Friday, August 26, 2011

Transitioning online to live poker webinar

Just thought I'd let everybody know I'll be presenting a webinar this Sunday at 2pm pst over at dailyvariance. The topic will be transitioning from online to live poker. I have spent many hours in both and I'll go over what I think are vital stuff when it comes to making that transition. This webinar will be fairly different than the video series I made...I'll be going over a lot more conceptual stuff and a bunch of new stuff as well. Here's the link....

The presentation will be an hr long then I'll be doing a Q&A after. Hope to see some of you guys there!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thoughts on Girah scandal (DIH also)

I've been following the Girah scandal like everybody else. I've read tidbits of threads in the forums and DIH's blog posts including his farewell from poker. I'm sure there is more than meets the eye (I, like everybody else would love to hear more from Jungleman, although his involvement seems far).

I think CR did the right thing in letting DIH go. This is a business and CR needs to maintain a certain image/brand going forward. I don't know DIH, never met him, never spoke with him, but I do know from his writings and videos he's an intelligent guy and understands poker at a high level. With that said I try to reserve judgement until all the facts are out but it's hard to ignore all the dirt out there and DIH's involvement w/ Girah. It looks even worse now that he's "retiring" from poker.

Read the rest....

Thoughts on Girah scandal

Friday, July 29, 2011

Maximizing ev, Maximizing Life

As I sit here and write this, I have tears flowing down the side of my face. I've encountered the toughest obstacle I've faced in my life up to this point. I guess I can be grateful that it took so long (38 years). The news was grim today as doctors told us my dad has 6 to 12 months left to live.

Shortly after the Wsop main event we found out my dad has stomach and liver cancer but did not know the severity of it until he had a biopsy done. The last couple of weeks were filled with fear and sadness due to uncertainty of my dad's official condition, yet clinging unto hope that the doctors would come back with news that somehow it's treatable and he would be able to beat it.

Well that hope is almost dashed out with today's news. I guess I'm trying to hope somehow someway my dad has a chance, any kind of chance, even though doctors are telling us there isn't. It's not just for me, heck I cry for my dad, I cry for my mom who has relied on my dad her entire adult life, I cry for my wife who is probably closer to my parents than me and sees my dad as her own, and I cry for my only daughter, 10 years old, who loves her grandfather like any child can. When I spoke to my dad after finding out he had cancer, he said he's at peace of living a long and fulfilling life of 69 years (maybe he was telling me this to ease my fear and sadness) but would like to have watched Nicole grow up and get married. I shed many tears thinking of that and will continue to do so.

I've been busy the last few weeks with the Wsop, a new start up poker venture, and dealing with my dad's health so I haven't had the chance to blog in awhile. Yet I feel like this is a good time to reflect on my emotions and express the thoughts I'm having. Yes I am forthcoming with my emotions but you can't blame me.

Knowing my dad's days are limited, I don't want to dwell on the negatives, I want to dwell on the positives. It's easy to curl up and go into a shell for awhile but what good will that do? I am a person of faith and I believe God has a purpose for everything. For those that follow me on twitter I said I believe in prayer and would welcome all those that wanted to do so for us. It is partially faith and partially self therapy that I write what I'm writing.

I comfort in the fact that my brother and I grew up to be good genuine honest people, and I give my parents all the credit for this. My dad knows this inside, even if he won't say it.

I got into poker full time 13 years ago and for a profession that had a certain type of stigma attached to it (over the years it's become a lot more acceptable and respectable) I managed to not only support myself well, but supported my wife and kid well. More importantly it didn't change me into a bad person, not one ounce. If anything it taught me how to manage money, how to work hard at something (and reap the rewards), and it gave a wonderful life to my family and me. My dad helped me in an indirect way by making me become the man I can be. And this I take comfort in.

Sure my parents were skeptical when I told them I was playing poker for a living in the beginning. After all, who's parents wouldn't, especially if they were religious, and especially if their son was already married with a newborn baby. It wasn't until a couple of years later they saw how well I was doing but more importantly how well I was taking care of my family, and not just from a financial perspective, and they started to come around. Eventually they became proud of their oldest son. They are proud of my brother also for other reasons. And this I take comfort in.

In poker we are ingrained with knowledge to seek and maximize ev. That's it. That will determine success. For a few that's all life is about. If that's you you are not living life. If that brings you utter and complete joy then perhaps you can argue you are living life, but you are not living a balanced life, which by all intents and purposes, is unhealthy. Also partying and drinking (or smoking pot) is not part of balancing life.

One thing I've prided myself in is living this balanced life, which almost to a degree seems like a myth for professional poker players. Even though I've lived this life I've made mistakes, I've been guilty of doing less desirable things, and I have regret of doing some things and not doing some things (nothing serious though).

With the news that my dad will no longer be with us within a year, I seek to change my life for the better. What I mean is that I want to live a life with meaning, with knowing that I went all out, with no regrets and that I gave myself the best possible life I could while doing everything I could to provide the best lives for those around me.

It'll be little things, medium things, and big things. Things like working out regularly, eating healthy (because God knows I haven't living in Vegas), attending church more often, spending more time with my kid, showing more affection for my wife, working harder in everything, cutting down my play time (eg video games and lurking 2+2), showing appreciation for those that deserve it, showing appreciation for the little things in life, and on and on.

I aspire big, not for others to see, but for myself to see. Sure it took a moving and sad moment in my life to drive me in this new direction, but again, I want to see the positives with today's news.

For those that read this, I challenge you to do likewise. I don't mean the things I mentioned for myself although they can certainly include them. Everybody has their own goals and things they'd like to achieve. Go achieve them. Start today. If you fall down, get right back up and keep going. Don't abuse anything (especially people) while doing so. Don't wait for a life changing moment to give you this epiphany (like me). Learn from me now.

Sure it's easy to say I'm realizing this in the face of mortality given my dad's condition. So what. I am right. The world would be a better place if we all aspired and sought action to maximize our lives and for others around us. In other words, live life to the fullest...don't think it, do it, just like I am doing from this point on.

All this I will tell my dad, and I'm sure it will bring a smile to his face. And this he will take comfort in.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New coaching site up!

So this was a big week for me for a couple of reasons. I played the main event and busted midway through day 1. I am ok w/ my bustout because I played well but could not overcome being 2nd best every hand. The WSOP was slightly disappointing for me because I cashed 3 times for about $27k in 25 events or so but ended up losing about $38k overall. That's the nature of tournaments though.

I will be back to my regular cash game grind, live version, going forward and will continue blogging. I will be doing so at my new site

where I coach, make audio sessions for subscribers to listen to, and participate in the forums actively.

I'm looking to help others improve their games and I think at the cost we're selling our coaching, it's affordable for just about everybody. We have some great coaches including myself, Joe Tehan (who I've talked about before), Matt Affleck, and Jared Tendler (who's an awesome mental game coach and who's coached numerous poker players, including a bunch of successful guys). We'll also be adding new coaches, guys that we handpick so rest assured they'll know their stuff!

Again, I hope everybody checks it out, whether you decide to subscribe or not, and I'll continue blogging like usual but it will be over there. Here is the 1st blog I put up over there the other day...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Best Father's Day Gift

So I've since gone 0-7 in Wsop events since my last update. I feel like I'm playing well, just running like crap. I'm 0-11 in all ins in the past week over 7 events. I ran into aces twice for my tournament life (once with queens, another with JTs where I 3bet shoved w/ a lot of dead money in the pot), lost 7 flips (yes I lost'em all), lost as a 3-2 fav, also got crippled in the $2500 10 game mix w/ JT95 ds (during plo round) when almost all the chips went in on a KQ96 ssxx board and my opponent w/ JJT7 (w/ 3 spades) rivers the flush, and I finally busted in a hand when I was behind today.

Well actually the hand played out where I opr ep w/ QQ to 350 at blinds 75-150, get a mp caller, flop comes 732r, I bet 450, mp raises to 1250, I call w/ about 2500 behind because I was pretty sure he was putting me all in on any turn card and if I shove flop he folds a lot of hands he was going to shove turn with, turn 6, I check, he shoves, I call, he rolls over 66, gg me. Maybe I could've shoved flop and won the pot there but I felt like there was more value in trying to let him bluff off or valuetown himself by just calling his raise.

Anyway I am still showing a profit due to having pieces of 2 friends that made final tables at the Wsop. I'm not too concerned about my own results because I'm very critical of my own plays and I feel like I'm playing very well but things aren't panning out results wise. That's poker for ya. Also we are only at the halfway point of the Wsop and all it takes is one deep run.

Also I can't feel bad because I have the best family in the world. Since I was going to be busy all weekend with the Wsop and a new venture I'm working on (announcement coming soon) my wife, kid, and their friends went to San Diego, California to explore LegoLand and whatever else is fun out there. Sure it's Father's Day today but I wanted my wife and kid to have fun out in San Diego. Plus my 10 year old kid left this for me, and I must admit this is about the coolest thing I've ever received in my life (birthdays and Christmas's included)... a montage of sorts, of my life (I scanned each page of the booklet she left me next to my bed)...

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3 (sure she should've used "Accomplishments" but can't be too nitpicky)

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Wsop bracelet or not, I win in life!

