Friday, June 29, 2007


In the 5k No Limit Shorthanded tournament, I played well for about five hours and then dumped my stack with middle pair to Sorel "Imperium" "zangzeban" Mizzi, who many consider the best online tournament player in the world. He spent the afternoon setting me up and then delivered the knockout.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Shootout Final Table

I was so excited to make a WSOP final table. I slept well, but once I woke up there was no chance of falling back asleep. I was very scared of busting out early at the final table. 9th place paid less than $10,000, 8th was less than $13k, and 7th was less than $16k. It feels like making the final table of a WSOP event with 900 players should automatically pay more than that. It would have been a huge disappointment to bust early. Big final tables don’t come often so there’s a lot of pressure to maximize when you get there. Right away I noticed an unusual, huge jump from 5th to 4th. I play every tournament for first place, but getting down to 4 was definitely on my mind.

The entire final table was televised with one-hour delay by with color commentary from Jeff Madsen and Tom Schneider. Many of my recollections are based on the video of the final table that I have since watched. The final table was

Seat One Don Baruch

Seat Two Daniel Negreanu

Seat Three Jared Davis

Seat Four Thomas Fuller

Seat Five Fred Goldberg

Seat Six Brandon Lee

Seat Seven Michael Wehner

Seat Eight Doug Baughman

Seat Nine Erick Lindgren

Everyone started with 300k with blinds at 3k-6k and a 1k ante.

For television, they had us play in a small, blacked out room. We were allowed one guest apiece but I snuck in MasterJ along with PiMaster. I had never played with hole card cameras and, at first, it was a little uncomfortable. My chips were in the way and I struggled to show the cards to the cameras. The producers asked me a few times to hold my cards higher and longer for the camera.

Since this was a shootout, the players had not played with each other in the tournament until the final table and everyone came in with the same chip stack. I knew a decent amount about the games of Negreanu, Lindgren, and Goldberg, but nothing about anyone else. No one knew anything about me other than what they could find on the internet.

I was planning on playing my usual super-tight early game as I had the first two tables. I raised the second hand with [Ad Td] in early position and everyone folded. A couple hands later I got a walk. After this I didn’t play a hand for quite a while. The other guys were playing quite tight also.

There was a lot of banter at the table, mostly between Erick and Daniel. Daniel is perhaps the funniest guy I have ever seen at a poker table. His schtick was actually much funnier in person than on tv.

Erick and Fred got involved in a pot where Fred limp-called a large raise with [5d 4d] against Erick’s [Ad Jd] and wound up winning it with a pair of fives on a scary board. This hand appeared to put both players on tilt – Erick was annoyed Fred called such a big raise with such a small hand and annoyed at himself for not buying the pot postflop; Fred may have gotten annoyed at Erick’s light chastising.

After folding a couple rounds Erick raised my big blind and I called with [Kc Tc]. The flop came [Ts 9s 3s] and I had to decide on a course of action. I thought about leading out but don’t like that play against an aggressive player like Lindgren unless you are comfortable with your hand. Madsen like a checkraise, which I really don’t like, because it would commit such a big chunk of my stack and give Erick the opportunity to push me out with a big draw with the [As] or a hand like [Qs Jd]. I decided to check and call and think this is the best play.

The turn was the [5c]. Madsen said he would have liked me to bet out and I tend to agree. I didn’t because I felt like I wouldn’t gain much information from a bet out (Erick could raise with an unmade hand or smoothcall with a big one, leaving me informationless to make a river decision). Still, I think betting out would have been a good play because it wouldn’t give him much info and my hand was quite vulnerable.

Erick checked behind so I thought I probably had the best hand, and the river came [7c]. I now had to decide if I wanted to check and call or bet. I decided if I bet Erick would only raise with a high flush, and he might call with many hands, maybe any pair. It looked like I might have two high cards with a spade. Schneider and Madsen thought the best play was to check-call. I think it’s quite close, but prefer betting against a professional like Lindgren who is more likely to make thin calls and less likely to bluff rivers. I bet about 60% of the pot and Erick folded what I later learned was [Ad Jh]. Considering what he had checking would have been better but I’m happy with my decision to bet.

Erick and Brandon Lee were the most aggressive players at the table in the early going. Brandon was playing the most hands and doing a lot of preflop reraising. We all thought he was a maniac but the video reveals he was just picking up a lot of big hands. During this stretch I tried a button raise of his blind with [Ts 9c] but Brandon reraised (with what turned out to be [Ac Kd] and I instafolded.

