Bay 101 TV Final Table!
March 22, 2022

I finally made my first WPT TV final table appearance last week at Bay 101.  “Finally” may be a bit of an exaggeration, considering that I am 25 and have only been playing WPT events for less than 18 months.  However, I think I’ve earned the right to use such dramatic language.  I don’t believe that anyone has made as many “second to last” days in WPT events as I have over the past year or so without making the final day.  It’s always frustrating to get so close to a win and fall short, but I’m happy to have finally broken through into a top 3 spot.


I started day 1 strong at a tough table which included: Phil “USCPhildo” Collins, Antonio Esfandiari, Paul Wasicka, and Josh Arieh.  I was involved in nearly every pot and managed to have the winner at almost every showdown.  When you’re running well and playing well, it’s hard for anyone to play back at you.  I slowly increased my stack throughout the rest of the day without too many setbacks despite some tough tables.


Day 2 started out even better than day 1.  I was the chip leader at my table and came out firing.  I opened just about every pot I had the chance to, and was lucky enough to have some hands when I got played back at.  I 3 bet called Howard Lederer’s shove with AQ and was up against his JJ for a good chunk of chips to add to my stack and a $5,000 bounty as extra incentive to make the call.  The flop came 9 T K, which isn’t great for my hand since a Q now makes Howard a straight.  The turn bricked but the river brought a J to make three Jacks for Lederer but complete my straight.  Howard was a gentleman and stuck around for the picture and shirt signing, but the $5,000 bonus was the real prize.


From there I moved to another semi-tough table with plenty of chips on it.  I sat next to Jonathan Tamayo when we were 1st and 2nd in chips.  This didn’t last long, as I encountered my first big setback of the tournament.  Steve Sung limped the button, Brandon Cantu completed the small blind, and I raised out of the big blind with A9o.  Steve Sung now reraised about 25% of stack.  Cantu folded, and I decided to move in risking about 40% of my chips.  Sung tank called with TT, and I missed to move down to the middle of the pack.  My play here was very high variance, very aggressive, and ultimately unnecessary.  However, in my defense, I thought he was folding (obviously), and sometimes that’s the only reason I need to make a play.  Sung makes some very odd stack size plays and I just didn’t think he was all that strong here and knew he had no problem folding after putting in 25% of his stack.  These odds plays can elicit some odd responses, and that’s exactly what he got out of me as well as a bunch of my chips.


I built back up and put a pretty mean cooler on Joe Cassidy when we got all the money in on the turn of a 3 9 T J board with my KQ vs his TT.  This propelled me to over 200k and I kept it rolling from there.  We hit the money and went 6-handed at 36.  My new table was pretty soft and I took advantage.  I built up to 400k and then got lucky getting two pair in against a straight on the turn and smashing the four outer on the river for another 100k boost.  I ended the day around 450k, about 40% of the final table average with 27 remaining.

Day 3 started pretty mixed, with a few decent pots going my way and a few going against me.  Most notably, I lost a flip with KQ against Mclean Karr’s 77.  This was a mere stepping stone in the most absurd run of cards I’ve ever seen, but you can see how his story ended at  I moved tables and the usual second to last day nonsense began.  I proceeded to lose every all in against short stacks and got rivered out of some very crucial pots.  I had Joe Sebok’s empathy as he watched me fall from over 800k to under 200k.  I had members of the press needling me about my falls from grace late in WPTs.  And I had my own thoughts as to how miserable yet another WPT choke would be.  I wallowed in my own misery for a bit, but this time, I refused to die.


It’s a funny thing about going from big stack to short stack; it can be a very freeing experience if you allow it to be.  Of course, I’m always trying to accumulate as many chips as possible.  However, with a big stack late in these tournaments comes pressure.  You have everything to gain, as well as everything to lose.  Again, there’s nothing better than being a big stack late in a major tournament, but a short stack has one advantage: Nothing to lose.  When you’re on the shorty, and everyone is just waiting for you to go broke, you have everything to gain but nothing to lose.  If you can forget about the stack you had, and live in the moment, you can play your stack well and aggressively and put yourself in good spots to double up.  I’m proud to say I was able to go from under 200k to about 500k without ever being called all in.  I used this momentum and the confidence it gave me to run it up the rest of the day.  We went 5+ hours without losing a player, but finally got to the 7-handed final table after midnight.  Andy Seth took out the 7th place finisher, and the stage was set for the following day’s 6-handed TV final table.  I’d be going in 3rd in chips with 1.1 million.


