Monday, June 30, 2008 the MATH

Mondays at the Hoy returns again tonight on full tilt at 10pm ET, which I am thinking is likely to be our last with the 6-max no-limit holdem format. As most of you know, I changed the format to shorthanded nlh at the beginning of this year merely to benefit my own self, but as that change has not worked to my benefit I am thinking about a new change that hopefully will result in me winning several MATH titles in the balance of the year.

God how I love that stuff. You really can't make it up, can you? I mean, there's about 50 of you out there who rail my ass every single solitary second I am online on full tilt and have for months, so you know as well as I do how many total shorthanded nlh tournaments I have played of any size or any kind in this entire year since making the perma-change to the Hoy tournament format. It was something I played quite a bit in the first half of 2007, but that shit is so foreign to me at this point and has been all during the past twelve months or so that frankly 6-max holdem just feels a bit funny whenever I do sit down to play such a tournament. But hey you have a blog so why not just write down whatever you want about somebody, right? Don't want to be confused with the facts, I know how it works.

Anyways, back to reality for a minute -- yes I am planning a fresh change to the MATH format starting with the July events which will begin one week from tonight, July 7. While I have enjoyed playing for $216 buyins to the weekly Sunday evening tournaments on full tilt, in the end the very thing which attracted me to this payout format -- the availability of $T -- also I think makes paying out in this way somewhat ineffective, since one can so easily (and usually does, it seems) simply use the $T for any tournament other than the weekly Sunday guarantees. Which is a great outcome btw as far as I'm concerned -- people should be playing only those tournaments that they want -- but it does make it somewhat more pointless than I thought it would to structure the payouts in this way, so I think that experiment will be over with the end of the month of June here in Hammer land.

Instead, starting with next week, I am going to take advantage of one of the new tournament structures recently made available on full tilt and try to give it a whirl with the Shootout tournament format. We will go back to the regular payout format, but I am eager to see how a Shootout structure works for a regular blogger tournament for the first time. I'm not sure if anyone has ever even done a shootout blogger event in the past, but I'm going to give that a try and see how the shootout works for the MATH for a few weeks as I continue to look to optimize this thing moving forward.

My hope is that, starting not tonight but next week, the change back to regular money payouts in addition to putting forth a shootout structure for a month or so will increase the fun and excitement for the blogger tournament to start off the action every week in our group. Personally I am not someone who has logged any significant time at all playing shootout tournaments in the past, but I think there might be something a little bit extra fun about winning a couple of one-table sngs on your way to winning a blogger tournament. Plus the other fun side of the shootout format is that it still provides lots of fun and useful experience with shorthanded and even heads-up confrontations, as winning a shootout tournament will require everyone who eventually wins to play all the way down to heads-up and eventually to win out at their starting table to even reach the final table of the tournament. As I said, I have personally played probably fewer than five shootout toutrnaments in my entire life, but to me this sounds like a fun experiment and one that I expect to last for a while as we move into the summer and beyond with the Mondays at the Hoy tournament on full tilt.

So again, tonight we are still in a regular 6-max nlh tournament format, with payouts in the $216 increments that we have had all through the month of June, but this week will be the last week of this tournament format for the Hoy. Tonight the game is at the usual time of 10pm ET, right under the "tournament" tab under "private" on full tilt, and the password as always is "hammer". The buyin remains the same at $24 + $2, where I plan for it to remain as we head into the Shootout format starting next week. And remember, last week saw MATH virgin AGuda take advantage of the usual beginners' luck to power his way to a second-place finish, so tonight we will see if AGuda is just a flash in the pan, or if he even shows up at all to defend his first-timer luck performance.

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

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Drawing Hands and Position

Big ups to Mr. Al today. Go check out the long-coming news if you didn't already hear. Al working full time for full tilt is just about the coolest thing I can think of and can only spell good things for poker blogs and poker bloggers in general. And having one's blog discovered by one's employer is just about the sickest form of torture that those of us stuck hiding our interweb presence from our overlords in the rat race can have to endure. And getting back to the T&A that is the primary drive behind my daily visits to Al's blog is all good too of course.

Today's little tidbit comes from The Poker Tournament Formula, by Arnold Snyder. This was another solid read for any serious poker tournament player, and one that approaches the whole idea of a tournament strategy book in a different way than most others. Although I can't say that all of the ideas in this book were new to me, personally, I think it is undoubtedly something that would help most players out there who either have not played a million holdem tournaments and/or have not had much success running deep late in these events. Although I think perhaps this book oversimplified things in some areas as far as generalized tournament strategy, the ideas in here are of paramount importance for any serious tournament player and will prove especially helpful to those who seem to have trouble playing aggressively enough to survive late and those who always find themselves threatened by the rising blinds and antes.

Anyways, one point Snyder makes in the middle of this book somewhere that I was just re-reading last night again really struck me today. In a section about the importance of playing in position, Snyder discusses drawing-type of starting hands vs. high-card type of starting hands. Snyder's overall point is that drawing-type starting hands -- such as connectors like JT or 76 as well as things like soooted Aces -- clearly benefit from being played in late position as opposed to early position. This should be fairly obvious in that if you hit your draw you get to decide whether to slow-play or bet depending on what action your opponent takes first on the flop, and if you miss your draw on the flop you once again can wait until your opponent acts before deciding if you want to bet/raise and go for the free card on the turn, just call and go to fill your draw, or fold if the odds just aren't there. So far, nothing new for most of you I would assume.

Snyder goes on to point out that a high-card hand like AK, or even plain old pocket Aces for that matter, should also definitely show more of a profit when played from late position than from early position. Again, pretty much a no-brainer.

But the point I thought was interesting was Snyder's last point on the topic, which is that, while both kinds of hands will benefit from playing them from late position as compared to playing them from up front, the pocket Aces or AK hand only benefits a small amount from better position. The drawing-type hands, in contrast, increase in value quite a bit when played from late instead of early position.

So, even though everyone knows that position makes all hands better in a game like holdem, the drawing-type of connected / big soooted starting cards are far more important to play from favorable position than the high-card starting hands. This is a good lesson I like to to keep in mind when, for example, I am considering calling a preflop raise from the blinds with two players in the pot and me holding something like, say, 98s. It happens probably a good once or twice a night in the blonkaments alone, and generally speaking calling in that spot with AQ or even KJ is perhaps more favorable than the call with a speculative, drawing type of hand like JTs that is hoping to pick up a draw on the flop and then win some money when it fills on the turn or river.

I'm sure next time you will fold that 43s into a heads-up pot against me in the blonkaments now, yes?

Don't forget the donkament tonight, 9pm ET on full tilt. Password as always = "donkarama".

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Thursday, June 26, 2008


I've got nothing today. Actually there are quite a few things I am dying to say about some posts out there that are just delicious. I'm sure many of you know exactly the ones I'm talking about. But as always I'm just too good of a guy, what can I say. It sucks not ever wanting to use the blog to insult people, it really does, although in this case some other people have made my points at least as well as I could have so that's not all bad I suppose.

Numbbono won another Mookie this week I see, I think maybe his third if not fourth career Mookie title. Do you people have any idea how perfect that is?

I went out of the Mook when 55 called two allins before the flop**. 'Nuff said. Of course my starting table most definitely had more suckouts win than favorites hold up in the entirety of the 90 minutes I sat there, so who am I to complain. The Mook is always a good time and I look forward to winning several during the balance of 2008.

Back tomorrow with some more real content.

** Obviously fabricated story that makes me look better than what really happened


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Betting Lines

Man ever since yesterday's post when I was talking about the line I preferred to take with my 85s on the J75 + flush draw flop, that's all I've been thinking about -- betting lines. As far as I can recall among all the poker books I have read, there are only a couple that really include an exploration of specific lines and what types of hands they tend to be good for and what they tend to represent in your opponents. One of them was Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You About Winning Hold'em Poker by Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky, a book that doesn't get much pub at least in my circles but which I thought actually was pretty decent as far as playing holdem for a living, and the other I think was Winning in Tough Hold'em Games by successful online players stoxtrader and zobags. Otherwise, though, the Sklansky's and Harrington's and Hellmuth's and Brunson's and Cloutier's of the world don't seem to spend too much time with more than a reference here and there to taking a particular line with a particular type of hand.

Anyways so the only poker I've been thinking about the past 24 hours or so has been the different betting lines I tend to use with different hands, and how each one works with each type of hand. For example, here is a quick "synopsis" style summation of the rule I was discussing yesterday with that early-tournament hand I had started with last week:

The "check-call the flop, check-raise the turn" line is one that I like to use best with a monster hand on the flop and with me not the preflop aggressor. "Very strong" meaning at least two pair, probably even top two pair, and mostly better than that. Not just a drawing hand but a made hand already on the flop. Flopped sets from out of position are a perfect candidate for this line on the flop with the way I play. A flopped straight or flopflush is another one, although some people tend to have difficulty winning with flopped straight as I hear. But as I discussed yesterday, I prefer the checkraise on the turn in the hands where I know already on the flop that I want to make a large pot, but check raising the turn is a large-pot move.

In contrast, the move I went for in the hand from last week that I finshed up with yesterday is the "call preflop, checkraise the flop" line. Unlike the previous example where I just check-call the flop and then checkraise on the turn, in this instance I go for the checkraise right on the flop, when the pot is smaller and when there are still two cards to come. For me as I mentioned yesterday, I like to checkraise on the flop when I have strong equity on the flop but one that will either be less strong on the turn or more obvious if I hit, both making it less likely that I can take down a big pot once the turn card falls. The quintessential case for this line for me would be flopping a big draw like the hand yesterday, or sometimes even some kinds of top pair hands on the flop. In the previous example above, I have flopped something big already, so I can wait till the turn to checkraise because I am already 100% positive that I will have a big hand on that street and I know the turn checkraise will create a huge pot. Here, in contrast, I do not know if my hand will be big on the turn, so I would rather get the money in now on the flop, keep the pot small if possible, and I still know if I get called that I have a bunch of outs to win a smallish pot.

What other betting lines are there out there? Of course there is the standard aggressive "raise preflop, bet the flop" line, which is the standard c-bet situation. You can also tack on an additional step to bet the turn as well, which is when you fire a second bullet after having your c-bet called. In that situation I typically need to have some kind of a strong draw or some chance that I might be best to fire that second bullet once my opponent has already called me before the flop and again on the flop, indicating that he has something and is not likely going away.

Another popular move in particular in middle- and short-stack tournament play is the stop and go, which is basically "call preflop, push allin on the flop". Of course especially if the stacks are small, this can be as much desperation as anything else, but sometimes if you can pick up a decently strong hand you can use that image to win a quick double-up if things go your way.

Another interesting line is "reraise preflop, bet the flop". This one is typically only for starting hand monsters, or at least for people who want to represent a big pocket pair or AK. The preflop reraise tends to narrow hands down IMO to AA-TT and maybe AK, and the flop bet pretty much backs that story up well.

