Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Paying Your Poker Dues

Okay - after my foray into the land of rebuy tournaments, I decided to go back to old faithful - the freezeout tournaments.

Played a $5 tourney and made a decent showing, but short of the money. I then go for a $15 tourney and inch my way toward the money. A run of good cards and good decisions gets me to the final table. The chip leader is hitting every possible combination, knocking people out and building this huge stack. I am in great position to take at least second place, and perhaps even hit a good run at heads up and win the darn thing. Then my undoing ...

You guessed it - A-A! I get pocket rockets and raise. Everyone folds except Mr. Chip Leader. The flop comes rag-rag-rag with two clubs on the board, no pairs. I go all in and get called by Mr. Chip Leader, who turns over pocket clubs! The turn is a rag, and the river ... OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was hoping to cement at least second place and get ready for heads up. Instead, I am out in sixth place. Maybe I should have played more conservatively, but I felt that if I couldn't take a stand with what I had, I should stick to Limit poker.

This is the second time in a row in which I went deep in a tournament at, only to have my pocket rockets busted - once by a gutshot straight, and now on a chased flush that was hit on the river.

I guess this is what you call paying your poker dues ...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just for a change of pace, I decided to play in some rebuy tournaments tonight. Now, I usually play only freezeout tourneys. Next time I am going to have to remember to shift my playing style a little bit more.

Tournament #1: I have doubled ny original stack when I get pocket Kings. Now, the blinds are only 10 and 20. I raise 360 - 18 times the Big Blind. Guess what? I get called by the Big Blind (guess he figured that he already had 20 in the pot, so what the heck, why not 340 more). He risks almost half his chips by calling that huge raise with A-4. A-4. And yep - they were soooooted.

Do I have to tell you one of the three cards to come on the flop?

I limp into the first break with under 1,000 chips and decide not to purchase the add on. After the break, I get my biggest boost of the tournament when I am in the Big Blind and flop the nut flush. I just wish that I had more chips for the double up I would get by slow playing.

As we get closer to the final twenty, I know that I am on the wrong side of the bubble. The poker gods suddenly send me nothing but average hands, and my bid to double up fails. I am out of the money. I could have possibly made it in by going untra-conservative, but I decided that I wanted the final table or bust. I got bust.

Tournament #2: I pick up some smallish pots and am doing okay. Then, I make a crucial mistake: I got greedy. I got A-Q suited and raised to 80 chips. I get called by the Big Blind. The flop has an Ace, and I unfortunately decide to slowplay and set a trap. Well, as so often happens in online poker, the card after my slowplay completed my opponent's gutshot straight draw, and he wiped me out. I could have kept him out of the hand by either betting bigger before the flop or making a post-flop bet so big that he would have folded.

Now I swear, if you slowplay a hand like this in online poker, you can almost guarantee that the exact WRONG card will show up next. I hope I learned my lesson this time.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I digress from poker talk today (Memorial Day in the USA) to recognize the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served in the military. On this solemn day in particuler, the citizens of the USA remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

My father was a proud veteran of World War II. In his later years in particular, his military experiences seemed to shape a major part of his identity. He would head down to the local VFW hall to tip a few and share in the experiences of those who had also served. He loved helping his fellow VFW guys when they sold corn on the cob at a local yearly festival. He would not miss riding in the local Memorial Day parade.

Watching Saving Private Ryan was bittersweet for him. While he loved the story, he also noted that the movie had the most realistic portrayal of war that he had ever seen. I bought him Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation," which I know he enjoyed. Sometimes these movies or books would be the gateway into some of my father's war stories. Some we heard many, many times over the years. Others only heard once on those rare occasions when he would dredge up things that were buried deep inside himself. I am sure that there were many things we never heard and he never wanted to remember.

WW II deeply affected my father's life. On one hand, his military experiences were a source of pride and accomplishment. On the other hand, his service overseas, in my opinion, had somehow bruised his soul and limited his ability to live life to the fullest. However, this got better in his later years until physical problems and dementia took their toll.

My father passed away almost two years ago. He has to know that his family is thinking about him on this day that meant so much to him. To Dad and everyone one else who sacrificed - thanks.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I am only consistent in my inconsistency.

Take today's tournaments, for example. Playing in an Online Poker Tour (OPT) tournament at the Purple Lounge, I make the final table and end up going heads up with the chip leader, who had about a 3 to 1 chip advantage over me. Although I put forth a good effort, I can't catch up with him and settle for second place. Not that second place is bad, but it sucks to be that close to the bling again and not get it. Third time for me. btw - "bling" are the OPT awards (little virtual medals) that you get for finishing first in a tournament.

