Monday, June 30, 2008

Some Unusual Good News

June while still somewhat profitable turned out to be my worst month since January. A big reason for that was the minor loss at the WSOP and perhaps more importantly the 9 days I wasn't playing online. But there is good news!

First of all my good friend Matt Lessinger won his was into the WSOP main event in a $55 with rebuys direct qualifier! Congrats Matt! Of course I am insanely jealous. But, happily I had 10% of his action, so for a relatively small investment I now have 10% of his action in the main event (a $1,000 value). Hopefully he'll do something big!

Second, pokerstars is running a promotion offering double FPPs from now until July 6th! This means for doing the same stuff I would be doing I'm going to earn double points towards my year end goal as well as double FPPs to be cashed in for dollars. This is HUGE. Right now I'm at 443,000 points for the year and since we're at the exact half way point I should be at 500,000.

I am going to go TOTALLY BANANAS this week. Don't expect to see or hear from me until July 8th (on July 7th I anticipate being a drooling zombie blob if my brain has not actually exploded). My goal is to knock out 30,000 points which will then be doubled to 60,000 points. Those points alone will be worth $3,152 without even factoring in progress towards the year end goal! Clearly with dollars coming in at that rate FOR BREAKING EVEN I need to do as much as I can. I'm hoping I can find the mental strength to do even more that my above goal, but I'll be happy if for once I can hit a goal I've posted on this blog.

Wish me luck! I won't keep you posted until after the fact since every second I spend in front of the computer will be spent playing!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Sets

I started today by getting my ass kicked just about every way you can imagine. In fact there was one pot that I won, but it felt like I'd lost about $120 on the hand. I'm sure you're all thinking "How can that be?!?! Dave must have hit the Grand Mariner before writing this post!"

Let me explain. I was playing four $10/$20 games this morning and one of them was a spectacular game (especially for a Thursday morning). There were these two goofs in the game who were playing all kinds of garbage hands and going nuts with them. And they were both killing me. Whenever I was in it seemed like they were nailing their hands. Then the following hand came up. Goof 1 raised from the button, goof 2 three bet from the small blinds, I called from the big blind with 88 and goof 1 capped it.

I wasn't really sure where I stood, but when the flop came down 8 4 3 I started to drool. "Ah ha!" I thought triumphantly. "Now these goofs are going to pay! I'll cut them to pieces with my mighty set of eights!" Then to my total shock and horror goof 2 (who was first to act after the flop) timed out and folded (In the games I play in you have 14 seconds to act on your hand or you're out - it's kind of a brutal format, but it keeps the games moving quickly)! I couldn't believe it. I was thinking I would get AT LEAST $70 from him no matter what he had and instead I got zero.

After goof 2 folded I bet, the flop, turn and river and goof 1 folded to my river bet meaning I only made $30 after the flop. While I was trying to convince myself that maybe I wouldn't have gotten that much out of goof 2 he typed in the chat box "Thank God! I had KK and was so pissed that I folded!" BASTARDS! I'm guessing I would have gotten $30 or $40 from both players on the flop, $60 or $80 on the turn from goof 2 and $20 on the river. Even though I won the pot that hand sucked.

Now on to a much better hand. I was losing $2,200 by lunch today (I was just thinking to myself this morning how it had been a long time since I'd had a really big loss - now why would I tempt the universe by thinking that?) which also sucked. After lunch I thought I might play a little $15/$30 along with my normal $10/$20 games in an attempt to get some of my money back, but the games were loaded with regulars and pros.

Just for fun I decided to see who was playing $30/$60 even though I wasn't going to play. A few of the games looked OK, but one looked great. There was no one I recognized except for one guy who is a big loser at the $10/$20 games. I decided to take a chance and bought in for $3,000 (I was also in for $1,000 in each of three $10/$20 games). After about 18 seconds I was down to $2,500 in the $30/$60, not doing great in the other games and stuck about $3,000 for the day. SHIT!

But then I picked up AK three times in about 20 hands and won with all three. I was back to about $3,400 and I'd determined that the game was even better than I'd hoped. There were three guys who were constantly just calling before the flop which is a sign of real suckers in a short handed game.

Then I picked up TT on the button. Sure enough the first player to act just called $30 another player called behind him and I raised as I was thinking how great the game was. The big blind called and the original caller made it $90 to go. This made the alarm bells go off big time (ALERT! ALERT! We might have pocket aces!). The vast majority of the time people just call before the flop and then reraise it's AA in their hand. I called as did the other players and we took the flop 4 way.

While I was thinking about how sure I was that that one player had AA the flop came down T 3 3 and all of a sudden I was desperately hoping I was right! I almost couldn't believe it. I had to slow play a little here so I checked. To my insane delight the big blind and the original caller went to war with a bet, a raise, a reraise and a cap while I just called along! I thought to myself "Holy shit! I've flopped tens full against pocket aces and trip threes in an F-ing $30/$60 game! Yeah Baby!"

The turn was a Q which wasn't a great card, but I was pretty sure anything but an ace or a three was safe. I checked, the big blind bet $60, the other player just called and I raised to $120. Now the big blind went all in for a total of $175 which was great because it got the money in, but if he'd had more there's a chance the other player would have folded. Since it wasn't a full bet I couldn't raise again, but I did bet the river and got called. Sure enough I was up against AA and 7 3! I'd like to give the guy with 73 a little shout out and thank him for not folding before the flop (and for the $385 that he donated to me)! That pot was about $1,300 when it got pushed into my stack and I left the $30/$60 with a $1,400 profit in that game.

While I was done in the $30/$60 (the busted player and one other softy left and were replaced with some real players) I kept playing my other games and managed to cut my days losses all the way back down to about -$450. While I started the day with a win that felt like a loss with the set of 8's I finished they day with a net loss that feels almost like a win.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Fe w Comment Responses

First of all thanks to those of you who post comments. I love feed back on my posts as well as questions.

A while back now my sister asked:

I have 2 questions: First, when you went to the 1st WSOP, I remember you talking about being pretty nervous. There was a guy in the elevator with you who looked like he might crap his pants, if I remember correctly. Are you nervous this time around? Or is this getting easier and easier?

