Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Window

The $1k rebuy was one of the most exciting tournaments I have ever played. I had no plans to play tight during the rebuy but was unbelievably card dead and played only a couple hands. One of them was a double with 77 vs A7s which was all I needed to coast to the add-on with decent chips. In the 100-200-25 level I picked up AA, QQ, and KK in one orbit, winning a big pot with the aces, losing the queens to Devilfish's aces, and losing the kings to a berzerko 74s all-in jam. An orbit after that I again lost a big pot with kings to Adam Geyer's AQ and was crippled. I got all the way down to 1700 chips at 150-300 before going on a wild rush to a double-average 55k stack in just a couple hours. At this point I was incredibly confident I would at least make the final table and would have put my chances at better than 10-1 to win the whole thing. I just felt it.

I was moved to a really nasty table and planned to lock it down for the night before an epiphany hit me. I suddenly realized I have no reason to fear the best players. I can typically read their hands pretty accurately. At the same time, my game is all about misrepresenting my hand, calling bluffs, and value betting. I slipped into "the zone" and continued to gain confidence right up until I lost a gargantuan coinflip with AKs against a poorly played pair of nines and hit the rail fifteen minutes before the end of the night.

I immediately signed up for the $5k six-handed event, my most anticipated tournament of the World Series besides the main. I vowed to play with the same confidence, focus and intensity I had late in the rebuy event, and I did. I brought the A-game all day but the cards just weren't good enough and eventually I busted out losing another coinflip with AK.

I have a great fear that I am not going to make The Big Score before the end of the Series. My worry is that after the Series, I will lose at least some of my current passion for tournament poker. There is only a short window available to climb Mount Everest. I'm afraid I won't get to the top before that window closes, and might not want to come back - or might not be able to come back as strong.

I'm playing the best tournament poker of my life, but that's probably still not good enough to crack the rankings of the 200 best tournament players in the world. In the coming years, more and more stars are going to emerge. It's only going to get harder. I can play to the best of my abilities, but I'm scared it's going to be too little too late.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Crux

After a quiet week with no major events, the WSOP features a 1k rebuys, the 50k HORSE, and 5k 6-handed all starting within a 24 hour period. Obviously this was some poor scheduling but it does provide an exciting climax before things start winding down again at the end of the week.

Wednesday will be my WSOP rebuy cherry popper. The next couple days will cost me anywhere between 4k and 20k but are the best remaining shots at a bracelet. Should be young, internet-trained fields with the 50k HORSE running simultaneously.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Three And A Half Weeks Into The World Series of Poker

Three and a half weeks into the World Series of Poker, your throat has been scratchy for three weeks.

The dude giving you a haircut says you look tired.

Sushi doesn’t taste as good.

Three and a half weeks into the World Series of Poker, the last of the snow has melted off Mount Charleston to the Northwest. You can’t believe it lasted that long.

You need a drink but you really shouldn’t drink.

You curse the mistakes you made two weeks ago that may have cost you a shot at a bracelet.

Three and a half weeks into the World Series of Poker, you really, really, really hate Las Vegas.

Your reads are consistently dead on but you don’t always follow them.

Three and a half weeks into the World Series of Poker, you no longer enjoy looking at the smoking hot media girls. You just hate them and what they represent.

You can’t remember the last day it wasn’t 100 degrees.

You can’t think of a single thing you want to do.

You expect to lose the big coinflips, you expect that gutshot to hit against you, and when you imagine a nightmare turn card, it comes.

You fantasize about taking a deep fresh breath of air.

You see guys hauling trash bags in the sun and think how good you’ve got it.

You fall asleep trying to think of ways to stay hydrated. When you wake up, you’re dehydrated.

Three and a half weeks into the World Series of Poker, well-known poker players get in public arguments with cabbies; with dealers; with the rail; and mostly with each other.

You’re not sure if that seven-six of spades hand happened last week or in a dream.

Three and a half weeks into the World Series of Poker, there are still three weeks left. This could be very bad or very good.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I'm into the money for a third time at the WSOP. I have a slightly below average stack heading into day two. This is a smaller tournament. The big money won't come till the final table.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

One Card Away

The Castle of Pain notched its second final table of the Series Wednesday as Seth Fischer made his first live tournament cash a good one with a second place finish in the $2500 6-handed event for $330k. Heads up near the end of a zany final table, Seth had Dario Minieri all-in with 43s against his kings, but Dario flopped a flush draw and then hit running fours for the critical pot and won it a bit later.

Before the final table I was chatting Seth up trying to get him to talk about how the money would change his life and he said something that took me aback for a second, then made a lot of sense. Seth said he's a good poker player and "the money will come" and what he really wanted was the bracelet. I was stunned to hear this as a top 3 finish would be 10x his biggest previous score and he had never played in the WSOP before a few days ago.

