Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Remarkable Month

Excluding tournament winnings, June ended up being my best month to date as a poker player. Incredibly, I played less hands this month than any other this year. I can't even begin to describe how well I ran nearly all month. I remember one particular day where I hit six or seven gut-shot straights in a row. Today I had Aces 14 times and won with them all 14 times. It seemed like every other time I was involved in a capped multi-way pot, I flopped a huge hand. Basically everything went right from start to finish.

Hopefully some of this luck carries into the main event, I'd probably be the chip leader if it does. Day 1 is July 4th for me, I'll be sure to blog about it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quick June Update

I have about ten days before the main event so it's back to grinding as many hands as possible till then. I'm at 446,600 VPPS which is about 11 days behind SNE pace. This month has been a very good one so far. I've been able to get a lot of short-handed play in which has kept me away from any extended losing streaks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

WSOP Reflections

Not counting the main event which I'm scheduled to play on July 4th, I've played 6 WSOP tournaments to date. I've gained some valuable experience and learned a few things:

My no-limit game needs a lot of work. I found myself confused in a lot of post-flop situations, unsure what the right play was, and sometimes unsure of what I should even be thinking about. Part of this is due to a totally different style than I'm used to playing. Before I was primarily a pre-flop player looking for spots to steal blinds, make big reraises, and use my tight image to make big bluffs postflop. Now I'm seeing a lot of flops cheaply and putting myself into a lot of different post-flop situations. I need to get my no-limit game on par with my limit game. My plan is to continue watching videos, playing tournaments, and reading books. Once my SuperNova chase is over next year, I'd like to play the no-limit cash games and work on developing a balanced strategy that's difficult to exploit. I should be able to apply a lot of what I've learned from limit to no-limit as far as balancing hand ranges and actions in different situations.

Tournaments are a battle of attrition. I knew this from my main event run several years ago but the memory had faded away until I played back to back 15 and 12 hour days this past week. I was completely exhausted when we were down to 3 tables yesterday, I kept getting up from the table and trying to clear my head. It's mandatory that I get at least 8 hours sleep, eat well, and workout whenever I'm playing an event.

Tournaments, especially live ones, have an incredible amount of short-term variance. Playing 25-30 hands an hour and spending the majority of a tournament with less than 20 big bets adds up to unbelievable short-term variance and luck. I need to accept this, forget about results, and focus on making the best decisions I can, one decision at a time.

There are very few limit hold-em players playing limit events. I would guess at least 75% of the field in the WSOP limit events are no-limit players. This means there's a lot of value to playing these events and it's my best shot at a bracelet. I plan on playing as many as possible next year.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hellmuth/Keating Feud

I sat with Alex Keating for the last few levels of day 1 and he was a loud, sometimes annoying 21 year old kid who never stopped talking. He didn't seem like a bad person, he just didn't know when to be quiet. He said it was the furthest he had made in a live tournament and that he didn't play limit hold-em and I think he was telling the truth.

Fast forward to Day 2 and we're down to 27 players and redraw tables. Keating and Hellmuth are sitting across from each other in the 2 and 6 seats, I'm next to Keating in the 3 seat. Keating starts harassing Hellmuth asking him really stupid things like, "Buddy, can I wear your bracelet?". Hellmuth actually isn't taking it too bad but eventually says, "Listen I've met people in every sport with championship rings and I've never asked one of them to wear it. You're the first person that's asked me that question and I don't think it's appropriate". Keating's response is, "Why isn't that appropriate, I just want to wear it?". This went on for about two minutes and then Hellmuth said, "If you don't stop talking to me, I'm going to get call the floor and you'll get a penalty". At this point Keating started to lose it and started screaming, "Go ahead call the floor! I'm just talking, is that against the rules!". The floor came over and both players were given a warning. From this point it was Phil that was really upset and wouldn't let it go. He was telling the floor guy to go get some high up manager, that it wasn't acceptable to him. And as soon as the floor guy left, it was Phil that started talking to Keating. And that's all Keating needed to start going crazy and yelling again. From there the head floor guy came over and basically said if anyone at this table says anything out of line to anyone else, they're getting a penalty. I felt like I was in a kindergarten classroom and our teacher was yelling at us all to behave. And that's pretty much it.

