Posts Tagged ‘wsop’

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2016 – Year In Review (part 1)

January 3, 2017

I just read my 2015 Wrap Up again and there were a lot of positives in there. Notably, how beneficial our move to Tacoma was, how I felt about my new job, our new car, and just how it was the best year of my life in general. Well, somehow, my 2016 topped my 2015. By a lot. I have talked about my WSOP final table already in this blog post and that was one of the massive life-changing events that happened this year, but it was just the first of many huge positives last year.

In that 2015 post, I mentioned that the only negative still hanging over my head from my past mistakes was a $20,000+ medical debt for an appendectomy I had done in 2008 and have been running away from ever since. For years, I haven’t been able to use a bank account because the collection company had a lien on my account and were allowed to take whatever balance I had in my bank whenever a judge approved it, which seemed to be every few months or so. They got me pretty decent the first time, but I learned quick, and never kept any of my money in the bank. I would just deposit cash when I needed to pay a bill and then pay it online while I was still standing in front of the ATM. So they’d get like $3-$5 every few months, but every time they got a judgement on me they would add hundreds of dollars to my balance in administrative and lawyer fees.

It was just a huge, dark cloud hanging over my head that I had no idea how I was going to get rid of – but I certainly didn’t plan on paying it. I spoke to a bankruptcy lawyer about this debt, but I was informed that I could not file a Chapter 7 (that would wipe it out entirely for a small fee) but that I would have to file Chapter 13, which basically still required me to pay the amount in full over time via garnishments from my paychecks. Uh… no thanks.

I had made the decision that I was going to have to quit my job so that I could qualify for a Chapter 7 when my wife spoke to one of the local poker players who was a retired lawyer and he offered to help us with the situation. He advised me to go to the court where my case file was and have a look. He wanted me to find something specific, but as I was looking through the file I found approval for garnishments for my income at Silver City Restaurant and All Star Lanes – my two previous jobs. I had no idea they were after my wages. I had quit both those jobs just a few months before they were about to start garnishing me. They had been after my wages since late 2011 and as of spring 2016 they still hadn’t caught up to me. But it was only a matter of time.

However, I found the document the laywer/player told me to look at (I forget the official title) but I discovered exactly what I needed to. They tried to serve me papers at my parents’ house, but never actually handed the documents to me. My dad refused to take them, so they just dropped them in the driveway. After doing some research, and with the help of a previous landlord, it was discovered that the date they served me the papers I had already established residency somewhere else… and just like that, I had a case – and someone to present it for me.

It was really that easy. My lawyer contacted the collection agency, sent over documents my former landlord provided and BOOM! Case dismissed. Not only did I get that entire debt erased, but I was refunded all the money they took from me over the years too. I’ll get to all the awesome poker stuff in a minute, but in a lot of ways, this was the best thing that happened to me in 2016. I mean, what a relief. I didn’t have to quit my job. I didn’t have to file bankruptcy. I didn’t have to pay back over $20,000. It was totally unbelievable. I can’t thank the lawyer who helped me enough. He probably has no idea how much pressure he has taken off our shoulders. Even though I didn’t feel the affect of this debt on a day-to-day basis, it still loomed over me like a dark cloud and it was eventually going to affect my life in a very bad way if something didn’t happen. Much like driving a car without a breathalyzer for the first time in five years in 2015, it was strange to have full use of a bank account again in 2016 with no worries that the money in it might be snatched up at any time.

I don’t want to give off the impression that I was in the right here. I originally had this medical bill cut in half and I was on a payment plan that allowed me to pay $30 a month, interest free, for basically eternity. It was a pretty fair and awesome arrangement, all things considered. I could have followed that process and paid it off in a few decades and everything would have been fine and it would have been at little cost to me financially in the short term. But I was stubborn and I just thought it was wildly unfair that I had to pay such an enormous fee for a medical procedure that I had to get or I would probably die. Pay $20k or die. Whatever happened to saving people’s lives without raping them at the same time? Anyways, my rebellion against The System was immature and not very well thought out. It made my life inconvenient for years and was very close to being devastating. I ended up getting the best of it in the end, but only because I got lucky – and I’m not really proud of it. Certainly it would have been plenty easy to just pay the $30 a month.

Still, I’m not sad about it either!

Now on to the poker. Let’s take a look at the goals I set for 2016 and how well I did at achieving them.

play 1250 hours

I knew this was a pretty soft goal when I set it, so it’s not too surprising that I smashed it with 1591.5 total hours in live games this year. Interestingly, my volume from January to April – when I was still working my day job – was 142 hours per month and my volume from October to December – when I’ve been playing full time – has dropped to 132 hours per month. I do think there is a reasonable explanation for this, but I’ll get to that next. I played my most hours (185) in June when I was at the WSOP and I played my least amount of hours (101) in August when I went on a road trip with my wife that only included one poker day.

