Old Reports

Trip Report for 2008 WSOP Main Event – Day 1A

After 25 hrs of play (what amounts to around 2 ½ days), I busted out of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event.  As the tournament progressed, it became clear that I had many supporters in NYC, in Chicago and all over the country rooting for me.  I received numerous text messages, phone calls and emails, all of which urged me to continue in my quest for a bracelet (and $8.1 million).  I would just like to say how thankful I am for the support.

Even though the tournament is over, I thought it would be valuable (read: cathartic) and interesting to share some of the bigger hands I played (or as much as I can remember).  I thought most would like to get inside my head a little, to better understand how my game is played and to understand how I try to take as much luck out of the equation as possible.   Like I said earlier, it’s difficult to remember exact situations so my numbers may be somewhat off (when suggested).  It’s also difficult to remember every hand, so I’ve written about as many big ones as I can (from day 1 to start).  There were obviously loads of other situations, but most were not of note.  In the future, if this email is responded to positively, I will write down all hands played in live events so that I can recall them easier.  As a note, I’ve tried to take as much poker lingo out of the report as possible.  If there is anything the reader does not understand, do not hesitate to reply (do not reply all) with questions.  If I realize that the misunderstanding is universal, I will reply all with definitions.  Also, I apologize upfront for any grammar/spelling errors.

Day 1 of the 2008 Main Event (starting stack of 20,000)

Going into the day, I was hoping to chip up with pocket pairs or suited connectors by flopping big hands and running over bad players who often refuse to fold AA or KK.  Despite the fact that this is the main event of the World Series of Poker, these players exist in droves.

Hand: 66 on the button (last to act before the blinds)

66 satisfied my goal as an early position ‘old dude in a cowboy hat’ (almost never a good player, sorry if this is a generalization) raised it a standard 3 times the big blind.  I called on the button and we saw a flop of 853 rainbow (all different suits).  He led out (aka bet) and I called.  He could easily have AK or AQ here, making 66 the best hand.  It was possible that he was just continuing with his preflop play – somewhat standard in poker.  Turn came 7 giving me 8 outs to the nuts (the best possible hand); he bet again.  At this point, I was fairly certain he had a big pair, which meant I had 8 outs to the nuts (any 5 or 10) and 2 more outs (the 6) to a winner against AA, KK, QQ, JJ (20% if I don’t already have the best hand).  I called.  The river was a complete brick: 2. He checked and I checked behind.  I’m not betting the river for a number of reasons:

1. My hand has showdown value if he has AK or AQ

2.  The draw missed and if my read is correct, he isn’t going to fold AA, KK, QQ, JJ, or 1010 to a river bet.  A bet is very spewy (read: like a leaky faucet) in this spot.

Unfortunately, he flipped over 1010 for the winner.

Hand: 9s5s on button

A bad player in middle position threw out a 500 chip, but in the poker world, if you don’t announce raise, that is simply a call.  This was a great spot for me to come along in position because it was obvious he had a big hand and was upset when the dealer announced call.  Like I said earlier, there are lots of donkeys at the WSOP.

Flop came 6s8xJs.  I had flopped a flush draw with a gutter ball straight (Any spade gives me a flush and any 7 gives me a straight).  He bets out and I elect to call.  Raising here is an option but if he reraises me with a big hand, I’ve made a big mistake.  I’m trying to keep the pot as small as possible until I know I’ve got the winner.  In a cash game, this hand would play out much differently, as I could just reload if I lost.  But, because in tournaments one gets a finite amount of chips, it is sometimes better to hold off from firing in this spot. Turn was a 10d bringing another potential straight.  I was now drawing to any spade (9 outs), any 7 (4 outs) and any Q (4outs).  At this point, I was around 34% to win the hand, and if I hit my card on the river, I was getting paid as this player was not the type to lay down AA even on this board.  Even better, if he has JJJ, we might be able to get it all in on the river.   If he has QQ and a Q comes on the river, same rule applies.  I remember that he bet somewhat big (2k) at the time, but I had to call to see the river.  Too many good cards could double me through.  The river was another absolute blank: 3. He bet again.  I took some time to look like I could potentially be making a big fold and then folded.  Interestingly, a good thinking opponent probably checks his hand to me to allow me to bet on the river.  With all the draws missing, he probably has the best hand and is only called with better if he leads out.  But, like I discussed, this opponent did not fit this description.

