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!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Rush at Poto

This past weekend a friend of mine and I decided to venture in to Potowatomi's casino just outside of downtown here. We had called to get our name on the No-Limit Hold 'em list prior to going there, and upon arriving we found that they had six tables going. We were told that we were about 16 down on the list, so we surmised that we had time to get something to eat. What the joker running the list didn't mention was that he had just opened that sixth table and 10-11 names were getting cleared off the list, so we were a little surprised to see the 30-person list at about 8 when we got back from eating, and along with that our names were no longer on the list.

Another "brilliant" thing they do there is that they don't give you a pager when you're on the list. Most casinos offer a pager so that you can go play other games, eat, etc., while waiting to get paged. Once paged you usually have about 10-15 minutes to get to the poker room to claim your seat. So, after getting our name on the list a second time, we decided to head downstairs to try our luck at PaiGow Poker for a little while.

If you aren't familiar with PaiGow Poker, it's a game where all the players play against one specific player, which could be the house dealer or another player at the table who might decide to "bank" against all the players for a hand. Everyone is dealt seven cards, and you have to make two hands, a 5-card hand and a 2-card hand. You can split up your hand however you'd like, the only stipulation is that your 5-card hand must be higher in poker rank than your 2-card hand. Once all the hands have been determined, you showdown. If you win both hands, you win your bet (less a 5% commission); if you lost both hands, you lose your bet, and if you split your bet is a push. There is also one joker in the deck. The joker can only be used as an Ace or to complete a straight or flush, so it's not a complete "wild" card. The game ususally involves a lot of pushes. In fact, when in Vegas, an easy way to get drunk cheap is to find a cheap PaiGow table and take all the free drinks :) I had an 11-hour session in Vegas once where I was down a whole $5 at PaiGow, but I was pretty damn liquored up by the time that session was over!

This session of PaiGow was not nearly so kind. In about 45 minutes, I didn't have one win. I got swept four times, and every other hand was a push. Not the ideal PaiGow session. That included getting swept when I had trip Kings in my 5-card hand with a pair of 2's to put in the two card hand (the dealer made a straight and a pair of Jacks). Yuck! This led to me being down about $100 by the time I got seated at the poker room. My friend wasn't nearly as lucky at PaiGow, being down about three bills at that table.

My friend got seated in the poker room first, and I was seated about 15 minutes after him. I don't know a lot of players that play at Poto since I don't play there all that often, but I recognized no one at my table, and my friend had also commented on the same thing (and he knows most of the regulars). The table seemed a bit passive, so I was able to lean on the table a little bit. In the first half hour I had picked up $150, only having to show down one hand (which I lost, but it was a strong hand). After another 30 minutes, I was up another $150. The hand which made most of the chips was one that I'll detail. I was dealt pocket Jacks (this happened to be the third time I got them in this hour). I hate Jacks. The other bad thing was that I was in the Under-the-Gun position. I'll do anything with Jacks. I might raise, I might limp, I could just flat call a raise, and depending on the action, I'll even fold them preflop [easy fold if Rock or Pete are playing and have raised before getting to me...sorry, guys, couldn't resist. :) ]. In this particular hand, I decided to limp with the intention of calling a single raise if one came up, but no one else raised, so six of us went to the flop. The flop was as good as it can be for Jacks:

Tx-7x-4x (three suits)

The blinds checked, and I led out for $25. I guessed I had the lead unless I was unfortunate enough to have allowed a blind to make two pair by giving them the free flop. Only two other players called and neither of them were the blinds. The turn card was a Queen. I led for $45, the player two to my left called, and then the button moved all in for his remaining $125. This left me in a little quandry. This would have been an easy call if the player to my left hadn't already called. It's only $80 more to me, and the pot is well worth the call at this point; but I want to shut the other player out of the pot. If I call and he is drawing to a straight or flush, he's easily got the pot odds. If I raise and he's been slow-playing me, I just gave him the rest of my stack as I'll be committed. The only thing I had going for me was the fact that when the third player moved all-in the player on my left made a noise/sigh that sort of sounded like he didn't like the raise. I was thinking about it for a minute when I decided the flat call was best. The other player went in to the think tank and even declared "This would have been easy if you hadn't called", which indicated to me in combination with his initial reaction to the raise that he would be folding here. He eventually folded, and the dealer dealt the river, which was a nine. The other player flipped up King-Ten, and I showed my Jacks to win the pot. The third player said he had Ace-Ten, and also said he'd have called if I didn't. I thought he made a great read to fold that there, although I think the river goes check-check if he calls on the turn, anyway. An interesting hand to be sure!

