World Poker Open, down to 18

The 2007 Gold Strike World Poker Open is down to the final 18 players heading into today's action. According to Bluff Magazine who is covering the event live, Gavin Smith took 19th place and the remaining competitors vying for the title will be:

Jim Bullard - 966,000
Young Cho - 674,000
JC Tran - 561,000
Robert Thompson - 466,000
Daniel Negreanu - 446,000
Brian Gabrielle - 323,000
Gary Kainer - 300,000
Jeremy Tinsley - 295,000
Bryan Sumner - 290,000
Eddy Putrus - 255,000
Amir Vahedi - 236,000
Matt Russell - 201,000
Adeep Harb - 194,000
John Racener - 178,000
Don Mullis - 168,000
Thang (Kido) Pham - 166,000
Justin Marsh - 109,000
Jolyne Thompson - 72,000

Chip counts via BluffMagazine.com. Check them out for live updates throughout the remainder of the tournament.

Ultimate Blackjack Tour

The Ultimate Blackjack Tour recently held the Battle of the Superstars, a competition where some of the world's best blackjack and poker players competed for $100,000 in prize money. The winner was Robert Williamson III, beating Kenny Einiger, Hollywood Dave (who is well known throughout the blackjack world and hosts a number of card events on television) and Annie Duke, who placed fourth in the event.

The final six players competed in elimination blackjack, followed by No Limit Hold'em poker. The event will be broadcast as part of the second season of the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.

EPT Changes 2007 Schedule

The 2007 EPT French Poker Open has been cancelled. According to the CEO of the European Poker Tour, John Duthie:

The European Poker Tour (EPT) regrets to announce that the 2007 French Open poker tournament due to be held at Casino Barrière de Deauville from 20-24th February, 2007, has been cancelled. This is as a direct result of last-minute intervention by the French authorities making it impossible for the Lucien Barrière group to run a poker tournament on their premises in Deauville. We sincerely apologise to all players due to attend the event, but unfortunately these circumstances were beyond our control. We are considering the feasibility of appealing against this decision to the highest authority and will advise of any developments.

All of the other events are running as previously scheduled though. The next event, The EPT German Open, will be held in Dortmund, Germany between March 8-11, followed shortly thereafter by the EPT Polish Open in Warsaw between March 14-17, 2007.

The season will culminate with the Monte Carlo Grand Final at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort in Monaco, beginning on March 28, 2007.

2007 Gold Strike World Poker Open

The $10,000 buy-in WPT Main Event at the Gold Strike World Poker Open (not to be confused with the Winter Poker Open which is also currently running) is well underway, and according to the live coverage provided by Bluff Magazine, they will be playing down to 18 players today. It's unbelievable how many big names are still in the race - top nine chip leaders are as follows:

Thang (Kido) Pham 580,000
Victor Ramdin 570,000
Hoyt Corkins 450,000
Gavin Smith 320,000
JC Tran 305,000
John Racener 240,000
Matt Russell 140,000
Amir Vahedi 88,000
Mark Seif 88,000

Last year, Scotty Nguyen won the championship event in this tournament, claiming $969,421. The second place finisher was none other than Michael Mizrachi, helping solidify his Player of the Year standings early on in the year.

For more on the live action in this tournament, go check out BluffMagazine.com.

Lou Krieger Wins Binion's Author's Challenge

Poker Author Lou KriegerWhile we all sit here and try to decide if the sky is actually falling on Internet poker or not, there is still some real live B&M poker happening out there, including the Poker Author's challenge at Binion's.

It sounded like a lot of fun, and made me wish I'd collected all my WSOP writings from last year and put them into book form, so I could face off against John Vorhaus (whose homegame I donk around in regularly -- incidentally, even if you can't find the sucker, and therefore know you're the sucker, you're still the sucker) and other guys like Richard Sparks (Diary of a Mad Poker Player), Charlie Shoten (No Limit Life) and everyone's favorite author / blogger, Lou Krieger.

The tourney went off this weekend, and Lou Krieger emerged victorious. This pleases me greatly, because Lou is a great guy, a great friend to all poker bloggers everywhere, and has been a voice of reason throughout what I'm just going to call "the recent unpleasantness."

Lou has all the details of his championship run, in true self-effacing form, at his blog.

Ultimate Bet Removes Penny Games

Ultimate Bet was one of the few sites that still ran $0.01/$0.02 Limit Hold'em games, but I am told that they have recently done away with them. Apparently the lowest stakes available now in Limit is $0.02/$0.04.

