Monday, July 31, 2006

brief update

i finished the day with $13,350. I am rather disappointed with my final chip count but at least I'm still there.
I had over $30,000 to begin the final level but a series of disasters (beginning with aces cracked in a $30,000 pot) started my downslide.
Will have a full report tomorrow. I am completely wiped out.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

T-minus 1 hour

Table 131 Seat 7
Wish me luck, in all its forms, and the focus to stay in the right frame of mind to make the correct decisions.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Freakonomics of Tournaments, Chapter 2: Chaos Theory, the Butterfly Effect, and the Fundamental Theorem of Poker

(I posted this on 2+2 as well.)

Chaos theory in its most elemental version suggests that the forces of nature and reality are intertwined in such a way that what we do now will affect what happens in the future even in ways we may not see or comprehend. One of the ways chaos theory is most commonly expressed is by the "butterly effect". "If a butterfly flaps its wings in Peking the weather in New York changes the next day" or something like that. Among other things, it's a great reminder to a poker player not to be results oriented, and to only concern yourself with factors you can control.

How does this apply to the Fundamental Theorem of Poker, and more specifically, tournaments?

Well, the Fundamental Theorem of Poker states that every time your opponent plays his hand differently than he would if your cards were face up, you gain.

One big reason I play so loose is because I feel tournaments are absolutely about accumulating chips. The Fundamental Theorem of Poker speaks to the flipside: The other reason I play so loose is that it disguises my range so well and makes my hands hard to read. I induce more mistakes from my opponents than a predictable player can because their hands are much more readable with the information available. And that's the secret: My moves may be individually -EV on a particular hand, but they induce my opponents to make bigger mistakes than I make, because my hands are much harder to read than theirs.

Here's an example particular to me: Let's say we're in the mid stages of a tournament, antes are in and many people have Ms between 12-15 if not even shorter. A tight player opens in MP; his range may be, for example's sake, is 99+, AQ+. It folds to the villain in BB who has AQ. Now against a tight player it is usually right to fold because his range is such that AQ is being crushed. Now, my range in this spot might be 22+, 76s+, AJ+, ATs+, KQ, or some such. (My range is never set in stone; it depends on many factors, which is part of my style.) Now if the observant opponent knows me, he knows it's proper to push over me given the range I open with. As a result I usually have to fold the hands near the bottom of my range. I lose a small amount when I fold, but when I have a hand near the top of my range, I call and get the money in as a good favorite, and it's a much bigger pot than I would have been able to create otherwise. I generate more EV for myself this way, and I've found the huge mistakes I induce in my opponents when I have big hands make up for the small ones I make (frequently) preflop.

In addition, my aggressiveness at the table can occasionally induce others to play hands differently than they otherwise would against OTHER players. I've observed the following effect: After I raise several hands in a row, or, say, raise the same person's blind two or three times in a row, he may mentally decide "This is the hand I'll take a stand." So, say the next time I get garbage and throw it away. Someone else, a much tighter player than me, raises the blind, and the player who has already decided to take a stand does so again, and gets called by a much better hand and gets crippled or busts. In a tournament, where everyone's equity is affected by what happens on other hands, this can be huge. Instead of a simple blind steal or small pot, now someone is knocked out and we move up a pay spot.
The effects aren't always that pronounced, but they do exist.

This is a pretty rough draft and I'm sure needs work but I was thinking about this the last couple of days and so far this is the best expression of one of the benefits I've found of playing loose.

Questions, comments, and thoughts appreciated.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

yesterday's report (1500 NL and 2+2ers)

I wanted to play the $1000 7 Stud Hi/Lo event on Monday but I was too burned out from the weekend to do any serious pokering. So I slept in all day and decided to recuperate and attack the $1500 NL on Tuesday, the last event before the ME.
I got two full nights of sleep and found I was playing much better. Unfortunately, the second full night of sleep meant I didn't even show up to the Rio until 12:15, so I was placed on the alternate list. My table didn't sit down until 1:30, an hour and a half into the event. With 1500 chips and starting halfway through the 25/50 level I knew I was going to have to go into attack mode.
The only person I recognized at my starting table was Laura Fink, who was seated directly on my left. She placed 13th in the 5k pot-limit HE event, but I knew her because me and my travelling posse that was in town last weekend went out on Saturday for drinks at the Bellagio. We met up with a bachelorette party that one of my brother's friends was a member of and the bride-to-be mentioned she knew her and I should keep an eye out for her.
Anyway, I didn't get to see her play too many hands so she doesn't play a big part in the poker part of this story.

I started off playing pretty fast because we were under such a time crunch. In half an hour the blinds would be 50/100 and that would leave little room to maneuever. I wanted to identify and target the weaker players as well as look for spots to pick up pots nobody else wanted.
This amounted to me open raising lots of hands and playing lots of pots in position. We started eleven-handed, so I still had to be somewhat patient, but it's also possible that playing 3-4 hands a round 11-handed instead of 8- or 9-handed disguised how loose I was playing to the rest of the table.

First good pot I take I have QQ in BB. MP raises to 300 (50/100) and I have 1300 total and QQ in the BB, so as soon as I look I toss in the rest of my chips. No reason to get coy this short. He folds.
I took my first real beat of the series in an early pot at 50/100. I had already gotten my stack over 2000 when this happened. Two limpers in MP and I complete Q7 from the SB. Laura checks in the BB and the flop comes down Q74. I don't like to checkraise here because I think I get more out of one-pair hands or get people to overcommit with worse hands by leading out, especially with these stack sizes. I bet out 200, BB and first limper fold, and the second one minraises 200 more. I take about 3 seconds to stick it in, and he calls and turns over KQ. Turn 4 and a river 4 result in a chopped pot.
My stack is still healthy, though. Here's another hand I played and I kinda like it.
MP with 1500 opens to 300. I have 87hh and call; it's loose given his stack size but I figure between position and willingness to be aggressive I have a decent chance to take the pot.
Flop is AT9 one heart and he bets 400. I call. I don't jam here because I know he's only calling with an ace and I don't want to definitely get it in as a 2:1 dog. If the ace doesn't slow him down on the turn I'll fold, unless I hit (or pick up a heart). The turn is a low card and he checks. I bet 800 to put him in and he folds.
A bit later, or earlier, I don't remember which: Super tight old guy makes it 400 from LP. SB calls all in for 375 total. I look down at AQ and think I have a good chance to isolate against the player I know I'm ahead of and push. LP old guy thinks for a few seconds and says "I know I'm folding the best hand" and tosses away AK face up. I said "yes, you are"; SB has K9s and I have AQ. Flop comes Q high with two spades and he doesn't get there. Old guy even says he put me on AQ or AJ but "AK is nothing" and he's not putting in 80% of his stack with it. Okay then.
I lose some back opening AQ UTG to 275. SB pushes in for 425 more and I call and lose to his AK.
Get to break around 2700.

