Is Juice a Killer?


Juice’s last moments in “Sons of Anarchy”

What if the 2Pair Poker Tour came to Oregon and nobody came?

Well some people came to Eugene for their first excursion outside of California, though not nearly as many as they were hoping for. Their first tournament last Thursday, scheduled for two days, only had 20 entries and played out in one day. The first day of their $880 Championship this weekend—with an expected prize pool of $100,000—only picked up 19 entries on the first of two starting days, and 25 on the second, for a prize pool of just over $34K.

I think there are a lot of reasons for this, but one that’s been bandied about in Facebook comments has been the “high juice” charged by the event. Portland players have gotten used to tournaments where the “social club” door fee is the only money paid to the house. The dealers are unpaid “volunteers” who work for tips from the players who cash in tournaments. They look askance at a tournament (like most of the scheduled 2Pair events) with a $350 buy-in that includes a $10 dealer bonus (not on the structure sheet), a $10 service charge, $40 for administration, and an additional $125 removed from the prize pool for a player of the series award. If they pay $350 total, they expect $340 of it to go to the prize pool, dammit!

I’m not entirely convinced that the juice was the problem with turnout (see below) as opposed to it just being a thing for poker players to bitch about, but the bitching has convinced me that either I’m tipping Portland dealers a lot more than the average, or that Portland players are mathematically-challenged.

2Pair’s first event had 20 entries. $290 of the buy-in went to the prize pool, with $125 taken out of the prize pool going toward the Player of the Series award (a package to a $100,000 guaranteed championship in May). 20 x $290 = $5,800. $5,800 – $125 = $5,625. Three places paid: $2,840 (~50%), $1,700 (~30%), and $1,135 (~20%). That’s $281.25 into the prize pool for each entry.

Let’s compare two tournaments. Both have 20 entries. Both have prize pools of $5,625. Both pay three places 50%/30%/20%. In Tournament J, you pay $350, with $281.25 going into the prize pool. In Tournament T, you pay $291.25, with $10 as your door fee, and if you cash, you pay a tip.

Now, I’ve been derided by colleagues of being unusually generous with my tournament tipping in Portland. I’ve given 10% at pretty much all levels, including my first big win, when the guy who took second place just dropped $20 for his $3,000 cash. From observation and asking around, that seems to be pretty standard in smaller tournaments around town, although the amount on big tournaments is reportedly less, and can be greatly impacted if one of the top cashers is particularly stingy, as my opponent was.

In the table below, I’ve worked up numbers for a few variations of tip levels. It shows both 10% and 5%, where you either pay the tip based on the entire prize or just on the difference between the prize and buy-in.

20th to 4th Place Finish
(wins $0)
3rd Place Finish
(wins $1,135)
2nd Place Finish
(wins $1,700)
1st Place Finish
(wins $2,840)
Tournament J (cost $350)result: $350 loss
(-100% ROI)
result: $785 profit
(+224% ROI)
result: $1,350 profit
(+386% ROI)
result: $2,490 profit
(+711% ROI)
Tournament T10Z (cost $291.25) + 10% prize for tipresult: $291.25 loss
(-100% ROI)
result: $843.75 - $115 tip = $728.75 profit
result: $1,408.75 - $170 tip = $1,238.75 profit
result: $2,548.75 - $285 tip = $2,268.75 profit
Tournament T10P (cost $291.25) + 10% (prize-cost) for tipresult: $291.25 loss
(-100% ROI)
result: $843.75 - $85 tip = $758.75 profit
result: $1,408.75 - $140 tip = $1,268.75 profit
result: $2,548.75 - $255 tip = $2,293.75 profit
Tournament T05Z (cost $291.25) + 5% prize for tipresult: $291.25 loss
(-100% ROI)
result: $843.75 - $57.50 tip = $786.25 profit
result: $1,408.75 - $85 tip = $1,323.75 profit
result: $2,548.75 - $142.50 tip = $2406.25 profit
Tournament T05P (cost $291.25) + 5% (prize-cost) for tipresult: $291.25 loss
(-100% ROI)
result: $843.75 - $42.50 tip = $801.25 profit
result: $1,408.75 - $70 tip = $1,338.75 profit
result: $2,548.75 - $127.50 tip = $2,421.25 profit
Tournament T0 (cost $291.25) + stiff the dealersresult: $291.25 loss
(-100% ROI)
result: $843.75 profit
result: $1,408.75 profit
result: $2,548.75 profit

The first thing to note is that if you’re playing in a Portland club and you stiff the dealers, you do, of course, make more money, though you might find yourself somewhat unwelcome. In every spot, you make a whopping $59 in absolute value. That translates to less than 8% of the profit of the 3rd place finisher in Tournament J.

In fact, unless you are stiffing the dealers, in absolute dollar value, you’re better off playing Tournament J than any of the T tournaments, because everyone else who entered the tournament has helped pay the tournament cost before you collect your prize.

“But Poker Mutant,” I hear you say, “haven’t you been ragging on about ROI for, like, forever?” This is very true, your break-even ITM for median cashes in tournaments of this size goes from just under 21% in Tournament J down to 17% if you’re Stiffy McStifferson in Tournament T0. The difference there is small enough that I don’t think all of the whining about the juice is warranted. And if you’re one of the people who claims ROI doesn’t matter, then the fact that the dollar payoff is higher makes worries about juice at the 20% level 2Pair was charging just silly. What’s going on is that everyone else is paying the money you’d tip in Portland up front.

Personally, I hope that 2Pair doesn’t take the small turnout to heart. It’s the holiday season, people are busy with a lot of stuff. Don’t schedule the event during the only break people have between the West Coast WSOP Circuit stops, the Wildhorse Fall Round-Up, an HPT event in Vegas, and Christmas. At least not in Eugene. Portland could sustain a week’s worth of $340-$400 buy-in tournaments, but there obviously weren’t enough local players in Eugene to keep it up, and if people are going to have to travel, they’re going to want to know the games are definitely going to run and that the payoff is going to be worth their time. I think that was more of an issue for the turnout than the juice. The materials looked great, the livestream was nice after they got the technical issues worked out (I’m watching WSOP icon Lon McEachern and Portland’s Liz Tedder on the Championship final table as I write this). Kudos to them for a nice try.

