Posts Tagged ‘gambling’

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2017 WSOP Trip Report – Part One (the not so good stuff)

June 28, 2017

With each passing year, I get better at doing the World Series of Poker. This goes beyond results – I’m talking about how to live in Las Vegas for weeks at a time. This year I felt I got a little bit closer to having the process mastered. I had a friend that let me stay in his time share for about ten nights for $20/night and then some friends from my high school days in Bremerton let me stay with them in their Vegas home (closer to Summerlin) for the rest of the trip for $20/night. Those prices would be 60% of just the resort fee at a strip casino! I also rented a car for about $23 a day and that proved to be about equal in cost and much more convenient than relying on shuttles and Uber to get around. Next year, I’m going to be even thriftier and just drive myself to Vegas and save on flight and car rental expenses. Finally, food is still expensive, but I did go shopping at Costco and bought some bulk necessities and I also bought a meal plan at All American Dave’s (a food truck outside the Rio). While AAD’s meals lack variety and are probably a bit overrated, you really can’t beat the convenience of ordering on Twitter and having someone deliver food directly to your seat at the poker table.

I flew to Vegas on May 30th and I flew back on June 21st and in the 3+ weeks I was there I played basically no cash games. In fact, I put in three total plays and none of them were serious sessions. I did put in an 11.5 hour marathon $4/$8 LHE play at Red Rock Casino, but I considered that a day off from the tournament grind while playing some recreational poker with my wife. I also put in a 1.5 hour $4/$8 play at Red Rock, while my hosts were playing slot machines after watching a movie at the casino. Finally, I had a successful (+$335), albeit very short (3.5 hours), $8/$16 Omaha 8 session at the Orleans. This is notable because the filterable data on my phone goes back to August of 2014 and $8/$16 Omaha 8 has been my absolute worst game (by a long shot) and the Orleans has been my absolute worst location (for cash games… I did win their weekly H.O.R.S.E. tournament a few years ago). Needless to say, cash games were not my focus on this trip. When I wasn’t playing a tournament, or I busted early, I just took time off to study or relax.

I played 11 total tournaments during my 2017 WSOP trip.

I’ll start with the six non-WSOP tournaments I played in since they were mostly uneventful. I busted $400 and $600 Omaha 8 tournaments at Venetian, both of which I went relatively deep in and didn’t cash. I busted 12 spots off the money in a $465 H.O.R.S.E. at Aria, another deep run but one in which I never had any real momentum. I went to defend my title in the $250 8-Game Mix at Golden Nugget and I did not bring my A-game that day. I was up and down in this one, but I felt like I wasn’t playing very good most of the day. My focus and patience just weren’t there. Still, the experience was notable 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 hasn’t grown up much in the past year, but I also saw a side of him that suggests he isn’t a total dirtbag either. He had some friendly moments, so I don’t want to paint him as this constantly terrible presence at the poker table. Still, I can’t help but share an amazing exchange we had after a Razz hand we played. On 5th street I have 23-47A and his board is 92A and he raises my bet; I reraise and bet all the way after improving to a 6432A on 6th and win the pot, but then this magic happens:

Michael: I was a favorite when I raised (on 5th).
Me: Uh, I had a made 7.
Michael: I was drawing to a wheel.
Me: *speechless*
Michael: Check the math.

For those of you that don’t follow, not only do I have the best hand on 5th street, but I also have the same draw (to a wheel). I have now played with Michael Trivett twice and both times he has produced a classic moment attempting to berate me. I look forward to more encounters in the future!

I followed that 8-Game bust out with another O8 event at Golden Nugget and this time I got a min-cash by finishing in 16th, but it was really disappointing because I had double the average stack at dinner break and then came back and got scooped like four times in a row. I had basically no chips on the bubble though, so sneaking into the money felt kind of fortunate.

Finally, I played the $585 H.O.R.S.E. Championship at Binions and it was honestly kind of an embarrassing and humbling experience. First off, only 36 people entered. This wasn’t a bad thing since they had a $50K guaranteed prize pool and even with another Day One the next day, it didn’t seem likely they’d get enough entrants to meet the guarantee – so, a nice overlay. Secondly, the levels were long and the stacks were super deep. Thirdly, the field was incredibly weak – I knew I was the strongest player in room. I really felt like with the stacks that deep and the levels that long, I could overcome a lot of the variance and win that tournament way more often than my fair share. But I never had more than my starting stack and, despite the very forgiving amount of play, it was my second quickest exit of the summer. I thought I was going to print money and instead I couldn’t win a hand all day and I left frustrated and in disbelief. I don’t think my assessment of my skill level versus the field was incorrect, but it was still a good lesson in humility and I can admit that I didn’t make very good adjustments to exploit their weaknesses. I was kind of already feeling like I wanted to go home, but my performance in this event sealed the deal. I booked a flight home for the next day.

I was going to write one WSOP trip report, but in the interest of keeping my posts shorter (and thus, easier to publish), I will break it up into two parts. I played five WSOP events and I will talk about those tournaments in part 2 of my 2017 WSOP trip report.

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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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2016 – Year In Review (part 1)

January 3, 2017

I just read my 2015 Wrap Up again and there were a lot of positives in there. Notably, how beneficial our move to Tacoma was, how I felt about my new job, our new car, and just how it was the best year of my life in general. Well, somehow, my 2016 topped my 2015. By a lot. I have talked about my WSOP final table already in this blog post and that was one of the massive life-changing events that happened this year, but it was just the first of many huge positives last year.

In that 2015 post, I mentioned that the only negative still hanging over my head from my past mistakes was a $20,000+ medical debt for an appendectomy I had done in 2008 and have been running away from ever since. For years, I haven’t been able to use a bank account because the collection company had a lien on my account and were allowed to take whatever balance I had in my bank whenever a judge approved it, which seemed to be every few months or so. They got me pretty decent the first time, but I learned quick, and never kept any of my money in the bank. I would just deposit cash when I needed to pay a bill and then pay it online while I was still standing in front of the ATM. So they’d get like $3-$5 every few months, but every time they got a judgement on me they would add hundreds of dollars to my balance in administrative and lawyer fees.

It was just a huge, dark cloud hanging over my head that I had no idea how I was going to get rid of – but I certainly didn’t plan on paying it. I spoke to a bankruptcy lawyer about this debt, but I was informed that I could not file a Chapter 7 (that would wipe it out entirely for a small fee) but that I would have to file Chapter 13, which basically still required me to pay the amount in full over time via garnishments from my paychecks. Uh… no thanks.

I had made the decision that I was going to have to quit my job so that I could qualify for a Chapter 7 when my wife spoke to one of the local poker players who was a retired lawyer and he offered to help us with the situation. He advised me to go to the court where my case file was and have a look. He wanted me to find something specific, but as I was looking through the file I found approval for garnishments for my income at Silver City Restaurant and All Star Lanes – my two previous jobs. I had no idea they were after my wages. I had quit both those jobs just a few months before they were about to start garnishing me. They had been after my wages since late 2011 and as of spring 2016 they still hadn’t caught up to me. But it was only a matter of time.

