Monday, February 28, 2011

Treachery and Deceit In Survivor Poker

Donkey Island Event #5, the multi-entry nlh blonkament this past Sunday night, was a lot of fun as expected. Attendance was a bit lower than I had hoped it might be for one of the most fun and truly impactful poker tournaments in years, but with 81 total entries I guess it is hard to complain. I bought in for the maximum 4 entries, and I played fast and loose, freed from the need to play safe early in a push to win individual immunity thanks to my untimely ejection from Donkey Island last week. Although I got off to decent starts in three of my entries, they were ultimately destined for losing a race, losing a race, and getting sucked out on as a dominated favorite allin preflop, and I never had an impact on the outcome of the game as I pushed a lot of edges, deliberately took on a lot of big stacks and good players, and played highly aggressive poker start to finish. I think my deepest entry went out in 20-somethingth place, and I eliminated three players total among my four entries. Not a strong result from me, but then, I wasn't the story from that tournament -- the story was Survival.

Once again, Team Fish lost the team immunity challenge on the night. I've been saying it for weeks -- the blogger tournament skill level on the two teams simply does not balance out. Who has been kicked off from Team Fish so far probably isn't helping matters either in terms of guys who can survive in a last-longer format, but even from the getgo as I've been saying all along, the long-term blogger tournament success on Donkey Island is squarely focused on Team Donkey, and the Fish have been getting summarily wiped up, being outlasted by multiple entrants from Team Donkey each and every week of the series. Having already been forced to eliminate three members from its 8-person team, and with iaatg having won the individual bounty immunity already on the night, the Fish were faced with another crucial vote-off, having to choose between SmBoatDrinks, VeryJosie, xkm or Dawn Summers, and in the end it was Dawn who was voted off.

I suppose it gives me the slightest bit of gratification to see my grand plans generally continued on with Team Fish's elimination decisions even after my own elimination last week by the very same people who voted out Dawn on Sunday night. I'm not sure why that is. I mean, it's certainly not a vendetta I have against Dawn or anything. I like Dawn just fine -- I just think you make yourself an easy target if you skip out on the first three "challenges" we have in the form of team tournaments on Donkey Island, especially when your team goes down in flames hard in two of them as a result. But Dawn should have and would have gone instead of me on that night if she had not won herself personal immunity, so I guess that's why it just feels kind of "right" to me for Dawn to be out in the following tournament. In any event, the next event is the final event of team play during Survivor Poker, and that one should be interesting if the Fish manage to lose another one there and have to really start trimming the fat and drop it down to three players. I have a feeling I know who will be out if that happens, but obviously I wasn't really on the inside with my own team so what the hell do I know.

Speaking of which, I have gotten a lot of questions from people over the past few days asking about the specifics of my vote-out the other day. Although it is lame on some level to admit, I'll just go ahead and lay out generally exactly what happened last Wednesday night, but to be clear, yes I got straight-up double-crossed by my teammates in a very direct way. I guess I don't see the need to use actual names of anyone from the team, or to attribute any specific action to any one person, as that doesn't seem right to me in terms of their own ability to keep doing what they're doing in the game, but suffice it to say that a number of people on Team Fish had indicated their joint intention somewhere during the beginning of the tournament time that Dawn Summers would be voted out if it came to that, and I do believe (though clearly, I could be wrong) that would have happened if not for Dawn nabbing the individual immunity by knocking out Wolfshead early in that night's Dank tournament. Within literally seconds of Dawn's winning immunity, I received two notes from other members of Team Fish discussing who would be voted for instead of Dawn since a vote for Dawn would now equal a vote for oneself. I was asked my intention on a few occasions over the next hour or so, and I provided the same person as my intended vote to multiple members of Team Fish. At one point there was even a group communication -- one that included confirmation of a sufficient number of votes to ensure success -- including myself and the majority of the existing Team Fish roster at the time, indicating that the group would be voting in the manner agreed upon.

I went to bed around 11:30pm or so, having sent in my vote for the designated person to Buddy, fairly confident to be honest just based on how the events of the night had transpired. I mean, of course I would have been most confident if Dawn was eligible for elimination, as not showing up for three tournaments made her easy fodder in everyone's mind, which was borne out by her near-unanimous elimination this Sunday night. But the thing that really had me feeling confident I would survive another couple of tournaments (because I thought I was covered on that night, and then I figured -- correctly, it turned out -- that Dawn would go next) was that the team had contacted me -- not the other way around -- the very minute that BDR broadcasted about Dawn's winning immunity. Two different members of Team Fish, within literal seconds, asking what the new plan should be and here is what they thought, etc. So it wasn't even like I was initiating this stuff and might have come off as desperate or something. These people came to me with a plan, we had some mutual individual discussion and then some group discussion, and a plan was agreed to by a number of teammates. I have the emails to prove it -- there was literal agreement from again enough members of the team to ice the vote, to vote for the same specific person on the team.

And then I woke up in the morning, grabbed the iPad from next to the bed, and read I think on Heffmike's blog that I was voted out. And near-unanimously too. Apparently around the end of the Dank when Team Fish was offishially eliminated once again and knew it would have to vote, there was some dissension within the ranks that had initiated the discussions with me earlier in the night and had participated in the majority-group vote and decision. Ultimately it isn't important who specifically the dissension originated from, or whether it had been pre-planned or simply more of a spur-of-the-moment thing -- suffice it to say that the group of people I was in discussions with clearly included more than one person with whom I had had overt friction in the past. Be it on my or their blog, in someone else's blog's comments, or even in the chatbox of our weekly games going back way back when, I was essentially "forced" to ally with people who clearly have exhibited some Hoy Haterism in the not too distant past. There just wasn't any other choice. I tried to be as careful as I could about who I allied with as a result, but ultimately this is why I said all along that a guy like me has zero shot, no shot whatsoever in a format like this. It's fucking highlarious fun for almost any group of 3 or 4 or 5 bloggers to vote Hoy out in a snivelling, mutinous, back-room deal in the wee hours of the morning. Come on -- you know you would love to participate in that! So I did the best that I could, but I was fighting an uphill battle right from the getgo on Donkey Island, and every night I survived by hook or by crook was like a gift.

So yeah, that's how it happened, guys. To remove all rumor and conjecture, yes I was straight-up double crossed by my teammates. A majority of the team contacted me during the tournament and initiated a discussion on who to vote for, a decision was made and agreed to in writing by all, and then all of them but for me set up a late-night meeting after the fact where it was decided unanimously by the persons in attendance at this meeting that I would in fact be voted out instead.

Now, to be clear, and very much unlike the first two guys who got voted out of the game, I hold absolutely no grudge whatsoever against my teammates who voted me out. I suspect that ultimately has a lot to do with my expectations level for myself coming in to this tournament -- I imagine that both Numb and Al thought they had the tournament skill and the popular vote to avoid eliminations for some time, probably throughout all of team play for that matter, whereas I literally lost money on a prop bet that I would be voted out in the very first event where Team Fish had to vote someone out. But whatever the reason, I'm not going to sit here and repeat what's been said multiple times already by eliminatees, that I won't forget what these fuckers did to me, that you can be sure I will vote against those aholes when it comes time for the final vote at the end, etc. In reality, I never thought I would last even for three tournaments, and I had fun goofing around and chatting with some guys I haven't really chatted with before, which I know I never would have done if not for Survivor Poker, so that's another plus. But the truth is, I harbor no ill will at all towards anyone on my team, I knew that the exact kind of backstabbery that did happen to me last week was going to happen much sooner than later to me no matter what I did, and I actually find myself still rooting for my former teammates on the Fishies as we move each day deeper into the Survivor Poker series. And to be clear, I would love to vote for one of them if they manage to last down to the bitter end on Donkey Island -- I definitely plan to vote for the person who I think deserves it the most, and I know there's gonna be a whole lot of shenanigans to happen between now and then so it's not worth speculating on that just yet, but I certainly will not hold against any of my teammates the fact that they calculatedly contacted me, cold-bloodedly lied to my face, and then mutinously plotted against me behind my back after I was fast asleep, awash in a veil of false confidence.

I'm already looking forward to Wednesday's Dank tournament, the final tournament of the "team play" portion of Survivor Poker. If the Fish can just win that one, they can stem the bleeding and enter the merge with 4 players versus Team Donkey's 6. Somehow, going in to the merge down 6-4 seems a heck of a lot better than heading in down 7-3. In the former, the ex-Fish people might have some chance of weaseling their way in to the larger group's consensus. But just like it was easy to find a consensus along the earlygoing for those who had not been showing up on time or at all for all the games, I expect it will not be difficult for the ex-Donkeys to come together to vote out those last 3 surviving Fishies if they head in with more than a 2-to-1 disadvantage in people after the merge.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Play the Goat on Sunday

While I continue to wallow in having had my time on Donkey Island cut short by my teammates, don't forget that the next tournament of Survivor Poker is this Sunday, and unlike the past two weeks' $1 rebuy format, this time around Goat has set up a $5 multi-entry tournament. I like that structure ten times better than any $1 monkey pushfest, and I think it will make the tournament a lot more interesting, let alone make it easier for the better players to probably end up battling it out at the end.

In case you live under a rock or something, Survivor Poker is that thing that basically everybody who's anybody has been writing about in their blogs this week, and it's the brainchild of one Julius K. Goat, who if you read his blog is already used to filling our days with things that are crazy and awesome, so it should not be surprising that such a crawesome idea would have sprung from his head. So come out to full tilt at 9:30pm ET on Sunday night and play the Goat (password is "survive" -- not that I know anything about that!), and buy in once, or buy in four times, and take your shot at helping Team Fish outlast the Donkeys and force Team Donkey to splinter their happy little alliance there if at all possible. Because so far, other than acting in near-unison after tournament #1 in booting Numb, those guys have just been sitting around scheming amongst themselves, making plans for the eventuality that all of their times will eventually come as well in this tournament series. I say it's about time we start learning a little bit more about the alliances going on within the Donkeys -- other than of course than Numb wasn't in on it. But who else is on the outside looking in? Because I can solemnly guarantee you that it's already been decided who will get voted off of the Donkeys if they ever do lose another tournament during Team Play time, whether you realize it or not, and that the required number of votes to make that happen have already been secured.

