Flying back to the Los Angeles Poker Classic from Australia I felt really good and was expecting to do well in the LAPC, perhaps getting two firsts. Then reality intervened. I am reminded of that country and western song where the singer mentions the application of a 2"x4" to someone's skull followed by a poignant pause before speaking of "got an attitude adjustment". Well I got my comeuppance and it seemed rude, really rude.
I went zero for fifteen in tries, including the concluding 10,000 entry event which we all started with 20,000 in chips with blinds of only 25-50. I liked this situation a lot but had two big hands go awry and was gone. The first came up about one hour into the play when I picked up QsJs in middle position and raised it to 125, with a super aggressive woman two to my left calling, and then a real conservative player, and now Alex Kahaner (winner of the WPT event at the Bicycle Club last September) raised it to 325 from the button and we all called. Now I can mention that I did not have to enter the pot, nor call the re-raise, but when you have 20,000 and the big blind is 50 it is also okay to gamble a bit if you do not have a serious last longer bet! The flop brought 10s8s2h and I bet out 900, seeking some definition and uncertain as to how I am going to play this hand. I have two over-cards to the board and a straight flush draw but might go all-in over a raise, or muck if there is a raise and a re-raise behind meall depending on who does what. Right away the woman says raise and puts in 1500, when the minimum raise must be to 1800. The other two players muck and the proper raise is made via correction. Now you have to know that almost every time I have been in this situation the raiser has had a set. This underchipped raise is a screaming tell. On the other side of the coin is her lack of experience and willingness to bluff. Could she have Jh9h, or some other straight or flush draw? I am not nearly as comfortable deciding what to do as I would be with a professional player, or someone that I have at least played a lot of hours with. I call. The turn brings the Jd and a check from me. She bets 3,000 without hesitation and I call. The river is a 2d and I check again. She bets 3,000 and I want to muck my hand. I trust my read but do I trust her? No. If I call and lose I will still have almost 12,000 in chips. Hmmmmmmmm, I call. She turns over 88 for a full house. I am mad at myself, I lost over 8,000 on a hand that I did not even have to play. Pass the 2x4 please.
About four hours and a few lame AK's later three people limp in front of the big blind of 200 and I look down at 9s8s and call off my stack of less than 8,000. In the World Series of Poker main event three years ago I dreamt that this was my magical hand, and then went out and flopped top set (10-10-10) put all the money in (over 40,000 on Day 2) and had my opponent (Oklahoma Johnny Hale) turn a straight flush with the hand that I had dreamt about holding. Whoops! Back to the LAPC where six of us take the flop of 10d7h6h. My heart beat rate accelerates as I have flopped the nuts and want to put as many of my chips in as I can before a scary card can show up on the turn. It is checked to me and I bet 1500, slightly more than the pot. The button is a loose cannon from Sweden who raises it to 3500 off his stack of 11,000. It is back to me and I move all-in, he calls instantly and turns over 5h3h. He has only a flush draw although he might have imagined that he had a straight draw as well. I am a two to one favorite to take a big bounce off the felt, but NO! the turn is a 4h and I am drawing dead to all hearts but he has made a straight flush to make it a little more dramatic. Pass that 2x4, please!
I remember as though it were yesterday, at the Diamond Jim Brady event at the Bicycle Club in Los Angeles, when Daniel Negreanu was talking about how he had not cashed in 35 straight events. This was not a record I wanted to approach even though I am now half way there. Daniel, of course, went on to have one of the greatest years of all time on the tournament circuit soon thereafter.
I was playing Omaha in the Bellagio recently and chatting with a young man that I have seen quite often lately going deep into WPT events with a lot of chipsFabrice Soulier. He is the prototype of the modern gunslinger, I mean poker player, aggressive and successful at getting that big stack, and threatening to go to a televised final table soon. He was one of the chip leaders in the 10k event at the LAPC on day three when the following three hands happened; he was moved to a table where Ed Moncada was sitting next to him and raising every hand. Fabrice had over 600,000 and the blinds were still small (perhaps 800-1600 with a 200 ante) relative to his stack. Fabrice likes to be involved though and got a bit frustrated over the next hour as his stack downsized to 520,000 or so. Every time he raised someone 'came over the top' with a re-raise and he was forced to lay it down. One particular player that seemed to be doing this was James Woods (the actor) and when Fabrice raised with QJ and James re-raised again Fabrice moved all-inbad timing. Woods called for over 250,000 and turned up QQ. Now fabsoul got all-in versus Moncada with AQ vs AK and did not suck outanother 130,000, or so, gone. Now they were at 46 players with 45 getting paid and Fabrice had something like 120,000, of course he could just muck his hands until he got to the money but he is a poker player and he continued to play poker. The button raised it up and Fabrice looked down at Ah6h in the big blind and moved all-in. The button called and held AJ and Fabrice was the bubble boy. One certainly gets the impression that he will have many successes and go to many final tables. Do not be surprised if this happens soon.
I am going to address a question I have been asked many times over the years in various forms. The Q is "how do you know when you are running bad?" The answer is when you are constantly getting your chips into the pot with the best hand and losing them anyway. The example I give of this for the past two years is always a particular hand that happened on television in the Poker Superstars 1 show. Gus Hansen is playing shorthanded against Barry Greenstein and on a flop of KQ4 there is a bet by Barry, a raise by Gus, an all-in by Barry, and a call by Gus. The hands they now reveal to each other are Q8 for Gus and QJ for Barry. Gus has three cards to tie and 3 cards to win. The turn is the 4, and the river is the 8! Amazing! Now on television they ask Barry how he feels about losing to this display of card-pulling and his response is the correct onehe says if he were to go home and see that he mucked the better hand he would feel badly, but if he can get all his money in with the best hand then what happens thereafter is beyond his control. That is the view that all of us must have. It is easy to second guess yourself after you know all the facts and the hand has played itself out, but if you hold 10h-10d and are against Ac9c how many encounters will it take you to realize that mathematically you rate to lose one?
So until next time...play good and be lucky.