Thursday, June 14, 2018

2018 WSOP $565 PLO Recap

Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) is not my best game. Against a good PLO player or in a tough PLO game I'd normally be at a big disadvantage. But I liked my chances just fine in the $565 PLO event at this years WSOP for a few reasons.

First off, the dynamics of managing a tournament and sensing strength or weakness cross over from game to game. Secondly, I had the mindset that this was a minor part of my schedule so I was feeling zero fear of going for it when needed. Thirdly the players I faced generally fell into three categories that were a function of the fact that this was an official WSOP event that allowed for unlimited reentries - 1) Not good PLO players who were just playing because it was the only event starting that day 2) Good PLO players taking big risks early planning to reenter as many times as needed to build a healthy stack 3) Decent PLO players for whom this event was a big deal who were only willing to enter once. Almost everyone fell into one of these buckets.

My challenge was to sort out who was who and then exploit the weakness in each of these types of players. The first two types will end up calling to raising too much with middling strength hands and the last group will fold too much and play too passively.

As we were first sitting down there were only 3 people at the table and one guy asked what would happen if he waited a while for more people to arrive before playing (answer - your stack gets blinded off). I put him in category #3. Other guys when they came to our table mentioned how many times they'd bought in already (i.e. "This is bullet number 3 for me") I usually put them in category 2.

Another big clue was - "Is this guy from Europe?" PLO is much more common in Europe, they can play online which means they probably have more experience and if you're traveling to Vegas from Europe it's much more likely that you're a serious player than if you drove out for the weekend from L.A.

Eventually there were 2,419 entries with a first place prize of $181,790 and the top 363 finishing in the money. We started with 5,000 chips, blinds of 25/50 and the levels increasing every 30 minutes planning to play 18 levels on Day 1.

I ended up re-entering one time after going nowhere this my first bullet. After getting a run of garbage hands for the first couple of hours I was down to about 3,000 chips when I got dealt AK99 with K9 of spades which was the best hands I'd seen all day. The cutoff raised to 500, the button called and I was in the perfect spot for a squeeze in the big blind. I raised pot, the cutoff went all in with KJT3 with two hears and the other guy folded. I was a 55/45 favorite preflop, after a flop of Q76 with one spade I was 72% to win and after a turn of the 3 of spades I was 80% to win, but the river was a red jack and that was it.

I re-entered and I was sent to a new table with a fresh stack of 5,000 chips. At my new table the person who stood out was 2010 Main Event winner and 3 time bracelet winner Jonathan Duhamel. He was the 9th different world champion that I've played against which I think is pretty cool and he ended up finishing 6th in this event. A little later Barry Greenstein who has at least one PLO bracelet joined our table as well.

My first big hand came up with blinds of 200/400. I got dealt AQT2 with the AT of spades, raised to 1,400, someone went all in for 2,250, another player cold called and I called the extra 850. I only had 1,500 left and my plan was to shove almost all flops as I was basically pot committed. To my delight the flop came down Q92 all spades meaning I had the nuts. I didn't see much point it checking so I just shipped it, the other player folded and I help up against the all in. Now I had 8,300 chips.

A couple hands later I raised QQJ7 double suited with spades and hearts to 1,400 from the cutoff and got called by the button and the big blind. The flop came down JT2 with one spade and two diamonds. This is where a good PLO player would know if this was and obvious time to bet, a good time to check or in between. I wasn't sure, but my thinking in the moment was I'd be ahead of a flush draw or straight draw unless it was a big wrap like KQ87, I'd have some backdoor flush and straight equity against TT or JT and since I had a J in my hand JJ was much less likely. I ended up going for it and bet the pot which was 4,200. I got called by the button and the turn came out the 4 of diamonds. This was a dreadful card and I was now drawing dead to a flush and that was a highly likely hand for him to have. But with 12,600 in the pot and only 1,900 left in my stack I fired it all in. My opponent called and flipped over AQ95 which was a bare straight draw. The river was a 7 and I was up to about 17K.

In the next big hand I made a read, trusted it and was right. I was in the big blind with AKJ7 with KJ of diamonds, two early position players just called and the small blind came along as well. This hand might warrant a raise here, but I'm not sure. Anyway the flop came down A74, rainbow with one diamond. I bet out 2,000 with top two pair and the first limper raised me to 6,000 with about 1,900 left. I stopped to think about what my opponent could have. If he had AA in his hand he'd likely have raised preflop. There aren't too many hands with 44 or 77 in them that are playable from early position. There was not a possible flush draw. What I was left with was he must have some kind of straight draw. I thought it was probably something like 4567 or AK65. After about 45 seconds I put him all in and he turned over 5678. With his wrap straight draw vs my two pair we were almost exactly 50/50. The turn was a 3! No! The river was an A! Hooray! Now I was up to 26,000 and feeling like no matter what re-entering was a good idea.

In the next hand there was only one way to go. I had AAKT with the KT of hearts (which is a premium hand) and 23K in my stack. I raised in the cutoff to 2,100 and the button raised to 7,200. In PLO a hand with AA will be favored against any hand that does not have AA in it, and not only that but I had a good hand with AA in it. When it got back to me I paused for 10 seconds, said "Pot" meaning I wanted to raise the max and we both put all of our chips in. My opponent who had me covered by a couple thousand chips turned over AA75 with the A5 of hearts. I assumed that I would be ahead here as we both have AA and I had KT compared to his 75, but it turns out that we're 55.3% to chop, I'm 17.9% to win and he's 26.8% to win. I guess the ability of 75 to make straights and him having me dominated in hearts is a big deal. Anyway the flop came out 644 with two hearts which made me want to puke. I was now less than 1% to win and 48% to chop. The turn was the 8 of hearts meaning I needed a 4 on the river to chop, but instead it was a brick and I was out.

It's never fun to get busted with a strong hand, but I'm glad I was 100% sure what to do on this one and not left with any regrets or doubts.

Friday, June 08, 2018

HORSE Day 2 Recap

It was a short torturous Day 2 for me ending 45 minutes in after a couple of diabolical Razz hands. As expected I was pissed and not in the best mindset to late register for a $1500 short handed event. On to $565 PLO which is a reentry event. I may fire 2 bullets at this one if needed.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

2018 WSOP $1,500 HORSE - Ups, Downs and Playing With Phil Ivey

When I play back these tournaments in my head it's all about the hands, but I don't think I have any Stud or Razz enthusiasts reading so I'll keep the hand recaps to a minimum and focus on the broader picture. 

We started with 7,500 chips, 60 minute levels with a 20 minute break after ever other level and a 75 minute dinner break after level 6 with Day 1 ending after level 10. Also worth noting is we switched from one game to the next in the HORSE mix every 8 hands.

I got off to a shitty start and was down under 5,000 chips in the final minutes of the second level. I won the last hand of the level which got me even, but at the start of level 3 took a dip down to about 4,000 chips. At this point I started thinking about what I might do with the rest of my day after an early bust out. 

The table I was on was in the middle of a group of 15 tables and every now and then I'd stretch my legs and look around. Looking at the other players it was like I was playing a game of "Is this person someone from the bay area, a poker celebrity or just a random dude." There was Phil Helmuth who was unmistakeable, a guy who looked like someone I know from the Oaks, but upon closer inspection was not anyway I knew and a guy I knew from somewhere who I finally realized was multiple bracelet winner Barry Greenstein. I saw Chuck from Bay 101 and I saw 2005 Main Event Champ Greg Raymer. I saw online legend Jon Turner and some dude who was no one. I realized in that 15 table group there were (at least) 3 guys who had written poker books that I had read.

But the field was pretty soft. HORSE is not a game for the new school crushers and there were loads of passive old dudes in the mix as well. 

My luck turned around in level 3 and 4 and my 4,000 chips stack quickly ballooned to 16,900 by the second break. I made some hands, but also I did a great job of running over the weaker players. Some guys bail in the stud games if they catch one bad card or when I catch one good one. If you lean on them at all they fold way more than they should. 

