There are two great tournaments happening this week in our area. If you live in the South West twin cities, the iNinja Club ring event features a $260 buy-in with a $100,000 guarantee. With six starting days and a great structure, this event should be huge. If you live in the northeast metro or in Wisconsin, the PPC Poker Tour is in town at the Turtle Lake St. Croix Casino and I am the featured pro for this tour stop. That means I will be there every day from the kickoff event Wednesday night through the main event and playing cash games whenever I’m not in a tournament.
I will have to skip the Senior’s event for a few more years, but the green chip bounty at Turtle Lake should be a ton of fun and the main event features a $320+30 buy-in which is remarkably low rake for a tournament of this size. The cash games should be great all week with $2/5 no-limit and PLO expected to run all weekend. I’m really looking forward to this event and I think it is a tremendous value.
Now that the World Series of Poker is over (thank God) for the year, it’s time to head back to Minnesota and get away from the brutal desert heat of Las Vegas. We may stop for a few days in Black Hawk Colorado to play some cash games, but the real destination is the iNinja Ring Event at the Horseshoe in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The event features a $100,000 guarantee for a $285 buy-in. The last time we were in Council Bluffs we set a state record and with six starting flights we should crush this guarantee for a huge prize pool. My favorite feature of this event, other than the gold ring for the winner, is the $1,000 stack buy back. Let’s talk about how it works.
You can play as many flights as you like. I will probably play at least four. If you get through to day two more than once, you get $1,000 for each time you make it to day two after the first time. Your largest stack will go forward to day two, so if you have a short stack it is incredibly profitable to play again. If you bag a big stack your first time through, you can play future flights as if they are cash satellites. This makes it easier to get a short stack through because your opponents are all trying to build a pile of chips while you are just grinding to get through the day and make $1,000.
The last time we went to Council Bluffs, team pro Aaron Johnson managed to bag all four flights and make $3,000 in buybacks for his efforts. Aaron even wrote an article on playing these events. With the right strategy these events can be very profitable. Read Aaron’s article HERE.
Poker, you have been a cruel mistress this last year or so. I’m not mad at you, I understand that you have to do what you have to do. I’m just disappointed. Like all of your lovers, you led me on. And you continue to do so. I remember what you told me in 2014…
“You are a world champion Chris. And I love you. Look at that shiny gold bracelet. You have proven yourself. You can do this. You’re going to be rich and famous. Everyone loves you and they will love you even more. You have nothing to worry about.”
As I think we both know now, this was bullshit. Sure, I’ve made money over my career. But you always convince me that it will be more consistent. That the next victory is right around the corner. Every time you hand a victory to some idiot that I know can’t play at all, I’m convinced that I must have another one coming any day now. Every time a friend wins and I celebrate their victory, I think that I must be next.
And then you forsake me again. This time for an entire summer. I played my ass off this year and you were nowhere to be found. You bailed on me again. All your promises were just so much pillow talk. You miserable, lying, cheating, tramp. I had people depending on me.
This wasn’t even my money. I sold a ton of action this year. And now I feel like I let those people down. Sure, I did my best. And I know, variance is huge in tournament poker. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. You better straighten out your act poker, or we are done. I’m not kidding this time.
Please call me. I miss you. I miss winning. We were so good together.
Total Cashes for the Investment Package – $7,352.
I skipped the Wynn Main Event, so I have $1,600 left. I’ll be playing every flight of the $100k iNinja event in Council Bluffs, Iowa at the end of the month which will cover the rest of the package money. It’s a much better investment anyway with a much softer field and much better shot at making us a profit. Checks will be sent out in a few weeks when I get back to Minnesota.
I hate losing other people’s ,money so much more than losing my own that I’m considering a few different approaches to future tournament play. I may find a full time backer or sell investment packages for an entire year like an investment fund. This would cut down variance drastically. It would certainly still be possible to lose money, but there would be a much more consistent return and much lower chance of a total loss. I will let you all know what I decide.
I have finalized my WSoP Investment package and set up my schedule for the summer. Thank you to everyone who invested. I’m playing very well right now and hope to make you a giant pile of cash this year! Updates will be posted here on occasion and regularly on twitter @foxpokerfox. The final number was smaller than I expected because I removed the $50k Player’s Championship from the package. Each $528 invested is approximately 1% (1.01 percent to be exact).
|WSoP Dealer’s Choice||6/5/2016||3:00 PM||$1,500|
|WSoP HORSE||6/7/2016||11:00 AM||$1,500|
|WSoP Razz||6/9/2016||11:00 AM||$1,500|
|WSoP HORSE||6/12/2016||3:00 PM||$3,000|
|iNinja 250k (2 entries)||6/13/2016||4:00 PM||$800|
|WSoP HORSE||6/15/2016||3:00 PM||$10,000|
|Wynn NLHE||6/17/2016||7:30 PM||$1,100|
|WSoP NLHE||6/18/2016||11:00 AM||$1,500|
|Binion’s HORSE||6/20/2016||12:00 PM||$400|
|WSoP 90 minute blinds||6/20/2016||11:00 AM||$1,500|
|Wynn NLHE||6/21/2016||12:00 PM||$400|
|Wynn NLHE||6/22/2016||12:00 PM||$400|
|WSoP Monster Stack||6/24/2016||11:00 AM||$1,500|
|Planet Hollywood Turbo||6/25/2016||3:00 PM||$350|
|Planet Hollywood Goliath||6/27/2016||4:00 PM||$350|
|Planet Hollywood Goliath||6/28/2016||5:00 PM||$350|
|WSoP Crazy 8s||7/1/2016||3:00 PM||$888|
|WSoP Turbo||7/4/2016||11:00 AM||$1,000|
|Wynn 250k||7/8/2016||12:00 PM||$600|
|WSoP Main Event||7/10/2016||11:00 AM||$10,000|
|WSoP Little Drop||7/14/2016||3:00 PM||$1,111|
|Wynn Main Event||7/17/2016||12:00 PM||$1,600|
I’ll be doing a presentation for a group of ladies this weekend at Canterbury Park. In addition to the hand out everyone will receive, I want to make this list available to them online permanently right here.
The Quick and Dirty Basics
Beating a home game, small buy-in tournament, or even the lowest level cash games in a casino, doesn’t require a complicated skill set or in-depth thought process. While those things can increase your win rate, the vast majority of your profit will come from playing solid poker while your opponents make mistakes. If you make less mistakes, you will win the money more often.
The following basic tips will help you avoid making big mistakes.
Raise or Fold – In many cases, especially before the flop, if your hand is not good enough to raise, you should fold. Calling should be your last option and used only when it obviously correct. For most new players, calling and checking, the passive plays, are the default. Passive plays should be the last option rather than the first.
Tight is Right – There are times to play a lot of hands and be loose and aggressive. They are not usually in very soft games and they are never when you are new to the game. Being patient and playing tight is the best default approach until you know when, why, and how to play more hands.
Be a Believer -When someone makes a play that indicates they have a big hand, your default should be to believe them. You can start making what we call “hero calls” when you are sure that you are right, have the knowledge to accurately assess their range of hands, and can accurately explain how often you will win the hand based on their range.
Position, Position, Position – I have worked with hundreds of students over the years. None of them have been positional enough. Not one. You should be playing at least five times as many hands on the button as you would play under the gun. Play Ace-Five suited under the gun only if you hate money.
Don’t Slow Play – If you have a monster, bet it like you would any hand. If they fold you weren’t going to make much anyway, but if you let them get away from their hand cheaply when you could have won a big pot by betting every chance you got, you have cost yourself a lot of money.
Don’t Bluff Constantly – The greatest players are very aggressive, but so are the worst players. Bluff when you have a good reason. Many soft games can be beaten without bluffing at all and sometimes you just can’t win a hand and have to let it go without bluffing off a stack of chips in a bad spot.
Don’t Get Married (to a hand) – Your hand is only strong in relation to what you think your opponent has. If you have two black aces, the flop is 567 with three diamonds, and you are facing a bet and a raise, just throw them away and move on to the next hand.
The great summer poker carnival starts in three weeks and it’s time to make plans. If you haven’t booked a trip yet, check hotel and flight rates first because they will vary widely for the next two months. Once you find reasonable flight and room rates, you can use the links below to create a tournament schedule.
The Aria will be having a summer series along with the High Roller and WPT500 events, but I have not been able to find a link to the schedule, though it is in the spreadsheet above. If you find a link to the Aria schedule for the whole series please send it and I’ll update this post.
I played a $125 tournament last night at The Orleans. My girlfriend lives a few blocks away so I’ve been grinding the cash games there some nights and she was playing the tournament so I jumped in. I probably shouldn’t have played since Friday nights are typically my most profitable cash game nights, but it sounded like fun.
The Friday night tournament at The Orleans always draws a huge field, and most of them are recreational players without a lot of knowledge about the game. The field was 191 last night, with first place approaching $4,700.
My starting table was very soft, with lots of players calling raises but unwilling to risk their tournament life. Half an hour after I sat down, I limped under the gun, something I would rarely do in a bigger buy-in tournament with stronger players, at the 150/300 level with a 10k stack. The player to my immediate left raised to 800 and five players behind him called.
The raise to less than 3x after a limper usually doesn’t indicate a ton of strength. Recreational players will usually make a play like this to limit the field with a medium strength hand when they don’t know how to handle a six way flop with something like AJ or KQ or 99. The players calling behind him are not likely to have a big hand either since they know the flop will be multi-way if they don’t reraise.
With over 4,000 in the pot, a lot of fold equity with a 10k stack, and a hand that plays fairly well all-in, it looked like a good spot to steal by going all-in. And it almost worked. The button had called the 800 with AQo for some strange reason, and he called my all-in. I made a pair and he didn’t, and I stacked 25,000 chips while he was left with just a few thousand.
We can debate my play. Maybe a call was safer and smarter. For 500 chips I had a chance to win a big pot and the downside was very small. But there is no doubt that my play was well thought out and very likely to work by either winning without a showdown or getting the pot heads up with a chance to win and an extra 4,000 in the middle.
My opponent did not agree. He made multiple comments about how I was obviously a gambler and noted that my play was terrible and made no sense. I agreed, told him that I play for fun and that it’s all a gamble anyway. His reply?
“For guys like you it is.”
Ah, I remember those days. When I was first learning a little poker strategy and wanted to show off my knowledge and let everyone know that I was serious about poker. I was never as rude to a bad player as he was to me, but I certainly had that attitude those first few months. And I’m sure that I saw plays that I didn’t understand. I hope I didn’t comment on them.
When I posted this exchange on twitter, multiple followers suggested I pull out my bracelet to shut him up. But why would I do that? I never mentioned a word about being a poker pro. Throughout the tournament I ran into two more players who told me how terrible I was and I stuck with my story. I play poker for fun and play my cards however I want. It’s all a gamble anyway right?
Because of the bracelet, I don’t need to tell anyone anything about how good I am. I know how good I am. I have a bracelet and more importantly I have 13 years of playing poker for a living. I don’t need to tell any of my opponents how good I am. Let them think I’m a fish. It’s refreshing. I don’t get much of that in Minnesota or in bigger buy-in events in Vegas. But in this little tournament at The Orleans, I got to be a clueless fish for a night.
No one knew I could play, I stole a ton of pots because of it, and it took two big beats to bust me just before the final table. It was fun. It was profitable. And not a single one of my opponents has any idea who they were playing with. And I’m going to keep it that way.
So. Do you want money or respect? Because one costs a bit of the other. I have enough respect for myself, I’ll take the money. If you already have enough money, go for the respect, it’s fun too. But be conscious of the reality that they are somewhat exclusive. Proving how well you play can cost you money.
My 2016 WSoP Investment package is finally up for sale to the public. It is about 60% sold at the moment, but the big investors have already bought their chunks and I expect most of the pieces sold from here on out to be smaller. You can read about it on the investment page HERE and check out the list of events at the package page on Tasty Stakes.
After more than ten years of coaching and hundreds of students, I know which lessons are effective and help students improve their results. There is no quick fix, no great secret. This program still takes time to work through, but it is the fastest way I know of to cover all of the basics. Coaching can go well beyond this program analyzing hand histories and working on advanced concepts, but after these nine lessons you will have a good working knowledge of the important concepts involved in tournament poker.
Each lesson is 90 minutes long and many include extras like books, printed charts, a pair of Blue Shark Optics Glasses, and a signed copy of my book.
Total Cost of the Tournament Coaching Package: $1,650
Tournament Theory – There are some very important concepts that make tournament poker unique. We will cover ICM and ROI considerations, payout structures, chop negotiations, evaluating tournaments, rebuys and reentries, and other reasons why the payout structure of a tournament should effect your play.
Zone 3 (above 28 big blinds) – At the beginning of a tournament the cash game players will be much more comfortable than those who only play tournaments because they are so used to playing with deep stacks. Post flop play, implied odds, speculative hands, and stack to pot ratio are all key concepts for this lesson. Three-betting, bet sizing, and playing speculative hands are all covered.
Zone 2 (12 to 28 big blinds) – This lesson is very important because you will have a 12 to 28 big blind stack so frequently in tournaments and this is where most players make the biggest mistakes. We will cover resteal theory, squeeze plays, rules for three betting, and the other weapons that are available in this zone.
Zone 1 (below 12 big blinds) – With less than twelve big blinds you only have one move, but when it is correct to put all your chips in may surprise you. This lesson comes with a laminated push fold chart that covers opening all-in ranges based on position. We will also discuss calling all-in against hand ranges, handling multiple opponents and isolation raises, and how to determine which players are most likely to fold their blinds when you are very short stacked.
Making the Money – Finishing near the bubble is one of the most frustrating things in poker. The best players in the world occasionally fall just short of the money, but they do it far less often than weaker players and they make final tables much more often. Learning to apply pressure on the bubble without taking big risks is key to making real money in poker tournaments. this lesson will also cover the art of surviving once you get into the money and how to attack a final table. Heads up play finishes up the lesson and a heads up push/fold chart is included.
Extra Advantages – There is more to poker than math. You need information to put into those equations. In this lesson we will cover tells, appearance reads, verbals, and manipulating your opponents. We will also talk about covering up your own tells and making sure that you aren’t giving anything away yourself. This lesson will come with a pdf copy of my guide to poker tells.
Playing Your Best Game – Once you know the right play it is not always easy to make it correctly every time. Sports psychology is an important part of being a winning player. We will cover tilt control, the mental game, and learning to stay focused and be a predator at the tables.
Advanced Play – The basics we covered in the zones will prevent you from falling prey to better players, but to really take advantage of weaker opponents you need to be thinking on a higher level. Using tells, ranges, and combinatorics together can get you a very accurate read on your opponent’s likely holding. Then we will cover playing against ranges and how to analyze hands on your own using an equity calculator and my analysis spreadsheet. Hand relevance, polarization, slow playing, and some game theory will all be covered in this intense lesson.
Getting Serious – If you are going to get serious about tournament poker there are a few things you need to know beyond poker strategy. We will cover taxes, finding a backer, selling action, travel expenses, expected income, bankroll and variance issues. We will also touch on continuing education, training sites, books and further coaching options with myself or other strategy or mental game coaches and what will work best for you going forward.
Last night, picking up a rental car from the airport, I thought out loud to myself –
“What the hell am I doing in Hartford, Connecticut?”
Hartford just isn’t a place I expect to end up. It’s a fine city, it really is. I love New England. But I was not expecting to spend much time in Hartford in my life. I’m glad I made the trip though, because it ended at Foxwoods Casino, about an hour from Hartford.
Foxwoods is one of the largest casinos in the world. It’s also a beautiful set of buildings inside and out, but my favorite part of the view is not the buildings, but their surroundings. The casino complex is in the middle of the woods in a rural area. There are trees everywhere!
The tournament area is separate from the slot machines, which eliminates one of my biggest pet peeves. I will actually skip a tournament if it’s being played in the midst of a loud bank of slot machines. The tournament area is quiet, spacious, huge, and even has high ceilings and a great view all around.
I’m also impressed with the staff, excellent cash games running all night, and the internet speed is amazing…
Which means we will be able to live stream the final table on twitch with commentary from me and special guests. There will be a featured table all day, but the final table should start in the evening. Check out twitch.tv/foxwoodspoker to watch the featured table all night tonight and all day tomorrow. When we reach the final table I will step in with commentary on the stream and host it on my channel twitch.tv/foxplayspoker as well.
We already have over 260 entrants in flight 1A, so I’m expecting a big field for this event. Hitting the guarantee in the first flight is always a very good sign and first place should be more than $50,000, so tomorrow’s final table will be a ton of fun to broadcast. You can read updates about the event from Minnesota’s own Molly Mossey by clicking on the Foxwoods poker banner below.
I’m in Vegas for the next eleven days and I’ll be trying out various rooms for small no-limit cash games. Last night I played in the new open-air card room at Caesars. It was an interesting night, with some very good, and some not so great, things about the card room itself.
The Good Stuff
There was no wait to get into a $1/2 no-limit game, with seven tables running and a seat open right away. The dealers and floor people were friendly and getting into a game was easy. The service was good, though my Bailey’s Coffee wasn’t very strong. My favorite feature was the $4+0 rake structure. Low rake in cash games is really important, probably saving a typical player around $9 an hour versus a typical $6+1 structure that we see in many rooms across the country.
Between the great rake structure and the very soft games, there is real money to be made in these cash games and this might be one of the best rooms in the city from grinding $1/2 no-limit holdem games. $2 an hour in comps and double tier credits toward the best rewards program in the industry also helps, especially if you are trying to get a diamond card by playing poker.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
After my cash game broke, I decided to give the $150 tournament a shot. The field was small, but looked soft, and was in fact remarkably soft with only a few solid players in the 30 person field. The field was small, mostly because local grinders wouldn’t consider playing a tournament with the juice and structure we were subject to.
This was my mistake. I should know better than to play a tournament that I haven’t done any research on. $117+33 is awfully high rake, especially consider that we have a $200+35 in Minnesota every Wednesday and larger events drop below 10% in juice. Maybe I’m spoiled, but 22% rake is painful.
The structure of the tournament was fine until we went from 2,000/4,000 to 4,000/8,000. This was obviously a terrible jump. Especially considering that we then went to the 5,000/10,000 level. Why get rid of 3k/6k instead of 5k/10k like most rooms would if they wanted to speed up their structure? I have no idea. If you get rid of 5/10 levels you avoid any spot where the blinds actually double.
And why didn’t I notice this jump earlier in the tournament? Because it wasn’t there earlier. We actually played the 300/600 level. Confused? So was I. The tournament director explained that they had changed the structure recently, and it sounded like he knew a mistake was made and would be corrected once they had used up all the printed materials they ordered recently. Let’s hope it happens soon.
My final issue with the tournaments at caesars, and indeed all of the Caesars properties in Vegas, is that they do not facilitate chops. This has lead to open theft in the past when players have agreed to chop a tournament and the player who is paid first place money simply walks off with the cash rather than paying out the chop. Refusing to pay out the chop as it is agreed to is simply a disservice to the players and should really make you think twice before chopping anything at a Caesars property.
That’s right, I said SUN glasses. For a few years now I have been promoting my favorite poker glasses from Blue Shark Optics and I even have my own model, but they aren’t appropriate for outdoor use because they don’t block incoming light. I’ve been wearing my favorite pair of Serengeti sunglasses with amber lenses for driving because they were the most comfortable glasses I could find. Blue Shark has changed that with their new Cruisewear line.
As soon as I heard about the Cruisewear shades, I asked for a pair to check out, and they arrived a few weeks ago in the frames from my poker model. I was happy to have driving glasses in the comfortable frames from my pro model, but didn’t expect anything much more than high-quality sunglasses. I was surprised.
These lenses are like nothing I have ever seen. Better than my $300 Serengetis by a mile. Better in bright sunlight for sure, but what really surprised me was how useful they were in the rain. I would never wear sunglasses in the rain, but these are driving glasses, made for wearing in any conditions where there is a reasonable amount of light, and they helped me see more clearly in the rain too!
Kudos to Blue Shark Optics for developing another great product to go with their excellent poker glasses and eye saving computer glasses. If you want to be safer in the car, send in your favorite frames and get a pair of these. I am amazed at how well they worked in so many different conditions.
I arrived in Aruba at 2 pm today, worn out from a few nights without sleep and a long travel day. Getting off a plane in a tropical paradise always invigorates me for a while, the warm ocean breeze and the smile that it brings just seem to wake me up, but it didn’t last long. I was asleep within an hour. My room at the Hilton is beautiful with a comfortable bed, great balcony, and no noise. Perfect for an afternoon nap.
The cab driver on the way in recommended a place called Juanchi’s Burger, and I headed over for dinner. Juanchi’s is just half a block away from the hotel on a street filled with clubs and restaurants, all of which were booming and full of people in costume for Halloween. The area has a great feel, I’m already in love!
Even though the place is nice, with a hookah at some of the tables and a great looking menu, I didn’t expect much. Every culture has things they do well. I drink in Irish bars, but I don’t eat there. I loved the coffee in Greece and Costa Rica, not so much in Canada. And I have said many times that the thing we do best is the cheeseburger.
I used to make the mistake of ordering burgers in other countries until I discovered that they were all just terrible compared to a cheeseburger in the good old USA. Honestly, the best burger in Greece or Thailand or New Zealand is not even in the same league with a typical bar burger in Minnesota.
But I have finally found a burger, thousands of miles away from America, that stands up to the best burgers we have to offer. It doesn’t look like much, almost a large food stand, but Juanchi’s Burger is awesome! If you are coming to town for the PPC Poker Tour Championship this week, it is definitely worth walking over on dinner break.
I had a moist burger on a soft egg bun with caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce that was out of this world. Now there are two great places to get a burger on this earth. America, and Juanchi’s!
The costumes, the nightclubs, the great hotel, and the excellent $2/5 game in the poker room, all made for a great night. Now I’m off to bed to sleep it off and get ready for the start of the tournament series tomorrow with the first tournament and the kickoff party!
You can learn more about the PPC Aruba World Championship HERE.
I’ve been working on my skills at reading my opponents for many years now, and in my work with Blue Shark Optics and the Blue Shark Pro Team I have learned some very profitable things. While reading players is seen as an art, there is certainly some science there too. My hope with launching this new part of my site is to share some of that information with other serious students of the game and help people understand the basics of reading their opponents.
I’ll be adding updates approximately once a week until I have around two dozen lessons that I have already pre-planned. I will announce them on twitter (follow @foxpokerfox) as well as here on my main blog. The link will always be in the Friends links on the right sidebar, or you can find it HERE.
Please feel free to link to the page and tell all of your friends about it. The more traffic it gets, the more I will write on it. So far I’m working with the basic stuff, but I have some very advanced things written that I think will help almost anyone.
I’ll be doing a presentation for over 300 people at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana this weekend and in addition to the hand out everyone will receive, I want to make this list available to them online permanently.
The Quick and Dirty Basics
Beating a home game, small buy-in tournament, or even the lowest level cash games in a casino, doesn’t require a complicated skill set or in-depth thought process. While those things can increase your win rate, the vast majority of your winnings comes not from your brilliance, but from your opponent’s mistakes. If you don’t make those same mistakes and give that money back, you will be a winner in games where there is so much money being given away.
Raise or Fold – In many cases, especially before the flop, if your hand is not good enough to raise, you should fold. Calling should be your last option and used only when it obviously correct. For most new players, calling and checking, the passive plays, are the default. Passive plays should be the last option rather than the first.
Tight is Right – There are times to play a lot of hands and be loose and aggressive. They are not usually in very soft games and they are never when you are new to the game. Being patient and playing tight is the best default approach until you know when, why, and how to play more hands.
Be a Believer -When someone makes a play that indicates they have a big hand, your default should be to believe them. You can start making what we call “hero calls” when you are sure that you are right, have the knowledge to accurately assess their range of hands, and can accurately explain how often you will win the hand based on their range.
Position, Position, Position – I have worked with hundreds of students over the years. None of them have been positional enough. Not one. You should be playing at least five times as many hands on the button as you would play under the gun. Play Ace-Five suited under the gun only if you hate money.
Don’t Slow Play – If you have a monster, bet it like you would any hand. If they fold you weren’t going to make much anyway, but if you let them get away from their hand cheaply when you could have won a big pot by betting every chance you got, you have cost yourself a lot of money.
Don’t Bluff Constantly – The greatest players are very aggressive, but so are the worst players. Bluff when you have a good reason. Many soft games can be beaten without bluffing at all and sometimes you just can’t win a hand and have to let it go without bluffing off a stack of chips in a bad spot.
Don’t Get Married – Your hand is only strong in relation to what you think your opponent has. If you have two black aces, the flop is 567 with three diamonds, and you are facing a bet and a raise, just throw them away and move on to the next hand.
Before the PPC event at Turtle Lake last week I publicly took the Reg-Charity Pledge and and promised to donate 2% of my tournament winnings to their charities. It was tiny gesture really, costing me a few hundred dollars at the most, but I wanted to get the ball rolling because I want to be able to support them and the great work they do. I was also hoping that I would have a cash in the events to be able to make a point about how a very small amount of money can go a long way if it is spent wisely.
Unfortunately, that worked out perfectly when the eventual winner busted me on day two not long after we reached the money and I was stuck with a min-cash. While I hoped for a higher finish, it gave me a perfect opportunity to make my point about Reg-Charity and how much good we can do if we practice effective giving.
Reg-Charity.org says it perfectly on their site –
“The idea behind effective giving is to rely on science and rational decision-making in order to find the interventions most effective at reducing suffering in the world.”
Since I only pledged 2%, and only cashed for $492, my donation was going to be tiny. The minimum donation on their site through Paypal was $50, so I rounded way up and it gave me an easy number to work with. The following idea came from the speech given by Andrew Barbour when he accepted his bracelet after winning the HORSE World Championship this year. Andrew told me about Reg-Charity.org and is a big supporter of what they do.
If you were to donate enough money to ALS to buy one Quality-Adjusted Life Year, it would cost you $56,000. That means you basically gave someone a year of reasonably good life. This is admirable indeed. But with that same $56,000, you would be saving over 500 life years by donating bed nets to prevent Malaria in Africa or providing deworming treatments for 17,000 children. Children in Vietnam, India, Kenya, and other developing nations who are affected with these awful intestinal parasites are in pain, unable to study, and often have stunted growth and malnutrition problems because of the infestation.
This is the idea behind effective giving. You decide what is more important, but organizations like Give Well and Reg-Charity help you see how effective charitable organizations are.
So what will my $50 do? It’s hardly any money right?
It could provide approximately 8 hours of quality life for an ALS patient, six months of quality life if it is used for malaria prevention, or it can provide deworming treatments for 162 children. I went with deworming treatments and chose to have my $50 go to the Deworm the World Initiative.
And why publish my receipt? Why do I need to talk about my donation? Doesn’t that make me look arrogant or like I am seeking attention and approval?
Well, it’s only $50. I have given away a hell of a lot more than that, so if I was looking for a pat on the back I could do better than to brag about donating $50. I don’t think it makes me look too bad. But more important is the idea that I have an audience. People are reading this blog and some people care what I think and what I say.
So, if I can influence a few people, this blog post is a great use of my time and if I can help one more kid have a happier life, free from intestinal parasites, then I don’t give a damn if I have to post every receipt from every donation and make Phil Hellmuth look modest, I should be doing it.
Using the idea of getting the most bang for my buck, how can I get the most bang for my time? A blog post that takes me an hour to write and post will certainly raise more money for charity than I make in a typical work hour, so it is very efficient.
To help make it efficient, please help me out. Check out Reg-Charity.org and GiveWell.org and tell your friends about them. And join me in taking the pledge to donate 2% of your poker winnings to a Reg-Charity approved organization.
I’ve been at Turtle Lake for less than 24 hours, but I already love the place! Here are my favorite things so far –
- I played real no-limit holdem last night. I was only able to play for a short time, but I’m looking forward to playing more in the next few days with $1/2 games running every night and some $2/5 games Thursday through Sunday with Friday and Saturday for sure.
- I just had a $7.99 lunch buffet. Yeah. $7.99. And it was good. The beef roast and mashed potatoes were fantastic. I have paid as much $90 for buffets in Vegas, with $25 to $30 being pretty much standard, so eight bucks is pretty amazing.
- Free hot dogs and cookies in the poker room!
- E-Cig use allowed at the tables!
- The poker room is upstairs by itself basically on a huge balcony with a view of the casino below. It’s a very nice venue to spend a day playing cards.
- The players are friendly and happy and having a good time. I remember this from previous trips to Wisconsin, being surprised at how happy most of the players are and how much fun they have. It could be the beer, or possibly the fact that their football team actually wins. Having only lived in Michigan and Minnesota, I’m not sure what it’s like to live in a place with a good NFL team, but apparently it makes people smile a lot more.
- The staff are as friendly as the players. And a few of them aren’t tough to look at…
We have crushed every guarantee on our qualifiers so far, and it looks like the field is going to be big for tonight’s $120 buy-in kick off event tonight.
The Player’s Poker Championship is coming to town and I will be the featured pro! I’m really excited to work with the series and to be able to spend some more time at Turtle Lake. While I have played their $2/5 night and loved the no-limit cash action, I think the games will be even better while the PPC is in town. If you are a cash game player, come on down for cash games all week long.
Turtle Lake is only a little over an hour from the twin cities, and the PPC brings big turnouts to it’s events, so I expect big fields and big prize pools. Qualifiers for the event start Tuesday, August 25th and the full schedule is below. Please come out and support these guys, I want to see the PPC get a strong foothold in the Midwest and bring big prize pools with smaller buy-ins to our area.
The fall is tournament season here in Minnesota, with at least one series, and often multiples, running every weekend. The next few months feature the best selection of tournaments in Minnesota history. Here is a schedule as well as a few of my thoughts on each series.
Midwest Poker Classic at Running Aces – July 28th to August 9th – I love this series! There is a player of the series contest, with the the top two points earners getting main event seats and a nice variety of events so I won’t get bored playing every day. The structures are fantastic with a reasonable amount of play even in the smaller morning events. I will be playing every tournament for the first few days in an attempt to build up some points for the contest. If I am in the running for player of the series I will stick around to the end and play the main event.
Poker Player’s Championship at Ho Chunk Baraboo – August 4th to August 8th – If I am not in the running for the two seats at Running Aces I will be heading down to the Wisconsin Dells to play my new favorite tour, the PPC. My pal Mark ‘PokerHO’ Kroon will be the featured pro and I am working with the tour on the Turtle Lake stop just a few weeks later. The chance to play a smaller buy-in event, have a good time with the boys from Wisconsin, and still have a shot at serious money and a trip to the Championship in Aruba, add up to a great trip.
All-in for Africa at Running Aces August 15th – The All-in for Africa events are an amazing fundraiser with a nice prize pool and tons of bounties. The donated bounties might actually be worth more than the prize pool itself with over $4,000 worth of bounties already on offer as of last week. If you bust me in this event you win a $350 Main Event entry, $85 Main Event satellite entry & $45 Main Event satellite entry in the Turtle Lake PPC event donated by the PPC, along with a pair of Blue Shark Optics glasses and a signed copy of my book. That’s $500 worth of bounties just on me!
Poker Player’s Championship Turtle Lake August 25th to 30th – This will be my first event as a featured pro for the PPC and I’m really looking forward to it. Turtle Lake is a great place to play poker and there should be excellent no-limit and pot-limit cash games throughout the five days of the series as well as the tournaments with nice guarantees and a shot to win a trip to Aruba. Come out and support this one so that we can bring the PPC back to the area again as soon as possible.
Poker Night in America: The Tour August 27th to 30th – Canterbury will be hosting this $1,650 buy-in event with three starting days. Re-entry is allowed in each flight and and playing multiple flights is allowed, so this should be a big prize pool and we can expect some of the best players in Minnesota, especially those with deep pockets, to generate a fantastic final table.
Mid-States Poker Tour at Running Aces September 12th to 20th – Neither Running Aces nor the MSPT has a page up for this event yet, but the dates above are confirmed on the MSPT site. It’s a tournament. Play it if you want.
Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park October 3rd to 18th – As much as I love the other series that are running during tournament season, the FPC has been the premier tournament series in Minnesota since it’s inception more than ten years ago. The fields will be large, the structures will be good, and the prize pools will be huge.
There are a number of other events coming up, including the Canterbury $100k, the Aces Hallow Scream, and the Aces Big Turkey tourney. All these events make me happy that I play live poker for a living now instead of grinding online. I miss online poker, especially Vegas William Hill and Poker Stars, but I don’t miss it as much as I used to now that we have so many events in Minnesota.
You know how it is when I haven’t blogged in awhile. I catch up by covering everything with a simple list. So…
1. This WSoP completely sucked. Losing $60,000 of mostly other people’s money is no fun. Writing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of checks last year was a lot more fun. This was the worst summer I have ever had at the WSoP. Yuck.
2. I’m happy to be back home and grinding cash games at Running Aces. No stress, no hassle, just people I know, dealers I like, great floor people, and small games that I can beat regularly without any stress to my bankroll. It’s nice to not have any stress or have to worry about investors.
3. The Poker Player’s Championship is coming to town! I’ll cover this in more detail soon, but the PPC is a great tour and they crush guarantees wherever they go. The tour will be at Ho Chunk Bingo Casino in Baraboo, Wisconsin August 4th to the 9th and then at the St Croix Casino in Turtle Lake August 25th to the 30th. The Turtle Lake event will be my first tour stop as the featured pro, and I would love to see you all there. I know the no-limit holdem and PLO cash games will be rolling every night during the tour stop too.
4. Bluff Magazine has stopped publishing online, so I could use a writing gig. Anyone know somebody who wants to overpay a mediocre poker writer?
Well folks, as those of you who have been following along on twitter probably know, we haven’t had a great WSoP so far. One cash for around six thousand and a bunch of irritating bustouts. I assumed that I would make day two more often than I have and that I would be skipping more events, but that hasn’t happened. I have been very good abotu getting sleep and being ready for tournaments, which means that I have played nearly everything I had scheduled. Unfortunately that means that my $60k estimate is going to fall well short of what I am going to play this year.
The stake, with the small cash, has about $12,000 left in it. Since I am sure everyone who invested wanted a piece of the $10k HORSE event, and I don’t want anyone to miss out on that, there is only about $2,000 left. I will use most of that on the Draft Kings event tomorrow and end the stake with the $10k HORSE.
This means I will be selling a little mroe action. Since I had a significant piece of myself and am obviously down, I’ll be playing some cash games over the rest of the series, but I plan to play the $1,111 Little Drop event and will be selling action for that at 1.3 as well. Contact me if you are interested in buying a small piece of that.
I am also selling the Main Event starting now. Action in the main often sells at 1.5 or even higher for established players, and I have already bought a few players at 1.4. I will be selling at 1.4 myself for the main, so every percentage point will cost $140. People who invested in the earlier package have priority and I will take requests for the next few days without locking anything up to make sure that they have a chance to get in.
Contact me via twitter @foxpokerfox for the best response times.
There is still poker to be played, and I will be doing my best to turn this thing around. Thank you all for your continued faith.
Running bad is the hardest thing to write about. Not only do I want to forget about it and play more to book a win and feel better, but it’s hard to write about losses without sounding like I’m telling bad beat stories or sounding arrogant when I’m talking about how I expect to do better than I have been. Even so, I should definitely keep up with my blog, even when I’m running bad, so I collected some interesting hands from the Monster Stack tournament today. I lose most of them, but there aren’t many since I was only in the tournament for two hours.
My first big pot was at the 75/150 level. I had about 16k after stealing a few small pots, and my opponent had a similar stack. I raised from middle position with Ace-Queen offsuit, and got one call from the big blind. I was in the five seat, and he was directly across from me in the one seat, which turned out to be very important to the play of the hand. I had a perfect view of his face and eyes directly in front of me. I raised to 400 and he called, while both blinds folded.
The flop was TT5 with two hearts. My opponent stared at the board for just a second, looked up at me, waited for ten or fifteen seconds, and checked. This very slow check in a spot where the player will almost always be checking, is bullshit the vast majority of the time. What does he need to think about here? Does he have a ten and he’s trying to decide if he should bet it? Nope, he just doesn’t want me to bet or wants me to keep it small if I bet so he can call.
I didn’t think my opponent was a pro because of appearance reads and behavior, but I didn’t know much else about him. He was also not a rank amateur because he knew the game, made reasonable sized bets, and didn’t exhibit the behaviors of a new player. This knowledge of him, along with the stall before he checked to me, told me that he probably had a flush draw, a small pair, or two big over cards, and didn’t want me to bet him off his hand. I can’t be sure with so little information, but I thought it was likely that he held one of these hands.
I bet 500 in the pot of 875, and he called fairly quickly, further convincing me that he didn’t have a tough decision to make earlier in the hand and that the slow check was just an attempt to slow me down.
The turn was an non-heart 4, and he checked to me instantly. I checked behind because I wasn’t terribly sure of my read and because I wanted to keep the pot small. Encouraging him to bluff the river with missed over cards and flush draws was also a good reason. Most players will never bet a small pair for value on a board like this, so I could call a bet on most river cards, knowing that I was beating his range easily if he bet.
The river was another off suit 4, and this changed things quite a bit. He would now check any ace and probably call a bet, bet his busted flush draws for fear that I had an ace, and bluff with 33 and 22 while check-calling with 55, 66, 77, 88, or 99. Unless he made some miracle like trip fours from his busted flush draw, or my read was bad and he did have a ten, I was set up perfectly to call any bet and check behind any check. If he checks I usually lose, but I am just throwing money away bluffing in this spot when almost all of his checking range will call a bet and beat me.
This is one of the spots where I don’t have much of a hand, only ace-high, but I am ecstatic to see my opponent bet the river. I watched his eyes count the pot, and he bet 1625 into a pot that was 1875. I stopped, thought back through the hand to be sure that this was a good spot to call light, decided that it was, and called. I genuinely expected to see 22 or 33 most of the time, and grinned a little (only on the inside) when he showed me a pair of deuces that had been counterfeited by the double board pair. I won the pot and was up over 18,000.
It was not only some live reads, but also a lack of tells that helped me make this call. I thought my opponent was a player who would likely have shown some excitement if he had flopped, or rivered, a monster. I had seen nothing to indicate real excitement, thus my read for a weaker hand range was even stronger.
After watching the table for about 45 minutes, I was starting to feel more confident. My opponents were mostly passive, their bet sizing wasn’t scary, and I was comfortable playing a few extra hands. My opponent from the previous hand raised to 400 in early position, and I called with the seven-nine of diamonds in late position. The big blind also called.
The flop was 974 with two clubs, about as good a flop as I can ask for. The original raiser lead out for 700. I knew that there were draws on the board, and while I wasn’t that scared of one of them having the draw, I was worried about one of them assuming I had the draw if I just called. If I call and the third club or a ten, six, or eight falls, it kills my action, and if a four falls I would be losing to the over pair that is a big part of the original raiser’s range.
I raised to 2,000, and was surprised when the big blind reraised to 5,200. The original raiser, now faced with two raises, looked unhappy but eventually folded, so he almost certainly had an over pair to the board. I thought about the big blind’s range. He could have any two pair since he was in the big blind, and also a lot of draws. I didn’t know much about him other than the fact that he wasn’t a known pro or dressed like an internet wizard, and given the tournament we were playing, I went with the assumption that he is often going to be an ABC player who does not have a ton of experience or education.
My only fear was that he had top pair and a flush draw, because the nine was the non-club card on the board. A set of fours is going to be rare here since he was in the big blind and his range is so wide. It also seemed odd that he would three-bet the flop cold with a draw. He either has top pair with a flush draw or a big draw here every time. If he has one of those hands, he is going to call off all of his chips now, and I don’t want a club to fall when he has a straight draw and ruin my action, so I went all-in and he called immediately as I figured he would.
He rolled over the Ace-nine of clubs, hit a club on the turn, and my stack was down to 4,800 at the 150/300 level. Depressing, but my motto this year is –
“Never, ever, ever, ever give up.”
and I haven’t given up yet. I don’t think I have any quit left in me when I’m playing tournaments these days. I will fight to the end, regardless of my stack.
An orbit later, a new player in the cutoff seat raised to 700. He didn’t look like a strong online player, no hoodie, no headphones, and he was well into his thirties. Strong online players are the only group that I am careful about restealing against. They know when a resteal stack is behind them and won’t raise hands that they won’t call a resteal with.
If you are unfamiliar with the term “resteal”, it basically means to shove all-in over a late position raise with between 11 and 22 big blinds. This is a very basic definition, but it fits for this example. The math is simple, and I have even done seminars on it and worked with many students on correct resteal strategy because it is such a powerful weapon.
I had Queen-Ten off suit in the small blind and went all-in, knowing that the math was there and that my play was very profitable in the long run. He folded and I was up to almost 6,000 chips.
Two hands later I was dealt the same Queen-Ten off suit, and raised when it was folded around to me. The button and the big blind called me, and the flop was A87 rainbow. I considered giving up there since I would often be called down by any ace and a big portion of my opponent’s hands included an ace. With nothing to back me up, I would have checked and folded, but it was close and I had a gin card left in the deck. I thought I had enough fold equity, combined with my gin card, to make a continuation bet profitable.
I bet, and the button called me, though he didn’t look excited about it. I figured he either had a mediocre ace or a pair like 99 or 66 and was calling a bet to see if I would shut down on the turn. The big blind folded.
The turn was my gin card. Think for a second about what my gin card was. What card do I want to see on the turn?
The jack was the card I was hoping for. It gave me a double-gutshot straight draw, and another over card to his pair if he had 99 or a small pair. I could confidently go all-in now since my stack was almost exactly the same size as the pot. He might fold a small ace here, amateur player do it all the time, and he would certainly fold most of his other hands. He thought for a while, and definitely considered folding, but in the end he called and flipped over Ace-Ten suited.
I missed my straight draw, wished everyone luck, and hit the rail.
There you have it, and unedited, rambling, account of my two hour trip through the Monster Stack tournament. Much of my summer has gone like this so far, but I’m still feeling good, playing well, and determined to never give up. I want it too bad to go home knowing that I gave away a chance at another bracelet.
The live reads in this article were all courtesy of my new Blue Shark Optics pro model. Check it out HERE and use my bonus code FOX2014 to save 10% on your online order.
Really, who doesn’t want to go to Aruba? It’s one of the most beautiful islands in the world! The Poker Player’s Championship looks like a great event, but would I play it in January in Calgary? Probably not. Will I play it in November in Aruba? You’re damn right I will. I’ll be trying to win a seat in the qualifier at the Golden Nugget this week, but if I don’t win my way in I am definitely still going. Any poker pro who doesn’t use the tournament as an excuse to go to Aruba is just missing serious life experiences.
The satellites happening here in Vegas are also an awesome structure with 30 minute blinds, then 45 minute blinds, and 60 minute blinds at the final table. Buy-in is only $175, entry and re-entry is open until 9:30, and most of the players will be recreational players who don’t know anything about satellite strategy. While all that stuff is nice for value, the important thing is that if you win a seat, you get to go to Aruba!
Check out the structure and schedule HERE
The Aruba event includes a bunch of smaller prelims as well as a high roller and a big main event, all with great structures and the tournament crew is top notch. Play poker, drink rum drinks, and chill on the beach? Yes please. I’ll have another please. Thank you.
I’ll see you all at the Nugget this Thursday and Friday and hopefully in November in Aruba.
I just heard a news story about a Kangaroo named Big Buck, who is terrorizing a neighborhood near Brisbane. I had my own experience with a badass roo that we called Gunshow, and I’ll put him up against Big Buck any day. It’s Rooweather vs. Pouchiao! But with WAY MORE ACTION!
Here is Big Buck, apparently showing off whatever muscles he thinks he has.
And here is Gunshow, who we photographed about 20 miles outside of Melbourne. He was not afraid of us, and in fact looked like he was about to come fight us if we got any closer. Pic taken from about 25 feet away.
I don’t know about you, but I’m taking my guy Gunshow in this fight by TKO in the second round. He’ll probably mess up Buck’s other ear and leave him looking like a busted mule. I was close enough to clearly see that Gunshow was taller than I am, and I estimated 6’2″ and well over 200 pounds. They claim Big Buck is 6’5″ and 210, but sensationalist news media probably overestimates his size. I think Gunshow is not only bigger, but definitely tougher. Just look in his eyes. You think he’s afraid?
Buck looks confused, skittish, and meek. Gunshow looks like a badass, and I can assure you that he was ready to whip my ass if I kept walking forward, not intimidated by me at all. He held that stare for a good fifteen seconds, looking right into my eyes. We need to make this fight happen.
When I was a kid, I was a skateboarder. I loved skating. If there wasn’t snow on the ground, I was on my skateboard. My dream was to have my own model, with my name on the deck. Every skater I knew had the same dream. I wrecked my ankle, found other pursuits, and never got that model with my signature on the bottom of the deck, but now I have the next best thing. A Blue Shark Optics model, with… wait for it… my signature on it!
I have been a fan of Blue sharks for many years, wearing them in tournaments and extolling their virtues. Last year I joined the pro team. After talking with the owner about what I thought the perfect model would be, he offered me a model and we went to work on getting it right. My model has soft arms, because I’m not sued to wearing glasses and I get sore spots behind my ears from some glasses. It also has adjustable nose pieces and a wrap around frame to keep out ambient light that causes reflections on the inside of the lens.
I also want to offer a big congratulations to my pal Chad Holloway who got to live one of his dreams recently with the launch of his own comic book. The World Series of Zombies features many characters you will recognize from the poker world and will be for sale at The Rio while supplies last. I even bought a shirt with poker zombies on it from Run Good Gear!
It’s almost time for the World Series of Poker and I’m getting fired up. Actually, I’m just getting ready. I’m too busy preparing to get too excited. You should be preparing too, making sure that you are firing on all cylinders before you go to Vegas to play for millions against the best players in the world.Here are some things to consider if you are getting ready to head to Vegas this summer.