My Two Minutes of Fame

So I’m listening to the end of last week’s 2+2 Pokercast, it’s just wrapping up with some comments from the previous week’s show thread, and suddenly I hear my name, because Adam and Terence read my reaction to their view of the Phil Hellmuth/Dan Colman contretemps:


The segment is here:


Terence and Adam blow it off, repeating that “everyone knows Phil’s a clown”,  and that Colman’s response was mean. But really, Hellmuth’s been blowing up for years in people’s faces at live tournaments for a long, long time, probably before everyone knew he was a clown. If you want to know how much people appreciate that, just re-watch the Kyle Kernanen/Curtis Rystadt feud in this year’s WSOP broadcasts. It sure didn’t look like Keranen was having a good time. Rystadt doesn’t have an armful of WSOP bracelets to back up his clownish behavior, but if he did, would the Pokercast guys want to be sitting at the table with him?

Hellmuth knows he’s on nationally-broadcast cameras when he does his brat routines. Colman made his comments on a forum frequented by a relatively small portion of even the poker community, which, if it hadn’t been blown up by poker media, would have been seen by a couple thousand people, most likely, and some of them wouldn’t have known it was Colman, since he used his 2+2 alias. It’s not even close to the same level.

Shuffle Off to Omaha

Bovada $200 Guarantee Pot-Limit Omaha Turbo (T1,500)

This game went pretty well, if I do say so myself, even if I did forget for much of the first portion that it was Omaha High, not High/Low.

Hand 1 [7h jd 3d 5d] UTG2 T1,500 20/40
I came into the game in the second round. Normally would not play this hand in a high game, but…. UTG and UTG1 call, I call, BTN pops it to 260 and we’re three to the flop after UTG1 drops out. [ts 6h 4d] makes a straight draw for me, and two pair for BTN’s [4s 5s ac tc]; UTG has [kc 9c jh qc], a good hand but not on this board, and he drops out after BTN pots to 880. In a situation like this, if I have to risk all my chips to call, I’m going to attempt to maximize my value, so I shoved, BTN called, and—without accounting for all the dead cards in other players’ hands—I’m actually ahead by a few percentage points. The turn and river run out [qd ad], and my flush takes it, knocking him down to just a big blind.

Hand 2 [2s 4c qs 7s] UTG1 T3,360 20/40
I call along with the player I just beat (CO), BTN, SB, and BB. Board runs out to the river with no betting: [td tc 3d 8s 9c] and BTN takes the small pot with a queen-high straight.

Hand 4 [6h 9h kd 2d] BB T3,320 30/60
UTG2 opens to 210, getting calls from BTN, SB, and myself. The flop lands right on top of me as [8h 7d 5s]. I’ve got the nuts. I pot it, UTG has to go all-in to call (with[ac ad 9s 4d], just aces and no real draws) and we’re HU. Our hands are 45%/55% pre-flop, but I’ve got him more than 10:1 after the flop. Accounting for both of the other aces having been dealt to players, along with most of the cards that could make better straights or a full house, he had less than a 2% chance of winning the hand.

Hand 6 [6c 2s jd js] BTN T4,517 30/60
UTG1 limped in, with UTG2 raising to 270 with [th ac kh 5s]. I called, and UTG1, holding [td 3s 8s  8h], came along. The flop was [9s 2d 9d] and everyone checked. [8d] on the turn, UTG1 bet his full house for 300 and I came along in the hopes of spiking a jack. The river brought [8c], UTG1 bet another 720 and I folded to the quads.

Hand 7 [as ac 8h 9h] CO T3,947 30/60
I’m not a fan of raising pre-flop with aces in Omaha, even in High the equities are too evenly-distributed, so I limped in behind UTG and UTG1. SB called, but then BB popped it up to 360. UTG1 called with [7d qc 4d 6d]. I called. BB had [jd tc jh ah]. and three of us went to the flop with UTG1—believe it or not—as a slight favorite to win the hand (now you see why aces are over-valued).


The flop was [5c 7s 2s], giving UTG1 the open-ended draw and me a gut-shot. With about 8% equity in the hand, BB shoved his last 1,140 into the pot. UTG1 had a slight edge in the odds, and called his last 970. I had nearly a starting stack behind when I made the call. [2d] on the turn and [ad] on the river gave me the full house and I gained nearly 3,000 chips.


Hand 9 [7d 2d 3c 9c] UTG2 T6,897 40/80
Limped in after UTG, called a raise from BB of 240, and folded to a post-flop bet after seeing [th 6d qh].

Hand 12 [3c as 3h 8h] UTG T6,657 40/80
I limped in, followed by UTG2 and HJ. BTN raised to 240. BB called the raise, I called, UTG2 called, then HJ potted to 1,480 with just 20 behind. I was the only caller (as you can probably tell, I was still laboring under the delusion I was playing High/Low). He held [ac 7c 6s qc] and was ahead by 56/44 pre-flop. After the [7s 5c 2c] flop, with a better pair and the flush draw, he was ahead 78/22. He bet his last 20 and I called: I had a low! [9s] on the turn. But things turned around with [3d] at the river to make my set and knock him out.

Hand 16 [js ad 3c 7d] CO T7,567 50/100
Limped pot, with UTG, me, SB, and BB. [ah 7c qh] on the flop. I open to 200, get a call from UTG, then we both check [td] turn and [6h] river. He has [5d ts 5s kh] and my flopped two pair is good for a small pot.

Hand 17 [7h ah 6s qh] HJ T8,067 60/120
I limp in with SB and BB, the flop is [8s 3s td]. SB bets 360 with [qc ad 2c kc]. BB actually has the best hand with top pair, but lets it go, as do I.

