WSOP 2011 Diary: Week 1

[I’ve decided to put these up once a week or so to save publishing effort and avoid annoying people on Facebook and Twitter. Give me feedback in the comments as to whether it would be better to do daily or if weekly is good. Anyway, the result is these will be long posts.]

Day 1 (June 23): The trip from Gainesville, FL to Las Vegas is pretty rough. There are no direct flights, so I have to connect in either Atlanta or Charlotte, which means layovers and delays. This time, I was scheduled for a 2.5-hour layover in Atlanta, but ended up taking half of it in Gainesville because of weather delays. I ended up getting to Las Vegas at about 12:20 AM local time (3:20 AM back in Florida), and then had to find a shuttle to the hotel because my ride fell through. (Tip for visitors to Vegas – if you’re going to the strip, go find a shuttle instead of a cab. The shuttle is $7-10 and a cab will be at least $20.)

Any time I’m heading to Vegas, I try to get in late at night and sleep very little on the plane. I figure this is the best way to beat jet-lag and adjust to the new timezone. It usually works, but I was up till 3:00 AM Vegas time chatting with a friend, and ended up waking up at 7:15 this morning. So the bad news is I’ll be tired all day. The good news is that if I can get through the day without sleeping, I’ll definitely be adjusted to Vegas time by tomorrow.

My strategy when I’m here is to maximize convenience and minimize cost. In English, this means I end up schlepping my stuff back and forth from hotel to hotel as I chase the lowest room rates. This time, I’ve managed to book rooms at the Rio and Gold Coast, so I’m only bouncing back and forth between two decent hotels. I’m sharing rooms with a friend of mine, and he’s particularly good at finding cheap hotel deals for us. I’ll end up paying about $700 for a month of staying in decent hotels within walking distance of the WSOP. Not too bad.

Today, we’re moving from the Rio to Gold Coast, then we’ll grab lunch and decide which tournaments are the best to play today. My guess is I’ll end up playing a $235 tournament at the Rio to tune up since I haven’t played live poker in about 10 months. The Rio field will be big (700 or so), which means lots of bad players and a decent prize pool for a $200 tourney.

There is a lot of stuff to consider when I start playing tournaments again after a layoff. I have to be comfortable both physically and psychologically. Basically, I have to psych myself up so I feel like a good poker player, and I have to have some sort of game plan going in. My game plan today is basically, “Be super hyper aggressive and pull the trigger every time I sense I should be making a move.” This sounds simple, but it can be tricky after a layoff. I obviously want to win the tournament, but I don’t want to bust after only a couple hours since I need to get back in the swing of things. This will often cause me to play more passively than I should, passing up opportunities to last longer in the tournament while not really giving myself a chance to win.

So the plan today is to get settled into the Gold Coast, get a good lunch and hopefully crush the $235 tune-up at the Rio.

Day 2: Yesterday was a long day, but not much happened. My friend and I moved from the Rio to the Gold Coast and then played the 2:00 PM $235 “deep stack” at the Rio. I use the quotes because it’s not REALLY a deep stack unless you compare it to the normal, super-turbo structures most casinos use for the daily tournaments they run. There were 964 entrants and I finished 79th, for a couple hundred bucks profit. I was happy with my play because I didn’t catch many cards for the final four hours of the tournament. My best hand of the day was a nut flush, and I made two straights (both on three-flush boards) and didn’t make a set or two pair. So, all in all, I’m pretty happy with cashing.

After I busted from the Rio deep stack, I joined some friends who were sweating the $10k HORSE Championship Final Table. My friends are friends of Daniel Ospina, who eventually took 4th (outlasting Tom “Durrr” Dwan by one spot). Here’s a terrible picture of the “Featured Table” where ESPN films final tables and will film the main featured table of the Main Event for TV. It’s terrible because they have bright blue lights focused on the crowd, and those lights apparently wreak havoc on my iPhone’s camera. C’iest la vie. (On a related note, I can’t wait for iOS 5 to let me snap photos with the volume up button instead of the stupid soft button on the screen. It’s really difficult to take a good picture when I’m holding the phone and trying to tap the edge of the screen to snap a photo.)

Today I’ll just take it easy, do some reading and writing and probably hang out watching TV in the hotel room.

Day 3: Actually, instead of taking it easy and hanging in the hotel room, I ended up playing a $200 re-buy tournament at the Wynn. I was in for $600 (initial buy-in, initial re-buy and the add-on), but didn’t cash. It was very frustrating because that tournament is very soft, and it’s very winnable for me. But what was more frustrating was that I made two mistakes (one medium and one big) that cost me the tournament. But this is why I’m playing tune-ups before I jump into $1k+ tourneys: I expect to make mistakes. So, hopefully I’ll think more clearly and be more focused the next time I play.

The tournament director (and possibly the guy who runs the Wynn poker room) stopped Luckbox Larry (@hugepoker on Twitter) and me on one of our breaks and asked for input on the tournament. Overall, we both think the tournament is setup very well, but we made a couple of suggestions to make it better and to encourage people to stick around and build the prize pool. We recommended adding a level after the add-on break and giving more chips for the add-on. He gave us each a $10 comp, which I used to buy a giant gelato banana split to console myself for making mistakes in the tourney.

While I bombed out of the Wynn tournament, Luckbox Larry actually went pretty deep and bubbled the final table. It wasn’t a huge score, but he did what he could do to win the thing. I got some pictures of him (below), but they’re a little blurry because I was having to like run around trying to snap a clean shot when I could get it because there were a bunch of Europeans crowding all around the table and jumping in front of me (despite repeated requests by the tourney director that they keep out of the tournament area). For some reason, Europeans really love the Wynn daily tournament.

I think I’ll go back to the Rio $235 today and give that another shot. I’ve played about 11 hours of poker so far, and I’ve basically run bad. I think I’m something like 0-for-7 on coinflips and 60/40s, I’ve flopped one set, I’ve flopped two pair once (it was top two, and lost the minimum against a flopped flush when we were both in the blinds), I’ve flopped three straights (all on two- or three-flush boards), I’ve turned one flush, and I’ve had AA, KK, QQ, TT once each (JJ twice). I think I’ve had AK once and AQ a few times. So, if I start catching some cards I think I could make a deep run if I avoid mistakes like I made yesterday.

