30 September 2007

A Big Hit and an Interesting Miss at Million

As many of you might know, I was involved in some monster pots a few days ago in the ‘Million Dollar Cash Game’. I will start with the one that I won. First I will go through the hand and then give an analysis at the end.

Blinds are $300-600 with $100 ante. Phil Ivey limped UTG and I limped behind him. Brian Townsend (SBrugby) raised to $3,600, it was folded around to Ivey and he folded. I called with 66.

It was a beautiful Q 5 6 flop for me, rainbow. I checked to Brian and he bet $7,300 and I took a few seconds and called.

Brian and I have played quite a bit of NL Hold ‘em together, both online and live in the Bellagio ‘Big Game’. We know each other’s game inside and out. Brian is a very smart and deep-thinking player, which is why he is one of the best NL players in the world. He can probably remember every hand we have ever played together.

The turn was a K of hearts which put two hearts out there. I checked and he bet $20,000. Normally I would raise my set here, but I decided to play it differently this time. I just called his $20,000 bet.

The river brought a 4 for a board of Q 5 6 K 4 and I checked. Brian bet $40,000 and I check raised to $150,000 after thinking for a while. Brian was not happy about it, which was a good sign, because that eliminated him from having the nut straight. He finally called and Brian had QJ which he was value betting the whole way.

This hand is very interesting for many reasons. Phil Ivey and I were playing props, and Brian knew that. When Brian raised pre-flop $3,600 and I was the only one to call, I looked at my prop score sheet just to see if Phil or me was on for a double or triple in props. Brian probably picked up on this and knew I might be playing a weaker hand than normal.

I checked called the flop, which is standard, but check calling the turn was something I have never done against Brian in the hands where we were heading to a showdown. It was very hard for him to think I would play my set this way.

When the river came 4, it was a great card for me. I would not call an 80 per cent of the pot bet on the turn with an open ender. So Brian knows I did not have 7 8 for the straight.

I checked the river to give him a chance to bluff or bet for value. Luckily he took the bait and bet $40,000 on the river. Now, there was a small chance he had KK or QQ or even 78. But I decided to value raise to $150,000 with my set of sixes.

I know Brian thinks very deep into each street and how the hand was played. By playing the hand the way I did, it was nearly impossible for him to put me on a set. He called with QJ, which would beat a bluff, but thankfully I had a hand this time.

The props that Phil Ivey and I were playing are quite confusing. Basically, we were betting on the flop being red or black. If the flop is all one suit, you win double. Being the gamblers we are, we do not stop there. We each have three cards, and if one of those cards hit the middle card on the flop, you win more.

As you can see in the following hand, it can create some bizarre and interesting situations. We both had Aces, Kings, and Queens as the bonus cards, I was black and Phil was red. When playing with props, it can definitely make you play a little different than normal.

The end result in this following hand is not great, but it was a very interesting and deep-thinking hand. I am sure Phil and I will be talking about this hand for a long time. It was one of those moments that you can appreciate even though I did not win. It was great poker and we were both thinking on very deep levels.

I was up quite a bit in the game going into this hand. Ivey raised from the cutoff to $2,000, a very weird raise amount. Almost all day the standard opening raise was $2,100-$2,700. I was on the button and called with Ad Tc, Brian also called in the SB. There was $7,400 in the pot and the flop came AAJ with two spades and a club.

I said to myself "Mamma Mia!” This was a great flop for me for many reasons. The ace of spades was the middle card on the flop, second it was all black, and finally, I flopped trip aces! To make things even better it was a near certainty that Phil Ivey did not have an Ace. Because I was on for a triple in props, Phil would not want to see a flop having a red ace in his hand.

Brian checked and Ivey bet $6,000 into a $8,000 pot. I was very happy at this moment and was thinking to myself, how could I make more money on this hand. I decided to put a little teaser raise out there and raised to $15,000. Brian mucked and Phil re-raised to $50,000. I was more than happy to call the $50,000.

