Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Poker Hat Trick!

In hockey, scoring three goals in the same game is a hat trick. My good friend Matt Lessinger coined the phrase "The Poker Hat Trick" in an article in Cardplayer a few years back and defined it as check raising the same player three times in the same hand. This is something I'd never done before until today. While I've been known to bet the flop and turn and then check raise the river (I probably do that a few times a day), I'd never had the stones to check the river after check raising both the flop and the turn. But today the situation was perfect.

I was in a $10/$20 limit 6-max game in the four seat with a very aggressive player who was on total meltdown tilt in the two seat. On the hand before the one in question I played a flush draw super aggressively capping it on the flop and then three betting on the turn after I'd hit a pair. The player in the two seat also had a flush draw, which we both missed, but he still called my river bet even though all he had was ten high! I guess he was hoping I was on a smaller flush draw!

On the very next hand I was in the big blind and my nutty friend was on the button. He raised, the small blind called and I decided to see a flop with J 5 off suit. Normally this hand easily goes in the muck vs a raise and a call, but since I knew the original raiser could have any two cards and I was almost sure to get paid off if I made the best hand it was an clear decision to see the flop.

The flop came down 5 5 3 and I thought "Holy Shit! Please let him have a real hand!" While I thought I might get paid off all the way by any ace, I knew I'd make a bundle if my crazy opponent had an over pair.

The small blind checked, I did too, and of course seat two bet out. The small blind called and I raised it. Most average or good players would just call here with the plan of check raising on the turn, but pros would almost always raise. The first reason to do this is you might get three bet which means you can either cap the flop and lead out or check raise the turn. Also it's a minor disaster if you call the flop, check the turn and it gets checked behind you. Furthermore the small blind is in there. Many players will take one off with overcards on the flop and then dump on the turn. By just calling the flop you'd miss out on a potential extra small bet or two from the third player in the pot.

So I check raised. And I got three bet which led to the drool coming out of my mouth and the dollar signs popping into my eyes. I opted to just call instead of capping and betting out since I was all but sure my opponent would bet the turn.

The turn was a ten, I checked, he bet and I raised, just like I'd planned. The river was a queen which was a great card. I figured if I checked he'd assume that I had a ten or a three. If he could beat a ten I knew he'd bet and there was also a chance that he might fire with absolutely nothing. So I checked for a third time.

After a short stall he bet again, I raised, and he called me with pocket nines. It was a sweet hand!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Sunday Million Gift

The Pokerstars Sunday Million is the largest weekly poker tournament in the world. This week 8,800 players put up $215 each in an effort to hit it big.

What I like about this tournament is it's something special. If you play a $215 tournament in the middle of the day on a Wednesday you'll find youself against 50 good players, 25 very good players and 25 great players. Almost everyone will be a winning poker player.

On the other hand, since it's something special, in the Sunday million you'll find those same hundred solid players and another hundred just like them, but you'll also have 8,600 players who are some where between pretty good and terrible. To top it off, they will all think the tournament is a big deal and will be sweating the result making it easy to pressure them into mistakes.

This week I put up my $215 just like everyone else, caught a huge break early on and turned it into a nice win.

A little more than a half hour into the tournament my starting stack of 10,000 chips was down to about 7,000, the blinds were 100/200 and I found myself in middle position with Q9. The player just to my right limped in and I decided to try to see a flop cheap. I called as did a player just to my left and along with both blinds we saw the flop 5 way.

The flop was a total bingo - J T 8 with two diamonds (I had the Q of diamonds) making me a straight! Both of the blinds checked and the player who'd limped in bet 800 into the 1,000 chip pot. I opted to just call and let the other three players get involved since I had the total nuts.

The player to my left called, the others folded and the turn came down the ace of diamonds. This was either a great card or a disaster. If someone had a hand like AT it was great. If someone had KQ or two diamonds it was a disaster.

The player to my right cooled off and checked. I bet out 1,800 into the 3,400 chip pot. There were a ton of second best hands that would have a tough time folding and given my short stack and the strength of my hand I was committed to going all the way no matter what. If someone made a flush I was dead anyway and this seemed like a good sized bet to make the maximum from another player with a second best hand.

I was not happy to see the player to my left make it 3,600 to go and the player to my right move all in for about 9,000! I thought one if not both of them could have me beat, but I decided to go for it anyway. My hand was just too strong to fold and even if I was behind I still had a draw to the second nut flush.

