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The Travails of the Best Worst Player in Texas Hold 'em History
Monday, 28 November 2005
The Worst 24 Hours of Hold'em in History
Mood:  crushed out
Come and hear my tale of Poker woes…A tragical saga of a cardplayer who truly blows.

If I play Hold’em for the next million years, I’ll never have the run of awful luck I experienced in the 24 hours from midnight-to-midnight on the 15th of November. The beatdowns took place, on-line and in brick and mortar Casinos, limit and no-limit, ring games and tournaments.

Disaster #1 – The On-Line Evisceration
I was scheduled to fly out of Norfolk to San Diego, via Southwest Air. As I waited for midnight to get my on-line boarding pass (which I have since found out you can now get your boarding pass 24 hours before departure). That gave me a chance to play the $20+2 Limit Tournament on It was in this tournament 6 months ago where I had made my biggest killing to date -- a $300 dollar prize for finishing third out of over 200 entrants. I haven’t cashed in since in four tries. But I felt good about my chances tonight.

From the outset, I could see this was going to be a very loose and aggressive game with lots of raising and capped pots. Early on (Blinds at 10-20), my Ace on the flop (while holding AT-Unsuited) was good enough to get me a big pot to put me at just under 2000 chips (at Ultimatebet, most tournaments start you at 1500 chips). Then I have the button and I receive a beautiful pair of Cowboys (Pocket Kings). The pre-flop betting gets capped – four players are still in. The flop comes QT6 Rainbow. The Big Blind bets and I raise. The guy to the left of me puts in the dreaded re-raise. He has raised just about everything at that point; but I also noted he had the goods as well. Another player reraises and the flop betting is capped. The turn reveals a Rag. The Big Blind checks and I just call still thinking my kings are good. To my dismay, the player to my left raises. I have already put in 200 chips and have received no improvement to my pair of Kings. I had the sickly suspicion that there this guy either had two pair or a Set. Both players call before it gets to me. I deliberate. Despite my overpair, I think I’m beat so I execute what I believe is a good and timely fold. Yeah, right. Another ten hits the board. Big Blind bets and the madman raiser who forced me out with his raise on the turn simply folds (must have been on a straight draw). The other player calls and the Big Blind wins a big 650-chip pot with a Queen-up 2-pair. Of course, my Kings were good and that pot would have set me up quite well for the long run. I would definitely not fold Top Pair again without at least a showdown.

Unfortunately, I would not get another big pocket pair, or a Big Slick, or even a decent suited connector. I proceeded to lose every hand I played. Going all in with KQ-Unsuited, I saw my advesary’s J9 pair a Jack at the flop, grap a 9 at the turn, and get a boat with another J at the River. I finish 111th out of 120. That sucks.

As I fitfully fall asleep on the couch, I rationalize things can’t get much worse when I make it to San Diego later this morning. Wanna bet?

Disaster #2 – The Tournament of Rags
My flight to San Diego is uneventful. I make it to Viejas Casino at about 4:45PM. Viejas is sentimental favorite of mine, as it is the first casino I ever played Hold’em (That in itself is a story for a later blog).

I am playing some $3-$6 Limit at a table that was both tight and shorthanded. I had won a few small pots, but overall was down $4 when I left the table to enter the Viejas $20+7 No-Limit Tournament. I am excited as this is my first Brick-and-Mortar tournament for cash.

I join my table at the scheduled 7:00 PM start. I am given 3000 in chips. However, blinds start at a relatively steep 25-50. I’m not getting much of anything and am more or less a folding station. Finally, I’m the Big Blind when I get AJ-Unsuited. AJ is not my favorite hand in the world; but it looks like Rockets compared to the trash I have been getting. Three players are in the pot, one of them a woman about my age. On the flop, things look promising when J72 Rainbow flops. I bet 300 and both players call. A King hits on the turn and now I a little worried. I check; the lady bets 300 which forces out the other player. Slightly pot-committed, I call the bet – though I don’t feel good about it. A rag comes out on the River. I check again and she puts in 600. Had I been on-line and been able to see everyone’s chip count, I would probably have folded. But, I make the long wailing call and lose to her trey of 7s.

After folding yet another 6-gapped unsuited dreck, I realized that my chip count was down to 1350 chips. I had not won a single pot and I was on the verge of being the short stack. To my credit, I had not executed a single rebuy yet, though some of my table-mates were on their fourth rebuy.

A few hands later, I was whittled down to my last 400 in chips. I went all-in with A2. To my surprise, an Ace and 2 hit on the flop. The two players who called my all in were content to simply check it down to the river. To everyone’s amazement, all three of us had A2 and we split the pot. That was bad for me, but I was still alive.

But not for long, my next all-in was for naught. I decided to pony up another $20 for a 2500-chip rebuy. With pocket 5s, and the blinds at 200-400, I bet 500 at the flop. Though I was overcarded, the two players still in folded and I finally won my first outright pot.

Shortly after that, the turning point of my tournament was the hand I did not play. With K9-Suited at the Big Blind, the Lady with the set limped in and a bearded dude with a pretty big chip stack raised it to 1400. My rule of thumb with K9-Suited is to not call a raise 3-times the Big Blind. Had he bet 1200, I would have called it. But I fold and cringe when the flop comes QJT to give me a straight. The lady ended up winning hen she got a 9 at the river to give her a smaller straight. I think I could have made a killing on that hand. But here I was at the first intermission and I had a modest 2800 chips. The chip leader was at over 20000 chips so I was way behind. I purchased my final buy-in option for another 5000 chips (now I have 7800 chips).

After the break, the blinds are up to 300-600. At last a hand of merit, Pocket Jacks! I raise to 1800. The bearded dude who raised me out of my straight earlier calls and older guy with the ponytail directly to my right goes All-In for 4200 [This guy must have re-buyed at least 6 times and he was still short-stacked]. The flop did nothing for me; In fact a King flopped up. I bet 1200 and the bearded dude called. Another overcard, an Ace comes up on the turn. I come out with another 1200 and this is enough to make the bearded dude fold. On the All-In showdown, Buy-in Guy shows K5 (He went All-in with that – No wonder he has to rebuy every fuckin’ minute) and wins the Main Pot. I’m down to 4600 chips. I don’t get a whiff of a playable hand and the blinds chew me down to 3700 chips before they break up the table.

Though people are dropping like flies and the field has dropped from 150 to about 90 players, I am still mortally wounded in chip count. At the new table, the heavy raising all around me forces my horrid hands to invariably fold. With the blinds now at 400-800, I get something like 82 at the Big Blind and J3 while Small Blind. I was priced out of both flops and was left with a single 2500 chip. I was literally the Chip and a Chair Guy.

At the cut-off seat (the one to the left of the Button), I get another Pre-Flop pair of Jacks. I say, “Raise to 1500.” The Dealer laughs and says, “You only got 2500.” I reply semi-truthfully, I haven’t been in a hand so long, I forgot how to play.” I chuck in my last chip. Another player calls with A6. I’m still ahead through the turn; but I know how this is going to turn out. On the River, the Ace comes up and ends my tournament right then and there. Some tournament. Sixty-seven bucks squandered and very little to show for it. I won one meager pot, split another, and won peanuts in a side pot. I don’t care how good a poker player you are, if you don’t get cards, you don’t get chips. And in a No-Limit tournament, you hit a point where the chips have more clout than the cards.

Disaster #3 – Ring Around the Collar
After my poor showing at the tournament, I still felt fresh at 10:00 PM (1:00 AM) even though I had gotten about 2 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours. I bought $140 in chips and made my way to the $3-$6 table for some Limit Action. I did quite well the week prior at the Tropicana in Atlantic City and felt that my disciplined play would keep me out of trouble. But there’s one thing about these West Coast Limit games. They raise like madman. Atlantic City poker players are mice; San Diego players are jackals. And then there’s another thing about the Left Coast. They play Kill pots – Win two pots in a row and the blinds and betting rounds double. Well to make this long story short, these pots all had lots of players and lots of raising. I recall making it heads-up on the River on one hand with Pocket 7s and folding when an Ace hit and he bet out. After raking in the chips, he muttered to the player next to him, “Wow, I can’t believe my pair of 2s held out.” That made me sick. Then on a Kill Pot, my A5-Suited looked good when I 234 got the Baby Wheel. I announced, “I got a straight.” Then my heart sank when some old dude growled, “Bigger straight!” as he showed his 56. That was a huge pot.

My chips sank from $140, to $80, to $60, and now I was down to $24. I have never, ever busted out of Limit poker. But I was on the verge now. On a Kill Pot I got Qc9h. The flop is 9sKh8h. I got a pair of nines and a running flush. I bet out, got raised, then re-raised. Now I’m down to $6 in chips. On the Turn, a 5h comes up and now I go all-in with my last bit of chips. On the River, I‘m heads up when the 2h comes up. I’ve got a flush. But I really wanted a 9. The other player shows his Ace of Hearts – Nut Flush for him – Big-time bust out for me.

I drove down I-8E late in the evening lamenting my awful 24 hours of poker. As I sped down the mountains, I wondered for the first time if this Poker thing is really worth the time and effort.

Posted by alpepper at 4:02 PM EST
Monday, 10 October 2005
Bitter Nuts
Mood:  incredulous
Getting the Nuts at the flop can be a beautiful thing. You can rake in enough chips to fill the USS NIMITZ if you play them just right. But get a load of my latest Bad Beat.

I?m playing a $1 10-seat No-Limit Sit-and-Go at (though lately, it?s been playing more like After about an hour of battle, we?ve hittled down three nit-wits. I?m playing pretty well considering my pre-flops have been mostly raggedy. About the best I?ve been able to get is an Unsuited AQ which landed me a decent pot when a Queen hit at the turn. I was sitting in fourth with about 2000 chips, but dropped down to sixth and 1700 chips after losing with J5u and T8s out of the blinds.

Now I got the button and am dealt a Qc Jc. Blinds are at 50/100.

That?s not a bad pre-flop hand, with an EV of .536. With one limper coming in ahead of me, I go for a first-round knockout and raise to 300 chips. Both blinds call and the limper folds. So there?s 1000 chips in the pass. The Big Blind (I?ll call him ?Weird_Handle? because his name was kind of strange) is the chip leader at the time, holding about 4600 chips. I would prefer not playing someone with all that ammo, but this is a good hand.

The Flop: As Kh Ts.

I have flopped the best possible straight. It?s about a 310-to-1 flop. Okay, I can just go out and make a big bet when it comes around to me and end it there. But what would that get me, maybe a thousand chips and I?d still be sitting 3rd or 4th. I think I?m sophisticated enough to do more than win the pot ? I want to win a lot of money on this wonderful flop.

The Small Blind checks and Weird_Handle checks as well. I don?t want to give up a free; but I don?t want to drive out the action. So I make a nice, conservative bet of 200. I assess that it would simply be called if someone had an Ace or was even holding two-pair. I was a bit concerned about the two spades on the board; but I made the decision that I was going for the jugular here. The Small Blind folds and Weird_Handle calls. Now there?s 1400 chips in what is now becoming a pretty sizable pot.

The Turn: 6c.

I know that?s a rag for him. He bets 200. I could just flat call, but now my intuition is screaming that he is on a flush draw. Now my mind goes from visions of how to extract the most blood to getting a short-order kill. In other words: my miracle flop now seems in jeopardy. While I am not quite sophisticated enough yet to immediately figure out pot odds instantaneously, I knew a big bet was in order to give him poor pot odds and chase him out. I bet 700. Running the pot odds calculator, he should not call for more than 550. I made the right raise. If he calls, so much the better. I know from so many times of missing my flush draw, that he only has a 1-in-5 shot of his River flush.

