Last Hand

My last hand of the 2012 WSOP (maybe my last hand of any WSOP) went pretty much the way of the rest of my time here in Las Vegas the past couple weeks.

I was in the third level of the 2pm Deepstack tournament. They’ve been huge, but today’s was particularly large; we’re near the Main Event, the final table of the One Million for One Drop benefit was playing out, and there weren’t any smaller buy-in bracelet events starting today, just a $10,000 6-Handed NLHE event and a $3,000 PLO8, both of which sound like a lot of fun but which are a little out of the range of most players. So the field in the Deepstack was 1,711 today, with a prize pool of $333,645, 198 places paid, and a top prizer on the schedule of $61,796 (I was on a table with a guy the other night who said he was in a 16-way chop at the end of one of them last weekend, with each player taking home over $10,000 on a $235 investment). Overflow from the Derepstack led to tables being set up in hallways a few hundred feet from the tournament area, practically up at the registration area of the Rio.

I’ve been up and a little down in the tournament. Currently, I was down to between 10,000 and 11,000 chips, with blinds at just 100/200, so I have 50 big blinds. Our table has just four of its original players remaining (including myself). There are three New York/New Jersey guys in seats 1, 3, and 4. There’s a woman in seat 2. All are what I think of as “older” but they’re probably only ten or fifteen years older than me. All of them seem to be pretty competent and have won good-sized pots. The guy in seat 1 just won an enormous pot that took out three players a few minutes earlier. I’m in seat 6.

Seat 5 is a South American guy who sat down for his first hand, made a raise UTG, then folded it after four all-ins, which is what led to the three open seats. Seats 7 and 9 are occupied by a couple of younger European guys who showed up after the all-ins. Seat 7 has proven aggresive and already managed to lose some chips to Seat 1 after winning a pot or two.

Anyway, the button is on me, and I pick up KK. The blinds are on the Euroguys (I saw the funniest Euroguy at the Venetian the other day: he had sort of shaved-side head with a peroxide mop thing on top, and a white ski jacket with a neck that made him look like he was wearing a brace or some sort of medieval gorget). Seat 1 raises to 450 and gets 2 callers, I don’t remember who, exactly. I re-raise to 2,100 with my kings. The blinds are out. Seat 1 three-bets to 4,500 and the other callers go away.

I’m pretty certain at this point that I’m up against aces. It’s going to cost me just less than half my stack to see if I can hit a set on the flop and make life difficult for him. There’s 7,800 in the pot, I need to call 2,400. 3.25:1. I can recover from 6,500.

The flop puts out three spades, none of them the ace, none of them face cards. Seat 1 goes all-in and, having just taken out three players plus other winnings, he’s got me well-covered. There’s now 16,700 in the pot. 2.5:1 to call.

If he’s got aces—and I’m pretty sure he does—there’s a 50% chance that he doesn’t have A. If he doesn’t, I’m still behind, but have a lot of outs to make my flush; even A would be dead to him unless the board paired. If he does have A, then I’m drawing incredibly thin, hoping for K or K and no more spades.

Is he bluffing me? Or is he sucking me in?

Sucking in, as it turned out. He had me beat before the fourth (and fifth) spade turned over on the board. No straight flush, unfortunately.

Hard and Fast

Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee (T10,000)

I got to the club a little late, but still in the first round of the button at position 5. Didn’t play a hand until the button passed again and then boy, did I play a hand.

From CO, I called a raise to 200 from UTG with JT that only two players didn’t call. The flop came out AKQ. Action checked to UTG and he bet 1,000. The players between us folded and I announced I was moving my entire stack in. Without too much hesitation, BTN called, and everyone, including UTG folded. BTN turned over Q9 and we were off to a very short race, as another diamond hit the turn and I was drawing dead. A black king came on the river and UTG was lamenting laying down his KxQx.

I wasn’t completely out, I still had T200. The blinds were up to 50/100 by now, and I waited around for either a good hand or the right moment. No hand came, and figuring that at the very least, if I shoved UTG and got lucky, I’d maximize the gain from all the potential callers. I had 67, so it wasn’t the worst hand to try something with. I got a couple calls, then the player who’d folded KxQx (who’d jst had to re-buy) raised to 800, squelching potential further action. We were heads-up to the flop, he had KxAx. The flop stayed low, pairing me on the flop and giving me a straight by the river.

5xQx on my BB, there are several callers, including SB, but I’m more than prepared to give my blind up and keep looking for spots to build. The flop, however, changes my plans: QxJx6x. SB opens with a bet of 250 and I push my remaining 575 into the pot and turn my cards. He says “You’ve got me out-kicked” and flips 2xQx. A 9x on the turn makes it look like we’re going to chop things, then the river coughs up a deuce and the game comes to a quick, dirty end.

Ill-Timed

I keep going back to The Final Table despite the fact that the only time I’ve ever cashed there was in the Santa Bounty game last Christmas. My ITM there is truly horrible, unless you limit it to events with 50 or more players, and then my rate’s pretty much the same as it is anywhere else in town with 50 or more players. The only event I cashed in there, I made it to the final table of 131 players. These two games show a screw-up and just plain bad luck.

The Final Table $1,000 Guarantee (T7,000)

Started off with the extra T1,000 because I signed up on-time. Picked up KT UTG with a flush draw on the flop of A2A and hit my flush with 5 on the turn but it made a full house for my opponent who called with Ax5x.

Made a least flush on the flop with A3 and took down a T3,000 pot about twenty minutes into the game, then went up against KxQx with KxTx and top pair on the flop. We both drew down to four spades on the board, which kept the pot smaller since neither of us had one. I was holding T8,350 after that hand.

