#6: Trying to win a Platinum Pass at Chris Moneymaker’s Road to PSPC 2020 (Day 1A)

Friday, December 13th: As soon as I saw this tournament pop-up on the schedule, I knew I wanted to play in it. Who doesn’t want a chance at a PokerStars Platinum Pass, worth roughly $30,000 which includes an entry into the $25,000 PokerStarts Poker Championship?

This $360 buy-in Main Event played simultaneously at the Hard Rock Hollywood and the Seminole Coconut Creek properties, While Chris Moneymaker himself played at “Coco” (Day 1A Recap from Poker News), I chose to play at the Hard Rock where, since the grand opening of the guitar-shaped hotel (and, brand new Poker room), I haven’t ran very well. In fact, this tournament is my first one since my very first blog post on this site, where I busted AA < KK toward the end of Level 14 in the November Big Stack Special tournament.

Levels 1-4: The tournament start time, 10AM, is unusual. On the other hand, the faces in the Poker room crowd were filled with the usual players like me, trying to keep the dream alive and take down a tournament.

I get involved in a couple of interesting hands right away in Level 1, where blinds are 100/100 with no Big Blind Ante as of yet. I am in late position and open to 300 with AJo, picking up two callers – both of whom I have never played with before. The flop comes K88 and, as it gets checked to me, I continue for 600. One of the two callers decides to look me up, and we see a 3d on the turn. The caller checks it to me and I basically shut it down with an Ace in hand and check it back. The river brings the Ac, greatly improving my hand to AA88 with a K kicker. Action checks to me for a third straight time and I bet 1,100 for value. I get called by the player who immediately starts mumbling angrily when I announce that I have an Ace, and take the pot down (he most likely had a weak King).

Subsequently, still in the first level of play, I am in MP and raise to 300 with KcQc, and three callers join the pot. The flop comes J63cc, and when the action checks to me, I again lead for 600, just like I did in the previous hand history. The player whom I rivered in that previous hand history raises to 2,500. Earlier in the level, this player check-raised and then fired again with middle pair on a dry flop against another opponent, making me realize he is capable of another unorthodox play. The action folds to me and I decide to make the call. The turn is fantastic: Ac, giving me the nuts. I’m out of position and I check this card, hoping to induce a bet from the villain, but he checks back. The river is a Ts, and I make a nice-sized bet of 6,000. My opponent tanks for a full three minutes and starts asking me every standard tank question that a player would ask another player when faced with a big decision (Ex: “Will you show me if I fold?“). He finally mucks JTo face up for a rivered two pair. He almost pulled the trigger on a call, which would have been nice, but, on the other hand, we’re in Level 1 and, with so much Poker left to play, this tank was unnecessary, in my opinion.

Nothing really happens in Level 2, except for my losing the absolute minimum after raising to 400 with KK from UTG+1, getting multiple callers, and check/folding an Ace-high flop. In Level 3, I flop a straight holding T7o from the BB on a 986r board, but could not get any action at all.

Then, in Level 4, I raised in MP with KJo to either 700 or 800 (I don’t have the bet sizes in my notes for this hand, but the blinds in Level 4 are 200/300/300). A player named Ken, whom I’ve played with before and with whom I’ve exchanged pleasantries with before, calls and we see a KK6 flop. Once again, my written notes betray me here, but I lead out, my opponent calls, the turn is a heart (completing the front-door flush), and I bet again. Ken goes all-in right away and, with less than 10,000 in my stack by the time I get shoved on, I decide to call. Sure enough, he flips over a Jack-high straight and I need some help. The river is of no use to me, and I am headed over to the cashier to fire bullet #2. I get seated on a table with Ory Hen (A legendary Hard Rock Hollywood player, and the player that busted me from the May Deep Stack Series where I finished in 22nd place), and Jackie Scott, who, in 2015, won a WSOP Gold Bracelet in the Event #53 $1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold ‘Em event.

Levels 5-8: During Level 5, I raised but missed with AJo and 33, but got really lucky with QdTd after raising pre and turning a Q. At the end of Level 5, I count my chips and find 15,500 of them in my possession. This level felt much like the previous level, where I hovered around a starting stack.

In Level 6, I am once again very short and look down at ATo from the SB after a MP raise and a late-position call. I decide to shove, making both players tank/fold to “crawl” back up to 13,500.

Not much else happens until the very end of Level 7, where blinds are 300/600/600 and are about to be bumped up to 400/800/800. I raised to 2,000 in LP with AsJs and shoved all-in against three callers to make it look like I am bluffing and tilted after smashing a JJ6 flop. However, everyone folded, but I am at 21,000 now, which is slightly above starting stack.

After seven levels, I find myself with 1,000 more than what we started with in Level 1. This is not how I envisioned this tournament going for me, but I’ve been very patient so far, including shaking off an early bullet bust-out. Patience is a key virtue in tournament Poker and, for me, my patience is about to pay off in a big way.

In the first hand that I played in Level 8, there is a raise from the HJ to 1,500 and I flat out of the SB with 99. I think that I should be raising here and not flatting, but the CO and the button both called and I don’t have a lot of chips, so I call to set-mine. The flop comes 332, and I get the sense that none of my opponents have anything. I lead out and take the pot down quickly, giving me a good boost up to 27,000 – by far, the largest my stack has been on the day.

As I’m still stacking the chips, the action folds around to me on the D and I look down at pocket Aces! I have pocket Aces, on the button, after just winning a pot and after not getting much going in this tournament so far in terms of chips. I raise to 2,400. The SB flat calls. The BB and I share eye contact and he leans over to see what I have behind. He then surprises me and shoves for around 70,000. I take just a moment to see if I can get my neighbor to come along before I make the obvious call. The SB folds after a minute of tanking, saying he had AK. I immediately flip over my hand and hear a sigh of exasperation from the player in the BB, who flips over AdKd. The board gets a little scary on the turn with a diamond flush draw available, but the river is safe and I’m now in a great spot with 55,000.

About 10 minutes later, I’m in the BB and call a 2,000 open with A5o for 1,200 more. There are two other players in the hand, and the flop comes out A52, giving me top two pair. I check, the player on the button bets 3,500 and I call. The third player in the hand then shoves for around 22,000. I ask for a count and then call – he flips over ATo. My hand again holds up, and, as I wrote in my notes “…idk what my stack is but I’m running hot!”. Then, at the last hand of Level 8, I open with TT from MP and get shoved on for around 17,000. I again ask for a count before calling, and my opponent reveals 99. For the third time in the level, I have a clean run out and bust another player, and more chips are shoved in my direction.

After just hovering around the starting stack for most of the day, I finally get a count of my chips during the break between Levels 8 and 9 and find myself with the picture that you can see below, good for 108,000 (108 BB) going into the 500/1,000/1,000 level!

Levels 9-11: With registration closed, I get moved and then moved again to another table and learn that there are 135 entries at the Hard Rock for this flight, which means 14 of us will make the money and earn a trip back on Sunday at 11AM. I pull up Poker News on my phone and see that Coco had 42 entries, of which 5 players would make it to Day 2. While I didn’t plan it this way, I am in a great spot to grind this stack out and try to survive to make the money and keep the PSPC 2020 dream alive!

In Level 10 with blinds at 600/1,200/1,200, I win a decent pot with AA, but gave some of it back when I 3B with JJ, but got 4B to 24,000 which forced me to lay my hand down. While I now have 93,000 in front of me, I finish Level 11 where blinds are 800/1,600/1,600 with 125,000, where my pocket Kings held up pre-flop against a short stack player’s pocket 8’s.

Outside of those two hands, not much else happens for me during these Levels, and we take our last break of the day…or so we thought.

Levels 12+: After going through the blinds and calling another bet, I am down to 70,000 and get moved to another table, taking a seat directly to the right of a player that will wind up owning me for the rest of my day 1, as he is clearly a superior Poker player and extremely accomplished. I am taking about Scott Baumstein, whom finished in 4th place during last year’s inaugural PSPC for $1.65 million, and whom has close to $4MM in career tournament earnings. After being on the short end of his stick several times during the next few hours, it’s obvious why he’s been so successful – he has great timing and a great feel for how strong or weak his opponents are during the course of a hand.

During Level 13 with blinds at 1,500/2,500/2,500, I raised QcTc pre-flop and get called by the player on the BTN. We see a T99dd flop, where I continued and my opponent called. When the 7d fell on the turn, I decided to turn my hand into a bluff and move all-in. My opponent quickly called, and I said “Well I’m in trouble”. As it turns out, my opponent was behind with AdQh, needing a diamond or an Ace on the river. Neither an Ace nor a diamond came, and the player busted on my behalf, re-fueling my stack up to 121,500. I look up at the tournament clock and notice that we have 26 players remaining in the field. My thoughts and strategy switch upon seeing that I need to survive 12 more players to make the money, and, while I didn’t plan this, I channel my inner Phil Hellmuth and go into super tight / stack preservation mode. I realize this is not a long-term +EV strategy, but I haven’t cashed in a tournament since May and I’m willing to fold my way into Day 2 if necessary, in order to be one of the final 14 players to advance from this flight.

Before my folding festival starts, I find myself in the BB and with Scott Baumstein in the SB. The action folds around to Scott during a hand in Level 14 with blinds 1,500/3,000/3,000. He already has over 200,000 in chips at this point, and, while I’m not looking to get involved in any hands with him, I also don’t want to be pushed around (although later on that’s exactly what winds up happening). Scott min-raises to 6,000 and I look down at Ks9s. I thought about folding as I didn’t have AA or KK (that’s a bit sarcastic), but decide to call after a bit of thinking. The flop comes KT2 rainbow, and Scott again bets 6,000. Once I hit my top pair and before Scott threw out his bet, I was going to snap call him in my futile attempt at trying to throw him off. Thus, once his 6,000 bet hits the felt, I instantly get 6,000 of my own chips and call very quickly. The turn is the As and this time he tank-bets 7,500. At this point, I am quite certain he doesn’t have an Ace and is using this card to bully me off a random Kx, which is exactly what I am holding, and most likely, what he thought I was holding. I tank for an equal amount of time and make the call. The river is an awesome 9c, giving me two pair. He bets small, 4,000, to which I snap call and turn over my two pair hand. My hand is good, but surprisingly, Scott had K2 for a flopped two pair and got coolered at the very end. I scoop the pot, shaking my head at my good fortune.

