Friday, July 29, 2011

My Main Event - Day Three

Badih Bounahra, who would go on to the final table, was seated on my direct left for the duration of the day. You couldn’t ask for better. Bounahra played very few hands and, from what I could tell, never made any moves. He was a stone cold rock. Of all the players I played with during this tournament, there were at least thirty I would have deemed more likely to reach the final table. I kept reading about his double-ups on pokernews, which typically came about with players misjusdging his range and going with hands they should against random pros on the internet. If the guy folds three straight buttons, he’s probably not raising garbage on the fourth. Give him credit and fold your king-nine offsuit. I was absolutely stunned by the call which essentially set the final table, with shortish stack John Hewitt raising early and then calling Bounahra’s sizable reship with KQo. After playing a day with Bounahra, I can tell you the calling range in this scenario was pocket queens, kings, and aces. Ace-queen suited was an easy fold, with ace-king and pocket jacks right on the fence. It just goes to show you that talented players inevitably crack up during the course of the two-week journey that is the Main Event. Simply keeping your head on straight provides a substantial advantage.

I was nervous going into day three. It was the first time I’d made the third day of the Main. My table draw didn’t appear particularly favorable, with several solid but non-famous pros seated there – the type of table I have been known to underestimate in the past. And if I busted day three, I was to catch a flight the next day to Seattle to climb Mount Rainier, with serious doubts about whether I was physically, mentally, or emotionally prepared to do so.

I just wasn’t catching many playable cards the third day, just as I hadn’t throughout the first two. This kept my nose clean, gave me a lot of respect when I did enter a pot, and kept the variance low. In the first level, I busted a short stack calling his shove with pocket kings and holding against fours. That was the only hand of significance I played the first five and a half hours of the day.

The most interesting thing that was going on during the afternoon session was Andrew Rosskamm throwing out prop bets. He created a couple lines, saying he’d take either side of the action for up to $1,000. The first was the number of players left at the end of the day, and he set a line so judicious no one at the table wanted a piece. But his second line was outrageous, setting the over/under for the largest end-of-day stack at 2.7 million. I had discussed this figure previously with some friends, and we had it around 1.4 million. Bounahra beat me into the pot and I quickly followed suit for $500 apiece.

I bled down to near 100k but was able to pick off another short stack with QQ against his ATs. Not too long after that a young guy who had been moved to my right raised from the cutoff and I called with QJo on the button. It turned out this was Luke “bdbeatslayer” Vrabel. He c-bet a KTx flop, which I called. The turn paired the king and he slowly check-folded to my bet.

Not too much later I found my favorite hand, KTs, and raised from middle position. Rosskamm called from the big blind. He checked the Q75 flop so fast I felt like he hit it, and I resigned myself to a thousandth straight missed flop and small pot lost. The turn came a 9 giving me a gutty to the nutty and he fired out a medium-sized bet. I now decided he would bet any hand here and wasn’t ready to give up the pot that easily, so I called. The river was an 8. Rosskamm, who normally acted very quickly, hesitated a beat upon the river card before throwing out a bet of slightly less than half the pot. I paused just a moment confirming I could represent a six, then made a 3x raise. Rosskamm disgustedly folded a queen face up, so I showed my hand too.

Shortly after Rosskamm went ahead and paid Bounahra and I the $500, which was a classy move with half an hour left in the day. The chipleader would finish around 1.2m.

After that bluff and a successful three-bet of Vrabel I was up to 200k and felt like I had finally taken control of the table. Unfortunately after that I lost a slew of pots including

  • Getting squeezed out of a hand preflop by Bounahra
  • Twice getting three-bet by players I deduced were unlikely to be making moves
  • Raising QTs and failing with a c-bet on a 975 flop
  • Flatting Vrabel’s EP raise with AK and folding on a J87ish flop
  • Doubling up a short stack with eights against nines the final hand of the night

I finished with 142k, happy with my effort but unhappy to have less chips than I began the day with.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wise Words From The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Hey now
We've got to make it rain somehow

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Main Event - Day Two

The second hand of the day, a big stack named Jeff Becker who would ultimately finish 134th, raised from the cutoff and I called from the big blind with 65 of diamonds. The flop came Jd9d4 and I elected to check-call. The turn was a 4d and now I bet out; Becker called. The river wasn’t really what I wanted to see, a nine, but I decided betting was better than checking and fired out what I thought to be a bet of uninterpretable size, 6350 into a pot of about 11,000. To my disgust Becker raised to 15k and though he looked like a player capable of bluffing in this spot I ultimately decided to fold. His bet size didn’t appear bluffy. I didn’t think he would launch a bluff like this against an unknown the second hand of the day, and on the turn I thought he had either a nine or a jack, the latter which probably would call my river bet or fold to it. After the table broke Becker told me had a nine with a diamond, though you never know for sure.

