Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Will Have To Miss the 5k Six-Handed

Because I made it to day two of the last $1500 NLHE. I've got a solid stack of 64,700 which is less than the ridiculous 67k I had at dinner.

MasterJ has a gigantic chip lead with sixteen players left in the 3k triple chance. Tomorrow he goes for the bracelet and $500k.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mistakes in the $3k Triple Chance

For the first time this summer I felt like I misplayed multiple hands in a WSOP event.

Hand one:

Karlo Lopez (new to the table) limps in early position. I limp on the cutoff with 98o. Blinds complete. Flop JTx two diamonds. I do not have a diamond. Check, check, Karlo bets 225 into 400. I call. Turn 8d. Karlo checks, I bet 525, Karlo calls. River offsuit ace. Karlo bets 675. I should raise to 2k here I think. Karlo's most likely holdings are KQ with a diamond, AJ, AA. He could have a flush. I think he, being a veteran, thinking player, is going to have a hard time calling with anything but a flush. The way the hand played out, it makes a lot of sense for me to have a flush and not much sense to have anything else (if I raise on the end).

Hand two:

Internet guy raises to 525 mid-late position at 100-200. I call with JhTh right behind him. All others fold. Flop A9h2h. He bets 700, I snap-call. Turn offsuit king. He bets 1600, I tank pretending to have an ace and call. River x he checks quickly. He will have an ace and call here a lot of the time, so I should just make a small value bet bluff in case he was bluffing himself. He can definitely be bluffing if he has been paying attention to me, as I peel most flops in position heads up in raised pots. I should just make a small bet of like 1600 but I totally dogged it and checked behind. He announces "you got it, sevens" and wins.

I was so upset with myself after this hand. The day before, in the $1500 event, I felt like I played some of my best tournament poker ever and was evolving from a decent player into a really good one. But then today I dogged it on those two bluffs and am very disappointed in myself.

The $5k six-max event is on Tuesday. Traditionally, I have used this event as a measuring stick in evaluating my tournament game. I feel like success in that tournament, playing deep six-handed poker, can be achieved unless you really get unlucky. In '05 and '06 I elected not to play it because I felt like I wasn't good enough. In '07 I was starting to feel pretty good about myself after my final table but I got owned by Sorel Mizzi and realized I had a long way to go. In '08 I thought I played it well but looking back I know there was more I could have done. I will be very disappointed on Tuesday if I walk out of the Rio feeling like I made mistakes.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Degradation of the World's Finest Gambling Game

When I started playing poker for "serious money", it was playing ten-handed $2-$4 no-limit hold em (NLHE) on Party Poker with a max buy-in of $200, or fifty big blinds (BBs). Party had four tables; Paul and I would get on all the waitlists and eventually play four tables at once. It is not hard to play four tables of ten-handed poker at a time online, as most of your hands are folded before the flop. You can follow the action at the other tables without much difficulty, keeping an eye on the action and checking out hand histories.

Nine months after I started playing those tables, Party opened up higher limits while simultaneously increasing the max buy-in to 100 BBs. Deeper stacks lead to more intricate thinking, as pots swell, information increases, and more decisions must be made at later junctures in the hand.

Eventually, like many pros, I converted to playing six-handed cash games. I think six-handed is more enjoyable and interesting than ten-handed. It is right to play more hands, so there are more decisions - and decisions are what make games fun. As time progressed I grew more comfortable playing with even shorter tables, all the way down to heads up.

Party closed to Americans after the UIGEA, so I took my business to other sites. The two most popular sites, PokerStars and Full Tilt, do not offer any tables that seat more than nine players.

The most common and popular events at the World Series of Poker are $1500 NLHE tournaments, played ten-handed for most of day one and nine-handed the rest of the way. Players who want to play just one WSOP event often choose these $1500 "donkaments." After the first couple hours, the average stack in these tournaments is generally around 30-50 BBs. Many players, from novices to professionals, are most comfortable playing under these conditions. Even players like me, who find this sort of poker irritating and dreary compared to its other forms, can't pass up the value of a $1500 WSOP NLHE and sign up for as many as possible.

