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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Winding down and grinding away

June 15th, 2012 Poker, Travel 95 Comments »

I’ve been part of the poker/casino industry for close to six years now, and during that time I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some amazing destinations.  I’ve covered events in Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and all corners of the Asia Pacific.  I’ve enjoyed the experiences, the people I’ve met and the fun times I’ve had.  It’s rare to be able to find a job that you genuinely have a passion for.

That’s why it’s very hard to step back from such a job.  But unfortunately it’s not the kind of gig one can do forever.  I’m at a different stage of my life to where I was five years ago, and I’m now looking to finally settle down.  We’re moving back to Melbourne, with a little chicklet due in October, so life priorities will change.  I won’t be travelling so much that’s for sure.  I will probably stay involved, but try to pick and choose which events I travel to.  I’ll also still be involved with Poker Asia Pacific to ensure that remains the #1 poker news and information website in the region.

Spending more time at home has allowed me to get back into the grind of online poker.  For a while I’d totally removed myself from my usual heads-up grinding as it was so hard to get any action at decent stakes.  I tried Zoom Poker for a while but that was pretty disastrous, so now I think I’ve found a routine that I’m comfortable with.  I’ll play MTTs on Mondays and Thursdays which is when the bigger tournaments run, and then if I feel like playing poker on the other days then I’ll grind heads-up cash.  Hopefully that will only be in the mornings, because when I get the itch to play cash at night it usually ends with me being unable to turn the laptop off when I’m stuck!

The MTT grinding has had some mixed results.  I’ve been playing across PokerStars, 888poker and Party Poker.  I had a deep run in the Sunday Million a little while ago for a top 50 place, and have picked up a couple of small FTs here and there.  I’m definitely due for a big online score, and it frustrates me that I’ve been unable to achieve that.  I’ve never really taken MTTs seriously, and I envy the guys that can handle the brutal variance that comes with them.  I think it’s much better for me to grind cash, and take shots at MTTs as mentally I handle that a lot better.  Hopefully the big online score is just around the corner.


July 6th, 2011 Poker, Travel, WSOP 39 Comments »

Ok so it’s taken Las Vegas all of two days to crush my poker spirit.  Thank God I’m not here for two months.  The good news is that the sickness that I’m currently feeling in my stomach is being harnessed into a massive positive.  I’m tilting real hard as I write this, probably more tilted than ever before in live poker.  Steeling yourself with the pain can only make you stronger, and I’m happy that it all takes me one step closer to things turning around.

It started two days ago when I ventured into the murky depths of WSOP Event#54: $1,000 No Limit Lolament.  These tournaments require huge amounts of luck with such massive fields and relatively short stacks.  However I think as long as you get off to a good start, the structure isn’t too bad.  If you slide back in that first level, then things are going to be tough.  Fortunately I found pocket aces on the very first hand of the tournament.  I only won a small pot, but I was able to chip up early with some small ball and stay out of trouble.  The table was soft enough but I didn’t get to sit still for long, as I played four different tables in eight levels.

On my second table I went on a bit of a heater.   I knocked out one guy with AK vs KK, and then three-bet squeezed QQ to win a nice pot.  Shortly after I hit a set with QQ and got three streets of value against AQ.  As this hand finished, a strange scenario happened as our table broke.  The other players racked up their chips and followed the TD from the Amazon Room to…somewhere.  I was left raking in the chips from the previous hand, and when I turned around, everyone was gone!  I was like a lost kid in a department store. I wandered around aimlessly for a few minutes before I wimpered to a TD that I was lost and couldn’t find my mummy.  He escorted me to the Pavillion room, I got a new seating card, and then walked over to the other side of the Pavillion Room to find my seat.  All of this took a good ten minutes.  I should’ve just wandered around for ten hours, as I had over 18k at that point which would’ve been an acceptable end-of-day count.

However my new table wasn’t so smooth as I went card dead for four levels.  I won one small pot with 88, I raise-folded AT and A4 to three-bets, and my two steal attempts from the button/cutoff with T7 and K6 were both met with re-raises.  I slowly slipped back to just over 10k which was still around 25BB when I finally found KK under the gun.  I raised, and UTG+1 shipped all in, I called and he showed JJ.  He skillfully hit a jack on the flop to rake in the 18k pot.  If I win that pot, I have nearly 20k and would be a strong chance to reach my first WSOP cash.

