Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wake Me Up When September Ends

It's much more fun for me to talk about the good news than the bad news, but bad news is a big part of playing poker. Simply put, September 2010 has been the worst month of my poker career.

August was a good month. In fact in the middle of August I went on a massive tear. I played about 10 full days over a two week stretch, won 9 of those days and banked $15,000 all in limit hold'em cash games. Maybe 10% of that money came from $30/$60, but the rest was all $10/$20 or $15/$30.

Just before that run I made the decision to play a little looser. Pokertableratings.com has a feature where you can look up a username and see how they do things compared to the top 10 winners on a given poker site at a given stakes. When I looked myself up I saw that I was playing slightly tighter than the top 10 winners at $10/$20 and $15/$30.

I didn't go nuts, but in every situation where it was close before the flop I called or raised instead of folding. Winning 600 or 700 big bets in 10 sessions is uncharted territory for me, but it was over the course of 15,000 hands and there are guys who make over 3 big bets per 100 hands long term. Of course those guys are the total killers, but it's possible and I was hoping I was playing better not just running crazy hot.

After taking my Absolute poker account from $5,000 to $20,000 in no time at all I was feeling as good as I have in a long while about my long term prospects of massive fortune.

Then it was as if a switch was flipped. All of a sudden I couldn't win no matter what. I didn't have a winning day from August 26th until September 14th. Every day$1,000 or $2,000 was evaporating from my account. I tried everything I could think of to give myself the best chance to win. I mixed in some days off, reread some of my best poker books, started playing at night when the games are better, played fewer games at a time and played smaller stakes. Nothing worked.

Here is a little story that is sort of a microcosm of my first two weeks of September. It is a story about THE WORST PLAYER IN ONLINE POKER! His name is CHUCK999. When I first looked him up he was losing $210,000 in 70,000 hands. That's bad, but not unheard of for high stakes players. This guy had lost that much playing $15/$30 and below! His most common stakes is $2/$4 where he's losing $58,000 in 28,000 hands! All in all he is losing FORTY SIX BIG BETS per 100 hands! That is totally off the charts.

To put it into perspective, if there is a player who is losing 5 BB/100 (that's $1 for every hand at $10/$20 - play 1,000 hands, lose $1,000) or more they are bad enough that they can make a game profitable all by themselves. If I'm up against someone who is a 10 BB/100 loser I won't leave the game until they go broke no matter who else is in it or what else I could be doing with my time. I've seen a few guys in the range of -15 BB/100, but they had all been blown up playing no limit. 99% of this guy's play is limit.

I'd been fortunate enough to play against this fellow for about an hour at $10/$20 and I knew I could never leave a game in which was playing. I'm mean N-E-V-E-R. If the house is on fire but the flames haven't reached my desk yet I'm going to keep playing.

Towards the end of the time that I'd been getting totally bombed every day I saw CHUCK999 was playing $15/$30 at a 4 handed table and there was a seat open. I DID NOT want to play 4 handed $15/$30. That's a volatile game and I was looking for stability, but I had to play.

I lost $1,000 in 7 minutes and then CHUCK999 left the table. FUCK! The thing about this guy is he was putting in 3 or 4 bets on the turn and the river with NOTHING! I don't mean over playing middle pair, I mean a pure bluff cap on the river with 6 high! So think about the kind of money you'd lose if for example he made two pair against you when you had top pair and then ON THE VERY NEXT HAND he made a straight against your over pair. Do you know how frustrating it is to have someone cap an 8 high gutshot draw on the turn when you have pocket kings and then hit it on the river? I do!

Losing $500 pots to thin draws always sucks. But getting crushed like this after not having a winning day for weeks hurts. That's the only way to describe it. It just hurts.

Trying to shift gears I started playing a little on pokerstars. I saw that they'd reworked the way they award VPPs and now it would be a little easier for me to earn rewards. The way it used to work is every time you were dealt into a hand where $1 was raked you earned one point, and if $2 or more was raked you got two points. Now for every $1 raked 5.5 points are awarded and split evenly between every player who is dealt into the hand (the count the rake and split the points down to the penny or the hundredth of a point).