My buddy came over to my table a couple minutes later, telling me he had gotten busted on a King-high flush after flopping top pair and the flush draw when another player called him all the way to the river with the Ace-high flush draw, and they both got there on the river. Yuck! Since we had driven together and I could tell he wanted to leave I told him I'd play to my big blind and then leave. I usually don't like to announce this since all the other players now know I've got a limited number of hands left. Well, I was very surprised; I never lost a hand after making that little announcement! I'll give a brief synopsis of the hands:
  • dealt 7-7; preflop raise, two callers, one overcard on flop, lead out bet, everyone folds
  • dealt A-J; preflop raise, one caller, missed board, checked all the way, win showdown against A-4
  • dealt 9c-2c; just called preflop (playing the rush, not my normal play), flop the flush draw with an Ace on flop, bet it, everyone folds
  • dealt A-T; preflop call, hit the Ace on flop, bet and everyone folds
  • dealt Qd-Jd UTG; preflop call; the flop is Ten-high with one diamond, I check, player on left bets $25, there's another caller, I call with the intention of stealing on turn; the turn is Ad giving me both straight and flush draw, I check raise to $140 after a bet of $40 and a call, both players fold to check raise
Since the QJ was my last hand before the big blind and I was leaving, I showed the semi-bluff. That got some groans, and I'm sure it left them wondering how they might have been sitting in some of those other hands. I just couldn't believe how that table was playing! It was a fun little rush, and my buddy was getting to enjoy it a little as he got to see my hole cards to sort of play along. The Poto experience ended up being profitable as I got my PaiGow losses back and then some! Once again, just trying to slowly finish building that bankroll for the 2009 WSOP!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Action 'o Plenty at Casino Rama!

For work this past week I was traveling to a small town a couple hours north of Toronto, Ontario, called Bracebridge. My flight was leaving Monday morning at 7:25am. When I woke and looked at the clock I was very surprised to see that it was 6:35am. I think my exact words were "Son of a .....!!". I'm pretty good about getting up for early flights. In five years of traveling for work this was the first time I had ever woke up late for a flight, and on that Monday, it was going to take a small miracle for me to make that flight in 50 minutes. I live about 15-20 minutes from the airport, so I quickly brushed my teeth, threw my luggage in my vehicle, and started to make my way there. I called the airline, and of course, the flight is right on time! I can't tell you the number of times I've had my Monday morning flights delayed, and the one time I actually need to have it be delayed it's going off right on schedule. Awesome!

I could waste the whole blog post detailing how I made the flight, but I won't do that. I made the flight (Woo Hoo!) and I was off to Toronto. After landing I picked up my rental and started driving north. I was able to get the facility where I'd be working set up with the help of one of the participants and I was relaxing at my hotel when I decided that maybe I should try and see what the poker room was like at the casino that was about 50 kilometers south of Bracebridge.

The poker room at Casino Rama has 14 tables, and 7 of them were in use. There were two $1/$2 No Limit Texas Hold 'em games, and three $2/$5 No Limit Texas Hold 'em games. The other two tables were being used for Limit Texas Hold 'em. I was able to lock up one of the seats at the $1/$2 game, and I went to the window to convert some U.S. Dollars to Canadian Dollars and then purchase casino chips. They gave me $224 Canadian for the $200 I wanted to exchange, and told me that I had 12 hours, but if I wanted to I could purchase the $200 US back at the same rate, which I thought was nice.

I sat down at the 11-handed table, and found myself at a table where it seemed like no less than 4 players were seeing a flop. When the table is that loose, I often find myself tightening things up and just waiting for decent hands, and then trying to force the action in to a heads up scenario. The plan was working, and within an hour I had worked my stack up from the $200 buy-in to about $350. It was at this point that a very interesting hand came up that involved two of the larger stacks at the table. The one player was two seats to my right, and had a little over $800 in chips. She appeared to be a regular, and from the play I had seen to that point was also pretty decent, getting her chips in to the middle with the goods. The other player was three seats to my left. He had about $550 in chips, and had hardly played any hands while I was there. I don't recall all the preflop action since I had folded, but there was a raise and at least the one call. The flop was:

Kx - Jh - 7h

The woman on my right led out with a less-than-pot-sized bet, and the player on my left made a minimum raise, which was called by the woman on my right. The turn was:

Kx (I only put 'x' because I don't recall the suit, and it didn't matter for the purposes of retelling this story)

Both players checked the turn, which I thought was odd, unless one of them had made a huge hand with that turn card. The river was:


