Luck Box Central

Friday night I bought in for a double stack at a local $20 tournament with not many good players. I used some aggression to take down a few pots early and built up a nice stack when a moderately tight player raised in middle position. There are two callers and I decided to call light with 75off in the big blind. The flop came 643 rainbow and I check called the flop. Only the original raiser remained. The turn is a ten and I check raised and he called. The river was a Q and I bet almost 1/2 the pot. He called and shows Aces. Cracked another one!

I managed to best one particular player several times and when he raised my BB I decided to call him with 33. The flop came 344 and after several streets of action we managed to get it all in on the river. He showed Aces and fours and I won, of course, with my flopped boat.


A good player shows up late and starts running over the table by betting large preflop when he is in position and especially on the button. He gets called down one time and wins a pot with QToff against KQs when a ten comes. I decided to look for a spot to limp reraise him all in at some point later when the blinds were high enough to make that worthwhile.

The moment finally came about an hour later. I limped under the gun and he bet a bit more than pot on the button. It folded back to me and, after a dramatic pause, I jammed all in with 42 of hearts. Surprisingly he snap called with 7d7c. While that was a better hand that I thought he had, the bet was for 95% of his stack and I thought he would have thought better of it.

Anyway since he has me out chipped, I stand up to leave. Then the flop comes all hearts! The turn is another heart and I cringe. Then the river comes another heart putting a flush on the board which, given my hand, means a chop! However then I noticed that the turn was the 3h meaning that my 4 plays after all and I would take the entire pot. Whew!


It is nice to take out a good player and build a large stack at the same time but I subsequently discovered that this tournament allowed a massive $20 or $40 add-on followed by quickly multiplying blinds. An hour after the break my “big stack” with 8 players left and 3 getting paid only amounted to 16BB. I did my best to stay aggressive but got carved up a bit. With 8BB left I started looking for shoving spots. I thought I found a good one with 76off but ran into aces again in the small blind. This time I flopped a 6 but could not improve further and that was it.

Between the buy-in, add-on and the time charges, it ended up costing me $118 to play. If I had known the structure was so bad after the break I could have saved my $40 add-on but really it did not matter. Given the prize pool of under $1800ish and just 3 positions being paid, it is not worth it to play these events except for fun as they are not beatable in the long run no matter your skill level. Still it was a fun night and I got some stories out of it, so I am not really complaining.


Big Blind Ante at Lucky Chances

Yesterday I played my first tournament where the big blind also pays the ante for the whole table. I thought it was great. In fact I only see positives.

One of the coolest things was that the people that liked it seemed to be better players than the complainers and so there was an extra indictor of player strength sitting right out in the open. I guess players who often face extreme big blind pressure just see this as a doubling of the blind pressure and don’t like it.

My first thought is that BBA would shorten the game since there would be more hands per level and therefore more chances to reduce the field while short stacks would get pot committed more easily in the big blind. Now I think otherwise. The ante was always the same as the big blind meaning that the initial pot size is smaller at comparable levels. This means that bets and raises tend to be a bit smaller too.

This tournament was marred by my first board misread in over a year. I raised in middle position with a pair of fives. 3 callers. The flop came 3 5 6. Sweet. The big blind checked and I bet about 1/2 the pot. The cutoff was a little short and went all in. The button folded and then the big blind called. It was back to me but I couldn’t see folding and so I shoved as well. The big blind snap called. The first guy said “I got trips” and showed T6s. The big blind said “Me too” and showed T6. I rechecked the board and now it read 3 6 6. I had misread it! The turn was a 7 giving me a few more outs but the river bricked. Oh well.

Fortunately my anti-tilt super power was in full gear and so I headed right over to the cage and reentered. My new table was a lot softer than the first one (which was not to say the first table was tough when you had players calling raises with T6!) But at least the first table had 2 players who I felt where worthy adversaries. The second table did not. I ramped up the pressure and built a fine stack. Getting aces twice and getting paid off each time helped too. I got rewarded for a bad play when I raised AQs and got an all-in from the short stack. I tried to get a read on him by asking him if he had AK but he didn’t budge. Turns out he did have AK but I flopped a queen and got his stack anyway. Then I knocked out another player with AQ versus KQ on the very next hand.

