Joy!

Time.

Time is an amazing and horrifying thing. It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly six months since the last time I’ve written to you all. It’s amazing how life just takes over, dictating your every move. I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, and more specifically, about the time that slips away. The moments you overlooked that should have had meaning. The people that have come and gone… 

I received a Christmas card the other day. It wasn’t anything special, but it made me stop. I had to read it a few times. The first time through it was easy to look past it. The second time through however, made me stop everything I was doing and enjoy the small moment. “Thank you. Thank you for being a nice guy and a good mentor.” A rush of emotion and memory rushed through me. When did I change roles in life? When did I go from being the learner to being the teacher?

Today I’d like to talk about the small things. I’d like to share the joy of helping, the joy of educating, and the joy of watching.

Over the last few years I’ve loved the camaraderie poker has allowed me to experience. I’ve gained many friends through this wonderful game. As my surroundings expanded my awareness also expanded. My education as a poker player never ends. I think it’s important to understand that. There’s always something to learn, if you allow yourself to be open to the experience.

When I started writing, I set out to help people understand poker on a different level. Never once did I promise to make you better players. No goals of making you the next millionaire. In truth, all I wanted was you to understand that you could have fun playing this game. As it turns out, I’ve created a desire to improve. I’ve created a desire to learn. I’ve created a desire to play. 

Four, sometimes five days a week I sit at a poker table and I deal you cards. I watch you as you make your decisions. I’ve watched as your awareness has grown. I’m entertained when you fold your cards asking me if it was the right decision. Most of the time, you know you are correct in folding, but the reassurance is helpful. I love that you are learning. I love that you are growing. I love the frustration poker creates as you question your plays and the plays other people make.

There are a few things we use in life that are helpful in your goals to improve as a poker player. We have our awareness. Being aware of your surroundings, your situations, your peers, and addressing that awareness. Addressing it and absorbing it. We have our experiences. Using the experiences time has to offer you, and allowing it to have an effect on your decision making. Taking this awareness and this experience and turning it into knowledge to be used as a resource is a true goal. Knowledge – this is such a powerful word. We as a species are always seeking knowledge. But what is knowledge if it’s not a resource? Use the knowledge you’ve gained. Use your experiences and use your awareness. These three things define who we are and define who you are as a poker player.

I am happy that I’ve become a mentor to some, but I’m also afraid of it. Everyone has weakness in them. Have you learned what your weakness is? I know mine. I know that I can’t overcome mine. I also don’t want to. My weakness comes from a constant desire to help. My fears come from the moments when helping isn’t actually the answer. I fear that in your eagerness to learn you’ll pick up my bad habits, and then I become responsible for your failures. I deal with my fears all day every day. I know you’re watching, I know you’re learning, I know you’re absorbing. The beautiful thing in all of this is that you are all my personal mentors. I learn from all of you.

If you haven’t come to terms with who you are as a poker player, my first suggestion in your quest to be better is find yourself. Find who you are in this game. Find the things that you’re good at. Find the weaknesses. Accept them and learn from them first.

Back from the WSOP!

 

I’m back, with a renewed faith in the game of poker. The truth is I never really lost it, but there was a moment or two that had me on the edge… This past year was extraordinarily rough… With the loss of two family members, and a good friend, I needed something to pull me away from my grief, and the WSOP couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed the vacation and the relaxation that poker brings. Some people don’t understand how poker can be relaxing. The grind itself has run many players off. All the elements involved, have a strange way of bringing peace to my life.

This summer’s WSOP was definitely different. A lot of change happened. The first thing that caught my eye was the layout. The rooms were switched around, with an addition to a “High Stakes” area… I will say this; there is a certain comfort to familiarity. The first lap, had me a bit confused, and almost out of sorts. But all that was replaced with the calming hum of the shuffling chips… I know many people who hate that noise, but not me. This sound brings me an odd inner peace. It’s like the smell of a home cooked meal when you return to your parents or grandparents home after an extended absence… Like sitting on your couch after a 1500 mile drive… (Yes… my adventures this summer had a lot of drive time…) I love the sound of shuffling chips. It reminded me that I was home.