After coming back from that break they stopped all of the tournament action in the room to award a WSOP Bracelet to a recent winner. He was from France so they played the French national anthem and his wife and friends joined him up on stage and he gave a little speech! I thought that was cool. Here is a terrible picture of that:

I continued to play well and run well and by the dinner break I was up to about 24,000 coming back to stakes of 400/800. This was a comfortable stack and in my mind I thought about it like playing a $20/$40 cash game with $1,200 which is something I can relate to and I know is plenty to work with. I had a Smash Burger for dinner which hit the spot and then went and sat by the pool for 10 minutes. That felt amazing and is going to be a dinner break habit.

Levels 7 and 8 felt like they did not go well, but when I counted down my chips I still had 22,800.

After another break we came back at about 9:30 pm, to start level 9. Registration was open for 8 levels or technically to the start of level 9 and a few people took advantage of that. One of those people was Phil Ivey and he got seated at my table! Phil has been almost without argument considered one of the top 4 or 5 poker players in the world for the 15-20 years. He's crushed at the biggest tournaments, the biggest online games and the biggest cash games year after year winning tens of millions of dollars.

Anyway, he still got the same 7,500 chip stack that we all started with which was pretty short at this point. He had his headphones on and didn't say a word other than to ask how much longer we'd be playing that day and one hoarse whisper of "raise." Some guy came over to talk to him that seemed like a friend and he responded with a look. Another sentence from the guy got a different look. A third sentence and a third look, but no words and the guy was off. 

I won a nice pot right after he arrived and was up to 30,000 chips and feeling great. But then things turned south for us both. Phil only won one small pot in Hold'em and half an Omaha pot in the 67 minutes he was at our table before busting. Poker News reporters were camped around out table to cover all of the totally unexciting action.

Briefly worth noting is that 2012 Main Event runner up (who won $5.2M for the effort) Jesse Silvia was at our table for a couple of hours, also short stacked, and who also went busto fairly quickly. 

Anyway, I went down the toilet big time in the last level. The stretch that sticks with me is when I had a couple of hands in the stud hi-lo where I had a low draw and a flush draw and bricked out on both and on one of those I also had a straight draw and even pairing two of my cards would have been good for the high half of the pot. It was frustrating to have my worst run outs in the biggest level of the day.

But I did survive to Day 2. I only have 9,100 chips left, but I'm still in it with a chance. 256 players of the 731 entrants made it through Day 1. The chip leader has 98,600 and I'm in 173rd which is better than I might have expected. If i make it to 110th that will pay $2,253 and if I turn things around first place is $202,787. Level 11 is 1000/2000 so I've got enough for about one big hand and will need help early. We redrew tables for the next day so I'll have new slate of opponents.

Also of note, it's very unlikely that I will the play the No Limit 6 Max event today. I could register late if I bust in the HORSE, but after busting in any tournament you're not in a great mindset and I played a long ass day yesterday so I think my next event will be Friday's PLO.

Also of note, if you've never see what they do with our chips overnight, it's kind of interesting. You put your name, table number and seat number on this taper evident bag.

The give you this little carbon copy form that has your day 2 table and seat and creates 3 copies - one to go in the bag, one to go to the dealer and one that you keep.

Then the dealer collects all the bags.

And each one of these orange bags is for Day 2 table. 

Lastly the proper way to celebrate making day 2 without actually making they money is not with Champagne, but with a tall boy of The Champagne of Beers. On to Day 2!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

2018 WSOP Photos and Getting Juiced Up to Play Poker

I landed in Vegas at 7:30 Tuesday and by about 8:45 I was checked in to the Rio, registered for the HORSE and eating some fajitas at "Guy Fieri's El Burro Borracho." This restaurant used to be Buzzios which was a fine dining seafood restaurant with great lobster and my favorite place to eat at the Rio. The entire Rio seems to have taken similar step down. When I first stayed here 16 years ago it was 10 years old and if not in the top echelon it was in the next tier. Now it feels like the Guy Fieri of Vegas hotels.

The poker and the WSOP in general have gone in the other direction. The logistics of this operation are mind boggling. Today there two bracelet events starting, but also two Day 2's, a Day 3 and a Day 4 of previous events along with four one day tournaments (that have no prestige and $200-$300 buy ins) and two mega satellites. That's 12 tournaments with hundreds or thousands of entrants where people need to show ID and their players club card to register and get paid out and get served drinks and if anything doesn't run smoothly there will be loud bitching.

I managed to keep the discipline in place and was sober and in my room by 9:30 without having bet on anything. I got 9 hours of sleep and woke up feeling about as good as I ever have after a night in Vegas. I'm sure the discipline will crack at some point, but for now I'm in tip top shape.

Now, pictures!

 The first thing you see as you walk toward the WSOP area. Get juiced up!

 Looking through that door the tables look like they go off to infinity. If you can look at this in person and not get even more juiced up about playing poker, you do not have a pulse.

They are clearly promoting certain tournaments and those will be the ones with the biggest and softest fields.

This is 'The Kings Room" where they are playing the bigger cash games. They had some $50/$100 and $75/$150 HORSE and Omaha games going in there, but no super big no limit games or real nose bleed games. Not too busy on a Tuesday night, but pretty plush looking.

This is part of the Brasilia room where I will be playing in a hour or two.

This is half of the Amazon Room. The entire WSOP - the bracelet events, satellites, daily tournaments, cash games, and the cashier were all in this one room the first year I was here in 2005.

Here is the other half of the Amazon Room with the featured table set in the middle.

Here is a closer look at the featured table set. If you watch any live streams on twitch or eventually on ESPN this is where that all takes place. If you look closely you can see the stands for fans in the back which are only big enough to hold maybe 100 people. How cool would it be to play on that table! JUICED UP!

Another picture of me looking like a chump taking photos with the WSOP backgrounds.

This is the biggest room of tables. There are hundreds of tables in here. This picture does not do it justice.

Here is another stage with a poker table on it. Not sure what they use this for exactly. Maybe when two final tables are going off concurrently?

And now, it's go time!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

My 2018 WSOP Schedule

I'm off to Vegas today for the 8th lifetime visit to the World Series of Poker! I played 1 event in 2015, but this is my first real shot at it since 2010. The 2018 WSOP consists of 78 events with buy ins ranging from $365 to $1,000,000 going off at the Rio over the course of 7 weeks. I'll be rolling in to town with a five figure bankroll in my pocket planning to play 4 or 5 official WSOP events over the course of about a week and possibly one or two of the hundreds of other side tournaments taking place all over town.

I'll be posting pictures, recaps, results and stories on this blog daily.

Here are the events I'm playing and how they shaped up last year.

Wednesday June 5th - $1,500 HORSE
2017 Entrants: 736
2017 Prize Pool: $993,600
2017 First Place: $203,709
2017 Place needed to cash for $10,000: 12th place paid $11,193
2017 Money Bubble: 111th place paid $2,247, 112th or worse paid $0
Additional info: HORSE is a mix of 5 different games: (H)old'em, (O)maha Hi-Lo split, (R)azz, 7 Card (S)tud and 7 Card Stud (E)ight or Better. I made the money in the $3,000 HORSE event at the WSOP in 2009 finishing 27th of 489 which is my best WSOP finish and my second biggest cash ever was in a $1,000 HORSE tournament when I finished 4th of 445.

Thursday June 6th - $1,500 No Limit Hold'em 6 handed
2017 Entrants: 1,748
2017 Prize Pool: $2,359,800
2017 First Place: $393,273
2017 Place needed to cash for $10,000: 36th place paid $10,074
2017 Money Bubble: 263rd place paid $2,247, 264th or worse paid $0
Additional info: Playing 6 handed games was my specialty when I was an online poker pro so I'm hoping to have a nice edge. Getting a good table draw will be huge in this event as it's easier to crush weaker players short handed and harder to stay out of the way of the strong players.