Which reminds me, for those of you on either team still on Donkey Island and hoping Sunday night will not be the night that your name is called, remember this piece of advice that became apparent to me basically the moment I was shocked to see Numb summarily voted out by his team in near-unanimous fashion just minutes after taking me to the mat at the final table of the very first Survivor Poker tournament earlier this month: If you don't already know who your team will be voting out if they lose the tournament that night, then it's probably going to be you.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

End of the Road

Well, that was fun. Really. Survivor Poker was a blast for me, for all three tournaments I stayed alive. Which, frankly, is three tournaments longer than I thought I would. While I won't take the time to review exactly what happened to me, suffice it to say that the others on my team certainly took the game more seriously than I did, and in the end they played the game a heck of a lot better than me. I thought I was safe for another couple of votes, but it turns out that somebody else on the team obviously had got into my teammates' heads and once that happened, the die was cast. And that is the reason why I now write to you as a less than proud member of the tribal council and not a current player on Donkey Island.

So let's see, with still two more tournaments left during Team Play, Team Fish grows more handicapped by the day. Now it will be iiatg, Dawn Summers, Josie, xkm and SmBoatDrinks going up against the stacked Team Donkey lineup twice more to try to last the longest and thus avoid having to shorten that team even further.

I've had about five people since last night ask me how the team could vote me off when that so clearly seems to hurt their chances to avoid elimination votes during the balance of Team Play. I think there are a lot of good answers to that question. For starters, the Team Play time of the competition is short. At first I thought it would last for half of the game, but the more recent rules announced that the teams would only persist for the first six tournaments, of which four are already done after last night. So we're talking about a total of two more tournaments that my five ex-teammates need to survive in order to make it to the merge. And I think a lot if not all of the people left on my team take some amount of comfort in that -- think about it, even if the worst possible outcome goes down and Team Fish loses and loses hard on Sunday night and then again at next week's Dank tournament, that's still a total of only two more players who need to get eliminated, and I think there is fairly good reason for pretty much all five of the remaining Fish to think they cannot possibly be "it" over the next two weeks. Even though two of them may soon find out that they were wrong, much like I did this week.

Moreover, what have I really done in these four tournaments to show my worth as some kind of a "stopper" to my teammates? Yes, I won the first tournament, and yes I strategically outlasted NumbBono to make sure I took care of my team before just pushing allin every hand after that. But what about in the other three tournaments since then? In the first Dank, I lost a big pot early to somebody and was never able to recover, busting among the first handful of players out and hitting the sack early. In last week's Goat tournament on Sunday night, I played great, of course getting donked on 15 or 20 times during Monkey Hour but then righting the ship near the end and building up a nice stack after I went set over set vs. Goat early in Hour 2. At some point, twoblackaces raised preflop from middle position, and I just called to trap with AK, and the flop came K33 to boot which is pretty much the literal best flop imaginable for someone with my holding. TBA bet out like I knew he would, I raised, and he immediately pushed, but I knew with this board and the fact that he had raised preflop that I was ahead. That is, until TBA flipped up 53s to turn that best-possible flop for me into the "unmitigated disaster" flop instead, and two hands later IGH. And then in this week's Dank, I once again was off to a nice start, building up a workable stack and trying to outlast as many of the Team Donkeys as I could, and then a poo flinger got allin against me with just an inside straight draw on the flop. They did not hit their straight, but the river rewarded the play with a miracle trips and IGH early again despite having taking advantage of my opponently badly in the tournament. So what value have I really shown to these guys anyways, beyond my historical success in blogger tournaments in general? I mean, yeah I won the only tournament our team has won so far in this series, but otherwise I haven't done any better than anybody else on my team -- with not even a top-20 finish to show for those other three efforts -- and we have been suffering as a result. I imagine that if I had won 3 of the 4 tournaments already, I would still be writing to you today from inside Donkey Island instead of out here on the Council, but then there would still be 7 members left of our team instead of the 5 we are down to now.

The last thing to think of in terms of making this decision -- and this surely played in to Al receiving so many of Team Fish's votes the other day as well, though I don't think he gets this yet -- is that the popular bloggers are always going to be good targets to take out whenever you think you can get the popular vote up enough to get them out. Why wouldn't somebody want to take AlCantHang out of Donkey Island at the very first chance you get, as early as possible in the competition? The longer a guy like that stays alive, the more of a risk he is to continue staying alive, and eventually to vote you out in a later week? People out there have to realize that there are very valid strategic reasons, in addition to the personal reasons mentioned above, for anyone on my team to want me out of the competition as soon as humanly possible. Even if I can help the team a little bit over the next week during the remainder of Team Play, geetting rid of me specifically when the ability was there to do so would be a wise move for anyone with designs of running deep, and this is certainly not lost on me.

One of the interesting aspects to all of this is what is likely to happen when the teams do merge in just one short week from now. Because the way I see it, judging by what happened in the very first tournament -- the only tournament that Team Fish managed to win so far -- Team Donkey obviously has a nice, tight voting alliance going on, and one can only assume that the Team Fish participants will be fighting an uphill battle to get inside that alliance once the merge happens. With much of the successful blonkament experience now gone from Team Fish, I would not want to be them and head into the merge with just 3 Fish combining with those 7 Donkeys and their strong voting alliance -- that does not sound to me like it bodes well for the surviving Fish. If the Fish can manage to win the next two tournaments during Team Play this coming week, then they can cut that margin to 5-5 and give themselves a much better chance at post-merger survival. Again, if I had been playing better in these tournaments so far, I would feel much more justified in giving my teammates crap for eliminating me when I can help so much, but as I said above, I've been getting covered in flung monkey-poo so far in these events and haven't been able to do much of anything to help the team any more than anybody else among the Fish.

Here now a quarter of the way through the competition, I thought I would take a quick look at handicapping some of the potential winners here. In the end, one thing I have definitely taken from this so far is that the people surviving so far seem to be centered on those without much history, and without much public involvement in the group. Basically, people who haven't had several years to build up a bunch of haters that inevitably amass when someone has a public blog that people in our group read, in particular someone like myself who tells it like it is, and someone who has had poker success as well to boot. All of these things tend to lead to haterism, and haterism is deadly as anything you can imagine in a competition like Survivor Poker. I knew as soon as Goat pitched me on this idea that I could not last more than a few weeks, because there are just too many people out there with a reason (or fifty) to want to vote against me the first chance they get. I mean, look at the people who have survived now three elimination votes from Team Fish. Josie, who is new, and hasn't had any time to get people to hate her. I mean, who hates Josie? Nobody. SmBoatDrinks? Boat has won a coupl e of Mookie's or something in his day, but I ask again: Who hates him? iaatgwhateverhisnameis? I've seen him in some BBTs in the past and also he has won a Mookie or two as I recall, but who hates him? xkm? There's another guy without a prominent blog to have pissed people off in over the past several years. Who even knows these people really? But I can't help but notice that those are the guys who are surviving these elimination votes so far.

Taking that into account, I think Boat and Josie have as good a chance as anyone to survive from Team Fish. They are generally well-liked, and are not out there enough with strong opinions to be hated by anyone that I can imagine. On the Donkeys side, we haven't really seen enough of their voting strategy yet to have a good feel as to who can survive from their team, but I have some general thoughts. Not only is Team Donkey stacked with experienced blogger tournament players, but my sense is that they are also the more experienced Survivor viewers and those more facile with the nuances of playing the elimination type of game. I predict some serious alliances, and some serious dicking over of alliance-mates, coming out of the Donkey side of the house in the second half of this competition, which should make for some compelling viewing as the series wears on. I think Goat will be hard to get knocked out of his own brainchild, although to be honest I am not sure he has the raw lack of scruples that I'm sure will be necessary to finish as the victor in a backstabby competition like this. Something tells me that Jordan and Jamyhawk are likely to run deep in this thing, although I expect to post some more detailed odds a little bit later in the competition as we continue wearing down the list of eligible players still alive and well on Donkey Island.

The last question for me right now -- and frankly, one I do not know the answer to just yet -- is what I will do from here. Do I keep making an effort to play in these Donkey Island tournaments, or just let them happen around me and get in there only when I can? And more importantly, assuming I do play some or most of them, what is my objective? Do I try to keep the Fish in the game and do my best to knock out the Donkeys? But why, what's in it for me to do that? Do I just try to play my best and win? Or, do I do what I can to work against my former teammates, the ones who were convinced at the last minute to vote me out this week by a 4-1-1 margin? I could see any of those options making sense. Every time I see Numb run deep in one of these things like last night, I find myself wondering why he does it for that team that so screwed one of their best players right after he ran the deepest of anyone right off the bat in week 1. I'm not sure I would be interested in being that guy.

One thing is for sure -- with 42 runners in the Dank last night as proof, Goat and Buddy have definitely found a nice way to make our regular blogger tournaments fun again. If you haven't been getting in on the action so far, there's still plenty of time to participate and even affect the outcome of Survivor Poker: Donkey Island.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time to Turn it Around

Donkey Island continues tonight with the Dank at 10pm ET on full tilt -- password is "vegas1" as always. And tonight is the time for Team Fish to turn it around. We need some strong performances in the Dank tonight, almost as much for our own self-confidence as for our success during the remainder of Team Play. Hopefully if nothing else, everyone shows up for the first time out of the four tournaments so far in the series, giving our team our best possible shot at outlasting the Donkeys for just the second time during Survivor Poker's run so far.

One aspect I really enjoy about Goat and Buddy's creation here is that even those who are not directly involved in the battle over Donkey Island this time around can still participate freely in the games, and can even have a meaningful say in the outcome. Anyone out there with $11 in their full tilt account, the password "vegas1", and a desire to get kicked squarely in the nads can show up to play the Dank on Wednesday night at 10pm ET. It's been great seeing some of the guys these past few weeks coming out to play and try to take their shots at the surviving Donkey Islanders in addition to the first prize in the tournaments themselves.

