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.

The Plan Advances

I decided to try the satellite on Thursday but it did not go well. There was a maniac two seats to my right at my table and while I played him like a drum in spots and built a nice stack, ultimately the high variance caught up with me.

I decided to try the final satellite on Friday but with the new intention of only playing the $1,000 if I won my ticket. This time things went very well from the very first hand where I turned a J with AJs to take the stack of a guy with a pocket pair of 9s. From there I built a strong image and picked up a lot of free pots both preflop and after C bets. Some situations went well for me and at the first break I was near the chip lead.

With 15 minute blinds and after losing a big flip (JJ<AT) and misplaying a pair of fours that I should have folded, my stack dwindled. I made it to the final table but with only 6BB which was the short stack for the final 10. This was a problem since only 7 seats were being awarded.

I managed to find a good spot to shove light with Q9s and get through. I also bet out against a small stack with A9s and surprisingly he folded pre. I faced a raise in the big blind with 7s. I didn’t like the shove option and hated to fold something that good. Then I realized that a stop and go was possible since I was up against a middle sized stack and so I called. The flop was K82 rainbow and so I had hold my nose and shove hoping he had AQ or a middle pair and, lo and behold, he folded.

One final play sealed the deal for me. The biggest stack opened the betting on my next button. With 2 covering stacks in the blinds I folded 9s preflop and, as it turns out, avoided a bad runout that would have ruined my chances for a ticket.

I ended up in 5th place and am excited to play today’s tournament. This will be my first Hendon Mob listed tournament of 2018 and I would love to earn my first 2018 listing since doing so would also put me in the black for the year.

A Man. A Plan. No Panama.

I have decided on my poker plan for May and June. The plane flights and hotel rooms are booked. The only thing left is to decide whether or not I will sell any action or accept any swaps. That is an even tougher decision than deciding what to play. More on that later.

The first plan is to play this weekend’s $1,000 NLHE tournament. This one will be a “how do I feel on the day of the event” thing since it is here in Austin. I also have a chance to win my way into the tournament with a satellite. I played the last $1,000 tournament after I won a satellite ticket. I played a satellite for this one last Friday but it did not go well. I can try again tonight or tomorrow night if I am feeling lucky.

Next on the calendar is the WSOP Circuit Event in New Orleans. Here I will play the first Senior’s Event and the PLO Ring Event. I have played both of these before and final tabled the Senior’s the last time I played it. Of course the cash games can be juicy during the WSOP and so I will be looking at the PLO and various limit games as well.

Finally there is the WSOP in Las Vegas. This year’s trip will be on the brief side but it could be epic. The action will center around 2 or 3 tournaments. First up is the one day $1,100 Big O tournament at Planet Hollywood. I cashed in my only other Big O tournament and this is my favorite game to play (cash or tournament) and so this should be a hoot. Next up is Event 35 Mixed Omaha at the WSOP. This is the tournament where I took 9th place last year. It would be fantastic to improve on that this time around. Just in case I fall short of that, I can jump into Event 36 which is the SuperSenior’s NLHE Event. This year they lowered the age for this to 60 and so I qualify. I expect to have a significant edge in this one if I happen to play it.

So that is the plan. Now I need to decide on whether or not to sell action. It is a tough call. On the one hand I have had a number of people ask me for some of my action and I would like to oblige them. On the other side I don’t really need the money as well as the hassle of dealing with lots of additional tax forms if I win. On the other other hand it would be nice to build up a staking track record so that I would be in position to sell some action for the main event either later this year or, more likely, in 2019 or 2020. On the other other other hand I think that I play better when I don’t have to consider my backers when playing. I am more likely to go with my gut in a big spot and, in my experience, that is usually the right way to proceed.

I will leave it there as I ponder my options.

Wrapping up WSOP Event #32

The $1500 Mixed Omaha Event is slated to be a 3 day event but with 29 players left it was possible that it would be extended to 4 days. In any event it would be a very long day. The stress of the first two days had left me a bit congested and that was a real problem because I ended up not getting enough sleep. A further problem was that I discovered that the chip leader had been placed to my direct left. Things were not shaping up well.

My other problem was that I was utterly alone at the WSOP. This I addressed in 2 ways. First I called my brother, which I never do, and he got exited enough to follow my action and give me someone to talk to during breaks. Also I made a post asking for virtual railers in the Reddit poker subforum. That was helpful too as I saw a few posts between hands that encouraged me to stay focused.

