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 5h8h 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 kdtd, 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 as9s. 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 ad9d, 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 jh8h 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 jc2c, 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 3d6d 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 ks3s to call a raise and had to fold to 2 all-in pre-flop bets.

Raised to 600 from BTN with ad3d 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 8sts 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.

My Other Home

Portland Players Club Deepstack

A couple of late cancellations for the home league left three of us itching for some poker, so we headed over to PPC for the Deepstack tournament I never get to play. DV, KB, and I got seated one at each of the three tables.

I continued the tight(ish) play I’d determined to hold to on the weekend. The cards weren’t particularly helpful. The first hand I played was jxtx; I raised to 150 UTG and got a couple of callers. qx9x on the flop gave me an up-and-down straight draw, but two clubs on the board made the flush possible. BB bet 350 and I was the only caller. An ad on the turn made two straight draws possible, one of which might have come through with the river 3d. BB bet out 1,200 and I had nothing, so I laid it down. Even though I had a relatively quiet first level, I was down by nearly 1,000 at the end.

On BTN with jx9x , I called with two limpers ahead of me and the blinds in the hand. The flop was a rainbow jx5x6x and SB bet 150. There were three calls and I used my position to pop it to 600. Everyone folded.

On SB at 50/100 with kxqx for the second hand in a row (the first flop hadn’t contained a card higher than 5x), I raised to 300 and got three calls. The flop gave me top two and everyone checked to me. I bet 1,200 and took it without argument.

J, at the end of the table had amassed the beginnings of a truly massive stack and was playing lots of hands. I picked up 5x5x and we were heads-up for 150 chips each. The board got progressively worse for me, not quite giving me a straight but with four over cards; J ratcheted the bet up by 50 each street, so at showdown when he declared my tx was good, even he was surprised when his 4x6x won with the paired 6x on the board. With my other pots, I was up a few hundred by the end of the second level.

I didn’t play any significant hands during the third level, but my stack dropped 700 chips from blinds and min-calls.

Decided to play kxtx UTG and min-raised at 150/300. The flop gave me a Broadway draw but the board was pregnant with flush possibilities. I called the final 400 knowing my king-high was beat by aces.

Managed to semi-bluff three players off a jx8x7x flop from the BB holding qx9x. Then a couple of hands later I was dealt ackc as BTN and raised, getting 2 callers. The flop was ax7x2x and I bet to win the pot.

Called off 1,200 pre-flop with jsts. The flop was low and diamondy; I tossed my hand at the first sign of a bet. By the end of level 4, though, I was back up over the starting stack, finally.

Entered the fray with jd8d at 200/400 and by the turn I had a flush with the potential for a straight flush. I called an all-in from a player whose stack was just about my size and the flush held against his two pair.

Raised 1,400 from CO with axkx but missed the flop and folded to a bet. With the near-double-up, I was up to 16,475 chip at the end of level 5, but there were a couple monster stacks at the table.

I automatically folded 8x3x from SB. Two players went hammer-and-tongs pre-flop, I would have made two pair on the flop, and I could have taken the entire pot with a full house on the turn. A pair of nines won. But who’s going to call off 15% of their stack pre-flop with 83o?

We were at 400/800. I had ax8x in BB and I had a single caller. The flop fell around the eight for an up-and-down straight draw. I let him bet 1,000 and called. We both checked the turn, then the river put down an ax. I bet 1,000 and took the pot.

Got into a bidding war that cost me over 7,000 chips with my tc6c flush against a 9x5x full house. That knocked me down to 10,600 by the second break.

Played kh6h from UTG1 and was heads-up against BB. The flop was kx9xtx, he checked, I bet 1,000. We both checked the tx on the flop. The kx on the river gave me the nuts and I raised to 3,000 after he bet 1,000, inducing a fold.

Raised to 1,800 with ax9x from CO. BTN re-raised to 3,000 and I called. The flop was nine-high and I shoved. BTN called and flipped axqx. The turn was qx and I lost another 7,100.

I was down to just 2,500 chips on the last hand before blinds went to 500/1000. I was UTG and looked down at 4x4x. I announced my all-in with a not-very-scary stack and waited for the end. Two callers flicked specks of chips off their giant stacks, then the other two fours hit on the flop. and I more than tripled up.

jxtx cost me another 1,000 off that stack from BB when I called a min-raise.

