Archive for September, 2007

Still looking for my winning session, been playing loads of cash games, and neglecting the tourneys, confidence is running low, very low, non existence to be honest. Albie and Luke agreed to play the $150 tourney at Ceasars, both had enough of grinding out in cash game, I had enough after the first day.

Started the tourney late been stuffing ourselves with sushi, good for the brain apparently, me and Albie sat on the same table, and Luke on a different table, was drawn on seat 8 (my lucky seat) and Albie seat 7. Within the first minute, Luke yells, fumbles and he’s out, unbelievable, he caught his set 4s, but got rivered with a higher set, very unlucky.

So it’s up to me and Albie, both playing the table well, taking pots down without a challenge. Eventually I lose a decent size pot going against the American Asian chick (the Asian Rock), the tightest player in the world, only playing with pairs and aces high. Full houses Vs Nut Flush, should of gave her more credit thinking she might of misread her hand, going in with a Set and not noticing the Flush.

Albie, loses a big hand, getting out drawn by the southern Kentucky house wife (KFC) who has just joined the table, she has been playing aggressive with premium hand but fell into Albie’s trap by going all in with KK against Albie’s AA, AA v KK, it’s quite hard not to call with KK really, short stack Albie.

Thinking OMG, Albie could be out very soon now as well, anyway we both last to the final 3 table, after the second break I explain the M theory, basically Albie has only one play, and that’s to double up, all in or fold.

Few hands in after the break Albie goes all in, in late position, my small blind.  I have a medium stack with K 10o, thinking this can be easy fold for me, but Big stack would definitely call, poor Albie will be knocked out.  Being a true friend I call with K 10o, hoping to pushing out Big Blind, which worked.  The logic behind this move was I could double up, or donate some chips to my investment, I had 10% on Albs.

He turns over KJs, and take the pot down, Albie laughs and accused me of being cheeky, but I’m sure he understood why I did it. Few hands later Albie raises the pot again, this time I have the nuts, rockets..  this is hard, I need to push him out hoping he doesn’t calls. I go all in, But Albie calls with big slick suited.  My AA stood up and he’s out. Oooops.

After taking few more big pots, my stack was pretty decent.

Final table, in the money, worked my stack up to 2nd big stack (70K) after doubling up with JJ Vs AK against Billy the kid, great player, loves to play the player and being taking pots down with mediocre hands. I am feeling great, at last I have made the money, The Asian Rock and KFC both made it as well,  this could be a great opportunity to win it.

After the break chatting to the other guys, go for glory, try and win it, is all I hear from them!!!

First hand, 6 players left, I picked up AJs under the gun, been playing aggressive, the blinds are 6000/3000 with a 200 ante, so raised it up 15k.  The KFC moves all in, she was short stack, hmmm, maybe a small pocket pair.  Just under 15k to call, getting 4 to 1, decent odds for my money,  I eventually called, she turns over AKo, I’m losing, completely misread her, lost almost half my stack, after a few more rounds my stack is looking short because of the blinds, still dwelling on the previous all in with AJs, maybe I should of limp instead and got away from the all in.

Eventually I picked up A Qo, this is definitely all in hand.  I go all in, everyone folds except the big blind, he calls with KK, I’m out. Came 6th, feeling sick. Should of limp with AJ, and could of got away from the hand. But a great result!!

My first winning session, $550, decent prize, paid Albie and Luke 10%.

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Day 8 – three way action

Posted: September 25, 2007 in Las Vegas 2007, Tournaments

Our last day in Las Vegas, but having spent sooo many hours at the poker table during the week I just couldn’t stomach another full on session. Instead we hooked-up with Duns and Taij for a goodbye lunch, then hit the strip for a bit of shopping. After almost clearing out a branch of Guess, Hing Albert and I left Mike to the mercy of the Mirage 10/20 game and wandered over to Ceasars for a last stab at the $150 freezeout.

