Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Today is my 24th birthday. My parents are taking me out to dinner and a bunch of friends are coming over after that.

I was down at King Soopers today buying stuff for my house. King Soopers was the first real job I had, bagging groceries and pushing carts around. It wasn't a terrible job, but I dreaded every minute of it and basically tried to work as little as possible. The main reason I had the job was to get my parents off my back.

A lot of the people who worked there when I was 17 are still working there. Some of them are completely happy with that. It's really not a bad place to work, and provides escalating benefits and opportunities the longer and better you work there. Seeing some of those people - who no longer recognize me as anyone they've ever known - got me thinking about the pot of gold I stumbled upon while searching for the end of the rainbow. It was so timely for poker to explode at pretty much the exact moment I started getting really good at it. It was so fortunate for us young Boulder players, particularly Paul and I, to find each other at that same moment. It was so ridiculously lucky for me to have a chunk of Paul 's action when he made the third-biggest tournament score of all time.

I now live in a condo in Shanahan Ridge in South Boulder. It's nice. Really nice. Looking around I can't believe I live here. I get to travel all over the place. In a month I'm going to the Bahamas, then Australia. It really is absurd. Don't think I don't know it. I know how fortunate I am. I know there's nothing else I could be doing to make this kind of money with these few hours. Nothing even close. Life is good. Hopefully 24 will be the best year yet.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2006 POY Update

The Wolf and I held a poker fantasy draft at the beginning of the year, using Cardplayer's Player of the Year points as our scoring system. We each selected 25 players and used the following scoring system:

5 pts for POY
3 pts for 2-5
2 pts for 6-10
1 pt for 10-20

With only one major event left in the poker calendar, here is where our ponies rank:

My Team:

1. David Pham (71): No longer logging the hours of the Hoangs and Luongs
2. John Juanda (127): Would likely be higher on the list if not for the horrible beat he received at the hands of Paul Wasicka
3. Phil Ivey (29)
4. James Van Alstyne (57): Still searching for that real breakthrough.
5. Scotty Nguyen (34): Has also cut down on his hours
6. JC Tran (4): Would be right up with the Grinder if his WCOOP victory counted for POY
7. Nam Le (3)
8. Minh Nguyen (204)
9. Tim Phan (578)
10. Barry Greenstein (66)
11. Bill Edler (43): Has disappeared after a huge start
12. Anthony Reategui (16): Has curtailed travel in the fall after a huge first half of ‘06
13. Allen Kessler: (366)
14. David Singer (51)
15. Jennifer Harman (scoreless)
16. Bill Gazes (2406)
17. Gavin Smith (104)
18. Erik Seidel (3041)
19. Chris Bell (298)
20. Darrell Dicken (534)
21. Amnon Filippi (190)
22. Chris Ferguson (830)
23. Adam Friedman (619)
24. Daniel Negreanu (76)
25. Thomas Fuller (956): Just three wins at the Five Diamond from cracking the top 20

Wolf’s Team:

1. Men Nguyen (86)
2. John Phan (33): I expect him to crack the top 20 before all is said and done
3. Quinn Do (784): A very chic pick at the start of the year; may no longer be playing poker
4. Erick Lindgren (12)
5. Michael Mizrachi (1)
6. Tom Franklin (31)
7. John Hoang (5): A possible #1 overall pick in the 2007 draft
8. Tony Ma (123)
9. CK Hua (23): Parlayed a bad beat on gamblegambel into a WSOP final table
10. Max Pescatori (37): Has utterly disappeared since winning his bracelet
11. Freddy Deeb (3057)
12. Nick Schulman (3057)
13. Ted Forrest (1209)
14. Hasan Habib (300)
15. Gioi Luong (20): Roughly 4000 cashes and 800 final tables the last two years
16. Allen Cunningham (11)
17. Layne Flack (scoreless)
18. David Levi (2161): A stunningly poor year from a perennial top 20 threat
19. Juha Helppi (139)
20. Phil Hellmuth (6): Likely would have competed for first if he had played more events
21. Mark Seif (scoreless)
22. Carlos Mortensen (187): A tenth and two ninths in massive WSOP events
23. Antonio Esfandiari (scoreless)
24. Amir Vahedi (380)
25. Hung La (scoreless): scoreless in POY pts but not in life

If nothing changed during the last month, the Wolf would win by a score of 13-7. I'm going to need a lot to happen from Singer, Negreanu, Scotty, etc to have a chance, and might even need Nam Le or JC Tran to tackle the Grinder. Most likely I will owe the Wolf a drink in the Bahamas 45 days from now.

