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.