Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Not only are you a cheat, you're a gutless cheat as well."
Doyle Lonnegan

Howdy all, thanks for stopping by.
Quick diversionary post to catch up on all the poker craziness going on.

Yes, I'm over a week late to the online poker cheating scandals but I'm still gonna blog about it. Everyone else has, fer Gods sakes. Plus I've been busy as hell lately so forgive any and all silly comments by me here. I'm a bit very Guinness-fueled and just giving my immediate two cents in hopes of getting this freaking post up.

First off, my favorite comments regarding Bucky Covington from American Idol in the snarkiest site on the web, Television Without Pity. To be fair, they rail just as effectively & consistently on Paula. Check it out for any TV show you may watch. Embrace the Snark.

I wish someone did this for TV poker.

The very effing nasty as fuck Bucky Covington, covered in an inch or so of grime and hepatitis, sings, "I love you about a thousand times."

Bucky sucks and is not happy with all the waiting when he could be out skinning roadkill for his supper or snorting the corpse of Kurt Cobain or whatever you do when you're that kind of trashy burnout backwoods-looking monster creature. Play the banjo and stare at passersby.

We see fucking Bucky Covington singing "God Bless The Broken Road" in his first audition, where they have piano, and he's singing it in the bad way of Rascal Flatts, and it is not good in my ear hole. He is so fucking sick to look at.

His lice have herpes. I am sorry that I am so irrational about him, and I don't know where it comes from, but I'm trying to respond honestly to the stimuli, and what the stimuli are telling me is that Bucky Covington and I probably would have about the same response to each other, and that's why we should not be friends.

After the break, Bucky Covington, who winks gimpishly at the camera like three times, shuddering under the weight of all that filth, his eyes nearly sealed closed with the mucus of conjunctivitis or worse.

"Even though I'm a shallow Hollywood talking head," says Ryan, "I'm a man of my word. Here's Bucky." Sitting fastidiously a good twelve inches away from Bucky on the couch, Ryan tries to make small talk with Bucky along the lines about how he often forgets the lyrics to songs, because he reads at a second-grade level. Bucky responds, but I cannot for the life of me understand what he is saying, something about "Skynyrd" or "vittles," I think. There's a clip of him forgetting the words to a song in Hollywood, but, like, how would you know? He does have a lovely tone underneath all the Jacob repellent, though, and his smile is like the sun coming out. From behind a bombed-out abattoir, but still. He says...something else. About the dang ol' guitar, I think. Playing it, or...riding it to safety in an earthquake? That doesn't sound right. Something. It's good in a fight against the neighboring trailer park or he made it into the fucking hugest bong you ever saw or something.

Not that anyone gives a flying F but I'm rooting for Paris and Mandisa on the girls side and Taylor and Elliot on the guys, although Taylor is seriously starting to annoy me with his affectations.

I'm obviously too toasted to blog if I'm mentioning American Idol, but yet, here I am. I've officially jumped the shark.

Anyway, let's get back to poker. Even if it is ancient news.

Am I allowed to say that I'm happy when cheaters get busted? How about estatic? I was surprised with all the doomsday talk when the story first broke. Damnit, I loved it. It raises tough questions for the gaming industry but I'm still truly happy that they caught these two tards. Clearly, more cheats should be caught and banned and publicized. I was happy to hear that two major poker sites stepped up and did so. Long-term this is a good thing.

As someone who plays a ridiculous amount of poker, I obviously have my concerns about cheating. But I'm a cash game player - not a tourney player like the aforementioned cheaters.

And it would be far more interesting to hear an industry insider (as in a blogger who actually works for an online poker site) talk about the cheating issues, than me, who is just a regular old player and shitty blogger. I did have an excellent conversation with the CEO of True Poker back in the day about cheating but I promised to not blog it and I'm keeping to that oath.

I will, however, discuss it over cold beers.

So I'm not going to bore you with my drunken rantings and dubious insights, but suffice to say, I'm still paying my bills and not wearing pants. Funny, but when I started this humble poker blog in September of 2003, I was still playing low-limit online poker but much higher in B&M. Why? Fears of online cheating. Sure, I had already been reading for years about bots, doom switches, cashout curses, you name it, but nothing concerned me except for the cheating whispers. And those concerns kept me out of much more profitable games way longer than it should have.

Thankfully, some smart friends convinced me to play higher limits. And even higher. And I won. Not all the time, of course, but enough to keep grinding up my bankroll and showing me the games were indeed beatable. The Boogeyman didn't exist, or worse, if he did, he needed some serious poker lessons.

And so here I sit, still banging away. I don't want to be one of those, "well i'm still winning despite cheaters so who cares type of guys" because I'm not. Cheaters are vile scum. And this topic deserves serious attention. At least more than I'm giving it....

