Sunday, April 29, 2018

Project Phaser - Phase 1.4 (Lucky Chances $230 Turbo)

Another day, more Battle of the Bay! This time it was $230 buy in with 20 minute levels and we started with 200 entries and a 1st place prize of $12,600. My last tournament was the day before and it was a real grind as I played for 7 hours bookended by over an hour each way in rush hour traffic As a result I almost bailed on this one, but decided to stick it out. In the end I figured with the faster structure I'd probably go broke in time to beat rush hour or make the money.

4 levels in I was down to 17K from a 20K starting stack, but shortly after coming back from the first break I doubled up in a pretty standard way. I raised to 1,200 with QQ, got one caller, the big blind made it 4,500, I shoved for 17,000 and he called me with AK suited. The board ran out jack high and I was up to 35K!

Still in level 5 I had a flop that was pretty good for my hand but I misplayed it. I was on the button with 65 of clubs and the cutoff who was a very active big stack made it 900 to go with blinds of 200/400. I made the call and both blinds called as well. The flop came out 6 5 5! By pretty good I mean I hit the bat shit out of that flop!

The big blind fired out 1,600 and the raiser called. It's not often that you flop and full house and have multiway action and people betting into you and I wasn't really sure what to do. There were two diamonds on the board so this was a really draw heavy flop. I decided to just call and hope my opponents made something on the turn. When the 9 of diamonds rolled off I was hoping someone made a flush, but they both checked to me.

My big mistake was not betting here. If either villain had a 5 or a big diamond I get action for sure, but I checked kind of hoping one of them would have a diamond and hit it. The river was a total disaster - a black ace. If one of them did have a 5, A5 was the most likely and now I couldn't beat it. More importantly if someone had been hanging on with a pocket pair it was now only a bluff catcher. They checked to me, I bet 5K and they both quickly folded.

Over the next few levels I had a couple of big pair hands. On the first I raised KK to 2,500 and got one call. The flop came out 986 with two spades and I made a big bet of 7K into a 7,500 chip pot. My opponent moved all in for what I thought was about 17K or 18K and I called without hesitation. He rolled over JT with no spades, the board ran out 8 2 and I took it down. When I counted it down I discovered he actually made a 26K shove and maybe I should have thought a little longer before calling!

Doing a shitty job of visually inspecting a stack of chip and quickly tallying it is exactly the kind of problem that Phase 1 was geared toward helping me identify.

On the second big pair hand put a guy all in for 18K over his late position raise to 3,700. Unfortunately he had QQ and I didn't get any help.

The way this all shook out was I had 50K chips which was dead on average with 80 players left going in to the 1K/2K with 2K big blind ante blinds level.

In my first hand at a new table I got dealt KK again. This time I made it 16K to go over a 6K raise and my opponent went all in for 24K. Of course I called and I was bummed to see he had AA. But I finally got lucky and flopped a king! More bat shit flops!

My good luck continued in the next level. A player to my right limped in for 2,400 and I decided to just call with 99. Both blinds came along to the flop which came out a beautiful J 9 8 with two clubs. Not only did I have a set, but this board connects with a wide variety of hands so I'd almost certainly get some action. When the action got to the limper he casually chucked four 5K chips into the pot! A couple of hands earlier I'd raised this guy lite and he'd blown me off the hand with an all in so I was hoping he'd read me as a frequent bluffer. With that in mind I moved all in for 51K. He tanked for a long time before finally calling me with KJ no clubs.

I knew that more than half of the deck would have him drawing dead on the turn and his only way to win was a runner runner full house or straight. I was hoping for a deuce, but instead got the worst turn possible - a jack! At that point the guy to my left seeing that I'd made a full house, but clearly not thinking it through said "It's over!"I thought something to the effect of "Oh sweet lord! This son of a bitch has put the hex on me! Why would he say that I'm doomed!" As I've mentioned before I am not superstitious but to clarify I mean that in the sense that my actions don't change based on any superstitions and I believe 100% in randomness, but these thoughts do occur to me. Happily I was not forced to murder Mr. It's Over and I got the pot when the river was a meaningless 3.

I was up to 125K which was double average with 62 players left.

Generally the structure was really good in these tournaments with the exception of going from 1200/2400 to 2K/4K. That is a big jump and a full third of the field went broke in the 20 minutes of that level.

As we approached the money bubble I moved all in for 135K with AK over a raise to 22K and my opponent folded TT face up! Then while I was in the big blind at 5K/10K the small blind just called. He was an older guy with a 100K stack and as the cards were coming out I told myself that I was going to ship it dark if he just called.

Sometimes a tricky player might just call in the small blind as a trap, but I didn't think this guy was capable of that and I knew if he had a hand he'd be willing to go with this close to the money he'd raise it. When he called I was going to make a show of looking at my cards, but then I actually looked at one and it was a 7. Not wanting to look at the other one and find a 2 which might make me chicken out, I moved all in and after a slight hesitation, during which I discovered a nice wave of self doubt, he folded.

Now I was really rolling! I had 190K and was feeling great!

Then I had kind of medium sized hand go south and it was the beginning of the end. The most aggressive player at the table who had me covered made it 22K to go under the gun. I looked down at AJ and made the call. The flop came down K 8 8 and I was ready to surrender, but after I checked he quickly checked it back. In retrospect this was highly suspect as an aggressive player would bet a K high dry board close to 100% of the time vs the big blind. I should have continued my surrender, but I took a shot at it betting 35K into the 62K chip pot and my opponent snap moved all in. Drat! Hopefully this hand will stick with me (along with the 65 full house hand) and I'll avoid this easily avoidable mistake in the future.

I did managed to sneak into the money, but not before a fair stretch of getting no cards at an active table and paying a few costly rounds of blinds and antes.

In my last hand the blinds were up to 8K/16K and I got dealt KJ off under the gun with 85K in my stack. At this point the blinds and antes amounted to 40K per round so if I folded I'd be putting in half my stack over the next few hands and I thought I had enough to still have some fold equity. I moved all in and the player to my left immediately moved all in over the top. As per usual he had AK! You would think by reading this blog that people get dealt AK every other hand, but on a given hand each player has a 1 in 135 chance of getting AK. No miracles materialized and I was out in 16th.

