When I wrote Back to Basics: My Week of Pub Poker Pt 1 & 2 I really was skeptical about the pub poker scene. BUT since the Bar Poker Open has stepped up their game I’ve come around to accepting this avenue to play poker. The Bar Poker Open is composed of about 30 bar poker leagues throughout the US. They host 2 big events a year. Both events have a series of decent structured, low buy-in tournaments with small guaranteed prize pools that culminate in a 2-day tournament with a big guaranteed prize pool. The $100,000 East Coast Championship takes place at Borgata in December. The $200,000 National Championship is in Las Vegas in the summer at the Golden Nugget.
So what has the Bar Poker Open done to step up their game, you ask? For starters, they upgraded their online software, and although the site is new (the BPO team has been dealing with a lot of kinks in the software, but kudos to them for having rolled out the site in an insane timeline of 30 days), it has added another route to get into the 2-day guaranteed tournies. The National Championship in Vegas was added in 2016 as a $100,000 guaranteed, and in 2017 has been upgraded to a $200,000 guarantee (another plus, it overlaps with the WSOP). Lastly, they’ve brought great production value and talent to their content and livestreams. Some of their previous commentators: #AmericanPokerAward 2016 Podcast of the Year winner Joe Ingram, Jesse Sylvia, and female pros Ebony Kenney and Anna Khait. They’ve also been upping the ante with opportunities to win seats into bigger tournaments. Recently they hosted an online tourney to win a seat into the WSOPC Caribbean in St. Maarten. And the latest venture, their first ever High Roller Event, is an online tourney with 1st prize being a package deal — a seat into the WSOP Millionaire Maker (a $1500 buy-in event), the $200K National Championship, 6 night’s stay at the Golden Nugget, and $400 flight reimbursement! Check out their Facebook page for details on how to join.
I won my seat online into Bar Poker Open $100,000 East Coast Championship pretty late, in November. I took the month to dedicate myself to studying low stakes tournaments and playing at the pubs. I think the BPO’s expansion has resulted in attracting both better players and novices making it a poker heaven and hell! In my preparation for the East Coast Championship, it’s been hell more than heaven, but hey, that’s the price of playing for beer money. Allow me to rekindle the flames of misery sharing these two bar poker hands from hell.
Hell Hand #1: A Weak Ace, Really?
We’re at Brooklyn Colony in Brooklyn, New York. To set the tone — it’s Saturday night, and the beers are flowing. This is pub poker at its best. People with regular day jobs are in weekend mode and want to play.
Blinds are 50/100 and I’m UTG w/ QQ. I raise to 300 and get 4 callers (fun fun!), one of them is a female player in the small blind. She’s just arrived and has maybe only played one other hand which she won, so she has me slightly covered. Pot: 1600
I bet 900, folds to girl-just-arrived in the small blind, she takes a second then calls. Pot: 3400
She checks, I bet 2800, she calls. Pot 9000
She leads out for her whole stack, which was just under a pot-sized bet.
I look at her to get a read…she looks back at me. I think, well, she wouldn’t be making googly eyes at me and bluffing…so after some thought, I fold. Here’s what actually happened in the time span between my Fergie moment and folding — I’m having an internal conversation with myself and some of my alter egos, one of them is Larry “Curb Your Rage” David. I run it back to pre-flop action…
“OK, weird. Small blind calls my raise out of position,” I say to myself.
While the dealer is pulling in the pot, “Curb Your Rage” can’t help himself, he blurts out, “Four f**kin’ callers, no respect.”
Ms. KnowItAllFromNewYork quips, “Whaddaya expect? It’s pub pokah!”
My Inner Larry David barks, “Watch an ace come on the flop!”
“Do you mind?!?” I interject, “I’m trying to think thru the hand here, this is no time for the peanut gallery!” But the voices are in full effect.
Flop is —
Larry fumes,“WHAT’D I TELL YOU!? And not ONE but TWO–”
“LARRY!” I get a dismissive wave from him, but I press on in my thought process…
Flop she checks, I bet, she calls.
Inner Larry, “I smell a weak ace…”
Turn she checks…
Inner Larry, “Weak ace…”
I bet, she calls…
Inner Larry, “What are you doing?!?”
River she leads?? My Inner Larry’s eyes are bulging.