A related line I like to take, again usually only with my strongest starting hand monsters, is the "raise and smooth call a reraise preflop, checkraise the flop" line. This can be combined as well with a check-call on the flop and the turn checkraise, but in this case with pocket Aces or Kings or sometimes AK, having a raise and a reraise preflop already tends to make a big enough pot that a checkraise on the flop can get you the large pot you are looking for without the need to wait until the turn. My favorite part of this is the not re-reraising before the flop. Without a doubt the preflop action that tends to lead to me winning my largest pots when I am dealt pocket Aces is for me to raise with them, and then if I get re-raised, I just flat call. Re-reraising here basically telegraphs that you have Aces, maybe Kings sometimes, while just smooth calling the preflop reraise lets your opponent believe his AK or QQ might be ahead, and then when the flop comes all rags, you can get all his chips in a pot that is already fairly large on the flop, often by letting him bet first and then checkraising allin in a tournament context.

Of course, with all of these lines, as well as the countless others there are out there, the trick is to mix up your play appropriately enough such that your opponents can never really tell what you hold by just the way you play your hand. Sometimes with the flopped monster you check it on the flop and don't checkraise until the turn, while other times when you do the check-call and then checkraise the turn, it is with a big draw. As with most of poker, you only need to mix in a little bit of deception to keep your opponents honest. In my view if I can vary my play of when I use a particular poker move in only as little or 15 or 20% of cases, that should be more than enough to make your opponents unsure at all times of exactly what I have or exactly how strong my hand is.

That's it on betting lines for today. Tonight I plan to use the call preflop, call the flop and then suckout allin on the turn as often as possible early in the Mookie at 10pm ET on full tilt. Password as always is "vegas1". See you there for the grandpappy of all the blogger tournaments these days.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

MATH Recap, Early Tournament Hand Question (Continued)

We had 13 runners last night for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt, with once again the top 3 spots paying out. With the 6-max action in da house, the Gigli came early as per usual, and another common trend also held true almost right from the getgo on the night -- the one and only Hoy virgin in the tournament, a player named AGuda (if you have a blog let me know in the comments and I will link you), absolutely blew up. I think Guda recorded both of the first two eliminations, jumping out to more than 7500 chips before anyone else even had 4000. Guda held a large chip lead all the way through the first hour, and shortly into the second hour when I busted losing a race he was still the prohibitive leader with sometihng like 11k in chips to second place's 8k. Eventually I fell asleep so I can't comment on how it ended, but I will say that the final payouts is a who's who of blogger tournament crushing people:

1. twoblackaces $156
2. AGuda $93.60
3. surflexus $62.40

So there he is, Mr. AGuda coming in second place and winning nearly a fresh hundy in his very first appearance at Mondays at the Hoy. Will the mysterious man named after a misspelled kind of cheese make another appearance in other blogger tournaments anytime soon? Will he return to continue his dominance over the MATH field? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, there is tba winning yet another blonkament. This guy has been absolutely on fire in the blogger tournaments. I love another guy who takes playing with the bloggers seriously, but not so seriously that he gets pissed off in the chat box. Anyways this has got to be 4 or 5 top-2 finishes for tba in just the past few weeks of the blogger events, making himself a force to be reckoned with as we head into the typically slow summer months in the blogger tournaments.

OK, so back to the early tournament hand I had posted about last week. To refresh everyone's memory, I had already doubled up very early in a $10 buyin tournament, so I was sitting on a nice stack in the top 3 or 4% of the field with more than 300 players still remaining. I called a minraise from the big blind into a 3-handed pot at better than 5 to 1 odds with 85 of spades, and then the flop came 75J with two spades. I was first to act out of the big blind and I had asked for your opinions on how to best play this kind of a "drawing hand" from here:

I got a lot of well-thought-out responses as usual, but some of them were contradictory which I found very interesting and I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts. Basically some people advocated betting out some fraction of the pot size at this point, a slight majority it seems like the check-call line on the flop and then reevaluate on the turn, while a few commenters pushed for a check-raise in this spot. I think all three options have merit to them, so I thought I would focus on the factors that I was sifting through in my head as I contemplated my move.

The first thing I focus on is that the current pot size is small. It's small enough with just three players in for a minraise very early in an mtt, that I am just not too concerned about making sure I don't blow a chance to take this pot down now. There's barely anything in there right now, so I ended up not going with the line that involves betting out on the flop. If I had been the preflop aggressor, then a c-bet seems much more appopriate, as I want my opponents to understand and expect that I will be protecting my preflop raises with flop continuation bets in most situations. But given that no one showed any real strength preflop, I am honestly not concerned with the possibility of checking up front here even though it means I might miss a chance to steal the pot if it ends up getting checked around on the flop.

And this leads in to the other main consideration I have at this point: the nature of my hand. So yeah right now I have just a measly pair of 5s. But I have basically 14 outs to improve to a hand that I expect to win most pots (two pair, trips or a flush). It is a small hand now, but it has several outs to improve to a hand that I expect to be very strong. And yet, the pot is small enough and it's early enough in the tournament that, as a couple of the commenters pointed out, there is no real reason in my mind to build a huge pot at this point when I have just this very poor made hand at this point.

Whenever I have a hand with a large potential -- these 13, 14 outer type of hands -- but one that is not made right now, I am often looking to go for the check-raise on the flop. A few of the commenters suggested check-calling the flop and then check-raising the turn if I hit. I like this suggestion, and in some circumstances it is one that I definitely follow, but for my game I tend to do that more for hands that are already huge. For example, if I flop a set I might be very apt to check-call the flop and then assume the c-bettor will lead out on the turn as well, where I know I can put in a very large checkraise into a pot that, by the time the turn is out, will already be quite large. The check-call on the flop and then checkraise the turn line is one I use quite a bit, but again it tends to be a line I save for my big made hands mostly because it's a line that tends to create very large pots. Any time there is a raise preflop, a bet and a call on the flop and then a checkraise on the turn, that sounds like a very large pot to me, and I don't really like to start down that path with just a pair of 5s. That's why I don't like to checkraise the turn with this kind of a hand, at least not when I set about planning how I'm going to play out the whole hand right at the beginning.

If I can check-raise on the flop, however, I avoid the few significant weaknesses of the checkraise-the-turn line, which is that (1) if I don't hit on the turn, then I have a weak drawing hand with just one card to come, way less than 50% equity, and I often have to abandon my plan for the checkraise since my equity has dropped so much by the time the turn card is out and it has missed my hand, or (2) if I do hit my draw on the turn -- in particular if the board pairs my 5 or if a spade comes -- I am less likely to get paid off on that turn checkraise since my opponent will likely put me on the exact type of hand that I in fact just hit.

For me, in this kind of a hand in this small of a pot so far, checkraising on the flop is a superior line I believe for a few main reasons. Number one, it allows me to get some more chips in the pot now with my approximately 50% equity in the hand by not donk betting and instead allowing the preflop (min)raiser to bet out first before I make my move. Secondly, even if my checkraise does get called, I am not the least bit concerned for two reasons. First, my equity is strong, with around a 50% chance of having the best hand by the time the river is dealt. And second, by putting in my checkraise on the flop instead of waiting until the turn, the pot is still small. Even if I checkraise and my opponent reraises me allin, I can easily fold and still have lost just a fairly small portion of my overall stack here. And I like that, being that I have made only a pair of 5s so far in the hand.

You can see for yourself what I mean here with this screenshot when I in fact check-raised the flop:

For my game, with a nice stack early in an mtt, this is where I want to be. This way, if a large stack moves me allin or something, even with 50% equity in the hand I might call or not call depending on what I think he might has and how I am feeling at the time. But I have the freedom to fold to the reraise here on the flop and you can see I've only lost maybe 10% of my stack or so. No biggity. But if I wait for the turn after check-calling on the flop, then my turn check-raise, in order to be credible, would have to be a good thousand chips or so, representing a much bigger portion of my stack in a spot not as advantageous to me IMO as the checkraise on the flop, where my equity is high and no obvious draws have filled on the board.

In case you're wondering, in this case my opponent responded to my checkraise with very close a min-reraise of his own, which screamed out to me some kind of big pocket pair since he left so little of his own stack behind with this reraise:

At this point it becomes a simple math problem for me. I have to call 240 into 1090 with what I figure to be 14 outs twice, maybe discount it to 13 outs since my two-pair outs may not all be winners, but the point is this is the easiest call in the world. In fact, since his remaining stack is so small now that he will be forced to be or call any bet on the turn or river with what I am at this point quite sure is a strong pocket pair, I just went ahead and moved him allin. And again, if he had had enough chips to stack me, especially if this were a "real" buyin tournament instead of just a $10 one, and had reraised me allin on the flop, the idea would be to fold fold fold and move on to the next hand with a loss of only around 10% of my stack. But with this short stacked opponent, it's an easy call and really a matter of just common practice to re-reraise him allin for his last 290 chips into a pot of around 1400 chips by the time I call his reraise.

Or more accuately, I reverse hoyed him just to make a point since he felt it was so important to hold back those few chips even though it made his high pocket pair easy as ballz to read:

We got it all in, and he showed his hand:

Right on schedule. 13-14 outs or so for me here. And bloooom on the river:

And of course, my favorite part is the observer chat right after the hand:

Yeah it is pretty "sick" when those 14-outers on the flop fill by the river, huh? Man you have got to love the players at pokerstars.

Thanks again to everyone for the comments. I welcome any dissenting opinions now that you have seen how I like to play this hand. Oh and to the commenter last week who asked if I play this hand any different in cash or in a tournament, the answer for me is no. Either way with the small made hand that has a large draw to a winning hand, and with the pot small and my stack large, I am probably using the flop checkraise to find out when the checkraise is still cheap whether or not I am beat, and otherwise hopefully use my checkraise on the flop to get a free card on the turn even if I miss. Good question though.

So I guess there is no Skills event tonight? I'm actually liking the idea of some weeknights without blogger tournaments for a change -- it's funny but even though the BBT3 was obviously completely nailed by full tilt and Al this time around, the collective weariness and lack of interest in all the blonkaments right now belies the fact that people really want a break. Being in the middle of the typical summer doldrums doesn't help either. But I'll be curious to see if anyone steps in to fill the void over the summer here on Tuesday nights, as even the bodonkey is apparently on a hiatus. I should be on at some point tonight, playing the usual run of mtts in addition to dabbling in the turbo sngs that I have been playing more and more of lately.

Super turbo is calling me already, I can hear it even from a few miles away from my laptop at home. "Hoyyyyyyyy......Hoyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, come indulge yourself in me. Pillage and plunder my super turbo ways....You know you want it...." Foul temptress.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Firing That Second Bullet With Air

So today I had been planning to return to that early-mtt hand I had profiled last Thursday, but I was flipping through one of the bibles of limit holdem over the weekend, a book that I have worn thin from reading and re-reading it at least 10 or 12 times, and I had dog-eared a page with one of the coolest thoughts I have seen regarding aggressive limit holdem play. It's so cool that I'm thinking about it here again as the new week begins, so I figured today's post would be about that.