The player to my left who'd made it 3,600 and only hand another 5,000 or so behind thought for a long time. Eventually he typed something to the effect of "I guess 87 of diamonds is no good" and he folded. The player to my right turned over KK with the K of diamonds, the river was a blank and I went from out, to great shape. The player who had apparently folded a made flush went a little nuts in the chat box!

I used the chips in won in that pot to make the money and even go fairly deep. I ended up finishing 133rd of over 8,800 which paid a little more than $2,100! The way things have been going it was a very sweet victory - my biggest of 2009! Even more sweet since I had all of my chips in with the worst hand many hours ealier!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It's the Spring Online Championship of Poker! It's a new series of tournaments on pokerstars similar to the WCOOP, but with a few differences. The SCOOP runs from April 2nd until the 12th and is made up of a whopping 66 tournaments! You can see the full schedule at www.pokerstars.com/scoop/

The way it works is every day there are two sets of tournaments each with three sets of stakes: low, medium, and high. For example on Day 1 in the morning there is NLH 6-max with rebuys. There is a $5.50 tournament, a $55 tournament and a $530 tournament all starting at the same time. Then in the afternoon there is PLO-8 with an $11 tournament, a $109 and a $1,050 all staring at the same time.

All of the "low" tournaments are $109 or less (except one that is $270), the mediums range from $109 to $1,050 (again with one exception), and the highs range from $1,050 to $10,300 (with one at a whopping $25,500).

My plan is to play all of the lows and probably 18 of the 22 mediums. As far as the highs go since most of the ones that look good to me in terms of what games are being played are $3,000+ I plan to play some satellites and see if I can get in cheap.

Some of what I do is going to depend on what kind of backing I get from my typical group of investors. I'm not going to put any cap on how much people can invest, but I will probably need some if not all of the investment up front. I'll probably put up $5,000-$8,000 of my own money, see what I can get from other people and then plan my schedule accordingly.

There will be much more on the SCOOP in coming weeks, but for now it's back to the cash game grind.

FTOPS XI Brief Recap

Well I came up short in the last few events of the FTOPS XI and ended the series with a whopping profit of $50! Better than losing but given the chances I had it was a little disappointing.

In fact I got very close to the money in the $530 main event. We started with over 5,000 players and 7,500 chips each. After dipping down to 5,000 for a moment I turboed up to over 25,000 and that's where I stayed until we got close to the money. 738 spots paid and with 1,100 players or so left I got dealt AQ suited. I got it all in vs KJ and 99 and would have had a stack that was double average as we approached the money if I took it down. But after a board with five cards under 9 came down I was out and the FTOPS XI was in the books.

Even though I broke even this set of tournaments was still a success. I finished right around the top 1% twice and gave myself two realistic shots at making a major final table with high five and six figure payouts.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Four FTOPS duds, Two Tournaments Left

Sorry about the lack of updates. I haven't been much in the blogging mood lately and not much good has been happening.

Since my last post I came up short in the $535 HORSE, the $216 Omaha hi-lo, the $216 NLH 6-max and the $109 pot limit omaha with rebuys (I was in for $309).

Right now I'm ahead $823 for the FTOPS XI and there are only two events left: $129 NLH knockout and the $535 NLH main event.

This means I've locked up a $159 profit for the FTOPS even if I get blanked in the last two. Actually after looking things over I'm going to play a $109 satellite to the main event in the morning so I might end up with a $50 profit (If you have 1% of my action don't hold your breath waiting for a check!).

Tomorrow is a big day for me tournament wise. Not only do I have the two FTOPS tournaments, but I'm going to play the $215 Sunday Warm up, the $215 Sunday Million and the $215 Sunday Second Chance (all on pokerstars) as well as a $162 tournament on Doyle's Room (I discovered I had a few bucks lingering in that account) and a qualifier open to only Supernova Elites for a $6,500 in person tournament that goes off in Uruguay in March. Amazingly I'm not making that last one up.

I'll let you know what happens...if you're lucky!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

FTOPS XI Event #13 Recap

I got off to another great start in event #13 $215 NL hold'em with one rebuy and one add on. We started with 2,000 chips and I immediately did the rebuy which put me at 4,000. I'd run that stack up to 10,000 by the time we made it to the break and after the add-on I had 12,500 or so.