First hand back LP opens to 500 or 600 with like 1200 behind. I look at AK in BB and toss in a stack of purples. He calls with AT and I win.

I'm opening lots of pots, especially in LP. People aren't putting up too much resistance so my stack is growing slowly. I give back small pieces misplaying hands but I'm still slowly incrementing.

Then I got my huge lucksack break of the series:

Folds to me in SB and I have A9o. I open to 575 (not enough from the small blind, I knew it then and know it now and did it anyway). BB calls. Flop is A73 all diamonds (i have none). BB has 2500 or so total, maybe slightly more. I decide that since I probably have the best hand but it is very easy to get raised off it, especially with these stack sizes, I should check-raise all-in. I check, he bets 500, I shove, he calls with T8dd. Oops.
It's okay: The turn comes an ace and the river a 3. I boat up and knock him out, jumping to 7700 chips or so in the process.
I give some back when I don't play well and get to the break with about 5700. The only hand that was one of those "shit happens" things was when I open AJ to 525 in MP and BB (tight old man who folded AK earlier) raises 1000 more. I fold faceup in like 3 seconds, and he shows AA. I ran my raises into big blind's AA several times.

100/200/25 levels after the break. I'm opening more frequently since the antes make the pot so huge. I'm taking down a decent amount of pots preflop but giving some back when I do stupid crap like float.

First cooler hand of the day: Button opens to 600 when he has 1500 total. Normally this would set off warning bells but he'd been doing this a lot, i suppose assuming everyone knew he was committed. I was in the small blind and saw KK so it was a no brainer reraise for me. The BB thought for a minute and folded and I wish I knew he had a hand so I could have flatted and let him make a move and trap him. I don't have those kind of predictive powers, though. The button turned over AA and I doubled him up.

Interesting hand from later on:

I have about 6k and open 55 UTG to 650 (still 100/200/25). MP 4 seats down who is a good player pushes, and it turns out to be like 5500 total. A short stack who's loose and wild calls all-in for like 1300 total. It comes back to me and I have a "blink" moment: "Call, you have the best hand." Then I stop and realize "You're putting your whole stack at risk hoping for a race in the SIDE POT and you don't even know what the short stack has." So I fold.
Raiser turns over AK suited and short caller has A3s. The board runs out 6635x and the A3 takes the pot.
Now it's easy to say I'm results oriented here, but afterwards I was analyzing the hand and I realized why I had that "blink" moment:
-Even though I'm a loose player, people may not have fully realized that here, and an UTG raiser at an 11-handed table still has a reasonably solid range.
-The reraise was so massive that it ONLY makes sense with AK. AA/KK would try to extract some value, and since I raised UTG, 99-JJ has to seriously worry about a bigger pair from me. QQ could go either way, I think, but still for both those concerns almost never makes an all-in raise.
If this is all true, then AK is so much more likely than anything else that with the pot odds I should call.
But then what about the overcaller? Couldn't he have me dominated and therefore in a bad spot even with pot odds? Maybe, but not necessarily. He was wild; I must have sensed that and known he'd be willing to throw it in with lots of hands. If he has an ace there that actually helps me and I become close to 60/40 to win the side pot at least.
Obviously it would have been a bad call on the surface but thinking about the way the hand played out makes me understand why I had my initial reaction. Plus, if I do call and am right, I have a big enough stack to wield as a weapon vs. the table.

Things were uninteresting after that. My bustout hand was a cooler: 150/300/25 and I have JJ in EP and 4500 or so in chips. I open to 875. Kid a couple seats behind me stops to think, asks how many chips I have. Gets a count, thinks for a few minutes, and calls. BB calls, he's a bit loose and donkish (saw him not long ago open to 800 UTG and fold to an all in for 1300 more; even if I'm opening loose in EP I'm not folding with those pot odds). Flop is 644 and he pushes for like 1500. I overpush and kid calls immediately, at which point I know I'm beat but don't know how. BB shows 55; kid has KK, and that's all she wrote.

I played better yesterday but didn't get the cards when I needed them. Hopefully in the ME I'll have both going for me.

I decided that since I had nothing to do I would watch Daryn Firicano (2+2er Daryn) at the final table of the $1000 NLH rebuy. I walked around the side of the stage looking for fellow 2+2ers and spotted Vanessa (fslexcduck). We introduced ourselves and she introduced me to the rest of them-- Daryn, Yeti, flawless_victory, FoxwoodsFiend (Ariel), jcmoussa, pfkaok, and a few others. We went to dinner where I started drinking to get into proper sweat mode. After getting back saw stevepa, AJo (Alex Jacob), and chuddo/snagglepuss, among others. Our spots on the bleachers were taken so we took a seat at one of the tables behind the final table stage. FF, jc, duck, and I played $10 a point Chinese Poker with 2-7 low middle and royalties (3 points for trips in front, 5 for quads in back, 7 for straight flush in back). I lost $20 and then we got kicked out because someone unrelated to us broke a table. We explained to security that we were there to support our friend and when we went out to dinner with him a bunch of Hellmuth fanboys took our seats. They cleared room for us.

The drinks started coming heavily. I increasingly razzed Hellmuth from the bleachers; when Daryn opened the button, Hellmuth reraised, Daryn pushed, and Hellmuth folded, I yelled "Must have misread his soul". pfk and I were trading jokes about Phil's small bets and raises ("12k/24k/4k... Hellmuth makes it 49k").
Hellmuth doubled up Daryn twice which was nice, first when he called his A2s push with KJ, and second when Daryn played this sweet hand: He opens from button, Hellmuth calls. Flop is like A42 two diamonds. Hellmuth checks, Daryn checks. Turn is a T. Hellmuth checks and Daryn pushes for like 2x the pot. Hellmuth tanks for like 3 minutes and finally calls with A6. Daryn shows A8 and the 8 plays.

