Let the Betting Begin (AC Xmas Trip Report Pt 1)
Monday, December 29, 2008
Every year, while you gentiles are off sharing gifts and holiday joy, the Jewish HighOnPoker clan makes their way to Atlantic City for a little time in our home away from home. The tradition started years ago, when for a period of a few years, the High Clan would spend Thanksgiving in the North East gambling Mecca to avoid the family infighting. Like most good things, even the family infighting came to an end, and the Thanksgiving tradition ended. Then, about 8 years ago, wifey Kim and I decided to change up the usual Chinese Food and Movie X-mas plans and head back to the land of blue hairs and slot machines. A few years later, some friends joined, and then my parents and family friends. This year, we had a full 12 people, ranging from my brother and his girlfriend, to my buddies Roose and Hole, to my bro-in-law Marc, to my parents and Roose's parents, who have known each other since they were kids.
The trip started off with a ton of traffic. My little brother wanted to leave Long Island extra early to beat the traffic, but after picking us up in the city, we were stuck on a random bridge because of an accident. The weather was crappy, a light rain that slicked the roads. I was driving, one of the few times I get to drive, though, so I was content.
Most of the crew left a good hour before us, but since they took another route and didn't hit the accident-driven traffic, they all arrived in Smithville an hour before us. Smithville is a small mocktown near AC with an old school vibe. There is a main parking area and a road winding through the town, with a slew of knick knack shops that could basically can all be called Ye Olde ______ Shoppes. There, the crew stopped for food while I continued to drive to AC. Since we were late, my car, consisting of me, wifey Kim, bro Dave and his girlfriend, instead went to a restuarant called Goodfellows in nearby Absecon, NJ, right on Absecon Blvd. I don't know much about the area around AC, but Goodfellows worked out extremely well. The place is like a Fridays or Bennigans, except it isn't a chain (from what I could tell) and the food was very tasty. It just had that same family-friendly restaurant/pub feel.
After lunch, we drove to the Tropicana, where I had scored 2 nights for free (except for the negligible tax). Having arrived late, my parents had already checked me in. I admit, this steamed me a bit, because I wanted to try the ole folded $20 bill room upgrade. Roose, ironically, got there earlier and secured his upgraded room for the $20 tip. For his Jackson, he received a regular room with a jacuzzi tub and bidet, somehow appropriate for the dirty bastard. As I inwardly steamed, I opened my room, across the hall from Roose. Surprisingly enough, I lucked out, getting a junior suite for free. The room had a separate living room alcove with couches and a nice TV.
Unfortunately, traveling with other people suck. My little brother's room was a regular room, and I considered giving up my palace. After all, my bro had brought the Wii to keep us occupied when not gambling. He also had a bunch of friends in town, so I decided to switch rooms. The junior suite would clearly be Wii and party central, and wifey Kim wanted a modicum of privacy and freedom.
10 minutes later, I tried to set up the Wii and learned that while the Trop had RCA inputs in the front of their TVs, the TV did not let you change inputs. No Wii and no palacial room. Bad motherfuckin' beat. I really need to stop being such a nice guy.
Wifey Kim and I decided to hit the casino floor, and we ended up at a cheap $10-minimum Blackjack table. My mother and Roose's mother were already playing, so I grabbed the sole remaining seat as wifey Kim watched over my shoulder. She got bored quick and left with Roose's wife to go shopping. I, meanwhile, went on a modest tear, before cashing out up $102, happy to leave the table while still hot.
I found Roose and we decided to hunt for cheapo $5 craps. Amazingly, there were two tables available, and we played at both for a while, until I left down $150 at craps, my blackjack profits a distant memory.
I mulled around for a bit, trying to determine how to keep myself busy. I wanted to play poker. After all, I always want to play poker. But this wasn't a poker trip. This was a trip about spending time with wifey Kim and the family, and besides, dinner plans were coming up.
I think I found wifey Kim, and after a decent session of roullete (I think I broke even, she won a few) we headed upstairs to change. We took our time getting ready, since we knew the temptation of gambling was just downstairs. There'd be time enough for that, though.
After showering and changing, we met up with the group. Twelve of us, in total, made our way to a nearby restaurant, Rifici's, located just down the block from Goodfellows. Rifici's has become a Christmas Eve tradition, and this year, we added to the tradition by prop betting on everything. There were over/under bets on when the first appetizer plate would reach the table (must be on the table with the waiter's hand off of the plate), who would have their drink served first, where my mother would sit, etc. It made for a great time, once the parents got over their initial impulse to disuade our degeneracy. By the end of the meal, we were all stuffed and I was a few bucks poorer. My mother, meanwhile, won the largest prop of the night by guessing the bill almost exactly. I noticed she didn't say much about the degeneracy as she was counting her profits.
Back at the hotel, wifey Kim and I putzed around. She was tired, which made sense considering we were up early and she is usually on an earlier sleep schedule than me. The guys were all about to hit up the poker room, but I said good luck and joined my wife to the room. We hung for a while and when she fell asleep, I suited up to play.
I wish I kept better notes, but, well, I didn't. Suffice it to say, I played like crap. I don't remember what happened exactly, but I remember that I was rushing the action. Early on, I made a bad play when I couldn't believe that my opponent had the one overcard on the board that could beat my moderate pocket pair. I was wrong. I lost some more and was generally not pleased with my play, so at 2am, after playing for probably 3+ hours, I stood up and decided to walk. I said to the one table mate I had been chatting to that it was clearly not my night. I wasn't going to fight fate.
After cashing out, I checked on the guys. Hole and my bro-in-law Marc were at the same table, both holding their own. I don't remember where Roose was, but when I found him, he was happy to call it a night too. He, Rob and I went upstairs to unwind. We hung in Rob/Marc's room for a bit and then I finally hit the sack.
This seems like a good time for you all to take a quick piss break and maybe make yourselves a sandwich. I'll be back in a few with the second day, which included someone winning a tournament, more shitty poker play, and even some dirty, dirty slots.
Until next time, make mine poker!
I don't think it is much of a stretch to say that this blog, and most blogs, tend to have repeating themes. Losing begets losing and winning begets winning are two of my favorite. The HoP #1 Rule of Poker ("When you are behind, fold") is another. Unfortunately, though, it seems a new couple of themes have developed, with one explaining why all the other themes exist. We'll start with recurring theme #1:
Know when to play.
It's the most basic of decisions. To play or not to play? I do not hesitate to state that my love of poker borders on the unhealthy. Borders is a key word there. In fact, the term "unhealthy" is definitely not the emphasis, since even if I were to cross that border, the unhealthiness is not as harsh as it may first seem. My love for the game is tempered by my fiscal responsibility. I never play over my head and I never risk money that would matter to wifey Kim or me. But mentally, I tend to obsess on the game, and therein is the unhealthiness. Where obsession goes, impulsiveness tends to follow, and this is the lesson I am relearning: Know when to play.
I know the answers of when not to play. I just don't follow them. For instance, don't play when you are intoxicated. I break this one online often enough to significantly hurt my results. I also play online when there are too many distractions, when I'm in a crummy mood, or when I'm rushed.
But this rule really reared its ugly head during my recent trip to Atlantic City. Plain and simple, I should not play when I am distracted. In AC, I played like crap and got my ass repeatedly handed to me as a result, at least in the early goings (later on, I was card dead which contributed to my losses). I was probably pushing the action a bit too early because I was conscious of my limited time playing. I was then pushing the action to win back losses. Finally, I stopped the cycle by cutting myself off early in the evening on my last night in AC.
I am fortunate enough to travel to AC several times a year without my wife. During those times, when I'm hanging with my poker degenerate buddies, I can let my poker freak flag fly and play for hours on end. AC is not that trip, even if super-degenerate and co-pilot Dave Roose thinks it is. Whereas he can mentally shut out the fact that his wife is hanging around, I cannot. I need to make future AC trips with Wifey Kim about Wifey Kim and family ONLY. I need to table poker during these sessions, well, table NLHE poker, because I just don't get into my comfort zone. If all goes well, next year I will exclusively play 2/4 Drunken Limit Hold'em when playing poker (aside from tournament play). The goal will be to get as drunk as possible while playing the lowest limit poker available. If my buddies are around, we'll throw in enough side bets to keep it interesting.
Which brings us to theme #2:
Poker is about constantly relearning the things you already learned.
It's a shame, but it isn't as simple as messing up and then learning your lesson. Poker is about constantly relearning the same lessons until hopefully, at some point, you (or, actually, I) stop making the same stupid, self-destructive mistakes. It's probably the toughest lesson to learn because inherently, accepting the reality means that you know you will make the same mistakes again in the future. But, really, isn't that just what we do?
You don't write about poker for years without realizing that the lessons to be learned, while varied, are finite. Don't overplay hands. Don't bluff the wrong opponents. Don't play when you are distracted. The list goes on and on, but more importantly, over time it repeats itself. It's like plugging a dam that constantly springs new leaks. Or, worse, it's like plugging a dam with all of your fingers and toes, and just when you reach to plug a new leak, the old you were blocking is unblocked and the old leak re-emerges.
This isn't a fatalist view, at least not entirely. It's just a view about how the game is not one of linear knowledge. You don't learn something and then move on to the next level or topic, never to look back. You learn something, learn something new, learn the old thing again, learn a bunch of new things, and then relearn the first thing again, even though you didn't know you had forgotten it.
Well, enough with the themes. If all goes well, I'll work on my AC trip report this week, complete with poker losses, table game wins, and even a slot machine or two.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Thoughts on Online Cheating (and a Semi-Retraction)
Monday, December 22, 2008
First things first. A while ago, 60 Minutes ran its piece on the UB cheating scandal. I watched it a few days later on DVR, but I don't think I mentioned it here.
Todd Witteles actually made an offhand statement that has really stuck with me since that day. It was probably a throw-away statement during an hour or more of interviews, which I am sure were chopped up for the really good stuff, as per 60 Minutes' M.O. Whatever the case, the statement, paraphrased, was this: The cheaters in the UB scandal got caught because of greed. It was impossible for a player to win as consistently as the superuser given the superuser's style of play. That said, there very well could and probably are other superuser accounts used by players that are smarter or less greedy than the guy(s) caught in the scandal.
Sure, that was liberally paraphrased, but it really stuck with me. Witteles makes sense. Even if all of the superusers were uncovered and shut down after the scandal, who is to say that new cheaters won't have the foresight (and now, the knowledge from the UB scandal) to lose every once in a while, or hit a big score and get the fruck out of dodge.
