Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Still Alive, Part 2: APT Sydney

Whoa two updates in a week, I must be going crazy. I thought I'd give this blog some more love, and since I recently played and ran deep in a major (for Australia) tournament, I decided to do a small little tourney wrap up. The tournament at the Star Casino here was branded a billion ways - a "special event" of the Asian Poker Tour (APT), NPL Million/Main Event, Star Summer Series, etc. Basically, it was a $2000 freezeout which attracted 648 runners, with 282k going to first. Big, for sure, and I was happy to try my luck and aging poker hand in this donkament!

On Day 1, I was seated at an eleven handed table due to lack of tables; I don't think I've ever had the pleasure of so much fine company in such close quarters... and fine company it was. The players were mostly "pub" players, meaning many of them had qualified in small local or regional satellites. aka, this was a fish fest of greatest proportions. My first table was a poker player's dream - 10 other passive, never-raise-without-"it" players who would rarely get out of line, so you didn't have to worry about being outplayed or bluffed too often. One of my first notable hands was when EP opened and received 6 calls, including myself in the SB with JTs. Flop came Q95r, and the whole table checked around (I was so shocked). So when turn came low, I fired thinking that if anyone even had a Queen, they'd be way too weak to defend against a big river bet. 3 people called me haha...then I brick river naturally. I figured AQ KQ were surely raising preflop right?? And I'm repping incredible strength when I bet into 3 people on river, so fire river I did, a healthy 3/4 pot. I think KQ QJ is folding always, would have been so surprised if they did call me there, in that spot. I was pretty sad to leave that table, and grinded the next few hours at a slightly harder table. But not too much harder...promptly stacked a dude's 20k @ 100/200, when I had KK, he limp/called with QJo.. and we somehow got it all in on the turn on a Qxxx board, him check/shoving me. gg

One interesting hand was when I had T7o in the SB limped pot, CO had limped. I check/raised the A98 flop (two clubs) since I figured he was just stealing, but he called me which was slightly annoying. I bricked the turn, but led thinking I'd get him off his non-premium Ace since he hadn't raised pf, and I was in the blinds damnit! I always have some shit there. The glorious 6 arrived to my great surprise, and I fired huge. He tanked for like 3 minutes, eventually called, and I experienced the best live poker feeling for me...rolling over rags no one suspects that have turned into the absolute nuts. He had turned two pair, oops! My plan was probably to shut down on the river, but if river was a 3rd club, I might have fired huge again.

My best bluff of the tourney happened a few hours later when I raised over a shorty's late limp with K4c, flop AK8, and I checked it back which seems alright/standard. He led 2k into me on a blank turn and I called just because I might have the best hand, it's a bit disguised and I might be able to outplay him river, which came another blank. He fired 2350 with about 9k left in his stack. I put him on exactly A9 or AT, and because I didn't think he'd be the type to call off his tourney with only 1 pair, I threw out a bunch of yellow 5k chips to set him in. I knew if he thought about it, I don't really rep much by checking the flop, just calling his turn bet, and shoving a meaningless river. It should have been an easy call with just his Ace, but I was sure enough that he didn't see it that way. I'd never pull this sort of bluff on someone I knew was a thinking player. After all these hands, I bagged up 115k (start with 30k) and called it a night.

On the long 14 hour next day, my chip stack see-sawed mightily. One of my 3 or 4 freeroll-should-be-out of tournament spots happened early on. I was big stack at table, with almost 100 BB, and opened in EP with KK, only to find a capable player 3betting me in position (who had a giant stack too). I thought that there was not enough history for me to 4bet and get him to 5bet me light here, and his 3b range wasn't limited to premiums, so calling easily seemed like the correct play. Plus we were extremely deep (for poker tournies) and I strongly doubt he was getting it in with me with AK. And finally, I like being tricky. Flop came Jack high rainbow and I check/called on flop. To me, there were tons of bluffs/air in his range (he seemed like that kind of guy?), so no point in raising this flop. And I really get no value in this pot from KJ/AJ if I raise. The turn was a Queen, not a great card since QJ/QQ got there, but not to worry I thought to myself, I still have fucking Kings. He checked behind which relieved me a bit, since we wouldn't have to play for stacks now. River was a low blank and I checked because I thought he would 1) bluff very high % of the time thinking I'd fold 77-TT, 2) value town himself with J-x or Q-x, or 3) not call my river bet since he probably wasn't that strong overall for checking the turn. He bet quite large, like 19k, and I snap tossed in the only blue 25k chip on the table. But he rolled over the hand I literally least expected to see, AA! That hand seriously almost never entered my mind, except in a "oh wouldn't it be funny if he had..." moment. If I had had fewer chips, we woulda gotten in preflop and I woulda been done. Instead I still had 100k and plenty to work with at 600/1200.

