Sunday, December 16, 2012

Damn Bubble!

Today was the "Super Sunday" tournament at the Palace Hayward.  That means double the normal entry fee, more chips, more players, and of course, more prize money.

I played my usual tight, patient game, and won most hands that I participated in, including some big ones.  I made it to the final table and continued the strategy.  All through the final table people were talking about deals to cut in the 5th, 6th, and even 7th place players, but there were a couple of guys who wouldn't go for it.  So it was looking pretty clear that only the top 4 would be getting paid.

It was down to 5, and I had a good sized stack, about 20BB.  I get 6-7 of spades in the big blind and there were no raisers, so I get to see the flop.

The flop comes with two spades, 5-J, and the 3 of hearts.  The other player in the hand checks and I check too, knowing I have a possible flush coming.

The turn comes 3 of spades, and I made my flush, albeit a low one.  I push all in, and I am snap called by the other player.

"Do you have a flush too?", I say, figuring my flush was no good because it was too low.

"Nope".  He turns over 5-5.

This is one of those hands that is easy to mis-read.  I saw a set of 5's and thought I had won, but with the pair of 3's on the board, he actually had a full house.  That 3 of spades helped him more than me!

So I lost ALMOST ALL my big stack in one hand.

With only enough chips left for one or two rounds of blinds, almost all hope was lost, and sure enough I was blinded off and finished in fifth place.

The highest possible finishing place with no money.  Bummer.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Not my lucky day

In poker you have good days and bad days.  Today was a bad day.

Early in the tournament, I get pocket aces, and I do my usual small raise on pre-flop, and again on the turn.  On the river I face a bett of 500 (blinds at 50-100).  There's a 8, 10, and Jack on the board, for a possible straight if she's holding Q-9.  No possible flush.  So I push all in, she snap calls, and turns over her Q-9.  My aces were cracked.

But I'm still in the tournament because she had a smaller stack.

A little later, I'm fairly short stacked and the break is coming up (last chance to buy in again).  So I push all in with a hand I would normally play more tightly: K-J off suit.  I get called by a guy with pocket 8's.  The flop gives me a flush draw of clubs, but it also gives him a third 8.  No flush on the turn, and the fourth 8 comes on the river, so I'm taken down by quads.

I buy back in.  A fresh start.  I make it past the break, and then comes another blow....

I have pocket Kings, and there is decent sized bet in front of me, so I push all in to try to steal it.  He calls, and turns over A-K.  Ace on the turn.  Blammo.  My stack goes from average size to only 1BB left.

Its hail Mary time.  I push all in on a couple decent hands and get lucky, working back up to a 4BB stack.

But I still have to keep the heat on, so one more time I push all in with pocket 3's.  I have one caller who turns over A-10.  Again an Ace comes, and this time I am dead for good.

Bad day.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

First Place!

Got first place in the Palace Hayward Saturday tournament yesterday!  First time I've ever played it down to the end in a live tournament.  Usually, we chop and I'm happy with that, but not today.

Everything seemed to go right throughout the day.  My first lucky hand came in the middle of the tournament when I called a large bet with pocket 7's.  A 7 came on the flop as well as a Queen which gave my opponent top pair.  I go all in and he calls and shows his Queen.  I'm ahead, but it just got better with a 7 on the river and quad 7's!

A little later came the hand that got us to the final table.  From the small blind with blinds at 700 and 1500, I limp in with K-J with two other limpers before me. The big blind has a short stack of only 3000 and he goes all in.  The two other limpers call, so there is 9000 in the pot, and I pretty much have to call as well.

The flop comes K-J-9, so I flopped top two pair!  I proudly declare "I'm all in" hoping to scare away the two other players that aren't yet all in.  It works.  They both fold.  So the one guy who is also all in excitedly turns over K-9.  He's thinks his two pair is good, but then is shocked to see my K-J.  He is eliminated and we move on to the final table.  A few minutes later one of the folders tells me he would have pulled a straight if he stayed in, so I guess my "all in" was a good bet!

I went to the final table with a healthy, above average chip stack, but there was still work to do.  I was thinking "play tight, don't squander, let the others get eliminated."  After we eliminated a few of the short stacks we were down to 6 players.  The top 3 would be getting paid.  Deal offers started to surface.  First, we all agreed to take $100 off first and $50 off second to pay 4th, 5th, and 6th.  I agreed, even though I was chip leader.  Nobody likes to bubble.

