Poker In the Time of COVID

“Poker Game on the Moon“ by Jim Algar

It was five months ago today that I played my last hand of live poker, the longest gap in my live play since I started playing home games with a group of guys my cousin’s husband introduced me to back in 2007. And that last live session was with what remains of the same group, which has been whittled down considerably from the days when we regularly needed two tables. Maybe I drove them away…

It’s not that live poker hasn’t come back to Portland, albeit in a somewhat reduced fashion. Both of the largest poker rooms in the city and state—Final Table and Portland Meadows—are open, and a number of the smaller rooms have games running. I haven’t partaken myself, as I’ve been on the deck for helping out some folks with medical issues and can’t really afford an accidental exposure because of my love for poker.

Without any live tournaments, the Pacific Northwest Poker Leaderboard has been dead. I’d been hoping to have something to report after the WSOP.com online replacement for the World Series of Poker’s 50th anniversary (yes, you read that right, last year was the 50th WSOP but this would have been the 50th anniversary), but the last event was over a week ago and they’re apparently not adding them to the database.

So, all I have left is me.

I’ve  played a wider variety of online the past five months than I had in a long time. I started off on my tried and true Ignition Casino. I didn’t have a lot of cash left there but the first NLHE Jackpot Sit-n-Go I played after lockdown went well, and I got another one that day, but meanwhile dropped five times my winnings in a $25K GTD, a PLO Turbo, and a 6-Max Turbo. I finished out march with a few small Jackpots.

Portland Meadows—which had just reopened before Oregon locked down—had a deal with the Bitcoin-only Nitrogen Sports (home of The Poker Guys). I bought some Bitcoin and transferred it to Nitrogen to play a few of the Meadows-branded events, busting out mid-field in the first couple. Then I started playing their micro stakes PLO cash games and did fantastic, with one of them putting me up 850bb in about 20 minutes. Of course, I promptly booked a session with a loss of 700bb. Then another for nearly 1500bb. Thankfully, those were both smaller stakes than the win, but still.

Meanwhile, Kheang Tang convinced me to play part of the America’s Cardroom High Five series. I played a $30K GTD PLO8, $40K GTD NLHE, and a $1K GTD Stud8 without even getting into the top half of the field.

The cash games for me on Nitrogen were still going well, but the tournaments were a complete bust. Back on ACR. I min-cashed a $20K PLO8 after being in the top 5 for a good section of the tournament. April ended with me still cashless in tournaments at Nitrogen and a couple of losing PLO sessions in a row depleted my balance there. I made the final table of a 45-player PLO tournament at ACR, but a rebuy made me just break-even.

I got back over to Ignition on May Day, intending to focus on 6-Max and satellites. It didn’t go so well. Booked a couple of profits at 2¢ PLO cash, but it was just losses in satellites, PLO Turbo tournaments, and 6-Max for over a week before I cashed in even a $2 Jackpot SnG. Three weeks and more than 20 tournaments in, I finally picked up an MTT cash with 60/851 in a $30K GTD. Not much, but something.

Meanwhile, I was also plugging away on ACR. Apart from a satellite ticket and a negligible profit in a $500 GTD 6-Max, that was going nowhere.

Near the end of the month, I psigned up with Big Dog Poker through Jeremy Harkin, so I could try my hand at Big O during a weekend series they were running. Tried my hand at four tournaments and a few cash games and let’s just say I’m not as good at the game as I used to be back in the Portland Players Club days. And that was never that good.

My ACR play petered off in early June along with the rest of the money in my account. I did get to play one last Stud cash session, which is something Ignition doesn’t have.

Over on Ignition, I had a run of 0.1/0.25 PLO cash sessions that gave me hope, with profits in 10 out of 15, but other than that: nada. I played almost nothing the last third of the month, between my last session on Big Dog and my last on ACR. After July 1, it was Ignition and only Ignition.

Not that that was going all that well.