Sadly the table broke and for the rest of the tournament I was dealing with more competent players. My hot streak cooled off and I fell back to average stack. I maintained average stack plus or minus a bit right into the final table. The final table did not go well and with 7 players left I was the short stack with 2.5 BB left. I was under the gun with 6-5 and the BBA coming next hand. I made a tight and possibly incorrect fold but got rewarded for it when a medium stack player pushed all in and got called by a large stack who knocked him out. I busted the next hand for 6th place for a $1420 payout and a $900 overall profit.

The bottom line for me is that I like the Big Blind Ante format and will try to get the card rooms in Austin to adopt it.

Let’s talk about some poker hands …

I played in the $500 monthly NLHE tournament at the Texas Card House again. Let’s look at some hands.

I chipped up some early and was on the button during Level 3 with QQ. I made my standard open raise and the BB, who I knew could be spewy at times, called. The flop was Q73 rainbow. The villian checked to me. My normal play here would be to check back as I am ridiculously far ahead. I knew, however, that this player might see a small bet as a sign of weakness that he could attack. So I bet a bit less than 1/2 pot and, to my delight, he went all in which was about a 4x pot bet. Of course I snap called and got my first big stack going. He showed AQ for top top and so I was super lucky on that cooler.

About an hour later in Level 6 my stack was still above average but not huge. I was in the small blind with 55. Middle position raised and the cutoff reraised. Normally it is raise or fold in the small blind and no way was I going to raise here. However I gave it some extra thought and decided to take the risk of cold calling knowing I would have to fold in the event of another reraise. The Big Blind also called and, fortunately the original raiser just called.

The flop was JJ5 giving me the boat. I checked and it checked around. Of course that is very unusual for a paired board. Maybe my boat was not going to get me any chips after all. The turn was a 7 and I decided to check again. The big blind checked and then the original raiser made a 1/2 pot bet. Almost immediately the hijack went all in. I had him covered a bit and I immediately went all in myself. If he had 77 I was going to kick myself, but no way was I laying down this boat. The big blind, who was also shorter than me, then tanked and eventually called. The original raiser sighed and said “I guess my overpair can’t be good here” and mucked. The hijack showed AJ and the big blind showed J9 and so I was in great shape. I faded the river and tripled up. A pretty amazing hand. It was entirely possible that all four players decided to slow play the flop assuming they were ahead.

Much later we are down to 16 players left. 10 get paid with 10th place getting $1,000 and 1st place getting just over $12,000. I have been amazingly card dead and so only some stealing has kept me in the hunt with 16 BB which was slightly below average.  There were 4 tiny stacks but clearly I would need to chip up in order to make the money and give myself a chance to go deep. I am in the Big Blind with the blinds at 2K/4K with a 500 ante.

Middle position player with an average stack opens to 10K. One of the better players in the hijack makes it 30K. This guy has a top 3 stack and has been opening and 3 betting a lot. Still he had AK the last two times that he 3 bet. Still I think he is capable of making a light 3 bet. It folds over to me and I look down at AQ hearts.

Now it seems clear to me that this is a shove or fold situation. I want the original raiser out if possible to improve my equity and then I can hope that I am either flipping against something like JJ or perhaps even leading something like AJs or ATs. But what are the chances I am up against AK? In that case I am in big trouble and cannot expect to get a fold from the big stack. Perhaps being so card dead for the last hour put me on tilt just a bit but I went ahead and shoved. Sure enough the original raiser folded and the villain fairly quickly called with AKs. The board was no help and I was out.

I have not questioned my play very much over the last year. Sure I have played with less than my A game on a couple of nights, but the number of individual hands that I think that I totally butchered have been few and far between. Now this one was close, but in retrospect I think it was wrong. I really didn’t need to take this chance at this point knowing that the chances of being dominated was reasonably strong. With AQs I want to either be the 3 bettor myself or else be up against smaller stacks who would be under a lot more pressure to get out of my way. I have, on occasion, gotten people in this tourney to fold AK pre with a big bet but I don’t think that happens very often. Certainly this villain was good enough and had enough chips to make that call reliably.

At least I went out on an aggressive play. One friend thought my play was obviously correct. I don’t but I will admit it wasn’t horrible. Still I think I should have given this hand additional thought at the table before I pulled the trigger. Maybe I might have done it anyway, but there is also the chance that I could have gotten away from it.