16th place paid $360 so I made $130 on the day. It felt good to make the money, but it is annoying to be so close to winning thousands and to walk out with a min cash.

In the 4 Battle of the Bay tournaments I managed to get my starting 20K stack to 40K+, 100K+, 100K+ and 190K. That is a shitload of equity that I generated and it's a little frustrating to not really realize it to any significant degree, but it's a certainty that if I continue to put myself in a good position in the early and middle stages that I'll bring in a big result eventually. I'm really happy with how I'm playing lately.

My $10,000 bankroll is now at $10,670.

Next on my official schedule is Phase 3 which will be playing 5 tournaments on 5 consecutive days with buy ins of $350 to $550 at Bay 101 starting on May 14th. Although between now and then I will likely post about Phase 2 (playing some online tournaments), Phase 4 (my health and fitness goals for May) and Phase 5 (Playing a stupid long cash game session or two).

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Project Phaser - Phase 1.3 (Another Lucky Chances $380)

We started on Wednesday with 261 entrants, $380 buy in, 30 minute levels, 24 spots in the money and a first place prize of $29,220.

If you read my last post you may remember that I went broke with A2 when I ran it into AK in a spot that was debatable (not bad per se, but literally debatable). The universe seemed intent on rubbing this in my face as I got dealt A2 off 5 times in the first 90 minutes.

We started with 20K chips again and after a fair start I had 24K coming back from the first break when I got into my first big hand of the day. With blinds of 200/400 and a single big blind ante of 400 chips I got dealt 33 and raised it to 1,200. This is a little on the aggressive side, but plan A is to have everyone fold and take down the blinds, plan B is to fire the flop and try to steal it and plan C is make the best hand. Anyway, I got one field caller and the flop came down 9 4 3!

When I hear big shot poker players talk about hands like this they almost always say "It was a pretty good flop for my hand" or some other such understatement. I on the other hand would characterize this as nailing the bat shit out of this flop!

With bottom set I bet out 2,000 into the 3,400 chip pot and my opponent raised me to 4,000! Ah ha! This guy did not seem like an especially creative type and I read this raise as either A9, T9, 98 or a pocket pair 55-88, TT or JJ. I decided to be cagey and just called. The turn was a 9 which meant that he picked up some outs if he had a 9 or a pocket pair, but I was sure to get it all in if he happened to have a 9. I checked the turn and he bet out 6,000. I looked down at my stack and saw I had about 19K left. Against an aggressive player, just calling and hoping he'd fire the river would be an OK plan, but this guy seemed like a showdown monkey and I thought he'd check back the river if he didn't have a 9. So I shipped it all in and he quickly folded.

A few hands later I got dealt KK, some dude with AK moved all in for 7K and I took him out! Get out of here dude!

At this point I had 43K chips with 145 players left 3.5 hours after the tournament started.

I managed to work in a bluff at the 500/1000 level. I opened to 2,600 with 97 of spades and only the big blind called. The flop came down K84 with two diamonds and one spade. This was not a pretty good flop for me, but I bet out 3,500 trying to steal it. The big blind called and I figured he probably had a K or a flush draw. He had 13K left and my plan was to give up unless I picked up a straight flush draw with the J,T,6 or 5 of spades on the turn in which case I'd move all in. I explicitly thought exactly that in the moment. But then the turn rolled off the A of hearts and I thought "Oh yeah, if and ace comes I'd be a fool not to keep firing." I grabbed a stack of 5 5,000 chips (which was overkill) and plopped them in the middle. My opponent grumbled about how he should have raised the flop while throwing his cards in the muck. The next day I saw him and he asked me about the hand and I admitted I was bluffing.

A little later with blinds of 800/1600 I opened to 4,500 in the cutoff with 99 and the button moved all in for 27,000! Against an aggressive opponent this would be a pretty quick call, but my opponent was a younger woman who seemed straightforward and a little timid. If she had an over pair I'd be a 4 to 1 underdog, but after counting down my own stack and seeing that I'd have 45K left even if I called and lost I decided to was worth the risk. To my delight the board ran out 8765T and I beat AJ.

5 hours in to the tournament I had 110K chips with 82 players left and the average stack was 63K. This was an excellent situation!

Then I ended up with a totally awful table dynamic. I got squeezed between two good players who were making a lot of moves and both had a lot of chips. The way to beat this type of player is usually to make a good hand, play it passively and call them down, but I was getting total shit.

Also around this time "Bay Area Legend" Pay Lyons got moved to my table. Pat is most notable for winning the Arizona State Poker Champion ship for about $260,000 this past April and then two weeks later for winning a $4,000 buy in world poker tour event for $650,000. He was also wearing a World Series of Poker Circuit Event winner's ring. All of this is obviously very legit. But I'm going to throw some shade at him anyway!

My memories of him are as being part of this small group of dudes, who seemed like a bunch of goofs to me, that seemed to be friends, were loud and kind of smug and were at every Lucky Chances tournament. I thought of them as "Those Lucky Chances Guys" in my head because they were there EVERY SINGLE TIME I went to Lucky Chances. I always wondered what they did for a living because they seemed like break even players at best to me.

Pat seemed kind of like the ring leader and one thing I can say for sure is that dude was poker obsessed. After he went broke he'd hang around to see what happened in the tournament! No one does this. To his credit he always seemed to be enjoying himself no matter what. On the flip side I once saw someone offer him $20 in all seriousness to "Shut the fuck up" when he was hanging around the final table of a totally meaningless $150 daily tournament at the Oaks (at midnight on a weekday!) after going broke.

My memories and impressions are all 10+ years old at this point, but when I saw that he won the Arizona tournament I thought "Holy shit! THAT guy just won $260K!" and I couldn't believe he followed it up with an even better win.