Hing (the tournament Master) had cashed in fifth place the night before, a great result and an inspiration to the other two of us, especially after my exceptionally poor showing going out on the first hand previously. At 90:1 odds Albert drew exactly the same seat as the night before, however Hing and I ended-up on the same table, him in seat 1, me in 3. The rest of the table was fairly non-descript other than seat 4, containing Michael, a professional cash game player who frequented the Bellagio. I have to admit that he was a slightly sinister fellow, however sitting in a seat with such a tough opponent to my immediate left really proved to be quite instructional.

With blinds of 25/50 for the first 40 minutes and starting stacks of 4000 chips, the play started fairly tame, with initial raises being of the sensible 3x to 5x the big blind variety. Michael I noted would be in a lot of pots, always coming in for a raise, and always being the aggressor on the flop. Hing was the first of us to fight back at this approach, raising pre-flop and successfully check-raising Michael post-flop and inducing a fold. I noted that Michael would frequently fold to raises of his tester bets, so it wasn’t long before I got my own shot in playing 78s for a mid-position limp and call of his raise. There was a very intense moment that solicited a laugh from the other end of the table as we stared into each other’s eyes, both of us unwilling to inspect the flop. However out of position it was me to act first, and so having established that I was unintimidated by his play I broke his gaze to note a flop of TJQ with two diamonds. I didn’t have the diamonds, but I did have the ignorent end of a gutshot straight. Normally not playable on such a connected board, however I checked to allow him to step into the trap. His bet was met with an immediate and planned raise of half the pot. He deliberated for a few seconds before backing down and folding. Another home-run for the London boys!

Several levels later and the tournament had been reduced from 90 to about 60 players. With a run of rather nice cards I busted three guys in quick succession, to take my starting stack up to an intimidating 20k.

Around 10pm I had an opportunity to get one last quality play in. Had been scrutinising the player in seat 1 for most of the tournament, as he was playing tight but quite aggressively. I felt there had to be an element of continuation betting to his flop play, so was looking for a chance to pick him off with a well timed bluff. My opportunity came when I pinned him as someone with a reliable gaze pattern. He tended to study the flop when he had nothing searching for some sort of draw, when he had a big hand he’d look at the flop and then quickly away. I caught him on a big slowplay with top-pair top-kicker against another player, and knew that I just had to get heads-up with him to have a shot at taking down a worthwhile pot. Sometime later he made a move pre-flop, raising the 200 blind to 700 from early position. A glance to the left suggested a general lack of interest from the players still to enter the pot, so I called with something horrific, may have been 74s. My insta-read proved to be slightly off as one other player limped behind me, and the three of us saw a flop of 9TK. As I’d hoped, he stared and stared at the flop for what seemed like an eternity before popping out 1000 for a pot sized bet. I gave it a little deliberation for show, and pushed all-in, with enough of a stack to cover both him and the player behind me. I’m gambling that the third guy doesn’t have enough to call a huge raise, and am paid off when he folds. The original bettor considers the action for a while, asks me if I’m “playing the man rather than the cards” (yes I am buddy), and finally throws his cards into the muck as well. I’m pleased to see Hing tip me a wink as I rake in a pot that took quite a bit of setup and preparation.

My only really serious mistake of the whole tournament came up just before they broke our table at 11pm. I’m in the big-blind and it’s folded around to the small blind who raises 3x the blind. I look down to see my tenth and last pair of beautiful aces of the week, and elect to limp rather than push or re-raise. It proves to be a terrible error, and I let him in for free to flop a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw. All the money goes in on the flop, and my opponent makes his flush to double-up against me with 86s, whittling my final stack down to a still impressive 17K.

