PLO Warmup

For my last tournament before heading to Las Vegas I entered a $50 PLO reentry tournament at the Lodge in Round Rock. This place is growing on me simply because they run the most interesting mix of tournaments for a mixed game maven like myself. Many are priced to attract newcomers to the games and that is fine by me as we need to cultivate more mixed game players.

Early on I played very tight mainly because my cards were horrible. I finally raised pot preflop with suited kings and when a ragged ace flop appeared I bet anyway and my C-bet was good enough to take it down. Other than that I didn’t really get any action for many levels. I was down to about 1/4 starting stack (5K) with 10 minutes left before the reentry period. I was very close to simply shoving any hand so I could bust out and buy back in. The big blind came around and this time I thought I would have to go with it but my hand was Q972 with no suits. It checked to me and so I got to see a free flop of T72. There was a bet in front of me and even though hitting bottom 2 pair is almost never correct, on this board I thought I had a chance and so I shoved all in. The turn 2 gave me a boat and it held up. Now I had 18K and could play a bit.

After that the heater was on. I won huge pots on 3 of the last 4 hands in the level and found myself at the break with over 120K which was almost twice average stack. After the break I started getting more playable hands and winning my share. I never seriously threatened for the chip lead but I had a real good third place stack as the final table gradually whittled down to the final 4 putting as in the money.

At this point I found a bit of magic. The chip leader dumped a lot of chips to me when he turned a straight but I turned a better straight. Then the exact same thing happened again a few hands later and he was out and I was the chip leader. Shortly thereafter I eliminated the short stack and got to heads up. We were playing it out when I limped the button with J963 double suited. We saw a flop of J63. My opponent bet pot, I repotted and then he potted again and I called. This was now a huge pot but we each still had a bit more than a pot size bet left.

The turn was a deuce and my opponent potted again. Did he really have a 45 for a straight? If it was Big O I would have believed him but not in PLO after all of that furious action after the flop. I repotted to put him all in and he called and showed J964. We had almost identical hands. The great news for me was I couldn’t lose this hand. In fact I had a very thin freeroll … and it paid off when the river 3 gave me a full house to win the tournament for $800.

Here is hoping that I didn’t use up all my run good as I head west for my annual pilgrimage to the World Series of Poker.

Fantasy Poker and Me

Back in the Full Tilt Poker days they ran a fun fantasy poker promotion during the WSOP for a few years. I enjoyed it even though I wasn’t very good at it. Just as I got into baseball stats way before it became fashionable, what I discovered was that I was not a good data analyst and as much as I enjoyed number crunching, I never seemed to select the rising baseball stars or the winning poker players.

Sill I enjoyed the game enough that I decided to create and operate a year round fantasy poker website in my spare time. It took about 10 weeks but I did in fact perform a soft launch of the site and conducted several private contests using a player pool cultivated during my years playing fantasy poker on Full Tilt. What I discovered is that the concept only works well if you can figure out a way to manage and handicap the massive pool of poker players. This was such a daunting task that I gave up on the project before launching it for real.

About 2 weeks after I gave up on fantasy poker the GPI rating system was announced and, along with it, a fantasy poker game run by the same organization that wasn’t half bad even as a facebook app. Given that circumstance I do not regret the decision to pull the plug on my own fantasy poker website.

Fantasy poker still survives today but in a different form: as a vehicle for professional poker players and industry insiders to wager huge sums. See the 25kfantasy.com website for the details. This year I decided to play along. Using the rules outlined by site operator ‘ODB’ I selected a team and I was already to submit my team into the “junior league” until I saw the price tag: $525. While that is certainly not an amount of money that would normally give me pause for a good sweat, it did force me to recall how incredibly bad I have always been at selecting a fantasy poker team. So I didn’t send in the money and instead posted my team on the the r/poker subreddit on reddit.com. I got one other person to post a team and so it is on even though nothing but bragging rights is on the line!

With about 16 events out of 78 settled the early returns are in and, to my shock and surprise, my team has already amassed a whopping 480 points. To put that in perspective, the top score in the “senior league” has 387 points and the top team in the “junior league” has 304 points. Meanwhile two of my players are way up the chip leaderboard in Event 20 and so the hits just keep coming. With first prize of $10,000 for the junior league you can perhaps understand my current anguish. I would be in good shape for a pretty massive payout if I had just pulled the trigger!

Here is the reddit post where you can see my team as well as periodic updates on the head to head contest that I am crushing: First Annual Reddit r/poker WSOP Fantasy Poker Contest

Another Sunday Cash

The Sunday tournaments at the Texas Card House continue to be the most profitable and fun poker experiences for me these days. With the smaller buyin events it is hard to beat the rake (in the form of time charges and membership fees) as the prizes are smaller and the structures are fast enough that skill plays a small part in the results. Still I play a fair number of the smaller events too. I just pick my spots carefully and concentrate on mixed game and bounty events where I have more fun.

