Monday, September 23, 2013

Project Flying Panther - Recap and Stats

As I mentioned previously I played 78 hours over Project Flying Panther and won $1,369. I'd give myself a C+ for the effort. It could have been much better but it also could have been worse.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of my results.

-$1796 in 4.75 hours of $40/$80
-$330 in 6 hours of tournaments
-$284 in 2 hours of $2/$3/$5 NL
-$184 in 5.75 hours of $20/$40
+$152 in 6 hours of $200 Max
+$468 in 1.5 hours of $30/$60
+$3,307 in 52 hours of $15/$30

If I'd cut out all the other shit and just played $15/$30 and kept the same hourly rate I would have won $4,961 for the project.

Over the 78 hours I played roughly 2,730 hands (an estimate based on a somewhat conservative 35 hands an hour).

Of those hands 2,520 would have been in cash games and if I had to ball park it I'd say I won one in every 8 hands. That means I won about 314 pots, paid about $1,609 ($4 per pot + $40 in tournament rake) in rake to the house and tipped $314 dollars.

Over 3 months I played 2,730 hands. This is a shockingly low number to me as I used to play 3,000 hands in a day almost every day when I was an online pro. I once played 1,200 hands in an hour and have played 7,000 hands in a day. $1,369 would have been a great result for a day, but not so much for 78 hours. Also if I had done this online the rake would have been about $800, I would have tipped $0 and I would have earned about $400 in bonuses, so it would have been more like a $3,000 day.

The big question is was it worth it to take on some backers and play some bigger games? I'm not actually sure. I got a sense of the larger games at he Oaks which is valuable. I posted some solid results at $15/$30 which is promising. And I scratched the itch I was having to play a little bigger. On the downside I probably could have made much more money crushing the $6/$12 and banking $25-$30 an hour which is what I'm going to do for the next few months.

I'm still thinking about the 2014 WSOP and how I can get out there for one or two $1,500 events. I think my best bet is to just grind it out, play within my bankroll, and be patient. There is only so much progress that I can make in 8 hours a week. That has been one of the toughest things about getting back to poker - not having tons and tons of time to devote to it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

PFP Session #21 - Holy Shit I Can See This Guy's Cards!

Earlier this week I'd been playing $15/$30 at The Oaks for about 3 hours and was up around $400 when a new player sat down on my right. He bought in for $1,000 and I could see he had another two grand at least in his roll. He was a well dressed man in his 50's.

He started losing right away, not playing all that poorly, but in a slightly loose very straightforward way. When he had about $600 in front of him he put his chips into 3 stacks of 20 and a dozen of stacks of 5 chips. I noticed right away that all of a sudden I could see his card when the peeled them up to look at them because his chip stack was no longer blocking my view. Most players bend up the corner of the cards and shield them with their hands, but he was bending up the short edge of the cards parallel to the edge of the table and we were in seats 6 (me) and 5 (him) which is a part of the table without much curvature.

There have been times in the past when I've played against people who haven't been great at protecting their cards. Usually it's been a case of being able to see one of an opponents cards every couple of hands which doesn't help all that much. There are so many times where one of you have garbage or your opponent does and/or the other players spoil the party.

Not this time! This was 9 out of 10 hands I could see both cards (the difference between one and both cards is astronomical - knowing for certain that an opponent missed completely is very powerful), for a while we were playing 6 handed and this guy was playing fairly loose. There were 5 big hands where this came into play.

Big Hand #1. The Villain raised AK off suit, both red, under the gun and I three bet him with 22. This was a risk. If anyone else came in I could be in a tough spot, but heads up I had a hand where I could beat him if neither of us improved, and get away without losing a single chip if he hit. Happily everyone folded and the flop came down Q 9 7 with two hearts. He checked I bet and he called. The turn was the 10 of hearts. I was all set to fire again when he bet into me! WHOA! Normally this would be an instafold, but I knew I had him so even though I had shit, I raised him. He called. The river came out an ace! ACK! We both checked, he showed his hand and I threw mine in face down.

Big Hand #2. The Villain raised with AJ after a couple of limpers and I called with A7 of hearts on the button. Why would I call him when I was dominated? I decided the value of acting behind him knowing what he has was worth so much that I should get in there anytime I had anything at all playable, even if I was dominated. The flop came down 7 high! Ah ha! The Villain bet, I popped it, we lost everyone else and he called. The turn was a K which might have slowed me down normally, but not this time. I bet and he called. The river was an ace and he fired out! Bang! I hit him with a raise again and he called.

Big hand #3. Everyone folded to The Villain who raised from the button with 44 and I had J2 in the small blind. I called as did the big blind. The flop came down Q 9 7 and I check raised him, thinking that he wouldn't call me all the way down with an under pair. The turn was a K and he mucked after I bet. This was a hand I never would have played or won, without seeing his cards.

Big Hand #4. The Villain raised with KJ of clubs and I called with KT of diamonds in the small blind. I don't know if folding because I'm dominated or three betting to isolate would have been better. I think calling is probably the worst of the three, but these are not considerations I have run across many times, and in the heat of the moment I called. The big blind folded anyway and the flop came down ace high. I check raised, fully expecting to drag the pot immediately, but my opponent called. The turn was a small card and I bet out. He raised me! WHOA! I have never been so surprised to be raised in my life. I feel like I almost said "WHAT THE FUCK!" out loud. I knew he was on a pure bluff, but at the same time he had me beat!!! The only thing to do was three bet and hope that I didn't get hero called down by a better king high! Happily after he thought for a second he mucked it.

By this time I think he noticed that I'd been doing some funky shit. Not mentioned here are a few other hands where he hit and not only did I not give him good action, he got zero action. It's not often that you see a guy three bet, check the flop heads up and then fold the turn, but I did that at least once. I could feel his frustration.

Big Hand #5. On this hand he had 88 and I three bet him with A9. By the end of the hand there was a K two Q's and a J on the board and he called me all the way down. I decided it was time to pump the brakes a little.

There were other hands with a varying number of other players involved that I've forgotten where I was able to save $15 here or $30 there when he hit big. "Oh you've got the ace of spades? I guess I won't draw to a king high spade draw. Is that a set? No reason to do anything with this top pair I have"

This went on for 2+ hours! The whole time I was thinking "I'm never leaving this game. Never. If this guy stays I'll play straight through until morning and all the next day." Eventually he moved to a different seat and the party was over.

 I didn't see his hand every time because 5 or 6 time I forgot to look! It's just not a habit  look over at your opponent's cards as the cards were coming out. It also took a great deal more mental energy to keep track of what he had - suit and rank of two cards - and what I had and still play at normal speed.

Did anyone else notice me looking? I don't think so, as I had sunglasses on the whole time and was carful to look with my eyes not my head.

The bad news is I lost a little during that 2 hours ACK! I missed a bunch of big draws and otherwise had some neutral to poor results against the other players.

The good news is I played for another 30 minutes after he moved and ran hot! Hot Hot Hot! I had 99 in a pot that was 7 way for two bets preflop and hit a 9 on the flop and made quads on the river!. Since I'd been doing some goofy shit for the past few hours I did not get credit for a made hand. It was 3 bets on the flop 5 way, 2 bets on the turn 4 way and 1 bet on the river 3 way. That hand put me up $600 and after 5 and a half hours I was ready to pack it in.

I almost left right then, but I was still stacking chips from that pot and decided to toss out the big blind and play one more round. After folding a few hand I picked up 87 of spades, flopped a flush draw, pushed it, hit it, and got paid. That put me up to +$900.

On my last hand before leaving I picked up AA and The Villain picked up something. We went to war, I won, and a few other people got dragged down with him. That pot put me up $1,251 on the night and back in black for The Project.

I'm too fucking tired to write about it, but I can also tell you that today I played Session #22 - The Final Session in Project Flying Panther - and won another $460!


After 78 hours I booked a $1,369 win for The Project. Backers look out for an e-mail from me this weekend and I'll share some final thoughts and some stats in one more post on Sunday.

Fly Panther Fly!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

PFP Sessions #19-21: The Good, The Bad, and the Holy Shit I Can See This Guy's Cards

Again apologies to my backers for my poor track record on reporting!

Session #19 - The Good

Coming in to session #19 I was stuck $538 and I got that back in a hurry. I was in a great game and I got great cards, it was as simple as that. The big hand of the night came when I posted behind the button after missing the blinds. Another player posted as well and there were two limpers when the action got to me. I popped it with A8 of hearts and we took the flop 6 handed.

The flop came down three small hearts giving me the nuts! Zing! Better yet when I bet there was a raise and two callers. Rather than reraise I decided to wait for the turn since the raiser would be first to act on the next betting round. Like clockwork he came out betting and another player raised in front of me! Now I was faced with another decision. I decided to just call and hopefully keep both players in the pot.

The river came out another small card and the turn raiser bet, I raised, he reraised, since I still had the best possible hand I hit it again and he called showing a jack high flush.

I made 3 or 4 straights to go along with that flush and generally cruised to a win of $1,090.

