Wednesday, September 07, 2022

$3/$5/$10 at Lucky Chances


The $1 chips are very sad

My tour of the bay area card rooms continued recently at Lucky Chances in Colma which is a little south of San Francisco proper. I was too lazy to take a picture, but not too lazy to find this stock photo on the internet of what it looks like inside.

Stocked with fish!

Before I get to that, for the record I have to breeze through another session. I was at Bay 101 for 5.5 hours. I lost a couple of all ins vs short stacks including AT < QQ and KJ < Q9, spewed off $350 on one hand with AK in a straddled 3 bet pot and generally had nothing good happen to me. I lost $565. Sad face.

The Lucky Chances sessions was much more interesting. My best memories of Lucky Chances are 20+ years old when I was still in college playing $9/$18 limit hold'em in the hours between midnight and 8 am. Poker was always so exciting in those days!

Anyway, I bought in for $1,000 in the $3/$5 game (There is no $2 blind on the button) which is the max. I saw a "kill" button on the table and quickly discovered that the game was playing "winner kill" which is similar to a rock straddle in the sense that the winner of the pot puts out a $10 blind. But I think in general with a rock straddle it's 100% mandatory and the action starts to the left of the straddle. In this game I believe you could object and not straddle (this did not happen a single time) and the straddle acted last preflop. Unlike other games I've played recently where it's straddled some of the time this was a straight up $10 big blind game.

And my opponents were TRASH! For the first 2 hours this was the best game I've been in in 2022. These dudes were so passive and in a totally linear way scaled their bet sizing based on the strength of their hand. When they made something a small bet meant a hand that was just barely good enough to bet, a half pot sized bet meant a solid, but non nut hand and when they had a monster they'd go huge. 

After 6 or 7 pots where I raised preflop, bet the flop, and won with no resistance I got dealt KQ of hearts made it $50 over two $10 limpers and took the flop 3 ways with the button and one of the limpers. The flop came down K63 rainbow and after the limper checked I decided to check for deception. The button quickly fired out $90. I took my time like I was thinking about what to do and called. The turn was an 8, I checked again and he instantly ripped it in for $400! Despite the fact that big bets almost always meant big hands, this was the driest board in the universe with no draws other than 54 and no two pair combos that call a raise to $50 preflop. I thought with a set I'd see a bet of $150 on the turn followed by $250 on the river, not just a ship and also that AK would have 3 bet preflop. I called feeling 90% sure I was up against a worse king. Sure enough after a blank river my opponent showed KT practically reaching for the pot because he was so sure it was good. Sorry bro! My pot!

A little later I had two hands against a younger guy who seemed like a regular player and was talking non stop. On the first hand Mr. Talky raised to $35 on the button vs one limper, I called in the big blind with 65 of spades and we took the flop 4 ways along with the straddle and the limper. The flop came down 865 with two diamonds giving me bottom 2. We all checked over to Mr. Talky who bet out $75. I grabbed three $100 chips off my stack and slid them into the pot. The others folded and Mr. Talky AGONIZED over what I might have. He had about $1,000 when the hand started and I was ready to stack off hoping he had an over pair. Eventually he folded, but for at least the next 30 minutes he would not shut up about this hand! It was clear that he was suspicious that I might have had a flush draw or a combo draw and regretted folding. I told him nothing!

At that point I got dealt AJ of spades on the button and raised to $40 after Mr. Talky limped. Along with the big blind we went 3 ways to a flop of Q93 with one spade. They checked over to me and I checked it back. The turn was the K of spades and Mr. Talky bet out $35. Picking up a gut shot and a flush draw on a card that should favor me as the preflop raiser is probably a time to raise, but I just called (I'm not sure what I was thinking exactly). The river came out the 6 of spades making me the nuts! Mr Talky checked and a very quick the thought of "over bet" passed through my brain. I grabbed $220 and Mr. Talky called so fast that I literally did not see him put chips in the pot! I was kind of aiming for 1.5X the pot and didn't quite get there as there was $190 in there already. If I'd gone a little slower with my thinking I might have bet $300, but I'm happy I got more than a pot sized bet on the river. I need to work on keeping track of exactly how much is in the pot.

I had a couple of hands go the wrong way, but all in all it was a great session.

The kill button is hiding in the background

In the end after about 4.5 hours I booked a $1,306 win! Hooray! After 46 hours my $10K starting bankroll is at $11,197. We're on a ~$3,000 upswing over the past 5 sessions and I definitely feel like I've shaken off some of the rust of 4 years of not playing very often.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Buying in for $1,000 at Graton


They should call this place The Palace!

I made my first trip ever to Graton Casino on a recent Sunday afternoon and I was impressed. It had the scale and feel of an on the strip Vegas casino, but it looked like a Saturday night in there on a Sunday at 1 pm with 2/3 of the 3,000 (!!) slot machines in use. 

The Poker Room (not pictured: a decent view of the poker tables)

I heard from the friends I was with who were Graton regs that you get $25 in free slot play if you sign up for a players card so I did. When I got to the poker room I discovered that you give them your card when you want to be added to the list for a game, your phone number is tied to your card and they text you when your seat is ready. The only options were $4/$8 limit, and $1/3 or $3/5 no limit.