Friday, June 10, 2011

1 for 7 (so far)

That's just how it goes sometimes. I don't think I'm off to a terrible start but it is disappointing to only have 1 cash through 7 events. Last year I started off 0-9 before I reeled off 5 cashes in my last 8 tournaments to show a profit. Let's talk about the good news, the cash. Well actually it ended in a tilting way...

It was the $1500 6max nl event. Before people say "yeah of course Nicolak is expected to cash in that, that's what he plays online all the time", I do think I have almost an equal chance in just about any form of poker except nl deuce and plo. It just turned out my only cash happened in this event. Day 1 was fun w/ a starting table of Frank Kassela and Cardrunner's Taylor Caby. Kassela isn't that good at nl (yeah I said it, and yes I know he ft'ed the $25k 6max nl event last year) but Taylor is obviously good.

Anyway I had a tough table throughout day 1 and day 2 and ended up busting in 43rd place (out of 2k entrants) for $7400 or so. I opr utg w/ AK and kid 3bets in mp and I jam and get called by ATo and the board runs off A24AT. I had the kid covered by 5k at 1500/3k blinds and ended up having 2 blinds after that hand and went bust next hand. Obviously it's disheartening to lose that way but that's variance for ya.

I will talk about an interesting hand I played on day 2. I have about 140k w/ blinds at 1k/2k/300. Some Pokerstars pro named Jose Nacho Barbero opr to 4500 on button, I elect to call w/ K8s in the bb (I considered 3betting but Jose was very aggressive and capable of 4betting light) and the flop comes...


It goes check check, turn...


I bet 6k or so, he calls, river...


I check ready to give up thinking I just got rivered but Nacho bets 14k and I begin thinking (even in obvious spots like this where a fold seems automatic)....we know he never has flushes because he would've cbet the flop (especially since he's so aggro) so his range is capped to Ax while we can credibly rep flushes. I decide to c/r to 54k (initally I was going to make it 64k but thought 54k would be big enough to get him to fold Ax hands) and he tank calls w/ 99!

Sure it's risky trying to get him off a straight but I assumed he would be good enough to know I would take this line w/ flushes (he is a Pokerstars Pro, but I guess that's not always saying much). I don't know if he's good enough to realize I would take this same line w/ Ax hands as well (because again, we know his range is capped to Ax so I can profitably c/r in this spot w/ Ax to try to get him off of a chop) Also I was playing pretty straightforward up to this point. I guess I might've assumed he was a good enough hand reader and could figure this out, or maybe he just thought to himself "zomg I have a straight how can I ever fold it?!" Whatever the reason, he made the call and it dropped me down below avg. I talked to a few guys and they all liked my line and are amazed at the call he made (some even calling it a -ev call, I agree). I do think I should've went w/ my initial raise of 64k because he was counting down his stack before calling and I think the extra 10k would've made him fold. Oh well.

I bust and I hang out at the Rio trying to relay my sob stories to anybody that will listen...after all, that's what we all do...jk. I have a guy I have 10% of in the 6max and I rail him for awhile. They're down to 24 or so and he gets in over 300k w/ QQ vs the kid that won it last year (and who Pokernews is calling the king of 6max cuz he got a 2nd in the $5k 6max and a 1st in the $1500 6max last year...pfftttt) who's holding 99 and he rivers a 9 to bust my horse (he barely had him covered) and have a sizeable chiplead at that point (he ends up getting 3rd for over $200k). Talk about a double whammy that night!

I also played in the $1k nl which attracted over 4k entrants. I busted that one in level 2 when I called every street w/ AsJs on a 9s8c6s, Qh, 8s, and called all in at the river w/ the nut flush only to see him turn over 86. Standard.

Yesterday I played in the $1500 nl shootout and I love shootouts because the better nl players are at a bigger advantage. The last 2 years I finished 2nd and 1st on my 1st tables. This time I got hu vs. Paul "Gees" Volpes, some internet mtt pro who's ranked really high. I started out w/ 4k vs his 41k but managed to get it to 12k vs 32k when my AQ > his T8o aipf. At blinds 200/400 I opr to 850 w/ 44 and he shoved and I elected to gamble and called only to lose to J9s. I do think a better line would've been to limp so I can reraise all in had he raised from the bb there. I think that's one area of the game I need to work on, is the shallow stacks opening/raising/reraising range, but that's probably just memorizing a chart.

Today I played the $1500 Pot Limit Hold'em event and this had the shortest turnout at 760 entrants. I guess people are intimidated by not being able to bet more than pot (forcing people to play more flops), or the fact that antes never come into play. Anyway I pretty much lost a flip when I raised and called off w/ KQ on a JT3r flop and couldn't beat AJ at level 5.

The most important thing to realize is how well I'm playing. I think I misplayed a couple of big hands (including the last hand I blogged about, the 54s hand where it should've been a fold or 3bet preflop) but overall I am happy w/ my play. I would give myself an A- up to this point. Sure people can win a tournament playing like a F player and people can go a long time w/o ever winning playing their A game but hey, that's the risk we take when we play tournaments, especially at the WSOP where the fields are bigger.

Tomorrow is the $1500 Horse and I'm relieved to be playing a mix games event after all the hold'em events. I actually enjoy mix games more than hold'em. Heck, I'm almost to the point where I'd like the WSOP to be over so I can go back to my normal (post Black Friday) cash game grind (so I can actually start making money!).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sometimes I'm not sure (WSOP hand)

The setup is the $10k pot limit hold'em event. 250 entrants and it's accurate to say it's a tough field w/ very few weak spots. I get on a very tough table w/ 4-5 aggro Euro kids who know how to play + couple other young kids, Bttech, Jared Jaffee (who busted and was replaced by Sam Stein), and Rick Solomon (the dude that offered Pamela Anderson to pay her huge loss in a Vegas casino for a night of, ummm, fun...eventually they marry and divorce).

We start w/ 30k and I'm down to about 25k playing 250/500. Utg opr to 1200, I flat w/ 45s on the button, bb calls, flop J64r w/ 1 to my suit, chk chk I bet 1700 (to try to win it there, case can be made for checking but I like betting since bp is so vunerable and I should only have to worry about bb because utg checked which likely means he has nothing), bb folds, utg c/r to 4400 (he has me covered).

Now let's assess his range...1st of all, he seems like a young competent thinking player (although even some competent mtt pros don't seem to understand how to play postflop well) so I would expect him to lead w/ all jacks, overpairs, 66, 44 (to get value from jacks), 87, and some random air hands inc. AK. Given that he doesn't cbet flop means he's giving up or is slowplaying JJ, that's pretty much it. Well once he c/r's me I know he has JJ or air, and given that there's a lot more air in his range, mostly due to combinatorics, and his possible line of thinking being "well this good looking asian dude can be just trying to steal it on the button since we both checked to him and w/ the bb out of the way let me put him to the test and resteal vs his possible steal w/ my air + backdoor equity", I call w/ my bp (possibly the best hand) + backdoor draws + position.

Turn 9 bringing 2 hearts (not my suit), chk, chk (I just want to get to sd because my hand is likely good now but I can't stand another c/r so I elect to check), riv offsuit Q, he bombs 11k and I go into the tank. Once he checks the turn we can almost eliminate JJ unless he was going for a weird and rare c/r, c/shove line. Now I go through in my mind everything I just wrote and can't figure out what the heck he has or is repping. Again if it was a bad player, he's liable to show up w/ AQ, sets, AA, etc since they have no clue, but this kid wasn't bad. Also he wouldn't bomb the river w/ top pair type hands because he would know my most likely hand are busted draws or a jack so he'd value bet around 6-8k at the river.

The only hand I think he can have is A4s, T8, KT or air...but A4s is probably not in his range because he probably cbets that on the flop. Well if he backdoored a straight and it's either that or air I should call. My bp is pretty much equivalent to AJ (I won't totally discount overpairs since it's possible some mtt pros take this line).

Here are a few more reasons for calling (pros for calling)...

-He seems like a young mtt pro....probably not experienced in postflop play and just making plays for the sake of it to win a pot w/o having an idea of what he's really repping...this happens more often than you think, even in $10k's

-The field is tough and I don't expect guys to give chips away like they do in the smaller buyins so there isn't much merit to the "wait for a better spot" reasoning, so I need to seize the +ev spots, even if they're marginal

-I have a little over 10bbs if I lose and I can still come back

Here are my question marks on calling (cons for calling)...

-When he bombs the river like that, he's more likely to have the straight, as unlikely as it may seem from the flop I'm not 100% sure if it's +ev to call...I think it is, but not as much as I thought it was at the time

-It's a big bet and chips saved are more valuable than chips won in mtts so I'm not sure if I'm supposed to call in a very marginal spot even though I felt it was slightly +ev

I asked a couple of very good players and they both thought it was a fold but I think they were putting more weight into the actual river bet size (and 'waiting for a better spot") than the entire hand (my thoughts on it anyway)

I elected to make a hero call and lost to KT. I don't feel bad about how I played the hand because my read was spot on and I went w/ it. Again I don't know if that's enough reason to risk most of my stack though.

In a cash game I almost always call since I feel it's +ev, but again it's different in tournaments where it's sometimes correct to pass on marginal spots, including very small +ev spots.

Sometimes I'm not sure .

As for the tournament I built my stack up from 6k to 32k (illustrating why calling isn't bad since I can come back) and got it in at the 400/800 level w/ TT from the bb vs a Euro kid in the co in an obvious squeeze spot (button had called as well and we were playing 7 handed w/ 5 more hands left for the night) and busted to QQ.

