Monday, September 29, 2008

40 Days of Pain - Day 8

Well, my brain hasn't started leaking out of my ears yet. I'm 20% of the way there and so far I'm just a tad behind pace. I've made 39,400 points of progress in these past 8 days and while I still have a long way to go I like my chances of at least getting close to my goal of 195,000 points in 40 days.

I had kind of a wild ride over the weekend. On Saturday I found myself losing about $2,500 at one point before flipping it completely around and actually winning $2,000!

Then on Sunday I found myself stuck a little over $5,000 (flirting with my worst day ever), before managing to bring it all the way back to just over even for the day!

Part of that comeback was a good result in the $215 Sunday Million. We started with about 7,300 players and by the time we were down to 100 I'd run my starting stack of 10,000 chips all the way up to 1.4 million and was in the top 10. I caught a few breaks of course (most notably beating AQ with QJ in a big all in confrontation), but I won a ton of pots in this tournament with nothing.

The great thing about this tournament (and the WCOOP tournaments as well) is that it's a big deal for most of the people who are playing. If you run a $215 tournament at the same time on some other day with no satellites you'll get something like 300-400 players, maybe less. Those are the people who are $215 tournament players. Most of them have the bankroll to play tournaments of that size, feel comfortable with the stakes, and have worked their way up playing in smaller tournaments.

That means in the Sunday Million we have 7,000 players who don't really belong. When you get close to the money, these players lock up. If you have a solid chip stack (like I did in this tournament about that time) and the combination of balls and experience to pull it off, you can totally run them over. That's just what I did.

The tournament paid 1,080 places and between the time that player 1,300 went broke and we made the money I probably won 1/3 of the pots at my table and almost doubled my already strong stack without ever showing down a hand. Most of the time I just raised and everyone folded. Sometimes when someone would raise in front of me I'd put them all in before the flop. Other times I'd just call and then raise them on the flop. It's great fun to run over weak players like this!

Unfortunately I finally ran into some real hands, missed with a few of my hands when I was facing resistance and ended up finishing in 68th place. It paid $2,250 and I feel like I couldn't have done too much differently in the period where I went slowly down the tubes, but 9th was $10,000 and first was $184,000 so I did feel a little disappointed to miss out on the final table.

It's hard not playing multitables when that's what I want to do, but there's so gold in the pot at the end of the FPP rainbow that I have to just worry about points for a while. For now my plan is to play a few on Sundays and leave it at that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

40 Days of Pain Day 3

Working all day every day sucks! I've generated a little over 16,000 points in three days which is great, but I have lost about $1,200. Given the swings I've been having that's really not a big deal.

I hope I can find the mental fortitude to make it through these 40 days!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Even More Comment Comments!

Getting back to the hand that has led to so much discussion I have to emphasise that one of the key issues here and what makes this hand so unique is the SUPER deep stacks that we all had. During the first round on the main event of the WSOP you have 400 big blinds in your stack and I had 500 big blinds in my stack when this hand came up. In fact I'm not sure there is a tournament anywhere that gives you 500 big blinds start. It was simple the nature of rebuy tournaments and that fact that this was as $530 with rebuys tournament that led to such insane stacks.

In a SNG if you get KK vs AA you're dead 19 times out of 20. There just isn't enough room to manuver. In fact if just about any normal tournament the decisions would be so much easier. You'd just go all in with your pocket kings on the flop and if it didn't work out, no big deal. In fact if there was a standard raise, a call and then you reraised and got called by everyone, you be talking about a major pot that you could never get away from.

London Dave, you did a solid analysis of the hand. In a normal situation or a smaller buy in tournament if someone acted the way Gavin did it would usually be AK, AQ or a medium pair.

But I really did put him on AA. It could have been a case of "let me put this guy on the only hand I can't beat," or maybe it was the timing of his call, but that was my read and I felt pretty strongly about it.

Maybe it was a hand that happened to me recently that made me feel that way. Here is how that hand went down (this is actually how a good friend of mine who was writing for a certain poker magazine and ran out of material wrote it up after we spent some time talking about it - he wrote it as if it happened to him even though it happened to me!)

I was playing recently in a $320 nightly tournament on Pokerstars. Out of a starting field of 450 players we were down to 60, and the top 45 would be in the money. I had an average stack of about 18,000. Normally I’d feel pretty secure that I would at least make the money, but my table draw was really unfortunate, as I was 7th in chips at my table. With so many players that could bust me, I knew I had to tread carefully, but at the same time I felt I needed to continue playing with first place as my main goal.

