A Quick Bust

Current Bankroll: $0 - 600K Play Chips

Took another shot at "The Ferguson" $1 tourney on Full Tilt tonight, but busted out quite quickly. Folded almost every hand for the first half hour until I finally picked up queens in late position. One raiser in front and it folded around to me so naturally I reraised it. It folded back around to the original raiser who raised me up again so I pushed over the top all-in. These are the kind of hands you wait for in these over-aggressive low-buy-in tourneys and I was quite confident I had a big enough advantage to put my tourney life on the line.

I was quite happy to see him flip over 66, but my happiness was short-lived when he completed quads on the flop and I was drawing dead. Out in 1028 of 1637 in just under a half-hour of play.

Oh well, I waited for my chance and then got myself into the perfect situation and it just didn't pay off. But that's poker for you. I'll just have to keep taking a stab at this one and eventually it's bound to pay off.

I've definitely been having some trouble putting in the hours at the play chip tables since coming back so I'm going to have to push myself to grind it out just a bit longer. I certainly can't wait to finally move up in limits though so that I can play some real poker. But I imagine this tournament will have some good poker once it gets down to the money so I just have to get a chance to see that happen.

Started off with some ups and downs as the donks made for some crazy play early on, but I managed to survive it and settle in for some decent poker after about half the field was out and I was back at about my starting stack with the blinds only doubled.

50 minutes into the game sitting at 239 of 572 after I picked up a nice double-up plus some with AKo on the button when a guy in front of me pushed all-in and I got another caller after I came over the top all-in. Don't like this all-in poker, but hopefully now that I'm not sitting at the bottom I can avoid it for a bit.

Took a hit ten minutes later when I thought I caught a guy bluffing in position on a crap flop that was checked to him, but he had the top pair and suddenly I'm down to 404 of 477 and barely over the 10BB threshold going into the break. Looks like I'll need another all-in save to get back into things, but I'll see if I can pull a genuine hand or two before resorting to that.

First hand after break I pick up AQs in the small blind and with the blinds up I'm now below the 10BB threshold. One raise in front and otherwise folded to me so I decide to push all-in. BB folds and raiser flips over JJ which hold up and I'm out in 475th place.

Not sure I played it perfectly and with that big misread in the middle when I was sitting pretty well in chips hurt pretty bad, but it still felt good just to be back at the tables.

Despite the crazy ups and downs of this tournament I have to admit I like the fast play and with the almost 16% cash-in rate I think it probably provides me with the best bang for my buck at this level. I'll definitely be playing more of these when they show up...

A Long Month

Current Bankroll: $2 - 600K Play Chips

It's been a very long month with finals at school and then preparing for the holidays. I'm just now hitting the tables for the first time in almost 4 weeks, and it feels like it's been forever. I just fired up a $1 "Chris Ferguson" tournament at Full Tilt Poker but sitting down a bit already at 723 of 834. 1357 started and top 216 cash so we'll see if I can hang on.

Hopefully I'll have plenty of time for poker now that winter break has started and Christmas is over.

I Got Hammered!

Wow, I was just playing in one of Full Tilt's $100 Freerolls and had worked my way into the top 300, sitting at just over 20xBB when I looked down at QJo in late position and one limper in front of me. Blinds were 200/400 with a 50 chip ante so I raised it up to 2000. One caller.

Flop comes down 257 rainbow and he checks to me. I figure there is no way he hit that flop after calling a 2000 chip raise preflop so I raise the pot nearly putting myself all-in. He immediately comes over the top forcing me all-in. At this point I realized I've screwed up pretty bad since any ace or king will be ahead of me, but I'm pretty much screwed if I fold so I decide to take a chance at hitting something on the next two cards. I call.

He flips over 72o, the Hammer, for two pair and I realize I'm drawing dead. I don't know what he was thinking calling a 5xBB raise with the hammer, but it sure paid off nicely for him. I can't imagine that kind of play will pay off in the long run though. I guess he was planning on taking a chance at bluffing me off the pot if I missed, but he has to consider that I might have a pocket pair and there just aren't enough flops that allow you to bluff someone off of their high pocket pairs.

I definitely made a big mistake in that hand, but it still hurts to see someone making an idiotic play against you and getting lucky. But you can't focus on that because it will always happen. I will certainly learn from this mistake and try to slow down a bit when bluffing missed flops in the future.

Speaking of the hammer, I might as well give you an update on my Hammer Challenge. I finally took a couple of large losses so my ROI has dropped to 1.78 overall, but that still ranks it at 8th in my hand tracking ranks.

As always, you can keep track of my progress at PokerGeni.us

I took another shot at the $1 Turbo MTT over at Full Tilt tonight, this time with 998 entrants and cash going to the top 90 finishers.

Plan was to start out a bit slower than last night and really wait for some good hands to push. Even though it's a turbo tourney and you have to take some chances, I wanted to see if I could wait a bit longer than I did last night to start risking things.

5PM - 998 Players, first hand. Called the first hand with A8s, but folded to a raise pre-flop. I think I'll have avoid these drawing hands early on in tournaments since it seems a much higher percentage of the early hands get raised preflop and these hands rely on a cheap entry to the flop.

5:08PM - 838 Players, JJ on the button. 1 caller, so I call. Flop comes down 865 with two diamonds. Guy in front raises the pot, I reraise, he calls. 4 of diamonds on the turn puts up a straight and flush on the board and he raises the pot. Don't want to risk my tournament life just yet, so I fold.

5:10PM - 806 Players, very next hand, JJ again and I call. K66 rainbow flop, all check. 4 on the turn and SS bets half pot, BB calls and I decide to raise it up anticipating a weak K. SS calls and BB pushes all in, so I have to give him credit for the 6 and fold. SS calls and turns over K3o and the BB turns of 26o. Good fold, but pretty stupid raise considering I was up against the SS and BB I should have given them much more credit for the possibility of at least one of them having a 6. Even without a 6, it's probably unlikely that they will be folding a king, even with a weak kicker given the fast pace of this tournament, so a bluff there is completely unnecessary and suicidal. Definitely a big mistake and now I'm down to 580 in chips, blinds are at 25/50 so it's push or fold from here on out.

5:14PM - 736 Players, QTs in BB. Was getting ready to push but a guy pushes all in for 2,300 in front of me and I have to give him credit for a high pocket pair so I fold. Down to 505 after the blinds and the blinds move up to 30/60 so it's looking pretty bleak.

5:19PM - 676 Players, pocket 55s and two all-ins in front of me, but it was the same guy as before and he had pushed all in with mediocre hands 4 times since the last time I was considering calling. 4 overcards between the two of them, but my 55s hold up and I'm back up to 1605.

5:20PM - 652 players. Same guy pushes all in and I've got 77s so I take another shot at it, it seems this is how this game is going to be, but I lose and am back down to 845.

5:21PM - 638 players. Back to push or fold mode and get ATo on the next hand so I push all in and go up against AKs and he flops a flush knocking me out in 633rd place.

Damn, this tournament was much more of a donkfest than last night, and probably mostly due to the one crazy player at my table pushing all-in with any decent hand. I'm still not sure if I should have tried to stay out of it, but given my low stack and the speed at which the blinds were going up I didn't have much of a choice. Perhaps after doubling up I could have waited for a better opportunity to take another shot, but then again how much do I really want to just play push-or-fold poker? I think I'll be skipping this tournament from now on. It sounded like a good shot at moving my bankroll up, but it is worse than the 2700 player freerolls in that everyone is just pushing all-in preflop and not playing any real poker. I don't think that is the best learning experience for me so I'm going to stick to non-turbo tournaments from now on.

