Sunday, June 28, 2015

That time I folded QQ pre-flop against Jose Canseco

I walked into The Oaks Club on Friday night and bought in for $500 in the $2/$3/$5 no limit hold'em game. About 5 minutes later they called another player for the game and this huge dude sat down across from me. I looked up at him and realized "Holy shit, that's Jose Canseco!"

Jose played for the A's in the late 80's and early 90's and I remember having his baseball cards and watching him play when I was a kid. In the years since his playing days he's best known for being the biggest whistleblower on steroids in baseball and doing celebrity boxing.

He also bought in for $500 and I expected him to be kind of a wild player. He turned out to be anything but.

A few hands in 4 of us took a flop with no raise. The board was A 5 4 and figuring if someone had an ace they'd likely have raised pre-flop, I fired out a pot sized bet with a pair of 5's. Jose folded pocket kings face-up lamenting how the past few hands had been raised pre-flop and how no one fell for his trap.

A little later a huge hand came up. I'd won a few nice pots and had about $1,000 in front of me when I got dealt KQ. After Jose and the woman next to him called $5 I raised to $25. The button, the small blind, Jose and the woman all called. The flop came down JT9! BINGO! I'd flopped the nut straight.

The small blind bet out $80 into the $125 pot and as he pushed his chips into the pot I was trying to decide if I should raise now or pop him on the turn. Then Jose put $250 out there! And then the woman next to him went all in for $150! Holy shit! It's not every day that you flop the stone cold nuts and get 3 people to put in big action in front of you.

There were two clubs on board so I figured I was up against at least one flush draw and probably a set as well. If that was the case I'd need to fade a club or a board pair to take it down. The best case was being up against multiple flush draws or multiple set or two pair type of hands. The guy who bet $80 was sitting on about $900 and Jose had another $500 in his stack after putting $250 in already. With over $600 out there already and a draw heavy board, there was only one move - all in!

I shoved my ten stacks of chips into the pot and to my shock and amazement the button - who was the last player in the hand and facing heavy action from 4 other players - stopped to think. He had about $700 in front of him and I was having dollar signs explode in my brain.

After 30 seconds the button folded and the small blind instantly called for another $900! With the action back on Jose he folded 87 face up. He'd flopped the lower end of the straight and let it go which was a big laydown.

The rest of the hand was not filled with as much drama. The small blind also had KQ with no clubs and the woman who was all in didn't show, but said she needed runner, runner and mucked her hand after a small red card came on the turn. I split a nice pot with the small blind and we moved on to the next one.

A little later I got dealt QQ in the small blind. Jose limped in from the cut off and the button made it $25 to go. 95% of the time I like re-raising with QQ, but the button was $800 deep and I figured a reraise would either blow him off the hand preflop and I'd make a whopping $35 or I'd put myself in a spot where I was playing a big pot out of position. Neither of those sounded great and I figured I might catch one of my opponents off guard as they'd never put me on QQ.

When the action got back to Jose he made it $175 to go! Usually when someone just calls before the flop and then puts in a reraise they have a huge hand like AA or KK. Sometimes it's something like 77 or 88 if they can shove in the rest of their stack, but he had another $500+ behind so I didn't think it was anything marginal. I thought back to that first hand where he just called with KK preflop and another where he did the same thing so I knew that play was squarely in his range. My options were pretty much shove all in or fold. After 30 seconds I opted to let it go. I showed my hand and he showed me AK!

If I was 100% sure he had AK I would have called as I'd be 57% to win the hand, but if he did have AA or KK I'd only be 18% to win.

My last big hand against Jose came an hour or so later. The under the gun player raised to $20, got one caller and Jose made it $100 to go. I was in the big blind and looked down at KK! Jose had about $300 behind at that point and after considering the pro and cons of just calling, I figured there was a very good chance if I just moved all in he'd call me. I was almost positive he had a big hand as he'd shown a large percentage of the hands he'd raised and they'd all been premium hands. So I shoved.

At that point the original raiser who was sitting on $600 started moaning and groaning. The only hand I was worried about was AA and I knew he'd have snap called with that so I was 100% sure I was good vs him. Get in there baby! He agonized for a full minute before folding. Jose also quickly folded. After the hand they both said they had JJ! If they'd called (and weren't lying) I'd be 96% to win against both of them combined!

After about 3 hours Jose lost his $500 and hit the road. He was very friendly and chatty with the other players at the table. He took pictures with 5 or 6 people and seemed happy to do it. He was a little too passive, but he played pretty well in general. It was a cool experience.

All through the night things went well for me. I had one or two hands go against me, but the biggest driver of my results was the four hands where I flopped a pair with a flush draw. Those hands are hugely powerful because you're about 50% to make two pair or better by the river and provide a great opportunity to be very aggressive.

On the first I had 98 of spades and the flop came A Q 9 with two spades. My opponent bet $50 into a $100 pot, I put him all in for $225, he called, I made two pair on the river and it was good.

On the second, I had 65 of hearts, the flop came down K 7 6 with two hearts, someone shoved for $100 into a $130 pot, I called and made the flush on the turn.

On the third I had T9 of hearts and the flop came down A K 9 with two hearts. It got checked to me and I bet $20 into a $25 pot. The villain in this hand check raised to $65 and I just called. The turn was a 6 of clubs and the villain bet $100. I decided to put him to the test and made it $300 to go. After 30 seconds he folded.