I don't know all of the technology involved, but I do know human nature. In fact, I even defended ZeeJustin a long time ago before it was cool to do so, because I sincerely believe that most people would cheat if they knew they would not be caught. Now, I'm not getting into the ZeeJustin argument, but I just think that generally speaking, people are opportunistic. If a guy keeps flashing his cards, you might warn him once or twice, but if he keeps doing it, how do you not look. It's damn near impossible. Ever do a crossword or a magazine multiple choice quiz and accidentally see the answers on the bottom of the page? Even though you don't want to know the answers, as soon as they flash before you, its done. Your brain processes it. It's not exactly the same thing, because obviously ZeeJustin and the SuperUsers affirmatively acted to cheat, but the principles are the same: if someone has access to a cheat and he/she thinks they will not be caught or there are no consequences, he/she is very likely to take that opportunity to cheat.
Simply put, I fear that Witteles was right. There probably are other superuser accounts out there, either on UB/Absolute or some other site/network. Will that stop me from playing, though? Probably not. After all, they'd have to be pretty farging stupid to be cheating at my online bitch stakes. Besides, online poker isn't real poker to me anyway. It's just a place-filler for the real deal (AC in two days, beeches!).
On an unrelated note, I'd like to offer a semi-retraction to my previous post regarding what I perceived to be a terrible offer by PokerStars (advertise for Stars in exchange for an entry into a freeroll with too many players and too small prizes). I had believed at the time that the tourneys would have thousands of players, literally 5,000+ (if not 10,000+) by my estimates based on past years. In reality, it seems like most of the qualifier tournaments only had about 500+ players. I don't know about all of them, but the two I saw had in the 550 range. That's a BIG difference, and while I'd rather not point out my own errors, it would be disingenuous for me to give my opinion, ruffle some feathers in the process, and not man up to the fact that some of my estimates were wildly offbase. This is especially true since the big difference in player pools really does change my opinion about the event run by PokerStars. I'm still not sure if I would've accepted the offer and placed the links/banners to play because most of the qualifier tournaments were scheduled at times that would be impossible for me and most working stiffs in the US. But the value of the tournaments to an individual player is a lot higher than I initially estimated.
Finally, congrats to all of the poker bloggers who won prizes in the event. Anyone have a final tally of how our merry band of misfits did?
Until next time, make mine poker!
Late Nights and Early Mornings (Vegas Trip Report Pt 3)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
After my 1/2 NLHE table busted at the Venetian, I was moved to a new table. I had been drinking copious amounts of water all morning, trying to re-hydrate, and it finally caught up to me. I put down my stuff in the 10 seat and said absentmindedly to the dealer, "I'll be right back." The Caucasian, bald prick replied, "I'll alert the media," in the dryest, most annoyed voice possible. I just kept walking, but the statement sunk in and irritated me. No slight too small, as my mother used to say. "Fuck you," I thought in my head. I considered the different ways to address the situation, including ignoring it, joking about it, refusing to tip, or asking, "Should I alert the media that you are a prick?" I opted to let it go as part of my desire to move beyond such negative things. Luckily, though, after I folded my first hand, I heard my name announced for the 4/8 O8 game I registered for over an hour ago. I picked up my chips and walked away, happy to be leaving the prick dealer. Its remarkable how something so small can set off feelings that could negatively affect poker play.
Ironically, the 4/8 O8 table was at my old 1/2 NLHE table that broke five minutes prior. I took my same seat and waited to see who would join us. At one point, it looked like there would not be enough players. There were only five or six, and the lady floorperson said, "This table isn't going to go. I hope you kept your seats in the other games." WTF! I replied, "Listen, lady. See all those bloggers behind me? Any minute now, those donkeys are going to bust and fill up this table." I pressured her to let the game start with 6 players, but it turned out to be a wasted effort because we had 8 people in no time.
The O8 game was half-kill. If someone scooped (won both the hi and lo) any pot higher than $40, the next hand would be played 6/12. I managed to stay around even for a long period of time. There was one point when I felt that I was finally gaining some traction. My stack was growing and I finally decided to take a count of my chips. It felt like I was kicking ass, but I was only up about $40. That's how it went for much of the evening, as I played for several hours.
At one point, I felt like taking a walk, so I hit the head and stopped by the sportsbook, where a bunch of bloggers were hanging out at the bar. I returned to the table and saw that I had missed my blind. I could post the big blind or wait. I opted to post. I'm lucky I did. My hand wasn't special, but I flopped trips on the 88X board and turned a full house when a Jack came. I made some nice moola by check-raising at the right times, keeping the maximum amount of players in the pot while building it slowly.
From there, I didn't look back. I hit a couple of more full houses, which is necessary to win at LO8, and I got the maximum payoff each time. In one instance, I sucked out on the river. I had flopped trips Aces (AAx board) with my Jack kicker and rivered the Jack. My opponent had AQxx and was pissed about the river, but it was a no-brainer for me.
After a while, I noticed that I was misreading my hands. I thought I hit trips again on a 44x board, only to realize after the flop bet that I didn't have a 4. I thought I had the nut straight on a board that rivered a diamond flush, only to realize that I also had the flush. I did this one other time and won a hand or a low pot. Whatever the case, the writing was on the wall and I cashed out, up $222.
One thing about the table. It was a good time and by the end, I was chummy with everyone. Still, there was this one guy a few seats to my left that really annoyed me. I don't get angry players. These guys throw a fit every time they miss a flop or lose a hand. Wah! I can't win every hand, Wah! Here, I would normally wish these people some terrible death, but instead, I wish them continued frustration. As unpleasant as these people may be at the able, they usually are on tilt and giving their money away. I still think anyone with that attitude, though, should just fuck off and play some slots. That's for their sake, though; not mine.
One more thing. There was a guy at the 1/2 NLHE table who had also returned to the 4/8 O8 table. I assumed he was in town for the rodeo because of his quiet toughguy demeanor. He had a goatee and baseball cap. During the 1/2 NLHE game, he was very quiet. A few times, I watched him for tells, and didn't find any. That said, I didn't think he was a particularly dangerous player because he didn't play many pots and didn't seem too aggressive. During the O8 game, he sat a few seats to my left. It was then that I noticed he was chatting with Miami Don. It was then that I introduced myself. He replied, "I'm Chad. Crackin' Aces." If you don't know, Chad is a blogger who has had a few blogs, all of which he ultimately deleted. One thing Chad is known for, though, is not pulling punches. He's also an accomplished player. Suffice it to say, if I were to guess from his table demeanor which blogger he was, I don't think I would've guessed he was Chad in 20 tries.
As I left the O8 game, I heard that there was a mixed game going on, so I switched to 6/12 HORSE. I played the H, O and R rounds, but left during the S. I wasn't having fun, and I was down $100 playing HORSE, so it seemed like a good time to walk.
It was at this point that I realized that it was 10:30pm. The Blogger Tourney was still going, and my two partners-in-crime, PokerWolf and PokerPeaker, were at the final table. I was proud for them both, as neither have extensive live poker experience. Wolf, sadly, busted at the bubble, but I reminded him that he must have played extremely well to finish near the top of one of the toughest fields you can imagine.
It was also at this point that I realized I had not eaten in over 10 hours. Jordan doesn't normally not eat (except for that summer in high school when I was an anorexic...damn I was sexy). But poker can do something odd to me. Food and sleep don't matter when I play. Poker is the only thing that has this hold on me. Whatever the case, I felt the need to eat, even though I was still not hungry.
Everyone else was busy, so I opted to check out the food court solo. I grabbed a cheesesteak and a table and listened to Howard Stern on my iPod. As I ate, Wolf showed up and we agreed to head back to the hotel. This, however, would not happen.
I wanted to stop by the blogger final table to say my goodbyes, and at that point, I realized that a return to the MGM might not be the right move. Wolf had an early flight and was planning on going to bed. I was still up and raring to go.
Instead of joining Wolfie, I joined Kat and MeanGene for a walk to the Imperial Palace. I had stayed there the year before, but had yet to step into the lower tier casino/hotel during the present trip. Halfway, Kat left us for Sephora, and Gene and I walked back talking lightly about poker and blogging.
Back at the IP, the Geisha Bar was in full swing. I had a beer and chatted with Iggy for a while. I can't write enough about how much I appreciated that time chatting with the blogfather. It was one of the best and most sincere conversations I had all weekend. When you are dubbed the blogfather of poker, it must be very easy to slip into a persona. Iggy, however, doesn't fall into this trap. And for that alone, one could call him remarkable. But really, more than remarkable, he's just himself, which is refreshing when surrounded by the sleaze, grime and anonymity of Vegas.
After that conversation, I roamed the casino floor hoping that a spot at Pai Gow Poker would open up. It didn't so I stopped by the poker room, where a couple of bloggers were playing a 1/2 NLHE game. I decided to join them, mainly on impulse.
The table was a wild one. I was in the 8 seat, with bloggers on both sides of me. Across the table in the 2 seat was a big dude (think height, not weight) with floppy brown surfer hair and a button-down shirt. He had a huge stack of $700 or more. To his left was a generic looking dude with another big stack.
I'll admit that I didn't feel entirely at ease. The last time I played at the IP, I recall a session where I never felt good about the table, and consequently lost a couple of stacks. Granted, at the time, I lost to suckouts, but I remember the distinct feeling of unease and the thought, "I need to get out of here." I didn't listen though.
This time, I started out okay, but once I saw the action, I felt the unease again. These guys were playing big bet poker and I was just looking to donk around. After a gambling Asian player sat down, the action got even more crazy. The Crazian was raising $30 preflop standard on almost every pot. It was absurd. Why spend $30 to win $8 in blinds? Whatever the case, I saw an amazing hand where the Crazian bet big preflop and a bunch of limpers for $2 called his $25 or larger preflop raise. I couldn't figure out what was going on. The flop was Ace-high. It checked to the Crazian, who was in late position. He bet. The big guy with the surfer hair called, and another guy pushed all-in for several hundred dollars. The Crazian called and the Surfer got out of the way. The Crazian held AK for top pair, top kicker, and the pusher had nothing but an open-ended straight draw. Just nuts. Surfer claimed he had AQ. I just assumed it was set v. set, based on the action, but I was wrong. While TPTK isn't a terrible hand, everything at the table suggested that the players had real monsters.
When I first sat down, the Surfer had won a pot when he called an all-in with nothing but 77 after a flop with overs and rivered his set. He said, "I knew my set was coming. I just didn't know when." He was cocky, so I made him my target. Unfortunately, he was also playing big bet poker and successfully bet me off of a hand, leaving me down $75 or so very quickly. After I realized that it was a big bet table and he was calling light (the AK v AQ v OESD hand actually were better cards than most), I decided to play my KK hard.