Second, since you play online mostly, you don't have to worry about tells. Are you worried about that at all now, or is a poker face easier to hold when you're only playing one hand at a time versus eight? Or does that have nothing to do with it?


Great questions! The most nervous I've ever been in my entire life was when I read a poem that I wrote for a girl to her as a way of asking her out when I was 16. About a third of the way into it I could tell by the look on her face that she was NOT receptive to my advances and was trying to figure out what the hell to say to me when I was done.

A close second was the first time I played a big buy in tournament. It was a $1,500 tournament at the L.A. Poker Classic in 2004 and before that my biggest tournament ever was a $215 buy in. I got pocket kings on the second hand and if you had a heart rate monitor on me I'd bet my pulse was around 175! While I was pretty nervous at my first WSOP after an hour or so I felt pretty comfortable and since I made the money in my first event ever I'd say the nerves didn't get the best of me.

This year I wasn't nervous at all. I think part of that is this was my fourth year at the WSOP and I've played close to 50 tournaments with buy ins over $1,000. I feel like I belong in those games, I know I'm good enough, and I expect that eventually I'll nail one of these babies for big money! It doesn't hurt that I've been having a strong year in the cash games so I wasn't really sweating the money.

As far as tells go, I'm always surprised how I get back into the groove after a long time away from in person games. It's hard for me to detect how much information I'm giving away, but as far as picking it up goes, I feel like I had great reads on my opponents for my entire stay at the WSOP. I'm always amazed when I play in person how much information people are giving away. If only I could play 500 hand an hour I'd play in person all the time!

Now on to another comment topic: the one Sunday I spent in Vegas. While I glossed over it originally I would like to say that it was great fun hanging out with my sister in law Kristen and her boyfriend Matt. While there were so many good times during that day that I could hardly mention them in one blog post I will point out the one major highlight which E.B. alluded to in his comment.

After I don't know how many hours of Pai Gow, Kristen, Matt, E.B. and I moved over to the craps table at the Paris. After a few bad shoots it was time for Kristen to roll the dice. For those of you who don't know anything about craps essentially one person keeps rolling the dice until they roll a 7. The longer a shoot goes on the better it is and the more numbers 4-10 that you repeat the better it is.

Before they pushed the dice to Kristen she warned us that it was going to be an amazing shoot and only a fool would do anything but bet more than they normally would. E.B. took this advice and instantly decided to double all of his normal bets which are already pretty sizable. I also decided to go from reserved mode to full out mode and since I'd been getting my ass kicked at Pai Gow and craps I was ready for a big turn around. That's exactly what I got.

Kristen then proceeded to roll 4,5,6,8,9 and 10 AT LEAST 3 times each (some of them hit 7 or 8 times) without ever rolling a 7. Given that there's a 16% chance of rolling a 7 on any given roll and it is the most likely roll this was a pretty amazing feat. Good work Kristen!

As as result of this shoot and the fact the E.B. won 9 out of 10, $100 bets that he placed on Kristen's hand at the Pai Gow table he's promised her a free room in Vegas any time that he's in town. Given the comps that E.B. gets at just about all the hotels in Vegas this amounts to the owner of a deli offering a free ham sandwich, but I know it's still appreciated by Kristen.

Thanks for the comments!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Non Poker Vegas Recap!

While the main purpose of my recent trip to Vegas was poker, there was a lot more going on during my stay.

I got to Vegas on Tuesday, played poker Wednesday and Thursday and after my money finish Thursday night I hooked up with my good friend (and original gambling mentor) E.B. at the Rio. My plan was to have one beer and play $25 a hand Pai Gow for about an hour or so before calling it a night. That plan lasted about 45 seconds.

While I did manage to have that one beer, I followed it with a shot of Grand Mariner every 15-20 minutes for the next few hours. Of course that whole $25 a hand business went out the window just as quickly and before I knew it I was drunk as a skunk with $200 on each of two hands! Amazingly I kept the damage to about -$500.

This was the beginning of what if things were going poorly you would call a massive Grand Mariner fueled bender. I gambled straight from late Thursday (or technically early Friday) until late Sunday (or technically early Monday) only stopping to eat and sleep. It was a pretty amazing thing to think back on and the only reason it went on like that was I was actually winning!

On Friday I checked into the Bellagio and met up with E.B., Jake, Chrissy, Jean, Chrissy's brother James, and eventually Jen. We spent most of the day playing Pai Gow and craps and everyone had pretty break even luck but lots of fun.

Saturday on the other hand was one of my top two or three of the 50+ days (it might be as many as 75) that I've spent in Vegas. After a late breakfast (still at the Bellagio) the ladies all went shopping and the men made their way to the Let it Ride table. Let it Ride is one of those games that the house has such a huge edge in that you can almost feel them sucking the money out of your pockets. But it's fun to play and if things go well they can go well in a hurry. They did and I picked up my first $500 of the day which was pretty amazing given it was a $10 table!

After a few hours of Letting it Ride, we jumped one table over to play black jack. I've played about 5 hours of black jack in my entire life so this was a little out of character. While black jack doesn't have a huge house edge it moves VERY fast and a streak in one direction or the other can leave your head spinning. Luckily I had a streak in the right direction betting between $25 and $75 a hand and left with another $500.

Then it was on to Pai Gow. This is our group's favorite casino game and we parked it there for quite a while. About 8 o'clock we started to think about dinner and decided to go big. By 8:15 we had a 9 o'clock (what are apparently hard to come by) reservation at Prime which is the steak house at the Bellagio.

The pit boss who'd made the reservations then told us that there was a dress code which was no tennis shoes and a collared shirt. Chrissy's brother (who was there because it was a gift from Chrissy) is a casual guy and had only tennis shoes and T-shirts with him. Also given the fact that he makes $8 an hour he was not in a position to run out at the Bellagio and buy himself some shoes.

But given that I was ahead about $1,700 on the day at that point and had been betting between $50 and $250 on single hands of Pai Gow for the previous 100 hands or so I decided I was going to buy James some shoes and a shirt. If nothing else I was sure he would remember where he got those shoes!