On the fourth, I had 87 of spades and I put someone all in for $200 on a Q 8 4 with two spades flop, they called and I made the flush on the river.

In the end I walked out the door up $1,322 on the night!



Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Captain of the Douches

On Thursday I played against the worst player I can remember. Not the worst in terms of poker, but this guy was just THE WORST!

While waiting for the $2/$3/$5 game I sat down at a new $1/$1/$2. The guy to my right was a young white guy with a loose fitting tank top, basketball shorts, a backwards hat, sunglasses and a couple of gold chains. He announced that this was his first time playing in person, but that he had played online.

He had no clue what was going on. He tried to buy in for $1,000 in a $200 max buy in game (the least of his offences). On the first hand, when the dealer told him it was "two to go" he threw in two yellow $5 chips thinking he was calling. He never once acted without being prompted by the dealer. He never once acted without taking 10 seconds or more. He couldn't keep track of who was in the hand and kept getting upset about it. He was blaming the other players for hiding their cards when everyone had them in front of their chip stacks.

He would NOT STOP TALKING! Holy shit! It's been two days and just thinking about this guy makes me angry. After 15 minutes I had had enough and went to go play $6/$12 instead. I didn't care how much money I could potentially make from the guy, I couldn't take it.

90 minutes later I got called for $2/$3/$5 and guess who was there? The Captain of the Douches. He hadn't gotten any better. It is excruciating to have the dealer tell the same person 2 or 3 times every time it is their turn to act when they are in every hand and never ever know what it's going on.

Dealer: It's on you.
Douche: (silence)
Dealer: It's on you, $5 to call.
Douche: I check.
Dealer: You can't check. It's $5 to call.
Douch: Who is in the hand?
Dealer: There are two callers. It's $5 to call.
Douche: (after 10 seconds puts in a $5 chip)
(the flop comes out)
Dealer: It's on you. Check or bet.
Douche: How much is it?
Dealer: Check or bet.
Douche: Who is in the hand?
Dealer: 4 players
Douche: (after 10 seconds taps the table to check)
Dealer: (after another player bets $50) It's on you. $50 to call.
Douche: (taps the table to attempt to check).
Dealer: There's a bet of $50.
Douche: (taps the table even harder to attempt to check)
Dealer: You can't check, it's $50 to you.
Douche: How much?
Dealer: $50 (thinking "I just told you three fucking times is was $50 to go you douche!")
Douche: (Takes 30 seconds to count out 14 $5 chips one at a time)
Dealer: (pushes back the 4 extra chips).
Dealer: Check or bet.
Douche: Who is in the hand?
Dealer: One other player over there.
Douche: I check
Dealer: He's all in for $200
Douche: How much is it?
Dealer: $200
Douche: How much does he have left?
Dealer: He's all in for $200.
Douche: (Puts $75 in the pot) I RE-raise!
Dealer: You're calling?
Douche: Yeah...Oh he's all in OK.
Dealer: He calls. The player over there has aces up.
Douche: (silence)
Dealer: Turn over your hand.
Douche: What? Did he call me?
Dealer: He has aces up. Turn your hand over.
Douche: (Turns over one pair of fives)
Dealer (pushes the pot)
Douche: What did he have? You guys have to stop hiding your cards.

It was like this hand after hand! And it's not like he was just confused, he was a dick too.

He was nursing a Bud Lite or two, but it seemed pretty clear he was on something else. Before long the shift manager cut him off from drinking and told him he had to speed it up or they'd pick him up.

10 hands later (which took about 45 minutes) I was losing $200 and ready to swallow some poker chips in the hopes that I'd choke on them, pass out and wake up in the hospital far far away from this guy.

Then he got involved in a hand where on the turn his opponent moved all in on him. Since he knew it was going to take an eon and a half for the Douche to call him, he picked up his phone and started playing a game. The Douche cried foul! "You're going to let him just use his phone in the middle of a hand?" First he complained to the dealer and then to a floorman who was passing by. He then pointed out another person nearby who was just standing around and accused his opponent of somehow collaborating with the other guy to cheat him. Someone could be texting the guy the Douche's exact two cards and it wouldn't matter - he was already all in! This logic was lost on the Douche.

The floor man told him to act on his hand. Out of sheer anger the Douche folded. Then he took out his phone and said "So I can just start taking pictures in the middle of a hand?" The floor man told him that no actually he couldn't take pictures or video, but texting or playing games while you're not in a hand or have moved in and there's nothing left for you to do, is OK.

The Douche was not to be deterred! "This is bull shit! I'm going to fucking sue this place!" The floorman said "Ok that's it, grab your chips, let's go." The floorman had to rack up the Douche's chips and he spent about 30 second talking about suing before being escorted off.

About 3 minutes later I heard him cry out "HE HIT ME!" and turned around to see him with a security guard and the shift manager. I can say for 100% sure that there was no chance either of them had hit him, but it looked like they both wanted to tear his head off. They hustled him out the front door and my guess is he met with the police out there shortly after.

As soon as that was over, things got back to normal. I played another 2 hours, made a few big hands and walked out the door with $695 more than I walked in with.

I really hope I never see that guy again.








Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bluffs Need to Tell a Believable Story

I played 4 hours of $2/$3/$5 NL at the Oaks last night and my results came down to three bluffs.

In the first bluff I limped in for $5 with 76 of spades, one player raised to $20 and we took the flop 4 way. The flop came down K 9 5 with two hearts giving me a gutshot straight draw. The action checked around to the button who bet $25 and after a player in the big blind called I decided to call as well.

The turn paired the 5 and I decided to take a shot at it. The bet of $25 on the flop from the button felt really weak to me which was a big reason I called on the flop. It seemed like "well, everyone checked to me so I guess I'll bet." A real hand would have bet $50-$75 on the flop.

After a check from the big blind I bet out $100. That's about how much I'd bet if I had a 5 and since I in fact had 76 I could just as easily had 65 (or A5). To my surprise I got called by the button. At that point I figured I was up against a king or a flush draw. Happily an off suit A came on the river, I bet out $150 and won the pot. Hooray!

On the second instance I had A6 of hearts and found another spot to take a shot at winning the pot without the best hand. In this instance the flop had come down Q 8 6 with two spades and one club and the villain had bet $30 into a $75 pot. I called, the turn came out the 3 of clubs and the villain bet $40. Betting $30 into $75 is kind of weak. Betting $40 into $135 felt even weaker. The villain only had about $160 behind so I trusted my read and moved all in, figuring it made sense to risk $200 to win $175 when I read my opponent as weak.

Normally, call the flop, raise the turn is a line that screams big hand (at least two pair). But I made a big mistake here and I realized it about 5 seconds after I moved in while the villain was thinking. The mistake was this was a very draw heavy board with two flush draws and lots of potential straight draws. I could easily be on a semi bluff. Also there weren't any solid two pair combinations. The 3 was a brick. I was really trying to represent a set and it couldn't be QQ since I was not a preflop raiser. Another problem is my opponent was a thinker. He's not a great player, but he could make a read and trust it. He called me with A8! Gah! I knew he was weak! I'm sure he thought with an 8 in his hand 88 was an unlikely hand for me and I would have folded 33 on the flop. That only leaves 66 or a semi bluff in my range with the latter being much more likely.

A little later I had this last hand top of mind when I made another bluff. I've forgotten what I had, but I know it was total air. The flop came down 8 7 3 with two clubs, it got checked to me on the button and I bet out $60 into an $80 pot. I should mention that I'd bet maybe 6 or 7 flops by that point and only gotten called once. I was getting a ton of respect from a rather weak table. I got one caller and the turn was a ten of clubs completing the flush draw. It got checked to me and I wasn't really sure what to do so I stalled a bit and made it look like I was thinking about betting, but then checked. I probably should have fired again, but I talked myself out of it.

The river paired the 7. My opponent checked and I quickly fired $150 into the pot. This line told a believable story. That story was "I flopped a 7 and bet it on the flop because I was last to act, but then checked because of the over card and the flush coming in, but now I have trips so here's a big fat $150 in your face!" My opponent said nice hand, and folded.

The rest of the night was very slow. I was never up or down more than $200 and booked a $51 win on the night.

I'm back in action Friday.




Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Ballad of Sheriff Short Memory and His Magical Penny

I walked into the Oaks last night and within 5 minutes was sitting down at a new $2/$3/$5 NL game that just started.

About 10 minutes later I got involved in my first noteworthy hand. The under the gun player raised to $15, two players in the field called and I looked down at AQ in the small blind. I should have raised to $75 here, but I just called and along with the big blind we took the flop 5 way. I could argue that against an under the gun raiser AQ was not in great shape and that I wanted to get to know the players a bit before getting involved in a big hand, but more so I think I called because I'd gotten my ass beat the night before and was a little tentative, which is not ideal.

The flop came down Q T 7 which was great for me. I went for the check raise, but sadly everyone checked around. The turn was a 6, I bet out $50, and got called by the big blind (who is the Key Villain in some upcoming hands). The river was another Q! Bingo! Trips!

I figured my opponent either had one pair like a T or maybe 88 or 99, a worse Q, or a draw and I had to decide how much to bet. If he had a draw I wouldn't get called no matter how much I bet so I threw that out of the equation and if it was a Q I could move all in and probably get called. But there was only one Q left after accounting for the one in my hand and the two on the board so a T or pocket pair was much more likely. I bet $100 figuring I might get called by a hand like KT or JT.

My opponent quickly called and said "I hope we chop." "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" I thought. He rolled over 98 for a straight and I thanked my lucky stars that he didn't raise me on the turn or the river. I guess he figured I had to have at least a straight to bet and was hoping I didn't have a full house? Strange. Not a great start.

A few hands later I got dealt KK in the big blind. There was a straddle just to my left and when the action came to me 5 players were in for $10. I made it $65 to go and I got two callers. The flop came down K T 6! Top set! Zing!

One of my opponents had about $200 left and the other only had $50 so even though there was $200+ in the pot I bet small sliding $65 into the pot. The guy with $200 shoved and the other guy called!

I had the nuts, but this was a draw heavy board with two clubs out there on the flop. The turn was a 9 meaning the obvious straight draw got there. The river was the 7 of clubs bringing in the flush draw. Shit! I rolled over my hand reluctantly and the bigger stack showed 66 and the other guy mucked! Hey good things happening to me! I remember you!