Thoughts and comments are appreciated (and yes you can tell me my call is bad as long as you give reasons why).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

WSOP Start

I just got home after busting the 1st event I played, the $1500 limit omaha 8 hi lo. I played 9.5 1 hr levels and busted during the last level of the day. I'm not that upset though for a couple of reasons. 1st is that I felt like I played really well, especially in a game which isn't my specialty. I know I'm +ev in this event but after playing today I feel like I'm hugely +ev in future limit om8 events up to a $5k buyin or so. This isn't to brag but to instill a self confidence in me going forward for this game. If there's one quality about me that has contributed to a lot of my longterm success, it's the ability to look at myself and assess w/ near certainty where I stand in relation to everybody else in poker.

When I reflect back on past om8 tournaments I play, I see the mistakes I made (just like I've done w/ other forms of poker)...this is a sign that I'm getting better and seeing what the right plays are. Today I felt like I played near perfect except for an obvious river value bet I missed (also compounded by not paying attention to my opponent's stack, so 2 missteps that led to 1 error). I might've made a couple of loose calls preflop but they weren't mistakes because they were situational and I felt the worse shape I could be was about even money.

I ran pretty bad during the last 2 levels, including losing 2 pots where I'm a big fav to scoop going into the river, instead had to settle for a chop when my opponents got there w/o much equity for half. I also folded some big hands including 2458 w/ 3 spades on a A77Q9 board where I turned a flush and just c/c'ed turn then c/f'ed river vs. an old guy where I'm close to 100% sure I'm beat; another hand where I c/f'ed to a 1 big bet w/ 3 big bets left on the turn w/ AJT2 on a J932 2 flush board vs another old guy and old lady (older people tend to "have it" a lot more in this game than other games), the old guy showed a set of 99s to scoop so I was right. My reads were spot on today and I took optimal lines whenever I played a hand so again I felt really happy w/ my play overall.

Anyway the 2nd reason I'm not upset for spending all day playing a tournament then busting late (like most others) is because I feel like I gain a little bit of experience every time I play, and the longer the better. Granted in nl tournaments I don't get that feeling much since I feel like I know almost everything I need to know (although picking up on tournament regs' playing styles and habits is valuable) but in other games I don't play as much I'm always observing and trying to gain that valuable experience.

As for the rest of the WSOP I'm planning on playing a lot of events and as long as I feel good mentally and physically I'm planning on playing pretty much every day. Since I'm a well rounded player I'll be playing in all sorts of events, mostly nl and pl hold'em but a lot of the mix game events as well. My ultimate goal is to win a bracelet or 2 (or more) and to know that I played the best that I can play.

I am sacrificing time that I could be playing the juicy cash games during the WSOP. I'm sure my hrly is higher playing cash games than tournaments but I just enjoy WSOP tournaments so much and I'm hungry for my 1st ever bracelet, so there's a lot of happiness and life ev associated w/ playing these WSOP events.

Also I posted in the CR forum but if I make a final table, anybody from here that come sweats me at a ft I will buy them dinner at my celebratory dinner (limited to $1k total for you guys, but not necessarily for the whole bill which will be bigger because of friends and family that will be there). Obviously I'll have to make a ft 1st which is not easy.

Other observations at the WSOP so far:

-Turnout so far doesn't seem affected by Black Friday. They had 128 for the $25k hu and a record # 925 entrants for today's $1500 om 8, granted it's only 3 events so far (other being employees' event which attracted a big # as well)...I'm sure the main event will be lower than years past though

-The featured table is a lot more elaborate...bigger and more eye catching....too bad only 3 events are supposed to be televised (WSOP rematches, $50k Players' Championship, and the $10k main event)

-Very few patches being worn, especially after yesterday when James Bord confronted John Juanda about FTP and security guards had to be called in...after all Juanda was wearing a FTP patch and was an easy mark; note: I wore a CR patch today, more brownie pts due my way from the higher ups at CR, even more so when I win my bracelet w/ it on ;)

-Lots of cash games going on...biggest I saw was a $200/$500/$1k PLO game and it was almost full

-Lots of railbirds as usual

-Phil Ivey is suing FTP (for $150 mil) and is abstaining from this year's WSOP (he isn't really boycotting it..that's just the wrong choice of words) for my thoughts on this, good for him, and a noble act from him, but put me in the boat that wonders if he did it for us, or because that was the only option he had for numerous reasons, including keeping that indestructible and and almost mystifying image he's always had...other theories were running around as well, including wanting to get out of his no compete cause

-Met Gakn29, a fellow CR vid maker today, nice guy...saw Mement Mori but not sure if he noticed me (or even knows me!)

Finally it looks like I'm getting a little more recognition with the poker media because I saw that PokerNews was updating my chip counts (1st time ever). For those of you that want to sweat me, follow on PokerNews or better yet, follow me on twitter located to the right of this blog (I update every couple of hrs, including stack sizes, notables on table, interesting or amusing hands, etc.)...after all, you may get a free dinner out of it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


As we all know, for online poker players in the US the landscape has changed dramatically. The reaction has been diverse. Some people have panicked, some are making contingency plans, but no matter what, if you choose to remain a poker player to some degree, you need to learn to evolve. After all the game of poker evolves. Whether you realize it or not, it's evolving everyday.

Besides control of mental state (tilt, focus, etc.), knowledge of the game (stats, numbers, probability, ev, HUD, concepts), hand and people reading skills (including ranges), and a lack of ego, one must possess a good sense of awareness to succeed in poker. This awareness involves what's going on in the short term, e.g. what's happening on your table in the present moment but also awareness involving the long term. This is understanding how the landscape of poker is changing, how the general strategy and approach of poker is changing, and making necessary adjustments to stay ahead of the curve. Basically one must evolve as a poker player to succeed over the long run.

I'll share parts of my personal voyage through poker the past 13 years to illustrate how poker changed and how I did my part in keeping up with the times allowing me to stay successful. After all, 13 successful years in a profession that swallows people up and spits them out defeated in many ways should make me a guru of sorts (obviously somebody like Doyle Brunson is the godfather of poker). Some of these tidbits I've repeated in the past but I think it's a good time to summarize them in one to get to the point at hand.

In 1998 I made the choice to stay in Vancouver, Canada while waiting for my new wife's immigration papers so she can come down to the US (I covered this in detail in a previous post here...basically the start of my professional career... ). I made a decision to play poker full time. I ordered almost every poker book I can get my hands on (which wasn't much at the time) including every 2+2 book and Super System. I read every Cardplayer magazine, every article in it, as it was the only poker magazine around at the time (I think). I knew I needed to learn as much about this game as I could if I wanted to succeed. Back then the only games spread were limit hold'em games. The learning curve was there but because it was limit, it wasn't as tough as nl would turn out to be.

Well I was beating the limit hold'em games good and made enough to support my new wife. Eventually we had a baby and I kept on playing full time while along the way befriending other players and discussing poker w/ them, in turn improving them and me. My wife became a winning poker player from the start as well (I like to think she had an awesome teacher/ and we bounced off ideas and strategy with each other. Back then there were no internet poker forums (well, not necessarily true...there was but the info there was usually wrong when I reflect back on it), no training sites, and we had to rely on books and each other to get better.

During the turn of the century (sounds funny but it was the turn), internet poker was introduced. Again only limit hold'em games were spread so there really was no transitional period. Basically I applied what I knew about live limit games and did ok. Also since this was such a new realm, internet poker, people were cautious about it including me. I still maintained most of my hours playing live.

Well I maintained my 80/20 or so ratio of live/internet play for the next couple of years. Paradise Poker would change that. They seemed like they were the 1st reputable site and they spread a lot of games. Internet poker was starting to catch on like wildfire. I too decided I needed to start focusing more on internet poker because I saw the speed of hands being dealt and I knew that the more hands I play the more money I make. I knew being able to multitable would increase my hourly as well. I started off playing 2 tables then gradually increased the number of tables over the years. Yes years, for a couple of reasons...the early sites only allowed a maximum of 4 tables (I think) and I wanted to take my time in increasing the number of tables played as not to sacrifice my overall earning power (there is a point of diminishing returns when figuring the max # of tables to play). I focused on playing my A game even if I was seeing 2-5x the hands I was used to seeing (playing live).

Following Paradise Poker's success, other sites opened up including Party Poker. They introduced 6max limit games (maybe Paradise introduced them 1st) and I decided it would be wise of me to learn to play shorthanded. It would allow me to play more hands/hr (for a better hrly) and it would allow me to play more hands (which would make poker more fun). Around this time poker forums, notably 2+2, were popping up and I started frequenting those sites to read other people's thoughts on the game. I really didn't post but lurked and read as much as I could. This shortened my learning curve in playing shorthanded limit hold'em.

After this nl games were introduced, including cash games and tournaments. Up to this point I had never played a single hand of nl. I was intimidated at the thought of losing all the money I had in front of me in a single hand and chose to stick with limit hold'em (obviously this thought turned out fallacious in determining profitability in poker). I dabbled in some online nl tournaments because I could only lose the initial buyins in those. I had zero clue on what I was doing from a fundamental view, but I relied on my experience in hold'em in general and my hand reading skills to hold my own.

