was down already 2310 to 690 chips when I finally sat down. Grrrrrrreat! And all this while 2/3 of the field fucking sat out the first round. There has got to be a better system than this for heads-up tournaments, there just has to be. Making some people play an extra round -- in a tournament with only three wins to make the money for most of the players, mind you -- is simply far too much of a disadvantage to really be fair or right in terms of crowning a real winner. Plus, did full tilt adjust for this by starting those people who had to play an extra heads-up round early with 1500 more chips in all the other later matchups than those who sat out the first round? I did not sit and wait for all the matchups to start to sit and count, but just from looking at the total chips in play in the last few matchups of the tournament I think they might have done this all the way through. That also does not seem right to me at all, and if that's what these guys think is the "fair" and equal way of adjusting for the extra round of play, then I have to question these guys' sanity.

Anyways, so I sat down with Vinnay when I was already down 2310 to 690, and I started playing silly aggro as I figured was my only chance. I autofolded constantly whenever I had nothing and knew I was not going to make a play, but otherwise I was in there raising and moving allin every chance I thought I might have an edge. I managed to get it back pretty close to even after a nice showing of how aggro always beats tight in any heads-up matchup, but then I made the mistake of forgetting I was in a blonkament, albeit a brand new one. I reraised allin with my pocket 9s, and of course Vinnay instacalled and showed me Aces. 99 vs AA in heads-up play, right when I had brought it back to even from that huge early deficit. Awesome. But a great primer for me for another week of blonkaments for me to run bad in.

And speaking of running bad, that was me this entire weekend during the short couple of hours that I did sit down to play some poker. I did play FTOPS #20 in 6-max limit holdem on Friday night, determined to play tight as I had been writing about it the obvious required strategy early in this and any other limit tournament. I stuck well to the game plan all through the first hour, where I was slightly above my starting stack and around 35% of the way through the field on the leaderboard. Then 90 minutes in to the tournament, it all fell apart in a hurry for me. I chased a hand I shouldn't have, and at that point it cost me like a third of my stack to execute the chase and then fold the river with absolutely nothing. Then after chasing once, suddenly it was like the spigot was opened. I chased, was ahead and got outdrawn on the river twice in the span of three or four hands, and before I knew it I was out before the end of Hour 2. Very disappointing, and I would like to personally apologize to any of you out there fool enough to be railing me on any kind of a limit holdem event. That was a crash course in how not to play lhe right there in the second hour, make no mistake about it, and it cost me my buyin and a bustout nowhere near the cash in the second of only two FTOPS events I played in this time around due to having missed out on all the satelliting fun leading up to FTOPS VIII with mono.

I did manage to fit in a number of sngs and mtt sats for FTOPS events on Friday and Saturday, all for the $T really since I had no plans to play anything over the weekend due to the useless starting times other than perhaps the FTOPS Main Event if I had gotten in. But I couldn't win shit, in any format. I ran KK into AA in two of these from up front. Got sucked out on in solid position twice. Played over-LAGgy in a couple of spots early just because I was mini-tilting from my performance over the weekend in general, which is always the perfect complement to running bad in my game, I have found.

I would love to know if anyone knows of any deep blogger runs in any of the later FTOPS events this time around, but I'm ashamed to say that no one from our group seems to have recorded any sizeable cashes at all in this particular FTOPS series. Sucks. I remember Bayne and jec making huge 5-digit scores in final tables in I think O8 events in the FTOPS last year. I believe it was Iakaris who made the deep, deep run in the pot-limit holdem event probably four or five FTOPS's ago by this point. And I know a number of us have busted out with four-digit scores in FTOPS events over the past year or two. But none that I know of this time around. Like I said, that sucks.

With such an incredibly talented bunch of bloggers when it comes to skill poker, I normally expect half the final table in these things to be comprised of the same attendance list from last week's Mookie.

See you tonight for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Thoughts

Well, I haven't done this for a while. But it's a Friday, my first week back in the office full-time since getting sick, and I'm feeling good. So why the hike not?

For starters I saw today that Julkeus won the Riverchasers this week. I am not familiar with this person but I do recognize the name from a number of our tournaments so far, so that's always cool to see someone who's taken a number of cracks win their way in to the upcoming BBT3 Tournament of Champions on June 7. Congrats to this guy.

