Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Twas the Night Before...

I wrote and posted this one year ago and it seemed to get great reviews (and I like it, too), and it's that time of year again, so here is "'Twas the Night Before the Tourney" again:

'Twas the night before the tourney, when all through the card room
Not a rounder was stirring, except at table two
The chips were being riffled as each bet was in place,
Each player was wondering "Did he have an Ace?"

The players were day-dreaming and trying to get a good read,
while they had visions of trapping while having the lead;
The dealer was nervous, as was the pit boss,
They knew that in this pot lots of chips would be lost;

When suddenly at the table there arose such a clatter,
All the other players ran to see what was the matter;
The crowd 'round that table seemed to swell so fast,
I knew a monster pot was brewing, someone's stack wasn't going to last.

One player had bet, and another had popped it up
The action was to me, and I took a drink from my cup;
When I finally peeked at my hole cards, to my wondering eyes should appear,
Sure enough, they were Aces, and I took another drink of beer;

So casual and cool, I tried to look,
I wanted their stacks, not let my fish off the hook;
I made sure not to alarm, I announced "I call"
and now it was time to be like a stone wall

The action was back to the original bettor
I was hoping his cards were paired with a different letter
as I'm sure he'd decide to put in his whole stack
and then we'd see if my Aces could be cracked;

And he whistled, and spoke, and announced ranks by name;
"Do you have Queens, or Kings, or maybe the same?
This hand's not that bad, I don't see how I fold!"
I guessed he had Jacks, from what he had told;

And then it got quiet, not a player seemed to move
He thought he was slick, he thought he was smooth
when he shoved his chips to middle and announced "I'm all in"
the other guy folded and I was looking for a nice win.

I called and tabled Aces, and he his Jacks
I now was looking at all those chips and all those big stacks,
The dealer put out the flop, it had some paint,
One Ten, one Queen, and a Jack, Ugh! I thought I would faint;

Then I noticed something, my only saving grace
their suits all were spades, as was my Ace
I prayed and prayed as the dealer did burn,
and another Jack did he put on the turn.

Quad Jacks, that's no good, I'm down to one out
"C'mon King of Spades! One time!" I gave a shout;
The dealer burned a card, the river was comin'
If it's not that King, I'm gonna be grumblin'

The dealer spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and put out that river card, and then jumped with a jerk,
as a spade it was, and also a King
The unbeatable Royal Flush the river did bring

I raked in the pot, it seemed so surreal
my opponent seemed upset, it was hard to conceal
It was time for me to leave with my new-found stash,
so I went to the window with my chips to cash

And as I left I looked at that table
No one could believe it, "Lucky" was my new label
And then I said to them, before I ducked out of sight,
"Better luck to you all, Merry Christmas, and good night!"

A little cheeky, perhaps, but it was still lots of fun writing this one. I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Final Table at the Bellagio

I found myself at the final table of the Bellagio’s daily tournament somewhere in the middle of the pack with chips. There was one clear chip leader, and he was seated to my immediate left. I was in Seat 9, and he was in Seat 1. I was hoping that he was a tight player so that I would be able to raise most of the table to pick up chips without much resistance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find that out right away because the player in Seat 3, who appeared to be 2nd overall in chips, was getting involved in a lot of pots early. The short stack was eliminated fairly quickly, but when we got to eight players, no one was so short that they were going to be forced all in immediately.

I started picking up some hands and was able to start raising, but if the big stack was in one of the blinds he would call me every time. Over the course of the entire final table I believe he only folded to me if he was in the blinds once. I managed to eliminate the player finishing in 8th place when his J-J ran in to my Q-Q. I picked up some blinds from people other than the big stack, then I would get involved in a hand with the big stack and I’d lose what I had won earlier to him. This cycle seemed to continue for a while. I was getting hands that I think most people would raise with when going up against the blinds. One time I had Ace-Ten when he called me with King-4. I would miss the flop and we’d end up checking it down, but he managed to hit the ‘4’ for the win. I wasn’t about to get too involved with the big stack since he could afford to take a shot to eliminate me if he so chose, but I wasn’t going to stop raising with good hands. I managed to lose to him in blind battles with Ace-Queen, King-Queen, Ace-Ten, and pocket 9s (the board flopped all over cards). I know I lost some more in there, but I remember those because I would keep showing them to prove I wasn’t trying to bluff the big stack. I do think that it gave me some credibility as I picked up the other player’s blinds.

I thought I was going to win a big pot when we got down to 7-handed play when a player limped from early position. I looked down and saw 8-8 and also decided to limp. I had just raised the last two hands and I didn’t want someone to come over the top of me “just because” they didn’t believe me since 8-8 is only a mediocre hand. The guy on the button called, and the blinds limped. The flop came:


giving me a set of 8s! With the two over cards I thought for sure that someone would have hit that so I led out with a bet of 8k. The guy on the button thought for about 2 minutes before folding. Everyone else folded! I couldn’t believe that everyone had missed that board! I took out the next player with A-Q v A-J. Then we were down to the bubble. There were two short stacks, three medium stacks of which I was one, and then there was the one BIG stack. Well one of the short stacks moved all in for about 35k when I looked down and saw A-A. I called immediately, got no action from anyone else, and he sheepishly turned over his K-5 hoping that he had live cards. Unfortunately, his timing was bad. He went out on the bubble and now we were all in the money. The next short stack went out a couple hands after that and took home $830.

