Sunday, June 28, 2009

Today Was One of Those Days

Today was one of those days. One of those days where everything that could possibly go wrong does. Played a bunch of not small tournaments - got killed. Played a few thousand hands in the cash games - got killed. It was one of my top five worst days ever.

I even played in a freeroll where the top two spots won a $5,000 tournament entry and finished 5th of 250+. In that one I lost a 180,000 chip pot 5 handed with 99 vs 77 all in preflop. The other players at the table all had about 50,000 (and weren't exactly studs) so I would have been all but guaranteed to win one of the two seats if I could have just won when I was an 82% favorite!

And I have to work all day for the next two days because I need to earn another 10,000 points this month to keep my supernova elite status.


Actually it's not really that bad. Today sucked, but I'm still ahead five figures since I got back from Vegas 11 days ago and my wife Jen said she's making chicken fingers and homemade macaroni and cheese tonight. I'm sure with that and a few big glasses of wine I'll feel just fine in a few hours.

But right now - AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Playing Bigger and Winning Bigger

Since I got back from the WSOP (and to some extent before I left), I've been playing for bigger stakes. My standard game for the past two years has been $10/$20 six handed limit hold'em playing 4 to 6 games at a time. Of course I've taken my shots at the bigger games playing as high as $100/$200. But until recently it's been sporadic and rare that I'd go above $15/$30.

This month is the first extended stretch of time that I've played $30/$60 regularly. Along with a mix smaller stakes games, I've been playing something like 500 hands of $30/$60 and 100 hands of $50/$100 on a daily basis. And I've been winning.

In fact I've been winning so much that today at one point I was losing $6,000 and I wasn't worried about it. I knew the games were in the range of OK to good so I kept playing, made a comeback and only lost about $2,500 on the day. I never thought a day would come where I could lose $2,500 and call it a moral victory.

6 handed $50/$100 is a pretty absurdly sized game. $2,000 pots are not unheard of and losing $5,000 in a session is a possibility every time you get dealt in. Of course I could be the one to drag one or two of those $2,000 pots or get the benefit of someone elses $5,000 (or $10,000) losing session. And that's why I'm playing.

I've discovered recently that one or two of the regulars at that level are not regulars because of their skill level. It's clearly just that they have the money and can afford to lose big. Targeting these players as well as unknown players or the ones who are moving up to take their shots has proven very profitable. Hopefully I can keep it up.

Tomorrow I'm going to mix in a few tournaments. Pokerstars is offering four times the normal points for playing in the "Sunday majors" so in addition to some big cash games I'll be playing some significant tournaments as well. Hopefully I have something interesting to write about after tomorrow!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Hodge Podge of WSOP Stories

I tend to focus on the results of the tournaments and the actual play of the hands in my posts, but I've had a few requests to give a little more color instead of being so black and white. So here are a few unrelated stories, observations and feelings I had at this years WSOP.

In the $2,500 6 handed no limit tournament I played against a guy who gave a new meaning to not caring about the money. Often people tell stories or say things at the poker table that are clearly total bullshit. Stuff like "yeah my cousin bet $100 on 15 at the roulette table and when it hit he let the whole $3,600 ride and hit 15 again!" I'm almost 100% sure this guy was telling the truth.

We were playing the day after game 2 of the NBA finals. He said he'd been at the game the night before and that one of the casinos got him tickets. Got him tickets and CHARTERED HIM A PRIVATE PLANE! They flew him from Vegas to the game and then back all for free! You might wonder what type of gambling you would have to do to earn comps like that. Well he was talking to one of his friends how he had $220,000 bet on the game (which he won) and $220,000 bet on the number of points scored in the second half (which lost because of a missed 3 point shot at the end of the game!). That would be a wash, but the bets were both $220,000 to win $200,000 (that's how the casinos make their money) so he lost $20,000 on the deal just because of the juice!

He was also talking to Antonio Esfandiari and it came out that this guy had lost $100,000 to Antonio playing backamond. He also wanted to make a $500,000 bet with Antonio on who would last longer in the tournament we were playing, but Antonio wouldn't do it because it was too much money. The guy said he'd come to Vegas intending on being there for two days and he'd been there for 3 weeks!

In other insane gambling news apparently Phil Ivey had a bet where he put up $2,000,000 to win $5,000,000 that he would win one of the 57 WSOP events this year. He won one of the tournaments and the first place prize money (which would be enough to change my life) was a drop in the bucket compared to his side bet. When he won his second event of this year he won another $8,000,000 in side bets! Winning these two tournaments netted him more than the main event championship!

One of the things that is great about poker is it attracts people from all walks of life. There's almost no where else where you'll see a 25 year old Asian guy with a bunch of dragon tattoos bullshitting with a white 60 year old cowboy and an African American middle aged stock broker like they're all old friends.

Of course sometimes you're forced by the circumstances to be around some real ass holes. I was at a table with one guy who's every movement seemed annoying. He was maybe 60ish and was listening to a discman. It seems like half of the players at the WSOP have an ipod these days, but I've never seen anyone with a discman. But the oddity of that was nothing compared to the fact that HE WAS WEARING A CAPE! A black cape that had the word "Prince" in two inch high blue letters written on the back. He was giving all the dealers a hard time which as an ex dealer bothers me a little and he was just loaded with sarcasm. I wanted to be like "Hey! Cape face! Why don't take your 1990's technology, and your 1,390's clothes and take a flight back to Transylvania you vampire looking shit head!"

Another group of players that bothers me is the super smug players who are 21 or 22 and think they are the best poker players who have ever been dealt a hand. They often come in little gaggles and smugly share their results while waiting in line to sign up for the day's tournament. They talk about how bad their opponents play and it always sounds like they've all won enough in the last two weeks to buy Fort Knox. But then it comes out that they are living in a house with 4 other dudes or they work as a waiter or an accountant or they do this or that. Then they smugly sit at the table trying to look like real bad asses with the sunglasses and the hats and the headphones (I'm not against those things since they all have their uses, but some people seem to be doing it just for the look).

This one fellow in particular was exceptional in the attempting to act like a great player, but couldn't play at all. He'd furrow his brow and stare quizzically at the board cards every time he'd get raised. This was in the $1,500 no limit and the other players weren't exactly super stars either. In fact some of them were as clear as glass. I wanted to scream at this kid "quit furrowing your brow and staring at the flop for 4 minutes before you fold your f-ing Q6! The flop is AK6 and some dude who has never bluffed in his life just moved all in on your ass! And take off those damn sunglasses! You could be behind a f-ing brick wall and I'd still know exactly what you have you clown!"

Actually despite the examples I mentioned above, most of the players at the WSOP were very pleasant to be around. Typically the more money you play for the classier your opposition will be. Since I started off 9 years ago playing against toothless dirtbags who were so stupid I wondered how they manged to put gas in their car so they could drive to the casino it's always nice to play against friendly, intelligent people.

I'll make an effort to make my main event experience a little more detailed in terms of the people, sights, smells and sounds as well as the cards.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back to the Grind...And the Merciless Beat Downs!

For 3 days I've been back to my normal routine of working from 10 am to 7 pm (with a few breaks) playing 6 handed limit cash games and a handful of tournaments.

On Thursday I picked up right where I left off. I was ahead $1,000 before I knew it and was thinking "This is easy!" In fact I was $2,000 to the good at one point, but then I had a bad run playing $30/$60 and gave it all back plus another $1,300.

This is the first time in a few months that I've been super pissed at the end of my work day. To be perfectly honest I went on tilt and started playing bad once things started heading south. I was upset that I'd let myself get out of control and upset that I'd been winning all damn day and in the last hour let a good day get away from me.

But the next day I rectified things in a hurry. I was browsing the various games and found a $50/$100 game that was going four handed with two players who are regular substantial losers. I took the seat just to the left of both of them, made some big hands and won $1,700 in about 20 minutes! That was the complete end of any negative feelings I'd had about the day before and I went on to pick up another $700 over the course of my work day.

That was nice, but today is when I really laid the smack down! The $10/$20 games today were terrible (they were loaded with regulars and pros). I have no doubt it was the worst collection of games at those stakes I've ever seen on a weekend day. But the $15/$30 and $30/$60 games were pretty good. So that's what I played and things went really well.