It's frustrating to me that this has become the most popular form of poker. Playing ten-handed live with average stacks of less than fifty BBs is so banal. I can understand "grinding" online, playing four or more tourneys at at time. But live, with people often thinking for a minute or two about what to do, is just too boring. It doesn't help that playing ten-handed is physically miserable, squeezed between men with no room to move. What worries me is the thought of amateurs coming out here to play their one WSOP event, cramming into a ten-handed table, playing five hands in three hours, and then losing queens to kings or whatever and going home disenchanted. Poker is such a wonderful, complex, fascinating game. I have this cliched image in my head, small groups of cowboys playing the game in a saloon or around a campfire. Playing ten-handed with short stacks is not the way it was meant to be played.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #40

Cyndi Lauper - Time After Time

I have this distinct feeling that this song is directly attached to a salient memory of mine - but it hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My First Funeral

I have been fortunate throughout my life, having lost very few people I know well. Sunday I attended my first funeral (though I was later informed that it was in fact a memorial service, not a funeral), held for my cousin Paul. I was dreading this event, but it turned out to be far more enjoyable, rewarding, and inspirational than I could have imagined. A diverse crew which included groups of Cowboys, hippies, Mormons, ravers, and Texans attended the service, a testament to Paul's personality. Many people had passionate things to say, including some stirring "get busy living or get busy dying'" themed invocations. There were many tears, but there were also many laughs. There was so much life in the air, at times I almost forgot someone had died.

The first portion of the WSOP was pretty nondescript for me - no buy-ins over $2500, several days off, three small cashes in $1500 events, a slim net loss, some minor drama in the house but nothing too startling, not enough sleep, and generally poor health. My play has been very solid, extremely patient, and somewhat vapid.

When you spend three weeks in Vegas in June, it's easy to lose passion for poker. Spending a few days home in rainy Boulder has rekindled the fire. I am very excited to go back to Vegas and play out the rest of the Series. There has never been a time in my life when I have been so aware of how lucky I am.

Best E-Mail I've Gotten In a While


Chris Andersen is now following you on Twitter!

Hi, Thomas Fuller.

Chris Andersen (BirdmanAndersen) is now following your updates on Twitter.

A little information about Chris Andersen:

35 updates
following 2172 people

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #41

Michael Nyman - The Heart Asks Pleasure First

Theme from The Piano.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Leaving Las Vegas

I am very sad to report that there has been a tragedy in my extended family and I will be going home for the next several days. My next WSOP event will be the $2500 mixed hold'em on Wednesday, June 24.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yes, I Really Folded Kings Preflop Getting 4.8 to 1

Blinds were 100-200 with no ante in Monday's $2k NLHE when a tightish player (we'll call him "Jeff") raised under the gun to 600, third position flat-called, and then Robin Keston in fourth position made it like 2500 to go. Robin was playing sort of weird, he was involved in few hands but usually when he was involved he was making gigantic bets, trying to get all-in preflop. I looked down at two kings and shoved in pretty fast for like 6500. It folded to "Jeff" and he folded within a couple seconds, then Robin announced it was a cooler and called with the other two kings and we chopped it up. After the hand there was some discussion wherein Jeff said he had two queens, that "there was no way two queens would ever be good there."

Just a few hands later, Jeff raised to 550 in middle position and Robin made it 1850 on the button with about 3500 behind. In the small blind, I again looked down at kings. This time I thought longer, but not too long, and then made it 4500 leaving myself with 2900. Within a second or two of my bet, Jeff had lined his chips into a stack and moved that stack into the middle of the table. Now it got to Robin, and he thought about it for maybe twelve seconds before mucking. Robin had been acting instantaneously with every decision, so I really felt like he had just made a big laydown. I thought he had just folded queens, kings, or ace-king. Anything else I felt like he would have folded immediately.

So now it's on me and I'm very close to certain that Jeff has aces. I knew he didn't have queens or ace-king based on the previous hand and I was also pretty sure he would have thought for a bit with kings and not instantly shipped it. Jeff was relaxed the whole time, not concerned about going broke like most of these guys are in the low buy-in WSOP events. He told me to throw it away and give myself a chance. He said "you know what I got" and other things of that nature. I don't know if I've explained it comprehensively, but in my mind the chances of Jeff having aces were over 95%.

Jeff had put in 4500 (my raise) + 2900 (the rest of my stack, he had me covered). Robin had put in 1850, I had put in 4500, and the big blind accounted for 200. So there was 4500 + 4500 + 1850 + 200 + 2900 = 13,950 in the pot, and it was 2900 for me to call. 13,950/2900 = 4.81 - I was getting 4.8 to 1 to call. Even if he shows me aces, I am mathematically "supposed" to call, as a random pair of kings is only about a 4.5 to 1 underdog to a random pair of aces (correct me if I'm wrong on any of this, math guys).