Daniel won a big race to bust Fred and we were at eight. I raised [Ah Kh] in early position and Brandon, now directly to my left, made a 3x reraise. I felt he was tremendously strong this time. He had reraised me a few hands ago so wouldn’t want to do it again without a big one. His body language was strong and confident. I was in early position and he was right behind me. I never thought about coming back over the top because of my read. I considered calling but eventually decided to just fold. This was a classic Moon weak-tight cash-game based play and a questionable tournament laydown, even considering my read and the state of the tournament. It turned out Lee had [Jh Jd].

My next big blind Erick limped and I checked with [9d 7s]. The flop came [Th 6s Td] and I checked. Erick bet as expected and I decided he couldn’t just have the pot that easily. I knew a call would scare the crap out of him so I decided to do that and buy the pot later. However, the turn was the [Ts]. My plans to represent a ten were now foiled. I checked and Erick bet, which surprised me. I figured he’d check behind there with or without a hand. I couldn’t see him betting without a pair bigger than sixes so I quickly folded. It turned out he had [Kh Kd].

I folded the next couple orbits and then a strange hand came up. Baruch doubled the 8k big blind to 16 in early position, which he hadn’t been doing. Usually he was raising 3-5x the blind. I looked down at [Kh Ks] and really wasn’t too happy about it. I felt Baruch probably had aces or some crap like a suited connector. I thought reraising would accomplish nothing, but I didn’t want to let a bunch of players in behind me. I eventually made it 50k. When it got back to Baruch he took a long time before calling, which had me even more puzzled. The flop came [Ah 5d 4h] and Baruch immediately went all-in for 2x the pot. It almost seemed like he was going to go all-in no matter what hit.

I sort of thought about calling, but not really. I didn’t know what to put him on but I can’t just call it off with kings on an ace-high board, as Madsen and Schneider said. Baruch had [Ad Jd]. I have no idea what he was thinking at any point in the hand.

I raised the next hand with [Ad Ts] figuring no one would mess with me but both Lee and Wehner called in position. The flop came [8d 8s 4s] and I thought for a while about betting. I decided at least one of them probably had a pair and wouldn’t fold to a bet so I checked and folded to Wehner’s bet. It turned out Lee flopped quads with [8c 8h] so in this case my weak-tight play worked out for the best. In addition, the [As] hit the turn, so I got bailed out by Wehner’s attempted steal with [Jd Td].

Play lulled after this and Erick was the next to go. After a short break, Baruch raised in late position and I found [Kh Kd] in the small blind. Baruch raised habitually in late position and I needed a double-up (it turned out he had [5d 3d], so I decided to slowplay. Lee thought for a while in the big blind, then called. It looked like he was contemplating a reraise but decided to just call. The flop came [Jd 8s 4s] and I led for 25k. Lee quickly made a small raise to 60k and I put him on a big hand. I was worried he flopped a set but there was no folding at this point so I went all-in for about 100k more when Baruch folded. Lee quickly called with [Ah Js] and I doubled up when the [Kc] hit the turn. This was a brutal cooler for Brandon that couldn’t have been avoided when I decided to slowplay.

It should be noted that Baughman made the play of the day, betting a [Qd 3c 5h] flop with [Ah 3s], then reraising when Daniel checkraised. Baughman may have played the best of anyone that day, but he was extremely card-dead and busted in a massive pot with [Qc Tc] against Negreanu’s [Ad Kh] on a flop of [Ks Jc 3c].

After a second break I limped the small blind with [4c 4s] and Brandon raised from the big blind. I called and the flop came [Kh 9h 4h]. I checked and Brandon made a substantial bet. I felt like he hit it pretty good so I immediately announced all-in. Brandon instacalled me again with [Ks Qh], I dodged a heart, and doubled up to second in chips. The two double-ups against Brandon were pretty much dumb luck. If the cards had been reversed, he would likely have doubled. I think I played the hands well but it didn’t really matter.

The next hand I played was [Ts 9h] under the gun. This was my best steal position with Daniel in the small blind. I raised and only Daniel called. The flop came [Jd 8s 5h] and I bet 50k after Daniel checked. He called. The turn was the [6c] and I had an interesting decision after Daniel checked. Some people have said that the six on the turn was likely to help Daniel’s hand, and therefore I should check. I do think this card will often help him out, but I also didn’t think he had two pair. I really thought he would bet out there with two pair on that board especially with me raising under the gun and betting the flop. Also, I didn’t think he would raise me with anything less than two pair since we were the two chip leaders. I ultimately decided to bet 100k on the turn hoping Daniel would fold a hand like [A 8] or [A 5]. He thought for a bit and then called.

The river came [2s] and Daniel checked again. This is where I blew the bracelet. If I had bet the river, Daniel would have been in a terrible spot and a call would have been heroic. There was no reason whatsoever to think I could have anything but a monster there. Both Madsen and Schneider commented that once I bet the turn, I was committed to the bluff and needed to bet the river. I completely agree. The line here was to check the turn or bet both the turn and river. It was hard to bet the river after getting called twice by a great player (and loose caller) like Negreanu but a world-class player would have fired the river there and picked up the pot. Hands like this make all the difference.