It’s cold in The Rio and that can be distracting – Take a hoodie with you every day because some tables are much colder than others. There are some nice light hoodies over at the iNinja store and if you use my twitter handle @foxpokerfox, you get 20% off. You can also find some nice stuff at DoubleUp, RunGood, American Giant, or Blind Squirrel. All have great options for lightweight hooded sweatshirts.
You are also going to need to plan your trip – Here’s a link to the comprehensive tournament schedule of every venue in town.
Once you know when you are going, you need to book a flight – Google Flights is a pretty solid option. Spirit is usually the cheapest, but they also lead the industry in customer complaints. If you get the Sun Country or Delta credit cards, you can earn a bunch of free miles and also get your first checked bag free. Once you add in Spirit’s high bag fees, the prices are comparable, and the flights are much better on Delta or Sun Country. With the Sun Country and Delta credit cards I’ll be flying round trip to Vegas a total of five times this year for free.
Now that your flight is booked, you need a place to sleep – Trip Advisor is great for booking hotels and AirBNB can save you a ton of cash when you stay at someone’s home instead of a hotel. We used AirBNB for much of our huge vacation earlier this year and we loved every place we stayed.
If you are staying somewhere other than where you are playing, then you probably want a car. Vegas is a pretty easy city to drive in, just don’t drive down the strip during busy times, the parallel roads will be much faster. You can find the cheapest car rental prices HERE. Use the “smart book” option in the box on the right side of the page. Once you book your car, go back and check the smart book again every few days and if the price drops you can cancel your old reservation and rebook it at the lower price. This has saved me $350 so far since I booked my rental two months ago.
If Daniel Negreanu and Annie Duke want something banned from poker tournaments because it gives a competitive advantage, there is no doubt that it works. That is the best advertisement for Blue Sharks that I can imagine. If you are going to grind against the best players in the world and come out on top this summer, you need to order some Blue Shark Optics. The glasses are great because they block your opponent’s view of your eyes without blocking any incoming light. You can see them clearly, but they can’t see you, which is a huge advantage. If you use the discount code FOX2014, you will save 10% on your order.
Staying sharp over the course of a long tournament day is tough, and you need to be at your best all day long if you are going to beat the pros. When the blinds get high and the night gets late, playing your best is tough, but truBrain helps you play your best game all the time. I use it, and I have used similar products for twenty years. TruBrain is the best formulation I have ever tried.
You might also want to brush up on your game a little bit. Blue Sharks and truBrain can’t help you much if you just suck. Get better by signing up for a membership to Phil Ivey’s training site Ivey League for $10 a month with no sign up fee. I don’t know why they are so cheap when lesser competitiors charge three times as much, but it’s the best deal in poker training and you should take advantage of it while you can.
If you plan on playing the events with huge fields, like the Millionaire Maker or Colossus, you should pre-register for them. The lines will be very long and some events will probably sell out, so skip all that and register ahead of time online HERE.
If you are going to be playing at the Rio for any significant amount of time, it is worth getting a box. Just go into the payouts room and ask about it and someone will help you. It allows you to skip lines and keep your cash somewhere a lot safer than a hotel room safe or your pocket. It costs $100 to rent a box for the entire series, and it’s one of the few bargains that The Rio offers.
Remember – Luck Favors the Prepared
The Mayhem in May tournament, presented by my pals at iNinja Poker, starts tomorrow! I love tournaments like this. The reasonable buy-in of $280 brings in a wide range of player types and generates big fields, while the great structure and multiple starting days means that I will usually get to play a lot of poker. Even if my face wasn’t on the flyer, I would still promote this thing. The $1,200 stack buy-backs, $2,000 accumulation bonus, and six starting flights make this a very interesting event and I love new twists in poker tournaments.
I was going to write up all the details, but the flyer covers it all and gives me an excuse to post my picture on my own blog (again). High points include awesome structure with every possible level, stack buybacks, and a $100,000 guarantee for a $280 buy-in.
I am proud to announce that I have signed on with truBrain to promote their product to the poker world. You’ll hear more about truBrain on this blog over the coming months, but I wanted this blog post to talk about how I found the product and why I signed on to work with the company that created it.
About a year ago I wrote an article about nootropics, supplements that increase brain function, that was published online. I was immediately contacted by a number of companies that sell nootropic “stacks”, combinations of ingredients that claim to work together to help your brain function at peak levels. They all wanted me to endorse their product, but most were simply vitamins and Ginkgo Biloba, and probably weren’t very effective. When I saw the list of ingredients in Tru Brain, I knew it was different.
I have studied nootropics for over twenty years, starting in the 90’s when I played blackjack for part of my living. Counting cards really makes your brain work hard and I found that after three or four hours I just wasn’t sharp. One mistake could erase hours of profits, so I couldn’t afford to be less than perfect, but I needed to work more than three or four hours a night. My solution was to take choline, carnitine, magnesium, and multivitamins. With this combination I saw a difference in the amount of time I could play without losing focus. Soon I was playing five or six hours without making a mistake, making more money, and as a side effect I even found that I was sleeping better. I was hooked!
Over the years I kept up with research on what are now called nootropics. These supplements and nutrients can help increase brain function, and often a combination of them works remarkably better than a larger dose of a single ingredient. For the last ten years I have been using various nootropic formulations before a big day at the poker tables, and at one point I even considered creating my own product. The product I considered creating was very much like truBrain.
While I know that many high level poker pros take Adderall at the tables, I’m not interested in taking a drug if I don’t have to. The side effects can be significant and possessing Adderall without a prescription is against the law, so if I can get a similar effect from taking safe nutrients and supplements, I’ll skip the drug.
I knew that I liked the ingredients listed on their website, but I wanted to test the product, so they sent me a three week trial for free. I did research on Oxiracetam and discovered that it was probably a better option for me than the Piracetam I had been taking, and more effective, though they are closely related. I looked at their research, the team that created the product and their credentials, and the reasons they chose each of the ingredients. The more I learned the more I was impressed, and after a few weeks of taking it I could tell that this was the real deal.
The difference was remarkable. My head was clear, my focus didn’t wander, and I made more money at the tables than ever before. It was like flying with the wind at my back all the time. At the end of a long tournament I was still sharp when my opponents were wearing down. Plays that I usually only make when I am really sharp were now standard. I told them I would love to endorse their product…. As long as they keep sending it to me!
In 2014, I won a world championship against one of the toughest fields in WSoP history. Who knows what I can do this year with Tru Brain on my side! Tru Brain really is the perfect Nootropic stack for poker. It keeps your mind clear helps you stay focused through a long grind. At midnight, when the blinds are getting high and every pot is critical, it helps me stay focused better than my opponents who are often running on fumes.
You don’t have to take my word for it. truBrain is is offering a free sample pack for my readers in the hope that the poker world will discover their product. You pay the shipping and they’ll send you three of their brain drinks for free! You have 14 days to try the free drinks and cancel at any time, but I would be shocked if you don’t notice a huge increase in focus and mental clarity. I don’t endorse products that I don’t believe in. This stuff is the real deal.
It was an easy fold though, just an interesting tag line for a short blog post. I limped QQ under the gun in the second blind level of a WSoP Circuit event here in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and got two other limpers. A fail on the limp-reraise, but at a soft table I am not afraid of just seeing a flop and trying to make some money post-flop if the move fails. Pre-flop raises were getting five callers, and limps were often being raised, so it made sense at the time even though it didn’t work.
When the flop came AAQ, it looked like my plan had backfired into brilliance. I checked, an opponent on my immediate left bet, and I called. I often lead out into that kind of board, but given the situation and the opponent, I felt the check/call was correct. The turn was another queen, my bingo card! I could now get all-in happily, and he would probably be happy to get all-in with me and assume that we were chopping. He bet out small and I raised big, but was shocked when he only called.
What is he afraid of? He has to have an ace, and we have to be chopping the pot unless he is winning, so he should be happy to ship it in on me and take the freeroll chance, but he didn’t. I figured I would get a big bet in on the river anyway since he couldn’t possible fold his ace, right? I mean… right? I’m about to bust him!
The case ace rolled off the deck on the river. Ugh. There is no possibility that he can have anything but four aces, no possibility that he will fold, and my chance to win the hand is over. I checked and folded to his bet, showing my queens and laughing at the fact that I had to fold quads, something I have never done before. He showed me Ace-Eight and said that he was considering folding the river if I went all-in…
You were considering folding top full house in holdem because you thought I might have both remaining queens? I think he was telling the truth too. Astounding. I am not good enough to make that play. I was a little bummed out that my quads had to go in the muck, but it was offset by the fact that his timid approach to the hand had saved my stack when we should have gotten all the chips in on the turn. Then I would be left with a nice bad beat story, but no chips. I’ll take the chips.
Much of the Play here in Council Bluffs is very soft, with limping happening regularly at the 500/1000 levels and higher. Lots of passive play, and the few solid players are easy to identify. Anyone who knows the standard moves, plays aggressively and in position, and can size their bets properly, is in the top ten percent. Everyone else is playing at the skill level I expect to see in a $35 tournament in Minnesota. Amazing.
Of course, I haven’t made a day two yet, so I may be wrong about all these soft players. Maybe I’m the fish and should be limp/folding at 800/1600 with a 7k chips stack. Errr… No, that probably isn’t it.
My table did think I was an idiot early in the day today. With five limpers at 150/300, I raised to 1,800 on the button with Queen-Nine and had to call it off when a short stack shoved for 5,400. The short stack had Queen-Jack suited (huh?) and I four flushed to bust him. I watched the old guys at my table looking at each other like I had literally just lit a $100 bill on fire. They were baffled.
I forgot how much fun it can be to play with people who don’t know me. I can play up different table images, make different plays, and chat with people who try to teach me all about poker by telling me that King-Jack is overrated. Or this gem –
“This is a big event. You don’t go broke with a junk hand in an event like this, you just don’t.”
Yesterday I made a big bluff on the river to represent a flush and my opponent showed me a ten-high flush and folded. Yep. He folded it. He figured I had the better flush, so he checked and folded to my bet. I like it here. The large number of recreational players makes for a friendly environment too, with more chatting and less hoodies and headphones, though I am occasionally guilty of retreating into a shell myself. I even had free drinks for a few days before they took my expired Diamond card away. I thought it lasted a full year, but apparently my run as VIP ended at the end of March.
The poker world lost one hell of a character today when David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliot passed away after a short battle with colon cancer. In a world of interesting characters and larger than life personalities, Dave stood out above the rest. I’m not sure which stories I should repeat, a problem that many of his friends are probably facing right now, but my favorite interaction with Dave tells you what the guy was like and shouldn’t get anyone in trouble.
I met Dave as part of the pro team for an online poker site on the Merge network. The site eventually failed and Dave and I were kicked off the site for expressing our concerns before things fell apart. During this time I was briefly in charge of the pro team, helping them learn how the affiliate business worked, getting gear for them, and in Dave’s case, helping them with the technology. I talked to Dave on Skype in order to help him get the software set up on his laptop, and working with Dave and technology was an adventure.
I know my way around technology in most cases, but I’m not a trained tech support person, and Dave was so impatient with computers that we had our work cut out for us getting things done over Skype. His thick accent didn’t help either. Trying to understand what he was saying while he angrily cursed his laptop just added to the challenge of helping an impatient, tech-challenged guy set up his twitter account, online poker software, and web bio. After a few hours we got things figured out and everything was working well. I thought my work was done, and actually said to Dave before we hung up and I went on to the next member of the pro team – “If the next guy needs help like this he can go to hell, I’m not doing it twice.”
No one else on the team needed as much help with tech support as Dave, and things went fairly smoothly until a few weeks later Dave rang me on Skype. I answered, curious what he would be calling with out of the blue. To be honest I was also a little pleased with myself. Anyone who came into poker around the time of the Moneymaker boom knows that Devilfish was a huge name in poker during that time and getting a call from him was always a cool experience.
The first minute or so, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying other than my name. He was pissed. When he calmed down, and his speech slowed down, I could pick out words but they didn’t make sense.
“We need to do it again Chris, I shot the fucker.” he said, which I assumed I was hearing wrong.
“You shot something?” I asked, hoping to get some clarification.
“Yeah, I shot it. Three times. I’m sure it’s dead. Fucking thing.” he said, almost spitting his words.
“You shot what?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“The computer. I put three bullets in it.” he replied, “It didn’t seem to learn any other way.”
I’m sure my head cocked to the side like a confused pup. “You shot your laptop? With a gun? Really?”
“Yeah, I get angry Chris, these God damned computers make me nuts.”
“Dave, if you shot your computer, you were already nuts.”
“Not the first to tell me that Chris,” he said, “and I’ve never argued. I’ve got another one here though, can we get her set up quick?”
“We can get her set up Dave, but I doubt it’s gonna be quick…”
Dave had gotten frustrated with his laptop because it wouldn’t log in to his account so that he could play poker, and after fighting with it for a few hours, he had walked “out back”, and put three rounds through the keyboard. I think Dave lived in London. The police come running any time shots are fired in the city of London. I didn’t ask a lot of questions about how that worked out or what had happened. Now I wish I had asked more questions. There was probably an even better story in there somewhere.
We did get it set up, and I helped Dave out with a few other tech issues over the last few years. When he got locked out of his twitter account, which happened about twice a year, he hit me on Skype and I got him back in. I usually logged in to the account and reset the password, and last year I tweeted from his account myself –
Dave had a sense of humor about everything. I watched him stand on stage with rapper Prohozac and sing a country song about a guy with his head stuck in a fence, ignoring how ridiculous the whole thing looked and laughing at himself. Every exchange I ever had with him left me laughing, even when I only understood half the words.
We will miss ya buddy. I wish I had known you better. The world got a little less interesting when you left it.
As I write this I am sitting on an 8th floor balcony in Peurta Vallarta watching the sunset over the mountains. It’s a perfect 75 degrees with just a hint of a breeze that carries in the salt smell of the pacific ocean a few hundred yards away. My pina colada is perfect. When I’m done writing this I’ll take it with me into the hot tub that is conveniently located out here on the balcony. I’ll be the first to admit that my life has not been hard these last few months. I never forget how incredibly lucky I am to be able to have so many incredible experiences and live a remarkable life.
Since I was quite young it has always been my goal to have unique experiences, see the world, and collect stories. There have been sacrifices along the way, risks I took when I was younger, the lack of any significant savings since Black Friday, A lack of job security and certainly some injuries and illnesses that could have been avoided if I had simply stayed home and watched television. But the stories wouldn’t be the same. The life wouldn’t be so rich. And regardless of the tough times, the sacrifices, and some close calls along the way, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I’m the luckiest person I know, and no amount of hard work changes that fact. Sure, I put in the hours, I studied, I worked hard, but I also took advantages of opportunities that very few people have ever had. I was born a healthy American male, big enough and healthy enough to be safe in situations that would be reckless for many people. I had a good education and good parents who raised me well and tolerated my rebellious ways about as well as anyone possibly could. I met the right people, and I started playing poker and studying the game at a time when there is a lot of money to be made.
And most importantly, I caught the right cards at the right times to win a world championship this past summer in addition to a significant sum of money. My friend Chad Holloway was one of the first people I talked to after the win, and his words ring more true every day.
“It will change your life.”
I see it every day. It did change my life. I know that I play HORSE well, but the best player in the world, whoever that may be, wouldn’t win that tournament one time in a hundred. The experience not only provided me with money, a host of new opportunities, and a hell of a story, but it made me a better person. I’m even more driven, even more certain that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, and most importantly I am more thankful than ever before.
I haven’t turned down an invite to a charity poker tournament since the bracelet, and while I rarely turned them down before that, I couldn’t have spent so much money on charity events without the big win. This weekend I played two charity events, both at Canterbury Park. Kudos to Canterbury and their staff for raising over $15,000 for charity this weekend. Steve Fredlund did a great job with All-in for Africa and Keri Marsh and Kelly Day kicked ass for Protecting Paws. I was lucky to be able to help out with both events.
This last few months has been incredible. First a trip halfway around the world to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and California to celebrate the bracelet win and now this amazing all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a week. But it’s almost over. This week will just be relaxing and getting ready to get back to work, because the party is over. When I get home I start out with the Check Shove Poker Tour event at Running Aces, and as soon as that ends I’ll be headed to Council Bluffs to play the WSoP Circuit event until April 19th.
When I return home from Council Bluffs, hopefully with a circuit ring, I have a ton of work to do with lots of students wanting lessons before the WSoP, work with iNinja and Blue Shark Optics, some other interesting deals in the works, tons of training videos for Ivey League, and preparation for the World Series. I want another bracelet, so I’ll be playing as many events as possible and have already sold out a $60,000 investment package without even advertising it.
After this week, it’s back to work. I’m going to bust my ass until the end of the WSoP, and hopefully I’ll have some new stories to tell by the end and enough money to do it all over again! Thanks for reading.
I am not even close to having all of the trip pics sorted, there are literally thousands of them, but I was going through the pics from Melbourne today and a few of them stood out.
I was excited about the portion of this trip we were going to spend in Tasmania, but it has completed exceeded our expectations and we even talked about moving there for a few years if it was possible to emigrate. We were lucky on our five days in Tasmania with perfect weather and some incredible animal sightings.
We landed in Hobart in the evening, and most things had been closing early in Melbourne so we were thinking we might be eating the last of our bread and cheese for dinner before bed, but in Hobart things are different. There is a thriving restaurant district with Malaysian, Australian, Chinese, Thai, seafood, and even a Mexican place, all of which were open late and of excellent quality.
Our first full day in Tasmania started with the Tahune Airwalk, which was nice, and a few other short hikes. The highlight of the walks for me was spotting an Echidna in the wild, ten feet from us, and watching it wander about oblivious to our presence. They don’t see very well or have any natural predators, so they don’t really care about people and we have seen a few since then as well and they really don’t run away from humans unless you get close to them.
After the hiking we headed to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, which quickly became one of our favorite places. We purchased a special after hours deal called The Feeding Frenzy, where you are the only people at the sanctuary, you have your own guide, and you get to meet and feed the animals. We fed birds, possums, kangaroos (who we also petted), a Koala (which we also petted), and my personal favorite, a Tasmanian Devil!
The entire area drops off road kill at the center and they use it to feed the scavengers, including the devils. I held on to a Wallaby leg while the devil fought with me for it for five minutes, chewing on it with incredibly powerful jaws and growling like a dog. It was incredible, one of the highlights of the trip for me.
We also were able to feed and interact with a number of other animals including Eastern Quolls, Spotted Tailed Quolls, Wombats, Sugar Gliders, Bettongs, a Potaroo, and the Tawny Frogmouths. I’m sure I missed some things on that list too, the experience was a literal once in a lifetime thing that I can’t imagine being able to duplicate anywhere. I prefer to see animals in the wild when I can, but this wildlife rehab center is really a great place and I’m glad I could meet the animals as well as supporting the cause.
Speaking of animals in the wild, we saw a couple more Echidna and another Bettong in the protected wilderness on the way to Strahan the next day, but our real treat was seeing three, yes three, Tasmanian Devils in the wild. One of them was even carrying a snake, meaning this devil had real guts because all snakes in Tasmania are venomous and are distant relatives of the cobra. I hope he enjoyed his meal, I don’t think I would.
We also stopped at Burberry Lake, one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen, and too many other mountains, lakes, cliffs, and incredible vistas to recount. I’ve driven the Vikos Gorge in Greece, the Grand Canyon, most of the coastal US and some of Canada, The North Shore of Lake Superior, much of Costa Rica and other central American countries, and for wilderness and stunning mountain and ocean views, this tops everything. I had no idea there was still a place in the world still so wild and I am so grateful that I was able to visit it.
We have figured out a way to upload pictures more easily, so hopefully I can start blogging with pictures every day or two now like I had originally planned. Internet is still a little scarce in some places, and data on my phone, when it’s available, is prohibitively expensive, but when we find wifi I can post some pics now.
The rest of Tasmania was beautiful, and our flight to Sydney was easy. Sydney is a wonderful town, more interesting than Melbourne with a ton of backpackers, a red light district, loads of great restaurants, and some high rent stuff near the opera house that was pretty impressive. Sydney is definitely a city I could live in, though the parking situation is awful. Tomorrow we land in Christchurch New Zealand and another portion of the journey begins!
I thought I would be updating every day or two, posting pics and talking about my adventures on this trip, but it just hasn’t been possible. Internet access isn’t great everywhere, and in Australia it’s expensive to use internet from my phone so I’ve been keeping that to a minimum, but the real reason there haven’t been any updates is because I have been simply too tired to do anything but go to sleep when I get home each day. This is a good thing, and it feels good to sleep well and get up each day ready for more new experiences.
There are definitely a ton of pictures, thousands of them, but they haven’t been downloaded from media cards yet, and I’m not sure if we will actually do that before the end of the trip. I’ll occasional pics from my phone, but the really great ones may not be available until after we get home.
The experiences since I last wrote have been incredible.
Whale watching in Maui with humpbacks right next to our boat and even swimming right under us, and yes we got pics and video, was amazing. I understand why people go whale watching now. Seeing those huge animals up close is a unique experience and we were very lucky to have excellent guides. An expert from the Pacific Whale Foundation came along on our journey in a big zodiac and answered all of our questions for hours. We spent the night in the town of Lahaina, and then flew off to the big island in the morning.
The big island is most well known for it’s volcanic activity, and that’s what we were there to see. Driving through massive lava fields, walking through a lava tube, capturing the glow of the molten rock at night in a massive crater, and an incredible scenic drive on the way to the volcanoes, were all highlights. Watching a huge pod of 50 or more porpoises was fun, and we nearly jumped in the ocean with them. We also took the inland rode back across to Kona for our flight back to Honolulu, and were able to see multiple mongoose, some amazing sea life in tidal pools, and have some of the best coffee in the world.
My coffee tour of the world is basically complete now that I have had Wallenford in Wallenford, Blue Mountain in the Blue Mountains, Poas and Terrazu fresh from their plantations in Costa Rica, some amazing coffees in Guatemala, and now Kona in Kona. I can’t imagine where I would go next for great coffee.
Our next flight after spending our last day in Hawaii was the long haul to Melbourne. It was long, but not awful and Australia is well worth it. We stayed in a small apartment in a hip neighborhood in Melbourne and were struck by the differences. The fact that so many things are similar with the same language, many of the same products, and what appears to be a similar value system, that the differences seemed to stand out even more than they do in countries where everything is different.
We commented on the lack of police presence in such a large city and the lack of speed traps even though we did a lot of driving. In almost every country I have visited over the years I have been struck by the fact that people aren’t afraid of the police. In a few rough third world places this was not true, but in the rest of the first world I believe we are alone in being afraid of, or worried about, our interactions with the police. The job of the police here is to keep people safe and enforce laws. They are not tasked with running speed traps, confiscating property, and levying fines to pay their own salaries, so there are fewer of them on the streets and those that are out and about are working to actually keep you safe. It is refreshing.
People are also very warm and kind here, and common sense seems to be much more common here. The incredible materialism of the United States also looks ridiculous when viewed from the perspective of another country where people have what they need and aren’t killing themselves to get more. Working 50 or 60 hours a week, taking one or two weeks of vacation each year, and striving to get that raise so you can buy that new car to drive to work every day is truly insane. You can’t enjoy a life that you are throwing away, no matter how nice your house is. Work is fine, it’s necessary, and it can be rewarding, but we do far too much of it to buy things that don’t make us happy.
Our first full day in Melbourne we took a ride on an old narrow gauge steam train called The Puffing Billy. The line was created in the early 1900s to move people and produce to and from the Dandenong mountains, and now it runs as a tourist attraction. The train was a great way to experience the scenery up in the mountains and we had an excellent bush walk before our return trip as well.
The next day in Melbourne we took off for a drive down the Great Ocean Road. It was the most amazing scenery I have ever seen, and I have done a lot of scenic drives in my life. There are literally breathtaking sights around every corner for hours. We stopped at a few beaches and saw some incredible sea life, then took a wonderful bush walk at Shelly Beach to look for wildlife. While we saw some birds and sea life, the Koalas that my wife wanted to see were nowhere to be found. We did see an Echidna, known as a spiny antereater, but no Koalas and the wife was disappointed. I told her that it would work out, like it always does. We didn’t find a sloth to take photos of until out last day in Panama, and after hunting for them for a week!
On the drive home we passed two Koalas sitting by the side of the highway, I laid on the brakes, and my wife was out of the car before we were completely stopped. It’s rare enough to see them on the ground at all, but one of them sat and looked at my wife while she talked to him and took pictures from less than 20 feet away for a few minutes. The pictures are amazing! Once people driving by saw what was happening a crowd started to form, with at least ten other cars behind ours and before long some fool tourists ran right up to the Koala, scaring him back into the woods, but we had our time alone with him and a ton of great pictures.
It’s time to get up and head out to a market here in Tasmania before we drive across a huge national park and spend the night in Strahan. More to report on soon including our up close experiences with more koalas, penguins, devils, and more adventuring than I have time to write about this morning.
When too many things pile up, and I don’t know how to cover them all in one blog post, I simply make a list. This is one of those times. It’s late and I’m too tired to cover things with the depth they deserve. Have a list.
1. My wife got sick the day before the trip. Probably food poisoning. She’s feeling quite a bit better now, but the packing was haphazard since she was not around for much of it. I think we got all the important stuff. I need more socks, but I think they sell them here.
2. The flights were long, but uneventful and smooth. We are now in Hawaii. Any flight that gets me to Hawaii is a winner.
3. I invested $55 in Jason Root last week, and he quadrupled my money. Within five minutes of finding out that I had won $200, I sent it renting a 2015 Camaro to drive around Oahu. It was fun. Thanks Jason!
4. The surf on the North Shore is amazing. We saw waves well over 20 feet today and the surfers were loving it. Watch the sunset there if you get a chance.
5. We love food trucks, and we saw at least 30 of them on our tour of Oahu today. The one we stopped at was awesome.
6. Today’s photos are just from my phone. Much better pictures that my wife took will be coming soon, but we haven’t downloaded them from the media cards yet.
7. Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial are amazing. What a powerful and sobering experience. Highly recommended. Being right over the sunken ship with over 1,000 sailors still entombed in it will really put things in perspective. The whole exhibit is great, and I was impressed with what a great job the Navy did with it.
We are headed off tomorrow to Maui for a whale watching expedition with Scientists from the Pacific Whale Foundation. Really looking forward to it.
I’ll be using a chromebook for my posts here. A cute little thing I got on sale for $150. It’s not the chromebook Pixel that I love so much, but it is actually a reasonable fill-in and at $150 I won’t be so sad if it falls off a glacier or into a volcano or gets eaten by a whale, all things that could reasonably happen on this trip. With a new chromebook, you get 100 gigs of extra storage on your Google Drive, but I already have a ton of that because I got a free terabyte when I bought the Pixel. The really good news is that I got 12 from flights worth of GoGo in flight internet access, which means I can write blog posts from the air!
I could sing the praises of chromebooks all day long, and have spent a few days doing just that, but in this case it’s the free internet access on my flight that I’m really pleased with. So…
Trip Update #1 –
I’m on a flight to Seattle. From there we connect to a flight to Hawaii. I did not expect to be posting anything this early in the trip, but I’ve got three hours to kill so maybe a little introduction to the trip and how we ended up on this journey would be appropriate.
I play poker for a living. Most of you probably know that. When I have a nice tournament win on the road, I make it a point to buy my wife something nice. Depending on the size of the victory it has been anything from a gourmet lollipop to a beautiful opal necklace. This summer I had by far my biggest win ever when I won the $10,000 buy-in HORSE World Championship at the World Series of Poker. After it was over and I had a chance to talk to my wife (she was up watching the final table livestream until 5 am, I asked her what she wanted this time.
We have friends in New Zealand that we have wanted to visit for a few years now, and her response was simply “New Zealand!” which was fine by me. I love to travel, and she has caught the travel bug from me and loves it as much as I do. We figured two weeks in New Zealand was a reasonable amount of time, maybe a little longer. I like to spend a month in a new country if I can, but there isn’t always time or money to do that. After a month in Greece I had only scratched the surface, but after a few weeks in Belize I felt like I had hit most of the high points.
Flying all the way to New Zealand on a 16 hour flight just didn’t sound like much fun, so I checked Google maps to see if there were some interesting places to break up the flight. Lucky for me, Hawaii was right in the middle, which leads me to a brief aside.
I have been to 49 states. The only state I have not visited is Alaska, and I would really like to go there. It’s time to be done with states and get serious about piling up countries! But. My wife is only at around 40 states, and does not want me to go to Alaska until we can go together as our 50th state. She’s been working hard to visit as many states as we can, but I’m impatient. We joke often about how I’m going to find a way to surprise her with a trip to Alaska. This may in fact happen.
One of the states she is missing is Hawaii, so stopping there for a few days will be perfect and get another state off her list and it gets me one state closer to Alaska. The only other place to stop on the way back is Fiji. It’s much closer to New Zealand than the US, but it does break up the flight some and it was an excuse to spend a few days there relaxing, see a unique place, and add another country to my list.
Once I had added five days in Hawaii and five days in Fiji to a trip that was already going to be seventeen days in New Zealand, the trip started to get out of hand. Were we really going to fly around the world and not go to Australia when it was so close? Of course not. Another country off my list and some new places to see. And Tasmania sure looks interesting, and flights from Melbourne are less than $100. How can I not visit Tasmania when I have flown around the world and it’s only a thirty minute flight away?
I know my wife has always wanted to see the Sydney Opera House, so why not spend a few days in Sydney? Then some friends who live in California heard we were booking this trip and suggested that we stop and see them for a few days on the way home. We have to fly right by them anyway, so we might as well stop by and they did offer to show us a good time in the bay area, so we couldn’t turn that down. Now you can see exactly how things got out of hand.
Counting the small flights in Hawaii we will have thirteen flights, a conservative estimate of 30,000 miles traveled, and we will be away from home for 43 days. Lucky for us my wife has a photo shoot in Mexico at the end of March and we are booked at a resort there so we can relax. Kind of a vacation to help us recover from our vacation.
I really didn’t intend for this vacation to get so out of control, but I don’t regret a bit of it. We’ll be run ragged by the end of this trip, but it will be worth every bit of busting our asses to get everywhere we want to go and worth every nickel we spend. I would rather be broke with some great stories to tell than have money in the bank and not know what to do with it. With that spirit in mind I booked helicopter trips, whale watching excursions, wildlife trips with scientists, cave tours, glacier hikes, and everything else I could fit into the trip while giving us a day off every few days just to chill out and recover.
The first trip highlight for me has also already happened. My wife surprised me with a limo to take us to the airport. She told me that the cab would arrive at 2:30, and when it arrived it was a stretch SUV limo. Thanks doll, what a great way to start off the trip!
Oh, and don’t call it the trip of a lifetime, I hate to think that this is it, the greatest trip ever and that nothing will top it. I’m not old enough for it to be all downhill from here. It will be my longest trip in terms of miles traveled, but I’m hoping there are many more like it on the horizon and that some of them are even more incredible than this one.
Thanks for reading, I’ll update in a few days with pics and stories from Hawaii.
My last podcast before I am off on vacation for six weeks includes a review of upcoming tournaments in the area and an interview with Adam Coolong from the Wild Colonial Bhoys who wrote our theme song.
Learn more about the Wild Colonial Bhoys!
For the next month and a half, this blog will become a travel blog. Except for tomorrow night’s podcast, that will be mostly poker related. On Monday my lovely wife and I leave for what we have been calling “The Big Adventure”, bouncing around the world for 43 days. If you are not interested in travel, come back in mid-March. If you are interested in new places and adventures, then stick around and enjoy the lack of poker talk.
My wife is a professional photographer, so I’ll put a few pictures in each blog post as well as a description of some of the things we’ve done and places we’ve seen. I would like to say that I’ll post something every day, but that’s tough to do. I can do an entry every few days though, and that will make my job easy with multiple days of adventuring to talk about.
This trip will be safer than a lot of my previous adventures, though it will also be a lot more expensive. It started out as two weeks in New Zealand, but once you are in New Zealand, you might as well hit Australia for a few days, you know, since you came so far already. And once you are in Australia, you might as well hit Tasmania for a few days, and maybe get up to Sydney to see the famous opera house. You know, since you’ve already come so far.
And if you’re flying that way anyway, you might as well stop in Hawaii, especially since the wife has never been there. And it’s kind of on the way anyway. And on the way back the only other way to breakup the flight, unless you want to stop in Hawaii again, is to go to Fiji. It’s beautiful in Fiji, might as well spend a few days right? I mean, once you’ve already come so far.
Then some friends in California said we should stop by since we have to have a connecting flight from Fiji somewhere on the West Coast anyway, and we hadn’t seen them for awhile, so we booked that too. And you don’t fly all the way to New Zealand just for a few days, so we booked 15 days there and at least five days everywhere else, because you might as well stay awhile if you’ve already come so far.
Of course, if you fly literally half way around the world to a place you might not get back to, you should make sure you don’t miss any once in a lifetime opportunities. Which means you might as well book both those whale watching trips, feed that Tasmanian Devil in the nature preserve, tour the glow worm caves, take the helicopter tour, walk across the glacier, book the zodiac ride through the glacier lake, see the penguins in the wild, hike the volcano, and holy crap I’m getting tired just thinking about all of it.
So I did. I booked it all. We have days off sprinkled in here and there, but most days are going to include big adventures and amazing photos. I’ve done month long trips many times, but never to so many different places for such a long time. We will see 6 or 7 different climates and be living out of backpacks. I still don’t know how we are going to fit all the gear into two packs.
When people hear about my travels, they so often say things like “I wish I could do that.” I always think “You can, just do it!” I hope with some of my travel blogging I’m able to inspire a few people to stop wishing and just book a flight. Start somewhere cheap and easy like Puerto Rico, Iceland, Costa Rica, anywhere in the Caribbean, or Alaska. Buy the Lonely Planet Guide to wherever you are going and study up on it, that’s half the fun. Then go have some adventures of your own and never stop.
Keep booking flights once or twice a year to somewhere you have never been. See the world and be changed by it. We live on an incredible planet and even the most well traveled have seen so little of it. Stop sitting at home and get your butt on a plane! I’ll help if you need it. Try skyscanner.com for flights, tripadvisor.com for hotels, and your Lonely Planet book for advice on what to see when you get there. I won’t be of much help until late March, but after I get home I’ll be happy to help you find destinations, cheap flights and hotels, and provide information on everything from vaccinations to rental car insurance. Go!
Local poker player Boz Hanson works with people with special needs, and posted on facebook that one of his clients loves ice fishing and really wanted an ice fishing house. I know nothing about the subject, but I think we should make this happen. If we can make someone happy for a few hundred dollars, then we should do it. It looks like $250 will definitely buy the house, and another $100 for equipment and whatever else they might need would be nice too. Let’s get this guy fishing!
Donations will go to my paypal account, and I’ll ship the money to Boz once he decides what to buy. I am starting the fund with $50 and will close it when we are ready to buy or when it hits $350, whichever comes first. Boz will send us pics of the equipment, and depending on permission, the client enjoying his new ice fishing house. Thank you all in advance for your donations.
It’s not brilliant yet, and I didn’t have much time to record this week, but the audio quality is getting better and I have a theme song! This episode is simply a 20 minute interview with the Poker Joker, Marc Powers. We talk poker, Joker Gear, weather, table etiquette, and the economy in Flint Michigan. An excellent interview that includes the origin story of the Joker brand, something I have always been curious about myself.
This podcast was recorded live at Canterbury Park and has some crowd noise in the background, but it’s longer than previous podcasts and most importantly… it’s not just me!
ininjapoker Fantasy Challenge
As part of my job as an ininja pro for the month, I’m giving away part of my action in the $100k event this weekend at Canterbury Park. That’s right, you can win a piece of me for free! To qualify, you have to do three things –
1. Tweet the following “I want a piece of @foxpokerfox in the @ininjapoker $100k event @canterburypark January 1st – 4th!”
2. Tweet your picks for a fantasy team for the event as well as pick for the number of entries for the main event and use #ininja100k in the tweet. This includes any five poker players except me. You can not pick me.
3. Play a qualifier for the 100k ininja event or play the main event itself. Save your receipt!
Registration for the fantasy challenge will end when the cards are in the air on Day 1A of the main event on January 1st. You can find a list of possible names on my Minnesota Fantasy Poker page, but you do not have to choose players that are listed on this page. I can not guarantee that any of these players are going to play.
Each position into the money for each of your players will earn you one point. For example, if 27 places are paid, and one of your players finishes 27th, you earn one point. If one of your players won the event, that player would earn you 28 points. In case of a tie, the closest to the total number of players in the event will win.
1st Place – 15% of my winnings on my first buy-in. If I have to buy-in more than once, you will win 10% of my winnings.
2nd Place – 10% of my winnings on my first buy-in. If I have to buy-in more than once, you will win 5% of my winnings.
3rd Place – 5% of my winnings on my first buy-in. If I have to buy-in more than once, you will win 3% of my winnings.
First place in this event will probably be more than $30,000, so we are talking about real money in this contest, and since entrants have to play at least one qualifier, I don’t expect to see all that many entries. Don’t miss a chance to qualify for this challenge and freeroll for thousands of dollars. Entering this challenge with a strong team may be worth more than the qualifier seat you have to buy to enter a team, so get up to Canterbury Park and get into a qualifier!
Top 10% advance to the Main Event.
Tuesday, December 30, 6:30 PM
Wednesday, December 31, 10:30 AM
Main Event Schedule
Day-1A: Thursday, January 1st 4:00 PM
Day-1B: Friday, January 2nd 4:00 PM
Day-1C: Saturday, January 3rd 10:30 AM
Day-2: Sunday, January 4th 2:00 PM
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me:
Twelve Dealers Dealing,
Eleven Whiners Griping,
Ten Lags a Raising,
Nine Ladies Events,
Eight Final Tables,
Seven Minnesota Poker Awards,
Six Old Guys Asking for Set Ups,
Five Circuit Rings,
Four Calling Stations,
Three Suck Outs,
Two Bad Beats,
And another Bracelet for me!
Fox talks about the Minnesota Poker Awards, the new WSoP Schedule, and answers questions from twitter.
My second shot at recording a podcast. I spent zero time preparing or editing this podcast, so it is certainly not what it could be in the future, but it was a good practice run. I cover the upcoming theme song, the twitterpocalypse of the last few days, Minnesota poker news, and some listener questions.
Just a short podcast to see how it works. Feel free to leave comments here on the blog or on twitter @foxpokerfox about what you would like to hear on a potential Minnesota Poker Podcast.
I am waiting for my main computer to process a video that will take awhile, so I have some time to pop open my chromebook and write one of those posts where I talk about all of the things I’m grateful for. Actually, a list of all of the things I’m feeling thankful for would take far too long, so I’ll go with poker related things that I’m thankful for. Mostly.
I’m thankful for bad beats, because they have made me mentally tough. Very few things even cause a ripple in the calm pool that is my mental state these days. After eleven years of playing poker for a living, I am much stronger mentally and able to handle minor ups and downs in life without breaking stride. It also helps me focus on the big things because the small things aren’t distracting me.
I’m thankful for recreational players. We should never forget that this is their game. You may feel like the king of the table, but they don’t care, they are having more fun than you are, the casino would rather have them in that seat than you, and without them you would have to get a job. We should never call them idiots or fish, at least not within their hearing range, and we shouldn’t disparage bad play at all. I know I have been guilty of this on occasion, but it’s rare for me these days. The fact that someone does not play well in terms of profit does not mean they are stupid, it means they are having more fun than you are or they haven’t learned how interesting the game can be when you get good at it. Some recreational players are very intelligent people who make a lot more money than you do and are probably happier too.
I’m thankful for my poker friends. I’ve met some amazing people in the poker world and learned some very cool things from them. While there are a few bad apples, I trust the average poker player far more than the average person and I find that I like them more often as well. I still have friends outside the poker world and I’m thankful for them too, they help remind me that there is a real world out there and that not everyone lives in a toybox full of money and plays games all day long.
I’m thankful for variance. While it may make me crazy some night to lose money in a game where I know I am the best player, it also allowed me to win a bracelet this summer. While I feel really good about my mixed game skills, and think I am one of the best, it is unlikely that I was the best player in the field of such a tough event. Without three days of running good to go with playing well, I wouldn’t have the bracelet, the greatest night of my life, some extra cash and some extra endorsement deals.
I’m also grateful for those endorsement deals. I’m blessed to be able to work with companies that I believe in, and to be able to turn down offers if I don’t think they are a good fit for me. Ivey League, Blue Shark Optics, Running Aces Card Room, and PocketFives.com are all great companies that I am proud to be associated with. I’m truly blessed to be able to choose the companies I work with and have none of them turn me down.
This year has been amazing for me, and this last few weeks has also been incredible, so I’m feeling awfully lucky these days. Thanks for reading. I leave you with my favorite holiday song, White Win in the Sun by Tim Minchin.
In my most recent video for Ivey League, I use my hand analysis spreadsheet to analyze a hand and teach the viewer how to use it. I also promised the subscribers that I would make it available, so here it is (you may need to right click to download it) –
The preview of the video is HERE and you can view the entire video if you join Ivey League for $9 per month. That is the best deal in poker training, with tons of awesome content for one low price. I’ll be doing at lest two videos a month for Ivey League for the foreseeable future, and there are multiple videos every week from other coaches too.
For some reason I thought I had already posted about this, but looking back through my blog posts, apparently I never mentioned it. I’m writing so much these days between my monthly column at Bluff magazine, multiple articles every week for Poker Update, and other miscellaneous writing gigs, that it’s hard to keep track of everything. That means that this blog certainly suffers and I ignore it in favor of paid gigs sometimes. Anyway…
I joined the team at Ivey League as a coach. I’ll be working with some of the best players in the world to provide educational content for subscribers and I think this could be a great opportunity for me. If nothing else comes of it, I’ll make a few bucks and get to learn from players like Patrik Antonius, Cole South, Jen Harmon, and Phil Ivey himself. You should check out the site, the videos are amazing!
My profile is up on the site now too, and it even makes me sound pretty good!
I have a bunch of blog posts I’m supposed to write. I keep a list in my phone when I think of something I should write a blog about, and now I have a pile of them and not enough time to catch up. You know what I do when that happens? I just cover them all in a list! Let’s take care of that.
1. Write a blog post covering great poker fiction.
Two great ones come to mind. The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Last Call by Tim Powers. Both are fantastic and feature a lot of poker. I promise that I am not biased about The Incrementalists just because my book is mentioned in this book and Steve Brust is a good friend of mine. It’s a great book. Both of them are. Read them.
2. Write a blog post covering buying action.
Quick and dirty version – Don’t invest any significant sum of money in someone unless you either know them well and have known them for a long time, or they have been around a long time in the poker world and have a perfect reputation. People need to get started somewhere, but stick with very small sums and for very short periods of time. Many Minnesota players have learned this lesson recently when Chad “Spachy” Himmelspach was outed for taking money from investors and never playing the events that he had scheduled. This is not the first time this has happened, so don’t invest in players you don’t know unless they have a stellar reputation.
3. Write a blog covering winter stuff.
Winter stuff? Yeah, got that covered. There is nowhere better to get sick than in a card room. It’s the perfect breeding ground for colds and the flu. Go get a flu shot right now, use hand sanitizer, and keep your hands away from your face when you are at the table. And if you are sick, do not come to the card room. We don’t all need to get sick! Also, check the weather for the whole night before you leave for the card room so you don’t get stuck there waiting for the highways to be plowed. I speak from experience on this one, it sucks.
4. Talk about The Borgata.
Oh yeah, did I mention that The Borgata is awesome? The WPT event and tournament series last month were great, and the event they ran in conjunction with Pocket Fives was also great, and they were really good to us. If you head to the East coast, it is the premier poker destination and the poker room, the restaurants, and the hotel rooms are all top notch.
That was easy. I got four big ones off the list in a single blog post. Easy game. Maybe I’ll do four more in a few days. I’m so busy with my writing gig at Poker Update that I just don’t have much time to write here. You can check out all of my articles over at Poker Update at The Fox’s Den.
Sometimes it seems like the tournament trail never ends. If I’m going to make a real living playing poker I have to get out of Minnesota fairly often, but I get tired of the road. I’ll be playing tournaments almost every day of October, the series that are available are just too good to turn down, but there is good news. The first half of the month will be at Canterbury playing the Fall Poker Classic, which should draw nice fields, be run well, and feature free donuts in the mornings. I’m looking forward to it.
The second half of the month will be the WSoP Circuit stop in Hammond, Indiana. This is the largest stop on the WSoP Circuit, which is the only reason I usually play it. The rake is insanely high at WSoPC events, meaning that if you aren’t playing enough of them to qualify for the million dollar freeroll at the end of the year, then you are paying for those who do qualify. Paying double rake sucks, and Hammond isn’t exactly my favorite place to visit. In fact you can scratch everything anywhere near Gary, Indiana off my list of places to vacation, but it’s close to home and the fields are huge and soft, so I will probably head down to Hammond again this year.
I have also just found a new home for my poker training videos. Since leaving PokerXFactor. I have had a few offers from training sites, but nothing was exciting until this new opportunity. I’m looking forward to making videos this month and announcing where they will be when they are published in a month or so.
My newest article went up on Poker Update today. You can find everything I do for them in one spot because they were kind enough to create “The Fox’s Den” for all of my articles and musings. Two of the articles involve Minnesota players that you probably know. The Fox’s Den
I’m proud to announce that I am officially part of the team at Poker Update. I have been looking for a place to get some more exposure for my writing on a regular basis that offers the freedom to write about anything I like, and with Poker Update I have found exactly that. After working with the team on a few smaller projects, they invited me to become a larger part of the site, and they offered me what every writer wants.
They are going to pay me to write whatever I want and they are going to promote it to thousands of people.
