Saturday, September 29, 2007

The End of the 2007 WCOOP

I played quite a few Satellites to the $2,600 main event today and unfortunately didn't have any luck. I played three $80 double shootouts, an 8,000 FPP buy in event where pokerstars added 9 seats (worth $23,400) to the prize pool, the $320 mega super satellite where they guaranteed 100 seats, and a few other small buy in satellites. None of them produced even a whisper of a possibility of getting into the main event.

The only good news of the day was I did manage to get into the $320 satellite via an $11 with rebuys satellite. They run satellites to satellites? Of course they do! In fact in you're trying to get into the $10,000 main event of the WSOP the satellites start at $2! I think from the $2 tournament you can win a seat in a $33 tournament which leads to a $600 tournament which gives away seats to the $10,000 event. Sounds easy right?

You could also take the $2 bet it on a specific number on a roulette wheel, say 16. If you hit you'd win $72. If you then let it ride on 16 and hit again you'd be up to $2,592. Then you could bet $288 on 9 different numbers and if you hit again you'd have enough to pay the $10,000 entry fee and $368 for expenses. All from $2! Who wants to go to Vegas? Now that we have a system we're sure to win!

The bottom line is even with the 11 with rebuys win I dropped $344 today in WCOOP related activities. There are still satellites running to the main event, but I think I'm going to call it a wrap. All in all I have to call the 2007 WCOOP a solid success. I played 6 main events and had two strong money finishes. I also felt like I did pretty well in the satellites although since I've just kept a running total of all my action I'm not sure what the exact break down was.

My net result for the WCOOP was a profit of $738. I had 57.5% of my own action so I ended up making $424 which I can say was probably not worth it given the effort I put in. But the experience was certainly worth something and I gave myself some good chances to put some serious dollars in the Huff coffers.

I now have 7 WCOOP cashes in 29 events over the past three years. 24% in the money in quite a few varieties of poker (I've played limit, NL, and pot limit hold 'em, HORSE, heads up matches, pot limit Omaha, limit Omaha hi/lo, 7 card stud, Razz, and 7 card stud hi/lo over the course of all 29 events) against the best online players in the world is something to be proud of.

So what now? Well even though I've had a nice run of multitable tournaments (which is what I enjoy doing to most pokerwise) I have to get back to the grind. So far this year I've earned 201,344 VPPs. VPPs aren't worth anything but are the way that pokerstars determines a player's VIP status (ie. gold, platinum, supernova etc). For making it over 200,000 VPPs pokerstars gave me a bonus of $2,000! If I make it to 300,000 before the end of the year I'll get another $3,000 bonus.

In order to earn the remaining 98,656 points that I need, I'll have to play 3,947, $60 SNGs (which is the equivalent points wise of 2,193 $109 SNGs, or 173,081 NL cash game hands). It seems like a lot, but it's doable. Unlike other goals that I've set for myself, this one has a major reward. I don't care what happens, I'm not blowing off three grand. Also playing 4,000 SNG's in a relatively short span should give me a precise idea how much I can make playing at that level so I can reevaluate my goals and plans for 2008. I'm hoping I can make this easy on myself by keeping a steady pace and not leave myself having to play $109 SNG's 8 at a time for 16 hours straight on December 31st (In case you were wondering that would be about 192 SNG's, that would generate 8,640 VPPs, 30,240 FPPs worth $482, make pokerstars $1,728 in juice and leave me brain dead for a week).

Since that's all I expect do be doing for the next three months, I don't expect to have any exciting news of big wins. Of course I'll still be playing my Saturday freerolls which might amount to something and I'll try to post from time to time to let you know how things are going.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Today's WCOOP Event

I'm going to skip today's WCOOP event. For whatever reason, I couldn't sleep last night. It's never smart to play when you're really tired especially when you're looking at a long tournament. I know in the past I've made some really stupid plays wanting to either be done with a tournament or have so many chips that it was worth the discomfort that continuing to play was causing.

I'm not sure if I'm going to take the money I had earmarked for today and play more satellites or just add it to the locked up profit. I'll let you know what I decide.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Comment Response

In response to my horror story about the player at my table going broke in the first 3 minutes on Sunday's Event EB commented: "Out of curiosity, do you see yourself doing anything differently if you are either of those two players? (Except that if you'd been the player with the aces, of course the river would have been a non-pairing club).

Heres a recap of the hand if you've forgotten the details: Someone at my table went broke with AA vs KK on the third or fourth hand. We started with 15,000 chips and blinds of 25/50. One player raised to 130, the player with AA went to 230, and the player with KK made it 500. The initial raiser called, the player with AA made it 2,500 and got called by the player with KK. The flop came Q high with 3 clubs and they both had a club. All the money when in on the turn which happened to be a K.


I would have done a few things differently. First of all I would have made a slightly larger initial reraise if I was the player with the AA, going to maybe 350 instead of 230 and I would have gone a little bigger with the reraise if I was the player with KK also, but that's not really important. Since I didn't include them, let me fill in details of the remaining action. On the flop the player with AA bet 2,500 and got called and on the turn he went all in for 10,000 and got called.

The all in on the turn is a big mistake. When a player in front of you raises, you reraise, someone else raises again and then calls another BIG raise what they hell could they possibly have? Given that action and the fact that I already have AA if I'm that player, I'd put it at 70% KK, 15% QQ, 5% AA, 5% JJ, 4% AK, 1% all other hands.

So on the turn when the board has a K and a Q on it and your opponent called a bet on the flop what they hell can you beat? You have to hope that he's got JJ with the J of clubs or AK with the K of clubs, or the other two aces which are the only hands he could possibly have that you could beat. You wouldn't mind giving any of those hands a free card since you're a 22-1 favorite against the first two and freerolling against the other aces. On the other hand, in the extremely likely case that your opponent has KK or QQ you'd like to see the river for as little as possible to see if it's a non pairing club. It seemed painfully obvious that this was a case of AA vs KK or QQ to me.

In the actual hand if the player with AA had checked there's no way the player with top set and a second nut flush redraw would have gone all in. He'd probably bet something like 5,000 (or even something less like 3,000) and there's some chance (maybe 10%-15%) he might even check as a slow play. This would give the player with AA the chance to see the river and either win by hitting an ace or a club or survive with at least a third of his stack.

If the player with AA faces a bet of more than 5,000, the play would be to fold and preserve his chances. Of course it would be a tough, frustrating fold on the river (assuming he calls the turn) with an overpair (if he missed) when he'd put 2/3 of his stack in. But given the preflop and flop action, folding on the river would be the only reasonable play. Trusting your read in a spot like this can be difficult and most players let their emotions come into play too much. They get attached to those aces and forget that they're just a pair.

I just put up this hand because it sucks to go broke with AA so early, but it's actually a very interesting hand.

WCOOP Event #14 Recap

I started off yesterday playing a few cash tournaments and two WCOOP satellites to the day's $1,050 event. The WCOOP satellites were both very low risk, high reward tournaments. One was an $8 with rebuys and one was a $2 with rebuys. But both had 5 minute limits and rebuys for 12 levels (this is contrary to most turbo rebuy tournaments which have rebuy periods lasting only 6 levels).

I thought it would be fun to try the crazy loose strategy with very little money on the line, but when the time came, I couldn't do it. I certainly played looser than normal, but I couldn't just fling my chips in there with nothing hoping to get lucky since I've spent 7 years training myself to do otherwise.

Despite that fact, I started off kicking major ass. We got 2,000 for each buy in and rebuy and 4,000 for the add on in both tournaments. In the $2 I needed to finish in the top 5 of 611 and in the $8 I needed to finish in the top 6 of 312. At one point I had over 150,000 chips in both tournaments simultaneously! This put me in second chip position in the $8 and about 10th in the $2. I was thinking that it would be one of the greatest achievements of my poker career if I could win two, $1,050 seats in tournaments that I got into for $10 and $25.

But anytime you have 5 minute limits things move so quickly that it becomes a bit of a crapshoot. In the $2 with 60 people left the blinds were up to 10,000/20,000 with a 2,000 ante. I moved in for 120,000 with KQ, got called by AT and lost.

The $8 was more of a heart breaker. With 16 players left (needing to make it to 6th to win) I was in third place (there were many fewer chips in play in the $8 since people did many fewer of the more expensive rebuys and the field was half the size to begin with) and I raised with AK. A player with JJ moved all in for about 100,000 and I called. The flop came with a K and I was a 10-1 favorite. The turn was a blank and I was a 22-1 favorite. Sadly the river was a J, I lost the pot and was out a few hands later. If I'd won that pot I would have been in 1st place with 15 players left with (in my estimation) about an 80% chance of making it to the top 6. So close!

I started the $1,050 event feeling pretty good about my chances since I'd made the money in my previous two WCOOP hold'em events (the chance of that happening for a player of exactly average skill in both events or if it was all luck would be 1 in 57.7). The blinds started off at 25/50 and the players started with 15,000 chips each.

One of the things that makes a big money tournament great is how long it's going to take. If I'm playing a $20 tournament I want it to be fast so I can play a lot of them. But if I'm playing a $1,000 tournament I want it to take as long as possible. The longer it takes the more skill comes into play. The things that determine how long it's going to take are the number of starting chips, the length of time between blind increases and the severity of blind increases (ie do they jump from 100/200 to 200/400 or do they jump from 100/200 to 150/300 and then to 200/400).

