Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Chip and a Chair, baby!

I have to tell you about a three-week stretch of really good winning poker that I went on during November. It involves some of the craziest stuff I’ve ever had happen on a poker table…

As I had mentioned in my last post, I had taken some time off of poker. When I decided to get back in I started with a terrible run of cards. I would make three of a kind and someone would have a higher three of a kind. I’d hit two pair, and someone would hit their flush draw. Situations were happening that just weren’t working out well for me, and that’s part of the game, too. I was down to $56 in my online poker account and I decided to play a $26 tournament. Now, when I play in these tournaments, my realistic expectation is to cash, and if I get the right breaks at the right time maybe I’ll get lucky and cash big. The event I got in ended up having 1043 players. I was fortunate enough to finish in 7th place. That paid $751! Not bad for a $26 investment. In all seriousness, I was somewhat disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed in where I finished, but I was disappointed that after going that deep that I was unlucky in the hand the eliminated me. I had AK, my opponent had AQ, and they drew a Queen to beat me. Depending how other things would have gone, first place was $5100!! Ah, well.

Well, that 7th place finish set the stage for something that happened the following day. Every week on Sunday, Full Tilt Poker runs a tournament that has a $216 buy in. Full Tilt also guarantees there will be a prize pool of $750,000. You can pony up the full entry, or you can also play satellite tournaments that will allow you to win your entry. The satellite tournaments vary in dollar amount. I was able to win my entry in a $75 satellite. So I settled in for what I was hoping would be a long evening of poker, and I was right. It was definitely a long evening of poker. Things started out very well, as I was able to double my stack in the first couple of minutes when I flopped three of a kind, also called “a set”. My opponent in the hand was actually trying to bluff, so when he bet and then reraised my raise I was able to rake a nice pot. After the early double up not much happened to me. Certainly I played hands, and I lost some and won some, but nothing too eventful happened. The blinds kept getting higher and higher, and my stack was pretty much staying the same. The tournament had 3806 entrants, and of those 522 people were getting paid.

As the money bubble approached, I started losing chips. In fact, just after the money bubble was burst, I only had enough chips to pay for one more big blind and half of a small blind. I was pretty much just waiting to get knocked out as the blinds moved around the table. Well, they don’t use the phrase in poker “a chip and a chair” for no reason. On the last “free” hand I was going to get to play I decided to shove my chips in with Js-8c rather than wait to see what I was going to get dealt in the big blind. Someone raised and another player called. I didn’t need to see that, but the board came: T-9-9-7-A, and I had made a straight and almost quadrupled my chips in that hand alone! Two hands later, I was dealt A-K (Big Slick), and doubled my chips again. Within the next hour I went from last place to about 50th place. In the next hour after that the cards continued to go my way, and I went from where I was to the top 5 in the tournament. In fact, with 119 players left I was the chip leader!! I've never gone on a tear like that. In chips I went from about 3500 in chips to just over 1 million chips. I called Dan at the next break of the tournament and he was watching some of my progress as I played. It was unreal. We were at 30 players, and I was still sitting in the top 3 for chips. I was very excited since first place was $134,770! It was right around this time I got dealt a serious blow. I was dealt K-K and raised the pot. Another player reraised all in. Well, I’m not folding K-K. In fact, I can remember telling Dan how excited I was that my opponent had moved in. I called and my opponent showed 4-4. Unfortunately for me, my opponent spiked a 4 giving him a set of fours. I wasn’t knocked out, but I now had about what the average was at that time. If I had won the pot I would have been the clear chip leader…what a swing!

It was at this point my cards “dried up”, and I was left trying to find spots to get my chips in where I thought I’d still be ahead. Eventually, with 15 players remaining, I was dealt A-8 and raised all-in, only to have the player in the big blind have A-A. I didn’t get what I needed to win the hand, and I was eliminated in 15th place. The payout for that was still the largest single payout I’ve ever gotten from poker…$5405!!