It makes sense and I will try to remember those words as the WSOP continues and I continue to play the circuit. Good players are going to be big winners in the long term; sweating the variance tournament by tournament is just stressful and pointless.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Anatomy of a Bustout

I’ve played hundreds of no limit hold em tournaments, and I’ve only won one. So every time but one, my final hand was a losing one. The more tournaments you lose, the more you realize your downfalls can be categorized into a few standard scenarios:

The Coinflip

The most boring of tourney exits, the coinflip is usually a pair vs two overcards. Ace-king against two queens or jacks is the most common matchup. I’ve started calling races like A8 against KQ or top pair vs a flush draw/overcard “coinflips” as well. Usually ace king or ace-queen is involved if it is a preflop matchup; this is how the nicknames “The Boneyard” and “The Anna Kournikova (looks good but never wins) were spawned for ace-king.

The Cooler

Usually this one ends with the player walking away shaking his head wondering if he “could have gotten away from the hand.” The answer for a good player is usually no and for weaker players, often yes. Typical scenarios for “The Cooler” are kings running into aces, set under set, two pair vs a set, ace-king vs a set on an ace high flop, flush under flush, etc.

The Bad Beat

Too numerous to name, bad beats might actually be the most common way for tight players to bust out of tournaments. Bad beats range from 60-40s (such as ace-king losing to jack-ten all-in preflop), to flush draws hitting, to big pairs losing to bad aces, to ugly pair under pair suckouts.

The Really Bad Beat

These are beats where you are more than 80% to win a big pot when the money goes in, but the son of a bitch sucks out and steals it when you least expected. You watch helplessly as your ship crashes into the rocks, then falls over on its side into the icy depths.

The Desperation Shove

There comes a time in most tournaments where you’re forced to go all-in before the flop with some sort of marginal holding, just praying everyone will fold. You always know you’re in bad shape when you receive a caller on these desperation jams. You can only hope to suck out. The real question you ask yourself when walking out is how did you get down to the desperation shove stack.

The Failed Re-steal

This one is pretty standard for the online donkament specialist. Someone raises in a spot where you think they might have a wide range, so you shove in behind hoping they will fold. But this time they have a real hand and call you down, and you’re forced to turn over a trailing hand and hope for the suckout.

The Bluff Gone Bad

Nits like me rarely bluff off their whole stack, but it does happen on occasion. Far more often, the failed bluff results in the loss of most but not all of our chips.

The Call-off

Nits like me usually avoid this one as well. The call-off is when you make a big call hoping your opponent is bluffing, only to be shown a hand that leaves you drawing ultra-slim or dead. This might be the worst way to exit a tournament. The call-off generally results in at least four hours of mandatory sequestered time for the victim. If a friend exits on a call-off, don’t bother discussing the hand with him for at least a day. He doesn’t want to talk about it. Famous call-offs include Kevin McBride vs. Scotty Nguyen in the last hand of the 1998 WSOP and Kenny Tran against Jon Kalmar late in last year’s main event.


I'm getting tired of losing poker tournaments. Still got another couple weeks to get that big win.

Monday, June 16, 2008

First Final Table For the Castle

Congrats to Chris "PiMaster" Viox for his third place finish in the $1500 Razz. If Pi had not been super unlucky three-handed he would have had a great shot at taking down Barry Greenstein head up for the bracelet.

At one point late on Day 2 Pi had 5k chips with the limits at 2k-4k and brought it in with a king (the worst card in razz). Pi had been in an ugly downslide before this so it was great to see him snap out of it in a game that rewards bad cards.

Friday, June 13, 2008

All Quiet on the Western Front

No one in the house has managed to get anything going this week. I've been playing well but running bad. Can't think of a mistake I've made. Back to standard NLHE with the Venetian $2500 today, a WSOP $1500 Saturday, WSOP $3000 Sunday, WSOP $2500 6-max Monday, and WSOP $1500 Tuesday.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Take the Unders

In my WSOP preview I estimated I would play roughly 29 events and $100,000 worth of buyins. I am already 3-4 events and ~$15,000 behind due to two deep runs. I'm pretty sure I won't play the 10k Heads Up or 10k PLO, two tournaments I was on the fence for. There are a number of 5 PM tournaments I want to play throughout the WSOP; I won't play the noon tournament on those days.

It will be an epic WSOP and I probably won't take more than one day off in a row the next four weeks, but perhaps not quite as exhausting as I had envisioned.

This should be a really fun week with the $1500 shootout, $1500 PLO, $5000 NLHE, and $2500 PLHE/PLO. These are four tournaments I've been fiending to play for months.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Good But Not Good Enough

I was lucky enough to win this tournament. I had the cards. That's what's so depressing. I wouldn't quite say "I blew it" but I would say the opportunity was there and I missed it.

