Something About Aces

Won my first tournament of the year today (well, chopped it, anyway).

It was a low-stakes freeroll, I bought the optional add-on at registration, so I’d started off with T4,000 about forty minutes into the game and blinds at 100/200. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many suited connectors and one-gappers in my life, and I played a few without getting anywhere, then managed to back into two flushes that netted me large numbers of chips. By the break, I had more than T18,000 and didn’t bother to do he add-on.

The pivotal hand for me came while we were still at two tables, with about a dozen players. A young player with a big stack was moved over and he shoved over my mid-position raise. I had 7x7x, and thought he was shoving with AxKx (a common mistake, for me), but he turned over the pair: AxAx. He had my T26,000 covered, so I more than doubled when a straight landed on the river.

In situations like this, there’s always muttering about “two-outers”, but the reality is different. Against mid-range pair,s aces have about a 20% chance of being cracked, heads-up. With five cards to come, the simpler calculations of odds for post-flop odds are useless, and it’s much smarter to take the line that while an 80% hand is very strong, it’s still got a decent chance of losing.

Another Round

Carbon Poker Super Bowl Pick-the-Winner $5,000 Freeroll

All you had to do to get an entry into this freeroll was to pick the winner of the Super Bowl, and since I know nothing about sports I figured I had a 50/50 chance of getting a ticket. The early buzz I’d heard had the Giants as the underdogs, so I picked them, figuring that the field might be smaller if more folks were choosing the likely winner. And New York won, so I got my ticket.

Amazingly enough, for a freeroll with a $1,300 first prize, the game wasn’t even half full. The four-times-daily $200 freerolls on Merge have fields of 5,000—even the HORSE tournament gets more than 2,000 every day—but this event was capped at 2,000 and only had 712 entries. Either it wasn’t advertised very well (although I saw it) or everybody picked the Patriots.

This game followed a typical trajectory for me: a zoom to the top, followed by a crashing defeat.

My first success (A on the graphic) came just five hands in, with the hand known here in Portland as “The Butcher”: TQ (not specifically those two cards, but any QT combo). I was in CO and raised to 50 after one limper. The BB and limper came along. The 94J flop gave me the open-ended straight draw, and after a bet of 160 from the limper I just called in position. BB folded. The 8 turn card made my nut straight. The limper bet into it for 480 and I shoved for 1,760, which he called leaving only 30 behind. He was drawing dead, with JK for just top pair. If he’d been suited in hearts, I would have been gone with the A on the river, but instead I picked up a pot of 4,000 chips, double the starting stack. I was tournament chip leader.

Two hands later as UTG3 (B), I snagged TT. UTG 2 raised to 70, I re-raised to 220. BTN called, the blinds folded, UTG2 shoved. Both UTG2 and BTN were below the starting stack value; if I lost with my pocket pair I’d just be at starting stack again. I went all-in and BTN was all-in, showing 9J. UTG2 had two overs to my pair: AQ, and was statistically slightly favored over me (41% v 38%) with the third player involved (who had a 21% chance). The flop was mercifully low: 574. Another 7 broke the possibility of a backdoor diamond flush, then a 3 on the river solidified my knockout of both players. At 7,680 chips, I was the tournament leader on hand seven.

It only lasted a short time. On hand 15 (C) I had KJ in HJ. Action folded to me, I raised to 75, CO re-raised to 240, the blinds got out of the way, and I called. The flop was perfect: 4KJ. I was ahead of aces. I checked to see how much he’d commit and he bet 393. I shoved way over the top for 7,710 and he called off the rest of his stack for a total of 2,210, showing that he did indeed have AA. I was 69% good. Until the A on the turn, of course. Then I was drawing dead. Still, I was in the top chip stacks in the tournament, with 5,500, nearly three times the start, just ten minutes in.

I lost a little ground for a while after that setback, going as low as 3,650 chips over the next thirty-five hands. Then I got 97 in UTG1 (D) and raised to 120. HJ called me and we were heads-up at the flop. 9T3 gave me middle pair and I bet 250, getting a call. 8 turn set me up for another straight draw and I bet 600 into the 830 pot. HJ shoved for 2,551. I really didn’t think he’d hit the board; I risked all but 1,300 chips to make the call and see his 55. He was drawing pretty thin. The river was 6, which actually made my straight, unnecessary as it was. I was back in contention, although not in the uppermost chip ranks.

Another fifty hands went by before I made another jump (E). It came in a series of three hands about an hour and fifteen minutes into the game. Blinds were 100/200, I was UTG1 with 57 and limped after a fold from UTG. HJ limped, but BTN pushed all-in for 1,880. The blinds folded. I had both the all-in and the other limper covered by about 4,000 chips. I didn’t figure the limper would enter the action after me, so I called. The limper folded and I was heads-up against JA. Isn’t the Mutant jack my hand? It appeared as if it was, because right away there was a flush draw on the board with 92T; I was actually slightly ahead. K for the turn gave him the Broadway draw and flipped the odds back to 65%/34% in his favor. Then I hit the second-to-the-least pair with 7 on the river and made another knockout.

A player who’d joined the table twenty hands earlier with under 1,500 chips had been hanging on despite the 100/200 blinds by going all-in. I hadn’t felt able to call, even when I’d raised pre-flop. Just after beating the Mutant Jack, I was SB with JT and finally called his all-in of 930. Another limper who was the only stack larger than me at the table called. The flop was QT9 giving me the open-ended straight draw and second pair. UTG2 and I both checked to the 9 turn and 6 river. UTG2 missed the flush with A8 and the best hand was the short stack’s QK. I’d come to regret not having called to see if I could have knocked that stack out earlier.

