Archive Aug 2008: Bond18

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Things it took me a while to learn part 19: Putting the peices together

I wrote this article with Nath a while ago, then while browsing Tworags today in preparation for my soon return I realized this one had yet to be uploaded. So here it is:

Every now and then you'll see someone make a play that looks very much out of the ordinary. Whether it's a sick call, a massive fold, or a bluff that seems almost illogical, you'll see thinking players make moves that are entirely unusual, but surprisingly sensible when they give you their thought process and everything is put together.

Many poker hands are close to automatic, and even putting in a large session of MTT play I probably encounter less than a dozen hands that require considerable thought. Of those, the majority will end with an ordinary or regular conclusion, I just needed some time to think all the angles through. Now and then though, you'll find yourself in a very difficult, strange, or unexpected spot where the best option may not be the most obvious.

Learning to put all the pieces together in a poker hand is integral to your advancement as a player. In order to be able to gain maximum equity from the hands you play you need to be thinking about everything that goes into the hand and how it affects what your decision should be. What kind of factors should you be including in your thought process during a hand? A brief (but likely incomplete) list would include:

1. Stack sizes: Always be considering stack sizes and what they implicate, allow, and restrict.

2. Position: How it gives an advantage to one player in a hand and takes it from the other (being out of position, while normally a disadvantage, can sometimes be reversed when you want to do something like check shove a draw.)

3. Previous streets: When making a decision on later streets you need to consider how previous streets actions have affected the hand. Think about how they narrow your opponents range, how it narrows his perception of your range, and what your opponent was trying to accomplish in them.

4. History/metagame: Unless your brand new to an online poker table as a total unknown and your villain is a total unknown, you need to consider how history and metagame affect the hand. Almost no poker hand is a complete vacuum, and especially in live hands you have all kinds of information available to you, even if that means making broad generalizations (about people’s age, gender, race, clothing, nationality). When you don't have anything else to go on, start using stereotypes. They might not be PC, but they're definitely +EV. In terms of history, think about previous lines the villain has taken both against you and in similar situations against others.

5. How each card affects the hand: On later streets you need to think about how each card that rolls off affects the hand and the options available to you. Obvious examples include: A 2 hitting a AJ8 flop being totally unimportant. An ace hitting a T54 flop being a great scare card to bluff. A heart hitting a J52 two heart board reducing the range your top pair beats, etc.

6. Levels: What level are you thinking on? What level is the villain thinking on? What level does he think your thinking on? Sounds complicated, doesn't it? In order the levels go: What do I think he has? What do I think he thinks I have? What do I think he thinks I think he has? Don't just think about the level itself though, think about how the knowledge you believe your opponent has (or thinks he has) will change his action.

7. What stage of the tournament it is: Many opponents simply won't attempt large bluffs in the first few levels because they don't want to bust early. Same goes with bubble situations. Some opponents will use bubble periods to go ballistic and attempt all kinds of aggressive plays. Know your opponent and whether he cares what stage of the tournament it is.

8. Other external factors: Who have you seen your opponent talking to? Has he been talking strategy? How is he dressed? Anything else you can incorporate to get your opponents range more precise.
It's difficult to explain how to put a hand together simply with lists and advice. I think the best way to impart what I'm talking about here is through examples. The first comes from a hand I played in the 2008 WSOP $5000 full ring no limit event:

History/Reads: We are in the money with about 45 players left. Villain is a young guy moved to the table about half an hour ago. I saw him talking to online players “gunning4you” and Ike Haxton, so I assume he's online. I saw him raise the button with 92o into the BB of a nit with a very short stack who shoved. Button made the standard pot odds call and lost the hand. Overall he seems pretty aggressive and thinking. We don't have any history in hands played between each other, and he hasn't seen me play any interesting or relevant pots on the table.

My stack: ~160,000
Young guy: ~200,000

Blinds 2000/4000 with 500 ante.

I hold Qc Jc in the BB.

Preflop: Folds to the CO, Co raises to 11000, folds to me in the BB, I call.

So far things are pretty standard here. We know the villain is aggressive and he raises in late position, and we make the call with a hand that is a pretty clear blind defense at these stack sizes.

Flop: 4h 7s Td

I check, the CO checks.

His flop check is a bit strange. I would expect him to bet with every over pair, top pair, and the vast majority of overcard hands. I also think he normally bets second or third pair, though checking behind for pot control is certainly possible. I also think he would normally bet if he flopped a draw, such as 98 (the only realistic draw out.)

Turn: Qh

I bet 16,000, the CO thinks briefly and shoves, I call.

Leading here seems pretty standard, though we can also make an argument for check/calling. However, given the somewhat drawy board, I felt like betting was better, especially since he might call down a little light since he might think I'm just firing because he checked behind.

When the CO shoves we need to start thinking about his range for making this play with. Would he play a set or two pair like this? Certainly not, if he checked back the flop with a hand that strong he would almost never just shove the turn (at least with no history) and I would expect him to do something like raise to 46,000 instead. Would he play an overpair like this? The overpair is similar to the set, except there's even less chance he checked behind on the flop with the overpair. Would he play KQ or AQ this way? KQ is certainly unlikely from a thinking player because he knows it's very hard to get value this way. AQ is possible, but even still I think it's much more likely he calls or raises a nominal amount, since the only realistic thing for me to call him with (that doesn't beat him) is KQ or perhaps QJ.

