Category Archives: Poker

Poker as a female player

San Remo

I was in San Remo, Italy twice during a five-month period. The first time was in December 2010 for an IPT series as part of my maiden voyage to Europe. I wanted to Dora it up and explore the continent in between EPT Barcelona and EPT Prague. I’d never been to Italy before, and the promise of being somewhere new with a soft tournament field and authentic Italian food was enough for me to book a cheap hotel room in a very foreign city for the week. Chopping a 1ke side event was nice, as it was my first legit accomplishment since my tournament stint. The poker on my second trip in April continued where it left off, but everything else was the opposite.

Day 2

I stayed with Team Noctus for the first night at a standard Stars hotel before my luggage and my Euro friends arrived. I was stuck wearing the same clothes for three days straight, including to the Pokerstars Party! It worked out that way because I flew with those clothes, arrived at night after the local shops were closed, and was occupied until the next evening when I finally had time to buy a new outfit. Then I decided to be a trooper and saved it for 1A the next day because I was still uncertain when my luggage would find me. Again not my classiest stretch, but after the amazing poker that ensued the superstitious Asian in me sometimes wishes I would lose my bags more often.

The night before the main we moved into a charming villa Vampy and Andrew found. At a fraction of the price of a hotel room, it was also amazingly spacious and comfortable, especially since I was lucky enough to land one of the best rooms in the house. I was still jetlagged in the early morning so I went for a brisk walk along the water to the supermarket in some light rain. I absolutely love it when it drizzles in warm weather, especially if the sun is out. I felt like everything was set up for optimal performance.

Hilarity ensued when we left for a scheduled noon start time without realizing we had locked Vampy inside the giant villa! We assumed he left early since we hadn’t seen him in awhile until he called us to be let out.  We RPSd to see who would go back to grab him, but luckily the tournament started three hours late anyhow so no one missed a hand.

The tournament room had great energy off the bat and it was an impressive mix of players. of international poker superstars and local amateurs. It was also very flattering to have some locals recognize me for the first time from my IPT side event win. Flattering and advantageous. I feel that because a lot of the Italian regulars knew what I was capable of, they made it harder on themselves to play optimally against me. The days progressed and I would have the same routine: wake up, blast music, eat breakfast, and take as long as I wanted to get ready and mentally prepare myself. The ~13 minute walk to the casino made for a great start to the day and Vampy did it with me through day 4. My daily finishing stacks fluctuated each day against the field, with the shorter ones being larger mental hurdles and the larger stacks making me feel invincible, but I was in bed by 1am every night and stayed on track. I also spent a very limited amount of time communicating and reading updates in social and industry media because I didn’t want to risk exposure to anything that may be distracting. I was certainly still able to feel all the positive vibes people were sending through skimming texts and e-mails, which really helped me push harder in the last stretch.

Final Table 

 

Before I knew it we were at the final table and with a good run of cards and an awesome table image. Then we were down to three. It was an interesting dynamic to play against Ruperte and Max since they had both previously bought pieces of my packages, and we had all hung out several times on the journey to the final table. The rail also consisted of many of our mutual friends, and the truth is, I lost focus. I initially played some decent-sized post-flop pots very well as I carried the momentum forward from accumulating chips quickly. Then I had a perfect opportunity to bust Max and somehow foolishly talked myself out of a call in a hand that haunted me for a while afterwards. I knew it was a mistake right away and my play deteriorated after that. It was a >$300k error I will not make again, and I’m confident I will get another opportunity to redeem myself. I really wish I had someone more experienced to drag me aside and give me the pep talk I badly needed. Instead I was asked to do an interview during the only break I endured 3-handed, and I missed out on precious time to recollect myself and readjust to set up a win. I made some preflop errors to Ruperte and was out before it hit me after talking him into calling me with a dominated hand.

Putting chips into pots

I didn’t realize how heartbroken I would be when I busted, because I actually felt on some subconscious levels I didn’t even want to win. Crazy huh? Maybe I knew myself well enough and knew I couldn’t handle the pressure just yet. I could also have a fair chance of never being able to meet future expectations if I set the bar so high so soon. Unfortunately I started thinking objectively about these things after I was out, when they were no longer immediately relevant.

I was still somewhat legitimized at the next level, and I no longer felt as if it was just everyone around me who was winning.Three-hundred-and-sixty-thousand Euros. The majority of it was not mine to keep, but I now have confirmation that I am capable of making this much money doing something I love. How lucky am I?! I went on a rollercoaster of self-reflection for several weeks. Swirled through a lot of “what now” tangents and had more than a couple of anxious and antsy days at home after Madrid.

3rd Place

The EPT Grand Final was memorable as well. Although tournament-wise I only second-tier cashed I couldn’t complain since I thought I had awful table draws throughout and got so many table changes my reads were cuffed, and yet I somehow still made the money. It was amazing to carry through a personal triumph to such an amazing city. The casino was far and we had to shuttle every day, but our hotel was right downtown by a bustlin’ city square and there was an unlimited supply of culture and night life to absorb. I was also around Galen as he went into the final table of the High Roller being first in chips and ended up finishing in 7th after an interesting hand where his AA was outflopped by an OOP QQ after a single raise pre. He blamed himself profusely for stacking off in this situation but it wasn’t his hand analysis that was brilliant, it was his thought-process when talking about his overwhelmingly human desire to legitimize himself. It didn’t matter that he had a $2mm title under his belt, he was planning on going back to school and he believed this would be one of his last opportunities to prove he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder. He genuinely felt like he blew it and spazzed out. (He would go on to come second in the CoC freeroll and third at the WPT Championship the week after so I think he’s OK now). Anyhow, the point is, after watching him suffer, it somehow made me feel better about my incoherent ambitions.