I managed to double up the next shortest stack when my A-K couldn’t improve against an opponent’s small pocket pair. This actually put me on the short stack with about 40k in chips. Two hands later I was on the button with 9-7. It’s not a great hand, but if I get called here I’m pretty sure my cards would be live so I decided to shove all in to steal the blinds. Well, I was called by the big blind and, for the first time in the tournament, I was now all in and at risk. My opponent showed K-J, so as I guessed my cards were live. The flop was:


hitting both of us for a pair. The turn was:


and the river was:


giving me a straight and doubling me up!!! The guy who lost that hand was now crippled and went out within the next four hands to the big stack and received about $1600 for his efforts, and with play now three-handed these were the chip counts:

Big Stack 330k
Other player 136k
Me 110k

I proposed the idea of a chop where we would split up the $14k in the prize pool based off of chip counts. The big stack was in favor of the idea. The other player didn’t understand the idea of a chop so he didn’t want to do that, even though his buddies were trying to encourage him to take the chop. On the next hand he lost 35k to the big stack when the big stack moved all in on his raise. The shorter stack folded Ace-Queen there! I offered the chop one more time, since I figured that the other short stack and I would both get about the same as 2nd place money was supposed to be. We all agreed, and since I was now in front of the other stack I ended up taking 2nd place in the tournament. The approximate payouts for those last three spots were:

1st place - $6700
2nd place - $3730 (me)
3rd place - $3600

Third place was originally supposed to be $2480 and second place was supposed to be $4100 so I thought I came out OK. Given our positions at the table with the big stack on my left, and the short stack playing as tight as he was I thought the chop worked out well. I would have been fine with playing it out, too, but I thought at that point that the other short stack was waiting for me to raise the big stack at the wrong time or to get unlucky against the big stack.

I gave the dealers a $150 tip out of my earnings, so my net for the day was up about $3200. The tournament chopped at 11pm, so we were playing for 9 hours, and although I was fine all throughout the tournament, as soon as it was over my brain went in to shut down mode. It was a nice way to end the trip. I was leaving to return home the next afternoon so there was no way I was going to screw up and lose that payday before I headed out. I played some dice and lost, and picked some of it back up playing at the $5/$10 table Tuesday. All in all a very fun trip!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Satellite Shot and Bellagio's Daily Tournament

When I woke up on Monday morning I was excited because I knew I was going to get some tournament play in today. I was up a couple hundred for the trip, and was hoping to play in the Bellagio’s daily deep stack tournament. During the week they offer a $330 tournament that starts at 2pm. Starting at 9am they offer satellite tournaments, and the satellite for the $330 tourney cost $90. Each satellite is a 10-person tournament, with the top two finishers receiving a tournament entry and $40 cash. Adam and I got some breakfast, then we made our way over to the poker room to get in a satellite.

The satellite structures aren’t too bad. You start with 2500 chips. Levels are 15 minutes and the blinds start at 25/50. Unless you try to play every hand you should have some chips with which to maneuver for a while. Our table put that to the ultimate test. We started our satellite around 12:30pm, and at 1:30 we still hadn’t eliminated a single player. This was getting the poker room tournament director concerned since the tournament for which we were trying to win seats began in 30 minutes. Well, blinds being what they were players started dropping like flies about 15 minutes to start time of the daily tournament. I went out in 5th, and I went to the window and bought my way in to the tournament for the full $330. Adam managed to hang on for 2nd and received a satellite seat.

For the daily tournament, you start with 10k in chips. Levels are 35 minutes, and the blinds start at 25/50, so you’ve got plenty of room even take a bad beat if it happens early enough. I decided to put this to the test three hands in to the tournament. It wasn’t done intentionally, but here’s how it went down. There were a couple people that limped in to the pot, but an older gentleman in the cutoff position raised it up to 275. When it got to me in the small blind I looked down and saw K-K. Now, knowing that I am going to have to play the rest of the hand out of position I decided that I wanted to win this hand right here right now so I put in a reraise to 825 chips. The big blind and all the limpers folded, and now the action was on the initial raiser. He calls almost immediately. The board flopped:


Obviously I don’t like the Jack, but I’m not putting my opponent on a hand like Ace-Jack or King-Jack here, so I decided to lead out with a bet for 1300 chips. My opponent calls. The turn card was an Ace. So now I really don’t like the board, but once again I just wasn’t putting my opponent on Ace-King or Ace-Queen either since he called the flop. This time I wanted to exercise some pot control and decided to check. My opponent bet 1500 back at me. I thought about it, but since I wasn’t putting him on the hands I’ve mentioned I thought he might be trying to take advantage of my “sign of weakness” when I checked so I decided to call. I didn’t put him on pocket Aces either because I didn’t think anyone would bet the big full house there. The river was a “4”. I knew that this couldn’t possibly have helped my opponent, but I was also content with trying to check this down at this point so I checked to him. He bets 3300. I still wasn’t putting him on any hands that I thought would have called me preflop or called on the flop (AA, AK, AQ, AJ, KJ). I called and was shown Queen-Jack. Ugh…ay ay ay…Now I’m down to 3075 chips three hands in to this tournament. Oh goody.

Well, losing 70% of my stack wasn’t part of the plan, but now that I’m there I ain’t gonna just mail it in. The blinds were still 25/50, so I still had plenty of chips to afford blinds. In the next level the blinds went to 50/100, but I still had enough chips to play without feeling as though I had to push. I picked up 5h-3h on the button in a pot where 5 people limped in front of me so I called. The player to act immediately after me, the small blind, made it 350 to go, and almost all the limpers called so I did, too. The flop was:


giving me the bottom pair and a gutshot to the straight. It’s not a bad flop for me. It’s not one I’m SUPER excited about, but when the preflop raiser bet only 500 and everyone else folded, I liked my hand a whole lot more. After all, if the preflop raiser missed, I'm good. If I'm not good, I've got the 3's for trips, the 5's for two-pair, or the 4 for the straight to nab the lead in the hand. I decided to call and the turn was a great card for me: the “4” giving me the straight. My opponent bet 2000, and since I only had 2075 I moved all in and was called immediately. I showed my hand, and my opponent mucked even before the river was dealt. I’m guessing he had an overpair and was drawing to the chop. Since he mucked I asked the dealer to not deal the river card because I didn’t want to get “unlucky” and have the straight get put on the board and then have to call the floor person over to determine if I should get the whole pot. In case you are unaware, to win at a showdown in a Hold ‘em game in MOST (and when I say most I mean every casino I’ve ever played in) casinos you must show both your hole cards, regardless of them being used or not in your hand. Since he mucked, the hand was over.