Session #20 - The Bad

Coming off four winning sessions in a row, and playing on a Friday I was feeling good about my chances. But when I looked at the $15/$30 it was all regulars so I decided to sit in the $200 Max game and I got my ass kicked in short order.

I lost $200 on a hand where I flopped bottom two vs a straight on a Q J 9 board. I called an all in of $150 on the turn (which was a blank) after getting raised on the flop. I'm not sure how I feel about that one.

I lost another about $325 on a hand where I had A8 suited, the board was  6 7 9 (with one of my suit), someone bet $95, I went all in for $290, I got snap called by J9 and missed. I love this play - I was 44% to win after he called and I'm surprised he did.

On another hand I made it $15 from the button with KQ, the big blind made it $40, I called, the flop came down 8 5 3, he bet $30 and I called. The turn was another 3, he bet $40, I made it $150 and he called. The river was a brick, we both checked and he showed me 87. That was another $220 out the door. I felt like that $40 on the turn was weak and I'm glad I went after it. Normally this type of play is gold for me as I have a tight image, but I'd only been at the table for under an hour and never played with most of the players so I had the image of a guy getting he ass handed to him.

After 2 hours I left losing $904 for the session.

Session #21 - Holy Shit I Can See This Guy's Cards

I started writing this up, but I really shouldn't be rushed since it's not an every day story. I found myself sitting next to a guy who was regularly flashing his cards and it led to some unusual situations. Look out for it tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

You Know You've Made It When

Usually I get somewhere around 50-100 page views on my posts (the big exception being that 5,000 people have read my post about open faced Chinese Poker) and I've written over 800 of them since the summer of 2006. I just got a comment about how I misused you're and your. This is the first time the grammar police have called me out! I have arrived!

PFP Sessions #17 and #18 - It's Good To Have a Plan

I had a half day at work on Friday and was in a game at the Oaks at 2:00 in the afternoon. I sat down at $200 Max with $400 in front of me and there were some fireworks about 15 minutes in.

It was a two hand sequence against the same opponent that went down almost perfectly. On the first hand there was an $8 live straddle. With two callers in front of me I called with 54 of spades on the button. The small blind called, the straddle made it $20 and we took the flop 5 way.

The flop came down 8 6 4 with one spade, the small blind fired out $70 into the $100 pot, and everyone folded to me. We both had a little more than $400 in front of us, and I had bottom pair with a gut shot and a back door flush draw. More importantly I could say with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority of the hands my opponent was likely to have couldn't call a big raise. If he had a set or two pair, he'd likely go for a check raise and with a big pocket pair he probably would have raised preflop. It felt like he had an 8 and I didn't think he's stack off with an 8.

I made it $200 to go, he thought for 20 seconds and mucked.

On the very next hand there were several limpers in front of me and I took a flyer with 52 of spades. It's hard to defend that play, but basically I've found so many good spots to bluff at the $200 Max that I'm playing very loose in position. Also I lost my mind for 1/2 a second and threw in the the $4 to call.

Anyway we took the flop 6 way, and the flop came down 6 4 3 with two spades! Zingo Zongo! Flopping a straight with a straight flush draw as back up requires gibberish exclamations.

It was checked to me and thinking that if I wanted to win a big pot I needed to build it on the flop, I bet $10. The button (the villain in the previous hand) called as did the big blind. The turn was a red Q, I bet out $20 and the button raise to $60. "Holy Christ I have him right where I want him!" I thought. I made it $120 which may have been a little lite, but he called without thinking much about it.

The river was another red Q and I wasn't sure what to do. What I probably should have done was, put my opponent on a Q and bet $200 which would have just barely gotten him all in. Instead I had a complex series of thoughts go racing through my head. I figured that if I checked I might get a bet from a missed draw, I'd certainly get a bet from a Q and I might save some money if by some chance I was up against a full house. With that in mind, when he bet $95 I just called and took down the pot. Unfortunately I rolled my hand over as soon as I called and my opponent didn't show. It was a very nice pot, but I played it like kind of a pussy and I'm not happy about that.

When my name got called for $15/$30 I walked over to table $18 with $439 in profit from $200 Max. My good luck continued over there and I ran it up to a total profit of over $1,200 for the session, before giving much of it back during a long card dead stretch. In the end I booked a $540 win for the day.

On Sunday I made my way back. The combo of 1st of the month (when people get paid) and a holiday weekend did not disappoint. I sat down in one of two $15/$30 games and I only recognized one player, and he's someone I'm always happy to play against.

There was one guy who was the worst of the group. He bought in for $300 and when he blew through that I figured he'd be done or pull out another $100 or something. Instead he pulled out another $1,000 and went to work blasting it off as fast as possible. I didn't make many hands, but when I did I won big pots. This caused me to bounce around between even and +$500 for the entire session.

One big hand came up toward the end of the day. I got dealt 22 and was the second caller. After a couple of other calls the button raised, the big blind 3 bet it and the button capped it. We took the flop 7 way for $60 each. The flop was A T 2 giving me bottom set and it checked around. ACK! The turn was a 7, I bet and 5 people called me! The river was a Q. It was checked to me, the small blind check raised and the big blind three bet it! Super ACK! I was 98% sure I was up against KJ so I let it go and sure enough the big blind took it down with KJ.

I was sad to see that one slip away and I ended the day with a modest $140 profit.

After 65 hours I'm losing $528 for the project. One nice win and I'll be back in black. I'm going to try to squeeze 5 sessions and 20 hours in to the last 11 days of The Project which ends September 14th (Play on the 14th will count). This week I'll be in action Wednesday and Friday night. I expect all of these sessions to be at The Oaks and maybe one of them will involve a shot at $30/$60 if conditions look good.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

PFP Session #16 - The Streak is Dead

Normally I think of streaks in a positive light, but after 7 consecutive losing sessions, I was ready for this one to be over.

I bought in for $1,000 at $15/$30 last night and looked down at AQ in the small blind on my second hand. The player in the cutoff raised, I three bet it, and we took the flop heads up. K 9 5 on the flop, I bet and got called. 4 on the turn, I bet and got called. Q on the river, I bet, got called, my opponent flashed a Q and mucked his hand. There is nothing special about this hand, but being a little ahead is so much better for your mindset than being a little behind.

About an hour in I was just about even when I got dealt 88. There was a limp, a raise and a call in front of me and I called as did both blinds. The flop came down A 8 3 with two clubs - BINGO! It turned out that I was up against two players with AK, one with K3 and another with a flush draw. The turn was an amazing card - the case king! 3 people made two pair against my set. K3 went all in for $25 and one AK completed the bet to $30, amazingly the other AK just called, I raised to $60 and 4 of us plus the all in went to the river. The river was a 3! If only K3 had not been out of chips! Happily one of the AK's bet out, I raised and they both called. That pot put me up about $500 on the night.

In the same round I got dealt A8, flopped two pair on a board with 3 spades and made a full house on the turn against a flopped flush.

I got flopped two flush draws on the night - I made one and get paid off, and on the other I was up against another flush draw, I bet it all the way, and when we both missed my last bet was good enough to take down the pot.

I also got AA, QQ and JJ once each and they all held up.

It felt great to have things go my way for a little while, but I have to say that I feel like I played really well in all of the other hands in between. In the end I walked out the door with a $1,115 profit on the night. I'm $1,208 away from being even for The Project. I'll be back in action on Friday and then again on either Sunday or Monday.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

PFP Sessions #14 and #15 - At Least I Have a Plan

Apologies to my backers for not getting an update up on my last two sessions in a timely manner. I'm not usually able to knock out a quick post with the high level results no matter how hard I try and I just haven't had time to write a post.

I spent 5 days in Colorado at 9,500 feet and during that time I didn't think about poker at all. By the time I was back at the tables early last week I felt like my losing streak had been forgotten...until I started losing again. I spent another 4 hours playing $15/$30 making zero - not one - 5 card hands. I also didn't see AA, KK, QQ or AK a single time and I lost with JJ the one time I got it. It's not easy to sit at a poker table losing and not sit there stewing about all of the losing you've been doing lately.

Despite that I booked a small loss in what was otherwise a good game - I dropped $177 on the night.

Last Thursday (or Wednesday?) I made my way in to The Oaks and saw a long list of names for $15/$30 and 200 Max, but a $150 no limit tournament was about to go off so I jumped in hoping to recoup some of my recent losses with a deep run.

We started with about 70 players and 10,000 chips each. After a few hours I had my stack up to about 14,000 with the blinds at 150/300 with a 25 ante. I got dealt 86 suited in the small blind and a new player who had just sat down (this was literally his first hand at our table) took the big blind. It was folded to me and I raised it to 900. The big blind called and the flop came down 6 3 3 with two clubs (I had spades). I bet 1,200, my opponent raised me to 2,400 and I moved all in.

I did something right on this hand and I did something wrong. What I did right was read the hand. I didn't think it was likely my opponent had a 3 because A3 is about the only hand that makes sense and even then I'd expect a slow play under the circumstances. I didn't think a big pair was likely because of the flat call preflop. 77, 88, and 99 are within the realm of possibility, but much more likely than those hands was a total bluff, a flush draw or 56 or 67. I moved in confident that I was going to see a fold.