Preflop, I raised to $22 and got three or four callers, including the Surfer. The flop came down JTx, so when it checked to me, I bet $50. Surfer raised to $100 and I decided that I was ready to ship my whole stack. Generic was still in the hand, and took his time. He eventually folded. When it got to me, I pushed. Surfer called and showed JT. I rivered my King, though and sucked out. "I knew my King was coming. I just didn't know when." In truth, I hated how I played this hand. Losing an entire stack with an overpair is a stupid error. I had convinced myself that he had jackshit, but that wasn't based on any empirical data. I was playing sloppy. I decided to finish two orbits and walk.
After the hand, the Generic Guy was standing up, bitching and moaning to a guy who may've been his father. The bitching wouldn't stop. "I woulda won that." It was annoying to me. "What did you have that would've beaten top set?" I heard someone say that he had AQ. It was either that or Q9; in either case, my King would've made him a straight to take down the pot. But based on the action, there was no way he was going to call. And more importantly, he didn't call. If the Surfer was bitching, that was one thing. He suffered a suckout. But this guy was complaining about something that was completely fictional: "If I would've called, I would've won." I got annoyed as his bitching and announced, "If I had pocket Aces and flopped quads, I would've won outright, but that didn't happen either, so I don't see the point in bitching about it." I was basically calling him out for bitching about a hypothetical. We exchanged some more heated words, practically yelling at each other across the table. I was on edge, but also enjoying the sport of tilt fishing. I whispered to my fellow bloggers, "I'm going to tilt this whole table and walk away, leaving you guys to clean up." After another orbit, I did just that. I left, up $142. It was my most profitable NLHE cash session of the trip, and it was my worst-played session.
I made the trip back to the MGM, listening to my iPod as I waited for the Monorail. The people around me were drunk, loud and partying. I enjoyed the show.
Back at the MGM, I returned to my room and fell asleep. The next morning, Wolf was already gone. I walked the hotel looking for an easy breakfast, and ended up heading outside. I eventually got a bagel at New York New York Casino. The bagel was aweful though. NYNY is the shittiest version of NY I've ever seen.
Satiated, I returned to the hotel, where I packed up and got on the phone. I had a conference call for work. When it was done, I realized that I may as well head to the airport. My trip was over. Up a couple of hundred overall, hanging with my invisible internet friends, it was a successful trip.
Final bad beat story.
I boarded the plane and headed over to my seat, 7A. Sitting in 7B was a really attractive girl, no older than 23, probably 100 lbs. tops. She was a real beauty. As I neared the seat, we caught each other's eyes and she asked if I was sitting next to her. "Yeah, 7A," I replied. She asked, "Would you mind switching with my friend?" "Where is your friend?" "22A, toward the back." "It's a window?" I wanted to make sure I wouldn't be stuck in the middle seat. "Yeah." Being the chivalrous guy I am, I agreed.
I walked to the back of the plane and found the friend. Instead of being another cute coed, it was a douschebag, twerpy dude. Still, I promised the piece of ass in 7B that I'd send over her friend, so I gave him the good news. I then took his seat.
I figured that I was giving up about 5 minutes of my life, the time spent deboarding the plane in NY. I was hoping, as the flight time neared, that no one would take the middle seat. It was still open as the final people entered the plane. Most were small, old people. One was a brickwall of a man. He was wide, tall, and hispanic. I knew immediately where he would sit...right next to me. So it was done. He took the seat, and as it turned out, joked about my bad luck being stuck next to him. He didn't joke about the fact that he was clearly up all night and didn't have time to shower.
I had accepted my fate when I heard a faint cry to my right. That's when I saw across the aisle a woman and her newborn baby, no older than 3 months.
From hot co-ed to a fat, smelly guy and a crying baby. It was the worst bad beat of the trip. I figured it was karma's payback for my KK v. JT suckout.
Until next time, make mine poker!
The blogger tournament was scheduled for 3pm at the Venetian and the first course of business was sustenance. It was already clear that it would be impossible to make the nuptuals of Gracie to Sweet Sweet Pablo (would that make Gracie's full name Gracie Sweet Pablo?). Late nights in Vegas (not to mention the inch-thick dirt and stink covering my body) meant I wasn't going anywhere soon. Instead, PokerWolf, PokerPeaker and I went to the MGM Grand's Buffet, with the hope that it was reasonably priced.
Had we gotten there before 11am, it would've been relatively cheap. After 11, though, the buffet was about $25 after tax (notably, pretax it was $17.95, so the "tax" seemed suspiciously high). $25 is not cheap for a buffet, so I resolved to eat my money's worth.
I'll give the buffet a solid B+. The food was widely varied and universally delicious, but I avoided some of the items that looked less than edible. The service was decent enough, although I don't think our server returned after giving us our first round of drinks. Satiated, we left the buffet and headed on our separate ways. Peaker insisted on showering. Wolf and I had better ideas.
It was already getting late, so we decided to hitch a cab ride over to the Venetian to get Wolf a player's card. With card in hand, we still had some time to kill before the tournament and decided to find a place with $5 craps. Luckily, Wolf knew just the place.
A few steps from the majestic Venetian is the shithole whose name escapes me. These shitholes are all the same, cramped with slot machines and desperation. Fortunately, this one also had $5 craps, which is the perfect price for me. Any cheaper feels like a waste of time; any more expensive is a waste of money.
Table games are all -EV, and I have resolved to never play them again except for the rare times I can afford to play for sheer entertainment. This seemed like one of those times.
We each bought in for $100 and were the 3rd and 4th person to roll after we started playing. Neither of our rolls were too impressive, although Wolfie hit a few points. We were probably both up a little when a silver-haired chum on the other side of the table starting rolling the bones. The guy must've rolled for a good 20 minutes (and likely longer, as time has no meaning to me in Vegas), and by the time he was done, Wolfie and I had scratched out some decent profit. The next chick sucked, crapping out pretty early, at which point, we took our profits, slightly over $200 each, and hit the road. Thank god we had the tourney to make, otherwise I am sure we could've given back our profit in no time.
I'll take a moment to commend Wolfie on a great craps strategy that I intend to adopt. This may be fairly rudimentary for you pros and complete gibberish to you newbies, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph, if this means nothing to you. Basically, we played the pass line and took the odds, which is pretty standard. After that, we'd place a Come bet, which is essentially a Pass bet as though the next roll were the opening roll. Then, we'd place the odds on the Come bet, and place another Come bet. We basically did this until we had our usual pass bet with odds and two come bets with odds. It just spreads the money nicely without overdoing it. Throw in my usual love for the Hard Ways, only when I have other money riding on the same numbers, and you have my modified Wolfie system. $210 can't be wrong! (Yes it can.)
With craps money in pocket, we headed over to the tournament and signed in. We were seated immediately next to each other by coincidence and eventually took our seats. To my left was Sean, a bald dude with a helluva soul-patch-chin-scruff combo, this coming from a former Mr. Potato Head of Facial Hair. He was ultra-serious, wearing a black hood pulled deep over his head with headphones. I introduced myself and he barely registered me. I was a bit surprised since it was just a ghey blogger tournament, but I have to respect the dedication. The other end of the table had a bunch of new faces, but I quickly learned that they were OhCaptain, Emptyman, and...oh, shit, I'm blanking. My bad. In the 1 seat, to Wolf's immediate right, was Joanada. Across the table from me (I was in the 3s, he was in the 8s) was a dude wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, and a blazer covered in patches for Pokerati and, I think, Poker News. In hindsight, it was a pretty comical site, all sponsored-up for a blogger tournament. But this is an eccentric group, so I didn't think anything of it at first. After all, I was wearing a t-shirt with a big "High on Poker" emblazened on it. (Side note: Some people showed interest in the shirt, largely because they like getting high and playing poker. I'm throwing it up on Zazzle if anyone is interested. And before the tidal wave comes, let me insist I am putting this up merely because someone asked where they can get one, and in case they were serious, I wanted to give them an outlet. I am not a moneygrubbing Jew, blogger, troller, prick, shyster, lawyer, sellout, or asshole. Wait...maybe I'm an asshole.)
The game got off to a quick start for me. I'm not one to sit around and wait for cards, so I immediately tussled with Joanada. She was on the button and I was in the BB. When it folded to her, I think she bet 150 (25/50 blinds) and I called. I don't remember exactly what happened, but she took the first and maybe the second of our many contested pots off of me, after, I think, I dusted off a couple of thousand from my 10k stack on a several-bullet bluff. I didn't believe Joanada because of her position. She didn't believe me because of my reputation, or so I assume.
That didn't stop either of us, as her and I seemed to be locked in a dance. She was consistently raising my blinds, and I decided to start flat calling with all sorts of cards. In one hand, I held QJ and called her preflop bet. The flop was AKQ. I checked and she bet. I called. The turn was a blank. We both checked. The river was a blank. I checked and she made a strong bet. I called with what would appear to be a weak hand. She showed Jx, even weaker. This was one of the moments when I felt everything coming together for me. I had a read, that she was stealing my blinds, and I made some calls others would not. I was not scared of busting (largely assisted by the deep stacks) and I wasn't scared of making outwardly questionable plays, as long as they made sense internally. From the outside, I was calling loose the entire way. From the inside, I was reading my opponent and measuring the best way to maximize value while minimizing exposure.
I was down to about 7k, but made my way back to about 12k. It helped that I scored three pots with the hammer (27o). Each time, I showed my monster hand.
I was in a lot of hands at the table, and finally faced a hand that would make or break my tournament. I was in LP, probably one or two off of the button, when an EP player, the guy in the sponsored-logo blazer, made a standard preflop raise. I had 99 and decided to try to win the pot immediately or define my opponent's hand by raising about 3x his bet. It folded to him and he called in a manner that made me think he did so begrudgingly. The flop came down Q93. My opponent bet out. I took a while, acted confused, and then raised all-in. I wanted my loose image to pay off. It did, or so I thought, because my opponent took a long time, during which I assumed he was considering a loose call against a perceived maniac. He eventually called and showed QQ for top set.* LEMON! I called for a miracle case 9, but it didn't come.
After losing the hand, my opponent called across the table, "You've been Keno'ed!" My opponent, as it turned out, was none other than professional Keno player Neil Fontenot.* We both laughed about the hand, although a few people at the table showed some sympathy, as though it were a tilt-worthy situation. I replied, "I rather lose on a cooler than on a bad play."
Out of the tourney, I did my rounds, checking on my various horses in a last longer bet. I had picked all New Yorkers, subbing Alceste for F-Train last minute, which was a smart move, considering that F-Train was out way before Alceste. Even so, Dawn Summers was the only New Yorker to make the final table...and she was also the only New Yorker I didn't pick. Now, Dawn will mock me for this, but she should really be praising me. Clearly, my pick was a curse, and I wanted Dawn to do very well. Your welcome, Dawn. You ingrate.