Think about that for a second. What a great gig! I did have to set up something like a schedule, so I will be writing two primary articles every week and doing some interviews with pros and poker industry personalities. This will involve a lot of writing every week, so I could use your help. If you know a poker celebrity or industry person who is willing to do an interview, send them my way and I can get them some exposure. If you have a subject you would like to see me write about, let me know and I will add it to my list. The best way to send me article ideas is to contact me on twitter @foxpokerfox. If you follow @pokerupdate they will also be tweeting out links to my articles whenever they go up.
With my monthly column in Bluff Magazine, occasional stuff in CardPlayer (I’m featured in Final Table Take Down this month by the way), writing for Poker Update, this blog, and other random writing gigs that pop up, I’ll be managing my tendinitis carefully! If you see me shuffling chips at a poker table, remind me to cut it out because it makes my wrists and forearms hurt that much more and it’s a hard habit to break.
My trip to the Borgata was fun, though not terribly profitable, but I knew the 3rd, 5th, and 7th place finishers, and I learned some things while I was there. I’ll be covering the trip, and the venue, in an upcoming article on Poker Update. Congratulations to Blake Bohn on another deep run, he is an incredible player and destined to be the leader on the Minnesota all-time money winner list within a few years.
This weekend is the MSPT at Running Aces, which should draw a huge field with first place near $100,000, and as soon as that is over it will be time to get ready for the biggest tournament series of the year in Minnesota, the Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park. It’s a good time to play poker in Minnesota!
I told my friend Matt Stout that I would try to help his Charity Series of Poker, and I keep my word, so I’m headed out to Atlantic City to play in the event on September 13th. Matt is doing a really cool thing and if you are on the East Coast, and playing the Borgata Open events, please fit this one into your schedule.
Since I am going to be out there for the CSoP event, I’m going to play some of the great Borgata Open events as well. I’m selling action in the Heads Up and the Main event at a 1.3 mark up and have about $2,000 left to sell. Bank transfers or cash in hand tomorrow or Monday if you are interested. I’m sure this will sell out instantly, so I’ll sell in order of the first text messages or emails that I get. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The charity event for All-In for Africa was awesome, with a huge field and a nice prize pool, and they raised around$7,000 for kids in Rwanda.
I’m also writing for Poker Update on a regular basis now with multiple articles per week on strategy, tells, poker news, etc. Should be a ton of fun. Check out my first article HERE.
I busted the 6max event at the Midwest Poker Classic last night in 4th place. I bluffed off the last of my chips, but I don’t feel bad about it because I think my opponent would have folded most of his range and I had outs when I was called. I noticed that many of my opponents, even otherwise solid players were making the same mistake during the event.
Many of them just didn’t have a big enough gap between the hands they raised with and the hands they called with. They generally understood that you need to play more hands when you are short handed, they just didn’t understand how to expand their ranges correctly.
Take a look at this video, which is not only a good example of the Gap Concept, which I first learned from reading David Sklansky’s books, but is also one of the craziest ways I have seen a tournament end.
In short, the hands are like this –
UTG (chip leader) – KK – Limp for 200,000, call All-in
Button – KQo – All-in for 700,000
Small Blind – ATo – All-in for 7,500,000
Big Blind – 88 – All-in for 1,300,000
Mistakes that were made in this hand –
1. When the chip leader limps UTG when the blinds are huge, you should always be suspicious of a limp-reraise. The small blind made a tremendous mistake thinking that he should put his stack, by far the second largest stack, in the pot after the chip leader limped. This was the largest mistake by far. ATo isn’t a strong enough hand to put that many chips at risk with two short stacks in play.
2. The big blind had already seen a limp UTG and two all-ins. His 88 is rarely in good shape here, and he may very well be able to fold and end up with second place money. If he wins this hand he is still probably going to end up second or third, so playing the hand is a terribly negative EV choice.
It may also be a mistake for the big stack to limp under the gun because most players will see that as suspicious, but apparently none of his opponents saw it that way. If he limped in that spot at the end of a $200 tournament in Minnesota he would never get three all-ins behind him. Never.
This post sponsored by Spreaditfast
Fantasy Poker Challenge
As I’m sure you know, the Midwest Poker Classic is coming up at Running Aces and I thought it would be fun to run a fantasy poker contest. Everybody gets one chance to pick five players and the entrant whose team has the highest total winnings will win 1% of my action in the Main Event AND the HORSE event if I am able to play it. Either way you will have some sweat well into the last day of the series.
Qualifiers are not included, and results will be used as they are provided by Running Aces on their website or facebook. Seniors and Ladies Edge events will count. Every event except qualifiers will count toward total winnings. You must report the total winnings of your own team to me on twitter if you think you may have a winner. Your team must be submitted before August 1st by listing the team on twitter, tagging @foxpokerfox, and #fantasympc
In order to win, you must also beat my team, and while we can share players you can not make exactly the same picks that I make.
My Team – Myself, Kou Vang, Dave Gonia, Erick Wright, Peixin Liu
If my team wins, I will donate the money to charity instead. You can choose any players you like, but there is a fairly complete list available here – http://foxpoker.com/mn-fantasy-poker
The schedule for the 2014 Midwest Poker Classic is HERE
Glad to be Home
No matter how well my summer goes, and this one was fantastic, I’m always happy to come home after the WSoP. Six weeks is a long time in Vegas, and a long time to spend in a hotel, especially when it’s The Rio and there very few healthy food options. The mild weather feels great, seeing my wife and my dogs is great, and I’m happy just to be able to be outside and not feel like I’m standing inside a hair dryer set on high heat.
Unfortunately I won’t get to really enjoy the beautiful summer in Minnesota until mid-August when it is mostly over. I have students scheduled all week, and as soon as I have caught up with my students I have to fly out to The Borgata for a Pocket Fives event. With a $300 buy-in and a $150,000 guarantee, the event should be a nice big field. There will be a bounty on my head, so my road to winning it will be a tough one, but I’m definitely going to give it a shot.
I get back from The Borgata at the end of the month in time for the start of the Midwest Poker Classic at Running Aces, which I wouldn’t miss for anything. The MPC runs until August 10th and then I will have some more lessons to give, which leaves me at mid-August before things really slow down for me. I will be having some sort of party to celebrate the bracelet win at Running Aces, but we haven’t settled on a date for that yet.
If you are a frequent reader of this little blog, then you know how much I love a list. While I will still be here a few more days, I think it’s time for a wrap up of this year’s Vegas trip using some of my favorite statistics. Some of them are in contrast with Team Ivey because a lot of people found that contrast entertaining earlier in the summer.
Bracelets won by Minnesota Players: 2
Bracelets won by Team Ivey: 1
Highest Rank for WSoP Player of the Year for a Minnesotan: 28
Highest Rank for a member of Team Ivey: 75
Members of Team Ivey cheering on the rail at Phil’s bracelet win around dinner time: 0
Minnesotans cheering on the rail of my bracelet win at 2:30 am: 12
Okay, we are clearly better than the 28 pros on Team Ivey. I think I’ve made my point. And that point is that Team Ivey should probably hire me. Because then they could at least match Team Minnesota. Barely. Now back to my stats for the summer.
Money spent on tournament buy-ins: $53,750
Money Won: $513,789
Times I was introduced to Gavin Smith on this trip: 2
Times he remembered me: 0
Times I have been introduced to Gavin Smith in my life: 11 (I started keeping track after the third)
Times he has remembered me: .5 (one time he said “have we met before?”)
Total Minnesota earnings not including the Main Event: $2,142,196 (thanks to MNPokerMag for that stat)
Trips to The Spearmint Rhino: 1
Time of day we left The Rio to go to The Rhino: 6:30 am
Rank of the next day’s hangover in my all time list: 3
Most ferocious response to my bracelet win: Tie – Kou Vang bear hug vs Robby Wazwaz chest punches.
Second best victory of the summer: $1,200 – Credit card roulette at Nobu, crushing the dreams of Matt Kirby.
And for my last trick, I offer you a picture of Tony Hartmann wearing pink bunny ears with purple lights in them the morning after my bracelet win.
As I was getting on the elevator at The Rio today, a kid with a backpack came running up yelling at one of the other people on the elevator.
“Why don’t you give me my six grand back you scumbag! That’s right, cover your face. Everyone is gonna know you are a filthy thief now! I’m never gonna stop!”
My guess, which is right about 99% of the time in this situation, is that the supposed thief did in fact defraud the the angry shouting kid with the backpack. But it probably wasn’t your standard theft. At some point, backpack kid probably trusted the thief with six thousand dollars. They probably knew each other, had mutual friends, and backpack kid had never heard anything bad about the thief.
This scenario plays out daily in card rooms all over the country. There is so much cash floating around in poker that it is a perfect environment for con men and there are so many gambling addicts that it’s like a giant bad neighborhood full of junkies. If you loan out money, even if it’s only rarely, you will eventually get screwed. It will burn your ass and you’ll be so pissed that you’ll play bad for a week and every time you think about you will get angry again.
The downside is obvious, though most people ignore it because “Oh this guy will pay me, he’s cool.” But what about the upside to loaning out cash in a poker room? You know what? There isn’t one! You get nothing out of loaning out cash. You aren’t receiving interest payments, you aren’t garnering any significant good will that you can use later no matter how much you might think you are, and you have nothing but downside. You are free rolling yourself and eventually someone will free roll you out of your money.
It happened to me 18 months ago when Austin Monson got me for $1,100. As it turns out, a ton of people knew he was a worthless, scumbag, con man, but no one said anything because they all thought they might still get paid. If someone had said something it would have saved me $1,100, which was a lot of money to me at the time and screwed up some plans for me. It also pissed me off for months. Not worth the trouble. I had not been ripped off like that in twenty years, so it made me that much more angry.
When you loan money out in poker rooms you are not only enabling con men, and helping them rip you off and encouraging them to keep running their game because it’s profitable, but you are hurting gambling addicts and people who are bad with money. If you don’t have enough money to play poker, you shouldn’t be playing poker. And more importantly, if you don’t have enough money to play poker, but you are choosing to take out a loan to play poker, it’s not likely that you are going to have the money to pay me back any time soon.
I’m not sure I have ever borrowed money in a poker room more than a few hundred dollars to save time running to an ATM for something, and that has only been a few times in my life and I borrowed the money from people I knew very well. When someone asks me for a loan in a card room, I have a simple formula to decide if I will loan them the money.
Would I loan this person the money if I saw them on the street and they asked me for it? Do I know that this person is going to hunt me down and pay me the money within a few days? If the answers to both questions are yes, then I still say no because I don’t loan out money in poker rooms. How’s that for a simple formula? Be Nancy Reagan. Just Say No. Tell them that you don’t loan out money in card rooms. Ever. Tell them it is just your policy. Don’t hedge at all. Just say no. If they continue to bug you, you can move on to things like –
“Stop bugging me, you are never getting a nickel from me”
“Sorry, I don’t have it”
and the old favorite
I don’t want to hear any more of my friends whining about losing money because someone borrowed it and can’t pay it back. Don’t trust someone because they are a poker pro, don’t trust them because they have a nice watch, don’t trust them at all because you have no reason to. Just keep saying no. Stop free rolling yourself.
I don’t mean to say that I would never loan anyone money in a card room. But if I have to think about it, then the answer is no. But there are definitely people who I know are good for it. If Kou Vang walks up to me tomorrow and wants to borrow $5,000, I peel it off and hand it to him and I don’t think about it again until he finds me a few days later and pays me. But those people are very rare and until you have known someone a long time and know that they are very financially stable and trustworthy, just keep saying no.
And remember, this also includes buying action from players you don’t trust, swapping with players you don’t trust, or anything else that includes a possibility that someone ends up owing you money. The amount of money that is owed in this town is incredible and I hate seeing a guy win a tournament and ten people showing up and not getting all of their money because he owes more than the $100,000 he won. It’s disgusting.
I do not immerse myself completely in the poker world like so many of my peers. I have made many good friends in the poker world, but I also have friends and family outside of it and many of them have no idea what happened last week. This is my attempt to explain it in layman’s terms, for those friends and family who aren’t familiar with poker or with high stakes poker tournaments.
I won the $10,000 buy-in HORSE World Championship at the World Series of Poker.
What That Means
The World Series of Poker (WSoP) is an annual event in Las Vegas. It is the largest and most prestigious poker tournament series in the world and none of it’s competitors are even close. The prize for winning a major WSoP event is a lot of cash and a gold bracelet. It is like a trophy, but sought after more than any trophy. A bracelet is somewhere between a Super Bowl ring and a championship belt in boxing or a win in a major in golf. There are around fifty of them given out each year for fifty different tournaments. Tens of thousands of players come to Vegas every summer to try to win one.
The $10,000 buy-in HORSE Championship is one of the more prestigious events for many players because it has a high buy-in and involves five different games. The field is one of the toughest in the world every year, with world champions everywhere and almost no amateurs. First place this year paid $507,000 and a gold WSoP bracelet. 200 players entered the event.
This does not mean that I won $507,000. Well, I won it, but I don’t get to keep all of it. When players don’t want to play events with big buy-ins with their own money, they sell pieces of their buy-ins, usually to other players. This is known as “selling action”. I sold a significant percentage of my action so that I could play $50,000 worth of tournaments this summer, primarily with other people’s money. I didn’t sell it all, and I came out with a nice payday for myself, but I definitely do not get to keep half a million dollars. A big chunk of that money goes to my investors, who made out very well, and I have to pay taxes on the rest.
What It Means to Me
This win means a lot to me. The money is not life changing, but it means that I have a comfortable bankroll and get to go on a nice vacation to New Zealand soon. The prestige and recognition in the poker world are wonderful too, though I can’t pay the bills with those things. Making a bunch of investors happy is great since they are also my friends and family and they made a lot of money investing in me this summer.
The biggest change for me is job security. After this win I can sell action to play in any tournament I want, any time I want. I will always have my own money to play smaller games that pay the bills on a monthly basis, but now I can play the big stuff whenever I want. That makes my life a lot less stressful going forward.
This win is also an affirmation. I knew I was a good player. I have lived on my winnings for twelve years, far too long to just be lucky. Now I have a bracelet to prove it, and very few people would doubt that I play very well. All the time spent studying and working on my game feels like it paid off in spades with this win.
Did I Get Lucky?
Absolutely. But I also put myself in a position to get lucky. Picture a wide receiver who catches a pass in the end zone at the Super Bowl while he is laying on the ground. The ball is deflected by a defensive back and lands in his hands. He gets very lucky and catches the game winning pass! He certainly got lucky, but luck favors the prepared.
If you were on the team, lined up against an NFL defensive back, could you have made the catch? Could you have run to the end zone that fast? Would you still have your wits about you after being leveled by the safety in the end zone? Could you put in the work to be in such great shape that the team would even let you walk on to their spring practice, let alone make the team and start in the super bowl? There might only be 200 people in the world who would even have a chance to do what he did. Only 200 people who could put themselves in a position to “get lucky”.
There are probably a similar number of people who could win the event that I won. Just a few hundred people who are good enough to stand a chance to win. I was one of those people and then I caught some cards and played well and “got lucky”. I couldn’t do that wide receiver’s job, and I assure you that he couldn’t do mine. There is not enough luck in the world for either of us to reach the top of the other’s chosen profession.
So yes, I got some cards. You have to catch better than average cards to win this event. The best player in the world, whoever that might be, would not win this event more than 1 in 50 attempts. But you have to be very good to get there, because an average player would not win it in 10,000 attempts.
Where Does the HORSE come in?
HORSE is a mixture of five different games. This tournament was played with a rotation where we played eight hands and then switched to the next game. One of the reasons this event is so prestigious is that the players have to play well in all five games. It’s like a Decathlon for poker players. The HORSE stands for Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight or Better. Over 30+ hours of poker, we played over 200 hands of each of the five games.
Did You Play with Anyone Famous?
Yes. In the past I have played with almost everyone you have seen on television, but this event in particular is always filled with super stars. I played with Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Nick Schulman, Vanessa Selbst, John Cernuto, Jen Harman, Mike Matusow, Elky, Jeff Lisandro, Max Pescatori, and Justin Bonomo. Other big names that played the event include Phil Hellmuth, Erick Lindgren, Michael Mizrachi, Huck Seed, David Benyamine, Josh Arieh, Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Negreanu, Brian Hastings, Barry Greenstein, Mike Sexton, Jonathon Duhamel and Phil Laak. Before the start of the event, I could have told you at least a few sentences about almost every player in the field. There were not a lot of soft spots.
Why a Bracelet?
I know, it seems like a weird trophy, but that has been the tradition since 1970. It has become the most coveted prize in poker, but it still seems odd to me. It does take up less space on the flight home than a trophy though! The bracelet is solid gold, so I’ll probably just keep it in my safe deposit box and break it out for special occasions.
Here is an interview I did right after the victory. It was at the end of more than twelve hours of the toughest poker of my life, and then the biggest win of my life, so I actually barely remember doing the interview, but it does capture the moment in a unique way.
I hope this explanation helps. A poker tournament works like any other tournament. Just like a chess tournament, everyone buys in for the same amount, and that money is put into the prize pool and distributed to the winners according to a payout structure. I won one of the most prestigious events in poker and I’m very happy right now, but I’m still playing and there is more work to be done this summer at the World Series of Poker. I look forward to seeing you all when I get home or the next time we are both in the same place.
I just don’t have enough free time to write blog posts on all of the topics that I have jotted down for blog posts over the last few weeks, so I’m going to dump them all here in a string of random thoughts. It’s my blog, and I’ll be random if I want to. I’ll even end sentences with prepositions. If I want to. And I do.
I’ve never been so annoyed to bust a tournament as I was when I busted the $1,500 Stud/8 event last week. I was incensed. With 16 players left I could see my second bracelet from there. Two bracelets in a week. I wanted it so bad. A nice run and another $6,000, but no bracelet. Apparently I have set the bar pretty high for myself now.
I highly recommend that everyone get their money off online poker sites that are not legal in the US. It looks like most of them are in financial trouble, and Merge, Lock, Cake, and others are all looking really bad right now. If legal online poker comes back to the US, the DoJ will definitely shut them all down and if that happens you may be screwed out of your money. I told people to get their money off of Ultimate Bet years ago and I’m telling you now to get it off online poker sites unless it’s money you really don’t care about.
If you are in Vegas, check out CheckItDown.com, a great little site for scheduling things during the WSoP that I started with my pal Brian Turner. The site has really taken off and we aren’t sure quite what to do with it once the series is over.
PNL Poker is hosting a WSoP Main Event Qualifier at Canterbury Park on Sunday June 22nd. I won my main event seat at one of their qualifiers at Running Aces and the way they set these tings up is interesting. The winner gets approximately 80% of themselves, while all of the other entrants get .5% of them. I know I will have 36 people rooting hard for me in the main event, and if I win it I get to give $50,000 to 36 of my friends! Check with @roosterpoker on twitter for complete details.
I haven’t written a blog since winning my bracelet because I really didn’t know where to start. The obvious place is to thank everyone who helped me get to where I am, though I’m sure I will miss a few people since there are so many names on the list. I’ll go over the whole experience at a later date, and I’ll be answering lots of questions in an Ask Me Anything post on reddit.com on Saturday at 3 pm if you are curious.
I would like to thank the following people for loving me, believing in me, supporting me, backing me, being there for me, and helping me to get to this wonderful place where I could achieve my goal of becoming a world champion.
My wife Lisa Jaster is the greatest, most supportive, poker widow imaginable. She has supported my poker career since the day we met, never flagging in her belief in me. At times when I doubted myself, she stood fast and assured me that the money was coming. I know many players who have significant others who don’t like what they do, and I can’t imagine how much harder it must be to try to make it in such a tough environment when the person who is supposed to be there for you is against you. I couldn’t have done it without her telling me, sometimes daily, “You are the greatest poker player in the world”.
My close friend, coauthor, writing coach, and business partner, Adam Stemple was a huge help. Without him I would never have started playing poker for a living. Adam is a brilliant Stud/8 player, and things I learned from him literally helped me win this event. I definitely would never have finished No Limits without him joining me on the project.
My parents, Kathie and Randy Scott have never flagged in their support. Many people would be afraid to tell their parents they were going to start playing poker for a living, but I knew I had nothing to worry about. My father is an engineer and my mother was a teacher, so I had a good foundation in math and logic from a young age, and they both handled my rebellious side remarkably well.
I am deeply indebted to a number of friends in the poker world. I will certainly miss some names, probably quite a few, but some of the important ones include Kou Vang, John Hayes, Matt Kirby, Blake Bohn, Josh Sexton, Tom Hammers, Dr. Al Schoonmaker, Grant Hansen, and a host of others who helped me become the player that I am. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with me.
A number of people have also been very supportive and believed in me over the years. You can’t win this kind of event unless you believe you can win it. It can be tough to solidify the belief that I could play with the best players in the world, but I had people telling me that it was true and those people made it so much easier. Cal Spears and Adam Small from Pocketfives.com, Betsy Stemple, and the whole Minnesota poker community, all deserve some credit for this win too. Thank you all for the good vibes!
My sponsors, who kept me going and believed in me, should probably be higher on this list. Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus, Minnesota made me a member of their pro team a year ago, and I am glad that I have made them proud. Blue Shark Optics also added me to their pro team this year, and wearing my Blue Sharks at the final table gave me a significant advantage over my opponents.
I would also like to thank Bluff magazine for giving me a chance to publish my thoughts every month, and the Poker Player’s Alliance for supporting our right to play online poker.
I should probably thank the people who invested in me for the summer, but their thanks will be coming soon enough when they get their big piles of cash. I’m going to try and win another bracelet this summer, and I hope a few of my friends get them as well. Let’s bring some more bling home to Minnesota!
I just had to put that in the headline, because it’s the highlight of the trip so far. Doyle Brunson was on my right for day two of the $10,000 buy-in Razz event today, and we chatted a little. When I ordered a Bailey’s and coffee, my signature drink, he said it sounded good and ordered one too. I took care of the tip for both drinks because it’s as close I’ll get to buying him a drink. We discussed the joys of Bailey’s and coffee, our shared love for Flathead Lake in Montana, and he told a few stories from the good old days.
My starting table was tough, with Eli Elezra, Doyle, Allen Kessler, Frankie Odell, and no fish at all. When that table broke, my new table was no better, with Daniel Negreanu and Chris Klodnicki among others. I played a big pot where we piled in chips when I was a huge favorite over Negreanu, but the 60k pot went to him when he caught a 6 on the river. He got my last 1,300 on the next hand and I was out.
The trip so far by the numbers –
Bracelet events entered: 3
Bracelet event cashes: 0
Smaller tournaments entered: 2
Final Tables: 1
SNGs played: 7
SNGs won or chopped: 4
Cash results: +$1,400
Opponents ranked top 10 on GPI: 4
Bailey’s and coffees consumed: 14
Different games played: 13
Favorite game: Super Razzdugi
Second favorite game: Everything else sucks. I just want to play Super Razzdugi all the time. Seriously. It’s great.
I was only going to do a few weeks this year. I told my wife I wouldn’t be gone so long. I told myself that I would spend more time in Minnesota while the weather is good and less time in Vegas when it’s 115 degrees outside. I was looking forward to playing more frisbee with my dogs and hanging out on my back porch reading a book. I was even going to set up the hammock next week. Then poker happened.
First the WSoP brought back all the $10k alternate game events, and I don’t want to miss too many of those, so I figured out a way to hit most of them at the beginning of the series in a three week stretch where I could do $50k in buy-ins in alternate games. I booked a flight, got a great set up at The Rio from a friend, and I was ready to go. Three weeks was more than I originally intended, but it was still a lot less time than I have spent at the WSoP for the last five years or so.
Then Rooster texted me at 4:45 on Wednesday afternoon to tell me that there was a WSoP Main Event qualifier at 5 o’clock at Running Aces. I like to support local businesses, and Rooster is a good guy, so I headed out around 5:30 and got there at 6. The good news was that the structure was the Sunday Optimum structure, which gave us a ton of time to play. The bad news was that almost everyone in the event was from Rooster’s Poker Networking League and it was a very tough field.
The news got worse when Josh Sexton was seated to my left. Just what I needed, a very strong and aggressive player who can three bet me all day on my immediate left. From two tables all the way down to three handed, Josh was on my left. In the end the news was good. After over 11 hours of play I won the seat and I am now in the main event at the WSoP this year.
Everyone who played the tournament has 0.5% of me in the main event as well, so I’ll have 35 people rooting for me pretty hard. How much fun would it be to win the ten million and be able to go around giving $50,000 to each of 35 people? That would be the best party ever! I like the idea of a satellite that only pays one winner but everybody gets a piece of them. Now everyone has a sweat and when people busted the event they weren’t so sad because they know they still have a shot at real money if the winner makes a deep run in the main event.I hope Rooster runs more of these next year.
I was going to play a similar event at Canterbury Park on June 22nd, but now my plans have fallen apart completely. After I won the seat, my wife said “Well, you might as well stay the whole time.” and my pal with the hook up at The Rio told me I could have the room at the same rate the whole time. And before I realized it I was changing my flight and arranging to be in Vegas for six weeks again this year.
Things I will be tired of hearing by the end of my six weeks in Vegas
1. “If I win that hand…”
Sure idiot, that one hand was the one. Four hours into an event, with 8k in chips, you get it all-in as a 60/40 favorite, and you think that if you win that hand you are on your way to fame and fortune.
2. “The idiot calls me with…”
You came to the WSoP dummy. There are idiots everywhere, calling with any random trash. You’re probably one of them and someone is probably telling a story about you right now. If you can’t beat bad players, you can’t beat anybody. Quit crying and get back in there and play poker.
3. “Hey handsome…”
Leave me alone honey, I’m working. I know you’re working too, but you’re the 9th girl to ask me if I need a date tonight and the answer is still no.
4. “I’m running so bad.”
You might actually be running bad. You might also suck at poker. You know who cares? No one. Shut up and get back in there and “run bad” some more. I hope you run bad against me, but right now I’m the one who is running bad because I am hearing you whine.
5. “Bro, I was so hammered last night.”
It’s Vegas “Bro”, everyone you know was probably hammered last night. If you didn’t steal a tiger, no one is impressed. Congratulations on drinking a stupid plastic guitar full of cheap rail liquor and kool aid.
By the way, I’m still selling action, and now I am selling action in my main event as well. Check it out on my investing page. I have about $5,000 left in the $50k alternate games package, and about $2,000 left in the main event.
I was a bad son today. I made the final day of the Mayhem in May tournament at Running Aces, which was on Mother’s Day, and I wasn’t able to talk to my mom. I tried to call once, but that really isn’t the effort my mom deserves. Especially after she was the one who gave me what it takes to play poker for a living. So here’s to you mom, to what you gave me, what you helped me to become, and everything you did for me.
My mom was tough. She raised me for a few years as a single mom with no college education and no real job skills. She got a job, got us a little apartment, and we got by. She made some tough choices, but she managed to buy me healthy food, just enough milk, and she waited for a great guy to be my next dad. Eventually she got it turned around and even when times were tough, I didn’t really know it. I knew we didn’t have money sometimes, but I never realized that should be a problem. We had each other and we managed to get what we needed.
She couldn’t afford to buy me lots of books, but she could find time to take me to the library. She couldn’t afford expensive meals, but she found ways to make cheap meals healthy and made sure I took my vitamins. She couldn’t always afford everything for herself, but I never missed out on things I really needed. She sacrificed a lot sometimes in the lean years, but she hid it from me and she never held it against me.
I was a precocious kid in high school. More than that, I was impossible. I was angry, withdrawn, rebellious, and a downright jackass sometimes. She got mad, how could she not, but she always told me she loved me. She tolerated my bullshit a lot better than I would tolerate it from some punk kid now, that’s for sure.
In my twenties I lived. A lot. I wasn’t always making wise decisions, but I sure ended up with some stories to tell. She always told me to be careful, and I knew she would be there for me. It’s easier to go out on a limb if you have a safety net, and in her I knew I had it if I ever really needed it. She never judged me by my occasional bad decisions, she just loved me unconditionally, because that’s what a mom does.
When I suffered through a painful divorce, she told me to come home for a few weeks, and I did. It was her shoulder that I cried on during the toughest time of my life. As it should be. Thank God for her. When I left again, I was healing and more importantly I believed that things would get better. My divorce was nothing compared to what she went through in hers, and I can’t imagine how she weathered it without letting me see how bad things were. She’s so much stronger than I am.
Through it all, she helped me become a man. A strong man who could stand on his own, think for himself, and do the right thing when it needed doing. She taught me those things and she surrounded me with people who taught me other things that helped me get by and lead a happy life. She taught that I didn’t need to be perfect, but I did need to be good. And I tried to be like her, not perfect, but very good. I’ll never be the amazing, patient, dedicated human being that she is, but because of her I will be the best person that I can be.
I can’t thank you enough mom, and I’ll call more than once tomorrow. I’ll try throughout the day until I can hear your voice and let you know that I love you. Thank you so much for everything.
We really need to get online poker back in the US and get it regulated. I’m tired of the mess that online poker has become and I’m very frustrated with the politics involved. I wrote a full length article in Bluff magazine six months ago where I spoke my mind about Sheldon Adelson and his campaign to outlaw online poker in the United States, but here on my blog I don’t have to be so diplomatic.
Sheldon Adelson is the CEO of the Sands Corp, which owns The Venetian and The Palazzo. They have also owned online gaming licenses in the past, as well as hosting an NAPT event sponsored by PokerStars. Now Sheldon Adelson claims that online poker is immoral and dangerous and he gives us the usual argument…
“Think of the children.”
Think of the children? Seriously? That’s why you want to take away my freedom to do what I want in my own home? Because you are worried that kids will get a hold of their parents credit card, and instead of buying porn or a new pair of Jordans, they will play online poker? And somehow this will ruin their lives? Because they played poker?
This is America. We don’t give up our freedom in exchange for safety. Well…
Actually we do… But we say that we don’t.
Sheldon Adelson is an immoral, unamerican, scumbag. He has openly claimed that he will spend money to influence elections as long as he is allowed to do so. He has also declared that he will spend whatever it takes to stop online poker. A guy who previously owned an online poker license in Europe, who has made his fortune from casinos, wants to protect me from myself.
The bill that Adelson’s group has proposed would be a complete federal ban on online poker, which would actually force states like New Jersey and Nevada to shut down their online poker programs, put people out of work, and flex the muscle of the federal government to take away the rights of the states.
This jackass is a conservative? A republican? Apparently he’s a hypocrite and not much else. This man, who will spend millions of dollars to get what he wants and subvert democracy, is a perfect example of what is wrong with this country. Though the majority of Americans support online poker, one billionaire can make their votes irrelevant.
How do you hurt a capitalist? You don’t give him your money. That is why I will not walk into the Venetian one time this summer. I won’t eat there, I won’t drink there, and I sure as hell won’t gamble there. I joined the Venetian boycott as soon as I found out about it last year, and this year the movement is growing.
Don’t go to the Venetian, don’t support anything they do. There are tournaments all over Vegas and you don’t need to support someone who is trying to take away your rights. Don’t give your money to someone who doesn’t like poker and wants to take away your state’s right to license online poker sites. Don’t support filthy hypocritical scum like this just because they are holding a tournament and you don’t feel like walking down the street to the next tournament.
Capitalism works when consumers are smart. Stop patronizing an establishment where your money is going to fund sleazy politicians who will vote to take your rights away. Just don’t go. Boycott the Venetian!
While the twitter world heard about it a few days ago, I haven’t written about it here on my blog yet. I am pleased to be joining the team at Blue Shark Optics. I have been a fan for years, stopping by the booth and picking up a new pair at the WSoP every year, and every year they get better. This year’s crop feels perfect and I am a huge fan of the new Horn Sharks that I received a few months ago.
To be a member of a team that includes Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, Jonathan Little, Hoyt Corkins, and my pal Chad Holloway, is a fantastic opportunity. If you see me in a card room, I will almost always have at least one pair of Blue Sharks with me for you to check out. If I am in Minnesota, I will usually have two pair in my truck. I chose the two pairs of Blue Sharks to have as demo models because I think they represent the two extremes.
The Hoyt Corkins Signature Model is a very modern style, with a lightweight half-frame and a medium sized lens. I don’t usually wear glasses, so I look for shades that I won’t notice once I am wearing them, and the Hoyts do a great job of that. If you usually wear a baseball hat, and you want ultra light frames, these are probably your best option.
The Horn Shark is my current favorite. I would have been happy with the Hoyts, and was happy with them for almost a year, but as soon as I got the Horn Sharks the Hoyts were relegated to back up status. The Horn Sharks are almost as light, with a much bigger frame because they are all plastic. They wrap around and have large lenses that don’t let any light in from the outside that might cause glare and they are ultra comfortable. I can wear them all day without my eyes bothering me at all. The big, full coverage, design also keeps my eyes from drying out, which can happen during a long tournament day in the desert air in Vegas.
The Horn Sharks also come in bifocals by the way, you can order them at 1.5x or 2x reader power for when you are looking at your cards and they will still be normal when you are looking across the table. My vision is pretty good for now, but I’m not getting any younger and I can see how bifocals would come in handy.
I’ve created a new category on the blog called “Blue Shark – Tells” which I’ll be using to post some new stuff related to live tells. I’ve done a lot of work with live tells in the past in seminars and really enjoy talking about the subject. Human behavior and body language are fascinating to me. I am always reading about the those two subjects, and this deal with Blue Shark will be a great excuse for me to spend even more time learning about them and writing about what I learn. I’m hoping to make a new instructional post on reading your opponents once a month, and you should feel free to remind me if you don’t see a new one for awhile.
A heartfelt thank you to Kerry and the rest of the BSO Team. I look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.
If you are on twitter, and you follow poker players, then I’m sure you have seen #chipporn. Players tweeting pictures of mountains of chips seems to be a trend these days, though I must admit that I don’t understand the whole thing. Guess who doesn’t give a shit about you posting a picture of $600 in red chips at a casino in Kansas City? His name begins with F and ends with ox, and he has probably already unfollowed you on twitter.
With the growth in popularity of #chipporn, I thought maybe some poker themed erotica would be a good way to get some more traffic for this little blog. Sex sells right? If you aren’t in a place where it’s safe to think dirty thoughts about dirty, filthy, poker chips and dragging in huge pots from donkeys that you dominated with your big hands, you may want to close this blog post for now and come back later. You don’t want to have to carry a chip rack in front of your crotch while you walk to the cashier like a middle school kid with a math textbook.
You may notice that this column features a character named Banks, whom I have written about in the past. You can read the first fiction piece I wrote featuring Banks and how he got his name HERE.
Love in the Muck
Banks felt great as he sat down in the three hole, his favorite seat, and ordered an angry coffee. Banks liked his coffee like he liked his women, hot and sweet, with just enough liquor to make it interesting. His favorite dealer was standing behind the current dealer, waiting to get into the box and Banks smiled. This was going to be a good day.
The dealer’s name was Terri, and while her name tag just had an i at the end of her name, she put a heart over the i when she wrote her phone number on Banks’ business card and gave it back to him with a smile. “Call Me” was written underneath. She saw him as she settled in to the box and smiled.
“Hey babe.” she said.
“Hey doll face,” he replied, “how ya been?”
“Not bad.” she said, “lonely though.”
“I can help you with that.” came a voice from the other end of the table, “Any time.” It was Denny, who hit on every woman he met and never got anywhere. He was reviled by most of the female dealers who felt slimy after talking to him. Terri felt like she needed a Silkwood shower after dealing to Kenny, though he was physically harmless and not really a bad guy.
“I wasn’t talking to you Kenny,” she shot over to him, “my pal Banks here owes me dinner.”
“My girlfriend gets a little grumpy about me taking beautiful women out to dinner.” Banks said.
“That little redhead I saw you with?” Terri asked, “She’s cute, bring her along.”
Banks smiled at the thought of it. Sam would NOT be into that scene, but it would be funny to see her face if he brought it up.
“Your big blind sugar.” Terri said, tapping the table in front of him and bringing him back to the reality of the table. His vision of Sam’s face, half laughing and half shocked, had stolen his focus for a moment. He tossed a red chip onto the felt where it dropped softly with a barely audible thud. He looked around the table as Terri dealt, assessing the stacks and the appearances of the players around him.
Fish. Every one of them. It might be the softest $2/5 table he had ever seen.
The cards slid across the table silently into his hand and he watched as the fish each checked their hands. A limp under the gun from a player who was too new to the game to be limping a big hand intending to reraise if someone raised. Then another limp, and another. Six players limped, the small blind called, and Banks looked down at his hand. The Ace-Queen of diamonds. The queen just shone, like the ace was her date, like she was the star and the ace was just a good kicker. He raised to $50, hoping to take the pot down now or at least narrow the field enough that he could win the pot with top pair or win with a bet on the flop. Three players called.
Now the pot was over $200, and he only had $450 in front of him, so he could go all-in on the turn even if no one raised him. He loved going all-in. Shoving his whole stack in the middle was such a thrill. And if someone called and he was all-in with another player it was that much more thrilling. And if he went all-in it meant that Terri could get her hands on his stack. Terri had big hands. Big soft hands.
It was surprising how big they were now that Banks thought about it. Bigger than almost any woman he had ever seen. Her fingers were long, longer than his, which made him feel a little less like a man. But only a little. His hands were more than big enough to get the job down and he was good with them. Size wasn’t that important as long as he could shuffle chips. At least that was what he told himself.
Terri’s big hands snapped off three cards, turned them over, and slowly revealed the flop. The jack of diamonds was the window card, followed by the ten of diamonds, and then the four of spades. A beautiful flop. Draws everywhere and a couple big cards to give the donkeys a chance to make top pair. Thanks to Terri his hand was now very big.
He reached down to his stack, peeled off $100 in red chips off the tip, I mean top, and pushed it in. To the pot. He pushed it in to the pot. Slowly. The first player called, and then the next, but the last player folded.
“Three way.” Terri said, grinning and looking right at Banks as she burned a card and snapped the turn down on the table like she was punishing it. She could be rough with the cards sometimes, but that didn’t bother Banks. Rough was not a problem.
He watched the eyes of the other players as Terri slowly revealed the turn card. His first opponent was a young tourist kid, probably 23 and spending daddy’s money. His eyes lit up as he saw what Terri revealed. He obviously liked what he saw and his eyes flashed down to his stack revealing his intention to put it in, at least some of it. In the pot of course. He wanted to put it in the pot. He wanted to put it in the pot real bad.
Banks glanced over to see what Terri had revealed. He liked what he saw. He liked it very much. The five of diamonds. Banks had the nuts. He checked, hoping to get his opponents to go all-in with him. Terri looked a little surprised. Banks was usually very aggressive, and seeing him play passive like this was a side of him she had never seen before. He was making himself look vulnerable and she liked that.
The second player was eager, pushing his stack all-in quickly. Hard to fault him for that, he was young and inexperienced. It wasn’t a big stack, but it was big enough to get the job done if he knew what to do with it. Most players didn’t know what to do with their stack anyway, but Terri knew that Banks did. He was a pro and he knew exactly what to do with his stack, which was usually very big after he played with it for awhile.
The last player thought for a moment and folded. He was too afraid of Banks going all-in behind him, which he didn’t think he could handle. One guy he could handle, but two guys would be tough, especially when one of them was Banks.
Banks didn’t want to tease the guy, or Terri, so he quickly pushed all-in. Terri’s mouth opened slightly and she sighed. Now she understood why he had appeared vulnerable. It was an act. He was actually very strong and he had a big hand. The kid chose to reveal his holding first, rolling over his cards to reveal a nine-high flush. Banks quickly showed him his nuts. The nuts. Banks showed him the nuts, not his nuts. Of course.
When the kid saw what banks held, he knew he was beat. Banks flush was much bigger than his. His hand looked puny compared to what Banks showed him. He felt small and he meekly conceded, tossing his hand in face down. Terri’s big right hand swept it into the muck and started gathering the chips together in a pile, pushing them all together and sweeping them slowly over toward Banks. She looked up at Banks and smiled.
“Nice hand honey.”
“Thanks.” he said, and threw her a red chip, earning a smile.
Terri started the next shuffle, watching Banks stack his chips out of the corner of her eye. He had a big stack now, the biggest at the table, and she was curious to see how big it would get if she gave him what he wanted. Cards of course. Good cards were what he wanted. Big cards. Big cards that he could go all-in with and dominate the table. Terri sighed. She hoped Banks would use that phone number eventually.
Well that was ridiculous. I made myself laugh, which was all I expected, but the story got absolutely ridiculous. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed it really hard. Hard and fast. Because that’s how I wrote it.
Chip counts and seating assignments for day two of the $750 Pocket Fives Main Event
We are more than halfway through the Pocket Fives Poker Tour series at Running Aces, and while it is only a beta test to work the kinks out and figure out where we should be headed with this thing, I have already learned a lot and things are looking good for the future. Today’s six-max $50 rebuy event was a big hit with 80 players and a first place prize of over $2,000 and I think tonight’s Turbo Double Stack event will have a nice field as well.
I busted the rebuy event and I have some time to kill before the next event, so I wanted to thank some people and organizations that have been a big help in making this thing happen. In no particular order –
Running Aces was very gracious to allow us to run our beta test in their room and using their staff. This would have been a hassle at any other poker room, but my connection to the room, an excellent tournament staff, and a lot of flexibility in letting us run whatever we wanted to try, have made it a great experience. Extra thanks to Tournament Director Tristan Wilberg who was a big help in the planning and execution of this event and is one of the most knowledgeable TDs in the country, as well as Ryan Campione who worked his ass off running the rebuy event for us today.
Blue Shark Optics sent us four pairs of shades to give away during our celebrity event, almost $600 worth of glasses just to help us out with our bounty packages. I approached Blue Shark because I have been wearing them for years and I truly believe that they are the only option for poker optics, and I’m honored to be working with them on the tour. If you see me at the tables this week, I will have my new Horn Sharks with my and you should really try them on. You can buy Blue Sharks HERE, and they come with my personal recommendation.
Blind Squirrel Apparel created our tour logo and sent me a big box of shirts with our tour logo, a blind squirrel embroidered on the sleeve, and the BSA logo on back. The tour shirts look great and they are soft and comfortable. Much like Blue Sharks, I chose Blind Squirrel because I actually like their stuff. They make great hoodies in lots of different styles and all kinds of gear that is perfect for the poker table. Check them out HERE and get yourself some threads.
The LIPS Ladies Poker Tour and the Senior Poker Tour both helped us to run some fun events on Sunday, including helping us sponsor a lady into the event (more on that later). Check them out at venues all over the country where we expect both tours to continue to grow quickly. We look forward to working with them in future tournament series.
Our local pros were a big help promoting the events. Kou Vang, Danielle Anderson, Molly Mossey, and John Hayes helped us get the word out, looked good with our gear on, and were fun to work with. Thanks pros!
The most important people are the players who showed up and continue to show up night after night. There are too many of you to thank, but we appreciate the suggestions on how we can improve future events, the praise for this event, and your participation and help with testing out this format.
I look forward to another nice field in tomorrow’s $100 rebuy event and the nightly Deep Stack Turbo which seems to be a very popular format with the players. Thanks again, all of you!
See the remaining schedule HERE
It’s a complicated business trying to help someone who lives in a country where you don’t speak the language and don’t have an advocate on the ground who speaks fluent English, but we’re headed in the right direction. These school supplies are just the start of what we are going to do to help this kid, with tutoring, a desk, and possibly a computer coming soon. A million thanks to those of you who donated!
The bounty event was a ton of fun! Here’s a pic of all the items that were part of the bounty packages –
The Pocket Fives Celebrity Bounty Tournament is tomorrow at 4 pm, and I’m really excited to be part of it. There will be a bounty package for each player who knocks out one of our local pros. Our local pros will be John ‘JohnnyGStacks’ Hayes, Running Aces pro Kou Vang, Danielle Anderson – the star of Bet Raise Fold, and me. Each bounty package will include –
- A pair of Blue Shark Optics valued at approximately $130 depending on the model
- A signed copy of Bet Raise Fold, the documentary about online poker and Black Friday
- A signed copy of my book No Limits
- A Pocket Fives T Shirt
- A Running Aces T Shirt
Other gear that will be in some packages include Bet Raise Fold gear, a hoodie and baseball hat from the Straight Flush Poker Tour and other prizes. This tournament is going to be a ton of fun!
We will also be running SNG qualifiers before the event, so show up early and win a seat into the Celebrity event or even the main event next weekend.
The Pocket Fives Poker Tour series starts tomorrow, and I’m wired just thinking about it. As many of you know, I am part of the tour as it’s ambassador, which is why we chose to launch here in Minnesota. We are very grateful to Running Aces for being our beta test for the tour and helping us work the kinks out of the system. Once this event is over we can make good decisions about where to go with the tour, which venues make sense for us, and how we should proceed with the tour. But first, we have to blow this thing up!
It would be a personal favor to me if you can make it to some events. Even if you just come by to say hi, I would love to see everyone I know at Running Aces in the next two weeks. This is also the first national tour to come to Minnesota, and regardless of my affiliation with the tour I can not guarantee that I can convince Aces and Pocket Fives to do this again in my home state if we don’t draw well. If you don’t play these events, I will not listen to you complain that major tours don’t come to Minnesota because this is your chance to support a major tour that is launching here and insure that it keeps coming back as well as showing other major national tours that Minnesota is worth a visit.
We put together a great schedule, and Running Aces was very willing to work with us on giving players what they want. The rake is low, the structures are amazing, and along with the first heads up event in Minnesota history, we are offering rebuy events, 6max and PLO events, a LIPS tour event, a Senior Poker Tour event, and multiple tournaments every day for the next thirteen days.
I can answer questions about events on my twitter @foxpokerfox, the tour twitter account is @p5spt, and @runaces will know details on specific events. The full schedule is HERE.
I’m personally looking forward to the big deep stack event tomorrow, the PPA sponsored event on Tuesday, and the big celebrity bounty tournament on Saturday, though I will be at Running Aces every day during the series.
