Sunday, July 30, 2006

There's always next year

I was eliminated a half an hour after midnight when my AQ lost to a pocket pair of 10's. I'm too emotionally and physically tired to give to full recap now, but you can expect in tomorrow or the next day. I'd like to sincerely thank my backers for their full support and apologize for not doing better. I'd also like to thank all of my friends and family for their kind words of encouragement and good luck wishes. Even though the WSOP is over I've enjoyed writing this blog so much that I plan to keep writing about my poker career, what's going on with Jen and general ruminations about the world. I plan to make Friday morning blog day for me so you 9-to-5 ers can start every Monday off with a little procrastination. There will still be plenty of poker stuff, but there will also be more (I'll gladly accept topics for discussion).

I definitely spent a lot of time day dreaming about returning a conquering hero with stacks of hundred dollar bills, my name in print and my face on ESPN and it's just hitting me that this is not going to happen...this year.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

So what goes on at the WSOP besides Poker?

Hello, Jen here!
I just got back to the MGM after having dinner with Dave and everything is going pretty well. At that time he had around $12,500 chips and felt he had everyone at his table pegged. He just called me on break to report that he's down to around 7500, but still anything can happen. Last night they played until around 3:00am, so hopefully we won't hear the full story until around then.

So what, might you ask, did I do all day? Well if I didn't know it before, I do now, that poker is a huge industry. In a second room about the same size as the monstrous tournament room was a Poker Expo housing just over 100 vendor booths. A few of these were offering products such as books, t-shirts, card cappers, and bobble heads fashioned after all your favorite poker stars. The vast majority, however, were online poker sites hoping to get you to sign up. In exchange for your name and email address they were willing to trade you all sorts of things, including, but not limited to, hats, shirts, mints, chapstick, pens, bags, baseballs, stickers, swimsuit calenders, notepads, gum, sunglasses, matches, bracelets, card cappers, mini frisbees, stress balls, beachtowels, and keychains. I went a little bit overboard. Here's a picture of my haul:


I also won a one handed "tournament" which allowed me to meet Mike Sexton and have my picture taken with PartyPoker floozies. I was told I would be able to download that picture from their site, but no luck so far. I earned my beach towel by defeating a sunpoker.net floozie in a heads up one handed "tournament". I also won a raffle which allowed me to play in an actual single table tournament with $100 going to the winner, but unfortunately I really had to go to the bathroom and my fast and loose play was quickly squashed by pocket aces. Another prize in that same raffle was a chance to go into one of those "cash grab" tubes where money flies all around and you try to grab it. Instead of money they had pieces of paper with different values written on them and I saw a guy win $500.

After convincing myself I looked like a bon a fide bag lady and just could not in good conscience collect any more free stuff, I went over to Ceasar's where our friend Matt was playing in an invitational craps tournament. That's right, a craps tournament! What will they think of next? He made it to the semifinals and won $500. Yay Matt!
If you were wondering, here's what a craps tournament looks like:

Pretty much like a craps table. But it was in the convention center, which I thought was cool, and they had cookies, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, a bar, and pretzel machine. It was all very fancy.


And that's what I did today!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Let's get this party started!

Group A kicked off the World Series Main Event today with over 2500 players (after you account for the alternates - I've actually gotten conflicting info about this number so I'm not really sure) and according to the reports I've read, the "real" celebrities showed up in droves. Among the celebrities putting their money on the line on day 1 were Toby Maguire (spiderman: who plays tons of big poker tournaments), Wil Wheaton (aka Wesley Crusher from star trek who is also a serious player and now works for pokerstars.com), Mekhi Phifer (from 8 mile and other movies), Matthew Lillard (from Scream 1 and Starship Troopers), James Garner (who's been in a ton of movies), Danny Masterson (Hyde on That 70's Show) and Norm MacDonald (from Saturday Night Live). Laura Prepon (Donna on That 70's Show) was among the only 55 women who started in group A. Here are a few other fun facts and plagiarized blurbs from the cardplayer.com recap.

It took 7 minutes for the first player to go down the tubes.

A Card Player reporter was confirming the name of Full Tilt online qualifier Mike Wrublik when the player sitting next to Wrublik, John Coito, seemed particularly interested in the name. When a reporter returned to the table, Wrublik explained the interest further. Apparently Wrublik had beaten Coito heads up in the Full Tilt qualifier to get his seat and now they're sitting next to each other in the main event.

Joe Sebok has arrived at the tournament dressed as "Robin" from the Batman and Robin comic book. Sebok lost a bet to Gavin Smith on who would perform the best during the preliminary events at the 2006 WSOP. Sebok must make an appearance dressed as a different super-hero for each day of the main event (Smith gets to choose which character).

The oldest entrant is 91 years old (he's already been eliminated).

Table 134 has an empty seat. The player that was supposed to be in seat 8 has not been inside the Rio once today as 11:30 p.m. approaches us. The player is being blinded off and is now down to $1,800. (This one makes me cringe - and double check my receipt to make sure it wasn't supposed to be me)

Jack Mahalingam is all-in for $5,000 and is called an opponent in late position. Mahalingam shows 8c8s and his opponent has 55. The flop is 6s5s5c and his opponent flops quads. The turn is a 9s giving Mahalingam a gut-shot straight flush draw (his only way to win). The river is the 7s giving Mahalingam the straight flush and the hand.

Jen read me the above and said "some guy" instead of Jack Mahalingam. It turns out that I know this fellow (he's an Oaks Club regular and came over to our house to celebrate once on a day when we both had five figure wins) and Jen didn't recognize the name because he goes by Bombay Jack and that's what we always call him.

Jen and I (and Matt for some of the time) spent the Day at the Aladdin Casino. While Jen did some shopping, Matt and I played in a low buy-in No Limit cash game. After about 2 hours I was ahead a whopping ten bucks and decided to get out of there quick before I blew it all back. Matt headed off to hang out with one of his friends (a Vegas local) and I headed to "Betsey Johnson" (not to be confused with Betsey Ross or Magic Johnson - I was expecting to see basketballs wrapped in American flags) to help Jen choose between 1 of 3 dresses. Afterwards we spent a few hours playing Pai Gow and Craps and then had a nice dinner at Oyster Bay Seafood Restaurant. After a short walk (yes we walked!) back to the MGM we've been watching some T.V. and Jen's been forcing me to eat an insane number of cookies. I keep saying "honey I couldn't possibly eat anymore cookies" and then she says "I'm moving out and taking the cats with me when we get back to California if you don't eat more cookies!" Then she snarls at me like a wolf. What choice do I have, but to keep eating cookies. If I look fatter the next time you see me, at least you'll know who to blame.

I'll be up around 10 a.m. tomorrow and after what is hopefully a satisfying breakfast I'll be headed to the Rio around 11:30. I'm going to do my best to focus on making the best decisions at every possible moment and let winning take care of itself. It's unlikely that there will be any up to the minute updates on the blog so you'll all have to wait for my recap which hopefully I'll be writing very late at night.

The more the merrier

After waiting in a line behind about 100 people I registered to play on day 2. I was surprised to hear that days 3 and 4 were already sold out. Originally I supposed that anyone who signed up well in advance chose day 3 or day 4 so they wouldn't have to spend so many day in Vegas with lot's of downtime. I later heard that as of about 7 p.m. 7,800 players had already registered. I've also heard that they are going to cap registration at 2,080 per day or 8,320 total, but are going to allow alternates. The way alternates work is every time someone gets eliminated they replace that player with a new one with a new stack of chips. I suspect that they'll allow alternates for the first two hours of each day and the total number of players is going to be over 9,000 (more than all of the experts guesses). There is a rest day built into the schedule and I wouldn't be too surprised if they cut that out and added a 5th starting day. We'll have to wait and see. Jen and I plan to have a nice relaxing day tomorrow and then it will be time to get down to business on Saturday.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

We've made it to Vegas

We've made it to Vegas. After a rocky flight that almost led to some in flight vomiting we made it from the door of the plane to the door of our hotel room in record time. We're staying at the MGM grand which is the largest hotel in the world with 5,005 rooms. One of the features of this huge hotel is a lion habitat right in the casino! While strolling around looking for Emeril's seafood restaurant we stopped and watched the lions for about 15 minutes. I've seen these lions a few times in the past, but they've always been asleep. Today, however, there was a guy in with the big cats tossing around two large plastic balls. The lions would paw and bat at the balls much like regular cats, but the big difference came when the lions would trap the ball. With a normal cat you can just take their toy away and keep tossing it around, but clearly no one was going to try to take a toy away form a full grown lion.

I haven't yet registered for the main event, but shortly Jen and I are going to head over to the Rio to register and have dinner with my good friend Matt (who is also playing the main event) and a few of his friends. I have 5% of Matt's action so in addition to rooting for a friend I have a tangible interest in his success. But, we also have a $200 last longer bet, meaning whoever gets eliminated first owes the other a pair of C-notes. Clearly this bet doesn't mean much compared to the other dollars at stake, but it's a matter of pride. Our dream in to both make it to the final table, so we can really play up the $200 bet for the TV cameras. I would really enjoy saying things like "yeah I know there are millions of dollars on the line, but all I care about is sticking it to Matt and getting his money" Nominally the odds of us both making the money are 100 to 1 and the chances of us both making the final table are roughly 1 in 790,000 so I'm not going to spend too much time scripting my hilarious comments.

Speaking of odds, thanks to Erik for the correction on my odds of ending up with one of the top 100 players at my table and implying that I could be one of those players. Or perhaps I should be insulted that he thinks I'm so delusional that I would put myself in that category. In reality I think I'm somewhere in the 5,000th best player in the world range. I'm not really sure, but I think that's at least that's the right order of magnitude.

If you read my Main Event Preview Extravaganza you'll know that the first day of the tournament is split into 4 days and when you sign up you can request which day you want. I'm going request group C which will play on Day 3, Sunday the 30th. I'll have plenty of time to kill between now and then so I'm glad Jen (and Matt) is here. I'll probably blog it up a little tomorrow to let you know how any stupid gambling we do goes, talk about any interesting happenings, or share a little WSOP main event history.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Performance enhancers in poker

After my post about what makes a good poker player my friend Erik posed the question "you ever hear of people taking beta-blockers, which block adrenaline in the body, or use other anti-anxiety drugs to get an edge in the game?" This was in response to the section where I mentioned that during a big hand when players get nervous (myself included) their heart rates go through the roof and you can notice a visible change in their breathing which can help you figure out what cards they might have. I've certainly never heard anyone admit to doing this kind of thing, and certainly haven't seen anyone recommend doing it in print. However I do have a little experience with this type of medication. As some of you know I developed an intense fear of flying in my early 20's (which I've overcome for the most part) and for about 3 years whenever I'd fly I'd take anti anxiety medication (either valium or addavan). While I was relaxed I also felt kind of out of it and I think in poker the negatives would greatly outweigh the positives.