One of my favorite songs lately is "The Man" by The Killers that has an fantastic video. Watch it here -

When the video starts it looks like the main guy is an awesome guy. He's hanging out in Vegas looking tough, with beautiful women singing about how he is the man! Sweet! But as it goes on you realize that he was also looking tough outside a mobile home, cooking a steak on a grill with just a fork, checking his hair in a busted mirror, shooting a can from 10 feet away while feeling pleased (i.e. proud of such and easy shot) and watching VHS tapes in a shitty hotel room. You start to think, maybe this guy ISN'T The Man? Then you see him performing and people yawning. People wouldn't yawn the actual man would they?! Then the beautiful women leave. Finally he's playing roulette and losing horribly to the point where he bets his car. This guy is NOT THE MAN AT ALL! I think this is all brilliant.

I always assumed Pat was kind of like that guy in the video where he was walking around thinking "I'm the man! I'm the man! I got news for you baby you're looking at the man!" but in reality not so much The Man as not the man at all. With this in mind you can imagine how my eyes bugged out when I saw his results.

Anyway, congrats to Pat on his success (I might be shouting boo here, but as they say, they don't boo nobody's) and on to my failure!

I got totally stalled for close to 2 hours as the blinds went from 800/1600 to 1K/2K to 1200/2400 to 2K/4K  and finally to 3K/6K.

At this point I still had 90K left despite no real hands of note, but with blinds of 3K/6K and a 6K ante it was costing me 15K every orbit and if I didn't do something soon I'd be toast.

On my first big blind of that level I threw 6K into the middle for the ante, posted 6K for the big blind and had 78K left behind. To my surprise the under the gun player called, the cutoff called and the button called. All these calls were highly unusual this late in a tournament.

I looked around and oddly all of the callers seemed to have about 50K in their stacks. With all of those calls there was now 33K in the pot and I decided if I looked down at anything remotely strong I had to try to steal it. I had enough in my stack that if I got called and lost I'd still have some chips left and if they were't raising they really shouldn't want to call off their whole stack. When I pealed back my cards I had A5 of diamonds which was plenty good to shove, but the stupid small blind beat me to it moving all in for about 50K! I actually considered calling here. I'd have to put in 46K to win 80K which is a good price and this guy could be on a total steal, but I decided that was too loose. I folded, one of the players in the field who had inexplicably limped with AJ made the call, the raiser showed KQ and the board ran out K high...with three diamonds! Ack!

On the next hand I was in the small blind with 75K left. The button inexplicably just called the 6K. Every now and then someone will limp on the button with a big hand to try to induce a raise, but my read on this guy was he just didn't know what the hell he was doing and probably had JT suited or something similar. I looked down at A2 and moved all in expecting to pick up with 21K in the pot without a fight. To my shock and horror the big blind instantly went all in behind me.

At this point I took a closer look at the situation and had a horrible sinking feeling. I had A of diamonds and 2 of clubs which was exactly the hand I'd gone broke with in my last event. There were 44 players left. I got 44th place last time. I lost to AK last time. This time the damn button folded KJ face up and it turned out the big blind had, you guessed it, AK! The board ran out garbage and I was out in 44th again with A2. It shouldn't matter, but the exact repetition of the situation added an extra sting to the loss.

My $10,000 bankroll is at $10,540. Next up is $230 Turbo No Limit at Lucky Chances.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Project Phaser - Phase 1.2 (Lucky Chances $380)

While Sunday's tournament had Lucky Chances bursting at the seams, Monday's $380 buy in tournament had it looking like an average Friday afternoon, but on a Monday morning. We started with the same 20,000 chip starting stack, 30 minute levels, 100/100 blinds to start and eventually 227 entries.

Here is the big board with the prizes and such.

I had a couple of real hot shot big talkers at my first table. The Young Hot Shot talked about how he was happy he busted out early the day before because he went home and played a big tournament online, finished second and won however many thousands of dollars while the Old Hot Shot evidently made the final table in the $630 the day before. It didn't stop there as both continued popping off at the mouth about some other final tables they'd made and how soft some of these games are. These guys weren't friends or anything like that, the just shared the common ground of being big mouth hot shots. If you just listened to poker players talk you'd think that everyone was a winning player.

Poker is a game of information and before I'd seen these guys play a hand they'd given me huge head start on categorizing them and anticipating the types of plays they'd be capable of. I kept my mouth shut about my accomplishments and silently rooted against both of them.

To my delight both of them made asinine plays and went broke in the first hour that show a good counterpoint to how I play.

The Young Hot Shot limped in in early position for 100 with 64 suited, got raised by a guy who was very straightforward to 500, two other players called and they took the flop 4 ways. The flop came down 8 4 3 rainbow and Young Hot Shot bet out 2,000 (almost a full pot sized bet) with second pair into 3 opponents. The preflop raiser raised to 6,000 and another guy cold called. If you know how to hand read at all, major alarm bells will go off with that cold call. There are no draws on this board and the raiser has basically announced that he has a big pocket pair so what is that cold caller calling with? It has to be a huge hand. The turn came out a 6 and Young Hot Shot instantly shoved his two pair for about 14,000. The raiser foolishly called with QQ and so did the cold caller who had 33. The river was a K and Young Hot Shot headed back to the online tables.

I'm sure when he told the story to whoever or played it back to himself he said "I made two pair and ran into a set" instead of "I tried to do WAY too much in the first level calling out of positing with garbage preflop, then I made a hopeless bluff and ran into two big hands. But I didn't let that stop me from foolishly taking one off anyway drawing almost dead. When I got a miracle turn I made a bet that was almost sure to fold out any hands that I beat and get called by every hand that beat me. But seriously bro these games are so soft."

 In Old Hot Shot's hand the dude who had the 33 in the last hand 3 bet from 800 to 2,400 and he called along with 3 others. The flop came down A J J rainbow, everyone else checked and Old Hot Shot bet 2500 into the 12,500 chips pot. Only the raiser called. The turn was a 5 and it went check, check. The river was a J and now the raiser bet 15,000 into the 17,500 pot and Old Hot Shot snap called him with his last 14,000 or so. The raiser showed an A and Old Hot Shot mucked saying "I made a full house, what could I do there." Well, you could not bet an underpair into 4 people and not call off your entire stack with a bluff catcher in a spot where someone is never bluffing?