I was able to ride that cash to another excellent finish the following week in that same tournament. Again I had won my entry via a satellite, and in that tournament I finished 33rd out of 3571 players to win $2251! Also, in this tournament, just like the last tournament, I found myself down to my last chips with about 200 players left, and again I got lucky once, doubled up, and then went on a tear that took me very near to the top of the chip leader board. I was beginning to think that maybe this was the way to win, but I really wouldn’t want to try getting knocked down “to the felt” each time. It’s way too stressful. I really did feel as though I was on my “A” game, having finished 7th out of 1043, 15th out of 3806, and 33rd out of 3751 players in such a short span. It was really an incredible feeling. Hopefully soon, I’ll finish a little better in one of these tournaments, like 1st!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Playoffs in Boston, Christmas in New York

I decided to take some time off of poker after the 2007 WSOP, partly because my work schedule was very hectic, and partly because it was summer and I was trying to enjoy getting out golfing, the weather, and being with friends. Work sent me to Windsor, Washington D.C. (twice), Minneapolis, and Denver in a short span of about 7 weeks. I managed to add a couple more glasses to the Hard Rock collection. If you are unaware of it I do collect them as I get to the locations.

As the 2007 year started to wrap up my work load didn't really decrease all that much. I was sent to several more locations, including Boston in early October, Denver in later October, Atlanta in November, and Manhattan in December. The weather in Boston was great for that time of year, and I was able to get out and do a few things that I hadn't in prior trips. The Red Sox had made the playoffs, and I was going to be in town when Game 1 of the Divisional Series was taking place. Everyone knows how fanatic the Red Sox fans are, so I didn't even consider trying to get a ticket since I guessed that scalpers would be selling them for ridiculous prices. Some of the people I was working with that week had suggested that I go to a pub near Fenway called the Cask 'n Flagon to get involved in the atmosphere of the playoff game. I hopped on the subway and made my way over to the Cask 'n Flagon. It turns out the pub is right next to Fenway Park. After exiting the subway I was approaching Fenway and the pub when I heard someone trying to sell a single ticket. I figured it wouldn't hurt to inquire about it, and the guy was selling the ticket for $80! I was really expecting it cost more, and I didn't even try to haggle with the guy. I paid the $80 and made my way in to the ballpark. What a game, too! Josh Beckett threw a shutout that night! It was really cool hanging out with Red Sox Nation for the game. Everyone getting in to it, singing “Sweet Caroline” in the 8th inning, the whole experience was great. I had never been to Fenway Park and I really wanted to do this at some point, and it turned out I picked a great game to go to for my first time there. On my last day in Boston, I was able to walk the Freedom Trail, where I went by historical locations such as Paul Revere's house, the Old North Church, and the Bunker Hill monument. I really enjoy history and hitting those places and Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market were all neat places to visit.

After Boston, I was sent to Denver, and with the timing of that trip I happened to be out there for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Championship Series that the Colorado Rockies were participating in. I arrived too late to make it over to Coors Field for Game 3, and when I looked in to going to Game 4 the tickets were really expensive for the Tuesday game. As it turns out it's probably a good thing that I didn't go because the Rockies won the game, clinching a spot in the World Series, and the town went nuts! The news was reporting people in the streets partying late in to the night/early in to the morning, and there were severe delays in the train getting from Coors Field to outlying areas, like where I was staying. I did have the opportunity to make it over to the U.S. Mint and take a tour. It was really interesting seeing how the different coins are minted. I also made it up in to the mountains in to a ghost town called Central City and was able to walk around and see some of the historical things. The town was founded in 1859, and several of the buildings still look like they could be originals.

Atlanta in November was a decent trip, too. I had the opportunity to see a friend of mine who lives in the Atlanta area. We were able to get out for a little drinking and it was good to catch up.

