Monday, January 28, 2008

Disastrous Sunday

I was ready to go yesterday. Last week I final tabled the FTP 750K. On Wednesday, I had two cashes in 7 tourneys running fairly deep in both, and having lots of opportunities in the other tourneys I was in. I ate a healthy lunch. I even put on my ITH shirt to put me in poker mode! And then disaster struck.

I played 13 tourneys, not cashing in any of them. Being the math geek that I sometimes am, assuming I make the money 18% of the time, the odds that I don't cash in 13 tourneys is 4% or 1 in 25! I got to experience that agony yesterday. Not only didn't I cash, I really didn't come close. I was running good in the $100RB but finished about 20 spots from the money. That was the closest I got all day.

But I felt like I played well. I didn't tilt or start making any boneheaded plays. Of course in 13 tourneys, there are always some borderline hands where you aren't sure about your play and a few small mistakes here and there, but overall I felt like I was creating good opportunities for myself. Unfortunately I just wasn't getting many breaks.

One thing I thought yesterday is how play completely changes when you are against a tough field. This is why the railbirds sometimes say that XXX is a donkey. He called with that! He reraised with that! And in normal tourneys, maybe the play would be boneheaded. But against solid loose aggressive players, you often must take gambles where you might not otherwise.

For example, beginning to intermediate players try to steal the blinds a lot. Advanced players will often try to resteal, or simply put pressure on an opponent who has raised. Therefore, if you are the original raiser, you may do some things that you normal won't do. On occasion, you will go back over the top without a decent hand. You probably wouldn't do this against a "normal" player who probably is only reraising with premium hands, but against a really solid player who could easily be on a resteal, sometimes you must play back with less than stellar hands. Last night in the rebuy I made a standard raise with AQs. Another player reraised me. I started the hand with an M of 15. My opponent could have a premium hand, but there is also the possibility of a resteal in his range. For this reason, AQs goes up in value. It was a borderline play but I pushed allin and found myself against AK. I think the biggest mistake here was that I was in early position and most players are reluctant to resteal a player from EP so I should have given his reraise more respect, but I had also been relatively active so hard to tell.

I also learned a nice little lesson/tactic from another really good player. I made a standard raise to 300 and he called from the BB. The flop was Tc 4s 4c. He checks, I bet 330, he calls. The turn is the 2d. We both check. The river is the 6s. He checks, I bet 900, he puts me allin for another 1600.

I found his river play quite interesting. Most opponents would always bet out with a hand after I had checked the turn afraid that I wouldn't bet the river. But let's analyze the situation. On the turn, I either have nothing, or I am checking to control the size of the pot with a scary board. On the river, if he bets and I have nothing, I am going to fold. If I have something, I am likely to call something less that pot (which was $1200). But what if he checks? If I have a hand, I will likely bet for value. This isn't always true. If I have a hand like 88 I would probably check behind. But if I have a pair of tens beat, I am certainly going to bet. Once I bet and he raises, the pot has been built, and it becomes very difficult to fold, since my opponent played so deceptively - check, check...raise! I called with QQ and my opponent had 5-4. I don't like my call here, but the point of this hand is how my opponent got me to commit more chips to the pot than I wanted.

Of course, his strategy backfires when I check behind with a hand that I would call a bet with. But it is an interesting weapon to use on occasion and something I might experiment a little with in the right situations.

So a frustrating day, but I learned a little from my mistakes while still feeling satisfied with my overall play.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Rare Weeknight Tourney Bonanza

After final tabling the FTP 750K a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't wait to get back to the tables. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play this past Sunday as I had a party to host. My stepfather turned 70. We were planning on a surprise party Saturday night, but it snowed, and anyone who lives in Atlanta knows that the entire city shuts down at the first inkling of a little snow. So we moved the party to Sunday and watched some football as well.

In any case, I decided to play last night. I didn't realize how many decent tournaments there are during the week. I managed to play 7 tournaments, all starting between 8-9:30. I could have played 8 but was running good in so many of them I decided to just skip the $55K at FTP at 9:30.

There are two rebuy tourneys. One at Stars and a $100 6-max at FTP. I'll need to check to see if that is a daily or weekly tournament as a very good tourney. I had a great table in the Stars RB tourney. I have played a few of these rebuys. I really thought these would be tough with the small fields, but so many of the players will do anything to try and doubleup, especially early. There is a great equity for those who are patient. I play simple solid poker and have done quite well in most of them I have played. Unfortunately, I ran into some bad luck and then towards the end of the rebuy period found myself against a couple of players going allin every hand. Unfortunately my hand either didn't hold up, or they finally had a real hand and I lost quite a few rebuys. I ended up investing $900 in the tourney. I went deep and cashed for $800, lol. I believe I finished something like 23rd and first paid $32K so had a decent chance at another nice payday.

