Lost a Friend.

Lee Jennings was one of the coolest people I have ever met.  She was a fan of mine; she was a reader of this blog and followed my career closely.  But I was a bigger fan of hers.  We shared interests and viewpoints and had similar tastes in music, humor and people.

She lit up every room she entered with her smile, wit and positivity.  I loved hanging out with her.  I’m heartbroken over my loss, her family’s loss, the world’s loss.

Rest in peace Lee.  At least you won’t ever witness LeBron James dribbling a basketball in a Miami Heat uniform.

The Mo Zone.

As part of my concerted strategy to play as many live tournaments as possible before baby arrives, I woke up early on Saturday and drove up to Mohegan Sun to play the $1100 Main Event of their Summer Open.  Even though this year’s version paled in comparison to last year’s $2500 buy in with a $750,000 guarantee, as defending champion I felt compelled to make an appearance.

The trip also made imminent sense because I run like Usain Bolt at Mohegan Sun.  When I do something crazy in any other casino in the world, I end up getting caught with my pants down and looking like a fool.  When I do something crazy at Mohegan Sun, this happens:

After biding my time for the first few levels, I chipped up from the starting stack of 20,000 to  around 80,000, which put me amongst the leaders in the 211-player field.  I then fell silent, playing very few hands before deciding that I had found a nice opportunity to do something stupid.

Blinds were 800-1600/200.  My table featured one chronic, habitual limper.  And when I say “chronic, habitual limper” I really mean it.  The dude was getting involved with hands like J-2 suited and K-3 off, etc. etc.  This guy limped under the gun, and the action was folded to a big-stacked (~75,000) kid in middle position.  This kid was new to the table and my guess was that he was a competent, aggressive foe.  He proceeded to raise to 6,000.  It was folded to me in the cutoff and I figured the kid was isolating  pretty light, so I three bet to 15,700 with the old Q3o, a bet designed to tell the kid who was boss at this table.  Mr.  Limper folded, but the kid called. Stand back, stupidity in progress.

The flop was 9h-7c-3d, giving me bottom pair.  The kid checked and I followed through with my plan, betting 20,000.  The kid thought for awhile and called.  The turn was the ten of clubs.  The kid checked, and I checked behind.  The river was the king of hearts.  The kid checked again, and I thought for about twenty seconds before deciding that this was a nice card for me to get completely stupid with.  I figured I’d bluff the kid off his pocket pair now, so I cut 31,000 chips out of my stack and placed them in the middle, leaving me with around 10,000 behind.  It was likely the biggest pot of the tournament to that point.

The kid tanked for about 40 seconds, and just as it seemed like he was about to fold, he made up his mind and determinedly declared “call.”  I sighed, silently cursed my recurring stupidity and said “you win” as I tabled my bottom pair face up (yes, face UP, thankfully!).

The kid exultantly said “yessss!” and turned over…. the losing hand.  A-8 of hearts.  He then claimed to have misread his hand.  WTF?

I was now chip leader of the tournament and rode the momentum from this hand all the way through the end of the night, finishing Day 1 second in chips with 37 players left, in good shape yet again at MoSun.  Finding a hotel room, however, was a nightmare.  Southeastern Connecticut was swarming with visitors, and it took me two hours to get settled into an overpriced bed a few miles away from Mohegan.

Day 2 was a slow grind during which I committed the same tactical error over and over again (more on that below), and my stack was under the tournament average by the time there were 15 players remaining.  When the tournament was down to 11 players, talk of chopping up the prize pool began, and I put an end to it by declining.  When we reached the 9-player final table, I was dead last in chips and had 7.5 big blinds remaining in my once formidable stack.  A deal was once again discussed, and we worked out the equity numbers.  After about 40 minutes worth of wrangling, the other eight players were in agreement on a deal.  It was essentially up to me.  I considered a few factors.  Namely, my desperate situation in the tournament, my sub-par results for the year, and the fact that I would be the lone holdout if I declined again.  I reluctantly decided to take my exact equity number, which was roughly sixth place money, and that was that.