Next hand, I find QQ in the big blind.  The cutoff opened to 850, button called and I shoved my last 1,800 in my best “don’t give a fuck” splash of the pot.  Cutoff shoved to isolate and button folded.  Cutoff showed A6, and I’m in great shape to triple up on the QJ5 flop.  K turn. T river.  Are you kidding me? I consider flipping the table upside-down and smash people over the head with my chair WWE-style, but instead I stand and leave the Rio quietly.

Today was a chance at redemption in WSOP Event #56: $1,500 No Limit Spazzament.  My starting table had one guy wearing a Full Tilt patch, and then Hai Bo Chu joined the table a little later.  The rest weren’t too concerning.  I won the first hand of the day (again), then lost a fair chunk on the second hand when I raised QJ on a T93 flop.  My opponent re-raised for half his stack and I wished I just called.  Many would gamble here, but I don’t think he’s doing it with AT, and he’s not folding, so it was overpairs or better.  I didn’t want to gamble on 8 outs at best so I let it go.  It proved a good decision as he played pretty tight for the rest of the day.

I chipped up and won a nice pot when I three-bet JJ from the small blind and flopped a set.  I bet flop, and then check-shoved turn.  Then my favourite hand came up again.  With the blinds at 75/150, FT pro raised to 325 UTG, and MP called.  I had KK and made it 900 from LP.  UTG shoved QQ and I snap it off.  Q in the window and once again I get two-outered in a massive pot.  If I win that, I’m up to 10k in level 4.  Instead I head to the second break with 2,125.

Hai Bo was travelling well and I hope he goes deep, as our table breaks. I get moved to join Simon Watt who has a bazillion chips and making things look easy.  I’m looking for a spot to double and get it with ATs holding against KJ.  I then get moved again and it’s a tough table with four or five American Internet kids who all appear to know each other.  Sigh.  The only one I recognize is Jason Potter, famous for getting robbed in Melbourne after the Aussie Millions.  I cold, four-bet jam AK to get myself up to around 6,500 before raising KJs and folding to resistance on a dry board.  Next orbit I try again with KJs in MP.  I raise and get flat called by a kid on the button.  The flop was a dry 852 and I c-bet small.  He flat-called, and I guess alarm bells should’ve been going off since the flop was so dry, but you never know with these guys.  The turn was the Jc and I have about 4k left (20BBs).  My first instinct was to check-raise shove, and its a good spot for it I think, but I decide that there’s no value in turning my hand into a bluff when I have a good chance of having the best hand, there are few draws and he’s likely to be an aggro-tard at me.  So I decide to check-call, and again call on most rivers.  Once I call the turn, I don’t think I can really fold the river, so I stuck with the plan.  The river was 9h, I checked, he shoved and I made a quick call.  He turned over pocket aces.  Obviously I didn’t put him on that, and I guess he played it well.  I neither love nor hate my play.  I’m sure a case could be made to play it differently, but once I hit top pair on the turn with a pretty short stack, I think I have to go with it.

So it gets better from there…

After I bust, I grab some dinner with Tim, Ben and Dave and Tim talks me into playing some $1/$3 cash with him.  It was mostly good fun with some light raising against limpers without really making any hands.  Tim doubled up with a nice flush over flush, but I was hovering around even, until a drunken American douchebag sat down and caused havoc.

I didn’t realise he was a douche until, after he raised four hands in a row, I decide to three-bet him with AJ.  He made it like $13 and I made it $29.  He insta-shipped all in for over $350.  WTF?  I’m confused but he’d been raising so much and he started staring me down so I was leaning towards calling his ass.  Then he started giving me the speech.  You know, the “I don’t care, I have more money in my pocket, etc, etc” speech.  He didn’t stop with the verbal barrage, and I couldn’t really figure out what he wanted me to do.  After the speech I was now leaning towards a fold, when he gets all pissy and calls the clock on me!  I’d thought for all of 60-90 seconds, and far less than many, many other smaller decisions at the table during the night.  “Whatever fuckface, I’ll now sit here until the floor is called and I time out,” I thought in my head.  And so I did.  Meanwhile douchebag has time to order two Caronas from the waitress as the floorstaff earns his money counting from ten to zero. I time out and he shows queens.  MBN and WP.