The new table was not what I was hoping for. Right away it was pretty clear there weren’t any real weak players, and most were obvious pros. David Fox (four to my right), Valdemar Kwaysser (two to my right) and Frank Rusnak (on my right) were the ones I recognized. It seemed like everyone at the table was riding a short to medium stack, so it looked to be a total grindfest.

And that’s exactly what it was. I bided my time, keeping things close to the vest. I watched a wild hand go down where Fox raised, Kwaysser reraised, Fox called, Fox check-called the Th7d3h flop, then check-shoved the Ad turn. I was about 75% that Kwaysser was bluffing, and 70% that Fox had a big draw based on the speed of his turn check-shove which appeared to me that he was feigning confidence looking for a fold. Kwaysser ended up calling with 86hh while Fox turned over 98dd.

I got involved on the button with the 74 of clubs, calling Kwaysser’s hijack raise after Rusnak had done likewise. The blinds folded and the three of us took a J22 rainbow flop. Kwaysser threw out a bet that looked weak to me, and Rusnak called. I wasn’t convinced Rusnak had much either, probably a pair of sevens or something. The problem was that I couldn’t represent anything. Finally I decided to call, thinking they would put me on a jack or better and check-fold the turn. The plan seemed to be working perfectly when we saw a 9 on the turn and they checked it to me, but to my surprise, Rusnak called my bet. The river was a six and I thought I was gonna shut it down, but I knew Rusnak to be a somewhat cautious (for a younger guy), thinking player. He cannot put me on a hand worse than ace-jack if I am still value betting. Though there are very few hands he can put me on worthy of a value bet, there are no hands he can put me on that would call a flop bet and continue to bet later in the hand – except for those unlikely powerhouses. I threw out a bet of 10k into roughly 14k, and Rusnak folded after a minute in the tank. I later saw something about a “big laydown” in his twitter feed.

A while later I raised with 65s in middle position and the English player two to my left called. The flop came something paired like 7-7-2 and I made a small continuation bet which was quickly called. The turn was an ace. Continuing to bet here is a common bluff, and I knew my opponent knew that. At the same time, I felt this player would credit me with a highish pair or even the ace itself if I checked, so I did so. He quickly checked behind. The river was a blank and I threw out a bet of 40% pot, which he folded to after thirty seconds. Later he announced that he held pocket nines and should have reraised me preflop.

After Kwaysser was eliminated, a loose Latin-American player filled his seat. The first time I played a pot with this fellow came when he raised in mid position and I called from the cutoff with ace-jack offsuit. The flop came KQx rainbow and he continuation-bet. This player had c-bet every time after raising and appeared relatively straightforward postflop (though I couldn’t see him making many big laydowns), so I quickly called. Stunningly the next card off was a ten, turning me the not straight for the second time in the tournament. To my delight, my opponent continued betting, 4300. I raised to 10,200 leaving myself with 21k behind. To my surprise, my opponent just called the bet without eyeing my stack. I figured he had to have a nice hand to keep betting on that turn card, and could never put me on a straight. I thought the money was going in right there, but I had left myself with a nice bet-size to shove the blank on the river with after he checked. I forced myself to count down from 100 to 0 before moving in, having decided that would look weaker than an immediate shove. My opponent thought for just a moment, and folded.

Shortly after dinner the table broke and packed up for the Amazon Room. Though I recognized two solid pros, Frank Sinopoli and Kristy Gazes, at my new table, I was pretty happy with the rest of what I saw at first glance. Right away it felt softer. The biggest stack was an older man across the table who appeared a bit fishy at first glance, as did the gentleman to my left, an older foreigner of about 50 years. Just as I walked up he was locked in a pot with Sinopoli, the former having called a raise out of the big blind. The flop was A94 with two diamonds, and he check-called Sinopoli’s bet. The turn was the Qd, and the big blind checked again. Sinopoli now turned up the heat with a substantial turn bet. The older fellow appeared uncomfortable with the bet, and was thinking about what to do for quite a while. As we waited, I stood up to fit my hoodie onto my seat. As I was doing so, the big blind rechecked his cards, and I caught sight of the ace of clubs in his hand. To my surprise, the older fellow then tossed in a raise. Sinopoli immediately started chuckling, disgusted with the “Hollywood” the older fellow had just put on. Sinopoli folded snappily, stating it was obvious the big blind had a monster and he did not appreciate the Hollywood the whole table had waited through before his raise on the turn. The BB then showed the six of diamonds, which was a pointless show for the rest of the table but one of great significance for me.