Friday June 7th - $565 Pot Limit Omaha
2017 Entrants: 3,186
2017 Prize Pool: $1,593,000
2017 First Place: $224,344
2017 Place needed to cash for $10,000: 15th place paid $11,754
2017 Money Bubble: 479rd place paid $831, 480th or worse paid $0
Additional info: I've never played a PLO tournament at the WSOP and never played PLO in person, but I played maybe 100 PLO tournaments online between 2006-2010 and the low buy in is likely to attract a soft field. This one will be a crapshoot!

Saturday June 8th - $1,500 "Millionaire Maker" No Limit Hold'em
2017 Entrants: 7,761
2017 Prize Pool: $10,477,350
2017 First Place: $1,221,407
2017 Place needed to cash for $10,000: 90th place paid $11,079
2017 Money Bubble: 1,165th place paid $2,249, 1,166th or worse paid $0
Additional info: This is my main event! 1st place is guaranteed to be over $1,000,000 and that attracts a ton of amateurs and total novices from all over the country.

Sunday June 9th - $1,500 "Millionaire Maker" No Limit Hold'em Take 2!
Additional info: This event has two day #1's with the remaining players combining on Monday June 10th, but if you don't clear Day 1 on Saturday you can try again on Sunday.

The first 3 are 3 days tournaments where on the first day we'll play about to the money bubble (i.e. about 15% of players will clear the first day), on the second day we'll plan down to the final table (i.e. the top 8 or 9), and on the third day we'll play down to a winner. The last one is a 4 day tournament (5 days if you count each day 1 as it's own day).

I have 3 goals for this year: Strike First! Strike Hard! No Mercy!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Project Phaser: Phase 3.5 ($550 No Limit Turbo) The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

On Friday we started with 20,000 in chips, but a turbo structure of 15 minute limits that projected to have the tournament completed in 5 or 6 hours. 121 people put up the $550 buy in, the top 16 spots paid with 16th being $1,180 and 1st place being $17,000.

My table was filled with talkers. The guy to my left referred to the tournament buy in as "The Ante" and seemed highly confused, while the guy to my right mentioned that he was going to be in Vegas for the first 3 weeks of the World Series of Poker. Two other guys were talking about the World Series of Poker and their past experience there, but from the specific stories they told it made it clear that they were recreational players.

In normal life I'd LOVE to share WSOP stories. I have a lot of them and enjoy hearing other people stories. I'm also proud of my poker accomplishments. But I didn't want to give these guys any clues about me and I had the discipline to keep my mouth shut about myself and my history.

I got into a pot with Mr. Confused in the first level that could have been a big deal. With blinds of 100/100 we were both in the blinds and checked our options. I had J6 in the small blind, flopped two pair on a J 6 8 flop. I bet out 200 and got called. The turn was a 3 and I bet 500 into the 600 chip pot. Again my opponent called. The river was a 4 and I checked hoping to induce a bluff. Like clockwork my opponent bet out 1,200, I called and took it down against J3 which was also two pair. The villain probably should have raised the turn and I probably should have raised the river, but it was a fine pot for that level.

And that was the only hand that was worth noting in the first 5 levels. Coming back from break I had 15K with the blinds at 300/500 with a 500 big blind ante.

About 25 minutes later without much of story to it, I got ground down to 10,300 and with blinds of 300/600 I looked down at 55 in the cutoff. If I had 10 big blinds or less this is a clear shove, but with 17 big blinds going all in here is a little excessive. Although I told myself I'd rather go out guns blazing and take a chance when a double up would put me back to decent shape than to wait too long, get blinded off and need multiple breaks to get back in it. With that said, I ripped it!

Sadly the small blind quickly moved all in as well and had QQ. Luckily I had her covered by 2,600 so I was still alive when I didn't find a 5.

A few hands later I went all in for 2,600 with T9 and took down the blinds uncontested. I folded everything until I was in the small blind where I got dealt K5 of diamonds. One player had called in middle position, I called and the big blind checked his option. The flop came down 993 with one diamond and it checked around. The tun was an interesting card, the 3 of diamonds. There was 2400 in the pot and I had 2,300 left. With some chance I actually had the best hand and drawing pretty live if I got called by a hand like A high or 77, I moved all in. The middle position player quickly called me and to my delight he turned over JT of diamonds. The river was the Q of diamonds and now I was up to 7K.

On the next hand the same guy just called preflop and I looked down at A8 on the button. Since I'd just seen him limp with JT of diamonds I assumed he probably had something similar. With 11 or 12 big blinds this was a good time to go for it, so I shipped it, and the big blind moved all in with QQ over the top. ACK! Why do these damn blinds keep waking up with QQ?

I didn't hit an ace and that was it.

Going out with Ax vs a big pair has been a common theme in Project Phaser. Based on my results you'd think that A8 had like a 5% chance to beat QQ, but it's 29%! And 55 is in deep shit against QQ, but it's still 19% to win.

My next big thing is the mother fuckin' World Series of Poker! Whoop whoop! My first day of play will be on June 6th, but I do have 7 days of cash games planned between now and then and am hoping to find a day to crank out about 15 small online poker tournaments so I expect to post a couple of times between now and then.

My $10,000 starting bankroll is now at $9,630.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Project Phaser: Phase 3.4 ($350 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo) The Torture Chamber

Before I get into today's post and word on Omaha Hi-Lo. Skip it if you know how to play Omaha.

In Omaha each player is dealt 4 cards instead of 2 and you must use EXACTLY 2 cards from your hand and EXACTLY 3 cards from the board to make your hand (in hold'em you can use 0, 1 or 2 cards from your hand and 5, 4 or 3 from the board). In Omaha Hi-Lo the highest hand and the lowest hand split the pot, but in order to make a low you have to be able to make a 5 card hand with 5 cards of different rank 8 and below. If there is no low hand the high hand gets the entire pot. Aces are both the highest card and the lowest card making them very powerful and you can use the same cards or different cards for the high hand and low hand. The best starting hand is AA23 with A2 of the same suit and A3 of the same suit, but generally any hand with A2 or A3 in it is good as you can make a really strong low hand and hope to back into some kind of high hand. Aces are great, low cards are good, high cards are OK and middling cards like 6,7,8,9 are total garbage. Also this game is usually played fixed limit meaning you can't just bet all of your chips, there are set amounts that you can bet or raise (equal to the one big blind before the flop and on the flop, and 2 big blinds on the turn or river). Boom! That's Omaha Hi-Lo.

Now on to the actual tournament!

We started with 85 players each getting 10,000 in chips and blinds of 25/50 and I found myself at a great table.

But before I get to the tournament a word on word choice. There are a ton of common phrases for bad player such as: fish, donkeys (or just donks if you prefer!), suckers, chumps, clowns, rubes and so on. The classy thing to do is to call them recreational players, because after all no one is born knowing how to play poker and losing players are there to have fun. I think this is the right thing to do and I try to use this most respectful term whenever I can.

With that said, these chumps were HIGHLY recreational. Donks don't get more recreational than these clowns!

The guy two to my right did not fold a single hand preflop. Not one! On the second or third hand he got to showdown and I saw him turn over 9864 and I was like "Recreational Player Alert!" Then another guy raised what turned out to be J844 under the gun. The other players were not much better!

I wanted to play this tournament because tournament players don't get to play much Omaha and Omaha players don't get to play many tournaments. I've played some number in the hundreds of hours of Omaha, thousands and thousands of tournaments and some poker stuff translates across all games. But I was worried that I might run into some Omaha specialists. Nope! Every singe player at the table did something that was categorically unjustifiable.

I got garbage for 45 minutes and then I finally found a good hand. I came in raising with A25T with the A5 of spades, two players called and Mr. Never Fold 3 bet it with KQJ8, I 4 bet it and we took the flop 4 ways. The flop came down K43 with the 43 of spades. This meant I had the nut low draw, the nut flush draw, and an A, 2 or 5 would make me a straight. Mr. Never fold had a pair of kings, no low draw, no spade draw and no clue. I bet, he raised, I reraised and he 4 bet it (4 bets is a cap meaning I couldn't raise again). I should point out that no one who has played Omaha for more than a couple of hours would even call the flop here let alone go balls to the wall in a multiway pot.

