Monday, November 1, 2010

The Torture is Over

Giants "torture" started for me in 2000 when the Mets ripped out our hearts in the division series. Many believed, myself included, that the Giants had the roster to win it all that season. I'll never forget Game 2 when JT Snow's 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th against Armando Benitez tied up the game at 4. My girlfiend at the time, Sheila, (now my wife) were jumping up and down like a couple of little kids. We were in the lower deck and I could feel the concrete slab bounce like it was made of rubber. The Mets punched us in the gut by scoring in the 10th and held on for the win... I believe Bonds struck out to end that one.

Game 3 was a heartbreaker too... my wife and I watched the game from the Faultline bar in the Marina district of San Francisco... that game went 13 innings and lasted 5 hours and 20 minutes. Needless to say, we were thoroughly intoxicated (and depressed) by the time that game ended when Benny Agbayani hit a walk-off homer.

Then we all know what happened in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series against the Angels. I remember that like it was yesterday... still hard to believe the Giants blew a 5-0 lead with 8 outs to go. Sheila and I watched that from a friend's wedding... we snuck out of the reception hall to watch the game in a nearby bar. Sheila and I fought like mad on the way home... it was pretty obvious, even while it was happening, that we were expressing some frustation and disgust about what we just saw.

This year was just so bizarre on so many levels... Lincecum looked like he "lost it" in August (0-5, 7.82 ERA)... one-third of their playoff roster was comprised of players not even with the team on Opening Day. I could go on about how unlikely it was for this team to make the playoffs, let alone the World Series. I mean, Cody Ross? C'mon.

I had genuinely thought the Braves would beat them... the Phillies, for sure... and no way they'd be able to defeat a team that completely man-handled the Yankees.

So glad I was 0 for 3.

When you look back on some of the things that happened, you have to admit "luck", or whatever you wanna call it, played a part.

- Brooks Conrad... I mean, if Buster Posey's ball doesn't go through Conrad's legs (and other blunders) in Game 3, the Giants my not have got past the Braves.
- Billy Wagner's fluke injury certainly helped too.
- How about Kinsler's ball that hit the top of the fence in a scoreless tie in Game 2?
- And when Posey's double hit the top of the fence in Game 4, you started to wonder if the baseball gods rigged it for a Giants win.

This makes me think... as a poker player, I know it takes a lot of good fortune to win a large tourney... I guess it can't hurt for a baseball team to have the same to win it all.

Regardless, the torture is over!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Random Thoughts...

Baseball Stuff...

- Hard to believe the Giants are in the World Series... they really are a bunch of misfits... well, their lineup anyway. Except for Buster Posey and maybe Freddy Sanchez, there are not many teams who would want these guys on their team.

- Texas looked really good versus NY... I would not be shocked if the Rangers won in 5 games... but hope I'm wrong.

Poker Stuff...

- Worst month of my poker career taking place right now... down about 25 buy-ins... yikes... combination of rough luck (I paid off flopped quads twice today), tilt on my part (lousy play caused by frustration) and awful timing... my monster hands (top set on the flop, for example) are either getting no action or are getting run down on flush and straight draws. But I feel great right now and will go get 'em tomorrow... generally pleased with my play. This downswing will have me playing more hands in position, playing tighter (better hands) and playing more aggressive than ever in the future... so that will benefit me long term.

- The final table of the Main Event is still a couple weeks away. I have to admit the delay was a good idea, but 4 months is ridiculous... 1-3 weeks would be way better. I'm still going to watch it, but it's lost all of its momentum.

- Glad to hear that ESPN3 will be broadcasting the final table live w/out hole cards... that will be lots of fun... looking forward to that.

- Wish ESPN would get their heads out of their buts... 27 episodes leading up to the final table? Yawn. No one likes to watch poker on TV more than I do, but this is beyond lame, very little interest to me. However, I would love to see the final three tables broadcast live (27 players down to 9)... and would probably pay to see it.