On the other hand medication designed to treat ADD or increase focus could certainly help improve your performance. Some people might even put Red Bull into the category of performance enhancers. Right on the can it says that it's designed to improve focus in high stress situations. Behind bottled water Red Bull is the second most popular beverage at the tables (and it's free so why not have a few!).

There is really no governing body for poker and to my knowledge, while I would consider it unethical, it is not against the rules to use mental performance enhancers. Although you could certainly get barred from all Harrah's (the company that owns the Rio and the WSOP) properties for a variety of infractions, there is no one to bar you from all major poker tournaments. The closest thing to a governing body is the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) which has only been formed in the past few years. The main purpose of the TDA is not to regulate poker, but rather to standardize rules. These days if you play a tournament in Atlantic City you can expect the same rules as you would find in Mississippi (I bet you didn't know that Biloxi Mississippi is the third largest gambling area in the country behind only Vegas and Atlantic City -bigger than Reno!). The TDA tends to focus on things like what do you do if the dealer puts out the flop before the action is complete before the flop (you reshuffle the deck and deal out a new flop after the action is complete) or how many cards can you find face up in the deck before you declare the hand a misdeal (five!). Situations that don't come up often, but happen from time to time.

As far as conduct goes I can only think of two specific rules. First of all if you say "fuck" in any form, for any reason, you get a 10 minute penalty (meaning you must leave the table and any blinds or antes that you owe are taken from your stack). In fact if someone called you a mother fucker and then you told the floorman "he called me a mother fucker," you'd both get a penalty. Sorry if I offended anyone with the coarse language there. The second rule is while folding your cards if either or both fall off the table for any reason you get a 20 minute penalty. Of course it's up to the floor people to use their discretion to hand out penalties for other misconduct that is not explicitly spelled out. I once saw a guy who's hand was declared dead for using his cell phone at the table (which I guess is another conduct rule) have a pretty strong reaction. Sometimes there's a little room to maneuver with this rule, but this guy was on the phone for most of the hand and was asked to get off several times, by the dealer and the other players. By the time the floorman got there, the hand was over and the guy in question was showing a winning hand. The floorman told him he had a dead hand and gave the pot to the other player who had missed a draw and had nothing. At this point the guy with the dead hand threw his cell phone at about 90 miles per hour directly into the wall. He was expelled from the tournament (with no refund), escorted out by security and his chips were removed from play (also his cell phone broke into several pieces so he lost that too).

Another time, I was in a tournament in L.A. and I saw the card off the table rule come into play in a crucial situation. In a $500 tournament that paid 27 places, with about 35 players left a guy threw his cards at the dealer and one fell onto the floor. The dealer called the floorman who told the player he was going to get a 20 minute penalty. The guy spent at least 5 minutes arguing and it wasn't until after he was done that the 20 minute clock started. They'd announced the rule several times and it was one of only two rules that had been written out on the paper that had the blind structure and other information about the tournament. While walking away from the table the player, who was a phenomenal jerk, asked the rest of us to "play slow" so he wouldn't lose too much in the way of blinds and antes while he was gone. In one united voice we told the guy that he was crazy if he thought we'd play slow. If he was eliminated we'd all be that much closer to the money and whatever chips he lost would be going into our stacks! If he wasn't a huge jerk we might not have gone out of our way to screw him, but he was, so we did. About every 5 minutes he'd come back and say "come on guys slow it down for me would ya." At which point 3 or 4 of us would thank him for reminding us to play as quickly as possible. With 1 minute left on his penalty it was his turn to put in the big blind which amounted to about half of his stack. He made it back for his small blind, but didn't get lucky and was eliminated in 29th place. If he hadn't thrown his cards at the dealer he probably would have made the money. Furthermore, if he hadn't argued for so long about the rule or asked us to play slow so many times he would have at least given himself a chance. You never know when being a jerk is going to come back to bite you in the ass.

Getting back to performance enhancers, I've often wondered how many people use them in poker and my guess would be not very many. I've also wondered what other players might think about the ethical implications of using them, but I've never seen the topic discussed in person or in print. If you use steroids or other physical enhancers it's easy to measure your improved strength or stamina, but with mental enhancers in poker it's not so clear. I know that if I play after I've had a few drinks (which I never do for significant amounts of money) I feel like I'm making the same decisions and playing the same way, but my results tell me other wise. Similarly I'm not sure you would feel like you were making better decisions if you were on something so unless there was a dramatic change in your results you might not give credit to the enhancers. Also I think many players underrate the focus aspect of playing good poker so they'd never try to improve that aspect of their game chemically.

MAIN EVENT PREVIEW EXTRAVAGANZA!

Welcome to my main event preview! I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves: what’s the big deal about this one? Isn’t it just another tournament for a little more money? NO! This event will have the largest prize pool and largest first prize of any poker tournament of any kind in the history of the world! Every year the winner of this tournament is crowned the world champion!

To put it into perspective let’s say you were the best golfer in the world and the best tennis player in the world and you won all four of golf’s major tournaments (The U.S Open, The Masters, The PGA championship and The British Open) and somehow found time to also win the four major tournaments on the tennis circuit (The U.S. Open, Wimbledon, The Australian Open and The French Open). You’d win just shy of 9 million dollars, but you’d still be a million dollars short of the $10,000,000 the WSOP main event champ will get this year for winning this one event.

Last year there were 5,619 entrants and this year they expect around 8,000. In order to handle this huge number of entrants (there isn’t a room big enough to hold that many poker tables and they certainly don’t want to hire 700 or 800 new dealers for one day’s work) the 8,000 players will be split into 4 groups of 2,000 (groups A, B, C, and D). On July 28th, the first day of the tournament, group A will play from 2000 players down to about 700. Group B will do the same on July 29th followed by group C on the 30th and finally group D on the 31st. On August 1st the 1400 players left from groups A and B will return and play down to about 600. The next day groups C and D will return and do the same. When August 3rd rolls around on the 7th day of the event everyone’s who is left (around 1200 players) will play together for the first time. After a rest day on the 4th play will continue 12-15 hours a day every day until only one player remains on August 10th.

The longer a tournament takes the more skill comes into play and clearly this is a long tournament. If you play 10 hands it’s mostly luck who wins and loses. If you play 100 there’s more skill involved but still a large luck factor. When you start to get into the range of 1000 hands skill is going to shine through most of the time. But no matter what you do bad luck can still sink you at any time. As long as someone at your table has more chips than you, you can be eliminated in 1 hand. You could play perfectly and get eliminated on the first hand of the tournament. But for the most part, avoiding situations where your entire tournament is at risk on 1 hand is part of the skill involved.

So how do they make this tournament take longer so skill can play a larger part? Three factors determine how quickly a tournament will progress: the number of chips you start with, level length (how frequently they increase the blinds and/or antes) and what amount the blinds start at. In the first tournament I played at this years WSOP we started with 1500 chips, 60 minute levels and blinds starting at 25/25. In the main event we start with 10,000 chips, 90 minute levels and the same blind structure. It’s easy to lose 1500 chips in one hand. In the first event if you lose 1500 chips you’re gone, while in the main event if you lose 1500 chips you still have 8500 left and plenty of time to make a comeback. In fact, you can have a couple bad hands and still have the chips you need to maneuver your way back into the action. Also, 90 minute levels means after 12 hours of play we’ll be finishing level 8 instead of level 12. If you play a $100 tournament at your local casino the whole tournament will be over in 4 hours. In the main event you could walk into the tournament 4 hours after the first hand is dealt (or fold every single hand you’re dealt for 4 hours) and still have 90% of your chips. But…lose your focus on one hand and you could find yourself busted and wondering what the hell happened.

Another interesting thing about the main event is despite the big buy-in the field will be loaded with weak players. About 75% of the field will win their way into the tournament by winning a satellite. A satellite is a tournament with a relatively small buy-in where instead of a normal prize structure the only prizes are entries to a larger event. For example, if you have 500 people all put up $200 you’ll have $100,000. Instead of paying 50 places with various prizes, everyone who finishes in the top 10 will win a $10,000 entry to the main event while everyone else will get nothing. Sometimes you’ll have situations where 10 players who put up $1,000 play for one entry and other times you’ll have 1,000 people put up $10 to play for an entry. I played in the largest satellite in history a week and a half ago where over 7,500 people all put up $370 and the top 234 players won an entry into the main event. The guys (and gals) who are willing to risk $1,000 to get in probably don’t suck, but thousands of amateurs will win their way in via small buy-in satellites. Many internet qualifiers will be playing their first in person tournament. Even if their poker skills are up to par it takes hundreds (if not thousands) of hours at the poker table to learn to control your movements, recognize what the movements of other players mean, and just feel comfortable sitting around the felt. Also let’s not forget that this is the World Series. If a pro like me can be nervous about it, players who’ve never played a tournament with a buy-in more than a few hundred dollars or who’ve never sat face to face with their opponents are going to be a total mess.

What does all this mean? It means that I’m going to have plenty of time to out play what will hopefully be a somewhat weak field. Don’t get me wrong, ALL of the best players in the world will be there, but they’ll be hiding mixed in with some total chumps, lot’s of semi-skilled amateurs, and plenty of mid level pros like myself. After all, with 8,000 players there’s only a 1 in 8 chance of having one of the top 100 players at your table.

Tell me more about the money! Like I said before last year there were 5,619 entrants and here are a few of the payouts:
1st $7,500,000
2nd $4,250,000
3rd $2,500,000
9th $1,000,000
10th $600,000
20th $304,680
30th $274,090
40th $235,390
50th $173,880
75th $107,950
100th $77,710
150th $46,245
200th $39,075
300th $24,365
400th $18,335
500th $14,135
560th $12,500

Obviously, I’m going to do my best and I’m confident I can compete, but I’m sort of looking at this year as my rookie year. You don’t expect rookies to win championships and I’m certainly not expecting to win, but I know I’ve got what it takes to make the money and there’s always the chance that something crazy could happen. I give myself a 1 in 5000 chance of winning, a 1 in 500 chance of winning $1,000,000, and a 15%-20% chance of making the money (which would still be one of the top three or four accomplishments in my poker career).