In December I got the opportunity to work in New York City. One of the neat things about this trip was the fact that the facility I was working at was located in the Empire State Building! Because the cost of all the hotels in the nearby area during the holiday shopping season, I stayed across the river in Seacaucus, New Jersey. I was really impressed with the public transportation while I was out there. I was able to get from Seacaucus to the Empire State Building using the New Jersey bus, New York subway, and walking, all in about 40 minutes in prime rush hour! Being out there for the holiday shopping season was really neat, too. I was able to get over to Rockefeller Center and saw the Christmas tree. Times Square lit up at night is always a neat experience, and the experience was no different during the holiday season. I got up to the top of the Empire State Building, and that was truly exceptional. First of all, the snow appeared to be flying upward at the 86th floor. The first thing you'll notice though no matter when you're up there is how quiet it is. With all the traffic over a thousand feet below you won't hear any of the traffic below. While I was up there I could faintly hear an outdoor Christmas concert playing in the distance, and with the snow falling it made for a really neat experience. I only wish that my camera could take better pictures at night time!

I know that there's not a whole lot of poker in this blog (none at all to this point), but you can tell I was kind of busy later in the year for 2007. I'll have some more poker in the next posting, as I've got some tournaments to tell you about including my best cash ever.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The 2007 WSOP trip

The 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP) took place from June 1, 2007, through July 18. In 2006, Dan and I went out for the initial event. This year, more $1500 events were added, so we planned on playing in event #38, a $1500 buy-in event. Part of this was because of scheduling conflicts and part of it was because the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event was starting the next day. We knew that the H.O.R.S.E. event would have all of the poker pros that we would recognize, and would provide some good opportunity to watch all the pros playing together. For those that aren’t familiar with all the poker games, H.O.R.S.E. is a combination of 5 Limit games: Hold ‘em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Seven-card Stud, and Seven-card Stud Hi/Lo Eight or Better. They rotate through the games at set intervals. Playing this game is probably a true test of the best overall skills of a poker player since they need to be proficient in all of the more commonly played forms of poker.

A friend and colleague of mine, Adam, and his wife were also going to be in Vegas for the WSOP at the same time Dan and I were and they were also planning on playing in event #38.

This trip was also a little different since I went out to Vegas with less than the necessary buy in for the event, so I was going to have to win some cash (about $500) while I was out there in order to play in the event. I was on a work trip in Dayton, and would be going to Vegas without a break in between. I did have an extended layover in Milwaukee of all places because of the way the flight plan worked, but a friend of mine was kind enough to pick me up and prepare a nice meal at home while I was on that layover. Also, upon arriving in Vegas, I was going to be without a hotel for about 28 hours because Dan was arriving the day after I had arrived. My plan was to play poker either at the Rio or the Wynn until Dan arrived. So, after arriving in Vegas and dropping my luggage off at the Bellagio, I caught a cab and headed to the Rio to see what the action was like there.

The poker room area was plenty busy, and I grabbed a seat at a $2/$5 No-Limit Hold ‘em table. After about 5 hours of play I had managed to win slightly more than $1300 through some pretty solid play. I was playing in the graveyard shift, so there was quite a bit of play coming from players that had drunk a little too much, so it was an entertaining game to play. I played until about 5am, and since I now had my buy-in covered for event #38 I decided to try my hand at a satellite tournament. The way the satellites work you can get in to a tournament with 9 other players at a smaller buy-in, and can win satellite chips that you can then use as your entry fee. Depending on the buy-in either the top spot gets the chips, or sometimes the top two get chips. I played two satellite tournaments that morning without success, and decided to make my way back to the Bellagio to grab some breakfast. I still had about 11 hours to go before Dan arrived! After eating I was feeling re-energized so I sat down at the Bellagio’s poker room to play some more poker. I managed to recoup what I had lost in the satellites and a couple hundred more. I was really getting tired, so I cashed out, got caught up on some voicemail messages that I missed while playing at the table, and walked around the Bellagio until Dan arrived. Man, I was really looking forward to getting some sleep!