But there were two other things I was thinking about. First, I was really worried that Keston folded ace-king or the other two kings. I would be in a heap of trouble if he folded ace-king, and almost dead if he somehow laid kings. It seemed unlikely that he folded kings - he probably would have taken a little longer to fold, he might not have folded at all, and of course I had two kings so it's unlikely he did too. Ace-king was a real possibility, though queens seemed more likely. Him folding queens hurts me a little bit too, as it's harder for me to make a straight.

The other thing I was thinking about is how comfortable I am playing the short stack, and how commonly I come back from those depths. 2900 playing 100-200 is not a desperate situation for me, not even particularly distressing. I'm not bad with a big stack and it would be nice to have 16,000, but I knew I could come back from 2900.

So finally I did fold, the first time I have folded pocket kings in a tournament, and Jeff was nice enough to show me what I already knew he had, two aces.

Wise Words From J.C. Tran

From a PokerNews.com interview with Gloria Balding:

"It's always good to surround yourself [with] a good group of guys, good players in general - you always discuss hands...I don't like surrounding myself with a bunch of guys that complain about bad beats - I just like to talk about hands, and learn from it, and try to find the correct way to play it, whereas I hate it when a guy comes up to me and says 'oh my gosh, check this out, I just lost a two-outer' - I don't want to hear it. If you want to talk about it, ask me in a normal tone instead of complaining, whining about it, being negative."

Sunday, June 14, 2009


So I ran up my 11k stack to 95k before losing most of it with AK against AA (against an aggressive player no less, in a cutoff/button confrontation) then the rest with AQs against his 22 to finish 157th for 2 buyins. 2k NLHE tomorrow.

$1500 NL

As Shannon Shorr would put it, I "limped into day two" of this $1500 NL with 11,000 in chips, which will be just nine big blinds when play resumes Sunday at 2. It could have been even less but I got in a couple of uncalled shoves without looking at my cards to end the night.

It won't take long before the money is reached, with or without me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Die Siedler von Catan

Thanks to Ryan Wanger for sending me this article from Wired on the Settlers of Catan.

Swimming With the Sharks

I wound up busting in third place in the second round of the $1500 shootout. The table was really tough with the exception of a few players including one of the wildest maniacs I have ever seen. It was like a noose tightening throughout the afternoon and evening as the weaker players steadily went broke until it was down to me, Peter Jetten, Chris Klodnicki, and Jason Somerville. Jetten was solid all day, Klodnicki was making me really uncomfortable playing a strong preflop game, and Somerville was steadily vacuuming up chips playing Negreanu-style. In the end Somerville busted me in a race and then won it a few hands later.

MasterJ took third place in the $1500 PLHE for $78,826. Toph won his table and moves on to the third and final round Friday afternoon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Love Shootouts

For the third time in five tries, I won my first round table in the $1500 NLHE Shootout. I now have a total won/loss record of 4 won tables and 4 lost in this event, though I have sucked out big in three of those wins. Today it was A4 against 99 which got me going, and then a long patient grind heads up before finally winning it with tens against sixes. The second round starts tomorrow at 2 Pacific.

MasterJ enters the final table of the $1500 PLHE second in chips.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #42

Aimee Mann - Wise Up

Remember this scene from Magnolia?

Monday, June 08, 2009

$2500 NL 6-Max Hands

Seat 1: Kid who seemed to be inexperienced live
Seat 2: Me
Seat 3: Aaron Coulthard who I battled extensively last year in the opening $1500 event - likes to put the heat on preflop
Seat 4: Young Euro guy, had an aggressive look to his face, played a hand where he raised, bet a 653r flop, got raised, called, bet the 2 turn hard, got called, bet hard on the river and mucked when called
Seat 5: Young kid, seemed like internet pro
Seat 6: Young kid, maybe not as super-LAG as the others but certainly aggressive

7500 starting chips

1. I make it 150 on button with 87o, Coulthard makes it 450 SB, I call. Flop Q84 two clubs he bets 625 I call. Turn K check check. River T check check he has A9o I win.

2. (4) raises to 150, I call in SB with KhTh. Flop KQx one heart, I check he bets 250 I call. Turn Ah I check he instachecks. River x I check he quickly bets 400 I fold.

3. I raise to 150 from cutoff with QsJs, (5) calls in BB. Flop Ts6x2x, he checks I bet 200 he calls. Turn Ks he checks I bet 400 he calls. River Kd he checks I check he shows 77 I muck.

4. (4) raises to 150, I call with 99 in BB. Flop K53 two hearts one diamond, I check he bets 250 I call. Turn Ad I check he bets 525 I call. River offsuit queen, I check he bets 1725, I think one minute and fold.

