Category Archives: 2/4 OFF-SUIT POKER TALES

WSOP Preview: Time is NOT of the essence in Poker

 

The best poker players in the world all have this one skill. It has nothing to do with the tactical aspects of the game. It has nothing to do with reading your opponent, playing position, betting correctly or grinding. That one skill that the best of the best all have is patience.

It is said patience is a virtue, it is also an acquired, learned and honed skill that can lead to some monster pay days. I have never seen a successful poker player say, “it’s time for me to force the action.” That just isn’t reality. As we sit here on the eve of the 2015 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, here is this little reminder on the virtues of patience courtesy of the ole BitOBaca.

The greats of the great can sit at a table for hours, whether in cash or tournament play and wait out their opponents. This patience serves two purposes. First, if you aren’t getting cards it allows you to nonchalantly throw them into the muck and live to fight another day. Second, it allows the real good players to get reads on their opponents. Being a novice, I have found great strategic value in this move. One can pin-point the weak players and stay out  of the way of the stronger ones. Remember, the more information you have about your opponent, the easier it will be to beat them straight up, regardless of the cards you hold in your hand.

Patience allows you survey the scene, analyze and make mental notes on your foes. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten into a game at the Bellagio or Aria and have heeded this patient approach. After a few hours of mucking hand after hand I come to the slow realization I am playing with pros.  These aren’t players to be messed with. If after an hour-and-a-half to two hours of play you can’t tell who the worst players at the table are, then YOU are the worst player. Attacking a table without knowing anything about your opponents is what loser’s do. You will be broke before you know it.

Some of the best feelings at a poker table are when you can clearly tell who the bad or suspect players are. When this happens you don’t throw your patient ways out the door. Instead, you wait. You pick your spot and then attack. Preferably in position, preferably when they might be on tilt. Notice I am not even mentioning cards. Cards don’t matter when you are playing a bad player. You can check/raise, raise or move them in with their marginal hand. Sometimes they will get lucky and hit a card on the turn or river. But, what you are looking for is an advantage, and the only way to ensure you have an advantage is whether you are holding the nuts, or whether you are playing someone who is just begging you to take their money. The only question left  is whether you have the patience to get to this point.

Good luck at the WSOP 2015 !

 

 

Vegas: The Grind is the Joy

 

Fun and frivolity in Las Vegas for most means letting loose, downing copious amounts of alcohol and leaving ones’ worries at home. I am not most.

Las Vegas to me is a workplace. Warfare on the felt at the Bellagio, Aria or any other poker room that will have me. After the birth of my son in June I reasoned that these trips would be few and far-between, but lo and behold my play-by-play duties take me to Sin City for a junket just a few weeks after the World Series Of Poker.

I know I have annoyed friends and loved-ones with my never-ceasing desire to be alone in Vegas. You see I am never really alone. Spending 12-14 hours at a poker table, reading people, concentrating, studying, playing, shoving, bluffing. That is my nadir. I venture most people wouldn’t find this “fun.” Well, the game is my fun, the grind is my fun. No cocktail, no circus show, no event can match the psychological showdowns on the felt. It’s a work trip. Filled with lots of rest and then the beautiful grind.

money

When the flop hits the board and you see a 2 and 4 on the board, beware if I’m in the hand. I might have it, then again, I might not.

NOVEMBER NINE 2014 !!! World Series of Poker Running Blog….

 

MONDAY NIGHT

8:41pm

We have our first elimination in the November Nine as poker pro Mark Newhouse has been eliminated in 9th place for the second straight year. An amazing feat. He declared before the tournament that he would not finish in 9th again, but he bluffed on the river with pocket 10’s against the pocket Q’s of Will Tonking from New York. The board was ugly with 2, 4, J, 4, J…….Tonking check/called and Newhouse bet into him. On the river Newhouse shoved and Tonking waited a good 20 seconds before calling.

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Tonking now sits at 48 million chips, Joort Van Hoof is at 46 million. Sindelar at is 25 million, Larrabe at 21 million, Stephensen at 19 million, Billy Pappas at 16 million, Politano for 12 million and Jacobson at 10 million.

Mark Newhouse is eliminated in 9th place and earns $730,725 dollars.

The November Eight now are nearing their 4th hour of action.