I slip two Benjamins on the table, and raise pocket queens, and of course douchebag decides this is the one hand this lifetime he will fold.  I flop a set and everyone else folds. Unreal.

A few hands later I have jacks on the button.  Douchebag opens to $18 and I raise to $60 on the button.  I know he’s always calling.  Flop 8c3c2s.  He checks and I bet $100.  He insta-ships and I call it off.  He shows 6c5c!  Fuck off!  This guy is verbally intimidating the table, playing every hand, raising junk, drinking two beers and calling three-bets OOP, only to flop a fkn straight and flush draw!  FFS.  Ok well, I’m in front but practically flipping.  Turn is the Qh as I fade the first card.  I’m now a favourite and I need to fade the river to ship to $800 pot and end my day on a high note.  River….4c.  Fuck off! The wanker calls out “Straight!” not realizing his flush is good as I quietly walk out of the Pavillion in slient rage for the second time in the day.


The Year That Was

December 30th, 2010 Poker, Travel 77 Comments »

A long and rather tiring year has come to an end. It didn’t go as expected, but that’s not a negative. My year just headed in a different direction than I originally thought. My plan was to play more, but I ended up working more events than playing.

Here’s what I wrote on PokerNetwork at the start of the year:

My 2009 started with me winning a seat into the Aussie Millions Main Event and then the APT Manila before the first month had passed. I proceeded to bust out of the AM before the dinner break on Day 1, and then managed to bust in Manila in 40 minutes.

At that point I still considered myself a cash game player, and wanted something to motivate me in tournaments, especially live where I hadn’t cashed in anything of significance. Ducky came up with a prop bet of first to 10k in cashes which gave me the motivation to turn my attention to tournaments which I am thankful for. I didn’t particularly enjoy the variance compared to cash games, and still don’t, but I put time and volume into MTTs online, despite struggling to break even.

In March I then grabbed my first decent live cash with a deep run in the JHDSS Main Event. I finished the rest of the challenge online and won the side bet.

In around April-May, I turned a $16 sub-satellite into a $215 satellite entry for the ANZPT in Melbourne. There were two seats up for grabs, and when three-handed my QQ held up against KJ to win a seat. Ironic how QQ would haunt me later. The other chap who won a seat in that satellite was some poor sod called grunter321. Has a future that kid.

The ANZPT Melbourne event itself was an unbelievable three days. I remember talking to Ducky the night prior to it starting, and saying how awesome it would be to finish Day 1 with 100k. I ended up with 210k. I ran like God until heads up when that QQ would end up giving me nightmares as it lost to Chris Levick’s AJ for the title. I hope I one day get that opportunity again.

I went to Vegas for work and didn’t play any WSOP events this year. I was offered an opportunity to play the WSOP Main Event but turned it down for various reasons. One of my goals for 2010 is to win my way into the WSOP Main Event.

I won a seat into the ANZPT Queensland and had another deep run but missed the money. This was the most enjoyable event of the year for me, and another goal for 2010 is to qualify into as many ANZPT events as possible, as I think the tour is brilliant.

The last few months have been rather brutal, as variance got hold of me. I had some deep runs at JHDSS3 but swung bad at the wrong times, and didn’t cash, and then struggled online. But its a funny game as the last two days have been really good, and today I hit my biggest online MTT score to get myself back in the black. It’s been an amazing 2009 and exceeded all expectations, so I look forward to 2010.

2010 goals:
– Continue to put in good online volume
– Reach more online FTs and four/five figure cashes
– Get inside PLB Aus Top 100, then top 50
– Forget about cash games, maybe just play live for fun
– Play Aussie Millions Main Event
– Win into multiple ANZPT events
– Play WSOP Main Event
– Bring home a trophy!

Well I’m at pains to say that I achieved pretty much zero of my goals. Yay for goal setting! In March I received an offer for heads-up cash game coaching/staking which I accepted. For the most part it has gone really well. I’ve learnt a lot and improved considerably post-flop. It looked like I’d reach my profit targets when December started off at a record-setting upswing. Unfortunately it then spiraled out of control in a record-setting downswing that was twice as large as the upswing with my two biggest losing days ever. As such I’m floundering my way to the end of my 100k hands goal.