Sometime during the second hour with blinds of 60/120 I was dealt KQ in the big blind. A player in middle position made it 400 to go and got called by two players before it got to me. KQ can certainly be a trap hand in a spot like this, but I had everyone covered by a fair margin and the pot odds were just too good to pass up. So I called.

The flop came down J T 5 giving me an open ended straight draw and two overcards. While checking was an option I considered since I had about twice as many chips as all of my opponents I decided to get aggressive. A bet might win me the pot right there and in the worst case scenario I'd only lose half of my chips. So I bet 1,200 chips.

The original raiser thought for 5 seconds or so and moved all in for about 4,000. It was an easy call since I had 8 outs to the nuts and maybe a K or a Q would be good too. I was not happy to see my opponents hand - 55! The turn was a brick, but the river was an ace and I took down a nice pot.

The next MAJOR hand I remember came much later when I was dealt JJ with a stack of around 20K. An early position raiser made a standard size raise, I reraised and he moved all in! There are times when I've folded JJ preflop, but this was not one of those times.

With all the chips in and my opponent having me slightly covered I was at risk. When the cards got turned over he had AQ and the flop came with an A and a Q! But the turn was a jack and I was in great shape!

In fact I took that stack of 40K or so all the way up to over 60K and with 300 players left from the starting 1,200+ I was in 3rd place. Then I started a gradual slide. The players I was up against were much better than in the other FTOPS events so far. I dribbled my stack all the way down to about 25K.

But I did make the money!

The tournament paid 135 spots and I finished 117th. On my last hand with blinds of 1K/2K and 250 chip ante I moved all in from the button with QT. Surprisingly the small blind called me with K8 suited. I made a straight, but he made a flush and that was it.

117th paid $805 which is only a profit of $189, but of course it's $805 better than not making the money!

Monday, February 09, 2009

FTOPS XI So Far Plus a Micro Preview!

I blanked in the 1/2 hold 'em, 1/2 pot limit Omaha today without much fanfare and I decided I was just too tired to play the $1,060 6 p.m. event. That means that so far I'm ahead $1,910 for the FTOPS XI. Not too bad.

Since I opted to skip the one four digit buy in event on my schedule, tomorrow is my biggest day of this FTOPS. In the morning I have Event #13 which is $216 with one rebuy and one add on no limit hold'em. Since I'll no doubt be doing both the rebuy and add on I'll essentialy be playing a $616 deep stack NLH tournament.

Then at 6 p.m. I have Event #14 $535 HORSE! Giddy up! I have to say with the HORSE success I've had in the past 6 months I'm pretty excited about this tournament.

FTOPS XI Events #7 & #10 Recap

I haven't been great about keeping you people updated. Usually that means all bad news, but that's not the case here!

Despite my slow start in Event #7 ($109 NLH with rebuys) I actually made the money! With about 500 players left (we started with more than 2,200) I caught a major break. I got all of my chips in preflop with AQ vs AK, a king came on the flop and I still won! That's not something that happens every day! I made a runner, runner flush, took down a nice pot and didn't look back.

Unlike the first tournament of the FTOPS where I got great cards, and great action making it easy to do well, I got very little in the way of big hands in this one. But, I feel like I played great and made a lot out of not much. This was another case of the tournaments being a big deal to my opponenets and not a big deal to me. Their fear allowed me to take pots away from them even in situations where I felt like I was making obvious bluffs. In these same spots better or more seasoned players would surely have played back at me.

The tournament paid 234 spots and after the one miracle hand I mentioned, I made the money easily. As more and more players faded away I once again started thinking about the final table. With 50 players left I still had more than an average stack. Then I ran into some trouble. I gradually got drained from a high point of around 250,000 chips down to 125,000 when the following hand came up.

The blinds were 6,000/12,000 and a player in early position made the minimum raise to 24,000. I decided to gamble a little and called out of the big blind with Q3 suited. The flop came down 7 5 3 with two of my suit. This was a great flop for me. Unless my opponent had a pocket pair I'd be almost certainly be able to take it away from him on the flop, and even if he did I still had a flush draw that I'd make about 1/3 of the time.

I considered betting out, but decided to go for the check raise. I checked, my opponent bet 24,000, I moved all in for about 100,000, he called me with A7, I missed and that was it.