We now have five pairs of Blue Shark Optics to give away, swag from Pocket Fives, the tour, the Straight Flush Poker Tour, the Bet Raise Fold documentary, and a host of other fun giveaways. Play early and often for the best chance to win!
What an incredible two weeks of poker we have coming up. First the State Championship at Canterbury Park this weekend, which I will be playing tomorrow, and then the Pocket Fives Poker Tour Event starts on April 1st with the Heads Up event and a $350 Deep Stack event with 30,000 starting chips with 30 minute blind levels.
So rather than staying home and washing your ferret, why don’t you get out of the house and play some poker? The P5s event might be the biggest thing that has ever happened to Minnesota poker, and the more support we can give it, the more chance there is that the tour will come back here and that other national tours will take notice. Rain or snow, hell or high water, I’ll be there every day feeding the fish and buying drinks for the sharks.
In addition to all of the sponsors we are working with, and the LIPS Ladies Poker Tour and Senior Poker Tour, we are now working with the Poker Player’s Alliance to help raise awareness and raise some funds too! We are excited to be helping out our industry lobbying group as much as we can, and we hope to have an official PPA fundraiser at all of our future events.
Thursday April 3rd will be PPA Day, and we will be donating $3 per player in all three events that day as well as handing out PPA gear including shirts, hats, and patches. There may be a few things from our other sponsors that day too, including t shirt giveaways and free samples from Liquid Nitro. Please let all of your friends know about this event and get them all to come out to Running Aces sometime during the day of April 3rd to show their support, sign up for the PPA, and play a tournament to help support the cause!
If you aren’t already a member of the PPA, check them out at theppa.org, follow them on twitter @ppapoker, and follow the Minnesota State director Mike Qualley @mqusicMQ. Join up and help support our right to play poker online, in card rooms, and in our own homes.
Speaking of our right to play poker, I will be debating Annette Meeks from the hypocritically named Freedom Foundation, on WCCO at 8 pm on Wednesday March 26th. Since her “Freedom” Foundation is somehow against our freedom to play online poker, I suspect it will be an easy victory. Most conservative groups that espouse freedom and the constitution, but really just want you to have the freedom to do the things they approve of, are uneducated and an easy target. The problem is that their supporters aren’t good with logic anyway, so giving her a sound butt kicking in this debate is really just for my own entertainment. These people rarely let facts get in the way of their belief system.
As a professional player, I am always looking for value in tournaments. I want the best structure, the lowest juice, and the highest guarantees. I want the house to bring in hundreds of fish for me slaughter, I want a comfortable chair, and a free food comp doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. I wouldn’t mind professionally trained dealers, knowledgeable floor people, and I want to play some alternate games and short handed events too. And what about a heads up event? Is that too much to ask?
Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes, it is too much to ask.
There are a lot of reasons why you can’t have everything you want. The better the structure is, the more hours of labor the house has to pay. Dealers don’t make so much from the house, that can’t be to expensive can it? While the dealer hours do add up, they aren’t a huge expense. The floor people, tournament director, food and beverage runner, and surveillance personnel all have to be paid for those hours as well, which starts to add up to real money. And those food and beverage runners are bringing some free beverages, and when you are done with that beverage, someone has to be paid to wash the glass.
Chips, cards, tables, new felts every few months, and utility bills are all part of the program too. Someone has to be paid to design the tournament flyer, and someone else has to be paid to put that flyer on the website. The expenses go on and on. The truth is that you may feel like you are being charged too much, but the house may not be making money at all. Poker tournaments, even when they are profitable for the house, are the least profitable operation on the casino floor. The house counts on extra income from the cash games and the table games in the pit to make it worthwhile to run a poker tournament, and without that extra income most rooms would never run tournaments for us at all.
The biggest problem, and one that I have written about before, is that poker tournaments have to take place in the most expensive spaces in the world. Renting an apartment in Manhattan or Paris would be cheaper than renting casino floor space in most cases. As long as poker tournaments take place in casinos, the expenses will be high and poker will be treated like a second class citizen compared to table games, slot machines, and even cash game tables. One of the reasons we have great poker rooms in Minnesota is because the rooms don’t have slot machines and they treat poker as a serious part of their business instead of the afterthought that the game becomes in many full fledged casinos.
What do we do about this?
The only solution I see is to get poker tournament out of casinos, and that is not likely to happen any time soon. There is no reason to regulate poker tournaments in a different way when compared to say a chess tournament or a darts tournament, but most legislators and most members of the general public don’t understand this concept. They see poker as a gambling game and they create legislation that drastically over regulates it because of this perception.
In Minnesota, I think we could be very successful with a law that allowed the horse tracks to have slots and that allowed poker tournaments to be run anywhere that any other type of tournament can be run. This would allow Mystic Lake to run tournaments, and it would also allow me to rent a warehouse space in St Paul, get the proper licensing, and run my own tournaments. Anyone could get into the game. Cash games have been opened up this way in Michigan and there are now over 300 card rooms and the game is thriving.
Unfortunately this probably won’t happen. When Mystic Lake bought a piece of Canterbury Park, the agreement hinged on the fact that Canterbury would no longer lobby for slot machines with Running Aces. This leaves Running Aces lobbying by itself against Canterbury Park along with every native casino in the state, a fight it can’t possibly win.
All we can do is enjoy the two excellent card rooms that these laws have created, because they wont’ be changing any time soon. Luckily, Running Aces allowed us to use their excellent structure, a reasonable amount of juice, and a nice variety of tournaments, including a heads up event, in the upcoming Pocket Fives Poker Tour series. If the tour event goes well, we can continue to convince potential venues to give players more of what they want, but you can’t have everything you want. I wish you could, but you just can’t. It’s too much to ask.
Blind Squirrel Apparel has joined the Pocket Fives Poker Tour as our official clothing sponsor! They were our first choice, and we couldn’t be happier to have high quality gear from a company that makes clothing specifically for those of us who live a little closer to the edge. Blind Squirrel makes everything from hoodies to hats to fitted women’s clothing, with an emphasis on styles that fit into a unique lifestyle. From pool to poker to mixed martial arts and boxing, Blind Squirrel has it all covered.
We are pleased to have them on board and we look forward to handing out some Pocket Fives Poker Tour gear manufactured by Blind squirrel as well as some Blind squirrel apparel during our events. They make great stuff and we are looking forward to a great partnership. Follow @bsanuts on twitter for more info and deals on Blind Squirrel apparel.
Now that we have a schedule set for the Pocket Fives Poker Tour event in April at Running Aces, it’s time to talk about our local pros. We want to give local players ate very tour stop a chance to prove themselves as promoters, players, and ambassadors for the game, so we will be choosing a few players who don’t have significant sponsorship deals and making them Pocket Fives pros for the event. This gives them a chance to show us, and the world, what they can do on twitter, on facebook, on their blogs or other social media sites, and at local card rooms.
We will hold a celebrity bounty event on the first Saturday at every major series we host, and our Pocket Fives local pros will be bounties in this event. The bounty packages will include tour gear as well as Pocket Fives gear and items from our sponsors. This may include clothing from Blind Squirrel Apparel, glasses from Blue Shark Optics, gear and samples from Liquid Nitro, a signed copy of my book No Limits, and a host of other items from sponsors and the venue itself.
We have been very lucky to land a great group of pros for our upcoming event at Running Aces!
Danielle “dmoongirl” Anderson is a long time professional player and a high stakes cash game regular. She is on the Ultimate Poker pro team, is the star of the movie Bet Raise Fold, a documentary about the rise and fall of online poker, and maintains an excellent blog at dmoongirl.com. Follow Danielle on twitter @dmoongirl. Our favorite poker movie star will be playing our celebrity bounty event on April 5th as well as the LIPS Ladies Poker Tour event on April 6th.
Kou Vang has won more money at Running Aces (over $120,000) in the last year than any other tournament player. In addition to a spectacular online poker career, Kou has won a WSoP circuit ring, and an MSPT bracelet, and over half a million dollars in live tournament winnings. He is also a member of the Running Aces pro team and we are proud to have him helping us to promote this event. We look forward to seeing Kou in our celebrity bounty event.
John “JohnnyGStacks” Hayes might be Minnesota’s winningest poker player. With $250,000 in live poker winnings, and $2,140,000 in online winnings, John has had an amazing career. Online players everywhere know the name GStacks and live players have watched him win an MSPT bracelet and barely miss a WSoP bracelet in the last year in addition to a number of big final tables. John will be playing our celebrity bounty event as well as most of the rest of the series. Welcome to the team Johnny!
Molly Mossey has been a regular feature in the Minnesota poker scene for years now, working on her tournament game and playing events whenever she can find the time. With final table appearances at both MSPT and HPT events, the only woman to do so, she has made a name for herself beyond her sunny disposition in the last few years, gaining the respect of her peers and winning the Minnesota Poker Award for Best Female Player. Molly will be playing in the LIPS ladies event representing the tour and will have a bounty on her head during the event.
A Short Interview with Kou Vang
Congratulations on the deal, nobody deserves it more than you. Are you excited about the series?
Yes i am! I can’t wait. The holiday event was great and I’m looking forward to the whole series. The series schedule looks phenomenal. I have been a long time pocketfives member and I have to say I am proud to be associated with Pocket Fives and Running Aces
You were one of the first people I talked to about the potential of launching a tour and your interest in it really made me feel good about the idea. As a tournament grinder, what do think a Pocket Fives Tour has to offer to be a success?
When I think of the name Pocket Fives, I think of them providing players with stats, rankings, forums, strategy, training, a place that provides every poker player the chance to be successful. I know the poker tour will be the same, giving players opportunities, a great structure, affordable buy-ins and value. Once again, giving everyone a chance to be successful.
What events are you looking forward to? ($1k heads up, $300 Celebrity bounty, $750 main, all might be options.)
Wow, that’s like asking me which one of my kids i love most. Everyone loves heads up matches, they are always fun. The $1k HU should be a big draw, they are hard to come by. I love bounty tournaments, because of the added incentives of knocking someone out, and of course everyone dreams of winning a main event. I love all of them!
Congratulations again on a great year and we look forward to seeing you at some final tables during the Pocket Fives Poker Tour April 1st – 13th.
I’m in a big hurry to get to the HORSE event today at Running Aces, so this is a quick and dirty version. I’ll cover it better and include a downloadable version in the next day or two, but here is the Pocket Fives Poker Tour Schedule for April. There could be very minor changes to the chip counts, levels, or starting times, but this is the basic schedule and there will very few changes if there are any.
|Tue April 1st||Noon||$350 Super Stack Day 1||$300||30k||30|
|4p||Heads Up – 1A – 8 players||$1,100||25k||30|
|Wed April 2nd||Noon||$350 Super Stack Day 2||30|
|4p||Heads Up – 1B – 8 players||$1,100||25k||30|
|Thu April 3rd||Noon||N/L Hold’Em||$250||15k||30|
|4p||Heads Up – 1C – 8 players||$1,100||25k||30|
|Fri April 4th||Noon||N/L Hold’Em||$250||15k||30|
|4p||Heads Up – 1D – 8 players||$1,100||25k||30|
|Sat April 5th||Noon||Heads Up – Semi-Finals – 16 players||25k||30|
|3p||N/L Hold’Em – Celebrity Bounty||$300||20k||30|
|Sun April 6th||10 am||Senior Poker Tour 50+||$250||15k||30|
|3p||LIPS Ladies Event||$150||15k||25|
|2p||Heads Up – Final 4||50k||30|
|Mon April 7th||Noon||N/L Hold’Em||$150||15k||20|
|Tue April 8th||Noon||N/L Hold’Em – Rebuy – 6max||$50||5k||20|
|Wed April 9th||Noon||N/L Hold’Em – Rebuy||$100||5k||30|
|Thu April 10th||Noon||N/L Hold’Em||$300||20k||30|
|Fri April 11th||Noon||Qualifier||$100||10k||15|
|5p||Main Event 1A||$750||50k||40|
|Sat April 12th||2pm||Main Event 1B||$750||50k||40|
|Sun April 13th||2pm||Main Event Day 2||60|
If you’ve been reading for awhile, then you know how much I love numbered lists…
1. All the donations coming in for Alexander are great. We have raised over $300 and learned about what kinds of things we can do for him to get him up to speed with the other kids in his school. None of these people asked to have their name mentioned, but they all deserve it. Jason Senti, Mark Lazarchic, Wedding Day Sparklers, Foam Records, Poker Joker, Paul Skjerseth, Dan McCabe, John “GStacks”Hayes, and Caden Logan have all been very generous. If any of you ever need anything from me, just say the word.
Hit the button to join the list of donors and help a kid who really needs it.
2. The Spring Poker Classic has started and I’m already up for the series. I cashed in the $2k lammers cash satellite last night. I bought in twice, so I made $1,560 for the evening, a nice start to the series. These cash satellites are great and I would play today as well but I am going to the Timberwolves game with my wife. Thanks to my pal Kou Vang for the Wolves tickets and good luck to him in the High Roller event tonight. Starting tomorrow I will be playing everything.
3. The Pocket Fives Poker Tour is ready to announce our first pro. (Insert drum roll in your head here) And the winner is …. (more drumroll) … Kou Vang! Kou made over $120,000 in tournament winnings at Running Aces last year, and he’s a great guy to have representing the Pocket Fives Tour in Minnesota. We’re glad to have him on board, and we’re looking forward to putting a bounty on his head during our Celebrity Bounty event on April 5th. We will be announcing two more pros for the celebrity bounty event in the next week.
4. Molly Mossey has signed on as our local pro for the LIPS Ladies Poker Tour event that is part of the Pocket Fives series. The Ladies event will happen on Sunday April 6th and Molly will be playing and covered in Pocket Fives gear! We’re honored to have her on board and look forward to working with her more in the future.
5. The schedule for the Pocket Fives event will be out in the next few days. We have it ready to go, we are just waiting for the graphics team at Running Aces to put a shine on it so that we can all release it at once. Look for it this week!
6. The Horseshoe in Council Bluffs tweeted out part of my book cover today as a little pic attached to an announcement of one of their tournaments. I’m not real mad at them, but I do wish they would at least tweet the whole cover or a link to a place to buy the book. That graphic was definitely created by Adam Stemple (@hatfield13) and I’m sure he would appreciate it if they were to at least tweet the whole cover so we can get some book sales. It was a great cover design though, I can see why they would swipe it! I’ve found my articles in hundreds of places around the web, sometimes with people claiming they wrote them, and it’s just too much work to try to get them all pulled down, though I should probably send a form letter to all of those people one of these days.
I have another photo of Alexander for you. Do you have some more donations for me? So far I have only received one donation, which is pretty disappointing. This kid needs help folks, toss him $20. If everybody does that we’ll have cash for school supplies for him tonight.
Many of you know how much I love Costa Rica. I have spent a great deal of time “in country” and I love so many thing about it. The things I don’t love about it all have to do with how poor some of the people are. While it is not as bad as some places (I gave away everything I had with me when I went to Guatemala), there are a lot of good people who need help. While we can’t help them, a child named Alexander was recently brought to my attention, and this not only needs help, he deserves it.
Mt friend Caden Logan brought Alexander to my attention, and I think you should hear the story in her words. She is a special education teacher, which was very lucky for young Alexander as she was able to recognize both the fact that he is very bright, and the fact that he is probably dyslexic.
“Alexander’s parents came to Costa Rica from Nicaragua 6 months ago to find work. Alexander loves his father, but only gets to see him on weekends. His boss makes him stay at the work site Monday through Friday. It is clear that Alexander loves his dad, and wishes he could see him more often than on the weekends.
When I first met Alexander, I noticed right off what a bright, friendly boy he was. He came right up to me and started talking about his rock and seashell collection. My Spanish is not that good, so Angelina and her mom helped translate. Alexander’s mother doesn’t speak English. He is 7 years old, and gets himself up at 6 am just so he can hear the National Anthem played on the radio before he takes his shower and gets ready for school. I was amazed at how independent he is for a 7-year old. He is definitely more independent and mature than children of a similar age in the US.
Because Alexander has had no formal education before being placed into a first grade setting, he is struggling at school. Alexander is at a disadvantage compared to his peers because he did not get a kindergarten education. It is a godsend that Doris is there. She is like a grandmother, who invites Alexander to come down to her home in the evening to work on his homework. Part of that is because Griselda can’t understand the instructions because she only received a third grade education, part of it is Alexander has no place to study in the one-room home of the lot he calls home.
One of the things that impressed me the most was Alexander’s ability to persevere with difficult tasks. He was given an assignment to write his name in cursive–a very difficult thing for a first grader to do. We don’t teach cursive until 3rd grade in the US. That’s when I began helping him with his assignment. Not only couldn’t he write in cursive, he couldn’t even print his name! He didn’t even know his letters, the difference between capitals vs. lower case, and how to stay on the line. I had to hand make worksheets for him so he could practice his letters. We had to search the house to find paper for him to write on. The school he attends provides no supplies such as paper, pencils, crayons, workbooks etc… They just assume everyone has them. Again… no money, no supplies/materials. The reason I believe he may be dyslexic is that even after doing a worksheet where he copies, fills in the blanks, and then writes a letter/word independently, he still writes the letters backwards, from right to left, and in segments instead of whole letters. A child of 7 should be able to at least copy letters. Alexander could not–even with facilitated writing, with my hand over his, practicing the motion of printing the letters, over and over again, successfully print his name correctly after two hours of work! I’m talking 2 hours of non-stop trying!
I have never seen a student/child that young work so hard without a break, without complaint, because he wanted to learn. As a teacher, that gives me great hope! His tenacity and patience will go a long way in helping him catch up. And just think what would happen if Alexander actually had his own little school in a corner of his home? And if their home is too small to fit a desk, chair, lamp, and maybe a small bookshelf for materials, I know Doris would find room in her home. She loves him like a grandson!
The one other thing that I thought of was that Gruizelda must pay for Alexander’s lunch every day. There are no welfare programs in C.R. that provide free or reduced cost lunches. I don’t know all the details, but kids cannot bring food from home. I think he goes to some sort of religious school through some sort of sponsorship. That means Gruizelda must pay $20 a week for Alexander’s lunches. That is a lot of money! Maybe we could cover those costs for a short period of time just to give the family extra money to cover other expenses? And I haven’t checked out PACER yet about Learning Disabilities software programs in Spanish. I was thinking small re the amount of money that could be raised. If you could get the kind of money you raised as in prior fundraisers, maybe we could get Alexander a cheap PC? It’s just an idea. I will be forever grateful for any amount you raise. Thank you so much for helping with this. You are one amazing person!”
We have a few more pictures coming but I haven’t received them yet. I think we should raise some cash for this kid. Let’s get him a desk, all the school supplies he needs, and whatever else Caden thinks will be useful for him. If someone is trying hard, I love helping them, and it sounds like this kid is doing his best and working hard to try to catch up. The first $100 is from me, and I have contacts in Costa Rica that can get the supplies to Alexander and his mother once we purchase them. Once we raise some cash, Caden will help us figure out how it should be spent based on what he needs and how much cash we raise.
I will have a donation button set up in the next few hours (I’m learning about how it works right now) and you can also hand me cash at Running Aces and I’ll keep track of what I receive and update it here. I will post regular progress reports about the donations as well as what we are doing with the money. It will be a great blog post when I can put up some pictures of Alexander at his new desk with a lamp so that he can work after dark, some school supplies, and a smile on his face. The kid just wants to learn, let’s make it happen!
As a side note, I have been considering how we can do something to consistently raise money for charity. After the remarkable success in raising money for Grace and Licel’s families in the Philippines after the Typhoon, I wanted to do something on a regular basis. Any ideas you have about how to do something consistently are welcome and I will talk to Running Aces as well to see if we can run a monthly or weekly tournament where some of the money goes to charity. I look forward to hearing thoughts on how poker players can raise some cash on a regular basis to make the world a better place.
The button below should allow you to donate directly to my paypal account. I can access that cash immediately and we can get the ball rolling.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, will introduce an anti-online poker law very soon. Today I sent him an email. I thought I might share it with you. Caution, extreme sarcasm alert!
“I just wanted to thank the Senator for his strong stance against online poker. This is a freedom that Americans can not handle and I’m so happy that the Republican party is always at the forefront of keeping us safe from ourselves when dangerous options threaten our safety.
I know the party line is very against big government, but in this case an exception makes sense. This is a case where we really need the government in our homes and on our computers keeping us safe.
With the new NSA powers, which have been controversial lately, perhaps the government could watch all of our computers and when someone starts playing poker on the internet a swat team could be dispatched immediately to stop them before they make too many illegal straights and flushes.
Obviously playing poker in a brick and mortar card room is different, and should be decided state by state, but on this issue it’s much better to have the federal government involved to prevent states from allowing this abhorrent behavior.
In a related note, I spent way too much time on facebook this morning. Is there any way you could introduce a law to help me with that? It’s really hurting my productivity. Perhaps something built into my computer that only lets me argue with idiots on facebook for half an hour per day?
Thank you again for standing strong on this issue where so many politicians have been afraid to fight for what is right. It’s refreshing to see someone make a stand and not cower behind the ideas of freedom or personal responsibility that so many politicians claim to be enamored with these days.
Keep fighting the good fight and I look forward to reading the form letter you send out about online gambling issues.”
You can contact the Senator yourself by using the contact form here –
Tournament players in Minnesota used to just wait for the fall, but it’s tournament season in the spring this year! The next two months are filled with tournaments in Minnesota, which is great for me because I’ve spent way too much time on the road over the last few years and I’m happy to be able to stay at home and make money.
In two weeks the Spring Poker Classic start at Running Aces, and the schedule looks fantastic. All of the qualifiers pay out in lammers that can be used in any tournament, so it makes sense for me to play them, which means even more tournaments for me in this series. There are also two different points races, a $560 Deep Stack event with a $50k guarantee, a HORSE event, an Open Face Chinese event, a PLO Dealer’s Choice event (4 or 5 card) and a host of smaller events leading up to the $1,100 main event.
The Spring Classic is going to be great, and I’ve basically left the entire two weeks open so that I can get in as many events as possible. Part of being a pro is making sure that you can play when the best games are happening. Whether this means staying up late to play in a cash game that is too good to leave or working more on weekends than weekdays or working twelve hours a day for two weeks because a great tournament series is happening, you have to make hay when the sun shines.
A few weeks after the Spring Classic ends, the Pocket Fives Poker Tour event starts. I’m the nationwide ambassador for the tour, which is why we chose to launch here in Minnesota, and my goal is to make this the largest tournament series that has ever happened here. The marketing power of Pocket Fives combined with a number of great sponsors that we will be announcing this week, will make this a national event and we expect huge fields and big prize pools.
The schedule for the Pocket Fives event will be released this week, but I can tell you now that it includes an $1,100 buy-in Heads Up event, two events per day, and that it will run from April 1st to April 13th. We are also going to feature two rebuy events and a celebrity bounty event. Each player who knocks out a celebrity will receive a bounty package that will include some awesome gifts from our sponsors. I will be announcing the local pros who will be playing as celebrities in a series of interviews with them here on the site.
If you are a serious tournament player, you should really block off both of the upcoming series at Running Aces, put in some volume, and find out how good you really are!
Follow @runaces on twitter if you have questions about the Spring Classic and follow @p5spt for info about the Pocket Fives Poker Tour event.
I just got back from two strange weeks in Vegas. My Vegas trips are usually all work, sometimes long tournament days, other times playing cash games all night, but not this one. For part of this trip I was talking to venues about the newly launched Pocket Fives Poker Tour, and for a chunk of time in the middle I was a tourist. Yep, a tourist.
I have an old friend from Michigan who I try to take some sort of trip with every year. Sometimes it’s just meeting up in Chicago for a few days of drinking, sometimes it’s a road trip flipping a coin at every major intersection, and this time it was a week in Vegas. My pal, his name is Scott, had never been to Vegas, so I got to be the tour guide for the week.
The biggest thing I learned was that it sucks to be a tourist in Vegas unless you are hell bent on spending tons of cash. Just hanging out and people watching gets pretty expensive at nicer places, though there are always cheap drinks to be had if you find the right spots. We spent an entertaining evening at The Double Down, my favorite bar in Vegas, but you can’t do too many nights in a row at the Double Down before the hangovers start to add up. A trip out to Hoover Damn, walking around the strip, hanging out on Fremont street and watching the crazy people, all entertaining along with a trip to a Vegan doughnut place (Scott is a Vegan but don’t call him a hippy) and a few other destination activities rounded out the week.
The rest of my time was spent in poker rooms all over the city talking to poker managers and tournament directors about hosting an event for the Pocket Fives Poker Tour. I talked to nearly every major room in town and was surprised at how receptive they all were. I had to skip the rooms that Caesars owns because they are not allowed to book tours other than the WSoPC, and we chose to skip the Golden Nugget as well.
The impression that I got from the biggest rooms was that running a big series is a huge hassle for them. Months of waiting for everything to be approved by the legal department, the marketing department, scheduling a space, food and beverage, and hiring extra temporary dealers, all add up to a lot of work and a ton of scheduling. Even with all that, nearly every room I talked to was interested in having us sponsor at least one tournament as part of a series, and a number of them were interested in having us run an entire series. I liked the way one room in particular was excited to work with us and we booked a potential series in October, but we haven’t put pen to paper yet so I can’t announce the venue yet.
I learned that last year’s WSoP, with more daily events and the Carnivale series, really put a hurt on the rest of the city. The Rio covered so many bases that numbers were down everywhere. Players still think that it’s worth waiting in line for two hours to play a daily event, just because everyone else is doing it and they could win $50,000 for a $235 buy-in. They don’t care how high the rake is, how fast the structure is, or how badly they will get soaked for a $13 burrito, they just go stand in line because everyone else is doing it.
The improved schedule at the WSoP hurt other rooms so badly that a number of rooms are considering not having a summer series this year at all. In addition to non-Caesars rooms dropping their summer schedules, Caesars itself will probably be moving it’s series to Planet Hollywood and some of the regular series will be shorter and smaller. This is bad news for poker players. Less competition is always bad, and when it’s The Rio and their terrible customer service, it’s even worse news.
I didn’t book a summer series for Pocket Fives, which was kind of a relief, because I’m tired of spending half my summer in Vegas. I feel like I just go wherever the weather is worst all year long, spending winters in Minnesota and driving around the Midwest and then I head off to Vegas for the summer where it’s 115 degrees every day. I’m not doing another six weeks in Vegas this summer dealing with ridiculous crowds. Maybe three weeks. Maybe.
For more information on the Pocket Fives Tour, follow us on twitter @P5sPt
And yes, the rumors are true, the upcoming Pocket Fives event at Running Aces in April will include an $1,100 buy-in heads up event. I’ll announce when registration will open on the twitter account, and you will want to register early because registration is limited to 32 spots.
The biggest poker news story of the week was the appearance of 800,000 in counterfeit 5k chips in the $560 buy-in $2 million dollar guarantee tournament at the Borgata in Atlantic City. I assumed, and even stated publicly, that the Borgata would probably not press charges or even look too hard for the culprit. I was wrong (maybe). Good for them. From Russ Hamilton and the UB super users, to Men “The Master” Nguyen who was caught with a suitcase full of tournament chips at Foxwoods, and a host of other poker cheats, charges never seem to be pressed. I don’t know of a single case of online cheats being prosecuted, and this is the first time I have ever heard of a live tournament cheat being arrested.
There are lots of reasons for this. The house doesn’t want to hand over video footage, they want the story to go away, they don’t want to invest resources in investigating on their end, inside jobs make them look bad, it could be anything. I assumed the Borgata would treat this the same way, ignoring it until it went away and claiming that they are investigating the situation any time someone asks. Now the alleged perpetrator, Christian Lusardi, has been caught and is sitting in jail in Atlantic City.
It appears, at this point, that the cheating was discovered because 2.7 million in Borgata chips were flushed down the toilet in a hotel room at a nearby Harrah’s hotel and Harrah’s called the police and The Borgata. Good for The Borgata for pressing charges, but I’m not even sure they had an option. The State Police were alerted to the presence of the chips and may have done all of this on their own. And The Borgata didn’t catch the tremendous overage until they were notified that extra chips might be in play.
800,000 extra chips should be obvious. All you have to do is drop the chip counts into a spreadsheet at the end of the night. It takes less than a minute, and if you have it set up correctly it only takes a few seconds. I know that my local card room, Running Aces Harness Park, does this as do many other rooms around the country. A room the size and stature of The Borgata should be doing this, especially in a tournament with a 2 million dollar guarantee. There is no excuse for failing to catch a large amount of extra chips. Especially when they don’t even look like the other chips!
I don’t work in casino security. I don’t know all of the best methods for stopping this kind of cheating. But I know that pressing charges and sending people to jail serves as a deterrent both to the perpetrator and to future cheats who may be bolstered by the fact that no one ever gets anything worse than a ban from the casino if charges are not pressed. I guess the New Jersey State Police are the real heroes here, along with the prosecutor who managed to get the bail set at $300,000.
When I had a home game years ago we always had a sign on the wall with our rules, which included rule #7 –
“If you are caught cheating we will not call the police, but we will call you an ambulance.”
Perhaps this isn’t the best way to deal with the situation, but we never had a cheating problem.
“Can’t we get a table with a Shuffle Master?” the kid said, with just enough whine in his voice to get on John Henry’s last nerve. John had been dealing for three hours without a break and he was ready to slap the kid. Sure, the kid could play, he had probably played more hands online in his few short years that Texas Dolly or Amarillo Slim had played in their whole lives, but he could be an arrogant little shit sometimes.
“I’m faster than that machine anyway,” he said, “I never have a red light and my power cord never comes unplugged.”
“No way are you faster without a Shuffle Master.” the kid said, “Your fast John, but you’re not as fast as a machine.”
“You want to put a few bucks on that kid?” John Henry said. He had heard enough from the kid tonight, and he was tired of hearing about how the machine could shuffle faster than he could. John Henry was the best dealer in the room and he was fast and accurate too. He was probably the best dealer in the state. He might have been the best dealer who ever lived. I never saw better. I’ll tell you that for sure. I never saw a better man with a deck of cards than John Henry. In all the years he dealt to me, I never saw a boxed card or a misdeal that was his fault and he was as fast as any dealer I ever saw. He swore that he had never burned and turned in his thirty years of dealing poker, and I can tell you that I never saw him do it and John Henry dealt to me every night for years.
“Sure,” the kid said, “I’ll deal against you with a machine and you deal without it. We can bet whatever you want old-timer, but not too much, I don’t want to take your whole bankroll.
“You bet what you want kid,” he said, “I ain’t gonna lose.”
They put a thousand dollars on it, and they set it up for the next day. They agreed that the first dealer to be ahead by ten hands would be declared the winner and they would deal until it was over. No breaks, no excuses, and they each put ten black chips on the table. John Henry sat on one side and the kid sat on the other.
The kid was a pretty good dealer, but he was no John Henry. Without the shuffler the kid would have never taken the bet. He wouldn’t have had a chance. Maybe no one would have had a chance against him without a machine. Maybe no one at all. But with the automatic shuffler the kid felt pretty good about his chances.
Some other people felt good about his chances too. I know, because I took their action. I booked almost three thousand worth of bets on the kid, enough to make me a little nervous. I knew John Henry was good, but I didn’t know how he would compare to the kid using the machine. I figured he was a favorite or I wouldn’t have taken those bets, and I knew he was competitive and tougher than the kid was. But was he tougher than the machine?
They started dealing at seven O’clock that night, with a few of us keeping track of the hands while most of the bettors were playing, more interested in action than in the contest they had already bet on. I was sitting between the tables, counting hands for both sides. Each dealer had a rack full of white chips, and they tossed me a chip before they cut the cards each hand. I just stacked the chips in columns of 20 and watched them deal out hands.
The kid was fast, and he didn’t care as much about how accurate he was. A flipped card here and there wasn’t a big deal to him, and he got off to a quick start. He was ahead by two hands after twenty minutes, speeding through hands as he grabbed the cards from the machine and dropped the old deck in to be shuffled. John Henry didn’t look bothered, not a bit. He checked the stacks once in awhile, but he didn’t look worried. He just shuffled up and dealt, hand after hand after hand.
An hour in the kid was slowing down a bit, finding a rhythm but losing a bit of the vigor he had at the start. The machine just kept chugging along though, and the kid kept the cards coming as the machine shuffled them up and spit them out. The lead stayed at two hands, but the kid still looked confident. He was sure that John Henry couldn’t keep the pace up as long as he could and he was already spending the dime he was going to win from John Henry.
I thought the contest would be over one way or another within a few hours at the most, but after three hours the chips were piling up and the match was still close. The kid had pulled up to a three hand lead when he got a red light from the machine and had to dump the same deck back into it without dealing a hand. John Henry used that slip up from the machine to cut the lead back down to two hands.
They stayed close until midnight when the machine jammed up again. The kid just fed the cards back into it, not worried like I thought he might be. The kid was made of tougher stuff than I thought, but he was no John Henry. The jam allowed John Henry to catch up a little more, cutting the lead to one hand, but I was starting to get worried about the three dimes I had riding on our little contest.
If we continued at this rate it would take John Henry two more days to catch up. The kid might get tired, but even if it was only one day I couldn’t imagine John Henry keeping up the pace he had to set to keep up with the machine for the whole 24 hours. I didn’t want to sit there all night either, I was missing a great game on table 3. John Henry started whistling while he shuffled and pitched the cards at about 2 am.
As he whistled, and shuffled, and tossed cards at the seats, John Henry never looked over at the kid or the machine he was using. He stopped looking at the chips too, asking me every half hour where the score was and concentrating on the shuffle and the pitch. He was gaining ground slowly, even without the shuffle machine jamming up, but it was so slow.
“You two want to call this thing off and take your money back?” I said, hoping to get a seat on table 3 before the fish were all gone. “Nobody is going to win this for a long time.”
“Nope” came the answer from John Henry before the kid had a chance to speak, “You know I don’t chop.”
At 4 am the game on table 3 broke, and John Henry tied the match back up, pulling dead even when the machine jammed again. The kid still didn’t look worried. He figured that he was going to wear John Henry down, force him to quit, or just catch him when he slowed down after too many hours and too many riffles. I was getting tired of this match, but I knew John wasn’t going to chop it up. Win or lose, he would fight until the end. I ordered some coffee and kept stacking the chips. They were in racks now. Lots of them.
The contest ran well into the next day and both competitors looked awful tired by noon. They had been dealing for too many hours, awake for too long, and they both had bags under their eyes. John Henry’s hands were cramped, I could see it in the way he moved, but he kept it up just the same. The match was in favor of John Henry by this time too, he was ahead by two hands. He was keeping pace with the machine, and gaining a hand every time it jammed up.
It was 5 O’clock the next night, almost a whole day into the match, that the machine jammed up twice in a row. He was ahead by five hands and the double jam got it almost to seven. The kid knew he was beat and he was tired and that thousand bucks wasn’t coming his way. He gave up.
“You win John,” he said, “You can’t be beat, not even with the machine.”
“Thank you son,” he replied and looked over at me. “I told ya I was the side to bet on this one Fox, I told ya didn’t I?”
“You did John, well done.” I said, “Now let’s get a drink and then I’m going home and getting some sleep.”
He looked like hell, haggard, and tired, and beat. His eyes were drooping and his hands were claws and his shoulders sagged low. He was a big man, but he looked like a broken man just then, old and small. It made me sad. He had just out dealt the machine, he should look triumphant, but it had taken too much out of him.
“I’m awful tired Fox.” he said, “Grab me them black chips. I’m going to rest my head a second. I beat that machine like I said I would, but I need a rest.”
With that he lay his head down on his arms and went limp. Right there in the seat at the table. I figured he was asleep, but when we tried to wake him he wasn’t sleeping at all. John Henry was gone. And John Henry was the greatest poker dealer I ever saw.
I know what you’re expecting here. You’re thinking that somebody shot an angle or berated a bad player and I’m about to go off on a ridiculous rant about it. Nope. Not this time. I’m talking about people who actually make me sick. Twice so far this year. I’ve missed five days this time, though I’m feeling fine now and the doc tells me that I am fine to go back to the card room without making anyone else sick, and I missed seven days the first time in early November.
Both times that I got sick this winter can be traced back to spending time at the table with somebody seated near me who was obviously sick and should have kept their sick ass at home! I was much too polite about the whole thing in both cases last week when one player was obviously ill and sneezing on everyone and wiping their nose with their fingers before checking their hole cards (yuck!), and another was coughing up a lung for hours. I even attempted to diagnose the cough and send the player home, but he wouldn’t leave.
I know I should have left myself, or gotten a table change, but I was very close to my 160 hours and couldn’t leave and a table change was not available. I should have just walked away anyway. I should have also been more insistent. I try not to be rude, but after inconsiderate people getting me sick twice this year, costing me two weeks of work, I’ll be fairly unpleasant to the next person at my table who is obviously sick.
You have the sneezes? Fine, I get it. I have a ton of allergies and often sneeze and blow my nose. It doesn’t mean I’m constantly sick. But I sneeze away from the table, get a napkin, wash my hands, whatever I need to do. And if I’m actually sick I stay home. It’s rude to fellow players, and very bad for business for your favorite card room when you give the flu to a whole table full of regular players who are considerate enough to stay home for the next week.
Best case scenario? Be prepared and avoid getting sick so I don’t start pointing at you and shouting “Patient Zero! Kill it with fire!” in the middle of a hand. And I will do that. Seriously. So let’s all avoid getting sick huh? In case you are one of those people who is too dumb to go home when you get sick, these simple tips will help you be at my table with snot all over your hands less often.
1. Get A Flu Shot
I should have done this. It may have saved me at least one time. I will be doing it this week. Vaccinations have a bad rap right now, but don’t believe the hype. Doctors get flu shots and they know more medicine than you do.
2. Take Some Vitamins
I have been taking an Airborne tablet a couple times a week all winter and will continue to do so. It is a fact that you will get sick less often, and get better faster, if you take vitamin C and Zinc. You don’t have to go overboard, just take some once in awhile. In reasonable doses it can’t hurt you and it can help.
3. Avoid Sick People
Easier said than done, I know. But no matter what, avoid sick people. They will get you sick. Don’t sit around and wait for a seat, just get up and leave and tell the floor you would like a new table and tell them why.
4. Don’t Eat With Your Hands
I’ve done it myself, after using an alcohol wipe, but I shouldn’t. I’m not sure why casinos even serve finger food, because it is definitely going to make their players sick and they make less money when the flu is in town. No more finger food for me. I’m tired of being sick and no matter how much I wash my hands, I think it’s a bad idea to eat with my hands in a cramped public place with sick people in it.
5. Hand Sanitizer
Carry it and use it. I’ll have some with me as often as possible. You can borrow it unless you are sick. If you are sick, then you can stay the hell away from me and get your own hand sanitizer.
6. Stay the Hell Home
Seriously. If you are sick, and exposing the whole poker room to your contagious creeping crud, I am going to be very unpleasant to you from now on. Just go home. Quit being a dick and go home.
While my day at the tables was uneventful (I finished with slightly over the starting stack going into day 2), Day 1A was fantastic in terms of player turnout and entertainment value. It seems like every big name in Minnesota poker showed up for this event, including a few of the big online players that don’t get out to live events very often. The amount of laughing and cheering was much higher than it is during a regular tournament, probably because the holiday spirit is still in people’s minds. We should definitely make this an annual event!
Pocket Fives did an amazing job of getting the word out too. What started as a little holiday event to lead into the Minnesota Poker Awards has become one of the best tournaments of the year, with over 300 entries and a prize pool that will end up around $100,000 for a $335 buy-in. Running Aces wasn’t ready for the deluge of players that showed up on Friday afternoon, but they coped with it well, calling in extra dealers and setting up tables in the aisles to get everyone seated as quickly as possible. Handing out shirts and card protectors to the alternates while they waited helped make the short wait a little easier.
While Running Aces and Pocket Fives were the driving forces behind this event, many of my friends helped out on twitter and facebook and some of them canceled plans to be here. If I started to list the people I wanted to thank I would have list a mile long and I would still miss a lot of people, but you know who you are and you know that I owe you one and I really appreciate it. Seeing a host of members from Team Poker Joker and Team Rooster Poker was great and they all looked like they were having a great time.
Breaking 300 entries for a holiday tournament, at a time when many players are at home with their families, is a remarkable accomplishment and it bodes very well for the Pocket Fives Open in April, which we expect to be the biggest tournament series in Minnesota history. The Pocket Fives Open will be the first of many Pocket Fives Live events and we hope to take the idea to venues across the country as well as overseas.
I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the MSPT and how they are reacting to competition. The answer is simple. They aren’t reacting and we aren’t competition. I worked for the MSPT and I was a fan of the series before I worked there. Bryan Mileski does a great job and I’m sure he will continue to dominate his market. The last thing I would want to do is to try to compete with the marketing machine he has built and all of the good will he has generated in the Midwest.
Our goal with Pocket Fives Live is to take it to the biggest venues in the country, and I’ve also been talking to venues in Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean. Our tournaments will be a series more like the WSoPC, but without the incredibly high rake. We want to bring unique events to every place we visit and we are determined to make sure that we offer a good value for players in terms of structure, rake, and customer service.
Before we come to your town, we will ask what kind of events you would like to see and we will listen. We won’t bring the tour to venues that don’t treat their players and their staff exceptionally well, and we will do everything we can to make sure that there is a wide range of buy-ins so that everyone has a chance to win a P5s Live badge for their profile. If you would like to Pocket Fives Live in your area, talk to your local card room manager and have them contact me. Just tell them to be ready for a flood of players like they have never seen, because when Pocket Fives Live comes to town, everybody who is anybody is going to show up!
Thanks again to everyone who helped make this event a huge success and I look forward to seeing you all at the Minnesota Poker Awards at 6 pm tomorrow (Sunday) night. We’ll be four hours into day 2 when we start handing out awards, and hopefully many of our award winners will have to accept their award from their seat as they drag another pot on their way to the final table!
For updates on the Pocket Fives Winter Open, follow @runaces and @foxpokerfox on twitter and keep an eye on the live events page on PocketFives.com
With the amazing rakeback promotion at Running Aces and the launch of the Pocket Fives Live event series, I’ve been working my ass off. My wife has been doing the same thing, putting in all the hours she can to grow her business, Silver Frame Studio. We haven’t seen each other very much, or spent much time with our dogs, or even stopped working long enough to smell the roses, in a few months. Being home for a few days for Christmas and spending time together without working is a welcome break.
It can be too easy to get lost in your job when you don’t have a boss and a specific set of work hours. In the heyday of online poker it was always hard to take time off because I knew that there was a chair in my office and if I kept my butt in it I would make money. That money was just sitting there, waiting for me. If I wanted something I could just walk into my office and make money to buy it. When we needed money, it was tough to do anything other than sit in that chair and grind out dollars.
Now I do the same thing with live games. With the $10/hr rakeback promotion at Running Aces extended through January, it will be another month of grinding. Adding $10 an hour to my win rate is just too good to pass up and I have to get those hours in, but once January is over I am going to relax on the live poker, maybe dropping to around 100 hours of live poker per month and putting more time into writing and booking more Pocket Fives Live events.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all that good stuff. I hope you eat well and spend time around those you love. I know I will. Once you’re done with that, I expect to see you at the Winter Open and the Minnesota Poker Awards, which both look like they are going to draw a huge field. Pocket Fives has also announced that the winner of the Winter Open will receive a special badge for their P5s profile as well as the gold badge card protector. I hope this becomes a tradition and players can chase P5s badges as a nice piece of bling to rival the rings and bracelets given out in other major events.
May the coming year see you all happy and healthy and may you run good against everyone but me.
The rule in many card rooms these days regarding string bets is that the bet stands unless a player calls the string bet. I hate this rule. It’s the only rule that players can enforce and dealers can’t, and it opens up what amounts to a legal way to angle shoot against inexperienced opponents.
I saw a hand recently that illustrates the point.
A player who was obviously new to casino poker made a string raise against a single opponent who was a regular in the game. The regular called the string raise, forcing the new player to simply call. The new player’s intent was clear, he intended to raise, but because of the way he put his chips in the pot he was forced to call while also having revealed the strength of his hand.
The regular was remarkably honest, commenting that “I know what you meant to do, but I can’t call that raise so I have to call the string.” I was surprised that the new player wasn’t angry since his opponent had openly admitted to using the letter of the law to circumvent the spirit of fair play. He was new enough that he may not have been comfortable speaking up.
Any rule that allows players who lack morals to make more money than those who believe in fair play is simply a bad rule. I’m all for making every nickel I can against bad players, I have bills to pay after all, but I draw the line at directly trading advantage of rules they don’t understand.
If dealers were required to call string bets, as they are in tournaments, then the rule can be fairly enforced. The new player will still be at a disadvantage, but they won’t be at the mercy of an opponent who gets to decide whether the bet stays or not.
There are two major flaws with this rule in addition to the lack of fair enforcement.
First, the new player will often feel like they have been taken advantage of, or embarrassed because they lost money because of a clear lack of knowledge of the rules. They may even feel like the casino chose to side with a regular instead of the new guy. We don’t want new players to feel discouraged or they may not come back.
Second, this type of selective enforcement means that players who are rude, unscrupulous, or willing to angle shoot, will make more money. This encourages their behavior, making the games less pleasant for everyone.
Let’s change this rule and get it in line with the TDA rule set so that the dealer is the only person at the table charged with directly enforcing rules.
I know, you are probably looking for poker related content. If you don’t want to read about my new Chromebook, just skip this post, there is no poker content whatsoever. I have been looking for some freelance writing gigs, and I need a few online examples of my writing to apply for these jobs, and this is a great place to put a few things on the web to show potential employers what I can do.
Moving to Chrome
I’ve always thought Macs were ridiculously overpriced, though they are often well designed. They lack flexibility, and you have to be happy with what you get, though for people who aren’t really into tech they can be a good option. Until early 2013 I was a Windows user, and I had a reasonably good experience compared to most users because I was careful to keep my machine clean and I knew how to use it. Even so, I ran into a hassle occasionally and I got tired of dealing with the troubles that are inherent with Microsoft products.