The next hand proved lucrative, however. On BTN with 6A and just over 8,000 chips, I limped in after the big stack (10,500+ in UTG1) and BB. I made middle pair on the 746 flop and after it was checked around to me, I shoved. He called with the nut flush draw Ax3x but two spades showed up on the turn and river, so I doubled up to over 16,770 and was back in the top stacks in the tournament. Two pair with The Butcher on the next hand knocked out another player put me up to 19,000 chips, then I picked another 500 off the guy who’d doubled me up, leaving him with just over 2,000 chips. My attempt to take him out a few hands later would double him up when KJ missed against his 88.

I managed to climb (with ups and downs of 2,000 to 3,000 chips) to 22,600 before I hit a big snag (F). Both the stacks I’d doubled up above had managed to climb up to 11,000+ chips. The first-mentioned (who’d joined the table with 1,500 chips) shoved from UTG1 and I called him from UTG2. A short stack in CO called all-in, and it was AK (short stack) v 88 (doubled-up stack) v QJ (me). The board almost ran out a straight with 36742 that would have been topped with one of the eights. That loss just about cut me in half, and put the former short stack over 25,000.

I got back into the top thirty spots about 15 hands later with AJ on the button (G). Blinds were 250/500/50 and HJ shoved for 9,500 after all action folded to him. The stack I’d doubled up between us folded, SB had about 3,500 chips and BB had 15,500. I shoved and they both folded; HJ showed JJ and I was on the wrong end of a 70%/30%  showdown. The A showed up on the flop, though, and my opponent was down to hoping for that last jack to show up, which it didn’t. So I popped back up to where I’d been eight minutes before. A strong bet after I made second-nut flush not long after put me within spitting distance of 30,000 chips (H). That lasted all of two hands (I). I had AQ in UTG2 at 300/600/75. UTG folded. UTG1 was the short stack that had climbed back from under 1,000 to 25,000 now. He limped in and I raised to 2,000, which he was the only player to call. The flop was 926, I had position on him and he went all-in. I’d suspected him of shoving light on a lot of his road to recovery, so I followed along for all but 3,000 of my chips. Then he flipped over 9T and I had just a 22% chance of not being crippled. The 9 showed on the turn and I was doomed. He had 52,000 chips and the tournament lead. I didn’t last long after that (J), ending up seventy places out of the money after going all-in with TK. QA won that hand.

The tournament went on for another three hours. Both the small stack who’d risen to 50,000 and the player I’d knocked down to 2,000 with a double-up made the final table.

Two hours, 183 hands. 98th of 712 players.

Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee

I’ve really got to try to come up with some better way of recording what’s going on in live games. I don’t know if it was the lesson taught to me by the loss of the lead in the noon online game or what, but I somehow managed to once again make it to the end of a $10K at Encore. What I do remember is that one player—who looked sort of like a drunk Nathan Lane—kept shoving over my raises and that eventually, once we were at the point where the payouts were over $1,000, I called him with Qx8x. He showed Ax4x but I hit the queen on the flop and sucked a couple hundred thousand in chips into my stack (the picture below is about 250,000).

He had a friend with him who kept trying to help stack his chips for him and who he kept kicking. I was tempted to ask that only players and staff be seated at the table, but I held my tongue. Around 3:30am, everyone was still within a range of a 200,000 chips, the blinds were 8,000/16,000/3,000 and a chop for a little over $2,400 each was proposed and accepted. And once again, I forgot to take a picture of the screen.

It’s off to The Palazzo for a couple days of the 2012 Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza I for me. I’ll be posting Twitter updates @pokermutant.

Here’s the official screen capture of the end of the tournament.

Eight-and-a-half hours. +465% ROI. Four-way chop with 69 entries.

He’s a Caller!

Encore Club $250 Freeroll

Wandered down for the freeroll since I’d already paid the door fee when I picked up my ticket for the $25K game. Don’t remember where I went wrong.

Two hours and thirty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 24th of 65 players.

Encore Club Freezeout

The 2pm freezeout game was already forty minutes in when I busted out of the freeroll, but I got into it anyway and managed to get through most of the fild. I was the short stack as it got short-handed and I called with two overs on my last hand. As usual, if I’d waited, I might have made more money, because the next player out was right behind me.

Three hours. +112% ROI. 4th of 24 players.

Encore Club $25,000 Guarantee

It was really a rogue’s gallery at my table. I’d taken a break to go home and grab something to eat after the 2pm game, so I missed the first couple of hands. DV from my home game was improbably seated at the same table. DTwho’d been at my first $10K final table–was a couple seats on my left. Regular winner JL was on my immediate right. The guy who’d taken first in the Tournament of Champions where I came in second, DM, was sitting on DV‘s right. And directly across the table from me in seat 1 was Angry Old Tattooed Guy, who’d been sooo much fun to play with at Final Table’s Santa Bounty game.

Things got off to a phenomenal start within the first orbit. I’d won a couple of small pots already when I picked up QxQx. I raised from late-middle position, DT re-raised and I eventually called an all-in. He just had 9x9x and my queens held through the river, breaking him down to practically nothing (he’d picked up a pot or two himself). Meanwhile, I had more than doubled my starting stack. DT kept repeating “You got my number” for a couple of minutes. After he eventually busted out, he kept coming back to check on his chips, which was both funny and a little distracting.

I wasn’t able to make much traction with the big stack, though. I got decent if not premium hands, but every pot I entered with a call or raise, got picked off, mostly by DM, either with a large-re-raise or a large bet after a flop that he seemed to have a good feel hadn’t connected. He seemed particularly adept at that. My stack dwindled back down to starting stack and below before the break.

