Friday, April 30, 2004

Vegas Trip Report - Last Day

Sahara NL Tourney

So it's Sunday morning - well - afternoon actually. After four days of pushing sleep deprivaton to the max - we sacked out for a robust 6 hours! Plans for checking out the early morning tournaments at Luxor or the Mandalay were out the window. However my brother had scoped out another tournament held at 7pm at the Sahara. After a quick call I even found that we could register by phone. We were in - and off to the Sahara.

We walked down the strip to the Sahara - something I wouldn't recommend you do - the part of the strip that ends with the Mirage and goes toward the Stratosphere is a depressing walk through the seedier part of the Las Vegas strip.

When we arrived at the Sahara - the poker room had about 4 tables - one of stud and 3 holdem from 2-4 to 4/8. My brother got a holdem seat right away - and I sat out waiting for one to open up. Finally after 15 minutes or so - I got impatient and asked if I could sit the 1-5 stud table.
The poker room guy looked at me and said "you sure you want to torture yourself?".

I looked over at the collection of older players and shrugged "why not - it's still poker, right?"

So there I was sitting 1-5 stud (LT would be proud of me) for the first time. I know this game, right?
First hand I get the bring in for $1. 4 other people just call the bring in. Ok - free card. Another dollar - so I call and pair up on 4th street so I bet $2. 2 callers. I get a high card on 5th - I bet $5. Everyone folds. Hey - this game isn't so bad...

An old couple on the other side of the table had been winning all the pots. In fact the first few hands I sat out after my initial win - were won by them. A player sitting next to me shook his head exasperatedly and told me "it's unreal what's going on down there." indicating the couple.

Well I told him - let's see if we can't shake them up...

No one had been pumping pots as far as I could see - so on the next hand I put a whopping $3 raise on the bring in with 3 high cards. Everyone folded but the older couple. I got a blank on fourth street - but I bet $5 anyway. The couple looked at me, at then at their cards, and the older man said grumpily "we don't like bullies!" and they both called me.
Uh oh I thought. Then I got a ten on fifth street giving me an open ended straight. $5 I said as I trickled $1 chips in the pot. They both called.

To make a long story short - I made my straight on the last card - betting them all the way - and they BOTH called me down with pairs... WTF?

After this - I had the stud table on tilt. Surprisingly - when I played a pot - the old couple kept gunning for me. Even when I had threat cards on the board they just kept calling me. I must've made almost $100 in the first 30 minutes on a small rush of cards. As the tournament neared i felt kinda bad, made some loose calls and gave some chips back.
But by the time I left I still had won the buy in ($40) and rebuy ($20) with some money still to spare. Stud- what a game!

The tournament at the Sahara started and it was a pretty good structure for a small buy in tourney. You started with 2000 in chips and the blinds at 25-25. And there was one rebuy allowed at any time during the first hour.

I pretty much sat out the entire first hour - playing one hand - and folding on the flop. My table was frozen out by a couple of aggressive players. On player in particular - a skinny British kid with some nice chip moves was just hammering away constantly at pots. There were two other players equally aggressive who fired at any pots this guy happened to miss.

This was fine with me - I just hoped to find a good starting hand - limp and then suprise them with an over the top move. But the cards never came.

After the first hour break - I got my wish when I picked up AK suited. As I planned - I limped from early position. And as expected one of the aggressive players made a healthy pre flop raise. Though I knew what I was going to do - i hesitated and stared the raiser down for a little. Then I did one of those - "I just got a read on you" sudden moves you see the pros pull on tv and pushed my meager stack in on him. He thought about it for a while and then folded nodding his head at me.

The very next hand I get AA - and raise about 3xBB. A short stack pushed all in - and another player called the short stack's raise. I pushed all in over both of them and the caller realized what a mistake he had made. He was pot committed though - so he threw his other chips in the pot. The board came 4-4-7-J-A giving me Aces full. I had more than tripled up on the first two hands...

I was cruising along with my now 20000 in chips when we hit the third hour. They broke our table much to my chagrin - as we had just gotten to know each other and were having fun.

In the third hour - my stack went up and down. But as the blinds steadily increased - and my margin got increasingly slim.

Finally it was down to the last 18 players - with 11 places paying out. I had a couple of steal attempts snapped and was down to my last 8000 with the blinds at 3000-6000. I caught J-T suited UTG and went all in. Only the BB called (as he had to) and 2 kings came on the board to put me out on the street. Unfortunately I lost to the table a$$hole who proceeded to whoop it up - and tell me "Don't you raise my big blind, baby!" as he went into hysterics as if this were a WPT event. I didn't really care but his overenthusiasm smacked of bad sportsmanship and hit a nerve. "Nice hand.. a$$hole" - I couldn't resist myself.
I wished the rest of the table good luck, flipped off the winner - and just like that - we were out of there...

Get yer nuts on the table eh?

