Michael Kills It

On Friday about noon, we checked out of the hotel in Maryland and started back for NC. Traffic was bad in several spots and we ended up not getting to the venue until two minutes before the first tournament began!

There were some preliminary events before the main event on Saturday. Michael was suffering horribly on Saturday morning. We decided to go to Walmart to buy some of the things he needed. While this wouldn’t improve his health or pain immediately, I was hoping that in the next few weeks things would get better for him.

The main event started at 2pm and he almost decided that he wouldn’t be able to play. I told him again that I was only playing for fun and it would be okay if he wanted me to take him home instead. He decided to try to play through the pain. What a decision that turned out to be!

I was virtually eliminated during the first blind level (100/200) when my AKs ran into AQo which made a pair of queens on the flop. I decided not to play on with only about 5k chips.

I was so worried about Michael, yet stunned to see him grinning widely and enjoying himself at the table. He looked better than he’d looked for two weeks!

I think I have taught Michael how to play through stress and pain well. He not only played, but continued to dominate. One thing that did change later was his body language and demeanor. He was no longer able to ignore the pain and shifted uncomfortably in his seat for hours.

Once the tourney got down to about 80 remaining players, I began to sweat Michael again. The room was not nearly as crowded and sweating was generally allowed. I tried not to get too close to him, but he has gotten so used to me sweating him that I could almost always see his cards.

He continued to play well and build his lead. Eventually there were only three tables remaining. The players were moved to a different area and redrew for seats. We were lucky he drew a seat with his back to the rail so that I could keep sweating. Then things took a turn for the best.

He must have gotten premiums hands about 50% of the time for a run. He started with about 200k, but by the time the run was over had over 500k. Since he was hurting so much, he played pure Sklansky System, which is something we have discussed many times. I have always suggested either Kill Phil or System when it comes to the times he is in such great pain that he can’t use real strategy. For the first time, he was able to follow my suggestions 100% (usually he tries to play through the pain and fails miserably because he loses his ability to THINK). This time he reverted to AIOF and it took the pressure off of him trying to outplay his competition while suffering from overwhelming pain.

Naturally his heater waxed and waned. At times he would get outdrawn or be behind even after making the correct play and have a shorter stack, but was never so short that he was in danger just by paying the blinds. This league doesn’t use antes, so that was no concern to him.

I was so proud of Michael during the entire tournament.

Eventually he made the final table. He mostly had a medium stack, but would sometimes chip up and have one of the biggest stacks. He continued to play well and I could tell when he was using the System and when he was well enough to play real strategy. He was clearly the best player at the table.

Once again, we got fortunate that his back was to the rail and I could sweat him with ease. Hours passed from a mistake I made and we had settled back into what we had been doing for months: One sweating, one playing. One encouraging, one playing well due to talent and that mentor ship. Knowing someone has your back and your best interests at heart is always an advantage.

The final table whittled down slowly because everyone was trying their best.

Michael continued to play wonderfully, some of it due to my coaching, most of it due to his inherent talent in poker.

When it got to four, the SB raised all-in to Michael’s BB. He had been playing pretty tight, due to having one of the shorter stacks and also hoping for a win. Michael looked down to find A4s. I expected a pretty fast call. Michael only had about 5 BB’s at this time and at four-handed A4s is a snap call for me.

Instead he hesitated. Later he told me that this player had been playing so tight and cautious that he feared he was very dominated. In the end, however, he did the right thing and called (the SB had A5o). He got lucky to hit a flush and eliminate the fourth man.

Three became heads-up. Then the very first hand HU the slightly shorter stacked raised with 98s. Michael re-raised all-in with QJs and that was all she wrote.

Michael won the entire thing like it was the easiest tournament he’d ever played and in such horrific pain that he couldn’t even think during most of it. In fact, his pain was so bad that he hadn’t eaten since 8am that morning and it was then 10pm! I had to literally force him to take ONE bite of a sandwich.

I know that eventually he will win big events and dominate big cash games, but at this point winning a freeroll against over 200 other players while suffering from acute pain and still playing for 12 hours almost continually is something we felt he could never do. It is a huge accomplishment and foretells of great things in his future if he strictly chooses the events and games he can play without overdoing himself.

This was the most proud moment I’ve had in coaching.

Posted in Hold'em, Michael, Poker, Tournament Poker | 1 Comment

So Stupid it Hurts

Michael suffered horribly during this manic poker run. For new readers, we went to Cherokee for two days, came home and got ready for Dover, Maryland and Durham, then left for a hectic eight days of playing or travelling 12+ hour days straight.