Our table is broken third from last, and Hing moves over to join Albert on the one of the last two tables, while I take a seat at the other. My new table has one or two huge stacks to rival my own, the biggest being held by a Chinese guy with Triad look sunglasses and a rather hot albeit medically enhanced young lady sitting behind him. This guy clearly has the measure of the table, and is fairly ruthlessly raising most pots. It’s getting close to the bubble, so with a chance of all three of us making the final table I really don’t want to get in his way. Allow my chips to be stolen for a few rounds (which is expensive now that we’re playing with a 50 ante every hand on top the 300/600 blinds), and only play premium hands to try to stay afloat.

Sometime later Hing is moved over to join me once again, as the tables are being kept level as players are eliminated.

Later still Michael rejoins, now holding a huge stack of about 40,000. He immediately takes charge in a way that I felt unable to, staking a claim over the Chinese guy’s action by simply getting his frequent raises in first. I know his style, but don’t feel the latitude in my play to get too involved against such a big stack. I do however continue to study the table hard and to try to exploit the weakness of the middle sized stacks. “Too focused. You concentrate too much.” I overhear Michael whisper down the table at me after being forced to show a semi-bluff move at one point. A high complement indeed, but I definitely felt on this occasion it was justified. I’d been playing A1 poker for several hours by this point and still felt extremely sharp.

[and so onwards to the final table…]

Impressive indeed. Managed to go out on the first hand!!! Quite a feat for such a deep stacked tournament. It’s a really good structure, $150 freeze-out, with 4000 chips to start and 40 minute levels, giving some great opportunity for complex drawn-out poker, rather than the usual luck fest that these cheap buy-in events tend to be.

So how did this marvel occur? I guess in a nearby Sushi bar, where Hing, Alb and I elected to grab a quick bite of pre-game brain food. We were late sitting into the game, but given the 40 minute levels a little time lost at the start was considered no big deal.

As I was approaching the table, I could see my empty seat (among the 90 something occupied) and the dealer about to scoop-up the cards I’d already paid for. I dashed in and dropped my Borgata chip marker onto the cards to claim them while I made myself comfortable. Nice, a pair of black 4’s, mid-position and an unraised pot, a good spot to limp in for 50 and try to make a set (a 7:1 shot). Unfortunately get a raise to 150 from the seat immediately to my left. Folded around, including the blinds, but heads-up with 100 to call into a 325 pot there’s still value.

Flop comes 459 rainbow. Sweet. I can’t put the raiser on any kind of straight draw with his mid position raise, he most likely just has big cards that have completely missed the flop so I decide is a safe spot to slowplay my set. He makes it 400 to go, indicating either an overpair or a continuation bet, and I call.

Turn comes a black Ten, putting two clubs and another straight draw on board. Definitely time to bet. I pop-out 600 for a half-pot bet that should deny him the odds to draw at his straight or flush. He raises to 1200. I deliberate for a moment or two then move all-in, figuring he’s probably semi-bluffing with the draw.

We both flip up our hands, me to show bottom set, and him to show his rather overplayed over-pair of Jacks.

Inevitably he hits his two outer Jack on the river to send me packing on the first hand. Hey, that’s the breaks. You’ll never hear me complain about getting it all in good.

Left Hing and Alb to it and took my game over to Harrah’s to jump slightly late into the 7.30pm $100 buy-in event alongside Duns and Taij. Only two tables in play, so rather less to play for, however had a reasonable run of cards and made the final table with a decent stack to show. Taij had been knocked out earlier, but Duniya was making a good show on my table.

Having watched her play, I’m starting to think that she’s got a real blossoming talent for tournament poker. She’s aggressive in her early and mid-game play, and is just lacking some of the basic end-game theory to improve her results. A good illustration is the hand that she took me out on (!!!).

I had been playing slightly loose, to take advantage of our table of rather too tight opponents. Duns has played with me many times before, and knows that I’m able to make a move with any two cards when the time is right. I know she knows this, as with blinds of 100/200 I open for a raise to 600 from mid-position with 97s. There are two callers behind me, and then from the button Duniya raises to 1200. It’s folded to me, and with another 600 to call with a suited one-gapper I hang-in. The two players caught between us both fold, indicating once again their weak playing style – as if they can legitimately call my original raise they really should be able to call the final 600 getting almost 5:1 from the pot, especially the last guy who doesn’t need to fear a re-raise (if they put me on nothing they really should be re-raising themselves rather than limping).