Shoved with axqx and missed everything. I outlasted DV and KB by an hour or so.

Three hours and ten minutes. -100% ROI. 15th of 24 players.

Portland Players Club $200 Guarantee

I was knocked out of the Deepstack just before the first break in the nightly freeroll so I popped over to one of the two tables running there. My first hand was tc9c and I made a queen-high straight, knocking out one of the players and putting me up to 9,800 (from 4,000 starting stack with the pre-add-on) as we headed into the break.

I called two all-ins—the largest of which was 4,000 chips—with jd9d. I was in bad shape; the larger of the two stacks had jsts and the smaller stack had one of each of our low cards with the hand that had just made me a lot of chips: 9ctc. A jack on the flop and two clubs put me behind both of them, with only a 7% chance of a win (I actually had a better chance to chop). The small stack went away; the winning player was out in the next hand.

One of the regulars I’ve gotten to know, DL, was sitting on my left. He called my axjd all-in with jxjx and it looked like I was done but I drew to a diamond flush. He was on a self-imposed vow of silence at the table or I expect some choice words would have been heard.

Playing 9c2c on BB, I made the flush on the turn and won another hand. Then I lostg 8,000 chips with qc9c going all-in after a queen-high flop that was called by a smaller stack holding 7x7x with a set made on the board.

Shoved again with qh9h and DL called me once again. Once again, he got the short end of the stick, when my queen paired to beat his khjh. He even had my suit.

I was out on the next hand with 5x5x from BTN. I shoved my remaining little stack (small even after the double-up) and BB called me with 8x8x. No suckout on that hand. DL was out the next hand himself; I gave him a ride home.

Forty minutes. -100% ROI. 11th of 25 players.


Carbon Poker $200 HORSE Freeroll (1,000 chips)

I called UTG with 9d3d and got a flop of jdqhah. BB and I checked it through the 5h turn and ac river and split the pot with his 9s4c. Won a couple more hands with just bets holding king-high. No pots of any real size happened in Hold’em, the biggest was 250 when my pocket nines won.

I won a big hand at the beginning of Omaha Hi-Lo, then got rocked back down to 600 chips. I was down to under 400 when I played 6s8s4hjs from UTG1 and caught the full house on the 6c6d4s flop. qd hit on the turn and I bet into it but qh on the river slowed me down a bit with four players going to showdown. I picked up a pot of 630.

Lost big with a flopped full house on the next hand when my deuces full of nines were beat on the turn by deuces full of aces, exactly the type of situation I’d been concerned about in previously. The river 5h actually gave me two beaten full houses because I had a five, as well.

I was down to 277 chips but still active with 4djc2c3d in the BB. A player was all-in for  60 and there was a call ahead of me. The flop was 2d8d5s, I bet , the other caller folded, and the all-in player flipped ac6s5cjs. I had a nearly 50% chance of scooping the pot, and I did when the 6h came on the river. Not exactly a big win, though.

Razz was my downfall. I ended up mostly all-in with 6c4cas6h7c but got high cards on sixth and seventh streets. A deuce would have tied me with the winner, but he had two of them.

Seventeen minutes, 33 hands. 2,476th of 2,546 entries.

The Final Table $1,000 Guarantee, +$200 First Place

Really can’t remember this one. It was the last of the +$200 for first place games I could make in the year, I re-bought but didn’t add on because I had a bunch of chips, then I busted out not long after the break.

Ninety minutes. -100% ROI. 40th of 43 players.

The Final Table Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Got into the PLO8 game a little late but did reasonably well, including my usual variant stack. Made it to the final table and got into a couple of hands with C, winning one big pot but eventually losing it all well before the money.

Two hours and forty minutes. -100% ROI. 9th of 27 players.

Oak Tree Casino Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

I’d had reasonable results at Foxwoods playing Omaha Hi-Lo, and I figured if I could do well there, I should be able to do okay at the new Oak Tree Casino in Woodland. I wasn’t disappointed. Sitting in the game for an hour I picked up a tidy profit and moved on to my next task for the day.

One hour. +29 big blinds.

2011/12 Puffmammy Event #13

Action was tough and I did not last long beyond the re-buy period end, but I did manage to snag one of the bounties, the only player not in the money to do so.