That show only reaffirmed Sinopoli’s insistences that the guy had the nuts, and he continued to reference the hand for the next several minutes. It was a hilarious dynamic – the big blind must have been cracking up inside knowing how he had duped Sinopoli. And it was even funnier for me, knowing the old man was laughing inside, laughing inside myself at the situation, all the while unable to tell anyone I was in on the joke.

My first big blind at this new table saw the old guy with the big stack open 2.4x in early position with Sinopoli calling. I looked down at the 32 of diamonds. I was tempted to jump right in with this marginal holding, but couldn’t quite justify a call with my 55 BB stack. The flop came 4s3sh2h. I would have certainly just check-shoved the pile here if I had called to see the flop. The older guy bet hard and was called by Sinopoli. On the Js turn, the older guy check-called Sinopoli’s bet. On the river, a second four, the older fellow again check-called, only to be shown A4 of clubs and mucking KsKd in disgust. There is little question I would have gone broke in this hand if I had tossed in the chips with the 3-2 before the flop.

From late position I raised KJhh and the older gentleman, the fellow who had falsely Hollywooded Sinopoli, called. The flop came 886 with two hearts and I bet 3000. The older guy made it 7500. With 40k in my stack it seemed a little overaggressive to just put the money in here so I just called. I led 12k on the 5h turn and was called, then another 22k after an offsuit trey hit the river. I had just 15k behind. The old guy appeared at times as if he was going to put me in, which made me sick to my stomach, but he eventually announced call and my hand was good.

I had just finished stacking the chips when Sinopoli raised 3x in midearly position. I wasn’t sure what to make of it but wasn’t folding KQ from the hijack. The flop came QT8 with two diamonds and a club and Sinopoli quickly checked. I checked behind but I think betting here is preferable. The turn was a ten bringing a second flush draw and he now made a fairly large bet which I called. He fired another pretty decent bet when the river bricked completely. I almost folded right away, just feeling like I was beat, but eventually convinced myself to call based on the way the hand had played out. He turned over pocket kings, and would go on to finish in 38th place for $196k, the biggest score in a lengthy live tournament career.

The next major confrontation came when I raised 97hh from the cutoff with both blinds calling. The flop came Ah4s3h and the small blind led out for 5100 with the BB quickly folding. My normal line is to call here as the donk-bettor has a very strong hand or a very weak hand more than a medium strength hand like an ace and you can pick up the pot on the turn with minimal risk if he has the weak one, or hit the flush and win plenty off the strong one. But here I raised to 13.2k having sensed a little weakness in his bet. I also doubted if I could take him off an ace if I just called here, though a turn raise would have looked stronger (but been more committing) should he lead again.

When he raised me back another 17k I felt sick to my stomach. I was now pretty sure he had “the strong hand”, most likely a set though two pair was possible. A higher flush draw wasn’t out of the question though I figured he would have raised harder, and neither was a stone bluff though that was pretty farfetched. I had 49k left in my stack at that moment, facing the 17k bet. There was 200 x 9 = 1800 in antes in the pot + 3 x 3100 = 9300 (my preflop raise and two calls) + 13,200 x = 26,400 (my raise and his match) + 17,100 (his raise) in the pot.

1800 +

9300 +

26,400 +


= 54,600

I did the math rather hastily at the table, seeing that I was getting better than 3:1 on a call knowing he was shoving my last 32,000 on the turn regardless of the card. It would cost 17k to win the 54k in the pot, but then I would win another 32k if I hit, so roughly I’d be spending 17k to win 86k.

17,100 / 86,600 = .197 = odds I need to profitably call the bet assuming he has set and he shoves the turn regardless of what comes

Using an estimation of 8.3 outs (sometimes he will have two pair, sometimes 44 with a heart) and 45.6 cards left in the deck (we can account for the board cards, my cards, and sort of his cards)

8.3 / 45.6 = .182 = rough odds I have of hitting a heart on the turn

As you can see, I wasn’t getting the right odds to call this bet…and that’s not even including the fact (again, if he has the expected set) he has a ten out redraw to win the pot if I turn the flush.

~ 37 / 44 = .84 = odds my turned flush holds

.84 X .182 = odds I turn a flush and it holds = .153

1 / .153 = odds I need to call the bet = 6.54 to 1

86.6 / 17.1 = implied odds I’m getting = 5.06 to 1

So, assuming I calculated all this correctly (which, I must admit, I am not certain of), I wasn’t getting the odds I needed to be getting, and, if I was indeed confident he had a set, I should have folded – without even considering the extra value of tournament life, or how important the 17k would be to my stack at the time, or, on the other side of things, how useful the added chips would be. There is no exact math in these sort of situations as my opponent might have nothing and check-fold the turn, making my call far more profitable, or he might have ace-king and I might turn a pair or gutshot, etc. But this estimation makes it pretty obvious calling 17k more on the flop really just to see one more card wasn’t a wise decision.