Anyway I enjoyed seeing their smug asses hit the rail.

I got off to a pretty good start. In levels 2, 3 and 4 over I had one good hand in each level. I flopped top two with AK and again with KQ getting a little action with each and missed a flush draw with JT suited, but hit the J and was good. These weren't big pots but got me up to about 35K going into the first break. No where in there was limping with a garbage hand or trying some random bluff in a multiway pot!

I stayed between 30K and 40K for the next few hours as the field slowly caught and then passed me. I found just enough good spots to tread water, but I didn't put myself needlessly in danger with the marginal cards I was getting.

About 4 hours in I finally got a big pocket pair. With blinds of 500/1000 and one 1000 ante, the under the gun player who was a guy in his 70's with an 80K stack made it 3,500 to go. I was next to act, looked down at QQ and made it 9,000 to go leaving me with about 30K left in my stack. The dude to my left who looked like he was barely 21 and had about 22K in his stack went into a 45 second round of theatrics saying stuff like "This is so sick" and "I really just have one move here" and "I'm stuck." I was pretty sure this wasn't an act, but not 100% sure. It felt kind of like AK or JJ to me. Eventually he just called, which was a really odd move, but as soon as he did the other guy quickly moved all in!

I have with 99.9% certainty never intentionally folded KK (or AA) preflop and I almost never fold QQ preflop. I only specifically remember doing it a few times and I'm sure it's been less than 1% of the time over my career and is probably more like 1 time in 250. But this was a pretty clear fold. Ask anyone who has played poker at all what the old guy is raising under the gun and then 4 bet shoving over two people and they'll tell you it's AA or maybe KK and that's it.

So after 30 seconds to make sure I was really sure I folded, the young guy called, the old guy rolled over KK and the young guy had QQ also! I kept quiet and didn't tell him he was drawing totally dead! Meanwhile I patted myself on the back for getting away from a hand where most players would go broke and felt like I was playing with house money from that point on.

A couple of hands later I got a nice break. With blinds of 500/1000/1000 everyone folded to me in the small blind. The big blind only had about 9,000 and I put him all in with T7. This is questionable, but he's probably folding preflop 2/3 to 3/4 of the time and the rest of the time I'll usually be like a 65/35 or 60/40 underdog. Anyway, he snap called me with A4, but the flop came out J98! Zing!

At this point there were 82 players left with 21 spots paying and I had 38K which was about 2/3 of average.

I had some snacks with me but I was starting to get hungry for some real food. Lucky Chances has a full menu that you can order at the table, but I hate ordering food in tournaments. I'm not superstitious, but you can go broke at any time in a tournament and the idea of sitting there after busting waiting for  food and then hastily gobbling it down sitting at an empty table sounds like the 7th circle of hell to me. Despite that I had to eat something so I ordered some Mongolian Beef and sure enough I put the hex on myself!

With blinds of 800/1600 and a 1600 ante, the under the gun player just called. This is highly unusual as usually at this point it's raise or fold first in preflop. The small blind called and I got a free look with 63 off suit. The flop came down K 4 3. And it checked around.

Right at this time my food arrived. I handed the waitress a $20 bill and my $5 food coupon and asked for some change. She responded like I'd handed her a cactus wearing a small sombrero. The turn came out a 6 making me two pair and without thinking too much about it I bet out 5,000. The under the gun player quickly called and the waitress and I tried to find some common ground. To me it looked like maybe this guy had limped in with AA and was putting on the big slow play or maybe checked back a king looking to squeeze out some action as it was a rainbow board without any reasonable draws. The river was a 9 which looked like a total blank and my opponent only had about 12K left so I moved all in. He snap called me and rolled over 99! ACK! Now that the hand was over the waitress understood perfectly what I wanted and easily made me change on the spot. Stupid cursed Mongolian Beef!

This had me down to 20K but then I won five small to medium hands in less than 30 minutes all at the 1K/2K blinds level 1) I made it 7K to go over a 2K limp with KK, got one caller, bet the flop and won 2) I moved all in for 30K over a 5K raise from the small blind with 66 and took it down 3) I just called in the small blind 4 ways with 97 suited, called a 4K bet on the turn and won at show down on a 5 J J 7 3 run out 4) I raised a 2K limper to 9K with TT and took it down 5) I picked up 12K vs a short stack who had A2 and ran into my JJ. Numbered lists!

After being stuck around 35K all day and down to 10 big blinds a little earlier I was up to 69K with 60 players left. I was feeling so good that I took a picture of my chips!

Then I got into a tight spot. With blinds up to 1200/2400 with a 2400 ante I made it 7K to go from the cutoff with AT and the big blind moved all in for 29K. AT was almost certainly not the best hand here, but I was getting a good price. Specifically I had to call 22K to win 39.6K. I'd be about a 70/30 underdog against a hand like AK or QQ, but I'd only be a 55/45 dog against hands like 88 or 99 and a favorite against something like A9 suited or KQ suited. Probably I was in bad shape, but if there was a chance he was shoving small pairs I was getting the right price against his entire range of hands.

In the moment I took my time to count all the chips, figure out the exact pot odds I was getting and counted down my own stack to see I'd be left with 47K even if I called and lost. Usually if you're getting 2 to 1 pot odds preflop it's hard to fold and I decided the 1.9 to 1 I was getting was close enough. I called and my opponent proudly rolled over AQ. Uh oh. The flop came down 9 4 4 and I was thinking a chop would be nice. The turn was a 6 of spades putting 3 spades out there and I saw that my T was the only spade in play, but sadly the river was a red 3.

After 6 hours of play we took our third break and I came back to a 40K stack on the button with blinds of 2K/4K and a 4K ante. 49 players were left and average was 92K. I had 10 big blinds and it was going to cost me 10K a round in blinds and antes so I'd need to find something quick.

