My apologies for the lack of updates; I'm lazy, and am also trying to do a lot of stuff out here that is off-PC, so haven't dedicated much time to sitting and writing. Anyways, I know everyone has mentioned the shootout and recent Vegas happenings, so I figured a trip report was in order of the recent sin city highlights. Let's see...
Early last week, I decided to play the $1,500 No limit hold em shootout, event #17 of the world series of poker. My housemates didn't tell me that they were going to register for the event the night before, so, I rushed to the registration desk at 11:30am for the noon start time for the event that was capped at 1,000 entrees. I registered and the lady said that there were 10 spots left in the tournament. Phew.
For those of you that do not know how a shootout works, unlike a standard no limit freezeout, where players get eliminated and tables merge together as the field shrinks, you have to win your table to advance to the next round of this tournament. Effectively, it's a series of winner-take-all sit and gos.
My first table was super soft. Two to my right was Lee Markholt, recent WPT champion, but beyond that I recognized no one and the play was extremely weak. I knew that I had to take all the chips at the table, so I started out with a very aggressive gameplan to capitalize on the tight, weak play. I think I ran a 35% VPIP (voluntarily put money in the pot; essentially, played really lose) with a 30% preflop raise % 10-7 handed. I simply did not let up on my table, hitting hands and keeping the pressure on when I didn't hit with bluff raising, squeezes, etc... no one was playing back at me so I had no reason to slow down. Finally, the really enjoyable part of the table was getting involved with Lee Markholt for stacks. After a recent squeeze where he flat called a raise and folded to my 3-bet-squeeze behind, he made a comment along the lines of, "It must be sooooo easy for you. Just raise raise raise. Some people's ranges are like this (showing narrowly spaced-apart hand motions). YOUR range, is like THIS (Spreading his arms out wide). I merely smiled and raked in another pot before he soon open completed his small blind, and I checked with T3o in the BB. On a flop of Q32r, he check/called 125 at blinds 50/100. The turn was the king of spades, putting out draws with the Queen of spades, and Lee donked 300 something at me. I called the bet expecting him to donk at me with a pretty wide range of hands that connected with the turn, or air cause he was pissed off at me. The river was a ten. Shipit. He led 600, and, without realizing it, I muttered "this would be the nittiest call" under my breath, only for Lee to hear the comment unintentionally. Debating between calling and raising, I opted to set Lee all in, and I jammed (by the way, I would've opted to call because I didn't expect lee to call with worse too often, but in the end figured that he could donk it up and that there was thin value in the move if nothing else given the structure and dynamic thus far). He turns to me, and repeats what I said. Crap, he heard me. He tanks and tanks, and says "this would be an interesting spot to bluff. only way you could have me though is if you rivered that ten". He decides after a few minutes to call all in anyways with K5o, for top pair no kicker, despite having assessed the situation perfectly after his expert flop float. Way to go. He wouldn't sign my copy of the cardplayer magazine with his picture on the cover, either. So lame.
I cruised through this table, stacking at least half of the 10 players, and got heads up after about 3.5 hours with a big nit that outlasted the rest of the table with his nitness and well timed picking up of aa/kk. I made a biggish call against this player heads up when I had all of the chips anyways. He commented about knowing how he'd have to make a move to get some chips for the uphill battle, so that made it easier for me to pick him off. I checked the bb with J6o after his SB complete, and we checked a flop of A94. On a turn 6, I led and he called. On a queen river, I checked and he bet roughly around pot, which was probably 1500ish. I tanked and decided that this guy basically never had an ace or a queen, so unless he decided to turn a random 9 into a bluff/thin bet, that no made hand really made sense, so, sticking with my "when in doubt, call" philosophy, I called the river bet, and he wrapped the table, said "nice call", and mucked 87o faceup, and my 4th pair is good for most of the rest of his stack, and the match was over on the next hand.