Ninety minutes. -67% ROI. 8th of 9 players.

Oak Tree Casino Limit Hold’em

There were seven names on the board for Omaha, but they weren’t opening up a table. Finally, I sat down at a Hold’em table and proceeded to prove to myself how much more I like tournament Hold’em over cash games.

Two hours. -33 big blinds.

Encore Club Pot Limit Omaha

Really, I shouldn’t have even been playing this tournament. My plan was to check in on the size and head to Oak Tree if it was small (which it was) or at the very least wait until the $1,000 guarantee game at 8pm. My failing for playing games I don’t get to play often took hold, though, so I signed up and ended up being the first man permanently out (after a rebuy).


Forty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 8th of 8 players.

Encore Club $1,000 Guarantee

Was doing pretty well then made an extremely bad call with the bottom end of four cards to eight-high straight on the board. My opponent had nines, of course, and I lost 80% of my stack. Eventually, I called an all-in with asqs and the guy I’d called said “Good luck, sir” before flipping his axkx, then conceitedly told the rest of the table at length as I walked away that the ace-queen was the “parking lot hand.” I didn’t bother to tell him that he was—even with his dominating hand—only 7:3 against. I knew my chances.

Oak Tree Casino Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Wandered back up to Woodland to see if I could recoup some of the day’s losses. At first, it looked like I’d just be adding to them—at one point I was down to only about 40% of my original buy-in—but I got back in the game and started pulling in pots, particularly from one player who I think thought he’d had me pegged as a fish in the beginning. I may be a fish, but some of us have small, sharp teeth.

Two hours. +37 big blinds.

Carbon Poker $200 HORSE Freeroll

Things started off on the wrong foot when Carbon’s client didn’t respond to my click for a call fromUTG with 5dqd and sat me out. I would have made top and bottom pair on the flop and beaten the ace-high that won the hand. Made it up a bit on the next hand by hitting Broadway from tdjd, then lost my winnings when my two pair was beat by a better two pair.

A river 5s gave a full house to a player in the second hand of Omaha Hi-Lo, knocking me down below half the starting stack. I pulled back a little on the next hand with 2d3dtsac, making two pair with the ace and deuce for a chop of the high hand and taking all of the low because I had the trey.

My “garbage hand” 3d2s9h7d not only gave me the low on the next hand but it made a ten-high straight, beating the eight-high of my opponent. I won parts of the next several pots and by the time we hit Razz, I was back up over 1,200 chips. I won one pot in Razz, but I’d crashed back to 680 chips by the time Stud began.

A set of threes (with one hidden) pushed me back into contention for a bit, but a full house in Stud Hi-Lo brought me down.

Thirty minutes, 40 hands. 1,802nd of 2,955 entries.

Tough Nut to Crack

Aces Players Club Noon $1,500 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

I had another engagement on Saturday evening, so I decided to take another crack at the Aces $10K, so I started off the day at their noon game, which always seems busy. Nothing spectacular happened, I didn’t rebuy, I made it to the break and added-on, but I didn’t make it far beyond there.

Ninety-five minutes. -100% ROI. 30th of 41 players.

Aces Players Club Friday $10K Guarantee (10,000 chips)

It’s not my first choice: despite the higher buy-in, the overall pots are smaller due to smaller fields. I made a couple of big mistakes. One was letting myself get bluffed off a large early pot with one player all-in and two of us calling when I was holding kxtx with the king paired and a jack draw to Broadway. There was a flush possibility on the board, an ace, and I folded to a raise to 3,600 on the turn. The winner at showdown had just kx5x for a pair of kings. Near the end of my time in the tournament, I raised from BTN with axqx, then folded to a bet on the king and rags flop, only to see an ace and queen on the turn and river. I still haven’t even come close to cashing in the Aces $10K.

Two hours and fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 35th of 59 players.


A Day of Poker That Will Live in Infamy

The Road to Prague came to an abrupt end in Vegas a couple of weeks back, so instead of testing the waters at Day 1B of the European Poker Tour in the Czech Republic, I played a lot of poker here in town.