So, I lost two hands early on where I had huge draws and failed to hit on the river.   Feeling somewhat dejected, I come back from 1st break determined to scoop a pot.

Hand : QQ

Within 30 minutes, I looked down at my first premium hand: QQ.  I raised in early position, and as I somewhat expected, got 3 callers behind me.  The flop was J52 rainbow.  In this spot, it’s scary to continuation bet because a raise puts me in no man’s land.  Instead, a check is the correct play to see what develops behind me.  I can always come over the top after someone bets, which was the plan I had in mind.  Plus with 3 players behind me, it’s unlikely that all three will check.   Anyone with 88 or 99 is almost forced to bet to thin the action.  So I checked as did the guy behind.  The third guy bet 1k and the 4th guy went all in for 7.5k.  O boy – an interesting spot to say the least.  First, I stared down the guy who went all in.  He looked right back at me.  He was obviously a bad player who was just frustrated having lost a few recent pots.  I was certain he had a jack at best.  In fact, as I was staring at him, he said, “Why are you looking at me, I don’t have any more chips to bet.”  This is a perfect example of why taking your time and reacting to every situation independently is a good idea.  His talk convinced me of what I already knew: he was impatient and wanted to go home or double up.  Then I looked at the other two.  The guy next to me seemed disinterested, so I was somewhat certain he was folding.  Finally, I looked at the guy who originally bet 1k.  The only thing I’m really losing to is a set of 5’s or 2’s.  But, his range includes any jack, 66, 77, 88, 99, 1010, 34 and all complete bluffs.  Because his range includes all these holdings, mathematically, I decided I was supposed to go with this hand.  Of course, if he has 555 or 222, its good game, but that’s just how it works.  I shove (calling here allows either opponent to raise and put me an extremely hairy spot), and the other two fold instantly.  The dude at the end of the table flips over KJ and I dodge a K or J to get to 25k.  Interesting that the hand I’m trying to play for a small pot is the exact hand I win a big one with.

I speculate for a while, but lose a few small pots.  I get down to 16k when the next interesting hand occurs.

Hand: AxQs

UTG (under the gun aka first one to act) limped. I raised the limper to 1125 with AxQs in middle position.  The BB called, as did UTG opponent.  Flop was Ax6s7s.  BB (cowboy) led out for 3k and UTG (bad player from 95 hand) instacalled.  I’m left with a really tough decision.  A lead here from a bad player usually means a draw or a decent hand (but not great).  So I put him on any flush draw, A10, AJ and most other Ax hands.  The instacall usually also means a flush draw or a weak holding.  Put simply, if he had a stronger hand, he’d take his time to decide what to do.  So I have to raise in this spot, but what amount?  I have 13k after the 3k so what bet will force the first guy to come but the second guy to drop (he only had 9k left).  I did not want to play this pot 3-way to a showdown.   I do some math and decide on 8200.  It commits the second guy, and leaves me with 5200ish to shove the turn without any spade on it.  It also looks like he may have some fold equity (opportunity to reraise me so that I’d fold) because I left myself 5 or 6 chips.  A shove would have been decent, but I wanted the flush draw or weak ace to call.  In reality, he is 3:1 to hit here (if he has a flush draw) and he’s not getting the right price to call.  But the cowboy wasn’t thinking this way.  He called and the other opponent folded.  Perfect!  Turn was an off suit 10; the cowboy instashoved all in, with more chips than I had.  Now I was stuck with a really tough decision.  89 just made its straight (and is another possible draw a bad player would lead with on the flop), but he doesn’t shove 89 because I’m shoving any holding at this point, if checked to me.  So, A10 and AK were the only real hands I was worried about.  But with only 5k left, I didn’t intend on folding after I made it 8k.  I hemmed and hawed and finally stuck in the last 5200.  Overall, his play was just too erratic to fold in this spot.  Someone with AK would generally reraise the flop because they would be afraid of the same draws that I discussed.  “You got an ace?” I say.  “No,” says the man, “I’m on a draw.”  He flips over 10sJs leaving him with 9 outs for the spade and 5 outs to make two pair.  It wasn’t exactly the best spot, as he was around 25% to win with one card to come, but I’d take it.  The dealer peeled a 7 on the river and I scooped a big pot.