My co-author has been playing WSOP events since I got to Vegas, but I think she’s taking it easy next week so I’m hoping to get some writing done. Until then, I’ll keep tuning up in small tournaments, trying to avoid making mistakes like the plague.

Day 4: I didn’t end up playing yesterday. They moved the 2:00 PM rio tourney back to 4:00 PM because there was a $1,500 WSOP event that typically draws a lot of people. So they try to stagger the tournaments to avoid confusion. I basically ended up bumming around and reading all day, and it was kind of nice. I went to see Super 8 last night and really enjoyed it. It was a fun movie, well done.

Today, I played the $1k WSOP No Limit Hold ’em event. I managed to last about 3 2/3 levels before I finally busted out. I’ve been running really, really cold so far this world series. Yesterday, I tallied all the hands I’ve had so far. To that tally, I can add another AK, a couple of 99 hands, 88 and that’s about it. So, I’ve been on the bad side of the card distribution so far this series. I actually played well today and made some difficult, but good decisions. The problem was I just never got any cards to work with and all the short-stack strategy in the world isn’t any good unless I eventually get something to play and double-up. I ended up busting on a Stop-N-Go, which was the right idea pre-flop, but it may have been correct to abort it on the flop. I’m still mulling it over.

[The following is a little poker rambling where I describe what a “Stop-N-Go” is. If you’re not into poker, skip to the next paragraph.] I guess I should explain that. A Stop-N-Go is a short-stack move where I’m in the big blind (blinds were 75/150) and I have a short stack (I had 1,500 left after posting the blind). The point of the move is to basically re-steal the pot from a late-position raiser by taking control of the pot and moving in on the flop, forcing my opponent to make a tricky decision. The player four seats to my right (in the hijack seat) opened to 375 and before I looked at my cards I knew I had a good stack for a Stop-N-Go. I decided I would Stop-N-Go any pair 66 or lower, and any Ace A9 or lower and possibly a hand like KQ or KJs. (The rest of my range was something like this: re-raise all-in with pairs 77-QQ and AT+; flat-call with AA/KK and check-raiase all-in on the flop regardless of what it was; possibly flat call with KQ or KJs and check-raise all-in on the flop if I made a pair or better; fold everything else.) Anyway, I looked down at A6o, which meant it was time to Stop-N-Go. Here’s how the move works: I call his raise and then move all-in on any flop (because I’m in the Big Blind, I’m first to act after the flop). I know this player is a reasonable player, so he’s opening a normal hijack range: Big cards, most pairs and probably like JTs and maybe T9s. The flop came down KK8, I moved in and he called with 99. This was probably a mistake on my part. The problem is that my goal is ultimately to get my opponent to fold all those hands in the range I described above. On flops like T84, J85, KT2 most of this range either misses the flop completely or doesn’t really like it (66 and 77 don’t like either of those flops, AK, AQ, AJ don’t like most of those flops for instance). But on a flop like KK8, most of his range is still pretty safe. Small and medium pairs don’t mind it because it’s unlikely I have an 8 or King. Big cards don’t mind it because they’re still pretty strong hands (AQ, AJ, AT all feel ok about still having a pretty good hand post-flop, and they can draw out to a pair against smaller pairs). Hands like QJ, JT, QTs don’t care for it and will fold. So, this particular flop isn’t scary enough for the Stop-N-Go to work and I probably should’ve just aborted and check-folded, aborting the move.

Now I’m heading off to the Wynn to meet Luckbox Larry on his dinner break in the Wynn $200 re-buy. He has a pretty good chip stack, so hopefully he’ll make a run. Hopefully I’ll start running better pretty soon. I’ve played something like 16 hours of poker and basically gotten no cards yet. It’d be nice if that trend ends soon.

I’m back (just got over to the Wynn – it takes about 45 min door to door, and about 20 of that is fast-paced walking in the Vegas heat). On my way over to the Wynn, I had a couple thoughts. First, I realized that Vegas is packed full of people doing really, really crummy jobs. I won’t list those jobs because I don’t want to offend anyone, but there are a lot of people doing jobs that I just can’t imagine doing every day. It’s profoundly depressing. At the same time, I realized how fortunate I am. I voluntarily quit my own job almost two months ago, and now I’m hanging out in Vegas for a month, playing poker, writing a book, relaxing and hanging with some friends. There’s some stress involved (today my bank account reduced by another $50 or so, and it won’t be replenished until I start working again), but I’m ultimately living Peter Gibbins’ dream of doing nothing for now. At the same time, I miss my friends and family back home, but I’ll be seeing them plenty in about 25 days.

And Luckbox Larry ended up taking second (after losing an all-in with AK < AJ) for right about $10,000. Unfortunately, he was in for $1,200, so the “steak dinner for five-figure score” clause wasn’t activated this time.

Off to Vegas for the 2011 WSOP!

You may know that I’ve gone to Vegas once a year for the past several years. I think I’ve been every year since 2006, but I’m not positive about that. In 2009, I spent six weeks there. The other day, I realized that Vegas is the city I visit most frequently (aside from Jacksonville, which is 90 miles away and is where my family lives). This really doesn’t make sense at all – Vegas is essentially the opposite of all things Josh. Of course, it helps that there is some incredible food to be had (if one doesn’t mind visiting some super sketchy neighborhoods).

But here I go again, drawn to Vegas to play poker and visit friends. Before I go, I’m posting about what I’ll be doing (so my friends and family know what’s up). I’m also soliciting suggestions on how I can share the experience with all three of you that read this blog. (Haha, just kidding! There are at least 10 of you.)

What I’ll be doing

I’ll mostly be playing poker and writing “the book”. The WSOP is going on right now, so I’ll play some of the smaller No Limit tournaments and try to win a satellite for a seat into the $10,000 Main Event (the one they show on TV every year). The smaller WSOP tournaments I’ll play will range from a $1,000 to $2,500 buy-in. I’ll also play some other tournaments around Vegas, ranging from $200 to $1,000 buy-ins. I’ll start with the smaller ones to tune up since it’s been a while since I played live poker (or poker at all, really). I’d really like to play the $10k this year – that tournament is almost customized for my style, and I could make a deep run with a little luck.

