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...