Celebrating

I’ll figure it out. I just finished my first real WSOP and needless to say my results were not satisfying. I’ve also made some hefty career decisions since San Remo which at this point I’m not even completely sure of. But guess what? I had one of the best summer of my life. It wasn’t that I partied hard or got a sick sponsorship deal. Rather, I learned that I could rely on people other than myself, and I was surrounded by not just some of the best poker players, but some of the most fun and authentic people anywhere.

Black Friday

Today some crazy precedents were set in the world of online poker. The founders of the top three sites that operate in the U.S. (PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker) are being charged by the U.S. government not just for violating acts under the UIGEA, but more seriously, for crimes involving bank fraud and money laundering. Arrests have been made and American players have been blocked from playing real money games on these sites. Their account balances have been frozen, and there is a general panic amongst the community, of which I am no exception. I am a firm believer in an eventual diplomatic settlement between these companies and the government, and am hoping this is just the government making a power play to demonstrate their authority to regulate rather than their desire to end online gaming as a whole.
Although I am Canadian and our accounts have not been frozen, I have spent some time recently discussing potential opportunities with some of these sites and now have no idea where anything stands. I will continue to be optimistic that after this blackout period the poker industry will come back stronger and more organized. A very idealistic portrait of this can be found in this blog.

You can read the actual government press release and summary of charges here.

For some background info, or, if you are a screenwriter looking for your next idea, you can check out the story of Daniel Tzvetkoff.

Today I played a half-ass session trying to take advantage of the overlay. Of course my attention was frantically divided as I waited for any news to appear in my feeds. I also finally got a chance to watch Jeopardy’s IBM Watson episodes. I was cheering for Ken and Brad despite knowing the outcome, and snickered at the machine every time it got a question wrong in a silly way, or when it faked personality.

I am currently watching Party Poker’s Big Game live stream. I was kindly invited to be on this show but after a lot of deliberation decided not to attend mainly for bankroll reasons. I probably could have sold the action for it, but I told myself I didn’t have to jump on the first opportunity to be on TV. I like to be properly rolled when I play cash games because worrying about real dollars leads to sub-optimal plays. I used to do a lot of that and always regret it afterwards for various reasons, even when I win. There was also a pretty long line-up to fit into 48 hours and I wasn’t sure if it’d be worth it to go so out of my way for minimal exposure. I may also be slightly anxious about looking silly on TV. I hear it’s really easy to do that and didn’t want to launch my public “career” before I was ready. Having said this, I think the interactive features of the Big Game are pretty innovative. As I watch some hands play out, I really wish I had gone despite the logic against it because the game appears to be drawing some great action. The audience gets to decide who is to be replaced next, so it keeps the players active. The comments on the side panel has me convinced that we’ll be seeing more interactive poker programming in the near future.

Fluctuat Nec Mergitur

This is my third reverse-chronological entry on my Deauville-Paris-Venice-Paris-Malta-Copenhagen trip. Again, it’s very tl;dr because I suck at making concise and regular updates. Enjoy!

“It is tossed by the waves, does not sink” is the translation for the Latin Parisien motto, and pretty accurately describes my adventures in the city of light and effortless elegance. I have to begin by saying I am not proud I did not get to do all the touristy stuff I had on my check list. The closest I got to the Louvre was to the club across the street, and I kept the Musée d’Orsay hanging more than a few days in a row until we hastily left for Malta. What’s more upsetting, however, is that I was still unable to take advantage of the weak fields at the FPS events. I often use this analogy when referring to these situations, but seriously, there were times when I felt like I was getting beat up by toddlers.

I was actually in Paris twice. The first time was with Noctus, Dylan, and Cal after a Deauville Sunday all-nighter grind. We took a train to Paris and I bragged about paying a lower fare than the rest with my skill to navigate the confusing French rail site until I went on an ugly run in Chinese. We stayed in a roomy 4 bed hotel in the centre of the city by Opera. Since they were all leaving the next morning, we decided to make the most of our time and visit the Eiffel Tower.

I usually have this Dallas Green mentality when travelling (“…but I’ll never take any pictures/Cuz I know I’ll just be right back” from the song Coming Home), but I really wished I had a real camera with me this time. Yes, it’s still just a metal structure, but all that it stands for is pretty alluring. We had some mediocre French tourist food after and pretty much all snap-passed out once we got back to the hotel. Strangely we also all woke up simultaneously around midnight & hunger pangs led us to “Au Pied de Cochon”, a 24-hour joint that specialized in pig’s feet. I was very familiar with the part since the delicacy is actually renowned for its skin-rejuvenating properties in Asian culture. My mother makes plenty of this stuff at home, but the others opted for safer fare. We actually ended up staying there for awhile as Noctus and Cal went tete a tete in a classic science vs. religion debate. That eventually led us to some more fun topics like free will and the existence of the soul. It must’ve been the Parisian air!


It was sad to see these guys leave, but I certainly didn’t mind staying longer in Europe. I was also due for Venice in a few days for the WPT, but more on this mystical city in my next entry. My second time in Paris I was lucky enough to be there at the same time as my friend Cathy, who is certainly the classiest girl I know. I met her at my table itm on the second day of the WSOP Ladies Event where I made a failed attempt to squeeze her open with her 4b shove in my face. She has a fearless table presence and is a force to be reckoned with. She is also effortlessly elegant even though she is not even French and actually is quite diverse in her opinions of Paris. She complains that Parisians complain about everything when they have the best luxuries in the world, and she never makes excuses for herself or anyone around her. I wish I could be more like that!

