Monday, July 21, 2008

Over but not out

Back from Vegas and recovering. Not so much from the trip or the flight home as the horrific discovery when I climbed on to my scales at home that I gained almost 9 pounds! While I kept the running up, it seems that the American diet and portion sizes and irregular eating hours/habits did more damage than running in 40 degrees could repair.

I continued my late Vegas rich run of form by making the final table of the Caesar's Palace nightly tournament on our last full day in Vegas for my 7th cash of the trip and my 5th in the last 4 days. Given that I played only 24 tournaments, I maintained my normal ratio of cashes/tournaments entered from home. Unfortunately, they were the wrong tournaments (ie, the smaller ones I played near the end after the bigger ones were over) so overall I had my first ever losing trip. Good experience though, and plenty of positives to be taken. Overall I played very well, but ran pretty horribly. I can really only pinpoint two tournaments where I made serious mistakes: my exit hand from the $2000 NL side event against Dave Stann (aka Hollywood Dave) was horrible, and I played the Limit event quite poorly early on. All my other exits were as a result of cumulative suckouts or, occasionally, card death. As Johnny Moss once said, all I can do is keep getting my money in good, and I did that consistently.

The main positive is that my game stood up to the battering it took, both psychologically as a result of the seemingly never ending suckouts to the bad players, and technically to the probing of the good players. After the Day Ones of the main event were over, almost all the bad fish left town, and even small nightly tournaments had a very unhealthy pros to fish ratio, making them some of the toughest tournaments I've ever played in. The fact that I managed to overcome the disappointment of what had happened in the WSOP and keep playing my best game to rack up 5 cashes in 4 days is something I'm happy about.

I also won overall in cash (which I should probably have played more of), which is heartening.
Some thoughts on the American game. Like everything else about America it seems, the good (poker players) are very very good, arguably better than the rest of the world, while the bad (the vast majority) are much worse than the worst specimens you'd find anywhere else. It seemed to me that this might be because with their can do attitude most Americans think they should be able to play poker well (even if they patently can't), whereas in the rest of the world only those with some natural aptitude persist. It took a while to adjust to just how bad the so called recreational players are and to figure out how to best exploit their typical errors. The main one is a total overrating of pairs: any pair, no matter how small, it seems is worth either going allin with, or calling an allin, from any position. There were guys moving all in under the gun for 100 big blinds with pocket 2's: I kid you not. Conversely, they totally underrate Ace King, regarding it as drawing hand muck to be discarded as soon as somebody raises. Had a bemused conversation with Rob Taylor about this a few days into the trip where he pointed out that back home (here in Ireland) you wouldn't push all in automatically in all situations with a pair of 10s because you wouldn't get called by a lower pair, only higher ones or at best Ace king, but in the US 10's is a great hand to push in with because anyone with a smaller pair will call you and anyone with Ace king will fold.

I think this is partly a result of the fact too that the typical US tournament is a shortstack crapshoot. We don't know how lucky we are in this country: even the $500 buy in events over there typically have 3K starting stack, 20-30 minute blinds, so become bingo fast. Hence, pairs are premium pushing hands. Hell, even the WSOP side events start with 3K or 4K stacks.
Standard was so bad in the main event, worst than the worse pub tournament I've ever played in here, than even with a modicum of luck, or rather the evasion of bad luck, I think I'd have gone very deep. Rob had "warned" me that standardwise, it's the worst tournament you'll ever play. Any half decent player over here would be ridiculously plus EV in the ME. Obviously as in any tournament that size though, you pretty much need to run like the wind to go deep. Already looking forward to next year, when the plan will be to get there earlier, and leave earlier too. As I said, the fish mostly leave town once they've donked out of the main event.

OK, enough about the bad players. As I said, the good players are very very good indeed. They tend to fall into two categories: old school pros who's default game is solidly TAG but who can open up when the conditions are right, and the Internet kids who are much looser. Of the two, the old school guys are tougher to play against because their game is so fundamentally solid you really need to prise their stacks from them chip by chip, they vary their game optimally, which makes them hard to read. The Internet kids give off more physical tells for all their hoodies sunglasses and Ipods, and to be honest they often play quite mechanically. Perhaps it's the result of multitabling to the point where all your decisions become standardised, but they don't vary their game as much as the old schoolers and once you've figured out their particular game, it's like you've broken the code. Plus raising every single time it's folded around to you on the button, cutoff or hijack is very transparent. A lot of dead chips to be had simply by reraising with ATC. However, these Internet kids are arguably more effective than the old schoolers against the fish as they are in more pots with them and outplaying them after the flop. It's high variance stuff though: I remember watching three Internet kids taking the piss out of two old timers on my brother's table in one tournament in the Venetian. Both old timers went on to final table, long after the 3 Internet kids were but distant memories as far as that tournament went.

Two random poker highlights: an attractive young American female pro (who used to be a stripper!) asking me in the middle of a hand if I was wearing red underwear (no idea who she was, but whoever she was she was getting texts from Mke Matusow and Kenna James all the time), and a Vietnamese boat person prop in our hotel casino accusing the brother and me of being hustlers.

Meanwhile, it's back to the online grind. Qualified from super satellites yesterday to the GJP satellites for the Irish Winter Festival and the GUKPT Luton. Played the satellites this evening. Went deep in the IWF one: 71 starters, three tickets, 6 left, when I got it all in on the turn with the nut straight against a flush draw. I just needed to dodge a diamond with one card to come, but couldn't manage that. Couldn't even kick the computer in disgust as the Luton satellite had already started and I was going well. Three tickets there too and I recovered from short stack status early on on the final table to nail one of the tickets. Yay! I do love satellites. Qualified for the satellite to Killarney on Ladbrokes tomorrow, so fingers crossed.

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