Hand 20 [4s kd kh 3h] SB T7,827 60/120
UTG2 raises to 240 with [qh ac 8h 4c], I call, and BB calls with [ks 4d ad 7h]. I have nearly 50% equity, with cards dealt to other players removed from the calculations. The flop looks good for the pre-flop raiser, with [3c ts tc] but it actually only reduces my chances of winning by a couple percentage points. Nobody bets. [5s] on the turn, I bet 400, and win the pot.

Hand 21 [7s qh qs ad] BTN T8,307 60/120
Looks like a legitimate PLO High hand, doesn’t it? UTG1 limps in, I limp, SB limps. Flop is [qd 8s 9h]. UTG1 bets 288 with [6d 8h 7d jd], I pop it to 600 with my top set. SB goes all in holding the nuts: [td jh 9d 4s]. I can’t let top set go for another 600 chips and call. [3s kc] on the turn and river improve his straight but do nothing for the set.

Hand 22 [ac 5s th jh] CO T6,957 60/120
I limp in, SB limps with only 600 behind, BB has just under 1,100. The flop is [2h 4c kh] and SB pots, putting in more than half their stack with [kc 2c tc 6c]; two pair and a backdoor flush. BB folds. Counting folded cards, there are only three hearts left (which I don’t know) but I do have the gut shot wheel draw, so I double the bet, he goes all in for 210 more, and it’s a [3d] on the turn that swings things in my favor, with a river [jc] ending the hand.

Hand 23 [5s as jh 5d] HJ T7,767 60/120
We’re only five-handed at the table. UTG limps, I limp, BB checks, flop is [7d 9c tc] and I fold to a min-bet from UTG, who has [8c qc ks td] for a great draw and a pair. BB was technically ahead at that point with [ah jd js 6c], but UTG had a 75% equity.

Hand 24 [4h 2h 2d 3s] UTG1 T7,647 60/120
Still under the assumption I’m playing High/Low. I limp after UTG, CO raises to 660, SB pots to 2,340, UTG and I fold, CO is all in for 840 more. SB wins with [kd 2c 8h kh] after the board runs out [3d td qh qs qd]. I can’t beat that.

Hand 26 [tc td 2s 3d] BB T7,527 80/160
Five limpers into the pot until SB goes all in for 800 more with [kc ks 4d qs]. I call, HJ, CO and BTN put in the extra 640, holding [4s kh 3s ac], [2c 6c 5d 4h], and [ah 7s 9d 7h], respectively. CO goes all in for 700 with the low end of an open-ended straight draw, BTN calls with his set (and over 5K behind), and I’m along to the [5s] turn, when I pot it and BTN folds. [6s] on the river and the flush holds. I scoop the 6,400 chip pot.

Hand 34 [7c 7d 6s 6d] BB T12,367 100/200
Seven players on the table at this point. CO has 9K, BTN and UTG are around 5.5K, SB has 2,300, and UTG1 and HJ are under 5BB. CO min-raises [5h ad 8s js] and BTN calls with [kh 3h 4d  5d]. Maybe they’re also thinking there’s a low. I call. After the [kd 9h 8d] flop, I’m still the statistical favorite, with the open-ended straight and flush draws. We all check to the [as] turn, I check, CO bets his two pair for 444 and BTN and I call. [qd] on the river makes my flush and we all check it down for a nice little pot.

Hand 37 [3d 3c ac 7d] CO T14,030 125/250
Three limpers to the [6h as qd] flop, it’s checked to BTN who bets 562 with two pair and he takes the pot.

Hand 41 [kc ac th 6c] BB T13,780  150/300
CO and BTN limp in and we all check to the river when the board reads [kh 8d 5c js]. CO bets 300 with [td as 9s 5d] and BTN and I call, drawing for the same gut shot Broadway straight. [9c] on the river gets checked around and CO wins with two pair.

Hand 42 [2d as jd 3d] SB T13,180 150/300
HJ raises to 655 with [td kh 8h kc]. CO calls with [tc ad 8s ah]. I come along compliantly. The flop is [6h 2s 8c]. I check, HJ bets 977, CO calls, and by this time, I’ve figured out we’re playing high only, because I fold my nut low.

Hand 45 [7d 7c 8h ad] HJ T12,525 200/400
I limp in with SB, see a flop of [6h 5s js], we check to [ks] turn, I bet 500 and fold to a re-raise from SB with [as qc td qd].

Hand 46 [6s th 6h 7d] UTG1 T11,625 200/400
I limp, CO is all in for just 200. The blinds, both with more chips than me, are unresponsive, and the board checks down to the river: [9d ad 3c 9s 6c]. I bet 600 on my full house and BB, who’s woken back up, folds [5s 5d jd ts], and my full house takes the day.

Hand 48 [ac 9h 5d 8h] BB T12,430 200/400
CO raises [3d 8s 8c 4h] to 955 and I call. With cards removed, I’m close to a 2:1 favorite. The flop is [jh 2c 7h], filling in some straight and flush draws, and I call a bet of 1,155. We both check [ks] on the turn, then the [th] gives me a straight flush and I don’t realize it before I check—thinking I’m just jack high—though I doubt he was calling anything with just a pair of eights at that point.

Hand 49 [4d kd tc 9d] SB T14,740 250/500
CO and I limp in, the board checks to  the turn showing [6h 8s qd 4s], and I check-fold to a BB bet of 1,500 on a made seven-high straight.

Hand 50 [3x 3s qs qh] BTN T14,240 250/500
UTG limps in with [th 6h 7c ac]. I follow. SB limps with [ks 9h as 2d]. BB has [2c kc tc 5c]. Everyone checks to the river: [7d kd jh jx qd]. I hit a full house on the river, I bet pot, UTG calls with the straight, and I make a 3,500 chip profit.

Hand 51 [4s 5c 9s 9h] CO T17,740 250/500
Limping, limping, there are four of six players at the table to the flop, I have the most equity pre-flop, make top set and a straight draw with [6d 9c 7h], going from 37% to 75% chance of a win and a 13% chance of a tie, with everyone else under 7% for a win. I pot it and everyone folds.