Daryn took a sick beat when he moved in with AQ from the SB and Juha Helppi called with AJs from the BB and flopped a jack. Daryn was short after that and finally lost pushing KQ over Helppi's button open. Juha called with A8 and it held. Third place wasn't a bad score, but Daryn was playing really well and could have taken it if he'd gotten a few breaks.

Afterwards the whole big group went to a house that a few of them (AJ, Ariel, and Jason Strasser) were renting and partied the night away. Those kids are fun. They are also really, really good at pool.

(no offense to anyone I didn't reference by first name. I didn't forget you but for convenience I only used those people I would reference more than once for story's sake.)

Took today easy; just placed 6th in Stars 55r. Gonna chill some tomorrow, see some people who arrive. Maybe get a massage. Time to relax and prep up for the ME.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I'm out of the $1000 rebuy

I've been playing horribly. I need to figure out what's wrong with my game.

I think I've been getting too complacent, playing loose without playing aggressive, playing pots without playing to win them, and just overall playing bad poker.

More later. I need to de-stress.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

5K PLHE: play bad, get there; play bad, don't.

I'm pretty bummed now so I'm not going to get into it, but here's what today proved:

-It's better to be lucky than good, especially when half your table is top pros.
-You can blow a 200BB stack in an hour and a half.

On the other hand, I made Johnny Chan $1000 on a sidebet with Mike Matusow on my triple-up hand. I don't think Mike has any respect for me. I heard a rumor he called me a "toothless scum". He was friendly to me when we were at the same table, but if I find out this is true, we're going to have a real problem next time I see him.

Friday, July 21, 2006

the agony of defeat (or, today's $2000 NL)

Today's tournament was the story of bad bluffs and second-best hands.

I went up and down early until my first big pot.

Still at 25/25 blinds I limped in Ac4c in early position (I usually raise if I play at all, but I'd raised two pots in a row and didn't want to be blown off a hand I actually wanted to play). All folded, the blinds checked, and the flop came J high and all clubs. Small blind bet out 75 and I called. Turn was a low red card; he bet 200 and I called. River was a red 8 (no board pair; I have the nuts) and he bet 250. I raised him 600 leaving 400 behind. I know it looks weird and/or suspicious but my general feeling was that a 600 raise gets called when a push doesn't, because he didn't really have the chips to look me up for 400 more if I was bluffing. He called pretty quickly and I was up to 2800.

Won a small pot when I called a weak player's EP raise with 64o and flopped bottom two in a three-way pot. He made a nearly pot-sized continuation bet; I raised and he folded.

I had a tough time because the player directly to my left was also good; pretty loose and aggressive like me. I bluffed off some chips to him when I opened A3 in the cutoff to 75. The flop came T73 and I check/called 100. The turn was the 8 of hearts, putting two hearts on the board. I checked and he bet 200; I nearly folded but decided with the ace of hearts in my hand I could bluff a flush and a number of other scare cards. So I called, and fired 350 on the K river. He called immediately with T8.

I got aces twice in the first level and didn't win anything significant.

I win my second large pot with 64 offsuit: It's 25/50 blinds now and two people limp in. I decide that I want to play the hand and take control of the pot so I raise to 225. Both limpers call.
The flop is 754 with two spades (I have none). The first caller bets out 225. The second folds; I decide I'm going to tie myself to this pot and make a big raise to try to take it down. I make it 1000 leaving 1100 behind. The guy thinks for a minute, seems to have a genuinely tough decision, then finally calls. (I thought this was an obvious push or fold.)
The turn is a red queen. He checks and I throw in the last 1100. He folds much faster than I thought he would. Umm, thanks.
I have 3800 now, and run to the bathroom since I'm hitting my early position hands and I can't wait. Then the wheels fall off.

First hand back: three limpers to my big blind and I check T8o. The flop is Q96 giving me a double gutshot. I check and it checks to the button who bets 100. I could try to pick up the pot now but my draw is well disguised, so I call. One other caller.
Turn is the 6c. I check, the caller now fires 250. Button folds. I don't think he's full already so I count my eight outs as good; I'm getting better than 3 to 1 to call and I think he has a legitimate hand so my implied odds will be even better. He has about 1300 behind; I decide if I hit that I'll fire a big river bet to appear to be bluffing.
The river is the 7c filling my straight. I throw 1100 into the pot. He sighs and says "You make a full house? I guess I have to pay you off" and calls. I get ready to scoop the pot from trip sixes but he turns over AcTc.
I didn't even consider that.

Not long afterward EP limps, guy to his left raises 200. He's been doing that a lot so I decide to repop him with anything decent. Guy on my right calls the 200. Perfect squeeze spot. I look at A7 and raise to 750. Now EP limper goes all in for 350 more; whatever, he doesn't have much of a hand. But the original raiser shoves, the caller folds (99), and I fold. Limper turns over QTs and the raiser has KK.

I'm down to 1500 or so. I get TT and raise to 175. Two calls behind. Ax 4s 5s flop, I bet 325, the first caller shoves and I throw away my hand rather disgustedly.

Limper in front and I limp 53cc in LP. Same aggro guy on my left makes it 200. First limper calls and so even though I'm short I decide my odds are decent and I'm throwing it in with any reasonable piece of the board (AK3 all hearts would not be a reasonable piece). Flop comes 753 all spades. I open shove the rest in when the action gets to me. The raiser calls fairly quickly. He turns over KK with the K of spades and turns a fourth spade.

That's it. Nothing special, nothing exciting, just another day of tournament poker where the breaks don't go your way.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

please to sign all comments

I would appreciate it. Traffic has increased considerably since my WSOP finish and I would like to know who's talking to me.

an article about the $2500 shorthanded that has a little bit of coverage about me


it's only like a paragraph, but hey, it's something. they got the pieces of my story at least.

dammit Firefox

I wrote out a full report from the $1500 no-limit tournament today and Firefox lost it because it has gigantic memory holes is starting to crash enough to make me think about leaving it.