We took the turn 3 way and it came out a red Q. Now I needed an 8,7,6,5,2 or A to make the nut low plus 7 of the spades and 3 other jacks to make the nut high. Mr. Never Fold bet, I made a questionable raise, the other guy called and it came back to me at 3 bets. I just called and the river came out an 8. I made the nut low, but I had no high so when Mr. Never Fold bet, I just called, the other guy called and I got half the pot.

In the second hour of play the torture really started. Keep in mind that every hand has been going down like the above where Mr. Never Fold and many others are WAY over playing their hands. In the course of 5 hands at 100/200 blinds I got dealt a hand with an A2, and two with A3 suited and I just totally bricked out. This is kind of the equivalent of getting an AK and pocket jacks twice and losing them all, but it's worse because it's a split pot game. Missing out on high and low 3 times with really strong hands was rough.

In the first two hours I won two half pots and that's it.

A little later at the 200/400 blinds level I get dealt AQJ8 with the QJ of diamonds in the big blind and call a raise to 800 5 ways. The flop comes down K99 with one diamond and it checks around. The turn brings out the A of diamonds giving me a gut shot, top pair and a Q high flush draw. It checks around to Mr. Never Fold who bets and I call. Under normal conditions you'd never call with the #2 flush draw on a paired board in a 5 way pot, but I knew none of these clowns was checking a 9 or KK on that flop or AA on that turn and Mr. Never Fold could have anything. The preflop raiser also called.

It turns out I was up against QQJ6 that had raised preflop (THIS IS SO TERRIBLE!), and AJ85 from Mr. Never Fold. If you look at the board of K99A what do they need to hit to win? This is an astoundingly rare spot where I have two players drawing almost totally dead with a really marginal hand. The raiser needs the last queen or two 9's to scoop and a non diamond T to chop. Mr. Never Fold has no outs.

The river came out a T which I thought was a good card and I got half the pot, but when the cards got turned over I was like "WHAT THE FUCK! HOW IS QQJ6 OVER CALLING THE TURN! CAN I GET A CLEAN RIVER ONE TIME! THIS IS TORTURE!"

And that was one of my good hands.

On my final hand I got a free look in the 600 chip big blind with KQ73 with the Q3 of spades. The flop came down Q72 with two spades giving me top two pair and a flush draw. I bet out and stack off for 4 bets on the flop and one bet on the turn with AQ84. On the flop I'm 79% to win the high, 25% to scoop and 5% to win the low, but the turn was an A and the river was a 9 and that was it.


My $10,000 starting bankroll is now at $10,180.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Project Phaser: Phase 3.3 (Another Bay 101 $350) Good Reads

I was back at it today at Bay 101 with 10,000 chips and back to the same structure from Monday. As you may recall yesterday's event was billed as the Monster Stack with 25,000 chips! I would call this Monster Bull Shit!

The Monster Stack actually had less play in it than the regular stack. For example, in level 3 today the blinds were 50/100 with a 100 big blind ante, while yesterday level 3 was 200/300 with a 300 ante. A cost of 250 chips a round vs 800 a round (more than 3X as big) and starting stacks of 10K and 25K (2.5X as big). They could start us with a billion chips, but if the blinds are 50,000,000/100,000,000 it's still 100 big blinds. This is actually fake outrage! I'm not upset about it, just thought it was worth noting.

On to today! I had my first hand of note at the 50/100 blinds with a 100 ante level, getting dealt 88 and raising one caller to 400. The caller called my raise to 400 because as they say, haters gonna hate, players gonna play and callers gonna call. The flop came down K 7 2, the villain checked, I bet 700 and he called pretty quickly.

The villain in this hand was a guy I'd played with once or twice before and he's a recreational player who is not very good, but he's absolutely loose and aggressive. He was an early position caller and I didn't think there was much of a chance that he'd just call preflop with a K and if he did I thought he'd check raise it here. I also thought there was a good chance he'd bet out or check raise a flush draw. Discounting those, I put him on something like 76 suited or 97 suited. The turn was a black J, he checked and I checked it back. The river was a really interesting card - the A of hearts - and my opponent fired out 1,500!

You'd think with the front door flush draw getting there and three over cards 88 would be an easy muck, but I stopped to think this through. What's interesting about the A is that when most players raise preflop, bet flop and check turn they have a ton of Ax type of hands in their range of possible hands. Even people who aren't good at hand reading know this. It looks like I should have AQ or AT here. So if this guy did have a K or a J in his hand he's not going to bet that for value when the ace shows up. If he did have a flush draw there is a good chance he'd go for a check raise here. Combine that with the fact that I thought he'd push a draw on the flop if he had one and that puts me back at my original read of him having one small pair. After a short delay I made the call and he turned over 44! Huzzah!

I won a couple of other small pots and got my stack up to about 15K when the next hand came along. A new guy sat down at our table and on his first hand he opened to 375 under the gun at 75/150 blinds.

 I didn't recognize him, but my snap judgement was that he knew what he was doing. He was a 40ish Asian guy with a shitload of tattoos (he had two different sets of 4 letter words on his knuckles with one letter on each finger) and he hand a backpack with him (usually a giveaway for good players - casual players don't bring a backpack, but if you're planning to be there all day and want to be comfortable you bring a lot of shit with you). I looked down at QQ which 97% of the time I'm going to 3 bet, but I just called. Something not totally at my top level of thinking was telling me not to 3 bet it.

I did think, this guy just sat down and usually people want to get settled for a few minutes before they play a hand so this one is not on the fence and since he's under the gun it must be a really strong hand. Even still QQ is the 3rd best possible hand so it's still probably a 3 bet.

Looking back I could make the argument that normally a tight UTG range would be TT+ and AQ+ or AJ suited, but most of those hands make it 450+ in that spot and really it's only KK or AA that would go for the small sizing from up front. Also I could add that early stages are about survival and I should minimize my chance of going broke. But I honestly wasn't thinking any of that at the time.

So I called with my black QQ and the button and big blind also called. The flop came out 866 with two spades and the main villain bet 900 into the 1,800 chip pot. I just called and everyone else folded. The turn was the J of spades and now he checked. I didn't really see a reason to bet here. If he had AA or KK or a big spade he wasn't folding and if he had something like AK, AQ or AJ I think it was worth giving him a free card for the potential to give him a chance to bluff at the river. I checked it back, the river was the 5 of spades and he checked again. Now I came out betting 1,500 which was a small bet hoping to get a crying call from AA or KK or even TT with the T of spades. He looked back at this cards, paused for a moment and made the call. I showed my hand and he turned over KK with the K of spades! Ack! This was not great, but should have been so much worse. If I play it fast I'm going to have a hard time getting away from it on that run out.

On the next hand of note I made it 600 with red 99 at the 100/200 level and only the big blind called me. The flop came down T 8 5 with two diamonds and one spade and to my surprise my opponent led into me for 900. I was thinking this could be a T or a flush draw, but whatever it was betting into the preflop raiser from the big blind on a board like this is odd. I made the call and the turn came out the J of spades making me an open ended straight draw. My opponent bet again, this time for 1,200 and I decided to put the heat on. The only hand that made any sense that was value betting here was JT and everything else was getting a little out of line. I made it 3,500 to go fully expecting to take it down (it's not just the 3,500 here, but knowing that if I really have the goods I'm putting in at least another 5,000 on the river so there is no cheap way to get to showdown), but my opponent quickly called. The river was a disaster, the ace of spades and my opponent fired for 2,000. Now I did not think he was out of line. This sizing looked like a value bet for sure and I figured I'd run into AT or some kind of Tx hand that had two spades in it. I folded and my opponent showed Q4 of spades! Ack! What a goof ball play this guy made. I lost the hand, but felt good about sniffing out the oddness of his line.

