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.

Luck Box Central

Friday night I bought in for a double stack at a local $20 tournament with not many good players. I used some aggression to take down a few pots early and built up a nice stack when a moderately tight player raised in middle position. There are two callers and I decided to call light with 75off in the big blind. The flop came 643 rainbow and I check called the flop. Only the original raiser remained. The turn is a ten and I check raised and he called. The river was a Q and I bet almost 1/2 the pot. He called and shows Aces. Cracked another one!

I managed to best one particular player several times and when he raised my BB I decided to call him with 33. The flop came 344 and after several streets of action we managed to get it all in on the river. He showed Aces and fours and I won, of course, with my flopped boat.

 

A good player shows up late and starts running over the table by betting large preflop when he is in position and especially on the button. He gets called down one time and wins a pot with QToff against KQs when a ten comes. I decided to look for a spot to limp reraise him all in at some point later when the blinds were high enough to make that worthwhile.

The moment finally came about an hour later. I limped under the gun and he bet a bit more than pot on the button. It folded back to me and, after a dramatic pause, I jammed all in with 42 of hearts. Surprisingly he snap called with 7d7c. While that was a better hand that I thought he had, the bet was for 95% of his stack and I thought he would have thought better of it.

Anyway since he has me out chipped, I stand up to leave. Then the flop comes all hearts! The turn is another heart and I cringe. Then the river comes another heart putting a flush on the board which, given my hand, means a chop! However then I noticed that the turn was the 3h meaning that my 4 plays after all and I would take the entire pot. Whew!

 

It is nice to take out a good player and build a large stack at the same time but I subsequently discovered that this tournament allowed a massive $20 or $40 add-on followed by quickly multiplying blinds. An hour after the break my “big stack” with 8 players left and 3 getting paid only amounted to 16BB. I did my best to stay aggressive but got carved up a bit. With 8BB left I started looking for shoving spots. I thought I found a good one with 76off but ran into aces again in the small blind. This time I flopped a 6 but could not improve further and that was it.

Between the buy-in, add-on and the time charges, it ended up costing me $118 to play. If I had known the structure was so bad after the break I could have saved my $40 add-on but really it did not matter. Given the prize pool of under $1800ish and just 3 positions being paid, it is not worth it to play these events except for fun as they are not beatable in the long run no matter your skill level. Still it was a fun night and I got some stories out of it, so I am not really complaining.

Big Blind Ante at Lucky Chances

Yesterday I played my first tournament where the big blind also pays the ante for the whole table. I thought it was great. In fact I only see positives.

One of the coolest things was that the people that liked it seemed to be better players than the complainers and so there was an extra indictor of player strength sitting right out in the open. I guess players who often face extreme big blind pressure just see this as a doubling of the blind pressure and don’t like it.

My first thought is that BBA would shorten the game since there would be more hands per level and therefore more chances to reduce the field while short stacks would get pot committed more easily in the big blind. Now I think otherwise. The ante was always the same as the big blind meaning that the initial pot size is smaller at comparable levels. This means that bets and raises tend to be a bit smaller too.

This tournament was marred by my first board misread in over a year. I raised in middle position with a pair of fives. 3 callers. The flop came 3 5 6. Sweet. The big blind checked and I bet about 1/2 the pot. The cutoff was a little short and went all in. The button folded and then the big blind called. It was back to me but I couldn’t see folding and so I shoved as well. The big blind snap called. The first guy said “I got trips” and showed T6s. The big blind said “Me too” and showed T6. I rechecked the board and now it read 3 6 6. I had misread it! The turn was a 7 giving me a few more outs but the river bricked. Oh well.

Fortunately my anti-tilt super power was in full gear and so I headed right over to the cage and reentered. My new table was a lot softer than the first one (which was not to say the first table was tough when you had players calling raises with T6!) But at least the first table had 2 players who I felt where worthy adversaries. The second table did not. I ramped up the pressure and built a fine stack. Getting aces twice and getting paid off each time helped too. I got rewarded for a bad play when I raised AQs and got an all-in from the short stack. I tried to get a read on him by asking him if he had AK but he didn’t budge. Turns out he did have AK but I flopped a queen and got his stack anyway. Then I knocked out another player with AQ versus KQ on the very next hand.