However, I found the document the laywer/player told me to look at (I forget the official title) but I discovered exactly what I needed to. They tried to serve me papers at my parents’ house, but never actually handed the documents to me. My dad refused to take them, so they just dropped them in the driveway. After doing some research, and with the help of a previous landlord, it was discovered that the date they served me the papers I had already established residency somewhere else… and just like that, I had a case – and someone to present it for me.

It was really that easy. My lawyer contacted the collection agency, sent over documents my former landlord provided and BOOM! Case dismissed. Not only did I get that entire debt erased, but I was refunded all the money they took from me over the years too. I’ll get to all the awesome poker stuff in a minute, but in a lot of ways, this was the best thing that happened to me in 2016. I mean, what a relief. I didn’t have to quit my job. I didn’t have to file bankruptcy. I didn’t have to pay back over $20,000. It was totally unbelievable. I can’t thank the lawyer who helped me enough. He probably has no idea how much pressure he has taken off our shoulders. Even though I didn’t feel the affect of this debt on a day-to-day basis, it still loomed over me like a dark cloud and it was eventually going to affect my life in a very bad way if something didn’t happen. Much like driving a car without a breathalyzer for the first time in five years in 2015, it was strange to have full use of a bank account again in 2016 with no worries that the money in it might be snatched up at any time.

I don’t want to give off the impression that I was in the right here. I originally had this medical bill cut in half and I was on a payment plan that allowed me to pay $30 a month, interest free, for basically eternity. It was a pretty fair and awesome arrangement, all things considered. I could have followed that process and paid it off in a few decades and everything would have been fine and it would have been at little cost to me financially in the short term. But I was stubborn and I just thought it was wildly unfair that I had to pay such an enormous fee for a medical procedure that I had to get or I would probably die. Pay $20k or die. Whatever happened to saving people’s lives without raping them at the same time? Anyways, my rebellion against The System was immature and not very well thought out. It made my life inconvenient for years and was very close to being devastating. I ended up getting the best of it in the end, but only because I got lucky – and I’m not really proud of it. Certainly it would have been plenty easy to just pay the $30 a month.

Still, I’m not sad about it either!

Now on to the poker. Let’s take a look at the goals I set for 2016 and how well I did at achieving them.

play 1250 hours

I knew this was a pretty soft goal when I set it, so it’s not too surprising that I smashed it with 1591.5 total hours in live games this year. Interestingly, my volume from January to April – when I was still working my day job – was 142 hours per month and my volume from October to December – when I’ve been playing full time – has dropped to 132 hours per month. I do think there is a reasonable explanation for this, but I’ll get to that next. I played my most hours (185) in June when I was at the WSOP and I played my least amount of hours (101) in August when I went on a road trip with my wife that only included one poker day.

Do the Advanced Poker Training weekly challenge every week and spend at least an hour a week playing hands on APT

Unfortunately, I have been a bit disappointed with this training site. I bought a lifelong membership because the price seemed too good to pass up, but I have found the AI on the site to be unbelievably bad at times. I don’t want to get into all the details of what feels wrong about it, but I’ll just say I don’t feel like the site does a great job of simulating actual poker games. I still find use for the site though and the weekly hand challenges are still on my to do list every week, although I probably played less than half of them all year. On the bright side APT has forever to improve things – my membership never expires! I can’t help but feel any number of training sites would have been a better investment. Any site that offers a plethora of video instruction is more constructive by default.

I feel good about my lack of participation here for one reason only. I have decided to treat Ignition Poker like an online poker training site. I feel like if CardPlayer can advertise for them in their magazine then I can talk freely about playing on the site. I mean, it’s just for play money anyway, right? Right?! Well, after having a sizable amount of money locked up on Full Tilt for years following the Black Friday fiasco, I don’t trust the procedure enough to try to make real money at my normal stakes, so the goal is to sharpen my skills playing micro stakes at things I don’t get to play as often; like tournaments, pot limit Omaha, no limit hold em, etc. So the reason I feel okay about my slight volume dip in the last three months of 2016 is because I’ve put in over 300 “training” hours online during that time. That number isn’t as massive as it sounds though, as I almost always play at least two tables at a time and when I’m playing tournaments, I frequently register for as many as six at a time. So I would guess that the actual number of hours I’ve played online is significantly less than half of 300.

Obviously I have found playing against real people for “real” money to be far more rewarding than the simulated stuff on APT and it has really helped keep my tournament game sharp, in particular. Normally, I only play tournaments when a series comes up, which averages out to about two a month for the year, but online I’ve had numerous nights where I’ve played 15-20 tournaments in one sitting.

Play 150 hours of Omaha 8 or better and maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate

I came up short here, on both portions of the goal. I only played 110 hours and I ran at -0.61 BB/HR overall. Obviously, I’m not going to draw any conclusions from a 110 hour sample size, as it means very little in the grand scheme of things. I did fine in $15/$30 and $10/$20 games but I got crushed at $8/$16. I lost almost $1500 in 35 hours in the $8/$16 O8 @ The Orleans in Vegas which is kind of absurd. For whatever reason, I was not allowed to turn over a winner at showdown in that casino. I also played in the $1500 O8 event at the WSOP and whiffed it, so Omaha was definitely not a profitable venture for me in 2016.

In addition to the previous stats, I also played 35.5 hours of O8 online and ran at -0.49 BB/HR while turning a profit – which means I did well in the big games and bad in the small ones. I played three O8 tourneys online, cashing one of them, which actually happened to be a first place finish.

Between tournaments and cash games online, I played about 25 hours of PLO or PLO8 and lost a little bit of money, even though I finished with a positive win rate in the cash games.

There is obviously plenty of room for improvement in my Omaha game. I can play a fine ABC game, which should actually make money in the long run, but my hand-reading skills and ability to figure out how to exploit opponents seem minimal.

Play 100 hours of no limit cash games

I played seven hours in live no limit cash games over four separate sessions, which means I went to the casino for the sole reason of playing NLHE exactly zero times in 2016. I managed to win about $1000 over these four sessions, which is pretty remarkable considering I only played in $1/$2 games last year – the final win rate comes out to over 138 big blinds an hour! I stopped in Harrahs during the wee hours of the morning on my way back from my real session to donk around a bit before going to bed a couple of times and I was playing a hyper-aggressive game and decided that I couldn’t fold the AQ suited preflop considering my image and wound up getting 150 big blinds in against pocket aces. I did not lose that hand. These are the kinds of things that can happen in the short run that can skew a player’s interpretation of their results. I did not crush the NLHE games in my incredibly small sample size… I got stupid lucky in one big pot and it made up a significant portion of my NLHE profit for the year.