8:52pm

Van Hoof had the amazing ALL-IN bluff on Larrabe right before the dinner break. Now he pushes around the Brazilian Politano. And, now his trying to push around Stephensen who is sitting on Ace/King diamonds. Van Hoof has Queen/5 diamonds.

Van Hoof folds…..It was the first FOUR-BET of the night.

9:04pm

Jacobson goes ALL-IN as bottom stack with pocket 9’s. Politano folds and Sindelar folds. Jacobson now sitting at 11 million and Politano goes to 10 million. Politano is bleeding chips. His range is quite small, if he doesn’t have a pair he doesn’t play, and now the blinds are catching up to him. I expect him to be the next guy to be eliminated

9:19pm

Could see action here as 3rd place Sindelar raises chip leader Will Tonking. Sindelar has Ace/4 and Tonking has pocket Jacks. Flop comes K, 8, 8. Sindelar bets 1.8 mil. Tonking calls. The turn comes 4 of hearts. Tonking checks, Sindelar checks. 10 of diamonds on river. Tonking checks, Sindelar checks. Tonking picks up the 9.3 million dollar pot. He now sits at 54.6 million chips.

9:24pm

Tonking wakes up with pocket 6’s. Jacobson goes ALL-IN with Ace/King 9.97 million. Tonking FOLDS. Hmmmmm. Tonking didn’t want to leak chips even though he has chip lead and had the lead.

9:37pm

Van Hoof with Q/9 spades bets 1.1 million and Larrabe calls with Ace/Jack off. Board comes 8d/Kh/3h. Van Hoof checks, Larrabe bets 1.1 million. Van Hoof folds. Time for a break we are still 8-handed

TUESDAY NIGHT

WSOP Main Event and we are down to our final three. Jorryt Van Hoof is the chip leader and is very good playing with the lead. Felix Stephensen is a true grinder and has ability to come up and bite if you don’t get a good read on him. Martin Jacobson was short stack and now is in the final three. I like Jacobson…..

Van Hoof is at 89 million

Jacobson is at 64 million

Stephensen is at 46 million

Here we go !

6:23pm

Stephensen takes down a pot with Ace/5 after Van Hoof bets 4 million on the river with a 3/5 off. Stephensen had checked to the river. Van Hoof bets into him and Stephensen calls with 4-over cards on the board. Nice call by Stephensen nets him the pot. Players have come out firing. Van Hoof is at 81 million, Jacobson at 69 million and Stephensen at 48 million.

6:48pm

Stephensen goes ALL-IN with pocket Queens after the flop of 7, 8, 9. Jacobson had K/J off and mis-reads Stephensen and bets 6.2 which results in an immediate ALL-IN from Stephensen as he takes it down. Van Hoof at 81 million, Stephensen at 63 million and Jacobson at 50 million.

7:06pm

Jacobson gets pocket ACES. Stephensen gets K/J off. Stephensen gets air on flop. Jacobson bets 4 million on flop and Stephensen calls. A KING comes on the turn and Jacobson bets 10 million, Stephensen calls. A Queen comes on the river, which puts the possibility of a straight and a high two-pair on the board. Jacobson shoves 15 million in pot and Stephensen snap calls. Jacobson’s ACES hold up. Huge hit to Stephensen’s chip stack. Van Hoof is at 88 million, Jacobson at 86 million and Stephensen at 25 million.

LATE TUESDAY NIGHT

Amazing play by Martin Jacobson as he captures the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship. Jacobson was sitting on 7 big blinds and was the short stack at the table some, two hours into final table play, yet emerges with the championship with some stellar play. His calm, consistent approach served him well. Jacobson went ALL-IN 19 times in 144 hands and was rarely called allowing him to claim some much needed pots to help build his chip stack.

A deserving champion

WSOP 2014: Decorum at the Poker Table

 

Being a new father I am not able to watch the World Series of Poker in the timeliest of fashions. I am catching up on this year’s action thanks to Comcast On-Demand. And after watching Season 13 Episode 11 Part 3 I was appalled at the behavior at the Main Table that was broadcast on ESPN.

I primarily tuned in to watch poker pro Maria Ho and her excellence on the felt during her 2014 Main Event run. But, the show quickly turned into a lesson on how NOT TO ACT when playing poker.