Short version, started at a table with Barry Greenstein, got to 3200 early, made moves that didn't work, table broke, I played 3 hands badly and went out as a result.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

today's exploits

I busted out 40 minutes into the $1500 pot-limit Omaha event. I made several second best hands and kept losing my stack a few hundred at a time until it was gone. The only person at my table I recognized was James Van Alstyne. I was not asshole enough to make a WPT Championship joke. (Maybe if I'd stuck around longer and he'd gotten a big chip lead I could have been like "Hope the TV cameras don't come around now that you're way ahead, you could end up fifth!" But there seemed to be no reason to be an asshole except for asshole's sake. He seemed like an OK guy who looks overworked.)

Played some NL side games ridiculously loose-aggressive because I don't care about dropping money at 5/10 NL. I ran three large bluffs; two were successful, one was not, and the lesson of the day, again, is that if you set yourself a time limit for leaving the game you should stick to it.

I'm playing in the $2000 NL tomorrow (and by "tomorrow" I mean "in eight or nine hours"). I'm playing the $5000 NL shorthanded on Thursday whether or not I make the final table of the $2000. I'm also flying some friends in for the weekend.

Now that I realize I can definitely compete at these levels my next goal is to win a bracelet. I spent a bit of time facetiously bragging on 2+2 that I would dominate this year's World Series once I got there; now, I think I have a real shot to make another final table.

edit: I should mention that by "I don't care about dropping money" I don't mean "I wasted money"; I mean "I am free to play in the style I prefer because I don't have the fear of losing a bet if a move doesn't work out". Like, for example, if I run a $2000 three-street bluff (which I did).

Monday, July 17, 2006

report from the final table, $2500 shorthanded

(you can follow the cardplayer updates starting here. it may make it easier to understand which hands i'm referencing.

I started with 102k, shortest at the 3k/6k/1k level. My initial plan was to sit back and play a little more conservatively while I felt out the table and assessed what I could and couldn't get away with and against whom.

The cards didn't cooperate. After Demetriou went out 6th I went on a rush and had no choice but to play.

The first move I made, Mike Guttman (the guy who knocked Demetriou out) is on the huge stack now and opens to 18k in the cutoff. I have 99 on button and like 100k total, if that. Easy push and I don't think twice about it. He folds.

The very next hand I get QQ in cutoff and open to 18k. Dan Hicks calls on button. Flop is T97. I go ahead and bet 27k figuring Hicks will jam any piece; he does and I call. He has A7 and my queens hold up to get me to 265k.

The very next hand I get 88 UTG. I open to 18k. Both blinds (Alex Bolotin and Guttman) call. The flop is Q98. It checks to me; I bet 30k, maybe more. They both fold and I show.

THEN I get AK in the BB. Hicks opens to 19k and it folds to me. I survey his stack and see he has about 100k left so I just jam. He folds.

Next hand I have 33 in SB, folds to me, I open to 21k, Hicks folds and I show.

Then A9dd on button. Folds and I open to 18k, again. Bill Chen calls in BB. Flop is QQ7 two hearts. Check / check (because given the way I've been playing it's easy for him to c/r me with air or a draw and I don't want to get pushed off the best hand).
Turn comes 5d, he bets 20k, I call because I have position and ace high might still be good. The river comes Ah which is a nice card to represent, not to mention it also gave me the best hand. He checks and I think about what I can get out of him. I bet 25k and he folds.

The next pot I win is a blind battle. Guttman limps and I check with K2o.
Flop is J63 rainbow, check/check.
Turn is 2h, he bets 7k and I call.
River is Kd. He checks, and I value bet 16k, a little big maybe but also a good size for an attempted steal. He folds.

I get AK in the small blind, raise to 23k, Hicks calls.
Then I fuck it up a little. The flop comes AQT, I check/raise Hicks all in after he bets 17k. This is a mistake; I was trying to get a few more chips out of him without really considering that he would have been much more willing to push over me than to call me. He might have pushed KQ, QJ, KT, or even JT there if I lead. He folds and I pick up the pot.

This all happens in a 3 round span or so. I go from 100k to 480k with only one showdown.

Next big pot I play, Guttman opens to 18k in CO, I call on button with 66, Hicks immediately shoves. I calculate the pot odds... 135k is bigger than I want to see, but I'm still getting decent enough odds that I think it's a call since I think he shoves lots of high card hands there. He has 99 this time and it holds.

I bluff at a JT98 board in a four way pot and get two calls and don't have the heart to bluff the 7 river. I should have. We chop the pot (Bill Chen had T8; Alex Bolotin had AJdd for a pair and flush draw; I had 54o).

Chen raises to 18k in the CO. I decide to call and look at a flop with K5dd. The flop is KT8, I check and he bets 20k. He only has 90k left or so so I stick it in. He immediately calls with K8. Shit.

I'm down again to 130k or so.

Then I make the mistake of opening 96hh while Hicks is extremely short stacked to my left. I do the pot odds and it's a clear call getting 2.3 to 1 or so but I shouldn't have put myself in that position with my stack size and the likelihood he would push over me. He has KTo and makes two pair by the river. I'm down to 95k.

Next hand I have TT UTG. I just open push; Guttman calls from BB with 88. Flop is T96 and I double up.

Levels go to 4k/8k/1k.

I'm opening a lot of pots in the meantime, relatively speaking, but mostly with reasonable holdings. Once I got to 400k or so I tried limping in Ax suited in the first two seats twice and got raised both times so I stopped doing that.

I open my second consecutive hand for 23k with red 22 UTG. Hicks pushes 49k more. I know I'm good here and the pot odds were easy anyway so I call. He turns over J8cc. I don't know why he pushes that there because I'm never folding and he's behind a lot of hands in my range. It doesn't matter; he flops a flush.

I keep chipping away to stay afloat... I did a lot of observing the table before I decided my action to sense if anyone was interested in their hand. I would occasionally raise with any two when I felt like everyone would fold.

I get AKss in the BB. Folds to Guttman and he makes it like 26k. I immediately shove. He calls with A3cc. The flop is Kx Qs Ts. It's a real beauty but the jack of diamonds hits the river and we chop (Blind Lemon Jefferson where are you).

