Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Tough Circuit Pros

Here are my thoughts on the various player types I came up against in this event, starting with the faces. The kind of guys who play $10K events every week, often (if not usually) on someone else's money, whether it's corporate sponsor or backer. They tend to raise a lot of pots first in, defend their blinds liberally and look to outplay people. If they commit a lot of chips then watch out because they usually have a hand (with exceptions as noted below though). Individually, as follows :

Vinny Vinh - Noticeably not quite as strong as Giang, Corkins and Seif, if only because of his serious temperament problems. Became extremely irritable after being rivered in a fairly big pot and took most of it out on the dealers. Up until then he had been playing well, but then soon after he committed a lot of chips with a four flush on the board only to fold when his opponent moved the rest in. This was the coup described on Pokerpages where he called the floor to kill his opponent's hand because he stood up and moved back from the table a step, although in his defence (if there is one) he did tell the guy "Sit down or I'll call your hand dead". Incidentally the floor dealt with this really well.

Minh Nguyen - Was only on my table for a short time before he was also rivered in a massive pot. He didn't take it too well either. "Don't tell me nice hand when I just lost the fucking pot" he snarled when his hapless opponent mumbled something that was meant to conciliate. Although he had a point, he clearly meant it with some venom.

Chau Giang - Was a little edgy at times but I think this was mostly because he had fifty dimes on the Patriots and they were blowing a 21-3 lead. Did play well though. As I said, these guys usually have a hand when they commit a lot of chips but be sure it's really a lot to them. Down to 8K with blinds 200-400/50, most people would think this is still a playable stack. Chau went for the all-in squeeze raise with KJs, got called by AK and sucked out. He said "what's the point, 8000, I've got to get chips". A lot of these guys want to have a big stack so they can push people around and/or stack them with a big hand. The very next hand, he doubled up again with KK against AQ on a Q high flop. Once he had a stack that was worth playing, that probably wasn't going all in without a big hand. He also thought my 64 play was very amusing, laughing and saying "nice hand buddy" but not in an unpleasant way at all

Mark Seif - Came into Day 2 as 3rd chip leader in the whole thing. Played a ton of pots, took his time when he needed to and generally looked to get involved whenever he could. Unfortunately he wasn't quite the payoff wizard that Bad Beat and The Camel had portrayed him as to me, at least not today. Although I overheard him confirming the story I heard the day before, that he had doubled up through Vanessa Rousso with KJ against her AK on a King high flop. Anyway, on my table he said he was picking up lots of big hands but Corkins and a couple of others were highly skeptical :-). I was able to deal with him surprisingly well by limping on the button to his big blind (see below) but a couple of times I made big hands and couldn't get him to pay off. Mark was generally friendly and amusing. OK he was caked up [1], but even bearing that in mind he seemed like a really nice guy.

Hoyt Corkins - Unfortunately, although Hoyt played his share of hands he didn't show down enough for me to get a real line on him. The one time he put them all in, he had the nut straight. As did his opponent. He made a few comments about how he would be willing to gamble if he had to, but I'm not sure how much of this was just for show. Nothing much happened that might have ruffled him but he did give the impression that nothing at all could bother him in any way. He was very cool and has an awesome look with the hat.

How to play against these guys : in a word, don't. There are definitely better fish to fry. However, if one of them is on your left then you're going to have to because rocking up completely is not a good option IMO (see local rocks below), and when you come into the pot they'll be coming in after you. So I would say the most important thing is to decide pre-flop whether you want to play a small pot or a big one. With the right hand, make the pot big enough pre-flop so that you won't have any hard decisions post-flop. Preferably you should be able to get it all in on a favourable flop without over-betting too much. This is what I did with AKs against Chau Giang. Instead of just calling his 800 raise in the small blind (as I would have done against a weak, average or even moderately good player), I made it 3K out of about 12. If he calls, I'm either playing for all my chips or no more on the flop, one decision (although I'm not saying I push immediately if I want to play, I might check-raise).

If you can't do that, and certainly you won't be able to for the first few hours whatever, then keep it small. If you're going to be outplayed, make sure it's in a small pot rather than a big one. On the phone with Bad Beat we concocted a plan to limp on the button when Seif had the big blind, and try to set him up for something if I picked up a big hand later on. Surprisingly though, limping on his blind in position seemed to work very well in itself. He was clearly happier with calling someone's raise in the blind than he was with raising out of the blind himself after a limp. Four times I limped on the button and he didn't raise any of them, including once with K9. I won 3 pots without a showdown, although to be fair in 2 of them I had a pretty big hand, and split one with him when he was drawing very thin. The one time I raised his blind, I didn't fancy it and gave up on the turn after checking the flop.

If you raise into the field and one of them does call you, you're on your own. If anyone else calls too I'd play very straightforwardly. Mano a mano, you can't just give up every time. It's tricky to get the balance right but there's a lot to be said for betting the flop and checking the turn, whether in position or not. Checking the turn behind in position is definitely good a lot of the time, even with top pair good kicker. Re-opening the betting is just giving these guys more options to outplay you. If you feel frisky and the stacks are right, you can bet the flop and check-raise the turn out of position, but I'd probably only do this if the check-raise committed me. Again, cut down their options as much as you can. If either of you is relatively short-stacked, they might well snap off a move or make one themselves. If you're both deep, well it's difficult to give catch-all advice. All I can say is that if you want to gamble with these guys, get all your chips in first and put them to the decision. If they make the right decision, and they will a lot of the time, too bad. On the other hand, if you do make something big, try to set things up so that they have a chance to make a move on you, especially if they have you covered. This is what I should have done when I made a flush against Mark Seif.

The other point to note is how their presence affects the other players. The reason I was able to limp on Seif's blind so often is that no one else was raising it. They knew he'd look them up with practically anything and they didn't fancy it. So while I would often go for a steal reraise in the small blind, I definitely wouldn't do it with a player like Seif in the big blind, because there's a much greater chance that a late position raiser actually has a hand.

[1] Just to avoid confusion here, he was caked up with chips. Not coked up with coke.

Can't imagine I'll be playing any of these people but what larks. Thanks for taking the time to report.
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