9T and I made a jack-high straight on the turn. I bet 650 and shoved over a re-raise to felt a player half-an-hour in. T12,150 and I got moved to a newly-opened table.

Forty minutes into the game, I called 1,600 early with JxTx. Two pair on the flop and a full house on the river and I tripled up against two all-ins. Then I lost T6,000 almost immediately as SB drawing for a flush with 35. QxTx made a full house on the turn. Three-quarters of an hour into the game and I was still sitting on T28,125, with the chip average at just T7,655.

Kicked myself a bit for folding Jx6x when I would have double-paired on the flop and hit a river boat in a hand with two players all-in.

Played JxQx and raised to 600, calling a re-raise to 1,800 pre-flop, then folding to an all-in on the 3x3x[x] flop. Down to T24,800.

Lost several thousand with Q7 against 8x9x on a flop of 6x7x8x. I had trips on the turn, but a Tx river card made his straight.

Ten minutes later, I lost more than half my stack with KxKx again, calling an all-in against pocket sixes that made a set on the flop. I went into the break with just T7,825. The add-on more than doubled me up.

I called with 74 and hit the 9x7x6x flop lightly. I bet 1,100 and got a call then hit my 4x on the turn and managed to get an all-in called to take it down with two pair. That put me back up to T27,700, with the average at T17,733.

Raised to 1,000 from UTG2 with A9. The flop was 727 and I folded to a 2,500 bet.

Two hours in on BB with Q3 and the flop was all diamonds. I called the bets down to the river to see another diamond and bet 2,300 to win without a showdown.

T33,525 at two hours and five minutes.

Raised with AT to 1,200 and got four calls. Everyone checked it to the river which turned up a king. The BB won.

I raised to 1,500 from CO with QT and got an uncomfortable Ax96 flop, then folded to a 2,500 bet.

My next BB I had AxKx and re-raised to 3,800 from 800, getting an all-in from SB, which I called. He had 9x9x, the flop was AxJx[8] and the rest of the cards didn’t matter.

Two-and-a-half hours in and I was up to T34,450. Then I lost a chunk with J5 against KxQx. I was ahead on the JxAx8x flop but running tens gave him Broadway. Ten minutes later, my stack was at T28,800 (average T26,600), there were 20 players left, with 17 re-buys and 29 add-ons.

With 45 from BB, I saw a Kx2x2x flop then called a bet of 3,200 after the five on the turn. Another 1,200 went down the hole calling 1,200 on the river six. I was out soon after with Ax9x against KxKx.

Three hours. 17th of 33 players.

Falling Out of Orbit

Wildhorse Spring 2012 Poker Round-Up Super Satellite #1 (4,000 chips)

Poker Mutant is sad. After promising myself that I was going to play this event very ABC, I managed to screw it up and go all-in before the first break.

I took the poison pot with a small raise right off the bat, then played mostly quality hands, managing to pick up some chips with an early AxAx then a set of fives and then losing some hands when I folded after uncooperative flops. I was skating down around 3,000 chips about an hour into the game when I was on BB with seven players in the hand and 69. Two clubs and a six on the flop held me in through the river when I made my flush, and the number of people in the pot from the start made it big enough I was up over 5,000 by the time it was done.

I think I started getting a little squirrelly when I found myself calling a post-flop all-in from a shorter-stacked player that would have cost me about two-thirds my chips if I was wrong. I counted it out and pushed in the chips, he flipped over AxQx and so did I, so we split the few hundred chips in the pot from the blinds and earlier callers.

My last hand went wrong when I bet 1,200 post-flop with AxJx. The flop was Ax4x5x. Two players got out of the way, but a player who’d been moved from a broken table just a few hands earlier put out enough ping 500 chips to put me all-in. I called, and he flipped over the AxQx, which held through the turn (4x) and river (2x). That was the last hand before the break.

Ninety minutes. 171 entries, 35 players receiving tickets to the Main Event.

This Is Not My Beautiful Full House

Encore Club $25,000 Guarantee Freezeout (12,000 chips)

My best results in tournaments have been at Encore, and I was hoping this game would give my bankroll a little boost before the summer tournament season got into high gear. But like the last Encore $25K, I was gone early.

I quickly lost 450 playing 6xTx, hitting the ten as the high card on the flop and going up against AxTx. Just fifteen minutes into the game, I called 600 with JxTx and folded to a bet and eventual all-ins on the 4x9x3x flop. Kx turn card was the one the eventual winner wanted to see, because it gave him a higher set than the 9x9x of the original bettor, but Qx on the river would have made my straight the best hand.

I stuck it out to the end with straight and flush draws on 58 but didn’t get there, and twenty minutes into the game I was already down to 9,300. I slid another 1,100 down the drain with Ax2x drawing to a wheel.

Ax2x on BTN lost me chips again when I two pairs came on the board but my opponent made a full house with a full house. Half an hour and I was nearly 5,000 chips.

Finally, I won a pot with KT, hitting two diamonds and a ten-high flop, with another diamond on the turn, gaining about 2,000 chips.

I bided my time and lost the ground I’d regained with a missed nut flush draw and A9. Then I busted a short(er) stack with 8x8x against AxQx, turned around and lost 1,200 on the next hand calling with Jx9x. I hit middle pair but folded to a post-flop bet. Even with the knockout I only had 8,725 chips just before the first hour ended.

Right on the hour mark, I was BB and picked up KxKx. There was a raise and several calls ahead of me but I wanted to get value and just called. Unfortunately, while the flop gave me top set, it was entirely diamonds. A player at the other end of the table bet 1,000, SB called, and I shoved with about 7,500 left, hoping that I might scare off a weak flush or flush draw, or that I could catch a board pairing to make my full house. The original post-flop bettor folded but SB called with A9, the last two cards didn’t pair the board, and I was out on the hour.