It was a solid 5 hours until the start of round two, because we had to wait for all 100 tables of the 1st round to finish in order to advance. Finally, a 9pm start kicked off round 2 of the shootout. This table was definitely not as good as the first table, with Noah Boeken and Keith Sexton to my left in addition to an aggressive swedish player also having position on me, and a Canadian pro a few seats to my right that I knew because he was friends with the canadian shipitholla balla's (inyaface, apathy, bigt).
Early in the match, there were fireworks. With 30k stacks and blinds 3/600 with an ante, mark, the canadian pro, had been splashing around a bit early after we had talked post-1st round about how I had been running over my 1st table. He opened to 1800 and was called by an older man directly to his left. With 99 on the button, I popped it to 8,000 cold. I think I should have flat called in retrospect. Anyways, pretty quickly, Mark shipped in his slightly below 30k starting stack, and the older man folded, when it was back to me. It sucked to be in the spot but given the structure I didn't see how I could fold with 20k in the pot with the slight dynamic going on between us. He knew who I was, and even though I wasn't at all 100% sure that he was responding to that, he had been splashing around a bit and I expected him to flat call/think for at least a few seconds with his big pairs some % of the time. All things considered, I decided to make the call and was up against Mark's AK with tons of overlay; the situation that I was hoping for. No A/K and I doubled early, sending Mark to the rail (sorry pal). I tried to use this double up to my advantage to run over the table a bit, but with tricky players behind me, I didn't find much help with that, having Noah Boeken flat all of my pf raises and multi way pots frequently. In light of this, I decided to do it the old fashioned way: coolering everyone of course! And so it began. I stacked Keith Sexton when we both flopped overpairs, AA>JJ. He wouldn't shake my hand :( I busted another random player when I flopped middle pair and the nut flush draw with A7ss and turned the nuts, when he open jammed his stack into me. Yay. Soon thereafter, I busted Noah Boeken with KK beating AQ on a Q high flop. Basically, it all fell my way at the table, coolering the tougher competition and getting shorthanded with nits. I got three handed with a cute blonde and a chatty southerner. The blonde was a big nit that pretty much telegraphed her hands constantly until we got heads up, and the southerner talked and talked and talked about everything, and when he didn't have something to say, he'd stare you down when in a pot with you. I used his nitness to my advantage when I chose this shorthanded situation to turn up the heat. One funny hand we played:
He completed his sb and I checked 93o in the bb. The flop was 6 2 2 and he check/called my flop bet. The turn was a ten and he check/called again. The river was an ace, and he checked, I thought for a second and bet about 2/3 pot, which for some reason, he viewed as a huge overbet, and he went into the tank. I tried to stay still and stare at the board while he hmmmd and hawed over his big river decision. He said something like "I don't think you've put me on a hand, I think you're just throwing chips into the pot". He was partially right, I simply didn't feel he called down 3 streets with like any hand he had there, and he would've likely check/raised the turn or led the river if he had a deuce from the way he was playing, and he certainly didn't have any pocket pair or ace in his hand, so I basically was very confident that I could get him off of virtually any of his holdings. I'm not sure how right I was, or how truthful he was, because he said "I have king high; I feel it in my bones that I'm good here". And, after much thought and more chit chat about what I could have, he threw his hand away and I took in a nice sized pot with my 9 high. Yay.
I chipped away at them before Michelle limped the button and the chatty southerner shipped in 25 or 30 big blinds with A2o out of the small blind, to be called by the buttons A4o. He flopped a deuce, but she rivered a wheel, and that was that; me and my cute older blonde opponent were heads up for the final table spot, me with about a 2:1 chip lead and what I felt to be the clear skill advantage.