Poker pro Kyle Keranen was at the Main Table and had the biggest chip stack. An amateur by the name of Curtis Rystadt was also at the table. As you can see from the footage above, it got personal, quickly. As a poker player I do not blame Keranen for calling out Rystadt. What the footage doesn’t show was the incessant banter of Rystadt during the action. He would try to engage others in conversation as hands were being played. What made it worse is he was doing this while those involved in the hand were sitting right next to him. THIS is a huge no-no in poker.

As much as I wanted Keranen to shut up Rystadt, part of me wanted him to get tunnel-vision and block him out, but being realistic, how can you do that after four long hours of listening to his rambling? Rystadt reasoned that he was “just trying to have fun.”

Well, I believe playing poker should involve a modicum of decorum and class. And, it was classless and of poor taste for Rystadt to constantly harangue during the play. I feel it was unfortunate that Keranen had to stand up to Rystadt by himself. I was hoping someone else would have voiced displeasure to Rystadt over his never-ending banter. I can only imagine the other players at the table didn’t want to make waves especially knowing this was going to be the table broadcast for this edition of ESPN’s coverage. Keranen just couldn’t take it anymore and called out Rystadt.

I believe he did it with aplomb and stayed as composed as one could. It was a frustrating episode. The poker was good, but the Rystadt antics surely took away from the high level of poker that was being played. Hopefully viewers came away with more admiration for Keranen and his compatriots, then Rystadt and his attention seeking maneuvers.

Near the end of the episode Keranen and Rystadt finally get entangled in a hand. For Keranen fans it was bittersweet as Rystadt’s desire to go heads-up with Keranen was rewarded with a “lucky” flop turn and river, busting Keranen’s ACES. What follows was all you needed to know about Rystadt. A verbal barrage, dressing down the pro in the most haughty of fashions. As I get ready to watch Episode 4 On-Demand, I don’t wish for much, but I do wish Rystadt dies a slow painful poker death, while the poker world is standing behind him, cheering his demise. And, also cracking stupid jokes and talking incessantly in his ear.

 

Tempered confidence in Poker is an asset

 

HE IS ABLE WHO THINKS HE IS ABLE.” -BUDDHA

Confidence is an amazing thing. In whatever walk of life you travel, if you believe in yourself, believe in the process; magic can happen.

On a recent trip to Vegas I experienced the confluence of confidence, mindfulness, and being present on a three-day poker excursion. I had never had a “run” like this before. But, I have no doubts it will happen again.

While stacking chips at my table after winning yet another pot, I wasn’t surprised, amazed or even questioning what was happening. I was confident in the fact that I was just better than the people I was playing with, regardless of whether I had the winning cards in my hand. The cards were ancillary. They didn’t really matter. The more I won, the better I played.

There is a fine line between that feeling of invincibility and just straight confidence. It is very easy to slip into that impenetrable zone at the table. That is why “tempered” confidence, a rational confidence is what best serves the “tune-in” player.

At no time did I feel I was going to win every hand. I never pushed my chips, when I was in “hope” mode. I pushed when I knew I was going to win. It wasn’t an ostentatious feel, it wasn’t cocky. It was a knowing confidence, with an awareness of self and fellow players. Channeling that feel, where you are  mentally aware of your surroundings can lead to great results.

The more people at the table came after me, the more I backed off. I had no problem folding a marginal hand when out of position when someone wanted to flex their muscles. In my state of mind, I wasn’t thinking about past failures, or future riches, all that existed was the present. Being so acutely aware of what is happening RIGHT NOW, not only in poker, but life can only serve you well. Your mind will tell you what to do. You just have to clear the clutter and mentally tune in to your soul.

This may sound a bit philosophical, new age or even a bit ” out there.” It is “out there.” One has to shelve their pre-conceived notions. You have to train your mind to forget what you have been taught about feeding negativity in your life. Embrace the moment. When you embrace the here and now and are in tune with your thoughts, centrally focused on a task at hand, and attack a task with tempered confidence and enthusiasm, you will be tough to beat in poker and in life.

It’s not gambling, it’s a game of skill

 

I absolutely detest when people say poker is gambling. It’s annoying. It shows their complete ignorance to what this game is about. Is there an element of luck to poker? Certainly, but this game isn’t pumping money in a machine and hoping a few bars pop up on the center line. Poker, pure and simple is a game of skill. You show me someone who relies on luck or hope when it comes to poker and I will show you someone who is broke.

