poker journal

I’ve recently starting reading Jared Tendler’s Mental Game of Poker, which focuses on a lot of common poker problems that don’t really have to do with cards or chips, but rather mental areas where you can have leaks such as motivation, confidence, and tilt. It’s more of a psychology read than a straight poker book, and in that sense it’s a lot more engaging because the principles taught are applicable to pretty much every activity that you do.


One of the more salient changes I’ve made from the advice in this book is that I’ve started writing in a journal. Most of my entries are poker-related and log my before- and after-session thoughts, my benchmarks, and what I need to work on. It’s really helpful for someone like me, who doesn’t get the opportunity to play very often, because it is a reminder of where my game is and where I need to focus my efforts in order to improve. Without that, there’s no tracking my progress and, although I feel I learn something from every session I play, I am not ingraining it into my brain and building upon that acquired knowledge.

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no limit omaha-8

I’ve been playing this $11 NLO8 tournament that runs nightly on Carbon and it’s a ton of fun. I actually play a lot of NLO8 at a low-stakes dealer’s choice game (it’s the most popular game there) and absolutely love the mixture of high-low board textures and no limit betting. That being said, I am by no means saying that I have a significant edge in this game, if I have one at all, but there are always some really terrible players in this tournament who have no idea how to play this game. I’ve run well in this tournament and hopefully will ship it soon.

An afterthought: I wish they’d run live NLO8 cash or tournaments, that would be hella fun and potentially very gambly.

delaware park main event

Man I’ve been too busy being lazy to finish up this blog post about my first $1k tournament experience, but here it finally is:

So two Fridays ago, I ended up winning a satellite into the Delaware Park $1070 Main Event (detailed in my last post) and ended up playing day one on about 6 hours of sleep.

My table draw was pretty damn good. It was mostly middle-aged to elderly players that played relatively tight-aggressive and two players that I recognized from cash games around Baltimore. The player in seat ten was disabled and in a wheelchair. I don’t know what his disability was, but he was unable to move his arms and needed assistance with peeking at his hole cards and betting, and a lady that was accompanying him would do these for him as well as feed him snacks. He was a nice guy, though he played very aggressive raise-fold poker and I played a large pot against him and ended up taking it down with pocket aces.

The table was pretty navigable and my image was right where I wanted it to be. There are some spots where I think I would have been less aggressive as to gain more value out of my strongest hands, but for the most part I think I played pretty well. I recall after the last break with two levels to play in the day, everyone with a decent chip stack seemed to shut down and only raise-call if they connected with their strongest hands. I almost fell into this zombie-mode of playing cards, but then recognized that everyone was doing this and was able to find spots to chip up a bit with air.

Day one finished after 12 hour-long blind levels, and although it was a long-ass day, the structure of the tournament was unbelievable and it allowed me to really play my style of poker. I ended the day with around 125k in chips with the average around 131k.

I returned on day two about 20 minutes before the 2pm restart, and I grabbed a table draw sheet, which showed that I was currently 44/94 players with 36 making the money. I scanned the list for players that were also seated at table 38 and it turned out that seated to my direct left was none other than Greg Raymer, still in with about 75k. Now THAT was exciting news! I’d be playing next to a former world champion, albeit at a positional disadvantage, along with a few other east coast grinders it turned out.

Well needless to say, I was anxious to get started, and when I arrived at my table, Greg was already there making friendly conversation with the dealer and the other players at the table. I quietly just sat down next to him, not sure if I should say hello or not. I just went about unbagging and stacking my chips as he continued to talk about this and that while the other players filled in the rest of the seats. As play got underway, it was clear that Greg was aggressively looking for spots to double his shortstack and jammed an OESD (open-ended straight draw) on the flop and got there vs. QQ. This of course didn’t bode well for me, as now he had chips to work with. In fact that twice that day I raise-folded to his 3bet preflop, and I’m sure on one of them he was just making a move.

Raymer ended up getting moved from my table, but around the same time Lee Childs, who final tabled the WSOP Main the year Jerry Yang won it all, got transferred to my table. Although he looks like he might be a mean guy, he’s a really nice dude and I got to talk to him a bit during one of the breaks. Another newcomer to my table was this guy who I’ve played with in Baltimore before and used to play basketball for UMD. This guy, who’s like 6’11 or something, ended up check-jamming a 225k stack with AThh on a QTXhh flop and got busted around 44th by someone who called with AQo. I’m not sure that I would’ve done the same in that spot, but those pair-flush draw hands, especially if you’ve got the nut flush draw, can be tricky to play and I like to try and play small pots with them if possible.

I was pretty card dead for most of the day, but I also made some tight folds preflop in an effort to make the money. I was lucky enough to get action when I picked up aces in the BB with about 10 BBs behind and about 42 players left, and that double-up was crucial in me being able to fold to the money. The only other hand I remember playing as we neared the bubble was 44 in the BB. I called a minraise preflop and it ended up getting checked down, my 4s held up vs. AKo and AQo. I normally wouldn’t have played so passively, but the mincash to me meant a lot more than if I had bought in for $1k directly, so I was happy with folding to the money.