I immediately regretted the decision and am still not thrilled with it.  Although my tournament was reduced to push/fold poker, I do it as well if not better than anyone who was at the final table with me.  More importantly, a nine-way chop just isn’t what tournament poker is really about.  Yeah, I got around $11,000, but it felt vaguely violative of the whole spirit of the enterprise.  You’re supposed to make the final table, then go about the cutthroat business of taking everyone out.  You don’t make the final table and quit for the night!  I still feel kind of gross when I think about it.  It will likely be my first and last nine way chop.

And now for a brief discussion of MTT strategy:

Preflop raise sizing has been a confounding issue for me throughout my career.  Everyone knows that live players tend to raise anywhere from 2.5x to 4x the big blind (and in some cases, higher) in their steal attempts.  Online play features smaller raise sizing; amounts vary from minraises up to around 2.5x.  Most everyone agrees that the smaller raises seen online are optimal in that forum, where players (correctly) do not defend their blinds lightly.  Live poker is a different animal.  I routinely run across players who will defend their big blind with literally any two cards against a 2.3x preflop raise.

I have traditionally utilized the smaller raise sizing online and notched my sizing up in live tournaments, automatically adjusting my sizing to what I imagine the big blind’s threshold is for calling with a trashy hand.  Starting late in 2009, however, I began to default to the small online-type raises (e.g. 1875 at 400-800, 2800 at 600-1200, etc.) in live tournaments as well, regardless of opponent.  I have always appreciated the superiority of the average online player to the average live player, so it seemed to make a lot of sense to just play like I was playing online when playing live.  On Sunday at Mohegan Sun, that strategy cost me dearly, as I lost a number of pots to players who defended with dubious holdings such as 4-3 and outflopped me.  It has caused me to reconsider things.

The debate revolves around whether or not it is a good or bad thing for bad players to defend light against us.  Proponents of the practice of transposing online raise sizing into the live arena state that they want bad players to play pots against them out of position with shitty hands, it makes it easy to take their money.  This sounds like common sense, but in my opinion it is incorrect.

The reason is this:  a vital part of your equity in raising preflop comes from the times everyone folds and you steal the blinds.  It is an integral piece of the overall strategy of raising preflop.  When your raise sizing makes winning the antes and blinds uncontested impossible, you are costing yourself equity no matter how great you play postflop and how terrible the player in the big blind is.

To illustrate, consider the scenario where a player has only two big blinds in his stack and is forced to post on the next hand.  This player is smart enough to know that he must call off his tournament with any two cards.  The action is folded to you in middle position.

Should you be raising lighter or tighter in this spot?  The correct answer is that you should be tightening up your opening range.  You cannot steal the blinds (he’s calling every time) and hands like A3 and the like are basically coin flips against a random hand.  Part of the reason we raise with trash is to win uncontested and that objective is ruined when the big blind has no chips left.  While many good players understand this concept, they do not realize that the same idea applies throughout the tournament.

A good raise size preflop is whatever amount gives the players in the blinds pause before they automatically call.  It could be as low as a minraise (and it often is online) and as high as 3x (and it often is in a live event).  I will no longer be making the mistake of grafting optimal online tourney play onto my live game.

Next live-a-ment for me isn’t until August.  I’m really happy to spend some time at home.

Quiet Main Event.

The landscape of tournament poker is constantly shifting.  There is an inexorable evolution afoot.  It is imperceptible in the short term (days, weeks, months) but in the long term (years) it comes into focus.  The way people play the game has changed substantially—more than once—since I began playing seriously.  This is a fact.  As the game has increased in popularity, the average player has become significantly more dangerous.  This is also a fact.  An economic downturn has left fewer recreational players to pick on.  Another fact.  My edge in general is significantly smaller now than it was as recently as two years ago.  Call these combined facts the Law of Diminishing Sug Returns.

Once per year, this law is magically suspended for a few days.  For the World Series of Poker Main Event, the huge field of combatants is crammed full of not only tough opponents, but also scores of unskilled players of every ilk, including the clueless, the hopeless and the helpless.  That this presents the best opportunity of the year for me goes without saying.  It’s like saying that the Super Bowl is big game.  Everybody knows about the cushy, mushy softball that is the Main Event.

My starting table was exactly what I expected, i.e., a mix of decent players and terrible ones, i.e., great.