I’m not upset about missing out on my goal here. At the end of the day, becoming an expert NLHE cash game player just doesn’t make a ton of sense for me. With 20/40 limit hold em regularly available every day of the week relatively nearby there’s just no need for me to make the transition in Washington state and even when I’m in Vegas I can find big games that are better tailored to my expertise. I might go back to playing at Muckleshoot on Super Sundays, but other than that, I don’t feel compelled to start playing more live NLHE.

With that said, this is one of the skills I don’t mind developing slowly at micro stakes online. I played roughly 18.5 hours the last few months and lost about 44 big blinds an hour. Obviously, both the samples I just presented are incredibly small, but I don’t doubt that my NLHE cash game ability needs a lot of work.

Play 3-5 WSOP events – Cash a WSOP event

I actually ended up playing in five total events. I have already written a long blog post about my final table run and third place finish in WSOP Event #1 – and you can watch the whole final table on YouTube by starting here: WSOP Event #1 (Part 1). So obviously a great start to my WSOP that helped me achieve a ton of my goals for the year.

Next up was the Colossus, which I managed to hang around in until the money. I think they had four different day 1 flights and each flight paid 15% of the field. I don’t remember too much about this event now except that my initial table draw was far more favorable than it was in 2015, which had multiple notable pros at it. I also remember moving tables after cashing and being incredibly impressed with everything about Taylor Paur’s game. This guy is one of the best tournament players in the world right now. He currently ranks #63 on the Global Poker Index and has over $4 million in lifetime cashes. He’s in the top 30 on California’s all-time money list, which is pretty impressive considering almost all of his volume has come since 2011. Anyways, his whole demeanor at the table was on point. He played a ton of hands and was plenty intimidating, but he was also quite friendly when people made conversation with him. He was basically a total beast.

As is usually the case when I play with a high level pro, I lost a very big, key pot to Taylor… when I had him crushed. I was relatively short when I first moved tables, but found myself doubled up back into a playable stack pretty quickly. Taylor opened in front of me and I decided to flat call with AQ because I realized that if Taylor four bet me I was just never going to fold the hand and I felt I was too deep to put all my chips in preflop. The flop came down A9x with two clubs on board and Taylor made a standard continuation bet. I just called because that’s a huge flop for me – it’s super dry and I’m in position against someone I view to be overly aggressive. I wanted him to keep putting chips in the pot. The turn card brought the 9 of clubs and he bet again. I had the Q of clubs in my hand and called again. The river bricked off and he fired a bet that was probably in the 60-75% pot range. I thought for about zero seconds and called and he showed me Q9 for trips. I was back to a short stack after that and I didn’t last much longer. I have to say I’m not super happy about that hand. I like my postflop plan: I flopped huge and let my opponent barrel into me on all three streets and I was never planning to fold. Obviously I got super unlucky; first that he caught his two outer on the turn, and second that I missed my 11 out redraw on the river. What I don’t like about the hand is my preflop thinking. I knew Taylor was opening way too many hands and AQ should be punishing that range. It’s too good to flat with in this situation. I was too deep to want to get stacks in preflop – which very well might have happened if he four bet – but that’s no excuse for not making the right play and if he did four bet me, well, time to gamble. Still, I locked up my second consecutive WSOP cash in this event, albeit a pretty small one.

My next event was the $1500 H.O.R.S.E. and my starting table featured the likes of Karina Jett ($500k in tournament cashes), Carol Fuchs ($316k), Ryan Tepen ($943k), and Shannon Shorr ($6.13M). I can’t really remember any interesting hands as it has been nearly half a year since I played this event, but I spent a good portion of the latter part of day 1 playing at Norman Chad’s table and I have to say the experience wasn’t as fun as you might think it would be. This is a guy that clearly turns it “on” for the cameras. He was friendly enough, but I saw basically zero of the personality he has during his ESPN commentaries. Amy Schumer mentions in her recent book The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo that she is an introvert, which is surprising given her chosen profession as a stand up comedian, and my take was that Norman Chad is the same way – a dude that seems like a total extrovert but that would probably just rather be left alone when he’s in public. No judgement here: I’m the same way. On the other hand, Carol Fuchs and Karina Jett were both super nice.

I finished day 1 with a sizable stack, thinking that I was almost certain to cash and that I was in a great position to make another final table run. Carol Fuchs even went out of her way to tell me how well she thought I played, which was a pretty cool compliment. I can’t recall exactly, but I believe I started day 2 in the top 20-30% of all chip stacks. I met Ian Johns, a pro from Washington state that specializes in limit hold em, at my new table and he started the day with less than 2000 in chips, which was one or two big bets at the time, I think – he was in what poker people like to call “the dead zone.” Well, he won the first pot he played, more than doubling up, and eventually built up a stack that would take him to the final table and ultimately win him the bracelet in this event. It was a super impressive run and yet another story of why you should never give up in a tournament, no matter how grim things look at the moment. Ian would also go on to win the $10k limit hold em bracelet to cap off a huge summer. Meeting Ian Johns actually changed my whole perspective on what I want my career to look like. He has proven that you can succeed on an every day basis and at the WSOP even if you primarily focus only on games that have a fixed structure, which is definitely my specialty.

Unlike Ian, things didn’t go my way on day 2 and I never picked up any momentum. Still, I had a decent stack when this very key pot came up with around 125 players left. We were less than ten spots off the money when a player with a 7 up in stud high completed the bet in front of me. I started with a T up and AK in the hole, so I was very happy to reraise and get heads up against someone that likely had split 7s. I caught a Q, an 8, and a blank to complete my open board and continued to fire as my opponent’s board also bricked out. On 7th street, I caught bad again and finished with Ace high but since my opponent had played his hand like he hadn’t improved, I just had to fire one last bullet and hope he would lay down his pair. He did not. He called me all the way down unimproved and I was left decimated. I busted shortly after that, 7 spots shy of my third consecutive WSOP cash. I was pretty mad at myself for punting my whole stack so close to the money bubble, but in retrospect, I think I played the hand fine. I had five overs to my opponent’s pair, plus a gutshot to Broadway, on 5th street and I really feel keeping the pressure on was the correct play. On 7th street, my bluff doesn’t have to succeed very often to be profitable and I obviously found myself in a position where I had to bet to win. Still, it was quite the eye opener coming off multiple days of having things really go my way. I never even considered the possibility that I wouldn’t cash this event until I lost this pot. It was a good reminder to stay grounded and not get ahead of myself.

I feel like this post is getting really long winded and I’m not even close to being done, so I’m going to go ahead and publish this as part one and I will have part two up tonight or Thursday.

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2016 World Series Of Poker Trip Report – WSOP #1: $565 Casino Employee Event

July 7, 2016

Live Stream Link: WSOP Event #1 (Part 1)

I’m not going to go into details again about how disappointing my trips to the World Series Of Poker have been prior to 2016, but I can sum up by saying that I was 0-4 lifetime in WSOP events and I think 0-9 total in tournaments at the Rio, including a pretty big choke ten spots off the money in my first ever bracelet event. Every time I looked at the Rio while passing by, I just shake my head in disbelief – it was my worst casino of all-time.