I normally have a large group with me when I venture to Las Vegas, so I made it a point to arrive a day or two earlier than everyone else to attempt to get my feet under me. I arrived kind of late on my first day; too late to enter any events so a good night’s sleep was in order. After wandering around a bit, spending a few moments watching a final table battle, it was time to call it a night.

This year we awarded 6 people tickets to play in a $1500 WSOP event (If you’re unfamiliar with Piper Poker, look us up on Facebook @piperpoker). All 6 of these players were new to the WSOP. I know that I would be an acting tour guide to each of them so I wanted to get some time at the tables before they arrived. One of my favorite parts of going to the WSOP is introducing new players to an event that has colored my life. Walking around, pointing out their idols. Then, surprising them, as I offer to introduce them.  I’ve played cards with the best and the worst. I’ve watched the worst beats, seen the amazing rivers, and hugged heartbroken strangers. I’ve learned from some of the greatest unknown players this world has to offer. None of this could have happened had the WSOP not existed. The WSOP has been a part of my life for 15+ years now, and I have plans for that relationship to continue.

My first full day of poker started with one of the Daily Deepstacks. I really enjoy these events because they are a great way to hit the ground running. The entry fees are reasonable, ranging from $125 up to $365, and the payouts are great way to pad your bank roll. Where I didn’t fare well in this first event, I’d like to think I played well. It allowed me the chance to knock the dust off my game. This is something I will always recommend. When you’re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with your surroundings you need something to break the tension. At the WSOP these are perfect for that.

I ended up playing in several of the Deepstacks, and I cashed in two of them taking 157th out of 1,349 players in one and 15th out of 209 in the other. The payouts were nothing brag worthy but the experience was rewarding. Over the last year or so I’ve talked a lot about table image, and learning from your surroundings. I’d like to believe that those two things are exactly how I lasted all the way to 15th place. To lay a foundation for the examples of this, there are a few things you need to know about me.

I like to consider myself a “situational aggressive player”, and what I mean by that is I don’t get involved in a lot of pots, but when I am involved tread carefully, the cannon balls splash ripples for a while. Yes, I like to play position and pick up a few early pots, but I’m a huge fan of telling my story slowly. Think of it like the typical stories we’ve all read that started with the “Once upon a time”… We didn’t consider them thrillers; we knew we were in for the long haul. Those stories we enjoyed reading because you got to know the characters. You got to establish a bond with them as you turned the pages. That’s me. I’m the Samwise Gamgee of poker. No one pays a whole lot of attention to me the poker player. Sure I talk at the table and tell stories and get to know everyone, but I’m, for the most part, pretty passive as far as information at the table. I like to surprise people when I get involved in a hand. In most cases, when my chips go out, the table agenda adjusts, and the demeanor changes. People tend to avoid getting involved because I represent a tight player. Tight players will fold almost anything. But that’s not me at all. When my chips go in, watch out, because I’m defending those chips. When these situations occur, no one at the table is prepared for it. Like Mr. Gamgee, showing up to kill the spider to save Frodo. I create high intensity moment that leaves a lasting effect.

Now that you know this about me, I can tell you about a few hands that propelled me into the 15th place finish. The first hand I have to set up with the tournament situation. We had been playing for nearly five hours by this point, and were nearing the money bubble, when I look down at my stack and realize that I’m very close to the short stack in the room. The specific hand I’m sitting under the gun, and I have been dealt KsQs… Now I’ve been sitting with most of the people at the table for over an hour and have gotten to know them all fairly well, so I decide to raise putting about half my stack in. Everyone folds around to the big blind (who I’d been sitting next to since the beginning). Now this player is the key to the hand because he’s obtained the most possible information from me. He sits and thinks for a while, possibly as long as 2 minutes before he makes an action. He decides to fold his hand, and when he does he turns his cards face up showing AhQh. His comment as he does this is, “I haven’t seen you play a hand in over an hour… if this was you making a move, I would have expected you to be all in… that move smells like Aces to me.” I politely reply “Thank you for the fold,” and smiled as I stacked the chips. Two hands later we hit the money. My table broke soon after.

