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Random Thought 2.0

Is it simply human nature that helps clarify the way poker players deal with wins and losses, or is there something more sociopathic about a gambler’s temperament?

Consider the post-session conversation for both a win and a loss:

WIN:

“How’d poker go today?”

“Oh, great!  I was mixing up my play really well, and reading my opponents pretty accurately.  I only played for a few hours, and still managed to clean these guys out.  I really feel good about my game.”

LOSS:

“How’d poker go today?”

“Terrible.  Every time I raised, somebody re-raised, and I never hit the flop!  I got three-outed four times, and never hit a draw.  My aces even got cracked.  Twice!  Not to mention all the Big Slick losses.  What was I supposed to do?”

When you win, strategy is always the reason.  When you lose, luck is always the reason.  Being intelligent and hard to read is always why we succeed.  Notice, too, the complete lack of mention of luck or good cards in the first response.  We love to tout how our skills and ability account for victory.  Until we lose.  Here, of course, the explanation takes a new path, and skillful ability is thrown out the window.  If we didn’t win, it’s because the cards didn’t do it for us.  Suddenly, luck plays an enormous factor in the game of poker!  I can say with reasonable certainty that I’ve never, not once, overheard a conversation between two strangers exiting the card room where one of the men was saying, “You know, I didn’t play well today.  I made a lot of errors, and I have a lot to learn.”

And I’d like to be clear: I’m not complaining!  Although I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can, I’m as guilty as anybody when it comes to explaining my ups and downs.  I have the ultimate love-hate relationship with this game.

I am curious, however, where this peculiar wins-losses justification comes from.  Do we exaggerate both our skills and our awful fortune because it’s a coping mechanism through our stressful poker careers, or because it’s human nature to take pride in victory while sweeping setbacks under the rug?  I suppose the latter is certainly true, but as poker players, we cannot improve our game without recognizing our own shortcomings.

Except for me.  I don’t make mistakes.

Doubles Poker

My cable was installed three months ago, but because I’m an idiot, I only recently discovered that my package includes Game Show Network!  I ‘d been bemoaning my bad fortune, not being able to watch High Stakes Poker.  But lo and behold, while perusing through the stations, I was thrilled to find GSN clearly broadcasting Gabe Kaplan’s witty analysis.

Of course, I parked myself for the marathon.  But once complete, I was intrigued to learn of another poker program on GSN, Doubles Poker.  I’d never heard of it, and still, after one viewing, don’t necessarily grasp every detail.  But in essence, every hand has two players.  You play as a team.  One player executes pre-flop and turn action, while the other plays on the flop and on the river.  Each of them, while playing as a team, cannot discuss the hand with one another as the hand is in progress.  They must play their respective streets on their own.  The only exception seems to be a “timeout,” which is awarded a pre-designated number of times to each team, whereby the two players can step away and quietly discuss current hand strategy.

The two-player-per-hand dynamic gives rise to a unique new strategic element: How does my teammate expect me to play this hand?  Huck Seed and Annette Obrestad were the winners of the three-team table I watched.  How these teams are assembled is still unknown to me, but there must be a random element, as the Seed-Obrestad relationship was somewhat uncomfortable.  Despite their victory, there was an obvious disagreement during a particular hand, something not totally unusual, I would assume, given the tension of differing strategic ideas.  Obrestad would explain in the post-game interview that the argument stemmed from exactly that, a schism between the way she would play the hand versus the way Seed played the hand.  She checked the river when Seed clearly wanted her to bet, because, as she said, “I didn’t know what I was doing!  I would never have played the turn that way, so I was confused as to how to play the river.”

I love the idea of two great poker minds unintentionally butting heads while working toward the same goal.  There are so many successful ways to play this game.  With that in mind, I have a few suggestions for entertaining duos, so please GSN, take note:

–> Chris Ferguson and Mike Matusow

I like the idea of pairing a quiet math guy with a loud-mouth risk taker

–> Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan

I was trying to think of a new young-gun to pair with Doyle, but ultimately, it’d be great to see two old school guys unionize to try and give the kiddies what for.