The book is Small-Stakes Hold'em -- Winning Big With Expert Play. Sklansky, Malmuth and Ed Miller. As I mentioned this is indisputably one of the bibles of limit holdem play, and anyone who does even a medium amount of reading about holdem has obviously read it. This thing is chock fuckin full of good stuff. Many great, original ideas about poker strategy, and interesting variations and recommendations for loose, normal and tight games, and detailed and useful treatments of various poker situations like semi-bluffing, playing overcards, etc. It is really great. Anyone who wants to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of the game and is looking to read one of the best books out there, Small Stakes Holdem is probably just the thing you're looking for.

Anyways, it is the section dealing with how to play overcards after the flop where the poker point I like so much is hidden. So again, as you already know if you're an avid Sklansky reader, he advocates generally speaking a tight-ish but position-based starting hands play range, so the assumption behind the upcoming statement is that you are not in the pot to begin with unless you have something worthwhile in the way of overcards. Like, the below statement does not so much apply to playing overcards like 97o on a 642 flop, as opposed to playing AKo on that same 642 flop. What we're talking about here is when you raise before the flop with two high cards, typically in the AT+, KQ+ range, and then the flop comes with three undercards.

The next thing to understand is that in limit holdem, the Sklansky-Malmuth-Miller approach would have you c-betting the flop in most cases where you were the preflop aggressor. So again the assumption here is that you are playing two solid high cards with a preflop raise, you get called, the flop comes with three undercards, and you make a continuation bet on the flop. We've all been there. If you haven't, then you blow. You raise preflop, someone calls you out of the big blind with probably a shit hand, and the flop comes with rags. You have to bet out in a game like holdem (limit or no-limit) a significant portion of the time here with the c-bet, or you are undinably giving up value. You're only going to make a pair or better with two unpaire hole cards what, 32% of the time or something? Those other two-thirds of the time, if you take the aggression preflop but then give it up on a bad flop, you are passing the baton to your opponent to steal that "dead pot" away from you. Who's going to win that other 68% of the time when you don't flop a pair with your non-pair hole cards? If you don't c-bet regularly, you are definitely not following the Sklansky et al way.

So the question being addressed for this situation in the book is when is the best time or the best situation to follow up with a second bullet on the turn card when you play overcards on the flop? And the answer is what I thought was so interesting. The authors explain:

The best time to follow up with a second bullet on the turn after c-betting the flop is when the flop was moderately coordinated.

That's it. It's so simple, but simple little rules like this are a lot of what I'm reading poker books for in the first place. I love the easy little rules that explain quite well how to play in a particular spot, especially when I've never quite thought about such decisions in nearly as simple a way as it is dealt with in the literature. I rememeber posting here way back when about a quick n dirty rule I found in Professional No-Limit Holdem regarding when to semi-bluff on the flop, which was another little heuristic just like this one and also something I was really into because of the fresh way it presents of looking at an often-encountered situation by all successful holdem players.

So the best time to follow up with a second bullet on the turn after c-betting the flop is when the flop was moderately coordinated. If the flop was totally uncoordinated -- say like a Q75 rainbow flop -- you c-bet it and someone called you, then that caller is not likely to have a draw given the nature of the flop. In this case, they are highly likely to have at least one pair, and therefore are not likely to fold on the turn either in limit play. So you might consider not firing that second bullet on the turn with just the overcards since your opponent is not going away even if you do bet, and since you have nothing but a high-card hand at this point.

Similarly, if the flop was highly coordinated -- say a flop like TJQ double-sooted -- and you c-bet and got called, that caller is likely to have a strong draw or to be slow-playing a big hand. In either situation, once again your opponent is not going away for just the one bet on the turn after the pot was raised preflop and bet and called already on the flop in limit poker. Plus, in this spot you could be facing a raise on the turn, and you might not even know if your hand would be ahead even if you manage to hit one of those overcards on the river.

This is why the best time to lead out again on the turn in the hopes of taking down the pot uncontested with just overcards is when the flop is moderately coordinated. It is in these cases where the likelihood is highest that your opponent smooth called your flop c-bet with just a hand like two overcards, a gutshot or similar low-quality turn hand. These are the times you want to be looking to fire that second bullet, because your chances of folding your opponent out are higher than if he stayed in on the flop when it was highly coordinated or highly uncoordinated. This is a rule that I have used to significant benefit over the past few years since I first read it in the book, and I thought I would get it up here today in case anyone has any thoughts on the concept or might be able to make use of it in your own games.

Mondays at the Hoy is tonight again at 10pm ET, don't forget. Password as always is "hammer", and as always we are always looking for new and first-time players, so if you're out there and you've been reading for a while but have never sat down to play with the bloggers, come on out tonight and see what it's all about. First-timers have traditionally had great luck in the Hoy so perhaps tonight will be no different. The game is 6-max nlh and the buyin as always is a mere $26 or a Tier 1 token, so hopefully we will see you tonight under the "private" tab for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Riverchasers Win Again

I won another Riverchasers tournament on Thursday night, in highly improbable fashion. This one was funny like most anytime anyone wins an RC event, in that I recorded a sickening suckout early when purposefully playing like a donkey, and then I got crizznushed late and entered final table play well in last place and with literally less than 10% of the first place player's stack. Then I stole like a crackwhore, got lucky with position plays a few times against shorter stacks, and before I knew it it was over. For the first time I can recall in a long time, I won a blonkament where I never had a chip lead or anything even remotely close to the chip lead until the very last hand of the entire tournament. With 28 players the field size was similarly small to the other events of the past week, but big enough to still be interesting.

Here was the gross early suckout, against one of the original good bad girls of poker, Joanada. This hand occurred maybe 15 minutes in to the Riverchasers tournament on Thursday, where Jo raised preflop and I reraised with AKo. Standard stuff for me early in blonkament action. She called and the flop came down JTx, giving me three Ace outs, three King outs and four Queen outs for the inside straight. I checked, Jo bet out smallish, and I went for the allin reraise with lots of outs. She instacalled and flipped up pocket Tens for the well-played set, and suddenly my overcard outs were nil:

Ahhh, but the river. That lovely, lovely full tilt river:

Bloom. Doubled up the Riverchasers way -- by overplaying the most overplayed hand in poker just to try to donk someone with a pair. Or a set, as the case may be. And FWIW, I apoligized to Jo for a good five full minutes in the girly. Someday I hope to progress to where I no longer feel guilty when I suck out on someone. Lord knows I have about another 3 or 4 billion of those coming to me just to even shit out.

Still, I called a lot early, which is totally opposite to normal approach to the blonkaments, as I was still trying more to suck out on someone a bit I guess than to actually hold on to my stack. In the first 25 minutes of the tournament I flat-called before the flop with 43o, 32s and 98s among other hands. I also got donked pretty hard by a well-played hammer by blonkament crusher surflexus. But I got him back near the end of the first hour, when I picked up the hammer in middle position and open-raised 3x the big blind to 150 chips. Surf called, and I c-bet into him on an AKx flop, which he also called. I checked the raggy turn card, willing to give it up to a likely bet from surf, but he checked. I then bet the pot on the river and got to take down the rare hammer river foldout hand to end the first hour in 6th place of 18 players remaining with 5,749 chips.

Early in Hour 2, I once again overplayed AK as I still had not quite lost my intention of playing like a donkey. I know I've mentioned this before, but it is sick how often that particular strategy leads to a victory in the Riverchasers more than any other event. This time I again open-raised 3x the big blind from middle position, but then I faced a smallish reraise and an allin re-reraise behind me:

Knowing this is a poor spot to push with AK and that I was obviously behind at least one of these players, with at least one or two of my Aces and Kings also probably out, I still went ahead and pushed. I then begged for the call with all caps in the chat, but snarf didn't bite, claiming he folded QQ. I ended up allin against pocket 8s heads-up for a big pile of chips, and I flopped a King to get the big bounce up to 3rd place of 16 players remaining.

In this position in the tournament, I should probably have been playing a little bit closer to the vest, focusing a bit more on protecting my stack than on insisting on taking on races for big portions of it, but I just could not keep out of my own way. At one point I called an allin reraise from someone who I knew thought I was stealing with my late position open-raise. I had A9s, but I felt I had to call because I know from my blog that my own perceived range is so wide in my opponents' heads, and that perception therefore actually forces me to call more with a much wider actual range, with hands just like A9s. I turned out to be up against pocket 4s and I did not catch, losing a third of my stack in the process. Later I would push my shortish stack allin with my A3o from utg, which DDionysus instacalled with his KTo, and promptly flopped a Ten to take that one down. After this hand, I found myself down at the bottom of the leaderboard, in 11th place of 11 players left.

At this point, I just figured phuckit, and I started stealing like crazy. I steal-raised allin almost every single time the action folded around to me for a long span, literally pushing in five times out of 10 consecutive hands here:

Even despite all this stealing, I could barely stay ahead of the advancing blinds, and when the 10th place player finally busted out, here I was at the RC final table, still in last place:

With me still in last place and nowhere near the leaders at this final table, I did what I know best and just continued stealing and playing like a maniac with a bunch of marginal hands but in spots where I felt I could get maximal leverage and would have maximal fold equity. So, for example, I did the allin raise-the-limpers move here with a very marginal hand that is likely behind if I get called, and not possibly far ahead even if it's not behind:

Everyone folded, and I chipped up a bit. Then, over the next 12 consecutive hands, I once again steal-raised allin in 6 of them:

It was purely ridiculous, really, but somehow once again I failed to get called in any of these, some of which I am obviously going down and out of the tournament if anyone steps up with the call. At break #2, I found myself in 4th place out of 7 runners left (top 4 would get paid) thanks to all this stealing, but take a look at twoblackaces' stack there in first place:

So we all knew we had our work cut out for us, especially with that huge stack sitting in the corner of tba who has been on quite a blonkament run recently. Luckily for me, early in Hour 3, I was dealt AQ and AJ in rapid succesion, was able to raise one and reraise the other, both allin once again, and win both before the flop. This gave me a bit of breathing room at least as the blinds advanced to 300-600 with a 75-chip ante, leaving most of the bottom of the field with an M of 6 or fewer. Making our task all the more fun was this hand, when tba's pocket Queens held up against AK in the hands of the second place chip stack, giving tba an even sicker stack:

There you can see tba holding over 60k of the 84k total chips in play, with an incredible 7 times (more than 7 times, actually) my second-place chip stack with five players remaining. That right there is a sick, sick beating, one that would require a lot of luck for any of us to have any chance of coming back. I got some of that luck though pretty quickly once we got down to 5-handed, as first Pirate Wes pushed into me with ATC based purely on position, and I was lucky to wake up with a big hand and called:

And then just a couple of hands later, snarf pushed allin from utg and on a short stack, a move which I do not tend to trust and I therefore called his allin for a third of my stack with my A7o, and got lucky once again to both be ahead and to hold up on a 62% or so hand I would estimate:

These two-high-cards-vs-two-low-cards or one-high-one-low-vs-two-middle-cards types of hands, all coming in as somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% favorites, end up being probably the single biggest determinants of how an aggressive player like myself ends up in the blonkaments. No way anyone can completely avoid these types of showdowns as the blinds climb and everyone is pushing from all directions, and when you're in there as much as I am, clash is inevitable, so I really lucked out in these two spots to get two smaller players' stack sizes added to mine as we moved through the bubble and into 3-handed play. Chip stacks were around 63k for tba, 15k for me and 8k for DDionysus. Still lots of work to do, and since I could literally not care any less about third, second or even first place money in the Riverchasers but instead care only about winning the thing outright, I just went right back to overpushing allin almost every time I perceived myself to be ahead, regardless of the amount of chips in the pot.