Inter-league play in baseball starts up again in New York City this weekend with the annual Subway Series, the last such series to ever be played in old Yankee Stadium. I have to tell you, as a Philly guy this is an awesome time to be watching baseball in New York. The Yankees were dropped to last place in the AL East with Thursday night's loss, while the Mets come off of losing 3 out of 4 at the hands of the last-place Washington Nationals, including a 1-0 shutout on Thursday evening as well. If there's one thing to be said about this weekend's Subway Series, it is that neither of these teams really possibly comes out of this thing as a winner, almost no matter what happens between the two teams this weekend.

Mets coach Willie Randolph is basically coaching (and then talking) himself right out of a job, right before our eyes. Just look at Thursday night's 1-0 loss, where Carlos Beltran was on third base, with one out, in the bottom of the ninth. The Nationals actually play the shift on Delgado, essentially giving the Mets the tying run. Deglado lines a ball right at Boone at first base, and Boone fires the ball back to Zimmerman at third, doubling off Beltran and ending the game.

Now I am all for a coach defending one's players, but Willie needs to understand that you really can take that business too far, and that sometimes it is ok -- if not downright necessary -- to say "We screwed up, we have to work on it, and it won't happen again." But no. Instead, Randolph goes into the post-game press conference and stated that Beltran was "running on contact", a play Randolph himself had called.

Ahhhh, the old "running on contact" from third base play, huh? Called by Coach Willie Randolph himself, you say? This despite the fact that anyone who's played baseball at any level above teeball knows that the baserunner on frigging third base in the bottom of the 9th inning in a 1-0 game absolutely, positively must wait on a line drive, and see it get through the infield before trotting home. On a slow-rolling grounder or high bouncing ball to the infield, maybe you're breaking as soon as you see it. But "running on contact" with one out from third base in a 1-0 game in the 9th inning? Coach, you better watch what you say or you won't be coaching 'round these parts anymore come summer. Take it from me.

Running on contact. From third base with one out. I'm still trying to figure out what the phuck this guy is possibly saying this for. I mean, there is defending your players, and then there's not saying idiotic things that make you seem like you must be fired immediately for your complete lack of knowledge about the basic nature of the game you are supposed to be leading this team in. Sick.

Oh, one more thing -- we had some interesting discussion yesterday in the comments here about the true merits of the full tilt write-in prize for the BBT3, and I would be interested in getting any of your thoughts out there on the issue. A few of the more professional writer types out there have voiced their objections over being paid just $1000 for a week of blogging for full tilt, and this is an opinion that I can relate to, coming from their perspectives. But my suspicion, basically from having talked to a number of you over the past few days about this write-in contest, is that for most of us, we would view the entire offer to blog for full tilt, let alone the free airfare and hotel out in Vegas, let doubly alone the $1000 of spending money, to be each awesome prizes in and of themselves. As I said I suspect this is just a matter of perspective. But I would love to hear anyone's thoughts on the topic that has not yet weighed in. For me, I think that is a really great prize. I've been out in Vegas now a few times during the WSOP, and let me tell you, just being there at the Rio while the biggest tournament series of the year is going on with all those pros you know and love from tv, to me that is the absolute shit. As I've said I've been out there now multiple times but I still look forward just to the experience of being there at this time of year almost from the time I come home to the Hoy household every summer. So to me, to get to do that again, free of expense with my airfare and hotel being paid for by full tilt, and to get to blog on the Full Tilt website and receiving $1000 to boot, to me this is a no-brainer prize.

But I guess we will see by how many people decide to enter the write-in competition. That's the best thing about these write-in contests -- if you don't like the prize, you don't have to enter. My guess is we get 40 or 50 entrants as in past years, but I could be wrong, it could be less if more people share the view that some of the most prominent writers in our group clearly feel, that free room and air does not come close to justifying doing hard PR work for full tilt over a week, all in exchange for a measly thousand bucks. No doubt a week of blog posts on the WSOP Main Event from a truly awesome writer like Change or Speaker or Goat is worth more than a thou, I would not even try to argue otherwise. But for most of us donkeys with little to no actual writing ability (and questionable poker ability at that), I suspect that the value of the BBT3 write-in prize will be clear, as it is in my eyes.

