Sunday, December 31, 2006

One Bad Beat Per Tournament

I'll save you the gory details, but I cannot seem to get passed even a field of 18. Despite getting my money in good in both hands I played (yeah, I'm averaging two hands per tournament), I was short stacked going into this hand.

The eventual hand winner put me all in on the flop, with four outs... only a jack could bust me out.

I guess you were right, Chris.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Frustration of Tournaments

Were it clear if online poker were legal or illegal, I would've played in the $12,000 guarantee tournament this evening at midnight. Had I played, I would have joined 865 other players in a $26 buy-in tournament. The prize pool was $20,784, paying 81 places, and awarding $4,884.24 to the first place finisher.

I've been jonesing for a tournament for some time now, playing mostly in cash games (only where it's legal, of course) of late. This seemed like a good way to dip my feet back in with only a little outlay and an opportunity for a good cash.

I, hypothetically, bellied up, virtually.

For the first 37 hands I waited impatiently for two cards worth playing. I did not intend to risk chips with a mediocre hand, and all I saw were mediocre hands.

I noted three or four serious donkeys at the table. The player immediately to my right was playing virtually every hand. He had a few lucky flops and a few aggressive steals (with or without the best hand, I don't know). He soon doubled his stack, and then some. He continued this approach, and began redistributing the wealth. He called down several players with second pair or top pair with a lousy kicker. He was one of a few players at the table against whom I'd be willing to risk my entire stack with only top pair, top kicker, save for the scariest of boards.

There were also a couple of Fischman-followers who only played an unopened pot, and only with a 6-8x raise. I avoided these guys like the plague. Actually, I avoided everyone for the first 37 hands.

On hand 38 (or so), I found myself with A-Q in the big blind. This was potentially playable. The blinds were 25-50. It folded around to a late-middle position player who called the big blind. The small blind, the aforementioned any-two-card donkey called as well.

I knew pre-flop I was against one player. The small blind would have raised with any ace or any pair. The middle position player had just moved to our table, and I had no information, except that he limped into an unopened pot from late position.

I decided to avoid playing from up front with A-Q, and felt content taking down the 150 chip pot (50 of which came from my stack). I raised 6x to 300. The middle position player thought for about a half second and re-raised all in. The small blind folded.

There were a few possibilities here.

My opponent could've had a monster that he decided to trap with. It would've been a poor decision from his late position as the first opener, but it was possible. I decided it was unlikely and I'd take the chance.

Second, it could've been AK, and this player like to see a cheap flop and then contest it if he hit something. If he saw some pre-flop money in the pot he'd push, and with good fold equity, and about a 50% chance at most pots (and better against any other Ace), he'd be in good shape. I doubted this too. It was a scary possibility, but an unlikely one, I decided.

Finally, a small crossed my face. I thought about Clonie Gowen's interview on Ante Up. She talked about players that limp with a smallish hand, like a small pair, and then push all-in to any raise. This is scared poker; this is bad poker. I'd seen it before many times myself, and I was pretty sure that's what it was.

I clicked "all-in", and my opponent turned over Ace of hearts, 4 of hearts. Sweet! This was best case scenario. "But it was soooted!" I imagined my opponent saying only seconds from now as I doubled up and he was eliminated.

Alas, this was Full Tilt.

The flop came with a pair and a middle card. No help for my opponent. I was about a 87% favorite (including 50% of a tied pot).

The turn was another blank. I was now a 93% favorite.

The river, of course, was that dreaded 4 of spades.

I was left with 20 chips, which were ripped away from me in the small blind the very next hand.

I was out in 664th place. Only once have I finished lower in a tournament, and that was after 6 hours and 1400 eliminations before me.

Patience. The right read. All my chips in ahead, way ahead. Worthless.

Getting lucky - priceless.

... of course, this all assumes I can play online within my legal rights, which is perfectly unclear...

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Championship Shave

The following is an excerpt from "52 Greatest Moments World Series of Poker"
Book details and ordering can be done at

“If Robert Varkonyi wins this tournament, I will shave my head today!” This was the bold promise Phil ‘The Poker Brat’ Hellmuth made after making the point that amateurs in recent years were finishing no better than second. The amateur poker player and professional investment banker already knocked Phil from the Main Event. Now Robert Varkonyi would steam roll through the final table to become the 2002 Main Event champion.


The 33rd annual WSOP hosted 631 entrants and would award $2,000,000 to the winner. Leading the pack at the final table was John Shipley with one-third of the chips in play- more than $2M. Robert Varkonyi started the play with $640K. Combining his position with his amateur status, made Varkonyi a clear underdog. However, the novice from Brooklyn would show no fear against the chip leader. Early in the final table, Varkonyi raised from the small blind holding a King. Shipley called with a suited connector- 8c-7c. The flop paired Varkonyi’s King, but he decided to slow play the best hand and checked. The trap worked as Shipley moved Varkonyi all-in. Varkonyi wasted no time in calling. When the board finished dead for Shipley, Varkonyi had doubled up.

That was just the beginning of the dragon slaying. In another Varkonyi-Shipley showdown the two held pocket Jacks and A-J respectively. The board kept the status quo. Varkonyi won the $2M pot. The tide was turning. Varkonyi had taken what Shipley once had and he did it by going straight to the source. The final blow came when Varkonyi’s Aces eliminated a stunned John Shipley. He was just the first.

Scott Gray would be another victim as he was unlucky enough to go all-in against a Varkonyi Q-10. The history of the Q-10 started with Phil Hellmuth. It was the Q-10 combination that Varkonyi used to knock off the ‘Poker Brat.’ In fact the hand became so renowned in just a short time that it would lead Varkonyi to announce, “Since this is Phil’s favorite hand, I’m gonna call...” And when he did, Varkonyi saw a flop that featured two Queens. Scott Gray was eliminated in fourth place.

Varkonyi set-up the heads up match when his pocket Aces defeated Ralph Perry’s pocket Jacks. Varkonyi’s final obstacle was the 23 year old Julian Gardner. The young man at the table had a chance, if he should win, to become the youngest player to ever win the Main Event. This would break the record set by, who else, but Phil Hellmuth in 1989 who was 24 at the time.


Before heads-up play began, the ‘Poker Brat’, announcing tableside with Gabe Kaplan explained to the crowd his dilemma. On one hand, a Varkonyi win would render him hairless and on the other a Julian win would strip him of his record. In jest, Gabe Kaplan praised Phil for once again not thinking about himself.

The final hand started with an all too familiar pocket for Varkonyi- the Qd-10s. Happy to see his old friend, Varkonyi raised $50K. Julian called with the Jc-8c. The flop came 4c-4s-Qc. While Varkonyi received top pair, Julian sat on a promising flush draw. Again, Varkonyi raised $50K, but this time was met with a Julian all-in raise. The Q-10 had yet to disappoint Varkonyi. He would call. A 10d on fourth street improved Varkonyi’s hand to two pair. Still, the same threat remained. A club would give Julian a winning flush. That is, all except the Ten of Clubs, as Gabe Kaplan pointed out, would instead give Varkonyi a winning full house. And that is just what happened. The 10c on the river completed Julian’s flush but simultaneously gave Varkonyi a full house. Varkonyi was the proud recipient of the red jacket presented by the former champion Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson.

The celebration that followed had Becky Binion holding a shiny blue trimmer waiting to do its work on the ‘Poker Brat’. The crowded chanted “shave’s Phil’s head” and a congenial Varkonyi exclaimed, “Phil has learned his lesson and is going to be a good boy from now on.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Poker - Best of 2006

Its time for the annual "Best of Poker" awards.

I'd like your suggestions for Best...

  • Poker Book

  • Poker Podcast

  • Poker Blog

  • Poker Podcast

  • Poker TV Show

  • Online Cardroom

  • Worst (yes, "Best Worst") Poker Moment

  • ... and any other write in categories you deem worthy.

Each nomination should be for a media source that achieved, excelled, made its mark, or was introduced in 2006.

Please use the comments for suggestions. If it gets unruly, I'll start a forum thread.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Trip Report - Casino AZ

I was out in Scottsdale, Arizona for the weekend for a family event. I was there for about 2 1/2 days, and had a number of family members to catch up with, so I opted not to make a casino visit.

I'm a degenerate, as many of you already know. Despite the conscious decision not to go play cards, I did do a little research before heading out there. Turns out, the biggest cardroom in the area was only about 15 minutes from my hotel/resort, as the Casino Arizona located at 101 and Indian Bend (there are two locations not far from one another). This information was effectively useless, as I decided not to go.

My wife and I flew in Friday morning, and one of the first things we did was hit the pool. I grabbed the Linda Johnson issue of Card Player and Joe Navarro's Read 'Em and Reap, which by the way, I'm really enjoying.

After about 45 minutes of failing to relax, but succeeding in immersing myself in Mr. Navarro's new book, my cousin Drew discovers us at the pool.

"Alright, I have a poker buddy!", is our greeting.

"Oh no," says my wife.

"Sorry Sweetie," I concede, for we all know it is a forgone conclusion.

