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!

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...