My goal for 2016 was pretty simple: I just wanted to cash one gosh damn time and get the monkey off my back.

My third try in the $565 Casino Industry event that kicks off the WSOP every year got off to a pretty poor start. I chipped down quickly and soon found myself on the rail, but when the Tournament Director was doing his original announcements I discovered that we could actually re-enter if we busted in the first six levels. This was good news and as far as I can recall, this is new for Event #1. Obviously, I promptly re-entered and then the Boom Switch activated.

With my standard stack size of ten big blinds I found a double up with AQ when I turned an Ace to run down my opponent’s pocket kings. Shortly after, I ran QQ into KK all in pre and flopped a set, building my stack up to 30k. I almost found another cooler reversal after a button vs. small blind raising war resulted in my opponent getting all in pre with QQ vs my TT, when the flop came AJT, but the K on the turn gave him broadway and I bricked the river. This unfortunate run out left me just above average chip stack about 100 off the money.

When the money bubble approached, I was where I always seem to be in these situations: sitting on a ten big blind stack. As I’ve noted in previous blog posts, one of the biggest changes I’ve made in my game in the past year or so, is recognizing that hands that are +EV to push in typical small stack situations need to be reconsidered on the bubble and this adjustment has not only increased my rate of cashing, it has also helped me ladder up deeper in tournaments. I managed to nit my way into my first WSOP cash, but as fast as I patted myself on the back for cashing, I just as quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be much of an accomplishment until I actually made a profit – which, with two bullets fired, still required me to outlast 25% of the remaining field.

And then I kept on luck boxing my way into a playable stack. Being in the money, my ICM considerations weren’t really factoring in and I found myself jamming my remaining 6 bigs with the QJ offsuit from UTG1. It folded around to the big blind who had slightly more chips than I did and he went into the tank for quite some time before finding a call with A9 – which is a pretty trivial call IMO. Anyways, after a standard shove followed by a standard call, I found myself on the bad side of a 40/60 match-up that turned into a 20/80 after we saw the T86 all heart flop, with him holding a heart and me not – or as my favorite poker player and Run It Up ringleader Jason Somerville would say: “Fuck City.” I bricked the turn, dropping my winning chances down to 15% and boom, Q of clubs on the river for a double up. Wow.

Immediately following this hand, I looked down at the AJ offsuit from under the gun. I now had about around 13 or 14 big blinds and found myself in a pretty awkward spot. I feel like raise-folding with my stack size is pretty spewy and plenty exploitable and I strongly considered just open-folding, but after some consideration, I determined that was too weak and decided to open-jam. In hind sight, I think it’s pretty close, but I’m leaning towards thinking it’s a fold. I’m not exactly desperate with 14 bigs and I’m sure I can find some better spots to get my stack in. While I’m going to win the blinds and antes quite frequently, when I do get called, I don’t think I ever have the best hand and from first position, I have to get that jam through the whole table. Anyways, I did run into a monster as someone called with pocket kings, but I wind up making a one card flush on the river with the jack of spades. Unreal! At this point, my stack is significantly above average at 76k and I’ve reached the point where I’ve actually made money on my first WSOP cash! I can now feel good about achieving my goal!

Not too long after my AJ miracle, I open to 9k at 2000/4000 with QQ and it folds around to the player I doubled through and he winds up jamming his 35k stack in and there’s nothing to think about here with two queens, but I did have a feeling he was having a blow up. He was, showing the A8 offsuit after I snap called. Unfortunately, the board ran out 94288 and he steamed his way to a significant double up through me. Still, I could hardly complain as I felt like I was freerolling this tournament many times over by now.

After that speed bump, I started to rush again, doubling up with AJ against AT and then finding JJ vs TT to bust a player. By the end of Day 1, I bagged up a slightly below average 117k with 23 players left. TEN BIG BLINDS.

For Day 2, the tournament moved into the Amazon to the Thunder Dome for the final three tables. I was well prepared on how I was going to play my ten big blind stack, but it all became moot when I found myself all in with QQ vs KK 15 minutes into the new day. Honestly, at that moment, I was sure it was over. I felt like I had used up all the run good I could possibly have. I had already been all in for my tournament life with less than 45% equity four times and doubled up on all four hands. This is just what happens to me deep into major tournaments: I get coolered or unlucky and find myself hitting the rail, feeling disappointed and wondering when I’m finally going to have a breakthrough. I couldn’t possibly pull of another miracle… and when the board read 3236 after four cards, I was already mentally busted from the tournament, but then the dealer brought a Q on the river and all I could say was “wow” in total disbelief. No. Fucking. Way. And that was it. I just said “wow” and shook my head. No celebration. Not even a smile. I’ve been on the other side of that devastating loss plenty of times. There’s no skill in spiking a two outer on the river when all the chips are in preflop, just as there is no skill involved in coolering someone’s pocket queens with pocket kings. It’s just variance – and in this tournament, variance happened to be looking very fondly on me. I’m just never going to rub that in my opponent’s face by celebrating after sucking out in brutal fashion in an extremely critical spot. I guess it happens in sports all the time, but something about doing it at the poker table feels really tacky to me.

However, after that hand, I really started to think that I just might be destined to win this bracelet. I can’t ever remember getting so lucky that many times in a single poker tournament, particularly in the deep stages. I wasn’t just winning flips, I was winning when I was CRUSHED.

With two tables left, I won a huge flip with TT vs AK and found myself sitting around 350k, which had me primed for a final table visit. I played a rare flop in a relatively large pot with KK where I c-bet the flop, checked back in position when the turn brought a 4-card straight in the 789TJ range and then decided to fold when my opponent led out on the ace river. It’s a hand that I’d love to know what he had, but I just couldn’t come up with many hands that I could beat on the river and even some of his bluffing range was good (the smaller two pair hands might think they had to bluff to win a showdown). That hand brought me down to 200k, but with 12 left, I won another flip with 44 vs KQ and not too long after that I found myself holding the chip lead at the final table of a World Series Of Poker bracelet event. Is this real life? I mean, I’ve always felt like I could eventually contend for bracelets but I just never expected it to happen this soon, even though I have started to final table some bigger events recently. What a totally surreal experience.

The official final table bubble lasted an incredibly brutal two hours. Two full levels passed without losing the next player, with everyone playing tight and trying to ladder up and the short stacks doubling up every time there was an all in confrontation. During this time, I lost a big flip and some other smaller pots and found myself with less than half the chips I had at my peak by the time the bubble bursted and we all moved center stage in the Thunder Dome to play for the bracelet and $75,000 up top.