Jen and I leave for Vegas on Thursday and will be staying at the MGM for 3 days and the Paris for 4 days (hopefully I’ll have to extend my stay). I’ll do my best to update the blog from Vegas, but I’m not sure what kind of internet access I’ll have so it might be a little more sporadic and less detailed than past updates. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What makes a good poker player?

When I'm at parties or other social functions and people hear that I'm a professional poker player, they always ask "god damn, how did you get to be so good looking?" Once we have that out of the way they also ask "what separates the pros from the amateurs?" Or "isn't it all just luck?" Or "Isn't poker just gambling? I thought you couldn't win at gambling? Doesn't the house always win?" After that about 40% of people say "is it all bluffing or what?" The first thing I tell them is in order to be a good poker player you need to WAY overuse parentheses in your blog (seriously, have you see how often I use them; it's ridiculous). The second thing I tell them is there are a ton of things that go into being a good poker player.

First and foremost you need solid fundamentals as far as strategy goes. You can get a good deal of this kind of information from books and articles, but it takes putting theory into action to really internalize good strategy. If someone raises in front of you before the flop and you have AQ, I can make a good argument for folding, raising or calling in most situations. It takes experience to identify the correct times to do each. Furthermore, just like there are many different kind of attacks in chess, there are many different general strategies in poker. Some players like to see a ton of flops in the hopes that they'll win a few big pots when it will be difficult for their opponents to put them on a specific hand. Others see very few flops and only proceed when they have strong cards. Neither is correct or incorrect and part of being a good player is finding the style that suits you best. Other parts of good fundamentals are knowing the odds of certain things happening and having some math skills. This aspect of poker is often over hyped and really anyone can learn this part of the game without too much effort.

Secondly you need a lot of patience. Poker can move really slowly and can get boring if you're not getting good cards. It's much more fun to play than to not play and fighting the urge to get involved with marginal cards is something every poker player faces from time to time. You've got to wait for good cards or wait until the situation is right to make a move with weaker cards.

What about looking for "tells?" In the movies you'll see the hero spot the villain's nose twitching every time he bluffs and his lip curl up every time he makes a full house. In reality this kind of thing never happens. And while everyone always talks about having a good poker face having a good poker body is really much more important. Looking at an opponent’s posture, what they do with their arms and hands and even their breathing is much more important (if your heart rate goes way up because you’re nervous about something it's really tough to control your breathing and look relaxed). How a player puts their chips into the pot is also very important. Do the throw them in violently or do they slowly push in a neat stack? Did they sit there for 10 seconds or bet right away? Did they say anything as they bet or were they silent? Most importantly you have to remember what they did before so you can interpret all off this information. The same action will mean different things for different players and you have to know who you're dealing with.

At the highest level people don't give off much information with their movements (and on the internet you can't see people at all) so you have to use betting patterns to make your best guess about what they have. Sometimes your hand is so good (or so bad) that it doesn't matter what the other players have and your only goal is to get as much money in the pot as possible, but for the most part you need to try to figure out what they have. There are 169 possible combinations of two cards (neglecting suits) and your job is to eliminate as many of those as possible. When the hand starts you have no information and each player could have anything. As soon as a player calls or raises your information gathering starts (if they fold we don't care about what they had) and at this point you can usually limit what they have to about 20 of the possible 169 holdings. After the flop you can usually narrow it down to something like 10 possibilities. Hopefully by the river you can narrow it down to just a few (or sometimes just one), think about the likely each possibility is and then you look at how much is in the pot and how much you need to risk to win the pot. In order to do a good job at narrowing the possibilities you need to pay attention to how the other players play in various situations so you can interpret (and predict for that matter) their actions on future hands. If you've read my blog I'm sure you've heard me say "I knew this guy didn't have X because of this and thought he might have Y because of this other thing." Being good at making these guesses based on you opponents past betting patterns is a huge part of poker.

On the other side of the coin is making it difficult for your opponents to guess what you have. The way that the other players at you table perceive you and the way you play is called your "table image." You have to understand how the other players perceive you and use it against them. If they think you're a wild and crazy player who's always bluffing then you'll do better to wait for a good hand and if they think your captain conservative you should try bluffing more. Sometimes it's important to make non optimal or non profitable plays from time to time in order to throw your opponents off and make it tougher for them to figure out what you have in the future. If they see you do something ridiculous they'll remember and will always have to consider that maybe you're doing something else ridiculous when they come up against you in a future hand. The easiest players to beat are the ones that are totally straight forward and predictable.

Having the right mindset is also important. Risking thousands of dollars on a card game can be some scary shit and having the fearlessness to do the right thing is very important. The best play is oftentimes the most risky (and scariest) and it takes guts to go ahead with it anyway. Confidence is also very important. You have to believe that the guesses you’re making are correct if you’re going to act on them. Good poker is aggressive poker and a lack of confidence usually manifests itself in timid play which is a recipe for failure. You can never be 100% sure of what someone has until the cards get turned over and sometimes you have to be willing to put all of your chips at risk when you’re 75% sure or 60% sure.

Having good focus is also important. It's easy to watch the game on TV while you're playing or talk with the casino employees or just space out, but if you do that it will be much more difficult to guess what your opponents have when you're involved in a hand. Believe me it can be EXTREMELY difficult to pay attention to the game when all you've been doing is folding for an hour and a half, but it's still important to do so.

Intuition also plays a part. Sometimes you'll hear players say "I don't know what he had, but I knew I was beat" or "It just felt like he was bluffing." Somehow your subconscious has picked up on something the other players are doing and it just gives you a gut feeling. Learning to trust those gut feelings is tough, but important.

Last, but not least on my list is emotional control. Have you ever seen a baseball player kick the shit out of a water cooler or throw bats onto the field? Or seen a golfer slam their club into the ground? Poker players have the same kind of reactions. Think about how you'd react of you had $1,000 riding on the turn of one card and you were a 10 to 1 favorite and lost? What if the same thing happened to you again a few hands later? You'd probably go bananas. When a poker player let's his emotions affect his play negatively it's called going on tilt and believe me it happens to everyone. Usually if things aren't going well the first thing to go is patience. Players on tilt tend to play more hands than they should. The next thing that comes is bluffing too much. A player on severe tilt will have a sense of desperation to get their money back as quickly as possible, but what happens is they make poor decisions and lose even more. But, among strong players tilt comes in more mild forms. It might be calling a raise with a hand that isn't quite good enough or raising when the situation doesn't warrant it instead of just calling. The thing I like about tournament poker is if something really bad happens to you, you're usually out of the tournament and can't make any more mistakes or do any more damage to your bankroll.


There are certainly other things that make a good poker player, but for my money these are the big ones. Now if someone asks you, "isn't poker all just luck?" you can tell them that it's not and have something to back it up. About 25% of the time I tell people that I'm a professional poker player they imply (sometimes not subtly) that I'm a big fat liar. Everyone's been taught from the time that they are small children that they can't win at any endeavor that involves betting. "The house always wins" is the mantra that goes along with this lesson. Of course it's true that casino's make money, but just because the house wins doesn't mean that you can't win too.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Back to My Specialty

I was once again reminded of the power of internet poker yesterday. The key to winning on the internet is volume. At the WSOP every decision is critical. Watching your opponents and learning their betting patterns and mannerisms over a period of hours helps you eventually take them out. In a live game you get about 35 hands an hour (which may sound like a lot, but it's really not). In the same game online you'll get 60-70 hands an hour. Why so much faster? Well it takes all of about 1.5 seconds to shuffle and deal the cards online, you don't ever have to count out chips and every action is just a click of the mouse. Also you aren't limited to playing just one game at a time. After playing online almost full time for the past few years I've gotten really good at managing multiple games and making quick decisions (plus I have a 30 inch monitor so I can see everything that's going on). The most games I've ever played at once is 9, but I usually limit it to 6 at a time. I was thinking that yesterday I played more hands before I had lunch (about 2,000) than I did during the 9 WSOP events I played (about 1,500). The bottom line is I played 62 single table tournaments (starting with 9 players with the top 3 spots playing - in a $100 tournament 1st pays $472.5, 2nd pays $283.5, and third pays $189) yesterday and won $3,702. Nice timing for a good win.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Well what was the damage?

I lost $17,239 playing WSOP events (I didn't actually play any other poker while I was there). Of that my share of the loss is 51.5% or $8,878. But let's not forget that I won $3,500 playing stupid casino games. There was also something like 1800 worth of expenses (I have exact records but have yet to add it up) so far and of course the opportunity cost of not working for 2 weeks. A decent showing in the main event could easily wipe all of this away, but you'll have to wait for the preview to get the full details.

I'll probably keep blogging a little between now and when I head back to Vegas and may continue after that. At the very least look out for the "Main Event Preview" which will be coming some time soon. For now let me just say that after 13 days in Vegas it's great to be home. Jen cooked me a FANTASTIC home cooked meal yesterday (she's turning into a super duper cook) and we caught up on some TIVO'd reality shows. I'll probably have a half assed work day today and then get back on my horse tomorrow. Thanks again for all of the good luck wishes and support I've gotten from everyone reading this blog. If anyone out there want's to get into online poker, wants recomendations about poker books (strategy books or interesting reads about poker), or has any poker questions send me an e-mail (or post a comment) and I'll help you get started, recomend, or answer.

A little math

Clearly I'm a little disapointed with my performance so far at the WSOP, but how bad was it? Let's look a few exmaples to put it into perspective. Imagine the player who is in the exact middle of the field, let's call him Middleton. Half the players are better than him and half the players are worse in every event he plays. Middleton shoud have exactly a 10% chance of making the money whenever he enters. So if Middleton played 9 events (just like certain other players we know and love) what are the chances of him finishing in the money in ZERO events (the math for 1 money finish is a little more complicated so we'll stick with this). Who said 10%? Nope. 26.57%? Now you're just guessing. The real answer is actually 38%. 38% of the time Middleton would have no money finishes after playing 9 events even though he's better than half of the other players.