I guess that's all the fun I have for today. But tonight for a change I declare that I will definitely be playing in the donkament at 9pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "donkarama"). And remember, I am also slated to play the 9pm ET FTOPS #20 in 6-max limit holdem, although I suspect I will be checking out the schedule for the night's poker activity before making the decision of whether to play in that event or rather to unregister and keep the $T for something else more fun. Guess I'll have to wait and see how things go tonight. I should be getting an earlyish start on the poker today though, as Hammer Wife is out with her mother this evening at a Broadway show that I got them tickets for for Mothers' Day last weekend. What a guy I am.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Mookie, the Sunday Heads-Up, the BBT3 and FTOPS #20

Well another Wednesday night come and gone, and another jerkoff donkey winning the tournament I shall never win. No, I mean seriously, Jerkoff Donkey (JD) Schellnut took down the Mookie on Wednesday night, winning his second BBT3 Tournament of Champions seat in a couple of weeks as he joins the ranks of multiple-event winners with his performance. JD's win also brings the total maximum number of entrants in the ToC down to an even 50, and at this point I think it is very fair to say that everyone's expectation value from this tournament has increased noticeably now with 5 fewer seats than what there could have been. We've had a couple of repeat winners in the previous BBT series, but nothing like 5 seats from the series-ending ToC gone already with still something like 10 events remaining in the challenge. Shrinking the total field by nearly 10% is a big boon to everybody who was won their way in to the ToC like me, and while I have stated here many times that I hope every great blonkament player wins his or her way in, I don't actually mind if the number of total seats shrinks due to multiple winners. I'm still hoping I get to add my own name to that list of multiple event winners before the series is done in a few more weeks with the usual Big Game finale event.

Speaking of the BBT3, some of you may have seen that at long last full tilt has posted the details of the big write-in contest for the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments III. And I have got to say, it is pretty fucking cool. This isn't for a WSOP or satellite seat or a prize package as with previous BBT write-in prizes, but something I think a whole lot cooler. The write-in winners will get to be a "pro" blogger for the Main Event for full tilt, writing directly to the "From the Rail" blog on the full tilt site for I believe a week at the end of the WSOP Main Event. To the contrary of some predictions and complaints I have read in other blogs to the contrary, Full Tilt will be putting the winner up in a hotel for the entire WSOP ME stay, providing round-trip airfare to and from Las Vegas, plus $1000 of spending cash for the trip. And you will get to blog the Main Event for the WSOP. I'm very into it, and I think it is a much, much cooler idea than writing one's way in to a seat, a WSOP package or anything similar. To me, those poker prizes are things that one should win in a poker tournament. But if you win a write-in event, you should win a writing package, not a poker package. So I think that kicks ass. And, directly from Al himself as well is that all the bloggers who submit write-in entries will get their link on the FTP site even if they don't win. So that is more goodness for all of us out of the BBT3 as far as I am concerned.

There is another thing out there I am really remiss in pimping this week, and now is the time. Fellow blogger and April BBT3 POM runner-up Loretta8 has started a brand new weekly private blogger tournament, called the Sunday Heads-Up, and the first such event will be this coming Sunday evening at 9pm ET on full tilt. The password for this event is "shovemonkey", and it s a $26 buyin tournament featuring full tilt's brand new heads-up format. As you know if you've read here for any significant period of time, I am a huge fan of heads-up poker, and I fancy myself to be a solidly better than average hu opponent, so I look forward to adding this tournament to the list of blonkament titles I have put together in my online poker career in due time. And to having tons of fun playing in it along the way. With the originality of the heads-up format among all the other blonkaments, and just the right buyin I think of $26, I predict big things for the Sunday heads-up, and I am already registered in there as of right now. So should you, go show Loretta some love and sign up for this tournament early so we can get a handle on how many of you donkheads are man or woman enough to battle it out heads-up for the ultimate bragging rights.