Well Chris Moneymaker would forever change the landscape of poker for good (or up to the present). I remember when he won and everybody was like "who is this guy w/ a cool sounding last name?!". A lot of new people got into poker because of him (everyday guy winning the WSOP main event and a million dollars) and a lot of limit hold'em players made the transition from limit to nl including myself. I realized nl was the future of poker and I needed to make the jump like everybody else.

I jumped into $5/$10 nl games from the start, as they were equivalent to the limit stakes I were playing at the time ($15/$30 to $30/$60 limit).

Tptk? no problem, get in 100bbs on the flop no matter the texture! Shove river? No way, that costs too much if I get called! Face a river shove? Fold because they must have it! AK preflop? Call the 3bet because it's only a drawing hand and I may not even flop a pair! Face a big turn bet w/ my fd? Call because I have a fd!

As you can see I was lacking in understanding the nuances of nl, not to mention the correct fundamentals. I was playing nl like I was playing limit!

I did well from the get go even though I really didn't know anything from a fundamental view. Again I relied on hand reading, not tilting, and just a general understanding of hold'em to do well. Slowly over time I began thinking about the game and how it differed from limit. Tbh I think coming from a full time limit hold'em background hindered me. Guys that were jumping directly into nl hold'em from scratch had a leg up on me because they had a clean slate to start with.

I was aware that this was the case and I made a conscientious effort to improve my nl game independent of my limit game. Along the way I increased the number of tables, going from four to eight, from eight to twelve. This caused a boon in my bankroll and I was making so much money that I started getting content. I started lowering my hours played. I went from grinding 40hrs/wk to 20hrs/wk which wasn't a bad thing for me because I had a wife and a kid and I wanted to spend more time with them. Also I pursued other interests, notably video games (it's the Asian in me).

Around this time we decided to buy a house because after all I was crushing the games and could make lots of money any time I wanted to (all I had to do was log in and start playing). I even won $250k in an online tournament around this time (which made the game seem easy for me). Fortunately I did a smart thing and paid off all our debts and invested most of that money for our future (although I've debated whether it might've been smarter to play higher stakes with it, probably so, but can't fault me for the path I chose).

Well now complacency set in...I blame that partially to the success I was having. I am sure this happens to a lot of poker players. I didn't spend much time learning the game because I was confident in my abilities and I was always doing well. I didn't move up in stakes because I was making plenty grinding 8-12 tables of $5/$10.

Come Oct. 2008 I was having my best year in poker, reaching close to half a million dollars in profits (mostly from cash games, almost all of it at $5/$10 nl 6max games, just playing 20 hrs/wk), and about this time I almost developed an ego (almost). Then I hit a 300k (maybe it was 400k) hands break even stretch over the next 4 months.

I mentioned I started getting complacent and my results started to show. I was complacent regarding my skill level. Cardrunners was introduced in 2005 and new players were flocking into the games armed with the knowledge they had acquired from training sites like CR and the new information being introduced in the forums. I was not one of the guys learning.

2009 rolled around and I was reeling from not making a penny the final 4 months of 2008 after doing so well the 1st 8 months. I decided to take a step back and look at the big picture. How were the games evolving? How did the players become so good? Better yet, what was I doing wrong and how can I get back on top? With a little push from some 2+2 regs that pointed out what I was doing wrong (some in a mocking fashion, others in a helpful manner), I decided I needed to reevaluate my game and figure out how to crush the games once again.

I hired a coach (turned out I didn't learn much...or maybe he wasn't as good as advertised), I started reading a lot on 2+2, and for once I started watching some videos on CR and other training sites. I really started thinking about the game when I wasn't playing (this was usually the most effective way I improved over the years). I needed to evolve because the games were changing (thanks Taylor Caby, and I don't mean that in a good way! ;) ).

I actually learned how to play nl after years of playing a limit style. After having a good 2009 I decided to set a very high monetary goal of a million dollars in 2010. I decided to start at $2/$4 nl and was the biggest winner at that limit across all sites in January (winning $40k, based on PTR). I was up $120k or so after the 1st 3 months and was crushing $5/$10 in March. In April I hit a nasty downswing where I started off winning $20k early on and was down $20k midway through the month.

Downswings are a great time to take a step back and reflect on your game. Again I really took improving my game to heart and figured out some things. A specific concept I realized was that it's sometimes better to take a passive line...sure it's simple, but after having been such an aggressive player for so many years (again limit hold'em teaches pure aggression and I guess that still lingered with me through the years), it was tough learning and applying that simple concept. Suddenly my game opened up and I felt like my eyes opened up as well. I could see things a lot more clearly in no limit. I could understand why certain players took certain lines and I had a much better understanding of what lines were optimal. I improved my nl game almost 2x.

Besides doing well in cash games I decided to enter the world of live tournaments with this new found knowledge. I had played in them sporadically in the past and have done ok, mostly WSOP events (a couple of $60k + cashes along w/ numerous smaller cashes). I entered 17 WSOP events last year and cashed in 5 of them showing a small profit (actually that's 4 of the past 6 years I've shown a profit at the WSOP from tournaments only).

I didn't win the million dollars as I had hoped but that's because again I decided to scale down my work to focus on my family and hobbies (golf and video games). I also decided to introduce myself to the poker world and started blogging, joined Cardrunners, joined PokerRoad as a cohost of a podcast, and started tweeting (check out Taylor Caby's recent blog about tweeting to find out useful ways to take advantage of Twitter... ). I decided to get to know my fellow opponents and the people that comprised the world of poker. Up to this time I had stayed behind a screen just focusing on making money, not caring about meeting others (it wasn't shyness or lack of social skills...I just chose to remain anonymous and focus on my family), and meeting up with a select group of Las Vegas friends from time to time.

I realized in order to improve my game even further I would have to start networking, to start meeting others, and talk poker with others, like I had when I 1st started playing poker back in my Vancouver days. Plus it's never bad to have more acquaintances and friends. I needed this to fully evolve into the best player I can be. Also this is the age of social networking so I wanted to take advantage of all my resources. I'm about as an easy going person as one can be and I'm very approachable so for anybody that reads this and ever runs into me, say hi and introduce yourself and I will do likewise :) . Just don't ask me for money!

Now this leads us into the present. With the occurrence of Black Friday Americans are very limited in playing online (the smaller sites that still cater to Americans are unstable at best) so one must make the choice of pursuing a new career or adapting to the new environment. Since poker is what I know best and I've been doing it for over a decade I am going to remain a poker player. I have the advantage of living in Las Vegas. I have plenty of experience playing live poker but it's been awhile since I played live poker full time. How will I cope with the new landscape of poker? How I've always coped whenever the landscape changed. I'll adapt, I'll keep figuring out ways to get better, and I'll keep crushing. I'll evolve.

*This post is geared for internet poker players but I think my general message is clear for everybody...the game is always evolving so keep getting better...evolve!

**I was going to split this post into 2 but decided the message is better served being read at once. Props to those that spent the time reading it, and thanks!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Live Poker Hands

So I've been playing some live poker lately and will talk about a few interesting hands I've played (including beats...because I can).

The 1st hand I want to talk about was a hand I played last month at Mohegan Sun. It's a $5/$10 nl game w/ a $3k cap. At the time I had about $4k and a guy opr to $40 in the hijack, button calls, I call w/ 44 from the sb, and old guy in bb calls.

Flop Ah6s4s

Checks to the preflop raiser, he bets $115, button folds, I c/r to $340, bb snap calls, pref raiser 3bets to $900, I shove, bb snap calls for $3500 (which worried me a little that 66 could be in his range, but so could a bunch of other hands), prefl raiser tanks and finally calls for $ I'm looking at a $10k pot at $5/$ happens online, and I tell the others lets roll our hands over and see who needs what...both guys refuse.

Turn Qd, River 8d

By this point I open my hand, preflop raiser shakes his head and shows AKo, and the old guy just erupts and starts yelling "I won the lottery!" and shows 75o. He goes on for 5 mins (I kid you not..I really wish I could've recorded it) telling his buddies to bring him 10 racks or something while yelling out of excitement. Now this was the biggest game in the room and everybody comes over to see what all the commotion is about. Well things settle down and being the pro I am, I kick the old dude's ass...jk...I just take it in stride and the guy on my right apologizes for the old guy telling me "sorry man, you shouldn't have to go through that after losing that big pot"...I reply "nah, it's cool, it's almost worth paying him $3500 to see him act like that!"

The next hand illustrates why you should never have an ego. Some guy sits down on my right in a $5/$10 game at the Aria (in Vegas) and starts firing it in every hand. He's raising every other hand trying to take control of every hand. I can tell he knew what he was doing though so he wasn't a total maniac. Rather he was a guy (mid to late 20's) that felt like he was the best player on the table and could run over the table.

Anyway I start 3betting him often since I'm on his direct left and he doesn't fold to my reraise one time for 8 hands or so (most I won on the flop, couple of times I lost at the river). This is obviously because he feels like he can outplay anybody, including me, even oop.

Prior to the final hand I stacked him for $3k w/ 44 vs his AA where almost all the money went in on the river when I made a straight.

Now he opens in the hijack to $40 (again) and I 3bet to $130 w/ AK (again) right behind and he flats (again)...flop...


Chk, I bet $140, he c/r to $440, I flat thinking I'm usually good here but hoping a straight card doesn't peel...turn...