I got called for the $4/$8 first. Looking at these chips triggered a memory from the distant past. My first casino poker experience was at Cache Creek which like Graton is a tribal casino. Seeing these worn out dirty chips brought me back to some of the most exciting sessions of my life, playing like absolute trash against toothless degenerates and filipino grandmothers on weekday afternoons in a smoke filled, poorly lit corner of the casino sweating $100 wins and losses like my life was at stake.

A dirty chip comparison (viking added for scale)

I'm really glad I hung on to one of those Cache Creek chips. Anyway, between the trip down memory lane and the PTSD of them raking $7 (!!!) out of every pot at a $4/$8 limit game I've blocked out what happened. Thankfully I was called for the $3/$5 game fairly quickly.

I bought in for $1,000. The max was $1,500, but I rationalized buying in for less by telling myself that I'd never played with any of these players before and $1,000 was enough to cover everyone but one player who had $1,300. I had about $3,000 on me and it felt more comfortable to have three $1,000 buys ins than two $1,500 buys ins. In reality this is hogwash. HOGWASH! My best approach has always been to buy in for the max, try to build up a towering stack and use it for complete and total psychological domination of my mentally weak opposition. 

Happily I got off to a hot start. I three bet TT to $90 in the big blind over a raise to $15 and two calls. Only the small blind called. The flop came down T96! Huzzah! I looked over at the small blind's stack and he only had about $160 left. Usually when someone has less than a pot sized bet and is short stacked, it's time to just get it in, but my read on this specific dude was that he would be more apt to call a series of smaller bets than one all in. He checked, I bet $75 and he called. The turn was an 8 putting a one liner to a straight out there and my opponent quickly mashed his remaining chips in the pot with the dexterity and finesse of a 6 month old baby slapping at a serving of puréed carrots. I of course snap called, he rolled over J8 and after another 8 on the river I took down a nice pot.

The next one was a favorite of mine, not just because of the result, but because of my thought process. I called a raise to $15 with 54 of clubs in middle position and we took the flop 5 ways. The flop came down AK8 with two clubs, the preflop raiser checked, I checked and it got around to the button who bet $55. What could this guy have and what does he not have? He never has AA or KK or AK just calling after a raise and multiple calls. With a small raise size preflop he absolutely has every Ax in his range and many Kx hands too. After we all check he's going to bet any piece of that flop, but unless he has exactly 88 or A8 it's really tough for him to call a check raise. Also these other goons between us already checked after the preflop raiser checked so they can't have anything. Of course I had a flush draw as backup, but I think I could make this move with nothing in this exact spot. Going through this is not exactly hard sitting here looking back with all the time in the world, but the fact that all of that hit me in an instant in the moment is very encouraging. I made it $150, the goons folded and the button mucked with frustration. I own your soul you button goon! Let it be a lesson to the rest of you goons!

On top of thinking about "configuration" like in the last hand, one thing I've been working on is playing big hands fast. Most players if they flop huge they are inclined to slowplay to in theory disguise the strength of their hand. So when you do the opposite and just blast away it gets misinterpreted and builds a pot.

I got a chance to executed on this with A4 of clubs in the big blind. The 6 month old baby I stuffed with the TT vs J8 hand raised to $15 in the small blind after 2 people limped for $5. I can not begin to tell you how TRASH this raise sizing is. IT MAKES NO SENSE! IT IS THE MOST RECREATIONAL SIZING OF ALL TIME! Anyway, I flopped the nuts on the Q86 all club flop! The trash baby checked, and I went into fast play mode betting $35. Only the player to my left called. The turn was the A of spades which could be an action killer, but checking made no sense. Part of my brain was saying "GO BIG! GO BIG" and the other part was like "What? Quit shouting at me. You're screaming too much about how these players are trash and babies." I bet $100 thinking that was about full pot, but $125 or even $150 might have been better. The river was the 9 of hearts and I got this feeling that my opponent was just never folding. "GO BIG! GO HUGE!" "What? Are you sure? I'm not sure I want to go huge." I settled on $250, got called right away and regretted not going bigger.

Despite my regrets I think my bet sizing was OK. Certainly I've seen my opposition go something like $30, $60, $100 in similar sports and make half what I did. But if I'm against a 2 pair plus hand like it's clear I was I might have been able to go $125 on the turn and $500 on the river. I'm working on this. I keep telling myself to GO HUGE and then betting 80%-90% of pot which is big but not huge.

The exact colors of Heinz ketchup and relish bottles?

They gave us all "all in" buttons to throw in as needed. I was not in fact all in in the picture and did not get to use my button.

After this picture where I was sitting on about $1,650 I had a slow and steady decline for 3 hours eventually booking a win of $2. The smallest live cash game win of all time for me? Probably.

Teaser: I'll be back a Graton for some tournaments in mid September.

