Friday, July 22, 2011

Grump's Golden TIcket - Part Deaux

A couple of week's ago I sat down with the Poker Grump as he got ready to play in the WSOP Main Event for the first time.  You can see the post with that video right here.  On his first day I had a chance to go down and get a little footage of him at Poker News labeled a "Table of Death".

Earlier this week, I had a chance to sit down with the Grump and talk through his Main Event experience:

You can also read Grump's blog posts about his big adventure here.  They are all definite good reads!  Thanks very much to the grump for taking the time to sit with me on these occasions and share this experience.

Friday, July 8, 2011


This last weekend was Fourth of July and while I got a good amount of poker in, the "main event" as it were was getting out with Mrs Flops to celebrate the Fourth.  I guess you could say we did three Fs: Food; Fireworks and ... Foolishness.  C'mon, get your minds out of the gutter!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Grump's Golden Ticket

When word hit a little over a week ago that the Poker Grump had won Dan Cates' Main Event drawing I knew I'd want to have  a Grumpy guest appearance on the vlog and the Grump graciously obliged me with some of his time the other day.  Before we get to the video, some backstory for those who might not be familiar.

Cates is one of the most recent (and perhaps the last) online poker wunderkinds.  Cates established himself as a successful high stakes heads up no limit player online and was reported to have amassed over five million dollars in online winnings in 2010 alone.  Had Cates spent much time playing live, you might ask.  Well, not in the US at least because Cates accomplished all of this before turning 21.  In fact, the 2011 World Series of Poker is Cates' first run at the poker world's premier series since before then he hasn't been of age to enter any events.

To commemorate his first WSOP main event, and as a means to give back to the poker community, Cates decided to hold a drawing where one lucky winner would join Cates in playing the main event and would do so on Cates' dime.  The only qualifying factor was that the winner had to have never played the WSOP Main Event before.  When the time came for the big drawing, Grump's ticket emerged from the fish bowl, and now he is in the midst of preparing for the big one.  It was fun to sit down with him and hear him talk about the experience:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Playing with Brad Garrett

The Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas has undergone a pretty substantial renovation recently, along with that they have reopened their poker room, and the other day they held a bit of a promotional tournament for the room.  The tournament was hosted by Brad Garrett who has a comedy club at the Trop as well.   It sounded like a good time, so Mrs. Flops and I headed out to play:

p.s. Make sure you pay attention towards the end of the video as Mrs. Flops makes a very quick appearance!

It was a really fun event, seemed like pretty much everyone was there having a good time and not taking things too seriously.  Well there was the guy who seemed to get a little perturbed when I three bet him preflop a couple of times, but I actually had the goods both times - at least enough of the goods that I would have been OK with a call.  Once we got down to the final table everyone was joking and laughing with each other - it's nice when you can play the game and legitimately have fun with the other players.

I'm also really wishing success to Wally, the poker room manager and his staff.  Everyone their had a great attitude and you could really see the effort that they were putting in to make the room the best experience for the players that they could.  They do some nice little touches like having a Keurig coffee machine in the room so everyone can get fresh coffee if they want as well as setting out plenty of bottles of water for the players to just grab at their convenience.  They also run tournaments two or three times a week that add a hotel package as an overlay to the winner.  The package includes bottle service for one night at the Nikki Beach Club, a night in one of the hotel suites and breakfast for two the next day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

She's A Cruel Mistress

Typically when I go out and shoot videos I'll try and get them posted roughly in chronological order.  There's typically some lag time involved with the editing  process, so often you're seeing videos a week or so after they were shot.  This one though, was shot immediately after my (rather brief) appearance at the Venetian DSE tournament on Sunday, June 26.  It was a story that was enough worth telling that I wanted to get it posted straight away.

One error in the video to point out is that in the second hand I discussed I referred to the other player flopping a flush, when in actuality it was a flopped set.