I'm not sure if this was done on purpose or not, but Michelle John actually played a very good style against me heads up. Out of the blue, she went wild. On a checked down board of 6789T, she fired 50k into a 7k pot. I was shocked, she hadn't done anything like that. A couple of flop stabs that were 4x the pot, and soon I realized; she wasn't overplaying big hands, she was bluffing big and forcing me to have a hand to put money in. This is of course a very high variance style, but while the player with the skill edge is trying to play small ball, this is a very effective style to play with and reduce my edge. I had to pick up a hand against her, but not before I confirmed what she was up to. With blinds at 1500/3k with an ante, she opened to 9,000 and I reraised the bb with 92o to 26,000. She called fairly quickly. At this point, I knew michelle pretty well and knew that she'd auto ship any hand that she felt was strong enough to get it in with preflop, and would pretty quickly fold anything that was in her garbage range, so she had to have a hand somewhere in the middle, though I wasn't entirely sure what that was. I saw her make a big call to an all in against a somewhat erratic player with AK high on a low flop, but much earlier in the round and with much less at stake. On a 5 3 3 flop, I open shipped my chips in, setting Michelle all in after he call of my preflop 3-bet. She laid back in her chair and said, "are you pulling my own move on me?" Yes Michelle, I realize what you are now doing, and yes, I'm pulling your own move on you. After anothr minute or so, she mucked her cards, saying she folded a small pair, which had to be 44 or 22. ship the big pot. At this point, I had her a bit better than 2:1 again, and picked up T9o and checked the BB after her SB complete. On a flop of Q T 4, I check/raised michelle all in and she made the call with Q6o. Damn it, she overbets these spots with a confirmed nothing, and now coolered me...crap. "9 ball!" I cried out, and sure enough, I binked a 9 on the turn and locked up the 10 seat at a World series of poker Final table. Ship. it.
By this time, I was way over tired, and at 4am, after a long day of matches, I went home to try and rest up. I barely slept 3 hours that night, and spent equally as long staring at the mirror. A bit after noon, Rob (Bobbofitos) and I drove down to the Rio to have lunch with 2+2 mod TT pre-FT. I had gotten a lot of texts from the Deucescracked team saying that they would be there to sweat, and was feeling good about my edge at a table that now played more like what was effectively a $330,000 sit and go. I ate what I could, said my goodbyes after what was a very pleasant lunch with the two of them, and took off on the long walk from the grille to the poker room. I put on my head phones and blasted Nelly's "On the grind" all the way down. I was more nervous that basically any other poker situation I'd been in in recent memory. This bracelet was mine.
I got to the table and found out that the final table was being covered in the main observer area where everyone could kind of walk by and see the action. The table was tougher than the first two, but still with some very weak play going on. Matt Gianetti (hazards21, a good 10/20 regular on stars), and sbrounder, a solid mtt pro, were at the table, along with another known but slightly donkish online mtter and a russian cash game professional. Gianetti was clearly the best overall at the table, but given the tournament structure, probably didn't have too much of an edge on me given my sit and go experience. Krevchenko, the russian, came after everyone early and went pretty crazy, bet/calling a preflop raised with 86cc and sub-50bbish stacks, and floating a King high flop out of position with a flopped gutterball straight draw. He of course rivered it and amassed a lot of chips just with bullying and taking down the blinds and antes, which were worth a lot from the get-go. I tried one unsuccessful squeeze on him, but other than that, really tried to stay tight early given the payout adjustments that now had to be factored in for the final table.
A bit into the table, I picked up AQ against Krevchenko and flat called one of his frequent preflop raises, with the big blind coming along. The flop came AKx, and I flat called Krevchenko's flop bet. On a blank turn, krevchenko led for about 110,000 and I jammed for about 400,000 more. He counted out the chips and didn't take long to call, flipping up ATo. The river bricked and I was up to about 1.7 million in chips from our million-chip starting stacks. I tried to find profitable spots to open pots but still had to stay pretty tight throughout the early part of the tournament. I was 2nd in chips after the first break, and feeling good.