Now I realize that this doesn't affect anyone who plays above those levels, but considering everything that has happened in regards to online gaming over the past 6 months, I would think that the sites would be offering more of a selection to their players rather than doing away with certain games or limits.

I personally know a handful of players who play the lowest (real money) limits possible. They aren't looking to make a living off the games, they play them purely for the enjoyment of it with minimal risk. I suppose the sites are looking at it with the perspective that they will earn more rake on the higher games, so if they stop offering the micro-limits the players will simply adjust. I'm not so sure they will.

Just to name a few, the lowest limits PokerStars offers in fixed-limit Hold'em is $0.02/$0.04, and Full Tilt Poker only goes as low as $0.25/$0.50.

Department of Justice Targeting British Banks?

I ran across this article at CardPlayer.com and found it highly disturbing. Though we don't often quote entire articles, I do believe this one warrants it:

Department of Justice Wants Information about Poker Site's IPOs

The United States Department of Justice has expanded its war against online gambling across the Atlantic Ocean to the marbled floors of some of the world's largest financial institutions that have offices in Britain.

The Times of London reported Sunday that subpoenas have been issued against at least 16 banks to hand over information concerning their dealings with several online poker sites. It seems the DoJ is targeting online sites that trade their stock publicly on the London Stock Exchange. Online poker companies that floated on the LSE include PartyGaming, 888 Holdings, and Empire Online.

The subpoenas were issued by the Southern District Court of New York, which is the same district that's bringing a case of money laundering against two former NETELLER founders.

According to the London Times, the subpoenas were issued only days after President Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act into law in October, and were recently reissued.

A representative of the court would only say he could neither confirm or deny the reports.

A few of the banks targeted are HSBC, Dresdner Kleinwort, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. The subpoenas asked for communication documents such as emails and telephone records concerning the online poker sites.

The original article can be found via the link below.

Source: CardPlayer.com

Mondays at the Hoy -- Results and 2007 Leaderboard

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Mondays at the Hoy went off again last night at 10pm ET, at its regular home on pokerstars, and I showed up ready to play and to defend my current top spot on the 2007 money leader board for the MATH tournament. We got our usual 20 runners for this, the first of the weekly blogger tournaments every week, although the list of players last nght did include some new Hoy virgins in addition to many of the old standbys.

I started the Hoy off poorly, calling a preflop raise from steal position from Astin with a mediocre QTo myself, knowing Astin's tendency to bluff with nothing in these blogger tournaments (sorry to spoil your secret, Astin!). When Astin checkraised me on the turn on a board that missed my hand entirely, I had to fold, despite figuring that Astin had nothing, because I couldn't beat any pair, Ace-high or even King-high on this board. Luckily, I soon regained my chips and then some as I was able to make pocket Queens hold up (can you believe it?!) when my flop check induced an allin push from NewinNov with just A4o on a flop of 249 rainbow. This built my stack back over 2400 chips (starting stacks in the MATH are 1500), and on the very next hand I looked down to find pocket Aces.

Pocket Aces. How much do you love taking down a big pot in a no-limit holdem tournament, and then finding pocket Aces on the very next hand, when many of the players are apt to put you on an aggressive Doyle-esque attempt to raise with nothing just to try to make a rush for yourself? It's a rare opportunity, and while I pondered how best to milk as many chips as possible out of my tablemates, Fuel55 limped for the 50-chip big blind from UTG+1, and then relatively new poker blogger Julius Goat followed that up from UTG+2 with a 4x raise to 200. It's like McDonald's says: I'm Lovin' It!

No sooner had I raised this bet to 500 chips preflop with my pocket Aces from middle position, that Mattazuma quickly made it 1200 chips to go from right behind me in the cutoff. Yes! Could I have planned this one any better? Fuel and the Goat (wisely) folded their hands, and of course I moved in for my last 1680 chips. Mattazuma insta-called, and flipped up pocket Jacks. Probably a questionable play on his part, but as he explains on his blog this morning, he in fact thought that I was just making an over-aggro move on the hand following my pocket Queens and the big pot I was able to win with them. And he certainly did the right thing and re-reraised it up big with those Jacks, knocking out Fuel and the Goat, in support of what was basically a necessity to get the pot heads-up were he to have any realistic chance of winning such a high-action preflop pot with pocket Jacks. And he especially did the right thing when the board came Ten - Six - Eight - Five...