Seat 1:  Me

Seat 2: An old Alaskan man, probably in his 70’s, with a white mustache.  It was his first time in Las Vegas.  He won his seat through a series of FPP (frequent player points) tournaments on Pokerstars.  That’s right, he got in for free!  He had to win what amounts to a three-day lottery just to earn the right to sit directly to my left.  This in and of itself was miraculous, as he was loose-passive and generally awful at poker.

Seat 3:  Super tight, super straightforward middle aged guy.  He seemed to know some people, including the luminary on his left, but his play was far too basic for him to call himself a fulltime pro.  Probably a wealthy recreational player who plays some big buy ins for sport.

Seat 4:  Hoyt Corkins.  Most poker fans know him.  Wiley, tough aggressive old guy who was reshoving light ages before everyone else figured it out.  Big ass cobwoy hat.  Super nice guy.

Seat 5:  Having trouble remembering who sat here.

Seat 6:  Carl Olson.  Aggressive, perceptive player who was considered an online MTT superstara few years ago.  Not sure what happened; I believe he either stopped playing online or quit poker as a full-time source of income since then.  Either way, he’s a dangerous player.  This was my third or maybe fourth time sitting with him in a WSOP event in the past four years.

Seat 7:  Totally hopeless loose-passive older guy.  Incapable of anything beyond Level One thinking.  Just happy to be there.

Seat 8:  Very aggressive younger player who I believe was a West Coast cash game regular.

Seat 9:  Terribad Italian guy.  Spoke no English, but if he did, he’d have spent a lot of time saying “call.”  Open limped or overcalled preflop on about 90% of the pots he played, of which there were many.

I opened the tournament nicely, playing a standard TAG style.  I picked and prodded my way from 30k to 31,500 at the first break, showing down no hands.  By this time, the reads I have fleshed out above were fully in place with respect to my tablemates.

After the first break I began to gain some traction, and I moved over 40k, again not showing down hands, and won my largest pot of the tournament as follows:

Blinds 100-200.  My button.  Action was folded to the Italian guy who open limped.  I made it 925 to go with the Jd8d.  Old Alaskan dude flatted from the small blind, and the Italian dude came along.  Both Italian guy and Alaskan guy had run good so far and covered me by over 10k apiece.  Flop fell 10-8-7 with two spades, leaving me with middle pair and a gutshot.  Old Alaskan guy lead for 1500, Italian dude folded, I called.  Turn was the ace of spades.  Old Alaskan guy bet 1500 again.  I considered briefly and raised to 4250.  Alaskan guy called.  River was an offsuit 9, giving me a straight.  Old Alaskan checked, I bet 10,500 trying to look bluffy and Alaskan guy mucked his hand quickly.  In retrospect, I should have value bet smaller on the river, since the concept of a large value bet “looking bluffy” is not something that would possibly enter this gentleman’s brain.  This hand took me to around 42,000.  It would be my high water mark for the tournament.  It would also mark the first of exactly two times in the tournament that I held two pair or better.

After the second break absolutely nothing went right.  My slide began with a mistake:

Blinds were now 150-300.  I had about 39k.  Donk in the 7 seat limped, Italo-donk in the 9 seat limped as well.  I had AKo on the button and made it 1050.  Super tightass in the big blind flatted (alarm bells), the original limper folded (obv) and the Italo-donk called (obv).  Flop came A-Q-4 rainbow.  Both checked to me and I fired 2225.  Supertight flatted (alarm bells again), Italo flatted (means nothing).  Turn was a five, completing the rainbow.  Both checked to me and I contemplated a bet but decided to check through on this meaningless card.  River was another brick—an 8—and now supertight sprang to life with a 7,000 bet.  Italo called without much hesitation and now I was facing a decision.

There were countervailing factors at play here.  Obviously, I was good here less than half the time.  I knew there was a significant chance that the big blind had flopped a set.  I doubted he held AQ as I felt that a flop checkraise would have been pretty certain with that hand.  Still, his river bet was strongly indicative of a big hand; this type of player would likely check/call or check/fold the river (or even fold preflop) with hands I was beating like AJ and A-10.