The flop comes a rather delightful 58A with two clubs, giving me the flush draw and a gutshot straight draw. I check my big draw, Duns bets 1500, and I move all-in for a final 700. Duns calls (as she has to with almost any cards given the odds), and shows A8o for top two pair.

The turn comes the 9 of hearts, giving me an open-ended straight draw to go with the flush-draw, but unfortunately the river isn’t one of the 15 cards remaining in the deck that I need to win the hand, and Duns takes down a big pot and the chip lead.

I’ll leave Duns to write-up her thoughts on the end-game of the tournament, as from some close observation of her hole cards over her shoulder I was able to point out two major improvements that would help her results no-end.

One that I will highlight in this posting though was my comment to her on the pre-flop minimum raise that led to my demise in the tournament. There are really only seven fundamental reasons to raise in poker:

  1. To get more money in the pot when you have the best hand.
  2. To drive out opponents when you have the best hand.
  3. To bluff or semi-bluff.
  4. To get a free card.
  5. To gain information.
  6. To drive out worse hands when your own hand may be second best.
  7. To drive out better hands when a come hand bets.

[copywrite David Sklansky, The Theory of Poker]

With a rather mediocre hand like A8o and three players already in a raised pot, I think the right play is either to fold, or to try to win the pot right there with a decent sized re-raise (as Duniya intended). However her small raise of 600 into a pot of 3300 just isn’t sufficent to achieve this end. The appropriate sized raise would be more like 1500 to 2000, but this much would pretty much commit her to calling if I re-re-raised with a premium hand.

In my view, this is really the defining problem with playing these cheap short-stacked poker tournaments. Beyond level 2 (which is after 30 minutes in this 15 minute/level shoot-out structure), the ratio of stack size to blinds (what Harrington refers to as as players ‘m’) puts everyone at the table in the yellow or orange zone. It’s just not possible to play small ball poker, as any pre-flop re-raise usually needs to be an all-in to be at all effective. In this format, you really just lose the ability to play long range tournament moves, which is part of the challenge of the game, and what separates the average from the good or great player. After all, any fool can move all-in pre-flop with any two cards (and frequently does), but it takes experience to read and out-play your opponents once the flop is out.

So, all in all a rather sad effort taking me into the red on my tournament play for the first time in the trip.

Tournaments: -$25 in 8 hours and 1 minute
Cash games: +$42 in 21 hours

Day 7 – pre-game

Posted: September 21, 2007 in Las Vegas 2007, Tournaments

Just about to head out for a second crack at the big 7pm $150 tournament at Ceasers. 100 runners and a decent $13,000 prize pool makes this one worth winning. The standard of play is pretty good though, certainly much tougher than the soft weekend game at the Empire back home. Will update on progress tonight…

Joined Hing for a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon on day 6. Awesome experience, I’ll post some edited highlights on YouTube sometime when I get back. The canyon was immense, however have to admit to being more blown-away by the return leg and the fly by of the Las Vegas strip. The low altitude hard left turn between New York New York and the MGM was just too cool for words.

Nearly managed a complete day without poker, but Hing lured me into another $115 SNG as he wanted 10% of my action. We both played card-dead for an hour though, pretty uneventful with no real opportunities to steal pots coming up. Think I went out with a dominated 86o and Hing with a 56s. Nothing to write home about.

Tournaments: +$225 in 6 hours
Cash games: +$42 in 21 hours

Played a $70 sit and go mid-afternoon. Got heads up again this time with a charming old chap. I was a bit of a bully, and really should have just played small-ball poker to win it. However got entangled in a raised pot holding QT on a board of 899. I figured my overcards were good, so pushed with 10 outs twice. Missed them all and his A7 stood-up to win a monster pot. A few hands later and I was done.