Finally, I decided to call him on it. I bet large with AxQx pre-flop and we went to the river before he pushed all-in. I hadn’t connected but I called and he put his cards on the table face-down. He was busted to less than 4,000 chips. AOTG picked this point in the game to go ballistic, berating DM for trying to bluff me, hoarsely yelling “You know he’s a caller!” across the table. I should have kept my mouth shut, but I could hardly resist the urge to (as PPC reg DL puts it “tap the fish tank”) and explained that DM had been picking off raises all through the game and that I’d figured it was time to test him. AOTG would have none of it (surprise!) and just talked over me. I could swear I heard JL on my right doing something like “la-la-la” with his headphones on.

Not too long after that, I pushed over 50,000 chips (about two times the average) by bluffing the heck out of 2x2x on a 9xAx9x flop.

My final hand was a doozy. I had AT and re-raised pre-flop to 10,000. A player on my left with a larger stack went all-in and got a call from a slightly smaller stack on my right. There was something like 120,000 chips in the middle, it was going to cost me 40,000 and the tournament to call, so I did. Both of the other players flipped over KxKx. I was actually in better shape than if I was up against just one pair of kings or even two different pocket pairs. A 1 in 3 chance to win it all. It just didn’t happen.

My name is Poker Mutant. I’m a caller.

Three hours and twenty minutes. -100% ROI. 107th of 150 players.

Ace of Spades

Portland Players Club $250 Freeroll (2,000 chips)

My PPC player’s card was full of stamp so I had a free entry into the club for my first live tournament of the month (I played an online HORSE freeroll on Carbon earlier in the morning). Did well at first then ran into a bit of difficulty and busted out well short of the first break. I broke the rebuy rule (again), then caught some wind, with both good cards and some judicious play. I turned my 6,000 rebuy stack into 21,000 by the break, more than twice the chip average, and probably a little above the other stacks at the table.

Solidly into the next level, I was between 30,000 and 40,000 chips when I picked up AxAx and raised from early position, getting several callers. The A showed on the flop, and another player and I were eventually heads-up, with him at risk with a spade flush draw against my made set. The board didn’t pair and he pulled his spade out on the river, which cut me down to about 15,000 as we were getting close to the end of the 400/800 blind level. A short while later, I was trying to double through the same player with an open-ended straight draw against his pair of aces but his pair held (he did lose a hand in-between to someone else when he had A and was drawing to another flush).

I need to go back to my “no rebuy” rule.

Two hours and fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 11th of 25 players.

Up For the Day

Portland Players Club Noon $250 Guarantee Freeroll (2,000 chips)

The PPC is where I first played poker in a non-home game setting, and it’s where I started off my post-Black Friday concentration on live games with a couple of nice wins back in May. Since they went to their fall schedule—opening up with an 11am more-or-less-freeroll at a more convenient time than their 1pm summer start—I’ve been playing it on days when I can fit it in. It’s just so close to home.

PPC charges half their usual door for the early game, but if you pay the full door charge you get double the chips. Unlimited re-buys until the first break for twice the door, but you get 6,000 chips, and there’s a 2,000 add-on at break 1 for an amount equivalent to the door. It can make for some drastic play in the first hour, because an all-in with a regular starting stack can double you up to 4,000 but if you don’t catch your cards then you re-buy for 6,000 and you might be the largest stack at the table in the early stages.

I got my start in this game with a pre-flop re-raise holding K2. I paired the king on an uncoordinated flop, re-raised a bet of 300 to 1,300 and took it down.

Holding JT in UTG2, I re-raised pre-flop to 300 and got three callers. The KxQx7x board had two diamonds. Two players checked to me and I bet 1,800 to win.

J9 made another straight draw on the flop and I pushed all-in after a 1,200 bet, winning another decent pot. By about 45 minutes into the game I had 9,350 chips.

There was 3,000 in the pot and I was in the hand with 48. The 6x4x2x flop paired me and I went all-in again. Nobody called. By break 1 I had 10,700 and I got the 4,000 chip add-on.

AxJx in a hand soon after the break and I raised to 1,100 pre-flop getting one call. The flop was jack-high and an all-in won. By 1:55 into the game, progress had slowed, but I was up to 14,600.

Getting too cocky with T8 cost me big with only middle pair on the board, and twenty minutes later I was down to 6,200.

My stack had been further cut to just 3,000 when I went all-in with Kx5x. I got one caller, with Qx4x. The king paired and I doubled up.

Heads-up in BB with 2x5x with one caller and I got an open-ended straight draw on the flop. I pushed all-in and gained a little more back.

My Ax7x held up in an all-in against KxJx and I doubled again, putting me at 11,500 at break 2 with just five players left. I’d been the shortest stack at the table not long before, even shorter than the guy who’d had to go back to the office and left half-an-hour before.

In BB with Q9 I raised pre-flop, making straight and flush draws on the flop. A big bet pushed everyone out.

A risky call of an all-in of 10.500 with my current favorite hand—JxTx—knocked out AxKx and almost doubled me. Then I shoved from SB with 4x4x and took in blinds and antes.

I was re-raised to 6,000 (at 1,000/2,000), then went all-in with something I didn’t record and won. By this time I was the top stack at the table, somehow.

I took out the larger of the two remaining stacks calling an all-in. He had 4x4x and my hand was 8x8x. The other guy helpfully mentioned that he’d folded 4x4x, which really skewed the odds in my favor. I knocked out the remaining player on the next hand with Ax9x.