It was a privilege to have her and Arnaud as my personal guides around the city. Although my French skills are workable with Canadian core French education, the city is much friendlier if the locals don’t see you as an outsider. Cathy, like me, was always up for easy Asian food and it’s nice to do girly things once in awhile. She took me to the finest malls where she knew the Chanel salespeople by name. We tried on clothes, shared decadent desserts, and talked about boys and poker. Joie de vivre! Arnaud did his part and entertained my historical curiosities by taking me to L’Arc de Triomphe, and showing me multi-faceted sides of the city through his familiarity with interesting neighbourhoods and trendy bars. One afternoon he took me out for some delicious Italian food (the day before we left for Venice, obv) in a tres chic neighbourhood. It was renowned for its boutiques, cobblestone paths, and great spots for people-watching, but we were warned immediately after sitting on the heated patio that there is also aninfestation of pick-pockets and small-time scammers, and that I should guard my purse carefully and put my Blackberry away. Sure enough, halfway into our meal the exact scam we were being warned about (a group of mafia-directed adolescents holding maps intending on asking suckers for directions while sneaking away valuables from underneath) came to our restaurant and was hastily shoo’d away by an employee. I had initially thought the petty crime frequency was just an exaggeration, but after the incident I applauded our attentiveness and felt quite good about our fortune for having so narrowly escaped what could have been a disastrous stall to my Euro trip. 

Now for the good part. As we stroll off about 200 metres away talking about not running so hot in poker and preparing to hail a cab, I realize I had forgotten my purse at the restaurant’s patio. I wish I could measure the loss of colour in my face. You see, I try to be prepared to play cash games most days and depending on the hotel I’m staying at I may keep a bundle of cash on me. My passport and five figures of Euros were in that purse, and the irony in this case is understated. Luckily for me I run pretty good at life and Arnaud sprinted down the street to find it right where I left it.

My first encounter with Arnaud was at a 2ke side event at EPT Prague. I’m generally a pretty good shit disturber in a weak field, and when he came to the table it didn’t take long for him to figure this out. He’d been relatively quiet and I 3b his EP open which he called. Board came KQTr and we both checked. Turn is a 9, he puts in a healthy bet and I jam just over pot to find the fold Later on I would learn that he had 54s, which is a hand that will again play a key role at FPS. I would go on later to analyze some hhs with him at a strip-club with midgets. He would also be one of the first guys to convincingly argue that it’s ok and can be respectable to use feminine wiles for metagame at the table. I’m still trying to incorporate that into my game in a meaningful way since it’s nice to have a selection of weapons to choose from.

Ok, onto FPS review. The tournament at Cercle Haussman was a huge success considering the starting days overlapped the WPT Paris event at the Aviation Club. I had originally planned to play the latter, but I was given top secret info regarding the softness of the FPS fields and it seemed like a no-brainer to go for better value. Although it was a smaller buy-in of 2ke instead of WPT’s 5k the prize pool was significantly greater. Like all gambling joints in Paris, the casino was actually a private club that required an annual membership fee. I have no complaints about the venue or the people. They were not necessarily friendly, but concerns were resolved with due diligence and they were conveniently located in a busy downtown area of the city.

Since it happened about two months ago I had to consult my tweets for frames of reference when blogging, and all I got was “50k @ 1st break no showdown yet :)” and “Out KK[less than]AQo last level of the day. Sigh. Rly. Gl @arnaudmattern wreck that table.” Although I can’t recover much concrete details, I do remember that most of the bigger pots were either awesome due to thin value/sick reads, or vs. absurd hands/lines/opponents.

Two absurd hands happened where I wasn’t involved. On the very first hand of the day, Arnaud’s friend was heads-up vs. a villain he had history with no other players seated yet at their table. Starting stacks are 25k at 50/100 and he accidentally raised to 2050 instead of 250 due to a live color misclick. His opponent realized this and 3bets to 6k. Player 1 shoves for a full stack with QTs and player 2 snaps with K3 and wins. This set the tone for the tournament.

It was a field where it was exploitable to play unexploitably, and even as I knew this I managed to get into a bunch of flippy situations expecting them to be flips at worst, and not come out ahead. Despite not having made it past the first day, I had a lot of fun. The players who spoke any amount of English were friendly and engaging. My friend would also direct my attention to some flattering/hilarious posts about me on a French poker forum. I was really sad to go in the last level of the day since I had just transferred to Arnaud’s left from a broken table. Admittedly I got some inside scoop on the table as I sat down: guy to my direct left was a spazzy but competent well-known French player with unlimited bankroll. Guy two seats to his left was a crushing solid high-stakes reg who ended up coming 2nd to Marvin. The rest were at various degrees on the ichthyoid scale. Excluding Arnaud, they were all pretty much pylons.

Here’s where the second hand comes in. With above dynamics, Arnaud from lowjack opens for 1400 at 300/600/50 with a ~45k stack. I fold, guy with unlimited br 3bs to 3750 with ~25k. Basile Yaïche (high-stakes cash guy) with monster stack 4bs to 7800 from sb. Arnaud 5bs to 16200 and gets two folds. He then asks me to pick a card and I reveal the 4c. Awesome! He then animatedly jokes that it was to impress the lady and I oblige, admitting I am impressed. That made a really good PokerStars blog entry.

So I came to the table with about 10bbs, doubled, lost min with 88 vs. QQ that somehow got to showdown, then lost 15bb in sb with KK in a standard spot vs. bb’s AQ reshove against Arnaud’s button open. I did wonder, however, what bb’s lightest jam would be in this spot. If I remember correctly he was playing 25ish bigs eff since Arnaud had us both covered, and due to the obvious familiarity between Arnaud and I, villain must have assumed Arnaud is folding a shitload vs. me and I would/should shove pretty wide.

I wasn’t too upset, however, because I was still in Paris and I thought there were a ton of juicy cash games to be played as well as a potential FPS high roller to look forward to pending my satellite win. The satellite plan was unsuccessful after losing with T7s on 47475 board in a pot where villain min. 3b from sb into 3 players. He barreled thrice and had 75. I looked stupid because I didn’t even immediately realize he had won and was expecting my half of the pot.