Next thing I know we are being instructed on how to position our hole cards and avoid blocking the overhead cameras for the live stream and my buddy Vince is posting links to the stream on my Facebook post and I can feel the panic start to creep in. I’ve had stage fright issues my whole life – I never gave a speech in class without feeling like I’d rather die and my rap “career” never blossomed because I simply could not perform in front of people. I even had anxiety when I was recording most of the time, despite the fact that my writing ability was honestly ELITE. I have also battled confidence issues that I rather recently realize stem from being wrongfully cut from an all star baseball roster when I was in my early teens. I was always one of the best players on my teams growing up and never had a problem performing on a baseball diamond until that moment, but from then on, I felt an almost unbearable pressure when a ball was hit my way or I was standing at the plate to hit. I choked countless times and performed FAR below my level of ability all the way through high school baseball. I suspect almost no one that knows me even realized how much this affected me and it seems to have carried on with me as an adult in many ways. It’s kind of baffling to me how no one that coached me recognized my problem or knew how to correct it. Anyways, as if the pressure of being center stage, knowing I was being filmed wasn’t enough, when I saw Vince post that streaming link for all my friends to follow, well, I could feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety come over me. I told him to take the link down. If I made a huge mistake, I really didn’t want it to be on full display for all my friends to see. Now, I’m not going to suggest that I have resolved my confidence problems entirely, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I was at a WSOP final table and pretty much no one I know personally can say they’ve done the same thing and I realized that no matter what happened, I had to be proud of my accomplishment and likely, so would everyone else. While I got absurdly lucky in this tournament, I know for a fact that I belong at that table and that it won’t be the last time I get there either. With all this in mind, I was able to find my comfort zone and be at peace with the situation. It’s tough for me to admit some of that, but I’ve never been one to hold back in my writing.

At the official FT, we weren’t allowed to use phones at the table, so I mostly stopped posting updates on Facebook that I can easily reiterate here, but I know there were three massive all in confrontations in a short period and when all the dust cleared, I was the player that ultimately suffered the most. Two short stacks got lucky on back to back hands and instead of laddering up two spots, I found myself doubling up one of them when my AQ lost a race to 66 and put me back in short stack territory. I managed to ladder up a couple spots anyway and then I doubled with 77 vs 22 and busted a player in a blind vs blind confrontation when I picked up 44 vs 33. With 5 players left, while sitting on the shortest stack, my most critical hand came up and I wasn’t even in it. One of the big stacks raised under the gun and it folded to the chip leader in the big blind, who defended. After a flop check and call, they got it all in on the turn with the board reading TdJd8d9x and the big blind holding a straight flush and the other player holding a king high flush (and not drawing dead!). Absolutely sick. So with 5 left, the player in second position and a massive stack, winds up busting, and I ladder up with my very short stack. It was quite the coup.

With four players left, I realized I had to pee. I had to pee BAD. There was about an hour until the next break and I asked the TD if we could take an impromptu break so I could go and he refused my request. The next 45 minutes or so have to be some of the most agonizing moments of my entire life. Can you imagine playing on a WSOP final table, with four players left, and pay jumps approaching tens of thousands of dollars, and having to pee worse than you ever have? I had a short stack and it’s not like the bathrooms were nearby. I really couldn’t afford to miss any hands. If you ever happen to watch the live stream, you’ll notice that with about four players left, I am basically never in my seat when I’m not in a hand. I’m walking around the table in total agony. Needless to say, there is no way I could have been on my A-game while this was happening and it honestly baffles me that the WSOP staff would force me to suffer under such conditions. It’s the Casino Industry event – we all work for a living and are likely playing for life-changing money. It’s inexcusable IMO. I doubt they would make Daniel Negreanu jump around the Thunder Dome holding his crotch like an idiot. Well, I outlasted another player during this and managed to make it to the break, but I imagine I made some mistakes in the duration and it’s kind of hard for me to forgive them of the offense. I even asked the remaining players if it was okay and they agreed. Ugh.

I didn’t last long after the break, eventually shoving my short stack in with J8 offsuit on the button. I think I had like 4-6 big blinds, but having that sized stack playing 3-handed is MUCH different than having it at a full table. I could have maybe waited another orbit, but I was close to having no fold equity and it’s critical to have enough chips that you can win the pot without a showdown. The big blind woke up with the K9 and called and I was not able to produce another miracle.

I finished 3rd for just over $32,000. It was an incredible experience and despite my early discomforts, it was a total blast playing on the final table. And just like that, I crossed off most of my major goals for 2016 and the Rio went from being my all-time worst casino to being my all-time BEST.

I initially meant to post a whole trip report, but this was much longer than I anticipated, so I’ll post the rest later. I will also add some pictures and the live stream link when I get a chance.

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2016 Poker Update – January through April

May 6, 2016

I’ve been struggling to update my blog regularly lately, so a week into May I’m somehow just now writing my first blog about my 2016 poker results.

Well, my year started off amazing… like so good, it was feeling surreal. For the first three months of the year, I was trending at $33.53 an hour in all forms of poker and was well on my way to having what could be my best year ever. By far. In fact, March 2016 was the best month of gambling I’ve had since June of 2005, when I turned a $150 deposit on Poker Room into a $25,000 bankroll. Some of you might not know how that story ended. Less than a year later, I had -$900 in my bank account, I was unemployed and homeless – I had to move back in with my parents – and I was starting to lose my battle with alcoholism. It would take half a decade before I returned to sustained success at the poker table. So even though I had an amazing run in the summer of 2005, it was merely a run of good variance that I rode all the way up to the $20/$40 level on Party Poker. Back then, I didn’t understand anything about variance or bankroll management, so it’s no surprise I eventually went broke – and I would do so again many times over the next several years. So when I think about my poker career, I really consider 2011 the start of it… and May 2016 was my best month since then.

And then April 2016 was my worst month. I posted zero wins in my first eight $8/$16 sessions and I wasn’t just posting losses, I was getting trounced. During that stretch, a -$406 session was my second best result. At my worst, I was down over 250 big bets at the $8/$16 level for the month. I managed to shave about half of that off before it was all said and done, so while things could have been worse, it still resulted in my worst month since January 2011.

Here’s a look at how my goals are shaping up:

Play 1250 hours

Through the end of April, I had played 573 hours of poker which puts me on a pace that would exceed 1700 hours of live play. That’s even more hours than I played last year and honestly, a week into May, I’m exhausted. I’m averaging over 140 hours a month of poker play – and I work 30 hours a week at my day job. That’s over 260 hours of work a month so far. Needless to say, it’s drastically decreased my quality of life away from the casino. I’ve posted very little on my blog; I’ve seen three movies in theaters this year and I still haven’t seen a number of the more important films from 2015 (The Big Short, Spotlight, The Martian, Creed); and, most importantly, I can feel the strain it’s putting on my marriage. Lastly, I just never relax and taking some time off to just do nothing is probably an underrated factor in my long term success. Certainly it would behoove me to spend more time working on my game away from the tables that I don’t learning curve doesn’t become stagnant. So, going forward, I will be taking more time off poker so I can maintain a semblance of balance in my life.