With blinds of 300-600, the UTG player made it 1,500. It was folded to me in the cutoff with J-J. I wanted to find out right away just how strong he was, so I made it 4,800 to go. After some hesitation, the button, who had me covered, called. The blinds and the UTG player folded, so I was going to the flop heads-up and out of position.

Before going any further, I’ll tell you that my immediate instinct was that I was up against pocket aces. This was not a case of me seeing monsters under the bed; it was simply his most likely hand. If this was some $11 tournament with 3,000 players, it might have been different. But with a buy-in of $320 on a weeknight, this tournament usually attracted a very tough field of 400-500 players. There was very little dead money, and very few players who would cold-call a re-raise preflop this late in the tournament without a huge hand. I wasn’t completely sure how to proceed, but checking and folding definitely crossed my mind.

In general, I usually have a pretty good idea ahead of time of how I’m going to proceed based on the texture of the flop. For example, if the flop had a jack, I would probably make a small lead bet. If it came with an ace, I would probably check-fold. But when the flop came A-J-3 rainbow, bringing both the ace and the jack, it was one of those rare times that I felt truly unprepared. The flop was there, and I really wasn’t sure what to do.

After some thought I realized that, if he had pocket aces, my goal was simply to avoid going broke. If he had anything other than aces, I probably wasn’t making any decent money on the hand anyway, so there was no reason to get overly aggressive. I decided to check. After two seconds, my opponent checked behind me.

Oh well, that didn’t accomplish much. Upon further thought, I realized that he probably would check there regardless of his hand. Whether he had A-A, K-K, or A-K, checking that flop made sense for him. Whether or not it was possible, I found myself wishing I could have gotten some more information.

The turn paired the three. I decided to lead out for 1,800, a laughable underbet. He flat-called. Again, I realized that this gave me no real information. With A-A he’s calling so he can string me along, and with K-K or A-K he’s calling the small bet into the large pot just in case he has me beat. I still had no information, but as strange as it may sound, I was thankful that I only had one-third of my stack in the pot, as I still thought A-A was his most likely holding.

The river was a blank. I considered leading small again, but then decided against it. It wasn’t too important to get paid off by a lesser hand. Of greater significance was the possibility that I would get raised and have to consider making a sick laydown. Plus, I figured that if I checked and he had A-A, he would probably bet small just to make sure he got paid off, and I’d be able to survive.

With that in mind, I checked. He immediately went all-in. Huh?

So much for all my careful thinking. I was expecting him to either check behind me with a worse hand, or to bet small with A-A, and instead he went all-in? I’ll admit it threw me off. Why would he bet so much if he had A-A? Could he really expect me to call? From the way I played it, he had to figure my most likely hands were K-K or Q-Q, so why bet so much?

I almost found myself wanting to flip a coin to decide what to do. In the end, whether or not it was the best thing to base my decision on, I decided that it was a forgivable mistake to call with jacks full and lose. I called all-in, he showed his pocket aces, and I was eliminated just short of the money.

At first I was a little miffed at myself. I put him on pocket aces the whole way, then convinced myself that he might have something else, and that change of heart cost me the tournament. On the other hand, everyone I’ve talked to says that it was just a bad-luck flop, and I was destined to go broke in that hand.

Either way, I still thought it was worthwhile to go through the hand and think about what I could have done differently. But in the end, I think that - if I try too hard to get away from hands like the second-nut full house - I’ll be doing myself more harm than good.

Meanwhile, this hand obviously worked out perfectly for my opponent, but that doesn’t mean I like the way he played it. I thought his pre-flop call of my reraise was pretty transparent. Whether he calls or raises, I’m giving him credit for a pair higher than jacks, so all he’s doing by flat-calling is giving me a free chance to outflop him. I think his better play is to re-raise preflop, and hope that I have something I can’t get away from. Of course, once it came set-over-set he seemed like a genius, but I still think the flat-call was a fancy play at a time when the straightforward play made more sense.

I also have mixed feelings about his river bet. Again it worked out perfectly, but I think that’s because I had the only hand with which I would call his all-in. If I had Q-Q or K-K he’s simply blowing me out of the pot, instead of betting small and giving me a chance to pay him off for 2,000 or 3,000 in a 14,000-chip pot. I’m sure he wanted me to misread his bet, to assume that his all-in meant that he was weaker than he really was, but that still wouldn’t have mattered. The only other hand I would even consider calling him with was A-K, and even then I think I would have leaned towards laying it down.