Yesterday it was a $250 PLO tournament at TCH. I don’t think they have run PLO very often and so I really needed to show up and play to demonstrate my support for this game. They finally got the game started with 8 players (2 tables of 4 players) and eventually there were 32 entries. Unfortunately 2 of those entries were mine as I lost two flips in medium pots and then went into short stack mode. It took all the way until level 7 to find a spot to push but when I finally did with KKQJ I got stoned by an ace on the flop.

After reentering with a fresh stack of 15K and 30 minutes before the reentry period was over, things did not improve. With 20 minutes left in round 8 I found out that there was a 10K add-on for $50. Having only about 10K at this point I realized that my best option was to fold everything and do the add-on. So I only played one hand (from the big blind) and won a small pot. Otherwise everything got folded preflop. I did the add-on to give me 19.5K which was well below the average stack.

On a new table I dwindled to less than 10K before I finally got some things going. I won a flip to get to 20K and then in a runout style hand flopped top and bottom pair and a gutshot and somehow all the chips went in against two short stacked players. One was going for an open-ended straight and the other for a flush or a better two pair. Somehow I dodged everything and my two pair took it down. That got me to 45K. A couple of hands later I was all-in again in a massive pot. This time all I had was the nut flush draw I hit it on the turn and the board did not pair on the river and so just like that I was above 110K and near the chip lead.

I was still near the chip lead as we reached the final table of 9 players. Four would get paid (although at 5 handed we did a deal to get 5th place a little money too.) The gal to my left went from short stack to chip leader knocking out 4 players along the way. I finally got a chance to see a flop with a runout and got a favorable flop giving me a miniwrap. She bet 1/2 pot on the flop and turn and I paid her to try and catch up, but did not succeed. That was my last real chance to try and make a run to win the event.

Instead all four players were relatively short stacked against the massive chip leader and it became a game of patience for me. Usually hand values get wider as the number of players goes down but I went the other way and tightened up to an almost embarrassing degree. Fortunately one of the short stacks went down when his flopped set of kings lost to the chip leaders turned set of aces. That meant I was going to get at least $900 and make a profit for the night. It looked like I would have to settle for that but then another short stack went all in on the turn when he hit a straight. The chip leader called with a variety of draws and hit a higher straight. At that point my remaining 2BB was good enough for a seat at the three handed table. Two hands later I was all-in blind and lost when my 2 pair was lower than the other short stacks’ two pair. Still $1,200 was a decent prize to take home although, at the end of the day, I really didn’t feel like I played much poker at all despite my 7 hours at the table. Still I will happily settle for a second cash in two days.

This evening there is a Big O tournament in Round Rock and this may well be my final poker action before I head out to Vegas in mid-June. I am looking forward to this as this will be my first Big O of 2018 and my first Big O tournament outside of Las Vegas.

Big Hands from a Short Deck

I played my first short deck no limit hold’em tournament on Saturday. It was a hoot but can really mess with your brain. The main difference from regular hold’em besides the deck of 36 cards (i.e., 2, 3, 4, and 5s removed) is that trips beat straights and flushes beat full houses. These changes are to accommodate the relative frequency of these types of hands in short deck poker.

My tournament started off well when I hit quad Qs and won a nice pot. Later I watched my pocket aces flop an ace and river an aces up boat to win a nice pot. On the very next hand I got pocket aces again and flopped an ace. This time I got good action again as it turns out that I was ahead in a set over set situation. Then the case ace came on the river to give my opponent a boat while I had quads once again. Easy game!

That was pretty much it for good hands for me. I had a chance to win a massive pot when the chip leaders massive preflop bet signified aces but I decided not to chase with T9 clubs even though the odds suggest this is close to a 50-50 proposition. If I had played I would have flopped an unfoldable straight and flush draw and rivered a massive pot.

I managed to scratch and claw my way to the final table and held on long enough to earn the $150 bubble claw back prize to make a small profit. I will probably play short deck again in the future, but probably not before my upcoming trip to Las Vegas.

A Quick Hand from Sunday’s MTT

I made a few mistakes in the Sunday MTT but hit a 3 outer on the river in a massive pot to get me the fuel I needed to make the final table. Despite my earlier luck I entered the final table short stacked and tried to double up but my 87s could not outrun ATo. I settled for a prize of $460 which exactly balanced my $150 buyin, $150 rebuy, $100 add on and $60 time charge. Oh well. So it goes.

There was one hand of particular note. A player with a very large stack got placed at my table to the right of the tournament chip leader who is a very competent player. This new player opened a hand and the chip leader 3 bet only to have a small stack go all in for less. I folded and, taking his time about it, the original raiser 4 bet. The chip leader then put in a 5 bet committing about 1/3 of his stack. After another careful think the original raiser went all in. I was trying to read all of these players all along and I saw this new player as relaxed but feigning worry. I put him solidly on aces.

At that point I had the chip leader on kings or queens and the other all-in player on a premium ( i.e., tens or better or AK). The chip leader called fairly quickly saying “I am never folding kings preflop.” Meanwhile I was sitting there thinking to myself “I would have folded kings in this spot!” The hands were flipped and it was aces, kings and tens just as I surmised.