After getting a short break (and avoiding a death sentence from my wife for playing poker instead of visiting with the relatives who are at the house), I play in a freeroll on Fifteen players qualified by earning a certain number of comp points, and there is $1000 up for grabs for the first three places. Talk about an opportunity.

After playing some solid poker and sitting comfortably in about sixth or seventh place, I made one of those stupid errors from hell. I am in the small blind with A-Q. A good raise has been made. My gut is telling me that A-Q is a dangerous hand and that I should fold. I call. The flop is Q-rag-rag. I have top pair with an Ace kicker. I put out a decent raise and get put all in. Now my gut is telling me "You are probably up against K-K, maybe A-A. Cut your losses now." Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, I call. You guessed it: I was up against K-K. My only hope was for a Queen to show up on the turn or river, but that didn't happen.

Now, the competition at is very good and there is certainly no guarantee that I would have gotten much farther, but I sure hated to go out on such a bonehead play.

Two steps forward, one step back ...

Friday, May 26, 2006

From sucking to winning .... in a matter of hours.

Isn't it amazing how you can go from bad to good (or vice versa)in the course of an evening? It happened to me tonight.

Maybe it was just from having a taxing day at work, but my performance in a Shark Poker Tour tournament at Absolute was dreadful. My play in a tournament at Titan was even worse. For some reason, I completely lost my mind and chased hands when I knew I was beaten. Why? I can't even explain. I was out of both tournaments so fast that I almost didn't realize it. I was stunned. What was I thinking?

However, a few hours later, I got back a little self-respect by winning a multi-table SNG at Absolute. The heads up portion was actually quite fun, as my opponent and I went back and forth many times without either of us having a monster hand. Finally, I had two pair after a flop and went all in. I was called, and completed my full house on the river to win. So, even though I was terrible in the earlier two buy-in tournaments, I finished ahead for the evening. After being the bubble boy in my previous two SNG's, the win was greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I have always been a competitive person. Growing up in suburban Chicago in the 1960's and 1970's, I was always playing some type of sport or engaging in some type of contest. In high school, I competed in baseball, basketball, track, and cross country.

As a young adult with director of intramurals as one of my job titles in my first professional job, I was used to playing, coaching, or refereeing six evenings per week. Basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, broomball, softball - you name it, I was there.

Even today, as this "maturing" adult body breaks down, I still play on two softball teams in summer. Yes, Ernie Banks was right: the legs do go first.

This long history of passion with athletics is probably what drives me in poker today. The competition itself is great, and although winning money is very nice, the self-satisfaction with taking first in a tournament just can't be beat. I don't think that I could ever play at the final table in the WSOP. I would probably be peeing my pants the whole time I would be so excited. Can't you just see it -- "It appears that someone has spilled a drink on the floor." "No, my friend, the player in seat # 6 just wet his pants. Play on ..."

Anyway, I am reminded of one of my favorite athletic stories: how I was my high school's record holder in the triple jump.

Back in, I think, 1974, the triple jump was brought back to high school track in Illinois. At our first track meet of the year, I was the first person to jump. Now, being a long jumper, I was used to going for distance, but getting down the steps and routine for the triple jump - man, that was something else!

Anyway, I jumped first, did not foul, and therefore held the school record. The second jumper from my team jumped farther than me, thus becoming the new record holder. Yep - I held the record for five minutes.

Please hold your applause until the next notice of my athletic prowess ...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thank goodness for the Stardust!

I thought that I was actually going to have to pay for every night of my upcoming Las Vegas trip. Fortunately, I received a decent offer from the Stardust Resort and Casino: two nights at $38/night, two free nights, plus $10 in cash when I get there. Add that to my Southwest Airlines ticket which cost $5 (got the voucher for frequent flying on Southwest), and I guess you might say that I am living right! Less than $75 for flight and hotel means a bigger bankroll for poker.

The Stardust is an interesting place. I will be sad to see it go at the end of this year. The rooms are just okay and the location is less than desirable, but you can't beat the special deals on rooms. The clientele at Stardust tends to be older and more subdued than at many of the newer, glitzy places, so it is actually an oasis of sanity in the crazy world of Las Vegas.