So we went off on a mission with about 40 minutes to find shoes and a shirt and make it to Prime by 9:00. E.B. and Jake came with us since for moral support and also because Jake needed a shirt as well. After a short jaunt into the Bellagio shops it was clear that they weren't going to suit our needs. While I was feeling generous we weren't going to find anything in our price range at Armani, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton.

So it was off to the Forum shops at Caesar's! After walking into a men's shoes store where the first pair of shoes I picked up cost $1,100, we decided to ask for some direction. Eventually we made our way to a place called The Walking Company where we found a wonderful sized 10 pair of shoes for $80 and after a quick trip over to the Gap for a $20 shirt we were in business.

By 9:05 we were all at the table at prime looking sharp. The steak I had there was maybe the best I've ever had which is saying something given how many steaks I've had in plenty of very nice restaurants. I guess that's what you get when you pay $60 for a fillet!

After dinner it was time for guess what? More gambling! We made out way over to the Paris and hit the craps table. Some amount of time later which could have been 1 hour or 4 hours, between Jen and I were were up $2,300 and I was up $3,900, a pair of shoes and a shirt on the day!

Sunday was another fairly break even day which in Vegas when you gamble all day is a success. The rest of the trip was uneventful, but costly as far as non poker gambling goes. I'm very good about keeping things in check when the luck goes south so I didn't blow back too much, but a good chunk of that $3,900 didn't make it home with me.

What's great is I pumped A TON of action through the casinos. Contrary to popular belief when they're giving out free rooms and other comps they don't care if you win or lose. They're only interested in your average bet size and the duration of your play. They know they're going to get you in the end so all they care about is how much you're willing to risk. I'm hoping to have a pretty nice train of free rooms lined up for the foreseeable future.

While it wasn't a profitable trip per se, it could have been much worse and I'm happy with the results. I now have 3 WSOP cashes in 19 tries and every time I go back I like my chances more and more. Thanks again for all of the good luck wishes and support from my friends and family!

The next big thing on the horizon is the WCOOP in September which will no doubt lead to a flurry of blog posts. For now it's back to the online cash games. I picked up a nice $1,200 win today so I'm actually feeling pretty good about getting back to my normal schedule. I'll try to keep you posted on any interesting happenings in my poker life!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Double Event Recap!

Sorry for all the massive delays on my blogging. I really did have a tough time with the Internet once I left the Rio.

I am currently sitting in the airport waiting for my delayed flight out of Vegas. Given that fact I'm guessing you can figure out how my last tournament went. But for those of you who are still interested even though the drama is now over I'll give you a brief recap.

Let me start with the $1,500 shootout. This event was limited to exactly 1,000 players who all started 10 to a table. Each group of 10 played amongst themselves until only 1 remained. The 100 players who won their first table were then put at 10 tables of 10 where they repeated the same process. The final 10 players then came back the next day to play for the title. Winning your initial table was worth about $5,500 and that was my goal when I sat down.

I got stuck with a tough table. It was clear that 4 of the players at my table other than myself were poker pros who were in town to play a slew of tournaments. Luckily 3 of those players were the first three out!

I managed a quick double up and once most of the tough players were gone I was feeling pretty good about my chances. But then I lost a few all ins against short stacks and found myself back to about even.

About two and a half hours into the tournament I made a bold play that didn't work out. There were 6 of us left, the blinds were 100/200 and a player who had been raising very frequently raised to 500. I was in the big blind with about 3,000 chips and decided to put in another 300 to call with 67 of hearts.

The flop came down T 8 7 with one heart. I checked and my opponent bet 325 into the 1,100 chip pot. I thought for about 10 seconds and then moved all in for 2,500 expecting to win the 1,425 in the pot without a call. I was hoping he had big cards or even a pocket pair below 7 since I would be way ahead against both and would almost certainly win the pot right there. I'd been thinking about check raising all in no matter how much he bet and I thought that the 325 bet looked very weak. Also even if I was up against a hand like AT I'd have almost a 40% chance to win by making two pair, a straight or a flush.

Sadly my opponent had JJ and instantly called. This was a bad hand for me to be up against since a 9 (the one card I was almost sure would make me the best hand) would no longer make me a winner. I couldn't find a 6 or a 7 and I was out.

Now on to the $2,000 limit event! I started this tournament feeling extremely confident. All I've been doing for the past 6 months is playing limit hold 'em and my game felt really sharp. Another reason why I felt good was I knew no one hand early on would be then end of me and I'd have a chance to see plenty of hands before my fate was decided.

I started off at a GREAT table. No one there could play at all! I couldn't believe it. It was a weird combination of people that flat out hand no clue and a few others who I suspected were probably no limit players and were having trouble adjusting to the structured betting. Or maybe they were just all morons. Even though I got terrible cards for the first few hours I did make a flush and a top two pair and got crazy action on both.

At my best I was up to about 7,000 from my 4,000 chip starting stack. Around that time (about 3 hours into play) I got moved to a new table and discovered I was sitting right next to Phil Hellmuth!

Phil is arguably the most successful person in WSOP history. In addition to being the youngest world champ ever (he won the main event in 1989 at the age of 24) He has the most bracelets (11), the most money finishes (over 60) and the most final tables (an astounding over 40). This means that of all the WSOP events that have ever been played (a little over 600) he's made the money in 10% of them made the final table in about 7% of them and won about 1 in 60 of them. That is totally insane. He didn't even start playing until at least 14 years after the WSOP started and can't have played more than half since then!

Anyway while you never want to see skilled players at your table it's cool to play against one of the worlds best and see how he does things close up. I beat him out of one small pot, but other than that I never really got involved in a pot with him.

As soon as I got moved to that table I went totally card dead. I only saw one flop in 2 hours (about 70 hands)and I didn't fold anything that was even close.

About 5 hours into play I got moved again and found myself back to my 4,000 chip starting stack. The blinds were up to 150/300 and I finally found an hand. The button raised and I made it 900 to go with AQ in the small blind. The big blind folded and the flop came down 7 5 3. I bet and my opponent called. The turn was a 9 and I bet again. My opponent called again and the river was a J. I checked and he bet. I didn't have anything, but there was so much in the pot and it was only costing me 600 to call so I hand to do just that to police a bluff. My opponent flipped over A9 and took the pot.