It occurred to me that at the main event of the WSOP they also start with 25/50 blinds and have almost the exact same severity in blind increases, but they start with 10,000 chips instead of 15,000! Of course they have 90 minute limits instead of 30 minute limits, but when you factor in the fact that you get twice as many hands per hour online, this tournament structure was not far off from that one. The point is, this was a great tournament set up allowing for plenty of time to have skill come into play.

Early on, I played a hand beautifully, but it didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. The blinds were 50/100 and a player in middle position open raised to 400. I had AA in the small blind and I reraised to 1,000. I was hoping the initial raiser would do something stupid like move all in or make a big reraise, but he just called. The flop came down 6 5 2 with two spades which was a fantastic flop. There was almost no chance that I was behind and I knew I'd get action from just about any middle or big pair. I bet out 1,200 hoping to get raised, but my opponent just called. The turn was a 5 which was another great card.

I figured there was about a 98% chance that my opponent had either AK (not very likely since I had two aces AND he'd called a sizable bet on the flop, but still a slim possibility), a pair between 77 and KK or a flush draw. By far the most likely hand for him to have was a pair. Conventional wisdom would tell you to bet again here and almost anyone would have bet again. But, I was almost positive that my opponent had an over pair to the flop and I figured that if I checked, he'd think that I had a hand like AK and bet his pair. I could then raise him and put him in a real bind. Even if he didn't have much of a hand I thought he might try to steal the pot with a bet. Checking when you know you have the best hand hoping to induce a bet from a worse hand is one thing that separates the pros from the weekend warriors.

But he checked. Crap! Maybe he had a flush draw? The river was the 3 of spades which was a terrible card since it completed the flush draw and put a 1 card straight possibility on the board. Now I couldn't bet for fear of a flush and if my opponent did have a big pair there was no way he'd bet it now. We both checked and he showed JJ.

Pocket Jacks? What kind of weak ass player won't bet pocket Jacks on a board of all small cards after a check on the turn? Bastard! For about 3 seconds I thought "I should have bet on the turn." But then I remembered David Sklansky's Fundamental Theorum of Poker. It essentially says; anytime you do something differently than you would if you could see your opponents cards, they benefit and every time you do something the same way you would if you could see their cards, you benefit.

The point is, if I saw that he had JJ I would have checked the turn for sure so even though I would have made more money by betting, I still played the hand correctly. That might be a little counterintuitive, but asking yourself if you would have done anything differently if you could see their cards during the hand is a powerful tool in evaluating your own play.

My next interesting hand came with blinds of 150/300. I had Q7 of spades in the big blind and the player on the button raised to 850. I made a loose call in the big blind and the flop came down K 4 4 with two spades. My opponent could really have just about anything. Some players will raise almost any two cards on the button if everyone folds to them and one of the reasons I called is I knew if I got a chance to show my hand, the player on the button would be less likely to raise my big blind in the future knowing I would call with weak hands.

Now that I'd called and gotten a fair flop, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. This was a rare situation in the sense that betting small, betting big, check calling, check folding and check raising were all reasonable options with their own risks and benefits. I decided to check and see how much my opponent bet. There was 1,850 in the pot and he bet 1,500. I was hoping he'd bet something like 1,000 or less which would indicate weakness which would make check raising the clear thing to do, but this was a little tougher. Folding was certainly an option, given the size of his bet, but I decided to call.

The turn was a blank and now I was facing a tougher decision. I was now only about 20% to make my flush and I couldn't call a big bet. Luckily my opponent only bet 2,000. I wasn't quite getting the odds I needed to justify a call, but I figured if I hit, I'd be able to win some more chips on the river. Happily the river was a spade, I bet 5,000 and got called. My opponent had AK and was no doubt wishing he'd bet more at some point during the hand.

I was over 30,000 chips at that point and feeling pretty good. In fact over the next hour or so I managed to win 3 or 4 pots in the 2,000-3,000 chip range and found myself with over 40,000 chips about 3 hours into the tournament. Unfortunately it was all down hill from there.

It wasn't one big hand that did it to me. It was a few failed small bluffs, a few times I missed with good hands against people who hit and a few risks that didn't work out. Essentially the problem was I went over 100 hands without winning a pot bigger than just the blinds. When the blinds moved to 500/1000 with a 100 chip ante about 5 hours into the tournament (I'd been dealt over 300 hands to that point) I was down to just over 10,000 chips.

On the hand that I went broke I was in the small blind with K 3. The player on the button just called and I put in 500 chips looking to see a cheap flop. There was already 3,400 in the pot so I was getting almost 7-1 on my money and I needed to take some chances before I was ground into dust. The flop came down K T 9 with two spades, which looked promising and dangerous at the same time.

I decided I was going to go with this hand and hope for the best so I decided to try a check raise. I checked as did the player in the big blind and the button bet 2,000. I moved all in, the big blind folded and the button instantly called. When the cards turned over I saw that he had A4 of spades which put me at 54% to win the hand. The turn was a blank and I was 73% to win the hand, but the river was an ace and I was out in 1,054th place.

The WCOOP is winding down for me even though Sunday's event was only #14 of 23. Almost all of the remaining events are either too expensive or games that I don't play for big money or both. After yesterday's action my starting bankroll of $2,000 is at $3,082.

I have plans to play two more WCOOP tournaments. One is $320 6-handed no limit hold 'em on Wednesday and the other is a $320 satellite to the $2,600 main event on Saturday. The satellite is special because pokerstars is guaranteeing 100 seats will be given away. I'm sure they'll get more than enough players to meet that guarantee and I feel like this is my best chance to get into the main event which I'd love to play, but is just too expensive.

I might play a handful of satellites here and there, and if I make the money on Wednesday I might make a stronger effort to get into the main event, but I'd like to have some profit to show for all of my efforts even if it's just a few bucks. I think maybe I'll give myself another $142 to work with playing small satellites to various events so that no matter what I'll end with a $300 net profit and my backers will return 15% on their investment.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No Good News

No good news today. Details coming later today or tomorrow.

WCOOP Event #14 Underway

Today's $1,050 event kicked off with 3,325 players. 1st place is $580,212, 5th is $130,340, 18th is $17,622, 117th is $4,655 and 486th is $1,330 just to give you little idea of the prizes.

Someone at my table went broke with AA vs KK on the third or fourth hand. We started with 15,000 chips and blinds of 25/50. One player raised to 130, the player with AA went to 230, and the player with KK made it 500. The initial raiser called, the player with AA made it 2,500 and got called by the player with KK. The flop came Q high with 3 clubs and they both had a club. All the money when in on the turn which happened to be a K.

This tournament is probably a really big deal for all but about 200 players in the field and it makes me kind of sick to see that happen to someone. The amount of good that the player who doubled up is probably 5% of the pain that the player with the AA is feeling.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Heavy WCOOP action

Today was the only day on my WCOOP schedule where I played 2 main events at the same time. Before I got to the real meat of the day I played a few satellites and a few other tournaments. While I was trying to figure out when I wanted to start today, I totally forgot about my supernova freeroll. You'd think that winning almost $8,000 last week would have burned the details of that tournament into my brain. Luckily Jen reminded me and I started my day off at around 11 am hoping to have a long day ahead of me. I didn't do anything in the Supernova, but I has success in other tournaments.

I'd missed out on all of the HORSE satellites which all started earlier, but I managed to play two small satellites to the $530 pot limit event. I never really got anything going and dropped $68 without getting close to the money.

A little later I played in another satellite that was special. The tournament was for Sunday's $1,050 event and was limited to players above a certain level of VIP status. What made the tournament special was Pokerstars added eighteen $1,050 seats to the prize pool above any beyond what the players contributed! Pretty sweet. The buy in was 6,600 FPP's (which are worth exactly $105 or 10% of a seat), 611 players entered and the top 79 finishers won $1,050 seats.

In contrast to the vast majority of satellites on Pokerstars which are turbos and have the blinds increase every 5 minutes, this tournament had 15 minute limits. We started with 1,500 chips and I made some progress right away. In no time I was up to 5,000 chips. I stayed about that level for a long, long time which was fine since I had enough chips to work with.

With about 125 players left I had about 4,200 chips and the blinds were 200/400 with a 40 chip ante. I picked up A6 suited in middle position and decided to move all in. I instantly regretted it. This hand was just not good enough and I wasn't yet quite desperate enough to move all in with such a marginal hand. Sure enough I got called by QQ and figured I was done. But I flopped a 6 and turned a 6 and doubled up! A few hands later I picked up QQ and won another few thousand when I reraised a raiser. So far so good.

With 100 players left I was in about 25th place with 12,000 chips and only needing to get to 79th I figured I could make it without playing another hand. Unfortunately I miscalculated. No one was playing any hands and it felt like 5 minutes was passing between every player elimination. The blinds kept getting bigger and bigger and my stack was melting away with every hand that passed.

By the time we were down to 90 players I was down to 6,000 and the blinds were up to 600/1200. ACK! I picked up TT on the button and with two shortish stacks in the blinds I was praying everyone would fold to me so I could move all in. Happily I got my wish and stole the blinds. I might have been able to make it without that hand, but it would have been much closer. After probably another 30 nerve racking minutes or so we'd lost the remaining players we needed and I picked up a sweet $1,050 seat! This was a net profit of $945 into the WCOOP coffers!