So what would he shove? Well with the heart hits that puts a flush draw out, so him checking back over cards with a heart draw on the flop would make sense. KJ checking the flop and cramming would also make sense. He could also have some form of combo draw, such as a small pair with a flush draw like 7h 6h, that decided to check the flop to induce bluffs but now decides I can't call with one pair hands and shoves instead.

Overall though, we can't seem to find many (if any) hands in his range that make sense for him to shove for value, and numerous hands make sense for him to shove as a semi bluff.

We also know villain is young and talked to online players, and online players aren't normally the type to be very risk averse and scared for their tournament life.

After I called the CO tapped the table and turned over Jh 7h for a combo draw semi bluff.

For a second example on this matter I've asked my friend and well known forum contributor Nath capnjackpot Pizzolatto to include a hand he posted on his blog some time ago that I thought was an excellent example of adapting to the changes in a hand and putting the pieces together in it. The hand comes from the Sunday Million about a year ago:

SB (t31052)
BB (t35813)
UTG (t29700)
UTG+1 (t19400)
MP1 (t28360)
Hero (t27246)
MP3 (t12775)
CO (t7727)
Button (t11100)

Preflop: Hero is MP2 with 9s 9c

UTG raises to t1200, 2 folds, Hero calls t1200, 4 folds, BB calls t600.

Flop: (t3900) 5h 4c 2d(3 players)

BB checks, UTG bets t3600, Hero calls t3600, BB folds.

Turn: (t11100) 2d(2 players)

UTG bets t4800, Hero calls t4800.

River: (t20700) Ad(2 players)

UTG checks, Hero bets t17646 (All-In), UTG folds.

Final Pot: t20700

OK... now you're probably wondering why I took a line that seems really weird and determined to get as much of my money in the pot as possible while behind. And I'm going to show you why it works here. Let's look street by street.

Preflop: Hero is MP2 with 9s 9c.

UTG raises to t1200, 2 folds, Hero calls t1200, 4 folds, BB calls t600.

So this is the most straightforward street in the whole hand. A min-raise is indicative of everything and nothing; mostly, it tells me my opponent is probably a clown. It doesn't do a whole lot to define his hand, though. Some players love to min-raise their big hands to try to induce action on them. Some like to min-raise hands they want to see cheap flops with, in hopes the min-raise discourages a re-raise. FWIW, I think both are pretty terrible, and if you consistently do one or the other you have a huge hole in your game. I try to blend my raise sizes so as to make my hand difficult to read.

Anyway, having said all that, I elect to just call with 99 because I have no idea what my opponent has; if I re-raise and he folds, I win a relatively small pot, but if he 4-bets me, I have to fold, and I've wasted a chance to win a big pot. So I decide to call and proceed post flop. The BB comes along because he's getting 5.5:1 and closing the action, not because he necessarily has much.

Flop: (t3900) 5h 4c 2s (3 players)

BB checks, UTG bets t3600, Hero calls t3600, BB folds.

Here's where it starts to get interesting. Making a pot size bet here is often indicative of an overpair. Here's the catch: I still beat a few of the overpairs. In addition, some people panic with their AK/AQ hands when they miss here and just start firing big bets in hopes of scaring away an opponent. On this board, AK/AQ has an additional four outs against underpairs. This increased equity makes betting and getting it in with AK here really not that bad a play.

It's also the big reason I don't make a move at the pot now. Some people see "overpair" and think "I have to protect my hand". Having seen him make a big bet at the pot now, I know my opponent likes his hand, but I don't know exactly what he has. It's too likely my hand is good to fold here, but he also has an overpair far too often to make raising and getting the money in profitable. I feel as if I get it in, it's going to be as a 60-40 favorite or a 90-10 dog. I don't mind getting it in as a 60-40 favorite, especially in a tournament like the Million, whose field size I feel dictates a faster style of play, a more "race to the finish line" approach-- but I get it in drawing to the two nines way too often to want to push now. So I call and decide to reevaluate based on the turn. The BB folds, and I never considered him to be much of a factor anyway.

Turn: (t11100) 2d (2 players)

UTG bets t4800, Hero calls t4800.

The deuce doesn't change anything. Neither of us has a deuce and we both know that. Now, his turn bet is interesting-- he bets just under 1/2 pot, which seems weak, but which also sets him up for a pot-sized river shove if I call. (By the way, if you aren't thinking about manipulating pot and stack sizes like this when you size your bets, you are making a mistake.) For my part, the price is too good to fold an overpair-- but still, my hand is not good enough to raise. I suspect some time he has an overpair to mine, some time he still has AK/AQ (the bet size is actually an effective size to block-bet a draw and see if he hits it), and rarely, he has a worse overpair than mine. So considering most of his range as TT-KK and the other major part of it as AK/AQ*, I call again.

* - I don't include AA here, not because it's impossible, but because it's a special case. He has the best of both worlds, and I'm screwed; the river is basically irrelevant because he's shoving all of them. I also considered 66-88 unlikely, though not impossible.

River: (t20700) Ad (2 players)

UTG checks, Hero bets t17646 (All-In), UTG folds.

Wow. This is such an interesting card. All his ace hands got there, and all his overpair hands just got scared shitless. This is the beauty of position-- I can use his action to judge what he has. Since he has a pot-sized bet left, he's going to have to shove for value if he hit his ace (or his 33, or if he was already full, or what have you).

He checks.

Now, many, many players' immediate reaction would be to check, thinking that "Oh, either he had me already, or he hit that ace. And he's not calling with a worse hand, and we have a pair, so let's check and hope we win the showdown."