I had 30kish and I was feeling fine.  Two hands later the following hand took place:

Hand: AxKx

I raised to 825 in early position and a crazy German called on the button as did the big blind (BB).  The flop revealed 9x5s2s.  The bb checked, I checked and the German bet 1800.  I could (read: should) have continuation bet, but at the time, I felt as though the German was looking to make a play with any two cards.  My hand was probably still best, but could not sustain a raise.  The big blind folded and something in me said to raise.  The little voice said, “I’ve almost forced him to bet here by checking.”  He knows that I should bet AA, KK etc. there to protect my hand against draws.  If I check, I give them a free look at a turn which I wouldn’t want to do with a big pair.  I know that he knows that, the question was, did he know that I knew that he knew?  I raised to 5k, hoping to elicit earlier thoughts of my hand with the QQ hand where I check-raised all-in(so it’s obvious I can do this with stronger holdings).  Well, I forgot that the German was the one who took over the spot of the dude I busted with QQ, so he didn’t see that hand.  Ooops!  He immediately makes it 5k more.  I have a tough decision here as I still feel he is bluffing but I can’t just call.  If he has a flush draw at this point, he would have raised all in instead of 5k more, so I remove all those hands from his range.  I also remove most other pocket pairs due to the bet sizing.  And remember, because of his nature, he isn’t cold calling preflop with a big pair on the button.  So, he is repping 999, 555, or 222.  It’s either one of these three holdings or complete air (read: nada, nothing, squadoosh).  So, if I shoved, he only calls with 999, 555 and 222, but wouldn’t that be a dumb way to be eliminated.  I end up chickening out and folded; he showed 10J off for Jack high.  This was the first hand he showed at the table so it only confirmed how crazy he was and that my instincts were correct.  It was one of those he knew that I knew type of hands, but just goes to show you how important position is in poker.

Down to 25k, I got involved in my biggest pot of the tournament.  Up until this point, one could argue that I played each hand skillfully (besides the AK) and that’s how I won my chips.  But, when the following hand happens in poker, you have to chalk one up to the poker g-ds.

Hand: Qx2x

The bad player who I had been tangling with all day (the opponent in 9s5s) limped in late position and I checked my option with Q2.  Just as I was getting ready to check fold, the flop revealed: QQ2.  In this sort of situation, against a player who finds it hard to get over ego, you have a couple of options.  Because I had been tangling with him so much, I assumed he was tired of me and wanted to win a pot no matter what.  So I chose the check call, check raise route.  This is one of the standard ways to approach this hand – I checked, let him bet the flop and just called.  The turn was a K.  Not the greatest card in the deck because it might slow him down, but if he had one (and was just bluffing on the flop), it becomes a great card.  What’s interesting is that a good thinking player will fire a second barrel here because of how scary a king is and how likely it is to hit his range (that is, if he doesn’t have one).  If he has a king, and is a solid player, he will most often check to play is cagey and keep the pot small for all the times I have a queen in the blinds.  But, remember, this player was not that good.  I checked again and he fired once more.  I raised big enough to make it look like I was bluffing – he thought for a while and shoved the rest in.  At this point, I actually thought there was a good chance he had a queen because he was ‘hollywooding’ the turn, feigning disinterest.  I stuck the rest of my chips in the middle, simultaneously saying, “I flopped a boat.”  He flipped over Q10 for trips.  Pretty unlucky spot for him but had he just raised preflop, this hand would never have taken place.  This illustrates how skill and luck converge in a poker tournament.  Suffice to say, I dodged the 10 and K for the winner and scooped a big pot.

