Archive for January, 2010


Crucial Poker Hand Question

January 31, 2010

Poker experts, what do you do here? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Live deep stack tournament. Blinds are 300-600, I have $14,200 and open the pot to $1500 in mid/late position with As7s. It folds to the SB, who calls. BB folds. HU to T76, two spade flop. He checks to me, I bet $2500, and he shoves for $7400 more. My read on opponent is that he’s pretty nitty, but capable of shoving hands like AT, QQ, JJ here… maybe even a big spade draw.

If I call and win I’ll have $26,200, which would be a top 5 stack in the tournament with 35ish remaining.

If I fold, I’ll have $10,200 for an M of 11.33.

If I call and lose, I’ll have $2800 left and will have to shove the first decent hand I get dealt before the blinds go through me again.

I’m getting a little over 2 to 1 to call and based on my read, I think I’m a favorite over about 30-40% of his range here.

What do you do?


1/29 Bremerton Lanes Tournament

January 29, 2010

Today, I started off on a roll. With starting stacks of 3500, I was up to 5000 and we were still in the first round.

Key Hand #1 – Blinds 25/50, one person limps and I raise to 225 with AK. One person behind me calls, the blinds fold, and the limper calls. 3-way action to a A64, two club flop. One check, I bet 375 and the person behind me calls, the first guy folds. Turn is a 4c. I could bet here to define my hand and really see where I’m at… I don’t have a club in my hand, so if it checks around and a fourth club hits the river, I’ll be pretty disgusted with myself. Of course, I could already be beat, and I didn’t sense a lot of strength from my opponent and I think he has an ace with a weaker kicker, and as long as that kicker isn’t a club, I’m in pretty good shape, so I decide to just check it. He bets 375. No need to raise here… I just call. River is an ugly Kc. I could bet to prevent a bluff, maybe even get him to fold a small/medium club. He’d probably pay it off in frustration if he turned a flush since I’m not going to bet enough to put a ton of pressure on him. We both check and I’m shocked when he turns over 66 for a full house. No idea what he was thinking, but I was very grateful to only lose 750 post-flop when I would’ve stacked off if he raised the flop. Instead of losing 75% of my chips, I lost the minimum and still had around 4000.

The next several blind levels were brutal to me. Not only was I not getting good hands, but my attempts to steal blinds and keep my stack in good shape proved futile. I had two people to my left that were loose and defended constantly. I never hit the board with my hands and any time I made a continuation bet, I got called or raised. After a while, it became clear that I was going to have to play hands with value… and those weren’t coming often, so my stack was dwindling.

Key Hand #2 – with the blinds at 200-400, I was in the big blind with KdQd and 1700 behind. It folds to the button who raises to 800. SB folds and I consider my options. I decide that calling is out of the question and ship it. He calls with AK and I spike a Queen to double up. I am now freerolling in the tournament.

Key Hand #3 – blinds are still 200-400… the tables just combined and a new player I’m unfamiliar with raises to 1000 with 3000 behind. It folds to me in LP and I have 77 and I have 4800 total. My opponent is an old man and I usually consider most old men a nit until proven otherwise…. which means, I’m probably never going to get him to fold if I shove and I’m probably only a slight favorite against the bottom of his range. I think folding here is wise, although it’s close… I still have 6 orbits left and I just think I can find a better spot. Doubling up is critical at this point, but I think I’m an underdog against his range. I fold.

Key Hand #4 – blinds are 400-800… we are short-handed, I have 5400 and it folds to me. I shove it with KT and get called by JJ. I spike a King and double up to 12000. Maybe luck is on my side today.

Key Hand #5 – blinds are 400-800, we are still short-handed… I have about 12000 still and open to 2400 with AQ. Someone shoves behind me for 3700 and I make the easy call. He shows AA and his hand holds. I’m down to 8300.

Key Hand #6 – I’ve been managing to keep my stack in good shape and I’m up to around 13000. blinds are now 500-1000 and I have 6d5d in the BB. It folds to the button who shoves for 4500. SB folds and it’s 3500 to me. I do some quick odds… it’s going to cost me 3500 more to try and win a 6500 pot. If I call and lose, I’ll still have around 9000, which is something I can work with. Getting 1.8 to 1 in a likely 40-60, I decide to try and knock him out. Unfortunately he shows TT and even though I flop a flush draw, his hand holds.

Key Hand #7 – I make it to the final table for the 3rd day in a row. Unfortunately, my stack is weak at 9500. I didn’t draw a good seat position, so I’m UTG+1, and the blinds are 500-1000. I fold my first hand, a J6, and then I pick up KT UTG the next hand. I’m aware of the time left in the round and the blinds are going to go up to 1000-2000 the next hand, so my relative stack size is much worse than it looks. If I fold, I’m going to have 3000 going through me the next two hands, assuming I lose both of them, and I’ll have 6500 on the button, which is a pretty easy amount to call from the big blind with 2000 invested already. I decide to shove it while I still have some fold equity from my opponents and it folds all the way to the big blind who calls with AK. No 3-outer for me, as his trip Kings, Ace kicker scoops the pot and he has me covered. FML! I can’t close this thing out!