I had a couple min-cashes (142/1095 in a $10K GTD and 23/155 in a 6-Max Turbo) but many more bustos, mostly sticking to 6-Max, and PLO/PLO8. Then things started to turn around after the middle of the month. 11/175 in the nightly $44 buyin 6-Max. A satellite ticket to their summer series $10K GTD O8 (where I got 14/145). Another min in a $3K GTD Turbo, and 2/176 in the 6Max, with only two busts in-between (and one of those was a $250K GTD I’d satellited into).

I busted a couple of tournaments, cashed 6/215 in a $5K PLO8, busted a couple more and won a satellite into a $35K GTD 6-Max (busted), had a couple more bust days, then played two tournaments simultaneously (which I rarely do because I am old and slow), making the final tables of both.

A min-cash with rebuy meant a small loss in my first-ever NLHE Ante Up tournament (do not late-reg one of these things when you get just 12bb to start).

I noticed the last couple of Thursdays there are multiple 6-Max tournaments to lay during the series. I was considering playing all three the other day, but two of them start before I’m off of work. I wanted to sit in the living room so I could chat with my wife, so I ended up just playing the $215 buy-in because of the size of my laptop screen (if I’d been in the office, I would have used the big computer). This led to a major screw-up.

I got into a confrontation early in the game and lost a third of my chips, then drifted down further to 1/3 of the starting stack. It seems like I was down there for a long time, but looking at the hand history, it seems like I managed to recover back to a starting stack by the end of the first hour.

Nearing the end of the re-entry period, the player came in on my right with 75bb and proceeded to shove over nearly every raise made by another player. He shoved the second hand he was dealt at the table. He shoved the third hand with AJ and went down to 60bb when he doubled up a pair of tens. He 6x 3-bet the next hand. Hand 4, he doubled up another player shoving 98 and getting called by AQ. Down to 30bb, he shoved hands 5, 6, and 7.

On hand 8, he open-shoved from the button and I called with TK, exposing his Q8. He doubled me up that time, and I was up to 40bb. He was down to 12.

This did not stop the insanity, however. The next hand there was an UTG min-raise from a 35bb, and the maniac shoved with 75. The original raiser called with TQ and the maniac doubled back to 40bb.

He took a hand off, but did it again, then just limped into my BB (and won a small pot), shoved over a 4bb raise, stayed out of a hand where I doubled up to 66bb, and at least slowed down a bit.

Which may have been why I took my eye off the ball at the wrong time. Blinds were up to 600/1200/120. There were only four players at the table at the moment, with a little over 100 left and about half of us getting paid. I was well-situated with almost 75bb which put me in the top 10 at the time. The maniac was at 40bb. I had 4Q in the BB, which I might call a small raise with but I had no real intention of playing. The button (22bb) min-raised, and the maniac in SB shoved and—not seeing the all-in—I called. Button folded and I was up against 98 Racing, but a nine and a club on the flop turned into a club couch by the river and nw the maniac had almost 100K and I was well out of the top 10.

My last hand against the maniac was just 5 hands later when he open-shoved SB with 9K against my JK and again hit a nine on the flop.

I did a re-entry but lost a race on my first hand and was down to 1.5bb. Quadrupled up on my second hand. My last hand, I had A7 and 4bb in the BB, a big stack shoved 24, and I called. He got a full house.

Look Back In Poker

Everybody’s always asking
Why do what I do
I don’t gamble ’cuz I want to win, boys
I gamble ’cuz I need to lose

This was the year I didn’t go to Vegas.

I announced last fall that I was retiring from poker at the end of 2018, then got a lot of funny looks from people when I started showing up at tournaments three weejs after I retired. It wasn’t ever supposed to be an absolute thing, but I did scale back my poker playing to spend more time with the family, specifically, my wife, who retired on January 1st. And I did.