While I still own a PC for a few things, I hate using it. My Chromebook Pixel has taken over as my main machine, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I don’t own a printer or a fax machine, I haven’t had a land line phone in almost 15 years, and even though I am a professional writer, I have not owned a copy of Microsoft Word in three years. My transition to Chrome and Google Drive is almost complete. Why have I left all these staples of the tech world behind?
Because I have owned my Chromebook for eight months and I have not had to restart it one time. I have not had to wait more than five seconds, the time it takes to start the machine and have it ready to work, to do anything in that eight months. In most cases my Pixel is ready to go the instant I swipe my finger across the touch pad. Zero problems in eight months. Can you imagine that? And I expect that trend to continue indefinitely.
It all started with Gmail, which I adopted early. It was so much better than Hotmail at the time that I made the transition immediately and never looked back. I am baffled that anyone deals with disorganized and spam-filled email from Hotmail or Yahoo when Gmail is free and so much better. Then Google Docs came along and offered me an alternative to Microsoft Word. No more compatibility issues with older versions, no more losing my work when a computer crashed before I hit the save button, and no more spending hundreds of dollars for an office suite every few years.
Once I was hooked on Gmail and Google Docs, Android came along and my phone became my second computer. With all this experience with Google products, and with my faith in cloud computing, I was immediately intrigued when the first Chromebooks appeared on the scene. After checking out a beta test version that a friend was using, I was sold on a cheap Chromebook as a great laptop for traveling, and picked up a Samsung model for $200 at Best Buy to use while I was in Vegas for a month.
During that month I was overjoyed with how easy it was to write blog posts and work on some other writing projects. Simple web surfing was easy too, though the processing power was lacking in a few spots. When I tried to play an online flash game or I had serious activity in multiple browser windows I ran into some lag, but when I was doing things that were important to me, writing and communicating via email, everything was smooth.
I liked my cheap little Chromebook enough, and I had enough success in Vegas, that I bought the deluxe model when I got home. The Chromebook Pixel, Google’s flagship Chromebook, is basically an ultrabook. An ultra high resolution screen, thin form factor, reasonably fast processor, and a wonderful design, all convinced me to get rid of everything else and work on it exclusively. And I couldn’t be happier.
I may have paid quite a bit for my Pixel, about $1,000 which was a great deal at the time, but the amount of hassle it has saved me and the amount of work I have done on it, make it a steal even at that price. These days you can find them used for $600-$800, and at that price it’s crazy not to get one. You can sell your old computer, that ridiculous monitor that takes up half of your desktop, your printer, cancel your home phone, get rid of that antique fax machine, and end up with enough cash to offset the price significantly. You won’t need any of that stuff anymore, because you will be part of the new way to look at tech. Simple, fast, reliable, and cloud-based. Welcome to the new world of tech.
Oh, and this is a first draft. If I haven’t done some editing on it within a few days, feel free to remind me to get back to it. Thanks.
This will be the first time I have written a blog post by request, though I may do more of them if people have good topic suggestions in the comments.
Robowolfman requested some sci fi, cyberpunk, Minnesota poker news, and daily reports from Running Aces. To fit all of those things into one blog post I think I need to do a unique take on today’s poker news.
The Cyborg in Seat Two
The game is terrible today, but where else am I going to go? The only place the multinationals can’t send spy drones are the casinos. They probably know that I would run to a poker room, but they are patient. So patient. They can wait years for you pop your head up before they hack a mil-sat and vaporize your head from ninety miles up. Years don’t mean much to them, not anymore.
What I’m worried about is the cyborg in seat two. He’s not playing very well, they never do. Any AI smart enough to beat humans I’m a live poker game could make a lot more money doing something else, so the bots we see in these games usually break even or make a small profit.
This one sucks, which is bad for me. They all scan the net to find info about their opponents, and my public info won’t be too hard to find, which is okay as long as it doesn’t connect me to the burn we ran on the offshore servers last night. If it does find out that who is looking for me, the question is how it will deal with that information.
A smart bot wouldn’t say anything to anyone. It would know how the situation would play out if it tried to sell me to the mob. But a stupid bot could get us both killed. If that idiot cyborg tries to contact somebody about selling my location, they will be inside it’s head in milliseconds and it will kill me and then kill itself before the security team can blink.
I hope that thing is smart enough to know better than to rat me out, because I really want to make it long enough to play the Team Battles tomorrow. Kou Vang will handle strategy, I’ll jam the comsats and make sure the team is secure, and the three runners we picked up will tear our opponents apart.
If things go well tomorrow, Kou and I should have enough money to pay the paramilitary guys to get us out of here and into orbit where we’re safe. We can run our operation from there. I will miss this card room, but I won’t miss the cyborg in seat two. He’s giving me the creeps.
I’m testing out a number of things in this blog post, which calls for my blogging device, a numbered list!
1. I’m posting this from Running Aces. With good Wi-Fi and a fairly soft and passive $2-100 game, I think I can actually get some work done here.
2. I’m posting with a Google Nexus 7 tablet. It won’t compare to being at home on my computer in terms of productivity, but it works pretty well so far.
3. I’m using the WordPress app for Android, and if this post goes smoothly it will make it easy for me to blog while I play poker.
As a completely unrelated aside, I am posting from an $8/16 game with a full kill, and it is amazing. Pots are huge, and a few of the players are completely lost.
If you feel like commenting, I could use some ideas for blog posts. I don’t want to post a lot of strategy because many of my readers are from here in Minnesota and I could make my own games significantly tougher.
When I was blogging for Pocket Fives or PokerXFactor I was rarely teaching people that I played with, but this blog is read by people I play with every day and I could really hurt my win rate by just giving out some basic tips.
So… what entertains you? Comedy? More fiction like the ghost story from Halloween? News from the world of Minnesota poker? Anything else?
The rake rebate promotion last month at Running Aces, combined with a few new students, a tournament or two, and working on the Pocket Fives Live events, kept me so busy that I didn’t have much time for blogging. I can’t promise that this month will be significantly better in terms of writing output. I had a lot of ideas saved for blog posts, but I’ll have to hit them quickly. And you know what that means… A list!
1. Voting for the Minnesota Poker Awards will close on Friday. Most of the races are pretty close, so your vote can really make a difference. I also got the trophies for the event today, they look great. The awards will take place on December 29th at Running Aces, and we hope you join us for the party!
2. I made my 160 hours for the rake rebate promotion, so I’ll have a nice chunk of change coming around the 10th of the month. It’s always nice to know there is an extra two grand waiting for you. I should make my hours again this month, though it will be a struggle again with the MSPT event, the Pocket Fives Live Winter Open, and Christmas all cutting into my hours. Poker will be a way more than full time job this year.
3. The Pocket Fives Live event for April is now on the Running Aces 2014 schedule and I’m really excited about it. We’re not ready to launch a full fledged tour yet, but we are booking more P5s Live events and heading in that direction. The April event will be eleven days long, from April 10th to the 21st, and will feature two tournaments a day. This will be a serious tournament series, and the first national series that Minnesota has ever had, so I’ll be pulling out all the stops to get as many people as possible to show up for this thing!
4. I have updated the tournament page here on foxpoker.com, and added the P5s event as well as the Winter Avalanche at Running Aces in January and the Team Battles on December 17th.
5. We raised almost $2,000 for Philippines relief over the last two weeks! Thanks to all the players at Running Aces who gave up their mystery vouchers for the cause. I know I will miss some people here, but there were a few players who collected vouchers for me day after day and it was such a nice feeling to walk in and have someone hand me a pile of vouchers they had been collecting and I want to thank a few of them. Josh Sexton, Josh Oien, Tim Votava, Ryan Reider, Heidi Roggenkamp, John Somsky, Bernie Schneider, and a host of other players were very generous in helping out the cause.
Now I’m back to work, grinding out those hours and getting my hours in at Running Aces. I’ll see you at Canterbury for the MSPT this weekend too, hopefully at the final table.
Thanks to the generosity of the players at Running Aces, last week’s mystery voucher drive was remarkably successful. I had people I have never met handing me piles of mystery vouchers that they collected from their table, and by Saturday afternoon the pile was almost three inches high. The total was 485 vouchers, which netted us a total of $801. We ran a little below where I would have expected for that many vouchers, but $800 will do a lot of good for Grace’s family in the Philippines and it was fun to meet some new people who brought me stacks of vouchers.
This week I am collecting vouchers for another family in the Philippines. Licel Seitz is a chip runner at Running Aces, and her family in the Philippines was decimated. Lives were lost, homes were destroyed, and people are still drinking bottled water and living under tarps. I will be collecting vouchers all week, and I got a good start on Sunday piling up vouchers for next Saturday, and I am also pledging 50% of my winnings in the freeroll tournament at Running Aces on Black Friday.
The Black Friday Freeroll will have $5,000 added from Running Aces, and will feature unlimited $10 rebuys which should build a huge prize pool. This tournament starts at 11 am, and you may want to show up early to make sure you get a seat right away. I encourage everyone to come on in and pledge 50% of your winnings as well. You’re only giving away half of what you are being given for free, and the people that receive the money are in real trouble and they need the help.
This is a photo of the city where Licel’s family is struggling to survive right now –
There are lots of videos and photos of the devastation in the Philippines, but this video is only a little over a minute long and really conveys how incredible the destruction was in some areas.
As I’m sure you are aware, Typhoon Haiyan, probably the largest and most destructive storm in history, hit the Philippines last week. Grace Willberg, a cocktail server at Running Aces, has family in the Philippines who lost everything and she has set up a fund to help them out. This week I am donating all my mystery vouchers to the fund, and collecting from other players who won’t make it on Saturday. It started with a conversation with Ryan Reider and Cory Canaday about how some people are donating 5% of their winnings from the Turkey Tourney and it blew up on Sunday to the point where people were collecting the vouchers from their entire tables and bringing them over to me. I will be collecting them all week long and donating the winnings on Saturday and I want to thank everyone who has helped get the word out.
Next week I will be doing the same thing from Licel, the chip runner at Running Aces who is also from the Philippines. Her family was devastated as well, and she has already sent them what she can afford, but we can work together to help rebuild their homes with hundreds of mystery vouchers. If you don’t’ see me, and want to donate your voucher, look for Ryan, Cory, Josh Sexton, or any of the other regulars from the straddle and ante games. I’m sure they will get the vouchers to me.
Thank you to everyone who spread the word. All I did was agree to hold the vouchers and bring them in on Saturday. The people who put it out on twitter, and convinced their tables to donate all of their vouchers, did a lot more than I did and they should be very proud of themselves. If I am in the room, you can find me on twitter @foxpokerfox and get a table and seat number from me, or just ask a floor person and they will usually know where I am.
They swore the game would be great. No rake, a nice food spread, and two big screen televisions with scary movies playing all night. It would be a Halloween theme and the players would be drinking and having fun. I was going to play at Running Aces and was looking forward to seeing the costumes on my favorite cocktail waitresses, but when a no-rake home game pops up with free food and drinks and soft players, I can’t turn it down.
I showed up right at 7 pm to make sure I got a good seat, and I wasn’t the first. There was a zombie on the porch. I didn’t expect to see a player who had gone so far with his costume. I figured I would see a football jersey or two, maybe a skull shaped card protector, but not a serious costume. Good for him though.
“Here for the game?” I asked as I walked up to the porch.
“Braaaaaaaiiins.” he said, and then took a big drag from his cigarette.
“You’re in the wrong place bud.” I said, “Poker players aren’t known for their brains.”
“Braaaaaaaaaiiiiins!” he said, louder this time.
Okay, good for him for not breaking character. Maybe he would say nothing but “braaaaiiins” all night. That would actually be funny. I knocked on the door and the woman of the house welcomed me with a hug. We shared small talk while she got the table ready. She also dealt the game and basically ran the whole process. Her husband played in the game and usually lost, but they both had very good jobs and the few hundred that he lost once a month didn’t mean anything to them. They just ran the game because they enjoyed it, which made it the best kind of home game. Profitable for me, and fun to play.
I recognized a few of the players, but there were a few that were new to me. This usually meant they would be soft spots. I figured I knew most of the good players in the city, and none of them were in this game. Across from me, in the seat next to the dealer, was a middle aged man in a purple Randy Moss jersey. The zombie was to his left, the dealer to his right. The regulars were in a row on my left, and the host was on his wife’s right in the ten seat.
On the third hand I was dealt a pair of kings. Purple jersey was under the gun, and he raised to $8. The players between us folded and I reraised to $22. Everyone else folded, and Purple jersey reraised to $44. I reraised to $90, hoping to trap him in the pot. He thought for a few minutes, and looked right at me with purpose in his eyes. The rest of the players were talking about what to put on the TV and they didn’t seem to be paying attention to what was shaping up to be the first big pot of the game.
My opponent slowly lifted the front of his cards, clearly trying to show me his cards without showing the rest of the table. Why would he be doing that? As he lifted the front edge of the cards, I was shocked to see two black aces. He was letting me off easy! I’ve seen it before, a player who just doesn’t want his aces cracked, but this guy hadn’t spoken a word to me, and he was saving me three hundred dollars. After he slowly let the front of the cards back down onto the table, he pushed all of his chips forward. I tried to keep a stone face as I slid my cards into the middle.
The dealer/hostess was involved in the discussion about what horror movie we should watch first, and she casually pushed the pot to her left and purple jersey guy stacked up my chips. His eyes never left mine, and he was quiet in an unsettling way. The whole experience was odd.
“Deal me out a round.” I said, as I got up to use the bathroom. This was going to be a good game if these guys were going to show me their hands, and I was looking forward to it.
When I got back, the seat to the dealer’s left was empty. There were no chips in his spot, and I didn’t see purple jersey guy anywhere.
“What happened to the one seat?” I asked.
“What one seat?” replied the hostess, glancing to her left.
“The guy in the Moss jersey,” I said, “The guy who won that pot from me.”
“There hasn’t been anyone in the one seat yet Fox.” she replied.
I was confused. When I gave a quick description of the guy in the purple jersey, a wave of recognition rolled across the face of our hostess.
“Fox,” she said, turning white, “You just described Jim Sanders. He used to play in our game all the time, but he went broke ten years ago. On Halloween night.”
One of the older players, who I knew had been playing in home games around the cities for a long time, chimed in as well.
“I remember that. He swore he would be back, but we never saw him again.” he said, “I’ve never seen him anywhere since. I heard he got married and his wife wouldn’t let him play any more.”
Another player from the other end of the table remembered Jim Sanders too.
“I remember him,” he said, “He was a mean son of a bitch. He would swear that he had aces every time, just trying to get you to fold. I saw him show a guy a pair of fours once, just from the front edge, made em look just like aces.”
I’m closing voting on the categories, and getting the categories up for nominations because we need to get some players voted into these categories in time for the awards to be given out at Running Aces on December 28th. I have some ideas for nominations, but I need your help with figuring out who should be nominated. You play with these people, and you can tell me who should be nominated. Once I have some names over the next week or two I will do some research, some very unscientific polling, and determine a list of nominees. Then the voting will commence!
Below are the categories and some potential nominees. If you think someone should be on this list, PLEASE post it in comments or let me know on twitter @foxpokerfox
Without further ado (I always wanted a reason to say that)…
The Categories and Potential Nominees –
This category is fairly self-explanatory. If you think the best player in Minnesota in 2013 isn’t on this list, let me know who is missing.
John ‘Gstacks’ Hayes
Best Female Player
This category is fairly self-explanatory. If you think the best female player in Minnesota in 2013 isn’t on this list, let me know who is missing.
Molly Anne Mossey
Most Intimidating Player
Who do you hate playing pots with? Who scares the crap out of you or seems to be staring right into your soul?
John ‘Gstacks’ Hayes
Nice Guy Award
If the nicest poker player in Minnesota isn’t on this list, then get me their name, because they deserve some recognition!
I may need help with this one, because if someone tweets a lot, I tend to unfollow them. What is your favorite poker-related twitter account that is based in the land of 10,000 lakes?
Most Entertaining Opponent
Who makes you laugh, tells great stories, and generally keeps you entertained at the tables? Are they on this list?
Who is the best advocate for the game? Who has done the most for poker in Minnesota this year?
Best Cardroom Employee
Who is your favorite card room employee? Do you know someone who does a great job, works hard, and deserves recognition? I need help with this one because there are too many people I would love to put on this list. The two names below are very good at their jobs and very popular, but there should be a lot of names on this list!
Lisa Runyan – Board Girl (her words not mine) from Canterbury Park
Tristan Willberg – Tournament Director from Running Aces
I am skipping the Best Tournament category because if Running Aces won everyone would shout “Rigged!” and if Canterbury won Running Aces would be giving them an award. We’ll also skip the Most Improved Player and Underrated Player awards because I think there would be far too many nominations and it would be tough to choose them. The Most Aggressive category is partially covered by Most Intimidating, and the rest of the categories didn’t get enough votes to make the cut, so this list of eight categories will be the final list for the Minnesota Poker Awards for 2013.
As soon as I am comfortable that I have all the right people nominated, probably in a week or two, I’ll do a little write up of each nominee and their accomplishments and get the voting started.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering the $2-100 cash games at Running Aces with guides on how to beat the games as well as bankroll management, expected win rates, and how to maintain your sanity. If you have specific questions about the games, please post them in the comments on this article so I can get a feel for what kinds of things people want to learn about the game. Let’s start with three basic steps.
Step 1 – Buy My Book
It’s the best book out there for beating small no-limit cash games, which is basically how I see the $2-100 games. It will serve as a good study guide and be a better overall strategy resource than the basic tips I’ll be posting here.
Step 2 – Make A Plan
I know you want to play poker. One of the reasons I can write this stuff is because most players who read this would rather play poker than study, plan, or learn anything. If you want to be one of the winners, you have to study and improve or you will just be another aspiring poker player. If you want to do this in November and be ready to get started within the first few days of the month to make sure that you get your hours in, then you need to get ready for it now.
Plan out your hours and be realistic about how much you can actually play. If you can get forty hours a week, then you will make the maximum bonus easily, but doing that in conjunction with a full time job will be very tough and you won’t have time to do anything but work, play poker, and sleep.
Set aside a real bankroll. For the $2-100 games, a winning player who is fairly tight can probably get by starting off with $5,000. You can still play if you don’t have that much expendable cash, but it is possible to go on a losing streak and go broke if you aren’t bankrolled for the game. Don’t play with money you can’t afford to lose, because there is a possibility that even the best player can have a losing month.
You will also need to track your hours and your results. If you don’t know how many hours you have played, you could easily miss your goal number and cost yourself hundreds of dollars. If you don’t track your results, you won’t ever know how much money you are making. I use a spreadsheet on my phone. If you have an Android phone you can just put a link on your home screen to a spreadsheet from your Google drive. I created a spreadsheet just for this promotion that you can download and use HERE. It tracks results, hours, and automatically calculates your current rakeback level. You don’t need to fill in anything except your hours played and money won or lost on each day for the month and the spreadsheet does the rest.
Step 3 – Play Poker
This would seem like the easy part, but you need to stick with your plan, and if you have a few rough sessions to start off it can be tough to keep at it every night. I’ve had rough patches where I absolutely dreaded going to the card room, but I kept going anyway and made it through the rough spots. If you are serious about playing poker for at least a portion of your living, you have to be able to get back on the horse every time you fall off.
The Fall Poker Classic is over, and while I didn’t make a lot of money I did manage a 4th place finish in the HORSE event and another small cash. It was a great series and Canterbury did a great job with it. Poker players always have complaints, it’s what we do, but from the dealers to the floor people and tournament directors everyone did a great job running this thing. When I post on twitter that Canterbury is the 2nd best card room in the midwest, I mean it. It’s also a little fun with the rivalry, and they know it’s all in fun. We are very lucky to have two great rooms in Minnesota, and if you head out of town and see how they do things in other places you will come home grateful for how professional our card rooms are.
I’ll be playing the Hallowscream tournament tonight at Running Aces, with five more starting days to come. I’ll keep playing them every day until I have a big stack going into day two. With the $1,000 stack buybacks, it’s hard not to keep playing, though I will stop once I have a big stack. Hopefully that happens tonight and I can take a few days off before day two starts on Sunday. This tournament is a great value, and first place could be as high as $30,000 for a $275 buy-in. I chopped it for the big side and the trophy last year, and a repeat would be awfully nice.
The Hallowscream is the last tournament for awhile after five months of playing tournaments every day. I’m tired of working on a schedule and I’m ready for a few days off. Starting with the WSoP in mid-June, I have probably played 120 tournaments in the last five months, and it’s been a rough stretch. I won three tournaments during that time, but they were three of the smaller events, and I didn’t have a deep run in any of the bigger buy-in events which was a little frustrating. I made money, but I probably would have made more money playing cash, which is what I’ll be doing for the next few months.
Running Aces has the best promotion for cash game players that I have ever seen, and it’s launching on November 1st. The tiered rakeback promotion is so good that I will basically be playing cash every day for November and December. If I can make $25 an hour, which should be doable, get $10 an hour from Aces, and have basically no expenses since Running Aces is just up the highway for me, I’ll be pretty happy. With the coupons that come in the mail, progressive boards, and whatever else I can scrape up, I should hit $40 an hour working on my own schedule whenever I want to show up and working in a great environment with many of my friends. That sounds like fun for a few months and I’m looking forward to it.
I’m going to do a more in-depth blog post this week about how to take full advantage of this promotion. A spreadsheet for tracking your results, strategy discussion, and some bankroll management advice, should help you get serious about the $2/100 game if you are ready to make some real money playing poker in Minnesota.
I’m playing tournaments like mad, and I have another starting tomorrow at noon, so I’ve been too busy to blog much, but here are a couple interesting psychology sites that will get you thinking. An understanding of your fellow humans will help your game a ton, and in studying people I have not only become a better player, but I understand the world around me better.
Click the above link and go take the test. Then come back and read the paragraph below
I got 16/20, but ten years ago I did a similar test and scored 6/20 when guessing the emotion expressed by pairs of eyes. Learning about how facial expressions work has helped a lot, and it’s very helpful at the tables. The biggest key for me is to look at the eyes. If the eyes don’t wrinkle at the edges, then the smile is bullshit. If the smile reaches their eyes, then they are genuinely happy. You can also look for head movement, breathing during the smile, and whether teeth show or not as solid indicators.
While the Stanford Prison Experiment is somewhat questionable and researchers have had trouble replicating it, the rest appear to be rock solid. And the Stanford Experiment has been born true in prisons around the world as well. Think Abu Ghraib, or the PoW abuses in Viet Nam, for good examples of that concept. Learning how people work with experiments like these really helps you figure out why people are doing the things they are doing. And even more important, they can help you figure out why you do what you do at the tables and how to stop making mistakes based on emotion.
I think each of these studies teaches us something that we can use at the tables. The lesson that runs through most of these studies is that there are factors at work that are hard to see from the outside. There is more going on in your head than you realize. Understanding these things helps you recognize them in yourself and deal with them rationally instead of letting them work on you like unseen magnets, drawing your decisions to one side or another for reasons you don’t understand.
Let’s play a game…
I’m going to pick five poker players for the $1,100 main event this weekend at Canterbury Park. You can pick five players as well, and if your team wins, AND beats my team, you win 1% of my action in the tournament. First place should be around $80,000, so you could win $800 in this challenge with no investment.
- You can not choose any of the members of my team
- One entry per person
- Entrants must tweet their picks and include my twitter handle @foxpokerfox in the tweet before the start of Day 1A.
- Entrants must also tweet “Everyone should follow @foxpokerfox on twitter” before the start of Day 1A
My team consists of myself, Matt Kirby, Blake Bohn, Kou Vang, and Ryan Hartmann. In the event that one or more of these players does not play, my alternate is John Hayes. All six of these players are off limits for your picks in this contest. You don’t get an alternate. Tough shit.
That’s it. If you finish with the highest score, including beating my team, you win 1% of my winnings in the event. If you finish with the highest score, but I don’t cash in the event, you win a Running Aces t-shirt and a gold* Running Aces card protector.
All players who cash in the event will earn points for their team. Points are determined by subtracting the player’s finish position from 51 and then doubling it. So (51-FP)*2 = points. If you pick the winner, that person will be worth 100 points. Second place will be worth 98 points. Only players who cash will earn points. In the event of a tie, the 1% prize will be split among the winners.
I will announce my score once all of my players have finished. You will have to calculate your own score, and tweet it including my twitter handle @foxpokerfox, within 48 hours of the end of the event if you think you have beaten me. In the event of a dispute I will make the final decision as to prize distribution.
If it looks like I have taken all of the good players, check out the list in this blog post and you will see that there are an awful lot of good players left to pick from. Sure, I stacked the deck in my favor, but I can do that since I’m offering a free roll. A team like Lance Harris, Everett Carlton, Matt Alexander, Todd Breyfogle, and Erick Wright stands a very reasonable chance of beating me, and that’s just a quick bunch of names off the top of my head. There are probably at least 20 players that are in the same league as the players I chose for my team, so I think there is a good chance that someone will beat me, though it depends on the number of entries.
The Fine Print
This contest is void if it is illegal in the state of Minnesota. I would be very surprised to find out that it is illegal, but just in case. In no way should anything in this blog post be construed to mean that I will be giving away more than 1% of my winnings. One entry per household. I reserve the right to cancel or modify this contest any time before the start of Day 1A just in case things go sideways for some reason.
Everyone has a different interpretation of the rules of poker, both what they should be as well as how they should be enforced. Some people think “pure” or “real” poker has to have certain rules, but I disagree. If it’s played with cards and betting, it’s probably “real” poker to me. There are certainly rules I dislike, but if I know what the rules are I can make my own decision about whether I want to play. And I am well aware that it is my responsibility to know what the rules are. The standardized TDA rules are a big help for tournament players, but each house still has some of it’s own rules.
During the Fall Poker Classic I’ve been playing tournaments in a new environment for a week now and I’ve noticed the differences from playing at Running Aces. We get spoiled at Running Aces because Tristan is an expert on tournament rules and a frequent contributor to the TDA itself, but Canterbury has done a fine job running these tournaments too, as they usually do.
Overall, the Fall Poker Classic has been great. The free donuts and coffee in the mornings are nice, the buffet is solid every night, and the dealers are excellent. The floor staff and tournament directors are also very good, and the problems I’m going to talk about with rule enforcement are not limited to Canterbury. In fact they are less common at Canterbury than they are at most other venues. They are just the subject right now because they are the place I’ve been playing this week. A lot of other venues could improve in these areas, and most of them need a lot more improvement than Canterbury.
I think that a rule that is not consistently enforced is a bad rule. If the rule can not be consistently enforced, then it must be changed. Canterbury’s cursing rule applies to only one word. Their “F-bomb Rule” applies to only the one word. All other curse words are allowed, although abusive language directed at players and dealers is unacceptable as it should be in any card room. I know players who disagree with this rule, but I’m fine with it as long as I know what the rule is and it is consistently enforced.
The problem is that consistently enforcing a rule like this requires vigilance. You have to let all of your dealers know that they must call the floor any time the “F-bomb” is dropped at the table and make sure they call the floor any time it happens. I also think it’s a room’s responsibility to let players know when they have any sort of non-standard rule, rather than assuming that the players will all get a copy of the house rules and read them thoroughly. An announcement at the start of each tournament is a good way to do this.
In the case of the last week or so, this rule has not been enforced evenly, nor has it been announced to the players. Since this rule doesn’t exist in the TDA, and isn’t in force at major events like the World Series of Poker, I would consider it a non-standard rule, and I think it should be announced so that players are aware of it. I can assure you that many players are not aware of it because –
1. I counted the number of times I heard an F-bomb at the table today, and in four and a half hours I heard it used eleven times. The dealer heard at least eight or nine of these, and the floor was never called and the player was never warned by the dealer. It was never mentioned.
2. I was not aware of it myself and I usually try to pay attention.
3. My pal Jordan Handrich didn’t know about it when she used it after taking a beat in a tournament yesterday. People at her table were surprised when she received a one-round penalty because a tournament director was standing nearby. This was what caused me to keep track today. Eleven utterances, zero penalties, zero warnings. Not only did Jordan not get a warning, she got a full one-round penalty, and is the only person that I have heard of that has received such a penalty during this series. It was not directed at a player or in an abusive way, it was just a word.
4. I asked a number of players today, and none of them had heard that this was a penalty.
This rule is clearly not being enforced consistently, and I imagine it would be a hassle to do so for at least a month or two, but if they really want to ban the word they could certainly make it happen. Either make the effort to make sure that this rule is enforced evenly, or get rid of it. The middle ground is bad policy.
There are rules like this all over the country. The famous “Charlie Rule” at many WSoP events, the changing rules on discussing hands at the WSoP, and some truly odd rules in other parts of the country that show exactly how good we have it here in Minnesota.
I played at the Greek Town Casino in Detroit two years ago, and saw two of the weirdest rules I have ever seen. The first was that the front of your cards was in effect as a hard betting line, meaning any chips that were in front of your cards were in the pot. Multiple times I watched players pull their cards back to the rail to peel up the corners and look at them, only to be declared all-in because their cards had moved behind their stack. Every player this happened to left saying that they would never play in that #$%^#@!!!! card room ever again. Any policy that sends that many customers away is a bad one, no matter why it was implemented.
The second rule was the strangest rule I have ever seen in a professional card room. The show-one show-all rule was interpreted in this room to mean that if you showed your cards to any one, at any time, they must be saved and shown once the hand is complete. I first saw this when the older gentleman next to me showed his hand to me, and the dealer placed it in it’s very own little two-card muck pile and showed the table when the hand was over. I was baffled.
Before long, the old guy to my right, and the guy to his right were both talking about how bad they were running and betting $5 a hand on who had the worst hand. The hands were verified because they showed the player to their right each hand before they folded it, and the dealer saved each hand and showed them to the table. When the under the gun player showed someone his girlfriend his hand, and the two old guys showed their two hands as well, I figured I might as well join the party to see how many mucks the dealer could keep track of at once. The player to my left got in on the action and showed me his jack-five offsuit before he folded it.
This created a total of five muck piles, and I started to wish that I still had a hand so that I could zip it across all the muck piles and mix them up. Then I could claim that someone else’s cards were actually mine, start a big argument over who had which hand and make a terrible mockery of the whole process. I settled for claiming the hand of the guy to my left when the dealer flipped over his hand before mine, but he deftly sidestepped my attempt to make a mess of things by claiming my hand when it was flipped over next. The dealer who was sure that she had kept track of the hands correctly just shook her head and shot me a pleading look that I took as “Please don’t make my life harder today” and I quit messing around.
There were at least three different muck piles for the next two hours, through multiple dealers and I had my fun by watching each tourist who sat down learn about the two weird rules and then marvel at how they had never heard of rules like that before. Maybe the strangest thing was that the regulars acted like this insanity was perfectly normal. They probably watched ten people every night learn about these new rules and look baffled, but they just kept on playing. I think they knew that there was no way they were going to get these rules changed, so they just endured them. Odd.
I also saw an interesting angle-shoot a few weeks ago. I was playing a tournament and a player was wearing ear buds and obviously not hearing anything that was happening around him. Mr Oblivious was second to act on the flop in a heads up pot when his opponent, whom we will call Mr. Angleshooter, looked down so that Mr O couldn’t see his mouth behind his hat, grabbed a five hundred chip and a twenty-five chip, said “three twenty-five” and threw in the two chips. Mr. O thought he was facing a bet of 525 into a pot of 500, and called. Something happened that caused a discussion about the bet, and the tournament director was called over.
The tournament director backed up Mr. A, and to be honest he probably didn’t have a choice. He could have invoked rule #1 of the TDA if he was sure that it was an angle, but I have heard this tournament director say “I’m done with rule #1, just gets me in trouble.” so I knew this wasn’t going to happen. As long as TDs aren’t willing to invoke rule #1, there will be angles like this one. People will abuse the letter of the law because no one is willing to stick their neck out to enforce the spirit instead.
The real lesson in all this is that you need to be constantly aware of your surroundings, know about any non-standard rules in the room where you are playing, and stand up for yourself when you can. If Jordan had known about the F-Bomb rule at Canterbury, she wouldn’t have said it. If she had requested a warning, maybe even demanded one and bullied the TD, she may have received a warning instead of a costly penalty. Rooms aren’t always going to be perfect, so we need to be prepared and careful and I think we should police the tables ourselves a little bit too.
A player pulled off a dirty angle against me at the Venetian last year in a triple stud event. After he won a huge pot because of his angle, I managed to outlast him and finish one spot above him, while making his life hell for another five hours of play. I pointed him out to everyone, openly told the story of his angle, and refused his sad little offers of friendship. Some unsavory players won’t care that they are ostracized, but this guy did so I made sure that he was ostracized and I made sure the TD who allowed the angle knew that I was telling everyone about the situation on twitter, facebook, my blog, and standing in his card room, and that I was including his name in the conversation.
If we all policed things a little bit, the player and TD in this situation might behave differently in the future. The player certainly would, he was very uncomfortable playing with me. If I had been a little sharper I could have avoided the angle and then called him out for it after I won the pot, punishing him twice for his attempt to cheat me, and I have been much more careful ever since.
I’m actually a pretty good player. I don’t make big mistakes very often anymore, though I have a lot to work on and I try to get better every time I play. But I still make mistakes sometimes that are very frustrating. I made one tonight in the $550 buy-in event at the Fall Poker Classic that is really bugging me.
I won’t name the player directly, because I don’t want to teach people how to play against him. I like the guy and dissecting his game on a public blog just wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do. We’ll call him Ted.
Ted is a smart guy. He is middle aged and has been very successful in life because he’s smart and he applies himself to things. He plays well, and has had some success. I’m sure that Ted is a winning player. Ted plays fairly tight, and it’s not his standard game to reraise light preflop or open a ton of pots. Because he’s a smart guy, and always learning, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him open up his game somewhat in the right spots, but he is much more Ryan Hartmann than Kou Vang if you know what I mean.
I moved to a new table with about 75,000 chips, which was a little above average stack. Ted was on my left. Within one round I looked down at a pair of tens in early position, raised, and was unhappy to see Ted’s reraise. My raise was to 4,500 (1k and 2k blinds), and Ted went all-in for around 25,000. I thought about it, but I didn’t think Ted was going to reraise with a lower pair very often at all, and he probably wouldn’t reraise Ace-Queen here either. Against a range of Ace-King and tens or better, I’m in bad shape.
TT has 34% equity
AK, TT+ which has 66% equity
I can’t call when there is less than 30,000 in the pot and I have to call 20,000. It’s close in a cash game if those are his ranges, though still a bad call, but in a tournament it’s a terrible call. Good fold by me. That’s one.
Within half an hour I looked down at a pair of jacks and raised again. I had raised a few hands in between and won the blinds. Ted had not played another hand. I raised to 5,100 this time because the blinds had gone up to 1,200/2,400, and Ted reraised me again. I was annoyed, but I really didn’t think Ted would try to push me around here, and he had more chips this time. It was irritating, but not a tough fold. Similar numbers to the first hand meant that I was making the right fold.
Fifteen minutes later I was dealt Ace-King second to act. I opened for 5,100, with 68,000 in my stack. Ted reraised me to around 14,000. He had also played a pot in between and had a stack only slightly smaller than mine. Could Ted be three-betting me without big hands? Was he really getting this many big hands in a row? I was about tired of it, but I still had to think. If Ted had a big hand here, I was throwing money away by going all-in. I had a perfectly reasonable stack if I folded, and we were getting fairly deep into the tournament.
On the other hand. I had folded to him twice already, and I had not let the irritation show, so an all-in from me would look like a big hand rather than looking like I was just fed up. There was a lot of money in the pot now, and we both had enough behind that I would have fold equity if he didn’t have a big hand. A hand like a pair of tens would fold here. I might even be up against another Ace-King, or I could be racing against queens or jacks.
Do you see the flaw in my logic here?
I was in early position. The table was full. Ted knew that there were still seven players left to act when he made his reraise. And he’s not a brash young kid who is would make a mistake by reraising light from early position against another early position raiser. His range is probably TT+ and AK. Again. And my Ace-King is a 41% to 59% underdog. I can fold and go on to the next hand, or I can get my chips in against a range of hands that is beating me, with almost no fold equity.
I thought I saw fold equity. I thought he might be reraising me light. I thought everything except the right thing. He has a big hand here, and I should make yet another fold. Against most players I would have called one of the first two times, and would definitely ship all-in here, but not against Ted. And Ted is a solid guy who doesn’t make big mistakes like reraising me without a hand from early position for a quarter of his stack.
I pushed all-in, he called with a pair of kings, and I was crippled. And very angry with myself. If he had flipped over queens, and I had won the race, I probably wouldn’t have even thought enough about the hand to know I had made a mistake, but that doesn’t matter. I did make a mistake, I made it deep in a tournament, and it cost me money. The game is already tough, and with house rake, the dealer percentage, tips, and taxes, I can’t make a lot of mistakes if I want to make money over the long term. I definitely can’t make mistakes like this one.
The good news is that I learned from it. I get a little stronger and a little smarter every tournament. If I keep that up, I think I’ll be pretty good at this game in another forty or fifty years. I also took 4th in the HORSE tournament, so I’m up for the series. And Running Aces has a great promo next month with tiered rakeback that can earn you up to $10 an hour if you play enough hours. I will definitely be grinding those games most days and should make some good money. At 180 hours for the month I’ll make $1,800 in rakeback, which helps quite a bit with the bills.
I’ll be back at it tomorrow, and hopefully I won’t waste nine hours of good poker with one stupid call. Because maybe I won’t suck tomorrow.
Don’t forget to vote for the Minnesota Poker Awards
I’m pleased to announce that Running Aces card room and PocketFives.com have agreed to sponsor the Minnesota Poker Awards! The event itself will take place on December 29th at Running Aces, and I hope that it will become an annual celebration of all of our favorite things in Minnesota poker. I have a poll up where you can vote for which categories go into the show or submit categories using the (other) categories at the bottom. Each person can vote for up to eight categories and we will choose eight to twelve categories depending on how many votes each category gets.
UPDATE – You will not be able to vote unless you are a registered member of the blog. This is to prevent ballot box stuffing. Some people are finding that they can not vote, and this is the reason. Register as a member of the blog, and you will be able to vote as well as comment on posts. You can register HERE and then vote HERE.
When suggesting categories, remember that I won’t include anything that favors one poker room over another. With Running Aces sponsoring and hosting the event, I look bad either way if one room wins more than another. The poker rooms can buy their own trophies, these are just for the players.
In a few weeks, when I have enough votes on categories, I will start putting up nominees for each category. I just installed and set up the polling software, and I know it isn’t beautiful, but it will keep track of votes for now until I get my tech guy to work on it. The winner of each category will get an award of some sort at the event (I’m leaning toward a gold statue of a donkey), and recognition from their peers as a winner of the first annual Minnesota Poker Awards.
I’ve been having a great time grinding the $2/100 cash games at Running Aces this week and looking forward to next week’s poker tournaments. The excitement of harness racing is over, and it’s getting cold outside, so the poker tables are the place to be. After just a week of playing cash games every night, I think I have found the key to beating these games. The key is to pay attention to your opponents.
Playing a solid game and not making big mistakes is not strong enough to beat the rake for nearly enough money to make a living. You have to know how your opponents react to different hands, both in terms of physical tells and in betting patterns. Knowing what hands to play preflop and how much to bet is necessary, but taking the next step is absolutely imperative for beating the games.
I also hit a $400 progressive last night when I flopped quad deuces. I wasn’t sure about the whole progressive board promotion, but that four bills changed my mind about it. And it helped my win rate for the week pretty significantly. I’m running good, there’s no doubt about it, but I feel like I’m playing really well too.
It’s a good time to start running pure, because the Fall Poker Classic is coming up and I’ll be playing almost every event starting Monday. There will be a ton of cash at stake, and I’m hoping to win enough of it to take a little vacation when it gets cold. I know the competition will be tough, with all of Team Aces coming out, as well as Rooster, Joker, Soja, and all of the usual suspects from Shakopee. There should also be a whole contingent of clowns from out of town as well, throwing off money like it’s on fire.
This month, if you knock out any member of Team Aces in the money of a tournament outside of Running Aces, and you are wearing Running Aces gear, you win $200 cold hard cash. That includes me, Erick Wright, Dave Gonia, and our newest member Kou Vang. Free money! Hard to argue with that. If you aren’t wearing a shirt when you bust one of us, you win a free shirt so you can win the money next time.
Fox – Congratulations on joining the pro team at Running Aces, is this your first endorsement deal?
Kou – I’ve had multiple talks with poker sites and apparel companies in the past but nothing has worked out. I’m happy that my first deal is with my favorite card room!
Fox – You’ve been traveling to play poker tournaments around the country for almost ten years now, so you’ve been to a ton of poker rooms. What makes Running Aces stand out?
Kou – Running Aces stands out because they like to give back to the players with comps, a great structure, and low juice on their tournaments. I believe they are 2nd to none in the industry in these categories.
Fox – I know you have a nice trophy display in your home and you take a lot of pride in all of your accomplishments. What is your proudest moment in poker?
Kou – Yes i do, are you are correct. I take great pride in it because of the sacrifices I’ve made to make this my career. Here is an example. Back in 2008, two weeks after having my first child, I left my wife and kid at home with the intent to get my son a wsop ring in Council Bluffs, Iowa. I was able to achieve that. It was an unbelievable feeling and my wife was not quite as mad since i brought home some bacon.
Fox – Are you primarily self taught, or did you take lessons and read books to develop your style?
Kou – I was one of the cheap skates that couldn’t afford books so i went to Barnes and Noble to read for free at first. I think I am an aggressive person by nature and none of the nitty earlier poker books ever fit me. I pretty much had to go through all the trials and turbulence of the ultra aggressive online game to develop my style.
Fox – Who are your favorite players and who did you learn from?
Kou – I don’t think I’ve ever had a favorite poker player, but I’ve definitely played with some very tough guys. Shawn Buchanan, Sorel Mizzi and Kurt Jewels. Those three constantly applies pressure and you have to be alert at all times. Coming up in the poker world I watched John “Gstacks” Hayes a lot online and played with him nightly. Two of my best friends Mike “Rusostreet” Carusso and John “razorpoker” Razor were very successful when we we all came up. And i trolled them nightly as well!
Fox – What are your plans for the next few months? Any big events on the horizon?
Kou – I’ve been away from home too much this year. I have three kids, and I like to spend more time at home. Its really tough to go a whole week without seeing them. I’m just gonna grind all the local stuff till January then we’ll write down a line up for 2014.
Fox – As a pro, I know you have been through all of the ups and downs of supporting a family and grinding out a living at the tables. What is the toughest part of being a poker pro?
Kou – Yes you are correct. I’ve had many ups and downs in my career. When you go on a big winning streak you tend to take money for granted and when you go on a bad losing streak u feel like you could never win again. Sometimes winning doesn’t even feel good but more of a relief. The toughest part of this career is keeping focus and grinding away every session understanding nothing is guaranteed. The months you make a lot money, you may have to keep some for next month just like a commission job. I treat this as if it’s my own business, down to every flop, turn and, river.
Fox – What do you do outside of poker?
Fox – Have you ever played cash games or do you prefer to stick with tournaments exclusively?
Kou – I do play cash games from time to time, but nothin’ beats the feeling of investing $50 into a tournament to win 45k in one day! Or $10 online to win $50k.
Fox – You’ve been on a great run lately. Have you done anything to change your game or was it just your time to shine?
Kou – Throughout this year I’ve talked a ton with some of my closest poker friends. John Hayes, Jared Koppel, Jason Smith , and Levi Berger who won a wsop bracelet this summer. In the past, I’ve probably been playing too fast and taking too many mediocre spots. All of us has been working really hard and debating daily to see what our best options are on any given situation. I would like to get my game up to world-class level.
Fox – Thanks for taking the time and welcome to the team.
Kou – Thanks for the interview, I’m excited to join team Running Aces.
I’m back to my regular Monday updates, though I may not be super consistent until the Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park is over. I’m planning on playing pretty much every event other than the first weekend when my family will be in town, and I’m also selling some action in those events. My total spend for the series will probably be about $5,000. While I’m on the topic, let’s use this series as an example for selling action in tournaments.
First of all, I know some of you would love to be backed in a long term deal. For some players that works great, but being in make up was awful for me. I hated it. I don’t need the motivation of working for a backer, and the lack of steady income when I was in make up really drove me nuts. I’m not against long terms deals with make up, they just aren’t for me, and you should think about whether you want to be in a serious commitment like that. Remember, once you are in makeup you are stuck in the deal until you are out of makeup which can take a long time if you have a bad run.
I really prefer selling pieces of my action. It gives all my friends a sweat, smooths out the rough spots for me because I make some money any time I cash, and even a small mark up makes me some extra money. I sold action in some smaller events in Vegas this year, and one person bought all of it. That person invested $9,000 and I only played enough smaller tournaments to spend $5,800, but won over $20,000, and they nearly tripled their investment. The mark up in that deal was 35%.
Speaking of mark up, let’s talk about how it works and what is reasonable.
If a player is selling action in a $10,000 buy-in tournament with a mark up of 25%, then you pay a 25% premium on the action you are buying. In this case you could buy 10% of that player for $1,000 plus the mark up of $250 for a total of $1,250. This would be a very high markup for a single event with a $10,000 buy-in because the field is very tough and the variance is so high when there is only one event.
The more events the player will be playing in a series, the better things are for the investors. This is because they are essentially getting makeup from the player, even though it expires at the end of the series. Over a significant number of tournaments it is fairly rare for a good player to go without a single cash, so you will usually make some of your money back even if you don’t make a profit. Anything is possible, and you shouldn’t invest money that you can’t afford to lose, but an investment in a strong player over a long series, especially with small field sizes, is a pretty safe investment.