Back to the Mirage for the final night. I told my brother - hey, let's have some fun our last night. So I sat 3/6 with him just so we could play together. And I promised him - I would be playing fast and loose. He laughed at me - but I was serious - I wanted to have some fun.

At the first table we sat at - I was true to my word - raising J-T one time and playing any ace. After scooping one pot with A-8o, the player next to me told me - "I don't play that hand". Well, I explained to him - neither do I, usually - but tonight? Tonight I'm playing any two.

He didn't really know what to make of this - but if the cards run hot - it's true any two CAN win.
I started down - and then scooped some pots with some funny looking cards to get even. I was FUN to be the idiot player for once instead of the solid rock.

The table broke up after too long - and we moved over to a new table where the fun would just get started. We met a couple of drunk Canadians - good guys - and started doing shots with them. One guy in particular kept saying "Let's play some poker eh - get yer nuts on the table and let's bet - eh?".

He was popping people liberally on the turn and river just to see what they'd do (as far as I could tell). So I figured - what the hell - let's loosen up and see what happens here...

Another guy at the table caught 2 straights in a row with some funny low suited cards (like 4-6 or 7-5) to rake two big pots. After that I started calling him "the straight guy". He kind of liked it. So the whole table started calling him that.
He didn't like it so much a little later when I flopped a flush with my J-9 suited. I checked it, then bet the turn - and he made a straight on the river with some more funny cards and popped me. I reraised him unhesitatingly - and thinking he had me - he popped me again. When I reraised again - he stopped.
I showed him my slowplayed flopped flush - and he was NOT happy.
"Sorry about that, straight guy" I shrugged as I raked the pot. He got up and left a few hands later.

I was sitting next to my brother when a memorable hand came up that I will NEVER let him forget. I was the SB and my bro was the BB. It was surprisingly (in a 3/6 game) folded around to us. "I haven't looked at my cards" I announced to the table (I was feeling the effects of the shots). "And I'm not gonna!" I exclaimed as I called gleefully.
My brother looked at me incredulously. "You're not gonna look at them? Well - I looked at mine!" he emphasized tossing in a raise. He was trying to be nice - telling me "I have a hand" in not so many words.
Well - what the hell - I called - and then proceeded to check call him all the way to the river. (I know - it's stupid, but it was fun watching the rest of the table react). Finally at the showdown - my brother flips up an A-Q for two pair - aces and queens.
I dramatically reached down and peeked at my cards - "I see an Ace!" I announced - but as I saw the second card was a low card I picked them up and threw them face up. Damn...
Suddenly the dealer came alive and announced "Flush!" and started pushing the pot towards me. What? I had caught a runner-runner diamond flush to suck him out. The table erupted in laughter - as my brother steamed. It was THAT kind of weekend for him...

Soon after feeling my oats (and the effects of alcohol) - I got many a blogger's favorite hand, the hammer - 7-2offsuit. I put in a raise - and was 3 bet by Canada. Five callers. Suddenly this didn't seem like such a good idea. But the flop came - A-7-4.
Ok - I got a piece - I called the flop bet. The turn was the magic 7. So I raised the flop bettor on the turn and apologized in advance. "You got a 7?" she asked me incredulously as she called.
The river? A deuce. When I showed this hand down for the win - the table could not believe it. "You raised and called a 3 bet with 7-2 dude!" Canada yelled at me. "Yup." I told him as I raked the chips into my stack.
"I like this guy!" Canada exclaimed as he called the waitress for some refills.

The rest of the night was a lot of fun, as for once - I was the loose unpredictable player. Now if I could just tighten up and play right - I should make even more money. But caught up in the rush of cards like I was - strange hands started looking good to me. For the life of me - I could not tighten my game up. Naked ace? call. Suited ace? raise. small pocket pair? raise...

What the hell was I doing? From a high of +250 I managed to play my stack down to just over $100 in profit. Good job Mas.

As for my brother - well he had his fifth losing day in a row. What a birthday weekend for him, huh? I really believe he just had the worst luck all week.
Other than that it was a great weekend. I learned a lot about poker, especially live play and the importance of table image. I got to see all those poker celebs in real life (and it was kinda cool). And I had achieved my personal goal of winning money for the week.

What more could you ask for?


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Vegas Trip Report - Part II

Waking up on Saturday my brother and I resolved to start having a better day. He had lost every single night and it was starting to get discouraging. So the solution I came up with? A good luck charm... I offered him mine - a five yen coin that's supposed to be good luck in Japan - but he looked at me like I was crazy. He said he needed a different kind of mojo - island style.
An hour later we were in the gift shop at the California looking at cheesy puka shell necklaces. This was his mojo? Well - whatever works for you...

So armed with a new good luck charm for my brother - we were off to the nearest poker room. Binions was packed again - with the No Limit event in the second day and the Stud event just getting under way. There were some satellites going on and a few tables of cash games - all pot and no-limit. Upstairs I saw Felicia sitting at a table in the stud event - and unfortunately for her the camera crews she was dreading were walking around filming random shots.