For even newer readers, Michael is a raw talent I found in a free poker league playing for WSOP lammers. I began to coach him in April, lost a month in May, then kept intensely coaching him during the past three months. I knew he had something, but wasn’t completely sure about his expectation outside of the league until June, when I realized instead of becoming #1 in the league (200k players, 4000 who play regularly) he could compete in the professional poker world.

The biggest obstacle is that Michael was a victim of a severe accident which keeps him in constant pain.

On Saturday, after such a grueling week he advised me that he probably couldn’t join me on the circuit until mid-September and I knew something was terribly wrong. I could see his health breaking down during the past ten days and once again worried that I was pushing him too hard. Alarm bells started ringing.

I was so worried about Michael, yet stunned to see him grinning widely and enjoying himself at the table in the regional playoffs in Durham. He looked better than he’d looked for two weeks!

Suddenly it dawned on me that he was in his element. Then I was doubly horrified that I was pushing him into an early grave. He was able to dominate the free league and outplay virtually everyone, which tended to manifest itself in his body language. Suddenly he could just ignore the pain and discomfort because he was comfortable and totally at ease. Which means I had done something terrible to him. Almost the entire time we were on the road he looked like death.

I was so angry with myself that most people probably got the impression that I was angry at someone else (Glenn and Michael certainly did).

I made a judgment that was too hasty, but it was because I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. I told Michael after I busted out that I had made a mistake forcing him to play for real money. I said he was where he belonged, where he dominated, where he was the best. I felt absolutely horrible about taking him into the professional world where pain was overwhelming and couldn’t be ignored since he was suffering all of the time. I even said that it was great getting to know him and that I wished him the best in the future.

This was really stupid of me to do during a tournament while he was still playing. I tend to make snap judgments and do awful things like that. Once I remember telling a whole group of world class players that someone they knew had just died…while they were playing in the series! I always regretted that, and I’m sure I’ll always regret telling Michael I felt he was better off in the free league. I did it because I was angry with myself, but I should have shown some better timing on that one.

Things are better today and we were both able to see that giving a little bit will help us continue on. My concern was that I was killing him with my grueling schedule. So dismissing him was done with the best intentions, but in a totally inappropriate way. I iz moron. So that is what I meant in my post about something devastating.

Eventually Michael won the freeroll and a package to Vegas. If it had not been marred by my hasty dismissal of someone I respect and love greatly the moment would have been even more sweet. He is such a prodigy!

I’m certain that when Michael can play professionally he will continue to kill it. Due to his health, the circuit cannot be a full-time job. I will need to keep coaching him when I am in town, then when he picks his spots to join me, he will hopefully be much healthier for the time off resting at home.

Our relationship will necessarily change. I am no longer going to be a full-time coach to someone who doesn’t need it. And even if he did, I couldn’t play on the circuit and do this at the same time without him there.

In addition, he will need to step up in order to provide some of things I desperately need in a partner and mentor:

  • Strict discipline, both professionally and personally
  • Being called out on my bad behavior and decisions
  • Listening to people who have my best interests at heart. He can enforce for me better judgment and a more even tempered demeanor
  • Text-sweating me when he is unable to travel. This is actually invaluable to me, because he is great at sweating. I have taught him too well, ha! He is harder on me than anyone who has ever sweated me in the past and always holds me accountable instead of justifying a bad play

One thing I have always lacked is a good temper and disposition. It hurts me not only in life, but even in poker. I make snap judgments which sometimes come back to haunt me, I say and do the stupidest things in anger (the anger is usually directed inward, but it doesn’t stop me from making a complete fool out of myself).

Michael is more even keeled and keeps his anger in check. While I worry about his lack of aggression in certain situations, most of the time his personality tends to help, not hurt. I feel eventually he will become much more assertive in instances where it is necessary (that guy angle shooting or cheating at the table; the dealer who over rakes).

By contrast, I can help with some holes in his game. The other day he had 77. Re-raised a light raiser. Flopped open-ended and continued to bet. Got heads-up with an aggressive player. Turned the straight and bet big. The river was a blank (IIRC). The out-of-position caller suddenly went all-in. I was so excited knowing Michael was about to double up, when Michael MUCKED his hand! Mr. So-satisfied with himself turned over AJo for a total bluff.