Friday night I passed out before my cousin could find my cell phone number. I had my phone on vibrate, and it's situation on the couch in our "mini-suite" prevented me from hearing its gyrations. Ultimately, this was a good thing; I really needed the sleep.

Saturday night, technology was not a factor. Drew grabbed me at the party and said, "let's go". 20 minutes later we were on the road.

At first we couldn't find the place. The drive went something like this - left turn, left turn, strip mall, strip mall, strip mall, countless Tex-Mex restaurants, strip mall, right turn, desert....

All of a sudden, there ceased to be lights, Walgreens, and Del Tacos. I picked up my cell phone to call Casino Arizona. As I did, two gigantic semi-permanent tents, poor man's teepees, appeared on the horizon, surrounded by a purple glow.

Drew and I ran in, and right to the board. The highroller board, actually, but we didn't realize it at first. Only after the words "20-40 Limit is the smallest game?!" had left my lips did I realize what a ludicrous sentiment that was. I turned around to find 45 poker tables, and an elevated board/desk/brush staging area thingie. It dawned on me how tired, and off my game I probably was.

They had a variety of games, Hold 'em Fixed Limit and Spread Limit, "Mixed Games", H.O.R.S.E, Omaha, and Stud. My cousin, a relative rookie, put his name on the $3-6 limit list. I signed up for the "5-150" game, which was a spread limit game that played like a no limit game, but the max bet on any street was $150. Likewise, any raise could be for up to $150 more. You could get all your money in, it just took some work.

I played for a few hours, and was really disapointed by a few hands I played.

In the first I played against the strongest player at the table, who had position on me. Not smart. I must've been in the big blind, because I saw a flop with King Ten. By the river, I had two pair (including a pair on board) and no kicker (the board beat my kicker). A KQ or AK were the two most likely hands to beat me. I had check-called a small turn bet, and the river was seemingly a blank. I checked to my opponent who bet about $150 into a $90 pot. This didn't make any sense to me. I simply could not figure out the hand (and I'm certainly not giving you the details to figure it out, I realize), but I could not figure the bet as anything but an attempt to take down the medium sized pot. I believed my opponent to have a monster, or absolutely nothing after the turn. Now he was making a gigantic bet which would only be called by a better hand. I contemplated. Finally I said "I'm totally lost in this hand, but that bet smells awful". My opponent turned over three jacks and a pair of nines, and I lost nearly $200. ... the bourbon drowning next to me...

By the second disappointing hand, I built my stack up to about $250. I found myself in early position with 89 suited. I limped and managed to see a cheap flop. The flop came K,9,8 - disco! I checked, and it checked around to the table donkey. He understood the game well enough to have won a few big pots, but was often passive, and paid off a lot of obviously strong hands with things like second pair. He also occasionally overplayed his draws. He bet $15 into a pot of $23. I check-raised to $40, and it folded to the better. He re-raised to $115. His body language indicated a lot of strength. The play indicated a lot of strength. I was perceived as a tight player, and I check-raised from early position. Anyone else at the table would have put me on a monster. Would he?

After considering his possible holdings - KK (no, no raise pre-flop), 99 or 88 (unlikely, he'd probably raise these too knowing him, also, I had one of each, making it that much less likely, K9 (yes, this made sense, he limped pre-flop from late position, he played easily dominated hands often). Could he have AK? That was the real question. If it were me, I'd have strongly considered laying down AK here to the tight player's (actual me) check-raise. At best, I would smooth call in position. Could he make this play with AK? I thought it unlikely, and mucked my hand.

"That sucked", I said.

"King Queen?" someone asked.

"Eight Nine", I replied.

"Eight Nine!?!" my opponent almost fell out of his chair.

"Shit", I lamented.

Finally, I had AK of hearts in the cutoff. A middle position player raised to $15. I made it $40 to isolate. The small blind, my tough opponent from earlier, hemmed and hawed and said "I think I have to make it $115".

The early player folded. I had only about $220 in front of me. It was fold or all-in. I believed my opponent to be a strong player and I didn't think he'd put in a third raise with anything short of Jacks. Worse case I was dominated, better case, it was a conflip, best case, we were probably tied. After much contemplation, I folded face up. My often-honest opponent later admitted "I had A-Q, I just wanted to isolate". Ick.

Somehow I managed to build my $250 up to about $770 over the next hour. I packed up, grabbed Drew, and head to the hotel for three hours of sleep.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Cowboy Bluff

The following is an excerpt from "52 Greatest Moments World Series of Poker"
Book details and ordering can be done at

Described as “our greatest tournament” by Jack Binion, the 1984 WSOP also provided for the greatest bluff in its history. Byron ‘Cowboy’ Wolford steadily used his remaining $156K to completely bluff Jesse Alto out of a seemingly strong hand. Not only did Cowboy win the pot, but his bluff sent the chip leader Alto on tilt and eventually out of the tournament.


The Byron Wolford and Jesse Alto past was colorful. Before the 1984 WSOP, both were playing a game in Corpus. Alto had been drinking during a losing streak. His famous temper was in full swing. ‘Cowboy’, talking to someone else at the table, caught Alto’s ear. Whatever said was not well received by Alto and he proceeded to slap ‘Cowboy’ right there at the table. ‘Cowboy’ rose from his chair and brought on a fight. ‘Cowboy’ got the best of the duel before cashing out and leaving.

Come the 1984 WSOP, the two fighters had become friends and were pitted against each other at the final table along with a new face Jack Keller. The tournament had started with 132 entrants. Now Jesse Alto was in a comfortable chip lead over ‘Cowboy’ and Keller. Of the $1.32M, Jesse had almost $1M. Jesse was no stranger to the Main Event’s final table. He had placed second behind Doyle Brunson in 1976 and fifth in 1978.


It appeared Jesse Alto’s victory at the championship was inevitable. That was until Jesse’s ill fated run in with ‘Cowboy’ Wolford. Jesse was using his chip lead to push around the table. Down to $156K, ‘Cowboy’ was done with Jesse’s bullying. And so, when Jesse opened with his typical raise, ‘Cowboy’ had already predetermined he was going to call. The flop came Ac-Kd-9c. First to act was ‘Cowboy’ who bet $15,000. Jesse wasted no time in calling the bet. Another King came on the turn and again ‘Cowboy’ would bet into the pot- this time $40K. Jesse was not as quick to call this time. After an uncomfortable pause Jesse eventually did call. Then the river showed a 2s. Cowboy, climbing the betting ladder, took one giant move all-in.

Over the course of the flop, fourth street and the river, Cowboy had coolly and strategically played all his chips. Now the pressure was put on Jesse Alto. He deliberated for a long five minutes. During which Cowboy Wolford found his wife, Evelyn, and son among the crowd and gave them a wink. While only Alto knows what he had, it was clear by his contemplation that he had a solid hand- but not the nuts. The moment of truth came and Jesse folded his hand. An elated ‘Cowboy’ doubled up and showed the crowd his 5-3 off suit. Showing amazement, the cheering gallery put a smile on ‘Cowboy’s’ face and sent Jesse into a tailspin.

In the following two hands Jesse would blindly go all-in and lose to the forgotten third man at the table, Jack Keller. Reeking the benefits of a tilted Alto, Jack Keller would go on to win the 1984 WSOP. ‘Cowboy’ would finish second with $264,000 in prize money. Bobby Baldwin would write that ‘Cowboy’ Wolford’s bluff on Jesse Alto ultimately won the championship for Keller.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Bluff the Donkey" Launched - Chicago Rejoices

Chicago-based Donkey-in-Chief, Andrew Wain, has launched the latest in online parody and satire. Bluff the Donkey ( takes pokes at poker's top names and also-rans through speculative storywriting/storybaking, tongue-in-cheek exposes, and The Onion-style conjecture.

The site launched last week, headlined with a feature titled "Daniel Negreanu Announces He's Not Gay, Again". What poker parody would be complete without questioning Mr. Negreanu's (happily married) sexual orientation.

Check out the site, and sign up for the newsletter for regular updates.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mark Rogers to Join Chicago Poker Club as Guest Columnist!

Mark Rogers, Chicago native and author of 52 Greatest Moments will be joining our site as a guest author. Mark is a poker historian and enthusiast with an uncanny knack for telling a poker story.

Learn more about the history of the world's biggest and most prestigious poker tournament, as Mark tells tales of Stu Ungar, Benny Binion, Doyle Brunson, Bobby Baldwin, Johnny "Orient Express" Chan, Puggy Pearson, Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, and many more...

Tune in for his regular contributions.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stop. Think. THEN Act. Oops.

I was playing in a 45 player Sit-n-Go on Full Tilt poker. I was making dinner when I started the game (I know, I know), so I decided to play a derivation the Scott Fischman Online Ace approach to sit-n-gos. Basically, I was going to fold every hand but a top ten. Four rounds went by, and I saw two flops from the big blind, nothing doing.

In round five I had finished dinner preparations and blinds had increased a little, to a notable proportion of the stacks. I decided to loosen up and play a few hands. In a couple rotations I managed to double my stack via one big hand and a few small ones.