There is definitely more to be said about French poker antics but I’ll try to wrap this up and get to the juicier stuff. When Dom flew back to Europe from Aussie Millions we roomed together at a hotel right off Champs Elysses, “the most expensive street in the world”. Our hotel internet connection was very temperamental and both Dom and I lost probably over 2k each in buy-ins throughout the trip due to unstable connections. Well, Dom was actually able to ship a nice win in a turbo despite being dc’d for a few min so he ran a lot better than I did in terms of when the internet decided to cut off. On our last Sunday there Dom was smart enough to prepare to grind at his German friend Alex Debus’ hotel. I was stubborn and decided that since the Internet was fine all day there shouldn’t be any problems with it in the evening. I was wrong and halfway through some big tourneys I was forced to take a cab to meet up with them. The day was redeemed by some meh cashes but I was tortured by the Euro tournament schedule. I was power-napping during breaks and expected to take down the weekly HORSE until my stamina failed me and I fell asleep at the final table! The next day we would hear that Alex played until the next afternoon and ended up shipping the 300 freezeout FTOPS for $300k+. That same night Marvin would win the FPS for something like 250ke and serenade the audience. The Germans were invading Paris again! It was great for me because we feasted on Chinese food after.

On one of our last night’s in town we went to a swanky club called VIP across from the Louvre, where DJ Cut Killer was spinning. He was a friend of Elky’s and we had a pretty nice booth with his entourage in front of the stage. I’d was pretty stressed from the previous week so I really let loose and had a blast with Cathy. This place had no shortage of eye candy between its go-go dancers and young model-types having a good time. The place is so over-the-top in cooler-than-thou factor that the ladies’ room attendant is a black male monk! Yes, that dude is handing you towels, listening to you pee, and asking you if you need perfume. Not sure if that’s the most zen place he could be.

Venice is next!

At Least I Got My Maltese Flag

Malta was the second last stop on my latest Euro trip. It came after Paris and before Copenhagen. I was thrilled to be back in jacket-ess weather for the first time since PCA! The island was warm and inviting in both climate and hospitality. The first thing I noticed at the airport, however, was the interesting dialect that was spoken – a fusion of Afro-Asiatic influences. I was amused that so many X’s were used and giggled to myself while trying to pronounce various words.

During check-in at the boutique Hotel Juliani we were introduced to a refreshing and exotic beverage, a locally-made soft drink called Kinnie. It is made with bitter oranges and tastes like a hybrid between root beer and orange soda. I’m not really a pop drinker, but this stuff is legit. We even saw tourists taking back 24 packs of the stuff on the flight out of the country.

Anyhow after a quick nap and confirming the length of late-registration I quickly made my way over to the Casino Portomaso for a satellite to the main event. The value was too great to be missed as anyone who has ever played an IPT will understand what I mean. The turbo didn’t last long and I went home with one of six discounted seats. I also got a chance to shoot the shit with Claudio Pagano (no, he’s not related to Luca), whom I played with throughout the IPT San Remo 1k event. He is quite the popular guy amongst the Italians due to his always playful and friendly nature. That night Claudio and his friends told me about this 24 hour joint on the island, which would set a precedent as the spot to for every proceeding night.

The next day was the ladies event – a tournament I almost never sell action for and always skip off to with pretty high hopes but finish with my tail between my legs. I thought my luck was finally going to change near the end of this one. I had a quarter of the chips in play when we were 9-handed and 6 paid. Buuut I got ahead of myself and during dinner break I was peer-pressured to reg in the FTOPS 10-game with a lot of action bought. Yes, I would be playing this final table and a 1k mixed game event at the same time. WTF was I thinking?! It didn’t seem so bad at the time, since the ladies event was a turbo and I’d be 1-tabling anyway, but it got super tricky when 1) the floor guy changed his mind about me being allowed to multi-table, and 2) there was no Wifi connection from my new seat, so I had to run back and forth for a bit to another table. What a disaster. Long story short, I ended seeing about 20 hands total in the FTOPS and mis-read my all-in Badugi hand while in a live one, then busting the ladies event at the feature table without even cashing when this one lady (who was maliciously making fun of me in Italian the whole time) decided to snap-call an all-in pot-size bet on the turn with J9o on a K97Tr board vs. my AA. I proceed to lose two more flips after the Q came and abruptly ended off the stage with empty pockets. Big sigh. At least this one camera guy on contract was kind and patient enough to interview me for some stuff he was shooting. It made me feel special but inadequate at the same time, since I have yet to win or even cash in a ladies event since WSOP last year and I’ve been playing my share.

Day 1 of the main was pretty awesome. I started off at a table sitting beside Marvin Rettenmaier and I think I rubbed off a bit of his run-good. He did say in Venice that if I taught him how to play mixed games he would teach me how to hit stuff. I ended the day 5th in chips and was excited and eager to have an equally amazing day 2. I woke up early enough to have breakfast, get pumped, and pick out an outfit for the tables (yes, this is part of the battle for a female player). As I’m in the shower, Dom pounds on my door and I wonder, “wtf, I haven’t taken that long…”, only to hear once I got out that we were getting kicked out of our very comfortable hotel. Apparently Dom thought he had booked for four nights and overlooked that they were completely booked for that final day, so we had to check out asap. I had not anticipated booking, packing, cabbing, and checking into another hotel to be part of my Day 2 prep. Boy was I peeeeeeeeved. Once we got into our room at the Hilton I was in a much better mood. What an amazing view overlooking the flawless sky and rich navy blue water. There was even a full moon that night which made the scene completely majestic and surreal. If I was still in my artsy phase I would’ve snap-painted a picture.

