November 23, 2004

On-Line Lion

Sixteen Dimes

I entered the UltimateBet satellite tonight for the upcoming $15,300 event at Bellagio and, lo and behold, I topped the field of 99 to win the entry plus $700 for travel expenses. The entry fee was $320 so I'm freerolling the main event next month. Everything went right tonight. I won most of my coin flips, cracked Aces, made my flush draws, and got the cards when it came down to heads-up play. Winning is nice.


November 22, 2004

Outfoxed: The 2004 Foxwoods WPT Event

Ho ho ho

At the suggestion of Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman I spent the next two days in a high-limit mixed game, a combination of Hold 'Em and Omaha Hi/Lo with a betting structure of $300/$600.  This game was referred to as "300/600 HO." There were acronyms for just about every combination of games and most of the big action tended to be in the mixed games. I did pretty well in this game, winning nicely on Friday and losing about half back on Saturday, although I still wasn't really sure I know how to play limit Hold 'Em. It was fun playing with all those big chips; that was for sure. Foxwoods was a rather unpleasant place to play, although like most modern card rooms there was no smoking allowed. The cocktail service typically took 10-15 minutes to retrieve an order. There were no comps to speak of and they had a no cell-phone policy, not just at the tables but anywhere in the poker room. I asked a floorperson about it and he said someone had used a camera phone to take pictures of the players and posted them on the Internet so they banned cell phones. I didn't bother to point out that anyone taking a picture would take it before they could yell at him and the people they were yelling at, talking on the phones, were not taking pictures. He went on to say they wanted to ban food from the poker room because it made a mess. Those darned customers, always making things inconvenient for the employees.


I left the game early on Friday to go to the Full Tilt Poker dinner they were putting on for the winners of their on-line satellites. One of the guys had bought in for $4.40 and made it all the way to the big event. We all wished him luck. Dinner was at the award-winning Boom restaurant in nearby Stonington, CT. The place was owned by Erik "Rounders" Seidel's sister-in-law and she rolled out the red carpet for the guests. I probably could have finagled an invitation from Full Tilt since many of my friends were affiliated with the site but I ended up going as Avi Two-Cokes' brother Noam's date. They brought around huge plates of delicious hors d'oeuvres and poured a yummy little California Cabernet, which I drank too much of so I was glad I had the day off tomorrow. Among the Tilters present were Erik, Andy "The Rock" Bloch, Howard "Bub" (The Professor) Lederer, John "JJ" Juanda, Phil Ivey, Allen Cunningham, Melissa Hayden, and Jennifer Harman. I was also pleased to meet Thomas "Raze It" Giorgi, one of the best players on Full Tilt.  The steak I had for the entrée was world class. I had come over on the bus but snuck into the VIP limo for the ride home.


I spent Saturday recovering from the wine while the first half of the 674 entrants played. My turn came Sunday. I drew table 10, seat eight. There was no one at the table I recognized but I just got no cards all day. Eventually former WSOP champ Huck Seed came and sat on my left but he busted out quickly. Finally I gambled on a pair of Nines in early position and called a reraise all in by an unpredictable player on the small blind. He had Jacks. I didn't improve and I was out of the contest early. I went up to the VIP lounge and found WPT finalists Matt Matros and Russell Rosenblum commiserating. We were all exhausted and about to leave when Erin Ness, the girl from Maxim magazine who got a lot of TV time in this year's World Series main event, walked in. All of a sudden everyone had plenty of energy and we hung around talking to Erin for a couple hours.


I had already booked my return flight for Monday in anticipation of busting out the first day. Andy "The Rock" Bloch busted soon after I did and we made plans to drive up to Boston together to catch our flights. We used some wampum to buy gas and headed up about four hours before flight time, leaving us plenty of room for error and traffic. It was a good thing, too, because the Neverlost, for some reason, took us through scenic Rhode Island surface streets instead of taking the Mass Pike. We saved $6.10 in tolls and got to the airport on time anyway.