In the hand I want to focus on, I was in the cut off (CO) with a suited ace. There were 22 or 23 players left in the tournament, and I was eager to accumulate some chips. I had become a little more aggressive, and planned to raise if the pot was unopened when it got to me. The player just to right limped in, and I decided that seeing a flop four ways with a suited ace was preferable to building a pot with a modest holding. I limped.

Full Tilt Poker
No Limit Holdem Tournament

Blinds: t50/t100
8 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: t2075
UTG+1: t2025
MP1: t2025
MP2: t3645
J_Chitown: t2630
Button: t3155
SB: t2205
BB: t5465

Pre-flop: (8 players) J_Chitown is CO with
3 folds, MP2 calls t100 (pot was t150), J_Chitown calls t100 (pot was t250), Button raises to t300, SB folds, BB calls t200 (pot was t650), MP2 calls t200 (pot was t850), J_Chitown calls t200 (pot was t1050).

The button raised to 300 here, and without a couple other players, I would have folded. To my surprise, the big blind and the late limper (MP2) both called the raise. My decision was apparent - I had serious odds to call, and did.

Flop: (t1250, 4 players)
BB checks, MP2 bets t100, J_Chitown raises to t475, 2 folds, MP2 calls t375 (pot was t1825).

The flop was a mixed bag for me. It came with two hearts, giving me a four flush. It was also paired, which means less chance that it hit the other players. On the negative side, a paired board opens up the possibility of full houses, which kill flushes. Theoretically I could already be drawing dead.

The pre-flop limper made a t100 bet into a t1050 pot. This was a peculiar bet. I didn't give this player a lot of credit, and in a low limit SnG this bet could mean a number of things. I thought he may have a small pair (fours, fives?) and was probing to see if they were good. Personally, I make a much bigger bet to try that theory, but as I said, I gave him little credit. He could also have two big cards and was trying to control the bet size on the flop. In hindsight, this is where I needed to consider the possibilities for a little longer. Ahh, hindsight.

I decided to see where I was and to take control of the hand. I raised to 475. Now this is still a small bet into an 1100 pot, but a meaningful one. None of the players had huge stacks compared to the pot, and there wasn't much room for making a move. It was almost a 5x raise, however, and sent a clear signal that I had a big hand (which I didn't, not yet). It folded back to the early player who considered, and called. He only need to call 375 into a nearly 1600 chip pot, so he could have had nearly anything. I guess that's the problem with the smallish bet.

Turn: (t2200, 2 players)
MP2 bets t2200, J_Chitown calls all-in t1855.
Uncalled bets: t345 returned to MP2.

The turn brought an Ace, which gave me two pair Aces and Nines. My opponent immediately pushed all in. To me, this was a move of weakness. If he had what I originally assumed, a mid-pair, he was making a big push to get me off the hand. In that case I was way ahead. In case of that holding, however, he would probably be afraid of the ace.

Maybe he caught an Ace, which was unlikely based on his pre-flop play, but possible given the way the table had been playing. If so, I had 9 outs to a flush, and many outs to avoid our kickers playing (a chop). Maybe he was slow-playing a 9, in which case I was in the same boat as the turn, with 9 outs to a flush. In this case, I'm only getting 2 to 1 on my money, with a 4 to 1 longshot. On the other hand, all those chips would put me in a great position. I'm a much stronger big stack player than average or short-stacked.

After far too little consideration, I called. All my chips were in. Simultaneously our cards were flipped and the river came.

River: (t5910, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t5910)

Gin! No wait, I looked... He flopped a full house! I was drawing virtually dead the whole hand.

Final pot: t5910
MP2 showed 3d 3s
J_Chitown showed Ah 4h

"I had not considered that dude." What I did do well was talk myself into believing I was ahead. I accurately surmised that he must have a small pair, but never considered the possibility of the dangerous pair - threes. I did not, even for a moment, put him on the most logical holding for the way he played pre-flop and the flop.

He made a great move on the turn, pushing in an oversized bet with a monster hand. I read it exactly how he wanted - for weakness.

I dabbed my tears away, and went right to the blog to complain.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Blue Chip Casino Competition Plays Like Undrafted Underclassman

I paid a visit to Blue Chip Casino's new poker room, and I was impressed.

When I arrived, at about 1:30pm on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, the room was about 2/3 full. By dinnertime it was packed. The were spreading all Hold 'em games during my visit, including limit $3/$6 with full kill and without. They also had two different stakes of No Limit, max $100 with $1/$2 blinds and max $300 with $1/$3 blinds.

I was about to sit at the max $300 when the floor manager offered a seat at the max $100 table. I didn't intend to risk more than $200-300, so the prospect of only playing one buy-in, and chancing an early exit did not appeal to me.

The room itself was well run with capable dealers and floor staff. There was a waitlist during most of my time in the room, and one player claimed that he had waited two hours for a seat. I called ahead about 30 minutes early, and did not wait for a seat. Additionally, I got up for a bit mid-afternoon, and then waited about 30-40 minutes for a seat when I returned. The room offered a pager to allow me the freedom to lose money on craps, blackjack, and roulette. I opted to return some phone calls instead.

Through no fault of the casino or poker room, I had the single most painful session in recent history. First of all, $100 maximum buy in with a $2 big blind and $6 every 30 minutes for time is incredibly short stacked. Being patient meant leaking about $12-15 every rotation or so, between blinds, time charge, and waitress tips. I kept a handful of green chips in my pocket so that I could add-on if needed. And needed it was, often. If memory serves, I won four hands in five hours of play. None of those pots were particularly big. Worse, I didn't go to a showdown on more than two other hands. Once it was because I was all-in pre-flop with pocket Jacks against pocket kings. In other words, I never had a hand worth playing. The agony of watching hand after hand get dealt, without ever having a winner was more than I could bear.

In sum total, I had three genuine playable pre-flop hands over the 4+ hours - pocket Jacks (aforementioned), AQ on the button, and pocket 7s. I mentioned the pocket Jacks hand, I was a 4.5 to 1 dog with all my money in pre-flop. I, of course, did not improve. On the AQ hand, my opponent held AK, and the flop came King high, and I mucked. Finally, on the pocket 7s hand, I was in mid-position, and two players limped in before me. I made a healthy raise to thin the field. It folded around to the UTG+1 who limp-reraised me all-in. After considering his likely holdings, I surmised that I was once again a major underdog. I mucked without seeing a flop.

I played plenty of suited connectors, and a few more creative holdings, but nothing ever improved.

Of the two tables I played, the competition was soft, with the first table being particularly so. The first table featured the weakest competition I have ever experienced at a no limit table, actually. The problem with that is there were numerous calling stations, and no excuse to ever make a bluff. I never got cards, so I never had an opportunity to win a hand.

In all, I really like the facility. There was a big open casino, a nice, yet small poker room, live entertainment, and the worst deli food I have ever tasted. If Blue Chip were closer to the city, it would replace Majestic Star as my default Chicago-area destination.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

52 Greatest Moments

Chicago's own Mark Roger's will be signing his new book 52 Greatest Moments, World Series of Poker next Thursday, November 30 at Rocks Lincoln Park on Schubert. The event will be held from 7-10pm.

The book itself is a hardcover/coffee table style book featuring stories, great photos, and highlights from the famed Las Vegas tournament. 25% of the event's proceeds will go to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Book summary from the website:

The World Series of Poker is the longest standing poker tournament in the world. In turn, the WSOP has become the undisputed preeminent poker event every professional seeks their success. When the best come to knock each other out, amazing stories result. This book chronicles 52 of the games finer moments. The collection serves as a reminder of how the WSOP has evolved to its current state and the impact history has played in defining each moment. The stories vary from Main Event championships, to preliminary event bracelet records to unique cultural moments that took place between poker's most recognizable characters.

Support a local author, a great cause, and buy a great new book!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Great AIPS

Our good friends Scott and Chris at Ante Up! poker podcast put together a thoroughly enjoyable tournament series. Event #10, the double-stack no limit hold 'em main event took place on Saturday, November 4.

Congratulations to 2a3 for making an incredible comeback after finding himself head's up against Sharkey420. Sharkey seemed to have an insurmountable chip lead after finding great hands and playing very good poker.

We were joined by the show's hosts Scott Long and Chris Cosenza, as well as there sometimes-co-host Mike "Fatso" Fasso. Professional Poker Pro Kenna James was also on hand to play in the Main Event.

Personally, I played a very loose aggressive game in the early goings, and almost found myself out amongst the first three or four eliminations. "Beaker D" seemed to have my number, picking off possibly every bluff or semi-bluff attempt I made in the first three rounds. If I pushed with fourth pair, representing a big made hand, he called with third pair, etc. Often he followed his chip raking with a coy, "I respect you".

I worked my way down to only 800 chips, after starting with 3000. The average stack at that time was somewhere near 3600 chips. I was fortunate enough to flop a full house on a board of JJQ to double up through an opponent holding the case Jack. From there, I played a little more solidly and began accumulating chips.