4 bringing backdoor fd

He checks, now I'm thinking at this point the 4 is not a very good card because 86 and 45 get there and pondered checking it back, but I decided that he's aggro and capable of making a play here often w/ 1 pr + straight draws or worse and thought inducing + protection was more +ev than checking back the turn so I bet $600 with the intent to call a shove, and shove he did for $2500 total and I took a couple of seconds before I called (after all this was the plan, and if he had better, so be it).

He asks me how many times I want to run it and now I feel a lot more confident my hand is best, I say I don't care, he says how about twice, I say sure, but yet we don't open our hands...anyway dealer burns and turns for a river card...

Offsuit Q

2nd run...

Offsuit Q

and I'm feeling good about winning the pot and he just tells me he missed, and I open my hand and scoop the pot. He gets up and leaves, having given me about $6k in less than an hour. This was a good example of a guy having too big of an ego and thinking he could outplay everybody...I don't care how good you are but being oop w/o initiative is a tough spot to overcome over and over (especially vs. a competent player).

Now I like to think I play all my hands well but occasionally I'll slip up and I did so here...

I'm in a $10/$20 nl game at the Bellagio last week and we have some famous players in the game including Antonio Esfiandari, Phil Laak, Brian Rast, and Brad Booth. The 1st 3 were waiting for the $10/$20/$40 game. I'm sitting about $4500 deep and get dealt 99 in the sb.

A kid in ep opens to $60, mp guy calls, Brad calls, Antonio calls, I call, bb calls making it 6 way to the flop...

AT9 all clubs

Talk about a dicey situation w/ deep stacks! I elect to check to evaluate (leading is probably ok too), and it goes checked around...turn...

6 of spades

Now normally I would lead here and think it's best but at the time I just felt like there are tons of aggro and tricky players here so why not let them make a play at it and I can c/r...right after the hand I realized it's still best to lead because I probably have the best hand, I can call a raise and evaluate river, and getting 3bet if I c/r gets really expensive.

Anyway the action goes I check, bb leads $200, preflop raiser raises to $450, Brad reraises to $950, 2 other guys fold, and it's to I have to fold now, bb tank folds, preflop raiser calls...river

offsuit 4

It goes check check and the kid that raised the turn (not Brad) shows AK w/ nut club draw that missed and Brad just mucks! Well now the bb jumps out of his chair and says he folded the best hand with aces up and whines, while I roll my eyes knowing I folded an even better hand. Sure I misplayed the turn and it cost me but I can't understand what the heck Brad Booth is doing cold 3betting the turn and can't beat least bet the river and win the pot!

Finally I played this hand tonight at the Aria...$10/$20nl and I'm about $4500 deep. The game started 5 handed w/ King Dan (of the other training site), Ashton Griffin (or Ashman), Brent Roberts, another decent kid and me. Obviously it's about as bad as a live $10/$20 game can get (thanks DOJ) but I wanted to get bigger nl games going at the Aria and Dan and I said we would do so going forward (until online poker comes back).

Well Dan opens to $60, I 3bet to $180 w/ KK, sb cold calls, bb (a new player but a good aggro player) 4bets to $600, Dan folds, I elect to call to play ip and underrep my hand, sb now shoves for $5k, bb folds (what he said was AK after the hand), and now I need to decide if the sb can have other hands besides AA and after a couple of minutes I decide that his shoving range here is wider than AA so I call. He rolls over QQ and I roll over KK with no thought...I'll celebrate inside after I win the hand...flop...


turn and river brick out and I lose another $10k pot.

Now I can go on tilt and lose the rest of the $10k in my pocket but I decide they'll have to win it from me like the kid did w/ QQ...I wasn't going to give it away...and eventually I recovered everything and ended up winning $1500 for the night (a lesson in playing your A game no matter what).

Other than that I'm up a little bit since Black Friday (even though I should be up a lot but that's variance) and been busy working on a couple of side projects. The WSOP is right around the corner and I'm planning on playing a tournament heavy schedule so I'm trying to play as much cash games as I can. Hopefully I can run a little better, and if anybody wants to play some poker with me, look for me at the Aria (or Bellagio), and feel free to say hi...always cool to meet new people, something that I've missed out on hiding behind a computer screen for years.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ballsy Call?

So I'm playing the WSOPc $1600 nl main event on day 1 today and this hand takes place. I'm in the bb...obviously still unknown to the live poker world. I just thought I'd post it because it is somewhat educational for live tournaments...

Gates Eliminated with "Ballsy Call"

Garry Gates
Garry Gates

Action folded to Garry Gates in the small blind and he raised to 3,100. The big blind reraised to 7,200 and then Gates moved all in for 29,800. The big blind tanked for a couple minutes and then eventually said, "All right, I call," with 12,000 chips behind after calling Gates' all-in amount.

Gates turned over the {K-Spades}{J-Hearts} with his tournament life on the line and the big blind tabled the {A-Hearts}{2-Diamonds}, ahead but with a risky call.

The flop came down {Q-Spades}{9-Clubs}{6-Clubs} and gave Gates a gutshot straight draw to go along with his two live cards. The turn brought the {7-Diamonds} and the river the {5-Diamonds}. Both of those missed Gates after his whiffed the flop and he was eliminated.

"Pretty ballsy call," said David Williams to the player after the hand


1) I called because...
2) This guy was chummy w/ David Williams (who was on his right) so I assumed this guy knew how to play a little (eg not afraid to 4bet shove light for his mtt life)
3) I was kinda torn between 3betting and shoving preflop but had a semi plan to induce a shove by worse by 3betting but when it happened I decided to take my time to reevaluate (maybe some of you will say it's just a clear cut shove....probably won't argue w/ that much)
4) Even if I was wrong or I lose I still have 10bbs
5) You need to win a couple of these in multiday tournaments
6) I am a force to be reckoned w/ with chips...w/ less than 30bbs or so I'm just like any other good mtt player (most are proficient w/ those stacks)
7) Great for my table image (willing to 3bet light, gambling, reading people well, not being afraid of calling based on my read, etc.)

So as you can see, what seems like a "Ballsy Call" is actually a well thought out hand, even though it seems simple on the outside (raise, 3bet, 4bet shove, call, bvb).

As for the tournament I had a top 5 stack going into the last level and lost a flip for a huge pot AQ < JJ then another 18bbs to a shortie 77 < TT very last hand of the night.

Oh well, I start back up tomorrow w/ 25bbs, 87 players left and 54 itm...1st being $153k.

You can follow PokerNews to see how I'm doing...oh wait, they just list me as some random dude...nm.

Follow me on twitter at!/nicolakpoker

In other news my new video where I focus on transitioning from online cash game to live games is out at Cardrunners. I'm making it a series and the 1st one is pretty basic (aimed at those who never set foot in a live poker room...w/ some advice for those that have) but they will get more in depth in the later videos.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


After everything that's transpired the last couple of days, I've had some time to take it in and form some thoughts. Even though I have a family, own 2 Las Vegas properties (not necessarily a brag because mortgages are sky high from buying at the worst time possible) and owe some taxes (shipping it Monday) I'm pretty upbeat about everything. Maybe because I've always seen the glass half full. Also has to do w/ my strong religious faith.

I read this piece today and I agree w/ most of everything the writer says...

Although Black Friday is bad for the short term I think it's good for the long term. Sure some will disagree but I see a push for the legalization of online poker. If and when that happens everybody will rejoice and it will be PartyPoker all over again (not really but things will be much better than the status quo we were in).

In the meantime what are professional poker players to do? Well since I consider myself a well rounded poker player (I've stressed before it's beneficial to be good at many forms of poker including live poker) I can go play live for awhile until we have a clearer picture of what's in store for us. Also I've strategically placed my family in Las Vegas for times like these (well, that and home prices were much cheaper than in California at the time) so I can play poker in the casinos. I blogged about my live experiences and how "soft" I consider the games so I expect to do ok although I think I will have to double, maybe triple my hrs to match my income from online poker (even then I may not be able to match my online earning power..we shall see).

I also have experience grinding live poker 40hrs/week. This was over a decade ago and games were much different then (just limit games and very soft) but I've become a much experienced and a better player so I expect to do ok until online poker comes back.

As for others, I'm not them so I can't answer for them. I notice some fellow Cardrunners' guys increasing their coaching profiles so good luck to them. I'm not sure what's going to happen to the online mtt'ers that depended on mass volume to eek out a profit (I guess it's going to cost Sheets and Bax a lot of money too), the hu specialists (see what bumhunting gets you, not skillz that's for damn sure), sit n go specialists (gl trying to find sit n go's in live poker rooms or trying to make a living playing $110 sit n go's when they at a time), the rakeback pros (Venetian and Wynn in Las Vegas pay back around $1/hr to play in their poker rooms...just think of it as a demotion guys), plo players (some rooms spread a $1/$2 plo game...or a $25/$50+ plo playing your A game in the small game waiting for the big game), and sponsored site pros (lol).

Most of the guys I've met that I played vs. online or heard about are really smart guys that probably won't have much of a problem getting a job. Others will probably move to another country and keep grinding online (probably applies more to mtt'ers than cash game players since the latter can just go live). A few will probably try to circumvent the US laws and install vpns and play on Euro sites from home. Some will move closer to live poker rooms and grind live.