Do the Advanced Poker Training weekly challenge every week and spend at least an hour a week playing hands on APT

Unfortunately, I have been a bit disappointed with this training site. I bought a lifelong membership because the price seemed too good to pass up, but I have found the AI on the site to be unbelievably bad at times. I don’t want to get into all the details of what feels wrong about it, but I’ll just say I don’t feel like the site does a great job of simulating actual poker games. I still find use for the site though and the weekly hand challenges are still on my to do list every week, although I probably played less than half of them all year. On the bright side APT has forever to improve things – my membership never expires! I can’t help but feel any number of training sites would have been a better investment. Any site that offers a plethora of video instruction is more constructive by default.

I feel good about my lack of participation here for one reason only. I have decided to treat Ignition Poker like an online poker training site. I feel like if CardPlayer can advertise for them in their magazine then I can talk freely about playing on the site. I mean, it’s just for play money anyway, right? Right?! Well, after having a sizable amount of money locked up on Full Tilt for years following the Black Friday fiasco, I don’t trust the procedure enough to try to make real money at my normal stakes, so the goal is to sharpen my skills playing micro stakes at things I don’t get to play as often; like tournaments, pot limit Omaha, no limit hold em, etc. So the reason I feel okay about my slight volume dip in the last three months of 2016 is because I’ve put in over 300 “training” hours online during that time. That number isn’t as massive as it sounds though, as I almost always play at least two tables at a time and when I’m playing tournaments, I frequently register for as many as six at a time. So I would guess that the actual number of hours I’ve played online is significantly less than half of 300.

Obviously I have found playing against real people for “real” money to be far more rewarding than the simulated stuff on APT and it has really helped keep my tournament game sharp, in particular. Normally, I only play tournaments when a series comes up, which averages out to about two a month for the year, but online I’ve had numerous nights where I’ve played 15-20 tournaments in one sitting.

Play 150 hours of Omaha 8 or better and maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate

I came up short here, on both portions of the goal. I only played 110 hours and I ran at -0.61 BB/HR overall. Obviously, I’m not going to draw any conclusions from a 110 hour sample size, as it means very little in the grand scheme of things. I did fine in $15/$30 and $10/$20 games but I got crushed at $8/$16. I lost almost $1500 in 35 hours in the $8/$16 O8 @ The Orleans in Vegas which is kind of absurd. For whatever reason, I was not allowed to turn over a winner at showdown in that casino. I also played in the $1500 O8 event at the WSOP and whiffed it, so Omaha was definitely not a profitable venture for me in 2016.

In addition to the previous stats, I also played 35.5 hours of O8 online and ran at -0.49 BB/HR while turning a profit – which means I did well in the big games and bad in the small ones. I played three O8 tourneys online, cashing one of them, which actually happened to be a first place finish.

Between tournaments and cash games online, I played about 25 hours of PLO or PLO8 and lost a little bit of money, even though I finished with a positive win rate in the cash games.

There is obviously plenty of room for improvement in my Omaha game. I can play a fine ABC game, which should actually make money in the long run, but my hand-reading skills and ability to figure out how to exploit opponents seem minimal.

Play 100 hours of no limit cash games

I played seven hours in live no limit cash games over four separate sessions, which means I went to the casino for the sole reason of playing NLHE exactly zero times in 2016. I managed to win about $1000 over these four sessions, which is pretty remarkable considering I only played in $1/$2 games last year – the final win rate comes out to over 138 big blinds an hour! I stopped in Harrahs during the wee hours of the morning on my way back from my real session to donk around a bit before going to bed a couple of times and I was playing a hyper-aggressive game and decided that I couldn’t fold the AQ suited preflop considering my image and wound up getting 150 big blinds in against pocket aces. I did not lose that hand. These are the kinds of things that can happen in the short run that can skew a player’s interpretation of their results. I did not crush the NLHE games in my incredibly small sample size… I got stupid lucky in one big pot and it made up a significant portion of my NLHE profit for the year.

I’m not upset about missing out on my goal here. At the end of the day, becoming an expert NLHE cash game player just doesn’t make a ton of sense for me. With 20/40 limit hold em regularly available every day of the week relatively nearby there’s just no need for me to make the transition in Washington state and even when I’m in Vegas I can find big games that are better tailored to my expertise. I might go back to playing at Muckleshoot on Super Sundays, but other than that, I don’t feel compelled to start playing more live NLHE.

With that said, this is one of the skills I don’t mind developing slowly at micro stakes online. I played roughly 18.5 hours the last few months and lost about 44 big blinds an hour. Obviously, both the samples I just presented are incredibly small, but I don’t doubt that my NLHE cash game ability needs a lot of work.