Then, two hands later, I am on the button and there is a raise to 7,000 in the same Level (14) by a good player in the HJ, to Scott Baumstein’s immediate right. I look down at QQ and, because I am in “Fold My Way to Day 2” mode, I flat, and the blinds come along as well. The flop is JT7hh, and when the action checks to me, I realize that I have the best hand and bet out 17,000. I get two callers, including the initial PFR. The turn is a 2x, and the action again checks to me. That 2x can’t possibly have changed anything, so I again bet out 23,000, which is relatively small as there is roughly 80,000 in the pot. The BB folds, but the PFR calls. The river is another 2x, and we both quickly check. I announce “Pocket Queens”, which is good and I scoop a large pot. With six minutes left in Level 14, I now have 210,000 in chips with 21 players remaining. We learn that the Coco Flight A has ended with Chris Moneymaker leading, but our flight at the Hard Rock must be whittled down to 14 players before play can end and before our money bubble can burst.

Scott and I play a few more interesting but small-pot hands before our table breaks when play is down to 18 players during Level 15. Little did I know that, after being up to 210,000 toward the end of Level 14, that I would be blinded way down and call/fold a few times during the next three levels (Yes, we played an extra three levels as approaching the money bubble and the actual bubble itself was painstakingly slow). Now down to 15 players, I have about 130,000 with blinds at a very high 3,000/6,000/6,000 for our Day 1 and “on-the-bubble” situation, and, obviously, no one wants to bust out now. I consider folding blind (without looking at my hand) just to cash, and saw a player open-fold AsKs after Jackie Scott, who is sitting to my left now, shoved all-in. I, myself, folded JJ after a player to my right shoved for his remaining 70,000, because I didn’t want to flip or be way behind for essentially my tournament life as I only had him covered by a slight amount.

Finally, after roughly 2 extra hours of play, a player on the other table shoves all-in and gets called by an A9o, which winds up holding after a turned 9 and busting the 15th player in the field to burst the money bubble, causing the tournament staff to stop the tournament and hand out plastic bags and re-draw slips for Day 2 – which I’m happy and relieved to be a part of. From my high point of 210,000, I wind up bagging 104,000, good for 16th of 19th place. We also learn that, because the Flight A at Coco ended in the middle of Level 14, that we will roll back the clock on Day 2 to, at most, the 1,500/3,000/3,000 level.

Going into Day 2, I have about 35 Big Blinds (and, looking ahead to Level 15 at the 2,000/4,000/4,000 level, about 26 BBs). With 3,540,000 chips in play and 19 players advancing, I am below the 186,316 chip average. But, with 35 BBs and already guaranteed at least a min-cash, I feel really good for Sunday’s Day 2. Hopefully I can win a few pots early on and, who knows, maybe even double-up to be over 200,000 soon after play resumes. I will definitely make an update, either with an update to this blog post or a full post of its own (I haven’t decided yet which).

#5: Edibles, Flopping Quad 9s, and the Wildest Poker Session at Encore Boston Harbor (Part 3)

Wednesday, November 20th: This is the last day for me playing Poker at Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MA, just outside of Boston. So far, I’ve had a great time on both Monday and Tuesday at this amazing property, and am looking for a third straight day of winning Poker.

What I didn’t anticipate happening is that I’d have the wildest session I’ve ever had playing cash game LLSNL. A great example of that is the two pictures I snapped of a restaurant and a club inside of the Encore – both pictures were taken at 4AM. Typically, that time stamp associated with a Poker session means good news – or a crazy story, at least.

Before the session: I got a late start to today’s session as I had to run an errand in Brookline, which is about a 15-minute Uber ride from my hotel. Massachusetts is one of the dozen states in our union where recreational marijuana is legal, and I needed a restocking of chocolate edibles back home. The staff at NETA in Brookline was great, super-professional and got me in and out of their location within a few minutes. I then needed to drop off my “prescription” (more like “over-the-counter” medication), and then back out to Encore before my flight back home the next day.

Hour #1: I might have mentioned previously how nice this property is in the last two blog posts. However, it bears repeating. Everything from the carpeting, the felt, the sight lines, the smells and the sounds – it all has been put together brilliantly. It truly is a pleasure to play at Encore Boston Harbor, and hopefully, some day, I’ll be back for more. Sadly, not all of the players are wearing rose-colored glasses as I am and don’t have outlooks on life as I do. There are a handful of players who, quite simply, are angle-shooting scumbags. These players, based on their actions, are either too ignorant to know any better or simply don’t give a shit about their opponents, the game of Poker, or the establishment that allows them to play.

In the first hour, I had the misfortune of playing at the same table as one of these low-life individuals. Luckily, only one incident occurred with me in the hand and the person, whom I hope I never play with again, left. In the hand in question, the POS (yes, the abbreviation is appropriate) is in the BB and has already reloaded three times and is tilted. I have 4h3h in LP and see a flop with one additional player of KQQhh. Action checks through to the 4x turn. Action again checks to the POS and this is where the “S” hits the fan. He clearly checks, tapping a green $25 chip he was playing with in his hand a few times on the felt. I am in seat 1, and he is in seat 6, so I had a clear, unobstructed view of his action. As the dealer taps the table with her right hand before flipping over the river card, the POS yells out “WHOA!!!!” and claims to have not acted yet, throwing out a $75 bet. I immediately say that he checked, to which the dealer agrees. The POS then starts getting angry and calls the dealer a liar, which prompts the floor to come over. I again simply state that “…it looked like a check to me”, and the floor, after hearing mine and the dealer’s testimony, rules that it was in fact a check and the river card should be exposed. The POS then loses it and flips out, saying that we’re all lying and flips up a card and slams it down – a third Q, giving him trips. The entire table was probably wondering what on Earth is going on at that point with this POS. Before the river card is exposed, I muck my hand as I see that I’m drawing slim already and don’t want to play with him anymore. He wins the pot and unexpectedly leaves shortly thereafter, to the delight of the remaining 8 players on the table.

Hour #3: Not much happens during the second hour, although I bled away my stack down to about $100 from when I sat down on Hour #1. I then play two interesting hands to get myself unstuck (again, unstuck, for the third day in a row). In the first notable hand, I post $4 after missing the BB. A solid player – possibly a part-time pro – raises to $18 on the button and directly to my right in the 9-hole. I have AJo and consider shipping it, given my stack size and given the fact that this good player has a wide range from the BTN. However, I just flat call like, as a I wrote in real-time in my notes, “…a fish”. The flop comes A88hh. I check to the player on the BTN who c-bets for $20. Now I do decide to get the rest of my stack in the middle, to which he snap calls. I tell him that his Ace is bigger than mine, but to my surprise, a Jx pops up on the turn and I most likely suck out against an AQ or AK and double up.

In the second notable hand of the hour, which happens a few hands later one, I raise to $15 from the HJ with JTo. A player in the BB raises to $35 and I decide to flat call behind. The flop comes ten-high, and the player in the BB starts to assemble some chips in front of him as if to place a bet, but then, at the last second, checks. Usually, this type of move means that he wants to discourage his opponent – namely, me – from putting out a bet, which allows him to see a free card. I don’t oblige and bet $30. The BB then, rather quickly, check-raises to $75. Having top pair, there are going to be a lot of turn cards that I’m going to like with a Jack kicker, or, at least, a lot of turn cards that I can represent, given the action so far. I call his check-raise and see a 7d on the turn, which brings a backdoor flush draw. He again checks. I decide to jam all-in, as the chances of getting check-raised again (or, check-called again) have to be slim, and by going all-in, I can win the pot right now without letting him draw to whatever outs he might have from the BB. He quickly folds, and I now have about $270 in front of me.

Hour 4: By now, I notice the sheer volume of players in this second-floor Poker room, all grinding out these $1,000 high hands. This has been the case each day that I’ve been here – Poker Atlas shows 23 $1/$3 tables and 8 $2/$5 tables by the time the next few significant hands come up.

I look down at JdTd in the BB after a few limpers threw in $3 each before the flop. I check, and the flop comes out 5d8d9c, giving me a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw with two over cards. The action checks around, and I see a magical Qc on the turn for the nut straight. I again check for deception – a move that works a surprising amount of the time – and the player on the BTN bets $12. I check-raise to $35, which makes my opponent think for a little while before calling. The river is another awesome card, the Ah, which can be used as a great bluff card. I do just that and throw out a polarizing $85 bet. My opponent goes deep into the tank – this is an opponent who earlier called my lousy $10 into a decent-sized pot on the river after making the nuts, so the $85 pot-sized or slightly larger than pot-sized bet must look like a bluff to him. He eventually does make the call and I show him the goods, bringing my stack up to $365.

Shortly afterwards, I lose a massive $700 pot in a wild three-way hand. A player limps in from the CO, and I complete for $2 more from the SB with Q8o. The BB checks his option, and we see an insane JT9 rainbow flop. I flop the second nuts and check from the SB to induce some betting. The BB also checks. The CO bets out $20 and I decide to just flat call and give a good price for the BB to come in. The BB comes in, but for much more than $20. He jams all-in. The player in the CO snap-calls the all-in and after calling, asks for a count (it’s never a good sign when a player snap calls and then asks for a count, as if the amount of chips is secondary to calling the bet). I take a minute to figure out what the hell these two players have before I re-jam over the top of the CO, who then says “Let’s Do It!” and calls. The turn is a 2s, the river is a Tx for a paired board. The CO had JT for a full house, but even if he didn’t pair the board, I was drawing virtually dead as the player in the BB had KQ.

Even though that one sucked, myself and the player in the BB (a very polite and nice older gentleman in his late 70’s / early 80’s) start laughing it up and shaking our heads at that insane hand. Before I know it, the button is now on me and I look down at 99 and raise to $12, hoping it would look as if I’m tilted from the previous hand (truth be told I wasn’t at all). I get one caller to what some might call a nice flop: A99. I rapidly blink and re-check my hole cards to confirm that I’ve just flopped quad 9’s on the button with an Ace on the board for good measure. I check and still am chatting it up with the gentleman in the BB. Eventually the action makes its way to the river where my lone caller bets out some small amount that I didn’t write down nor that I can remember. I shove as a bluff, and while the player did think about it for a little bit, he folded and I smacked my hand face-up on the felt to get on the high-hand payout board.

