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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vegas after a week.....finally a sliver of positive.

I always find out how many people read this blog after I go 4 or 5 days without making an entry. As has become my custom, I don't really like to blog when I am running bad in poker For a variety of reasons. I kind of hate negativity. And within myself, when things are going bad, I look for ways to tune it out. Its tough sometimes. And the other thing, I have a lot of friends that are having exceptional years...and a few that are having good trips out here. The last thing I want to do is 'contaminate' or 'infect' them with my 'runnin bad-itis' so when they call or text me to join them for 'fun outings' I tend to shy away.

One of those guys, who tried to get me out of my doom and gloom state of mind was Jason Young, a guy I became pretty good buddies with last year, and who I really like a lot. He has been having a pretty lousy year himself, and we have talked about it at length...not just poker-wise, but in life in general. He tried to get me to come out with a bunch of them one night...and I backed out.

"Monk, no matter what you think...its never as bad as you think it is. You can't let this get you down. No matter how bad you think it is, we still have it better than 95% of the human beings on this planet. It will turn around. You can't stop living."

Put a smile on my face for a few minutes. I really find out who my 'good' friends are as this summer progresses. Most of them know the situation I am faced with, with limited choices on what and where I can play. I'm told I am literally mentioned in pre-shift conversations during the WSOP with dealers and floor staff about how things should be managed. I don't know how to feel about that. It's not the kind of 'famous' I've been seeking out in poker, thats for sure...being the poster-boy for 'what not to do' or 'how not to act.' In some regards I feel like a form of cancer that everyone is afraid they are going to catch. Some people who I have been friends with for 3 years or longer havent even called me while I've been out here. And that's fine, I guess. A few of them have been having exceptional years...and I understand why they wouldn't want to be in my company. Plus a lot of them are now running in different 'circles' altogether. You know, poker is a lot like sports were when I was growing up. When you were a starter, and putting up big numbers, and winning games for your school, hell...everyone wanted to hang out with you. Everyone wanted to be like you. Dress like you, act like you. And when you were playing bad, you couldn't find anyone to join you at McDonalds for a Big Mac. And right now, I am kind of playing on the JV...and at times, coming off the bench. This game is pretty damn humbling.

Jason is NOT one of those guys. And so today...as I sit here writing this, I am monitoring his progress in the WSOP Event #11 $1500 tourney...as they are down to 20 players and he is 4th in chips, after starting the day with a flopped set of 6's. My roommate this summer, Don Norman is also not one of those guys. In fact, I have learned a lot about myself, and life this week just hanging out with Don. A guy who owns a roofing business back home in St. Louis, and is faced with all kind of pressures with that...is juggling poker, marriage and business all at the same time. He has cashed two  WSOP events so far...including that same Event #11 yesterday, cashing light before busting. But more importantly, he has been amazing at keeping me upbeat and positive. It would be real easy for him to just avoid me and my 'bad run' on this trip...but he just hasn't. He has been incredibly supportive. He has also tried to get me to come out a few times...and I resisted, until last night.

Last night he went over to play the 7pm at Venetian. I was going to go play the 7pm at Aria...which is my new favorite casino. If you haven't seen this place...you HAVE to go check it out. They spent a LOT of money on this place...and it's obvious. You walk in and are just amazed. They have a great group of dealers over there, as well as very friendly and professional floor people. The tables are large, and the chairs are ridiculously confortable. I love the place. My luck there hasn't been too hot...as I have played two nightly's...made the final table in both, but one was paying 5 spots (55 players), the other was paying 7 (77 players) spots. In the first...I had a decent stack...guy (good player and nice guy) raises, I re-raised all in...he pretty much had to call with QQ....I had AA. I flopped a set of aces...with two diamonds. He went runner runner flush to knock me out. I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do. I shoook his hand and wished him and everyone else luck and went back to my hotel and moped. :) 

Then in the next night...we got down to 10...and I had 88. This guy, who was very bizarre looking...googley eyes, big poofy hair...and just strange, impossible to make reads against....he min raises me from 8000, to 16000. I call, as he has been doing that a lot. The flop came Q-Q-J. He leads out 5k. Five K? Into like a 38,000 pot? I immediately put him on AK. I shove all in for a total of 22,000. He guffahs....okay, good I'm right....and calls anyway...turns over......AK. Two guys at the table comment..."Wow, nice play Monkey."  Thanks? As the dealer goes 9 on the turn, 9 on the river. Oh wow. I just felt like all the air had been squeezed out of me. I was pretty deflated. The guy says...."Sorry." Yeah...okay. Fine. Same "good luck everyone" and I was off to the valet, feeling discouraged and wondering when this stupid trip would ever turn around.