After 36 hours my $10K bankroll is at $10,456.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Crushing Skulls on Back to Back Friday's at Bay 101!

An important question I try to answer in this session

I rolled into Bay 101 a couple Friday's ago coming off my stupid $1K loss at the dumb Palace in moronic Hayward happy to be back in familiar territory.

While waiting for no limit I jumped into the $8/$16 limit game and got dealt JJ in the first orbit. It came to me raised with one caller, I three bet it, the guy behind me four bet it and we took the flop 6 ways. I'd played with the 4 bettor before and I was 95% sure this was AA or KK. To my delight the flop came JJ3  and someone else check raised the 4 bettor! Fun! 5 of us went to the turn for 2 bets, I ended up betting the turn and the river and beat AA and KK. Quads son! How does your skull feel bruh!? 

Racks on Racks

I made my way over to $2/$3/$5 up $400 on the day and had more hands hit hard. In a weird move the cutoff just called $5 and I made it $25 from the button with K7 of hearts. The big blind and limper both called and the flop came down A54 with 2 hearts. The action checked to me and in a must bet spot I fired out $45. Only the big blind called and the turn came out the 2 of hearts. Flush time! Skull damage incoming! 

The A was a heart and barring 53 of hearts which would be soul crushing (also skull crushing) I had the nuts. I was certain I had K7 of hearts, but took a second to look back at my cards. Many players lose track of their suits and have to check if they have a mix of suits, but tend to remember if they're suited. Normally I don't act at all, but in this one situation I do and a look back here should makes it appear like I don't have a flush. 

After a check, I bet $125 and my opponent called. The river was the K of clubs and in the moment I thought "I don't think this guy is folding, I should go huge." There was about $415 in the pot, but I'd lost track of the exact count. I could see two $100 chips in the pot and then a bunch of $5 chips, but my snap assessment was a little lite. I bet $300, my opponent quickly called and I regretted not going for more like $500. I think a straight, a flush or even a set is finding a reason to call here.

Later in the session I picked up KK and raised to $30 vs two limpers. The small bind and one limper called and the flop came down 863 rainbow. I bet $55 and both called. The turn was a 9, I bet $130 and got one call. Then the river came out a K! Huzzah! Actually that K may have killed my chances of getting called one more time by an 8 or a 9, but it always feels good to improve. Sadly I bet $200 and my opponent folded with only a glancing blow to his skull. 

I won $910 for the session bringing my $10K bankroll to $9128 after 25 hours.

Fast forward a week to the following Friday and more skulls needed to be crushed.

I sat down in a new game and took the big blind. The under the gun player raised to $15 and I called along with the small blind. The flop came down 223 and I thought "No way does this lady have a deuce in her hand and no way is she going to stack off for $500 on the first hand." I didn't even note what I had but I check raised from $15 to $45 and won the pot. Because of this pot I was ahead literally the entire session. 

A couple of hands later I raised T9 of clubs to $20 from the lojack and after one call on the button a solid player 3 bet to $90 out of the big blind. Gross. He had about $800 and while I would prefer to be deeper stacked calling here I knew this guy liked to squeeze and decided to make the call. The button folded and the flop came down 995 with two diamonds. Zing! My opponent bet $80 and in the moment I was thinking "GLORIOUS! He'll never put me on a 9 if I raise. Someone with a 9 would never raise here. This will look like a flush draw! MWAH HA HA!" I went to $220 and he snap mucked. Sad face. Later I realized I could easily play an over pair this way and I guess if my opponent is squeezing wide he usually won't have anything here. But it still felt good to smash the flop.

But this was how the whole session ran for me. I 3 bet AK in a straddled pot from $50 to $150, flopped a K and won. I had AQ of clubs, flopped Q54 with two clubs and made the flush on the turn. I had JJ on a Q93 flop, turned a J and got check raised from $120 to $300! Hot damn! I didn't get paid off huge on any of them, but I just kept connecting.

Later in the big blind, I called $15 with J7 in a 6 way pot. The flop came down J82 with two hearts and it checked around. The turn was the 2 of spades, I bet $45 and got 2 callers. Not only was the river a J it was the J of hearts bringing in the front door flush draw, someone had the flush and I made another $100. Hitting the perfect card I started to think this was getting out of control!

Towards the end of the session I had 77 and raised to $20. I got one caller and then a total goof ball made it $60. We took the flop 3 ways and it came down A97 with two heats. YES! COME ON YOU GOOF BALL! WE CRUSHIN' SKULLS AND YOU NEXT! I just called a bet of $80 and the third guy in the pot shipped it all in for $375! Oh baby! The goofball folded I snap called and the board ran out T, A. With no structure at all left to his skull my opponent couldn't muster the strength to show his cards so after a couple of seconds I showed my hand and took down the pot.

Of course over close to 6 hours I had some hands go against me, but fuck those hands. Today we're only interested in the good stuff.

The white chips are made from the skulls of the vanquished

In the end I won $1,326. HUZZAH! I'm also back in the black for this project with my $10K bankroll at $10,454 after 31 hours. DOUBLE HUZZAH! In celebration I had a happy hour old fashioned and relished the defeat of my enemies.


