Friday, December 29, 2006

In the Beginning

The most common questions people ask me about my poker life are in regards to how I built my bankroll. I get asked this question so much that I've decided to write a post about it which I can refer people to. Since the building of my bankroll was inextricably tied with that of Paul's, I will tell our stories together.

I got interested in poker in a very typical fashion. One night during my junior year in high school I went over to my friend Reid's house to play ping pong and some other games with a bunch of guys. I don't remember the details exactly, but they were watching the movie "Rounders" there during the night and I ended up watching most of it. There's no question that movie inspired me to play the game at an intense level. It still does. At some point before, during, or after the movie, we wound up playing some different games of poker on a really nice poker table Reid's grandfather made for him. I think I wound up winning a pretty decent chunk of money that night, and I was instantly hooked. That was the first key night of my poker career.

After that night I basically got in a pattern of calling Reid every weekend asking if he wanted to get a game going. It was by far my favorite thing to do. Eventually a lot of my other friends got into it, and the games became more common. We even played in the back of math class sometimes.

We really didn't know what we were doing. We dealt the flop in Texas Hold em before any betting. Back then we usually played a variety of dealer's choice games. My favorites were the winding, high-low draw games like Anaconda (Pass the Trash). We didn't play a lot of the standard games, and we didn't play them properly when we did.

I didn't play much at all my first year of college. Poker hadn't yet become mainstream so there wasn't a consistent game or anything. When I got back home after my first year, Reid, Nick Demarest, and I came up with this plan to host a massive, high-stakes poker and blackjack game at a hotel in Boulder. It was sort of a graduation party and we worked really hard to make it memorable - we got a ton of liquor, food, and cigars, made special invitations for everyone, required a tie. It went really well, considering how risky it was - basically everyone there was under 21 and we set off the smoke detector at the beginning. Zack Sanders (the Bag) and his friend Shady Dan were invited to the game through a mutual friend, and we played high-stakes with them. It was clear they knew what they were doing, and I got Zack's number before the end of the night so we could link up for future games. That was the second key night of my career.

We started playing a lot with those guys, who had gone to Boulder High and had a similar poker progression during high school. They understood hold em better than us and I finally got to play with some players better than me. I really started focusing on what Zack was doing, because he was winning more consistently than anyone I had seen before. I learned a lot playing with Zack.

The summer after my sophomore year in college was when the Travel Channel first started airing the WPT and ESPN first showed the WSOP. I was completely enthralled by televised poker. I was especially excited by the idea of playing poker professionally, travelling around the circuit playing in big tournaments. This was really the first time the idea of being a professional poker player ever occurred to me.

I discovered that fall and started reading every issue of the magazine cover-to-cover online. I found out there was a casino about twenty miles from Macalester where you could play if you were 18 years old. One Friday night I made an expedition to the casino, after planning the excursion for about a week in advance. I played 3-6 limit hold em all night and all morning, eventually losing about 360 bucks. This was about as much money as I had at the time, and that night/following day was certainly one of the worst experiences of my life. I could probably write about 3000 words about that whole ordeal (culminating in the infamous John Ritter Incident), but I'd rather not relive it.

I read a bunch of Daniel Negreanu's Cardplayer columns after that night and got inspired to attack the game even harder. I really learned a lot, strategic and emotional, about poker from reading those old Negreanu columns. They were just what I needed at the time.

One day I put 50 bucks into PartyPoker and started playing sit n gos. I was a winner from the beginning, and managed to work that $50 up to about $1000 playing $11, $33, and $55 sit n gos. I think I cashed out $300 or something, and then wound up losing the rest of the money in the account through a combination of multi-table tournaments and limit hold em cash games.

During Winter Break of that year, the Bag heard about this tournament called the "Denver Series of Poker" held in an art gallery downtown. It had a pretty small buy-in, $30 or something, so we decided to attend. The day of the DSOP I was playing frisbee golf with Paul and some others. When he heard I was going to a poker tournament that night, he asked if he could join. The Bag and I versed him on the hold em basics on the way down to Denver, and he wound up getting 10th place (Bag and I did not cash). Afterwards Paul came over to my house, struck up an account on PartyPoker, and started playing while I went to bed.

Seven in the morning my dad woke me up to ask who the guy on the computer downstairs was. Paul had played sit n gos all night on Party, and he had destroyed them. Poker had set its hooks into Paul's addictive personality, and wouldn't be letting go anytime soon. That was the third key night of my poker career.