I folded 15 hands in a row none of which were even close and then I looked down at A2 in the hijack. This is close, but I think with 7.5 big blinds in the hijack any ace is good enough. I moved in and to my shock and horror the cutoff and then the button both instantly moved all in! It turned out I was up against AQ and AK. Oddly it's actually better for me to be up against two bigger aces than just one. In this case I was 20.0% to win an 4.4 % to tie but getting a little more than 3 to 1 on my money compared to 23.8% to win and 4.9% to tie getting a little more than 2 to 1 if I'd been just up against AK. Still a shitty spot though!

If I'd won, I would have had 100K exactly, but I bricked out and was eliminated in 44th place.

My $10,000 starting bankroll is at $10,920. Phase 1.3 is Wednesday and is another $380 event at Lucky Chances.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Project Phaser: Phase 1.1 (Lucky Chances $630)

I rolled into Lucky Chances at about 9 am for the 9:30 start and the place was packed. Instead of the two lazy tables I found last time, there were 25 tables set for action and two lines each a dozen people deep waiting to sign up.

I handed over $630 of which $550 went to the prize pool, $50 went to the house and $30 went to the dreaded "Staff Appreciation." I did get a free hat which I am in favor of and a $5 off food coupon which I think makes no sense. $5 off of food, only good on that day, not including alcohol, gratuity not included? Why all the buzz kill on the $5 comp? I don't know why they bother with this.

We started with 20,000 chips, blinds of 100/100, 30 minute levels and eventually 377 entries. Here is my sad looking starting stack. Poker looks so much cooler on TV (or in cash games).

In this snapshot you can see the board all the players see with the tournament status and the prizes.  $56,680 for first is legit! 

Also of note, like at the Phase Zero tournament the big blind posted the ante rather than have every player ante once antes became part of the structure. In fact there were no 25 chips in play in this tournament. After 2 tournaments of this structure I am a fan of it. It's a pain in the ass to get everyone's attention so they can ante and every now and then there is confusion about who anted and who didn't. This eliminates both of those problems and reduces the need for smaller denomination chips which some shitfaces insist on using to bet something like 2,375 when 2,400 would be just fine. Shitfaces!

My first big hand came in the second level with 100/100 blinds and a 100 ante. Two players limped for 100 and I made it 500 to go with KK. After my raise the first limper made it 1,200 to go.

"Mother fucker!" I said to myself. This was a weird spot as maybe half the time someone limp re-raises it's AA (it might be more than half the time), but sometimes it's QQ or AK and every now and then it's something else. So I kind of had to put him on AA, but I didn't know this guy so I wasn't sure enough to make an Ultra Epic Mega Legendary Fold (UEMLF!).

Later in a tournament or if your in a cash game, almost always you should and will just get it all in preflop if you have KK and someone else has a big hand, but in this spot I decided to just call him down. I threw in 700 more to call and the flop came down Q93. The villain bet 1,500 and I called. The turn was a 7 and I called 3,500 more. The river was a 3 and I called 7,500 more. Sure enough he had AA. Drat! After that hand I was down to 7,500 chips, but happy I didn't go broke with KK on a fairly innocuous board. 

Then I had three medium size hands go my way: 1) I got dealt A7, the board ran out Q73A6 and I got action from a Q 2) I got AA and stacked a shot stack who had T8, shoved on a JT9 flop and bricked out 3) I got KK again against the same dude who had AA previously - this time he had QQ, but he just called my 3 bet preflop and a A high flop killed the action. I like numbered lists when it's a list of shit I won! 

At this point the blinds were up to 300/500 with one 500 ante, I had it all the way up to 35,000 and was feeling really good. 

In the next big hand I called an under the gun raise to 1,500 with 44, the button called as well and the flop came down 223. The preflop raiser checked and I bet out 2,500 thinking if no one else had a pair I'd probably take it down, but I'd have some showdown value if I got called by something like AK or AQ. The button quickly folded, the raiser called and I put him on...wait for it...AK or AQ. To my horror the turn was an A! My opponent checked and I checked behind thinking maybe in some universe he'd have KQ, but in my heart of hearts knowing that I'd be toast without a 4 or a 5 on the river.

To my delight my the river was a 5 making me a very unlikely and well hidden straight and my opponent bet out 3,000. I glanced sideways at his stack and it looked like he had about 15,000. After a little thought I decided to make it 11,000 figuring I'd give up a few thousand in potential value for a better chance of being called. He quickly shoved all his chips in, and I quickly called. While I was starting to think how weird it was that he'd snap shove AK there and not just call he said "Quads" and rolled over 22! WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUDGE!? HOW THE?! WHY THE?! DEUCES!? This was highly disappointing. To make matters worse he actually had 18,000 in his stack when he shoved the river.

After that hand I was down to 4,500, but bounced back with 3 little pots: 1) I open shoved 99 and everyone folded 2) The small blind in an act of total foolishness limped in with QJ after everyone else folded, I shoved with A6, he called and the board ran out garbage 3) I shoved for 9,200 with 77 over a raise to 2,200 and he folded. Numbered lists of victories! 

This little flurry put me up to 13,400 with 190 players left (average was about 40K at that point). 

Finally, with blinds of 500/1000 this dude who was a total wild card (he did a full standing multi-pump fist pump whenever he won a big pot) made it 4,500 and I looked down at TT. I don't think I'm ever folding TT with 13 big blinds so I shoved, he had QQ and I bricked out.

Looking back, getting KK against AA, running a wheel into quads and finding myself with a short stacked TT against QQ was totally insurmountable. All three of those are death sentences and I'm happy I squeezed two extra lives out before getting the final blow.

Next up $380 NL Hold'em at Lucky Chances.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Project Phaser - Phase Zero

I came up with a really bitchin' preparation plan for the 2018 WSOP last weekend. It has phases. Phase 8 is when it all comes together and I crush it at the WSOP. Technically, I haven't even gotten to Phase One yet, but Phase Zero went down Tuesday at Lucky Chances and that's the topic of today's post.

But even before I got to Phase Zero, I did play cash games on Monday at Bay 101 and if you were so inclined, you could call that Phase Negative One. I Love Phase Negative One. Phase Negative One involved me making every draw and generally running hot for 8 hours in a $2/$3/$5, $500 max buy in no limit game, eventually rolling out the door with $2,080 in profit. So any pressure I might have felt about my first in person tournament in a while was fully quelled by Phase Negative One.