I do think for poker players that choose to keep playing poker, this is a good time to broaden your game and knowledge and start learning other games and formats. After all, nobody has a clue if and when online poker will come back to the U.S. Even when it does it will help tremendously if you are experienced at many forms of poker. Trust me.

Which leads me to my last point...I'm probably going to start coaching live poker (all forms including cash games, tournaments, and mix games) and if anybody is interested, feel free to send me an email ( or shoot me a pm at Cardrunners. Next time I will discuss this in more detail.

Check my live graph...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mohegan Sun

So I'm at Mohegan Sun for a week of tournaments and live cash games. So far it's been about a break even trip for me. I'm up some in cash games and stuck in tournaments (usually that's how it goes). I played a $1k and the $5k main event. Unfortunately I busted midway on day 2 of the $5k. There was one very interesting hand where I could've played differently on day 1.

At blinds $150/$300 I opr to $700 w/ A6 of diamonds mp, aggro kid right behind 3bets to $1500, I call, flop QJ8 w/ 2 diamonds, chk, chk, turn blank, I bet $2k w/ intent of barreling every river except an ace and a ten (unless it was a diamond), river offsuit J, I bet $3800, kid raises to $8500 (we started the hands w/ about $30k each), and I think about 3bet shoving for my tournament life. After a few mins I figured it's too late to shove and fold, sigh.

Reflecting back on it I still think shoving is probably better than folding. If we think about villain's possible range it's capped at Jx that's not a fullhouse (because he bets flop w/ straights and 2prs+). If we think about what our perceived range is, it's uncapped to include straights and fullhouses and I think the villain realizes this which makes a 3bet shove profitable. What makes it actually tough to pull the trigger is that it's for my tournament life. There's a chance he hero calls w/ KJ or AJ anyways and I bust.

I decided to skip the $10k bounty shoot out because the structure sucks (got worse than last one in LA because producers wanted to reduce the amount of time it took for the winner to win his table so it becomes essentially a hyper turbo) and it didn't sell out which made the field incredibly tough. The possible tv exposure is nice but that's not worth $10k.

My buddy Joe Tehan (who I've blogged about before winning the NAPT LA) final tabled the $5k main event. Recently between him and I, it seems like one of us is final tabling every event we play together. He also happens to be one of Cardrunner's newest instructors. Some kid, Bryn Kenney's brother is chipleader and Vanessa Selbst is 2nd (she won this event last year...she's a sicko...having 6bet shoved 84s vs AA preflop and getting there late in day 2 to become chipleader). I laid 4-1 w/ a friend w/ 24 players left and her having about 12% of the chips that she wouldn't win this. Joe is 5th in chips heading into the televised final table tomorrow. 1st is $450k. Also wanted to mention Vincent aka Amurophil online is 3rd in chips. We've battled some in online cash games and he's got a good chance as any to win this. If Joe doesn't win I'm hoping he does. Should be a nice sweat tomorrow.

Other than that I'm in Uncasville, CT having a blast. The Mohegan Sun is huge...comparable to the big ones in Las Vegas (possibly even bigger). I'm realizing traveling costs a lot of money, especially from one coast to the other (well, from Vegas to the east coast), and traveling the live tournament circuit could get very expensive (this doesn't include the tournament buyins). For that reason I'm going to limit my travels to the western part of the US. Well I may come back out to Hollywood, FL in a couple of weeks for the WPT, mostly because high stakes poker is new there and the main event is expected to be softer than other places.

When I get back to Vegas I'm planning on grinding a lot online to make up for lost time. Also grinding live tournaments is a super tough way to make a living (not to mention it's not the most stable way). My 2nd video in my series "Quest for $100k" came out Friday on Cardrunners and the title sums it up...winning $100k in online cash games. So far I'm up $16k after 11k hands so my win rate is really good but my volume is really bad. Realistically I'd love to get to halfway done before the WSOP starts but in poker you never know. All I can do is play the best I can all the time and worry about results later, and I hope everybody follows that path ;) .

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reno Trip

I went up to Reno this past weekend to participate in the $1090 "All In" main event and a televised $50/$100nl 6handed cash game at the Atlantis Hotel (not to be confused w/ the hotel w/ same name in the Bahamas). I guess you could say the trip went well, w/ winning the main event for $33k and being the big winner in the cash game w/ a $15k profit.

Even though my original plan was to play in the cash game, I decided to fly in a couple of days early to partake in the $1090 main event. I've been playing more live tournaments this year and for the most part have been enjoying the experience.

I'll summarize my tournament experience in the next few paragraphs but I would advise most to skip it and read my cash game experience which was much more interesting (skip down to ***Cash Game***) unless you like reading about tournament summaries.


So I knew there would be tv cameras around because they told me the tournament, mostly the final table would be filmed so I wore patches from Cardrunners and FTP (because they offered to pay me per episode I was only if I can get them to sign me!). Normally I eschew wearing anything that might peg me as some kind of poker pro but if I'm going to get paid for wearing stuff, I'm in (also if I'm representing a site I will agree to promote the site in any way if asked).

Well it turns out the main event was comprised mostly of locals and you can reenter as many times as you want if you bust before the 1st break. I didn't know that until about 30mins left for the break and decided to gamble to get a big stack. Well that didn't work out so well and I ended up having a 6k stack (from starting 20k stack) w/ 1 hand left before break and I decided to opr w/ T2s w/ the intent of getting all in at some point. Fortunately for me one guy had JJ and another guy had AA and I busted (not often you hear that as the truth) and I got the opportunity to rebuy w/ a new 20k stack.

Anyway I ended up running my new stack to the chiplead midway through day 1 and pretty much held it all the way to the win. I played well w/ my only big pots where I was all in (but had other guy covered each time) included KK vs. AJs aipf, KJ vs 99 on JT585 all in at riv (don't ask), QT vs A9 of diamonds all in on flop TT7 (all black), and A2 vs 99 all in on flop 345r.

When we were down to the final 13 (and 11 get itm) a couple of people proposed taking some money off the top to pay the 12th and 13th players. Normally I don't want to be the bad guy and don't object but this time I objected for a few reasons. I was a big chipleader and wanted to abuse the bubble, most of the players left really wanted to cash (easier to abuse), most of the players weren't very good, and it was getting late (around 2am) which meant most of the players were up past their bedtime (older Also I was cl in a Wynn event a couple of weeks ago and I didn't object at the same proposal but after I busted I was regretting that decision because that was a time where I could've accumulated a bigger stack and maybe things could've turned out differently. I was not going to give up +ev spots anymore to be nice to everybody else. Anyway I ran my chiplead up from 500k to over 600k abusing the bubble and play ended for the night when we got itm w/ 11 players left.

The next day at the final table I happened to be the youngest player (I guess that means it was kinda soft?) and was on the direct right of Jennifer Harmon. Her husband Marco and her were invited pros and were bounties in the tournament. I happened to knock out one of the other bounties (the hotel owner..a Sasha Cohen ringer and a super nice guy) and won $1k for it (so got my 1st buyin back). The final six players would play on a televised final table. Well Jennifer busted in 8th which was bad for the tv producers hoping to land a good tv least they had (obv. a joke).

At the tv table I put a guy all in w/ 99 vs. his QQ and flopped a 9 to bust him. I had 900k to his 250k w/ blinds at 12k/24k so it was kind of standard (although my read on him was he usually has AJ+ or a big pair there but it was 5handed and I had plenty of chips, plus I'm allowed to get lucky once in awhile after being on the other end too many times this year, especially in bigger tournaments). After that I coasted to victory w/ the hu match only lasting about 4 hands (final hand got all in on turn w/ T4 on a 643T board vs 94..don't remember the river card since my opponent was drawing dead).

Balla Trophy:

***Cash Game***

I was excited to be part of this for a couple of reasons. It was going to be televised and we were going to play $50/$100 nl 6handed. I have played in live games that big before but not 6handed and obviously not on tv. I wasn't sure how big the game was going to play (whether there would be much straddling going on or stakes would be kicked up, as the producer said that would be a possibility) so I brought plenty just in case (about $100k).

We drew for seats and it turned out I drew the worst possible seat being on the direct right of Dan (DJK123) Kelly, the kid that won the WSOP $25k 6handed event last year. I'll get to that in a moment. We also had Brent Roberts, a prolific online cash game player, Dan Harmetz, a rich guy that won over $300k on High Stakes Poker on GSN, a pro from Phoenix named Jesse, and a local older guy named Mike (very friendly guy).

Everybody bought in for $25k except DJK who bought in for $50k (even worse for me since he's on my direct left). Early on I made a couple of betsizing mistakes and felt tilted from that (but it didn't affect my play). Very early hand, Jesse opens to $300 from co, Mike calls from sb, I have AJ of hearts from bb and consider 3betting to set a tone but elect to call since I really have no reads on my opponents; flop 885 w/ 2 hearts, chk, chk, Jesse bets $500, Mike c/r to $1500, I cold call, Jesse folds, turn J, Mike bets $2500, I call, river 9 of hearts making my nut flush, Mike checks and I bet $6k and he tank folds A8. Granted there was $9400 in the pot and a $6k value bet doesn't seem so bad but right after I bet it I realized it was too big. Every draw got there including fd and oesd and it's early on and players are probably going to be more conservative than curious. I felt like I costed myself $4500 (because that was a bet that was probably going to get called, and later he told me he would've called that amount).