Current Bankroll: $1 - 600K Play Chips

I played a $1 Turbo MTT (868 players, top 81 cash) over at Full Tilt tonight. Couldn't catch a hand and busted out pretty quickly in 560th. Here's a recap of the game if anyone's interested. Comments would be greatly appreciated.

A few hands in, ATo on the button, 1 limper so I raise it up to 3xBB, 1 caller. Board comes down 882 rainbow, and we both check it. Ten on the turn sets me up nicely and he checks it to me so I raise 400 (pot size). He comes over the top all-in for just another 200 so I pretty much have to call. He flips over K8o, nasty. I probably should have raised smaller on the turn to give myself a chance to get out of the hand if he re-raised, but then again, I had a real tough time giving him credit for the 8 after my pre-flop raise. Perhaps my preflop raise wasn't large enough...

Now sitting at just over 10xBB and I get KQo on the very next hand so I decide to push all in. No callers so I pick up the blinds.

KQo again the next hand, but this time I'm not quite as low in chips so I only raise 3xBB. Flop comes 366 rainbow. One other player and we both check it. Q on the turn gives me my hand so I raise the pot, he re-raises all-in and flips over QJo which makes me pretty happy until another six comes down on the river and splits the pot. Nasty.

Another couple rounds of the blinds and I'm sitting below 10xBB. It folds around to the SS who raises it up 3xBB. I decide to push with 39s thinking he may be trying to buy the pot and he didn't have me covered by enough to call if he doesn't have anything. Unfortunately he's holding KQs and insta-calls. Nothing on the board and I'm out.

Not quite sure if I could have played it better. Perhaps I was a bit aggressive, but given that it was a turbo tourney I think that is probably the style required to stay ahead of the blinds. Pretty much every hand was my usual style of play and it just didn't pay off a single time tonight...

Current Bankroll: $2 - 700K Play Chips

I haven't had hardly any time to fire up the poker tables in the past week, and have become really antsy to get some decent time at the tables in. I got a bit too impatient the other night and bought into the nightly 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt despite being way below the 2M Play Chip minimum that I set for myself as a rule to limit my buy-in for this tournament. I managed to cash in the tournament and get my real money bankroll back in the green, but it has put my play chip bankroll in some very sketchy territory. I'm going to have to really be disciplined and force myself to wait until I've built my play chip bankroll back up to 2M before buying into the 500K play chip freeroll again, so it could be a little while before I'm able to pick up a couple more dollars with the amount of time I've had to play lately.

I recently noticed that my bankroll graph had disappeared, and upon further investigation the table in my database holding the info seems to have been deleted. I didn't have a backup, and neither did my host, so it looks like the first month of my bankroll challenge has been lost in the cyber void. I guess it's not that big a deal since I haven't really gotten anywhere yet, but I still feel a bit sad about not having the challenge on the graph from the very beginning.

In more positive news, Burnley Mik is back with a new blog, Donkey Thrasher, as part of the new UK Poker Scene, a group of UK poker bloggers centered around the Raise the River community. These guys are always a great read, so the site is definitely worth a look.

Taking it Live

I played a live tournament for the first time in quite a while tonight. It was part of the local free poker league, and there were about 40 players. I played a really solid, aggressive game that seemed to pay off as nobody really wanted to play ball with me. I made it to the final table with the second largest stack, but the blinds were already so high that people started dropping every hand. I ended up having to take a couple gambles which paid off nicely and gave me a chance to go heads up with close to even chips. My opponent didn't seem to have much knowledge of heads-up play and folded almost half her stack to me before winning a couple showdowns and then folding it right back to me. Finally her luck at the showdown ran out and the tournament was mine.

I can't say that I was too impressed with the overall play in the tournament, but it still felt good to play a solid poker game and come out on top. Playing live made me realize how much I miss the human interaction and the interesting psychology that is so much more relevant in live games. I felt like I was able to really get good reads on my opponents tonight and take advantage of their lack of reticence.

I'm definitely going to try to play more live games in the near future because, while it won't necessarily get me closer to my bankroll goals, it will definitely help to keep me focused and motivated on the game and should allow me to improve my skills much more rapidly than in online poker since you have to spend so much time just focusing on your game and not multi-tabling.

The other day I was taking a look at the odds of flopping no overcards with high pocket pairs and that got me thinking about what the basic odds are of flopping a set with any pocket pairs. I seem to remember someone once telling me it was about 1:6, but it never seemed that good in reality so I thought I'd actually do the math.

The odds should be 2:50 + 2:49 + 2:48 since those are your odds of hitting one of the two remaining cards on each card in the flop. That would give you about a 12% chance or 1:8.16 odds of flopping the set, not nearly the 1:6 that I had been thinking all along. That means that you have to make back more than 8BB every time you hit a set to make up for the cost of calling and folding the other 7 times.

With higher pocket pairs you can factor in the odds that you will have top pair on the flop, but even this doesn't increase your odds of seeing a nice flop very often with anything but the best pocket pairs.

Fortunately sets on the flop have a way of paying off quite nicely and so it is usually possible to play pocket pairs cheaply and see a decent return, but there really isn't much room for error, so don't go calling any raises with them because that will throw off your ratios enough that it will be hard to make back any losses.

I think I will be playing low pocket pairs less often when I am short-stacked in tournaments from now on because they just aren't worth the risk when you can't afford to lose many chips. I had always viewed low pocket pairs as a chance to hit big when you are really needing it, but with worse than 1:8 odds of actually hitting a set I'm not so sure they are worth the risk unless you can afford to lose those other 7 times.

In cash games and when you have a large stack in a tournament, low and medium pocket pairs are probably worth the investment if you can be frugal about it, but you still have to be careful with them though because the fact that they hit the set fewer than 1 in 8 times makes it harder than it looks to keep them in the green in the long run.

But pocket pairs are still your best bet preflop when you need to go heads up against an opponent for a good chance to double up, so they'll still hold a special place in my arsenal for those critical tournament moments.

Another Bustout

Current Bankroll: $0 - 1M Play Chips

I took another shot at the real money tables tonight a bit earlier than scheduled. I haven't been able to work the nightly 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt into my schedule lately and was getting a bit antsy at the long wait. Things didn't go nearly as well as I hoped and I ended up busting out after 64 hands without winning a single showdown or pot larger than 5BB. I started out a bit too aggressive and lost some chips to stronger hands, but even after tightening up I couldn't seem to avoid some nasty situations that just ate up my bankroll. The final nail in the coffin was a J7o that had called my preflop raise and hit two-pair on the flop. I was too low in chips at that point to have much of a chance of getting away from my KJo especially with such a weak looking flop (J74 rainbow).

I can't say that I'm terribly frustrated with my play since it was mostly bad hits that took me out, but I am definitely disappointed with myself for not sticking to the original plan of waiting until I had a full buy-in before hitting the cash tables again. That combined with the fact that my play chip bankroll is not in a very good position either put me in a pretty nasty position right now. I'm basically back at square one with a long way to go to get back into things. I guess this is one of those critical times when you find out just how dedicated you are. Hopefully I can have the strength to force myself to return to the original discipline that I started this project with and which has carried me so far already. That's what I'll be focusing on for the next couple days anyway.

I picked this up over at Bill Rini's blog. Not sure how it works, or what it means, but apparently you have to be a genius to understand my blog, so if you're reading this, congratulations.

