Posts Tagged ‘no limit’

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I Suck At Tournament Poker

March 8, 2013

God, it sure feels like I do. I mean, my history in online tournaments pre-Black Friday and even playing live up through all of 2011 suggests otherwise, but my success (or lack thereof) since the start of 2012–particularly in big ($150+) events–has been…unsettling. I managed to post a profit in tournaments last year and went deep in multiple major events, but the overall result is lackluster and disappointing. So far in 2013, I’ve fizzled out of a couple events and have been cold decked out of a few others. All these experiences have lead me to the following conclusions:

a) I handle the short term luck factor in tournaments very poorly. This is a concept that creeps into my limit hold em cash games very seldom. Generally, when it comes to variance in cash games, I realize that over time, all the money I lose when I get unlucky eventually comes back, with interest, and often within the same session. I also grasp the fact that these frequent beats are a result of poor play and that errors from opponents is how I make money playing poker. Therefore, I never berate players and rarely tilt, spending as much time playing my A-game as possible. I have a much harder time applying these same concepts to tournament play. Perhaps it’s the absolute nature of tournament poker: once your chips are gone, you’re out. If you get unlucky or coolered in a massive pot, you are usually out or crippled, and the amount of chips you have directly correlates with how you can play. And when you bust out, you might have to wait a month to play in another good event. All of this tends to make me highly upset during a tournament and almost always afterwards. I mean, I don’t want to be bothered by anyone and my day of poker is usually mentally over with. For the third time in less than two months, I immediately left the casino instead of waiting for the dinner break to use my free meal voucher and socialize with the other players. I lose, I’m gone. No goodbyes. Rarely a “nice hand.” It’s not a good look.

b) I have no idea what style suits me best. Without a doubt, I’ve experienced my most success using a tight-aggressive (TAG) and frequently nitty style. The problem is, while this style gets me to the money most often, it also leaves me short stacked in the late stages of tournaments and relies far too heavily on what cards I’m being dealt (luck) and has much less to do with playing position correctly, exploiting my opponents’ tendencies, staying unpredictable, and playing poker after the flop (skill). However, my ventures into playing a loose-aggressive (LAG) style have led me to continual destruction (often self-inflicted). I have little doubt that a controlled LAG style is the best way to play tournaments, as it makes you highly unpredictable and sets you up to make the final table with a bundle of chips and the ability to make moves your short stacked opponents can’t afford to. Note that I said “controlled,” which seems to be where I go wrong. My use of the LAG style is frequently misguided and random, as I’ll show when I start talking about the $180 tournament I played at Little Creek on Friday night. Ultimately, the biggest problem here is that the TAG style is my comfort zone. It’s not how I want to play, but it’s the style I feel most comfortable using and my history of experimenting with the LAG style has been… questionable.

So last night, I’m playing in the $180 event of the Spring Classic at Little Creek Casino and within the first two levels I run JJ and TT into overpairs on favorable boards and lose a bunch of chips, but stay alive. Then I flop a full house with QQ in a raised pot and make 0 chips after the flop and then I flop another boat with 22 in a 3-way raised pot and manage a measly +700 in chips. I raise with 99 over one limper and both blinds also call. We see a flop of TT6 and only the big blind calls my bet of 500. At this point in the hand, I feel like I should tell another story.

Flashback to the Fall Classic $230 Main Event at Little Creek last year. I get into a massive leveling war with the big blind in the hand I’m talking about in the last paragraph. A few people limp into the pot for 200 or 300, something in that range, and I make it at least 1000 on the button (OTB) with a deep stack holding the monstrous T8o. The big blind repops me to, say, 2700 and everyone in between folds. My first instinct is to fold, well, because I just got caught with my pants down and T8o isn’t exactly AK… but then I start thinking… I already have this guy sized up as someone that pays attention and is capable of making plays and realize that he probably realizes that I’m raising light. So if I know that he knows this, how can I possibly let him get away with it. For the first time that I can remember, I pull off the preflop 4-bet bluff and make it 6500 to go. For some reason on this day, I have chosen to sit with my chair backwards so that my arms can rest on top of the chair and my face is basically buried in my arms. I am nervous, oh boy, am I nervous, but this is the same posture I’ve taken the entire tournament. Regardless, after sizing me up for quite some time, this guy pulls the trigger and ships it all in. I spend very little time posing for the cameras before tossing my hand into the muck and he turbo fastrolls 96o. Good play, sir. And the lesson learned here is that if I trust my read, I can’t let him have the last move (the 5-bet shove) because even if he “knows” I’m bluffing, he can’t call me, much like I couldn’t call him even though I was sure he was full of it.

Flashfoward to the 99 on the TT6 flop. After he calls my flop bet, I’ve already determined that a) I’m showing down and b) I’m going to keep the pot small. So I check back on the turn and call an 1100 bet on the river and he shows me JT. Nice.

I definitely have a fishy image at this point because I’ve had lots of big hands and I’ve shown NONE of them so far, so when it folds to me in the small blind and I raise to 450 with AQ the big blind makes it 1475 quickly and with a tone in his voice that says: “find someone else to pick on.” So… I shove it on his ass and he folds.

Then, I proceed to play AK so poorly that I’m not going to write about it out of fear that no one will ever back me again. I mean, seriously… Worst. Line. Ever.

So now I’ve been involved in a number of pots, have lost almost 67% of my stack, and I’ve tabled zero hands. My terrible image is still intact. Blinds are 50/100, one player limps, the button makes it 500, the worst player at the table in the small blind flats, and I look down at QQ. I’m sitting on 6200, which creates for a rather awkward situation. My inclination is to just shove it here, but that’s a huge re-raise and I want at least some action on my hand. I opt to 3-bet it to 2000, an amount that virtually commits me to the pot, and my plan is that, if called, I’m going to shove it all-in on any flop unless something dictates that I shouldn’t. This is a gambling line, but I want chips. I’ll take the risk. Everyone folds except for the kid in the small blind which is the perfect result. He checks to me on the KJx flop and I shove my remaining 42 big blinds into the pot and he calls pretty quickly with AT for… a gut shot. I’m holding two blockers and he somehow misses his 5-outer and I have a playable stack again.