The next semester I went to New Zealand to study abroad. There was a casino in Dunedin that spread a limit hold em game once a week. I went, and lost. I also played a bit at the Crown Casino in Melbourne when I visited Australia during a break, and lost. Eventually I started going to an internet cafe in Dunedin to play sit n gos on Party. I slowly, painstakingly grinded up a small bankroll. Meanwhile, Paul was playing higher stakes than I had ever imagined, with mixed results.

I didn't have much of a plan for the summer of '04. I was hoping to make some cash playing poker but there wasn't really a precedent showing that would necessarily be a viable option. I didn't really have much of an idea what I'd be doing after college, either. Looking back I was at a pretty critical juncture but didn't realize it.

I started playing these 3-table sit n gos on Party. I went ice-cold and managed to lose my entire bankroll in one brutal night. I had now played online for about nine months and I was about even overall. I had lost substantially every time I played in a casino. I had no bankroll. I didn't really know what to do.

Right about this time Paul asked me if I wanted to play together with him on the old "$200s" on Party - $2-4 NL with a max $200 buyin (at the time the largest NL cash game on the site). Paul had some experience playing in these games and assured me they were beatable. I really wanted to take a shot of course - I've never shied away from high stakes. There was only one problem: I had no money.

Paul took all the financial responsibility when we first started playing those games. I can't stress this enough - I had no bankroll and no means to pay Paul back if we lost. It might have been a year or more before I was able to pay him if we lost. Basically I was using Paul's money to gamble, although we were doing it together. We made every decision together, using one avatar on one computer. We split everything 50/50.

Things went pretty well at first - I think we booked a couple wins to get started. But then there was this disastrous session where we took about seven awful beats, and by the time it was over we were down for the summer. A day or two after that I went on a backpacking trip in the Flat Tops. During that trip I did a lot of soul searching and a lot of analysis. Eventually I concluded that we had just been unlucky that one time, that we played well enough to beat those games, and that I wanted to give it another shot. When I got back to Boulder, I told Paul it was time to make some money.

It was pretty much smooth sailing the rest of the summer. We killed the games. Paul and I made a brutal combo, perfectly complementing each other's strengths and weaknesses. I played a little too scared; he played a little too aggressive. He had major tilt problems; bad beats didn't really bother me much. He knew how to bluff; I knew how to trap. It was (and still is) a formidable combination. It helped that no one really knew how to play no limit hold em back then as well. By the end of the summer "kwicky" was one of the best players on the site and I had made more money playing poker than in all other jobs I had ever had combined.

I was a little bit afraid of playing on my own when I went back to school that fall, but those fears were soon assuaged as I went on a massive heater of my own and beat the games harder than ever. Things went very well for me that fall, and I considered myself possibly the best no limit hold em player on the site by the end of the semester. Meanwhile poker soured for Paul, his bankroll crumbled, and he eventually took a leave of absence from the game.

Early in February I got 2nd place in the Super Monday tournament on Party for $22k. This was the fourth key night of my poker career. It was kind of a random result, as I played few tournaments and wasn't all that good at playing them. That score tripled my bankroll and allowed me to step up to the $5-$10 NL games on Party that opened up just a couple weeks later.

I immediately crushed those games, probably harder than anyone. Paul and I had deep-stack experience since we played so many long sessions, and the new games allowed 100x big blind buyins instead of the old 50 max. I don't think most players, even the legendary AliKings, knew what to do with all that money. I probably stacked players eight or ten times as often as I got stacked in those days. I won almost every time I played.

I've chronicled the rest in my blogs. A brief recap of the crucial events: I lost two thirds of my bankroll at the 2005 WSOP, then immediately won it back with a clutch 7th place finish in the Party Million Guaranteed. That was the fifth key night of my poker career. I then killed the $10-20 NL on Party for a year, with one nasty patch at the beginning of 2006. I've been playing a healthy diet of big buy-in tournaments since the 2005 WSOP, and have yet to make a real big score. I did win the Best All-Around Player at the Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park in Minnesota in 2005, but those were relatively small tournaments. I'm still pretty far in the red for my live tournament career.