To my surprise, Weird_Handle re-raises and puts me all in. There?s 3300 chips in the pot. If I take it, I would be chip leader and could play it tight until the money cutoff.

Weird_Handle shows his hole cards. Nostradamus, I am. He has a spade-suited K9.

Heads up on the River: It?s the TWO of SPADES.

Nut Flush trumps nut straight. Weird_Handle rakes in the chips and is now well over 6000 chips. My virtual chair goes black. My bust-out gets me a soul-searing beat and a sixth place bow out.

I try to salve my beat down with a session of limit poker at the .50/$1.00 table. I proceed to lose every hand I play and winnow my bankroll from $48.50 to $23.00.

The Moral: I think I became so enrapt with the superb flop, that I should have been thinking more about countering the flush draw as early as the flop. Weird_Handle was praying for a free card. And from his standpoint, a 200-chip bet was like a free card. Honestly, he had so many damn chips, there wasn?t much I could really do, was there? Know your danger flops: If you have a set, watch out for 3 cards in a row?If you have a straight, watch out for 2 or more suited cards?If you have a flush, watch if the board pairs.

Posted by alpepper at 3:12 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005 3:17 PM EDT
Friday, 30 September 2005
Walkin' Back to Virginny Beach: A Tragical Tale of Big Slick
Mood:  irritated
They call it Big Slick -- Ace and a King -- supposedly one of the greatest pre-flop hands in poker. Hit an Ace, you got top pair with top kicker. Flop a King and you hold a Nut Pair. My Poker Log has Big Slick Unsuited running at an EV of .589. Suited Big Slick has been an astounding .769. Next to Rockets, Suited Slick is my top play.

This brings me to the Hometown Heroes’ WSOP 2006 Satellite tournament. It's a free tournament (in casino-bereft Virginia, that's a given). For the next several weeks, they plan to play 40 or so qualifiers. The winners will all compete next year with the Grand Champion representing Hometown Heroes at the 2006 WSOP. A $10K entry with all expenses paid; can't beat that for free.

I pulled off a Silver Bullet (Cleaned and cooked dinner) with the Missus for a two hour furlough to play poker (as you will find -- she is the single entity that separates the WSOP bracelet from my arm). She gave me a "Get you ass home by 9:00 PM" deadline and off to Hometown Heroes. She wished me luck by saying, "Don't get shot."

Hometown Heroes, on Shore Drive, Va. Beach, is your typical sports bar with lots of big screen TVs, lots of cigarette smoke, passable grub, and a dude-to-chick ratio of about 14:1. I sign up for the tournament and was given a plastic bag containing $1000 in chips. There are about 5 [dining -- not poker] tables with 8 players to a table. I was kind of anxious as this was my first tournament of any kind in a brick-and-mortar setting [I have played dozens of No-Limit Hold 'em tournaments on with marginal success to date]. The real challenge was that we would all actually be dealing when the button came around to us [I screwed up twice -- once almost dealing the cards out to the players AT THE FLOP and another time not burning a card and exposing a 2 o' Hearts in an all-in showdown. [Hell, I never dealt before.]

At 7:00 PM, we received the order to "Shuffle up and Deal." Early on, with the blinds at 10/20, I executed a nice pre-flop raise with a fairly crappy hand to grab a quick 150. "You bought this pot," a long-haired dude added. Longhair got me back, after my Pair of Kings (with low kicker) didn't feel good after he came over the top of me at the flop. Pretty soon, I was down to about 600 chips. I tried to steal the blinds with a suited 67 at the button; but Longhair called me again. At the river with no pair and just a gut-buster draw, he put me all in. I was pretty short stacked so I went in anyway feeling that I might be home well before my curfew. Miraculously, I caught a 4 to get my inside straight and my night continued.

I started to catch some cards and begin gathering in chips. Thrice, I had pocket 3s and they came through every time. One got me a monster pot when I flopped a set. I busted out another player when my crabs hit for a boat -- 3s full of 2s. I busted yet another player when my pocket Beyotches (Queens) beat his QK (I got a trey of ladies for the coup de grace).

With the Blinds up to 150/300, I was up to about 2800 in chips and we received the announcement that when the next player was knocked out, we would consolidate everyone into the final table. I was either 4th or 5th in chip total and with several short stacks, I felt pretty good about winning this thing. While I can say I made about four mistakes, none of them at the time did not cause me much damage.

Then Big Slick arrives.

I receive Ad Kd. I'm to the right of the Big Blind; but Hell, it' big slick. I raise it to $600. I feel like I'm going to get a nice easy steal. The button player (I'll call him Oregon Guy because he looked like a runner and he had some kind of Oregon T-Shirt) goes ALL-IN for 2450 chips. We were just about even in ammo.

What to do?

I would have simply folded outright if my A-K was not suited. But a suited Slick has always been a gold mine for me. I know Oregon Guy was a slider and once went all in with garbage and caught a magical flop. I figured he had a pocket pair; but not Rockets or Cowboys. I knew if I flopped an ace or king, I would win the pot. And then there was the possibility of a nut straight or even a flush. But what's the downside? If the flop is sour, I'm sitting there with an Ace High, with just 6 draws to beat his pair. I could just fold with marginal damage incurred.

"Are you calling?" a dude asks.

"I'm thinking," was my curt reply.

I looked at the watch and it said 8:58 -- 2 minutes before Missus' curfew. Pumpkin time was approaching.

"I call."

In goes another 1850 chips. There is some excitement at our table. "You got balls," one dude compliments me.

I show my Slick. Oregon Guy reveals Pocket 10s. It's a coin flip. But why do I risk 2 hours of skillful play to possibly lose it all, in an instant, on a near-random event?

The flop: 6d, 8h, 3s. About as atrocious flop you can get with The Slick. Oregon Guy is screaming "Low Cards, Low Cards, Low Cards." I say nothing because I know how this is going to end.

The Turn: 5c . There goes my runner-runner flush. I'm down to a 12.8% chance of getting one of my 6 Ace or King outs.

The River: A rag (who cares what it is).

Oregon Guy doubles up. I get hit with the Big Blind and go all in with my last 350. I get a fetid off suit 9 3 and get busted out by one of the short stacks.

No Preliminary Win. Not even a trip to the Final Table. But everyone did congratulate me on playing well and I got home just in time to hear Missus inform me that some of the ribs I grilled were on the rare side.

Post-Mortem: After brooding over my loss for sometime, I picked up my well-worn copy of Cloutier and McEvoy's "Championship Hold’em." Though a treatise on Limit Hold 'em, it was pretty clear to them, that to win tournament, you have to win with A-K and you have to beat A-K.

In Hold 'em, the decision to go all-in with Big Slick is a Poker player's Kobayashi Maru , which Trekkies recall is the Starfleet Academy's NO-WIN scenario. It was a very tough decision for me as I was still pretty healthy in chips and I was committing the sin of going into a knife-fight with someone even in chips. To exacerbate things, I'm an 11.7:10 underdog (EV = .461). I played it right by not raising all in. But in the future, I am going to be reluctant to call Big Slick for all of my chips. Honestly, the only hand worth bringing in the farm for pre-flop is Pocket Aces. Everything else is problematic.

Maybe I should have known better. After all, A-K is also referred to as “Walking back to Houston.” That goes back to the days when Doyle Brunson was a young Texan pup and would drive to Dallas for some big-stakes poker, lose a fortune on Big Slick, and wind up walking back home to H-Town. At least, I didn't have to walk back to my house in Virginia Beach. After all, who would want my piece of crap Cavalier?

Posted by alpepper at 3:16 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 2 October 2005 8:08 PM EDT

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