Andy Seth, Phil Hellmuth, Mclean Karr, Hassan Habib, and Matt Keikoan stood between me and my first WPT title.  I’ll leave the final table happenings to television, and comment on it when it airs around June 7th or 13th I’m told.  Overall, I’m happy with my play, but we’ll see how it looks on TV.  It was a good experience and I hope to be back real soon.  For now, I’m in Austria for EPT Snowfest.  I already busted the main event, but I’ll be snowboarding the Alps for the next four days so I can’t be too upset.  I’m going to try and post some video on here so hopefully that comes out well.

February at the Commerce
March 3, 2022

I made the drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on February 1st.  I planned on staying at the Commerce Casino for virtually the entire month and playing mostly cash games while the tournament action was still small and playing more tournaments as the buy ins got bigger.  I used to be a cash player, and I was set on getting back to my old form.  Being a tournament player is fun and can be very rewarding, but when you go through long stretches of going deep without breaking through to a top finish, as I have as of late, it can be mentally frustrating and tough on your bankroll.  Playing cash games is far less volatile and can make for more consistent income and enable a tournament player to make it through the slow times.  Since I used to live in LA and play a lot at the Commerce, I figured this was the best place to get back into the game.


I packed up my car with everything I’d need to make the casino feel like home for the next month.  I brought my golf clubs and my longboard (skateboard not surfboard), nearly everything in my bathroom, a small library of books, and a dvd player.  I even changed my Netflix subscription to the Commerce address (which reminds me, I should change that back).


 I arrived just in time to play a $300 No Limit tournament, which I lasted all of two hours in.  From there, I went down to the 5/10 No Limit cash games and sat in my first live cash game in a long, long time.  I didn’t play all that well, ran worse, and was lucky to get out losing only one full buy in.  I two outed AA with QQ with a river Q to avoid being down two buy ins.  This was a rather inauspicious start to my month long grind.


Fortunately, I started playing better and running better the following day.  It took me about two more days to get back to even for the trip, and I never looked back from there.  I played just two of the small buy in tournaments, and dedicated the rest of my time over the first two weeks to the 5/10 No Limit games.  The games were generally very good and I was able to achieve a good win rate over the first ten or twelve days of my trip.


I focused on tournaments more during the second half of the month when the $1k buy ins and up started.  I also sat in some mixed games where I played for more money than I’d ever played for.  I’ll post the story of the second half of my trip in a few days.

Sleepless in Biloxi
January 30, 2022

As the final six players remaining in the WPT Biloxi were rummaging through their individual suitcases looking for something suitable to wear on television the following day, I was scouring Expedia for the first flight out.  It was two o'clock in the morning, and the six twenty-five to Vegas was screaming my name.  When you're second in chips with eleven remaining, squeaking out your first WPT final table is little consolation.  I grabbed a burger at the twenty-four hour diner at the entrance of the Beau Rivage with Jason Mercier and Phildo Collins and headed over to the bus entrance to catch the airport shuttle.  Springing for a cab just didn't seem right after watching over seven hundred thousand dollars slip away yet again.


After several deep runs in WPT events, I made my first final table with a disappointing and frustrating ninth.  The story of the tournament was the same as any other.  I played well; got lucky a few times, got unlucky a few times, and tried to put myself in a position to win.  There was one pivotal hand with eleven left that really hurt me that I'll describe here:


I opened the button with AsQs to 28k at blinds 6k/12k and was called by Jonathon Kantor in the big blind.  The flop came out Qh 8d 3h and Jon checked.  I bet 37k and he called.  The turn was the Ks, and we both checked.  The river brought the Ad, giving me two pair.  Jon led for 75k, with about 200k behind.  I have 500k before acting on the bet.  Obviously, folding is not an option.  The question here is whether to call or raise.  I am only beat by 3 hands realistically: 33, 88, and JT.  JT of hearts would make perfect sense, and JT off is a possibility.  33 and 88 are also possible, though I think he probably would have check raised the flop with those hands.  This player likes to defend with a lot of hands, including ace rag.  So if I move all in, I think he'll call with A3, A8, probably KQ, and possibly Ax of hearts if he thinks I'm making a move, albeit unlikely.  I decided that these hands were far more likely than the three that beat me, so now it comes down to a tournament life decision.  If I call and lose, I'll still have 230k, or about 20 blinds.  Had this number been closer to 100k, I may have called and taken the lower variance option.  However, with enough chips to climb back if I lose, and a belief that I am significantly more likely to be called behind, I decided to shove and try to pick up an extra 200k chips.  Jon called instantly with 33, and I went from big stack to short stack.