Right before that hand the dealer found a penny in the rack of chips and tossed it to the guy with the 66. When I took all of his chips he said "here take the penny too" figuring perhaps it was cursed. I kept it on my stack the rest of the session planning to throw it to anyone who got my chips and that's where it stayed for the rest of the night.

I had more good things happen to me for the next couple of hours. After my set of kings I had about $900 in front of me which was enough to have everyone covered and I used that stack to my advantage. There were two guys in the game who had a pattern of calling the flop with just about anything - any pair, overcards, gutshots, backdoor flushes - and then folding on the turn if they didn't have at least top pair. If they did have top pair or better or made their hand they'd come out betting on the turn. All I had to do to beat them was bet the flop and bet the turn every time I was in there with them. Ta da! Easy!

One of these two guys kept asking me what I had or could I beat hand X. I told him "I don't know" or "Maybe" or "It could have been anything." After the second or third time he started calling me 'Short Memory.' "Hey Short Memory, could you beat fours on that one?" "I don't know, maybe."

Around that time I got involved in two hands with the Key Villain I mentioned earlier. This guy was about 40, Asian, looked kind of dorky. He bought in for $500 and handled the chips and cards like he was experienced, and I had a hard time getting past the fact that he looked and acted like he knew what he was doing, when looking back I don't think he really did.

On the first hand 5 of us saw a flop for $20 and I flopped a flush with 97 of diamonds on an A 6 4 all diamond board. Key Villain who was not the preflop raiser bet out $30 which was a really small bet into a $100 pot. I figured he had an ace with no diamond or maybe the king of diamonds. I was all set to bet if it was checked to me and all set to call a big bet, but I wasn't really sure what to do with this bet. I didn't really want to let someone else with a big diamond outdraw me cheaply, but didn't want to blow everyone out of there on the flop either. I decided to take a risk and just call, and everyone else folded.

The turn was a black 8, and he bet $35. Gah! I was really hoping for a bigger bet or a check. But this even more so felt like an ace with no diamond holding. I figured if I raised I'd blow him off the hand for sure and my guess was if no diamond came on the end I'd see a check and could make a sizeable bet that was likely to get called. With that in mind again I just called.

The river paired the 4 and he bet $35 again. I made it $145 and after 5 seconds went by and he didn't shove on me I knew I didn't run into a full house. After 30 seconds he folded. I would have been nice to make more with that hand, but picking up $180 or so didn't suck.

A little later the player just to my right who was sitting on a stack of $1,000 made it $30 and I called with 99 dreaming of hitting set and taking it all. The big blind plus the Key Villain who had just called under the gun came along as well.

The flop came down A 5 4 with two diamonds and everyone checked to me. I figured if no one had an ace I could bet and take down the pot so I fired out $75. Only the Key Villain called. At this point I figured he had a draw that was likely a flush draw. In that previous hand where I was pretty sure he had an ace he'd come out betting and even if he did have an ace it probably wasn't a strong ace since he didn't come in for a raise preflop. I on the other hand had called a good sized raise cold so a big ace was squarely in the middle of my likely hand range.

The turn was an 8. He checked, I cut out $150 from my stack and pushed it into the pot figuring I could blow him off a weak ace and knowing I was a big favorite against a flush draw. After about 5 seconds he shoved for $241. Ugh!

Turn check raises are almost never bluffs. No one ever bluffs for another $91 into $400+ pots. All I could beat was a bluff...or maybe a flush draw? Would he do that with a flush draw? I didn't really think so, but I was getting more than 5 to 1 on my money so I reluctantly put in another $91.

The river was a 2 and he said "Just an ace." I nodded sadly, but didn't roll over my cards as it was his turn to show first. When he flipped over his cards he had 87! He'd actually said "Just an eight" and I'd misheard him! Yeah baby! Send the cookies!

As soon as he left I said "Let that be a lesson to the rest of you. Don't test me! I'm calling everyone down super lite!" That got a good laugh and someone said "The Sheriff is in town!" which got echoed in a few other spots.

Two hands later I got dealt AT off suit and raised to $20. I got 5 callers which was not ideal, but the flop came down A Q 6 with one spade which was pretty good. Some of the time I like to check top pair even when I'm the preflop raiser. Not often, but enough so that people have to consider that I might have an ace even when I check on an ace high board. A 6 way pot seemed like a good time to let someone else take the lead. It got checked around.

The turn was the 3 of spades and the big blind bet out $45. I called and everyone else folded. My hope was I was up against a worse ace and that I'd see a check, bet, call, I win type of action on the river.

The river came out a 4 of spades completing the flush draw. My opponent quickly shoved all in for $140. Most people will back off when a flush draw comes in and my check on the flop plus call in the turn would be reasonable with a flush draw. His bet felt off to me. I figured he either had made the flush himself or had lost his mind. It was the latter. I called and he showed 77.

The guy to my left leaned over and said "he must not of heard what you said a minute ago." Sheriff Short Memory is calling people down over here! Watch out!

I ended up playing for 5 hours and won $1,219 on the night. It was a fun session. Good things happened to me! And I played well! Hooray!

I took the penny with me...






Friday, June 19, 2015

One of These Hands Is Not Like the Other

After an amazing vacation in Colorado I was back at the Oaks Thursday night where two hands defined my night.

