Two fridays ago, I awoke to text messages and facebook posts indicating that the end was near. Not the end of the world as Nastradamus had predicted, but the end of an era as the DOJ had instated. Poker domain names were confiscated, funds were seized, and the right to make a living for thousands of United States online poker players was denied.
After years of playing chicken with the Federal Government that housed over 1/4th of their customer base, Full Tilt Poker and Pokerstars were hit head on by the Obama train. Their remains splattered all over the interweb as rumors of money laundering and bank fraud surfaced with the help of Daniel Tzvetkoff, a former employee, who'd been betrayed months earlier by the very companies he helped take down.
It all had a very Cruel Intentions-esque feel. A story about power and deceit. The DOJ's message on poker websites resembled the passout of Sebastian's diary, while Howard Lederer stood up in front his peers as we watched his empire crumble on the basis of his lies. The golf balls and flowers he used to launder money were exposed in front of the world like the cocaine hidden inside Sarah Michelle Gellar's cross.
Of course this movie has no happy ending, at least for now. The justice rests in no one's honor, instead leaving hundreds of thousands broke and confused.
Rumors of the Vegas ramifications of Black Friday have been running rampant over the forums and at the tables the past couple weeks. The truth is, the games have changed; For the better and for the worst. Bed-head, 5 o'clock shadows, sweatpants, and Strawberry Daquiri's have taken over the poker rooms on the strip. These players play better, but these players tilt harder.
Coincidentally the new player pool was introduced just in time for my adjustment to 10/20; resulting in a lot of bumping heads with online "celebrities". Players like WGCRider and KingofCards have been sitting regularly in the biggest games at Bellagio. My hero/role model/inspiration Tony Dunst was even sitting in the 5/10 game, but like a true nit I couldn't muster the balls to say what's up. As a result of the improved player pool, my results were very up and down. I've recorded a few +3k and +5k days, but also just as many on the negative side.
Going into last weekend, I was even since my 14k day, when I sat at my most difficult table yet. With Doug (WCGRider) to my right and Daniel (Jungelamn12) to my left, online they would call this "bad game selection". But **** game selection. After all this month is about putting myself in unique spots, and opening my eyes to the nuances of this level; Preparing myself for the 10/25 at the Rio this summer. If anyone could prepare me for high variance play, it was Jungleman. And that's exactly what he did. He 3-bet a healthy percentage of the time, always seeming to pick the best spots.
An hour or so into the session, with a 3k stack I was placed in a spot where I couldn't help myself. I had position on Daniel and J
on the btn. In a straddled pot, after two fish limped, I made it 280, hoping Jungleman would go easy out of position. He didn't. He took his time, meticulously counting out black chips before making it 680, 3betting me for the 3rd time. Against every player I've played in Vegas this would be a clear fold. These players don't take position into account; they don't recognize that I'd isolated the two biggest fish at the table. They don't adjust my range.
But Jungelman is paying attention to every detail and always looking for spots to exploit. It's what makes him the best in the world. I knew I had to raise. I waited anxiously as the rest of the table folded back to me, strategizing the most believable raise size. I didn't have enough money to raise and fold, so regardless of my sizing it would be committing. "$1600" I announced as I held my ground and pushed back at the champ. The suspense didn't last long as Daniel checked his cards one last time, before throwing the rags into the muck. I showed the J4. It was the last time he 3bet me all night.
The mood loosened up after that hand as we passed around Vodka Redbulls, then Yagerbombs as the night got later. By 8 o'clock we were all a bit toasted and ready for a different type of table then the felt. So Sarg, the player fueling the game with his reckless aggression, called his host and set us up a table at XS nightclub. In one of the most bizarre scenes I've ever encountered at a poker table, 7 of us strangers, moved the action to the nightclub, and fought over women instead of straddled pots. Only in Vegas.
With my poker confidence at an all time high, I returned to the tables the next day looking to make a big splash against anyone who challenged me. The game was 10/20Nl at the Bellagio and this time there was a new famous face across the table, Issac Haxton. Ike as he's called online, is a super friendly, smart looking….shortstacker
? "Shortstacking cause the rest of your money's stuck online?" I joked from across the table as I eyed his 2k stack. He smirked and shook his head. Maybe it wasn't a joke
. Black Friday was real and affecting some of the smartest, most successful people in poker.