What I did wrong was I didn't take in to account the fact that I'd never played a hand against this guy. I almost always project a tough, tight image. People fold when I move all in on them a disproportionately high percentage of the time. I did not think a pair of sixes would call there. But sure enough, he called and showed J6. A king came on the turn and I was all set to chop, before a jack on the end ruined the party.

After 7 losing sessions in a row my starting bankroll of $10,000 sits at $7,677 (after 55 hours of play).

The good news is I have a plan! I'm going to play again tonight under normal circumstances and then try to put in two longer than average sessions over the holiday weekend which should be a fantastic time to play. Holiday weekends are always great and playing near the first of the month (when people get paid) is also great. Put them together and you have a magic combination.

I have about 20 days left in Project Flying Panther. Hopefully I can put in 25 more hours and squeeze out a small win for The Project.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

PFP Sessions #12 and #13 - The Anvil is Followed by a Hammer and an Elephant

I realized today that I played last Thursday and forgot to write a post about it. It was a fairly uneventful $15/$30 session where I was up $500 then down $500 and walked out the door losing $160.

 Yesterday I played a much more eventful session at Bay 101. Shortly after I walked in the door they started a new $40/$80 game and I sat down with 8 players who were new to me. I bought in for $2,000 and in the first 9 minutes I was up $900.

It was really nothing special. I called a raise in a 4 way pot out of the big blind with A4 suited, flopped a flush draw and turned an ace that held up. Then a few hands later I raised with AT, again with 4 way action, and again I hit an ace that held up. Finally I bet a 653 flop with 97 into two opponents who both called, the turn was a Q, the action checked around, and when I bet the river - another 6 - I got no callers. Boom, up $900 in no time.

Over the next 3 hours and 45 minutes not much good happened. I actually played really well in a good game and I still lost in dramatic fashion.

There was a 4 hand sequence that was a microcosm of the session where I got the worst of it in pretty standard ways, but the similarity of the hands made them stand out and they all happened over the course of two rounds (about 18 hands).

Hand #1 - This Fucking Guy (the villain is the same in all 4 hands) raised from early middle position and I reraised with 88. The flop came down K 6 3 and he check called. The turn was a jack and it went check check. The river was a 7, he bet, I called and he showed me JJ. -$240 for me on that hand.

Hand #2 - This Fucking Guy just called on the very next hand, I raised him with AKs, and everyone else folded. This time the flop came down K 6 2 - almost the exact same flop. Except this time I bet and he folded. +$135 for me.

Hand #3 - This Fucking Guy raised from early position and I reraised him with AKs. The flop came down K 6 5 - almost the same flop again K 6 X and again I had AK! By the way this was a fantastic flop. Against someone who raised in early position, but didn't 4 bet I should have the best hand almost every time. With that in mind when This Fucking Guy check raised me I called planing to pop him on the turn. But when the turn came a Q and he fired with no hesitation I thought maybe he had KQ. Also at that point there were very few hands that could legitimately call a turn raise that didn't have me beat so I decided to just call. The river was an 8, I called one more bet and he rolled over 65 for two pair. -$360 for me.

Hand #4 - An early position player raised, This Fucking Guy called, I three bet with AK out of the small blind and the flop came down 9 7 4 with two diamonds. It got checked to This Fucking guy who bet and I was the only caller. The turn was a Q and it went check, check. The river was a 2, I check called hoping to see a busted draw, but instead saw K9. - $240 for me.

Add it up and it's $705 out the door on those hands.

It's not just that I lost 3 of 4 hands to This Fucking Guy it's how I got absolutely no help. I don't know what he hand on hand #2, but it's the same fucking situation! How does he call with very little the first time and not the second time? If he folds both flops fine, if he calls both flops fine, but the fact that he called and hit one (only a 13.3% chance of him improving on the turn on hand #1) and then didn't call the second time was odd. By the time hand #4 came around all I could think when I looked down was, "Shit, I bet I'm going to lose to This Fucking Guy again." Also how about I improve one of these times? I got no help on the turn or the river all night.

Getting back to the no help, when looking back on a session it's often helpful to think about how many five card hands (Straights, Flushes, Full houses) you made vs were made against you and how did your big pocket pairs do.The real problem was I ran into 8 five card hands made against me and made none myself. 8 to 0. That is not something that is easy to over come. I think 5 or 6 of those came in on the river in pots I would have won with a brick on the end and all of those pots where $500-$1,000.

How did I do with my big pairs? I didn't get any. I played for 4 hours and got TT once, but no JJ, QQ, KK or AA. I got AK and AQ a bunch of times, but got screwed as described above and in other horrifying ways.

In the end I lost $2504. This makes 5 losing sessions in a row and means I'm losing about $2,000 for The Project.

I have to tell you that if someone told me they'd lost 5 sessions in a row I would say the overwhelming likelihood is that they were playing losing poker, but in this session especially I felt like I played really well. I just got no help from the deck. I feel like I should have lost $5,000 with the shit that happened to me. I'm going to Colorado next week for vacation so I may not be back at the tables for a couple of weeks. A break will probably do me good.

Eventually this is going to turn around...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

PFP Session #11 - Sometimes an Anvil Falls on Your Head

I'm going to keep this recap of my last session brief, because it was not all that interesting and it was another tough day. Once again I was at the $15/$30 at the Oaks and once again I had trouble finding a pot.

I played for 3 hours and during that time I won 5 pots when I should have won around 12 if I was winning my fair share. The pots I won involved the following: I flopped two sets with AA, I hit a 7 with A7 and it was good, I won with unimproved pocket sevens and I made a flop bet where two opponents folded. These type of pots have one thing in common - they're all going to be small. Even the sets of aces were small pots. In that situation there has to be an ace on the board, I'm always going to have come in raising, and there is only one ace in the deck that's unaccounted for, so barring heavy preflop action or action from draws or something uncommon it's not easy to win a big pot under those circumstances.

Even though I wasn't dragging pots, I was getting good starting cards. I got QQ twice (lost with a set on one of them), JJ twice, AK once (an ace flopped and I was up against AA - GAH!), and AQ three times. None of them came home. Along with a smattering of small pairs, suited connectors, other playable hands and paying the blinds it was a steady drain. I felt like I played well, but 9 or 15 or 18 chips at a time my stack slipped away.

I ended up losing $1,340.

The good news is even though I've had three losses in a row - two of which are what I'd call "Max Losses" (i.e. I'm not going to lose too much more than $1,300 at a $15/$30 before I decide to walk away and fight another day) - I'm still in the black. I know that sometimes an anvil falls on your head at the poker table, and it can be followed by a safe and a piano and that's why my plan for The Project has always been to play 25-30 sessions so it will - to some degree - even out. One of these sessions I'm going to be the one dropping the anvils.

Over the course of Project Flying Panther I'm ahead $658 after 41 hours of play.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

PFP Session #10 - The 7th Circle of Poker Hell

I took a 15 minute power nap before heading in to The Oaks last night and while I was drifting off I was dreaming about flopping bottom set and making quads against two over full houses. My actual night was pretty much the opposite of that. There may be some profanity in this post.

As I walked in the door I saw a $30/$60 with 10 regulars and a $15/$30 with a bunch of unfamiliar players. I sat down at $6/$12 while I was waiting for my name to be called for the latter and saw even more new faces. After 5 minutes it was clear that half of these guys had no clue - absolutely no clue. Someone made a run of the mill full house and 3 people verbalized something to the effect of "Wow! A full house!" At that point - as you might suspect - I thought "These guys don't have a clue what they're doing."

I got dealt 25-30 hands over the course of 45 minutes, didn't drag a single pot, and lost $150. That's not really news or all that uncommon, but a little frustrating.

Putting that first speed bump behind me I made my way to $15/$30 and bought in for $1,000. There were a few characters that came in to play throughout the night as once I sat down no one left the game for 2 hours - a sign of a great game. The people were:

'The Old Man" in seat 1
"The Guy with Glasses" in seat 3
"Sunglasses" in seat 4
"The Lady" in seat6
"The Young Guy" in seat 7

In a normal game 3 or 4 players will make it to the flop on average. If 5 or 6 players are making it to the flop regularly it's a good or great game. We had 3 hands go to the flop 9 way for 2 or more bets in the first 30 minutes I was there!

I took seat 2, next to the old man who I once heard say "Oakland really went down hill when World War II started" - he was very, very old. He had about $2,000 in front of him and roughly 1/3 of the time I could see either one or both of his cards.

A few hands in I made top pair out of the big blind and ended up losing to Sunglasses. He'd flopped a pair of threes and rivered two pair when a 7 came out. The way it went down I wasn't surprised to see him roll over two pair, but it took me a second to note "Wait...Did he call first in before the flop with 73 off suit?" When you see someone do that, they're basically announcing they're going play anything. And he did. He had $1,000 in front of him.

I noticed The Lady - also sitting with $1,000 - call a hand in early postion with 84.

The Guy with Glasses was capping it 100% of the time someone reraised him after he raised preflop and would 3 bet the flop anytime someone raised him.