Now lets look at a great player. We'll call him captain 20! Captain 20 is better than almost all of the players he plays against and makes the money 20% of the time he enters an event. What are the chances of him going o for 9? Who said 19%? Nope. It's actually 13.5%. Even a great player can still expect to get totally blanked almost 14% of the time he enters 9 events.

Now let's look at a player that makes the money 30% of the time. We'll call him the figment, because guess what he doesn't exsist. There's just too much short term luck and too many other good players for anyone to make the money this frequently. Even if you put Phil Ivey (who many think is the best player in the world) into a mythical $50 tournament (let's assume you agree to give him 100 times what he actually wins so he's interested) where they gave you plenty of time to play (a normal $50 tournamnet would have about 100 players and will usually be over in 4 hours or less) with a bunch of total amatures he still wouldn't make the money more than about a third of the time.

So where do I fit in. When I play tournaments on the internet that pay 10% of the field with buy-ins ranging from $50-$300 (which other than special events is as big as they get online) I've finished in the money about 22% of the time (in 2005 I played 606 tournamnets of this type). At the WSOP I'd put myself some where in betten Middleton and Captain 20, but it's hard to say and I may never really know where I fit in. In order to get any kind of idea statistically I'd have to play AT LEAST 100 events (and probably more like 500 or 1000). The problem with that (along with the insane cost) is after playing 50 events I'll be much better than I was when I started and after another 50 I'd be much better than I was after the first 50. So I really just have to guess where I stand. The real question is "If I played this tournament 10,000 would I have more money than I started with." At the WSOP if the answer is yes then I should play. In smaller tournaments the answer has to be yes and then we have to look at how much. I could go beat the shit out of some $20 players all day every day, but it wouldn't get me much.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Event 12 recap

It's a little late but here it is! Event #12, $2,500 no limit hold 'em, started with 1290 players and I had great feeling about it going in. On the very first hand of the tournament I easily could have gone broke. I was two off the button with J 9 and I considered raising because the players in the blinds had not yet arrived at the table, but their chips were still in the pot (you don't get a free trip through the blinds if you're not there yet). Despite what looked like easy money out there, I decided to fold and the player to my left, a 50ish Englishman, made it 125 to go (the blinds were 25/25). The player to his left made it 300, he called, and the flop came J J 4. I was kicking myself for folding what would have been trip jacks until the Englishman checked and called a bet of 800. It looked like one of these fellows probably had a J. The turn was another 4 and the Englishman instantly put the rest of his 1400 chips into the pot. After about a good 3 or 4 minutes the other player folded QQ face up and the Englishman showed a 4 to the table. He threw in both of his cards face down and someone asked "what did he show?" Everyone said "a four," but the Englishman reached out a flipped up one of the cards he'd just folded anyway. It was a four, BUT the card he flipped up wasn't the same 4 he'd already shown - he'd made four of a kind. I don't think anyone noticed that he'd grabbed a different card but I was sitting right next to him so I caught it. If I had seen the flop I would have been out on the first hand.

A few hands later I dodged another bullet. One player raised to 100, another made it 300 to go and I looked down at JJ - the 4th or 5th best starting hand in hold 'em. Raising, calling and folding were all options here. If I raised and got reraised I could be sure I was against a bigger pair, but I'd be risking about a third of my chips to find out. If I called and the board was all small cards I'd probably go broke if someone had me beat. I decided it was still too early and folded. The player who'd had QQ in the first hand moved all in with 99 and was called by one of the other players who showed KK and won the pot with a full house.

Despite my Matrix style bullet dodging I was still getting hit with some shrapnel and found myself down to 1100 chips after the first hour. I had yet to win a pot even though I'd been getting some pretty good cards. I caught my first break in round 2 with the blinds a 25/50 when the button open raised to 150. After finding 22 in my hand, I got aggressive and moved all in. I'd be about a 53% favorite against any non pair and I was planning on winning the pot before the flop. My opponent called in about 1/10 of a second and I said "show me ace king!" AK and pairs much bigger than 22 were the only hands that would require no thought before a call. Happily he showed me AK, the cards that came out in the middle of the table were all garbage and I doubled up to about where I started.

Perhaps the easiest chips I picked up in the entire WSOP came to me a few hands later. The Englishman (who was super aggressive) open raised to 150 (this was a little out of character because he was normally raising to 5 to 10 times the big blind - too much in my opinion) and the button called. I was in the big blind and picked up two red 10's. I thought about just calling, but I figured the Englishman could have a wide range of hands and if the other player had anything great he would have rerasied so it was likely I had the best hand. I made it 650 to go and after about 30 seconds the Englishman called and the button quickly folded. The flop came down 10 6 5. DING DING DING! I had the best possible hand and I tried to figure out how to get the most money into the pot. Hoping to get called or raised, I bet 500 into a 1475 pot. The Englishman thought and asked how many chips I had left (a sign that he was considering moving all in). After some more thought, he just called. At this point I was checking no matter what came on the turn. If he was thinking about moving all in I wanted to give him every indication that I had a weak hand. The turn was a small club (which put two on the board), I checked, the Englishman immediately moved all in and I almost beat him into the pot. He turned up KJ of clubs and after no club materialized on the river I took down the pot.

Up to 5000 in chips I was feeling great as I moved to a new table and we went on break. My new table was tougher than my first and I found myself sitting across from Clonie Gowen, one of the best (and best looking) female players in the world. I bled off about 1000 chips in unspectacular fashion and found myself moving yet again to another table. At this new table I found Mike "The Mouth" Matasow. Mike has the most fitting nickname in all of poker - he never shuts up. I'd seen him on TV plenty (he finished 9th out of 5600 in last years main event and has two WSOP bracelets) and he's always seemed like a prick, but he was really nice to me and was actually pretty well behaved. Of course he was still talking constantly.

Shortly after arriving at my new table I got involved in the hand that was the turning point of the event. At the start of round 4 with the blinds at 100/200 I was in the big blind with 77. The player on the button raised to 525 and I had a decision to make. I could just call the 325 more and see a flop or I could reraise and try to win the pot right there. I looked at my opponents stack and he only had about 2000 more while I had about 4000 chips so even if he called me AND I lost I'd still have 1500 left (not a ton of chips but enough to work with a little). After about 10 seconds I moved all in and he instantly called. Uh oh. I was hoping to see AK again, but instead he showed me 99 and took most of my chips. I know this was the right play and my opponent easily could have had plenty of hands that he would have folded or plenty of hands that I would be a favorite against (in fact if he had anything but a pair bigger than 77 I was ahead). I spent the next 30 hands or so looking for ANYTHING to move all in with and managed to steal the blinds a few times, but of course I had to go right back through them again. Finally with about 1200 chips left I picked up A8 of spades in late position. One player just called the big blind and I moved all in. After asking for a count of my chips he called with A 10. The flop was 9 10 J giving me a straight draw and some hope, but no help arrived and I was out.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Event #12 recap preview

Get ready for a preview of the recap! I had another mid stream exit today (it seems like everyday I went broke in round 4, damit!). I'm going to go have dinner and a few drinks now, but I'll write a recap either later tonight or tomorrow along with a few thoughts about how things have gone so far, what I need to work on and just what the hell happened. Remember there's still hope -the $10,000 main event starts July 28th. Hopefully I've been saving up all my good luck for "the big one."

Today 3 years ago

On July 7th 2003 I had my first day as a professional poker player. I won he first hand I played that day with four aces. I won $98 and left the casino feeling like a million bucks. In the three years since I've had plenty of good days and bad, but I've had 34 winning months and only 2 losing months (September of 05 and March of 06). I tell everyone who'll listen that I have the best job in the world. After all if I was retired or had tens of millions of dollars I'd still spend a great deal of my time playing poker. Hopefully today will be just as revolutionary and today 3 years ago.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Event #12 preview

Sorry about the lack of Event# 11 preview and thanks to Jen for putting one together at the last minute. Event #12 is a $2,500 No Limit hold 'em event. Last year this event had 1,056 entrants (featuring a special appearance by yours truly) with 1st place of $594,960, 9th place was $48,575 and 100th was $2,670 (My research tells me 250th place pays nothing!) I think since today's event was limit, the last no limit under $5,000 was Event #6, and all of the no limit events have been much bigger this year, we can expect 1,200-1,300 players. This is my last shot until the main event so I hope it's a good one. Without a doubt I'm due for some good luck. Maybe I'll try putting on my socks inside out and see what happens.

As you may have guessed I'm not going to play Saturday's event which is $1,000 buy in with rebuys. The way this tournament works (all rebuy tournaments work similarly) is you start with 1,000 in chips and any time you have 1,000 or less you can buy another 1,000 chips for $1,000. So when you sit down most people will immediately buy another 1,000. If you go broke or get back below 1000 chips you can buy more. You can do this as many times as you want you just have to pay for it. You can imagine what the players who don't care about the money (but want desperately want the bracelet) do to accumulate chips while they have the chance. Last year in the $5,000 with rebuys Daniel Negranu did 22 rebuys which cost him $5,000 each! After the first 2 hours all of the insanity ends, but they give you one more chance to buy chips (called an add on) no matter how many you have. So if you want to compete you are looking at at least a $3,000 commitment and if you lose with a big hand early it could easily be $5,000 or even $7,000. I don't think things have been going well enough for me to put this kind of cash on the line.

Event #11 recap plus a comment answer or two

Today's event was $1,500 limit hold 'em and featured what will almost certainly the weakest field of the entire WSOP. The reasoning behind this assertion has three parts. Weaker players play in lower buy-in events, limit hold 'em is less popular among the best players, and most importantly there was another event ($5,000 buy-in Omaha Hi-Lo) that also took place today. For any of the top players in the world (even the one's who don't excel at Omaha) it's an easy decision to play for more money against a field of 200 than 700 for less. Winning a bracelet is paramount for the top players so getting a chance against a smaller field is the way to go for almost all of them. Sadly I was unable to capitalize on this situation.

Things started out fast and furious today. My first table had two insane players. One said he wanted to triple up or go broke as quickly as possible so he could play a $1,000 no limit tournament at the Bellagio that started at 2 p.m. Another said he told his friends he was going to play every hand until he went broke or had a big pile of chips. These guys were in almost every pot and their lose style encouraged other players (rightly so) to get involved in more pots. I found myself getting plenty of good cards early, but I kept alternating between winning a small pot and losing a big one. At the end of round 1 after playing what felt like a thousand hands I found myself staring at the exact same pile of 1500 chips that I started with.

