Thursday, June 26, 2008

Back from the Rio - WSOP 2008

Our five day adventure came to a close with a thud, as our plane clumsily bumped down at Chicago's Midway airport on Monday night. Although the WSOP tourneys didn't go as planned, the trip was an entertaining and satisfying affair, once again.

Started at the beginning... We landed in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. The night air, just steps from McCarran International, made it clear that this trip wouldn't be replete with outdoor time. It was 7:45pm, and it felt like it was still 102 degrees. It may have been 101.

We checked in at Caesars, and walked over to Chinois for dinner.

Thursday was the first event, #36, and I learned 30 minutes before that I'd be sitting in the "Buzios area". For those of you unaware, Buzios is the seafood restaurant at the Rio, and the Buzios area constitutes 16 poker tables in the hallway right out front of the restaurant, and a 10 minute walk from the Amazon ballroom. No worries, I'd never make it to the Amazon ballroom.

Just 48 minutes after the cards were in the air, I was packing my stuff and heading for the Harrah's shuttle to Caesars. Yes. 48 minutes... (that's $31.25/minute, as Wil points out).

The structure was the same as last year; a $1500 buy-in gets you 3000 chips. Blinds start at 25-50 and double every hour for the first three rounds. By 30 minutes in I had picked up AQ three times, netting me approximately -1970 chips. I raised three times, missed my flop all three, continuation bet two of the three, and was informed all three times that I had been out flopped (or perhaps I was behind to start with on one or more occasions). In this structure, you cannot afford to raise three pots and lose three pots in the first hour.

I locked down my last 1030 chips for not more than 12-14 minutes when I found AK on the button. A middle position raiser, who'd voluntarily put money in the pot at least a third of the hands, raise yet again, to about 250 after an early player limped. Knowing that he had a very broad range, and that I shouldn't be worse than a coin-flip, I re-raised for my last 1030 chips. He thought for about 2 seconds, maybe a couple seconds less than that, and shipped it in with 77 (granted it was about 25% of his stack, not 100% like me). The flop didn't help me, but he appreciated a third 7 to make him a flopped set. The turn was no help, so I was drawing dead on the river when a King kicked sand in my face.

Friday morning some of the Chicago boys came into town and we played some cash games. Jeremy registered and unregistered for a tournament at Caesars (way to read the fine print!) and we headed over to the Venetian. After a little play at the $2/5 No Limit Hold 'em tables, all three of us moved to a Pot Limit Omaha game that varied between $2/5 and $5/5 blinds, depending on who you asked and who was dealing. The amusing thing about this is that a $2/5 game is capped at a $1000 buy-in, while a $5/5 game is uncapped. This becomes pertinent later.

The game started 6-handed and slowly filled in until we had a list of about 6 players waiting to join us. I went on a sick run of good cards and well-executed bluffs, and more than quadrupled my initial buy-in (until the last hand of the session). At some point we noticed that they were filming a television show in the salon adjacent to our table. As we sat there, the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Gabe Thayler, Phil Ivey, Bob Bright, and Phil Laak walked by in and out of the salon.
I looked over my shoulder and noticed that Phil was headed our way. "We've got a seat open", I yelled in his general direction. "Yep, that's what I'm coming for," he retorted. Great. I was already 'that guy'.

Holy shizzle... was he really going to sit at our table. Plop, he took seat 3. "What are we playing?" the 'bomber asks. "5-5 PLO" comes the reply. "Awesome", says he.

"What's the cap?"


"Nice", he plops a bag of $30,000 in the table. In that bag, a key. The home for that key, his Venetian box. The contents of that Venetian box, "oh, the other $100k", he informed us.

He stuck around for about 45 minutes. Jeremy was away when he sat, and being that he was in the 4 seat, I couldn't wait for his return. As I saw Jeremy emerged from the main poker room I was giddy with anticipation.

He returned to his seat, not noticing our new tablemate. His eyes worked their way up from the rail, to his chips, to the felt, to the chips in the 3 seat. "Whoa!" he managed oh so tactfully His eyes worked their way up to the chip owner, "Oh", he nodded as if the presence of poker royalty explained the bag of rubies and sapphires before him.

The play itself, with Phil at the table, was nothing special. He played uber tight, losing a few calls and maybe taking down a pot. He later informed me that he lost $12. Well played sir.

... anyway... a few people have given me shit for taking so long to post the update... life's little gems have surfaced, and I've been otherwise occupied in recent weeks. Here I am posting my incomplete synopsis for the sake of an update. I will try to provide the rest of the trip report as times allows...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WSOP 2008 - The Adventure Begins

Mrs. Chicago and I are headed to the airport in about 5 hours, and will be in Las Vegas (Baby) through Monday afternoon. To say I'm looking forward to my little piece of World Series action this year would be an understatement.

I feeling good about my game, I'm running well, and I'm hoping to make it deep in an event for the second year in a row.

I plan to play Event #36 on Thursday and Event #39 on Saturday. Both are $1500 NLHE events, which means the starting chip stack is only T$3000. There isn't much room for mistakes early, but if I can accumulate a few chips, I'll be off and running.

I will be updating my Twitter feed as time allows, so check back here (right column) for frequent updates.

P.S. Sincere condolences to the friends and family of a strong member of the Chicago Poker community who passed last night. A young man, a genuinely good guy, and a fantastic rounder was taken from us all too early. Hopefully he'll remind us to find joy in every day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This Guy Really Gives Me the Creeps (aka Dwan vs Clay Head's Up)

I'm not sure what to say, exactly. Odd over-confidence based on conquering a single skill with major deficiencies in other obvious skill sets... inexplicably poor social skills.What? This is two different guys?

Anybody else rubbed the wrong way?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Horseshoe Hammond Expansion Complete 8/8/08

The hotly anticipated expansion of Horseshoe Hammond will be complete on August 8 (as in 8/8/08), complete with the Midwest's largest poker room.

The new room will house 34 traditional tables and 2 Pokertek electronic tables.

The Horseshoe will also be hosting the 2009 season's first WSOP Circuit Event, planned for some time around the end of October (2008). You may remember Jeremy Smith from the Majestic Star, he is now one of the shift managers at the new Horseshoe. He has made himself available to answer questions about the new room on our forum at Chicago Poker Club Forums. Welcome, and thank you Jeremy! Check back here and at the forums for updates.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Chicago Poker Open - Don't Forget to Pre-Register!

The event is this Friday, and pre-registration will save you $25-50, depending on the event.

Please go here to pre-register.

The blind structure has been improved from last year, and I think you'll find it more player friendly than most (or all) other charity events!

Round Time
Level 1 25 - 50 20
Level 2 50 - 100 20
Level 3 75 - 150 20
First Break (Add On Period) 15
Level 4 100 - 200 20
Level 5 150 - 300 20
Level 6 200 - 400 20
Second Break (Color Up) 15
Level 7 300 - 600 20
Level 8 400 - 800 20
Level 9 500 - 1000 20
Level 10 1000 - 2000 20
Third Break (Color Up) 15
Level 11 1500 - 3000 20
Level 12 2500 - 5000 20
Level 13 5000 - 10000 20
Level 14 10000 - 20000 20

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Big Oops at theTable

There was a new face at my usual Thursday night game this week at "the LP". After a half an hour, we realized that we knew one another from the internets and chatted a bit about some of the things that I've previously written here, and about some of the Podcasts we listen to. We both have hacked iPhones on T-Mobile, which is funny in a what-a-coincidence kind of way, and we visually compared Podcast lists.

Kmon, as he's known online, posted a nice recap of his experience at the game and made reference to an "oops" of mine. I appreciate his politeness at not posting the details, but I don't mind, and it was pretty hilarious at the time. I've written here (and particularly in my personal session notes) about the dangers of playing tired, and it has impacted me tremendously in recent months, and in particular in the lowest stakes games. I don't play particularly big, but when I play in a bigger game the cash does a better job of keeping me focused. When I play $1/$2 on Thursdays with the usual crowd, I treat it more like a social event and often make big mistakes. This one was funny.

I actually don't remember the details of the hand specifically (another bad sign), but Scotty and I saw a flop head's up, and I was in position. Scotty and I have become good friends away from the LP, and we always have goofy hands the way you might with your demented (I was going to use a non-PC word here, but I don't think it's required) little brother. Scotty is the demented brother. :)

I thought he had a semi-strong hand, and he had raised pre-flop. I think he bet the flop and I called with two big cards. He checked the turn dark, which he really only does when he's soft-playing someone, and I thought he might have a middle pair or two big cards bigger than mine (or even dominating mine). Either way, neither of us had a monster and neither of us seemed to want to fight for it. It wasn't a "way ahead or way behind" situation, but rather the opposite.

I decided that my hand had some showdown value and I didn't want to get check raised, so I just checked behind and exposed my cards. The problem was... we were at the turn. Not the river.

Oh yeah, I was at the top of my game. Here's the kicker - Scotty laughs hysterically and then bets $10 and turns his hand over! As it turns out, I'm behind, but have two live cards, or 6 outs. The pot was laying me the odds to call, so I did, knowing that there would be effectively no action since we knew exactly where we stood. The river didn't help me, he bet $1 and I folded.

Then, Kmon says, "you know you didn't need to call that turn bet." And I'm sitting there like the moron I am trying to determine if I've miscalculated the pot odds. I give him a quizzical expression and he reminds me that Scotty had already checked dark on the turn.

Apparently no one in the room was paying the slightest bit of attention as everyone else realized the truth of Kmon's words. He checked, I check, I opened my hand, he bet, I called.

That $10 goes on my IRS return as "Idiot Tax".

Saturday, June 07, 2008

What I Had. What He Had.

This is the second part of What Did I Have? What Did He Have? - so you should read that post first.

Did you figure it out? Remember, my decisions were based on seeing his action pre-flop and his check-raise on the flop. I didn't know he was going to call my re-raise, but if I did, I wouldn't have put him on... Pocket Sixes. Sixes?

He quickly called pre-flop when I made a big raise from late position. I did not have a loose or aggressive image when I raised (as far as I could tell, and based on my actions).

So, what could he beat with 66 after I re-raised his bet on the flop with only $160 left? He was getting 4-to-1 on his money, but if he was behind there was only a 9% chance he would catch one of the two remaining sixes to overcome the deficit. The pot would need to lay him more than twice that, nearly 11-1 if he was behind.

Unfortunately my opponent didn't make the same analysis I did, and decided to call. He actually made a good call (in terms of pot equity) - I held only Ace of clubs, 9 of clubs for two over cards to the board.

So, how bad was my play? With only $160 for him to call, and $640 in the pot, he was getting 4-to-1 on the call, but with only 9% to win. So, what if he thought I could be bluffing? If I could bluff here 12% of the time and he would improve to sixes-full 9% of the time (ignoring the chances of me improving if I had what I supposed to), then he would believe that he'd be good, or improve to best, 21% of the time, and 4-to-1 would be good enough... right?


If he was correct, and he was, there was still two cards to come, and I had two overcards (he had to assume I didn't have undercards if his sixes were winning.) With two overcards to his sixes, I'm actually 31% to improve (with 6 cards to make a pair, and two streets to make a running flush). If he does make the call and is ahead of me, he'd still lose almost a third of the time!

In this particular case, the board went blank, blank, and the dealer pushed my opponent the pot.
If he thought I could bluff 12% of the time (my arbitrary number), then I would win the hand a third of the time when I was, and he would only have about 17% equity in the hand. With those numbers, the pot would need to lay him almost 6-to-1 for him to make a good call.

As it turns out, I'd actually need to be bluffing about 20% of the time for him to have a decent call on the flop. Am I actually crazy enough to bluff here, with only $160 behind, 1 out of every 5 times....?? Well... maybe...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What Did I Have? What Did He Have?

I got in a nice long session at Majestic Star yesterday. Around 10 PM I finally got a seat at the $2/5 No Limit Hold 'em Table - a "must move" table. Everyone bought in a little short, between $250-450 (most hovering around $400) at a $500 max. table. I bought in close to full, I brought about $500 over from my $1/2 table. I was surprised at the number of short-buys.

After about 90 minutes or so, the action had been fast and furious at my table, and many of the stacks had increased by 50% or more from big pots and frequent rebuys.

There were two limpers to me, hence $17 in the pot, and I raised to $30, which was fairly standard. I hadn't played many hands, had been whittled down to about $370, and had a stronger than average hand. The kind of hand I'm happy to play for a raise in position if I can get one or two opponents to see a flop with me.

The aggressive button folded and the small blind smooth-called fairly quickly. He hadn't played too many hands, and I perceived him to be fairly solid for this game. Not a big thinker, but capable of thinking on multiple levels. He played more-or-less by the math. At least, that was my perception. I took note of his smooth call - it surprised me. From out of position, facing a fairly large, but reasonable, pre-flop raise I wouldn't expect to see him make a quick call with a suited-connector or suited-Ace type hand. With a big pair, I very much expected a raise, or at least a few seconds of contemplating a raise. In my mind, his most likely holdings were a middle pair or AQ suited or AK.

Both other limpers called. Because there was $70 in the pot and then $95 in the pot for each of them, facing a $25 call, with $5 committed, I couldn't narrow their range too much at this point.

There was $120 in the pot, and we saw a flop. It came down 882, and if memory serves, a rainbow (three different suits).

All three players checked to me. I had represented a big hand pre-flop with my raise, and I decided to make a bet in an effort to take down a big pot. If I got resistance from either of the two limpers, I could put them on a suited connector with an 8, and fold. I bet $80.

The small blind really surprised me. He took a full minute to decide what to do. Then, he raised to $180, $100 on top of my bet. Both limpers instantly folded an it was back to me.

The pot now had $380 in it, and I had $260 left - that would be $160 after a $100 call. I didn't call. I considered what my opponent had. I went back to my pre-flop suspicions. I did not think he could play two big cards this way. He smooth-called my raise, and if he had AK or AQ, he did so hoping to catch on me, not looking to get all his money in without a pair. My initial read of a middle pair was making sense - 55 through 99 was most likely. With only two 8s left in the deck the odds of pocket 8s were slim. Also, with flopped quads, would he really put so much pressure on me this early? Wouldn't this particular player be likely to slow-play?

I put him on 55, 66, 77, or 99. Certainly 22 was conceivable for the flopped full house. I believed that he called a big bet too quickly pre-flop for 22 also, and I had put a lot of confidence in my read this night, and was correct much more often than not.

With a middle pair, I reasoned, perhaps he hoped I had two big cards and his two pair was good. His $100 re-raise was an expensive test, but perhaps he read me for weak? Also, I only had $160 more than his raise. If I came back over the top, I had to have him beat, right? My raise wasn't big enough to intimidate a pretty strong hand, so if I re-raised, I'd have to be expecting a call from anything TT or better... didn't I? But, it was also a big enough bet for him to be happy to save $160 once I indicated to him that he was beat with my re-raise.

I decided that he couldn't possibly call a re-raise with the range of hands that he could have. I had paused 30-40 seconds considering all of this information, careful not to give away too much non-verbal information, and I stated "I'm all in" and pushed my chips forward.

As I mentioned, there was $380 in the pot, and I pushed in my last $260, making it a $640 pot, and $160 for him to call. He was getting exactly 4-1 on his money, but was there a 20% chance that he was good with his likely range of holdings? Remember, this was all on the flop, and there were two cards yet to come.

He said, "okay, I guess you win", but put his chips in as he said it. In other words, I call but you must have me beat.

What did he have?

What did I hold?

What cards would you have played the way he played, given the progression of action?

Answers coming soon.