- Glad to hear that Erik Seidel made it into the poker hall-of-fame, long overdue... classy guy. And love his sense of humor... I follow him on Twitter... his latest post: Why is it ok for people to applaud when the plane lands, but everyone gives me a look when I do it on the shuttle bus?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

2010 WSOP Event 45

I played in my first World Series of Poker event... a $1,500 No Limit Hold Em tournament on June 25, 2010 at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Before I started following poker about 7-8 years ago, I saw the WSOP on television, but didn't realize there were so many events... in 2010, there were a total of 57 events with a variety of games (7-Card Stud, Omaha, etc.) and stakes (ranging from $1k to $50k, with most being $3k or less). The most well-known tourney is the one shown every year on ESPN... it's also known as the "Main Event". It's the last tournament of the series and has a $10k entry fee.

The tourney I played in was Event 45 (of 57) and with a relatively low buy-in, it certainly wasn't a prestigious event, but I was excited to play nonetheless.

My wife, Sheila, and I flew in the night before and settled into our room at the Tropicana. After a good night of sleep, I was ready to go and felt great. I ordered breakfast from room service... and after a bit of a delay which had me on edge a little, I ate an egg on a bagel with a V8 Splash... yum.

I shared a cab with another poker player. I think his name was Javier... good guy. We chatted a bit and he actually calmed me down some because he had played in some events before and knew where to go to register... so he led the way and soon afterwards, got in line to sign up.

Right after I entered the room to register, I saw one of the guys from Keith Switzer's home game in Livermore... Mark Zika. He actually played in the Main Event last year and in Event 42 a few days earlier. He was very cordial and showed me around the place a bit after we signed up.

We still had about 20 minutes before the tourney started, so I went to the Full Tilt Lounge to see if TilterRick was around... I know Rick from the poker forum and have helped him out on occasion with keeping track of online leaderboards for some forum events. Anyway, Rick told me to ask the girls in front to look for him when I arrived. He had just stepped out, so I decided to go directly to my table and settle in.

On my way to the table, I started to notice some of the more well-known players walking around... Phil Gordon, Jeff Madsen, Maria Ho and Roland de Wolfe to name a few.

I was assigned to Table 224, Seat 10 in the Pavilion Room. This room is massive... maybe as large as a football field, not sure. Anyway, when I got to my table, I was the first one to arrive and the dealer took my entry ticket and checked my ID. The other players arrived shortly after. No one looked familiar... I was kinda bummed... was hoping to play with a semi well-known player.

But once the cards got dealt, it was all business and I didn't really care who was at my table... the other nine were the enemy and there wasn't a lot of chatting going on.

The first 15 minutes were fairly quiet... no huge pots... and everyone was playing somewhat straight forward.

In about the 12th hand, I looked down at pocket aces... my heart started to race a little... do I play it slow? Do I make a standard raise? Hmm...

Well, I didn't have much time to think about it... I was left of the "under the gun" (UTG) player who opened for a raise to 175 (blinds were 25/50 and we started with 4500 in chips). My first thought is this guy must have a big pocket pair (tens or better)... and was hoping he'd re-raise me with QQ or KK, so I raised his bet to 525.

Everyone folded and it came back to him... I was expecting at least a call, but was hoping he'd say "raise"... he ended up folding! Wow... I was really surprised. What the heck was he raising from UTG that he didn't want to call there?

I didn't get much after that to tangle with. I raised pre-flop with Ad Td (ace/ten of diamonds), but laid it down on the flop when I whiffed and another player came out betting.

About 45 minutes in, they broke up our table... on to Table 223... one table over. But by the time I sat down, they broke up that table and I was off to Table 128, Seat 4.

Coming to a new table is a bit unsettling... the best way to describe it is like going to a new school on your first day where everyone is a complete stranger.

After a few hands, I started to relax a bit and noticed the player in Seat 9 looked very familiar. I asked the guy to my left in Seat 5 if he was a well-known player and he told me it was Adam Junglen. I had heard of Adam before and my understanding was that he was a solid, well-respected player who earned his reputation online. I later found out that the player in Seat 5 has had some online and live tournament success, Kenneth Terrell.

Soon after coming to this table, I got a visit from Miles and Keith from the MK Poker Club and Tyler from Full Tilt's forum... it was really good seeing those guys... this also made me feel more at home and relaxed.