In the middle stages of the tournament, I found myself catching cards and also getting respect for my raises. I went on an aggressive tear, playing about 2/3 of the next 30 hands, and growing my stack substantially. I found myself in the chip lead for about 30-40 minutes.

When we got down to 10 players, I still had a slim lead. When player number 10 was eliminated, and the final table was formed, I was in second place.

I seemed to pick up a lot of second best hands, finding myself folding to a re-raise pre- or post-flop. My chip stack diminished, and I was near the bottom with 8 players left.

Again, I tightened up and hung on. With 5 players left, and an "M" of near 6, antes and blinds were taking their toll. When I finally got called on an all-in move from late position, my opponent held A-Q. My A-6 never improved, and I went out in fifth place.

CLICK to expand.
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

California Cards, Part 3

Tuesday night was a good time. NSD and I headed over to his friend Richard’s place for a little NL Hold ‘em Tourney night. We ended up playing 3 mini-tournaments that each lasted about 90 minutes. We had 5 or 6 players (it varied), and the blind structure and timing seemed to work out well. It worked out well for me, anyway.

Southside’s friends were great guys (and girls). They were friendly and they were smart. They play an occasional home game, and they play like they play in an occasional home game. Each player understood the rules of the game and some basic strategy. They were all “thinkers”, considering the play that had occurred and the appropriate course of action. I was impressed by their playing, in consideration of the occasional nature in which they played. I believe it took me many more hours of play and study to get to the point that they were, than it took them. Fortunately for me, I have continued to play and study many, many more hours than them.

The first game went to our esteemed host. He was the “thinkingest” of them all, and indeed, seemed to consider even the most obvious or insignificant of decisions for an exceptionally long time. I complimented him early in the game for his patience and attention to detail. By the end of the first game my compliments had been replaced my “Come on Richard, this is painful!” and “I have a flight on Friday, you know?”

His patience translated into my frustration. As the blinds grew, I stopped getting cards. I found myself head’s up with Richard a few times, and he got the better of me. At least once I played a hand strongly and aggressively. I was careful not to create too big a pot, but I had position on Richard and thought I could use his thinking against him. We both checked the flop on a ragged board. I thought I saw a glimmer in his eye before his check, and figured a free card could only help me. He also checked the turn, so I revised my read and bet about 2/3 of the pot. He thought for about 3 days and finally called. The river was uneventful, and no obvious draws connected. Again he checked to me. It’s mine, I thought, and after careful consideration, bet the rest of my chips, about 85% of the pot. I had made the pot comparatively big without realizing it. It was a biggish bet, but I was the aggressor, and my story told him that I had something. To me the bet said, “I’ve made something and I want to make the pot big enough to be worth winning. What’s the point in holding back 400 chips?” Richard wasn’t sure he was buying it. He went into the tank, and went through the process I so often neglect. The room could see the cogs turning as Richard replayed the flop and turn. He said, just loud enough to hear, “… you wouldn’t have checked the flop then…” I leaned back in my chair with confidence. He hemmed and hawed. The sun set and rose twice in the sky before Richard said, “okay.”

“You call?” I innocently asked.

“Yep” he retorted.

“Nice call, “ I lamented. Richard turned over Ad 3d for a busted flush draw and a pair of threes. Ick.

I left to pick up our pizza.

The next two tourneys were much more productive, as I took an early lead and never looked back. I was aggressive, but selectively so. My opponents were capable of calling biggish bets with second pair, and generally incapable of laying down top pair, unless the board was five of a suit they didn’t have.

I finished the night the big winner and headed back to NSDs. We wouldn’t be playing again for almost 24 hours. Shudder…

Day 4 of my California (poker trip) was a good time. The weather was lousy the whole trip, and quashed our initial plan of heading down to Big Sur for a couple days of camping. NSD had reserved a coveted Big Sur campground (only one of two of it’s kind) 6 months in advance, and we had finally come to terms with the fact that we’d be missing out. We tooled around, visited a new mall, hit the Ferry Building, enjoyed a light meal at San Francisco’s famed Slanted Door, and headed back to Richard’s for evening two.

Tonight we had 7 players and decided that we’d distribute the pool for generously. Third place got their money back, second place doubled their money, and the winner quadrupled it. It was too generous, but it wasn’t my house or my city. Plus, I’d already taken the money of 4 of these 6 players the night before.

Early on I grew my big stack in two ways. First, I got moderately strong hands against one female player that loved to call. She paid me off with top pair weak kicker at least once. Second, I put a harsh beat on the host’s friend Jim. He had raised pre-flop from the small blind, but only 3x with a limper already in the pot. Knowing the limper was exceptionally unlikely to make a limp-raise table, particularly at this table, I called with implied odds. I was holding 8s 9s.

The flop had a king, a 7 of spades, and a third card of little eventual significance. I basically had nothing but a backdoor straight-flush draw. Jim made a smallish bet, which I read for weakness. I smooth called, planning to take the hand from him on Fourth Street. The limper folded. The turn came a 10, and now I was open-ended. Jim bet about a third of the pot. I considered a raise, but now believed him to have a very strong hand. If I called behind I could guarantee a look at a river card with no additional risk. Also, the bet was small enough with relation to our chip stacks that it wouldn’t hurt me too badly if I missed, but I knew I could stand to land a big pot if I hit.

The river was a glorious Jack of clubs. The board was unpaired and there was no flush possible. Only Q-9 or A-Q had me beat. Q-9 was exceptionally unlikely, given the way Jim played the hand. A-Q was a possibility given the pre-flop raise, but Jim’s continued aggression on the flop and the turn dismissed any chance of holding A-Q in my mind. He may have made the continuation bet, but with an over card on the board, and only a gut-shot straight draw and an ace draw left, he would have checked the turn. No, I was way ahead.

I made a big raise on the end and Jim flat-called. He turned over a set of Kings. I said, “Sorry man, I sucked out”. He took the bad beat like a total gentleman.

I held onto my big chip lead until we were down to three-players. By the time Keith was eliminated in third-place, Richard had nearly as many chips as I did.

Once again Richard and I faced a heads-up battle. We played big pots when I was on the button and small ones when I was out of position. It seemed almost unfair when I dispatched him about 12 hands later.

Tomorrow was Thursday, and there would be no poker played. I only held out hope that we could hit a card room on the way to SFO on Friday.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

California Cards, Part 2

Continued here... read Part One first.

We headed to Gene’s that night rather than drive all the way back down to San Francisco. We also had to drop off the time machine car.

After a late start, involving a bagel, a glass of OJ, and an hour or two of work in Gene’s kitchen, we hit the road. First stop, a good cup of coffee. Second stop, the Korbel winery. We hitched onto a tour of the grounds for about 20 minutes and then explored the gift shop, deli, and tasting room on our own.

Next we headed to an Indian restaurant that Southside had spoken highly of previously. It was in the middle of nowhere. Truly. It was a hilarious experience, but tasty and fulfilling. Back in the car.

On the way back to the city, we passed the 101 Casino in Petaluma. I convinced NSD to stop after a little harassment. I sat at $3-6 limit for about 45-minutes and had a great session. I was patient, but not too patient, as the poker gods were kind to me. I made a flush, a straight, and two pair in active pots. All were good. I left the table up about 20 big bets.

I headed over to the No Limit $200 max. $1-2 table. The seats opened up as a $1000 max. table had just opened up and about half the table broke. In no time we were playing cards again. It became quickly obvious that everyone at the table knew everyone else but us. That was okay with me. No one impressed me as being a gifted poker player. I was patient, and again was rewarded by the occasional nice hand. Southside, on the other hand, got whittled down bit by bit as his mixed holdings never hit big. Eventually he pushed his chips in pre-flop out of frustration, and was fortunate to find himself in a coin-flip situation. Neither of his over cards paired and he was busted.

I played for another 40 minutes with mixed results, then headed out with a tidy profit to show for my hard work. We needed to head back to the city and tend to some paperwork – well, Southside did, and he was my ride. We needed to rest up too; after all, we were heading to a home game just a few hours later.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Catching California Cards

I headed out to Northern California to visit Southside Darnell (a.k.a. Notorious Southside, or NSD) last Monday. After a cancelled flight and a multitude of delays, I finally found myself on an American Airlines flight from Chicago O’hare to SFO. I finally landed around 7:30pm and after waiting for my checked bag (thanks to 4+ ounces of liquids and gels) we headed out for an unplanned evening.

Southside called his buddy Gene – we were supposed to have met him for dinner 90 minutes earlier, and it was a 75 minute drive to his home in Sonoma county. After a little convincing on Gene’s part, we decided to keep our plans and hit the Golden Gate Bridge on our north. We met Gene for a nice dinner at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, and enjoyed good conversation. Gene is an interesting fellow, and a good guy. He owns a small camera shop in San Francisco, but seems to dedicate much of his energy to his demolition and construction business in and around the bay area. He also owns several distinctive and cool cars. Tonight he was driving his DMC Delorean, made famous by it’s namesake and creator, John Delorean, as well as a starring role in the Back to the Future Trilogy.