Hmm... Let the viral advertising spread...

cash advance

Pocket jacks, like queens, kings and aces, are always a fresh sight when you turn up the edges of your cards, but lately I've been getting a little more uneasy at the sight of those knaves.

Your first instinct when you see those young men staring lazily back at you is to get your money in the pot as quickly as possible so that you can start raking in the returns. Jacks, like any high pocket pair feel so invincible since you've already made a hand and so you've got to be ahead of almost every other hand out there preflop.

But when you think about the possible flop scenarios that could happen, perhaps jacks aren't quite as invincible as they first look.

There are 103,776 possible flop combinations (48*47*46) when you consider the 50 cards in the deck you have yet to see minus the other two jacks which would give you a set. Of those 103,776, there are 50,616 (38*37*36) possible flop combinations that don't include at least one ace, king or queen, leaving you 1:2.05 odds of flopping top possible pair or a set. When compared to 1:1 for aces, 1:1.13 for kings and 1:1.5 for queens, the jacks are suddenly not looking quite so hot.

Of course this doesn't take into account the fact that by raising preflop you should only be going up against one or two other players on the flop at which point you have good odds that they won't improve. But the problem is, by raising preflop you can be relatively certain that when they do improve you will be beat, which leaves you in the same situation as any other low pocket pair.

The main reason that high pocket pairs are so lucrative is because you can often make a good amount off of someone flopping top pair when you've still got them beat. But as your pair gets lower, the odds of you still having top pair on the flop get smaller and smaller. At a certain point you have to treat all low pocket pairs the same because you are simply playing them cheap for a chance to hit trips or fold.

Playing pocket pairs with overcards on the board is a very tough situation to be in. You can't really count your ability to outplay your opponent in the strength of the hand, and so basically you can only really consider your odds of flopping top pair when considering whether to raise preflop with a pocket pair.

Of course this doesn't take into account the million other reasons why you might raise preflop, and only considers your expected value based purely on odds. As many a wise man has said before me, in poker you play your opponent, not your cards, but it is good to at least understand your odds in every situation.

As such, I've become much more tentative about playing pocket jacks hard preflop. I think they are probably much more lucrative when played cheaply preflop because you don't really have the correct odds to hit top possible pair on the flop, and so most of the time they will end up in the same position as any low pocket pair after the flop.

Wow, I can't believe I just discovered this post on the 2+2 Forums. I don't think I've ever read all the way through a 30+ page post before, but this one is definitely worth it. Here's a key quote:


Here's one from an excellent article over at Four Queens Poker titled The Weak Tight Disease:

How strong [your hand] is, should not be determined using some chart. What you really consider is the value of your hand relative to what the other players hold.

I recently suggested that Digg needs a poker category for poker related articles. For some reason there has already been quite a bit of resistance to this idea from the Digg community. My understanding of this resistance is that it is a reaction to all the poker related spam that currently surfaces on Digg.

Unfortunately due to the fact that there is no poker category, people who would post legitimate poker articles don't bother because there is no category to post them in and so the only people who are posting poker related links on Digg are the spammers who tend to be a bit more determined than your average user.

This means that the only contact with the poker world that the Digg community experiences is at the hands of spammers whom they viciously hate.

I understand that the poker industry is full of promotions and advertising and that it has it's fair share of spammers (if not more so than other industries), but that doesn't mean that there aren't tons of interesting legitimate articles out that there as well that would make the Digg community a more diverse and interesting place.

What makes Digg such an amazing website is that it embraces community and diversity and allows the community decide what it wants to see and what it wants to bury. But what really makes it successful is the fact that it isn't just a collection of the most popular articles on the web, it actually allows the user to find the most popular articles in areas that the user is interested in.

Without categories, Digg is another list of popular websites that doesn't really serve the needs of the community. If you want to read articles on Apple, you can find them in the Apple category even if they weren't popular enough to make the front page. If you want to read articles on the upcoming election, there is even a category for that.

But if you want to read articles about poker, you have to use the search function, which is fine except for the fact that there aren't really any legitimate poker articles on Digg because people can't figure out which category to post them in.

With a category dedicated to poker, not only would you suddenly see all the legitimate websites and articles suddenly being posted, but people reading other categories wouldn't have to deal with the poker spam that currently plagues categories that have nothing to do with poker.

With a poker category you could let the people interested in poker deal with the poker spam, and you would be providing them with the same right to the great Digg that we all love by providing a category for them to post and find articles.

So please, to all you people out there who think that having a poker category on Digg would be bad for the community, please remember that the community isn't just the majority, or even limited to it's current members. The Digg community is the group of all people who have a legitimate use for the website, and as such we would be doing many people a disservice by continuing to deny them a place to post and find great poker articles.

Poker on Digg

**Editors Note** There has been some resistance to this idea from the current Digg community. Please see my response: An Open Letter to the Digg Community: Why Digg Needs a Poker Category.

I'm a big fan of Digg for finding interesting articles relating to technology and politics, but I've noticed that when it comes to poker, Digg just plain sucks.

The poker community doesn't seem to have embraced Digg as a means to find and promote interesting articles relating to poker, and I think that the main reason is that there is no real category for poker on Digg, and as such people are often confused as to which category to submit to. Some stories end up in Gaming > Playable Web Games, others in Sports > Other Sports, and even some in Offbeat News just to name a couple. I think that if there were an actual category on Digg specifically for poker we would find that there is quite a large online poker community ready to embrace Digg as a way to find and promote the best websites and news relating to poker.

As it stands now, there are several forums where poker aficionados find their poker news, but for the most part it is quite diluted across the web and there is really no central location that makes finding and promoting the best poker articles easy in the way that Digg does for other genres.

One of the great things about Digg is that they embrace the community and shape the website around what the community wants. I think that if we get the poker community interested in having a poker category on Digg and get enough people to push Digg to make it happen they will surely make it happen.

I am going to send an email to Digg to see if we can get a poker category added to Digg. I will suggest that they place it as a subcategory of both the Gaming and Sports categories. Before I send it though I want to get some proof that there are enough people interested in this. If you would like to be able to use Digg to find interesting poker articles, please Digg this story to show your support. Once there are 100 diggs I will write to Digg to let them know.

I'm still less than 24 hours into the Hammer Challenge, but the Hammer has already climbed to the top of my hand rankings list with a whopping return of 2.3! Granted I have only logged 5 hands, so it's not exactly a scientific sampling but it's still pretty cool to see just how important playing situation really is. It's certain to round itself out pretty quickly after a couple losses get factored in, but for now it's flying high.

Here's a great one from PokerTart in an awesome write-up about her recent Aussie Millions adventure:

And that’s when I realized that I was actually trying to outplay these guys. How stupid! That’s not how I won my way here, that’s not how I survived the days leading up to the final table…I made my way here by relying on my natural gift – lucksackery!

The whole post had me literally rolling over. Definitely worth a read.

Just out of curiosity I'm going to start playing the hammer (72o) in cash games from now on and track my results to see if I can actually bring in a positive return. This should be an excellent lesson in reading the other player and playing the situation correctly versus just playing your cards. I've gotten myself way to odds focused lately, so hopefully this can get me thinking about situational play and reading my opponent more.