Naturally, my playable stack lasts one orbit before this happens: Blinds are 100/200, the kid from last hand limps, I limp in with 99, one other player and the button limp in, the small blind completes, and the big blind raises to… 400! Yes, a min-raise. I’d love to hear the thought process on that one. The kid calls, and I briefly consider 3-betting because given the action so far, I almost certainly have the best hand and should be able to take it down right here. Alas, my confidence is shot and I decide to just call, as does everyone else. 6-way action for 2400 to see a flop of T98 with two diamonds. Not the best flop for a set, but the pot is big enough that I’m never folding here with my stack size. The big blind leads out for 700, lighting those chips on fire and kissing them goodbye because, well, because he just announced that he has absolutely nothing with such a weak beat on a super dangerous board. The bad player to my right makes it 1400. Perfect. I practically min-raise it to 3000, prepared to get it all in if anyone comes over the top of me, but everyone folds around to the kid, who only has 3100 total, which he proceeds to shove into the pot as he fastrolls TT for top set. FML. I actually have a chance to fold here for 100 more, but I’m getting 85 to 1 and it’s probably correct to draw to my 1-outer. I miss it and am back to short stacking it.

Final hand. Folds around to the button who has yet to not raise in this situation. He makes it 700 to go, the loose kid to my right calls, and I look down at A8. A few things to consider here that I didn’t take the time to think over at the table. The button has open-raised in this situation four times now. Once, I 3-bet with QQ and he got out of the way pretty quickly. Another time, I flat called with A2o and he checked the flop and turn when medium cards hit the board and folded when I bluffed the river after a 4-card straight showed up. Giving this information, calling preflop makes a lot more sense as this opponent took a pretty passive line with a hand he missed with and folded without resistance when I bluffed the river and he folded when I 3-bet the queens… so when I decide to raise it up to 2700, I’m only going to get action when he can… go all-in. Which he does. I deliberate for quite a while and study him. I’m not getting much information there, so I start looking at my pot odds and realize, with horror, that I’ve priced myself in with A8o for my tournament life. Awful planning on my part. Just terrible. I shake my head and put my chips in and he shows me QQ and the dealer wastes little time killing me off as he brings out the Queen high flop. GG.

Honestly, I’m so discouraged with my tournament play that I went to the cashier and had to go through the arduous and embarrassing process of refunding my tournament buy-in for the main event because well, I don’t want to waste my time and money (or my backers’ money) when I’m not feeling good about my game. I’ve had some terrible luck in the Oregon tournaments, but my play in the local ones has been pretty awful. I just need a break to collect my thoughts and think about what I need to fix.

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Freddie’s Club In Fife $110 Deep Stack Tournament: Play-By-Play

January 16, 2012

Yesterday, I decided to take notes during the deep stack tournament @ Freddie’s Club in Fife so I could talk about some of the critical hands on my blog. I didn’t jot down every hand I played, but this is a pretty thorough play-by-play from my tournament game yesterday:

During the first blind level (25-50) I only played two hands. In one hand, I called a raise to 250 with 87o on the button. Might sound illogical, but my hand was slightly irrelevant and not nearly as important as my position or my current super nitty image. The flop comes down T8x and the preflop raiser bets out 600. I decide to float for one street and re-evaluate all my options on the turn. It’s a brick for me and dude bets out a strong 1600. Okay, Kumar, I believe you. Muck. He shows me JJ like he knows what I’m up to and doesn’t want me fucking with him all day. Same dude opens for 250 again and I call with 44, several people come in behind me and I check-fold to a bet behind me after missing the flop.

For nearly a half hour those are the only two pots I’m involved in, so at the 50-100 level, I can’t stand it any longer and with two limpers in front of me holding Q7o on the button I make it 600 to go expecting a bunch of folds. Everyone obliges.

Blinds are 100-200 and I have KTo in my BB and 4-5 players see a AQJcc flop. I check and watch as one of the players disappointingly bets 200, one other calls, and everyone else mucks. I tank for a bit thinking of the best way to play the hand. 200 was way less than I was hoping someone would bet, so it’s time to start getting more money in the pot. The board is kind of coordinated. I definitely don’t want to see another club roll off and a K or T could be an action killer for me. I make it 1175 to go. The initial bettor calls and the other dude folds. T on the turn. Fuck! I consider making a substantial bet since a flush draw is the only thing I’m expecting to call me now, but I reconsider and settle on a slightly less than pot-sized 2500 bet. He calls again. The river is a complete brick, like the 6s or something. It looks to me like this dude was drawing and missed and should have a pretty good idea of where I’m at. I decide to throw him for a loop with a 1000 bet into a nearly 8000 pot. It’d be tough to muck an ace or any pair+flush draw that missed for that price and I don’t think he’s calling a big bet here. Slim chance, but he might also mistake my weak beat for a missed draw and raise me. He just calls and I show him the flopped nut straight.

My buddy Kumar has been in a lot of pots lately and just took a bad one with top two pair and lost to a flush on the river. He was crippled for a second and made a slight comeback but still appears to be steaming. With blinds at 150-300 it folds to him in the cutoff and he makes it 800 to go. Folds to me and I look down at AA in the BB and take my time thinking of the best way to get Kumar to stack off to me. He has about 6000 total chips. The fact that he showed me that JJ earlier makes me think he thinks I’m capable of making moves. I took that as a way of him saying “I’m not fucking around, bro; don’t mess with me.” Sorry, Kumar, wish denied. Knowing that my opponent is still on T and thinks that I’m capable of making moves, I study him for a while and really ponder whether or not I want to raise him. It’s tempting to smooth call his raise and let him hang himself after the flop, but I’m feeling like he’s even more suicidal than that right now. I want his whole stack. I finally settle on a raise to 2800, which is large enough to make it look like I could be re-stealing and still be able to get away from it. Shockingly, Kumar merely calls and takes a flop with me for almost half his stack size. The board comes out J43 and I check it to him hoping he’ll think I’m giving up on my re-steal play. He shoves and I quickly call. He shows Js9s and whiffs his 5-outer. Good day and thank you.

Blinds are still at 150-300, a couple people limp in and a tight player to my right makes it 1300 to go. I look down at TT on the button. My opponent has 5200 left behind. I just got a bunch of chips and I’m not looking to put them at risk in a coin flip (or worse) situation. I decide to flat the raise and see what happens after the flop. I’m not exactly set-mining here, but I don’t think my opponent is folding to a re-raise, so I wanna see what the flop brings before I decide how much I like my hand. Plus, someone behind me could wake up with a monster. I just call and only one limper sticks around. The flop comes down T44. Somebody’s running good all the sudden! First action checks and my dude ships it all-in for 5200. I call hoping the lady can stick around, but she mucks. Dude turns over AK and is basically drawing dead. AK high? Uh, nh.