Is 100k hands in nine months good volume? Not really, but considering I’ve worked way more events this year than I anticipated, I guess it’s acceptable. After working my third WSOP in July, I received an offer to work the ANZPT/APPT events for PokerStarsBlog. This has been a really refreshing switch to work with such a well-respected and well-managed company. So this has meant that I qualified and played in exactly zero ANZPT events this year. Fail #2. It was pretty hard working the ANZPT Melbourne event when the year prior I was sitting there playing heads-up for the title. The good news is that there are so many tournaments on nowadays that I don’t mind missing the ANZPTs for now as I can easily get my fix of play time in other tournaments if I wish.

Since I was playing HU cash for most of the year, I didn’t play too many MTTs. I still play Mondays when I get the chance, as infuriating as it can be. I swear it’s shaving years off my life. I picked up the odd four-figure score but nothing major, and nothing close to five-figures. I really have to rectify this if I want to be profitable in MTTs online. My ITM% is good, but just too many min-cashes and not enough deep runs or big scores.

I won’t be playing the Aussie Millions Main Event this year which is also disappointing. But I really haven’t put in any effort into qualifying so it’s no surprise. If I ever get back into a fuller playing schedule then this is definitely a huge goal for the future, as well as the WSOP Main Event. I won’t be working the WSOP again, as it’s just too brutal, so that definitely opens the door to playing in future.

Still no trophy in the cabinet (sigh) but was proud to finish 3rd in the State of Origin event during the year in a super tough field. Again, if I play a fuller schedule then this definitely remains a goal.

So while I didn’t reach any of my playing goals in 2010, I certainly picked up plenty of work opportunities and was able to travel to some great places which was awesome. Cebu was the absolute highlight of the year and I can’t wait to go back, while it was also great to goto Darwin for the first time, and return trips to the Gold Coast and Macau. Perth and Queenstown are on the radar for 2011 as I’ve never been there before.

In 2011 I expect to be playing less, so maybe that means it will turn out that I’ll actually end up playing more! The December downswing has left me needing a break from playing and once I finish off the 100k HU hands, I expect to leave poker alone for a while. I’ll be pretty busy working at the ANZPT/APPT events again this year, and I want to make more use of my downtime in between events to work on other projects and enjoy some things away from poker.

I think it’s important to get prepared for life after poker.

WSOP Update

June 20th, 2010 Poker, Travel, WSOP No Comments »

Well the WSOP is approaching the half way mark, and so far it’s been a blur. When you’re working long hours, one day just bleeds into the next and before long you’ve lost touch with what’s happening in the world and even what day of the week it is.

We’ve had a couple of deep runs by the Aussies with two final tables that I’m aware of, but nothing to match the feat of Simon Watt just yet. I remember first seeing Simon in action on about Day 2 of the PokerStars APPT Auckland Main Event last year and I thought he was the standout player, even at that point of the event. He went on to win, and I wasn’t surprised to hear him go deep at the WSOP. A huge effort and will be great for poker in New Zealand.Some of the other Aussie boys have arrived into town this week so expect to hear more of a splash over the coming weeks from the likes of Jonathan Karamalikis, Kristian Lunardi, Matt Pearson, Dan Neilson, Con Tsapkounis and Kerry Stead, just to name a few that I spotted loitering around the Venetian last night.

It was my first opportunity to actually hit the felt myself since I’ve been here in Vegas and it was good to actually get some chips in the hands and squeeze some cards. I’m not a big live player, as I usually get bored and much prefer multi-tabling online, but if I’m with some friends, I’m happy to play live for fun. Some of the PokerNews guys came along, and first we hit some NLHE before jumping over to a HORSE game.On the first hand of NLHE I flopped a set of threes and turned a full house on a 3-4-T-T board. The woman who was in the pot with me reached back and tried to pull another $100 to put on the table. Sitting there with a virtual lock on the pot, I was more than happy for her to do so, but the dealer told her she wasn’t allowed to do that. So we got her last chips in on the turn, and the river was a queen. Of course she flipped over pocket queens! Awesome.