At this point, the woman on my right led out for about 1/3 of the pot. The other player made a slightly-larger-than-minimum raise, and the woman made a minimum raise after that. The player to my left didn't think long and moved all in, which was immediately called by the woman to my right. Before the cards were turned over I knew that at least one full house was in play (I thought the hands were going to be K-J and J-J given the way the action had occurred). In fact, the player on my left had K-J for the top full house. The woman turned over the Th-8h for a rivered straight flush!! Zowie! Talk about your bad spots to be in with the 2nd nuts! It really sucked for the K-J, since he knew that quads weren't in play because he held one King. To be perfectly honest, had I been in that player's shoes I lose all my chips there, too. I'm sure he checked the turn figuring that he had a lock on the hand (as I would have guessed, too). It was just a horrible river card for that guy. I was just glad to see those chips moving to my right, as I hoped to get a shot at them later (which I did). The action all makes sense if you look at it. The losing player flops top two pair, so he makes a minimum raise, but the player who won had both the straight and flush draw along with the straight flush draw, so the min-raise is an easy call on the flop. With the turn going check-check, it was just unfortunate, or fortunate depending on your point of view, that the river brought the card it brought. Oh, well...that's poker.

A short while later, I managed to pick off a decent pot against that woman. It was appearing as though she was using her stack to bully players at the table. I found myself holding As-4s and I limped for $2, and then called her raise to $12 with the hand. The flop was:


She led out with a bet, and although I'm not a big fan of playing bottom pair I did think that this bet could have been anything, including just a standard continuation bet so I decided to call the $21. The turn card was an Ace, giving me top and bottom pair. She led out for $40, which I flat called. The river was an apparent blank, so when she led out for $75 on the river I also just flat called. You might ask why I didn't raise, and what it boiled down to was the fact that she hadn't shown down a bad hand yet, and if I raise the river and she then sets me all in, I don't know if I could have called with top and bottom pair on a full board. Her image was such that I would have to respect her shown down hands, and she had enough chips to set me in without it being much damage to her own stack. My hand was good as it turned out because of the turned Ace. She had flopped the King and I sucked out on her.

I grabbed a bite to eat at the sports bar at the casino, and after coming back I requested to get moved to the $2/$5 game. I had just under $600, and was informed when I got moved over that I could only buy in for $500, so I had to pocket a couple chips. Things weren't going so well for me over at the new game as I was one of the shorter stacks, but after losing a couple pots early and then flopping a flush with Ah-Qh(and getting bet at on the river) to recover some of what I had lost, a new player sat down which was going to turn out to be the guy who I wanted to play against. The player was very aggressive, attempting to take down pots with pure aggression. His stack jumped early, and was able to bully a player or two, and while he was doing this he was showing his trash hands that were missing the board. I got involved in one pot with him with A-8suited, flopped the top pair (the 8), but the board was all hearts, and I was eventually pushed off my hand at the turn. He didn't show that hand, but that was OK with me. I almost didn't want to know.

My second, and last, pot with him started with me being dealt Kh-Jh. The aggressive player had raised to $25, and I called with my speculative hand. The flop was pretty decent for my hand:

Jx-8d-4d (two diamonds)

He led out for $40, and I raised to $100, figuring if he had air he would just let it go. He called, so I guessed he had some piece of the board. The turn card was under the Jack and not a diamond. He checked and I, wanting to control the pot a little bit, also checked. If I made my standard bet here of somewhere between 1/2 the pot and the pot, I thought he would call anyway, and then the pot would be so large by the river I could be very easily looking at betting or calling my whole stack. This player had made that play on the river against two other players in pots and shown bluffs when they folded, so I wanted to keep the pot manageable so I could call a decent river bet if it wasn't an over bet. I had already made the decision that I was going to call the river no matter what if it wasn't an Ace or diamond. Well, the river was the Jack of diamonds, giving me trips, but putting the flush in play. My opponent led out for $175, which was a sizeable bet, but it was small enough for me to call with my trips. I did think about it for a minute, and I was thankful that I hadn't bet the turn, since if I did and he had called there, I knew that he would have been betting my whole stack here instead of the $175. I called and waited for him to show his hand, and he turned over the Tx-7x for a missed gutshot straight draw. It was a healthy pot to rake in! That player busted shortly thereafter (on a complete bluff), and left to get some more cash. I was informed by some regulars at the table that he was a local fireman that had won a million dollars in a lottery/contest. I guess he just likes to play poker. Good for him!

I waited for him to come back for about half an hour, but he didn't return, and it was starting to approach midnight, and I had about a 30-minute drive back to Bracebridge, so I called it a night. I exchanged $224 of my Canadian money for my $200 US dollars, and still had $555 Canadian to cashout. Pretty nice considering I'm trying to build the bankroll for the 2009 World Series of Poker in a little over a week!