My plan was to be aggressive and look for big flips against players I was not likely to beat in any other way (which was most of the remaining field.) Like most poker plans, this one didn’t really work. I was too card dead and to boxed in by the big stack to do much at all. Instead I just folded. 20 minutes in we lost a few players and just like that I was up the pay jump ladder another $1,000. Another 25 minutes and we were at the bubble for the next pay jump of $1,400. At this point a looked down at AC6H6S3C2H in the button with a raise and a pot-sized reraise in front of me. I pulled the trigger and potted again putting both of the other players all-in. The runout gave me Aces up and a 63 low. I took the low in the main and side pots and split the high in the side pot. I didn’t eliminate anyone, but the hand put me up for the day and over 400K for the first time. My virtual rail informed me that I was now in 4th place overall. Moments later Allyn Shulman eliminated another player. That meant another pay jump to $7,162 plus a table redraw which meant that I would probably no longer have the chip leader to my left.

My new table included my nemesis, Igor Sharaskin, but this time he was seated to my right. Also at the table were Matthew Sanner, Allyn Shulman and Allen Kessler. The big stacks were on my right and the smaller stacks on my left so this looked favorable as we moved into Level 22 with the first break of the day still an hour away.

The first notable hand at this table occurred 25 minutes in when Igor Sharaskin made a bad call against Allen Kessler’s all-in flop bet but was rewarded on the river hitting one of his 5 outs. That eliminated Kessler in brutal fashion (which was amusing to witness) and brought Igor up to about 700K and the chip lead. Meanwhile I was finding a few spots to muscle people out of pots or chop and gradually built my stack to almost 500K. Right before the break I called a raise from a short stack with 6543. On a flop of A85 I check called. The turn was a 7 giving me the nut straight and third best low and a draw for the nut low. I check called his all-in bet. It turned out he was holding 8542 with two spades giving him a better low and 12 outs to a flush or boat. The King of Spades gave him the flush and the scoop and just like that I was back down to 380K.

The break came at a good time as I needed to shake off that last hand. My virtual rail told me I was still in good shape and just one elimination from a pay jump up to just over $9,000.

In Level 23 the play started to tighten up. Igor had tried to do some bullying but lost some chips in the process. Allyn Shulman was now on my left and 45 minutes in she defended her big blind against Igor and flopped a set of Kings. Unfortunately for her Igor had flopped a set of Aces and now we had that 15th place elimination.

The two table redraw was weird. I was in 6th place overall out of 14 but had the 5th biggest stack at my table. Still Igor was at the other table and that felt good to me. Just three more players would need to go out to get to the $11,716 pay level and my first 5 figure score.

We were now in Level 24 and it had pretty much become a waiting game for me as it was getting very hard to find any playable spots at my table. I did manage to get back over 400K again, but it was tough since so many players had me covered. Fortunately it only took about 35 minutes to eliminate 3 players and get to that 5 figure pay day. Part of this was the doing of Vladimer Shchemelev as he started crushing and soon was up to 1M chips with 10 players left.

Meanwhile I had been moved back to Igor’s table. We were 5 handed but Igor had hit a rough patch and amazingly I had him out-chipped by a small bit as we approached the second break. I was pretty gassed at this point but I decided to defend my big blind to close the action in a 4 way pot with ASJJ98S. The flop came K54 with 2 spades giving me the nut flush draw and a very bad low draw. The player to my right started the action by going all-in for about 1/2 the pot. It was a tough decision but I decided that I had too much equity to fold and a decent chance to see the turn without having to commit most of my stack and so I called. Yakovenko, another tough Russian, slowly called but then Igor very quickly shoved all in.

Now I guess I am supposed to fold here but I decided that the flip was good enough especially since certain run-outs would eliminate Igor, get me a pay jump to $15K and put me right about at the chip lead entering the unofficial final table of 8 players. I called and Yakovenko tank folded. Igor had top two, no low draw and a second best flush draw in spades. The turn was a 5 giving Igor a baby boat. Now I needed a 2-outer Jack for the high or a 7,6,3 or 2 for the low half of the main pot. Sadly it was not to be. I was left with a paltry 33K at the second break. Two hands after the break I was out in 9th place.

I actually felt great about my play. I had given myself a decent chance to enter the final 8 in 2nd place and, at the same time, claimed my first 5 figure score at the WSOP. After a desperately needed nap, shower and dinner I even had the energy to head down to handle my winnings and then hit the cash games and win another $500 at a 1-2-5 Big O table. It was a great way to cap off a great trip to the WSOP in Vegas that I will never forget.