This is one where it would have made more sense to dump my hand. My read here of AA was MUCH stronger. I'm not sure my friend captured all of my feelings exactly right, but it was still a nice article and another case of putting someone of AA with great certainty before the flop.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Comment Comments!

If you're into heavy poker discussion read the comment left on my last post before you read this one! Otherwise, you can skip this post!

Gavin wouldn't have any idea how I play. I know who he is (and actually met him in person at the Commerce once years ago), but I'd just been moved to the table. Another thing to consider in this problem is the fact that we were playing six handed. In a full game it takes a much stronger hand to make plays than it does with fewer players. It might not seem like going from 9 to 6 players is a monumental difference, but it is. As a result he might not fear my reraise as much as you would in a full game.

You make a good point when you say "I can't see him making a play on you here. I wouldn't call your re-raise with AJ but maybe he does and then there's a chance he would push all in, but what would he put you on? You re-raised preflop and called a big overbet on the flop with a player to act behind you. You almost certainly have AJ beat."

It's pretty unlikely that he'd push with a hand that couldn't beat KK. In fact I had some small hope that he might even fold AA if he had it! The one exception might be if he had something like a straight flush draw or a pair and a flush draw and just decided to get it in there and take his chances.

While I presented the case that it was possible that he could have other hands, and even though it was six handed which tends to produce more action, my read was that he had AA. And that's the brass tacks of the hand. It just felt like AA to me. In fact, I would have put the likelihood at around 70%.

To be successful at poker you have to trust your reads. Even if you can't fully justify it (and you never had time in the moment to do full analysis) you just have to go with your feelings sometimes. It happens much more in person when you find yourself thinking "I don't know what he has, but I feel like I'm beat."

If I let the hand go and I was wrong it's a minor mistake at most. If I call 7,500 and then have to fold to an all in, it's a good sized mistake and doing what I did by moving all in was a major mistake. The blinds were 25/50 and I had 25,000 chips! You don't need to take chances for 80% of your stack when you're not sure if you have 500 big blinds left!

Another thing that this hand brings to light is the idea of making big laydowns. That's often mentioned as one of the things that separates the pros from the good amateurs. When you play thousands of hands a day like I do, especially in limit cash games, you don't need to make huge folds because one hand isn't really that much more important than the next. But playing $1,000+ tournaments requires you to sometimes say "This is a great hand and normally I would never do this, but since I have a ton of chips and thus plenty of time, I'm going to wait until I'm a little more sure to put myself at risk."

These are all things I know. I try to remind myself of them frequently. In fact I think I'm stronger than most pros when it comes to theory and justifying action with solid logic. But poker (online poker especially) moves quickly and it's easy to make mistakes. That's why experience is so important.

I'd like to say "the next time I come across a situation like this I'll be ready!" But there is no way in hell I'm ever going to be in a 6 handed game with kings, reraise, get smooth called by someone I know is a world class player, and have someone move all in on the flop for 3 times the pot in front of both of us!

2008 WCOOP Final Thoughts

I didn't reread this post after writing it so sorry for the typos!

This years WCOOP was filled with some major highs and lows. I was going to be super pissed if got blanked on the last day and ended up winning only a few thousand dollars. But happily I played well, got a few key breaks and ended up winning a solid amount. Before the WCOOP I said I wanted to have 4 cashes and make one final table. I had 5 cashes and one final table, so in that sense it was a major success. I also had 5 cashes in the second chance tournaments, and one major satellite win which is also very satisfying.

So what was the final number! Well I ended up winning $16,484!!!! BOOM!!!

More than anything playing the WCOOP has made me really look forward to going back to the WSOP. Hopefully I've generated some good will with my backers and I can roll up a huge pile of money to play 10-15 events.

Now on to a comment response (WARNING: HEAVY POKER CONTENT!) It's regarding a hand in the $530 with rebuys and in order to refresh your memory here's what I wrote about it:

With blinds of 25/50 the first player to act raised to 150 and got called by the next player to act. Then it was up to me and I had KK (I had about 25,000 chips)! I made it 600 to go and Griffen (who had about 20,000 chips) just called out of the small blind. My first thought was "Shit, that looks like AA." The other two players called as well and the flop came down J 9 7 with two spades. Griffen checked and then the original raiser went all in for 7,500 into the 2,500 chip pot. Right away I knew that was a draw. My only decision was how sure was I that Griffen had AA. Could I really lay down KK here?After a short moment I decided my hand was too good to fold and I went all in for 25,000. Griffen called and turned over AA! AHHHHHH! The other player had T9 and after no help I was down to 5,000 chips.