Out in 15th

I'm pretty disappointed right now but happy I went out swinging. I fluctuated between 6 and 20 big bets for most of the day and reached about 200K in chips when we were down to 18 players. It was all or nothing for me, I pushed every small edge I had from start to finish with the sole intention of winning every chip. There was no coasting to the final table and unfortunately things just didn't work out the last three or four hands I played. Most of the action was covered here if anyone's interested : http://www.pokernews.com/wsop/2009/event-38/day2/

I will try to blog about more details tomorrow including the whole Hellmuth/Keating feud - I was sitting right next to Keating while it all went on. To clarify the last hand, I had T7s which I raised 1 seat off the button. I had 34K in chips to start the hand and blinds were 4000-8000. My opponent called from the big blind and the flop was 467. My opponent led out for 8000, I raised to 16000 and told him I only had 2000 left. Apparantly he didn't hear me because he just called the 8000. As the dealer flipped the turn card which was an Ace, the player turned his AK over. Two people at the table told him that I had 2K in chips left to which I said don't tell him what to do. Once he realized what they were saying, he bet the 2K. It wasn't a big deal but had he checked (entirely possible since he really didn't seem to know what was going on), then I would have checked behind, folded to a river bet and had 2K left. This could have easily been enough to get me into another pay slot given that it would have been 5 more hands before I'd be forced to put in my last 2K. I didn't belabor the issue though, I shook hands with a few players and walked away.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

2K Limit Day 1

I finally made it to Day 2! Up to now I was feeling like the whole trip was for naught so I'm happy and relieved.

I ended the day with 28,500 in chips, slightly above the average of ~24K. There are about 100 players remaining out of 446 that started. Even though I have an above average stack, I still only have 14 big bets to start the day - the first limit will be 1K/2K. 14 big bets is enough to play 3-4 hands to completion so I'll need to be extremely lucky to get through tomorrow and make the final table.

It was a strange day in that I was dealt really terrible cards all day but won nearly every hand I played. I was dealt no Aces, AK once, KK twice, and QQ 3 times. I would guess my won $ at showdown stat, for those familiar, was in the 80% plus range. Normally it's somewhere around 55% when I play 8-10 handed. So basically I was flopping pairs and 2 pair often and the times I wasn't I was able to win the pot without a showdown.

I also was helped throughout the day by some really bad plays. One particular hand sticks out as my luckiest of the day because of a player's mistake:

It was early in Level 8 and I had about 12K in chips - limit was 500-1000

A fairly aggressive player raised from first position in an 8 handed game, and I reraised with JJ to 1500 in the next position, the 3rd player to act immediately raised to 2000 which made it virtually certain he had AA, KK, or AK. Everyone folded back to the original raiser who called two bets, and I called one bet closing the action - pot was 6800 I believe. The flop was 893, first player checked, I checked, and 3rd player bet. First player called and I called. The turn was a King and at that point I had no intention of calling another bet. The first player checked, I checked, and surprisingly the 3rd player checked. The river was a Jack making me trips - the first player checked, I bet, the 3rd player called and first player folded. Amazingly the 3rd player showed AA and I raked in a 10K+ pot that I never should have won.

The level of play I witnessed from start to finish today was amazingly bad. Players were routinely limping from every position, cold-calling raises from every position, checking behind flops, and missing easy value bets. I think a great majority of the players are no-limit players, they almost seem to playing their hands the same way they would in NL except with fixed bet sizes.

The highlight of my day was being at Phil Hellmuth's table for about 2 hours although I only played with him for about 1 hour. I arrived at a new table about an hour before dinner and there was an empty seat with a big stack of chips in front of it. I didn't really think much of it until right before the dinner break somebody said Phil still isn't here to someone else. I asked, "Phil who?" assuming it was either Hellmuth or Ivey and they said Hellmuth. I was told that he won every hand he played for two hours and then steamed off after he finally lost a hand in a blind confrontation. I thought that was hilarious. When he did come back though he was as friendly as could be. I never saw him get upset at all although he was mostly winning.

Something I started doing today that I found really helpful in keeping me focused and abreast of everything going on was to pretend I was a poker commentator commentating each hand. For example I would say something like this to myself:

Guy with the cowboy hat limps 3 off the button, we've seen him do that twice today with KJ and QT from other positions. Crazy Russian guy raises the cowboy from the button, based on some of earlier hands he's raised limpers with, he should have an extremely wide range here. Etc., etc.