Very next hand, almost identical situation: I have 99 and the lady from the previous hand makes it 1000 to go with blinds at 150-300. Again, I feel like she’s going with her hand if I re-raise preflop, so I decide to flat. One player calls behind me and we see a KQJ flop 3-ways. She bets I muck and I forget what the end result was.

Blinds are still 150-300 and I open to 1150 with TT. Homie from the hand where I flopped the nut straight shoves it all-in for 4500. Folds back to me. Dude has been playing pretty snug, but this is a pretty simple call, all things considered. He shows AJ and outflops me on a QJ8 board. A blank hits the turn, but I spike a 9 on the river to make a straight and knock out my third opponent of the level. I’m now up to over $32K in chips and feeling really good about my chances.

My table breaks and I’m moved to a new one with a bunch of new faces. Ugh. Blinds are 200-400, 4 people limp in, and someone pops it to 2600, it folds to me in the BB and I look down at 99. The raiser has about 9000 behind and I go into the tank wondering what the right play is. Being new to the table, the only data I have is that this guy decided to make a large preflop raise after four people limped into the pot. I know I’d be tempted to make the same play regardless of my cards and that thought is definitely crossing my mind. I obviously can’t call in this spot, out of position, and see a flop, so it’s either re-raise or fold. If I re-raise and he actually has a hand, I’m going to be pot-committed against his shove and I’m really not looking to play a 25K pot with 99 at this stage of the tournament. Since I have no idea how to play the hand or any real read on my opponent, I decide to just muck it. Everyone else quickly folds and because I was making him sweat it out so bad, dude makes a comment about how it’s the first hand he’s played in half an hour.

With blinds at 300-600 I open to 1600 UTG with QQ. Some chick calls me in position and so does the big blind. The board comes down J94 rainbow and it checks to me. I start eying their stacks, but I’m kind of annoyed because the lady has her chips all mixed together and I have no idea how much she’s really working with. I look at the dealer and say “WTF?” with my hands, which she takes as a check and and tries to check behind me. LOL. No, honey, back it up. How many fucking chips do you have? She has about 5K left and the BB has about the same. I’m obviously down to play for stacks and bet 3500 which is basically the same thing as announcing “I’m all-in.” They both muck. She doesn’t fix her stack and the dealer doesn’t ask her to. Wow.

With blinds at 400-800, I open to 2200 with 55. My supposedly tight friend that hasn’t played a hand in half an hour calls from the BB. The flop comes down T98cc and he checks to me. That’s a terrible flop for me, but my hand still might be good; however, the last thing I want to do is bet and get raised by a draw. I check behind. Turn card is a Queen. Okay, I’m done with it. He checks to me again. I still might have the best hand, but it’s incredibly weak and I’m just trying to get to showdown as cheaply as possible at this point. River is a small club and he checks to me again. If my hand is good here, there’s no need to put any more money in the pot. I check behind and he shows AJ and tells me I have really good discipline and complains that the third club on the river probably cost him some action. LOL, okay buddy.

Very next hand, I open to 2200 with AhJh and it folds all the way around to the BB who ships it for about a billion more. Easy muck, but I’m starting to get annoyed. Since I switched tables, I’ve watched as every pot gets opened in front of me and it folds around the vast majority of the time. But since I sat down at the table, I’ve opened the pot seven times and have been called or raised EVERY time. People complain about not getting action when they have AA or KK, but stealing the blinds is critical in the middle stages of tournaments and I’ve been contested in every pot I’ve played. It’s starting to eat at me.

I have Tc6c in the SB and complete after two limpers. BB checks his option and we see a J74cc flop 4-ways. With 3200 in the pot, I lead out for 1300. It folds to Mr. Discipline and he makes it 2800 to go. I don’t really know what to make of that raise, but my Spidey senses are telling me he’s not very strong. Almost like he put in a small raise to take control of the pot and see how I reacted to it, but he’s not giving off a lot of strength. Now that I’m away from the table, it seems like he was taking advantage of my weak lead and that a 3-bet on my part probably would’ve taken the pot down. I decided to just call since I was getting profitable drawing odds, but it was a play that kind of telegraphed what I had. I brick the turn and he fires 3500. My confidence has been taking a blow and I feel kind of readable in this spot, so I decide to just let it go. He asks if I had a club draw. Fuck you.

Don, an old man taxi driver that used to play around Bremerton, opens to 2600 UTG+1 with blinds @ 400-800 and has about 10K behind. I look down at 99 two spots to his left. I know Don well enough to know that he’s not opening light in this spot and that he’s never folding to a re-raise. In fact, with his stack size, I’d expect him to open-shove with the hands I’m actually slightly ahead of. Easy fold. Some lady behind me ships it for 9500 and Don calls and his JJ holds against her 77. Knowing is half the battle.

Blinds are still 400-800 when someone in MP makes a min-raise to 1600. Don calls on the button and the small blind calls, so I come along for the ride getting 7 to 1 on a call with J9o. The flop comes J83hh and having great relative position, I check and get to see what everyone does after the preflop aggressor acts. He checks and Don says “let them see another one,” which reliably translates to “I have absolutely nothing right now.” The turn pairs the Jack and it checks to me again. For some dumb reason, I check instead of firing out a bet. The preflop raiser obviously missed the flop and if he was slowplaying a big hand, a second jack showing up is not going to be a welcome sight. Don clearly has nothing behind him, so missing this value bet is a pretty big mistake. I don’t think anyone has anything, but I can’t make anymore money if I don’t put any chips in the pot. I bet 3K when a 5 shows up on the river and everyone quickly mucks. Ugh. Poorly played, Dark Knight!

Blinds are still @ 400-800 and I open UTG to 2000 with AsTs, a questionable play in retrospect. I don’t hate a limp here and my preflop raises weren’t getting any respect, so opening in terrible position with such a weak hand seems a little spewy. I’m really just hoping to take the blinds down and I’m in horrible steal position, so what value does my hand really have? Some poker theorists hate the open-limp, but I think this is a good spot for one. If you disagree, we can debate it later, but I think the play has plenty of merit. Anyways, I raise it up and a somewhat loose player calls me in position. The flop comes down J63 and I fire out 3500. He shoves all-in, I muck, and he shows me a set of sixes. NH sir.