“The book” is a poker book I’ve been co-writing for about 18 months. It’s about how to use game theory to build a dynamic tournament strategy that can be adjusted as the game changes over time. It’s a lot about the underlying principles and the “whys” of winning tournament poker. A friend of mine is a professional poker player, and she asked me to co-author the book with her because I know her strategy and style very well, and because I’m comfortable writing. I’m hoping we can do some serious work on the book while we’re both in Vegas this summer. It’s a very big project that simply requires time and coordination to keep it moving.

Give me some feedback – what can I do to share the WSOP experience with those who aren’t there?

I get a lot of questions about the WSOP: what it is, what it’s like, and all that. I think it would be fun to use the blog (and Facebook and Twitter) to share a little of the WSOP experience (and maybe my Vegas experience), but I’m not exactly sure how to do that. [Wow, that sentence is terrible.] I could blog, take pics and maybe shoot some video. I’m sure there are other ways I could share the experience as well.

If you want to see what it’s like to at the WSOP, leave me some comments with suggestions on ways I can share. I’ll see what I can put together!

My week, sans the work: Part 2 – Las Vegas

On Wednesday evening, I headed west to Las Vegas.  As it turns out, I also arrive in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening since time stands still when flying west (in the States anyway).  This demonstrates Superman’s superiority as Boeing can merely cause time to stand still, while Superman can actually cause time to go backward. (NOTE: I will not check to see if Boeing makes a jet that flies fast enough to cause time to reverse when flying west in the States.)  A couple of friends were also in Vegas and had the good fortune (read, “have gambled enough”) to get two rooms comped at different hotels for Wednesday and Thursday.  I ended up crashing in a room at the Hard Rock for free my first two days in Vegas.  Wednesday night, I slept.

Thursday, I woke up relatively early (9) and did a few hours of work.  Then I wandered over to the Wynn and had lunch at Terrace Pointe Cafe.  It was excellent and I was full, so I decided to walk over to Bellagio and get some gelato.  I didn’t have any plans for the remainder of the day, so I popped over to Planet Hollywood Casino and played some $1-$2 No Limit.  I dropped about $85 over five hours (possibly accounted for by the $90 pot I lost after being about 90% to win when the money went in) and then went back to the Hard Rock to do a little more work and then get some sleep.  The next three days would be busy ones.

Friday morning, I woke up and did a couple hours of work and then checked out of the Hard Rock and into – let me finish – the Tropicana.  Actually, I just checked my bags at “The Trop” (that’s what the townies call it, probably because it’s a dump and doesn’t really merit more than two syllables) and then walked over to the MGM Grand to meet a friend for boot camp.  The friend is a poker pro who was teaching at a three-day WPT Boot Camp that I was to audit for the weekend.  (I don’t name-drop here, but her recent tournament winnings put her on a short-list for best female tournament player, and she’s probably moving up the same list for “overall” tournament player.  Google is fun.)

Within the first two hours of the camp, I’d already identified why my poker game has been so awful recently and decided it was time to update (and, in many ways, revert) my style.  In a nutshell, it was pretty obvious that I had regressed into a weak-tight style.  It quickly became obvious I needed to LAG it up a bit and play more (but smaller) pots against my opponents.  So far, so good.

The rest of the first day was good, but not as great as the first session.  I really enjoyed the other sessions (hanging out with people who’ve written books I’ve read has to be fun), but they were mostly high-level refreshers that didn’t resonate like the first session had.  My friend and I skipped out on dinner and met up with her fiancée and some of their friends for dinner at Antonio’s at the Rio.  The lasagna was good and I was entertained both during dinner, by the conversation, and after dinner, by the meticulous accounting required to verify proper appropriation of each penny on the check (including tax and tip, of course).  After dinner, we met up with another friend and went to see the new Indiana Jones movie (which was a colossal letdown and seemed more like a prank than a long-awaited fourth installment to the series).  I then went back to The Trop to officially check in and collapse.

As I was checking in, I began to realize that they may not have reserved a non-smoking room for me.  This was going to be a problem.  I first began to suspect something was up when the receptionist said, “Ohhhhhh…  you wanted a non-smoking room?” Then, clackity-clack-clack tip-tap tap-tap-tap … thunk.  She probably suspected I requested a non-smoking room because I had submitted the following “special request” when I booked the room on Expedia:

I absolutely DO NOT WANT A SMOKING ROOM, or a room that has ever been a smoking room, or a room that is near a smoking room.

She explained that they didn’t have any more one-bed non-smoking rooms.  I explained that I didn’t care how many beds were in the room so long as it wasn’t smoking, and hadn’t ever been a … (see above).  She said she was new, so she was going to get the manager.  The manager swooped in, tapped around for a few seconds and said, “We’re going to upgrade you to a suite.”  Bummer.  Wait, what?  Okey dokey!  (That was actually all in my head.)  Aloud, I said, “Ok.” as if to communicate that we both know they owe me that much.  She then explained that Vegas hotels can’t guarantee rooms like that.  But she also gave me an insider tip:  if I want to make sure I don’t get stuck in smoking, I should book the room, then call ahead to the hotel and tell them I’m allergic to tobacco and smoke.  That’ll land me on “the security list” and I should be good to go.  I’m getting a suite, suckas!

As I approached the suite, I saw a sign: THIS IS A NO SMOKING AREA.  I took that as a good omen, but was a little leery of the slight smokey smell that surrounded it.  The suite had most likely been furnished by bargain hunters who scored a bunch of stuff from garage sales in South Florida.  Most of the room was coral, teal and wicker.  I was curious what the smoking room would’ve looked like.  (Probably something like coral drawn toward earth tones via tar stains.)  It smelled a little like smoke, and would smell that way for the duration of my stay.  I assumed this was the result of 25 years of people ignoring the sign outside my door.

On Saturday, I began the day by bumming breakfast off of the boot camp.  Then the sessions began again and, again, there was one particular session that really resonated with me.  As before, the theme was “aggression” and it became even clearer to me that I had devolved into a weak-tight player (possibly the worst kind of tournament player to be).  After the day ended, I headed straight back to my hotel room to try out my newfound LAGgy confidence in some small multi-table tournaments.  Two things were almost immediately apparent: first, this style is obviously effective; second, this style seems pretty similar to what I used to play when I was regularly playing live tournaments.  (A third epiphany also began to dawn, but wouldn’t become completely clear until Sunday: it’s too bad I blew $1K in New Orleans because I didn’t have the slightest chance at actually winning that tournament.)  I didn’t cash in either of the small tournaments I played, but I easily built a big stack and was in great position to assume the chip lead when we hit the bubble.