And here is one of my better moments from the RC this week:

Again with the allin over-raise. I just didn't feel like negotiating stack sizes and planning my bet amounts accordingly when I was this far out of first place. In this particular situation, commented asked in chat that I must not have an Ace to make a bet like that (I had raised preflop). I responded with "so clever", which I immediately regretted in fear that he would call because of it, but mercifully he folded and I got to show my third and final hammer of the day:

Still well less than half of tba's stack, but at least I was creeping back little by little. All that was wrecked though when tba took out DDionysus a few hands later, leaving me heads-up with 24k in chips against tba's 60k. I can't stand when I am at a chip deficit and then 1st place takes out 3rd place instead of me in 2nd place taking out 3rd place, but that's what happened last night. If I could have offed DDionysus instead of tba, then we would have been very close to begin the heads-up portion of the tournament, but instead all my work disappeared as I was right back to less than 2-to-1 in chips when #1 took out #3 himself.

Still at the big chip disadvantage, I opted to continue not considering stack sizes or bet sizes and instead to just overpush every time I thought I was ahead or could generate a fold. Not sure how else you can overcome a chip deficit like I was facing, especially against a solid player like tba, without just brazenly pushing him around and hoping I can get him to make a mistake, so that's exactly what I tried to do. The only thing I had going for me was that I know that secretly tba really likes winning the blonkaments just like I do, so I figured he would likely play a bit tight with the chip lead here in an attempt to preserve his surplus and his chances of winning with a big hand. Thus, I stole and pushed all over the place once again:

(this one I wanted to make appear stealy like all the others after I had been stealing so much through not just the shorthanded portion but really the entirety of this tournament).

Every one of the above hands drew a fold from tba, whom I believe I was right, he was in fact trying to preserve his lead more than many of the other bloggers out there likely would have. Finally after this last hand, tba typed "ok hoy" into the chat, indicating I figured that he was tired of being bullied and it was time to play some pokah. Me likey. And me likey even more when the shit set up exactly how I wanted, as just one or two hands after tba's "ok hoy" comment saw me hit a huge turn card to make the ignorant end of a straight on the board. I raised:

and then tba surprised me by pushing allin on the reraise:

I gave it quite a bit of thought here but eventually decided, still at a chip deficit, that the possibilities for tba holding top pair, two pairs or most likely some combination of a straight draw and something else were just too great for me to fold here. I definitely feared a higher straight a little bit, but I had to make the decision here at crunch time with so much of my smaller stack already invested in the pot and with the turn card having made me a pat hand unlike a lot of the hands I envisioned in tba's reraising range given his frustration at my recent bullying. So I made the call and I saw this:

I avoided a few outs and suddenly I had a 76k to 10k chip lead. When tba pushed in his last 10k on the very next hand, I thought it over and opted to call with Q9s. It was not my best move, but I literally had tba on ATC here, and my Q9s is ahead of the average starting holdem hand, and the sootedness put it over the edge for me. I am nothing if not a soooted donk of course. Anyways I proved to be up against T7s, a decent call for me after all given the stack sizes involved, and mr. sooooted donk himself hit a flush on the turn to Take It Down:


At the end of the day, the $130 and change I won from this, my sixth or seventh lifetime Riverchasers victory, almost completely covered what I lost playing these recockulous 300-chip super turbo sngs newly available on full tilt on the night. If you like turbo poker, that shit is like crack right there.

OK that's all for today. The RC victory will take precedence over the continuation to the early-tournament drawing hand I profiled on Thursday, which I will get right back to on Monday because I think it generated some good discussion and analysis as usual. Until then, don't forget Kat's donkament tonight at 9pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "donkarama". Not sure if I make it out for that today or not, but as always I will be there at least in spirit. Have a great weekend everybody.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Early Tournament Hand Question

Congratulations to Instant Tragedy for winning this week's Mookie tournament. I donked it up and tried to suck out on people, leading to the inevitable early exit, but I had fun trying while I lasted. I love the sense of humor out there, as I saw someone played under the handle "ICrushBloggers". Very cool, definitely brought a smile to my face. Don't ask me who it was because I don't know. But I guess we can ask Mookie, right? I mean, after all, any host of an online poker tournament is automatically entitled to know the real-life identity of everyone who signs up, right? Right?

Seriously though. I counted at least three multi-accounting bloggers playing last night in the Mookie. And that's just the ones I know of. What's up with that? It's like, some people seem to have a really solid grasp of what "cheating" is, but then others do not. And even those who seem to have the good grasp on cheating when some people are involved, I guess they're just never there to see the multi-accounters, hmmm? Especially when it's their friends doing the multi accounting. Interesting.

Fucking bloggers. I dare you to find more unintentional comedy anywhere.

Anyways, today I wanted to discuss an early mtt situation and get some thoughts on how to best play a hand like this. It is a situation that tends to tempt me to lose some chips that I would not normally want to be risking this early in to an mtt on a drawing type of hand. Here's the setup:

I am playing in a $10 mtt with 360 entrants. We are about 15 minutes in, and I have already doubled against a donkey. I am sitting in 10th place of 333 players remaining, again very early in a small-field mtt. I am seated in the big blind with 85 of spades. Middle position open-minraises the big blind to 40 chips, and the hijack calls. Action folds back to me, where I am looking at calling 20 into 110 chips. Getting more than 5 to 1, and for a measly 20 chips out of my 3000+ stack, I don't want to fold the soooted 2-gapper. How could I, right? So I call.

The flop comes 75J with two spades, and I am first to act out of the big blind:

Here is where my question comes in. How do you like to play this kind of a hand? Assuming you're not a donkey and aren't just going to start betting or checking away on the flop without having some sort of a plan for how you're going to play this situation out, what is your optimal line here? Is this hand good enough to warrant some aggressive play (i.e., betting and raising)? Or are you looking to take this one as slow as possible, see if you hit your hand and then make sure it is not behind something like a higher two pair or higher flush before you start comitting chips? Does being under the gun after the flop affect your decision of what line to take at all? Are your chipstack and your opponent's chipstack factors? How about the $10 buyin of the tournament, does that weigh in the decision at all? Do you play it any different at the WSOP in a $2000 buyin event?

Love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and I will give mine as well.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WSOP Final Table Delay

I was reading again the other day about Harrah's move this year to delay the WSOP Main Event final table a couple of months and then play it live from Las Vegas in early November. I've read a lot of people's opinions on that whole situation, which at first seemed to be somewhat negative, but quickly the majority I read turned generally positive about the change.

I'm here to tell you why it's ghey. Ghey ghey ghey.

It's actually really simple. Anyone who was won a significant poker tournament knows that winning out through any huge field involves a combination of a whole lot of different factors. It's overall skill stuff, like aggression, tightness and hand reading. And there is also a significant luck-based component, involving things like starting cards, hitting draws, avoiding setups, etc. But it's also at least an equal part of other more general things like stamina, concentration, handling of stress, and especially momentum.

The momentum involved with winning a large-field tournament is like the Matrix: it cannot be described, it has to be experienced for itself. Those of you who have been there know just what I mean, and if you've done it in a live tournament context then you doubly especially know exactly what I mean. The stamina and just all-around mental toughness it takes to win a big-field poker tournament is one of the key aspects of any deep run and ultimately plays a huge role in the flow of the tournament and the performance of the individual players. Managing to keep your cool through all the tension generated by a large-field tournament run, resisting tilting after those two suckouts you suffered at the final table to take away your chip lead, fighting off the awfukkkits for those first eight rounds when you had no cards whatsoever to speak of. All that shit is hard work, and it just gets harder as the tournament wears on, your mental acuity slips a bit and those blinds just keep escalating, always threatening you with near-desperation if you don't gamboool to stay ahead.

Breaking the biggest tournament in the world off once the final table is reached in mid-July, sending the players to their respective homes for nearly four months, and then bringing them back to Vegas to play out their remaining chip stacks, completely disrupts this natural order of all poker tournaments. And the primary motivation of course for this whole move is money. Moneymoneymoneymoneymoney. No one even tries to deny it. It is of course being done so that ESPN, and Harrah's who owns the WSOP, can hype the living shitcock out of that final table. There are going to be updates of the contestants on Sportscenter as the final table approaches. There will be promo after promo after promo as ESPN struggles to boost its sagging poker ratings, previously some of their most-watched telecasts. There will be at least one television special detailing the lives of the final tablists and what they've been doing between when the Main Event started in July and when the final table runs on November 9. There will also be ample time for each of the players at the final table to score a potentially very lucrative sponsorship deal (or deals) with major poker sites and other sponsors. Again it all comes down to money. Money money money. It's sick.

So, for the sake of various and sundry money-related issues, the WSOP is going to separate the final table from the entire rest of the Main Event by four months. These players will show up in Vegas on November 9 super well-rested. They won't have any stamina issues, they will be fully refreshed and ready to play some poker. They won't be feeling that crick in their neck, not that pain in their backs that comes from sitting in those chairs playing high-pressure poker for days on end. They won't have the tension headaches, and it will all just be a lot easier for them than if the WSOP kept it real.

What's more, these players will show up in Vegas on November 9 in many cases in entirely different situations than those they left in July upon reaching the pinnacle of nlh poker tournaments at the WSOP ME final table. For one thing, several pros have brought up the rather obvious outcome that many, if not all, of these players will have been significantly coached on how to play this final table as compared to where they were at in July when they reached the last ten people standing in the Main Event. Many of them will have played largely donkish but then received much training heading into the final table during the four-month hiatus. It is likely if not definite that at least some of the final tablists will receive coaching during their time away on how to play against each specific individual at the final table with them, again all knowledge that was not had by them when they actually played the actual WSOP tournament in July. And I haven't even mentioned the non-coaching issues yet. Like, for example, what if someone was on tilt as the final table begins? Then they get four months to cool off, and will show up in November fully refreshed and in the right poker mindset. What if someone had built up a strong tight image and had been set up to take advtange before the four-month layoff? What if one of the players had been poor generally speaking back in July, as is often the case at the WSOP ME final table, but by November they've already recently inked a $500,000 sponsorship deal with some poker site thanks to the time off? Isn't that going to change the way they play the final table and the way they deal with the possibility of winning all that money at stake? If you say no, you delude yourself.