Daniel busted Lee and Wehner and suddenly we were down to 4. I had gone card dead and lost several small pots, 20-70k at a time. I think I played most of these hands properly but I wasn’t hitting anything. With the fast play and consolidation, I was soon the short stack. One hand I totally screwed up was when Jared limped from the small blind and I checked [Qs Jd] in the big blind. The flop came [As 6s 6d] and he quickly checked, which worried me. I checked behind. The turn was the [3c] and it again went check-check. The river was the [3d] and now Jared bet out. I was honestly thinking that I had queen high here and not the board. Unbelievably I did not realize that I was playing the board. I was thinking about all the hands queen high could beat and eventually called. Even thinking I had queen high this was a dumb call cause I felt Jared had something all along. What an idiot I am sometimes.

Another one I tried to trap the short-stacked Wehner (in the big blind) by limping [Ad Qd] from the small blind after Baruch limped, but he just checked and I folded to a bet and a call on the [Jc 9d 6c] flop. Another Daniel raised and I called with [2c 2s]. The flop came [Qc 9c 6s] and Daniel quickly checked. I felt like he had hit it in some way so I checked. The turn was the [9d], Daniel bet out, and I folded. He had [Th 8h] for a double gutshot.

I raised a couple hands and ran into big pairs and suddenly I was down to thirteen big blinds. I found [Ad 5d] in first position and shoved in. Considering the tight, passive nature of the table and the chip stacks, I think this was a bad shove. I could have raised and folded if someone came over the top, knowing I was dominated. Jared woke up with [Ah Ac] and I was finished.

Overall I really didn’t play great poker, especially at the final table. I actually played better in the three subsequent tournaments I played at the WSOP. The first round I ran good, didn’t run into hands when I had moderate holdings, took advantage of a couple weak players, and played well heads up. The second round I had a bunch of huge hands at an aggressive table, made one mistake heads up, and got lucky. The third round I coolered Brandon Lee twice, then went card-dead and ran out of gas. Nowhere in there did I do anything special.

I attribute my result to three causes:

1) I was extremely enthusiastic throughout the tournament, always thinking positive thoughts and believing I was going to win.

2) I had a lot of good cards, took only one bad beat, and flopped a ton of sets.

3) I have run quite poorly in live tournaments, so it was only a matter of time before good things started happening to me.

I learned a ton from playing the tournament and watching the final table. My table presence is pretty terrible. It’s something we’ve worked on before (Mike Odeh was a master of table presence and often discussed its importance) but I get sloppy at times. Since watching myself play on tv I’ve put a lot of emphasis on better posture and presence. I’m also trying to stare players down or look into space rather than covering my face with my hands. Finally, I’m going to try to play even slower than I usually do and think even more heavily about my decisions. The difference between good and average players is so small. One or two pots per day can make the difference. If I had picked up that pot with the busted straight draw, I would have been in contention for the bracelet.

Making a WSOP final table was a great experience, one of the most exciting events of my poker career. At first I was relatively happy with the $68k score, but now I realize how fleeting those opportunities are and I’m hungry to return. Thanks to all the people who supported me before, during, and after the tournament. Records were set for text messages, emails, phone calls, and blog comments. I hope to surpass this result soon, if for no other reason than to set a new blog comment record.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Year of the Breakthrough

Congratulations to my friend Ryan Young, who rolled through a field of 2541 players to win a $1500 WSOP NLHE bracelet along with $616,154. I met Ryan last year at the WSOP shortly before he busted me from the main event. He's a nice guy whose career has been very similar to mine, complete with a pseudo-retirement and sabbatical from the tournament circuit. Seeing guys like that do well is inspiring and makes me happy.

All-Stars From the Rail

PiMaster's sterling performances on the WSOP rail the last couple years got me thinking about where he ranks on the all-time list of great sweaters. With a little help from the Gambler, I constructed a top 10 based on three criteria: passion/consistency, uniqueness, and unintentional comedy.

Honorable mention:

Jack Nicholson, Victoria Beckham, Da Bears fans from SNL, Jerome Bettis' parents, Kevin O'Donnell's daughter, Joy Cloutier, Rob Schneider from The Waterboy, Marcos Baghdatis' girlfriend, Glenn Close from The Natural.

10. Shirley Williams - 15
Passion/consistency: 3
Uniqueness: 5
Unintentional comedy: 7
Shirley really only had one shining moment, during the 2004 WSOP when her son David made a run to 2nd place in the Main Event. Since then Shirley's profile has risen as her poker game improves, but her railing has petered out.