There was only one $2/$3/$5 game going when I walked in the door so I jumped in to a $6/$12 limit game while I was waiting. An hour later I was down $256 without winning a single pot. Not a good start! They started a new $2/$3/$5 game at that point and I sat down with a few familiar faces and a few new ones.

About 15 minutes in the player two off the button put in $10 to straddle. I was on the button and looked down at KK. I made it $40 to go and the action folded around to the straddle. I figured I was about to win the $20 in the pot and move on to the next hand, but my opponent started reaching for chips. After about 15 seconds of messing with his chips he moved all in! He had about $300 and of course I snap called him.

When he turned over his hand he had 88 meaning I was 82% to win. The flop came down 6 6 2, the turn was a 9 and the river was...an 8. Fuck! Even though this has happened to me thousands of times it still hurts.

After that kick in the nuts I spent the next few hours dragging. It seemed like every other pot there were 5 limpers who would check it down all the way to the end. It was super passive, which in general is good, but I was mostly getting total garbage and it's not a good idea to try to force it with nothing when you're losing even if you might be able to run over a weak table. I won a few pots that mostly looked like, raise, get one or two callers, bet the flop and win, but nothing better than that.

I found myself stuck about $700 total on the night including my $6/$12 action when I decided enough was enough and I should just bail.

On my last hand before picking up I got K9 of clubs and threw in a $5 chip to call. This was a pretty loose call under the gun, but there were only 7 players dealt in and it was a game with not a ton of raising so I figured what the hell. The button called and the small blind raised to $30. Knowing I was making a bad call, I called, and the button folded. This was a frustration call at the end of 4 hours of frustrating play. Raises out of the blinds are almost always strong hands. I've specifically spent a ton of time talking about that with two poker friends recently and I totally ignored it.

The flop came down 6 4 2 all clubs! A ha! I'd flopped a flush. I got away with my shitty call, I thought to myself. My opponent had a little over $300 behind and bet out $50. I looked back at my cards even though I knew exactly what I had to make it look like I was checking to see if I had a club and then I just called.

The turn was a red 9 and my opponent checked. At this point I figured I was up against AK or AQ with no club and if I bet out I wouldn't get called. If it wasn't that, I was up against a big pair with no club that was being cautious, but either way I figured my opponent was drawing dead and If I checked would bet out as long as the river wasn't a club. So I checked.

The river paired the 6 and my opponent bet out $100. I thought that was a bad card because when I shoved my opponent might put me on a 6 and fold an over pair, but moving all in was my only move. My opponent quickly called and turned over 99 for a full house! Son of a bitch! I did not see that coming.

If you look at the point in each hand where you were in the best shape you can convince yourself that you're the most unlucky person in the world so I try not to do that, but with that said I was 98% to win that pot after the flop.

I lost $1,073 on the night. If I can get KK to hold up against 88 and a flopped flush to hold against an overpair I book a small win.

I'm back in action tonight ready for some good things to happen to me.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

My Journey from $5 to Glory on Carbon Poker

On April 15th, 2011 the US government seized the domains of the 4 biggest poker sites in the US; Pokerstars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. These sites represented about 95% of the US online poker market share. I've always been surprised that not many people have asked "What about the other 5%?"

That last 5% was made up of about 150 sites. In 2009 or 2010 the state of Kentucky tried to ban all online gambling and that's how many sites they came up with. Could the federal government not do a Google search for online gambling? This always seemed like the shadiest shit.

Fast forward 4 years and Pokerstars is still the biggest site in the world, they bought the carcass of Full Tilt, paid off everyone in the US who had deposits on those two sites (to the tune of about $750,000,000), and is hoping to get back in the US market.

The 5% of the sites that survived and others that have come along are sketchy to say the least. One site - Lock Poker - came into existence, advertised heavily, built up some market share, had some problems and then essentially closed up shop and kept whatever player deposits they had left. Factoring in that you could lose any money you have on these sites via government shutdown (everyone who had money on Absolute Poker or Ultimate bet got $0 back) or implosion by the site itself is part of the risk you take playing.

But people are still playing. So I decided to look into it.

It seems like Carbon Poker, America's Cardroom and Bovada are the leaders and while looking in to this stuff I happened to create an account at Carbon Poker. The deposit options seems like a major pain in the ass and after that brief investigation I forgot about it. A few days later I got an email saying they'd put $5 into my account to try out their real money games. Ah ha!

There were a few famous stories of top pros starting with some small amount like $10 and building it up to $10,000 over the course of a couple of months of online play to prove to everyone they could start over. 2000 WSOP Main Event winner Chris Ferguson actually started with $0 and played freerolls until he won some small amount of cash and built that into $10,000.

I started off playing the $.05/$.10 no limit tables with my $5 which was the smallest stakes game they offer. With only 50 big blinds to work with I knew I'd need to get lucky. But I made a few hands and before I knew it I was up to $15! I started buying into those games with the minimum $3 and made an effort to play my best and avoid going fully broke at all costs.

After 3 or 4 hours of play here and there over the course a week I was up to $25, started buying in for $5 and began playing 2-3 games at a time. After I made it up to $40 I started playing the $.10/$.25 tables. They were actually not all the different from the games at the Oaks and I found it to be good no pressure practice.