Now Pictures! Here is what Lucky Chances looks like and what I looked like just before rolling in there.

I brought my lucky beard with me.

Asian motifs coming out the wazoo!

Pictured here - people playing various games of chance on a Tuesday morning.

This thing will bite off your finger if you don't pay your bookie.

I got there at 9:40 for a 9:30 start tournament and found only two tournament tables going. This was odd in the sense that the tournament had a $210 buy in and guaranteed $4,000 for 1st place.  They'd need some more players or this sucker was going to be winner take all! 

Of that $210, $175 goes to the prize pool, $25 to the house and $10 for "Staff Appreciation." The last $10 is technically optional, but you get 12,000 in chips if you pay it and 10,000 if you don't so it's actually mandatory. I think this is stupid. 

By 9:55 they started a third table which included yours truly. Eventually we got 45 buy ins and 8 re-entries for 53 total entries. If you look on the lower right here you can see the prizes for the top 6 places. 

You can also see that Lucky Chances in their infinite generosity has added $10 to the prize pool to meet the $4,000 1st place guarantee and has noted such on the fucking board. Wow Lucky Chances you guys are REALLY doing us a solid. I'm not great at math, but I can use a calculator to tell you that 53 people putting up $200 (neglecting our deepest $10 appreciation for the staff) is $10,600 and there seems to be $9,285 in the prize pool but that 19 cents per entry that you gave us deserves to be called out above the first place prize. 

On to actual poker and not me just blither blathering! Here is what my sad looking chip stack started out looking like. Green = 25, Blue = 100, Black and White = 500 and Brown and White = 1,000. 12,000 chips to start! Go time!

I played no hands in the first hour. Cancel go time and replace with sit and do nothing time!

The main highlight of this time was listening to the dude to my right who was a small 60ish Asian guy with a huge gap in his teeth. He was telling stories about his youth where I understood every 4th word, and laughing like a hyena every time he won a pot or when anything interesting happened. It was like he was on a cell phone with a really bad connection in terms of what I was getting. But on one hand he got his last 5,000 in the pot with A9, the board ran out 9 high, he beat KQ and the instant the river hit he said a perfectly clear, high pitched, but quiet "Oooooooh, thank you for the double up!" followed by a standing, loud as hell  "HE HE HE HA HA HA HA HA HA HE HE HE HE HA HA HA HA HE HA HE HA HE HA!" I wish I could make this my ring tone.

After the 4th level (they were 20 minute levels) we had a break and I came back to a stack of 9,475 with blinds of 200/400. A fairly wild player raised to 1.050 and I looked down at AA in the big blind. I made it 3,000 to go and he instantly shoved all in. I snap called, he rolled over AK of diamonds and the flop came down 9 7 5 with two diamonds.

At this point I thought "I guess it's good I took some pictures, because sitting here for an hour, playing no hands, and going broke with AA to AK isn't going to make for much of a blog post."

The turn was a K and I was even more sure of my impending doom, but amazingly the river was a black 3 and I was up to 18,350 chips.

After dribbling back some chips, about 45 minutes later in level 7, I got QQ in the small blind with 12,000 in my stack. Under the gun made it 2,500, I shipped it, he called with AJ, the board ran out garbage and I was up to about 25,000 with 28 players left.

I got moved to a new table and with blind of 500/1000 and 1000 in antes (they ran a new school structure where rather than have everyone put up antes, they have the big blind ante - I think this is smart) I made it 2,500 to go in the small blind with QJ off. The big blind called and the came down QQ2. Bingo! My plan was to bet the flop small and hope that he's take one off. Next I'd check the turn to make it look like I was giving up on a bluff and then check raise all in. I bet 2,500 and into the 6,000 pot and he called. So far so good. The turn was a 5, I checked and he checked behind. Ack! The river was a K and I considered betting, but felt like he probably had air and I should give him a chance to try to steal it. I checked again and he fired out 2,500 into the 11,000 pot which looked like either a K or a bluff. I had 13,000 left and decided to make it 8,000 to go hoping to get called by a K. He quickly called and I was good. Later he said he had Q9 so I may have missed some value there, but I'm fine with how I played it.

I had 37K with 20 players left rolling into level 10, and I shoved it all in with AK vs a raise to 4,500 and a call, but they both folded.

My next big hand was the key hand of the tournament. With blinds of 800/1600 and 1600 in antes I called a middle position raise to 4,000 with JT off in the big blind. This is a borderline call, but most tournament players are uncomfortable playing post flop while I am very comfortable with it these days so I'm making it a goal to see flops in close spots. The flop came down 983 rainbow giving me an open ended straight draw and two overs. I checked, my opponent bet 8,000 with about 60,000 behind and it was back to me.

 This was a great semi-bluff spot as I expected him to bet the flop with his entire range, this board hits a big blind calling range harder than a preflop raising range, I had good equity no matter what he had, and I had a good table image. 

I grabbed some chips to make it 22,000 but then realized that would leave me with 14,000 which really wasn't enough for a good push on the turn, so I just shoved all in. My opponent thought for about 5 seconds and made the call with K9 of clubs (there was one club on board). The turn was a Q and the river was a 7. Thank you for the double up. HE HE HA HA HE HA HA HE HA!

The villain in that hand would not shut up about this hand. It started with "I can't believe you called me with jack ten there." Then a couple of hands later the board came out with a J and a T and he said something else. Then 5 minutes later he showed me his phone where he'd checked the odds and showed that he was a 54/46 favorite when the money went in on the flop. 30 minutes later he was still talking about it. And another guy asked me about it later too like he just couldn't understand what I was thinking when I moved all in. To him it was a simple as I did not have a good hand, why would I put it all of my chips? 

Anyway, it put me up to 83K chips and in the chip lead when average was 37K. Here is my stack! OK it doesn't look all that impressive, but I was in first damn it!

A little later I raised Q9 of spades to 6,000 on the button with 1000/2000 blinds and the big blind shoved for 20,000. I was certain to be behind here, but risking 14,000 to win 29,000 I was getting the right price to call. He rolled over A3 off, I hit a Q, and I was up to 112K with 13 players left.