Later on I stacked a guy with another set when he chased a flush draw and rivered an ace to pay me off. We jumped over to HORSE and first hand I made quads in Holdem. A little later I made a straight-flush in Omaha, and I think I had less than five or so bring-ins during the Stud games all night. I run good. I was clearly sapping all of the run good from fellow PokerNetworker Tim Duckworth who, in the end, was tossing out the bring-in in anticipation before the cards were even dealt. Most of the time he was right. I ended up in front so it was a good night.

I often get asked if I am going to play any WSOP events while I’m here. It’s a tough one, because I don’t get much time off from live reporting, and any time I do get is usually consumed by PNW. I’ve played one event in two years over here, so maybe I might try to squeeze one more donkament later in the series. The tax issue is a real turn off though, and I’d rather use my $ back in Australia at the ANZPT events. But really, I’d love to play the Main Event, and probably won’t be satisfied with my time over here until I’ve played it. One day. Backers apply within.

No Love On Day 2

November 22nd, 2009 Poker, Travel No Comments »

Day 2 of the Joe Hachem Deep Stack Series Main Event held so much promise but only delivered disappointment. I ended up busting in 82nd place, just 19 places from a $1,000 cash. I desperately wanted the result, so I’m gutted not to cash after getting myself into a strong position on Day 1, the field being mostly soft, and the structure being so good. Unfortunately the cards just didn’t go my way today. I posted a scoreboard from the other day, well here’s today’s scoreboard:

AA – 0
KK – 0
QQ – 0
JJ – 0
TT – 0
99 – 0
88 – 2 – won one, lost the other in race to bust out
77 – 2 – won one with c-bet on ugly AKJ flop, the other raised and folded to three bet
66 – 0
55 – 0
44 – 0
33 – 0
22 – 1 – folded, would’ve lost with set over set
AK – 2 – doubled once, lost once
AQ – 1

Not exactly spectacular reading, and there’s not too much to write about since I didn’t get to play many hands and simply didn’t win any big pots at all. It all started in the first orbit of the day when I raised Jc Tc and saw a Ad Jd Th flop. The small blind had called and then donked out 3,000. I popped him to 8,500. He called and the worst card in the deck, the Qd hit the turn. We both checked and the river was the 8c. He fired 10,000 and I folded my two pair. As it turned out the turn saved me as he flashed K-Q for the flopped nuts. Not a good start.

The only other hand of note early was when there was a raise and call, and I called along in the small blind with As Ts. The flop of K-Q-8 was checked around and I spiked a jack on the turn to give me the straight. I thought someone would bet the turn but they checked again. River was a deuce and I fired 6,000 and got a call by Karsten Kobbing with A-Q. That was my only win at showdown for the day.

Every other pot I won was without showdown as I managed to keep chipping up without any confrontation, which was nice, I just needed to occasionally pick up a big pot with a big hand to get ahead of the pack, but it just never came. There was one hand which I thought was my missed moment, but it proved otherwise. There was a raise UTG by Karsten Kobbing, and I was next to act. Normally I would call to set-mine, which may have been the correct play, but with so many to act behind me I decided to just fold. The board fell 9-2-5-5-4 as two players played a monster pot. Karsten had pocket tens but another guy showed pocket nines. I would’ve lost my entire stack, and it would’ve been been the fourth time this week I would’ve lost with a set of deuces. As it turns out I saved my stack, and after the earlier J-T hand, I felt like I’d slipped through two nooses, and maybe it was going to be a good day.

At each of the breaks I went from 77.7k to 78.k to 96.2k to 90k. So I was maintaining my stack without ever find any cards or good spots to get something happening. I can’t recall getting even a suited connector or something like that to jab with. When I was raising, it was nearly always from position, with complete air, simply to steal blinds and antes.

Unfortunately I eventually ran into a hand. Following the third break of the day, I raised 77 from UTG and had to fold to a three-bet. Next hand a chick shoved for 8BBs from the cutoff. I played with her yesterday and saw her shove all in blind and she’d also shoved all in two hands prior to the break. I also know she’s mates with some good players, so understands the need to steal blinds when in position with her chip stack. In hindsight this was probably my only real mistake for the day as I insta-called with Ah Th. Online I think it’s an insta-call, but live maybe its more borderline. She shoves a lot of aces which I crush, a lot of K-Q, K-J type hands which I am front of, and a lot of small pairs which I’m racing against. Unfortunately she had one of the hands which crush me as she flipped black kings. Fuck. I hit an ace on the flop but it was followed by a king behind it. A ten on the turn gave me a glimmer but the river bricked. It felt like a standard call against a short stack, but I now obviously regret it.