So back to Don. He calls me after busting out of the Venetian nightly. I was playing cash game at our hotel...the fabulous  I.P., which I continue to be perfectly fine with...didn't know they had a poker room til the other day. So I was sitting there playing 1/2...and making a modest profit...and was going to go play at Aria...but then 7pm kind of snuck up on me and went right on by. About 8pm, they start announcing that their tourney is about to start. Huh? Tourney?

Oh yeah...they have a...hold onto your hat, a $40 tourney with a $10 rebuy and a $10 add on. Yes, this is what I have devolved to!  (go ahead with your clowning, Mr. Prescott ) But more than anything, I was just looking for something fun...and something to maybe turn my trip around. Trust me, it wasn't anything I was looking to win and add to my resume! The players were horrible, and easy to figure out...and quite good at giving away their chips. After getting a bunch of chips, a guy with AA limped for 600. I had 55 and just flatted, with about 25k in my stack. 5 other callers. Flop came 5-6-10. Original limper with AA bets out 2700, or half his stack. I smooth call. All others fold. Turn was a Q. He goes all in. I call. He slaps over his cards to show me what he thought was the winner. He saw my 555 and groused about his bad luck when he rivered an ace. My emotions never changed, not one stitch. He started crowing...and I never changed expression, just said, "Hey, good hand man." I almost think he WANTED me to freak out. Nope, sorry....not going there. No reason, I still have almost 20k.

I then went on a tear. I was never all in until the final hand. Pretty much won every raise. It was one of the easiest tourneys Ive ever played. I got heads up with a guy with about a 4 to 1 advantage, and figured I would win going away...but then the blinds went from 5k/10k to 15k/30k! Yeah! Nice increase eh? And it became a pot committed shove fest every hand...and I lost back to back coinflips when I was 60/40 in both...and I lost. How much did I win? I'm almost embarrassed to tell you....$357! But it wasn't about the money. It was about the feeling of getting there.

Speaking of 'getting there' I talked Don into coming over to play, only he went to the wrong casino! He went to Aria! In a cab! He misunderstood me. And I felt terrible, as he is up to about $300 on cab rides on this trip. But I paid his buy in with rebuy and add-on at the break...so by the time he got there, it was 500/1000 and he had like 5500 chips, so he had a slight chance to do something. Granted, the original 34 players were now down to 15...so he'd almost made the final table by not playing a hand! He got knocked out about 13th. Sucked. But you know what? He stuck around and supported me in this stupid little donkfest, and that was pretty cool.

So I figured I owed it to him to step out and do something social. We went to this little outdoor bar with live band that sits between Harrah's and I.P. It was pretty boring. Then I asked him what he thinks about Piano Bars with dueling pianos. He'd never done it. Well, Squirrel and I have had two of our most memorable nights at dueling piano bars...so I talked him into going to this Piano Bar in the lobby of Harrah's. It was really fun. We sat up on the front row and were called out by the singers, who did an impromptu serenade of us. It was really a great time. There were a bunch of Scottish guys in there, who really livened up the place with their boisterous singing and dancing. I really needed a night like that. It had been a week of complete misery, and a fun night out away from poker was just what the doctor ordered.

[ Jason is now 3rd in chips...with Tom "Durr" Dwan still the chipleader with 1.5m. But Jason now has 1m and is solidly in 3rd, with 18 players left. How great would THAT be if they got heads up!???]