If a world class player, let’s say Jason Mercier, were to come to Minnesota to play the Fall Poker Classic events, and he was going to play as many events as possible, it would probably be profitable to pay a markup as high as 100%. A great player in small buy-in events over a long series makes Jason a great buy, and he is very likely to make a significant profit over the course of the series.
What about a player who is only a slight favorite? Let’s say your pal plays weekly tournaments, makes a small profit, and really wants to play all of the FPC events to work on his game and find out how good he is. In this case he might not even be profitable. Buying his action at even money with no markup is probably the only way to go.
One of the problems with selling action is that almost every player I know thinks they are better than they really are. If I sell at a 40% markup for the whole series, there are at least twenty people who think they should be selling at 50%. They may even fail to understand that a whole series is different than a single event, and try to charge a 50% markup just for the main event. If the deal was only for the main event, I wouldn’t pay a 50% markup for Jason Mercier, Phil Ivey, or any other player you can mention. The field is too tough and it’s only one tournament.
I might pay a 25% markup for the main event for a really great player, but even that number is probably too high. I sold a piece of my action in the main event at Running Aces with a 20% markup and was quite happy with the sale.
Finding a fair markup number can be determined two ways. If you factor in the length of the series and how much advantage the player has in that series, you can come up with a “fair” number. You can also charge whatever the market will bear, which is also a “fair” number. A player is not required to offer a number that he thinks will be profitable for his investors, they are responsible for their own decisions about whether an investment is profitable.
I like to offer a number that is profitable for the investors because I appreciate the fact that they are helping me out and I enjoy the sweat. My investors are often my friends and people I see every day, and I want them to be happy they put their faith (and their money) in me, so I always charge a number that I think is profitable. I also don’t want to have to spend a lot of time trying to sell my action, and if the number is too high then you will see players working very hard to try to get the package sold out, while a lower number sells out on it’s own.
As an example, at the beginning of this blog I sent a text to the friend who invested in me during the WSoP this year, and I got a text back in the middle of the fourth paragraph that read “I’ll get back to you tomorrow, but save at least 25%“. If you offer a good price, and have a good track record, selling action is easy.
Another problem that pops up is when players who are not proven winners try to sell action. Selling a few percentage points to your friends for a little sweat can be fun, but selling a significant portion of a tournament series can be really tough if you aren’t already a proven winner and it’s best not to waste your time.
If you want to move up, but can’t find a backer, then study the game, join a training site, read books, and keep getting better. Play small enough tournaments that you can build up a bankroll and some results to prove to potential investors that you are a good buy, and it won’t be long before you are selling out your action and have investors begging for more.
If you are looking to buy my action for the Fall Poker Classic, or have questions about buying or selling action, contact me on twitter @foxpokerfox
If you like the blog, and like fantasy sports, please use my link to sign up for star Street. It’s free, you can play for real money if you want, and the daily and weekly contests are awesome. CLICK HERE to sign up.
I’m working on a list of all the players who play major tournaments with any consistency in Minnesota to that people can play fantasy poker in Minnesota. I’m not advocating illegal gambling, I just think it would be fun.
Keeping track of a fantasy draft would be easy with twitter. Alternating picks via tweet for a regular draft, or if you were just drafting a group, or assigning some sort of salary cap, then using a hashtag would work fine. A tweet like –
I’ll take Kirby, Fox, Blake, Kou, and GStacks #FPCDRAFT
would cover the process of making an official record of your picks in a normal draft or a salary cap league. All we need for that type of league is a list of all the players who tend to play most bigger buy-in events. This would work fine for single large events.
For an entire tournament series the draft could be run the same way, but owners would be required to track their own players by checking results online. It wouldn’t be much work, and the possibility of sleeping a score from a member of your team would just be part of the game. I would recommend that anyone playing the events be required to own themselves on a team to prevent the possibility, as silly as it seems, of someone taking it easy on an opponent because they own them in a fantasy league.
I thought about assigning a salary cap number to each of the top 30 or 40 players, but I think the controversy would be a hassle and I don’t want people mad at me because I gave them a low salary cap number. If I can come up with a way to get some top players together to create salary cap numbers by voting then I could tell everyone that I voted for a higher salary cap number for them and avoid the hassle, but I don’t know if that will happen. I might be able to put up a poll of some sort on the site and let the public vote for salary cap numbers, but for now I’m going to avoid the salary cap idea completely.
All I need now is to complete my list of names and then I’ll put them on a dedicated page here on my site. Hopefully you, the reader, can help me with that. I didn’t want to list every poker player I could think of, because people may actually be drafting from this list and they won’t want to scroll through three hundred names to find the best players. I tried to include anyone who was a well known player, had strong results in the last year, or who plays all the higher buy-in events in Minnesota, but I am certain that I missed some people.
If I missed you, it’s not because I don’t think you are important, I just didn’t run across your name. If you think someone is missing from this list, please let me know in the comments. After a week or two I’ll reorganize it and put it up on a dedicated page where it will always be available.
Muneer ‘Moon’ Ahmed
Todd ‘Sharkslayerr’ Breyfogle
Sam De Silva
John ‘GStacks’ Hayes
Molly Anne Mossey
Josh ‘Rooster’ Oien
Tony ‘2putts’ Phaysith
Mark ‘PokerJoker’ Powers
Bob Van Syckle
Chris ‘Fox’ Wallace
I received my email recently from the Garden City Group today, the group that is in charge of Full Tilt claims processing. While I’m excited to finally get my money, they certainly could have done a better job, and I think I could help correct a lot of the problems they’re having. To that end, I submit a very informal job application below.
To: Garden City Group Inc.
Re: You Suck at Claims Administration
Sirs and Madams,
I believe I would be a valuable addition to your company because I can help with the following deficiencies –
1. The email I received from you a few days ago went to my spam folder instead of my inbox. Most of the players I know who received this email had the same problem. I know how to use services like Constant Contact and YMLP.com and could also find a way to get the emails sent from a certified server to ensure that they would very rarely end up in a spam folder. This is a very simple process, and there are tens of thousands of people with this knowledge,and any competent person could figure it out on their own. I can definitely handle this part of your operation.
2. The writing on your site is both terrible and overly technical. Is there a law that says you have to use legal-speak to provide information on claims remissions? Allow me to simplify all of the information on your front page –
“Welcome to the Full Tilt Poker Claims Administration web site. Players with account balances have until November 17th to submit a claim. Account balances will be paid in full unless there isn’t enough money in the fund. If there are not enough funds, players will be paid a prorated amount. If you haven’t received an email from us, and you believe you have an eligible balance, contact us at email@example.com”
Notice how I turned 800 words of unreadable legalese and overly qualified bullshit into one paragraph? That’s because I’m a reasonably good writer. You should have a guy like me on staff. I’m not a great writer, but apparently I’m a great deal more concise than any of the paralegals that you have writing for the front page of your website. Given that you are administering hundreds of millions of dollars, you might want to spend a few bucks to get a guy like me.
3. Your company seems to have a problem sorting out priorities. First priority, get information to players. Second priority, get players paid as quickly as possible. There may have been conversations in your boardroom that went something like this –
Guy in a Suit – “When should we pay these Full Tilt Poker claims?”
Tech Guy – “I don’t know, maybe Sue would have an opinion on that.”
Sue from Customer Service – “I can’t imagine they are in a hurry, just get around to it in the next year or two and it should be fine.”
Guy in a Suit – “Makes sense to me, they probably don’t care how fast they get it or when they find out if they are going to get the money and how much they are going to get. Just do it eventually. I’m going golfing.”
If I was involved in that meeting as an employee of your company, the conversation would have been more like this –
Guy in a Suit – “When should we pay these Full Tilt Poker claims?”
Fox – “Sir, I think we should pay them as soon as possible. Think about it like your paycheck. If someone took your paycheck and then asked when you want it back, you would want it right away.”
Guy in a Suit – “That’s an interesting piece of insight Mr. Wallace, we had not factored that into our thoughts on the matter so far. Let’s pay these people as soon as we can.”
Fox – “Thank you sir. I also think we should let them know what the timeline will look like right away, possibly on the front page of the website.”
Guy in a Suit – “Good thinking! We were going to keep them in the dark,but I can see how that might bother me if it were my paycheck. Why don’t you guys make that happen while I go golfing.”
4. I’m not an expert web designer, but I can definitely build a better website than the clunky piece of crap that you have up now. Fulltiltpokerclaims.com looks like it was built by a 15 year old kid for their class project in 2001. And they got a C+. From a generous teacher. My blog looks significantly better than the website you put up to administer hundreds of millions of dollars, and I spent twenty minutes of my time and $0.00 designing it. I even know a solid web designer who could make a really good looking site for $1,000 in a day or two if you really wanted to spruce it up, but I could definitely do a better job in twenty minutes on my own.
5. It appears that the company has a customer relations problem. The lack of communication so far has been pretty impressive. No one seems to know how much money is in the fund, how much money is owed to players if everyone claims their funds, or how much you are being paid out of the fund to administer the claims. We could put this information up on the website in abotu two minutes. Icould handle that. I could also hadnle emailing players to let them know that their funds are safe and they will be paid soon, write some useful FAQs (I know you have FAQs on the site, but I stress the word USEFUL), and communicate with players and keep them up to date on the process. I can assure you that players would appreciate this and you wouldn’t have millions of poker players shredding your company on twitter and facebook.
6. I would expect a claims administration company to have a few “math guys” on staff, but your math guys must have left the company just before you got the Full Tilt Claims project. I own a computer, I know how to use a spreadsheet and a calculator, and I could teach members of your staff to use these tools as well. With a few simple calculations we could find out if there was enough money in the fund to pay everyone and let claimants know how much money to expect.
I can help identify problems within the company and fix them. The problems above have not been acknowledged or dealt with, which leads me to assume that they were never recognized. I identified both the problems, and the solutions, without outside help. I’m a problem solver. Call me? Maybe? I can start tomorrow.
If you enjoy my blog, and you like sports, check out Star Street, a great weekly fantasy sports site. Sign up through MY LINK and play a few games for free!
I don’t play traditional fantasy sports because I don’t feel like I have time to be checking my waiver wire and arranging trades all week long, and I know that if I got started playing I would spend way too much time on whatever leagues I joined. I’m just too competitive and I don’t have that much time to spare.
I have started playing weekly fantasy sports online instead, and I’m having a ton of fun with it. I’m even considering spending some more time learning and starting to play weekly and daily fantasy sports online as a part time job. Though I knew a lot of former online poker pros have started playing daily fantasy for extra cash, I had not looked into it until a few weeks ago when I was lucky enough to work with one of the world’s best fantasy sports players and learn a little about how it works.
I’ll still be writing mostly about poker in this blog, because it will be my full time job for the foreseeable future, but I’m also going to start writing about the learning process as I start playing more fantasy sports and how to make money playing them online. I’m just getting started, but what I have learned so far makes online fantasy sports look like a really good way to make some extra cash.
Why I Like Online Fantasy Contests Right Now
1. Online fantasy sports are legit. Fantasy sports got a carve out in the UIGEA, meaning that it is essentially sanctioned by the federal government. This means that you can deposit with any debit or credit card or via paypal, and more importantly it means that the sites aren’t going to be shut down by the Department of Justice.
2. While most people will lose money as they do with any type of gambling, the rake isn’t too bad and the games are definitely beatable.
3. You can play from your phone. I can definitely see tens of thousands of players setting their line ups whenever they have a few spare moments.
4. It’s possible for good players to put in a huge amount of volume. When I was playing online poker, I had to be in attendance, playing the games, and I had trouble playing more than ten tables at a time. Once you know how you will value players for the week’s games, you can set a lineup in a minute and then go on to the next contest. “Set it and forget it” means that you can play hundreds of fantasy competitions every week.
5. The players are awful, and smart people are going to start to figure that out and flock to the games. The games are like online poker in 2003 when nobody knew what they were doing, and for a few more years they will continue to be soft.
6. Players fled online poker because they lost money and thought it was rigged. This got really bad after Neteller left the US market and players were forced to reload when their money was gone rather than cash in and out at will. There is no worry that these contests are rigged because you can see your picks and make your decisions based on the same information everyone else has, and players won’t feel like it’s rigged because they will deposit and withdraw regularly and they won’t keep records to see that they are losing.
So far I have found that many of my opponents are lost, and the information needed to win looks like it’s easy to get in lots of places. I’ve deposited on five sites to screw around on each one and see where the best action is, but so far I really like Star Street for ease of use and a wide range of contests. You can be playing 30 seconds after you register for the site, and they offer an initial freeroll so you don’t even have to deposit right away.
I’ll be posting reviews of each of the sites as I learn about them. If you decide to check out Star Street, please Click Here to sign up and I might actually make a few bucks from this blog.
In the past I’ve played with some of the best players in the world, and a few times in high buy-in events I’ve been at tables where every player was world class, but my table yesterday during the high roller event at the Midwest Poker Classic might have been the toughest yet. Playing short handed with these guys was no fun at all, and hopefully they didn’t like playing with me either.
Seat 1 – Todd @sharkslayerr Breyfogle
Everybody in the Minnesota poker world knows Todd. He is sometimes a controversial figure, but there is no doubt that the guy can play. Todd has a frustrating combination of being fairly tight but not playing scared. Most players who are tight preflop are easy to push around or steal from, but Todd is not, and it makes it tough to get chips from him.
Seat 2 – Ryan Gunderson
You may not know Ryan, but he is an online assassin who has just started playing live tournaments and is already showing strong results. Like many online players, he is very aggressive, tough to bluff, and he manages the pot size and stack sizes very well. Ryan played great and ran great, making it a tough day for everyone.
Seat 4 – Matt Alexander
Matt has made more money playing poker tournaments in the state of Minnesota than anyone, and he is used to high stakes games so the $2,500 buy-in didn’t bother him at all. A fantastic player, and very comfortable playing short handed, I was just lucky that Matt was on my right.
Seat 6 – Me
I play ok.
Seat 7 – Robby Wazwaz
Having Robby on my left is no fun. While I enjoy talking to him, he is very aggressive, willing to three-bet, comfortable playing short handed, and frequently underestimated as a tournament player. The problem is that I had to have someone on my left, and none of these players would be a good choice for that spot.
We also had a strong cash game player, whose name I don’t know, come to the table and go broke after a few hours.
While I wasn’t intimidated, I’m well past that in my poker career, I was definitely annoyed. I probably shouldn’t have played the event, because there weren’t enough soft spots to make it profitable when anyone who cashes is going to have to pay taxes, making the effective rake something like 35%. The best player in the world is not going to make a profit in that field paying that much rake.
The event was fun and challenging, and Aces did a great job running it, but it was a really tough day of poker and I went broke on the last hand of the day, handing my chips over to Robby when he turned a flush in a blind vs blind hand where I made two pair. I probably should have folded, but I shouldn’t have been in the tournament anyway, there were great cash games running and I should have been playing them instead.
This old timer has lost his damn mind at the poker table (nsfw if your boss is a dick). –
People tell me I should write more. They say I should write in the blog more often. In fact, three people have said exactly that in the last three days. So here it is, an update two days after an update. Writing more often means that I will have to talk about whatever is happening and give my opinions on all kinds of things just to find something to talk about. Luckily, I have a lot of opinions, and the delusion that a lot of people will find them interesting.
I haven’t done a list in a while…
1. I think poker players bitch too much. In a recent twitter discussion there was an argument over whether structures are too good, not good enough, or just right. People invested real time and real emotion in this discussion on twitter. People were angry. It was ridiculous. When I heard that Running Aces was making it’s structures even better for regular weekly events, I thought “That’s great, I’ll play there more often.” That was all I needed to think about. When I heard they were changing to progressive boards for their promotions, I thought “That’s interesting, I’ll have to see what that looks like.”
This stuff is not complicated. It’s not worth arguing over. If you have ideas, Aces is always interested in hearing them, but I recommend you put them out on twitter first and let the other whiners rip them apart, because no matter what changes you suggest, most poker players will find a reason to hate them. People need to quit whining. And yes, I know I’m one of them sometimes, but I’ve been better lately.
2. This Keep It or Cash It event at Downstream casino is really neat. Being able to play multiple flights every day, having a shot at big money, and seeing people competing for the various awards is all a ton of fun. It would be more fun if I hadn’t been the bubble guy last night, but I have another shot at it tonight. And I’ll be doing the broadcast for the final table Sunday night, tune in and watch with live hole cards and my brilliant commentary* at msptpoker.com.
3. I think fantasy sports online is going to be the next online poker. Live poker is still growing, as evidenced by the MSPT and other tours growing steadily, and I will always love live poker, but online poker is boring and it’s very tough to make a living playing online these days. Fantasy sports isn’t going anywhere, and betting on it is completely legal and will stay that way for the foreseeable future. It even has a carve-out in the UIGEA, which tells us that the government isn’t going to bother fantasy sports sites. I’ve been playing at Star Street, and it’s amazing how lost some of these players are. One of my opponents this week drafted five receivers and his only quarterback is Tony Romo!
*Commentary is guaranteed, brilliance is not. Void where prohibited. Commentary is only guaranteed if it happens. If there is no commentary you owe me five bucks. Residents of Idaho and members of the MSPT family not eligible for non-existent guarantee.
OK, maybe I will never really enjoy the grind again. After a few years, and over a million hands of no-limit holdem online, it’s tough to really like playing no-limit cash games and I may never really love it again. I have admitted to being fairly burned out for the last few years, but poker is still the best job I’ve ever had and I really don’t have a tough lot in life. I’ve been to places where people have hard lives, and my house isn’t within a thousand miles of any of them so I don’t complain much.
I couldn’t get a job tomorrow that would pay me half of what poker will pay me this year. If I could just do something starting tomorrow that would pay me well, poker would go back to being a hobby, and then it would probably be a lot of fun. But I don’t have that option. I haven’t had a job in ten years, I don’t have a college degree, and my only marketable skill skill set is as a luthier (building guitars), which is not an option because of a serious allergy to a number of exotic hardwoods. Doing something else right away is not an option.
So what do I do about poker while I am working on finding something else to do at least part time?
I have been writing quite a lot in hopes of making the transition to a career as a full time writer, but I can’t make that leap until I have started making real money, which is tough as a writer. Writers don’t make a lot of money unless they are publishing best selling books or they are doing really well in e-publishing with their own stuff. I’m working on it, but I may not be there for a while. I have also been working on some web projects, but they are unpredictable and not paying the bills yet.
As for poker, I’m working on making it fun again.
The team battles at Running Aces the last few weeks really reminded how much fun poker can be and how entertaining it can be as a social game. I have been listening to books while I play, as well as some podcasts and occasional music, but that keeps me disengaged from the game, I’ll problem I’ll discuss in a paragraph or two. Avoiding interaction with other players definitely costs me money because I am not hearing them talk, learning about them, and picking up information that I can use to make more money later. I know my income suffers when I’m not at my best, especially in the tougher games in Minnesota. I can’t just sit and wait for the nuts or a big draw like I could in Vegas or California, making continuation bets and otherwise throwing my hand away if I encounter resistance without a big hand.
I have decided to start talking to my opponents. I stopped talking so much and using my ear buds more often because I was tired of the same lame ass bad beat stories and “I wish I had the nuts right here” or “Can I have my hand back” comments. Honestly I don’t know how dealers handle it. But I also miss the interesting conversations and learning about people’s lives. The poker table is one of the few places where people from all walks of life get together and talk, and that is one of the things that makes it interesting.
This summer I got to tell a convicted murderer to shut up, check raise a Methodist minister, lose a big pot to a stripper, and chop a trophy with my old mail man – all in the same tournament! The game would have been boring with headphones on. The problem is that I am so tired of no-limit holdem with the same people that it’s tough for me to grind out a living in the local games without listening to a book and checking my rss feed every five minutes.
During the team battles I had so much fun, and enjoyed the socializing so much, that I have decided to move more in that direction. Maybe I can find a way to have fun at the tables again, to laugh a little more and also be more engaged in the game so that I can make a few more dollars. Because more laughing and more money makes everything more fun.
If you are a Minnesota poker player, you probably know about the team battles at Running Aces. The idea was inspired by the never ending twitter battles between Poker Joker and Rooster, and Running Aces tournament director Tristan Willberg decided to make a legitimate team battle happen. The schedule included two $65 buy-in events, which I planned to skip, and a $230 event that I was definitely going to play. Then Brian Soja got himself a big stack in the Sunday Optimum right about the same time I busted out and I took his seat in the $65 event last weekend.
Our team was lots of fun, with Poker Joker himself cranking up celebratory tunes on a bluetooth speaker with every player we eliminated, Renee Kessel dancing, Jordan Handrich asking me “What range should I call with here?” and Steve Lillehaug drinking like it was his job. It was the most fun I’ve had in a poker tournament in a long time, and I’m glad I got the opportunity even though we busted after making the final four.
It would usually be almost impossible to get me to play as $65 event, but I’ll be playing every team battle from now on, and Tristan has assured me that there will be more team battles in the future. It’s like playing with a bunch of your friends, being able to root for half the table, and it brings backs the social aspect that is sometimes missing in more competitive games. I never had any desire to put my headphones on or check the rss feed on my phone.
The rules are fairly simple. You can not reveal the contents of your hand, but you can say pretty much anything else. You can tell your teammates what to do, or what you would do, but they won’t always take your advice (QJ isn’t a monster Renee). The rules have been amended a few times as you would expect in a new format, and they remain somewhat vague, but the format still works very well and there were no significant disputes. Friendly rivalries, meeting new people, and busting those people and celebrating, are all part of the deal.
I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s $230 buy-in event, partly because I have joined a very strong team, but also because the experience was so much fun. We may be there until 5 am because the structure is very good and it’s best of three instead of the single elimination that we had in the $65 event. This could mean a significant wait if you dispatch your opponents with two quick wins and another match is a rough best of three that goes down to the wire each time, but my plan is to play cash games in between matches if I do find myself with a significant wait. I might wander outside and watch the horses, and if I’m feeling frisky I may even lay down a bet on a long shot.
There are spots for a few teams still open, and if you can’t find a team I can post something on facebook for you and find you some teammates. I want this thing to fill up, because everyone is going to have a great time and the more teams that register the sooner they will run more team battles!
To give you an idea how much fun it was, the Optimum was three handed when there were four teams left and even though the Optimum is a much bigger tournament, the rail was about four people while one of the team battles had a rail of at least a dozen people who were all standing and cheering.
For full info on the team battles, click here.
Last weekend I played in the Tournament of Champions at Running Aces card room here in Minnesota. My table draw was awful, definitely the toughest table I have seen in the Midwest, and every time we busted someone another killer was brought in. Blake Bohn, Kou Vang, Dave Gonia, Erick Wright, myself, and a host of other very strong players, made for a very long day one. If I play with a strong player for a significant period of time, I almost always see a mistake or two, though usually less mistakes than I make myself.
This parade of inevitable mistakes sometimes makes me wonder if anyone is really any good at this game at all. It’s tough to make every adjustment correctly, constantly updating your knowledge of your opponents, tracking stack sizes, thinking three levels ahead to avoid being trapped by other strong players, all while keeping a reign on your emotions. The level of complication means that even the best players in the world make mistakes on a regular basis, though we don’t get to see most of them because they end up in the muck.
I think my career as a poker coach and the amount of study I have put into the game gives me a pretty good resume’ when it comes to assessing whether a play was correct or not. I’ve spent hundreds of hours looking for mistakes in my students play as well as tens of thousands of hours looking for mistakes in my own game and in my opponents’ games as well. In that time I’ve seen some of the best players in the world make tremendous mistakes, and I’ve won tournaments after making huge mistakes myself.
I played with Phil Hellmuth in the main event at the WSoP in 2012. There is no doubt that Phil is a world class tournament player, and the most accomplished tournament player in history. I’ve played other events with Phil and he has played very well, but he made big mistakes all day. A very loose and aggressive young player, who was raising a lot of hands, raised from the cutoff, and Phil folded Ace-Jack on the button with 15 big blinds in his stack. If you have studied tournament play, you are probably shaking your head right now. This is an automatic all-in. Shove your chips in the middle, run around the table for a round of high fives, and get ready to post your increased stack size on twitter. But Phil folded.
I’ve played with other great players, and seen tremendous mistakes from some of the best in the world, which leads me to the conclusion that the game is so tough that no one can play for a significant period of time without a few screw ups. We also don’t always see mistakes when they happen, and we also don’t always understand the method behind the madness either, which makes it tough to assess how well our opponents are really playing.
If it’s not possible to truly master the game, then how do we even measure our progress? How do I even know if I’m any good? Or if the guy across from me has any idea what he is doing?
There are a few things that we can be sure of. Game theory and simple pot odds and fold equity calculations can give us some plays that we know are correct. I used the 14 big blinds example with Phil Hellmuth because it’s as close to a certainty as we have in poker. We can prove that going all-in is the best play in that situation with reasonable certainty. That is where we start. Master the fundamentals and learn the plays that are correct almost every time you make them in certain situations, and learn to recognize when other players fail to make those plays. This will help you recognize weak opponents and it will prevent you from making some very basic mistakes.
The other way to know that you are improving is to watch your results and see how you fare against strong competition. Believe in yourself but assess your current skills fairly and be honest about how well you play. You can be confident that you will continue to learn and eventually be a great player without being cocky and believing that you are already great.
My friend Blake Bohn is a good example of a player who exploits weakness and believes that he can play a level above his opponents. He knows the fundamentals, but that isn’t why he plays well. Blake is incredibly confident at the table, and he constantly looks for situations where he can exploit the mistakes of bad players. He is willing to talk to you in the middle of a hand whether he is ahead or behind, and he believes that he can get the results he wants more often than he will give information away. Blake puts it all out there, his mind against yours, and his results seem to indicate that he’s right. That makes his huge success over the past year a disaster for the rest of us, because the more confident he becomes the harder it will be to beat him.
When you combine the two, willingness to mix it up and a perfect knowledge of the numbers and game theory, you get some of the best players in the world. Jason Mercier is a good example of this. I played with him all day a few years ago in the $10k buy-in HORSE event at the WSoP and I did not see a mistake. Not one. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any, or that Jason is perfect, but he makes very few mistakes and still wades into the fray and takes advantage of weak players when the time is right. That powerful combination of skills is why Jason has made millions and I’m still grinding out the mortgage every month.
All we can do is keep improving, because our opponents are going to keep getting better and if we don’t keep up, they will pass us by. It’s a tough game, and it’s not getting easier.
Tournament season is in full swing in Minnesota. Kicked off by the Tournament of Champions, tournament season runs through the middle of October with events nearly every weekend. Let’s break it down.
August 16th to 18th – MSPT event in Grand Falls, at one of my favorite properties. I don’t know if I’ll make it to this one, but I’ll definitely be at some upcoming MSPT events. Good luck if you are heading to Grand Falls this weekend!
August 23rd to 25th – The Twin Cities Poker Open at Canterbury Park. I’ve already got my seat, and if you are serious about poker, you need to get yours. An $1,100 event in the twin cities is too good an opportunity to miss, and the field should be pretty good.
August 30th to Sept 8th – The inaugural Keep It or Cash It MSPT event at Downstream in Oklahoma. I love the property, and the Keep It or Cash It idea is so good that I can’t miss it. Whoever came up with that idea is a genius. OK, it was Me, Mileski, and the poker room manager Dale at Downstream. We were drinking in a little dive bar in Joplin and in between terrible Karaoke songs, we came up with the idea. And it’s brilliant. So good that I’m driving to Oklahoma to play it.
August 18th and 25th – The $65 buy-in team battles at Running Aces, while the $230 team battle will happen on September 1st. These should be a ton of fun.
September 11th to 22nd – The Midwest Poker Classic at Running Aces. Awesome structure, a great schedule, and multiple events every day, make this series a can’t miss for me. Click the tab at the top of my site for a web version of the whole schedule. I’ll be chasing the player of the series points and grinding hard in every event.
September 30th to October 4th – The Ultimate Overlay at Canterbury Park with a $111,111 guaranteed prize pool. Hopefully next year we can get 20% of Blake Bohn’s winnings…
October 5th to 21st The legendary Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park. A great series with big fields.
October 24th to 27th – The HallowScream tournament at Running Aces was the best tournament of the year last year (hint, I can see the trophy from here). A lot of fun!
November 24th – The Big Turkey Tourney at Running Aces looks to be a great event! I’ll be representing Team Aces along with Erick Wright and Dave Gonia trying to take this one down. We have all committed to the event and we’ll be doing some fun giveaways as well.
December 6th to 8th – The MSPT at Canterbury Park will probably set an MSPT attendance record again. Another can’t miss event and first place might be over $100,000!
There are also MSPT events at FireKeepers, Ho Chunk, Meskwaki, and Canterbury Park by the end of the year, all great events within a reasonable driving distance!
That is a major tournament series every weekend and a lot of weekdays too, all the way until December 8th. Over 100 days of tournaments between now and the end of the year! I may not have to leave the state except to go to MSPT events until next year.
When I’m playing live poker, which is most of the time these days, I am often asked about online poker. Do I still play online? Where is the best place to play online? Is it safe? I don’t play online much these days, because I don’t trust any of the sites that are currently open to US players. Not one of them has shown that player accounts are segregated, that they are insured, or even that they can pay what is currently owed. This is not to say that they are all crooked or underfunded, just that none of them has proven that they are safe and solid.
Let’s look at the options
Bodog is probably the safest and most well funded because their sports book is their primary business and it makes a lot of money. But the Department of Justice has been chasing them for years, and they have switched domain names so many times that I don’t even know where to find them any more. It could just be a matter of time before they run into serious legal trouble, which we all know can cause serious financial trouble.
I’m also concerned about the lack of accountability or security in the poker games at Bodog these days. With no player names visible and no player tracking possible, the site is really just begging for bots and collusion. And if there were a problem like Absolute and Ultimate Bet had with insider cheating, there would be no way for players to ever catch it. Being able to see who their opponents were an track win rates and hand histories is the only way a cheat has ever been caught online. The same is true with bots, it is nearly impossible to catch them on Bodog. Cheats are always looking for opportunity, so if an opportunity presents itself I have a hard time believing that the cheats aren’t taking advantage of it in big numbers.
I do know people who are making a little money, and cashing it out successfully at Bodog. The cash outs are fast and easy right now, but the other questionable things going on at Bodog prevent me from playing there. I also don’t know of a single case where someone received money that the security team had taken from someone else when they were cheated. This happened to me a number of times on Full Tilt and PokerStars, and I have to wonder if they are interested in catching cheats at all if I have never heard of a single case of cheating being uncovered by Bodog security.
Winning / Yatahay / Americas Cardroom / True Poker
The Winning Network is the only place I play online right now. The software is acceptable, the cashouts from America’s Cardroom are fast, and the games are fine. There is nothing spectacular about it, the games that are big enough to make real money are not soft enough, and they run the risk of being shut down by the Department of Justice too, so I don’t keep a lot of money on the site. The one deposit I made on the site awhile back when I got started was logged in my credit card statement as if I was buying clothing from China, which tells me that their domains could be seized at any time. Remember, this why Full Tilt and PokerStars were locked out of their domains by the DoJ, and a number of smaller sites have suffered the same fate.
The Merge Network has lost a number of skins recently and they seem to be forcing sins off their network so that their own site, Carbon, can have all the traffic. This is bad business, and indicative or some shady happenings behind the scenes. I had occasion to contact people at Merge about a serious issue some months ago and they were no help at all. When I started doing some digging, I found some disturbing things going on behind the scenes. It appears that people from FutureBet, which scammed players and skin owners out of millions of dollars, are the same people running the Merge Network. They deny this, but they also refuse to discuss it. There is zero accountability and zero transparency with this company, and everything I found looked suspicious.
I wouldn’t trust these guys to hold on to a free oil change coupon for me, and I sure don’t trust them with my money. Given that cashouts are taking months, even if you were guaranteed to get your payout and not lose your money, the extended wait would prevent me from playing there.
Revolution / Cake / Lock
The Cake network is now owned by Lock. Or not. Maybe it’s the Revolution Network using the Cake software and Lock owns part of it. No one really knows. Which is scary. Lock has been accused of questionable business practices in the past, and recently their reputation has fallen apart completely. Cash outs are taking many months, no updates are available, and support is nonexistent. Lock dollars are selling for $0.25 on the dollar on online forums, and many of their pros have left the network. Some pros left after they weren’t paid and some left after they were worried about their name being associated with a site that was not paying players. Either way, the whole thing is shady.
Player pools are also segregated on the network, making he games much less attractive for strong player trying to make money online. This was probably done by the network to avoid having players on Lock intentionally lose their money to players on other skins who could then cash out the money for them. Player to player transfers were also stopped, which usually signals the beginning of the end for an online poker site.
The Chico Network, which includes Tiger Gaming, is either a scam, or is being run terribly and cashouts are incredibly slow. Do not play there.
VPN to Stars
It is certainly possible to get on to PokerStars and Full Tilt from the United States. I know people who are doing it every day. There are a few problems with using a remote server or VPN to get on to Stars, but you’ll have to make your own decision about whether it’s worthwhile for you. Let’s look at the potential problems.
1. It costs money. Any VPN that is any good will charge you at least $500 a month. It’s like paying extra rake, and you will have to play a lot, and win a lot, to make it worth playing when you lose your first $500 to $1,000 every month.
2. It’s risky. Some of the service providers who offer remotes or VPNs are very reputable, but what if something goes wrong in their life or they become suddenly very ill? Are you going to go to Romania or Yugoslavia or Panama to try to get your money back from them? And even if they appear solid now, things may change fast if you suddenly win a huge tournament.
3. You aren’t you. You can’t play satellites, get endorsement deals, or add your winnings to your lifetime earnings on online tracking sites. You have no proof that you have done anything.
4. It’s risky in more ways than one. If you win $90,000 from a remote controlled computer in the Czech Republic, do you think stars might want to check it out? If they do,they might bust the people who are providing the remote or VPN and take your money. If that happens, you have no recourse, you are just screwed.
So, what should you do? My recommendation for most players is to play in real brick and mortar card rooms and hope that real online poker comes back to the United States before the brick and mortar card rooms start to disappear. The poker boom that online poker created is starting to slow down. A few more years without online poker and we will probably see live card rooms start to close. The micro-limit and play money games that got so many players started online were the perfect feeder for live card rooms, but new blood is rare these days, and without online poker I don’t expect to see many more new players.
Online poker also paid advertising dollars for televised poker, and without it we don’t have much new poker on TV, which was another source of new players. with no online poker, no poker on TV, and most of the fish from the original poker boom getting tired of losing, the tables in live card rooms are definitely getting tougher. I don’t have a solution for that problem, other than a little piece of advice that I ignored ten years ago.
“Don’t quit your day job.”
With the Tournament of Champions coming up at Running Aces, and the incredibly good structure that they offer for this event, I thought I would talk a little bit about adjusting to different structures. The structure is awesome, the juice is very reasonable, and if you are a serious player in Minnesota, you can not miss this tournament. There are qualifiers running all week, and more information available HERE.
I’ve been asked the question so many times that I developed a stock answer to it. The question?
“How do I need to adjust to a fast structure /turbo?”
My answer is usually –
“Not at all. The cards don’t know when the blinds go up next. You have X number of big blinds, and that doesn’t change because of the structure.”
I answer it this way most of the time because the people asking it are fairly basic players looking for a basic answer. They want a solution to their problem, not an in depth strategy lesson that they won’t remember two hands after it’s finished, and it wouldn’t do them any good. It’s also mostly true and it probably does them a lot of good because most beginning players feel way too much pressure when the blinds are going up fast and it helps them stay calm and just play the right way according to their stack and their hand. But it’s not really true, there is a little more to it.
If you read my blog with any regularity, then you probably know about my love for numbered lists. Want to see another one? Sure ya do. Here it is. Presented as a scientific paper because that’s the mood I’m in.
Adjustments for Varied Structure Speeds in Multi-Table Poker Tournaments
Chris Wallace, PHD: Poker Analysis, Grinder University
1. The primary differences between a fast and slow structure have to do with the amount of time you will spend with a specific set of opponents. In a faster structure it can be less profitable to establish a table image because players will be busting faster, tables will break sooner, and the subject or some of their opponents will be moved to another table or busted and replaced with others quickly. In a very slow structure, offering more opportunities for strong players, setting up a table image and paying close attention to opponents is of significantly more importance than it would be in a similar situation with a faster structure.
2. In a slow structure, the subject should worry less about their chip stack as it compares to average and concentrate on patience and making plays based on the number of big blinds in their stack. When the structure is faster it is appropriate to base one’s decision on stack size compared to average stack, though this adjustment is very small and should rarely be used as a deciding factor.
3. In a faster structure, some moves which the advanced player uses to take advantage of fold equity may not be as profitable. Players in a faster structure tend to be more desperate and feel more pressure to chip up, so they may be less willing to fold a hand. Conversely, some players will feel pressure to raise a large number of hands preflop and may fold to resteals more often. Taking note of how desperate an opponent may feel is of utmost importance in a fast structure, while in a slower structure it is more important to pay attention to the table and establish range assumptions which will help an expert player come up with accurate assumptions of fold equity.
4. In a faster structure, an expert player must remain poised with a shorter stack and be comfortable with the moves that are available with both push/fold and resteal stacks because more time will be spent in those zones. Looking for opportunities to use these plays will be important in a faster structure, while in the slower structure deep stacked play will be more important because stacks will remain deep throughout the tournament.
5. In events with a faster structure the strong player may have a lower ROI (Return On Investment), and higher variance, therefore requiring a higher bankroll for professional play, but these faster events can in fact yield a higher hourly rate because less hours will be spent in each event. Research has shown that most poker tournaments of $200 or more yield a similar hourly rate regardless of structure, though this can be heavily influenced by playing style.
6. Paying attention to table break order is important in both fast and slow structures. Time spent establishing a table image in a slow structure could be wasted in an event with a slow structure if the table will be breaking soon.
While most players will adjust far too much to different structures based on perceived pressure or lack thereof, there are clearly adjustments to be made and an expert player will benefit from a slightly higher ROI by implementing these and similar strategies.
Canterbury Park announced this week that they are going to host the Minnesota Poker Hall of Fame. I won’t even go into whether there should even be a Minnesota Hall of Fame, I have heard that discussion enough at the poker tables this week. There is going to be one, and it makes for an interesting blog post, so I am going to post my thoughts on the people that should be in it. Let me preface this by saying that I am not part of the hall of fame committee, I have no idea who is part of the hall of fame committee, and I have zero sway or influence at Canterbury Park. A few people at Canterbury aren’t big fans of yours truly, but they run a good card room and I’m sure the hall of fame will be done well.
If I were in charge, I would nominate (in no particular order) –
“Minneapolis” Jim Meehan
Love him or hate him, Jim was the face of Minnesota poker for many years. When I first started going to Las Vegas, everyone that heard I was from Minnesota asked me if I knew Jim. He has a WSoP bracelet, Minnesota’s first, and he has been a figure both locally and nationally since before Canterbury brought legitimate poker to Minnesota. Jim is definitely a first ballot hall of fame inductee.
Lyle is an excellent player and has some accomplishments under his belt at the poker tables, but more important than those accomplishments is his role in the creation of the World Poker Tour. Lyle helped start the poker boom by broadcasting poker the right way, with hole card cams and announcers who knew what they were talking about. Lyle might be the most important figure in the poker world that has come out of Minnesota, and I think he’s a lock to get into the hall.
You may not have played with her in your local weekly tournament, but dmoongirl was a big deal online and more recently was the star of Bet Raise Fold, a documentary about the online poker world and Black Friday. Between her poker accomplishments and her starring role in an important poker documentary that the whole country is watching, Danielle belongs in the hall of fame.
Jason ‘pbjaxx’ Senti
Jason is a figure in the local poker scene on occasion, but he is most widely know for making the November Nine at the WSoP main event in 2010 where he won 1.3 million dollars. He’s also a great guy, a well known high stakes online player, and a world class pot-limit Omaha player. Jason belongs in the hall of fame, no doubt about it.
John ‘JohnnyGStacks’ Hayes
As far as I can tell, Johnny is the biggest winner in Minnesota history, with over 2.5 million in tournament winnings online, strong live tournament results including an MSPT bracelet and a 3rd place finish in a WSoP event, Johnny has proven that he is a world class player and that he belongs in the hall of fame.
The five names above seem like slam dunk first ballot hall of famers to me, and I think Bryan Mileski, Everett Carlton, and Blake Bohn should be in the running as well. None of them would be a bad choice, and all three show no signs of slowing down. Mileski will continue to grow the MSPT, and Carlton and Bohn will continue to win tournaments, so if we don’t put them in now, we’ll be doing it in a few years anyway.
Watch for players like Kou Vang, Matt Kirby, Jarred Koppel, and Erick Wright as well. With a little more longevity all of those names could end up in the hall. My apologies to anyone I missed, these were just the names I came up with off the top of my head. It’s a blog, not an article in the New York Times. For an NYT article, I would probably actually do some research.
I have had some success lately, more in terms of notoriety than in actual monetary profit, and I was reflecting on my way home tonight about how important it is to have the support of my family and friends. I have had many conversations with my students and other players at the tables about how their significant other, parents, or friends, aren’t supportive of their interest in poker. I can’t imagine how tough it would be to make a career out of playing poker if my friends and family were against it or thought it was a negative thing in my life.
The most important person for me is definitely my wife. She is amazing when it comes to dealing with the ups and downs of a poker career and the strange things that life as a poker pro bring into your life. Through swings in my bankroll, the nightmare of Black Friday, and the stress of long periods of running bad, she takes it all in stride. When I come home at 5 am night after night because we need the money, she doesn’t bat an eye.
Last year during the Winter Freeze Out at Canterbury Park I hit the final table with the chip lead after having the chip lead for most of the day. I was running well, playing well, and felt good about my chances. My wife happened to call while we were on a break before starting the final table. I told her that I had the chip lead going in to the final table and that first place was $47,000. Her reply?
“Oh great. I’m going to bed, let me know how you did when you get home. Play well.”
Seriously? Who does that? If you had half of someone’s action in that spot, would you just drift off to sleep? I couldn’t do it. I might not get in my car and fly down to the card room, but I would at least be excited and interested, but it all rolls off her back like it’s nothing. When I’m running bad for a week or two and I get stressed about it, or I am worried about my bankroll, she just assures me that I’m a great poker player and that it will all be fine like it has every other time. She’s right, but it’s hard to just be confident of that when you are running bad and everything seems to be against you. When the whole world seems to be against me, it’s so nice to have someone who is on my side and believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.
It would also be frustrating if my extended family thought it was a bad thing. Family gatherings would be tough if my family was anti-poker, but my parents, sister, grandparents, and cousins all seem to think it’s a perfectly fine way to make a living. It might be a little strange for some of them, but even my very Christian grandmother doesn’t seem to have any problem with it. Even my dogs are all for it. They think I’m the greatest thing ever when I come home late from the card room.
Many of my friends play poker themselves, and after playing for a living for ten years I have made so many friends who play for a living and understand how things are, that I don’t think I have any friends who disapprove. The friends I had when I started playing for a living are mostly still around, and none of them ever thought it was a bad thing. Some of that is a lifestyle and culture thing. If you grew up in a Catholic school and live in a conservative burb surrounded by doctors and lawyers, more of your friends and family might disapprove. My friends who hung out in Irish bars, accepted pretty much any lifestyle, and are cool with almost any way that you make a living other than politics, didn’t even find it strange.
If you have people in your life who don’t like poker, do everything you can to help them understand that it’s a contest of skill, that you are serious about it, and that you don’t have a gambling problem. Having their support will make your life so much easier.
I have seen the negative side of things from random people I meet who sometimes disapprove of what I do, but that is a nice filter to weed out people that I shouldn’t waste my time on. I had an apartment manager ask me what I do for a living, and when I told her that I played poker, she asked “So you have a gambling problem?”
Yes bitch, when I said professional poker player, I meant to say degenerate gambler. Thank you for correcting me when I misspoke. And I assume you have an apartment managing problem? And your husband the dentist, he just has an oral fixation? Your cousin the sanitation worker, do you just call him a dumpster bum? Does he love garbage? Grrr.
Luckily that attitude is rare these days, and poker has become a more respectable profession. I don’t get as much negative response these days, nor do I get the wide-eyed “Oh that’s so cool” response very often. Poker is a lot more normal than it used to be. Everyone knows someone who plays seriously, and even non-players mostly understand that it is a game of skill involving real money and that a legitimate living can be made from it. I hope that trend continues.
A few days ago I joined the pro team at Running Aces card room here in Minnesota. If I could pick any card room in the country to work with, it would be Running Aces, so I’m obviously very happy at how this worked out.
Reasons why I’m happy to be part of the pro team –
1. Aces is the home of tournament poker in Minnesota. More tournaments, bigger buy-ins, and way better structures than any card room in Minnesota. Probably the best structured weekly tournaments of any card room in the country. I get bored with cash games, but I love playing tournaments, so Aces is definitely the best choice for me.
2. The staff is great. I have made quite a few friends at Running Aces, and the staff are friendly and very good at their jobs. The dealers, floor people, tournament directors, and even the cocktail servers are friendly and efficient. I like the fact that dealers are encouraged to be friendly instead of robotic, and it has given me a chance to get to now some of them pretty well.
3. They have made really good choices with the pro team so far and I’m happy to be part of a solid group. Both of my teammates are excellent players and good people who will represent the room well. Erick Wright was Minnesota Poker Magazine’s Player of the Year in 2012, while Dave Gonia won the Mid-States Poker Tour event at Running Aces in January for $90,000 and final tabled a bracelet event at the WSoP this summer. I’m sure any new additions to the team will be excellent players who represent the room well too.
4. It’s close to home. A twenty minute drive gets me to the card room, and now that I have a VIP parking pass I can park right up front and be inside in moments. The importance of a short commute is often underrated.
Of course there are some negatives –
1. Wright and Gonia are both going to be in pretty much every tournament now, making the field tougher for me.
2. Talking to friendly dealers and watching beautiful cocktail waitresses walk by are both significant distractions. How am I going to beat Dave Gonia heads up if I have to deal with all of those distractions?