The Young Guy was the worst. There was one hand where The Old man Raised AJ and The Young Guy called his with J7. The flop was KQJ, the turn was a K and the river was a Q. The Old Man bet the whole way and The Young Guy called the whole way. Neither of them realized that their pair of jacks had been counterfitted and didn't play. At showdown they both stared at the fucking board cards for 5 seconds trying to figure out what happened!

So now that we've established that I was playing with people who were not just bad, but lacked any fundamental concepts whatsoever, let me tell you about what was going on with me. Nothing that's what! I could not make a fucking hand!

After 15 minutes I thought to myself - "This game is almost too good. Don't try to do too much. Just be patient." And I was for the most part. But when every pot has 40+ chips going in before the flop, you're getting the odds to see a lot of turn and river cards and it get's expensive if you're not dragging some pots.

I did win one pot in the first hour. It was an unimproved pocket 5's and there were five hundred fucking dollars in the pot! How does so much money go in when no one can beat a pair of 5's? Five total goofballs at the table, that's how.

In the second hour I won no pots.

Let me go deeper in to the torture. It was not just watching these fuckheads drag $600 pots left and right while I took hand after hand to the flop and got no help and missed all my draws and tried to keep my shit together.

On one hand I had 86 of clubs and we took the flop 7 way for two bets. The flop came down K 8 4, it got checked around to the raiser who was on the button and checked it. The turn was a 5 giving me a gut shot straight draw to go with my pair. Someone bet, I called, the original raiser called, The lady called and then the Young Guy raised it. Normally when you check raise 4 people on the turn it means you have something. The river was a 2 and The Young Guy went all in for his last $20.

I thought about calling even though I had a really shitty hand, but there were two players behind me and even a complete fool wouldn't check raise 4 people on the turn as a bluff. It was only $20 for a shot at over $500, but I let it go. The original raiser called and The Young Guy rolled over A5 for a pair of 5's and took down the pot. GAH! So frustrating.

I had a hand where I had Q7 off suit in the cutoff with 3 limpers in front of me and I had the chips in my hand to call, but trying to stay patient I let it go. I'd seen the old man's hand and he had J9. I was trying to decide if having the information of knowing what one of my opponents had would take it from a fold to a call and I opted to toss it. The flop came Q T 7 and the river was another 7. It ended up being a big pot without me pushing it. In isolation this hand is nothing to note, but after missing so many hands, it sucked to be so close to calling and let it go.

I had AK 3 times in pretty close succession. All 3 times it was 4 bets before the flop. Twice I totally missed, but on the 3rd one the flop came out A 7 4 rainbow. The young guy check raised me and since I was not going to fuck around in a big pot I three bet it. He had capped it preflop after playing pretty tamely preflop thus far so I thought he could have an ace or a big pair. He just called on the flop and the turn came out a Q. He check raised me again and I thought he could easily have QQ or AQ, but after that hand with the God damn A5 (and two other times I'd seen him make hopeless bluffs since) I wasn't going to fold. The river was another Q and after a pause he checked. Thinking maybe he had A6, A7 or 67 or who knows what, I bet out. He check raised me again and showed me quad queens after I called. GAH!

It's not just the two outter coming in, it's the fact that I got check raised 3 times. I'm sure that has happened to me at some point, but I can't think of another time that someone has done that to me and I paid them off the whole way. Normally only a very strong player would consider that line and I'd either stand off on the river, or let it go after getting hit for the third time. Anyway it sucked.
Right after that, The Lady won a pot that had $900 in it with AK, hitting a K on the river for one pair of kings. That is an ungodly pot. It should take two sets and 3 draws and an over pair to make a pot like that not who knows what that can't beat one pair.

Then I got AA, flopped a set and lost to Sunglasses who had 34 and made a wheel on the river.

After 2 hours I was stuck $1,200. The lady walked out with $1,500, The Guy with the Glasses cashed out $3,000 after having $500 when I sat down. The Old Man got it worse that I did and was down to the felt.

The game cooled off, but I started making some hands. In the third hour I flopped trips and it was good. I made two pair on the turn that filled up in the river. I got AA again and it held up. I finally made a flush draw and got paid off. I took it back to the point where I was only stuck $250.

Then I went right back down the toilet. All in the 4th hour: QQ was no good twice. AJ of clubs on a J 8 4 flop with two clubs didn't come home. I lost with trips. I made another set of aces and I lost to 34 again. Can you believe that shit?! TORTURE!

It took all of 55 minutes to go from -$250 to -$1275 and that's where I walked away. This was the worst poker day I've had since 2010. Of course I didn't play at all in 2011 or the first half of 2012, but still worth noting.

I'll be back in action on Monday or Tuesday. GRRRRR!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #9 - Tired Panther

I made it to the Oaks over the weekend, but I was with a friend who wanted to play low stakes. I won $360 playing $6/$12, but by Wednesday I was ready to put in some time on The Project.

I made my way to the Oaks after work and bought in for $400 at the $200 Max game. Over 30 minutes I played one hand of significance where I made it $20 with KQ suited, got 4 callers, bet $75 on a A Q 5 flop with two of my suit, and took it down. With a $56 profit in tow I made my way to $15/$30.

I got off to a good start running my starting stack of $1,000 up to $1,350 in the first hour. But over the course of the next two and a half hours I dropped down to $300 and actually bought more chips so I wouldn't look so short.

I've been pretty fortunate during the project to not have a sustained run of unplayable cards, but that is what happened here - hand after hand of garbage mixed in with a few strong hands that didn't come home.

During this stretch the $30/$60 game broke and some of the regulars made their way in to the $15/$30. This was bad news in the short term, but thinking long term it gave me a change to play against people that I know are solid winning players at the higher stakes. I was actually not impressed. These guys didn't give me any trouble at all. I have to remind myself that I used to play against some of the best players from all over the world on a regular basis and I'm ready for anyone when it comes to limit hold'em.

I was able to make a moderate comeback and ending up losing $399 at the $15/$30 which was a total of a $343 loss for the session. I'm ahead $3,273 for The Project.

On a separate note, I am feeling warn out. I'm doing my best to be a great father and husband, a strong employee at HitFix, a productive poker player and someone who takes care of themselves physically. I'm finding there are not enough hours in the week to give it everything I have and be really outstanding at all of those things. Or rather, there are, but that leaves zero time for anything else. I'm finding a balance, but sometimes it can be overwhelming as I find myself wanting to spend more time on all those things (For the record I actually felt great last night, and I don't think fatigue played in to my loss).

Throwing caution to the wind in terms of workload, I'm going to put in a long session on Friday night and then try to do as much nothing as possible over the weekend. You'll find out on Saturday how that goes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #8 - Waiting Panther

After a weekend filled with birthday parties, including my son's first birthday, I was too beat to make it to the tables on Sunday. But on Monday night I made the trek down to Bay 101 hoping to play some $40/$80 and take this thing to the next level.

Even though I've played games this big many, many times, it's been a solid 3 years since I've played a hand at these stakes and I was feeling something walking in the door.

It made me think back to the first time I ever played poker in a casino. I was 20 years old and I'd been playing 20 cent / 40 cent limit hold'em with my college friends. We'd been playing twice a week for about 3 or 4 months and my biggest win to date was $19. When I heard that Cache Creek - an Indian casino about 90 minutes away - had poker and you only had to be 18 to play, I had to go.

My friend Jake and I made the drive and soon discovered that the lowest stakes were $3/$6! AHHH! We knew The Oaks Club had a $1/$2 game and figured that every casino would have that stakes, when in fact the Oaks is probably the only cardroom in the country where you can find a game that small. After a trip to the buffet we decided we couldn't just go back without playing.

We got our pockets emptied both losing about $150. But we vowed to return and we did with better results. This is the only time I've ever played 15 times my normal stakes and it was so, so terrifying, but so exciting.

I had a little bit of that same juice pumping as I walked in to Bay 101. But the list for 40/80 was a mile long. So I put myself up for 20/40 as well and jumped in to a $2/$3/$5 no limit game while I waited.

I bought in for $500 (the table max buy in) and spent the next hour and a half listening to the turds at my table spout gibberish about how the $20/$40 game couldn't be beaten because you can't protect your hand and other nonsense. It was a great game, but I was totally card dead and chose not to mix it up too much with total air.

One big hand came up however. I was in the big blind with 98 off (one club) and we took the flop 6 way. The flop came down QJT with two clubs giving me a straight and the third nuts. There was $25 in the pot (after the $5 rake) and I bet out $20 not wanting to mess around with a draw heavy board. An old man called me and a young woman made it $95 to go. The old man had about $200 left, I had about $450 and the woman had $600. My first thought was that she probably had QJ, QT or JT. I didn't think AK was in her range because she'd just called in late position preflop. K9 was the only hand she could have that could beat me, but with so many draws out there I decided to just call and then go for an all in check raise on a safe turn. The old man and I both called.

The turn was the 9 of clubs which totally killed my hand. The flush got there and now anyone with a king would also have me beat. I checked and the old fired off his last $100 with no hesitation and I figured he had a flush. The woman called and I chucked my hand into the muck. The river was a red 5 and the woman won with K9 of diamonds.