I seem to exploit these $1500 fields pretty well - my last four WSOP cashes are all in $1500 events. I've got a lot of it figured out. But I'm not one of the best players. There are so many great players out there right now and I'm on the cusp but just not there. I suck at physical reads. I make mistakes counting stacks. I don't have a full mathematical comprehension.

So I know I'm good, I know I'm playing well, I have full confidence, but I also know I had a shot at that final table and didn't make it. Finally, I know there's a $2500 tournament tomorrow and I'll be in it.

MasterJ ran badly and still got 16th place. Congrats to Shannon Shorr for his second place finish in the $2000 event.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Good Times, Good Luck

I won four coinflips on a short stack with my tournament life on the line in the $1500 6-max, then hit a rush that basically lasted 8 hours and finished the day near the top of the leaderboard with 71 players left. What a great shot at a bracelet this is playing shorthanded poker with a big stack and not too many super-tough players left. My friends Jason Dewitt (TheMasterJ33), Matt Matros, and Ryan Young are still in the $1500 6-max as well. The Master fought and clawed and bluffed all day whereas I just won races and coolered guys.

We moved into the castle today. It's great, so welcome after the Rio.

Let's see what else...Congrats to Jason for getting 13th in the 5k mixed hold 'em...Congrats to Toph for getting 18th in the 1k rebuy...Congrats to Mike Banducci for winning the 1k rebuy...Congrats to Napoleon Ta for winning two WSOP seats in one week...Congrats to Theo Tran for making two final tables in consecutive 1500+ player NLHE tourneys and entrenching himself as a top-10 donkament player...congrats to Shannon Shorr for making the final table tomorrow of the 2k NLHE...and congrats to Adam Friedman for finishing 20th in the 10k mixed event, probably the toughest field outside of the 50k HORSE. is the best spot for updates tomorrow, though you can't trust everything you read on the internet. I'm feeling real good about this tournament. Could be the one.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

May Top 15

15. Caesars - (I'm Gonna) Kick You Out
14. Moby - My Weakness
13. Don Henley - Dirty Laundry
12. Stereophonics - Hurry Up and Wait
11. Brendan Benson - Get it Together

10. Jump, Little Children - Mexico
9. Metric - Empty
8. Massive Attack - Teardrop
7. Nada Surf - Are You Lightning
6. Smoking Popes - Pretty Pathetic

5. Metric - Monster Hospital
4. Metric - Poster of a Girl
3. Stereophonics - Roll Up and Shine
2. Dolly Parton - Jolene

Song of the Month: The Avett Brothers - Go To Sleep

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hands From the $1500 NLHE

Day one:

I raised 64s and got three callers. Flop A64 with a flush draw SB checks I check because Neverwin is on the button and has been bluffing these spots all day the first caller bets 250 the SB thinks about raising but just calls I make it 850 the guy calls the SB folds what turned out to be AQ. Turn jack I ship it for about 1800, get called by AQ and hold.

Got moved to a table with some strong internet guys and got pushed out of a couple pots, then got moved to a better table where I was able to get it going a bit. Raised KQ to 525 UTG at 100-200-25 and for some reason the SB Everett Carlton shipped it for 1650 with Q8 of diamonds. I called and lost, then made a similar call in another spot with AJ of spades and lost to tens and was hurting.

Found a real quick groove where the table got shorthanded with weak-tights to my left so I raised three hands in a row to 725 at 150-300-25. The last one I had 64o, the BB defended and the flop came 743 with a flush draw. He checked I bet 300 and he called. Turn offsuit 9 he checked I bet 800 and he called. River J he bet 2000 of my 3000; I studied for a while and then called and I was good. The guy to my left said it was "one of the best calls I've ever seen" but all the pros I've talked to agree his line is classic bluff and almost a standard call for me on the end.

After that I kind of dwindled for a bit as the table went back to 10-handed with some stronger players and I didn't really do too much. The blinds got up to 300-600-75 and I was down to something like 4800 and looked at a jack on the button with a real tight BB and sent it in. The SB shoved with 88, I woke up with AJ, and rivered a flush to double up.

After that I steadily moved up generally exploiting the guy on my right who min-raised his medium strength hands and raised harder with his bigger ones. There was one sort of scary pot where the good and active young player Steve Levy limped in second position with a big stack after raising a bunch of hands and a few other limpers followed. I looked down at AJ in the BB. The old-school cash-game trained Moon would just check this hand and hope to hit but I couldn't see Levy limping a big one after all his raising and the others followed with limps so I decided to make a big raise. Everyone folded but the guy on my right who I had been boning the last few hours decided to call from the SB. The flop came QT9 which was a little scary; I felt I had no choice but to go all-in for a 1.3x overbet of the pot and he showed me 33 and folded.