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Uncapped Buy In No Limit at the Palace in Hayward



You would think after playing poker in the bay area for 22 years I would have been to every poker room in town. But you'd be wrong! You're so recreational at thinking! I made my first trip to "The Palace" in Hayward last Wednesday. What I new about it going in was they had 4 poker tables, offered $4/$8 limit hold'em and a $1/$2/$2 blind no limit game with an uncapped buy in. Given the state of their website it's surprising I was able to gather this much. 

Such a sad website

I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly, but my first reaction was that it had all the charm of an off track horse race betting establishment in a Fresno strip mall. I put my name up for EVERY GAME IN THE HOUSE (literally every game in the house is pictured above). I got called for the $4/$8 limit game which played with a half kill first and bought in for $200.

2 stacks of the lowest society

It has been a loooong time since I played a game with $1 chips. Surely I must be a massive favorite in the game right? RIGHT? 
The saddest stack of all time

I played for about an hour, lost $140 and began to question what I was doing at the Palace, why I was playing with red $1 chips ($1 chips are never red) and all the decisions in my life that had lead up to this moment. Finally I got called for the no limit game. Actually they called the name right before mine and right after mine and when I inquired I was informed that there was a regular with the same name, they didn't see him in the room and since he's deaf they never actually call him.

The $5 chips are blue and the $100s are orange!

I bought in for $1,060 including my sad stack from $4/$8 which may be the first time I've ever bought in for 500+ big blinds. I played uncapped buy-in $10/$20 at Bellagio once in my hay day, but certainly didn't buy in for $10,000 and can't remember too many other uncapped games. 

This game had some goofy straddle rules I've never seen before. On the first hand I played the cutoff put out a $5 straddle and the lojack two to his right put out $10. I was in the big blind and rather than asking WTF was going on, I decided to wait and see. The action started with the under the gun player, bypassed both straddles over to the small blind who made it $20, then the cutoff called and then the lojack called. Surely someone had acted out of turn here right? Nope! A straddle will act last after all of the other action and I guess a double straddle will act after the regular straddler. Furthermore in a normal hand you can't just call the $2 big blind. It's $5 to open. In a single straddled pot it's $10 to open and in a double straddled pot you have to put in $20 to just call. The effect of all of this is the game plays more like a $5 big blind game than a $2 big blind game. The stacks were all between $400 and $1200 with the exception of one guy who had ~$3,000 and no idea what he was doing.

The actual hands I played were not all that interesting with one exception. With the $5 straddle on I was in the big blind with T6 suited and 5 people came in for $10. This is a folding spot, but thinking I was closing the action I made a loose call for another $8. Then Mr. 3000 in the straddle made it $40 to go. Gross. I reluctantly put in another $30 in a spot where again I should have just mucked. The flop was amazing - J98 with two clubs giving me an open ender and a flush draw. I'd make a flush or a straight a little more than 50% of the time and was ready to stack off on the flop. I checked over to Mr. 3000 who bet $145 into the pot of $240. Then the next player to act went all in for what turned out to be $180 and it was back to me with a little over $1,000 in my stack. 

This was a tricky situation. I didn't think that if I called Mr. 3000 would be able to raise again as usually the all in raise needs to be more than half of the original bet (at least a raise of $73 more in this case) in order to reopen the action for the original bettor. But who knows in this goofy place! I thought about asking, but didn't want to ask as it may have given away information about me and my hand. There was also a guy behind me who only had $25 left (who knows why he didn't just get it in preflop for the extra $25). It's not all that often that you have a 15 out draw against effectively two all ins and another guy who is totally bananas and could have anything with fairly deep stacks behind. Between trying to figure out how much was in the pot, whether I should ask about the re-raising possibilities for Mr. 3000, and just the general internal juices flowing from being in this big pot I was feeling the fog of war and not really thinking clearly. While it was certainly possible for me to up against a better flush draw and another straight draw or made straight and be drawing dead to a chop, I decided to just get it in and shoved in my whole stack! The guy with $25 called and Mr. 3000 proudly folded JT face up. The turn was a red 5 and the river was...a 7! The $25 guy flashed AT meaning I was chopping, and then the other guy rolled over QT for the nuts. Bullshit! What a stupid hand! Why did I even write so many words about this dumb hand!

I also lost $350 with AA vs T9 on a 984 flop, turn T runout, $100 with AJ vs 33 in an all in preflop spot, and $250 on a raise preflop then big double barrel bluff that didn't work out. The rest of the time I generally just had nothing good happen.

In total I lost $1,020 on the session over 4 hours. My $10,000 starting bankroll is at $8,218 after 19 hours.

Despite the loss, this was a great game and I'll probably be back. I'm also been feeling inspired to visit EVERY POKER ROOM IN CALIFORNIA over the next couple of years. I probably won't make it to all of the tiny ones, but expect to see more posts about different places....stupid T6 suited.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Devil on My Shoulder at Bay 101


Poker is booming in the bay area and going in on Friday often means having to wait as all of the poker tables are full. While waiting for my normal $2/$3/$5 last Friday I managed to get a seat at the limit $8/$16 with a half kill (the stakes go up to $12/$24 for one hand if someone wins two pots in a row). Every player in this game was absolute trash...I'm sorry...every player in this game was HIGHLY recreational trash.