Here are some rules I'm going to lay down for myself to keep this under control:

  1. This challenge only applies to cash games. Play the hammer as usual in tournaments.

  2. Fold to the first raise, whether before your action or after your raise.

  3. Never make more than one stab at the pot after the flop unless you think the guy is on a draw.

There it is, pretty simple. These rules should keep me from doing anything too stupid with it, and even if it holds me back a bit, folding to a reraise only gives me better odds of getting my strong hands paid off later.

I'll post updates on where I stand periodically. I've also set up my hand tracker so that it can be viewed publicly. You can follow my Hammer Challenge progress there: PokerGeni.us

Current Bankroll: $2 - 1.4M Play Chips

I just reached a new personal record in Full Tilt's 2700-player $100 Freeroll. Played a real solid night before taking a bad loss late in the game and finding myself in blinds trouble with 32 left. I dropped to 28K with the blinds at 5K and had to push preflop with pocket 8s. Big stack called and hit an ace on the turn to send me packing.

It was a really great learning experience. I had previously not taken these huge multi-table freerolls very seriously because the game play is so loose and crazy early on and it takes so long to get anywhere near the money, but after experiencing the play later in the game I think they are actually a really good way to practice your multi-table tourney game. Once the 2600 or so donks donk themselves out you are left with a group of really solid poker players who know how to make a good game interesting.

I'm still a bit disappointed at having just missed the bubble, but I'm glad I was able to experience what these large freerolls can really be. I'll definitely be setting aside more time for these tournaments when I can. It took me 4 hours to reach 32 players left, so it was definitely a huge time investment, but the game play towards the end made it all worth it.

It's good to be able to feel excited about something after a tough loss like that, especially after busting in the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll earlier in the night, but it's good to have positive momentum going forward into the next couple days. I may still be in the murky depths of a nearly non-existent bankroll, but I'm gaining so much experience in the process I can't help but feel like I am on an inevitable trend upwards.

When you are sitting in 16th place with 21 left and the bubble is at 18 you probably still want to at least see a flop with pocket kings, but if the next pay increase is at 2nd place and you are in position to basically fold your way into the money, it's probably not worth it to risk your tournament life for a chance to pick up some more chips. No matter how big the pot is, it will never be large enough to offset the risk of missing the money, even if the risk is minimal. Those extra chips won't do much to increase your chances of reaching the next pay-out level, and so putting any amount of risk on your tournament life in this situation is a negative expected value in the long run. Fold your kings, and probably even your aces.

Somehow that sage advice is always harder to follow in the heat of the action though. I played a great game through the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll on Full Tilt tonight. It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride when a guy pushed all-in in front of me for about two-thirds my stack and I couldn't fold my pocket aces. He hit a flush on the river and sent me into survival mode. I played some excellent poker though and managed to work my way back up to 16th place with 21 players left when my kings showed up. I naturally couldn't resist calling a big raise from a big stack in front of me who had been playing real aggressive and taking advantage of the extremely tight play this close to the bubble. I didn't take the time to fully analyze the situation like I did above, and had I done that I easily would have folded my way into the money, but no, I acted rashly in the heat of the moment with what on the surface looks to be a good opportunity. Sure I probably had him beat by a mile, but that's not the point. It's really irrelevant that he had pocket 9s and hit his set on the flop because the outcome in poker is never under your control. You can only control your own decisions and actions, and this one was clearly a bad one. I may have had the odds to not get busted most of the time, but at that point in the tournament even a 5% chance of busting out is way too high a risk to take with almost any possible return given the distance to the next pay-out increase..

I've got a discussion going over at Raise the River about this hand if you're interested.

They say tournament play is all about situation, and this hand proves that more than anything else. It's not worth crying over bad beats unless you can learn from the situation, so hopefully I've learned a good lesson while the stakes are still only $2. Although $2 is like a million bucks for my bankroll right now :)

So much for my streak of 5-straight cashes in this nightly tournament. It's always good to recognize that it was my bad decision that cost me the game tonight though. Always recognizing errors and improving on my play is what this bankroll challenge is all about, so at least I've gained something valuable tonight.

On another positive note, I'm currently sitting at 73 of 170 in one of the huge 2700 player tourneys on Full Tilt so it looks like I may break my record of 75th. Who knows, maybe there's a couple dollars in store for my bankroll tonight after all. I'll post an update on that one in a bit if things go well.

Current Bankroll: $2 - 1.9M Play Chips

I've been real busy over the last week and haven't had much time to play. I managed to get in some quality time on the weekend to build my play chip stack back up at Full Tilt, but didn't have a chance to take part in the nightly 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll until tonight. Despite being up for a solid 32 hours when the tournament started I managed to stay awake and play some solid poker. Continued my streak of cashes in this tournament to 5, giving me 6 out of 8 since I started recording my finishes at the end of October. Not bad stats at all for a freeroll when you consider the other options out there. I still have yet to cash in any other freerolls, despite getting some good shots. The big ones just seem to have way too much luck involved with the extremely loose-aggressive style of play, so I'm perfectly happy eking it out in the $40 Play Chip Freeroll.

I'm going to wait until I've got a full table buy-in at the $.05/$.10 tables at Full Tilt before taking another stab at the real money side. I think I really need to give myself more time to adjust to the other side before busting out each time, so hopefully if I limit myself to only buying in with the table max each time I should be able to withstand any nasty swings and finally pull out of these murky depths.

The Hammer

I was in the middle of one of the $100 Freerolls over at Full Tilt when I started falling asleep and decided to hit the sack. So I pushed all in with the first hand that came up. Ended up taking down AKo with the Hammer 72o hitting a full house. I kind of feel bad for the guy, but then again what was he doing going all in preflop with 100*BB stack?


Current Bankroll: $0 - 1.1M Play Chips

So much for staying up. Picked up another session later this evening, and despite playing real solid through several tough hands I managed to run myself into a wall and bust out again in one hand:

Now I probably overplayed my AJo here, but up until my over-bet on the turn I actually think I played it pretty well. I was pretty confident my AJ was the best hand after I paired my ace on the flop so I attempted to set a trap by checking. After the raise I figured a reraise would tell me best where I was at because if he had hit a set he would push back pretty strong. He only called so I figured I could safely put him on an ace with a poor kicker because he would have folded with nothing and reraised with anything stronger.

My mistake was getting way too aggressive on the turn and trying to push him off his hand there. This was a bad play regardless of the outcome because I figure I've already got him beat so I should have been betting small to draw more money out of him rather than pushing him out of the pot. A large bet meant that he would fold any hand that I had beat and call only with a hand that would beat me. Considering I was putting him on weak ace, I should have considered the 4 kicker which gave him a straight. Unfortunately I played way too fast and didn't even see the straight possibility.

Of course it's easy to analyze this in hindsight and the straight is much more obvious now that it ever could have been during the hand, but regardless of what he ended up having, I think I should have played the turn much more slowly giving him a chance to push back if he had a strong hand. Never push with a medium hand to the point where only a better hand can call you. It's a lesson learned that I won't soon forget.

Now it's back to square one, building back up my play chip stack and taking on the freeroll. I just hope that I am learning enough from all these mistakes I'm making to keep improving my game so that I'll eventually get past the bust-out-zone. It's pretty frustrating to keep ending back up on the bottom regardless of how well I do for a period in between.

On the bright side, I finally found the poker hand replay site I had been looking for, so I'll be posting more hand replays in the future...