Play 3-5 WSOP events – Cash a WSOP event

I actually ended up playing in five total events. I have already written a long blog post about my final table run and third place finish in WSOP Event #1 – and you can watch the whole final table on YouTube by starting here: WSOP Event #1 (Part 1). So obviously a great start to my WSOP that helped me achieve a ton of my goals for the year.

Next up was the Colossus, which I managed to hang around in until the money. I think they had four different day 1 flights and each flight paid 15% of the field. I don’t remember too much about this event now except that my initial table draw was far more favorable than it was in 2015, which had multiple notable pros at it. I also remember moving tables after cashing and being incredibly impressed with everything about Taylor Paur’s game. This guy is one of the best tournament players in the world right now. He currently ranks #63 on the Global Poker Index and has over $4 million in lifetime cashes. He’s in the top 30 on California’s all-time money list, which is pretty impressive considering almost all of his volume has come since 2011. Anyways, his whole demeanor at the table was on point. He played a ton of hands and was plenty intimidating, but he was also quite friendly when people made conversation with him. He was basically a total beast.

As is usually the case when I play with a high level pro, I lost a very big, key pot to Taylor… when I had him crushed. I was relatively short when I first moved tables, but found myself doubled up back into a playable stack pretty quickly. Taylor opened in front of me and I decided to flat call with AQ because I realized that if Taylor four bet me I was just never going to fold the hand and I felt I was too deep to put all my chips in preflop. The flop came down A9x with two clubs on board and Taylor made a standard continuation bet. I just called because that’s a huge flop for me – it’s super dry and I’m in position against someone I view to be overly aggressive. I wanted him to keep putting chips in the pot. The turn card brought the 9 of clubs and he bet again. I had the Q of clubs in my hand and called again. The river bricked off and he fired a bet that was probably in the 60-75% pot range. I thought for about zero seconds and called and he showed me Q9 for trips. I was back to a short stack after that and I didn’t last much longer. I have to say I’m not super happy about that hand. I like my postflop plan: I flopped huge and let my opponent barrel into me on all three streets and I was never planning to fold. Obviously I got super unlucky; first that he caught his two outer on the turn, and second that I missed my 11 out redraw on the river. What I don’t like about the hand is my preflop thinking. I knew Taylor was opening way too many hands and AQ should be punishing that range. It’s too good to flat with in this situation. I was too deep to want to get stacks in preflop – which very well might have happened if he four bet – but that’s no excuse for not making the right play and if he did four bet me, well, time to gamble. Still, I locked up my second consecutive WSOP cash in this event, albeit a pretty small one.

My next event was the $1500 H.O.R.S.E. and my starting table featured the likes of Karina Jett ($500k in tournament cashes), Carol Fuchs ($316k), Ryan Tepen ($943k), and Shannon Shorr ($6.13M). I can’t really remember any interesting hands as it has been nearly half a year since I played this event, but I spent a good portion of the latter part of day 1 playing at Norman Chad’s table and I have to say the experience wasn’t as fun as you might think it would be. This is a guy that clearly turns it “on” for the cameras. He was friendly enough, but I saw basically zero of the personality he has during his ESPN commentaries. Amy Schumer mentions in her recent book The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo that she is an introvert, which is surprising given her chosen profession as a stand up comedian, and my take was that Norman Chad is the same way – a dude that seems like a total extrovert but that would probably just rather be left alone when he’s in public. No judgement here: I’m the same way. On the other hand, Carol Fuchs and Karina Jett were both super nice.

I finished day 1 with a sizable stack, thinking that I was almost certain to cash and that I was in a great position to make another final table run. Carol Fuchs even went out of her way to tell me how well she thought I played, which was a pretty cool compliment. I can’t recall exactly, but I believe I started day 2 in the top 20-30% of all chip stacks. I met Ian Johns, a pro from Washington state that specializes in limit hold em, at my new table and he started the day with less than 2000 in chips, which was one or two big bets at the time, I think – he was in what poker people like to call “the dead zone.” Well, he won the first pot he played, more than doubling up, and eventually built up a stack that would take him to the final table and ultimately win him the bracelet in this event. It was a super impressive run and yet another story of why you should never give up in a tournament, no matter how grim things look at the moment. Ian would also go on to win the $10k limit hold em bracelet to cap off a huge summer. Meeting Ian Johns actually changed my whole perspective on what I want my career to look like. He has proven that you can succeed on an every day basis and at the WSOP even if you primarily focus only on games that have a fixed structure, which is definitely my specialty.