While I had a 7-minute sweat, unfortunately a player at another table flopped quad Queens “at the buzzer”, so I don’t win a $1,000 bonus :(.

Hours 5 and 6: By the end of the fifth hour, I find myself with $175 after being up to close to $400 at one point in the session. I write in my real-time notes that it’s probably going to be a wild session, one filled with me trying to grind out another win after two very long and very workmanlike wins.

In hour 6, I get back up to $225 after holding Tc8c in LP and flopping QJJc. The turn and river were a 3c and a 6c, respectively, and my JT863 flush beat my opponent’s trip Jacks. I then find myself counting up a stack of $285 after getting good value from a flopped top two pair, but then I find myself counting down a smaller stack of around $250 after losing with my AKo against a player’s Jd9d.

Hours 7 and 8: The night is getting late, but little did I know that the craziness would just be getting started. I pick up AA and AKo in Hour #7, but lose the minimum with both hands and find myself back down to $180. At this point, a good, young pro has taken command of the table, and I’ve found myself mixing it up with him a few times. At one point, he was in seat #4 and after I showed him Qs3s to win a decent-sized pot, he changed seats to be directly to my right. He’s definitely one of the more aggressive players I’ve played with during this session, so my guess is that I’m placing a 3B pre-flop, that my range is very narrow and capped (which he can then use to his advantage).

After busting a short stack with my lucky hand of the day (Pocket 9’s) and getting un-stuck yet again and sitting at $300, I play a hand against a very aggressive player who just sat down at our table. He’s listening to music and head-bobbing along to whatever genre suits him. I complete a $12 raise in the HJ from him with me in the SB with an off-suit raggy Ace. The flop comes 986cc and I want to let him know that I won’t be scared or playing tight with him, so I lead right out for $35 as a bluff. He quickly calls and then checks out of turn on the 8x. Since he checked out of turn, my read is that he wants to see a cheap or possibly free river card with his presumed draw. I make it $55 and he open mucks QJo, confirming my suspicion and increasing my stack to $330.

Some later hour: By this time of day (night?), my phone is running on fumes as my battery is below 10%, so typed-out reference notes are very few and far between. I actually wound up borrowing someone’s charger and leaving my phone on the side cart table, just so that I’d have enough juice to, you know, have a useable phone. I actually get felted and had to rebuy for another $300 after my AK lost to a player’s AQ after the player rivered a Q on an Axx board with two very low cards. This winds up being the player that I had to borrow a phone charger from, so I fist-bump him at the conclusion of the hand and move on.

Shortly after, I raise preflop with AdTd on the button and get two callers. The flop comes KJ8 and the action checks to me. I decide to c-bet bluff and throw out $50. One player in MP calls and we see a great Qh on the turn. I check and the player slides out a stack of 20 $5 chips for a $100 bet. I Hollywood for a little bit, as I have not played a hand against this particular opponent yet. I then decide to shove all-in, which my opponent snap calls. The river is an 8x which pairs the board, but it does not improve my opponent’s hand and I am now all the way up to $800.

After losing a few smaller pots. my run-good continues as I called a pre-flop raise (of $10, I believe) against a good player in the SB. The flop comes ATx, all spades. The player in the SB checks and I bet $20 for thin value, if thin value is such a concept on the flop. He calls, and we see a 4h on the turn. I again lead for $65 and, after some deliberation, he again calls. The river is a brick and we both check. My hand holds and it’s good, bringing my stack up to about $830.

Some wee hour in the late night / early AM of the next day: I’m looking at roughly $600 in red chips with a few green chips on top, and the night is getting late – VERY late. The tables at Encore are now starting to empty as the high hand promotion has ended, and the vibe in the Poker room is changing. Every table now is playing 6 or 7 handed, but the staff at Encore is doing an amazing job of keeping all of the tables balanced and sitting new players right away in games without waiting too long. I am still in seat 1 on table 60, which sits on a balcony-like overhang overseeing a sea of slot machines below on the first floor. Seat 7 has been open for a while and, finally, it is filled by a man is his late 20’s / early 30’s. He was accompanied by a woman whom, at a quick first glance, gave me the impression that this was this player’s significant other. However, it becomes apparent that this woman is much older than this player (this woman is not in the game, just sitting next to this player but behind him, at an angle), and that this woman is this player’s mom (This is confirmed by another player later).

The player being referenced here finally gets comfortable in his seat and puts $300 in front of him. The dealer begins to deal out the cards and the player doesn’t seem to be sure what is going on. He learns on-the-spot that we’re playing $1/$3, not $1/$2 as he originally thought the game was. Once the betting limits were confirmed, he throws out a call with a single $5 red chip. I look down at AcJc and raise to $12. The action folds around to the player in question and he calls. The flop is AKx with two clubs, giving me top pair, decent kicker, with the nut-flush draw. Before I even get a chance to figure out what I’m going to want to do, he quickly bets out $10. Since I’ve never seen him before and have no reads at all, I want to keep him around and not scare him away in case he’s drawing or has an Ace or even a King in his hand. I call the $10, and the turn is a complete blank. He leads right out for $20 in a similar manner as he lead out on the flop. I decide to raise my voice a little bit and make an old-fashioned, time-honored See Where I’m At raise of $65. Even if he has an odd two pair of some sort, I’m not going anywhere with a draw to the nuts and top pair, good kicker. The player picks up the remaining chips he has in front of him with both hands and slams all of them down in the middle, shoving all-in. I literally sigh-call. The river is a 4s, and I flip up my hand saying something to the effect of “I only have AJ so you’re probably good”. He confidently flips over his hand and smacks the cards down face-up on the table, which is always a sign of strength. Seeing the wind up, I immediately resign to the fact that I’m losing this hand, but want to see what two hole cards my opponent is so demonstratively showing down. After a moment of silence from the entire table whose side chatter has abruptly ceased, I realize that my opponent has flipped over Ace-three off-suit, for a worse Ace than mine. We both stare at the board and at the hands and the dealer quietly raises the AK4 from the board to indicate that those three cards, in addition to my AcJc, were the five best cards of the seven and mucks my opponents hand. A player then asks “What did he show??” and I’m sitting in stunned silence, watching a $600 pot being shipped in my direction. The table now is dead quiet and no player is looking down at their phone screens. My opponent looks at what we all learned later was his mother and says “OK, that’s it”, and quietly leaves. After the player left the area and the Deck Mate 2 automatic shuffler machine was ready with a fresh deck, the table erupts in laughter and disbelief of what just occurred: I just busted a player in front of his mom in embarrassing fashion.

After about 2-3 more hours of some of the craziest late-night poker action you can possibly imagine, I rack up for $901 for a profit of $301 on the session, or, 7.4 BB/H. In fact, I have other stories about this crazy night, including playing with an angry old Army vet who liked to shove with nearly any two cards, and a retired physician who now travels the world playing Poker, and possibly some gang-affiliated younger aggressive pros. However, those stores just don’t come close to busting the player in front of his mom on his very first hand at the table, so I will exclude those stories for now.

When I decided to create this blog, the intention was selfish: Document my wins and losses in the attempt to improve my overall game. If I get an audience that is interested in these long reads, that’s fantastic, but if I don’t, then that’s OK, too. I don’t ever see myself asking for page views or impressions, but I am hopeful that some employee from the Encore finds this site and this particular blog post in general, because there is a staff member that I want to publicly acknowledge: Her name is Liz and she works the floor as a brush / assistant in the daytime and early evening. Throughout my three sessions, nearly every time I looked up from my seat or walked around the Poker room, Liz was either helping someone find their seat, answering questions, or even helping clean up garbage left over from players’ drink and food orders that they were finished with or had long forgotten about. Liz was working hard and always had a pleasant smile on her face, and I noticed. Hopefully the good staff at Encore Boston Harbor have also noticed. Obviously, I don’t know what Liz’s career aspirations are, but hopefully the Encore staff can help her career move forward, as they definitely have a great, dedicated employee on their team.

#4: Playing The Short Stack at Encore Boston Harbor (Part 2)

Tuesday, November 19th: After an up-and-down day 1 where I finished slightly in the positive, I’m looking to go 2-for-2 in my Encore Boston Harbor Poker sessions. As I mentioned in the last blog post, this property is spectacular: The design, the colors, the sight lines, the amenities, and just about everything else is world-class. While it might be cold and rainy outside in Everett, MA, it’s delightful inside Encore.

I quickly buy-in for $300 upon arriving and, after a mere few minutes, a seat opens up at $1/$3 NL with my name on it. My primary train of thought deals with tilt: I wanted to make sure I would play a solid, fundamentally-sound game, no matter the outcome, without letting my emotions get the best of me.

Hour 1:

Nothing Poker-wise happens within the first hour of play for me. There is a lot of chatter, and I am seated next to a young man who is a dealer at private games and at another property. He has also taken the liberty of partaking in some form of recreational drug; His behavior, actions, and speech were all dead giveaways.

Hour 2:

I made a couple of big laydowns (one with TPTK), and then had an interesting hand come up. I am in the CO and look down at Ad9d. There are a few $3 limpers in the pot (Note: there are always limpers in $1/$3), so I raise to $20. I pick up four callers, so I find myself five ways to a good flop of AQ5dd. I have top pair with the nut flush draw on a lively, action-filled table, and this is my first significant hand that’s hit me hard on the flop. The action checks to me and with this many players in the hand and a chance to realize my full equity potential, I lead out for $100. Everyone folds, except for the UTG+1 player who tank-calls (but is all-in for less). The turn is the Qh and the river is the Jd for the nut flush and a nice-sized pot, brining me to about $400 in my stack. The player actually had AJo in the hole, so I needed that Jack for at least a chop (AAQQJ).

At the end of this hour, I have $430 in front of me and I’m right on my arbitrary, made-up schedule of being up, profit-wise.

Hours 3 and 4:

Outside of folding middle set on a four-card flush and four-card straight board, not much has happened. This table has turned out to be a strange one, with some good players occupying seats and a high-out-of-his-mind player directly to my right. I actually do something I rarely do, but should do more of: Request a table change. In tournaments, this is not possible, and you have to make due with the table draw that you’ve found yourself within. However, in cash games, anything is possible: Seat changes, table changes, reloading, straddling, and such. It takes about 20 minutes for the amazing staff at Encore to get me off that table and into a new situation, and right in the nick of time, as the $1,000 high-hand promotion has just begun, paying out a smooth $1,000 every 20 minutes to the high hand in the room for the next 10 hours.

