Thursday, 19 July 2012


I played my first live MTT (bar the EOM in Limerick in which I never got going and busted fairly early) in ages last weekend at Caesars Palace in Galway.

It had been a while since I played a live MTT and I was really looking forward to it. It was my first time up to Caesars but I had heard good things about it. The main event drew 122 players for a €22,000 prize pool with €6.2k up top.

The starting stack was 20k and I finished day 1A with 220k. That equated to 4.5x average, 280BBs, and almost 3x second place in chips! I chipped up fairly steadily on day 1 and can only remember losing one pot of note. Towards the end of the day, I picked up aces twice and won huge pots with them both times.

I came back for day 2 with a big chip lead and started out well. Won a few races and built up to 260k. Following this, I took a step back and ended up dropping back to 150k. The two hands that did most of the damage were: a big bluff that didn't get through, and folding QQ pre flop. I'm fine with how I played the bluff, but I still have doubts whether the QQ fold was right.

Thankfully the tide turned when I made a big call with AQ and managed to hold pf vs JT. Things went pretty well from there until the end of the day when I got moved right around bubble time (got moved with 18 left and 13 getting paid).

When I arrived at my new table, I had 450k in chips which was around chip leader. Things didn't go well and I just couldn't win a pot at my new table. Thankfully, like the previous day, I won a few hands towards the end of the night and managed to finish with 540k. Two players got knocked out on the last hand of the night meaning we were coming back to a final table of 9. I was 3rd in chips with 3 of us in the 540k-600k range and 4th place being back on 350k.

I was fairly happy with my play on the final table but just seemed to run out of momentum three handed. By the time it got three handed, the stacks were approximately: 1.8m, 600k (me), 200k. I dropped back to 400k and then managed to a win a big flip to keep me alive. I raised the button with 6c3c, the SB (chip leader) called and the flop came 96x with two clubs. I got check raised (the check raise was for about 50% of my chips) and obviously had to go with it. I was up against K9 with the king of clubs and got lucky to hit a club on the turn and avoid one on the river. After doubling up to 800k, it looked like it was going to be my day but unfortunately I didn't really win many hands after that. 3 handed went on for a long while and the blinds were getting progressively bigger.

I lost two big pots and a lot of medium sized pots meaning I was down to 10BB range. I shoved the button with the 6d3d and got called with QJo. Unfortuantely the magic of the suited 63 couldn't be performed again and I was gone in 3rd place.

As always, you're going to be disappointed when you don't win a tournament. At a few stages in 3 handed play, one player had 10BBs, so several times it looked like I was at least going to have a shot at heads-up. But the short stack managed to survive and doubled at the crucial times so I guess it just wasn't meant to be. Overall, I guess I have to happy with the performance and result. It was my first live MTT in a while and I must say, I genuinely missed playing. It was my first live cash of the year too, as the previous seven tournaments have all been bricks. The result covers those tourneys and takes me outa the red and into the black for live MTTs this year.

The next live event I hope to play is the Macau tournament at the end of August. It's a €500 tourney and with things going well, I hope to be able to play it. It's a great structure and obviously Cork has been pretty good to me so hopefully I'll be able to get another run in the rebel county!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Rules from a player's perspective

Rules in poker are something that seem to come up and play a part way too often when it comes to poker discussion. The club in Limerick are currently writing up new house rules so there's been a bit of discussion about rules lately. I also read about what's been called the worst ruling ever in poker. So rules and rulings have been on my mind so I decided to make this post. This is basically my advice and my thoughts on certain rules, rulings etc.

(Fwiw, I have never been a professional dealer or TD - the most I have done is run a few pub games. So these tips are largely from a player's point of view)

Before we start...

I) A tip to players
If you want to avoid ever having a ruling made involving you, just be totally clear and simple when acting. If everyone was totally clear and unambiguous with every action at the poker table, there would almost no need for a ruling ever. So make it easy on the dealer and make your actions clear!

1) Antes
Antes in a tournament structure should ideally be 1/8th of the big blind. If it is not possible to have antes 1/8th, it should be as close to 1/8th as possible. So this means, a 25 ante at the 200-400 level is BAD. Also, antes should be consistent throughout the tournament. The ante at 400-800 and 4000-8000 should be proportionally the same. This means, if the ante is 100 at 400-800, there is no reason why the ante should be 500 at 4000-8000 (it should be 1000 obviously).
This seems like such a simple thing, but then why do so many tournaments manage to get it wrong (the flagship tournament of the year The Irish Open, no less)?
So for all the TDs out there, really simple change to make.

2) Maximum amount of information should be available
The biggest reason for problems and rulings arising is that people are unaware and make mistakes based on lack of information. I remember when I first heard the rule that dealers were not allowed announce the size of a bet (they were simply supposed to say 'raise' - i.e. they could not say 'raise to 2700'). Why should dealers not be allowed say this? Obviously players should watch the action, but nothing slows up a game more than "Raise", "how much is it?", "500", "500?", "Yes", "more or altogether?", "total", "so 300 more", "Yes", "Oh, OK. I'll fold".

Obviously a bit of hyperbole there, but I don't understand why dealers cannot lead with all the free, open information that is out there. The all-in rule is one I never understood either. In some places, if a player is all -in, the dealer is only supposed to announce 'all-in' as opposed to 'all-in for 5750'. What's the reason for this? If the reason is "well if Johnny Badplayer in seat one hears raise to 5750, he might call coz it's such a small raise, but if he hears it's an all-in raise, he won't check how much it is and fold". If this is the justification for this rule, I ask, why? One could say that a reason like this for a rule is there to favour the 'better players'. Why? Surely the other way speeds up the game and is completely fair since all the dealer is doing is announcing free information that is there for all to see should one want to see it?