One other note I wanted to add in about the video editing is that it is an amazingly time consuming process.  I have the easy job, I yammer into the camera for a few minutes and I'm done.  Mrs. Flops then literally takes hours to edit the videos and try and turn my yammering into something reasonably coherent.  All of the effects, the green screen background, the music and the titles, that all comes from her.  So, if you enjoy these videos, then really send some thanks out to Mrs. Flops.  If it wasn't for her hard work, they wouldn't get done.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

There Is No Substitute

This is a no poker content video, but I don't think people are going to mind ...

I have a friend who is an automobile broker.  I got an e-mail from her a few weeks ago asking if I was available on a certain date.  As luck would have it I did have my calendar clear.  The event in question was a Porsche driving experience, and there's really not much more to say besides that it was a blast.  Take a look:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nasty Chop

In general, when I'm playing in a low buy-in tournament I tend to be pretty mellow about chopping.  Three's a couple of reasons for that.  One, I recognize that these kind of tournaments have a heavy social element and I don't mind sacrificing some EV to maintain that social element.  Also (and this is really the more important reason) typically with these types of tournaments by the time people are discussing chopping there may be no more than 20 to 30 big blinds total in play.  Such situations are obviously very high variance and I don't mind chopping to deal with that fact.  Sometimes though, there's just something about a chop that is so absurd, that you just can't stay quiet - here's one such story:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Makin' Burgers

A while ago I did a video about making homemade pizza.  It was fun and I decided that it was time to do another food video.  This time, I'm making bleu cheese stuffed burgers:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Million Dollar Tourney

Stations Casinos recently ran a series of five tournaments that they called something like the "Million Dollar No-Limit Hold'em" series.  It involved four open tournaments each with a $200,000 guarantee.  There was then a fifth $200,000 guarantee tournament that was open to the top 25 finishers in each of the first four tournaments plus additional players who accumulated a certain level of results through the first four.

There was a bit of buzz about these events after the first two weeks as the first week's tournament had about a $30,000 overlay, and the second week's tournament had an overlay over $60,000.  Perhaps that buzz (plus the fact that the WSOP Circuit was in town the third weekend) led to a much better turnout for the third tournament (the one I played) and no overlay.  While I couldn't find a report with the exact numbers for the fourth week, a Station Casinos Blog reported that the fourth week involved there "biggest field" of the four guaranteed tournaments so there would have been no overlay that week either.

I satellited in to the third week's tournament which took place at Sunset Station, and did a video about the series.  There were several interesting hands from the main tournament, but including my description of the hands in the video would have made the video waaaaay too long (tl;dw?) , so the hand discussion got trimemd out of the video, but I wil include it below the video:

So, I suppose the best place to start is the hand referenced at the end of the video where I sucked out huuuge, and I'll say up front that I really butchered this hand.  I'd like to think it was an example of "audentes fortuna juvat", but in reality I know that it was really an example of fortune favoring the foolish.  Here's the hand:

We're at level 2 which in this case was 200-400.  My stack is right around the starting stack of 20,000 and both the Villains in the hand have me covered.  I am on the button, V1 is in middle position and V2 is in the small blind.  V1 has been very active before the flop and after.  On the first or second hand of the tournament he raised preflop and fired on the flop turn and river and could not beat third pair when he was called.  That play cost V1 half his stack, but he had ground it back up by continuing the aggression.  V2 had seemed a bit spewy putting a lot of chips in in marginal spots, but he had improved in a couple of those spots to build up a good stack.

The hand in question V1 raised from MP to 1000.  I had seen enough to know that was a wide range from him and wanted to play pots with him while in position.  I flat called from the button with 89os V2 flat called from the small blind, the big blind folded.  Pot is 3400.

I'm happy to see a flop of 8 9 10, rainbow but know that given that board winning a big pot with bottom two is unlikely.  My plan is to play the flop strong hoping to take the hand down on the flop.  V1 cooperates with a lead in the neighborhood of 1600.  I raised on the button to 4000.  Then V2 puts a kink in my plans by checkraising another 6000.  V1 thinks for a bit, mutters and folds (I think he may actually have had a strong preflop hand there) and the action is on me.