A few hands later I raised K-J from early position and Peter Aristidou three-bet me. I only had about 10BBs behind, but Peter has always got a hand there against my short stack so there was nothing I could do. I folded, and he flashed pocket aces. Sigh.

I then found a double up after shoving with A-K against an opening raisor who was priced into call with J-T. Two aces fell and I had some breathing room. I took down the blinds with Ac Jc, before finding A-K once more. I raised 2.5x and the big blind called to see a 7-6-5 flop. He donked out with a bet, and perhaps I could shove with my overcards but I doubt I had fold equity with my short stack.

The blinds kicked up and again I was under pressure. Another orbit of lost blinds and antes and I was down to 39.5k at 3k/6k/1k when I found pocket eights in the small blind at a new table. Big stack limped UTG, old guy with smallish stack limped UTG+1 and other chip leader limped on the button. I wish I had more chips and then my shove would’ve had some more fold equity but I was confident I had the best hand so I shoved all in for 32.5k more. The UTG called and the others folded. I showed my hand and he cringed, so I thought he must’ve had a smaller pair, but he flipped As 9s. I guess he put me on A-8. Of course a nine hit the river and that was it. I was out in 82nd place, just short of the money. Not much I could do as the blinds and antes would’ve eaten me up and it was a good spot to grab chips. If the river was not a nine, then I’m up to around 100k and very likely to cash.

Very disappointing result, as the field was mostly soft, the structures were excellent and I got myself into a good position after day one. However despite getting some cards yesterday, I had all my big hands cracked, including a one-outer, and had no cards go my way today, yet I still came within a breath of cashing. I guess that’s a good sign, and I felt like I have played really well all week, without a result to show for it.

What’s next? I’m currently tossing up whether to go to Sydney to work the APPT, but at the moment I’m leaning towards taking a nice break and just grind online. Perhaps try to win an Aussie Millions seat. Thanks to those who supported me on ChipMeUp, and sorry we didn’t get a result, but I feel there’s something big just around the corner.

Chipped up in Main Event

November 21st, 2009 Poker, Travel No Comments »

I rocked up for Day 1b of the Main Event and found myself on the feature table, but disturbingly it felt like the final table as I looked around and saw some familiar faces.  As I sat in seat 5, I found Crown Player of the Year leader Peter Artistidou (Seat 1) and Jie Gao (Seat 3) who had both also final tabled the ANZPT Melbourne event that I finished 2nd in.  It didn’t get much better as I looked to my left to find ANZPT Adelaide champ Karl Krautschneider (Seat eight) and high stakes local player Billy Seri (Seat 9).  Things got even worse a few minutes into the day as PokerStars Team Australia Pro Emad Tahtouh claimed Seat 2.  Shiiiiiiiiiit.  “Wow, the chip leader is so coming from this table!” laughed Emad as he sat down and I buckled up.

I really didn’t want to tangle with Peter, Billy or Emad too much as I knew they would make my life hell.  Billy especially, I find very angry-aggressive and difficult to play against.  Karl isn’t too dangerous, and I felt Jie would spew chips to me and I could trap him if he gets overly aggressive.  The others were weak-tight and I since they were next to me in seats 4, 6 and 7 I wanted to try and be in as many pots as possible with those guys.

Not too much eventuated early and I was pretty quiet.  I then picked up pocket jacks, raised, and took it down with a c-bet on a king-high flop.  Very next hand I pick up pocket jacks again and raise from early position to 300.  I get three callers and action moved to Jie in the big blind.  He popped it to 1,300.  I felt like I had the best hand, and was happy to isolate the loose Jie in position, so I four-bet to 3,800.  The table folded back to Jie who tank-folded.  I three-bet Jie again a few minutes later with AQo but then I check-folded a dangerous looking flop and he took some chips back.