I must admit, I was eyeing my watch every fifteen minutes. Southside promised we could hit the River Rock Casino up in Geyserville, CA, but couldn’t guarantee any action after 10pm. After several failed Flux Capacitor jokes on my part, we settled the bill and Gene let me sit in the driver’s side of the Delorean. Nice. It was so low to the ground that the physical act of extracting myself from the vehicle made me feel about 20 years older. Gene and Southside actually swapped cars for the night and we rode “in style” to the River Rock Casino.

We ripped through Sonoma County on low-set headlights and 24-year-old tires. The old machine felt like a decrepit tank as we made our way up the last few bends and into the casino parking lot. The humor highlight of the trip was angling into the closest parking spot, where Southside was unable to get the car into reverse to make the last 10 degrees of turn. I was eager to get into the card room before we lost our fish, so after about 10 tries I offered to push back the car far enough for Southside to adjust the car’s trajectory and get us into the spot. He took advantage of my generosity when, after having hunkered down to push the car back 18 inches, he motioned for me to push the car all the way back into the spot 18 feet behind him. At least we could pull straight out after robbing the place blind.

I wheezed my way down to the card room with NSD in tow. There were 15 or 16 tables in the room, but only two spreading games. There was a 3-6 Limit game and a 1-2 max 200 No Limit game being spread. We got on the NL list, and after about 15 minutes, on the NL table. It took me a few hands to appreciate the difference in rules. First, although the blinds were $1 and $2, it cost $5 to “complete the bet”, or see the flop. This wasn’t a raise, but merely a completion, like in 7 Stud, for instance. Second, there was a $1 blind on the button. In reality this was a 1-1-2 NL game with a $5 completion. Well why didn’t you say so?!

After 20-30 minutes of play I had accumulated a few chips, but nothing monumental. The table thinned to 8-handed, then 7, and shortly to 5-handed. This was good times, as there was a lot of action and I had developed a decent read on my opponents by this time. I added a little more fat to my stack. Eventually we ended up down to 4-handed play, including NSD and me. Southside had stayed steady in chips, I was up to about $330-350 by this time. One of the other four remaining players was a solid, aggressive player and the other was loose-weak. Eventually our fish simply started donating. He was a good guy, didn’t mind losing a few bucks, and was there to blow of some steam. I didn’t mind being the recipient of his generosity. After all, his card cover was the key/fob for his nice, big BMW. After another 45 minutes, I had been the recipient of most of our new friends generosity. I threw out a couple of self-deprecating jokes, and Southside made a good straight man. I stole a little pot and offered, “well it could be worse, you could be the guys we saw pushing their car in the parking lot”.

“That was US,” Southside volleyed. Laughter all around – players, dealers, and the floorperson standing nearby.

“What kind of car do you guys have, an old Chevy?” our Cash Machine asked.

“Nope. A Delorean,” I quipped. Beer shot from his nose. “And it isn’t even ours, a friend was generous enough to loan it to us.”

Another laugh and another $80 pot were my reward.

NSD and I rolled out of there about 2 hours later and decently richer. Southside had doubled up, I had nearly tripled my stack.

On the ground for 5 hours and already off to a good start.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

But of course - Full Tilt is Rigged?

I decided to start playing SnGs on Full Tilt again - and in doing so, promised myself that I would play smart poker. I decided to conserve chips early when the pots are small - small blinds and no antes. When the pots start growing, I'll play a little more aggressively, raising with stronger holdings and seeing a few flops on the cheap when the odds allow it.

So, I sat down to play my first SnG, and patiently waited 25 minutes or so. I played only a couple hands, and those I won on the flop. I only came in from the blinds for free (or virtually free) and middle to late position with big, big hands for a big raise.

I found myself with flopped trips when 5-players limped into the pot, including me, for free, in the big blind. My one remaining opponent on the turn played it cagey, and my rivered full house made me confident.

BOOM! (click to expand image.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Who Dat J_Chitown?

Not to brag or anything... but I won again. I'm just reporting the facts.

Fact One: There have been two Chicago Poker Club tournaments, and I have won them both.

Fact Two: I'm the greatest.

Please come and put me in my place next Thursday, September 21st. Details here.

Kudos to smokindog and cosimicp2002 who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Special thanks to ChicagoJoe who set up the tournament series, and was a victim of a bad, bad out-flop by yours truly.

Current Tournament Series standings can be found here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tournament #2 Tonight - Chicago Poker Club Tournament Series

REMINDER: The second event of the Chicago Poker Club Tournament Series is tonight. The $5 + $0.50 No Limit Hold 'em event is Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 5pm on Full Tilt Poker.

Sign up for a Full Tilt account through Chicago Poker Club and receive a 100% bonus up to $600! Click on the link here, or mention Bonus Code CHICAGOJASON when signing up. Full Tilt is available in full client on a PC or Mac.

Look for the only private tournament at 18:00, and the password is "cubs".

The Tournament Series Calendar is here.

Now that's a bad streak...

I hate to do this. I do. We always complain about bad beats, bad streaks, bad luck. Who wants to hear it? Not you. Keep reading anyhoo.

My last four sessions have ended with bad, bad beats in the following four manners:

  • Eliminated from a tournament after getting all the money in on the turn and losing to a 3 outter on the river.

  • Eliminated from a tournament after getting all my money in on the turn and losing to a two-outter on the river.

  • Losing a $500 cash game pot after getting all my money in on the flop and losing to a two-outter on the turn.

  • Eliminated from a tournament after getting all my money (huuge pot) in pre-flop with pocket aces against pocket Jacks. A third player folded A-J preflop. My opponent hits his ONE OUTTER on the flop. Actually, I didn't get eliminated on that hand, as I was the chip leader with 8 players remaining. The next hand I flopped aces and my opponent flopped the nuts with a K-J on a board of A-Q-T.

Those were my last four sessions. Brutal.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Suited Destructers

play online pokerI decided to wind down my day a couple of evenings ago by playing some low stakes NL hold 'em on Full Tilt. It was a max $25 buy-in, but I'm playing with bankroll management, and decided to bring just $20 to the table. After a couple of early hands went poorly, I found myself down to $12. I resisted the temptation to add on at this point, and managed to work my stack back up to about $30.

Several hands later, the table is playing 7-handed, and I find myself UTG + 1 (two seats left of the big blind) with the 8 and 9 of spades. I'm feeling frisky, and make my standard raise to $0.80 (from $0.25).

Stack sizes:
UTG: $48.30
ChicagoJason: $28.10
MP1: $59.40
CO: $23.75
Button: $23.30
SB: $11.10
BB: $28

Pre-flop: (7 players) ChicagoJason is UTG+1 with :8s :9s
UTG folds, ChicagoJason raises to $0.8, 4 folds, BB raises to $2, ChicagoJason calls $1.2 (pot was $2.65).

Our friend in the big blind raised it up to $2. I didn't have a really strong read on him, as we'd played 20 or so hands together. He did, however, strike me as a tight, solid player. I could pretty contently put him on a big pair (aces down to tens), Ace-King (suited or not), or Ace-Queen (probably only suited). With any other hand, I would expect a smooth call or a fold, particularly considering his relative position.

Because I felt strongly that I could put him on a range of hands, because I had position on him, and because I was now getting better than 2 to 1 on my money, I called.

Flop: :th :8d :7s ($4.1, 2 players)
BB bets $3, ChicagoJason calls $3 (pot was $7.1).

This is a very good flop for me. I have a pair, an open-ended straight draw, and back-door flush possibilities. My opponent is probably still ahead in the hand with an overpair, though I'm close to 50-50 to have the best hand at the river. If he has two big cards, I'm now a big favorite, as I'm already ahead with the best hand and best draw. If he has two tens, I may be in trouble, as neither an 8 nor a 9 would help me, but a Jack or 6 might be a very profitable card for me.

My opponent bet $3, a reasonable continuation bet, likely to protect an overpair and take away my odds for many draws. With a flopped set I think he would make a smaller bet to keep me around. This player may even check, based on my pre-flop strength and go for the check-raise. I feel good about where I am. I think a call is good here. If he has Aces or Kings I don't want to give him a chance to put me to a big decision, and a smooth call might make him nervous. On the other hand, if I was feeling frisky, a big raise, one that committed me to the pot, would be good here too. If he's really tight, I might take it down. If I don't, I belive I'm 50-50 to win at a showdown. I opt to smooth call.

Turn: :ks ($10.1, 2 players)
BB bets $5, ChicagoJason raises to $12, BB raises to $24, ChicagoJason calls $7 (pot was $41.1).

The King of spades is a great card for me. My opponent bets half the pot, which I think is a great bet. On the turn, with one card to come, he's taking away the odds for most draws and getting value on what I'm now sure is an overpair. I think he's got Aces now. However, I don't have an ordinary draw. Any spade now gives me a flush, that's nine outs. Any Jack or 6 gives me a straight, that's 6 more outs (I already counted the Jack of spades and 6 of spades in my flush outs). An 8 gives me trips and a nine gives me two pair. If he has pocket jacks, the nine is no good, but I'm not putting him on Jacks. that's 5 more outs. I have 20 outs on the river, or a 45.5% chance of winning the hand. There's already more than $15 in the pot, so I'm getting odds for any dollar amount up to my entire remaining stack. I don't want to rely on the river card coming, so need to give myself another way of winning, pushing my opponent off of his hand.

