Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Live blogging the WWdN penner42 Invitational

I'm going to try live blogging tonight's tournament and see how it goes. Hopefully I won't get so distracted by this that I screw up my playing.

All times Central:

7:30 PM I am at table 16. There are 118 entrants tonight, one of the biggest fields in a WWdN tourney yet.

First hand: AJo in EP. I decide to fold. It's the best I see for a few hands; probably should have played it.

cfinnn is at my table; I've played with her before. The others I don't know.

I have tried to limp into a couple of pots but the flops keep missing me. The others are keeping the action going though.

7:40 I've been moved to a new table. It hasn't helped my starting cards yet. So far the best I have had is KJo in bad position. When am I going to get something decent, like the Hammer?

7:50 I finally win a pot - I get KTo on the button, it's folded to me, I raise 3XBB, the blinds fold. Yippee!

7:59 - Another blind steal, this time with 22. I'm really burning up the felt now. Not.

8:04 - I actually saw a flop that helped me! T7o, caught a T, bet 4XBB, everyone folded. I'm on a roll.... but still below T1,500.

8:10 - I get TT, limp but get min-raised so I call. The flop is 9-X-7; I bet 3XBB, original raiser pops me again. I figure him for a set of 9s, so I fold. When it gets to the river, it turns out he had 7s. Either way, I was glad I folded.

8:20 - I only have 1075 left, blinds are 50/100. I get 99 on the button. I raise it 4XBB, get two callers. Flop is T-J-Q, two spades. I get raised 500. I doubt I am going to last much longer so I push my last 675 and get called by AQ. I don't improve and I'm out. Maybe I should have pushed pre-flop but the AQ probably would have called regardless. Oh well, I blame it on the cards; I got next to nothing worth playing. I should go to bed early anyway, since I am taking my wife to the airport around 4:30 AM. But I find this blogging to be distracting so I don't know if I will be doing much of it in future tourneys, unless I get really good at playing or blogging or, preferably, both.

WWdN tournament tonight

I expect that most of you who read this blog already know about Wil Wheaton's weekly tourneys, but in case you don't, or as a reminder, here is the info for tonight's game:

What: WWdN: penner42 Invitational
Where: PokerStars.
When: Tuesday, January 31. 8:30 EST
Password: monkey
Tournament number: 18610753
Buy-in: $10 + 1

You can read more about the game, and other interesting poker stuff, at Card Squad. Tell your friends; we'd love to get the player total over 100 each week!

I may play tonight, if I'm home and I decide I can stay awake for it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane....

As you may know, I play regularly in the Amateur Poker League (APL) which puts on free No Limit Hold 'Em tournaments at bars and restaurants in several states. I have found these tournaments to be a good place to hone my poker skills without putting any of my hard earned cash at risk. I enjoy playing on line very much, but being in a game with live people across the table from you is a whole 'nother experience from sitting at your computer and trying to figure out what your opponent is doing based almost solely on betting patterns.

Last night I played in another APL tourney, but this one was a little different. It was the championship game for a contest that ran from September to the end of December. The 64 players at two APL venues combined who accumulated the most points over that time period qualified for this tournament, which had actual prizes to be won. You earn points in APL games by finishing in the top 16 at each weekly tournament. The higher you place, the more points you get, plus a bonus depending on how many players entered that week's event. I had finished 16th or better (although never first) often enough over the past four months to qualify; I think I ranked 49th on the qualifiers list. I was less worried about where I stood in the point totals than about whether I made the cut, which I did. Strangely, only 30 of the 64 qualifiers showed up to play. I expected a much bigger turnout because of the prizes being offered.

The grand prize for this contest was a trip for two to Las Vegas, including airfare and three nights hotel accommodations. Second prize was tickets to see a Dallas Mavericks basketball game. There was a third prize too but I never found out what it was. Because this tournament had something tangible riding on the outcome, the players (at least at my starting table) played very tight. No one wanted to take a chance of losing a chunk of their stack too soon. I'll admit, I played tight too, but that isn't unusual for me; I'm a fairly conservative player most of the time. What I should have done, with everyone else playing so scared, is made more plays at the pots, and raised more to steal the blinds. But, I didn't do as much of that as I probably could have got away with. Instead I stuck to my normal game of playing only good starting cards, limping in with draws when possible, raising when I had something worth playing, and getting out of the hand if I felt like I was beat. This worked well for me, because when I got good cards and bet them, I either won the pot early or my hands held up. It took a while but I built up my stack and eventually became one of the chip leaders at my table. Because of how tight everyone was playing, the bustouts were slow in coming. It seemed like forever for our table to break up and for those of us remaining to be moved to another table.

Once I finally moved, to one of the final two tables, the defining hand of the tournament came for me. Six of us were playing. Blinds were 500 and 1000 and would soon go up to 1000/2000. I had about 13,000. I was in the small blind, and picked up AQo. UTG, who had about 1300, called the BB. The next player had about 6,000, and went all-in. Next player folded. The button, who was the chip leader, thought long and hard but called the all-in. Action was on me. I figured UTG to be on a draw since he only called, and UTG+1 to be on a desperation push, so I didn't think his hand was that great. Maybe a medium or lower pair or two big cards. Since the button only called the all-in instead of pushing himself, I didn't think his hand was that great either, probably similar to UTG+1. Although I knew there was a decent chance that my AQ was behind, I felt like I was no worse than a coin flip against the hands I put the others on. I went ahead and pushed the rest of my chips in. The BB folded, and it was back to UTG, who wasn't happy about all the raising in front of him but decided to throw in his last 300. The button then called my all-in, leaving him with about 1200. When we turned up our cards, UTG had two medium connectors, UTG+1 had something like Q9, the button had AJ. I was ahead with my AQ, and it held up. I knocked out the two short stacks and crippled the big stack. A few hands later, we were down to the final table. I had a nice stack when I moved there, and managed to get a couple of good hands. The play was amazingly tight at the final; no one wanted to play with less than premium hands, it seemed. For example, when we got down to three, the guy to my left, who was the short stack, folded pocket fours when I pushed with KQ. He blinded out shortly thereafter, but not before I crippled the other stack when his 99 ran into my JJ. A hand or two later, my sole remaining opponent pushed with a J; I called with a Q, and he didn't improve, although I did catch a Q on the river to seal the deal.