Hour 5:

Even though I find myself down to $330 on the day, the new table looks amazing. There are 5 older gentlemen whom are obviously here to grind out the HH promo, and one professional. Unlike many players, I like playing against the “OMC’s”: For one, I’m a lot closer in age to 2+2’ers or Redditors who use that term, so I feel I can relate a bit more to their style of play. Also, it’s fun being “The aggressive one” or “The kid”, as I’ve been called before (Yes, “The kid” has been thrown my way, even though I was born in 1979).

One nice thing about playing with tight-passive or tight-weak players is that you can limp in and see a ton of cheap flops with marginal hands, as there is a much smaller chance of a player raising or making a 3B. When you hit your hand, you can really win a big pot against a passively-played KK or QQ or AK (these hands are played meekly fairly often by this particular player profile). If you miss your hand, you can release it pretty quickly as the initial $3 investment is nominal. With that in mind, I limp in with Q9o on the button with several limpers behind. The flop comes T87r, giving me a gut-shot straight draw with one over-card. The flop checks around to a brick turn. The player in the big blind leads out for $10, and gets 5 callers, including myself. The river is a magical Jc, giving me the absolute nuts. The SB leads for $15, and the BB calls. I try to extract maximum value out of this situation and essentially min-raise to $35. The SB folds but the BB calls, and I show him the bad news. This puts my stack north of $470 for the day.

Hour 6:

I decide to switching things up again and change seats into the 4-hole. To my dismay, an obnoxious retiree who would continually tap me on the shoulder and talk to me (even during hands) was seated in the 5-hole. Sometimes, the luck of the draw is not on your side.

I do pick up a hand, JJ, in the LJ, and decide to 3B to $40 after a limper and a MP raise to $10 acted before me. The initial PFR calls my 3B, and we go heads-up to a A55 flop. This is a pretty good flop for my 3B range from a later position, as I can realistically represent an Ace. The PFR checks and I bet out $75. He mucks his hand pretty quickly, but I show mine to everyone, to let my opponents know that I am not scared of a single over card, even if that card is an Ace.

I do also lose the absolute minimum in his hour, holding KK and raising pre-flop to be up against AK on an Ace-high board.

Hour 7:

The table has caught on to their perceived reality that I am a very tight player (the truth is, I’ve been card dead for a while now). Hour #7 also starts a brutal stretch of Poker for me, one where a player just sits there in a fog-like state, hoping to come out clear on the other side, but not knowing if or when this clarity might be achieved. It starts with a player in the HJ raising to $12, and me looking down at 33 in the CO. I flat, and it’s heads up to an excellent flop of JT3. The player, who plays relatively tight and straight-forward, bets $30. I don’t want to call and let a card come off to potentially complete a straight if my opponent had, say, AK. I think about what I want to do for a moment and eventually slide in a stack of 20 $5 red chips for a raise of $100. My opponent thinks about it for a moment and softly announces that he’s all-in. I turn my head to make sure I’ve heard him correctly, and ask if he’s in fact jammed. When he nods his head in the affirmative, I make the call. Unfortunately, I am drawing to one out as he flips over TT for a higher set. The massive cooler knocks me all the way down to $160.

Hours 8-9-10:

These three hours featured a lot of me staring into space, staring at my chips that fluctuated between $160 and $50, and trying to double up to stay alive, as if this were a tournament. I once shoved with 6s5s and, after the table asked if I had AK or AA, I flipped over my cards and the table went nuts, erupting in laughter. Somehow, I more than tripled up at the 10th hour mark with third pair against two other opponents on draws, brining my stack back up to around a salvageable (and, playable) $200. During this time, many players reloaded, added-on, or busted and had to leave: Somehow, I was not one of those players. I don’t add-on or rebuy for a single penny during this time and somehow manage to grind up a short stack and still be on my first bullet.

Hour 11:

I’m now all the way unstuck and back in profit-ville when I lead out for $20 in MP with JdJh. Three callers come along to see a 754hh flop. I bet small – $30 – after the action checks to me. The SB is the only caller. The turn is the Ah, which one the surface is a bad card, but gives me 8 flush outs + 2 Jack outs, so about 22% equity (assuming my opponent has an Ace, but no hearts). The action checks through and luckily for me, I find the Kh on the river, for the AKJ54 flush. He leads for $60, I quickly double-check that one of my Jacks is the Jh, which it is, and snap-jam. Interestingly, he snap folds: The player goes on to tell me that he completely missed and had to bet in order to win the pot. I am around $350 now, including winning another small pot with JJ and a second small pot with QQ.

Hour 12:

I lose a few pots to bring my stack back down to $200 with QQ and 55, but at least I still have a stack where I can raise and play “real” Poker. Somehow, it’s been 12 hours of Poker and I’m in the red and not angry, frustrated, nor upset at all (I really do think I worked through all of that the night before, and this proves it to me). After losing those aforementioned few pots, I get into two interesting hands with a young man who is definitely a “Table Captain”. You most likely know the time I’m talking about: Always getting out of his seat to chat with buddies, flirting with basically every waitress that walks by, busting every player’s chops about any particular topic, and, of course, taking odd lines and trying to run huge bluffs. This player had also won a HH bonus when his quad A’s held up, so he has an additional pep in his step by the time we find ourselves playing against each other in the following significant hands.

In the first one, my buddy raises it to $25 from UTG+1 (yes, we’re still playing $1/$3 and he opened to $25). I look down from UTG+2 and see KK (just for a visual reference, I’m in seat 1 and he’s in seat 9). Before I act, I notice that he’s trying to get the attention of one of the waitresses for another drink, as if he needed more in his system. I raise to $80, and the action folds all the way around to him, who is still yapping it up. One of the players mentions that my raise will “get his attention” when he realizes it’s on him. After a good 15-20 seconds, he finally whips his head around and sees that I’ve raised. He leans over the dealer to see how many chips I am playing behind, and then re-takes his seat to announce all-in. Feeling like I knew this was coming from him, I don’t even let him finish his all-in announcement before I snap call him – and I snap call him HARD. That was one of the most satisfying all-in snap calls I have ever made in my entire life. The board runs out clean and I flip over my cowboys. He has As5s, which is no good. It’s tough to convey what a bad play this was on his part: His needling toward me was all about how tight I was playing, including mentions of my only holdings being either AA or KK. He must have forgotten about his analysis of his perception of my play style before jamming over by three-bet.

Then, not too much longer after this, a player in MP raises it to $7, my loud friend calls and I have Jh6h in the SB. I decide to complete for an additional $6, and take a flop. The flop comes J76ss, giving me top and bottom pair. I check for deception, as I’m OOP in a multi-way pot after flopping two pair. The initial PFR bets $15. My vociferous acquaintance decides to snap-raise to $75 (the word “decides” here is used loosely, as I’m not sure what decision-making process he went through on this hand). After taking a minute to count the bets and look at stack sizes, I 4B to $150 to isolate my friend and to, what I thought at the time, put him all-in. The player in MP folds and my amigo snap-calls by placing one white $1 chip out in front. I tell him I have two pair and he says I’m good for now. Then, a few seconds goes by and the dealer and the at-risk player exchange a few weird glances. As it turns out, I didn’t put him all in (he had an additional $20 or so behind). This is now awkward, as I’ve told him what I had and he’s told me that I’m good, but the dealer helps figure it out and, once the pot is right, the dealer reveals a blank on the turn. I then officially put him all-in by throwing out a green $25 chip. My opponent snap-mucks his hand! He wouldn’t commit his last $20 after putting nearly $200 in the middle with one card to come and with outs (according to him).

Hour 13:

In my last hour of the day, I got AA UTG but had no action, so I pick up the blinds only. Then, I quickly win a bit pot after getting maximum value with a turned full-house holding 66, but then lost it all back after a decent-sized pot went the way of my opponent when my pocket 9’s fell short to his pocket Q’s.

Shortly after the 99 v QQ hand, I rack up for $401, for a profit of $101 on the day. That’s a sub-minimum wage earning of $7.48 per hour, or, 2.49BB/Hr. While meager, the win is much better than the alternative.

#3: No Life ‘Till Leather at Encore Boston (Part 1)

Monday, November 18th, 6:00 AM: I just wrapped up some loose ends and soon will be boarding JetBlue Flight # 322 from Terminal C at Palm Beach International Airport, en route to Boston Logan International Airport. I am traveling for work, but that officially starts tomorrow. As soon as I land, I am making a beeline to the Uber pick up area, dropping off my luggage at my hotel, and heading out to Encore Boston Harbor, not too far from where I’m staying.

I’m very excited to share a road trip Poker session, in only my third post on this blog. What would also be very exciting is to book my first win of the blog – nobody likes being 0-2.

Same day, shortly after 10 AM: I landed, got in a cab (I couldn’t find the Uber pick-up area at Logan), made the quick ride over to my hotel, checked-in and dropped off my bags, and then ordered an Uber to take me to Encore. It was a cold and wet morning with low visibility, but that didn’t stop me from seeing Steve Wynn’s latest masterpiece in Everett’s skyline on I-93. Once there, I can’t help but notice how magnificent the property is. The main entrance greets guests with this Bellagio-like masterpiece:

There were not many pictures taken on this three-day trip: My “read” on the staff at Encore is that they were not open to guests taking pictures while at the tables, and I got a lot of stern looks while taking the few pictures I was able to snap off. However, I did sneak one in of one of the sections of the massive, 74-table Poker room:

Hour #1:

I sat at $2/$5 while waiting for a seat at the $1/$3 game. At present, I am trying to build up a bankroll for $2/$5, and am in desperate need to book a win. As it turns out, there are no shortage of seats at $1/$3: The staff in the Poker Room at Encore do an amazing job of making sure all of the tables are balanced, that there are enough dealers to cover the demand, and that you’re never waiting very long at all for a seat.

In the first hour, I picked up a few small pots with AsJs and AKo where I missed the flop both times, and then another small one with J8o in late position after I rivered top two pair against an aggressive player in the SB. Not much else happened, which gave me the opportunity to look around and take in the scene at this elegant property.