5. (1) raises to 150 on button, I call with QJo in SB. Flop T62r I check he bets 200 I call. Turn 7 I check he checks. River A I check he bets 725 I make it 2000 he calls with A3o.


6. (1) makes it 250 UTG, I call with AcKc, BB makes it 1025, UTG calls, I shove for ~2600 more, BB shoves, UTG folds. BB has KK, flop 332 two clubs, turn x, river x.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Using the Call as a Weapon

During the spring, I was struggling with my game. I felt like I was generally swimming upstream – lost, confused, and hopeless. I got a lot of great feedback on my Monday Night posts, which helped me think about some different concepts and strategies. The most influential comment posted was by someone named John. He questioned how I was going to pick up enough chips to compete in the tournament playing tight, waiting for the nuts, and rarely bluffing. John went on to write “The problem is you're obviously skilled enough to get involved in so many more pots and outplay people post flop; but you never get involved in anything when you have a decent sized stack. Then you find spots to make moves but it would cost you 25% of your stack to do it. You could make those moves and still survive if you were wrong if you hadn't folded every marginal hand for the first hour and a half.”

During one of those Monday Nights, I wrote about how it was important to find your own style, a default methodology that fit you. It’s critical to be able to change gears, to shift your level of aggression, of course, but it does help to find a customary groove you can settle into. In cash games I have generally used a pretty unique style, rather passive. I am not a big believer in “find out where you’re at” tactics which involve a lot of betting, raising, and reraising. Instead I have generally called with marginal hands to test people, relying on player tendencies and board texture rather than my own representation to make borderline calls or folds. While this style has generally been very effective for me in cash games, I have never really felt like it translated all that well to tournament play.

Most of the better online tournament players (and cash gamers as well, for that matter) use a style predominated by three-betting. I have spent some time experimenting with this style in both tournaments and cash games. It has never really worked out for me. I cannot match the better players in preflop play. My timing is poor. When I get into preflop battles against good players, I often lose. I seem to get four-bet a lot when I three-bet light, regardless of my image.

I spent a lot of time talking poker with Adam Friedman during this period. Adam plays a ton of hands and almost never reraises. Adam does not play as much online as he does live, where three-bets are less frequent and more commonly called. Talking to Adam while struggling to figure out the preflop games of chicken encouraged me to move towards that style of flatcalling a lot of hands. A couple famous players who use this style are Daniel Negreanu and Gavin Smith. The key here is that if you play this passively, you have to play a lot of hands so that your opponents know you could have anything and so you will have a lot of opportunities to get chips. In the past when I used this style I didn’t usually play enough hands, which meant my opponents put me on a slim range of hands and then used that range to outplay me.

Two other things I was doing wrong were folding too often to continuation bets, and folding too often to three-bets. Maybe I’ll discuss those concepts on here another time.

I don’t play nearly as many hands as Negreanu, Friedman, or Smith and probably never will. Those guys also have a rowdier table image than me, and are more likely to get paid off by nonbelievers when they make hands. So with a more solid image, I should have the opportunity to bluff a little more. Bluffing is still the biggest weakness in my game, something I need to get much better at in order to graduate to a real world-class player. In lieu of bluffing, however, there is trapping and bluff-catching, which are a conservative player’s two best friends.

One of the most important hands I played in the FTOPS $2500 illustrated some of these concepts – how a conservative player can get chips by calling.

It was about halfway through day one, and I had a decent stack. I was pretty new to my current table, so I didn’t know much about the players. Someone raised in early position, and I called from middle position with my favorite hand, king-ten suited (diamonds this time). Everyone else folded. The flop came king of clubs – rag of diamonds – rag of diamonds, obviously one of the best flops I could get. The preflop raiser bet some standard amount – which to me, in a tournament, is between half and three quarters of the pot. It seems sensible to raise here, as I have flopped such a big hand. But really, I think calling is the better play. Calling gives me these advantages:

He doesn’t get much information on what I have – I could have a king, a flush draw, middle pair, a pair below kings, ace high, or a total float.

He may put me on a weak hand and continue to bluff.

He may pay me off later on if the flush hits or if it misses.

If he has a huge hand like aces, ace-king, or a set, I won’t go broke.

This last point is the most important. A huge aspect of the Negreanu/Friedman smallball game is avoiding going broke if at all possible. I am a huge believer in trying to avoid death at all costs, particularly early in a tournament. Adam is borderline obsessive on this point, as is my idol Nam Le.

There are advantages to raising this flop of course – preventing your opponent from catching up (though if he is behind he will usually have only two outs), and getting him put more chips in either as a bluff or a bluff-catcher. But he probably won’t be putting any more chips in unless I have a crazy image, which I rarely do.