Moving Up

Current Bankroll: $8.20 - 1.1M Play Chips

Apparently the lowest limit games at Full Tilt are $.25/$.50 so needless to say I was forced to continue playing at the lower limit $.05/$.10 no-limit tables. I picked up another $2 in last night's 500K Play Chip $40 freeroll, but didn't have time to put it into use last night. Today seemed to be the perfect time though. I played some really solid poker for 4 hours and managed to quadruple my bankroll to just over $8. I managed to avoid getting into any tricky situations, but I was still able to make some good steals and really didn't take any big hits all night. I'm sure the variance is bound to even out over the next couple of sessions, but hopefully I've built up a big enough stack to avoid busting out again.

I really felt on top of things today and hopefully my new confidence will continue to bring me good results. I took some hits at the play chip tables last night so my play chip stack is seriously lacking if I'm going to have to make another stab at the nightly freeroll. But I'm sitting at the highest point in my bankroll since I won that $1 tourney back in mid October, and I feel like I'm finally on an upswing that I can sustain. I know that I'm still low enough to lose it all quickly if I'm not careful, but hopefully I've learned enough about that to avoid it this time around. We'll have to see how the next few days go...

Ace Filled Dreams has decided to start playing more limit holdem instead of no limit. He has written up an interesting post detailing his reasons why, and it got me thinking that limit is really where I should be focusing my efforts for my small bankroll game on the cash side. While playing no-limit with only 20 times the BB is really tough to build up on, such a small stack is not nearly as disadvantaged in limit games because you are never going to have the option to push huge amounts in anyway so you are not losing anything by not holding the table maximum.

I haven't played much limit holdem, but I think I'm going to give it a go to see if it is a better way to maximize my odds of moving out of the short stack position without continually busting out again. I'll give it a shot tonight if all goes well in the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt and see if I can come up with some good strategies to make it pay.

A Bumpy Ride

Current Bankroll: $0 - 1.75M Play Chips

Well due to the disappearance of the $1 tourneys at Full Tilt Poker I've been trying my hand at the $.05/$.10 table games. I thought I had finally gotten the hang of it when a series of bad beats stripped me of my limited bankroll way too fast. I'm still not sure if I made some mistakes or if I was just unlucky, but needless to say I was back to square one with an empty bankroll.

Soon enough I got myself another $2 in tonight's 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt Poker, but I just couldn't make it happen at the cash tables. I hit a terrible streak with the cards and just wasn't ready to risk my bankroll with junk, so I ended up folding my way down to $1.05 before getting it all in with AQo against 88. I hit my ace on the turn but busted to a completed straight on the river.

I'll have to consider if maybe I should wait until I have a larger bankroll built up from the freerolls before hitting the cash tables, but I actually felt like taking a hit-or-miss stab at it with a small bankroll isn't that bad of a strategy considering I am bound to double up eventually, and as long as I can play it smart enough once that starts happening I should be able to get a more consistent uptick. It's just really tough to play at a table where you feel completely short-stacked and holding on to every penny but I guess that's just something I'll have to overcome now that the $1 tourneys are gone...

Current Bankroll: $6.90 - 1.7M Play Chips

Ok, so I lied. I actually had some time to play today before I had to leave for the weekend. Apparently Full Tilt has gotten rid of all the small buy-in SnGs other than one $2 180-player SnG. So I guess I'm going to have to scrape it out at the low limit cash tables instead. I played for a bit at a $.10/$.05 table and pulled out a nice $2.15 profit. Didn't run into any tough situations though and won every pot I made a stab at, so I don't know if I was getting lucky or I was just picking my situations right. Either way it's nice to be on the upswing. Hopefully I can continue to work my way up after I get back from the weekend.

Current Bankroll: $4.75 - 1.65M Play Chips

Picked up another 2 bucks in the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt tonight. Went for a stab at the $1 tourneys playing one 45-player and one double stacked 90-player. Got some good early starting hands in both of them but both times it was followed by a long dull streak that sapped me right back down. Perhaps I settled in and became too passive after picking up a cushion early on, I'm not sure. Placed 15th in the 45-player and 28th in the 90-player. The bubble is at 6th and 18th respectively.

I can't really complain about my play in the 45 player, I just couldn't keep myself out of blind trouble and then lost a coin flip when it came time to push. As for the 90-player though I was a bit disappointed. I played really well all the way through until I decided to make a push with QT after hitting ten high on the flop. Mind you 3 other players had limped and it had been checked to me on the flop. I bet 3/4 of the pot cutting my stack by about a third. I figured this would give me a chance to still get out if someone jammed, but when two of them folded and the 3rd raised it up I couldn't help but jam because he had been playing it so passively and he had been quite aggressive otherwise all night. I guess his passivity should have made me more cautious if anything because I completely misread him. He turned over pocket kings and needless to say my pair of tens didn't pull through.

I was pretty surprised to see pocket kings after no raises both preflop and after the flop. I really wonder how I could have put him such a strong hand given he was an aggressive player (playing 56% of the time and raising 10% of the 39 hands I saw) limping and then attempting to raising my raise. It had all the signs of a classic steal. Perhaps the slowplaying should have tipped me off, and the fact that I had a really tight image at the table should have made it less likely that he was attempting a steal.

But the thing that really irks me is that I made a good raise with a mediocre hand giving myself a chance to get out if I got jammed. But when it came down to it I couldn't get out of the way when the raise came. Granted I did make an educated decision, the risk was just way too great for such a call to really pay off even with a good read. There were just way too many hands that could have beaten me even if he didn't have a killer pocket pair. I actually put him on T9 or some other junky kicker, because I figured he would have raised preflop with anything stronger. Of course I should have also considered the likelihood of trips since that is what his raise probably screams of the most. But all-in-all I should have been able to make the disciplined fold and maintained a decent chip standing in the tournament. Sure I would have been approaching blind trouble, but not soon enough to risk my whole stack on such a call.

I guess I am happy that I played so well overall, and even though I got trapped in such a nasty situation I'm glad I was able to make a real solid, educated decision even if it was the wrong one. Just thinking hands through before acting is the first step, so hopefully I can learn from this and figure out how to avoid such a situation in the future. I guess I'll be more careful next time an aggressive player slowplays and then pops my raise. Perhaps it's not as blatant a steal as it looks.

Unfortunately I'm going to be gone over the weekend so no more poker for me until next week. Hopefully I can come back focused and ready to take on the cash side again. Until then, keep the felt warm for me mates!

Current Bankroll: $5.25 - 2.1M Play Chips

It's been a real tough past couple days. I've been having trouble moving between the cash games and the tournaments and despite doing alright at the cash tables my tournament play has been awful. After analyzing my play a bit I decided I was being too aggressive at the wrong times and not really working the situations like you are supposed to in tournaments.

Tonight I decided to settle down and just focus on situation, not my cards. It seemed to work really well, as I kept making really good plays hitting up AK against A9, QQ against KJ, and other really nice situations that you just dream for in a tournament. But despite continuously putting myself in good odds I couldn't seem to outlive a showdown. I played 16 10K Play Chip tournaments today and only managed to cash in one of them for a measly $27K and a total loss for the day of 133K putting me in the red for the first time since I started tracking these tourneys over the weekend. I really can't find where I was screwing up though, despite the awful results. In the few tournaments where I managed to be able to build up a stack it always ended with a bad beat that put me back in the push-or-die mode. Aside from the one game where I cashed, my best finish was 18th, and my overall average for these tourneys is a pathetic 33 out of 90.

Somehow I managed to keep it all together in time for the nightly 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt, and despite hitting the same bricks there, I was able to wait it out each time long enough to get a hand to pull me back into it. I dropped down as far as 2BB at one point, but each time I decided to wait for the right situation and each time it ended up presenting itself in time. I don't know if that was just luck or if I managed to maximize my odds as best I could, but either way it felt good to finally be able to see some results.