They're wrong.

When he checks, he's completely vulnerable. We each have less than the size of the pot left (he has me barely covered), and if we have anything reasonable, we're pot committed. The only reason not to put in the rest of the money here is if we think, for some specific reason, that a scare card has helped so much of our opponents' range, that we should give up. Trapping would be absurd at this point for villain, given that I should be calling his push with anything reasonable, having gotten this far.
So when he checks, it's not to trap, it's because that ace scares the crap out of him and he will fold to a shove.

And -- this is important -- we should realize that this swings all the Ax hands and 33/44/55 out of his range, and makes his range overwhelmingly overpairs. So his range consists primarily of hands that will beat ours at showdown, but cannot call all-in.

Knowing this, we should move in as a bluff. The fact that he didn't move in already gives us all the reason in the world to. He's announced to us that he is scared of the ace, and he is hoping we will let him show down his hand. So we have to disappoint him.

On a side note, the stack sizes are really excellent for this move. We each have slightly less than the pot left (I have 17.5k and he has 20k in a 20k pot). Which means that an all-in bet can be interpreted as a "normal" bet size. (Moving all-in here for, say, four times the pot would be considered "abnormal".) Because of that, it makes our opponent less likely to suspect that we are bluffing; we could simply be trying to get every dollar possible out of our hand. It puts him in a pretty terrible spot, since from his perspective we could easily have the AK/AQ/33. We certainly wouldn't check those behind on the river. So it's very unlikely that villain is good one time in three, and he folds.

Now, at the table, this process is much quicker, and is occasionally guided by intuition-- you don't always have the time to think out, in words, why a move will work; you "know" it. While it's good to have sound, logical reasons for your moves, it's more important to trust your intuition-- it's a part of you, and it works on what you have learned, too. In the heat of the moment, it's taking all your experience and skill and training and leading you to the right decision. If you have prepared it for the moments you need it, it will not let you down. Work on your logic away from the tables, and study and review and prepare your theory, so that your instincts have the background they need to make the right decision. Trust yourself to learn the game.

I will say that bluff-shoving the river hadn't entered my thought process until the river hit, and the villain thought for a bit and checked. Then it occurred to me that he couldn't call a push, so I pushed-- it wouldn't have really mattered what I had, but I was definitely swayed by the relative weakness of my hand. (If I had, say, KK, I might have checked behind-- or pushed for value.)

But that's another point of this hand-- you have to be able to adapt your decision-making process each time new information comes to light. Even though you have a plan for a hand, something may change which will cause you to abandon that, because you realize an alternate line is more profitable. Online, the pace is fast, so you need to be quick mentally. Live, you always have an opportunity to think through a hand. Online, you have much shorter time limits and may be multi-tabling as well, so being quick on your feet is just as important as being sound on your feet.

So to recap today's lesson:

a) Be alert to your hand strength relative to your opponent's range, not just to the board, or in the absolute sense

b) Don’t be afraid to turn a made hand into a bluff

c) Don't be afraid to change plans in the middle of the hand, as you gather information

d) Be a quick thinker

e)Trust yourself


Thanks very much to capnjackpot (Nath) for his input and that's all I have for now. As always if there are questions or comments, I'm happy to field them.

Around the World in 90 Days: Days 73-91

Day 91

As I mentioned in the previous post I think it’d be a fun idea to list out what I’ve learned on this trip. So without further adieu, I bring you “Shit you learn by going around the world in 90 days”:

1. Sleeping on planes will never be comfortable, unless you can afford first class, which unless you have roughly $15,000 to spend on every long flight you take you can’t. Instead, you get to sleep in the luxury that is a singular degree of decline in the economy seats, insuring that one day you’ll be spending $15,000 at a chiropractor.
2. Europe is expensive. There’s no joke here, Europe is just expensive as hell.
3. Turkey has a very low divorce rate. This is obviously because of the system of arranged marriage.
4. There is no such thing as a Venetian. Everyone in Venice is a tourist.
5. There is no risk of live poker drying up in the near future.


Day 90

The 90th day is finally upon me. A full three months of going to tournaments around the world and trying to write up every day of my life. Obviously, I’m a little tired. When I look back at what I’ve accomplished over three months I feel mostly proud, both of my work on and off the felt.

I feel like the blog has mostly been a success, although my falling behind by double digit days during some periods in the trip is a disappointment. I think the blog works more successfully on the reporting angle when the information is very recent, but to be honest if I forced myself to write up my day as soon as I busted each tournament I would’ve ended up killing myself. I’ve found trying to find something interesting and clever to blog about every day is actually quite difficult, as many days are kind of ordinary or bland. Also, since tightening up in live poker a little bit I think the hand histories themselves are somewhat less interesting, though I think the adjustments I’ve made are very much for the better in terms of my equity in the tournaments.


Days 88-89

Celina and I wake up around 2pm without the slightest disturbance from the hotel. I’m fairly certain the Chinese version of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hanging on my door translates to “Get the fuck out of here. That means you house keeping.”

We leave the hotel in the evening after grabbing dinner and show up at the airport early. The airport staff has some problem about my passport and some kind of glitch about my not being allowed in the country, likely a left over from my ban two years ago. Celina does her best to translate the issue between us, and after half an hour of waiting around they clear everything up and let us advance.


Day 87

The live poker is over for a time now. All that’s left is to enjoy a day in Macau hanging out in the spa and browsing my various websites.