3. I have to behave in a professional manner. I hate behaving myself. I really hate it.
I am going to try to get a mixed game started soon. I’m thinking Monday night, $8/16 HORSE starting around 6 pm. Anyone interested? Aces will start any game we want, which is another great reason to play there.
I’ve been preaching game selection to my students for years, but sometimes it can be tough to find a good game. If you are in a small poker room there may not be many tables available, and even in fairly large rooms you may be playing a game where there simply isn’t a good game available at the moment. Table changes can take time too, and there is nothing more frustrating than getting a table change and ending up in the seat that was occupied by the donkey who was driving the action until five minutes ago. As an old friend once said –
“If you aren’t at a party, that’s your own fault. Everywhere I go there is a party. I bring the party. Sometimes I am the party.”
I’ve spent enough time playing with friends who tend to make a table great, that I have learned a little bit about how to make it happen. While I’ll never be as good at waking up a table as guys like Adam Stemple, Tom Hammers, or Mark Kroon, I can definitely wake up a bad table and at least get people talking and playing a few pots. If you are stuck at a bad table and moving just isn’t a great option, try whatever you can to get the table moving. Here are a few ideas.
1. Make people laugh. When people are laughing, they are friendly, they feel a sense of community, and they are enjoying themselves. They may start playing more pots, and the happy table may attract a genuine fish.
2. Buy them a drink. In poker rooms where you pay for your drinks, like we do here in Minnesota, buying just one player a drink can start a trend and your fellow players may start buying each other drinks. You can refrain yourself, just have one drink, or even have the waitress bring you a coke with a lime in it so that it looks like you are part of the party. I love to order a Bailey’s and coffee, which has very little real alcohol content, but smells great and lets me be part of the party instead of buying a few drinks and ordering a water for myself.
3. Show them a bluff. There have been times at a bad table where I will make a play with a slightly negative expectation just because showing off the bluff will wake the table up. This is good for two reasons. It may wake the table up for you, but it may not wake the table up for the other tight players. You will get action, while the tight players may be annoyed with your antics and leave or just be frustrated by the lack of action. When a good player leaves, it opens up a seat that may be a filled by a fish that brings the table back to life.
4. Bust somebody. When a table is bad, there is usually not a waiting list of strong players waiting to get on it. The sharks know that the table isn’t good, so they won’t be waiting to play on it, but the fish won’t know the table is tough so they will be more likely to be on the list. Tables tend to cycle, with bad tables either breaking or being refilled with fish as the sharks leave out of frustration and great tables developing long lists of smart players waiting to get in which turns it back into a bad table after a few hours. Getting this cycle moving faster when the table is bad will get you to the good part of the cycle faster.
5. Point it out. The average to strong players may leave if you point out how tough the table is. Fish don’t care if the table is tough, they think they play well and should have no problem beating good players, so if there is a fish or two at an otherwise bad table you don’t have to worry about scaring them off. You can be careful about when you complain about the table and how loudly too, just to make sure that the fish stick around.
6. Go home. If there really isn’t a good game, and you can’t wake up the game you are in, just take the night off. Get some work done, enjoy time with your family, or just get some sleep. The game will be better tomorrow.
In a report from CardPlayer Magazine today, Garden City Group, the company placed in charge of returning money to players from the Full Tilt Poker fiasco, said that they haven’t even begun the process and that it will most likely take more than a year. This is real money that really affects poker players and their families. I live in the house I live in because I can’t afford to sell it because I don’t have my money from Full Tilt. With the easiest solution possible staring them in the face, the Department of Justice decided to throw some extra red tape into the equation and hire an incompetent company to distribute the funds. Let’s look at this piece by piece.
1. Pokerstars offered to pay US players, much like they paid the players in the rest of the world. They have already been through this process twice, once paying US players within two weeks of Black Friday, and once after they bought Full Tilt and paid back international players within two weeks. The Department of Justice would not allow that, and that’s where I knew we were in trouble. They wanted their piece, and they wanted it to be a big piece. It took them nearly a year just to select a company to be in charge of the distribution, and what did they do with that year anyway? They picked incompetent idiots who can’t even get a job started in four months that another company had handled completely in two weeks!
2. The Garden City Group has been in charge of this mess since March (the original DOJ deadline for choosing a company was last August) and yet they have done nothing. The website they put up is something I could have done in two hours, and they can’t even send us a single email update? That is also something that could be done in two hours. Somebody introduce these idiots to wordpress and Constant Contact!
3. It appears that we will not get all of the money. We were not committing a crime, and the money is legally ours, but when the government gets hold of your cash, you should never expect to get it all back. You’re lucky if you get any of it back. The DoJ got a lot more than we are owed when PokerStars bought Full Tilt, so paying us our full balances, paying someone to cut the checks, and coming out with a nice profit should be enough wouldn’t you think? Nope, not for the gangsters down at the DoJ, who pretty much do whatever they want.
The whole thing is ninety-four kinds of bullshit. We know that Full Tilt screwed up, and I am definitely not absolving them of any blame, but after seeing the way this played out, maybe we should be looking at the other side of things too. I see varied numbers in all the accounting mess that has come out of the seizures and the eventual purchase, and I have heard different numbers every time someone mentions how much is owed to players, but I know one thing for sure –
The Department of Justice seized enough money to insure that Full Tilt went bankrupt. I have seen accounts that anywhere between 120 and 240 million dollars were seized in the two years before Back Friday from Full Tilt’s bank accounts and the accounts of payment processors. It’s very possible that the DoJ seized more than we are owed before Black Friday even happened. A grumpy poker player might look at this and say something like –
“The Department of Justice stole my bankroll, blamed Full Tilt for not having the cash, seized the company itself for not having the money after they stole it from them, and screwed everyone. Then they forced another company to buy the bankrupt company in order to avoid going to jail, and kept that money too. Now two years later they can’t even decide how much they are going to give us or when we will get it. No matter how much we get, the DoJ will be making a huge profit and nothing can be done about it because they are the cops and there’s no one to call to put them in jail for stealing from us.”
When the government gets into profiteering it’s always scary. Sure it’s annoying when the police force can pay it’s bills by writing hundreds of extra speeding tickets, but it gets really scary when they start seizing assets and making you fight in court to get them back. That has been happening more and more as suspected drug dealers are having their assets seized and then having to fight to get them back even if they are never charged with a crime.
When the privatized prison industry lobbies for tougher laws so that they can put more people in prison, which makes them more money so they can spend more on lobbying so the laws get tougher and even more people go to prison, it starts to get really scary. Pretty soon we end up with a higher percentage of our population in prison than any nation in history. That’s a fact. Neither Stalin’s Russia, nor Hitler’s Germany, nor Spain during the Inquisition, had as many people in prison as the modern day United States of America. Prisons are wonderful training grounds for criminals, so the next time you are wondering where all these criminals are coming from, the answer might be “from prison”.
No matter what kind of profiteering they are engaged in, it’s much too easy for the government to get out of control when they are making money by taking it from people by force. When you combine the government for profit model with the fact that politicians can essentially buy elections by spending unlimited amounts of money through Super PACs, you get a bunch of gangsters, taking your money and spending it on elections so that they can take more of your money.
And what happened to the fourth amendment? My money was seized. I did nothing illegal, was never accused of anything illegal, and there was no reason to take my money. Isn’t that an unreasonable seizure? Isn’t there a lawyer out there somewhere who wants to sue the government over this debacle?
I know, I’m starting to sound like my dad.
“The world is going to hell in a hand basket, the sky is falling, and these damn politicians are so corrupt that the American Way is terribly tarnished. Kids nowadays and their loud music and their iphones and their sext messaging! In my day we did things right and we kept our money in a jar buried in the backyard where the tax man couldn’t find it!”
While I’m not quite old enough for the hell in a hand basket speech, I’m starting to consider buying gold and burying it in the backyard. It would be much safer than trusting the DoJ with it, but at this point I don’t have any money because the DoJ got their greedy little paws on it and now they won’t give it back. Can I buy gold with a government IOU? Errr. Wait. A government IOU is cash. And they took all of it. I better quit ranting, there’s an unmarked sedan sitting in front of my house and some guys in suits are getting out of it. You never saw me. I wasn’t even here. Tell them I left.
I know I’ve been slacking on blogs this week, but I have been putting my writing time to use working on a novel. Two novels actually. When I get tired of looking at one of them I switch it up and work on the other one for awhile. It’s possible that one of them will make me money some day, which is something I probably can’t say about this blog, so the novels take precedence sometimes. I’m headed back to Minnesota late tomorrow night, and while I may spend the evening tonight grinding cash games, my Vegas summer schedule is basically over and it’s time for a wrap up.
WSoP Cashes: 0
Years since this last happened: 5
Final tables made in 30 days in Vegas: 8
First place finishes: 2
Action sold: $5,230
Backer’s return on action sold: $14,711.25
Number of people who bought this action: 1
Return On Investment for this person: 281%
Age of single malt scotch we consumed in mass quantity to celebrate: 18 years (this scotch could vote!)
Amount of time it took me to bust the razz event after PokerNews published an article calling me a Master of Razz: 47 minutes
Miniature cupcakes consumed by me at Blake Bohn’s dinner party: 7
Hookers rebuffed: 39
Hookers not rebuffed: 0
Current lifetime record in “Ho or No” prop bets: 17-0
Members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins who think my Ho or No record is comparable to their 1972 season: 0
Single table tournaments chopped heads up with John ‘The Razor’ Phan: 1
Total single table tournaments played: 1
Hours of audio books listened to while grinding cash games: 34
Date that two-time bracelet winner Frankie O’dell called me the worst mixed-game player he had ever seen in his life: June 25th
Date that I final tabled the triple stud event at the Venetian AND won the HORSE event at the Nugget: June 25th
Times I had played two final tables in one day before June 25th: 0
Cups of Bailey’s and coffee consumed: 24
Cups of Bailey’s and coffee paid for: 0 (gotta love Vegas)
Words written: 17,000
Days in Vegas: 31
Days I missed my wife and dogs: 26
That’s right, not long after I get back to Minnesota, I’ll be walking in to RF Moeller and asking them to chop a ring in half for me.
“You’re chopping up your first place prize?!?!” – John Hayes
“Seriously?” – Tom Hammers
“You’re chopping what?” – Matt Kirby
Let’s start with a little back story and maybe it will all make sense at the end…
A few years ago I was at a final table where the idea of making a deal was brought up. The exact words were –
“Let’s chop the money and play for the trophy.”
To which I responded –
“Let’s chop the trophy and play for the money!”
No one thought my idea was nearly as good as the first suggestion and we chopped the cash up instead, but the thought stuck with me. How much fun would it be to chop a trophy? I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before, and I had this picture in my head of a big band saw ripping down through the center of a trophy and two players each holding up their half for a victory photograph. I liked the idea. And I tried to make it happen. At least fifteen times I have tried to make it happen, getting friends to agree to chop a trophy if we get to heads up.
I got as far as five handed at a tournament at The Wynn last year with a player still in who had agreed to chop the trophy if we got heads up. Wynn trophies are stone replicas of the Wynn building, big heavy things, and it would have been fun to hunt around for the right place to chop it neatly in half, but I busted in fifth and the trophy went home whole. Every time I play an event where I have a trophy chop agreed to ahead of time, the trophy must breathe a sigh of relief when one of us busts out. Like a turkey pardoned by the president on Thanksgiving.
On June 17th I played a satellite at Running Aces. Winners received a $600 tournament buy-in at The Golden Nugget for the Poker Player Championship, $400 for travel, two nights at The Nugget, and a limo ride. Not only was the satellite a good deal for $125, but Running Aces added two seats. I was pretty shorts tacked at the end, and it is very likely that I got my entry because of those two extra seats. I was already planning to play the event, and with a nice little satellite close to home, I couldn’t pass it up. I almost skipped it because my flight to Vegas was leaving that night, but I checked the structure and decided that I would have enough time to win a seat and still get to the airport.
Pay Flaherty, a fellow Minnesota player who also got his seat in the Running Aces satellite, agreed to chop the gold championship ring with me if we should get to heads up. The odds of this happening were slim, but as any poker player knows, long shots come in, and this time the prize took a bad beat the third place finisher busted leaving Pat and I heads up. I went on to win, running good in the heads up portion and flopping trips against Pat’s two pair, but he played well.
Pat isn’t just a Minnesota player, the odd coincidence is even bigger than that. I met Pat when he worked at the post office down the block from my office a few years ago. I often went there to mail off copies of my book. When he saw it was a poker book we started talking poker every time I dropped by. I knew the guy from Minnesota before I ever played poker with him, and there we were in Las Vegas, heads up for a pile of cash and soon we’ll be chopping the championship ring in half.
The Player’s Championship also has a large cup style trophy, like the Stanley Cup of Poker, which has the winner’s names engraved on it and it lives in the winner’s home casino during the year before returning to the Nugget for next year’s championship event. In the next month or two it should be sitting in Running Aces and will spend about ten month’s there. Maybe I can take it out for a night, like Lord Stanley’s cup. I checked before the event, and they will definitely NOT allow us to chop it in half. Tournament staff informed me that the idea of chopping the cup itself in half was not even an acceptable topic of discussion and I got some strange looks. I was just asking.
I’m no Jack Handy, but…
I’m downtown tonight, staying at The Golden Nugget. I won a two night stay along with a tournament entry for the Poker Players Championship at Running Aces the day before I came to Vegas, so I decided to spend a few days downtown. I figured I would play some cards, have a few beverages, and get some writing done. Mission accomplished so far.
I spent the last two weeks in a beautiful condo thanks to my pal Donna Lawton and I’ve spent lots of time in the high rent district when I haven’t been playing poker. When I have been playing poker, it’s been in nice casinos with great service, clean air, and my every whim available in an instant. For a price of course.
Last night I went out with two friends for a few drinks on the strip. A $14 s’mores martini with real marshmallows, a few other drinks, and an excellent meal earlier in the night, made for a wonderful evening, and even my company was high rent. Two good looking people with of high IQ and sound mind. Then I threw a few things in my backpack and headed downtown. A short drive, but it might as well be a different planet.
The poker games aren’t great downtown, though you might expect them to be pretty good. The buy-ins are unlimited in most of the games, even the $1/2 no-limit, which is almost the only game available downtown. The players are definitely odd, but they don’t make as many mistakes as you might expect. After multiple trips downtown I have yet to find and really readable and loose table like I can usually find at Caesars or The Rio.
There are more players on drugs, with blatant mental health issues, and many more tourists, but they just aren’t soft enough. And there are too many grinders. Online grinders who don’t know much about Vegas and aren’t well off enough to be staying at The Rio and playing big games all day. There are a few at every table, and a few locals who may not fit your expectations when it comes to a solid local cash game grinder but they play fairly well. The games are also raked higher downtown, with The Nugget dropping a shiny silver half dollar every time the pot hits $5. Every time I hear the clink of that metal coin falling in the rake slot, it’s a reminder that something is different here. An unexpected sound at a poker table where clay or resin chips supply almost all of the noise.
I went for a walk on Fremont streets to get some exercise and see what there was to see. Not my first walk down Fremont street at night, not by a long shot, but the first time I have been able to clarify my thoughts enough to put them into words. Maybe it was because I was alone and just walking casually as an observer with no companions to serve as a distraction. Maybe it was the contrast after such a sophisticated week. But the Fremont street experience was especially powerful this time.
At first it felt like a county fair in a poor town, but there’s more to it than that. A lot of things in Vegas are fake. The whole strip is just a facade with fake landmarks and imitation ethnic food cooked by people who have never even visited the regions where the food originated. The entertainers are all actors and the smile on the cocktail server’s face isn’t real either. The grass is artificial turf and the statues are hollow. The whole things is more like a movie set than real life, but it’s so plush and polished that the suspension of disbelief is easy. When you are treated like a king, it’s easy to believe you are a king.
Downtown, the facade is worn and you can see through it in so many places that the holes in the curtain, and the tired actors behind it, draw my attention more than the stage itself. Things are gilded here, but the gold is worn off in so many places that the surface underneath is the real fascination.
My fellow wanderers, the other attendees of this strange carnival, seem so different from me that I am separated from the pack, watching as an observer rather than a participant.This was what troubled me. They were all enjoying themselves. Dancing as if no one was watching, drinking a cheap frozen drink from a container made in China, reveling in each other’s company as if it were all new to them. They didn’t care about the holes in the curtain, or what was backstage, or who else was walking by, because they were busy having a good time. I felt out of place, but not self conscious. Different, but not inferior. When I was younger I might have felt superior to these people, as younger people tend to do when they don’t understand something, but now I was just a little sad and a little confused.
These people are not beneath me, no one is. I don’t see the world that way. But they are in such a different place it’s hard for me to imagine being like them. Maybe I’ve spent too many years at the tables and now I’m always watching for the sleight of hand instead of enjoying the illusion. I’ve certainly lost my fascination with the magic of it all. Maybe I’m a little callous and I can’t relax like they do in this environment, but just last night I was relaxed and enjoying myself completely, so I know I’m not completely jaded by the life I’ve chosen, taking money from lesser players, hunting for the less experienced and those who don’t have the killer instinct that so many of my companions have. Maybe I just need to spend some more time around my old friends. Normal people. Real people.
I guess it’s just odd that it’s all so obvious downtown. The singer in the rock band has a wig on that doesn’t even remotely attempt to look like real hair. And the back up dancers don’t have on sexy matching outfits, they just aren’t wearing much. Their dance moves aren’t in sync either, but they look like they are enjoying themselves, like maybe they don’t hate their jobs like so many on the strip probably do.
I should really like it here. There are no trust fund kids with white belts and white shoes and $200 blue jeans. There are no pathetic two hour lines to get into clubs where acceptance into the club means you are accepted into a club of your peers. No hordes of tourists getting in my way because the sprinklers are about to go off at The Bellagio in time to soulless pop music. But maybe what I don’t like about the strip is that it looks down on downtown. And maybe that’s what bothers me. That I feel more comfortable in a place where I like the people so much less.
Or maybe I’ve been in Vegas too long already. Maybe I’m too jaded and I just want to be home with my wife and my two dogs and sit on my back porch. Maybe I miss making my own Sangria instead of paying $8 a glass for it. It doesn’t feel like homesickness. Vegas just doesn’t feel like my town anymore. Perhaps I know it too well and there really isn’t that much to like. Like a friend that becomes less interesting as you get to know them, or a new toy that loses it’s luster after a few years. I used to feel like I was home when I got off a plane in Vegas. Now it feels like a place that I used to live. I can come back to visit friends and see how things have changed, but I know it isn’t my place anymore.
Trivia fact – The condo that I’m staying is on the corner where Tupac was shot. I walk over the spot where he died every day. Seems like an odd twist of fate given my full name and the suspects in his murder.
I’m going out for an adult beverage, so I’ll make this quick. And that means… A list!
1. I took fifth in the main event at Binions. It wasn’t enough to get me out of makeup with my big buy-in backer, so there’s no celebration, but it’s news in my life. The structure was amazing, easily the best structure of the summer.
2. My wife is awesome and very supportive and deals with the odd life of a poker pro very well. I’m lucky to have her. She’s also an awesome photographer, and if you ever need pictures in Minnesota, check her out at lmjoriginals.com.
3. I have a million notes about things I should write about in the blog, and not enough time. Longer blog coming up soon.
4. I still hate the Venetian and I’m definitely in favor of the growing boycott movement. Screw them.
5. The mixed-game dealers at the WSoP were pretty good last year. This year they are awful. I don’t know what changed, but we had a dealer who didn’t know any of the games and also didn’t speak English so that we could help her out. And she was stubborn. It was a nightmare.
6. I have been loving the cash games at Caesars. It’s mellow but very profitable. I could almost like playing there for a living. Almost. I still hate poker though.
7. I’ve been writing more fiction this week. Should fiction have a place on the blog? What if it isn’t poker related?
8. There is no number 8.
9. If you are looking for a place to stay in Vegas that is more than just a hotel room, check out The Platinum Hotel. I couldn’t be happier with the service, the people, the location, and the amenities. It’s a condo hotel, full kitchen, laundry, whatever you need is all in your room. And they are big. I love it.
In this episode Fox makes a powerful enemy…
You may have heard of Sheldon Adelson, the CEO and founder of of the Sands Corp. here in Nevada. Sands Corp. owns the Venetian which is currently a popular poker destination, but may not stay that way for long if he keeps pissing off poker players. He has come out multiple times against online poker saying that it will be bad for families and for the business. This hypocrite runs one of the biggest gaming companies in the world and he says that poker can be addictive while blackjack is not? Seriously. But only online poker is addictive? His live action poker room is somehow different?
Adelson says this –
“”It’s a threat to our society — a toxin which all good people ought to resist,”
and another nugget of of hypocrisy here –
“”That skill base in my opinion is just a bunch of baloney. To get a card, that’s not skill based.”
and he is in support of strengthening the Wire Act to make online poker illegal.
In 1992 a law was passed, supposedly to protect amateur and professional sports form the evils of gambling, which makes betting on sports illegal except in states where it was legal at the time of the passing of the law. There were three other states with limited betting going on, but what the law basically amounted to was a monopoly for Nevada. The primary benefactors of the law, namely Vegas sportsbooks, spent lobbying money and probably a healthy number of bags of unmarked bills, supporting the law because it gave them an incredibly valuable monopoly.
Now Adelson wants the same thing for poker. He wants poker to be in his casinos, and in fact The Venetian just remodeled and expanded their poker room last year to make it one of the largest and busiest in the country. He just doesn’t want competition. Definitely not from the internet where expenses can be lower and lots of players can enter the market. I think he’s worried that the online poker rooms might kick his ass. What do we do in America when we run into competition?
I would like to say we get better and we learn from it and we offer a better service or a better product. The sad truth is that in today’s America we often just find a way to kill it. If our company is big enough, we do it by paying off lawmakers with campaign funds and dinners with lobbyists to get a law passed that protects our business and kills the competition. That is exactly what Adelson wants. And his company may have enough cash and influence to make it happen. They may try to take away our right to play a game of skill in our own homes because they don’t want to lose money. And who wins the battle of money vs. freedom? You know the answer to that. Freedom can hardly afford a lawyer.
But there might be a way to win this one. We are the source of the money. They make that money from us. If we stop going to the Venetian and the Palazzo, then their reason to oppose the law disappears because they aren’t making money from us anymore and there is nothing left to protect. We need to stop going to the Venetian. Not for a week. Not for the summer. Forever. If they don’t support us and our right to play poker, then we don’t support them.
Don’t just stop going to the poker room. Stop playing video poker, stop staying in the hotel, and tell all of your friends. When people hear about a boycott, they may not even care about why, they just go somewhere else. Sands Corporation is the number one enemy of online poker right now, and any real progress will be nearly impossible with their voice speaking out against it. Let their fancy new poker room sit empty for awhile and see if Adelson doesn’t change his tune.
I have some Venetian events on my schedule that I’ll have to skip, and I will miss the dinner breaks at the Lux, but I won’t go back into the place unless it’s to find some people at poker tables and tell them why they shouldn’t be there. If you have always wished there was something you could do, then now is your time. Stop going to the Venetian and the Palazzo and spread the word. Tell everyone you know. Post it on facebook and on twitter. Wear a Boycott Venetian t-shirt (I know someone who is working on getting them printed now). Do something.
If you are going to join the boycott, below are a list of excellent tournament series you can play instead. Cash games are great at The Wynn, Caesars, Aria, The Rio, The Bellagio, and a host of other rooms around town as well as The Golden Nugget downtown.
Caesars has a nice little series going in a beautiful, quiet, tournament room.
The Golden Nugget has a nice series going on, with a nice $1k main event.
The Aria is a great alternative to the crappy Venetian and their summer series is in full swing. The cash games are great too.
Binions has a nice series going on as well.
So go play somewhere else. You won’t see me in there unless it’s to hassle them about something. Clearly the Venetian doesn’t think we will do anything. They are so used to dealing with slot zombies that they really think that no matter what they do, we will just keep giving them action. Let’s show them that poker players are different and boycott the place. Anyone who plays there is giving money to a group that will spend it on lobbying efforts to stop online poker and we should let them all know how we feel about it.
Anyone who wants to make an effort to promote the Venetian boycott, or get the word about what Adelson is doing, should feel free to reproduce this blog post anywhere they like. If you want to learn more, follow me on twitter @foxpokerfox or read this article from the Poker Player’s Alliance.
I meant to write something last night, but I was tired from playing all day in the triple-stud event and had to get up early today to play the final table at 11 am at the Venetian. Then I was gong to come home and write about it after I busted in fifth place at about 12:30, but I was reminded that there was a HORSE event that started at noon at The Golden Nugget, so I went over there and played that for 13 hours. About 2 am we chopped four ways and I got the big end. I had the chip lead from three tables on, but when we got down to four players my opponents were all solid and the blinds were getting huge, so I feel good about the chop. I got more than second place money anyway, which is pretty nice for a four way chop.
That makes two final tables in one day, and a very tired Fox. I have a bunch of notes about things I should write about, and not a lot of energy left tonight, so it’s list time again.
1. The Nugget has the best chairs of any tournament venue in town and cheap food too. A $5 burrito and free bottles of water saved me $10 vs. the poker kitchen at the Rio.
2. The dealers at The Nugget were a little lost when it came to HORSE, with better dealers at The Venetian in the triple-stud.
3. The Nugget experience included a homeless guy attempting to bum money from me while I was getting paid out, and two hookers offering their services as I walked away from the cage. I declined both the hookers and the homeless guy and kept all my money, though I reassured the homeless guy that things would get better and told the hookers that it wasn’t them (it was me). Overall the Nugget experience was a good one, and the nice quiet tournament room is great compared to the loud 80’s music and slot machines at the Palazzo.
4. For some reason the Nugget only offers three free hours of parking. They don’t want to encourage people to gamble all day and spend a bunch of time in the place. That was odd. Free valet everywhere else I have gone to play a tournament, but $12 to park my own car at The Nugget. Annoying.
Oh yeah, I promised some people on twitter that I would tell the angle shooter story.
Late in day one of the triple-stud event, I bet the end in Razz with four low cards on board. I had paired up twice and had nothing, and the pot was huge so I expected him to call often, but it was definitely a profitable bet given a small but significant chance that he would fold a better hand. He thought for awhile, and said “I don’t think it’s any good, and flipped up two of his down cards to show me a made nine. The way he did it looked like a fold. I assumed he was folding. But I still should not have reacted at all, and I’m sure I did.
Then he asked me “Is that a fold? Is my hand still live?” I explained the rule to him, and that he would get a one round penalty if his cards were exposed and he chose to call, but that I thought his cards were already dead. I should have been silent. He then had the dealer call the floor and I asked him “Did you intend to fold?”
He said “That’s a fold.” and pointed at his cards that were face up. I assumed the dealer had heard it, so I said “No worries about the floor, he folded.” which he took to mean that I wanted his hand dead. I did of course. He waited for the floor, and there had been so much commotion that no one else claimed to have heard him say that it was a fold. He took the penalty and called, winning a huge pot and crippling me. I fought back and outlasted him (he busted 7th, I was 5th), but he took at least $500 in equity from me with that move.
His name is David, and he has a total of about $27k in lifetime earnings, so maybe the money for a cash meant so much to him that being shady was worth it. Maybe he intended to fold and then jumped at the opportunity to change his mind. Maybe he’s just an angle shooting douche. Either way, I learned a lesson and I won’t react to that ever again. I’ve seen that angle before, but it’s never worked on me before and I’m more annoyed about that than the equity it cost me.
The question I have is about his intentions. This can not have been an honest mistake because 1 of 2 things had to happen.
1. He intended to fold. Which means he folded. He toss his cards forward and showed me some of them. Then he denied his intention to fold, lied about it, and essentially rescued his cards from the muck winning a huge pot in exchange for a one-round penalty.
2. He never intended to fold. If this is the case, then he sure had me fooled, which must have been his intention. He faked a fold to get a reaction from me.
I’m not sure which is worse, but I’m leaning toward #2. Either one is bullshit, but #2 is premeditated (1st degree scumbaggery) while #1 was spur of the moment (3rd degree angle shooting).
Luckily karma got him. He started the final table with 26 antes, and folded the first 25 hands, went all-in for his last 1k chip, and busted as the first guy out at the final table. Who has two antes in a stud game and doesn’t put the extra one in on 3rd street with any three cards? He was also in the HORSE event over at The Nugget and didn’t cash, while I went on to chop for the big side. I also removed his last name. He’s probably a dumbass who didn’t know any better and I’m over it.
Frankie O’Dell was also in both events, and busted in 4th in the triple-stud. He walked around the room Hellmuth style at one point raving about how I was the worst poker player he’s ever seen. Ever. It was just a little blow up, he didn’t mean anything by it, and I was laughing and egging it on. It was nice to be the worst player ever and make two final table in the same day. That has to be some sort of record right?
Also, it’s much colder at the Nugget than it is at The Rio, Venetian, or Palazzo, so bring a hoodie. I haven’t needed one at the other places, but I had to run over to Binions and buy a $15 sweatshirt because I was freezing. And can we all agree that an hour is way longer than we need for dinner? Did they think I was going to get a five course meal while I was on break from a tournament?
No cashes so far. I chopped the only sit and go I’ve played, made a few bucks playing cash, and won a satellite the day before I left, but in actual tournaments I am 0/9 so far. I’m definitely getting the volume in though, which is easier when you bust early so you can reenter. I’ve made day two in both the WSoP events I played, but no cash in either of those, and it’s getting old watching all my friends have deep runs while I go to bed early so I can bust another tournament or two the next day.
Tomorrow is a $600 HORSE tournament at the Venetian, which will be nice since the 11 am events are actually in the newly renovated Venetian poker room instead of the Palazzo surrounded by slot machines and blaring 80’s music. Second worst music in a poker room, with Running Aces holding on to first place by a significant margin. I have yet to hear Twister Sister in the Palazzzo. I love Aces, but c’mon man, that music has got to go.
I feel like I’m playing pretty well, though I definitely blew it on a hand early today for about 15% of my starting stack.
I raised the king-queen of clubs from the cutoff seat, and both blinds called. The flop was a queen, four, five with two diamonds. I bet, and only the big blind called. The turn was the deuce of spades, and we both checked. I wanted to get a worse king to call me or a missed draw to bluff on the river, but I should have bet again and folded if he raised.
The river was the nine of diamonds, bringing in the flush, and my opponent thought for a minute and then bet a little less than half the pot. When is this ever a bluff? Against a random in a tournament in Vegas? Never. I thought it could be a worse queen, but I couldn’t beat queen-nine anymore, and a significant percentage of the time a random player will check and call with a bad top pair hand on the river. This left a fairly small possibility that he had a worse queen, almost zero chance of a bluff, and the rest of his range is either a better made hand that was going to check-raise the turn, or a flush. I called anyway and he showed King-Trey of diamonds for a flush. I wish I was better at poker. I really do.
The title of this post refers to the blog in general. It’s a scattered mess. I would really like to make something out of it, maybe get a few advertisers or some sort of sponsorship deal that pays me a few bucks. I enjoy writing it, but I need to clean it up and find a little more focus if I’m going to get enough readers to make it worthwhile. I don’t know if I should be focused on entertaining stuff, funny links etc, or strategy and pearls of wisdom. Now that anyone can register and comment, maybe I’ll get some feedback from readers. Yes, I finally fixed it and you can register and comment. In fact I encourage it, a little discussion would be nice.
Speaking of a scattered mess, I can sense one coming now.
Congratulations to my pal Donna Lawton (@cure_mtm on twitter) on her fifth place finish in the Rio daily yesterday. $235 buy-in, $9k cashed out. Nice ROI!
I busted the WSoP Razz event yesterday late in level eleven. My day two table was super tough, with Max Pescatori, Peter Brownstein, David Singer, Perry Friedman, David Levi, and not a single fish unless you count me. Apparently PokerNews reporter Chad Holloway doesn’t count me as a fish in this event though, he did a great little write up about me an hour before I busted. There is no direct link to the article, but it’s about a third of the way down THIS PAGE. If Chad is going to put my blogs on PokerNews, I had better start doing a better job of writing them!
I busted the Razz event early enough to make it over to the Venetian for a $300 Survivor tournament. This was my first one of these, and I have been curious to see how well they work. A survivor tournament is basically a satellite for cash. The top ten percent get a little over eight buy-ins back. The rake is a little high for a satellite at $250+50, but the field is very soft. The structure is ok, but not great. Levels are fine, but starting with 12k and at 50/100 blinds makes it a little bit of a speed ball at the start. Profitable I’m sure, but not incredibly so. The slot machines and constant bad 80’s and 90’s music at high volumes are pretty irritating in the Palazzo room, but the staff was great and it’s comfortably spaced.
Pro Tip #1 – If you want something quick and cheap to eat at the Palazzo while you are on break, head over to The Coffee Bean and grab one of their egg and potato burritos. They’ll heat it up for you and while it will be a little bland on it’s own, the green salsa makes it a great little meal for $7. Finding food that cheap in the Palazzo is rare, so take note of it if you are trying to keep expenses down.
Pro Tip #2 – If you take my advice from pro tip #1, you may be tempted to try the egg sandwich instead. This is a huge mistake. I made this mistake for you, so that you won’t have to. Have you ever had an egg salad sandwich with a little dill mixed in? It’s a nice touch. Now picture an egg sandwich with all of the dill you have seen in your lifetime somehow crammed into one sandwich. Now multiply it by a galaxy of dill. You are still two orders of magnitude below the amount of dill flavor that was in my egg salad sandwich.
You know when you get a strong mint and it feels like your whole head is full of mint and everything looks a little blue-green and cold through your mint tinged eyes? My whole world was dill. Everything looked green and I felt like someone had crammed dill directly into my brain through my nose. Did I mention the dill? Ugh.
I couldn’t be more pleased with having a rental car in the city. I have always taken cabs or walked in the past, but having a car is great. Every casino has a free valet, and the WSoP valet station is right at the back door of the Rio. Vegas is an easy city to drive in as long as you don’t try to cruise down the strip, and things like getting groceries, or hitting up a restaurant you heard about, are much easier with a car.
Pro Tip #3 – Get a rental car, but don’t get one from the airport. The shuttle from the airport, and then a shuttle from the shuttle stop, finally got me to the rental car place I had booked online as an “airport car rental” when in fact we were so far from the airport I could have booked a flight to a closer airport. Then they hit you with a big “airport fee” on top of your rental. This airport fee is significantly more than a cab ride to a better rental car company, and it would be fast too. And how the hell is there an airport fee when I had to take two shuttles from the airport just to get to the place. If it had been a shuttle fee it would have made more sense, there were more shuttles involved than airports.
I’m loving three things right now –
1. The My Stack app from PokerNews. Any time I am in an event you will be able to rail me just by watching the chip counts on PokerNews and I can update them from my phone. Now you don’t need to be a big deal and get coverage, because you can put yourself in the coverage by updating your own chip counts. Get it for Android or iphone in the app store.
2. The bottle of Glenfiddich 18 year that my pal Tom picked up for me. Damn that is good scotch, thanks buddy!
3. My new poker shades from Blue Shark. I didn’t wear them in the Razz event, but I have worn them any time I am playing no-limit holdem and they are great. I got the Hoyt Corkins model because they are light and easy to wear, and I’m really happy with them. If you stop by their booth at the WSoP, tell Kerry that you are a friend of mine and he’ll probably charge you extra. but he might give you a discount. It’s a gamble.
By the way, neither Poker News nor Blue Sharks is paying me to write about them. Not that I’m above that. If you want to pay me to write good stuff about your product, just shoot me an email. If I don’t hate your product, I’ll be happy to be bribed into writing wonderful things about it. I have a price, and at the moment it is not expensive. Not at all.
Today was day one of the Razz event at the WSoP, my favorite tournament of the year. I’ve cashed the last three years in a row, and last year’s 17th place finish was my deepest run yet. I’m hoping this is my breakthrough year. It was a long day, which leads to short blog posts, and lists are easy, so…
Stuff you might care about –
1. I bagged up 23,000, well above average, and will be restarting tomorrow with around 130 players left at 2 pm Vegas time. You can follow my progress on twitter @foxpokerfox or on pokernews at http://www.pokernews.com/live-reporting/2013-world-series-of-poker/event-33-2-500-seven-card-razz/chips.htm
2. Also still in contention at Tom Hammers with a short stack and Adeel Qureshi with an average stack. Both are strong players and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them deep in the money.
3. My table was fun today, with Brett ‘Gank’ Jungblutt, Tom McEvoy, Cindy Violette, Marco Traniello, and a number of other well known players.
4. Our first dealer, in a $2,500 buy-in event, did not know that Stud poker games start with one card up and two cards down. She really didn’t know that. Not her fault, she did her best, but who the hell thought she should be dealing this event?
5. I played a $275 sit and go today while I waiting for the Razz to start, and ended up chopping it heads up. I knew my opponent was strong, which is why I agreed to chop, but I didn’t know how strong until after we chopped and I found out that it was John “The Razor” Phan. I didn’t tell him that he is the most profitable opponent in my PokerTracker database from back in the day, and that I had made nearly $22,000 from him playing cash games. I never thought he was very strong playing cash online, but he played great in the SNG today.
Going to sleep now.
I’m finally on the ground in Vegas and excited to get started. So many people I know are doing well that I want to get in there and start crushing. I was rooting hard for Tom Hammers in the $5k HORSE, but he’ll have to settle for a min-cash this year. Still impressive in one of the toughest fields of the series.
I won a seat to the Player of the Year tournament at the Golden Nugget in a satellite at Running Aces. It was a surreal experience playing a tournament in Minnesota to win a seat for a tournament in Vegas and then flying to Vegas that night. I’m looking forward to the tournament on the 4th of July, especially with eleven other players from Minnesota in the field with me.
Tomorrow is the Razz event where I have cashed three years in a row, but for some reason the WSoP won’t list my cash in it for the last two years. Last year they list Jared Bleznich as cashing twice instead of putting my name in 17th place. Did I piss someone off at the WSoP? I even emailed them earlier this year about it and never heard back, but that’s customer service at the Rio. If I was a seven star I could probably get it handled, but poker players and customer service are both pretty low on the priority list at The Rio, so I’m not going to waste any more time on it.
Speaking of how irritating it is to play at The Rio and at Harrahs properties in general, why can’t anyone put together a contender for the WSoP? I know it’s an old brand that every donkey loves and they all think it’s important, but donkeys are easily swayed. Let’s start off by looking at the contenders.
The Venetian Deep Stacks
The VDS was doing really well there for awhile, but they made a few mistakes along the way. They have raised the rake high enough that the smaller buy-in events aren’t any better than any other series, and are worse than some, driving many players away to other lesser known series. They also failed to capitalize on their growing series by offering a special trinket to make players feel like they have something important to shoot for. Sharks aren’t there for trinkets, but the sharks go where the fish go, and the fish go where the fame and fortune and pretty trinkets are. That is why the WSoP still survives. The fish want a WSoP bracelet because they think it will make them special and change their life. It doesn’t, but try telling a fish that. It’s their dream.
The Venetian needs to offer bracelets, rings, or maybe some sort of trophy that sits in the Venetian poker room that has every winner’s name on it like the Stanley Cup. A lapel pin or a badge might even work. Something that allows fish to say “I have a Venetian Deep Stacks xxxxx” and pretend that it’s prestigious and they have accomplished something. Add money, offer huge guarantees, do something bring in the fish and make it a big deal, and you can actually compete with the series. You have an awful lot of hotel room to fill, and those poker players will gamble on your gaming floor as well if they are staying at your property because it is their main focus. If they just pop over for an event here and there, and then head back to The Rio, then you don’t get that business.
The Aria took over the title of the coolest place to play cash games a few years ago, but they seem less interested in drawing big tournament fields and making their mark in that arena. I’m not where they would put a big poker tournament, but it’s a huge building, there must be somewhere to put it, and any time they draw gamblers into that building they are going to make money. Everything is expensive, though much of it is worth spending cash on unlike the Rio’s twelve dollar burritos, and having people in the building makes them significant money. If they were to get serious about tournaments, I really think they have the clout to make their mark and challenge the WSoP as well.
When they sold the name, Binions probably lost all hope. They do run a pretty good series of their own during the WSoP, but it’s just a bunch of poker tournaments. Without something special, they won’t get any bigger than they are, which might be for the best since they probably have space for anything too big.
The Golden Nugget
The Nugget has a nice space for tournaments, but much like Binions they really don’t have enough space for a legitimate WSoP challenge. I would love to see the two properties work together to offer a downtown poker series and have five or six events a day with bigger buy-ins and some sort of place of honor for winners in both rooms. With the two rooms combined and a wide variety or events, they might be able to lure a lot of players downtown. Hotel rooms are cheaper, everything you need is nearby and food and beverage are cheaper too. Maybe other places nearby would even offer to help out just to get a huge number of poker players to come stay downtown during two slow summer months.
With low rake, good structures, and a nice variety, I think both rooms could be full and players would elect to stay at the properties downtown rather than at The Rio, giving them a chance to make some of that gaming and food and beverage money that is staying mostly at The Rio and Gold Coast the way things are right now. Once word got out that the real value was downtown, many pros would go there to eat the fish that would swarm into a big series downtown and the fields at the Rio might get tougher and smaller. Some people will always play the WSoP for the prestige they think that comes with a series bracelet and some pros who are independently wealthy, or just stupid, will always want to play in the toughest fields. Some people will also see downtown as slumming, but I’m happy to leave them at The Rio and The Aria while I eat all those fish downtown.
The MGM has a good card room, and they have Matt Savage, the most well known tournament director in the world. They also have a ton of players already staying at their long term condos during the WSoP, but they would need to get serious about a large tournament series to compete. A little gold lion statue for each winner might be neat, and they definitely have the space somewhere, but they don’t even have a tournament series going on this year, so while they might be able to compete, they don’t seem at all interested in doing so.
The Rest of the Field
While I love the Wynn, they really aren’t close and will probably never be that serious about poker tournaments, and The Orleans still has a reputation as a dirty hole in the ground, so they aren’t even contenders at this point. Obviously no other Harrahs properties will fight with the WSoP, so Caesars will stay where they are with a smaller series. Other poker rooms just don’t have the staff, the space, or the knowledge to compete, and most of them have no interest in doing so. The WSoP will be the 500 pound gorilla of tournament poker until somebody else starts working out and gets up near the same weight, and unfortunately I don’t see that happening any time soon. I guess I’ll see you at The Rio.
I’m headed to Vegas on Sunday night, and staying for a month, so I’ve spent most of the week at home getting things done and hanging out with my wife and my dogs. I’ll be playing poker at least 12 ours a day for the next month, so taking some time off right now seems like the best choice. Other than spending time with the family and resting up, I’m also preparing for Vegas in other ways. If you read my blog often, you know I love numbered lists…
Things I’m doing to get ready for Vegas
1. Looking at the new Blue Shark Optics product line. I can’t say enough good things about Blue Sharks and how much they will help your game. I know the good folks at Blue Shark, and they give me a great deal on a pair every year at the WSoP where I can try on ten or twenty pairs to find out what I like. Once a year seems to be about the right replacement rate too, I either scratch or break them by the time the WSoP rolls back around. There are no other shades that are even close to Blue Sharks, and with the strong fields in Vegas during the summer I will be wearing them most of the time. If you buy some, tell them I said hi and you might get a discount.
2. Getting some new cargo shorts with big pockets so I can carry everything I need for a long tournament day. Two extra cell phone batteries, headphones or ear buds, cash, wallet, cell phone, Blue Sharks, business cards, an E-Cigarette, and who knows what else I might need on a given day. The pockets on a pair of jeans or board shorts just won’t carry enough stuff comfortably and backpacks are banned at The Rio this year so I’ll need big pockets.
3. I just bought a new laptop so that keeping up with this blog and other writing I will need to do will be simple and easy. I bought a chromebook, and I love it. It starts up in 6 seconds, doesn’t catch viruses, and it’s small, light weight, and inexpensive. Perfect for traveling light and working in lots of different environments.
4. Buying protein bars. I have a lot of weird food allergies that mostly involve fresh fruits and vegetables, so it’s very tough to eat healthy in a casino. I’m also allergic to spending $15 on a burrito at the Poker Kitchen twice a day, so some protein bars in my pockets will save me some money too. Your brain power and mental toughness are badly degraded when you get hungry, and with a short break every two hours you will sometimes find yourself playing hungry if you don’t have a snack with you.
Have you seen the ridiculous amounts of money that Minnesota players are winning in Vegas this summer? Over $700,000 so far, and we will almost certainly break the million dollar mark by the end of July. Check out this list of cashes at MNPokerMag.com.
I’ll probably be playing the PPotY satellite at Running Aces this Sunday before I fly out to Vegas. Great satellite, and I was planning to play that event at the Nugget anyway. And they are adding two seats!
If you suck at poker, you need to buy my book.
I picked up a bunch of copies of my book a few weeks ago, and they are cluttering up my office. Boxes and boxes of books. My dogs have nowhere to sleep when they are in the office with me. I have to move books just to get to my book shelf full of poker books. It’s like having eight pounds of leftover turkey the day after Thanksgiving or harvesting your garden in the fall when you have too many tomatoes.
This is the last load from the warehouse, so when these are gone we’ll probably be done selling the book because it’s a hassle. We’ve made a nice profit on a self-published book, which is a rare and impressive feat, but this is probably the last printing. Maybe in 6 months or a year we’ll publish it for the Kindle and Nook, but we probably won’t print more.
Since this is the last bunch, and it’s a very big bunch cluttering up my office, I must urge you to buy a copy right now. Seriously. You’ll be very angry when they are all gone and everyone else is good at poker because they got a copy. You’ll be sitting there, a crap poker player with no understanding of the game, feeling guilty about not supporting a local author, while everyone who read the book is busy stacking your chips and calling you a fish behind your back.