One previous stay at the the Stardust really sticks in my mind. My brother Jim and I noticed that the crowd in the Stardust appeared to be much younger than normal. We ventured into the Stardust convention area and discovered that we were staying at the hotel at the same time as a swingers convention!

How to tell a swinger at a Stardust convention: Men - 30ish, go to the gym five times per week, appear to be very happy (and we know why); Women - 30ish, clothes straight out of Victoria's Secret, cornered the market on silicone.

Now, having been to Las Vegas many, many times over the past 25 years, it's not like I am shocked by anything I see. However, having all those swingers parading all around the hotel and casino, I felt this sudden urge for cleanliness and was hesitant to touch anything.

I have to admit, though, the the atmosphere was certainly different. I am used to getting in at 4:00 am and walking through a quiet, dead casino. That trip, however, my 4:00 am return to the casino found two women feeling each other up in a bar, with two hormonally-charged men at their sides, wide-eyed and salivating.

Only in Las Vegas ...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Watching the season finale of CSI last night (and it is about damn time that Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle got together), I was reminded how far I have come in the world of poker.

If you are a CSI fan, you probably remember the episode a few seasons ago when a guy died while playing Hold Em. You know - it was the episode where the cocktail waitress gives the guy a squirt of eye drops in his drink - designed to give him the trots. Unfortunately, he keels over dead in the middle of a big hand.

Anyway, the CSI crew spoke the lingo of poker - "burn one, turn one," "river," etc. I was wondering, "What the heck are they talking about?" Now, Grasshopper, I am one with the poker gods ...

Last night's poker experiences reminded me that playing in three tournaments at three different poker sites at the same time is not a good idea. In an OPT freeroll on, I said goodbye when my pocket aces were cracked when someone flopped a flush. At the Shark Poker Tour $5 event on Absolute, I finished a few places out of the money. However, at a CheckRayz $5 event at Noble, I made the top five, which won me a token for an upcoming Noble $15,000 guaranteed tournament.

Not ready to go to bed, I went on Celeb Poker and promptly made a quick killing when I flopped the nut flush in a No Limit ring game. Unfortunately, I gave most of it back when my pocket Jacks were bested by pocket Aces. Oh well ...

I did finish second in a Celeb qualifying freeroll, so I'll get entry into a $1,000 event next week. It probably was not worth the time, but hey, it was good for the ego.

This weekend I hope to have success in a special Dream Poker $5,000 freeroll for OPT and other forum challenge members and the $20,000 freeroll for players who earned a certain number of comp points this past week. It would be great to build a nice bankroll for my upcoming Las Vegas trip.

See ya at the tables!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How do you respond to those people who get really nasty at the online poker tables?

This question was recently asked in a popular chat forum. Various replies from "I say nothing" to "I laugh at them and egg them on" were offered. My history in this area was a little different ...

With thousands of people playing online poker, it is common to be at a table with people with varying degrees of poker savvy. The sharks sometimes get frustrated with bad beats and take it out on the fish. Often, the comments can be downright nasty. However, the comment that seems to cut like a knife is calling someone a donk or donkey.

Now, when I began playing online poker, I had a realistic notion of my level of expertise. I didn't need someone sticking my inexperience in my face. So ... how did I respond?

I am normally either quiet or friendly in chat while at the tables or in a tournament. However, on the few occasions when someone really ticked me off, I let loose with the most foul, nasty, profane tirades in my life. Name calling at its absolute worst. My theory: bury the idiots with their own nastiness, but ten times worse. My results: the idiots shut up.

I guess I am fortunate that no moderators were ever there to hear my tirades, and apparently I was never reported since I have never been sanctioned or had my chat privileges suspended or revoked. My behavior was certainly not befitting a mature adult, but you know what? It felt goooood.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Plane and hotel reservations are made, and yes ... I am ready to return to Las Vegas in June. Unfortunately, my brother Jim, the king of comped rooms, is not going with me, so it looks like I'll have to actually pay for a room this trip.

Where to stay? I usually stay at strip hotels. Seeing as how your average poker player doesn't see much of the inside of his hotel room anyway, I prefer to go as cheaply as possible without staying at an absolute dive. Unfortunately, this usually means staying at the "bad" end of the strip. Of course, the Sahara tournaments will not be too far away, and I will be within walking distance of the Wynn for those times that I am ready to head into the shark tank.

I hope to play in one of the Caesar's Palace noon tournaments, which I hear are quite good. My dream: Final Table, exhaustion, and a thick wallet.