The evening Alaska flight left punctually and I watched a couple movies on the digEplayer while downing scotch and soda. I enjoyed I, Robot, a Will Smith sci-fi flick only loosely based on Asimov's book of the same name. Then I watched Around the World in 80 Days, a children's adventure movie that I picked just because Jackie Chan was in it. Both movies entertained but didn't make my list of all-time greats.


Shortstack picked me up in the black T-Bird and whisked us back to Kirkland, home of Costco and us. My next tournament series was at Bellagio in December.


November 17, 2004

Lion in the woods: The Inaugural Professional Poker Tour event at Foxwoods


The Professional Poker Tour, a series of five $500,000 freerolls for top poker pros, was launching its first event just prior to the Foxwoods WPT tournament so I booked a nonstop on Alaska Airlines to Boston, rented a Hertz car with Neverlost, and set the controls for the heart of the Sun—Mohegan Sun. I had booked a room at Mohegan Sun, a somewhat nicer hotel and casino than Foxwoods, deciding the ten-minute commute through scenic New England countryside was worth it. I got a Sky Suite overlooking the Thames River, imported at great expense from England. All the rooms at both hotels had complimentary high-speed Internet access so I plugged in my Airport Express and got wireless throughout the suite. I drove over to Foxwoods to check out the action over there and then headed back to Mohegan to get a good night's sleep before the tournament.

We started with 134 players out of the 200 or so who qualified, many of the pros still in Monte Carlo for the event there. I drew table four, seat four, and as expected it was a rogue's gallery of scary opponents. Tony Cousineau has seat one; James Hoeppner seat two; Mirage WPT champ Eli Elezra seat three; the highly respected Lee Watkinson seat six; long-time pro Mickey Appleton seat seven; WPT commentator and long-time pro Mike Sexton seat eight; and WPT finalist Mohammed Ibraham seat nine. The seat to my left started empty, giving me a slight advantage as the vacant chip stack got blinded off.

Foxwoods had ordered special playing cards for the tournament series but unfortunately someone lost sight of one of the important qualities of playing cards: you shouldn't be able to tell which card it is by looking at the back. These decks had large areas of solid red and black on the backs and the black especially got scuffed and marked almost instantaneously. When "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan moved into the seat to my left about an hour into the event, he ordered a shot and a beer and said, "On the first hand I saw the Ace of Hearts and the King of Diamonds. They're both marked on the back and I've memorized them. On the next hand I got the Ace of Diamonds and that one's marked too. Pretty soon I'll have the whole deck memorized. Now I don't care if you want to keep playing with them but I just thought you should know." We asked for a new deck. Meanwhile I got nothing and was down to 9625 at the first break and 7225 at the second break.

Mohammed got knocked out and was replaced briefly by Chip Jett, who also busted and was replaced by Chau Giang. Tony C busted as well but the chips weren't going to me as I continued getting a rare decent starting hand and no action on it when I did. Finally with the blinds 150/300 and a 50 ante, Minneapolis Jim, well into his fourth shot-and-beer at this table, opened under the gun for a tiny raise to 625. Eli called on the small blind and I called on the big with Ten-Seven of Clubs. The flop came Eight-Six-Four with two Clubs, giving me a monster draw. I decided to check-raise Minneapolis all in but he pre-empted me by moving in himself. Eli thought a long time then folded. I called immediately and was happy when Jim turned over Pocket Kings because I didn't want to see Ace-King of Clubs. I hit my Nine on the river and Jim went into a drunken tirade about how I could be happy he had Kings. A couple others at the table tried to tell him I was actually a favorite with my 15 outs but I knew he knew that and it was all an act. Jim was an attorney, had a mind for math, and figured to gain an advantage by pretending to be a drunken idiot. Not that he wasn't drunk, but he wasn't an idiot. I was back up to 9550, almost my starting stack. Erik "Rounders" Seidel took Tony C's seat one and I bullied him a little, going to the next break with 10,450. I was playing against the top players in the world and I was up 450!