After that hand I looked at the $375 in front of me and felt like I had just had a huge win. I easily could have blown off that whole stack on the flop. A penny saved is a penny earned.

I lost $257 over 90 minutes before the called me for the $20/$40. When I sat down at my new table I quickly noticed 3 Asian women one each who looked about 40, 50 and 60. They all looked really put together - dyed and styled hair, nice clothes, big diamond rings, necklaces, freshly painted nails, and one had a Louis Vuitton purse. Cha-Ching!

This is totally profiling. I may sound insensitive, but when you sit down at the poker table you have to start with a picture of your opponent and then adjust it as you watch them play. I've been surprised before, but not this time. These three all came with money to blow and were very loose and very passive. This was a $100 an hour EV table for me. But out of nowhere three players left! FOOLS! And the game broke.

My new table was good, but not as good. In about 2 hours I won $338.

In the movies they never make the hero wait 3.5 hours to play the big game, he just sits right down. But that's how long it took me to get to the top of the $40/$80 list and I decided to give it a go for 1 hour and then call it a night.

As soon as I sat down, a bunch of players got up and I found myself playing 5 handed. This would be an awful turn of events for many players, but since I've played over a million hands of 6 handed limit hold'em I was happy to be playing short handed.

I wish I could say I played really well, but I just got lucky. I got AA and won a small pot. I got AJ, flopped a J and turned a J. I got KK against the guy I'd been popping often when he was in the big blind, he played back at me, and I turned a K. These were all contested heads up and were pretty small pots, but along with a one or two even smaller ones I picked up 70 chips. Not a lot in a 4/8 chip structure, but when you're playing with $10 chips, it adds up! I won $708 in about 45 minutes and the game broke.

For the night I banked $789 and my profit for Project Flying Panther sits at$3,616.

I might be back in action this weekend, but not before hand.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #7 - Freerolling Panther

I rolled in to The Oaks Club last night not knowing if I was going to play $30/$60, $15/$30 or $200 Max, but the long list for the $200 Max and an awful looking $30/$60 game of all regulars made it an easy decision.

At 5:45 I dropped $1,000 on the table and bought in feeling sharp and ready to play. A few hands in, I three bet with AQ, turned and A and won a small uncontested pot. Then I three bet 99, bet it all the way, and won another pot where my one remaining opponent folded to my river bet.

5 minutes after that, I won a very nice pot with K9 suited. There was 6 way action for two bets before the flop when the first three board cards came out QJT, I had the second nuts. The great thing about that board is that everyone who is in is likely to have caught some piece of it. The turn and river were a 5 and a 2 and I got paid off nicely by players drawing and players who had made a pair.

I made one last splash with AK on a board of 9 T J K Q and found myself up close to $600 by about 6:15. Sometimes this shit is easy.

It just so happens that 6:15 is when the Wednesday night tournament kicks off. It's a $100 buy in tournament with an $80 rebuy, and after some hemming and hawing I hit and run at the $15/$30 and jumped in to the tournament. We ended up with about 150 entrants, with 20th paying $285 and a first place of $5,880.

After two hands went against me early I lost my first 4,000 tournament chips and had to rebuy for another 4,000 about an hour in. Right after I rebought I made an all in semibluff with 65 on a Q43 flop and ran into a set of 3's. But after a 2 on the turn and a brick on the river I was back in business.

The players I played against in this tournament were awful. They made it so easy for me by making little bluffs when they didn't have it, big all ins when they did and folding anything but very solid hands to my continuation bets. I ran my stack up to about 40,000 with relative ease, never having more than half my stack at risk on any one hand

Then some of my chips got blinded away. Then I lost about 11K with QQ vs K5. Then I lost another 10K with AT vs AK. Before I knew it the blinds were 1K/2K and I only had 10K left.

At that point we went down from 4 tables to 3 and I raced over to my new table, shouting to the dealer to deal me in just at the last second. "Oh shit, I'm going to go broke on this hand after running over here like that" I thought. But when I looked down at 87 of hearts two off the button, I wasn't going to let it go.

I moved all in and when it got to the big blind he asked for an exact count. I had 9,200 total. He counted out enough chips to call. Then put them back on his stack. Then counted them out again. Then put them back on his stack. He held his cards like he was going to fold them and then put them back. "Jesus Christ man! Do something so we can get on with out lives! We can't just all sit here starting at you like you're a God damn Rembrant!" is what I was thinking and what I am going to say the next time this situation comes up. Finally he made the call. He turned over JT with one heart meaning I was about 40% to win. I flopped a flush (Hooray!), but the river out a 4th heart on the board and I was done (boo!).

I was super pissed as I waked out the door and here's why. I had this run of 5 tournaments in a row at the Oaks where I finished between 13th and 15th in tournaments with 60-90 players that paid 10 spots. FIVE IN A ROW between 13th and 15th. I've played a few tournaments since then, including one cash, but I immediately threw that out the window mentally and went into "What is it with these fucking Oaks tournaments that I keep coming up just short of the money!? Why am I bothering with this stupid shit!? These players are awful and I can't catch one break! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

By the time I was at my car I had regained my perspective.

I'd just won $588, and then I lost $180. This is not a catastrophe. I still made $408 in a little over 4 hours. By the time I got home I was back in good spirits. I'm $2,827 to the good for The Project and 25% of the way to my planned target of 100 hours.

I'll be back in action Sunday night - perhaps with some $40/$80 at Bay 101.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #6 - Bluffing Panther

My sister and her family came to visit over the holiday weekend and I started talking to my brother in law (one of the Project Flying Panther investors) about poker. He's been reading my blog and asked my why I haven't posted about more bluffs. The plain and simple reason is the types of bluffs I pull the trigger on are very boring - but effective.

I played about 3 hours of $15/$30 yesterday and one bluff that fits both the boring and effective category came up about an hour in to the session. I was in the small blind some with some piece of shit hand that I've forgotten. There were two callers, I threw in one chip to complete the small blind and the big blind checked his option. The dealer scooped $4 out of the pot for the rake leaving $56 in the pot.

 The flop came down A 9 2 and we all checked. I was all set to check again when another 2 hit the turn. "Ah ha!" I thought. This card didn't help me at all, but it was also unlikely to help my opponents either. Even better was that if anyone had an ace they probably would have bet it on the flop and there was a fair chance someone might have bet a 9. On top of the it was completely plausible that I as the small blind could have a 2 in my hand. Plus is was a small pot that everyone seemed to have given up on. And I was only risking $30 to pick up $56. Put that all together and this was just about the best bluff of all time! Sure enough I fired out and everyone folded.

This might not sound too exciting, but if you can find a spot like this once an hour and break even the rest of the time you'll make $56 an hour - a killing at $15/$30.

It was all down hill from there...

I spent the first two hours fluctuating from -$500 to -$100 and back down again. I was at about -$200 when a very odd hand come up.

An early position player raised and I called with 55 (a marginal call at best). A player behind me called as did both blinds and we took the flop 5 way. A 5 of spades was the first card off the deck along with a 2 of spades and a red K. The original raiser bet, and I decided to get deceptive and play my hand fast - I raised, the big blind called, the original raiser 3 bet, I capped it and we took the turn 3 handed.

The turn was a 7 of spades and the original raiser bet into me. This was very, very odd. The way I played my hand was consistent with a flush draw and if I didn't have that I had to have a big hand. How was this guy betting in to me? The only thing I could think of was that he had a king of spades and another spade in his hand or maybe the ace of spades to go along with a king. I just called and the player in the big blind went all in for his last two chips. I was hoping for a board pair in the river, but instead I got a 4th spade, the jack. My opponent bet again and even though I was getting a little better than 13 to 1 to call, I folded.

My opponent took the side pot and then it came time to show for the main pot. Normally in this spot he would just roll over his hand. Instead he said "I'm showing in turn for the main pot" meaning he wanted the other player to show his hand first. "FUCK!" I thought. "That means he does not have a spade." The other guy didn't want to show his hand either. "Double fuck! He doesn't have a spade either!?" Sure enough after 30 seconds of the dealer, the big blind and the original raiser talking about it (two of the three were not native English speakers) the big blind showed A3 of diamonds and the other player showed AK with no spades. GACK!

I made another set on the very next hand and lost to the same guy. A little while later I called a raise with KT off and a shortly after that I 3 bet someone with A9 off. These are not strong plays and I realized I was not playing well. Even though the game was still good and I'd been planning to stay for at least another hour I packed it in for the night. I lost $797 for the session.

But the good news is after 6 sessions of Project Flying Panther I've played 21 hours, I'm ahead $2,419 which means I'm making $115.19 an hour. The bad news is this sample size is so small that these results are nothing more than a slight indication that I should expect to win. In fact if I put in 100 hours over The Project I'll end up playing about the same number of hands that I used to play on one busy Sunday when I was playing online. Amazing!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #5 - $30/$60 Panther

After a layoff of over a week I rolled in to the Oaks Club tonight feeling great mentally and physically. I spent the weekend in a house near the Russian River with my family and a few close friends. After many hours of slowly floating around the river over the weekend and a 20 minute nap on my lunch break today I was fresh and ready to go.