Ok, so there was an interesting situation about me showing my cards in the main. Most of day two was smooth-sailing. I was transferred to a different table near the bubble when I lose a massive 3b multi-way pot on the flop with a set vs. flush draw. I rebuild a bit and then this hand happens: Seat 9, an old man who seems friendly but perhaps a little on the senile side opens his hand on the river when his opponent is tanking on the turn to his AI donkbet on an AKQJ board. His hand is A4 & the floor comes over and his defense is that he heard his opponent say fold, and the other guy is obviously pissed because if he’s tanking on that board he has A4 beat, but is now unable to call because the old man already showed his hand. I didn’t hear anything from the other guy but there were a bunch of reporters around as we were down to just a few tables and there was a lot of Italian being spoken. I couldn’t be sure and was otherwise uninvolved.

This is my hand: same guy, who’s overall very nitty (but then does stuff like the A4 donk-shove hand) opens, I flat with JTs from lp. Flop is JT2 gin. He checks, I bet 2/3, he flats with a pot-sized bet behind. Turn 2, he checks and I decided to check. Given stack sizes I am never folding if I check. I started the hand with about twice his stack and average in chips. River is a 4 and he snap-shoves into me. I am giggly/a little confused and flip over my hand in a playful (not slow-roll) way before I said call. It wasn’t meant to be ill-natured, I really was rather amused and wanted to demonstrate this by adding more character and plot to the already dramatic table and giving the guy an opportunity to muck after I call. I thought I was being fun. Right when I flipped over my hand, he started to flip over his. I quickly put my hand and yelled/signalled “stop”, so he asked, “do you fold?” and I exclaimed “NO!” He then turned over his AK LOL!

So I announce the call again, but by this time the floor is called over and we wait for a lengthy decision. The floor finally decided that I could have the pot in the middle but he would keep his remaining stack. I was also given my first poker penalty of a one round timeout. You should understand that I’m used to cash games where flipping over your hand when completing the action is acceptable. I didn’t realize this was a big no-no, especially after the ruling in villain’s previous hand. It wasn’t the same scenario, but no one ever stated that an exposed hand was dead since he just got away with it! I was pretty tilted that he could pull the same sort of shenanigans twice, but more so because I took my eyes off the prize in a tournament I should be taking more seriously.

This fiasco cost me much more than his remaining chips. The actual bubble was super long – two and a half hours. I doubled up a shorty to became one myself, and no amount of shoving could get me back the stack I once had and put me in contention for good money again. If I had just plainly called he would’ve been out, the bubble would have busted earlier, and I would be in a good spot to go much deeper in that tournament. At least I got my Malta flag with the min-cash.

Whew, got a little tilted at myself after talking about that one again. For a change of topic, Malta is also the place I met my first Scots, David “Harry Potter” Vamplew and Andrew “Some Guy” Ferguson. I knew the British had a special knack for being marathon drinkers, but these fellas don’t mess around. Actually the first time I heard about them was when my roommate Dom drunk-texted me while he was still in Venice after his high-roller final table (a very prestigious two-table sit-n-go), and let me know how much I was missing out by leaving early – he had just met two of the top-earning/only Scottish poker players and they’re paying random Venetians to jump into the water for 200 euros a head. I wish I had extra bills lying around to wipe my ass with. It was a good thing the reputations that preceded them were pretty misleading. I mean, sure Some Guy can be a complete jackass at times (especially before he starts drinking), but overall his head and heart are in the right place (you should see how he talks about his girlfriend Claire), and Vampy is even more agreeable than the real Harry Potter.

Our last night in Malta was definitely not my classiest. To celebrate our various triumphs, we all decided to skip the FTOPS main and have some real fun. We first met up with the Scots at a fake Scottish karaoke bar. We left soon after to a Texan-style steak house. I don’t eat slabs of meat very often, but this was probably the best slab of meat I’d ever eaten. Gracefully, it would not stay in my stomach for long. After food we went to the bar district, “the intersection with all the red dots”. The street might have been a tad shady with a ton of open-concept hookah bars, strip joints, cops in street fights, and drunk people looking off balconies. We managed to pop into a bar with the cheapest bottles I’d ever seen – it was a measly 40e for a bottle of Absolut with 6 red bulls. Unfortunately here was too much blood in the washroom so we had to leave. We hopped to a place a few blocks down with a guy in a horse head. The Mojitos took awhile to arrive but I enjoyed the music and watching the horse go nuts dancing and humping random things.

After this place closed down we bumped into this Swedish guy who was at my last table. He took a nice pot off me and told me to work on his name when I couldn’t say it properly. I asked him to spell it but his Swedish accent was so exotic I couldn’t understand the letters either. After getting some vodka in my system “Jaokim” isn’t so tough. We went back to the 24 hour place and had a hoot after bumping into two other groups there. The super friendly IPT staff and Claudio with his Italian friends including Luca Moschitta, a well-mannered PokerStars pro I played with at my second table of the day. Dom felt obligated to yell out, “HAHA, I took all your chips” to him as they walked in because hanging out with classy people is what I’m about. I only remember buying one round but somehow the night did not end until 7 a.m. You know they’re a good friend when they help hold your hair back. The Swedes were lucky enough to go to the airport straight from the bar with their early flight. Heading to Copenhagen at noon was one of the most difficult journeys of my life. I left a gross vodka puddle at the airport as a souvenir.

I would consider moving to Malta one day. It’s quite the destination for expats – I met a very nice Swedish poker-playing lady, Anna. She was super supportive during the main, and I always feel  warm and fuzzy to be rooted on by people I’ve just met, especially women. Too many of them can be unnecessarily catty. I also met a Canadian expat whose girlfriend plays online, which was pretty cool. The weather there is generally nice, the food is reasonably priced, the people pleasant, poker is legal, it’s close to Italy, it’s a great place to sail (something I intend on doing a lot of when the time is right), and it’s tax-free!

Copenhagen

EPT Copenhagen

My next blog entries will be in reverse chronological order with my last poker stop being summarized in this one. I will begin with my most current trip which consisted of EPT Copenhagen, IPT Malta, FPS Paris, WPT Venice, EPT Deauville, and finish off with some stories from PCA. Think this makes it a little easier for both me and whomever is bored/strangely amused enough to read this rather than regurgitating everything at once.