He bet $5, as we discussed. I have $19.10 left in my hand, and certainly an all in bet is acceptable. On the other hand, at these limits, many players are quick to push all in, and I think its sometimes perceived more weakly than an all in bet at higher stakes. My opponent chose his pre-flop raise carefully. He made it 2.5 times my raise, trying to pump the pot, but not scare me away. He thought about it. Ahh... a thinker. I'm going to give him back the same message - I have a strong hand and I want to get paid, you're beat right now, but I want your money. I decide to raise his $5 bet to $12. He thinks about it until his meter is down to 8 or 9 seconds and he calls.

Well, all my chips are going in, so I need to hit the river now.

River: :2h ($58.1, 2 players)
BB is all-in $4, ChicagoJason calls $4 (pot was $62.1).

Whiff! The two of hearts came on the river because my opponent was chanting for it. I'm sure of it. We each have about $4 left. After pausing for 5 or 6 seconds, my opponent moves his last $4 into the pot. There's $62 in there, and it costs me $4 to see his cards. If I think my opponent can play the hand this way with A-K or A-Q one time in 15 I have to call. I'm not sure if he can, but I make the call.

Final pot: $66.1
BB showed Ad Ah
ChicagoJason mucks 8s 9s

Indeed, there are those Aces. Red too, that means all of my outs were live. I didn't get lucky and I lost $28. Time for bed.

Thanks to Neil's Converter for translating this hand.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ice In His Veins, or Just Dramamine?

Its been a busy week around here - a new job, family emergencies, takin' care of bidness - and we haven't been thinking about poker. Nonetheless, I managed to squeeze in an airing of the WPT Battle of the Champions IV. The final table featured Scotty Nyugen, Joe Bartholdi, Michael Simon, Michael Mizrachi, Freedy Deeb, and Nick "The Takeover" Schulman, although if you missed the first 15 minutes, you may have missed Nyugen, Bartholdi, and Simon. Literally.

After the free-for-all, the remaining three players battled it out for the coveted, if silly "Battle of the Champions Champion" moniker, a set of WPT poker chips (which they all have previously won), and $25,000 in cash. I recognize that this is a freefroll, and that $25,000 is a significant chunk of change to the average American, but to these poker players, it is a buy-in. It isn't a grand prize, it's the cost of admission. Not surprisingly, the players seem somewhat lackadaisical, and because only first place paid, there were even more races than an average episode of WPT.

When play got down to head's up, the battle got a little more heated. Nick Schulman played excellent agressive, big-stack poker. Freddy Deeb went significantly card dead, but also played passively unless he had big cards, and all around poorly. When he did play aggressively, Schulman read him for strong, and slithered away.

What surprised me was not Schulman's fine play and superb read of Freddy Deeb's game, which was impressive. What really surprised me was Schulman's demeanor. He was calm, cool, and collected through the match. He was so relaxed, in fact, that he seemed indifferent to the outcome. If not for his play, I'd believe that he was unconcerned altogether.

When "The Takeover" finished taking over, he was awarded the trophy and toasted with Budweiser. Mike Sexton commented on his feat, and then turned to Schulman for comment. "Thank you," was the extent of his response until the audience laughed uncomfortably. Schulman expounded, out of obligation, and looked like he was about to drift off to sleep. The camera zoomed out, Mike Sexton wished our cards "live", and the audience clapped. Schulman continued to look put upon by having to be the new champion, and probably rued lugging those heavy poker chips back to his hotel suite.

Sorry Nick. You won again. Please don't risk a smile.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hunting Fish with Jay Greenspan

When out in Las Vegas for the WPBT Event, Bryan and I had the opportunity to meet Jay Greenspan, semi-pro, former managing editor of All In Magazine, and author of one of the latest books to put on your "must read" list - Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players.

Jay was a fierce competitor in the blogger event, but prior to putting the fear of elimination into our very own Bryan K, he was kind enough to provide me with an advanced copy of his new book.

I just finished reading Jay's account of his three-month trek from New York to L.A, and it was a most enjoyable read.

Bryan and Jay toe-to-toe at the 2006 Summer WPBT EventJay takes his readers to the casinos of Connecticut, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and up and down the state of California. He takes you to private games in Atlanta and backroom clubs in Texas, where the reader sees the game through Jay's eyes, meets the personalities Jay meets, and experiences the emotional highs and lows of the road gambler and aspiring young pro.

If you're a poker player you'll enjoy Jay's hand descriptions, and may learn a thing or two to incorporate into your next no limit cash game. If you're merely an enthusiast, you'll stick your head out the window of his rented Dodge Stratus and vicariously curse his bad beats and revel in his big wins.

Mr. Greenspan is insightful, philosophical, and above all, entertaining. You'll want to read this one.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

CPC Tournament Series Fixed?!

It must be, or they just let me win...

The first in a series of seven tournaments took place this evening on Full Tilt Poker. With a little skill and a lot of good cards Chicago Jason (yours truly) took down the first event, a No Limit Hold 'Em tournament. Just ten competitors battled for the first title over the course of one hour and forty-five minutes. The competitors, and results show here.

John, ea5ym0ney on Full Tilt, and the winner of Ali Babba's fourth tournament, had the dubious distinction of being knocked out first. This author did not observe his table, but word has it he was the victim of a river suck out.

After the first knock out, the tournament was reduced to a "final table" of nine players. [Final 8 depicted here as two players sport pocket Aces. Click the picture to avoid premature blindness.]

Chris, Horeshoe220 on Full Tilt, and co-host of the aforementioned Ali Babba tournaments, and Jason played a momentous hand with the blinds at 25/50. Four players saw an unraised flop of Jc Js Jd. Jason and coachmoon checked, and Chris bet 300 into a pot of 225. Jeff, a.k.a. jaf911, folded and Jason smooth called. Coachmoon folded. The turn was the 2c and both players checked. The river came a King of diamonds, and Jason bet 550 into the 825 pot. Chris called, and Jason showed Jh Td to take down a 1925 chip pot with quad Jacks. Chris mucked his full house.

Chris battled back from the hand, but went out four positions later in 5th place, when his Qh Jd made two pair, but lost to Jasons flush on the river. Jason made the flush with the 2h (pairing his 2d), though all the money was in pre-flop.

Amanda, amandajoy521, made the money, finishing in third place. She went out after her Ah Qs failed to improve against Joe's pocket queens.

Our gracious host, ChicagoJoe put on an impressive display of poker wizardry, nursing a tight image and a short stack through most of the tournament, and putting up a tough fight in head's up play. Joe finally went down in second place when Chicago Jason called an all in bet from Joe after the flop. Joe showed a 5h and an Ac on a board of 6d Th 5d. Jason showed pocket sevens, which held up for the victory.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chicago Poker Club Tournament Series

REMINDER: The first event of the Chicago Poker Club Tournament Series is coming up. The $5 + $0.50 No Limit Hold 'em inaugural event will be Sunday, August 6, 2006 at 5pm on Full Tilt Poker.

play online poker
Sign up for a Full Tilt account through Chicago Poker Club and receive a 100% bonus up to $600! Click on the link here, or mention Bonus Code CHICAGOJASON when signing up. Full Tilt is available in full client on a PC or Mac.

Continue reading to see the full tourament schedule.

Test out MONTH and AGENDA modes to see what works best for you.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

WSOP #17 - Part 2

ChicagoJason Hard at work
continued from July 15...

The Men's room, of course, was crowded, but the line moved quickly. In less than 3 minutes I was comfortable again. Pauly, the Poker Prof, always reports on who he's last "pissed next to", so I looked around. No notable players.

I headed outside to the player's tents; they have two, one with food, and the other a lounge. I had just a few minutes until the tournament started again, and I didn't want to let any blinds go for free. I was able to get a slice of pizza, a nice big one at that, and pay in just a few minutes. Things were running smoothly and efficiently. I don't know if I was famished, or it was really good pizza, or both, but I sure enjoyed that MoFo.

I choked down the last few dry bites of the crust as I settled into my seat and the dealer put the cards in the air. The blinds had raised to 50-100, and with about 3500 in chips, a standard raise was about 10% of my stack.

For the next hour we saw few flops, and even less turns. If we saw a river, someone was all-in. It was double up or head home time, with so many average stacks. An average stack was a short stack by now.

I didn't see anything playable, no big cards, no connected cards, no meaningful suited cards, for about 45 minutes. Near the end of the level, I was in the big blind, and the hand was folded all the way around to the button. The player, a young man in his late twenties, had been playing very tight. He peeked at his cards and paused for a moment. He then raised to 300.

I considered what the raise meant. We had not seen an unraised flop in at least 30 minutes. He was the last to act before the buttons, and a raise with any two cards was reasonable. His tight play shortened up the list of hands with which he might raise, but not by a lot. He could have any ace, suited or otherwise, two face cards, a small pair, or a genuine monster. All would be played this way. He only had about 1600 or 1700 chips left, so I knew I was playing for about half of my stack.