I'm not trying to say that making all of these essential changes to the very nature of tournament poker is "right" or "wrong" per se, but the four-month layoff is undoubtedly significantly and substantively different from how things would have played out, in some very major and relevant ways, had the tournament just been allowed to continue to its conclusion in July like we have every other year since the WSOP first began. That significant changing, I would argue, does make it "wrong" from a poker tournament context in that it eliminates some of the very most important stuff about winning a poker tournament in the first place. The fact that the only motiviation for these changes is money is just all the sicker.

I just wanted to take a second to address my favorite counterargument that I hear all the time about this issue. Some donkeys love to point out that the same exact changes are being enforced on all ten of the final tablers in the Main Event this year, and so thus, since the same changes apply to all the contestants, it is automatically fair. That, my friends, is pure tomfoolery. Just because you make the same change to everyone, that doesn't make this a smart move, an appropriate move, or a "fair" move. Why not just tell everyone they have to play the final table with only one hole card then? That could be applied to everyone equally. Does that make that a fair proposal? Obviously not. And hey why not tie one arm of every contestant behind their back for the final table? That's equal for everyone too, right? But does that make it a smart change, or a fair change, for the WSOP final table? Obviously not.

Changing the essential nature of a poker tournament, doing so all for money, but doing so in a way that screws every contestant equally, is not a good decision. It's a horrible decision. Is it catastrophic? Will it ruin the World Series of Poker brand forever? Obviously not. I'm sure they will change this back in a couple of years when they realize just how ghey the delayed final table is and how much it wrecks what tournament poker is supposed to be all about. This won't have any long-term effect on the WSOP or the world of poker in general, make no mistake. But that doesn't make it a good decision or one that should be made. When you let money corrupt the underlying nature of what you do, you tread on shaky ground. Not all, but I can't help but notice how most of the people who see this change as a good thing are not people who have made a practice of winning large-field poker tournaments. Seems to me that most of those people understand exactly where I am coming from on this, and see the final table delay for just the gimmick that it is.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MATH Recap, and the Wide World of Sports

Congratulations to que31dawg for winning this week's Mondays at the Hoy tournament, and to Bayne for cashing as well in the smallest field of the year. Yours truly managed to bust out first, as my AK allin preflop fell to QQ to take about 3/4 of my stack, and then AK lost to KQ allin preflop for the last grand or so. What can you do. And que31dawg, if you have a blog please let me know and I can link it up for you here.

Today the big topic on Hoy land is the world of sports, starting of course with Tiger Woods. That guy is effing sick. I heard somewhere and totally agree with the statement that the only truly transcendently great athletes are the ones who are greater than their entire sport. Babe Ruth -- take him away from baseball in the 1920s, and the fans would have gone wherever he went to play and completely forsaken the league. Muhammad Ali, whose whole aura outshined the rest of his competitors put together. Michael Jordan, who you still literally cannot turn off if you are channel surfing and happen to run into one of those 30-minute 1990s finals recap shows. My lord remember what Jordan did to Portland in that one finals, with all the threes? And then that look to the sidelines with the hands upturned, like "what can I do?". Sick. Anyways, Tiger Woods is another such athlete. I admit it -- I only watch golf to see Tiger. I wouldn't watch that drek otherwise, but to me when Tiger is involved, it is almost always worth watching.

When I was abed with mono a couple of months back, one Sunday I happened to flip to some golf, and Tiger was a couple shots behind some unknown about halfway through the final round on a Sunday. I literally could not drag my ass out of bed, so I ended up sitting there and watching the last couple hours of coverage, completely mesmerized by Tiger, waiting for the camera to get back to his next shot, and watching him completely dismantle the field as he made a back-9 burst. By the time they got to 18, Tiger and the co-leader were tied and playing together. They both got up to the green with a long put for par, and Tiger's opponent missed before tapping in, giving Tiger an opportunity to steal it. He sank a fucking 25-foot put along a curve and slightly downhill like it was cake. This was the one where he slammed his visor on the ground as it went in, if you watch any golf. Watching Tiger play is often like that. He is just that good. To think that these other players are expected to go out there every single week and play hard knowing that Tiger is lurking in the field, waiting to pounce on their every mistake, that is just wrong.

Anyways, twice this weekend Tiger came to 18 at Torrey Pines needing to birdie in order to stay alive for his 14th major tournament victory. First, on Sunday he teed off right into the left bunker, but then recovered nicely, pitched onto the green and boom, he had cupped it with what, a 12- or 14-footer to tie Rocco Mediate and force an 18-hole playoff on Monday. It was a hugely clutch hole especially given that it started off smack in the sand and given Tiger's repeated wincing from the pain his recently-operated-on knee. And on Monday the story was eerily similar. After swapping the lead a couple of times during the tiebreaker round, Mediate finally claimed the lead on 15 after three consecutive birdies and so the pair headed once again to 18 with Tiger one shot back, knowing Mediate, one of the shorter hitters on tour, would play the long Par 5 safe for par and knowing Tiger would need a birdie to stay alive and force sudden death. Once again, Tiger came through, including sinking another decent putt under what had to be extreme tension to make birdie once again and force a playoff hole. Is anyone else not surprised that Mediate folded on the first hole of sudden death? I can only imagine what that guy must have been thinking, giving his all like that for not four but five straight days full of golf, and seeing the best player in the world ride up from behind and catch him to tie just at the very end, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for the world's 163rd ranked player. I bet in his mind he folded like a tent just as soon as he watched Tiger birdie the 18th to take his weekly score on the hole to I think 4-under. As I heard Trey Wingo explain this morning on ESPN Radio, Rocco Mediate threw everything and the kitchen sink at Tiger Woods this weekend, but apparently the sink only grazed him.

But the bigger news story of the day, in New York City circles anyways, is the firing of Mets coach Willie Randolph. In just the latest in a long, long string of bad manager terminations for this ownership group with the Mets, as the Wilpon brothers seem to really enjoy leaking out word of an imminent firing at least a couple of days before the actual firing occurs. Just to make things interesting I guess. The result of course is that the organization comes off looking like a bunch of filthy sons of bitches. I mean, everyone in the area knew, knew, that Randolph's firing was just a day or so away. All the papers reported it over this past weekend, citing sources close to the organization, suggesting that the Mets coach was day-to-day at best. Then word came out on Sunday that Mets GM Omar Menaya was accompanying the team out to Anaheim for their 3-game series with the Angels, something he apparently rarely does, which could not have made it more obvious what was about to happen.

For his part, Randolph clearly did not know he was on the chopping block as late as 1am last night, after his team beat the first-place, 42-28 Angels 9-6. He gave his usual post-game press conference, and trust me, he was wayyy too upbeat to have any idea what was about to happen. And yet, somehow, the Mets brass -- namely, GM Menaya -- decided that the middle of last night, at 3 effing am, was the right time to announce Randolph's departure from New York. So Randolph got word at 3am, following a win over a first-place team and the Mets' second consecutive win overall, that he had been fired, and presumably had to fly back home to New York alone to consider his future.

Of course, upon further inspection I think it's pretty clear to see why Omar Menaya would choose this exact time to make his move, regardless of the consequences of the middle-of-the-night firing or the leaking of the news as early as this past Friday and Saturday in all the major nyc news sources. It's this simple: the Mets had won on Sunday, and then they traveled across the country to face the first-place Angels, and after winning that game too, Menaya suddenly faced a dilemma. Either sit back and wait until the team comes home to New York, when he might be looking at a team fresh off a sweep of a division leader on the road and on a 4-game win streak overall, at which time Menaya's fear of the sports fans in New York would leave him exposed to hating from all sides of the Mets' fanbase. Or, Menaya could just fire Randolph right away, before Randolph has a chance to win another game against the Angels and put Menaya further into an already poor position. And Menaya, as the Mets organization always seems to do, chose the easy way out, at the direct expense of the psyche and the reputation of yet another bad coach in this city.

Way to go, Mets. I'm a friggin Phillies fan and I'm calling you classless. I'm Hoy and I'm calling you classless for crying out loud.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Back From Vegas Craziness

Well I'm back from a truly crazy weekend in Las Vegas. Let's just say it feels grrrrreat to be back at the office wearing my tie here on a Monday.

Speaking of Monday, before I forget:

Once again this week for Mondays at the Hoy at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "hammer") will see us playing shorthanded no-limit holdem, and once again the payout structure will be awarded in $216 increments as buyins to this Sunday night's 750k guaranteed to the highest-finishing lawyers players in the MATH. I think we will keep this payout structure for this week and probably for next, but I am going to rethink things for the July tournaments and see whether continuing with the buyin payout format makes sense or not in a world of freely exchangeable $T for tournament buyins.

So, about Las Vegas. For starters, let me just say that this was without a doubt one of the craziest weekends of my entire life, in a way that I did not at all expect when I left for Sin City on Wednesday evening. I've already written about my World Series of Poker experience, which I will get into a little bit more below but which in general did not end with the cash or the lasting to Day Two that I had been looking for and expecting. After the WSOP, as I woke up on Friday, I guess I had had higher expectations on myself than I thought, in that I didn't really feel like playing poker much in the a.m., with thoughts of my WSOP first-day bustout still fresh in my head. My brother had gotten in to town along with another old friend of ours on Thursday afternoon while I was busy folding through my table at the Rio, and then on Friday morning (the Morning After) super early my little brother showed up unbeknownst to me along with a couple of other longtime friends I haven't seen for ages, and we proceeded to have a proper bachelor party for my little bro all weekend long, as he is getting married in two short weeks. I had had no idea whatsoever that he was thinking about coming, and he finally got clearance at the last minute and was able to score some short-notice e-saver fares on a cheapo airline to make it happen.

Anyways, after the surprise of seeing my little brother out there with us at Bellagio, thanks to some early winnings and a lot of generosity among the people I was staying with there, we had a more or less "limitless" pot of money to play with for the weekend festivities. The end result, among the things I am even really at liberty to discuss in this kind of a forum, was a whirlwind few days full of renting feraris to rive out to red rocks, my second foray on the helicopter ride to the grand canyon, seeing Danny Gans at the Mirage and Wayne Brady at the Venetian, and some infuckincredible dinners at some of the most amazing restaurants I can recall eating at. And with the guys I was running with this weekend, we never even took a taxi once. It was a limo, every trip, every time. Mini-bar in the room, whatever the fuck we wanted. Drinking, smoking and varous other vices were indulged, and perhaps we will just leave it at that.

The only downside of all these people showing up for an impromptu bachelor party is that I ended up completely blowing off the group of bloggers that were out there this weekend. It was great getting to meet cmitch and vinnay and ck for the first time, the very night I got in, who I in fact literally bumped right in to just as I came out of the elevator on my way to register for the WSOP after I got in to the Rio on Wednesday night, which was really Thursday morning. I managed to run in to LJ in the hallways around the Rio poker room just after busting from the WSOP on Thursday shortly before 9pm, so I gave her the news of my elimination and asked her to pass it on to cmitch and vinnay who both were apparently playing at the Rio, while I was heading over to find my brother for the first time at Bellagio. But in the end, Friday we ended up sleeping late and before I knew it there were Ferraris downstairs waiting for us at the valet to head out to Red Rocks, followed by early dinner and then Danny Gans at the Mirage, and going to the Venetian for poker with the bloggers just didn't fit in to that schedule. Saturday proved to be very similar, with a trip to the luxurious Bellagio buffet for breakfast fit in right before our departure to McCarron for the helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. Then it was back to get ready for our awesome dinner at Prime, where I had literally the best steak I have ever eaten in my entire life in addition to an incredible raw seafood tower platter which I split with my brothers and our other friends. Then we headed straight to Venetian for Wayne Brady, and by the time that show was done, we were into the evening portion of our plans which are not going to be detailed here but which were pretty crazy, especially by my usual standards.