Hand 52 [4h 5h 7c ac] HJ T19,240 250/500
I limp in with SB ([qh 9c 5s 8s]) and BB ([qc jc 4d 5d]). The flop isn’t particularly good for my hand: [kc as ts], but I call a BB min-bet. [6s] on the turn and BB min-bets again. This time, I fold, SB raises to 2,155 with the flush, and BB folds Broadway.

Hand 53 [9d qc 2d tc] UTG T18,240 300/600
One of those speculative hands that went nowhere (for me) after a bet of 1,800 from CO on the [qh 6d as] flop.

Hand 55 [7c 8c 9s as] SB T17,040 300/600
I limp in after HJ and CO. The flop is [th qs 6d], I call a 600 bet from CO with [8h jh qc 5h]. We’re HU to the [ac] turn, which flips the odds back in my direction. We both check the [2h] river, and my aces beat the queens.

Hand 57 [5h 2h kd 4d] CO T19,440 400/800
UTG and I are about equal in chips. There are only three other players at the table, all with less than 7K. I limp in with SB, the flop is [3d ad ks], I have second pair, a wheel draw, and the nut flush draw, and I bet 2,400, getting folds from [td 6h qd 5d] and [tc 6d 7c ac].

Hand 58 [th as ts 2s] CO T21,040 400/800
I’m in the cutoff position again because the button was dead. I limp in with SB, and the flop is [qs jh 8h]. I’ve got a couple high straight draws and call a BB min-bet. The turn drops down to [4d], and I give it one more min-bet call, but fold after a third barrel and a [5h] river leaves me without anything but my tens. BB had [jd 2c 4c 5d] for two pair.

Hand 61 [7s 7d 2h 2s] BB T19.040 400/800
Still just five players at the table. I limp in, then fold to a 1,500 bet by UTG on a [4d 6d td] flop.

Hand 62 [td 4h kd jc] BTN T18,240 400/800
I limp in and BB and I are HU. The flop is [9h 8s kc]. I bet 1,200 and he check-calls. I’ve got the top end of his straight draw and top pair for a 2:1 advantage. [qh] on the turn locks me in and I pot, getting a fold.

Hand 63 [4h jd ts qh] CO T20,640 500/1,000
I limp-fold pre-flop when BTN pots (with [qc kc js kh]) and BB puts him all in with [6h ah 8c jc]. The board ran out [3d qs as 2h 6d], and with all the low cards, BTN’s kings weren’t enough to keep him from hitting the rail.

Hand 64 [6h kc qh 6d] BB T19,640 500/1,000
Seven players at the table with fourteen left in the tournament. I’m chip leader at the table. SB, HJ, and CO all have about 11BB. UTG, UTG1, and BTN are at less than 5BB. CO opens to 2,000, getting calls from both of us in the blinds. The flop is [kd th 7c], bets over 4K (holding a set of sevens) and wins the pot.

Hand 65 [qh 3c 3d ah] SB T17,640 500/1,000
The first big hit I take in the tournament is on the first hand at the final table. BTN limps with [8c 6c 9h 7s] and I uncharacteristically raise to 3,000. BB folds, but BTN calls with about 6K behind. We’re about even odds pre-flop. The flop is [6d 6s 4h]. I check-call his shove, coming from way behind at less than ten percent, and lose more than half my stack as the turn and river are [as 5c], making his straight.

Hand 67 [qs td ad kc] CO T8,398 600/1,200
The blow-up continues. UTG1 is all in with under 2BB holding [9c 9h 4s 5s]. I call, along with HJ ([6c 5h 9s 6d]) and BB ([ah th 2d 8c]). I make Broadway with a lot of draws on the flop: [qh ks js]. BB shoves and I’m all in to call. HJ drops out. The turn and river are [ts 3d] and I chop the side with HJ, with the short stack quadrupling up on the flush.

Hand 68 [8d 9s 6h 7h] HJ T6,223 600/1,200
I’m in seat 2. Seat 3 is CO with 2BB. BTN has just over 4BB. SB has 7BB. BB has a bit more than 12BB, UTG is at 8BB, UTG1 (seat 8) has less than 2BB. The chip leaders are UTG2 (19BB) and UTG3 (14BB). UTG1 chooses this point to ship [kh 9h ad qd], getting called by UTG2, me, and BB, who has to put in just 740 more. The flop is low and straighty: [5c 7s 3d]. I ship my last 4,300 in, get [9d 8h] to complete the board and my straight, and UTG1 is knocked out as the first cashing player.

Hand 76 [as qh jc 7h] HJ T10,243 800/1.600
An uncharacteristically long time for me not to play a hand in PLO. We’ve lost another player, seat 6, the SB in hand 68. The second chip leader in seat 1 has lost some ground and is down to 14K, with seat 9 ahead by nearly 20K. I limp in with SB, and we and BB check down to the river. The board is [4d 9s 5h ad kh]. My pair of aces is good enough to win.

Hand 79 [tc qs 3d 4s] BB T13,443 1,000/2,000
Seat 7 has been eliminated. There are two stacks with less than 3BB, and UTG chooses this point to shove with [8s kh qd ks]. I call for another 3,400, and we’re 1:2 pre-flop. The board is [5s th 6c qc 7d]. I’ve got him beat with two pair by the turn, and the river makes my straight for the win.

Hand 81 [6d qh jc ac] BTN T18,915 1,000/2,000
Down to four. Seat 1’s starting as UTG with 12BB, I’m BTN, Seat 4 has less than 4BB after paying the SB, and seat 9 still has the chip lead with 18BB pre-flop.BTN and I both limp-call a min-raise from BB. The flop was [4s 7s 7h], and since nobody had a pair of fours, a seven, or spades, a c-bet of 2,000 from BB took it down.