I played 95 live tournaments in 2018, and only 53 in 2019. There was a starker comparison in the first half of each year, because in 2019 I played only 14 live tournaments between January and June, where I’d played 37 in 2018. Online, I was still fairly active, with 388 tournaments in 2018 only going down to 306 in 2019, but half of the 2019 tournaments were Jackpot Sit-and-Gos, hyper-turbo, 3-player tournaments that tend to last less than 10 minutes, so they weren’t exactly eating up the time an MTT would. 3% ROI playing mostly $7 entries but also some $2, $15, and $20 games. Never saw a jackpot higher than 5x the buy-in.

After playing 85 of the nightly Thousandaire Maker tournaments on Ignition Poker last year, I entered 16 Thousandaire Makers in 2019 (cashed 2, for a -14% ROI).

I had my second-largest career cash ($10K) in this first year of my retirement, which—at the end of November—had me as #28 on the Poker Media Power Rankings, right between two of the actual poker journalists I worked with at the World Series two years ago.

In 2018, I made two brief trips too Las Vegas—in the summer and just before New Year’s, but I didn’t leave the Northwest at all (for poker) in 2019. My first experience as a player at the World Series of Poker was in 2012, I was down for short periods at least once during the summer each year until 2018 (and for a pretty long period in 2016) even when I wasn’t playing a WSOP event); now that’s retired.

Just one third the number of tournaments at Final Table this year (13 vs. 41 in 2018), even though it was the final year of my free door fees there (part of the payment for doing their web site a couple of years back, and a real steal in no-rake Portland). I played a couple more tournaments this year at Portland Meadows (14 in 2019 vs. 11 in 2018) because of the Grand Finale series.

You might think that the second-best career cash would be my best ROI in a tournament this year, but at 1800%, that was just over half the ROI from an Ignition $4K GTD NLHE Turbo where I took 4th of 471, for ROI of 3100%. I had five other tournaments where I cashed for more than a 1000% ROI.

Wins this year included a 66-player Ignition $500 GTD PLO8 Turbo, first in a chop in a Final Table $10K GTD NLHE (83 entries), the Chinook Winds $50K GTD NLHE (technically second, but I got a skosh more money, 210 entries), and a bunch of Jackpot Sit-and-Gos.

As usual, I didn’t play much in the way of cash games, but a couple of decent sessions at Portland Meadows were enough to make that part profitable.

Goals in the new year: satellite into a $5K or $10K buyin. I’ve got my eye on the Bay 101 Shooting Star (which has satellites running this month and February) or the LAPC/WPT Main Event at the end of February, with two 50-Seat guaranteed mega satellites just before Day 1. Then, of course, there’s the WSOP Main Event.

Love to goto the Irish Poker Open in March, but there are some obstacles in the way that make it easier to try for Bay 101 or LAPC instead. PokerStars hasn’t announced that there’ll even be and EPT Prague next year, so that ship may have sailed.

Hapy New Year!

R-Day Minus 2

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

After I got to the hotel last night, I spent some time figuring out what my plans for Sunday were going to be.  Aside from the 1pm and 7pm tournaments at the Venetian, I didn’t know of anything else more than just something to play in town my last day.

First off, I fired up WSOP.com to see  what was on their schedule. Right off the bat I noticed there was a $100K GTD at 3pm for a $320 buyin, and a $50K NLHE 6-Max at 6pm. Both of them had satellites, an important point for the $50K, because the buyin was $1K. So my initial plan was to maybe play some cash, come back to the hotel  early in the afternoon for the online tournaments, and get up at 4am for my flight.

Before I went to sleep, I payed a small tournament and some low stakes cash.

Best laid plans.

The first part went fine. Breakfast, unexpected morning drinking, a handy cab for a ride to the Orleans, and relatively short waiting to get onto a 1/3 table, then an opening 15 minutes later in 4/8 Omaha Hi-Lo. I came out after a couple of hours with about enough to cover my cab ride over, though not the Lyft back. Got set up for the WSOP.com 10-Seat GTD NLHE Satellite for the $100K. Got in for two buyins but didn’t want to do a third, so I relaxed until the actual $100K GTD started.