One hour. Alternates were still being seated.

The Final Table $1,000 Guarantee (7,000 chips)

I took the poison pot on the first hand with 5x7x, making two pair by the turn. I bet 200 and got two calls. Two queens rolled out on the turn and river, counterfeiting my fives, but my two pair was still the best and I won.

Called 250 pre-flop with J8 and called the re-raise to 450 but with a 9x8x6x flop I folded to the next bet.

A 3x4x in the BB made it to the flop and paired the four. Suited cards started to show up and by the river I had a baby flush with the trey. A small bet seemed to be enough for everyone else, because I won. All that, and a dozen minutes into the game I was up a grand total of 300 chips.

Then I got KxJx and blew 1,150 drawing for a queen to make Broadway, putting me down 900 from the starting stack twenty minutes in.

With 5x5x in SB, I called a 150 bet post-flop but folded after the turn when there were four overs. I got a little of it back with KxJx, betting at a Jx2x2x flop. I was sliding, though, with 6,050 at the half-hour mark, and 5,650 five minutes later.

With J2, I called a pre-flop raise to 250 along with three others. The flop was Ax3xAx and I bet at it, bluffing everyone off the hand.

Called a 250 raise with 36 and got an open-ended straight draw with a flop of Kx4x5x. Went out on a limb calling a post-flop re-raise of 1,750 but was rewarded with a 2x on the turn. I shoved and was called by Kx8x, which finally put me over the starting stack again, with 13,750 at 50 minutes into the game.

Taking notes on that hand, I didn’t notice action come around to me on the next as BTN and I was flustered enough by the two all-ins ahead of me that when I looked at AxKx I folded it rather than get into what looked to be a bloody battle. I figured it was likely a couple of players had aces, I would have been putting most of my stack (if not all) at risk, so I thought not. I should have throughout it through, better, though. As it was, none of the players had premium hands, none of them had anything higher than a king, and it was a pair of kings in the hand of the guy I’d just doubled up against that took the pot. I’d had all three stacks covered. My ace kicker would have taken out three players. Another instance of failing to pull the trigger.

I called 1,100 with Qx9x but folded it to a post-flop bet, then put in another 825 on K3 to call a raise and had to fold to 2 all-in pre-flop bets.

Raised to 600 from BTN with A3 and got called by the blinds to see a 8x7xQx flop. A bet of 700 won the pot and put me at 12,700 just past the one-hour mark. Then I lost just about everything with 8T when my eight paired the top card on the board and I fell to a set of fives. I was done in when AxTx called my all-in with AxJx.

One hour and twelve minutes. 21st of 27 entries.

Fooling Around In Omaha

Portland Players Club Player of the Month High Hand Jackpot (7,000 chips)

I made four-of-a-kind with a hand in March at PPC, which got me an extra 1,000 bonus for this game. With the 3,000 pre-add-on, I was starting with 11,000 chips.

Picked up a free note-taking tool for my iPhone called MomentDiary which I came to like quite a lot during this tournament. The plan was to try it out at the Poker Pro Challenge but their ban on electronic devices kept me from using it. The great thing about it for poker notation is that it timestamps each entry. Haven’t found a way to batch delete a bunch of notes yet, though; I made more than 75 notes in tournaments on April Fool’s Day.

Won the first hand with Jx8x, hitting a straight on the flop. One of the other players said it was the “poison pot” and maybe it was (as you’ll see).

Almost immediately after that, I picked up KxKx but was smart enough to lay it down early on a board that was turning into a straight that left me just out of the mix. The winner made quad tens by the river, although it didn’t actually go to showdown.

I more than made up for that fold playing 45 and hitting a 7-high straight on the flop. I called and pushed on seat 9 and took several thousand chips from him at showdown when all he had was AxAx.

My next hand was 4x4x on BTN and I would have bet it but CO discarding accidentally flipped a four over and I just folded instead of hoping the case card would show on the flop to make me a set. That saved me a couple hundred at least; the board was far too high to make a pair of fours happy.

Fifteen minutes into the game, I was up about 4,000 chips. I raised to 225 with 63, then called a 600 re-raise. After getting an inside straight draw on the flop I bet another 1,000 but had to fold to an all-in bet down the line.

Another 4x4x, this time on BB. SB raised to 700 pre-flop and I saw it with two other callers. The flop was 7x7x3x and I bet 1,000 after SB checked. People were guessing my hand and nobody was even close. When one guy guessed that I had a pair of eights, I said that I “had eight.”

Twenty minutes had passed since my last chip count and I was still at 15,125.

I raised to 300 with JxTx and made my straight on the river to pick up some more chips to put me at 16,775.

Lost a little ground with QxTx after raising to 425 and seeing the board run out 5x57x5x9x. Had to fold to a bet.

The Butcher QT messed me over for another 800 when I couldn’t get a king on the board to make Broadway.

Holding JT, I re-raised from 1,200 to 2,500 after a 9JQ flop but had to fold to an all-in. The winner showed AxA and the original raiser had non heart KxKx. At only about 19% chance to win, my fold was the right thing to do (I was well ahead of the kings) but I sure would have liked to see the rest of the board.

I was knocked back to 12,350, but managed to make a bunch on the last hand before the break with JxTx and another flopped straight (queen-high). By the time the counting was over, I was up to 17,350.

Starting back up after the break, I saw the flop as BB with 7x3x and had an inside straight  draw again. I bet 700 and everyone folded.

I folded myself after calling 300 with A7 and seeing an all-spade flop.

