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 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.

Poker Time: 3 SETS for WSOP Finalist Jacki Burkhart! (Part 1–UPDATED)

Poker Mutant makes an appearance on PokerTime over the next few weeks, playing with all the fan faves: TerminatorWonkaDestroyer of WorldsDigital Dan, plus my former Vegas housemate Jeff Mitseff, double WSOPC Ringbearer Jeff Dobrin, and non-Jeff WSOP Ladies tournament final tableist Jackie Burkhart.

This wasn’t as exciting a session for me as it was for Jackie or Mitseff, but I promise my VPIP goes up in the next one. It can’t go down!

UPDATE

Technically, it could go down, but I had a VPIP of just over 4% for that session (maybe 8% if I played the hand that was edited out, I can’t remember what it was), putting extra money into the pot just one hand out of 24.

I was on the button the first hand (where Jackie gets felted by Dobie) with 95. My hands, in succession are:

  1. button 95
  2. cutoff Q2
  3. hijack 85
  4. UTG2 65
  5. UTG1 K5 the hand where Jacki has a set of aces and loses on the river
  6. UTG 92
  7. BB QJ I call Terminator’s raise (55) to 30 along with Digital Dan (AJ), and fold to a bet from Dan on the ace-high flop
  8. SB K5
  9. button T5
  10. cutoff T5
  11. hijack 85
  12. UTG2 94
  13. UTG1 T3
  14. UTG 75
  15. BB T4
  16. SB 52
  17. button 74
  18. cutoff 95
  19. hijack T7
  20. UTG2 83
  21. UTG1 hand edited out
  22. UTG 53
  23. BB Q9
  24. SB 54
  25. button 76

#PNWPokerCal Planner for 4 January 2017

Happy Poker New Year from Las Vegas! I’m down here in a city with its own bagpiper blowing to announce the coming of…whatever.

I missed all of the New Year’s Eve shenanigans here (though I was at a party in Beaverton with an upside-down Christmas tree), catching an emptyish 8am flight on the 1st so I could take a shot at a $100K guarantee event at the Venetian. The first couple of levels were fantastic, and I almost tripled my stack. It was slower going after that, though I was still in good shape, knocking out three players from a table that included WSOP bracelet-holders Allyn Shulman and her husband Barry Shulman, who own CardPlayer Magazine, A little brush with poker media dynasty, that. Allyn started at the table, Barry showed up several levels in as tables were consolidating, then Allyn busted and I ran QxQx into Barry’s KxKx and was severely crippled before I went out two hands later after I limped AxJx got called by 2x2x in the big blind, and jammed into him on a KxJx2x flop. That was it for me in the $100K.

If you look closely, you’ll see Kao Saechao in the standings with a decent stack. Day 2 starts with 74 and pays 54. It’ll all be over by the time you read this.

Played a little PLO, went back to the room and got into a WSOP.com $20K where I did well for a while but was hobbled by the fact I hadn’t realized it was a rebuy and addon (it pays to look at the structure before you buy in at the last minute!) then was playing catchup and was crippled (again) when I called a 15bb late-position all-in from the big blind with AQ and QT hit a ten right on the flop. That left me in the small blind with 1bb behind. I managed to quadruple up with a flush on the next hand but ran into quad queens just five hands later.

Monday morning I took a shuttle to the Orleans (free from the spot under the Linq) and waited around for a table to open up. For the unacquainted, the casino is full of very old people. I mean, even older than me. And it’s the place to go for Limit Omaha games. They had several tables of O8 at 4-8 and 8-16 (both with kills) running on a Monday morning. Admittedly, it was the Monday after a holiday, but there were 16 cash game tables running, more than anywhere except Bellagio at that time of day. Even as I write this at 2am on Tuesday, Aria has 19 tables, Bellagio has 16, and the Orleans has 12. The Venetian has 9. The wait, though, was long enough that I considered getting off the list to just play the noon O8 tournament, but I late-regged that instead and made it partway through.

There was one amusing hand in the first hour or so, where I was dealt AAAA, which is about as bad a hand as you can get in any version of Omaha, but I limped in just to see what would happen. I had another hand where I bluffed that I had a flush with the nut low draw on the turn (with 2s counterfeited by the flop) and not only made my low against an all-in player but bet another player off and took the high with a paired 4. Lost a big pot when my own low was counterfeited on the river and it was down from there.

Played a smaller WSOP.com tournament and made the money, though it was only about enough to cover lunches for the days I’m here.

Tuesday was the $300 bounty tournament at the Venetian. It got 139 entries but I only made it through the first three levels, losing small amounts on a couple hands (including laying down KK on an ace-high board with two diamonds to a bet of half my remaining chips to a guy who showed the 62 he’d called my pre-flop raise with). awadI raised KJ in a hand and was called by Hani Awad, whose WSOP bracelet win I covered this summer. Awad ended up calling my bluff on a queen-high board with 7x9x and middle pair (the seven), but he’d already knocked out several players and had probably close to five times my stack. He took me out a couple hands later when I shoved AxQx pre-flop, he called with 9xTx from the big blind, and he made two pair by the turn. Not my finest hour. The final numbers for the tournament were $20,850 in the main prize pool, with an extra $13,900 in bounties, and $5,842 scheduled to go to first place. I talked briefly to Awad after he busted me, and he showed me he was wearing his bracelet, so some people at least don’t just toss them in a box or hock them on eBay.

I’d been planning to play the 7pm tournament (a $200 bounty) but decided to force myself to play some cash game. I herded back to the Orleans, sitting in the back seat of the shuttle with some tweaker gal who had “something something HELL” as her tramp stamp complaining about how long her free ride to was taking, had some surf and turf for brunchinner (a single meal for the day), then got on some lists.

A $1/$3 NLHE game opened up relatively fast, and I sat down in seat 5. I was under the gun and raised the first hand I was dealt—T8—then was reraised by seat 7 to $30. Two players called, and I put in the extra $20. The flop was 765, I’ve got an open-ended straight draw for the ten, a backdoor flush draw, so I check it, then seat 7 shoves for more than my remaining stack of $170. The other callers fold, and it’s up to me. I called, the dealer put out a 6 on the turn and 8 on the river. I can only assume the guy shoved with AxKx because my two pair ended up taking the pot. From there on it was a mostly upward trajectory for ninety minutes, then I checkout out to go call my wife for the evening before deciding whether to play the $75 PLO tournament at 7.

I got into the game late, just as the last level before the break was starting. There were only two tables and I had to wait as an alternate for a couple of minutes while a player who busted just as I was registering kept up a steady stream of complaints about having to go on the alternate list. A spot opened up for him by the time I got to my seat.

I lasted all of ten minutes. I picked up a hand with a pair of aces, raised, was reraised from the other end of the table, made a 4-bet (we weren’t particularly deep at this point, less than 40bb) and he went all in with pocket kings which made a set on the turn. Back to the cash games, after having evened up the day before the tournament.

It took about 40 minutes in the $4/$8 O8 game for me to make up the tournament buyin and a little more. Got on the shuttle bus, had an interesting conversation with a cigar distributor from LA who mentioned he comes up to Portland several times a year, and decided to see what the cash games at the poker room in the Flamingo were like.

The only time I’d played at the Flamingo before was in a late-night turbo tournament. The first thing I noticed after I sat down was that the place was a hotbox. I just about pulled up stakes and left after the first orbit, and had just determined I couldn’t stand it any longer when they finally turned the A/C on. Other than that, things went well and I booked a third winning cash session for the day, picking up another $50 in an hour before I told myself that I had to get to my room to get some sleep before a very early morning shuttle to the airport. No sleep before I wrote this for you folks, of course.

pm_survivor

Survivor

Portland Meadows ran the first Survivor-style tournament in Portland (that I’m aware of) on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t able to make it myself because of other pre-Vegas commitments, but  it seems to have been well-received. It’s a bit difficult to make comparisons between this and similar tournament that don’t have add-ons, but thirteen players made as much as 1200% ROI on their buy-in (less if they did the addon or re-entry) in just over six hours, with a friend who made it through texting me the chop came at 6:09pm. Everyone got plenty of time to go out to celebrate the end of the year with their newfound cash.

If it had been a straight 10% payout for 10% of the players (with no add-on) that would have been $1,000 for a $100 buyin (assuming 130 players and a $13,000 prize pool). If the prize had been set at $1,000, there would have been 17 players paid $1,000 (13% of the field) with an 18th player getting $380. With standard payout structures, 10% of the prize pool is usually between 3rd and 4th place money in a field of 130.

#PDXPokerTroubles

Nothing new to report. No unexpected closures (a couple of early closings for New Year’s Eve). The Game should be re-opening tomorrow. Rialto’s been open, Aces Full ran a game on Monday for the holiday, and hopefully (I haven’t seen an announcement yet) Final Table will be running a $20K this weekend.

Limonless

Monday. tournament director Matt Savage asked the question that many in the poker Twitterverse had been wondering about for over a week: “Where is @limonpoker”? The best-known personality on Live at the Bike has been a constant presence on Twitter for years, but mentioned during a pre-Christmas #PokerSesh that some Trump supporters had ganged up to get the account suspended because of his rather outspoken anti-Trump posts (of which there were many).

In Monday’s #PokerSesh (for the uninitiated, his weekly freeform call-in show), Limon mentioned that he’s not going to bother returning to Twitter (sad!) or any other social media, and offered up his back catalog to anyone who want to select segments and post them on YouTube and promote them to try to make money. Crowdsourcing his promotional efforts, in other words. Not insignificantly, for someone to get access to the videos in order to watch them and pull out segments, they’d have to at least temporarily subscribe to Live at the Bike at $20/month…not really PNW news, but Limon’s an Oregon kid….

Deal of the Week: Bay 101 Shooting Star Satellites

The WPT is coming back to Bay 101 for the popular Shooting Star bounty championship in early March, and it’s preceded by a week of daily mega satellites. $275 Satellites have been running since December, but the big ones start 18 February, with daily $550 satellites running 25 February through 1 March and $1,050 sattys for three days starting 2 March.

Bay 101 publishes the payout structures for their satellites, and you can see from the payouts on the $275 events that unless they get 48 players, no seat is awarded (with the money getting paid out on a standard curve), and with 48–79 entries, only one $7,500 seat is awarded, so the odds aren’t exactly good enough to travel to the Bay Area if what you want is a seat. But the $550 and $1,050 buyins are a good buy if you want to get into the Main Event (which begins on 6 March).

This Week In Portland Poker

The big game this weekend should be the First Friday $20K at Final Table.

Only a Day Away

The poker world is ramping back up after the holidays!

  • The Venetian New Year’s Extravaganza runs through Sunday. The last big event starts today with the first of four $250 entry flights to a $150 Guarantee. Evening games are a mixture of bounty, rebuy, and turbo tournaments.  You can get updates on current tournaments at their blog.
  • I missed it somehow, but the WPT California Swing Kickoff has a 2-day $100K Guarantee with a $250 buyin that starts today. Two flights tomorrow, with Day 2 on Friday. Saturday is a one-day $400 entry $100K guarantee, and Sunday there’s a WPT Rolling Thunder satellite with $400 entry that has 20 $3,500 Rolling Thunder Main Event seats guaranteed. I’d probably have gone there this weekend instead of Vegas if I hadn’t missed it on the schedule.
  • Another one that snuck past me is the Hustler Casino Poker Players Tournament (could they get any more generic?), which starts a $400 buyin $500,000 Guarantee today, with two flights each day through Sunday and Day 2 on Monday. I don’t know how that got by me. Progressively fewer people make it to Day 2 on each starting day (10% today, 9% Thursday, and 8% after that). Next week is a $250K Guarantee for a $250 entry, with 15% in the money.
  • Eugene’s Full House Poker has a Heads Up-Championship coming up, on 7 & 8 January. It’s a bracket-style elimination competition where you can buy 1 or more spots on the bottom bracket, at reduced rates. Seating is limited, so contact them for details and availability.
  • The Heartland Poker Tour East Chicago series starts 12 January with a $300 buyin $100K Guaranteed tournament. There are three entry days, with Day 2 on 15 January. The first of three Main Event flights in on 19 January. It’s still possible to get flight/room packages at the hosting casino for either tournament for less than $600 total. Last year’s opening $100K had a prize pool of $298K, and the $1,650 Main Event prize pool was over $900K, with a top prize of $211K.
  • Commerce Casino‘s LA Poker Classic  begins a seven-week run on 13 January.  There are a total of 60 events, with eleven of them having guarantees of $100K or more, plus the $10K buyin WPT Championship that caps the series. Structures have been posted for about half of the events so far. Of particular note for Portland players is the $570 entry Big O tournament on Groundhog Day (2 February).
  • The 2-week Tulalip Poker Pow Wow starts 14 January with a $10K Guarantee, then a week including O8, HORSE, and PLO, before the $50K Guarantee and $100K Guarantee events on succeeding weeks.
  • The $40K Guarantee Stones Gambling Hall Chip Amplifier is 15 January outside of Sacramento. Buyin in level 1 is $120 for 10K in chips, but the price and the number of chips go up for each level, with the last one being level 6 where $550 gets you 60K in chips.
  • It’s back to Thunder Valley on the 17th, with Poker Night in America.As they’ve done before, they’re running satellites to the $5,000 buyin televised cash game (filmed 28/29 January), as well as a slate of 12 tournaments that features two $250K Guarantees (the first for a $450 buyin and the second for $1,100). In-between, there’s 6-Max, HORSE, and lots of satellites to the second of the $250Ks.

Remember to keep an eye on the #PNWPokerCal Twitter hashtag and the PNW Poker Calendar for upcoming events!

W-Day Plus 33: Independence Day

IMG_2872

Lest anyone think that this blog is going to turn into another guy complaining about his bad beats at the tournament table and life, let me just stipulate that I do have some winning sessions, and that as much as many of my old colleagues from my professional (not poker) career express bewilderment at how I ended up in my current circumstances, there are a lot of people worse off than myself, a middle-aged guy who’s had to go a thousand miles away from wife and home to take a job that’s populated mostly by people who could be my children (and who have more experience as live reporters and better poker resumes than me, in most cases, though perhaps not the same world-weary perspective on, well, everything).

IMG_2882Live reporting hours are long. If an event starts at 3pm on a Day 1, there’s no dinner break, you work 10 hour-long levels with an hours of 15-minute breaks every 2 levels, so it wraps up about 2am. But as a reporter, you need to write an intro for the day as well as finish up any hands and write a recap at the end of the day, and someone needs to write the intro for the next afternoon, so you get there an hour early don’t usually leave the building until 2:30 or 3am. A 2pm restart for Day 2 or Day 3 means you get to the Rio by 1pm or 1:30 at the latest, and with the dinner break, play goes through to 2am again, and again with the recap. So figure 13 to 14 hours at least two days in a row. a little less on the third day if someone wins on schedule, but I’ve had one event where the last two players at the end of Day 3 agreed to play an extra level to finish things off, and then with the Mixed Omaha we had three full days plus the extra hour in Day 4. I’m on salary, but I figure with the number of days I’m working, if I was getting paid overtime, I’m still well ahead of what I have been doing to pay the bills, but it’s not what I was making ten years ago as a programmer or twenty-five years ago in the printing industry.

If the only people who want to hire me any more are poker people, I’ll take it. I’ve made a lot of friends in the world of poker and I’ve got enough of an ego left (did I ever mention that I was once in the Oregonian’s list of the 200 “Most Interesting People in Portland”?) that I get a kick out of someone mentioning they read the blog. Got an invite to a party yesterday at the house where a bunch of the Oregon dealers are staying out in Summerlin (see photos above).

Refreshed from Jello-O shots and America beer, I returned to the house and fired up a 0.25/0.50 PLO8 table. Played 35 minutes and made almost 200 big blinds. Then jumped into 3/6 Stud 8, jumped out after 20 minutes up 6 big bets. Made 18 big blinds profit in a 5-Max NLHE game, then went to bed.

Two more weeks here in Vegas. Tomorrow I jump into the middle of the $1,500 Stud 8 tournament.

 

W-Day Plus 1: Memories

palazzo

No exhaustive post today. I’m not exhausted, either, after getting my first good night’s rest since leaving Portland.

Didn’t do much in the early part of the day. I had been scheduled to cover the first day of the Colossus, but due to a couple of live reporters wanting to play the Casino Employees event, that went on my ticket, so I had about 36 hours until my next event, the afternoon flight of the second day of entries.

I did head over to a computer shop here in town to get some RAM for my trusty MacBook. I’d intended to upgrade the memory for a while. It’s one of the late 2008 aluminum-body models that came with 2GB of RAM, which was perfectly fine a couple of years ago, when I started to do some 3D modeling in Cinema 4D for a Civil War battlefield visitor’s center, but the newer operation system upgrades have made it grind to a halt just opening Safari. A very nice young tech named Jessica at Century 23 here in Vegas had the 4GB modules I needed in stock and popped them in for me in just a few minutes.

Went back to the house, rested for a while, then headed out to the Venetian for the 7pm bounty tournament (Deepstack Extravaganza #14). I chipped up quickly, knocked out an angry old man who was like a tall version of Portland’s Sleepy Don, took another bounty from a kid with a Muckleshoot cap, then lost a race against a female player from Portland, and doubled up another player when I called his all-in with AT on a QxTx6x board. He showed KxKx, I got an ace on the turn, then the jack on the river took a big chunk of my chips. My final downfall was when I shoved K9 from the button and QxJx called all in with a shorter stack from the small blind. I had him covered by 600 chips at 800/1.6K/200, he caught a jack on the flop and stayed ahead. I went out the next hand.

Thought I might try my hand at the 1/2 Big O game. There was a seat open and I was able to sit without waiting. I won a little hand that put me ahead after twenty minutes of folding and paying blinds, making top and bottom pair on the flop, then top two pair on the turn and a full house on the river. Then:

Of course, the guy who was driving the action on the flop lost everything, too. Big O is The Devil’s Game.

Headed home after managing to turn a partial loss into a total loss. Slept like a baby in the A/C. Off to cover the second day of the Colossus today!

W-Day Minus 3: Leaving Money On the Table

Yesterday got off to a slow start, as I hung around the house for a while working on the computer. I followed up a response to the WSOP’s soon-to-be-official Twitter boss Kevin Mathers about the sizes of the Daily Deepstacks with a link to my article from last year with a chart of the prize pools through the whole season. You might find it useful. Cliff’s Notes: Mondays are usually the largest prize pools, probably as everyone takes one last shot before they head home from a long weekend.

Played a little microstakes NLHE 6-Max on WSOP.com and lost the last $5 I had on there. KA called after the two-diamond flop by 86 and I lose 45BB. Onward!

Headed over in the afternoon to the Orleans. There was a long list for the 4/8 O8 game, but 4/8 Omaha had a seat open and I popped in there. Before I get my chips, I’m in BB with a couple of tens in my hand, but fold after the flop. There’s a crazy guy in seat 1, raising every hand. As it happens, I should have played with my tens, because by the river I would have made a set in a huge pot, and it would be the only hand in the session that I would have won. Crazy guy was literally shoveling chips into other players’ stacks and it felt as if vultures were swarming to get at the carcass because every time a seat or two opened, it would be instantly filled. He was blowing through buyins so quickly that he’d put a hundred on the table after getting felted, and half the chips would be “in the pot” before the runner arrived with a rack. Frustrating not to be able to get a piece of that. After a hand where I made three pair on the Tx7x4x flop, I lost a good portion of my chips when an ace made a better two pair and it was downhill from there.

LV Khrung SiamI had a few hours to kill before either of the tournaments I wanted to play, so I went to the restaurant Tomer and I went to almost every night when I visited him during trips to the Series. Krung Siam’s just a couple minutes drive up Valley View Road from the Rio—though it’s a long, hot walk in the Vegas summer. Then again, what isn’t? Got Drunken Noodles at a 7 on a scale of 10. Either I’m getting older or my memory of their heat scale is faulty. After the first bite, I was wondering if this was a good idea before I needed to sit for several hours in a tournament. And yes, I am trying to smile there (this was pre-dinner). That’s just the way it comes out.

My choices for the evening were the 7pm HORSE tournament at the Orleans or the $15K guaranteed NLHE Survivor at the Venetian. I love playing HORSE, and the buyin was a third of the Survivor—which was an advantage on my poker blogger bankroll—but the median ROI advantage of the Survivor’s flat payout structure overcame my aversion to putting more than I’d just lost in the Omaha session in play, so I drove over and parked at the Venetian, registered for the tournament, then went looking for something like some ice cream to counteract the Drunken Noodles. Walked down to the Ben & Jerry’s at Casino Royale, but they didn’t have anywhere to sit; checked in at the new White Castle there but the line was incredible. There were any number of places in the Venetian itself to get gelato, but I wanted real ice cream, and finally found it after I went back up to the second level of the Venetian and found a Johnny Rockets, where I could get a chocolate shake.

The game did not start off well for me. I quickly lost half my chips by somewhere in Level 2. Not doing anything bad, just having hands go wrong. There was a fair amount of aggression in the early stages, so the pots got large fast, and that meant some punishment when I had to fold. After a while, things turned around and I beat my way back up to starting stack and above.

A couple of tables away, the final table of the first event in the Deepstack Extravaganza III was playing out. It was rather odd to think that both Carlos Mortensen and Joseph Cheong—each of whom has more than $11M in live tournament earnings—were playing in a $400 buyin tournament with a top prize of a little over $50K, but there they were, sitting next to each other without all the hubbub of the WSOP or WPT surrounding them. (Mortensen ended up 5th, Cheong took 4th.) Then again, I got knocked out of a $300 tournament by a billionaire a couple of years ago.

IMG_2793

Somewhere in the middle of the tournament, I picked up QxQx and shoved from the BB over a bunch of callers and a short-stack raise. One of the big stacks called, and the short stack went all in to show AxAx. The big stack had TxTx. The aces held up, and the player tripled her stack, but I had her covered by enough that I came out with a gain. From there, for a while, I had a run of very good hand and the position to take advantage of them. People folded when I raised with not-so-good hands, and they called when I had monsters. And the monsters held up. I took out several players as the tournament played IMG_2794down to three—and then two—tables. We’d started with 73, so the Survivor format (please, someone in Portland start a series of these!) paid out $2.5K for seven players as a straight chop, with an eighth getting $750. Starting stack is 12K, average stack at chop time is 120K (a little more than that in the nice, clean, new Venetian tournament chips in the photo—I forgot my card protector at the house), so if you could get up to 100K or more, unless you did stupid stuff like try to knock more players out, you were golden. Some people can’t help themselves. One young guy who’d looked me over and given me the “I’m letting you get away with it this time” speech before laying down his SB to my UTG raise with A6 blew away a stack comparable to mine, and ended up with eighth place.

We survivors congratulated ourselves—I had a good time talking to my table neighbor Jason T who just swapped sides after the final table redraw and squeaked into the big money after falling victim to several of my three-bets—and picked up the payout chips from the desk. This almost proved to be my undoing. I stopped on the way to the payout cage to take a picture, then picked the chips up and got in line behind a guy with a couple racks of considerably more cash game chips. He asked if I’d been in the tournament (he may have thought I was in the $150K or the SuperStack that was still running), then asked about the payout, saying “Everyone get $2K”? I looked at the chips in my hand and there were indeed just the two $1K chips. I didn’t see how I could have dropped the $500 chip—I had a death grip on the yellows—so I walked back over the short path I’d taken and sure enough, there on the table where I’d taken the picture below was the $500. If you look close, you’ll see it’s a little smaller than the $1K chips; I’d stacked it on the bottom when I was picking them up, and didn’t notice it got left behind. Vanity may not kill you but it could cost you a pretty $500.

IMG_2795

W-Day Minus 4: Let There Be Light

I stopped overnight on my way south to Las Vegas at a Motel 6 in South Sacramento. My wife’s rule of thumb is that if there’s a directional modifier attached to the name of the town or city, there’s probably something wrong. Bend v. North Bend (it may work even if the cities aren’t near each other), St. Louis v. East St. Louis, Sacramento v. South Sacramento. That’s not to say that the non-direction place names are necessarily good, just that the directional makes the city less savory.

I got to the motel about 8pm on a Friday night, and half the driveway was coned off. There were two guys in uniform at the entrance to the motel driveway, and on closer examination, they both had handguns strapped to their waists. The good news was, they weren’t police responding to some sort of horrible crime. The not-so-good news is, they were armed security hired by the motel, presumably because they feel there’s some sort of need for armed security. I checked in, went to my room, hauled all the computer equipment into the room (which was the plan, anyway) and hit the air conditioning. All I know is, when I go to Lincoln City, there’s no armed guards at the Motel 6.

Sacramento’s about halfway to Vegas on my route through Bakersfield. In the morning I hauled my stuff back out to the car, chatted up the morning duty guard (I did actually work a stint as a guard myself a couple of years ago), and got back on the road.

On the way south I listened to a mix I put together a few years back, specifically targeted to keep me awake while I was driving, then switched over to the PokerNews Podcast, where I caught Chris Sigman of Vancouver calling in to Donnie Peters and Rich Ryan with an idea for generating some more heat at the November (or whatever it is this year) Nine.

Once I rounded Bakersfield and got to Interstate 15 toward Las Vegas, my trusty Ford Escort was overtaken by a steady stream of Porches, BMWs, Mercedes, and other luxury and semi-luxury sedans, most of which seemed to have been just driven off the lot that day without any type of license plate. I was doing anywhere between over the speed limit and way over the speed limit myself. Had to laugh at the absurdity of a distance sign with LAS VEGAS and SALT LAKE CITY stacked above each other. Then, after rounding a bend coming down out of the mountains, I found myself drawn to the collector of the Ivanpah solar farm, which I assumed at first was simply reflecting heat at the position from which I’d first seen it. As I drove down the incline and around the plant, however, it felt as if the bright light was following me, and I realized that it reflected sunlight in all directions. It was hot, and I started to wonder how long it would be before I burst into flame like an ant under a microscope.

I’m renting a room from an incredibly gracious host in Las Vegas, whose new house in town just closed last week. He and his folks just got into town in the morning with furniture and spent the whole day setting up beds, and even though it wasn’t really ready for room tenantry, he allowed me to come on in. Which is a good thing, because there are literally no rooms left in town for Memorial Day weekend.

Got my big computer set up (I’m travelling with a large contingent: my iPhone, four tablets of various types, two laptops (Windows and MacOS), and my main workstation, though I left one of the big screens at home. Wifi was already set up in the house. First things first. Played a tournament on WSOP.com for the first time in a year while my host and his folks went out to buy a few items and get some dinner and busted 30/82 after refusing to rebuy or add on. Then headed over to the Orleans for a little 4/8 Omaha Hi-Lo and made enough in fifty minutes to buy a nice little late-night steak dinner. Best hand included A2 to make the nut-nut kill pot.