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State Of Origin Thoughts
August 28th, 2010 Poker 21 Comments »

State of OriginI was fortunate enough to once again be a part of the State of Origin event during the Vic Champs last week. The event is in its third year and always attracts plenty of hype and lots of debate.The Tassie boys did very well as the underdogs to cause a few upsets, and sneak two through to the final table. Unfortunately we were unable to win the overall teams title, but we should be proud of a very respectable 3rd place finish. I ended up 3rd in the individual event which was also pleasing after having arguably the most ridiculously tough seat ever seen in Australian poker history, with the two best young players in this country in Jarred Graham and James Obst to my direct left.The event itself seemed to lose a little momentum this year after the ACT were unable to get a team together and New Zealand were left scrambling for numbers. Queensland also picked an average side, but at least they brought a few cheerleaders along to add some glitz to the whole affair. There’s been lots of talk about what we need to do to get this event right. Here’s a few quick thoughts:

* Team selection is a big issue for some states. It’s not a problem for others. I think some responsibility needs to go back to Crown on this one. Crown, along with PokerNetwork to some degree, are the only independent moderators in this debate. Select the right captains, and everything should flow from there. Most captains should have an awareness of who their players are. If they don’t they may be the wrong choice as captain. Crown should select captains, communicate to them about a list of potential players, based on PNW rankings, online rankings and past results, and this can be communicated on PNW early on in case there are some others who would like to nominate for a spot. From there, ultimately I think the final decision needs to lay with the captain. It’s their responsibility to choose who should represent their state. There’s no need for committees. Why should a committee have the right to decide that X should play ahead of Y? It would just create a potentially explosive situation if the state thinks the committee chose the wrong person. Select the right captain and help in any way possible, but ultimately leave the decision with them.

* Crown needs to work more closely with the smaller states and territories to ensure they get a team together. Who the hell was behind the territories team? I spoke to two “notable” players who would’ve been happy to represent NT but they weren’t asked. To leave NT/ACT on their own and expect them to show up on the night with a team is pretty poor.

* The format. The shootout works, to a degree. But it’s flawed on two accounts. Firstly, the result is often decided before the final table, leaving many teams without any chance to win. Second, the format is too conducive to collusion, soft play and team play to manipulate the results – something that is just not a good look in poker.

On the final table I was in a situation three-handed where NSW needed to ensure that I survived to have any chance of winning the team title due to the points system. NSW needed SA to bust in third place, and then NSW to beat me to claim victory. What did this mean? Well, it meant that NSW could not afford to eliminate me or it would flush $28,000 down the toilet! Great! So when Grant Levy raised, I would shove over the top relentlessly, in the knowledge that even if he had pocket aces, he really couldn’t/shouldn’t call in case he eliminated me. Fantastic for me. Terrible for the game. As it turned out, Grant made a strange call with pocket sixes to end up busting me anyway, putting the whole theory out the window. Grant shouldn’t have to be in a situation where he needs to fold pocket aces to manipulate a result, so I guess credit to him for just playing the tournament straight up with integrity, even if it meant costing the overall team prize.

At the start of the final table, only NSW and SA had a shot to win. Last year NZ had it wrapped up before the final table even started. It’s hard to build the hype when no one gives a shit. The World Team Poker format seemed to work well and I would like to see something like that adopted – but only at the final table.

Here’s my State of Origin proposal:

Day one remains the same, as a points format shootout, with cash awarded to 1st and 2nd.

Then on day two every team is represented on the final table, with each team having one single stack. The size of the team’s starting stack is determined by the number of points earned by the teams on day one. The ratio of points to chips can be worked out later. The points are then thrown out the window, and every team plays it out until one winner is crowned. But wait, it gets better.

The final table will be 8-game format, and each member of the team will be nominated to play one of the eight poker disciplines. I think this format has it all! Those who do well on day one will be advantaged, every team can still win, there will be 64 players hanging around to build the hype and rail the action, it’s a true test of all around poker skills and every player will still be involved in the game on the final table. It will also boost the prize pool for the teams since there will be no individual prize monies won on the final table. You can potentially give team cash for second.

I’d also love to see a heads-up format included on day one. Unfortunately HU is just too hard to manage for the tournament staff and the logistics just don’t work.

* One of the other major problems was the lack of hype on the night. How about someone on the microphone to announce some action? Stir up the pot a little. Let everyone know that WA have three guys busto already. Crown will really miss Mike Tarr in this regard as he’s a gun on the mic. Last year we had Ted Whitten do the shuffle up and deal honours. Mike or Jonno would always announce the final table action. This year nothing. The above mentioned format will certainly help to build the hype on the final table.

* Multiple SOO events around the country, at this stage, is not a good idea unless PokerStars or the casinos are prepared to invest money into the event. It’s hard enough for Tassie to get eight guys for this event, and it was too hard for NZ and ACT/NT. How do you expect them to afford to travel to multiple events? Won’t happen, unless there is money injected into it to cover costs.

The State of Origin is a tremendous concept that works perfectly for Australia. We can really make this concept our own, as the players are definitely supportive and love playing it. Get the format right, add some hype and who know where it could potentially go?

Table Talk
August 19th, 2010 Poker 13 Comments »

Some players like to talk at the table.  That’s fine, poker is a pretty social game.   However talking is not one of my strengths.  I’m not a fan of small chat in general, and am usually pretty quiet.  If a guy is talking smack at my table I’m usually outmatched if try to verbally spar with them.  So my approach is to say pretty much nothing.  Keep the table nice and quiet, and let my chips do the talking.