Then again, the pot was large and laying me quite a bit of money, and I didn’t need to be good nearly half the time for a call to be correct in a vacuum (you do the math, I’d prefer not to).  One thing was for sure:  I was well ahead of the half-wit Italo dude’s range, his snap call just meant that he had a piece, likely just top pair.  I could take the high road and wait for a better spot (and then vomit on the table if my hand was best) by folding, or I could make a “math call” and pray that the nut one pair was somehow good here.

I sat there holding a pink 5k chip and two yellow 2k chips in my right hand and waved them around like an idiot for about a minute.  Then I made some faces, acting like someone had just punted Ruthie across the Amazon room.  I knew my hand was no good, but man do I hate folding.  I waved the chips over the pot again, gave one last grimace and dropped them in.  Oops.

I watched in resigned horror as Supertight triumphantly flipped over QQ for a flopped middle set.  Then he exclaimed:


Well done, sir.

Then I watched Italo donk turn his rivered two pair (A8 off) face up.  Then I witnessed the look of astonishment that swept across his face when he discovered that they were no good.

And then I silently slid the third best hand into the muck.

Moving on…. Around this time Corkins busted the aggressive kid in the 8 seat with 99 > AA on a K-9-x two diamond board, which began a remarkable run for Corkins which took him up to around 80,000 at a very early stage of the tournament.  The kid’s seat remained unoccupied for perhaps twenty minutes before it was filled with David “Devilfish” Ulliot.

Many casual poker fans are familiar with the Devilfish because he made a name for himself during the first couple of seasons of the televised World Poker Tour, reaping some handsome returns on the nascent stages of the poker boom.  The Devilfish of 2004 was a Dapper Dan, dressed in expensive suits with gaudy jewelry (four-finger rings, lolz) to match.  He was immaculately groomed with sunglasses and slicked back hair.  His persona matched his attire—he gabbed nonstop at the tables and took control of many tournaments using naked, fearless aggression.  His aura was James Bond-esque—if James Bond were a pimp during his downtime.

DevilFish before.

DevilFish before.

The Devilfish of 2010 is a different character entirely.  Now looking rather haggard in played-out Ed Hardy gear and sporting a strange anachronistic caesar hairdo, he looks less like James Bond than a tired old wannabe who has seen his fair share of meth benders.  His attitude has come full circle as well; rather than wielding a caustic wit, he now gabbers in mostly hateful and spiteful undertones in his difficult-to-decipher English accent.  It’s likely not a coincidence that his unchanged style of play is no longer intimidating nor effective.  Naked, unadulterated aggression alone doesn’t get it done anymore.  Everyone calls now.  Ask Gus Hansen.

DevilFish after.

DevilFish after.

In fairness, Devilfish’s best game is probably Pot Limit Omaha, where I believe he is still amongst the best, so I’m sure that poker is still working out quite nicely for him.  But he’s just another runner in NLH tournaments nowadays.  His appearance didn’t diminish my confidence at all.  My dwindling chip count took care of that.

I hit my low point on a hand that allowed Devilfish to announce his presence.  I was down to 18,000 after losing a maddening series of hands, and Devilfish had me easily covered with around 50,000.  Blinds were 150-300 with no ante, and DF openlimped UTG +2.  I overcalled two spots behind him with Jh10h.  The action folded around to Corkins in one of the blinds, and he promptly put in a huge reraise to 3,000.  Devilfish called this bet without much thought and I chose to call off one-sixth of my chips with my suited J-10.  I’ve been told that this is a clear fold, but I call here all day.  I don’t like to fold.  Maybe I stink.

The flop came Q-7-4 rainbow.  Hoyt checked, Devilfish bet 6,700.  I folded, Hoyt foled AKo face up, and Devilfish grinned and showed us the 7-4 of hearts.  Okaay then gov’ner.

I built my stack back to 18,000 just in time for my bustout hand:

Blinds were 150-300 with a 25 ante.  Devilfish opened UTG +1 to 800.  I called in the four hole with AQo.  Everyone else folded.  The flopped rolled out Q-8-3 rainbow and Devilfish bet 1,000.  I preferred not to take him off whatever he was spazzing out with (yet) and flatted.  The turn came an ace, which may or may not have put two clubs on board (sorry, don’t remember), giving me top two pair.  Devilfish continued betting—1,800.

At this point I was fairly certain I had the best hand and was vaguely aware that some of Devilfish’s possible holdings had just improved to gutshots.  I also felt that some hands that I could get more money from, like AK and A8, were in the mix.  I also thought there was a nonzero chance that if I raised, DF would do something spastic like put me all in with some sort of blufftastic garbage hand.  I therefore determined that I would try to get my stack in by the river and receive the double up I had been waiting for, thereby launching me on my quest to become the next Jerry Yang.  If Devilfish had a set, good for him.

I raised to 5,450, leaving me with about 10,700 behind, which I intended to stuff in on any river.  DF did not like my turn raise one bit.  He looked disgusted as he asked the dealer for an exact count on the raise (“fifty-four bloody fifty?“) and me for a count on my remaining chips (two big ones then?).  He paused for a few seconds, then stuck in the chips to call.  I liked this call.

The nine of hearts fell on the river.  Devilfish didn’t take long to gather his chips into a sloppy pile and silently dump them into the center, a bet that covered me by like 30,000.

Fair enough.  Pause.  Shrug.  Call.

He had J-10 off, otherwise known as the nuts.  That was all she wrote for me.  Quite an uneventful Main Event.  I wished everyone at my table luck and walked over to Devilfish, shook his hand, and wished him good luck too.  He muttered something back that I didn’t bother trying to understand.

I didn’t feel too terrible about my bustout.  It’s hard to get too down about things when you were never a factor and played your final hand well.  My exit from the $1,500 two weeks prior was much more painful because I could taste victory.  This one was easy, all I tasted was the muffin I had for breakfast.

I’ve heard some theories on how I could have played my final hand differently, but I ain’t buyin’.  Yeah, flatting made some sense—let a monkey be a monkey and all that—but really, if his hand were face up, I tend to think my play is close to optimal.  I initially thought DF had played the hand pretty poorly, calling a turn bet with only eight outs seems terrible when you’re the victim.  However, in retrospect, if he knows he’s stacking me if his double gutter gets there, the pot is laying him the right price and he played it just fine.  Just a bad break for me.

I had to wait a bit to find an affordable flight home, and the one I chose was a beast:  a fourteen hour torturous redeye, including a layover and George Bush Airport (!) in Houston.  Not fun.  I’m just returning to normalcy now.

My WSOP was mildly profitable from a financial perspective, thanks to one decent cash and the satellite win, but it really wasn’t enough.  Overall it was quite disappointing.  I’m officially having my worst year as a professional poker player whilst grinding my hardest, playing the largest number of live events I’ve ever tried.  I’m not too down about it, though.  At least not right now.  I have lots to look forward to, and while I’ve been recently visited by a few moments of existential confusion, I’m attributing it to the life changes in store rather than poker.

My summer was actually rather enjoyable despite the futility I experienced at the tables.  For the first time in my poker career, I find that I feel connected to a group of other poker players in a way that I hadn’t before.  I’m generally reticent and reluctant to trust people fully, and this has been especially true in poker.  I don’t form new friendships easily.  But this summer I do feel like I’ve bonded with a lot of fellow poker pros, which has been nice for me.

I’m particularly lucky that Jeffrey Vanchiro (one of the best poker players you’ve probably never heard of) decided to come out of tourney retirement for the ’10 Series.  We have similar temperaments and senses of humor, and as my roomate I  was able to rely on him for support and sanity.  I also formed new friendships with many other guys, including but definitely not limited to Ted Ely and Ryan Eriquezzo, both of whom served as bowling partners all summer. More importantly they’re both still working hard with good stacks in the Main Event as the bubble approaches.  Good luck guys!

I’m not sure what comes next for me, but after a break I will likely play a fairly busy schedule of live tournaments before Janeen and I batten down the hatches this winter as we prepare for parenthood.

Main Event Day.

My trip home was very good despite the most severe jetlag I’ve had in years.  I got to relax a little bit.  Janeen is starting to show and makes a very cute pregnant woman.  It was sweltering and sunny for the BBQ, which shattered its attendance record.  A lot of great friends and family came out to Long Island to eat, drink, swim and hang out.

By Monday, I was feeling nice and settled, dreading the idea of flying back out to Vegas.  The drudgery of packing, getting to the airport, checking my suitcase, and going through security had me in a sour frame of mind.  I got to my gate early and was sitting there half-reading and half-dozing when I overheard a conversation that changed my mood entirely.

Behind me, a group of men were talking.  It sounded like there were maybe five or six of them.  The topic was the WSOP Main Event.  They were flying out to play it.  Their attitude was the polar opposite of my own.  They were exuberant, celebrating the occasion.  I quickly gathered that the entire group, with one exception, was playing the tournament for the first time.  The veteran was now holding court.

This’ll be my sixth time playing, guys.  Lemme me tell you, there’s nothing like it.  This is the pinnacle fellas!  It’s worth every penny.  This is something you have to experience before you die.

The other voices chimed back in with palpable excitement.  The discussion then turned to topics such as what to do with pocket aces in level one (play a small pot) how to handle the pros (avoid them) and how to beat the bathroom lines (skip the last hand of the level).

My curiosity now fully piqued, I nonchalantly turned around in my seat to get a look at these guys.  A group of men in their 50’s or early 60’s.  All wearing khaki shorts, golf shirts and shit-eating grins.  I recognized one of them.  A tall, white haired man whose chips I have taken many times at Foxwoods.  The epitome of dead money.

A couple of things suddenly occurred to me.  One, my job is a lot of fun.  On a daily basis I do something that many average joes take immense pleasure in.  While I was sitting there feeling grumpy about getting onto a plane to play it, these men were talking about the WSOP Main Event with “bucket list”-level reverence.  This was their equivalent of scaling Everest, meeting the President, shooting hoops with Michael, etc. etc.  It’s a really big deal to thousands of people.  Once was for me, too.

It also occurred to me that I’m very good at poker.  It’s easy to forget this when you commune only with other people who are also very good.  While a couple of guys like the ones behind me in the airport manage to final table it every year, they are also the reason the Main Event (and poker generally) is such a great opportunity for me—a juicy lottery ticket with positive expectation.

The golf guys’ conversation kindled a feeling of sweet anticipation inside me, and I boarded the plane in a happy but determined mood.

After landing in Vegas I had a nice meal and went bowling.  Then I woke up the next day and won a seat to the Main Event in the only MTT satellite I’ve played this year.  My Day 1 starts in about an hour.

Took a Tough one.

I’m having trouble finding the motivation to write much about it, but on Friday I experienced the bitter disappointment of finishing 24th in Wednesday’s $1500 Event at the World Series.  My hopes were sky high entering play that day.  Unfortunately, they were quickly dashed.

Late on Thursday, I held the chip lead with approximately 30 players left and quite deliberately and consciously decided to go into lockdown mode.  Alas, I was then dealt a series of strong hands.  I opened all of them and was three-bet each time.  When one player chose to three-bet me for the third consecutive time, I had seen enough.  I made an ego-driven four-bet jam with AQs and couldn’t suck out against QQ.  I therefore entered Day 3 only 10th out of 25 remaining players.

Still, I woke up on Friday feeling more than merely determined and hopeful.  I earnestly expected that I would play my best poker and proceed at least to the final table.  Finishing 24th did not seem like it was in the realm of possibility.  Things went badly from the start.  My stack blinded its way down to below average, at which point I made my move.

My bustout hand was played properly.  I lost a coin flip that was worth something like $80,000 in equity.  I was catatonic for the next 30 minutes–I collected approximately $18,000, but it may as well have been Monopoly money—the teller went through the painstaking process of counting out each and every bill in front of me, but my mind was elsewhere.  She could have shorted me ten dimes and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

Once some feeling came back I was absolutely despondent.  Getting into position to win a WSOP Event is beyond difficult.  It takes a great deal of luck and perseverance, this was my first true crack at a bracelet since 2007.  Watching this kind of opportunity go to waste is very painful.

One positive thing I took away from the experience was the discovery that I have quite a number of real friends in the poker community.  I was touched by the number of people who were earnestly rooting for me to win.  I had friends on the rail at various stages of the tournament, numerous well-wishers in the hallway on my breaks, and a couple of my best poker friends were even there to console me in the immediate aftermath of my bustout.

I had a great night out on Saturday.  I managed to experience about eight straight hours of quality house music, and I danced like a madman.  Catharsis.

I’m done with multitable tournaments until the 2010 WSOP Main Event and will head home on Wednesday morning.  I can honestly say that this trip home is the most highly anticipated one I’ve had in all five years I’ve been doing this.  I can’t wait to walk through my front door on Wednesday Night to receive a hug from Janeen and a full frontal assault from Ruthie.

I Get Deep I Get Deep I Get Deep…

Apologies to those who aren’t into classic house tracks, I’m not stuttering.

Anyway, I’m in the process of making my first deep run in a WSOP prelim in something like three years.  I come into Day 3 of Event #42 sitting 10th out of 25 in chips.  I have a realistic shot of competing for the $600k first place prize and the bracelet.  I’m slightly disappointed because I held the chip lead with around 30 players left, but an unfortunate (and probably ill-advised) four bet jam into QQ with AQs took care of that.  I still have a playable stack and a solid table draw.  Running good would help.

I’m really tired right now; I never can sleep the night before I play for this kind of cash.  Adrenaline will carry me.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have a picture to share of me looking wore out but gripping a WSOP bracelet.

Cards in the air at 2:30 PST.

Break Time.

My trip has taken a turn for the worse.  I had a disappointing finish in a Venetian tournament in which I held the chip lead entering Day 2.  It’s not often that I have a clear advantage over a field in terms of experience and skill, but I believe that was the case in this tournament.  With two tables remaining I felt I was a favorite to do something significant, but it didn’t happen.  The redraw placed a chipped-up and very aggressive player directly to my right.  I’m never going to allow myself to be run over, and that was what this gentleman attempted.  I knew it wouldn’t be long before I took a stand against him.  When I did, he outflopped me by a narrow margin and that was all she wrote.

After that I had a rather humdrum bustout in a WSOP $1500 event (couldn’t win a flip) and then bricked a few WSOP sit ‘n go’s (got it in good and lost), which have traditionally been a cash cow for me.  It’s gotten bad, but it’s not terrible.  I’m stuck only a relatively small amount out here.

Emotionally, the trip has really become a grind, so I’m happy to be taking a break right now. Yesterday I slept in and played no poker at all, and today I am off to Chicago to spend the weekend with Janeen and family.  I haven’t seen my pregnant wife in three weeks.  It feels like it’s been longer than that.

I’m already registered for Monday’s WSOP $1500 Shootout.  I’m officially on vacation until then.

Your Next Poker Superstar…

Been waiting awhile  for the go-ahead to make this announcement!

I knocked Janeen up.  If everything goes according to plan, she will deliver the next great poker prodigy into the world sometime in mid- to late December.

I’m really excited to become a Dad.


F the V.

I’m not sure what it is, but I can’t stand the Venetian.  I’m now at the point where walking into the place feels like arriving at the proctologist’s office.

Maybe it’s that the tournament poker tables are basically located on the casino floor, complete with the attendant smoke, noise and mayhem.

Maybe it’s the hard, strange poker chips they use.  They make an unsatisfying metallic clink when they touch each other.

Maybe it’s the general incompetence of the dealers.  Today one of them just sat there looking into space while the action unfolded around him.

Maybe it’s the gross, assy perfume that is pumped through the place’s air ducts in copious amounts.  The entire place smells like a delightful mixture of smoke and assy perfume.

Or maybe it’s the fact that I have now played upwards of thirty tournaments at the Venetian with a single solitary mincash (for 1.2 times the buy in!) to my credit.

I’m starting to trick myself into thinking that the environment is affecting my play at the Venetian.  I’m convinced that I must morph into a moron whenever I walk into the place.

F the Venetian!

chock full of assy goodness.

chock full of assy goodness.

Here’s my bustout hand from the 1k WSOP Event I cashed in:

I had about 48k, the bubble had recently burst and we dropped from 324 players to 250 in very short order.  Two players at my table had recently accumulated a lot of chips.  One in particular had begun to play very spazzy.  He had roughly 115k at the start of my bustout hand.

The blinds were 600-1200/100 and he opened to 3100 from UTG +2.  It folded to me in the big blind where I found the Ac7c.  It figured to be the best hand against this kid, so I chose to call.  The flop came J-10-2 with two clubs.

I had to process quite a bit of information before acting.  My first determination was that I was going to look to play a big pot here.  There were no money jumps that were of remote interest to me until the field got short, so I felt it was time to gamble.

My second consideration was how to get my stack into the middle.  Basically there were two options:  1) lead the flop and 3-bet jam if raised; 2) check the flop, intending to checkraise and then jam any turn or checkraise/call off my stack.

Because I felt the odds of a continuation bet from this player were very high, and because leading the flop and getting flatted would put me in a weird spot, I decided to check and let him put some more money in the pot, then execute the rest of my plan.  I checked, he bet 4,200, and I made it 12,800 to go.  He immediately moved all in, at which point I shrugged and called.

He tabled the 10-2 of spades (!) for bottom two pair.  When the 4c hit the turn, I was already envisioning the havoc I would systematically begin to wreak once they dealt the next hand.  It was very brief vision.

I could see the 2d rolling off the top of the deck on the river before it even hit the table.  I let out a very audible “oh no!” then gathered my things and stood there, waiting for my payout ticket.

I’ve run bad for three days straight now.  Talking to Janeen and looking at the picture of Ruthie that I use as my Blackberry screen saver are giving me pangs of homesickness.  I’m still determined to do some damage out here, though.

O Say, Can We Gamble?

There are some significant improvements to the WSOP this year.  One is the improved poker kitchen at the Rio.  It now features a New York City workday lunch staple: one of those create-your-own-salad bars.  This will allow me to eat relatively healthy food for the duration of this trip, an accomplishment that has traditionally been easier said than done.  Another WSOP improvement is the new allocation of the Rio’s convention space.  The newly dedicated and ginormous “Pavilion” room now comfortably houses all Day 1 action along with the cash games and sit ‘n go’s.  It replaces the Amazon Room, which once was an utter madhouse but now is utilized only for Day 2 and final table action.

The WSOP also continues to get some things wrong.  My personal favorite among these things is the gallantry that awaits players as they return from the first break of the day.  At that time, the CEO of the WSOP appears on a stage and bracelets are presented to the winners of the events that concluded the prior night.  It would suffice to announce the winner’s name and to hand him or her with the bracelet before the assembled crowd.  But no, Harrah’s takes it several steps further by:

1.  Presenting the winner with his/her very own Diamond Total Rewards Card.   This endows the bracelet winner with the lifelong right to skip buffet lines at Harrah’s properties and to avoid parking fees in Atlantic City garages!

2.  Having the winner pose for photographs whilst gripping the bracelet with both hands above his/her head.  The Neanderthal who discovered fire might have looked this way holding the world’s first lit torch.

By the power of Greyskull!

"By the power of Greyskull!"

3.  Having the winner face the crowd for the playing of his/her country’s national anthem.  This is both incredibly indulgent and a farce.  The people in the room have no idea what to do while the music plays. As the opening notes are played, some immediately remove their hats and stand at rigid attention.  The rest of us take their cue, slowly rise, glance around, and wait for the music to end so that they we can start gambling again.  On the plus side, I heard the Hungarian National Anthem for the first time.

What the hell does national pride have to do with poker?  These are just freakin’ poker tournaments, not international competitions.  Never once in my life have I felt that I was representing the United States of America at a poker table, and I doubt I ever will.  I’m neither anti-American nor anti-establishment.  I just know ridiculous when I see it—I find this sort of pageantry absurd even in the Olympics—so playing multiple national anthems during a break in a card game strikes me as downright retarded.  If I’m fortunate enough to win a bracelet at the WSOP, I will wear a powder blue leotard to my ceremony and insist on performing an interpretive dance to Flight of the Bumblebee in lieu of standing for the Star Spangled Banner.

By the way, I have made Day 2 of Event #13 with a decent stack.  Hoping to run good today.