Oooh a pretty pink one on top!

For the next hour I mostly folded. People were playing pretty loose and I was getting no cards so I just waited. 

We quickly moved to the final table and seemed to quickly get to the money bubble as well. Everyone voted to take $400 off of first place to pay 7th. I was in the middle of the pack and opted to not object even though it was not really in my best interest.

I only played 2 hands of any note at the final table. On the first one I made it 11K to go with 2K/4K blinds from the button with KQ of hearts. The villain from the JT hand, who was still out for blood, called in the small blind and the flop came out 964 with one heart. He checked and I checked it back. The turn was a beauty - the T of hearts giving me a gut shot straight and a flush draw. My opponent bet out 20K with 30K behind. I figured he would probably call if I put him all in, but even if he folded one time in five, raising would be much better than calling or folding. I shoved and he quickly folded. Whoop Whoop!

In the second hand of note we were playing 5 handed and I made it 18K to go under the gun with Q9 of hearts with 3K/6K blinds. The big blind who had no clue and was seeing a ton of flops called and then checked in the dark. The flop came down 653, I shoved for about 60K and he quickly folded. 

I stole the blinds a few times made a three bet or two that no one called and before I knew it we were down to 3 players. The other players suggested a chop and I agreed to a chip count based chop. I had 136K and the other players had 72K and 428K and I agreed to take what amounted to about 2nd place money. Specifically I got $2,140 after tipping an additional $10 for my even deeper staff appreciation when the listed places were $1,110 for 3rd, $2,235 for 2nd and $3,600 for 1st. Not bad right? 

This isn't exactly a high drama finish, but I think I can say that I went Phase Negative Zero on those mother fuckers! That's what I call it these days when I make all my draws and win about $2,000. 

In fact this was an amazingly low drama tournament. I was only all in an at risk 3 times - with AA vs AK, with QQ vs AJ and with JT vs K9 on the 983 flop where plan A was really to win by bluffing - and I only busted one player but managed to effectively finish in 2nd. This is highly unusual, but totally optimal as far as the only being at risk when way ahead and really only needing to win one race. 

6 hours of play, $1,930 in profit, time for chicken and beer! HE HA HE HE HA HE HA HE HA!

My $10,000 bankroll for Project Phaser is now at $11,930. Next action is the start of the Battle of the Bay at Lucky Chances on Sunday with a $630 buy in (including even more staff appreciation) event that has a $40,000 first place guarantee.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Project Phaser: My Plan for Preparing for the 2018 World Series of Poker

About a month ago I started looking at the 2018 WSOP schedule. The first time I gave it a 3 minute scan to see how many events and what was new this year. The next time I spent 10 minutes thinking about when I'd want to go and what events I'd want to play if I could make it work. The next 20 times I stared at it endlessly wearing a comatose face while running through every conceivable scenario wistfully dreaming of some way I could make it happen.

Happily between having a great March playing cash games and a larger than average tax refund I feel ready to take my shot once again. I'm going back!

This will be my 8th year at the WSOP. I played at least 3 events every year from 2005-2010, but other than taking 2 shots at the $565 buy in Colossus in 2015 I have not been back since.

I've put together a $10,000 bankroll that includes selling off a piece of my action to the usual friends and family who backed me in the past. I have 3 WSOP events I'm absolutely going to play: $1,500 HORSE on June 6th, $565 PLO on June 8th, and the $1,500 Millionaire Maker on June 9th (I'll fire a second bullet on June 10th in the Millionaire Maker if needed so mentally I kind of have this as 4 separate events).

But I also have a multiphase preparation plan! Don't try to stop me at a single phase! I need more phases than that! One phase preparation plans are for losers!

Phase 0 - Prepare for Preparation

I'm going to play a tournament at Lucky Chances this week! They have a tournament every day at 9:30 am and I figured before I get into Phase 1 I should at least get over there and get reacquainted with how they do shit over there. I haven't been there for 5 years and it's been 8 or 9 years since I played a tournament there. A $200 buy in tournament with a $4,000 first place guarantee on Tuesday is the likely candidate.

Phase 1 - Battle of the Bay

Lucky Chances is running their annual "Battle of the Bay" from April 21st to the 30th with six main tournaments and some satellites. I'll be playing a $550, two $380's and a $200. If I final table one of those or cash in two I might play the $1,100 main event as well.

Phase 2 - Battle of the Bitcoin

I recently jumped through the hoops to get myself some bitcoin and have been playing a little bit on which I think in the 2nd or 3rd largest online poker site that will take US players. I put $150 on there and have played maybe 30-40 $5-$20 multi-table tournaments with somewhere between 75-200 entrants. I've made 4 final tables and finished in 1st in 3 of those instances which is encouraging. I have about $600 on there now after my small victories, but I also just bought some more bitcoin and put $135 on America's Card Room which seems to have some larger field tournaments.

Playing online is risky these days in the sense that you never know when a site is going to shut down either because they just go out of business, pull the plug for fraudulent reasons or have the government seize their domain so I'm treading lightly. I'm not thinking about this as a source of long term significant profit, but rather a way to get a lot of reps. This is going to be like spending time on the driving range for me. It's also going to give me a chance to work on my PLO and Limit Omaha. Sadly, the stud variants are no where to be found so for the S, R and E in the HORSE I'm just going to have to rely on my past experience.

Phase 3 - Bay 101 Open

Bay 101 has a similar set of tournament to Lucky Chances running May 14-21. There are three $350 NL Hold'em events, a limit Omaha, and a $550 NL Hold'em to go along with the $1,100 2 day main event (that I will probably not play).

Phase 4 - Healthy Living

During the 6 years I hit the WSOP hard I was fat! Not really fat, but certainly overweight. I was 260-270 pounds during that stretch of my life which even at 6'5" is too heavy. I've been in the 215-230 range the past 4 years since I started running half marathons and Spartan Races and happen to be 215 right now. With that said I am far from my peak endurance level and will be putting in some time to make sure I have the energy to play from 11 am until 1 or 2 in the morning. I'm also hoping at 38 I'll have the discipline that I did not have at all at 25 and was limited at 30, to eat right, sleep right and not drink too much while in Vegas for a week.