D’s Dealer’s Choice

Hadn’t been out to D’s place for a couple of sessions, but action was already started with me only a few minutes late. Jumped right in and did surprisingly well, particularly off a game of ‘Big O’ five-card Omaha. I was up over two buy-ins in profit then it was an evil downhill slope where I lost my profit, my buy-in, and two more buy-ins before I managed to recover a little.

Four-and-a-half hours. -140% ROI.

Deuces Players Club $122 Win the Button Guarantee

I hadn’t been into Deuces since the inaugural tournament back in July. It was pretty quiet just after midnight when I got there after leaving D’s, with four people sitting around one table playing spades when I was expecting to walk into the last minutes of the first round of their 11:22pm Win the Button tournament (which I’d been interested in trying out). There hadn’t been enough players to start the tournament—and even with me they still had to wait for another—so I hung out a little bit to see if it would get off the ground. After about ten minutes GG walked through the door and we got down to business.

I hadn’t played a Win the Button tournament before, but there’s certainly an extra dimension of strategy involved, even in folding. The winner of the hand gets the dealer button moved in front of them for the next hand, and while some versions of the game rotate the blinds and just give the button player last action, at Deuces the blinds are fixed to the button as in a regular game, so consecutive wins by the same player really punish the positions to his immediate left, especially once the blinds get up there.

Early in the game I was on the BB with 7s2s and called a 5x raise pre-flop to pair the deuce. Another deuce hit on the turn and I kept calling. A 7x on the river made my full house but I wasn’t abel to get any more money out of them. I flipped over the hand and was the object of much derision for the rest of the game, with some mentions that I should read the copies of Super System in the lounge area. I sort of had to laugh. I eventually ended up re-buying and doing an add-on, but several other re-buys worth of chips at the other end of the table seemed to be taking the day by the time I was out.

90 minutes. -100% ROI. Placed 4th of 5.

Encore Club Noon $1,000 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

Worked for a while on my birthday morning, then headed off to the Encore. This is one of those times when I really wish I was keeping better track of my play, but it was my birthday and I was playing mostly for fun. I’d been knocked down a bit and thought I was going to double up with kxkx against an ace-high hand, but the board put out four spades and with his as he knocked me out. I got my re-buy stack (first in the tournament) and a newly-sat player on my right pushed on the next hand. I called him with txtx and he flipped 9x9x. My barely-higher pair held and I was up to 10,000.

That sank to about 7,400 by the first break. I picked up the 3,000 chip add-on, along with another 21 of the remaining 28 remaining players. Not long after the break ended, I got another pair handed to me and pushed up to 17,100 with jxjx against 9x9x.

With no action ahead of me, I raised from from BTN with qxtx and got an all-in from BB. I called and he showed 5x9x. I made an unnecessary set of tens. On my last hand before the break I ended up all-in with axax against ax9x and hit a full house by the river. That put me up to and even 30,000 chips at the second break, with 15 players left and a little more than 10% of the chips in play.

That’s where I stopped recording regularly. Three hours into the game, I was at 68,000, then back down to 60,000 (with the chip average under 32,000) when we made the final table. At the four-hour mark I had 131,000 chip, and was over 50% of the chips in play by the time we got to 3-way play. Every hand I was getting had some sort of ace in it, and I was putting the two other stacks at risk continuously. They were talking about how they were playing for second and third at that point, I was prepared to make a deal of some sort, then I shoved with 2x2xthe hand I’d won with in the $10K—and the larger of the two stacks decided he’d had enough and called. I don’t remember what he had, but he had enough chips that when he hit a better hand by the river, his stack was larger than mine. That caused me problems on the next hand when I shoved with 3x3x and got called again, because then I was out, with less than half the money I could have won from some smarter play.

Four-and-a-half hours. +134% ROI (including tip). Placed 3rd of 34.

Encore Club 10pm $500 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

Aside from the re-buy, I broke my other cardinal rule and had a drink (on the house, courtesy of S) while was playing. Hell, it was my birthday, I had two drinks. Busted out shortly after the first break.

 Eighty minutes. -100% ROI. 17th of 23 players.

Deuces Players Club $122 Win the Button Guarantee

Wandered back across the river to Deuces and made it possible for the Win the Button game to get going. PO—who used to run mixed games elsewhere—was behind the desk and it was good to see him again. My second run at this game went considerably better. By the time it was down to just GG and myself, I had him at a bit of a disadvantage, and this time there wasn’t much joking about my need to brush up on Brunson, especially with me winning the button 80% of the time and a small blind representing 3% of the chips in play.