It sure felt like a wise decision when a heart hit the turn, he shoved with 33, the river didn’t pair the board, and I doubled up to 134k.

I immediately kicked it up, getting involved in four out of the next five pots. On the fifth, I raised ace-jack from 3rd position to 3k with the older fellow on my left calling. The big blind, who had lost a couple large pots recently, shoved all-in for 20k. The big blind was not a reckless player, but I still quickly called. The other guy got out of the way, the BB flipped over KQ, and the board came five low cards. A few people at the table expressed surprise at the call with AJ asking how I could call, but I felt it was standard.

At some point I raised 65dd under the gun with a young player calling in middle position. The flop came AKQ with two diamonds and I check-called a bet. Most players are c-betting with their flush draw here but I like check-calling as it allows him to take a bluff at it which he will surely give up on the turn if called. At the same time, he will never see the flush coming if does have a hand. The turn was a queen and we both checked; the river was a blank and he was happy to call my third-pot bet with AK.

I lost a few more small pots and ended the day with 145k.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

WSOP Recap Part One: My Main Event - Day One

I’ve always felt like the Main Event was the perfect tournament for me, with its long levels, deep stacks, and fishy field. Exploiting weak players playing deepstacked poker has been the thing I’ve been best at ever since my early cash days on Party Poker in 2004. Yet the first six times I played the Main, I never came close to cashing. There has been a ton of bad luck, more so in terms of missing flops than anything else. Lifetime I estimated my setflopping percentage around 5% in the Main coming into this year, and that percentage actually decreased after going something like 1 for 25 with pocket pairs this year.

But I also think I was generally playing way too many hands in the early levels – particularly from early position – and playing them too passively. While I usually found myself at tables full of weak players, I think I went overboard with some of the preflop calls in the past in such a desperation to hit a hand and stack a fish. I probably underestimated the play of my unknown opponents and overestimated the action I would get when I finally did hit a hand.

I came in this year with resolve to tighten it up a bit (especially in early position), give some more respect to my opponents unless I had strong reason not to, and to stay patient remembering that two thirds of a starting stack at the end of day one would still be 40 BB entering day two.

The overwhelming weakness in my game is preflop. Strangely I feel pretty confident in my preflop reads in just about every pot except the ones I get involved in myself. It really has gotten pretty laughable the last few years. Seemingly every time I launch a 3-bet it gets 4-bet right back in my face. I have basically been giving away chips for the last few years on light 3-bets, and would have fared better over that time without ever having made one weak 3-bet. A little over two years ago I light 3-bet the preflop master Adam Geyer three times in half an hour in an FTOPS tournament, and he 4-bet me all three times forcing folds. After that I decided to just flat out stop reraising hands preflop, and went on to finish fourth in that tournament. Slowly I got back to reraising some hands preflop, with horrific results. So I 3-bet just four hands (not including three reshoves on day four) in four days at the WSOP Main Event:

  1. 65o a few hours into day one after two guys limped and the older fellow to my right raised 3x which didn’t seem like the size he would make it with a big pair (everyone folded)
  2. A7s in position on day two against a foreign player who was fairly short-stacked and would have to commit his stack (everyone folded)
  3. AJo from the button to Kristy Gazes’ cutoff raise late on the second night (everyone folded)
  4. A9o in middle position to Luke Vrabel’s EP raise on night three (everyone folded)

I uninvest 4-bet one hand: QQ when a fishy player raised early and Kirbynator 3-bet right behind him (everyone folded). The uninvest 4-bet bluff is a play I am actually lot more comfortable making than the 3-bet bluff (like I said, I’m pretty astute at deciphering when someone else is doing it light), but never really had a spot where I wanted to do it in this tournament. I also 4-bet zero hands after someone 3-bet me.

The strongest part of my game is knowing when to call, raise, and fold in marginal postflop situations in heads-up hands. I’ve always been a strong heads-up player, probably because it is impossible for your opponents to 3-bet you in position. I generally defend my BB much lighter than is “correct” because of playing those situations so many times heads up. So generally I try to get involved with a lot of KQo, Q9s, 97s, 44 type hands in single-raised pots in and out of position and proceed from there.

But throughout this tournament I wasn’t catching those sort of hands. I folded junk for prolonged periods of time at several different junctures in the Main Event, playing just two to four hands in a level a few different times. This gave me a lot more respect than I generally receive when I would open-raise a hand, so I wasn’t 3-bet nearly as much as I’ve become accustomed to. Throughout the tournament I would usually see a bunch of quick folds when I did raise a hand, often after I had folded 15-20 hands in a row preceding that raise.