With ten minutes left in the night the loose big stack limped in early for 1000 and I decided to limp the button with Ks8s. The blinds checked. An innocuous Tc3c2s flop came down and was checked to me. I decided to take a half-pot stab of 2700 and the SB (internet trained kid) moved in for 9900. Obviously I had nothing but the chances of him having a flush draw or 54 were so high that I almost found a call. I thought about it for at least four minutes trying to Gus-Hansen it but finally laid it down. I finished day one with 23,400.

Day two found us on the bubble pretty quickly. We had a monster stack at the table and a bunch of weak-tights so he was raising every hand. I kept repeating the MasterJ "if you're gonna raise any two, I'm gonna jam any two" mantra in my head but found only the most worthless of rags and folded. Finally I picked up a reasonable 98o and moved in after his raise to win uncontested, then reraised the other big stack the next hand to get up to an average stack of 30k. The bubble finally burst after over an hour of interminable hand-for-hand. The WSOP has been much-better run this year; going to hand-for-hand 13 away from the bubble was their first major boo-boo and it had me tilting and needing to take a piss.

I should mention that during this time it became evident that the player to my right, a Canadian named Aaron Coulthard who went on to finish 6th, was indeed a player. There was one hand where the big stack raised and he reraised from the SB where if I had fold equity I would have instantly jammed but I was too short and had to fold my 92o.

After the bubble burst I continued to build momentum winning a series of pots and then opened with AhK to 3100 at 600-1200. The BB called. I bet 4200 on a flop of Kh85h after he checked and got a call. The turn came Th and he now fired 5k into me. With both of us having 22k behind I elected to just call with my top-top and nut flush draw. The river came Jh, giving me the second nuts. The BB now fired 6k and I made it 16k after a minute think leaving myself with 6200. He instantly declared all-in and I was sick.

A good player can only have Qh9h for the straight flush in this spot. No other hand makes any sense at all. But this was a WSOP $1500 event and I was getting 11:1 he had a berzerko so I did call after crying about it for a couple of minutes and somehow my opponent had T8 with the 8h. WSOP $1500s - gotta love em.

I steadily ran the stack higher never losing a pot of any significance until the table broke right before dinner and I was moved to a new table with a flurry of big stacks. After dinner I played quietly for a while before getting involved in a big confrontation.

It was folded to me in the small blind where I found A7o. The BB was a super-aggressive Scandinavian kid with a big stack. I had a bad stack to raise or limp/shove and finally decided to limp in. The Scandi predictably raised and I called. The flop came 633 with two hearts and I checked and called a typical bet. The turn was a deuce and we both checked. The river was an offsuit queen and I checked. The Scandi fiddled with chips for a while before sliding out a big bet which I called instantly. His KQ was good for a big pot. I was extremely confident I was good, even on the river, and honestly was stunned to lose.

After that, with about 80 players left, the tournament became a shovefest. There were smaller pots here and there but mostly big standard all-in preflop hands. These are the matchups I can remember, all of which I am confident I played correctly according to the hand ranges, my hand on the left:

JTs > AKs
AJ > KTs
AJ > AK > 64
KK > AJs
22 < KJ
A9 < 77

There were probably even more than that I don't remember. A few final thoughts:

It was an advantage for me playing that late. I would have been happy to wrap it and call it a day but I was sharper than almost all my opponents. I really never felt tired. I think I've been in the pressure situations enough times now that adrenaline takes over and I play my best as the stakes rise. I believe this tournament will serve as a harbinger for the rest of the WSOP.

The Longest Night of My Career

Finally came to a close a little after 5 AM when I expired in 22nd place. It takes a ridiculous amount of luck to final table a 4000 player field like this. I was extremely lucky, but not quite ridiculously lucky. $24,133 is a solid payday and my best ever finish in one of these four-digit-field donkaments. I'll try to write some more tomorrow on the neverending day.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Revving Up the Engines

I made it to day two of the $1500 NLHE event with a slightly below average stack. It was my best Phil Hellmuth impersonation. He destroys these small buy-in WSOP donkaments harder than I used to think was possible. I've studied his game very closely trying to see how he does it. Of any player, his game is the one I most try to emulate. People don't seem to think you can bet 300 into a 2000 pot and be a good player, but you can, and he does, and I do, and it has the desired effects.

I was extremely happy with my gear-shifting today. It happened totally naturally and seamlessly; I found myself folding ace-ten suited one hand and then just a couple minutes later raised three consecutive hands with crap. I'm excited about finding ways to maximize equity in these donkaments the next month and excited to get back to playing my best poker.