The turn was a 5. Phil thought for a while and bet $100,000 and I called. I was very happy the way the hand was going at this point, even though I started to think he might have pocket jacks.

The river was a Qh and Phil took a long time, hard to tell, but it felt like five minutes, before betting $250,000. Now I was not happy at all. Maybe Ivey forgot about the props? Could he have played AQ? I was 99 per cent certain that he did not have an Ace. So the only hand which would make sense is JJ.

My mind was all over the place trying to figure out what was going on. After thinking for a little while, I thought I was beat, my mind was racing and thinking about so many things. A quarter million dollar bet on the river is usually a sign of someone with a hand. But Phil Ivey is one of the best NL players in the world and if there is anyone capable of pulling a bluff off, it is him.

I could not help but think that Ivey was down $300,000 in the game and had just lost $30,000 on this flop alone. Was he steaming or did he really have JJ? I decided that if I did not call, I would not be able to sleep. I counted out $250,000 and slid it toward the middle of the pot.

He had JJ. So I lost but I do not regret the hand; it was one of the most interesting hands I have ever played.

After the game, I spent Friday in Monaco looking at places to live. I found a beautiful flat on the 33rd floor right in the middle of city center and after seeing it with my own eyes, it was better than I could have imagined. I will go back in November and Monaco will be home. I flew into Nice very early that morning and then caught the last fight out to Munich.

I went to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest and for some business meetings, I cannot talk about details, but my Presidential Suite of the nicest hotel in town, was comp’ed. The room was simply amazing. I have some exciting news that I can hopefully share with you soon.

On Monday I flew back to London for the EPT London. It was not too exciting. I survived Day One with more than average in chips, but lost a coin-flip during the second hour of Day Two. If my 99 would have held up against my Finnish friend Ville "Isokala" Wahlbeck's AJ, I would have had a very nice stack and a chance to go deep.

Anyone who loves tournaments should try their best to play some of the EPT's. They are very well run tournaments, and they are in beautiful cities, so it's a great trip no matter what.

I just arrived back in the States. I am excited to play the WCOOP main event today. I will be back in town for six days and then heading over to Europe for the EPT Baden.

Good luck at the tables.


19 September 2007

WSOPE Ends As Million, Monaco Beckon

Congratulations to Annette 'Annette_15' Obrestad for winning the WSOPE Main Event. I have been hearing a lot of great things about her and am very happy to see her take down this prestigious event. She beat 362 of the world’s best players, and she is only 19. This is great for poker and Annette proved that she is one of the best tournament players in the world.

My last two days in the main event did not go as planned. I feel like every poker player in the world when I say, ‘I can’t win a race’. The last two days I did not win any coin flips, especially the last few hours of Day Three.

Near the end of Day Three, after the dinner break, I went from chip-leader to a little below average. On one of the last hands of the night, Matthew McCullough raised to 22,000 and I re-raised to 60,000 with AK. He really should have folded his 44 since he still had 50,000 chips left, but he went all in and I called and we were off to the races. I did not hit and I was down to 200,000. Winning those races is so important that deep into the tournament. Instead of being top five in chips I was in the middle of the pack going into Day Four.

I busted out in 29th place very early in Day Four. My final hand I was able to get my money in as a small favorite, but my pair did not hold up. It went like this. Gus Hansen raised to 18,000 and I moved all in from the button for 178,000. Magnus Persson came over the top in the big blind for 238,000.

Gus went into the tank for a few minutes and I did not feel so good about my threes at this point. Mr. Hansen finally folded and Persson turned over AK off suit. He flopped a K and I did not hit my two outer. As always it is very disappointing to go out so deep in these tournaments.

In the five biggest pots I played in this tournament, I did not win one. One of them was a hand that I did not play well, where I thought my opponent was making a move and he had the nut straight and I was drawing dead going into the river. The other hands were hands where I was a favorite or in a coin flip. You have no chance of winning if you cannot get a little lucky and win the flips.