So what else? Oh yeah -- me! I cashed again in the Mookie last night, surviving four suckouts on the night while coming up with exactly zero of my own, and eventually busting out in 10th place on the final table bubble when I ran KQ at a 5-handed table into pocket Aces. It was only the fifth time on the night that I ran a strong hand into pocket Aces, so I guess I can't complain, right? Considering the venue, I will call this one another nice run by me. Unlike many of the previous Mookie tournaments I've played, including a few where I made deep runs, I actually played very well in this one, going two up and two down in four allin preflop races, and as I mentioned surviving a host of suckouts to still have a nice stack going when we got down to around 13 or 14 players remaining. But first it was my top pair solid kicker slamming into Chris Hanel's AA with I think 13 left and me at a 6-handed table, folllowed by the aforementioned KQ < AA on the final table bubble that finally did me in. I defy anyone to run four strong hands into pocket Aces and get sucked out on four times while sucking out not at all and do much better in a blogger tournament, or in any tournament for that matter. But I made the money once again in a BBT3 tournament, I played great poker overall, and who knows, maybe Mookie over there in Austin is getting a little nervous about our ongoing prop bet now after all. For a couple of months Mookie must have outlasted me in every single Mookie we played in, but now I bet I have run deeper than Mook for at least a month straight if not more like 7 out of the last 8 tournaments or some shit. I don't know if normally-tight Mookie is loosening his standards or if he is suffering from the same kind of suckouts that I normally face in this event, but for whatever reason lately out of the blue I am feeling like I might actually be the better bet in the battle of the two guys who both will probably never win another Mookie tournament.

I played the Dookie as well, the $10 PLO event at 11:30pm ET, and I had my absolutely standard performance, something that has happened almost exactly like this in most of the Dookie's I've been in over the past several weeks. I played great, made no mistakes and doubled a couple of times to amass a big stack by the middle of the final table in what was a small 13-person field. Eventually though, history repeated itself as I once again ran AAxx into KKxx and lost to PokerBrian322 who eventually won the tournament. I have got to stop this nasty-ass habit of getting cocksucked out on by the eventual Dookie winner in a hand where I am well ahead when the money goes in. I don't know why I care so much but phuck if I haven't lost the Dookie to the eventual winner three or four times in the past month and a half or so when I got in with Aces against some lower unsoooted shitpair and still managed to lose in a big pot. So ghey that PLO game is.

Lastly, on Wednesday night I also sat down to my second attempt in a satellite to Friday night's FTOPS #20, the 6-max limit holdem tournament that I have played in the past couple of FTOPS series. As I've mentioned many many times before, in general I cannot stand limit holdem as a tournament game, but in 6-max format for whatever reason I find it much more bearable. As a guy who spends probably 80% of my time at online poker focusing on no-limit holdem games, there is something refreshing and fun about limit in small, shorthanded doses for me. Yes, nlh offers the most freedom and flexibility in how to play any given hand, but there is a certain enjoyment I get from playing my big draw strong on the flop to buy a free card on the turn one time, and then checking my big draw on the flop before betting out on the turn to go for the steal the next. With the options limited somewhat as compared to no-limit games where you can bet any amount you want, at any time, it can actually be more fun I find to cycle through those options for similar hands at different times to keep your opponents guessing and keep them on the defensive.

Anyways, all this is a long way of saying that I played a $75 buyin satellite -- just the buyin level I love, as I was writing about earlier this week -- where the top 4 out of I think 22 runners would win seats to Friday night's $216 buyin FTOPS #20. And I won it, and did so fairly easily. The more limit tournaments I play, the more I force myself to learn and remember how much playing tight matters, and how the way you win in these things is twofold: (1) make a big hand or two at the final table to give you the stack to withstand and hold on for the win, and (2) avoid playing big pots with marginal hands early, so that you are still alive at the final table to hit the big hand(s) described in item #1 above. That's really the secret. Don't act too looptid early on with hands you shouldn't be getting too involved with, don't chase too much on the expensive streets at draws that might not win even if you hit them, and if you know the game you can survive deep where a couple of big hands in the right spots is all it takes to win. That's just what happened to me in the FTOPS satellite on Wednesday, and as a result I am currently registered to play on Friday at 9pm ET and am looking very much forward to it.