So with the action filled up at Binions - it was off to the Nugget again. Got seated at a 4/8 half kill game with a pretty loose bunch of players. Again I started with a pretty bad run - losing about $100 in almost no time at all. A couple of good starting hands on kill pots will do that to you. But I was able to make a recovery when a few big hands came in and actually held up for me.

Once again I experienced the 'friendly neighbor' phenomenon. Actually, this was happening pretty frequently throughout the week. An older Mexican guy and I started talking and then trading notes on the other players at the table. This proved profitable - as combined we pretty much profiled the other side of the table. Thanks to some of his help - I was able to put a better read on the other players at the table.
When it was time to leave the Nugget - I had booked a profit of $100+.

So it was back to the Mirage again for Saturday night action. Once again - we figured that there would be softer games at the Mirage - what with the tourists (like us) and conventioneers in the house. I sat down at a 6/12 table and found myself stunned by how tight/passive the action was. Few players took in the flop and the betting was extremely tame.
What's worse - one guy at the table was a real idiot. I played a Q-J off with a raise in late position and no callers behind me. The BB called the raise and the flop came Q-7-2. I bet the flop and the BB called. The turn was an Ace. I bet the turn - and the BB after deliberating for a while decided to muck - but before he did he showed me a Q.
"I know what you got." he told me.
"Really?" I asked him. I showed him a Q and mucked my hand.
"I don't care.." he said sternly.
"Well - I figured you show me yours - and I show you mine, dude" I told him.
He proceeded to go on a rant about how he knew what I was holding - and didn't need to see my cards, blah, blah, blah. It was the way that he was saying it - very sternly and in a nasty way.
I finally had to tell him to shut the hell up.
"What?" he said to me.
"Listen - do me a favor - Don't talk to me. ok? Cuz I just sat down and I'm already sick of hearing you." I told him.
Thankfully the rest of the table started jumping in telling him to shut up too. Otherwise things could have gotten nasty. I was really contemplating my first move should this guy get up out of his chair...

Needless to say - this made this table much less than social. I was even contemplating a table change before I got in a fist fight. But on the bright side - the idiot player kept getting sucked out on the river. I mean he had the WORST luck. Each successive beat sent him into rants of "That was so stupid! How could you call with that hand? Oh yeah - I'm a terrible player - you're great - I can't play..." Would this guy ever shut up? Yet at the same time - it was really entertaining - and I loved telling the winning player "nice hand!".

I made a decent pot when a girl sat down on my left and raised it up after I had caught the nut flush on the turn. I smooth called her - and bet into her on the river. (I thought I was being nice) But no - she popped me again on the river? I hesitated reading the board to make sure my hand was good - and told her "Sorry - I have to raise you again" And still she didn't catch the hint. She re-raised me another time. This went on for about 6-7 bets - before she called. I showed her my nut flush and she stared at her cards in horror and mucked. Must've been a K high flush...
With that $100+ profit locked in - the table became much more enjoyable.

That's when the night started to turn around. A new player came in to my left - nicely dressed but looking bedraggled. He promptly ordered a red bull and vodka and announced he was in town for a bachelor party and hadn't slept for 2 days. He was a pretty nice guy - but was there to gamble seemingly - at the first opportunity he put in a live straddle. (where the person left of the BB - makes it 2 bets before they even see their cards)
He then proceeded to pump pots - and the straddle was sure as hell getting people into the pot. It was like sharks sensing blood in the water - there's an extra bet dangled out there - and I have an ace so... Needless to say the table loosened up immensely.
In fact the new player asked if "raises out of position" were allowed in the card room? WTF? A raise out of position is basically a straddle (blind raise) allowed from any position but the SB or BB.
He started popping these out and we were off to the races.
Unbelievably this guy was actually winning with some of his blind raised hands. We sure as hell couldn't put him on any hand. He'd announce that he had to raise a hand all of a sudden and we would call in disbelief. But almost every time he bet his hand - he was holding.
The swings were unbelievable. At one point - by keeping my composure and sticking to my starting hands I had built myself up to +500. But with so many players now playing hands and raising liberally - chips started flying and I found myself getting rivered quite a few times out of big pots.
The raising guy turned out to be a pretty good player himself - and after he had the rest of us off our game - he started playing his. Unfortunately luck wasn't with him - and he ended up close to even - although at one point he had almost busted out and at another he had a mountain of chips in front of him.
I ended that session with a profit of +300. But more importantly I learned some lessons in unpredictability from this player on my right. Again - we struck up conversation and when I wasn't involved in the hand he would show me his cards. Most of the time they were ragged as he had gotten in with a straddle. But then the flop would amazingly hit - and he would bet - only to be called by 4-5 other players. He got action one almost every hand he had. And when he wasn't holding - well the hand had only cost him one big bet to get away from.
Of course - he started toning down the blind raises out of position after a while - I don't see how it could be profitable to do this every time.