I kept getting good cards and being able to steal blinds with them, which was valuable since the blinds were up to 2000-4000.  Once I stole with pocket nines, then a couple minutes later pushed in with pocket Kings.  The pocket kings bet got called, by a guy with pocket queens!  My kings held up and I eliminated him and nearly doubled up!

Now we were down to 4 and I was by far chip leader with about 60K in chips (roughly 150K chips in play).  More deals were offered, but I wasn't interested.  My luck was running too good today.

So we played it down to 2, and the two of us at this point had about equal chip stacks.  My opponent had come from short stack to tied at the top 2, by getting lucky with all-ins.  He offered another deal where we took another $100 off first to go to second, just to make the split a little less wide.  I agreed.

I don't remember most of the rest of the hands because things move so fast when you're heads up.  There was one where I again had K-K and called his bluffing all in.  He had 5-6, but pulled a straight!  That should have been then end for him but he got lucky so we played on, since my stack was a lot bigger at that point.

The last hand was my Q-J against Q-9, and I got a Jack on the river to take the top prize!  $740 from a $90 entry fee.  Nice day.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Caught in a Bluff

Today I was at the final table with about 8 players left in a tournament at the Palace in Hayward.  My stack was getting short, about 3x the big blind, so I had to get brave.

I got an A-10 and went all in and stole the blinds.
Then I got an A-7 and did it again.
Then I got pocket 10's and stole the blinds for a third time.  Now I had a stack of about 8BB and was feeling a little better.  My table image was looking good.

About 10 minutes later I got an A-4 of spades and decided to limp in from the small blind, still thinking I had to get it some hands or I would soon be blinded off.   It was just me and the big blind, who was a guy who had been playing crazy and unpredictable all day, but he had a pretty big stack to show for it.

The flop comes 9 - 2 - 3, with the 2 being a spade.  I see a possible straight if a 5 comes, but I check, and he checked too.  Thank god I would get to see another card.

The turn comes a Queen of spades.  I check again and he bets 4000 (double the big blind, and about a third of my stack).

I see that I now have a nut flush draw and a straight draw, for a total of 13 outs.  That's looking pretty good, so I call.

The river is a 3 of clubs.  No good to me, but it did pair the board.

So, time for my bluff.  I quickly push all in for around 6000.  I took the guy off guard.   He expected a check and that he could bet and I would fold.

I tried to look cocky, as if I'd hit a set of 3's, but he didn't buy it.  "You wouldn't have called my turn bet with a pair of threes and a Queen on the board.  There's no way you hit the set of 3's.  I call."

Dang.  I turn over my nothing A-4 and he turns over Q-10 and my tournament is over.

It was fun though.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Deal? Or No Deal?

When you get near the end of a poker tournament, players often start to talk deals to chop the purse or cut-in the would-be bubble losers by taking money off the first place prize.

I've taken lately to starting these conversations, especially if I'm short stacked.   I'd much rather go home with a win in my pocket then come all that way and have to leave empty-handed on the bubble.

So today I was short stacked and starting to sell the deal offers with six players left (when top 3 would normally be paid).  The chip leader wasn't having it.  He had about 10 times the chip count I had, and he was looking pretty good to go all the way.  All I could say know "anything can happen....".  But no dice.

So we played on....

Knowing that I wasn't going to get a deal...I had to play more aggressive.  I pushed all-in with K-Q suited, and the chip leader called me with A-4.  I won when I paired my King.

A couple minutes later, he went all-in, and I called with pocket 9's.  He turned over A-6 and I won again.

So I doubled up against the chip leader twice in a row and now I had about as many chips as him.  Meanwhile a couple other players had been knocked out and we were down to 4.

NOW he was willing to talk deals!  Again the negotiator, I offered a deal for the top 3 chip holders to each take about 30% of the purse, and the lone short stack the other 10%.  Deal accepted.  Everyone happy.

Queens laid down

An interesting decision came up for me today at the Palace...twice!

Once right before the final table, and once a little later while at the final table, I was dealt pocket Queens in late position.  Normally a very good hand (and position) and at this point in the tournament it's one I would go all in with.

But the first time, there was an all-in and a call in front of me.  The amount bet would have put me all in as well.  With two bettors in front of me thinking they had good hands, I was less confident about my Queens.  I didn't want to get sucked out by a guy with a solo ace or king.  So I folded.