Running Deep in WSOP Event #32

Right before dinner break I was moved to my final table for the night. I had the two seat and came in with the biggest stack which was about 180K. The guy in the 7 seat (David Brookshire) had been pushing the table around with a biggish stack but now it was my turn to become the table captain. I was playing about 50% of my hands now and picking up loose pots left and right. I got up to almost 240K when Igor Sharaskin was moved to my table to occupy the Seat 3. I had no idea who he was but his stack was around 200K and so that was a potential problem.

At first I didn’t slow down but then I had to as Igor started playing me like a drum. Every time I came into a pot he went right after me. Finally I called him down a bit light on some limit O8 hands but, sure enough, he always had it at showdown. Clearly he was a great player but he also was on a significant heater as well.

I was back under 200K and falling when another Russian player with a stack of about 60K was put in seat 4. He and Igor were apparently acquainted and they jabbered away in very fast Russian between every hand. I’m sure that the new guy asked Igor where he got his chips and Igor pointed me out as his chief donator. Now I had two aggressive Russians on my left and was feeling totally boxed in. It did not go well.

Soon I was down to 100K myself and wondering if I could still play this game. I wasn’t worried about the pay jumps or the idea of making Day 3. I just wanted to find a way to get more chips. Fortunately the cards gave me a chance. I raised preflop with AKJ2 with 2 suits. When the new Russian guy reraised me I was ready for the 4 bet. The flop was QT4 giving me a miniwrap and the nutflush draw. I checked called. The turn came a 9 he bet out again. This time I reraised to put him all in. He called but was drawing dead. I had doubled up to 200K and eliminated Russian #2.

Igor was still being a pest on my direct left. David Brookshire had regained a lot of his captain table status and built his stack back up to almost 300K. I was back down to about 160K as we hit our last break of the night.

Shortly after the final break I was in the Big Blind with AS7S643. Brookshire raised preflop from the cutoff and I made the call. The flop came Q86 with 2 spades. I checked, he bet pot and I called. The turn was the beautiful 4 of spades giving me the nut flush. I checked, David potted, I repotted and when he saw that I was almost all in anyway, he went ahead and potted again to put me all in. That 4 had given him a straight but I think he overlooked the flush possibility and, as it turned out, he had no outs for the high. Meanwhile only a 3 could save him for the low. Instead a 2 came giving me nut nut in this 320K pot. That double up put me among the chip leaders.

Entering the last level I watched as Igor hit a rough spot and slip to 220K. I was building confidence that there was going to be a Day 3 for me but I had to be careful as the 22 hours of poker I played during the last two days was beginning to wear me down and there was still one more hour to go.

I wasn’t alone in just wanting to survive the last hour. I think Igor sensed this and began pounding the whole table. However when I choose my spots he generally had to respect my stack and stay out of my way. I was able to gradually build up to almost 400K even as Igor zoomed up to a similar level. Still he managed to catch up to my stack and even pass me. I was just thankful that the Day 3 redraw would probably move me away from him. When the dust settled for Day 2 Igor had 445K for 4th place while my stack of 383K was good enough for 5th place.

There were only 29 players left and I was already guaranteed a payout of $4,711 which was going to be my biggest payout ever. Previously I had won $4k by winning a large online tournament back in 2009. I also won $3,790 for my first place finish in a live side event in the Card Player Poker Tour at their West Palm Beach tour stop in 2013. Obviously there was a lot more at stake here. I had never been this deep in an event with six figure top prizes to say nothing of a possible WSOP bracelet. All I needed was a good night’s sleep and I would be ready to go to battle in my very first Day 3.

Continuing my run in WSOP Event #32, 2017

Before embarking on Day 2 I should mention that Alex Luneau was the best player at my Day 1 table. He was 3 to my left and I was concerned that he was targeting me. In one hand I went all in with him during level 2 which was, at the time time, the biggest pot by far at our table. We chopped that one and it showed him that I couldn’t be pushed off a hand just because I didn’t have the nuts in either direction in a PLO/8 hand. After that we didn’t play hands with each other very much as we both found easier prey to target.

Day 2 started off poorly. Allyn Shulman was in my big blind and was proving to be pretty sticky. A couple of bad runouts cut my stack in half to 14K and then a bad call on my part got me down to about 9K which was looking desperate given that the starting stack was 7,500 and we were still about 3 hours of play away from the money.