Hour #2:

Things get much more interesting from a Poker perspective in the second hour of play. I am in MP and look down at AsKs and open for $20. The player to my left is that same young-and-aggressive player from the J8o hand in Hour #1. He flats my $20 opening bet, but the player on the button 3B’s to $120. I don’t have any specific reads on him as of yet, but I am not folding this big of a hand. I contemplate a 4B jam, as I have about $500 behind, but decide on the lesser-variant route and call. The player to my left also calls, and the three of us see a monster flop of AQQ. The action is on me, and, unless the player on the button has exactly QQ or AQ (which is highly unlikely, given that most of those combinations are not available), I’m going to be in great shape here. I decide to lead out for $150, which is a relatively small bet in comparison to the pot. Both players wind up folding, and I take a nice one down and have about $780 in front of me now.

A little while later, I am on the button and there are a few limps behind me. I have 44, and limp along. Five of us see a Q43 rainbow flop. A player in MP, whom I’ve seen mixing it up with marginal hands against other players, tosses three $5 red chips out for a bet of $15. I am the only caller on the button. The turn is the 7h, and we both check (looking back at my notes, I should have bet here to continue building this pot). The river is a blank, my opponent checks, I bet $30 and he calls. I am not shown any cards, but am good and take this one down.

Then, a few orbits later, there is a raise from a player in MP and one caller. I am in the SB and look down at two black JJ. I raise to $85. The initial pre-flop raiser makes it $245, and the action folds around to me. This player seemed to know what he was doing and wasn’t necessarily getting out of line up to this point. I don’t feel like this is a spot where you can call and see what happens profitably, out of position with a hand that looks to be, at best, a slight favorite, and, at worst, completely crushed. I tank and fold, showing the Jacks. The player immediately tells me that I made a good laydown, flashing KK.

Hour #3:

After ordering a chicken Caesar wrap for almost $20 (it was good, so probably worth the investment), I lose a few and win a few with AQo against a player in the BB with J9cc where he rivered two pair, and with AKo and then JJ after c-betting, respectively. Then, I have 99 in MP and raise to $25 after a limper from early position had come along for the ride. Two players call and the three of us see a A98 rainbow flop. Action checks around. The turn card is an 8, filling me up. The SB checks, but the BB makes it $35. I flat call to keep his range wide open and to keep any possible bluffs in. The SB folds, and two of us see the 3d on the river. The BB checks, and I throw out a polarizing $125 bet to make it look like I missed all along and am now trying to take this pot down. The BB does think about it for a minute, but folds. I’m now up to $960, and things are going well.

Hour #4:

I play a couple of tough hands during this hour to bring my stack back down to 100BB. In the first significant hand of the hour, I have AhQd UTG and raise to $20. The player in the HJ calls, and we see a T66hh flop. I check, but the player in the HJ bets out $35. I have two over cards, one of them being the nut-flush-blocking Ah, so I decide to peel and see what happens on the turn. The turn does improve my hand greatly as the dealer reveals the Qh. I now have TPTK with the nut-flush draw / blocker. I again check to see what my opponent wants to do, and he bets $60. I consider semi-bluffing (or, value-raising?), but ultimately call the $60. The river is a 9x. I check, and the HJ bets $90. It’s a relatively small bet ($90 into a pot of ~$230), so I’m getting a great price to call, as I have been getting during this entire hand. There’s no point of raising now: My opportunity to do so were on earlier streets as there are now both straight and flushes available. I am not happy about the situation, but my hand is too strong to fold, so I make the call. My opponent turns over 8d7d for the rivered straight to win the pot. I’m definitely not happy about how I played this hand: Any overt act of aggression on my side would have won the pot before the river, but I chose the more passive route.

In the second important hand of the hour, I once again have pocket 9’s, but this time I’m on the button (As you’ll read over this three part series, I get dealt 99 a lot). I raise to $25 and get two callers. The flop is 753 rainbow. I make a $40 continuation bet and the player in MP calls. The turn card is a 5 and the player in MP checks it over to me. I bet $100, and after a long tank, the player in MP check-raises to $250. I decide that he might be on some type of combo draw and make the call. The river is an 8. He takes about a minute to decide what he wants to do and eventually decides to bet $325. I go super-deep into the tank, trying to determine a hand I can beat. After running through various hand scenarios, I show my hand and fold. The player to the villain’s left immediately tells me I made a good laydown, but it’s hard to know for sure as my villain in this hand did not reveal much in the way of information.

Hour #5:

I pick up TT in late position, and raise, picking up one caller whom had limped UTG. At this point, I am down to under $350 after whiffing on many flops with good hands in earlier hands, and quickly find myself all-in on a very safe flop for my tens. He thinks about it for a while, but then throws out a single $5 red chip to indicate a call. The run-out is a Q and then a K on the river: My opponent flips over QQ, and, after busting, I decide to take a break to clear my head and walk around the Poker room for a bit.

I then decide to jump in to a $1/$3 game. It’s worth mentioning at this point the insane action available at Encore Boston Harbor: There was a high-hand promotion running that paid $1,000 every 20 minutes from 12PM – 10AM, which brought in over 300 hopefuls each one of the three nights I was at Encore. These promotions generated a lot of action and caused games to get deep in short order, including $1/$3, which I would wind up playing for the duration of my stay.

New Hour #1:

I buy-in for $175, because I wasn’t in the mood to hit up the ATM at this point. After winning a small pot with a pocket pair of Aces, a crazy hand ensues. I am in the BB with Tc7c and a player in MP makes it $10 to go. I defend, and the player to my left, a Russian lady, calls from UTG after initially limping in. The flop is TsTd8d, so I flop myself trip tens. I’m stuck from the $2/$5 game, and not about to play passively after this flop, so I want to start building a big pot right now. I lead out for $15 and the Russian lady to my left immediately calls. The initial pre-flop raiser now makes it $45. I call the bet, and so does the lady that’s UTG. The turn is a magical 7d, giving me a full house and making several straight and flush draws available. I check, and the Russian lady immediately jams for over $125. The young kid in MP (who would actually wound up having his ID checked later on) tanks for a few minutes before folding. I snap call, and the Russian lady flips over 8d for an open-ended straight-flush draw. Fully expecting her to get there, I silently shake my head after turning over my full house. The river is a Kd and I scoop a large $400 pot for a $1/$3 game. As it turns out, I dodged a massive bullet: The young kid in MP had KT and laid it down after the all-in by the UTG player.

New Hour #2:

I play in a funny hand: I limp in the CO with AsJs and there are six players in the hand. The flop comes A64hh. A player in EP bets $5, then, a player in MP tosses out a green $25 chip, not realizing that there was a $5 initial bet. He starts laughing as he intended to bet $25, and starts telling the table that he’s very strong, and that nobody should raise as he’s going to come over the top of them. All the while during this funny speech, the action is on me and I’m just watching this player carry on for about 30 seconds. As soon as the table quiets down and he stops talking, I raise to $20, making the table erupt in laughter. My Russian female opponent to my left immediately calls, and, as I expected, the “Super Strong” player folds quickly. I continue for $40 after the 9d falls on the turn, but my opponent quickly folds and the pot is pushed in my direction.

On the very next hand, I am on UTG and raise to $12 with AhQc. There is one caller and then the young player in MP from the full house hand three-bets to $50. I decide to call as he only has $125 behind. The flop comes A86cc: I lead for $50 and he snap-mucks his hand.

My Russian lady-friend gets me back in a good way. Again, a lot of limpers (this is common at $1/$2 or $1/$3, and I’ve seen it happen at $2/$5 and $5/$10 as well), and I have KcTc in the SB. I complete, and look at a K9x flop with two spades. I lead immediately out for $8, my lady friend calls, and then a player in MP min-raises to $16. I call and so does my friend in the BB. The turn is a Ts, I check and she fires out $50 without hesitation. In previous hands, she fired out a big number whenever she hit her draw – I consider this as I show her laying down trip T’s. She is nice enough to show me that she only had top two pair with K9. I tap the table a couple of times to communicate my opinion of that play (it was a good play).

After all of this action, I am at $390.

New Hour #3:

I win a few more pots before this hand comes up: I have 33 in the BB and check my option after several limpers threw in $3 to see a cheap flop. I then flop bottom set with two spades on board, and the action checks around. The turn is a brick, and I decide to check again. A late position player bets out $15, which folds around to me and I call. The river is the Kh, which is also a blank on this board. I lead out for $35 and my opponent makes a confused face, but does toss in the call. My bottom set holds up, and I am now cruising along at $590. I wrote in my notes on my phone that I “…can’t help but think how I will punt this stack off”.

New Hour #4:

At this point, my note taking becomes scarce as the Russian lady to my left and I start chatting it up about hands, playing poker at different properties, and other unrelated Poker topics. I am also using her USB charger (each seat at every table at Encore has a USB charging port, but the one in my seat was not working, so I had to borrow hers and didn’t want to annoyingly reach over to check my phone all the time).

Nothing too note-worthy happened during this time, although I did pick up a few pots with AA and AK, brining me, somehow, close to all the way unstuck for the day at $630.

New Hour #5:

Something significant happens during this hour, something that I’ve never done at the Poker table before: My emotions get the best of me. This was not a particularly good hour for me. I lost with ATo four different times, and I start talking to myself and slamming my chips down at the table. Every run out during this hour was bad for me but great for my opponent, which starts driving me insane. I think everyone whom has played Poker for a significant amount of time has been where I’ve been, where you’re just running bad and where nothing seems to go right. However, not everyone lets the emotion overcome their own selves. I did. I was on super tilt. I thought that I was once again going to find a way to get felted after playing well in a session, like it has happened to me a few times in a row now.

This emotional state affects my play on this hand: A player – an older gentleman with a red New England Patriots hat on, has just met up with family members (if I had to guess, his daughter and son-in-law have arrived) and are railing him. Sometimes, when friends or family comes over to watch, a player might be willing to mix it up a bit more than usual to “show off” in front of their loved ones or their boys. I am in UTG+1 and have one of the ATo hands that I was dealt during this hour, and raise it to $12. The Pats fan makes call, and the flop comes all undercards. I continue for $15 and Pats fan again makes the call. The turn brings a T, giving me TPTK. I again bet (I don’t have the amount in my notes), but again my opponent simply flat calls. The river is a blank and I chose to check to see what my opponent wants to do. He fires out $60 and I think about what he might have. With his family looking on intently, I make the call, and he reveals pocket 5’s for a flopped middle set. If I were in a clearer state of mind, I might have been able to lay it down on the river. I wrote in my notes that this was a pot I should not have been involved in too deeply.