Hand 83 [jh 2h 6s 6c] BB T14,915 1,000/2,000
SB calls with [7d 7h 9c 3c]. Counting dead cards, I’m behind 2:3. We check through to the turn when the board is [8c ad 4h 5h], and I bet 2,000, getting a call. He’s still ahead until the [3h] on the river. I bet at the flush and he folds.

Hand 84 [ts 4c 2h 8h] SB T18,915 1,000/2,000
The big stack calls UTG with just over half the chips in play. I limp in. BB has [3d kd th 8s], and top pair with a flush draw on the [7d 3h td] flop. He shoves for 6K, UTG folds, and I call. The [6h] on the turn gives me a glimmer of hope for a suckout, but it’s [7s] on the river and his king played for a kicker to two pair.

Hand 85 [7h ah 4h 6c] BTN T11,075 1,000/2,000
I’m short stack of four, but UTG and SB on this hand have less than 9BB themselves. UTG folds, I pot to 7,000 and the blinds fold.

Hand 87 [ad 9d 2c kh] BB T14,075 1,250/2,500
Seat 1 doubled through seat 9 on the previous hand to take the chip lead. Now it’s my turn. He limps in with [ah 7h 9h 6c] and I pot to 7,500. He repots to 22,500 and I’m all in with a call. I have about a 15% lead pre-flop. The board runs down [2s 5c 5s js 2d] and my trip deuces double me up.

Hand 96 [9c 5c 3h kh] SB T20,650 1,250/2,500
I sit back a bit and let everyone else take shots at one another. I’ve slipped down into third place, but BB in seat 4 has less than 4BB and even the chip leaders in 1 and 9 only have 12BB. Action folds to me, I min-raise pre-flop and take the big blind.

Hand 99 [ah 4c 7d ad] BB T23,150 1,500/3,000
The short stack busted on hand 97, and seat 9 took half of seat 1’s chips at the same time, moving up to 50K. He and SB limp in, and I pot to 12K (despite what I said earlier about not over-valuing aces). They call. The big stack has [4h as 6h as] and SB has [7h 7s 2c kd], with just 4K behind. Three-handed, my aces are in pretty good shape. The flop is [5d ks 5c], everyone checks, then it’s [qd] on the turn and I decide to make a move by going all in. The big stack scurries off and SB puts in his last chips with about 8% equity. The case [ac] comes on the river and I’m in the lead HU.

Hand 100 [6h qh kd 7h] BTN T51,288 1,500/3,000
I opened to 9,000 and BB called with [jh kh 2s 3h]. The flop was [2c qd 9s] and I potted with top pair. He folded.

Hand 101 [4d qs 7h qh] BB T60,288 1,500/3,000
Needless to say, after BTN limped in, I potted, he re-potted and I got him all in against my queens. 86% to 14% in my favor pre-flop, with me holding one of his outs to a set. With the board running out [3c 6d 9s 6s 8s], it never got any better for him and I took the win.

Still running a high VPIP for my Omaha games: 48%. I won 21 hands (44% of hands I played). 23 of the hands I played went to showdown (48%) and I won at showdown 18 times (78%).

One hour and fifty-six minutes. 101 hands. 1st of 65 entries. +1,510% ROI.

Ship, Ahoy!

I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but I’m going to ride this little surge as long as possible. After busting out of the event at High Mountain, I came home and played Bovada’s nightly $4K guarantee $5.50 Turbo Rebuy, making a small cash with 41st place out of 383 entries. The next night was the Final Table $20K where I took 7th. After coming home from a wonderful birthday/anniversary dinner at the restaurant my wife and I have considered “our” place for thirties years—which is closing at the end of the month—I late-regged the nightly $7,500 10K Chips/10 Minute Levels on Bovada, made it as high as 3rd place on the leader board with 200 players left as we neared the money bubble, then eventually went out 42nd of 1,202 entries for a min-cash. Min-cashed it again last night in 112th place. Then I won a 59-entry $200 Turbo PLO tournament that I forgot was high-only, picking hands that probably wouldn’t have been in my range for the first half until one of my lows didn’t pay off.

Five straight cashes, two in events with more than 1,000 entries. I know it won’t last, but I think it’s a personal best.

Poker Mutant Birthday

I’m not in Prague.

But the past couple of weeks haven’t been too bad for the Poker Mutant. Just after my last round-up, I had another short dry spell after a min-cash in the daily Bovada $4K morning tournament, including a stab at the first event at the 2Pair Poker Tour series in Eugene (at the High Mountain Poker Palace) on Thursday. Small turnout, just 20 entries, went out 14th. Cold five-bet [jx jx] from the big blind and got called by the four-better on the button. Flopped [kx 4x 5x] and found out it’s damned hard to bluff an old man off a flopped set of kings. So that only lasted a couple of hours.

2Pair Poker Tour streaming final table at High Mountain Poker Palace in Eugene.

2Pair Poker Tour streaming final table at High Mountain Poker Palace in Eugene.

It’s my 53rd birthday today, and I began the day playing in the First Friday $20K guarantee at The Final Table. Only 106 players with 19 re-buys and there was more than $3K in overlay. By the time we got near the money bubble, I was at half average, and got down as low as 4BB at one point before catching lucky by shoving [qx jx] UTG, getting called by [ax kx] in the BB, turning two pair and avoiding a ten on the river. Did not bubble the final table a third big game in a row, making it to seventh place after shoving 6BB with [kx jx] over a big stack UTG raise with [ax 4x]. He caught a four on the board. I would have been out with [ax kx]. My third consecutive cash in Friday/Saturday night games played in Portland and 11/33 in live and online tournaments over the past couple weeks. I can live with that.


Eight and a half hours. 7th of 106 players. ROI: 388%.

Game Theory Optimal

A couple of commenters scoffed at the conclusion to my recent PokerStars recap of Martin Jacobson’s all in hands, where I suggested that Jorryt van Hoof—who had open-raised before two players he had covered 5:1 both went all in—should have considered calling the all ins.