…Ironically, one of the topics that came up frequently in my two favorite sessions was pre-flop raise-sizing.  The number of 2.5 Big Blinds was mentioned frequently, so I decided to take a look back at my posts from a couple years ago.  Sure enough, I had written two long posts (well, long if you ignore this one) called “2.5 is the new 3!”…

Sunday began the same as Saturday, but was more of a wrap-up day.  We had a couple of general sessions, then lunch, then a winner-take-all tournament that I didn’t play (because I was freeloading).  Before the tournament, my friend was kind enough to look over my hand-history from the $1K in New Orleans.  We both had a good laugh and I felt a little embarrassed at how obviously weak my play had been.  It wasn’t awful (she occasionally found something I’d done correctly), but it was pretty bad.  It was mostly good that it was so obvious to me how bad my play had been – that meant I had actually learned something over the past couple of days.

After my friend busted from the tournament, we milled around chatting with all the other busted pros (the pros apparently weren’t so great in this one) and then headed off the strip and back to her condo to kill some time.  We chatted with some other guests she had in town and then she decided it was time to teach me to play backgammon.  I remember seeing a backgammon board at a friend’s house when I was really young, but I don’t think I ever played the game.  Anyway, the first few games were a little frustrating (probably more for her than me) and she went up 5-0 in a match to 7.  But then I won four games straight to win the match 7-5.  Of course, I’m aware that I was a total luckbox, and that she helped me make good plays and avoid horrible plays… but it’s also nice to know that she died a little inside when a total neophyte crushed her.

After the longest-odds backgammon comeback in history (or at least my history, which includes only one match), we met up with a friend and went for sushi at Sushi Roku in Ceasar’s Palace.  After my friend was mistaken for a hostess (“One for the sushi bar.”  “What?”  “One for the sushi bar.”  “What are you talking about?”  “Oh, you don’t work here?  I’m sorry.”), we were seated at the least-attended table in the joint.  After receiving my latest lesson in the art of the chopsticks, we downed our meal pretty quickly and then jumped right into discussions on morality, politics, social faux pas and the like.  We also noticed that our server hadn’t been around in quite a while.

My friend was particularly frustrated by this (we had been trying to get the check for about 20 minutes and our glasses hadn’t been refilled in a while) and decided to use me as an instrument of passive-aggressive revenge.  Because she has no soul, she decided the best way to exact revenge would be to give our server a seemingly genuine, but completely fake, compliment.  I was offered a 20-dollar freeroll if I would, with a completely straight face, tell our server how much I appreciated her attentive service.  And she had to believe I meant it.  I mulled it over for a while (I possess a soul, and so this task would be more difficult for me to execute than it was for her to imagine), but decided I was freerolling and therefore only had my dignity to lose, but 20 dollars to gain!  I began thinking back to my acting classes to see if I could remember how to find motivation and get out of my head.  Mostly, I was concerned I would begin offering up my fake compliment and bust out laughing, which would make me feel awful (yes, worse than I would feel for passive-aggressively taking a shot at our only-slightly-English-speaking server).  No motivation became apparent, so I decided to look for the right opportunity and go for it.

I decided that opportunity would present itself when our server brought the check (assuming this ever happened).  Eventually, she brought the check, set it on the table and began to make a hasty retreat.  Before she could get away, I began:

“Excuse me.  This is my first time in Las Vegas and I am just about to leave to catch my plane home.” 
“Where are you going?” 
“Back to Florida.  But I just wanted to let you know that I had a great time here this week, but your service tonight has been really exceptional and is just a great way to end the week.”
By this time, it was obvious that she was a little skeptical of my kindness.  Of course, she should’ve been since I’m sure she knew she hadn’t paid us any attention for the last couple of hours.
“So, thank you for your great service tonight.  This was a great way to end my trip.”

I was so convincing that my soulless friend felt compelled to stop snickering into her napkin (I wanted to say, “stop snickering into her serviette”, but this is America) and say, “Aw, that’s so nice of you!”  This comment finished the job and clearly convinced our server that we were indeed genuinely impressed with her service.  I was paid my blood money and we began preparations to negotiate the check.  But while we were razzing the server, our friend had sneakily paid the check (apparently, the staff was very quick to retrieve already-paid checks), so I actually made twenty dollars at dinner (and forever lost a small piece of my soul).

From there, we went back by The Trop to retrieve my bags (checking out is substantially easier than checking in) and ferry me to the airport so I could catch the red-eye.  I’m pretty sure this is my first red-eye flight, but I’m realizing that one attribute of a red-eye is that they’re difficult to remember, so it’s possible I’ve flown a few before.  In about 45 minutes, we’ll touch down in Gainesville and I’ll go home and sleep the day away.  Back to work tomorrow.

My week, sans the work: Part 1 – New Orleans

I spent the last week traveling and blowing money. Only, not really blowing money, except for the traveling part. My first stop was New Orleans, where I played a $1K preliminary event at the WSOP Circuit stop. I’m not going to post a tournament recap because it was spectacularly boring. That said, I did record all my hands in a notebook so I could get feedback on them later (as in, I’ll literally discuss that later in this post). (While I’m abusing parentheticals, I might as well go ahead and mention that I’m writing this on no sleep as I kill time on my three-hour layover on the red-eye from Las Vegas to Gainesville. It’s very probable this will make no sense in any way.) Anyway, I ended up fizzling out of the $1K at the end of the third level.

Since I’d planned (or, more accurately, hoped) to be playing the $1K all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday, I was now left with about 36 hours to kill. Fortunately, I was in New Orleans, so killing time wasn’t a problem. A friend of mine was in town as well, so we basically tooled around town, stopping in for a snack whenever we got the urge. We mistakenly went to Cafe Du Monde hoping to grab an early dinner and were surprised when we could order only beignets and something to drink. When we arrived, we were surprised at how messy our table’s previous patrons had been. They had left mounds of powdered sugar all over the table, chairs, floor and anything else in the vicinity. Slobs. Of course, once we realized that you must order beignets, and that beignets come drowned in mounds of powdered sugar, we realized that all patrons of the Cafe are slobs. we ate our two orders of beignets (requesting one order for each of us elicited a snarky comment from our server, probably because one serving is more than enough for two) and decided to head over to catch an IMAX show.