After I left the Piano Bar, I got the itch to play a little 1/2, so I walked over to O'sheas to see what I could pull off. I bought in with $200. In about 2 hours I was up to $1300. I was on fire. Hitting every draw. Getting sets to hold. Getting guys to pay me off. It was awesome. Wow! Was this trip finally turning around? Then it starts. Holding 10h7h and calling a small raise, I flop 10s9h8h...wow! Top pair, open ended, FLUSH draw...nice! I check raise the guy. He shoves. I call the $190. He turns over JJ...with the Jack of hearts. Well there is two of my outs for the straight. Damn. I catch the 6 of hearts on the turn for both a straight and a flush....nice! Damn HEART on the river screws me.  [as I look at this, I realize that would have been a straight flush. So what the hell was it? I definitely hit a flush AND a straight there...but now Im baffled as to the flop? Whatever...you get the idea I think]

Then I lose another big pot when my top pair (A-10...ten on flop) loses to this Brit with 10-7 when he rivers a 7. Uh oh....when I got down to $900....I started getting that "Im about to lose it all" feeling that comes with every good run I have in 1/2 or 2/5. Right about that time a big fight broke out on the sidewalk. A pack of black guys...half them with their 'pants on the ground' started bickering about something...then punches started flying. I started having visions of errant bullets flying my way. Wouldn't that be a great way to end my life and my poker career? Catching a stray bullet playing 1/2 NL at 6am at freaking O'Sheas!???

So at 7am I called it a night. Slept until about noon, then woke up and decided I wasn't in the mood to go grind a noon tourney today. Would sleep in, write a blog, go eat a decent meal...and play somewhere at 7pm. I really like the 7pm at Aria...its just such a nice room, and a great structure, and the players are really easy to beat there. Like, in the 7pm at Venetian...which I am not fond of the structure (7500 chips with 20 minute levels, and aggressive blind structure) the players are indeed horrible, but they are the kind of horrible that you DONT want to play against. Maniacs. These other 'bad players' are bad in a way that they are easy to beat. You always know where they are in the hand. Makes it real easy to set them up for later, bigger bets on the turn and/or river.

Yesterday I decided to go check out the Binion's and Gold Nugget events. I played the $225 Binions event. Well, if you want to call it that. I was late getting there because I was deep in an MTT on Pokerstars. Out of 4,532 players I ended up getting 90th or something in an $11 MTT...I had AA get beat by 10-10, then on the next hand limped with AA against the small blind. Flop A-10-4 with two diamonds. I check. Mr. Aggressive doesnt bet, unlike any other time previously. Turn was a 9d. I bet now. He calls. River is a 6 of diamonds...jeezuz...four diamonds out there...and me without one. I bet again. He calls with the THREE of diamonds. Then two hands later, I get them AGAIN...and again I lose with them...to A3! So as I  was driving up to Binions, I was steaming about that a little bit.

I arrive in level 3, at 100/200. They give you 15,000 chips, so I really didn't miss anything. I am watching these two British guys playing like complete pyschopaths. Hoping I get lucky enough to pick up a big hand against them. I sit and watch/observe the table while getting nothing playable for about 3 orbits...then finally, at UTG+1 I pick up AA. I raise to 450. One of the crazy Brits, who had just lost a huge pot for most of his chips...just SHOVES all in for 5500. It folds around to me. I call. He has A9. The board runs out J-10-8-3-7. Straight. Come on! Think that was bad? On the VERY NEXT hand...and last hand before the break, with half the table folding and leaving...I pick up AA again! I raise, again...to 450. It folds around to the guy in the SB....the other Brit...who just SHOVES on me...he has about 22k.

"Um....I sure hate getting my whole stack in preflop...but I have AA again...so I guess I call."

He has AK. Offsuit. Flop comes 4-6-K....ugh....theres the sweat...always a sweat, right? Turn is a 9. Okay, okay....fade it, fade it....river? FREAKING KING! And like that, I was out! Two hands. Or $112.50 per hand. Not much of value there! I was out in the valet before they had even moved my car to the garage.

I drove over to the Golden Nugget to go check out their set up. First thing I noticed when I walked in was how incredibly nice this place was. They had to have done major renovations to the place...there is no way it looked like this in the 70's. I was really amazed and impressed at the opulence, being located in 'Old Vegas' in the downtown, Fremont Street area. I found the tournament area and was blown away. Huge room, similar to the one the Beau Rivage uses upstairs for their big events...with big high ceilings, nice amount of space between each table like they do at IP in Biloxi  for their event...about 80 tables...and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM was full! Holy cow! That might be a nice event to go check out.