I dwindled mightily during the course of the next few hrs, openings and cbets not really getting through, in addition to whiffing every board. With the increasing blinds, I dwindled to about 15 BB before my 2nd tourney-saving moment, I shipped it pf with TT and got flatted by a player with JJ...however he folded when a player with KK reshipped over the top. QQ was also in the blinds but he folded! Flop came T high and I more than tripled up, was so hot to suck outtttt. I finished and went on the best dinner break ever...the thai fried rice was amazing....

When we went back at night, the blinds had gotten huge and I was once again a bit short, below average. Got in JJ vs TT fortunately, flopped quads, and held phew. Lost a huge pot with 88 to T4c on a J87cc board, kinda sucky to lose that one, would have had about 400k. One of the most fun hands I played this tourney went down when I failed to see UTG had opened to 20k, and I looked down at 84s in the SB and completed lol. BB called as well, and flop came 832r, I thought to myself, "Andrew you idiot what have you gotten yourself into" as I check/called 32k. Turn was an Ace, but I was undeterred to his 67k bet since I thought he was just muscling a big stack, so I called. River went check check and I won a huge 270k pot with that dumb hand. Later on, I lost A4o to K9o in a blind on blind shove in a pot worth 350k, so ended the night down to 120k, 10 BB for tomorrow's day 3! We had gone into the money sometime earlier that night, and got down to 43 people.

Day 3 was fun up and down as well, and I had hopes on nursing the short stack I had into something. I ran extremely well and picked up KK against QQ, got a guy with 300k to stack off to me when I opened A6o and he defended with 54s...board came A654 and we got it in on the turn after a sneaky check of mine on flop. Stayed a bit below average for the majority of the day after being above average all day yesterday. Won a nice pot off my friend and poker pro buddy Jim Collopy when I opened QTd and he defended BB. Flop was 993 and I checked behind waiting for some backdoor draws to develop. I spiked a T and he bet/called my 71k on the turn and 140k on river. After I took out a shorty, I was up to 1.2m at 12k/24k, which despite being only 20 BB, was plenty to work with this whole tournament. At one point in the final 18 players, I got all in with AK against the eventual winner's AJ, and we chopped a 1.6m pot, very annoying as I would have been among the leaders. Then a blah hand came up, expertly played by my friend, where he called my triple barrel bets of 110k, 155k, and 255k with T8s on a T43K7 board, where I had A-high. I finally bowed out in 11th place when I made a trivial reship with A6s with 15 BB against the large stack's open on the final table bubble, and he happened to have 88. I had great fold equity for sure, just unlucky he had 88 and I couldn't outdraw. 11th paid a nice 14k, and brought my great, unexpected and lucky run to and end!

I thought I played very well throughout this tournament, at least for someone who hasn't really played a significant live tourney since EPT Madrid 2.5 years ago. The level of play was definitely much lower than I have been accustomed to, but never underestimate the power of cards and hands. No pro in the world can win anything without some cards and luck. This time around, I was lucky enough to FINALLY cash in a poker tournament at this terrible casino. It took me long enough (stretching back to 2008).

My next tournament will most likely be another random little $800 freezeout, up in Macau this time as part of the Red Dragon series. I have a bit of time to kill and I get to splash around in Asia! Right L?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm still alive down under!

Hello World! I realize this latest blog post comes almost exactly 2 years to the day I last posted, and many apologies for having sorta dropped off the face of the poker and blogging world. I just wanted to say that I am indeed alive and definitely enjoying my time in Australia to the absolute fullest these days. Boy, 2 years, there really is so much to catch up on. For this post, I'd like to focus on highlights of my travels and life stuff (yawn?) The next post that I'll write shortly will focus on the poker side of things, including a deep run I made at the recent APT Sydney main event, which I took 11th in. Guess I can still play some cards :)

The hugest change/transition for me has been my semi-retirement from poker. As many of you poker followers may have noticed (or not), azntracker is no longer found at the tables on PokerStars. In fact, I've lurked on the PS lobby at times, and it seems like the games I used to play are pretty much dead. Gone. Sure there are hypers going all the time, but I know I chose the absolute best time to stop playing when I did and move on, which is just about as amazing timing as when I first got into it. I reached that turning point last year, both financially and mentally, where poker was no longer the most important thing in my life. And I am so happy for that.

Since my retirement, I've decided to chase my dreams of working with the future adults of this world...I'm now a graduate student pursuing my master of teaching degree, specifically in primary school! I know. Up until 4 days ago, I have known exactly 0 people that have had a passion in both poker AND teaching. This has been such a change for me, and since meeting her, I realized just how incredible and unique my ride has been. I have a renewed sense of appreciation for where poker has taken my life and allowed me freedom to usher in the next phase of my life - contributing and enriching children's lives instead of endlessly shoving on people's blinds... So I thank you for the renewed inspiration to write, Miss L.