If you're interested in taking part in the 2007 draft let me know.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fired Up

Yesterday was one of those start-to-finish travel days that I am likely going to avoid once I've made my millions. It did give me a chance to catch up on SURVIVOR: California on my laptop and spend a lot of time thinking about poker. I haven't thought about the game this intensely since the World Series. I listened to several episodes of The Circuit which is surprisingly entertaining and stimulating. Paul's appearance on the show shed some light on a couple ideas that amazingly, he and I have never discussed. I thought about what Kathy Liebert was doing the other day which paved the way for her final table appearance at Foxwoods tomorrow afternoon. I thought about all the successful players I've played with the last couple months - and what they've been doing.

As I was trying to fall asleep I came to a startling realization - every move I made at Foxwoods worked except for one. The one that didn't work only failed because the guy had the courage to rebluff after making a physical read. Even on that one I put him on the right sort of hand, but underestimated his ability to make a move and may have given away something physically. Before and after that I made a number of big bluffs, some of them with absolutely nothing, and each one worked. I also made two laydowns at Foxwoods that most players would not even consider, and they were both correct. I played one bad hand against Bernard Lee in the 5k event, and again, if I had followed my instincts, I would not have lost anything on the hand.

After really thinking it through I concluded that I was playing great at Foxwoods but the cards just weren't coming and the players were quite a bit better than the fools at Caesar's Indiana. So after a lukewarm period of consideration, I'm now gung-ho for the Five Diamond series of tournaments at the Bellagio in December and hope to be there for the duration.

A few quick thoughts on random topics:
  • Like I mentioned above, The Circuit really is good stuff and makes for perfect i-pod listening while exercising or travelling
  • The WPT has this thing called WPT Academy where they display every hand from previous WPT final tables. Literally. Right now they only have Season One up there but supposedly they'll eventually have more. An incredible learning tool and also pretty entertaining for poker junkies like me.
  • Starting to think about the Bahamas (January 4-11) and Australia (main event starting January 14). I'm also thinking I'll probably go to Europe this spring to visit my brother (he's going to Saint Andrews in Scotland) and play a poker tournament, most likely the EPT Final in Monte Carlo. Let me know if you're interested.
  • I'm scouting out my online options and mulling things over before I really start playing. Pokerstars 10-20 shorthanded seems like a decent option and so does the same game on FullTilt. I'm going to have to get back to my real bread and butter which is online NLHE cash games unless I win a big tournament soon.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fruitless Efforts at Foxwoods

There was no lack of effort at any point in four days of play here at Foxwoods, but I just couldn't get over the hump in any of the tournaments. My table was pretty good today, with Kathy Liebert playing the Kwickfish style and everyone else struggling. I hung in there for a couple hours with five uncalled all-in reraises before finally getting called with AQ against JJ and losing the flip.

Tomorrow I go home and start the process of moving into a new home. I can't wait to settle down in Boulder for a while after a long fall on the road.

3k NL: -3,000
5k NL: -5,000
10k NL: -10,000

Year to date: 221,089

Fourteen Hours of Foxwoods

It was an incredibly long day. It seemed like it would never end, but it finally did, only to start again ten and a half hours later. For no reason they have an off day scheduled before the final table instead of just making a better structure and shortening the days.

I played decent poker at my first table which had some fairly crappy players. There was a nice pot early on where David Matthew fired four streets against me on a bluff, got called every time, then had the audacity to call ME a calling station. It got a bit heated and the hand was great for my image. Not too long after that I had 99 on a 922 flop against pocket aces AND pocket aces but sadly only broke one of them.

I got owned by an online player named Sobe after that and moved to my next table with around 33k (we started with 20). It was a real weak table and I played perhaps the best poker of my life there for a couple hours. One hand I raised the cutoff with AA and got called by the BB. The flop came JJ7 with two spades and a club and it went check-check. The turn was the 5c and he fired out a big bet and I just called. On the 2s river he bet big again; I folded face up after tanking for four minutes and he showed me jack-ten. I'm going to be thinking about that hand in four days at the final table.