Spending all day in the spa is the kind of activity you can get used to, if not addicted to. I almost feel bad sitting here while people wait on me and give me massages, but then I remember how awesome it is. After three months of non stop travel spending a few days doing nothing but relaxing is exactly what the doctor ordered.

The upcoming Victorian Poker Championships looks very promising. It’s a surprisingly high stakes series of tournaments, with two 10k tournaments, a 5k PLO, an $1,100 six max event, and the $3,000 main event. The best part about the series though, is for all the high stakes action it doesn’t really attract any international talent. A few online players will be there, as well as the best of the live poker players in Australia, but no major names either live or online will be there to my knowledge. I’m not so sure about the $5,200 PLO since I’m fairly bad and nity in the game, but I’ll play everything else.


Day 86

I wake up a little before 11am, not bad given how late I got to bed and the fact that I knew I’d be jet lagged to the point that sleeping in would be difficult. I get dressed and eat one of the breakfast bars Kyle gave me in a gift basket. There’s a deep stacked tournament in the poker room at 12:30 that I have assurances will end before the 7pm start of the Red Dragon Macau Cup main event.

I go down to the poker room and play the event but wind up busting out early after being mostly card dead and cramming an open-ended straight flush draw on the turn which gets called by a made straight and misses.

For the afternoon I naturally hit the spa and find the Internet inside almost unworkably slow. I kill some time watching TV and taking foot and head massages. The later is heavily underrated.

In the evening I show up back to the poker room for the Red Dragon event. The event starts us with 5,000 chips at 25/50 blinds and 40 minute levels. It winds up being a pretty small field of 31, though that seems to be roughly what Jeffrey Haas was expecting.


Day 85

When we arrive at the hotel the front desk does not have our reservation. It takes a while for them to call up to the poker room and sort everything out while we sit in the lobby reeking of 30 plus hours spent on planes and in airports.

We get up to the room and I find it’s currently 10am. I don’t quite feel like sleeping anymore so I go down to get some lunch then try and find the poker room. We’re in the same hotel as last November and while the poker tables on the main casino floor are all still there with posters of various players, there is no actual poker in sight. I go back to the room and tell Celina I’ll be hitting the spa with the laptop to do some writing.

Easily my favorite part about a visit to Macau is the time spent in the spa. The entire thing is set up to relax you and put you in a total state of rest slash apathy. Going in for multiple massages, food, and time spent hanging in the lounge room with a recliner that has TV and computer access for several hours will end up costing something like $60 US. Despite being a city similar to Vegas in the sense that it’s full of casinos and little else, Macau is mostly lacking in the distractions and lifestyle of Vegas, with a much higher focus on the actual gambling. As a result, when you spend day after day hanging in the spa you never really feel like you’re missing out.


Day 84

The people living in the normal world have a huge problem with anyone attempting to sleep beyond 11am. Being able to sleep to this hour is so strange, so inconceivable to them, that they simply won’t tolerate it.

Despite calling the hotel desk the night before and telling them I won’t need a wake up all until 2pm (and double checking that this was cool) the hotel manages to have two phone calls and three knocks on the door previous to the 2pm call. When the call finally arrives I call down to the desk to inform them I’ll be checking out around 2:30pm. They seem less than pleased.

We grab lunch at the club then Kyle and Su give us a ride over to the airport. Our first flight is only 45 minutes long over to LA, but after that it’s a five hour wait in LAX until our next flight. I plug the computer in at a bar and play video games for the duration until Celina and I grab some food at the food court.

The flight to Macau is on a large two story jet where Celina and I have a three seat row to ourselves. For the first couple of hours I continue my video games on the computer then watch ‘21’ on the screen in front of me. The film version is like taking the Hollywoodesque retarded liberties that the book took with the story then injecting them with steroids and adding Kevin Spacey in the mix in a desperate attempt to regain sensibility.


Day 83

With it being our last day in Fresno and having been out until 4am last night we spend a low key day around the casino and I do some writing work.

With little to talk about in this entry I guess it’s a good opportunity for some reflection as the blog begins to near its end. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before, but Tilt and I have agreed to a brief extension that will cover the few days I’m going to Macau for the Macau Cup then back home to Melbourne for the Victorian Poker Championship. The Vic Champs ends on August 19th, but that’s assuming I make it to the final table of the main event, an event which should have roughly 400 players.

That means there’ll still be entries in this blog for another few weeks. And after that? Well it turns out I actually won’t get a major break from live poker for a long while. Beyond the Vic Champs, Celina and I have to return to Macau on August 24 for the APT $5,000 event and the APPT $3,200 and $19,000 events, which run until our departure on September 10th. Celina has been sponsored with a full package in each APPT event at this point, so I doubt I’ll be skipping them. After Macau there’s the Seoul event on September 24th, the APPT New Zealand in early October, then Pokernews Cup in mid October, and then finally a considerable break from live poker (though who knows when the APT will decide the dates of their next event, as they still intend on having ones in the Philippines and Singapore).


Days 81-82

Seeing as it’s Sunday and I’m finally in the right time zone to play every tournament I’ve decided to play all day today. The casino is pretty quiet on a Sunday and everyone seems a bit busy, so it’s fitting that I just zone out in front of the computer for 10 hours.

Ten hours of grinding later I’ve busted out of every tournament without a single cash, a phenomenal performance if I may say so. When I’ve finished Su drives Celina and I over to a local Indian restaurant because Indian food is obviously the greatest accomplishment in the history of man. After that it’s more karaoke in the bar, but Kyle decides to call it an early night this time.