Immediately after the break they broke our table and I moved to table eight, seat nine. Karina Jett, Chip's wife, had seat one; Hoyt Corkins seat two; Minh Nguyen seat four; the very feared John "JJ" Juanda seat five; Kenna James seat six; Lee Watkinson seat seven; and Farzad Bonyadi seat eight on my right. Farzad had raised the 300/600 blinds to 1800 in early position and I saw pocket Aces. I decided to take a chance and slow-play them, hoping one of the aggressive players such as Juanda would reraise, so I just called. Minh called on the button and the flop came Eight-Five-Trey rainbow, a pretty safe flop for me unless Minh had made a set. Farzad bet out 4500. I decided to put my remaining few chips in so I made it 7325. Minh reluctantly folded and Farzad very reluctantly called the few more chips with pocket Nines. Minh said he also had Nines so Farzad was dead to a runner-runner Straight, which didn't come—in fact I made a runner-runner wheel I didn't need—and my patience paid off as I was up to 18,000.

Two hands later they moved me to balance tables and sent me over to the featured table; however, the camera crew had gone home so no TV time for me tonight. I was in seat eight. Robert Turner was in seat nine; Chris Bigler seat one; Josh Arieh seat three; Joe Cassidy seat four; Brian Haveson seat five; 2002 WSOP Champ Robert Varkonyi seat six; and Hoyt Corkins seat seven. On the first hand I limped early with pocket Fours and Robert on my left moved all in. I decided he had a big pair and mucked. He showed Aces. I had 15,625 at the break.

With the camera crew gone they moved us en bloc to a more comfortable table. Kathy "Pokerkat:" Liebert took the empty seat two; Barry Shulman took seat four after Joe Cassidy busted; and when Robert Turner went broke on my left he was replaced by Marsha Waggoner. I went card dead again and got cut off on my steal attempts, getting down to 6600 when I reraised the bullying Josh Arieh all in with Ace-Eight of Diamonds, figuring to gamble with slightly the best of it as I knew he would call. He did and showed Jack-Four of Diamonds, making me almost a two-to-one favorite. The flush came and I was up to 18,000. Kathy Liebert busted and my nemesis Can Kim Hua came into Brian's seat five when he went broke. At the end of the day there were only 39 left out of the starting 134. I had 13,400, a profit to be sure but somewhat short-stacked against the average of 34,360. I would be coming out firing tomorrow.

Teddy Bear, Lion, and Dorothy

We had redrawn for seats last night. I drew table five, seat four. Jennifer Harman had seat one; Eli Elezra seat two; former WSOP champ Brad Dougherty seat three; Dewey Tomko seat five; Card Player publisher Barry Shulman seat six; John Phan seat eight; and Randy Holland seat nine. The very first hand, John Phan, with a big stack, raised my big blind and the short-stacked Brad Dougherty moved all in for more than I had. I looked down and saw Ace-Queen offsuit. With all the money in the pot I decided to call and try to triple or quadruple up; as long as nobody had Aces or Ace-King I was in OK shape. John mucked and Brad turned over the same hand as me. We chopped the pot and I was up to 18,000. John Phan lost a couple big pots and was out. Then I raised with Ace-Jack under the gun. Dewey moved all in for not much more and I called after it folded around to me. He had pocket Eights but my Ace flopped and Dewey was out. Robert Varkonyi came into the empty seat seven and Barry "Spock" Greenstein took seat eight. Barry moved in on my big blind and, having played with him in this situation before, when I saw Ace-Seven of Clubs I figured I was about even money and with the blinds and antes in the pot I called. He turned over King-Queen offsuit and somehow my brain froze because I thought I needed a pair to win the hand. I kept shouting, "Ace," and when none came, I patted the table but Barry was getting up and I realized I had won the hand. I apologized and saw Jennifer giving me a Mona Lisa smile. I said, "I don't know how I can be so smart and then be a complete space cadet in a situation like that." She said, "You're a poker player." The space cadet-poker player was now up to 41,000.