Anyways, Lost again tonight, so once again no Riverchasers is likely for me today, but you should be there as the next seat in the BBT3 Tournament of Champions will be awarded to the victor. Btw how fucking awesome has Lost been lately, huh? I defy anyone who is a fan of the show to tell me they are not enjoying this season, the flash-forwards, and the almost weekly roll of surprises and answers that the writers are dishing out. I know the decision to only run what, 35 or so more episodes before ending the series, has helped tremendously in this regard, as has this whole move of showing us that some of the islanders actually survive the crash and return home, so for that I am tremendously thankful to the writers and producers for keeping things going at such a high level for so long, even when other formerly popular shows like Heroes and some other shit simply fall by the wayside. Don't forget to check in with Julius Goat on Friday for one of his famous Lost writeups, as there is just no one any better than him at that stuff. Have a good Thursday everyone, just one more day till the weekend!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

FTOPS #14 Cash, and Playing Turbo

On Tuesday night I played and cashed in my first FTOPS event of FTOP VIII, which was FTOPS #14, the $216 turbo no-limit holdem event. The tournament featured 2140 runners, making for over 80 grand to be paid to first place, and payouts to the top 234 finishers.

Being that this was a turbo tournament, the strategy is basically completely different from any regular-speed event out there. If you recall from yesterday I was estimating that the cash arrives sometime before two hours is up, and this one held true to form. But given that you basically need to survive a very short, very quick tournament, the focus right from the getgo needs to be on doubling up fairly quickly. If you let yourself blind down from the 2000-chip starting stack to 1100 chips, then even if you double up at the end of the first hour, you are basically dead in the water. What I'm looking to do in any turbo event like this is to double up sometime in the first half hour or so if at all possible, and I will even take some chances or make some questionable plays to possibly get into such a situation if the conditions seem right.

About 15 minutes in to FTOPS #14, I got my chance as I was dealt pocket Queens utg. I raised and found one caller in late position, and we took a heads-up flop of Q54 rainbow. I had flopped the joint, with no reasonable draws available, so I checked my nuts since there was basically no card that could come on the turn that would scare me. He checked behind. The turn brought an awesome card for me, an Ace sooted to one of the flop cards, and this way when I bet about 90% of the pot I got quick-called by the late position player who obviously had an Ace. Then on the river, knowing my strategy is to double up early, I went for broke and pushed allin for my last 1200 or so chips into an 800-chip pot, and my opponent thought for about five seconds before calling with A9, having made two pairs on the river. Lucky card and lucky hand for me, which is exactly what I'm gonna need to make a run in any large turbo mtt.

Five minutes later I look down to find AA in the hijack (one spot to the right of the cutoff seat). The action folded to me so I put in my standard 3x raise to 240 chips, and the big blind reraised me 3x to 720, leaving himself just under 2000 chips behind. This is always an interesting situation, because of course with AA and especially in a turbo mtt I want to get it allin as early in the hand as possible, but I would hate to blow a guy off of JJ or QQ or AK with an allin reraise here. Knowing that this opponent had put in the last raise with his hand, I opted for what I usually like to do in this situation which is just the smooth call. Now, with over 1500 chips in the pot and just under 2k in his remaining stack, the odds are going to be quite high that he will c-bet here -- probably allin, if he has a clue -- regardless of what comes on the flop. He can't really put me on pocket Aces because of my smooth call of his preflop reraise, so if anything he likely has me on two high cards or a middle pair and going for the preflop takedown without any callers when I open-raised from the hijack. Anyways, once again things went exactly according to plan and my opponent pushed in half of his approximately 2000 chips on the all-rag flop, and I thought for a few seconds before raising him allin. He agonized, and then, shockingly, folded, sending over 3500 chips my way while leaving himself with just around 1000 chips remaining. Maybe he was just restealing with air all along, or maybe he had a hand like AJ and figured he was clearly behind my raising range here? In any event, this hand boosted me to 59th place out of 1780 players remaining, still at just 9:24pm ET.