So those were my good reads, but in the end I just didn't get anywhere today. I had another hand where I flopped open ended, played it aggressively and missed. That took me down from 6,200 to about 2,900. Then with blinds of 200/300 and a 300 ante I shoved with A8 from the cutoff, the button called me with KK and the board ran out Q J T 7 2.

I didn't hang around to see what the prizes were and don't know exactly where I finished. My $10,000 starting bankroll is now at $10,530. Tomorrow Omaha!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Project Phaser: Phase 3.2 (Bay 101 $400) Don't Call It a Comeback

We started with 25K chips and 227 players putting up the $400 buy in today at Bay 101. 27 spots were in the money with 27th paying $720, 9th paying $1,430 with steady pay jump all the way up to $22,220 for 1st.

I ordered breakfast as soon as I got there during the early levels and it was goooooooooood!

And here is what it looks like in there. This is a terrible picture and I will try to do better next time.

I got into my first big hand of the day 2 hours in with blinds of 300/600 with a 600 big blind ante. The cutoff raised to 1,500 and I made a speculative call in the big blind with 65 of spades. The flop came down K 3 2 with two clubs, I checked and my opponent bet 2,200 and I made a loose call. My plan here was to either A) hit a 4 B) have him check back the turn and then fire the river no matter what C) bluff any club on the turn D) hit a 5 or a 6 and somehow make it to showdown and win against a hand like AJ.

The turn was a great card for plan C, the 3 of clubs. I bet out 4,500 and after thinking for a bit he called. I was considering if I should bet again when plan A came into play - I hit a red 4 making me a straight! I bet 7,500 and my opponent quickly folded. This put me up to 37K chips.

A little later with blinds of 600/1200 there was a raise to 2,600 and a call. I looked down at pocket aces! Oh baby! I made it 8,500 hoping that someone would think I was squeezing and come back at me. The raiser called, the other guy folded and the flop came down Q 5 3 with two clubs. After some hesitation the villain shoved for about 15K and I snap called him. He turned over 99, the board bricked out and I was up to 60K.

At the 1000/1500 blinds level I made a pretty ballsy play. I was in the small blind and just called with K5 off. I'd had 4 hands where everyone had folded to me in the small blind and I'd raised the big blind every time. Once he'd called, twice he'd folded and once he three bet shoved on me. I figured for 500 with 4,000 already in the pot it was worth it to go for a limp. He checked his option and the flop came down A T 3 rainbow.

This is a spot where neither of us should have an ace and there are no draws so I fired out 3,500 thinking it would probably get through. Even if this looks suspicion most players don't have the stones to make a move. To my surprise my opponent made it 8,000 to go. I had absolutely nothing, but I took a closer look at the board and thought about what he could have. Setting aside preflop considerations there is no way he'd flop a set here and then raise me when on the flop so I threw out AA, TT and 33. If I really can rule out him having an A, then I'm left with T3 as the only hand I really have to worry about. No other hands can stand a raise and there is a ton of other shit he could have. So I jacked it up to 25K to go and he quickly folded. You think you playing with kids man?! Get that shit outta here!

That one put me up to 90K but I quickly blew off 2/3 of my stack. I lost 13K when I raised to 4K with A3 suited on the button and called the big blinds all in. He had K6 and hit a K. Next, I raised 44 to 5,500, got called, fired 9K at the flop and my opponent shoved on me. Finally, I just called with AJ out of the big blind, called the flop on a Q T 5 board, bluffed at the turn when a T came, gave up on the river and lost to QJ.

I lost a little more to blinds and antes and was down to 33K. Yuck!

Then I had a total reverse. With blinds of 1K/2K (don't forget the 2K ante) two players just called the 2K and I ripped it with 77! Rip! The first caller immediately called off his 25K stack and I thought I'd been duped by someone limping in with AA. To my amazement he had 55 and my hand held. Two hands later I raised AQ to 6K and the small blind shoved for 50K! This would normally be a tight spot, but this guy was a super aggro young guy who was blasting all in with random shit on a regular basis so I did not hesitate in calling. He had J8 of diamonds and the board ran out garbage. Get THAT shit out of here too!

All of a sudden I was up to 110K with 81 players left when the average stack was 70K. I got accolades from my table mates on my turnaround. Speaking of my table mates, they were a Bay 101 murderers row with 4 guys who I suspect are pros.

A little later it was down the toilet again. I called a 22K all in with AK and lost to AJ when the board ran out QT829. Then I made a highly questionable play. The button raised to 6,500 at the 1500/2500 blind level and I made it 20,000 to go with Q7 off from the small blind. I thought he was a little deeper but after he called me I saw he only had about 15K left. The flop came down 985 which game me a gut shot and one over and not sure what to do I just put him all in. He quickly called me with QT (queen ten! Ugh!) and his queen high held up. Both of these hands were against the same opponent and he was not quiet about winning these pots.

I was down to 60K at the 2K/4K level in the big blind when 3 people just called. The first guy who called was regularly raising on the larger side when he entered the pot and did not seem at all the type to limp with a big hand. The other guys were in no way just calling 4K with a big hand. So with 18K sitting out there I shoved for another 56K with Q2 off suit. The first guy hemmed and hawed but they all folded.

There is a big difference between these two hands despite the fact that I'm getting aggressive with shitty off suit queens. In the second hand I had a very strong indication that no one could call an all in. In the first one I was kind of hoping he wouldn't call. It was too aggressive. If I'm being honest I was still feeling a little emotion about losing the AK vs AJ hand and did something I wouldn't normally do. In the Q2 hand I wish I'd trust myself more often in spots like this and go for it.

On the very next hand after the Q2 hand I was in the small blind. The big blind had about 45K and since I had him covered I wanted to put the pressure on him. I looked down at my first card and it was an ace. The was enough so I just shipped it without looking at the other one. He instantly called me and I thought "Oh shit!" but then he rolled over A4! And I had AJ! And I flopped a J! Huzzah!

No I had 125K, we were down to 45 players with 27 spots paying and it was 3:45 or 6 hours and 15 minutes since hand #1.

When we got down to 40 I had 110K chips and got moved to a new table. I looked at the table and it was all chumps! I mean there were a couple of unknowns, but it took me 7 seconds to see that half the table looked like deer in the headlights and there were certainly no pros in the bunch.

A few minutes passed and then I got involved in a big hand in a questionable spot. With blinds of 2500/5000 a guy in middle position opened to 11,000. This is a really small raise and while this is kind of standard in bigger tournaments, the standard in this one seemed to be 2.5X-3X the big blind. Anyway, the small blind called and I made a speculative call with Q9 with the Q of clubs. The flop came down A96 all clubs giving me middle pair and the 2nd nut flush draw. I checked it over to the raiser who bet out 30K with about 60K behind. The small blind folded and I decided to go for it. If he had something like AK or AJ I'd be about 50/50, I'd be about a 2 to 1 underdog against a set or a 2 to 1 favorite against Kx with the K of clubs and everything else would just be folding. It's that last part that makes moving in in spots like this often times the right move. Plan A is to have him fold and pick up 68K chips, and plan B is to have a fighting chance if he calls. 68k chips is worth more than $1,000 in equity!

But there were 2 problems - 1) 30K is a big bet and I should have looked at that as strong hand that was looking to protect against a flush draw, but not likely to fold and 2) my opponent had A9. Shit! The turn was an ace and just to rub it in the river was the J of clubs making my flush, but not enough to beat my opponent full house.

Luckily I had him 4,000. On the next hand I had 2,500 of my 4K stack in the pot in the form of the small blind and after someone raised to 15K I called without looking. Amazingly I had A2, beat QJ and was up to 17K. A couple of hands later I picked up 76 suited, shipped it and everyone folded. Now I had 27K and was starting to dream. Not really, but I did have 27K. On the next hand I got A6 and let it fly once more, but this time I got called by 99 and didn't get any help.

I finished in 34th place after 7 hours of play and then drove home 90 minutes in the peak of rush hour traffic. This sucked.

With that said, I felt fine by the time I got home. I had a nice dinner with my family and watched some basketball and I am drinking a solid bottle of Chianti. I also used this as an opportunity to have a conversation with my kids about losing with grace which is something they need to work on.