At one point a game I was in broke and I needed to find a new game to replace it. I saw someone whose name I didn't recognize sitting alone with $1,200 at a 30/60. When I opened the table and saw that he was a silverstar player, I instantly sat down. I got his entire $1,200 stack in 7 minutes!

I won about $3,800 in the cash games today, but that's not all! I also had a nice finish in a 36 player, $215 buy in 8-game mixed tournament (it's the five HORSE games, plus triple draw lowball, no limit hold'em and pot limit Omaha).

When we'd been playing for a few hours I benefited from getting put at a table with a player who had no clue. I don't know what he was thinking playing in this tournament, but clearly he was out of his element. The first hand of razz (7 card stud where the lowest hand wins) he played it as if he thought the highest hand would win. On 4th street he was showing a king and a queen and raising two players who both hand two cards under 6 showing! Eventually he figured out what was going on when a hand with 7 cards below jack won the pot!

He also had some trouble with the triple draw and I was fortunate enough to take a huge pot off him playing that game. In triple draw every player is dealt 5 cards and the goal is to make the worst hand possible. Unlike some other games where a low hand is involved, in triple draw straights and flushes count against you and aces are high. The best possible hand is 2 3 4 5 7 which is why they called it "deuce to seven" triple draw. There are blinds and betting just like in limit hold'em, but instead of a flop, turn and river, there are three draws where you get to throw away cards from your hand and replace them with new ones.

We all started the tournament with 4,000 chips and blinds of 10/20. By the time the hand in question came up the blinds were 80/160 (stakes of 160/320) and we were playing triple draw for the third time having already played all 7 other games twice (the game changes every 6 minutes and the stakes change every 12 minutes). My opponent raised and I three bet him with 2 3 4 5 J. He capped it and we both took one card. I caught an 8 which made me the 5th best possible hand (the only hands better are 76542, 76532, 76432 and 75432). When my opponent bet of course I raised him. When he three bet me I thought maybe he'd made one of those 4 magic hands, but since I knew he was a goof I raised him again.

He called and again took one card. When he drew instead of standing pat that told me I had the best hand (a made 8-low is a huge favorite against any 1 card draw). After the second draw he fired out again, and I raised him, and he reraised me and I capped it. Again he took a card and again he bet out.

No one in their right mind would bet out here with anything but a 7-low. Of course no one in their right mind would go nuts with a draw against a pat hand with one draw left to go either. So after the final draw I raised him and he reraised me! ACK!

I was thinking "if this guy beat me on this last draw I am going to go bananas!" I considered putting in the last bet, but instead just called and my opponent turned over 2 3 4 5 6! He'd made a straight! Maybe he didn't know that's a bad thing in 2-7 lowball!

I'd taken out two people in the pot limit Omaha just before, and that pot put me up to 20,000 chips. The player in second place in the whole tournament only had 9,000.

I never dropped below 20,000 for the rest of the tournament, and for much of it I kept my stack at twice that of the player in second place. The tournament paid 6 places and as we approached the money I kept my foot on the gas and piled up a mountain of chips. My only stumble came when we were playing 3 handed and I ended up falling back to even with my two opponents.

But then we switched to no limit hold'em. In the 6 minutes of no limit playing with 500/1,000 blinds. I went from 50,000 chips to 100,000 chips without ever winning a hand at showdown. I just totally ran over my opposition. I raised almost every hand and when they reraised me I'd put them all in which would lead to three seconds of thinking follwed by a fold. It was great. I finished them off in the pot limit Omaha.

1st place in that tournament was $2,664 and took my days winnings to about $6,500. It's good to be home!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chronicle Article About Me!

Here is a link to an article that appeared about me in the June 11th San Francisco Chronicle!

Thanks to the author Matt Villano! I thought it turned out to be a great article and I've gotten lots of positive feedback from people who stumbled on to it in the paper or online.

Since the article mentions this blog, in retrospect I probably should have made more of an effort to put up a witty interesting post on June 10th or 11th, but hopefully I'll still have a handful of new readers.


Since my last post I played 3 WSOP events: $1,500 HORSE, $2,000 NLH, and $1,500 NLH.

Going into the HORSE I had high hopes. I'd played so well in the $3,000 HORSE against maybe the second toughest field I've ever faced (the toughest was the $5,000 NLH event in 2006 - at one point I was maybe the worst player at my table which is something that had never happened to me before or since) and I was hoping for more of the same.

I started off well, ran my starting stack of 4,500 up to about 14,000, but when the limits got bigger I had a two hour stretch where I didn't win a pot. I went broke sometime in the 7th hour of play.

In the $2,000 no limit I slept in and signed up about a half an hour late (there is no penalty for signing up late and you can do so until 2 hours into the tournament) since this one had a noon start time and I'd played until after one am the night before. I got stuck at a table with a bunch of other people who signed up late and guess what? They could all play! This is not a surprise since the players who are only playing one event or who are sweating the money would never in a million years sign up late and miss the start of the tournament.

This tournament sucked! All day it was tough decision after tough decision. I kept flopping top pair with no kicker and getting raised or finding myself with pocket 8s on a ten high board or whatever. I was also short stacked for seemingly the entire tournament.

I did survive one pot in the 6th hour of play where I was about as far behind as you can be. We started with 6,000 chips, I had about 3,000 left and since we'd lost at least half the field I had about a quarter of average. The blinds were 150/300 with a 25 chip ante and I was in the cutoff. I peaked down at my first card which was an ace and since that was plenty good enough to move all in no matter what my second card was I didn't even look at my other one and pushed all my chips into the pot. Instantly I got called by the player in the small blind and the player in the big blind folded pocket sixes face up. The small blind turned over AJ of spades and I when I flipped over my hand it turned out my other card was a six! ACK!

So now I'm looking for the last six in the deck. When the flop comes out its Q J 7 with two spades! I'm totally dead here right? Well amazingly the turn comes a queen, the river comes an ace and we both make aces and queens with a jack kicker and split the pot!

After the flop I was 1.66% to get half the pot and 0% to get it all. Even after the turn I'm less than 5% to chop.

After that I staged an amazing comeback. I ran my stack all the way up to 20,000 and I was thinking that I'd have such a great story surviving that hand and going on to make the money. It's been long enough now that I've forgotten the exact details of my demise, but I finished about 400th of 1,550.

The next day at noon I played the $1,500 no limit hold'em event and got off to a great start. I was at a table full of very weak players to start and even though I was getting no cards I ran some strong bluffs and won a few nice pots.

In level two with blinds of 50/100 a player in early position raised to 300 and got called by three players. I was in the big blind with T8 and thought it was worth 200 to see a flop with all that money already in the pot. The flop came down KK2, I checked as did everyone else. The turn was a four and I figured I'd try to steal one. Almost no one will cold fire into four opponents like that (fearlessness is a big advantage), but I was all but sure that everyone had missed the flop and the four didn't look like it helped anyone. I bet out 800 and after some hemming and hawing the button called me. The river was another 4. I looked over at my opponents stack and saw that he only had about 1,900 left (we started with 4,500) so I threw two $1,000 yellow chips into the pot.

After about 5 seconds he said "I think my pocket jacks are good and you're just trying to bully me." SHIT! I wasn't sure what he had when he called me on the flop, by jacks was no where close to the range of hands I had him on. I couldn't believe anyone would just call a raise preflop on the button with jacks, but sure enough after a minute or so he folded them face up. Of course instead of showing my T8 I kindly informed him that I had a four and he'd made a good fold. Putting someone to a decision for all of their remaining chips is a powerful tool.

I was up to 9,300 by the first break, and up to 16,000 sometime in the 4th hour. But then I stalled. The five or six weak players at my starting table all went broke and were replaced by much tougher players. I got no cards for what felt like forever and eventually one of my big bluffs got caught. I wasn't able to recover once I was short stacked and went out in about 800th of 2,100.

I played 7 tournaments with buy ins totalling $14,500 and had a net loss of -$8,051. If you look back, you'll notice that I at least tripled my starting chips in 6 of the 7 tournaments I played (I doubled my starting stack in the other). I think that's a sign of how well I played and how I matched up against my competition.

When the blinds got big and the stakes got high I just never got the cards I needed or found myself in good situations to bluff. If you'd told me I'd triple my starting stack in 6 of 7 tournaments I would expect at least 3 cashes so I'm a little disappointed in that regard.

The good news is the main even is right around the corner (Day 1 for me will be either June 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th)! Until I get my last hand of the main event the 2009 WSOP isn't over!