After we sat back down, the first hand brought my rise and fall. A kid that was not particularly good at all, playing scared money, opened the small blind at 15k/30k/ante3000 to 90k, and I made it 310,000 to go with AKo. He INSTANTLY shipped it in for roughly 700,000 more, and, after counting out my chips, and realizing that, with this pot I'd have roughly 1/4 of the chips in play 9 handed, made the call happily. I was shown his AJ. Nice insta shove, kid. He bricked the flop, but an ugly looking jack on the turn, and another on the river, was like a huge blow to my stomach. I turned around, barely able to look at the table anymore, and realizing that my run at a WSOP win was quickly slipping from my clutches. I was down to 600k and a lot of work to do. After the new york kid went apeshit on his turn spike, I regained composure and sat back down to the grind. I finally picked up beautiful looking JJ under the gun, and made it 100k, already knowing I'd be going with this hand for what remained of my tournament life. I was reraised to 300k by a young kid in middle position, and shipped the rest in. I was up against QQ and got up ready to head for the rail. "Where's the jack this time?" I asked sarcastically, and when none showed up, I was sent packing in 9th place/1000 for a very disappointing, but still very cool $10,000 cash. I was consoled by friends and the Deucescracked executive team, and headed out of the rio as soon as possible to unwind from a very stressful couple of tournament days. On the bright side, I was the first deucescracked coach to ship a final table, and second 2+2 moderator to do so ever, so those were some cool highlights to be a part of. Below is some of the press I got during the tournament, so if you want to read a couple of random updates/see a couple of pictures, here it is: http://www.pokernews.com/live-reporting/2008-world-series-of-poker/event-17-1500-nlhe-shootout/id54585.htm
I didn't play poker for the next several days, and really just needed to unwind after the way the final table played out. It was very tilting, but keeping my composure about it now is very gratifying, officially being a professional at this point, and knowing I have to get over stuff like that to succeed long term in this game.
The next day, I woke up to some news that we had a personal chef coming over to ask us about what food we like, and to prepare a few meals for us. Apparently, some of the boys in the house met our lovely chef at her 2nd job as a Rhino dancer while indulging in some of her lap-artistry (yeah, she's a stripper), and found out about her cooking experience. The first meal was salmon, rice pilaf, caesar salad and spinach was was very very good, and it was followed by spicy meatloaf, also a very good dish. I think we have a winner of a chef. And it would only be proper of us to go visit her at work and show our support.
The other night I got a phone call from Todd (bigt/snoop Todd) who mentioned that there was an extra ticket to the Cirque de Solel show "Love" at the Mirage that night, and invited me to go with him, Alan "The usher" Sass and his girlfriend, and Lefort. The show was fabulous. I've heard not quite as good as some of the other Cirque shows, but given that it was my first one, I very much enjoyed the artistry and the whole thing was really well done in my opinion. It was a very enjoyable experience. We went over to Social House at Treasure Island right after, which is a late night sushi/sake place. We got to go over some higher stakes cash game hands that todd and lefort had played, and hearing and indulging with everyone at the table on poker strategy was a rare treat for me. I do spend a lot of time with them but being able to discuss and immerse in strategy with them always keeps me thinking on a higher level. They really break down hands incredibly well and are very comfortable thinking through the necessary thought processes to succeed in tough no limit hold em cash games. Todd being a top nl cash player really puts the game into perspective well, and keeping up with them in strat discussion is a very cool experience, and keeps me at what I feel is an emerging world class thought process and approach to the game as I continue my development as a player, teacher, and student of the game.
After dropping a cool $550 on a late night sushi meal for the 5 of us, we headed back to the ranch (their mansion) and hung out for a bit, relaxed post-outing, and a bit after 330am, I decided to head home.
With many ups, downs and fun experiences, it was certainly a fun week overall. Hopefully, I'll be back to claim my world series bracelet, and check out the rest of those awesome cirque shows while I'm at it. That's about it for now, thanks for reading.
Oh, and I played some random tournaments online today for about an hour and a half session... +1500