I bluffed some hands and won a key pot with 97o vs a short stack's A9s before that table broke to get to around 49k. I got moved to a wild table for just a few minutes. I doubled up a short stack with 98 vs 88 blind on blind, then got moved to my 4th table of the day and immediately lost 23k with JJ vs QQ putting me down to 9k. The new table was really rough, featuring Loi Phan, Miami John, Daniel Negreanu, Tuan Le, Joe Tehan, and a couple mysterious big stacks. I was fortunate enough to win two races and finished the day with 46k.

Tomorrow starts at noon EST with with 171 players left paying 60.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Foxwoods 3k NL

Foxwoods offers the opportunity to play 18k worth of tournaments, start to finish, in one week. That sort of action is practically unmatched on the circuit, so many of the top players have flocked to Connecticut this week. Few of them could be found at my two tables, however. The only excellent players I encountered today (besides an extremely brief Shaniac appearance) were my friend Ethan Foulkes aka Remmy, Sean McCabe, Van Nguyen, and the Grinder himself, Michael Mizrachi.

I had never played with the Grinder before today and always wanted to see just what he's doing that's led to the best tournament results in the world over the last two years. He made some very loose plays (including limping Q3s UTG, calling a raise, and then checkraising a ten high rainbow flop) and seemed to be in every pot, but the basic pattern was what I see from almost all of the best players: taking small stabs with small hands and bringing down the hammer with good ones. Even a top player like Mizrachi relies mostly on the mistakes of others, at least from what I saw today.

I had very little to play today and it was an unexciting day. In the first level I made a straight against some guy who couldn't throw away his overpair to get to around 15k (we started with 10k) and it was downhill from there. Four hands tell the story of how things went:

1) 100-200 blinds. McCabe (who plays fairly tight and fairly straightforward) limped under the gun. I actually thought he had a big hand since he had established a pattern of limping with weakish hands and thought he was throwing a curveball. I looked down at two black aces in second position, considered limping as well, but decided to make it 900. Everyone folded to the big blind (a loose, bad player) who called and then McCabe called. The flop came T96 rainbow and they both checked to me. I had a really bad feeling but decided not betting would be ridiculous so I fired out 1700. The big blind, who had about 8000 left, thought for a while and then tossed in a call. I really had no clue what he had. McCabe then quickly moved in for 5525 total. I went deep into the tank and finally decided to throw it away. This was an extremely questionable fold that I really can't recommend but I just didn't see McCabe having a pair/gutshot based on his position, stack, and the preflop action. I don't think I could have thrown it away heads up but with the possibility the big blind was trapping I decided to pass. The big blind actually had a set of sixes, and wound up losing to McCabe's QJs when a king hit the river.

2) 200-400 blinds, 50 ante. After I lost a pot on the new table calling a raise with tens, calling a bet on a Kxx flop and folding on the Q turn (nice bet if he was bluffing) I found myself on the short stack. I was looking for a spot to move in my stack, preferably after a raise. An average player raised Grinder's blind from middle position to 1500 and I elected to fold AJ right behind him for two reasons - one being my hatred of ace-jack (which knocked me out of the Indiana main event) and the other being that I couldn't see this guy raising Grinder's blind with worse than ace-jack. A short stack then moved in for around 4000, a woman who I think was ladies WSOP winner Mary Jones coldcalled from the small blind, and the preflop raiser called. The board got checked down as it came xxTTJ and the preflop raiser won with his KJs vs the shortie's 22 and the woman's AQ.

3) 200-400 blinds, 50 ante. Grinder raised in 2nd position to 1200, a short stack moved in right behind him for 3500, and I looked down at pocket jacks and a stack of roughly 6600. Though Grinder is obviously a very aggressive player, there was no reason to think he was raising in 2nd position with crap (he was limping quite a bit from all positions), and there was no reason to think the short stack was weak. I didn't feel like there was much equity in the situation and folded. Grinder ended up calling with pocket tens, the short stack had KQ, and the flop came J22.