5 tournaments, 3 final tables, 1 cash, -$125 overall

I’m playing in a deep stack tournament on Sunday and if I don’t cash in that, I’ll have to cut my tournament playing down next week.


01/28 Bremerton Lanes Tournament

January 28, 2010

I didn’t feel like keeping any notes today, so I don’t have a whole lot of hands to talk about. I splashed around and played pretty loose (and kind of bad, honestly) for the first three rounds and I had lost 2/3 of my stack early.

Key Hand #1 – I can’t recall the blind levels or my exact stack size… but I think it was 100-200 and I raised it to 600 with JJ. Folds to the button who shoves for about 2000 total. I call and my hand holds against 77 and I win my first decent sized pot.

After that hand, I managed to win enough blinds to keep myself right around an M of 5 all the way to the final table. At the final table, I pushed all in 4-5 times and never got called and managed to make it to the top 5.

Key Hand #2 – with the blinds at 1000-2000, I have Ad6d in the BB and 9000 behind. The chip leader makes a raise to 7000 from the cut off and it folds to me. I’m probably ahead of his opening range here (knowing the player well) and my stack dictates a shove so I get it in. He calls and shows KsJs. The flop comes T42, with two spades, the turn is a Q, and somehow I dodge one of his 20 outs on the river and double up to 23000.

Key Hand #3 – with the blinds at 1000-2000, it folds to the SB who only has 5000 left and gets it in. I toss another 3000 in without even looking and am ecstatic when I flip over a beautiful-looking AK. He shows QJ and it looks over when the flop comes AJ6, but then the board comes running Jacks and he scoops the pot with quads. This actually was my tournament-defining hand because if I hold, I would’ve had over 30,000 in chips, which would’ve been the chip lead, and we would have been down to four. Most importantly, this next hand would’ve never happened.

Key Hand #4 – with the blinds at 1000-2000, it folds to the button (the player I could have knocked out last hand) who shoves for 11000. I have Ah6h and I know he’s getting it in with a wide range here, so I call. Unfortunately, the big blind shoves for enough to put me all-in… and I now have half my chips in the pot and I’m getting ridiculously good odds. Folding is out of the question, even though the situation looks grim. Fortunately, neither of them has an Ace as they show KK and 99. I miss my 3-outer and bust out in 5th, which was good for $50 and a profit of $15. Yay!

That gives me one cash in four tries, two final tables, and a net “profit” of -$90. LOL.


1/27 – Bremerton Lanes Tournament

January 28, 2010

Okay, not that I have a big problem with recall, but in the interest of making the details of each hand very easy to remember, I brought a notepad with me yesterday so I could jot down the stack sizes and blind levels of the key hands I played… and I was extremely surprised at how poorly this was received at my table. I don’t think there was one person I played with that wasn’t bothered by this. I got several “I didn’t realize we were being tested” and “there’s a test later” and “should I read your notes before I act?” comments. Part of me wanted to explain what I was doing and that it wasn’t personal, but ultimately, I decided it was best to just smile and raise my eyebrows since anything that is throwing my opponent’s off their game is good for me. Also, I usually throw people some rope and let them know if they made a good lay down or not, but I’ve decided that no one has any business being entitled to what I’m doing… well, unless they want to read my blog every day and that’s okay with me! I was able to splash around a lot more today and I got involved in a lot of pots.

Key Hand #1 – (25/50) – I raise UTG to 150 with 8c7c – Pretty aggressive play being in horrible position… but honestly, I don’t mind playing a hand like this in that spot in No Limit, especially when I have the betting lead. Two people call. Flop comes down 732, one club. I can definitely think of worse spots. I bet out $375, one fold, and one quick raise to $1200. I strongly consider shipping it since I’m having a hard time thinking of hands that have me beat… but then I start thinking about my opponent and decide that he’s never bluffing here… and he’d probably even make this move with A7. Plus, do I really wanna ship my stack with top pair, weak kicker in the first round? Not what I had in mind when I raised the pot in the first place.

Key Hand #2 – (25/50) – 3 people limp, I call with JdTd in the small blind, BB taps. T36 flop, two hearts. Not really sure why, but I decide to check my top pair and it checks around. I bet out $275 on a 2 turn… and the same guy from last hand raises to $750. I shake my head, kind of irritated, but fold. He shows 54 for the nut straight.

Key Hand #3 – (25/50) – 2 people limp, I make it 225 to go from LP with Kd4d, obviously trying to make up for some of the ground I’ve lost. One of the limpers calls and I have position HU to a 987 flop with two diamonds. He checks, I bet $350 and he calls. Turn is a 4. He checks again, I decide he has a draw… probably a straight draw… or a weakish pair… and bet $800. I only have $1100 behind after my bet, so it’s pretty clear I’m never folding here. He mucks and I pick up my first decent pot.