The idea of cheating destroys everything I hold dear about learning and writing and studying and improving in all things poker. But I still wonder how deep down the rabbit hole it all goes.

But I also fully recognize that the vast majority of my readers are recreational, poker-loving players. If you're playing low-limit ring games or SNG's, you have very little to worry about, imho.

The timing of these two major busts coupled with this new US Bill to ban online gaming has some taking pause. I'm really not that concerned. OK, maybe a little. But I generally like to take the side of common sense on issues. And if this anti-internet-gambling bill even manages to get passed how the fuck are they going to enforce it? At the ISP level? Am I missing something?

As long-time readers of this here blog know, the nation of Antigua looks askance at American prohibitions on Internet gaming. Especially considering they took the US to the World Trade Organization dispute resolution over the issue - and won.

Here’s a press release from a few days ago detailing the island nation’s protest:



The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has sent a letter (available upon request) to Rob Portman, the United States Trade Representative, in response to recent legislation introduced in the United States Congress regarding Internet gambling. In 2005, Antigua won a case against the United States in the World Trade Organization over the US prohibition on Internet gambling services offered to American consumers from Antigua, and under WTO procedures the United States was given until 3 April 2006 to bring its laws into compliance with the WTO decision.

However, the only legislation introduced into the Congress to date have been bills sponsored by Congressmen Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), both of which seek to impose further restrictions on Internet gambling. In his letter of 16 February 2006 to Ambassador Portman, the Antiguan Ambassador to the WTO Dr. John W. Ashe notes that both pieces of legislation are in a number of respects directly contrary to the ruling of the WTO in the gambling dispute.

“As of today,” noted Ambassador Ashe, “with less than two months remaining on an 11 month and two week compliance period, to our knowledge no legislation has been introduced into the Congress that would seek to bring the United States into compliance with the [WTO] recommendations. Further, your government has given no indication to Antigua and Barbuda as to how the United States intends to effect such compliance. The only legislative efforts so far, the Goodlatte Bill and the Leach Bill, are baldly contrary to the rulings and recommendations of the [WTO]. We can only assume that this legislation was neither sponsored by nor enjoys the support of the USTR and the current American administration.”

Mark Mendel, lead counsel representing Antigua in the WTO case, observed that the exceptions to the Internet gambling prohibition contained in both of the bills highlight the discriminatory trade effect of the United States prohibition on the cross-border provision of gambling and betting services into the US. “By creating carve-outs for certain domestic remote gambling opportunities, including in particular wholly-intrastate remote gambling, both of these pieces of legislation fly directly in the face of the WTO ruling. The economic basis of the US restrictions simply cannot be more obvious.”

Ambassador Ashe further expressed his country’s commitment to the case, noting “Antigua and Barbuda stand prepared to ensure that our people reap the benefits of this historic decision. We will use every avenue open to us at the WTO and otherwise to see that the United States complies with the decision in a timely and comprehensive manner. As always however, we encourage the United States government to engage with Antigua and Barbuda directly to craft a workable solution to our dispute that addresses the concerns of both nations.”


And here is Nolan Dalla, stepping up to the plate:

Subject: Nolan Dalla's Letter to the Editor (Online Gaming Ban)

Kudos to Nolan Dalla. .

As Nolan has said many times before, we are a base of constituents that spans over fifty million strong and our voices can make a difference.

Here is a copy of Nolan's letter to the editor in today's Las Vegas Review Journal...


To the editor:

Here we go again. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., wants to make criminals out of millions of honest, hardworking Americans who make wagers over the Internet ("Online betting ban back in play," Friday). Brilliant.

When are citizens going to get fed up with this nonsense and fight these moral crusaders who want to do nothing more than impose their narrow values on the rest of society?

What's most deceitful is the fact that all of these recent bills to outlaw online gambling have been introduced by Republicans. I thought Republicans were the party of less government. I thought Republicans were advocates of states' rights. What hypocrites.

The appropriate public policy is not legal prohibition of online gaming activity and the harassment of a $12 billion industry, but legalization and government regulation. Legalization of online gaming in Nevada would produce a high-tech enterprise zone unseen since the creation of Silicon Valley. Imagine thousands of high-paying jobs in technology, marketing and customer support. Millions of dollars in tax revenue would flow into state coffers for education, public safety and desperately needed
infrastructure improvements.

Why aren't Nevada's elected officials fighting for legalization of online gaming within our state, where we already have the faculties and capacity to provide a service that millions of Americans and people around the world want?

Nolan Dalla

Well said.

Jason at Poker Odyssey asked me to blog about this so I'm going to. Besides, it's actually pretty damn important for us online poker players.

Can you take five minutes to email both of your Senators as well as your Congress Rep for your district?

Pretty please?

To clarify: This is currently a HOUSE BILL, so your #1 priority should be your House Representative.