7. Earl Woods - 17
Passion/consistency: 9
Uniqueness: 3
Unintentional comedy: 5
Unfortunately, questions about his integrity as a sweater (appeared to want his own piece of the pie) and death tarnish this ranking.

7. Spike Lee - 17
Passion/consistency: 8
Uniqueness: 4
Unintentional comedy: 5
Spike gave us some great moments during his feud with Reggie Miller, but hasn't done much to distinguish himself since.

7. Daniel Negreanu's mom - 17
Passion/consistency: 5
Uniqueness: 5
Unintentional comedy: 7
Takes railing beyond the game, cooking and caring for her son. Sports an accent, a big bonus in the world of competitive railing.

5. Bridget Wilson-Sampras -18
Passion/consistency: 5
Uniqueness: 3
Unintentional comedy: 3
*5 bonus points for attractiveness, 2 bonus points for starring in Billy Madison

5. Jim Wasicka - 18
Passion/consistency: 7
Uniqueness: 3
Unintentional comedy: 8
Like a rock, Jim watched the entire WSOP final table motionless behind sunglasses (though the room was very dark). I'm told this was the same method he used watching Paul play sports as a kid.

4. Eva Longoria - 19
Passion/consistency: 7
Uniqueness: 6
Unintentional comedy: 1
*5 bonus points for attractiveness

2. PiMaster - 22
Passion/consistency: 9
Uniqueness: 5
Unintentional comedy: 8
I move to change Pi's name to "RailMaster" or "SweatMaster"

2. Nancy Kerrigan's mom - 22
Passion/consistency: 6
Uniqueness: 7
Unintentional comedy: 9
A blind railbird. It doesn't get more spirited than that.

1. Richard Williams - 23
Passion/consistency: 10
Uniqueness: 5
Unintentional comedy: 8
No one's been doing it for longer, no one's been doing it more consistently, and no one's had more success.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gotta Love the Gambler

mrmachine7 (3:29:25 PM): 1408 didnt look to promising
ThomMarsFull (3:29:46 PM): yeah not great trailers
ThomMarsFull (3:30:31 PM): Cusack + Stephen King have both been critical elements of growth from boy to man
mrmachine7 (3:30:49 PM):
mrmachine7 (3:31:01 PM):
doesnt mean you should mix victoria secret magazines and recess

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Organizational Collapse in the WSOP 5k Heads Up

I did not play the $5k Heads Up tournament at the WSOP, but I can confidently say it was one of the worst-run tournaments in poker history. There were a couple of relatively minor problems that many tournaments struggle with, and there was one huge ethical debacle that ranks amongst the worst errors in poker organizational history.

The minor issues were the long delays past scheduled start times and a silly payout structure that paid 16% of the players. I don't have a problem with paying 16%, but that causes a bit of a grimace when one considers the prestige associated with cashing at the WSOP and some of the rankings that reward a WSOP cash. If a WSOP cash is a tangible, meaningful thing, then all the tournaments should pay the same ratio of players. Every other tournament at the WSOP, to the best of my knowledge, pays about 10% of the field.

The big disaster in the 5k HU was the awarding of byes. A heads-up tournament requires a bracket-style single elimination system. For the tournament to work, players must be eliminated by one half in every round until only one remains. There must be 2 to the x power players, as long as x is a whole number. So there can be 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, etc. players. At first it appeared the WSOP would cap the entrants at one of these numbers, most likely 256. The day before the tournament started, however, it was announced the cap would be 512. The powers that be elected to set the cap at 512 surely knowing that they likely wouldn't get that many registrants, knowing this would necessitate awarding byes in order to consolidate the field to exactly 256 players.

They wound up with 392 players, which meant that 120 received a first round bye and 272 played in the first round. Half of these first round winners, 136, would advance to play in the second round. The byes were drawn randomly.

392 players put up $5000 apiece, generating 1,960,000. After Harrah's took 6% rake, the total prizepool was $1,842,400. The average equity for the 392 players was $4700 (1.8424m/392). The average equity for the 120 players with byes was $7,197 (1.842m/256), as they were playing in a 256-player tournament. The average equity for the 272 players without byes was $3598 (1.842m/512), as they were playing in what amounted to a 512-player tournament. 120 players had double the equity of the other 272, because they were randomly given byes.
The goal of any poker tournament director should be to provide maximum fairness and minimum luck. When 30% of the field has double the equity of the other 70%, because their names were drawn out of a hat, that constitutes a major ethical problem.

One seemingly obvious solution would have been to have given the players in the first round a 50% refund. The 272 first-round players would pay $2500 apiece for the right to play one match for a $5000 seat to the "real" tournament. This is how the Mirage ran their heads-up tournament in May. However, there are two problems with this refund idea.