I also ran deep in the FTP 55K that started at 8:00, finishing 22nd in that one. It also had a nice first place prize so I had two tourneys with a decent shot at some big money. Aside from those, I had my chances in a few of the other ones also running pretty deep but falling short of cashing. I felt really good about my game but just couldn't get anything going towards the end.

Other than that, I've been playing a little short-handed limit. I made a sick call in one hand with J-high which generated a lot of discussion in the Forum if you want to browse it. The Forum has some great short-handed players and this thread discusses a lot of different concepts beyond just my call on the river.

I should be getting an early start on Sunday as we have our monthly League tourney at ITH, and we are honoring one of our long-term Moderators who recently left the boards. Should be fun and hoping for another deep run!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Final Tables the FTP 750K

After coming quite close the last few months on Sunday, I finally broke through with a nice payday. That makes 2 10k+ paydays my last 10-12 Sundays. I finished 6th in the FTP 750K good for $26K.

Overall, I felt like I played quite well. Around the money, or early in the money, I do remember overbetting a hand with a QxxQ board. I had a flush draw and simply pushed allin on the turn which was a big overbet. I knew my opponent didn't have a Q and I was thinking about how much I should bet, but I didn't want to wait too long and just pushed. It was an inpatient move, but it worked out as my opponent called with 33 and I hit a pair on the river. I had a ton of outs but I should have played it differently. With 50 players to go, I had several opportunities to become the chip leader but kept falling on the wrong end of the cards. Once I lost AA to A7 in a big pot, all the money going in preflop. I lost another hand with QQ to the big blind when he flopped a flush on a K high board and I had the draw to the Q. I probably overplayed that hand also on the turn and got punished for it. Fortunately, I won several hands in a row quite quickly to get right back in it (one was a suckout with A6 vs AQ). After that, I settled down quite nicely and I think I played very well right up to the very end.

The hand that doomed me is still swirling around in my mind. I still haven't gone back to look at the exact chip counts in the hand history as I want to try and be as fresh and clear as possible when I reevaluate the hand. I think my first mistake was calling a raise from the big blind with 64s. I will often call raises with that hand, but I don't think this situation called for it. Sometimes I will call in the big blind with a relatively short stack, simply with the knowledge that I will gain the blinds, antes, and continuation bet should I hit my pair - and since I'm short-stacked I don't mind accepting defeat it that pair gets beat. I will also call when we both have very deep stacks hoping to hit a big hand. But that middling stack isn't the best hand for 64s and it cost me. The board was Kx4 and I check-raised all-in thinking he couldn't call without a K and I had outs if he did. He had K-Q and I lost the hand. It wasn't a horrendous play, but I think my stack size and advantage over the remaining opponents dictated that I didn't need to take that kind of risk.

But 26K is a nice consolation prize. Hopefully I can continue to run relatively deep in these tournaments and start turning them into bigger paydays.

A couple of non-poker tidbits. A mini-review of Atlantis. Great resort for kids! It's like Disney World on water. Unfortunately, there aren't that many family restaurants so that is a major drawback to me. Highly recommended though and we'll definitely be back.

Here's a silly little movie recommendation. If you're looking for an over-the-top shoot-em up, bad guy good guy movie, try Shoot-em Up with Clive Owen. Completely unrealistic and over-the-top, but a lot of fun.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Poker in the Bahamas

I played the PCA in Paradise Island yesterday getting knocked out about 10 minutes before the end of the day. It was an interesting day even though I wasn’t involved in that many interesting hands.

I missed the first hand and then we proceeded to play about 20 hands where we didn’t see a flop. No one said one word while we were there. I immediately knew that it was going to be a long day. And then Greg Raymer showed up and say to my immediate right. The first pot went multiway and he started chatting it up with everyone. The entire mood became a lot different.
As many of you know, I played with Greg a lot during the 2004 WSOP when he won. We played together on two separate days and were involved in quite a few pots together. He intimidated me back then as he was quite aggressive, stared at you mercifully, and has a strong confidence at the table. I think he is really the only player that has intimidatd me. But I have a lot more experience now and know how to handle those types of players. And fortunately I was to his left which helps. Both of our games have changed quite a lot though since then.

I got the best of Greg this day but only for a few small pots. Only one was interesting. It was folded to his small blind several times. On one, he limped, I raised, and won the pot on the flop. In this case, he raised about 3x the big blind and I called with K-Js. I’m not sure, but I think the blinds were 300-600 with 50 antes. The flop was Kxx, rainbow. He bet about 2700 and I called. The turn was a Q and he checked. At this point, I felt like if I bet he would fold unless he had a queen. I elected to check hoping to gain some value on the river. The river was a blank and he bet a rather small amount. I considered raising but felt like I probably would only be called with a better hand so I just called. He turned over K-J. Ok, maybe not so interesting but I could have raised or bet every single street but elected not to. I’m pretty sure he thought I had some type of middle pair the way I played the hand.