So my general image was a tight one, though that wasn’t the case at my first table. I tried to remember every significant or notable hand I was involved with and compiled them all here on the blog like I used to back when I was a serious professional poker player. There were a ton of small hands where I called a raise with a pocket pair or suited connector en route to a multi-way pot where I had an obvious postflop fold. Those hands constantly ate away at my stack, but this year I think I was almost always right to speculate in the situations I did choose to call a raise without a strong preflop hand. At the same time I picked up the blinds uncontested on a higher percentage of my raises than I’m used to, which helped keep my stack steady when I was losing other pots.

For four days I waited to flat a raise with a big pair in hopes that someone might squeeze behind, and in four days I never had that opportunity.

Though poker stopped being my profession the moment I was knocked out of the Main Event, I have found myself with renewed interest in the game after playing the tournament for four days then watching it four more on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Any analysis or criticism is welcome.

The very first hand a 30ish guy who a week later I learned was Nate Silver opened in early position and I looked down at ace-king a couple slots behind him. I just called, just called a biggish bet on a KQx flop with a flush draw, then called another biggish bet again on a blank turn conceding that I might lose 20% of my stack on the very first hand. But he checked a blank river, I threw out a medium bet, and he folded.

A few minutes later I raised T7s in latish position and checked down the entire board when it came with a seven and (eventually) three overcards to beat the small blind’s ace-king. The small blind was a young Asian player who looked like Napoleon Ta, so it was a little surprising he had just called with AK preflop. With my T7 being shown down after his AK, I thought there was a good chance this kid would be reraising me in the future with some garbage hands knowing I was opening light while expecting me to give him credit for a hand since he didn’t reraise the AK. Sure enough, the next time I raised in late position (with 43s) and the button called the kid came over the top in the big blind. Despite the fact that I was expecting him to do this with almost anything I ended up just calling the reraise in position, instead of four-betting, showing the three of clubs after his fold, and asserting control of the table. Despite the lack of confidence I have in my preflop game this was pretty much a mandatory four-bet spot with my hand and the confident read I had that this kid would be 3-betting with anything, and I’m still disappointed I didn’t pull the trigger on that one. The flop came KT7 and I slowly folded to the kid’s c-bet when again, I should have raised his ass.

The very next hand I raised with AQss and the kid three bet out of the small blind. This time I thought he was strong, but was still happy to call a three-bet in position with my hand. The flop came 552 with two spades. I called his bet, checked the turn back when he checked, and folded to his river bet when two other low cards hit the board.

Sometime not too much later I had either opened or called a raise with 76s and the kid squeezed again from the blinds, and again I had called his reraise in position. The kid tried to get fancy on a KTx9J board with his K9s checking it the whole way but I never took the bait and he was forced to turn over the hand which he won nothing with postflop. I was hopeful turning that hand over would slow down his squeezing and 3-bets and surprisingly (along with losing a large pot) he did slow down.

I limped tens under the gun for 100 and the button who was obviously an amateur made it 200. I couldn’t tell if he knew I limped (which happens a ton when I limp UTG). One of the blinds called as did I. The flop was 987 and we checked to the button who bet 500. The blind folded and I called. The turn was an 8, I checked, and the button now bet 1000. I called again. The river was a 9, I checked, and the button now bet 3000. I didn’t think this guy would launch a triple-barrel bluff but on the other hand it didn’t make sense for him to have many hands so I eventually called and was good against his 63s.

That same guy played a headscratching hand a bit later where he called an EP raise, checked an 864 flop over to the button (Silver), called Silver’s bet after the preflop raiser folded, check-called another bet on a 7 turn, and, incredibly, was unable to beat Silver’s A4 after the board paired and the river was checked down. So when he raised in early position I knew I would be calling with anything remotely playable, did so with 64o, and was happy to take the flop heads up. I raised his c-bet on the A53 flop hoping to win the hand right there, buy myself a river card, and build a bigger pot to bet into when I hit my straight. He quickly called the raise basically letting me know he had an ace, and I shut it down after the turn and river whiffed and he checked to me. He won with A7s.

The hand that got me going came when I raised KQ to 525 with the young Asian calling from the SB and an older fishier player calling from the big. The flop came T98 and I thanked them for the free card and checked behind when checked to. The turn was an orgasmic jack. The small blind checked and the older guy bet 1000. I didn’t see this guy laying a queen so I went for the jugular and raised it to 4500. He called after a short think. I overbet the river for 12k and got looked up by QJ, the flopped nuts.