So, now I more than doubled up and was sitting at about 7100 chips. With the blinds as they were it was no problem to start mixing it up again. Over the next two hours I managed to work my stack to about 20k in chips, which at that time was about 5k over the average. I was able to do all this without ever being all in and at risk (when I was all in earlier I wasn’t really at risk because I had the straight so I don’t count that). To give you an idea of how deep-stacked this tournament is in the first 3½ hours of play we only lost 16 of the 57 players in the tournament.

It was at this point in the tournament that players seemed to start dropping pretty quickly. I managed to stay out of most of the action, and was able to pick up a couple of decent pots with some preflop reraises. By the time we hit the next break I was at just over 40k in chips. It was at this point that I started picking up some real good hands. I kept getting dealt Q-Q. By no means do I consider Q-Q uncrackable, but when you get it dealt to you five times in an hour and a half you are usually going to pick up a lot of chips. As we closed in on the Final Table I found myself to the immediate right of the player who had crippled me early in the tournament. I was able to exact my revenge when I took my Q-J and was able to limp preflop with several other players. The Jack-8-2 flop provided no real concern to me so I bet, and when this player on my left went all in I was able to call (his stack wasn’t that large anymore, go figure). He turned over King-8 for second pair and the board bricked out for him so I was able to eliminate my early tournament tormentor. :)

Shortly after that, I managed to lose about 15k in chips when I raised from late position in an attempt to pick up the blinds while holding King-Ten. I had been very successful in picking up blinds because of my stack size, but this time one of the blinds reraised all in. Unfortunately, the call was a no-brainer, and the guy even asked me “Do you have Queens again?” because I had been showing my strong hands. He turned over J-J and I had a chance to catch a King to knock him out, but it didn’t happen. We found out almost right after this that we were down to our Final Table of ten players and I went there with about 70k in chips.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Academy Wrap Up and More Cash Games

After finishing up the cash games on Saturday evening I was close to even and was actually glad to not be going right back to the cash games on Sunday. There was the one day left of the poker academy and we had a dinner afterwards so it wouldn’t be until almost 10pm that I made my way back to the cash games.

Just as a wrap-up about the academy, it was really neat hearing ideas from people who were VERY successful at poker. They were all very approachable and friendly. There also were many participants that I got to know as well. One guy was at the academy because he won a poker tournament on a cruise that got him on to another cruise and in to a “champions” tournament with a pool of $100k, and he thought this would be a great help to that cause. People had come from all over. We had the 2008 Oklahoma Women’s Bowling Champion here, and plenty of people from both coasts and everywhere between. When we would break out in to groups for the live hand analysis portion of the academy we always had the same participants at each table, and at my table I had someone from Los Angeles that I was having a good time with while at the Academy. Her name is Renee, and she was kind enough to forward me some of her pics from the academy she had gotten for me to include in the blog. I’ve put together a small slideshow of my pics and some of Renee’s.

Once the academy wrapped up with the dinner Sunday evening, Adam and I made our way over to the Bellagio to get in the cash games. It was too late to get in to any of the tournaments we were interested in playing, and it was already 10pm. Once again, I bought in to the $2/$5 game at the Bellagio, and I found myself in the right seat to play for the evening. I had worked my way up from my $300 buy-in to about $450 without a showdown when I was able to get my whole stack in the middle with another player when I picked up pocket Kings and he picked up pocket 9s on an 8-high flop. That took me up to about $900. I then proceeded to work that stack all the way back down to about $175 when my pocket Aces got cracked by pocket 9s in a 5-way preflop pot that flopped the 9. Once again I worked my stack back up, eventually getting up to about $600 when the critical hand of the evening occurred.

I was in the small blind With QQ, and 5 players limped to me. Knowing that I had to thin out the field a little bit I put in a raise of $40. This proceeded to get me 4 callers, which was about 3 more than I was expecting. I was initially concerned, and the flop came:

Q-J-8 (two clubs)

Giving me top set. I also have to act first. I’ll admit it feels real good to hit that Queen, but the board was awfully draw heavy for a 5-player pot, so I decided to put out a bet of $125. I also guessed that no one would put me on QQ since often times top set might check a flop like that. I figured a board like this would have hit another player, and since I’m the preflop raiser I might get someone to put in a raise behind me if they hit this. Lucky for me, that player was the next person to act in the hand, who makes it $275 to go. Everyone else folds, and it’s back to me. Now, the guy in this seat has been riding a roller coaster with his stack (much like I have been), and he didn’t always have a hand, but he’s also the type of player that could have been playing T-9 here, too. Well, if I call, there’s almost no reason for me to not get the rest of my money in now, so without much hesitation I moved all in. This guy snap calls me, and I feared the worst. I showed the Queens, and he turned over and showed:


For bottom two pair!! He was drawing dead to runner runner for quads or runner runner to a chop. The turn was actually a nine, giving him outs to the chop/split but the river blanked and I raked in one heck of a pot.Once I got a stack like that I started playing very tight, and when I ended the session I was now up for the whole trip. I was up enough that I was looking forward to finally playing in a tournament and using some of the stuff I had learned over the past couple of days.

They Have Cash Games in Vegas, too

If you’ve read the last couple of postings you might be thinking that I didn’t do anything else while out in Las Vegas except participate in the World Series of Poker Academy or watch the Main Event. Well, that just ain’t the case. The poker academy did make up a good portion of 2-2 ½ days while there, but I had about 4 ½ days out in Vegas so that left me with what I figured to be about two full days to do other things, so I didn’t waste a whole lot of that time sleeping unless I felt I had to get some sleep.

When we arrived Thursday night Adam and I decided to head over to the Wynn and get involved in the cash games there. I’ve usually done well at the Wynn so I thought this would be a good idea. Well, I was wrong this time about that. I sat down at the $1/$3 game at the Wynn and over the 5+ hours I played there I managed to lose about $500. It’s not the worst loss I’ve had, but it was the manner in how it happened. I never lost a huge pot. I just got whittled away, $35 here, $50 there, and so on and so on. I won my share of pots, but nothing big, and I was losing a lot more than I was winning. In fact I was so glad when we decided to leave that I couldn’t wait for the academy to start because I knew I couldn’t lose any more money until that next evening!! I never feel like that when I walk away from a poker game.