For those who have never gone to Las Vegas, the daily buffet is a ritual among those of us who don't desire to spend the time or the money eating at some of the upscale Las Vegas restaurants. The best buffets include Bellagio, Paris, Aladdin (Planet Hollywood), and Wynn. Unfortunately, I have never eaten at the Rio's Seafood Buffet, which was all the talk several years ago.

Where should you avoid? I am sad to say that the absolute worst - the Surf Buffet at the old Holiday Inn on the strip - is no longer open. Nothing like going in late, late at night for the steak and eggs special buffet, only to be told that they were out of steak. What?

I am not a food snob, but the Surf Buffet's food was among the worst I have ever had. Dried, crusty, tasteless ... ah, memories ...

The honor for worst has to now go to the Imperial Palace. The Emporer's Buffet is amazing in that the food can look perfectly fine and taste terrible. Avoid this place by all means. But, just to be fair to the Imperial Palace, the Burger Palace hamburger joint in the casino is among the best fast food places in Las Vegas. Go figure.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It seemed like this was going to be the weekend of third place finishes. Friday evening, I played in a CheckRayz tournament at Kiwi. CheckRayz tournaments are always good - great, challenging players who are tough, tough, tough. Unfortunately, Gary812 got a commanding chip lead toward the end. He is difficult to take on at any stage, but deadly when he can push people around with a mountain of chips. I went out third, but sure wished I could have at least made it to heads up with Gary. I am getting more confident in my end-of-game skills, and would have liked to have taken on Gary812, who is a great player.

The Saturday Online Players Tournament at was a victory I really wanted. Having won only one OPT tourney and finshing second a few times, I was gunning for the bling! I could have tried sliding into second place, but I thought I saw the opportunity to catch the leader, Philman61. After the flop, I had top pair (Aces) with a Jack kicker. I was pretty sure that Philman61 had an ace, but I thought I would take him on the kicker. He called my all in, only to show A-Q. So much for the bling.

Sunday, I was fortunate to win a CardsChat tournament. Again, this group of players is very tough. Key play - I went all in with A-9 of Spades, thinking that no one would call. Someone with a pocker pair called, and I was lucky to catch an Ace to win the pot with top pair. In heads up, I went all in with Ace-rag. Got called, and won when my Ace was paired. I guess that sometimes the poker gods do take a liking to you!

Oh yeah - there were a couple of forgettable tournaments over the weekend, but hey - I'll concentrate on the good showings.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thought that I would cry the other night. I had accumulated enough raked hands on to get entry into a $20,000 freeroll. There were about 900 entrants and it paid, I believe, the top 150.

After nearly going out, I mount a strong comeback and make it down to the final 50. It was kind of fun seeing each person go out and the payoff keep going up. Unfortunately, I spied the $4,000 first prize and was hoping for the final table to have a shot at it.

The hand that did me in: I had A-A and pushed out a decent raise. Maybe I should have pushed more, but I was afraid of the nasty little things that seem to happen to pocket rockets.

One of the chip leaders was at the table, and much to my surprise, he called. The flop was 2-3-5. I put in a decent raise but wanted to make sure that I wasn't trapped by someone hitting a set. Surprisingly, my opponent calls. The turn is an Ace. I now have a set of aces, but am vunerable to the straight. I push, and the other player puts me all in.

Now, seeing as how the other player appeared to be quite good, I know he didn't go this far with something like A-4. I am guessing that he either had two pair - aces and whatever - or more likely, had a set of 2's, 3's, or 5's and is planning to bury me. Hehe - I'll show him. I call.

Much to my surprise, I find out his deadly secret: 4-4! Now, I am surprised that he called my original bet with such a low pair. Guess he thought it was worth the risk to try to hit the set. Probably put me on A-K or something. He was gambling enough to stick with me for at least one more card after the flop, figuring that if he hit the Ace or a 6 he would reap the big reward. Well, the Ace coming on the turn was the worst thing that could have happened to me.

A quick prayer to the poker gods to deliver an Ace, 2, 3, 4, or 5 on the river went unanswered. Twelve outs, but none came. I went out in 36th place and won $100. Now, $100 in a freeroll is great. Compared to that $4,000 first place prize, however ...

A positive aspect of the tourney was that I played solid, fundamental poker and went deep in a tournament that had many good players. It gives me hope that all these hours that I invest are making me better each day. Unfortunately, part of that learning process is taking the kind of beat I took. My gut told me to fold - "he's got to have the straight" - but my mind told me to stay. Maybe next time I will make a better decision.