Peter busted when his two pair fell to Billy’s straight and flush draw, so that brought a little relief.  I remained tight and then my first big hand came in the 100/200 level.  Billy limped UTG, and Emad raised to 825.  I found Ad Kd and raised to 2,200.  I’m never raising Emad without a real hand there, and he probably should know that. The table folded back to Emad who made the call.  Straight away I felt like he was thinking of pulling something on me as we saw a Ac 2c 5d flop.  I immediately thought of our hand at the ANZPT Queensland (where he doubled me up with 52o vs my AK) and hoped that he didn’t have the same hand!  He checked and I bet 3,000.  He quickly called.  I was a little concerned and when the Qh fell, he checked and I decided to check behind.  I still think this was the correct play against someone like Emad for a number of reasons.  He is capable of check-raising me with virtually any two cards there, and I don’t really want to blow the pot out of proportion with just one pair.  He could have a better hand like AQ, but by checking I control the size of the pot.  Really the only river I fear is a club to complete the flush draw or perhaps a 3 or 4 to fill a funky straight, and by checking I’ve under-rep’d my hand enough to enduce a bluff from a bully like Emad almost 100% of the time, since he thinks I’m tight.  I was prepared to call most rivers, but I was a little sick to see the 8c peel off and Emad fired a solid 7,400 into the middle.  It was almost half my stack and I gave the decision plenty of thought.  The only hands he bets on that river are the flush or air, and his bet just seemed too big to make sense.  AQ might put in a small blocking bet, and a flush probably bets less looking for value.  Either way, I don’t see how I can ever fold against Emad as I’ve seen him float flops and fire rivers hundreds and hundreds of times.  I called and he turned over T8o for the airball.  I raked in the chips and moved up over 30k.  “How can you call with ace-king?” asked Emad.  “How can I fold?” I replied, “I’ve seen you do that so many times!”  Emad chuckled and said, “Yeh I guess I shouldn’t bluff someone who has seen me play every hand!”

Soon after and I picked up pocket sevens and put in a raise to 600 at 100/200.  Billy then popped me to 2,100 on the button.  I went set-mining and spiked it on the T72 flop.  I checked, he bet 6,500, I raised to 14,000, he shoved and I called.  He turned over pocket queens and I doubled through to be close to 70k within the first three levels!

Next level, Billy had doubled up Karl and the very next hand I looked down at pocket nines on his big blind.  I had no intention of really trying to steal or clash with Billy unless I had something as I expected him to put up a fight everytime.  Since he just lost a big pot, I expected him to come back over the top with any two cards when I raised to 1,200.  Sure enough, he shoved for around 9,000 and I called.  I was surprised to see he was as strong as AQo, but the board bricked out and Billy was gone as I got close to 80k.  Emad busted a little later when he tried another bluff against a guy who called him down with pocket sevens, and suddenly the three dangerous players were gone and I had a stack!

Jim Mastorkas took Emad’s seat and it didn’t take long for him to get active.  Jim raised to 1,200 and Jie called on the button.  It was the perfect spot for a squeeze.  I’d recently written an article for PokerNews magazine about situations just like this can be perfect for nits, as I looked down at pocket kings.  To everyone, my raise to 4,200 looks like a squeeze, but with kings I was deceptively super-strong.  I was hoping Jim or Jie might re-pop me, but sadly both called.  Even more sad was the A-Q-T flop. Against two opponents I decided to give up, expecting at least one of them to have an ace.  The flop checked around and an 8 hit the turn.  I checked, Jim checked and Jie fired 8,000, leaving himself 13,000 behind.  I considered that I was ahead but still folded, before Jim did some Hollywooding before raising to put Jie all in.  Jie thought for a few minutes but folded.  Jim obviously had a hand, my guess is AQ as he claimed to not have a set.