As for Paul: watching me make the big run in the Party Million Guaranteed rekindled his fire for poker. We played a lot of joint sessions that summer and he was able to rebuild his bankroll much like I built mine the summer before. Once or twice later that fall he played high-stakes on my account in games that he really couldn't afford, but he crushed and soon after he was back on his own with a solid bankroll and a razor-sharp game. He started getting into short-handed play (with the help of our friend Napoleon) and annihilated it. The rest of his story (and I assume mine) is no longer about bankroll-building.

Bankrolls can be built from scratch. My friend Toph started with $100 in the summer of 2005 and was playing $25-50 NL within a year's time. Chad Batista and Adam Friedman built their bankrolls literally from $0 starting off with freerolls. But personally I'm not sure if I ever would have got anything going without the help of a friend, and I believe the same is true for him.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Anatomy of a Fantasy Football Championship

Despite a lifelong passion for watching, following, and discussing major sports (particularly with constructed paramaters like pools and predictions, often featuring gambling), I had never been involved in any sort of fantasy team or league until this year. In September I finally made the jump, joining the Macalester-based "Da Zak Jonzon Xperienz" fantasy football league under the name "GoodnightMoon", receiving some mild input from co-owner Paul.

Rookie mistakes were plentiful throughout GoodnightMoon's maiden voyage. The initial strategy was to rely upon the Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith "Carolina Combo" as my starting QB and top WR. This dangerous "synergy" strategy was contingent upon continuous good health from both, and particularly risky considering the petite Smith began the season on the bench with a troublesome hamstring. The Carolina Combo serviced as the crack addiction I've never had: When both were healthy, Delhomme to Smith touchdown bombs provided an incomparable game-mutating fantasy football jolt on a near-weekly and occasionally twice-weekly schedule. When Smith or Delhomme was injured, which was about half the time, I found myself casting about with the likes of Jake Plummer and Eric Moulds. This past week, with Delhomme sidelined by a nagging thumb injury, Smith posted a negative score and I was forced to rely on an untested rookie quarterback (more on this later).

A classic rookie draft miscue occurred when, flummoxed by disorganization and lack of preparation, I failed to make a pick within the allotted time and had Giants kicker Jay Feely auto-drafted by Yahoo. After a few failed attempts at trading Feely for Jeff Wilkins, I eventually dumped him during his bye week and snagged Bears booter Robbie Gould (the sort of intelligent choice that led to GoodnightMoon's success). The normal recipe for skilled fantasy owners is to coordinate the swapping of two kickers based on their respective bye weeks. This strategy never occurred to me, and I wound up wasting a move on Josh Scobee for Gould's bye week which took place after Feely's.

Another wasted move came from the "Best Available Talent" theory early in the season. GoodnightMoon had useless players like Santonio Holmes and Keenan McCardell riding the pine and I figured I might as well pick up a decent player (Chad Pennington) with some trade and emergency value. The BAT theory failed miserably, as I found no takers for Pennington and no reason to keep him on the team, and ultimately released him without receiving a gram of compensation.

I was not as unlucky as some when it came to injuries. Losers! (pointing) never recovered from #1 overall pick Shaun Alexander's foot injury. Hoedyhatesthissquad - despite some brilliant moves - was unable to overcome fantasy god Donovan McNabb's season-ending injury. But I had to deal with a barrage of injuries that ripped through GoodnightMoon's roster like a contagious disease: Smith had his hamstring, Delhomme his thumb, Santana Moss was hurt earlier in the season, Joe Horn was never a safe bet to play and Willis McGahee went down in crunch time.

It was a frustrating season. It seemed like I was always trying to put out some fire and the team was about to fall apart. A passage from a recent IM conversation I had with another fantasy owner:

ThomMarsFull (11:48:44 PM): my team is filled with cancers, underachievers, chokers, and cripples
ThomMarsFull (11:48:46 PM): only one player has been solid for us all season
ThomMarsFull (11:48:47 PM): only one
ThomMarsFull (11:48:55 PM): the rest has been mishmash and patchwork

GoodnightMoon stole a few wins here and there, taking advantage of the weaker members of Da Experienz. A freak three-touchdown game from Santana Moss led to an incredibly epic, season-defining victory over the hard-luck Losers! (pointing) in week 6. The Carolina Combo was able to pull out a few games by themselves. Nate Burleson's inability to pick up a measly 2.5 points (and his owner's inability to manage a servicable squad) gave GoodnightMoon a crucial, nailbiting win over Aphrodite's Angels in week 12.

