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2016 – Year In Review (part 2)

January 4, 2017

Play 3-5 WSOP events – Cash a WSOP event (continued)

Here is an excerpt from this section of my 2016 Goals post: “I feel like I’m on the brink of a life-changing cash and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that happens in 2016.”

This is what can happen when you work hard and believe in yourself. You keep putting yourself in a position to succeed and things will go your way eventually. I truly believed that and I finally saw it come to fruition in 2016. While final tabling a WSOP event was kind of a surreal experience and I thought I would break out in smaller way first, I do feel like that kind of success was a long time coming. Granted, I got lucky a bunch to get to that spot, but that’s what you need to happen sometimes. I’ve been deep in plenty of big tournaments and found myself in a great position to chip up late – only to lose in brutal fashion and hit the rail instead, so it was a nice change of pace.

That brings me to the $235 Daily Deep Stack at The Rio. I didn’t even plan to play this tournament. It’s not an official WSOP event, but a tournament that runs daily at the Rio during the WSOP and attracts some massive fields. I was going to play cash games all day, but my buddy was playing this and I decided to tag along with him.

I can say quite honestly that I dominated this tournament from start to finish. There were obviously some stretches of time where I had to build back up or I had to get lucky, but all in all, I really felt like I was playing some of the best poker of my life.  And the biggest change that I felt I made was that I didn’t care at all. There were a number of spots where I trusted my gut and put all my chips at risk with what most people would consider a very marginal holding but I felt the situation warranted it – and I was always right. All my moves worked. I know there was a key hand late in the event where I won a big pot with AJ where I did not have the best hand, but other than that, I can’t remember getting super lucky any other time.

I was fresh off two WSOP cashes, including my best all time score, and I was feeling zero pressure, so when I got to the final table and people started talking about deals, I stayed quiet, hoping we could just play it out. Fortunately, one lady spoke up and said she never makes a deal and she made it to heads up with me, so I never actually had to state my own opinion on the matter. Obviously this woman played pretty well to make it that far, but I bulldozed her heads up and her only chance of beating me was to win multiple coolers – and I knew it. There was just no way I was going to lose. She let me minraise every hand, folded to all my c-bets when she missed, never fought back unless she had something, and never adjusted. It was a total layup. I had to do zero guessing. And she just let me bleed her stack all the way down to the point where an all in confrontation was inconsequential. And then I won it. Eleven days after my life-changing, all-time best score in WSOP Event #1, I topped it by outlasting 1156 entrants and winning the Rio Daily Deep Stack outright for over $36,000. This tournament started at 2 PM and ended at 5:30 AM and I have to say there was no better feeling than having my wife go to sleep knowing I was making a decent run and then waking up to news of me winning it. It was such a sick run and I really can’t describe how good it felt not only to win the whole thing,  but to know how much of an impact my success was going to have on our family. The heater was real… and I wasn’t even supposed to play this one!

My next WSOP event was also relatively unplanned. I had initially planned two separate trips to the WSOP, but I cancelled my flight home after my first big cash and decided to just stay in Vegas. The $1500 Limit Hold Em tournament was an event I added during my extended stay. I felt really good about this tournament because I spend all year playing limit hold em and I felt like my edge was probably at it’s biggest here. Even when I had famous pros at my table, it wasn’t the least bit intimidating because all they can do is bet and raise the fixed amounts. They can’t apply the kind of pressure they can in a no limit situation. Not only that, but I’m sure I have more (recent) experience at this variant than pretty much all the big names. Among the notables I butted heads with in this tournament were Chris Moorman, David Chiu, 2015 Card Player Player Of The Year Anthony Zinno, eventual bracelet winner of this event Danny Le, 2015 Main Event runner up Josh Beckley, and 2015 Main Event Champion Joe McKeehen.

I also had the pleasure of playing at the same table as Alex Keating, the dude with the mountain man beard that got a decent amount of exposure in the 2016 Main Event coverage. I hated him. He was way more playful in front of the ESPN cameras than he was at my table in this event, but even during that coverage you could get a glimpse of someone that was being confrontational and acting like it’s all one big joke. It was way less subdued at my table. I thought he was clearly mean-spirited and harsh, trying to get under everyone’s skin, all while breaking plenty of rules that no one cared to enforce. I’m sure it’s all part of his game and maybe he’s a decent guy in real life, but I show no love to anyone whose whole persona is built around being a dickhead at the poker table.