Fast forward another hour, I find myself in yet again the same scenario. Short stacked and nearing the end of my run, I’m under the gun with AcQh. The new table brought a few familiar faces with me so there’s a chance I can pull this move off again, but half my stack is just calling the big blind… So I move all in. Amidst a few groans, everyone folds and I earn another double up. The entertaining part of this is the very next hand; I’m dealt AhAc in the big blind. Action progresses with a raise from seat four and a three bet from the button. The three bet is enough for me to be all in, so I move all in and get a call from the four seat and the button. The action on the flop ends with the four seat moving all in and the button calling. As they reveal their cards I’m blessed with being ahead of 44 in the four seat and QQ on the button. My hand holds up! I triple up, and seat four is eliminated. Two hands later we’re down to 18 players and we redraw seats again… unfortunately I don’t see another playable hand or situation allowing me to gain more chips until I see the hand that felts me… I move all in with Ah10c and get called by ironically the guy who laid down the earlier AQ. He shows A7 and he hits his 7 to knock me out.

Overall I was very pleased with my play in this year’s WSOP. The 2 bracelet events I played were uneventful, but fun! In the Bounty Event I got to rub shoulders with poker pro Sam Grafton, who was the chip leader early during day 2AB of the main event. He’s been one of my favorite characters to play cards with over the years. If you get chance to look him up, or watch him on YouTube, you should watch his facial expressions… They crack me up every time.

sam grafton marbella.jpg

The WSOP is probably the greatest poker event out there. It brings tens of thousands of poker players from around the world together. This is my family. This is my family reunion. I’ve spent half my life time playing poker and every year I attend this convention of sorts. It’s hard to explain the feelings of having people remember you, or remembering people who had an effect on you. Some people overlook the life lessons they’ve learned at the poker table, but those lessons are some that I hold dearest. I’ve won my share of hands, and lost more than I can count. As weird as it may sound, I don’t set goals of winning bracelets. I set goals of winning hearts. The poker table is my medium, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

 

“Why so much?”

Good morning! I hope today is treating you all amazing. In my last post I talked about “All In” moments, which has brought up several questions. So today, I want to talk about bet sizing.

A few weeks ago, I had a player ask me “How do you know the right amount to bet?” well, there really isn’t an easy answer to that. There are a ton of factors to weigh before you figure out “perfect bets”. Let’s start by giving you a list of some of these factors:

  • Position – What position are you currently in. There are 10 positions at the table ranging from seat 1 to seat 10, and all of these positions weigh on your decision making here. Seat 1 (small blind), you better have a premium starting hand before you consider betting here. Seat 2 (big blind), has the same situation as seat 1. Seat 3 (under the gun), if you’re the one betting here, you have 9 people acting after you. This is a place you need to be extra careful. My rule of thumb in this position, “Don’t put chips into the pot if you can’t call a raise with your hand.” I can pretty much do this with every single position at the table.
  • Hand – Preflop starting hands matter. The most important round of betting is preflop. This is where you eliminate as many players as possible. If you want your pocket aces to win, you have to bet enough to get the hands that, by design, draw out and beat aces to fold before they see a flop and crush your dreams.
  • Information – How much have you learned from your table. Have you been at the table long enough to know the type of players you’re playing with? Are there tight players at the table? Do you have the loose cannon that will call everything? Understanding your table will help you determine your bet sizes.
  • Stack Size – How many chips do you have? Are you the chip leader? Are you the short stack? What’s more powerful, a short stack going all in, or that short stack putting half of his chips into the pot? Most people in the short stack situation are looking for the double up, and everyone else at the table knows that. So when they are risking to go even shorter, I tend to look at the hand a little differently. That move says to me that they are trying to keep people in the pot, versus betting all in to get people out. More callers equates to more chips.
  • Pot Size – How does your raise change the pot? Is your raise sized to a decent portion of the pot? How many chips have your opponents already committed to the pot?
  • Scenario – What’s going on in the hand? Are you the button with 2 raises before you? Has an All In happened before you’ve had a turn to act? Are too many people in the hand when you’re turn to act comes?