I ended day 1 with 36,600 chips, which put me a little above average going into day 2.  Hopefully, I can remember enough of day 2 and 3 to write about each one.  Thanks again for all your support!

Trip Report – 2008 World Series of Poker Day 2A

With 36,600 in chips, I was slightly above average going into day 2. I had spent the weekend in Chicago for my cousin’s wedding, so needless to say, getting back to Vegas in time for day 2A was slightly hectic. Still, my mind was on poker – I was ready to go to war.

Two key hands occurred within the first level of play.

Hand: AA

Finally, after over 11 hours of play, I looked down at Aces. I raised in early position, and like clockwork, two out of the four people behind called. It folded around to the button, an older gentleman with a shorter stack (around 15,000 in chips) who was playing a noticeably tight game. In this situation, a good aggressive shortstack might consider ‘squeezing,’ a term used in poker to represent a reraise after the pot has been raised and called in a few spots. It’s considered a squeeze because of the pressure it puts on the original raiser – he/she must have a strong hand because any caller in between could be slowplaying with a big holding. Because this play is well-known in the poker world, many times, people with strong hands will cold call raises with aggressive players behind, hoping they will squeeze with less than perfect holdings. But, in this situation, the older gentleman appeared to be playing an extremely tight game, one without much gamble. He announced raise, making it around 6k or 7k to go. I was doing cartwheels in my mind – this was exactly the sort of situation you hope for with AA. I took my time, announced raise and reraised enough to put the gentleman all in. Both callers mucked and the man reluctantly put the rest of his chips in the pot. He flipped over QQ and I held for a nice pot.

The next hand happened right before break with the player that took his seat. He seemed like a good thinking player, as the tournament was finally starting to produce some decent competition. With the blinds at 300 600 and a 25 (could have been 50) ante, this opponent was purposely raising a small amount preflop in relation to the blinds. The thought process here was that he wanted to play the blinds in position, with what most would assume would be stronger holdings than a random blind hand (at least that’s why I thought he was doing it). His raise almost dared the raggedly blind holdings to play his/her hands out of position against him. Well, I’ve never backed down from a challenge, and seeing as how we both now had a lot of chips, I got involved in a hand with one those raggedly holdings.

Hand: 63

The good thinking player made it 1250 to go from middle position and the small blind called. It didn’t really matter what I had, I was getting great odds to call (650 to win a pot of 3325). He knew this, and I knew this too. So, as I was calling, I smirked at him, because I wanted him to know that I knew that I had to call. Flop came 6610. The sb checked, I elected to check, and the original raiser bet out 3.5k. The SB called, leaving me with a great opportunity. This looked like a perfect spot to squeeze. I knew that he knew that I could easily have a 6 (because I was in the blinds), but I also knew that he knew that I knew that this would be a spot to raise to represent a 6, even if I didn’t have one. So, I made it 11k, a size that could mean I either had a 6, or I just wanted to steal the pot by representing a 6. I was somewhat frightened of the small blind calling, and had I raised and he eventually shoved, I probably would have folded my 6, seeing as he couldn’t shove with anything worse than a better 6 than me. But, this isn’t what happened. Instead, the original raiser announced raise and made it 25k to go. The small blind folded and I was left with another decision. I had him covered as he had another 15-20k left in his stack. He had put in over half his stack on this hand, which I assumed meant he wasn’t going to fold (unless he was on a pure bluff) if I shoved. I also knew that just a call was extremely suspicious. I could have called and shoved in on the turn as I was first to act, but I thought he’d fold a big pocket pair in that situation a lot more than if I continued on my squeeze ‘bluff’ play. So, I took some time, counted out my chips and finally announced I was all in. I stuck my chips in the middle and immediately put my hood over my head. I wasn’t sure how much live experience my opponent had, but I wasn’t going to give anything away by talking. He hemmed and hawed, tried talking to me, but finally laid down QQ face up. I wanted him to think it was a bad fold, so when the sb next to me asked what I had, I merely said, “that was a tough one.” Everyone at the table looked at me different after the hand, which was another reason why I had elected to raise all in on the flop. No one saw my hand – I wanted everyone to think that I was capable of making the play without the 6. If I was able to reraise all-in without the 6 (which is actually what most people thought after the hand), then they would fear playing pots with me without the nuts. The opponent asked me a few minutes later why I was shaking (I clearly wasn’t) but it was obvious he thought he made a mistake because he said “you didn’t want a call there did you?” I just smiled and stacked his (read: my) chips.