After losing the tournament, I didn't know what to do with myself. I walked over to the sportsbook and confirmed that I was already well on my way to losing my first sports bet of the day. I bumped into AlCantHang and BigMike, as well as Joanada, who was busted by the silent-but-deadly Sean before I had a chance to bust her. I ran through $20 on video poker and then decided to play the real thing.
Before I left the poker room, I saw an interest list for 4/8 O8 with a half kill with about three names. I asked to be placed on that list, and since I was already speaking to the desk, I put my name in for the 1/2 NLHE list, which had to be at least 12 names long. I figured I had time to roam, and if I missed the call on either, it was no big deal. After the videopoker, though, I returned to the room, just in time to hear my name called for 1/2.
I bought in for the $300 max and took my seat across from the dealer. The players seemed game enough. I won my first hand for about $100 profit from an Asian kid who overplayed his hand. I had K8s, hardly a premium hand, but everyone and their sister limped and I was in LP, so I called. The flop was 866 and I think I bet out $15, about the size of the pot, getting only one caller, the Asian kid. I was fairly confident by the action that no one had an over-pair (99 or higher would've raised preflop). I was somewhat concerned about the 6, but my opponent didn't seem too confident. The turn was a blank spade, giving me an additional flush draw. I carved out $25 and bet out. I expected a raise from a 6, so when the player called, I felt a bit of relief. The river was a blank and I couldn't check, lest I give him a chance to bet big and scare me off of my best hand. I bet out $35 and he called. I showed my K8s and he showed 85o. He definitely overplayed the hand.
From there, I basically slowly bled chips until right before the table broke. I don't remember the particular hand, but just before breaking, I lost the rest of my profit, leaving me up $5. The table broke as players left, so I was sent to a new table. Before we go there, though, a quick note about an odd event at the first NLHE table.
The Asian kid eventually moved to two seats to my left. To his immediate left was a half-Greek, half-Palestinian guy in his mid-50s, with a cane and a stupid fisherman's hat on. His frumpy wife sat behind him like an obedient dog. It was clear by his demeanor and the floor's response that he was a regular grinder. The guy was a complete dick, barking, rudely at the player from Quebec on my immediate left. It was the Quebecker's first time playing live and he took his time with decisions, which annoyed the half-breed. Whatever the case, the half-breed oddly buddied up with the Asian kid and explained that he was going to teach him poker. Here is the weird part. I'm pretty sure that the half-breed was signaling for the kid to fold in certain instances. This makes no sense to me, since they clearly just met.
One situation completely baffles: Half-breed ends up heads-up by the turn in a hand against the kid. Half-breed bet, everyone folded and it was the kid's turn to act. He thought for about 15 seconds and half-breed announces, "Just fold. I have the King." He then clearly showed that he had the King, demonstrating his best hand. The kid folded.
Why the fuck would you ever give away money like that, particularly to a stranger?! It was clear that the half-breed played semi-professionally. This wasn't just fun. He was trying to make his nut. Still, he couldn't help but give away a chance to make more money. I'm sure there must be more to it than my quick opinion, but it left me baffled. The half-breed basically gave away the chance to win more money when he was ahead. What a tool.
It's hard to break up this story, and now might be a good chance. Coming up, I go to a new NLHE table, then return to my old table where O8 was spread.
Until next time, make mine poker!
*I may be slightly off with the hand history. The all-in may've occured on the turn, or there may've been re-re-raising going on, but the hands (QQ v. 99, Q9x flop) and the last decision (all-in call by my opponent) remain the same.
*Later, at a cash table filled with non-bloggers, a blogger stopped by and asked me how I busted. I told him it was set-under-set to Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. One of the non-blogger players asked me, "Professional Keno Player? Is that even possible?" I answered, "I guess he's just really good."
Mother Nature 1, Environmentalists 0
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I hate to turn this into an anti-environmentalist blog, particularly after my recent post on why the corporate Green Movement is really just a way for corporations to save money while insincerely buying goodwill, but it looks like all you bleeding heart tree huggers out there have one less weapon in your arsenal.
Remember all the concern about polar bears suffering due to the melting polar ice caps? Well, it turns out that the polar bears were just fucking with you. As it turns out, polar bears have been feasting on geese and geese eggs, which are now more abundant than they were in the early 1900s.
This draws a nice parallel to two of the cornerstones of High on Poker's anti-environmentalist stance. Mind you, I don't believe in raping mother earth, but I do think that the current environmentalist trend is a farce. My two cornerstones:
1. Mother nature will take care of herself. Let's say we are killing the planet? My guess is that the planet will kill us first, at which point, the planet will live on and prosper, sorta like it did with those gas guzzling dinosaurs. Assuming my belief is true, we need not worry about mother earth, but rather the survival of the human race, which leads us to...
2. Technological advances to save the human race will develop as needed. We fear that in one hundred or one thousand years the tides will have risen. Well, by then, I'd like to think that we will have technological advances that can fix whatever ails us. What form might the technology take, I have no idea. However, technology grows at an exponential pace. Remember, sixty years ago, color television was still a novelty. Now, we have televisions that fit in the palm of your hand (iPod videos, etc.). And that's just pure entertainment. Who is to say that by the time we need to stop the rushing tidal waves, we won't have a solution?
Good job, polar bears. You didn't need any big government bailout or the protection of some scruffy-chinned hippies. And let's be real, which would you rather eat, seal or goose eggs? Exactly.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Ah Vegas. Atlantic City's bigger, cooler brother. Vegas gets all the chicks, knows where to get good drugs, and can party like a rockstar. Atlantic City is lucky if he can score a $10 hooker, snort some over-cut coke, and stay up past midnight.
I'd already written a long post about the first day of the trip, which is sitting on my laptop at home. I have since written a lot about day 2, the main day for me, but I don't want to post it out of order. So, instead, I give you this Cliff's Notes version of day 1, which will come as a pleasure to those of you not interested in my usual extensive expositions.
Waking up at 5:30 am is never a good way to start a day in Vegas. Waking up at 5:30 am in New York after fitful sleep is even worse. If you do the timezone math, I was up at 2:30 am Vegas time, so it was going to be a long day.
I made my way over to the airport via subway. It was convenient and took a little over an hour. The new JetBlue terminal at JFK airport was a nice change, but nothing too special. I grabbed a bagel and killed some time before boarding the flight.
Television on weekday mornings are pure shite. Thank god I had enough reading material and the movie Wanted on my laptop. By the way, Wanted wasn't bad, but for my rupees, the graphic novel is much better.
When I landed in Vegas, I headed immediately to the cab stand. My cab turned out to be a gutted mini-van designed to hold one or two wheelchair passengers. Because of this, I was a good 8 feet from the driver in the only row of seats left in the vehicle. I day dreamed about all the nasty things that probably occured on the open floor of the van. It looked ideal for a quick lay by a tranny hooker. It also would be a nice spot to chop of his/her body. The dark reddish stains seemed to confirm my suspicions.
"Any conventions in town?" I yelled to the driver from the back seat. "Just the rodeo," he yelled back. Every year, Vegas hosts a rodeo championship around the same time that the bloggers head to Vegas. It basically means that you can tell a good poker table by the amount of cowboy hats.
Usually, I like to find a convention in town as the basis for my cover story, if ever I need one. In this case, the rodeo would not work. No one was going to mistake my Herbrew ass for a cowpoke.
At the MGM Grand, I went to the front desk to check in. The guy who helped me seemed a little too nice, as though he was one of those 'special' people. More likely, he was trolling for a tip. "Is it okay that you are on the 5th floor?" "Yeah. It's all the same to me." "Let me move you up to the 23rd floor. It's a better view." "Okay, I guess." He also told me that my promotion included a $300 flight voucher for my next trip. Not bad for a $150 room.
I considered tipping him, but decided against it. The view meant little to me and seemed like a kiss-ass ploy to separate me from my money. I never understood the joys of a view unless you are somewhere tropical with a balconey or terrace. Otherwise, how many times have you spent more than 60 seconds looking out of a window? The answer is probably very few, if any. Why? Because views mean shit in a world of HDTV, laptops, and a dozen other distractions, of which gambling is top dog.
Settled in, I called PokerPeaker, my roomie from last year. He had been in Vegas for a day already. We agreed to grab some grub and ended up in the diner-like Studio Cafe, where I had a fantastic patty melt. Just thinking of it now is getting me hungry.
Satiated, we headed to the MGM poker room. Peaker wanted to explore more casinos, but I had to wait for PokerWolf, my roomie for this trip. We both put ourselves on the 1/2 list as we walked around the room and caught up with the sprinkling of poker bloggers around. Eventually, we were called to a new table. I took the 7 seat. Peaker took the 9 seat.
The 8 seat was an interesting guy. He was a tall, older, bald white guy with a gut. He looked like he could work a lumber yard or a ship yard or, well, any sort of yard. He also was happy to talk poker, which at first was fine. We'd discuss a weird hand we saw play out and he would opine about how player A had to have XX. As time wore on, though, it became apparent that this guy didn't know shit. I even almost texted that very sentence to Peaker, but I didn't want to even create the suspicion of collusion and I worried that someone might see me send a text and Peaker receive a text back to back.
I didn't keep hand histories, but I remember losing $100 relatively quickly and reloading the $100 immediately. Then I pretty much went into lockdown mode, trying to play smart while I slowly chipped up. CK joined our table at some point and took the 10 seat, directly next to Peaker. The three of us hung out while the guy in the 8 seat continued to opine, wrongly, about various plays and player holdings.
I had finally worked my way back to even and had worked up a $50 or so profit when I had the following hand. I was dealt AQ and decided to raise it to $10 or $15 in the BB, only to be called by CK and one other player. The flop came down A6X, so I decided to check. If figured my Ace was good because AK would have likely raised preflop instead of limp-calling a raise from the BB. Since I wanted action on the hand, I figured a check was in order. CK took the bait and bet out. The other guy folded and I called. The turn was a Queen, giving me two pair. I considered the best course of action and opted for another check. If she thought she was ahead on the flop, she probably thinks she is still ahead and will bet it. She did, betting a large amount that I thought seemed suspicious. I reraised all-in and I think she called. I don't remember exactly if I called her all-in or if I raised all-in. I'd like to think I called. I showed AQ for two pair. She showed 66 for a set. The river was no help and I was suddenly down a sizeable sum, probably $250 or more. I reloaded again to give myself a workable stack.