The first time this happened, the original bettor turned over a bluff and the caller turned over a K-Q.  Sure enough, a King came on the board and I would have lost.  When I told the table what I did, everyone thought I was crazy, especially the winner who didn't get my chips!

Then a while later it happened again!  This time, there were THREE all-ins in front of me with my Queens.  Again, I figured there had to be some higher cards out there and I didn't want to face them, so I folded.  Two of the all-ins turned over an Ace with a middle kicker (10, J, or something like that), and another guy turned over pocket Kings!

His King's held up, and again I breathed a sigh of relief by having saved my chips.

I went on to chop the purse at the top 5 when I had second place in the chip count.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


So King-Queen is a pretty good hand, right?  Well today I had the chance to play it three times within about 10 minutes....

It was at the final table of a tournament at the Palace in Hayward.  I had a below-average chip stack.  A few times before, I had been brave enough to push all in from good position and steel the blinds, so I was holding my own.

On the first K-Q I got, I was ready to push again, but somebody in front of me beat me to it.  Now I had to decide if I wanted to risk my tournament life against another guy who thought he had a winner, with my K-Q off suit.

My gut wasn't in it this time, so I folded.

Then it came again on the very next hand!  K-Q off suit.  Again, a guy ahead of me pushed all-in, and I had the same chicken-shit reaction of folding.  That guy later told me he had pocket 8's, so I would have been staking my life on a coin flip (pocket pair against two over-cards is about 50-50).

Finally, a few minutes later, I get K-Q again, this time suited.  Again, a guy ahead of me (different guy each time) pushed all in.

I thought about it long and hard.  I have to stop laying down these good hands if I'm going to stick around til the end.  This time they are suited.  This might be the time.

Think, hesitate, think, hesitate....I called.

He turns over pocket Aces!  Damn it.

Ok, so let's see the board.....

Two kings on the flop!!!  Huzzah!
Queen on the turn, and I have a full house!

He can still beat me with an Ace on the river, but it doesn't come.  I apologized to the guy for the bad beat.  He was a nice guy.

I went on to chop the tournament purse at six players, doubling my money for the day.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Same Damn Guy!

Like many tournaments, at the Palace Hayward if you bust out you can buy back in with a new entry .fee.

Today, early on I had about half my stack left, and the chance came to double up, so I jumped on it.   From the big blind I checked my 5-6 and got to see the flop after other players limped.

The flop was 7-8-9 and I had my straight.  I checked, hoping for a bettor, and the guy to my left bet a medium amount.  I pushed all in and he called.  He turns over 9-9 so my straight was ahead of his set of nines.  Onlookers started saying "uh oh...pair the board".  The turn was a 5, but then the river a second 7!

Damn, that second 7 gave him a full house and I was dead with my straight.

I bought a second tournament entry.

I little later I doubled up when I pushed all-in with A-8 and got called by Q-Q.  This time my luck was better when I flopped a boat with A-A-8.  That was fun...

But then later I was at the final table and got seated again next to the same guy who took me out earlier.  This time, I'm small blind and everyone folds to me.  I have Q-J so I try to steal with a min-raise, and the big blind calls.

I check in the dark, and the flop comes Q-10-7.  So I have top pair.  The guy pushes all in with more chips than I have.  It was a tough call because my kicker was not the highest.  I feared he had A-Q.

But I called anyway, and he turns over pocket 5's.  Cool, I'm ahead again.

The turn comes 5 and he makes a set.  No third queen on the river.

Damn, the same damn guy sucks out on me again and my day is over.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nobody wants a pair

Today I busted out of a tournament at the Palace in Hayward in an unusual way.  The blinds were getting big and my stack was on the small side (about 5BB), so I went All In with A-5 off suit.

I had one caller, who turned over A-4 off suit.  I figured I was in good shape as his only out was a 4.

The flop comes 2-3-10.  Immediately I noticed that I had a gut shot straight draw, and the four I was worried about would now help me rather than hurt me, giving me a straight.  Cool!  I'm home free!

An observer speaks out and says "wow, nobody wants a pair."   It didn't really occur to me what he meant by that until the hand was over.

The turn comes 8, no help.  The river comes 5!

At this point I see that I have a pair of fives and he didn't get his four, so I clapped and said "yes!" thinking I had won.

Not so fast, my paired-up fives game HIM the straight.   Now I know what that guy meant by "nobody wants a pair".