Play 150 hours of Omaha 8 or better and maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate

So far I’ve played 10 sessions of Omaha, totaling 33 hours, for a net loss of -$6 (and actually I got killed in a $10/$20 session on May 4th that I’m not including those results). Of course, these results are basically worthless, but one thing I can make note of is that my average session has been less than 4 hours each. In fact, I’ve only played one session that reached 8 hours in length. Of course, part of the issue is that five of these sessions have either been warm ups for other games or just killing time. It’s probably unlikely that I will achieve my goal of playing 150 hours of O8, especially since the game at Clearwater is a good 90 minutes away now and the game in Renton is on Mondays when I work my day job. So the majority of my O8 play will probably happen when I take poker trips to play big tournament series like the WSOP next month.

Play 100 hours of no limit cash games

Eek. Through 4 months I’ve played one NL cash game session for just over one hour and a profit of $39. With Super Sundays at Muckleshoot falling on Sundays when I work, I just haven’t made getting into NL cash games a priority. It’s pretty difficult to justify making the trip to Auburn when I am mashing an $8/$16 game ten minutes away from home.

Do the Advanced Poker Training weekly challenge every week and spend at least an hour a week playing hands on APT

I’ve done a number of the APT weekly challenges, but certainly not all of them. Maybe not even half. I did simulate a bunch of MTTs leading up to the Muckleshoot Spring Classic with settings mirrored to match those of the events I planned to play. While there are aspects of the software that I find laughable at times, a one time payment for a lifetime membership has already been justified. Still, I could spend more time on the website improving my game away from the table.

Play 3-5 WSOP events

I’m just now starting to sell action for the 2016 WSOP. I’ve already booked a flight to Vegas on May 31st to play the $565 NLHE Casino Employee Event the next day, the $565 NLHE Colossus later that week, and the $1500 H.O.R.S.E. on June 7th. My wife and I are also both playing the $1500 Omaha 8 or Better event in mid June. Finally, I am planning to play the $1500 NLHE Monster Stack the last week of June, but I have not booked a flight for that trip yet. I’m looking to sell up to 60% of my action for the $1500 events and I’ve already capped my sold pieces at 30% for the smaller events. Let’s get it!

Cash a WSOP event

I actually accomplished this goal already, unexpectedly. In late February I made the trip to Vegas to play the WSOP Circuit stop at Ballys and while I didn’t cash either of the events I went to play – the $250 H.O.R.S.E. and the $330 Monster Stack – I final tabled a $330 NLHE event that I only decided to play last minute. I came back on the second day of the tournament with a short stack and I decided to take a different approach to short stack tournament poker and it paid off handsomely. Rather than getting my chips in the middle every time I had a +EV push, I passed up on some marginally profitable jamming situations with the intentions of hanging around and laddering up. I’m not going to debate the merits of this approach here, but so far I am happy with the results it has produced. I ended up final tabling with quite a few notable WSOPc grinders, including current Card Player 2016 Player Of The Year front-runner Ari Engel. I eventually found a super sexy spot where I was able to jam 17 bigs over an open and a flat with AK, but wound up losing the race when the flatter found a call with 77. But I managed to score my first WSOP cash, a final table no less, and binked my second $5000 score in less than five months. Still, while a WSOPc cash will show up on my WSOP resume, it will even more legitimate when I get it done at the Rio this summer. With 5 events lined up, I like my chances, especially with how well I’ve been doing in tournaments lately.

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

Here’s where my poker game has suffered the most. When you’re running pure and nothing feels challenging, it’s easy to get complacent about the mental game. I’ve literally spent next to zero time working on my mental game away from the table in 2016. I was crushing it, so why bother? So when things finally got brutal in April, I was ill prepared. I said I was done for the month after multiple sessions… but then the mental game work I’ve put in the past few years kicked in and I told myself not to be a wimp and get in there and play. And I wound up cutting my losses for the month nearly in half. So while my mental game probably hasn’t progressed much this year, it’s refreshing to know that I’ve built up enough skill that I can battle through the darkest of times and that the accumulated tilt doesn’t last nearly as long as it used to. The extra time off going forward will open up more time for me to continue developing my mental muscle.

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

For the first three months of the year, I was running pure, trending at 1.74 BB/HR over 315 hours of play through the end of March. Looking at a graph of my results, I had very little negative variance, with my biggest valleys being about -60 big bets and my plateaus lasting maybe a week before I’d go back to crushing. As noted earlier, I finally experienced some extended negative variance in April and my win rate sat at exactly 1 BB/HR entering May 2016.

Reach a $30,000 bankroll

Here’s where things get really disappointing. Despite being on pace for what would be my best year of poker ever, my bankroll is actually less now than when the year started. There are a number of reasons why this has happened – some of which I won’t go into detail here – but it’s incredibly frustrating. Still, even with basically no forward progress, I think I will manage this goal before the year is over.

That sums up my progress towards my 2016 poker goals. It’s bittersweet. My results have been borderline fantastic – on top of my WSOPc final table, I also made multiple deep runs in the Muckleshoot Spring Classic (two cashes) and another deep run in the Spring Round Up in Pendleton, Oregon. All told, I’ve cashed 5 of 11 major events I’ve played so far this year for an ROI of 83% and I’ve been a hand or two going the other way from cashing for tens of thousands of dollars. So the results have been good, but I’ve been running myself into the ground and I haven’t put enough time into my game away from the tables as I should. So here’s to hoping for a more relaxing, but even more profitable summer in the upcoming months!

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2016 Poker Goals

January 6, 2016

My goals for 2016 aren’t fully realized just yet, but I have a pretty good idea of what I want to accomplish so I’ll go ahead and share some of them.

Play 1250 hours

Even though this number is less than the amount of volume I put in last year, I think it’s a reasonable target. It would allow for me to play three 8 hour sessions a week, which is probably my happy zone, considering I work 30 hours a week at my day job. I will probably end up crushing this goal, but I just like to have a Mendoza Line for how much poker I need to play in order to keep myself satisfied.

Play 150 hours of Omaha 8 or better and maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate

As noted in my 2015 wrap up, I am pretty disappointed in my results in Omaha games. Granted, I haven’t put in a ton of volume – probably not even enough to have meaningful results – but I know I can do better. I can feel myself doing fishy things – limping with hands I should probably be folding, calling on the flop with non-premium draws, etc. – so there’s tangible room for improvement. Part of my problem is that my limit hold em game has evolved to the point where my playing style is almost entirely exploitive and I’m hyper-aware of what’s going on. I do not have the same game feel in Omaha, and yet, I feel myself wanting to remain unpredictable when my experience level probably calls for me to simply nit it up. Even so, I can see some improvement happening. My big cash last year was in an O8 tournament, so I actually won considerable money in the variant last year (no thanks to my cash game performance), and a hand from that final table stands out: in this hand, I flopped a ten high flush and value bet it to the river; by this point, the board was paired and I had rivered a wheel, but my opponent was now raising me after calling the two previous streets. To me, it was perfectly clear that I was being raised by a wheel, so I three bet with my ten high flush confident that I was quartering my opponent. He called and tabled the wheel just as I suspected and I took 75% of a critical pot. But when I tabled my hand, there was some commentary that implied my three bet on the river may have been reckless. Perhaps that sentiment is right, in general, but in this specific spot, the flow of the hand made it rather apparent, to me, that I was quartering my opponent. This is the kind of laser awareness that I frequently have while playing hold em, but I rarely feel it when I’m playing Omaha. I’m hoping to change that in 2016. My current plan is to play two sessions a month at Clearwater Casino in their $10/$20 O8 game and I tend to gravitate to the O8 cash games whenever I have time to play in Vegas.