Hopefully you'll be there for Wednesday night's Dank tournament at 10pm. I'll be expecting an all-Fish final table.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Survivor Poker

So the game wages on, and somehow after four tournaments, I am still alive and well on Donkey Island. And this, despite my team being required to make an elimination vote in two out of the first three events of the series.

The fact of the matter is that -- and this is not a complaint, in that I know the teams were put together randomly out of the 16 people who signed up for the game on a first come, first served basis -- but these teams are not fair, in the sense of equally dividing up blonkament skills. If you wanted to count up how many total blogger tournament wins each team has over all-time history, you would see what I mean. I mean, sure, I have won 4 google blonkaments myself and this makes the teams seem equally balanced at first glance, but in truth we probably have just 3 or 4 total blonkament wins outside of myself on our entire team put together. And our team includes a bunch of people like iiatg, Al, Riggs and Dawn who simply do not play a lot of blonkaments, period. There is simply not a lot of blogger tournament experience on Team Fish on Donkey Island, and it shows as we play out the series. Whereas, if you look at Team Donkey, you've got guys like Jordan, and Heff, and Numb, guys who have won between them probably 20 blogger tournaments right there in their day, maybe more even. And again, that advantage in experience really shows as we play these games -- in the first event that I won, I had no other Team Fish teammates left in the final 7 spots in first Goat tournament. In the first Dank tournament of Donkey Island, the last five Survivor Poker players were famously all from Team Donkey. And now in Event #3, it was once again a number of Team Donkeys left when Al, our last Team Fish representative on the day, busted well before the top spot. Team Fish is just not executing well enough on anything resembling a consistent basis to avoid these elimination votes, and our team is slowly decimating itself as a result.

But the most annoying part about the team split in my view is that some members of Team Fish continue not showing up to the tournaments at all, or coming in late and missing out on opportunities to help the team out. I mean, it's not enough that all of the blogger tournament win experience is on the other team? We also have to have 2-3 teammates not showing up for each tournament? So, we're facing a significant experiential disadvantage, and the team's response to deal with that is to only give ourselves 4 or 5 chances to outlast Team Donkey every week while Team Donkey has two or three more entrants than us in addition to more historical success in these games?

Unlike Team Donkey, who almost every week is faced with possibly having to vote someone off of their team who gives them a real shot to win team immunity, Team Fish has had it pretty easy so far when it comes to having to cannibalize ourselves with elimination votes. First it was Riggs, who has yet to show up to a single tournament out of the three that have been played, and then Al went next after missing the 2nd tournament, despite Al being our longest-lasting participant on Sunday night. I pretty much know who I will vote for next as well, as we still have some people who aren't showing up for all the games.

I imagine that real Survivor isn't like this, in that there probably is no option for people to just "not show up" for the challenges on Vanuatu like we can have happen here on Donkey Island. But in Survivor Poker, showing up for the games and playing your best to give your team the best chance to avoid an elimination vote is basically all you can do to show your team your worth. We've never done a team-based blogger tournament series before, but one thing that is coming out of it so far is that you can really screw your team -- not just yourself -- by not showing up here during the "team play" portion of the game, which will still persist for the next three tournaments of Survivor Poker.

If some people weren't showing up for the challenges in real Survivor, and their team kept losing as a result, I can only assume that would lead to them getting voted off pretty quick myself, but never having watched the show I cannot say for sure. What I can say, however, is that in Survivor Poker on Donkey Island, if you're not showing up for all the games, in my mind you are easy fodder for a vote-off. I mean, do I want to be sitting here next week with just myself and two other players showing up, trying to outlast 6 or 7 other Team Donkey donkeys to try to avoid getting voted off myself? Give me a choice, and I'll choose the people I know will be there on both Wednesday and Sunday over any perceived skill or experience differential in blogger tournaments in general.

What Team Fish lacks in experience, we make up for in heart. We've got some good players left that I am confident are waiting to make some noise over these next three blogger tournaments while "team play" is still in effect. I do not expect to be voting another team member out this Wednesday night after the Dank has come and gone.

GOoooooooo FISH!!!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dank and Donkey Island Pimp

So tonight is the Dank at 10pm ET on full tilt -- the buyin is a mere $10 and the password as always is "vegas1", and as always the tournament is open to anyone and everyone. The Dank has been coming in right around 20 players or so over the past few weeks as it is, and now with Donkey Island Poker in effect, I'm hoping we could get a little more than that out for the game this evening.

I have to say, even after just one day of Donkey Island Poker so far, I am actually pretty intrigued, much moreso than I ever thought I would be, let alone at this point in the game. Of course, first and foremost my focus has been and continues to be outlasting everyone from Team Donkey, which will mean for the second straight week that someone from Team Donkey is subject to being voted out of the game, while my teammates on Team Fish will remain immune from an elimination vote. I just want to go out there and play my game and try to last as long as I can in every one of these tournaments because, Team Fish not being subject to an elimination vote means that I am not subject to being booted, and even though at first I didn't know what I thought of this whole Survivor Poker idea, at the moment I think I would like to see my stay in the game extended at least for a little bit longer here.

Regarding the elimination of NumbBono after our first Donkey Island tournament this past Sunday, let me just say for the record that if anyone votes someone out of the game because that person eliminated the voter from that week's tournament, that some is pretty much backwards thinking there if you ask me. Think about it -- since the only objective from team play is to have at least one person from your team outlast all the players from the other team, it's actually kind of a great thing to have one of the 8 team members eliminate all other 7 of his or her teammates on their way to amassing the huge stack that will be needed to outlast and survive the longest in these tournaments. I can easily imagine a situation where I'm in there with three or four players left, and I've got 100k in chips, whereas Player A from Team Donkey has 75k, Player B from Team Donkey has 70k left, and Player C from Team Donkey has 55k left. I have more chips than any single player on Team Donkey -- and thus in theory I have a better chance of outlasting each of them than any of them do of outlasting me -- but if one of them eliminates the other two, suddenly I am a 100k stack facing a 200k stack from Team Donkey for all the elimination marbles. It's actually the best thing that can happen for a team to have all of their big stacks eliminated and absorbed by the same teammate where at all possible. So, the notion of people voting out Numb because he knocked them all summarily out of the tournament is not only inaccurate I think, but also really not a thoughtful approach to the Survivor Poker game at all.

In any event, tonight at 10pm is the Dank and the next leg of Donkey Island poker. Will Team Fish have to face its first elimination vote and potentially kick off the man everyone loves to hate from their team? Or will Team Donkey be forced to further cannibalize itself, designating a second member of its team for elimination from the game here just four days into its beginning? One of the cool things about this part of Donkey Island Poker at least it that I know going in that, if I just keep winning these tournaments, then my team will not be voting someone out, and I am in like Flynn for at least another week. Even though winning a poker tournament against a bunch of flonkadonks is at least 50% a total crapshoot on any given night, I have to admit I do like that feeling of control I get from knowing going in that if I perform my best, I can personally ensure that I am still in the game next week, no matter how much my team is conspiring against me and no matter how bad anyone else on my team plays tonight.

Go Team Fish! Down with the Donkeys! And that's "Donkeys" with a capital "D", just to clarify.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vegas Trips I've Taken

I saw a great meme on Terrence Chan's blog, where he tried to recall every trip he has ever taken to Las Vegas, and I thought I'd take it up myself and see how much I can really remember of all these trips. As I've written about here several times before, I actually started vacationing with my family in Las Vegas earlier than many others out there, frankly very shortly after they started building the place up anew in the early to mid 1990s. The first several trips I took out to Sin City were with my family, when I was still in college and would come home from school during one of those awesome long intra-semester breaks you only seem to get in life when you're a college student. So for the first several trips, it was my parents doing all of the planning and making all of the decisions as far as where we would stay, what we did, when we would go, etc. But for each Vegas trip, to the extent that I can, I will try to recall some kind of a detail about something that happened on that particular trip, in addition to roughly when it was, where I stayed, and who I was out there with.

1995 -- MGM, August, with my entire family. My first trip to Las Vegas was back when the MGM was still pretty new, and it was basically the shiat in Las Vegas. Bellagio? Not yet. Venetian? Nope. Paris? Still the Aladdin. Wynn? Not even close. Mandalay? Nope -- still just a big, empty space up at that corner of the Strip. I don't remember much of the details about this first trip, but I do remember that my entire family had an amazing time, ate some incredible meals, and I played about a million hours of blackjack. But most of all, I remember being moved by the incredible heat in the desert in August, and how funny I thought it was that the big resorts had those funny sprinkler-type of things in front of the buildings to help keep the patrons cool. And the pool at the MGM, still my favorite of all the pools in the big resorts on the Strip. I also remembering my parents taking us to see MGM's musical show EFX, back when Shawn Cassidy (yes, of "Partridge Family" fame) was still the star.

1996 -- Mirage, in August, again with my family. My next trip to Vegas wasn't until a year later, again with my family, as I was a poor law school student and not quite at the point where I would have had the funds to get out to Vegas on my own and still have any money left to play with. This time we tried out the Mirage -- also one of the "new" resorts in town at the time -- and really got to know the "other" end of the Strip. This, still long before the Venetian or even Bellagio were even a glimmer in some young real estate developer's eye. But Treasure Island was there. And I specifically remember this trip because it was the first time I ever saw Cirque de Soleil -- at Mirage, they showed Mystere for years before any other Cirque shows hit the Strip -- and I'll never forget those two incredible strong men, moving below and above each other super slowly, which to this day remains one of the most amazing feats of strength I can recall.

1997 -- MGM, July, again with my parents and brothers. Still in law school, still no money, still no going to Vegas unless my parents were chipping in on the costs. So we went out again as a family in 1997, this time in July, which for all intents and purposes is the same weather as August -- typically well over a hundred degrees, and usually not a cloud in the sky. This time, my parents got a rental car, and we drove off the strip somewhat for a few meals and to get to know the surrounding area. One thing I remember most about this trip was the first time I ever drove to (and through) Red Rock Canyon. Located less than ten miles from the Strip, it's really amazing what kind of nature you can go and see this close to the middle of the desert, but there are joshua trees galore, and all kinds of rocks and hills, mostly with a red tint (hence the name).