I couldn't help but think back to my early days when $1/$2 limit hold'em was the smallest game in the house at The Oaks Club, the $3/$6 limit game had a couple of regulars who had read some poker books and played fairly well and the $6/$12 had 2-3 regular players in every game who were solid if not quite good. In my early 20's I would have stayed in this $8/$16 game until my clothes slowly decayed and my beard grew down to the top of my stack. I may have needed to be hospitalized after not sleeping and eating only Mongolian Beef for weeks. It was truly incredible how not a single player had any idea what they were doing at all. After 2 hours of waiting I had 3 stacks of low society (as pictured above) and finally got called for the no limit game.

Lately I'm needing to remind myself : "BEING PASSIVE DOESN'T WORK IN POKER! BE AGGRESSIVE YOU RECREATIONAL DOOFUS!" There is always the devil on your shoulder telling you to just call or give up and wait for the nuts, but that doesn't work in the long run. 

On my first hand at the $2/$3/$5 game after buying in for $800 I got put to the test. I posted in the cutoff, got dealt KJ off and called after the player to my right raised one limper to $30. The button and limper called and the flop came down QT2 giving me an open ended straight draw. The action checked to me and I bet $75. I could make the argument that betting into 3 opponents as a semibluff is not always smart, but see my all caps reminder above. The button folded, the preflop limper called and the preflop raiser folded as well. Going to the turn heads up we had about $270 in the pot. The turn paired the 2 and my opponent bet out $25! I felt the devil's presence as he whispered "Hey bro. That's a real nice price for a river card. Why don't you just call and see what happens. Feels real safe to me." But I went with the angel's recommendation of "CRUSH SKULLS!" and put this dude all in for $400. He folded and I felt good about being aggressive. It works!

A little later I had changed tables and was back down to a stack of $720 when I got dealt KK under the gun.  I made it $20 to go, the small blind called and the big blind made it $120. This is a big raise and felt like a squeeze play to me, but no matter what it was a clear 4 bet spot and I went to $320. The small blind quickly folded, the villain called and the flop came down A55. Gross! With $400 behind and $660 in the pot I would have said I was pot committed as we went to the flop, but then the flop was what it was and my opponent shoved all in. GAH! SO FRUSTRATING! I folded, but later realized this was a big mistake. If my opponent had an ace I don't think he'd play it this way. He seemed like a decent player and I really look like a passive middle aged white guy who is only 4 betting QQ, KK or AA. If he thinks I'm not 4 betting AK (I am) or AQ (I would in this spot) then with an A on the board 80% of my range is under pairs. This is one I wish I had back. 

On the next notable hand I raised Q9 of diamonds to $20 and got one caller. The flop came down QJ2 with one diamond, I bet $20 and got called. The turn was the 8 of diamonds giving me top pair, a gut shot, and a flush draw. I decided to check and my opponent bet out $50. At which point the devil appeared again whispering... "Bro. Just call. See if you make it. Dude over there looks like he's got KQ to me or even T9. Don't want to mess with T9 do you? Slide in that $50." Surprisingly the angel made a similar read "LOOKS LIKE KQ AND I DON'T GIVE A SHIT! CRUUUUUUUUSH SKULLLLLLLLLS!" I moved all in for $400 and after thinking for about 10 seconds he mucked. 

I ended up winning $597 on the night over 7 hours. My $10,000 starting bankroll sits at $9,238 after 15 hours.

My next session which is already in the books was at the very inappropriately named "Palace" in Hayward. It was super weird. More on that soon.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Big Pocket Pairs and AK are Garbage!


We're even on the session!

After coming back from 9 days away from home with tons of activity I bailed on my plan to plan most Friday's instead opting for a rare Sunday session. I walked into Bay 101 around 11 am and by 11:30 they filled the last empty table in the room with a new $2/$3/$5 game. I bought in for $800 ready to accumulate a huge stack, stay all day and CRUSH SKULLS!

About 10 minutes in, in a straddled pot, one player called $10 and the next player to act made it $40 to go after starting the hand with $260 in his stack. In the small blind, I looked down at KK (hooray!) and 3 bet to $120. Only the raiser called. Seeing he only had $140 left with ~$250 already in the pot my mind went to "SHOVE ALL FLOPS!" When the flop came out AJ5 I decided to SHOVE ALL FLOPS! My opponent instantly called with A8 and won the pot. Shit! Even though it wouldn't make any difference in this hand, looking back I think a check is better here. If my opponent has an A, I'm just screwed and there's not getting around it. But if he missed he might take a shot at it after I check. The point is KK is garbage and should be folded preflop.