But seriously, fuck that guy who had the AJ and the QT. :)

I'm back at it tomorrow with another $350 No Limit Hold'em. My $10,000 bankroll for the project is now at $10,880.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Project Phaser: Phase 3.1 (Bay 101 $350) One Hand Wonder

We started with 10,000 in chips, blinds of 25/50 and 20 minute limits in the first event of the Bay 101 Open, $350 No Limit Hold'em. 162 players entered with 18 spots paying, 18th being $580, 1st being $16,050 and the others somewhere in between.

The tournament kicked off at 9:30 a.m. and for the first two hours nothing of note happened to me. I won a couple of small pots in standard ways, but didn't take anything to showdown.

On the second hand back from break with the blinds of 200/400 with a 400 big blind ante, I opened to 1,200 in middle position with 55. To my surprise I got 3 callers including the button and both blinds. To my delight the flop came down J 6 5 with two clubs giving me bottom set and almost certainly the best hand.

I fired out 2,500 into the 4,800 chip pot and only the big blind called. The turn was a 7 and as I was thinking about how much I was going to bet when my opponent led for 3,500. I had about 9,500 left in my stack and with 13,300 in the pot the only move was all in. I paused for effect and then ripped it!

My opponent snap called me and turned over K4 of clubs meaning 13 of the remaining 44 cards would make him a winner and 31 would send the pot my way. Sadly the river was a 3 and that was it for me.

Tomorrow I have $400 buy in No Limit Hold'em Monster Stack! Roar! I know we start with 25,000 chips, but not sure if the structure is the same. I hung around and played cash games and saw that they were down to 18 at 6 o'clock today meaning it took 7.5 hours to make the money. I presume it will take longer tomorrow.

In other news I won $1,600 in the cash games which would have been about 7th place money so it worked out that I got stuffed early.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Project Phaser: Phase 2 (Bay 101 $200) - "You're the Alpha Male!"

I headed in to Bay 101 today coming off a miserable cash game session earlier in the week where I lost to a group of miserable bastards in miserable ways, but looking forward to the Bay 101 Open which starts on Monday. I don't want to say I've never played a tournament at Bay 101, but I can tell you that the last time I did they were in a different building and Bush was President. With that in mind I wanted to get in one daily tournament over there to familiarize myself with any quirks.

I got of out the house late and arrived at 10 for the 9:30 start and ended up as an alternate.

If you squint you'll see that of the $200 buy in, $175 goes to the prize pool and $25 to the house. This is actually very reasonable. It means that the average player will lose $25 playing this tournament. This is cheaper than a round of golf and most of the players are the same types of dudes that would be playing golf on a Friday at 10 am - lot's of retired guys or people who are otherwise self employed. You'll also see that I'm Wes in casino land and not Dave! 

Here is my sad looking starting stack of 15,000 chips: Black = 100, yellow = 500, blue = 1,000, pink = 5,000. We ended up with 83 entries and played with 15 minute levels (Turbo!).

Getting a late start the blinds were already 200/400 with the big blind anteing 400 when I got my first hand at the start of level 4. It was 10:17 am. On the first hand I raised out of the small blind to 1,200 and got called, bet 1,500 on the flop and got called and check folded to 3,000 on the turn. One hand down, and 1/5 of my stack gone!

At the start of the next level at 10:30 I raised A9ss to 2K with blind of 300/600 and folded to a raise of 5K. 

Fast forward to 10:45 and I'm sitting on 8,500 with blinds of 400/800. Down to 10 big blinds, after a little less than 30 minutes without really having much of anything happen? What kind of bull shit tournament is this! A 15 minute limit tournament, that's what kind! 

Here is my imposing looking stack. I just barely resisted putting my name on the cash game lists at this point.

Then I got hot! Call the police and the fireman! I'm too hot! Make a dragon want to retire man!

My hotness started with the unquestionably not hot 74 off suit in the big blind. 4 people just called for 800 and I considered ripping it for 7,700 (as the kids might say) to maybe pick up the 4,800 in the pot, but decided that would be too aggressive when I saw the 74. The flop came out 865 and I did a triple take confirming that I had in fact flopped a straight! After we all checked, the button bet 1,600, the small blind shoved for 20,000, I called, he had 86 and my hand held up. Up to 20K!

In the next level with blinds of 600/1,200 under the gun raised to 2,600, two to his left made it 7,500 and I ripped it with AK! Rip! The first guy folded, the second guy called for 16K total, the flop was 8 5 4 and the turn was a 9.  

If you noted my hotness comment or can see that this post goes on, you can guess what the river was in two tries. It wasn't an ace. King on the river baby!

On the very next hand I raised KQ to 3K and the big blind called. The flop was K52, he shoved for 9K with 43 off and the run out was 5 on the turn T on the river. Don't call me with 43 bro! Just don't! 

It was now 11:17, one hour after my first hand and I had 54K with 55 of 83 players left. This stack looks more respectable!

With blinds of 800/1600 the cutoff limped, I limped in the small blind with A2 suited and the big blind shoved for 9,600 more. The cutoff folded and I looked at the pot. I had to call 9,600 to win 16,400 and this guy could have easily been in desperation mode. This was close but I made the call. Sadly he had 22 which was a big favorite over my hand. The flop came down QJ3 and the cutoff lamented folding JT while I thought that I'd like to see a pair on the turn. The turn was a Q and we all knew how this was going down. I was in seat 7, the guy in seat 8 was all in and the guy in seat 9 started saying "Oh man! Don't do it! Oh man! Oh man" The river came out a J and seat 8 was toast while seat 9 prattled on about how sick it was and how he couldn't help but say stuff sometimes.

On the next hand I made a hero-ish call on the river. I was in the big blind at 800/1600 and there was an open to 3200. I made a speculative call with K6 off. This is a shit hand but I was getting 4.5 to 1 and was the big stack. The flop came down Q96 with two hearts and my opponent bet 3,200. I kind of expected him to follow through with a bet no matter what he had and this was a pretty small bet so I made a speculative call with bottom pair. The turn was a 5 of clubs and it checked through. The river was a 3 of spades, I checked and now my opponent moved all in for 9,600. This did not compute. The flop was super draw heavy and if he had a Q or a 9 or a pocket pair he'd probably bet more on the flop and certainly fire the turn to protect. This felt like desperation! Or maybe the nuts, but probably desperation. After a 30 second pause I made the call and beat KT. Zing!

At that point it was 11:41, I had 83K which was the big stack at the table and the table was talking about hot how I was running. 

I decided to push it and made a speculative raise to 5,500 with 76 of spades in the 1k/2k level. I got cold called by the "Oh man! Don't do it! I say stuff sometimes!" guy and everyone else folded. He had about 20K left which was a little more than the 16K in the pot and my plan was to put him all in on most flops. The flop came down A 7 4 with one spade. My first thought was that the ace was bad, but when I took a closer look I had a pair and some backdoor flush or backdoor straight equity, and a pocket pair like 99 or TT was a likely hand for him to have and not calling a bet. So I went for it tossing five 5,000 pink chips into the pot. He tanked for 20 seconds and I thought that my table image must be REALLY good if I could have a guy call me with an ace, hit it and then fold anyway, but eventually he made the call and showed AT of diamonds.

He stood up and started babbling something about how good I was running as soon as the cards got turned over. The turn was a 5 which was a fantastic card for me giving me a total of 13 outs instead of 5. At this point my opponent started bellowing "You're the alpha male! You're the alpha male!" I've had people call me all kinds of stuff at the poker table, but this was a new one! People do odd stuff when they're nervous. Being the alpha male, I hit the 7 on the river and sent him off to spout nonsense somewhere else.

Still in that same level I opened AK to 5,500 in the cutoff and the small blind shipped it for 30K. I quickly called and since I'm the alpha male he had AJ and the board ran out garbage. Now I had a very nice looking stack! Huzzah!