Sadly the table broke and for the rest of the tournament I was dealing with more competent players. My hot streak cooled off and I fell back to average stack. I maintained average stack plus or minus a bit right into the final table. The final table did not go well and with 7 players left I was the short stack with 2.5 BB left. I was under the gun with 6-5 and the BBA coming next hand. I made a tight and possibly incorrect fold but got rewarded for it when a medium stack player pushed all in and got called by a large stack who knocked him out. I busted the next hand for 6th place for a $1420 payout and a $900 overall profit.

The bottom line for me is that I like the Big Blind Ante format and will try to get the card rooms in Austin to adopt it.

Let’s talk about some poker hands …

I played in the $500 monthly NLHE tournament at the Texas Card House again. Let’s look at some hands.

I chipped up some early and was on the button during Level 3 with QQ. I made my standard open raise and the BB, who I knew could be spewy at times, called. The flop was Q73 rainbow. The villian checked to me. My normal play here would be to check back as I am ridiculously far ahead. I knew, however, that this player might see a small bet as a sign of weakness that he could attack. So I bet a bit less than 1/2 pot and, to my delight, he went all in which was about a 4x pot bet. Of course I snap called and got my first big stack going. He showed AQ for top top and so I was super lucky on that cooler.

About an hour later in Level 6 my stack was still above average but not huge. I was in the small blind with 55. Middle position raised and the cutoff reraised. Normally it is raise or fold in the small blind and no way was I going to raise here. However I gave it some extra thought and decided to take the risk of cold calling knowing I would have to fold in the event of another reraise. The Big Blind also called and, fortunately the original raiser just called.

The flop was JJ5 giving me the boat. I checked and it checked around. Of course that is very unusual for a paired board. Maybe my boat was not going to get me any chips after all. The turn was a 7 and I decided to check again. The big blind checked and then the original raiser made a 1/2 pot bet. Almost immediately the hijack went all in. I had him covered a bit and I immediately went all in myself. If he had 77 I was going to kick myself, but no way was I laying down this boat. The big blind, who was also shorter than me, then tanked and eventually called. The original raiser sighed and said “I guess my overpair can’t be good here” and mucked. The hijack showed AJ and the big blind showed J9 and so I was in great shape. I faded the river and tripled up. A pretty amazing hand. It was entirely possible that all four players decided to slow play the flop assuming they were ahead.

Much later we are down to 16 players left. 10 get paid with 10th place getting $1,000 and 1st place getting just over $12,000. I have been amazingly card dead and so only some stealing has kept me in the hunt with 16 BB which was slightly below average.  There were 4 tiny stacks but clearly I would need to chip up in order to make the money and give myself a chance to go deep. I am in the Big Blind with the blinds at 2K/4K with a 500 ante.

Middle position player with an average stack opens to 10K. One of the better players in the hijack makes it 30K. This guy has a top 3 stack and has been opening and 3 betting a lot. Still he had AK the last two times that he 3 bet. Still I think he is capable of making a light 3 bet. It folds over to me and I look down at AQ hearts.

Now it seems clear to me that this is a shove or fold situation. I want the original raiser out if possible to improve my equity and then I can hope that I am either flipping against something like JJ or perhaps even leading something like AJs or ATs. But what are the chances I am up against AK? In that case I am in big trouble and cannot expect to get a fold from the big stack. Perhaps being so card dead for the last hour put me on tilt just a bit but I went ahead and shoved. Sure enough the original raiser folded and the villain fairly quickly called with AKs. The board was no help and I was out.

I have not questioned my play very much over the last year. Sure I have played with less than my A game on a couple of nights, but the number of individual hands that I think that I totally butchered have been few and far between. Now this one was close, but in retrospect I think it was wrong. I really didn’t need to take this chance at this point knowing that the chances of being dominated was reasonably strong. With AQs I want to either be the 3 bettor myself or else be up against smaller stacks who would be under a lot more pressure to get out of my way. I have, on occasion, gotten people in this tourney to fold AK pre with a big bet but I don’t think that happens very often. Certainly this villain was good enough and had enough chips to make that call reliably.

At least I went out on an aggressive play. One friend thought my play was obviously correct. I don’t but I will admit it wasn’t horrible. Still I think I should have given this hand additional thought at the table before I pulled the trigger. Maybe I might have done it anyway, but there is also the chance that I could have gotten away from it.