PiMaster was watching the hand with his sister from the rail and was able to explain to her exactly what was going on the entire time. It was a pretty cool low-level tutorial poker hand which clearly juxtaposed the hand-reading ability of the pro compared to the fish. I’m sure seven of the ten players at the table knew precisely what I had but it didn’t matter because one of the ones who didn’t know for sure was the one I was playing against.

I was so happy and excited after this hand. For six years I have seen these transparent hands play out in the Main Event without ever being the beneficiary of one. Finally it happened for me and now I had the stack to splash around at this weak table for the rest of the day.

Not too long after that the weak player limped for 300 along with Silver and I made it 1400 with AQcc with only Silver calling. The flop came AsJs8c and I checked it back. The turn was a four and he fired 2300. I called. The river was a blank, he fired 5200, and I called and lost to his set of fours. I had to compose myself after this hand, telling myself that I played it the way I did for a reason (Silver was blufftastic) and that it had simply been unlucky and that folding the river would have been silly in that situation.

Silver, who was probably the most active player at the table, raised a hand under the gun and I called with AK again. The flop was Axx and he bet. I felt like this was a really close spot between calling and letting him bluff off some more (I had shown I would call A high flops in these spots with hands like 99 earlier) or raise (I had raised the fish in this exact same situation with unshown cards in the 64o hand). With that hand fresh in people’s memory I decided to raise here and Silver folded.

Not too long after that the exact same situation came up with the weak player and Silver limping and me raising to 1400 with K8ss. This time a woman I had played with for an afternoon at the Venetian called behind me and then both limpers called. The flop came 874 and I checked to keep things under control and make it appear as if I had nothing when the limpers checked to me. The woman checked behind. The turn was a 3 bringing a flush draw. When Silver bet I rechecked my whole cards feigning two overs with a flush draw then called. The others got out of the way. The river was an offsuit king and I had an easy value bet when he checked, and got paid off almost immediately. 47k. The real question in this hand was whether I was value-betting on the end, and I probably would if he checked to me on a 2, 3, 4, queen, and possibly jack.

To my disgust I got moved from this table two minutes before the dinner break. I felt like I was about ready to go on a rampage here with a lot of three-betting the weaker, looser players on my right even though that’s not my game. With the antes coming in, the way they were playing, and my image, I was excited to really start playing some poker but instead I was moved to a much tougher table with several younger pros including my close friend Paul Wasicka, Canadian pro InescapableD, and Kirbynator. Paul didn’t have a big stack but those other two did and were playing quite well to boot. With four hours left in the day I basically decided to play pretty tight and hope for a better table draw on day two.

That was exactly what happened. I raised KJo in middle position after folding about thirty hands in a row. The big blind defended. I had said in my twitter that I never flopped better than one pair until the fourth day of the tournament but forgot this one came KQJ all diamonds. The BB led out which felt like some sort of real hand from that player so I elected to just call. I really didn’t know where I was at and folding even crossed my mind cause I picked up a tell of strength when the flop hit. At the same time I thought he would check a flopped flush to me so I was thinking straight, two pair, or Adx. The turn was a low diamond and he checked. I checked it back but I think the better play would have been to bet with the intention to put him in on the river regardless of what came. His stack size combined with my read made this a little better I think, though this player did seem like he might be ready to call off his stack light after steadily siphoning off his chips over the last hour. The river was another diamond, he checked again, I checked, and he won with 64dd flopped flush.

The next notable hand came when Inescapable raised UTG and I flatted with AK in late position. We took a flop of KQ9 with a flush draw heads up and he bet 1300. I made it 3200 as an info/value raise and he called. I didn’t want to be put in a calldown guessing game by this tough player so decided to raise the flop knowing he really couldn’t raise me back with anything but the nuts. The turn was a blank and I checked after he did. The river was another blank and he thought about betting, but then checked. I thought I was good so pretended to have missed a flush draw (which is the only hand that really makes any sense for me to have) and bet 7050. He quickly called with a set of queens, which was a shockingly strong hand for him to have considering the action. He actually got max value on this hand because of what I had, but I think a river checkraise was in order as me having a jack-ten is extremely unlikely having checked back the turn. In retrospect I’m not a huge fan of my river bet, as there are more hands he’ll have that beat me than inferior ones that might call my bet.