–> Chris Moneymaker and Jamie Gold

I’d just like to see how quickly they can team-up to lose their whole stack.

–> Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey

No real reasoning.  It’d just be awesome

But, without doubt, I would most like to see…

–> Phil Hellmuth and Tom Dwan

How would this work?  Dwan would bet 140% of the pot on the turn, and Hellmuth would try and check-raise the river?  These two butt heads more often and more entertainingly than any two players in recent memory.  Their strategy on poker couldn’t be more different, and I have a hard time envisioning a victory, despite their combined brilliance.  But maybe I’m wrong!  I’d pay for the opportunity to find out!

David Abramowicz wins Twin Cities Poker Open

Abramowicz outlasts Sjolund, Sandness to win 2010 Twin Cities Poker Open

David Abramowicz took down the 2010 Twin Cities Poker Open at Canterbury Park and $40,673, outlasting two of the top tournament players in Minnesota — Andy Sjolund and Mark Sandness.

Ironically, Abramowicz was down to his last two outs with two tables remaining, when he moved all in with 7-7 against the A-A of Sjolund. A 7 spiked in the window, however, giving Abramowicz new life. He used that momentum and massive stack to steamroll his way to victory.

Folks may recall Sandness won a Heartland Poker Tour event at Northern Lights Casino in 2007 for $53,199.

Final results – 122 entrants

PlayerCash
1David Abramowicz$ 40,673.00
2Andy Sjolund$ 23,241.00
3Mark Sandness$ 14,526.00
4Mark Dunbar$ 11,621.00
5Mike Nichols$   8,715.00
6Trent Spurgeon$   6,391.00
7Matt Leshovsky$   4,648.00
8Robert Blaeser$   3,486.00
9Kye Longtin$   2,905.00

10:47 p.m. update: Down to four

Mike Nichols and Trent Spurgeon exited in fifth and sixth place, respectively, leaving four players to fight for the TCPO title. David Abramowicz is the current chip leader with just over 600K of the 1.8 million chips in play.

5Mike Nichols$   8,715.00
6Trent Spurgeon$   6,391.00

9:52 p.m. update: Four quick bustouts

Brad Cohen busted in 10th place to burst the money bubble, and within 15 minutes we saw three more bustouts — Kye Longtin, Robert Blaeser and Matt “Magic” Leshovsky.

Now down to six-handed for the TCPO championship.

7Matt Leshovsky$   4,648.00
8Robert Blaeser$   3,486.00
9Kye Longtin$   2,905.00

9:22 p.m. update: Down to the final table

David Abramowicz

With blinds at 6K/12K/1K, we have reached a final table of 10. Nine players will be paid. Here are the current chip counts:

SeatPlayerChips
1David Abramowicz330K
2Mike Nichols370K
3Robert Blaeser41K
4Matt Leshovsky63K
5Andy Sjolund270K
6Kye Longtin154K
7Brad Cohen28K
8Mark Sandness187K
9Trent Spurgeon215K
10Mark Dunbar175K

8:01 p.m. update: 13 players left; $40,673 first-place prize

Here are the payouts as we approach the bubble:

1st – $40,673
2nd – $23,241
3rd – $14,526
4th – $11,621
5th – $8,715
6th – $6,391
7th – $4,648
8th – $3,486
9th – $2,905

Andy Sjolund

7:14 p.m. update: TCPO down to two tables

The Twin Cities Poker Open is down to two tables at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.

With 18 players remaining from a starting field of 122, Andy Sjolund is the current chip leader (will provide more accurate counts later). Mark Sandness, Mark Dunbar, Matt “Magic” Leshovsky and Todd Melander are all currently still alive.

Last year’s winner, Chris Moen, took home $61,000, outlasting 3-Putts, Naser Alkhatib and a field of 123.