I got called almost immediately for a seat in the $15/$30 and by the time I'd played 10 hands I was ahead $400. Hot Damn! Sometimes this shit is easy. You get pocket kings, bet the whole way, people call you, and no body makes anything better than one pair. But over the next hour I dribbled most of it back.

Meanwhile I had my eye on the $30/$60 game the next table over. I've been a little conflicted about moving up. The whole point of Project Flying Panther is to play bigger games, but I've been doing so well at $15/$30 that part of me wants to keep pounding away at those players while I have the momentum.

After 15 minutes of hemming and hawing I racked up my 220, $5 yellow chips and traded them in for 110 $10 green chips. I dropped 9 $100 bills on the pile and I was all set to go with $2,000 in front of me.

On the second hand I got dealt QJ of diamonds. Immediately I felt the adrenaline and not the "Get some! Let's do this!" type of adrenaline either. It was the "Oh fuck, how much am I going to have to put in the pot if I lose this hand?" type. The answer to that question was $210 - I raised before the flop, got 5 callers, flopped a queen and lost to a straight on the river. Sometimes this shit ain't easy.

The last time I played $30/$60 at the Oaks was in 2009 when I was at my absolute peak as a limit hold'em player. I remember sitting down, feeling totally comfortable and smugly declaring to myself how awesome it was to be the best player in the biggest game at the Oaks. I would never have claimed to be the best player that plays at the Oaks, only that that day I looked at the 9 guys at the table and saw 9 players that I was sure were not as good as me. The stakes didn't register as much then either as I'd been playing $50/$100 6 handed against some real ball busters online - in fact sometimes it was a $50/$100 game, a $30/$60 and two $15/$30 games all going at once so one $30/$60 seemed like nothing.

Fast forward to today a few hands after my QJ hand and I looked down at AA. Boom, more adrenaline and my heart started racing. I totally expected this. It's how you feel when you move up and get a big hand. I also knew for certain that after maybe 45 minutes or an hour I'd settle in and feel comfortable. And that's exactly what happened. But for this hand I was still in the irrational fear zone.

An early position player raised to $60, I made it $90 with my AA, the big blind called and we took the flop 3 way. The board came out 9 6 4 with two hearts and one spade. After two checks, I bet and got two calls. The turn came a 7 of spades and the original raiser bet into me. A bet like that is representing some improvement on the turn or a slow played big hand

At this point the initial jolt I got when I first looked at my hand had not cleared. My body was still in fight or flight mode and when my opponent bet into me, my body dropped a shitload of chemicals into my system. On fear scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being taking a dump while reading Garfield and 10 being having a grizzly bear outside your tent when you've just rubbed a salmon all over your body, I was at about an 8. I'm not saying it makes sense to feel that way, just that part of my brain was going absolutely apeshit.

But the good news is, this has happened to me many, many times and the other part of my brain took about 1/2 of a second to come to the conclusion that my opponent was much more likely to betting a hand that could beat AK or AQ - but not AA - in the hopes that I had big cards. That part of my brain was still in control and with all the calm I could muster, I slid 12 chips in the pot. The big blind folded, the original raiser called my raise, check called the river and I took down a pot that got me back in the black.

The next two hours were super boring. I got a lot of shitty cards, won just enough small pots to stay even and tried to get a feel for my opponents. The game got a little worse as two weak players were replaced with solid ones. I decided it was time to go after one more round. Happily I beat out an unknown hand with 99 at showdown and took down QQ with QT after I turned a straight.

In the end I booked a $117 win at $15/$30 and a $468 win at $30/$60 - both small wins for the stakes, but still some nice money away from the table.. My $10,000 starting bankroll is now at $13,216.

Another mini vacation will put Project Flying Panther on hold over the holiday weekend, but I should be back in action on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday depending on how I feel.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sleeping Panther

After a couple of strong sessions I'm eager to get back to the tables, but real life is going to intrude. I'm in L.A. for business through Wednesday and then off to the Russian River for a mini vacation on Friday night through Sunday. There's some small chance I might sneak out on Thursday, but if not it will be July before I find myself back at the tables.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #4 - Rising Panther, Falling Panther

Coming off my last session at The Oaks on Wednesday, I rolled in on Friday full of confidence and ready to go. After about an hour of uneventful low stakes Omaha, I made my way to the $15/$30 game, slammed ten $100 bills on the table, and said "Who want's some bitches!? Come and get it!" while pounding my chest. Ok, maybe it was more a silent placing of ten $100's and a quiet chair scootch up to the table.

I got put to the test right away. On my second hand, I got dealt KQ and put in a raise. The player in the big blind has been there every time I've played $15/$30 during Project Flying Panther and he's sort of been my nemesis. He's a generally solid player, but he tends to over do it on the deceptive plays - lots of slow plays, check raises and seemingly random bets out of no where. He's giving up a lot of value, but it makes him tough to read. He's also hit a disproportionate number of times against me.

After my raise with KQ, both blinds called and the flop came down Q 5 2, three different suits. They both checked, I bet, the small blind folded and my nemesis check raised. "Ah ha!" I thought, "I bet he has a worse queen or is on a bluff. I'll just call and raise him on the turn." I was almost 100% sure I had the best hand here. The only hands that could beat me were AA, KK, QQ, AQ, (those would all have 3 bet preflop), Q2, Q5, 52 (all would have folded preflop - maybe Q5 suited would call) and 55 or 22 (captain slow play would have waited for the turn to raise with these). Against everything else I'm way ahead.

The turn was a 3 and my nemesis checked. This seemed very strange, but checking back was not an option, so I slid 6 chips in to the pot. My nemesis, quickly raised. Panther what!? Despite the analysis I went through on the flop, I felt like I was beat here. This would be a very, very strange line for a bluff. In the end I decided that against a tricky opponent it was better to err on the side of calling down, so I called the turn raise and a bet on the river. My nemesis rolled over A4 which was air on the flop and made a straight on the turn. GRRRRR!

I got KQ again on the next hand and lost that one too. I quickly found myself down $250. But I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was going to play for close to 5 hours and that the cars should all even out.

It did not even out; it took a massive turbo in the right direction. I raised QJ, flopped a Q and rivered a J against two players who called all the way. I got AA in a 5 way pot where everyone put in 4 bets preflop, the flop came king high, and the turn and river were both total bricks. I flopped a small set in a multi way pot. I made another two pair that held up. That all went down in about 45 minutes and I found myself up $600.

Then came the queen hand of the session (In bike racing the 'Queen Stage' is the most prestegious stage, so I think of the biggest hand of the day as the queen hand sometimes - it's dorky). By this time there were two guys who were losing their ass, who both bought in for another $1,000, ordered double shots of scotch and announced they were going to go apeshit.

Shortly after that I got dealt KK, there was a raise and a retaise (from one of the drinkers) and I capped it. We took the flop 5 way and it came down K 8 3 (ZING!). There was a bet, a raise and a reraise before the action got to me! WHAT!? I am not used to having top set on a dry board and facing a bet, raise and reraise in front of me so I wasn't exactly sure what to do. I had about 2 seconds to decide before I gave off information so I opted to just call.

We took the turn 4 way and a J came out. The drinker to my right bet, I raised, and the drinker to my left called. The river was an 8 making me a full house and they both called me, with the drinker on my right rolling over pocket aces before throwing them into the muck. After that hand I was up $1,100 on the session.

I got KK again on the very next hand and lost at show down and then the wheels came off the bus.

This old man on my right went on an absolute tear. He won at least 10 pots in about 30 minutes, including 5 straights (4 of which were gut shots hit on the turn or the river), a couple of full houses and some two pair hands. I got the full force of this rush when my KK, AA, TT and KQ that hit top pair all got chopped down.

On one of those hands, the flop was T 8 4, the turn was a 5 and the river was a J. The old man turned over 67 and said "I had it all the way." Normally I don't say much at the table and I never criticize other players, but I couldn't stop myself. "No you didn't, you hit a gut shot on the turn! You had 7 high on the flop!" The rest of the table joined me in what was actually a pretty warm chuckle.

After the old man was through with me I was winning $300 on the day, but another 45 minutes of sour cards and no pots got me all the way back down to even. There is never a good time for an $1,100 downswing, but having it happen when you're up $1,100 is a pretty good time for it.

But wait! There's more! I got AA again and JJ, and AK and won small pots with all three putting me up $300 with about 30 minutes left to go in my planned session time. Then I picked up AJ, raised, got three bet, and hit a gut shot on the turn to make a straight against AQ.

Winning $500 as the blinds came around I thought about picking up 15 minutes early, but I'd walked in the door planning to play until a set time and I decided to stick it out for one more round.

In the big blind I got dealt, Q7 of spades and the flop came with a queen and two spades. I missed the flush, but the turn was a 7 and the river was a queen. A few hands later I picked up QT of hearts, raised it, got three bet and the flop came down K J 5 with two hearts. I played it very fast, got tons of action, turned an A making me a straight against AK and I took down a nice pot.

