Friday, 26 March 2010

Swiss roll, kings cracked: Day two of EPT Berlin

I start day two with a healthy stack of 91,700. I’m in third position at the table in chips and with a table of complete unknowns, save for German pro Florian Langmann who has a big stack.

Elsewhere at the table we have big glasses wearing Rasmus Vogt (who actually turns out to be a very good player), Slobodan Bjelbork (who sounds like a character from Star Trek) and the other big stack Simon Boss (who looks like classical conductor Simon Rattle with a shock of unkempt grey hair and plays like this is his first ever poker tournament)

Day two is a struggle for me. I never manage to increase my stack and it hovers between 60,000 and 90,000 for most of the day. If day one was one of the best days of poker of my life, then day two was one of the hardest.

Seated on table 31 out of 50, I knew my table wouldn’t break for several hours as they split the tables in reverse order, so I dig in and try and get some reads as I know I will be playing with these people for a while.

However, the table dynamic soon blows wide open when the two big stacks get involved in a huge pot towards the end of the first level of the day. It goes something like this.

Simon Boss ~150k
Florian Langmann ~125k

Blinds 600/1,200, ante 100

Crazy Swiss man Simon Boss opens from the hijack to 3,500. He has been fairly active with his big stack and managed to win a few decent pots. However, it’s clear that he is a very inexperienced player. His hands shake every time he stacks his chips or makes a bet and he is reluctant to give out change to other players despite having way more physical chips than anyone else at the table.

It folds around the Florian Langmann on the button who re-raises to 12,000. The blinds fold and it’s back to the Boss who thinks about it and puts in an extra 7,500 to call.

K T 4 with two diamonds.

With just over 25k now in the pot, Simon Boss quickly donks out a bet of 15,000. Pausing, Langmann cuts out 40k and announces raise. Action is now back on the wild haired Swiss and just like that he announces “all in”, which is quickly met by “call” from the German pro.

The hands are turned over and Langmann has pocket tens for the flopped set and the second nuts.

To the utter disbelief of the table, Boss turns over 23 of diamonds for the nut low with the flush draw.

I knew it was coming, I just knew it was coming. After the turn bricks out, the river brings that inevitable diamond and Langmann is stunned. It takes a minute or so to count out the stacks but it is soon clear that he is eliminated goes from being amongst the chipleaders in his home tournament to being on the rail. Truly a sick hand, probably the biggest of the tournament to this point and puts the unpredictable Swiss man amongst the top chipstacks in the whole tournament.

“I’ve always thought you were great against erratic big stacks” texts my friend Paul after I send an SOS message to him saying I’m finding things tricky.

It’s hard going. I’m not getting many big hands and the hands I do get miss more often than they hit. Our Alpine amateur with the big stack is getting involved in a lot of pots and is a thorn in my side as I cannot put him on a hand or figure out what he has. For the most part I have to tighten up and be patient.

Eventually the table breaks and I move to my new seat. Scanning the table I don’t recognise any of the faces but it soon becomes apparent that seated directly to my left is young aggressive German player Nico Behling. I am aware of his online exploits and don’t relish having him directly to my left. Other than that though, it’s a table of unknowns, until seat ten busts out and it is filled with the imposing presence of Irishman Jude Ainsworth.

Ainsworth is shaven headed, wearing big aviator sunglasses and a mountain of chips in front of him. It is reported that he is the current chipleader. Recently signed by Poker Stars he is clearly in no mood to mess around and is looking to get a big result to put himself on the map. His demeanour at the table is aggressive and chippy and even his jokes have a tinge of aggression. It is probably the first time I’ve ever been intimidated by an opponent.

Soon afterwards, my first day tablemate Jan Collado is moved to the left of Nico Behling and I am faced with a murderers row of three big stacked, good, aggressive players.

I continue to be patient and am able to keep afloat with a few well timed resteals. Mostly I am just playing tight and waiting for a hand but I can’t afford to do that much longer. The blinds are increasing and my stack has stayed static the whole day.
There are still about 50 people left to bust before we get into the money and I can’t just sit on my stack, I have to pick up chips.

Two orbits in a row with about 15 big blinds in my stack, I pick up Ace King first to act. Both times I don’t do anything fancy and just shove all in to pick up the blinds and antes. Nobody calls either time, though the second time especially there seems disgruntlement towards what to live players seems like a very big shove.