The schedule of the academy had us starting at 9am, and because we had the academy tournament that evening (which I’ve posted about already), I actually didn’t get my next opportunity to sit down at a cash game until about 11pm Friday evening. The poker academy tournament was being held in the Caesar’s Palace poker room so when I busted out of that I went to talk to Adam to see what he wanted to do. He had already busted out and was sitting down in a cash game. I told him I’d leave whenever he wanted to and he wanted to play a little more so I got on the short list for the poker game and got a seat about 15 minutes later. I then proceeded to play what was for me the shortest session of poker that I can recall playing in a live game. This happened because about 10 hands into the session Adam found me and said he was done with his cash game for the night. I told him I’d play back around to my big blind (I actually played one additional orbit), but I managed to pick up about $100 in the 18 or so hands I played.

The next poker session I played was after we had left the WSOP Main Event at the Rio. We had watched about the first two hours of play of the Final Table of the Main Event, but it wasn’t real exciting. Without hole card cams, which cannot be shown to the live audience for obvious reasons, poker isn’t really a great spectator sport. Adam and I tried to make the best of it, using notepads to try and jot down notes and see if we could “read” any of the players during the action. We thought that we might get to verify our reads when we got back home and compared our notes to the ESPN coverage if any of the hands we watched were part of the coverage. In those two hours of play we saw 29 hands, of which there were only 3 or 4 flops, and there was only one showdown at all. No one was knocked out, and with the blind structure what it was we both felt it could be a while before we saw any significant action, so we left about 2:30 or so. Adam had decided to get in to the 2 o’clock Daily Tournament at the Bellagio. The nice thing with this tournament is because it is such a deep-stack structure (10k starting chips, 35 minute levels, 25/50 starting blinds) no one usually gets eliminated right away. The Bellagio even allows late entries through the first four levels of play. Because of this Adam was still able to enter the tournament when we arrived.

I, on the other hand, decided to sit down at the cash games again. I sat down with my $300 in the first available seat, which happened to be seat #1 to the immediate left of the dealer. I really don’t care for that seat or the seat on the immediate right of the dealer either so as soon as another seat opened up I requested to move, and I got to move to seat #2. One of the other things I look for when trying to find a seat at the table is having a big stack, preferably a loose big stack, on my right. That wasn’t the case with my new seat (the table big stack was in seat #3), so when seat #4 opened up I moved there. I then proceeded to watch in the next half hour as seat #2 picked up pocket Kings and a middle pair that turned in to a set on a flop. Ay ay ay! Timing is everything. Well, as it turned out seat #3, although he was a big stack, he was tighter than a fat guy in spandex. So I moved again, this time to seat #8. Once again I watched the new player in my old seat pick up a lot of chips, this time when he had QQ v TT and another hand where he made the nut flush with AKsuited. In the meantime, my stack was dwindling. In fact, in one hour at this table I was down $500. So I pulled out my last buy-in I had planned for poker gambling. It was at this point where I finally turned things around. I was getting what I wanted with the seat change, too. The player in seat #6 was playing very loose, and I found him betting in to me, often times with no hand. I ended up picking up the $500 I was down, and also picked up an additional $300 or so. I was now back in sight of the even line, which considering how things were going I wasn’t sure if I would see that again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

11 Bracelets...Really Phil...With Plays Like That?

I don’t think I mentioned it in the last post, but I didn’t win the tournament where I hit the straight against Greg Raymer. In fact, I was eliminated from the tournament by one of the other pros, Ali Nejad. In that hand I was dealt a pair of 5s. Ali had a big stack, and I had about 18000 in chips. The blinds were about 600/1200. Ali had raised preflop from somewhat early position, and since I had about 15 big blinds in my stack I shoved when it got to me. Unfortunately, the player right behind me called immediately and that’s what killed me. Ali was debating folding, and once he realized the price he was getting to call he made the call. The player behind me had Ace-Jack and Ali had pocket 8s. My shove was designed to get possibly a middle pair (like 8s) or maybe even get two over cards (like QJ, QT, KJ, etc) to fold. Ali actually told me he would have folded if the other player hadn’t called. As it turned out the pair of 8s held up and Ali knocked out me and the other player in the same hand.

Phil Hellmuth showed up for the second day of the poker academy, and he brought some really neat insight to it as well. Some of you may know that he was hired as Jeff Shulman’s coach for the 2009 Main Event Final Table. Jeff Shulman runs CardPlayer magazine and has been to the Main Event Final Table before. Phil actually went over with us some of the strategy that he and his team had worked with Jeff Shulman. It was actually some very interesting discussion.

When we broke out for our next “live” hand analysis Phil would go from table to table and play a few hands at each table. In this particular “live” scenario we were to act as though we were at the final table of a deep stack tournament. I was assigned a medium stack of chips and had already lost some chips because my A-J lost to someone else’s A-8 when he was raising from the cutoff (one away from the button) to try and pick up the blinds when the following hand came up at our table. Phil was in early position and raised to about three times the blind. The next player folded, and it was my turn to act. I looked down and found K-K! I paused for a moment, and since my stack was a medium / medium-short stack I just shoved, knowing that Phil would have the right “price” to call. Everyone folded and Phil called, tabling Ace-Ten. He actually stated that he was going to call, but “wasn’t happy about it”. I think he knew that from my position at the table I wouldn’t be reraising without having a hand that would be crushing his. Mike Gracz was the dealer and pro doing the analysis at our table at the time, and he ran the board and my Kings held up, so I didn’t have to “go Phil” on Phil…that might have been fun! If you aren’t familiar with Phil Hellmuth he is nicknamed “Poker Brat” for his tirades that occur when a bad beat is delivered upon him.

I hope if you’ve read these last two posts in particular that you realize I am kidding when I poke fun at Phil Hellmuth or Greg Raymer. I respect both of their poker games and am glad to have gotten some good analysis from them about various hands. I’m not a fan of Phil’s tirades, but he really is a nice person when you meet him and seems very genuine when you talk to him.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poker School!!