I was magnanimous. It was late, the 2:22 game was due to start in fifteen minutes, and there wasn’t that much money at stake. We chopped evenly.

Two hours. +53% ROI. 1st of 6 players.

Deuces Players Club $222 Guarantee Last Call Freeroll

I thought this game was going to go a lot differently. Not long after we got going, a player sat in seat 9 and started blowing through buy-ins. He was all-in on his first hand and it seemed like his only move was all-in. Inevitably, he’d get called and while he did win a couple showdowns, it wasn’t because he had the best hand to start. Or even a good hand. Anyway, some large stacks got made at our table because of it. I picked up quite a few and was doing well until after the final table was made, then tangled a couple of times with other big stacks and got cut down.

Deuces has been trying to run a 24-hour operation, but later in the day after I was there the web site changed to say they were only going to be open late-night from 11pm to 7am. I wish them (and everyone else in the Portland poker scene) luck with that.

One hundred ten minutes. -100% ROI. 9th of 15 players.

Bubble Boy

Aces Players Club 10pm Turbo (5,000 chips)

I completed my post-Vegas trifecta of the clubs I regularly play with the trip to Aces last night. After my quick bust in the freezeout, I sat and chatted with JB (one of the dealers) and waited for the turbo.

There was a fair amount of aggression at our table, with a guy in seat 5 who said he mostly played cash games (I was in 1), a loose player in seat 9 with a tendency to go all-in at the drop of a raise, a decent player on my immediate left and a kid in seat 3 who was playing very tight but strong.

It took a while for me to find some equilibrium. I was down to just a couple thousand chips at one point. I called one of the LAG’s all-ins with as9s and I was ahead of his kxjx with all the low cards on the board, but a deuce on the river put a straight on the board and my potential double-up turned into a chop of the blinds. I kept building but was behind the chip average a lot of the way.

Once we consolidated to the final table, I had to step on the gas to stay ahead of the turbo blinds. I thought I’d be helped by the kdkx I got UTG, and raised to 1,600 at 200/400 (about a quarter of my stack) getting several callers. Then the flop hit with 5dad5x and I figured I was screwed. I made a continuation bet and got a single caller who I figured must have an ace. Then another diamond hit on the turn and I pushed. The pot was large, I had the nut flush draw, and we were still five players from the money. That got a fold and I showed the kings, which got a couple of groans from around the table. It chipped my stack up nicely.

The LAG guy kept up his all-in raises and there were a couple of times I was tempted to call, but I held off and slowly the field dwindled down to five. There was talk of paying the bubble but the cash player wasn’t familiar with the concept and while everyone else was for it, it never got unanimous assent.

I saw a flop with kx7x from the BB. The cards were 8x6x5x and after a raise from the cash guy—and everyone else folding—I was all-in with my open-ended straight draw. I had about 16,000 chips left (at one point I’d been up to 30,000) and got called. He had top pair and it held through to the river. The dealer congratulated me on my $60 win and I pointed out that I was the bubble, for which he abjectly apologized. It was sort of funny and I didn’t mind. The bubble payment would have just brought my median cash ROI down.

Two hours. -100% ROI. 5th of 18 players.

Short, Fast, And Out of Control

Aces Players Club Wednesday Freezeout (6,000 chips)

I didn’t manage to get to the game until level three had already started, and I was out 700 chips from blinds. Not an auspicious beginning, but nowhere near as bad as when I pulled axkx v axax in the hand of the player on my immediate left. A little later, just short of the break and chance to add-on, axkx proved to be my downfall again, when he called my all-in push on an un-coordinated king-high board with kxtx.

Fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 22nd of 31 players.


The Big Play

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

Time was running out. If there was any chance of getting to EPT Prague for my 50th birthday, last weekend was pretty much make-or-break time. The second starting day kicks off at noon on December 6 (St. Nicholas’s Day); I’d have to catch a flight on the 4th to get there in time, which meant having the money and arrangements made the week after Thanksgiving at the latest. To do that, I needed to to get to an event (or series) with a potential prize large enough to cover the €5,300 ($7,125) entry fee and expenses for a nice little Yuletide vacation for Ms. Poker Mutant and myself (which only got higher as the date got closer). Not that I hadn’t been trying before.

