Tournament of Champions Day 1 Report

There is always a lot of discussion amongst live pros and internet pros about which school of thought is best, and while I think a combination is best, the fundamental knowledge of the young players today make them much more difficult to play against. My foray into online poker earlier this year was, for me, a resounding success, and that has nothing to do with results at all. I was up when I played badly, gave it all back playing better, was up again playing well, and then lost it back again trying to unsuccessfully play more than one table. I’ll get back at it after the WSOP.
Anyway, that work taught me so much about the way the game is being played today and the adjustments I’d have to make to be successful against the younger, more prepared breed of poker player.
In playing just four hours today, with my old school buddy TJ Cloutier, Scotty Nguyen, and the rest, the differences in the thought process in each hand was substantial. Let’s break down a few hands I played: HAND #1:
I raised under the gun with AK and got a few callers, one of them being Elky on the button. The flop came A-6-2 rainbow and I bet 800- only Elky called. The turn was a Q, I checked, Elky bet 1775 and I called. The river was a 4, I checked, Elky bet 4400 and I decided to lay it down and showed it. Elky showed 4-5! He took one off with a gut shot, took the lead on the turn, and decided to rep a set on the river. It worked, and he obviously outplayed me on the hand, but having said that, I’m not all that upset about the lay down.
I ruled out him betting a mediocre Ace on the end, so I felt his most likely hand was a set of 6’s (or 2’s), if not that, then aces up. There was an outside chance he was betting A-J or A-10, but I don’t think he’d bet 4400 with either of those hands. It was a pretty big bet, which polarizes his range some, meaning, he either floated the flop weak, or he had AK beat. Ultimately I laid it down, and at the time was pretty confident I did the right thing. He showed the bluff, and it stung, but I’m still fine with the fold based on my read of his range in that spot. I felt like I could only beat 4-5 or 3-4 as 3-5 filled the unlikely straight.
Later against Elky I raised with Kc 5c, Hachem called, and Elky called from the small blind. This time the flop was Kh 9h 6c and Elky led again. I called Joe folded. The turn was the 2c Elky bet and I called. The river was an 8 and Elky bet 4400 again. I folded again.
This was a very different situation to the previous one. The previous hand the board was very dry while this time the board was very wet. Based on a comment Elky made after the last bluff about the dry board, I felt like he wouldn’t try to bluff and rep a hand in this spot because there are so many draws that could miss. This time I was right, Elky had me beat.
With blinds at 100-200 with a 25 ante Antonio raised to 525, Doyle called, and Duke called from the small blind. I had Jc 3c in the big blind and called the 325 to try and catch a lucky flop. It came Ac Kc 3s. It was checked to Antonio who bet 1775, Doyle folded, Duke called, and I decided not to get it in here and just call. Often a pair and a flush draw is a big enough hand to get it in on the flop, but the problem here is that I can’t really rep very much. I can’t really rep AK AA or KK, so that narrows down what I can rep to just a set of 33’s. I figured it wasn’t believable enough and if I raised they’d correctly put me on a big draw.
The turn came a 5, and Duke bet 2800. I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of that bet, but similar to my hand, it seemed like a very exploitable bet since she can’t rep very much either. So now I’m stuck in the middle and if I call my hand becomes so obvious. Also, Antonio is a good player and I fully expected him to raise the turn if I call with any kind of a hand. I tried to think about what part of my range I’d bet the turn with in that spot and I couldn’t figure out any hand I’d ever do that with, so it puzzled me. The bet didn’t make any real sense, but it was cheap enough that I thought it was worth a shot to hope that Antonio decides to leave it alone, and that I can catch the 3 and potentially get it all in on the river. I was getting a decent price to hit the flush alone, but adding the 3, as well as maybe a jack makes a call seem like the right play considering.
It’s close though, because if a club hits the river I can’t get any action because my hand plays face up at that point. Weird spot.
Antonio folded, and the river came the 8c. I was a bit shocked when she bet 5600. Again, I couldn’t figure out exactly what the meaning, or the purpose of the bet was? If she had Qc 10c I’d expect a bigger bet since it’s obvious I should have hit that card. If she doesn’t have the flush, then there can’t be any value in betting one pair there. My hand is either two pair going into the river, or a flush that just hit.
I ended up tanking for a pretty long time. She bet 5600 and had about 16,000 left. Normally a raise seems standard here, but if I raise, I don’t see how I get called by anything but a flush, and if she has a flush, it’s likely to be exactly Qc 10c and nothing else. I thought about min raising, but if I do that and she has As Qc for example, that opens the door for her to move all in and I’d be forced to fold the hand. I didn’t want to put myself in that spot, and since I didn’t see any value in a raise, I decided to call. She showed AQ.
It worked out for me because if she checked I already decided I’d bet 4500 and I think she’d probably have to fold. In hindsight, I guess I would have raised the river if I thought she’d bet a one pair hand based on the way that I played the hand. The whole hand ended up being weirder than it should have been, and that’s why I ended up tanking for so long on the river. I wasn’t slowrolling, I was trying to figure out exactly what she was thinking, and when I couldn’t, I just gave up and called. I thought about the hand on the drive home, and still don’t really know what happened there. HAND 4
I raised with JJ from early position, Hachem called, and Elky called from the big blind. The flop came A-9-7 rainbow and Elky led out for like 1275. I felt like Hachem may have an Ace, but if he didn’t have AQ or better he might fold if I raise the flop. Elky could have a wide range of hands here that include straight draws, a 9, or obviously an Ace or better. I didn’t want to just flat call and guess, so I decided to show a bit of strength so I made it 2600. Hachem did fold (he had an Ace) and Elky called. The turn was a 5 and Elky fired 3300. As soon as he made the bet I thought to myself, “What an excellent bet.” Regardless of his actual hand, this was a genius bet. He could easily rep the 6-8, and if he has 8-10 he won’t get raised, plus, he may get me to fold my hand. He could, of course, have an Ace or better but when he bet the turn he had me thinking he had the 6-8 or the 8-10. The fact that I couldn’t even beat an Ace, though, made me lean towards folding “just in case” although I was pretty convinced he had 6-8 or 8-10.
I folded the hand, and he showed a 10! Dang it, he had the 8-10 and outplayed me again. Elky played great all day which I expected. What I DIDN’T expect was to see Joe Hachem play better poker than I’ve ever seen him play. He was a thorn in my side, 3 betting me frequently, and the one time I 4-bet him with A-10, he 5 bet me and I really think he was bluffing there too. What I was most impressed with was his bet sizing. I learned a lot about “that stuff” from the top players in the 100-200 game on PokerStars, specifically Nutsinho, Altum Atrus, and KingofCards. When we were in Monte Carlo all three of them railed me all night long and I learned a ton.
Anyway, Joe was NOT playing old school poker at all. He seemed really focused, and he wasn’t a bystander by any means. He was really mixing it up and making loads of plays. I’d never seen him play like that before and I was thoroughly impressed.
Antonio was on my immediate left and he always plays me very well and today was no exception. He is a cash game grinder and he has a really good feel for how I think so he makes things very tough on me. My seat at the table wasn’t ideal with Antonio on my left and the “new” Joe Hachem to his left. Other than Elky, they were the most active players by a long shot and you always want to have the tough aggressive players on your right, and the weak tight players on your left. Tomorrow at noon we start up again and you can follow along on PokerNews or you can watch it live on at 12:00pm PST. We’ll be playing another 4 levels tomorrow with 22 players remaining. I ended the day with 36,125 which puts me right at the average. Already out are: John Juanda, Greg Raymer, Barry Shulman, Sammy Farha, and Phil Ivey. **************************************************************** After busting I had a very chill night at the house. I have a couple friends from LA staying with me during the WSOP and I haven’t seen them much lately since I’ve been playing, and they’ve been working too.
Court also came by to do P90X with me. He is just one week away from finishing the 90 day program and we are on the same workout schedule this week which works out good. I never really workout with anyone so it’s nice to have someone there to let me know if I’m doing the moves right. It’s exciting to see and hear how far he’s come and I’m just about 6 weeks away from where he’s at.
A support system is key, I think, when dedicating yourself to a workout. I’m still unable to do the entire Ab Ripper program, but I have definitely progressed and am getting stronger. It’s nice to know you aren’t the only one fighting through it, and that if you keep working hard you will break through. I’m hoping. **************************************************************** The The Big Game is in full swing and we’ve aired two weeks already and so far the response has been fantastic. I’ve received tons of feedback on the show as well as the high tech site that was built so you can track the stats and the players. The main site URL is: and if you want to take a look at the bios of upcoming Loose Cannons you can find them here: just click on the Loose Cannon tab for the bios. Of the Loose Cannon’s there is a steady mix of players, both aspiring pros like Will Davis, to fun loving guys like Ernest Wiggins. Each Loose Cannon brings something different to the table and that will ensure that the show stays fresh and fun. You can also take a look at all the pros who’ve participated in the first 6 weeks of shows. I hope you guys are all enjoying the show, and especially the commentary! I think Chris Rose and Joe Stapleton are doing an amazing job. Chris is the best in the business, and Joe is not only hilarious, but he is also doing a good job providing solid analysis on the hands. Many have asked if I’ll always be on the show, and the answer is no. I do play 4 of the 6 weeks though and I enjoyed every minute of it… and yes, there is another week coming up with me and Phil Hellmuth… and yes I do needle him a little bit, but nowhere near as much as one solid online pro who really sticks it to PH. Lots of fun episodes to come! Set your tivo’s accordingly.