I'm convinced that this was a somewhat astute tactic he was using - and while he had quite a bit more gamble in him than most poker players - he was inducing the rest of the table to loosen up their play and play any draw to the river (because of the size of the pots)
It was a good lesson - and one I resolved to put into use on the next and last day of the trip.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Las Vegas Trip Report - Part I

This trip to Las Vegas was a veritable orgy of poker and.. well MORE poker. Never again do I think I will have the opportunity to go on a poker binge quite like this one. There were many lessons that I learned along the way. And by the end of the weekend - I think my live game had really improved. The final tally? - well I didn't hit the jackpot but I did show some modest winnings almost every night of my stay.

I briefly summarized the first few nights of the trip from Vegas. And well - they were alot of fun. But it wasn't until Friday that I really started to learn something from the hours and hours of play. On Friday morning (my brother's birthday) we woke up and I asked him what he wanted to do? I mean, besides play poker. Well the WSOP was starting up and I was planning to meet everyone's favorite blogger, Felicia Lee there - so it was off to the Horseshoe we go.

We made a quick stop at the California across the street first for some Hawaiian food. Amazingly the Cal is what a casino would look like in Hawaii. Everyone from the islands is there - players AND staff. If you've ever been there and have a taste for the local food - I recommend highly that you make a quick stop for some portuguese sausage and eggs, loco moco, saimin, and spam musubi. Of course I had to order all of the above...

Fueled by that feast we entered Binion's to check out the beginning of the first event of the 2004 WSOP. The place was jam packed from wall to wall. At first I didn't recognize anyone among the hundreds of anonymous faces sitting at the tables. And then I noticed Doyle Brunson being filmed at a table in the middle. And there was Men "the Master", David Pham, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Hon Le and countless others... It was a sea, no an OCEAN of tournament poker. There was definitely not going to be any side games at Binion's this day.

We headed upstairs to be find even more tables and pros as well as camera crews and onlookers ogling the players. It was here in Benny's Bullpen that I ran into Felicia and Glenn. Really nice people and Felicia provided lots of suggestions for getting into some of the action at Binions as well as one suggestion which I took - to check out the new room at the Golden Nugget right across the way from Binions.
While checking out the pros was interesting for about 15 minutes all this poker going on and no game for us was NOT going to work. So my brother and I headed over to the Nugget to check out their new room.

It's a really nice room - set up right next to their pool - and contains one novelty poker players certainly aren't used to (except for Foxwoods players) actual sunlight! The crowd in there was pretty much full of older players - I was looking for a 6-12 game but they only spread 4/8 and 10/20. Since the games didn't really look all that soft to me - I opted for the lower option. We sat down right away and I found myself on a table full of retired gentlemen.

I sat out for a while - folding hands while I observed the action. Surprisingly - it was pretty loose - with lots of suited cards and naked aces being shown down as winners. I only started with pretty good hands - but they didn't hold up at first against some of the collection of junk that caught straights, flushes and two pairs - I found myself about 100+ down by the end of the first hour. Then a local sat down at the table and started talking it up - creating even more action.

This was the first of the 'talk it up' players that I encountered over the weekend. He came in and started talking right away in a too-friendly way (hey gimme a break - I'm from the NYC) about how he just started playing the game - and was just looking to have some fun and probably giving away his chips. (which is why I started calling him Crazy Eddie) Yeah - right... I didn't see him once play other than solid starting hands - although he wasn't immune to getting rivered by some of the loose old guys. He got up from the table when he found at least the players next to him (me and some other internet player) playing pretty solidly too. Guess there wasn't enough of an advantage for him at our table.

One older guy in particular went on a pretty big rush. He took some big pots off me when he hit 2 pair on the river to a pot I had pumped up with KK and lots of callers. No ace came and I thought I was good until he raised me on the river...

I fought my way back to even - and then got cold again, missing hands and getting outdrawn. While we played some pros like Johnny Chan and Chris Ferguson sauntered in looking to see if any high limit games were going to start up. Also players started trickling in from Binions as they got knocked out of the No-Limit event (on the first day??). It was kind of amusing to see them walk in from the $2500 NL Holdem event at Binions to sit down at a 4/8 game. I mean, guys - are you addicted or what? (although - who am I to talk?)

I must've got distracted because when the time came back to head back to the Mirage (didn't want to miss the prime time action) I was down almost $200!!! When I got up - I wished everyone at the table luck - and the older guy who had been winning all the pots - got up to shake my hand. I think it was out of respect but whatever...

The only complaint I could really find about the Nugget was the fact that as a new room they have a large percentage of new dealers. In fact - the Mirage pretty much had the most consistently good dealers in Vegas. At the Nugget many of these newbies couldn't read hands, didn't know about posting, and took a long time dealing out the cards. Didn't really hurt my play - in fact I didn't really mind the slow play that much - we were just killing time after all.