First, there is an equity redistribution problem. The 120 players with byes have an initial average equity of $4700, as they are random players who signed up for the tournamnet. The 272 drawn to play in the first round also have an initial average equity of $4700, also being random players who signed up for the tournament. However, when the 136 winners join the 120 byes, an equity gap has been created. These 136 winners defeated 136 losers. On some level, the 136 winners are better players than the 136 losers. 136 players who are on average weaker than the average sample have been eliminated from the tournament. The 136 winners can also be thought of as better than the 120 random players who received byes. So at this point, we have a field of 256 players. 120 of these players have an average skill level for the original 372 player field. 136 of these players have an aboveaverage skill level for the original 372 player field (we know this because they won their first round match). Also, these 136 players only had to make half the investment of the other 120. The 136 winners had to pay half the investment of the 120 byes to play in a tournament twice as large - but their tournament had an easier field. So receiving a bye would be a disadvantage from an equity standpoint.

The second problem, of course, is that Harrah's would lose out on a lot of juice.

The only real way to have prevented this would have been to cap the tournament at 256 players, but again, Harrah's wouldn't get maximum juice that way. Sadly, that seems to be the most indicative factor determining the organization of today's World Series of Poker.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hands From the Second Table

Ten swarthy gamblers gathered at the Rio at 9 PM for the second table of the $1500 NLHE Shootout. The players I recognized were Brandon Adams a few to my left and Daryn Firicano two to my left. Right away a focused, competitive vibe spread throughout the table. Bad blood quickly developed between a few of the guys. There was a maniac calling raises with garbage hands which pissed off some of the tighter players. For whatever reason the maniac seemed to be in a terrible mood. He was playing and talking like he just found out his wife was cheating on him with his brother or something.
I folded about twenty hands before picking up [As Qd] after the maniac limped. At this point he hadn't yet exhibited his maniacism. I made it 2500 after his 600 limp expecting to just pick it up right there but when it got back to him he quickly moved all-in for around 13,000. I thought for about ninety seconds and then folded. This was literally the first hand I had played so there was no reason for him to think I had anything but a monster. He ended up showing [Kc Kh]. I never would have folded if I knew what a nut he turned out to be.
An orbit later the same guy limped and I again made a large raise, this time with [Ac Jh], and when it got back to him he reraised me once again. I knew he had to have a monster to pull this one twice so my cards hit the muck within a couple seconds. He showed [As Ad].
At this point I was the short stack of the ten. I got lucky though and nailed a [Kh 9h 7c] flop with the [7h 7d] and doubled through an [As Kc] in a raised 4-way pot. I checked the flop from the small blind and was facing a bet and a raise for almost all my chips by the time it got back to me, so that was an easy double-up. Not too much later I busted the same guy with [As Ac] against his [5s 5h].
We got down to two players without much trouble. The professor to my left busted a young player with a sneakily played [As Ac] against [Jh Js] on a board of [Ts Tc 3h 6h] in a reraised pot, then broke Adams with [Kh Kd] against [As 2c] on a [4s 3c 2d] board, again by just calling the preflop reraise. I was happy to see Adams go as he is a skilled lunatic and would be tough to beat coming from behind. On the other hand the professor was getting a hold of a ton of chips and in the shootout format you have to get ALL of the chips so consolidation to one player is a bad thing unless that player is you.
Fortunately I was able to win a large pot with [Qh Qs] preflop, bust an Armenian pro with [Ah Kh] against his [Ad Jd], and then oust the Australian to my right with [Ad Td] against [Kd 3h]. There were some steals and small pots and a successful checkraise with [9s 9h] against the Armenian on a [Kh 7s 2c] board but mostly it was really easy straightforward poker.
My heads up opponent was a cagey professor named Stephen. He didn't really play tight but he wasn't really loose either. His game was really hard to figure out actually. This tournament was his first ever at a casino but I think he could be an extremely successful player on the tournament circuit if that was what he chose to do. I really had a hard time figuring out what he had in a bunch of hands but it seemed every time there was a big bet out there, he had way the best of it. When we started he was up around 170k-130k and it wasn't too long before he had me down to 100k.
At this point I made a decision that I was going to have to start making some reckless moves if I wanted to get back in the match. The crucial hand came when he raised on the button and I reraised with [7c 5c]. The flop came [Qd 6s 5h] and he called my continuation bet. The turn was the [Ts] and I decided the tournament was over if I checked so I moved all-in. This hand was pretty wild and non-professional. I can't see a top pro getting all his money in the pot in a spot like this just praying his opponent will fold with no idea what he has. Like I said though, Stephen was running me over and I felt I needed to take some risks to shake it up. Luckily he folded.
Just a couple hands later he limped on the button and I raised it up with Qc8c. He called. The flop came something like [9s 9c 3c] and I bet out. He raised liked I had hoped and I shoved in for a huge amount more. He folded and now I had a small chip lead.
The next big pot we played came when I raised the button to 4500 with [9s 6h]. He called. The flop came [Ks Qc 7d] and he checked. I bet bigger than I usually do, 7.5k I think, as I had earlier when I flopped top set with [Ks Kc] and had shown the hand. He called. The turn came [8c] and he led out for 7k. I considered taking the cheap card but instead decided to stay aggressive and represent a big hand and raised to 20k. He thought for a long time and then raised 18k more. At this point I sat back in my chair and sighed, which was a mistake. People told me later I looked really weak when I did this, though I don't know if Stephen was paying attention. I thought for quite a while about whether to just call or not and then sort of suddenly decided Stephen probably didn't have a big hand, was feeler-raising, and would have to fold one pair if I moved in for his last 100k. I declared all-in and Stephen didn't take too long before calling with [Kd 9h].
I think I made a good poker play here, and my opponent played the hand quite poorly. I was aggressive every step of the way and my betting represented a huge hand. However, I made a gigantic mistake. I had been pushing Stephen around lately and I failed to consider his psychological state. If I had not gone all-in in the face of heavy betting on two of the previous few hands, Stephen might have given me more credit for a big hand and maybe laid his top pair down. As it was, Stephen was likely sick of getting pushed around and felt he needed to take a stand.
Before I had processed what was happening, the [5c] was on the felt and they were counting the chips down. I immediately started apologizing to Stephen for the bad beat and told him how well he had played. His wife had just come over to watch and said "so he just hit a straight on the river?" I felt really terrible, but the match was over and I was going to a WSOP final table.