The HORSE event was amazingly uninteresting and since I don't have the ability to remember hands from all the weird games well as I do hold 'em hands I'll just gloss over it. Everyone at my table sucked at Omaha and Razz and were marginal at the other non hold'em games. I lasted about 4 hours or so and finished in 815th out of 1,639. A little disappointing given my competition but still a minor speed bump at worst.

I put in a much better showing in the $530 pot limit event. I cruised along for the first 3+ hours and had the one double up I mentioned in my previous post. I was back down to about 4,000 (we started with 3,000 chips) from my high of 5,500, with blinds of 150/300 when I picked up AK in the small blind. I raised to 900, the player in the big blind reraised and I moved in my remaining chips. He turned over KQ which I was thrilled to see (when you have AK, a worse K is the best hand to be up against). I managed to dodge a bad beat, my had held up and I was over 8,000.

I'd faded a little bit and was down to 6,000 with blinds of 200/400 when my next big hand came up. I was in the small blind again and after everyone folded I just called with QT. The player in the big blind raised to 1,200 and I called. The flop came down K J 5 giving me an open ended straight draw.

I wasn't sure what my next move should be. I didn't have anything that could win the pot yet, but I had a nice draw and my opponent could literally have anything since it's a common play to raise as a total bluff when the player in the small blind just calls. I decided to check and see what happened. My opponent bet 1,600 which didn't give me much of a clue as to what he might have. I decided to be aggressive and move all in. I thought I had a chance to win the pot without a fight right there and even if I got called I'd make my straight one time in three. Luckily my opponent quickly folded and I was up to 9,000 chips.

Shortly after, I had to put my tournament life on the line again. With blinds still at 200/400 I picked up QQ and raised to 1,200. A player who had about 7,000 chips reraised to 4,200 and I put him all in. I was hoping he had a smaller pair, but worried that he might have AA or KK. When he showed his cards I saw that he had AK suited. This wasn't perfect, but it wasn't terrible either. I was a 53% favorite before the flop, but when a Q came out on the flop it was all but over. After winning that pot my stack had swelled to 16,000 chips and I was in 77th place of 180. With 153 players making the money I was in great shape for another cash.

I went up to 18,000 and back down to 11,000, but when we finally made it to 153 players I had about 15,000 with an average stack of about 25,000. I was guaranteed to pick up $872 and hoping to move up a few more levels.

I dribbled down to 11,000 with a few minor miscues and then with blinds at 400/800 I picked up AA in the big blind. AH HA! The firs player to act raised, when it got to me I reraised and he just called. The flop came down T 9 6 and Jen said something like "That can't be a bad flop." ACK! MASSIVE JINX ALERT! I moved all in my remaining chips and got called by T9! Shit! Luckily I caught an ace on the turn, took down the pot and was up to 23,000.

A little while later with blinds of 500/1000 I put a player who had about 7,000 chips all in with AJ. He turned over QQ, but I hit an ace on the flop and was up to 32,000. After that hand I was starting to feel a little invincible. I had just about the average stack and I was starting to dream about making the final table where instead thousands, I'd be looking at tens of thousands (8th was $10,900 and it went up from there to $117,00 for 1st).

We crossed over the next money jump at 117 players and I was now looking at at least $981. Then I made a mistake. With blinds of 500/1000 a player in middle position made the minimum raise. I called with AT suited in the small blind and the big blind folded. The flop came down T 9 7 and I bet 3,000 into the 5,000 chip pot. My opponent just called, and the turn was another small card. I bet 6,000 and got raised to 12,000. I was hoping that the minimum raise preflop indicated a marginal hand, but now it looked like it was either a big pair or a set. I folded wishing I'd just dumped that cheese before the flop. I was down to 17,000 and in need of some help.

We crossed over the next payout jump which meant I was sure to get at least $1,144. Then I met my demise. A player to my left raised to 2,500 and I reraised to 8,000 with QQ. He put me all in and turned over AK. The flop came down 3 4 5 which was OK, but the turn was a 2 making him a straight and with no 6 or A on the river to force a split, I was out in 89th place.

I managed to net $614.50 on this event and felt good about how I played. Clearly things are going well in the WCOOP. Right now my starting WCOOP bankroll of $2,000 has almost doubled and is up to $3,917.30!!!

Tomorrow is the biggest event on my schedule - $1,050 no limit hold 'em. Pokerstars is guaranteeing a 2 million dollar prize pool so I suspect it will be more like 3 million with 1st place being around half a million. I give my self no worse than a 1 in 1750 shot of taking down 1st place and the way I've been playing lately, who knows what might happen.

Two More Events Underway

Right now WCOOP event #12 $215 HORSE is underway. We started with 1639 entrants, first place of $72,116 and 176th place of $262. 3 hours in I'm struggling but still alive.

WCOOP event #13 $530 pot limit hold'em is also underway. That tournament started with 1,090 players 1st place of $117,175 and 153rd place of $872. I caught an early double up and have 5,300 chips while the average is just over 4,000.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What the Hell is HORSE Anyway?

Here is what I wrote last year about HORSE for those of you who don't know what it is:

Most of you are thinking "What in God's name is HORSE and what does it have to do with poker?" The way HORSE works is, the tournament is played using 5 different forms of poker: (H)old'em, (O)maha hi-lo, (R)azz, 7-card (S)tud, and 7-card stud hi-lo (E)ight or better (sometimes called just stud hi-lo or stud-8). You start off with hold'em and after 30 minutes you switch to Omaha. The next round is razz, followed by stud and then stud-8. All of the games are played limit (as opposed to no limit or pot limit). Assuming you all know about hold 'em, razz, and 7-card stud from previous posts (you can read about Razz at www.fulltiltpoker.net/razz.php), I'll give you a brief run down of how you play Omaha and stud-8.

Omaha is actually short for Omaha hold 'em (as opposed to Texas hold'em). In Omaha, the betting and the way the cards come out is just like Texas hold'em except each player is dealt 4 cards. At the end of the hand, players must use EXACTLY TWO cards from their hand and EXACTLY THREE cards from the board to make their best 5 card hand. Sometimes this game is played where the best hand wins the whole pot, but it's usually played where the best hand and the worst hand split the pot (hence the hi-lo). You can use different cards to make your best high hand and your best low hand and aces are both the highest and lowest card. The only rule for making a low is you must use 5 unpaired cards 8 and below. Since you need to use three cards from the board, if there aren't three cards 8 and lower on the board it's impossible to make a low hand. In this case the high hand wins the whole pot. For example let's say you're dealt A K 2 5 with the A and K of hearts and the board is 3 6 8 K Q with 3 hearts. You're best high hand is the flush using the AK and your best low hand is 8632A using the A2. In this case you should win the whole pot, since you have the "nut high" and the "nut low." But if someone else had an A and a 2 among their 4 cards then you'd get the high half of the pot and split the low half with the other player who also had 8632A as their low hand. Confused yet?

Stud-8 is also a game where the highest hand and the lowest hand split the pot. It works just like 7-card stud and razz in terms of how the cards come out and the way the betting takes place. Also as you may have guessed by the name, in order to win the low half of the pot you have to have 5 unpaired cards 8 and below. In both Omaha and Stud-8 straights and flushes don't count against you in terms of making a low hand. For example A 2 3 4 5 is the best possible low hand, but it's also a straight which will often times will be the best high hand as well.

The bottom line is I'll be playing 5 different games, in one tournament with the limits going up every half hour and the game changing every half hour. I'm hoping since I'm familiar with all of the games I'll be able to beat anyone who's only comfortable with 2 or 3.

While this may seem like a funky gimmick (and it sort of is), there was a $50,000 HORSE event at this years (2006) WSOP. It only drew 142 players, but probably 98 of the top 100 tournament players in the world played and other than the main event it was maybe the most prestigious title to win.


So that's a little about HORSE!

A Horse Satellite

I've made today a pretty half assed day and barely played at all. But I did decide to sit down and play 10 SNG's (mostly because I was bored) While I was doing that I decided to play in a turbo (5 minute limits) $77 satellite to tomorrow's $215 HORSE event. The thing I liked about this satellite is 1/3 of entrants won seats. Of course you have to risk a little more up front, but patience goes a long way when 1/3 of the field makes it to the money.

While I was certainly paying attention to what I was doing, I wasn't really looking at the tournament lobby. About 35 minutes in (when the blinds increased for the 7th time) I looked at the lobby and saw that I was in first place and we'd lost 40% of the field! From there I just cruised and was never in doubt of winning the seat. Add another $142 to the WCOOP coffers!

WCOOP Event#9 Recap

WCOOP Event#9 $215 with rebuys was an interesting tournament. We started with 3,000 chips with the option to immediately buy 3,000 more for $200 (and the option to do the same anytime we fell below 3,000 chips). Being able to effectively reenter the tournament if you run out of chips makes some players play wildly aggressive during the rebuy period (the first hour only). If you play enough hands, eventually you'll run into a streak where you win a few in a row and you'll end up with more chips than you would have otherwise. Having a big stack later in the tournament means not only can you survive several hands where you have some bad luck, but it also allows you to put pressure on other players with fewer chips. The biggest problem with the wild strategy is sometimes you do 10-15 rebuys (or more) and don't end up with more chips than the people who did one or two.

My plan was to go the other way. Keep my investment low and play more conservatively. My chances of making the money or going deep would be reduced, but so would the amount of money I had at risk.