My thought process is this - I don’t really fancy being flat called by anyone and having to play a flop probably out of position. Miss the flop I either have to fold and be down to 12bbs with the blinds about to go through me or get all in with just ace high - Plus the fact that I am raising from early position means that people will give me greater credit for a big hand and be less likely to resteal light on me. From late position I would have opened with a standard raise but I am happy with my choice of action and I am able to pad my stack and keep my head above water.

The next orbit I pick up QQ in early position. Having open shoved a stack of 15 big blinds the past two orbits it is a no brainer to do the same again and hope someone gets suspicious of me and decides to look me up. As soon as I declare all in, Nico Behling to my left seems like he has a difficult decision. He deliberates for a minute or two before calling. It’s interesting that he chose to flat call rather than reraise. I can’t give him credit for a Hollywood acting job, so I have to put him on a hand something like AQ or TT. Everyone else folds.

Nico flips over 99 and it’s the first time I’ve been all in with my tournament life at risk. Thankfully my hand holds up and I double up! Behling still has chips and in fact goes on to finish eighth in the tournament.

Now I’m in business and I can look to increase my stack on the bubble by putting pressure on even shorter stacks than myself. One guy hasn’t played a hand for about two hours so I target his big blind two orbits in a row and an able to take down the pot.

With about five people left to bust before the bubble a big stack opens from early position. I look down at pocket tens in middle position. I have thirty big blinds in my stack and this is a difficult situation. It is too risky just to shove all in here. I have too many chips, the raiser might have a hand and there are still several people left to act after me who might wake up with a monster. I could raise but it’s an awkward amount of my stack to put in and I will have to fold if somebody four bets. What I *should* have done is flat called and tried to see a flop, but for the only time in the tournament the magnitude of the money I am playing for hits me and think to myself how destroyed I will be if I don’t get in the money now. I fold and silently curse myself. Hopefully next time I won’t be so weak on the bubble.

When it happens it is over quickly. No sooner as it is announced that there is one more person left to bust, he does exactly that and I have locked up 7,000 euros.

There’s muted celebration but players like Jude Ainsworth (who has increased his already hefty stack) and the young Germans are I’m sure already thinking of going all the way.

There is a little play left in the day but soon the bags are being given out to put your chips in at the end of the day and it is declared that there are three more hands left to play. Sadly my chips never made it into the bag.

On the penultimate hand of the day I make my exit:

Hero ~121k
Unknown man with glasses ~200k

Blinds 2000/4000 – Ante 600

I am crossing my fingers and hoping an easy few hands so I can bag up and be on my way for the night, but in middle position I look down at pocket kings and open raise to 10,500. It folds around to the big blind who is quite new to the table. He makes the call and we see a flop.

Flop T 7 4 with two diamonds

There’s about 28k in the pot and it is checked to me. I fire out a continuation bet of 20,000. I really wouldn’t mind taking it down here and now but obviously I’m looking for action. There’s no way I’m folding this hand and if he calls then I’m likely getting all the money in on the turn. However I don’t need to wait that long as I am instantly check raised all in.

I take perhaps five seconds to confirm to myself that yes, there is indeed no way I am folding this hand, so I call.

We are sitting at opposite ends of the table and as we flip our hands over I make out that he has 89 of hearts for the up and down straight draw. The dealer turns and burns quickly and when the ten hits the felt at first I think it as a good card for me. Looking back at his hand I am stuck with the horrible sight of his hand which is now sharply in focus.

Ten nine of hearts.

And the realisation washes over me that he has sucked out on me and hit his dream card, putting me virtually out of the tournament. I can’t hit a miracle king on the river and I am out.

Stunned I am shepherded over to the desk where I see I have finished in 129th place for 7,000 euros. As I am filling out my details, the 128th place finished walks over and sits next to me. He is to be awarded 8,000 euros, so if I had paused and stalled for just a minute I would have made an extra 1,000 euros. This rankles more than the nature of my exit.


The next day I spend my profits on entering the 1,500 euro side event. My table is incredibly soft but I make a couple of errors and am disappointed with my play as I bust before the dinner break. This leaves me break even for the week.

The facts of the matter are, this was my first EPT main event. I shunned satellites and bought in directly out of my roll. It was a gamble for a bankroll nit like myself but it paid off as I cashed. I didn’t feel at all outclassed and had my kings held up, I could have gone deep. The structure was good and I played patiently and feel I was rewarded for it. I will certainly be playing another EPT event in future, either in Berlin or elsewhere.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Pocket rockets uber alles

The European Poker Tour recently visited the city of Berlin. As the city has become my de facto second home, I felt duty bound to enter. I took some money from my previous winnings, won about 1,000 euros in satellites and sold 30% of the rest of my action to get together the 5,300 euro entry fee for the tournament.