1998 -- MGM, April, with my family. This was kind of a graduation present of sorts for me, as I would be done with law school in just one short month, and I actually had some money for the first time due to a job I had worked during the year in my last year ever as a professional student. Being that it was April, we knew we might not get too much use out of the awesome pool at MGM, but by this time we were kind of old pros at the Vegas thing and spent as much time exploring the city as we did playing at the tables -- Bellagio was about to be finished, and work had already started on Mandalay Bay in the other direction down the Strip. More than anything else from this trip, I remember there was construction going on all over the city, it was really crazy. You couldn't look two feet to the right or left without seeing some half-constructed building, or at least a bulldozer or some other huge machinery sitting around to be used as part of some large-scale building project. I also remember this trip because, after my brother and I each went on nice winning streaks at the tables, we treated our entire family to the first of what has proven to be several helicopter rides to the Grand Canyon. For those of you who have never done this, I highly recommend it -- they know how to do it in style in Las Vegas. They pick you up in a limo right at your resort, whisk you straight to the tarmac at McCarron airport, and you get right into the helicopter there and off you go to one of the nation's finest national treasures.

1999 -- MGM, mid March. And so began my habit of flying out to Vegas sans parents. With me now working at a big law firm and flush with cash, and with my interest in craps and blackjack growing exponentially, I took my first sojourn to the desert with just my brother and a friend of ours, for the first week of March Madness. You really haven't experienced Vegas until you've spent those first four days of the NCAA basketball tournament in a major sportsbook, with all the other degens cheering loudly and basically going crazy over the outcome of every single game of the 48 that occur over that first weekend. Although I've never been back to Vegas for this particular week since that first time, I would not consider my Vegas experience to be complete if I had never been in town for these games.

1999 -- MGM, July, again with my brother and some friends. This is what came to be known during this and the next couple of years as one of my "standard" blackjack and craps trips, which really started to increase in variety once I began going to Vegas without my parents to keep an eye on me and my level of debauchery. My brother and I always did ok on the debauchery front even when my parents were around, but these "boys" trips really saw us step it up a notch or five, and we had an incredible amount of fun and generate copiuous memories to cherish as a result.

1999 -- Bellagio, November, with my brother and our friend, J. Our buddy J, the younger brother of a good friend of ours from Philadelphia, had two free rooms for the weekend at the still fairly new at the time Bellagio resort we had heard so much about, and we definitely want to see what all the hubbub was. We secured an adjoining-room suite for the three of us, and we played more blackjack in two days and three nights than I ever thought possible. After averaging more than 14 hours of blackjack a day for the entire weekend, we headed back to our daily lives, up some 10 grand between the three of us, while having barely slept a wink out in the desert.

2000 -- Harrah's, for Superbowl weekend in late January. This is another very memorable trip to Vegas, for some good and some not so good reasons. I went out with an old college buddy of mine who had never been to Las Vegas at the time even though he and I had probably spent about 5000 hours playing blackjack in Atlantic City and other venues since meeting half a decade earlier, and V and I had a great time. Four years later, this same friend V would be the one to get me into playing online poker on pokerstars, but for now it was me showing him the ropes and just generally going crazy and partying like what we were at the time -- young, rich kids with no children or family to worry about and more money than sense. This made for an incredible first night in the desert, until my friend suffered what can probably best be termed an "overdose", and very nearly died. Some day I'll tell that story here, if I haven't already before. It's a quality story, but at the time, especially given my own level of sobriety, it was without a doubt one of the most terrifying nights of my life. On a happier note, once the guy slept it off and was back (barely) on his feet the next day, we hung out with Charles Barkley in the Mandalay Bay sportsbook and won about 5 grand between us on the Superbowl, with my buddy correctly picking not only the final score of that amazing 23-16 Rams - Titans 2001 Superbowl but also the identity of the first player to score a touchdown in the game (Torry Holt, amazingly not until the 3rd quarter), both at pretty long odds for a nice score.

2000 -- Monte Carlo, April. This would be my first stay at the Monte Carlo, a reasonably new resort at the time that had gone up in the space between the Luxor and the Bellagio. We had a great suite, full or marble and many nice amenities, and on this trip not only had our friends J and J come again, but my parents and both brothers were there as well. This March 2000 trip will always be legendary in our minds because it included "The Roll" -- an 80-minutes-straight roll at the craps table, by me, where I devised for the first time the system I still basically practice when I play craps today -- take the pass line, with max odds, plus make a come bet on every single roll, and take the maximum odds on each inside come bet once they are on the board as well, plus the hard way bet for whatever the point is, when the point is even. It's been tweaked a few times since then of course, but ultimately, those of you who know craps can imagine how great that system worked on an 80-minute craps roll, replete with number after number after number even when I wasn't making one of my ten points during the roll. And the best part was, starting only about 15 minutes in when I'd already hit each number at least once and was bet up on everything on the table already, I began pressing my bets, inching my come bet up from $10 to $15, then $20, and so on -- of course taking max odds on each number when it hit as always. Long story short, 80 minutes, ten points and about a gillion numbers later, I was up to over $350 on the come bets, and 3-4-5 odds on the numbers, such that when I eventually sevened out, I walked away with about 8 grand, losing probably a good 3000 on the table in the process on that last roll of the dice. To this day it's the single greatest craps roll anyone in my family has ever been a part of, and it was nice because my entire family and friends on the trip were all there around the table, making money and just generally being able to participate in what may well have been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of run at the dice.

2000 -- July, New York New York, with my older brother and three college friends, for another standard blackjack and craps weekend trip. As the college guys were all big New Yorkers, we let them pick and decided to spend the weekend at NYNY, where my greatest memory is of us riding the roller coaster at least 25 times consecutively, cutting in line many of the times when we could.

2000 -- November, Monte Carlo again, this time all alone. I don't remember the details at this point, but I recall having received an incredible offer from Monte Carlo in the mail for a completely free suite for the weekend, and I had just recently broken up with a long-term girlfriend, I had a high-paying job but little time to enjoy that money, and on a whim I just decided to call up, book the first flight I could catch on Southwest out of Boston's Logan Airport, and just try to recapture the craps glory from earlier that year. Suffice it to say, I did not in fact recapture the craps glory of "The Roll", and I ended up solidly in the red for this trip, one of my worst ever setbacks for an entire gambling trip to Las Vegas or anywhere else for that matter.

2001 -- MGM, January, with my two brothers and my best friend from growing up in Philly. Ultimately, this was another of the "standard", by this time four-or-five-times yearly trips I was taking out to Vegas back in the 1999 - 2001 timeframe, and we were back at our "home base" at the MGM. Not only was this the trip when I learned how to play baccarrat for the first time, but my brother and I also got in wayyyy too deep at the roulette table, taking essentially a 1-to-1 bet on Red, and making it spin after spin after spin, losing each time but agreeing up front that we would double our bets on the next spin each time we lost, a method designed to ensure that we got back to break-even eventually even if we lost early. Suffice it to say that this of course turned out to be the longest streak of non-Red that anyone in that pit claimed to have ever seen on the roulette wheel, and by the time my brother and I finally hit a Red number to get back to break even and run out of there with our tails tucked between our legs, we had been through more gut-checks than you can shake a stick at, and had to each make separate runs to the ATM to get ourselves the cash to withstand this run of extreme variance. Let's just say there were some sweaty-ass palms going on in the Hoy family that night.

2002 -- Mandalay Bay -- Valentine's Day, with my wife. My wife and I decided on a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate our budding new love back in 2002, and we settled on the Mandalay for what would be the first and only time I would still at this particular resort. I got to show the woman who would eventually turn out to be Hammer Wife all around the city that had become like my second home over the preceding two years, with me going out there seemingly every other month or so for a good long while. I took her to see Mystere. We ate at Renoir, at 3750, and I even took her to the rotating restaurant atop the Stratosphere. I'll never forget getting drunk at dinner and then riding that freefall-style ride at the top of the Stratosphere right afterwards. But most of all, my wife got me really into playing these slot machines in one corner of the Mandalay casino called "Love to Win!" I'll never forget them because it was the first time I really started paying any attention to how much slot machines were not really like the slot machines of old anymore. "Love to Win" was basically a "Dating Game" of sorts, where, yeah you had to pull the handle and spin the reels, but ultimately you weren't trying to win money so much as just to figure out the right combination of look, car and behavior with a number of chicks to have the perfect date and ultimately get your character laid. It was amazing fun and Hammer Wife and I must have spent about 20 hours chasing these slots over our few days in the desert in what was a super fun trip back in 2002. Within less than a year of this trip, that lucky lady would officially become the Hammer Wife.

Late in 2002, some things happened in my personal life that greatly lessened my desire to go to Las Vegas, and my trips out to the desert took a bit of a breather after having become an every-couple-of-months thing in the years leading up to this point. My wife and I got married early in the year and took a big trip to the Caribbean and near South America, and later in the year we also took a super fun trip together to pre-Katrina New Orleans, gambooling it up at the Harrah's there amost every night in the process. But I did not get back out to Las Vegas again for over two years since that last trip with Hammer Wife in early 2002.

2004 -- June, with my older brother and our two friends J and J, this time staying at the Venetian for the first time in my life. I loved it there, as the Venetian continues to this day to be perhaps my favorite resort in town, and it was like old times as we blackjacked and crapsed it up for three straight days without hardly sleeping at all. The highlight of the trip was probably playing $100 blackjack with this nice guy and chatting him up for several hours at the table, only to find out later that he was none other than Dave Burba, formerly a pitcher for the Cincinatti Reds, who was just about done with his major league career after parts of 14 seasons in the majors. Burba was a super nice guy, seemed very down to earth, and although we never took him up on his offer, he gave us an email address and told us to let him know if we were ever in Toronto (where he was playing at the time) and he would get my brother and I tickets to one of his games. Having spent time at the roulette table previously in my day with Tiger Woods at Mandalay, and at the sportsbook with Barkley, this wasn't exactly a major celebrity sighting in Vegas terms, but it's always cool to shmooze with someone for a while and only later find out that they are actually a professional athlete.