Obviously the thought occurred to me that V had flopped a straight with either 67 or QJ, but I really felt that a flopped straight on a rainbow board would have slowed things down a bit more.  It read like his plan was to end the hand right there and that made me think I might have some fold equity, so after thinking through things a bit I announced I was all-in. V2 quickly called.

This hand really points out the relative strength aspect of poker.  Yes I had flopped two pair which is a strong flop to hit, but on that board, given that action, bottom two pair is not very strong compared to other hands that will play hard.  Sets, better two pair hands and flopped straights are certainly all in V2's range here.  Really, the only thing my bottom two can beat is total air or a pair/straight draw combo like 78, J10, Q10 or 68, and even those hands have decent equity against my hand (about 35%).  Given the pot size expecting to fold hands like that is ridiculous as V2 was getting better than 3-1 on a call that wouldn't eliminate him if he lost.

Anyway, it turned out he had top two leaving me with two outs, one of which I spiked on the river.  Wow.

I took a few hands and refocused myself, realizing that I had gotten lucky and vowing to play much better from there on out.  I did just that and really was starting to pick spots and make plays based on factors besides just the cards I had in front of me.  Probably my proudest moment of the day was a hand I played against V1 from the above hand.  Recall that he was definitely playing a LAG style, but tough LAG, not maniacal LAG.

He raised from MP again, and I was on the button, again.  I called his raise w/KQ.  I had chipped up more from my lucky double up above and had decided I had enough capital to make a point with him and therefore called two barrels on the flop and the turn before he finally gave up on the river.  He looked up after I checked the river and announced "9 high" and I rolled over the King high hand for the win.  Some people might call that spewy, but I knew that there was a decent chance that K high was good on his flop and river bets and I wanted to make the point that I wasn't going to be run over.

The last hand that merits discussion was indeed my last hand.  It was instructive, because it had a good lesson about needing to evaluate all parts of V's range in a tougher field.  Unfortunately, I do not remember exact stack sizes on this hand, but I can tell you the three people in the hand were all over 75 bb deep.

I had moved to a new table that again included several good players.  A good loose player raised from MP for about 2.5 bb.  Another player who hadn't been as active, but still seemed like they could make moves three bet from the cutoff to about 5bb.  I was in the SB with AKos.  I knew that was way ahead of the initial raiser's range.  I also suspected that the C/O was on a wide enough range that AK was way ahead there as well.  I wanted to try and take the pot down right there and put in a four bet to 11bb.  The initial raiser tanked for a moment and then folded.  The cutoff instantly min five bet me.

I'll admit that at this point I went into a bit of a vapor lock.  In talking to someone later when they asked me why I allowed as how I didn't think I had ever been five bet before.  In hindsight, I realize now that once the five bet goes in I'm basically being told that I'm playing for stacks, and so it really is a shove or fold situation.  I however, did what people do when they vapor lock and just called.  So now I'm in a huge pot, out of position with AKos.

The flop came 944 with two clubs.  I thought that was a good flop and initially planned on a checkraise all in to what I was sure would be a c-bet.  Unfortunately, the V checked behind.  I decided at that point that I am probably good and the best bet is to shove the turn unless for some reason the card is really scary.  The 2 of spades hit the turn and I thought that was about as bricky as I was going to get, so I shoved.  V went into the tank for a looong time.  At this point, I feel like she is tring to decide whether to call with something like TT or JJ.  Although she had me covered, it was a big call and would cripple her if she lost.  She finally made the call and rolled over 2c3c.  I needed an A, K or a 9 (I had the Ac and the 9 of clubs was on the board), but used up all of my rungood on the earlier suckout and couldn't hit a winner.  I walked off admittedly with my head spinning a bit.

In thinking about the hand later, I realized that my mistake was not appreciating how wide my opponent's range was.  I appreciated that it was wide enough that folding AK there would be bad at least in terms of that individual hand (an argument could be made that given my stack size, there was no need to play for stacks at that point in the tournament) and if V's range was wide enough that folding was bad, then I had enough equity that I could shove profitably there.  I should have pulled the trigger, and if I had, I wouldn't have busted on that hand, I just can't see V calling off basically her whole stack with that hand.