I get 66 in CO and open push 130k or so since my stack doesn't leave me any other real options. Bill Chen comes over the top with AKhh. My hand holds up and I have 300k.

Chen was opening my blind frequently when I had decent hands and I had some difficulty playing them. Once I had 77 and decided to call and check/folded an ace high flop. Then I had AT and called and led a Q53 flop. He called and we checked through and he showed 66.
I stopped calling to play difficult hands out of position after that.

Then Bolotin, who has been short all day, moves in from CO for about 80k. I have TT in the SB and immediately call. He shows A7 and spikes an ace on the river. Frustration sets in.

Alex raises to 24k from the button. I decide I've had enough of the bullshit and shove 66 for 100k more or so. He has me slightly covered and folds KQ.
The next hand I have 88 and he raises to 24k again. Now I have him covered and I push. This time he calls with AQ, but my hand holds and I bust him and pull up to 320k or so.

Hicks goes out shortly after that.

Now we're playing three handed and I have enough chips to open up my game the way I want to.

Guttman has the chip lead but is clearly the weakest player at the table. I decide I'm going to aim for chunks of his stack.

One hand I have K7hh in the SB. Guttman opens the standard 23-24k from the button, I decide to make it 80k because I might have the best hand, and although calling and seeing a flop would be safer, this gives me a better chance to win the pot. He calls without too much thought but folds to my 100k bet on the Q42 two-diamond flop.

I'm playing nearly everything on the button, limping in sometimes, opening sometimes. I regret the raise when I make it 23k with 98dd and Chen makes it 75k. I call, but then the flop comes QT7 and he shoves. I comment something like "I was gonna do that" and he says "I can take it back and let you push". His shove is more than the pot so I fold.
I regret the limp when I limp 86o, and the blinds check. Guttman calls my stab at the pot with like 2PNK so I give up.

First big pot I played with Guttman: He raises to 24k in SB and I have 97cc in BB and call. Flop comes down 965 and he checks. I decide I'm ready to go to war with this hand and just have to figure out the best way to do it. I make a weak stab of 25k which is just begging to be check-raised. He obliges by making it 100k. I take about 5 seconds to move in for 320k more or so. He folds.

Most of the big hands from here on out were covered by cardplayer so I won't hit all the details but I will provide some thought process.

I did squeeze-reraise once preflop from BB with AQ. Chen made it 35k and Guttman called and I went to 150k.

I had AQ on the hand Guttman had 87s and called my river bluff. It wasn't a good bluff. But it did set me up to get paid on the K7 hand. I checked top pair because I both wanted to extract more value from a worse hand and not be put in a tough spot if I was check-raised.

The hand where I made the nut flush on the turn with K2 I nearly 3-bet the turn but I figured I was letting off too many worse hands too easily by doing that. As it stood I double through him if the board doesn't pair.

The last hand I played like a total donkey. I should have raised the flop with my open ender. I almost called the river but then I got the first-level thought "hmm, I have a straight, I should get some value from it." When he pushed at me I felt I was beat but I didn't see it. I looked at the board again, figured I was behind Q8, but chopping mostly, and he doesn't have Q8 because he wouldn't raise OOP with that, so maybe A8 or 88. So I called.
I totally missed the KQ as a possibility. I misread the board. I made a beginner's mistake and it cost me a chance at $200,000 and a World Series bracelet.

That kills me more than anything else.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


second place in the $2500 shorthanded
not bad, but not first

will write more in detail about the whole thing later

Saturday, July 15, 2006

quick update

up and down day but i did make the final table! starts at 2 pm pacific tomorrow.

seating and chip counts:

Seat 1 - William Chen - $175,000

Seat 2 - Alex Bolotin - $280,000

Seat 3 - Harry Demetirou - $378,000

Seat 4 - Mike Guttman - $587,000

Seat 5 - Nath Pizzolatto - $102,000

Seat 6 - Dan Hicks - $321,000

ooh that's actually good for me. the biggest stacks are in front of me although Dan Hicks was a thorn in my side all day when he was on my left and had me covered.

the payouts:







i now have a 100% success rate on final tabling WSOP bracelet events which i'm pretty sure is the all time record.

more detail on day two later. now i need rest.

Friday, July 14, 2006

$2500 shorthanded day one trip report

i started at table 53. i didn't know anyone, but apparently one of my tablemates is Steve Zoine, one of your B-list circuit pros.
i find him surprisingly loose and passive for a tournament player.

i'm so fried right now i barely remember hands. but i spent the early period figuring out how my table played and then pushing around the weak players.

ok, fun pot #1: open 74ss UTG (obviously) to 3x or whatever, i don't even remember what level this was. aggressive asian kid calls on the button. flop comes down like J85 or something ridiculous, i bet out 250, he makes it 525. he's been making a bunch of small aggressive moves so i decide to see what the turn brings and see if i can't win the pot. turn is a 4. i check and he bets 1100 leaving 2600 or so. i think about it for a minute, think about folding, then realize he could well be making a move, and if he ha a strong hand, i have outs (definitely 4, possibly 10). so after a minute of calculating and studying i push. he folds after about ten seconds.

fun pot #2 vs. steve zoine. right after i showed down some random trash in the first level i open up KK utg to 3x like it's no big. he calls. flop is like JTx two diamonds. i lead 250 and he calls. turn is a low brick, i check, he bets 250 or 350 or something and i make it 1000. he deliberates and calls. river is a 4d. i don't like it but i don't think he has it either and i want to block and/or get value so i fire 1k more. he deliberates and says some bullshit line about me outdrawing him and folds, saying he folded top set, and he's obviously lying because if you fold top set here you can't possibly be a winning tourney circuit player. i'm sure he had AJ/KJ or some nonsense.

get to 7000 by first break.

drop to 4000 early in the third level. first lame hand: open KQ to 275 (50/100), zoine calls from sb. flop is K high two clubs (i have Qc), he leads 300 i call. turn is a club, check/check. river is another club, he bets 1k, i think and call because a bluff is likely, he shows KcKx, and i have like the only hand that matches my bets that can pay him off, the lucky bastard.

i end up getting it back, at 100/200 i open KK to 500 and zoine calls in position, flop is QJ8 two hearts, i lead 800 he calls, turn is an 8, i just stick it in because i have the best hand and i want that pot. he folds.