It was by far the biggest tournament I’ve ever played, but I thought there would be value. A million euros for first would surely gather a large field. The clash with the end of the Los Angeles Poker Classic and the NBC Heads Up Championships in Las Vegas would also ensure that some of the top players in the world would not be playing.

My friend Nick bought 5% of my action and I also stayed at his apartment. Nick had promised that if I busted on the first day I would be subjected to his copy of UB40’s greatest hits. It was quite an incentive to perform.

Nick is a true poker player and on the way to the Hyatt in Potsdamer Platz we discussed the pot odds of buying a train ticket. The ticket cost 2.10 and the fine for not having a ticket was 40 euros. That means that you would need to travel and not be caught by inspectors less than one in 19 times to make travelling the s-bahn in Berlin a break even proposition. We also had some extra information – Nick reckoned that the inspectors were less prevalent on the more touristy line that we were catching through the centre of town, as opposed to some of the lines that go through more residential neighbourhood. Using our reads it was clear that not buying a ticket was very +ev and after being ridiculed a few times for being a law abiding public transport user, I was soon a fully card carrying freeloader.

I played on the same start day as tennis legend Boris Becker and Germany’s most famous player – last year’s winner Sandra Naujoks. However, neither were on my start table, which was a mix of young internet kids, eurodonks and a South American. My starting table had some tough spots. Danish pro Martin Wendt sat on my left and young aggressive German player Benny Spindler was also at the table. There was another floppy fringed aggro German kid who I sat with both days and who played really good. (Later identified as Jan Callado)

Also at my table was an Italian guy in a dark suit and shades who I instantly hated. He was sponsored by some Italian gambling website or other and would chat to various Italian poker bloggers throughout the day, who fawned over his (faltering) progress. Of course, he was not a very good player. Thankfully there are also a couple of French players to provide some extra value! Finally to my right was a Venzualean guy who listened to Sting and Men at Work in his iPhone, singing along with the lyrics – if he was looking to induce me to three bet him more, his Sting singalong certainly achieved that.

There were quite a few players around who were sponsored by various online sites and from all the evidence I got from playing with them, most were pretty bad and had some serious leaks – the ‘live player lol factor’.

As a guy wandered past to an adjacent table with a foam traffic cone on his head, I pondered to myself if perhaps I had the wrong idea and if I should make a trip to a fancy dress shop if I made day two? Over on the table next to me, Swedish sponsored pro Peter Hedland was being very loud. Every sponsored pro needs a gimmick to make them stand out and be marketable and his seems to be drinking lots of beer and talking very loudly. Well if it works for him...

My day one went like a dream. I didn’t get aces, but I got a lot of other big hands and I was able to slowly chip up without much risk. The only decently sized pot I lost all day was an all in pre flop hand with TT vs a shortstack who turned over aces. Other than that it was mainly slow solid upward progress. It was one of the most enjoyable days of poker I’ve ever had. I was more than holding my own in this tournament and felt eminently comfortable at the table. I have to say it felt good.

Here’s a couple of more interesting hands that I can remember.

150/300 w/25 ante.
My stack ~40,000
Martin Wendt ~25,000
Benny Spindler ~12,000

I pick up QQ and open to 750 from the hijack. I’ve been playing a few hands but not too many and I have managed to chip up from my starting stack. Danish pro Martin Wendt three bets me to 2,000. He’s been somewhat frustrated so far and seems to have missed several flops, his stack has dwindled slightly. This is the first time he’s three bet. It folds around to young floppy fringed German Benny Spindler in the small blind, who promptly shoves 12k in. Benny has been getting involved and playing a lot of hands, probably too many hands. He’s lost a couple of decently sized pots to dwindle down to his current stack. As Spindler shoves, Wendt does a little sigh to himself and sits back in his seat. Did I mention he is wearing dungarees?

I’m perplexed by this spot and stuck in the middle. Despite Spindler playing a lot of hands, his range for cold four betting here must be very small. He should know that I haven’t been playing a ton of hands and that Wendt certainly hasn’t, let alone three betting. I’ve I’m being generous I might give him the range TT+, AK and perhaps AQs, but this is definitely his widest range. Wendt and his little sigh perplexes me. I haven’t been playing with him long enough to work out whether it is a real sigh or a fake one. Something feels not right and one way or the other I sense I’m not good, so I muck. Wendt then instamucks and tells me later he had 89s. Spindler makes a nice increase to his stack.