My first hand at the table came when a competent regular opened to 80 and got 3 callers. The action got to me in the sb and I made it 400 with Q
. The 1st caller and the btn called. Both players were solid and I weighted their ranges more towards small pairs and suited connecters. Hands that could bust Aces.
The flop came T
. Not the best flop for their ranges but with 1400 in the pot and 2600 behind, my queens were a profitable Cbet. I lead for 820. The first player tanked forever, asking both of us how much we had behind before folding his hand high into the air. High enough to make the 8
visible. The next player counted his bills before placing them all in the middle, putting me all in. I had a slight bit of history with this player and knew he would've 3-bet TT preflop. By viewing the other opponents exposed 8, it seemed to me like his range was weighted towards combo draws. So I called off the last 1800, expecting to be in a racing situation. "Run it twice" he asked me. That was a good sign, must be a draw
. "You're not there yet?" I rebuttled. "No I've got a set, I'm worried about you." ****.
We ran it twice and the board brought me life twice as the J
and the A
peeled off. But it proved to be just a tease as a red deuce and a red 3 finished off the races, shipping the whole pot to my opponent and his set of sixes.
I wasn't too upset with my play, but just as I pulled out money to reload, the game became a 10/20/40. A huge fish had requested the game, but would only play if the third blind was initiated. Everyone obviously agreed, and I had a decision. I was down 3k for the day and didn't know if I could afford another huge loss. My decision was made easy as I witnessed the fish with a 25k stack show up with 96o in a 3bet pot in his very first hand. "4 in black and 1 in orange" I said to the chip runner, while handing him a flag. If I was too afraid to take shots in this game then it was time to pick up Monopoly. These are the games where dreams are made.
I sat patiently for an hour, studying the fish's tendencies, planning my future attack. An hour or so into his stay, I developed a strikingly reliable tell. Everytime he acted slow, meticulously picking up his chips and placing them into the pot, he was strong. When he quickly and recklessly flicked chips into the pot it was weak. "I might make a million tonight" I texted Joe. "This guy may as well be eating KGB's oreos."
However, he was losing quick, and I was card dead. His original 25k was down to 7 and I hadn't even sniffed a playable hand. Dejected, I slouched in my seat, daydreaming about the possibilities that were passing me by. With Bob Marley slowly putting me to sleep, I took a peak at a real hand. J
in the BB. Suddenly all of my energy was restored. Things couldn't get better as the fish opened to 200 after a limper. Typically I would call and play postflop, but I didn't want to share with the limper. I wanted to fry this fish all by myself. So I isolated the action to 600. The limper folded and without hesitation my opponent flung his remaining 7k into the pot. Quickly and recklessly. My eyes widened as I took a second to catch my breath. Not what I expected
, I thought to myself. I didn't show up to gamble preflop, but I couldn't go against my tell. My opponent was weak. I slid the remaining 5k of my stack into the pot. "Once or twice" I asked him. He held up one finger. Of course he wants once, he's here to gamble.
The board ran out 9
. The turn was a Q
. I glanced for a reaction. The river was a 5
. My opponent reached for his cards as my eyes stayed glued and my heart beat racing. After all, 11k was on the line. The biggest pot of my life. Red K....and a red 3. No pair
, i thought as my eyes shifted from hand to board. But why is he flipping that so proudly
? "Flush" the dealer announced, pushing up the 3 diamonds from the community cards.
I nodded my head and tossed my lousy one pair into the muck. My night was over. A disaster pot, left me on a -8k day, the worst of my life. Strangely, I wasn't too upset. Instead I walked home contemplating everything that'd happened to me the past couple weeks. I'd locked horns with guys I used to read about on the internet and in magazines. Guys who have done some pretty incredible things in this game. Aggression used to intimidate me; back when I was new, and afraid to lose big pots. Today it excites me. That K3 was the last cut in my emotional detachment from the dollar. My bankroll is just a scoring system in this crazy game. The currency determines my level, my status. Though if I'm too reckless in my commitment to make it to the top, before I know it, it could be game over, lights out.