So this past week I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas and attend the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Academy – November Nine edition. The WSOP Academy is a two, sometimes three, day seminar where you meet and work with professional poker players and try to improve your poker game. They give you their insights as to how to play situations. This particular academy focused on how to play deep-stack tournaments, and more specifically, late in those types of tournaments. The Main Event of the WSOP was also going to be wrapping up on that Saturday and Monday, and as part of the academy we were given tickets to attend both sessions at the Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater.

The poker players that were at the academy were 2004 WSOP Main Event Champion Greg Raymer, WSOP bracelet winner and World Poker Tour champion Michael Gracz, cash-game player and announcer for “Poker After Dark” and the “NBC Head-Up Championship” Ali Nejad, online specialist Mark “PokerHo” Kroon, former model and pro volleyball player turned poker pro Erica Schoenberg, and runner up in a televised 2004 WSOP event and poker pro with over $700,000 in earnings Shawn Rice. The 1989 WSOP Main Event Champion and 11-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth also was at the academy for one of the days as well. We definitely had a talented group of individuals to listen to about poker!

Each of the day’s ran something like this: Beginning of the day there would be a seminar/lecture followed by some live analysis of hands. Then we’d break for lunch, and go through the same routine in the afternoon as well. I thought the live-hand analysis sections were great. There were about 45 of us so we would break in to assigned groups of nine and go to our poker tables. A poker pro would also go to each table and act as the dealer along with providing the analysis. We’d be given a scenario to act under. For example, in one session each player had varying amounts of chips and we were to play as if we were on the bubble of the tournament. In another scenario we acted as if we were in the early stages, and in another as if we were at the Final Table. You get the idea. Each hand would be played out, then afterwords the pro would replay the hand and go over why each player did what they did with whatever decision there was to be made and give their own thoughts of how they thought the play should go. The pros would rotate each session, so each table got a different poker pro for each of the four sessions.

The seminars were interesting at times, too. It reinforced some ideas that I had for how to play, and I was able to pick up some things as well, so I thought the whole thing was great! We also had a free tournament that all the academy participants got to play in where the winner would receive a prize package valued over $4000. I didn’t win that tournament unfortunately, but the poker pros were in that tournament and there was a bounty on each of them. If you knocked out a pro you received a pair of Oakley sunglasses. An Oakley promoter was there and there were also some other Oakley giveaways for certain things (e.g. at one table they were playing the “7-2 game” where if you won a hand with 7-2 you’d win a pair of Oakleys).

I got involved in a big pot with Greg Raymer during the tournament. If you have followed the blog in the past you already know that I have some history with Mr. Raymer, and I was looking to exact some revenge (that’s said tongue-in-cheek). The poker pros were rotating the tables that they were playing at during the tournament so everyone got to play with all of them, and Greg had just arrived at the table a couple hands ago and was in the seat to my immediate right when the following hand played out. We had started with 10k in chips. The blinds were in the third level and we were at 75-150 on the blinds. I had about 12k in chips and Raymer had approximately 7k in chips. I was dealt 5-3 suited in early position. Greg was first to act and had limped, so I did as well hoping to catch something with the flop. One other player limped, the blinds called and checked, and the flop was:


The blinds both checked, and Greg bet about 500 chips. Now, I felt that Greg might be betting that flop with just about anything since it was a limped pot and two players had already checked the flop. I know I didn’t have anything, but I thought I could take the hand down right now if I raised, and if I was called I had the gutshot draw to the straight which, if it hit, would be VERY disguised. I raised to 1300, and as I thought the other preflop limper folded and the blinds both folded. Greg thought for a moment and called. Now I was getting the “Fossilman” stare from behind those glasses. The turn card was a miracle for me:


The four also matched the suit of one of the other cards on the board so there was now a flush draw in play, but I wasn’t that worried about it. With the pot as it was already having about 3500 in it and me having the nuts I decided to under bet the turn. I put out a bet of 1500. Greg once again stared me down for a minute and then called. The river was an 8, and it didn’t put the flush draw on the board, so I now knew I had the nuts for the hand. This time Greg fired out 2500 at the river, leaving himself only about 1500 in chips behind. “I am making it look like I am pondering a call but all I am really thinking about is Vegas and the fucking Mirage” (thank you Rounders) then I moved all in. I thought Greg would call for sure and I’d be up one set of Oakleys. Well, he goes in to to the think tank. He’s also analyzing the hand out loud (since this is an academy). At one point he said “Well, I think you played one of these streets like a fucking idiot”. He eventually folded, and since he was doing the analysis I decided to show the straight and told him that he made a good laydown. Play continued, but over the next 10 minutes he analyzed that hand quite a bit. He really thought my play at the flop was very questionable (and I’m being nice when I say that). He thought that in a five-player pot that I should realize that if he’s betting then he’s got something, and that my bet is in reality not just bluffing him, but also bluffing three others. I guess I saw it a little different with the blinds having already checked after the flop. I knew that I was bluffing, but I thought I only had to get by the player behind me and Greg. He wasn’t seeing it that way, though. It was great to get his analysis there, though.

Well, that was just one hand and a little bit about the academy. I’ve got some pictures to post and I’ve got some more about the academy and that trip, and I’ll try to include that in my next post!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why is there a Crowd Around my Table?

Table 42 Blue

As I approached my table I could see that there were an unusually large number of people gathered in that area of the Amazon Room. It turns out that my table was about 15 feet away from where one of the two final tables of the $40K No-Limit Hold ‘em Event #2 was taking place. I fought my way through the people, and I took my seat in Seat #2 at Table 42 Blue. In very sharp contrast to Table 90 Orange, this table was almost as far from any exit as I could possibly be.

I text Dan to let him know I got moved, and I settled in to get to work. I was working with about 8500 chips, so I was still a little below the average chip stack, but I still had over 20 big blinds in my stack. I was able to notice very quickly that the player on my left (seat 3) liked to mix it up with almost any two cards and was very aggressive when doing so. This came to benefit me early while I was at the table when I picked up pocket Queens, was able to raise preflop, and get him as one of my callers. The board came: 8-5-5. I led out and he decided to raise. I wasn’t 100% certain that he didn’t have a 5 in his hand, but when the action folded to me I decided that he wouldn’t have raised me there with a 5 since he probably could extract more by just smooth calling me there. That and the numbers would indicate that it is unlikely for someone to have a third 5 there. Those two things led me to repop it one more time and move all in. He thought for a while, and as soon as I didn’t hear the snap, “I call!” I knew that my Queens were good. He folded, and I raked in a nice pot.