I had never seen an IMAX show before, so I was pretty excited to see what all the hype was about. Unfortunately, the only show playing was some documentary ostensibly about whales and dolphins. In reality, it was mostly about how evil! evil! evil! humans are, and it was written to the tune of whales and dolphins. I decided it was most likely produced by PETA, or perhaps PETA’s sea mammals division (PETSM?). We let the guilt wash over us for a while, wondered what PETSM would have us do about our evilness (the “documentary” was heavy on the guilt, but all the useful suggestions about what we could do to help cure our evilness apparently didn’t make the final cut) and decided to go meet some other friends for dinner.

We went to dinner at a local place in the French Quarter (I don’t remember the name – it was pretty awful) and my PETSM-induced guilt caused me to order the fried catfish (they didn’t have Willie, Flipper or Shamu on the menu) on a plate of various other fried items. We ate quickly, spent about three hours awaiting the check and then felt awful (this time physically, to balance out the emotional feelings of awfulness from the documentary) for a while. I think we tooled around Bourbon Street for a few minutes and then I went to sleep.

Sunday, I woke up late, ate breakfast at a great place called the Coffee Pot and then tooled around town some more. Sunday evening, we had our mixer to kick off the work-conference that I would attend for the next few days. The mixer was a great opportunity to meet some higher-ups and watch co-workers get tipsy and go on tirades about how we could improve things at work. HINT: Workplace improvements recommended by the inebriated are typically not easily implemented. You can also check out workers’ compensation attorneys from Carlson Meissner from here!

The next three days were all work, work, work and were therefore too boring to mention here (I am aware that the bar for boredom is set pretty low here, and yet I refuse to lower it).

Road trips!

Road trip 1: Tonight, for the first time in about three years, I went running (outdoors and everything!). I’ve been doing various cardio exercises–ridin’ the bike, the crazy elliptical thing–for a few years, but I hadn’t gone for a run in a while. It was actually pretty relaxing and wasn’t as tough as I anticipated. I went about 3.3 miles in 30 minutes (nine-minute miles). That ain’t great and it ain’t awful. On the up-side, I did have to run a bit of a hill, so I’ll tell myself that slowed me down a bit.

Road trip 2: Tomorrow night, I’m heading to Atlanta to watch the Gators in the SEC Championship game. When I was a student, we pretty much expected to play for the SEC Title and we were always hoping to get into the National Championship game. Nowadays, playing for the SEC Title is a big deal and I want to be there if we win it. Also, it’s a pretty good excuse to go hang with my friends in Atlanta (I haven’t been since last Christmas). So, I’m leaving right after work tomorrow and I should get there around 10:00 tomorrow night. I’ll be heading back on Sunday afternoon.

Road trip 3: In honor of all the road-tripping, I picked up Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (audio book). I figure it’s just a bonus that Beatniks likely weren’t opposed to partaking of the acid from time to time (of course, that’s speculation based entirely on some stereotype I have for reasons I can’t recall).

Home, sweet home… When do we eat?

I’ve officially moved to Gainesville and I’m starving. I left yesterday morning around 10:00 (CDT) and I arrived in Gainesville around 3:00 (EDT) this afternoon. I think I made pretty good time considering I was driving a big moving truck with my car in tow. In retrospect, I’m pretty surprised I didn’t hit anything or flip the truck. Also, it turns out I’m pretty competent when it comes to backing up trucks with trailors attached. For home improvements, I check out Homelier Pro and  get help from them!

Anyway, I haven’t eaten in about nine hours, so I’m going to get some dinner. Hopefully I’ll be able to partake of some kinda’ local food.

EDIT: I ended up eating at Mi Apa Latin Cafe. It’s a nice little Latin place near my old place (which is actually someone else’s old place). It was quick, tasty and their menu is pretty good. They have a lot of different fruit juices for those who like that kinda’ thing. The papaya juice was a little tart for my taste, but that’s probably because I used it as a chaser for my Coke.

I have a lot of updating to do, and I plan to start this weekend. I need to talk about my life since the move, Florida Football (I’ve been remiss vis-a-vis all things Gators lately) and probably a bunch of other stuff. I’ve been sick, so that’s my excuse.

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New Orleans trip re-cap

So far, we haven’t done too much. We left Wednesday nigh after watching the Mav’s game in Dallas. We stopped off in Shreveport to get some sleep, then continued on to New Orleans early Thursday morning. We rolled in around 3:00 pm.

First thing we did was bring out the cards and chips for a quick $20 Sit ‘N Go. I had a pretty crummy run of luck and went out fourth of five. Then a few of us went upstairs to get a quick workout before we headed over to Harrah’s to play some satellites.

I decided that the $65 one-table satellites would be my best bet. The sat pays out a $500 tournament entry trip and $50 in cash (the vig. for the tourney). In my first one, I ended up playing with three of the guys I drove out with. That was pretty silly and we vowed never to do it again. There’s just no point in four of us battling it out for one seat against six other people. The main problem was that the four of us were probably the four best players at the table. We hadn’t been seated together intentionally, but we’d need to go out of our way to make sure we didn’t get seated together again.

Anyway, I busted fourth because I caught no cards. I had TT once, played in conservatively and got out as cheaply as I could when an opponent with KQ flopped top pair.

Next, we went to dinner at Besh Steakhouse and had a pretty good time. “Time” being the operative word because we were there for over two hours. Service was really, really slow and I’m pretty sure it’s because the hotel hasn’t been able to staff enough people since Katrina.

After dinner, a few of us decided to try another satellite. This time, only three of us were at the same table and one of the guys was directly on my left. I ended up getting heads up with one of my buddies and we chopped it down the middle. We basically had an even chip stack. If I hadn’t been heads-up with a friend, I probably wouldn’t have chopped.

So now we’re going to register for the $500 tourney and get some breakfast. I hope to do well in the tourney, but it’s going to be a crapshoot. We start with $1500 in chips with blinds at $25 and $25. There are 40-minute levels. I guess we’ll have to see how it goes. I’m in for $350 total.