I pretty much folded every hand for the 1st half an hour and then I picked up QQ in the big blind. The blinds were 10/20 (very small compared to the number of chips in play) A player in early position raised to 100, another player called and I reraised to 300. Both other players called and the flop came down J 5 3. I bet 800 expecting to take the pot, but to my surprise BOTH players called. The turn was a 6 and I moved all in for my remaining 1,800 or so chips. Again BOTH players called. Yikes! The river was an 8 which was a great card. I was all in but the other players still had chips. They both checked which was a good sign for me and when the cards got turned over one of them had T3 (really!) and the other had KJ. I was up to about 8,800 chips and off to a great start.

I cruised at about this level until the end of the rebuy period where I elected to pay $200 to do the add on and get another 5,000 chips. At this point I had 14,465 chips. The tournament prize pool of over 1.3 millions dollars had come from 2,188 entries, 2,852 rebuys and 1574 add ons. I did the math to determine my equity and calculated that my chip stack was now worth $939.60. This was pretty good since i won my initial buy in via satellite and was only in for $248.

I saw that first place was $259,533, but I was more interested in the fact that 270th (the edge of the money) paid $1,323! Usually just making it to the money is only good enough to get your initial investment back, but in this case it would be more than 5 times what I'd put into the event and almost $1,100 in profit.

After the rebuys were done the blinds were still only 25/50. With almost 15,000 chips and 30 minute limits I knew I had a long, long, long time before I was going to be facing any blind pressure. I took this opportunity to play a lot of hands if I could get in for the minimum. Losing 50 chips was nothing and if I could really connect with a flop I might be able to win a few thousand.

Of course the downside of the strategy is sometimes you hit the flop hard and still have the second best hand. This happened to me a few times and I found myself with about 10,000 chips at the end of the second hour. I recall that I moved from 10,000 to 20,000 in a pretty short time by winning two pots where I netted about 5,000 each, but I've forgotten the details.

With blinds of 100/200 I picked up QQ in the big blind again hoping to get some action. One player in middle position raised to 600 and I reraised to 1,600. The flop came down 7 3 2 which looked like a great flop. I bet 2,400 into the 3,300 chip pot and my opponent (who had about 20,000 chips also) just called. Mentally I called for another deuce and that's just what came on the turn. I was almost positive that I had the best hand and I figured if I was up against a smaller pair or a hand like AK or AQ. I guessed that my opponent might fold if I bet big again and if I had him beat that's not what I wanted.

On the other hand if I checked I might induce a bluff from AK or AQ or convince him that a mid sized pair was the best hand. If was behind I was going to lose all of my chips anyway so I checked. My opponent bet about 5,000 and I moved all in. He thought for a few seconds which made me even more confident that I was in good shape. Eventually he called and showed 88. The river was a K and I was up to 40,000 chips.

I stayed around 40,000 for a long, long time. In fact that's where I was two and a half hours later when the blinds had gone all the way up to 400/800 with an 80 chip ante. I hadn't been getting much in the way of cards, but my table was crazy tight and I'd been able to make up for getting no cards and a few minor mistakes by stealing the blinds once every 4 or 5 hands for hours.

Then I had a major misstep. I was on the button with 87 and raised to 2,400. The players in the blinds had folded at least 5 or 6 times straight to my raises so my cards were certainly not the reason I was raising. The player in the big blind made it 4,000 which I thought might mean AA or KK, but since I only had to put in another 1,600 to see the flop it was an easy call.

The flop came down Q 5 2 and my opponent checked. This convinced me even more that he had a huge hand and was trying to get me to bet it for him (since you'd never normally reraise and then check). I checked also and the turn came an A which put three clubs on the board. He checked again. I didn't really know what was going on, but I had to bet something here. I couldn't think of anything that he could have that somehow didn't connect, but two checks from your opponent means automatic bet in my school of thinking.

My best guess was he had KK, checked the flop as a slowplay and was now worried that I had an A (a very likely card for me to have since I came in raising). I bet about 5,000 into the 9,000+ chip pot. My opponent only had 10,000 left and he was such a weak player that I thought he might fold a hand like KK or JJ.

But he called. The river was a J and he checked again. I didn't really have any good options. My only hope now was that he had the K of clubs and would fold in order to save his remaining 5,000 chips. With 87 I couldn't beat anything and there was almost 20,000 in the pot. If I thought he'd fold more than 1 time in 5 it made sense to put him all in. I bet and he called with AJ. It was a weird hand and I was left thinking I should have folded before the flop and avoided the whole mess.

A few hands later when the blinds had gone up to 500/1000 with a 100 chip ante. I made another mistake. The player to my right who had about 15,000 and was also a weak player raised to 3000 in the cutoff. I was on the button with AT and I reraised to 8,000 hoping he would fold. Instead he moved all in. ACK! I knew I was in bad shape, but I had to put in another 7,000 to win the 24,000 that was already in the pot. My opponent showed QQ putting me at about 30% to win. The flop came T 4 4, the turn was a blank, but the river was another 10! Happily this was a mistake that worked out in my favor and I was back up to 40,000 (which was just about an average sized stack).

Then things got slow again and unfortunately a few of my opponents started playing back at me. I don't know if they started picking up hands, just got aggressive, or realized I wasn't going to commit a big chunk of my chips to one hand, but when I would raise more times than not I was getting reraised. My chip stack started to slip, the blinds kept getting bigger and I could feel my chances fading.

With blinds at 750/1500, over an hour after my hand with the QQ, I'd fallen to about 20,000 chips. and was in something like 290th out of 330 or so remaining players. I was getting fed up with folding hand after hand. I figured I needed to win one more pot to have enough to make it to the money so when I found myself in the big blind with 9T of clubs, I decided it might be a good time to take a chance.

Someone raised to a weird amount like 3,650 and I called. The flop came down T 6 4 all spades. I had no idea if my hand was good or not, and even if it was half the deck would be cards I didn't want to see on the turn. I was about 95% sure that if I checked my opponent would bet and I decided to just cross my fingers and hope I had the best hand. I checked, my opponent bet about the size of the pot and I moved all in for my few remaining chips (I actually had him just covered). I knew he'd be forced to call with anything, but I was shocked and pleased to see him turn over J8 with no spades! I won the pot and was close to 40,000 again.

It was time to put on the stall. My plan was to just fold just about every hand until I made the money, but with 275 players left I was faced with a tough decision. I was down to 26,000 chips after being eaten up by the blinds for a few rounds and with blinds of 1000/2000 and a 200 chip ante I picked up QQ. I was planning on moving all in when a player in front of me raised to 6,000. In a lesser tournament I would have moved all in for sure which means I probably should have here too. But my opponent had over 100,000 chips and he'd only have to risk 20,000 to win 37,000. I didn't want to risk my whole tournament which I'd been playing for 8 hours on this one hand. If I'd had KK or AA I would have gone for it for sure and I would have felt fine about folding JJ or AK. In the end after about 60 seconds of thought, I folded. I'm still not sure what I should have done.

The good news is, those last 5 players dropped and I made the money! In fact as soon as we made it I picked up AK and someone raised in front of me. I moved all in and they called me with A9. I flopped a K and was up to 48,000. The average stack was in the 80,000 range and I was in pretty good shape.

The blinds went up again and that's when I met my demise. With blinds of 1250/2500 the player to my right made it 6,000 to go in late position. I had AJ suited and about 50,000 in chips. Looking to win the 12,000+ chips in the pot and increase my stack by almost a quarter without a fight, I moved all in. Unfortunately my opponent instantly called me with AA and I was out in 209th place.

The good news is I moved up one more pay level and got paid $1,455 which was a profit of $1,207! This was a very pleasing result since I got in so cheap and I initially hadn't even had this event on my schedule. It also means I have a lot more leeway in what I want to do for the rest of the WCOOP. I dropped another $78 playing two satellites while writing this post (I'm still in one, but it doesn't look good), but right now my starting WCOOP bankroll of $2,000 has gone up to $2,640.80

Today was the $320 heads up matches which was my best result in the 2005 WCOOP when I finished 32 out of 1048, but I haven't felt good about my heads up play lately and I slept in too long to play any satellites. There was also $215 Razz (7 card stud for low) and I kind of wanted to play, but it's not really my game, so I figured if I could get in cheap I'd play.

Tomorrow is both the $215 HORSE and the $530 Pot limit hold'em. My best result in the 2006 WCOOP was in the HORSE event and both of my WSOP cashes are in pot limit hold'em so I have high hopes. Sunday is the $1,050 no limit hold 'em which I'm about 80% sure that I'll be playing. If I make the money in either tournament on Saturday I'll play on Sunday for sure or if I can have some satellite success that will also make it a certainty. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You'll have to wait

I played a long, long tournament today and I'm too tired to write all the details, but it was an interesting event. I don't want to ruin the drama so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happened. I promise to have a post up by 5 pm at the latest, and will try to do it in the late morning or early afternoon.

On Dinner Break

I'm on dinner break in the WCOOP $215 with rebuys. I have 40,738 chips and the average stack is 39,501. I'm in 220th place and like my chance of making the money. Wish me luck! If you want to watch you can go to pokerstars.com, download the software and search for ACESEDAI by clicking on the "requests" section at the top and selecting "find a player".

WCOOP Event #9 Underway

We started event #9 ( $215 with rebuys) with 2,188 players. The prizes won't be displayed until the end of the rebuy period. The good news is I managed to win my initial buy in via satellite. I played two $8 with rebuys turbo satellites and managed to win a seat in one of them. So essentially I got into today's event for $48 instead of $215.