As you know if you read my blog I have only folded Kings preflop once in my live and it was a correct fold as it turned out. To have that experience happen again even though I was not in the hand was a big confidence boost for my reading skills. It was not the only time on Sunday that I got someone’s hand spot on, but it was the one that makes for the best story.

Recently I signed up for a little poker training and while the classwork is just getting started I have to note that my trainer was the one who strongly suggested trying to do more hand reading when not in the hand. In this case it really worked out well as nailing some hands really gave me a nice confidence boost which will hopefully make it easier to trust my gut in these situations in the future.

New Orleans in a Nutshell

I will circle back and add more depth later but here is a quick summary of my New Orleans poker trip. I started with the $250 Senior’s Event and I managed to bust out, rebuy and bust again. Lots of second best hands was the problem. I also played the $135 nightly and though I went pretty deep, I missed the money. I capped off the night with a little PLO cash but that also went south and so I managed to blast off just under $1K for the day. It happens.

On Day 2 I started with some NLHE 1/3 cash while I waited for the PLO tournament. I generally hate NLHE cash but there were no other choices at that time. This time I managed to book a double up and that was quite welcome. The PLO tournament went pretty well and I managed to get into a spot where I had the nut straight all in after the turn against two players. Any black card would give me the pot and a huge chip stack but a red card would give one or the other of my opponent a flush. It came red and I was out. After some down time I was ready to rebuy and this time things went better. I managed to cash and, as is my pattern for Omaha tournaments, went out in a blaze of glory with good equity in a huge pot. Again it was not to be but at least the cash was good enough for my first Hendon Mob score of 2018.

The next day I burned off some chips in a NLHE cash game and then played the $250 bounty tournament. That went extremely well. I cracked aces twice in the course of winning 9.5 bounties (worth $50 each) and also taking 6th place overall. With one day of action left I was only down about $250.

With no other options available I sat down with $250 at a NLHE cash game. My AQ lost to a runner runner flush after a Q high rainbow flop and that was that. I decided to try once more for $200 and managed to win a few hands to run it up to $320 or so when I got KK under the gun. I bet $15 and got 3 callers before the button raised it to $105. I went all in and it folded back to the button who did not snap call. After a long think contemplating my $215 reraise he called with AQ suited. The flop was rainbow KT6 and it looked like I had a hammer lock on the hand and had thereby salvaged my trip. However my joy was premature as runner runner hearts gave my opponent a winning flush.

Losing $700 for the trip stung a bit considering the way things ended however my play overall was pretty decent and I had fun despite the bad breaks here and there. I also earned the Hendon Mob listing I needed for 2018 and so that won’t be hanging over my head when I hit Las Vegas in June. I will try to go over a few more hands from this trip in a later blog including my exclusive tips for playing bounty tournaments correctly.

Quick Updates

I am on the verge of leaving for my New Orleans trip but I need to do a couple of updates before I pack up and go. On Tuesday I played a Limit Omaha8/ Limit Stud8 tournament at the Lodge Poker Club. While this club is all the way up in Round Rock, their selection of games and tournaments is first rate as long as you avoid the “freeroll” and “cheap” tournament events which are actually crap shoots where it is difficult to overcome the hourly club access rate in the long run.

In the O8/Stud8 I was short stacked most of the night but kept making good runs to keep getting back to average stack. I also hit two magical rivers to keep my tournament hopes alive at various points. I was surprised to make the final table and actually ended up in 6th place. Sadly only 4 spots were paid and I didn’t really ever develop a significant chance of cashing. Still I had fun since those games take me back to the early days of my poker career.

I was back at the Lodge last night for a $80 NLHE freezeout. This one went quite well. I got a stack going and controlled the table well except for one LAG who bet preflop almost 50% of the time. I was able to fight back against the LAG (with and without cards) and built up a chip leading stack.

With 12 player left out of 44 I was in the BB when UTG+1 went all in for 38 BB. The LAG I mentioned above was to his left and he went all in for 68 BB. It folded to me where I was sitting with 88 BB and I looked down at pocket queens!

My first reaction was to call but I decided to take my time and analyze the situation. Eventually I decided that I was very possibly behind and, in any event, didn’t need to gamble this many BBs here when I was controlling the action pretty well anyway. I folded pre and discovered that the UTG+1 player has pocket 10s while the LAG had pocket aces! I had made the correct call which made me feel great even though a Q showed up on the flop. I am a proponent of ‘Quantum Poker’ so I know if I had called their would have been a totally different flop, turn and river and so I need not dwell on that particular runout.

I easily made the final table and the money but lost a few hands towards the end and had to settle for 4th place. Still that was a nice prize of over $500 which means I can afford a tournament rebuy if I need to do that in the Senior’s or the PLO tournaments this weekend. If I don’t need a rebuy then I can use the money to take a shot at the PLO table assuming it is playing normal 5/10 and not the crazy straddling that you sometimes see there. Can’t wait!