About twenty minutes into the second segment of the tournament I was holding 21,800, including the 5,000 add-on from the break.

I put out another 1,100 on Ax8x then folded along with several others after a short stack shoved for another 6,000. He showed 6T after he raked in his chips.

Another JxTx on BTN and I called a raise to 900 along with BB. I had top two pair on a flop with two diamonds. He bet 1,500 and I shoved to take the pot down.

Raised to 800 with JxTx just a couple minutes later as HJ and had to fold to all-in from CO, then called 1,400 with KxTx and hit top two pair on the flop. I bet 2,500 and got my opponent to fold. He showed AxQx.

My stack was up to 22,650. I was heavily invested in jack-ten combinations in this game and made two pair on the turn just a couple minutes later on a board with a potential Broadway straight on it. Pushing all-in on a 6,000 post-turn bet cost me over 16,000 when the other guy had the straight and I failed to hit a full house on the river. Down to 6,425.

Ten minutes later I pushed all-in with JxTx again after pairing the top card on the flop, ran into AxAx and didn’t improve.

Two hours and fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 28th of 41 entries.

Portland Players Club Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo (10,000 chips)

I don’t get to play nearly enough Omaha tournaments, and I’m a real sucker for the split-pot game. It’s definitely my preferred game over high-only. I’ve had some success with it in live limit cash games and had made the final table in a couple tournaments, but never managed to cash before this game. All I can say is it’s hard to take notes on.

Got a 1,000 chip bonus for this game for whatever reason, so I was starting with 11,000 on the table.

About ten minutes in, I played AxJx8x5x and made a Broadway straight on the turn with a heart flush draw on the board. A third heart came on the river, there was no low, and I ended up splitting the high with another player holding Broadway. No gain and a little loss from blinds; I was at 10,925 at fifteen minutes.

My 5x6x7x8x wrap completed an eight-high straight in a huge pot with two larger stacks all in over me. I took the high by myself, the main and side pot lows got quartered, and there was five minutes of bickering over what amounted to a 300 chip second side pot. At the half-hour mark, I was holding 22,350.

I called a raise to 1,100 pre-flop with Q75A, paired the five on the flop and called a bet of 1,025, then folded in the face of another 4-way all-in. Quad eights took the whole shebang.

I lost a big hand I didn’t manage to record, and was cut in half to 11,575 near the end of the first hour of play.

Then came the hand that changed everything. AK25 looked pretty good on the T73 flop and by the time 4 and 9 were also on the board, I had the nut flush for the high hand and a part of the low. With several players all-in (as usual) my stack jumped up to 50,325.

Even with the big stack, I added on for another 5,000 chips, one of the best decisions I made in this game, as you’ll see.

Just after the break, a Qx6x in my hand made me 5,000 when I improved a full house on a QxQx2x2x6x board. I lost a little ground on a straight draw, but was still at 58,100 one hundred minutes in.

The two largest stacks in the tournament were me and another player at my table, and we got into it with both tables five-handed. He pushed hard with a straight and full house draw but I hit quad nines and knocked him out, putting my stack up to 108,400 and more than a third of the chips in play.

Knocked out another player with Ax2x4x5x by making two pair for the high and scooping the low, then took a hand from PPC regular T with 5x5xAxKx, putting me up to 118,400.

By break 2, I’d hit 140,000.

A big pot with 2x2xJxQx made a set to grab the high and put me up to 160,500 as we approached three-hours of play. Then things got grim.

In less than ten minutes, I missed two draws for a Broadway straight and a flush that cost me a total of 22,500. Then I made a set of queens on a flop and called an all-in from B, who had KxQx and two pair. Another Kx on the turn made full houses for both of us but I was on the losing side of that one and was back down to  98,500 as we actually hit three hours.

Ten minutes later I was still bleeding chips and down to 74,500. I managed to take one hand and bet people off my flush, then lost with two pair against a full house and didn’t hit my low. I hit the same straight as a another player and chopped a pot that would have been nice to take in toto, then flopped another straight and was all-in but was outdrawn by a flush that took all but 6,000 of my chips. It was just twenty-five minutes since I’d had 58% of the chips in play and I was down to one big blind. If I had skipped buying the add-on at the first break, I’d probably have busted out already—at best I would have only had 1,000 chips.

The next ten minutes were a blur. I caught some amazing cards, including a couple of high pairs and and managed to double up at least three times. In eight minutes, I was back up to 84,000 chips, then I knocked out B short of the money and hit the last break with 102,000.

Not long after the break was over, we managed to get it down to heads-up. I was back on top with about a 40,000 chip advantage but we chopped the top two positions evenly and called the game at four hours.

Four hours. +272% ROI. Chopped 2 ways with 15 entries.

N Took My Chips

No, the Poker Mutant hasn’t gone into hibernation, although with a trip to the doctor and the snow and the vagaries of the work schedule, I haven’t had as much time to devote to updating the blog as I’d promised myself I would. There’s a half-finished article in my bag on the mathematics behind teams of players entering tournaments that I need to get done.

The day before my last post, I beat the rest of the field in my home league game, picking up some valuable points toward the Player of the Year prize of a WSOP buy-in. More importantly, since I’m still in second place and the season is drawing to an end, I knocked out KB—the current POY leader—before any of the other players, maximizing the value of the points I earned.

Ten dry days went by before I made another hit, this time in the morning free roll at Portland Players Club. There were six of us at the final table, and one player had about a third of the chips in play when a deal was made to give her a big chunk of the prize pool and split the rest. Not a lot of money but some profit.