I am now at $405 – still in the black for this second session of the day – but feeling like I am stuck five buy-ins.

A huge hand that sends the pot my way happens shortly thereafter: I raise 33 from the HJ to $12 and pick up two callers, which includes the player in the big blind. The flop comes AJ3hh with one club. I lead (again, I don’t have the amount recorded), and one player calls. The turn brings the Qc for two possible flush draws available. The player leads out for $30. With bottom set on a wet-and-connected board, I don’t want to let another card come off to complete a draw. I wind up shoving all-in. The player thinks about it for a minute, then ultimately says “Fuck it” and calls. The river is a blank and I turn my hand over. It’s good, as the player pushes his cards into the muck. I am now back to over $600, and feeling a bit better, as nice pots pushed in your direction always have that effect.

New Hour #6:

At the conclusion of this hour, I am back down to $390. It’s not easy to keep your cool when your stack continues to swing wildly throughout a session. Admittedly, I have done a poor job of keeping my emotions in check, but, maybe, just maybe, this will be the end of the run-bad. It’s also frustrating to fight hard and lose pots to players flopping quads (ultimately this player’s hand would hold up, giving him a $1,000 HH bonus), and just badly missing flops in general.

New Hour ???:

At this point, it’s getting late and I’m trying to converse both mental energy and phone battery, so my note taking is sparse. I do wind up flopping a straight with QcJc on a T98 rainbow board, getting a bit of action on it from one player, and then rivering a straight with 78 from late position and getting there after being on a double gut-shot straight draw. This brings me back up to $500 and I feel like the tilt has completely left my system. It appears that, by this time, I have fought all the way through the emotional instability into a zen-like state of calmness where nothing could affect me. Maybe slamming my chips down and talking to myself in front of everyone was exactly what I needed to do to work through it.

I look down at T9 in the CO and raise to $12. Two players call, including the player that hit the quad 5’s for the HH bonus earlier in the night. This player was a former LLSNL pro, who used to play 50+ hours weekly but has since taken a step back from full time Poker and now plays recreationally. He was a tough player to play against, but started drinking quite a bit, often ordering two beers at a time with each waitress that visited our table. Sitting directly across from him afforded me the opportunity to see his face change as if watching one of those high-rise buildings being constructed in a time-lapse video. As the night wore on, his face became droopier, and by the time this hand happens, we’re in one of the later stages of my opponent’s buzz.

The flop comes 982hh. I lead out for $25, and both of the players in the hand make the call. The turn is a 7, putting a straight out there and also giving me an OESD to go along with my top pair. I bet $45, slightly less than half-pot. Again, both players make the call. The river is the 6s, giving me a ten-high straight. I check to see what my opponent wants to do, and he fires out four green $25 chips for a bet of $100. The other player in the hand makes the call. Thinking I would just be chopping, I make the snap call and show my hand. To my surprise, it’s good and I take down a very nice pot to put me up to $790, where I now find myself all the way unstuck from the moment I sat down at $2/$5 earlier in the day.

After playing for another hour or so, I rack up and book a nice win of $738, which is a profit of $538 for the $1/$3 session (21BB/hr.) and a profit of $68 overall on the day when including the $2/$5 session from earlier in the day).

It feels great to finally book a win. My mindset walking out of Encore’s Poker room is a good one, filled with excitement for the following day’s action.

#2: Shattered Dreams at Coco

Friday, November 15th: A light drizzle fills the Florida Turnpike as I navigate my way to the Poker room where it all started for me, some 18 years ago. After busting out late in Day 1 in brutal fashion last week, I’m looking for a classic revenge session, in the hopes of boosting both my confidence as well as my bankroll.

The Seminole Coconut Creek Casino’s Poker room used to be a tightly-cramped room on the second floor, where ten tables seating ten players were stationed amongst a thick cloud of second-hand smoke. That was 18 years ago, when I first started playing $1/$2 Limit Hold ‘Em. Today, Poker at “Coco” is near the Pavilion on the first floor, next to the 1st Street Deli, with a lot more elbow room and sustainably less smoke to be inhaled. Pictured above is one of the 23 Poker tables that, as of about a week ago, have been completely re-felted, replacing the faded, pale blue felts. Personally, I really like the new felts with the classic green color – I appeared to be in the minority, as many players and dealers that I spoke to seemed to prefer the previous version.

Hour #1:

I buy in for my standard $200 at $1/$2 No-Limit and take seat #1 on table #10. The tables, at this early morning hour, are few and far between. The action, at this early morning hour, is bountiful. One of the reasons I like playing at Coco is that there is always good action, even at LLSNL (That’s Live Low-Stakes No-Limit).

The first blog-worth hand happens after about an orbit or so, where I limp in from middle position with Ac5c, taking a multi-way flop of JT5 with two clubs on board. The action checks around and the dealer burns and turns a brick. An older player, who is a bit brash and loud for my tastes, over-bets the pot for $40. The player to his immediate right goes all-in for less ($36), and I, getting a good price ($40 to win about $140, so a little more than 3:1) make the call. The river is the Ks, and the aforementioned older player immediately fires out $100. I muck it, but he does show TPTK with AJ0 to take the pot down.

After a few more inconsequential hands, I got bluffed holding a small 8 on a KK8 board, where my nemesis from the first significant hand of the session, once again, over-bets the pot, making a $50 bet on the river with $35 in the middle. I’ll have to file this action away for another time, though, as this particular villain gets up from the table shortly thereafter, denying me the opportunity to get him back.

At the end of the first hour, I wound up busting a player’s ATo after I put him all-in as I held JJ. This puts me at roughly $150, 3/4 of my original BI.

Hour #2:

After raise-and-whiffing a few more hands, a player in the HJ raises to $8. I am in the SB and complete with Ac4c. Looking back, this is one of those hands that should be three-bet from one of the blinds (either for value or turning my hand in to a bluff), and I definitely would do it at a higher rate of frequency, especially in $2/$5 or higher. Here, in this particular game, there are not a lot of three-bets and, consequently, almost no four-bets happening. I typically like more passive games where players are doing a lot of limp/calling: This lets me put my foot on the gas pedal, pump the brakes, or get creative in other ways without getting caught in a tough situation.

Anyway, the flop comes 445 with two diamonds. I check to the initial pre-flop raiser and he continues for $10. I check-raise to $25, which appears to confuse my opponent. Ultimately, he slides in his last $80 or so and I snap call. The turn and river do not appear to improve my opponent’s hand (I flipped my hand over after calling, and my opponent mucked his cards after the river fell), putting my stack slightly up for the first time in the session at $210.

Hour 3:

My session gets an influx of action during this third hour of play. It begins right away when a short-stacked player, two seats to my left, jams all-in and I call with QQ. He flips over AA, but I get extremely lucky and spike a Q on the river to bust that player, putting me at about $225.

Right away in the very next hand, I raise to $12 from MP with AKo and pick up two callers to a 542dd flop. One of the early-position callers leads out for $15. With this type of flop against a player in early position who led out against two players on a connected / wet board, I decide to flat call with plans of stealing the pot away at a later street if one of the obvious draws get there. The other player in the hand folds, and we see the Jd on the turn. This card doesn’t scare my opponent as he fires out $20 in to a pot of about $70. At LLSNL, especially at $1/$2 or $1/$3, most players’ bet-sizings are going to reveal quite a bit about relative hand strength. Most players at these stakes never have to double or triple barrel bluff, and don’t know how to size appropriately to obtain their desired outcome when betting for value. I have two over-cards with a gut-shot wheel draw, and am being asked to call $20 to win a pot of $110 (which includes my call), for over 5:1 odds. Some percentage of the time, I’ll actually be ahead of my opponent in this spot, but even if I’m not, there are a lot of good cards for me on the river: Cards that greatly improve my hand, or cards that I can represent hitting based on the action so far. I decide to call the $20, with plans of firing a strong river bet if needed. However, my plans change when the 3s falls on the river, giving me the wheel. My opponent now checks to me, and I think about what I want to do. Ultimately, I decide to go down the path of least variance and check it back. I considered going for thin value against some Jx, but this player could also have a 6 in their hand or the flush, and checked to allow me some rope to hang myself. At any rate, with this pot I am now up to about $300 total.

A few minutes later, I win a $75 full house bonus with my Q2 off-suit and a Q2xQx run out. The first 25 full houses get $75 instantly, which I deposit into my hoodie’s left-hand side pocket. A few more minutes after that, I win another decent pot holding QQ against a short-stacked player’s AsKs, bringing my stack total to $360.

Another orbit or so after my pocket queens hand, I get into an interesting spot with a player who is typically a $2/$5 grinder, but is playing $1/$2 (my assumption is that he’s waiting for a $2/$5 seat to open up. I do eventually see him sitting at a $2/$5 game later on in the day). I limp from MP with 3c2c, and four of us see a flop of 35Q with one diamond. The action checks all the way around. The dealer – a kind-hearted soul – reveals the 2d, giving me bottom two pair, but also giving the players in the hand a back-door flush draw. The BB, who is the primary villain in this HH, checks it to me, and I bet $10. Action folds to the BB who check-raises to $30. I am concerned that the BB made a better two pair – hands like 52, Q2, or even A2 are entirely plausible given the action so far and his position pre-flop. I decide to call for the extra $20, as folding might be a bit too weak here. The river is the Kd, which completes the back-door flush. The BB leads out for $45, and I go into the tank. I don’t really beat much at this point other than a bluff or a hand like 44 that found an open-ended straight draw on the turn but bricked on the river. Ultimately, curiosity gets the better of me and I say “OK!”, as I throw in the $45 bet. To my surprise, he announces “One pair”. I quickly flip my hand over and it’s good, raking in another good pot to bring me up to $380.

Hour 4:

Things are going great, and I’m getting hungry. I order a bagel and have a relatively “chill” hour. I did win three nice hands to put my stack up to $460 by the time Hour #5 starts, including getting two streets of value when holding 5d2d on a 52x board with two spades. I also had AKo in back-to-back hands, three-betting each time and taking it down before the flop. The bagel was $3.