The lesson I learned is that in a tough field like that you have to recognize that a hand like AK is a premium hand and can profitably be played strongly.  Sometimes you're going to run into aces and that's going to but far more often, a shove in that spot nets me more than 20 bb and puts me in very good shape to keep accumulating chips.

So all in all, it was a really good experience to get in and play against some tougher competition.  I look forward to more of that over the summer!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Busted pretty early from a recent tournament, but had a bit of an epiphany as I was walking out.  There wasn't that disappointed, irritated feeling that typically accompanies a bustout.  Had I achieved tiltlessness?  Watch for yourselves:

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Slowrolling Rant - Plus Seiborg!

While playing a recent tournament I encountered what I think is a pretty clear slowroll, and I speak my mind about it in this video; then, to lighten the mood a bit I talk about a song/YouTube video that every poker player should check out:

I had intended to embed the Seiborg video here as well, and missed it the first go round, so I'm editing the post to add in the Seiborg video, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Loose Button

You hear it all the time in poker, position is critical.  Well, recently I decided to put that to the test in a tournament.  I walked in with the plan that, during the early levels, I would play every hand on the button provided there had been no more than one raise.  Here's how it went:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Not Nice Nines

One of the little idiosyncrasies of poker is that it offers up all sorts of apparent patterns to tantalize you.  You know what I mean - the people who observe things like "fours are hitting the board a lot today" or "I've gotten J4os three times this orbit, I must be meant to play that hand."  Now of course thoughts like this are just examples of the Gambler's Fallacy and if you actually choose to make strategic decisions based on these "patterns" well, please let me know where you are playing.  However, if you understand the true nature of these apparent patterns, then they can be a source of entertainment.  I remember one day many years ago playing in a $4-$8 LHE game someone won a hand with Q6.  Then a few hands later, someone again won with Q6 and of course, it became the running joke at the table that Q6 was the nuts.  It even got to the point where in one hand I bet and someone raised.  I folded with the observation that I couldn't beat Q6.  After my cards hit the muck my opponent (who was typically very solid preflop) flipped over Q6.  That was a good laugh for everyone at the table, and to this day whenever I squeeze cards and see Q6 I get a little chuckle.

Of course, sometimes it's not the same hand over and over that helps you, sometimes in a session a certain hand becomes your nemesis, one that you just can't beat.  This video is the story of one such session for me ...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Going Deep @ the DSE

If you follow my Twitter feed then you know that last weekend I final tabled one of the $340 tournaments at the most recent Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza series.  I had my trusty Flip Mino along and was able to do brief updates during all of the breaks.  So here it is, the story of my run at the Venetian:

I really enjoyed playing this tournament and I learned a lot while doing so.  I was definitely very happy with my day 1 play.  Looking back I realize that my final table play needed some improvement.  There were spots where I should have pulled the trigger on getting money in and I didn't, but I will gladly take that as a lesson for next time.

After my experience at the Venetian and compared to last year's play at one of the $1,000 WSOP events, I have definitely decided that the Venetian will be my focus for tournament series play this summer.  I'm sure that I'll play at least one of the dailies at the Rio, and of course, I won't stay away from the Aria daily, but in terms of major series, I think the Venetian is the place I can find the best value this summer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Perfect Game

I talked before on other videos about working to get "in the zone" while playing.  One thing that I haven't really discussed is the ability to get in and out of the zone at will when needed.  I think having that high level of concentration can be pretty taxing and, if you're going to do so in a tournament or cash session that lasts more than a few hours, I think you need to be able to get in and out of that state.

This video talks about that phenomenon and, seeing as it's springtime now, appropriately references a baseball movie.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Steely Dan Warned Us ... Black Friday Has Come

Here are my mandatory poker vlogger thoughts on Black Friday:

As noted in the video, there is a ton of other commentary out there addressing aspects of this situation.  Here are some good blog links to check out for some interesting thoughts on the subject:

For good insight into the legal nuts and bolts behind the issue check out the Black Widow of Poker's Blog.