2005 -- June, with my brother and our childhood friend with whom we had been in Vegas some 5 years earlier. Once again we stayed at the MGM, knowing we would want to be getting our pool on in the desert June air. The standout memory from this trip -- other than every last one of us getting our clocks cleaned at the tables for four straight days -- was playing craps for a good long time next an older guy with a long, gray ponytail who had about 300-400 thou on the table at all times. As amazing as it was to watch this guy slinging chips around the table with chips of colors I had never even seen before, the best part of the story had to be when he left "to go to the restroom", and he asked the craps dealers to just "play his system" with his chips while he was gone, since he did not want to miss out on any of the action while he was dropping trow. So, fast forward about 40 minutes later, and the guy returns from wherever he had gone, at which point the dealers simply slid over to him a pile of chips, explaining that these were his winnings on his system from while he was gone. His total take, while absent from the table? Over 800k. MBN. Also, interesting, this would be my first time sitting down in a poker room in all of Las Vegas, which I did at Caesar's one night as we found ourselves at the far end of the Strip during our travels. Chris Moneymaker had recently won the WSOP ME and started off the poker boom in full force, and I wanted to get back into the swing of things with poker after having grown up playing in the casinos of Atlantic City since I was a boy.

2006 -- April, at the Excalibur. This was not only my first time ever visiting one of the off-Strip casinos in many, many trips to Sin City, but also my first appearance in the World Series of Poker as well as my first WPBT trip. I had excitedly won a Bracelet Race on full tilt (remember those, way back when?), and I spent much of my time at the Rio hanging out in the full tilt and pokerstars hospitality suites, something which was done away with a year or two later when UIGEA went in effect and scared all the online poker sites from being directly associated with the WSOP and helping people win their seats through online poker satellites, and I must have left the desert with more online poker swag that first year than you would ever think possible. Unfortunately, I got donked out of my first WSOP tournament when then-reigning WSOP ME champion Joe Hachem got me allin on the turn with just his pair of 4s and a flush draw, but then hit his 20% shot at the river to dust me off early, far earlier than I had ever conceived of happening in my first WSOP experience. I also stayed at the Excalibur for the first and only time in my life, along with a number of other bloggers at my first WPBT gathering. The live WPBT tournament was at Caesar's in the private poker room, and back then when being a bunch of "poker bloggers" sounded a lot bigger and cooler than it does today, big poker stars Howard Lederer and Phil Gordon actually came to Caesars to talk to us live about the state of the game and their thoughts on the future of poker. Phil Gordon also gave out advance copies of his new book (the Little Blue Book, as I recall), and played a Roshambo tournamet with us (Veneno won, as I recall), and Jay Greenspan also spoke to us live about his new poker book about playing in poker games at venues all across the country as part of a cross-country poker trip. It was pretty awesome. I did very well in the live blogger tournament as well -- I won StB's bounty shirt which I still wear when I play poker in the evenings from time to time, and I busted author and former full tilt pro Michael Craig on the same hand, when we had a 3-way allin with StB's 99 vs my JJ vs Michael Craig's AA, and a Jack flopped. I'll never forget Michael Craig slamming his cards down so hard on the table, he was so furious about the suckout. F-Train eventually won the tournament, and I busted just short of the final table out of 130 runners, after getting no cards for hours after my big suckout with the pocket Jacks. This was also the weekend when I had my first awesome live blogger cash game experience -- sitting as I recall with Iakaris, Chad, Don, Blinders, Smokkee, Columbo, Alan Penner and Brian "StatikKling" for an entire night until the sun came up, where I got tightass Blinders to play the hammer by repeatedly attacking his manhood, we all abused the heck out of smokkee who was playing wayyyy too tight, and we managed to squeeze in tilting a few tourists who came by to fill our table's one empty seat off and on during the night. The highlight at that table, however, had to be me doing a live straddle and then finding KK UTG vs a brand new guy's 99, who eventually pushed allin on me on a TT6 flop for his full stack, a $400 pot that I felt I had to call with. I tipped the dealer a green chip for that deal, and she was still talking about it the next night when I saw her again at the MGM when I hit up the new poker room there for some late-night cash poker action.

2007 -- June, where I spent the first night myself before my WSOP event in the fatty giant suite at the Rio, and then the next three nights in a decadent three-room suite at the Bellagio. This would be my first trip to Las Vegas with my older brother once he had turned into a full-fledged millionaire -- let alone one with a sick degeneracy love for gambling to boot -- and it really changed things for these trips, compared to the way we used to live while in Vegas just ten years earlier as kids with no real money of our own to speak of. We were there with one other college friend of my brother's, and we had a great time as always, including of course my first (and only) WSOP cash, in the $2000 shorthanded nlh event. This was a $2000 buyin event, and it proved to feature the longest bubble in WSOP history -- literally almost exactly three hours of playing hand-for-hand as nobody wanted to bust and be the last guy left without a payout in the field of over 1300 runners. Mercifully, after three hours of super-slow and tense play, the bubble finally burst, and I had cashed in my first WSOP event. For some reason I remember pokerstars blogger Otis coming over and shaking my hand, and that's when I knew I had finally made it in the world of poker blogs.

2008 -- MGM, June, again with my brother and the same college friend from our 2007 trip. This time we had an awesomely spacious and modern full two-room suite at the MGM, with a bathroom that itself was about 400 square feet and a really incredible view of the Strip. I ran fairly deep in $1500 WSOP event I played that year, but I busted in around 150th place out of 1250 runners, with the tournament slated to pay 99 spots. The action just got so fast and furious as we neared the money, and I simply could not get enough going to stay ahead of the escalating blinds and antes. One table change sent me to a table full of almost all ginormous stacks, and eventually one of them snapped me off when I went for a desperately-needed late position steal, and I was out with nothing but a decent run to show for my efforts. Other than this WSOP run, I recall having a couple of nice sessions at the cash poker tables while out in the desert, but otherwise it was all about the decadence -- limos everywhere instead of cabs, the beginning of our now annual tradition of dinner at Prime in the Bellagio, plus I learned for the first time how to bet baseball games in the sportsbooks -- as stupid as that is.

2009 -- June, MGM. Back out to Vegas for a combination of my usual summer WSOP trip as well as my older brother's bachelor party. The MGM gave my brother one of the sickest rooms I've ever seen, just perfect for a place to have a kickass Vegas bachelor party in, with two large bedrooms on either end, each with its own 400-square-foot bathroom, and a massive living room space in the middle, probably the size of three regular MGM rooms. To this day it remains one of the largest single rooms I've ever seen in a hotel, anywhere in the world. Although fun times were had by all, I ended up missing out on most of the festivities on this trip, because I was busy doing a little thing I call winning 50 grand at the Venetian Deep Stack nlh tournament, as I detailed here on the blog. I ended up having to stay an extra day in the desert to pick up my check from the Venetian, and in the process I managed to win another 5k or so just trying my best to lose at craps and blackjack. Everything I touched turned to gold for the last two days of that trip, I'm sure the overall best run of gambling I have had over a 2-day period in my entire life.

2010 -- June, MGM once again. This time my annual summer WSOP trip would double as the bachelor party for my little brother. As I wrote at length about here last year, we stayed in the Skylofts at MGM, which is quite simply a whole different experience from staying in the regular hotel. It was like a massive, modern apartment overlooking the Strip from 30-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows, with butler service to attend to your every need. Actually, my brother and his new wife stayed in the Skyloft, while I also managed to land a free suite in the same area of the building just a couple of floors below. Although my WSOP performance in 2010 was my worst since my first year -- busting after about 7 hours of play in one of the standard $1500 nlh events so common on today's WSOP schedule -- I did have a very profitable trip, finishing a winner in three separate cash poker sessions, winning the Aria daily tournament on my third afternoon in the desert, plus nabbing over 2k when Drosselmeyer and jockey Mike Smith won the Belmont Stakes, and another grand or so on the Flyers in their 5-3 victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

So there you have it. My sense is that I might have missed a trip or two in the 1999-2001 range, as my memory is of literally heading out to Vegas almost every other month for a few years there when I was a single guy working in a big law firm. But you get the idea. It's always a great stroll down memory lane when I sit back and really take the time to think back to what amounts to at least 20 trips I have taken out to the sands of Las Vegas over the past fifteen years. And it's a great way to get excited all over again for my 21st trip, which I am planning for mid-June of 2011. More on that as it gets closer and my plans firm up a bit, but you can expect me to be out in the desert once again in a few short months, making a run at that elusive gold bracelet while debauching it up like only a couple of nearly-40 fathers of three can for 3 or 4 days a year.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Survivor Poker

OK, so I think I'm putting together my strategy for the first half of Donkey Island Poker. I've talked to like 85 people about possible alliances (still haven't figured out exactly what that means), but in the end, for these first several weeks, here's the best strategy I can offer to my teammates for not voting me out: Not only am I kind and generous to all and one of the most wonderful people you have ever met as you doubtless already know, but I also give you the best chance to win immunity from elimivotes every single time we have one of these tournaments. Every time. I'm not saying I'm going to win every single tournament over the next couple of months. Obviously. But in any individual tournament, I think I offer the best odds in this field of winning. And, for this first month or so at least, if I last the longest in these tournaments out of anyone in the Donkey Island field, then all seven of my other teammates don't face being voted out of the game for that round.

On Sunday I won the first tournament of Donkey Island Poker, which was Goat's $1 rebuy. I was somewhere near the bottom of the pack as we ended monkey hour -- it would not be possible for anyone to run worse than I do during $1 rebuy hour against a bunch of poo-flinging bloggers -- but I got a few double-ups early enough to make a race of it as we neared the final table. By the time we made it to the final 9, my stack was up to 2nd or 3rd place, so I was able to take it a little bit easy and let the others do the busting for a while.