The small blind folded and I found a suited K-5 in my pocket. I paused, and then called his raise.

The flop came K-7-3. This was a good flop for me, I thought. He might have another king, which would undoubtedly be bigger, but if he didn't, I knew I was ahead. If he had pocket aces, so be it, I was doubling him up anyway.

I checked, he paused for what felt like 30 seconds, and then threw 400 chips into our 650 chip pot. This was a good bet, I thought. There was no real draw, so if he was ahead, he was protecting his hand, and if he was behind, he didn't risk too many chips.

He was tight, as I mentioned, and nervous. I decided that it was time to win the pot. I made a minimum raise, "800", I said. I thought my check-minimum-raise showed a lot of strength. In particular, I thought it communicated something since my opponent had only 900 chips left, and I raised him just shy of half of his chips. We both knew that I had just put him all in, but I showed strength in my underbet.

He went into the tank. The guy was absolutely stymied. I sat motionless for what felt like an hour. He probably contemplated his fate for 5 full minutes before I interrupted.

"Clock," I said.

"What?" asked the dealer.

"Clock please," I reiterated.

The dealer tried to get a floorperson's attention to start a clock on my opponent. When a player calls "clock" on another player, they have 60 seconds to act on their hand or it is mucked (discarded). In order to start the clock, however, a floorperson was required, and there was none to be found. I was okay with that, I just wanted to put some pressure on, and make something happen - soon. After a full two additional minutes, my opponent reluctantly stated, "okay, I'm all in". I called the additional 500 chips, getting 5 1/2 to 1 on my call.

I was expecting to see a medium-pair, bigger than 7s. I thought there was a possibility that he struggled with a slightly bigger King - something like a K-9 or K-10, which he may have talked himself into raising preflop.

He flipped over A-K. Yep, he flopped top pair, top kicker, was short-stacked and needed this pot to have any game left, yet he belabored his call for 7 minutes. Ugh.

I did not improve on the turn or river, and was suddenly in trouble. A few minutes later, the blinds doubled to 100-200 and I was officially crippled. I had about 1800 chips left, my M was 6, or 9 big blinds.

Over the next 30 minutes I had nothing playable. Nothing. Now I was down to about 1400 chips and looking for my spot. Out table broke, and I was moved about 5 tables away. I was short-stacked, desperate, and now had to make a move at a table where I had no image, and knew nary a soul.

I was seated in late position, that was a positive. About three hands in, I found the Ace of spades and the 9 or spades in middle position. The under the gun player limped, a possible show of strength, or potentially one of inexperience. I didn't have much of choice, I felt, and this was the best hand I'd seen in two hours.

"Raise. I'm all in," fell out of my mouth. I often announce my all-in in this way. I feel like it conveys the sentiment, "okay, I've discovered a big, big hand down here, so I know I'm going to raise. Hmmm... how many chips do I have left, well, I guess I only have enough left for an all in." I prefer this to the cliche all in which says either "I've got the nuts" or "I'm desperate". Incidentally, both of those phrases helped me to land my high school girlfriend.

It folded, thankfully, all the way around to the under the gun player. He had 200 in, and it was another 1200 or so back to him. The blinds had abandonded a total of 300 in chips, plus I had moved my 1400 in, so it was 1200 to him with a 1900 chip purse to be won. He liked his cards, and called. "Shit," was my only response.

He proclaimed, "you're ahead," but I wasn't sure.

He turned over King-Jack of clubs, and I was, indeed ahead. Not by much. But I was ahead.

He did not pair the king or the jack, but the two clubs on the flop and one on the river gave him a king-high flush and my 2006 World Series came to an end.

I packed up my things, and called the wife and a couple friends. I bumped into John Juanda and David Singer on the way out. Actually, I busted these two Full Tilt players (representative and "friend of", respectively) in the PokerStars lounge. They thought it would be better to get this picture in the hallway.
John, ChicagoJason, David
Don't I look sad?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

World Series of Poker - Event #17

IMG_0783The alarm was set for 9:30 AM. At 9:10 my eyes popped open and I sprang out of bed like my first day of kindergarten.

"Today's the day." And I felt great.

Southside was still out cold, as he is prone to be on an early morning in Las Vegas.

I grabbed some clothes from the suitcase at the end of my bed, some long pants and a long-sleeved button-down for a long day in an very air conditioned room.

After a quick shower, I put on the finishing touches and packed up my luggage. We were moving to the Bellagio that day, and I certainly wasn't planning on being free anytime before our 1pm check out. I packed up a canvas tote that PokerStars had given me for free the day before. I threw in a sweatshirt, my MP3 player, with an extra battery and accompanying headphones, a Power Bar, my camera, and my travel wallet. All but the last item were for comfort; I took my travel wallet so that the baggage handlers didn't remove my passport, thinking it was there own... None of the items in my "tournament tote" were used over the course of the day. I was focused.

I made my way down to Starbucks for a fruit and yogurt platter and a cup of Joe. There was a young woman in the shortest of shorts and the tightest of t-shirts in front of me. She smiled and said hello. Upon further inspection, she was a representative of Absolute Poker, and she wore the outfit well. We chatted briefly, and she asked if I was playing in today's event. "Sure am," I responded. After that, she perked up noticeably. Was she flirting with me? Occupational hazard...

Southside met me for a cup of coffee and we staked out the Amazon room, as I had already done two days before. We popped into the PokerStars lounge to see if our new buddies, Victor Ramdin and Barry Greenstein, were around. They weren't.

IMG_07891As I was heading out I spotted Wil Wheaton relaxing in a tall barstool. "Hi Wil, I'm Jason. I just thought I'd introduce myself."

"Oh, hi Jason. You look very familiar. Do I know you?"

I scanned my memory banks for some place he might have seen me. I've done some small local theater in Chicago. I had a couple of minor TV appearances as a child. I was even on the cover of a magazine once. None of these things made sense. I like to think I'm a G-list celebrity. I'm not.

"Uhh... I'm ChicagoJason, from Chicago Poker Club," I offered.

"Oh yeah. Of course."

"No way," I thought. If he's read my site more than once, I'd be surprised. If he's seen a picture, I'd be VERY surprised. Even so, it was a kind gesture, from a very, very nice guy. We chatted for a couple of minutes.

"Have you seen Gracie," Wil asked.

"Not today. Not yet," I answered.

"Let her know I'm looking for her."

This was weird, and cool, all at once. I watched Wil on TV in high school and college. As a child, I watched him star in my then favorite movie of all time - Stand By Me. We were chatting as though we'd know each other for... well, more than five minutes. He was going to be seated at table 15, I was at table 22. We wished one another good luck, and I headed out. [Wil's Event #17 results can be found here]

Southside and I headed to Table 22. I was in seat 11. Ick. Not only were they seating 11 to a table, I was stuck in that fateful seat, rght next to the dealer. The dealer was more or less a nice guy, and a capable dealer. For the sake of completeness, he had the largest nose I've ever seen. I mean, he has a nose on top of a nose. He started with a Grouch Marx (or alternately, ChicagooJason) -sized nose, and then put three noses on top of that. Seriously, he had some type of ailment or unusual grrowth. I did my best not to stare.

Fifteen minutes later the cards were in the air. The Tournament Director said, "Shuffle up, and deal", and a chill ran down my spine.

"Phil Laak, please come to table 3. Phil Laak." The tournament director was looking for his prized pupil. Then, "Jennifer Tilly, please come to table 4. Jennifer." The headmaster was at it again. Moments later, Mr. Laak and Ms. Tilly wended their way through the throngs of players, staff, and spectators to tables 3 and 4, respectively. "Geez. I'm glad I'm not sitting on that side of the room," I announed. A chuckle and a grunt were my only rewards.

Seat 10 (the player, not the chair) had still not arrived, yet the Director didn't call out his name. "I guess it isn't Phil Hellmuth", I thought, and prayed. The dealer forgot to give the empty seat a to-be-mucked hand. "Oops, misdeal, he said". As he was pulling in the cards the Tournament Director announced "We have our first elimination!"

Holy crap. I hadn't even gotten cards yet and someone had already blown off their $1000 buy-in. Someone had already doubled up.

Within five minutes, maybe three. He announced that the first table had been broken. Wow. I had literally seen one hand and at least 11 people were done playing poker for the day.

It took about 1 hour and 45 minutes for the Tournament Direct to announce that all of the alternates had been placed in the game. Almost two hours in and we still had over 180 very full tables. Well, at least 800 people had been eliminated. We were down to just over 2,000. Eek. Shortly thereafter the Tournwament Director announced that we were playing in the largest single-day field ever for a live poker tournament.

I played incredibly tight for the first couple hours. The button went around one and a half times before I saw my first flop. The blinds were 25-25 and I raised to 100 in middle position. It folded around to the big blind, and she smooth called. She was a middle-aged woman wearing reading glasses. I believed her to be th weakest player at the table; this actually made me nervous. The flop came J-7-7 and she checked to me. I bet 175 in to the 225 dollar pot. In my head I yelled for her to fold, "you're behind, that didn't hit you. Fold. Fold." She obliged.