Now here is the comment:

Did you consider just calling the 7500 bet? If Gavin had a worse hand than you (AK, QQ,) he would almost certainly fold and if he pushed you could fold assuming he had either AA or JJ and still have 17,500 chips. I don't think he ever folds a better hand than you so I don't see the point of making the big reraise.You didn't mention this possibility in your recap so I'm guessing you don't consider it to be the correct play. Can you explain it in some depth? Thanks.

This is a great comment! Thanks to whoever wrote it! I did briefly consider just calling the 7,500 chip bet, with the plan of folding in Griffen moved all in, but I don't think it's the right play.

I've actually been thinking about his hand quite a bit over the past few days and while at the time I thought "Oh shit that looks like aces" I think that was just a bit of pessimism coming though. Even though I was right it wouldn't be fair to say it was a spot where he just about had to have AA. Making that call Griffen was only risking 3% of his stack in a pot that was clearly building up for major action. In retrospect I think he is capable of making this call with a fairly wide range of speculative hands like medium suited connectors or most pocket pairs. I feel like I could rule out QQ or JJ since he wouldn't want to take a flop vs 3 opponents out of position with one of those hands. No doubt he would have reraised to clear the field with either of those hands. But he easily could have had 99 or 77 hoping to hit a set and snap off a big pair. Obviously if I had to pick something to put him on, I would have chosen AA, but he could have had other hands.

With all that said I think folding was the best option here. By calling I'm risking 7,500 to win about 9,500. Not only do I have to worry about griffen moving all in after me, I have to worry about beating the guy who's already in the pot! I was all but positive that KK was the best hand at that point, but I was sure he was drawing very live. I was guessing I was about a 2 to 1 favorite (I figured he probably had a flush draw - it turns out he had a pair and a straight draw which also put me at about 2 to 1 to beat him).

Let's assume I'm going to win the 9,500 in the pot 2/3 of the time if I don't get reraised. That means every time I call here I have an expectation of +3,833 chips (two times out of three I'm going to win 9,500 and one time in three I'm going to lose 7,500 - so I average a net of 3,833).

But every time I get reraised I lose 7,500 chips! I'm getting a little screwed up on the exact math here, but to round off if I get reraised a third of the time I lose 7,500 one time in three and gain 3,833 two times in three which is pretty close to break even.

So in order to make just calling 7,500 a profitable call I need to assume that I'm going to get reraised significantly less than a third of the time.

And this is all assuming that I'm 66% to beat the guy who bet 7,500 which is a big assumption.

What I did was even worse than calling! I risked almost 20,000 to win 9,500! How stupid!

Of course the one big plus to moving all in is I'll never get blown off my hand by a reraise from something like AJ or a flush draw and more importantly about one time in ten that I do move all in and get called by AA, I'll spike my king and win a huge pot!

Anyway I should have folded. I hope this put a little light on the subject and I welcome further discussion.

Monday, September 22, 2008

40 Days of Pain!

My wife Jen, my son Peyton and I are off to southern California for a few days starting November 1st. That means between the end of the WCOOP and our little vacation I have 40 days to make some major headway on my year end point goals.

I thought the WCOOP would be good motivation to stay logged in and play for hours and hours thus generating tons of points. While I did spend an insane amount of time playing during the WCOOP, it was all multitable tournaments! I figured I'd be able to seamlessly mix in cash games, but in practice I had trouble playing lots of NL tournaments and limit cash games at the same time.

Now I'm way behind! My solution in to literally work for 40 days straight. I've had stretches where I've worked for 10 or 15 days in a row and not really noticed (my record is somewhere in the 20's) so it's not going to be like a normal person trying to pull off 40 work days in a row.

At the start of my 40 days I was at about 645,000 points for the year needing to make it to 1,000,000 by December 31st. My plan is to alternate days of 7,000 points which will take all the effort I can muster, and days of 3,000 points which I can either do at a leisurely pace or get up early and bang out before lunch.

My goal is to make it to 840,000 points by the end of my 40 days. That means I need to average 5,000 points a day (with one emergency day off built in) to make it. This IS NOT going to be easy. But since I'm taking a five day vacation and a seven day vacation in November and another seven day trip in December now is the time to make it happen!

I've got extra money in my pokerstars account from the WCOOP, my real world bank accounts are topped off and 840,000 points just so happens to be the point where I'll clear my $8,000 yearly milestone bonus so if I get rocked I'm OK with it. While I always plan on winning it's going to take playing more games than optimal, for longer hours and while I can't be specific about how my results might be affected, it might not be good.