Phase 5 - Long Sessions

I'm used to being at the Casino for 8-9 hours at a stretch and playing for 7-8. I need to put in a few sessions where I push it and play for 12 hours so I can get used to how that feels. I've tried and failed to do this once, but I think if I make a firm commitment on this blog and report back on success or failure that will be help me push through. I'm hoping to hit 12 hours at least twice before I head to Vegas.

Phase 6 - Early Arrival

I'm flying in the day before I play the HORSE. I flew in the day of my first event a few times and it's a mistake. Usually it was to save $100 on one night of hotel which is stupid. I'm sure getting into town the night before, registering the night before, and otherwise being settled so I'll be 100% fresh and all I have to do is walk from my room to the table on the day of will add way more than $100 to my expected value.

Phase 7 - HORSEing around

I've had some of my best success playing HORSE. I finished 4th in a $1,000 online Pokerstars HORSE event with about 450 entrants which paid $37,500 and I also finished 28th in a $3,000 HORSE WSOP event that had about 500 entrants and was maybe the toughest field I'd ever seen in terms of big name pros. But in this case I really wanted to play because I know during the first hour or two I'm going to be nervous and since it's limit I won't have to make any big decisions until I feel settled in. That's comfortable, settled in feeling should carryover to the other events or at least reduce the amount of time that I feel a little edgy at the start.

Phase 8 - Going Phase 8!

By this time I'll be fully prepared give it my best shot and win some money. I hope to be able to use the expression "I went Phase 8 on those mother fuckers" because that sounds really bad ass and most people will not know what it means, but will clearly be able to tell that it is bad ass, but we'll all know that it means that all of my preparation came together, which does not even sound the slightest bit bad ass, but the winning in major poker tournaments is without a doubt bad ass, so there you go.

I will report back on Phase 0 when it is complete.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

2016, 2017 and That Time I Owned the State of Arizona

I'm headed back to the WSOP this year and have an elaborate prep plan that I'll be executing and chronicling on this blog, but for the sake of continuity I figured I'd very briefly recap the past two years. 

Before I get to that I have to share an anecdote and an image that are two sources of confidence going in to the summer.

First, The Image! It's a line! Specifically it's a graph of my cumulative win/loss for the last 50 sessions of cash games which represents 335 hours of play. I would invite the people who think poker is a luck game to draw a best fit line through this mother fucker and have a look at the trend. 

Second, The Anecdote! In 2009 I started working with this guy who lives in Arizona as a poker coach. He's a doctor, an actor (he's done a few indie films, some commercials, and other such things), dates astonishingly beautiful women and is generally an awesome dude who is somehow extremely humble despite all of those things. He's also a poker fanatic and was an excellent student. After talking about once a month for at least 5 years we became friends and met up in person a few times in Vegas and Tahoe for poker related stuff.

At some point in the not too distant past I went to visit him in Arizona and we played a couple of poker tournaments at Talking Stick in the Phoenix area. The first one was a $200 buy in tournament where $100 went to the price pool and $100 went to bounties (i.e. if you knock someone out you get $100) with about 250 entrants. I made it to the final table collecting 7 bounties along the way and we chopped up the prize pool with 6 players left. It was awesome.

The next day we came back for a smaller tournament that had about 70 entrants and something like a $100 buy in. My doctor friend, his girlfriend (at the time) and I all made the final table which was excellent. I'd been at the same table as the girlfriend all tournament long and had been giving her the kid gloves to some extent, but there was one hand where I shoved with AK over her raise, she folded QQ and was pissed about it. So at the final table I was trying to win, but also to not piss her off. This was something I had never attempted! 

When we get down to 5, my friend has gone broke, but the girlfriend is the chip leader. I am in a close second and suggest we do a chip count chop so I don't have to tangle with her. We do the math and her share would have been something like $1,850 which was maybe a shade over second place money with 1st place being $2,300. Everyone else is ready to go for the deal and she says...wait for it..."I need to get at least two thousand." (Face palm)

I was shocked. She knew I was a former pro player, but clearly she did not know who she was dealing with. I was playing my A game against a table of total clowns and since my hand was forced I had to start fucking people up. If it was a kung fu movie I would have causally walked up, rolled my neck around, given my shoulders a little shake and then...BOOM, knee/elbow/fist combo to one bad guy sending him down a well and then CRACK roundhouse kick another in the face blasting him into a swiftly moving river.

Now I was the chip leader and I asked the girlfriend if she really wanted to keep playing against me. She reluctantly (RELUCTANTLY!) agreed to a 3 way chop. 

So I've played 2 poker tournaments in Arizona and have never been eliminated!

And now to a little life recap for those of you who may care.

My poker play has really been a function of my job status. Might need money? Better play poker!

In March of 2016 the company I'd worked for the past 5+ years got acquired by Uproxx Media. I wasn't sure if I was going to survive the acquisition with my job intact so I started playing cash games. That was the impetus for Project Manhattan which was the last series of posts (I ended up pulling the plug after Session 18 which was a small loser because I did end up working at Uproxx and I'd just had enough). I was at Uproxx for 6 months and then spent 3 months on semi vacation playing a couple of days a week. 

During all of those sessions I did not play all that great or with a ton of confidence. I still knew how to play and I won regularly, but I did not dominate and it was kind of a grind.

At the start of 2017 I had a really well paying job as VP of Business Development for I spent 7 months there and saved about 25% of my salary so when Joyus sold off all the assets of the company, but the team was not part of the deal I had my nuts stored away for winter. I played zero poker during this time. 

I interviewed for a few jobs, but nothing stuck and I decided to try to coast though the holidays cobbling together an income from my wife's new part time job, unemployment and poker. My unemployment benefits have since run out, we're paying for health insurance out of pocket for 4 people which sucks, but poker has gone well and I've basically been coasting for the past 10 months or so. 

And now I'm finding myself in a spot where my new dream is my old dream - crush it at the World Series of Poker!!

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...