I also played three $60, 45 player tournaments and finished in 2nd in one ( I should have won this one - I had my opponent all in and was a 6.5 to 1 favorite with one card to come and I lost) and 3rd in another which made me about $750. I'm having a good day so far!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Almost WCOOP Satellite

I pretty much took the day off today, but while sitting around on the couch I couldn't help but play a tournament or two. My only WCOOP related action was an $80 satellite to Sunday's $1,050 NL tournament.

We started with 66 players with the top 4 winning a seat. This wasn't a turbo tournament and with 15 minute limits it took a few hours for things to come to a head. With 14 players left the average stack was just over 7,000 and I had 6,500 chips. The blinds were 300/600 with a 50 chip ante when I picked up AQ of diamonds in early position. I raised to 1,800 and one player called behind me. The flop came down QJ9 with two clubs.

I had mixed feelings about this flop. On one hand I had top pair with top kicker. On the other with a bunch of big cards bunched close together I could be against a better hand or a big draw. I bet 2,400 figuring I might get action from a hand like AJ, AK, KQ or any hand with a T or two clubs. If I was up against a hand that had me beat, there was nothing I could do.

Unfortunately my opponent who had about 6,000 chips at the start of the hand moved all in and even though I didn't really like my hand any more I was committed to the hand since I'd already put so many chips in the pot. Sadly my opponent flipped over AA and took down the pot when no help came for me.

While only the top 4 spots paid $1,050, 5th-11th paid $80 and 12th paid $58. I was down to about 500 chips (less than one big blind) and no one else was under 4,000 so I figured the chance of losing 2 more opponents before I went broke was close to zero. But, then I picked up AA and my stack jumped to 1,700. A hand or two later I moved all in with KJ and got called by 66. I made a straight and was up over 4,000. Three people went broke, I stole the blinds a few times pushing my stack to over 6,000, and I thought I might stage a miraculous comeback.

Then I went broke. I moved all in with AT and ran into AK. Oh well. At least I got back the $80 that I invested.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Sub Par Effort

I ended up finishing 710th in today's $215 limit hold'em WCOOP event. I felt like I played great and got plenty of good cards for the first two and half hours or so. I had my starting stack of 3,000 up to about 7,500 at one point and was liking my chances of making it to the money. Then my run of good cards dried up, I overplayed a few hands and I found myself with fewer chips than I started to tournament with. Eventually as the limits increased and I got very short short stacked, I was forced to make a move with KQ and wound up against AQ. No miracles materialized and my WCOOP day was over.

No one hand in particular stands out to me, but it seemed like in the third hour I got plenty of hands like AK, AQ or KQ and never managed to make a pair. One thing that's a little different about playing limit poker tournaments is good luck early doesn't do much of anything for your overall chances (of course in no limit it's better to be lucky later on as well, but it's MUCH easier to make significant headway in the early rounds). If I'd had the crappy cards and bad luck in the first hour and the run of big pocket pairs and other solid cards that I had in the first hour in the third or fourth hour, then not only would I still be playing but I'd be in great shape.

In other poker news, I had one good result today and another almost. I played a few $60, 45 player turbo tournaments today and managed to win one outright. When we were down to 7 players everyone was about even. Then I busted two people and found myself with an overwhelming chip lead. At one point playing 5 handed I had 45,000 chips while all four of my opponents combined had 22,500. It was easy to grind them down and my victory was almost never in doubt. 1st place paid $770, but that was just one of seven $60 tournaments that I played so it's really not that exciting. It was fun though.

The almost came in a $22 with rebuys tournament. We started with 423 players and when we were down to 19 I had about 70,000 chips with the average stack around 50,000. I was in the big blind with A9 and blinds of 2,000/4,000. The small blind had about 30,000 and moved all in. I figured he could have just about anything and this was a good spot to take a risk. I called and he showed me J8. I was good until the river when an 8 showed up.

On the very next hand I was in the small blind with my remaining 40,000 chips and AK suited. The same guy moved all in (which was a little excessive) with QT. I instantly called. A 10 came on the flop and I was out in 19th. If I'd been able to win the first pot I would have been in 4th chip position and the second one would have put me in 7th or 8th. Either way I'd be in great shape to make the final table where first place paid $4,500 and anything in the top 5 was worth at least $900. Instead I only profited $56 (one more spot would have paid another $50 - not huge money, but enough to be annoyed about).

A few other things about this tournament irritate me a little. First of all it's not like the hands I lost to were anything special. Probably 80% of players would have just folded BOTH of them before the flop which would have saved me. Secondly it sucks to play 300+ hands over the course of more than 4 hours and get snapped off in two hands where you're ahead back to back after all that time. I guess I've had worse things happen to me 1,000 times in my poker career so it's really not a big deal, but it's never fun.

The best news is it seems like I'm really hitting my stride. Finishing 19th out of 423 and 1 of 45 is pretty good even if I didn't have a huge day monetarily (I won a few hundred though). If feel like if I keep giving myself chances I'll make more final tables and have more big pay days.

My next WCOOP action is going to be $215 no limit hold 'em with rebuys on Thursday. Here's a brief description of how rebuy tournaments work in case some of you aren't familiar with them. As long as you have the number of chips you stared with or less, you can buy more chips for the same cost as the original tournament buy in, less the juice. So in this case we'll start with 3,000 chips. Anytime I have 3,000 chips or less I can buy another 3,000 for $200. At the end of the first hour all players regardless of their chip stack can do a special rebuy called an"add on" where they get 5,000 chips for $200.

The classic strategy in rebuy tournaments is to rebuy as soon as you sit down and buy more chips any time it's legal to do so. Furthermore it almost always makes sense to do the add-on. If that's your plan you're looking at at least $615 and usually more like $815 or $1015. I still have $1,515.60 of the $2,000 bankroll that I have earmarked for the WCOOP and I'd like to hang on to as much as I can, so I'm going to play a little more conservatively. I'm just going to do the initial buy in and the add on. I'll have slightly fewer chips than most of my opponents, but I should get in for $415. If I go broke once early I'll do one rebuy and end up in for $615, but in the unlikely event that I go broke twice early, I'm just going to surrender.

I really want to play the $1,050 NL event next Sunday because 1st place in that event is going to be $500,000+ , but unless I make the money in one of these early event's I won't be able to swing it. I'm going to play $215 HORSE and $530 pot limit hold'em on Saturday for sure and I'm hoping I can at least make the money in one of those or Thursday's event. If not I'll probably take whatever I've got left and try to get in the $1,050 via satellite.

WCOOP Event# 7 Start

WCOOP event #7 ($215 limit hold'em) started with 2,059 entrants 1st place of $80,795, 5th place of $18,407, 18th place of $2,347, 63rd place of $947 and 270th place of $411. The best thing about limit hold'em tournaments is you can't go broke on one hand early. In fact you'd really have to try to go broke during the first 2 hours. The downside is they feel like they take forever since not much happens at the beginning. I'll let you know how it all went down.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Deal Making Thought Process

When I was playing my tournament on Saturday I had my good friend Matt (who is also a professional poker player) on the phone with me for the entire final table. When I mentioned suggesting a deal to the other players he pretty strongly advised me against it. Yesterday I got an e-mail from E.B. who is a former poker pro questioning my decision to make a deal also. We had a bit of a back and forth that I thought was worth posting which may address some similar questions that other people might be having as well.

Here's what E.B wrote:

First of all, congratulations… well done!

I just read your blog and I am wondering about the split. The chance of the short stack going belly-up pretty quick is obviously quite high. If you assume he is going to go broke (not a given, clearly), you’re risking $2500 to lock up $1300, and that is not even counting your slight chip advantage. Why do you think that was a good split for you?

I am not judging your decision; it was certainly yours to make. In fact, I am not even saying I think it is a mistake. Really I am just curious to understand your deductive process (which may have just been simply “I’ve had a rough run… ship the money and let’s not screw around”)

All in all, having to worry about whether you’re getting the best possible result out of your splits is kind of like having to pay a shitload in taxes: it isn’t a horrible problem to have. So keep it up; if you make $50K in September, we’ll come babysit so you guys can go out and celebrate. And in the meantime, enjoy having a 5 figure month when it’s halfway through!

EB

And then I replied with the following:

I think the biggest flaw with you're argument is the notion that the player with 200K is dead. He had over 6X the big blind (blinds of 15,000/30,000) which is plenty to maneuver with. If he doubles through me once we're both at 400K and the other player is at 600K. If the player who is roughly even with me (it was 590,000 to 600,000 which means I had him by 1/3 of one big blind or 1/5 of the smallest possible pot- effectively no advantage at all) gets me in just one hand I'm out. Even if no one doubles through me, if I go card dead for even a few hands or if my opponents pick up a strong run of cards everything could change. Three handed play is VERY volatile.

If you look at the precise numbers 3rd was $3,950, 2nd was $6,375, first was $10,125. and I got paid $7,670. In my mind I was risking $3,720 to win an additional $2,455 and needing to beat two opponents to do so.

If you would guess that if we were to run the tournament out 100 times and I could score 55 wins, 35 seconds and 10 thirds (a bit of a stretch that would require total domination) then I'd win $8,195 on average. If the ratio was 45/40/15 I'd average $7,699. If it dropped to 40/35/25 I'd be looking at $7,268. Clearly by taking the deal I wasn't giving up much equity even if I was WAY better than my opponents. If I was only slightly better than them I might have even been better off with the deal.