After the bubble broke and the chase from 18th to 2nd (where the next payout jump is) began I made sure to be the biggest donk at the table moving all-in each time I got a decent heads-up hand and it made for an exciting rollercoaster ride. I somehow snuck myself into the final table in 7th place, and from there worked my way into 2nd place overall with 6 to go. At that point I had a decent lead over the other 4 so decided to play it real conservative and only go in with premium hands and let the other guy take them out. I figured I could fold myself into 2nd place even if it meant having no chance at 1st. As it turned out I got enough hands to take out some of the other guys without too much risk and ended up just below the other guy when we went heads-up.

Despite having not played heads-up in way too long my feel for the game was as good as it has ever been, and I had soon managed to trap him in a big hand by slowplaying top-pair/top-kicker after the flop. After that it was just a matter of a couple all-ins to take down 1st place, my first ever in these 500K Play Chip $40 Freerolls.

It's really great to see that despite my poor performance over the last couple days I was able to pull myself back together and play the game that was necessary to cash in tonights tourney. Making the final table was a bit of a treat, but I can't claim that there is much skill involved in surviving the donkfest that begins after the 18th place bubble bursts. It was really nice to see that my final table play is still there though, and taking down the extra $3 for my biggest freeroll cash-in ever was a big confidence booster.

Perhaps it is all just due to the inevitable variance in poker, but I really felt like I overcame some tough situations with discipline and patience. Even if I couldn't have controlled getting the necessary hands to pull me out of those situations, at least I was able to play well enough to put myself in the position to benifit from them. And that's really the key in poker. You can never control the cards, but if you put yourself in the right place at the right time, good things will happen and that is what I have been missing over the past couple days, constantly busting out before anything good can happen.

Anyway, I'm going to hold out until I break $6.25 before taking another shot at the $1 tourneys so that I can play 5 of them in a row before busting out. Hopefully that will give me a chance to adjust to the different playing style in those tournaments before it's too late.

Current Bankroll: $0.25 - 2.8M Play Chips

I've decided to start playing more of the play chip tournaments at Full Tilt Poker to get more tournament practice. I'd stopped playing them since the largest buy-in for the SNGs is 10K with a 1st place prize of 292K which is pretty insignificant considering I can make that much more easily at the 1K/2K tables. But I think my lack of tournament play lately has left my tournament skills a bit dull. I played in a few of the 10K play chip tourneys tonight and was actually quite surprised at how poorly I did. I did cash in 2 out of 7, but it felt a lot worse than that. My ROI was almost 120% though so it couldn't have been too bad.

I'll keep playing these whenever I have the time to keep my tournament skills sharp so that I am ready for the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll and the $1 real money tournaments on the other side. Even if I can make a much higher hourly profit at the 1K/2K cash game tables, I think the tournament practice should do me good.

Getting Back Up

I have quickly learned that one of the toughest things in poker is overcoming the bad times. Since poker is a game of odds you will inevitably face times when things just aren't going in your favor and no matter how well you play you will struggle just to break even. And the tougher things get the harder it becomes to play well. Sometimes you can lose a lot of money fast and if you don't have the discipline to step away and reassess things you can drown many hours of hard work in a few minutes.

Phil Hellmuth wrote an excellent article back in May about dealing with the worst loss of his life and how he managed to turn it around into something positive rather than letting it destroy him. I've never really been a fan of Hellmuth because he always seems like such an arrogant asshole on TV, but you can't help but respect the guy. I always knew that I had to respect him for his unbelievable record, but after reading this article I can see just how smart and disciplined he is, and exactly why he has been able to be so successful for so long.

There are a lot of guys out there who can play good poker and win some big games, but the ones who are able to brush off the losses and get back up stronger than before are the ones who will be the most successful in the long run. But knowing this and actually sticking to it when the times get tough are two different things. Here's to hoping I can be like Phil and have the strength and discipline to overcome those times with such fortitude.

Current Bankroll: $0.25 - 2.6M Play Chips

It's been nearly a week since I've been in a real money game and I'm starting to wonder if I should start waiting until I have enough to play 5 $1 tourneys in a row before entering any at all. I'm worried that next time I get back on the cash side I'll just keep busting out real quick since it's taking me so long to get back over each time. I've found that one of the hardest things in poker is switching levels, and maybe the best way to offset that is to make sure I am able to take several shots at a new level before moving up.

I'm feeling really confident at the 1K/2K play chip tables and having no trouble making my daily 500K in play chips to buy-in to the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll, but switching gears heading into that freeroll has proven to be tougher than usual over the past two days. It's often easy to identify poor playing, but it's much harder to identify what needs to be done to correct it. Perhaps this new rule will enable me to adjust my game for the $1 tourneys before busting out again next time, but I'll have to figure out a different way to help me focus in the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll because that only happens once a day and I can't afford to not play anything else while waiting for that to happen.

It'll probably be a couple days before I can take another shot at the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll, so I'll do some more thinking on how to best approach that next time, but for now I'll add this new rule to the list because I think it is something that will prove useful in the long run.

Current Bankroll: $0.25 - 2.6M Play Chips

It's an easy thing to say, but it's got to be one of the hardest things for an aspiring poker player to do. You go and study all these strategies and set out rules for yourself, and yet in the most critical of situations you let your focus down and make the dumbest decisions, often from acting on impulse and not thinking the situation through fully before acting. Other times you just start playing like a donk and despite recognizing it can't seem to pull your head out of places it shouldn't be.

Tonight I was playing in Full Tilt's nightly $40 500K Play Chip Freeroll after playing for an hour in one of the donkfest freerolls that have no entry fee. Because you have to play to take so many chances in the regular freeroll, I was in the total wrong mindset for the tight play of the 500K Play Chip freeroll. I started playing too aggressively and while it bought me a lot of small pots I of course gave it all right back in others.

Now cashing in this 500K Play Chip freeroll is not very hard thing to do, and it's been a while since I've missed the bubble, but tonight I just had the completely wrong mentality going in and I couldn't fix myself. The worst part is that I ended up busting right on the bubble when I wasn't even in blinds trouble. I shouldn't have even been playing anything except the absolute best hands at that point, but I decided to shove with QJs on the BB for no good reason and got busted by a straight on the flop. It's pretty obvious how stupid of a play that was, and how dumb my play was for the whole tourney.

But what can I do to avoid these kinds of things? There wasn't anything that was keeping me from focusing or distracting me from my goals. Perhaps it's just a result of getting too overconfident and not taking each hand, each table and each tournament as seriously as if they were the WSOP. There is no point in playing if you aren't going to practice the strategies you set out for yourself and attempt to improve on your gameplay. If you let your play degenerate to the level of the worst players around you are only enforcing bad habits and actually slowing your progress towards becoming a better player.

I guess the hardest thing about the Chris Ferguson Challenge is that you are constantly playing with really poor players at other levels and you have to rise above that and avoid letting the poor play around you affect your strategy. If you stick to your gameplan and adjust your strategies to take advantage of your opponents weaknesses you can do quite well at these low limits, but if you let yourself stoop to their level, to quote an old saying, they will only drag you down and beat you up with experience.

On the bright side, I have been doing really well at the 1K/2K Play Chip tables and reached a new personal record of 3M chips. It helped that I haven't been able to play the 500K Play Chip freeroll for a couple nights in a row now, but I have really been making a killing there after adjusting my play for the level.