Key Hand #4 – (50/100) – I call a raise to 300 on the button with AcJc. Flop comes down 877, with one club and we are HU. He bets 300 and I call… not based on the strength of my hand, but simply to see what he does on the turn and if I can take the pot away from him. The turn is a Qh, putting two to a flush on board. He bets 300 again and I decide that he’s not too excited about his hand and pop it to 875. He tanks for a bit, looks like he’s going to throw it away, and then shoves on me. I fold.

Key Hand #5 – (50/100) – two people limp, I call with 6c5c in late position, both blinds are in. Flop comes Q94 with two clubs. It checks to me and even though I have position, everyone has shown weakness, and I have a flush draw, I check since a Q9 combo on the flop is going to be in the range of a lot of hands and I think I’m usually getting called here. The turn is a 2, no club, and it checks to my right (same guy from last hand) and he bets 300. I have 1900 in all, and I consider calling, but I decide that I don’t really wanna call for 15% of my stack when I don’t think I’m going to get paid off if I hit my flush draw. Instead, I decide that with my stack size and the situation at hand, shoving it all in is best, as it strongly increases my chances of winning the pot right now. I do just that and this time the guy looks like he might call, but folds instead. Sweet! Even though I really want a fold there, getting called isn’t the worst thing in the world since I do have 10 outs.

Key Hand #6 – (75/150) – I have Qh8h in the SB and we have 3-way action to the flop. The board comes QT4 with three spades. No need to protect my hand here. Anyone with a big spade or a flush is at least going to call me, might even raise me, and I’ll have no idea where I’m at. Might as well try to take a card off and see what happens. Another 4 hits the turn and I could define my hand here, but I decide the situation hasn’t changed much, and it checks around again. Q on the river and it’s up to me with my full house. There’s 450 in the pot and I settle on 500. Since I figure no one has much, I might as well make as much as possible just in case someone wants to look me up. The BB calls and I scoop a pretty good pot for such little action.

Key Hand #7 – (100/200) – UTG limps, small blind raises to 1100 and I look down at AA in the BB. I ship my stack and SB calls with JJ. My hand holds and I’m up to 7100 in chips and an M of 19. Awesome.

Key Hand #8 – (200/400) – Folds to me and I raise to 1100 with KhTh. BB says “why do you have to raise when I got a decent hand?” and finally calls. Board comes AJx. He has 2500 total. This would be my first big mistake of the tournament. He checks to me and I bet 1400. He shoves it and I call and miss my straight. Bad play by me. No need for me to bet the flop here. Any bet by me is going to commit me to the pot with his stack size and he’s never going to fold an ace here. My best option was to check behind on the flop, try to hit my gutshot for free, or re-evaluate how much he likes his hand on the turn. In reality, I think he would’ve lead into me on the turn and I could’ve folded, saving 2500… but instead, I did the stupid thing, and now my big stack is a medium stack.

Key Hand #9 – (200/400) – Button raises to 1200 with 2100 behind. I have AhTh in the BB and put him all in. He calls with A9 and I win with a full house. Back up to 8300.

Key Hand #10 – (200/400) – Some of the details of this hand might be fuzzy since I didn’t leave any notes. The guy I beat in the pot was to my right and was steaming so bad after the hand that I didn’t want to needle him too much further. I have 97 in the BB and there were a few limpers. The board comes 863 with two hearts. It checks all the way around. Turn is 4s and the guy to my right bets 1200. I have a heart and spade in my hand, we both have pretty deep stacks, and there’s tons of cards that could come on the river that could win me the pot… not just my straight outs. I call. Everyone else folds and the 5s hits, making me a straight. He bets out 1200 again and I raise him to 3300. He goes into insta-tilt. Finally folds… and doesn’t let this hand go the rest of the tournament. He’s constantly asking me about it and I never give him the slightest bit of info. Later, when he busts, he tells me “You better be here next time.” LOL!

Key Hand #11 – (300/600) – UTG raises to 1700. I have AA in LP and decide that he has enough behind that he’ll fold a weaker hand if I re-raise him here, so I just call. The blinds fold and we see a T32, two spade flop. He immediately ships for 4200 and I call. He shows KsJs, I turn a set, and he misses the river. I’m up to over 20,000 now.

Key Hand #12 – (400/800) UTG limps, I limp with KQ, SB folds, BB checks. Board comes J83 and it checks to me. No one has show strength, but the limp is kind of confusing me, the BB is a good player, and I’m in obvious steal position… so I just check. An ace hits the turn and the BB bets 1200. Limper folds and I call. Yeah, I have a gutshot here, but that’s not why I called. I figured the BB would raise preflop with a good ace, there’s a heart draw on the board, and I just feel like 90% of the time, he’s going to check the river and I can win with a bluff. 6h hits the river and he does check. I bet 2700 and he folds.