So I just called and the turn came ace of clubs, the worst card in the deck. My opponent now made another “standard” bet, and I had an easy call. While calling, I knew there was a pretty decent chance a pair of kings was still the best hand. I would expect a typical player in this event to try to bluff that card very often. If I was in his shoes and I had nothing, I would probably bluff myself. He knows I could have any sort of middle pair, so it makes a lot of sense to keep the pressure on.

At the same time, many players would check an ace if they just hit one. They check for pot control and to “disguise” their hand – while in truth checking provides no disguise against to a knowledgeable player.

Most players would also bet if they had two pair or a set, so that is always a concern.

The river was an “inconsequential” low card, neither a diamond nor a club. My opponent once again made a “standard” bet, putting me to the test. It wasn’t too long before I called. I am really only worried about two pair or a set in this situation, though an excellent player could conceivably take this line with ace-queen or ace-jack. Though it is totally reasonable for my opponent to have two pair or a set on the river, it is also reasonable for him to have nothing.

It is very important to pay close attention to the players at the table, trying to ascertain if they are capable of triple-barrel bluffing and the other assorted moves. Although observation did not affect this decision as I was new to the table, it is essential in determining the right choice in these sort of hands. Many of my friends play a lot of online MTTs, often six or more at a time. I think this is generally ill-advised, as so much of the difference between good players and mediocre ones is observing and understanding opponents. Even with the math software, studying opponents is paramount. So many critical decisions are made based on the tendencies you observe, and six-tabling makes scrupulous observation next to impossible. I have never done well in a tournament while multi-tabling. I usually lose on Sundays, when it is so tempting to multi-table. There are players who can profitably play six or more tournaments at a time, but I am certainly not one of them, and believe most of the players who are using this approach are doing damage to their winrate.

This time my opponent had jack-ten of clubs, and I took down a hefty pot.

Friday, June 05, 2009

May Top 15

15. The Waifs - How Many Miles
14. Sheryl Crow - Strong Enough
13. The Waifs - Goodbye
12. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - This Is It
11. The Cars - Drive

10. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - If I Am A Stranger (Follow The Lights Version)
9. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Down In A Hole
8. Green Day - Know Your Enemy
7. Radiohead - Lucky
6. Queens of the Stone Age - Misfit Love

5. Eagle Eye Cherry - Save Tonight
4. Metric - Help I'm Alive
3. Mandy Moore - I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week
2. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - My Love For You Is Real

Song of the Month: Green Day - Macy's Day Parade

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I busted in 37th place of the $1500 6-handed for $6970. I was really happy with my play throughout the tournament. Hands came few and far between today, as they did yesterday. The difference was yesterday I was at exploitable tables and the cards didn't dictate everything. Today a situation developed where I was just going to need to get good hands to win, and I didn't get enough.

Some friends are coming into town this weekend. Since I am feeling a little fatigued and a tad sick, I think I am going to take the next three days off and come back for the next 6-handed event, a $2500 affair on Monday.

I Love Six Max

If ever there was a tournament made for Thomas Fuller, it is the $1500 6-max WSOP no limit hold em. Weak players, a good structure, and shorthanded play really allow me to play my game. I finished 12th in this tournament last year and head into day two of this year's (in the money) tomorrow with plenty of chips and confidence.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Stockpiling Food Vouchers

So far I have played three tournaments at the WSOP - $1k NLHE, $1500 PLO, and $1500 NLHE. I have not made a dinner break yet. The $1k was fairly dull. I misplayed at least one hand, briefly got a stack going, lost some money with top pair in the big blind against limped aces, and lost a race.

I love playing PLO tournaments. A day I play tournament PLO for six hours and bust out is not a bad day. PLO is interesting because at the start of the tournament, there are always huge fish who have no idea how to play. I usually build a stack in PLO tournaments without too much risk, mostly taking advantage of players who overplay their hands and others who are too obviously tight. Later on though, there are players who are obviously much better than me at PLO. There are situations I come across in PLO tournaments that I have never encountered before, and I don't know what to do. So I wonder what my EV really is in a tournament like the WSOP $1500 PLO, and whether I could actually win the tournament.

I was eliminated before the first break in today's $1500 event, first losing a large pot with J9 against KT on a KQ4KT board, then playing pocket kings sneakily enough to get in for 32 BBs preflop against QJs which hit a flush.

I am in good spirits and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. I am enjoying my time here, be it playing poker, seeing old friends, or hanging out at the house. Busting out of poker tournaments is not particularly disappointing right now.