With that said, I thought Anthony Zinno was an incredibly genuine, humble and funny guy, all the more impressive for someone coming off such a massive year. He seemed like someone I would become quick friends with if we crossed paths on a regular basis. Same goes for 2012 Main Event runner up Jesse Sylvia, whom I played a bunch with in the $1500 H.O.R.S.E. event. He was clearly new to the limit mix games and it was pretty funny watching how geniune and forthcoming his confusion was – or he was going for the ultimate level… but I don’t think so. Joe McKeehan was actually pretty pleasant too. I didn’t even recognize him for the first several orbits I played with him (he had abandoned the shaggy look of his 2015 title run and was more clean shaven) and then I got in a hand with him and saw ‘The Stare’ and I was like “Oh shit! I’m playing with the champ!”

I made another day 2 in this one and this time it was Josh Beckley that decimated me with a hand that I had crushed. I opened TT under the gun and Beckley three bet me in late position. I just called and we went heads up to a jack high flop. I ended up calling him down when no further scare cards showed up, but he showed me a set of 7s that he made on the river. I could definitely play this hand faster and take control of the pot by being the aggressor, but in a tournament situation, especially out of position, I felt the need to conserve chips if I was behind; and honestly, on a jack high board, he wasn’t the kind of player that was going to fold to pressure anyway.  This hand basically crippled me and I soon found myself all in with 55 and outdrawn by Zinno’s AQ on another river. I did cash this event though, albeit for another small profit, but I was now three for four in WSOP events and my lone bust out was just shy of the money. I was feeling it.

My final WSOP event ended up being the $1500 Omaha 8 or Better tournament and this is the only event I played where I really never had any momentum. Interestingly enough, it was also the only event my wife played and she was sitting right behind me. Like literally in the chair across from me at the table behind me – in a tournament that probably had over 900 entrants. Kind of crazy. Nothing too notable about this one except that I played the duration with Connor Drinan, who has over $10M in lifetime cashes and is currently ranked #12 in the world on the GPI. He was… interesting. He spent the whole tournament wearing sunglasses, which is kind of weird for someone of his status in a limit tournament, and pounding beers two at a time. And he lost with far less grace than I was expecting. He didn’t strike me as an asshole like Alex Keating did, but… he definitely had an odd vibe about him. My wife outlasted me in this one, but also failed to cash and watching her bust out actually broke my heart a little as I thought it would have been incredible for her to make a deep run in her first WSOP event.

My WSOP was unofficially over (I ended up skipping the last event I had planned), but I did have an event I wanted to play at the Golden Nugget: their $240 8-Game Mix Tournament. This is an event that features a mix of limit hold em, limit omaha 8 or better, razz, stud hi, stud 8 or better, 2-7 triple draw, no limit hold em, and pot limit omaha. It attracted 119 entrants and, again, I relatively cruised to the final table of six.

My key hand at the final table came against a player I would later identify as Michael Trivett, a guy that has a live tournament resume that resembles my own, but I thought acted like a total asshat after this pot. We were in stud hi and I had buried aces with an 8 up first to act after the bring in. With a couple of higher door cards behind me I decided to limp in and disguise the strength of my hand, but everyone ended up folding anyway and I was heads up against Michael. I took the betting lead on fourth street and continued to fire unimproved on 5th street when Michael check-raised me showing three wheel cards. He could definitely have a straight here, but my hand was way too underrepped to considering folding, plus I had a three flush working. On 6th street I caught another flush card and he caught a high card to take the board lead and bet out again. I decided that raising 6th street was a reasonable play since he was unlikely to reraise a straight when I was repping a flush and I thought I had at least 7-9 outs to a flush (can’t remember if any flush cards were dead) and possibly up to 14 more outs to trips or better – and if I missed, I could just take the free showdown. 6th street went as planned and I caught two pair on 7th and decided to go for value. He paid me off and my hand was good – and he really kind of lost it. I mean it wasn’t a total meltdown, but he was cussing at me and saying things like “that’s what happens when you get too cute,” which is a bizarre thing to say to someone after losing a pot. I kept his weak range in the pot, took an aggressive line on 6th street, and then realized my perceived equity by getting there on 7th and took him to value town… and he cried about it like a baby. He started the table with the chip lead and had a really cocky holier-than-thou vibe going on, so I was pretty happy to see him fizzle out in 6th place after this pot. Obviously this hand helped catapult me to the final two and I really thought I was going to pull off another outright win, but after my opponent pulled even with me for a second time and offered a chop, I relented and split the remaining prize pool with him.

The Golden Nugget insisted on giving a coin to and taking a photo of “the winner,” so I ended up taking first place in the record books. It was a $5700 cash in a $240 buy in, which kind of pales in comparison to my other two big wins, but would have been my career best score a mere 17 days earlier.

Obviously, it was an incredible trip for me – nothing short of magical really. It seriously changed our lives. I paid off a student loan, we bought a house, and I quit my job in October to pursue a full-time career in poker, which has always been my end goal.