I played a few $5 tournaments along the way and had mixed success, but right after coming back from the WSOP I jumped into am $11 tournament with 175 players, a $3 tournament with 270 players and a $5 tournament with 350 players. This was a bit risky for my bankroll (I was up to $75 by that point), but I finished 12th in the $11 and made the final table coming in 6th in the $3. That got me to about $130.

I ran stupid hot and found it so frustrating to have run bad in Vegas in $500 and $1000 tournaments only to come back and get amazing cards in a $3 tournament! GAH!

Another thing struck me when signing up for these tournaments. I just signed up and played. Compare that to the Colossus where I had to sign up online, go to the bank and complete a wire transfer, fly to Vegas, wait an hour in a line to get my seat card the night before, and then finally show up the day of and play. What a huge pain in the ass!

After a blazing $30 win today I'm up to $160! I think I've put in somewhere around 15 hours over the past 6 weeks to get to this point. I honestly don't know if they're going to let me cash this money out as I haven't made a deposit and I bet no one ever does anything with that $5 other than blow it off. I think if I can make it up to about $500 I'll try to take some out and see what happens.

I miss Pokerstars.


Friday, June 05, 2015

Goof Ball Problems

I sat down with a bunch of goof balls at $2/$3/$5 at the Oaks tonight. I got involved in a big pot right away.

On the second hand an early position player raised to $35 and got called by a middle position player. I looked down at AK and made it $100 to go. Both players just called and the flop came down A T 5. So far so good.

The first player checked and the middle position player move in for $300. There were no flush draws out there, he was putting out "I am a goof!" vibes and there was nothing for me to do but go all in for $400. The other player folded, the turn was a queen, the river was a 7 and my opponent showed me A5 for two pair. GAH! The other player said he had KK! If he's 4 bet like he's supposed to, Mr. A5 is out of there, and I could have either gotten off it or more likely gotten it in there and won $500 on the second hand! Instead I was stuck $400. DOUBLE GAH!

The game was playing fast and loose and I bled chips for 3 hours. I didn't win a single pot at showdown during that time. I don't think I made more than a couple of bets for value either. The only thing that kept me from going totally down the toilet was a few well timed bluffs. But that only slowed the bleeding and I found myself stuck $800 at one point.

Then a bunch of the goofs left and the game cooled off. It went from lots of 5 way pots for a raise post flop to standard 2-3 players post flop and a lot more limped pots. I much prefer the latter. I'd rather have people who are playing straightforwardly who I can figure out what they're thinking rather than nut balls who are all over the place. The nutballs always go broke, but the only way to beat them is to make hands and in recent memory I never seem to make the big hands when things are fast and loose.

During the cool period, I won about 10 pots in an hour. I got AA and it held up with some action. I made a straight on a hand that was bet all the way through by my opponent. I flopped top pair with a flush draw in a big pot, got action on the flop, and unloaded everyone on the turn. I took down a short stack who flopped a K with K9 vs my KJ. A few basic raise, get two callers, and they both fold to a bet hands went my way. None of these were huge pots, but the certainly added up.

I turboed up to +$318 on the night and headed for the door. It felt great to book a win when I'd been losing all night.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Using "The Hammer of Future Bets" at the Oaks

When I walked out of the Palms at 5:30 am on Monday to fly back to Oakland I was thinking "I do not want to bet on anything for at least a month." Fast forward 36 hours and I was at the Oaks playing $2/$3/$5.

Most players go into a no limit session thinking "I'm going to wait for a big hand and take someone's whole stack with it!" Stacking other people is great, but the only problem in you need a big hand AND you need your opponent to have a worse, but still big hand or make a big bluff. It just doesn't come together all that often.

Lately I've been going in thinking "I hope I run into a lot of spots where my opponent can't call."

I bought in for $500 and had a hand where my opponent couldn't call come up right away. 4 of us saw a flop for $25 each and it checked around. The turn brought a 3rd diamond to the board making a flush possible and the big blind bet out $50. I had the ace of diamonds in my hand and had two options: call the $50 and hope to hit or put the heat on. I made it $175 to go and after some hemming and hawing my opponent folded, and I picked up the $150 in the pot.

One thing in play here is what David Sklansky calls "The Hammer of Future Bets." From my opponent's perspective he's trying to decide if I made a flush on the turn or not. If all he had to do is call the raise on the turn he might have done it on the off chance I was bluffing or raising a hand that wasn't a flush that he could beat. But if I did have a flush he doesn't just have to worry about the $175 I just put in, he also has to worry about the $300+ I have behind. If I had a flush I'm certainly going to shove that last $300 into what would have been a $450 pot on the river.

I had almost the exact same thing come up on the very next hand. I made a big raise on the turn after calling a flop bet when a third card of a suite came out and won the pot. Again I had the ace of the suit, but not a made flush.

Close to 100% of the time there is 4 to a straight on the board and it's checked to me I bet 75%-100% of what's in the pot and I don't think anyone has called me in the last 6 months.

This sounds simple enough, but believe me it's hard to put in a big bet without a real hand.

Here is another great example that is both frustrating and a learning moment. A player to my right raised to $25 in early position and I looked down at AA. I was sitting on a stack of about $1,000 at that point and he had about $900. I made it $65 to go and after some hesitation he called.