The next morning we set off to see the sequoia trees with our friends Rick and Erin driving the van. They’re about an hour outside of town, far up in the mountains of California. The trees truly are massive, and even though I’m not really the outdoors type it’s hard not to marvel at what is clearly one of nature’s wonders. When we get back to Fresno I describe the experience to Kyle as “Those are some big fucking trees man.”

As for tonight, Kyle and Su have arranged my only direct request of the trip, to see the new Batman movie. Even though we’ve already gotten tickets there’s a long line out the IMAX theatre, and we wind up waiting about 20 minutes to get in. Oh man is it worth the wait, that movie is so awesome. I know many people are saying that this performance truly exemplifies why it’s a shame that Heath Ledger died, but to be honest you never even see Ledger in the whole movie. Not only is he caked in make up as the joker for the whole film, but the transformation into the character is so complete, so thorough, that it never occurs to you that you’re watching a fresh faced Australian guy playing a role. In this film you’re watching Ledger transform into a psychopath.


Day 80

As part of the massive amount of hospitality Kyle is showing Celina and I, he has arranged for us to have a massage over at a local spa at 11:30am. Naturally we have some trouble waking up at such an hour and make it over 15 minutes late, but nobody at the spa seems too pissed.

I spend the afternoon in Kyle’s office hijacking his computer and writing. Kyle hangs out for a while and spends time elaborating on all the intricacies of the card room/casino industry, which is pretty fascinating stuff. It’s a sort of juggling act of responsibility. The title of boss means he has to be constantly thinking about the bottom line and the efficiency of the operation, but the work environment of the casino means it’s occasionally necessarily for him to transform into a stripper pole on karaoke night.

In the evening the tournament is having a $50 tournament which I tell Kyle that Celina and I will play. He puts a $50 bounty on both of us which forever destroys any chance of my running a bluff. The tournament naturally has a very fast structure but I manage to run good and come into the final table with a medium stack (which is about 9 BB’s.) A few hands into the final table I peek down at JJ and open shove. I get called by KQ and TT, and when the KQ makes a boat my tournament is over, though I did manage to break even for Celina and myself.


Day 79

Sleep deprivation sucks. Having stayed out until nearly 4am celebrating with Sirwatts and Korean BBQ (they didn’t even finish playing until about 2am) our noon check out time from the house feels much too early. I’d called one of the owners a couple days ago about pushing it back to the afternoon but he said noon was the absolute latest. Celina and I haven’t even packed yet, meaning when the owner arrives I tell him “We just need to spend a few minutes to finish packing” then proceed to take over half an hour.

We catch a cab to the airport and kill some time in the terminal before our flight to Fresno. The flight is on one of those small planes that you can’t even stand up straight in and has exposed propellers, the type that sway in the wind so much you wonder how it even stays airborne.

At the airport my friend Kyle from comes to pick us up with his hostess Su and they take us over to his casino/card room in downtown Fresno, ‘Club One’. He checks us into the hotel next door then we head out for Korean food. There truly is no such thing as too much Korean food.


Day 78

I first met Mike ‘Sirwatts’ Watson at the beginning of the 2007 WSOP. He and Stevepa hadn’t been able to get into their place that night and needed to crash somewhere else and wondered if I could accommodate them in my room. When I met Watts he was so quiet I didn’t even hear or realize who he was the first time we spoke. I knew of him from his 2+2 posting, tournament scores, and the fact that one day while browsing through the highest stakes games on Full Tilt I saw him sitting at 200/400 and asked Timex if it was the same Sirwatts. It turns out Timex had bought a large chunk of Watts to short stack and take shots at the soft game, which initially went quite well but due to unfortunate run ins with David Benyamine ended up being a mostly break even endeavor.

We ended up hanging out the majority of our days at the last WSOP, often grabbing a swim at his condo’s pool after our play was done. Among other things, we shared having a massively losing summer in common and spent a ton of time discussing strategy. Watts is smarter than his introverted and modest nature lets on and even though the city of Waterloo has produced an absurd amount of poker talent I’ve heard many people say they think Watts will be the best of the lot in years to come. As I’ve written before, Watts is restrained and mild tempered to the point that I think if I one day walked up to him and said “Hello Watts!” then punched him square in the face he’d stare at me in confusion and ask calmly “What’d you do that for?”

I told Watts I’d meet him at the Bellagio café around 2:30pm today. For the first time in a while I have enormous trouble getting a cab and I don’t actually arrive at the restaurant until well past 3pm, with the final table starting at 5pm. Watts is sitting with Iweargoggles and his girlfriend, who are on their way out. After that I order some pancakes and offer to flip Watts for the bill. Of course he loses.


Day 77

It’s my first true off day in a long time. Even with the other off days I had to be very mindful of the fact that I’d be playing a day or two later and couldn’t sleep until whenever the hell I pleased and screw up my schedule.

The big news of the day is (besides Sirwatts making an increasingly deep run in the Bellagio $15k) is the Tiffany Michelle ‘scandal’, if that’s the right word. The controversy goes that as Tiffany went deeper and deeper into the main she naturally gained a large amount of attention, being a young and attractive female with many friends in the industry. All the various poker sites came calling with offers for her to wear a patch during the ESPN coverage and although I have no idea as to the details or offers it’s safe to say she likely had her pick of who she wanted to represent. Unfortunately for everyone, Tiffany chose a certain not-to-be-named poker site currently involved in a scandal.