4) 300-600 blinds, 75 ante. The average player limped under the gun and I shoved in second position with "the boneyard" ace-king offsuit for 6700. Everyone folded to the big blind who quickly called with pocket eights. I have no idea how this guy was able to make this call, seemingly with no worry of being behind. I had been playing extremely tight at this table, having played something like 3 hands in two hours. I know I was not giving off any weak body language, as I felt good about my hand. He didn't even look at me anyways. Plus he had the always-suspicious under the gun limper to worry about.

Hands like those and tournaments like this are somewhat exasperating. But it's the deep runs, the final tables, the visions of six-figure scores that keep me coming back. Today's first prize was something like 300k and tomorrow's 5k figures to be even bigger.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I didn't have the organization or foresight to obtain and fill out an absentee ballot, so I will be unable to vote this year. It's sad that so many poker players possess a similar level of disorganization and/or disinterest in politics, and our voices are often muffled. My guess is that the occupation of "professional gambler" features one of the lowest voting rates of any job in the nation, despite a high level of affluence and intelligence. For all the bitching I've read about Bill Frist and the bullshit surrounding the UIGEA, I haven't seen anything encouraging poker players to prevent this sort of thing in the future by VOTING. Here's your chance.

Vermont is great. What a wonderful place to live. Tomorrow we're going somewhere on the south coast of Maine, spending the night, and heading to Foxwoods later on Wednesday. Thursday is the 3k NL, Friday is the 5k NL, and Sunday is the Main Event.

Friday, November 03, 2006

October Top 15

15. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldier
14. Alanis Morissette - Hand in My Pocket
13. Peter Bjorn and John - Detects on My Attention
12. Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks
11. Hilary Duff - Come Clean

10. Alanis Morissette - All I Really Want
9. The Killers - When You Were Young
8. June Carter - Will the Circle Be Unbroken
7. Bob Dylan - The Times They Are a Changin'
6. The Call - Let the Day Begin

5. Peter Bjorn and John - Up Against the Wall
4. The Cardigans - Erase Rewind
3. Collective Soul - December
2. Fleetwood Mac - Say That You Love Me

Song of the Month: 10,000 Maniacs - Because the Night

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Blacked Out

I had an obvious play that obviously didn't work out and I went out 9th. I was really unfortunate to go 9th instead of 8th and lose out on an additional 8k. I played fantastic throughout this event, my gear-changing was seamless, my tournament strategy was excellent, etc, etc. Three final tables in a month - I think I've developed into a pretty efficient tournament player.

Congrats to the winner, Chad "Grill" Batista. The guy is clearly ridiculous but he's super nice, humble, fun, and an excellent player. I only wish the final table had been televised so everyone could get an idea of Chad's personality.

At night the Gambler and I went down to Louisville to watch the biggest game in Louisville football history, against #3 West Virginia. All the fans wore black instead of the usual red as they sported new black jerseys. It was a fairly raucous scene as the Cardinals ran past the Mountaineers and a fitting way to leave this area.

1.5k NL: -1570
2k NL: +32,920
5k NL: +10,850

Year to date: 239,089

Back to Back Final Tables

I played awesome today. There was a key double-up with "the boneyard" ace-king offsuit against a pair of sevens a few hours in. Shortly after that the bubble hit and I took it into fifth gear, raising hand after hand after hand. If you look at the updates there were almost none about me as all my chips after that coinflip were gained through steamrolling. Things soured once we hit the money, I lost a huge coinflip with nines against ace-king, and then the blinds went completely out of control and it turned into a crapshoot. I have 99k entering tomorrow, not the 89k some of the sites are reporting.

I'm having a blast. It's so much fun to make final tables, and all the players I've made them with have been complete gentlemen. Tomorrow's final features a number of solid players, including two guys who also made the 2k final with me: Chad "Grill" "lilholdem" "makin' moves" Batista (the chip leader) and Ed Corrado (a tricky old man). There's also Hilbert Shirey (a loose, old-school gambler), Doug Carli (one of the best rocks on the circuit), and Joel Casper to my left (very solid, played with me many hours and knows how I play).

The payout structure is very steep; first is more than ten times eighth so my only concern is figuring out a way to win the thing. With the blinds as high as they are, the early part of it is going to come down to picking up hands and winning showdowns.