Monday, March 31, 2008

No Biloxi Blues

I've been down in Biloxi since Friday, coming to the Gulf Coast to do some work for Rounder at the end of the Spring Break Poker Classic at the Beau and the beginning of the IP Poker Classic at the IP. It's been an enjoyable trip so far. I'd never spent any significant time here at the Beau Rivage. It really is a very nice casino. Glyn Banks, a good poker player from Tennessee, called it a "mini-Bellagio, only instead of a desert view you get an ocean view." So true.

I've played very little poker here, and it was intentionally as I mostly came to work. On Friday night, Evert and I headed down to the Hard Rock, which is right beside the Beau. It was about to open when Katrina hit and they repaired it quickly (unlike some casinos it was not completely destroyed). The Hard Rock is also impressive, with a high wall of memorabilia as soon as you walk through the front doors. We played some $1-$2 NL. I lost $25 over three hours after getting up about $140 quickly. I never seem to be able to hold on to chips lately...

Just did a lot of hanging out Saturday, getting some flavor from the start of the $2,100 main event, and drinking some beers at the Eight75 club during a Rounder meet and greet. Did play some $10-$20 Omaha Hi Lo w/ a half kill and won $165.

Today I spent most of the day working on the quick 400-500 word report on this tournament that they'll slap in the mag tomorrow just before sending it to press. I also worked on the Rounder Recap, a daily report we will do each day at the IP sort of likes the ones at the WSOP, though not quite so comprehensive.

Tim Hebert of Lafayette, La., won the main event for a $106,000 score. I actually ran down to interview him during the blogger tournament tonight right before the second break. I ran back up and got back just after the third hour started. Good thing I squeezed the tournament in as I made the points by finishing 11th. It appears I have FINALLY moved into first for the month as I see the minimum anyone has gotten in any event for pointing is 40. That means I should have at least a 15 point lead over twoblackaces going into the final event Monday night. Now, can I hold on? If he points in the last event and I don't the $2,000 package will be his. Some others like Lucko and TiltAway are still in it if they can win Monday. Should be a good finish.

Tomorrow and Tuesday I'll actually play some poker in town as I should finally have significant free time. I plan to drive down to Gulfport and back just to see how Biloxi looks these days during its still long recovery.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hump Day Report

My wife reminded me last night that yesterday was our seven-month anniversary. Apparently, I am supposed to remember every time that the 25th rolls around that was have our monthly anniversaries.

"You don't have to get me a present every month," she said, "just every other month."

These blogger tournaments are driving me insane. I pointed the Razz event last night (heck, even made the money this time), finishing in 10th. Of course, twoblackaces made the points yet again, going out just behind me in 13th. At least I made up some ground on him when it looked early on that he might just clinch the monthly leaderboard last night as a top chip stack midway through the tournament. With three events left I figure to be about 100 behind him so there is work to do.

Our poker player profile lineup this month in Rounder is not as thrilling as the James Woods/Freddy Deeb combo of March. For the April issue I interviewed Allen Kessler, Brandon Cantu and Young Phan. We did get Cantu right after his Bay 101 win so that's a timely interview for us.

I'm now mapping out my articles for the next two issues. Other than trying to finish an article I have been working on about husbands and wives who both play tournament poker, I'm not sure what I'll do for May. I think June is going to be our big World Series of Poker preview issue, which I think will be fantastic. I've already interviewed Jerry Yang for it and hope to get Lee Childs. Last November when I was at Coushatta I interviewed Dimitri Nobles, but he was such a fleeting face I'm not sure if he is worthy of major coverage (though he is very nice).

For feature articles, I already have two in the can. The first is a look at old WSOP events that no longer exist and the likelihood they will ever be brought back. They range from the likely (Ace to Five Draw Lowball) to the possibly (Chinese Poker) to the very, very, very unlikely (Five Card Stud). That was a fun one I wrote last year while at the WSOP, saving it for the future. The second article is one I wrote three(!) years ago that Bluff had no interest in. It's a look at The Andy Bloch Project, in which tournament reporter Tom Sims got Andy to let him stand behind him and record his cards during the main event of the 1998 WSOP. Sims in a sense was a precursor to hole card cameras. I also plan a guide to Vegas during the WSOP (some of which you will get on here dear readers). Hopefully, we can also do the monthly Q & A with WSOP tournament director Jack Eiffel.

I will be heading down to Biloxi this weekend to do some work for Rounder. The Beau Rivage is currently hosting the Spring Break Poker Classic and the IP will host their own Poker Classic next week for two weeks. We're doing some daily tournament reports for them similar to what you see at the WSOP so I am putting those together next Monday-Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Back from Orlando

Amy was off for spring break last week so we took a little vacation down to Orlando, hitting the Universal parks since we both have done the Disney thing before. The Hulk and Dueling Dragon coasters are excellent. We also took a side trip over to Kennedy Space Center. It's interesting though not too enthralling. It's work a look if you have an extra day in Orlando or are a space junkie (as I used to be and sort of still am).