At the beginning of round two with the limits at 50/100 things started to pick up for me. I raised to 100 with As Qs and got called by three players in the field plus the big blind. The flop was 2d 4s 7s. Even though I didn't have anything yet I had 9 spades, 3 Q's and 3 A's left in the deck that would probably make me a winner (8 of the spades would give me the best possible hand - the nuts) and with two cards to come I'd catch one of those 15 cards a shade over 50% of the time. I bet out 50 and got called by the button and the big blind. The turn was the 9h. The pot was already pretty big so I didn't think I could get rid of both of my opponents with a bet and there was a chance I might get a free look at the river if I passed on my chance to bet. I checked, the button bet 100, the big bind called and I called as well. The river was the 9s and after I bet out 100 the button quickly raised me. I watched the big blind fold and gave some thought to reraising, but thinking he might have 44 or 77 I just called. I showed my ace high flush and he showed me 5s 2s! This guy had called my preflop raise with 5 2 and he wasn't even one of the guys trying to go broke!

A little while later I caught another break. One player open called 50 from thirs position and I called behind him with Qs 9s. This is the kind of hand you'd never play in no limit, but in a limit game at a lose table, it can show some profit. We took the flop 5 way for one bet and I was happy to see a jack high flop with two spades. The small blind (mister 5 2) bet out 50 and I was the only one to call. The turn was a red K, he bet again and I raised him. Huh? What did you have again? Q 9? Ok just checking. Although this guy was playing super lose he was not an idiot (in fact I'd played against him in LA twice) and I figured if he didn't have anything I could get him to fold his hand. Plus if my bluff failed I still had a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw and if one of them hit, he would have a hard time putting me on Qs 9s since I raised him on the turn. He just called and the river was a small spade. Not thinking I'd made a flush, he fired out again and I quickly raised him. He called, showed me KJ (top two pair) and I took down the pot. My raise on the turn not only got another bet into the pot at that point, but also allowed me to earn another bet on the river that I might not have won otherwise (he almost certainly would have just check called the river fearing I'd been on a flush draw if I'd just called the turn). Every bet counts and missing out on an extra bet is the same as calling before the flop with 7 2 (actually worse because you could always hit a miracle flop with 7 2 and missing a extra bet is worth nothing).

I went on break with 3000 chips and when I came back things got even better. I won a nice pot when after making an unsuccessful bluff on the turn (the board was 4 5 6 7 and I had AQ) I rivered a pair of Q's and beat someone's 10 10. Shortly after that I won another pot which was apparently totally unmemorable, but none the less brought my stack up to 4,500 chips. Unfortunately after that the wheels came off the bus. I'd lost a fair amount of chips a little at a time and was down to about 3000 when I got a look at a flop for free in the big blind with 6 4. We took the flop 4 way and I was pleased to see 6d 4d 2h on the board. We were in round 4 with the limits at 150/300 and I bet out 150. My hand was almost certainly the best at this point, but it was very vulnerable and I needed to make anyone pay to out draw me. I got two callers and the turn was the Jd. I didn't like it. It was certainly possible that one of my callers had been on a flush draw and had made it so I checked. The player on the button bet out 300 and I was the only caller. The way he looked at the board when he J hit made me think he didn't have a flush and I hoped that he'd just hit a J. The river was a black 10 and I checked and called again. The button turned over 9d 7d and I sighed as I folded my hand.

A few minutes later a hand came up that I know I misplayed. I'd been getting really crappy cards for the past hour or so and had been doing little, but folding. Hoping that the other players would remember this and respect a raise coming from me, I made it 300 to go with Qd 10c two off the button. The player on the button made it 450 and even though I was certain I was behind, no matter what he had I only had to call 150 more with a chance to win the 975 already in the pot. The flop came down Qc 7c 3c. I had top pair and a 10 high flush draw and I decided to go for the check raise. I checked, he bet, I raised, and to my dismay he thought for a moment and reraised. I hoped he either had a flush draw or a pair, but not both. I called his reraise and the turn was a blank. I checked and called, and then did it again even though I got no help from the river. My opponent turned over two black aces and took the pot while I was left thinking "what the hell just happened." I lost 1500 chips on a hand that I easily could have thrown away before the flop. I won't go into all of the permutations of how I could have played this differently, but believe me there are a ton and just about all of them are better than how I played it. I suppose you could say it was unlucky that I ran into a such a good hand, but at the very least I'm supposed to recongnize when I'm so badly beaten. In fact if you'd stopped the hand in the middle and asked me if I thought this guy was bluffing or weak I would have said almost certainly not. So why did I keep putting more money into the pot? Instead of stopping to think things through at every juncture I just sort of went on auto pilot. I can justify every move I made, but I know I can play much better than I did on that hand. On a normal day playing online, I play somewhere between 300 and 400 hands an hour (4-6 games at a time) so I'm used to making split second decisions all day long. In live tournaments there's no need to rush and I try to remind myself to take my time, but sometimes it's hard to slow down.

I missed a few more flops, paid a few more blinds and found myself with only 475 chips. I picked up A 7 in the cutoff (one off the button) and raised to 300. The small blind thought for about 15 seconds looking like he wanted to reraise and then just called. The big blind, however made it 3 bets and I went all in for 475. The flop came down 2 3 7 and both players checked. Great! Maybe they both have big cards. The turn was an 8 and the first player bet and got raised. Uh oh, I need help. The river was an ace. Surely I have them beat now. Following some more fireworks on the river, the first player turned up A 8 for a bigger two pair and the other player turned up 77 and took the whole pot. I walked out to have an early dinner wondering how I could have blown through 4500 chips in the last hour playing limit.

Now to answer a few of Mike's questions and address one of Jakes comments. The reason why I'm not playing in any of the shoot out events, even though they should be my specialty, is a matter of scheduling. In a shoot out, each table starts with 10 players and they play down to 1 (sometimes it's more than one but in a true shoot out it's only one). The winners of each table are then combined into new tables where they do the same thing and this process continues until you're left with one table where they play for the title. My bread and butter is tournaments that start with 9 or 10 players and play down to 1 (only the ones I play pay 3 places). I've played over 5,000 of them and whenever other forms of poker turn a little sour I always go back to this format where I know I can kill the competition (it's tough for some players to shift gears as as players are eliminated -playing 9 handed is different than playing 8 handed which is different than 7 handed and so on). I'd like to play one of the shoot outs, but they are at wierd times and I chose the times of my trips to minimize down time and play the most events in the shortest amount of time.

As far as the house rake here at the WSOP goes they are taking 9% off the top of every prize pool (except the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event which is only 6%), but you pay in even numbers. For those of you who don't know most of the time a tournament which is nominally $1,000 will actually cost you something like $1,080 and the $80 will go to the house. For simplicity the same tournament here is $1,000 to enter but only $910 goes to the prize pool. In this case I think 9% is a little too much since the Rio and it's parent company Harrah's are making a fortune in advertising dollars, money from ESPN for the rights to air the WSOP and money earned in the super packed Casino during the 6 weeks of the WSOP (and even a splash in the restaurants and other services at the Rio). With that said, they are running a totally first class event and it takes a ton of people and resources to make that happen. The money they are taking from the prize pools isn't close to covering all of those costs, but they are still getting rich off the WSOP. Every person playing in these events has a roll of hundreds in their pocket that any normal person would be afraid to carry around. A lot of them carry around $1,000 and $5,000 chips, because $100 bills are too bulky and ALL of these people like to gamble! Shit, I bet 9% of every prize pool gets blown back the next day after every event when people are celebrating or trying to get even.

On another note Jake asked about people dressing up like fools and I saw a whole crew today. A few minutes after the tournament a half dozen guys in bright purple, electric yellow, and neon blue valure matching cowboy pimp suits walked into the room. They had on oversized hats made of the same material as their suits and wore big Elvis style sun glasses. Also all of their cuffs, collars and a rim around their hats was white and black leopard print. There were 3 purples and only 1 yellow so I suspect the rest of the crew might have been somewhere else. A few of the guys at my table made comments like "hey is there a new gay strip club that just opened around here?" Dressing up in Vegas is fun, but noon is a little early if you ask me.

Event #11 Review

Some bad news, I just heard from Dave and he's been eliminated. He's going to get something to eat and tell us all about it later tonight.

Event #11 Preview/Update

Since Dave didn't put up his usual event preview for today, I figured I'd post the info for everyone.

Today's event is a $1500 Limit Hold'em event. It started at 12:00 this afternoon with 713 players. Last year the winner was Eric Froehlich, who set the record for youngest person to win a World Series bracelet, at 21 years and 3 months. First was $361,910, 9th was $28,950, and 100th was $1590.

Dave talked to EB during the first break, and at that time Dave had doubled up to around $3000 in chips, so things are starting out well. The second break should be around 4:30, and EB will probably talk to him again then, and he'll post a comment here to tell you the details of what's going on so far!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A few comment responses.

Thank you all for your comments and questions I figured I respond to a few of them now.

Dad,

Thanks for the advice. Being positive is definitely important. The older I get the more I try to focus on having a good attitude even when things aren't going my way. I know you have a lot of trouble with pessimism so I wish you the best in your pursuit of turning negative thoughts into positive ones. I was at a table with a guy today who along with me and a third player were all sitting on the right side of the table. I lost a big pot to the third player and this guy turns to me and says "hey at least the chips are coming to this side of the table." Clearly a "glass is half full" kind of guy.

Jake,

I'm sorry to say that no one has really stood out as far as being dressed like an idiot. I think the freaks really come out for the main event and I'll do my best to chronicle them at that time. As far as good luck charms go this one guy had a full sized garden gnome that he kept on his lap at all times and would whisper to in between hands...not really. That would be awesome though.

Shawn and Amanda,

Thanks for the rooting. Good luck with the baby! Jen and I will be reading your blog and look forward to seeing you around the holidays.

Jennie,

My friends get all of their cleverness and vocabulary by watching me! Sweatpants are part of the ubiquitous "three S's" in the poker world...Sweatpants, Stubble and Stank! Actually that's more of a problem at the lower limits. Most of the people I've interacted with have had excellent hygiene and in general seem like top quality people.