Find em and email em this.
  • Congress
  • Senate

    Here's a concise email to send, thanks again to Jason.

    Dear Representative XXXXX,

    I am writing you in regard to H.R. 4777: The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act being introduced by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rick Boucher (D-VA).

    I wish to inform you that I am STRONGLY OPPOSED to this bill and among my friends, family, and business associates, my view is not in the minority. We will be watching your vote on this matter closely as it will greatly influence our future votes in the XXth district.

    Please speak for the majority of the citizens in your district and vote against this bill.


    Must. Resist. Rant.
    I hope some of you take the time to email your rep. Now is not the time to be passive and count on others to take action for you.

    Fight the power, damnit!

    Christ on Christmas, I just can't believe this bill has a chance at passing, but who the hell knows what Washington will do anymore? Not me.

    And sure, nearly everyone knows about the JJProdigy and Zee Justin poker cheating incidents by now. But I'm gonna link up some relevant takes on this sordid affair for the sake of posteriety. I can't even fathom the stupidity of these two kids, honestly. For the record, I've always enjoyed Zee Justin's poker writings till now.

    Original monstrosity of a thread that outed Zee Justin as a cheater.
    ZeeJustin the next to get caught

    And here's the second major thread with JJProdigy confessing and apologizing, of sorts.

    For those of you who gave up on the above ZeeJustin thread, here's where Lee Jones weighs in:

    Pokerstars bans ZeeJustin

    Hi folks -

    We did our own review of ZeeJustin and unfortunately, found that he'd been playing multiple accounts in several tournaments at PokerStars.

    * We confiscated the money that he won illicitly.

    * We closed his accounts and banned him from PokerStars.

    * We are returning the money he won illicitly to players who were harmed by his actions in those same tournaments.

    Obviously, we don't like doing this, but the evidence was incontrovertible. We will do whatever it takes to keep our games and tournaments clean.

    Best regards,
    Lee Jones

    PokerStars Poker Room Manager

    To be fair, ZeeJustin attempted to lamely defend himself on 2+2. It was pretty much a scorched earth affair.

    Personally, I enjoyed Bill Rini's dismantling of Zee's lame defense.
    ZeeJustin Responds To Online Poker Cheating Charges

    ZeeJustin Responds on Pocket Fives.

    Here was Mike O'Malley's official stance on the matter. Published on RGP.

    Thank you for your communication regarding the accounts that you suspected to be playing multiple entries by the same player in our Tournaments.

    These accounts (all associated with account ZeeJustin) had already been flagged by our system as originating from the same IP/System and we have now concluded our investigation.

    A total of six accounts, all with different biographical information, were making multiple entries into the same tournament from the same IP/system.

    This is in direct violation of our Terms and Conditions and the six accounts have been permanently closed and the player barred from our site. We have placed a substantial amount of money, from all the accounts, on hold. Any of the confiscated money found to be directly related to a particular player or tournament through means of cheating, will be redistributed accordingly.

    We make every reasonable effort to protect the integrity of our games and have very recently introduced some technical enhancements in an attempt to prevent such scenarios. These improvements are ongoing and as you can appreciate, have to take into account the interests of genuine players who share internet connections and access points.

    Thank you for taking the time to report this matter and for being as passionate as we are about integrity.

    michael o'malley | poker room manager

    At any rate, kudos to both Party Poker and Poker Stars for stepping up, even though I'm pretty sure it was an email campaign that put the pressure on. I only hope they become diligent and bust even more people.

    Of course, Zee Justin hasn't addressed any of this in his own poker journal.

    But Lou Krieger wrote up a nice little piece in his poker blog: Captured: The JJProdigy Affair

    Esteemed blogger and extraordinary gentleman, Russ Fox, took a more alarmist approach to these developments. I'm personally happy that this happened and welcome any and all media fallout. If anything it will put pressure on the online poker sites to be more diligent.
    Cheaters Always Prosper

    IE: Here's a pretty negative online poker story from a CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, pimping a new cheating poker book. Dirty Poker. I knew that online poker was rigged, damnit. Mr. Marcus is a fool.

    And while I'm on the topic of poker cheating, I'd be remiss if I didn't link up the LA Weekly's excellent expose of Men the Master and His Vietnamese Poker Cartel.
    Dealing with the Master

    Phil Hellmuth has started a poker blog.

    Here's a good ESPN poker article from Bill Simmons.
    Shuffle Up and Deal

    Writing this up sucked. Reading it was prolly even worse, I'm sure.

    So if you're looking for a breath of brevity, PokerGrub visited another strip club in Vegas.
    Fleeing a strip club without paying

    The Baby Kicker has an excellent rant up about the pending internet gambling bill. I promised him some link love so here it is.
    thebabykicker Needs a Crooked Lobbyist

    An excellent trip report that recounts playing with Phil Ivey.


    Subject: Aussie Millions Trip Report

    The Day Before

    I remember when the day before a major tournament was quite an event for me. I would spend hours acting in the way I felt a person who was not nervous would act. I would tell myself that I was not nervous and that I would play for the win instead of folding down near the bubble to try to sneak into the money for a ten thousand dollar payday. I would try to determine a basic strategy for the tournament and scout out the room to make sure I knew exactly where my table was and where the bathrooms were located. I knew the way I should feel, I knew what type of emotional state I was supposed to be in, but I just wasn’t there. I tried to compensate with over preparation, which was counterproductive. I remember these things quite clearly, because it’s only been two years since my first major tournament.

    In just two years, though, I’ve come a long way. I have played in enough major tournaments (WPT, WSOP, and EPT main events) that I do not feel out of place. I’ve played with and busted out plenty of famous players. More importantly, I’ve grown immune to the pressure of playing in a tournament with such a large entry fee. I really view the chips as just chips and play my best game to try to increase my stack and not bust. When I sit down at a table with a famous player, I am not intimidated. I just evaluate their game like anyone else’s and try to adapt. I don’t come into the tournament with a planned strategy, instead assessing my opponents and the situation and trying to respond appropriately. With this new, laid-back attitude, I really only have two rules to guide my activities the day before a major tournament: don’t play any poker, and get to bed on time.

    My girlfriend Sarah and I thus had a free day today to do with what we pleased. After leisurely waking up in the mid morning, handling emails, and watching an episode of 24 on DVD, we decided to walk into the main downtown Melbourne area to get some lunch. Our lunch was tasty, and we didn’t mind the typically slow Australian service as we had great seats looking out a window at the entrance to a major mass transit station. It was a beautiful day, typical for Melbourne in summer, perhaps 75 Fahrenheit and not a cloud in the sky. The people watching was of average interest. The only thing really of note was that not only are the people here in general friendlier, they even look friendlier from afar. Perhaps it’s more random smiles or heads kept upright and looking around rather than focused at the ground ahead, I’m not sure, but we definitely feel welcome here.

    After lunch we took a long walk past some shopping areas so that Sarah could scout them out for tomorrow. I’m not a shopper so it’s better that she does the actual shopping alone, but it was a nice day, perfect for an after lunch walk. We eventually became sweaty and tired and headed back to the hotel for a brief rest before dinner. The afternoon was pleasant, but not terribly interesting or exciting. The reality is that while there are certainly some unique features of Melbourne and Australia, it doesn’t feel much different being here than having made the 2 ½ hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada in summer. The culture is different in some ways, but mostly the same. People are friendly here, they use some different words, and they have different accents than Americans. Like Vancouver. After the tournament we will be traveling to other areas outside of the major cities, and then we hope to experience more of the uniqueness of Australia. For now, we’ll just be happy with seeing a few sights, relaxing, and enjoying the good weather.

    The online poker site where I qualified for this tournament has invited us to a ‘VIP’ reception tonight, offering free booze and snacks. Having qualified for many live tournaments through online sites, I know that these types of events fall into two categories. The first category is the all-out bash. These events involve hundreds of players, large venues, several bars, much food, and often live music and other entertainment. These bashes before tournaments are a great place to meet up with friends in order to catch up, exchange room numbers and seat assignments, and plan future outings. Unfortunately these types of bashes only occur at events that are linked to one particular online poker room that qualified a large percentage of participants for the tournament and often times is even running the event itself.

    The Aussie Millions is not that type of tournament. Multiple sites qualified players and it is not officially associated with any poker room. That means that any poker room hosting a reception for its qualifiers will be inviting only a small fraction of the tournament players. The venue will be smaller, likely just a rented room in a restaurant. There will be little or no entertainment, and many players will show up not knowing anyone. As we all know, the average online poker player is hardly a social butterfly. Many will stand around alone or occasionally chatting with their guest, not daring to engage any unknown parties in conversation. The online room will have representatives, probably someone from marketing and a couple of well known faces from the poker world there to shake hands. In short, the ‘reception’ will in reality be a small room full of deer caught in very bright headlights.

    But, hey, there’s free beer. I need to go to sleep tonight a little earlier than I did last night in order to wake up at the proper time tomorrow, and beer makes me tired. Plus, Sarah’s only been to the larger, more fun parties where we knew a lot of people, and wants to experience this type. I’m also pretty sure she thinks I’m exaggerating the differences between the two types of events, so she holds out some hope of walking into a lively gathering. I’m doubtful, but we’ll soon know for sure.

    Day One

    Allow me to explain how major tournaments usually begin. The tournament area is a zoo by 30 minutes before start time. There’s a line of people waiting to register at the last minute. Registered players crowd the rest of the room. Some are looking for their tables, some are talking strategy, some are swapping percentages or selling or buying pieces, but most are probably telling bad beat stories to uninterested parties, because that’s just how poker players are. There are broke players looking for last-minute backing. Dealers sit at tables to guard the chips and also to verify ID and seat assignment and hand out chips with players arrive at their seat. Friends, family, and curious members of the general public stand around and gawk at the famous players or just the general spectacle. They generally stand in the worst possible places, clogging up traffic through the room. Only the tournament staff seem to be in any hurry to fight that slow traffic as they frantically work to complete preparations so the tournament can start on time, or at least without too much delay.

    players start finding their seats five to ten minutes before start time, but half of the table might still be empty two minutes before start, and many of the famous players prefer to make an entrance sometime after the first hand has been dealt. All of this activity, along with the massive collective nervousness and excitement and anticipation, create quite a buzz in the room.

    But then the buzz stops. The tournament director gets on the microphone, and everything quiets down noticeably. The director usually speaks for a minute or two, maybe five at the absolute most, discussing rules and thanking people and giving directions and details. But they’re very brief, and they quickly get down to issuing the command to ‘shuffle up and deal’. It’s usually a very quick transition from everyone up and milling about to getting down to business at the tables, at least if the tournament staff is any good.

    Today was quite a different experience. Everything was normal up until the point where the tournament director took the microphone. First he gave a longer than normal speech about the rules. OK, I can appreciate an attention to detail and order, and he did highlight some rules that are different than those used many major tournaments. Then things got weird. The normal process of tournament initiation paused for twenty minutes while we were subjected to twenty minutes of what was basically really bad variety show. First they pulled Joe Hachem up on stage to talk to the crowd. Apparently this casino in Melbourne is Joe’s home casino and he is well known to many of the local poker players, and he did win the WSOP, so I guess I can see why they put him on stage. Next time they should probably give him some idea as to what he might say, though.

    I’m pretty sure he was just as unaware of the intended topic or goal of his speech as I was. He stumbled through some words, seeming to be a nice enough guy. At least I am now completely confident that I can correctly pronounce his last name (hock-em). After Joe took his seat, the director introduced a well-known local poker player who was going to perform a song on stage. Errr…he’s going to what? Sure enough, he performed a full on rock song, complete with prancing around the stage. I’d never heard of him and he wasn’t particularly good. I must confess that I was weak and unable to completely stifle my laughter. After this gentleman mercifully left the stage, they introduced Lleyton Hewitt, Australia’s top men’s tennis player who is in town for the Australian open. But they didn’t just introduce him; he had a full-on
    professional wrestling style entrance, complete with theme music and a fast walk from the back of the room through the crowd of spectators.

    Lleyton didn’t really seem to know what he was supposed to say either. I did get the distinct impression that I was supposed to be in awe just being in his presence, and that what he said wasn’t really supposed to be important. He also seemed like a nice
    enough guy. Finally, he was directed to tell the dealers to shuffle up and deal, ending our twenty minute detour from normal tournament initiation proceedings and thus allowing us to get to the business of playing poker. I fear that my words are not able to properly express the oddness of the event. You’ll just have to trust me that not only was all of this out of place, but every player in the room was 100% uninterested and just wanted to get to playing poker.

    And play poker we did. We were scheduled to play five 90 minute rounds, starting with 20,000 chips and 50-100 blinds. I should mention that when I first sat down at my table, I recognized none of the other players, which is a good sign. But as tournament time drew nearer and almost all of the players were seated, we still had an empty chair. As time passed, that chair became more and more likely to be filled by a famous player. Eventually Phil Ivey filled that seat.

    Famous players are an interesting bunch. I’m hardly good friends with any, so I have really no way to give you their take on things. Daniel Negreanu’s blog is the closest thing available. I also have no real way to tell you objectively who’s overrated and who’s really just that good. All I can tell you about Phil opposed to other famous players is what I hear second hand, third hand, or worse. I do hear plenty, just as in the poker world I hear plenty of poker gossip about many other famous players. The thing that’s different about Phil Ivey is that while I’ve heard people talk about him many times, it’s always been some variation of three basic themes:

    1) He likes to gamble at things other than poker, including playing craps for high stakes.
    2) He’s the best player in the world
    3) He’s extremely focused with incredible powers of observation

    I find the second item on this list to be extremely unique and compelling. All famous players have their fans and supporters, but there is a much shorter list of players who have any size of a following of fans who claim that they are the best in the world. I hear this most often said of Ivey. But more amazing is that I’ve never heard anyone say the opposite. I never hear that he’s overrated. You’d figure that at some point he’d have made a demonstrably bad play that might have been noticed by someone who was a hater who then spread the word about a horrible play that Phil Ivey made. Nope, at least not that’s gotten back to my ears. Impressive.

    Let’s get to a hand or two. At the first level, I had the big blind in the 3 seat of 100 chips. Ivey raised it to 300 in the 6 seat and is called by the gentleman on his left but then folded back to me. I thought the raise was to 200 chips and put out one more black chip with 98o. I had to put out an extra chip to make 300 when I realized the raise was to 300, not 200. The flop was J98 with two clubs, and I have no clubs. I checked, Ivey bet 600 chips, and the other player folded. This was a dangerous flop and I did not have position, so I wanted to make a sizable raise that would likely win me the pot right there or at least charge a reasonable amount if he wanted to draw, so I check-raised to 2200. Ivey called without too much thought. The turn was the Ac. I am now losing to any two clubs, AJ, and any hand that beat me before. In addition, any hand I was beating that has a club in it just picked up a ton of outs.

    At this point I hate my hand, I may well have the best but I’m not going to get paid by anyone I can beat. My goal is to see a showdown as cheaply as possible. I check and Ivey thankfully checks behind. The river was the 7d. I know Ivey has something because he called the checkraise on the flop. Every draw got there, but I could be beating some hands that he holds here such as QJ or KJ. I decided to make a blocking bet of 1550 into the pot of about 5000. With this bet I accomplished a few things. First, I kept him from making a larger bet that could either be a value bet or a bluff to represent one of the many draws that hit. A bluff would be a good option for him with a weak hand after I showed weakness on two straight streets when the draws (and an ace) hit. I would probably have to fold to any sizable bet though as there were far more hands he could hold here that beat me than bluffs. Second, I made a bet that could easily be a milk bet with a flush or even a straight, trying to squeeze a little more money out of him, so that he would probably not consider a raise an option with a very good but not great hand. This would bet me to showdown as cheaply as possible. Third, I would know that I was beat if he raised and could
    easily fold. I could easily have a very strong hand here and a raise of any substantial size would expose his stack too much for him to risk it. He called and turned over TcTh for the straight. At first glance it may seem as though I missed a bet on the turn to protect my hand, but he actually had any A,Q,J,7, or club that didn’t make a house, for a total of 20 outs on the turn out of 44 cards. He was nearly even money on the turn and had position and would know when he hit, so I was correct to keep the pot small.

    I soon played another hand with Ivey. At 100/200 blinds, Ivey limped in early position which he had been doing with a reasonable number of hands. Another player limped after him and I completed in the SB for 100 more chips with QJo. The BB declined to raise. The flop was Q84 with two spades, of which I have none. With deep stacks I did not feel compelled to expose myself with top pair weak kicker against two players who have position, so I checked. Ivey bet 600, the player behind him folded, I called, and the big blind folded. The turn was the Qh. I now had no choice but to like my hand, but I didn’t like my chances of getting paid by a hand I could beat.

    As I had not really represented a queen on the flop, I decided to check and let Ivey continue to bet. He did indeed bet 2000 chips, which I called after a brief thought. I did not think he would have simply limped preflop with AQ. I thought it possible he would have raised KQ, but a limp was possible early position as well. I think he would have raised 88 but not 44. He could easily have been betting any pair 99-AA or a nut flush draw. The river came a low dud, non-spade. At this point, I could not see him calling with a worse hand that did not also include a queen. In that case, he would also bet, so I could do just as well by check-calling. I felt I could induce bluffs by missed draws by betting and also minimize my loss against a hand that beat me. He bet 4000 and I had to call. Even if I put him on never bluffing here and always having a Q or a house, I really didn’t think he could have AQ so KQ was the only hand that had me outkicked, I outkicked all the others. I felt it was an easy instinctual instant call, and call instantly I did. He turned over KQo to win the largest pot to that point at our table. I lost 7100 chips on the hand, but I think others might have lost more with my hand, and few others if any would have lost fewer.

    I played hands against other players during the first two levels as well. I won a few pots, but generally ran poorly. I was getting poor starting cards and missing flops when I did get something to play with. There were two players at our table seeing a lot of flops and making a lot of aggressive actions postflop with a frequency such that they were likely to sometimes be raising with nothing and often with less than superior hands. Each player was exhibiting his aggression in his own particular manner. One player would jump on every situation where it was checked to him on the flop in position or it was checked around on the flop and the turn was a blank. In each case he would significantly overbet the pot, and not once was he challenged.

    The other player was continually challenging continuation bets. When players were raising preflop and then betting out on the flop, he would put in a substantial raise to effectively put them to the test, to ask them the question, ‘do you really have a hand to play for all your chips?’. This particular player was calling most of my preflop raises. I originally countered by not making continuation bets. After establishing my reluctance to make continuation bets by check-folding or checking down a few times after raises, I figured I might have built up enough credibility to get respect for one continuation bet. I raised in position with KQo and this player was the only caller. I totally missed the jack high flop and made a continuation bet. He raised me substantially. I folded. If the stack sizes were different and the structure allowed less time, I would have strongly considered coming all-in over the top. As it was, I would be risking too much and blinds were short. I had plenty of time to wait and trap him. It’s easy to be profitable against this type of play
    if you are patient and wait for a hand. They key is to not let the player continue to snap off your continuation bets when you miss. It’s simple, just stop making them. I would adopt a different method of dealing with this player if the blinds were larger relative to the stack size because each pot he won would be significant even without the continuation bet. As it was, I had plenty of time and the potential payoff when I caught him would be well worth the wait.

    A few players busted out within the first three levels. When a table was broken
    to replace those players, a few notable people showed up. WSOP bracelet holder and tiltboy Perry Friedman sat down in one seat near Ivey. Another player who sat down to my left was notable at first primarily because he simply didn’t fit in. Poker players aren’t all grungy folk, just most of them. But this cat was more than just well groomed for a poker player. There was something about him that was just, well, too clean. He was young, athletic, and reasonably dressed with actual fashion accessories. Then he started talking with Perry and Phil in a friendly manner. I have to admit I was distracted from watching a few hands that others’ played by observing this gentleman and trying to figure out who he was. I wish I could tell you a wonderful story about how I became 100% sure of his identity, but I’m currently only 90%. Did I mention that when Lleyton Hewitt was on stage, I couldn’t actually see him? Because I’m fairly sure that’s who was sitting on my left for about an hour and a half, until he busted. When I got back to my room after the tournament, I looked him up on Google images and found some pictures that didn’t really look all that much like the guy sitting on my left, but some pictures that looked a good bit like him. I’m still not sure, perhaps Perry or Phil could clear this up for me. Honestly I would be somewhat skeptical if it was the pictures alone, it’s more the fact that he was just clearly out of place in a poker room and friendly with the
    famous players that has me thinking it was Hewitt.

    In any case, I was at one point down to 5000 chips out of my starting 20,000. I lost chips in the two pots I described above to Ivey, plus I missed a lot of flops. Let me briefly describe some of the other hands I played in the first three levels. I utilized my observed information about the chronic overbettor vs. weakness in order to double up against him at one point, but I promptly lost some of the chips back.

    I got into a blind vs. blind battle against a gentleman on my right who was always raising my blind from his small blind when it was folded to him. I picked the wrong time and ended up with A9o all-in vs. his TT, but I caught an ace to double up. It was a pretty frustrating first three levels. I did get lucky to stay alive on that all-in, but I also had a lot of tough situations and missed flops that I got out of with minimal damage. I ended the first three levels with about 18,000 chips. As we
    went away for our break after the third level, we were informed that our table would be moved to a feature TV table across the aisle after the break for the last two levels of the day. Apparently having Phil Ivey and Perry Friedman at your table has privileges.

    To be continued...

    Day One Continued…

    I must begrudgingly admit I had mixed feelings about being on TV. Anyone who knows me well would probably assume that I was annoyed to be on the TV table. We players are not compensated in any way for our appearance on TV. Most amateurs are just happy for the exposure. Famous professionals rely on this exposure to build themselves as a brand and increase sponsorship opportunities. They would pay for the airtime. As an anonymous professional who doesn’t really covet the attention, I kind of get screwed. I get no money, but others have a scouting tape of my play for future reference. I thrive on being anonymous, of looking and acting like your average chump and taking advantage of people underestimating me. I do not want excessive exposure, not unless I’m being compensated. That said, after over two years of being a professional poker player and being asked the question, ‘Oh, have you been on TV?’ and having to answer ‘no.’, I would really not mind being on TV once. I think my mother would be proud to be able to brag on me as well, and would help my family and others to see me as being a legitimate professional.

    This TV table was not a standard TV table with hole-card cameras. It had the logo and all the TV lighting, but every hand was not to be recorded. The show will only include a small amount of their first day footage. There was a camera crew assigned to our section of tables that hovered around our table by default but would go record hands at other tables if called away. They had others spotting for them so that they could come running when a famous player got in a big hand. While I got in a few notable hands at the TV table, as I will describe below, there is no guarantee I will be on TV. There is also no guarantee that if I am on TV, the hands I played will be accurately represented. For once I have actual interest in watching poker on TV, if only so that I can tell my mother if I’ve been on TV, and also so I can competently
    discuss the hand(s) shown with knowledge of what audiences actually saw. Enough
    TV blather, on to a couple hands.

    I didn’t just play hands against Phil Ivey, but my biggest and most notable hands were against him. Ivey was attacking my blinds regularly at the TV table from early-mid position. I had been playing very tight with no cards, so I decided to take a look at a flop one time to see if I could take a pot away from him. I felt that with my prior tightness I would be able to represent something. I had repeatedly shown caution against him and when I had check raised him, I had shown down a hand that was strong at the time of the move. So, at 150/300 blinds, he raised to 900, and I called out of the small blind with 68o. The flop came Q99 with two spades and a club. I checked, and Ivey bet 2000. I decided that the best course of action to steal this pot would be to call and take the pot away on a later street. Effective steals against sophisticated players involve assigning yourself a specific very strong hand and playing the hand as though you had those cards.

    I decided to ‘give myself’ a hand of 89. It’s the same hand I called Ivey’s raise with in the blind before, so it would be easier for him to put me on defending my blind with this hand. After I called the flop, the turn came the Ac, putting two flush draws out on the board and also the scary ace. I checked, as I would with a 9 hoping I’d trapped a big ace, perhaps a spades suited ace. Ivey bet 4000. I check-raised to 12,000. He thought for a long, long time and folded. I exposed my hand. I generally do not believe in exposing my cards, and this particular exposing of my cards had its plusses and minuses, both related to image. If I didn’t show,
    everyone would continue to assume I was a weak tight player who sometimes played odd cards but mostly played ABC poker. They’d just think I hit a hand. I would be able to use that to my advantage to bluff again, amongst other things. By showing the bluff, I typed myself as unpredictable, and unknown, potentially able to make large bluffs. This would greatly increase my ability to double through someone and win a big pot.

    I can’t say I carefully weighed these factors before deciding to show my cards. It was instinct. I will say that I’ve been in situations like that before, and I do think it was the right decision. You need to have an image at the poker table that allows you to double up if you’re going to win a tournament, and it was time for me to gain that image. The blinds were big enough that I needed to think about doubling up with good hands rather than simply controlling pots and limiting the risk of

    I played one more big hand with Ivey, with 5 minutes left to play in the day and blinds 250/500. I was in the big blind. An early position player, a fairly tight player, raised to 1500. Ivey called, as did another player in the cutoff. Before I even looked at my cards, I was smelling opportunity. If I had any reasonable hand here, I had a chance to make a raise and potentially steal a nice pot preflop. I also had an opportunity to flop a hand with any two cards and take down a nice pot postflop. When I looked down at my cards, I saw QQ, pocket queens. This was the situation that was going to make up for all the bad starting cards, missed flops, and missed draws I’d experienced all day. The only play here with QQ was to reraise and reraise large, for multiple reasons.

    First of all, I was still worried that the original early position raiser might have me beat. It would be unlikely that any of the other players would flat call with AA or KK, but the early position raiser could have had me beat. I needed to gauge his strength now. Second, QQ is not a hand that wants to see multi way flops. If I was to see a flop, I needed to thin the field. Third, I had shown the earlier bluff against Phil and also been caught in another bluff, so my large raise could easily be seen as a steal attempt that one of the original callers might play back at. If the original UTG raiser, whom I decided was tight, decided to come back at me with JJ, I’d just have to fold and let him have the chips. The original raiser thought for a long time but then folded, which was quite the relief.

    Phil Ivey then reraised me a substantial amount very quickly. I’m honestly not sure how much this raise was, because the other player folded and I quickly announced myself all in. Phil indicated he was all in, and we turned the cards over. He had JJ. He asked for my chip count. After I told him I had 31,500 chips, he counted it out as the cameras came over, and they ran the flop. The doorcard was a J, and I did not improve. He had me covered, so he won the 67,000 chip pot and I busted out.

    Oddly enough, busting out was one of the best feelings I’ve had in tournament poker. When I busted, I calmly stood up and shook the hand of the gentleman to my right whom I’d been chatting with and wished him luck. I then turned around and walked off. I didn’t feel bad at all, I wasn’t upset that I took a bit of a bad beat, I was genuinely and totally just satisfied that I got my chips in with the best hand. As I realized that I wasn’t in the least upset about getting unlucky I just became me more satisfied. Because the worst thing you can do as a professional is get upset about luck. As you move up through the ranks, the point at which you know you’ve made it at a given level is the point at which you take bad beats but it does not affect you. If you’re truly comfortable with the level and with your play, you’ll know you’re a long term winner and won’t be concerned by the short term swing. That’s how I felt, and boy did it feel good. This is a really hard feeling to explain to most people, even to some professionals with bad tempers.

    The four hands I’ve discussed in detail from this tournament all involved me playing against Phil Ivey. In these last two, I appear to have gotten the best of him. I just want to make clear that the point of these hands is not to claim that I am a better player than Phil or even that I played better as a whole during our first day at the same table. I think his plays against me were very defensible given the information he had available to him. These were amongst my more interesting hands I played, so they were the ones I discussed, for that reason and that reason only. There were many hands not mentioned against myself and others where he took down smaller pots with aggressiveness or got well paid when he had the best hand. The truth is that I have now joined the legions of players to walk away from a session against Phil having not observed any significant weakness to report.


    And thus the drivel ends.

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