A little later I raised QT of hearts to $35 in another straddled pot. A guy in his 60's or 70's three bet me to $85 out of the big blind and I opted to call. This guy was the classic weak tight older guy and I was pretty sure his entire 3 betting range was pairs JJ+ and AK, but I had position and was getting a good price to call. The flop came down KQ7 with two diamonds and to my surprise he checked. He only had about $225 behind and my first instinct was to just get it all in. But it seemed more likely that he'd flopped a set than missed given my read on his range.  I checked back, the turn came down the T of diamonds bringing in the flush draw and making me two pair. Now he checked again. At this point I figured I had the best hand and wanting to protect against another diamond coming I tossed three $100 chips into the pot putting him all in. After some hemming and hawing he mucked black pocket aces face up! The point is AA is garbage and should be folded preflop.

Towards the end of the session I got dealt AK in the cutoff and raised two limpers to $30. The button behind me and the UTG limper called. The flop came down AJ2 with two diamonds and one spade. I bet $45 and only the limper called. My opponent had about $1,500 in front of him and seemed like a solid competent player. The turn was a J which is clearly a bad card for me.  After he checked, I checked it back hoping to avoid getting check raise bluffed, lose less vs a J, induce a bluff on the river or otherwise appear weaker than I actually was. Given the turn action, my mind went to "CALL ALL RIVER BETS!" before the last card was dealt. Unfortunately the river was the very shitty 2 of diamonds and my opponent bet $215 into the $190 pot. Gross! This bet should be polarized meaning it's either a flush or better or absolute air. In the moment I was thinking that a full house or a flush would bet $100 trying to get action from an ace, but $215 made no sense. Thinking back later, I couldn't come up with any hands limp preflop, call my flop bet and are total bluffs on the end. Maybe QT or KT of spades? After about 10 seconds I made the call and lost to 54 of diamonds. I think I'm lucky I didn't get check raised on the flop, because we may have gotten it all in if that happens. Anyway, the point is AK is garbage and should be folded preflop.

I put in 4 hours and lost $478. My $10K starting bankroll now sits at $8,641 after 8 hours. WEAK! I did play another session on Friday (the above was from a week ago) and had a better result. I'll post about that session when I get a chance.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Hero Calls, Semibluffs and Caveman Brain at Bay 101


The Worst Photo Ever Taken of the Outside of Bay 101

I walked in to Bay 101 (which you might think is a community college based on the photo above) yesterday with $2,500 in my pocket ready for the first session in my quest to play 250 hours of no limit to fund my 2023 WSOP plans. 

An Average Photo of the Inside of Bay 101

After an hour of waiting to get into a game I bought $500 in $5 chips and ten $100 chips. I sat down with $800 on the table and another $700 in chips in my pocket ready to top off my stack so as to always have the max. I got dealt pocket queens on the first hand! After my raise to $25, we took the flop 4 ways with $100 in the pot. On an A high flop there was a bet and a raise before it got to me, I mucked and my hopes of a massive win on hand #1 were squished.

After an hour I was in for a little less than $900 sitting on $875 when my first noteworthy hand came up. I opened black 66 under the gun to $20 and only the big blind called. The flop came down A23 with two hearts and one diamond. My opponent check, called my bet of $25. The turn brought the 5 of diamonds putting another flush draw and a one liner to a straight out there. Now my opponent bet 60.

My opponent has what they call a range advantage here in that he as the big blind has many 4's in his preflop calling range and I as the under the gun preflop raiser should almost never have a 4 here. With this being a great card for my opponent to bluff I decided to make the call. 

The river was the J of clubs and after a slight delay where he looked about to check, my opponent fired out $130. This looked just a little bit big bet size wise for someone trying to get called by an A. With both flush draws bricking out I decided I was getting the right price to bluff catch and made the hero call. My opponent rolled over K2 and I was good! I got an audible "whoa" from another player at the table and feeling great about making the right read here. 

Shortly after I raised J8 of spades to $20 in the cutoff and got called by the button and the big blind. The flop came down KJ9 with two spades and I had the first of a few moments in the session where afterwards I realized my top level conscious brain kind of shut down and caveman brain took over. 


I bet $45 and only the button called. The turn was the 4 of spades bringing in my flush. Zing! I grabbed a $100 chip off my stack and flipped it into the pot. My opponent instantly snapped three $100 chips in to the pot! 

Normal brain for one second thought, "that looks like a flush, you might be beat here" and was immediately shouted down by caveman brain "NEVER FOLD FLUSH! GRAB CHIPS! PUT IN POT!" My opponent had about $225 left in his stack and what I should have done is slowed down and considered the hands I beat (QT, 99, Ax with the A of spades, KJ) that could be played this way and the hands I lose to (Ax of spades and QT of spades) that could be played this way. Looking back now just getting it in is certainly the right move, but I didn't think it through in the moment. 

I pushed my chips in the pot and my opponent turned over red QT! I thought he was folding and almost showed my hand, but then realized he was still thinking. After about 20 seconds he called drawing dead, the river was the irrelevant 2 of spades,  I took down the pot and he took a trip out the front door. 