I was able to pick one more pot off of this guy when I check-raised him off his hand with a straight draw and a flush draw, but I didn’t get a whole lot of hands at this table. The player in seat 9 was starting to get ultra-aggressive as the blinds moved up, but anytime I thought about reraising him, I would either get no hand, or someone else was getting in there and my hand was not good enough to stand up to two raises.

It was at this table that I met my Waterloo. My chip stack was about 13400. There were 44 minutes in the last level that we were playing today. The blinds were 800/400/100ante, so I had about 6 times ‘round the table worth of blinds. I was dealt Ace-King offsuit in the under-the-gun (UTG) position. In the last ten minutes several people were just shoving all in and taking the blinds down, and I was hoping to do just that here. I figured if I won this round of blinds I could easily afford to play no more hands the rest of the day, which I thought would be about three orbits at the pace we were currently playing. I decided to move all in with AK. The first three people folded, but a player who had been playing relatively tight called all in and then everyone else folded. I was hoping that he would show me a worse Ace (Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack, etc) or a pocket pair of Queens or less (although that would still mean I had to hit my hand to win). He turned over pocket Kings, which left me drawing basically to just one of the three remaining Aces. I missed, but I had my opponent covered by 1100 chips. I was in the big blind the next hand, but my 9-2offsuit was no match for the small blind’s 8-7 as I made a pair of 9s only to watch that turn in to a straight for the small blind.

As I thought a little more about the Ace-King hand and discussed it with some others, I ultimately still felt I played it fine there. You might be asking, “Why move all in right away?” (at least that’s the obvious question there), but even if I had just raised to let’s say 2500, or about 3x the big blind, when my opponent moves all in with his pocket Kings I don’t know if I would have folded Ace-King there anyway, since the only two hands I really have to be concerned with are AA or KK, and there was no way for me to know he had one of those two hands. My 2009 World Series had come to a close. At least it wasn’t as fast as last year, but the net result was still the same. It was time to shut the door on the WSOP and get concerned with the cash games, especially since a lot of my fellow poker players who were also eliminated were going to be sitting in those cash games as well.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

There's a Captain at the Table!

After being in the middle of the Amazon Room all day, I was relieved to find that my next table was near one of the exits, table 90 Orange. This would make leaving the table for a minute to take a break a little easier. I recognized one of the players as a poker pro, but if it wasn’t for his hat I probably wouldn’t have known his name. Luckily, Captain Tom Franklin likes to wear a cowboy-style hat that states “Captain Tom” on it. Tom Franklin has one World Series of Poker bracelet, so I knew that he’d be no pushover at the table. He was in Seat 9. I took my seat in Seat 5. There were two elderly gentlemen in Seats 7 & 8, and these two guys were hilarious. Any time the pot was unraised they would call and play, and they would almost always call all the way to the river, regardless of what they had. Because of the positions at the table, Captain Tom was playing a lot of hands and was managing to pick up lots of chips from these two. Occasionally though, one of those two guys would hit a hand and make a load of chips from somebody because of their lack of aggression.

I didn’t get a whole lot of hands to play while I was here, but I did manage to mix it up in one hand with Captain Tom that was sort of fun. Captain Tom raised, and as it got around to me I called with my pocket 6s. When the flop was J-4-7, I wasn’t too excited, but I wasn’t quite ready to fold to Captain Tom when he led out. I called, and the turn card that hit was probably the second best card that could’ve hit the board for me, a 5 (the best card would’ve been a 6 for a set). Captain Tom checked, and now I was pretty certain that his bet on the flop was a continuation bet based off of his preflop raise. I led out, and after Captain Tom gave it some very brief thought he folded, making the comment that he was pretty sure that I could beat 9-high.

We hit the dinner break while I was at this table. I had 6600 chips at the dinner break, and without seeing any official numbers I guessed that I was near the average at this point in the tournament. I went over to meet Dan, who was watching the Brewers and the NHL playoffs over in the sports book. I used the food voucher provided to grab a sandwich, filled Dan in with all the details, and then made my way back to the Amazon Room to try and push through the rest of the evening. I knew we’d be playing until about 1am, so I still had about 4 ½ hours of poker yet to go.

When I got back to table Orange 90 I was continuing to go through my dry spell of hands. I only picked up one more significant hand before our table broke. Lucky for me that hand was pocket Aces. A player in early position raised, and I reraised it about three times his bet. The action folded around to the initial raiser, and he called the bet. The flop was a pretty darn good flop for me: Ace-9-2, giving me top set. My opponent checked, and I checked, hoping that my opponent might fire at this on the turn if he thought I missed. The turn put out an 8, and it also put out a second card of a suit already on the board. My opponent checked, and I decided to lead out and bet a little less than half the pot. I would have considered checking if it hadn’t put out a card that put a potential straight and flush draw in play, but because both were now in play I bet. My opponent folded, and I won a decent pot, although it wasn’t nearly as large as I had hoped.

Captain Tom was running very well at our table, and he managed to work his stack up to about 42,000 chips. When we broke, I had about 8500 in chips, and I was off to find table 42 Blue.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Table 126 Red, Part Deux

In an effort to try and be able to recall things so that I could post accurate blogs, I attempted to keep audio notes using my cell phone on the breaks. Unfortunately, I really didn’t think of this idea until later in the day. My buddy Dan got eliminated from the event prior to the dinner break, and prior to his being eliminated, we’d meet up on the breaks and discuss our current status, so it wasn’t until he was eliminated and we didn’t meet up on a break that I got this bright idea. Because of this I actually have quite a good set of notes about that first table I was at.