I hadn’t played the Aces Players Club $5,000 guarantees on Fridays or Saturdays at noon before, but the results-oriented opinion is that I like them a lot. I was doing reasonably well by break two. The structure allows two re-buys, which can be purchased at any time in the first levels and stacked on top of each other, so it’s possible to enter the game with 30,000 in chips, akin to a Triple Barrel PLO game but where you have to pay for extra stacks. I just bought in once, but I was up to 38,100 at the second break, with the chip average several thousand lower than that.

I caught an incredible break about 45 minutes into the fourth hour after raising with KQ from middle position when a player in BB pushed all-in. I called and was heads-up  against AxAx and practical elimination, but another ace on the turn made Broadway for me and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as disgusted a look on a player’s face. It pushed my up to 89,500 chips (total chips in play after the add-on was 1.78 million).

I started knocking out players with things like A8 pairing the eight as the high card on an all-diamond flop. At the end of four hours there were only 30 of the original 70 or so entries and I was over 100,000 chips. Twelve places we’re scheduled to be paid.

A huge knockout half an hour in pushed me over 200,000 chips, and another at the five-hour mark meant 260,000. By break three we were only four from the money (two, once a decision to pay two bubbles was agreed on).

I lost a 60k chunk calling an all-in with AT on a 6x8x4x flop when Ax8x made it, but then knocked out two players at once with TxTx (which had been working well for me all game). I called two all-ins, they had KxQx and KxJx and none of the cards on the board were above a jack. I was sitting on a stack of 430,000 chips, about 23% of the chips in the game with 10 players left.

The final table bubble took a while to play out. After we consolidated, I lost a couple of calls for all-ins but made my way back both times until we were down to five players. After doubling another player up for over 100,000, I still had the chip lead, but agreed to an even chop so I could get to the $10K at Encore. I think the stack below is about 600,000 chips. The full stacks are ten-high, the yellow are 25,000, the gray are 10,000, the red are 5,000 and the pink are 1,000.

Over at Encore, I got into the game shortly before the end of the second level (I hate coming in late). I’d forgotten that the levels are longer and that I could have bought in for another hour, or I might have played out the Aces game to the end. Something to consider but I still hate coming in late.

I got off to a good start right off the bat, pushing up over 16,000 in short order, then got cut down by N (who told me the other day he thought he played like a pro—although I thought at first he said “fool”—then again he spent part of another game one day trying to convince people I was Howard Lederer’s cousin) who rivered a flush against my paired AxKx. With  4,900 left, I managed to chip up a little bit until I hit two pair playing 86 and N hit a straight with 79 on the river. No re-buys!

Plays Well With Others

Aces Players Club Noon $1,500 Guarantee

Finally sat down for lunch with MH, who I’d met at Aces originally last spring, passing around comparisons of the blind structure progressions of the big summer tournament series in Las Vegas. I hadn’t meant to play anything today, but since I’d won a game last night, his talk of playing the noon game at Aces was appealing.

I was in BB right off the bat at table 1, but started going on a tear. A player MH had been telling me had an 85% cash rate was in seat 1 and I called a big raise from him pre-flop with 46. The flop gave me four to a straight on the top, and a 5x on the turn gave me the bottom end. He’d tried to shake me off with a bet on the flop but I raised him all-in after I hit the straight and he folded with a bit of a speech about how I was a tight player (apparently, he doesn’t read the blog) and he didn’t think I’d have the six. I probably should have mucked it, but I showed my hand, then he mumbled something about how he was going to get my chips first. He got moved to another table not long after I took some more chips off him.

I busted several players before the break with mostly less-than-stellar hands, except for QxQx where I called against two all-in stacks who both flipped over AxTx. My pair held and not long before the break I was over 27,000 chips.

With about five minutes to go before the add-on, though, I picked up AxJx and got involved in a hand with two smaller all-ins, the smallest of which was QxQx and the (much) larger with AxKx. After the bloodbath was over, I was down to only 5,000.

The second set of rounds did me remarkably well, however, and I chipped back up speedily. The guy from seat 1 got moved back to the same position, MH got stuck in-between us, and another player I knew well was seated on the far end. I survived a couple table consolidations, down past two tables, then got caught out with KxJx on a straight draw by a slightly larger stack calling my all-in.

Two hours and forty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 15th of 39 players.

Pulling the Trigger

A Saturday chop at Encore sent me into a scramble to catch the tail end of the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza I, in the hopes of chipping up my couple of thousand to something bigger. Obligations at home kept me from taking off until Wednesday night, so I missed the a couple of games I would have liked to play—like the $460 Big Bounty and $350 PLO/PLO8 game on Tuesday—but I caught an afternoon flight and made it down to Las Vegas, finally getting into the hotel about 9pm, then having to wait in line for half an hour to check in.

I was far too late for the last entry stage of the 7pm $175 daily tournament by the time I dumped my stuff off in my room at the Imperial Palace, but I figured I’d wander up to see where the tournament area had been moved, in The Palazzo, then figure out what to do. It was about a fifteen or twenty-minute walk from the IP, depending on how fast you were going and how many people were on the street. I briefly considered playing the 10pm, but figured I’d rather be rested for the noon $350, so I just bought my ticket and wandered back to The Venetian to see what I could find in the way of a cash game. Nothing open but Hold’em; I put my name on the board for the 1-2 PLO (I figured it would be practice for the Triple Barrel tournament) and 1-2 Big ‘O’, since the waits for Omaha8 were exceedingly long. Then I sat. And sat. Finally, just before midnight, I was called for Big ‘O’, which I’d played in tournaments but never for more than a single hand in a dealer’s choice cash game. Just after I sat down, my name came up for PLO and I stupidly gave it up, then proceeded to bust out of the Big ‘O’ game in about ten minutes. At least I got a few hands of poker in for the day. Went back to the IP and got a few hours of sleep after that.

Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 27 $350 No Limit Hold’em

No surprise, but all of the DSE merchandise was gone by the middle of the last week. I got my food voucher and headed early to me seat.

We started off with 12,000 chips in this tournament. The players were pretty sparse in the first minutes, and most of the early birds looked like they were older than me. The “Internet kids” weren’t there yet. Are there still Internet kids in the post-Black Friday American poker scene?

Played Q4 on my second hand and made Broadway on the turn to take in a pot of nearly 5,000 chips, then lost ground on a flush draw that knocked me below 13,000.

AxQx. Play it or not? According to PokerListings, Daniel Negreanu’s nickname for the hand was “1.4”, based on how many millions of dollars he’d lost on it. It didn’t cost me that much but it took pre-flop raises by AxKx and KxKx in close succession to get me bak as high as 10,000 chips. Just to show I hadn’t learned my lesson, I made top pair with AxQx shortly after that, but my top pair didn’t look good in the face of four to a straight on the board.

With one exception (see later) my back always seems to be toward tournament clocks, no matter where I’m playing, and this time was no exception. Time wasn’t going to be on my side either way, with me going too far out on a limb with 9x9x and a board with two overs. I was right in figuring my opponent hadn’t hit the board with two over cards to my pair, but I was wrong about his hand strength: KxKx. THat took me down to 7,000 chips.

Another misstep with A2 dropped me down to 5,000 when AxAx came calling. Lost some more with what I’m calling the “mini-Butcher” (Qx9x) against 8x8x, then called a re-raise with QxJx and found myself with just 2,650 about an hour and forty minutes in.

I raised with KxJx and found myself with a gutshot straight on the flop, hitting the queen I needed on the turn and going all-in to win a pot of 2,000 chips. That pushed me up to 3,600. Another KxJx cost me when I had to lay down or go all in after the turn with an up-and-down straight draw. Shortly before the break, I shoved with A6 and got a call from AxKx but pulled out a flush and doubled to 4,825.

After the break,the first hand I folded Tx7x on BTN—usually something I’d play from that position as long as the cost of entry wasn’t too big—then I watched my 9x6x8x roll out on the flop. Fifteen minutes after the end of break, I was all-in with AT after a 9xAx9x flop and got one call, but it only made up ground I’d been losing, putting me just under 5,000 chips.

UTG with 4x4x, I called a raise to 800 and got a flop with all diamonds. I didn’t have one and folded to a post-flop bet. My last hand was against 4x4x. My AxJx went nowhere and I was out.

Two hours and forty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 220th of 278 players. $80,481 prize pool.

Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 28 $350 Triple Barrel Pot Limit Omaha

The Triple Barrel format gives you 4,000 in chips and two lammers worth 4,000 chips each that can be put into play at any time prior to the end of the first break. I’d first seen the Triple Barrel format on television during the 2011 WSOP Heads-Up Championship match between Jake Cody and Yevgeniy Timoshenko. Between that and the fact that I only have limited experience in PLO, I was chalking this one up to a learning experience.

My neighbor to my right took the big stack strategy, electing to start off with 12,000 chips. I stuck with my small stack, although I think he may have had a better idea of what he was doing than me. Regardless of my inexperience, I was the first person at the table to win a pot after four straight take-downs by the woman in seat nine. On her first pot, the older guy on my left says something about her scooping the pot. I think he’s making a joke, but an hour into the game several of us are talking and he says it took a while for him to realize that we weren’t playing Hi-Lo, because there weren’t any qualifying lows on the board.

I lost my first stack about forty-five minutes in, with two pair and a straight draw against a lower straight draw who called my repot raise and caught his card on the river.

Fifteen minutes into the second barrel and it was down to 2,575 as well. Then I had nut flush and open-ended straight draws on the flop and three of us went all in. I tripled up to 8,150 chips, which combined with my remaining lammer put me ahead of the starting stack, slightly.

I folded out post-flop with an up-and-down draw with lots of action developing. The 3x on the river would have made my straight and won the pot for me. I was down a bit, but hit a set of sixes and bet the pot to win a hand. I still had 7,500 and a lammer. Once again, the tournament clock was behind me.

Just about two hours in and I had two pair on the flop, but running kings on the turn and river don’t make them look so good and I have to lay my chips down, which drops me to 2,400 and a bullet. I cash in my lammer at the break and have just 8,950 chips left.

During the break, one of the guys at my table mentions that a player at the other end is WSOP bracelet-winner Eric Baldwin. And Eli Elezra‘s at the next table over.

I’m starting to run on fumes, though. I have two pair and am good to the turn, but I can’t shake the big stack next to me and he sticks through to the river to catch a better two pair, leaving me with just 4,125.

Half-an-hour after the break, my doom awaits. I try to lay a trap holding the king-high flush on the flop and check, then call a raise from the big stack on my right that put me all-in against a full house. Before I left, I got confirmation from the big stack that his ideal strategy for Triple Barrel is to cash out at the beginning. And get great cards.

Three hours and thirty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 42nd of 66 players. $19,107 prize pool.

Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 28 $120 Nightly No Limit Hold’em

I went and had dinner, then wandered back to the IP to lick my wounds and call Ms. Poker Mutant. I avoided the Venetian cash room after my Big ‘O’ drubbing of the night before, and made it back to The Palazzo in time for the 10pm $120 tournament. Half the field of 106 was gone already in the 7pm $175 tournament after just three hours.