Three hours. +460% ROI. 1st of 13 players.

Portland Players Club Tuesday Deepstack (7,000 chips)

I hadn’t noticed that PPC was changing it’s schedule this week and came in expecting a freezeout. Got a smaller buy-in with two re-buys instead. Ah, well.

I got a 1,000 chip bonus for something-or-other, so I actually started with 8,000 like everyone else.

I raised to 150 with 58 for some reason, then got a flop of AKQ. I bet again and got callers, but folded to a bet after checking a 2x on the turn.

Won with QxQx and a 1,200 pre-flop bet. By ten minutes into the game I was up to 10,500.

My AxJx paired on the turn and I called an all-in with AxKx. His king showed up on the river and I was down to 350 chips.

Picked up 5x5x and went all-in. I was good until the river, when my pair was counterfeited by queens and nines on the board. I re-bought (I shudder at the word) for 7,000 chips.

Played Jx7x from BB and made a set on the flop. There was a bet and call of 250 ahead of me, I raised to 1,000 and took the pot.

Raised to 325 with Ax9x, getting four callers. I bet 1,500 on a gutshot straight draw on the flop, was re-raised to 3,500, then three-bet all-in by one of the two big stacks at the table. I folded, and as the cards played out I would have lost.

Forty minutes into the game I was back down to 5,400, having lost a total of nearly 10,000 chips from my two buy-ins.

Got lucky with AxAx in SB and managed to double up; I was holding 7,800 at break 1, then added on 5,000 chips.

On the first hand after the break—with blinds at 150/300— I raised to 1,000 with AxQx after a single call. I was re-raised to 4,000 by CO, then I went all-in. He called with KxJx, I caught my queen on the turn. Five minutes into round 4, I was up to 28,200.

Bet out 1,200 on Q9 then folded after the flop left me disconnected. UTG with J7 and I min-raised, then called an all-in of 2,675 and lost.

Blew away another 16,000 in two consecutive hands with ace-high calling all-ins, then pushed with just about 5,000 left and JxJx. Got called by AxAx who connected in a big way with quads on the flop, getting him on the high hand board for the night.

Two hours. -100% ROI. 14th of 21 players.

Portland Players Club $200 Guarantee Freeroll (2,000 chips)

The structure for this game is similar to the early freeroll: you can start with a double-sized stack for a price, the re-buys are three times the regular starting stack, etc.

Nothing notable happened in this game, except for the last hand. I was the third player all-in, with KQ. The first all-in had a smaller stack, the second was larger. First all-in shoed JxJx, so I had two overs, but second all-in had AxAx, and just like half-an-hour earlier, I was knocked out by quad aces, when an even higher high hand came out on the flop.

20 minutes. -100% ROI. 9th of 10 players.

Only 34 winning days before EPT Prague.

They Play H.O.R.S.E, Don’t They?

Carbon Poker $200 Guarantee H.O.R.S.E Freeroll

I’ve been playing the four daily Carbon Poker freerolls whenever I can, and one of the tournaments that fits into my schedule better than others is their H.O.R.S.E. game. which is great, because I have been getting increasingly interested in other forms of poker.

The games are relatively hard to beat, because while they tend to get 2,500 to 3,000 entrants, they only pay a couple dozen spots, so you really have to battle and get lucky to get even a small piece of the $200 guarantee. I started off placing in the mid-range, but in my most recent outing, I got up to the top 10%, where I’d be getting paid if it wasn’t a freeroll.

These particular tournaments cycle through Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, 7-Card Stud, and 7-Card Stud Hi/Lo, with the game changing every six hands. Everything’s played as Limit, which makes committing to draws a bit easier, and there are eight players to the table.

I sat out a few hands of Hold’em at the opening level of 20/40, then woke up with AA in SB. Two limpers; I raised, BB and the limpers called. The flop gave me the nut full house: A66 with only pocket 66 beating me, and I opened, BB called, UTG1 called, CO raised, I reraised, BB and UTG1 dropped out, CO made the final raise to 80, and I called. The 9 turn opened a very small possibility for another hand that could beat me (and the pocket sixes), a backdoor straight flush, but it seemed unlikely something like 78 or 8T would have stayed through the previous betting. This time we ran it up to 120. Ditto for betting after a 4 on the river. As it turns out, with K6 he didn’t have better than a set, and he only had a 4% chance to beat me. Another 120 went into the pot after the river’s 4 sealed the win for me, and I took in 840 chips.

I went out on a limb during the first round of Omaha Hi-Lo with 9635, hoping that if Ax2x showed up I might snag the low, but I dropped 210 in a four-way race to the river.

A couple hands later, though, an inauspicious Q48K did me some good. Pre-flop action raised the bet to 60 and five players saw the flop of JK2. BB checked to me and I bet 30, with one fold and 0ne call after me, a raise from CO, calls fromBB and me, and a call from HJ. The turn was 3 and it got checked around to CO who bet, but everyone called. The river T ruled out a low hand, which wasn’t my intention anyway, although I only had king high. Checks went around to CO again, who bet 60. BB folded but me and HJ stayed on. CO had a busted low hand with JK23T; HJ had a pair of kings like me, but with kicker problems and believe it or not, a single pair took the entire pot of nearly 1,000 chips in an Omaha game.

My next hand was [k5]2QK and I made it through betting rounds of 90, 90, and 60 to the river with nothing better than a pair of threes on the board and a five paired from my hand for the high, but because I held on, I caught the low hand and 382 chips.

The second hand of Razz won me 120 chips on the first round of betting. There was only one call after the bring-in and both other players folded after my completion with 937.