I suppose I should have kept notes on what turned out to be the biggest win of my poker career so far, but I’m back in the mode of not being obsessive about it (plus my iPhone was low on charge). And after the whirl of the past couple of days, I’m not sure how much or how accurate my recollections of the event are.

I started off the night at red table 2 in seat 7; we were ten-handed, as usual in Encore’s $10K games (the same table was used for the final). My stack made its usual ups and downs, the first thing I can remember of any significance was when I’d managed to chip up to about 35,000 and a player in seat 1 pushed all-in from BB for the third or fourth time after raises in front of her. I stood to lose about a quarter of my stack calling her with kh6h and she flipped over 9x9x, but got knocked out.

The older guy to my immediate left reacted with indignity with the usual cant about how it was a stupid call. I didn’t point him to my calculator. In a nine-handed game, a pair of nines is the best hand 17% of the time. K6s is good 13%. My “relative par” rating—comparing each hand’s win/tie percentage to that of a pair of aces—for K6s is 19.19%; it’s 26.87% for nines (for nine-handed play).

Before I knew that the player I’d knocked out was related to my neighbor, I tried to explain why I’d called: that she’d made the same move several times from the blinds, that I had her stack covered substantially, etc. but he actually flipped his hand at me and said something like “Stop talking. Phffft, phfft, phfft.” I had a hard time suppressing outright laughter at the performance.

My own feeling is that I had at least a 33% chance of taking out a player without losing more than a quarter of my stack. Not good odds in a cash game, but tournaments aren’t cash games. I think people forget that sometimes. Every player knocked out gets you closer to the money in a tournament. UPDATE: Essentially, this is the same situation described in this Card Player hand matchup between Pius Heinz and Phil Collins at the WSOP Main Event final table earlier this month, right down to the pocket nines, with the difference being that the player with the draw—Collins—was the one at risk. Maybe Mr. PhfftPhfft would like to take his point up with Collins.

I don’t remember exactly where the tipping point in the game came. Unlike some other games, I never seemed to be significantly stacked higher than anyone else; but somehow as the night progressed people kept leaving and we eventually ended up at the final table with more or less even distribution of chips. Play was exceedingly friendly, although one of the players to my right said almost nothing throughout the night.

Then, once we got to the final table, something kicked in. I think I play my best short-handed (naturally it helps if I’ve started to pick up chips). Action got down to me and the quiet guy, with us trading blinds back and forth without flops for quite a while until he was all-in with two high over cards (kxqx if I remember correctly) against my 2x2x. A pair of sixes hit the board but I wasn’t counterfeited and there was no chop.

I thought there might be trouble when quiet guy dropped a $20 on the table and asked where he got paid. He took the payout and headed for the door, leaving the volunteer dealers grumbling. I spread the love, gave something to the security guard for walking me to my car, and headed home to figure out how to try to capitalize on the win.

And the one time I forget to take a picture of the tournament screen…here’s one from earlier in the night that Encore posted on their Facebook page.

Eight-and-a-half hours. +568% ROI (including entry, door, add-on, tips). 1st of 75 players.

When It Rains It Pours


Aces Players Club 10pm Turbo (5,000 chips)

Not a big crowd but just a hideous downpour while we were mostly five-handed on two tables. I laid down twice to the same player’s all-in, with him showing total air both times. Didn’t get a chance to put him to the test before I was eliminated with 8x8x v axax.

90 minutes. -100% ROI. 6th of 11 players.

Only 19 winning days before EPT Prague.

I Could Almost Smell It

Encore Club Anniversary $25K Guarantee (12,000 chips)

I re-read parts of Lee Nelson’s Kill Everyone: Advanced Strategies for No-Limit Poker Tournaments and Sit-n-Gos on Saturday afternoon before this game, and I think that—despite my falling short of the money—I played some of the best poker of my life.

I got off to a very hot start, with some semi-strong holdings that encouraged me via Kill Everyone to a lot of three-betting. I managed to take down five of the first seven hands with only one showdown. I had 7x7x and was heads-up with a player in the blinds Several over cards appeared on the board and we essentially walked it to the river, when he showed ax6x which had paired the lower card but I had him beat. Then again, I broke off one hand where I’d flop-paired kx after ax showed on the turn and another where 2x2x was up against a pair of queens showing, so I was only up to 12,925 at the end of the first orbit despite having won a majority of the hands.