If anything but a 9 comes on the turn I almost certainly win right there and there was only a 1 in 15 shot of a 9 coming on the turn. I waited 3 hours patiently to get my money in with the best of it and I feel like I succeeded even though I didn't win the pot.

After losing that one and going through the blinds again I was down to about 1,500 when I picked up AJ of diamonds on the button. The player to my right just called (a weird play), I raised and the small blind three bet. The first player just called and thinking I was pretty much committed I decided to make it 1,200 to go. Of course they both called and the flop came down 4 5 6 with two spades. The small blind checked, the other player bet, I went all in for my last 300, and the small blind called. The turn was an 8 and the action went check, call. The river was a ten and the action went check, bet, fold. My one remaining opponent turned over T7 of spades for a straight and I was out.

I have no idea why you would just call with T7 suited at this stage of the tournament and then call after a raise and a reraise. It made no sense. I don't know what the other player had and there's a good chance I would have lost all of my chips anyway, but it still sucks to lose to someone who has no clue.

I feel like if I played this tournament 100 times I'd have at least 30 finishes in the top 10%. I might have to focus on hitting some more limit tournaments in the near future.

Of course there was some other Vegas drama on the 3 days between tournaments. I'll fill you all in on that in my next post which should be sometime tomorrow or the next day. I'll also include a general recap of this years WSOP and give some final thoughts.

For my backers I'll send you an e-mail letting you know exactly how much money you're getting back in the next day or two. I lost $4,135 playing poker and I certainly used my $1,000 allotted for expenses so you'll all be getting back 60.5% (That's $7,865 which is what I had left of my $13,000 bankroll plus expenses divided by $13,000) of your investment. Not great, but better than zero. Thanks again for taking a chance on me!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Update From Jen

I just got a call from Dave so I figured I'd write a quick post in case anyone is checking how he's doing tonight.

Today's event was a $2000 limit Hold'em and it started at 5pm, so they'll be playing pretty late to get down to the money. As of 9:30 Dave has turned his original 4000 chips into about 7000. The average stack is 5000 so he's doing pretty well. There are 380 players left out of 480 who started. Since it's limit it moves slowly in the beginning.

He couldn't tell me much because his cell phone is dying, but he's sitting next to Phil Helmuth, which is cool.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Quick Update

This is Jen with a quick update from Dave.

He is having trouble with his internet connection so he wanted me to let you know that he skipped Saturday's tournament, is eliminated from today's and will be playing in one tomorrow (Tuesday).

He hopes to give you details on everything soon!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Event #9 ($1,500 NL Six Handed) Recap

Sorry for the delay in my recap. After I was done playing yesterday I went out for some traditional Vegas style fun with E.B. and didn't make it back to my room until around 5 am. Don't worry I'm not playing any poker today!

Also sorry for any typos in the post I had to put it up quickly before the kick me out of the Rio!

We started with 1,262 players all looking to get their hands on the $370,000+ first place prize and I got off to a great start. In the first half an hour or so I picked up AK, the flop came A high and I managed to get all of the chips of the poor fellow who had A3 and got a little out of line. An early double up is a HUGE advantage. Since everyone else at my table still only around 3,000 chips (which is how much we all started with) and I had close to 6,000 even if I lost a big hand, until someone else managed to accumulate some chips the worst I could end up after even a terrible hand was back where I started.

A few hand later I busted the fellow who came to replace the one who was already out the door. He made a standard raise and I just called with 77. The flop came 8 5 4, he made a big bet and I moved all in. I was figuring that it was unlikely that he hit that flop given that he came in raising in first position and even if he did hit a piece of it I thought it would be tough for him to call all of his chips. He thought for a long time after I put him all in, but he finally called with K8. Luckily the turn was a 6 making me a straight!

I won a few other little pots and was up to about 10,000 chips 90 minutes in, when my next major hand came up. One player just called the 100 chip big blind, I raised to 350 with KK and both the button and the other player just called. The flop came down T 9 5 with two hearts, the first player to act bet 400 and I made it 2,500 to go which was just enough to put him all in. To my dismay the button who had the second most chips on the table moved all in for about 6,000. The first player folded and I had a big decision to make. After about 90 seconds of thought I decided to call and he showed me 99 for three of a kind. The turn put up another 9 and I was back to where I started at around 3,000 chips.

After coming back from break I got very lucky. With the blinds at 100/200 the player on the button just called as did the small blind and with 2,700 in my stack I looked down at 97 suited in the big blind. The two callers were both VERY weak players and I thought to myself "There's no way these guys can call if I move all in." So that's what I did. And the player on the button INSTANTLY called. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! He turned over AK suited which put my at about a 2 to 1 underdog. But the flop came with a 9, no aces or king showed up and I was in business.

On the very next hand a player moved all in for 1,200 with 55, I called him with A8, I flopped and 8 and took him down. Then three or four hand later I got KK again. My buddy who'd made four of a kind the last time I had pocked kings raised, I reraised and he moved all in. This time there was no doubt about what I should do and I instantly called. He turned over two tens and I doubled up again!

I went from 2,700 to 14,000 in just under 10 minutes! That was pretty awesome. The average stack was still less than 5,000 and I was again in great shape.

For the next few hours I waded my way though the tournament with no major memorable pots, but I did make some progress. After about 4 hours of play I got moved to a new table and while I wasn't the big stack at my table any more I was still aggressive. I made a few nice bluffs, won a few small pots, and gradually made it up to 21,000 chips.

Now I was starting to think about making the money. We were down to about 250 players with the top 126 getting paid and I knew that if I could just maintain my stack let alone pick up more chips I'd have 2/3 of average when we made it to the money.

After close to 6 hours of play just before the 90 minute dinner break I had a major hand come up. The blinds were 200/400 and I was first to act. I looked down to see that I had AA! Pocked aces baby! Somebody get crazy! I raised to 1,200 and after some thought the guy to my left moved all in for 10,000!!! This is the kind of stuff you dream about. The thing that's so powerful about AA is NO MATTER WHAT HE HAD he'd be no better than 20% to win.

After everyone else folded I double checked my hand to make sure it wasn't actually A4 and then I called. My opponent let out a big sigh and turned over K9 off suit. King nine? What!? This was a totally insane thing to do, but sometimes people just lose their focus.