One thing I've had a habit of getting caught up in out here is getting married to one or two properties. For the most part I have just been a RIO/VENETIAN/CEASERS guy...who flip flopped back and forth between those three properties, while ignoring all the other events. Well, I see a really nice opportunity to maybe pick up some easy money against far easier opponents in these other events. And on top of it, they offer nice structures. I'm not sure where these players come from...I mean who ISNT playing at the WSOP? I mean...you all know why I'm not playing there...and YEAH, I really hope that changes next year...because to see all my buddies in the running for bracelets every day and not able to sit there with them...rankles me. But it is what it is...whether it's deserved or not. But back to my original point...who are these other players that are filling up the tables at these downtown casinos? People who just don't like the World Series? Or just people on small budgets?

Well, right now...I'm not going to sugar coat it...I am ONE of those people now. With the small budget. That robbery just crushed me. Oh, incidently, I recieved a text from someone up in Birmingham three days ago, telling me that the lead suspect in our robbery was finally arrested the other day. But when I went to look up his name on Shelby County jail, I didn't see him in their yet. I know his name...but I won't publish it here until I see his ass in jail. And know for sure. But it was still nice to hear. The other little bitch who set me up as their 'advance scout' is still sitting there...rotting away. Here is a little shot of Miss Melissa Rivers...if you want to see the face of a criminal mastermind in sheeps clothing, so to speak! Just click on the link, then find her name and click on that.

So thanks to Miss Rivers, her little bandit pals, and just a bad run of cards this year...I have been relegated to the 2nd tier of tourneys out here. But I am not going to let it get me down. I said last year....and you can look back if you don't believe me, I don't care how GOOD you run for a month or two...how much you win, it only takes a few months of running bad in this game to completely drive you nuts, drain your bank account, and leave you in shambles. My saving grace is that I don't gamble in the casino like a lot of these guys who run bad for long stretches...and I don't go chasing my variance by buying into tourneys I really can't afford. When I run bad, I dialed it down instead...playing smaller events, hoping to work my way back up. I know a lot of you haters out there will giggle to yourselves as you read this, and relish that I am struggling right now. Thats fine. It really is. Doesn't bother me one bit. I've really started to come to a place in my life where I am finding peace in these situations that I have been faced with. The stretches of running bad. The occasional bans that I am faced with for things that I feel may be unfair or unwarranted. I am only in control of certain things. As long as I do everything I can to control THOSE things...I just have to hope that everything will work out in the end. Maybe this is a result of this new medication. I hope so. I know I have noticed an improvement in a lot of areas. I'm not letting a lot of things bother me. I find that I am dwelling on things as long, or as much.

This should help me as I start this 6-week stretch of poker and maintaining mental stability out here. Taking days off I am finding, is very beneficial to my all around state of mind. I used to feel like I couldn't possibly miss a tourney. Now, it doesnt bother me like it used to. At all. And with no noon cashes yet...I am can pretty much give up any chance I have of defending my crown as All Around champion at Venetian. Their fields, by the way, have been huge. And I'm sure...that as players' bankrolls start to dwindle as they fail to cash at the Rio...they will get even bigger as more and more players start dialing it down to $350 and $550 tourneys instead of $1000, $1500 and more over there. I hear that even Ceasers' tourney fields are improved. That's great. I'm happy for everyone who is drawing well. It's great to see that poker isn't suffering with the rest of the economy.

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A special shout out to Gabe Costner...who for awhile looked like he was about to win the $1k event at Rio and about $620k. With three left, he had a good chiplead...but when they came back from break he quickly lost three hands in a row...the last a cooler with AQ against AK and he was out, winning $279k. Claudia flew in that night...and arrived just about the time he was busting out. I hope they were able to go somewhere quiet, alone...and just enjoy the great experience of winning that prize...and talk things out. They have had quite a torturous, tumultous year, both of them. Gabe has been up and down...down almost as far as a guy can get...and to see him get deep and finally make a big score, I couldn't be happier for him. He might be a little crazy with his whole 'Shuffle Master' conspiracy that we all pretty much know about...but he is a good guy, with a good heart...and he really deserves to have a good day like that. Now, I just hope he is smart with his winnings this time. I am hopeful that he will have learned from past mistakes and manage it a little better this time.