Shortly after that a fairly tight and solid player raised early to 1025 and I just called with AK right behind him. He bet 1200 on a ragged flop and I decided to peel in position though I didn’t love the situation. The turn was a king and he now bet just 1400. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on so I just called again. The river was another blank with minimal straight and flush possibilities and he bet 1600. I raised to 6600ish and he called after a minute or two. I’ve found people pay off these sort of spots more often than not suspicious that they just got raised because they made such an obviously weak bet. I finished day one with 45k feeling pretty decent about the water I had just tread over the last four hours without many hands at that tougher table.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Toph and the Unsolvable Hand

Congrats to Toph Moore on his 21st place finish in the Main Event for $302k, though I know he was bitterly disappointed at falling short of the November Nine. Toph lost a 20 million chip pot near the end of the seventh night that I have been chewing on for the last 24 hours, unable to come up with a solution.

The hand was reported incorrectly on pokernews. The action was essentially this: At 80-160k blinds, Anton Makiievskiy, a strong young Ukrainian player, raised early and Toph called in position with the AJ of hearts. Toph had Anton outchipped roughly 12m to 10m. The flop came out KJJ rainbow. Anton fired a standardish continuation bet of 450k on the flop and Toph raised to 1.1 million. Anton then made it 2 million to go, and Toph clicked it back to 2.9 or 3 million. This all took a while going back and forth with both players carefully considering, but then Anton quickly moved all-in for about 9.2 million, and Toph quickly called. Anton had KJ and the board ran out blanks.

I believe Toph was aware that Anton had bet an 863 flop with J4o after raising preflop, got checkraised by Bryan Devonshire, and then reraised with nothing and took the pot down. I don't think he had much other information about his opponent.

I have thought about this hand over and over and have yet to decide on the appropriate line. I'm sure it will be a hand discussed for years to come in the poker community. It seems like Toph's hand should be played fast and hard for maximum value, but it also seems like he may have overplayed it to get all the chips in to that action. I've considered a ton of different lines for this hand but none feel right.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Main Event Day Four

I played excellent, excellent poker throughout this tournament. It may have been the best tournament I ever played. But it was not a world-class effort on my end, because I am not a world-class player.

I quickly attributed my in-the-money bustout to a cooler, but the more I thought about and discussed the hand, the more convinced I am that I was supposed to fold. I think a world-class player could have laid it down.

Sandra Naujoks is a world-class beauty in my book, and truly, one of the most desirable women on Earth.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Main Event Day Three

The tension continues to mount down at the Rio, with the remaining ~900 players now combined together into the Amazon Room. For the first time, ESPN is broadcasting coverage of the event live, with Kara Scott conducting interviews.

This is developing into one of the strangest and most dramatic tournaments I have ever played. I have been extremely card-dead pre and postflop for twenty eight hours of play but have played rather well and hit three crucial turn cards to stay in the hunt. The emotional attachment is growing. When I fight hard to keep my head above water it means more to me - there is a sense of entitlement, and I am starting to feel like I "deserve" to go deep here, as silly as I know that sounds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Main Event Day Two

I felt like I played eighteen hours of nearly perfect poker, and was rewarded with a double-up the first time I faltered. I spent a lot of time at tough tables the first two days without many cards. For a while I was sitting there grinding it in shark-infested waters looking at Ana Marquez on the rail.

The Gambler played deep with Marquez in the PCA this year, where she led the field heading into day five before expiring in 10th place. Joel noted how tight she was playing. Tight can be successful in tournament poker, as long as it's got some spice.

I think Ana was railing the prodigiously talented Bryn Kenney, who's probably capable of playing tight but rarely does. Kenney went super deep in last year's Main but lost a crucial pot to Scott Clements before exiting in 28th place.

I was talking with Scott a little bit during the breaks. He was grinding a shortish stack too, just focusing on 100% perfect decisionmaking. He would finish the day with 154k.

Eventually I got moved to a table with the venerable and still foxy Kristy Gazes.

Kristy was playing with great patience, chatting with great charisma.

Late in the night one of the hottest girls I have ever seen at a poker table sat down with a stupendous stack. To my surprise, she was playing a Somervillian smallball game rather than the stereotypical bludgeoning I'd expect from a female with a stack.

I was shocked by the quality of this girl's play, not because she was a girl, but because she was a girl I'd never seen nor heard of. Apparently her name is Cherish Andrews, and she finished the day with 200k after beating me out of a couple small pots. Based on the way she was playing and looking, I don't think it will be long before Cherish is a star in the poker world.

Main Event Day Two

I feel like I've played about as well as I'm capable of playing the first two days of the tournament and now have 145k in chips with the blinds going to 800-1600-200. Take away one lucky turn card and my stack would be 10% what it is. It's a razor's edge, and the tightrope walk is just beginning.

Four Hotties of the Day coming tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Event #58 $10000 NL World Championship

I managed ten hours of mistake-free poker and finished the day in the pack with 45k. Blinds will be 250-500-50 when we resume on Tuesday.