While I’m still talking about tournaments it’s worth noting how these things go in streaks. I followed up my amazing WSOP run by going 0 for 13 in major tournaments for the rest of the year, including an absolutely horrifying showing during Jason Somerville’s Run It Up Reno series. I was going to blog about that experience, but I’ll just sum up by saying it was my all-time worst poker trip, financially, and while I obviously wasn’t running well, I can’t honestly say that I felt like I was playing my best either.

I have never had a losing year of tournament poker, but 2016 was my true breakout. I played 34 events with an average buy in of $494, I cashed 10 times (29% in the money), final tabled four times (including a WSOP event and a WSOPc event) taking 5th, 3rd, 1st, and 1st – and finished the year with a ridiculous and totally unsustainable 463% ROI.

Online, during my training sessions, I have played 130 tournaments, cashed 24 times (18%), final tables 14 times (10.7%) and took first 4 times for an ROI of 45%.

Read through Jared Tendler’s The Mental Game Of Poker vols. 1 & 2 and do ALL the work

This was the goal I did the worst at. While I still believe that the mental game is one of my biggest edges, I did very little to improve that muscle in 2016. It’s easy to get complacent when things are going really well, but I felt that lack of improvement when I was in Reno getting crushed and again in December when I had another rough patch. I can’t deny that it took me by surprise and I wasn’t proud of how it handled it mentally. With poker being my job now, there is no excuse for not making this a priority in 2017 to help better prepare for the inevitable bad stretches.

Maintain a 1.25 BB/HR win rate at the $8-$16 level

I spent most of 2015 hovering over 2 BB/HR, but finished at 1.12 after a terrible last three months, so I thought it was likely I could improve on that number in 2016 and I did, finishing at 1.8 BB/HR for the year over nearly 900 hours in what has been my main game the last two years. Between 2015 and 2016, I have now posted a 1.43 BB/HR win rate over 1653 hours.

After playing 0 hours of $20/$40 in 2015, I did play a decent amount in 2016 thanks to Fortune opening in Renton and the bankroll boost I got during the WSOP. In the past, I have found that I struggle in new places as I adjust to new players and learn how they play, but I still managed to post a 0.52 BB/HR win rate over 158 hours of $20/$40 against mostly new faces, which I’m not too unhappy about. I had two horrible sessions in Reno in what I felt was the softest $20/$40 game I’ve ever played in and I have a long history of winning at limit hold em, so I suspect my current win rate is a product of less than ideal run good in a short sample size.

Top 5 $8/$16 Sessions:
1. +$2377 on MY BIRTHDAY @ Palace – includes $130 for HH, $220 for straight flush, $1042 for another straight flush – CRAZY
2. +$1754 @ Palace – $250 for quads
3. +$1722 @ Palace – no bonuses
4. +$1563 @ Palace – no bonuses
5. +$1451 @ Palace – no bonuses
6. +$1250 @ Palace – no bonuses

Worst 5 $8/$16 Sessions:
1. -$1259 @ Palace
2. -$992 @ Palace
3. -$915 @ Palace
4. -$866 @ Palace
5. -$856 @ Palace

Top 5 non-$8/$16 Sessions:
1. +$4245 in $30/$60 with a $50/$100 kill @ Ameristar in Colorado
2. +$3275 in $20/$40 @ Fortune
3. +$3067 in $20/$40 @ Fortune
4. +$1525 in $20/$40 @ Fortune
5. +$1500 in $10/$20 O8 @ Clearwater

Worst 5 non-$8/$16 Sessions:
1. -$2300 in $20/$40 @ Fortune
2. -$2123 in $20/$40 @ Peppermill in Reno
3. -$1157 in $20/$40 @ Fortune
4. -$1027 in $15/$30 O8 @ Fortune
5. -$946 in $10/$20 O8 @ Clearwater

Reach a $30,000 bankroll

Even after buying a house and clearing some debt, I have quite easily annihilated this goal.

All in all, 2016 was nothing short of an amazing year. The run I went on from June 1st to August 7th is truly mind-blowing. Obviously June was the massive game-changer, but I followed that up with the best cash game month of my career in July, which was capped by the mammoth session on my birthday, and then my first session in August at Ameristar was my biggest net win in a cash game of all-time. So for those two months it really felt like I was on Cloud 9. My only losing months were in April and again in October (thanks to the Reno disaster).

That wraps up my 2016 and all the goals I set for myself. I will be thinking about what I want to accomplish this year over the next few days and I will have a post up with my goals for 2017 within the next week.

Thanks for all your love and support – I really felt it when I was down in Vegas and it was greatly appreciated!

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One comment

  1. […] because I had this kid named Michael Trivett at my table and you can read about my history with him here by scrolling down to this same event from last year. I saw plenty of evidence that suggested he […]



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