I was a little annoyed at losing with pocket kings, as the next hand was underway.  Karsten Kobbing opened to 1,200 and Jim called.  Incredibly I looked down at my cards in the small blind and found pocket aces!  Perfect!  I raise, a little bigger this time, to 4,600, and once again it looks like a squeeze and in fact it looks like a tilt squeeze.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.  Karsten folded (what he later said was QJs) and Jim fluffed around before making the call.  The flop was K-Q-8.  Not great but I’m only in trouble against KQ or 88 (maybe QQ), so I fired out 6,600.  He again danced around with his chips before making the call.  He seemed a little unsure, but I didn’t think he’d call with less than a king.  Maybe ace-king or king-queen.  The turn was a sick card as a repeat king hit.  I was sick.  I checked and he instantly checked behind.  Strange.  Strange, but I’m still unhappy with the situation as I feel like I now have to be beat.  The turn was another fucking queen, and I’m like WTF?  So sick, so I check and again he instantly checks behind.  Hmmm, he checked? Well, I guess I’m good as I show my rockets.  Jim then reveals Ad Qd.  After Karsten had folded a queen, Jim had just hit a one-outer to crack my fkn aces.  Fuck me.  Even being checked down, the pot was over 20k, and if the turn isn’t a king I probably bet again and take it down.  Unbelieveable.

A couple of hands later and Jie opened to 800 at 150/300/25 and I pop him to 2,500 with Ad Kd.  He made the call and the flop was Q-T-8.  Again not a great flop, and Jie only had 11k behind.  He checked and I decided to take a free turn card.  An ace hit and Jie comes out swinging for 5k.  He’s such a lagtard and I’m probably often beat here by a two pair type hand, but I decided he was too much of spaz for me to fold, so I put him all in and he insta-called with KsJs for the nuts.  Another dominated hand that gets there on a sick board.  Running good.

So at that point suddenly I was back down to about 45k and the walls were closing in.  I found kings again and had to fold on another ace-high flop before I find pocket jacks for the fifth time for the day.  Jie had limped and I made it 1,250.  Two callers and Jie also called to see a Th 9h 3s flop.  It checked to me and I fired 3,500.  One fold before and ex-Crown dealer named Jimmy check-raised to 10,000.  Jie reluctanly folded and I was in another tough spot.  I didn’t beat much but a big draw and even then I’m not far in front.  I gave it up and he later told me he had a set of nines.

Getting hit by the deck and playing well, the missing ingredient was a little luck.  From there I sat tight for a long time, probably the best part of the next two levels.  It wasn’t until the last level at 400/800/75 that I found a playable spot.  Karsten limped and Jie called, and I decided to punish them with a raise to 3,500 with ATo in position.  Karsten folded and Jie made the call.  The flop was Ac 7c 6d and he checked to me.  Perhaps the right play here would be to check behind for a little pot control with a weak ace and let him get overly aggressive at me, but there were also a few draws to worry about to I decided to bet 5,500.  He immediately grabbed his two stacks and slid them into the middle.  I had 28k behind and he had me covered.  I was pretty sick and took a long time to come to a decision.  I asked him a few questions to try and get a reaction but didn’t get much.  The clock was then called.   Now that I look back at it, it’s probably an easier call than I made it.  But it’s hard in the heat of the battle.  A set didn’t make much sense, but was possible, as was two pair, but I think he would take more time and raise me to something like 13-14k to get some value considering our stack sizes.  Why shove for so much?  He never has a better ace after he called preflop twice, so the only hand that made sense was a flush draw that was trying to take the big pot.  Since it was a repechage that was even more likely, and with 20mins to go in the day, it made sense.  That fact also meant that it made sense for me to make the big call and try to get a stack, ore repechage, rather than be left with just 28k.  I called and indeed he turned over Qc 8c for a bare flush draw.  The turn and river bricked and boom I was back over 70k where I belonged!  Justice restored.

I bagged up 77.7k in chips to put me in the top 10 for the day, and roughly the top 10% of the field – exactly where I wanted to be after day one.  It was an interesting day, that started with the table from hell, flew skywards with some big hands, hit rocky ground with some cruel luck, and finally climbed again with a big hero call.

For those keeping score at home, here’s how the deck hit me today:
AA – 1 – lost
KK – 2 – lost both
QQ – 0
JJ – 5
TT – 1
99 – 1 – won nice race
88 – 1
77 – 1 – hit set, doubled up
66 – 1
55 – 1
44 – 1
33 – 1
22 – 0 – thankfully
AK – 6 – lost 3
AQ – 2

My Day 2 draw looks good with only Ricky Kroesen and Karsten Kobbing as the names I recognize.  Big day of poker tomorrow!