I finished 37th which paid $1,583. Another strong result, but not quite major glory.

In event #10 I got off to a great start. After starting with 5,000 chips I was up to about 17,000 just after the first break. Even though it was just yesterday for once I can't remember quite how I got elminated. Hmmmmmmm. Well I should probably get to work anyway. I know I finished about 1,000th of over 5,000 and it paid 738 spots so it was close to another cash, but I just can't quite recall the last hand!

Today I have $216 half PLO, half hold'em and maybe the $1,060 no limit later. I'll have to see how I feel when 6 p.m. rolls around.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

FTOPS Triple Update!

The $216 6 handed limit tournament (which is supposedly my specialty) ended with a fizzle, and is not even worth a recap!

But I do have a splash of good news! I won a $162 satellite to Monday's $1,060 tournament! I must admit I caught a few big breaks to take this one home. We started with 82 players and the top 12 spots paying $1,060. With about 30 players left I beat AJ with KJ and a little later also beat KK with KJ, both times with all of my chips in the pot. After the second major bad beat I delivered I was in first place and despite a few more ups and downs I made it to the money with relative ease.

The third part of this update is that FTOPS XI Event #7 ($109 with rebuys) is underway. I ended up doing two more rebuys than the minimum which means I'm in for $509. When I started writing the post I was in great shape, but some douche bag called one of my raises with 74 suited and made a flush to beat my top pair. At the start of that hand I had about 14,000 chips and now I have about 6,000. Average is 10,500 and we are down to 1,050 players from the starting field of 2,235 with the top 234 spots paying.

Friday, February 06, 2009

My FTOPS XI Schedule

I had a request to post a list of the tournaments that I planned to play so people will know when to watch if they are so inclined. Here is my tentative schedule (all times are pacific):

Feb 6th 6 pm $216 Limit Hold'em 6-max
Feb 7th 1 pm $109 NL hold'em with rebuys
Feb 9th 11 am $216 Half PL Hold'em, Half PL Omaha
Feb 10th 11 am $216 NLH 1 rebuy + 1 add on
Feb 10th 6 pm $535 HORSE
Feb 11th 11 am $216 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
Feb 13th 11 am $216 NL 6-max
Feb 13th 6 pm $322 Razz
Feb 14th 1 pm $109 PLO with rebuys
Feb 15th 11 am $129 NLH Knockout
Feb 15th 3 pm $535 NLH (Main Event - $2.5M guaranteed)

I might also play the $322 NLH on Sunday at 3 pm if I can get home in time (I have Sunday brunch plans) and the $1,060 6 pm tournament on Monday. 6 pm is a little late to be starting a $1,000 tournament, so I'm going to have to see how I feel. I might also take a shot or two at qualifying for the $5,200 event which goes off at 11 am on Saturday.

FTOPS XI Event #3 ($216 7-Card Stud) Recap

I almost didn't play this event, but once it got started I was glad I did. So many of the players clearly just didn't know how to play stud. It's not like they were total novices, but it felt like I was up against a bunch of hold'em players if you know what I mean.

We started with 4,000 chips and despite some ups and downs I ran my stack up to about 15,000. Obviously anytime you can almost quadruple your starting stack, you've put yourself in a profitable position even if you don't convert that equity into dollars. Since one or two hands can derail you (even in a limit tournament) the key is to just keep giving youself chances and eventually one of them will work out in a big way.

With that said, two hands derailed me! In the first I started with AA3, didn't improve and lost to queens up at the showdown. A few hands later I started with three suited cards, caught a fourth one on fourth street and ended up missing my flush, but making a straight. The problem was I was up against a bigger straight.

I finished about 220th out of 593. After three events my starting $10,000 bankroll is at $10,692.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

FTOPS XI Event #2 ($256 PLO/8 Knockout) Recap

This one lasted about 15 minutes. I got dealt A259 and raised a limper. The flop came down 9 9 3, I got check raised and just called. The turn was a 3 and my opponent bet the pot (which was 2,500 - we started the tournament with 5,000 chips). This looked like either a worse 9 or, more likely a total bluff. I moved in for my last chips, and got called by AK93. Oh well.

FTOPS XI Event #1 ($216 NLH) Recap

We started event #1 with 6,275 players, each with 5,000 chips. First place was $216,512 and the edge of the money was 738th which paid $326.