Unlike Ian, things didn’t go my way on day 2 and I never picked up any momentum. Still, I had a decent stack when this very key pot came up with around 125 players left. We were less than ten spots off the money when a player with a 7 up in stud high completed the bet in front of me. I started with a T up and AK in the hole, so I was very happy to reraise and get heads up against someone that likely had split 7s. I caught a Q, an 8, and a blank to complete my open board and continued to fire as my opponent’s board also bricked out. On 7th street, I caught bad again and finished with Ace high but since my opponent had played his hand like he hadn’t improved, I just had to fire one last bullet and hope he would lay down his pair. He did not. He called me all the way down unimproved and I was left decimated. I busted shortly after that, 7 spots shy of my third consecutive WSOP cash. I was pretty mad at myself for punting my whole stack so close to the money bubble, but in retrospect, I think I played the hand fine. I had five overs to my opponent’s pair, plus a gutshot to Broadway, on 5th street and I really feel keeping the pressure on was the correct play. On 7th street, my bluff doesn’t have to succeed very often to be profitable and I obviously found myself in a position where I had to bet to win. Still, it was quite the eye opener coming off multiple days of having things really go my way. I never even considered the possibility that I wouldn’t cash this event until I lost this pot. It was a good reminder to stay grounded and not get ahead of myself.

I feel like this post is getting really long winded and I’m not even close to being done, so I’m going to go ahead and publish this as part one and I will have part two up tonight or Thursday.

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2016 World Series Of Poker Trip Report – WSOP #1: $565 Casino Employee Event

July 7, 2016

Live Stream Link: WSOP Event #1 (Part 1)

I’m not going to go into details again about how disappointing my trips to the World Series Of Poker have been prior to 2016, but I can sum up by saying that I was 0-4 lifetime in WSOP events and I think 0-9 total in tournaments at the Rio, including a pretty big choke ten spots off the money in my first ever bracelet event. Every time I looked at the Rio while passing by, I just shake my head in disbelief – it was my worst casino of all-time.

My goal for 2016 was pretty simple: I just wanted to cash one gosh damn time and get the monkey off my back.

My third try in the $565 Casino Industry event that kicks off the WSOP every year got off to a pretty poor start. I chipped down quickly and soon found myself on the rail, but when the Tournament Director was doing his original announcements I discovered that we could actually re-enter if we busted in the first six levels. This was good news and as far as I can recall, this is new for Event #1. Obviously, I promptly re-entered and then the Boom Switch activated.

With my standard stack size of ten big blinds I found a double up with AQ when I turned an Ace to run down my opponent’s pocket kings. Shortly after, I ran QQ into KK all in pre and flopped a set, building my stack up to 30k. I almost found another cooler reversal after a button vs. small blind raising war resulted in my opponent getting all in pre with QQ vs my TT, when the flop came AJT, but the K on the turn gave him broadway and I bricked the river. This unfortunate run out left me just above average chip stack about 100 off the money.

When the money bubble approached, I was where I always seem to be in these situations: sitting on a ten big blind stack. As I’ve noted in previous blog posts, one of the biggest changes I’ve made in my game in the past year or so, is recognizing that hands that are +EV to push in typical small stack situations need to be reconsidered on the bubble and this adjustment has not only increased my rate of cashing, it has also helped me ladder up deeper in tournaments. I managed to nit my way into my first WSOP cash, but as fast as I patted myself on the back for cashing, I just as quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be much of an accomplishment until I actually made a profit – which, with two bullets fired, still required me to outlast 25% of the remaining field.

And then I kept on luck boxing my way into a playable stack. Being in the money, my ICM considerations weren’t really factoring in and I found myself jamming my remaining 6 bigs with the QJ offsuit from UTG1. It folded around to the big blind who had slightly more chips than I did and he went into the tank for quite some time before finding a call with A9 – which is a pretty trivial call IMO. Anyways, after a standard shove followed by a standard call, I found myself on the bad side of a 40/60 match-up that turned into a 20/80 after we saw the T86 all heart flop, with him holding a heart and me not – or as my favorite poker player and Run It Up ringleader Jason Somerville would say: “Fuck City.” I bricked the turn, dropping my winning chances down to 15% and boom, Q of clubs on the river for a double up. Wow.

Immediately following this hand, I looked down at the AJ offsuit from under the gun. I now had about around 13 or 14 big blinds and found myself in a pretty awkward spot. I feel like raise-folding with my stack size is pretty spewy and plenty exploitable and I strongly considered just open-folding, but after some consideration, I determined that was too weak and decided to open-jam. In hind sight, I think it’s pretty close, but I’m leaning towards thinking it’s a fold. I’m not exactly desperate with 14 bigs and I’m sure I can find some better spots to get my stack in. While I’m going to win the blinds and antes quite frequently, when I do get called, I don’t think I ever have the best hand and from first position, I have to get that jam through the whole table. Anyways, I did run into a monster as someone called with pocket kings, but I wind up making a one card flush on the river with the jack of spades. Unreal! At this point, my stack is significantly above average at 76k and I’ve reached the point where I’ve actually made money on my first WSOP cash! I can now feel good about achieving my goal!