The new table was a bit more active than the previous one, but certainly nothing out of the norm... no maniacs at this table. After about 30-40 minutes, I got dealt AdTd in the big blind... I got dealt this exact hand at the previous table, so I took this as a sign to play a pot with it :) The blinds were now 50/100 and the player in Seat 1 raised it to 350 and I called. With 750 in the pot, the flop came T76 rainbow (rainbow means 3 different suits). I checked and he almost immediately said "all-in" (for about 1,800). His bet was for about half my stack. I would have been left with about 2,000 in chips if I called and lost the hand... certainly not a desirable position to be in less than two hours into the tourney.

My first thought was, "he probably has an overpair, so maybe I should fold this". Then I started to go though some other hands he'd shove all-in with... almost any ace was a possibility... say AK, AQ or A9... 88 or 99 almost certainly. Obviously 66, 77 or TT would have me in bad shape, but I decided to call, figuring that I had a reasonable amount of outs if he had JJ, QQ or KK... and I'd be in great shape if he flipped over AK.

I took about 20-30 seconds to decide. When I said "call", he said, "Well, at least I know that I went in with the best of it."... when I heard that, my heart sank, figuring he had the overpair... but he turned over KT and when he saw my AT, he was really pissed off that I took so long to call. He claimed that I "slowrolled" him. Slowroll is a term poker players use when a player has the best hand possible (aka "the nuts") and he takes his time to decide whether to call or not (kinda like rubbing salt in the wound). Obviously AT was not the best hand possible here.

I was now sitting on a reasonably healthy chip stack, just shy of 6,000.

The player who filled Seat 1 turned out to be Rafal Michalowski. He and I got involed in a few hands later in the afternoon.

I had been playing very tight the first couple of hours, folding 22 and 55 from early position. I decided to be a bit more active, so I raised with pocket fours. again from early position. But right behind me, I got re-raised all-in by Ken Terrell. Ken had not been too active and although he was getting low in chips (~2500), I didn't want to play such a big pot w/ a marginal hand, so I laid it down after it folded back to me.

Ken again showed some aggression a few hands later... after a couple of limpers, I limped with As Js from the samll blind. Ken raised all in from the big blind. I was tempted to make this call because Ken could easily have been making this move with almost any two cards. But again, I decided to play it safe and folded my hand.

I bit later, Rafal made a raise to 450 from the cutoff (one from the button) with the blinds at 100/200. I called with Qs 4c... garbage, but I wanted to take a stand against Rafal who had been raising a lot of pots for slightly more than the minimum. We both checked a 3-heart flop and when the 4th heart hit on the turn, I led out and bet 500 figuring he would almost certainly fold if he didn't have a heart. He called. I gave up the hand on the river, not wanting to bluff away any more chips. He checked back and flipped over a turned two pair with 9 7.

My stack was now down under 3,000. Since that AT hand, I went card dead. AJ and 44 were the best hands I saw in over an hour. Waiting... and waiting for a hand to play, I folded two complete orbits (~20 hands) . I finally shoved all-in from the big blind for my last ~2,100 with a monster... Ah 5h! I got called fairly quickly by the pre-flop raiser on the button w/ K7. He had a large stack and had decent odds to call. I took this one and doubled up to about my original stack of 4,500.

After shoving with A5, I shoved with JJ after an early position limper and didn't get any callers.

A few hands later, I got dealt KK in early position. I went to reach for chips to count out a raise, then said, "Eh, I'm all-in." I thought this would look indecisive and thus, weak... and with the A5 shove and another shove soon after, I thought this would look like a desperation move. I figured to get called by 55 or better. A player in late position tanked for a good 30 seconds... I thought he was going to call as he looked like he really wanted to, but he ended up folding.

I got involved in another pot with Rafal when he raised to 450 again w/ the blinds at 100/200, but this time there was an ante of 25, so with such a small raise, I was temped to call with just about any two... and this time I had Ac 7c. The flop came AT4 with one club. I checked and Rafal bet 500. This is where I got a brain cramp... I folded thinking that I was going to inevitably be committed to the hand... with such a weak kicker, I wanted to move on to another hand and look for a more comfortable spot. Looking back, I have to make this call and evaluate the turn... had a club, 7 or ace hit on the turn, I would have felt pretty good about my hand.