About an hour later I raise to $300 w/ T9o from the sb vs/ DJK's bb and he calls, flop comes 986r, I bet $400, he calls, turn 7, chk chk, riv 5 making a 9 high straight on board and I bet $700 into the $1400 pot but accidently throw out an extra $1k chip making my bet $1700. He folds and I hit my head (figuratively) for my error in betting chips. Granted he might not have called $700 but I think he would have for the hopeful chop, so I think I cost myself $700 there.

At this point I'm up about $4k but thinking how badly I betsized those 2 hands and should be up another $5200 or so, not to mention it doesn't look all that good on tv. Anyway I decide to buckle down and make sure I don't make any more betsizing mistakes.

DJK made my day tough because he was 3betting more than the entire table combined and I was the person he was 3betting the most because he was on my direct left and I would open plenty of hands, especially in late position. I had to make some adjustments like tightening up (which I didn't like to do) and opening smaller ($225 to $250 vs standard table open of $300).

Finally we play this hand...Mike opens to $300 from co, I flat w/ QTo on button (for reasons I won't mention, although I considered 3betting), DJK 3bets to $1400 from the sb, Mike folds, and finally I elect to call in position (after having folded numerous middling hands to his 3bet oop). Granted this call is thin but I needed to play a hand vs DJK and I was in position. Flop comes T73 w/ 2 hearts, he bets $1800, I call, turn ace of clubs, chk chk, riv 9 of diamonds, he bets $4200 (?) I tank call and he shows me KTo...doh! The river call is super thin and I think folding was best (w/o knowing DJK's hand) after thinking about it. Once he checks the turn and bets the river it's always for value. He would've bet the turn w/ all of his bluffs. Now I'm not sure how thinly he value bets the river though, if his range includes QT or JT but I think he probably bets a little smaller w/ those hands in case he runs into a better ten. I also called because I folded every hand it seems to him up to that point and I wanted to let him know I would call w/o much (not sure if that's enough of a justification to call though). At this point I got stuck for the 1st time all day.

Dan Kelly ready to raise as usual:

I was never flustered or tilted in seriousness at any point though. I took it one hand at a time and made decisions that I felt were best....also I was on tv and was representing CR (and FTP) and I wanted to make myself, CR, and FTP look good!

I did offer $200 (then upped it to $300, then $400) midway through the day to everybody to change seats w/ me. No surprise everybody turned it out (who wants to be on the direct right of a constant 3better anyways).

Eventually I got up about $5k and everybody agreed to kick up the stakes to $100/$200 nl for the last 1-2 hrs. I admit this is the biggest I've played but again the amount of money didn't really affect my decisions, I just focused on the correct decision at every moment including bet amounts. Well the last hour I finally picked up a couple of good starting hands vs DJK (AK and AJs) and as always he 3bet me but I 4bet him w/ AK and he folded and I called w AJs ip and flopped an ace and won a decent pot.

I made a $100 prop bet w/ him that we would finish the final 16 hands within the last 30mins of filming and I won that pretty easily. I played every hand very quickly to try to win it, but didn't make any bad decisions in haste for that reason. Also on the final hand Jesse and Brent in the blinds decided to do a $5k flip (just shipping in $5k blind and letting the board roll out determining the winner) if everybody folded to them. Well everybody folded to them and I booked $100 w/ DJK and Mike each on Jesse winning and he ended up w/ 66 vs Brent's Q7o (talk about flipping for real) and winning.

So I ended up winning $15,300 which made me the big winner in the game along w/ another $300 in props (unless I miscounted DJK's stack at the end..I think he ended up about $10k winner). The producers told me they will have a tv deal in place within a month and I'll know the air times and channel then. They're telling me the content was great but I'm a little skeptical because I'll admit the table talk was not that entertaining. Maybe the poker content will be cool but we'll see. They also told me the show , called "High Stakes Hold'em", will have a different angle than other cash game shows in that they're going to have viewers try to play along and determine players' hole cards. Former WSOP player of the year Tom Schneider is one of the commentators for the show (along w/ one of the TV producers).

Racking up:

I didn't end up getting involved in any huge pots (that was saved for DJK and Jesse..many times over) but just played meticulously and won steady over the course of 12 hrs (long session w/ 15 min breaks every 90 mins). I did ask if I can talk about the hands before it aired and they said it was ok (hence my blogging about it). There were some other interesting hands but you'll have to watch it to see. They told me the series will be aired over 13 episodes and include the tournament final table. I guess since I won the tournament and was the big cash game winner I'm the seriously it was for me just about playing the best I can play, whether it was televised or not. I was highly critical of myself when I made mistakes and I made a couple but at least I'll learn from them and will play even better poker in the future (in front of or off camera).

Special thanks to Lana of Cardrunners for hooking me up w/ the invite to the cash game. It was a good trip and I hope I represent Cardrunners well when it airs!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wynn Main Event

Before I talk about this tournament, I want to say I am not becoming a live mtt pro even though I've been blogging about them this year. I'm just making them a bigger part of my poker routine for the 1st time. My main focus will always be cash games, mostly online. They pay the bills and always will do so. I will also focus on cash games at Cardrunners even though I'm probably pretty good at tournaments too.

Anyway this was a $5170 buyin main event at the Wynn in Las Vegas. I played in a few prelims leading up to this and have blogged and tweeted about them before. I managed to make a final table of the $1k buyin a few days ago but busted in a disappointing 8th place after being chipleader w/ 12 players left.

This main event had around 210 players and 1st pays around $300k. The structure of this tournament is amazing and probably a good reason a good cash game player like me made it to the final table (w/ somewhat relative ease). The levels were 90 mins long but the blinds went up slowly. I've always hovered around 80-100bbs+ until the last 2 levels of tonight. I can only think of the WSOP main event having as good or better of a structure (probably explains why I've gotten deep and cashed twice in 6 years).

Obviously a $5k main event that is not televised is going to have a tough field and I expected that going in but I'm confident enough in my game to know that I'm +ev.

On day 1 I got to play w/ Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler, Karina Jett, Scott Montgomery, Lee Markholt, Annette Oberstad, and CR's own Eric Lui. It was a pretty tough table but I felt like I could handle the table ok. It was actually a fun day because we started off so deep and Annette and I were getting involved in so many hands (because we just like to play a ton of hands). She was on my direct left and it was not an easy spot for sure (she 3bet me some but called a ton with position on me, probably because she knew I was opening so many hands). Overall besides her and I, the table was nitty and nobody gave an inch. I ended the day as the table chipleader w/ about 60k (after starting w/ 25k). No really interesting hands but that's probably because I avoided big pots (no reason to gamble when I can chip up w/ no risk).

The one fun hand of the day involved Annette and her boyfriend Scott. She opr lp, he calls out of bb, she barrels every street and he calls down including her river shove, she shows AA, he mucks, Kessler tells dealer he needs to open Scott's hand (because that is the rules believe it or not...when there is a river shove and a call both hands have to be opened...and Kessler is a stickler for rules), Scott takes it the wrong way (I assume he thought Allen was implying they could be colluding since they are a couple) and tells Kessler to go f**k himself! Even funnier, after the losing hand is in the muck the dealer asks Scott what he had (in seriousness too)

Before day 2 started the Wynn decided to hold a calcutta auction on the players left in the field. Basically you bid on players (w/ their stacks) to finish in the top 3 and get paid accordingly to the prizepool of the auction. W/ about 110 players left, Dan Heimiller and Phil Gordon bought about a 3rd of the field...I guess they felt it was +ev. The Wynn takes out 10% of the prize pool. Eric Froehlich went for $800 since he was the chipleader. 1st place pays about $12k, 2nd $6k, 3rd $3k. An interesting rule was that the person that was bought was allowed to buy back half of himself for half of what he sold for.

This leads to a funny story...Rene Angelil (Celine Dion's husband) was there for the auction and he wanted to buy himself. He was one of the chipleaders after day 1. Anyway one other person wanted to buy him and Rene bid his price up to $350 before the staff told him he can buy back half of himself at half of whatever price he goes for. So he stopped bidding his price up and just bought half of himself. When they called my name I waited to see if anybody would bid on me (obviously I would be great value because I'm not well known in the live tournament world) before I bid on myself...Dan Heimiller bids the minimum $200 to start and nobody bids higher so I let Dan buy me at $200 then I buy back half of myself at $100. So now I have half of myself in this calcutta auction (and still alive!).

I also got in on the fun and ended up buying 2 players...Dave "Bakes" Baker for $350 and Richard "Nutsinho" Lyndaker for $300 (stacks play a large part in what players go for). I played w/ Nutsinho the 1st half of day 2 and he sat on my direct right but I didn't tell him I had him in the auction (might affect our play). Anyway both guys didn't make it past day 2 (those bums).

On day 2 I drew another tough table w/ Michael Pessek, Dan Heimiller (the guy that bought me in the auction), Nutsinho, Darren Elias, and Jon Turner. Well the 2 guys that like to play a lot of hands got involved in a lot of hands together..they being Nutsinho and me. There were some 3betting going on (not always w/ good hands) and he had the best of me even though he was on my right. Fortunately they moved Nutsinho and later I busted Dan w/ AK vs AQ aipf (at least he gave his chips to one of his auction horses). Rene Angelil came to my table and I managed to win all his chips in several hands, most of it his last hand when he decided to 4bet shove 33 from utg vs my mp QQ held and I had a big stack. Don't feel bad for him...I will be taking my wife and myself to Celine's show when she resumes it later this year at Caesar's Palace so I'll be paying him some money indirectly.

