It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed a little strategy, so I thought I’d knock off some cobwebs, and give it a whirl!
I was playing in a typical 8-16 game a few days ago, and was in the big blind when this hand came up. An early position player raised. Three players behind him called, as did the small blind. I looked down at the 2s-5s, and figured since I’d be closing the betting, and getting 11 to 1 on a call with a little suited connector, I’d come along for the ride. I called.
The flop was 2c-5c-Qc. The small blind checked. This is a strange flop for me. With so many players in the hand, it’s altogether possible that I’m beat. However, it seems equally likely that my hand is currently best, and demands protection. I decide to bet, and see what sort of aggression I get in response. I concluded this was the better play than check-raising, as I may allow stranglers in for a cheaper price, particularly if the pre-flop raiser chooses to raise my bet with A-A, K-K, etc. The pre-flop raiser just called me, as did the small blind. The other three players folded.
The turn was the 9d. The small blind once again checked. This street was the easiest decision of the hand. I have to bet. Checking allows a free card to a flush, of course. Beyond that, however, I can establish my hand with much more accuracy here than with a flop bet. I like to think of the turn as “truth street.” That is to say, if I’m up against a flopped flush, I’ll most likely know it right then and there, by somebody raising my bet. Both of my opponents call.
The river was the Kd. The small blind checked yet again. I thought for a long moment before deciding how to act on the river. It was an odd decision. The flop and turn bets were both to establish my hand, and to protect my fragile holding. River bets, however, serve an absolutely different purpose. There is no more protection. There is only the best hand and the worst hand. If you have the best, you want to get called with the worst. If you have the worst, you only want to bet if the best will fold.
What could my opponents have? I figure the small-blind for a large club that missed, but was it the K of clubs? If so, there is certainly value in a bet. What could the pre-flop raiser have? A-K is altogether possible, and again, a bet would be wise. Could he have K-K? Could he have J-10? These are possibilities, but not likelihoods. I come to the conclusion that another bet is indeed wise, for two reasons. One, there is a very good chance that my hand is good. Coupled with that is the fact that my opponents could very easily have hands with which they can call, and not beat me. That’s value.
Secondly, however, is how my opponents would react even if they had me beat. Let’s say the small blind had K-Q, and rivered top two-pair. Or perhaps the pre-flop raiser had J-10, with a club, and back-doored a straight. In either case, it would be very difficult for them to raise. I bet the hand from beginning to end, and my hand is far too likely to be a set, or a flush. Most players would just call with hands like these against a man driving action the entire way. What that means is, checking and betting are virtually equal. If I bet, and they call me with a better hand, I am out one bet on a misperceived value bet. If, on the other hand, I check, and the pre-flop raiser bets, I’m going to call anyway. I’m not laying down two-pair on the river for one bet. Any way you look at it, one bet is going in the pot.
The only slight hesitation I had, even after this drawn-out reasoning, was my position versus my opponents. If I had been first to act, this reasoning is very sound. Because I’m second to act, however, there is a small possibility that the opponent to my right has K-Q and has checked. There is also the outside chance that one of them has been slow-playing a much larger hand to the river.
(I did bet. I did get called in both spots. I did win the hand. They each mucked, without showing)
Jacob "Jaymind" Westlin is a semi-professional limit hold'em player with a strong, sarcastic wit. Jaymind also frequently contributes to Minnesota Poker Magazine's monthly publication. Email Jaymind at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who become obsessed with watching poker on TV and watch the reruns over and over and over again despite knowing who wins (like me)…here you go. This should be fun to watch. Plus, it gets a little old watching the WSOP events after the 23rd time, so it will be cool to see a fresh event.
For those of you like me who tend to get excited for the bigger buy-in local tourneys, here’s what’s coming up in the near future.