$500+50 tourney re-cap

Well, the $500 didn’t go as well as I’d hoped it would. I played to the end of the fifth level, but just couldn’t get anything going. The structure was a bit fast, but nothing crazy. We started with 1500 in tournament chips and played 40-minute levels. The following is a list of all the “good” hands I got (I’m obviously stretching a little bit with some of these): 33, 44, 66, 99, JJ, JJ, QQ, AK, AK, AQ, AQ, ATs, KJs. That’s it. I had suited connectors–87s–once in the BB, but UTG+1 raised pre-flop and bet out on a flop that totally missed me, so I dumped it.

I figure I’ll just go through and describe what happened with all the hands I listed above. That should provide a pretty good summary of how the tourney went:

Early on, the guy to my right showed a pretty nasty bluff. UTG had made a decent raise pre-flop and this guy cold-called. Flop was JJ7, UTG bet out about 3/4 of the pot, guy to my right pushed. UTG thought for a long time and finally folded. Guy to my right showed 44 (obviously convinced that UTG had laid down AA or KK).

So, the guy to my right was pretty LAGgy. Blinds were 25/50 and he made a standard raise to 125 from UTG+1. I had JJ, so I re-raised to 400. Guy two to my left thought for a while before folding (after the hand, he said he had 99). Everyone folded back to UTG+1 who thought for a while and showed me AJ.

Fifteen or 20 minutes later, almost exactly the same thing happened, only I had QQ this time. Same result, but guy to my right didn’t show this time.

Some time in the 50/100 level, the guy to my right raised to 275 and I made it 700 to go with JJ. Guy two to my left called and everyone else folded (including the original raiser). Flop came all under cards and I moved in. Guy two to my left folded and said he had AK.

Everyone folded to me on the button with ATs. I raised to 300. Both blinds called and the flop came down KTx. The SB checked, the BB checked and I bet half the pot. Only the BB called. The turn was a Jack, the BB bet around 1/3 the pot and I called. The river was a blank, the BB bet 1/2 the pot and I folded.

Later in the same level, the guy to my right limped UTG+1. I limped behind him with AQo (I respected his UTG limp a lot more than his UTG raises). Two or three other called and the flop came down all low cards. I check-folded. Not long after that hand, we got moved to a different table in a different room. We kept most of our players, though.

At our new table, the first hand I got was 99. I raised it from middle position and took the blinds.

Later, the guy to my right limped UTG, I limped behind with 33 (again, I respected his UTG limps and suspected the rest of the table did too). Several others also limped. When it got to the BB, he moved in for a pretty big overbet. He’d bee doing this sort of thing all day (moving in on limpers, check-raising all-in, limp-re-raising all-in, etc.) and he usually bet a lot more than he should’ve. This time, as soon as he moved in, I thought, “He has junk, but I can’t call with 33.” Fortunately for me, UTG moved in over the top of the BB and the rest of us folded. BB showed K5o, and UTG showed 99. UTG busted the BB with a set of nines.

Next time I took the BB, I had KJs. The player in the CO made it 450 to go, the button called and I called. The flop came down King-high and I checked it, hoping to check-raise all-in. Unfortunately, both the CO and the button checked behind me. The turn was a blank and I thought for a few seconds before moving in. I took it down and had about 2200 chips.

A bit later (with the blinds at 75/150 and my stack around 1800), I had AQo in early-middle position. UTG raised it to 450 and I realized I’d either have to move in or fold. I took a while studying UTG and decided he was pretty strong (I put him on 99+, AQ+). I laid down my AQ because there were still several people to act behind me and I knew UTG would call if I moved in. I didn’t want to race if I could avoid it. As it turned out, the button woke up with AK and moved in; UTG called with TT, but lost when a King hit the board. I felt that I made a good read and made the right laydown given the circumstances.

A couple orbits later, I got AK in the SB. Of course, everyone folded to me and I raised it to 600. The BB folded showing trash.

A bit later, I got moved to a new table. We were just starting the 100/200 level. I folded my first hand, then got 44 in the BB. Several people limped around and I just checked my option. If I’d known more about the table, I probably would’ve moved in here. My problem was I didn’t know how strong the limpers were and I had no idea if any of them was trapping. On balance, I thought it would be risky to push into a possible trap and I liked that several people limped so that my implied odds were very high if I hit a set. I checked, the flop came high cards and I check-folded.

Two hands later, I was on the button with 66. The CO moved in for about half my chips (I think I had 1700 left at this point) and I moved in over the top to isolate him. I figured my 66 was good and I was probably racing, but I figured it was also possible that he could have a smaller pair, or a very weak Ace. Even if I was racing, I was getting a good overlay as a 10% favorite and I was only risking half my chips. Anyway, the guy turned over A7s. He flopped a flush draw and turned an Ace to double-up and leave me with about 900 chips.

Two hands later, I had QJ in late-middle position. Everyone folded to me and I moved in. The BB called with A8 and I doubled-up when I rivered a straight. I was now back up to around 1800 in chips.

Next time I was UTG+1, I picked up AKo. I made a raise to 600 and the player two seats to my right began counting down his chips. He eventually moved in and had me covered. When it got back to me, I called and he turned over QQ. His QQ held up and I was out.

Psychologically, I felt very prepared for this tournament. I wasn’t the least bit nervous or intimidated by any of my opponents. Some of the people playing were really awful poker players. I felt I played well considering I was card dead for two hours. I didn’t take many flops because I just never had cards that liked flops. I only had suited connectors once, and they totally whiffed. Most of the time, I was getting junk (Qx, Kx, Jx, unsuited two-gappers, etc.) and I had very few spots to make any moves. I also couldn’t win a race, and everyone knows those are key to going deep in a tournament. My best hand all day (post flop) was a straight, which won me very few chips. My second best hand was top pair, second kicker. I never flopped a flush draw or a straight draw, never made two-pair or trips and generally just missed every flop.

Overall, it was a great experience and I feel like I played well. I was reading people very well, but my read usually told me they were strong, so I saved chips, but rarely made chips because of my reads. I ended up busting about 230 of 606 after about four hours of play.

And the rest of the weekend…

After the $500+50 tourney, I went to watch some friends play the WSOP Texas Hold ’em Bonus table game. It was pretty entertaining. The house makes a killing on that game. After a few hours of that, we all went to the buffet to get dinner. One of us was still in the $500+50 and doing pretty well. After dinner, I decided to head back to the hotel to unwind. Playing tournament poker really takes a lot of energy for me.