“Yeah, Larry…I guess you’re right.” I concede to myself.
Larry snaps, “I KNOW I’m right!”
He storms out of the mental box that is my thought process and I quickly review again.
Check/calls every street & leads river? Yep. HAS to be a weak ace.
So I folded. And then I went to the bathroom and did this…
“I already took care of that!” Inner Larry blabs. “Oh hush it!” I mutter as I walk back to my seat.
Hell Hand #2: Gut vs. Brain
Blinds are 1k/2k, I have 36K. Yeah, that’s right I’m short stacked, but in pub poker 18 bigs is middle of the pack. Three players limp in late position. One of those players likes to bluff a very high percentage of his hands. I complete in the small blind w/ QJo. There’s 10k in the pot.
Flop comes K-Q-x.
I lead out for 6k, it folds to the bluffer in the cut off, only he calls. Pot: 22K
I check, he bets 11k. I cut out the chips and glance over at him. He looks like a deer in headlights…and then I fold.
Post Assessment: What?! My gut told me he was bluffing, yet my brain made me fold. Here’s how that spirited conversation went down:
Gut: We should check/shove the turn now!
Brain: But is he bluffing when he only bets half pot?
Gut: I’m looking right at the guy and he has saucers for eyes. He’s bluffing!
Brain: Wouldn’t he bet more though? Feels like a value bet to me, we have 29K left…
Gut: Why are you here?
Brain: To make sure you don’t do anything stupid like follow your instincts…
(after a beat)
Brain: And now you’re harassing me. Next time don’t come asking me for my opinion.
Gut: I see what you’re doing. And I didn’t ask for your opinion! And I don’t ask questions, I DO. YOU ask questions!!
Brain: True. I do that.
Gut: Next time I’m just not gonna hesitate and give you time to question, I’m just gonna do what I do which is ACT!
Brain: That’s why you’re the Gut and I’m the Brain. You do you.
Gut: You’re a smartass. Thanks for nothing.
Brain: You’re welcome.
The inner struggles in my head are real. When I take too long to make a decision, now you know what’s going on.
BAR POKER OPEN DAY 1 – ARRIVAL
My friends & I check in to Borgata. I tell myself I want to be rested and ready for the $100,000 East Coast Championship the next morning so I’m not gonna play any poker. But then my inner voices berate me (imagine that), because it’s not like I have easy access to a casino everyday. They say:
That’s like going to Six Flags and not getting on any of the rides!
So around 10pm I sit down for a little $1/2 with $100. I tell myself two hours, then bedtime. Almost two hours in, I get into a hand with a loose aggressive African American male, two to my left. He’s been limping in or raising with suited cards, calling raises out of position, and getting stacked. As a result, he seems frustrated and has re-bought a few times (short for $60 each time).
In this hand he raises to $20 under the gun (that’s the very first person to act before the flop, people). I haven’t even looked at my cards and I think, “wow, $20 at $1/2?” It folds around to the button who calls. I’m in the small blind and I look down at pocket kings. I consider overcalling, but want to isolate the raiser, and I don’t have a stack deep enough to just flat call.
I’m reminded of a similar scenario in a cash game at Seminole Hard Rock, where I flopped two pair, flatted out of position, and lost to a runner-runner fullhouse on the river. Afterwards, I ran the hand by poker pro and Seminole Hard Rock Ambassador Jessica Dawley, who was playing at higher stakes cash game, and she pointed out my mistake — my stack was too shallow to just call and let other players see a flop (thanks Jessica!).
With that in mind I shoved all in for $100. The original raiser under the gun called, the button folded. He flipped over suited cards again. Board ran out with no flushes (glad I pushed the button out, an ace hit on the river) and I scooped the pot. At midnight I stuck to my two-hour rule and walked away with $160. It’s not a double up, but I’ll take it.
BAR POKER OPEN DAY 2: THE TOURNAMENT
It’s Day 1A of the $100,000 East Coast Championship and I’m ready to play! I start my morning off right — work out, meditate, eat food in my hotel room (gotta watch that life rake!), and head down to my seat with a backpack full of snacks and a water bottle. Early in the day things go great and I’m able to chip up nicely.