At some point along the way I remembered that all that should really matter to me was outlasting whoever was the last player standing on the other team. I checked out the Donkey Island Poker website, and it was quickly clear to me once we were down to 5 or even 6 left, that NumbBono was the only guy left from the other team. Unfortunately, he had a monstrous stack of around 50k with 5 players left, and I had something like 8k at my lowest. But I played really patient, and I figured even though it was going on 1am my time, I owed it to my teammates to do what I could to just try to hold on and hope to find a way to outlast Numb. Not too long after that, I don't even remember the hand that it happened on but Numb made a mistake and lost about half of his stack, dropping to around 24k, at a time when I had climbed my own stack to around 16 or 17k, and suddenly it seemed like I could really possibly catch him.

At some point I won a big pot off of the big stack across the table whose name I did not recognize (mattychise, maybe? Leave me a comment with your right name and your blog if you read this and I will update), getting him to fold on the turn after making fairly large bets on the flop and earlier on the turn before my raise, and Numb lost another hand, and all of a sudden we had totally switched; I had over 50k in chips and Numb was stuck below 15k and a distant fourth out of four remaining players. There were a few suckouts against me here four-handed, but in the end I was able to hold on to my big chipstack -- making a few disciplined folds with hands like KQo and 77 to heavy action in front of me -- and eventually I raised up front with A8o, a standard move obviously in 4-handed play, and Numb pushed allin preflop behind me from the big blind. My raise had been to around 4000 chips, and Numb's push was for around 14k, leaving me to call around 10k to win 19k or so -- I really made those numbers up wholesale -- but I figured he has to be pushing here with any Ace, as well as any pocket pair below 8s, so there are plenty of hands in that range that I am ahead of, and I'm getting 2 to 1 on my money anyways, meaning that only higher Aces had me in really bad shape at all. I called, Numb flipped up 44, and I flopped an 8 to win the race and eliminate the last player from the Bad Guy Team in Survivor Poker.

At this point, I pushed allin preflop with every single hand until the last two players -- Joanada and this mattychise fellow -- eventually succumbed to my button mashing. I think I might have sucked out on one of them in a medium-sized pot. I had a giant stack at that point 3-handed after taking out Numb, so I knew I could afford some losses, and who am I kidding anyways I didn't give a snatch about where I finished on the leaderboard after having outlasted everyone else from the Bad Guys Team. So I just kept pushing and praying when we got to 3-handed and the ITM positions, and fast forward about six or seven minutes and I was the winner.

So anyways, back to my Donkey Island strategy: All I do is crush blonkaments. I mean, for crying out loud, my name is actually "Blogger Crusher" on another well-known online poker client as most of you know. So, Team Fish, this is why not to vote me out whenever our team is up for elimination -- because you always know that in just a few days, the next Donkey Island tournament is coming up, and I'm your best chance to avoiding an elimination vote entirely if you just let me stick around and do what I do best in these tournaments. While team play remains in effect for the next month on Donkey Island, I may ultimately be the most valuable commodity you can have on your side.

By the way, for the record let me register my shock that Numb was the first player voted off by his team after the first tournament of Survivor Poker. Numb has shown repeatedly that he can win the blogger fonkfests like these, and he's a BDR regular. How does that guy capture 5 out of 7 elimination votes on his team (assuming he did not vote for himself)? Somebody please help me to understand. Is this what people mean by making "alliances"? Is it possible (likely?) that the order of 6 of the 8 vote-offs has already been decided for my team? Eek!

The next Donkey Island Poker tournament is this coming Wednesday, The Dank at 10pm ET. Until then, my teammate and I be immune.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Donkey Island Poker, and Parting Thoughts on This Week's Win

Before I forget, this coming Sunday night is the first of tournament of the Donkey Island blonkament series. Goat will be hosting a regular Sunday night tournament as part of Donkey Island, and although there are only 16 slots in the Donkey Island vote-Hoy-off-as-soon-as-possible thing, the tournaments are open to anyone who wants to play. And this one, just about anyone but Waffles can afford -- it's just one dollah to get in and take your shot!

Sunday, February 13, 2011
Full Tilt Poker
9:30 PM EST
$1 + $1 Rebuy
password: survive

You remember Katitude's old $1 rebuy on Friday nights, right? Wasn't that fun? Now's your chance to come play for cheap with the bloggers again, this Sunday night at 9:30pm on full tilt. Figure, you'll already be down to couple hundred left in the Sunday 750k by 9:30 on Sunday night, so why not hit up the "Private" tab under "Tournaments" and check out "the Goat" as I am affectionately referring to this Sunday night tournament, for the couple of months it is currently scheduled to endure.

OK, with that out of the way, I thought I would close the book on this week's 10k win on pokerstars as I usually do with some final thoughts. This was an odd tournament -- I have gone over the hand histories and the screen shots three times in full now, and something just seems a little "off" about it. I mean, I never had that one huge hand -- flopping a set against AA and KK allin preflop, or turning a flush after getting allin with a couple of guys with solid made hands ahead of me, etc. -- and really, it's hard to quantify or explain exactly what I did in this tournament to run so deep, or even what I avoided from a luck perspective. Although I obviously played very well in the event to last as long as I did and to amass the stack that I had by the end, frankly there wasn't any one hand that I thought I played particularly well or one type of play I repeatedly took advantage of given my image in the tournament. More than any other tournament cash I can recall, this one was more an amalgamation of several things, all coming together at just the right time to make me some money. And if there was one theme that carries through the whole tournament, more than anything else -- as if often the case with my deep mtt runs -- it would be the bad play of my opponents, more than anything specific that I did.

Just look through all my big hands in this thing, every one of which I think I included in my tournament recap post on Wednesday. My first double occurred during Hour 1, when a guy insta-called three bets from me with 99 on an 8-high board, after first calling my preflop reraise. That's just a pure, old fashioned terrible poker play. I mean, this isn't limit poker here. The guy basically busted himself in the first hour of a $109 buyin event when he raised preflop, got reraised -- clearly suggesting a higher pair could be out there -- and then the guy called not one, not two, but three times on a raggy board, never once even raising early to try to find out if his 9s were already beat? It's a terrible play, and I was lucky to be the beneficiary before someone else at the table had the pleasure.

My second big hand literally only ever happened in the first place because of this same opponent's bad play. On that hand, I took AK to a raggy turn card after a raggy flop, and my opponent then led out for 600 chips into a 2700-chip pot. I already thought I could be ahead with my AK in that spot, but to any reasonably-sized bet I would have folded most of the time, no doubt about it. Instead, he bet so small that I felt I actually had odds to stay in. The river comes a King, I lead out big and he folds. More chips for me, in a pot I would literally not even have been in to river the top pair if my opponent makes even close to a good bet there, instead of a terrible one.

My next big hand was when I flopped the set of 5s in a 5-way pot with a flop of 578. This was just more fortuitous than anything else -- I mean, it's an obvious call for me with pocket 5s after four other raise-callers ahead of me before the flop, and then I did the usual donk move of slow-playing the set by just calling a lead bet on that flop. What really got me the chips was when I pushed hugely on the turn (a 2), and the guy called with his pocket 9s. Yes, it was an overpair, and it's not as bad as my first big hand above because there, I had reraised him preflop, all but screaming at him right off the bat that his 9s were no good, but here in the end, the guy still called off his last 7500 in chips with just one medium pair and a one-card inside straight draw on a board that was 5-way to see the flop (a terrible move, generally speaking), with not only a possible straight and myriad straight draws out there, but the turn card also dropping a second flush draw possibility as well for the river. Even if his 9s were ahead at the time -- I bad guess to begin with as it is -- he called off his last 7500 chips with what he had to know were a gillion possible ways to lose. It's another bad play, and ultimately this was the closest thing I had to that big hand I was talking about -- I shot up to the top few spots on the leaderboard early, and it really set me up with a big stack that I never lost again throughout the rest of the tournament. I played the hand about as well as it could be played I think, including the ridiculous push on the turn that I tried hard to be perceived as weak, so I'll take some credit there. But in the end, it was a very light call by a bad opponent that gave me my first true huge stack of the night and empowered me to last the next four or five hours of tough nlh play.

After amassing my huge stack, I took it easy, helped by a lack of any good cardage to play, and after a couple of hours was getting pretty short when I finally needed to get a little lucky, and I did just that when my JTs allin preflop bested an opponent's AQo when down to just under 50 players left in the tournament. It's nowhere near a suckout, but that was my tournament life allin and on the line, with about a 43% chance of winning, and my 43'er came through in a big way, giving me new life and a chance to take a breather from the escalating blinds and antes. I would probably make that play again there given my situation -- my opponent had basically as bad of a hand as I could have ever wanted him to have there with my JTs -- but I needed to get lucky to stay alive, so I can't take a whole lot of credit for some kind of great play on my part for sho.

When we got down to two tables remaining, I had another big stack flip out and call allin preflop on a rereraise with his AJo, which I called with my AKo and held up to climb into first place of 12 runners left. Who knows what happens with my stack if I don't get gifted those chips in that situation? I think I made the right play not laying down my AK in that spot, but again, hard to give myself a lot of credit for getting dealt AK in the final two tables and refusing to lay down to heavy action preflop in a blind vs. blind situation.

And then the same thing happened for me early at the final table, when with 8 players left, I called allin preflop with my JJ vs a medium stack who had TT. He would have played QQ probably exactly the same way there, and when I called I could have seen QQ, or just as easily AK or AQ or even KQs, and lost to any of those hands. Again I think I made the right decision to get allin pre with my JJ there, but the hands just got in ahead at the right times over and over for me in this thing. Similarly when I eliminated a short-stacked #7 when my AK won a race against his TT allin pre.

And that's every big hand I won all through the night in the pokerstars 50k guaranteed. It was three different guys getting allin with medium overpairs on raggy boards against me in bad spots, one horrible bet from an opponent on the turn that priced me in to see a river card that won for me, and one big 43% win with JTs against AQo allin pre, to get to the final table. And then at the final table, someone ran TT into my JJ, and then my AK beat TT in a race. And then the other guy knocked out the last four players while I just sat around, holding my own, until he eventually got heads-up against me and he picked up pocket Aces just when I decided to attack.