Eli was having trouble pronouncing Brad Dougherty's name and kept calling him "Dorothy." Finally I asked if he was needling him or really couldn't pronounce his name. Eli said he really thought that was how it was pronounced. I turned to Brad and said, "If you're not lucky, that nickname will stick."

I took a small pot from Varkonyi and with 48,000 chips I was now above average for the first time since the tournament started. Then Jennifer, short stacked, moved in on my big blind from the cutoff. I had Queen-Jack offsuit and decided three-to-two pot odds were good enough to call with the range of hands she might have. She had Ace-King, which wasn't too bad for me, making me a two-to-one dog, and the flop came Ace-Queen-Jack, putting me ahead. But she turned a Ten for the Straight and an unneeded Ace came on the river and I had doubled up a dangerous player. I had 33,800 at the break.

Phi Nguyen came in to seat five and they decided to move us en bloc to the featured table. That meant hanging out with Kay Han, the Shana Hiatt of the PPT. Kay was extremely friendly and personable and a good choice for someone whose job it was to interview players who've just lost their shot at half a million bucks. They miked us up, told us how to use the hole-card cameras and we were underway. Barry Shulman, who was down to the felt, was second to act when he moved in for less than three times the big blind. Since it wasn't much more to call, I did, with Seven-Five offsuit. Barry had King-Eight but I made a pair and he was out of the contest. Ted "Teddy Bear" Forrest took his seat and Dan Heimiller took seat eight. They moved Brad "Dorothy" to balance the tables and I was down to 23,600 at the break.

I had only 20,800 when with 18 players left we redrew for seats. I got the non-featured table, seat five, with Teddy Bear in seat one, Thor Hansen in seat two, Casey Kastle in seat three, John "JJ" Juanda in seat four, Dan Heimiller in seat six, Brad Dougherty in seat seven, "Action" Dan Harrington in seat eight, and Jennifer Harman in seat nine. I was down to 18,200 when we colored up the black chips. They moved Dan Heimiller to the featured table for balancing. I won some blinds and antes and by the dinner break I was up to 28,000.

I had dinner in the very mediocre buffet with Hoyt, Shawn "West Texas Man" Rice, Aaron "Iowa" Loew, and a couple others. It killed me to pay $13.99 for it. Your best bet for having dinner at Foxwoods was to drive to Mohegan Sun.

When we got back I was looking for opportunities to come over the top of Ted Forrest, playing his big stack aggressively as he should. I called one raise on the big blind and moved in when I got a piece of the flop. He folded and that brought me up to 46,000. You didn't have to win too many pots at this level to get chips. Then, with 38,000, Casey Kastle made it 8000 to go. I called with King-Queen offsuit on the button, hoping to see a flop with position on him, but Action Dan moved all in on the big blind. Casey took a few minutes and then folded. I started talking to Dan, trying to get a read on him, but then I said, "There's no way I'm ever going to get a tell from you, is there?" I figured it was equally likely he was making a move or he had a big hand. I was in big trouble against Aces or Kings and not too happy with Ace-King or Queens. Finally I decided that since I was getting no callers when I was moving in that I would wait for a better spot and I folded.

I was down to 22,000 when Teddy Bear raised my small blind and I saw Ace-Jack. I figured I had him beat and pushed in, but Dorothy moved in right behind me. Ted took a little time and then folded and Brad turned over pocket Tens. With my overcards I had a 43% chance of winning the pot, which now had 62,000 in it, but alas, my cards didn't come and I had to surrender to Dorothy. I was out of the contest in 12th place, my best finish ever in a televised event but only the top six got paid.

Immediately after I busted out, Ron Rose noticed that with the cheap paper cards Foxwoods was using players could see the reflections of the card faces in the illuminated Plexiglas around the rim of the featured table. The crew spent two hours sanding it down before they continued but I just went back to the Mohegan and crashed. The main event was in two days.