Hour 5:

I played a few hands that missed or hands where I opened / called but got raised off of, so my stack now has dropped to $390. An older lady took a seat directly to me left, employing some unusual bet sizes (Ex: she opened in MP to $25 without any limpers and took it down pre-flop without any callers). In one hand against her, I flopped Broadway holding KQo with an AJT board. I check and she immediately fires out $30. I “Hollywood” and got the impression that she was here to gamble it up. I try to make my play look like a bluff and jam all-in, but sadly, she mucked it.

Later on, I go for thin value holding KhTh on a AJTTx board and get paid off, bringing me back up to $420. Shortly after, I get into a great value situation when I called a $7 pre-flop raise with A8 in the CO. The flop came Ace-high with two spades. A player in EP bets $15, picking me up along as the only caller. I improve to Aces-up when the 8s falls on the turn, but remain cautiously optimistic as the front-door spade flush is now available. Once again, an opponent’s bet-sizing on later streets is far too small to drive me away – my opponent again bets $15 and there’s simply no way to fold getting 4:1. The river is an awesome 8h, filling me up. For a third consecutive time, the opponent bets $15, confirming my early suspicion of having a good-but-not-great hand. I raise to $50 and he calls. I show my hand and my opponent throws his away. After the Dealer shoves the pot in my directly, I count my chips and find $550 worth of $5 red-birds are now in front of me.

Hour 6:

Only one hand worthy of making my blog takes place during this sixth hour of play, and it comes in the form of two black Aces. I am in the LJ, and raise to $15 after a few limpers from earlier positions throw in $2 each. I get two callers on my raise, and we see a T-high flop. The SB goes ahead and leads for $15. I flat-call, and so does the HJ. The turn is the Tc, and when the SB checks it over to me, I decide to go for some value and bet a small amount of $35. I don’t think either opponent has a T in their hand (definitely not the SB), so the board pairing doesn’t scare me all that much. In fact, it might have helped me if, say, the HJ had some time of lower two pair. The HJ does decide to make the call. The river is a total blank. I think about what I want to do and after seeing that there’s over $150 in the middle, I slide forward a stack of 20 $5 red-birds for a $100 bet. The HJ snap-folds, but I show it anyway and am now up to $620 on the session.

Hour 7:

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! You might be wondering why the title of this post is called Shattered Dreams at Coco, given that I’m running well and playing well, up to a little over $400 in profit for the day. Well, take a good look at the picture above: that’s the last time I will see any of those chips together in front of me.

After losing a few pots, there is a hand where the button straddles for $5 with one limper. The LJ makes it $20 – the LJ is a younger guy who looks like he knows what he’s doing (in other words, not your typical $1/$2 player). I am in the CO and look down at KK. I put in a sizeable three-bet to $100. Action folds around to the LJ who goes deep in to the tank, but ultimately folds and tells me he had AQ suited. I show the Kings. Later on, it hits me that my bet-sizing is poor: I should have bet in the $60-$70 range to get value from a hand exactly like an AQ suited who might miss the flop. Nonetheless, it seems like I’ve righted the ship and I’m back up to $555.

After a few more busted straight / flush draws (about three of them), I’m now down to $475, which is still a profit of $275 for the day (at this point, $275/6 = about 23 BB/hr.), which is nothing to be shy about.

Hour 8:

This is the hour that I’d much rather forget than blog about. When I decided to make this blog, I wanted to ensure that I kept myself accountable to myself, win or lose. This accountability includes posting the details of both winning and losing sessions – and this post will be no exception.

I take part in two brutal hands that quickly put me in the red for the day. The first hand was when I had 44, raising to $7 in MP. The button and a few other callers come along and see a QQJ flop. I bet (I don’t have the exact amount in my notes – probably $15 if I had to guess) and the player on the button calls. The turn is an awesome one: a 4. I check for deception, but the player on the button checks back. The river is an inconsequential 6. I lead out (again, I don’t have the bet sizes for this hand), and the player on the button clicks it back, min-raising. I call, but in doing so, I tell him I think I’m no good. He quickly flips over QJ for a flopped boat. The awesome turn card turned out to be the last thing I needed to see, now being down to $315.

The second brutal hand is the one that hurt the most. I raise pre-flop from LP with QQ, and get flat-called by the player on the button. The flop was safe: I bet, he called. The turn was a complete brick: no obvious draws get there, and there are no over cards on this ten-high board. I take a look at his stack and he has about $125 left in front of him. I eventually inform my opponent that it will cost him the rest of his chips to continue on in the hand by stating “I’m going to put you all-in”. The player does not snap-call, which makes me feel very good about where I’m at in the hand. At this point, I notice that a woman is standing behind him; At first I thought it was a masseuse, but realize she is not wearing any type of uniform, so deduce that this woman must be my opponent’s girlfriend or wife. My opponent then makes a speech about how it’s getting late and it’s probably time to go home. After a bit more hemming and hawing, he eventually, reluctantly calls. I flip over my hand, and as the river card comes out, he flips over KK to win the hand. I couldn’t understand what he was scared of, so I ask him what he thought I had. His answer is another thing that many live low-stakes players think about whenever someone raises pre-flop when they’re holding a big hand: “I thought you had Aces!”. Many players will play hands like QQ and KK very passively, as they immediately put opponents on AA that show aggression before they do.

I realize that I didn’t get slow-rolled by my opponent. To be frank, he just wasn’t an advanced-enough player to know what he was doing. After this last pot, I now have $120 in front of me.

Hour 9:

By now, some of the players are realizing that I’m running poorly and we start chatting about downswings and such. Before I realize it, I look down in UTG+1 at QQ, a hand I’ve seen many times today, and raise to $12. A player in late position makes it $30 to go. The action folds back around to me and, looking to now double up to at least get back in the black, I shove. The opponent snap calls and, predictably, has me in a bad spot with AA. I could not improve, and just like that, there is nothing but newly-installed green felt in my direct view.

It would have been really nice to get the first winning session of the blog out the way in the second post, but it doesn’t seem like it was meant to be. However, I don’t leave empty-handed: I walk to the cashier to cash out my $75 that I had put in my hoodie’s pocket from winning the full house bonus earlier in the day. All things considered, I lose $125 on the day, or, equivalently, -8BB/hr., which is not the end of the world by any means. Additionally, I never once felt tilted or upset about the turn of events, and kept to my strategy and game plan even when my fortune drastically reversed.

Next week, I will be in Boston and plan on playing at the new Encore casino in the Boston Harbor area. There are a ton of $1/$3 and $2/$5 tables running during the week, with good high hand and bad-beat jackpot promos running (I’ve been checking Poker Atlas and it just feels like there will be a ton of action available). I look forward to taking some pictures, writing about my session(s), and, whether I book a win or a loss, executing a solid, long-term profitable, winning Poker strategy in Bay State’s capital city.

#1: New Blog, New Poker Room, New Parking Garage

Thursday, November 7th, 2019, Early AM: Today is a very special day for me. It’s been almost a year since I had my Poker re-awakening (Read About Me for details). Per usual, I can’t wait to just hop in a seat and play some cards – there’s something about the felt, the feeling of cards hitting your hands, that smell from the carpet cleaning solution that’s used in casinos all over the world.

This will be my very first blog, documenting what happens on the felt from my perspective. This is also the very first time that I’ll play in the brand new Poker Room in the retail shopping promenade of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL. The already-iconic guitar-shaped hotel had its Grand Opening a couple of weeks ago – my wife and I were there on the Friday Night of Opening Weekend to see Maroon 5 in concert, and swung by the new Poker Room to check it out.

Simply put, the new Poker Room is phenomenal (I will take some pics later today!). While I loved the Grand Ballroom and had many fond memories there, it will be an easy transition to play in this fantastic, upscale room, with beautiful wall décor and a “Final Table” area that looks ready to hold a live stream at a moment’s notice.

Today I’m playing in the $130 November Big Stack Special, a NLHE multi-day event with seven starting flights, 30-minute levels, and 15,000 in starting tournament units. If I can find a bag and not punt off my entire “good enough for Day 2” stack in two hands like I did in the Seminole Turnpike Series in October, I’ll return on Sunday at 11AM to hopefully cash, make a deep run, and since I’m going to be there anyway, bink it.

Friday, November 8th, 2019, 11AM: So I “bricked” the new Lucky Street Parking Garage when I got to the Hard Rock yesterday. There was a group of construction workers standing around and waving at me haphazardly, so I re-routed back to my standard parking spot in the Seminole Way Garage and made my way to the Poker room.

Before the tournament started, I played some $1/$2 NL and one interesting hand came up. I was in late position and there was a $5 button straddle with two limpers. I have about $225 in front of me and I look down at AQ0 in the CO. I make it $20 to go. The BB, with about $1,500 in front of him and absolutely trashed from playing all night (and after many beers), fumbles a few red chips forward to make the call. The two of us and one other caller see a flop of QsTh6s with roughly $70 in the pot. The action checks to me and I continue for $50. The BB is the only caller, with $170 in the middle. The turn is a blank, but interestingly, the BB leads out for another $50. I had observed the BB using his gigantic 800BB stack combined with his drunken stupor to make as-you-would-expect, completely non-standard plays that somehow worked in his favor. I decide that I need to get maximum value out of him before he passes out, so I rip in my last ~$150. He snap calls with K9ss. The Poker Gods decided that I would not be able to fade his 13 outs, giving him the Js for the flush.

Levels 1-4: Rather than grouping my posts per individual tournament level, I prefer to group them in-between breaks (So, Levels 1-4, Levels 5-8, etc…). My mindset going into this tournament was simple: “Don’t fuck this up!” I had blown up in my last tournament, going from 100,000 in chips to out of the tournament in two ridiculous hands that I shouldn’t have even played in the first place. I was determined to not go out like that this time.

Early on, I win a couple of small pots and hover around 20,000 for most of the first few levels. I picked up KK and won a small pot against two callers with a flop c-bet; another small win after raising with Q8o and turning a straight, and a couple of other small wins / losses with hands like AKo and QJhh. All in all, nothing too wild happened during the first three levels.