I won an actual hand the next hand. Antes were 5, bring-in was 15, Completion/Small Limit was 50, and Large Limit was 100. I was third to act, with T48, and called the bring-in after UTG1. Four of us made it to fourth street. Bring-In (BI) was showing K7, UTG1 showed 52, I added A, and UTG4 showed K3. UTG1 led off with a bet of 50 and only BI folded. On fifth street, UTG1 showed 52T, I had T48A5, and UTG4 was showing K39. I was first to act, betting 100, with a call from UTG4 and a fold from UTG1. A J for me and 3 for UTG4 slowed us both down on sixth street—my “low” went to ten—but with 6 down on seventh, I bet 100 and got called but UTG4 wasn’t even close, with two pairs in his hand and his best low a king-high.

I sat out the las two hands of the Razz round, getting high cards both times, then we were into 7-Card Stud. The first was a throw-away, but I had pocket 44 with 6 showing at 10/25/100/200. Only UTG (Q showing) and I called BI (2 showing). Fourth street gave both BI and UTG aces (A and A, respectively) but I picked up 4. One of the folded players had A showing. UTG bet, I raised, BI folded, and we went to the max for 400 chips. I’d started the hand with 2,350 chips but UTG had only 630 to begin with, and after fifth street he was all-in. My hand ran out 4464385, missing the straight and full house possibilities (as well as the four-of-a-kind). UTG had a respectable 7QQQJ6A two pair by seventh street, but he fell and I took him out.

The next hand went almost as well. A77 with me as UTG and just three of us to fourth street, with my disguised pair against a showing 4 and J. BI got K and UTG1 got Q, but I picked up 7 for a set and opened with a 100 bet. UTG1 called but BI dropped. Fifth street only gave me T and UTG1 6, when I bet 200 he folded.

I started the next hand with 3,284 chips, which must have made my head fuzzy, because I got all the way to seventh street with 79KJA28. No pair, no straight draw after sixth street, no flush after fifth, just calls of two 200 chip bets. I only lost 435 (including ante) but what was I thinking?

By the next hand, things were clear again. My cards as UTG2 were a draw-heavy 675. There were three nines and four diamonds showing among the eight players, with only one higher than a ten. Five saw fourth street (BI with 3, UTG with 4, UTG1 with T, me with 7, and CO with Q). Action folded to me and naturally, I bet 100 on my two pair. Everyone folded, except for UTG1. 6 hit me on fifth street; UTG1 got 8. I had most of the cards he needed for a straight between the 5 and 8; three of the 9xs he needed above the 8 were showing on the board; he needed runner-runner for a flush. I bet 200 and he just called. Seventh street made me a full house: 7. Meanwhile, UTG1 got another 8. He led the betting, I raised to 400, and he didn’t re-raise. The only card that could have improved my hand was the 7 but I got 3 instead. UTG checked, I bet 200 and got a call. His hand was 8AT5882, and he’d been behind at every street, although he’d done as much as he could to keep the losses to a minimum. I was fortunate he hadn’t hit Ax, Tx, or 5x on seventh street. The pot was 2005 chips.

I was on a roll with Stud. On the next hand, two of us went to showdown without any bets after fourth street. My hand was 9J9T6K8 for just a pair of nines, but the other guy went all the way with 52537KA, or a pair of fives.

Not to say that I couldn’t lose. My chip balance was up to 4,250 and I went to showdown with a player starting with just 570. He was half-in after fourth street, with 89 showing. There wasn’t any more betting until after seventh street. My hand had run out with 7KT5AT8. He was showing 8996 and I though I might be able to get away with another pair-over-pair win. He called, though, because his seventh street card improved his hand and gave him A389963. It was about here that one of the players started complaining that the site was giving me cards I couldn’t expect in live play.

So I was rather glad a couple hands later to pick up 88T. The bigmouth was BI with 3 showing and completed for 150. UTG1 (with my 8) and I called. BI got K and checked. UTG1 got 9 and checked. I made a set with 8 and bet 150. Both of the other players came along. Fifth street made things tricky. While bigmouth BI got 2, UTG1 got a showing pair with 9. I got A. Potentially, there was a bigger set out there, but I bet 300 and got calls from both players. Sixth street complicated things even more, with K for BI, and just 4 and 4 for UTG1 and me. I was last to act after two checks and just let it lie. Seventh street’s Q didn’t improve me and surprisingly, everyone checked again. When the cards came out, BI had AT3K2K7 for not much from the beginning, UTG1 had just missed flush and straight draws with QT89946, and my set of eights won a pot of 1,920. The next hand was 7-Card Stud Hi-Lo.

I won the second hand with a bet on fifth street, with a strong 2KA6A. I had almost 5,000 chips and nobody else at the table had more than 1,500.

The Hold’em round didn’t do me much good, and I folded the few hands I did play for the most part, dropping to 3,450. Meanwhile, another player with a stack the same size had been moved to the table, another had climbed up to 3,500, and a big stack with more than 9,000 was sat immediately behind me in the action. Then I picked up K9 as SB. One of the other similarly-sized stacksin CO limped in for 200, I raised to 400, and only CO called. The 689 flop gave me a troublesome top pair, but I bet 200 and CO called. Same thing only for 400 chips after the J turn card. The river K gave me two pair and I bet another 400, getting a call and seeing I was up against 8J. The pot was 3,000 chips. This sent the bigmouth into a paroxysm, claiming I’d sucked out. When I pointed out that I had top pair on the flop, one of the other dumbos chimed in to claim I hadn’t. Apparently, some people just aren’t paying attention.