Two for two, not bad going.

Post big night out joined Alb at a rather tame 3/6 game. Our drunken antics three betting many pots drove most of the opposition into submission. However still lost $30 over the course of an hour through silly plays. Still, was just for fun.

Tournaments: +$340 in 5 hours
Cash games: +$42 in 21 hours

Day 4 – Memory

Posted: September 19, 2007 in Las Vegas 2007, Tournaments

Getting back to the poker stories, it was day 4 evening and I’d just taken my game from the 10/20 to the $115 sit and go at the Mirage. Locked-up the 10 seat next to a Swedish dude and just along from a very chatty American. The structure was fast but reasonable, with 15 minute levels and a starting stack of 1500. Had to play a more aggressive strategy given the single table format. It became apparent pretty quickly that a number of the other players didn’t understand how to adjust to the format. They were playing too tightly, and weren’t really taking advantage of obvious tournament opportunities for making moves.

I took a big game beat droppping my stack down to about 400, but then played my way back up to a decent stack with a little bit of luck and some carefully selected all-in moves.

As usual the blinds went up and the table got shorter and shorter as players were eliminated, eventually just leaving myself and Sweden heads-up. We needed to present Id as we’d both cashed, so pulled out our driving licenses. It was at this point that I realised my opponent was none other than Johan Storakers, for those who don’t follow the game:

“Johan Storakers is argubly the best Swedish poker player in the world, and has the results to back that up. Storakers is incredibly consistent, and has been raking in the tournament cashes for years now.

Storakers currently has over $1.3 million dollars in total cashes all-time in tournaments, with his biggest year being 2005. In 2005, Storakers came in 3rd at the Ultimate Poker Classic, raking in $300,000 for his efforts. Other impressive finishes include winning the 2003 Helsinki Freezeout for just under $300,000, and coming in second at the Master Classics of Poker in 2002.

Storakers is known for his very thoughtful and analytical play, and is considered by most to be one of the best and brightest poker minds out there.

Storakers was recently signed by Ultimatebet to promote their brand overseas, especially in the Scandanavian countries.”

Awesome, so I’m playing heads-up against someone who just got signed to a tournament team with Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke and Antonio Esfandiari!

Suddenly then a previous comment he made started to make sense. Back when we were five handed I commented on the A2o a player went out on, saying rather incredulously “was that the first hand he showed-down”. Johan corrected me, reminding me about two previous hands we’d seen him play, and that one of them was the early beat against me. His memory was pretty flawless, compared to my ability to completely forget anything other than the more mundane concepts of whether opponents were tight / aggressive / calling-stations / slowplayers / etc. Perhaps it’s this that separates the good from the truly great players. With such solid recall I guess it’s possible to quickly build-up a database of the type and strength of hands played from each position by each opponent. A very powerful weapon in tournament poker, and I guess where I next need to focus my attentions. That’ll be some homework for the last few days of the trip.

Anyway, back to the game in hand. Now I realise I’m playing against one of the best in the world, I have to be honest that his post-flop strategy is going to be stronger than my own. I decide to play a more aggressive pre-flop game to negate to a large extent his superior skill. I win the majority of the next five or six hands with strong pre-flop raises, but we have similar sized stacks and I know he’s just waiting to bust me on one big hand. It finally comes when I push it up to 1000 with K9s, he moves in with what I suspect to be a bare Ace and I’m forced by the pot odds to call. His A5 stands-up to win the event, and take the $700 first prize to my $430 second.

Tournaments: +$230 in 4 hours
Cash games: +$72 in 20 hours

Other than poker?