I'll put up another post soon with a few more short stories about the various characters and more general reflections on my time in Vegas.

For now it's back to the online game. I expect to play a mix of tournaments and cash games in the two weeks I have before heading back to Vegas and I'll try to put up at least one or two posts in the near future.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Updates Coming

Hi, Jen here.
Dave wanted me to put up a post apologizing for the lack of updates. He says he'll post soon!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Event #31 Preview

I took yesterday off and today I have $1,500 HORSE at 5 pm. Hopefully I can keep up my HORSE success!

2009 WSOP Event #26 ($1,500 Limit Hold'em) Recap

We started event #26 with 643 players each with 4,500 chips.

I ran crazy hot during the first hour. I got KK three times and won them all, once making four kings against someone elses pokcet aces. I also made a flush, flopped a set and had my pocket aces hold up. I'm sure I was in the top three or four spots, if not in first place in the whole tournament at that point. Of course I was only up to 7,500 chips, so it didn't improve my overall chances as much as you might think.

As the tournament progressed I stayed right in the 7,000 range for a loooong time. After four hours I had 6,500. After 6 hours I had 6,400. In hour 7 I went up to 13,000, but then fell to 2,000, before ending hour 8 with 7,000.

The real drama of this tournament took place in hour 4. I busted the player to my right (he got the brunt of my first hour rush and had some other bad luck too) and he was replaced, not by a new player, but by an unattended stack of chips that had been moved from another table. The more time that went by without the owner of those chips showing up the more sure I was that it was a big name player (since they are the only ones who can afford to neglect their chips in a $1,500 tournament). In fact I said to the table that I bet it was Phil Helmuth since he's famous for showing up very, very late.

About half way through hour three that's exactly who showed up. Phil is the most succesful player in WSOP history. He was the 1989 main event winner (the youngest ever until a 22 year old won last year), he has a record 11 titles, a record 60+ cashes, and the most impressive stat if you ask me is his record 40 final tables! He is also a reknowned terrible loser and always has something to say when he get's eliminated.

On his third hand at the table Phil raised from the cutoff with KK, got called by the big blind who had 95s, and the flop came with two 9's. Phil lost a big pot and then attemted to tell everyone in the room about how someone called his preflop raise with 95 and how he couldn't believe how bad the players at his table were.

A few hands later he raised from middle or early middle position and I looked down at KQ off suit. I three bet and he just called. The flop came down KQ5 giving me top two pair and almost certainly the best hand. I was happy when Phil bet into me. I looked over at his chips and saw he had just enough left to put in two bets on the turn and one on the river so I just called. When he bet the turn as I expected, I raised him.

He stopped for a second looked over at me and said "you got it buddy?" I didn't say anything and after about 20 seconds he called. The river was a total blank, he checked, I bet and he called with his last chips. When I showed my hand he folded his face down and then yelled across the room to someone "they got me with the 95 and the KQ off suit over here! These players are trying to just give me their money!"

He said a little more, but I've forgotten exactly what. I know I played the hand perfectly and I was amused to say the least by the whole situation. It was like poker fantasy camp. "You too can come to Las Vegas, bust Phil Helmuth and get berated for making a very standard play!"

Unfortunately I couldn't come up with the good cards I needed at the right times and finished 185th.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WSOP Event #26 Preview!

Event #26 is $1,500 limit hold'em. This should be a soft field and limit hold'em is my best game so hopefully I can do well.

I'm feeling good after taking a day off today, but I do have to switch hotels moving from the Bellagio to Caeser's in the morning before I play which I always find to be a pain in the ass.

2009 WSOP Event #21 ($3,000 HORSE) Recap

First of all thanks to my wife Jen, for posting some of the little tid bits that I texted. I haven't done much texting and I have an old phone so I pretty much kept it to the bare bones information with none of the flavor.

We started the HORSE event with 452 players, who each had 9,000 chips. Unlike online HORSE tournaments where all the tables play one game for a certain amount of time and then switch, here every table independently plays 8 hands of each of the five games and then switches to the next one in the order: hold'em, Omaha-8, razz, stud, and stud-8.

I got what looked like a tough table draw to start. Two seats to my right was Ivan Demidov the runner up in the main event last year (who also made the final table of the WSOP Europe main event). To my left was "Miami" John Centano who is one of the old guard and has been a pro for a long time and to his left was Robert Misrachi. The rest of the table was a mix of OK or good, but not great players.

The interesting thing about many of the big name pros is they've almost all made their name playing no limit hold'em. That doesn't always mean they are great at the HORSE games which require a different set of skills.

The first few hours felt like warm up. We started out playing 75/150 stakes and it climbed slowly from there to 100/200, 150/300, and 200/400. My stack went down to 7,000, then up to 11,000 and settled back at 9,000. Not too exciting, but it did give me time to get a strong feel for how the other players at my table were playing.

In my second text update I made sure to include "These guys aren't so tough." I backed up that statement a few hours later.

Maybe my favorite hand of the tournament came up when we were playing 7 card stud. The stakes were up to 300/600 and I started with Q66 with one of the 6's up. Demidov raised the bring in to 300 with a jack showing, another player who had a 2 up called and I also called. On 4th street Demidov caught another jack, the other player caught a brick, and I hit a queen giving me two pair. Demidov bet out 600 and we both called. On 5th street Demidovn caught an 8, the other player paired his 2 and I bricked.

Now I was pretty sure I was in bad shape. I thought one or both of my opponents could easily have three of a kind here. It's often the case that if a player plays a hand for a raise that they have a pair and the most likely pair for them to have is a pair of whatever their up card is but I hadn't seen any other 6's or Q's the pot was getting big and I was almost positive if I hit I'd get paid off. 6th street brought another 8 for Demidov, an ace for the other player and a queen for me! BINGO!

Demidov bet again, the other player called, and I raised it to 1,200. Amazingly both players called. On the river Demidov bet out again! The other player just called and even though I knew I was going to raise before I did I peaked down to see what I caught. It was the fourth queen! BOOM! Quads baby!

I raise and Demidov reraised me! Now I thought there was a good chance that he'd made four jacks or four 8's. The other player folded (later he said he folded a small full house) and I made it four bets. Demidov thought for about 60 seconds before saying "I guess you could have sixes full and the pot is too big to fold," and then he called. I showed my hand and took down a massive pot.

By the time hold'em rolled around I finished him off. He was running short on chips and raised with K3 on the button. I three bet with 88, he raised again and I put him all in for his last chips. I dodged the king and sent him packing. A few hands later I took the last of Robert Misrachi's chips too! These guys aren't so tough!

At that point after 6 hours of play I had my 9,000 chip starting stack up to 32,000. We only had 2 more hours to play before calling it a day I was feeling like I'd be happy just cruising for the last two hours and moving on to day 2.

But that wasn't to be. The last two hours went almost as bad as they reasonably could have and I ended day one with only 10,300 chips.

It was 3 am when we called it a day and now I had to go back to my room, pack, and move over to the Bellagio where I'd be spending the next three nights. I'd called ahead that morning and let them know that I'd probably be checking in late, maybe as late as 4 am and I wanted to make sure I still had a room when I got there.

I made it over by around 3:45 went through the normal check in process but when the lady at the front desk handed me my keys she said "Wait here for a minute, the manager is coming down to show you to your room." "OK?" I replied. "I think I can find it on my own?" "No." She said. "You can't."

Of course I was intrigued. I made the logical jump pretty quick that they must be out of normal rooms and were going to be putting me in a special room that was no doubt going the be sweet.

When the manager got there he said "We're going to be putting you into one of our Villa Suites. You'll have to switch rooms tomorrow, but for tonight I hope you'll enjoy it." SCORE!

He led me to an unmarked door behind which was a bank of elevators. When we got out he led me down a long hall way that looked like it belonged in the White House. There were paitings and sculptures and chandeileres and flowers lining the whole hallway and it was at least twice wide as a normal hotel hallway with ceilings that were also twice as high.

We made it to suite 11 and they showed me into the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed in. Again there were paintings, a few sculptures, flowers and a slew of mirrors. There were four TVs: one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in each of the bathrooms. That's right there were two bathrooms, one with a huge jacuzzi tub and the other with a shower that had a door so tall that I couldn't reach the top of it (I can touch the ceiling in a normal hotel room). It was pretty cool.