My frustration level is quickly rising and my stack has dwindled down to about 22K, or the tournament average. It folds around to me in the SB and with blinds at 600-1200, I put the BB all-in for his remaining 5K or so. He mucks. Oh, I had KJ.

I open-raise in middle position with AT and everyone folds. I let the table know how grateful I am that they finally let me take a pot down uncontested and ask if they can continue to be so courteous in the future. No one seems amused.

HAND OF THE TOURNAMENT: With the blinds at 600-1200, the player UTG makes it 4K to go. It folds around to me and I look down at AK in the BB and have about 22K left behind. Seems like an easy play, but I’m sensing strength from my UTG friend and he definitely hasn’t been splashing around. I realize I’ve been put to the test for my entire stack. I consider calling and seeing a flop first, but if I miss the flop I’m basically handing him the pot when I might have the best hand and, more importantly, when I DO spike, I might not double up. Fuck it, time to gamble. I ship it and he quickly calls and shows QQ and we’re off to the races. It’s a quick one though as I immediately spike an ace on the flop and hold up through the river. Doubled up to 45K+ and right back in this thing!

A few hands later, UTG makes it 4400 to go and I look down at KK on the button. He has 7K or so left behind, so I’m expecting him to stack off with most of his range. No need to be coy, I’m all-in. He calls and whiffs his 3-outer with AK. We’re up to over 50K now and have a big stack. I think there are two tables left at this point.

Blinds must be 1000-2000 now cause I make it 5500 to go with AT this hand. A really loose, obnoxious Asian kid calls me from the BB. He’s been taking a lot of flops, limping in a lot, and generally acting a pest. He hasn’t stopped running his mouth since he sat down at our table. The flop comes down KQ7. He plays with his chips and does a ton of acting before finally checking it over to me an hour later. That kind of shit is usually a tell for a weak hand, and I contemplate a bet, but the kid has been playing so recklessly that I decide to keep the pot small and give myself a chance to improve on the turn. I check behind and he instantly fires 3K in the dark. LOL! I’m probably raising that bet no matter what, but it becomes a lot easier to pull the trigger when I make the nut straight on the turn. After doing some Hollywooding of my own, I settle on a raise to 15K. It’s a pretty hefty raise, but if this kid wants to fuck around, I want it to be as costly as possible. Plus, a larger raise size might make it seem like I’m bluffing and just want to take the pot down right now. He tanks for a while, finally flashes me a 7, and then tries to riddle me with questions. I don’t give up anything and just stare the punk down. I ain’t answering shit, bruh.

Folds to me in the cutoff and for the third orbit in a row, I open on a tight player’s big blind. Blinds are 1500-3000 and I’ve made it 7500 to go with AQ. I have my headphones on, but my music isn’t playing and I can hear everything. The Loudmouth Asian Kid is telling the big blind how I’ve been raising his BB every orbit and how I’m just going to keep pounding him until he makes a stand… and there’s still three players left to act in the hand! I have been picking on dude a little, but I have AQ this hand so it’s not like I’m on a pure steal attempt here. The button folds, but the SB ships it for 32K more. The BB makes a very painful looking laydown (says later it was QQ) and it folds back to me. Normally, I wouldn’t think much about calling with AQ here and it would be an easy fold, but everyone heard what the Loudmouth said and I can’t help but wonder if his comments encouraged this guy to grow some balls and ship it all-in on me. I really go into the tank contemplating it and I’m looking at the small blind and he just doesn’t look that strong to me. Even if he’s on a pure bluff, I’m only a 60/40 favorite and losing this pot would be devastating. The only hands he could have where a fold from me is a clear mistake is when he has a weak ace. I decide to pass and wait for a better spot, but I rip into the Asian kid, basically telling him to shut the fuck up when he’s not in a hand and that he probably cost his buddy in the big blind the pot–if he really had QQ, that is.

I stopped writing notes at this point because as we were getting closer to the final table, I didn’t have much free time since we were playing short-handed and it was crucial to pay attention to the action. However, I can remember a few hands.

Loudmouth open raises in EP and I look down at AK. I ship it on him. He does his usual acting before finally mucking and telling me he’ll gamble with me eventually.

A short while later, he opens again and I have AK again. I know dude is just trying to pick up some blinds and I’m ready to play for stacks against his range. No need to see flops. Come and get it. Nope, he mucks again. So much for gambling with me.

Finally, he open-pushes for like 12K with blinds at 1500-3000 and I have JJ in the BB and stack him when his A2 misses. Stackety, stack stack, don’t come back. Seriously though… good riddance, douchebag.

After stacking my annoying friend, I now have around 105K in chips and am headed to the final table. We immediately make a deal so that everyone gets $125 back and at least makes a little money. I’m not involved in any big pots as four people get eliminated and the chip leader proposes a deal: we chop six ways, but everyone gives him an extra $20. Since 6th only pays about $280, the chop nets me an extra $600 guaranteed and even though I’d usually rather play it out, my stack size has dwindled to about 75K and I’m not really in any position to negotiate. I swallow my pride and take the pay day for a +$760ish score.

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Poker 2011 & The Royal Flush Of Destiny & 2012 Poker Goals

January 11, 2012

My biggest goal for 2011 was to make money gambling. After several years of talking about how good of a poker player I am, it was time to prove it. I’d been treading water in mediocrity for quite some time and didn’t have anything to show for all my self-proclaimed “knowledge.” I’d make a few scores here and there that suggested I was better than the average player, but I had way too many leaks in my game to be an actual long term winner. Last year, I exceeded whatever goal I had in mind. I just wanted to turn a little profit from my hobby and wound up making several thousand dollars and for a moment, I could see a career as a professional gambler in my near future.

Unfortunately, nothing comes easy. Full Tilt shut down and took about 33% of my bankroll with it; I spent a month in jail not making any money; I moved into my own place and through an unfortunate chain of events that were beyond my control, found a friend of mine indebted to me for $1500 (a debt that has since been paid off–good looking out Tiny T!); I lost any and all interest in working at my day job at Silver City and found myself filing for unemployment in November; and finally, my new job at Arena Sports Bar & Grille has gotten off to a slow start and I’m not making nearly as much money there as I thought I would be. Basically, instead of building a bankroll last year, I had to survive off my gambling winnings because actual work wasn’t paying my bills anymore.