At this point there were five teams in the playoff hunt, and GoodnightMoon probably would have been voted the team least likely to win the championship. Clutch performances from Delhomme, Moss, and Pittsburgh defense provided a huge win over a disappointed Mounted Goatheads squad in week 13, and it was on to the season-ender against the fading Hoedyhatesthissquad.

It was about this same time that Jake Delhomme went down for the remainder of the season with his thumb injury, putting the hands of Steve Smith into the hands of Chris Weinke and effectively crippling the Carolina Combo. My other quarterback, Jake Plummer, had been sent to the Denver bench. With my last available move, I had to choose from a bevy of castoffs, leftovers, and rookies riding the waiver wire. I ultimately decided on young Vince Young, an obviously risky choice with a bit of an upside.

Meanwhile two bona fide superstars were ernerging from my backfield: Steven Jackson (who finally began adding touchdowns to his gargantuan yardage accumulations) and Maurice Jones-Drew (a brilliant midseason steal and a likely fantasy monster for years to come). Suddenly GoodnightMoon was led by the three-headed rushing monster of Jackson, Jones-Drew, and Young, an ensemble more likely to captain a championship fantasy team in 2009 than 2006.

The trio exploded for a combined 85 fantasy points in a bizarre regular-season ending victory over Hoedyhatesthissquad, who we would face again the very next week in the semifinals. This time Young crumbled, but the two RBs again put up big weeks, Pittsburgh D put up a monster game against a hapless Weinke-led Carolina offense, and Hoedyhatesthissquad got stinkbombed by Philip Rivers and Roy Williams. Just like that, GoodnightMoon was in the fantasy football Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl opponent, Shooooo-In, was a daunting behemoth featuring LaDainian Tomlinson, Carson Palmer, Marvin Harrison, and a very solid supporting cast. Shoo was coming off nine consecutive 112+ point games and Yahoo had them as a 23 point favorite.
But it must have been meant to be. Tomlinson finally had an average game and the rest of Shoo underachieved a bit. My three-headed monster combined for an absurd 668 yards and 7 TDs, overcoming a pathetic 2.4 pt combined effort from my three WRs, and GoodnightMoon claimed a fantasy football championship in its first year of existence.

GoodnightMoon wasn't the most talented team in the league. But scrappiness, effort, and luck can go a long way in competition, and that's what I'll be taking away from my first fantasy football season (other than the ring). I guess I better take something away from it, considering how many hours I poured into following it - including at least two writing this sprawling opus of aimlessness.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006 Live Tournament Results

Live Tournaments Played: 72
Total Winnings: $153,931
Total Tournament Buyins: $188,163
Total Rake Paid: $8,965

Net: -$43,197

Total Buyins Received: 81.92
Net Buyins: +9.92

Buyin average per tournament: +0.14

While I was a winning live tournament player in 2006 in terms of buyins, I finished pretty far in the red because I did not cash in a $10k or larger event (having played several) and did not supersatellite (4 attempts) into a big tournament. My best results in terms of buyins won were in $2000, $1000, and $300 tournaments, respectively.

I still have nightmares about the $5k event at the WSOP where I made two or three major errors before finishing 11th for $32k. I have very few regrets since then. If I had avoided those late mistakes in the $5k, I would have been in great shape for at least 7th place ($117k) and maybe even had a shot at first ($818k). Unless your name is JC Tran, you just don't get that many opportunities at big scores like that and losing my grip on that one still kills me. That one result could/should have dramatically changed the numbers for the whole year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

(Semi-Metaphorical) Rain in Las Vegas

It rained this evening in Vegas. I always feel like I should report this. It happens like five times a year and always shocks the hell out of me. The rain adds another coat of seductive apocalypticism to the city. Tonight it felt even more like zombies were going to spill out of Caesar's Palace and start marauding Las Vegas Boulevard than it usually does.

I want to get out of here before the apocalypse arrives. The poker world is both more exciting and more terrifying than it has ever been. No matter the degree of truth to this Brandi/Captain Tom scandal, it certainly shows how scummy things get when you combine truckloads of money with publicity with questionable characters such as Brandi and the certifiably insane Dutch Boyd.

High-level poker seems to attract a generally genial and astute collection of diverse minds. But it doesn't discriminate against the criminally active. The siren song emanating from Las Vegas and the now potent media trailing the big buy-in tournament circuit is alluring to those who crave money and attention, whether they be keen gamers, desperate parasites, or both. I'm increasingly wary and aware of these characters, who make travelling the circuit a little more uneasy.