I have no idea how hot Cardplayer reporter Rebecca McAdam is. I'm really confused on this one. It could just be smoke and mirrors, accent and accents.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Twenty Players Most Likely To Win The Main Event

As I noted last year, this exercise becomes more and more pointless every year. There are hundreds of elite no limit hold em players today, thousands of competent tournament players. Some excellent player you and I have never heard of will probably win the Main Event. This is merely a finger on the pulse of the apex of tournament poker at this moment.

20. Scotty Nguyen
Seems too nitty to succeed in today's environment, but his results - particularly in the Main Event - are unassailable.

19. Daniel Negreanu
Due to make some noise in the Main Event.

18. Michael Mizrachi
Still can't believe I left him off last year's list after including him every other year.

17. Erick Lindgren
Nothing to add here; I'll be playing day 1d (Sunday).

16. Jason Somerville
A multi-dimensional game tailored for the Main Event.

15. Hoyt Corkins
Patient yet punishing.

14. Bertrand Grospellier
I used to say I was "good at games." Elky is good at games.

13. John Juanda
Always seems to win one the moment you started to forget about him.

12. Vivek Rajkumar
The rare young guy with a big-pot-poker style.

11. J.C. Tran
Not quite as sharp as he once was, but still might be the most well-rounded NLHE tournament player in the game.

10. Sam Stein
Sam Stein is like a villain from a horror movie franchise. You just can't get rid of him. He just keeps coming around. He never dies.

9. Jason Mercier
At least thirteen six-figure scores in the last 40 months.

8. Shawn Buchanan
The kind of guy who could make the final table without ever being all-in.

7. Eugene Katchalov
Good to see his yeoman's work pay off over the last couple years.

6. Thomas Marchese

5. Carlos Mortensen
Brutally effective over the last decade.

4. Vanessa Selbst
The most terrifying player in the game today.

3. Phil Hellmuth
Always a streaky player, it's clear Hellmuth - the likely WSOP Player of the Year - has gotten into his zone.

2. Gus Hansen
Three top-150 finishes since '04, including multiple chipleads.

1. Erik Seidel
This video says it all.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Event #56 $1500 NL

I am sad that the WSOP preliminaries are over. When I busted out, it was like saying goodbye to a friend who I won't see again for another year or more. I have always known that I will make a monster score in one of these WSOP $1ks or $1500s, but it didn't happen this year.

David Sands isn't just one of the best looking professional poker players, he's one of the best-looking men I've ever seen.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Event #54 $1000 NL

Our house has been playing a lot of Dr. Mario on Nintendo64 this summer. The best players in the house play on Level 20, High speed. Even at this most difficult level, a skilled player can navigate her way to the end without much trouble. But when you play that high, there is no room for error. One mistake early on is usually fatal. It takes a sterling effort to overcome any initial hardships.

The most exciting games are the rare ones where you are able to overcome initial adversity, scrapping and clawing to keep your head above water before finally disassembling your tower of viruses and debris and cruising to the finish.

These WSOP $1ks and $1500s do not afford much opportunity for pitfalls. You have to keep winning and winning pots in every level. Even the best players cannot afford to lose any pots of significance or they find themselves at death's doorway. The blinds rise too fast to outlast a run of crappy cards - you simply have to find a way to pick up pots at every juncture of the tournament.

I lost an all-in pot with AKo against AKs early yesterday and found myself down to 500 chips with the blinds at 50-100. But I won two races and then played my ass off, and before I knew it, I had disassembled the tower of debris and found myself with 15k at 100-200-25.

But that wasn't enough. I lost a series of pots in unregrettable spots and busted out.

Two poker hotties of the day since there were two starting days for this event and two gorgeous ladies at my table at different junctures.

This Canadian who was badbeated out far too early:

Glasses are always a tough call. Loosely speaking I am generally against them, but the austere glasses look can be pulled off by the right (usually long-haired) woman.

And then there was this distinctive girl who I have seen around a few times this summer:

I'm assuming she's a pro though I have no idea who she might be. Her striking, unique look seizes attention.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

June Top 15

15. The Airborne Toxic Effect - Changing
14. Rage Against The Machine - Know Your Enemy
13. The Decemberists - Rox in the Box
12. Queen - Another One Bites The Dust
11. Cage The Elephant - Back Against The Wall

10. Tift Merritt - Engine To Turn
9. Tift Merritt - Mixtape
8. Mark Knopfler - What It Is
7. Cake - Sick Of You
6. Cliff Richard - Devil Woman

5. Mark Knopfler - Border Reiver
4. Sublime - What I Got
3. Steve Earle - Feel Alright
2. Young the Giant - My Body

Song of the Month: Tift Merritt - After Today