I spent most of last year playing $4-$8 limit hold em and small stakes tournaments locally. Over roughly 750 hours of $4-$8, however, all I could really say was I’m a roughly break even player. I’m not crushing the game by any means and certainly haven’t proven I can make a living from it. Between the rake, tipping the dealers, variance, some terrible luck, and a game that is still not free of leaks, beating the game in the long run has been a formidable challenge. I still think I can do it and I plan to prove it, but if I’m really looking to make money playing limit hold em, it’s time to step my regular game up to the $8-$16 level.

I did get some experience in the $8-$16 games in Tacoma and Seattle last year. I sold half my action in all but one session, but over 81 hours I beat the game for 1.47 big bets an hour. Hardly a large enough sample size to be considered reliable, but still somewhat promising. If I’m not playing $8-$16 regularly, with 100% of my own action, by the end of the year, 2012 will be a long year for me. This is where I need to be at.

In 2011, I played 123 live tournaments, mostly at Chips Casino in Bremerton. Considering the size of the buy-ins, I absolutely crushed the game. I cashed in 33% of the tournaments I played, finished in the top three 18.5% of the time (!!), and at least chopped for first place in 12.2%. Those numbers are INSANE. For the year, I made roughly $2000 in live tournaments, or profited roughly 80 buy-ins (assuming an average BI of $25). All of these numbers include the fact that I didn’t cash in a single event with a buy-in of more than $50. I completely whiffed at Pendleton’s Fall Poker Round-Up and had one of the worst showings of my life in the first event of Muckleshoot’s Fall Poker Classic. Fortunately, I sold most of my action in those events, but the trip to Oregon was still a soul-crushing experience. Above anything else, it made me realize that despite my pedigree in local small stakes tournaments, my game still has a lot of work to do and I vow to return to Pendleton with something to prove in 2012. I refuse to come out of this year without a 5-figure tournament score. It’s my time.

I played a minimal amount of spread limit and no limit hold em in 2011, but found success in the few hours I put in. I profited roughly $1000 in about 40 total hours and that includes a brutal hand where I get stacked for $250 with AA after getting it all-in preflop vs KK. Along with trying to play more $8-$16 in this upcoming year, I absolutely need to get in more no limit cash games against weak players because differences in skill level is a much larger factor than it is in fixed limit games.

I opened 2012 by getting a job at All-Star Lanes. I’m not going to state many details on exactly what it is I’m going to be doing, but I’ve been hired to help out in the poker room: possibly dealing, possibly chip-running, but definitely playing a lot of poker. It sounds like my dream job and right now I’m being told everything I want to hear. How it works out remains to be seen, but I’m excited about the prospects, although not being able to play at Chips as much is going to sting. I love that place and I thank them dearly for treating me like royalty the last seven months. Carla, A.J., Dan, James: you guys are like family. I spent more time with you than anyone else last year and I know that all of you root me on wholeheartedly. I will miss you and try to visit often. I’m going to miss the regulars too. Somehow… a young, cocky, aspiring professional that never gives anyone air and plays cutthroat poker 100% of the time has mostly gained the respect and support of the local gambling community. Many of these players are friends of mine on Facebook now and follow my blog, so I thank you all for tolerating my unforgiving play and being willing to lock horns with me all year. Today, someone that won a seat to the World Series Of Poker 2012 Main Event seriously considered letting me play the event for him. I would hate to deprive someone of that experience, but I’d also love to bring a main event cash back home to Bremerton. What you say, Simi?

As I stated earlier, despite having such a successful year gambling in 2011 and showing a profit in 10 of 11 months (I was in jail all of May), multiple shenanigans lead to me having a very depleted bankroll to start 2012. I was basically operating on fumes. Off of unemployment and not being able to bank on my current job for more than $200 or so a week, I was starting to wonder if I’d even survive January without resorting to drastic measures. Fortunately, my gig at All-Star Lanes looks like a go, but still: if I was going to be playing a ton of poker there, how was I going to fund it? Start with a short roll and pray that I run good for a couple months? I certainly didn’t have the stake to absorb any significant downswings and if 800+ hours of live play last year proved anything, it’s that no matter how good you are, large downswings are still very common. I needed a miracle.

To make matters worse, I met a remarkable woman the last couple weeks of 2011, but what I thought was the beginning of an amazing relationship instead fizzled out rather quickly. It was incredibly disappointing and it was messing with my head. On Saturday, January 7th, whatever hope I had remaining for it to work out evaporated. But it’s funny, because as we were talking over lunch about how painful things were in that moment, we both recognized the fact that it would all make sense some day and that everything happens for a reason. Little did I know, it’d make sense to me within hours.

After my dismal lunch, I tried to go home and sleep it off… get a little rest in before my poker session that night. But sleep proved beyond my reach and instead I hit my boy MC up and told him I needed a guy’s night out. He said he needed to be home by 6 PM, but I showed up at Chips anyways, kidnapped him out of their live game, and we drove to All-Star Lanes to play their 7 PM tournament. After busting out in 7th place at the final table, it didn’t look like their live game was going to be too cracking that night, so I talked MC into going back to Chips since they had two jackpots that were over $2000. We get back to Chips and I toss $300 on the table, but the floor is gone and I can’t get all my chips yet, so I say “fuck it” and start walking around the casino bullshitting with various people.

Finally, after about 15 minutes or so, I sit down in the live game with $100 in white chips and $200 in cash and Carla asks if I wanna post my big blind. Sure I do. 3-4 people limp in, the small blind completes and I look down at AdJd in my big blind. Raise it up! Everyone calls and we see a flop of KdQdx.

I’ve been playing poker for 8 years and have logged TONS of live hours, but I’ve never hit a Royal Flush in a casino. I know someone that has hit three in a calendar year. Another friend of mine has been playing half the time I have and has four under his belt. I know a regular that recently hit a $11K Royal and followed it up with $2K one just a few months later. I’ve personally hit 11 royal flushes online, but I’ve never received jackpot money for one and I’ve never done it in live play. For whatever reason, I could feel this one coming in from the jump. Carla, the dealer, has said to me numerous times recently: “something great is going to happen to you soon, Mac.” I believed her.