So this was one crazy weekend to me, which began with my deep run but eventual no-cash in the WSOP and which ended up surprising me by covering my activities all through the weekend more or less back to back. And to be honest, in retrospect this weekend was exactly what I needed. Sometimes getting away, away from my stress at work, away from the daily, hour-to-hour responsibilities of the kids, and even away from the whole poker blogging thing, can do a world of good. I know some of my friends in our group are aware that I have been mulling things over with my blog for some time now, and this weekend gave me some great perspective into things and for that I am feeling extremely thankful as I return to the rat race this morning.

I thought I would leave you with some of my overall lessons and impressions from Vegas:

1. As I mentioned in my previous post, I feel that I played too tight in the later portion of Day One in my WSOP tournament. Or maybe too timid, is the more accurate description. I was not wowed about just being at the WSOP and sitting with David Sklansky and red ftp poker pros and whatnot, but I do think I played it like it is the biggest buyin event I play in. Which it is. I'm not sure what to do about that, as one possible answer would be to accumulate more experience playing in large-buyin tournaments, but that is just not something that is going to happen anytime soon. If anything it is getting increasingly harder and harder to get out to play in these large live events, so that is simply not an option to help get me into a better mindset for future WSOP-style attempts from me. So this leaves me for just one real option that I can think of for this problem, which is to find a way somehow to "force" myself to play the $2000 buyin tournaments just the same way that I play the nightly 28k, the 50-50 or any other of the various nlh tournaments I play. This one is easy in practice but very hard to figure out practically how to make that happen. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that playing exactly one live poker tournament in a casino in between annual trips out for the WSOP is probably not the best way to get myself into that right mindset.

2. Not that this is anything new coming from me, but Las Vegas is SO much more of an adult-themed place again than it was ten, even five years ago when I used to be out there 7 or 8 times a year, I can almost not even believe it. There are nude or topless pools in several of the major Strip resorts now (you can check Carmen's archives for more details from several of her casino pool reviews). But there are also these "erotic shows" like "Fantasy" at Luxor, "The Bite" at wherever that is, "Thunder From Down Under" and I think even the Chippendales are all showing regularly at the major resorts nowadays, and several other similar shows as well. That would never have flown even ten years ago when the Strip and the city were so busy building themselves up as a "family" entertainment destination. Now the adult-themed stuff seems to be the norm even among the biggest resorts on the Strip. The Rio has their server women wearing almost nothing in a strappy over-revealing outfit that shows breast as well as their sides, bellies, backs, etc. But the Rio takes it a step further, with the chicks in those outfits actually dancing on the tables in the casino at regular intervals, replete with lighting and loud music to go along with the scantily-clad bodies. It's nothing that I'm complaining about, but it is very noticeable as compared to what the city used to be like when I first starting coming out there in the mid 90's.

3 (2a really). The hookering in Las Vegas is out of control. And I'm just talking about right at the big casinos, the big Strip resorts. I'm not even touching all the strip clubs, of which there are obviously several prominent ones and where I know as a fact in some cases you can get yourself laid if you want to, and if you have the cashish of course. But having spent various parts of the weekend at various casinos on the Strip, I have to say the pace of hookers readily willing and available has never, even been anywhere near as rampant as it seems to be right now. Maybe it's just me not being from Nevada where prostitution is legal in some places, I don't know, but here I am staying at the Bellagio, the ultra-posh retreat for the rich and famous even among Vegas's elite, and I am telling you, if you wanted to get a ho, you could just walk down to the casino and within five minutes or so, you would be able to find one easy (or she would find you). In fact, skipping the casino entirely for a minute, you could just hit the lobby of the Bellagio anytime after say 11pm or so, and you couldn't wait probably five minutes without being propositioned. Right there, right in front of the registration desk, with hotel employees all around and watching the whole thing. It is just amazing I guess I'm saying how easy it is to get laid in Las Vegas if you're in to that kind of thing. I know I've read a million times that hooking is not technically legal within the city limits in Vegas or some shit like that, but these days the personnel who work in the big resorts in the city at the least do nothing to stop it. At most, they even have things set up to actively allow the solicitation to go on, right in front of their noses in very obvious and open fashion. It just seems amazing to me.

4. The Bellagio is fucking nooiiiice. I'm traditionally an MGM / Monte Carlo kind of guy, not needing any of the fancy schmancy stuff to be perfectly happy in any hotel, let alone in Las Vegas with so much other great stuff to do. But even being that kind of a guy in general, Bellagio is still pretty fucking great. The buffet is my favorite of all the big resorts on the Strip, which I was intoduced to last year by Fuel and Iak and Eric before my WSOP run to the cash began. But the quality of the stuff overall all through the resort is just so much better at Bellagio then at so many other places in Vegas. We were in the new Spa Tower at Bellagio, and thanks to my brothers' gambling degeneracy, me and two other guys literally shared a three-huge-rooms suite, each one with its own bed and its own bathroom. It was pretty fucking awesome. Even my suite at the Rio on my first night out in Vegas was actually super fatty -- they said because I was a one-nighter there just to play in the WSOP on Thursday that they were able to upgrade me free of charge. So for under $100 on Wednesday night / Thursday morning I managed to score a 1000+ square foot, two-room huge suite at the Rio, where literally just the bathroom was probably bigger than my first studio apartment in Manhattan. The bathroom alone had I think five "rooms" -- more like compartments, really -- including a dressing area, a vanity, a large marble shower, a jacuzzi bath and a toilet.

The incredible suite at Bellagio was more or less the same setup only larger since it was for three people instead of one, but the thing about Bellagio is that it was just nicer. All of it. The furniture was stained oak at Bellagio as opposed to some kind of formica or some shit at Rio. The windows were true floor-to-ceiling at Bellagio and sported better views, while at the Rio they only extended about two-thirds of the way from ceiling to floor. Bellagio had perfect high-speed and wireless internet access, in each of our three rooms in fact, while the Rio did not even offer this in the room. That one I still cannot believe, in today's day and age. But it was all stuff like that. Everything at the Bellagio is just better than the comparable stuff at the Rio. And don't even get me started on the chicks. Those of you who've hung a lot at Bellagio know exactly what I mean about that.

5. The last thing I would mention about Vegas was the comps. I've been reading all about how the comps Vegas offers to its players have been declining as revenues and profits have slowed over the past year. But that was not our experience. Now granted, a couple of the guys I was out there with play regularly like lunatics and there were four of us staying in the suite they had offered us, but I was still shocked to find at the end of the weekend that the hotel basically comped us for every single thing we had charged to the room during the entire stay. So all three rooms of the fatty suite, all three nights, totally free. Two full meals for 4-6 people from room service, free. Two late-night dinners for four at the Bellagio Cafe, free. Our incredible $585 extravaganza at Prime? Awwwllll freeeeee baybeeeeee. We did have to pay for the two shows we saw at other hotels on the Strip, but otherwise all of our in-hotel expenses were basically totally paid for. And what was cool was we spent a good deal of time talking to the host there about what level of play exactly it takes to have a huge fatty suite and all of our reasonable living and entertainment expenses paid for while we were at a place like the Bellagio. Basically it comes down to playing four hours a day, with an average aggregate bet per hand of $200 or more. That's it. If you come out there and play $200 a hand blackjack for four hours a day, you can have that suite and dinner at Prime and 5 other meals for 4 and they'll take care of it. How awesome is that? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going anywhere and playing $200 a hand of blackjack for four hours, hopefully never in my life will I do that. But it's not that much money, in that anyone who is even just a little bit rich can probably pull that off once or twice. By my calculations, I've played quarter ($25) blackjack several times in my life, and in my experience you want to have a good $500 or $600 there to really have some level of comfort that you're not going to get wiped out very quickly in the average situation. So that's about 20 units to play with at quarters to feel comfortable. So, moving that up to $200 betting units, that means you would comfortably need $4000 to sit down at $200 blackjack and play it like you can handle losing for a little bit. So if you've got $4000 to risk for four hours a day at a game that is just barely -EV if you play it correctly (and is a lot of fun to play as well), you can basically live reasonably well for free at Bellagio for a few days. That surprises me that that's all it takes. Not that I'm sitting here with $4000 to go drop at the BJ tables, but I am surprised at how attainable that number seems, in particular at a place like the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

OK that's all you're getting out of me today. I'm glad to be back home after a crazyass weekend in Vegas, bummed that I did not run deeper in the WSOP but still glad to be back home with my family. I'll see you tonight for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Friday, June 13, 2008

WSOP Event #23 $2000 No-Limit Holdem

Well I'm in Vegas. Sorry for the lack of updates yesterday but it took until tonight at the Bellagio to even get my pc hooked up. I ended up getting a fatty suite at the Rio, one of the nicest I've ever stayed in, but apparently only some of their rooms have working internet access, which tells you just about all you need to know about the Rio IMO. But anyways, so here I am.

So it was a difficult Day 1 for me at the WSOP, with only a very few highlights. Fellow bloggers LJ, cmitch and Vinnay joined me in running the 2k WSOP event on Thursday at noon local time, and while I was separately suggesting some kind of a last-longer bet to some of that group, turns out the others were already suggesting the same thing, so we met prior to the event to agree on the amount. I expressed that I would be willing to do anything up to $500, such that the winner of our last longer bet would win back his or her buyin to the WSOP, but the group decided that was a bit steep which makes sense to me. So I suggested $200, and we all readily agreed. So with the $200 last longer bet in tact, I went to go sit at my first table, which was Table #5 in the Green area, Seat 1.

I hate Seat 1. You're usually being crowded by the dealer and/or their tip jar. And what's worse, I have no fucking clue what is happening over at Seats 9 and 10 since I can't see them because of the dealer. So, I'm constantly having to wait until the dealer prompts me to take my turn. It sucks, and my first table at the WSOP this year was no different.

Nonetheless, I managed to double up from the starting stack of 4000 chips within the first 20 minutes or so against a woman who looked (and played) like she was an experienced player. She really knew how to handle her poker chips and she had won several pots with aggressive betting and raising, both before and after the flop. I effed this chick good too in what turned out to be some very nice luck for me. I raised preflop with AQs, my first playable hand of the day, and got two callers including this chica. The flop comes down A63 with two diamonds (I have no diamonds). I bet out about two-thirds the pot (400 into the 550-chip pot or so), the chick very deliberately smooth calls, setting off some vague warning bells in my head, while the third player in folded to the bet and call. Then the turn brought an offsuit Queen, making the board A63Q and giving me top two pair. This time, I went for the check, assuming from her previous aggressive play that my opponent would try to bet me out, and I figured I would check-raise in this spot in what was already growing to be quite a large pot. She did in fact bet out, but with the pot at 1350 and each of us having only about 2000 behind at this point, she very confidently pushed out one yellow chip, a 1000-chip bet. This left her only about a grand behind, obviously committing her to this pot, and suddenly there went my spidey senses again. It was a bit too early in the tournament for me to really have formed a trustable opinion of her though, so I could not find a fold with the top two pairs on the board. I thought AK was a possible holding for her, in addition to A6 or A3, plus of course the trips possibilities. I didn't see her calling off with just the flush draw given her seemingly good play to that point.