This one was a little painful, I laid down what would have been the winning hand in an early all-in when I would have tripled up, then busted out on a hand where we got all in on a run turn after I’d made a flush against a set, only to have him get a full house on the river. I don’t know if these things have  seemed more painful because I’d rather be going out on an up note but they are really pissing me off in a way they usually don’t.

I decided to leave the room and headed back to the Venetian for Event #17 $30K NLHE. Kao Saechao  was still in Day 2 of the $260K GTD. I got into the tournament late (precisely at 4:20, I noted to the table, most of whom were older than me and nobody admitted to understanding) with the hope that I could repeat the early success of my late buyin from yesterday, but it was not happening. I was out by 6pm.

So it was to the 1/2/5 PLO cash game for me. For about an hour. And that’s how my poker time in Las Vegasis is going to come to and end. Bang and whimper.

R-Day Minus 7

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

Three Ignition Casino Jackpot Sit-and-Gos. The first two were 5x payouts. Lost all three.

Last game for Christmas was the $500 PLO8 Turbo. Did not make the money, after a promising start.

R-Day Minus 13

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

Headed out to the Portland Meadows $4K GTD. Turnout was, uh, good,with more than $11K in the prize pool after all the entries and addons had been tallied. Kind of sparse down there at the bottom if you were in for several buyins (see Why Not Rebuy?) Oh, yeah, I rebought, but just once—I’m more or less out of this poker thing in two weeks! Lost on a nut flush draw on the first buyin, then got lucky on the second and beat queens with jacks when I his a set on the turn and knocked out a newplayer who’d been all in twice on his first orbit at the table with 50bb and squeezed (with the queens) to my button 3-bet. I went out after the break by shoving into top pair’s large c-bet on a KT8 board with the open-ended Broadway draw. A shorter stack behind me shoved with the nut flush and got there, taking most of my stack, the rest went to top pair.

Played about 40 minutes of tournament-subsidized $1/$2 Big O and busted two buyins. I’m going to have to talk to Jeremy Harkin about my last hand.

R-Day Minus 23

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

Played three Ignition Casino NLHE Sit-n-Gos after I got back from the Final Table game Saturday night. All of them standard 2x payouts. I won the first two (one after just 8 hands), then lost the third. After that I got into the $400 GTD PLO8 I played the other night. It has a generous payout structure—at least in terms of the number of payouts. With 27 players paid, the entire third table was getting as little as a third of the buyin. I made it to 20th for a small loss on the game,

Played three more in the afternoon, missed on all of them. Had the chip lead in one by about 3:2, lost a race, and went out a couple hands later.

Finished off the day with an online $500 GTD Limit Omaha Hi-Lo. Managed to recover once after I was down to less than 2 big bets, but couldn’t get to the money. Out 22nd of 60 entries, with 12 places paying.

R-Day Minus 24

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

Before I went to bed last night, jumped into the Ignition Casino $400 GTD PLO and played it for about 45 minuted—actually getting up to 2nd place in the 60-player field after a big hand—and only realized it was actually PLO8 after I’d busted out. At least I wasn’t the guy I played with at the Venetian a few years back who bought into a $400 tournament only to do the same sort of thing (“I was kind of wondering why none of the hands had a low…”). It might be embarrassing if I mentioned it to anyone.

This was how the second hand of that tournament went. I had won the first hand, and was up to 6000 chips from a starting stack of 5000. Late entry, blinds were 125/250. 8 players at the table, I was hijack, with T887. I was the first caller. The dealer (6450 chips, TT53) limped in with me, then the small blind (12,197 chips) raised to 1450 with AA93. I called, then the dealer called.

Now, according to the CardPlayer Omaha Odds Calculator, with the player in there with aces my chance of winning the hand doesn’t change from a heads-up match against the pair of tens, but he’s the dog in the three-way fight. Flip the Hi/Lo switch and things stay pretty much the same.