I left off the last post about an hour in to play. I had worked my stack from the original 3K to approximately 5100 without meeting much resistance. I had been dealt Ace-King in a hand that had been raised so I reraised, everyone folded to the initial raiser who called my bet. After a Jack-high flop he checked and I led out with a bet to take down that pot. I was dealt pocket Kings immediately following that hand and when I raised no one called. In fact, I was dealt Kings twice during the entire day, and never saw a flop with it either time (which I guess I was perfectly fine with considering what happened to me with Aces last year). Creepy Neck Guy had also built up a stack after eliminating the player in Seat 10 (pictured here). I mentioned that Creepy Neck Guy was playing quite loose, playing many hands more than most players at the table. It was at about this time I got involved in my first significant pot of the day.

The hand began with me in the small blind. Everyone folded to a player in mid to late position. He had been playing somewhat tight and appeared to be selective with his hands. He raised to about 3x the big blind. Another player called, and when I looked down at my cards in the small blind I saw As-8s. Considering the raise and the possibilities I decided to call. The big blind also called. The flop that hit the board was a Queen-high flop with two spades, giving me a flush draw. I checked, expecting to check raise the initial raiser, but to my surprise the big blind led out with a bet. The initial raiser then called the bet, and it was folded to me. I was one of the larger chip stacks at this table, so I decided to put the “squeeze” play on the players. The squeeze play is when you raise two players where player 1 bets and player 2 calls (such as the scenario here). What the squeeze play does is put a significant amount of pressure on the 1st player who bet since he doesn’t know player 2 is going to do, and it may force him to fold any marginal hand. I didn’t think the big blind had much since if he did, he probably would have checked it to the initial raiser. Often times a player just calling will be holding a marginal hand, so the squeeze raise might chase that second player out of the hand. Well, the first part of my plan worked perfectly. The big blind folded his hand. The initial raiser (pictured) had other ideas, though. He pulled the trigger and moved all in at this point. This pretty much pointed to a big hand (set/3-of-a-kind, two pair). His stack size was close enough to my stack size that if I decided to call I was pretty sure I’d either be out or very close to out, and I wasn’t prepared to put all my chips in on a draw just quite yet so I folded, leaving me with 1800 chips.

While I sat brooding about losing a lot of chips, I thought a little more about pulling that trigger. The player who won the pot had a couple things that all should have screamed “Danger!” at me:

  1. He had been playing tight and showing good hands to this point
  2. Being the initial raiser, his “just call” of the lead out bet on the flop should have told me, in combination with item 1, that he probably hit this board HARD

Well, now I was stuck down about half of my original amount, and I was in need of a double up. Fortunately for me, about half an hour later I was dealt pocket Aces in late position. I raised, was reraised by the player on my immediate left (pictured), and when I moved all in, he thought for a long time but folded Ace-Queen face up. I was surprised he folded since he only needed about 600 more chips to call after his reraise, but he was running a little low, and I guess that those 600 chips he felt could be used better elsewhere.

So after nearly doubling up there I was able to win a decent pot with King-Ten against a player (pictured) who showed he was absolutely incapable of folding if he hit any piece of a board. In the hand where I eliminated him, I had King-Ten in the big blind. He made a minimum raise, so I’m pretty much guaranteed to call with any two cards that are Ten or higher (also known as a “Twenty” hand, e.g. KT, QJ, QT, etc.). The board came: King-Jack-x. I led out, knowing he’d call with any piece, and he was playing too many hands to have a good one all the time. He moved all in and, after some deliberation, I decided to call with top pair, Ten kicker. He table Ace-Jack for second pair, and soon went to the rail when the turn and river provided no help to him.

I got involved two more pots that I had notes on at this table. I was dealt Ace-Ten on the button, and with three other players just limping to the big blind I limped along and was fortunate enough to see this flop: King-Queen-Jack. This gave me the nut straight. The other thing about a board like this is it’s the type of board that would hit other players as well, so when everyone checked to me on the button, I led out with a bet of about half the pot, hoping that someone with a piece of that board would also play. As it went back around everyone folded! I couldn’t believe that no one had a piece of that at all, but it was another pot moving my way, so I couldn’t complain too much.

The last pot I remember was sort of humorous. I had 2-4suited in mid to late position. Once again several players limped, so I decided to call hoping to flop something big. I completely missed the flop, and when everyone checked to me I checked, too. The turn also missed me, and once again everyone checked to me. This time I decided to fire a pot-sized bet to take the pot down. Creepy Neck Guy kind of looked at me funny and folded, and then the guy who raised me big earlier did it again. This time my fold was pretty easy, and as soon as I did Creepy Neck Guy said to me, “I’m glad you did that (bet out) because I was gonna do that if you didn’t”. I kind of got chuckled at that. At least he and I were on the same wavelength.

Shortly after this, our table broke. I was so happy to hear this since as other tables broke down, cash games were starting, and the speaker system in our section was turned on for calling players to the table. We were directly under one of those speakers, and it was starting to get quite annoying and difficult to hear player actions at the table. Unfortunately, I got moved to….Table 129 RED, so I was still in that section. That table broke about 10 minutes later, and I got moved to my next table, 90 Orange.

Setting the Stage for Event #4

Table 126 Red, Part 1

There’s something about being in the Amazon Room prior to the 1st event that’s truly open to players of all skill levels at the Rio that just gets the blood flowing for me. There is all this positive energy in the room…everyone believing that their dream is going to come true and they’re going to be the one to capture that World Series of Poker bracelet. For one person it’s going to happen, and in the case of Day 1A of the Stimulus Event there are going to be over 2600 people whose dream will be shattered before the day is over. Day 1A started with a field of approximately 3015 people. The plan was to play 10 levels today.

My day started at Table 126 Red. The Amazon Room is broken in to four quadrants, each quadrant having its own color. The Red quadrant is usually where the cash games are played so I knew that this quadrant was going to be one of the first quadrants to break down to make room for cash games later in the day.

Because we started with so many players, I planned on playing fairly tight early in the tournament (as I usually do in large tournaments). We started with 3000 chips, and it wouldn’t be until we were down to 1500 players that the average stack would double to 6000 chips, so I guessed that I could be patient and wait for spots.