Then I get dealt pocket aces versus a very loose player in my league. I was told he liked playing odd Jx hands. Don’t know why, but maybe that influenced my thought process a little. Additionally, he had been playing a lot of hands, getting lucky, and amassing a big stack. Now he was on a downward spew spiral. For the sake of not revealing identities we’ll call him Mr. Jack X in the hand I like to call:
Hand #1: I. Just. Call.
Blinds are 100/200 with a 25 ante. Mr. Jack X limps under the gun, I’m two away from him with aces. I make it 900. It folds back around to Jack X, he calls. Pot is 2350.
He checks, I bet 2000ish, he calls. Pot is 6350.
He checks again, I bet x, he calls. Don’t remember what I bet, but probably 4 to 5K.
Mr. Jack X looks over at me, laughs under his breath, then bets 500. I. Just. Call. Sure enough, he has a Jack, but my aces hold and I take the pot.
Post Assessment: Just calling was a mistake, I did not consider raising & getting max value on that river. But his look, laugh, and river lead of 500 threw me off. And if I raised I’d have to commit a big portion of my stack, and if I was cracked I’d be down to 1/4 of my stack. He had been playing way too many hands, limping with cards like J9 /T8, so I decided to play it safe. In an earlier hand we were in he had showed me J2 on a T2x-x-2 board and did not donk the river for such a minuscule amount. I should’ve known he had something, but his version of a blocker bet needs work (or I need work)…I didn’t think it through long enough.
Hand #2: 4-Bet with Aces
Blinds are 250 / 500 / 50 ante. I look down at pocket aces in early position and make it 2K. A 30-something female 2 to my left, with a big stack, calls. It folds around to an older gentleman on the button who’s been pretty tight so far, he 3-bets to 6500. I take a second and decide to 4-bet to 21K. The female folds and so does the button.
Post Assessment: Being the first one in the pot I decided to bet bigger usual thinking I will def get calls for a 4x raise. The female with the big stack getting involved in a lot of hands. I was very happy when the button 3-bet, but I went crazy with the 4-bet. I really just didn’t want to call and have the girl overcall, but thinking about it that couldn’t have been a bad thing. If I was in position I’d have felt better about that option. I also thought if I just flat call it looks really strong, so I decided to 4-bet.
Mistake #2: my 4-bet size was way too big. He had me slightly covered (I really need to start documenting stack sizes, sorry!) and in the moment I thought a bigger 4-bet would get him to 5-bet shove for the rest of his stack. Wrong. In retrospect I think a teaser min-4-bet between 11000 – 13300 would’ve been a nice inducing size for him to 5-bet shove? Probably not. My 4-bet folded out the other female because #1 it was huge and #2 I’m sure she noticed (like me) that the man on the button had a tight image,had only shown down good hands, and that his 3bet was not a squeeze attempt. Maybe he calls a smaller 4-bet for one street to see a flop and I get a little more out of him (FYI I spoke to him later and he told me he had AK). Did I miss value? I think YES!
Hand #3: Aces Vs. Big Blind
I’m not sure what level this is, but it’s not very long after the last AA hand…maybe the next level or same. I’m in late position with AA again. I raise (not sure how much but prob 2.5x), a guy that’s got like 30BBs in the big blind 3-bets. He’s committed a good chunk of his stack so I decide to raise enough to put him all in and he snap calls w/ pocket queens. For a change my aces hold this time (unlike they did in the very first hand of the $200K GTD Summer Heater Day 2), YAY!! #AcesNotCracked
Please, I’d love real feedback from a voice outside of my head, so feel free to leave a comment below my blog and tell me what you think of the hands. Be sure to use the title of hand for clarity. Do I make it to Day 2 of the Bar Poker Open $100,000 East Coast Championship? Also, I talk about the next poker boom, my experience as a live reporter for the Borgata Poker blog, and more $1/2 hands. Find out here, thanks for reading!
Image and GIF Sources:
Hell gif – http://imgur.com/gallery/JxhKlCc
Fergie Sarcastic clap gif – http://giphy.com/gifs/fergie-26FKVMXf8UNZ4NF04
Channing Tatum smash mirror gif – http://www.mtv.com/news/1860069/channing-tatum-mirror-foxcatcher-trailer/
Nia Long “Are you high” gif – http://giphy.com/gifs/friday-movie-debbie-nia-long-l41lRtLESU5h5Msvu