The next day I woke up around noon, switched to a normal room and headed over to the Rio. There was a redraw for seats at the end of day 1, so I was at a new table with 7 new opponents. We started day 2 with 198 of the original 452 players and since I was fairly short stacked I knew I'd need to make some hands early.

Luckily I did. In fact I ran super duper crazy hot during the first two hours and took my stack from 10,000 (less than half of average) to 48,000 (twice average).

The ups and downs continued through hours three and four. I plumeted down to 17,000 and then came back to 35,000. On the last hand of hour four (level 12 of the tournament) I took a terrible bad beat. We were playing Omaha and my opponent raised under the gun with AKQ5. This is kind of a marginal hand to be raising first to act. I was in the big blind with A345 with the A4 of diamonds which is a better hand.

In Omaha hi-lo split the lowest hand (which must be 5 cards 8 and lower - which is why this games is often called Omaha 8 or better of just Omaha-8)and the highest hand split the pot (you have you use exactly two cards from your hand and three cards from the board to make each hand although you are allowed to use different cards from your hand for low and for high). Aces are both the lowest and highest card. With a few exceptions the best starting hands are the ones that have a lot of potential to win the low half of the pot with a little pop for high and not the other way around since it's much easier to make a strong low hand than a high one.

I thought about reraising before the flop, but instead opted to just call since I would be out of position for the entire hand. The flop came down QJ5 with the QJ of diamonds. I check raised my opponent and he three bet me with his two pair (a little thin if you ask me). The turn was the perfect card, the deuce of diamonds! Now I had the nut flush, and the nut low draw. I check raised my opponent again and he just called. Based on his flop action I assumed he had a set and I was thinking "No board pair!" as the river came out. The river came out and it was a 5. AHHHHHHHHH!

I checked, my opponent bet, and even though I was pretty sure I was beat the pot was so big that I had to call. When I saw his hand I realized that there were only three cards (two queens and one five since I had one of the fives) that could come on the river that would allow me to lose that pot.

There were 34,000 chips in that one pot and now instead of having over 50,000 I had less than 20,000 going to dinner.

But once again I managed to stage a comeback. I had it up to 40,000 and we were down to about 80 players when Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (he looks like Jesus) came to our table and sat down right next to me. I'd played for the full 10 levels of day 1 with Chris in 2006 and found him to be a very likeable guy.

Here is a name dropping story for you! So I said to Chris Ferguson "I was talking to Daniel Negranu and heard that you were pretty much playing every event you could this year." He said "That's right" I was about to ask him if he'd made any final tables when he said "I haven't cashed once yet." That made me feel better about my starting for 3 this year and my 1 for 10 showing in 2006. Ferguson is one of the best. He won the main event in 2000, he has at least two if not three other WSOP titles, I don't know how many other final tables and cashes, he's a certified genius, isn't sweating the money at all, and has the toughest possible table image. If he can blank 15+ tournaments in a row then 0 for 3 doesn't seem so bad!

Anyway I scooped a big pot against him in the Omaha. I had about 40,000 chips and we were playing 2,500/5,000 stakes. With around 70 players left I didn't exactly have the kind stack I could cruise into the money with, but it was still more likely that I'd make it than not.

At that time the following hand came up. Ferguson raised from the button and I looked down at AAK2 with the AK of clubs an the K2 of hearts. This is a premium hand. With the AA part of the hand I am ahead against 95%+ of his possible hands for the high half of the pot and the A2 is the best possible starting two cards for the low half. To top it off I have two flush possibilities. This one was a real monster with a ton of potential.

I reraised, he just called and the flop came down Q J 2 with two clubs. I wasn't their yet, but I had the nut flush draw, still had the aces and the nut straight draw. Of course I bet out, and he just called. The turn was the 6 of clubs. BINGO! Now I had the best possible high hand and I bet. He just called and the river came out an 8. This was a bad card for me. Since I'd paired my 2 I could no longer make a hand with 5 cards below 8. But since I was guaranteed to win the high half of the pot I bet. Ferguson reluctently called and showed two pair with no low! SCOOP!

Now I was up to 60K and that's about where I stayed for a long time winning small pots here and there to compensate for the blinds and antes I was losing. When we made the money around 10:30 I had 55K. It felt great to make the money in this event since it was a totally stacked field. On top of the dozens of pros that I recongnized (I won't list them all here) at one point on day 1 I saw Doyle Brunson (10 WSOP titles!) at the table to my left, Phil Ivey (5 WSOP titles and one already this year) at the table to my right, and Barry Greenstien behind me(he's made the final table of the $50,000 HORSE every year they've run it - which is three times in a row - even though there have been 100+ or 150+ entrants each time). These guys are the best players in the world without a doubt and play $4,000/$8,000 HORSE cash game against each other and a few other players. None of them made the money and I did.

My plan and my results after making the money were a microcosim of the tournament as a whole. I started off losing a few substantial pots and fell all the way down to 14,000 (the stakes were 4,000/8,000 at that point). Then I bounced back.

I went on a tear and took my stack all the way up to 140,000! At that point we were down to 32 players, and we only had about 90 minutes of play left before we'd call it a day and go on to day 3. The average stack was about 120,000 at that point and I was starting to think about the final table. But then I made three second best hands. One in the Omaha and two in the Razz and that was enough to do me in.

I finished 28th which paid $6,449! Hopefully I can take at least one more of these tournaments deep.

HORSE Recap under construction

I'm sure some of you are eagerly checking the blog to see what happened in the HORSE. I'll Keep you in suspense a little while longer, but wanted to let you know I'm working on the recap and it should be up soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In the money!

In the money!

57 People Left!

Just got this text from Dave:

57 people left average 70k. 58k for me. First time I've been a little nervous this year even thought I'm doing well. Chris Fergusan at my table

Only 9 people to go!

More HORSE Updates

Some more texts from Dave

At 6:40 - 20k left 90ish players left. Last hand before dinner lost 34k pot. Had nuts on turn and lost to 3 outs.

8:00 - Back in black! 50k!

According to, which has an hourly commentary, there are about 70 players left making the average stack about 58,000.


Texts from Dave

Dave's doing great! I got these two texts from him since he started today:

At 2:40 - Major rush, 28k!

At 4:20 - Absurd 1st 2 hours of day 2. Up to 48,000! 128 players left average is 32k. To the stables!


Horse Update

Hi, this is Jen. Dave wanted me to put up a quick post saying that he's made it to day 2 of the HORSE tournament!

He is a little short, with 10,300 chips. He's in about 160th place out of 200. Average is about 20,000. 48 spots pay, with 48th being $5277, 8th is $32,647, and 1st is $311,899.

He starts up again today at 2:00 PST

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

WSOP Event #21 Preview!

Event #21 is $3,000 buy in HORSE. For those of you who might be new to my blog and don't know a lot about poker let me give you a brief explaination of how HORSE works. HORSE is an ackronymn for five different forms of poker (H)old'em, (O)maha, (R)azz, (S)tud, and Stud (E)ight or better. You play each game for a short period of time and then switch to the next game.

I find that most players seem comfortable with either the flop games (Hold'em and Omaha), or Stud and Stud-8 and otherwise good players sometimes have no clue what to do playing Razz (7 card stud where the lowest hand wins). The reason why many players don't know how to play Razz is the only time anyone ever plays it is as part of a mixed games format like HORSE. If you don't play much HORSE you might still play all of the other games, but not Razz. Unlike many of my opponents I play all of the games well and since I play as much HORSE as I can, I play a fair amount of Razz and feel very comfortable with it.

I've played three HORSE tournaments in my life with buy ins over $1,000. I've finished 2nd of 32, 13th of 60 (I was in first with 15 players left, but blew it), and 4th of 444. I have high expectations for this tournament.

I'm moving from the Rio over to the Bellagio tonight which is going to be a small pain in the ass. If I make day 2 of the HORSE (which starts at 5 pm) I'll be playing until 2 or 3 am, heading to the Bellagio to check in, and then I'll need to be back here at the Rio by 2 pm. As a result I might not have time for a detailed blog post, but I'll try to put up something.

Derailed by Dinner?

My Dad recently put a comment on my last post that it seems like I'm doing well until I have dinner and then I'm going broke and maybe what I'm eating is affecting me mentally.