Jack on the river. IGH in 16th place out of 20 players. For the second time in the Mondays at the Hoy tournament, Mattazuma knocked me out of a hand from behind after making what I consider to be not such a great play preflop. That said, for the second time, Matt also managed to make great use of my chips, playing much smarter and more selectively aggressive poker from there on out, ending up busting on the bubble in 4th place for another strong showing for the guy who claims he is just donking off the rest of his money online in blogger tournaments due to the latest news from Neteller last week. So my night at the Hoy ended early, but I did stick around to watch most of the rest of the tournament, which was one of the better ones we've had recently on pokerstars.

In the end, after without a doubt the longest bubble period with 4 players left in any Hoy in several months, it was jeciimd ending in 3rd place for an $80 payout, and last week's winner VinNay finishing in 2nd for $120, bringing his 2-week Hoy money total to over $300. And winning the event was Fuel 55, using pocket Kings to call VinNay's pocket 5s preflop in the final hand to ice his first-ever Hoy title, and Fuel's second blogger tournament win in about a week's time. Congratulations to all three of our Hoy cashers this week, and following is the updated 2007 Chase for the Hoy leaderboard, including last night's results:

1. VinNay $310
2. Hoyazo $200
3. Fuel55 $200
4. Zeem $120
5. Ganton516 $114
6. PhinCity $80
7. jeciimd $80
8. Manik79 $76

You may note that three of the eight players who have cashed this year and found their way onto the early leaderboard in the Hoy tournament are non-bloggers, two of which are friends of friends of mine who have never blogged in their lives. So this should give some impetus to all of you out there who are not necessarily involved or even a part at all of the "blogger community" to come out and play next week and in future MATH tournaments, because as you know we always encourage new players to join and see what all the fun is about. I look forward to seeing you next week in the 2007 Chase for the Hoy, and thanks to everyone who came out to play last night as always.

The Beginning of the End

bodog girlsNeteller is closing up in the USA, and I have to agree with Bill Rini: this is the beginning of the end for online poker in the USA.

I'm in shock, to be honest. I don't see how online gaming hurts ANYONE or does ANYTHING that is bad (mmmkay) and I just don't understand the jihad my idiot government is waging against online poker, while horse racing, dog racing, and state lotteries are still A-OK for anyone.

I'm worried, because though I don't make a ton of money playing online poker, I do make a significant portion of my monthly income writing about it and even though I'm not as good or well-known as everyone else on Team PokerStars, I've been a proud member of the team, and I've worked hard to be an ambassador to normal, every day players who don't play in the hard core 40-80 games. Now that the US market is rapidly closing up, I have this looming sense of inevitability that I'll lose that, too, and eventually I'll lose the ability to enjoy my evenings playing some low-limit SNGs or cash games.

See, I really like poker, but I'm not rich, and while I'm entirely comfortable risking the price of a night out for dinner and a movie to play cards and maybe even leave with more than I started, I don't see myself driving to Commerce or the Bike, or making a special trip to Vegas to play in a B&M room for higher stakes, with the associated
costs of travel and the extra investment of my time.

There are a lot of reasons to loathe my idiot government now, and this is right up there in my top five: they're telling me what I can do in my own home, and they're negatively impacting my ability to support myself and my family . . . and for what, exactly? So Bill Frist can pander to a minority of ultra-conservative whackos, and then not even follow through on his presidential bid?

This sucks. It makes me angry, and it makes me depressed.

(BoDog Girls tearfully included to remember the good times.)

Flopping a Straight Flush Draw -- Part II

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Today I will conclude my earlier post on how to handle a flopped flush draw, specifically in this case (see screenshot at left) where I've got a minbet and a nice raise already in ahead of my action on the flop. We received a number of really excellent comments to the first straight flush draw post, which I will discuss briefly here.

For the most part, the readers were more or less in agreement as far as how to handle this play here. I guess I was just a tiny bit surprised (but not really) that no one suggested folding. I certainly would not fold here, but I do think it is important to remember that a big draw, even an open-ended straight flush draw, is still just that -- a draw -- and that right now at this time I technically have made nothing more than a pair of 5s. With the first player minbetting, he could easily be on a draw himself, but the second player's nice-sized raise I think makes it pretty clear that I am in fact behind here. Even with 15 outs twice, which does generally speaking make me the favorite to win the hand if I stay through to the river, it's important to remember that I'm only a little more than a 54% favorite. So, if you think about it from a glass-half-empty perspective, my odds situation here is not a whole lot better than when I have a medium pocket pair and my opponent has two overcards, one of the same suit as my cards, before the flop.