Next Sunday, April 25th, Canterbury Park will be hosting the 10th Anniversary Tournament. This is a $550 buy-in + optional $10 add-on starting at 10:30 a.m. From what I understand the structure will be the same as the $550’s in the Fall Poker Classic. So 40-minute blind levels, $15,000 starting stack (if you purchase the $10 add-on). They are guaranteeing a $10,000 first place prize. Also, there will be $65 single table satellites running Monday, Tuesday & Thursday the week of.
Also at Canterbury, the $1,100 direct buy State Poker Championship will be taking place Sunday, May 23 at 10:30 a.m. The rounds will be 40 minutes and a $15,000 starting stack.
This event typically takes place in April but was pushed back due to the renovation. The State Poker Championship was won by Alec Anderson last year who became the first ever cover photo on the June issue Minnesota Poker Magazine for his win. There will be $220 + $30 qualifiers running May 19-22. Each qualifying heat qualifies the top 20%. http://www.canterburypark.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=y9gnHuLOgbM%3d&tabid=140
All these tournaments are POY eligible. Yes Everett Carlton has a big lead…but I spoke with him this morning and he’ll be in Vegas for the next 2+ months. Thus there’s a great opportunity for others to catch him. He’s hoping his lead holds long enough for him to come back the 2nd half of the year after the WSOP to win the POY title.
Touring Pro from Minnesota Finally Wins Gold Ring after Five Years on Tour
After 30 Cashes, Carlton Earns First Major Tournament Victory at Caesars Palace Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV – If anyone has “paid his dues” in tournament poker, it’s Everett Carlton. The 55-year-old owner of an insurance agency who once gambled for high-stakes on the golf course finally won his first major tournament victory tonight at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Carlton has been playing in poker tournaments for the past five years. But until now, he had never won a major, despite coming close many times with 30 in-the-money finishes and several final table appearances.
Carlton was visibly thrilled with his victory, which came after many years of struggle and disappointment. He topped a tough field of 166 players in the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit event and collected $21,336 for first place. But far more meaningful than the money for Carlton was the WSOP gold ring he won, symbolizing a well-deserved and long-overdue personal triumph.
“I’ve been out there grinding for years,” Carlton said following his victory. “I came here to Caesars hoping to finally break through and win. I can’t express how happy I am.”
Carlton lives in St. Paul, MN, but travels frequently to major poker tournaments throughout the United States. Prior to playing poker much of the time, he gambled for big money on the golf course. However in 2003, Carlton was diagnosed with skin cancer, the result of spending many hours in the sun out on golf courses. He managed to beat cancer, but also realized he had to make some life changes. To satisfy his love of action and high-stakes gambling, Carlton decided to refocus his energy on a safer game played indoors – poker — rather than golf.
If chasing a little white ball around a course was a challenge, achieving success in tournament poker was in many ways ever more difficult for Carlton. Despite a fierce desire to compete and win, and his obvious talent and discipline to succeed, Carlton entered numerous tournaments held throughout the country, but never managed to win – up until now.
“Tournament poker is tough. You almost have to be a masochist to play this game,” Carlton confided. “I mean, this is my first big win and I have been playing five years. So that means every other tournament I go out disappointed. It’s crazy, and it’s brutal. But you just have to keep believing in yourself and keep going. But this (gold ring) is big.”
Even more remarkable for Carlton was his ability to comeback in this tournament and win, after seemingly being down and out at one point, seemingly destined for a third-place finish. In fact, when play was at three-handed, Carlton admittedly made a wrong decision, and lost most of his stack. He was down to just a few rounds of blinds – with about 35,000 in chips out of 1,700,000 total chips in play. Then, mustering whatever energy and desire he lacked in previous tournaments, Carlton managed to win the next three big hands, doubled up several times, and drew back to even with his two adversaries. Later, Carlton overcame a 3 to 1 margin in heads-up play to seize the victory. Hence, in many ways this win was doubly satisfying.