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What are the odds?

Last week in a tournament I got to be part of a pretty amazing hand.  It ended badly, but it was still amazing to witness it and be a part of it.

I was dealt KK, so I was excited.  Folks bet and raised before me, so I'm getting even more excited that I will win a big pot.  I raise.  The original bettors raised and raised again, so finally I just go all in, and they both call!

The guy after me, as he turns over his hand, says "do you have the red ones?"  He turned over two black aces.  Then the other guy turns over QQ!

So its AA against KK against QQ are we're all all-in.  Deal the board...

nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, and then.....Queen on the river!

The underdog with the Queens lets out a victory roar, and my tournament is over.  The guy with the aces had a pretty big stack so he got to keep playing.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lucky chop chop

A little bit of bad luck turned good in a tournament today at the Palace in Hayward.

After I limp in with Q-9 and two players follow me, the flop comes K-9-9.  I know I've got a pretty good hand, so I bet 2BB hoping for a caller.  The guy after me goes all-in.  Hmmm....does he have a King?  or the other 9?  Even if he's got the other 9, I probably have him out kicked, so I still think I'm in pretty good shape and I call.  We have about the same number of chips, so one of us is about to get knocked out.

He turns over A-9.  One of only a couple possible hands that could be ahead of me at this point.  Groan!  I'm probably dead.

But then the turn comes and it's a King!  We both have 9's full of kings for a chop pot.

Went on to chop the final purse at the final 5 as well.

Accidental muck!

When you muck your hand, it's dead, and your chips are gone.   Even if you didn't mean to, even if you're still in the action, and even if you have a winner.  I've seen some casinos where all it takes is a forward motion towards the muck, and they take your cards.

But the Palace in Hayward has a different rule that saved my ass today.

It was late in the tournament with 6 players left at the final table.  I went all-in with 4-4, looking at the guy in seat 9 for a fold.  I thought he was the last to act, so when he folded I threw in my cards and got ready to collect the blinds.

The whole table bellows "uh oh.....floor man, get over here!".

That's because the big blind was actually in seat #1 and had not acted yet.  My cards were in the muck, and the obvious outcome would be that seat #1 wins without even having to call.

But lucky for was still obvious which two cards in the muck had come from me.  They were, as they said "retrievable" from the muck.  So the floor man said I could have my cards back.  Seat #1 guy was bummed, but he then folded and I won his blind.

He was soon knocked out and we chopped at the final 5.  That could have gone entirely differently if the ruling had been different.  Whew!

Crazy players look good, then lose

In a tournament at The Palace in Hayward today, I got off to a good start thanks to this one hand.  There was a guy who was playing just about every hand early on.  His table image was HOT because he was winning just about all of them.  He had nearly double his starting chips after only about 30 minutes.  Many times when I got to see his cards he had good ones, but also he won a lot by betting people away from the pot.

Then there was another guy that was losing a lot of hands and was getting desperate.

So I get a hand of A-Q, and desperate guy before me goes all-in for about 1500 chips.  I have about 2500, and I was gonna just call, but instead I go all-in hoping to scare away the people after me, including crazy guy.  But crazy guy calls too!

(this is a bounty tournament, so you get $20 if you knock someone out).

Crazy guy turns over 5-7 suited!  Desperate guy turns over K-J off suit, and I show my A-Q off suit.

The flop comes with a 7 and it's not looking good for me, but then I hit the Ace on the river.  Crazy guy is pissed, but it's his own fault for calling against two all-ins with just a 5-7!

He was knocked out himself not too long after that.  I went on to chop at the final 5.

Crazy, but funny.

I played some tournaments in Reno while passing through on a road trip.  A funny thing happened in a hand that I was not involved in, but it was fun to watch....

Guy #1 limps for 400 in and guy #2 raises the pot to 800.  Guy #1 in calls.

After the flop comes 2-4-6, Guy #1 bets out 2400, and guy #2 looks at him like he's crazy.  "What do you have?" he says, and Guy #1 looks at the board and replies "What do I have?  I have a 2-4....I called your pre-flop raise with a 2-4...ha...ha...".

Everyone laughs, because who in their right mind would do that?

The hand later ends in a showdown, and Guy #1 turns over 2-4 to win it with two pair.  He was telling the truth after all, but it sounded so ridiculous that he had to have been kidding, we all thought.