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I almost forgot to congratulate Omar Hickary...a good little guy who I have been friends with for, what? About 5 years now? I mainly know Omar from playing cash game...but he started dating Ashley 'Taco' Longoria...a good friend of Squirrel's, about a year ago, and now we are a lot closer. He came out last summer when Squirrel was out...when we got married, and was out with us a few times at Tao. I think that might have been where him and Ashley got to know each other. Well, now they are talking about marriage...and right about the time he was looking into rings, he goes and wins the bad beat jackpot at the Beau Rivage for around 80k! How sweet is that!?? And the first thing he said to Squirrel, was "Monkey's gonna be so pissed!" Ha! Hardly! Just cuz I'm having a shit year doesn't mean I can't be happy for those who aren't. After all, when I was running hot last year...I remember a lot of guy who were running bad that genuinely were happy for me and expressed as much. And it didn't come with a underhanded 'how bout giving me a loan or stake' message attached. Those were the OTHER people...and I hear Omar has been getting lit up by those vultures, too. Thats the downside to winning a lot of money.

I tell you...the people around me that are killing it is just amazing. McLean Karr...wins Bay 101...over a million in winnings this year. Liv Boeree...wins 1.7 million in EPT. Omar knocks out 80k. Gabe wins a quarter mil. Joe Cutler wins 85k at Borgata. Jason Young has a shot at half a mil today. Mike Beasley has won close to a million. This makes me really excited for them. And also makes me realize just how REAL the possibility is for me to make one of these scores some day soon I hope. Then I know me and Squirrel are going to have such a great life. We don't need much to be happy. And I don't need to play this stupid game every day to be happy. There are a lot of things that I would rather be doing, trust me.

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On a very sad note...it was brought to my attention that we lost a dealer recently. And by lost, I mean he passed away. His name was David...they called him McNasty, and I don't think that was his actual last name. He was older, and always wore blue tinted glasses, kind of looking a bit like Elton John. I will be honest, I frequently found myself being annoyed as hell by him when he was in the box...famous for rambling on with his little stories, at times when two players were heads up in big hands...myself included in that scenario. But I know that he was fond of me, and I know that he was probably a pretty good guy. And to think that while dealing at an event...he went to sleep one night, and never woke up. It really makes you think about your own mortality. But more importantly, someone lost a friend...a family member, and an employee...and thats very sad. So to those affected by his loss, I send my condolenses.

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I understand that oil has now reached Pensacola Beach...just two weeks after Squirrel and I spent a weekend there before I came out here. She went over there this weekend to catch up with her best friend and god daughter. It sickens me to think what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico.  I want to hate BP...but I will reserve my judgement, as I want to believe that they are truly committed to doing whatever they have to do to fix the mess. I sure hope so. And I hope they make up the millions lost to the people along the coast who are going to suffer economically. Seeing the wildlife and wetlands in the condition they are just make me sick to my stomach. I feel like Barack Obama, whatever you think of him, is making a pretty concerted effort to stay on top of BP...and to assure the Gulf Coast residents that they will not be forgotten or ignored. For those criticizing him? I'm not sure what more he can possibly do. He has my support on this one, for now.  Now lets just hope we can fade the major hurricanes that will just take all that water affected by oil...and whip it into a blender-like soup that could wreak total devastation on our coast.

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And in closing...I know he will bristle at the attention I am bringing to this, but I can't help it. Because of how I feel about the guy, I just feel like it requires me to mention. Our head guy at Gulf Coast Poker.net, Wild Bill...recently took a trip to the doctor for what I went through...the Kidney Stone nightmare...and while there, might have had something else uncovered by the doctors. Not sure what it is...but it sounded pretty serious. I have been praying for him every day since I found out, and would ask all of you to do the same. He just brought a baby into the world with his wife, and I just hope that his child has a healthy father to raise her in this brutal world for years to come. Stay healthy big guy!

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As I wrap up this blog...they are now down to just 12...wow, lost 6 players in just under 2 hours....and Jason is now 2nd in chips with 1.6 mil compared to Durr's 1.75...which tells me he won a big hand, cuz he was down to 5th with 890k not to long ago. Next payout is $35,000. Go Jason Go!!!!!!


MONKEY

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