Also, it's worth noting, I don't mean the dealer has to count out every single all-in bet (I understand that part of the rule). What I mean is, someone shoves for around 50k. It folds to the BB. The dealer should announce "All-in raise of around 50k, would you like an exact count?". Most competent dealers can eyeball a stack correctly to around +/-10%.

3) Rules have to be fair to dealers
I have a specific rule in mind when I mention this, but first, I'll explain generally.
If there is a rule in place, it should be fairly black and white and should not have to rely on too much interpretation from the dealer.
The specific rule I'm thinking of is a house rule in the club in Limerick. The rule is basically, if you pull your current bet back without announcing raise, you can only call. E.g. you have 1euro in the SB, someone raises to €10, if you say nothing, pull back your €1, cut out €30 from your stack, and put that in the pot, it does not count as a raise, you can only call. Aside from the rule itself, the reason I take issure with a rule like this, is because it is unfair on the dealer. If you cut out €30 from your stack, put it in the pot first, and then take back out your €1, it is a raise. If you do it simultaneously, is it a raise? If you have €30 in your left hand, and  the €1 in your right, and do it all in one continuous instantaneous motion, is it a raise or only a call? It's unfair for the dealer to have a make a decision when it comes down to the milliseconds of actions. 

So when making rules, how easy it is for the dealer to handle and interpret the various scenarios  is important.

4) Most rules that are there to 'prevent collusion' are stupid
The most ridiculously used justification for rules are the 'it prevents collusion' rule. Two things, most of the these rules don't actually prevent collusion, and if people wanted to collude, they probably will.

5) Rulings have to be consistent
The validity or reasoning for rules are one thing, but all card rooms and tournaments have to make sure to enforce their rules on a consistent basis. Rules are usually there for a reason, but for them to be any use, they must be enforced. There's nothing worse than having rules that are enforced on a case-by-case basis or 'when it suits'. For example, if you are not allowed use a phone during a hand, then if you use your phone during the hand, your hand should be dead. Simple. No ambiguity, that's the rule. At the start of a hand, if a player is on the phone, the dealer should warn them that their hand will be dead if they continue to use it. If a player's phone begins to ring during a hand, the dealer should warn the player should he answer the phone, his hand will be dead. Having some player-dealer communication never hurts either.

Which brings me onto...

6) Player-Dealer communication never hurts
Here's a quick example of what I think is okay:
Blinds are 100-200, player A raises to 525. Player B puts in one 1000 chip and one 25 chip.
Rules say, this is a raise. However, in practice, many people see this as a call (the player puts out the extra one 25 chip to make it easier for the dealer to make change - ie the dealer must only give player B 500 not as opposed to 475).
So, should Player B be forced the raise?
The easiest solution to this imo, is, after putting out the 1025, the dealer should immediately ask 'Is that a call?'. Usually the player will immediately respond with 'Ya' and the game will continue.
Again this is such a small thing but something that would prevent a lot of headaches for dealers, players and TDs. With the dealer proactively managing the game, the dealer can prevent any confusion before it arises. If player B throws in the 1000 chip and the 25 chip, player C may then ask 'is that a raise', in which case the dealer can go back and ask player B, but now player C is fully entitled to insist that player B did make a raise. So basically, it opens up a whole can of worms of possible angleshoots, possible tells etc from player B and player C.

All this could be solved by a quick comment from the dealer. If the dealer immediately asks 'is that a call?', player C doesn't get a chance to give his reaction, gauge player B's reaction etc. and if player B was angling, the angle is very short lived as he has to declare his action before gaining any information.

7) There has to be a reason for having a rule
Again, this sounds so simple, but I often hear of rules that I simply cannot think of a reason for why they are there.

8) Common sense and intent
This is probably the most difficult part of making rulings. Common sense and intent do take some interpretation, which ideally, there would be no need for (in the perfect world, all rules and all actions would be black and white and an easy and correct ruling could be made everytime). However, that's not how life is!

Common sense is an absolute must. Intent may be pushing it according to some people. I've often seen players (esp in seat 1 and 10) say call and then put in the big blind. Then the dealer informs them there was actually an all-in shove (but obv they can't say how much the all-in is :P). Common sense and player's intent dictate here the player meant to call just the big blind. But what should the ruling be?

I think these are the most difficult decisions in poker. In the spirit of 'fairness', the player should only have to call the BB. But how far do we push it? Does this leave things too open to angleshooting? How can the dealer or floorperson really judge a person's intent? Should they be required to judge a person's intent and use common sense or should they just apply the ruling rigidly? Unfortunately, I can't come up with a right answer to all that. All I can say is, it probably is best to judge these on a case-by-case basis. There are no rules for common sense or intent, but they definitely should play a part in the ruling process. How big a part? Well, your common sense should be able to answer that question!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

If I had a million dollars...

As I'm sure all the poker world know, the Big One for One Drop, $1million buy-in tournament was held recently. A million dollar buy-in to a poker tournament is just so surreal. All the big stories from poker over the last 18months have all been negative, so to have an historic event that will positively benefit poker is huge.

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but a million dollars is something that really makes me take notice. There's nothing like lots and lots and lots of money. So here's some pictures...

(all pictures are stolen from Twitter, PokerNews and other outlets)

Justin "BoostedJ" Smith's million dollar buy-in

This was from Thomas Marchese 

That's only $810,000 in chips with $140,000 cash...

...the other $50,000 was wired.

This cost Eugene Katchalov a million bucks

Likewise for Negreanu

At least Trickett got back about $10mil

And Antonio,

...about $18.3million