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Final Table Time

25 Jan 2007

Itís pretty strange actually. I must play better when Iím hungry, not only in the metaphorical sense, but literally! Last year I won the WSOP Circuit event that was aired on ESPN. The year before that, I came in third place in this same event. There has to be something to it, but Iím not sure Iíve figured it all out just yet. My first guess is that since itís January Iím more focused on starting the new year off with a bang.

Looking back to 2004 and prior, I compare my game now to the way that I played back then, and there really is no comparison. Iím more mature, more patient, more knowledgeable, and I read people better now than I ever have before. In these WPT events, I never feel pressured to make a desperate all in play to stay alive, instead, I have the utmost confidence in my ďsmall ballĒ system. Having faith in this system is extremely important. My system works and I think it is head and shoulders above some of the other approaches to deep stack poker. When I finish my second book, I will go into detail on how to apply this system. Itís not in print anywhere, not entirely anyway.

18 down to 6 took a little longer than expected. At 10 handed, play generally slows way down and thatís exactly what happened here. In a 10 handed game players can hide and wait for a good situation. Thatís why I was extremely happy with tournament director Johnny Grooms decision to play nine handed all the way down to the end, only playing 10 handed with the last 10 players. Too many tournaments are going with 10 handed play since there are usually so many players that they run out of tables. Not going back to 9 handed after day one is simply unacceptable.

For those of you that didnít know, Johnny Grooms and his crew used to run the WSOP with Jack Eiffel. I genuinely believe that both Jack and Johnny want to make the players happy by giving them what they want. There is evidence of that for sure.


For most of the day I was pretty card dead., especially at the final table. In the early going I was playing very carefully while trying to figure out how my opponents played and how they thought. My observation helped me on the following hand: 5000-10,000 blinds with a 1000 ante, the button limped in. From the small blind, I called with Kh Qh. The big blind, a player who loved him some dead money, raised it 40,000 more. The button folded, and despite being out of position I was confident that I could outplay him after the flop.

The flop came Jc 4h 4d. I checked, and my opponent bet 40,000. I didnít think he had anything at all really, but I wasnít completely sure. I called the bet thinking that Iíd find a way to win this pot at a later stage. The turn was the 10c, giving me an open ended straight draw. On impulse more than anything, I decided to take the lead on the turn, representing a Jack. I bet 40,000. He studied for a bit, and it looked to me like he was thinking about making a move. This was a pure ďpre-flopĒ player that I was dealing with, so he wasnít one to smooth call, he was playing raise or fold poker. After a little thought, he mucked the hand.

The next ďmoveĒ I made was at the final table. I raised it to 40,000 with blinds at 6000-12,000 with a 2000 ante with the 8h 10h. The small blind, known as ďCatfishĒ called the raise and I put him on either Ace big or a pocket pair. The flop came As 6s 7s. Catfish checked and I checked behind him. The turn came the 2s, putting four spades out there. Once again, Catfish checked and I decided to try and pick up the pot by betting 40,000.

Catfish started cutting out a raise, and my radar alarm went off. ďThis guy is making a move,Ē I thought. He cut out 100,000 and raised me 60,000 more. After putting his chips in the pot, he immediately placed his hand over his mouth. This wasnít a fake tell, it was clear as day this guy was uncomfortable. The only problem for me was that Iíd NEVER played a hand with this guy beforeÖ ever.

My read was too strong to ignore, though, and since I put him on either a pocket pair of a big Ace, it was highly unlikely that he had the Ks. I re-raised him. He folded, and I raked in a nice pot with squadoosh .

I struggled through most of the final table, not really getting anything going, but with seven players left I was given an early birthday present:

With the blinds at 12,000-24,000 with a 3000 ante, I came in for 57,000 with QJ. Why 57,000? Well, when I finish the book Iíll explain why I chose such a seemingly strange number.

The small blind called my raise and we took the flop heads up. The flop came J J 8 rainbow. Almost immediately, my opponent fired out 100,000. At this point, I felt like some acting was in order if I was going to get any more chips from him. I put on my best performance in quite a while, making it look like I had a hand, but was worried that my opponent flopped a Jack. I grabbed my hat, sat back in my chair, put a stack if chips on my cards, and took longer than normal before calling the bet.