I go ahead and lead the flop, betting my monster draw for value, not worried about losing customers (and a chance to draw out for a Royal) since that flop hits so many hands. Two players do call. A blank falls on the turn and I decide to bet again anyways to keep building a pot with my big draw, not really concerned about getting raised. Both players call again and one of them says, “bring a ten on the river.” I think in my head, “oh really? Be careful what you wish for, sir.”

With my life in shambles, my head in disarray, and my future in question, I can’t say anything has ever looked prettier than that Ten of Diamonds on the river. Red Royal Flush. Jackpot. $2389. Ship it.

I’m not saying that jackpot is going to solve all my problems, but it couldn’t have come at a more critical time. I am now right back where I was several months ago: with a reliable source of income that I can pay my bills with and a large enough bankroll that I can gamble with regularly and build over time. And rather than dwell in self-pity and wonder why things didn’t work out with ole girl, I know that everything that happened with her led up to that exact moment. I don’t hit that Royal Flush if we are still dating. Plain and simple. And I need that money way more than I need a woman in my life right now.

The Royal Flush Of Destiny… I’ve never been a religious person, but I do think there is some merit to concepts like fate and destiny. Like… everything that has happened in my past, good or bad, was meant to be and has shaped me into the person I am today. Well, I feel like this Royal Flush is a sign that my poker career should be my top priority right now. Fuck all the doubters; this is what I was meant to do. Instead of having to start from scratch all over again–through no little fault of my own–it’s like I’ve been given a reprieve and can continue doing exactly what it is that I want to do: work my way towards becoming a professional gambler.

I expect another successful year in 2012 and I have a list of goals that should be more than achievable: become an $8-$16 regular, play significantly more no limit cash games, log my biggest tournament cash of all-time, and, for crying out loud, have a profitable trip to Pendleton, Oregon.

2011 was a promising year. I proved that I have what it takes to beat the game of poker in the long run. It’s no longer a question. I feel I have answered it and that my calling is apparent. I experienced some growing pains and some struggles last year, but have learned from all of that. The struggles are over. I feel like Eminem on ‘Say Goodbye To Hollywood:’ “but no one ever puts a grasp/ on the fact I’ve sacrificed everything I have.” I really have; I’ve bet it all on this poker shit and I don’t plan on failing now. 2012 is my year.

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September 2011 Gambling Results

October 2, 2011

Poker is such a grind. I made a resolution this past New Year’s to make a profit gambling. I was sick of thinking of myself as a great player without having the consistent results to prove it. I’ve destroyed that goal. I’ve won every month in 2011 and thanks to a great session on the second to last day of the month, I can add September 2011 to that list. In consistently achieving my goal to make money gambling this year, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I was hoping to be playing professionally by 2013, but I’m ready to make the transition NOW. Part of me wants to throw caution to the wind, quit my day job and really put myself to the test… but that’s the part of me that has kept me treading in mediocrity for the past five years. I simply can’t afford to take that risk. Even if half my bankroll wasn’t indebted to me, I wouldn’t be close to having enough money saved up to take the plunge. Even at a limit as low as $4-$8, I’d be crippled after any sizable downswing without another source of income. My game still has plenty of leaks, but I’m convinced I can beat any limit game Washington state has to offer, so it’s frustrating that the only thing holding me back seems to be how much money I have to play with. So close… yet so far away.

I’ve had someone question whether or not I’d really want to play for a living. Not because they question my talent, but because they say that poker isn’t as much fun when you HAVE to play… when it becomes your job. When you have to put in the hours to make your money. Please. I have a day job now and still managed to put in over 160 September hours in just cash games. That doesn’t included the time I spent in the 17 tournaments I played. Playing is not going to be a problem for me. In fact, I’m in danger of letting poker completely dominate my life. If you include those tournament hours, I probably played around 200 hours last month, which would be a lot even for a full-time professional… and I’m still employed. Over a 450 hour sample size, my win rate in my regular game ($4-$8 fixed limit) is barely worth my time, so spending that much time playing is probably not my best investment. I think I need to cut my hours way back or find a full-time backer so I can move up to $8-$16.

I still have a tendency to think too much in the short term. I think it’s my biggest weakness now. Losing a big pot still hurts way more than it should. A bad run of cards, missed draws, coolers, and lucky catches for my opponents can still put me on tilt. My mood mirrors how my session is going far too often. For someone that is striving to play for a living and has proven that he will win in the long run, these attitudes are unacceptable. My focus on short term results makes me more susceptible to tilting, not playing my A game, and ultimately, cuts into my win rate in the long term and affects my overall performance. I feel like I could be doing much better than my current results if I can somehow get past this problem. Even right now, I feel down in the dumps because I started October off with a -54 big bet session and I haven’t won with TT, JJ, QQ, KK, or AA in my last 12+ hours of play. Unlucky? Yes. Any reason to whine and slum around my house feeling defeated? No. That money will come back. Time to get over it already and plug that leak. Coping with bad stretches separates the above average players from the great players and I’m ready for a promotion.

Rather than break down my exact results like I have in past months, I’ll just say I turned a modest profit for September. Considering the amount of time I put in, my final results are pretty unsatisfying. On the flip side, being stuck with two days left in the month and managing to turn a decent profit feels pretty good. My results in fixed limit cash games were not good at all. I lost at every limit I played, running absolutely brutal for multiple long stretches and probably not playing my best poker as a result, losing even more money than I should have. Before closing the month with a big win, I had six straight losing sessions–a first for 2011. It seems like I can’t go an entire month without 1 or 2 big downswings, even in months I’m generally killing the game. I also cashed for a profit in just 3 of the 17 tournaments I played (17.6% vs. a 45% ITM rate YTD) and went a stretch 8 straight tournaments without cashing at all (also a 2011 record).

Where I did do well last month was in the $2-$40 spread game at E&J Reyes and in the pit. I don’t have a lot of experience in spread games and haven’t had much success in them in the past. I’ve never been able to decide if I want to play a game that’s similar to how I play limit or how I play no limit. This time around I decided to play a mixture of both: seeing a lot of flops cheaply and using position like I do in no limit and using tight fixed limit hand selection in all other spots. I ran much better than average in these two sessions (88 > AA, JJ > AA, rivered a flush against trips, etc.) and I’m not expecting to maintain a $90/hour win rate. In the pit, I killed on match plays and pretty much expected to win every time I played one. Also, in one of my extremely rare moments of playing a table game, I hit quad 9s on Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em for a pretty decent payout and, unlike the degenerates who usually play the pit games, I immediately cashed out after my score.

Even though September was a small success, my bankroll actually decreased. I made way less at my day job than I budgeted for and had to take more out of my bankroll to pay bills than I made back in profit. Hopefully October will bring more consistency, both at my real job and on the felt. I just read that Full Tilt Poker has been purchased and maybe that means I’m that much closer to getting my money from them. I also got in touch with the dude that owes me a lot of money and he agreed to make a payment on the 5th. And seriously, does anyone in Kitsap County deserve the $9000+ Red Royal Flush Jackpot @ Chips Casino more than me?

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Check-Raise: My Journey From Spewy Amateur To Poker Professional – March 2011

March 31, 2011

It’s no secret that I fancy myself a poker player. I’ve been dabbling in the hobby for years now. Those of you that are familiar with my story know that I went on an insanely hot and extended run early in my poker career way back in 2005. I played my first hand of Texas Hold Em in August of 2004 and by June of 2005 I had a bankroll of $25,000. I was good, sure. I studied the game extensively, reading any book I could get my hand on and I thought about poker day and night, even when I was away from the tables. More importantly, I was absurdly lucky. I was making all sorts of mistakes when it comes to sustaining a bankroll. I’d move up two levels within the same session and happened to go on an upswing that lasted for three months through every level I tried. I wasn’t rolled for the levels I was playing, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t losing. So when I did start to go through the inevitable downswings, I couldn’t afford them at the levels I was playing at and soon found myself struggling to get by financially. That was pretty problematic since I’d already quit my job and dropped out of the University Of Washington. Why bother going to class when I could be making $100 an hour gambling online? It was a fair question and even if my degree was within arm’s reach, what good was a college diploma going to do me if I was playing cards for a living? Needless to say, my early run of success completely blinded me as a poker player and practically ruined my life. Six years later, I’m still recovering from some of the damage I caused myself.

But poker never left me. Throughout the years, I’ve had a lot of minor successes. I’ve always been a good tournament player and every once in a while I’ll pull off a huge, life-saving cash in a big tournament. Then I’ll be rolled for a couple months until I blow it all back in cash games. This has pretty much been my poker career since my year as a moronic “pro.”

Yet, for some reason, I’ve always thought of myself as a good player… but that’s total bullshit. Whatever minor successes I may have had playing cards over the past five years has been completely negated by my alcoholism or severe leaks in my poker game. I might deposit $50 online and grind my way to a $600 bankroll, go out for drinks one night, come home plastered, wake up the next day, log on to my poker account and see my balance sitting at $0. This happened on several occassions. Why can’t they make an interlock system for computers?! I would have saved thousands over the years. With alcohol mostly out of my life for the past three years (I relapsed for about 8 months), I can no longer blame drunkenness for my inability to maintain a bankroll. I have roughly three years of sobriety since January 2008, but I’ve been a consistent loser during that time. I might have a month or two of profit here and there, but I recently purchased some online tracking software and my cash game results over the past couple years are alarming. They are terrible.

So with all this in mind, I made a vow to myself that in 2011 I would make money gambling. I don’t care how much I win, I just don’t want to be a loser anymore. I’ll save my goal to be a professional for 2013. Right now, I just want to slowly turn this ship around. So far, so good.

First off, let me make a disclaimer. For absurd reasons, gambling online in Washington is illegal. The sites I play on enforce this law. I will be making references to my “online” results frequently in my blog posts. THESE RESULTS SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. ALL ONLINE RESULTS I POST ARE EITHER A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION OR FOR PLAY CHIPS ONLINE. I INCLUDE THEM WITH MY OVERALL RESULTS BECAUSE… UHHH…. IT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD.

I have tracked my results sporatically for years now, but I’ll usually lose interest when I start to go through a rough patch or I don’t like what I’m seeing anymore. I can’t say I have a lot of big losing months saved on my computer anywhere… but most of my really good months can be easily located. This year, I decided it’s best to be honest with myself. Starting in January, I’ve tracked every single aspect of gambling that I’ve done: from “online” gambling, live cash games, local tournaments, house games to pit games, sports betting, and personal wagers. If I bet someone $5 that they can’t eat a certain jalepeno pepper, I’m logging that bet somewhere. I know EXACTLY how well I’ve done since the start of 2011 and my results are promising.

I’m currently on a four month winning stretch that started with a +$528 month in December. Here are my 2011 results:

January: +$71.91
February: +$212.68
March: +$129.16

Total: +$413.75 (+$941.75 including December)

Pretty modest numbers, but mission accomplished so far. I’m making money gambling, consistently. Even so, those results are disappointing if we do a little more number crunching. Here are some other notable facts:

*I’m up $792 in live tournaments in 2011. I’ve played 16 tournaments and cashed in 7 of them for a 44% in the money rate. Even more ridiculous, I’ve finished in the top three 6 of the 7 times I’ve cashed and I have 3 wins. I’m destroying live tournaments.

*I’m up $666.45 in online tournaments in 2011. I’ve cashed in 60 of 361 tournaments I’ve played (16.6%). My biggest cash is for $360, so I’m yet to get that huge score I’m anxiously waiting for. I’ve done well in online tournaments for the year, but I’ve had some incredibly bad luck so far. I usually have something absurd happen to me in the very late stages of big money tournaments.

*I’ve made $474.14 in rakeback in 2011. Rakeback is a feature offered on some poker sites. Every pot you play gets raked and Full Tilt Poker offers 27% rakeback, so once a week, I get a depost into my account for rakeback.

*Between tournaments, rakeback, and live cash games (~+$179), I’ve made about $2110… yet I’m showing a mere $400 profit for the year.