Anyway, I hung out and watched basketball all night. A few of my friends went out to experience the New Orleans night-life and experience it they did. Aside from basketball, a lot of my entertainment for the evening was watching them act like idiots.

While all that was going on, my friend was busy making the final table of the $500+50. They wrapped it up around 1 am when they had 9 people remaining. The final table was scheduled for Saturday at 4:00 pm.

Saturday, we all woke up late and had a plan to go watch our friend at the final table. We all grabbed breakfast and tried to prep him for his day of making big money. Around 3:30, we all went to the theatre at Harrah’s. The final table was on a stage with a single video camera mounted above it to capture the action.

The final table began around 4:00 and our guy busted around 4:08. He had AJs and moved in on the turn when the board was 445A with two of his suit. Unfortunately, his opponent had A5 and he filled up on the river. He finished 9th and cashed for $5500.

After that, we went to get dinner on Bourbon street and then went back to the hotel to play a $1/2 NL cash game. The five of us all bought in for between $100 and $200. I ran my $100 up to over $180 before I caught some bad luck. I ran into trips and sets FIVE times in less than half an hour. This was only a five-handed game where we were self-dealing. I figure we probably played less than 20 hands in this time. Anyway, I went from $180+ down to $60 and then they decided to quit. I was pretty peeved because 1) I had been running so badly and 2) if I’d known we would up and quit after only an hour or so, I would’ve taken my $80 winnings and called it a night.

So, I went back to my room and the other guys decided to out on the town. I watched TV for a bit, then went to bed about 11:00. I didn’t wake up till 1:00 pm the next afternoon. Apparently, I missed out on quite a bit including one of the guys breaking his foot after he decided to run and jump down a flight of stairs. Sleeping seems much safer.

Sunday, the big winner decided to stake a couple of us to play satellites for him. First, all three of us bought into a 1-table $125 satellite that awarded $1100 to the winner. One of my friends sat directly to my left and knocked two guys out in the first few minutes. I hung in there for a while and eventually doubled my initial stack. I ended up busting after I made a solid read on a guy and moved in on him with A4s after he min-raised in EP with J9s (same suit as mine). He spiked a 9 on the flop and took most of my chips. The other guys didn’t make money either as they both took nasty beats to bust out. The guy who ended up winning the satellite was all-in at least three times with a dominated hands and he survived anyway. There’s a lot of luck involved with winning one of those satellites.

After the $125, I went to a $65 and did about the same. I didn’t play a hand for the first two levels (which is an eternity in a short-stacked satellite), but I got lucky to double-up then knock a guy out with AKs and AQs within a few hands. I ended up busting when I bluffed off my chips. I had KTo UTG and raised it up. The SB immediately said, “Not too much!”, which I’d heard him say earlier in a similar situation when he called with J9o. I said, “Not too much. One-fifty is just right.” He called and everyone else folded. The flop was 666 and he checked to me. I bet out about 60% of the pot and he moved in. I did the math and realized I had to call because I was getting 3:1 on my money and I figured I had 6 live outs. At first, I thought maybe he put a good read on me, but I think maybe he just went with a hunch that I didn’t have a pair. He had 33 and I didn’t improve. I don’t really like him check-raising there because he is almost guaranteed that he’ll have to fade the turn and river cards (if he’s not already behind). Anyway, I busted on that hand. Later, I realized I should’ve just kept my mouth shut when he said something to me. I think I gave away too much info by answering him pre-flop.

After that, we all went to get some dinner. During dinner a few of us decided to go back and play some blackjack and Bonus Texas Hold ’em. The guys each gave me $100 so I could try my luck with card-counting. They made it clear that they didn’t care if I lost it all, so I didn’t mind gambling their money. I played a $15 table with $300, which is a pretty short stake. The count only got moderately high once and I lost all my money within about two hands. My friend was sitting to my right and hit a blackjack on both of the hands while I got dealt a 12 and a 14 (both with my first card as a Ten). I think I can do well at card-counting with some practice.

After that, we all went back to the hotel and crashed. We got up at 7:00 Monday morning and started our trip home. We got back to Dallas about 6:30.

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Going to the WSOP Circuit stop in New Orleans

Well, some buddies talked me into going with them to New Orleans next week. The plan is to play in the Friday $500 tourney and see what happens from there. I think we’re all going to play the $65 single-table satellites that award one seat to the $500 tourney. From what I hear, these satellites are very soft and should provide a pretty cheap way to play in the tourney.

Also, my semi-pro poker player friend, who did very well in the 2006 WPT Championship $25K event at the Bellagio last month, will be there. It’ll be a good chance to meet up and talk some poker.

I’m really surprised how confident I am going into this trip. Earlier this year, a lot of my blog posts mentioned that my confidence was suffering. Because of my run lately (I’ve cashed in my last three live tournaments, including a win and a near-win) I’m starting to think I can actually play poker. Although the $500 tourney will be the largest I’ve ever played, I feel like I’m ready.

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Back in DAL to ring in the New Year…on my couch

I made it back without any trouble. I spent a little while playing poker (more on that below) and then made the short drive to Dallas. On the way, I used my super freaky psychic powers to predict the exact location of what may be the only Cracker Barrel between here and Shreveport. Before I started driving, I decided I was in the mood for some of their Chicken Fried Chicken and I wasn’t going to be stopped.

After driving 50 miles or so without seeing a Cracker Barrel, I said to myself, “You are stupid and you’re almost out of gas. Just stop at the next exit with a reasonable food selection and a gas station and give up on Cracker Barrel before you get stranded…” But then I saw a sign that told me it was only 36 miles to Tyler, TX and I said to myself, “Tough it out! If there’s a Cracker Barrel in Texas, it’s in Tyler, Texas! You have enough gas to go a measly 36 miles, wimp. If Kramer had the guts to see how far he could go after he hit empty, you can push it a few more miles to score some Chicken Fried Chicken.”

Sure enough, Tyler had a Cracker Barrel and several gas stations. One a side note, I got 450 miles on my last tank of gas, which means I got 25 mpg. That’s pretty stinkin’ good in my car. Maybe the hail damage has improved the aerodynamics or something. Golf balls have lots of dimples, just lot my car. What am I talking about?