Carolyn,

I'm glad you and my Dad are enjoying the blog. Hopefully it well help you get more out of watching poker on TV. I'm definitely determined to make it in this industry. Being here has been very inspiring. It makes me realize how much I want to make it big. I want people asking me for my autograph. I want to be on ESPN. I want to be cheered. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Thanks for your encouragement.

Timm,

Hopefully we can get together the next time I'm in MD. My only good luck ritual is I have to fill my underpants with $100 in quarters every time I play. If I have to make an emergency trip to the men's room after a night of Mexican food it sounds like someone hit a slot jackpot in my stall. Actually I do whatever I can to avoid superstition, but I am constantly fascinated by the things people believe and the things they do because they can't understand and internalize randomness.

Kristen,

It's very exciting to see and play against the top players (I'm actually starting to get used to it though). While other players at my table seem to be upset about it, I relish the opportunity to challenge myself against the best. Also at the very least I know that they are strong players and can use that to my advantage by using certain tactics and complex deception that might not work on less observant or weaker players. Also while I know something about them, they know nothing about me. Another advantage is now that I've played against so many of these guys it's going to be impossible for anyone I might encounter in a normal game to intimidate me in any way. It's harder to beat someone if you think they're really great and must be outplaying you at every turn. It's pretty hard to be afraid of some dude after you've played against a few world champs.

Mike,

Thanks for the congratulations and best wishes. As far as Matt goes, I wish he was here, but he's been in New York and New Jersey almost the entire time I've been here. He has no plans to play anything except for the main event. I'm thinking about organizing a pool where everyone guesses in what place I'll finish and what place he'll finish and whoever has the smallest total margin of error wins the pool. That seems like the kind of thing you're likely to win.

Ewa,

I hope you and Ryan enjoy the blog. There's nothing wrong with not gambling. It can be an expensive hobby. I demand that you keep your fingers actually crossed for a least 8 hours a day!

Thanks again to everyone for your comments and good luck wishes!

Event 10 Recap

We started today's $1,500 stud event with 466 players (I think) and 1500 chips each. This event really brought out the old guard. Before about 1990 7 card stud was the most popular game around and while most new players don't bother to learn to play it's still a favorite of the seniors. On a side note, I'm sure it would surprise some of you to learn that you can't play 5 card draw anywhere. Even though it's the first game everyone learns, it's a totally dead game an no casinos that I know of spread it at any limit. I understand why (no one likes it because it only has 2 betting rounds and not much action), but it's always amazed me.

Things started out great today. I won what I thought was a big pot on the first hand of the tournament when I made a queen high flush, but when I counted down my stack I was only up to about 1700. Today was the first time the maroon $5 chips made an appearance and they made some medium sized pots look really big. Stud is played limit (as opposed to no limit or pot limit) 99% of the time and the first limit of the day was 10/20 with what amounted to a 1.875 chip ante. It sure is hard to figure out how much you've got when you have a pile of 1.875 denomination chips! Actually what they did for the first level, rather than use $1 chips, each player was responsible for anteing 15 chips once every 8 hands. 10/20 is a very small limit for 1500 chips and the first round seemed pretty insignificant (a standard buy in for a 10/20 cash game would be around $300 - even a very big pot would be around $250 and a small pot might be less than $50). I did use the first hour to get a feel for my opponents and had everyone pretty well figured out by the start of the second round.

Other than the first hand I struggled a little in the opening stages. Towards the end of round 2 (20/40 limits) I found myself with only 900 chips left after missing a few draws and having a few big pairs get squashed. Then I went on a mini rush. It started when I won a pot after starting with K J Q (in this notation the last card is the one face up). I raised the $5 bring in (the player with the lowest initial up card has a forced bet called the bring in which is larger than an ante but smaller than a full bet) to 20 and got called in two places. After a bet on 4th street, I paired my Q on 5th street (when each player has 2 down cards and 3 cards up) and got both players to fold. On the next hand I made Aces up (The phrase "blank up" means two pair with blank being the larger of the two pairs) and got good action from kings up. As I was stacking my chips from that pot I got dealt a 2 face up and looked down at my hole cards. They were both 2's! Starting with three of a kind is called being rolled up and it only happens once in every 425 hands. I had the bring in and put in $5 the minimum amount even though I could have put in $20. I didn't want to give away the strength of my hand and I was happy to see one of my opponents make it $20 to go with a red 5 showing. Another player joined the raiser and myself and we took 4th street 3 way. On 4th street the player with the 5 showing caught another 5, bet out 20 and got called by the other player. It was time to be a little more aggressive so I made it 60 to go (when there is a pair showing on 4th street every player has the option to bet or raise either a small bet- 20 in this case - or a large bet -40 in this case). I started with the 2c as my up card and had picked up another club on 4th street so I was hoping this aggression would be interpreted as pushing a flush draw. The player with 55 raised to 100, the other player folded and I popped it again to 140. There was no way this guy had raised on 3rd street with a pair of 5's so there was no way he had three fives now. Unless he had four of a kind I had him beat. He called and I hoped to NOT catch a club on 5th street because if I did I thought it would kill my action (I wouldn't make any more money because he'd think I had a flush). Sadly the Ac came off the deck and into my hand. Of course, I bet anyway and expected to win the pot right there. To my surprise my opponent, who'd caught a J raised me! What the hell is going on here? Doesn't he see my 3 clubs showing? I considered that maybe he had JJ in the hole and had made a full house (if he did my only out was the last 2 in the deck), but my hand was way too strong to fold. On sixth street I caught a red 7 and he caught another J. This was actually a good card for him to catch from my standpoint, because even though it made his hand look scary it made it much less likely that I was behind (if he's got two J's showing what are the chances he has two more in the hole?). It all comes back to third street. For him to have a J or a 5 in the hole it means he raised with X J 5 or X 5 5. What ever you put in place of either X it doesn't make a raising hand for a reasonable player. Maybe he started with 5 5 5 or J J 5, but since he has 2 of each showing, both are VERY unlikely. I figured he started with AA or KK in the hole. I just called figuring that if I raised he might fold two pair. On the river he checked, I bet, he called and I took the pot with my trips.

I went on my first break with 1700 chips and by the start of the 4th round an hour later I had it up to 2100. Then I went totally card dead. Over the next two hours I was slowly ground down. If going out of a no limit event is like getting shot this was like getting killed by a moderate amount of radiation. There isn't much you can do in a limit event when you get a ton of garbage hands especially when you're at a table with plenty of action (you're not going to bluff out several players when all you can bet is a small fraction of the pot).

To make matters worse at the start of round 4 I got moved to the most annoying table I've been at in a long time. To my right was a guy who looked like a South American gigolo (longish jet black hair, black collared shirt unbuttoned 3 buttons, HUGE sunglasses and a large silver pendant that was an eagle with it's wings spread hanging from a thick silver chain), but had what sounded like a French accent. To my left was a guy who was an advertisement for not smoking. This guy had ratty graying hair, heavy gray stubble and looked 60 even though he was probably in his early 40's. He rounded out this look with a faded black tee shirt and a half smoked cigarette pressed between his lips at all times (classy!). At the end of every hand that he played SAG (South American Gigolo) would tell everyone what he had and why he did what he did in the LOUDEST speaking voice you could imagine. Then smoking man (along with a few others) would tell him how no one cared and could we please just move on the the next hand. SAG would then say ok fine, but continue telling us about the previous hand. Or worse they'd hit SAG with some heavy sarcasm that would go right over his head so it only encouraged him. It would go something like this:
SAG: (in LOUD thick French accent) Did ewe see what I have? I have stride on fifth streed, but I know ewe have flish draw so I bit. Muney means nutheeng to me. I have plenty chips, but I bit to make ewe pay for flish. Then you make flish so eye fold. Do ewe see?
Smoking man: I know you had a straight. I think everyone knew you had it.
SAG: ewe see I make stride on fifth streed.
Smoking man: I know you had a straight. I don't care. Let's just move on to the next hand.
SAG: I know you have flish so I fold. Do ewe see? I had stride.
Other player: (with massive sarcasm)You had a straight? Really?
SAG: Yis I have stride on fifth streed.
Other player: (with more massive sarcasm) Really? Congratulations.
SAG: Yis I have stride on fifth streed.
Other player: (with even more massive sarcasm)You had a straight? Really?
SAG: Yis I have stride on fifth streed.
Other player: NO ONE CARES!
SAG: ewe need luck to win in the game. HA HA HA! (laughing for no apparent reason)

This would go on and on every time this guy played a hand. When I got to the table they were talking like this about a hand that happened five hands earlier. After an hour I was mercifully moved to a new game.

At my new table I found Mark Seif. Last year Mark won bracelets in back to back events (impressive as hell I think). I'd played with him in a $2,500 no limit hold 'em event I played in LA in the spring and was REALLY impressed with his play. Some of the poker celebs I've played against leave me thinking "this guy isn't any better than me," but Mark always comes across as unbelievably good. It seems like he always knows EXACTLY what his opponents have and takes maximum advantage of it. Unfortunately I didn't have much of a chance to test myself against him, because I was down to about 1000 chips with limits of 75/150 with a 15 chip ante. Shortly after arriving at my new table, I got involved in one hand where I started with Kc Jc 9c and caught the 8c on 4th street. I missed my flush draw and was lucky to escape only losing 390 chips on the hand. I was on total fumes and I knew if I didn't make a move soon nothing would save me. If I played a hand at all I was almost certainly going to have to commit all of my chips to it. I picked up A 6 6 and thought "here we go." But after a raise and a reraise in front of me I was forced to fold. Two hands later I picked up 6 6 J and decided to go for it. After a bring in of 25 and a call, I made it 75 to go. The woman to my left made it 150 and after the two other players folded I put her all in for 220. She turned up 9 9 8, but I caught a 6 on fourth street and won the pot with three of a kind. Great, I won a pot and busted someone, but I still don't have any chips! The limits went up to 100/200 and I with about 600 chips I decided to make a move with A Q 8. One player had called the 30 chip bring in and I made it 100 to go. The player to my left called as did both others. I caught an 8 giving me a pair and 3 clubs on 4th street and bet out. The player to my left made it 200 with a 5 and a 10 showing and I figured I've got half of my chips in this pot I'm getting them all in. We got them all in on fifth street and when the hand was over my 8's and 6's lost to his 10's and 5's. Two more tries on this leg.