The conclusion: When it comes to online cash games, I AM THE WORST PLAYER ALIVE. To be specific, I’m down roughly $1500 playing cash games online and I’ve spent most of March trying to figure out what exactly I’m doing wrong. I started reading my fixed limit books again and I tried to focus on playing one limit only: $0.50-$1… and I had success. I showed an $83.85 profit at that limit for the month of March. Unfortunately, I didn’t start this plan until the 4th of the month and I’d already done severe damage to my bankroll by then. I also strayed away from my plan later in the month. For instance, tonight I decided to play one table of $2-$4 and got unlucky on back-to-back hands in my first orbit. A crushing start to a game I shouldn’t even be playing. Of course, I tilted after that and blew 100 big bets of my current limit before I swallowed my pride and left the table. In 40 minutes, I lost more money in one session of $2-$4 than I made all month grinding it out at $0.50-$1. It’s these kinds of scenarios that have kept me from sustained success: poor bankroll decisions, playing too many tables, steaming/tilting when I get unlucky, chasing losses, and running absurdly poorly when I do take a chance. Even though I was more restrained in March than I’ve ever been–78% of the hands I played were at the $0.50-$1 fixed limit level–I still managed to show a big loss in online cash games. In the 22% of hands I played outside my preferred limit I lost $663. Talk about a painful lesson in bankroll management… but at least I’m making sure I see it… and I proved I could make a profit if I stick to my guns and play the limits I should be playing.

A third of the way through 2011, I feel decent about my chances to be a successful poker player. I’ve shown a tremendous flair for winning tournaments, both online and live, and revisiting some poker literature really helped my live cash game out this month. I had a rough patch the past couple days that turned a great month into a merely good one, but I see good things ahead in that respect. I still feel like I’m swimming upstream, fighting my inability to win playing cash games online. Despite all the success I’ve had, my profit margin is small and I can blame it entirely on getting destroyed in online cash games… but it’s a leak I’m working and my big goal for April 2011 is to a show a profit in the online games. If I can turn that around for good, my modest profits will start to turn into substantial ones and I’ll be well on my way to achieving my 2013 goal.

Other notes:

*I’m up $13.70 in house games… playing for change with my dad, my brother and his friend.

*I’m stuck $25 in the pit (all from BlackJack) year-to-date. I avoid The Pit like The Plague, but Chips Casino in Bremerton offers a $5 and $10 Match Play on Wednesdays and turns a few hands of BlackJack into highly profitable bets. Unfortunately, I fall for the trick and keep playing after using my coupons. Stupid.

*I lost $122 on the NCAA tournament this year. RAPED.

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Full Tilt Rush Poker

May 14, 2010

I recently received a comment on my blog asking what happened to me and why I haven’t been posting, specifically about poker, which has dominated my blog topics over the past few months:

1) I dropped out of college in my last quarter at The University Of Washington in 2005 and finally got around to taking my last two classes this quarter at Olympic College. I cut down my hours at work, banned myself from playing poker on Poker Stars, and obviously haven’t spent any time on my blog. I just want to focus on school for a few months to avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. I will finally get my UW degree in June 2010.

2) In addition to my self-banning from online poker, my favorite local card room recently closed down. I’ve taken some heat for calling Bremerton Lanes my favorite card room because I have made friends with dealers at both Chips Casino and All-Star Lanes. The thing is, I don’t care much for the live games anywhere. Between the rake and the low limits, it’s just too hard to grind out a consistent profit. I think the games are beatable, but the edge is pretty small and not really worth the time it takes to make money, plus I don’t really have a bankroll at the moment and any significant losses are always damaging to my bill-paying abilities! With that said, the reason I really enjoyed playing at Bremerton Lanes was solely because of their great tournament structure. Unfortunately, those kind of structures aren’t beneficial to a small card room. They take too long to complete, which lowers the amount of time rake is being dragged from the live game and increases the amount of time the casino has to pay extra dealers. That simple formula has led to the demise of the Bremerton Lanes card room, which hosted tournaments that I often blogged about. All of the other casinos employ a speed-style tournament structure, which I find to be a waste of my time and money most of the time. There is skill involved in these tournaments, but the luck factor is increased exponentially.

I may have banned myself from playing on Poker Stars, but I recently put money onto Full Tilt Poker and discovered that they have developed a completely new style of playing the game called Rush Poker. It’s really an innovative and ground-breaking concept and Howard Lederer is right to say “it will revolutionize the way poker is played.” Here’s the concept: Instead of having set tables with players fixed at a particular seat, Rush Poker starts you at one table and then moves you to another one as soon as you fold your hand or complete your action at the current table. The concept works for both tournaments and cash games. For example, in a cash game, a set limit has one game that you can enter and you can have a player pool of, say, 90 players. As soon as you fold your hand or complete your action, you’re just moved to another table ready to start the next hand. Position is no longer fixed and the big blind is determined by the player at a table who has gone the most hands without having to post a big blind.

Here are some of the pluses I’ve noticed in my short time playing Rush Poker:

-you can still have multiple entries into the same game for those used to multi-tabling
-you see way more hands per hour
-the action is super face-paced, so players with patience issues will probably find themselves with better hand selection
-if you take advantage of rakeback, you will see a significant increase in how much you get back because you receive money back for every pot you were dealt a hand in that gets raked, even if you are long gone from the table

The only cons I’ve noticed so far is that your familiarity with players will decrease. This doesn’t matter much in a fixed limit structure, but can be critical in a no limit cash game or the late stages of a big tournament.

(note: after writing this, I thought of another con. It seems like Rush Poker is limited on what stakes it offers. The highest limit game I see offered is $0.50-$1. I’m hoping this an oversight on my part, but I just don’t think I’m that stupid. Hopefully, this will be fixed in the near future.)

Since my hours are down at work, I don’t really have a lot of money to gamble with at the moment, but I took a mere $18 and turned it into $114 within a few hours of multi-tabling $0.25-$0.50 and $0.50-$1 fixed limit Rush Poker. During the day, the limit games are pretty full, but when I came home after work and wanted to play, they were completely dead. So I tried my first hand at no limit Rush Poker (which was still booming, even at that late hour) and wasn’t nearly as successful. In fact, I got crushed. As I said in the previous paragraph, having an idea of how the people at your table play is critical in a no limit format and playing Rush Poker hopping from one table to another, you really don’t get a feel for what the people around you are capable of and mostly have to play your hands for value, which is not how I prefer to play no limit poker. I had such a bad night that I nearly squandered all my winnings from earlier in the day, but fortunately, I managed a 7th place finish in a $3.30 rebuy Rush Poker tournament and ended the night right about where I started.

Anyways, I’m sort of in love with the concept of Rush Poker and I’m hoping it brings even more players back to the online game. Between the Rush format and rakeback, I’m excited about what’s going to happen to my bankroll over the summer.