Anyways I opted to go for just the smooth call of her 1k turn bet, knowing I myself was close to committed to the pot at that point (I had about 1500 behind or so as I recall) since something didn't seem quite right. Long story short, the river brought a beautiful Queen of diamonds, giving me Queens full of Aces in a very lucky turn-river combination. Even better, the river also filled the flush draw on the board since the flop. Thinking she had something strong all along, I figured the best move was for me to insta-push, either pretending I had the flush in the hopes that the pair on the river also made her a boat, or just pretending I was strong on the river in the hopes she would call down with whatever she had been betting to that point. She considered for maybe 7 or 8 seconds, and pushed in the rest of her chips. She flipped up pocket 3s for the flopped set and rivered boat. She had to call on the end there, especially with the flush filling. I made a very lucky river boat to top her own boat, and I was up over 8k early on.

Some of the bloggers insist this was a "suckout", but of course they are wrong. It was lucky as balls of course, but she deliberately only called my flop bet, and I deliberately only called her turn bet, so when we both acted deliberately to not get all the money into the pot on previous streets, and then the money did not go in until I was ahead, clearly it's not a suckout. It was in fact a good play that I made based on a very good read, and then hitting just the right cards which I played to perfection to get the call I needed at the end. But man was it a lucky pull on the turn and river. If the chick simply raises me with her flopped set on the flop, I lay down AQ on the A63 board for sho that early into the tournament. No way I'm getting stacked like I watched so many people get stacked in the first couple hours with just one pair. Not even with top kicker! No way Jose.

Sadly, this proved to be one of only two double-ups in total I recorded on the day, the second one of which basically only got me back up to this same level (around 8200 chips) that I had 20 minutes in. But I'm getting to that. Around the end of the first hour, I saw a 5-way limped pot with pocket 2s, and flopped AK2. I figured I was gonna be ripe for some action on this one, as it's always the best thing when you flop a set on a flop with an Ace on it (and even better with a King as well), but sadly I bet 2/3 the pot from middle position and got no callers. Otherwise, I stole a few pots where I could, and near the end of second hour of the tournament, I was finally moved into the Orange section, Table 41 Seat 2, where all three of my blogger cohorts were in action.

At 2:02pm local time, we played the last hand before the first break, and I watched Vinnay push his short stack all in from late position with J9s, and unfortunately get called by AKs, in the same sdam suit he had. A few seconds and a couple of Kings on the board later, Vinnay was shaking hands and heading out of the tournament. This was also the first time I saw the cigarettes n candy chick that Pauly has been writing about in his WSOP coverage. Pauly' right, that chick is hot. Even the later-day cigs n candy chick was hot too. I recognize a lot of the same masseuses there from last year as well, and a few of them are fucking hot as well. There is so much hotness in Vegas whenever I'm out here, I really don't know how people can live here without just constantly fucking hot chicks. I guess that is what some of our Vegas friends do, come to think of it. Good for them, there is definitely no shortage of opportunities out here, that is for sure.

So at the first break, I was sitting on 8125 chips, with the average chip stack being 5387 at the time. During the break they stopped allowing late alternates to enter the tournament and they put up the official numbers -- 1344 runners, 998 left after the first two hours. The total prize pool was $2,446,000, with the top 99 finishers being paid. The first casher would win $4402, and the tournment winner was looking at $507,613 of cold hard cashish. I had had no premium hands whatsoever (no AA, KK, QQ, JJ (is Jacks even a premium hand?), AK), and had 99 once and AQ twice over the first two-hour session.

The third hour was not a good one for me. Although I started with about 60% more than average chips, three times in the first half-hour or so saw me laying down on the flop or turn when I was dealt middle Aces in unopened pots in middle position, felt I had to riase, got called and then whiffed the flop entirely. In one spot I c-bet, got called and had to lay down to turn aggresion with nothing but A8-high, and in the other I didn't even c-bet a terrible flop for me of TJQ with two suits, and laid down to a pot-sized bet on the flop. By 3:15pm, almost to the end of Hour 3, I was all the way down to 4175 chips after two more such laydowns, one with A7 and one with A8. These are not the kinds of hands I want to play of course, but receiving exactly zero premium hands -- I did not even see AK one time in the entire day which surprises me quite a bit -- and with the blinds jumping quickly over the first few hours from 25-50 to 50-100 to 100-200, there just isn't much choice. No way I'm folding A8s from the cutoff when the pot has not been opened and it's pretty much the best hand I've seen in two hours. I tried raising once with KQo as well from late position, and once again the flop brought an Ace (natch) and with two callers behind me of my preflop raise, when one bet and the other called on the flop, obviously I was out there as well. Suffice it to say, Hour 3 saw me lose half my chips without playing a big pot. I raised I think a total of 4 times in the hour, each time probably for around 3x the big blind or 600 chips, and each time I had to fold, only once or twice after also c-betting the flop. Hour 3 sucked.

At 3:20pm, however, I had a bit of good news - bad news. Bad news was that cmitch came over to tell me he had just busted. I knew he was short at the first break as it was -- down to 1300 I believe he had said when we chatted after Hour 2 -- but I was bummed to see a fellow blogger not have survived further while I was desperately trying to hold on for dear life. Cmitch mentioned to me that I just won $600, and I was like Huh? LJ had been a bit above the starting stack, around 4300 chips or so as I recall, at the break, btu cmitch told me she had busted as well. Later LJ would explain she ran into a set of Aces with her own top pair on the flop. I saw lots of sets of Aces on the day, I have to say, including big pots lost to it by both Vinnay and LJ on the day. In any event, that came as a surprise, and even though I would have much rather had all four of us -- or just the three of them, if that's how it had turned out -- it was nice to learn at least that I had won the last longer bet. I thought that $600 would feel nice for me while I continued my own downward slide to nothing in this tournament. Still not a single premium pair or AK now through 3 1/2 hours of play. Blech.

At 3:25pm, there were 750 of 1344 runners left as Hour 4 began with me wishing for a reversal of fortune in my cards situation. About halfway through the hour, I see pocket 9s, which believe me looked like quad Aces when I saw that hand, and I ended up reraising an active preflop raiser for about half my stack, knowing I was committed if he called given my short situation. He did not call. He reraised, putting me allin. There was like 5k in the pot at this point, and I had about 1400 chips left in my stack. I made the split second decision that, while I knew my 99 was probably 80% likely to be dominated and 20% to be up against AK, I just did not want to sit and play this tournament with 100-200 blinds and 25-chip antes starting this hour with just 1400 chips remaining. I cursed my luck and called, and of course he flipped up QQ. Fucking Queens. What a hateable hand, isn't it? Anyways I stood up and gathered my things, and then the 9 came out on the flop. Now that one was a suckout, and a bad one. And one I knew was behind when I made the call as it was. But that my friends would be my last double-up on the day. I was back "up" to 8075 chips, with 700 runners remaining and an average chip stack of 7168 after my first time being all in in the tournament.

At some point during Hour 4, the two dorkshits across the table from me started one
of the most annoying conversations I have ever been forced to listen to. You know these guys if you play big live tournaments like the WSOP -- the guys who are young little shits for the most part, and they're bragging loudly enough to make sure the whole table can hear them about how they play online poker all the time, they won a WSOP circut event but left the ring at home, that sort of thing. You can just feel their penises growing by millimeters while they do it, it's so funny and yet so annoying at the same time, yknow? These two shits were consistently trying to one-up each other in shitheadedness. The first guy is like "yeah I ran $200 up to $18,000 on Interpoker, but then they closed it down." Then the other guy "Oh totally, I started off playing 1-2 on full tilt but then before I knew it I was playing 100-200 and making a killing." This is a grungy-looking 25 year old kid probably. Then it was how he had a bad end of 2007, losing over 200 grand on full tilt in November and December alone. Uh huh. Gold Jerry, gold.

In the midst of all this, I was dealt pocket Aces at 4:02pm, my one and only premium hand of the day. Tighty UTG had already raised the 200 blind up to 600 and it had folded around to me. I debated smooth calling, but that's just not how I play and with how tight the UTG player was, I didn't see making much from him after the flop unless I was going to lose, so I went for the reraise right there to 2000 chips. I wanted him to call obv., but he folded. I don't regret that decision, though for a few minutes I cursed myself under my breath. Those of you who have played a lot of live tournaments will know just what I mean about so desperately wanting to make the best of your one premium hand when you've sat around for 4 hours and seen nothing but garbage. But I was not about to get my Aces sucked out on because I slow-played them in this spot.

Dorkshit across from me: "Oh yeah, so and so from Cardrunners asked me to do a video for them. He begged me actually. But I turned him down. Why would I want to educate all the high-stakes players, right?"


As the second break came at 4:25pm, I was sitting on 7200 chips, right around where I was most of the day, and with 570 players remaining of the 1344 who started four hours earlier. Average chips were 9430, leaving me around 75% or so of average, which I could not complain about given the complete dearth of starting cards I was experiencing. It was the one AA, two AQs and a pocket 9s so far, those were my 4 best hands. Strangely, I didn't see AK or AJ the entire day, nor any pocket pair between Queens and Tens. At the time I felt sure this was the worst card death I had ever experienced, and it certainly was right up there, but I'm not quite ready to say that it's the literal worst. Figuratively, it was the worst. And the string of middle Aces in middle position in unopened pots that bled away half my stack during the third and fourth hours, that was just plain old brutal.

The fifth hour of play begain promptly like the rest of the tournament had been at 4:50pm. I was sitting on 24 big blinds here, so I had a little bit of room to play, but not all that much when you get a preflop raise in there and maybe one reasonable small bet after the flop.

Donk across the table: "My friend won the 10k mixed WSOP event the other day, and my roommate just won the O8 tournament!" Uh huh. People you wish you knew don't count as your friends I guess.

Thankfully, just as Mr. Donk was explaining to his friend how the red FTP pros are now officially afraid to play sitngos with him anymore, he busted from the tournament. Pushing Q8o allin preflop, might I add. Guess that is just a complicated 100-200 nl move from Interpoker, who knew.