2.5k NLHE Shorthanded

Shorthanded tournaments are fantastic. I don't know if I can take another 10-man low-chips tourney, and I only played two of them. I really wonder how Phil Hellmuth is able to kill those things. It seems so hard to get an advantage playing against nine other guys never getting to the turn card without an all-in bet. The shorthanded event was tons of fun though. I played my best poker of the WSOP so far, but was really card dead for the whole tournament. The 5k Shorthanded, is, in my opinion, the third or fourth most prestigious event of the WSOP. I'm excited to play it on June 28.

Monday, June 18, 2007


The kid who busted me in the 2k NL, horribly butchering his A7 offsuit against my badly butchered pocket fours, went on to win the event and $599,467. Not really sure what I think about this.

In other news, my friend Jeremiah from pokerwire wrote a piece inspired by my drop-out from the $3k NL this morning which I thought sums up my attitude these days.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Big Laydown

Today I did something I had never before done or even considered: I unregistered for a poker tournament. Yesterday I played the $1500 NL and didn't really give it everything I had. Last night I watched some of my final table and lost some confidence and desire. When I woke up today I just really wasn't feeling great about my game and my chances in the $3k NL. I walked over to the Rio and unregistered.

I've learned that you just shouldn't play poker unless you really want to. I've made that mistake before and paid a literal price. Friends of mine have made that mistake this WSOP and paid the price. In tournaments I've done well in, I've been hungry, relaxed, and confident. Today I was none of those, so I practiced some good gambling habits and saved my $3000.

Tomorrow is the $2.5k Shorthanded NL, an event I've been looking forward to for a long time. I'll be ready to play.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mistakes in the 2k NL

I played pretty well today, better than in the Shootout, but I made a couple costly mistakes.

Mistake #1: I had recently been moved to a new table. I had about 12k in chips with the blinds at 200-400-50. A big stack who appeared to be fairly aggressive raised from the hijack to 1100 and I found Ad9d in the small blind. I reraised to 3500 and he shoved me in. I really gave him room to make a move here with or without a hand. I should have called or folded.

Mistake #2: I had 13.8k with the blinds at 400-800-100. It was folded to me in the cutoff where I looked at pocket fours. The button folded out of turn while I thought about what to do. Steve Dannenmann in the small blind had about 11k and the BB had me covered by about 1k. Four of the five pros I talked to said within ten seconds that the right play here is to push all-in. I stupidly made it 2k and the BB quickly made it 5.5k. I was really confident he had crap and moved in quickly. He didn't like it but made a pot-odds call with A7o and I lost on a board of T857A.

You won't see ZeeJustin or TheWacoKidd make mistakes like these. Today it cost me.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hands From The First Table

I recognized three players - Frankie O'Dell to my right, and Jennifer Harman and Howard Lederer across the table. Jennifer got involved in two huge hands early making very marginal plays with big aces on A high boards in limped pots and fading big draws twice. She was the huge chip leader early but just lucky to have those chips I thought. Frankie lost an awkward pot to Howard with a slowplayed AA vs J9 on a board of ATx78, then busted with aces up against a flush. There were some pretty bad players at the table who busted fast in a predictable fashion of losing a cooler, then tilt-panicking and dumping their short stacks. I feel short-stack blowups are one of the biggest ways the amateurs play worse than the pros - they panic and throw their tournament away when a comeback is still possible.