So what's the lesson I should take from this? I know I played a great tournament, but I know just as well that this was nowhere near the best I can play. I wasn't presented with nearly enough opportunities, not nearly enough decisions, to really play the best I could play in this. In a sense, the lesson really is kind of like the New York Lottery's constant marketing message -- you can't win if you don't play. That is to say, if you are resigning yourself to the life of mtt grinder, you cannot expect to play a couple large tournaments a week and record a lot of success. As I've said here many times, the name of the game when it comes to mtts is reps. More than anything else, more than making good decisions, more than tournament selection, more than anything else, it's all about reps. Everyone's going to get lucky some night, be it finding pocket Aces eight times in one tournament, be it avoiding the suckouts, or just winning your key races. The key is that you have to be in there playing the game when it's your night. Of course, if you play good poker as opposed to bad poker, you will give yourself many more chances to get lucky than you ever will if you don't play well enough and make enough good decisions to survive long enough to be alive for the luck at the end.

On the day, I did not suck out on anyone in any pot that I could find, though I did win that one key hand with me allin before the flop with JTs against AQo. I took three suckouts, only one of which I showed in my tournament recap, as the other two did not end up being material losses for my stack, but even that number is nothing out of the ordinary for me -- if anything, it's a bit favorable compared to my usual night in a deep mtt run. As I mentioned in my recap post, I ended up the night winning 21 of 24 pots at showdown, whereas I normally spend most of my time winning pots without a showdown and only coming in at around 50% or so in this stat. Part of that is me playing well and consistently getting out of pots when I was not the favorite, but a good deal of that extraordinary win % just goes to show the kind of "luck" I had on this night. Ultimately, I got in as a solid favorite a lot in this, and my favorites for the most part held up. In fact, every time you could fairly say that I needed my favorite to hold up, it held up. Every single time, and then some. When I got in dominating someone preflop, I held. When I many times in this tournament got someone allin against me on the flop with an underpair and an inside straight draw, just an oesd, etc., I held. I won a couple of key races near the end to keep building my stack, and did not lose a race once we got down to the final two tables. All that is how I won this cash, nothing more and nothing less.

And someone also mentioned in the comments that, not only did I win 21 of 24 times at showdown, but I had won 40 hands without a showdown as of right around the beginning of the final table. The comment expressed how large that number was, but in reality, that's pretty much standard for me in any deep mtt run. At the time we had played right around 375 hands, so this amounts to me having won roughly 11% of all hands dealt at my table on the night without a showdown. Admittedly, this is a big number, but it's also the way I play nlh. I raise a lot preflop, and I take down a ton of pots that way before anyone even sees the community cards. And, just like Doyle, I don't like to put my chips into the pot and then not back them up once the flop comes down. It helps that I generally only play strong cards or cards that can easily make a strong hand or draw once the flop falls. But I bet and raise all the time, all over the place, trying to keep the pots small as much as possible unless I'm working on something big in my own hand. In all, winning 40 pots uncontested and another 21 at showdown means I was winning 61 / 375 hands at the time, or 16-17% of the total hands I saw on the night. That number is also high, but, again, it is not that out of the ordinary for me in any deep mtt run. Playing at mostly 9- and 10-handed tables all through the night, to win more than your 10/11% of hands over time is very telling, and in my case it reflects the fact that I play very aggressively pre- and post-flop, and that in this case I amassed a huge stack early and then used it like a club to beat down on the heads of my opponents for long periods of time in the middle of this mtt. I am quite sure there are plenty of people who can win an nlh tournament with a lower percentage of total hands won that that, and to be perfectly honest I've had multi-hour runs in mtts when I am up over 20% of total hands won. A lot of it does ultimately come down to the cards you are being dealt, but in my case whenever I run deep I am usually winning right up there around 10% of the total hands I've seen without a flop. When I am executing my strategy, and my approach to nlh tournaments just right, that's what it looks like.

I wish more people posted their stats from deep mtt runs. I am sure there is much to be gained from analyzing those stats against the type of game that the relevant person plays. But I'm the only person I ever really see posting this sort of thing. Personally, I would really like to know if all the top mtt guys come in around the same area in most of their wins, as far as total percent of flops seen (mine was 12% in this, which as I mentioned previously is right around my average for a deep mtt run), percent of hands defended in the blinds, and total flops seen and total hands won, both with and without a showdown. I do know that winning 21 of 24 showdowns in a tournament is an extreme outlier, but that takes me back to this tournament overall, which in its own way was also an outlier for me as I started off this post saying. It was a little bit of cards for me and a lot of aggression, and a whole whole lot of bad play by others, combined with a whole whole lot of my favorites holding up. Get enough favorites to hold, and almost anybody could make a deep run in an mtt. You just have to find a way to be in there when it's your night to run, and you never know it's your night until the end.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tournament Recap -- 10k Win in Stars 50k Guaranteed

Like many tournaments which lead to nice scores for me, the 50k guaranteed, $109 buyin nlh tournament at 7pm ET on pokerstars on Tuesday night started off kinda slow. This was only maybe the 6th or 7th time I have ever played this event -- both due to buyin and timing constraints -- and my pattern of no real success continued early as from the 3000 starting stack, I slowly dwindled down, 25 here, 50 there, 120 here, another 50 there. By 30 minutes in, I was down to 2600, and as I remember saying in one of my earlier tournament recaps this year, things were not starting off well for this being one of the tournaments where I can make a deep run, as opposed to the many, many tournaments where I bust before the final 25th percentile of the field in these things. At some point I picked up A7o on the button and ended up making a hero call at the river with one pair against the aggromonkey in the cutoff to get back up to the 3000 starting stack, and then I looked down to find pocket Aces a few hands later in middle position, facing a raise ahead of me from early position. I reraised, the original raiser called -- and this was a guy I had seen raising and calling liberally all through the time I had sat with him -- and he then proceeded to call a bet of around 70% of the pot on the 628 rainbow flop, and then instacall another 70% potbet from me that put me allin after the 5 on the turn. He showed the solidly overplayed pocket 9s and I shot up to over 6300 chips. Not too long after was the first break, with me having ended up with a perfectly acceptable first round after an inauspicious beginning:

I got my first big stack near the beginning of Hour 2, when I reraised preflop against the same aggrofonk who paid my AA off in the first hour, this time with my AK, which the lagtard happily called. When the flop came 863 with two hearts, I opted not to c-bet and instead checked behind, and when the turn card brought a second 3 (not a card I could realistically be scared of), and my opponent led out for 600 into the 2700-chip pot:

I felt compelled to call, just from an odds perspective if nothing else -- I mean, what kind of a bet is that? The river then brought an offsuit King, and I led out for the rest of my stack and even Mr. Callsalot found a fold at that point, pushing my stack up to 10,000 for the first time on the night. Things got even better not too long afterwards when I called a preflop raise in a 5-way pot with pocket 5s, and then flopped my first set of the night, an awesome situation with so many people in there as long as you don't let them suck out on your flopset. So after one check on a potentially scary board where I'd flopped bottom set, the action was led into me:

I quickly considered my options and knew that with three people still in there to act behind me, and my confidence that I will freely lay this down if the wrong turn card falls and I get heavy action in front of me, I was going to slow play, hopefully get a couple of overcallers here and really try to make some money, if I can dodge a scare card on the turn. I just called:

and the guy right behind me called as well, with the last two players folding. A two fell on the turn, creating a second flush draw on the board but clearly not filling any draws out there on the flop, and when the original raiser checked to me this time around:

I figured I wanted to do the stealiest-looking thing I could. As I thought this through, one option just seemed to stand out from all the rest, so I went for it:

Normally, as was the case here, I will only do this kind of meta kind of move where I think there is a good chance from the play of the hand that my opponent is also on an overpair.

People have a lot of trouble laying down overpairs of any kind out there in the world, I find, any kind of overpair at all. I've seen more people than I can count stack off with 99 or TT on an all-rag board, even when their opponent had reraised them preflop and sometimes called or even led out with a good-size bet on the flop as well. That used to be me, to tell the truth, I always used to get eliminated from tournaments with TT vs AA or flopsets or some shit, and then I would spend the next two days bemoaning my bad luck. At some point though, you just have to face that you might be up against an overpair, or worse, even if you are holding a middle overpair yourself. KK vs AA is a setup hand, but that doesn't mean that 88 or 99 vs AA is too. It happens. That's not a trap I walk into much anymore, but I benefited big-time here from a guy who clearly overplayed a mediocre hand to the extreme, without ever taking one of the early streets to do what he had to do to find out conclusively whether his pair of 9s was ahead or behind. Instead, he kept betting and betting, and then made the cardinal sin of calling my large allin push with just the 9s, and just like that I was up over 21,000 in chips and way at the top of the leaderboard less than two hours in here:

4th place of 336 players remaining, of the 768 who had started just over an hour and a half earlier. I was way up where I wanted to end up in this thing, but it was farrrr too early to get real excited. Not much happened in the rest of Hour 2, and I went into the second break still in great position, in 5th of 262 runners remaining. With my massive stack, I started really bullying the table, always raising amounts that I knew would be uncomfortable for everyone else at the table but which I really didn't care much about either way given the pile of chips I was sitting on. Preflop raise repeatedly to 2400 when the average stack is just under 10k, stuff like that. I chipped up solidly doing this, but it's a slow plod for a guy like me because I end up having to fold to preflop reraises and to raises on the flop more than a more passive player, but I inched my way up through the 20,000's in chips through most of the rest of Hour 3 in this tournament. In doing so, I generally kept pace with my peers on the leaderboard, slipping to 14th out of 170 left, and then back up to 10th of 160 and 150 remaining, before I lost a race with AQ vs 99 to slip back down to around 21k shortly before the end of Hour 3. At the third break, I was still alive as we were approaching the ITM positions in the tournament, but smack in the middle of the pack:

My work would be cut out for me to get back into the thick of this thing in Hour 4. Early in the next hour, I picked up my second pocket Aces of the night, and I opted to limp with them as I do sometimes in tournaments (less so in cash) when the action hasn't been opened yet to me. Only the big blind stayed in anyways (I guess my preflop limp was kinda suspicious after all the raising I'd been doing for the past 90 minutes or so on a huge stack). When my opponent -- who had about half as many chips as I had to start the hand -- raised my c-bet allin on a connected but really not all that frightening board:

I again felt like I was probably ahead and had to make the call given the way I had slow-played my monster before the flop. Turns out my read was true, I was ahead, and I faded eight outs twice to climb over 30k for the first time on the night:

This was good for 19th place out of 98 remaining, so I was once again climbing my way back into position to make a solid run at the final table. I spent much of the rest of Hour 4 fighting to retain my stack against the ever-advancing blinds and the increasing aggression of those around me, stealing a number of pots when the opportunity presented itself, but then slipping back a step for every couple of steps I took forward as I repeatedly got caught raising with hands I was not willing to call a reraise with. As I mentioned earlier, when you play an aggressive game of no-limit holdem, you're always in there firing at pots, some you have it, and some of them you've got nothing but an impression of what your opponent's cards are. Halfway through Hour 4 I found myself still with 25k in chips, good for 38th place of 64 players remaining, and shortly afterwards I had to fold to another preflop reraise of my steal, dropping me to just over 20k and near the bottom of the remaining field. Eventually, after being reraised on what seemed like 10 or 15 consecutive preflop raises with very little good cards to speak of, I found myself facing yet another preflop reraise in this situation:

It was 16k to call 27k, meaning that I can call if I think my JTs will win 16/43 of the time, or 37%. Given that the Jack and the Ten are not nearly as often dominated as Kings and Aces, knowing that medium pocket pairs were within this super short-stacked opponent's shoving range here for sure, and knowing that I was holding the literal single best of the unpaired hands against even a monster, I figured for these odds I had to make the call. And I wanted to call, after all those times folding to reraises, I was ready to take the plunge, in around 40th of 50 players left, to either get the double I had been seeking for the past three hours or to go busto trying. So I called it, and the flop was naturally horrible, immediately evoking thoughts of yet another early-ITM elimination. But then the turn saved the day for me in a pot where it turned out it would have been a major mistake from an odds perspective if I had folded preflop:

And I had my double-up. I was up to 18th place of 58 remaining, we were well into the money positions at this point, and I would be looking to start amassing a big stack for a final table run. I couldn't get anything else going, and at the end of Hour 4, I was in 26th place of 43 left, back below the midway point of the players left in this thing, in much the same position as I was when entering the fourth round 60 minutes earlier:

I got down to 31st of 36 left early in the fifth hour, and was quickly to the point where I was open-pushing with any Ace, even A2o and A6o, with both of which I managed to survive and pick up the blinds and antes, which at that point amounted to about 30% of my total stack at the time. I then won my biggest pot of the tournament in a key race when the guy to my left called my allin preflop raise with the JackAce, and my pocket 4s held up somehow to lift me to 82k in chips and give me a new life in the tournament, back up to 11th place with 34 left. I frittered away some of those chips until I won a big one when a guy with 88 pushed the rest of his stack in to me on a 63KA board, and I called for most of my stack with my own JackAce which held for a 147k pot that vaulted me into 6th place, the highest I had been in hours. I tacked on another 30k or so in chips when I raised preflop with 98s and then turned a flush that I had bet with on the come on the flop, and then by calling a preflop raise with KQs and flopping top pair Queens, with which I raised a c-bettor on the flop to take down uncontested.

As we wended our way down through the final two tables, I maintained my stack in the 120k-150k range, good for somewhere between 8th and 10th place as we moved down from 20 remaining and into the teens. I eliminated a player in 15th place when I flopped my third set of the night -- with presto, no less -- and the short stack moved in on me with his overpair pocket 8s to the raggy board, getting me up just short of 200k and into 5th place with 15 runners left:

I got over 200k for the first time when I raised the tournament chip leader with my pocket 9s on a raggy flop -- this is generally the way to find out early in the hand if your middle overpair is really good or not -- and the chipleader folded. Then I had my biggest hand of the tournament to that point on a truly bad play by an opponent after I open-raised from the small blind with AK and then the big blind reraised me smallish here:

The odds of me being behind to AA or KK in the blinds here were extremely low, and the odds of him being on a lower Ace are better than him being on any pocket pair, so I went for the allin, and he called my preflop allin re-reraise with what is just about the absolute weakest I think anybody ever calls an allin re-reraise before the flop in a key spot with a nice stack late in an nlh tournament (at least he had the courtesy to instacall with it, the way the JackAce is supposed to be played):

I faded a few straight outs at the river to win this ginormous pot, giving me over 420,000 chips and my first chip lead of the entire tournament:

And when the final table started a few minutes later near the end of Hour 5, I entered in a close third place of nine, with just around 385k in chips, while the chipleaders were both in the low 400s. This enabled me to mostly lay low and take it easy in the earlygoing at the final table, knowing that first prize in this event paid over 14k, or nearly 14 times as much as 9th, and with sufficient chips to wait for the big hands to come to me, that's exactly what I did. A6o across the table took out the short stack's K9o allin preflop for our first final table elimination, and not too long later, I picked up pocket Jacks in the small blind, and faced a stealy-looking raise from the middle-stacked aggressive player on the button. I went for the obvious reraise:

and then my opponent pushed allin for his entire 281k stack, facing me with a significant decision:

As much as I did not want to call off my stack against some kind of higher pair -- and frankly, not wanting to face AK in a race either for all these chips given my position in the tournament -- I just couldn't get away from how aggressive this player had been stealing pots, and the fact that he might easily have put me on a weak holding after I restole from the button, a move he had surely watched me do several times himself over the past couple of hours. Plus, I only had to call 211k to win 367k, so the odds were way easily there for anything even resembling a race. In the end, I flicked my finger to the "call" button, and was shown this:

Boooom! First place of 7 players remaining, with a 14k+ first prize. Come to momma!

I eliminated #6 as well when I won a race with AK vs TT, allin pre:

and I remained in 1st of 6 left as we came to the sixth break, at five minutes to 1am New York time. Oh, and check out my tournament stats that I reviewed during that break:

12% of flops -- that is definitely low for me, but frankly not all that low compared to other deep mtt runs I have made in my day. But the most impressive part of those stats is my win percentage at showdown -- 17 of 19 showdowns won. That is a good 30-40% higher than my usual, and it just shows how often I was getting in ahead in this thing, and holding up when I needed to. And at least one of the two showdowns I lost was my AK losing to AQ allin pre, so in reality it was even better than that. Just one of those crazy nights where almost every read I laid was spot-on, and a few times I needed some good fortune, Lady Luck was right there to see me through.

A short while into Hour 6, a player across the table called the tourney short stack's allin pre with his QTs, and he turned a straight to beat the suited JackAce, and then there were 5, with each of us guaranteed a minimum payment of at least $4032. Good times. Although the winner of that pot took over the chip lead from me with that hand, a lead he only padded when he also eliminated the 5th place player with A6s vs 97s on an Ace-high flop a few minutes later. With four players left in the tournament, I was a solid 2nd, really with two big stacks and two small stacks left in the fray:

I was in a great spot to eliminate #4 here around the midway point of Hour 6:

But that was not meant to be:

Blech. This would have given me back a nice chiplead with three left and a 14k first prize, but as I said, it just wasn't meant to be, and I was back to fighting mode, determined not to let an annoying suckout like that ruin my chance at the big money in the top two spots in the tournament. This proved to be the most annoying part of the entire tournament, as the four of us spent a full hour playing it out 4-handed, seeing very few flops and a whole whole lot of folding to preflop reraises. I held my own, winning a shit-ton of flops with nothing, and raising preflop with every unopened Ace I saw, and most Kings and Queens too, staying ahead of the blinds and antes but just barely as I maintained my hold on second place pretty much for the entire hour straight. Eventually, however, my competitive position in the tournament continued to slide, as late in Hour 6, the chipleader took out #4 with this beauty, also allin preflop:

Sure, it's great that I literally made about $2000 in real cash from that elimination as I moved up to the next miniimum spot on the leaderboard, but when you really want to win the tournament and not just cash well, it can be frustrating when you have the chip lead but then have to watch the same player eliminate #6, #5, #4, and #3 to take over the lead and undo an entire evening's worth of hard work.

We played 3-handed for about 15 minutes, with the player to my left remaining in 3rd place -- although not that far off from my stack at times -- and never managing to pass me for even a brief stay out of the cellar. Eventually, just five hands into Hour 8, the chip leader got his chance to take out #3 as well, calling the shorty's allin preflop with his AQo, and once again the chip leader's favorite held up:

And then there were two:

Note the chipstacks here, after this guy had managed to take out each of the final four players on his way to heads-up play. After having held the chip lead an hour earlier, with my heads-up opponent doing all of these eliminations, I was now down 1.6 million to 570k in chips, more than a 3-to-1 chip deficit, and I figured I would be trying for the early double-up here to make us even and give myself a fighting chance at that 14k first prize. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, on the seventh hand of heads-up play, I opted to reraise allin preflop with K5o after my opponent's seventh straight preflop minraise. Unfortunately, because this time he had the biggest monster of them all:

And I was done. Out in second of 768 runners, and still picking up more than $10,300 for my efforts:

I'll have some more thoughts on this tournament later in the week I am sure, but hopefully this writeup gives a decent picture of how I turned 1 hundy into ten large over about seven hours of play, winning 21 of 24 showdowns along the way before that fateful last hand. As I wrote on Tuesday morning, finishing second is always a bittersweet way to end a deep tournament run, but the fat cash prize does a lot to make that better. And, I think something about the way I ended as the runner-up here made it not hurt nearly as bad as, say, if I had been the one with the 3-to-1 chip lead and then found a way to lose it. In all, it was another great run for me here early in 2011, as I strive to make good on my New Years' goals with respect to my poker game and my focus and rededication at the virtual tables.

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