I also reached a new PR in the $100 Hold 'Em Freeroll tonight, placing 75th, but that was a bit depressing at the same time because I busted out after shoving at the wrong time when I wasn't even in a situation where I really had to. Ugh... I've really got to work on my discipline to make sure I can avoid these kinds of things. There is no point in trying to play well if you aren't going to do it 100% of the time. One big mistake can ruin hours of hard work in a tournament or even a cash game, and so the key to profitability in the long run starts with avoiding those big mistakes and allowing your good game slowly bring home the goods.

Current Bankroll: $0.25 - 2.35M Play Chips

I know a lot of bloggers like to keep a list on their blog of all the other blogs that they read. It's a nice way to promote the bloggers that you like and it creates a nice sense of community in the blogosphere as different people link to each other creating large networks of people sharing the same interests.

As your list grows though, and old bloggers disappear, it can become a bit of a pain to keep that list updated, and sometimes feels like just one more thing that you have to do during your busy day.

A lot of people like to use feed readers to keep up with their favorite blogs. That way they don't have to check every blog on the list every day to see who has updated since you can read all the latest posts in one place in the reader.

I use Google Reader which I find particularly useful since it is online and therefore I can read my subscriptions on any computer. Coming back to blogrolls though, I just discovered a really cool feature on Google Reader that allows you to produce a public version of your subscriptions that can easily be displayed on your blog so that you never have to update it as it simply displays whatever blogs your are subscribed to in Google Reader. You can even show a select list of blogs in case you have others that you read that aren't related.

To activate this feature and synchronize your blogroll with your Google Reader subscriptions, follow the following steps:

  1. Put all the subscriptions that you want to list in your blogroll into one folder.

  2. Click on Settings in the top right of the screen and then select the Tags subsection.

  3. Put a check next to the folder name that holds the subscriptions you want to publish and then select Public from the drop down at the top of the list that says "Change Sharing..."

  4. This should cause a couple links to show up next to the folder that you selected. Copy the link that says View Public Page and paste it in the following box below

  5. Copy the code that is generated in the box below that and paste it into your blog where you want your blogroll to display.

For example, if you wanted to add this blogroll on a Blogger blog, you could add a new HTML/Javascript element and just paste the above code into it. You can see a live example of this titled "What I'm Reading" on the right side of this page.

Current Bankroll: $1.50 - 1.5M Play Chips

Cashed in on tonight's 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt Poker and then bought into one of the $1+$0.25 90 Player SnG's. Played a really tight game because I wasn't getting anything. Finally picked up a pair of queens and pushed with them only to hit a spade flop and another spade on the river so I had to fold. That cut my stack in half and after another dry spell I was facing blind extinction already half-way through the tourney. Was forced to push all-in preflop with pocket 88's and doubled up nicely when 3 aces came down on the board and gave me a full house. Another dry spell put me right back in the same position a little bit later and this time a pair of tens bailed me out. Still couldn't get a hand to save my life though and tried to hold on as long as possible until I found myself sitting on the bubble with 1 blind left and way behind the next guy so I had to push with KTo and ended up busting on the bubble. I considered waiting another round of the blinds, but my odds weren't very good on improving over KTo so I'm pretty happy with the decision. It really sucks to bust on the bubble, but since I was so far behind the next player I had a long uphill battle anyway and it wasn't as if I could have waited it out.

I'll have to analyze my play some more to figure out if I was really experiencing an awful dry spell or if I could have worked with my cards a bit better. I seem to be doing a lot more folding than usual in these tourneys lately and the "dry-spell" excuse is starting to feel less and less credible. Perhaps I'm playing too tight, but I really don't think so.

Current Bankroll: $0.75 - 2M Play Chips

One of the hardest parts about this $0-$20k challenge is transitioning back and forth between the play chip and real money tables before you are able to move your real money bankroll out of the risk zone. I've been struggling with this quite a bit lately, and while most of the trouble comes at the real money tables since I've spent so much time working in my play chip strategy, it can actually be just as tough moving back to the play chip tables after a brief stint on the real money side if you are not careful. Just last night I spent a couple hours on the 1K/2K play chip tables after bankrupting my real money stack on the weekend, and in less than 2 hours I had lost close to 500K. This was really frustrating for me because I rarely lose at the play chip tables and especially not consistently enough to sustain an overall loss for a session. So rather than continuing the trend I pulled myself away from the tables and spent some time analyzing what I was doing differently so that I could try to figure out what was going wrong.

The key to success at the play money tables is tightening up severely and only playing premium hands or calling with good drawing hands. Don't try to bluff pots or force action because people are completely unpredictable when there is nothing at stake so chances are you are going to be outdrawn by some donkey. After analyzing my play during my 500K losing streak I saw that I wasn't being patient enough and I was calling large bets without the hands to back them up. You should probably avoid big hands without the premium cards in any low-limit game, but especially so in the play chip games because while they could be raising with anything, the raises are likely going to be so big that it just isn't worth the risk unless you've got a 90-100% chance of winning. If you simply sit back and wait for the premium cards and then play them hard when you hit, you won't have to worry about your tight reputation because most people won't notice it at the play chip tables and will call or reraise you big with hands that are just below yours. Since these big pots happen so often you can simply wait for the best hands and only see them out when you are sure to have the winning hand at showdown. I've played tables where I'm only seeing 8% of the flops and still have people calling me when I raise big with the nuts.

For example, I was just in a hand where I reraised preflop with KJs. I hit two-pair on the flop (KJ7 rainbow) and checked it. The other guy raised the size of the pot and I immediately reraised him. At this point I was putting him on AK or KQ, or likely even some weaker king hand since he didn't reraise my reraise preflop. I was pretty confident he wasn't holding KK since he would have definitely pushed harder preflop. The only thing I was really worried about was pocket 7's, but I didn't think he would have been pushing as hard with pocket 7's preflop. We both checked a harmless turn card, and after a harmless river I raised him half his stack and he came back over the top all in. My two pair took down his AK for a 400K pot and I doubled up in one hand leaving me plenty of time to sit back and wait for another solid hand to push with.

Now it's important to note the aggressiveness of the play in this hand and how I still put him on a hand that was weaker than my two-pair. Normally I would be very afraid of playing two-pair against such aggressiveness, but since that kind of aggressiveness is so common with a simple top pair / top kicker, you have to fight back aggressively with anything as good or better since the majority of the time you will be on top.

Money changes hands quickly at the play chip tables and in large amounts, so if you restrict yourself to the best hands you can build your play chip stack quite quickly and safely to earn yourself a spot in the nightly 500K play chip freeroll at Full Tilt Poker and move yourself into the green on the real money side. I've already moved myself back from 1.5M to over 2M in less than an hour this evening applying this strategy so I'll be taking another shot at that freeroll tonight.

Current Bankroll: $0.75 - 1.5M Play Chips

I haden't had a chance to play much over the past couple days, and when I finally sat down for a bit tonight at the 1k/2k play chip tables things didn't go too well. I lost nearly 500k in a couple hours as one big pot after another seemed to be getting stolen away from me. I definitely started to play much more poorly as things spiraled down, so I took a break from it for a bit and after I came back I was able to start building up again. Still have a ways to go to get back to 2M though.