I won a good pot with a slowplayed AK against AJ on a board of A7437 where I may have missed a little value, then lost it back with JJ against 55 on a board of T55K8. If I had been raised by quads on the flop here I would have been out less than an hour into the tournament.

Then a pattern emerged which would repeat itself the next two tables: I got all my chips from one loose-aggressive player. There was this maniacal amateur who would raise 83o and other crap like thatin late position all the time. One hand he raised and then I reraised about 60% of my stack with 99. He called so I assumed he was doing a stop n go but heprobably had no idea what a stop n go was. The flop came 9h7h5c and he checked, which was weird. I eventually decided to just stick the rest in and he called with AcQc...okay. The turn was a scary 8c but the river paired the board and I doubled up to a healthy position. The very next hand I raised TT and Howard moved in; I called and outran his KQ and I was now the chipleader.

I extended the lead a bit later when the maniac raised and I reraised from the small blind with 88. He then called half his stack. The flop came JTT and I put him in. He thought for like two minutes and then folded KQ faceup! Getting like 3.5:1 or something. Definitely one of the worst folds I've ever seen...and he was a maniac. This is why the WSOP is such a juicy tournament, even with the outrageous juice Harrah's takes. The fields are the softest you'll ever find withthese buyins. The equity for good players is just so enormous. The maniac rabbit-hunted and found an ace on the river...which would have made me the short stack with like 5 left.

A bit after this I raised and the maniac moved in. I made a marginal call with 98s thinking he was fairly weak...whoops he had jacks and I doubled him up. Then Jennifer won a coinflip against a really solid player and he was short stacked. Not long after I busted him with KK against A3s.

We played three-handed for a while and I accumulated some more chips. One hand Jennifer raised the button, the maniac called and I called with 44. The flop came 844 and we all checked. The turn was a 9 or something and the maniac bet out - I just called and Jennifer mucked. The river was a Q, he bet, I shoved, and he folded. He was eliminated (I think by Jennifer but I don't remember how) a bit later and we were heads up. I think I had 18k and she had about 12k when we started.

I grinded her down a little bit and then she limped the button and I raised with QQ in the BB. She called, then called my bet on a T85 flop. The turn was a 6 putting two flush draws out and I shoved in. She thought for a good two minutes and folded. I now had a lead of like 23k to 7k.
She came back though and took a small lead. One hand I paid off her 74 on a board of 9449K with ace high. In retrospect this was a mistake because she bluffed pretty rarely. At this point I was really, really worried about losing and what it would do to my emotional state having blown a 3:1 chip lead in my first tournament back at the WSOP. Luckily we went on break and MasterJ and PiMaster were there for me.

We played something like two and a half hours heads up. Jennifer and I both play really nitty small-pot poker so it went on forever. You wouldn't think I could outplay a famous pro like Jennifer playing small ball but, as Jennifer would admit later, she's really not that great at no limit hold em. I know her cards were shitty but she was playing too tight, too passively, and not bluffing enough. It took me a while to realize it but eventually I decided to just run over her and it worked - luckily she didn't pick up a hand to trap me in that stage. Soon I had her down to around eight big blinds and called her shove with A5 when she had Q5s...but she sucked out. I ground her down again though and finished her off raising T3o on the button and getting it all in on the turnof T32x when she had JT.

I was really, really excited to win because of all the turmoil in my recent life and how long the heads up went on for. It was a fantastic feeling to have won something.

Fourth Place For 68k

It astonishes me the way these tournament pros are able to go in to work day in and day out. I played two days of poker, only something like 20 hours total, and I'm completely exhausted mentally and emotionally. I can't imagine playing tomorrow and don't know if I'll even want to play Friday's tournament.

Overall I'm reasonably happy with fourth place considering the payout structure and how weak-tight I played. I'll write a lot more tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Flight of the Phoenix

Like a phoenix, I have risen from the ashes of personal and professional disappointment to heights I have never before reached. Behind a heap of good cards, fortunate table draws, rail support from the Masters Pi and J33, a few ballsy moves that somehow worked, stockpiled positive karma, and one big uncharacteristic suckout to end the day, I was able to win two tables at the $1500 No Limit Hold em Shootout and advance to the final table Tuesday at 2 PM.

Right before the first round, Kirk Morrison came up to me and we talked about Speight's, whose brewery logo was on my shirt. It's probably my favorite shirt and I wear it all the time, always hoping someone will know what Speight's is and talk to me about it. After I finished off Jennifer Harman heads up to win the first table, the dealer told me she was a reader of my blog. My head was spinning and I got pulled over for administrative purposes; I really wish I had gotten her name and talked a little more. Those were two nice cherries on this Sundae of a Monday.

