The Next Level

“We’re not gonna get rid of anybody. We’re gonna stick together, just like it used to be. When you side with a man, you stay with him. And if you can’t do that, you’re like some animal, you’re finished.”
–Pike Bishop, “The Wild Bunch”
Let’s see, where to begin? As the WSOP main event gets closer, poker is hitting a feverish pitch, ready to crescendo next weekend with the 2000 player main event. And I’ll be there, or at least I’ll wander by every couple hours to watch the insanity. I’ll probably be playing at the Golden Nuggest, although the side games are going to be pretty dry with the entire poker world huddled under the roof of the Horseshoe.
There are some unusually thought provoking writing about poker out there, and as usual, I wouldn’t have found them if Iggy hadn’t pointed them out. Jesse May’s State of the Game Address expands upon a theory that I (and many others) had of “new school” tournament poker. Basically the idea is that the new tournaments have such a large field, that optimal strategy is completely different than the older, smaller tourneys. I believe there is a threshold number of players where the optimal strategy changes… and while these young players may not have the overall playing experience as the old guard, they (including Mr. Moneymaker) have a lot MORE experience playing in tourneys with huge fields. They’ve had a lot more chances to figure out optimal strategy, and thus have an advantage over the Brunsons and Hellmuths in the game. The game is changing. Adapt or lose.
I was reminded why I don’t play tourneys to make money yesterday, when I got the chance to play in Paul’s no-limit birthday tournament. I made the 45 minute drive south to Huntington Beach, and as I cruised down the 405, I felt a little nostalgic about my days in the OC, when I got a monthly stipend to study, do research, and sleep till 11 every day. I highly recommend graduate school. Anyway, I met Paul out front, and after sitting down, his Mom and his sister immediately suggested we start a cash game while we waited for the tourney players to show up. I have to say that the majority of people I’ve met from Orange County are ummm… not so nice, but the Paulsburbon clan (his Mom, Emily, and sister Meg) were great people and unfortunately for me, excellent poker players.
On to the tourney: The buy in was only $10, but the game got pretty serious quickly, and the 12 players involved definitely all wanted to win. We split up into two tables of 6, and I had Paul and Emily to my right, with Meg on my immediate left. I’d played with Paul and his Mom on Stars before, so I had a little bit of a read on them, but I had no idea about the other 2 at the table. I was dealt trash for the first few orbits, so I had a chance to sit back and watch. After about 45 minutes of folding, I got T6o on the big blind, and checked after Meg limped UTG and Paul limped in middle position. The flop came Ac Tc 6d, and I couldn’t have asked for much more. I had the 6c, which weakened the flush draw, and I put Paul on a middle Ace. I checked it to Meg, who also checked, and Paul put out pot-sized bet. I knew he would fold when I came over the top, but what about Meg? I pushed all-in, and Paul frowned, but Meg asked me how much it would cost. Uh oh. A6? AT? She shoved her chips in and called with… KJc! A royal flush draw, but I was a big favorite. She had 8 clubs and 4 queens as outs, making me a 57% favorite. Of course, the Queen came on the river, and I was the first one out.
Paul ended up winning 3 monster pots in a row to become chip leader, while Meg’s chips eventually dwindled down to 200. But she kept her head, and doubled up a few times and began doing her Phil Ivey impression, picking off short stacks steadily. Brother and sister ended up heads up, and little sis put Paul to the test several times, coming over the top of his raises. After losing most of his stack folding TT to a big flop raise when an Ace flopped, Paul went out making a move with 83o against Meg’s QJs. Birthday boy gets second, and Miss Meg is the champ. Some excellent poker players in that family… happy birthday Paul!
I hate going out on a hand that I played perfectly. This is why I hate tournament poker–perfect play is only half the battle. The cold hard cash games are where it’s at. When you lose an all-in bet in a tourney, you can’t win the next hand. Although I do feel tournaments are much more exciting and conceptually more beautiful than the limit grind, beating the limit games fits my current lifestyle better than the high-variance tournament trail.
THE online pro discusses his tournament dabbling in his latest post, as he prepares for his WSOP journey beginning Thursday. But Davidross’ comments on the $15-30 games at Party just make my mouth water:
“I guess it’s possible that my play is improving, I hope it is, but I don’t find these games much tougher than the full table 3/6 games I used to play. There are some horrible players in these games… My 3 weeks since my last post have included my 2 biggest weeks ever. In order I made $5,717, then $4,576 and this week I made $6,084…”
It’s enough to make you want to run up your credit card debt to get the bank to play in this game. I’m a little too risk-averse for that, so I’ll grind it out and build up the bank the hard way, and hope the games stay good long enough for me to capitalize. In the little I played this week, I had plenty of suckouts at $3-6 to give away $110 in 620 hands. The suckouts drove me to $5-10 full games (which for some reason didn’t have the usual 15 minute wait) and was rewarded with a nice run of cards in 70 hands to pull in $225 of profit. 700 hands for the week, I think that’s probably the least I’ve played this year.
Although my first recorded session is May 30th, 2003, I know I played a few sessions before that which never made it into the books. So I suppose this week marks the first birthday of my poker career. I’m trying to organize my thoughts about the development cycle of the first year player, so look for that in my next post. Oh yeah, I’ll also let you know how I fared in Iggy’s Poker Blogger tourney (I was knocked out first in the last one, so I should be able to beat that). Thanks for reading.

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