Uneasy is the operative word.

Paul and Amber have been nothing but nice to me on this trip. I've stayed the whole trip in their beautiful home, for free. I've been driving Amber's car to and from the Bellagio almost every day. I don't have any idea how to repay them or even show my appreciation: I am a stranger in the land of Paul's New Life.

A (not entirely unexpected) gulf has grown between Paul and I since The Megascore, and we no longer have that much in common. Certainly there has been no change in his (or my) disposition or affability - he's still the nicest guy I know, the best cardplayer, and the most satisfying competitive foil. But Paul is now a rich guy who lives in Las Vegas. It's easier and more poignant relating to the other young pros.

I don't envy Paul's New Life as much as I expected to. I don't think the upheaval he's had to experience can be underrated, and neither can the inevitable detachment to friends like me. It's a pretty incredible thing to have your life change like that, and the aftershocks haven't finished yet. It will be interesting to see where we all stand when the earth stops shaking.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Another Lethal Misclick

At the main event in Reno in March I bet something like 5500 when I meant to bet 1500, ran into a set, and made an early exit. Today's disaster went down like this:

I have around 29k chips (we started with 30k) a few hours in. I wasn't playing my best and left a 5k pot lying on the table once but I had made a couple excellent plays as well. 200-400 blinds, 50 ante. Everyone folded to me in the small blind and I completed with As3d. The BB checked. I bet 500 on the QsTs7s flop and he quickly called. I really didn't think he had a flush since he called so fast. The turn was the 6c, I checked, he bet 1000 pretty fast, and I made it 3000 to go. He quickly flung in a grey/red 1000 chip and a purple/pink 5000 chip from a "dirty stack" of chips and said something like "oh shit" or "oh no." It was pretty clear he had screwed up and meant to call unless it was an extremely well-acted angle shoot. The Bellagio is using these new tournament chips that are a bit confusing in terms of color-coordination and mistakes like this were happening all day. I thought for about a minute and a half and then went all-in for about 21,000 more. He called after about 15 seconds with 9s8c, the river was the Qh, and I was gone. It probably would have gone check-check or check-fold on that river.

That's likely the last hand of poker I'll play in a casino in 2006, and possibly the last hand of any kind of poker. I go home on Monday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The 15er

Sometimes I feel like I'm never going to make that breakthrough. There are a lot of good players who never have. I feel like I may try and try and make some big runs and a few moderate final tables and get some chips late in big events but the real megascore is just not going to happen. Until it does, there will always be this nagging voice in the back of my head saying I am going to lose, that I can't win a big tournament.

Sometimes I feel like I'm playing so well, and I'm playing enough major tournaments, that a major final table and/or victory is going to happen in the very near future.

For the Five Diamond 15k main event, I did something I've never before done in my career. I sold a large portion of my action to a few different suitors. All told I will only have about 45% of myself in the tournament.

This is the third biggest tournament of the year. Would be a pretty decent time for that elusive breakthrough.

Bellagio 1k nightly Sunday night: -1080
10-20 co-op with gamblegambel Monday Dec 11 afternoon/evening: 4.5 hrs, -7652/2 = -3826
Supersatellite Tuesday: -1590
Live 25-50 Bellagio Tuesday afternoon: 3 hrs, +2480

Year to date: 226,563

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

2007 POY Draft

We each picked 14 players. At the end of the year we each drop two players with the lowest point totals, then add all the POY points together for our other twelve players. The team with the highest combined number of points wins. The teams:


1. John Hoang
2. Men Nguyen
3. Allen Cunningham
4. Erick Lindgren
5. Justin Bonomo
6. Nenad Medic
7. Victor Ramdin
8. John Cernuto
9. Gavin Smith
10.Max Pescatori
11.Kenna James
12.Kevin O'Donnell
13.Marcel Luske
14.Hung La


1. Jeff Madsen
2. Gioi Luong
3. Tom Franklin
4. Kathy Liebert
5. Phil Ivey
6. Barry Greenstein
7. John D'Agostino
8. Eugene Todd
9. Vanessa Rousso
10.Darrell Dicken
11.Jason Sagle
12.Michael Binger
13.Paul Lui
14.Joel Patchell