While I failed to play a single hand in the first half hour of Hour 5, David Sklansky did get moved to my table with a decent stack size at 5:20pm. While my stack dwindled down from 7000 to 6000 and eventually into the 5's with no playable hands and no opportunities to steal because the big stacks at the other end of the table kept raising before the action got me in late position, I saw on the big screen that the chip leader in my tournament was sitting at 51,000 chips. 51k. A good ten times my own stack size. What a bad feeling to know that is going on, yknow? Last year in the shorthanded nlh event, I was that guy. I had 30k in chips about 3 hours in to a tournament that started I think with 3k. This time I was destined to be the shorty all day and to have to just stare longingly at the leaderboard and wish I could pick up a flucking hand to save my life. I could only manage to steal one or two pots all during Hour 5, as my card death continued. Sickeningly, I saw 11 hands during Hour 5 that contained a 2 in them. Imagine how suck that was. There was just nothing I could do but just sit around and wait. Even picking up one big hand in the blinds -- something I did not get literally one time through the entire day -- would have been huge because I mentioned there were two big stacks at the other end of the table who were raising every single time the pot came to them unopened, and I could have reraised from the blinds and basically added 50% to my chipstack at any time. But no way I was going to do that with 42o and so few chips. The big stacks would have called me in an instant for 15% of their chips.

As Hour 5 ended, I was still floundering, sitting on 5825 chips while the average stack size had swelled to over 12,200. My time was rapidly running out in this thing. We were, however, down to 440 players remaining out of the 1344 who started, so I was slowly but surely outlasting a good portion of the field. But of course in the end that is only good for the ego if there isn't any money to go with it, something I was all too aware of especially after cashing last year in the WSOP.

Just a few minutes in to Hour 6, I looked down to find pocket 3s in early position. This time the hand looked like quint Aces after the shit I had been laying down for the past hour and really all day, so I put in a standard 3x raise. Of course I got two callers from the big stacks, and when the flop came J64 with two clubs, I put in a large c-bet that (purposely) clearly committed me to the pot, and both big stack players folded begrudingly to my action. This was my third big pot of the day, weak though it was, as it left me right around 10k in chips and at my high for the entire tournament. I guess that's what happens when you get so little cards and have such a small stack -- even a simple c-bet after two people call a preflop raise was enough at this point to nearly double me up.

At 6:25pm, joining David Sklansky at my table two seats to my left was a red FTP pro. He was such a no-name that he had to crow very loudly about being an FTP pro just so people would even look at him. Turns out his name is Roy Winston, someone whose name I've seen on full tilt a few times, but who I don't recognize because, I'm betting, he sucks and has never done much of anything poker-wise. I love some of the donks FTP makes "pros" these days. But Roy seemed nice enough to be honest, from nyc originally but nowadays has the look and the sound of a southerner. We did not get mixed up in any hands (nor did I with Sklansky, sadly, though people made him fold to preflop reraises on at least three occasions, pissing him off increasingly each time).

At 6:43pm, just 8 minutes before the 90-minute dinner break was scheduled, my table was broken up, which was fine with me given the big stacks across the way raising every single pot they could. Unfortunately, I was moved to a new table in the Blue area this time, Blue 14, Seat 5. I say unfortunately because at table Blue 14, Seat 6 (immediately to my left) was the most monstrous stack I had seen yet on the day from anyone. The chip counter guys were all up on this guy's jock counting him up every 15 minutes, so I know he was one of the leaders. I think our table saw two hands before the dinner break happened, and I left to head back to Bellagio to meet up with my brother for the first time.

I returned to the Rio just in time for the restart at 8:20pm. The big screen showed Barry Greenstein, whom I had watched finish third at the final table of the Deuce to Seven single-draw WSOP tournament won by Mike Matusow the night I arrived in Vegas, was the chipleader in my event, sitting on over 53,000 chips as Hour 7 began. There were 321 players remaining out of the 1344 who started, and I was sitting on just over 8500 chips. Unfortunately, the average at this point was 16,748 chips, and the blinds would start this round at 300-600 with a 75-chip ante. This left me with 14 big blinds heading into post-dinner play. Plus, the blinds hit me on the second hand back from dinner, dropping me down to 12 big blinds almost immediately. If you play a lot of tournaments you know that 12 big blinds is what we call nearly desperate. I knew I would have to push something within the next one or maybe two orbits no matter what, or I would basically be in true desperation mode and not even worth trying to double up with. And the bigger problem was this huge, sickly massive stack on my immediate left. So, when the action amazingly folded around to me on the button a couple of hands later, I looked down to find the veritable monster known as 42o. I was about to put in a raise, and then I remember the big stack on my left. He had already called down another short earlier at the table with his KTo, and he was going to call my tiny stack push as well. It was obvious. So I folded the 42o and figured I must be able to find a better spot than that. It sucks when you have the massive stack playing bully poker on your left, because it can completely eliminate your ability to steal if he or she plays it correctly. Sucks to be that guy, but as I've mentioned several times this just seemed to be my fate in WSOP #23 this year, just to be the constant short stack always under pressure from the blinds to push hands I don't want to push, and never getting a big hand when I really needed one. I must have seen AK or AA flipped up 25 times in those first 7 hours of play, but sadly only the one time for me when I got no callers of my preflop reraise.

Anyways, just minutes before 9pm, I am in middle-late position and the action folds around to me. I turn up the corners of my cards and spy A7o. Best hand I've seen in literally 2 1/2 hours. I push my entire stack in, at that point almost exactly ten big blinds. The monster on my left folds, which was great, but unfortunately the big blind, himself also fairly short (but bigger than me still) asks how much it is, and he eventually counts the chips out and calls. We are heads-up and we flip up, with me knowing my A7o is cooked. No it wasn't a higher Ace somehow, but he did show pocket Kings. He had exactly what I had been longing for all day but was totaly unable to get -- a big hand in the blinds. I did not hit my Ace, and IGH.

They weren't giving out individual bustout updates at this point with stil close to 300 players remaining, but given what I saw at my table and the last update I had seen on the big screen, it looks like I busted in around 290th place of 1344 runners. That number sounds pretty strong to me all things considered, and I am certainly proud to have run as deep as I did, but I'm also aware of a few big negatives from my performance overall.

First and foremost, I recorded just two double-ups on the day. That is simply insufficient if I want to succeed on poker's largest stage over nearly eight hours of play. But what's worse, it is not lost on me that both of those double-ups were in situations where I got pretty fucking lucky as it was. In the first hour I had that awesome run of Queen-Queen on the turn and river to make me a higher boat against someone who was slow-playing no-paying a flopped set. As I said that was not a suckout but actually some good play by me to get all her chips, but I still got lucky as phuck to even still be alive after that hand. Like I said, I am quite positive that I fold AQ to a significant reraise on the A63 flop just 20 minutes in to a tournament like this. But if she had bet me allin on the turn once the board was A63Q, do I fold top two pairs for all my chips? Even though I sort of had that "set" vibe from her, the answer in that spot with like half my stack in the pot is probably not. So I got lucky as balls to be in that situation and live to talk about it let alone to double through my opponent. And then of course my other double up was me sucking out 99 vs QQ allin preflop.

So I doubled up twice in the entire tournament, and both doubles were pretty lucky (or very lucky) for me. That is not something you want to be able to say about your play if you can help it. So unlike last year, I didn't have a single hand this year that I played particularly well in this thing. Now sure, I got no good cards at all. I would love to know the odds of playing for 8 hours and receiving AA once, no KK, no QQ, no JJ, no TT and no AK. I don't know how many hands an hour we were seeing, but it felt like sick card death to me, especially given the cards everyone else seemed to be showing all the time, so all that didn't help. But the bottom line is, I played tournament nlh for eight hours and could not find a single situation to use my poker skill to double up. That's not good.

But what's worse, and this is really the bigger lesson I take from my WSOP experience this time around, is that at some point during the 6th or 7th hour it became obvious to me that I simply was not playing nearly as aggressively as I need to in order to really make it to the next level in the WSOP. Frankly, this same thing was true last year as well as I look back on it, but with me cashing and all I didn't focus on that aspect of things too much. But think back to my WSOP cash last year. When I got moved at 9pm to that table with chip leader JC Tran at it and we started that marathon 3-hour bubble time, I had a short stack. This year by after the dinner break I once again came back to a short stack. I'm sure many of you out there can relate, as I hear and read people all the time in blogs complaining about making a few final tables but never having the big stack when they get there. It's a very common thing that I see all the time from other people, but the thing is, it's not usually my problem. Not in the least. I'm the guy who, like I did a couple of times in the Bodonkey tournament this year, comes to the final table holding a third of the total chips in play. I know how to get my aggro on at least as well as most other people, and I practice what I preach all the time as a rule.

But I was not playing anywhere near as many pots as the more successful people at my table, that's just a fact. Now surely, some of that is due to them amassing big stacks, which enables anyone to see a lot more flops, to call a lot more preflop raises if you want, etc. But in the end, they got those big stacks by playing a lot more hands than I did. Somehow, in both of my last two WSOPs, I did not see enough flops or play enough pots in the middle hours of Day 1 to get me where I needed to be. Now I know I got shitfucky cards all through the event on Thursday this year. I was there, I lived it, and my cards sucked balls. But you know what? Do I think the Swedish guy on my left who looked like he hadn't combed his hair since the Reagan years really had that many good starting cards to raise as much as he did and to call as many preflop and even flop bets as he did? Highly unlikely. That guy was out there taking some gambles, and risking some chips early in pots to try to take the shit down later. And he had amassed a huge stack doing that by the time I was moved away from his table just before the dinner break.

So I think I played too tight. Not the "I folded AQ from early position for no reason" kind of tight. But rather the "I won't go for the steal with this 75o hand because I know I'll get reraised again" kind of tight. I needed to bluff more, period. And even though that might very well have led to me busting out of the WSOP earlier than the 8th hour like I did, it would pretty much definitely have given me a better chance of amassing some chips to do some kind of damage with. As it is, I played solid, patient poker and basically got blinded out into pushing with A7o on a short stack 8 hours later. If you know me and play poker with me over time, then you know how much that is not my game. I tend to laugh at the people whose game that is, in fact. Well, playing live for the big bucks of the WSOP I guess does that to me. Last year I got off to a huge early stack, but all I know is, when it came down to bubble time, I was short. Not the shortest guy in the tournament, but short enough to know I was short. This is the thing I take the most from my WSOP experience this time around. I needed to get in there and mix it up more earlier, I needed to find some spots and just go for it even with shitty cards. I didn't flop even top pair all day long (not even once, literally), but by playing the way I did this year, I forced myself into a situation where I was basically one pushing hand away from busto for basically the last 4 or 5 hours of this tournament.

Oh well. At least the $600 from the last longer helps cushion the blow a little bit. Hopefully this update finds everyone well. I have a few more days in Vegas and really don't know what my plans are, but I'm looking forward to having lots of pokery good times before heading back on Sunday morning. I've already gotten to meet in person some really good people from our group, so in that sense the weekend is already a big success. And hey, I got to skip being fucked out of the Mookie for one week, so that can't be all bad right there.

Not sure how much more I will post from Vegas now that the WSOP is over :(, but I do have my laptop up and running in the room here so anything is possible. I am planning a good post upon my return as well so you can look forward to that coming in a few days at the latest. Have a great weekend everyone

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