Not two minutes later, I received a call from PokerWolf. He was at the casino already, so I told him to meet up at the poker room, at which point, I'd take him to the room. Once he got there, he told me no rush, but I insisted, since I wanted to take a break from playing after losing that last hand. On some level, I knew I was behind, but I made the wrong play anyway. If I didn't slowplay the flop, I would've been re-raised, which may've been enough for me to slow down for the rest of the hand.
After dropping off Wolf's bags, we walked slowly back to the poker room. I don't recall where he went next, but I returned to the table, hoping to turn the day around. In no time, I had succeeded. I don't recall the hand or the pot, but long story short, I hit a monster hand and got paid off, from -$250 to about +$50 in one hand.
CK's man, F-train, had returned from the Pinball Museum (I kid you not) with a bunch of the crew, so F-Train and CK decided to get some dinner. I like food sometimes, so I decided to join them. I cashed out up a little over $40, which was still much better than -$250.
Time has no meaning in Vegas, and I must've played that first session for about seven hours, if not longer. Dinner was a good idea, but the poker messed with my stomach, as it usually does. It's all due to the adrenaline and the crappy food at casinos. We ended up at a pan-Asian restaurant, where I opted for something simple, fried rice with duck, pork, shrimp and lobster. It was delicious. I also spent the time chatting with Kat, one of my favorite people in this community.
After dinner, I stopped by the sports book and placed a 4 game NBA parlay, which I lost in the first game. Lemon. I then returned to the poker room for mixed games.
Last year, the bloggers had 1 mixed game table going all night and another one that eventually got going. This year, there were already three tables going and no seats for me. I decided to play some 1/2 NLHE in the meanwhile. I don't remember anything much from that table either, aside from a young kid on my immediate left with his two friends to his immediate left. They all had small-ish stacks, no more than $150 and two less than $100, but the kid to my left was acting like a big shot. I liked that thinly-veiled-self-delusion; it seemed more shtick than reality. I could tell there were some sharp, young Asian players at the table, so I thought I'd hit up my white boy neighbor for a little bit of racial teamwork by asking about the Asians at the table. "I'll tell you for $50," he replied without an ounce of sarcasm. I laughed in his face, "HAHAHA! Buddy, I don't need your input that bad." We ended up bumping heads in a couple of pots, but in the end, I only took a couple of bucks off of him.
The kid and his friends all got up to leave at once, and I noticed that I was sitting at a table with a couple of sharp players. The majority of the fishies had left the pool, so I was glad to hear my name announced for the Mixed Games tables. I grabbed my chips, up $40 (up $82 total) and left.
The mixed game was interesting. I got some great prop bets going with Wolf and a couple of locals who were friends or friends of friends with CK, Johnny and Cindy. Both rolled with the jokes well, and the game was a riot. No one took it too seriously, which makes mixed games feel like NLHE used to feel before people realized that there was actual strategy involved. I took some wild swings, alternatively talking about how mixed games are the worst ever or the best ever, depending on if I was winning. Eventually, though, I felt my 2:30am Vegas wake-up time taking its toll, and I cashed out, down $15.
I made my way to the sportsbook bar where a bunch of bloggers were drinking. I found Blinders and Spaceman and we took a walk outside to breathe in some fresh air. Much appreciation to Blinders for the idea, because a little bit of air was definitely what I needed to cap off the long day.
High on the fresh air of Vegas, I returned to the bar, where I sat with Wolf and talked about the day ahead of us. He must've been able to tell that I was fading fast, because he eventually said he'd see me tomorrow. I made my way upstairs and passed out for the night.
Coming up, the blogger tournament and a wide variety of gambling.
Until next time, make mine poker!
99 Problems, But the Mook Ain't One
Thursday, December 11, 2008
So, guess who won the Mookie last night? This guy!
Its been a helluva week at High on Poker. On Tuesday, I went out for drinks and a bit of karaoke with some of my friends to celebrate my birthday. Thanks to those who attended, particularly since it was a school night. I got home at a reasonable hour, but I was well sloshed on Coronas and tequilas.
The next day was like a fog for me. The hangover stuck around all day, but I trudged my way through the day, including a Court appearance back on Long Island, with the goal of making it to Friday, when I get on a plane and get my ass to Vegas.
Before then, though, I have my firm's holiday party today, I just got news on my raise for the new year (thankfully, when the economy stinks, people keep suing), and I need to put some final touches on my packing.
All that said, with my busy week running wild, I still found time to play in the Mookie last night. I was hoping for a smaller field because of the upcoming blogger festivities. I signed on, tried to register, but was denied. I tried again, and then realized why I was getting booted. I was broke. Well, $1 and change, broke. What's a man to do in a situation like this? Find a friend of course.
That's right! You all have 23Skidoo to blame for my rousing success. With a half hour until the event, I hunted him down in the Daily Double B (where he eventually cashed before losing to a suckout). I entered the "room" and typed, "Hi everybody!" to a handful of strangers. One guy laughed and said, "hi." Skidoo, thankfully, saw my comment and jumped in with a hello. I followed it up, "Anyone care to lend me $10 to play the Mookie?!" To the room, I wanted it to appear like I was another begging troller. I naturally assumed Skidoo would get the joke. He did, as he replied, "I just used my last $11 to play this." I IM'ed separately, "Really?" "No." "Can I actually borrow $10?" And so it was done.
Ironically, I thought the Mook was going to end very early for me. Wifey Kim and I were watching Top Chef while the tourney started. I didn't like having my attention split, since I would be leaving wifey Kim for a weekend and wanted to give her due time. Still, the Mook had already started and knowing wifey Kim, she'd be snoozing in no time.
In an early hand, I was dealt A8d. I decided to call a preflop raise, thinking that I was making a mistake with my suited Ace, since I could easily be facing a superior Ace, like AJ-AK. The flop was actually AXX with two diamonds. It checked to me and I checked as well. The LP player, who probably raised preflop, bet out a small sum. The out of position player surprisingly raised, if not all-in, than fairly close. I considered folding, but realized that my flush draw had to be good, leaving me with at least 9 potential outs with two cards to come. Admittedly, I thought busting wouldn't be too big of a deal, particularly since it was early and I'd rather double up or go home early than duke it out and lose on the bubble or thereabouts. I over-pushed and the LP player grumbled about not wanting to fold before he folded. The OOP player showed KQd, and I was pretty much a lock to win from there. The LP guy claims he was on a baby flush draw as well, so in fact, I had the best hand the entire time.
I took another large pot off of someone. I don't remember the details, but whatever the case, my stack was healthy at 8,000 or so when I decided to turn my attention to wifey Kim.
My biggest problem with blogger tournaments is the fact that I like to spend evenings with wifey Kim. She usually falls asleep much earlier than I do, albeit after the blogger tourneys tend to start. So, at times I've been known to join a tourney and sit out at some point while hanging with wifey Kim. Last night was one of those nights. From somewhere around 10:20 to about 10:45, I sat out, ocassionally checking the screen for monster hands. When wifey Kim's eyes fell for the three-count*, I grabbed the computer and got back to work.
From there on out, I just played smart poker. It didn't hurt that I was hitting cards. In fact, one of my biggest moments came when my underpair (preflop) turned a set to bust a player. "Nice catch," the player said. "Lucky me," I replied. My intention was to look like a luckbox. The very next hand, I raised with crap cards, got called, bet the flop, got called, bet the turn, and took down the pot. I have a feeling my opponent folded because of how lucky I had been getting. Luck is scarier than skill in a single tournament.
I was fairly relentless, raising and attacking blinds. I was largely inspired by Gus Hansen's Every Hand Revealed, which may be part of my bounty for the Blogger Tourney in Vegas. The book is so good that I would consider it a great gift to whomever busts me...it's the best book I've read about poker since my top 3: Super/System, Skalansky's Theory of Poker, and Caro's Book of Poker Tells.
At the final table, I just focused on the ladder principle, inching my way up. NumbBono had amassed a lot of chips, while I went in the other direction, going from top 2 or 3 at the start of the final table to bottom half in no time. I just concentrated on picking my spots, winning about a pot an orbit, uncontested, to keep from being blinded off. All the while, a player from an earlier table followed me over to act incredulous that I knocked him out in 10th with 33. Here is a brief synopsis of the hand:
I made a standard raise with 33. He pushed all-in with AKo. If I were to call, I'd be getting 2:1 odds. I believe the preflop raise was 2400 (blinds of 400/800 with some ante), he pushed for 4.5k or so more, and the pot was about 9k (my 2.4k, his 4.5k, 1.2k in blinds, and however much more for the antes). There may've been an early limper too. Whatever the case, I thought my call was pretty academic, especially since it would leave me with at least 9k behind, which was reasonable, given the fact that there were at least 3 or more other players in that range with only 10 players left. I called, hoping he didn't have a higher pocket pair. The way I saw it, if he had a higher pocket pair, I was in a lot of trouble. Let's assume 80/20. If he had overcards, I had a coin toss, 50/50. I thought it equally likely that he had both, so it was a 50% chance that I would have a 20% chance of winning, and a 50% chance that I had a 50% chance of winning. The average was around 33% and that was what I was getting. I also considered the fact that I was going for the win and if I lost, I'd still be in the hunt. In the end, an academic call.
My opponent kept questioning it ("call an all-in with 33?" "keep playing like that...") after he busted, so I started ragging on him. "Wah." "Do you want a tissue?" I love that line. He returned, "I wasn't criticizing your play." I think he also called me a dick. Whatever, dude. When you sit there and go over the hand after busting, incredulous that you lost to 33, it sounds like a complaint. I finally stated, "You don't have a clue. Sit down with the hand history and a calculator and get back to me." In hindsight, I hope I wasn't too harsh. I should've taken a page from my childhood role model's playbook and pitied the fool.
It was down to the bubble before I knew it, and frankly, I was still just treading water. The bubble burst and I was still treading water. Two more players busted and I was mostly treading water, accumulating chips while I could and otherwise hoping others bust first. NumbBono, meanwhile, was getting oral from Lady Luck, because he knocked out just about everyone at the final table, several times with the worst hand when all the money was put in, leaving us heads up. I had 30k or so, having chipped up a bit by stealing a ton when we were down to 5 or so. He had 125k or so. I realized that it would be an uphill battle, but decided to really focus. A little while before this, Miami Don made a comment in the chat box akin to, "Jordan really wants the profile," referring to the profile Mookie does of all winners. Well, Don should know, because he took my last chance at a profile by beating me the last (and only other) time I was heads-up for the Mookie title. He was right, too. I wanted that damn profile more than the money. It had eluded me and has become sorta a holy grail to my poker game.