Canterbury lowered the buy-in for this year’s TCPO from $1,500 to $1,000.

Noteworthy Hand 3.0

The game is 15-30 limit hold’em.  I had just sat down, and uneventfully posted my blinds.  I’m then dealt K-10 of hearts on the button.  There is one middle position caller, a player I know to be quite solid.  Even so, I think raising in this spot a majority of the time has value, so I two-bet.  The player to my left in the small-blind is outright garbage, if my memory serves me correctly, and he calls, as does the unknown big-blind.

The flop is 5-6-8 rainbow, with one heart.  Action checks around to me.  I also check.  No sense in attempting a continuation bluff, I figure, on such a coordinated board, against three players.  If I had had only two opponents, I more than likely would have bet, but bluffing this flop with three opponents, two of whom are the blinds, makes me nervous.

The turn is the 2-of-hearts.  The small-blind checks.  The big-blind makes a bet, and the middle position limper folds.  Action to me.  I think for a few moments, really contemplating all three options: folding, calling and raising.  Folding, of course, has value because I don’t have anything!  The board is highly coordinated, and a player in the blind likes it.  Raising also has value, as it’s a semi-bluff with the flush draw and two over-cards.  This play has the added appeal of giving me a chance to win the pot without hitting the river.  I decide, ultimately, to call.  In retrospect, raising may have been a more wise decision.  The small-blind also calls.  (Though, it should be noted, this doesn’t concern me one bit.  Later in the session, I saw him call two-bets cold with 10-3, on a 9-7-2 flop.)

The river is the King-of-clubs.  The small-blind disinterestedly checks, waving the white flag.  The big-blind thinks for a long time, but eventually checks as well.  I begin contemplating the way the hand unfolded, and what hands make sense for the big-blind.  It seemed overwhelmingly likely that he held a dry-8.  If he had a busted draw, it’s likely he would’ve continuation bet the river in an attempt to win the pot with nothing.  If he held two-pair or a straight, he likely would’ve bet thinking he had the best hand.  With second pair, however, a check is the likely play, as he hopes I check behind him for a free showdown.  But if I do bet, he has enough to call.

This line of thinking complete, I bet.  The small-blind folds.  The big-blind quickly calls.  I roll over my top-pair, fulling expecting a win.  The big-blind turns over A-K, and scoops the pot.

Ummm, what?

What a fascinating brand of backwards poker.  He doesn’t re-raise pre-flop, where he’s likely to have the best hand.  His flop check is the only play that I understand.  His turn bet is truly strange.  He’s out of position against three opponents on a totally air-ball board.  His river check is equally strange to me, as nobody showed a lot of strength on the turn.  There is a very high probability that his top-pair top-kicker is the best hand.

How could I have put him on this hand?  I suppose the better question is, how could I have played it better having the information I did have?  I think perhaps a turn raise would’ve won me the pot.

WSOP Circuit Results: Minnesotans cashing

The World Series of Poker Circuit event in Council Bluffs, Iowa is currently underway, and a handful of Minnesotans have made deep runs in preliminary events:

August 22 – $235 Seniors No-Limit Hold’em – 108 entrants
2. William Maxwell, Austin, MN – $3,718

August 24 – $345 No-Limit Hold’em – 208 entrants
3. Dave Rutledge, North Mankato, MN – $6,791
5. Bill Criego, Prior Lake, MN – $3,726

The $1,600 buy-in Main Event begins at noon on Sunday.

The Situation: Dealer, I Saw All Their Cards

I was playing in a live tournament recently when this situation sparked some debate.  I felt it was a pretty standard ruling but the argument got fairly heated at the table. 

We were playing 10 handed, I happened to be sitting in the 1 seat and was in the small blind, thus received my cards first.  As the cards were being dealt, apparently the dealer was dealing with the deck tilted up allowing the cards to be exposed as they were being dealt. 