I'd say that guy was a lousy card player, but a pretty good poker player.  He knew how to play the mental game, but I would NEVER call a raise holding a 2-4!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Check in the dark!

I sometimes make a move known as "check in the dark", where you're gonna be first to act and you announce "check" before the card comes out.  People debate whether this is a good move, for example in this forum.  On the one hand, you are acting before you have all the information available to you, so you're giving up some control.  But on the other hand, you make your move before your opponent can get a read on your reaction to the card.  And, your check in the dark (sort of) puts you in last-to-act position instead of first-to-act.

I like the move, even though it didn't work for me today.

We were in the mid-to-late stages of a no-limit tournament.  The blinds were 300-600 and I had about 10,000 in chips (thanks to a recent river flush that tripled me up).  In the small blind, I have 10-J off suit.  Everyone folds, so I limp in to go up against just the big blind, who checks.

The flop comes A-10-2.  I like my pair of 10's but as always I'm worried about the Ace, so I check.  The big blind checks as well.

Now I "check in the dark" for the first time.  My opponent bets 2BB, or 1200.  I figure since he checked the flop he doesn't have an Ace and he's trying to steal it, so I call.

I check in the dark again, and to my surprise, he BETS in the dark!  He throws out 4000 into the pot.  The river is still not yet dealt.  So I'm thinking, oh well, I was trapped.  He has an Ace and I'm about to fold.

But the river comes another 10 and I now have a set of 10s!

Knowing he bet in the dark, I figure the chances are this 10 didn't help him, but it helped me a ton!.  In retrospect, I should have thought long and hard about what he might have that made him so confident.  I just assumed it was a pair of Aces.

I push all in with my set of 10's.  He CALLS!

So I turn over my 10-J and say "I have a set of 10's".  He turns over 10-2!

Aw damn..  He flopped two-pair and rivered a full house with that 10!  He had me covered, so I was out of the tournament.

Could I have seen that coming?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In the Money

Yesterday I placed third in a tourney at the Palace in Hayward.  Pretty exciting to place in the money, but still a bit of a downer because for a while it looked like I would win the whole thing.  Usually at this stage in a tourney, players are talking about making deals to chop the prize purse, but this one guy kept saying no, he wanted to play to the end.

So we were down to the final three, and I had over 60,000 chips in a tourney that started us with 3000.  I was chip leader, thanks to a few all-ins that doubled me up:

1. I had AA and the guy to my right pushed all in so I had to call.  He showed A-J and it was all over for him before it started.  No two jacks came up.

2. I had A-K and bet big to scare away the would-be limpers, and the guy on my left was holding KK.  He pushes all in, and I was already in for about half my stack so I called.  We show our hands the the board gets dealt.  No joy for me until the river, when an Ace comes and I send him packing.

3. I had A-Q at the final table, which was down to only five players.  I push all in thinking everyone would fold, but I get called by the guy on my left who has A-K.  The flop comes 10-J-6, then a 9 on the turn, and I shout out a request for a King, and it comes!  My opponent is overjoyed and doesn't understand why I am too.  He says "That's my King!" and I say "Ya, but I have a straight!".  Bye Bye.

So finally we're down to three, I'm chip leader, and one guy is really short stacked by comparison.  It drags on for a while.  We're all playing pretty tight, even though the blinds are 2000-4000.  Money is just moving around the table.

It only took a couple of bad luck cases where I push all in or call the all-in from the short stack guy, and he doubles up, taking a large chunk of my stack.  Usually, it was cases where he had a low pair and I had two over cards, basically a 50-50 race.  But my high pairs didn't come.  It was probably three incidents like this until that guy took me out for good.  Now instead of being short stack, he was chip leader!

I went home winning about 2.5x my entry fee.  Still nothing to complain about.

Then, the third dude, the one who didn't want to make a deal, immediately offers a two-way split of the remaining money with the guy who took all my chips!  Bastard!

Friday, February 24, 2012


argh. I decided to play a hand I don't usually play, A-2 suited, and low and behold I flopped the nut flush. I decide to slow play and the one other player goes along, betting and letting me call every bet.

After the river, having not really even looked at the rest of the board because I thought I had the nuts, I raise $100 and he pushes all in. I of course call and now we both have $200 in the pot.

What I didn't notice was the board had two pair on it, QQ and 99. He turns over a QK and announces "Full House" and takes down my money..

It was greed that caused me to let it go to the river, and stupidity that I didn't notice the possible full house.