Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trip Report: Third and final day of 2014 WSOP

Yesterday was my last day in Vegas. My plan to play in the afternoon $230 deep stack was preempted by the opportunity to pitch my ideas for protecting online poker to some of the industry leaders in the online poker world. I had an amazing meeting with Nolan Dala. He was genuinely interested in my solutions, and perhaps even more so in the fact that a security academic such as myself wants to devote time and energy to this. He called up some of the movers and shakers in the business of poker, and set up a meeting for me that evening. He also wrote a very nice article that he posted to his blog. The meeting was with Steven McLoughlin of PokerTracker fame, and with Matt Kaufman of z4, who fortuitously happened to be walking by. They gave me unbelievably useful advise, and besides, it was a blast to speak to people who were so knowledgeable about the poker industry, as well as the game. In fact, Steve had played in a Poker Night in America game, and we traded some stories. (Pretty cool too, that as we were speaking, Phil Ivy walked right by us, with an entourage in tow.)

Back to the beginning now. I got up early again and was too tired after my third consecutive night with only a few hours of sleep to go to the gym, so I grabbed some fruit at Starbucks and headed to the live poker tables at the WSOP. There were several tables of cash going, and I was the only one who hadn’t been there all night, a great spot! The table at first glance seemed intimidating. There were three stacks of over 3k in chips, and clearly these guys were grinders who had felted and outlasted many other players, while feasting on their chips. There was this old Asian guy with 1,500, a young guy with the believable claim, based on his appearance, that he had been playing for 2 days straight with over 5k, sporting and a dozen or so towers of red chips that went 30 high, along with towers of green, a few black chips, and a pile of $100 bills on the side. There was “Cadillac Frank” who was from New York, and I suppose his name was Frank, and that he drove a cadillac (both facts that I later verified). To my right was an aggresive Israeli who rebought for $1,000 three times in the first twenty minutes I was there, and in seat #7 was the Australian with over $4k in chips who was cursing loudly and had probably been drinking for the last 10 hours.

A great table!

I bought in for my usual $600, and decided to play very tight for a couple of orbits to get a feel for the table. It was a raise-fest. Typical pot started with a $25 raise, and usually was followed by an $80 3-bet and 4 people to the flop. Lots of squeezing too. If I was going to enter a pot, I had to be ready to put a significant amount of my stack in pre-flop. I have to say that I felt fortunate to have already played once in a bigger game, the 25-50 TV one at Maryland Live, so that rather than feel intimidated, I decided that I’m rarely going to get as juicy a table with overly aggressive players who play too many hands, and are too tired and, in one instance drunk, to play intelligently. On the other hand, this game would have high variance, so I had to be ready to take some bad beats and not let them get to me. Get it in good, and then let the math do the rest.

I don’t have any specific hands worth describing from that session, but it was fun and wild. Around 11:30, I texted Kenny that I was over $1,000, and he texted back that I should take my winnings and relax before we met for lunch at 12:30, but it was my last day, and I wasn’t ready to quit yet. Wouldn’t you know it, I lost $400 on the next hand, and  $200 on the one after that. Fortuntely, I picked up a huge hand a bit later and won it all back and then some. When the dust settled, it was one of my better cash sessions and covered another tournament buy-in.

After lunch, I played a couple of $275 buy-in sit and goes. First place would get $2,500 and second got $120 (huh?!?). I was told by the other players that typically top 2 or 3 places agree to a proportional chop, and I said I was game for that. Most of the players also did a $100 last longer, but I declined both times. There were other last longers in the same tournament among smaller groups of players. A bunch of piles of $100 bills. These guys all love to gamble.

Nothing too exciting to report about the sit and goes. In both tournaments I built up a pretty big stack size, and in both cases I got it in good against other stacks and got sucked out on. Very frustrating. Then, I played one more cash session before the meetings with the poker business people.

It wouldn’t be a poker trip report without at least one hand description, so here is the most interesting hand I played yesterday, from that last cash session.

I’m UTG and haven’t played any hands in a while. I have $675 in my stack. My table image is tight, and I decide to mix it up, so I raise to $25 with 5 6 . Crazy guy (CG) who has me covered on my immediate left raises to $60, and the SB (stack: $450) calls. I call. If I flop well, they will never see it coming. It’s a marginal call at best, but every once in a while you have to play unpredictably. It’s one of the few times all week that I raised in early position with a hand like this. I’ve won some of my biggest pots in poker playing these types of hands, in no small part due to how infrequently I try this.