The flop came down 9 7 3, the turn was a ten and the river was...a king! AHHHHHHHHHHH! If I'd won that pot I would have had over 35,000 chips and instead I was down to about 12,000. At least I had the whole dinner break to try and forget about that hand.

Jake, Chrissy, and Chrissy's brother James came over from the MGM where they are staying to join me for dinner at Buzio's which is a great seafood restaurant here at the Rio. I had some crab cake and some sea bass and then in was back to business!

When I came back from dinner we were down to 192 players, but I knew I'd needed to make some progress to make it to the top 126. The blinds were 300/600 with a 50 chip ante so if I just sat there every 6 hands would cost me 1,200 and I'd quickly get ground down. But that's just what I did. Again through a series of blind steals and small pots I made it back over 20,000.

Then I started to regress. Getting so close to the money I didn't want to take too many chances and my stack started to slowly erode. By our next break after 8 hours of play and ten and half hours after the first card was dealt I was back down to 12,000. But we were down to 127 players! One short of the money. At that point I knew I had it.

In the hand just before we went on break there was high drama at my table. The player to my right who had about 20,000 chips raised to 2,000 the player to his left (who had 30,000 chips) made it 6,000 to go. The first player counted his chips and thought and then thought some more and then moved all in. The fellow with more chips instantly called and turned over AA. The other guy turned over KK and put his head down on the table in a sign of defeat. The flop brought all small cards, the turn was a blank and the river was...a king! The guy who won screamed "YEEESSSSSSS!" and put his arm up in the air. After the turn card came there was only a 1 in 23 shot of a king coming on the river and instead of being the last one out before the money, that guy made it to day 2.

When we got back from break we lost that last player and I was in the money! Yay! 126th paid about $2,300 but I was hoping to go a little deeper.

I got aggressive and ran my stack back up to 20,000. Then with the blinds at 500/1000 with a 100 chip ante I picked up AK and raised to 3,500. The player two to my left (the guy who'd lost with the AA to KK) moved all in for about 25,000. This was a big decision and if we'd been just short of the money I would have folded. In fact I'd never had my whole stack in the pot since I beat AK with 97 (if you never get your whole stack in there you can never go broke!). I thought it was likely he had a pair like JJ. I was confident that if he'd had AA or KK (which were the only hands I was really worried about) he would have made a smaller reraise and I thought there was some chance he might hand AQ or AJ which would put me at about 70% to win. So I called. He turned over AQ (YES!) and the flop came with a king (double YES!).

All of a sudden I was up to 40,000 and starting to dream big. But I lost back 10,000 on the very next hand with 99 against 33 (he made a straight) and then I went kind of card dead.

5 minutes before the end of Day 1 with about 25,000 left I picked up JJ on the button. I raised, the small blind reraised and I moved all in. He had KK and just like that I was done.

I finished in 76th place and got paid $3,205 which was profit of $1,700. It was a long day (it was about 1 in the morning when I went broke), but a successful one.

Now I'm off to the Bellagio! No tournament today, but I'll be back in the saddle on Saturday. I'll try to put up a preview before the tournament starts.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

$340 Tournament Recap

After going broke early in Event #7 I decided to play one of the daily tournaments here at the Rio. The tournament started with 262 entrants and paid 27 places with 27th being $762 gross. First place was a little over $18,000 and I had my eye on 8th place which paid $2,400 or enough to get me even for the day.

After looking back on this post I think it might be a little over the top for those of you who aren't poker savy. But I'd encourage you to read it anyway and let me know what is confusing. All of this stuff it totally second nature to me at this point so it's tough for me to figure out what's easy to understand and what's not. If you'd like you can scroll down to where it says SERIOUS POKER TALK OVER!

My luck picked up right where it left off earlier in the day. We started with 5,000 in chips, 30 minute levels, and blinds of 25/50. Just after the blinds went up to 50/100 I looked down at 88 and after one player raised it to 300 and another called, I made it 900 to go. A total nut job to my left threw in his last 800 and both of the other players folded.

I was shocked when he turned over his cards - he had 24 of diamonds! Deuce four? You called your last chips with deuce four? I knew the competition in this tournament was going to be weak, but this was just plain nuts. I was a 4 to 1 favorite when the money went in and when the flop came down 567 with one diamond I was still 78% to win. But after a diamond on the turn and a diamond on the river my opponent got the pot.

A little over an hour into the action I got moved to a new table and shortly after I arrived I picked up 66 and raised to 600. I got one caller and the flop came down AQ3 all spades (I didn't have a spade). I checked planning on folding to just about any bet, but my opponent check behind me. The turn was an off suit ten and I bet 800 into the 1,500 chip pot. My opponent thought for a few seconds and then called. The river was a non spade K and I decided to fire again. I put him on a small to medium pair (something like 88 or 99) with a spade and certainly if he had a hand like that he'd be forced to fold. In fact I figured he might even fold a hand as strong as a middle two pair. I bet 1,700 into the 3,100 chip pot, my opponent instantly called and turned over JJ with the J of spades.

This is a hand that I'm not sure if I played right. I was VERY surprised to see JJ since 95% of players would reraise before the flop with such a strong hand. I'm guessing he thought that when I checked to flop it meant that I'd really nailed it and was slowplaying. Both his check on the flop and call on the turn were both telling me that he was weak, but part of me wonders if I could have just checked the river and given up. I'd welcome comments from my poker savy readers on this one.

The last hand of this tournament for me was one I am sure that I played correctly. With blinds of 100/200 I was down to 1,700 chips with 200 of those in the big blind. The first player to act just called the big blind as did FOUR other players in front of me. I was planning on moving all in with anything but the very worst of hands and even then I was going to think about it.

The reason why I liked this spot so much was everyone had a chance to raise and if anyone had a strong hand they would have done it already. The only one I was really worried about was that first guy because he could have limped in with a hand like AA or KK hoping to reraise any raisers. I was confident none of the other players had a hand they could call another 1,500 with when they'd already passed on the chance to raise. Furthermore there was already 1,200 in the pot and I only had to risk 1,500 to pick it up in a spot where I figured everyone would fold. And even if I got called I'd still have a chance to win a now even bigger pot.