Play 100 hours of no limit cash games

At some point, my game simply has to evolve to the point where I am a small to medium stakes no limit cash game expert. I feel like my win rate in an $8-$16 limit game has a ceiling of somewhere around $25/hour, whereas $40+/hour should be attainable in a $3-$5 no limit game. Last year I only played 40 hours of NL cash and the biggest reasons for my reluctance to play a ton of volume are: a) $3-$5 is a pretty high starting point – I’m super conservative with my bankroll and I still feel like playing in that game is kind of like taking a shot; b) I feel like a novice at a NL cash game table; and c) in my limited experience of playing live NL cash games, I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of short term bad luck – I’ve had AA < KK twice, KK < AA twice, and the one time I had KK > AA my opponent had a short stack. In what probably amounts to less than 200 hours of live no limit play for my career, it’s absurd how many times I’ve ran Kings into Aces, or vice versa, all with bad to terrible results. I’ve had a number of other bad connections where I can remember getting felted. To sum up, I’ve experienced the feeling of being the stackee far more times than feeling of being the stacker and it has left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to NL cash games. Still, I can’t imagine having a future as a full time poker player if I’m not a NL cash game expert, so I want to start developing that muscle this year. My current plan is to play the Muckleshoot $3-$5 game at least once a month on Fridays when it’s at its juiciest and I may try to play once a month on Wednesdays as well, although the games are probably far less attractive in the middle of the week.

Do the Advanced Poker Training weekly challenge every week and spend at least an hour a week playing hands on APT

The last thing I want to do is help my opponents improve, but anyone that reads Card Player magazine probably knows this online poker training site exists, so if you’re willing to spend the money to join up, go ahead.  My wife got me a lifetime membership to this site for Christmas and I have to say I’m super impressed with the operation. A ton of notable pros (Jonathan Little, Scott Clements, Lauren Kling, Ed Miller) are active participants and the site allows me to practice specific tournament situations with specific hands and simulate live NL cash games without having to risk any money. One of the coolest things I’ve been able to do on the site is set up a tournament that mimics the structure of an event I’m about to play and simulates the level of talent I expect to face, without having to wait in between decision points. It’s a pretty sick site and I expect it to do wonders for my tournament and NL cash games as long as I put in the work.

Play 3-5 WSOP events

I’m ready to step up my WSOP volume, starting this year. I’ve played in two WSOP events in each of the past two years and so far I’ve gone 0 for 4. This year I’m planning to play the Casino Industry event and probably the Colossus again, but I also want to expand into some $1500 events. I know for sure I want to play a $1500 H.O.R.S.E. and $1500 Razz event and I think I’d also like to play the $1500 Monster Stack NL event. The WSOP hasn’t released a full schedule yet, so while I know I’ll be in Vegas the first week of June, I don’t know how the rest of the schedule is going to pan out. Also, I’m hoping the first quarter of 2016 is extremely lucrative for me, otherwise playing in $5500+ worth of tournaments in a month isn’t very practical – unless I have substantial backing, which is certainly possible.

Cash a WSOP event

With four WSOP events under my belt and as many as five planned for 2016, I would be running below average not to find a cash in my first nine WSOP events. Certainly cashing an event would help my cause to play more events this year… and it would also help achieve my goal of netting another career high tournament score. 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.

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

I’ve read most of Vol. 1 multiple times and it has done wonders for my mental game… but I still haven’t fully absorbed the material and there is still a ton of room for improvement. I’m pretty confident that one of my biggest edges in my normal game is how tough I am mentally (bankroll is another big one). The standard swings of the game have little affect on my mental state and basically no affect on my actual play while the majority of my opponents’ games fall of a cliff after a difficult hour and sometimes after losing a single, critical pot. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to mental game issues – far from it. I saw plenty of kinks in my armor as I struggled in the final quarter of 2015. It’s one thing to read the material, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually complete all the work Tendler asks of his students and I think doing so can help me reach the next level of mental game superiority.

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

I finished last year with a 1.12 BB/HR win rate, which surpassed my goal of 1 BB/HR, but I spent the vast majority of 2015 hovering around 2 BB/HR, so I feel like a loftier win rate is pretty attainable. I was running at 2.1 BB/HR for 2015 as late as October before the last quarter disaster shaved an entire BB/HR off my win rate. While I think 2 BB/HR is probably unrealistic in this day and age – I experienced very few stretches of negative variance during the first three quarters of 2015 – I do think a 1.5 BB/HR rate is possible, so I’m going to shoot for somewhere in between that and my 2015 end result.

Reach a $30,000 bankroll

Considering how much money I’ve made playing poker since the start of 2011, it’s kind of absurd that I haven’t already achieved this, but when I consider that poker has been my primary source of income for a substantial portion of that time period and that my expenses have hovered around $3000/month, it makes a lot of sense. As I’ve noted in previous blogs, I’ve had difficulty building my bankroll despite the success I’ve enjoyed, but I started to see growth last year and now that my day job covers all our monthly expenses I think I could see substantial growth in 2016. In reality, this should be an easy goal to reach, but I settled on $30k because I’ve felt like that’s the magic number I’d need if I ever decided to move to Vegas and play full time. Honestly, I expect to smash this goal in 2016.

I’ll probably come up with more things I want to accomplish, but those are the goals I’ve written down so far for 2016. 2015 was quite easily the best year of my life. I spent 2011-2014 repairing the damage I had caused to my life over the previous six years while basically running in place in my poker career, grinding $4/$8 games almost exclusively, and struggling to take any serious steps forward. 2015 was an enormous step forward and I feel like it has set me up to achieve even bigger things in 2016, which I feel is destined to be, by far, my best poker year ever.