One of the biggest pots for me in the tournament was against good friend Daniel Negreneau. With blinds 1,200-2,400 he raised to 5,000 when I was in the small blind. I re-raised to 18,000 with AA and he called. There were 40,000 in the pot and Daniel had 92,000 left. The flop came 2 4 5. I led out for 31,000 and he raised all in. He had 5-3 for a pair and a straight draw and I had AA, which was the best hand because I had blockers. Unfortunately I caught an A on the river and that gave Daniel a straight and a very large pot. I was not the only one who lost to Daniel with AA, Gus also lost a big pot with rockets.

Overall the WSOPE was a great time and I will definitely be back next year. The Empire Casino did a great job hosting the event. I had a great feeling that I was going to win this tournament, I gave myself a chance and my tournament game is coming on strong. I am looking forward to the upcoming EPTs

Next I am playing in The Million Dollar Cash Game, it is considered Europe’s most prestigious high stakes poker event that will be made into a TV series that is scheduled to broadcast on Sky Sports in January 2008. This should be a lot of fun. Some of the players scheduled to play are Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, Tony G, Gus Hansen, Erik Seidel, Marc Goodwin, Howard Lederer, Allen Cunningham and John Juanda. Blinds are $300-$600 with $100 ante and the minimum buy-in is $100,000 with no max. The nice thing about this cash game that is different from other cash games is that you can use money from your online account to buy in.

After the Cash Game I will have a few days off and on Friday will take a quick trip to Monte Carlo looking for a place to live. I will still spend a few months a year in Vegas for WPT and WSOP events, but will soon call Monte Carlo home.

I have been playing online and it has been a rollercoaster ride. I am usually very good about keeping a level head, but tournaments can make my head spin. I have been chip leader of quite a few big tournaments this past year with 20-30 players left and cannot seem to take down a title. I will just have to wait for the EPT London to try and win my next tournament.

My family and the nanny just got into London from Israel. We are going to enjoy London as a family for a few days.

Good luck at the tables


17 September 2007

Saving The Best For Last At WSOPE

The WSOPE has been going great and, luckily, I have saved the best for last. All of the tournaments have been run very well and I really like the new structures. One thing they do here is spread out the players to three different casinos. Imagine only having one Day One at the WSOP in Las Vegas, instead of dragging on Day One for four days.

The HORSE event was first and looked like a great chance to win a bracelet since the field is so small. However, it is a super tough field. I had Phil Gordon, Howard Lederer, and Jeff Lisandro at my starting table. I felt that I played well, but just could not catch any cards. In limit games, it is very tough to bluff.

My starting table for the PLO event was the toughest starting table I have ever had to play. Kenny Tran, Devilfish, Juha Hellpi, Mark Vos, Robert Mizrachi, and a super tough young Swedish kid. The end result was the same as the HORSE – I just did not hit enough hands and was not able to make a run.

Unfortunately, even though I didn’t get the result I wanted, I lasted long enough in the PLO to miss the Ultimate Fighting Championship 75 event here in London. I was really looking forward to watching it live but had to settle for ordering it online and watching it on my laptop.

My tournament game feels like it is peaking at the right time and I have had a gut feeling the past few days that I was due for a big result. The first two days of the Main Event have been almost perfect and I will try my best to keep it going on Day Three.

Day One did not start well, but got better. I was playing very tight the first five hours and not catching any cards. I was down to 8,000 from the starting 20,000. I finally looked down at KJ of spades and called a raise. The flop came J high with two spades, I had top pair and a flush draw. All of the money went in on the flop and I hit a J on the turn and a spade on the river. This turned out to be the turning point.

I had 24,000 when I was able to make a very good read on a player who obviously wanted to gamble. He was low on chips and we were coming up on the dinner break. His body language and attitude were telling me he wanted to get his chips in as soon as possible.