These are all things you need to factor before you raise. This thought process will help you as you’re advancing as a poker player.

In saying this, there is another line that makes these things less intense. There are concepts that say your raises preflop should be in 3x increments. What that means is that if the blinds are 400-800 and you want to raise, you should be raising it to 2400. If you have additional callers in the hand you’re adding another X for each of those players. Using that situation, the blinds are 400-800 and position 3 and 4 have called. Now there is 2800 in the pot. A raise of 2400 will less likely get these people to fold, but if you make it 4000 to go, now they have to seriously make a decision. There are 5 players in the hand and you’ve made it 5x the big blind. Calling this becomes more of a gamble, and it makes your hand look a lot stronger. However, if you always do everything by the book, people will figure you out, and use that against you.

Here’s a scenario I’d like to share. Last summer I entered a tournament in Las Vegas. Throughout this tournament I was sitting in the 7 seat. I’ve built my stack up to about 120k, I’m not the chip leader at the table, but I’m probably the second biggest stack. This hand in particular, I was dealt Qh-Qd in the small blind. The blinds have crept up to 3000-6000 with a 500 ante. So in this hand I’ve already committed 3500 to the pot. The player in seat 10 (under the gun +1) raises to 12000. The next 2 players fold, then seat 3 (The cut off) calls the 12000, folds to seat 6 (The button) and he calls, it’s also important to note that he’s the chip leader at the table. Now I’m faces with a serious situation. We’re 10 handed so with everyone at the table paying their ante, that’s 5000 in the pot, the small blind and big blind bring it up to 14000. Add the 3 calls of 12000 the pot is a whopping 50k preflop, and there are still 2 of us left to act. My thought process at this point is that the player is the 10 seat had shown us that he likes to build pots and will raise out of position with marginal hands, however, the 6 seat has proven to be a pretty tight player. His call makes me think a little more. I’m not as worried about the button because he’s paying to see the flop expecting me and the big blind to fold. After thinking about this for a few seconds I determine that the pot is too big to just fold, and there are also too many players in the hand for me to just call. So I raise. I make the bet 58000 to call, half my stack at the time. I came to this number based on the size of the pot 50k and still have 4 other players in the hand I knew it couldn’t be just a typical raise. I knew I had to represent strength, but I also had to give myself a chance to bet on the flop if the button ended up calling as he was the chip leader at the table. The big blind folds, seat 3 instantly folds. Seat 6 thinks about it for a second then goes all in for less with 43000. The guy on the button folds. As it turns out, I made the right bet. I found the perfect number to get heads up. We turned the cards over and seat 6 was sitting on 9h-9c. The board came out Ah-Ac-Qs. He needed running 9’s to win and doesn’t hit. There was a lot of information to determine in the hand and having a strong hand helped me there. There is always a chance that I could have been up against KK or AA. Timing and bet sizing are everything in these situations.

There are many scenarios out there and every hand will always be different. My suggestion is, extract as much information as your table is willing to give you. When you’re telling your story at the table, give them as little information as possible. Paying attention will net you nothing but useful information. Making the right bet at the right time can be the difference between a good player and a novice.

Here are some external links for you to continue your research on bet sizing:

http://www.pokerology.com/lessons/bet-sizing/

http://www.pokerlistings.com/strategy/general-poker/sizing-your-threebets

http://www.pokerlistings.com/strategy/sizing-your-bets-properly

https://www.partypoker.com/how-to-play/school/advanced/betting.html

I hope that I’ve help your thought process on bet sizing! As always, I will never tell you that I will make you a better player, but I do hope that I’ve helped you look at the game differently! I hope the rest of your week is good and may many pots be pushed in your direction!