After some experimentation I saw that I could earn points about 25% faster than before! That is a HUGE deal. I would mean I could make it to supernova elite with 75% of the effort I needed before. "This is great!" I thought. "I've found the solution!" I thought.

I played 10,000 hands of $5/$10 over three days and won about $1,000 (not counting the points and other rewards). Not earth shattering, but I felt like I could grind it out and pay the bills. Then I lost $1,000 a day three days in a row.

That might still be the answer, but for now I've shifted gears again trying to find something that works. The past few days I've been playing sit-n-go's. I've played about 15,000 SNGs in my career and it was what I did full time for maybe two years at the start of my career. 3 days into the experiment I'm about even, but I feel like the play is much worse than it was when I switched away from SNGs in 2006. My plan now is to play about 80 a day at the $55 level and make $3 per tournament. If I can do that, when you factor in the points or the rakeback I'll be able to make enough to pay the bills.

If that doesn't work, it might be time to start thinking about closing the door on poker as a career for a little while and moving on to the next chapter of my life.

In other news as a result of this massive horrible run I haven't been playing any WCOOP tournaments. But I will be playing the $215 NL hold'em event tomorrow which is the last day of the 2010 WCOOP.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WCOOP 5 Event Summary

After my last post I've played 5 more WCOOP events: $265 Knockout, $109 8-game mixed games, $109 NL hold'em (10 minute levels), $215 limit hold'em, and $215 NL hold'em.

There isn't too much to say about this group. In 4 of the 5 I did no better than doubling my starting stack before getting busted.

But I did squeak into the money in the $109 NLH event. I used some major stalling and a little luck to make the money with a stack that was barely more than we started with. I went broke the first hand after the money bubble, but still got paid $200 for the cash.

After 10 events, 2 satellites, and 1 second chance tournament my $5,000 starting bankroll is at $4,208.

My next 3 events are $320 mixed hold'em (half limit/half NL) Tuesday at 10, $320 8-game mixed games Wednesday at 2, and $320 HORSE Saturday at 2. These are all in my wheelhouse and I'm hoping for at least one strong showing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

WCOOP #11 ($320 Ante up) Recap

The way this tournament structure works is the blinds stay at 5/5 for the entire tournament (effectively no blinds) while the antes (which start from hand 1) increase.

The reason I LOVE this structure is that half the players seem totally unable to use their brains. By level 5 (still in the early stages) the antes are 50 per player per hand. That means that there is 460 in the pot before any action has taken place. If you call the 5 chips preflop even at a crazy aggressive table you have a shot at winning those chips.

I'd say 1/3 of the time we were taking the flop with no raise. You'd think with those kind of pot odds everyone would call the 5 chips and see as many flops as possible.

Even when the antes added up to thousands of chips in the pot, maybe half the players at my tables were folding for 5 chips before the flop! This tournament was one of the two or three I was most looking forward to because I remember it from last year (I went a little deep in the money then) and they only run tournaments with this structure a few times a year.

We started with 1,789 entrants with 5,000 chips each and I got off to a crazy good start. I turned a set of aces against a set of nines and took out one player and then flopped top set against TWO players who went nutso with draws. About 2 hours into the tournament I was in 1st place with 30,000 chips and 1,000 players left.

I felt sure I would just cruise into the money, but then I hit a major speed bump. I came in for a raise with A5 of hearts. The antes were 100 a player and I made it 600 to go. The big blind who had 17,000 chips to my 27,000 (both big stacks) called and the flop came down 9 8 6 with two hearts.

My opponent checked and I bet 1,500 into the 2,100 chip pot with my flush draw- gutshot-overcard. He took it to 4,500 and I figured he probably paired the 9. Thinking if he didn't have more than one pair and knowing I'd have outs no matter what he had I dropped the all in bomb without hesitation. He called with surprising speed.

When the hands got turned over I saw that he had 78 of hearts. For a split second I thought "Ah ha! He has a worse flush draw!" But then I saw he had a pair too (and a straight draw). The turn and river were both bricks and I was down to 10,000.

But from there I went on a run. By this point I was seeing maybe 40% of the flops for 5 chips and shooting out half pot sized bets which were bringing home the antes with shocking frequency.

I had my stack all the way back up to 39,000 when someone got KK vs my AA! That monster took me to 75,000, put me into the money and had me in 25th place with 225 players left.