I brought the hand up to Jason Mercier and Daniel Negreanu after it happened, and both said they would probably just call.  However, I had been playing with this player for about thirty hours in both the 10k event and the 2k event all the way down to the final table (where I got 6th and Jon won).  I had plenty of information stored to make this decision, and I stand by it.  I'm trying to win a tournament here.


I lost a few chips to another amateur by the name of James Reed.  He openly acknowledged that he could not compete with good players post flop, and resorted to making fifty blind shoves over any raise with his good hands.  I three bet his cut off open, which he obviously called, only to be check shoved on an ace high flop.  What could he have here?  Very few good players would call my raise preflop with AQ or AK, but with James I was sure he was at least that strong.  Though he had very little experience, he was still a formidable opponent.


I've heard a quote several times that people relate to playing poker.  It goes something like: "The world's best swordsman does not fear the second greatest swordsman.  He fears the amateur because he cannot predict what he will do."  First of all, the quote itself is absurd.  If I, an amateur swordsman myself, were to take on the world's greatest, I would be dead in seconds, whereas the second greatest may very will win.  The same is true in poker.  I would prefer to take on an amateur player over a pro any day.  However, there is some truth to this analogy in short stack tournament situations.  Amateurs consistently make bets and raises without knowing why.  Do they want a call or a fold?  Who knows?  They often don't.  They'll call off 40% of their stack preflop without knowing what they want to see on the flop, or what they will do when they hit it.  This is the reason tournaments are profitable, but it can also be very dangerous late in tournaments.  If you're building a pot late in a tournament against a player who doesn't know the value of his hand, you had better well know the value of yours.


I boarded a stuffy, crowded plane at about six o'clock in the morning.  After some pleasantries exchanged with my seat neighbor, I slept all the way to the ground in Memphis.  I walked to my new gate, found a row of seats without arm rests, and slept some more.  I had a middle seat on the flight back to Vegas.  Surprisingly, all the good seats were taken when I had booked just hours before.  Right before take off, the pilot informed us we had a flat tire and would be sitting an extra half hour or so until it was fixed.  The guy next to me was pissed, but I was too tired to worry about it.  I went to sleep and didn't wake up until I could see the Las Vegas Strip.


I'm heading to LA on Monday to start a month long grind.  I'll be putting in a lot of hours at the cash tables, as well as playing some of the smaller LAPC events leading up to the bigger ones.  It's been a frustrating start to the year, but I'm rededicated to the game and couldn't be more focused.  Hopefully I can turn that into cash in LA.

Frustrating but hopeful start to 2010
January 15, 2022

The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure just wrapped up in the Bahamas.  It was a little colder than usual due to the freeze that has been creeping down the western hemisphere (Dennis Quaid would have you believe it was caused by Global Warming).  It's hard to complain when you're surrounded by palm trees in January, so I won't.  It was a nice change from the snowy Northeast.


The main event was bigger than ever, and I had an extremely soft table on day 1.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get anything going and ended the day with less than I started.  Day 2 started out well when I doubled myself back into contention, but ended a short time later.  I turned my attention to the 5k, where I played better than I have in a while.  I couldn't mount a run on day 2, and ended up finishing short of the final table in 12th.  The field started with 225 people however, so I made a little money for my efforts.


I then proceeded to come in 5th in the 1k 8 Game Mix tournament when they paid 4, and 17th in the 5k 6 max tournament when they paid 12.  The trip was about breakeven, but I'm happy with my play and have a newly found focus on my tournament game that I'm looking to parlay into some strong finishes in the early part of this year.


For now, I'm heading to upstate NY to a town called Ruedaville where apparently the internet hasn't quite reached.  I'm looking forward to snowmobiling, shooting a few guns, snowboarding, and snowboarding off the back of a snowmobile with a wakeboard rope.  I'll be in Biloxi, Mississippi next week for the WPT there if I don't kill myself.