I went ballistic in my head and had to take a walk around the card room to cool off. Michael hadn’t even realized that he had the 7-high straight (second nuts). Once he figured it out he chastised himself time and again. But he sat at the juicy table and managed to keep playing well (something I have never been able to do very successfully). He even got within $50 of even for the session!

So you see, my strengths are sometimes his greatest weaknesses, and my greatest weaknesses are at times his biggest strengths.

I will try to help Michael find a new coach once he gets better than me. Remaining partners will probably be our distant future, but I will never match his level of play as long as his health holds and he moves up in limits as he improves.

During the next two weeks when he is unable to join me on the circuit I am going to teach him everything I know about Stud games. We will be in Atlantic City where Stud is still relevant. While he might not be up to much Stud/mixed games in AC, he can sweat me and see what type of hands I’m playing and why. He will have the basic foundation of Stud and be able to follow the games better than if he just sweat me cold.

I no longer feel he needs to meet with me several times a week. Even if I was available for that, he has grown to such an extent that two days per week will suffice. This will also give him time to recover from our whirlwind tour of four venues in less than two weeks.

As I said near the top of this post, I will probably always regret my hasty words to Michael in the middle of a tournament. Hopefully I will learn from this and become a better person by virtue of the fact that I have a poker partner who holds me accountable.

Until next time, God bless all of you and thank you to so many of my dear readers!

Posted in Life, Michael, Poker | 1 Comment

Penalties at Maryland Live

Penalties are stiff and severe at Maryland Live. For the most part I agree with stricter tourneys. I have always abhorred cheating and angle shooting.

In one tournament, Michael got a three-hand penalty and had to step away from the table altogether to serve his time-out.

Later that night, on the bubble I was moved to a table where I had trouble seeing the nine-seat who was in the SB to my BB in seat one. He had a lot of chips and was fiddling with them on the table. After the flop I thought he checked, so I immediately checked myself.

My penalty was also three hands, but I had decent chips, we were on the bubble, so if there is any time to be forced into sitting out, I guess this was perfect.

It was late at night, he was fiddling with his chips, but that still isn’t an excuse. We have to be very diligent about these things.

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Twofer (part II)

On Wednesday night there was another low buy-in tournament ($130) called Triple Stacks which eventually got about 200 runners.

I would rather not play this late, but it was more my type of event due to having so many starting chips (although the blinds did increase rapidly).

I felt Michael and Glenn both had a distinct advantage in this tournament, as well. We decided to back Michael.

This first hour was so completely different from Tuesday. Instead of doubling up, I literally never won a hand before the break! Every time I made a move, someone made a bigger move. Since so many hands were either shown down or the uncalled winner loved to show his hand, I found that I was behind almost every time. I had AQo three times and was beat either pre or post-flop. Once even by Michael!

During this first hour, since I was folding all of the time, I got to know some of the other players at our table. One of them started flirting mildly and I was able to find out things about him as well as probe his psyche. For whatever reason he decided he hated Michael. He always had something cutting to say about Michael and his play.

He also said a few little things about how tight I was. Once I started raking pots, I thought to myself: ‘Keep underestimating me, buddy, while I slowly take your chips.’

One of my strengths in poker is encouraging players to dismiss me as their competition. I want them to think I’m a rock, especially when I need chips desperately and have been able to steal from them by either raising their blinds or going all-in over the top of their raises without even looking at my cards. Yes, I’m typically very tight, but I realize my need to stay ahead of the antes and blinds, so I will often shove all-in when a thinking player raises and I know he is capable of laying down his hand.

After our table got broken I found myself with much more room to maneuver. I don’t think I was short stacked again until the final table.

For whatever reason the players just seemed easy to read and the tourney was soft. Unfortunately it was also very long. Gone was the turbo structure of earlier. The blind levels lengthened to 20 minutes and were gently increased. This turned out to be a killer because all of us were so tired (Glenn, Michael and me). I was still playing at 3:30am, something I won’t do again after little sleep the night before.

This time the bubble was easier to beat. Glenn and Michael were sweating my play. Glenn got virtually blinded out, having no premium hands and not many steal possibilities at his table. Michael went out when his AKs met JJ.

When we got to the final table I was short, but not desperate yet (288k). I did become the shortest stack quickly, but was able to double through. Then a play came up that was advanced for that buy-in.

The chip lead was to my direct left. A new player who was still trying to limp with raising hands came into the pot. It was passed to me in the SB. I knew for certain that the BB chip lead would put pressure on us by going all-in or raising pre-flop, since both the limper and I were short stacked. So it worked out perfectly. I had ATo and would normally shove, but I knew that if I only limped the BB would make his move and hopefully force the limper out of the pot, whom I suspected had the best pre-flop hand.