First of all let me say that the main reason I'm going broke after dinner is around that time is when the stakes get high enough that it's much easier to go broke. In the first two tournaments (which were limit tournaments) the stakes were so low in the first few hours compared to the number of chips we had that it's near impossible to go broke. In fact only 1 or 2 players in of the several hundred entrants went broke in the first hour and only a handful in the second hour. But by the time hour 5 or 6 rolls around the stakes are high enough that a few (or even one) bad hands can send you packing.

With that said, my diet has constantly been on my mind while I'm here. I know from past experience how draining it can be to eat restaurant food day after day. From the day that I got here (and even in the days leading up to my departure) I've been trying to make the best food decisions that I can. The biggest problem is the lack of easily available options (no grocery store nearby and no kitchen in my hotel room), but I think I've been doing a good job so far and a third of the way through my trip I still feel good physically and mentally.

Thanks for he comment Dad!

Changing topics for a moment. This is my 500th blog post! When I started this blog it was just a way to avoid making a ton of phone calls to report my results at the 2006 WSOP. But it's turned into so much more. Thanks to everyone who reads!

Monday, June 08, 2009

2009 WSOP Event #19 ($2,500 6-max NLH) Recap

Event #19 started with 1,068 players (quite the contrast compared to the 46 we got for the $2,000 event in L.A.!) each with 7,500 chips and blinds of 25/50. For me this tournament was filled with insane ups and downs. I started off at a good table. It was me, Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari (he used to be an actual professional magician), and four weak players.

My first big hand came about 20 minutes into the tournament. One player at our table was clearly very nervous. More nervous than I was my first time at the WSOP. Clearly he was being very careful. On the hand in question he was in the small blind and made a small raise to 125. I was in the big blind with 85. Clearly this is a garbage hand, but I felt confident that if my opponent didn't hit something big I'd be able to blow him off the hand in later betting rounds.

I threw in 75 more chips to call and the flop came down J 7 5. My opponent bet 200 into the 250 chip pot and I just called. The turn brought an 8 which made me two pair and almost certainly the best hand. Now my opponent bet 600. I thought for a moment and made it 1,800. When he didn't instantly fold I knew he had something and figured him for an overpair. After about 30 seconds he moved all in and I called. He showed AA which was about what I expected and meant only 8 of the remaining 43 cards in the deck would make him the best hand. Sadly the river was a jack making him two bigger pair and knocking me down under 2,000 chips.

At the first break, 2 hours into the tournament, I was up to 2,700 and on the first hand back I doubled up. I got dealt JJ, got it all in vs AT and my hand held up. That had me at 5,500, but I faded back down to 4,000 before getting my money in bad. This was the first of many times in this tournament that I was in bad shape and got bailed out. I had QJs and raised from the small blind. The big blind reraised and I called. The flop came down K T 5 and I check raised all in. My opponent who had stared the hand with 3,000 chips called with KJ, but I hit an ace on the river. It was a good play on my part, but still a spot where I needed to get lucky once the cards got turned over.

With about 7,000 chips I got moved to a new table, which also turned out to be pretty soft. No one there was terrible, but these guys were not on my level.

This leads me to time number two where I was in bad shape and got bailed out. I had 88 under the gun and came in for a raise to 600 (the blinds had just gone up to 100/200). Two players just called and the big blind moved all in for 6,000.

We call this a squeeze play. If you're the player in the big blind you see 2,100 in the pot and you can be pretty sure that the guys who called the raise don't have great hands because they didn't reraise. If you can get past the first raiser (who still has to worry a little bit about the players behind him) you're usually gold.

I figured the big blind might move in with any ace or any pair in this spot so I moved all in too. It turns out he did have a pair - it was kings! Amazingly four hearts showed up, I had the only heart, and I took down a nice pot of about 15,000 chips.

Then I procedeed to run quite a few bluffs. There was a lot of calling before the flop and goofy small raises from the players at my table. As a result I was seeing more than an average number of flops and missing them all. Some of my bluffs worked and some of them didn't.

After one of the bigger ones failed horribly, I fell all the way down to 4,500. This leads me to time number three where I got my money in bad. I tired a squeeze play of my own with A7 suited and got called by AQ. Miraculously, I flopped a 7 and survied. That put me at around 9,000 chips. Which is where I stayed. For what seemed like forever. As I folded. And folded. And folded garbage hand, after garbage hand slowly bleeding my chips away until I only had 5,000 left.

After six hours of play it was time for dinner. I came back up to my room, ate some cereal and a ham sandwitch, and watched some TV. When I got back to the poker table some crazy shit happened very fast.

When we came back the blinds were 200/400 with a 50 chip ante. A few hands in, it got folded around to me in the small blind and I made it 1,400 to go with QTs. The big blind thought for a minute and moved all in. I only had 3,700 more and there was already about twice that in the pot so I decided to go for it even though I thought I was behind. I was up against A7 and in hand number where I got bailed out (I was about 40% to win here so my call was actually correct) I flopped a queen and was up over 11,000 chips.

About 10 minutes later I got dealt KK. On the hand before there had been a raise to 1,100 and a call, and I moved all in for about 10,000 (with A2s - squeeze play again) and got no callers. Now the same player had raised to 1,100 again and gotten two callers. I breifly thought about just blowing all in to make it look like a bluff, but instead I made it 3,000 to go. The initial raiser folded, but the first caller made it 8,000! When it got to me I moved all in for about 12,000 and he called with TT. I won and was up to 25,000!

Now I was feeling good. I'd come from 5,000 up to 25,000 which was about an average stack in just under 15 minutes.

Then I got dealt JJ in the big blind. All right! It's on now bitches! The button who was a new player to our table (someone had gone broke in his seat a few minutes before) raised to 1,000. I made it 3,000 with my big pair and he moved all in for 16,000. It took all of 2 seconds for me to call and when he turned over his cards up he had A7.

When I was winning all of those hands where I was behind I kept thinking, I bet I'm going to get it in with the best of it later and lose a big pot. I was about 70% to win here, but sure enough an ace came on the flop and a 33,000 chip pot (worth $11,000 in real dollars - fuck!) got pushed to my opponent.

About 10 minutes later I went broke. On my last hand maybe I out thought myself and made things a little too complicated or maybe I played it brilliantly and got screwed.

I got dealt Q9s on the button and everyone folded to me. Like I said before there had been a lot of just calling before the flop, but I hadn't once just called when I was first in. Q9s is a great hand to see a flop with and I figured I'd give calling a shot. The small blind just called behind me and the big blind who was the chip leader at our table with over 70,000 chips made it 2,800 to go. This was too much for him to have a strong hand. He was one of these goofs who liked to make small raises and if he had a big hand (or even an OK hand) he'd make it 1,600 or 1,800 (or maybe some goofy shit like 1,475). On top of that he was a thinking player and I figured he'd think I had AA or KK if I reraised him since people will rarely limp in and then reraise with anything but a monster hand. So I tried to look like I was trying to look conflicted (now that's a professional manuever!)and moved all in for about 12,000.

He instantly called me with A2 off suit! ACK!

In retrospect maybe I should have made it 6,000. Now that would really look like AA and would still give me enough to fire a decent sized bet at the flop. I actually flopped a queen and I thought, I'd done it again, but an ace came on the river and that was it. I finished about 300th of 1068.

There are a lot of ways that last hand could have played out differently. If I raise before the flop I might get called or small reraised (which I would call) and when I flop the queen I put enough heat on that A2 can't call. Or if my opponent raises smaller I just call, flop the queen, and move all in vs his flop bet which would no doubt lead to a fold from him. Or I could have just won that pot with the f-ing jacks! Damn it!

The walk of shame down the very long, long hallway of the Rio convention area is never fun.

Tomorrow HORSE! Look for a preview in the morning or afternoon.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Event #19 Preview

Event #19 is $2,500 6 handed no limit hold'em. 6 handed no limit can be challenging. With fewer players at the table, weaker hands become more valuble and there are more confrontations. In order to win you have to do things you wouldn't do in a 9 or 10 handed game. The worst thing you can do playing short handed is be timid. I've decided ahead of time to be anything but. I'm playing this one to go deep. Balls out, lay it on the line poker. If I go broke early so be it.

I made the money in this event last year and I play short handed poker all the time so hopefully I'll have a strong showing. This is the only event going off Monday and it starts at noon. I'll put up a post about my results Monday night or Tuesday morning.