But the real issue comes down to locking up the money when things haven't been going well. If I played it out and didn't take the deal I'd be pissed with anything less than first. I'd feel like I threw away $1,300 if I finished in 2nd and I'd be spitting mad for the rest of the day if not the rest of the month with a 3rd place finish. If I was a very professional, logical player I know that I shouldn't factor that into the equation and should take any edge I can find, but in practice that's not how I operate.

Another thing to consider is bankroll. I don't have the bankroll to be playing something with as much fluctuation as 3 handed play with huge blinds for thousands of dollars even if I was certain I had a significant edge. Even though all the results are much better than I could have hoped for when the tournament started it still comes down to three handed play with a $6,000 difference between 1st and 3rd.

Now that I have all of that out of the way I can say that I was on the phone with Matt for the entire final table and he STRONGLY advised me to NOT make a deal. His logic, which was completely sound, is that there was no way in hell the other guys had as much experience playing 3 handed with large blinds as I do. I do feel like a little bit of a pussy, but when you factor in the emotional risk/reward to the monetary aspect, the deal makes even more sense.

Here's EB's reply to my reply:

I disagree with the possible outcomes you considered. I think 50%-55% first-place finishes would be a reasonable (but high-end of reasonable, obviously) expectation for you if you all three had the same stack. Another way I look at it is the same way I’d consider buying a used car: if the other guy loves the deal, it can’t be that great for me. Using that (admittedly simple) analysis, if you were the short stack, do you think you’d have been happier with this deal than you were as the big stack (or one of them)?

But that is all math (and somewhat questionable math at that). Obviously I understand, intellectually, that there is a difference (beyond the dollars) in the effect, on your state of mind, of coming off of a 3-way split that you took the lion’s share of and taking second or third place. However, I think it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of that effect, even for me, let alone for somebody who has never won or lost a month’s expenses in an hour.

Right now, I am sure you are playing your A-game, without much chance of being easily frustrated by short-term negative results, and you are probably once again enjoying playing (I’d imagine that after a week or two of getting your nuts slammed in the door it is almost like “Do I have to do this again?”.) I literally can’t even begin to calculate the dollar value of that change, so that being said, I definitely do understand your decision, and it DOES seem reasonable.

EB

I'll post my latest comments here. First of all I think this has been a helpful dialogue for me and I want to thank EB for getting it started. I have had my doubts about making this deal, the deal I made last week in the 1,870 player tournament, and many other deals in the past. Thinking through the details and possible outcomes a little more has given me more confidence that at the very least I didn't do something significantly wrong in this case.

I have to disagree strongly with the notion that I'd be more than 50% to win if we were all evenly stacked. Nominally in that case I'd be 33% to win. Only against rank novices or players who I'd played thousands of hands against could I expect to shift my chance of wining that much from what could be expected if it was random chance. In order for me to be 50% that means each of my opponents only has a 25% chance of beating me. Keep in mind that we're not playing in a situation where the blinds are small and there is plenty of time. The blinds and antes alone amounted to 1/28 of all the chips in play. In a spot like that luck takes on a much larger roll.

I would estimate that more than half of the time I make it to heads up in the scenario in quention my opponents would bust one another rather than me busting one of them since they're likely to play looser than me. If that's true I'd have a greater than normal chance of finishing in second, but a lesser chance of winning outright. If that happened I'd be severely out chipped going into heads up play which would put me at much less than 50% to win.

I do think the notion of "If the deal is good for them, it must be bad for me" is a fair point. But I think a more fair description is, we're all agreeing to a deal that is neutral so none of us faces a negative outcome.

Interestingly enough, while my vast experience playing 3 handed is a strong asset in the situation in question, it's also what makes me want to make deals. I've been screwed so many times when I was sure I had first place locked up, that I know first hand how quickly things can go sour.

My next WCOOP event ($215 limit hold 'em) is tomorrow (Tuesday). For every WCOOP event they have a "second chance" tournament with the same game and structure that starts about 3 hours after the initial tournament goes off. Usually the second chance tournament is $215 regardless of the buy in of the initial event. In the past I've had great success playing this size tournament when it's limit hold 'em. I'd give it a 50% chance that I'll play the second chance event which I will count as WCOOP related as far as people who have a piece of my action are concerned. I'll let you know what happens.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another FANTASTIC Day

For those of you who have a sliver of my WCOOP action I'm sorry to say that the good poker news I have is not WCOOP related. In fact I dropped another $161 playing satellites to Sunday's $530 event.

But I did have a major result in the Supernova Freeroll. For those of you who don't know Supernova refers to my level of VIP status on pokerstars. There are 6 levels: bronze, sliver, gold, platinum, supernova and supernova elite. The lower 4 levels are based on the amount that you play in a given month and the top two are based on how much you play in a calender year. Of the 9 million people who have pokerstars accounts there are less than 10 who are supernova elite and I am one of the 1,500 or so players who are regular supernova. There are a variety of perks associated with each level but the one that matters as far as this post goes is the supernova freeroll.

Every Saturday at 11 am Pokerstars puts up a $50,000 prize pool for players who are supernova to fight over. The tournament has no entry fee and usually draws 750-1,000 players. I've had great success in the past in this tournament and I think I've made the money over 30% of the times that I've played (it might even be closer to 40%).

I suspect that the main reason for my success is that while all of the players are VERY experienced poker players, most of them are not multitable no limit hold 'em tournament specialists. The reason I suspect this is it would be almost impossible to earn enough points to become a supernova playing multitable tournaments. Probably at least half of the players are cash game players and most of the rest are SNG players. While they've almost certainly all played some NL hold'em, playing big tournaments is a very different skill set.

Now on to the point! Today we started with 923 players and as per usual I figured I'd have a better than average chance to pick up at least the free $80 that comes with a finish of 162nd or higher. I managed to double my 1,500 starting stack to 3,000 in the first 15 minutes, but struggled for a long time after that.

I was having trouble in the other tournaments I was playing and kept going broke with pairs to over cards. So when I moved my short stack all in with 44 with about 250 players left and got called by AQ I was thinking I was due for a winner. But an ace came on the flop and I went from a 53% favorite to a 10-1 underdog. Another A on the turn felt like the universe was just rubbing it in, but a 4 on the river saved the day!

I was in OK shape after that and when we hit the money I was right about average with around 8,000 chips. Then I really made some headway. I picked up AA and someone moved all in in front of me. After adding a few stolen blinds to proceeds of that pot I my stack ballooned to over 25,000.

A short while later I faced a major decision. With blinds of 600/1200 I raised to 3,600 from the button with AK of clubs. The player in the big blind had over 30,000 chips and to my surprise reraised all in! If he had a pair (which I thought was very likely) I would be a small underdog. But if he had a hand like AQ or AJ I would be about a 3-1 favorite. I figured with AA or KK (the only hands I really feared) he would have made a smaller raise or just called so I probably wasn't in terrible shape. While I didn't like risking my entire stack (that was more than twice average) on one hand, if you're going to go deep sometimes you just have to go for it. I called, my opponent showed AQ and my hand held up.

I vaulted into 3rd place overall and was one good pot away from 1st. I stayed patient, watched a little golf and let my opponents bust each other. If I got a good hand, I played and won. I managed to avoid any tough decisions and by the time we were down to about 35 players I had 80,000 chips while the average stack was close to 40,000.

Then I went card dead. I kept getting total garbage and at an aggressive table there wasn't much room to maneuver. I slowly saw my strong stack melt away. But, my opponents were still dropping and I was moving up the pay levels. 19th-27th paid $200, 14th to 18th paid $335 and 10 to 13th paid $445. We were stalled at 17 players for what felt like an eternity and almost everyone in the whole tournament had relatively equal chip stacks. Then 4 people went broke in a matter of 10 hands. Then 3 more went down in the following 20 hands. In what felt like a very short time we were playing at two tables of 5.

I was in dead last when we started playing 10 handed. I'd managed to keep my head above water picking up the blinds here and there, but I was constantly in danger of going broke. At my worst with blinds of 3000/6000 and a 300 chip ante I was down to 35,000 chips while the average had shot up to 138,000.

I moved all in with 87 of spades and stole the blinds and then I got a walk in the big blind so I was left with just under 50,000 on the button when the blinds went up to 4000/8000. The player to my right raised to 24,000 and I found myself with 88. "Hmmmmmmm" I thought. My first thought was "I have to call here. I'd be crazy to fold 88 at a 5-way table."

This was a key hand and for once I took my time making a decision. I was 100% sure I'd get called if I moved all in and I decided I might be able to find a spot where I was in better shape or someone else might go broke if I waited a few more hands. Folding was kind of a weak play and I think it was probably a mistake, but that's what I did.

Luckily I caught a break a few hands later. The next time I was on the button with my stack almost exactly the same size, the same player raised to 24,000 and I moved all in with A8. I'd been thinking about the hand where I had 88 and had come to the conclusion that I made a mistake. Even though my hand was weaker this time I decided to go for it. My opponent called with K2 and after nothing of significance showed up I took the pot.

I was in better shape, but no one else was really hurting. We’d been playing 10 handed for over 40 hands when I caught a big break on a key hand. I picked up A9 and was second to act with about 60,000 in chips and blinds still at 4000/8000. I moved all in and got called by a player who had about 90,000 chips. I knew I was in trouble and when he turned over AT (a 3-1 favorite over my hand) I saw a 10th place finish in my future.