2018 Action

On the first Sunday of the new year I jumped into the monthly $500 tournament at the Texas Card House. This time I went out extremely quickly and so that kicked things off in the wrong direction. Late in January I found myself in the Anaheim area to help out a friend and ending up playing 2 long sessions at the Hawaiian Gardens Casino. I really liked this place but the cards did not go my way. I managed a chop in a SitNGo that got me my buyin back but, other than that, it was brick city. Limit BigO was particularly brutal costing me $500 over 3 session spanning 14 hours of play.

In February I was back and things started going better. I won a $500 seat for the monthly $500 and then won a charity event for $1,500. I used to play a lot of these and did fairly well including winning my first seat into a WSOP event. I don’t play many charity events anymore and this time discovered that their payout method these days is VISA gift cards. That is a pain but I guess a win is a win.

The monthly $500 again did not go well as I again busted fairly quickly. At least that keeps the time charge down! After a couple of weeks off from poker I played a small turbo at a new card house in Round Rock and that one worked out fine. Some wild final table action took me from average stack to tiny stack to second biggest stack in the course of about 10 hands. The last 9 players chopped it up and I walked away with $740 which was more than enough to put me in the black for the first time in 2018.

Looking ahead I have booked my flights and room for the WSOP where once again I only plan to be in town for a long weekend. This time, however, if I make another big score like I did in 2017, then nothing is going to stop me from going back and playing the Main Event.

It also looks like a visit to Lucky Chances in the Bay Area will also be in the cards for me some time during April. Most likely I will only have time to play the Sunday weekly tournament, but still I look forward to it. It is generally a lot of fun to check out a new card room and be the unknown player. That scenario often goes well for me.

Wrapping up 2017

After my success at the WSOP I was looking to play more poker and discovered that apparently legal poker rooms were starting to be a thing in Texas. With security people and security cameras, bright appointments and a few amenities including dealers, these private membership clubs were managing to abide by the archaic gaming rules included in Texas law and make it work. There is no rake and no tipping but you pay an hourly club access fee along with your membership fee. Turns out to be a great deal for cash players but tournament players like myself don’t do so horribly either.

I started out at a club just outside of Austin and after a few bad sessions I managed to get to a 2 way even chop in a bounty tournament where I also scored 10 bounties. I felt I was in the top tier of regular players there but the stakes weren’t high and it seemed like the club was not attracting enough repeat customers to stay open for long.

I decided to try another club that was a bit closer to home but had a higher hourly rate. My first event was a $500 buy-in NLHE tournament and after 7.5 hours the survivors did a 7 way chop with yours truly getting the lion’s share for over $4,800. I played more tournaments there but found that the satellites and the monthly $500 events were my sweet spot. In the very next monthly $500 tournament I took third place for $3,200.

I also won a satellite seat to a $1,000 tournament that had an interesting twist: the results were to be posted in the Hendon Mob! The plan was to conduct 3 of these $1,000 events each year and so, for the first time, I would have the chance to reach my goal of earning a Hendon Mob score each year without leaving my home town. That is fantastic.

I washed out of the November $1000 event and yet still managed to end up over $2,350 for my post WSOP poker play during 2017 without ever leaving home. It looks like I will be playing more poker year round as long as these local card rooms manage to stay afloat. Now if only I could get more more players interested in games other than NLHE. If I could mix in some local PLO or Big O cash games or tournaments, then my poker life would truly be sweet.

One hand of note occurred in a charity tournament in November. In about level 6 I had the biggest stack at my table when I got into a hand with the next biggest stack. I reraised his opening raise with KK. He raised me back. I put in another raise and now had 30% of my chips in the pot. At this point he went all in. Now I have never folded KK preflop in my life and, if you had asked me before this hand, I would have told you that I would never do so. However in this particular spot I couldn’t think of a hand that this particular opponent could possibly have other than Aces and so I folded the Kings face up. Graciously the villain showed his Aces to the table, but I didn’t ask him to do that because frankly I was already supremely confident that I had made the right play. Still it was good to know that I could go with my gut and make a play like this in a big spot. Maybe I am catching on to this game a little bit after all.