The turn card was a 2, and my opponent motioned towards the center of the pot declaring himself all in. He actually had about 15,000 more than I did, but this was a pretty easy call. I called him with my last 470,000 in chips, only to find out he was drawing completely dead with KQ. Yeah baby, thatís how I like to play big pots! In fact, in most of the big pots I played I was at least an 85% favorite to win. Thatís how small ball works.

With that last pot I crossed the million dollar mark, and while the average stack is a little less than a million ,with the Korean player on my right having close to 3 million in chips, Iím solidly sitting in second place with 1,296,000. I feel pretty lucky to have the chip leader sitting where he is as I think I may be able to exploit that positional advantage. He is actually a pretty crafty player, but there are a couple holes in his approach that Iíll look to take advantage of at the final table.

Along with me at the final table are J.C Tran and Kido Phan. Both guys I genuinely respect and think play very well. With Kido, I was extremely impressed with his play the first time I saw him at a WPT final table with Carlos Mortensen. He was a complete unknown, but I saw ďgame.Ē

As for J.C., he has been a great player for a very long time and his rise to stardom in the poker world was long overdue. I first played with him in a shootout at the WSOP and was blown away by his approach. His game has changed a lot since then, and as of yet, Iím not so sure I like some of the changes I see. Of course, Iíll need a larger sample before making a read, but heís added some weapons to his repertoire that I hadnít seen before.


The final table starts at 5:00pm today and will likely run till about 11:00pm. That creates a small problem for me, JC, and Kido, since we all plan on attending the Borgata tournament which starts at 11:00am the next morning. Since it would be impossible to catch a commercial flight to AC at that late hour, weíve decided to charter a plan and all go together along with Nam Le. Weíll likely end up arriving in AC at about 3:00am, giving us time to take a quick nap before the 11:00am start time.

If Iím too tired to get there on time, I may end up sleeping through the first level. With 30,000 in chips and 25-50 blinds to start, that wouldnít hurt me too bad and itíll be tough to keep my streak alive at five having to play 10 full days of poker with no break. Iíll most likely put my game on auto-pilot on day one of the Borgata, looking to just survive rather than thrive.

Anyway, itís about 6:00am here and Iím on a bad schedule sleep wise. Iím going to watch an episode or two of Lost and then head down to the food court to send this blog off.

Here are the players:

Seat 1: Gary Kainer 514,000- Despite having a decent sized stack, Gary shows little interest in making standard sized raises, instead making large over-sized all in bets pre-flop when he decides to play. If he does happen to get to a flop, he is a bettor and not a caller.

Seat 2: JC Tran 181,000 - A great player. Has started re-raising before the flop more than I once remembered, but is also more than willing to see flops. With his chip count, though, he is left with no choice but to play for it all when he decides to play. If he is able to double up even once, he all of a sudden becomes a dangerous threat. At the moment, he is left defenseless and will have to hope for a hand.

Seat 3: Bryan Sumner 596,000- I don't like his approach. A total pre-flop player that plays a pretty ABC game for the most part. Looks to gamble pre-flop by coming over the top of raises. The WPT final table structure will help him out in a big way since the focus becomes pre-flop play at these crapshoot like final tables.

Seat 4: Kido Phan 781,000- All kinds of gear shifting, creative play, and determination make this guy a tough, tough, opponent. Has a lot of gamble in him, but showed, specifically at this final table that he knows how to slow down and wait to pick his spots. He is probably the most creative player on the tour right now and he fights for every pot he enters.

Seat 5: Young Cho 2,570,000- I wasn't sure what to make of this player until finally getting a chance to play with him at the final table. He isn't to be underestimated. Another crafty player that is conscious about protecting his stack, while at the same time will make moves at pots when he senses weakness. I was expecting him to be a little sloppy, but he hasn't shown any signs of over playing his hands yet. He makes one mistake from the small blind that I'm going to look to exploit since I have position on him.

Seat 6: Me! 1,296,000- Looking for my opponents to make the mistakes. Will do my best to play my game up until the structure takes over and forces the action. At that point, I'll be forced to focus on plan B which is... lol, like I'm going to post that, lol.


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