Frankly, I had a good feeling about the tourney from the get go, but I've had that feeling many times before. As the game progressed, I started to sheild myself from possible disappointment by putting the idea of winning to the back of my mind. I may've joked about it in an IM to Skidoo or InstantTragedy, but I didn't really think it was going to happen. I tend to crash and burn in these things.
Heads-up, though, I basically shut out all the IMs, turned off Howard Stern, which I was listening to in the background, and just player poker. I focused and began chipping away at Bono's stack. It was past 1:15, so I think we were both fairly tired. I was hoping to take advantage of the situation, though. I figured that Bono must feel invincible after his run of suckouts and huge stack, so I hoped to catch him a bit over-eager. It worked, twice, when I called all-ins with Ace-rage only to find that Bono had King-rag each time. Of course, before the first double up, Bono wittled me down to about 15k. The second time, I was up to about 25k (he had wittled me down again after the first double up). If either of those near-coin-tosses fell his way, you'd be reading about my near miss, but I was fortunate and was able to get some momentum behind me.
When I'm on my HU game, I like to think I'm a pretty tough force to reckon with. I felt the ebb and flow of the game, and seemingly knew when to bluff and steal pots. Within a lot of work, I made it to even, and then started to open up a small lead. I'll give credit where it is due, though; NumbBono did not make it easy for me.
You'll have to check out Mookie for the final hand. I don't really remember it. I think we were about even in chips. I had Bono covered by 4.5k or so, which was nothing, as we both had ~70k+. [NOTE: I originally wrote a brief synopsis as I remembered it, but in hindsight, I think I was WAY off. The following is my edited recount of the hand, which is still suspect.] I think the hand was another lucksack moment for me, even if it took a lot of hard work to get there. There was some action preflop when I had 88. The flop was K32. I think I checked and called a bet. I wanted to control pot size. Bono could be on anything, and I didn't want to run into a King. The turn was an 8. That was all I needed. We got into a raising war and ended up all-in. He showed KTo and I took down the pot.
After that, I thought I was on easy street. Of course, Bono doubles up once or twice and he is back to over 10k. Final hand, though, was clearly an Awfukit moment, because I pushed with Q6 and Bono called with 84 or something. He flopped an 8, I flopped a 6, but the river was another 6, sending him packing.
Ironically, it didn't send me packing. Instead, I sat there for a bit and then realized how late it was. I was chatting with Skidoo at the time and then realized...it was my birthday by a little over an hour. What an odd coincidence to finally win on my special day!
I headed to bed, hopped up on poker adrenaline, and eventually fell asleep. Tonight, I have the pleasure of heading to the holiday party and then returning home, likely tipsy, to pack. Tomorrow's flight is at 8am, and a quick review of HopStop (the best resource for subway travel in NYC), my best option to the airport is a 1 hour subway ride. Knowing me, I'll want to be at the airport 90 minutes early, meaning I need to be on a 5:30am train. Lemon! It's going to be a long weekend.
Until next time, make mine poker!
*This is no euphemism. I actually have a system whereby I will watch wifey Kim's eyes and mentally count to three. If her eyes remain closed for the duration, I deem her asleep and can turn off the Hills or whatever else. At times, she'll wake up and feign, "I was up, I was just resting my eyes." That's why I have the three count. Now, I just tell her I gave her to three and she relents. Thank god, too. The Hills sucks.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
On_thg from Res Ipsa Poker put up a prop bet for the Blogger tourney happening in Vegas on Saturday. Pick 5 players aka horses (and 1 or 2 alternates). If your players make the final table you get a certain amount of points, depending on when they bust out. The buy-in for this side bet is $15. For more details, check out Res Ipsa Poker.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Allow me to go off topic for a while.
I'm all for the Green movement, particularly when it comes to things such as reducing dependency on oil (moreso because I hate that we, as Americans, basically hand money to enemy nations by buying oil). However, I have realized over time that much of what passes for "Green," is really just a wolf in sheeps clothing.
Peruse these three real world examples of Green activities by corporations. All are good for the environment, if we are to believe everything put forth by the individual companies/industries. However, there is something else at work that is probably the real reason why these entities would go Green:
Example #1 - Been in a hotel lately? If so, you may notice a sign in the bathroom about linens. Many hotels have decided to Go Green by only washing linens every other day, unless the customer wishes otherwise. This saves the environment by reducing the harmful chemicals used during the cleaning process and reducing water waste and electricity use. All of these things are probably good for the environment, if not so good for your stinky sheets.
Example #2- Ever drink Poland Spring water? If so, you may have noticed the new contoured bottle designed to hold the same liquid using 30% less plastic. I have no idea how this modern marvel came to exist, and I'm sure it bends the laws of physics in some uncomprehendable way. Regardless, the effect is very Green, reducing the amount of natural resources used to make a bottle and in turn reducing the amount of waste/garbage when the drink is drunk.
Example #3- Ever order dinner from SeamlessWeb, a website that amalgamates restaurants to allow you to order delivery from a variety of restaurants in your area, all on one site? If so, you may have seen that some restaurants offer an eco-friendly option where the restuarant does not provide any forks, spoons, knives, napkins, etc. After all, you are getting food delivered to your home, so you are probably going to use your home silverware and discard the store-provided utensils. By allowing you to waive the utensils, the restaurants are decreasing the amount of waste/garbage, while also decreasing the production of plastic utensils, which in turn reduces the use of natural resources and electricity.
Great! What wonderful companies! They obviously love the environment. After all, what company does not love the environment over profits...
The answer is MOST. Most companies do not love the environment more than they love profits. The reality of the situation is that these Green initiatives are really just cost-cutting maneuvers designed to appear like a Green campaign by an altruistic company. Make no mistake, I am sure the altruistic nature of these changes are a big bonus to the companies and are considered when the decisions are made. However, these companies are actually saving money hand-over-fist, all by Going Green. How?
Example #1- The hotels pay for electricity, detergent, water, and labor hours every time they do laundry. By doing laundry every other day, those costs are cut in half! HALF! That may have some benefits to the environment, but it has an even more immediate benefit to the bottom line.
Example #2- By using 30% less plastic in its bottles, Poland Spring is spending 30% less on plastic. Since plastic is recyclable, I querry if this has any significant effect on the environment. One thing I am sure of, though, is that someone got a nice juicy bonus when he/she discovered that Poland Spring could bottle their tap water using 30% less product and get bonus points for calling it Green. In the past, a design change like this would be just that, a design change made to save money and possibly make the bottle distinct for product-recognition purposes. Now, it is Green (money green, no doubt).
Example #3- Restaurants don't have to supply napkins and forks? Great! Clearly, that means less waste...but it also means less resupplying for the company. It's another direct cost-cutting maneuver. And frankly, I querry if the wasted water and detergent contaminant from having customers use their own utensils undoes any of the Green aspect of reducing waste. I don't know either way, but I do know that a company that doesn't have to supply napkins also doesn't have to buy as many napkins.
Does anyone else have any other examples?
Let me add, to cut off the snarky posts, that I don't think these companies or industries are all evil. I just noticed that the term Green is thrown around a lot, and from what I can see, many Green initiatives borne out of the corporate world are really cost-cutting initiatives that can double as "Green."
Until next time, HighOnPoker will only be available on the Internet. It saves Trees!
Right Play, Wrong Result
Monday, December 08, 2008
I really need to quit playing online poker. I just plain suck at it. There is something about being hidden behind a screenname in an environment with a ton of distractions, mixed with some tendencies to self-destruct, that just makes online poker an uphill battle hardly worth the effort for me. Yet I still return, as it is the methadone to my poker habit.
I actually played the following hand well, but it just goes to show that even the correct play can end up with a poor result. I'm not particularly upset about the hand. I've come to learn that this is the epitome of poker. Playing well does not always result in a positive result, even if everything worked according to plan. I include this hand merely because it demonstrates that fact as well as a play I rarely use, giving incorrect odds to your opponent as a means to maximize profit or conversely protect a hand in a tournament.
I'm playing a 15-player $20 MTT field at Bodog. We are down to the final five players and I am the second shortstack with 1220 and blinds of 20/40. There is still a lot of poker to be played at those blind levels. Top 5 spots pay. I'm on the button with T9s.
It fold to me and I raise to 90. The SB is the first shortstack with under 900. The BB is the big stack with 5410. Both call the preflop raise.
By way of commentary, let me note that my small raise of 50 is part of a small ball strategy. I want to see a cheap flop in position. Alternatively, I want to win the hand outright by getting both players to fold. Alternatively, I want to avoid a large re-raise, so I do not want to be too much into my opponents. The SB folds and the BB calls. I'm still in decent shape, as I have position against one opponent and there is no indication that he is particularly strong.
The flop comes down T82, with two hearts. It checks to me and with top pair, I am happy to take down the 200 pot. I bet 170, an odd number that I hope will throw off my opponent. Even a call is okay, since my top pair is probably ahead. I expect little from my opponent. He calls.
The turn is an offsuit 7. It checks to me again. Now I am in trouble. I only have 960 left and the pot is 540. I have a couple of options. I can check, but then I give my opponent a free card and he might be able to scare me off of the best hand depending on the river. I can bet small, but this will likely induce a call and could give proper odds to my opponent if he is drawing to a flush or straight. My final option is to push. This ruins the pot odds for any possible draws by betting almost 2x the pot. With a bet like this, I don't care what happens. If my opponent folds, I win the significant pot without any further stress. If he calls, I probably am ahead and he is paying way too much for his draw.
My opponent called with Q4h, 12 outs once (9 hearts, 3 Queens). He rivers an Ace of Hearts and I'm busted.
If there was a shortcoming to the play, it was my failure to recognize that the big stack was willing to gamble. I figured betting 960, roughly 20% of his chips preflop (and by the river, closer to 25% of his chips) would be enough to protect my hand and take down the pot. My opponent's call was bad, but that is part of the game and my play was designed to take advantage of the possibility that my opponent was willing to make a bad play.
Sometimes, poker can be a real bitch. But like sex and pizza, even when it's bad, it's good.
Until next time, make mine poker!
I don't know where people get off telling me that I am entitled and ungreatful merely because I post my opinion on why I, personally, will not play the PokerStars freeroll. I made it abundantly clear twice in the post and twice in the comments that (a) I do not expect anyone to follow my lead, (b) I do not look down on anyone accepting the offer, (c) free stuff is always good, (d) I like PokerStars' site and software, and (e) I play poker there regularly.
As sometimes happens, people project things onto a post and its author that just aren't there. This includes comments that state that my position demonstrates a sense of entitlement and being on a high horse. These same people ignore the fact that before they got all upset that I besmirched a bad offer, there were several people who agreed with me.