In the 6th hour with the blinds now at 150/300 and a 25 ante, our table broke up and I got moved to Table 92. We all wished each other luck... and believe it or not... it seemed like everyone was sincere too :) It was an enjoyable table for the most part.

I had about 4,000 chips at this point and really needed to catch some cards. The blinds and antes allowed me less than 6 orbits, so I was looking for a double up within the next orbit or two... time was running out.

About the 10th hand in, I got dealt JJ from UTG, so I raised it up to 900, hoping for a shove from someone... but no... a player two to my left raised to 2,500... ugh. This was a brutal spot. I felt like the best I could hope for was AK and a coin flip. I hemmed and hawed for a good minute... I still had 3,000 behind me, so I decided to fold it. Oddly, the raise to 2,500 seemed like it was a bet to lure other people in, myself included... I may have called if he simply shoved all-in, as this would have smelled more like AK.

About 7 hands later, Olivier Busquet raised to 700 from EP and I shoved my last 2,900 with AJ... a player three to my left raised all-in, Olivier folded and I was in bad shape against AK. The flop came 49T and when an 8 hit the turn, I had a few more outs to hit a straight, but the river bricked and I was out.

If I had to do it over again, I would have played a few hands differently for sure... since it was my first event, I think I played a few hands too passively so that I could "stick around longer" and wait for a "better spot".

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Big Blind Special

I won the "high hand of the night" in Kevin's tourney on February 5.

I had been playing super tight early on w/ a very good player to my left (Keith)... so I finally got to see a flop from the big blind in a limped (unraised) pot with K6o.

Three of us went to the flop... KK2... bingo. I played it slow, figuring I was way ahead or way behind someone w/ a better king. It was checked around.

The turn was a 10. I checked again. Paul bet about 1/2 the pot and I called. There was about 100 chips in the pot by now.

The river was my gin card... the final king to give me quads. I had played it so passively that I don't think anyone could have put me on the case king, so I checked again. Paul bet small (25 chips) and I raised the minumum, figuring there's no way he could fold a ten... he ended up calling w/ ace high... I slow rolled it unintentionally when I turned over one card at a time... the 6... then the king... the room erupted... I don't think anyone believed I had it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Recent Wins

I have a couple of tournament wins to talk about since my last post in late October...

1. I finished first in Full Tilit Poker's "Bad Bead on Cancer" charity tourney on November 15 for about $300 and donated 1/3 of that to the charity. It was a $5+$5 buy-in ($5 to the prize pool, $5 to charity) with 314 entrants.

This one was especially nice since I get the opportunity to appear in a DeucesCracked video this year. Jay Rosenkrantz asked me to contact him in late January, which is... ummm... right about now!... I hope to blog about that sometime in February. In fact, I didn't realize about this "bonus prize" until Geoff Manning mentioned it in the chat box at the final table.

2. I took first in Keith Switzer's home game in Livermore on January 15. Ironically, I had played in about 4 or 5 of Keith's tourneys before (typically a field of 18 to 27)... and I had never come close to sniffing the final table. But on this night, I had lady luck on my side... I flopped 3 sets w/ small pocket pairs during the tourney:

  • With 66 to take a large pot early on... Barry tried a river bluff on a missed flush draw... poor guy... everyone was teasing him when he folded for about 30 more chips in a 500 chip pot.
  • With 44 to take a medium-sized pot early on.
  • Then 22 when I got heads up w/ Father Bill's son, Bryan... that doubled me up.

With the blinds sky high at 100/200, Bryan and I got all of the chips in the middle on the last hand... KQ > K7.

But the biggest hand of the night came when we were down to 5-handed play. I raised 3x from the cutoff w/ 88 and Keith called from the button. The flop came 994. I checked and Keith went all-in. He had me covered.

I had never agonized over a hand so long before. I couldn't see Keith shoving w/ a 9, so that led me to believe he either had two overs or a pocket pair. I've seen him flat call pre-flop w/ KK before... he's a tough, sneaky player... but something in his body language made me think he didn't want a call... I asked him what 3rd place received and he said $40 (which was a $20 profit)... I was also getting kinda low on chips so I didn't want to play weak and go for 3rd place money... I wanted first... and my hunch was kinda right about a low pocket pair... I called and he turned over A4.