Today’s poker recap

I played $1-2 No Limit for about three hours today. The lady from yesterday (with the reliable tells) was back, but everyone else was new. Here are the hands I remember:

Not long after we started, I got QQ on the button. There were 2 limpers and I raised it to $12. Both blinds called, everyone else folded. The flop came KTx, the lady bet out $10, BB called, I thought for a while and folded. I knew there was no way I was ahead here and I was right. The lady had flopped a set of tens and I think the other guy had a K. The turn was another ten, and the lady took down a big pot with quad tens. I gave myself a little pat on the back for making good reads and not getting married to the queens.

A bit later, I got K6s in the BB. Two people limped and I checked the option. Flop came down K67 rainbow. I bet out something like $8, everyone folded to the button who called and the SB called also. Turn was the 5 of hearts, putting two hearts on the board. SB checked, I bet $15, button folded, SB check-raised me all-in (for about $65 more). I thought for a while and mucked my two pair face-up. SB told me he had 34h for a turned ignorant end of the gutshot straight to the 7. My turn bet was a little small (assuming the 5h didn’t make someone a hand), but it was more of a feeler bet with “value” overtones. I’m still thinking about whether I could’ve played this any differently, but so far it looks like the answer is “no”.

A few orbits later, I got K9s in the BB (I didn’t catch cards for a while… this seems to be a theme for me lately. I don’t know if I’m running bad, just imagining things or playing too tightly.) with, as usual, 3 limpers. The flop came down QcJsTs, giving me a straight to the King, a King-high flush draw and a gutshot straight-flush draw. I bet the pot, UTG and Hijack called. The turn was a red Queen. I didn’t like this card, but I also needed to protect my hand in case someone had a bare Queen or maybe an Ace. I also felt that I needed to find out where I was at in the hand. I bet about half the pot. This was also a value bet since, assuming no one had filled up or flopped a higher straight, I was a big favorite to win the hand with my straight or a flush. Again, both players called. Now, I’m concerned. The river was a blank, non-spade. I checked, UTG bet a little more than half the pot, Hijack called (!!), I thought for a while and, again, mucked my K-high straight face-up. Both opponents turned up AKo for a flopped broadway and it turns out I was behind from the beginning. I was pretty surprised that neither player raised on the flop considering there were many cards that could come to either counterfeit their hands or flat-out lose them the pot.

About this time, my $100 buy-in has dwindled to $33. I’m UTG+1 and I have AJs. I raise it to $12 and everyone folds around to the BB who calls (this is my buddy who turned a gutshot to the 7 with 34 earlier). Flop comes three low cards, BB bet out $12 and I fold. He hadn’t bet out like that since he sat down and since he was playing trash most hands, I gave him credit for at least a pair.

Next orbit, I have QJo in MP1 and I limp (this was uncharacteristically loose for me, but I only had $21 left so I was looking to gamble it up, I guess). Several other players limp behind. There weren’t many pre-flop raises at this table, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have tried limping here. Flop came down JTx rainbow. It was checked to me and I got one caller who held J9s. My Queen kicker held up and won the pot of about $45.

Two hands later, I picked up AQs UTG. I raised it up to $12 and get 2 callers. Flop came AK9. It was checked to me, I moved in for my last $33 and it was folded around to the lady. She studied me for a while, so I did a little acting and mostly stared blankly at the table and occasionally looked up and away from her stare. By now, I knew she probably had Ax (she probably limped into 75% or more of the pots at this table) and I definitely wanted a call. She mumbled a call and said, “Do you have Ace-King?” This pretty much sums up the action at this table. It seemed like it never occurred to her that I might have AQ, AJ, AT or A9, which would all beat her A8o. She had called 6BB cold in middle position with A8x, and then called an all-in from an early position pre-flop raiser (I was also known to be tight as one of our dealers and another player had been joking about that earlier). Anyway, the turn was a K, leaving her drawing to an Ace or King for a split and my Queen kicker held up to win a $115 pot.

I left not too long after that because I’d been playing for three hours and it was time to get back to DAL. To sum up, I was down to $21 thanks to some bad beats and a tough beat, but then more-than-doubled-up twice in three hands to go up for the session.

I write too much about live poker sessions. I need to get a life or a muzzle… for typing.

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Headed home a little early

I was getting bored in ATL, so I figured I’d just head back to DAL a little early. I left this morning at about 11:30 and rolled into Shreveport about 8:00 tonight. I went and played a little $1-2 No Limit Hold ’em and made a little more than $40. There weren’t too many notable hands, so I won’t bother re-capping very extensively. My big hands were:

QQ (I was in the BB) and I took it down on the turn with very, very aggressive betting. No overcards hit the board and everyone folded to a $45 bet.

Later, I got TT, but folded on the river. I was in the CO and raised to $12 pre-flop. I got 2 callers and the flop came King high. It was checked to me, I bet $15 and got 2 callers (I had position on both of them). The turn put a 3-straight on the board (457) and we checked around. The river was an 8. First to act bet $20, next player folded, I thought for a while… counted out the $20 as I considered calling, then I saw the bettor show his cards to the player on his right. I figured there was no way he’d pick his cards up and show a bluff to his neighbor, so I mucked my tens face-up and knocked the table. I should note that I don’t think he knew I saw this tell. In fact, there were two later hands that I felt confirmed my read. One hand, he picked his cards up similarly to what he did before and eventually showed a strong winner. A few hands later, he didn’t pick his cards up after a river bet and he was called on a bluff. All in all, I’m very, very confident I made the correct laydown. He also had a tendency to slow-play top pair by checking the flop and betting the turn. I think his check on the turn was a trap and that’s why I didn’t bet to block

Later, I got AQs UTG and raised it to $12. Only the BB called. Flop came Q28 (8 of clubs), BB checked, I bet $10, BB called. Turn was the Jack of clubs, BB checked, I bet $15, BB called. River was the 9 of clubs, giving me the A-high flush, BB checked, I bet $20, BB thought and called. BB showed Q2o for a flopped 2-pair. Turns out I was lucky.

I also made a couple decent bluffs at small pots. One was against a lady who had a couple reliable tells. It was easy to tell when she was drawing and when she had a made hand that she was betting for value. Obviously, I bluffed when I knew she’d been drawing and the turn didn’t help her. Mostly, I was just using position and I turned K8o into a winner.

I think I’ll play a few more hours (either $1-2 NL or $4/8 Limit) in the morning. Then I’m off to DAL.