That said, the old OESFD is certainly the best individual draw that one can have at any point in a holdem hand, so this is not a hand where I would fold, and none of the commenters seemed to think so either which I think is a good thing. In fact, the only real debate among the comments seemed to be whether to push here or not. Almost no one recommended a smooth call here, another viable option in my mind. In the end it is not the option I chose, because my draw is in fact so big, but I do think for what it's worth that a smooth call here is a viable play given the first player's minbet, which smacks to me of a blocking bet or a weak-lead, typical of someone holding a draw of his own here. And if I'm up against another flush draw with the clubs, then my OESFD is really not nearly as good of a draw as I think it is. So I do think just smooth calling here would be a defensible play, check out what happens on the turn and then re-evalute things there.

All that being said, however, I am with the majority of the commenters who say a reraise is in order here. Seems like most of you ended up recommending the straight-out allin push here, which is a move I like because the relative chip stacks are such that this bet gives my two opponents a realistic and opportunistic chance to fold now, which deep down is what I'd really like most given the hand situation on the flop here. Because my draw is probably a greater than 50% favorite, I don't mind at all going to the river with the hand, but taking it down now is a perfectly happy outcome for me here, and one that I would aim for given the roughly 46% chance that I miss my draws entirely, and that nagging possibility (albeit unlikely) of a higher flush draw out there.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!In the end, I looked at the relative chip stacks of myself and my opponent who put in the raise on the flop, and I determined that I had the ability to make a large enough bet that it put the pressure in the hand on him, and yet could still leave me with enough chips myself that I was not going to be bankrupt if I lost the hand (courtesy of poker author extraordinaire DoubleAs). I just didn't love the idea of putting everything in with a 54% favorite hand, on the assumption that my opponent was going to call no matter what I did since he had raised so much on the flop already. So, I went for a reraise to 1000 chips, which is basically the same thing as a push from my opponent's perspective. He in fact responded by pushing allin, which I clearly called, and we flipped 'em up.

Anybody want to guess what he was holding here? Rather than make you wait, I'll just post this link for your viewing pleasure. You will note that, as expected, I was behind there on the flop, and actually was facing a draw that could beat most of my outs already, so it was not exactly a great situation for me, which really illusrates again why I don't always necessarily want to get it all in on the flop even with an OESFD. But never fear, here is the final shot of the hand, where justice did, in the end, prevail.

Thanks again to everyone for the well-reasoned and insightful comments, as always. Have a great weekend, and maybe I'll run into you out on the virtual tables somewhere.

Losing Iron Status, Getting Back in the Game

I'd like to state for the record that NyQuil / NeoCitran and poker do not mix. Seriously, don't try it at home. I've been down with a bout of the flu over the past week which eliminated any hopes and dreams I had of reaching Iron Man status at Full Tilt for the month of January. In fact, I haven't opened a single poker client the entire time (less 3 or 4 SNG's that I completely tanked in) which was probably a very wise decision. The best I can hope for at this point is Silver Status in January, so I'll be working on Iron again once February begins.

I was hoping to play in the MATH and the WWdN this week (especially since Hoy is now keeping a leaderboard with the Monday night results) but had to put the kibosh on that plan as well. Damn flu - miss a week, miss a lot. However, I'll be relearning the game easing back into the online poker world tonight by playing in the Mookie, though it wouldn't surprise me if I donk out in spectacular fashion early on. If you are looking for easy money, come see me. I'll also state for the record that it is highly doubtful I'll be making an appearance at any blogger tables afterwards, but once my system has returned to "normal" I'll be back, and hopefully in fine form.

Details for the Mook tonight are as follows:

What: The Mookie - Ride That Donkey
Where: Full Tilt Poker
Time: 10pm EST
Cost: $10 + $1
Password: vegas1

And don't forget, there is a second chance tournament at 11:30pm EST, which will be turbo PLO. Yes you read that right: Turbo PLO. Oy. Over/under on the total duration of that game?

Flopping a Straight Flush Draw

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Today I want to discuss one of the more fun (and yet still potentially perilous) situations in no-limit holdem -- when you flop a straight flush draw. Flopping the open-ended SF draw is always a fun thing for me, because I know that in most cases I have 2 cards to come, and 9 flush outs and 6 other straight-making outs to the nuts. And being the mathy guy that I am, I know that 15 outs twice actually makes me the favorite over any other made hand that is not a straight or flush, as is usually the case in these situations.