With blinds of 100-200 I raised utg with 77, he raised to 7450. I took a long time and finally decided to call, since I knew there was a big chance I was in better shape than a coin flip. He had A2 and I was in great shape, but he spiked an A on the turn. I was down to 17,500 instead of 32,500.

These are the times in tournaments where it is very easy to go on a little tilt and usually bust out quite quickly. Luckily for me, it was dinner break and I had time to cool down and regain focus.

At the dinner break I had a good feeling that the rest of the night was going to be good. I built my stack to 76,000 with only two showdowns. I was very happy with my performance after the dinner break; I don't think I could have played any better. I did not have any cards, but was able to pick up a lot of pots without showdown and build a stack.

At the end of Day Two I was still the chip-leader for my heat. We were down to 84 players and I was in second place behind my good friend Gus Hansen. My starting table on Saturday included Gus and Daniel Negreanu. You can bet there were a lot of interesting hands with Gus and me at the same table. I can’t tell you about them now but you can follow the play on PokerNews.com.

Wish me luck and hopefully I can keep up my great play.


04 September 2007

Leaving Pain in Spain, EPT Moves to London

On the flight to Spain, I was very focused and ready for the upcoming EPT Barcelona. I have not played a lot of tournaments this year, but I am very excited for all the EPTs this fall. Not only are EPTs my favorite tournaments, but also Barcelona is one of my favorite cities. Maya, Mila, and our nanny/chef, all came along for the trip so there were no excuses not to perform well. I could use an airline sponsor since my entourage is growing and I have spent over $40,000 on airline tickets in the last month.

After we arrived I found out I was scheduled to play on Day Two. That was great news as it gave me an extra day to get used to the time change. My mom, dad and sister all flew in before the tournament and I got to spend some quality time with them. It has been a long time since I have been back to Finland and it was really nice seeing my family.

Day One was very good. I managed to stay out of big pots and slowly accumulate chips. When play was done for the day I was in sixteenth place. The European circuit is very different from the WPTs in America. The average age of the players in Europe is a lot younger, which is probably why they are twice as aggressive. Also the structures are very good in EPTs; they add a few levels that really allow for a lot of play on Day One.

The worst bad beat of the tournament for me came the morning before Day Two. I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and a terrible sore throat. My throat hurt so much I could not get back to sleep. I took enough painkillers to numb the pain, but I was in bad shape. I was not in the mood to grind all day and was willing to gamble a little more than usual.

I eventually busted out on Day Two with pocket deuces. The blinds were 500-1k when the cutoff raised to 3,200 and I was on the button with 41,000. The SB and BB were both very tight, so I figured the cutoff was raising a large range of hands. I decided to push all in thinking that the raiser would fold pocket pairs 33-99. If he had AA-TT he is going to call and there is nothing I can do. He woke up with QQ and I could not catch a miracle deuce.

It was very disappointing to get sick and to get knocked out so early. I would have liked to play small-pot poker and try not to put my chips at risk with a coin flip if I could avoid it. But sometimes things like this happen and you have to adapt as best you can. I will have to wait until EPT London for another shot at my second EPT title.

I have been putting some good hours playing online and doing well. I have also been enjoying spending a lot of time with my girls Maya and Mila, we have been going to the beaches and relaxing and enjoying a little vacation.

A few days ago, Maya, David Williams and his girlfriend, Noah Boeken, and I took a 30-minute cab ride to a very nice beach outside of Barcelona. Noah Boeken is one of my best friends on the circuit and it is a lot of fun seeing a lot of my old European friends.

My Mom, Dad, and Sister have all really enjoyed seeing Mila for the first time, and Mila is loving the attention as usual.

I leave for London tomorrow and will attend a WSOPE launch party tomorrow night. The next day I start playing HORSE, which I’m really looking forward to.

I’m hoping for some good results there, but whatever happens I’m going to an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event at the O2 Arena on the evening of the 8th. I love watching this type of fighting. It’s tough, no-excuses combat that reminds me in some ways of heads-up poker – fortune often favors the brave.

Good luck.