With about 30 minutes to go before the dinner break, we were down to 39 players, and it was uncertain that we’d burst the bubble before going on dinner. There was discussion about playing down to the money and then going on the dinner break, and the players seemed to be coming to an agreement. However, two players quickly busted and we were one away from the money. About four hands into hand-for-hand play, it was announced that we were in the money! Turned out that Raymer was the bubble boy, busting in 37th by semi-bluffing into the nuts.

I was really happy. I had just locked up $2k and with about 15 BBs and 36 players left I had a shot at some real money. I was moved to another table, where I was immediately dealt AJo UTG+1. I minraised for 25k, and the player to my left jammed for about 57k. It folded around to me, and I had about 140k more behind, so it wasn’t the best spot but I felt obliged to call, especially given that the super-shortstacks are jamming with just about anything decent at this point. He ended up tabling TT, and I lost the race for a 130k pot, which sucked but those are the spots that I’m looking to get into at this point to try and make a deep run.

The very next hand I pick up JJ UTG and quickly shoved my remaining 77k. It folded around to the SB, who was sitting on about 300k+. He thought about it for a while and ended up tank calling with A8o. Wow. The player who called said that he thought I might just be trying to UTG steal with the likes of KQ, which is why he called. Well that’s the kind of action I want in this spot, and I told the dealer not to put any aces on board. The flop came out 236 rainbow, which was good for me. The 8 on the turn paired his eight and gave him 5 outs going to the river. The river brought another 8, and I had just lost and 70/30 flip to bust out in 33rd place.

The feeling of having just made the money and locking up $2k was immediately dampered by the fact that I had lost back-to-back hands to quickly bust out. Statistically I was very unlucky to bust out that quickly given the situations I was in, but what do statistics matter when we’re talking about any one iteration? If only I had come out on top for in those flips, I’d be going to dinner with a decent stack and chance to make a real run in this event. Instead, I was just standing around outside the tournament area, not sure whether to go home or play cash.

I decided to head home and chill with some friends. Once I was back in my car, I packed a nice fat bowl and, while driving back, was able to appreciate the positives of the outcome: I had satellited into my first $1k tournament for $120 (or $240 if you want to count both satellites), made it to day 2 and the money while playing pretty good poker in a tournament with a REAL structure, and ended up turning that $120 into $2100. Not too bad at all for three days work…but now the bar is set, and I want nothing more than to do better.

delaware park main event satellite

What a weekend!

I headed up to Delaware Park on Friday to play poker and to catch the last set of tournaments in their poker classic. A good friend of mine was also heading back up Friday to play day 2 of the Greg Raymer Invitational event (he ended up chopping at the final table for $4500, real nice for a $150 buy-in event), so I got to see Greg Raymer walking around that day, which was cool.

My original plan was to make it up there to play a noon satellite into Saturday’s $1070 main event but woke up late and made it there for the 4pm satellite instead. With just over 160 runners, they were giving out 16 seats, and I was pretty short stacked (as was a lot of the field) with about 22 players left. One player with a UVA hat at my table was open-shoving his 8-10 BB stack with what seemed like any decent hand and had picked up the blinds and antes about four times in the last two orbits, but with the average stack at about 20 BBs no one was willing to try and pick him off with less than premium hands. I, of course, was rooting for him to get picked off so I would be one position closer to getting a seat when I witnessed this ridiculous hand: UVA hat open shoves 9 BBs from the cut-off, the button folds, I fold in the SB, and the BB, an elderly man with about 24 BBs, stops to tank. After about 20 seconds, he says something like, “if you had less chips young man, I’d call” and flips KK face up. Obviously, the entire table was bewildered, and the player that had jammed just had the most incredulous expression like he was dominated with a lower pair and had somehow dodged one of the worst spots in tournament poker. I couldn’t believe that this guy had folded KK, avoiding a prime opportunity to bust a player in an effort to coast his way to a seat, and I was upset because it would’ve benefited me for him to bust.

I ended up busting that satellite in 19th place with 16 places getting seats at around 9:30pm, and, having played for 5.5 hours in what I thought was a pretty soft field, not getting a seat was pretty shitty. The last satellite was scheduled to start at 10pm, so I ran back to my car to get nicely toasted, refresh my outlook and went back to register. The second satellite went better for me, although the structure was more difficult because there was just over 100 entrants, so only 9 seats were awarded with 10th getting $820 in chips. When we got down to the 10-player final table, one person volunteered to just take the $820 in cash and walk away and the remaining players would get the seats. Needless to say, we all took the deal, and I had just won a seat into my first $1k event!

By this time, it was about 3:30 in the morning. My friend and I ended up leaving DelPark to find a cheap room around 4am and didn’t get to sleep until around 5 or 5:30 after the little adrenaline rush and bowl rips wore off. It was rough waking up after a 12-hour session then 6 hours of sleep, but I was excited and anxious to play the biggest and best-structured tournament in my life.

Out of time right now, gotta get back to my schoolwork, but next post will be about my experience in the DelPark main event, where I played and cashed in my first $1k buyin tournament 🙂