At this point it was noon and I'm sure my table mates thought I was a dork for constantly taking pictures of my stack. But I was the Alpha Dork! I had 145K chips when average was 45K with 28 players left. I would like to point out that in my post about the Lucky Chances $380 that was Phase 1.3 I covered the first two hours by saying that I got a fair start going from 20K to 24K and got A2 off five times. All of the shit in this post thus far happened in an hour and forty five minutes.

Then I got involved with My Nemesis! My Nemesis is a regular cash game player and he is My Nemesis because he is tricky, sometimes overly aggressive and has a really good read on me. He's not the best player I play against regularly, but he gives me more trouble than almost anyone. He's probably in his fifties, is a retired guy and is not a white guy but I couldn't guess at his ethnic heritage.

At 1.5K/3K I opened to 9K with AQ off and My Nemesis called along with This Goof Ball in the big blind. The flop came down KQ2 rainbow and I made a questionable bet of 15K into the 31,500 chip pot. My Nemesis called. I did not like the call, but I did like the turn card which was an ace. My Nemesis had about 55K left and I expected him to ship if I checked. So I checked and he checked. The river was a 5, I checked and he checked. He said "two pair," and I thought "holy shit, you didn't bet two pair!" I showed my hand and he showed AK for top two! I should have taken a major hit here. I can only think that either I was giving off major vibes that I wanted him to bet or that he figured my check on the turn was polarized and that I had a hand like TT or JJ that wouldn't call or that I had a hand like AA or KK that he couldn't beat. 

Two hands later My Nemisis just called the 3K and This Goof Ball called on the button. I looked down at AQ of diamonds and thought "What the hell are you doing Nemesis!? Why are you just calling here? Do you have AA or KK your sneaky bastard!" I talked myself out of what should have been an obvious raise, and just called. The flop came down J 7 4 and This Goof Ball had 44! I think if I raised he would have come along and I probably bet that flop so I think I dodged another bullet there.

My notes about the rest of the tournament are spotty and really not that much of interest happened. I maneuvered stealing some blinds here and there but didn't have any big hands.  Going in to the final table I had 164K chips and it was 1:23 pm.

I won no hands at the final table. No blind steals, no chips whatsoever. I started my final hand with 75K chips, but I was in the big blind which was 16K and had to ante 16K. My Nemesis who was still in it made it 45K to go from the button and I made the call with 87. My opponents all had between 350K and 500K and it didn't make sense to fold leaving myself with 43K. My Nemesis had JJ and that was it. It was 2 pm exactly and as soon as I went broke they chopped up the remaining prize pool 3 ways. First place was $5,075, 2nd was $3,050 and 3rd was $1,600 so I was pretty close to some decent money, but needed more than one or two breaks to move up significantly. 

Happily despite my card dead final table, my stack carried me through all the way to 4th place which paid $1,160 ($960 net). My $10,000 Project Phaser bankroll is now at $11,630. 

I'm calling this warm up Phase 2. We'll get to Phase 3 the Bay 101 open next week as I play 5 tournaments in 5 days with buy ins from $350-$550 including an Omaha tournament! I think we're looking at 30 minute levels and a good structure so these will be all day affairs and not turbo like this one. Please practice your Peyton Manning style shouts of "Omaha" and your cheers of "You're the Alpha Male!" in the meantime.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Stupid Ace on the River!

I was back at the Matrix today playing $2/$3/$5 with a $500 max buy in today and got into a few interesting spots.

On the first hand I raised KQ of diamonds to $25 in middle position over a $5 limper, got called by the button and the big blind made it $90 to go. I've played with this guy more than 10 times in the past 6 months and he's somewhere between OK and good. I don't see too many holes in his game other than he calls people down too lite, but I don't ever see him leave with big stacks of chips either. Also he looks like a serial killer.

KQ is a significant underdog to his 3 betting range which is probably TT+ and AQ+, but I was suited, had position and was getting a little better than 2 to 1 pot odds, so I called. The other dude in the pot folded and the flop came down T 8 4 all diamonds giving me a flush. Hooray! It's pretty rare to flop a flush and given that my opponent had a little less than 2X the pot left in his stack there was a decent chance we'd get it all in.

Mr. Serial Killer bet out $95 and I just called hoping he'd go all in on the turn no matter what he had. The turn paired the 4 which I didn't love, but was most likely irrelevant and as expected Mr. Serial Killer moved all in for $307. I snap called and the river was the A of clubs. I was hyper focused on not wanting a 4 or a diamond to come, but I showed my hand first and as Mr. Serial Killer rolled over his hand (showing zero emotion) I knew he had AA before I even saw the fronts of the cards. It turned out he had the ace of diamonds and the ace of spades so I was in fact needing to fade a diamond and a 4 as well as the ace. Stupid ace on the river!

The next hand was even more dramatic. I was in for a total of $800 on the day sitting on a stack of about $850 when two players to my right limped in for $5. I looked down at KJ off and made it $30 to go. The first limper who had a little over $900 in his stack made the call and the other guy folded. This guy was a fortyish Asian guy that I didn't recognize. In the hour or two he'd been at the table he'd been utterly forgettable.

The flop came down KK2 with one spade and Mr. Forgettable checked to me. I bet out $25 which is a really small bet into a roughly $70 pot but I wanted him to come along with pocket pairs or whatever he might have. Betting small like this when you have the goods also allows you to bet small when you don't have shit on similar boards and not give anything away to anyone who happens to be paying attention.

On the turn things got even better as the J of spades rolled off. Now I had the nuts and my opponent was almost certain to be drawing stone cold dead. I figured my best chance to make anything off this hand was the check it back and hope he'd take a shot at it on the river as it wasn't likely that he had a hand that could call another bet. So when Mr. Forgettable checked, I quickly checked behind him.

The river rolled off the A of spades and to my delight, Mr. Forgettable bet out $110. I figured this was probably a bluff, but I was hoping he made a flush. I no longer had the nuts and I couldn't beat AK or AA, but I heavily discounted those hands because my opponent just called preflop initially and then just called my raise. I considered going really big with a raise to $500 thinking that he'd probably never fold a flush here given the turn action, but decided that $310 was a better bet. He paused for about 10 seconds and looked over at my chip stack twice. Then he said "All in." I didn't think too long and called for another $500 or so figuring he probably had either 22 or my turn check convinced him I was weak and he went for the super power bluff. He had AA too! Stupid ace on the river!

It turned out this guy had literally no raising range preflop. He limped in with KK twice and flopped sets both times! He also just called with AK,  and every other hand he played. Zero raises or 3 bets preflop in the 6 hours I played with him. It was very odd.

This hand hit me pretty hard. I felt it in my chest. As I was pushing my chips in I had about $10 in $1 chips that I was crushing with a death grip in my left hand and the dealer had to remind me that those went in the pot as well when I called all in. I almost got up and left but I looked down at my phone and saw it was 6:02. It was still rush hour so I decided to stick it out a little longer and pulled out five $100 white chips from my pocket.

I won 2 of the next 5 pots neither of which was that exciting, but I had about $650 in front of me when I looked down a two red kings on the button. Two players limped in front of me and I made it $30 to go. The only caller was the guy just to my right who was a really good looking, sharp dressed dude in his late twenties or early thirties who was working on his laptop in between hands.

The flop came down QT6 all diamonds and Mr. Business checked to me. I bet out $45 and he called me fairly quickly. The turn was the 2 of clubs and I bet out $80 into the $160 pot. Again Mr. Business called. The river was magical - it was the A of diamonds making me the nuts! Even better Mr. Business lead out for $200 into the $320 pot. I had $496 left in my stack so my only move was all in, but I waited for maybe 25 seconds before shoving to make it seem like I wasn't so sure.

When he didn't fold instantly I knew he must have the J of diamonds. My main hope was that he thought I was still steaming from the KJ vs AA hand which had generated heavy discussion at the table. He even said "The only hand you could have with the K of diamonds in it is pocket kings." Eventually he picked up his cards and I saw he had K of clubs and J of diamonds. I thought he was going to toss them into the muck, but he eventually put chips in the pot and I showed him he had the right read but not the sense to trust it. Sweet, sweet ace on the river!