I missed the Monday blogger tournament, but caught the other three last week. It's been a mixed bag. Including last night's 15th-place finish, I've made the points in four straight events (and eight of the last nine after bombing the first four) but I'm not making up much ground. Four tournaments in a row I've either taken bad beats late or have gotten cold decked. I haven't made the money in any of those four so I'm not finishing high enough to get the big points. Knocking off 40 or 50 points at a time will not win the monthly prize and twoblackaces is still ahead of me by 130-140 points. I think I will be in second after the results from last night are tallied, moving me slightly ahead of lucko, with corron breathing down our necks after his win last night (his second in the series!) It should be an interesting finish...

Sometime in the next couple of weeks I'm going to take the time as I did in 2006 to put together a guide to WSOP online satellites. I'll also slap together a guide to Vegas during the WSOP, so if you've never been before maybe I can be of some service to you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

In the penalty box

OK, this is a bit embarassing, but since I'm open about most things I will reveal that due to some overly emotional outings on Full Tilt Poker in which I got into it with other players and used some not so nice words online I have had my chat banned for a month.

To be honest, I think they are doing me a favor. When I struggle at poker, as I have done this week, I release a lot of negative energy through the words I type into the chat box. I don't really tilt any more. I have gotten that under control, at least, but I do jaw back and forth with people sometimes, and it probably gotten out of control during this past week.

So if any of your fellow BBT players are reading this, now you know why I haven't uttered a peep recently, and will not utter a peep until mid to late April.

Last night, I narry had a chance to say a word anyway as I went out on the first hand with jacks against aces. I still haven't figured out why I went all in. I KNEW he had me beat. I blame "Lost" for distracting me. Damn that 8 p.m. CST start time on Thursday nights! So after four tournaments in a row of finishing in the points I finished dead last on attempt number five. Lucko made top 15 and will probably jump ahead of me into third, but at least twoblackaces and columbo also missed the points (in fact, twoblackaces finished just ahead of me in 90th place.)

In light of my chat being banned, here is an interesting encounter that took place the day before my chat was taken away. This was a $3/$6 Omaha Hi-Lo game and Oklajohnny had just put a beat on PrimNProper (a oh so not fitting name):

PrimNProper: nice chase johhny
PrimNProper: clown
Oklajohnny: yes I have too much fun sometimes
Oklajohnny: chasing cards
PrimNProper: cause ur a fish and don't knoe when ur beat
Oklajohnny: yes, but I try to stay happy
Oklajohnny: my wife is still working
TuscaloosaJohn: that's gpod
PrimNProper: but ur still a DOUCHEBAG
TuscaloosaJohn: no prim, that would make YOU the douchebag

Probably me butting in with comments like this in other people's conversations didn't help with the whole chat ban thing...

Oklajohnny: Is that a German company?
Oklajohnny: My mother would not let me talk to bad boys
TuscaloosaJohn: she is wise
Oklajohnny: I am over 80 and she has been gone for a long time now
Oklajohnny: but I still remember what she told me about bad boys
TuscaloosaJohn: this isn't Johnny Hale, is it?

Turns out it was. So you've got some young internet punk calling 80-year-old Johnny Hale a "douchebag", "fish" and "clown" for hitting a card on him in a game of $3/$6. Does this indicate how sick internet poker is or what?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Operation Luckbox continues

I came within a hand or two last night of winning back to back BBT tournaments when I finished second in the 6-Max NLHE event last night. When we got to the final table I was last in chips but managed to catch my luckbox run of hands and build a stack. I got headsup with Lucko and it was a good battle. I tried to play small pot poker at first and it was working fine when I built a 2 to 1 chip lead, but then Lucko made some great plays.

Here's one:

Blinds are 1,200/2,400 and I limp on the button with A-2. He makes it 7,200 and I call. Flop is J-3-2 and he bets out (maybe 11K, 12K?) and I call. Turn is a middling card and he checks. I bet 20K or so and he check raises all in.

A couple of good trapping plays like this and Lucko built himself a 2 to 1 lead. On the last hand I called a raise with Js-7s and after a 10 high flop with two spades I checkraised all in. Lucko held K-T and I had the 12 outs I wanted, but he hit a king on the turn and I missed my then 9 outer on the river. A quick perusal of Lucko's blog shows he's quite the player so I certainly don't feel bad about the loss.

On the positive side, the high finish moved me up to 3rd in the standings. It's going to be tough to pull ahead of twoblackaces (who ALWAYS finishes in the top 25%...ok, not always, only 5 of 6!), but it will certainly be fun to try.