It was interesting last night, I had a table just like that.  It was friendly, but mostly quiet and kinda boring.  I loved it.  It was interesting as there was one player on the table who I’m good mates with.  He’s one of the most friendly, social and likeable guys I know.  We’d never played in a serious tournament together, so I wasn’t sure what to expect or if he’d want to talk it up.  I suspect that he saw that I was quietly focussed so we hardly even chatted at the table.  This was great for me as I am pretty sure I was able keep my identity well hidden.

The thing is when you start talking articles, websites, PokerNews, PokerNetwork, WSOP, travelling, etc, other players pick up on that conversation and quickly figure out who you are or at least build a profile of you and your play.  Even just some friendly side chat can inadvertedly give away information about yourself.  I don’t want to give away anything.

The other thing is I’ve found that, in general, I have less fear of guys who are friendly at the table.  There’s always exceptions, but think about it, who would you rather at your table – Daniel Negreanu or Jeff Lisandro?  Negreanu’s friendly banter and image works for him, but sweet Jesus, Jeff Lisandro would put the fear of God into me.

So while chatting it up works for some, I’m pretty content to get focussed and get into a zone where I take everything in, give nothing away, let my chips do my talking and try to make it uncomfortable for anyone who wants to play with me.

Thinking Ahead
August 12th, 2010 General 216 Comments »

Ok so I don’t keep this blog updated regularly enough.  I guess it’s a combination of being way too busy, and finding my life way too uninteresting to write about.  I know many think that travelling the world covering poker tournaments is an exciting and glamorous job, and no doubt that it is to a point, but I guess there’s only so many poker parties you can attend and so many bad beats you can write about before it loses its interest.  Perhaps that’s a bit of burn out talking.

Some of the best poker blogs out there aren’t so much about what the writer is doing, but what they are thinking.  I’ve received some good feedback recently about some of my articles in the PokerNews magazine so it’s inspired me a little to continue with those sorts of pieces.  I think of them as common sense strategy and thoughts on the trends in the game.  Just stuff that might be new to beginners and experienced players might forget about or overlook.

So hopefully my updates will be a little more frequent because of this, and I can share more of my thoughts and less of my bad beats!

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.

My Journey
April 11th, 2010 Poker No Comments »

In the spirit of a competition on PokerNetwork, I’ve posted a blog piece about my poker journey.  It’s nice to look back and reflect on where you’ve come, and also to look ahead at where the path may lead in the future.

Here it is if you’d like to read:  From The Devil’s Den: My Journey

Meanwhile my heads-up progress has been a little up and down.  It’s been pretty frustrating at times, but I know I’m building a solid base to hopefully improve from.  I need to focus on playing fish rather than regs, and limiting myself to just two tables so I can make better decisions.  Both of these things have been hard, but I need to be disciplined and avoid letting ego get in the way of making good decisions.

An Update
March 19th, 2010 General, Poker 14 Comments »

So it’s been a while since I posted.  I really need to get into the habit of posting shorter posts, more frequently, so that blogging doesn’t become such a big effort.  Unfortunately my time is usually pretty limited which makes regular updates difficult.So to summarize the last few months…- Ran bad at Aussie Millions- Ran bad at ANZPT Adelaide- Ran good in Rush Poker, then ran bad twice as hardThe Aussie Millions was particularly disappointing as I only played two events and bombed out very early in both.  In both tournaments I had ace-king and flopped top pair only to run into a set, and the structure made it hard to justify a fold.We then headed over to Adelaide, and once again had a great time over there, but poker-wise things were again pretty brutal.  I was keen to play the Main Event, but after failing to satellite online, I took two shots in the live satellites.  In the first satellite I was crippled early when I had KK vs AA vs AA.  What are you guys doing getting your money in with no outs?!?  Somehow I survived and fought hard to get back into it, only to die in about 12th place with 6 or 7 seats up for grabs.A day or two later, satellite number two started well with set over set going my way, but I slowly slipped back and when down to 9BBs I shoved A8 from the SB, only for the BB to wake up with AA.  Again out in 13th with 6 or 7 seats up for grabs.  Awesome.February was just one of those months where not much went right.So I was very glad to move into March and see my luck change.  The doom switch was turned off on Rush Poker and I smashed them for a week.  Things went my way on Mondays also with a couple of deep runs, final tables and a few four-figure scores.A week later and Rush Poker restored me to my default doom setting and I crashed and burned in spectacular fashion.  I ran severely below EV and the Rush format is not a good one when you’re tilting.So where next?  Well I’ve always wanted to move over to Heads-Up poker and an opportunity came along that sounded too good to refuse.  I’ve never taken HU seriously, but I’ve wanted to work on that part of my game for a number of reasons.  A lot of the higher level pros seem to all play HU regularly, it’s good to improve the aggression factor, and it’s also a vital element to improve in my tournament game.  With the guidance and support of a high-stakes HU specialist I’m finding the games extremely soft on some of the other smaller sites.  Things are looking promising and I’m hoping to step up in levels, plug my leaks and really improve my game.The Joe Hachem Deep Stack Series kicks off today and I’m disappointed to not be there as it’s my favourite tournament series.  The low buy-ins and deep structure suit me perfectly.  At first I planned to be there for all the events, but now I’m unsure if I’ll get there at all.  With a wedding coming up in early April, it’s hard to justify another trip to Melbourne when we have so much on our plate at the moment.  I’ll probably end up just staying at home to grind and work before the wedding and a nice month-long honeymoon in Bali and Thailand!  I can’t wait! Hopefully I’ll be able to post a few more regular updates from the beaches in Thailand!