Poker is a game about making decisions. The best players in the world force tough decisions on those they are playing. In poker champion Annie Duke’s book “Decide to play great Poker” she says the goal should be to play in such a way as to force your opponents to make hard and tough decisions, rather than making those decisions yourself. How do you do this ? Position. Taking advantage of where you are on the table. Attacking vulnerable players, reading them, learning their weaknesses, and then taking them down. It sounds simple, but it takes study, discipline and unwavering patience. You notice, I haven’t said anything about getting good cards.

On a recent trip to Vegas I put these tenets to the test with long “junkets” at the table. One thing I “MUST” have when I play poker is time. If you are at a poker table, yet you must be somewhere in 20 minutes, or an hour, or even three or four hours, then why bother ? Patience, patience and more patience is needed. A key to success is recognizing those at the table who are impatient, those who are looking for the big score. You see them all the time. They play all the hands. They get their money in. They push and push and push. I love seeing these people at the table. On occasion they may get lucky and hit their card, they may even knock you out of a tournament and even take your stack. But, I welcome these gun-slingers all the time. They don’t play odds, and they don’t play position and more often than not they could care less about reading you as a player. I may not attack these players, but I am patient enough to wait them out and then put the screws to them. I love putting these players on the spot for their stacks when I am in position. I won’t wait until I have the nuts to bust them, although the nuts help. But, just making them feel uncomfortable, seeing that squirm, knowing I have them beat. I get giddy thinking about it.

As we discuss this more we will talk about the ultimate people game that poker is. The better you know people, the better you will be at the game.

First foray into live Vegas poker play

MY BOAT ENDED UP SINKING

I was brimming with excitement. After watching hours and hours of poker on television, after playing online for three months, I was finally ready to tackle the tables in Vegas.  Or was I ?

I plunk down my 200 bucks at Bally’s and nervously sit-in with a group of folks that looked like they woke up in these seats. I felt so out-of-place, nervous and thinking way too much. This was my first foray into live poker play, and I think it showed.

My play was deliberate, the mind always making sure the mechanics of my play were in line with proper table etiquette. “Damn, this is hard,” I thought.

I was mucking nearly every hand for 30 minutes, but then it happened, I finally got a hand. I was dealt King/Queen suited. Knowing nothing about position at the time I “called” some bets in front of me and waited for the flop.

KING     EIGHT    QUEEN  (rainbow)

This was quite the flop for this newbie. I tried to play it cool knowing I was ahead but didn’t want to give it way with movements or tells. All the while having a pretty good idea that any poker player with skills would have seen the glee on my face.

I remember 8 dollars was bet into the pot, the woman to my right folded and the action came to me. I called. The man to my left called and we were going to see the turn.

KING

I had just turned a boat !!!! I had turned a boat. My head raced in exultation. My foot started to tap. I almost couldn’t contain my wonderful good fortune. I have no doubts that a smile was peaking from the side of my mouth. “Oh my God ! I have a full house. I am going to win this pot. I love this. I love you. I love everybody. Viva Las Vegas,” I thought.

Three of us were in the hand and the bet was 15 dollars to me. Trying to use my best “I have nothing in my hand” face. I proceeded to scan the board, look at my chips, take a deep breath, sigh, and then what happened next was simply classic.

I FLIPPED MY CARDS OVER

Yep, in my glee to win the hand, my uncontrollable happiness, I couldn’t stand it and I flipped my cards over. It took me roughly 1.8 seconds to realize what I had done, but once I did there was a permeable gasp at the table and then laughter. There was an immediate fold from the gentleman behind me and the initial better folded too.  The laughter continued as people looked at me, giggled and shook their heads. “it’s my first time,” I exclaimed. Collecting my pot and stacking my chips was never and has never been so embarrassing.

I was fodder for the rest of the table over the next few hours and eventually my 200 bucks was being stacked into the mountain of chips by some of the better players at the table.

I would not change a thing about this first experience playing live poker. It was embarrassing and costly but it was also important in my maturation as a player. Being a novice it really couldn’t be much worse than that. Now that I am an experienced player, I am thinking about hitting the table and pulling that maneuver off again, playing dumb and then trapping these peeps.

Poker is the ultimate game of deception. Now that I have developed the skills to play at the big boys table, it might serve me well to lay the ground-work for a trap using my perceived naivety.

We shall see….