So here we are, watching what should be a great moment in poker (an attractive girl making a run in the main all over TV, which sounds a little absurd but is clearly good for the game) turn into a massive fucking train wreck. I’ve reading up on the issue quite a bit, including the thoughts and comments in Dr. Pauly’s blog, who not only has quite a bit of personal experience with Tiffany, but also a front row seat to watch the madness unfold. In the end I agree with his sentiments, I mostly feel depressed and disgusted. Tiffany could have picked any site but the one she did and this wouldn’t have happened. So the only real conclusion I can come to is that she’s made her own bed and now she has to lie in it. I’m almost a little happy to see the reaction be so massively negative towards her decision, since this is an industry where people mostly get away with their greedy and unethical choices without any real consequences. That everyone came together to voice a communal “FUCK YOU Tiffany” is in a strange way, inspiring. It makes me think there just might be more to this game than ‘take the money and run’.


Day 76

In the morning, Watts and I order a cab to the Bellagio. Yet again, Watts loses the flip for the ride and has to dish out the 25 bucks. The starting field today has been reduced to 125 players with 100 paying, and my 106,000 chip stack leaves me in decent but not awesome position to make a run at both cashing and going deeper.

My starting table is not exactly ideal for said run. Almost every player at the table is a known player, including Ike Haxton, Todd Brunson, Fatal Error, John Gale, Apestyles and Glen Chorny. The cards get in the air at noon with the blinds starting at 1,200/2,400 with 300 ante.


Day 75

On the cab ride to the Bellagio, Sirwatts and I discuss our Day One and our table draw for the day.

“Man I’m so pissed I lost a third of my stack in the last 20 minutes of the day.”

“Nah you’ll be fine Watts, just gaaaaaaaambol like me. Besides, I swapped 5% with you and I have mega swap run good. Do you have any idea what I’m up lifetime in swaps? Like $35,000 or something.”

“Maybe you just suck.”

“Oh for sure, but you’re gonna win either way. Pretty sure I’m fucked though, I just don’t have the dueness anymore.”

At the Bellagio, I find my way over to my seat and have a look around. I have one of the largest stacks on the table, but I do not have a soft draw. There are a number of good online players, including CrazyMarco and Jason Mercier, who is sitting on my direct left. On the first hand, I peek down at A-A in the SB and it folds around to me. I raise and Jason calls. The flop comes ragged and when I bet he quickly folds. I show the A-A and tell everyone “Well that’s enough excitement for me today. I’m out of here.”


Day 74

With an off day from the Bellagio tournament and a day full of huge guarantees online, there is no way I could pass up playing on the computer. I wake up at 1PM and fire up as many tables as possible, then throw on my headphones and completely zone out.

I was wise to arrange a house with a group of guys who are as big (if not bigger) workaholics as I am, and with the huge Sunday guarantees, there’s no chance anyone in the house would skip playing today. Unfortunately, I only have the laptop to work with, so the most tables I can realistically play is 10, and even that is a major bitch to manage on the one screen. Because of the massive multi-tabling and overlap, I’m forced to play pretty straight forward all day, trying to keep things as automatic as possible.

By the end of the day, I’ve made one final table, a $75 buy-in $17,500 guarantee tournament that due to it being Sunday, has a nearly $12,000 first prize. I come into the final table second in chips and pretty much coast into six-handed in second, a little behind the chip leader. I haven’t been very aggressive or out of line when the largest hand of the day comes up:


Day 73

The Bellagio Cup IV $15,000 Main Event is about as tough as a live tournament gets. The vast majority of good players have busted the WSOP Main Event by now and almost every major online tournament player either has the backing or the roll to go ahead and take one more shot before leaving Vegas. Having talked to other online players before the event, playing on Saturday is clearly the favored day, leaving the opportunity to play online for huge prize pools on Sunday, or in my case, go play the Venetian $5,000.

Sirwatts and I are the only ones playing from the house. We catch a cab in the morning and for the seventh time straight, Sirwatts loses the flip to pay for the cab. Having run so bad this Summer, and really for the last year in live poker, I can’t get the idea out of my head that Watts is going to do something big.

“Hey Watts, wanna swap 5%?”

“Yea sure.”

“Sucker, I already know you’re gonna win. You just threw away 5%.”

“Whatever Bond.”

“I’m telling you Watts, dueness and all. DUENESS!”


Around the World in 90 Days: Days 55-72

Days 71-72

Things are much quieter now. More and more people are leaving Las Vegas having busted out of the Main, and those left are just hanging around playing a few days of online tournaments then heading out shortly.

Over at the World Series, it’s the bubble day and only Sirwatts is still in from our house. Everyone else is at home hanging out and making arrangements to get out of town. At the moment, I’m the only person in the house planning on playing the Bellagio $15,000, though if Watts busts, he’ll almost certainly be playing.

Today is pretty uneventful. I spend most of my time doing catch up writing, then going out to eat and playing Nintendo Wii with housemates. Watts comes home early, having busted before making the money, leaving our entire house out. He tells me he’s definitely going to play the Bellagio $15,000 and the house discusses which day we should play.

While browsing 2+2, I find out Jimmy “Gobboboy” Fricke has made the final table of the Bellagio $5,000 preliminary event, which has a first prize over $440,000, well enough to get him out of make up. I follow his progress all day until he winds up the winner, having made no deal because he held on to a commanding chip lead for the majority of the final table. I call him up to congratulate him and invite him over to the house to hang out.