I got it up to 120,000 as we made it down to 100 players and I was starting to think about the final table. Then I had three hands go against me.

On the first hand I raise with QJ, got two callers and the flop came down jack high with two hearts. I bet about 2/3 of the pot and got one caller. The turn was an ace (YUCK!) and we both checked. The river was the jack of hearts, I checked, called a 3/4 pot sized bet and lost to a flush. That might sound like a pretty pedestrian pot, but that late in a tournament losing one at showdown meant it was a huge pot.

A few hands later I got dealt KK and just called a preflop raise. The flop came down ace high and the preflop raiser check raised me all in on the flop. Yuck again!

That took me down to 60,000, but I chopped out a few small pots and was on my way back up with close to 80,000 when I made some very questionable decisions.

I got dealt AT suited in early position, the antes were 800 each (meaning 7,200 chips in the pot) and the player to my right raised to 4,000. I thought about folding or reraising both of which would have been better than what I did, which was just call.

A third player called behind and we took the flop which came down J T 4 with two spades. There was close to 20K in the pot and after the original raiser checked I bet out 14K. The other player called and the original raiser folded.

Here is here things got dicey. The turn was a blank and I was faced with a tough decision. There was 50K in the pot and I had about 55K left. I could either check and give up on the pot (my opponent had a solid stack and I was all but sure he'd fire if I checked) or go for it and move all in.

I thought for a few seconds and for some reason I decided my opponent was on a draw with either two spades or KQ. So I moved all in and got instacalled by AJ. No ten on the river and that was it.

I finished 72nd which paid $1,153. Certainly not a bad result, but I was hoping for more.

Meanwhile I played the $215 ante up second chance. It had the same structure as event #11 and had about 500 players. I got off to a good start doubling my starting stack, but I didn't do anything beyond that.

Also in WCOOP Event #12 $215 heads up matches, I won my first match, be went down the tubes in the second.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

WCOOP Update

I am rolling in the WCOOP ante up tournament. Almost 2 hours in an I'm in first place overall with 30,000 chips up from 5,000 to start.

I'll be playing the $215 buy in ante up second chance tournament at 1. I love this format!

I just wanted to remind those of you who have a piece of my action that you will have a piece of this and any other second chance WCOOP tournament or WCOOP satellites.

Also I have heads up matches at 2. Busy WCOOP day!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

WCOOP Event #5 ($320 6-max shootout) Recap

This event was on my "maybe" list when I first saw the WCOOP schedule, but when the time came I decided to play.

For those of you who don't know what a "shootout" is, the way it works is you start with a table of players and they play until just one is left. Then that player moves on to the next round where everyone at the second table is a winner from the first round and so on.

In this case we started with 1296 players split into 216 table of six. The 216 players who won their first table were then put at 36 tables. The 36 winners of those second round tables were put at six tables and the winner of those tables came together at the final table.

We started with 5,000 chips, 20 minute levels and blinds of 25/50. I caught my first big break when I got dealt K7 suited in the big blind and called the small blind's raise. It turned out that he had K6 and the flop came down K 7 6! It's pretty hard to screw a hand like this and when the dust cleared I had 12,300 chips.

A little while later I took AQ up against A8 and despite an 8 on the flop I took down the pot and had a commanding lead of 17,000 chips to my opponent's stacks of 9,000 and 4,000.

By this time the blinds were all the way up to 40/80! There was zero blind pressure and I did my best to stay patient and wait for really good spots to get my chips in.

By the time we got to heads up I had a 21,000 to 9,000 chip advantage and it didn't take long for me to stick it to my opponent.

On the 175th hand of round 1 I raised to 240 with A2, my opponent reraised to 560 and I just called. The flop came down 2 2 7 - BINGO! I was expecting my opponent to bet and I wasn't sure if I should put in a raise on the flop or wait for the turn. To my surprise he checked and I decided to check behind him. The turn was the ten of spades putting two spades on the board and again my opponent checked.

I thought there was a chance he had a hand like KK and was really slow playing it hard (if that is a thing you can do hard). If I was going to have any chance of getting his whole stack I needed to bet now and build the pot. I made a pot sized bet and to my delight my opponent moved all in! When he turned over his hand he showed KQ of spades meaning he had 7 outs, but he missed and I was on to round 2!