This was the third gold ring event (out of 14 total) on this year’s WSOP Circuit schedule at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. The $500 (+50) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament was played over two consecutive days during April 16th and 17th. The tournament attracted 166 entries. The top 18 finishers divided a prize pool totaling $80,510. After 156 players were eliminated on the first day, final table play began on a Saturday afternoon. There were no prior WSOP Circuit gold ring event winners among the final nine players, which guaranteed a first-time champion.
Carlton arrived at the Final Table with a slight chip advantage over Tommy Tran and Matthew Maley. But the wide distribution of chips and low blinds and antes meant everyone was within striking distance of the chip lead.
When Final Table play began at 2:00 pm, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:
New Smyrna Beach, FL
St. Paul, MN
Las Vegas, NV
Everett Carlton at the MSPT event last week
Final Table play lasted less than four hours and ended at 6:00 pm. Players were eliminated in the following order:
Ninth Place: Mike Ashar Goes Out Ninth
Mike Ashar, a 62-year-old attorney from Vermillion, OH went out quickly and ended up with $2,214 in prize money. This marked his sixth time to cash this year on the WSOP Circuit. It was also his third final table appearance, following second- and fourth-place finishes at Harrah’s Tunica in January. Ashar is a retired colonel in the Army Reserves.. He also owns a table of show horses.
Eighth Place: Mark Byczkiw Finishes Eighth
Mark Byczkiw, an English-born business owner now living in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada) was the eighth-place finisher. This marked his first time to cash in a WSOP Circuit tournament. He share of the prize pool amounted to $2,617.
Seventh Place: Russell Rimer Takes Seventh
Russell Rimer missed his airline flight back to Canada in order to play at this final table. He had originally planned to return home to Edmonton, Alberta but those plans were pleasantly interrupted by a final table commitment. Unfortunately, Rimer lasted only about an hour but revealed to everyone that he had a great time and was pleased to collect $3,220 in prize money. He started playing poker only about two years ago, and this was his first time to cash in a major poker tournament.
Sixth Place: Blake Dennison is Sixth
Blake Dennison, from New Smyrna Beach, FL cashed for the third consecutive year in a WSOP Circuit tournament at Caesars Palace. Following a 16th-place finish in 2008, and a 6th-place finish in 2009, Dennison again took sixth place. This time, he earned $4,026 for a fine effort.
Fifth Place: Mike Putaansuu Ends Up Fifth
Mike Putaansuu, a 60-year-old retiree originally from Massachusetts, but now living in Mission, TX was the fifth-place finisher. He is a retired major who served proudly in the U.S. Air Force. Putaansuu received a payout totaling $5,032.
Fourth Place: Tommy Tran Finishes Fourth
Tommy Tran, a 34-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas busted out in fourth place. He has several previous tournament accomplishments, including wins at the Wynn Poker Classic and a preliminary event in the North American Poker Tour tournament at the Venetian. In fact, this was his 28th time to cash in a live tournament, all of which have taken place within the past four years. Tran, who has accumulated nearly $300,000 in career earnings, added $6,441 to his poker bankroll.
Third Place: Matthew Maley Takes Third Place
Matthew Maley wanted to win, perhaps more than any other player. Immediately following his elimination, which took place when he lost with top pair (aces) to a set of fives, Maley stood up and shouted, “I wanted the ring, man! I didn’t care about the money. All I wanted was the ring!” It was not meant to be. Maley, a part-time poker player from Phoenix, AZ who works for Wells Fargo, collected $8,252 in prize money. An interesting side note about Maley: He was homeschooled and graduated from Arizona State University at the age of 18.
Second Place: Cesar Flores is Runner Up
When heads-up play began, Cesar Flores enjoyed slightly more than a 3 to 1 chip lead over Everett Carlton. About ten minutes into the duel, Carlton won a big hand and doubled up with AJ versus AT. The put the two finalists close to even in chips. Flores and Carlton battled back and forth for over an hour during which Carlton took command and gradually wore down his opponent with more aggressive play. Flores remarked that he went card dead late and simply could not call Carlton’s bets and raises, since he held bad cards.