make some moves here and there: blind battle i have j8 in BB, flop comes T9x, i bet 200, SB c/r to 500 and i push him in, he folds, says he folded a ten. man so many tournament players are pussies.

he busts, new guy comes in and another fun blind battle: he opens to 500, i have T5dd and call, and decide to put on some showmanship and stare him down without looking at the flop. he leads 600 or 625 or something, i glance over and see T54 two hearts and immediately fire 2000. he thinks about 30-45 seconds and folds.

i get to 2nd break with 14k. my table breaks. things get fun.

my new table has a couple of young guys on either side of me and a middle aged kinda aggro dude in the 5 seat (i'm in the 2).

i get up to 17k at 100/200/25 and this pot happens. i open JThh to 625 utg, milagro (middle aged aggro, and yeah taco milagro, whatever, i'm tired) makes it 1500 more, about the 3rd time i've seen him reraise preflop in like 20 minutes. we both have lots of chips and i decide to call. flop is J97, two clubs. i check, he bets 3200. i'm like, hmmm, i don't even have to bother putting him on a hand. if he has AK/AQ/TT he folds, if he has something better he might fold, if he calls i have 9 outs unless he has a set (doubtful, probably not reraising the 99). he goes in the tank, says "i can beat a jack". i shrug. says i have clubs. no response from he. he folds claiming QQ. yeah, you're going to read about lots of hands like this. i have 24k now.

he says to me "it's fine, i'll get your chips later." i mumble under my breath to the guy next to me "yeah but when you do they'll just be yours i'm giving back."

so nature deals him some delicious irony.

he opens to 700 in CO and i call in my BB with QTo. flop is AT7 two diamonds, check/check and i know he doesn't have an ace. so turn is 3d, i check, he bets 1500, i call because i'm definitely ahead. while i'm debating how to play the river, depending on what comes, it hits another ten. i check, he pushes, i call immediately, he mucks. i guess by 'later' he meant "some unspecified future date".

this bumps me to 35k or so. tony le takes his place in the 5 and not long after kevin o'donnell moves into the 4 seat.

i take a huge pot. 150/300/25, i open 76ss in CO to 875 or so, everyone behind me calls (young kid, tony le, and BB in 6 seat-- i don't know where kevin was during this, maybe i was utg+1 and he folded). i have a good feeling about the flop when i see the 4s in the door, and then the dealer spreads the 5, and the 8. checks to me and i bet 1100. button raises 3500 more. blinds fold, i think for 30 seconds, mentally count down his remaining chips, decide i don't want to let him get away from the hand later, and push him in for his last 8-9k or whatever. he says "I have to call" and turns over 54hh. i say "I have the nuts". it holds and i have 50k.

the VERY NEXT HAND i get AA and open to 900. kevin in 4 seat calls on button, or co, or something. behind me. flop is Q95 two spades, i lead 1500, he makes it 3000, and he has a ton of chips so i don't want to get a ton of money in because i'm definitely behind if i do. so i call and plan to lead out any non K/Q/8/spade turn. turn is an 8 and so i check call 3000. river is a king and i check and he bets 10k. there is absolutely no way i am still ahead so it takes me about 10 seconds to muck faceup.

chipped my way back in my usual fashion, which is raising lots of pots, stealing blinds and antes, c-betting a lot if i get called, etc.

karlo lopez moves into the 3 seat. he's a great guy; he and i had a lot of fun.

i can barely remember what happens from here. one pot i fucked up badly where apparently karlo had KK and i had AA and i somehow did not stack him. i am opening lots of pots and lots of weird hands. kevin o'donnell seems to want to play sherriff.

this leads to him frequently reraising me. so i get creative with him.

i open 43hh on the button, he reraises in BB, 2500 more, so we were probably at 300/600/75. i call with plans to reevaluate and to take it away if i sense weakness. flop is T95 or something and he bets 3500. i think a few moments and raise 5500 more. he mucks 88 faceup.

in another pot i open KT and he calls from blind. i c-bet a Q high flop 3500 and he calls. turn is a jack and he leads 4200. i shove and he folds.

he's doing a lot of minreraising me. i open to 2300, he goes to 4600. and we both have lots of chips and i have hands like 87s so it's not unreasonable to take a flop but i keep missing and losing the initiative so i can't pick it up when i don't hit.

another fun one i have with him: open 64cc to like 1700 (still 300/600/75). he calls in position. flop is like Q87 one club and i c-bet 2200 with my gutshot. he calls. turn is 5c. the one perfect card. i check though and he checks. river is a ten. i bet 5000, he thinks, comments "you have jack nine again?" (i limp called a raise from karlo lopez preflop earlier with J9hh and flopped top two). he calls with two pair, ship it.

ok so fun read hand: 400/800/100, shortish stack in BB. i have A3hh in cutoff and open to 2000 so that if i feel he's strong i can fold to a push. he stops, thinks, actually picks up his cards like he plans to muck them, then seems to say "fuck it" and puts in his chips. it's like 6k more. i'm getting not quite 2:1 but he looked very weak to me the whole way, i go through it and decide i likely have the best hand, and call. he has J9ss, i flop an ace and turn another.

i'm having a great time, karlo and i become buddies, i'm telling people my story so i can pitch it as the feel good hit of the summer if i win the main event.

i finally bust o'donnell at 600/1200/200 when i open A5 to 3300 and he makes it 3300 more. i decide "fuck this, i have ace high, this time i'm taking a stand since he has enough chips to fold and i have some good outs." i push him in. he calls immediately with kings. i flop an ace. i knew i would. The Man was right.1
this is the only time all day i got my money in behind (at least that i got called). i haven't been to too many showdowns, i haven't been all in for all of my chips once.)

aggressive young scandinavian is raising my blinds a bunch. i'm letting him but finally shove back KQ at him and he folds, which sets up our next series of events.

i'm at my peak now, 125k or so.

very next hand he shoves like 12500. i have 55 in SB and seriously think about this since it's 1/10 of my stack. i want to call, i feel like i might have the best hand, but something about it feels off to me and i fold.
very next hand, possibly subconsciously wanting to make up for it, ep opens to 4k and i call on button with KTss. blind moves in 4800 more, EP just calls, and now i call getting huge odds and knowing i'm calling if i hit any piece.
flop is Q T x, he pushes 9500, i call. he shows AK. shorty shows AQ. i lose the side pot to an ace on the river.
postflop was fine, preflop sucked. the only chink in my armor all day.

i finished with 101,800. i'm 3 of 38 going to tomorrow and i think karlo lopez (48,700) is second at the table by a decent margin. the only other person whose name i know is aleksander strandli at 20.8k.
i'll be in the 2 seat at table 119. karlo is the 3 seat, aleks is the 1 seat. come wish me well if you're here. if you're not, just follow me on and if you know who the 4 5 and 6 people are, tell me that, too.