I sat quetly after that rush and waited for my opportunities. acjs won a big pot for me when it made two pair on the turn and then a spade flush on the river. Fifty minutes into the game I was up to 15,625.

I was saved from a huge loss with qxqx when I pushed back on a 1,600 re-raise pre-flop with a 3,200 four-bet and was called. axkx on the flop reined me in and I showed my queens when I folded. The guy in seat 10 flipped over kxkx and said something about “thanks for the chips.”

I got it back and more almost immediately. I picked up jx8x and paired the jack on a queen-high flop. He three-barreled it and tried to push me off the hand, but my pair of jacks ended up costing him 6,000 chips.

Then I got my own comeuppance trying to get tricky with ac7c. I only hit middle pair on the flop and a flush beat me. Seventy-five minutes in: 14,600 chips.

Just before the first break, a hand had one of the players in the tank for a couple of minutes before folding as the clock ticked down to less than a minute. A couple of the players headed off to get pizza or get in line for the bathrooms. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was in CO and when I looked at my cards I had kxkx. I raised and ended up heads-up with SB. The flop was jack-high, SB bet, I raised all-in and he called, to show axax. The board gave me no solace and his aces held up, leaving me with only 925 chips (my profit from the first orbit of the button).

I was still in, although extremely short-stacked even with the 8,000 chip add-on. Early on, I doubled with axkx v kxkx when an ace hit on the flop. at 2:22 into the game, I had 17,800 chips.

qs4s gave me a moment of deliberation from BTN before tossing it. When the hand played out, I would have hit a flush and beat the single pair that took a large pot.

Blinds were up to 300/600/75 when I called a raise of 1,800 from BTN with as9s. I hit top pair on the flop and pushed after a raise to win the hand. Then I lost several thousand playing with kxtx v 9x9x which made a set on the flop. At 2:50 I was back down to 14,000.

A push with 8x8x on an ace-high all-diamond flop took down another hand, then I picked up blinds and antes at 400/800/100 with a raise and 9x9x from HJ. Up to 16,125 at 3:10, then 19,000 at 3:30.

All-in from middle position with kxtx took blinds and antes again at 1,000/2,000/300, but four hours and forty minutes into the game I was still at 18,700 chips, below the amount of the starting stack and add-on.

I pushed on a 6,000 re-raise with an all-in holding ax5x in BB and managed to suck in some more chips, then I got extremely lucky with txtx when I pushed pre-flop from BTN and doubled through SB’s 8x8x. We both made sets on the flop, but I stayed ahead. That catapulted me to nearly chip average, with 53,000 chips at 4:50.

Sliding back down, I called an all-in of 13,600 with 6x6x. He had axkx and I almost got free, but he hit Broadway on the river. At 5:10 I was back down to 41,000. There were fifty of the original 154 players left.

Another river did me bad when I called another small (11,600) all-in with kxjx. We both paired out top card on the flop, then I paired the jack on the turn. Then the river gave him another four.

Right after that, I shoved on a 9,000 raise with kxtx and after some thought, the player gave it up. With that, I managed to get back up to 40,000 by 5:25, with 44 players remaining.

I doubled again by hitting my ace with ax9x v kxjx. and fifteen minutes later was sitting on 69,800 chips, which sounds great, but with only 38 players left after the start of break 3, was only 90% of the chip average. With blinds at 3,000/6,000/500, each orbit was costing 13,500. Not a good time to go card dead, but that’s what I did. I was down to 45,500 at 6:15 and there were 29 players left, with eleven spots to go before the money.

The BB hit me at 4,000/8,000/500 and I had jd9d. Not exactly something you’d write the Internet about, but the best thing I’d seen for a while. BTN raised to 24,000 and I went all-in for a total of 36,000, knowing the best I could expect were two live cards. He had axqx, he was the favorite as I expected, but it was still only 3:2. I almost made a straight with the series of mid-level cards that flopped, but his ace took the day.

Six-and-a-half hours. -100%ROI. Finished 26th of 154 players.