I folded the rest of my Hold’em hands and we were back to Omaha Hi-Lo. On the first hand, I went too far down the road to revenge, trying to knock out the bigmouth (who had only 612 chips v. my 5,100) only to double him up. I had JAA9, which seemed as if it might be promising, but the board ran out J7KJ8, giving his 349Q the best hand by the turn when he was all-in. Other contributions to the pot actually nearly quadded the little sucker.

The next hand got rid of him, though. It was a complicated five-way hand with four players all-in. Short stack in SB was in for just the ante of 25. UTG called the 250 BB, I called from UTG1 with 8JK7, bigmouth in BTN called, BB raised to 500, and everyone who could called. The flop was 58J, giving me top two pair. BB bet 250, UTG called, I raised, BTN called, BB and UTG called. 6 on the turn gave me an open-ended straight draw. This time, BB bet first for 500. UTG and I called, BTN raised, BB re-raised all-in for a total of 1,096. UTG called the re-raise, then I added another 500. BTN stuck in his last 149 chips and UTG called. 8 on the river gave me the second nut full house. UTG checked to me with just 379 chips left, and I bet 500, which he called. There were four pots to settle. The first was split between me and UTG. My full house won the high pot, he had the nut low with 42A5 and we each took 826. There was a very small side pot including the bigmouth who had 63AJ and had just blown the couple thousand chips he’d won on two pair and an iffy low. UTG and I split about 80 chips each from there. The first side pot had nearly 8,000 chips in it and included BB, who had a great low hand with good pre-flop possibilities: 25A3. BB and UTG quartered the low pot of 1,981 each and I took 3,982. We did the same with the 800 chip primary pot. All that work for a couple thousand chips profit, most of which went to the big stack when I folded my next hand.

A little ground was made up on the next hand. I was BB and there were four callers who saw the flop of 96J. Everyone checked through to the 4 turn and everyone checked again. T on the river gave me the nuts with a king-high straight, and I opened with a bet of 500, which was only called by one player, who showed a set of tens at showdown. He had me outchipped, so it didn’t cost him that much.

He got it back in spades on the next hand. Or, rather, he got it back in a six-high straight. I ventured out with 95A3: a decent if not perfect low hand. but the board ran A532K, counterfeiting all of my low cards. My three pair was no match for 467T, which scooped more than 6,200 chips and knocked out two players.

An all-in call of 479 pre-flop was as far as I went with the next hand, which I folded after a bet on the river. I was down to 3,269 by the end of the Razz round before I managed to pick up another pot. I was dealt AJ2, ante was 30, bring-in was 75, and limits were 300/600. Two players ahead of me called the bring-in (S1), then I completed the bet to 300. I got one caller (S8: 5), BI dropped out and the two limpers (S3: J and S5: J) called. The limpers got 5 and 5 on fourth street, I got 4, and S8 picked up 3. With the lowest hand, I opened for 300 and only S5 folded. On fifth street, S3 got 7, I picked up a pair with A, and S8 was hit with K. I figured nobody needed to know I was still short of a good low, so I bet 600. S8 folded and S2 called. Sixth street improved things a bit, putting a 9 out for S3 and 6 for me, but I checked. I was still jack-high. Our down seventh street didn’t help me any, with another pair (even if it was a low pair): 2. Fortunately, when I bet another 600, S3 folded and I took a 4,215 chip pot.

Seven hands went by in 7-Card Stud before I went any further than fourth street. I was heads-up on sixth at 40/100/400/800 with 54AK9K against J76T showing when my opening bet of 800 and visible pair of kings induced a fold.

I lost a massive pot just a couple hands later in 7-Card Stud Hi-Lo. I ran down to the river calling bets at 40/125/500/1,000 with 5QQ4756 and no better than pair until sixth street, when I was up against a visible 27KJ. I had three outs on seventh street (one of the fives was showing for S8) that could beat the likely flush, which is what S5 had. Lost 4,040 chips on that one.

Tried to make by own flush on the next hand. It ran out JA829KA and my pair of aces chopped the pot with the only other player for the low. No gain there.

Finally, the next hand, I managed to pull out of the dive. By fifth street, I was heads-up with a pair and a straight flush draw: 987T9. My opponent looked like he was headed low and straight with 245 showing. He had me outchipped and was just calling my bets; after fifth street, I had only 412 behind. When I picked up a straight with J on sixth street, I was all-in and he called, even though he only had a 5. When his cards flipped, he was showing Q32455. He needed the flush to win, but seventh street gave him T. I improved with 5 to a flush. The pot was over 7,600 chips.

Back into Hold’em at 600/1,200/60 and I had A8. I started the hand fifth in chips as UTG2 and was the first to call BB. SB raised, BB folded, and SB and I went up to the limit of 2,400, with him only having another 1,100 behind. The flop came out 837, we went to the limit with SB all-in, and he flipped over AA. J on the turn sealed my loss.

A couple of hands later with 4J as BB, I managed to outbid the only caller with a post-flop bet on a 777 board, but I was down to about 1,000 chips. Lost some chips with a weak king on the next hand, but right after that picked up another bad K8 as BTN. I was all-in for 1,617 (and my 60 ante) pre-flop with two other players fighting over a side pot as well. The board rolled out 76A3K. BB had just 97 and lost both pots to the 99 of UTG2. I tripled up with a pot of 5,631 because of the river king.

Omaha Hi-Lo at 80/800/1,600. UTG and AAT8. Three limpers and BB saw the Q77 flop. I lead out with a bet, only BB followed. Turn: J. River 2. We both checked it through and my aces were good against KK35. I’d made a bit of a comeback, up over 8,000.