Grange95's crAAKKer blog has several pre Black Friday posts that also look into the legal issues of online poker as well as commentary on the issue since the indictments came down.

For lots of discussion of all aspects of "Black Friday" see Bill Rini's Poker Blog.

And, as always, I think the Poker Grump has something worth reading on the subject.  As a side note, I'd just say that the Grump was really the first poker blog I regularly read, and it's true, you always remember your first.

For some views on how this situation is impacting people who were serious online players check the pros blogs over at (no subscription is required to see the blogs).

For some thoughts on how to deal with the situation see the posts from a couple of mental game coaches: Jared Tendler's post is excellent as is the post from pokerpsyche over at the pokergob site.

I'm sure there are more that could be posted in here, but that's what I've got for now.  If there are other links you think should be spread please feel free to leave a comment on those.

I titled the post harking back to a Steely Dan song (dating myself) and I'll end with a slightly more contemporary reference to R.E.M.: while this definitely signals the end of the online poker world as we know it (at least in the U.S.) it's not game over.  Poker's been around a long time and people's desire to play isn't going anywhere.  Poker will endure.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Team Poker

Santa Fe recently held a team poker event that I played in along with a couple of other VPN members.  Some thoughts on this different format for tournament poker:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Calling Stations

A friend of mine was talking to me about playing poker the other day and one thing he asked me about was whether it was hard to focus on all the different people at the table at once.  I explained that one way to deal with that situation is to start with classifying people into different categories of players which gives you a general understanding of the way they might be playing.

Of course everyone is familiar with many different styles of play, but one thing that I think is really helpful in making the best use of that knowledge is to try and understand the why behind people's decisions to play a certain style.  This video looks at what is going on inside the head of a particular style of player - the calling station:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tunnel Vision

One thing you hear poker players talking about quite a bit is how a player needs to have a plan for hands that they will be playing.  I don't disagree at all with the notion that you need to have a plan for how you're going to play out a hand, but there is definitely a risk in getting too locked in to ones plan and ignoring additional information that comes to light ...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Worlds Colliding

I think it's fairly common knowledge at least on the forums I participate in that I am a lawyer in my day job.  One of the thing that has always struck me a bit about poker is that there seems to be a pretty good overlap between people in the legal field and poker players.  I had an experience this week that caused me to think about what is behind that overlap:

By the way, be sure to watch to the end for a special look behind the scenes of shooting these videos!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Butterfly Effect

One of the cool things about poker is how over the course of a game different events flow and combine together to lead to future events transpiring.  It's a reminder of the limited number of things we can control when we're playing.  This video gives one example:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Embracing Variance

The other day I posted about this hand in the VPN strategy forums.  I was kind of up in the air about whether the hand merited a post as it seemed like a pretty clear decision to me after thinking through the situation at the table.  So I was wondering why it was that I decided to post the hand.  Eventually I decided that the hand had some broader implications which led to the notes forming the basis of what I’ve written here.

I had kind of a troubled feeling as I was thinking through my move.  Not that I was trying to decide what the best play was, I think I knew that pretty quick.  What it was though was a sense that even though I knew what I was going to do, that this was not going to end well.  And I think what that sense was at some level was an understanding that a lot of the value of my play came from making it against players who were probably more aware of things than these people likely were.

It should have just taken down the pot right there.  The first “villain” obviously had the concept of playing aggressively pre-flop, but should also understand that he has to tighten up when calling a shove.  As wide as he was opening, I should fold out a huge part of his range.

The second villain was almost 20bb deep and should need a monster to call off that much, and odds were that if she had a monster she would have just re-raised herself.

Now even though those are a lot of the benefits of shoving in my spot, and those benefits work best against more aware players, I am not saying the shove is –EV against less aware players.  I’m pretty confident that when you factor in the fold equity and the equity 88 has against the calling ranges a shove is +EV. When you factor in the bounties, the extra utility from having a much bigger stack the times I win and the fact that I’m still in decent shape if I’m called and lose I’m sure that shoving here is far and away the most profitable play.