Plain and simple, I value my time. I am not interested in a freeroll event with poor prizes and a huge amount of players. If you choose to villify me, call me names, and throw around accusations, that reflects more on you than it does me.
As you are entitled to play (without me talking down to you), I am entitled to reject the offer and state so publicly. I am sorry if you disagree and feel that my rejection is a direct insult to you or a sign that I am to be ridiculed.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Thursday, December 04, 2008
This is only my two cents, and I do not encourage anyone to follow my lead, nor do I look down upon those who do otherwise. But it needs to be said...
I refuse to play in PokerStars WBCOOP or whatever the hell it is called. Why? Because while PokerStars is a fine site, this is a crap offer. Plain and simple. Allow me to elaborate.
For those who aren't bloggers, I'll let you in on one of the not-so-secret-secrets. Blogging can be a gateway to free stuff. Now, I don't think anyone should ever start a blog with that as your goal because you will be sorely disappointed and eventually quit blogging in about 4 months, tops. But it is one of the little perks. I, for instance, have received more than a few free books and even a free videogame. Then there are the freerolls and money added into tournaments. Bodog runs tournaments twice weekly with hundreds of added dollars per week and fields of less than 50 players. FullTilt gave a ton of prizes away during the BBT series (Battle of the Bloggers), including a seat to the WSOP Main Event worth more than $10,000, as well as a slew of lesser, but still considerably expensive, prizes. The amount of players were no more than a few hundred, if that, over the course of weeks of tournaments. No individual tournament broke the 120 mark, if I'm not mistaken.
PokerStars? All they have offered is a freeroll tournament that over the past few years regularly attracted tens of thousands of players. And each year, the only worthwhile prizes went to maybe the top 10 players. Now, before I go into too much detail, I'll add that I don't think an iPod, worth a couple of hundred dollars, qualifies as a significant prize if you have to beat 50,000 over 11 hours. But rather than get bogged down in vague notions of past prizes, lets look at the current prizes offered this year.
At first glance, Stars seems to have made some improvements. Instead of a one-day event with 50,000 players, they arranged for 6 tourneys. Great, right? Wrong. Each tourney is merely a qualifier. Stars isn't giving you a seat in a big tourney. It's giving you a freaking satellite to a big tourney. With no apparent limit on how many qualifiers you can play, essentially, you get a chance to play in six 10,000+ person tournaments, all to win a seat into a final tournament, albeit one with a maximum of 432 players (76 from each of the six qualifiers). If you win a qualifier, you can also get a bit of something extra, but the extras suck. Only the top 9 finishers get anything worth over $100, and only one player gets a prize worth more than $500. That's ridiculous for such a huge field.
Once you make it to the 432 player field, almost one fourth of the field will get something. Unfortunately, out of the 100 paying spots, 55 spots pay a Step 3 ticket, which from what I can tell is worth somewhere around 82$. Whoopee! You don't break that $500 mark again until the top 10 players. For a $1000 prize, you have to make it to 7th. The top prize though, was $14,300.
Now, for the uninitiated, that's a free $15,000 prize, but the reality is that it is anything but free. You can only play if you post a couple of links, text and a pic essentially advertising for PokerStars. So, in reality, PokerStars is buying advertising links. PokerStars claims that its prizes total $100,000. Now, most of the prizes are merely freerolls into PokerStars tournaments, which actually costs Stars $0, but ignoring that reality, let's assume, conservatively, that 25,000 people will play in at least one qualifier event. That boils down to a $4 value per ad. If a site asked me to put up a permanent ad for $4, I'd tell them to go fuck themselves. So, that's what I'm telling Stars (at least in reference to their offer...I still like the site and software).
On a related note, I recently was contacted by people at LockPoker about shilling for their site. I initially accepted the offer only to reject it afterwards. LockPoker was kind enough to offer $x placed into a Locked Poker account so I can play at their site and report back to you. Then I realized that the amount was way below the minimum check withdrawal of $500. In other words, I would have to double my money several times just to be able to withdraw. The original offer was more than $4 in pure dollar signs, but if I cannot access the money, then it's not money to me. Granted, I could work the money up to a withdrawable level, but I don't need the dough badly enough to have to work for it twice, first by putting up a review and second by being forced to play at their site until I win x amount or bust.
Let me be clear: These are all personal decisions, and I do not begrudge anyone who takes advantage of these freebies. Free shit is always good. I just don't see these things as necessarily free and I don't have the desire to work my ass off in a poker tournament or grinding at a new site, merely for the chance to win some money. These are just bad offers and when there are sites out there showing proper regard to the poker blogging community, it leaves a huge site like Stars with no excuse for such a transparently absurd promotion.
Good luck to all those taking their chance with Stars or LockPoker. I hope to see that the Poker Blogging community whoops ass and takes down those top prizes. But it ain't me Stars, it ain't me you're looking for.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Here is a fun hand from the Mookie this week. One of the reasons I love blogger tournaments is the history behind the various players. At a regular online tournament, your table mates are unknowns. If you have notes on them, you have basic info on how they play, but you do not have a history to draw upon. I'm talking about knowing what they think of you just as much as knowing their style of play. My opponent's perception of me has always been a key element of my game, and the blogger games allow me to capitalize on that. Granted, I have not always had the most success, since I don't play my best online, especially as the evening wears on, but the fact still remains: the element of history between players makes blogger tournaments more interesting to me than a random online tourney.
Now, this hand is all about knowing how others perceive you.
I have 2,220 chips with most players between 2000-3000 at my table and blinds of 15/30. I'm in the BB with 66 when Jamie from WallStreetPoker (2985) raises to 120 from UTG+1. It folds around to me. I decide to call.
The flop comes down a glorious 655, rainbow. Most of the time, I check here, since I have the nuts right now and I wouldn't mind letting my opponent catch up. However, I know Jamie well from the Wall Street Games, where I have a reputation as a loose player, second only to Matty Ebs. Rather than check the 255 pot, I decided to bet out 180. It's a small enough bet that Jamie might call light or even re-raise. Keep in mind that to Jamie, I'm just playing this pot to defend my blinds and then probably just took a stab at it out of position to steal the pot. I was kinda hoping Jamie had a big hand, since he is a skilled player and his preflop raise from EP could very well be a decent pocket pair. Whatever the case, even if he has crap, he may be induced to raise me, since I'm known to bet at pots with crap.
To my delight, Jamie raised to 550. With the nuts, a re-raise isn't the worst play here. Jamie has already demonstrated that he probably has a hand, so a re-raise might be called. However, I'd rather get Jamie to put more money in voluntarily, and the best way to do that in this situation, whether he has great cards or crap, is to just call. I let the clock tick down a bit as though I am being cautious, and then I call the 370.
The turn is a 7 of spades, creating a spade flush draw and a possible straight, both of which would be a blessing, given my full house. I check, laying my trap. Jamie, naturally, can't help but bet out 850. I only have 1550 left, so it's a pretty nice bet, given that he was trying to take down the pot from a known loose player. The logic, from his end, is that a bet slightly more than half of my stack will force me to push my entire stack in, essentially. It makes his bet look like a value bet, when it is in fact a bet trying to push me out of the pot. He is toying with my perception with this play. Unfortunately, as I tend to remind myself every so often, there is no use trying to bet a player with a monster hand out of a pot. I again waited and then pushed all-in, requiring Jamie to call 700 into the now 3k pot. He calls and shows...A4o. Yeah. Not much of anything.
The key to success in this hand was utilizing my image. That image went beyond this particular tournament and stretched to all of the sessions Jamie and I have played together. I can only imagine what a name player like Gus Hansen can do with a lagtard image and worldwide recognition of that image.
Seven days until Vegas. At times, the idea of heading out there with a bunch of you fellow degenerates can be a bit much. Then I remember that I'll be playing poker and everything is right in the world.
Until next time, make mine poker!
First off, I need to injure myself more often. The last post about my potential concussion got way more interest than the hand analysis post just before it. So, from now on, I am committing myself to injuring myself at least once per week. I'll take suggestions on which body part to injure next...and for the record, I'm saving my junk* for the big New Year's Diagnose Jordan Spectacular, so you can save all of those requests.
Even with my would-be concussion, I decided that I ought to play some live poker last night. Jamie had arranged a two-table tournament ($35 buy-in) at the Wall Street Game and after a seat openned up, I hopped on the opportunity.
I strolled home from work at about 7pm. The game was scheduled to kick off at 7:15, and it was a mere 5 minutes away, but I still had to change and take come of some things around the apartment, so I texted Jamie to blind me off, as needed.
My head was still not 100% yesterday evening. The back of my skull had a developing bump, albeit a lot smaller (and more painful) than the type of bump you get on the top of your head. I guess because it was at the base of my skull at my neck, the injury affected my neck as well. Even right now, I feel a tightness in my shoulders and upper back that can only be explained by the sudden impact from two nights ago. Last night, though, I also felt a cloudy head. I felt waves of delirium and my ability to focus was weak. I don't mean that things seemed blurry. Everything was visibly acute, but I just couldn't concentrate on things, seemingly.
When I arrived at the game, I took my seat at Jamie's newer, nicer table. I set up my dinner, a turkey sandwich from a local deli, on a nearby stool and sat down to play some poker. The table was mostly familiar faces. Cheryl was on my immediate right, which is a pleasure, as I tend to have trouble dealing with her unreadable play. I announced to the table that I was probably playing concussed, to jokingly warn them about my upcoming terrible play. In reality, I was having trouble concentrating, but I still wasn't sure if it was all psychosematic.
I started out tight, due in large part to my lack of cards. Eventually, I was moved to the other table, and when I headed over, I had chipped up slightly thanks to my aggressive play. There were at least two hands at that first table where I made light calls preflop and then took the pot with a simple river bet after confirming that no one wanted a part of the hand. In one particular hand, I had some crap cards and we saw a KQT flop. I don't remember what I had, but I checked, the guy on my left checked and the player with position bet. I decided to float a bet to see if I could take it away late. Surprisingly, the other checker, who didn't look confident in the hand or at a poker table generally, called as well. I figured I was done with the hand, so I checked the turn, as did the other checker. Amazingly, the flop bettor checked as well, indicating that his BS flop position bet was just that, BS. The river was a Jack, creating a four card straight for anyone with a 9 or Ace. I considered just checking again, but I decided to bet out instead, about 1000 into the several thousand dollar pot. Fold, fold. It was a gutsy play on my part, but I was pretty much betting that neither player had an Ace or Nine. If they had it, so be it. I liked the odds that they didn't though, mostly based on their seeming disinterest in the hand, particularly after the river. I won another hand in a similar way and yet another hand by calling light out of position after I limped with J8h, flopping a J66 board, getting called on my flop bet, checking the turn, and betting the Jack river. Easy moneys.
So, after all of this, I'm moved to the other table with a slightly above average chip stack. Immediately, I announce my concussed state, once again as a joking precautionary word to my adversaries.
After looking around the table, it was pretty clear that this table was slightly softer. It wasn't that the players were bad or inexperienced. I just think that they were better suited to my style of game. There were a couple of guys who knew how to fold, and once I established that, I started to loosen up my play. Of course, before that happened, I showed a flopped set after my preflop raise with 66 was called in a few spots but my post-flop bet was folded to around the table. The guy to my left, Ben, said offhand that I could take down the pot with my continuation bluff, so I showed my hands and chastised him jokingly about manipulating me to show. I knew what I was doing the whole time, getting in some advertising for when the blinds would go up. I took down another hand on the flop with a continuation bet after raising preflop with the hammer. I showed that too, but by then, I was actually hoping to induce more action. Showing cards is rarely a good idea...unless you have a goal in mind. This is another reocurring theme at High on Poker: "Controlling the flow of information can be more effective than creating an absence of information if you know what you are doing." I need to work on that saying a tad.
We ended up down to the final table of 11 after I busted Ben. I had a crappy hand, but pot odds to call preflop after he pushed on top of my steal bet. He showed AK and I had Q5 or maybe J5. I hit one of my cards and that was all she wrote. Meanwhile, I was the table chip leader and close to the tourney chip leader. I also had a lucky image, literally an image that I was merely getting lucky. Ben complained about his lack of cards, or the fact that he got no action on his big cards. I responded, "I've been doing so poorly in these games, I guess I'm just due for some good luck." I hoped that everyone heard that one. A lucky player is scarier than a skilled one in a tournament (maybe not so much in a cash game, though).
At the final table, I was reunited with the players I left behind during my table change. I took the 6 seat, and a player in the 9 seat or 10 seat, Vitaly, looked like the second chip leader, after me. I was watching Vitaly earlier, and it was clear that he was playing solid poker. He was from the Ukraine, and those former Soviets don't mind gambling. I reckon it probably is related to my own love of gambling, since I have Eastern European and Russian roots. Whatever the case, I could tell in a pretty short time that he was my major competition.
I went from big stack to HUGE stack with one monster hand. Roger was the first to act and raised the 400 big blind to 1200. I had noticed that Roger was a bit of a calling station, correctly calling down a player with Ace-high, Ten kicker, earlier in the night. He had played at the WSG before, and this was nothing new. His raise from UTG threw me off for a bit, and it took me a while to decide what to do as I looked at my QQ. A re-raise could be in order, but I had the suspicion that Roger could've been ahead with KK or AA. In any event, I decided to just flat call, since I didn't see him making too many preflop raises and I wanted to see how the hand developed before I gave away too many chips. To my surprise, Jamie, on the button, decided to push all-in for his remaining 1,500. To make matters worse, another player, I think Dave, called from one of the blinds. Roger called and I confirmed that I could not re-raise because the all-in raise was less than a complete bet. Once confirmed, I announced, "Good, because I was just asking hypothetically. I didn't really want to raise anyway," an absurd lie that I didn't think anyone would take seriously.
The flop came down T-high. I think there may've been two diamonds. If memory serves correct, Roger bet out 1600 or so and I called. Dave then pushed all-in over the top for less than a complete raise, and after Roger called, I double-checked again that I couldn't re-raise. I thought the rule was that the all-in push had to be at least half of a full bet to re-raise and there was definitely a raise of more than 1/2 of a complete bet, but Jamie once again said that no re-raises were allowed and I once again said, "Good, because I still don't want to raise."
The turn was a Queen. If there weren't already two diamonds out, the Queen brought the second one. If there were already two diamonds, the Queen was not a diamond. Whatever the case, I hit my unlikely set. I think it checked to me and I bet out 3000 or so. It was only me and Roger still with chips in the hand, so I was trying to build a second side pot. If he folded, though, I would be happy. The pot was main and first side pot were big enough. He called.
The river was a Ten of diamonds, filling the diamond flush and giving me a full house. Truth be told, I didn't even notice the flush. I guess the Queen of diamonds actually did come on the turn, because if a flush draw flopped, I think I would've noticed it. But as it were, it wasn't even on my radar. I think it checked to me and I pushed all-in. Roger called. He showed KJd for the second nut flush. I showed my full house. Everyone else mucked. Jamie later admitted to having 55, but given his tiny stack, his play made perfect sense, even if he was drawing dead in no time.
With a huge stack, I sat back for a bit until blinds got higher and I started stealing. I noticed that Vitaly was continually playing well. In light conversation, I figured out that he was friends or at least acquaintances with November Nine player Ylon Schwartz. Wendy had met Vitaly (and Ylon, incidentally) in Vegas randomly. Vitaly had seen her and recognized her from NY or AC poker rooms. They got to chatting and a friendship was formed. I joked that it was pretty obvious that they met at a poker table...everyone at the game met Wendy at a poker table. That girl loves her poker.
Since Vitaly knew Ylon and was playing well, I had to assume that he was no shlub himself. His stack was continually growing as he continued an aggressive game. I identified him as by biggest competition at the table. The other players had lesser stacks. We were down to five, the bubble, and aside from Vitaly and me, the other three players were looking pretty short. To my immediate left was John, who admitted that he was playing poorly even though he made it so deep. He seemed uncertain about his game, which was all the encouragement I needed. To John's left was Vitaly. To his left was Paul-in-the-Hamily. I've played with Paul enough to get a feel for his game, and while he is no softie, his short stack made him less threatening. To his left was Drew, who I had played with once before. Last time, he was complaining about being card dead and played very tight. This time, he seemed to be mixing it up a bit more, but he also had a defeated aire about him. I was to his left, making the circle complete.
Wendy was dealing, but wanted to hit the gym. I lent her my iPod, and as she left (while I was still massive chip leader) she said something akin to, "Don't bust out 5th...I want to use your iPod." Fucking jinx!**
And then, well, I gifted most of my stack. Here's how it went down.
I was in the BB, and Vitaly raised preflop. I called with a couple of napkins (rags, whatever you want to call crappy cards). The flop was T36 or so, rainbow, and I checked. Vitaly bet, and I check-raised. I hadn't been doing it a lot and I wanted to force him out of the pot. The way I saw it, he was raising preflop a lot and probably just wanted the blinds. After the flop, he might think I'm playing any two cards and luckily hit, thus explaining my check-raise. I figured he would give it up unless he had a really good hand like an over pair. But he called. The turn was a blank, so I bet out again, probably 4500 or so, about a third of his remaining stack. He agonized and called again. The river was an Ace and I got concerned. It wasn't beyond him to be playing AQ or AK, so that Ace really could've been a problem. By the same token, I thought that if he had a hand like KK-JJ, that Ace may be enough to get him to finally fold. I asked for a count and he had 8900 left. I took my time but eventually pushed. I had him covered by more than 10k, which was no small feat, considering starting stacks were 3.5k. He took his time and I tried to play it cool. I didn't want to go into complete lockdown mode, since that in and of itself is a tell. I just tried to act casual and slightly impatient, as one would no matter what cards he held in this situation. Finally, he called and I announced, "Good call." He showed AT and it became clear I was not going to shake him off of his hand. FUCK!, I thought inwardly. I knew I had hung myself, but there was a specific reason why I played this hand so hard. I saw Vitaly as my only real competition at this point, and I felt that getting him down to a more reasonable stack (like 8,900) would essentially allow me to run away with the tourney. As it were, instead, I fucked myself and found that I was damn near push or fold poker.
Drew busted in 5th on the bubble a little while later. He pushed with QJ and I called with KJ. We both ended up with three Jacks, so he would've been all-in eventually anyway, if that were any consolation. At five people, Pauly had suggested a chop: everyone gets $100 and I get the rest, $260. I was okay with it, since I was still the huge stack and $260 was almost first place money ($330). Everyone else consented, but Vitaly looked unhappy. "I guess if everyone else wants to, but playing is more fun." Even though it was a great deal for me, I interjected: "Vitaly, this is a game for money. No one is going to give you shit if you want to play it out. It's your money." We decided to play it out. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been so reasonable. I say this in jest, though. Unless I'm in a desperate spot, I never want anyone to make a deal with me unless they are certain that they want to do it.
Pauly was out in fourth and it was John, Vitaly and me. John went out next, even though he still had me slightly outchipped. Vitaly basically made a pot-odds call preflop with ATC and ended up with two live cards, 45o, against John's two overs. The five hit the river and I was heads-up for the big money.
I was still using push-fold strategy and chipped up a little bit, but Vitaly had a massive stack. We finally saw a flop when I had 95o. The flop was T9x and I pushed. He took a while and called with T4o. I don't know why he took so long, although I can't blame him.
Playing with Vitaly was actually a pleasure. You can tell when someone really gets the game. He wasn't playing like a nit, but also had control over his play. Most importantly, he took my ribbing and nonsense light heartedly. When he wanted to look at my Golden Buddha card cap, I said, "Sure." As he looked at it, he said, "I wasn't sure if you'd mind. Some people think its bad luck." I replied, "I don't mind," as I pulled out my Red Elephant card cap, "You are bad luck, but that's why I brought this." I love that stupid gimmick shit. It just lightens the mood. He cracked up and said that I had a line for everything. I responded: "Not really. The third time I see you, when I say the exact same lines, you'll already be bored of it."
After the game, Wendy came back down and handed me my iPod, complete with sweaty ear buds. Actually, they were quite dry, but how could I not picture them all sweated up. No offense to Wendy, though. I don't think I would want anyone to use my headphones at the gym, so even though the idea skeeved me out, I hope she takes it as a compliment or at least a sign of our friendship that, aside from joking around, I lent them to her with little protest. I need to pick up new buds anyway as my current set are pretty decrepit from overuse.
I fucking love poker. Plain and simple. It was sweet to finally cash in a tournament at the WSG, as it has been a while (largely because I tend to focus on cash games there). Jamie, once again, ran a great event, as he does several times a week.
I returned home to find wifey Kim already asleep in bed. She looked so peaceful, but I couldn't help but kiss her on the head as I emptied my pockets in the bedroom. She woke up briefly and then rolled over and went back to bed. I then spent the next two hours trying to come down off of the poker high. It's the #1 reason why I play the game.
I ought not play tonight, but the Mookie is damn tempting.
Until next time, make mine poker!
*Junk includes testicles.
** I don't really believe in jinxes or lucky charms, or so I say. But this is coming from a guy who brings two card caps with him in case one of them is unlucky. I can't help myself.