Posted: September 19, 2007 in Las Vegas 2007

First off, apologies for the big delay in posting anything new. Sometime around Sunday evening we started to panic that the holiday was running out fast, and that we’d done nothing but grind away at the poker tables for the whole week. Honestly, apart from a few clubbing nights had barely seen anything of Vegas.

So, with a bit of arm twisting, I managed to convince the boys that it would be worth extending and staying through to the weekend! Have not posted since then as have just been too busy having fun to catch-up on the blog. Taking a time out on Wednesday morning to remedy that, following several calls for updates from back home.

While the desire to “do something else instead” was burning we booked a Vegas show and a helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon. Last night we saw Cirque de Soleil’s “Ka”. In all honesty, it was the most amazing piece of theatre I’ve ever seen. The heli-ride is in about an hour’s time today.

Day 4 – taking it up

Posted: September 19, 2007 in Cash games, Las Vegas 2007

Had to fight to keep my bed on day 4 night, after an incredible run of cards through most of the day. It’s all a bit of a blur, but I do recall making quads *twice* and at one point having AK three times in one revolution. Very quickly took $400 out of the 6/12 game, before switching to join Alb in the 10/20. Unfortunately got put into a must-move table with a couple of local pros who were waiting for Triple-A to show up and fix their car. Interesting to watch them play, some very heavy three and four betting throughout the hand. I only got involved in one tussle, AKs that I played hard back at them but that didn’t turn into anything but overcards on the turn and had to be discarded.

Once my must-move came up I sat into my favourite 3 seat (I like either the 3 or the 8, as you have the best view of the table, can’t understand why some folk always grab the 1 seat, it’s painful having the dealer at your elbow). Alb was in the 1 and the 2 was vacant. As I was coming in with position, I thought I’d give him a break and leave a gap between us for a fish to sit into, however he called me into the 2 so we could chat. He gave me a quiet rundown on the table, which sounded like the usual collection of average players we’re getting used to, albeit a little tighter and a little more aggressive. One guy in particular who was playing off a stack of about $1500 Alb highlighted as a very strong player, but I already had a solid read on a few of the others I’d been playing with and beating in the 6/12. Anyway, just about to get into my swing when our cheeky Liverpudlian asks for a move from the 1 to the 3. The little rat only pulled me into the 2 so he could jump over me and retake position! I soon put a stop to that, and we both shuffled one to the left to put the gap on Alb’s right.

My run of strong cards didn’t stop, however my ability to connect with the board did to some extent! I think the table had me pegged as a maniac, as at one point I opened for a raise on four hands in a row. However was just playing my premium hole cards. Had run my starting stack up to $900 when my visit to 10/20 came to an abrupt halt after three heavy hits in a row. AK / AQ / AQ in three consecutive hands couldn’t hold up to the end despite looking good on the flop, and I shed about $500 fast.

Then hearing the call for a $115 sit-and-go, figured I’d escape with some profit intact and switched to that.

Tournaments: -$200 in 3 hours
Cash games: +$72 in 20 hours

Day 3 – bleaker still

Posted: September 16, 2007 in Cash games, Hold'em, Las Vegas 2007

No time to write, just about to hit Tao for a night of mentalism. Looks swish so jumped out of a game that was wearing me down a little early to go buy shoes. Shoes turned into shoes, iPods, Playstation 3’s (Hing), t-shirts and belts.

So for the record, wearing me down equates to five hours in the 8/16 game seeing only one playable hand an hour, two of which didn’t stand up. Stuck to tight aggressive, but even playing in such a manner got beaten out of $230. Damnit.

Hing had another similar day, this time in the 4/8 Omaha hi-lo. His losses only slightly worse than mine. Am not in the slightest superstitious, not do I believe in luck or streaks, however he tells me we need to swap beds to cure our bad run. Luckily the sheets were changed this afternoon.

Right, off to drown my sorrows…

Ps. Hooked up with Taij and Duns this afternoon…

Tournaments: -$200 in 3 hours
Cash games: -$82 in 14 hours