So what's been happening since 2011, tough question. The biggest trip I've ever taken comes to mind, and I was able to pull this thing off successfully at the beginning of this year. Remember that this is a mixed poker and travel blog so I'd love to briefly mention that trip! After a pretty meh end to a relationship I had here, I was excited and ready to get out and travel for a little while before college started up. After celebrating New Year's at the beach near Sydney, I flew to New Delhi to meet an American classmate I hadn't seen in ages. We roamed around the "Golden Triangle" part of India (New Delhi-Jaipur-Agra) and I was able to see some of the most incredible sights and horrific living conditions alike. While I would recommend India to just about everybody (I'd love to go back again), no amount of preparation will ready you for what you'll see, hear, taste and smell. The crowded and dirty streets will smack you in the face and the smells will burn and linger for hours. The Taj Mahal is the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever seen, and the daily life and conditions are the most brutal and sad things I have experienced. If you are not humbled after passing through here, I have no words. And you will get Delhi Belly... google it :)

From India, I went to an even poorer place according to GDP stats and whatnot: Nepal. Beautiful mountain scenery, the most serene canoe on a gorgeous lake with the Himalayas towering above, and hiking pretty terraced hills and landscapes - that is what Nepal is to me. And some of the friendliest people too! I randomly met someone in a stopover in China, who was flying to Kathmandu, and she invited me to stay at her family's house in the city. Being the optimistic/naive person that I am, I actually hit her up when I arrived, and lo and behold, I spent 3 nights at her family's house in Kathmandu! Talk about getting a taste of the real life there. This was definitely in contrast with the people I met in India, night and day.

After Nepal, I had a day and night to transit in Doha, located in Qatar, the richest country in the world by GDP/capita (100K per capita, the US is ~50k by comparison). Wanting to check out the site of the 2022 World Cup (not really), I got my first taste of the Middle East. It was a pretty unique day spent under the desert sun, exploring the Souqs (markets with literally everything you can think of, even hunting falcons) and walking by random parked orange Lamborghinis in a country swimming with oil money. Following my little time in the oasis, I was off to Osaka for some truly contrasting experiences as you can imagine. Went out for a little bit there with friends before separating and exploring Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Nara on my own. I'd never been to Japan before and was told that I'd love the weirdness, amazing Jap food and pretty sights. And it certainly did not disappoint. Some of those temples in Kyoto are out of this world beautiful and the deer in Nara certainly were entertaining. I spent another few nights in Tokyo after I rejoined my friends before flying off to the next destination with my friend.

We went to explore Seoul, South Korea and the DMZ border with North Korea. That was a pretty awesome experience, and I finally heard the American accent again since the American military is stationed there.  After a bunch of Korean food, we were off to Shanghai for a similar 5 day stay and exploration. If you've ever been to China, especially the large cities, you would discover that it is a wildly contrasting place. Just across from the bustling metropolis with towering mega-scrapers and an Apple Store you need to see to believe, lies traditional China in terms of old run down buildings, street markets and general dirtiness. It's definitely the crown jewel mega city of China and I'd recommend anyone to visit. Unless of course you were choosing between it and...

Hong Kong, my next destination. As always, I like to call HK my 3rd home, as I have tons of family here to visit and it is a wonderful metropolis where I can use and practice my Cantonese. I know the city very well and try to make this a yearly destination. After my usual hangouts with friends and family, my final stop on the way back to Sydney was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was by myself once again so I just went around the touristy places, including the Petronas Towers. Movie tickets, even at the posh theaters were only US$4! And I finally got my first taste of an Asian massage after much internal debate... lots of "FOMO" "YOLO" and "When in rome" thoughts finally persuaded me. No, I did not opt for the ending, though it was proffered by the masseuse.

After 7 long weeks, I was back to Sydney for the start of my new phase of life, as a graduate student. It initially felt so strange to be a student again; it had been 5 years since I last stepped into a classroom. But because of my looks (young), I fit right in and have since made some very close friends whom I am very fond of. A few months ago, I was in a month-long "prac," which is a placement in an elementary school where I would take over the classroom for lessons! The class assigned to me was Kindergarten, an age group I was a bit wary of. Aren't they a bunch of snot-eating babies I thought?? But upon meeting them, very rarely (if ever before) had I felt such love from so many tiny cute human beings. I really died. It seemed like my heart melted every time I came in, even if I was stressed about doing my lessons and being observed. I can't express how much I think I will enjoy teaching. It's almost more of becoming a role model for the children and setting good practices for them to emulate, and I cannot wait to be that for them. Certainly beats winning a meaningless flip in a random $200 SNG hahaha.

The first year just finished and I am excited to be embarking on yet another adventure in only a week. I'm getting my scuba certification this weekend, so I'm extremely stoked to be scuba diving in Western Australia along with a 2 week roadtrip up and down the coast. From there, it's onto Kuala Lumpur again for a couple days before a long stay in HK. I may be visiting Myanmar and/or Taiwan from there since they are so close, not sure yet.

Stay tuned for my next post on more poker specific stuff, including my deep run in the APT Sydney a few days ago. There were some interesting hands there and it was certainly a fun splash back into live poker.

Cheers and thanks for reading :)