Until next time...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Vegas fever

I don't remember what kickstarted the conversation, but Amy and I have been talking Vegas a lot lately. Having been to every WSOP since 2004, obviously I hope to return in 2008. If things work out, I may get a free room via Rounder. If nothing else there's Ted and Binion's, which is always a good money saver. Now that Amy works for the University of Alabama, she will get off on both July 4th and her birthday, which is July 8. This works out fantastically for us since the 4th is on a Friday. If we can just get her off on Monday, July 7 she can come to Vegas for several days. She's always wanted to see the Big Ditch, so hopefully this year we will have time to go.

I'm really jazzed for Vegas this year, more so than last. I can't really explain it. Maybe it's because I've been running hot at the poker tables. Maybe it's because I get claustrophobic spending way too much time in my own house. Maybe it's due to Amy's improved work schedule that will allow us more time to tour. And maybe it's thanks to the unbelievable tournament selection taking place this summer in Vegas. Probably it's a little bit of all of these things.

Regarding tournaments, in addition to the WSOP, you have the return of the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza and the Binion's Poker Classic. You've also got the new Grand Poker Series at the Golden Nugget in the casino's new entertainment center. I imagine the Orleans Open and Bellagio Cup will return, but I haven't heard much about them. (For a low roller like me, the Cup is a little pricy...and the competition usually tougher, and the Orleans tournament usually doesn't start until the WSOP is about to wrap up, making them harder to play when you are trying to cover the WSOP as a writer.)

I would rather cover the main event as a player this year. For the four of you who read my blog, you will certainly recall my run in the 2006 main event (much too short, much too short). Last year, my bankroll was paltry and I didn't even try that hard to win my seat. Heck, I didn't play a single WSOP event for the first time ever. Online I played a handful of satellites on Poker Share, but had no success. I made one final where they gave away one seat, but I didn't come close to the win.

This year, however, I'm trying hard for a main event seat. I've been playing on Full Tilt a lot and should earn enough points this week to play in their freeroll on Sunday in which three seats are awarded. In addition, I'm trying to play all the blogger tournaments I can in the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments Third Edition. The first four this week I didn't finish high enough to earn any points, but I won the Pot Limit Omaha tournament last night, which earns me valuable points toward the March leaderboard (first gets a $2,000 WSOP prize package...probably just $2,000 cash since they can't buy you in anymore) and gets me a seat in the all important Tournament of Champions in June where 50-60 starters will battle for two main event seats and two more of the $2,000 prize packs.

The win last night reminded me a lot of my first big tournament casino win at Binion's in 2005. It wasn't huge (about $3,300 as I recall) but it was important to me since it turned a losing trip into a winning one right before I was to go home. Last night and that night were similar in that heading into the money I was a relative short stack and then when we got down to 6-7-8 players I just caught an amazing run of hands. In both cases I was busting out a player nearly every hand, just rat-a-tat-tat. This proves nothing of my skill, but man after doing so poorly in tournaments lately I'm due to be a luckbox sometime. Last night was the night.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The good and the bad

The past couple of weeks of my life has had a couple of majors highs and lows. First, the bad news: my 55-year-old aunt died two Sundays ago. It was shocking for us because Vickie was always very healthy. She had caught some super straing of pneumonia a few weeks earlier and had been hospitalized since then. The sickness finally shut her body down and she passed away.

Vickie was an absolutely wonderful woman and her death impacted me more than I realized it would. I felt so bad for my cousin Shannon, who is my age, and her older son; Nic, the younger son, and Delone, her husband and my mother's brother. Every time at the funeral home or cemetery he would try to shake my hand I would reach up and give him a hug. I couldn't imagine losing the woman I'd been married to for nearly 36 years, practically Delone's entire adult life. What's it like to go home to an empty house after you bury your wife? I shudder at the thought, and so hugged him every chance I got. Like Vickie, Delone is such a nice person.

Vickie went above and beyond to help decorate our wedding, making all of the corsages and boutinerres, ordering the ferns, and decorating the reception area. It was a debt I could never repay, but I thanked her as much as I could and can only hope she knew what that meant to me.

Rest in peace, Vickie. We know you are in a better place.

The good news is that Amy and I recently celebrated our six month anniversary, with many, many good months ahead. The former Ms. Harper is truly the light of my life. I often think back to my lonely days before meeting her, specifically there is one image I can't erase from my head. It was the summer of 2005 and I was alone in Vegas. This is before I had met any bloggers or poker writers or guys like Stephen Ladowski. I would soon meet Ted, but not at that point. No, I was completely alone in Vegas and sitting at a video poker machine at the Plaza. And as I played the machine, a quarter at a time, I watched a happy young couple at the craps table. They appeared to be winning as they were all smiles, but you could also tell they very much enjoyed each other's company. I'm not sure I ever felt more alone, just as now I've never been happier.

Here's to you, Amy, for making me so happy!