Copenhagen was the last stop of my latest trip. I went from semi-tropical Malta to bundle-up weather again, but the efficiency of the city was inviting in its own way. The Scandinavians I encountered were beautiful but reserved. The majority of taxi drivers had been incredibly rude, and when I conjured up the courage to ask one nice chauffeur why this was he laughed and explained there is a local slogan which was in his words, “Don’t think you are anything, you are nothing, you are shit.” It reminded me of a rather cynical version of communism. There was even a girl at the hot dog stand in our last drunken night who was swearing/yelling at us to speak Danish or go home. Despite these experiences, I had an awesome time there with some awesome people.

The first hotel Dom and I stayed at was this shithole called Cabinn City. It was on the list of EPT hotels approved by pokerstars, so even though the pictures made the place look ridiculously tiny and the price was about half of any other listed place, we didn’t think they’d stick us in a place where the toilet shares the same space as the shower. You could literally do both at the same time. I also had to sleep on a mattress on the floor since the room was literally the size of a small walk-in closet and we had to strategically plan ahead when either of us needed to maneuver around. Anyhow, we made it our first order of business to rebook at the casino hotel the minute they had vacancy. Our first night at the main hotel waterhole we met a really friendly bartender named Rhys. Throughout our stay he would be by far the most hospitable person I have met at any of our stops. There was an on-going joke about him looking like an older Jeff Madsen – Marvin even insisted on sticking a FTP badge on him and making him do a rapper-pose for the camera.

The actual poker was promising but ultimately fruitless. Everyone anticipated Copenhagen to be the most difficult EPT stop, but I probably had a good table draw and found it to be easier than my Deauville table, even though I had Isildur and Swedish pro Ramzi Jelassi being on my right. The very cute Isildur was unsurprisingly very active especially after antes kicked in, played a lot of big pots, get coolered in some and hero-called in others, maintaining a see-saw stack until he went out on a flush-draw in a 3bp. The only real hand we got tangled in was when I 3b him when we were both about 100bb deep and fired 2 nicely-sized barrels on a QJxxA then went check-check on river. Before I could table my hand to the rest of the table, he saw my A2s and quickly and playfully turned over his KTo and laughed, saying it would’ve been sick if it went check/check on a brick river and I’d win with A high in this huge pot.

I finished the day with a few hundred chips below average and took the initiative to not mingle too long at the waterhole to get a good night’s sleep. The next day I was seated at another mediocre table where I slowly accumulated chips til I doubled up Scott Montgomery JJ < AQ for his last 20bb. The hand I busted was to a youngish player who had been opening a lot in position and folded a few times to re-shove stacks. I didn’t exactly have the perfect re-shove stack, but I estimated his cut-off opening range was wide enough to rejam with T7s. I definitely got a little ahead of myself since I’d been grinding that stack little by little all day before the big hit and would prefer to play with a bigger stack at the table I was at, when really I should have kept telling myself that you can’t win a tournament on day 2. After sulking and re-examining and being criticized for my play, I found out my opponent was actually a pretty renowned online player, Busto_Soon. I certainly would not have taken that spot if I had known at the time, although he did have AQ.

Luckily for me there was free beer during the “football” games in the player’s lounge. The beanbag chairs were perfect for melting into. Before the week was done I’d also win some money/meals betting on FIFA w/ Vampy vs. Marvin, connect 4 vs. any challenger (I lost one 2/3 match the whole trip), and brought back some good times with a guitar hero session.

I went pretty deep but not deep enough in the 1k side event, finishing 14th when 10 got paid. At one point on Day 1 Joe Ebanks, Vampy, Some Guy, and I were at the same table. Not that much fun though since I was trying hard to maintain my game fase. It was unfortunate I didn’t cash because there were several stacks when I busted, but it’s kind of difficult folding AQ from c/o vs. button’s AK with our chip counts. I quickly went to play in the ladies’ event, and busted again with AQ vs. AK in a similar situation. I also had some interesting conversations with a girl sitting directly to my right. She was a “hostess” for various events that were being organized for poker players in town…some (Dom) would refer to these shindigs as hooker parties. She was a really nice girl.

So on what I thought would be my last night Rhys/Jeff recommended a few bars to go to. We ended up at this pretty trendy artsy lounge that had vintage porn posters, “Friends” on TV, and random signage in different languages. The cocktails were delicious (Blueberry Bitches had a handful of real blueberries & lychee) despite it taking an eternity to get our drinks. I also had another close-call with losing my phone, but Dom was kind enough to go back to the bar with me and I was pretty lucky the bartenders found it and hadn’t left yet by the time we got back. I was still turned off by hard booze after our last night in Malta so I took it easy that night and unknowingly saved myself for the day after.

I woke up in the morning with my stuff all packed and ready to sweat Mr. John Eames aka Tony G’s son. Yes, they look remarkably alike, not just in appearance but also in demeanor. I first met Eddy in Venice through Dom after he introduced us to this hidden restaurant with cheese bowls for your pasta and really delicious lobster linguine. He had gone really deep and though he didn’t have many chips going into the final table of the main, he woke up with KK 3 times within the first 15 hands and became a force to be reckoned with. He was kind enough to offer to pay for my flight if I extended my stay for one more night just to party with them after his victory, and I couldn’t say no after he went on a tear. I first met the other Jon (Spinkles) the night I lost my first painful CCR. We ate at this pretty legit restaurant at the top of our hotel and I remember the moment when I knew I adored everyone I was with. Being one of the clumsiest people you’ll ever meet, I accidentally spilled my flight of wine across the table during dinner, right into Jon’s plate and lap! Instead of showing the slightest bit of annoyance, he quickly made a joke about his meat tasting better with wine anyway, and made sure I didn’t feel terrible about the situation. What a sweetheart! He did get his revenge when he picked me last for CCR though.