Flores finally decided he’d had enough and decided to make his final stand when he was down by about a 3 to 1 margin. Flores was dealt Kh Jh. He raised all-in before the flop. Carlton called and tabled Ac 7c. Neither player caught a pair, which meant Carlton’s ace-high played after the final board showed: 8d 5d 2c 2d Th
The runner up was Cesar Flores, a 41-year-old teacher from McAllen, TX. Flores, who was born in Mexico hopes to become a full-time professional poker player someday. He has previously cashed in three WSOP events in Las Vegas. This was his best major tournament finish, to date. Flores earned $12,882 in prize money for his outstanding effort. Note: Flores was the second player from McAllen (Texas) in consecutive days to finish in the top three. His friend Ronnie Rodriguez, Jr. (also from McAllen) finished in third place the previous day.
First Place: Everett Carlton Wins First Major!
Longtime poker tournament touring pro Everett Carlton finally reached a personal milestone with his first major championship victory. Carlton, who owns an insurance agency in his hometown of St. Paul, MN won $21,336 and his first gold ring at the most recent WSOP Circuit tournament held at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Carlton says his next goal is to win a WSOP gold bracelet. But he also has plans to play more WSOP Circuit events, and perhaps win another gold ring.
Chad Brown and Vanessa Rousso are the exception to the rule. That is to say, it’s difficult to find a relationship where each member of the union is a poker player. More often than not, one participant is the gambler, and the other varies in attitude from quiet tolerance to outright animosity. My better half lies somewhere between the two extremes, and our innocuous quarrels are certainly not unique to our poker player/non-poker player relationship. But I’m here to suggest that it’s all right! There are a few cordial principles each party can abide by to help make this awkward discrepancy endurable.
Serving as both an educational case study and as mild entertainment, I’d like to begin with an ever-lingering debate from personal experience:
Me: Enjoying that smoke?
Her: Yeah, yeah. Leave me alone. We all have our vices, Mr. Gambler!
Me: Vice, hmm?
Me: Well, fair enough. Let’s investigate this, shall we? My “vice” is not only fun, but keeps my mind sharp, always earns me money in the long run, and has allowed me to write leisurely for a magazine. Your vice, on the other hand, affords you the opportunity to stand outside in a four-degree blizzard, makes you smell like an ashtray, and you get to pay to do it. Oh yeah, and your bonus prize is emphysema.
I know, I’m a jerk, right? The point is this: The vast majority of relationship discomfort seems to arise due to simple misperception. [Please note: this entire discussion assumes that the poker player in question is good at poker. Losing players, please disregard. Your girlfriend is probably right]. The uninformed consensus image of poker players is that they’re compulsive and addicted, and the fear is that they may lose the deed to the house in some fabricated back-alley gunpoint card game.
Of course, the reality of the situation is that a good rounder knows when to quit, attends a safe and legal environment, and plays not only for the thrill of the game, but also money. This explanation, I’ll admit, doesn’t necessarily go over too well with our skeptical significant others. But even a vaguely accurate illustration of our day-to-day grinding may help advance their image from dangerously intolerant to begrudgingly acceptant.
So, while environment and money are certainly at the forefront of the conflict, the long, odd hours can be equally straining on a relationship. It’s 10:00 PM, and she’s getting ready for bed, it’s been a long stressful Tuesday. You help get her settled in, kiss her on the forehead, and rather than crawl into bed with her, you say, “Okay, honey, so long!” as you jump in your car, and head for the casino.