A couple of hands later I picked up AA and won $300 on that hand. It felt like it had been about 45 minutes since my KJ full house disaster, but I looked at my phone at it was 6:17. 15 minutes before I'd been almost ready to leave an $800 loser on the day and now I was up $300. I stayed until 8:45 and left with a $600 win.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Two Pocket Kings Hands and Modern Poker Thinking

I've played 3 cash game sessions since my last post and ran into two interesting spots with pocket kings.

The first hand was at Bay 101 at $2/$3/$5 (at most places in the bay area there is a $2 blind on the button at this level in addition to the $3 small blind and $5 big blind) with a $500 max buy in. I was off to a good start sitting on an $1,100 stack in a great game on Friday afternoon.

In the hand in question, three people called for $5, I looked down at KK and made it $30 to go in the hijack. The cutoff and button both called, the blinds and the first two callers folded and then to my surprise the 3rd caller made it $230 to go out of his $640 stack leaving him with $410 left.

Some of you might remember that I had a spot in the recent $630 tournament at Lucky Chances where I got dealt KK, someone limp re-raised me, I was pretty sure he had AA and that is what he had.

This spot may seem similar, but it is totally different. The biggest difference is that this guy was the third one in the pot. If people are going to limp re-raise they're typically the first one in. If other players have shown some interest in the pot the player with AA will almost always just come in for a raise. Secondly, in the tournament I made it 500 to go and the player with AA made it 1,200. That is begging for a call. Going from $30 to $230 is clearly trying to blow everyone else out of the pot to pick up the $115 that's already out there.

This looked like a clear case of someone calling with a hand like 88 or 99 and then getting aggressive with it in the heat of battle rather than a well thought out plan. After a short pause, I moved all in and despite the fact that I was almost positive his hand was kind of marginal, I fully expected him to call. People don't three bet 1/3 of their stack and then fold preflop no matter how bad it looks for them.

As expected he called and then he asked me if I wanted to run it twice. This is a common thing at the higher stakes (much less common at the $5 big blind level) where if both parties agree they will run out a river, or a turn and river, or in this case the whole board multiple times and half the pot will be awarded to the winner of each run out. At Bay 101 the rule is that the pot has to be more than $1,000 and all of the action has to be complete (i.e. an all in and a call) before players can discuss running it twice. The point of it is to reduce some of your variance and also it's fun!

My policy has generally been to say yes anytime someone wants to run it twice. The downside here if my opponent did have something like 99 would be that he'd have 10 shots to hit a 9 instead of 5, but the upside would be that the chances of him hitting a 9 (or otherwise making some miracle straight or flush) BOTH times would be extremely remote.

So we agreed to run it twice and my opponent turned over AK! This was a much stronger hand than I expected, but I was still a 70/30 favorite.

The first flop came out J 7 3 which was a perfectly fine flop, but an A came on the turn followed by a 2 on the river. At this point I was pissed about the first run out, but thrilled that we'd agreed to run it twice as if we'd only run it once the whole $1,300+ pot would be headed to my opponent. Now with one A gone I was a huge favorite on the second run out.

The second flop came out 9 5 2 which was also a perfectly fine flop. The turn was a 3 and I thought "Oh shit, he picked up a wheel draw. This is never easy." At that same moment my opponent stood up and said "Put a four out there! Four! Four!" The river was a 4 and I lost both run outs. This was extremely annoying.

Not annoying was the fact that I won the next pot along with plenty of others and left a $1,200 winner on the night.

In the other hand in question I was at the Matrix but still playing $2/$3/$5. An early position player with about $500 in his stack made it $20 to go and got one call. I was in the big blind with KK (one heart and one spade). I made it $90 to go and only the raiser called. The flop came down A T 5 with the AT of diamonds and the 4 of hearts.

This is not a good flop for my hand and I am out of position so I'm in a tough spot.  But this is a good example of how high level modern poker players look at things compared to how every TV show and movie would have you believe it works or even how players of the 80's and 90's might look at it.

In the movies I'd just look at him and his lip would curl or he'd be holding his breath or he'd blink too slow and I would know what he had. Of course he'd either have AA or something like 85 off suit and never ever have anything in between. Also I'd never be the one betting and deciding how much to bet, he'd just be all in and I'd use my super limp curl reading to nail his ass!

I was born in 1980 so I can't say for sure that this is how players in the 80's and 90's thought, but it seemed like they'd look at the preflop raise, and the call, put the villain on a specific hand that was most likely given the information they had and then play the hand as if their opponent had that hand. Of course they'd revise as things went along, but they'd pick one hand and target that. You'll still hear plenty of amateur players these days justifying their play by saying things like "I put him on AK" or some other exact hand.

The modern way to look at it is put your opponent on a weighted range of hands and take a course of action that is best against that range. In this case, I think this opponent after raising to $20 and just calling the $90 probably has 99, TT, JJ, QQ, AK, AQ suited, KQ suited, QJ suited, or JT suited. That's 9 different hands, but I can't just say there is a 1 in 9 chance that he has any one of them because some occur more frequently than others due to the nature of card combinations and the fact that some cards are on the board or in my hand and thus can't be in his hand. There are 6 ways to make a pair, (Club/Diamond, Club/Heart, Club/Spade, Heart/Diamond, Heart/Spade, and Diamond Spade), 4 ways to make a suited hand  (one for each suit), and 16 ways to make an off suit hand. We refer to these as combinations or combos.

I can split this into hands I'm worried about and hands I'm not.

Worried about:
AK - 6 combos (We start with 16, but with an ace on the board and two K's in my hand only 6 remain)
AQs - 4 combos
TT - 3 combos
KQ or QJ of diamonds - 2 combos

Not Worried about:
QQ - 6 combos
JJ - 6 combos
99- 6 combos
JTs - 3 combos
KQs or QJs NOT diamonds - 6 combos

That leaves me with about 15 combos I'm worried about and 27 I'm not. So what do I do? Well, the worrying combos are never folding no matter how much I bet and the not worrying ones are probably all folding to any bet. So the answer is to bet relatively small so you lose the least against the bad hands and you don't just give up and let your opponent bet and win with whatever they have.

How do I know that he only has the above combos and not something else? Experience! I'm not looking at his limp curling or his goosebumps, but I know what types of hands people show up with in this spot in general and have observed that there is no reason to believe that this specific opponent would deviate from what is standard for players at this level. There are players where their range here could be any pair, AT+, any suited ace, or suited connectors, but not this dude.

Could he have something else? Sure! There is always a random spaz factor but other than AA or maybe AJ suited I've accounted for everything that's not folding and I can heavily discount those hands. Everything he might have is folding to a bet.

Did I think all this through at the table? Hell no! One of the reasons for writing this post is to rethink it though in great detail, but in the moment I thought "He probably has as many combos of pairs as Ax so I have to bet and I should use small sizing because all the pairs are folding no matter what I make it."  Did I figure this stuff out on my own? Hell no! I've piggy backed on the analysis of people way smarter than me.

Back to the hand! $200 in the pot, board of AT5, I settled on betting $80 on the flop and he called. At this point I was ready to give him credit for an ace and just give up. But then a miracle happened! The turn was a the K of clubs! I figured if I checked here it would look like I had QQ or JJ and was giving up so I checked.

In the span of less than 2 seconds I checked, my opponent moved all in for $330, I called and he rolled over QJ of hearts! ACK! He turned a straight! The table said "OHHHHHHH!" Then I turned over my hand and they said "OHHHHHHH!" Then the river paired the 5 making me a full house! "OHHHHHHHHHH!" NOICE!

I really like doing this kind of analysis of the combinations after the fact because it helps me in the moment to have an intuitive sense of how things balance out. Also on occasion if I'm facing a huge decision I can crank through an approximation of this in a minute or two at the table, but my lip curls while I do it.

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...