When I looked down at A7 it was a no brainer all in. The first guy (the one I was worried about) thought for about 5 seconds and then went all in for about 3,000 total. I thought I might be against a hand like 66 or 88, but when he flipped up his cards he had QJs. This is a total novice type play. When you first start playing two suited face cards look like just about the best hand you could find. The problem is you run into so many hands like AJ and AQ that have you dominated that you have no chance in the long run playing those kind of cards against all in bets.

When all the money went in I was 52% to win and I was getting almost 2 to 1 on my investment in the pot. While I would have preferred to win without any chance of going broke even if I was certain he was going to call I still would have made the same move. Like my friend with the 24, he flopped one of his suit and the made a runner, runner flush. I was only about 200 spots from my 8th place goal! In order to do well in the tournaments not only do you have to win one of these hands, you have to win quite a few. And so far I haven't been able to win even the ones where I'm way ahead let alone 50/50.

SERIOUS POKER TALK OVER!!!

For those of you that missed it, I went broke well short of the money in unspectacular fashion. Now I'm tired! Sorry to drag you all the way down here for nothing! Oh I did play some craps with T.J. Cloutier after I went broke. I suppose that's of interest. For those of you who don't know who that is, he has 6 WSOP bracelets and over 9 million dollars in career tournament winnings. He's also a craps junkie and kind of a prick! But he is famous so I thought I'd mention him.

Event #9 Preview!

My second shot at fortune and glory this year is going to be Event #9 $1,500 Six Handed No Limit Hold 'em. Two years ago I played the $3,000 6 handed event and did pretty well even though I didn't make the money (I had quadrupled my starting stack before losing QQ to AQ in an all in preflop situation). Also all I do these days is play six handed. Granted it's normally limit cash games, but it's got to be worth something!

Like Event #7 this is a three day event starting at noon with the first day being played down to about the top 10% then the next day being played down to the final table and the last day being the final table. We'll be starting with 3,000 chips, 60 minute levels and 25/50 blinds.

Last year this was Event #12, had 1,427 entrants and a prize pool of $1,947,855 which was split amongst the top 126 finishers. Here are the top ten finishers and what they got paid as well as a few other to give you a feel for the potential payouts.

1 Jason Warner (Vancouver, BC, Canada) $481,698
2 David Zeitlin (New York, NY, USA) $269,778
3 Steve Olek (Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA) $186,020
4 David Mitchell - Lolis (Las Vegas, NV, USA) $123,689
5 Matt Brady (Havertown, PA, USA) $92,523
6 Brian Miller (Atlanta, GA, USA) $61,357
7 William Vosti (Arroyo Grande, CA, USA) $46,749
8 Joe Awada (Las Vegas, NV, USA) $46,749
9 Arturo Diaz (San Diego, CA, USA) $31,166
10 Andrew Webking (Seattle, WA, USA) $31,166
20 Harold Cohen (Los Angeles, CA, USA) $11,882
30 Travis Pearson (Las Vegas, NV, USA) $8,960
40 Erik Seidel (Las Vegas, NV, USA) $5,844
50 Miguel Proulx (Qu├ębec, QC, Canada) $4,188
75 Andres Bello (Oxnard, CA, USA) $2,824
100 Christopher Lenahan (Portland, OR, USA) $2,435
126 David Robertson (Henderson, NV, USA) $2,143

As you can see it's pretty important to go deep, but right now I'm looking for any type of cash just get off the schnide.

One of the really exciting things about playing these tournaments is I could actually have good luck! I know it seems like I must have spit in the face of a Voodoo priest the way the cards have been treating me. But there's some chance that I could stumble onto a wave a cards so good that there's no way I could screw it up. If I get a 1 in a 1,000 run of cards in any of these tournaments I'm good enough that in the words of many a NFL punt returner "I'm takin' that shit to the house!"

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. I'll start with just enough luck to win the hands when I'm ahead! If I make it to day 2 then I'll ramp up the day dreaming. A bunch of my best friends arrive in town tomorrow and I don't have anything planned for Friday so I expect to have a full on rip roaring Vegas night if I go broke without making the money. Wish me luck...unless thats what you did before. Try something new this time!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

2008 Event #7 ($2,000 NL Hold'em) Recap

As as walked out of my hotel room today I made sure several times that I had everything I needed. Wallet - check. Tournament entry card - check. Extra money - check. Room key - check. It wasn't until I made it to the tournament area that I realized I'd forgotten something - I forgot to eat! Playing high stakes poker is not something you want to do on an empty stomach! I quickly dashed off to the Starbucks that I knew was close by and scarfed down a muffin and a some other sort of pastry. Not the breakfast of champions, but enough to keep me going.

I looked at my seat card as I walked into the tournament room and saw that I was at table 20, seat 6. So I walked up to table 20, sat down in seat 6 and when I showed the dealer my seat card she looked at me like it was a coupon for a free happy meal. Apparently I was at "Amazon Red" table 20 when in fact I was supposed to be at "Amazon blue" table 20. In past years the tables in the Amazon room were labeled simply 1 to 220. I'm sure they have a good reason for this change, but I have yet to figure it out.

I finally made it to my seat where I found a bottle of "All In" drinking water and a can of "All In" energy drink waiting for me. Right at noon the cards were in the air and my 2008 WSOP was underway.

The tables around me were noticeably lacking stars from the poker world, but there was one minor poker celebrity at my table - Dario Minieri. I actually have played with Dario at least 50 times since until recently he's made a good chunk of his living playing multi table tournaments on pokerstars.com which is my website of choice.

Dario's first claim to fame is he was the first player on pokerstars to exchange his frequent player points (FPPs) for a new Porche which is the most expensive thing you can get with your FPPs. His second claim to fame is he finished about 30th in the main event last year and was featured heavily in ESPN's coverage. If you watched any of that coverage you'll remember him as the young Italian guy with the goofy scarf. In person he is shockingly short and looks like he's about 15.

Now on to the poker action! Here is a phrase I hope to never say again about a WSOP event - the key hand in this tournament for me happened 30 minutes into the first level.