This emotionally rooted objection is difficult to completely overcome, I’m afraid. Again, a little education on the subject can aid wonderfully. The poker room has certain “primetimes” you might say, and if a player can feel sharp in the evening, this is his best chance at victory. The room is oftentimes more populated at night, though this isn’t necessarily the reason it’s juicy. More important than sheer numbers is the quality of these opponents. Who would you rather sit down against: the polished fifty-something businessman who has too much free time and plays only occasionally for fun, or the worn-down baggy-eyed gambler who has been at the same table for seven hours, dumped eight racks and is ineffectively attempting to win it all back? [Again, please note: the latter character, I’m well aware, is who our partners fear we may become. The faint irony is that these are the poor saps we feed on]. Ultimately, as far as our inconvenient schedules are concerned, we must simply ask for forgiveness, and inform you that there is indeed a method to our madness.
Lastly, I have one piece of specific advice for the poker player in the relationship: Do not discuss specific dollar amounts. This includes both wins and losses. We have to recognize, as players, that our comprehension of money is perfectly out of whack with the rest of the world. In this arena, we are absolutely the unconventional minority. I sympathize with the “normal” person in this regard. Envision the scenario from their perspective for just a moment. He or she has just gotten off work, oftentimes from a low-paying job they abhor, and they slouch down stressed and worn on the sofa, only to attempt to regain the physical and mental strength to do the whole thing again the next day. And here you come! “Hey honey, I made $800 today in 45 minutes, and then I took the rest of the day to go see a movie!” Stupid, stupid, stupid. Have some respect for reality! And this is to say nothing of the lost-money conversation, which, as we know, is always vastly worse. Even though you may understand that losing $400 in a day is going to happen from time to time, they may not, and that amount of money sounds like a dangerous figure to a youthful lower-middle class couple. Ultimately, a little education and a lot of silence can go a long way toward making this asymmetrical union successful!
Jacob "Jaymind" Westlin is a semi-professional limit hold'em player with a strong, sarcastic wit. Jaymind also frequently contributes to Minnesota Poker Magazine's monthly publication. Email Jaymind at email@example.com
Canterbury will be closing down their temporary card room location at 4:00 in the morning on Wednesday, April 14. Then at 7 PM Wednesday night, they will be opening up their newly remodeled Card Casino on the first floor.
The first 200 players through the doors will receive a Canterbury Park commemorative chip. Feel free to stop out to break in the new room… just in time for their 10 Year Anniversary!
PMac and I will be in attendance Wednesday evening to check out the new digs. I’ll be sure to take some photos and post them on MNPokerMag.com late Wednesday night for those who live too far to stop in.
So just to sum up my Wednesday, I’ll be at Target Field for the 12:05 game versus the Red Sox (my 1st chance to see the new stadium). Then to Canterbury for the Grand Re-Opening. Yes, rough life for me.
Two weeks after his son, Matt Alexander, took down the Heartland Poker Tour event at Shooting Star for $48,000, John Alexander nearly captured a Minnesota State Poker Tour title — eventually settling for third place $15,936.
“Johnny A,” as he is referred to around the local tournament circuit, is a regular at Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park. He has cashed in two out of the three MSPT events so far.
Aside from winning the HPT event, Matt Alexander also nearly took down the 2008 Fall Poker Classic Main Event championship. He finished 4th for $19,133, behind tournament champion Nasir Alkhatib ($84,184). Matt also has two career World Series of Poker cashes.
A good time to be a poker player in the Alexander family these days.
We’ll have updated Player of the Year standings posted within the next day or two, and we’ll also (finally) announce the prize for our MNPokerMag POY winner later this week.
As for last week’s MSPT event at Running Aces, we blew away all expectations with a 183-player Main Event field that paid $51,000 to Joe Matheson. The Running Aces tournament staff (Nessah, Tristan, D.J.) did a phenomenal job keeping everything organized.
The MSPT structure allows players a chance to actually PLAY poker, without worrying about blinding out.
As a result of the 50-minute levels and $15k starting stacks, and the solid players remaining at the end, the tournament lasted nearly 24 full levels, and nearly 21 hours of real time. This is believed to be the longest major poker tournament in Minnesota state history.
Thanks to everyone for coming out. The next MSPT event will be held at Northern Lights Casino in Walker, MN, June 9-13. Check out schedule details here.