Team Eames ended up 3rd pretty much due to two bad hands, QQ < AK and AK < AJ. Eddy was a little devastated but we were determined to show him a good time anyway. We had originally planned to go to a club the hostess introduced us to, but after waiting outside a bit and being told some of the guys weren’t up to par with the dress-code, we decided to do some bar-hopping in the area. We stopped by Bar 7 again as our first stop for drinks/shots, walked a bit and found this legit 90s rockbar playing some of my favourites, then finally ended up at one of the other clubs Rhys/Jeff introduced us to. Our entrance into the place was pretty funny – we were all pretty buzzed by this time and after walking straight past the bouncer and being escorted back to the line to get carded, the dude spewed out some cliche anti-American insults at me (I explained that I was Canadian, but he insisted that we were the same – we all lived in white picket-fenced houses and my dad drove a Chrysler). Anywho I lol’d and became offended/rowdy, but was more concerned that Dom and some of the other guys would be denied for being underage. I thought there was going to be trouble and wanted to stay badly since the place looked fun, plus Rhys/Jeff had come to meet us there. It ended up being pretty awesome because the bouncer was actually a really cool guy as he checked their IDs while insulting them with words, but still letting them in without drawing any attention to the fact that they were young pups. We celebrated Eddy’s finish with rounds of these gross ice tea cocktails which were really just pints of hard liquor. I successfully got away with nursing just one for the entire night.

By the end of another month in Europe I was pretty thrilled to go home for some comfort food and detox. I really wished I had done better in my liveaments, but overall I think I played well and am staying optimistic for my turn of run-good. In the meantime I plan to stay at home for another few weeks to put in more MTT hours online, spend quality time with fam, blog, and plan out my schedule until the end of WSOP.

Next up, IPT Malta!

Happy 2011! tl;dr 2010

2010 was an insane year of transitions. The tl;dr of my 365 days:

– Grinded a lot of RUSH and made a RUSH 6max $1/2 vid that never got launched (partially because I was too cheap to buy the full-version of Camtasia when I didn’t finish according to schedule). Paid for MTT coaching.
– Visited family in Tianjin, China, and rekindled with people I hadn’t seen for 17+ years. Had so much fun (and good food) I thought about permanently moving to Beijing.
– First time in Macau: not a very long trip and went there originally to play cash, but went deep in 2/2 events so didn’t have time. Grand Lisboa has sick rooms.
– Got everything hacked. Not fun. Mental game shot.
– Studied a ton for CFA exam, but not hard enough with poker (still) as a distraction.
– My first WSOP! Had own condo for a month and a half to grind cash. Rio was hit and miss but Venetian games were golden everyday. Won biggest pot of career of 1000bb at Caesar’s. Played 2 WSOP events, 3 VDS, 1 Aria 8game, and 1 Caesar’s main. Played a lot of 8-game online.
– Met a good man in a situation I wasn’t ready for.
– Made a vid for the Big Game. After the telephone interview (happened in Barcelona) I was told that if I don’t hear back from them til Jan it was a good thing…
– Took a leap of faith and became convinced playing liveaments was the way to go. Took a lot of reflection to make poker my #1 priority rather than just an auxiliary compromise.
– Fulfilled a dream of being a night/blood elf on Halloween. Costume was meh but it sure was fun reliving my ultimate nerd days.
– NAPT L.A: Rented place off Craigslist that didn’t end up having furniture, final tabled (no cash) 8game to a good start, some sick beats in others (e.g. flop straight on 7h5h3, get it in 100+bb deep vs. Ah7x who goes perfect perfect for a boat.) Didn’t feel significantly outmatched at any time which was a great enabler for my confidence. Sweated Van for 4th in the main in Compton, saw a Laker’s game and went to Disneyland.
– EPT Barcelona: My first time in Europe! Won mega satty and cashed in a side, got owned on first hand played in the main (review to come). Found a reliable roommate for the first time in awhile. Visited Gaudi’s spiritual/architectural gem; the inspiring/humbling/empowering experience will linger for a long time.
– IPT San Remo: lots of nomming of the pasta and pizza. First sense of loneliness on the road by myself. Binked mega satty and 1k side, got owned in main and ladies’. So far Italians in Italy are the friendliest people I have encountered.
– EPT Prague: Flew in right in time for 2nd level of the main and gave the eventual winner a lot of “positive vibes”. Prague is as beautiful as someone once dear to me described, but it’s even colder. Had lots of beef goulash and got hustled in Chinese. Went to a black metal bar and a strip club with midgets.
– Home for the holidays: was fortunate enough not to get stuck at an airport. It’s nice hermitting with family and eating home food. All caught up on Dexter, Bones, Modern Family, House, and my sister. NYE party was kinda nuts and became another friendly reminder to pour my own drink and not leave them unattended.

I joined a new gym today and was so exhausted when I came home i fell asleep super early so I woke up in the middle of the night and realized this was one of the only times I can force myself to blog. It’s just that on these trips I sometimes have to make an effort to be social all the time so when I finally have some time to myself I rarely feel like I’m in the mood to reflect publicly again. Hope that makes sense and doesn’t get misunderstood. I apologize if this post isn’t even a real post, but it will have to do for now. I don’t want to head off to PCA and kick myself for not blogging again.

Happy New Years, 2011 is going to be grand…

Reflection after FTP Espana Grand Finale

I have a bunch of notes on NAPT and EPT Barcelona, but that post will be pretty extensive and I desperately need to regurgitate after last night’s FTP Espana Grand Finale bust.