Dan and I got the opportunity to play some poker at the Rio, and we got our entry in to the event as well. My sleep schedule was completely thrown off at this point. We met up with Adam and Tanya, and talked a little about plans for the day/evening. We got some more poker in, and then got some rest before the day of the event. As it got closer to the start of the event the four of us met up again so that we knew where each other was sitting. I had an unfortunate draw and was sitting in the outdoor tent they had set up outside the Amazon Room of the Rio. It was unfortunate because mid-June in Vegas in a tent with a couple hundred other people isn’t exactly comfortable for playing poker. I answered a couple last minute phone calls and good-luck text messages, and then took my seat. Mimi Tran was seated two to my right, so she was on the button when I was in the big blind. That’s not exactly the scenario I’m looking for since she is a known pro, and plays aggressive.

Shortly after getting started, I received a text message that Adam was out. That sucked. I was hoping that all 4 of us would go deep and possibly cash, much like Dan and I had done last year. About two hours in to the tournament I found myself in late position when someone in early position had just called the big blind. I looked down and saw that I had been dealt two lovely ladies:


I chose to raise about five times the big blind. That chased the two blinds out of the hand, and the person who had just called, otherwise known as “limping”, called my raise. The board came somewhat ugly for me:


Now, often times when a pair hits the board it’s unlikely that a player has that card in their hand. When the board happens to contain two Aces or Kings it does make it a little more likely to be in play because people like to play starting hands that contain those particular ranks. My opponent checked to me, and I decided to get a feel of where I was at by putting a bet in to the pot. My opponent almost immediately called, and I made the decision that I was going to be done with this hand because I really felt that they had an Ace in their hand. The only way I was going to put more in to the pot would be if I hit a Queen to give me a full house. All of the action up to this point would seem in order with someone holding an Ace as a hole card. The turn came:


and my opponent checked. I also checked, using the reasoning I just explained as my reason for checking. The river came:


giving me a full house. My opponent bet, which I was anticipating since I had put him on a hand with an Ace. I then raised with my full house. My opponent thought for a brief moment and then called, showing me: A-9. This gave him a hand of A-A-A-9-9 (Aces full of 9s) to my Q-Q-Q-A-A (Queens full of Aces). The hand didn’t knock me out, but it did cripple me. Most of you might be wondering why he didn’t raise me again, but he quickly explained (without any prompting) that he thought that I had raised initially with AK or AQ, possibly AJ, and he didn’t want to go broke if I had AQ or AJ. I didn’t have to show my hand because he had shown his first, but I did mention to him that the river card “was the best card he could have had hit the board”. It was the only card that would have cost me more chips…ugh!!

Shortly after that I was on the button with KToffsuit, and no one had raised so I moved all in to steal the blinds and was called by the big blind, who was holding K8. The board hit an 8 and bricked out for me, and my WSOP was over. I had lasted about 3 hours. I was extremely disappointed, but sometimes, that’s just the way poker goes. I made a couple of phone calls to let some people know how I finished, and then I found Adam and found out how he was eliminated.Dan was eliminated at about 5:00 or so. He lasted about 5 hours, and Tanya lasted to almost the dinner break. We were a pretty disappointed bunch. I think that we probably thought that out of the four of us one of us would surely cash. We still had a few days left in Vegas, and I played plenty of poker and still had a decent time. Certainly not the same as 2006, and I was eagerly looking forward to getting home by the end of the 2007 WSOP trip.

Monday, April 30, 2007

How the poker landscape has changed for me

Poker has been crazy for me since the World Series of Poker ended for me in 2006. The regulations that kicked in late in 2006 took the site that I regularly play offline for players from the United States. As you may recall from prior postings I played in the $10/$20 Limit game or $5/$10 Limit game for the most part. The sites that I now play have those offerings; however, they don’t have nearly the same number of players playing at those tables. On the old site, I could log in and there would be 15-20 full tables running those games at those levels. On the site I now play at, Full Tilt, there would be maybe 2 tables at 5/10 and they would only have a 10/20 game going at their busiest times.

To make the adjustment I’ve moved back in to No Limit Texas Hold ‘em. I’ve always enjoyed playing No Limit, but the game at Party Poker (the old site) was easy to beat. There is a definite difference between playing Limit and No Limit. The obvious difference is that in any given No Limit hand your whole stack of chips is at risk where in Limit there are caps for the betting.