I had straight and flush draw possibilities on BB with 85TJ. Four players limped in and we got a flop of 6QA. I lead into my flush and Broadway draws with a bet of 800. Nobody raised and only one player folded. The turn of 2 wasn’t helpful to my cause, as I didn’t have anything decent for a low, and I had to call a bet of 1,600 to see the river. The 5 river busted me and I folded. The winner paired queens and sixes and scooped the low hand, the loser paired queens and twos.

My last hand was 26J4 and I was all-in after the turn on wing and a prayer on the 3246K board. It was the wrong color red for me, though, with flushes winning high hands in four pots where everyone but me took something out.

3.5 hours, 103 hands. Freeroll. Finished 178th of 2717 entries.

Breakthroughs: Post 100; Money in $10K

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

Once it was obvious I wasn’t winning the Player of the Year pool money for a WSOP buy-in this year, I decided to step up my tournament play to see if I could make it up that way. Of course, after Black Friday, that meant more live tournaments, and I got off to a great start with the freeroll I played in early May and the turbo a couple of nights later that gave me back to back first-place finishes. Needless to say, that record hasn’t been maintained through the past six weeks, but I have stayed at around a 25% cash average since the first of June. 6 cashes in 26 tournaments.

Six hours in to the Encore $10K

The last one is the most interesting (and frustrating) to me. DV and I entered Encore’s monthly $10K Guarantee with the agreement that we’d split any winnings, the same agreement we’d made before the Ace of Spades game a couple of weeks earlier.

My game got off to a great start. I was in seat 4 and picked up 8x8x on the third hand of the match as SB. I’d lost a few chips on the earlier hands but still had about 9,500. The flop was 7x6x5x and I started betting heavily. The field narrowed to me and BB who stayed in. The turn 4x gave me my straight and I really pushed but there was a flush draw on the board, as well and BB re-raised. I shoved, he called, and he missed his flush but I got 9x for an even higher straight.  He was seriously crippled by the fourth hand and I was over 19K.

The first of my big mistakes came shortly thereafter. I had 68, two clubs showed on the flop, and I got into a bidding war with seat 7 that ended up with me having about 7,000 chips in by the river, which gave me a flush. Seat 7 turned up two pair and I flipped over 68, which paired an 8x on the board but wasn’t a flush. I sucked up the loss of most of the gain I’d made just a few hands earlier and kicked myself for wearing contacts instead of my glasses.

I played AxJx and paired the Jx high card on the flop but was beat by pocket KxKx and was down to 11K.

An all-diamond flop forced me to lay down 700 chips along with JT. Likewise, I raised 800 on AQ and folded when the top cards on the flop were K7.

A2 gave me diamonds for a change and I made a set of deuces but four hearts on the board made a flush for someone and I was down to 8,000 chips.

The last hand before the first break put QxQx into my hands and I managed to practically double up by busting out a player. After buying the 7K add-on, I had 25,500.

This, of course, did not last long. I bet big with AT on a TxQxKx flop and another player came over the top, leaving me with 17K by the end of that hand. Then a pair of 9x9x lost me 4,325 more when I called an all-in and their JT drew to a flush on the river. At the three hour mark my stack was back down to 11,875.

AxJx (not a Mutant Jack) took down the blinds for me when I opened with a raise to 2,500. Then I called a bb of 800 and folded to an all-in.

Ax5x is usually something I dislike playing but I saw a 5xTx5x on the flop and bet erratically, which ended up making me 20K. The guy next to me said he had no idea what I had.

Then I was lucky enough to grab a pair of KxKx as BB and went all-in after a 5K raise from the CO. He called, showed AxQx and almost made a straight (though that was more difficult with two of the kings in my hand), and I was up to 40K. By break three that was 59,400.

Back in the thick of things, K4 hit two pair on the flop and ended up with two players all-in against me when another 4x showed on the river, knocking them both out. By 4 hours and 30 minutes in I had 76,500.

I called a raise to 2K with QT but had to fold to two all-in bets, then lost another 6600 with A3 after a flop that utterly failed to connect.

My QxTx made two pair on the flop after I bet 5K pre-flop, and I called another player’s all-in. They showed four to a straight but beat me with a royal flush on the turn. That cost me about 30K and left me with 40,000 in chips at the 3 hours and fifty minutes mark.

I raised to 6K with another A5 and was re-raised. The re-raiser showed KxKx at showdown with another player. I would have made two pair on the board but a flush came and I would have lost anyway.

Five hours into the match, I was down to 22,000 chips, only 5K above the amount I’d received as a starting stack and add-on.

I managed to steal the blinds and antes with an all-in holding A9. At least I was big enough for the people at my table not to want to tangle with me all of the time.

Fifteen minutes later I was up to 24,500, with my ill-gotten blinds and antes.

I knocked out another player by calling an all-in with KxQx. They held Kx9x and stayed behind across the board. The Mutant Jack JA made two pair on the flop and earned me another 10K. Five hours and thirty minutes into the game, I’d made it back up to 45,500.

A Mutant Jack of hearts (AJ) and a bet of 12K got a call and then took the pot for me. Then I played a dangerous 3x3x, hitting a set on the flop and won another pot. Took out a player when the QJ paired the queen. By six-and-a-quarter hours, my stack was finally over the chip average again, with 95,000.

Raising to 15K with KxQx, another player came over the top and I laid it down, which was good because the hand went to showdown and I would have lost to the AxAx. Playing another A5 (see above), I caught the flush and took in over 50K, which put me at 131,500 by six hours and forty-five minutes.