Not too long after my AJ miracle, I open to 9k at 2000/4000 with QQ and it folds around to the player I doubled through and he winds up jamming his 35k stack in and there’s nothing to think about here with two queens, but I did have a feeling he was having a blow up. He was, showing the A8 offsuit after I snap called. Unfortunately, the board ran out 94288 and he steamed his way to a significant double up through me. Still, I could hardly complain as I felt like I was freerolling this tournament many times over by now.

After that speed bump, I started to rush again, doubling up with AJ against AT and then finding JJ vs TT to bust a player. By the end of Day 1, I bagged up a slightly below average 117k with 23 players left. TEN BIG BLINDS.

For Day 2, the tournament moved into the Amazon to the Thunder Dome for the final three tables. I was well prepared on how I was going to play my ten big blind stack, but it all became moot when I found myself all in with QQ vs KK 15 minutes into the new day. Honestly, at that moment, I was sure it was over. I felt like I had used up all the run good I could possibly have. I had already been all in for my tournament life with less than 45% equity four times and doubled up on all four hands. This is just what happens to me deep into major tournaments: I get coolered or unlucky and find myself hitting the rail, feeling disappointed and wondering when I’m finally going to have a breakthrough. I couldn’t possibly pull of another miracle… and when the board read 3236 after four cards, I was already mentally busted from the tournament, but then the dealer brought a Q on the river and all I could say was “wow” in total disbelief. No. Fucking. Way. And that was it. I just said “wow” and shook my head. No celebration. Not even a smile. I’ve been on the other side of that devastating loss plenty of times. There’s no skill in spiking a two outer on the river when all the chips are in preflop, just as there is no skill involved in coolering someone’s pocket queens with pocket kings. It’s just variance – and in this tournament, variance happened to be looking very fondly on me. I’m just never going to rub that in my opponent’s face by celebrating after sucking out in brutal fashion in an extremely critical spot. I guess it happens in sports all the time, but something about doing it at the poker table feels really tacky to me.

However, after that hand, I really started to think that I just might be destined to win this bracelet. I can’t ever remember getting so lucky that many times in a single poker tournament, particularly in the deep stages. I wasn’t just winning flips, I was winning when I was CRUSHED.

With two tables left, I won a huge flip with TT vs AK and found myself sitting around 350k, which had me primed for a final table visit. I played a rare flop in a relatively large pot with KK where I c-bet the flop, checked back in position when the turn brought a 4-card straight in the 789TJ range and then decided to fold when my opponent led out on the ace river. It’s a hand that I’d love to know what he had, but I just couldn’t come up with many hands that I could beat on the river and even some of his bluffing range was good (the smaller two pair hands might think they had to bluff to win a showdown). That hand brought me down to 200k, but with 12 left, I won another flip with 44 vs KQ and not too long after that I found myself holding the chip lead at the final table of a World Series Of Poker bracelet event. Is this real life? I mean, I’ve always felt like I could eventually contend for bracelets but I just never expected it to happen this soon, even though I have started to final table some bigger events recently. What a totally surreal experience.

The official final table bubble lasted an incredibly brutal two hours. Two full levels passed without losing the next player, with everyone playing tight and trying to ladder up and the short stacks doubling up every time there was an all in confrontation. During this time, I lost a big flip and some other smaller pots and found myself with less than half the chips I had at my peak by the time the bubble bursted and we all moved center stage in the Thunder Dome to play for the bracelet and $75,000 up top.

Next thing I know we are being instructed on how to position our hole cards and avoid blocking the overhead cameras for the live stream and my buddy Vince is posting links to the stream on my Facebook post and I can feel the panic start to creep in. I’ve had stage fright issues my whole life – I never gave a speech in class without feeling like I’d rather die and my rap “career” never blossomed because I simply could not perform in front of people. I even had anxiety when I was recording most of the time, despite the fact that my writing ability was honestly ELITE. I have also battled confidence issues that I rather recently realize stem from being wrongfully cut from an all star baseball roster when I was in my early teens. I was always one of the best players on my teams growing up and never had a problem performing on a baseball diamond until that moment, but from then on, I felt an almost unbearable pressure when a ball was hit my way or I was standing at the plate to hit. I choked countless times and performed FAR below my level of ability all the way through high school baseball. I suspect almost no one that knows me even realized how much this affected me and it seems to have carried on with me as an adult in many ways. It’s kind of baffling to me how no one that coached me recognized my problem or knew how to correct it. Anyways, as if the pressure of being center stage, knowing I was being filmed wasn’t enough, when I saw Vince post that streaming link for all my friends to follow, well, I could feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety come over me. I told him to take the link down. If I made a huge mistake, I really didn’t want it to be on full display for all my friends to see. Now, I’m not going to suggest that I have resolved my confidence problems entirely, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I was at a WSOP final table and pretty much no one I know personally can say they’ve done the same thing and I realized that no matter what happened, I had to be proud of my accomplishment and likely, so would everyone else. While I got absurdly lucky in this tournament, I know for a fact that I belong at that table and that it won’t be the last time I get there either. With all this in mind, I was able to find my comfort zone and be at peace with the situation. It’s tough for me to admit some of that, but I’ve never been one to hold back in my writing.