Sitting on ~$1400 up $500 for the session

Fast forward a little bit and I had been playing for about 4 hours. With the $10 straddle on I called $10 with A9 of spades after 2 calls in front of me. The big blind raised to $50 and we took the flop 4 ways. The flop came down T 8 7 with two diamonds giving me an open ended straight draw. The action checked to me and I thought about betting, but decided that I both don't have enough fold equity and am just a cowardly wuss. The turn brought the A of clubs and the preflop raiser bet out $75. I briefly considered making a big raise, but again went with cowardly wuss move and just called. The river was the J of hearts and I made my straight. Zing! To my surprise the villain fired out $200! 

Caveman brain here knows what to do. NO RAISE! EITHER BLUFF OR CHOP OR LOSE! DUMB JERK NEVER CALL MORE WITH BAD HAND! Without thinking about it at all I called $200, my opponent turned over Q9, I showed A9, quickly realized that I'd lost and with great annoyance flipped my cards back over. Boo!

Two hands later again with the $10 straddle on I called with 86 of diamonds after one other call. This hand and the one before were I think the only two times I called preflop and didn't either raise or fold which I'm sure is a better way to play in these spots. Weak! Anyway, the guy who had the Q9 on the last hand made it $50 to go and we took the flop 4 ways again. The flop came down 843 with one diamond, the player to my right checked, I checked, guy to my left checked and the original raiser checked it through. The turn brought the 7 of diamonds which gave me a gut shot straight draw and a flush draw to go with my top pair.

The guy to my right checked again so I was all but sure I had him and the preflop raiser beat with my 8. I bet out $125 into the $200 pot, the guy to my direct left raised to $290, and both other players folded. I started the hand with about $725 and my opponent had me covered by about $50. Normal brain did recall that this guy had folded two pair face up to a big raise earlier so he was capable of folding good hands, but did not take the time to think through the hands that would play this way that I want to raise against. If he also has a flush draw or somehow has 99 or a better 8 a raise is great. Looking back I think all of those hands just call and his raising range is 33, 44, 77, 88, 87 or 65 all of which have me crushed and are never folding. I guess sometimes he is just going apeshit here with a bluff, but probably not for a big bet in a big pot. 

Up to this point caveman brain had been totally correct and doing its job of stopping me from overthinking things. In this case normal brain would have been better, but caveman brain took over. PAIR AND FLUSH DRAW AND STRAIGHT DRAW! MONEY IN POT! 

I raised all in for about another $400 and my opponent took maybe 10 seconds to make what looked like a somewhat pained call. I showed my hand before the last card was dealt. The river rolled off another 8 which I didn't think really changed things. But then my opponent said "oh damn it! Man that sucks" and some other similar comments. At that point I figured he must have 43 or 74 or 73 and had two pair counter fitted! This was a tremendous development. After about 10 seconds of going on and on (which is a really long time actually) he showed 44 and someone said "you won, you have a full house" and then he said something like "Oh, I thought he had a full house too!"

Jesus Christ! I'm losing to this fucking guy who doesn't even know what he has! Serenity now! Serenity now! 

You can't rule out that someone is totally trolling you with an awful slow roll in a spot like this, but I'm 98% sure this guy did not know he'd won. I told you these games were good right?

I think if I'd lost that pot without all of the theatrics I might have stayed, but the emotional roller coaster of making a big all in hoping for a fold, getting called, missing all of the draws then thinking I'd won and then not winning was enough to not have me in an ideal mental state. 

The remains of my $1,500

After 4 hours of 250 in the books my $10,000 bankroll is at $9,119. I'm traveling next weekend so my next session won't be for a couple of weeks. 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Funding My 2023 WSOP Plans with No Limit Cash Game Profits

Anything but hundreds = loser!

 One of my big weaknesses in poker is sweating exactly how much I'm up or down in a given session. Especially if I'm getting close to the end of a session. If I'm ahead $1,050 for example and it's 30 minutes or an hour or even two hours before my preplanned departure time I might rack up my chips to lock up the $1,000+ win. This is stupid bullshit! I know for a fact that the mission is to get in as many hands as possible while in a good state of mind but I'm often mentally weak!

Also problematic when playing sporadically is the losses feeling semi permanent. In my pro poker days if I lost, I knew I'd be back at it the next day and the day after that. In my normal human working days losing $1,500 feels like spending $1,500 on something that sucked. 

A tactic that has always helped me with both of these mindset problems is to set up medium term plan and goals. This helps me to look at each session as a piece of a larger project and not sweat individual session results.

With that in mind, here is my plan:

  • $10,000 starting bankroll
  • Play 250 hours of $2/$3/$5 no limit between now and 2023 WSOP
  • Set a max loss per session of $2,000
  • No max win per session, just play the hours
  • Goal of $50 per hour win rate
  • Play 2-3 Friday nights and maybe one Sunday per month

If you look closely at my photo you'll see it's not $10,000. In fact it's only $2,500 and the 50's and even more so the 20's (gross!) are a sure sign that I'm rolling like a newb. While I do prefer to actually have my bankroll sitting in cash, at 42 years old I'm telling myself to use banks and not be an idiot. 