Hand KK

An hour after the next break, I was dealt KK in second position (known in the poker world as “under the gun +1”). The player on my right was a chip leader when the day started but was slowly bleeding chips. He had showed me many of the laydowns he had made (sometimes people do this to pass the time and build a relationship with opponents nearby), which proved to be an extremely important piece of information. He was not playing a particularly strong preflop game; he called raises even with his big holdings instead of considering to reraise. He had also folded big hands to preflop reraises without much resistance. So, when he raised in first position, I knew I had only one option. If I raised, he would muck and I would lose a chance at a big pot. Also, my call created a potential squeeze opportunity for anyone acting behind. Fortunately, no one called behind and the flop came all baby cards with a flush draw. I was pretty certain the flop had missed my opponent, but a flush draw made it somewhat more dangerous. So, when he continuation bet, I raised. I remember he gave me a death stare at this point and after some time, called. The turn was a brick and he led again. I took my time, decided I was good about 90% of the time, and shoved. He took literally 5 seconds and called, which, at the time, scared the crap out of me. “You got Aces?” I said. “No, you got me,” he said as his shoulders fell. I flipped over my KK and he said, “I thought you were putting a move on me with AK.” He turned over 1010 and I faded a two outer on the river to win a big 120k pot.

Hand AQ

Later in the level, I looked down at AQ on the button. The opponent in the 63 hand had managed to build his stack back up and raised in early position (he began raising larger amounts preflop after our hand). A middle position player called and I had another decision. I could squeeze here, but if the original raiser 4bet (reraised me) I’d be forced to let go of my hand. It’s very likely that my hand was best at this point, and usually keeping pressure on your opponents is advantageous, but I felt that my image at this time, especially against this player, would cause him to 4bet a wider range of hands (AJ+; 77+) and leave me with a really tough spot. So, I elected to call. Both blinds folded; the flop was A73. The original raiser led out, the middle position folded and I elected to call. The same thought process that applied preflop applied postflop. If I raise here and he shoves, I’m in a really ugly situation. Not to mention, he is likely to reraise/shove because of three things: one, he thinks I’ve already bluffed him once so he knows I’m capable of bluffing in this spot, two, because I didn’t reraise preflop, he knows that I most likely do not hold AK, whereas AK is smack dab in the middle of his holdings and I should fold to his shove and three, on such a dry flop, a bluff raise (by me) is somewhat typical from a good aggressive player at least 50% of the time. So, I called and an 8 hit the turn. He fired 12k at the pot. Now, I knew that if I was him, I’d fire at least two bullets at the board no matter what I held. It seems simple, but because I hadn’t raised preflop, he could represent AK all the way. In fact, I was worried that he was going to fire a third shell on the river as a bluff and I’d be forced to make a really big call/fold. Instead, I was certain a raise was best at this point. I could represent 78 or a set with a raise, and if he actually did have AK, he would just call and check the river. I could then check behind and table my AQ having lost a lesser amount than his river bet. So, I had to make my raise smaller than his river bet would be. Also, the smaller the raise, the more likely it would look like I had a monster holding. The smaller the raise, the more chips we would have left in our stack. The more chips we would have, the more fold equity it looks like there is for him to reraise all-in (fold equity is the likelihood that I will fold if he raises). But, don’t forget, he knows that I know that so he is less likely to shove. So, whereas some novice players would raise here for value or without much thought, I raised my hand as a bluff to 25k. Had he shoved, I would have cried and most likely folded. Luckily, he mucked relatively quickly (I didn’t have to sweat) and I scooped a well-earned pot.

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