A few orbits later I get involved with the Venezualen guy on my right. There are two Venezuelan guys in the tournament and the second one is moved to my table after the besuited Italian busts. The one opposite is absolutely terrible and clearly what my friend Nick would call ‘recreational’. The one to my right is better, he at least seems to be able to hand read a little and knows what he is doing somewhat, though he does seem a little spewy and has poor taste in music.

Blinds 200/400 w/50 ante.
My stack ~50,000
Venezualen ~55,000

The Venezuelan opens to 1,000 from the hijack and I look down at queens in the cut off. Often I would not three bet this preflop but I feel his range is reasonably wide and I feel I can read him pretty well, so I decide to pop it up to 2,700. Everyone else folds after counting out his chips for 5 seconds he calls.

Pot: 6,500
242 rainbow

The driest of the dry flops and probably doesn’t change anything. I still don’t know too much about his hand but I’m probably ahead, so I could do with getting some money in the pot. I really don’t want to stack off here so I will be most likely checking the flop or the turn if checked to, to keep the pot small.

I decide to bet the flop. When I bet, the hand pattern I’m looking for, assuming the board stays pretty dry, is to bet the flop, check behind on the turn and either call the river or probably bet for value. I bet 3,800.

My opponent quite quickly calls and I now assign his most likely hand as a pair between 44 and JJ. He still of course could have aces or kings or an ace high type hand like AK or AQ.

Pot: 14,100
242(T) – two clubs

The pot is growing now and I really don’t want to get check raised here, as I will have to throw it away. So when I’m checked to, I play with my chips for about 30 seconds before deciding to go with the initial plan, exercise pot control and check it back. Our villain in this hand definitely has the check raise in his arsenal. Maybe he might even do this with a worse hand than mine like AT or JJ. There is also a small chance that the ten improved his hand.

Pot: 14,100

An ace on the river and my initial reaction is ‘shit, did I let him get there?’ But I don’t think that for long. Very quickly after the ace hits, the Venezuelan instachecks. And then I hear it. I’m sitting directly to his left and I hear his breath change. There’s an intake of breath when the ace hits and then an exhale. It sounds....well... disappointed. This doesn’t sound like a fake breath and I have to go with it. It seems like he thought he was good and now he thinks he is beat. I’m now sure I have the best hand and I want to get some value. I need to bet small enough so I get a crying call.

I cut out a bet of just 3.000 chips. Less than a quarter of the pot. It’s pure value and quickly our Venezuelan friend shakes his head and pays me off. When I show my queens he taps the table and shows JJ. The ace on the river cost me about 5k as I would have bet much bigger on the river if a blank had hit, or more likely, he would have bet out into me and I would have called, But I still win a nice pot and am delighted about my breathing tell on my South American opponent. I’m still unsure if should have bet more on the river – I probably should, but I don’t mind too much as I rake in the pot.

Players slowly bust throughout the day. Spindler goes out, as does Martin Wendt. The young German kid is picking up chips as is a German-Iranian guy two to my right who is playing a lot of pots and hitting a lot of hands. An English guy is moved to my left for a while and he plays good. Thankfully he soon loses a big flip and busts.

Late in the day German Full Tilt pro Niklas Heinecker is moved to my table with a short stack. He plays the short stack well and manages to chip up. Eventually we get involved in a hand where I fire three barrels with QQ on a low rainbow board and he calls me down all the way with what he claims was K high for over half his stack. He claims he was prepared to call off all of his chips with the K high and I’m not so sure. But to be fair, I think my range was highly polarised here and if he got a gut feeling, he felt duty bound to stick with it. He says he went with his read when I repopped him preflop as I went back and checked my cards before I put in the raise, so he thought this meant I was weak. In truth this is something I do a lot, take a quick initial glance at the hand as it is being dealt, then go back and take a second look when it was my turn, to remember the suits of the cards and decide if I’m going to play the hand. I guess this is a little unusual and in this case it got me paid off.

At the end of the day we chat a little as I bag up my stack of over 91,000 chips and he seems like a really nice guy and a good player too.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Famous poker players I've urinated next to

The list is updated!

The rules are thus. I cannot expressly follow a poker player into the bathroom to urinate next to them, but if they are in there, even if it is a huge toilet and it is empty, I will always pick the urinal next to them, no matter how awkward this is!

Neil Channing
John Duthie
Ben Roberts
Freddie Deeb
'Downtown' Chad Brown

I cannot confirm or deny if Chad lives up to his nickname...