Days 69-70

As always, I spend my day off relaxing around my pool and firing up the grill, then trying my best to catch up on some writing despite all the distractions. Over two months into my trip and I can see and feel myself getting increasingly out of shape, a result of the Vegas diet of huge but occasional meals, low sleep, almost zero exercise, and doing nothing but sitting in a chair and doing math problems. When I get back to Melbourne the first thing I’ll do is hire a personal trainer and get very strict with my diet to try and repair the damage this trip has done to my health. Until then I’m just going to try and be a bit more mindful about reducing junk food and getting a little more sleep, which even living well off the strip, proves hard to do in Las Vegas. With day two starting tomorrow, I’m aiming for eight hours tonight.

In the morning, nearly the entire house sets out towards the Rio. Nath, Grafyx, LearnedfromTV, and me are all playing our Day Twos today, so I don’t have to worry about ordering a taxi. I checked my Day Two table draw last night and found two recognizable names; Howard Lederer and Jon Robert Bellande. I’ve played with Bellande a bit before during a $5,000 mixed event in 2007 where he massively donked his stack to me, but have never played with Lederer before.

At the Rio I make my way through the massive crowd to my seat in the Amazon room. I rip open my bag, stack up my chips, then survey the table. Outside Bellande and Lederer, all the players are unknown and the majority of them look more inexperienced, though there are a couple of young guys who seem to have a pretty good idea of things. Play restarts at the 250/500 level, and my 35,000 chip stack gives me almost 60 BBs. Almost immediately, I’m involved:


Day 68

Grafyx and I get to the Bellagio about 15 minutes before the start of the $5,000 preliminary event. We stroll up to the cashier and find a massive line waiting for us, insuring that we’re going to be a few minutes late for the event. Not only is there a line, but I need to take money out which I’ve put on deposit after having won the $3,000, and I know that’s going to take even longer. The biggest problem though is that the lines are full of Internet players (who show up late much, much more than recreational players) and if we register late, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll be jammed on a table with several of them.

By the time I get my money out and get bought in, I’m taken to a new table and the tournament is 10 minutes in. My decision to sleep an extra 20 minutes and risk showing up late turns out to be a terrible one when I face a table line up of Rekrul, ELKY, and lil’hold’em.

I met Lil for the first time the other day at the Bellagio. I wasn’t quite sure how he’d react to me after having read the “MTT fight night” I wrote earlier in this trip and put on pocketfives and 2+2. He never brought it up and we chatted for a while about various live pros and how hilariously awful their stack size leaks are. Overall, he seemed like a pretty chill guy who likely just gets overly excited and agitated while playing online.


Day 67

Last year I was anything but excited for the Main Event. Having gotten slaughtered all summer and run almost as poorly as I played back then, I approached the Main with an impending sense of doom. This year, things are entirely different. I’m still playing bad now and then, but I’m running amazingly well. This summer in Vegas I’ve cashed six times, made three final tables, and actually won a live tournament. I’ve decided to play Day 1D, which falls on Sunday, figuring that many of the good online players will have played earlier days since they don’t want to skip the Sunday tournaments.

I find my seat in the Amazon room and take my seat at a table full of unfamiliar faces; looks like I’m running good already. There are a few young players at the table, but how capable they are has yet to be determined. The tournament starts us with 20,000 in chips at 50/100 blinds with two hour levels and every imaginable level increment.

The play on the table in the early rounds is pretty tight weak. There’s surprisingly not much limping going on, but there’s also not a ton of aggressive play post flop. Nobody on the table seems especially spewy or entirely novice, and I think with people
normally having the option of keeping the $10,000 instead of playing in the WSOP, this year’s (and future years’) tournament will be a little tougher, though it should still be the softest $10,000 tournament in the world.


Day 66

Thanks to drinking several glasses of water, I do not have the vicious hangover I should today. I do not know how much I drank last night (it wasn’t that much), but it was enough to fuck up a stomach as weak as mine.

I have today off before I play in the WSOP Main Event. Everyone in the poker world talks about the World Series Main like it’s the end all of tournaments, and I am not a member of that thought process. To me, the WSOP main is just another tournament, albeit with an incredible structure and massive field filled with god awful players. The fact that the winner of this one tournament is crowned a poker champion and made into a minor celebrity for the rest of his life is pretty absurd, especially considering nobody very good at poker has won it since poker hit the boom years (yes I know, many consider Raymer and Hachem good, but at the time they won they were fairly raw tournament players.) That two complete nobodies who are more or less useless on the marketing side of things have won in the last two years does even more to diffuse the importance of this one tournament, yet whoever wins it this year will yet again be thrown into the spotlight and expected to represent poker as a whole.

I grabbed a copy of Bluff magazine at the Rio the other day. I was glancing through the rankings of the tournament player of the year and, at this point, those things make me entirely disgusted in live poker as a whole. The problem with live poker in general is that the whole community is results oriented and nobody gives a shit about the actual quality of a player, and even worse, his quality as a person. In first place in the rankings is Men “The Master” (and I cannot emphasize “The Master” with enough irony simply in text) Nguyen, who not only is an entirely average tournament poker player, but is a well known scum bag and fairly well established cheat. The fact that this man is celebrated as an excellent player demonstrates everything that is wrong with live poker.


Day 65

The night before my previous final table, I slept like a baby. Unfortunately, last night, I didn’t have as much luck. I woke up a couple times and, due to anticipation, had some trouble falling back asleep. Still, I feel mostly well going into today, but most of all, just don’t want to do something retarded and blow it like I usually do in these kind of spots.