2018 Action

On the first Sunday of the new year I jumped into the monthly $500 tournament at the Texas Card House. This time I went out extremely quickly and so that kicked things off in the wrong direction. Late in January I found myself in the Anaheim area to help out a friend and ending up playing 2 long sessions at the Hawaiian Gardens Casino. I really liked this place but the cards did not go my way. I managed a chop in a SitNGo that got me my buyin back but, other than that, it was brick city. Limit BigO was particularly brutal costing me $500 over 3 session spanning 14 hours of play.

In February I was back and things started going better. I won a $500 seat for the monthly $500 and then won a charity event for $1,500. I used to play a lot of these and did fairly well including winning my first seat into a WSOP event. I don’t play many charity events anymore and this time discovered that their payout method these days is VISA gift cards. That is a pain but I guess a win is a win.

The monthly $500 again did not go well as I again busted fairly quickly. At least that keeps the time charge down! After a couple of weeks off from poker I played a small turbo at a new card house in Round Rock and that one worked out fine. Some wild final table action took me from average stack to tiny stack to second biggest stack in the course of about 10 hands. The last 9 players chopped it up and I walked away with $740 which was more than enough to put me in the black for the first time in 2018.

Looking ahead I have booked my flights and room for the WSOP where once again I only plan to be in town for a long weekend. This time, however, if I make another big score like I did in 2017, then nothing is going to stop me from going back and playing the Main Event.

It also looks like a visit to Lucky Chances in the Bay Area will also be in the cards for me some time during April. Most likely I will only have time to play the Sunday weekly tournament, but still I look forward to it. It is generally a lot of fun to check out a new card room and be the unknown player. That scenario often goes well for me.

Wrapping up 2017

After my success at the WSOP I was looking to play more poker and discovered that apparently legal poker rooms were starting to be a thing in Texas. With security people and security cameras, bright appointments and a few amenities including dealers, these private membership clubs were managing to abide by the archaic gaming rules included in Texas law and make it work. There is no rake and no tipping but you pay an hourly club access fee along with your membership fee. Turns out to be a great deal for cash players but tournament players like myself don’t do so horribly either.

I started out at a club just outside of Austin and after a few bad sessions I managed to get to a 2 way even chop in a bounty tournament where I also scored 10 bounties. I felt I was in the top tier of regular players there but the stakes weren’t high and it seemed like the club was not attracting enough repeat customers to stay open for long.

I decided to try another club that was a bit closer to home but had a higher hourly rate. My first event was a $500 buy-in NLHE tournament and after 7.5 hours the survivors did a 7 way chop with yours truly getting the lion’s share for over $4,800. I played more tournaments there but found that the satellites and the monthly $500 events were my sweet spot. In the very next monthly $500 tournament I took third place for $3,200.

I also won a satellite seat to a $1,000 tournament that had an interesting twist: the results were to be posted in the Hendon Mob! The plan was to conduct 3 of these $1,000 events each year and so, for the first time, I would have the chance to reach my goal of earning a Hendon Mob score each year without leaving my home town. That is fantastic.

I washed out of the November $1000 event and yet still managed to end up over $2,350 for my post WSOP poker play during 2017 without ever leaving home. It looks like I will be playing more poker year round as long as these local card rooms manage to stay afloat. Now if only I could get more more players interested in games other than NLHE. If I could mix in some local PLO or Big O cash games or tournaments, then my poker life would truly be sweet.

One hand of note occurred in a charity tournament in November. In about level 6 I had the biggest stack at my table when I got into a hand with the next biggest stack. I reraised his opening raise with KK. He raised me back. I put in another raise and now had 30% of my chips in the pot. At this point he went all in. Now I have never folded KK preflop in my life and, if you had asked me before this hand, I would have told you that I would never do so. However in this particular spot I couldn’t think of a hand that this particular opponent could possibly have other than Aces and so I folded the Kings face up. Graciously the villain showed his Aces to the table, but I didn’t ask him to do that because frankly I was already supremely confident that I had made the right play. Still it was good to know that I could go with my gut and make a play like this in a big spot. Maybe I am catching on to this game a little bit after all.

Wrapping up WSOP Event #32

The $1500 Mixed Omaha Event is slated to be a 3 day event but with 29 players left it was possible that it would be extended to 4 days. In any event it would be a vey long day. The stress of the first two days had left me a bit congested and that was a real problem because I ended up not getting enough sleep. A further problem was that I discovered that the chip leader had been placed to my direct left. Things were not shaping up well.