To recap, this was hand 224, where William Tonking was eliminated by eventual champion Martin Jacobson. There were only four players remaining. Van Hoof was the chip leader with 101.625 million, Felix Stephensen was in second at 57.2 million, Jacobson had 21.5 million, and Tonking was the shortest, with 20.15 million. Blinds were 500,000/1,000,000 with a 150,000 ante. Stephensen was big blind, Jacobson was small blind. Van Hoof opened under the gun for 2.2 million, Tonking went all in from the cutoff, and Jacobson followed suit. Stephensen folded his big blind. The pot holds 42.45 million.

Van Hoof opened with just a [qd 7d], which, according to the naysayers, had horrible equity for a call against two shoves. My reasoning was that in this particular situation, the possibility of knocking out two players, ensuring a $1.35 million pay jump from third-place money to second-place money, and increasing the chance of the $6.2 million jump to first place, made the chance worthwhile. In fact, had he called, van Hoof would have won the hand with a queen hitting the river.

Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

Odds and Numbers

Before the hand began, Tonking had 20BB with an M-ratio of 9.6. Jacobson had 21BB and 10.2M. And van Hoof had more than 101BB with M of nearly 50. Van Hoof has to call 19.15 million to close pre-flop action, getting 2.21:1 in the 43 million chip pot.

If we assign the tightest Sklansky hand ranges that include the deuces Tonking shoved with (#7, top 30.9% of hands) and the tens that Jacobson re-shoved with (#2, top 4.4%), van Hoof’s hand has about 22% equity pre-flop. That puts it behind both of the other players’ ranges. Card odds are 3.5:1.

From a conventional calculation of whether to call, this is definitely a fold. That is, in fact, the option van Hoof takes immediately after Jacobson’s re-shove.

What Happened

The way the hand played out was van Hoof remaining a substantial chip leader, with 99.275 million chips, Stephensen in second place with 56.05 million, Jacobson in third with 45.150 million, and Tonking out of the game in fourth place.

The Call

If van Hoof had called, there would have been a pot of 62.1 million, consisting of a main pot with 59.4 million and a side pot between van Hoof and Jacobson of 2.7 million.


  1. Tonking wins main pot; Jacobson wins side pot. If Tonking’s deuces hit a set or straight and Jacobson’s tens held up otherwise, Tonking would have ended the hand with 61.6 million and Jacobson would have been sucking air with 2.7 million, with van Hoof at 80.125 million after the call.
  2. Tonking wins main pot; van Hoof wins side pot. Tonking’s deuces hit set/straight, and a queen pairs van Hoof’s top card. Jacobson is eliminated, Tonking at 61.6, van Hoof at 80.125.
  3. Jacobson beats Tonking. Jacobson has 64.8 with both main and side pots, Tonking eliminated, van Hoof with 80.125.
  4. Van Hoof wins. Tonking and Jacobson eliminated. Van Hoof has 144.925 million heads up with Stephenson.


Payouts for the top four spots in the November 9 this year had a steep jump between first and second because of the $10 million guarantee. Here’s how it was actually distributed.

1Martin Jacobson$10,000,000
2Felix Stephensen$5,145,968
3Jorryt van Hoof$3,806,402
4William Tonking$2,848,333


These tables show how ICM affects the value of each stack under the various scenarios.

Actual PayoutsPreflop ICMActual Result ICMMain: Tonking, Side: Jacobson (ICM)
Jacobson, $10 millionvan Hoof, $7.34 million (101.6M chips)van Hoof, $7.32 million (99.28M)van Hoof, $6.72 million (80.13M)
Stephensen, $5.15 millionStephensen, $5.96 million (57.2M)Stephensen, $6.01 million (56.05M)Tonking, $6.12 million (61.6M)
van Hoof, $3.8 millionJacobson, $4.29 million (21.5M)Jacobson, $5.61 million (45.15M)Stephensen, $5.93 million (56.05M)
Tonking, $2.85 millionTonking, $4,21 million (20.15M)Tonking, $2.85 millionJacobson, $3.03 million (2.7M)
Actual PayoutsMain: Tonking, Side: van Hoof (ICM)Main and Side: Jacobson (ICM)Main and Side: van Hoof (ICM)
Jacobson, $10 millionvan Hoof, $6.83 million (82.8M)van Hoof, $6.42 million (80.13M)van Hoof, $8.64 million (144.4M)
Stephensen, $5.15 millionTonking, $6.16 million (61.6M)Jacobson, $6.25 million (64.3M)Stephensen, $6.5 million (56.05M)
van Hoof, $3.8 millionStephensen, $5.97 million (56.05M)Stephensen, $5.96 million (56.05M)Jacobson, $3.8 million
Tonking, $2.85 millionJacobson, $2.85 millionTonking, $2.85 millionTonking, $2.85 million

Van Hoof’s fold and the elimination of Tonking in 4th resulted a loss of only $20,000 of equity according to the ICM calculations.

Against the ranges assigned to Jacobson and Tonking, the most likely result of a call—a win by Jacobson—was approximately 52% (56% using the actual cards dealt), resulting in a loss of $920K.

A Tonking-range win was likely to happen about 26% of the time (only 17% with his actual hand) for a loss of $620K if Jacobson took the side pot (70% of the time Tonking won, or 18% overall) and $510K if van Hoof beat Jacobson for the 2.7 million chips.

The 22% chance that van Hoof knocked out both of the other players results in a $1.3 million increase in equity.

If we run the numbers for the call we get:

-0.52($920,000)-0.18($620,000)-0.08($510,000)+0.22(1,300,000) =
-$478,400-$111,600-$40,800+$286,000 =

While that represents a more than 17-fold increase in equity loss over what an ICM calculation of the fold represents, and many would argue that a fold was therefore the optimal move, $350,000 is only about 25% of the difference between third-place money and second-place money, and less than 6% of the difference between the third-and first-place payouts.

Considering that van Hoof would have remained the chip leader by more than 15 million chips in any scenario, that he could never finish worse than third no matter what the result, and that there was no scenario in which he finishes worse than third place, I still maintain a call would have been the optimal move.