In keeping with my hoped-for strategy coming in, these two early near-doubles were enough to put me in good shape for the rest of the first hour without any other large pots. I won a medium-sized pot when I called a shorty's button-push with my KTs and outran his A8s. I was dealt AA again at 9:46pm ET and took down the pot uncontested before the flop, at which point I was in 97th place of 1131 remaining. Otherwise, I won just two other pots in the first hour, both on preflop steals where I put in an open-raise -- in these two cases with 98o and with 62s -- from the back half of the table in situations where the stack sizes behind me were not so large nor so small that they were likely to want any action without being the first one in to the pot. This is a key feature of any turbo mtt, and really of any regular large mtt once you're down in the real end game -- with medium-sized stacks behind you, you simply have to be willing to steal some blinds and antes once they get big enough to be worth stealing, and it will be nearly impossible for anyone to survive deep into a tournament like this without habitually stealing in the right spots.

And by stealing in the right spots I don't mean raising utg with QJs at a full table just because the large big blind is going to be hitting your stack next hand. And I don't even mean stealing with A5s from 3rd position at a full table either. I'm talking about being on the back half of the table, no one else is in yet, and you open-raise from say the cutoff or the button. Notice I didn't mention what you hold in your hand, because it is simply not relevant. These are not value raises or even semi-value raises like one might argue the QJs or A5s raise I mentioned above could be. I am not talking about putting in chips because you think the hand you've been dealt has an expectation to win this pot in a showdown. I mean purely putting in raises based on position and position alone. Yes you need to be careful at some point lest it become obvious to everyone that you are literally raising with any two cards on your button or cutoff every single time the action folds to you, but if you let yourself get too cautious or play too scared, and you will have no chance whatsoever in a turbo mtt. None. Zippo. Not even if you get lucky with your starting cards. Not even Astin-lucky.

Anyways, at the first break I was happily still alive, sitting on 7280 chips and in 223rd place out of 675 remaining. Remember, the top 234 finishers were slated to receive payouts in this event, so I was getting close. And in the second hour of these turbo events, the blinds and antes are already starting off huge, so I looked for that number of 675 remaining to start dropping off fast right from the getgo in Hour 2.

It is fitting given all that I said above that the first three hands I won in the second hour of FTOPS #14 were all open-steals from the button or cutoff. I successfully stole pots in the first 20 minutes of Hour 2 with J5o and 87s from the cutoff, and with Q4o from the big blind. As I said, this is what it takes to survive in a large turbo mtt, and I got quite lucky in a sense here in that no one pushed back on any of these steals from the blinds, which would have forced me to either fold out 25% of my stack or to call allin with a crappy hand. So I lucked out there, as I did when I found AQs in the small blind and then the stally short stack on the button open-pushed ahead of me. I held up against his A3 and suddenly I was in 120th place of 390 remaining.

Then it was back to stealing. I stole a pot at 10:21pm with T6s, and then I open-raised from early position with A9o, a risky move that once again would put me in a terrible position of folding a big pot or calling off with a dominated hand if I got reraised, but as always I am looking to win this tournament, not to merely cash, so I wanted to take a chance at a time when people were already looking at the bubble and less likely to play when not first-in. It's amazing really when people start looking at the bubble in these big turbo mtts. It was 10:24pm -- a mere 84 minutes after the start of this tournament -- and you could visibly see people feeling the pressure of the bubble. The stalling among the short stacks was already in full force, and the medium stacks were agonizing over several decisions but invariably deciding to fold rather than risk a chance at cashing in a situation where they could be dominated or even racing.

At 10:26pm ET, I was in 146th place of 289 remaining, with remember 234 getting paid. In turbo mtt terms, this is reeeaaaaaal close, like minutes-away kind of close. People just cannot hold on to their stacks when the blinds advance as ridiculously fast and high as they do in a turbo format. It's really a fun format to play as long as you are fully comfortable stealing and restealing with nothing against weakness and pushing some perceived edges. A few hands later the action folded to me in the hijack and I figured I would really take advantage of the bubble pressure by going for another steal, this time with K7o. It's not a terrible hand, but again not something I am raising for value here, that's for sure. But at that point down to 255 remaining players and just 21 away from the cash, I figured no way any of the medium stacks behind me play without AK or a high pocket pair, and we all know the odds of that happening in a given hand to one of four players remaining behind me are quite low. So I raised it up, putting in about 25% of my stack once again thanks to the ridick blinds and antes, and mercifully I once again took it down. That bubble is a powerful beast, affecting the play of nearly everyone but the very large stacks as it grows ever closer to bursting.