So, I won a trip to Las Vegas! I have been itching to go back there; it's been a couple of years since my last trip out, and reading about the WPBT adventures last month just whetted my appetite for a visit even more. I had even started looking at airfares and hotels and what days I could take off work. Now, I can pick the days I want to go and let the APL's travel agency do the planning, and the paying. I don't know yet what hotel they will put us in or when we will go, but I'm hoping we can make the trip in March when my son is on spring break from school. We'll have to pay for his plane ticket, but I have no problem with that.

I have finished in first place in a couple of low buy-in SNGs on line, and cashed for $70 in third place in a WWdN tourney a couple of weeks ago, but this trip is easily the biggest payoff for me in a poker game yet. I intend to savor every moment of it while I am there. I just hope the APL puts us up in a decent place so we can feel a little bit like we've won a Major Award. Oh, yes, I do plan to play some poker while I am in Vegas (duh). Any recommendations on which casino poker rooms have the softest players, so I can at least last a while if not come out ahead? I'll try not to play like a complete donkey. I'll post more when I know when we are going and where we are staying, and then I'll have a report when we get back.

Yippee, I won a tournament, and a big prize! Can you tell I'm excited?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Live Poker! Real Money!

I played at Winstar Casino in Oklahoma today. It was my first casino poker in almost two years. I have played in a few nickel and dime home games, quite a bit on line for very low stakes, and regularly in the free Amateur Poker League games locally, but it's definitely different playing in a real card room. I had the day off work so I made the hour-plus drive just over the Texas-Oklahoma border this morning to see how Winstar's poker room would treat me.

The casino building is huge. It looks like a big tent out of a Middle Eastern desert from the outside. Inside, they have different sections full of slots (their bread and butter), plus some table games. The poker room is in the rear of the building, and it's a very popular place. They actually have had to set up poker tables outside the poker room proper to keep up with the demand. I kept hearing them tell players to go to the Showroom; what do they do when they have entertainment playing there? Probably make the band play in the hallway.

They spread Limit Hold 'Em from $4/$8 up to $20/$40, and No Limit starting at $1/$2 blinds with buy-ins of $100 min/$200 max, up to $5/$10 blinds with buy-ins of $500 min/$1,000 max. I chose to play $4/$8 Limit so I could ease in without putting too much at risk at once. I got there just about when the poker room opened at 10:00 AM, and they sat me at a table that was just opening. I bought in for $100. Once the table filled up, which didn't take more than a few minutes, the cards were in the air. I played tight, much tighter than the rest of the table. While not everyone played every pot, it seemed like every pot had mulitple players and ended in a showdown. There were a few players who saw virtually every flop and, as you might expect, a fair number of suckouts. One older guy, who was across the table from me, seemed to catch the winning card on the river on nearly every pot he played. I must admit that I caught several good cards myself over the course of the day. Early on, I limped in from the BB with 82 suited. The flop had an 8 and a 2 in it, plus something like a T. I bet, was called by one player; the turn wasn't scary, so I bet and got called again. The river was another 8. I bet again, got called again, and took down a nice pot. The same kind of thing happened to me later with J9 suited in the BB, when a J and a 9 hit the flop and a J hit the river. There were several people in that pot, with pairs and flush draws, so that one was healthy-sized too. Mostly I played the cards rather than the players, because my pocket cards were either great starters or easy folds preflop. But I did get reads on a few of the players, and picked up some obvious tells. The most glaring tell was committed by a couple of people: picking up chips before their turn to act when they planned to bet, and picking up their cards in advance when they were going to fold. I knew every time what they were going to do before it was their turn. Need I say to anyone reading this: not a good idea. Another big no-no: one guy who was sitting two seats to my right was not hiding his cards very well at all when he looked at them. It would have been way too easy to see what he had without even trying. Then again, this particular guy, who was a regular at this casino since all the dealers and staff knew him by name, played just about every pot with any two cards, all the way to the river. He sucked out a couple of times, but I can't imagine him doing anything but losing in the long run.

I didn't make any fancy plays, just mostly stuck with premium hands and played them aggressively. Most of the time. On one hand, I got AKs under the gun and just called instead of raising, to mix things up a bit. I got several callers, and the flop came 9s-Ts-X. With the nut flush draw, I bet for value. The guy to my left raised. If I remember right, everyone else folded, leaving it to me. I didn't stop to figure the exact pot odds (I'm not very quick at that), but I figured it was worth one more small bet, so I called. The turn was the 8s. Bingo! I bet and got called. The river was a brick, the board was unpaired, so I knew I had the nuts (except to the straight flush), and I bet. My opponent saw the straight and flush possibilities on the board, figured I had one of them, and folded. He was about the only player at the table who would have folded at that point; most of the others would have called just to see what I had, they were that loose.

Overall, it wasn't a spectacular day, but I did leave the table with double my buy-in, which was very satisfying. Now that my bankroll is fatter, I just might have to make another drive up there soon and see if things are as soft next time. Maybe I will even try the NL game, if I'm feeling brave.