The flop came down with nothing. I hoped the board would pair on the turn so at least I’d have a chance to split the pot. When the turn came out I saw that there were 3 spades on board and I had the only spade. I called out loud for a spade and then I saw the river. It was a 9!

I was up to over 130,000 and my opponent was left with around 30,000. On the next hand my crippled foe folded, but on the hand after that he moved all in. Everyone folded to me in the big blind. The blinds had gone up to 6000/12000 and I was forced to call with T7 of hearts since I was only risking about 18,000 to win a little over 50,000. My opponent had Q8, I managed to make a flush, we were down to 9, and I had almost 170,000 chips!

Getting to the final table took forever, but once we were there things moved along quickly. 9th paid $720 and when the first player went down I was guaranteed $1,100. Before I new it we’d lost the 8th place player and the 7th place player who got $1,500.

I was making nice headway at the final table. The blinds had gone up to 10,000/20,000 and I kept getting hands like KQ and AJ that were perfect for raising. Around this point I had 240,000 and the player to my right moved all in for 120,000. I had AJ in my hand which I easily could have called with. But I decided I might be able to find a better spot and I didn't want to risk half of my stack. I folded and a player behind me who had me covered called with AA and won the pot. If I'd played the hand I would have reraised the initial raiser and slammed head first into those pocked aces. I would have been forced to call a raise and would have gone broke. It turned out that the initial raiser had 98 of clubs and got paid $1,950 for 6th place.

A few hands later I had my stack up to 300,000 and I picked up AA in the big blind. As soon as I saw my cards my heart rate went up as I hoped someone would give me action. Aces are so powerful because NO MATTER WHAT you're opponent has you'll win 80% of the time against one player. To my delight the first player to act who had about 200,000 chips moved all in!

I instantly called and saw that he had 88. The flop came down 976 which was about the worst flop that didn’t have an 8 on it that I could imagine. But there were two spades and I had the ace of spades. Wanting a spade to kill some of my opponents outs I called out loud for the king of spades. BANG! The king of spades came on the turn! The river was a blank and my opponent took home $$2,450 for 5th place.

I stole the blinds one more time and was up over 600,000 chips (400 times the 1500 chip stack that I started the tournament with). On the next hand one of my opponents busted another who got $3,000 for 4th place. I was up agaisnt two players who had 200,000 and 590,000 chips and I decided to suggest making a deal. Happily they were both receptive.

3rd place paid $3950, 2nd place was $6,300 and 1st was $10,150 so there was a big pile of cash to split up. I e-mailed support and 60 seconds later there was a Pokerstars representative there to help us with the deal. We decided to split the remaining money based on chip count and once again since I had the most chips I got the most money. When the math was done my end was $7,670!!!!

I could have fought it out and gone for the $10,000+ 1st prize, but I also could have ended up with less than $4,000 for finishing in 3rd. I figured locking up an extra $3,700 was the way to go.

This is my biggest win since early 2006 and the 6th biggest win of my career. Not bad for a tournament that cost me zero dollars to enter! The timing couldn’t be better and I couldn’t be happier about my win.

Friday, September 14, 2007

An Early Exit

I ran my starting stack of 3,000 up to 4,500 early by winning a series of small pots, but after losing chips about 500 at a time with 99, AK and AQ I found myself back under 3,000. I slowly dribbled off more chips and found myself with just over 2,000 chips about and hour and 20 minutes into the tournament.

Then I picked up TT on the button and the first player to act raised the 50 chip big blind to 175. Two other players called which was uncharacteristic for our table. It was up to me next. I was most worried about the initial raiser since he could have a big hand. Since the other two players just called it was unlikely that they had a pair above TT. On the previous hand the initial raiser won a pot going all in on the flop with 66 one pair against another player who missed a draw so I knew he could have a small pair which would be the best case scenario for me.

I thought about just calling, but up against 3 opponents unless I hit a T on the flop I was probably done. There was 600 in the pot and I figured if I moved all in I would almost certainly win right there and increase my stack by 30%. Also I thought there was some chance I might get called by an underpair which would be perfect.

So I moved all in and instantly got called by the initial raiser. Yikes! When the cards got turned over and I saw that he had AK I was pretty happy. I thought with the speed that he called I was probably up against a big pair. I was about 55% to win the pot before the flop, but an A came on the flop and with no help on the turn or the river I was out in about 3,490th place.

My Next WCOOP event will be $215 Limit Hold'em on Tuesday at noon.

And We're Off!

Event #1 Started with 4,610 players and a total prize pool of $922,000. Just to give you an idea of some of the payouts. 1st place pays $172,875, 5th is $18,901, 12th is $6,454, 138th is $1,198 and 534th (the edge of the money) pays $369. I'll let you know what happened when it's over.

A Massive Flaw in the Plan and a few WCOOP Satellites

My quest for TLB supremecy has been totally derailed. Jake discovered while reading up on the TLB rules that only my top 10 results for a given week count towards the weekly TLB. ACK! I can't say that I'm really surprised or disappointed. This is certainly a case of if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

Of course I never would have played the $11, 1870 player tournament that I won without this little scheme so in the end it turned out to be wildly profitable!

This morning I played 6 WCOOP satellites. 3 of them were $8 with rebuys to win $215 seats, one was a $39 satellite to a $215 seat and two more were $16 double shootouts to win $530 seats. For those of you who don't know a shootout is when you start a tournament with many tables and each table plays until one player at that table has all the chips. Then the winners of each table come together and play at a new table. So for example, today in my $16 double shootout we started with 36 players split into 6 tables of 6. The 6 winners of the initial 6 tables then come together and play and the winner of that table gets the $530 entry. Of course the odds of you winning both your first table and the final table are slim (1 in 36 for the average player), but you get a shot at $530 for a $16 investment.

This style of tournament really suits my game since I've played so many SNG's, but for some reason I don't really seem to enjoy it despite some past success. In fact the first time I played a shootout the only reason I did so was because my friend Matt offered me a deal I couldn't refuse.
He offered to put up all the money and give me 25% of the profits in an 81 player $109 double shootout. Unlike in the satellite version I described above this was not a winner take all payout structure and the top 9 spots paid much like they would in a normal multitable tournament.

Since I was only getting a quarter of the profits of course I won the damn thing which made me about $600 and Matt about $1,800. To his credit Matt did take Jen and I out the next day and shelled out a big chunk of that $1,800 to buy us each a set of golf clubs as a wedding present. What a guy.

So what happened in my 6 satellites? Well when I started writing this post it looked like I was going to get shut out. But in my last of the $8 with rebuys I managed to pull out a victory. This means I'm ahead $72.60 so far in the WCOOP! Yep looks like it's time to retire.

More results coming later today.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hitting the Tournament Leaderboard and a Big Win

Yesterday I started my mini quest to win the Pokerstars weekly tournament leader board (TLB) by playing as many $12, 180 entrant tournaments as possible. I ran into a little difficulty early both in terms of luck and logistics. It turns out that around 9 am the tournaments in question only go off about every 15 minutes so it's impossible to play the volume that I'd hoped. But I made up some of the slack by playing in a few other tournaments which turned out to be a VERY good idea.

I ended up playing 21 of the 180 player tournaments and had 4 money finishes and 1 final table, but the most significant result by far came in an $11 tournament that started with 1,870 players. I played in this tournament because it had 10 minute limits so while it would be slower than the turbo 180 player flavor, it would be much faster than a normal tournament with 15 minute limits. Also in going for TLB points it makes sense to play against the weaker competition at the low levels.

I had a fair run of luck to start and when we got down to about 60 people (remember we started with almost 1,900 so 60 left is pretty far into it) my chip stack was about 2/3 of average. I caught a few breaks, made some good plays and before I knew it we were down to two tables. I caught some more breaks, busted a few people and found that with 14 players left I was in 2nd place overall and the chip leader at my table with about 300,000 chips (we started the tournament with 1,500 so this was a real accomplishment).

This is when I really went to work. No one else at my table had more than 200,000 and they were all doing whatever they could to just survive to the final table. I raised about half of the hands, gradually accumulated chips and ground down my opponents. I knew I couldn't go broke on any one hand and I had to do whatever I could to make it to the top few spots. 18-10th places only paid $140 and 9th was a paltry $250 while 4th was over $1,000, 3rd was $1,550, 2nd was $2,500 and 1st was $4,100. Clearly it's worth taking some chances for a shot a the top spots.

When we got down to 9 players I was in 3rd place and I did my best to keep the pressure on my opponents who were all trying to hang on since every time a player was eliminated they'd be guarenteed an extra few hundred dollars.

My chips stack went up and down a little more than I'd like, but when we made it to 6 handed I caught a MAJOR break. I was in the small blind with about 500,000 chips, the short stack was on the button with about 120,000 chips and the big stack was in the big blind with 700,000 chips. The blinds were something like 15,000/30,000 and the short stack moved all in from the button. I had JJ and moved all in over the top. The big stack instantly called and I figured I was screwed. Sure enough he had AA. SHIT!

The other player had 33 and I thinking about the fact that at least I'd finish in fifth (which paid about $900) if we both went broke. Then...BOOM! J on the flop! I was up to 1.2 million in chips and in total control. The player who I'd just crippled went broke on the next hand and we were down to 3 players.