At the official FT, we weren’t allowed to use phones at the table, so I mostly stopped posting updates on Facebook that I can easily reiterate here, but I know there were three massive all in confrontations in a short period and when all the dust cleared, I was the player that ultimately suffered the most. Two short stacks got lucky on back to back hands and instead of laddering up two spots, I found myself doubling up one of them when my AQ lost a race to 66 and put me back in short stack territory. I managed to ladder up a couple spots anyway and then I doubled with 77 vs 22 and busted a player in a blind vs blind confrontation when I picked up 44 vs 33. With 5 players left, while sitting on the shortest stack, my most critical hand came up and I wasn’t even in it. One of the big stacks raised under the gun and it folded to the chip leader in the big blind, who defended. After a flop check and call, they got it all in on the turn with the board reading TdJd8d9x and the big blind holding a straight flush and the other player holding a king high flush (and not drawing dead!). Absolutely sick. So with 5 left, the player in second position and a massive stack, winds up busting, and I ladder up with my very short stack. It was quite the coup.

With four players left, I realized I had to pee. I had to pee BAD. There was about an hour until the next break and I asked the TD if we could take an impromptu break so I could go and he refused my request. The next 45 minutes or so have to be some of the most agonizing moments of my entire life. Can you imagine playing on a WSOP final table, with four players left, and pay jumps approaching tens of thousands of dollars, and having to pee worse than you ever have? I had a short stack and it’s not like the bathrooms were nearby. I really couldn’t afford to miss any hands. If you ever happen to watch the live stream, you’ll notice that with about four players left, I am basically never in my seat when I’m not in a hand. I’m walking around the table in total agony. Needless to say, there is no way I could have been on my A-game while this was happening and it honestly baffles me that the WSOP staff would force me to suffer under such conditions. It’s the Casino Industry event – we all work for a living and are likely playing for life-changing money. It’s inexcusable IMO. I doubt they would make Daniel Negreanu jump around the Thunder Dome holding his crotch like an idiot. Well, I outlasted another player during this and managed to make it to the break, but I imagine I made some mistakes in the duration and it’s kind of hard for me to forgive them of the offense. I even asked the remaining players if it was okay and they agreed. Ugh.

I didn’t last long after the break, eventually shoving my short stack in with J8 offsuit on the button. I think I had like 4-6 big blinds, but having that sized stack playing 3-handed is MUCH different than having it at a full table. I could have maybe waited another orbit, but I was close to having no fold equity and it’s critical to have enough chips that you can win the pot without a showdown. The big blind woke up with the K9 and called and I was not able to produce another miracle.

I finished 3rd for just over $32,000. It was an incredible experience and despite my early discomforts, it was a total blast playing on the final table. And just like that, I crossed off most of my major goals for 2016 and the Rio went from being my all-time worst casino to being my all-time BEST.

I initially meant to post a whole trip report, but this was much longer than I anticipated, so I’ll post the rest later. I will also add some pictures and the live stream link when I get a chance.

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2015 Poker Goals: April through June update

July 6, 2015

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with my dedication to elite poker play the past three months. My focus level has fallen off tremendously and the fact that I never even posted wrap-ups for April or May is pretty telling. Granted, it’s been a busy few months. Since my March wrap-up I’ve gotten married, been to Vegas for the World Series of Poker, spent a week traveling down the coast to San Francisco, celebrated my wife’s birthday, and moved to Tacoma. And today I finally got my internet up and running. For the first time in months, I have nothing on my plate in the foreseeable future. I can once again turn my attention to crushing at the poker table. This post will focus on how I did the past three months and how I’m doing on my 2015 poker goals.

log 1200 live hours

Over the past three months I played 314 hours of live poker – just over 100 hours a month – putting my YTD total at 764 hours, well on pace to reach my goal but a noticeable dip in play compared to the first three months of the year. I now live about 10 minutes away from the Palace in Lakewood though and seeing as how parenthood is probably in my near future I should be granted the freedom to go on the super grind for the next year or so.

focus on how well I played, how well I controlled tilt, and how well I paid attention to the game flow instead of on how well I ran.
Continue taking notes throughout all my sessions and combing through them later.