As Felicia had promised they did start calling players for $125 and $225 single table satellites with cash payments (winner take all). I tried to convince my brother (a single table specialist - and a successful one at that) to let me stake him to one of these - but he wasn't interested. Something to check out on the next trip.

Back to the Mirage for the all important Friday evening rush. Luckily the list wasn't too long when we got there, so I convinced my brother to sit with me at a 6/12 game. He was down and I reasoned that if he caught a decent rush of cards - he'd be able to get to a profit in no time at all. Unfortunately this was not to be a case. He got QQ cracked by JJ when a J fell on the turn, had two big pair cracked by a rivered inside straight, and to add insult to injury lost with KK to J-4 - when the board came Q-4-7-J-4. These three bad (huge) beats basically eliminated his starting bankroll and he got up and left the table steaming.

I had some better luck. Against a new player who sat down, started talking the table up - and then tilting it with blind checks - and blind bets before the next card came down and he was first to act. He really looked like he was gambling - but I figured out after a while that he was using some of these tactics to create the image of recklessness. He made some calculated risks sure - like when he sustained pre-flop and flop raises from my brother with J-4 - to hand him a huge beat. He also did this to a number of players - when some of the loose cards he played came in. When he did actually have hands - no one (including myself) believed him. And in this way - he was able to get action almost anytime.

I learned from this - as I noticed that while I could steal pots by betting the flop and turn - they were mostly small - and only when no one had a decent draw. Also unlike players with 'loose' images - my preflop raises were thinning out the field a bit too much for my taste. I was playing too predictable - 'by the book' and any half observant player could see this. In fact a few of them that I got friendly with actually told me this in not so many words.
Most of my profit seemed to come from playing A-T and up - and outkicking the little aces that couldn't and wouldn't fold their aces regardless of kicker.

Playing tight kept the swings from going too high and low - I could 'lock up' a profit by only starting with premium hands - but it also kept me from getting too high or going on any rushes. It was ok - but I needed to be able to add an element of uncertainty to my play.

That night I watched the 'talker' for another hour or two - and instead of making strong=weak reads (that were working for most players) I read him honestly. And it was a pretty good read. When he blind checked his hands - I bet - forcing him to pay for his draws. And when he bet his hands confidently - I got out of his way. A few times when he bet into a ragged board - I raised him with nothing and caught him trying a pot steal.
Also a good side effect for me of a player like this at the table - was that he put quite a few other players on tilt - thus putting them in my hands when I was holding. Thus was a bad night turned into a good one - as I left the table with a little over a $100 in profit. (from a low of -$250)

It wasn't much but at least I was able to win back some of my losses at the Nugget.

To be continued.


Monday, April 26, 2004

Update coming Soon...

Just got back from Vegas. Played perhaps 50 hours of poker in the 5 days I was there. And of course there's a story or two to tell. Will try to start getting some of it down tomorrow. For now - sleep...


Friday, April 23, 2004

Update from Las Vegas

A quick update for those of you who actually look at this page over the weekend.
I arrived in Vegas on Wednesday around 4pm - and promptly hit the poker room at the Mirage. Unfortunately the weekday afternoons are populated by locals and rocks (mostly retired men). Had a good time but ended up dropping 100 on the 6/12 game over about 7 hours of play.
My brother arrived at 11pm - and after a quick psyche up we headed back to the poker room and played some crazy 3-6 together. The 3/6 game here is ridiculous as low limit gets -with players who play any 2 cards and hanging on to them if they catch any piece or any draw. Unfortunately for my brother he ran into some big hands - like when he flopped a straight and got sucked out by Q-8 when the board came 9-Q-K-8-Q. (he had J-T) They capped on the turn and river - much to his chagrin.
As for me - I almost lost another 100 but turned it around at the end - when I made a bunch of hands with an average of 4-5 callers... Won maybe 50 bucks - but they were hard earned dollars. Sat till about 5am with a bunch of guys who had the same idea as us. Who needs a room in Vegas on the first night??? (well we had one - but that wasn't the original plan.)
After a few hours rest we headed down to the Luxor for the $25 NLHE tournament. I busted out early when I flopped a pair of kings to my brothers pocket A-A... At least I gave my chips to him... He ended up finishing 6th with my chips for a profit of $60. He was ecstatic over the fact that he made the final table.
In the meantime I sat at an even crazier Luxor 2-4 table and made back my entry fee as well as paid for lunch.

Off to the Bellagio where the WPT 5 Diamond Classic was down to 22 players. The crowds weren't that bad - as all of the celebrities and most of the famous poker pros were busted out. We say TJ Cloutier (who is huge btw), Dan Harrington, Ted Forrest, and my favorite - Hon Le (I call YOU!) at the tables.
Walking around were many other poker celebs - Evelyn Ng, Antonio Esfandaria, among others.
The atmosphere was intense with each all-in showdown dramatized by both players getting up and the eventual winner screaming and pumping their fist in victory. Pretty cool...