I hit one set and one two pair all day. No straights or flushes. I don’t think I got my fair share of pairs or suited connectors. I got dealt once, AK, AA, QQ, and JJ - AK is definitely lower than average for a full day of poker. For the first 4-5 hours, my stacked varied between 17K and 22K I just didn’t hit very many hands so it was just about winning small pots to stay alive. I eventually got up to 38K at one point - again just by creating some opportunities. Then I lost two draws to knock me out.

The first was quite borderline. I think it was 400-800 blinds. Early raiser to 2200 and a middle player called who was someone I was targeting. He started the hand with about 20K in chips. I had 76 on the button and elected to call. This was a borderline decision, but with position, I thought there was decent chance I could take the pot on the flop if they showed weakness, and this is the kind of hand that can sometimes surprise people. But I recognized it can also get you in trouble.

The flop was T84, two spades. Early checked and middle player bet 4500. He had about 13K left. I could call hoping to hit but that only gives me one card. I wasn’t quite getting the odds on my draw, but I gave a 10% chance that my raise would cause him to fold, and a 10% chance that he was on a flush draw - where I would still have 10 outs. It was very borderline but I decided to gamble. He had a set and I didn’t hit.

So now I am down to about 17-18K in chips. 500-1000 blinds. Early raise to 2600, middle call, and I have K3s in big blind. 1600 to call with 7700 in the pot. If I hit a K and lose, I can accept that given the size of my stack. I call. T9x, two diamonds giving me the flush draw with an overcard. I check, early player bets 4500 and I go all-in. He calls with top set and I bust out.
It was a fun day. Nothing exciting but fun to get back in the saddle again. I just wish I had another tourney soon as I’m not sure when I’ll be playing again.

So time for some sun and fun. Rizen is a chip leader so go Rizen!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A weird and unfortunate way to miss a flight to the PCA

I don't play as many poker tournaments as I would like but this is more of a personal choice then anything else. We've been busy having babies the last few years so poker tournaments just don't fit easy into the schedule. Sure I would love to play more tournaments, but being with the family beats that any day.

When I do play, I generally work family into the schedule. Practically all of the poker tournaments I have played the last few years have been planned around family - 3 Party Poker cruises, 2 trips to Aruba, 2 trips to Melbourne, Las Vegas the last couple of years, and now the Bahamas. Outside of that, I've played a couple of tourneys in AC by myself and one in Paris a few years ago as well as a few to Mississippi (car trips). Today we got to the beach and boys had a blast and I remembered how much I love these trips. It's a win-win for me - I either do well in the tourney or I get busted and get to spend time with my family on vacation.

I'm not sure what we'll do when the boys start school and can't just trot around the world with Daddy for a poker tournament.

In any case, this trip started out quite rough. We woke up at 5:30AM to get everyone ready for the airport. About a half mile outside of my neighborhood we saw police lights. They had blocked off the road and told us to go home and check out the news. It turns out that someone shot 2 police officers and was still inside his house 12 hours later! In any case, there is only one road out of my neighborhood and we were basically trapped. So we lost a day of vacation. Fortunately the policemen are alright and the killer ended up committing suicide in the house (at least that's the last I heard). It's hard to tell a little 4-year old that we have to wait another day to go to the beach!

I'll try to make daily updates on my progress. I start Sunday at noon.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 Preview

I am really excited about the upcoming year. I can't remember having so many things to be excited about from both my personal and business lives. This is a small outline of what I expect the year to be like.

January - win the Poker Stars Caribbean adventure! Last year I started out the year in Australia with back-to-back final tables which was a great start to the year. This year I want the win! By the way, I turn 41 while in the Bahamas.

January is also the launch of our International Player of the Year race at one of our sites, By the way, congrats to Jon "Pearljammer" Turner for winning the 2007 race.

February - my wife's birthday. We can't party too much because she's be almost eight month's pregnant. This month I'll be working a lot of my books.

March - I think the 2nd edition of ITH, with the new title All About Limit Hold'em, will probably be released in late March. If not then, definitely in April

April - We're having a baby! Our first daughter so we're quite excited.

May - Release the first volume of hands by Pearljammer, Rizen, and Apestyles...and feed the baby. Change the babies diapers. Maybe I'll be able to get some late night short-handed poker in when the baby wakes me!

June - WSOP - win my first bracelet!

July - WSOP main event

August - family reunion in Hilton Head.

Fall - Release the 2nd volume of the hands book. I also expect that Rizen and I will be working hard on our NL Tournament Strategy book.

December - going to Colombia for Christmas. My family hopes to visit also which should be a lot of fun as they have never been to Colombia. We are planning to visit Diana's family in Medellin, take a day trip to Colombianitors - the charity that Diana and I work with, and then rent a country house with the family for some nice R&R and great Colombian culture.

Can't wait!