A splash of good news and Event #10 preview

Today while rooting through my wallet I discovered at $500 Paris chip that I'd hidden away at some point during our miraculous craps run! So we really won $3,350 not a measly $2,850. Ah the joys of being a gambler. Tomorrow is my one and only non hold 'em event. It's a $1,500 buy-in 7 card stud event that last year drew 472 players. 1st was $192,150, 8th was $17,585 and 40th was $1,955. To date the largest 7 card stud event I've played was a $200 event at the Oaks Club, but I've won outright several $50 and $100 stud events on pokerstars.com with around 80 players. I haven't played a ton of stud lately, but I think it's more important to have strong tournament skills than it is to have strong stud skills (I have both however). For those of you who don't know in 7 card stud every player antes (there are no blinds and only 8 players) and is then dealt two cards face down and one card face up. Then, there is a round of betting which is started by whoever has the lowest card (suit counts). This player has a forced bet called the bring in which is usually 25% to 50% of a small bet (ie in a game with 200/400 limits the ante might be 25 and the bring in might be 50 or 100). Rather than raise if a player wishes to bet more they can only "complete the bet" (if the limits are 200/400, the bring in is 50 and you're next to act you're options are to fold, call 50, or "complete the bet" to 200 - there is no raising at this point, but a player after you could raise to 400 if you complete the bet). The players are then dealt a total of 3 MORE card face up and 1 card face down with a betting round in between each card. Each of these betting rounds are referred to as "streets" so if you have two face down cards and 3 face up cards you are betting on 5th street. 7th street is referred to as the river just like in Hold 'em. I'll fire up an update when I go down the toilet or make it to day 2.

p.s. I've really enjoyed all the comments I've recieved on my blog so if you've been reading it let me know if you've enjoyed it, how I can improve it, or what you'd like to hear more about. Questions are always welcome. A few examples might be: Is Phil Gordon much taller in person (Yes! He's freakishly tall, about 6' 7")? What's it like being away from your friends and family for so long (It sucks!)? How do you cope with winning or losing thousands of dollars every day (long answer)? How did you get to be so damn good looking (wouldn't you like to know)? It makes me feel good every morning when I check and see that people care about what I'm doing. Except you guys at the Census (get back to counting people you jerks!).

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Event #9 recap

Today's No limit hold 'em $5,000 buy in event event started with around 650 players almost 200 more than last years 466. The field was packed with the worlds best and it seemed like I recognized a player from TV at almost every table (Howard Lederer and Phil Ivey were sitting right next to each other and the spectators loved it). At the start of round 2 with the blinds at 50/100 I got involved in my first real pot (I'd won a couple of baby pots but nothing worth mentioning). The player 2 spots in front of the big blind called 100 and after a few folds in between us I also called 100 with 10d 9d. The big blind checked and we took the flop 3 way. I was happy to see the flop come 8d 6d 4h giving me a flush draw, a gutshot straight draw, and two over cards. After a check from the big blind the other player, who was the big stack at the table with over 10,000 chips (we started with 5000) bet out 300. This guy had been in a lot of pots so it was hard for me to limit what he might have, but I sure as hell wasn't folding. If I raised and he had a big hand I might find myself facing a decision for my entire stack so in order to avoid risking too much on this one hand I just called. The big blind quickly folded and the turn was a 9. Not the 7 of diamonds I was dreaming about, but still a good card for me. The big stack checked and I bet out 700. 10 seconds passed and he put another 700 in the pot. The turn was a black J and we both checked. He turned over 8h 5c (that's right 8 5!) and I took the pot with my pair of 9's. This guy didn't seem like and idiot and I can't imagine why he decided to play this hand when he folded plenty before the flop. Of course if he hit big there's be no way for me to put him on 8 5, but that doesn't even make it close to the right thing to do. It was very strange.

Shortly after my table broke (every time 10 seats total open up at other tables the players from one game are split up and moved to fill in the gaps) and I was moved to a new game. My new game was super tough. To my immediate left was Eric Seidel who is 5th all time with 7 WSOP bracelets (You might remember him from the movie Rounders as the guy who lost to Johnny Chan on the last hand of the 1988 WSOP main event). Two seats to his left was Alan Cunningham who has 3 bracelets, a few seats to his left was Isabelle "No Mercy" Mercier (she's kind of a B list poker celebrity, but still a great player), and next to her was a guy that I think was somebody, but I couldn't place. There weren't many soft spots in this game. About an hour after I got there Siedel went broke, but was replaced by a guy (who I didn't recognize) wearing a 2006 WSOP bracelet.

I was up to about 8000 chips with the blinds at 100/200 and a 25 chip ante (in the later stages of tournaments they have both blinds and antes) when the following hand came up. I had 9h 9c in first position and raised to 600 (as soon as I did it I thought I should have made it 800 or even 1,000 because I didn't want more than one caller if that) and got called by the big stack (and English dude with about 25,000 chips). I hadn't been at the table for a particularly long time so I hadn't totally pegged how this guy played, but I'd seen enough to be sure that he didn't have a pair bigger than my 99 (he would have rerasied with a big pair). I figured him for something like AJ or a medium to small pair. The flop was 6d 5d 5h which I thought was a good flop. I bet out 1500 into the 1750 pot. My opponent thought for about 5 seconds and flicked three 500 pink chips into the pot. I was thinking "get low and black" and I got half of what I asked for. The turn was as 4 of diamonds. This card put me in an extremely difficult spot (the exact kind you need to avoid if you're going to do well). My opponents play was consistent with a flush draw and if he had a flush I'd be drawing dead to a 9 or a 5. If he had 77 or 88 I still had him beat, but he'd have 10 outs going into the river with 77 (two 7's, four 3's and four 8's) and 6 outs (two 8's and four 7's) with 88. Plus if he had a diamond he's add eight more outs to 77 and eight more to 88 (some of the diamonds are already accounted for in the straight possibilities ie the 3 of diamonds) If he had 22 or 33 I'd be in a similar spot although he's have a harder time called with these hands if I bet. Of course if he had 66, 55 or 44 I'd be in horrible shape. But, there was also a chance he just had overcards maybe with a diamond and maybe not. The biggest reason why I was in such a quandary was the pot already had 4750 in it and I only had 5900 left. If I bet again I'd have almost all of my chips in the pot and be forced to call any raise he might make. If I bet small (something like 1000 or 1500) there was a good chance that my opponent would interpret that as weakness and put me all in regardless of what he had. I decided to check and my opponent bet 1750. Now what? This bet made sense for someone who'd just made a flush, but part of me said "move all in!" I decided to just call in the hopes that even if I didn't have the best hand I might get to see a showdown without putting all of my chips in the pot. The river was the 3d. AAAAACCCKKKK! Now I can't beat anything! My only hope was that he didn't have a diamond and would now check fearing that I did AND my hand would somehow hold up. Sadly he bet out 3,000. I only hand 4000 left and was forced to fold. I showed my 99 and tossed it in the muck and he showed me Ks Qs! AAAAACCCKKKK! What have I done? It felt like I'd been punched in the chest. Looking back there really wasn't much wrong with how I played the hand, but I could have done a lot of things differently. I could have raised more before the flop (or just called), I could have bet more on the flop, I could have bet the turn, I could have moved all in when he bet the turn, or I could have called on the end (which would not have been a good play, but believe me I desperately wanted to) All of these thing might have allowed me to win the pot and some certainly would have.

I went on 2nd break with about 3500 chips. Shortly after we came back with the blinds at 150/300 and a 25 chip ante I got involved in another questionable hand. I was in the big blind and 5 players called 300 chips in front of me. I looked down at Q 6 and moved all in for 3025 more. Q 6 WHAT? Has he lost his mind? I'm sure most of you are thinking something like that, but allow me to explain the logic. In the pot already is 2050 (300 for each of the five callers + 300 for my big blind + 250 in antes) and if anyone had anything good they would have raised. Sometimes people with just call with AA or KK if they are the first one in, but people raise good hands when there are already callers in front of them. These people have only put 300 in the pot effectively telling me that their hand is ok, but not great and now they have to call another 3,000 with a hand that's not great. If no one calls I pick up 2,050 without a confrontation and even if someone does call I still have a chance to out draw them. This is a not too unusual play which is sometimes referred to as "dropping the all in bomb." I knew I needed to make a move soon since every time the button made one orbit it would cost me 700 chips (450 in blinds and 250 in antes) and soon I'd be ground down to nothing. My plan was working great until I got called by the player in the small blind who had Ac 10c. I was still 34% to win the hand, but after an A showed up on the turn I made another long walk back to my room. What's interesting to note is that even if I'd seen his hand and knew he was going to call (many people would have mucked A 10 there) it was still close. Given the amount that was in the pot and the amount I was risking, I only needed to be a 38% favorite to make that move mathematically correct if I knew he was going to call.

This was a very disappointing day for me and I'm starting to feel a little beat down. But, this is how it works with these large field events. I might have another 25 or 30 duds (of course I hope not!) before I hit one for a few hundred grand, but in the long run it will all be worth it. Those of you that are serious poker players know how it works and it's difficult to explain to people who haven't played much. I still have 3 or 4 events left (depending on if I skip the last one which is $1,000 No Limit with rebuys -I'll explain what a rebuy is another time) on this first leg so I'm still hoping to come home a winner. And of course, no matter what happens I still have the $10,000 main event which could make all of these losses seem like pennies. I know you're all rooting for me and hopefully I'll have some more good news soon.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Event #9 Preview

Event #9 is $5,000 buy-in no limit hold 'em. This is the biggest event I'll be playing other than the main event. I'll undoubtedly be facing a tougher field because almost no one who's here for 1 or 2 events is going to jump into this one (they'd rather play 3 $1,500 events or 2 $2,500's). When I came to Vegas for the WSOP I'd planned on skipping this even if I hadn't made the money in any events yet which would have meant I was down $12,000. Instead I'm only down $6,739 and after my craps miracle yesterday it seems like an easy decision. Last year this event had 466 entrants. 1st place was $657,100, 9th was $43,805 and 45th was $6,570. My plan for this event is simple. When it's over I'm going to say "Wow, I can't believe I almost didn't play this event. I'm sure glad I did."