Key Hand #13 – (500-1000) I made it to the final table with the chip lead and I’m feeling pretty great about my play so far. 1 person limps, I have KJ on the button, the SB makes it 3000 to go, BB folds, limper folds and it’s up to me. The SB is a solid player, but I’m getting 4 to 1 to call and I have position on him, so I easily make the call. The board comes J high and he bets 4000. I don’t even hesitate to ship it all in and he quickly calls and shows KK. Ugh. I’d rather see Aces here… I don’t hit my two outer and my stack has been devastated down to 3500. This hand was eating at me all day yesterday and it’s unbelievably how poorly I played it. I just didn’t stop to think about what was going on. Yes, I was getting great odds preflop so I think calling there is correct. My flop play is what kills me. When he leads out for 4000, that doesn’t say a whole lot.. but the fact that he raised to a mere 3000 preflop when two people already limped tells the whole story. If his hand was vulnerable, he would’ve made it 6000-7000 to go in an effort to win the pot right there, but he clearly wanted action on his big pair. If that wasn’t enough information to fold for 4000 on the flop despite making top pair, I always had the option of just calling and seeing how much he liked his hand on the turn. When he ships it on a non-Ace turn, I think I can safely fold there and still have 15000 in chips. Needless to say, I misplayed the hand badly and it probably cost me a tournament I could have won.

Key Hand #14 – (1000-2000) I have 6000 total and 98 in the small blind… we’re close to the money bubble, so I could fold here, have 5000 left, and still have a full orbit to find a better spot…but I’m kind of tilted now and decide to just ship it even though I know I’m getting called 100% of the time by the big stack. On the other hand, I need to double up more than I need to preserve chips, so it’s probably worth the gamble… and I might even have the best hand! He shows T8 though and I’m dominated and his hand holds. GG me!

Ugh… I felt I played spectacularly the whole tournament, with the exception of two hands, but unfortunately, the last mistake cost me 80% of my chips when I was holding a big stack. Great tournament + One Huge Blunder = No Money.


Today’s Poker Tournament

January 26, 2010

Okay, to add to my post from last night, the starting stacks for this tournament are 3500 and I confirmed that the levels are indeed 15 minutes long. So this gives you an M (starting stack / divided by cost of blinds each orbit) of 46 to start the tournament. Pretty fucking sick. I did discover one negative thing about the tournament. It’s a 12 round freezout… so after the last round, play stops and pay is determined by chip stacks. It’s a minor gripe though, since that’s three hours of play and I’ve heard that it rarely reaches that point.

Today’s tournament was pretty miserable and uneventful for me. By the time the blinds reached 75-150, I had entered one pot willingly and I don’t consider myself a tight player at all. My cards were that bad and I couldn’t find any positional situations to benefit from. I had won zero pots and my stack was only down to about 2700.

Key Hand #1 – the blinds have gone through me a few more times and are up to 100-200. My stack is about 2300. It folds to the cut off, a player that has been playing kind of snug, and he raises to 600. I look down at AQ on the button. I think simply calling with this hand is right most of the time, but if I do that here, I’m going to be left with 1700 and I’d be relying completely on hitting the flop. Even though the raiser hasn’t been splashing around, this is BY FAR the best hand I’ve seen all tournament, so I shove my chips in. He folds. Yay! Pot A almost an hour into the tournament.

Key Hand #2 – blinds are 100-200 and a tight, old man raises to 600 in early position. It folds to me on the button and I have AdKd and I have 3600. A little bit different than the last hand, since my opponent is noticeably tighter this time, he’s raising from early position (not the cut off), and my stack is 33% larger. Against this player, I felt it was best to take a flop before getting too excited about my hand… worst case scenario, I can use my positional advantage to see if I can outmaneuver him after the flop if he misses it or doesn’t seem to like the board. The small blind comes along for the ride and the big blind folds. The board comes KT3 with two hearts. SB checks, old man hesitates for a bit and decides to check, and it’s up to me. After calling his raise, I have 3000 left and there’s 2000 in the pot. I have top pair/top kicker, a flush draw is present, and any reasonable bet by me is going to be for a significant portion of my stack… since I’m never folding here, I decide that shoving, protecting my hand, and putting maximum pressure on my opponents is my best option. The SB folds, but the old man quickly calls and I’m not surprised when he turns over TT. The turn gives me a brief glimmer of hope when an Ace shows up, but the river blanks and I’m in the dead zone with 500 left.

Key Hand #3 – blinds are still 100-200 and it folds to me holding 22. I ship my 500 and the BB calls, as he should with any two cards, and flips over 53. I dodge his 6-outer and double up to 1100.

Key Hand #4 – I don’t get any good spots to get my chips in and I’m under the gun with J8o. Blinds are still 100-200 and I ask the dealer how much time is left in the round. If the next hand was likely going to cost me 400, I would’ve shoved here with any two cards while I still had enough chips that people can’t call me too loosely. She told me there was 2 minutes, 30 seconds left, and I decide the blinds will go through me before rising and I’ll still have 800 left when i get to the button. What I forgot to consider was that when I have that 800 on the button the blinds were going to be 200-400 and everyone except for a super tight idiot is going to call me from the big blind when I push. I should have shoved the J8, but I folded and I was sick when A6 won with a pair of 6s and a J hit the river. I would’ve either doubled up or picked up the blinds. Bad play, Mac.

Key Hand #5 – Now I’m in the big blind for 200 with 900 left behind. Someone from middle position min-raises, two people call, the small blind calls, and I hate the situation before I even look at my cards. I’m now getting 9 to 1 pot odds and even though maintaining chips is critical, I should probably call with a hand even as bad as 72 and ship it if I hit the board at all and hope I can pick up this nice pot. Also, even if my hand happens to be good, I don’t have enough chips behind to force anybody out of the pot and I’m going to have to hold up against four different hands. I look down at A8 and I could just get it over with and shove here… but I’m dead in the water if the flop comes super ugly, so I might as well preserve my last 700 and see what happens. The board comes 654 rainbow, the small blind checks, and I decide this isn’t a terrible flop for my hand and put my last 700 in. I’m sure I’m going to get called in at least one spot, but I should have at least 4 outs and my bet is enough that it should force out anyone that completely missed the board, which is kind of likely considering the flop. I only get one caller and it’s time to get lucky. He flips over one of the worst hands possible for my holding and shows 77. Great… two of my gutshot outs are gone, my 8s are dead, and I’m drawing to three aces and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of those just hit the muck. His hand holds and I’m done in about 25th place.

Pretty shitty showing overall as I didn’t get in a single favorable situation. This makes me 0 for 2 in this tournament and -$70 overall… not how I wanted to start my foray into this tournament when I’m short on money for the next few days. Boooooooooo!


Bremerton Lanes Daily 11:00 AM Poker Tournament

January 26, 2010

It’s well known that poker room managers like to start their business day with a fast-paced, short stack no limit texas hold em tournament in the hopes that it gets customers in the door that will later provide the (much more profitable) rake in the live games. It’s a reasonable concept because these tournaments attract players and any degenerate gambler with the adequate funds is going to stick around to play live. However, these turbo tournaments are the bane of any self-respecting poker player that’s worth a damn because the blinds often go up rapidly, the starting stacks aren’t deep, and the cost of playing doubles each round. This usually makes it a race against the blinds and it’s not unusual to find yourself making the final table with the chip lead and still feeling like you need to make a move before the blinds swallow your stack. This rapid structure greatly reduces the skill factor involved and the money bubble often consists of a bunch of desperation all-in moves and cashes are mostly determined by whoever luck is shining upon that day.

That’s not to say there’s NO skill involved. I think it’s correct to gamble early on in these tournaments, while the blinds are still small, and hope to build a big enough stack to weather the huge blinds that are in the near future. If you’re only playing top hands early on, you’re going to find yourself short stacked in no time unless you run into some favorable situations with those hands.

It’s also important to know your opponents, their tendencies, and whether or not they are adjusting their play properly to the structure. For instance, at a full table, with the blinds at 300-600, a good, smart player with 4800 opens on the button to 1100. You are in the small blind with 1800 behind, holding AT. In my opinion, this is a great situation for your hand and a clear shove. You’re getting called 100% of the time, but that’s okay since you assume the smart player knows he has to pick up dead money to keep his stack afloat and is capable of raising a wide range of hands in this spot, so your AT figures to be ahead of the majority of his range.

In contrast, let’s say the blinds are the same, your opponent’s stack and raise sizes are the same, only this time he’s a known nit raising from early position. You’re still in the small blind with the same stack and hand as before and everybody folds to you. This is a very different situation even though it’s nearly identical. Against this opponent, especially considering his poor position, your AT doesn’t match up nearly as well against his range. You should almost never expect to be ahead in this spot because he’s usually going to have a big pair or a hand that has you dominated. A nit simply isn’t going to mix it up or risk a hefty percentage of his stack on a blind steal. There is a small chance he could be holding a hand like 88 or KQ in that spot, and you probably wanna ship it against those hands, but I’d estimate those medium pairs and KQ represent the very bottom of his range and you can find a better spot to get your money in. So yeah, there is still skill involved and adjusting your play to your circumstances and opponents can increase your win rate… but ultimately, if you make the top 5-6 spots, the blinds are going to be so big you’re going to be shoving with almost any hand you get involved in… which means, you gotta hit the board better than your opponents in the end game; there’s no outplaying them after the flop.

Anyways, enough with the lessons and on to the Bremerton Lanes tournament. I’ve lived on the east side of Bremerton for the past three years, so I’ve been playing in the absolutely terrible tournaments at All-Star Lanes and Chips Casino. Chips was the closest to my house, but it’s also host to the worst tournament I’ve ever played in. The blinds always double, the levels are super fast, the fields are small, and the starting stacks are mediocre at best. The luck factor is in full affect at Chips. On top of all that, they almost never had enough people stay for a live game after. I hated playing there, but it was the most convenient tournament for me to play in and I did relatively decent in it. On the plus side, Chips is the only casino that doesn’t charge a tournament fee and the blinds do start extremely small at 10-20… but an hour later, when you’re at the 800-1600 level, it’s pretty irrelevant.

I moved to West Bremerton a couple months ago and finally made my way into Bremerton Lanes today. I figured it would be just like every other local tournament, which explains why I wasn’t in a rush to play in it. My first surprise was the quality of the chips you play with. They were clay, heavy, and dope… like in the bigger live tournaments I’ve played in; not like the cheap plastic chips that All-Star and Chips use. Not a big deal, but impressive nonetheless.

I can’t exactly remember what the starting stacks were (I’ll note it tomorrow), but they were a good size in relation to the first level of blinds. It seemed like the first round lasted forever. I’m pretty sure they were using 15 minute rounds, which is about 20-40% more play each level than the other local tournaments. Give Bremerton Lanes a huge point.

The blinds doubled after the initial 25-50 level, which is standard, but I was SHOCKED when they announced a 75-150 level after 50-100. Holy shit! The starting stack size is solid, the levels are longer, AND they stagger the blind levels? From 100-200 to 200-400 to… 300-600?! Are you kidding me? Don’t they have a live game to start? I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, despite playing what I thought was perfect poker, I busted out in about 13th place. My key hands throughout the tournament:

Key Hand #1 – blinds are 25-50 in the first round and I still roughly have my starting stack. I’m in the small blind with Q9o. 4-5 people limp into the pot and I complete in the small blind. The big blind makes a stupid raise to 150, a move that clearly isn’t going to knock anybody out of the pot. I don’t know what he had, but the only hands you’d wanna make a play like that with are big suited cards or a small pair with the intention of creating a large pot and hoping to flop huge and get paid off. Hands like AK, AQ, AA-TT need to be raised a hefty amount in order to weed out the garbage and see who really wants to play. Anyways, everyone obviously calls the raise and even though my hand isn’t good, the odds I’m getting are ridiculous and I’m not going to get involved unless I hit the board in a big way or the betting is super weak. The flop comes QQJ. Gin! Most people would check in this spot first to act, but what are they trying to accomplish? Are you checking to see how heavy the action gets before it gets back to you? No matter how heavy it gets, are you really going to fold your trips? If you check and call a reasonable sized bet, even your most unobservant opponents are going to be wary of you holding a queen and, unless they have you beat, you’re going to need to bet the hand yourself on the turn if you want any more money going in the pot. You could always check-raise the flop and that’s not a bad play. There’s definitely some cards you don’t wanna see roll off on the turn (aces, eights, kings, and tens aren’t great cards for you). However, this usually has the effect of ending the pot immediately and your hand is strong enough to take a little action. Since I like to build the pot when I got a big hand, I decided to lead into everyone for 300. Not exactly a hand-defining bet and just funky enough that it’s going to be hard for anyone to put me on a queen leading out into everyone. Unfortunately, I only get one customer and we see a 9 on the turn. Perfect card. If I had kicker problems, I don’t anymore and the only hand that can beat me is QJ. Also, if dude was drawing with KT, he just made the nut straight and I’m probably going to stack him. I decide to check it to further confuse him in case he’s holding a J and if he does have KT, we’re going to get it all in here anyways. He checks behind me. Lame. River is a blank and I decide 700 is a pretty good bet amount for a J to pay off. He quickly calls and I scoop against his AJ. In retrospect, knowing this player very well, I could have bet more on the river and probably gotten called. I’ve seen him make some ridiculously bad calls in the past. Regardless, I’m off to a nice start and raked in a very nice sized pot.

Key Hand #2 – blinds are 50-100. I still have a very good stack and have picked up a couple small pots since my last key hand. The player UTG raises to 300 and everybody folds to my big blind. I look down at AcKc. This is kind of a tough spot in my opinion. Since we have pretty deep stacks, a re-raise isn’t exactly automatic. If I re-pop him and he ships it, I’m going to be sick. I really don’t want to get it in with a drawing hand this early in the tournament when I’ve built myself a nice stack and I’m completely confident in outmaneuvering my opponents post-flop. I opted to just call and see what developed. My hand strength was certainly disguised, another advantage to just calling. The flop comes K63 rainbow. I check and he bets 450. Unless he has AA or flopped a set, I’m in great shape. Since an ace helps me, he’s almost surely drawing to two outs or some kind of running miracle. I decide to throw him some rope and just call. The turn card is a J, putting two hearts on the board. I probably should have bet here since a flush draw is now present and he could check and hit a miracle straight, but I decided to check because I was curious to see what he would do. He bet 500. A pretty weak bet after the flop action. I decided it was time to take the pot down. I raised to 1600, enough to let him know I was priced in if he decided to ship it… and that’s immediately what he did. I knew I was up against three jacks before he even flipped them over. Time to rebuild.

Key hand #3 – Not able to find any good situations for a while, I’m in the big blind for 200 and about 1900 behind. Everybody folds to the button, who pops it to 600. The small blind folds and I look down to find two aces. I think just long enough to make sure he’s not folding anything that isn’t pure garbage and ship it in. He immediately calls with A6 and I scoop. A nice, well-timed and needed double up.

Key hand #4 – It’s funny how you can precisely remember every hand you lose when you were a favorite, but some of the hands you win when YOU were behind are a little more fuzzy. That’s what happened here. I can’t remember the blind levels or my raise size, but I do know that I opened with KQ and one of the smaller stacks shoved on me. I did some quick math, decided I had an easy call, and he flips over AQ. Whoops. One of a mere five hands where I’m not getting the right odds to call. I spiked a K anyways and my stack kept rising.

Key hand #5 – I’m somewhere around 7000 in chips and the blinds are 300-600. Someone limps in front of me and I look down at AsKs. I check out the limper’s stack size to see what kind of raise I need to make. He has 1400 behind and I decide on making it 2500 to go, enough to put him all in, and let everyone else know I’m serious about my hand. The small blind ships it for 4800 and the limper folds and I quickly call. He tables AQ and scoops the pot. Brutal. The same beat I put on the other guy in my last key hand, but this time, the pot was MUCH bigger, so it definitely stung and was probably the difference in me not making the money.

Key hand #6 – blinds are still 300-600. It folds to the small blind, the same guy that limped for 600 with a 2000 stack and folded to the raises in the last key hand. He completes to 600 and I look down at A5. I decide that my hand has him beat and his stack size says I should just put him all-in if he wants to play. I’m surprised when calls and ecstatic when he shows K5. See ya later, buddy.

Key hand #7 – After a run of cold cards and no favorable stealing situations, my stack has dwindled quite a bit. I’m down to about 5500 and the blinds are 400-800. A pretty tight player raises to 2000 UTG. It folds to me and I have 99. I go into the tank. Ultimately, I decide to fold since the raiser is kind of nitty and even if I’m a favorite, I’m probably only looking at a 52-48 edge. The small blind calls and the hand plays out very bizarrely. They both check the flop and turn and after the board reads 23756 on the river, the small blind bets 800, gets called, and shows QQ. I pat myself on the back for folding, although I clearly would’ve held up against the initial raiser.

Key hand #8 – The blinds both pass through me without picking up a pot and I’m down to 3800. Blinds are still 400-800 and I feel like my stack is in critical condition. The player that beat my AK with AQ makes it 2000 to go and it folds to me, holding AT. My cards are weaker than they were in the last hand, which I folded, but the situation here is a bit different. I’ve seen enough action from the raiser to know he’s willing to splash around and my stack is starting to dictate my play more than my starting hand. I’d prefer to have first-in vigorish, but my AT was gonna have to do. I shoved it and he had an automatic call with almost any two cards. He shows KJ and the board comes J938K and it’s “GG Mac” in 13th place.

Regardless, because of the amazing structure of this daily event, I can’t think of any other time I’ve busted out of a tournament, lost my buy-in, and walked out of the poker room ecstatic.

Bremerton Lanes has it figured out. They offer an amazing tournament in which the skill factor can heavily outweigh the luck factor and SHOCKER: they attract a bigger field than both All-Star and Chips. Despite the buy-in being steeper than either of those tournaments, they had three full tables and several alternates, and a full live game was fired up before the first tournament table even broke. Basically, slowing up the tournament and providing more play attracted a bigger field and more bodies that could potentially stick around for live play and feed the rake. Go figure. Instead of hustling their customers through a tournament so the casino can take a rake, Bremerton Lanes offers a medium stacked, well-structured event and still managed to get a live game going before any of these other casinos usually do.

I can’t wait to play in the tournament again and I’ll be posting my experiences as they come and tracking my results on the site. Hopefully I can make a big score in it early, so I have the roll to support playing in it on a daily basis.

All-Star Lanes and Chips Casino, it’s time to take some notes.


My Avatar Experience

January 25, 2010

What I’m about to say doesn’t really make any sense. I’m a self-proclaimed movie buff and lover of great film-making. James Cameron has been one of the most successful and talented directors in my lifetime. There was tons of hype prior to the film’s release and it has recently passed The Dark Knight as the nation’s second highest grossing film of all-time, only trailing Cameron’s Titanic . Word of mouth for the film has been pretty spectacular. Yet, somehow, six weeks after its release, I woke up this morning and I still hadn’t seen Avatar.

2009 hasn’t exactly been the most active movie year for me. It’s almost February 2010, but I’ve only seen a handful of movies from last year and nearly all of the films on Oscar’s radar are unseen by me. Perhaps life has finally gotten in the way of my hobbies. I broke up with my girlfriend (and movie-watching partner) in March and I’m yet to find a reliable replacement or someone that watches movies and appreciates them the same way I do. My role at my job has also become much more demanding and time-consuming. I only work nights, so I prefer to spend the few precious morning and afternoon hours I do have, either sleeping or catching up with responsibilities unrelated to my job. Or maybe I’ve simply become a lazy bum. Needless to say, getting to the theaters has been tough.

Well, the Avatar hype machine finally caught up to me this past week and woke me from my slumber. Somehow I had managed to dodge any news of the film’s success and critical praise for five weeks. My former roommate and fellow film afficionado informed me of Avatar’s record-breaking box-office results, a clear sign of great word of mouth. He also chimed in with his own opinion, saying it was a great movie and I absolutely had to see it in 3D. I went ahead and put it on my To Do List. The last straw was when a group of ladies in their 50s and 60s sat at one of my tables at work and raved about how amazing the movie was. They insured me that I needed to see it immediately. I made plans to see it the next day.

Despite my buddy’s insistence, I still wasn’t sold on the idea of seeing it in 3D. Sure, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t about to travel out of my way to make it happen and the idea of wearing some goofy ass red and blue glasses for roughly three hours didn’t sound all that awesome. Luckily, the theater closest to me was showing it in 3D, a technology I didn’t even know it was capable of. I can say with confidence that no one I talked to about Avatar did the 3D in this film justice. I don’t know what I was expecting. The only film I’ve ever seen that had any 3D in it was Freddy’s Dead almost 20 years ago, so I really wasn’t prepared for what was in store. I was sold before the trailers were finished. The advances that have been made in 3D technology since my initiation 20 years ago are astronomical. The Cheshire Cat was within reach despite the fact that I was sitting in the middle of the theater.

Movies have always had the capability of taking you on an adventure. Even so, films still didn’t have the means of fully immersing you in their world like a book can. Not anymore. Avatar plunges you right in the middle of Pandora with the rest of the characters. Creatures were screeching right in front of my face, debris was flying at me, and actors were jumping off the screen. It was amazing. The action sequences were more exhilarating than any roller coaster I’ve been on. I was stunned. I can’t imagine watching this movie in any other format. I’m curious to see how they are going to handle the DVD and if it’s going to hold up on my piece of shit TV. I can’t even fathom how awesome this movie would be in IMAX 3D. I might have to make that my next priority.

From a technical standpoint, Avatar is going to be remembered as a ground-breaking film. I can’t say it’s the first film to fully realize the potential of 3D, but it’s certainly the first mainstream blockbuster film to utilize it successfully that I’m aware of. In my lifetime there are a few films that stand out in my mind as bullet points in changing the way movies are made. The first one to really wow me with special effects and film-making trickery was Robocop. Not only was the protagonist made of metal and bad ass, but the robot Alex Murphy fought against was particularly awesome and unique for the time period. Half a decade later, another James Cameron film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day did things with special effects that had never been seen before. The T-1000, to this day, is still one of the dopest things I’ve ever seen on screen. Two years later, Steven Spielberg made dinosaurs look real in Jurassic Park. Can you imagine seeing that movie in 3D on an IMAX screen? Even though the quality of the JP franchise has diminished greatly since the original, the possibility of a T-Rex in 3D and Spielberg’s alleged increased involvement has me looking forward to the fourth installment. The next movie to stand out in my mind is The Matrix and the introduction of bullet time photography. Movies were trying to mimic Neo’s dance moves for years to follow. I should also mention Toy Story and Pixar for changing the way animation is done. The 2000s brought us CGI, which seems to have limitless possibilities and the tremendous advances in technology the past decade have kind of spoiled us to the point where it has become hard to truly impress us. Avatar and Real D 3D has managed to do just that, which is a pretty remarkable feat in this day and age. Trust me, unless I missed out on something major the past few years, you’ve never seen anything like this and you absolutely must watch Avatar… in theaters… in 3D. I seriously can’t emphasize this enough.

Fortunately, Avatar doesn’t rely completely on 3D to sell its tickets. All around, it’s a very well made and unique film. The world and creatures of Pandora are equally different and breath-taking. Cameron’s Navi civilization is strangely beautiful; it’s hard to tell where the make up ends and the computer generated effects begin, as even the slightest facial tics are finely detailed and loyal to the creatures’ emotions. Not only that, but the relationships of the characters with the animals and manipulation of the environment around them reminds me of JK Rowling’s ridiculously layered Harry Potter universe. Even the humans get to ride around in machines that make Robocop’s nemesis look like Bender from Futurama.

While Avatar is going to receive most of its accolades due to its presentation, the story is pretty damn good too. James Cameron deserves an Oscar nomination for the writing he did on this movie. Clearly, his imagination and talent goes beyond how to film a great movie. Sure, it’s hard to distinguish some of the minor Navi characters from each other, but the core of this story stems from Jake Sully’s relationship with the Navi Neytiri and both of these characters are fully realized and developed. You get emotionally invested in their adventure and there were at least a few moments that actually sent chills throughout my body, a sign that separates the great movies from the truly amazing ones.

Talking with a friend after the movie and hailing Avatar as one of the best films I’ve ever seen while predicting it as a lock for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, he quickly downplayed the flick’s greatness by claiming unoriginal themes and weak characters. Okay, sure, we’ve seen technologically disadvantaged and repressed societies overcome their suppressors hundreds of times before… but not like this… in 3D! And yeah, some of the Navi and human characters are shallow and quickly forgotten, but all of the important ones make their expected impact. So yes, I’m calling Avatar the best movie of 2009 and one of the most innovative films I’ve ever seen. I fully expect this movie to get a dozen Oscar noms and I’ll be shocked to see anything better in the near future.

Grade: A+