The No Limit game that I choose to play is at varying different levels. I typically will play either $1/$2 or $2/$4 No Limit Texas Hold ‘em. For those of you not entirely familiar with the game that means that in a hand there will be two forced bets from the first two people dealt cards. The first person (also called the Small Blind) will have to put in the lower amount, and the second person (called the Big Blind) will put in the higher amount. If my bankroll is high enough I will occasionally dabble with $3/$6 game.

I often get asked “How much should my bankroll be?”, and “What level should I play?”. Every player is different, but I usually plan to have 7 buy-ins at whatever level I am going to play, but definitely never less than 4 buy-ins. My minimum buy-in for a level is going to be 40 times whatever the Big Blind (BB) is. So at the $1/$2 level, my buy-in will be $80, and I would need to have at least $560 to play at that level. If I’m running cold and I drop below $320 (four buy-ins), I will drop down to the next lower game. OK, enough about bankroll management. Look for me to try and get a portion of 2007 caught up in the next postings.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

2007 - Poker leagues

I bought a condo in late 2006, so I no longer have the extra space to hold larger tournaments like I did when I had the room to rent while I was at the apartments. Because of this I haven’t held an “Oak Shores” tournament in a while, but a couple people have gotten a couple of different poker leagues running and I’ve been able to participate in those. Playing live poker is so much more fun than online poker. I enjoy both, but for different reasons. I tend to enjoy the live games in the league because of the socializing aspect that comes along with it. I still enjoy winning in those, but it’s not the primary reason I play those.

Anyway, in the early part of 2007, Bob ran his Nwatch Poker League (NPL). It was the second season of the NPL. The season runs for 8 weeks, and is followed by a championship week. The champions from the 8 prior weeks don’t have to pay for the championship week. Due to conflicts with traveling for work, I was only able to play in 5 of the 8 weeks, but I was able to snag a win and two third place finishes in the 5 weeks I played. My friend Adam won 4 of the events from that season!! Each week had somewhere between 15-20 players, so for one person to win half of the events was truly remarkable.

Another league started up in early 2007. This one is called the Cream City Poker League (CCPL). The format is similar. There are 8 tournaments followed by a championship. The championship will only have ten players and is not open to all. You either need to win your seat by winning a prior event or accumulate enough points to get in. Two people will earn seats through points. Points are earned based on your finishing position in a tournament. If there is someone who wins multiple events, then a “play-in” tournament would fill the remaining seats. I did host one of the CCPL events, and I played in all of the events, but I failed to win any of the events, and I didn’t earn enough points to get a seat. I was extremely disappointed in my results in the first season of the CCPL as I only cashed a handful of times.

I did have one hand that I wanted to discuss here though, and it goes to show how “playing the player, not the cards” can really come in to play in a poker game. This hand was early in a tournament. I was dealt T8offsuit and was in the small blind (SB). Several people limped, or just called, and when it got to me I decided to raise in an effort to steal everyone’s limp bets. Limping is typically a sign of weakness at a poker table. One of the people who had limped early in the betting was my co-worker and friend Adam. Now, he and I discuss poker all the time. We know how each other plays because of all that discussion. When the action got to Adam, he decided to reraise me. He did this because he knew that I could be raising with nothing because everyone limped. Obviously, he was correct in his initial read. Now everyone starts folding until it’s back to me, and Adam and I are the only two left in the hand. Now, I know that Adam also could be reraising with garbage because he thinks that I’m raising with garbage, so I decide to raise again, this time going all-in. Now, I’m praying he’ll fold because Ten-8 is an awful hand. Eventually, after much thought, he did fold. As it turns out he had Ace-Ten (AT). This play could not have been accomplished without knowing a lot about the other person’s play. Adam played it right and read me right initially, and I read the fact that his play was based off his read and not his cards correctly, too. It was a fun hand, and Adam and I spent some time discussing that hand once the tournament was over.

Next time, I’ll talk about some tournaments that occurred in 2007, including how the WSOP went, too.