Four Years (or My Long Poker Road)

It’s been just about four years since my first post here, just before my 49th birthday in 2010. So at the end of this week I turn 53. I’m still not making a living playing poker, but as I wrote in my first article for earlier this year, that’s not an easy task, mathematically. (On a related subject, there’s an interesting long thread on 2+2 that I just ran across yesterday).

I’ve always been interested in games, but due to disposition and a lack of money in our family, nobody I knew was ever involved in gambling or ‘gaming,’ so I never played poker until I was in my early 20s, when I hosted a five-card draw game at my house where the guys I worked with in a book warehouse got together after work once in a while after our weekly payday for some nickel-ante cash games. No casinos in Oregon at the time (or much of anywhere else in the West outside Nevada since this was before the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act). I hadn’t ever seen poker played outside of movies and TV. But I liked the social aspect of it, and I was just as enthusiastic about it as I had been a couple years earlier when I set up spreadsheets to manage a baseball fantasy league back at the beginning of the craze, even though I have never had any interest in sports. After I moved out of Eugene, I didn’t play poker again for nearly twenty years.

The Moneymaker book completely missed me. I was completely oblivious to Texas Hold’em and tournaments though I’d worked on some prototype online video poker and casino games in the late ’90s. Didn’t watch sports, didn’t see ads for the online sites, just went my own way until I was talking games at a holiday party with the husband of one of my cousins, and he invited me to a little bi-weekly $30 home tournament. I played infrequently through most of 2008, and didn’t cash in any of the one or two-table events until the spring of 2009. By that time, while I’d been working as a freelance programmer for over a decade, had written several programming and multimedia development books, and gave presentations at national conferences from time to time, I hadn’t had a steady paycheck for more than two years, and I had a fair amount of time on my hands, so I’d set up accounts online, playing qualifiers to live events (I ran across an email to a friend mentioning I’d made it to 77th place in a 7,500 player field on PokerStars in May 2009). I started winning in the home game. I took 2nd in a 200 entry Full Tilt tournament in July 2010 for nearly a 40x prize. But I wasn’t that good and kept shooting for big money which increased my variance more than I knew. And I was broke, so when I cashed out and then ran my online bankroll down, there was no way to prime the pump.

As a self-improvement project in late 2008, I’d started learning iOS programming, eventually releasing a game on July 4th weekend in 2009 (you can still get the free version). As my second act, I started doing something poker-related, mostly to have something to show to prospective employers. I wrote a tool that an accomplished user could manipulate while their iPhone was in their pocket, which would give audio feedback on the hand’s strength. So you could hit a button that specified there were 9 players, tell it you had an ace and a king and that they were suited, and it would repeat back the particulars and that it was a 22% favorite against eight random hands all in, with a 2% chance to tie, all without anyone knowing you had that info, assuming you hadn’t forgotten your headphones. First, I had to generate the hand equities, so I wrote a program to play out half a million hands between two players and twelve players (just to be thorough). Not really marketable, but an entertaining exercise.

I worked on that, off and on with breaks for paying projects, until the summer of 2010. I’d been following more and more poker news, and as the World Series of Poker got under way that summer, I kept an eye on the reports. Early in the series, skimming over the list of final tableists, I ran across a name that was very familiar to me from my work as a programmer, as someone I’d first met a decade earlier at conferences developing  extensions to the software tools I used. I hadn’t talked to him for several years, and I wasn’t sure it was the same guy, but a quick email led to a confirmation that it was, indeed, the same Tomer Berda I knew who’d placed fifth in a $1,500 NLHE event. I had no money, but I did have some frequent flier miles and went down to Las Vegas to have lunch, catch up, talk about my goofy tool, and learn a lot about playing poker for a living. Then I did my best to sweat Tomer from afar through the rest of the series, where he had a tough time of it until the day the Main Event began, when a 1,941 player field in the last preliminary event turned it into a four-day affair, which he won. I was hooked. Not because it looked like easy money or because I thought I’d win big early on, but because at that point anything looked good as an option for making a little money, even something my family and my wife considered degenerate gambling.

I played (necessarily) small stakes online tournaments, with and a lot of satellites to live events like the Irish Open, then went up to Seattle to watch Tomer grind some games and play $1K pots on $25/$50 cash tables. I was doing a self-analysis of pretty much every tournament I played, with a write-up of at least a sentence or two (sometimes much longer) here on the blog (shout out to Brad Smith, one of my other former multimedia colleagues, for encouraging me to put it together). Despite having some excellent advice, I wasn’t playing smart, playing bigger than I was bankrolled, and then Black Friday happened in the spring of 2011.

I’d played a few small tournaments at the local Portland poker clubs before Black Friday, first at the daddy of the clubs: Portland Players Club, the late Aces Players Club, then Encore Club in February. After accounts were closed on PokerStars and Full Tilt, I started making the rounds a bit more often, spiking first place in an 80-player freeroll in early May on my first time back at PPC after a year. Our home game season was drawing to a close. I’d been in the lead for Player of the Year for the middle of the season, in the winter, but by spring I’d dropped to third place in the running for a seat in a 2011 WSOP side event, then needed everything to run my way in the season ender in order to make enough points to win. They didn’t. My first month of concentrating on live play turned out about even.

The end of access to the big online poker sites in the US was good business to the poker clubs, which started to ramp up their game selections. I played my first live $10K guarantee just over a month after Black Friday, my second a week later, and cashed for 7th place in a 141-entry $10K (my fourth) by the two-month mark. My recording here started to go down. I kept notes as well as I could during live games at the time, but found it difficult to follow action as well as I wanted to when I was typing about the last hand played.

Played poker for the first time in a casino on a vacation trip to the Washington beach that summer. That might seem odd for someone who’s been working towards a life of poker, but I hadn’t ever been in a casino before I was in my mid-forties, and that was only because  I did a presentation on podcasting in Vegas, and they’d put me up at the Rio. Stayed at the Stratosphere one night a couple years later before my wife and my parents headed off for a trip to Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. Didn’t have any time to play when I went down to visit Tomer on a one-day trip. So it was a new experience.