The vibe at the night table was very different from the afternoon games. There’d been plenty of talking and jokes at both the earlier tournaments—everyone had a pretty good laugh with the guy who told everyone he’d started the PLO game thinking it was PLO8—but the woman who sat in seat 1 at my table called over to a friend at the next table that they were playing for “Strip club money, baby!” And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game. She was gone in relatively short order, but a friend of hers who I shall refer to as The Ape, got sat a spot from my left, then proceeded to shove all-in with Kx2x over a couple of raises, only to bust out, buy back in, and sit down at the other table.

Meanwhile, I’d played 85 and made top pair on the flop but let a guy get to the river who was trying to bet me off. He caught his ace on the river and thirty-five minutes in I was down to 4,600 from the starting stack of 8,000.

Fifteen minutes later, I picked up QxQx on BTN and am hoping for some major action. Instead, everyone folds to me, I raise and one of the blinds comes along. Another queen shows on the flop and I make a small raise and the blind folds, gaining me only 500 chips.

A8 made middle pair and I kept betting, which eventually won me the hand and put my stack up to 6,450. A loss knocked me down to 5,125 by seventy-five minutes, then an attempt to protect my button but me down to 3,950.

At least I could see the tournament clock. The 10pm seems to be the bastard child of the Deep Stack Extravaganza, so we got a kitchen timer.

On the break, I checked around the other tournaments still running at 11:30pm. The Triple Barrel had 12 players left, there were only 29 of the 7pm players still in. And there were still 29 in from the noon $350 game.

The Ape had busted out of the game again and been moved back to the same seat he’d been in before. He actually accumulated some chips this time, but he seemed to have a beef with the guy on his left. He claimed to have a “last-longer” bet with one of his other friends in the tournament, the value of which started off at $2,000, then changed at some point to $1,000. Top prize was only about $950, and I was wishing that they’d take their strip club money and head out.

Once action was going again, middle pair and 48 worked for me, then I picked up a couple more hands, which put me in a position where I could fold a raise of 1,000 holding AQ to an all-in and still have 12,225 chips left. Then A7 making a flush on the flop after I raised to 800 pre-flop and got two calls. A 1,500 bet post-flop scared them away.

I’ve never called a clock on anyone in my life before, but The Ape got into a Phil Hellmuth-like tirade with the guy on his left, going on about how he’d promised to tell him “a story.” It went on and on, with everyone at the table seeming to be wishing they (or he) were anywhere else. The floor seemed to be very reluctant to actually put the clock in play; apparently The Ape is a regular player. A little later, when he was busted out, he just sat there for a couple minutes and the table was completely silent.

Two and a quarter hours in, I lost some ground with a suited JxTx when I missed an up-and-down straight and flush draw. I still had over 10,000 chips, but the blinds were getting large. Half and hour later, they’d chopped me down to 7,200.

I’d just gone through the blinds on table 2 when the final table was made and I got stuck just ahead of the blinds again. I had nothing playable, and was down to 5,100 chips when I was on the button again.

I was UTG and about to hit the blinds again at 800/1,600/100 when I looked down at QxQx. Naturally, I was all in, and just as naturally, not too many people were concerned about calling my stack of about 4,500 chips. Two callers: one with AxKx and the other with 4x4x. The ace hit on the flop and I was done for the day.

Three hours. -100% ROI. 8th of 24 players.

Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 27 $560 No Limit Hold’em

I headed over to The Palazzo for breakfast Friday morning in my suit and tie, then wandered over the bridge to The Wynn to look around. Nothing but expensive shops. I tried to find an alternative route back, but the valet would have none of it, steering me back to the bridge.

Feeling a little thirsty after my excursion, I stepped into the Grand Lux Cafe to have a Diet Coke that was indeed “lux” at $3.51 for a 20 oz. bottle. As I was on my way out, one of the guys at the counter asked me where I’d gotten my shoes. I told him Portland was crawling with Nike outlets and mentioned that I’d gotten them because 2 and 3 were my favorite pair of cards, a little joke I’d thought of earlier in the morning.

I got the security guard near the dragon in the Palazzo gallery to take my picture in full regalia for the day, and when I sat down early for the $560 got to chatting with the dealer and told her my joke about playing that day because I was suited. She laughed and said that was an original one to her, which made me happy. Also, 15,000 in chips.

My first hand in the match, I had A2 UTG and folded after three clubs came on the flop. Another suited ace just a couple minutes later (A5) on the BB made the middle pair and I won with 5s and 7s and the ace kicker. Up to 18,050 less than 10 minutes in.

I lost some ground fishing for a flush with A[td,][then][played][A3 because of the joke about the shoes and caught a pair of threes and a flush draw. I re-raised post-flop by 4,000 chips and ended up beating KxJx with the pair.

Twenty minutes in, and I was up by nearly 6,000 chips.

Just past the half-hour mark, I have Ax7x and see a 7x7x9x flop. There are two raises ahead of me and I pop it to 4,000. Seat 1 goes all-in, the players between us get out, and I call. He has 6x7x, I have him covered, and my kicker holds. He’s out.

Almost immediately, my KxJx makes a straight and I take another big pot. I’m up to 47,000 chips forty minutes into the match.

With KxQx, I call a pre-flop three-bet of 2,400 and hit the up-and-down straight draw, then shove and take the pot. Then The Butcher (QxTx) hits a flush draw and I semi-bluff everyone off that pot. Eighty minutes in and I’m over 54,000 chips.

I lose several thousand trying for an inside straight draw with 89. Down to 52,450 with the chip average at 17,250 at one hour and forty-five minutes.

I’d read a section in an article on the way down about amateur players who get big stacks in large tournaments having a tendency to rein in their play for fear of losing their chip advantage. And despite the fact that I’d read that just two days prior, it’s exactly what I did here and—more importantly—in another hand in this tournament. I’ve described what happened here to a couple of people who say that my actions don’t sound like me, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying they’re not what I would normally do.