Anyway, the flop is great for me: 822. I shoot up to 57% equity. The small blind pots his aces, I’m all in to call with my full house, and the dealer—who has nearly a full starting stack—shoves with a weak flush draw (beat by the nut flush draw of the aces) and a bad low draw. The aces called.

The turn 3 counterfeited the lows of both players, then the 9 river shipped me the pot, so I more than tripled to 18375. Nice start, but I made a bad call another 40 hands down the line.

Got a 5x NLHE Jackpot Sit-n-Go, and managed to get out front after a bad start, but ended up going out third.

After doing stuff around the house (mostly sitting), I headed out to the Final Table $2K GTD NLHE. Our table had a drunk guy from “down the valley” who said he’d won a tournament earlier in the day. I stacked him twice in the same level, once when he 3-bet Q4 and I 4-bet QxQx and he called. I don’t remember what he had when I called his shove with almost an entire rebuy stack, but I won that, too. I was up to 45K early on, then doubled up an annoying player I’ve mentioned before when I had aces under the gun and just limped in expecting a raise from someone at the tableNaturally, when I c-bet and the annoying guy raised for most of his stack on a king-high board, I had to put him all in and he had Kx6x for two pair.

Doubled up once when I got down to about 10bb and we were at two tables, lost a chunk to the player I doubled through with an open-ended straight draw where he had top pair and a deuce kicker, then just never managed to put it together.

R-Day Minus 29

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

A downswing that started—well, months ago—continued tonight at Claudia’s PLO8 tournament. I went because I wanted to see if my travel partner David Long was there (he was, and regrettably, I was the player who busted him off the final table). I won this the last time I played it, but tonight I had to rebuy two hands in, after entering late. It was a little like a reunion of Portland Players Club regs, with Noah and Paul, and others at the two tables.

I didn’t quite make the money, going out in 6th place after losing two multi-way hands in a row with aces in my hand. Gotta love PLO8. (They were running a Short Deck PLO cash game tonight on PokerGO’s Poker After Dark, if you want real degeneracy.)

The aforementioned downswing is not helping my plans to get myself out of poker jail by the end of the year. No four-figure cash since July, 20 straight losses in the Thousandaire Maker; it’s enough to put you off poker if you hadn’t already promised your wife you wouldn’t spend every night online or at a poker room.

If you’ve been a fan of the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star, you know it wasn’t held the past couple of years as Bay 101 built a new facility. It’s coming back this March, though, and you can win seats to the $5200 Main Event starting in less than two weeks! What a great Christmas present for yourself!

R-Day Minus 35

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

Started off the evening with an Ignition Casino $1K GTD NLHE Turbo.

Busted that then jumped into the $500 GTD PLO8 Turbo. Made it up to the top of the leaderboard for a while, but hit a snag and augured into oblivion.

R-Day Minus 36

The Poker Mutant will be retiring (mostly) from poker on 1 January. This is the latest installment in his thrilling countdown to the End of Times.

My co-worker Ben (see Vegas Trip Report) came over for a go at the Chocolate Bourbon Milkshake and some online poker. I put on the NBC Sports replay of the Poker Masters, and we watched Brandon Adams win a match, then some PLO, while we played the Ignition Casino $2K GTD NLHE Turbo.

Ben was doing better than I was at first, then he got in with the second-best full house before getting knocked out. I managed to double up with aces, then eventually got knocked out with second-best two pair.

We each played a NLHE Jackpot Sit-n-Go. Ben got a 5x payout table. Neither of us cashed.

After he left, the Short Deck tournament came on TV and I played the $1K GTD PLO Turbo. I hit a gutshot straight for the nuts on the turn against a short stack a few minutes in, but the jack I needed gave him a set and a river ten paired the board to make a full house. I managed to get it in good at the end but you’re never good until the river in PLO.