Sure enough, as soon as I limped the BB shoved. The limper mulled and decided to fold his pocket nines! Naturally I snap called the all-in when it got back to me. The chip lead had KJo and my hand held up. Since I had doubled through him twice, I was no longer a short stack.

Things went round and round for a long time. Not many players busted out, but we did lose one here and there.

When we were down to six, I made an ill timed steal attempt with AJo. The big blind didn’t have many less chips than me, so he made a crying call with 22, claiming it was time for one of us to go home since it was so late at night. His hand held and now I was severely short stacked.

I expected to be the next to bust, but instead two other stacks got into a war and one of of them was eliminated when I barely had even more than one big blind.

In my big blind I had K7s and was all-in versus the chip lead with A6o. His hand held and I picked up a 5th place finish.

Two-for-two and just like that I have found a place in the poker world again.

Next time I will talk about our experiences at the WSOP lammer regional game and my future on the circuit.



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I had a great time being back on the circuit. That is where I belong.

In the real world, outside of poker, I’m often considered rude, blunt, candid, selfish. These are all things that are cherished in the poker world. Combine that with the fact that I am unfailingly ethical and it creates the perfect storm for me. Typically I am one of the most liked players.

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. Immediately upon finishing the lammer season, Michael and I went to Cherokee. Then on Saturday/Sunday night we all three left for Delaware. That Sunday evening after finishing the tournament for the poker cruise (won a fully paid poker cruise for two), we rushed over to Maryland to start the Capitol Poker Classic, where we stayed until Friday at noon, when we raced back to NC to play in the regional get together.

So things went really well in some ways. In other ways things were devastating. I’ll address those concerns later. This post will accentuate the positives.

At Cherokee I was unable to beat the baby 1/2 NLHE games. This bothered me, because everyone wanted to play Hold’em, we couldn’t even get a PLO8 game going during a big festival!

I tried again at Dover, then one last time in Maryland. No, I simply can’t beat these games anymore. A combination of apathy and never being any good at Hold’em has rendered any skill I previously had in that arena to null and void. Even the 1/2 fish were outplaying me!

So Glenn and I had a strategy session and went back to the drawing board. If I was going to play Hold’em, I might as well just play tourneys when I felt like it and there were no other games going on. At least I’m somewhat competitive in the tournament arena. Other than that I decided to just stick to mixed games and/or O8.

On Tuesday, during the Capitol Poker Classic there was an afternoon event and I decided to play in that one. Altogether, given the re-entries we had about 150 players. It was much easier and softer than I’d expected.

I’d already almost doubled up before the first hour was over. My table filled and eventually grew much tougher, but those early hands worked out very well and I was able to either buy small pots or get a weaker player to give me most of his chips when I had the better hand.

As players busted and either re-entered or new players filled our table the dynamics changed. For a while we had a tough table, then it got gradually softer. A few hours later our table broke and I was sent to a new table where I never even played a hand before getting moved again.

Finally we were down to two tables. The top 18 players were going to get paid. I was a short stack (what’s new?), so I had to make moves frequently in order to stay ahead of the blinds and antes. Somehow I either never got called or when I did I had the best of it and my hand held. I must have been all-in about 25 times before getting called the first time! What a table image. In fact, the big stack said he only called me because I’d been all-in two dozen times and he couldn’t believe I’d never had to show down a hand. He wanted to see my range, I guess. He eventually won the tournament, so it didn’t hurt him in the least. Thank you, sir!

Two of us were severely short stacked on the bubble. The other guy went all-in and doubled through so then I was under pressure. Luckily, I have grown and didn’t play to avoid the bubble. I managed to make it.

I stayed short during almost the entirety of the tourney save that first hour. While it is obviously more comfortable to have a good chip count, being a short stack specialist is something that is normal for me. At one point I was down to TWO antes! Um, I’d say that is too short, even for me ;)

I managed to turn those last two antes into 153k, but never really became a winning force in this event. That is obviously something I need to work on.

Eventually we made the final table. I believe I only had 88k at that point, so my expectation wasn’t awesome.

One of the chip leads hesitated before almost folding when it was passed to him. Then he brought his cards back and instead raised. I knew he was on a total bluff, so when I looked down to see Q7s in my BB, I snap called all-in. Sure enough, he had T9o. I managed to get a seven on the turn, but he caught a nine on the river and IGHN in 8th place.