Before the dealer got all the way around on the 2nd hole card to the players, an honest lady in the 4 seat told the dealer that she saw all the cards dealt to seats 1, 2 and 3.  She couldn’t identify them specifically but said they were all low cards. 

The first 3 seats then looked at the hole cards and confirmed there was not a face card in the bunch.  At the same time, the rest of the table decided to look at their cards.  Of course luck would have it the gentleman in the 8 seat had picked up a big hand.  

The floor was called over and it was determined that since there was no action yet, the dealer should pull all the cards in and re-deal.  I hadn’t encountered this type of situation before but felt that was the correct decision. 

The guy in the 8 seat was upset and felt we should play out the hand.  He later revealed he had picked up pocket Kings.  To fuel the fire, the guy in the 7 seat said he had pocket 10’s.  So of course the 8 seat thought he would have doubled up at a crucial time.  

The players continued to debate this situation during the next hour or two.  The 8 seat was annoyed at the 4 seat for bringing it up during the hand or bringing it up at all for that matter. The 4 seat was just being honest which I give her a ton of credit for.  She could have gone on all day seeing the cards of three players, or at least until a new dealer arrived. 

The 8 seat felt the issue should have been addressed after the hand or in between hands, not during. 

But the question is, was it correct for the floor to bring all the cards back in and re-deal or should we have played it out?  Even though the rest of the table knew seats 1 through 3 had low cards. 

Like I said, my opinion was pull em back, since there are essentially six exposed cards, four of which were in the blinds.  But since I was one of the hands exposed, I may be biased.  I’m willing to listen to arguments the other way if I’m missing something. 

Your impressions?

Buchite Takes Advantage of Free Poker

Jim Buchite from the 50 Lakes Bar & Grill in Fifty Lakes, MN had a heck of a run at this years World Series of Poker.  Jim was one of the six Minnesota Poker League winners back in May at Shooting Star Casino that all won a $1,000 WSOP buy-in to event number 54, airfare, and hotel accomodations on the strip in Las Vegas.

There were 3,844 entrants into the WSOP event number 54.  After day one a&b, Jim was one of the chip leaders in 18th place with 586 remaining. In the end Jim ended up in 113th place winning $3,182.  Jim won this whole experience and the money all from playing Free Poker!  Congrats!

The Complaint Ratio

As I’ve stated numerous times, the game of poker is filled with people who think the sun shines only for them.  Each win and loss is the single most important event of the moment, and to hell with the rest of you!  (Of course, everybody thinks of themselves first while playing poker.  The conflict arrises when these people have the audacity to assume that everybody at the table is equally concerned with their hand-to-hand misfortune.)

I suppose, really, the only somewhat original tag I’d like to attach to this already tired point is this: People complain far too much.

Now, I realize that everybody bitches about something at some point during a poker session.  I do it too.  It’s hard to sit idly as you seemingly get rivered on every hand.  It’s an emotional game.

That said, I saw something that truly stunned even me, an already-pessimistic crank, about the reality of your average player’s self-centered nature.  I’d been playing an 8-16 game for perhaps an hour, hovering around even, having only played 4-5 hands during that opening stretch, sitting patiently and quietly.  A middle-aged man takes a seat right next to me.  He plays seven hands, wins the eighth with 9-4, and begins receiving some friendly criticism from his table-mates about the hand selection.

“Well, geez, I’ve been sitting here, and haven’t even seen a face card yet!  10-5, 7-6, 5-2, that’s all I ever get!”  This string of complaints continued for several minutes.

This man had been playing for exactly 11 minutes.  How can a seemingly grown and mature adult male be flustered after 660 seconds of bad cards?