The flop came down J 6 3, he checked and I bet $80. He started asking me if I'd show if he folded. I didn't say a thing. After at least a full minute of asking me if I'd show every 10 seconds he folded QQ face up! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It might look like this is a great play, but it's not. It's fear. He wasn't thinking about the $80 I bet on the flop. He was thinking about the $150 that I was going to bet on the turn and the $250 on the river. He's thinking "I'm not sure I want to put $500 or $600 or my whole stack in on this one." He's both getting ahead of himself and he's thinking that most of my three bet range is AA and KK. I happened to have AA, but I could have easily had AK or AQ or TT.

I realized in this moment that I need to be three betting way more. For almost everyone else at the table a 3 bet means JJ-AA or AK. I need to start putting the heat on people regularly because they are going to panic and put me on pocket aces.

I managed to run my $500 up to about $1,400 and then had a slow but steady decline. One guy gave me a lot of trouble and by gave me a lot of trouble made a few huge hands and dodged my draws.

On the first hand he had KK and I had top pair and a flush draw (I missed).

On the second hand he flopped an ace high straight against my straight draw (I missed)

On the third hand he flopped trips against my straight draw (I missed)

On the fourth hand he made a flush against my two pair.

My normal go to is to push pretty hard with draws in the hopes of picking up the pot without having to make the draw, but in all of these instances I luckily read him as being strong (i.e. not likely to fold) and he bet small enough that I was getting the right price to draw. I'm really lucky I didn't get crushed on that first one.

In the end I booked a $274 win on the night. A little disappointing given that I was up $900 at one point, but a little move in the right direction. I'll be back in action Thursday or Friday.


Monday, June 01, 2015

2015 WSOP - Final Thoughts

I read an article that said that this past weekend was the busiest poker weekend in the history of Las Vegas. I have no trouble believing that. My guess is that for every person who played the Colossus there was at least one friend who tagged along or one person who wanted to play, but got shut out. I think they could have done another 10,000 entries if they had the space. I know I would have plunked down at least one more buy in and probably two if I had the chance.

As I understand it every tournament across town sold out and had hundreds of alternates for tournaments that normally only have dozens of players. Every waiting list I saw Friday and Saturday for cash games (at any stakes except high limit) was 50+ names long and sometimes 100+. Basically every single casio had every single poker table full and could have filled up the same number of tables again.

A few other things stick out about the trip.

#1 - I had shitty luck on this trip. In poker and other games, I ran well below expectation.

#2 I desperately want to do well at the WSOP. I really wish I could play more this year, but on top of major financial risk it's just not easy for me to take time off from work and away from my kids. Look how cool the final table set up is!


How amazing would it be to be at a final table playing in front of a crowd and being live streamed on the internet? I want it so bad! GAH! I took that picture of the last two guys in the $3,000 shootout. Fun fact - one of them was not wearing shoes and the other was in sandals! If you had a poker player foot fetish you would have lost your shit!

#3 - Losing sucks. There is no doubt about it. But I'm able to handle losing so much better now at 35 than in my 20's. It's not fun, but I don't get nearly as upset as I used to. I get less upset for a much shorter amount of time. It helps a lot that there is much less riding on my success these days, but I think being older and wiser is as important.

#4 - I'm already doing the math on how many hours I'm going to have to put in between now and next june at $2/$3/$5 at the Oaks in order to win enough so I can spend some, pay for a longer trip with more events, and have enough left over to still have a bankroll.

#5 - I'm massively torn between wanting to go play today and not play for at least a solid month.

One of these days I'm going to get the job done!


2015 WSOP Event #6 - $1,000 Hyper Turbo

I was on the fence about playing this one. After my relatively quick demise in both flights of the Colossus I didn't feel super pumped about paying a fast structure event. But I was excited that barring a final table I'd get to play it in one day.

After all the fucking wire transfers and pre-registration and waiting in fucking lines it felt great to just walk up to the cage, plop down a grand and walk out with my seat card all in less than 5 minutes. I sent out a nasty tweet to the @WSOP twitter account while waiting in line for my pre-registered seat card for the Colossus, but I will say that in terms of logistics in general they do an amazing job.

It also felt good to start at 11 am instead of 9:30 pm.

When I got to my table I saw I was sitting next to Annette Obrestad. Annette is most famous for winning the 10,000 Euro buy in WSOP Europe main event (for $2,000,000+) when she was 19. She was a prodigy and already a seasoned online pro by that time. I'd say she's one of the top 10 women tournament players (with Vanessa Selbst as the undisputed #1) and is #187 on the all time tournament earnings list now at 26. She can't be much more than 5 feet tall or much over 100 pounds - she's tiny! I can also now say that she's super nice.

I had my starting stack of 5,000 up to 7,000 when a big hand came up. With blinds of 50/100 a early/middle position player raised to 250 and I reraised him to 800 out of the small blind with 99. He called and the flop came down J 8 4 with two spades. I bet 1,100 on the flop and after about 15 seconds my opponent moved all in for 2,700.