As it turned out, our section was first to break down, but our table was one of the last in that section to break down. Consequently, I was able to play poker with this table for a little over 2 ½ hours. I got to know several of my table mates and their poker playing styles well during that time. The player in Seat 1 was the one who stood out the most during my time at this table. Not only did he play nearly every hand during the first hour, but he also had a creepy style of staring down the players on my side of the table. He was in Seat 1, immediately to the left of the dealer, and I was in Seat 8, which was basically on the end of the oval to the right of the dealer. Since the dealer was in the way when he wanted to look down to our side of the table, he had to stick his head out around the dealer in this particularly E.T.-like style, hence I nicknamed him “Creepy Neck Staredown Guy” (pictured here).

During the first hour if I wasn’t raising and taking down a pot Creepy Neck Staredown Guy was in almost every other pot. He won most of the pots he was in, but eventually, after getting caught in a showdown with King-Six, people started calling him to the river. I think he realized that the table caught on to his game when he got called down by Ace high twice in five minutes (he also lost both those hands). He did adjust, though, and overall I thought his game was pretty decent. It wasn’t exactly my preferred style of play, but he seemed to make it work, and he knew who to play that way against.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Old Nemesis...

Greg Raymer, the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, with me just prior to the start of Event #4. Greg was getting ready for Day 2 of the $40k event, where he was in 2nd place in chips.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Last Casino Stop Before the WSOP

The long weekend provided me the opportunity to go play some poker at Potowatomi on Saturday evening. I called to get my name on the list, and was informed that they were running three tables and I was 42 players down on the list! I anticipated that they would be opening more tables later, but I saw no need to rush to get down to the casino. I arrived at the two-hour check in time limit, and they told me I was at the top of the list, so I went to get some chips and was called for my seat. Upon arriving I found one regular that I recognized, Turtle (aka Sam). He's a pretty good player, and as far as I can remember, I've never been there and not seen him there at some table. Another seat was also being filled, and Turtle gave us an opening shot/compliment, " the good players are showing up!"

I didn't feel like such a good player about an hour into the session as I found myself stuck about $300. I had called down a player on the river with 4th pair (and a 7 for my kicker), pretty much because he kept betting the river on several hands when no one was being aggressive, and I wanted to see with what types of hands he was doing this. He also had 4th pair, but his Ace kicker was certainly enough to win the pot. I lost a little over $100 in that pot, but I think that it may have helped me later in the session as the call down showed that at least someone was picking up on his river aggression.

I won a large pot in the middle of the session to get me back in to the black when I was able to call a middle position player's raise to $20 from the small blind with my pair of 2's. The flop was: J-8-2, and after the preflop raiser led out for $80 into the $65 pot and was called by the button, I decided to protect the bottom set with an all-in shove for a little over $300. I was insta-called by the preflop raiser, and the other player folded. My opponent held pocket Kings and called for the board to pair, which I was all for as it would give me a full house. The board bricked out and the pot got shipped my way. This put me up for the session.

I won a couple of other pots, including getting pocket Aces twice. On the first of the two pocket Aces hands I won the pot on the flop after getting two preflop callers when I raised from the small blind. The second time I was dealt them I got involved with the same player who was being aggressive at the river. In that hand I raised preflop to $30 and was called by him. The flop was: Q-9-x. I led out for $40, hoping that he hit the Queen and would raise me. He just called. Now his range of hands was all over the place, so I checked the turn after he had also checked. That appeared to puzzle him. He also checked the river, and I led for about half the pot (I bet $65). He thought about it for a while, but ultimately called and then mucked when I showed the Aces. He commented that the check at the turn had him a little confused, but it's also why I got paid off, too. He had planned on folding at the turn if I bet there, but he then thought that I might be trying to pull his maneuver after missing the board (or holding a weak pair).

I picked up one more nice pot from the player that took over in the seat where I had cracked the Kings. I had limped holding 6d-4d along with several other players when the flop came: K-3-3. Everyone checked, and I picked up an open-ended straight draw on the turn when a five came off there. The small blind bet $25 (about 2/3 the pot), and I called to see the river. It came a seven, and I was able to easily call the $75 bet at the river. I didn't raise because at the time I had about $1000, and he had about $800, and I didn't want to open the door for him to reraise and attempt to push me off my hand. Anytime the board is paired chasing the straight is dangerous so I was going to be happy if it was good there. It was as he had 6-3 for trip 3s.

That player and I got involved in one other pot. It started innocently enough when the Under-the-Gun player accidentally string bet his raise, and the dealer forced him to put out just the call amount. I was two to that player's left, so I decide to also call with the 4d-3d. Several other players also limped, and 7 of us got to see the flop. It came:

7-6-5 (two clubs)

This gave me the straight, albeit the sucker side of the straight. I'll take a flopped straight anytime, sucker or not. It was checked to me and I bet $25. Two players called. The turn was:


pairing the board. It was checked to me again, and this time I bet $60. The player in Seat 9, who was the player I beat with the straight earlier, check-raised me to $160. The other player got out of the way, and now it was a decision for me. That six on the turn was a horrible card. If my opponent was playing pocket 7s, pocket 6s (unlikely because its quads), pocket 5s, 7-6, or 6-5, the turn card just sealed up the hand for him. All of those hands are very possible to have limped with preflop and then flat called on the flop. He also could have 9-8 or 8-4 (unlikely, it's trash), in which case I was beat on the flop anyway, and I'm still dead now. The only hands I really thought I could be beating right now that he might have was A-6 or A-7, and I didn't think he'd check raise with A-7. He might check raise with A-6, but there are a lot more hands he'd check raise with from the other possible hands. I also started the hand with about $1200, and he had $900, and this pot was building quickly now. I mucked my hand face up. I wasn't expecting him to show, but he threw his hand in face up as well and he had 9-8 for the flopped nut straight. He probably had some worries about the 6 pairing the board, too, but the turn card definitely helped me escape there.

The session was a winning one, and I felt pretty good about the decisions I was making at the table. Hopefully my reads and decision-making will be this good later on in the week once I'm out in Vegas!