Poker REQUIRES patience.  It’s an absolutely essential characteristic of any winning card player. Okay, a man this absurd clearly wouldn’t be swayed by the winning poker-strategy argument.  How about this: Your seemingly endless string of bad cards notwithstanding, could you please keep the overwhelming frustration to yourself? No, that’s no good either.  The rest of the table mildly engaged him in discussion.  Okay, last try:  Sir, did you know that I’ve been playing for an hour, and have played perhaps four hands?  I seem to find a way to deal with the vexation! Nah, he really doesn’t care about my ups and downs…

I know, I’m easily irked, and this specific exaggerated situation is rare.  But seriously?  After seven hands of play, you find it justifiable to voice your irritation about your cards?

Your average player seems to find something undesirable in every loss.  It’s so easy to forget the nine times you three-outed for the win, but so hard to forget the one time it happened to you.

Ultimately, due to human nature, and the fact that on any given hand, there will be one winner and eight losers, I would set The Complaint Ratio as:

One Complaint   –         for every   –         One Hand

Twin Cities Poker Open This Weekend

The Twin Cities Poker Open at Canterbury Park takes place this week, August 25-29.  The $1,000 + $100 Main Event takes place Sunday the 29th.  Players will start with $15,000 in chips and have 40 minute levels.  

As usual, there will be five qualifying heats starting Wednesday at $220 + $30 where the top 20% of the field will qualify for the Main Event. 

Single-table satellites will be running all week as well. 

For more information, visit:

http://www.canterburypark.com/Poker/PokerPromotions/TwinCitiesPokerOpen/tabid/215/Default.aspx 

Chris Moen of North Dakota took home the title in 2009 earning $61,924 for his efforts.  Moen outlasted 3-Putts heads up, Putts took home just over $35K for his runner-up finish. 

The buy-in has been reduced from $1,500 in 2009 to $1,000 in 2010.

The Old Guy’s Still Got It

There are few professional poker players I enjoy watching succeed more than Doyle Brunson.  In addition to clearly being one of the old-school legends of the pastime, I recently completed his autobiography, and was blown away at what a fascinating and entertaining life this man has led.  And considering the poker arena has recently been flooded with new school, young-guns, it’s satisfying to see The Godfather rake a few pots…

I was recently watching Poker After Dark, a hand between Doyle Brunson and Eli Elezra.  By the end of the hand, I was literally on my feet at the awesomeness of Brunson.  (This is what poker nerds like me do).

Phil Laak raised from the button with A-2 suited, and Brunson called with 5-5 from the small-blind.  Elezra also called from the big-blind with Q-2.  The flop came Q-5-3 with two spades.  Brunson checked.  Elezra bet $4,500 into a pot of nearly $8,000.  Laak immediately folded.  Brunson contemplated for a short moment, and check-raised to $16,500.  Elezra, without any hesitation, called.  It seems clear to me that this lack of hesitation cost Elezra thousands of dollars, as Brunson could easily narrow down his range of hands due to his over-eagerness.

The turn was another Queen.  Brunson thought for a few moments, and checked.  Elezra checked right behind him.

The river was an off-suit Jack.  Brunson once again considered his play, and checked again!  I was blown away!  And as I began contemplating his maneuver, I realize just how genius it was!  What could Elezra have, Brunson ponders.  He could have a busted flush draw, or a busted straight draw.  If this is the case, a bet is useless.  He wants to give Elezra the opportunity to try and buy the pot, as he certainly can’t call a wager.  What if Elezra has a small to medium Queen, as he does?  If Brunson bets out, Elezra is unlikely to raise him.  If Brunson checks, however, there is just no way Elezra can check behind him.  He has trip Queens!

So, Brunson checked, and Elezra bet $15,000.  Brunson check-raised to $75,000!  Wow, what a play!  It’s brilliant!  If Elezra has a busted draw, the hand is over and Brunson scoops an extra $15,000.  If, as turned out to be the case, Elezra has a Queen, Brunson’s huge check-raise looks very suspicious, particularly after a check on the turn.  Brunson needs to have the case Queen, or some sneaky full-house (as he does) to have Elezra beat, and the size of the river raise could easily have been an attempt at purchasing a pot with 10-high.

I salute you, Mr. Brunson!

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