At precisely 10:34pm ET, just 94 minutes after the cards went in the air, that moment arrived and the cash bubble burst, with me sitting in 136th place out of 231 players remaining. It felt nice to cash in the only FTOPS event I have played this time around, and having satellited in for one attempt at a $75 sng made it extra nice. As I pondered what I could do now to try to make my next big move to the top of the leaderboard now that the cash bubble was out of the way, I look down to find pocket Kings in the hijack, and before I could even process my good luck, I had a guy with a medium stack like mine push allin ahead of me from early position. Yes!

Of course I got it allin before the flop with him, and he flipped up I think pocket Tens. It was great, I was around an 80% favorite with my Kings, but alas it was not meant to be. He rivered (of course) a Ten and bested my Kings, my first bad luck of the tournament on the very hand after the cash was reached. Instead of being a top-25 stack of 200 players remaining, I was crippled to just over 2k in chips and within the bottom 20 players left in the tournament. I did manage to suck out myself and double up with 87o against someone else's KK, but coming from the chip stack I was at the time, it became exceedingly difficult to stay afloat and basically I was required to steal the blinds and antes more than once every orbit just to keep my stack from dwindling, which is the worst possible place to be in in a turbo event like this with very low Ms and quickly-accelerating blinds.

At 10:43pm ET, just nine minutes after the bubble burst, I was in 111th place out of 147 left, and really in a desperate situation blinds-wise and M-wise. With the 1600-chip big blind about to hit me on the very next hand, I pushed allin from utg with of all things the Hammer, and got called by one player in middle position. Any pocket pair above 7s would leave me severely behind, but instead my opponent flipped up AQ and I had some life, essentially with no different odds against his hand than if I were holding J6, two unders vs two overs which is somewhere in the neighborhood of the upper 30's percentage chance. It was a situation I preferred instead of blinding away a third of my stack on the very next hand, and then another quarter of the remainder on the next, not even counting the then 200-antes I think. Unfortunately, I was unable to spike a 7 or a 2 and I busted from the tournament.

In the end I was eliminated in 127th place out of 2140 runners, and had done so over an hour and 45 minutes of fast and furious action that you almost never seen on full tilt because they so rarely run the large turbo mtts. Personally, I loved this event and I hope they do it again next time the FTOPS comes around. Although I acknowledged yesterday and I mentioned it again here today that so much of survival in a turbo event comes down to getting those one or two big hands early, and in not pushing into someone with a big hand late. The luck factor increases measurably from your standard-format mtt where there is just much more time to wait for good cards and more play early when the stacks are relatively deep. But as I also mentioned in my post on Tuesday, this is a format that my game is very well-adapted for. Anyone who knows they need to focus on stealing more near the bubble and otherwise in the mid- and late-game should consider playing some of the many turbo satellites that full tilt runs on a nightly basis. They don't have quite the craziness of a large turbo mtt, but even those formats with fewer than 100 runners will still present any player with the opportunity -- really the necessity -- to steal the blinds repeatedly like it's your job. It's a very fun way to play poker, and like I said I really dig the turbo mtt format, and I'm not just saying that because I cashed.

Oh yeah if you're wondering, I made $492 and change for my 127th place finish in FTOPS #14. So not nearly deep enough to get to the big money, but like I said I'll take it for a $75 investment and for the result of the only FTOPS tournament I have played so far this time around. At the very least it's a nice confidence boost after a couple days of running bad, and will fund my playing a couple more of those 10:45pm ET mtt satellites for $109 into the FTOPS Main Event on Sunday afternoon at 6pm ET.

Congrats to Chippy McStacks whom I saw won the HOE Skills event on Tuesday. I believe that is two events won now for Chippy, so at least for one more day the upcoming BBT3 Tournament of Champions did not get harder and in fact grows one person smaller. With two wins by Chippy, two by corron and I believe three by Lucko, that should take the planned 55-person ToC down to 51 by my count. Who would've thunk it, 51 blogger donkeys playing in a freeroll where $28,000 will be awarded to the top 4 finishers. Awesome.

See you tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt for the Mookie (password as always is "vegas1"). I'm feeling kinda frisky today, so I am guessing maybe out in the first hour tonight for me after last week's rare final table appearance.

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