Today was day 3 and we would play down to the final table from the 35 players that remained. Phil Hellmuth was still in it and even though I didn't get the chance to play w/ him, I really enjoyed the tantrums he put up when he lost a key pot..."idiot calls my raise w/ A3 and I set a trap w/ AQ and he bluffs off til he rivers the 3! Where do they find these idiots??!!" and "I raise 2 hands in 8 orbits and this idiot decides to get in AQ aipf vs me and beats my TT!! I guess this is why I have 11 bracelets.". 1st hand vs unknown, 2nd hand vs. Tony "Bond18" Dunst which he says was a super standard

Anyway on day 3 I again draw a super tough table w/ Isaac Haxton, Eric Froehlich (w/ the chiplead in tournament), Tim West aka TMay, Billy Kopp (the guy that gave Darvin Moon mountains of chips when he had a baby flush on a paired board couple years ago in the WSOP main, and Annette Oberstad (again). Everybody I mentioned had tons of chips w/ the exception of TMay. I managed to chip up nicely to about a top 5 stack w/o having to gamble (because that's what I do ;) then play this cool hand....

W/ blinds at 2k/4k I opr to 9500 w/ Qd9d utg, Annette and 2 others call. Annette and I are over 100bbs deep. Flop K85r (no diamond), I decide to bet 13,500 because it looks super strong, only Annette calls, turn 5 (no fd), I bet 24k, she calls, river 4, I bet 74k, she folds AK faceup, I show my bluff, she acts classy and says nh. I won't dwell too much on this hand but it wasn't a simple case of "I have air and the only way I can win is by triple barreling". She and I played a lot on day 1 and I took a lot of passive lines vs her where I let her valuecut herself (plus pot controlled on my part since I was oop) and I assumed she would give my multiple street aggression a ton of respect, and I was right :) .

After that we were playing 6-7 handed for a while since there were 3 equal tables. I was opening a ton of hands and chipping up nicely and managed to become the chipleader w/ 18 players left. Then disaster struck. I lose a flip w/ AK vs TT aipf for 25% of my stack. W/ 14 players left I take a brutal beat w/ TT vs Tmay's 88 aipf and get short and under 50bbs for the 1st time in this tournament. I have to tighten up (even playing 6-7 handed) because it was too easy for the bigger stacks to put me all in for my tournament life. I manage to hang in w/ 25bbs to the final table and now I head into day 4 and the final table w/ a 20bb stack (card dead and no spots to opr the last level). On the final table are Carter King, Annette Oberstad, TMay (tx to his miracle 2outer at river), and chipleader Eric Froehlich.

It resumes tomorrow at 4pm and I have a dentist appointment at 2pm (lol, I need to tell the dentist no sedatives) so I am done writing about this tournament for now. Hopefully I'll have my 1st major live tournament win tomorrow but if not, hey, at least my teeth will be sparkly.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beats galore! (An update)

So I thought I'd update on how I've been doing lately in poker. I guess you can never complain if you're winning but wow I'm running on the wrong side of variance. The 1st thing I'll talk about is my quest for 100 buyins at $5/$10 nl online. Here are my results since I started...

I guess I'm doing alright but running about $5k below ev. No single hand sticks out...just a bunch of flips lost, sets losing to draws, etc. I do want to mention I feel like my game's improved a lot in just the last 2 months (won't get too much into it because it'll make a good post for another day) even though I haven't been playing much. So I'm expecting to crush in the upcoming months at all forms of poker.

Here's my month so far at all stakes and games online....

I haven't had the chance to put in much volume but I'm hoping to get in a ton of volume before the WSOP starts. Once the WSOP starts I won't have much time to grind online because I'm planning on playing a heavy WSOP schedule (bracelet one time?).

As for live poker, I mentioned in my previous post it's going well. It is live poker after all. Also I've been playing a lot of tournaments this year, especially live tournaments. I've been playing extremely well in them but my results are just not there (yet). Here is the list of live tournaments I've played and how I busted...

$1k HPT main event... above avg stack late in the tournament, lost 10s vs AK aipf for half my stack, then bust AK vs 99 aipf, finish 10 away from money

$320 Venetian DeepStack... 4/5th way in busted JJ vs AK aipf button vs bb for top 10 stack

LAPC $1k prelim... midway, bad player limps utg, I iso w QQ, he calls, flop JT2r, he checks, I bet, he calls, turn 2, he checks, I bet, he shoves...I tank and began talking to him trying to gauge his strength....I say it's A2s or some random draw (he c/r's w/ Jx + on the flop from my read)...he comment's "Would I limp w/ A2 here?", if there was ever an answer screaming Yes to A2, that was it...yet I talk myself into thinking his range is wide enough to call profitably and call and is shown, you guessed it...A2s. So I would say this was the worst hand I've played all year in a tournament because he basically told me he had A2. But a turn 2 is the only card I bust on though, so a little bit of bad luck there.

LAPC $5k prelim... super tough field w/ about 90 entrants yet I feel like I'm one of the favs to win. Basically lost some chips w/ underset vs overset where most would've gone broke. I played 33 cautiously on a 743hh board vs 2 players inc. aggro preflop raiser who had 44, turn Th and everybody froze up, riv Qx and I called aggro's value bet. Later I bust w/ AK vs QQ in a postflop flip situation (nfd+ 2overs).

LAPC $10k main event... great tournament, great structure, great turnout...yet I busted in the last level of day 2. After chipping up some on day 1 on a pretty tough table I couldn't win a hand on day 2 on a softer table. Got to play some w/ Jennifer Tilly on that day and even though she's not that great, she tends to play big pots that increases the variance for her opponents. She just beat me every hand we played together. Finally I lost a key pot during the last level where a kid rivers a gutter w/ T8s (he turned a fd) vs my KK. I shoved w/ my last 13 bbs w/ KQo in the co and ran into button's JJ and couldn't win.

Wynn $500 prelim #1...decent structure for a $500 buyin event and a great turnout..over 800. Played pretty well on day 1 to make it to day 2 and down to 100 players. I chip up and become the 2nd biggest stack on a very soft table. W/ 45 players left I run KK into cl's AA and bust. Sucked because 1st was $85k and the field was pretty soft. At least I have my 1st live cash of the year...for a measly $900. I had the pleasure of playing w/ Andy Frankenberger who was a really cool and nice guy (good poker thinker but needs a little work on the fundamentals).

Wynn $1k 6max nl prelim...If I'm not a big fav. in this one, I don't know what I'm a fav. in! I don't really pick up any hands all day (and especially don't get on the right side of cooler spots that allow you to get deep in tournaments) but manage to hang around w/ 15-30bbs in the later stages. Then w/ 30 players left I get in 99 vs J9o aipf and lose most of my chips. I manage to chip up w/ the best hands aipf and win a key race w 22 vs ATo (finally I win a flip!!) and get to 25bbs w/ 18 players left (9 get in the money). I get in my stack w/ AJo vs A7o bvb and bust.

Wynn $1k prelim...this was a very fun tournament for one reason. A "name" live mtt pro tweets "other than Vanessa Selbst, a soft table" early on. He happened to be on my direct right, Selbst on my direct left. Let's just say that he didn't think it was a soft table....after I busted him! I 3bet him relentlessly all day until he took a stand and 4bet jammed JTo...into my KK. At this point I was one of the chipleaders w/ about 40 left and 15 itm. Then I lose a flip postflop (go figure), go card dead, then cl (w/ about 120bbs) opr utg, I jam w/ 20bbs total w/ QQ in the co, and he tank folds AQ faceup! Are you kidding me??!! Very next hand, aggro hijack opr, I jam AJs w/ about 25bbs, button wakes up w/ AK and that's all she wrote. Obviously the cl who folded AQ the previous hand regrets folding that when he sees my AJ...obviously I regret it more!! So I busted 23rd, and 15 get in the money.

That's it for live tournaments. Now my online tournaments... jk. I've played a bunch and I know I've been running as bad in those as I have in live ones. I just finished playing the $109 multi entry miniftops where 1st was $181k. W/ over 9,300 entrants I busted 250th. Here's the hand....

No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 2500/5000 Blinds (9 handed) - Hold'em Manager Converter Tool from
MP3 (t350817)

CO (t72109)

Button (t104344)

Hero (SB) (t179784)

BB (t225496)

UTG (t159480)

UTG+1 (t178998)

MP1 (t172561)

MP2 (t266073)

Hero's M: 23.97

Preflop: Hero is SB with Q, J

7 folds, Hero bets t10000, BB calls t7500

Flop: (t25000) 10, Q, 8 (2 players)

Hero bets t15500, BB calls t15500

Turn: (t56000) 4 (2 players)

Hero bets t32500, BB raises t196896, Hero calls t118684

River: (t358368) 9 (2 players)

Total pot: t358368


Hero had Q, J (straight, Queen high).

BB had K, J (straight, King high).

Outcome: BB won t363768

Winning this pot would've put me in the top 15 but it was still a long ways to go...but still!

So that's about it for poker. Other than that, life is great!