Some good news (It's about time!)

I have some good news, but it doesn't come from the poker table; it comes from the craps table. I personally find craps to be the most confusing casino game and I've always thought if it was introduced for the first time today it would fail miserably because no one would take the time to learn how to play. But, if things are going well it's probably the most exciting game in the casino. Everyone's fates are tied together and if one person is winning chances are, just about everyone is winning. To fully understand my story you'll need to know how a few of the bets at a craps table work, but if you get confused or don't care don't worry about it. I'm sure you'll still appreciate the bottom line. If you already know how to play or want to skip the craps lesson you can go to the next paragraph (or the third paragraph if you know about the fire bet also). The most basic bet in craps is called the pass line bet. If you bet the pass line you win on 7 or 11 and lose on 2, 3, or 12. If you roll a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 your goal then becomes to roll that number (which is called the point) again before you roll a 7. Accomplishing this goal is referred to as hitting the point or making a pass. If you hit a point, you have a new come out roll to establish a new point and try again. If you roll a 7 before you hit the point you lose. So what happens if I roll an 8 and then roll a bunch of other non 7 or 8 numbers? Nothing! Your bet just sits there until you roll a 7 or a point, but there's another kind of bet called the come bet which allows you to continue betting in a similar fashion while you're trying to hit the point. The come bet works just like the pass line bet. You win on 7 or 11 and lose on 2, 3, or 12. If you roll a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 you goal then becomes to roll that number again before you roll a 7. You can make a come bet on any roll accept for the come out roll. We like to bet the come every roll and what can happen is eventually we have bets on all the numbers so we win anytime a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 is rolled and we're just sitting there crossing out fingers hoping we don't see a 7 (which would wash away all of our bets).

A new bet that has recently come onto the scene at all of the hotels owned by the Harrah's corporation is called The Fire Bet (ooooooooohh, aaaaaaaaahh). The way the fire bet works is every time there is a new person rolling the dice (a new shooter if you will) you can place a fire bet. If that person hits four DIFFERENT points (not just four points) then the fire bet pays 25 to 1. So if a new shooter rolls a 5 on the come out roll and then rolls another 5, before a 7 they've hit one point. If they then roll a 6 on the next come out roll and then roll another 6 they've hit two points. If they then roll another 5 on the next come out roll and hit it that does not count towards the fire bet; it has to be 4 different numbers not just 4 points. Also if they have repeating numbers when those numbers aren't the point they do not out towards the fire bet. If I'm a new shooter and I roll a 4 and then I roll two 8's and then two 10's I've won some money if I was betting the come, but I haven't hit the point and I'm no closer to hitting the fire bet than when I started.

Now that we've got all of that confusing nonsense out of the way I can tell you about what happened with Jen and I. After another early exit in my tournament we went out to a nice Italian Restaurant here at the Rio (I had the scallops and she had some kind of Australian sea bass). Afterwards we wanted to do some gambling but the table minimums here at the Rio have been sky high during the world series (they make you bet more when it's crowded). We decided to head to the Bellagio, arguably the nicest hotel on the strip. Every time I've ever been there (at least 25 times) they've had $25 minimum Pai Gow tables (which is our usual game of choice), but for some reason all they had was $100 tables. We said "let's blow this pop stand" (not really)and headed across the street to the Paris. After playing Pai Gow for a few hours we decided to mix it up and head to the craps table. The night before we'd played a little craps with Jen's Dad and sister, but we all got smoked. This time, however, it was a different story. After about an hour of breaking even Jen had a really nice shoot and by the time she rolled a 7 I was up about $300 and she was ahead about $200. Then it was my turn to shoot. I bet $5 on the fire bet and Jen bet $1. I had some hot dice and I was knocking out points left and right. When I made my fourth different point we high fived and cheered. Then I made my FIFTH point! Making five points pays 250 to 1! We cheered and I danced around like an idiot. I'd been drinking champagne all night for no particular reason, but now we had something to celebrate. I wasn't able to hit the magical 6th point which would have paid 1000 to 1, but on top of the fire bet we also collected on a TON of pass line and come bets. When we counted up our chips we discovered we were ahead $2,850! That's an awful lot of money to take off a $10 craps table. It was extremely sweet. So now I find myself ahead $3,200 for stupid casino games for the trip and behind $6,700 in poker (actually my share of the loss is only $3,471 so I'm almost even for the trip). What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Event #7 recap

Today was another frustrating day. We started the $3,000 buy-in limit event with 415 players and 3000 chips apiece. The 4th hand of the tournament set the tone for the whole event. With the limits at 25/50 I raised from the small blind with K7 (not a great hand but one that stands to be better than the two random cards the big blind is holding). The big blind called and the flop came down A 10 3. I bet (50 is the only amount by rule that I was allowed to bet) and got called. The turn was a 8 and I bet again. I didn't have anything, but my opponent (who was not very good at hiding his reactions) didn't seem to like his hand either. But, he called again. The river was a Q and I decided to trust my instincts and bet again. Sadly, my opponent called again. I turned over my K7, he flipped up 9 3 and won the pot with one pair of threes. 9 3? One pair of threes? Did I some how convince him I didn't have much by raising before the flop, and then betting the flop, turn, and river? If I wasn't sure he didn't, I might have thought he'd seen my cards (and even if that was the case he probably would have raised me on the flop rather than give me a chance to catch up). I later discovered that I had the privilege of sitting next to what was almost certainly the stupidest player in the tournament. I started to wonder where he came up with $3,000 to enter the event and I after some heavy thought I came to a conclusion. He no doubt was the victim of medical malpractice that left him with a severe brain injury and only recently collected a large cash settlement.

One or two rounds later when I was back in the small blind someone open raised to 100 and I made it 150 to go with Ac Kd. I hadn't won a pot yet and was hoping this one would brake the ice. Brain Injury called out of the big blind and the flop came down Q J 5 with 2 clubs. I didn't have anything yet, but there was a good chance that an A or a K would make me the best hand and if both of my opponents completely missed I might win the pot right there. Also, if I checked one of them would probably bet and I'd have to call anyway or if one of them decided to raise, it would at least give me some information about where I stood. I bet and got called by both players. The turn was a red 10, my dream card. I had the best possible hand and with all those big cards out there it was likely that my opponents would have something and pay me off. I bet out (100 my only option), Brain Injury raised me and I raised him back. He just called and the turn was a A (YUCK!). Now all he needed was a K to tie me. I was hoping he had something like two pair or three of a kind, but after a few bets and raises he showed me Kc 9c (Note: he didn't play this had badly at all, it was many other hands as well as other things he said and did that led me to give him his well deserved moniker). As the dealer was splitting up the pot he turned to me and said "hey did you see how good my hand was on the turn. Shoot, a straight and a flush draw." I couldn't believe it. I wanted to say "Yeah I saw it you freaking moron. When you hand was supposedly so good you only had an 18% chance to win and a 6% chance to tie. Great hand!!!" But instead I did my best to show a little class and said "yep, wow" much like you would do to a small child (who you don't like!) who has found a shiny rock.

The measly winnings from half a pot was the highlight of the the first two hours of play and I found myself with 1700 chips on the first break. Shortly after I came back with limits of 100/200, I won my one real pot of the day. I picked up AK in the small blind again and raised the one player who had called the big blind. Brain Injury reraised me and I just called. The flop was all small, but I checked and called anyway thinking "this guy could have anything and I'm only putting in 100 more with a chance to win the 800 that's already in the pot." The turn was an ace (a great card for me) and I decided to go for the check raise. Unfortunately, after a long pause Brain Injury checked behind me. I bet the river, got called, showed my hand and took the pot. It wasn't a huge pot by any standard, but it was good to break the ice and I thought maybe I wasn't doomed after all. Sadly, I was wrong.

Shortly after I picked up two other strong starting hands but they didn't turn into much. I found KK on the button, and reraised to 300 with it before the flop. The original raiser put in bet 4 and I figured he either had AA or QQ or maybe AK since he seemed pretty tight (KK was almost out of the question because I already had two of the K's). I started to think about what I was going to do if the flop came all small and I decided to bet the flop and then check call the rest of the way if I got raised (barring a K or some other miracle) The flop came down A 5 2 and I checked. My opponent quickly checked behind me (hmmmm I thought....note that my spell check's first suggestion for a replacement of hmmmm was WHAMMY! I wish I was thinking WHAMMY! instead) and the turn was a Q. I bet out 200 on the turn and my opponent raised without hesitation. As I folded I said aloud "wow that was really stupid, I don't know why I bet there." After all I couldn't beat any of the hands I put him on and a check on the flop would make sense if he had AA or QQ. As the dealer pushed him the pot he showed AA and lamented how he didn't win more. A few hands later I picked up JJ in the small blind after a raise and a rerasie in front of me I called 3 bets. We took the flop 3 way and I was disappointed to see both an A and a K on the flop, but at least it made it easy to fold my hand.

I lost a few more chips when I made a late position raise with QJ suited and ran into QQ. All of a sudden found myself on fumes. I was down to 425 chips with limits of 150/300 and in big trouble. After stealing the blinds with A 10, I had to go right back through them again and was back down to 425. Two hands before I'd have to take the big blind again I found QQ and raised to 300. The small blind noticed my lack of chips and reraised to 450. The big blind folded, I put my remaining 125 into the pot and we turned up our cards. I showed him my QQ and he showed me 66. A 6 was the first card off the deck and I was eliminated from another tournament.

Tomorrow is an Omaha event which is about my 5th or 6th best game (behind hold 'em, 7 card stud, 7 card stud hi-lo split, low ball, and chutes and ladders!) so I'll be taking the day off. I'm looking forward to a more standard Vegas night of drinking and gambling with my wife. My next event will be the $5,000 No Limit Hold 'em event (GASP!). I wasn't sure if I was going to play that one or not since it's a big one, but since I've got one money finish and I missed one event (Event #4 that started on day 2 of event #3) I have plenty of dough to make it happen. Also I'm sure as hell not going to sit around here for two whole days by myself (Jen is leaving tomorrow at 2 :( booooo!) doing nothing so it's really an easy decision. Plus despite my somewhat sub par performance so far I've been playing really well so why not get in there and give myself another chance. I'll fire up an event #9 preview and maybe a few other ruminations tomorrow.