About 90 minutes in our table broke. I was moved to table 68 or so, which was about three rows away. I carried my rack of chips, careful not to pull a Hellmuth, over to the table. I had to wait a hand as I had sat on the button. Perfect.

8 hands later I peered down at pocket 5s. I was under the gun at an 11 player table. I decided to limp in and pray that we got to see a cheap flop. I figured the odds were 1 in 3 that it would go unraised, with my UTG call influencing that somewhat. I gave it about another 1 in 3 that I would only see one 3x - 4x raise, which I would probably call, hoping to see a flop. It went unraised, and see of us saw a flop. A record. Now I knew I'd need to improve to play this hand. The flop came 4-4-5. Shazam. I checked, praying someone in late position would take a stab. Maybe someone played a suited A-4, that would be amazing. It checked all the way around.

The turn came a Jack of a third suit. Again I checked, hoping, praying that helped someone. This time it checked all the way to the button who bet about 2/3 of the pot. I "thought" for a moment, eyed my opponent, and smooth called his bet. Everyone else folded.

The turn was a 9. I couldn't chance that he would check down what I now suspected was Jack-Ten. I bet about 2/3 of the pot. My opponent hemmed and hawed. Eventually he stated, "I know I'll hate myself in the morning," and call. I said, "flopped the boat." He showed Jack-Eight and mucked. I was lucky to get paid anything on that monster.

After two hours of play, we were at our first break. I had built my 1500 chips into just under 3500. I ran to find the men's room and a piece of pizza. In that order.


Friday, July 14, 2006

WSOP, WPBT, and Name-Dropping

Lots of name dropping.

I just got back from a whirlwind week in Las Vegas. Scratch that. The whirlwind week in Las Vegas.

We headed out for the World Poker Bloggers Tour (WPBT) event/tournament, for the World Series of Poker (WSOP), and just to have a regular old good time.
The Rio's Amazon Room
Bryan and I headed out of Midway Airport on Thursday evening. The flight is about 4 hours and change, but always feels like about a month. Aces and kings race through my mind as the engines hum and hum. I toggle my attention between podcasts - Lord Admiral, Ante Up, and Circuit (oh my!) - books (mostly poker related), magazines (Cardplayer, of course), video games (um, you figured it out by now), and pre-recorded tv shows on my PSP. None of them can settle me down for the excitement that's about to unfold.

We finally land at McCarran around 7:20, and my phone instantly rings. It's Southside. "Dude, I'm here. Are you here? I'm here." He must be a little excited too.

We grab a cab and head for TI. We dump off our bags and head downtown. Thursdays are for Binions.

The next six days bring many hours of poker. Cash games. The WPBT event and tournament. The WSOP event #17 $1000 NL Hold 'em, and lots of familiar faces. We see every pro in poker and several TV and film personalities. I'm easing in slow, but trust me, I'll drop lots of names.

We finally met Cincinatti Sean and Stacks from Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio in person. That was too cool. (There's a picture below in Bryan's post.) We met Joseph Hachem. We met Devilfish Ulliot. We met Victor Ramdin - and he's the nicest guy that ever lived. We met Barry Greenstein, and I always thought he was the nicest. And he's close.

There's lots to tell, but for now, you just get the teaser. Stay tuned, there's lots to tell...

Monday, July 10, 2006

An Outsider in the WPBT or 'Fish Out of Water'

I'm not a very accomplished poker player.. in fact I suck. But the horribleness of my game doesn't stop me from trying. While I mostly play in home games, I've seen the inside of a casino poker room a couple of times but I've never played a tournament-- until this past weekend that is. ChicagoJason and I, along with one of our friends SouthSide Darnell, headed down to Vegas to see what we could of the WSOP and to meet, greet and compete with other bloggers in the World Poker Blogger Tour Classic II (WPBT).

I headed down figuring to be dead money: I'd probably be the least experienced player there and an outsider. When we caught our first glimpse of poker bloggers the night before the tourney, they interacted like old friends. I wasn't really sure if I'd be accepted... and who the hell was I thinking that I should?

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. All of the bloggers that I had the privilege of playing with were there for a good time. I saw no "cliques" -- Just 120 poker enthusiasts doing what they love to do.

I got off to a rough start. I started the tournament in the small blind with AcKh and began day dreaming of doubling up on the first hand. UTG had made a decent raise and I re-raised to get a feel for where I was at. He quickly called and we were off to see a flop. I missed the flop completely, is was an unremarkable Jack-high assortment with no apparent straight or flush draw coming. Little did I know that my opponent had just flopped top set.

Long story short, I got off relatively easy, if an A or K had come one the flop with the J, I surely would have lost a lot more falling for that old "top pair, top kicker" trap.

This is where I should mention that I'm still honing my skills at describing hands. I'll do my best but the details may be slightly off here and there as I was nervous as hell. It didn't help that over the course of the next hour I witnessed two Royal Flushes.

After that, I played a style of poker that I think is best described as "Tight, Terrified" waiting for a hand to play but not really playing with the confidence that I'd like to show at the table.

Many hours and a grumbling stomach later, the blinds had gone up to $600/$1200 with 100 ante. My stack was dwindling and I needed to start making some moves. I'm in the cutoff and look down at A6s. It had folded around to me so I pushed. Button and SB fold. BB (big stack) deliberates a while then eventually calls. He flips of Jc10h and I was elated. I couldn't believe it, I pushed in with the best hand, what more could I ask for?

Well, I could have asked for that 10 to not come on the flop. But it did and his tens held up and I busted out. 21st of 118 players.
CPC meets Lord Admiral - Stacks, ChicagoJason, Cinci Sean. and Bryan
Looking back, it was a tremendous weekend. The bloggers of the poker community are great people and a lot of fun to throw chips at. It was great to meet so many folks whose blogs I read and respect. I was very glad to meet meeting Cinci Sean and Brent Stacks from Lord Admiral Radio. Winner of's Best Poker Podcast of 2005, these guys are just as genuine as they seem on the podcast. If you haven't heard the podcast, give it a listen!

Special thanks to April at This is not a poker blog... for setting the whole thing up!

Friday, June 30, 2006

CPC Tournament Series, CPC Calendar

ChicagoJoe has been gracious enough to organize and initiate the Chicago Poker Club Tournament series. The first event is in early August, and there are 7 tournaments scheduled for this year. More information to follow...

We now have a Chicago Poker Club Google calendar to keep track of upcoming events. You can bookmark this link to this post and refer back, or you can wait until we decide to repost the calendar in a later post, as it approaches the first tournament. Also note that you can subscribe to the calendar by clicking the link below it.

(View the full post to see the calendar)
Test out MONTH and AGENDA modes to see what works best for you.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chicago Poker Open Results

The Chicago Poker Open was tonight, and it went off pretty well for an inaugural event. There were two tournaments, a Novice event with a $100 buy-in and a "Card Shark" event with a $250 buy-in. Both events had rebuys for the first hour, and an optional add on at the one hour break.

I originally signed up for the Shark tournament, but after thinking about the fact that the blind structure would be very aggressive and the "staff" would be as inexperienced as the players, or probably more, I decided this tournament was probably -EV, despite the relative inexperience of the players. The payout was only for the top 3 (of close to 200 players) and a small prize bag for the final table. I knew I was playing for fun, and charity! I felt comfortable playing for a few hundred, but I wasn't up for playing the high stakes rebuy event with this type of structure.

I played well for the first sixty minutes. I had tripled my stack by the end of the hour. I took the add-on (hey, it's for the kids), which was an additional 1500 chips (the same as the original buy-in, not a "double bubble"). I had 4+ times my original buy-in, and was second in chips at the time. I continued to play well, and I won the blinds and a limp or two in the first three hands after the break. I had good cards each time. On the fifth hand I made a 3x raise, hoping the tight table would fold around again. The player to my left, the chip leader, came over the top. I had to fold.

After 45 minutes to an hour, the blinds had gone up to an obscene amount. I had a comfortable amount of chips left, but most of the table was getting desperate. I was
in late-middle position with AKo. There was one limper, and hence, plenty of money in the pot already. I pushed all in. The player to my left, the aforementioned chip leader, re-raised all in (which was moot, since I had everyone else covered). "Shit", I said and turned over big slick. He was the only player I didn't want to tussle with.

The flop came Ten, four, three, all spades. He flopped a set, and I was in trouble. I did have the King of spades, so I had a big flush draw. The turn came the case ten and put an end to that. In a blink, I was eliminated.

Before departing, my friend Steve and I went to check out the set up of the guys filming the event. They had a very nice custom made table, with cameras mounted under each seat position. In an adjoining room that had two guys watching and covering the action. They really had a professional setup. Also, the two guys running the show, Matt and Corey, were "good people". They let me sit in as a "guest in the studio".

If you're interested in acquiring their services for a home game or corporate event, or learning more information, let me know. I got some of their promotional material and their web address (I'll post it here later), etc.