Tom gives Celina and me a ride to the Bellagio. A number of people have come out to watch the final table, not to mention several more who are playing today’s $5,000 No-Limit tournament. I’ve gotten lucky with the seating arrangements, having Keith with the other large stack on my immediate right, and pretty tight players on my left. They have the final table on a raised area, but nowhere for spectators to sit, so unfortunately, the good people who came out to support have to stand for the whole thing. Play
gets underway with about 20 minutes of the 2,000/4,000 level left on the clock.


Day 64

I first fell in love with the Bellagio during last year’s Bellagio Cup III. Not only is the hotel such a visual pleasure to walk through, but the Fontana Lounge where they put the tournaments is roomy and comfortable, in the direct center of the hotel overlooking the fountains. Also, the Bellagio Cup was the only place where I had even the slightest taste of success, finishing eighth in a $2,000 pre-lim for something like $8,000 and change.

This year’s schedule has been vastly reduced after the turn out for last year wasn’t as big as hoped. The $3,000 I’m playing today is the second pre-lim, and the starting stacks have been increased to triple the buy-in. Because of the cab being very slow to get here, Sirwatts and I are about 20 minutes late. That’s OK, I suck with deep stacks anyway. When we finally get seated, I look around at a table of unknowns.

The very first hand I raise K-To on the HJ, get re-raised and fold. I get involved in the very next hand:


Day 63

Today’s event at the WSOP is the $1,500 Shoot-Out Limit event, the only format in which Limit can be slightly interesting. For something like the fourth time this WSOP, I’m seated at a starting table with Marco Traniello and the majority of the rest are entirely unknown faces, except for fellow Full Tilt Poker blogger Michael Craig across the table. I introduce myself and tell him I work for Tilt as well, but he does not seem to know who I am. That’s OK, I don’t have the time to read anyone else’s stuff during the series either.

As I’ve said before, my Limit game is pretty rusty, but I’ve talked enough with some very good players during the series that I think I’m starting to get the hang of it again. We start with 3,000 chips and the table is a winner-take-all format. In Limit tournaments at the WSOP you have to play sort of nitty to peoples’ aggression, as their unfamiliarity with Limit means its way less likely they’ll be getting out of line.


Days 60-62

As a result of the two hour time zone jump from Vegas to Milwaukee coupled with the late arrival of our flight, I wake up around 3:30PM with the party at 4PM. I scramble to get myself and Celina together before my parents arrive. Previous to this summer I hadn’t seen my immediate family in about a year, and depending on who we’re talking about in the extended family, it’s somewhere in the area of one to two years.

Since moving to Australia, I haven’t really been the most available family member or friend for that matter. Outside my parents I don’t really email anyone regularly, I don’t call, and I’ve stopped using social networking sites like Facebook. Even though I have most people on my AIM list, there’s pretty little to talk about when we have entirely different lives and most of the time I’m online I’ve got eight tables in front of me and can’t talk anyway. The last time I lived in the United States for a sustained amount of time that wasn’t in Las Vegas was 18 months ago, and even that was only for a few months after having already been away for more than a year. The last time I was really around, available, and involved with peoples’ lives was after I finished my sophomore year of college at age 20, and I’m 23 now.


Days 58-59

With two days off and little to do, writing an entry that reads “Today I sat around the pool and ate four hamburgers, then did some writing and watched an episode of The Wire” seems pretty pointless. There’s been a number of interesting and random stories I’ve heard or lived during the WSOP that I haven’t necessarily been able to fit into the trip reports, so this entry seems like a good opportunity to utilize them. Therefore, I bring you Bond18’s random WSOP stories, gossip, and encounters.


Day 57

The $1,000 rebuy tournaments at the WSOP are some of the toughest fields that come together during the series, and outside the $5,000 short-handed tournament, they’ll certainly be the toughest fields in No-Limit Hold ‘em. I’ve got $8,000 in my pocket just in case things get ugly and, if I need more, Sirwatts is only a few tables away. Thus far in my poker career I have yet to get involved in a truly expensive rebuy tournament, and most of the people who go nuts during the rebuy period are really pushing the equity potential for the tournament.

My starting table seems fairly tough; a tight, a mix of good online players and random nitty live players I’ve never seen before. The cards get in the air with 25/50 blinds and hour levels, starting with 2,000 in chips, which we instantly rebuy up to 4000. Not surprisingly, only the online players at the table take the immediate rebuy.


Days 55-56

I finally have a couple of days off. They’re come at just the right time, since I’ve spent so much time at the Rio and away from Celina she’s starting to wonder if I’ve turned gay and use the poker as an excuse to avoid her presence all day. Sure I could go play the $1,000 tournaments over at the Bellagio, but to be honest, I’m very, very tired at this point and the break is absolutely welcome.

The majority of poker players in Vegas for the summer use off days toward one of two things; either going out and getting very drunk or staying home and putting in online volume. I’ll be doing neither. First of all, I have a ton of writing to catch up on. During the European portion of my trip, I had enough free time that I was able to write nearly every night and when I didn’t, I had enough time the next day to catch up. During the Vegas portion I’ve had so many 13 hour days at the Rio that not only am I stressed for time, but I’m mentally exhausted and not feeling particularly creative when I get home. That’s not to say this time in Vegas has been particularly stressful. I’ve been running pretty well in the tournaments, have a great house of guys to hang out with, and Celina is absorbed enough with working on her EBay business that she doesn’t give me too much trouble about being so absent.


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