At this point I went on the most epic run that saw me win 6 of the next 8 hands and balloon my stack to 80K. Shortly thereafter I was the aggressor in a 2 way pot of PLO8. I had a weak low draw to go with a double suited flush and open ended draw on a Q459 board. With 40K in the pot the river dropped with an offsuit 3 leaving me nothing for high and a ridiculous low. I thought about it and decided that he didn’t just make a wheel but, based on my betting, he might think I just hit a wheel. I put out a half pot sized bet of 20K designed to smell like I really wanted a call. When he didn’t snap call or jam, I knew I had him. Still he made me wait for about 5 minutes before laying down to my bluff.

After that I had somewhat north of 100K and the chip count guy wandered by. (Was it Mickey Doft? If so, that was a true honor right there.) He took a look and asked me my name and told me I was the current chip leader. Sadly that only lasted a few minutes as first Leif Force and then later Alan Kessler zoomed past me and so I never saw my name on top of the online leaderboard.

At that point the pros started showing up. Andrew Barber was now on my left and John Racener was also moved to my table. The guy I had bluffed got felted and was replaced by Bart Hanson. Not only were there four pros at my table, but the table to my left side featured Mike Sexton and Phil Hellmuth and the next table in front of me featured Joe Hachem and Mike Matusow. I was amongst the sharks now!

My stack dwindled a bit but I picked up a pretty hand in the small blind and bet into the short stacked Felipe Ramos from Brazil in the Big Blind. After the flop he went all-in but I had the nut low and top two pair. That ended up being enough to 3/4 him and get me back over 100K.

About 90 minutes later I raised from under the gun in Big O and the big blind called. The flop came 10-8-7 all diamonds and, lo and behold, I had the J-9 diamonds to go with my Ace, 2. 3. I decided to check the flop and turn in the hopes that my opponent would pick up a big hand of his own. Finally he bet the 2 on the river. With the nut-nut hand I potted him back but he folded. That ended a dry spell that had pushed me down to about 50K.

Fifteen minutes later the money bubble burst and, fortunately for me, my table got broken and I was moved to a new table with no pros that I could recognize. There I went on a massive heater featuring a near triple up when I flopped quad kings followed by the very next hand where I felted a massively tilted player whose aces I cracked in the previous hand. This time I had the Aces and I could tell what was happening and played him like a drum. Suddenly I was well above average again and feeling just great at the dinner break.

The rest of the evening was also epic and so I will pick up that action in my next post.

2017: Best Poker Year Ever

I played more live poker in 2017 than I have ever done in my life including 2004 when I actually made my living working in the poker industry. (Another story for another day.) Having said that, I didn’t play any poker at all until June 15th. After a truly crazy and life changing sequence of events that included becoming close friend with one of my favorite musicians in the world (and seeing her play at South By SouthWest in March as well as at Dodger Stadium in May) and also making a very nice haul on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, I managed to squeeze in a long weekend at the World Series of Poker.

As is my tradition ever since the WSOP.com Nevada only site opened up, I jumped on there and started playing right away when I checked into my room at the Rio. I have won a number of lammers on this site (worth $500 each towards tournament entries) and immediately jumped into several tournaments and SNGs. The Satellite for the next day’s Senior’s Event was my main target, however I came in third with the top two players winning lammers. That was a bummer, but at least 3rd place paid out $275 and so I was up over $200 right away.

I was rather hyped at that point but rather than play more online I decided to wander downstairs and play a cheap SnG. I jumped into a $175 NLHE SnG and most of the players chipped in an extra $25 into a last longer pool. I took that one down outright winning 3 lammers and an extra $275 in cash. I was already up almost $1,800 and the real action was still ahead of me.

I had prepaid to play the $1,000 Senior’s Event which is generally one of the more enjoyable tournaments of the year. This time, as the time before, I built up a nice stack but unlike my previous Senior Event run, I couldn’t find enough good spots and, on top of that, the table was boring as heck. I ended up crashing out in level 4. Of course I had those lammers in my pocket and so I could buy back in easily enough.

Waiting in line for my reentry I noticed that there was a $1,500 Mixed Omaha Bracelet Event starting at 3 PM. Limit Omaha 8, Pot Limit Omaha 8 and Big O. That sounded like fun plus I could head to my room and crash for an hour before it started. To clinch the decision, I was holding 3 lammers and that fit the buyin perfectly and so I did it!

My starting table was not too rugged but there were enough good players to keep me playing pretty honestly. Eventually a few over aggressive players made it to my table and I was able to take advantage of them to chip up a bit eventually. By the end of Day 1 I had grown the 7,500 starting stack to 26,500 which put me in the middle of the pack at just above chip average. Still there were another 115  players out of the 220 remaining to dodge in order to make the money.

I will pick up this epic story tomorrow.