Posted in Hold'em, Life, Poker, Tournament Poker | 1 Comment

Amateur League

Somehow a small group of amateur players have gotten the false impression that I was displeased with my experience playing for WSOP lammers (seats).

Over the months in that league, I played with hundreds of players who were wonderful, kind, giving people. I had absolutely no issues with any of them. Yes, there was a small grade school cabal in one area that seemed to find an issue with everything I did or said, but overwhelmingly the vast majority of participants were outstanding human beings.

Some of the bemoaning I wrote of in this journal was simply venting due to the harassment by no more than half a dozen people. True, by and large the players were not good, but that is the point, it is an AMATEUR league. I have experienced a different poker lifestyle which means that I am not on that same level. We all start somewhere.

No matter how good a player becomes at poker, he is still someone else’s fish. Being a fish means that you have an opportunity to either become better, and compete with the shark who previously outplayed you, or you can attack the messenger, per se. Weak players who do not wish to become better tend to blame the shark for all of their losses, instead of addressing the issues at hand and improving.

There were several instances during my months in this league where I was outplayed. Rather than berating the winning player who was able to treat me as his fish, I accepted that I was outplayed and tried to improve my game. I congratulated him on his win, told him he played well, shook his hand and went back to the drawing board.

Yes, in most situations I was the shark. Not because I am necessarily any more intelligent than my opponents, but because of the vast experience I have in the poker world and my willingness to play in a free league in order to re-enter poker after over an eight year absence due to extreme illness.

Rather than read my journal objectively, taking into consideration that I was much rougher on myself than I could ever be on anyone else, and consistently bemoaned the fact that my game has suffered horribly over the years, not to mention that I was never any great shakes at NLHE or tournaments, some players decided that I felt superior to anyone and everyone I met. This is patently false, yet those who wish to remain in the victim hood class will only read what they wish to read, not what was written.

There are so many instances, both in cash games and tournaments, at all levels from complete freerolls to 2k buy-ins, where I am the fish. This presents a crossroads. Do I make it an opportunity to improve my game, or do I make excuses, while complaining and berating the shark who just outplayed me? For the most part I choose to congratulate the shark on getting into my head, putting me off balance and taking every last one of my chips. “Good play, sir,” I say time and again.

I could link dozens of instances in the past few months where I have done just that. If certain players choose to ignore those constant refrains, there isn’t much I can do about it.

The WSOP league was a great experience and I learned a ton. It put me in the position of being hyper aware again, of countering angle shooting and working around holes in a system which were exploited. It opened me up to a whole variety of different fish, and a few sharks who were much better than I was. It got me back into poker at a time in my life where I felt I would never be able to join the circuit again.

The one thing I had the hardest time adapting to was when I was attacked verbally by a small group of players who perhaps were previously winning, yet found themselves losing once I joined. Their jealousy caused them to blame me for every weakness in their own poker play. This manifested itself into abuse, yet I didn’t handle it well, because I am a rag and have no filter. I typically do not ever bite my tongue. So too many times I snapped, either at the tables or on this site.

Again, this was a very small group of people. Do I wish I was a more socially adept person who could handle lies, harassment and abuse with class? Yes, sometimes, but I am who I am and for the most part handled it like the witch who is Felicia.

Right now I am out of state on the circuit playing poker again. So the journey from a free roll to this was definitely worth it. I am not sure I will ever be able to compete in the real world of poker. Things have changed so much, and I am old, apathetic about Hold’em and not very good. So that remains a challenge, a hurdle. Yet, I will never blame the sharks for being their fish, for their superior play or for taking all of my chips.

Being intellectually honest means that I am able to say that yes, I was typically the shark in the free league and could outplay most of the players. Yet to a few of them I was a fish to be eaten by their better play. No matter how good I am, or anyone else is, we always have a shark waiting for us.

My shark is on my front doorstep right now in the professional poker world. Where I go from here is up to me, yet I will never berate or abuse the shark who outplays me, nor deny that he is better than me. It is what it is.

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WSOP Lammers

There seems to be some confusion about lammers.

A lammer is simply a seat in the WSOP. It is historically a small, clay token that is blue and black. In the old days it read: Binion’s WSOP $500 Seat.

Today a lot of venues pay out seats in certificates, cards, via the main cage or even by digital means online. Yet old timers like me still use the term lammer, which is completely synonymous with seat.

So when I say I was playing in a league which played for WSOP lammers, I was stating that the league provided 100k in free WSOP seats.

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