1. Nam Le
2. David Pham
3. James Van Alstyne
4. David Daneshgar
5. CK Hua
6. John Juanda
7. Cliff Josephy
8. Minh Nguyen
9. Erik Cajelais
10.Chad Brown
11.Scott Clements
12.Doug Carli
13.Tim West
14.James English


1. JC Tran
2. Shannon Shorr
3. Thomas Fuller
4. Roland de Wolfe
5. Joe Hachem
6. Daniel Negreanu
7. Alex Jacob
8. Bill Edler
9. Al Barbieri
10.Lance Allred
11.Tony Ma
12.An Tran
13.Daniel Quach
14.Chris Reslock


1. Michael Mizrachi
2. John Phan
3. David Williams
4. Scotty Nguyen
5. Joe Tehan
6. Joe Sebok
7. Chris McCormack
8. David Baker
9. Anthony Reategui
10.Steve Wong
11.David Singer
12.Eric Froehlich
13.Shane Schleger
14.Jordan Morgan

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tony Gwynn vs Mark McGwire

I was the first one out. I lost a standard race against Jeff Madsen button vs small blind.

I've got to find a way to get to the top 3 in these things. In the end it boils down to money made, not number of final tables or cashes. If you want to make money playing tournaments, you need top 3 finishes. I'm lining a lot of singles into left field, but I'm not hitting home runs. Compare my results to Madsen's. Certainly he's run really good late in those tournaments, and you need a lot of luck to win. But he's putting himself in position to win by accumulating chips before the final table, and I need to do a little better job of that so it doesn't come down to coinflips and showdowns.

I doubt if I will play the 5k tomorrow as it is NFL Sunday and my brain is kind of fried. I'll probably play the supers next week. I think it would be foolish to spend 15k on the main event but more foolish to not play considering how well I'm playing.

3k NL: -3120
5k NL: -5180
1.5k NL: +4210
2.5k NL: +7380

Year to date: 230,579


I'm averaging about twelve hours a day at the Bellagio. Once again I've made a huge run at the Five Diamond, and this time I'll be coming back for day two of the 2.5k event. There are 12 players left, almost all solid pros, and I have below average chips and a nightmare draw with chipleader Jeff Madsen to my left and Nam the Machine Le to his left. I really hope we can get down to one table in a hurry because it is going to be extremely difficult for me to accumulate chips in this shorthanded setting unless I pick up a bunch of hands.

Obviously my game has gone through the roof recently. I'll probably write more about this in a while.

I'm not the only one. The Gambler won a tournament at Caesar's tonight and PiMaster took down first place in last night's PLO event of the Ultimate Bet Online Championships for $26,676.

Tomorrow's final table starts at 3 PM Pacific. There will be updates and a payout structure on and

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Another Huge Run

I got 17th out of around 520 players in the 1.5k event. We started with 3000 chips and I was down to 1100 after the first two hours having not won a pot. The day featured everything - short stack play, big stack play, medium stack play, trying to trap maniacs, running over weak-tights, super-aggressors, horrible opponents, super tough opponents, suckouts, horrifying beats, won races, lost races, chip fluctuations, bluffs, laydowns, tight play, loose play. It was a tournament-play tour de force.

You learn so much from a day like this. And it seems like I still have something to learn about playing medium to short stacks in the late pre-final table stages of these tournaments. I have too many finishes in the 9-19 range. I don't know, it's hard to fight through to the final table without a double up when you don't have too many chips with two and three tables left. I think the real key lies in avoiding dipping to short-stack range when the play starts getting shorthanded. I may need to think more about making some wild plays when the tournament dips under 30 players.

I tried to learn from the gregarious and great Gioi Luong, who quietly and steadily picked up chips all day long (despite doubling me up in a massive pot with AQs vs my KK) en route to his 897th cash of the last three years and, likely, 453rd final table. Gioi has a truly ridiculous record of making cashes and final tables and I need to learn from guys like him how to make that next step. It's clear based on my results since the WSOP that I'm getting really damn good at NLHE tournaments but I'm not quiiiite there yet.