When I racked up my chips I was ahead $1,014 for the night. BOOM!!! My $10,000 starting bankroll is at $12,631.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #3 - Trust it Panther

After a frustrating finish to my session at Bay 101 earlier in the week, I was glad to get off to a good start Wednesday at the Oaks Club.

I walked through the door at exactly 6 o'clock and sat down in a $6/$12 game waiting for my name to get called for either $200 Max or $15/$30. I got dealt 3 hands, won two of them, and got called for $15/$30 at 6:06 up $204 after 6 minutes (Sorry backers, this $204 is outside of the Project Flying Panther stakes).

When I walked over to the $15/$30 there were two empty seats, and 5 players were away from the table. It looked like the game might break before I took a hand, but after a couple of minutes everyone returned.

I bought in for $1,000 and just like at $6/$12 I got off to a strong start. I won a very uninteresting hand with top pair and was winning maybe $100 when I got dealt K4 of spades on the button. Several players limped in in front of my and I called. The flop came down K 9 8 with two spades. There was a bet and I put in a raise. The turn was a brick and I bet again. The river was another king and I got paid off by one player who had who knows what.

By 6:30 I had $1,400 in front of me and I noticed that there were about 120 entrants in the $100 + one $80 rebuy tournament that was just starting. I thought about picking up and going to play the tournament, but decided to stay. "If I had $680 profit in front of me I'd go play" I thought.

By 7:00 after making two pair twice I was sitting with about $1,650 in front of me. I went and asked the tournament director if there was a seat left or if they were taking alternates. There was a seat and I really felt like taking it, but I thought about it some more. I know for a fact that for me there is a better hourly rate at $15/$30. I just needed to keep doing what I was doing and trust it.

The next hand of note came up shortly after. I had 98 of spades in late position, 6 of us took a flop for 1 bet and the board came out 7 6 3 with two diamonds and one spade.The small blind bet, everyone called, I raised with my two overs and a straight draw and everyone called. With 6 of us still in a nice pot was building. The turn was the 2 of spades and it was checked to me. I didn't have anything yet, but I thought to myself "If I bet, no one is folding here - I'm going to get 5 to 1 on my money when a spade or a non diamond 10, 9, 8 or 5 will likely make me the best hand." It was an easy value bet.

The river was a dream card - the 5 of clubs - making the the total nuts. ZING! Even better two people had 4's in their hand and I got two bets from both of them on the river. There was over $600 in that pot (some of which had come from me) and once I stacked my chips I was ahead more than $1,000.

About 7:30 my phone rang. It was my friend E.B. asking if I wanted to get together for a movie or a trip to the Oaks. Here is how that conversation went down.

E.B.: "Hey, do you want to go to the Oaks or go see a movie?"
Me: "I'm at the Oaks"
E.B."Awesome, I...
Me: (as the cards come out) Hold on, I just got a hand. Hold on just a second.
Me:(to myself, looking at my cards) - holy shit, pocket aces.
Me: (to E.B.) - I'll call you back (CLICK!)
Guy Next to Me: "I'll call you back huh? Must be a big hand."
Me: (to myself): Fuck this guy next to me! He just read my hand for the whole table!...oooh ace on the flop! Oooooooooohhh someone betting in to me! 

I played that set of aces fast and got called down by AJ and another player that had who knows what.

Even more good shit happened to me and I found myself with $2,500 in front of me by 7:45. I came back to earth a little, but at 8 I racked up 449 five dollar chips, cashed out a $1,245 profit at the $15/$30, and went to the movies with E.B.

After a great session my $10,000 starting bankroll sits at $11,617 after 10 hours of play. I set a goal to play 12 hours this week so I'll be back in action for 5.5 hours on Friday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Project Flying Pather Session #2 - Slow Down Panther!

I made my way to Bay 101 last night full of confidence, ready to crush those San Jose turds. As per usual I had a longish wait for the $20/$40 game, but found an open seat in the $2/$3/$5 no limit game.

This game has a max buy in ($500) similar to the 200 Max game at the Oaks ($400), but it plays much bigger. The reason why is there's $10 in the pot when the cards come out instead of $6. That might not seem like a big deal, but those extra dollars have an effect that resonates throughout the hand. A raise preflop might be $20 instead of $12, which means a pot sized bet on the flop might be $60 instead of $35 and a turn bet might be $150 instead of $90.

I spent about 45 minutes at the $2/$3/$5 game and was up about $75 when they called my name for $20/$40. I took one last hand as I racked up my chips and looked down at 77. I thought "Shit! I should have racked up my chips faster, I bet I'm going to go broke on this hand!" But I'm not folding 77 with 120 big blinds in my stack and plenty of chips on the table. I just called the $5, got one call behind me and the button made it $25. It was folded to me and we took the flop heads up.

The flop came down 554, I checked and my opponent checked. I wasn't sure if this was checking a big pair as a trap or just a miss, but it felt a little fishy. The turn was a 6 and given that I had an overpair and a straight draw. Despite my fishy feelings I wasn't checking an over pair with a 10 out redraw. I bet $40 and got called. The river was a 9 and checking was my only move. If I was against big cards I might induce a bluff and if I was against a big pair, I wanted to get to showdown as cheaply as possible. I checked and called a bet of $40 and my opponent turned over KK. GRRRRR! Stupid pocket sevens!

I lost $27 at the $2/$3/$5, and bought in to the $20/$40 for $1,000. I played very well for the first two hours in a great game and found myself up $600. I felt like I was in total control. I made some strong lay downs and was right. I put in some thin value bets and was right. I had a tight read on most of my opponents.

Then the deck turned against me and I turned against myself. There was one player who gave me a ton of trouble and he was actually the worst player in the game. This guy had one move - call. Before the flop - call. On the flop - call. On the turn and river - call, call. If he had the total nuts or a big pocket pair he'd raise, but 75% of the time he was in preflop, and any piece of the flop - meaning as little as 3 to a straight or 3 to a flush or any pair or even one over card - would have him calling all the way. Against a player like this you just need to make some hands, even marginal hands, and you'll get paid off. The last thing you want to do is try to bluff him - DUH!

Unfortunately I had 5 or 6 hands where I had good starting cards, like KQ or AJ that just didn't connect and I'd end up losing to J4 that paired the 4 on the turn. I foolishly kept firing away thinking "he's calling every hand, he can't hit something every time!" but sure enough I missed time after time and he would catch some bullshit piece of the board and call me down. In fact he was crushing the table and there were 3 other players who were ready to blow their top because they kept losing to him as well.

I couldn't have pulled a win out with the cards I got (unless I'd left earlier), but I certainly could have lost a lot less. I know I could have saved many turn and river bets if I'd slowed down. One of my big strengths as a poker player has always been that I'm much better than my opponents at keeping my emotions out of my decision making at the table, but this time I have to admit that frustration got the better of me on at least a few hands down the stretch.

I had an $1,100 downswing over the course of 2 hours and ended up losing $486 at the $20/$40 and a total of $513 on the night. My $10,000 starting bankroll now sits at $10,372. I'll be back in action at the Oaks on Wednesday or Thursday.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Secret to My Success

I was actually wearing Old Spice Hawkridge deodorant last Friday. I suspect that's why I did so well.

Project Flying Panther session #2 has been moved up a day to today. Nothing will put you in the mood to play like winning! I'll let you know how the Bay 101 $20/$40 treats me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Project Flying Panther Session #1 - Fly Panther Fly

Project Flying Panther kicked off in earnest last night at The Oaks Club. After locking in commitments from my backers, coming up with a plan for the next 3 months and collecting the cash I was ready to put part of my $10,000 starting bankroll into play.

I rolled in to the Oaks with $2,500 in my pocket planning to play $15/$30, but ready to play $30/$60 if the game looked good. Both games were full, and the $30/$60 looked tougher than normal so I opted to play '200 Max' while waiting for the $15/$30.

200 Max plays effectively like a no limit game, but technically it's a spread limit game. The blinds are $2/$4, the most you can buy in for is $400, and the biggest bet you can make is $200. Since most players have around $400 or less in front of them and with one $200 bet and one $200 raise you can get $400 in the middle, it's easy enough to get it all in when two big hands collide. It might seem stupid to have this $200 cap - and it is - but it's actually a matter of The Oaks Club license specifying that bets in all poker games can't be larger than $200.

A new 200 Max game was starting as I walked in the door and I bought in for $400. My first hand was in the big blind and before the cards were dealt the player to my left put out an $8 live straddle - meaning he'd put in $8 blind for the right to act last before the flop - which is a generally bad play, but creates more action for that hand.

I looked down at K6 of spades. The button, the small blind, and I called, the straddler checked his option and the flop came down A Q 3 with no spades. Total miss for me right? Wrong!

The action got checked around to the button who bet $20, the small blind called the $20 and it was up to me. Thinking "Did this guy on the button really just call preflop, in position with a ace? I doubt it." I decided to put my opponents to the test. After a short hesitation I pushed $80 in to the pot and they both quickly folded. Huzzah! One hand in and I was up $67. After that I picked up my chips, paid off all my backers a .67% return on their investment and canceled Project Flying Panther. Just kidding!