Right now - I'm sitting in my room getting ready for bed after a break even 6 hours of 6/12 tonight. At one point I was up about 250 but I hit a stone wall of dead cards. At least I didn't lose any money. Meanwhile - some guy at my table banked about 1500 - hitting every flush draw - and his pocket pairs (which were plentiful) always holding up. Some guys just have all the luck.
Vegas is awesome for a poker player - there's always a game - and for the most part, it's filled with some pretty decent people having fun at the tables. With the exception of some grumpy old men everyone's having a good time.
One thing I've learned is not to respect the elder gentlemen at the table as much. I almost always stereotype them as rocks - but some of the loosest players are these retired men - who give their chips away on draws or loose cards that lose to better kickers.

Well - the weekend's just starting - and that's the loosest of times, or so I hear. I'm hoping to find a soft seat somewhere tomorrow night - so I can start paying for this trip.

26 hours of poker so far and going strong...


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Countdown to Vegas

My flight is a day away. Every second brings me closer to gambler's (and poker player's) paradise.
The good news (for you) is I'll be bringing a laptop - and will try to post some brief updates of my progress (if you're one of the few interested). Full trip reports to come next week after my return.

Expected highlights include:

Rock Gardening - weekday afternoon play with the Vegas locals
Mirage Poker Madness (weekends and nights)
How I lost my shirt at the SportsBook (the evils of sports gambling)
Low limit early morning tournament insanity at the Mandalay
Binions - a visit to Mecca
Bellagio WPT final - ogling the poker pros
Craps/Blackjack Interlude (throwing good money after bad)
Chasing the Dream - playing a super sat for the WSOP
Last Stand at the Mirage (trying to break even)

And Finally:

Las Vegas Blues - busted and going home (when are we going back?)
Viva Las Vegas! - Victory in Vegas! (when are we going back?)


Friday, April 16, 2004

Ready, Set, Vegas!!!

5 Days 'til Vegas and I can hardly wait. Wish I was doing a bit better in limit play online - but my past few sessions have all been break-even and dangerously close to losing...
Thanks to winning a few big pots at the end - so far I haven't lost any confidence. And that's good, because I am getting psyched to hit the Mecca of Poker on Wed afternoon.

In fact right now - fellow blogger (Pauly) Tao of Poker is enjoying his own poker trip - and actually reporting on it from Vegas. Good stuff.

I'm thinking about dragging the laptop out with me - but visions of dial up connections - and knowing how little time I actually spend in the room - I just don't think the odds are very good that I'll actually make time to write something. Besides - I'll have time to gussy up all the stories after I get back.

The other day - I was getting tired of swimming on the limit tables at Party and UB and decided to enter one of UB's Aruba satellite tournaments. Figured it'd last an hour or two (at most) until I got busted (as usual).

But what was this? My first playable hand - TT. I call a 2xBB raise - and so do 3 others. The flop comes K-T-7. Perfect. I check it - a pot bet, an all-in.. am I dreaming? I push all in. And the pot bet calls? WTF? I'm worried about KK. But no -it's A-K and K-T... My trips hold up and I'm at 4000+...
Next hand - I sneak in with 4-4 and half the table limps with me (suspiciously). The flop comes down J-9-4... Trips again! I check it (of course) - and there's a bet and raise which I smooth call to the turn which is an A. Perfect (maybe). I check again - and this time someone decides to try to take the pot with a pot bet - and again the next player pushes all-in. I think about folding - but it's trips dammit!! All in! And the third player calls. They show J-9 and A-J. Neither gets help and I'm now at 10000+ in the first hour.
Can you say chip leader?

Two hands make me the boss for another hour or so - and as the field dwindles - stacks start to catch up to me. At the third hour I reach 25000 and the chip lead - but from there it's all downhill. I go card cold and get blinded and anted down. (and my steal attempts are VERY unprofitable - thanks Kirk!)

After 4 grueling hours I get down to the final 11 players - with 10 places paying - and 7 people getting Aruba chips worth $215. At this point I've been whittled down to one of 3 short stacks. It's raised from early position by one of the big stacks and I look down at 7-7. The blinds and antes will only let me go about another round or two - I decide to make a stand. I'm called by 8-9o...
You know what happens - the board comes - K-K-2-Q-Q.. I lose on a kicker as the board 2 pair makes my pocket pair pointless. Arrrgghhh....

Needless to say - I logged off of UB - and went to bed where I lay restlessly for hours replaying my many end-game mistakes in my head...

Back to practice grinding I go for the rest of the weekend...

I'm not much of a linker but if you even remotely thought the Big Lebowski was funny (and I thought it was hilarious) - and like poker - you gotta check out Hdouble's recent posts here.