My other problem was that I was utterly alone at the WSOP. This I addressed in 2 ways. First I called my brother, which I never do, and he got exited enough to follow my action and give me someone to talk to during breaks. Also I made a post asking for virtual railers in the Reddit poker subforum. That was helpful too as I saw a few posts between hands that encouraged me to stay focused.

My plan was to be aggressive and look for big flips against players I was not likely to beat in any other way (which was most of the remaining field.) Like most poker plans, this one didn’t really work. I was too card dead and to boxed in by the big stack to do much at all. Instead I just folded. 20 minutes in we lost a few players and just like that I was up the pay jump ladder another $1,000. Another 25 minutes and we were at the bubble for the next pay jump of $1,400. At this point a looked down at AC6H6S3C2H in the button with a raise and a pot-sized reraise in front of me. I pulled the trigger and potted again putting both of the other players all-in. The runout gave me Aces up and a 63 low. I took the low in the main and side pots and split the high in the side pot. I didn’t eliminate anyone, but the hand put me up for the day and over 400K for the first time. My virtual rail informed me that I was now in 4th place overall. Moments later Allyn Shulman eliminated another player. That meant another pay jump to $7,162 plus a table redraw which meant that I would probably no longer have the chip leader to my left.

My new table included my nemesis, Igor Sharaskin, but this time he was seated to my right. Also at the table were Matthew Sanner, Allyn Shulman and Allen Kessler. The big stacks were on my right and the smaller stacks on my left so this looked favorable as we moved into Level 22 with the first break of the day still an hour away.

The first notable hand at this table occurred 25 minutes in when Igor Sharaskin made a bad call against Allen Kessler’s all-in flop bet but was rewarded on the river hitting one of his 5 outs. That eliminated Kessler in brutal fashion (which was amusing to witness) and brought Igor up to about 700K and the chip lead. Meanwhile I was finding a few spots to muscle people out of pots or chop and gradually built my stack to almost 500K. Right before the break I called a raise from a short stack with 6543. On a flop of A85 I check called. The turn was a 7 giving me the nut straight and third best low and a draw for the nut low. I check called his all-in bet. It turned out he was holding 8542 with two spades giving him a better low and 12 outs to a flush or boat. The King of Spades gave him the flush and the scoop and just like that I was back down to 380K.

The break came at a good time as I needed to shake off that last hand. My virtual rail told me I was still in good shape and just one elimination from a pay jump up to just over $9,000.

In Level 23 the play started to tighten up. Igor had tried to do some bullying but lost some chips in the process. Allyn Shulman was now on my left and 45 minutes in she defended her big blind against Igor and flopped a set of Kings. Unfortunately for her Igor had flopped a set of Aces and now we had that 15th place elimination.

The two table redraw was weird. I was in 6th place overall out of 14 but had the 5th biggest stack at my table. Still Igor was at the other table and that felt good to me. Just three more players would need to go out to get to the $11,716 pay level and my first 5 figure score.

We were now in Level 24 and it had pretty much become a waiting game for me as it was getting very hard to find any playable spots at my table. I did manage to get back over 400K again, but it was tough since so many players had me covered. Fortunately it only took about 35 minutes to eliminate 3 players and get to that 5 figure pay day. Part of this was the doing of Vladimer Shchemelev as he started crushing and soon was up to 1M chips with 10 players left.

Meanwhile I had been moved back to Igor’s table. We were 5 handed but Igor had hit a rough patch and amazingly I had him out-chipped by a small bit as we approached the second break. I was pretty gassed at this point but I decided to defend my big blind to close the action in a 4 way pot with ASJJ98S. The flop came K54 with 2 spades giving me the nut flush draw and a very bad low draw. The player to my right started the action by going all-in for about 1/2 the pot. It was a tough decision but I decided that I had too much equity to fold and a decent chance to see the turn without having to commit most of my stack and so I called. Yakovenko, another tough Russian, slowly called but then Igor very quickly shoved all in.