Luxury view at the Stratosphere

Got back home, took second place in a 140-player invitational at Encore for winners of their daily tournaments, then went into a long slump through the summer, as I was working my way up to my 50th birthday, trying to steamroll my way to the European Poker Tour Prauge event that ran through December. A rare business trip to Boston gave me a chance to see (and fail at) Foxwoods, which was a bit bigger than the little coastal casino in Washington state or Spirit Mountain here in Oregon, where I’d just played a tournament. It wasn’t until almost exactly three years ago that I had my first big win, in the Encore $10K. Only 75 players, but good for more than $4,000 in profit.

Regrettably, while I’d learned a lot about poker, I hadn’t learned much about bankroll management. The $4K represented a big chunk of money to someone without a job, but I was kind of fixated on running it up for a trip to Prague. and blew it on a last-ditch (with my 50th just a couple weeks away) effort by flying down to Vegas within a couple hours of my win, regging for a Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza Main Event, and busting out after about five hours.

For a short time, my Encore win was the largest prize in regularly-scheduled Portland events, because most of them ended in deals.

It was a few months before I had another four-figure cash (in fact, nothing in-between November 2011 and February 2012 over $200) and I took off to Vegas again to catch part of the DSE I at the Venetian without any success. In the spring, Tomer invited me down to play a WSOP Partners tournament with him, and I started putting together plans for a longer trip. Did some more trips out of town, first to the Tulalip Poker Pro Challenge in March, then my first trip out to Pendleton for the Wildhorse Spring Poker Round-Up, neither of which was successful. Met Brad—who’d read my blog—over the table; he and his friend Steve have become my live-play poker buddies.

That summer was the beginning of some of the deep number crunching I’ve been doing, based on in the money percentages, prizes, and volume for tournament players. Mostly it’s been an attempt to determine whether or not I can actually make a living playing poker as opposed to just having it as one of my revenue streams.

Drove down to Vegas for a two-week stay in the summer of 2012 and—apart from a bounty I took in a game at the Venetian—bricked 21 live tournaments. I owe big to my fellow Portland poker player/Reed alum Mark who put me up in his condo the first week and to Tomer, who paid for dinner almost every night, which kept down the living expenses, at least. Played my first WSOP event, sitting down to a starting table with Ivan Demidov and Keven Stammen. And that Partners event that Tomer and I played? Well it wasn’t me who lost all our chips.

That fall was the night I won a seat into Wildhorse’s Fall Main Event a few hours before my wife had a heart attack at her sister’s house and had to have emergency surgery. The cash came in handy at the emergency room.

The spring of 2013 was pretty uneventful, until a trip to Spirit Mountain in May perked things up with my first cash in a tournament outside of Portland (I’d been down to Lincoln City in February for the first Deepstacks Poker Tour series there, as well as back out to Pendleton, with no results at either). Made a couple short trips to Vegas that summer, scoring my first cash outside of Oregon in a small Caesars Palace tournament and busting out of the first WSOP Turbo tournament in record time when I tossed in the wrong chip and had to follow through on my mis-click to stay viable. I put in a fair amount of time on Carbon Poker that summer, as well, doing reasonably well in 6-Max and Deepstack Turbo events and min-cashing in a $70K guarantee Poker Maximus event.

Two top-three finishes in Aces Players Club $10K events within a month sent me back down south in September 2013, where I had my first significant cash in Las Vegas at a small Caesars Palace Seniors tournament. A month later, I won a daily Venetian bounty tournament after changing my travel plans when Grand Sierra Resort in Reno cancelled most of a series when the first event fell far short of the guarantee. A couple weeks later, I min-cashed the Main Event at the second DSPT series on the coast, where I met Toma Barber, who was living in Vegas but is now a regular here in Portland. After another deep run in a Final Table $10K and an incredibly bad read in the first $2,000 High Roller tournament at the Fall Wildhorse series, I popped down to San Diego in December for my first (and only, so far) WSOP Circuit events.

Won another Final Table $10K in January this year and started playing on Bovada the same month (taking in my best-ever single-tournament ROI in mid-February), then went into a two-month slump where I didn’t win anything big in actual dollar value. I made it into the money in a Bovada $100K guarantee with over 1,200 entries, but nothing major until a second place at DSPT’s third series at Chinook Winds, in the HORSE tournament. Meanwhile, I tentatively passed an article to Martin Harris at, which started me on the path to a lucrative sideline of poker writing as well as some vitriol and condemnation online.

My mother died in May, and I took some solace in the sort of meditative state I, at least, get into when I’m playing poker. I’d just taken second in an Encore $7K guarantee a couple days earlier, then I won a 65-player Bovada 6-Max, and topped that off with 3rd place in a $20K at Final Table and a fifth at an Encore Club $40K in consecutive weeks. Went back down to Vegas a couple times during the season, skipping the big buy-in tournaments and cashing small at Planet Hollywood and the Orleans. Got busted out of a tournament at the Wynn by a billionaire. Won a satellite seat into an $800K guarantee tournament at the Venetian and busted, then played a tournament at the Flamingo where I was all-in almost every hand.

The fall’s been pretty thin. I had some deep runs in the daily Bovada $5K tournaments (fourth, sixth, and twentieth in fields between 400 and 500), but had several long stretches without a cash through the fall.

The last week of November was pretty good, though, with seven profits in 13 tournaments, just missing the final table in a $10K at Final Table and in a $15K bounty tournament at Encore on consecutive nights, a couple of successful Bovada Quadruple Up PLO8 games, and a win in an 11-player Big O tournament at Portland Players Club, I even soon the home game where I hardly ever cash any more.

Looking forward this week to a couple of events at the 2Pair Poker Tour series in Eugene. It ain’t Prague, but it’s going to have to do for this year.