So today I'd like to solicit your opinions on how you like to handle a situation like this, because it happened to me last night in the nightly 30k guaranteed tournament on full tilt, which has a $109 buyin but which I satellited in to for $14 in the nightly turbo satellite at 8:45pm ET. As you can see from the screenshot above, I took a cheap flop with 6♣5♣, and the board came 7♣5♥4♣, giving me the open-ended straight flush draw. As I mentioned above, not even counting the other two 5s as outs to give me trips, I have to figure the 9 other clubs are going to give me the best hand, as well as any of six 3s or 8s which will make me a straight (I can't count the 3♣ or the 6♣ twice). 15 outs twice means I am a money favorite to win this hand, even though as of now I have nothing more than a measly pair of 5s in an unraised pot preflop.

As you can see from the action above, the first player minbet at this flop, moving in 40 chips into the 240-chip pot. One player in MP folded, and then the last player before me raised it up to 240 chips, basically betting the size of the pot, and indicating (I thought) some degree of strength, a good draw, something on this board. This faced me with an interesting decision: at least 15 outs twice, facing a 240-chip bet into a pot that now had 520 chips in it. As I pondered this decision (and took the screenshot, because I knew right away this hand would be up on CardSquad in the morning), I wondered how my fake internet poker friends would handle this flop in this situation.

Does anyone fold here? After all, you've got nothing but a pair of 5s made right now, and even though there are 15 outs, you still need to hit one of them in order to win this pot (most likely). Or, would you be tempted to flat call the 240 chips here, and see if the turn card completes your hand before committing more chips than that? Or, alternatively, do you raise aggressively with this big draw, try to chase everyone out of the pot now, and knowing that if you do get called, it's ok because you've got the 15 outs? How do you like to play this here, the open ended straight flush draw when you've got one minbettor and one raiser already in the pot on the flop ahead of you?

Please let me know your thoughts. I'll be back later with my approach in this situation, a discussion of the comments, and what actually happened in this hand.

EPT Copenhagen - Scandinavian Open Begins

In what seems like a never-ending stream of live poker tournaments running simultaneously, The European Poker Tour kicks off their EPT Copenhagen Scandinavian Open today in Denmark at Casino Copenhagen. This event will be covered live by the official PokerStars Blog, so we will be checking their site for updates.

Apparently Team PokerStars members Isabel Mercier, Katja Thater, Bertrand Grospellier, Tom McEvoy and Luca Pagano will be in attendance.

Random fact of the day: according to the EPT website a jacket is required at the Casino Copenhagen - no sports wear is allowed. Can you honestly picture the average poker player in anything BUT sportswear? I'm wondering if they are making an exception for the event, especially since a huge number of the entrants have qualified via PokerStars. If not, it would be refreshing seeing a room full of players not covered in poker logos.

Either way, the event will run between January 17-20th, and has completely sold out.

World Poker Tour 2007 Winter Poker Open

Just in case there currently aren't enough live tournaments for you to keep track of, I'll toss one more in your direction. The 2007 Winter Poker Open begins today, January 17th, at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. There are 13 events total, with a $10,000 buy-in Championship Event that will be broadcast by the World Poker Tour.

If you recall, last year the Main Event at this tournament was won by none other than Michael Mizrachi, with John D'Agostino placing second and Erick Lindgren finishing in third. This was just one short week after Mizrachi placed second at the 2006 Gold Strike World Poker Open, losing out to Scotty Nguyen. That was one helluva week in poker.

Full event schedule for the 2007 Winter Poker Open is as follows:

January 17 - $500 NLHE
January 18 - $750 NLHE
January 19 - $1000 NLHE
January 20 - $1500 NLHE
January 21 - $260 Ladies NLHE
January 21 - $500 Limit Hold'em
January 22 - $2500 NLHE
January 23 - $500 NLHE
January 24 - $5000 NLHE
January 26 through 30 - $10,000 WPT NLHE Championship Event
January 27 - $1000 NLHE
January 28 - $750 NLHE
January 29 - $500 NLHE

2007 Card Player POY Scoring Criteria

Yesterday I mentioned that Michael Mizrachi won the 2006 Card Player Player of the Year award, and as I was checking out their website I noticed that they made a few changes in the scoring criteria for the 2007 season. Some of this is new, some of it isn't, but according to their website, tournaments that qualify for this year's POY points must meet the following criteria:

- Overall tournament prize pool must meet or exceed $750,000
- Single events must have a prize pool that meets or exceeds $250,000
- 60 player minimum
- Buy-in must be at least $300
- Invitationals must have at least 60 players and a prize pool of $500,000
- International events must have min. 60 players and prize pool must meet or exceed $1,500,000
- Online tourneys must have a prize pool of more than $5,000,000 and player must release their real name to accumulate points

Full details on the criteria, as well as how they are calculating points for the 2007 season, can be found at their website via the "read" link below.

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