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2015 Poker Year In Review

January 4, 2016

All in all, I’d have to consider 2015 the best year of my life. As far as gambling goes, it was my third best year ever, but I’ll get to that later. In my personal life, I had a lot of big things happen this past year: I married my beautiful, amazingly supportive wife, Dina, in May and then we moved out of Kitsap County across the Narrows Bridge to University Place in Tacoma in August. Shortly afterwards, I was hired to work at the Palace in Lakewood, where a slow day is when we only have four games going. This wasn’t just a great move for me concerning my day job, it was an absolutely essential move for me as a poker player. Sorry to say it, but there just isn’t a poker scene in Kitsap County anymore. Silverdale and Bremerton went from 3-4 rooms completely thriving during the poker boom of 2004-2007, to having three rooms within 5 miles of each other spreading multiple games at the same time as recently as 2010-2011, to having ONE poker room with ONE $4-$8 game – and maybe a second game for a few hours on peak nights, but more often than having a second game there was NO game after 11 PM in Kitsap County in 2015. You have to drive at least 30 minutes to find another option. Eventually, with a major assist from my wife wanting to be closer to her work and family, I found that option so attractive that I decided to cut out the commute altogether and just relocated. It was a decision that already has and will continue to let us realize a ton of growth. If you’re as sick of the Kitsap poker scene as I was, I have good news for you: people are still gambling in Pierce County and King County.

In addition to the overdue change of scenery, I also bid adieu to my last link to my 2010 DUI: the breathalyzer that had been installed in my car for the past 5+ years. Less than a week later, I got rid of my POS 2001 Pontiac Grand Am that I was driving into the ground and upgraded to a brand new 2016 Subaru Legacy. In fact, the only negative that remains from my past mistakes these days is a hospital bill for my emergency appendectomy I had in late 2008. With a balance of over $23,000 I simply have no intentions of ever paying it off. I still haven’t decided exactly how I’m going to tackle that issue, but since it is not on my credit report and doesn’t really affect my livelihood, it’s not really that imposing of a storm cloud.

Now back to poker. Technically speaking, 2015 was only my third best year of my poker career – in 2005, I had an absurd three month stretch that convinced me to play professionally and make all sorts of terrible decisions in my life that would lead to a downward spiral I wouldn’t really start to recover from until 2011; and I had a breakout year in 2012 where everything finally started to click – but it was quite easily my best year in terms of giving myself the cushion that will be needed to play for a living some day and continue laddering up the stakes. My new day job has finally allowed me to handle our monthly expenses without having to use any money I win gambling, so all my profits from playing poker are now entirely invested in our future.

As far as my actual 2015 goals are concerned, these are the goals I set for myself and how well I succeeded at achieving them:

I had a bunch of mental game goals for 2015, including: studying away from the table, profiling players at the table, improving my c-game, focus on how well I’m playing and my emotional control instead of focusing on results, taking notes throughout my sessions, studing opponents in tournaments to find mistakes and exploit them, and taking my time in critical pots. If I’m being honest with myself, I feel like I started out really strong in staying on point with these goals, but as I smashed the $8-$16 game all throughout the spring and deep into the fall, I got lazy and, possibly, – *gasp* – overconfident. I certainly stopped profiling players and I stopped taking notes of all the hands I played, and I can think of a few big pots in tournaments where I really didn’t think things through enough and made big, tournament-costing mistakes. Definitely not a great success here, but I’m way better at handling variance than I used to be. Perhaps the best stat that shows just how much growth I’ve made in this department is this one: in 2015, my main game was the $8-$16 at the Palace and, overall, I played 93 sessions totaling 701 hours for an average session length of 7.53 hours. What that number means is that I’m basically never quitting a session because I’m running bad. There may have been a time or two I should have, but most of the time, I powered through and, quite frequently, I’d limit the damage or even book a win in a session where I would’ve left a big loser in the past. It’s all about the long run and that’s a concept I seem to fully understand now.

I also had goals to spend less than 20% of my live hours in $4-$8 games, play 750 total live hours, and play at least 100 hours of no limit cash games. I smashed my 750 hour goal by playing 1487 total hours, including tournament play. I only spent 18.8% of my total cash game hours in $4-$8 games and over half of those hours were as the floorman propping the game at my old job. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the $4-$8 limit is a thing of my past. I did not play 100 hours of no limit cash. I only played 40 hours… over 12 sessions. So not only am I not putting in the sessions, but the ones I do play are super short. I played three reasonably long Super Sundays at Muckleshoot before I started working on Sundays, but other than that, I was in and out of any no limit game I played this past year.

I did play 2-3 events at the 2015 WSOP – two WSOP events and two daily tournaments – and went 0 for 4, to bring my career total at the Rio during the WSOP to 0 for 9. I did not play a tournament series in a city I’ve never been to before but I did set a new career high tournament score with my third place finish in the 08 event at the Wildhorse Fall Round Up in Pendleton, Oregon.

I spent most of my poker playing time in the $8-$16 game, where I exceeded my goal of 1 BB/HR by maintaining a 1.12 BB/HR win rate over a significant sample size, despite a monstrous downswing from early October to late December.

My five biggest $8-$16 wins were: +$2230, +$1835, +$1697, +$1360, +$1246.
My five biggest losses: -$1847, -$1238, -$1166, -$1081, -$896.

I had a 0.48 BB/HR win rate at $4/$8 with my top 5 wins being: +$616, +$499, +$456, +$441, +$425.

I played 151 hours of Omaha 8 for a whopping $478 profit despite a -0.29 BB/HR win rate (I hit and ran the $20-$40 at the WSOP pretty good).

I played 93.5 hours above the $8/$16 level and maintained a 0.46 BB/HR win rate. Most of those hours were in the $10/$20 O8 game at Clearwater where I basically broke even (-$34) and almost all of that win rate resulted from smashing the $20/$40 O8 at the Rio for an hour and having a good $15/$30 Razz session a few days later. Basically none of these stats are meaningful – due to lack of sample size – although I do feel like my O8 game could needs work. I see no reason for me not to be a 1 BB/HR player in most O8 game in the United States – it just seems so attainable.

My best location was the Palace by a mile. My worst location for 2015 was Diamond Lils and I only played one $8/$16 session there and it didn’t even crack my top five worst that I listed above. I posted a profit for the year on every single day of the week, with my best day being Saturdays by a long shot and my worst day being Fridays, which is a bit bewildering to me (note: after digging deeper, I discovered that my average session length on Fridays was less than 5.5 hours, which leaves me vulnerable to quite a bit of short term variance – it’s no mystery why my shortest sessions are far less profitable than my longest ones). I only had two losing months for the year and the worst month was in April and I only lost $289, so all in all, 2015 was a consistently very good year.

I played in 48 tournaments, cashed in 8 of them (16%), for a 25% ROI. My average buy in $183, which is a significant increase over years past. I’ve never had a losing year of tournament poker – even when I deep into the misery of alcoholism – but a week into November I was down multiple thousands in tournament buy ins before clutching up for that third place O8 finish at the Fall Round Up that put me squarely in the black for the year. I also won the weekly H.O.R.S.E. tournament at The Orleans in Vegas in June and cashed two of the major Muckleshoot events this year, but if I said I was satisfied with my tournament performance over the past couple years, I’d be lying. I know I can do better and I know I will. That’s the thing about tournaments – when you make a mistake, it can cost you your tournament life or cripple you and you have to wait til the next event to plug that leak. Hopefully I’ve ironed out enough leaks that I’m in store for a monster 2016!

I was going to post my 2016 poker goals in this blog, but I will do that in the next couple days. Good night!