There's a bunch of good poker truisms there that it'll cost you money to learn in live poker like:

Don't check raise the fish - they get pissed and when it isn't fun for them anymore - and when it isn't fun for them, it isn't profitable for you.

Always have a drink in front of you at the table - It's true - if you're drinking then you're ok (to them). You couldn't possibly know the pot odds sitting there with a beer and a smile...

And perhaps the best advice I fail to heed myself - set aside 4-5 hours when you decide to enter a tournament. Don't buy in on impulse... you're just throwing money away.
And I have conservatively pissed away $500 in UB tournaments - with nary a TEC and a few meager money finishes to show for it in the past few months....

Great post Hdouble.

Warning - Non-poker content!

Now I know this blog is for poker thoughts only. But a couple of things caught my eye today and thought I'd share 'em. What the hell - if you aren't interested - don't click - it's your loss.

1 - If you're like me - you got sucked into watching the Apprentice and you were sadly disappointed to see phony Bill win over Kwame (the man) Jackson. Kwame's big mistake - having incompetent Omarosa on his team for the final test. But reading some post-finale news on the net today - I found this writeup from an innocent bystander to the show. Could the Apprentice by fixed??? And what does that say about ALL reality-tv?
Don't ask me why I care. I'm ashamed enough as it is...

2 - Do you know who William Hung is? I can honestly say I've never watched a minute of American Idol (whew) - but I mean, how could I avoid this dude? As an Asian-American - I'm of two minds about the whole "William Hung" phenomenon.
I mean he's popular right now because most people think he's pretty funny, right? There's a minority who think he's honest, and sincere and all that other crap - but those people aren't the reason that he has a recording contract and a video for gods sakes... What bothers me is WHAT people find amusing about Will Hung...
Now on the other hand - I shouldn't be hating on a brother just cuz he's getting paid. If I were him - I'd be doing the exact same thing - and cashing in while the getting's good. And Will - if you're reading this - stay away from the groupies. You've got some freaky-deaky ones...
Here's a more eloquent piece on the topic that I fully endorse.

3 - This is just random - but why would you get a tattoo in a different language without checking at least twice with a reliable source as to what they mean?
Stupid is as stupid does...


Monday, April 12, 2004

Poker Malaise

Haven't posted in a while - but poker hasn't been real high on the list of things to do in the past week. Which is odd - what with the Vegas trip coming up in a week and a half. Still - a profitable week on UB - thanks to the impatience of $5 and $10 UB SnG players. The bankroll is up to $212 from $120 a week ago. Still could have been an even better week - except for some stupid NL play that I thought I'd become good enough to avoid.
Most of the cause of these mistakes has been playing in a disinterested, distracted state - as if it were work! Poker just as all things does require a certain level of concentration to play effectively.

Case in point - this week's PJK Weekly Tournament at Planet Poker.

Only 16 people showed up - so it was akin to a big SnG. I started off ok - taking down some pots with big bets. Had hands most of the time - but when I noticed I wasn't getting action on my bets - started expanding my playing hands - and taking down blinds or betting out the flop and winning.
A few times someone came over the top of me like EOS who plays a pretty aggressive game. I gave him that pot as I didn't have anything. But I put the same move on him on another flop when he bet it out at me - and I came over the top of him with nothing...
Then came the hands that baited me into a trap.
Caught AA TWICE - and raised 2xBB - both from early/mid position. And BOTH times no one called to see the flop. Flopped an A-4-4 flop with A-4 - and everyone folded to a minimum bet on the flop.
Now most likely - no one had a hand to really play in these situations - and you can chalk it up to bad timing. But I was getting really frustrated at not being able to chip up with my premium hands.
Finally down to the final 8 and I decide to steal with A-7 diamonds. One caller. Flop comes 7-5-2 (one diamond) or something like that. Top pair - best kicker. Now I know this is a sucker NL hand. But frustrated and feeling strong - I decide to bet the flop. Then when I think about it again - I decide to bet it strongly. Suddenly I find myself typing in the amount of my entire stack! There - that ought to buy me this pot, right?
Wrong - I'm called by KK - and no A appears on the turn or river...
What a way to go out. All tournament I'm waiting for someone to walk into one of my traps - and I go and walk into one of theirs...
And this is the kind of mistake you can make if your not paying full attention. The call should have set off alarms in my head preflop. But because I'd been uncalled for the most part all tourney - I was lulled into a false sense of aggressive invulnerability.
And these are the kinds of mistakes I've been making all week.
So - it's back to square one. As I prepare for a trip to Vegas and all-night poker binges - it's time to get back to work.

For fun here's an excerpt from my brother. Who's been accused one to many times of being a maniac. He has posted some great success on UB - turning a starting bankroll of $150 into $8-900... For fun - my dad and I constantly prod him about his overaggressive tendencies and while they may work against $5 and $10 SnG players - they'd get him in serious trouble against better players. This was his response (and apologies to him for using his private rants as material - but he know I have a blog...)