I was watching him intently before he moved in and I got the sense that he was genuinely conflicted. I took my time deciding what to do. I had to call another 1,600 with a chance to win the 5,500 in the pot and I'd still have about 3,500 to work with if I called and lost. I figured if he had a hand like AJ, KJ or QJ he'd be all in with little hesitation. A flush draw was a likely possibility. 88 or JJ were possibilities. 9T was not all that likely since I had two of the 9s. A8 would probably fold to a reraise pre-flop, but still a remote possibility. 44 probably would get mucked pre-flop. 66 or 77 was possible. AK probably would have shoved pre-flop, but maybe not. A total bluff had to be considered, but he wasn't making a huge raise so that didn't seem like it would have much chance of working thus he wouldn't be likely to try it.

I was having trouble putting the picture together, but in the end I figured there was probably a 40% chance I'd be good and I was getting 3.5 to 1 on my money. He had TT! Of course! That fit together with being conflicted, but still going for it. No miracles for me on that one.

I got KK twice in the next 30 minutes and got a little action bringing me back to about 5,000 in chips.

After 2 hours of play I had my one hand against Annette Obrestad come up. She'd had some hands go against her and was down to 2,250 and in the small blind with blinds at 200/400 with a 50 ante. It folded to her and she moved all in. I was expecting this and looked down at Q3. Again I took my time sorting it out.

I had to call 1,850 to win the 3,350 in the pot. I thought she might shove with any two there as I had a tight table image and she's aggressive. I'd be a small favorite against a range that was literally any 2. Unless she had a pair I'd be getting the right price to call.

I called and she had 93 of hearts! A ha! I was way ahead. And I flopped a queen! Double a ha! And she made a flush when the turn and river were both hearts. GAH! I was 95.2% to win after that flop, but who's counting?

A couple of hands later I was on the button with 1,800 left. I looked at a king which was enough to go with and I shoved. The big blind called with A2 and when I looked at my other card it was a 2 also. Double GAH! Again no miracles.

That was the end of my 2015 WSOP.




WSOP Colossus Event 5D Recap

I made my way back to the Rio for my second shot at glory in the Colossus on Saturday night and started playing as part of the first "late wave" at 9:20. By that time the 4th flight of the tournament had been underway for 2 hours plus a break and was now on level 4 (100/200 blinds).

The news would come out the next day that a total of 22,374 entries were part of the Colossus - 10 to 20 times as many entries as typical no limit event at the WSOP and 200 times as big as a bay area $500 tournament. An astonishing 2,241 spots would pay with 2,241st paying $1,096 and 1st paying a surprisingly low (relatively speaking of course) $638K. 1st place in some tournaments can get as much as 40% of the total prize pool and I've never seen an event with 1st getting less than 10% (which would have been about $1.1M).

I got off to a terrible start. On the second hand I was in the small blind and the big blind was not at the table (his cards are automatically folded, but his chips go in the pot). The action folded to the button who made it 500 to go. I had 4,800 chips and T8 of hearts which felt too strong to fold against a hand that could be any two, but not strong enough the 3 bet (maybe). The flop came down T 5 3 which was a great flop for me.

I have to admit that even though I was very likely to have the best hand, I was thinking about how to avoid going broke with it on the second hand.

I checked and my opponent bet a modest 500. I called. The turn was a king which was a bad card, but I again checked and called 500. A repeat of the same bet on the turn is almost always weak, but my options were to pretty much commit to going all in or just call it down. The river was a 2 and I decided to fire out 1,000. I didn't think I could fold to a bet, but figured I might be looking at a bet bigger than that on the river if I checked - it was primarily a "blocking bet." There was also some chance I'd get called by a worse hand trying to catch a bluff as I took a weird line on the hand. My opponent called with K3 and I was down to 2,300. Shit!

Two hands later I got dealt TT. Someone opened for 525 and I shoved. He called me with AJ and I managed to double up.

Around this time I realized I was playing with a bunch of stooges. Not like pretty good players who were worse than me or experienced players with a few major leaks, but a few total novices who were having trouble handling their chips and cards and others who were probably the third best player in their monthly home game. It was a real shit show.

It took three other hands that went south to finally get rid of me.

With the blinds at 100/200 with a 25 ante I made it 525 to go with A3 one off the button and got called by the actual cowboy on the button and the woman with the "cow girl" hat on in the big blind. These two were both in the novice category. The flop came down QQ9 and I figured I'd win with a bet if neither had a Q. The cowboy only had 1250 left so I bet 1,100. After a little fussing he went all in and I called another 150. He had KQ and I was down under half my starting stack again.

A few minutes later the cow girl moved all in for 1,500. I was in the big blind with KQ and decided I could easily have the best hand as she had no idea what she was doing and I was calling 1,300 with a chance to win 2,050 getting almost 3 to 2. I called and she showed me A4 which meant I was almost exactly a 3 to 2 underdog. I got no help and was down to about 700.

3 hands later I got dealt QT in the cutoff and shoved (or perhaps plopped is a better word here) my last 575 into the pot. The small blind and the cow girl called me. The flop came down Q J 9 and I thought "A ha! Something good!" But when the small blind check raised the flop and bet the turn I figured I needed help. None came and I lost to the AQ of the small blind (cow girl had KJ).

If I had to do it over again I would probably not enter a late wave. With the stakes so high compared to your chips stack it's hard to survive any one bad thing happening to you. I'm happy that it took three bad things (or 4 if you count the hand I lost T8 to K3) to finally get me, but I'd much rather play deeper.