I had a few other noteworthy hands come up in short order. On the first I open raised to $12 with AJ, got 3 callers and had the big blind go all in for $29. I made it $129 hoping to blow all the callers off the hand and go up against the short stack. I got one stubborn call from a stubborn old man somewhat foiling my plan. The flop came down KT4 and I bet out $100 with nothing but a gutshot. The old man paused, then folded and I added his $100 to my stack. After a turn/river of T and 4 I split the rest of the pot with the short stack who also had a bare ace.

Shortly after, I picked up KK and made it $16 to go. A very loud, boisterous 30 something man to my left splashed out pile of chips that looked to be about $90. When it got back to me he started saying "OOOHHH Put me all in! Put me all in. Let's go. Do it. All in, let's go." Happy to grant his wish with my big pocket pair, I put out $290 which was just enough to get him all in. He quickly called and the board came out J 2 2, king on the turn (ZING!), and a 5 on the river. My opponent hopefully rolled over AK, and I squashed that hope with my full house.

I took another $100 off the stubborn old man (who was now short stacked) when the flop came down J 8 7 and I had KJ. All the money went in on the flop, the turn was an 8, and the river was a J.

After an hour and 45 minutes they finally called my name for $15/$30 and I made my way to table 18 with $617 in profit from the 200 Max game.

I bought in for an even $1,000 and spent the first hour mostly folding. By mostly I mean, almost nothing but folding. I saw a couple of flops and won 1 small pot. This wasn't any type of thought out strategy; it was just a matter of getting shitty cards. As I started the second hour at $15/$30 I had about $750 in front of me.

But all that folding gave me a very tight table image and I took advantage of it. Over the course of the following hour I successfully stole the blinds 4 times with marginal hands and chopped out a few other small pots post flop with bluffs or semi bluffs.

I had one hand come up that I think I played especially well that brought me back to a hand I played in February 2007. I was at the Commerce Casino and it was the first time I ever played $100/$200. I raised to $200 with AK, got one caller in the field and the big blind called as well. The flop came down K 9 3 with two hearts. The player in the big blind check raised me, I three bet it, he four bet it, I called and thought "Oh shit! I put in $200 before the flop, $400 on the flop, and by the time I call the turn and the river, this hand is going to cost me $1,000 and this guy looks like he loves his hand! AHHHHH!" Sure enough my opponent bet the turn and the river (which were both small non hearts), I called both bets, and he rolled over his hand like it was the fucking super nuts. He had KT and I took it down.

At the time I thought, "What the hell was that? Why would he cap in on the flop with a one pair and marginal kicker?" Later I realized that he figured that if I had a hand that was strong - like AK or AA - I would have called the flop check raise and waited for the turn to raise and that by three betting on the flop that must mean I was on a draw or a marginal hand looking for the turn to go check, check. This hand always stuck with me because it was a bit of an epiphany when I figured out his reasoning.

Back to the present at $15/$30! I raised in early position with 99 and got called by the button and big blind. The flop came down 872, all hearts. I had the 9 of hearts in my hand and fired out $15. The button made it $30, I made it $45 and he made it $60. This is where I thought to myself "Ah ha! That is probably a draw, if he really had a flush already - or something else that could beat my over pair - he'd likely just call and wait for the turn to raise." So when the turn came out a black 5, I bet out instead of checking which would be the standard thing to do when you have one pair and someone just 4 bet it on the flop.My opponent just called, the river paired the 2 and he folded to my river bet.

It sounds simple enough when you break it down, but I can tell you it's not easy betting one pair, on a suited board into a guy that just 4 bet you.

In the end I booked a $268 win at $15/$30 after playing for 2 hours, bring my total for the night to +$885. Project Flying Panther is off to a solid start! Session 2 is going to be a trip to Bay 101 on Tuesday night for some $20/$40 action.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking on Backers for Project Flying Panther

The first time I took on backers in a big way was when I went to the 2006 WSOP. I played 10 events, including the main event, and had my ass handed to me cashing only once. I gave plenty of disclaimers, but still felt a little guilty since all of my backers were friends and family. Other times I've won people thousands of dollars. In those instances I was generally happy to win money for other people, but still sometimes felt a little regretful that I didn't have all my own action.

It sounds like a lose/lose awful clusterfuck! But in some instances there is a strong rationale for selling some of your action and it doesn't have to be because you're broke (although that is probably the main reason most people take on backers).

I've decided to take on some backers and put together a $10,000 bankroll to play some bigger cash games and here is the rationale I gave them (In a bitchin' power point presentation!):

  • Effective rake reduction – For example playing at $6/$12, $4 comes out of every pot, plus a $1 dealer tip. If I play $15/$30 with 40% of my own action, I take the same personal risk, but pay $1.60 per pot in rake and tip $0.40. If I win four pots per hour this is a $12 per hour savings.
  • Game evaluation – I’d like to do some analysis on to what degree the larger games are beatable, without subjecting my bankroll to major swings
  • Fun – It’s more fun to play higher stakes against tougher opponents.
  • Progress – I never plan to play poker full time again, but that doesn’t mean I want to grind it out at $6/$12 either. I want to make progress in the time I use.
You can only take the first bullet so far because as you move up you also encounter tougher opponents, but the power of the rake is not something to be taken lightly and I think it is generally underestimated by most players. I would also add, build good will for future backing opportunities. I'd love to go play every event at the WSOP as $500 tournaments and sell off the rest.

So what is Project Flying Panther? Basically it's me using $10,000 to play limit cash games in the $15/$30-$40/$80 range and NL Cash games in the $2/$4-$5-$10 range over the course of 3 months. Session 1 will be this Friday night and since I'm obligated to my backers to keep them posted, a recap of every session will appear on this blog.

How did I come up with the name Project Flying Panther? I used this project name generator - and it was the first name that got spit out. But now I love it! Project Flying Panther bitches!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Road to the 2014 WSOP Starts Now

I have 6 WSOP Cashes after playing in about 35 events. From 2005-2010 I played at least 3 events every year. But, as I transitioned out of playing poker 50 hours a week and in to a 9-5 job all of a sudden playing at the WSOP was not an option.

For 7 years had a bankroll that was usually in the $25,000-$50,000 range and now it was literally zero. I wasn't broke, I still had money. But for all of 2011 and the first half of 2012 even playing a $150 tournament meant going to the bank and taking money out of the checking account. Playing a $1,000 tournament went from a calculated investment to seemingly the same as spending $1,000 to take a cruise or buy a new TV. I moved on from my dreams of winning a WSOP bracelet.

But, after all that time off I've been playing again and I'm starting to feel that fire again. Two 4 hour sessions a week is all I can manage with a standard job and 2 kids, but my results have been steady and strong.

Mentally I have totally reset. A $200 win feels like how a $2,000 win used to feel. I can play small games without being bored. But I still have the skill I accumulated over 7 years as a full time pro and I am pounding the shit out of the amateurs I'm playing. $500 has bloomed in to $7,000 over the past 9 months playing small stakes limit and no limit cash games a few hours a week.

It's been nice to win some walking around money and be able to take care of some minor expenses, but I want and am capable of more.

I've been following the early stages of this years WSOP with great interest and massive envy. People that I know are there. Guys I used to play against on daily basis are now well know names. Friends ask me if I'm going this year and I have to tell them no.

But next year I'm going to be back and I'm going to do it right.

8 hours a week, gives me just over 400 hours to prepare. Right now my bankroll is about $3,000. My goal is to have it up to $10,000 by June 2014 so I can have enough to play 3 $1,500 events plus spend $500 on expenses (that's probably a little lite) and only have it suck up half of my bankroll.

Along the way, I'll need to spend enough time in the cash games to earn and enough time in tournaments that my game is sharp. After playing over 2,000,000 hands of poker some tactics are burned in my brain forever, but anyone who competes at anything can get better with practice. Unfortunately I can't blast out 20 multi-table tournaments in a Sunday like I could when Pokerstars was up and running in the US. But I can play the local $100-$300 tournaments. I'd like to play 25 of those over the next year in preparation.

I have another milestone in my line of sight - the WSOP Circuit event in Lake Tahoe October 24th-November 4th. I'm hoping to make it up there for at least one weekend to try to win a WSOP Ring in the more modest $300-$500 events.

I have to admit that working on a year long plan is going to create some added pressure if all goes according to play and I end up back at The Rio in 2014, rubbing elbows with the world best poker players. So I'm going to add, make it fun, and make it as stress free as possible to my goals. I also want to be in the best shape of my adult life coming in those tournaments so I can be as sharp as possible. I weigh 25 pounds less than I did in 2010 so I'm on my way, but can still make more headway.

To recap here are my goals:

-$10,000 bankroll by June 2014
- 400 hours of play by June 2014
- 25 local tournaments played by June 2014
- Play in a Lake Tahoe WSOP Circuit Event
- Continue to improve my physical fitness
- Make it fun

And lastly, blog about it. It's great to have this record of my past poker adventures and I'd like to get back in the habit.

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...