Seeing as it's now 6:45 AM I don't think I'll be playing in the 2k event.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More Clawing

My 5k table was a bit unusual. There were three or four guys who had no idea how to play and I focused on playing pots with them. There were solid players such as Amnon Filippi and Noah Boeken. And then there were three players whom you could make a legitimate argument for as the current best tournament player in the world: Steve Wong (moved to the table after a couple hours), Nam Le (two to my left), and Allen Cunningham (to Nam's left). As I looked around the Fontana Lounge today, I started thinking about my EV in an event like this. I may be playing well, but it's hard to imagine my EV is ahead of John Juanda, Erik Seidel, Cunningham, Le, Daniel Negreanu, etc. The experience is great though, and damn I am playing well. Definitely the best of my life. I think anyone at that table would say I was playing well, and they had no idea of the kind of crappy cards I was repeatedly looking down at. I did the best I could today and yesterday, but sooner or later you just need to get some hands.

A bunch of us went out for lobster on the Strip followed by some gambling, but my heart wasn't in it. All I can really think about right now is what I need to do to win one of these poker tournaments. I don't know if I've been this obsessed with the game since the breakthrough summer of '04. I think I'm going to just keep playing every day, and at this point I wouldn't dream of missing the main event.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Lengthy Claw

The 3k was very similar to the 2k the other day for me. I was below average the whole time but I found one or two cracks of weakness to exploit and just hung in there. There was a very exciting moment when I hit 21k (we started with 6k) and I thought to myself, oh my god, how did I do this? How do I have an above-average stack with these cards? It really was a beautiful moment. I'm very happy with my play.

The difference between today and the 2k was today I failed to pick up JJ, QQ, KK, or AA even once in eight hours of play and I failed to suck out on AA when things got desperate. I went out with about 40 players left paying 18 after being moved to my sixth table of the day (shattering all table-change records).

Nam Le the Machine got 3rd in the 2.5k event and moved within sniffing distance of the Grinder for POY. I've only played with Nam once (at the Foxwoods main event this year) but I've always gotten the feeling that he is playing really, really hard 100% of the time. He always brings it. Every single hand, every single day, every tournament, he plays as hard as he can and obviously it's paying dividends.

I started really thinking about this when I loafed day 1 of the USPC and Party Poker disappeared. You just have to play really hard every single tournament to give yourself a chance. Maybe there's nothing you can do that particular day to save yourself from elimination. But sooner or later a tournament will come along where you have the opportunity to win it IF you play your best.

Right now I am playing my best, so I am going to give it another shot in tomorrow's 5k event. It will certainly be a tough field.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I was at the Bellagio for almost thirteen hours today in the 2k event. It's possible that I had below average chips the entire tournament. But I played about as well as I could and just grinded it to a 13th place finish out of the ~400 who played. I really picked up a lot of chips preflop without showdowns just by sniffing weakness and putting my stack in. On the bubble I sucked out with nines against Tony Cousineau's aces but I really didn't feel bad about it because I thought I deserved to at least make the money considering how well I had played. I put the second raise in so many times with the second best hand and it worked every time.

Alex got 14th for the same payout which meant our 5% swap was meaningless.

I'm going to watch football tomorrow and return to the Bellagio for the 3k on Monday.

Thursday night (Kwickfish co-op): +7940/2 = +3970
1.5k NL: -1590
1k nightly Friday: -1080
2k NL: +4900

Year to date: 227,289

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hardcore Hold 'em

After the Foxwoods tournaments I did not play a single hand of poker for the rest of the month. I still haven't logged a real session of my own online, although I believe I have found the site that will be receiving the bulk of my business when I return to the online realm (which will likely happen during or after the Five Diamond). Last night I played a short session with the Kwickfish. Things went real well, the poker felt fresh and I had a great time.

The next two and a half weeks may feature the most intense live poker play of my life, including the WSOP. I plan on playing every single Five Diamond event. There is a nightly $1k event at the Bellagio that I will likely play if I bust before 7 PM. There are cash games and single-table satellites for the $15k main event. There is online poker. The Gambler, Wolf, and Bag all check into Chez Wasicka early next week. At that point I may slow it down, depending on how things are going.

I made a very early exit in the $1500 this afternoon. The 1k nightly starts in half an hour.

November Top 15

15. Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky
14. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Snow
13. Modern English - I Melt With You
12. Everclear - One Hit Wonder
11. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Desecration Smile

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Tell Me Baby
9. Everclear - Normal Like You
8. John Mayer - Waiting on the World to Change
7. Ray LaMontagne - Empty
6. Everclear - So Much For the Afterglow

5. Guster - Satellite
4. Everclear - I Will Buy You a New Life
3. Guster - Lightning Rod
2. Earth, Wind & Fire - September

Song of the Month: Ray LaMontagne - Be Here Now