Eventually, other poker players will shun you socially and your money will be gone. Your spouse will probably leave you, because who wants to be married to a broke ass with no friends? And when that happens, don’t come crying to me, because I wrote a great book that could have helped you learn about no-limit holdem and you ignored it. You probably bought Mileski’s stupid* book instead didn’t you? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Click here now to buy the book. Seriously. Go buy it. My office isn’t very big and this is too many boxes.
I’ve already covered where to play tournaments in Vegas, but I get a lot of questions about where to play cash games and most people flock to the least profitable spots to play cash games against other solid players, local pros, and ultra-tight bonus grinders. If you are playing poker for money, then go where the soft players are and get away from the strong players. If you just want to say that you played poker in a room that will make you sound cool, then tell everyone you played cash at The Rio or The Venetian and ignore the rest of this post.
You will probably be playing $1/2 or $1/3 no-limit holdem games, and the best places for those games are the less glamorous rooms at lower end hotels. The Venetian will be the toughest place for these lower limit games because so many local grinders will be playing there. They like the room because the rake is low and the tables are comfortable with a wide range of tables to choose from. If you are used to the room and know who the regulars are, then it’s probably just fine to play there, but for the rest of us it’s better to go where every table is soft and we don’t have to worry about table selection. The Aria is nearly as tough as the Venetian. While there will certainly be soft players in both rooms, they won’t be as soft as some of the lesser known rooms.
The Rio will have a huge number of games and lots of action, but the chairs are uncomfortable, the food is expensive, and the dealers are clueless. And last year there were many instances of extra cards in the deck and nothing was done about it. The cameras don’t work well in the Rio, and there are better places to play smaller no-limit games.
Caesars has good $1/3 games, and the slightly higher stake can increase your win rate, though the rake is slightly higher. You will find more annoying drunk idiots at Caesars, but if you can tolerate them you will find that they lose tremendous amounts of money. The room is nice, the food is good, and the chairs are above average.
The smaller rooms are where the real money is. Put in a few sessions at a place like Planet Hollywood or Harrahs and you will see why they are so profitable. Your opponents will be lost, and some of them will be playing in a casino for the first time. If there is a big sporting event, like the NBA finals happening right now, Planet Hollywood will be particularly good because the sports book is right next door and the gamblers will come play poker and pay more attention to the basketball game than the poker table.
If you are playing at a room with lots of table choices, look for a game where people are happy, drinking, and laughing. If they are having fun, then they are gambling, and that’s what you want. Big stacks aren’t necessarily good, they often mean that the players have been there a long time and the fish have all been busted. Shorter stacks will often indicate weak players, and it’s not like that is all the money you can win. Once they go broke they will rebuy or leave and another player will take their spot and you can bust them too. If your table is quiet and tight, get a table change right away – don’t waste any time on a bad table.
While my week of grinding tournaments at Running Aces was very profitable, I won’t run that good every week, and I came to some conclusions I wouldn’t have expected.
1. The promotion is probably a very good one. Once you get a few cashes you are going to play all week to try to make sure that you get some of those tournament dollars. I think they should probably promote it more, maybe with a big board behind the tournament desk and a webpage with the rankings and an explanation of the way the whole thing works. The Player of the Week page on the site right now links to the PotW standings from the third week of February…
2. One of the reasons that the promotion is so good is that it doesn’t cost the house anything. The money for the tournament dollars comes right out of the prize pools of the tournaments themselves. 3% comes out of the prize pool of each tournament for the PotW promotion. The $100 in tournament dollars I won last week is probably a lot less than I have paid into that prize pool from the 3% of the prizes I have won in tournaments since it has been running. This means that if you are not playing enough tournaments to get some PotW money, you are subsidizing the people who are in the hunt. If you are just playing the bigger tournaments, then you aren’t likely to be in the hunt, and you are subsidizing the players who are playing all of the smaller buy-in tournaments to get those PotW dollars.
3. The smaller buy-in tournaments are really tough to beat. The fields are ultra soft, and they are better structures than most lower buy-in weekly tournaments around the country, but starting with 5,000 in chips and short blind levels, as well as paying a very high rake percentage, makes it tough. The $50 buy-in tournament I played came out to $34+$16, or 32% juice. It’s tough to make any money paying that much rake in a fast structure no matter how soft the field is. This isn’t Running Aces fault, that’s how it always is in smaller buy-in tournaments and the house has to make a few dollars. Making a few dollars requires them to take a larger percentage when the buy-in is small, so I don’t begrudge them their money, I just can’t make any profit playing these tournaments.
4. Winning one of the top two spots requires you to play at least eight tournaments a week, and ten is probably a better number to have a good shot at it. I thought Kat and I had the top two spots locked up on Saturday, but Tim Votava final tabled both events on Sunday and flew by us when neither of us could play on Sunday. Well done Tim. Kat and I ended up tied for 3rd and getting $100 each. With what I won for the week, I was about break even with the PotW promotion because 3% of my winnings was close to $100.
If you wanted to play every tournament all week, or close to it, and you are a reasonable good player, you could average at least $300 a week, but you would be working a ton of hours and paying so much money in the extra PotW juice that you might be making an extra $2 or $3 per hour from the race. I’ll stick with the three $150 tournaments and the $250 Sunday Optimum for now, and I won’t always play those because the extra 3% I’ll be paying to subsidize a race that I’m not a part of irritates me.
The structures at Running Aces are good, but I play poker for money, and I have to go where the money is. These days it seems to be in home games with very low or no rake, so that’s where I will continue to play most of the time. They aren’t professional, and there isn’t great food in most cases, but the rake is right and the players are soft, so they are my best option for paying the bills right now.
I also heard zero response from my questions about a poker meet up group, so I’ll toss that idea in the muck. I figured I would get at least one or two responses since I get a few hundred readers a day, but as I’ve learned in the past, poker players don’t want to learn, they want to play. I also put up links to the schedules for every major tournament series on a separate page here on the site. You can get there by clicking on the Vegas Summer Schedule tab at the top of this site.
Follow me on twitter @foxpokerfox
Closed Circuit to Running Aces Staff – If I was a Running Aces pro, I would have all the PotW info up on a page on my own site already and you wouldn’t have to worry about it. I would also be working on helping you come up with a promotion for the PotW that makes it more profitable for serious players. Hint. Hint.
I’ve enabled comments on the blog so that I can get some feedback from you, the reader. I have a couple of ideas that I would like to bounce off you and I would love hear your thoughts on what you would like to read in the blog in future posts as well. Do you want strategy, hand reviews, local or national poker news, ethereal poker wisdom, or should I just be entertaining and irreverent every day?
If I ran a weekly poker study group for say $20 to come for one week or $50 for a month, would you show up? Should it be at one of the card rooms, bouncing back and forth between them, or at a more central location in the cities at a coffee shop maybe? Saturday at noon or a week night? I would present on some topic, answer questions, and everyone would help each other out. What do you think about this idea?
You can see a seven second tour of Erick Wright’s condo in Vegas HERE.
Congrats to Chad Holloway on shipping a bracelet in event #1 at the WSoP.
I will be on Minnesota Poker Weekly on KFAN Monday night at 9 pm on FM 100.3 in the Twin Cities.
I’ve been very frustrated with online poker lately, so I’ve given it up almost completely. I’m also trying to cut down a little on the amount of time I’m spending on the road and make a little more money, so local live poker games are the only way to do that. The games in Minnesota are tougher than any other place that I’ve played, but there is still definitely money to be made here and we are lucky to have two high quality card rooms in the twin cities. With the low limits on cash games, making more than about $25 an hour is tough, and even that number is only achievable by the very best players who have spent a lot of time studying. I do play in some home games where my income is a little higher than that, but tournaments are probably the best solution long term and I really enjoy playing them.
This week I decided to play a bunch of tournaments at Running Aces and see how tough the Player of the Week race is. I’ve talked to a couple people who are regularly in the running for the PotW race and run some numbers on my own, and I think I have a pretty good feel for how much I can make playing just tournaments at Running Aces. It’s not enough money to make me really happy by itself, but adding in lots of local series in the spring and fall, MSPT events, and whatever else I can find locally, I don’t think I will have to be on the road when I don’t want to. As of today I’m in the lead for the PotW race by five points.
Monday – The $5k freeroll is really a $50 buy-in tournament if you are playing it right. You start with 27,000 in chips that way, and they add $2k to the prize pool. Of course the $50 is half rake, which is the only reason this isn’t the best tournament in town, but with the added money, huge field, and terrible players, it’s still worth playing. I would probably skip it some weeks when I had a lot of work to get done, but it’s worth playing.
Tuesday – The $50 tournament at 2 pm may not be worth it just because smaller buy-in tournaments have such a high rake percentage, but the 6 pm tournament is $150 buy-in and a great structure. The 6 pm will be on my schedule every week when I’m in town.
Wednesday – In the past I have always played the $235 weekly at Canterbury, but if I have a cash at Aces already that puts me in the points race then I’ll play the Wacky Wednesday at 6 pm. The $50 rebuy at 10:30 am is probably profitable as well, but I don’t play tournaments before noon. Gotta get my beauty sleep.
Thursday – The $150 at 6 pm is the same as the Tuesday event and I will play this almost every week when I am in town too.
Friday – There are two $70 tournaments on Friday, and they are small enough that I’ll skip them unless I am in the points race from some good results earlier in the week.
Saturday – The $70 tournament at 9:30 is too early for me, but the $150 bounty event at 6 pm will only be on my schedule most weeks, and if I’m in the points race I’ll play it for sure.
Sunday – The $250 Optimum is one of the best weekly tournaments I’ve ever seen, and I’ll play it whenever I’m in town. If I bust the Optimum, and I’m still looking for points, I can play the $70 event at 6pm.
What I Might Make
I think I would be playing an average of $800 in tournaments in a typical week at Aces, and my ROI in those tournaments is pretty good, so making $1,000 a week should be doable. With $200 a week in PotW money, I’m up to $1,200 a week. Given that I’m self employed and have to pay my own health insurance, social security, etc., I wouldn’t be happy with $1,200 a week long term, but to make that on my “off weeks” when I’m not playing bigger stuff is pretty reasonable. Adding that to the bigger events, MSPT, local series, and the WSoP in the summer, I could get myself up to a pretty reasonable income and I might not hate poker so much if I was just playing tournaments and putting in less hours than I have been in the past.
It ain’t Vegas, or Florida, or California, but there is money to be made in Minnesota if you study hard and learn to really crush the games. In some parts of the country it is impossible to make a living playing poker, so we’re lucky to have this option even if players in some places are making more money.
Quick News Update
- I will be on Minnesota Poker Weekly next Monday night at 9 pm on KFAN 100.3 with Cory Cove and Bryan Mileski.
- My package for the WSoP sold out immediately and no more action is available.
- A new podcast is up at http://www.tourneytracks.com/podcast/
I have a long list of things I should talk about in my blog, so I’ll get right to it.
1. Erick Wright was named Running Aces ambassador and card room pro. Congrats to Erick, he’s a good guy and he works hard. I hope I get a gig like this myself some time soon.
2. I have some action for sale at the WSoP this summer. While my action in events $1,000 and higher is all promised to a backer that I have worked with since Black Friday, I am selling part of a package of smaller events. It’s nearly impossible to predict exactly what I will be able to play because there are so many events all over town and I have to work the smaller stuff into my schedule when I don’t have something bigger to play, but I will try to play at least $10,000 worth of smaller events in the $200 to $600 dollar range. I’ll be taking a portion of myself, and a couple people have already claimed pieces with offers like “I’ll take 20% of whatever you’re selling” but there is some action still for sale. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want in before it sells out. A more in-depth blog post is coming later this week about buying and selling action and if I still have some action for sale I will list the tournaments I’m likely to play.
3. I picked up some Koss Porta Pro Headphones and used them on Sunday for the first time. I’ve been through two pairs of headphones and at least five pairs of ear buds looking for the right thing for poker and I have finally found it. They sound great and they don’t block too much outside noise when they are turned off, so I can still hear what is going on at the table. The best $40 I have spent in a long time. And they fold up small enough to fit in a large pocket!
4. Aces finally changed their cell phone policy! Hallelujah! First Canterbury extends re-entry in the Wednesday night tourney and now this? I’m running out of things to complain about with my local card rooms. Now if they could just get a few more fish at the tables I would never have to leave town.
5. I chopped the Sunday Optimum at Running Aces this week. It wasn’t a huge score, but the extra cash was much needed in my household. The Optimum has the best structure for a weekly tournament ever. I had played it four times previously and never cashed, but this time things went my way. I suggested the chop and ran the ICM numbers because we probably had two more hours to play and I didn’t think the extra money I might make was worth the extra two hours given that I was getting over $3,000 in chop value and my opponents were not especially soft. I have definitely turned down chops in the past, but sometimes they are a good idea.
I also turned down the offer to “pay the bubble” which comes up in most small tournaments. I always encourage small stacks to make their own agreement amongst themselves, and if I’m a small stack I may agree to be part of one of these deals, but I won’t be part of them when I am a big stack. When there is very little chance that I will be the bubble, then throwing in $20 to pay the bubble is simply donating to charity. While I do donate money to charity, I have trouble offering $20 to a poker player instead of giving it to a more worthwhile cause. I caught a little crap about it, but I have vowed to never bow to pressure that costs me money at the tables ever again. I’m at work, and I’m there to make money. We can be friends, but begging or harassing me will not do anyone any good in a card room.
6. I’ll be playing a ton of tournaments this week at Aces. I’m curious how some of the smaller tourneys are and whether the Player of the Week chase is worth doing on a regular basis, so I’m giving it a shot this week.
Huge congratulations to my friend John ‘GStacks’ Hayes on his MSPT bracelet! He won the Northern Lights events on Sunday, crushing the table and setting a record for the fastest final table ever. Johnny has won more money online than any player in Minnesota, and has been crushing live tournaments for years too. He took third in a WSoP event last year, and fourth in an MSPT event at Grand Falls this year. Johnny is a badass and I couldn’t be happier to see him win this one.
Jarod Ludemann took 13th in the WSoP National Championship a few days ago. He’s another awesome poker player from Minnesota that is due for a huge score.
I’ve had a lot of people interested in buying a piece of my action in the WSoP. While I am currently stuck in a backing deal with makeup in tournaments with buy-ins of $1,000 or more, I have my own action in smaller events and will be selling some of it in a few days when I have my schedule solidified. As soon as that schedule is up and for sale I will post it here and sell it on a first come first served basis, though I do have a significant chunk reserved for a few friends.
I’m in Michigan to see my new nephew for the first time, so I’ve been a little busy, but I’ll be back tomorrow night with a more in-depth blog post covering the Vegas Summer package I’m offering and some thoughts on selling action in general.
Quick and dirty news both local, personal, and national.
Local – The MSPT is in Walker with their final tournament before the summer break, and Bryan Mileski will be doing a radio show tomorrow night with Cory Cove on KFAN 100.3. Listen in to Minnesota Poker Weekly at 9 pm every Monday night!
Personal – I’ll be starting day two today at MSPT Northern Lights today with 39,600. Blinds will be 1,000/2,000 to start the day, and if I don’t make the final table I will be doing commentary on the live broadcast.
National – The WSoP has announced the Carnivale of Poker, a separate series running during the World Series this year. Most of the early events are Monday and Tuesday, switching to later in the week when the series gets closer to the main event. If you are comfortable playing multiple games (there are some mixed and alternate game events) and going to be in Vegas for the whole series, I think it’s well worth chasing the $100,000 that goes to the top ten point earners in the Carnivale series.
I’m also happy that it adds some mixed game events to my schedule, though I don’t know how many Carnivale events I can play. The rake is high because of the $100,000 for the points race, and I hate to subsidize a prize that I can’t win because I won’t be in town for the first two weeks of the series. It’s tough to beat a $300 + 65 event if you have no chance at getting back some of that $65 later, but it’s a great value for someone who will in town for most of it because so many people will be subsidizing that prize that you have a chance to win.
After one of the longest bad runs of my life, I chopped the Wednesday $235 last night for $3,600. Not a big score, but anything that breaks the bad run of the last month or two feels like a huge victory. Even though I’m a bankroll nit, very conservative with my buy-ins, I was getting a little stressed. Just when I was really starting to hate poker too.
Canterbury extended late registration through the end of the first break, which is something players have wanted for a long time. Kudos to them for listening to their players. I bought in twice, and my second buy-in was during the third level, so I wouldn’t have been able to get back in and chop the tournament without the new re-entry rule. I think the rule change had an effect on the field size as well because we ended up with 110 entries which is a larger than usual field.
I’m headed up to Walker for the MSPT event on Friday, and if I don’t make the final table (fingers crossed), I’ll be doing the commentary on the live broadcast. Also hoping to make day two from Day 1A so I can go fishing (drinking) with Kou Vang and John Hayes. I haven’t been fishing in at least 15 years, but I think I remember how to drink a beer in a boat.
Here’s a list of my top ten favorite things about the are around Walker Bay.
1. Northern Lights Casino – A great place to gamble, and they are very good to the MSPT entrants. Cash games are always good here during the MSPT, and the casino staff is awesome.
2. The Bikini Ice Fishing Team – This pic says it all.
3. They know how to party.
4. They have their own brewery.
5. Jimmy’s Restaurant is an awesome restaurant, and it’s cheap!
7. The people are friendly.
8. The lake actually has a lot less leeches than the name would indicate.
9. Did I mention that the people are really nice?
10. Matt Kirby will be there
I’ve always thought those blogs with links everywhere were neat. You know the ones where they insert words into the post just to us them as links? Like if I said “I was playing on Bodog the other day… blah blah blah.” Anyway, I thought I would try one of those just to see how it went. By the way, I will always be a smart ass with my anchor text for links. It’s just become a habit. If you hover over a link in my blog, the text that pops up to describe the link will often be something snarky, funny, or ironic. And while it will probably never be anything too hardcore or offensive, do be careful clicking at work, there could be a dirty word in there somewhere.
I took my second shot at the Mayhem in May tournament tonight at Running Aces, but I continue to run bad and couldn’t manage to fade Nate Fair‘s three outer. It was a great tournament though, especially for those that managed to run a little better than I do. You should also remember that if I say something bad about someone in the local poker scene, it’s probably a joke. For example, I like Nate Fair, even if he is a huge donkey, so I can kid around with him. Someone will eventually take offense to something I write, that’s just how it goes, but I will probably just mock them mercilessly.
In other news, Russ Hamilton, former WSoP Champion, online poker cheat, and dirtbag, admitted all the shady things he did in the Ultimate Bet scandal, and implicated Annie Duke and others, including a company that is involved in the only licensed only poker site in Nevada, Iovation. Not only is their name, Ultimate Poker, similar to Ultimate Bet, but they hired a company involved in the UB scandal to handle their verification services. I’m sure your money is safe there, no worries.
I’ve also noticed that these blogs with tons of links in them always sneak in a plug for the things they are selling or promoting. Not that I would do that, I just noticed that some of them do it. That’s it for me, but I’ll be back every few days with more bloggy goodness. Until then, you can follow me on twitter.
It would make a great song title wouldn’t it? The Rooster and the Joker? I’ll have to drag my guitar out of the closet and see if I can whip something up. But it’s not a song, just a friendly twitter battle between a couple of local poker players that has turned into a team challenge. I am told that there is no money on the line at this point, just pride, but pride means a lot to poker players.
Josh “Rooster” Oien has put together ten players under the moniker Team Hammer Dong, while @the_poker_joker has a ten man team playing as Team Poker Joker, and a challenge has been issued for the Mayhem in May tournament at Running Aces. The teams will be scored according the PokerStars tournament leader board formula, and the winner will undoubtedly brag about it on twitter for months. The challenge brought up a few questions from people who were worried that money was involved, and there are legitimate concerns when it comes to teams playing in an individual event.
I highly doubt that anyone would engage in outright collusion in this case. I know many of the players on these teams, and can’t see it happening. Even if there were a little money involved, most poker players are not cheats and most of them know that the individual money involved in the tournament is much larger than any team bet that I have ever seen, so they would just cost themselves money by playing soft or chip dumping.
There’s also the question of how much it might hurt the other participants in the tournament. If you aren’t part of either team, then it is as likely to help you as hurt you. A situation where someone would play differently against an opponent who isn’t involved in the bet is certainly possible, but it’s not likely, and that different play might make you money instead of costing you money. The chance that anything like this will have a significant affect on people who aren’t involved is very small, but it is there, which is why there is no money on the line in this case. If they choose to play differently because of pride, there isn’t much you can do about it except to know about the teams and take advantage of it if you see the right spot.
These same questions come up with backers and their horses, or people who swap a percentage in an event or at a cash game. Even friends can play differently against each other, and do you think a husband really wants to bust his wife when they are in the same event? All you can do is play your best, don’t play soft against anyone, and go back to being friends once the tournament is over.
In other news, and good news indeed, Running Aces finally got another phone charger. From the pic it looks like there are lots of cables there, so they won’t be full like the single Verizon charger at Canterbury. Maybe Canterbury will feel a little competitive and at least fix the broken Verizon charger in their charging station or get a bigger station like this one. Putting together something with more plugs wouldn’t be that tough to do and I imagine they’ll get on it soon.
I’ll be headed down to Running Aces tonight to try it out. I usually play the Wednesday night tournament at Canterbury, but I was running late and they close registration after the first hour. Great tournament, but as I wrote about last week, it’s a tough field. If late registration was open long enough I would have played it again this week, even though I haven’t won it since January.
While I’m not selling any action, a few people have asked about my summer schedule and asked advice about what they should be playing when they go out to the World Series of Poker. I set my own schedule a few weeks ago, covering as many mixed game events as possible in the 31 days I’ll be in Vegas, with some no-limit events at the Rio, mostly $1,500 bracelet events.
If you, like most players, won’t be in Vegas for more than a week or two, you’ll want to make the most of your time in town and you’ll be hoping to make some money. Be careful with your bankroll, and decide what your max buy-in will be. I definitely think some events are much softer than others. Here’s a quick guide to finding the softest fields.
Where to Play with Buy-ins of Less than $500
There are so many good options at this buy-in size. The Golden Nugget and Caesars both have series right in this range, though the rake is fairly high in both. The Rio Daily Deepstacks are a good value too, with huge fields full of donkeys, but you may end up waiting an hour in line to register for them. That will never be a problem at The Nugget or Caesars, and you’ll be playing in a quiet and comfortable room with reasonably priced food and drink nearby at both locations, while you will be paying out the nose for those things at the Rio, as well as playing in the middle of the mess that is the WSoP. Even Binion’s has a good selection of smaller buy-in events.
The Venetian Deep Stacks are a good option too, though you may be seated close to some annoying slot machines and you may have a line to register, though it won’t compare to the ridiculous line at the Rio. The rake is pretty high at the Venetian too, but they have a great selection of events and the fields will be fairly large for the smaller buy-in events.
The Wynn has $400 and $500 buy-in events from June 7th to the 21st, with a good structure. I love playing at The Wynn, the tables are good, the service is good, and there is good, fast, within 50 feet of the tournament area.
Your best bet is probably to play whatever event is close to you, since cab fare would be much higher than the difference in rake. If you are downtown, The Nugget and Binion’s are the way to go, if you are at the Rio then play the deep stack events, and if you are on the strip, play wherever is closest to you with the buy-in you like on that day.
Where to Play with Buy-ins of More than $500
If you are playing buy-ins great than $500, you are primarily concerned with finding the softest fields, and there is a huge disparity. Venetian DS events with buy-ins over $600 have very tough fields and should probably be avoided. Special events like Binion’s and Caesars main events will be tough, but not as tough as the Venetian fields. The softest fields will be at the Rio, and don’t be afraid of the small number of starting chips, the structure is better than it seems. Half the fields in $1,000 or $1,500 or events will be clueless, just take advantage of them early while they still have chips.
There will be cash games everywhere, and a huge number of games at The Rio, but the best places to play most games will be away from the horde of grinders. The Venetian and Rio will be the toughest games, though there will still be a lot of soft spots. If you are playing $2/5, The Wynn will probably have the softest games, while smaller games will be best at places like Planet Hollywood where there won’t be any pros and most of your opponents will be sports bettors. As long as you get away from the few biggest rooms, the cash games will be fantastic.
I’ll be headed out to Running Aces to play the Sunday Optimum tournament today, and as always I checked the weather before leaving. Looks like it will be foggy by the time I leave tonight…
35E can be a lonely road at 4 am, which is usually when I leave Running Aces and head home. A foggy night on a lonely stretch of highway can be dangerous, but I’ve developed a set of rules to keep me safe on road trips and so far I haven’t had any problems. These rules were developed after years of reading horror novels and watching scary movies, and as long as you follow them you have nothing to worry about and can drive to Aces any time day or night.
1. If things look shady, get out.
This means that if we stop at a gas station, and Elvis (or a creepy clown) offers to pump our gas for us, and he has a gun on his hip, I’m out of there. If you aren’t in the car immediately, you’re screwed because I’m leaving. And if we stop at a country store and the owner has no teeth and a gorgeous daughter that’s flirting with me, I’m out of there too. Otherwise I end up killed or raped by her deformed brother in a creepy mask. Not my first rodeo folks, and I know better than to fall for the hot redneck girl in cutoff jean shorts when the situation is obviously crooked somehow. Nope, not the Fox.
2. It’s none of your business.
If you stop near a cornfield and a baby is crying in the corn, leave it alone. It’s not your baby. In fact it’s not a baby at all, it’s something or someone who is going to sacrifice you to the corn god. If you go investigate some weird sound in the middle of nowhere, I’m leaving. Good luck with devil baby in the corn field.
3. Finish off the killer.
If you find yourself in a bad spot, chased by a machete wielding killer, and score a few points on them, don’t leave them laying there and run off. They will wake up, and turn up when you least expect it. If you knock them down and stun them, take away their machete / chainsaw / scythe and cut their head off. Now burn the body and take the head with you. Keep it in your trunk until morning, buy a safe, and lock the head in the safe. Now dump the safe in a deep lake. No sequels, no coming back for you later, the bad guy stays dead.
4. Don’t go back.
Once you kill the bad guy, DO NOT go back to where it all started. This is a terrible idea. Move far away and never go back there for any reason. Let someone else deal with that shit. Whatever evil lives in that town, corn field, or old farmhouse, can stay there. Just stay away from it.
5. The cops can’t help.
If the police show up to help you, they are either in cahoots with the witches / inbred rednecks / corn worshipers, or the poor cop is going to get an ax in the back of his head pretty soon. Better you just leave them out of it and save either your life or his. The only exceptions to this are if you are in love with the cop, or it is dawn and they are coming to pick you up after the devastation is over.
6. Don’t get bitten.
Whether it’s a zombie or a wolf or a vampire, don’t let them bite you. If they get their teeth in you, it’s over, you are on your way to becoming one of them. If we hit a wolf on the highway, do not stop to check on it. While you are getting yourself bitten by a werewolf, I’ll be sliding into the driver’s seat and locking the doors. And driving away. Because you are an idiot and should have stayed in the car. Call the DNR if you want, but do not get out of the car to examine the injured creature unless you want to be stuck there with it as I drive away giving you the finger out the window.
7. Stay in the car.
How many times can I say this? If you get out of the car, the piece of shit won’t start when you get back in, and the crazed killing machine that is chasing you will have no problem smashing the window and dragging you out. When you wake up hanging from a meat hook in an old cellar or tied to an operating table in a barn in the middle of nowhere, remember that I warned you to keep driving.
8. Don’t be a jackass.
I can’t stress this one enough. If you are a guy who demeans women, a frat boy, or just a jerk, you have no chance. You will be one of the first to die. The same goes for women who are shallow, unlikable, or bitchy. You have to care about others, be strong, and have a troubled past, if you are going to stand a chance. And if you aren’t attractive, you’re screwed. The ugly ones never survive. If you put Joan Jett, Britney Spears, and an ugly girl in a horror movie, Joan Jett survives every time. The others die terribly. Be Joan Jett. A tough, troubled, dark haired, hero is the only one who stands a chance.
Be safe out there on the road in unfamiliar surroundings. Driving a foggy highway at night doesn’t have to be a death trap if you know the rules and exercise some reasonable safety precautions. I’ve driven through Iowa at night four or five times this year without incident, and I survived a trip through Wisconsin in thick fog a few months ago too. I’ll see you at Aces in a few hours. Unless you stop to help that girl on the highway half naked and covered in blood with no car anywhere nearby. If you do that then I’ll read about you on the news. Hopefully the scariest thing I see today is a three-bet from Erick Wright.
Tournament season is starting early this year. Starting next week, Running Aces has their Mayhem in May tournament, with five starting days and stack buybacks. As soon as that is over, MSPT qualifiers start at Northern Lights, and after Northern Lights the tournaments start up in Vegas. The WSoP used to be a month, but summer in Vegas has turned into an 80 day poker party with eight major tournament series running. In addition to the WSoP, there are series at The Venetian, The Aria, The Orleans, Binions, Caesar’s, The Wynn, The Bellagio, and The Golden Nugget.
Kenny Hallaert created a great spreadsheet with every tournament series, rake comparisons, and schedules on that you can see HERE. I used it to plan my trip to Vegas, which will be shorter this year, just 31 days.
As soon as the Vegas summer mess is over, the MSPT starts back up. The grind never ends, something we all asked for five years ago. Now that I have the chance to play a big tournament almost every week, it’s all about planning out my time. And of course I’m still working with students, making videos for PokerXFactor, creating content on Grinder U, playing a little online, and Bryan Mileski just told me that he would like to have me be a part of the new poker radio show on KFAN. Oh, and I have to write my article for Bluff this month. Did I miss anything? Probably.
I’ll see you next week at Aces, hopefully at the final table!
I played the Wednesday night $235 buy-in tournament tonight at Canterbury Park. I’ve mentioned this before on our podcast and probably in other spots, but that thing has got to be the toughest weekly tournament I’ve ever played. The Sunday Optimum at Running Aces is also probably pretty tough, though I’ve only played it a couple times.
They get between 70 and 90 runners on most nights for the Wednesday night tournament, and I know almost every one of them. And they all know each other. Because it’s the same damn people every night for years now. If you want to see how good you really are, or just play with some strong players to learn a few tricks, The Canterbury Wednesday is the place to do it.
Reasons why the field is so tough in this tournament –
1. It’s in Minnesota
I’ve done a lot of traveling, and I can guarantee you that the average player in Minnesota is much tougher than the average player in most other places. We have good schools, high literacy rates, and while there is some money here, there aren’t a lot of people with more money than sense like you might find in California, Vegas, or the East Coast. We’ve also had poker for a long time, so people have had time to learn. And to top it all off we have some serious poker coaches here.
Jason Senti worked for Blue Fire Poker, a top training site.
Mike Schneider is part owner of CardRunners, the net’s largest training site, and makes videos for them as well.
I work with PokerXFactor as well as running my own training site at GrinderU.com and wrote a book on no-limit holdem.
My business partner Adam Stemple makes training videos for PokerXFactor and Grinder U as well as coauthoring my book.
Bryan Mileski’s Minnesota Poker Magazine regularly has strategy articles in it, some of them from me. What other state, especially one this small, has a professional magazine dedicated to it’s poker scene with in-depth strategy articles?
We all combine to make Minnesota games tougher, and very few states have as many opportunities for players to improve by playing bigger buy-in events as often as we do. There are at least ten events a year with a buy-in over $1,000 that are full of strong players, which gives intermediate players a chance to learn quickly from the pros they play with.
2. The same tournament has been running for a long time.
This allows the same players to get used to it and adjust to the structure and learn how to play tournament poker. There are no antes in this event, and everyone who plays it is used to that fact. Raising with weak hands doesn’t do you much good in this thing with no antes to steal, and every one who plays it regularly has figured that out. Minnesotans also tend to be conservative with money, and conservative is a good approach in this tournament.
3. Re-entries end early.
Since the re-entry period doesn’t last long, neither do bad players. In many other events where the re-entry time is longer, the bad players re-enter more often and juice the prize pool. They also don’t get as discouraged by busting early, so they tend to come back more often. Very few people bust in the first two levels, so re-entries are rare.
I’ve done a lot of traveling, and talked to other players who travel as well, and we all agree that Minnesota poker is tougher than almost anywhere else, and this may be the toughest weekly tournament in the country. That doesn’t mean you should be afraid of it, it’s a lot of fun and the environment is friendly. You don’t improve if you don’t test yourself against tough competition, and if you are a strong enough player there is still money to be made. No matter how tough the field is, I’ll be there again next week, and almost every week when I’m in town because it keeps me sharp. Assuming that I’m sharp in the first place.
I’ll be posting hands pretty regularly here on my blog, and I thought this one was an interesting way to show how a play that some players see as amateurish, the turn check-raise, can be very effective. I feel like I bridge the gap between old school live players and the younger breed of new school players, many of whom learned the trade online, and both have value, so I’ll often be contrasting the two styles in my hand posts as well. This was definitely an old-school play.
In a recent $1,100 event at Running Aces card room here in Minnesota, a player at my table was very willing to go far with his hands, and was floating flop bets any time he had even the tiniest piece of the flop. He was also betting any time anyone checked to him. This can be a frustrating combination, because it is so often a profitable play and it threatens his opponent with high variance plays and big pots anytime they are in a hand with him. In this case, my opponent was also seeing way too many flops and had a small physical tell.
I started the hand with 35 big blinds about mid-day. We were nowhere near the money, but the blinds were getting big enough that most people were below 50 big blinds. My opponent had about 55 big blinds. I had Q8s (I know, a monster) in the hijack seat, and the blinds were tight, so I raised it up to 2.4 big blinds. My opponent called on the button, and the blinds folded. Playing a hand out of position was unexpected, but at least I had a predictable opponent.
The flop was Q93 rainbow, and I bet four big blinds, hoping that he would call. I got what I wanted as he called quickly. Against a very simple player, the quick call means that he has a draw or a medium strength hand. His decision is easy and he doesn’t have to think about raising or about folding. Good news for me, since he overvalued hands so much that he would have raised any top pair here, and since he wouldn’t have a monster when he acted so quickly, I am definitely ahead, and almost always facing middle pair. He was nuts, but won’t have a trey in his hand very often, so a 9 is definitely the most likely holding for him.
I knew exactly what my stack was on the flop, and thought it out. When he called my flop bet, I knew I had my double up. The turn was a 5.
On the turn the pot held 14 big blinds, and I had 28 big blinds left in my stack. I checked. Yep, I checked it. An amateur move to be sure. But I got what I wanted. He bet 11 big blinds, and I went all-in for my remaining 28. He only thought for a second before calling, as I figured he would. I flipped over my top pair with no kicker, and he nodded his head as he rolled over T9o for middle pair. I had him drawing to five outs, and he missed them.
As I stacked the pot, I noticed a confused look from a few players at my table. One player looked like he couldn’t believe that we had just played a pot with 70 big blinds in it and showed down top pair no kicker and middle pair no kicker. Another looked impressed, like I must have had a magical mind-read on my opponent. And a few strong players at the table just nodded their heads, acknowledging that they would have played it the same way.
I felt pretty good about it.
I have had trouble taking risks and trusting my reads in the past, because I’m not inherently a risk-taker when it comes to money. I’ve done some crazy things in my life, but when it comes to poker I have been fairly risk averse for most of my career. While plays like this one have become standard, and they don’t feel like a big risk at all, five years ago it would have been tougher to make this play and be so comfortable with it.
I will definitely cover some more advanced plays in future posts, but in the last week or two this was the play that stuck in my mind as something people could learn from. Remember to look at the stack sizes and think about how the hand will play out. If I had 60 big blinds in my stack, I would have played this hand differently, probably betting small on the turn and checking the river if I didn’t improve. That would usually earn me a free showdown from a mid-pair kind of hand and keep the pot size under control.
I first started blogging in 2005 on pocketfives.com. It was fun, and I was surprised to see that people were actually interested in the life of a low-limit grinder. When pocketfives got rid of their blog section a year or two later, I started hunting for a new home for my blog, but for some reason I just wasn’t happy with any one spot. I didn’t want to build up an audience somewhere and then have them disappear on me again.
Last year during the WSoP I tried to write every night and publish here on my site as well as on MNPokerMag.com, but after a few weeks it was just too much. After a twelve hour tournament day that ends with disappointment, I couldn’t do anything but go to bed. I would love to find someone to pay me enough to write every day that I could take an hour away from the table every day to write, and I’ve searched for that as well, but I haven’t found it.
The only option that makes sense at this point, since I really do want to write, is to host the blog here, syndicate it to whoever wants it, and write when I can. I think 2 or 3 times a week should be more than enough to keep my audience interested. And that is an amount of writing I can handle. I play enough interesting hands, meet enough interesting characters, and have enough thoughts on strategy in a given week to easily produce two or three blog posts and not have to struggle with what I’m going to write about.
The question I’ll start to ask after a month or two of writing will be –
“Will anyone actually read this thing?”
We just recorded our first short news podcast for the MSPT. These little audio news blogs will be recorded early in every event and posted so that you can get MSPT news about what is coming up, how things are going, and what to expect when you come to the event. Check it out below –
I’m proud to announce that I’m part of a truly unique and powerful poker training site – Grinder University!
With long time grinder Adam Stemple and poker psychology expert Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, I will be hosting a seminar every week and helping members work their way through the college style courses on the site as well as contributing on the forums and creating podcasts.
The site covers everything from poker tells to bankroll management, and tilt control to in-depth strategy advice, and since we are geared at live play, both cash games and tournaments, I think we are covering a lot of ground that no other training site has touched. And for $24.95 a month with no sign up fee, the site is a steal right now. That price may go up soon, so sign up now and say hi on the forums. I’ll see you inside.
I signed on today as the ambassador for the Mid-States Poker Tour! It’s an exciting opportunity to help promote the best tournament series in the midwest and work with my friends at the MSPT, a tour I supported way before they paid me to do it. I love the structures, the venues, the players, and the fact that the MSPT changed the game for all of us in the midwest.
Before the MSPT, we had rotten structures everywhere in the midwest. Even the HPT structures weren’t very good those first few years, because none of the local series had any competition and most of the players didn’t know any better. The MSPT did for the midwest what the Venetian Deep Stacks did for Nevada and now we have better
structures everywhere because players demand them and they can compare their local tournaments to the MSPT.
With multiple events in Minnesota, and trips to Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and other states coming soon, the MSPT is growing at an incredible rate and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Short blog today because I have to be back at the Rio for the restart tomorrow at 2 pm and it’s already 4 am. That’s good news though, it means I’m still in the $10k HORSE. Better than that, I have 56k and average is only 40k, so I’m in reasonably good shape. The field is tough, and I had to deal with Jason Mercier, Abe Mosseri, Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Alai, Jen Harmon Read the rest of this entry »
I know, I took a few days off. Quit whining. I busted 17th in the WSoP Razz event for $5,900, and unfortunately it was to Phil Hellmuth who went on to win his twelfth bracelet later that night. And in case you were wondering, I was ahead when we got most of the chips in, but I didn’t stomp off whining about how I should win every event but the donkeys always put beats on me. Grrr. Read the rest of this entry »
Yet another short blog because I made it through another day of the Razz event. We come back with 18 left tomorrow at 2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m short stacked after losing a couple big hands. I was up to 170k a few hours before the end of the day, but ended the day with 54k. Still a fighting chance, but a little annoying to run bad when so much cash is on the line.
I played a lot with Phil Hellmuth today Read the rest of this entry »
Well a short blog posted very late is good news! I made day two of the $2500 Razz event with an above average stack and way above average skill level. It’s amazing how basic the thought processes are in Razz, even with some very smart players at the table. A number of people were confused by plays I made that I could easily have explained to them with a few minutes and a spreadsheet. We restart tomorrow at 2 pm in the Amazon room.
The Rio is the same old Rio, though slightly easier to deal Read the rest of this entry »
Today was my last day of rest for quite some time. I didn’t really rest, you never do what you work for yourself, but I didn’t play poker. I did walk through a few card rooms to confirm that things hadn’t changed significantly since I was in Vegas in the spring, and things seem to be about the same as they are every year at this time when it comes to cash games.
Tomorrow I play the WSoP Razz event. Read the rest of this entry »
I was going to write about some cash game strategy and talk about places to play in Vegas tonight, but we’ll just have to wait a day for that.
Once in awhile life comes along and puts everything in perspective. Today is that day for me. A very dear friend, one of my favorite people in the world, passed away after a long battle with cancer this morning. I took the day off today, and will take the day off tomorrow as well. Playing high stakes tournament poker when your head isn’t right is a recipe for disaster. Read the rest of this entry »
Welcome Fox in Vegas, a daily report from the World Series of Poker and other major tournament series happening in Las Vegas. I was really hoping to have this thing off the ground sooner, but when no one bought it I slacked off for a few days. I’ll be playing approximately $80,000 worth of tournaments, lots of hours of cash games, and talking to players around the city in an effort to keep you abreast of what is going on.
Some things I will likely be talking about – Read the rest of this entry »
Our new tournament tracking site at tourneytracks.com is officially open for business! The site tracks every major tournament series in North America, and includes a full interactive map, event schedules and structure lists, complete TDA rules, and everything else that a traveling tournament player could want to plan their next trip. Please link to the site and tell all of your friends. The faster we can get the word out, the faster we can become the ultimate resource for upcoming poker tournaments.
Here’s the heads up spreadsheet from my recent seminar. Nash solutions for 16 big blinds or less with and without antes are included as well as a SAGE calculator and suggested opening and 3-betting hands.
Download the spreadsheet HERE
Since the release of the book I’ve had a a number of people email asking for my cash HUD set up. Here’s what I use for full ring no-limit games. I think it would be a fine set up for six max games as well. To download the hud .xml file you’ll probably need to right click and choose “save link as”. Then import the file from the player preferences in your Holdem Manager and it should work from there, just two quick steps!
The top row is the icon (you’ll need to set up autorate rules for that, I have some up on this site if you need them), VPIP / PFR and the number hands. I like the quick glance information in the top row and I’ve gotten used to looking for it there.
The second row is more in-depth preflop information, with steal, three-bet and fold to 3bet numbers.
The bottom row helps for post flop play with aggression frequency and won showdown stats.
Here’s a screenshot of the HUD I use in tournaments lately. The auto-rate icon is first, and those auto rate rules are in the post below this one. The first actual number is the player’s tournament M, color coded to the Harrington system. The two numbers separated by a slash are VPIP / PFR and the last number is the number of hands to indicate sample size. I have used HUDs with more info in them, but I can get 3bet and fold to 3bet stats from clicking on the VP/PFR, and those are the only other stats I really use. Stats like W$SD and AG% (which I use in my cash game HUD) just aren’t very useful in tournaments because the sample sizes are never big enough for them to be accurate. Between the autorate system and the few stats in this HUD I know enough to make most of my decisions pretty clear.
Right-Click HERE and select “Save link as” to download the exported file. If the download doesn’t work, you can copy the text below the picture, paste it into a blank text document and save it. Then rename the text document with a .xml extension and you can import that file into Holdem Manager.
To import the file –
Open Holdem Manager and from the very top of the program, select HUD Options and then Player Preferences. This will open up a window where you can control most of what goes on in your HUD. In the top middle of this new window you will see Import and Export buttons. If you click Import and select the file you just downloaded or created, it will import that layout. Then you can set the new layout to be active during tournaments and it should work fine.
Here are the rules I use for full ring no-limit cash games for my autorate icons for Holdem Manager. If you have a typical install you should be able to go to
From there you can see all the text files for the autorate setting and paste the text below in to the file labeled Autorate – FR Holdem NL-PL to replace the default text.
My long awaited book on no-limit Holdem cash games is finally available for preorder and will be shipping within a month. The focus is learning how to think for yourself and handle any situation as they appear rather than trying to to learn what to think and memorize every possible situation.
You can buy it and read about the no-limit holdem book including a sample chapter and table of contents.
You should be able to visit this link, copy the text and paste it in to a text file, and import it to Table Ninja. I’m not an expert on this stuff, so if it doesn’t work try the Table Ninja forums because I don’t know anything else about importing these files.
The HUD layout above is a very simplified HUD that I use for playing lots of tournaments at once.
I ran some numbers today on when to call short stack shoves after you raise and they come over the top. With a simple spreadsheet and Poker Stove these things are easy to figure out. If I still played a lot of cash no-limit Holdem, I would make a bunch of these charts so that I was prepared for any possible short stack poker situation. Here are the two I put together for a couple of my students.
Assuming you have made a standard raise to three times the blind, the 20 BB short stack has come over the top all-in, and no one else is involved in the hand, you should be calling a hand that has about 42% equity against his range. That gives you the following chart for that situation –
Opp Hand Range = Opp Percentage Correct Calling Range
JJ+, AK 3 % AKs, JJ+
99+, AK 4 % AKo, JJ+
99+, AQo+ 5 % AKo, TT+
88+, AJs, AQo 6 % AKo, 99+
77+, ATs, KQs, AQo 7% AQs, 99+
77+, ATs, KQs, AJo 8% AQo+, 88+
66+, ATs, KQo, AJo 9% 77+, AJs+, AQo+
44+, ATs, KQo, AJo 10% 66+, AJo+
44+, ATs, KQo, AJo 11% 66+, AJo+
If you get one caller before the short stack raises all-in for 20 BB, then you can call a little wider because of the extra money in the pot. In this spot you need to have around 39% equity against their range, and I dropped that in to a spreadsheet as well, with the following results.
Opp Hand Range = Opp Percentage Correct Calling Range
JJ+, AK 3 % AKs, JJ+
99+, AK 4 % AKo, JJ+
99+, AQo+ 5 % AQs, TT+
88+, AJs, AQo 6 % AQs, 99+
77+, ATs, KQs, AQo 7% AQo, AJs, 88+
77+, ATs, KQs, AJo 8% AQo+, AJs, 77+
66+, ATs, KQo, AJo 9% 77+, AJs+, AQo+
44+, ATs, KQo, AJo 10% 66+, AJo+
44+, ATs, KQo, AJo 11% 66+, AJo+