2009 WSOP Event #16 ($1,500 7-Card Stud) Recap

We started Event #16 with 359 players each with 4,500 chips playing 50/100 stakes. As I mentioned in my preview I expected this tournament to be filled with old timers and amateurs. Once the tournament got underway I confirmed that my expectations about the starting field were right on.

Looking around at the 20 other tables that I could easily see standing up behind my seat, I didn't see a single player that I was confident was younger than me (I'm 29 for those of you who might not know). More importantly I didn't see a single famous pro player. In fact the only poker personalities I saw were David Sklansky and Mike Caro both of whom are famous theorists and authors who wrote important poker books in the 70's and 80's (the still write and instruct, by their best work is behind them in my opinion). It really was like a WSOP time warp.

Once play got underway I was amazed at how weak my table was. This was the 21st event I've played at the WSOP and over the course of those tournaments I've played at something like 60-75 (or maybe even more) different tables. This was without a doubt the softest table I ever encountered at the WSOP. It felt like the $4/$8 stud games I used to play at the Oaks club when I was 22.

Good players tend to do a lot of raising. Aggressive poker is usually good poker. It can be tough to play against very aggressive players even if they are making mistakes. On the other hand, players that tend to just call and only bet or raise when they really have something are easy to beat.

In the first two hours there wasn't a single reraise (except by me) on third street (the first betting round). In the first four hours there were only two check raises (another tool used often by strong players) of any kind (except by me). It was almost too good to be true.

For the first few hours my only battle was with myself. For the most part I was getting total garbage and it was very difficult to stay patient. I knew I could out play these players and it was tempting to get in there with very suspect hands with the plan of just relentlessly firing away. Looking back that might have worked (if it was a cash game or we had deeper stacks that's probably what I would have done), but I decided a better option would be to stretch my starting requirements a little bit while not getting too out of line.

Eventually my patience started to pay off. The player just to my left was the worst player in the game and a total jerk. We got involved in a few hands with each other and they all ended the same way.

In the first I started with AA9 with one of the aces as my up card. I came in for a raise and The Jerk called. I bet fourth street and fifth street and then checked sixth street. He bet sixth street and the river. I didn't get any help and all I had was my one pair of aces, but my opponent didn't have strong up cards and the pot was more than big enough to warrant a call.

After I called my opponent angrily turned over his cards showing a missed flush draw and pushed them hard towards the dealer. As I was stacking the chips he said "I can't believe you just called there! You only had one pair! You are really terrible!" I calmly replied "I had the best hand didn't I?"

A little while later I started with a pair of jacks with one showing. The action was exactly the same. I bet fourth and fifth street, he bet sixth and the river, and I called him with an unimproved pair of jacks. This time he showed king high total garbage. After again shoving his cards at the dealer he went on for about 30 seconds about how bad I was, talking about how many thousands of dollars he wanted to bet on me not making the money and how I was 50 to 1 to make it. I calmly informed him that I would take the 50 to 1 if he was willing to book a bet, to which he said nothing.

About 15 minutes later I again started with aces, with one up and came in raising. This time there were two other players in the pot so the action was a little different. I bet 4th street and everyone called. On fifth street the jerk had 3 clubs showing, the other players got what looked like a little help and I hadn't improved so I checked. Everyone checked behind me. On sixth street the jerk caught another club and bet after I'd checked. The two other players folded and it was back to me. I was about 90% sure that if he'd had 4 clubs (or 5 clubs) on fifth street he would have bet, so even though he had 4 clubs showing on 6th street I was almost positive he didn't have a flush. Taking that into account, I called.

I checked the river after getting no help and he bet without looking at his last card. I called without hesitation hoping he didn't catch another club or make two pair on the river. He showed one pair of fives and I took down another nice pot.

Of course he had more to say. "You are so unbelievable! I can't belive how terrible you are!" My mind was blown at this point and I couldn't hold back. "I called you three times with one pair and I won every pot! How is that terrible? What do you want me to do if you keep bluffing into me?"

He replied "I had four clubs showing! What could you beat?! I mean what could you beat!" My instant retort was "tell me the exact seven cards you had and that would be a perfect example of something I could beat." It makes me wonder how this guy came up with $1,500 to get into the tournament.

Four hours into the tournament we went on dinner break. I was up to 7,300 chips, the average stack was about 5,700 and we'd lost a quarter of the starting field. At that point I was feeling good about my chances. While my primary goal was to go as deep as possible in the tournament, I really wanted to make it to day 2 so I'd have something to do Sunday since there were no tournaments on my schedule for that day.

After dinner I came back and rocketed right down the toilet. I kept getting strong starting cards and making no improvements.

The one time I did improve I got squashed. My opponent who was a fairly good player, had a lot of chips and was playing a lot of pots. On the hand in question he started with a ten up and a pair of deuces in the hole. I started with a 6 up and two jacks in the hole. He came in raising, got called by the player just to my right and I reraised. They both called, we all caught bricks on 4th street and I bet. Both players called, which put the player to my right all in. On fifth street my main opponent caught a third deuce and raised me when I bet. I check-called 6th street and checked the river without looking at my last card. My opponent who had a board of T 5 2 8 (about an innocuious and you can possibly get) bet and when I looked down at a third jack I raised. Sadly my opponent had picked up another 5 to go with his three deuces and now had a very well concealed full house. He reraised, I called and lost a huge pot.

I don't remember all the details of the other hands that led to my demise but it was a lot of start with one big pair, finish with one big pair and lose to two bullshit pair. It's not that hard to make two pair in stud, but I just wasn't getting any help. I finished about 250th of 359, 30 mintues after getting back from dinner.

Bad luck (or very bad luck) will always derail you in a poker tournament. But bad luck doesn't last. Being a successful tournament player is all about making the most of the cards you get and the situations in which you find youself. If you keep making the best decisions with the information you have and giving youself chances one of them will pan out. In my first tournament I took my 7,500 chip starting stack to over 20,000. In this one I took my 4,500 chips stack close to 9,000 at one point. I gave myself a chance in both tournaments, but they just didn't pan out.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Event #16 Preview!

Event# 16 is $1,500 7 card stud! I haven't played a ton of 7 card stud tournaments, but for the most part neither has anyone else! Stud was big in the 70's and 80's before hold'em caught on but after 5 card draw had started to fade away.

It's hard to find a stud game bigger than $30/$60 online or anywhere on the west coast. I think there is one $215 stud tournament online every week, but on a daily basis I don't remember seeing anything else with a buy in bigger than $50.
I hear they still play for bigger stakes on the east coast, but I'm not sure how old that information is.

Another piece of good news is today at noon was $5,000 no limit hold'em. That is where all the established tournament pros and Internet hot shots will be. I played that event in 2006 and it was without a shadow of a doubt the toughest field I've ever faced before or since. So instead of facing the ball busters I will be playing with the middle aged amatures and old timers!

The action starts at 5 pm and I'll put up a post tonight if I brick early or tomorrow morning/afternoon (I slept until 1 today, it was great!) if I play late or make it to day 2.

2009 WSOP Event #14 ($2,500 Limit 6-max) Recap

Like I said in my preview 6 handed limit hold'em is my specialty. As a result I went into my first event of this years WSOP feeling confident. My travel to Vegas went off without a hitch and by 2 p.m. I was checked in to the hotel, registered for the tournament (which started at 5), and eating a steak. After all who cares about a $40 lunch when you're about to play a $2,500 tournament right?

This year the WSOP has taken over even more of the Rio convention area (which is massive to say the least). In 2005 my first year at the WSOP and only the second year since the WSOP moved over from Binion's, everything was in the Amazon Room. That's where you went to play the events, register for the events, play cash games, play satellite tournaments and even play smaller buy in nightly tournaments (for the amateurs, spouses and friends who don't want to pony up the big bucks). It's a big room (think warehouse or airplane hanger - the size of a few football fields), but it was a still a little crowded.

They've gradually expanded each year and this year they have a room where you register for everything, another room that is just for satellites, and even the WSOP events have been split into multiple rooms. I'm always impressed that every year they make improvements.

Now on to what happened in the actual poker! We started with 367 players each with 7,500 chips. 36 players would make the money with 36th place paying about $4,500, 1st place being $224,000 and 35th through 2nd falling somewhere in between. Finishing 37th or worse meant you'd be losing your $2,500.