I was on BTN with A5 and called a raise to 450 just past the two hour mark. SB went all in for 6,500, getting two callers. None of them had much more than the starting stack, but I folded, only to watch a straight to the six roll out on the flop. A pair won the hand; I could have potentially knocked out three players.

At the break, I had 48,775 chips. A few late comers put the number of entries up to 222, with a prize pool of $107,115 and a top prize of $25,709 with 27 paid.

I took down to hands in a row with spade flush draws and raises post-flop and was back over 50,000 fifteen minutes after the break was over.

My biggest mistake came at the three hour mark. The player who’d won the hand where I folded the straight was later pointed out to me as Randy Dorfman. I had 6x6x and got to the flop of 5x6x7x. I was pleased, but we checked it around to the A turn, which put two diamonds on the board. A player to my right raised, I re-raised to 7,000, then Dorfman shoved all-in for another 20,000 chips. The initial raiser went all-in for less, and in the face of a flush draw or a made straight, I folded, even though if I’d lost, I still would have had more than the average stack. Dorfman flipped over 5x5x for the lesser set and the other player shoed a couple of diamonds, but no diamond on the river meant Dorfman took the pot. It was a good bet, but the old Poker Mutant would never have folded that set.

I called a small all-in ten minutes later with KT, got two other callers, and hit trip kings by the river to make up some ground. 61,000 chips with the average at 21,000.

I stuck to another pair of sixes (66) that made a club flush on the turn. It wasn’t a great flush, but it was good enough to put me over 65,000.

Lost 5,000 with 6T and middle pair on the flop, but still had nearly three times the average stack of 22,000.

About an hour after he picked off my winning sixes, Dorfman got chopped down trying to get fancy with the player on my left, who I believe was this guy, making someone other than me the table chip leader for the first time in a couple of hours. Dorfman busted out almost immediately to another player on my end of the table.

With two large rival chip stacks on left, I didn’t have quite the free reign I’d had before. I lost 14,000 on a flush draw that cut me down to 50,000 before the second break. We had 102 players to go before the money.

I got very lucky in SB with J8 about four hours and forty-five minutes in. The flop hits 868. I check, a guy after me bets 1,800, and I shove way over his stack. He thinks for a bit then calls with 6x9x and just a couple of outs. I win and have about 90,000 chips.

I called an all-in by the player who knocked out Dorfman with Qx9x and a gutshot straight to the king. The hole in the straight fills in on the river, but the J also completes a flush for my opponent and he doubles.

My suited Ax2x loses in a flush draw next when KxQx makes a set. I’m down to 57,000.

The stack I doubled up is now larger than me. I have the bottom end of a four-card straight on the board and push, but he has the top end and knocks me out in 119th place.

Five hours and fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 119th of 222 players.

I had another day before I was scheduled to return to Portland, but I decided to husband the last bit of my winnings from the Encore game and headed back to the IP, got my reservation bumped up a day, then hightailed it to the airport and home to start building up for the next attempt. If I can manage it, I want to hit The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles for Winnin’ o’ the Green series mid-month, possibly with a trip to the WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon north of San Diego.

I Was Suited

A suited Poker Mutant at The Palazzo, Las Vegas for the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza I, 17 February 2012

I’d already been planning to write this article later this week. but then the great Mike Caro published a column in Poker Player, so I’m addressing it before I get to my second go-round at the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza.

It’s the standard joke when a player—often on the short stack—busts out when they go all-in with mid-level suited connectors or gaps. I think I’ve heard it in almost every tournament I’ve played, the (sometimes) suppressed chortle from one player to another that: “They probably played it because it was suited.”

Now, I can’t claim to know what those people were thinking—and far be it from me to joust with someone like Caro over poker statistics—but I have my own rationale based on statistical analysis of hundreds of thousands of hands at various numbers of players.

Anyone around a poker table will be happy to tell you that suited cards are only a few percent more likely to win than unsuited cards. That’s absolutely true, but let’s look at what that means in real life before we get too dismissive. In a nine-handed showdown to the river, a hand like 8To loses 87.47% of the time. That means it either wins the pot or ties for and splits the pot 12.53%. The same combination suited loses 84.42%. It wins or ties 15.58%. Now, if you’re looking at raw numbers, you see that as a mere 3.05% difference.

What you need to take into account in hand selection pre-flop is the relative strength of the hand to other potential hands. And when you stack up 8Ts against 8To, what you get is a hand that’s 24% more likely to win or tie (15.58% divided by 12.53% = 124%). That’s what that 3% difference means. So if you’re going to play something like JT, wouldn’t you rather play it suited (wins/ties 19.32%) over unsuited (wins/ties 15.92%)? That’s a 20% differential in the strength of the hand you’re starting with, i.e. if you’re playing JT at all, you’re 20% better off playing it suited than unsuited.

Caro’s analysis of the unsuitability of suited cards relies heavily on how likely it is that the cards will make a flush, which is the presumed rationale for playing suited cards. My analysis isn’t based on relying on the chance of a flush, rather the chance of a flush is a modifier to the pre-flop starting strength of the hand, in the decision to play it.

As Caro points out: “there are two chances to make a flush when you hold unsuited cards. … You have about a 6.5 percent chance of ending up with a flush (including a straight flush) when you begin suited and stubbornly stay to see the river. You have a bit less than a two percent chance if your cards are of mixed suits.” Using Caro’s numbers, if you view this in relative terms, you’re 225% more likely to get a flush with suited cards than you are with unsuited cards. That’s in addition to whatever pair, set, straight, or full house possibilities you might have picked up on the flop and turn. The number’s still small, but every slight advantage can count in poker.