If I pull this off I'll have $12,500 which should be good for rolling into Vegas for a 9 day Friday to the following Sunday trip with $10,000 in bankroll and $2,500 for expenses (At 42 I'm also too old and too well off to stay at the Flamingo and eat the $6.99 breakfast special). 

I'm expecting to do most of my playing at Bay 101 which may have the best $5 big blind games that have ever consistently existed anywhere. Let me tell you why they're so good.

1) No small games in the house. Bay 101 has done away with the $3 big blind no limit game meaning the $2/$3/$5 is the smallest game in the house and it has a minimum buy-in of $500 (maximum of $800). Tons of players who would love to play smaller are forced to play larger.

2) Ton's of money in the area. The San Jose area is loaded with a mix of twenty something software engineers who work at Google or Facebook and retired (but not that old) people who have made money is various startup boom cycles over the last 25 years.

3) The game often plays with a $10 straddle. Unlike other places I've played where players will agree to an orbit of straddles where everyone puts out the extra $10 for one round, it's common for 2-3 players to put out the $10 straddle and not expect the remaining players to do so. Putting in $10 of total blinds per orbit while some others are putting in $20 is a tremendous advantage to us nits. 

4) The game plays very fast. This is a combination of strong dealers and a player pool with a lot of regulars who don't think too hard about anything but the biggest decisions. We might be getting 25% more hands per hour than you'd get in Vegas.

5) I see very few pros. A pro level rate of return in a $5 big blind game is generally around $50 an hour. That's a ton of money in most parts of the country, but in the bay area it's not as much and the alternative career opportunities are much stronger than almost anywhere.

6) There are bigger games in town. Bay 101 runs a $2,000 max buy-in "deep stack" $2/$3/$5 game that always plays with a $10 straddle from every player as well as $5/$5/$10 that is really $5/$5/$10/$20. This draws off the top level players.

7) Great game selection. It's typical to find 6 or 7 $2/$3/$5 games going at any one time meaning you can table change of any particular game is too tough.

Anyway, these are great games! My hope is to blog about my Friday night sessions on Sunday mornings. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

2022 WSOP and What's Next for My Poker Life

Look at me winning with AA at the WSOP! Fun!

From late 2018 to mid 2022 I only played poker a half dozen times at most. But recently I got fired up to play again. Over the past 18 months I've been playing a ton of chess. It's hard and I am not good, but it makes me appreciate how much I know about poker. I still have a lot to learn in poker and I'm not good enough to compete with the top echelon pro players these days, but I can still stomp the faces of recreational players.

I also got the urge to blog again so here we are!

In June I played 3 sessions of $2/$3/$5 with an $800 max buy in at Bay 101 in San Jose. I had a $270 loss, a $340 win and a $2,050 win in 3 roughly 5 hour sessions on Friday nights (my chip stack from the last pictured below). 

With a couple thousand in profit I sold my wife on somewhat short notice trip to Vegas for a long weekend. I fired 3 bullets in the $400 buy-in Colossus and played some cash at the Bellagio as well.

The one highlight hand was getting AA vs AK against the worst, loosest player at my table as shown above. Nothing crazy happened and doubling up early felt great.

The lowlight is shown here. The guy on the right with the words on his shirt who was rationalizing his sus play when this picture was taken, joined our table a few hours in. Before he came the table was a filled exclusively with passive, highly recreational players. 

Side note: those of us with some class try not to disparage the weaker players these days. While I could say I was playing with fish, donkeys, suckers, pigeons, whales, marks, clowns, and shit for brains low roller ass hats, and be completely accurate, I like the word recreational. As in you "bro, you would not believe how recreational this shit for brains low roller ass hat was."

Anyway, the rationalizing villain seemed decent and was certainly active and aggressive. Factually he was friendly and charming, but I instantly disliked him for no good reason. Maybe it was because he was running crazy good, had his 40K starting stack up to 200K in a couple of hours and I was seething with envy. Who knows?!

In the pictured hand, the blinds were 1K/2K with a 2K big blind ante, he raised to 4,500, and I called in the big blind after one other call with T6 of spades. The flop came down A 7 5 all spades! Zing! I checked, the villain bet 6K, the other player folded and I shipped it for 55K. This is a somewhat big over bet, but I thought it made my hand look like a flush draw as opposed to a made flush. My opponent thought for about a minute and called with K of spades, 8 of clubs.

The turn was the 4 of hearts, but sadly the river was the Q of spades and that was it. My opponent said he thought I had and ace in which case this is still probably a fold, but I guess not that bad.

In my other two bullets I got ground down to under 10 big blinds without ever getting my starting stack more than a few thousand above where it started, both times shoved with Ax and both times ran into pocket aces! Gross! 

In the lead up to this trip and since I returned I've been following along with some poker vloggers on YouTube and maybe 2 dozen players on twitter. Their excitement is contagious. While my 2022 WSOP is over, I'm already thinking ahead to the 2023 WSOP.

I'll share my plans for the time between now and then in my next post. 

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.

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...