And here is where my lack of focus comes in. I literally kept notes for ZERO sessions over the past three months which means I’ve basically been playing on autopilot and spending very little time thinking about my game off the table. My mindset has remained strong during this time, so it’s nice to see the mental muscle is actually building, but it’s important not to get lazy and I will be turning on the laser focus again starting… now.

spend less than 20% of my total hours in 4/8 games

One of my bigger goals for 2015 was to quit spending so much time in a game both my ability and my bankroll have outgrown. The past three months I played 112.5 hours at the 4/8 level with 82 of those hours coming on the clock. That means I played 30.5 hours of 4/8 off duty out of 156 personal, non-tournament hours – or just under 20%. That’s a happy ratio and meets my goal, but it also means I only averaged just over 50 live, off duty cash game hours a month, which is a pretty poor output.

log 100 hours of spread limit

I did get some no limit hours in while I was in Vegas, but not very much. I am now at 30 hours YTD halfway through the year. There’s a chance my output will increase over the second half of 2015 as my bankroll (hopefully) increases and I dabble in the Muckleshoot 3/5 game a bit more. I now have Sundays off permanently and live 20-30 minutes away from Muck, so Super Sundays will be a must for me going forward. I should reach 100 hours just playing the next six Super Sundays.

continue reading about mental game, develop mental game profiles, and improve my c-game

focus my learning – don’t study multiple variants at the same time or games I’m not playing frequently.

This has been another area of my game that has fallen off tremendously the past few months. I did spend some time reading up on and developing my mental game, but it’s nowhere near as developed as I would expect it to be by now. While I haven’t had any notable mental game problems the past few months, I basically just treaded water. I should have a lot more free time for poker study in the future as my wife is switching to week days and it will be easy to schedule a designated time solely for working on my game away from the tables.

treat poker like a job with set hours and not like a hobby.

I did a poor job in this area the past few months as well. Poker felt more like a hobby than something I was putting my heart and soul into. The most telling point: I spent 54 hours in my bread and butter game – the 8/16 at the Palace – or just 18 hours a month. Considering I’ve been averaging over 1.5 big bets per hour in that game my lack of output is pretty inexcusable. Obviously I have been busy with other stuff, but still… Now that I live ten minutes away, there is really no reason I shouldn’t be able to play 90+ hours of 8/16 a month going forward.

watch opponents closely in tournaments and develop exploitative styles for each of them.

take my time in critical pots and really think things through before acting.

set a new career high tournament score.

I played 21 tournaments over the past three months and cashed three times (15%). Two cashes and nine tournaments were at my job with entry fees of $40 or less. Yawn. The other 12 tournaments had an average BI of $266 and I only managed to cash once, which fortunately was a first place finish.

In mid-April I went 0 for 3 at Wildhorse Casino during the Spring Round Up series. I finished 3rd at my table during the Shootout tournament and I remember feeling pretty unlucky about that. I don’t remember getting any momentum in the Omaha 8 or HORSE tournaments. I am planning to play a full slate at the Fall Round Up this year and I have a pretty good feeling about a breakout.

During the 2015 World Series Of Poker, I continued my drought at the Rio by going 0 for 4 in World Series and daily deep stack events, bringing my lifetime showing there to a sad 0 for 9. Whiffing nine tournaments in a row is a pretty standard stretch, but it’s not how I was hoping to start my World Series career. I was extremely disappointed with my showing in WSOP Event #1, the Casino Employee Event. I can’t remember any particular hands but I do remember feeling like I was not super happy with my play and that I didn’t set myself up for success very well.

In the $565 Colossus I fired one bullet and received an absolutely brutal table draw. On my direct left, I had notable pro Maurice Hawkins (top 130 in the world according to the GPI Rankings); on my right I had WPT champion Jordan Cristos. In fact, of the eight other players at my table, I knew for certain that I was better than one of them and he wasn’t much of a drooler either. In a tournament with a record-breaking 22,000+ entrants (and a sea of fish) I couldn’t believe how tough my starting table was. Maurice was playing every hand – seriously, I saw him call off over half his stack pre with 92dd once – and I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be able to open lightly and he was going to make me “prove it” every time I took the lead in a pot. He was playing the Colossus like it was a $10 tournament and I was playing like it was $1500 and I wasn’t about to bluff off my stack trying to outlevel him. Being one of the top players in the world, I was shocked at how unprofessional and rude Maurice Hawkins was. He was a total ass. Possibly the least pleasant person I’ve ever played with and that’s really saying something. I had the pleasure of watching Jordan Cristos check-raise jam the turn, getting Maurice to fold an overpair, and then showing a total airball bluff when Maurice caused a MASSIVE scene after folding his hand face up and throwing his cards at Jordan. “Let’s move on to the next hand, cause this one is no good. So let’s just play the next hand.” All said with such aggressive, negative energy and repeated ad nauseum. It was a pretty cool moment for the whole table when Jordan flipped over the king high and shut his arrogant ass up. After that hand, Maurice decided to focus on someone else and picked on him relentlessly. That player handled it like a champ though and I think the whole table breathed a sigh of relief when Maurice busted… of course, he guaranteed to all of us as he was walking away that he would win the Colossus. The dude is the epitome of how a professional should NOT act at the table. A total disgrace to the game if that’s his constant MO.