When it comes down to it the difference between making it to 999,999 points vs 1,000,000 is worth about $50,000 so there's no way I'm not making it! I don't care what it takes!

Since I knocked out just under 7,000 points today and wrote this post you'll have to wait for WCOOP recap! Backer checks will be in the mail by the end of the week!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

$1,050 HORSE Recap

This tournament was great fun, even though it was a tough field. Among the 32 players that entered were two time WSOP bracelet winner Bill Chen, Pokerstars Pro Chad Brown who won the $5,200 HORSE event at last years WCOOP and has 5 WSOP top 5 finishes, "Chino23" (I've forgotten his real name) who was the only poker pro to make the final table of the WSOP main event in 2007, and "Pearl Jammer" who is one of the best online tournament pros around and (according to his bio on fulltiltpoker) has 1.6 million in career tournament winnings.

We all started with 25,000 chips and while I dropped down to 15,000 at one point early on I came right back up to 25,000.

I did have one big hand early where I kind of got screwed. We were playing stud and I started with KK in the hole and a 6 up. Both of my opponents had an ace showing and after they'd capped it on 3rd street and again on 4th street it was about 99% sure they both had AA. On 5th street I hit the third king. At this point I was 99% sure I had the best hand. Since it got capped again I figured both of my opponents had two pair. On 6th street it was two bets an on the river it got capped again. Since I didn't do any of the raising on the end I was about 95% sure I was dead, but since the pot was an insane 25,000 chips I had to call. It turns out that they did both in fact have exactly what I thought, but one made a flush and the other a full house. In order to lose on the last card I had to miss my full house, and one of them had to hit one of his two outs and the other had six outs to hit. It sucked.

But things got better quick. By the time we were down to 25 players (a few hours in) I was in first place with about 100,000 chips. I kept steady at that number until we were down to the final 8 handed table.

Then I made a bunch of hands. I kept thinking "Man, I am running so good right now!" By the time we were down to 6 players I had about 40% of all the chips in play with over 300,000. And that's about where I stayed until we were heads up!

When we got to heads up we were close to even. Then my opponent kicked my ass in the hold'em which really surprised me. I feel like that must have been his best game and when we switched to Omaha he had me about 600,000 to 200,000. But I kicked his ass in the Omaha! I totally flipped it on him and was ahead 600,000 to 200,000. Sadly he took the advantage back in the Razz and wiped me out in the Stud. I feel like I played well heads up and there wasn't anything I could have done much differently so I feel great about this result!

2nd place paid $8,640! I've got to find some more HORSE tournaments to play! I might have to explore some new websites to see if they have any good HORSE action.

Now after playing all day and writing this blog, I'm tired! I'll have the final total and some final thoughts on the 2008 WCOOP tomorrow.

More Good WCOOP News!

We're in the money in the $1,050 HORSE! I was in first going into the money so it never really felt in doubt. I've slipped a little since then, but things are still going well. I'll let you know what happened when it's over. Giddy up!

WCOOP Update

Well after all my talk about how great I was going to do in the 6 handed limit events I got my doors blown off! I was out about as fast as I could have expected to be eliminated in both the main tournament and the second chance.

But there is good news! I won the second $320 satellite to the Main event! I thought I was going to have to play but instead I've unregistered and gotten $5,200 in what they call "W" dollars. $W can only be used to buy into "special events." While every tournament associated in any way with the WCOOP is considered a special event, I can't say I know too much about what else counts. My impression is that it's very few tournaments. At worst I'll be sitting on $5,200 that's locked up for a year until the next WCOOP. At best I'll find some tournaments that pay cash in which I can use them. I'm not sure yet what this means for my backers. I still need to give it some thought.

In other news I'm still in the $1,050 second chance HORSE. We started with 32 and are down to 12. It pays 5 spots and I'm in 3rd.

WCOOP Complaining!

I'm getting screwed in the limit tournament! I've had AK five times, AQ once, and KQ 4 times. While I snuck out a few small pots with bets I haven't made a pair with any of these hands! What the hell is that all about! I'm down from 7,500 to 3,200. I like my table. I'd smoke these jokers if I could make a pair!

I blanked in the first $320 main event satellite and two $44 satellites as well.

Before today my $10,000 starting bankroll was at $16,002. I'd really like to get it to $20,000 by days end. If I get blanked for the rest of the day I'll end the WCOOP with a $2,644 profit. It makes me a little sad to see it drop so low, but the day's not over yet!

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...