The action picks up right at the end of Level 4, which plays at 200/300 with a 300 BBA. I’m in the big blind and look down at Jh8d and check my option after a few limpers choose to see a cheap flop, which comes QTx rainbow. Action checks through and I hit the money card with the 9x on the turn. I bet in the neighborhood of 800, which draws a few calls. The river is a blank, where I again go for value, betting ~2,000. (I feel that I should point out that there is a slight margin of error with my reporting, as I am not always able to capture all of the hand history details with 100% accuracy. Some bet sizing, position of villain(s), and other details might not be entirely precise. However, the “meat” – the most relevant parts of each hand – will always be written herein). I get not one but two callers and take down a nice one. In the very next hand, I’m in the SB and put in an extra 100 to complete in a 5-way pot with 46 off-suit. The flop is one of those Favorable ones that Andrew Neeme always talks about: 578dd. Because of the two diamonds, I decide to lead out for 700. One of the reasons why I started this blog is to be able to go back and re-analyze significant hands I played; I don’t like my bet sizing here – it is way too small to deny equity from hands containing a 9x or two diamonds. I should be, at a bare minimum, betting 3/4ths pot or even betting full pot. I am out of position against multiple opponents with a hand whose equity has been fully realized. Even a 9 on the turn no longer gives me the nuts, so I much prefer a larger bet size here. Nonetheless, I get bailed out: the BB calls, a player in middle position raises to 2,500, the CO calls the 2,500 and action is back on me. I decide that I’m not messing around any longer and rip my entire stack in the middle. Not surprisingly, everyone happily folds as this hand sends the remaining players at the table on break.

Levels 5-8: With about 45,000 in my stack, the run-good that began at the end of Level 4 immediately continued at the start of Level 5. With blinds at 200/400/400 and exactly one orbit later, I pick up QThh in the SB, and call a raise to 1,300 from a middle-position player. With 5 callers and 6,500, my heart skips a few beats when the flop comes down AKJss. This is a very similar situation as with the 46 off-suit hand in the previous level, so I check instead of leading out for deception. This is risky, as the initial pre-flop raiser could very well have a two-pair hand in his range that smashes this board. My plan was to check-raise any bet and, if called, bomb any favorable turn card. The action checks through and we all see a 5h turn card. I now lead out for 5,500. Only the initial PFR calls and we’re off to see a river card with 17,500 in the pot. Obviously, I am hoping that we do not see a spade on this river, nor any scary-looking board-pairing card. When the safe 3h arrives, I take an internal yet unobservable sigh of relief and contemplate what to do. After a little thinking, I jam all-in in hopes of looking like I am bluffing because I missed my draw. My opponent goes deep into the tank. I am unsure if he is “Hollywooding” or if he is faced with a legitimate decision regarding the 2x pot bet he is currently facing. Sadly, my opponent mucks :(.

At this point, Rami Singh joins our table and takes a seat directly to my left. Rami has over $1.1MM in career tournament earnings and is the life of the party at the Poker table. He recently won $200,000 in Event #1: $600 Deepstack No-Limit Hold ‘Em during the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open series. Unfortunately for him, he quickly busted one of his bullets, giving me only a few moments between hands to exchange pleasantries.

After winning a small pot with JTo by raising in MP to 2,500 during the 300/500/500 level and getting three pre-flop callers without any other action, the “Hand of the Tournament” up to this point in time comes up. I went ahead and posted the hand details on r/poker community on Reddit for some feedback on how I played the hand – there is some good commentary and analysis to be found in that thread. The below image is a screenshot of my reported HH:

The only other hand worthy of a mention in this block of rounds happens toward the end of Level 8 at 400/800/800. A very good player whom I’ve crossed hairs with in previous tournaments makes it 2,700 from UTG. I am on the button and look down at AKo, presenting itself with the classic 3B opportunity to which I avail myself of for 7,500. UTG calls, and we see a 852hh flop. He checks it over to me and I go ahead and continue for 8,000. This is a very solid tournament player with nearly half a million in career earnings – the last thing I want to have happen is for him to take control of this hand and have him in the mindset of being able to take advantage of me (oh, the illogical mind-games we play with ourselves at the Poker table!). For those reasons, I bet out 8,000 after some acting on my behalf. Fortunately, UTG quickly mucks his hand and soon thereafter, we break, closing the registration period and locking Flight C up to the tune of 216 runners. I count my chips and lean my Player’s Card next to my stack as I always do, coming up with a well-above average total of 79,000.

Levels 9-11: The start of this block of levels was a rocky one. I lose holding AKo in late position to the same good player from the end of Level 8, as I get an Ace on the turn on a 733cc flop which I call down. He makes his backdoor straight on the river, shrinking my stack down to 55,000. I proceed to lose another hand holding KJss in the BB against a player who was severely crippled and all-in holding 22 with one other caller tagged along, knocking me down to 51,000.

The rocky waters begin to smooth themselves out when I look down at TT in MP with two limpers behind me during the 600/1,200/1,200 level. I raise to 6,500 and get two callers. I flop top set on a T62 rainbow board and check out-of-position for deception, as this board is too dry with too much of a stranglehold on it. The player in the LJ bets 7,000, leaving himself with only 5,000 more behind. Action folds to me and I jam, and he snap calls, showing 99. I get a clean run-out and am quickly back up to around 78,000.

After a couple of small pots, I ran a good bluff against that same villain, whose name completely escapes me (I will make it a point to learn his name the next time I see him, and include a link to his Hendon Mob profile). This player limps during level 11 with blinds at 800/1,600/1,600. I look down at AQo in the SB and have a clear raise to execute, which I do to the tune of 6,500. The player calls and we go heads up to a ten-high rainbow flop. We both check and see a Jx on the turn. He checks, I bet 5,500, he calls. The river is another Jx, and again he checks. I could have the best hand here some percentage of the time – perhaps he called down with a weak ten or some KQo / K9 / 98 / 87 type of hand and didn’t get there. I think about checking it back with my Ace-high showdown value, but instead, I take the aggressive approach and bet out 8,000 to make it look like I had a strong ten or possibly even AJ (which is a reasonable holding after raising in the SB) and want to get some chips from a one-pair hand that hit the flop. The villain doesn’t even think for a few seconds before mucking his hand, sending the pot our way and building our stack to an above-average 94,000.

After busting a short stack player with AJo vs. his K8 toward the end of level 11, I find myself buying all of the table’s black 100 chips and tally up a healthy 114,000 going into the last break of the flight.

Levels 12-14: I look up after level 12 starts and notice that we’ve been joined by Abbey Daniels in seat 8. Abbey is one of the top female Poker players in South Florida, with over $700,000 in tournament earnings including a pile of cashes in a variety of tournaments, many final tables and first-place finishes. She brings over 150,000 with her to our table, and with the last three levels in front of us, there’s no need to get out of line.

The Poker Gods, as we all know, have a strange sense of humor that us mere mortals have yet to figure out. After playing great tournament Poker for 11 levels, I run extremely card-dead in the next 90 minutes, with only an ATo at 1,000/2,000/2,000 as the lone exception – even here, I folded to a large 3-bet after making it 5,000 and getting blown off my hand from a large 25,000 raise. In a strange way, this is actually a good time to run card dead. During the last break of the flight, I was prep-talking myself up to not get involved in any marginal or tricky situation, and to tighten up. I wanted to find a bag for Day 2 on Sunday. Even though our baby-sitter called to cancel on Wednesday, I would have had any number of relatives or other options for Sunday. Perhaps our baby-sitter bailing on us was an omen, a sign, a “tell” for what was about to happen next.

We are now near the end of level 13 with blinds at 1,500/2,500/2,500 and I’m UTG. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m happy to look down at my two cards and fold them into the muck as fast as possible, doubly so as I’ve seen nothing but junk for an hour. At this point I have around 95,000, after blinding down a bit and picking up a very small pot (just blinds and BBA only) earlier after action folded to me on the dealer button and I raised two rags – I should probably note that the table has tightened up considerably, down to less than three full tables now and very close to Day 2.

You can imagine what thoughts crossed my mind when I eventually look down at AA. To be exact, I literally said “Ahhhh Yeah!” in my head. I raise to the table standard amount of 5,500. Action folds around to the player on the button, who has recently been moved to our Table #14, where I’ve been since the start of level 1. He brings well over 200,000 with him and doesn’t hesitate to ask me how much I’m playing behind. I inform him that I started with around 90,000-ish. After a few moments, the player announces – very boldly and brashly – THIRTY-FIVE THOUSAND. In other words, your typical 7x raise 3-bet. It’s hard to explain how massive of a raise this is for this table, so the words shock me (I was expecting 12,000, or 15,000, or something along the 3x / 4x area). Of course, the blinds get out of the way and the action is on me. I’m never folding AA pre-flop, and I’m not the type to get tricky after being 3-bet, so I rip it in there and get snap-called. Once I get snapped-off, I know I’m up against either AK or KK. I instantly flip my hand over and the player reacts as you would expect him to. He turns over KK and I’m in a great spot to double up to nearly 200,000. I stand up as does the villain and other players start gathering around to watch this massive pot go down.

The flop is clean: QTx. I’m two cards away from a major double-up and potential comfy seat into Day 2.

The turn: K.

The river: Q.

I’m out.

The pain of getting Aces cracked is something every Poker player has experienced, and will continue to experience as long as there is Poker to be played. The pain of having it happen in the way it happened to me hurts – a lot. Yes, I am fully aware that this will not be the last time I get coolered in a gut-wrenching way, and that this is how Poker can sometimes be. 80% of the time, I will get the outcome that favors me. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. This one will be one I remember for quite some time: I played great Poker since 11AM, only to find myself getting the absolutely maximum double-up potential with pocket Aces pre-flop in a dream situation, only to have it turn into a nightmare on the flip of one ugly turn card. This is also now the third tournament in a row where I make a deep Day 1 run and come away with nothing but a story to tell. The difference here being that I now have a blog to tell that classic bad beat story.

I feel like I’ve been stuck in this cycle of “Play well, run deep, get coolered [or blow up], on to the next one” for a few months now. Both cash games and tournaments have not produced the desired outcomes for me since the Summer. All I can do now is continue to study, continue to work on my game, and hope to start trending away from this quadrant of the variance graph. Emotionally, I feel as if I’m owed some good luck the next time out. Logically, good play == good outcomes in the long run.