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 approached Bluff Magazine a few months ago about doing some serialized fiction about a poker pro in Vegas, and while my editor said he liked the story, they just don’t print serialized fiction. Fair enough. They’ve been good to me, and printed pretty much everything I’ve ever sent them in the past, including my rather unorthodox article this month which includes a brochure for my patented system for learning to beat poker in one easy lesson. Check it out, I actually made myself laugh while I was writing it.
I don’t know where else to put this, but maybe some of my blog readers will enjoy it. If it gets a big response, maybe I’ll figure out what to do with it and either keep putting it up here or make it a serial on the Kindle and Nook.
“What are you doing Banks?” Aaron said, incredulous. “I’m not gonna sweat hands for you if you’re gonna fold after I bring em’ home.”
Banks just grinned. He was real name was Thomas Banfield, but everyone in the poker world just called him Banks. He didn’t even remember when it started. Years ago somebody had heard his last name and started calling him Banksfield after he had a big hit in a cash game and eventually it shortened into Banks. And that was alright with Banks. It sounded good, it felt good, and it let people know that he was somebody. He hadn’t always been somebody, and it was nice to feel like somebody now.
He looked at the old man across the table, he had played with him before, more than once, but had forgotten his name. He was retired, had to be, and had enough money to play nice and tight a few times a week and still be comfortable in his retirement. Good for him. He filled a seat, lost a little money, and wasn’t as grumpy as some of the other old-timers.
“Two red jacks?” he guessed.
The old man grinned. “How did you know they were red?”
“Just felt like two red jacks,” he said, “you know how you just get a feeling sometimes.”
“Good read young man.”
He turned to Aaron and spoke quietly so the old man across the table wouldn’t hear. They had just been talking before the hand started, so it wouldn’t look like they were obviously discussing the hand. That might shame the old guy, or make him less friendly next time.
“You know he’s not lying.” he said.
“Sure, but you can’t fold a set on a jack-six-five rainbow board.” Aaron replied under his breath. He was a pretty good player, a regular in the $1/2 games, and he dealt poker on the tournament circuit when he needed money. But no matter how many hands he saw, as a player or a dealer, he never seemed to take that next step. He was good, but he would never be like Banks.
“So I should give away $300 just because you think I can’t fold a set on that board?” he said, keeping his voice low and even.
“You fold a set on a dry board like that and the table is gonna run over you all night.” Aaron replied. Banks looked disappointed, like he expected more from his friend.
“First of all, this table couldn’t run over me if I showed them every hand.” he said, looking back at the table full of semi-regular players and tourists, “There’s not a shark in the bunch except maybe the German kid in the four seat.”
“Second, none of them knows I folded a set, and thanks to your commentary on my fold, they all think I just folded a pair of tens or king-jack or something.” he added, “And most important, I can read these guys like a comic book. If they try to run me over I’m gonna make a mountain tonight. You’ll have to get me a wheelbarrow to get my chips over to the cage.”
Aaron looked amused. He knew his friend was right. There wasn’t a $2/5 game in the city that he couldn’t put a solid beating on. Banks wasn’t the best player in Vegas, not by a long shot, but he was damn good, maybe the best low-limit cash game grinder Aaron had ever seen.
“I gotta run man, meeting my girl at the double down. Some dude she knows from work is playing a gig there tonight and she wants to show up for a few minutes so we can act like we give a shit.” he said, patting Banks on the shoulder before he turned and walked off. “Give em hell.”
“You know it.”
Banks turned back to the table, pulled his cards toward him, and lifted up the corners. Just a peek. The nine of spades. Then the seven of spades. Good enough. The first three players limped in, and then two more folded. Banks grabbed seven red chips, set them down in front of him in a neat stack, and then knocked it over toward the center of the table. Easier to count that way. The button and the blinds folded. The first limper was a tourist, but Banks had a good feel for his game because they had been playing together for three hours. The guy was only down $400, which was lucky, it should have been worse.
The guy was pretty bad. Passive, readable, stubborn, and prideful. He was an easy mark, and it was hard not to beat a guy like that if you get enough time with him. The more he thought, the more obvious his hand was. A guy like that would reraise with ace-king or a big pair. He didn’t think about position much, and the reraise would probably be too small, but he would reraise. A limp-reraise was rare from a tourist anyway.
If he had a couple of small cards, even if they were suited, he would have made his decision quickly, probably a fold unless they were suited connectors. With a small pair he would call right away, no thought, just a call hoping to flop a set.
It had to be two decent big cards. Ace-jack or ace-queen maybe, or king-queen suited. He would never have limped a hand like two tens, which would be the only other kind of hand that would be a tough decision here. When he put his chips in the pot, Banks figured it was one of those three big card hands, probably ace-queen.
The other limpers folded. God this was a great table. He watched the area where the flop was about to fall as the dealer snapped three cards off the deck. The tourist did the same thing. Banks always looked at the place where the flop was going to be, because that’s what he wanted the fish to do. No reason to clue them in that they should be watching their opponents or let them know that they were being watched. Before the dealer rolled over the flop, he looked up without moving his head. He looked right at the tourist’s eyes. Banks didn’t see the flop as it was revealed. He hadn’t seen a flop happen in years. He saw his opponents as they saw the flop. This time there was no reaction. Completely flat. The tourist had missed the flop. No doubt about it. After his opponent checked, Banks looked down at the flop himself. It was still there. There was no reason to watch it happen, because it wasn’t going to change in the three seconds that he watched the tourist and gauged his reaction.
The flop was a king in the middle with a deuce on either side of it. Neither deuce was suited with the king. He reached for his chips again, cut off two stacks of five, and dropped them in front of him. $50 was more than enough. It would get him a fold 90% of the time.
The tourist looked unhappy. He also looked like he might call. What the hell did he have? Banks started to doubt his read. Ace-queen was an easy fold here. Maybe it was king-queen or king-jack suited. The tourist let out a big breath and said “Take it.”, showing the ace-jack of diamonds before the tossed his hand in the muck.
“Good flop for me.” Banks said. He knew the guy probably put him on ace-king when he raised preflop. That’s what fish do. They put you on ace-king or a medium pair like two nines. And then they called. And most of them folded when they missed the flop. Just like this one did. The guy just nodded his head.
“Figured you had ace-king, but I had to see a flop.”
Banks’s hand was already in the muck. He had thrown it in quietly before he said anything about the hand. Telling someone what you have before you muck your cards looks too much like a lie. If you were going to reveal your hand, then why not show it off? But if it was already in the muck when the discussion started, then you could believe the guy, because it was easier to believe him than to wonder. As long as you said it casually, made it plausible, they would believe. And if you just gave them a clue that made your hand obvious, they would believe it for sure, because they felt like they had figured it out on their own.
Banks picked his phone up off the rail of the table where it sat all day long. He flipped it over and saw that he had an unread text message from Aaron. He pulled it up, glanced at it, and then stopped and stared. He turned to the table next to him and grabbed two racks for his chips. The text was just three words, but they ruined his night and probably saved the tourist in the two seat a thousand bucks. Just three words.
“Sammy’s in jail.”
End of Chapter 1
If you have any interest in Cyber Punk or Sci-Fi, and own a Kindle or use the Kindle app on your smart phone, check out my short story She Shines on Amazon.
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
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+