The final table, which includes Fred Goldberg, Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren and maybe Dewey Tomko and Amnon Filippi (still playing as I write this at 3:46 AM), will be tomorrow at 2 PM PST. I have no idea how seating will work. Supposedly it may be sequestered with no audience whatsoever. It may be out in the open. It might be streamed on on tape delay. I also think there's a chance ESPN might decide to film it since there will be some pretty big names there.

The payout structure is quite topheavy:

9 $9,828
8 $12,899
7 $15,971
6 $22,113
5 $36,855
4 $68,796
3 $101,351
2 $149,263
1 $264,107

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


First off thanks to everyone who has sent me a little comment, text message, email, or IM the last few days to help me get through this rough patch. I may have overreacted a little bit to this discouraging slew of events. Everything is not lost. It will be a long time before I'm "all better" but I'm at least recovered to a functional status.

I'm in Vegas now at the hated Rio, where Nappy was able to get us a comped room. Tomorrow is the 1.5k NLHE Shootout and I can't wait to play. I'll be blogging for pokerwire throughout the WSOP, which is pretty cool. I've always wanted to write for a poker publication and I finally got my wish - all I had to do to get it was retire.

Here's my first post (I think, not sure if it will get edited or what):

I haven't played a hand of live poker since the Shooting Star WPT event in March. Shortly after that tournament, I more or less retired from playing poker full-time and shifted (or pretended to shift) my focus to other endeavors. Since then I've played little poker, but did hit a recent hot streak in the 10-20 NL online cash games my bankroll has been built on.

It felt great walking into the Amazon Room this evening. Just looking at the chips and the cards and the players felt fresh and exciting, whereas three months ago the same images filled me with cynicism and disgust. Shortly before my "escape" from poker I concluded I was likely the worst regular player on the professional poker tournament circuit. That's no longer the case. Hopefully it's for two reasons: 1) I'm no longer a regular on the circuit, and 2) an improved attitude (and a couple strategic adjustments) will allow me to play better tournament poker than ever before.

I plan to play 8-10 events this year at the WSOP, beginning with the $1500 NLHE shootout today.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Take me to another place
Take me to another land
Make me forget all that hurts me
Let me understand your plan

- Arrested Development, "Tennessee"


Last night was possibly the worst night of my life. It was an emotional torture chamber so comprehensive that by the end of it, the sounds of two of my friends having sex in the bed next to mine while I tried to sleep was neither surprising nor disconcerting.

During the last few weeks, my heart has been broken in unique and painful ways by three of my closest friends. I have doubts if I will ever forgive or be close to any of them again. Since I do not have many close friends and I tend to value them highly, losing three while having my emotional innards torn to shreds has been devastating.

This morning as we drove out of Lynchburg I rolled the windows down because I was feeling nauseous due to the emotional upheaval, lack of sleep, and innumerable Jack and Coke’s I had experienced the night before at my friend Nick’s wedding reception. I thought I might vomit, but the fresh Tennessee morning air hit me in the face and filled my lungs with health and hope. It has been a rough few weeks and a particularly rough trip but immediately I feel prepared to put the carnage behind me and move towards a surprisingly bright future.

Tomorrow I leave for Vegas, where I hope a rededicated, nothing-to-lose attitude will lead to riches that make me forget all that hurts me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Joy of Winning

What it would be like for me to win a WSOP bracelet.

Monday, June 04, 2007

WSOP Accomodations

I'll be staying at the Rio from the 11th to the morning of the 16th, then checking into the Gold Coast for three nights.

There is a bed available in each. If you are interested, let me know immediately. The early bird will get the worm.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The New Face of Poker

Partial Credit

ThomMarsFull (11:50:59 AM): you think it would be inappropriate to post that on my blog?
mrmachine7 (11:51:30 AM): i might not be the best person to ask about appropriate blog posts

Friday, June 01, 2007

In Position

I've been playing a decent amount of online poker (for me) recently, simply because I've felt like playing. I've run good, played very well using a loose/nit strategy, and played only in easy games. I accomplished my goal of getting to +$32k for the year, which puts me in position to play the ten WSOP events I want to and still be up for the year assuming a strikeout. I'm proud of this accomplishment considering
a) I'm down $62k in live tournaments in 2007
b) Most of my professional poker player friends have struggled in 2007. The ones who have won have won big.

The next hand of poker I play may be at the World Series of Poker, as I will be competing in the Best in Boulder Frisbee Golf Championships this weekend, working hard on the brewery next week, and then going to my friend Nick's wedding in Tennessee next weekend.

Some other goings-on in my life have really pissed me off lately but I am confident I am living the life I want to and I feel good about the future, whatever it may hold.