I put CG on any two cards. SB has been playing pretty well, but liked to see flops, and I put him on a range consisting mostly of two high cards, a low or medium pair, a suited ace, or a hand like TJs.

Flop (185):  6 4 2

I have top pair, a flush draw, a gutshot, and a one-card straight-flush draw. Not too shabby. I doubt either of my opponents connected much with this flop. Against an overpair, I’m actually a favorite with 17 outs twice (if I get to see two cards), and if I bet a lot, I also have fold equity. I’m hoping to play a huge pot on the flop and plan on betting big. I really want to get it all in before the turn. I have 615 left in my stack with 185 in the pot.

The SB checks. I am about to bet when the dealer tells CG that it’s his action, and CG reaches for chips and starts to bet. I exclaim that I had not acted yet, and everyone confirms that to the dealer. He apologizes and says the action is on me. Well, I now know that CG is going to bet, so I check. CG bets $125. The SB calls. Perfect!! Now there is $435 in the pot, and I shove all in.

CG goes into the tank. He’s been a crazy, active player (which is why I call him Crazy Guy), and I’ve seen him make stupid calls with draws and weak hands, and I’m actually hoping he’ll call. I think I’m ahead of anything he could possibly have. But he folds. Then SB goes into the tank. He only has $265 left. Again, I’m hoping for a call, but I’ll also happy if he folds. He calls, and to my surprise turns over 9 9. The board runs out Q , A♠, and I lose a big pot.

Did his call make sense? If I’m in his spot, I’m thinking that the short guy in the Orioles hat has the following range: a set, a higher pair, or A K . Less likely, but also possible are combo draws or two pair. I’m discounting the combo draw or two pair because it’s unlikely this tight-playing guy (me) raised UTG pre-flop with low cards and then called 60. I’m really thinking set, over-pair, or A K.

Let’s look at his pot odds calculation. The pot has 825 in it (185+125*3+265). He has to call 265 to win 825, so he is getting 3-1. Let’s break down the possibilities from his perspective based on the possible hands that I have. I will assign percentages of the likelihood that I have each hand, based on the betting that he has seen and the image he has of me:

- an overpair:  he is a 4-1 dog, so he should fold. Likelihood: 50%
- A K or A Q:  I have 15 outs, so he is about a 1.6-1 dog and should call. Likelihood: 15%
- Two pair:  He has 8 outs, and some backdoor outs, so he’s about a 3-1 dog. A wash. Likelihood: 10%
- A set: He has 2 outs, and it’s a definite fold. Likelihood: 15%
- A bluff:  Likelihood: 10%

So, 65% of the time, he should fold, 25% of the time he should call, and 10% of the time, it doesn’t matter. So overall, that is clearly a fold.

But he called, and I lost.

Sad, but happily I won it all back a while later. What’s interesting about the hand is the flop decision and the dealer’s mistake. CG said he folded JJ. That’s believable. SB said that if I had bet, then CG would have raised (I am certain of that), and then he would have folded his nines. I definitely believe that. So, in fact, the dealer cost me the pot with his mistake because I would have shoved over CG’s raise, and he would have folded, most likely. So strange how hands can play out differently based on subtle changes to the action.

I ended the week up about even with almost $2,785 in tournament buy-ins (no cashes), and slightly more in cash game winnings. Basically a wash, except that I had a ton of fun, so I feel I came out ahead. Here are some notable facts about my trip:

  • In three full days of poker, I was never dealt AA. I think I had just about every other pair, and for some reason was dealt TT a lot. But no aces. On the plus side, I never had my aces cracked.
  • I was a 27 magnet. Felt like every other hand. Especially in the tournaments.
  • I got dealt KK three times in the first bracelet tournament that I played. All three times an A flopped, and I ended up losing the hand.
  • I never left the Rio. Saturday-Wednesday in Vegas, and I never went anywhere. It was around 109 degrees outside. No big loss. My favorite poker room is at the Aria, but not when the WSOP is in town.
  • All of the 2-5 cash tables where I played were action tables. I don’t recall more than a handful of limped pots, and almost no blind chops because every pot was raised.
  • If one more person flops a set of 3s against me, I think I will go crazy. It happened to me in two of the three tournaments, knocking me out both times, and once in the cash game, costing me a big pot.
  • There is no place like the WSOP. Unbelievable!!!!!