For the first four hours I was at a fairly good table. I was in seat 1 (just to the left of the dealer). In seat 2 was a player who was clearly a serious tournament pro, but who was playing too many hands and (in my expert opinion) was too aggressive. In seat 3 was a total buffoon. This was a guy who had money and that was the only reason he was playing. He blamed the dealer for his bad luck and once called a raise with 92 because he "had a feeling." I LOVE seeing this type of player at the WSOP! In seat 4 was a guy about my age who seemed like he knew what to do, but was too nervous to play well. In seat 5 was a middle aged Asian fellow with the biggest watch I've ever seen. He was an OK player, but fairly predictable.

Lastly in seat 6 was Daniel Negranu who is one of the most successful tournament poker players of the past 10 years. In 2004, he was WSOP player of the year, has 4 WSOP titles, and something like $10,000,000 in career tournament earnings (and that's not counting millions in cash game winnings). He was also one of my heroes when I first started playing poker. I always thought he was great, not just because he was a fantastic player, but because he was charming, friendly, and engaging with just about everyone he played. That is certainly something I've tried to emulate. There are a ton of pricks in the poker world and I am constantly reminded how foolish they look.

It was great fun playing against Daniel and luckily he was not giving me any trouble. First of all because short handed limit hold'em isn't his specialty and it is mine. Second of all he was dead tired and a little loopy. I found out through conversation that he has a $300,000 bet with John Juanda that spans the length of the WSOP. Whoever earns more player of the year points wins. Amazingly he also has similarly sized, but slightly smaller bets with Eric Lindgerin, Barry Greenstien, and Chris Ferguson. As a result of these bets (and because the best players measure their careers by how many WSOP titles they have) all of these guys are playing as many tournaments as they possibly can (apparently Ferguson had played 12 of the first 13 events!). Trying to win a bet like that means starting at noon just about every day, playing multiple tournaments at once (you have to periodically run back and forth usually playing the tournament that is farther along while your chips just sit there in the game you're not playing and they take your blinds and/or antes), and going until 3 am if you're doing well. And doing it day after day after day for 6 weeks!

I started off this tournament playing well and getting OK cards. After two hours of play I was up to 9,000 chips, and got my stack as high as 12,000 chips, before going back to square 1 by the end of round 4. In the mean time the two softest players had gone broke and been replaced by tough players. I was not thrilled.

After four hours of play it was time for dinner break. My favorite restaurant at the Rio is a seafood restaurant called Buzio's. They have a lobster tank outside the restaurant and when you order one they pick one out and throw it in a pot. It is amazingly good lobster. Another thing I like about this place is they have a counter like you might find in a diner except you're getting top notch seafood instead of pancakes.

So I sit down at the counter and who sits down next to me - Gap Tooth! My regular readers will know this is a guy that I decimated in a tournament on my last trip to L.A. I resisted the temptation to bust his balls by asking him what he'd do if he raised to 5,000 with QJ offsuit and someone moved all in for 30,000. He probably wouldn't say, get pissed, put in all my chips and loose to pocket kings!

After dinner I came back and instantly got moved to another table. This was good news and I liked my new table a lot more than my old one. Two of the players were missing (stuck at dinner I guess), another was terrible and I went on a major rush. With a combination of bluffs and made hands I was up to 20,000 in 20 minutes! All of a sudden I was liking my chances a whole lot more.

Then things started to turn sour. On my right at my new table was Raul Paez, who I'd never heard of, but it was clear he was sponsored by which means he is at least a somewhat accomplished tournament player. I knew who he was because his hat said I looked him up and he has probably the least impressive resume of any player sponsored by fulltilt. Also I don't think he played particularly well, but he got the best of me time and time again.

Here are four hands I can think of that happened in quick succession. He raised in the small blind with QJ I reraised with A6. The flop came down T 6 4. He checked, I bet, he called. 8 on the turn and we both checked. Jack on the river, he bet I called.

4 hands later another player raised, he called with KJ, I three bet from the button with AT, the other player made it four bets and we both called. The flop was Q T 5, the other player bet and we both called. The turn was a blank, the other player bet and we both called. The river was an ace, the other player checked, Raul bet, I raised, he three bet and I called. This was a huge pot and the other player said he had 99.

5 hands later he was on the button and raised with A3. I reraised from the small blind with AT and the flop came down A 5 3. I didn't make two pair and lost another big pot.

3 hands later he raised with KT under the gun. I reraised with QQ and the flop came down KJ9 with three spades and I had the queen of spades. He bet the flop and I raised. We both checked the turn which was a jack. I missed my draws on the river, but had to call his bet.

These hands took me from 20,000 down to about 6,000. In all of them I was ahead or way ahead at some point and I think I lost the minimum or close to it every time. If we were playing no limit I would have gone broke at least twice, but I was still in it.

About the time we were finishing our 5th hour of play I got moved to a new table. I was only there for 10 minutes, but that was long enough to bust Josh Arieh. Josh finished 3rd in the 2004 main event, has two WSOP titles and $4,500,000 in career tournament earnings. And he took it like a big baby when I busted him!

I had AK in the big blind and he raised under the gun with T9. I reraised him, he raised again and I put him in for the last few chips he had. When the flop came down A K 5 he literally threw his cards five feet in the air and stormed off before the turn card even came out!

Shortly after that I was moved to a new table which was tough. To my right was Cardplayer publisher Barry Schulman (I'm not sure if he's supposed to be good or what - his play seemed a little goofy to me, but he's well known so I thought I'd mention him), and to my left was Evelyn Ng a well know pro (and a very nice and attractive woman - as rare as a straight flush at the poker table), and to her left was John "PearlJammer" Turner who is one of the premier online tournament pros. And the other two guys didn't suck!

By the time we finished level 6 I only had 5,000 chips and in level 7 we were playing 500/1,000 so I knew I'd have to take a stand with any good hand. About 10 minutes after play resumed I'd been through the blinds once which left me with 4,200 and I was back in the big blind when I looked down at AQ. Turner raised, I reraised, he looked at my sad stack and reraised, and I made it 5 bets (online 4 bets is a cap, but here it's 5 bets). The flop came down KJ3, I bet, he raised and even though I was pretty sure I was beat, I had to put in my last few chips (I knew a ten would be good and I thougt there was some chance an A or even a Q would make me a winner). When the cards got turned over I saw he had KQ, I missed and that was it. I finished 158th of 370.

The good news is I have 10 more chances to make something happen and it only takes one good one to make this trip a success!

$2,500 6 handed Limit Recap (Coming Soon)

Played late and I'm exhausted. I'm going to sleep as late as possible tomorrow, but I should have a recap up by 2 or 3 Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

It's Almost Time!

I'm off to Vegas in the morning and by this time tomorrow I'll be playing my first event of the 2009 World Series of Poker. I've never been more confident heading into a WSOP. It helps that I made a stong showing in LA (as well as in my last few major series of online tournaments) and the last ten days or so have been one of the best stretches I've ever had playing cash games.

I know it sounds insane to say that I'm not sweating the money when I'm going to play $20,000 or so in tournaments in the next two weeks. But I'm not sweating the money. I've just been doing so well lately that I know there's another dollar right around the corner. I'm hoping this feeling is going to allow me to play my best (which I've also been doing lately) and take the big risks when they are warranted.

Now for an Event #14 Preview! Event #14 is $2,500 6 handed limit hold'em. This is my specialty. If I had to pick one tournament to put all of my money on this would be the one. There is also a $2,500 no limit event that day at noon, so I'm hoping that some players who bust out of that one early come take their shot.

Plenty of no limit players look down on limit players for some reason. I guess it's like the difference between a fighter pilot and a cargo pilot. But in the same way that flying those two types of planes might seem similar on the surface with major differences underneath, no limit and limit hold'em require vastly different skills to play at the highest level. Similalry playing 6 handed vs 9 or 10 handed requires different skills. As a result I expect that even players who are greatly superior to me in the grand poker scheme (and there are fewer and fewer of those these days) will have a tough time against me in this tournament.

I'll put up an update at the end of day 1! Until then, just think how great it would be if I knocked the first one out of the park!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Best Game I've Ever Been In?

In these last few days before I head off to Vegas for the WSOP I'm planning to take it easy, play a few smallish buy in tournaments and not do any serious playing. At least that was my plan until I saw someone who clearly didn't belong playing $50/$100.