Now against less aware players (particularly the ones who won’t fold as much as they probably should) while I’m sure the play is +EV it is definitely higher variance.  You’ll get called by a lot more hands that you’re ahead of, but flipping with, against those kind of players, and the odd J10 or KQ hand will end up costing you a big pot.

I think it’s helpful to understand the nature of what was going on in this hand on a couple of levels.  First, I think it’s sort of illustrative of the difference between “play bad” and “run bad”.  If we accept for the sake of discussion that +EV play equals “good play”, then as I said above, I know that shoving all in was the most +EV play.  Therefore, I played good.  Now I (marginally) ran bad because although I got all the money in slightly ahead, I ended up losing the hand.

The other thing that is helpful to me is to understand how and why, in these particular dynamics, the play was higher variance then it could have been otherwise.  I think that understanding, coupled with the confidence that the play is +EV makes it easier to embrace the nature of the variance and really easier to make the play without worrying about whether you’re just going to end up on the wrong side of variance this go-round.  If you can, in fact, just give variance a big ol’ hug and look for those spots that, while marginal, are still +EV you’ll be able to press those thin edges more.

That’s one of the things the best players do, they can press those razor thin edges, over and over and know how to walk the line between extracting value from those edges and taking unwarranted risks.  They are also able to acknowledge when that effort to extract value goes awry that sometimes it is just due to the fact that the play is supposed to achieve an adverse result a certain amount of the time.

So,  I think what I really learned from this hand was how to feel comfortable making a +EV move, even though there was that little voice in my head saying, “you know there’s a good chance this will not end well.”  It was a risk, but a worthwhile risk, and the next time I’m in the same situation, I’ll pull the trigger again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Enjoying Adversity

It's amazing the things you can find on the Internet.  I recently got pointed to an interview on YouTube with a guy named Josh Waitzkin.  If you don't know that name, well, I explain it in the video, but suffice it to say that Josh has a pretty big brain and he knows how to use it.  I'm going to embed the YouTube video with Josh's interview in this post below my video, and I'd highly recommend watching it, he's a very interesting person.

And as promised, here's the interview with Josh:

So the next time you find yourself in a playing situation where you feel like complaining about the conditions ask yourself, "If I complain about the conditions am I missing out on a chance to extract an edge over my opponents?"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Paying Off Bad Play

Well, anyone who has logged significant time playing will start to see lots of "bad" plays.  I saw one in a recent deep stacked tournament where someone open shoved 200 big blinds under the gun.  Now true, they successfully picked up the blinds (I was in the big blind), but I think anyone who really thinks about poker would not call that a good play.  What if someone had called though?  That bad play would likely have been rewarded(the open shover had KK).

In this video then, I talk about taking steps to hopefully avoid rewarding such bad plays:

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Pain is The Reward

One of the eminently frustrating things about poker is the lack of correlation between action and result.  When playing golf, if I aim and swing correctly I will strike the ball well and be rewarded with a good shot.  Correct actions receive positive reinforcement, and that is a system which operates in harmony with our brains.

When playing poker however, correct plays do not necessarily correlate with pleasing results.  In fact, correct plays regularly lead to bad short term results.  As a result, poker can cause a dissonance in our brains which we must overcome to operate in this system.

So recently I had an experience that may provide that positive reinforcement that our brains crave ...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

You Don't Know Jacks

One of the things we have to confront all the time as poker players is making decisions based on incomplete information.  That can be a difficult situation because it's a pretty common desire to gather all pertinent information before making a decision.  So how do we deal with this tension between not knowing and having to make a decision:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pluggin' a Leak

In my last video I talked about wanting to seriously work on improving my game.  In some of my studies so far I identified a leak and so when I went out yesterday it was with a conscious focus on correcting that leak.  Here's what happened:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

HPT Report

Here's a video talking about my experience at the 2011 Heartland Poker Tour stop in Las Vegas:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why Tournaments?

Someone asked me a while back why I play tournaments, and I thought the answer made a good subject for a video.  Here you go: