Monday, May 30, 2011


Except for the occasional home game I have not played much poker over the last year. The last real poker marathon was for Kevin’s 40th birthday back in 2009 when we spent a few days in Vegas and I even had a chance to play Commerce, the Hustler, and Hollywood Park. That was not a good trip for me, especially the Vegas portion where I went absolutely card dead. When I returned I played the cash game at Full Tilt from August to December late at night compiling double player points. I won enough to put the bankroll back in shape but other life responsibilities kept me from playing during most of 2010. My one casino trip during 2010 was a day at the Ocala fronton where I won $300 playing the cash game. It was pretty soft field which may or may not be common for a weekday over there. I wanted to get back and find out, but it’s nearly two hours away and I hardly have two hours to do anything.

A week or two before Black Friday I played a few cheap Rush Tourneys while I was watching baseball on TV. Sean had recently won a few thousand dollars on those tourneys buying in for $3 or so and convinced me to give it a go. I have never found a casino chair more comfortable than my couch. But the government doing everything it can to conserve energy on the one hand now insists that drive more than an hour to play poker. Why that has to be the case I don’t understand. Almost every para-mutual in the state has a poker room, yet the two in Orlando don’t. I’m told the dog track can’t because it is too close to a church. But what about the Orlando fronton located in the strip club zone? Do they not see the market they are missing out on? I am located almost directly in the middle the Daytona, Melbourne, and Tampa Hard Rock poker rooms. Google maps says that they are all 1 hour and 15 minutes give or take a minute from each. 6 different casinos are within 2 hours from my house and that was my thinking as my poker Jones needed a tourney this weekend. Ocala has a deep stack on Saturdays and the Tampa Greyhound park has one on Sundays. I opted for Tampa since I had never been there.

The buy-in was $115 for 15,000 units and an optional dealer ad-on for $10 giving you another 5,000 units. The poor dealers. Who wouldn’t have paid $20 for those extra 5,000 chips?

The track opened at 11:30 and I was there about 10 minutes after opening where I bought an entry and played the cash game for an hour before the 1pm start. The guy next to me hit a straight flush that was worth $500 in cash. He said he had only come that morning because a guy who owes him $100 promised to meet and pay him. Not a bad outcome for him. One thing I noticed in the cash game is that no one gives anyone credit for their raises although there was very little pre-flop raising. It was nothing to see a 6x raise to get 3 callers and a guy that gets a piece of the flop will likely call it all the way down heads up. Most guys just wanted to limp and see a flop with any two rags. Top pair with a mediocre kicker can take half a guy’s stack. My preflop raise with KK was able to get $80 from 66 when rags fell.

Saturday night I read the first half of Gus Hanson’s book “Every Hand Revealed.” While every poker book praises being aggressive, Gus does the best job of explaining how to do it. Gus also told me to take off the head phones and watch the players when I’m out of a hand. With 20,000 chips and 25 minute levels I spent the first two hours sizing up the competition. Within the first few hands I guessed the best player was in seat 3. He was a muscular hulk of a character full of confidence. Guys built like him usually have confidence away from the table, but I have seen more than a few become timid when at the table. This guy had a look of someone who expected to win the tournament. The older guy to his left seemed like he would play a solid poker and the guy in seat 5 in a Full Tilt cap looked like a guy that had seen some action. The rest of field looked to be people trying to strike gold. The two players to my right were both women playing the tight passive variety you might expect. The guy to my left in seat 10 was showing his frustration too much to be a threat.

The first real confrontation happened about 20 minutes into the tourney. The Hulk made a big raise into seat 10. I stared at the hulk to get a read and there was a twitch or something in his eyelids that told me he didn’t want a call. Seat 10 was totally oblivious to it. He sat and thought and did everything but look into the guy in the eyes. When seat 10 folded the hulk let out a sigh of relief. It probably seemed like nothing to him, but it gave me confidence that I had the proper read on a guy I felt was the biggest hurdle at the table.

About an hour in I landed KK in the SB. With the blinds 100/200, the old guy in seat 4 raises 700 and he gets one caller around to me. Without much thinking my internal calculator told me to bump it 2200 more. The original raiser called and we lost the guy in between. The flop brought an ace, but I couldn’t check UTG and give him a chance to steal it so I lead out for 2400 and he folded. The weak passive to my right said that my raise felt like KK. Here was woman who has obviously played enough poker to read hands and yet I don’t think she used that information once to make a play on anyone. She just sat back waiting for a set.

Later in that level I landed AA in late position, but it folded around to me and my raise won the blinds. While I was quiet seat 10 crippled himself on a draw and then pushed in with garbage in order to re-enter the tourney which was allowed through 5 levels. He left the table and since our seat was the only open seat on the floor he wound up back at our table about he purchased the re-entry. On his first hand back he landed AA and pushed all-in after a preflop raise from the other women to my right. She called with JJ, but doubled up when a J flopped. He walked away saying that he pushed hoping that the raiser would think he was tilting. That’s what happened but he got the wrong result.

We must be three hours in when the blinds arte 150/300 with a 25 ante. I have around 17,000 chips. The hulk and another guy limp and I’m on the button with J9. There is finally enough money in there that a raise is in order so I bump to 1200. The hulk calls. The flop is Kh Jh Jc. Although slowplaying is an option I decide that if hits any kind of K he will not give me credit for a J plus there are too many possible draws to slowplay. I bet 2000 into a pot of 3625. Surprisingly he check raises me to 5000 total. Okay, there is no way he has me on a J. He likely has a KQ or KT and wanted to pop my continuation bet. I can’t give him credit for AK because he didn’t raise preflop and this is a guy who doesn’t let a raise situation go by. I have 13,000 or so left and decide we might as well get it all in right now while he has the wrong read on me. I push and he calls. He turns over Ah 8h. Wow. What a funny way to play that hand. If you decide to play A8s out of position for a raise and flop a draw in first position why not just lead out? You might win the pot. The tricky check raise makes you commit too many chips without learning anything about your opponent’s hand. If he was trying to represent the K then better to lead with it. A lead could win the pot and a raise from me would have allowed him to get away from it. Instead he is put in the position of calling 8,000 into a pot of 18625. He needs to be a winner 42% of the time for positive EV and he barely gets there if I just have Kx. This is not the kind of game where a guy folds a nut flush draw even on a paired board. As it turns out I am a 74 to 26 favorite when he hits the 6h on the turn. He has me covered and the board does not pair and I’m knocked out.

If I had slowplayed the flop and let him get the flush for free I would have cursed myself for not betting and I cannot be upset about taking any positive EV situation especially when my M was around 10 with blinds and antes at 625 around. He celebrated like he hit the lottery which he did. I moved to the cash game, but didn’t feel on tilt. I was happy every time I went through it in my head. I could beat myself up for playing rags like J9o, but I wasn’t playing I was raising. The purpose was getting aggressive after being relatively subdued. In his defense he had around 30,000 in chips and could afford to gamble. I want those guys to take the gamble every time. I find that I like the $100 buy in format because it’s enough money that it’s worth the time to play. On a field of 55 the first prize was $1800+. It’s also not so much money that I play too timidly.

I played the cash game for an hour when they announced a $30 evening tournament. I had no intention of playing it, but the cash game was getting annoying. The guys I was sitting between were getting cell phone calls at 5 minute intervals. What is it with poor people and their cell phones? They always need to know what everyone else is doing. One guy had an Emminem ring tone and the other had a soap opera ring tone he blamed on his sister that gave him the phone. The game was soft, but the guys were buying in $20 at a time and then rolling the dice. Boring.

Including re-entries and the $30 tourney drew 53 players. It was a mix of older people waiting to get cards, good players taking chances to get a chip stack so they could bully, and gamblers that thought any Ace was a bull by the horns. I tried to read players again, but at $30 no one is emotionally attached to their tournament life. They could call and push with anything and not mind being called as an underdog. With only 6,000 chips and twenty minute intervals that jumped quickly I was sitting on an M of 8 about an hour and half in when one off the button raised. I was in the Big Blind with JJ. I decided to push and make him decide. He insta-called with A6o, hit his card, and I was down to 225 units. After 50 for the ante, I was short 25 units for the small blind. Somehow I quadrupled up. Pushed again on the next hand and tripled up. I kept the mojo going brining my chip stack to more than 30,000 moving into the final table. First prize was $463. Fifth paid $90. With 6 of us left we decided to pay the bubble $10 each. I wasn’t getting much in the way of cards and the guy to my left was pretty aggressive making limping a bad choice. I took down a round of blinds when I raised with ATs UTG. Nobody had a dominant stack. The chip leader had maybe an M of 10. The rest of us were between 5 and 8. This was mostly a result of the tourney jumping from 500/1000 to 1000/2000 when we were down to 14 players. With the blinds at 2500/5000 and an ante of 400, KT utg looked pretty good 6 handed. I pushed and the guy to my left called with QQ. He said, “Do you have Kings?” I said, “Not Yet.” The table laughed at my confidence. The board didn’t help in the least and I took the payout which turned out to be $15 per player for $75 total. Did the $90 5th place give me $15? If so, 6th paid the same as 5th.

With food and drink on the day, neither comped, I wound up with a $2.50 profit between wins in the second tourney and the cash game. The hulk made it to the final table where I think they made a deal with around 8 people left. If that was the case he made around $700 and it all started with his overplaying A8s. The Sunday deep stack is the right price and structure to make it worth a weekly attempt. Alas, I cannot make Trish a poker widow on Sundays to try, but when I can make it over there I think I could have success in it.


At 8:52 AM, October 03, 2011, Blogger Dude said...

Nice recap and good writerly touch of populating the table with personalities. You played your bustout hand to perfection and got beat, but I will argue in favor of Hulk's play:

His call pre flop was borderline with the A8s out of position, but you gotta give him credit since you were on a steal and it was indeed the correct call. It's not a great spot though unless the hearts come since I doubt he would have loved to see an ace. Once he took a flop and got the hearts, he can't really lay it down so he needs to try to either get the fifth heart or get your lay down.

By checking, he avoids committing himself too early while there is the chance he could see a free turn card should you check behind. He has enough equity in the hand that he is not looking to fold after betting and getting raised, but he would certainly be an underdog at that point.

By checking, he increases his equity because either you check behind, allowing him a free turn card, or you put money in the pot that you may be willing to abandon. The check raise is a strong play. It certainly commits him to the pot, but it also forces out the QQ, which is your most likely hand, given his known cards, if you indeed have strength. He also gives you the opportunity to fold KQ and certainly AQ. If you show up with AK or AJ and call, well then he is just going to have to find that heart.

You have to second guess yourself whenever you bust from a tourney but you played this hand 100% correctly. Your opponent's version of the hand is open to interpretation, but based on the personality you ascribed to him, I think he played it ideally as well. It was a good solid check raise situation. If he had shoved, he would have appeared to be on a draw and you then could have called with some of the hands I mentioned. He gave you good reason to fold some hands that beat him.

In this spot, the jack is in his hand way more often than in yours and he respected you enough to realize you knew this. But you were already sitting on the jack and feigning weakness by betting out. Brilliantly played by all. You laid your trap and got your money in good. Hulk got there and put a beat on the puny human - what are you gonna do.


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