Winning my first table was worth $637. At the second table the only thing that mattered was winning since 6th place though 2nd place all paid the same amount. 1st place however was worth just north of $2,700 plus the chance to play at another table where winning would be worth at least $9,600.

At my second table I got off to another great start. Again we started with the same structure - 6 players with 5,000 chips and blinds of 25/50. Early on I took A9 up against AK, the flop came down A 9 7, and I doubled up. A little later I took down a player who made a huge all in raise with K2 on a king high flop. I almost folded, but decided to call with my KQ. After winning that one I had 13,000 chips.

At my peak I had 15,000 chips against stacks of 13,000 and 2,000. But the guy with 2,000 made a comeback and I slipped big time.

The critical hand came after we'd been playing 3 handed for over 100 hands. I was in the small blind with 55 and the button raised to 300. I made it 900 to go and he moved all in for 5,500. I had about 7,500 when the hand started so I'd be left with 2,000 if I called and lost. Normally I'd fold 55 in a heartbeat here, but this was the 4th consecutive time that this guy hand moved all in on me when I reraised him. I'd folded the previous three times and I felt like it was time to take a stand.

When the cards got turned over he had KT and flopped a king. My last 2,000 chips went out the door two hands later when I got them in with AT against AK.

I'm happy to have an early cash under my belt, but I really felt like I was on my way to winning the second round. I just didn't quite get the job done.

$637 is better than a kick in the nuts as they say. Back in action tomorrow with $320 ante up!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

WCOOP Event #1 Recap

Event #1 was $215 no limit hold'em 6 handed. We started with 10,000 chips, 9,001 entrants and a first place of $270,000.

The first hour was very tame, but in the second hour I got jobbed. The blinds were 50/100 and I raised to 250 from the button with 22. I'd raised from the button twice in the recent past and both times the big blind hand made it 800 to go. This time was no different and he made it exactly 800 again.

My opponent had about 6,000 chips and I had 9,000 so if I put him to the test and lost I wouldn't be elimnated. I decided to make a strong play and put him all in. He instantly called me with A6 offsuit. Huh? I was 53% to win before the flop, but after an ace came on the flop I was toast.

This is a situation where if I'd seen his cards after he reraised me I would have played it exactly the same way. What a terrible call!

A little while later I found some more marginal bad luck. I had about 3,000 chips, the blinds were 75/150 and I raised to 450 with KQ. I got one caller (the same guy from the hand above) and the big blind moved all in for about 2,000. I went all in over the top and got called by my nemisis. When the hands got turned over I was in great shape finding myself again the T8 suited and JT suited. What the fuck were these clowns thinking?

I was 48% to win the pot before the flop, but JT flopped a flush and that was it.

None of the plays I made that did me in were slam dunk correct, but I'm happy with how I played.

I'm skipping event #3 and will be back in action with event #5 $320 6-max NL shootout on Monday at 2.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

WCOOP Goals

In some ways poker is a pursuit that lends itself to goals, and in other ways not so much.

Goals like "I'm going to put in X number of hours (or hands) this month" or "I'm going to play within my bankroll" are great and important. But saying "I'm going to win $10,000 this month" or "I'm going to make a final table this week" are not helpful or productive.

If you make significantly better decisions than your opponents in the long run you'll come out ahead. But no matter how well you play terrible shit is going to happen to you at the poker table. Terrible, miserable punishment that will make you shout out "Why?! Why did this have to happen to me? What did I do to deserve this torture?" Crushing defeat that makes it feel like you're going to puke out your vital organs all over the felt or your keyboard (depending on where you are). Fiery, demented pain that...well you get what I'm saying.

While I'm hoping this will be my best WCOOP ever, and I'm as prepared as I've ever been, I won't be shocked or crushed if I get my doors blown off.

With all that said, I should have 20 shots to do something special. If I can find 5 cashes in there or 1 final table I'll be happy and consider the series a success. But my goals are to take it one hand at a time, take what the table gives me, and make the best decisions that I am capable of making at every turn.

The action starts Sunday at 10 am. Maybe the universe will smile on me and I'll just smash everyone's face in all day long and win the first event. It could happen.