1 - "That's what it's all about, isn't it? Making the wrong move at the right time."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

recap of today: or, I suck at poker, and by extension, life

played 5/10 at the Rio all day. I'm keeping this brief because I don't want to relive it and because it's already really late.
I played well in some spots. I played like dog shit in others. I made several really bad calls when I knew better and cost myself several thousand dollars. I also donked around and tilted off a bit more than that. I'm probably down $2500 on the day.

What really pisses me off is that the hands where I was beaten in a big pot, I analyzed the situation correctly, constructed the hand properly, figured out I was probably beaten, and CALLED ANYWAY.

That fucking sucked. I blew off money with lots of second best hands... top two vs. flush, trips vs. full house, straight vs. boat or some such (that one I folded).

The one hand I DID fold I had QT on a QT3 all-club board. UTG bet 50, I made it 125 (yeah not great I know), loose button cold called, SB moved in for about 650 total. Folded, I folded, button folded. SB shows Q3.

I told myself I would leave at 2 AM so I could rest for the 2500 shorthanded. Instead I played until 4:30 and probably lost at least $3000 in that time.

I have no discipline and no focus. I'm pretty depressed and down about my game right now. So naturally I'm in a $2500 tournament which I will probably sleep about four hours beforehand.

Oh, and for some reason Harrah's has me in their system as "Nathanial Pizzolatto". I've tried to fix this repeatedly but had limited success. I'm going to be pissed off if I do well and the wires report that shit-shingle of a fake name as the real thing.

When I took a break to go get a hamburger, the burgers weren't ready. When I took a break to go to the bathroom, it was closed for cleaning. Even the kitchens and restrooms are coolering me today.

When you lose this game is the loneliest in the world.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

brief recap of the day

I spent most of the day at the hotel, overindulging myself in laziness and room service. I woke up and ordered breakfast and a mimosa alongside it and enjoyed it so much I got an entire bottle of champagne and a quart of orange juice.

I played some poker online, with horrible results.
Around 2:30 AM I finally left the hotel to check out the Bellagio. It was a longer walk than it looked, but Las Vegas is a surprisingly cool city at night not to mention I'm sure my unfamiliarity with the paths through the city had something to do with it.

I made $42 playing mostly 5/10 NL and some 2/5. I still play too loose preflop.

The Bellagio is a gorgeous place both inside and out.

I'm getting some real rest tonight and then heading over early to the Rio, to register for Thursday's 2500 shorthanded event, and to tear up those cash games. Maybe to just wander around the city some more, too.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand

(Awesome; my browser crashed in the middle of writing this. Let's try again.)

Just put in a 12-hour session of cash games at the Rio. Started at the 2/5 NL to get my feet wet and wait for a spot in the 5/10 NL. The 2/5 is 200-min, 500-max; the 5/10 is 500-min uncapped. I finished the session up about $700 but made a series of severe weak/loose errors that ended up costing me quite a bit of money. I was on a noticably poor run of cards but I also realized that my ridiculous preflop play cost me a lot of money. I will tighten this up for future sessions because I think $100 an hour is definitely sustainable at this game and $200 an hour is possible with the right run of cards and the right table.
I also discovered I play better when I subsist solely on Red Bull and worse immediately after I've eaten. (But man, they make good cheeseburgers in the poker kitchen.)

By the way, based on the few orbits I was there, most people I know could beat the 2/5 game. (I didn't say most poker players I know; I said most people.)

Since the WSOP events and cash games were all in the same place I took some moments to spot celebrity players. Here's a brief synopsis of who I saw:

-Allen Cunningham, at the TV final table for the 1k rebuy event which he won (and which I only watched for like 10 minutes because I was there to play, dammit)
-Barry Greenstein, as I was walking by the cashier's cage on the phone with Kurt, wherein I commented "Barry Greenstein is like ten feet away from me, right now"
-Minh Ly, several times out by the poker kitchen smoking cigarettes; I have a really blurry photo of him talking to
-David Singer, but in the photo they're barely distinguishable as people, let alone famous ones
-Greg 'FBT' Mueller, and I still don't know what "FBT" stands for. But my brother-in-law is a hockey player, and based on my experiences with that, Greg looks exactly like a hockey player
-David Pham, also out back by the poker kitchen / smoking area
-Hung La, talking to someone at a table where no game was being spread
-T.J. Cloutier, just once, when he passed by while I was at the 2/5 NL table
-Andrew Black, playing the $50 blind / $25 ante no-limit hold 'em with
-Antonio Esfandiari, who hadn't shaved in like 3 days, and seated between them was
-Shannon Elizabeth, who is amazingly beautiful in person, even if she is too skinny
-Phil Laak, wandering around at like 4 AM with some buddy of his I didn't recognize
-Paul Darden and
-Eskimo Clark (both of these two on several occasions but at least once at the big NL game)
-Someone wearing an Absolute Poker "Mizrachi" jersey, although I don't know if it was Michael, Robert, the other one (Eric?), or just some goombah-looking dude who was a fan of theirs
-Noli Francisco, I think at a Badugi / Triple Draw mixed game
-Men Nguyen, way across the room, didn't even bother to find out what he was playing, and it might not even have been him
-Hon Le, whose name it took me forever to remember since all I could remember of him was "That one guy at that one WPT final table in season one"
-Tuan Le and Nam Le-- at least I think it was them, because I only saw them walking around, and not for long. They're shorter than I expected.

That's all I can think of right now.

I have a camera on my new phone, so I'm going to try to upload pictures if I can ever figure out how. In the meantime, the sun is coming up, which is a good sign it's time for a poker player to go to bed.