On a more exciting note, I've gone ahead and purchased an actual domain for this blog, so you can link to it at www.runningwithspades.com rather than the old blogspot address. I've also built a little bankroll graph so that you can all follow my bankroll more easily as it progresses upwards :)

I've also added a list of some of my favorite poker players and bloggers. If you want a mention in the list give me a shout in the comments.

Current Bankroll: $0.75 - 1.65M Play Chips

The key to success in any poker tournament is knowing how to pick your battles and avoid situations that can put you at risk. More than simple calculations of odds and profit in the long run, a skilled tournament player must be ready to fold even the biggest hands when they just aren't worth the risk to play, and especially being able to push in just the right situation regardless of cards in the hole in order to avoid being placed at the mercy of the blinds.

Katitude has an excellent article about just how frustrating it can be to make those tough folds and then end up flopping the nuts. Folding AKs is not an easy thing to do, but if you consider the situation, facing a 5*BB raise amounting to almost a third of your total stack, you're much better off in the long run waiting for a situation where you can build your stack with much less risk.

The basic rule of thumb is that if calling a raise and losing puts you close to blinds risk whereas folding outright leaves you still sitting pretty, your best option is to fold. Just about the only hand I'd want to play in such a situation would be AA since I know that I would have a big advantage going to the flop, and just about every other hand you'd have to worry about being behind and would be forced to hit something on the flop.

But even with these rules laid out clearly, it's not always easy to just walk away from those big hands after hours of sitting around waiting for them. Just last night I started getting anxious near the end of a $1 90-player tournament and decided to push with pocket 10's. A big stack behind me reraised me putting me nearly all-in. If I had just folded the hand outright I still would have had plenty of time to wait for a better hand to push all-in with, but instead I was stuck going all-in with a pair of tens which easily busted out when the big stack showed jacks and ended up hitting trips on the flop.

I guess part of experience is simply having the discipline to act on the rules that you set for yourself. No matter how well you know how to play, it doesn't help if you can't stay strong all the way through a tournament because one moment of weakness like that can bust you out quite quickly.

I'll just have to keep playing and keep learning from my mistakes. I'm back down to .75 now so I'll have to wait for another shot at the 500k play chip freeroll before I can hit the real money tourneys again. I really like the 90-player one better than the 45 player one. You start double-stacked which givese you a lot more time to wait for a hand, and the prize-pool is spread out over 18 spots rather than just 6, so you have much better odds to cash. The next few days won't leave me with much time to hit the tables, but I'll try to build my play chip stack back up until I have time to take another shot at the 500k.

A Good Night

Current Bankroll: $2 - 1.69M Play Chips

Played a really solid night of poker tonight. Started out building my play chip bankroll back up over the 2M limit so that I could buy in to the 500K freeroll. Then played a great game in the freeroll avoiding any risky situations and even building my stack up large enough to not have to worry about the bubble when everyone just folds around the table waiting for someone else to make a move. Was in 4th place when the 19th player busted out and everyone else started the free-for-all donk fest. Soon I found myself in last place at the final table and so far behind the top stacks that I had to play their game to have a chance to make an extra buck or two by gunning for 1st and 2nd place since those were the next money increases. Ended up busting out on my first all-in, but can't complain because I played an excellent game and met my goal. It feels good to be back in the green with another chance at the cash side.

I also played a great game in the 7:40 No-Limit freeroll increasing my personal record to 159th place. The best part was folding every single hand for the first hour, a total of 56 hands, and then finally hitting some decent situations where I could safely build up my stack. Still couldn't catch a break though and the dry streaks put me back into blind trouble where my first all-in busted me out. It was really cool to place so high despite seeing such a dry streak of cards through the whole tourney. It just goes to show that patience almost always pays off in the end, and so it is always worth it to wait until you are really forced to push all-in.

Current Bankroll: $0 - 1.9M Play Chips

This post outlines my rules for my version of the Chris Ferguson Challenge. To skip directly to the rules, click here.

I've been on a mission over the last couple weeks. Some call it the Chris Ferguson Challenge, but for me it's simply chasing a dream. Namely, the dream of becoming a Poker Pro. Since I don't have a large enough bank account to start my own poker bankroll, and I'm definitely not good enough yet to do it with a tiny bankroll like Chris did a while back starting with just $1, without busting out a hundred times first, I've decided that the only way to do it without risking any of my own hard-earned money is to do Chris Ferguson style and start with nothing.

But how do you turn $0 into a real bankroll? Many poker rooms have multiple daily freerolls in which you can go up against hundreds of other players for a chance to cash in a couple dollars. While I do try to take part in these freerolls as often as I can, I have decided to put my main focus instead on a different route.

Due to the crazy nature of these freerolls, it is really quite difficult to place anywhere near the bubble without a good amount of luck. My highest finish is 185th in a 2700 player tourney where the top 27 cash in. Fortunately FullTiltPoker has another freeroll option that has a much better game pace. Every night at 8:40PM EST, FTP hosts a 500k Play Chip No-Limit Hold Em tournament with a $40 real money cash pool, with the top 18 cashing in. There are usually around 35 players every night, and while the play is quite tight, it's not too tough to make the top 18 pretty consistently.

While it can take some time to build up your play chip stack from the 1K that you start with to the 500K needed to enter this tourney, once you get up into higher limits, it's not too hard to consistenly make 500K in play chips daily to keep up with your entry fees for this tourney.

It took me about a week to build my play chip stack up to 1M before I decided to take a shot at this 500K tourney. I've actually cashed in on it quite a few times already, but I still haven't managed to maintain my real money bankroll once on the other side.

As such I've decided to lay out the rules for myself in much more concrete terms to maximize my chances of moving out of bankruptcy danger, and to avoid getting back into danger once out.


  1. Can't buy-in to the 500K Play Chip $40 Freeroll at Full Tilt Poker unless I have at least 2M in the bank so that I'll still have 1.5M left to build it back up before the next night without risking dropping below the 1M mark which would force me down a level from the 1K/2K tables which are the perfect limit for making back my 500K quickly.

  2. Only buy-in to cash games for 1/5th or less of my total bankroll (buy-in is 100 times BB), and tournaments for %5 or less.

  3. If I haven't played a specific tournament level in more than 3 days, don't buy-in to that level until I've got enough for 5 tournaments in a row without being forced to level down. This makes it easier to overcome the variations in play when moving up in levels and to avoid losing unnecessary buy-ins by playing levels I'm not comfortable with yet without a chance to adjust to those levels before being forced to level down.

  4. Never break any of these rules under any circumstance. This may sound a little silly at first, but it is actually the most important one. Having the rules set out makes it much easier to maintain good discipline since it is so clear-cut what you have to do, but they are still worthless if they aren't followed to the teeth.

This basically means that whenever I reach the cash side I will be playing the $1 tourneys until I build up to $50. Last time I went bankrupt it was because I was losing more money at the cash tables than my tourney winnings could sustain, and despite doing quite well at the $1 45-player tourneys, even reaching up to $17.85 at one point, my poor cash-game play bankrupted me after two days in the green.

Now I'm back to zero with 1.9M play chips so I'm going to be focusing on building up my play chip stack and getting ready for tomorrow night's 500K freeroll. Hopefully I'll be taking another shot at the real money side after that.

I'll be posting updates whenever I play, which is almost every day, so stay tuned to follow along. I'll also be discussing different strategies in the games that I play, as I work out the intracacies of this complex game. I am far from being an expert yet, but hopefully by sharing my experiences on this blog, other people can learn from them as much as I can, and who knows, maybe one day I'll be staring Chris down after building a bankroll with his methods.