This is something I intend to continuing doing whenever I play tournaments.

May the poker gods smile upon me tomorrow. I'm off to get some sleep.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2K No Limit

Well I finally got some cards but busted late in Level 8 about 200 spots from the money. I was dealt Aces 3 times, Kings 3 times, and AK 6 times all in the first 6 levels. I actually could have been knocked out pretty early, I was down to about 2K in chips from my 6K starting stack early in level 2. I built it back up to 6500 or so when I tripled up with TT late in level 4:

A good player raised from first position and I called in late position with TT and a very good player after me also called. Both players had me covered at the start of the hand. The flop was J97 with two diamonds, I had the T of diamonds. The early position raiser led out for a little more than half the pot, I called, and the player on the button raised. The initial raiser flat called and I moved all in for my remaining 4500 or so. The button immediately moved in for about 15K and the initial raiser thought a long time before folding QQ face up. The button ended up showing A4 of diamonds for the nut flush draw which was the ideal situation for me. We were off to the races and fortunately my hand held up.

I was up to ~21K going into the last hand before the dinner break. Everyone was getting up from the table and there was a very tight player in the big blind so it was no surprise to me when a good aggressive player to my right raised in late position. I reraised with KQ and everyone folded, the initial raiser called. The flop was QJJ, he checked and I checked. The turn was a T, he checked again and I bet about 2/3 of the pot and he called. The river was an 8, he checked and I thought a while before checking figuring he probably had AT and was unlikely to pay off a river bet. He actually had Q9 and rivered a straight so that brought me down to 16K.

From there nothing really eventful happened. I raised several times with marginal hands and was forced to fold when I was 3-bet. I was down to about 10K at the end of level 8 - blinds were 400-800 with a 75 ante. The button raised to 2200 or so and I moved in from the small blind with KQ. He called with 55 and his fives ended up holding up.

Next up is the 2K Limit Event tomorrow, that may be my last event before the main event.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Out of the 10K Limit

Warning: the following could be construed as whining

Unfortunately, this tournament was strikingly similar to my first limit event. I was dealt few premium hands during the six levels I lasted. I had AA once which lost, AK once which lost, no KK, one QQ that won, and one JJ that picked up the blinds. Considering we played only 150 hands or so during the 6 levels, it really wasn't that unlikely to be dealt so few good hands. That doesn't make it any less frustrating though. I drew another exceptional table, there were two pros I recognized, Andy Bloch and David Benyamine. The players to my immediate right and left, I discovered later, were primarily Omaha 8 players, and there were at least two other players that didn't appear to have much limit experience. All this is irrelevant if you're not dealt cards though. It could have been a Sunday afternoon game with Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt Mildred, and Uncle Chester, and they still would have cleaned me out of all my nickels by the end of the night. That's how poker goes, it's not a fair game especially in the short-term.

On the subject of the short-term, tournaments are incredibly short-term. I wish there was a way they could deal more hands per hour (automatic shufflers?) or at least increase our chip stacks or slow down the levels. After 4 levels tonight, approximately 100 hands, I had 32K in starting chips (we started with 30K). The stakes starting level 5 were 600-1200 meaning I had 26 big bets. 26 big bets is nothing. I can understand the smaller buy-in 3000 player tournaments having 1 hour levels and fast blind escalations but not a 200 player 10K limit championship. At least start the the blinds at 25-50 and make the levels two hours like they do in the main event. Is limit somehow less important than no-limit that it doesn't deserve two hour levels?

Back to the tournament:

I actually ran my chipstack briefly up to about 42K at the end of level 3 and then I had two tough hands come up at the beginning of level 4:

I raised AA from 1st position and the big blind called. The flop was 357 and the big blind led out which I called. He led a blank turn, I raised, he 3-bet, I called. He bet the river which I called and he had 33. Net -$5500

David Benyamine raises from mid position, the button 3-bets, and I 4-bet with AK, they just call (they could have 5-bet as 4 raises were allowed). The flop is K54. I bet, Benyamine folds, button raises, I 3-bet, button caps, I call. He bets the turn, I call. He bets the river, I call, and he shows AA. Net -$6000

Those two hands brought me back down to about 30K and that's where I finished going into the dinner break. From there I was card dead, I tried to stay active raising a lot of suited connector type hands but was 3-bet nearly every time and never connected post-flop.

There was one interesting sort of fun hand that I played:

I raised KJ from mid-late position, a loose player called from the small blind, and Benyamine 3-bet from the big blind which we both called. The flop was AKK. Benyamine bet, I raised, small blind folded, Benyamine called. The turn was a J for a board of AKKJ. Benyamine checked, I bet, he check-raised, and I called figuring I was in a lot of trouble unless he specifically had JJ or KQ. As I was getting ready to make a crying call on the river, the river was a King giving me quads. Benyamine checked, I bet, and he starting talking. I couldn't hear him because I had my headphones on. But after about 30 seconds of wavering, I saw two $500 chips that had been moving back and forth between his hands fall (it was $1000 to call my river bet) and I turned my cards over. He immediately picked up his chips, I took my earphones off, and he said that he hadn't decided to call and that he was very sorry but he saw my cards. He then said he wasn't sure if he would have called anyway - I doubt this, I do think he would have called. I don't think it was a deliberate move on his part, he just dropped the chips and the chips were behind that imaginary line where they become a bet had they crossed it. I said it wasn't a problem at all and was completely my fault for turning my cards over. I was happy I didn't incur a penalty for showing my cards during a hand.

If I'm feeling up to it, I'll play the $1500 NL tomorrow.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Event 33 $10,000 Limit Championship

I'm officially registered for the 10k Limit Championship that starts tomorrow at 5:00 PM. Last year they only had 218 entries and first place paid about 500K. It should be a very tough field comprised almost exclusively of top name pros and some of the best online limit hold-em players. They are scheduled to run Day 1 until 3:00 AM so it looks like it'll be a long night especially since we start with 30K in chips. I'll try to update sometime tomorrow.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Event 28 $1500 No-Limit Hold-Em

I got knocked out early in level 5. We started with 4500 chips and I drew another great starting table. I managed to run my chip stack up to almost 15K during the first two levels. The 3rd level I took a few hits losing a race against an all-in player and then running Kings into Aces. That had me down to about 7500, I was able to build back up to almost 17K going into Level 5 and then disaster struck in 2 hands. I played probably the worst tournament hand I've ever played, trying to bluff 3 streets against the biggest stack at the table. I had flopped a straight draw and decided I could bluff my opponent off a pair assuming he had one - unfortunately he flopped a set and filled up on the river. I still had about 5K left but was knocked out when I cold-called a raise from the small blind against a late position aggressive raiser, the big blind also called. The flop was A34 and it was checked to the raiser who bet about 2/3 pot. I moved in and the big blind tanked for a while and eventually called with AJ. In hindsight re-raising pre-flop would have worked out better but with blinds at 100-200 and a stack of 25 big blinds, I didn't want to open myself up to an all-in raise by my opponent by raising to 9 big blinds.

This one stung a bit going from a big stack to busto in a matter of minutes. With the exception of one hand I think I played one of my best tournaments. Unfortunately with no-limit tournaments, one poorly played hand is all it takes to undo all the other well played hands.

Next up either the 2K No-Limit on Monday or the 10K Limit Championship also on Monday. I'd really like to play the limit event but I can't bring myself to put up 10K. I might play some satellites tomorrow and see if I can get in that way.

Friday, June 12, 2009

$1500 Limit - Event 26

I ended up getting knocked out late in Level 6 just before the dinner break. I finished somewhere in the middle of the 650 player field.

The day started with a nice surprise, we were given 4500 in starting chips. I was expecting 1500 in starting chips - all the previous events I've played gave starting stacks that equaled the buy-in. The limits started at 50-100 so it still wasn't a deep stacked tournament by any stretch but certainly an improvement. I drew an exceptionally good starting table as well so I was in a good position to make a run in this event except that I never picked up any starting hands. I never was dealt Aces, Kings, Queens, or Tens. I did manage to pick up AK 4 times but lost 3. I feel like I did pretty well to make it as far as I did, I made the most of the cards I had. Most of the chips I won were from defending blinds or limping/calling behind people in multi-way pots with suited connector type hands.

The only hand interesting enough to mention came up at the beginning of Level 5. The stakes were 200-400 (blinds 100-200) and I had about 2800 chips. I opened 45s two seats off the button - not a normal opening hand for me but given that I was short-stacked I couldn't afford to wait. Both blinds ended up calling and the flop was 522. They checked to me and I bet 200, the small bind folded and the big blind called. There was now 1600 in the pot and I had about 2200 left. The turn was a Queen which made a rainbow board(no flush draws) and my opponent led into me. This opponent had made this lead out play twice earlier, both times he had picked up draws on the turn. There weren't really any draws on this board, at least the Queen didn't make any new draws so I thought it was very likely (90-95%) that he had nothing. My choice was whether to raise and try to pick the pot up right there or call with the intention of calling a river bet from him. What I found interesting was that my play to raise or just call didn't make much difference in terms of expected value but would make a huge difference to my chip stack if he happened to hit one of his 6 outs. Given this I decided to raise and try to get the pot over with right there and sure enough he folded. If it had been a cash game, I'm quite sure I would have just called hoping to induce a river bluff. So the moral of the story is: if you have a tournament decision for a significant portion of your chip stack that's close to neutral in terms of expected value, go with the decision that decreases the variance of your chip stack.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

June Update

We're headed to Vegas tomorrow and my first event, $1500 Limit Hold-Em, starts on Friday. I'm really looking forward to playing in the tournaments. They are a grind - twelve and sometimes fifteen hours a day but can also be a lot of fun. Especially once in the money of a major tournament because there's so much prize money to play for. Every all-in and elimination becomes exciting since it moves everyone closer to bigger prize money. I feel really good about my No-Limit tournament game at the moment. I was pretty worried going into last week but I was able to play a bunch of tournaments and watch several of Matt Matros' videos on StoxPoker. He's an excellent multi-table tournament player and instructor. I also started reading Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen which is a very good book. He took a tape recorder with him to a major tournament, the Aussie Millions, which he ended up winning and recorded his thoughts immediately after every hand. I feel good because my thinking is very much in line with his, I almost know what he's going to say before he says it, so that has given me a lot of confidence.

With a little bit of luck, anything is possible. The results, as nice as they are, are secondary though. My goal is to stay completely focused throughout the long days and take my time to think out every decision I make no matter how trivial. I also would like to make sure I'm getting enough sleep each night, and working out at least once every two days while I'm there. And I don't want to get sidetracked by blackjack at all. If I can manage to do all these things, then I'll be happy regardless of the results.

June has been a very good month pokerwise. I've been running pretty well and playing well which is always a great combination. I have fallen behind the SNE chase by about 5 days now. I'm not too worried because I'll be credited a month worth of VPPs once I play the main event and agree to represent PokerStars - this should put me back ahead of pace. I do intend to play online while I'm in Vegas between tournaments and whenever I have free time.

I'm sure most of you reading my blog heard about the DOJs shakedown of online poker this week. I thought it was pretty terrible news and I think it's already had an impact on the games and traffic although I don't have any numbers to substantiate this. It sounds like there will be a fight in court between the PPA and poker sites against the DOJ. It will likely come down to whether playing online poker is legal or not. So far, no one has been prosecuted for playing online poker and no court has ever ruled that it's illegal so I think there's a pretty good chance it remains legal. It would be nice to get online poker out of this grey, murky area it's been in. The worst case scenario is that the poker sites pull out of the US market and if that happens, Jamena and I will unfortunately be quickly moving out of the country. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

I'll be updating this blog at least daily with my tournament results and hands from them. Off to Vegas...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jamaica Pics

Our room:

Dinner on the beach:

Me relaxing in a beach cabana:

Jamena relaxing in the cabana:

Me trying not to embarrass myself taking on the tennis instructor:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Goodbye May

We're still in Jamaica relaxing and I haven't played much poker since we got here. May ended up being a great month. It started off with a huge losing streak but after that there were no major downswings. I continued to play as many heads up and 3-handed hands as possible and that really helped my bottom line. I also ran exceptionally well at 50-100 which helped. I had run really poorly at 50-100 before May so that evened out nicely.

I haven't had a lot of time to prepare for the upcoming World Series events but I'm still planning on watching some videos and playing a few online tournaments before I head out there in a few weeks.