Unfortunately, Jordan Cristos was also playing this tournament like $565 is nothing to him. One of his standard plays was to isolate a limper by making a huge raise in late position – something like 10+ bigs, which is a bigger bet than most three bets would be. One time he did this, I flatted him with two black aces and got it in on the KQJ all heart flop, expecting to hit the rail most of the time, but somehow holding against his QTo with a royal draw. Later in the tournament, he made a similar move and I looked down at AQ sitting on about 16 big blinds. Jordan had shown down so many trashy hands – and almost never passed on an opportunity to try to steal – that I didn’t think for a second about folding, but I also realized that I had no fold equity and that I would be playing for my tournament life. I jammed it, he was priced in, and I ended up losing to his Q9, a pretty depressing end to my day, but quite a huge improvement on my one hand exit in the Millionairemaker last year!

I decided to play the $100 weekly HORSE tournament at The Orleans and I took the majority of the money in a four-way ICM chop as the substantial chip leader. Even though I had a hefty chip lead, the blinds were large enough that one hand could change the scope of the tournament and I couldn’t say no to better than second place money without having to play it out. I played good overall and ran really hot at the final table to earn the victory. It was bittersweet. Obviously, when you enter a tournament the ultimate goal is to win it, so I was happy to take it down. On the other hand, it’s a bit frustrating to run red hot in the tournament with the smallest buy in and field size of my trip. Even with the first place victory, I still lost money on my tournament entries in Vegas. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but if there’s a time to run amazing, this is not the tournament I would have picked.

Two days later I played the $240 HORSE event at the Golden Nugget, got an amazing table draw with some of the worst play I’ve ever seen, and had absolutely no luck. I peaked in the first ten minutes of the tournament and I was barely above the starting stack at any point. I missed most of my draws and lost with most of my made hands and could never take advantage of the horrendous play that was rampant at my table. I’ve never wanted a mulligan so bad in my poker career.

I’m reaching a point where I’m getting pretty fed up with tournament poker. Excluding smaller tournaments (< $100), I have cashed 2 of 19 times this year for an ROI of -34%. In the past twelve months, I’ve cashed 3 of 29 times for an ROI of -56%. As someone with so much cash game success, I have to ask myself why I continue to punish myself with tournament variance. Or is it variance? 29 tournaments is an absurdly small sample size so it’s certainly possible. Prior to this past year, I had been a tournament crusher, so I have good reason to think things will turn around eventually. I am fully confident I am capable of a life-changing score. On the other hand, in comparison to cash games, I play tournaments so infrequently that it is much harder to develop my game plan. With cash games, I can study off the table and apply what I’m working on immediately, multiple times a week. With tournaments, I might go weeks in between events and even when I play I might not be able to apply the concepts I’m currently learning in a given tournament. Still, I’m not quite ready to give up just yet. I feel like my time is coming and I’d hate to deny myself the opportunity. I’m planning a full slate for the Fall Round Up in Pendleton and I’m going to start planning for next year’s WSOP immediately. Hopefully I will be in a position where I can sell action for and play up to five events or more. Also, now that I'm residing in Tacoma and my availability is changing, I think I will start playing Muckleshoot's Tuesday deep stack regularly. With that event and some of the weekend tournaments, I should be able play somewhere between 5-7 tournaments a month and hopefully turn my ROI around.

double my current bankroll size

maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate at 8/16

I posted a small loss in April and followed that up with two mediocre winning months in May and June. I had to use my bankroll for all the extra traveling we’ve been doing and various other expenses, so despite making a modest profit the past three months, I actually have less in my bankroll now than I did when April started. I loathe the feeling of running in place and getting complacent, but that’s how these past few months have felt. I’m ready to start grinding and really focus again.

Over 648.5 hours, these are my current YTD win rates:

1.67 big bets per hour at 8/16 (1.81 past three months)
0.77 big bets per hour at 4/8 (0.2 past three months)
0.42 big bets per hour at 10/20 and higher (all in the past three months)

I’m looking forward to doing some serious grinding and bankroll building over the rest of the summer and hopefully I can put together a hot stretch of tournament runs!