We played 3 handed for what felt like forever. Myself and one of the other players wanted to make a deal and split up the remaining prize money based on chip count (if you e-mail support they'll come to the table and make any deal official and handle the money), but the third player wasn't interested.

In fact the third player was totally nuts. On one hand he just called in the small blind (the blinds were 25,000/50,000) and I moved all in for 550,000 in the big blind with A8. He instantly called with J7! Luckily I won that hand, but I wanted to lock up as much money as I could rather than play 3 handed for some serious bucks against a totally unpredictable opponent.

He was so unpredictable that I just decided to be crazy aggressive when I got a good hand and hoped he made a mistake. At one point I had about 1,000,000, the nut job had about 1,100,000 and the other guy had about 600,000. The blinds were still 25,000/50,000 and I was first to act. I picked up 77 and moved all in. Normally this would be a major over bet (in this case it was certainly a minor over bet), but I thought he might call with a weak ace or an under pair (he'd risked all of his chips earlier with KT so it wasn't too much of a stretch).

It turned out that he did have a pair and sadly it was 88. He called, I swore and I knew I was pretty much done. The flop came with 3 spades and I had the 7 of spades (while my opponent had no spades) which brought a glimmer of hope. And then the turn came a 4th spade! AH HA! Take that you bastard! The river was a 7 (which I didn't need) and I took down the pot. I busted him a few hands later.

Now it was time to talk deal. We e-mailed support and a person showed up at the table in less than a minute. I'm pretty sure as a supernova my e-mails are flagged and I get priority service because that is just amazing.

After a little back and forth we agreed to a split roughly based on chip count and since I had most of the chips I got most of the money. My end was $3,620!!!!! That's some serious dough for an $11 investment!

We had to play it out for TLB points and I won that part too. I picked up about 900 points for that one tournament and at the end of the day found myself in 7th place on the weekly TLB about 700 points out of 1st! Today I'm continuing to generate more points and I like my chances of winning the TLB. I have until the end of Saturday and I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Also WCOOP starts tomorrow at noon pacific with $215 NL Hold 'em 6-handed. I'll certainly let you know what happens as far as that goes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hijacking the Pokerstars Tournament Leader Board

Bear with me through a little background here, because the point of this post is VERY interesting (I think). Pokerstars has a weekly, monthly, and yearly tournament leader board (TLB) where the names of the players who have consistently done well in multitable tournaments are proudly displayed. While the monthly and yearly contests inexplicably have no prizes, the weekly winner gets a chance to play one of the "Team Pokerstars" celebrities (usually one of the 4 former world champions that endorse Pokerstars) heads up for a minimum of $1,000. If the celebrity wins the money carries over to the next week where another $1,000 is added. This continues until the TLB player wins and takes the cash.

So how do results in tournaments turn into the points with which the players are ranked on the TLB? It's really quite simple. Actually it's not. They use this ridiculous formula which spits out a point value for any result in the top 15% of finishers (I'll explain more below so don't bother trying to figure out what's going on with the formula).

Points = 10 * [sqrt(n)/sqrt(k)] * [1+log(b+0.25)]

Where:

n is the number of entrants
k is the place of finish (k=1 for the first-place finisher, and so on)
b is the buy-in amount in dollars (excluding administrative fee). For freerolls the buy-in is $0, and for FPP tournaments 1 FPP is counted as $0.05.

Basically what's going on is they use the tournament buy-in, the number of entrants and your finishing place to determine how many points you get. Bigger buy in or more entrants means more points.

You might think that since the best players play for the most money, buy in should be weighted most heavily. After all if you really want to know who the best players are, the best way to figure that out is to look at who has the best results at the highest levels. But it turns out that the effect of all those square roots and and logs is to make buy in much less significant than you might think. If it was linear you'd get 10 times as many points for winning a 100 player $200 buy in tournament than you would winning a 100 player $20 tournament. In fact you get 330 points for the former and 230 points for the latter. Clearly buy in is barely a factor at all.


The number of entrants makes a big impact, but it's also similarly deflated by the math. You get 230 for that 100 player $20 tournament, but you'd only get 729 for a $20 tournament with 1,000 players.

The place you finish is the last factor variable that determines how many points you get and while there's a drop off from 1st on down it's also not as big as you might guess. In our same $20 100 player tournament you'd get 230 for 1st, 163 for 2nd, 73 for 10th and 59 for 15th (out of the top 15% is zero).

If you put it all together you can see that the most important thing is to have a shit load of finishes in the top 15%.

So what does all this mean and what's the point? Well the point is if I play a slew of those $12 180 player turbo tournaments that I kicked ass in last Sunday I should be able to win the tournament leader board almost every week!

Pokerstars offers a little calculator that you can use to determine how many points you'd get for a given result in a given tournament and I looked at how many points every place in the top 15% (or the top 27 spots) generates. If I were to play 180 tournaments in a week and finish in places 1-27 exactly one time each I'd accumulate 2484 points. I'm certain I could do this much.

The tournaments take about an hour and 45 minutes to play to conclusion, but of course that's only if you take them all the way to the end. Conservatively, I would say on average each one might take me 45 minutes. So playing 6 at a time I could play 72 in an 8 hour day. But there's a little delay getting into 6 tournaments and a little down time at the end while you're waiting for your final tournaments to end and while they seem to be starting every 10 minutes there aren't as many as I want just waiting to be played so we'll call it 60 a day.

So if I play 60 a day, 6 days a week we've got 360 tournaments. If I was dead on average in terms of skill level (which we sure as hell know I'm not) and I had an average run of luck I'd generate 4968 points. The winner of the weekly TLB last week only had 3,293 points! In fact the person who had the most points in the entire month of August only had 6,980 points.

I suspect that since I'll usually be the absolute best and certainly always in the top 5 of the 180 players playing I can do quite a bit better than the average number of points I used for my calculations above.

So what now? Well this week the TLB leader from last week is playing the heads up match for $3,000. If he loses it means that next week, this weeks TLB winner will be playing for $4,000. Right now the weeks leader has 2,600 points, but what happens every week is the top players in the Sunday Million ($215 buy in, 7,000 players is a lot of points) jump to the top of the leader board and don't go much further. I've got about 1,000 points just from screwing around on Sunday and I've got 4 days left in the week, so I might go for it this week.

If everything I've calculated is correct I should be able to win almost every week until they stop running the $12 180 player tournaments or change the system. If either is the case I'll no doubt gain some degree of fame from the whole thing. At the very least I'm going to go balls to the wall tomorrow and see how many I can play and what my results are. I won another $500 today so I'm feeling pretty good about my play.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's About Time!

A week ago my Pokerstars account was on total fumes and I was making plans to get my hands on some cash so I could switch to playing in person for a while. Then I actually ran into some good luck!

On Saturday I won about $700 playing a mix of SNG's and cash games and on Sunday I was planning to watch football all day and play a few low limit multitables. I saw that they just started running these turbo (meaning they have 5 minute limits and go three times as fast as the normal 15 minute limit tournaments) $12 buy in tournaments that start as soon as 180 players sign up.

One of these was going off about every 15 minutes and I thought they would be perfect since they were going to be low stress and require limited if any concentration. I was hoping to win something like $50 or $100. Nothing major, but enough money to pay for a dinner out. Anything would be a bonus since it felt like a day off sitting on the couch.

In the first one I played I dominated from the start (I'm great at beating players who totally suck) and when we made it to the money (with 18 players left) I was in 2nd place. I navigated my way through the rest of the field and found myself with a small chip lead playing three handed. I figured I'd have a good chance to finish it off, but with blinds of 5000/10,000 and only 270,000 chips total in play I knew it would be a bit of a crap shoot.

Before I knew it I lost two hands and I was out! Crap! 3rd place paid $235 which is a ton considering I only had to risk $12 to get it, but 2nd was about $400 and 1st paid $600 so I was still a little disappointed.

But all was not lost. I was in another tournament of the exact same style that I'd started about 45 minutes later. I picked up some good hands and made some strong plays and before I knew it I was in the chip lead with about 30 players left. Once again I made it to the final table and before I knew it I was playing 3 handed again! I thought to myself "I am going to be crazy pissed if I finish in third again!"

At one point I was forced to risk all of my chips on a marginal hand, but I managed to get the cards I needed and survive. Luckily I was up against two weak passive players and I managed to grind them into dust with little difficulty. By the time we were down to 2 players I had a 6 to 1 chip advantage and finished off my last opponent in about 5 hands.

But there's more! I made a third final table finishing in 8th place in my next attempt! If poker was all luck and everyone had an equal chance, the odds of finishing 1st, 3rd (or better) and 8th (or better) in three consecutive 180 player tournaments would be 1 in 243,000. It blows my mind that whenever the courts are called on to determine if poker is a game of luck or a game of skill the judges always listen to the one moron who says it's all luck and ignores the 4 experts who say it's skill. It makes me sick.

I actually managed to cash in 3 other tournaments of different styles including finishing 60th out of 1370 in a $55 tournament. This is all good for my confidence (and my bankroll) as we get closer to the WCOOP which starts on Friday. I know it's been a few weeks since my last post and I've been posting less often, but I'll be putting up plenty of details about my WCOOP results.

Today I kept the good streak rolling picking up at least another $700 (I'm still in a few multitables, but even if I go broke in all of them I'll still be ahead at least that much). Hopefully tomorrow will be another good day.