Seriously...I am not a maniac. I play SnGs' with a tight, aggressive
style in the beginning. When the game gets short-handed and the blinds
are substantial...i open up a little bit and incorporate well-timed
(well, not always well-timed) bluffs into my game. If you call my
pre-flop raise...well, I'm gonna bet on the flop regardless of my
cards...because more times than not..the flop doesn't hit you either and
it's harder to call with nothing than to raise with nothing. And when
you fold...well, I was just looking to pick up the blinds; so I thank
you for calling my pre-flop raise and then folding after the flop. I
think I can credit this changing of gears in SnGs' to my success thus
far. By playing tight early, I often find myself getting far more
respect with my betting and raising than I should be. By the time the
table figures out that I've changed gears...well; often times they play
back at me when I've actually got a hand; and if not I let it go. But by
then, I've picked up enough small pots to allow me to maintain my
aggressive style. If I were truly a maniac, I think I'd be faring far
worse than I have thus far.


Clearly he's a maniac...


Monday, April 05, 2004

2nd PJK Weekly Tournament (Suck-Out Sunday)

Well it's been a while since my last post. Haven't really had the opportunity to play that much poker in the past week. Riding high off last week's win at the 1st PJK Tourney - I of course, played a number of small tournaments on Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately - while my results were better - finishing just out of the money in a few - and in the money - though at the tail end in a UB $5... still no big breakthrough.

I think one improvement I have made is to understand better the value of the big bet in no-limit. I've been viewing no-limit as a game where you want to get all your chips in the middle when you think you have the best of it. But I haven't really been distinguishing between having the best of it - as in having the nuts - or having the better side of a coin flip hand. (like small pair vs. 2 overcards)

The big bet - or as some players execute it - moving in on someone - is a move with the intention of taking the pot right there. The risk you run of course - is getting called - and being knocked out or chipped down...
If your table is relatively rational - no one will call your big bet unless they are holding the nuts or close to it.
The flaw in this at least with regards to online play - is that many players are "coin-flip" no limit players. They constantly look for these situations to get lucky and double up. And if they can make it through a few times - they can end up on top of a big stack...

So your big bet loses some value in that you have less of a chance to take the pot down online.
Anyway that's just my opinion - I'll think about this some more and experiment with different raising tactics in no-limit play to see how it works.

Yesterday was the 2nd Weekly PJK (Poker Journal Keepers) Tourney. Having won the last week - I of course had to put in an appearance - even if I was exhausted and slightly hung over from a hectic weekend. I found myself not nervous this time - but slightly distracted. Especially with the run of bad cards that I started off with. I spent most of the first 30 minutes folding hands...

It was frustrating - but with 2000 in chips to start there's some room to wait it out until you get a hand to play. I finally did and on the BB with JJ. I was getting short stacked - and when chainsaw (the fat guy) raised it from early position - I figured I'd come over the top of him and take the pot right there...

So I pushed all-in with my jacks. Unfortunately (for chainsaw) he had QQ and called me - and the flop brought me one of my 2 jacks to give me the pot.

Whoops! I typed - by all rights I should've been knocked out right there...

Instead my Jacks started a whirlwind of bad beats involving other Jacks - and QQ was jinxed for the rest of the tourney. Too bad I didn't pick up that hand again...

My second suck-out was when I was getting short stacked and looked down at a KQc on the final table. I decided to bring it in for a raise (which was half my stack at the time) - but I'd been getting respect for my 2xBB raises so I figured it was a pretty decent hand to attempt a blind steal and I sure needed to make some kind a of move.

But rickscafe called my raise and Roy Cooke (the guest pro) pushed all in. Decision time for me. I felt I was an underdog certainly - but I was pot committed and here was a chance to triple up...

I pushed in - and rickscafe called both our all-ins with AK. I got ready to sit out. (If it were a live tourney - I would have gotten out of my seat)

But lo and behold the board came 2 Q's and I trebled through on another undeserving hand.

It was that kind of night - and while I never got stacked up very high - I kept hanging in there. I survived another all-in with 99 vs Ax from the eventual winner stinkypants (dogs playing poker). And I knocked out Pauly with A8o vs his A5h - when we were both short stacked and he moved all in on me. I was the BB and felt I had to make the call as the blinds were once again eating away.

Finally we were down to the last 5. Four places paid out - and I would've been content with a money finish. I had worked my way up to the point where 2 other stacks were at about the same chip amount (around 5000). But I picked up 55 - Presto!

Roy Cooke raised it up in front of me with a decent size stack - and I moved in on him thinking I could get him to throw away the hand. In fact I was pretty sure he would...
But no - he called me down with KQo - and the flop came K-Q with no fives. Busted out on the bubble!

Well at least I lost to the pro - and he eventually made good use of my chips getting heads up with eventual winner stinkypants (from Dogs Playing Poker) before finally losing with 33 vs AQ.

It was a great time again. And I'm looking forward to next week already.


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