I know I've mentioned the pokerstars VIP system before, but to briefly refresh your memory (since it pertains to this story) there are 6 levels: Bronzestar, Silverstar, Goldstar, Platinumstar, Supernova and Supernova Elite. About a year ago they started allowing players to display their VIP level for everyone to see. You don't have to show your level and maybe only 30%-40% of players choose to do so.

When you open an account you are instantly Bronzestar. You can't be any lower. If I started from scratch it would take me about 2 hours to earn silverstar status. So if I see someone who is bronzestar it means they played less in the last month than I did in the last two hours.

I've played against at least a hundred if not a few hundred bronze star players who have advertised the fact that they are bronzestar. Not one of them has been any good at all and most are absolutely terrible players (at least by my standards). Usually they show up at the $10/$20 games with $150 lose it in a few minutes and quit. I make it a point to never leave a game with a bronze star player in it until they go broke or leave. To date that has never taken longer than 90 minutes. I'd never seen a bronze star player play above $15/$30 until this week.

Today I saw a bronze star playing $50/$100 and he had FIVE GRAND in front of him! I was in a state of drooling shock. I got the seat just to his left which was perfect because it meant I'd be acting after him in the vast majority of situations which would give me the best chance of getting his money.

I bought in for $3,000 and was prepared to go a few thousand deeper if I needed to. A few hands in, I got dealt AJ in the big blind. The first player to act (who is a regular $100/$200 player and was the only tough spot in the game) raised to $100, another player 3 bet to $150, bronzestar called from the small blind and I called from the big blind with AJ.

The flop came down AJ6! BINGO! TOP TWO! The preflop 3 bettor, bronzestar and I got four bets each in on the flop. I was almost 100% that the 3 bettor had AK and had no clue what the bronzestar had. I bet the turn (which was a Q) and they both called. I bet the river (which was a beautiful deuce) and they both called. The 3 bettor flipped up AK and the bronzestar had JT! Only a total goof would think JT had any chance of winning that pot vs two opponents.

I dragged the $1,800 pot and then something else good happened. The 3 bettor starting bitching about the fact that I called his three bet before the flop! He started talking about how online players all suck and went on and on about how bad I was playing. This was a clear indication that this guy didn't have a clue either.

A little later I saw a hand where another player in the game raised under the gun with 84s and got called by the bronzestar who had 92! It became crystal clear in the first 5 minutes that I had three clowns to my right and they were the best kind of players to play against. They all did a lot of calling, but not much raising. Mr. Bronzestar in particular was seeing about 65% of the flops regardless of the action in front of him. If he bet it meant he hit it. If he raised look out. But other wise he just check called to the river and paid you off with anything ace high or better not matter what the board looked like.

To top it off I was getting cards! I've been in a lot of great games where I thought "man if I could get any kind of cards I'd make a fortune!" I wasn't exactly getting aces every hand, but I was getting my share of face cards and pairs and for the most part my good hands were holding up. I took a few bad beats but nothing that made me want to jump out the window.

When the smoke cleared an hour later and two of the three clowns (including Mr. Bronzestar) beat it, I was up $4,500!

I think this might be the best game I've ever been in in terms of what I could make long term if I could play those players for those stakes every day. I suspect that my long term hourly rate in that game would be on the order of $400-$500 an hour.

I made note of Mr. Bronzestar's username and you can be sure if I see him again I'll clear my schedule and play until I keel over as long as he's in the game!

Monday, June 01, 2009

My WSOP Schedule Revisited

I'm off to Vegas on Friday for my 5th trip in as many years to the World Series of Poker. Now that all of my backers have given me their share of the money, I know there are at least a dozen of you who are eager to hear more about my schedule, plans and which events I'll definitely be playing vs which ones I might miss.

Let me start by saying that there is still no chance of my playing the $1,000 ladies only event even though I'm sure I could sneak in if I just put on a dress. I mean we've all seen six foot five bearded women before right?

My flight arrives just after noon on Friday which should give me plenty of time to register for the tournament, check in to my room at the Rio, get some food and take a nap. By the time the tournament starts I should be in top form.

My first tournament is $2,500 buy in 6 handed limit hold'em at 5 pm. Clearly it's 100% that I'll be playing that one! On Day 1 (like all the 5 pm start time events) we'll play eight 60 minute levels with a 20 minute break every two levels and a 60 minute dinner break after level #4. Play will resume the next day at 2 pm.

The next day (June 6th) I'm planning on playing $1,500 7-card stud which is also at 5 pm (All of the tournaments start day 1 at either noon or 5 pm). I'm not sure how long they'll allow late registration, but I assume they will for at least an hour if not two. So unless I make it 4 hours into day two of the 6-max limit I'll be playing this one (I'd give it 90% overall)

June 7th is a blank day for me. The events that day are ladies only NLH and $10,000 Omaha hi-lo. Of course I hope to be in day 2 of the 7 card stud or at the final table of the 6-max limit.

June 8th bring me back to the action with $2,500 no limit 6 handed (Close to 100% that I'll play this one). I made the money in this event last year. This event starts at noon so we'll play ten 60 minute levels with a 90 minute dinner break after level 6 before day 1 is over. We'll resume the next day at 2.

June 9th is the $3,000 HORSE which happily is at 5 pm. That means even if I make day 2 of the 6 max NL I'll have to go at least 3 hours deep on day two to miss the start of the HORSE. I think I'll have to finish in the top 2%-3% of the NL to miss the HORSE (95% chance I'll make this one).

June 10th is also a blank which is fine because with the late start of the HORSE and the fact that the larger buy in tournaments come with more chips, it's maybe 50% (or higher) that I'll make day 2.

June 11th $1,500 No limit hold'em. There at six $1,500 NLH events at this years WSOP and they draw the weakest players. That one is at noon(Close to 100% chance of playing this one).

June 12th is $1,500 limit hold'em. If I make it to day two of the NLH from the day before I might still play this one. It will depend on my stack size. If I'm on fumes in the NLH I'll sigh up for and play the first two hours of the limit. Then I'll go back to the no limit and just get slowly blinded off in the limit. I'll jump back and forth on my breaks and play them both until I get eliminated from one or the other. That's a real balls to the wall thing to do, but I wouldn't be the first person I've seen do this (90% chance of playing this one).

June 13th, guess what? Another $1,500 no limit hold'em also at noon. If I'm still in the limit from the day before or I'm just beat I'll skip this one since it's nothing special (60% chance of playing this one)

June 14th, more HORSE! This one $1,500 and at 5 p.m. Again given the late start it's very likely that I'll play this one (95% chance).

June 15th $2,000 no limit hold'em. This one is at noon and I will gladly skip it if I'm still in the HORSE which is likely given the late start (50% chance of a skip). I don't care as much about the no limit hold'em tournaments (except for the main event!) I think my edge is much greater in the other games and while all of these WSOP tournaments are VERY important to me, the NLH events have to take a back seat to the others.

June 16th, more $1,500 no limit hold'em at noon (85% chance of playing)!

June 17th is my planned departure date.

Here is a summary:

Friday June 5th - $2,500 6 handed limit hold'em
June 6th - $1,500 Seven Card Stud
June 7th - Off
June 8th - $2,500 no limit hold'em 6 handed
june 9th - $3,000 HORSE
June 10th - The HORSE starts at 5 pm so I'm hoping I'll make it to day 2)
June 11th - $1,500 No Limit Hold'em
June 12th - $1,500 limit hold'em
June 13th - $1,500 No limit hold'em
June 14th - $1,500 HORSE
June 15h - $2,000 No Limit Hold'em
June 16th - $1,500 No Limit Hold'em

July 6th $10,000 No Limit Hold'em Main Event.

While I'm planning to leave on the 17th if I really kick ass, I might stay a few more days. There is a $2,000 NLH on the 18th, a $2,000 limit on the 19th, a $1,500 no limit on the 20th and a $2,500 8-game mixed event on the 21st.

I'd really like to play that mixed event, but I'm sure I'm going to be missing home and my family. My wife and son as well as close friends are going to be visit the second weekend so I won't have been on my own the whole time but it's draining to spend so much time on the road. I'll have to make a game time decision.

Also I just saw that there is a $10,000 limit event on june 15th at 5 pm. If I've knocked one out of the park before then I'll gladly skip the other tournament that day and the one the day after and go big!

I'll do my best to put up individual event previews as we go, I'll probably put up one more post before I leave town and if anyone has any questions please put up a comment.

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

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