Now I guess I am supposed to fold here but I decided that the flip was good enough especially since certain run-outs would eliminate Igor, get me a pay jump to $15K and put me right about at the chip lead entering the unofficial final table of 8 players. I called and Yakovenko tank folded. Igor had top two, no low draw and a second best flush draw in spades. The turn was a 5 giving Igor a baby boat. Now I needed a 2-outer Jack for the high or a 7,6,3 or 2 for the low half of the main pot. Sadly it was not to be. I was left with a paltry 33K at the second break. Two hands after the break I was out in 9th place.

I actually felt great about my play. I had given myself a decent chance to enter the final 8 in 2nd place and, at the same time, claimed my first 5 figure score at the WSOP. After a desperately needed nap, shower and dinner I even had the energy to head down to handle my winnings and then hit the cash games and win another $500 at a 1-2-5 Big O table. It was a great way to cap off a great trip to the WSOP in Vegas that I will never forget.

Running Deep in WSOP Event #32

Right before dinner break I was moved to my final table for the night. I had the two seat and came in with the biggest stack which was about 180K. The guy in the 7 seat (David Brookshire) had been pushing the table around with a biggish stack but now it was my turn to become the table captain. I was playing about 50% of my hands now and picking up loose pots left and right. I got up to almost 240K when Igor Sharaskin was moved to my table to occupy the Seat 3. I had no idea who he was but his stack was around 200K and so that was a potential problem.

At first I didn’t slow down but then I had to as Igor started playing me like a drum. Every time I came into a pot he went right after me. Finally I called him down a bit light on some limit O8 hands but, sure enough, he always had it at showdown. Clearly he was a great player but he also was on a significant heater as well.

I was back under 200K and falling when another Russian player with a stack of about 60K was put in seat 4. He and Igor were apparently acquainted and they jabbered away in very fast Russian between every hand. I’m sure that the new guy asked Igor where he got his chips and Igor pointed me out as his chief donator. Now I had two aggressive Russians on my left and was feeling totally boxed in. It did not go well.

Soon I was down to 100K myself and wondering if I could still play this game. I wasn’t worried about the pay jumps or the idea of making Day 3. I just wanted to find a way to get more chips. Fortunately the cards gave me a chance. I raised preflop with AKJ2 with 2 suits. When the new Russian guy reraised me I was ready for the 4 bet. The flop was QT4 giving me a miniwrap and the nutflush draw. I checked called. The turn came a 9 he bet out again. This time I reraised to put him all in. He called but was drawing dead. I had doubled up to 200K and eliminated Russian #2.

Igor was still being a pest on my direct left. David Brookshire had regained a lot of his captain table status and built his stack back up to almost 300K. I was back down to about 160K as we hit our last break of the night.

Shortly after the final break I was in the Big Blind with AS7S643. Brookshire raised preflop from the cutoff and I made the call. The flop came Q86 with 2 spades. I checked, he bet pot and I called. The turn was the beautiful 4 of spades giving me the nut flush. I checked, David potted, I repotted and when he saw that I was almost all in anyway, he went ahead and potted again to put me all in. That 4 had given him a straight but I think he overlooked the flush possibility and, as it turned out, he had no outs for the high. Meanwhile only a 3 could save him for the low. Instead a 2 came giving me nut nut in this 320K pot. That double up put me among the chip leaders.

Entering the last level I watched as Igor hit a rough spot and slip to 220K. I was building confidence that there was going to be a Day 3 for me but I had to be careful as the 22 hours of poker I played during the last two days was beginning to wear me down and there was still one more hour to go.

I wasn’t alone in just wanting to survive the last hour. I think Igor sensed this and began pounding the whole table. However when I choose my spots he generally had to respect my stack and stay out of my way. I was able to gradually build up to almost 400K even as Igor zoomed up to a similar level. Still he managed to catch up to my stack and even pass me. I was just thankful that the Day 3 redraw would probably move me away from him. When the dust settled for Day 2 Igor had 445K for 4th place while my stack of 383K was good enough for 5th place.

There were only 29 players left and I was already guaranteed a payout of $4,711 which was going to be my biggest payout ever. Previously I had won $4k by winning a large online tournament back in 2009. I also won $3,790 for my first place finish in a live side event in the Card Player Poker Tour at their West Palm Beach tour stop in 2013. Obviously there was a lot more at stake here. I had never been this deep in an event with six figure top prizes to say nothing of a possible WSOP bracelet. All I needed was a good night’s sleep and I would be ready to go to battle in my very first Day 3.