Before the key hand, I'd seen two flops (I folded on the flop both times), stolen the blinds once and folded every other hand. The blinds were 25/50 and I had about 3,500 of my starting stack of 4,000 when I picked up AK in the small blind. Dario raised to 150 one off the button, the player on the button called and I reraised to 600. As soon as my chips were in the pot the big blind moved all in and both of the other players folded.

I stopped to think for about 60 seconds. There was 4,400 in the pot and it would cost me my last 2,900 hundred to call so I was getting about 3 to 2 odds. The only hands I was really worried about were AA and KK since I'd be a big underdog to both. Against any other hand I'd be at worst 45% to win. Interestingly enough in an earlier hand the player in the big blind had raised with AA and then after a call and a reraise he just called. That told me that if he had AA he'd likely just call in a spot like this as well. Furthermore, given that I already had one of the aces and one of the kings the chances of him having AA or KK was greatly reduced. I figured there was about a 10% chance that he had AA or KK, an 80% chance that he had either QQ, JJ or AK and about a 10% chance that he had something else. I'd almost certainly split with another AK and I'd be just under even money to win against QQ or JJ. Since the pot was offering me 3 to 2, I decided to call.

When the cards got turned over my opponent also had AK. He had the A of hearts and the K of spades, while I had the A of clubs and the K of diamonds. The only way we wouldn't split was if the board came with four of a suit. The first four cards off the deck were all spades and I was out. My opponent was not gracious about his victory.

Given the stakes and the likelihood of the given outcome, this might have been the worst bad beat of my entire poker career. There was a 95.65% chance of a split and we each had a 2.17% chance to win.

It really sucks to have all this anticipation and build up and come all this way to lose to someone who had a 2.17% chance of winning the pot. But, the good news is that I actually feel OK about it. Of course I'm disappointed, but I think it speaks to how far I've come as a poker player that I'm not crushed. If I'd lost in a $2,000 tournament in this was a few years ago I wouldn't have been right for a few days. In this case I moped for about an hour. I played some pai gow and had a shot of Grand Mariner and now I feel fine. It helps that I've gone over the hand in my head 100 times now and every time I come to the conclusion that I did the right thing.

Poker is all about making the best decisions with the incomplete information that you have and letting the chips fall where they may. In this case I made a good decision and it just didn't work out. That's poker.

Luckily one of my biggest strengths is putting the past behind me and moving forward! Tonight I'm going to play a $340 buy in tournament here at the Rio. While there is zero prestige involved, there still money to be won and I expect a weak field. I have no idea if I'll be facing 40 players of 400, but I'll put up a short recap along with a preview of my next event either later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Fucking 2.17%! Crazy.

In Vegas and Ready for Action!

So far my trip to Vegas has been great. My flight from Oakland to Vegas pulled back from the gate at exactly the scheduled departure time, the flight was less than half full (I didn't have anyone in my row, in front of me or behind me), and arrived ten minutes early. My bag was the second one off at the baggage claim and showed up the very second that I walked up to carrosel number 6 to grab it. There was even a cab waiting to take me to the Rio (for those of you who have never been to Vegas the cab line in often insane and it's not unusual to wait 30-45 minutes for a taxi) and I was in my room 20 minutes after my plane was scheduled to land.

I brought $15,000 with me on this trip and while it's been a long time since I've felt uncomfortable carrying a few grand with me, having enough in your pockets to buy a new car is a different story. While I wasn't exactly nervous, I did check to make sure I still had it an embarrassing number of times. Of course having that kind of cash with you will make you feel like no matter what you forgot at home it won't matter because you'll be able to just buy a new one!

While my plan was always to get to sleep early (I was out cold by 11:30 and slept until 10) and not do much, I did manage to squeeze a little gambling into my first night. I sat down at a $25 minimum Pai Gow table with plans of playing for about an hour and hopes of unwinding and perhaps winning enough for a nice dinner.

Unlike poker, Pai Gow is a game you can't win in the long run. It's a game you play against the house where you and the dealer each get 7 cards. You then split those 7 cards into a 2 card hand and a 5 card hand with the only rule that the 5 card hand has to be better than the 2 card hand. The dealer does the same with the house hand and if you're 5 card hand is better than the dealer's 5 card hand AND your 2 card hand is better than the dealer's 2 card hand, then you win. If you lose both hands you lose, and if you win one and lose one it's a tie. While you can't win in the long run, it's a game with a very low house edge and it's a slow game (speed is your enemy in the casino!) because it takes a while to set all the hands and there are a lot of ties.

I won the first hand and was never behind for the hour or so that I played. After I was at the table for 15 minutes a guy about my age who was on dinner break for $1,000 with rebuys WSOP event sat down at the table next to me. He bought in for $500 and started off betting $25 a hand. After a few hands he kicked it up to $50 and won. The next hand he bet $100 and won. Then he said he was feeling lucky and pulled a $500 chip out of his pocket and slid it into the betting circle. At first I thought he was asking for change! Plenty of people (including me on occasion) will bet $100 a hand, but it's pretty rare to see someone put a purple chip on the line on one hand of Pai Gow.

He left it out there and won the next 4 hands in a row! I don't think I've ever seen someone buy in for $500 and bet $25 a hand a few times and then crank it up to $500 a hand a few minutes later. Also for those of you who are wondering the chances of winning 6 hands in a row with no ties at Pai Gow are around 4,000 to 1.

I ended up winning $275 which was enough to cover my extra night of expenses, pay for a nice dinner (I had a wonderful filet mignon with a baked potato and some mac-n-cheese for dinner) and have a few bucks left over.

I didn't have any trouble signing up for my tournament and when I went to the tournament area I saw that they'd made a few changes. Most notably instead of trying to cram everything into the Amazon room, they've taken over a few other rooms in the convention area as well. Now there is a whole other room devoted to satellite tournaments and a separate room for the cashier and tournament registration. Also they've split the entrances to the Amazon room into player's entrances and spectator's entrances (every year there are more and more people coming to watch and the doorways can get a little clogged).

The Rio and it's parent company Harrah's have been extremely smart about making improvements. They have a player's advisory council made up of about 10 of the biggest names in poker and they really seem to listen to them. This is my 4th year at the WSOP and every year if I've hear something complained about the next year it's fixed.