A circle of skilled players of various backgrounds had begun an e-mail thread discussing the advantages/disadvantages of min-raising from sb in bvb battles. The conversation evolved quite thoroughly and would qualify for premium content for any respectable poker column. I won’t go into any detail on the arguments presented, but I will leave you with a reflective response on my end:

M: “You keep your opponent in more of a controlled environment, that can make him/her easy to read. Things just get way too complicated when you add that extra dynamic of how
they will react to that min-raise. It just seems to me that people will play more predictably when you 3x it in that spot.”

When I read this initially I was in the middle of the tournament owning souls and was still pretty much on Derek’s side. By the end of the day half the table formed a pact to take turns retaliating against me by doing some ridiculous stuff. I realize this thread began as a discussion of bvb battle and I’ve always discounted the advantages of making easier decisions. I have to admit now that there is definitely some merit to staying under the radar, which includes not raising too small to instigate. I guess I had an epiphany of sorts after my bust last night. I can win the majority of pots I play vs. weak players, but as even the most unobservant players realize this, they will either play better, be more spewy, or at least take thinner edges to counter this – their defense may even be exponential if you are of the opposite gender. In most types of tournaments there is an advantage to having players play predictably against you, and allowing others to assume you’re playing predictably against them.

I realize my statement probably makes most of you guys think, “well duhhhh”, and although I call it an epiphany it’s really more like a deja vu after bouts of amnesia. (Perhaps D, this is why K and M have way better tournament results than you and I!) It’s better to approach most fields as a wolf in sheep’s clothing rather than someone who is clearly antagonizing.

Loose Cannon!

Alright so this is my PokerStars Big Game submission. I only had to play in a bunch of freerolls to get his far, but after checking out the competition, I’m feeling pretty good about my vid, and yet anxious at the same time because it would suck if we worked this much harder than most of the rest of the pack and still didn’t get picked :/

Long story short, I thought we’d only have 3 days to do this vid, so first night I met up with Louis, we discussed what I wanted and he basically told me my script was garbage lol. Next morning we began getting props and shooting, I even had to buy a peachy dress right before I got there because I don’t really have girly colours in my wardrobe, but I knew it’d look nice against the wallpaper he bought. Right after we started, he totally regret agreeing to help me after he realized what a wreck I was in front of the camera lol! I was also super tired and had no idea what to expect, have always hated public speaking, and was torn between wanting to make a generally appealing cliche video and listing my credentials/talking technical babble. Anyhow, after about 10 hours of frantic improv in between technical difficulties, we called it a day. Louis called me later that night after he found the perfect song off one of the royalty-free music sites Pokerstars recommended, and after playing it for me over the phone against my voice, I began to have hope that my video would not suck. I quickly rushed to e-mail Stars pointing out that they had sent me the instructions very late, and asked for an extension, which they ok’d about half an hour later (are you paying attention, FTP support? :D)

So we were able to get together briefly another night to film and adjust a few other random scenes. There was actually a section that was totally perfectly shot from the original day that we couldn’t use because there was this incessant buzzing from the equipment, which was really disappointing because it was a scene where I actually didn’t feel like cringing when watching myself. After watching a rough edit of the final I became even more stoked! This guy is so awesome and I can’t thank him enough for all his talent and hard work while he was in between other gigs and a day job! If it weren’t for him I would’ve attempted to go buy (and later return) some cameras from Best Buy and shoot some monotone snore myself and goodness knows what would’ve happened.

So yeah, I left out a lot of “real” credential stuff I could’ve listed and decided not to talk about real strategy and what not, but overall I think it should fit nicely with what they’re looking for. Let me know what you guys think!

Redux

Aight, I’m back home and have done a “visibility” makeover. I’ve changed my twitter and my blog url to something easily recognizable, I’m beginning to lay a concrete plan for my progress, I want to blog more regularly, and I’m still trying to get a rakeback account under my name so I don’t have to be so secretive all the time. Yes, I still value my privacy, but I think it’s just good business to not be such a prude anymore.

My last stretch of the WSOP was eventful but not as profitable as I would have liked. After my last post, I was able to take down the inaugural Aria 8-game mixed event. It wasn’t a huge cash, but it was like my second time playing mixed live so I was more than happy to beat the field. I doubled up in the first level during PLO when my top set QQ34ss held vs. a flopped nut wrap+fd on QT2fd. Got c/r potted on flop and money went in on turn with my binked flush redraw. Things were cruising more or less after that. I felt that theses mixed game players generally had limit poker backgrounds, so I steadily gained chips through the big bet games where players lacked imagination. At the final table I had some decent luck in razz to knock out a few players, and heads up I declined a chop with 2:1 in chips vs. a Russian Stud Champion.

As I was trying to qualify for the WSOP main I got the worst food poisoning of my life. We ordered Thai and I threw up everything I had eaten for the past two days 😦 It was not a pretty, and my stomach was so weak I couldn’t even handle water. My main event dreams were shattered, but perhaps it’s a good thing as it’s probably best from a bankroll perspective to not to compete in another $10,000 event until I’m more seasoned.

My mindset was pretty crushed after the sickness, and I extended my trip to desperately try to compensate for the lost time and opportunity. Although I didn’t make money my last last week, I don’t regret it at all because other good things can and did happen in Vegas.

Anyhow, since I’ve been back I’ve put in five live sessions back at Fallsview. I really did miss this place, but never really found legit reason to go back. Now that I’m not playing online so much and have been re-inspired with live cash, I look forward to taking the degen shuttle outside my condo to work on my craft. The hourly isn’t as good as RUSH during its peak, but I have yet to book a losing session since I’ve been back and it’s always nice to play with old friends. Even though the 5/10 has a maximum of two tables going on at any given time, the game’s never too bad and it’s just a matter of deciding whether the 2/5 is more profitable.

CPT may also be in the works. My sister is going to college in a week so I won’t be able to make it for the ladies event, but I have a good feeling about this. The CPT will be getting decent coverage and it seems as if it will draw a good crowd. This means great cash games for me.

Anticipating good things coming with hard work and focus; stay tuned!