More to report on later, but I'm having an amazing time so far, and I could see myself doing this for quite a while. Vegas is a hell of a spectacle and so many of the buildings are really beautifully designed. The games are profitable and great fun, too.
"Eternity is in love with the productions of time," indeed.

I do wish I knew more people, though. Ah well, Vegas has poker opponents and hookers: do I even need people for anything else?

Monday, July 10, 2006

skipped the 1k event

Everything I heard was that it was sold out already anyway and the alternate lists were full so I decided to sleep in.
Gonna grab some breakfast now before I head over to familiarize myself with the Rio, watch a 2+2er (Alex Jacob at the final table of the $1k rebuy), play some cash games, etc.

I have arrived in Vegas

This has been an interesting day, to say the least.

I managed to miss not one, but two flights. I didn't take off until 10:55 PM.
I arrived at the Monte Carlo to find that Pokerstars didn't actually reserve my hotel for the extra days I'd requested. They put me up in a room anyway, but I have no idea what my future arrangements will be.

And there's a 1k tournament I want to play tomorrow that I have no idea if I'll be rested enough to really justify it.

Ah, what to do, what to do...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

interesting hand from Turning Stone $300 tournament

I was just thinking about this hand so I thought I'd share it and my thought processes.

Blinds are 100-200. I've just doubled up twice in a row (both with 55, once AIPF against AJs, and the second time I flopped a set and busted top pair). I have something like 6-7k to start the hand, I think (my memory is fuzzy).

MP limps in and I have QQ in the cutoff. I raise to 700 and he calls fairly quickly. He's got about 3500 behind after the call, I think.

The flop comes down Ks Tx and a low spade. He checks, and I check. I talked this hand over with someone and they said they continuation-bet 100% of the time here. I don't, and I'll tell you why.
It's not so much that I'm worried about the overcard per se (I don't always check my big pairs when an overcard flops). It's that on this particular board, it would be easy for an aggressive player to check-raise me off the best hand. QJ and Ax of spades are possible hands for a limp/call and if I am check-raised I have a difficult decision to deal with-- am I ahead of a draw or behind top pair or better?
If the flop comes drier-- K73 or such-- I'm more inclined to bet because I have more certainty that I'm probably beaten if I meet a check raise.
So on this board I want to maintain control of the hand. If he did have a drawing hand and the turn bricks, he's got much less equity if he makes a move at the pot. I would rather exercise some caution and pot control on a hand where I may have the best hand but I may be raised off it, as opposed to a hand where I know I'm beaten if I meet resistance.
The turn is a low card and MP fires out 800. I call since I feel like I still have the best hand, particularly since I've under-represented it. I think a raise here both pot-commits me and drives out everything that doesn't beat me.
The river is the ten of spades. MP quickly goes all in. (This is the part where my memory is fuzzy; I remember his all in being for about 2800 chips but also an overbet of the pot, which doesn't jive since the pot at this point is 3300, and that part of the action I DID get right.)
Something strikes me as suspect about the bet either way, so I replay the hand in my head, to figure out what would beat me that would play like this.
A king would never shove the river; the worst card in the deck came out (making two pair into trips and completing the flush draw).
I've played the hand rather passively, so he can't think I'm strong enough to call a push if he has trip tens or a flush. He would value-bet me (and a push CAN be a value bet on the river, but I really didn't think it was here, given the way the hand played out).
So I decide a bluff is very likely. I study him for a few moments after thinking it through and notice he's leaned over the table holding his cards like he's getting ready to victory-rip them. That's a tell-- acting strong when you're weak-- and it jived with my logical analysis of the hand. So it took me about 45 seconds to piece it all together, and I finally called.
He said "nice call" and tabled A9o.
I busted him and ran my stack to about 11,000 chips. Our table broke soon afterward, and at my new table with the ante rounds starting I was able to attack frequently and maintain my big stack.
I rode it all the way near the end, when I got too out of line and made some questionable / bad plays to leave me short stacked. I finally had to resort to some desperation pushing and eventually lost when my J9s ran into AK. I finished 15th.

I just like this hand as an example of logical tells matching with physical tells, and how playing a hand passively can occasionally net you more chips than it would have otherwise.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

some insight into my tournament strategy

I just wrote up a hand from the 109 win last night that I used as an example for my big-stack ultra-aggressive style of play.

The title of the post is "The Freakonomics of Poker: A Preview (74s UTG)"

Here's the link. Check it out.

The second poker tournament I've won at Lamar's condo

Just took down the midnight (EDT) Stars $109 for ~$7700. I got the big stack and played in my usual aggro-freak fashion after I did.

Another good tuneup for the series. It seems as though I spent a couple months improving my poker game, and now I'm starting to get back the elements of my tournament game that made me so successful early on.

I may post a HH of this, I may not. For now, I'm going to relax, celebrate a little, and get back to working on that 55k summary.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sundays never quite work out for me

So I took the Sunday to try to play the big Sunday tournaments online. I was particularly intrigued by the Stars $1 million being changed into a $215 with one rebuy and add-on. This gave me an advantage over all the people who got in by satellite and wouldn' t be willing to add on.

However, I didn't play any of them well. I think I overloaded myself on tournaments and just didn't think my plays through. As a result I didn't cash in anything. It probably didn't help that it's been a hedonistic weekend and all the alcohol and cigarettes were catching up.

I tried to make some back at the cash games tonight, but took some hits right before I called it a session and only ended up about $800 or so, mostly 4-tabling 3/6 and 5/10 6-max NL on Party.

I'm going to take a break again. My online poker will be limited before I leave for Vegas as I do my best to see friends and family before I go.

One thing I will have ready is a report from the 55k 3rd place finish. There were a lot of hands I wanted to single out and comment on as regards my playing style, and I've already begun combing through the hand history and writing them up.
The one thing I do worry about is that too many people will try to take some of the ideas I use and run with them the wrong way. I already see evidence of this on the 2+2 boards; people trying to "play like Nath" by being ridiculously aggressive and getting way too aggressive with marginal hands and playing too many hands, when they would be better served working on their fundamentals. You're better off sticking to a simpler approach until you develop enough as a player that you feel comfortable making difficult decisions.
OK. More later with those hands. Time to watch TV poker with the TiVo.