Not much happened for me during the first two hours of play. The blinds started at 10/20 and crept up slowly from there so there wasn't much of a reason to mix it up.

Close to the end of the second hour of play, I decided I wanted to move from my desktop to my laptop. I figured it wouldn't be a big deal to miss a few hands while I booted up my laptop, so I logged off, zipped downstairs and started what would be a 20 minute process of fighting my technology. To start, it took forever for my laptop to boot up. Then the fulltilt software wouldn't launch because it needed to update to a newer version and the automatic update wasn't working. I won't bore you with the rest, but as I said it took 20 minutes.

When I finally got back on I found myself already in a hand in the big blind. I had 95 suited and the under the gun player had made just over the minimum raise to some wacky amount. I decided to call to see if I could hit something big or maybe take my opponent off the hand with a bluff.

The flop came down 5 3 2 giving me top pair and leaving me with some tough decisions. Betting, check calling, check raising and check folding all had some merit in this spot, but I figured my best course of action was to check, see how much my opponent bet and think about what that bet size meant.

My opponent fired out a little less than 1/3 of the pot. This looked really weak to me and my first instinct was to blow him off the hand with a raise. But the pot was relatively small compared to our stack sizes and I though I might be able to check call all the way and still have 2,500 chips or so left at the end of the hand if my read was wrong.

I just called the flop bet and the turn came down a jack - not a great card, but not a terrible one either. I checked and again my opponent bet about 1/3 of the pot and again I just called. The river was a total bingo card - a nine! Now I was hoping I was up against a big pair that was just trying to milk me for more money the whole way.

I checked again, my opponent bet about 1/2 the pot, I moved all in, and he instantly called me with QJ. After two hours of nothing and some technical difficulties I was all of a sudden in good shape after one great hand.

Two or three hands later I made a set against top pair and found myself up to 15,000 chips. And then stuff really started getting good!

Over the course of the next few hours I had no fewer than three people go kamikaze on me when I had a big hand. Twice I had AA and the other time I had top pair. In each case the player I was up against made a massive overbet all in on the flop with a pocket pair 66 or lower. It was great!

With that happening I easily made the money (yay!) and managed to keep my stack above average for a long, long time.

Now I have to cut to the end because I have to get to work! With about 100 people left I went from 225,000 up to about 470,000 after beating AK with JJ. Average was a little over 300,000 at this point and after that hand I was starting to think about the final table.

Then with blinds of 6K/12K I got dealt AQ in the big blind. A player in early position who had me barely covered made it 40K to go and it got folded around to me. I thought about reraising to 120K, but decided to just call. I was in such good shape that I didn't want to risk too much against someone who had me covered with a dicey hand like AQ. The flop looked like a miracle - A Q 5 giving me top two. It was an easy decision to check and when my opponent bet 65K I made it 140K to go.

I got called and the turn was a jack. The pot was already so big that I moved all in for my remaining 290K. My opponent snap called with KT (a straight), the river was a blank and that was it.

There were a ton of ways this hand could have gone differently. First of all, KT isn't exactly a playable hand in early position at this point. Secondly I could have reraised preflop and either won right then or with a flop bet. Thirdly my opponent could have (should have) folded when I check raised him on the flop. Lastly the turn could have not been an F-ing jack! I'd be curious to hear any comments from those of you who are poker savvy about how I played this hand or how you might have played it.

I finished in 90th of 6,275 which is still great. I made a net profit of $1,164 on the tournament which puts me off to a solid start in the FTOPS.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

QFV Done, FTOPS Starting

Well the Quest For Victory ended much like a quest for finding diamonds in your back yard as a kid. It was a massive failure! On Monday I bailed on my plan of playing mostly $5/$10 games and instead played a mix of $10/$20 and $15/$30 games. I got totally bamboozled and finished the QFV down a few thousand. ACK!

So I've gone back to plan A and am going to stick with the $5/$10 games and try to bang out a few small wins while still making points progress.

In other news the FTOPS XI kicks off today! Event #1 is $216 NL Hold'em, has a $1,000,000 guaranteed prize pool and starts at 6 pm pacific. For those of you interested in watching live, my username on fulltiltpoker.com is wes1279.

I'll put up a recap late (hopefully very late) tonight as well as a short preview of event #2.

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

After four and a half years working for StubHub I wrapped up my time there in March. I've been at the poker tables 3-4 days a week since...