I'll put up a post late today regarding my results from today's $2,000 no limit tournament. If I'm still alive on the dinner break might come up to my room and make a quick post about my status. Regardless there will be a post up by tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Minor Change of Plans

I was thinking about my departure for Vegas on Wednesday - specifically the getting up at 6 a.m. part - and I decided that it might not be the best idea to get up early, fly to Vegas and then play a $2,000 poker tournament that could go as late as 3 a.m. After a quick call to the Rio to see what kind of rate I could get for another night ($40 which will probably turn out to be zero once I do a little gambling) and a call to Southwest to change my flight I am now leaving Tuesday night.

While it means another night away from my family it also means I should be well rested, I'll be able to sign up the tournament the night before instead of waiting in line for 30 minutes to an hour the day of, and I'll be in the best mental state I can be in.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Welcome New Readers!

I just sent out a mass e-mail to a bunch of friends and family and in anticipation of a few new readers I thought I'd extend a little welcome. For those of you who know don't know a ton about poker I'd encourage you to read the posts "How Poker and Poker Tournaments Work" and "A little WSOP History" which I wrote before my trip to the 2006 WSOP. You can find them by clicking here and scrolling almost all the way to the bottom. You can also see a picture of me dressed as the ace of spades if you go all the way to the bottom.

I'd also encourage you to point out anything that's confusing or that you'd like to know more about in the comments section. I know I had some readers who gave up because I started writing as if my audience was very poker savvy and I didn't know anyone who wasn't was still reading. Especially during my trip to the WSOP I expect to have plenty of poker rookies reading and I'd like to make sure everyone understands what I'm saying.

I've reposted my 2008 WSOP preview below which is followed by a preview of the first tournament that I'll be playing this year. I hope you enjoy reading and if you get the slightest urge POST A COMMENT!!!

WSOP 2008 Preview!

There are a record 55 events over the course of 7 weeks at this years WSOP starting on May 31st. My first glance at the schedule made me feel like I wanted to play about 40 of those events. The vast majority have buys ins between $1,000 and $3,000 which is right in the range that I wanted to target this year and of course most of those are some form of hold 'em which is the main area of my poker expertise.

After many hours over the course of several day of staring at the schedule, looking through my casino offers for room deals, calling to check actual rates at a half dozen casinos, and looking at the prices of flights, I finally came up with a plan! The flights and the rooms are booked now and I'll be in Vegas from June 4th to June 11th. I'm staying at the Rio the first two nights, the Bellagio (Yeah Baby!) the next two, and the Paris for the last three.

I'm planning to play in 5 WSOP events this year (#'s 16-20 of my career). Here's my schedule:

June 4th $2,000 NL Hold 'em
June 5th $1,500 NL Hold 'em 6-handed
June 6th Nothing
June 7th $2,500 NL Hold 'em
June 8th Nothing
June 9th $1,500 NL Hold 'em Shootout
June 10th $2,000 Limit Hold 'em

If I get bounced early or if I feel like playing on the 6th or the 8th I'm going to try to catch a few of the other local tournaments that go off every hour around the clock in Vegas. In fact I have my eye on a $1,060 event at the Venetian on the 8th, but I might be ready for a day off by then. I plan on posting daily giving recaps of my tournaments for my fan (Hey Tom) as well as my backers so look for daily updates.

2008 WSOP Event #7 Preview

I'm off to Vegas early Wednesday morning to catch my first WSOP tournament of the year! I have to admit that I'm feeling really excited. Every time I leave Vegas I'm always ready to come home and for the next week or two the idea of going back doesn't seem like much fun. Then as time goes by it starts to seem more and more appealing. It's been about 7 months since I've been and that was just a day trip (I've been going a few times a year ever since I turned 21 so 7 months is actually a longish time for me). When you add in the 5 WSOP tournaments, the fact that my good friend E.B. (who is going to be there along with Jean, Jen, Jake, Chrissy and Matt - they'll all be there for different amounts of time) is turning 40 on June 5th, and I've got a few nights at the Bellagio it makes me want to stop typing, head to the airport and go!

My first tournament this year is going to be Event #7 $2,000 No Limit Hold 'em. Last year this event was event #10, had 1,531 entrants, and a prize pool of $2,782,570 divided amongst the top 153 finishers. Below are a list of the top 10 finishers and what they got paid. It you want to know what every other place paid you can look at the full results here.

1 Will Durkee (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) $566,916
2 Todd Terry (Hoboken, NJ, USA) $353,875
3 Hunter Frey $231,273
4 Justin Bonomo (Sherman Oaks, CA, USA) $156,040
5 Michael Banducci (Traverse City, MI, USA) $105,884
6 Stanley Weiss (Nashville, TN, USA) $78,020
7 Walter Browne (Berkeley, CA, USA) $58,515
8 Gil George (Dallas, TX, USA) $43,190
9 Ronnie Hoffman $32,880

Like almost all tournaments at the WSOP this tournament takes place over three days the first of which starts at noon and goes until about 2 in the morning. There's a 15 minute break every 2 hours and a 75 minute dinner break after 6 hours of play. If you make it past day 1 you're in the top 10% and in the money. Day 2 starts at 2 pm and goes until only 9 players are left. The last nine players will come back on day three to sit at the table with all the cameras and get filmed by ESPN. I've made it to day 2 twice in my 15 career WSOP tournaments and it's one of my major career poker goals to make it to day 3 and be on TV.

In this particular tournament all the players will start with 4,000 chips and blinds of 25/50 with gradual blind increases every 60 minutes. While I could go broke on the first hand, baring an early bad beat I should have plenty of time to get familiar with my opponents and to do some maneuvering.

As a little aside In looking up these results for last years tournament, I was surprised to see Walter Browne in 7th. While I can't call him a friend I can certainly call him an acquittance. He's a prop player at the Oaks Club where I used to work and I've played against him somewhere between 50 and 100 times. He's also a SIX TIME United States chess champion. Obviously he's an extremely smart guy, but his chess game is much better than his poker game. Not to say he's not a good poker player, but despite this final table appearance he's not a world class player. Anyway I was happy to see his name there and I also discovered that he finished 2nd is the $2,500 HORSE tournament at the 2007 WSOP. Maybe he's better than I thought!