Laid down another KxQx and 8K on a call to an all-in. Some more proffers gone wrong cut me down again to 80K in just half an hour.

Pocket 8x8x made quads for me, knocking out another player (who was holding AxJx) and getting my stack out of the doldrums. At the 8K/16K/2K level, a raise to 36K with Ax9x took down the blinds. The I used AxJx and knocked another player out. My stack was up to 220K just shy of eight hours into the tournament.

A call on my part with 36 lost me my BB and another 11K calling an all-in. I lost an extra 10K as the SB at the 10K/20K?4K level calling to see the flop with Q9 and folding to a post-flop bet from BB after my hand missed.

Ax9x again and a 40K min-raise took down the blinds again.

I called a small all-in with J5. He flipped over 2x2x. The odds calculators say that one’s a coin flip but if he’d had anything higher than a pair of 4x4x I probably would have lost. I didn’t, though and another player was down.

My last hand was played at 20K/40K/4K. I was in seat 5 at the final table, with eight players remaining, on BB with about 200K behind. There were somewhere over 2.3 million chips in play at the table, but about half of them were in the hands of the player in seat 7. A couple players had between 300K and 400K and the rest of us were down to just three or four big blinds. UTG folded and the big stack as UTG1 opened with a raise to 600K. Action folded around to SB, who went all-in. I had a clubby Mutant Jack: AJ. I was all-in. The giant stack turned over 6x6x, SB had me dominated with AK. Both the ace hands were losers, though, as the pair held up across the board. Two clubs on the board left me just short of what would have been a nut flush. I went out in seventh or eighth place; since the payout for both was the same, they didn’t count the chips to see who’d been ahead.

If my back hadn’t been to the screen, I might have made the wiser choice to lay down and let the the endgame play out. We were just short of the big money in the tournament, players were going to have to make moves just to stay ahead of the voracious blinds, and I likely could have moved up the pay scale by letting the blinds wash over me. After another 20K for the small blind, I wouldn’t have had to deal with them for a few hands and there would have been time for someone else to bust out (which happened on the next hand).

Nine-and-a-half hours. Finished 7th/8th of 141 players. +210% ROI (including buy-in, add-on, tip).

The Poker Mutant at the Final Table

End of An Era, Pt. 4

Full Tilt Round 1 Freeroll (1,500 chips)

Another run at a freeroll. Doubled up on the second hand with TA in SB. UTG2 was all-in for 1,605. I called with 1,470. He showed QK, the flop had A in the middle, and it was over by the river.

Fifth hand grabbed me even more chips. Q3 in CO. Five of us limped in, A2K gave me second nut flush draw, I called HJ’s bet of 30, the blinds folded, and UTG1 called. 8 made my flush, UTG1 checked, HJ bet 30 again and I raised to 100. Both UTG1 and HJ came along. A scary K hit the river, making several full house possibilities, but I didn’t think either of them had it. UTG1 checked, HJ was all-in for 1,325, I went all-in (UTG1 only had 15 more than HJ), UTG1 folded. HJ had a set of kings, but that didn’t touch my flush. That popped me over 4,700.

My 33 that made twos full of threes by the river was bested by TT a few hands later, though, costing me 1,200, and on the very next hand an ill-advised all-in call with AJ burned me for nearly 3,000 chips when KK showed up for the showdown. I was down to 910 after that.

I managed to briefly recover two hands later with something similar to what had gotten me started: TA. I had 1,000 even on BTN, we were still at 15/30. HJ raised all-in to 935. I went all-in. BB—who’d taken me down with the kings a minute earlier, called. We flipped the cards over, BB had kings again: KK. HJ was in bad shape with KQ. The flop showed some promise: 235. Any ace, any four, a couple more hearts…I could even still get a straight flush. The turn 7 didn’t do me any good but I got my A on the river (h/t Barry Greenstein). The pot netted me nearly 2,000 chips.

All of which I lost three hands later with AK. Blinds were 20/40. I raised to 100 from UTG1. The guy with kings was CO and re-raised to 360, getting a call from BTN. I re-raised to 1,020; CO and BTN were in. The flop looked good: AQA. At least so long as he didn’t have a Qx. I bet my last 1,900 and got a call. He had the Mutant Jack: AJ. Nearly 7K in the pot, I was a 4:1 favorite to win. 8 for the turn. J for the river. Nobody named their book for that.

18 minutes, 14 hands. Placed 4,564 of 6,983 players.

Full Tilt $1 Main Event Satellite (1,500 chips)

BAM! Out of the gate, picked up steam with a win holding K8 on BTN. Four of us to the flop after a raise to 80 from UTG. K6T and everyone checked to me. I bet 180, getting a call from only BB. 9 on turn and I bet another 700 (with only 540 behind), driving off BB and netting me 440.

K8 was mine again in CO, five hands later. Action folded to me, I raised to 100. BTN and SB called. I made top pair on the 682 flop, SB bet 200, I called, BTN folded. An 8 for the turn made a set but SB (who had me covered by thousands) bet 550. I raised all-in for 1,515 and he called, showing a weaker kicker: 85. harmless 7 on the river and I was up to 3,780.

That was my apex, though. I raised a limp by UTG1 to 200 as UTG2 at 40/80. 4 callers. Low cards on the flop: 936. UTG bet 700 and I raised to 1,500, putting him on a pair to the board, which I could beat. Three folds, then a call from UTG. 2 for the turn and UTG checked. I bet 1,960 all-in. UTG called with just 130 behind, then dropped 98. I was just about there, but then 8 showed up, giving him two pair and knocking me out.

18 minutes, 21 hands. 85th of 201 players.