Friday, January 20, 2006

Learning the Hard Way
Poker Blog by Frank Niro (ChessSafari)
Monday, January 16, 2006

To commemorate my last night in Tunica I played nearly seven hours at a $1/$2 NLHE cash game. I did all right, I thought, until... I got AQ on the button, made it $7 to go after all folded in front of me, and was called by the two blinds. $21 in the pot. Flop came AJ4 rainbow and, with position, I was pleased. Check, check and I bet $10. sb folded. bb called. $41 now in the pot. Turn was another A in the 4th suit. Check to me. I bet $20. He raised to $40. I raised to $60. He called the raise. $161 in the pot. River was an 8. He moved all in. He had about $2,000 in front of him and had been bullying the table. I called my last $200. He showed A8o. I walked away broke.

I played well for 6 hrs and 59 minutes (I tried to convince myself) but gave it all up in an instant. Big Sigh. About an hour earlier I saw him put somebody all-in when a scare card hit on the river causing the player to fold his top pair with top kicker. Then he showed his hand: he had 7-high! I didn’t give him credit for another ace, let alone a full house (very bad read on my part). But, to give him credit, he set it up nicely with some loose aggressive play earlier. He was a special player...sat down with $400...when I left he had $ a $1/$2 game!!! He was the shark. Apparently, I was just one of the gold fish.My poker mentor, Aaron Hendrix, may be right when he refers to AQ as ‘the devil’. I played a tourney a few months ago and died on the bubble when I moved all-in with big slick and was called by AQ. Then two queens hit the board and I busted out. I received the same (zero) prize that the maniac who busted on the first hand received. These things are supposed to even out, right? I should live so long. Damn, I love this game. Now I'm broke but happy...story of my life!

OK, so I took advantage of the opportunity to chat with some of the touring poker pros about my hand. They said three things that I need to process... First, raising 2.5 or 3 times the big blind first-to-act in a no limit hold’em cash game tells the good players at the table that I am primarily a no limit TOURNAMENT player, and not a cash gamer. The proper standard raise, they tell me, is 5xBB FTA, 6xBB with one limper, and as much as 10xBB with multiple limpers. Good players, I'm told, salivate when someone makes it 3.5xBB ($7) to go because (a) they are comfortable that they can outplay a tournament oriented player after the flop and (b) their implied odds are terrific ($5 vs. your whole stack from the BB). This information is consistent with the betting action I observed for the seven hours I was there.

Secondly, a half pot bet on the flop is too small in this particular situation. I need to find out if someone really has the case ace and drive out any draws (KQ, KT, backdoor flushes). They recommend $60-$100 up to half my remaining stack. Then if he plays back I can be pretty certain that he has the other ace and that his kicker may play. Of course, he probably would've moved me all-in right there with the same outcome.

Thirdly, when someone moved me all-in with a paired board it was very bad to call off the rest of my chips without a full house, UNLESS I was sure the opponent was trying to move me off the pot without the goods. That's the problem. In my mind I was convinced I had the best hand. He could've just as easily had JJ, 44, 88, AJ or A4. I was too stubborn to accept the fact and, as a result, paid the price.

The trip to Tunica was not a total loss. I have my final table jacket from the media event. I learned some new tricks courtesy of Poker Pages. (Special thanks to Amy Calistri, Tim Lavalli, Kaelaine Minton, and Mark Napolitano.) I met many new friends and saw some old friends including Arlene Simms and Ronnie Yarborough and, of course, my favorite blackjack dealer Lori. The high point of the trip was watching Ronnie win $90,000+ in the $1,000 buy-in NLHE event at the Grand. That story deserves it’s own blog.

Kaelaine Minton, Frank Niro & Amy Calistri, Tunica, MS, January 2006

Kaelaine was kind enough to drive me to the train station in Memphis. On the way she gave me what was probably the best advice of all. She said, "If I find myself at a no limit cash game and look around at a bunch of chip stacks much bigger than mine, I find another table. You should do the same." Thanks Kae. Better late than never.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Tunica Media Event

Kaelaine Mintin wrote:

Three of us PokerSchoolers participated in the Goldstrike's Media freeroll event yesterday. It was to kick off the WPO and as we were here representing, we were invited to play. There were 28 players including us and we all made the final table. Here are the official results:

Frank (ChessSafari) Niro: 7th place, $75
Amy (OilDoe) Calistri: 4th place, $175
Kaelaine: 2nd place: $500

All the final table players received a WPT/Goldstrike jacket, too! If you want more details, check out my blog on


ChessSafari responded:

Amy (oil doe) Calistri was gracious enough to register me into the media NLHE event at the World Poker Open currently being held at the GoldStrike in Tunica. I was actually a late substitute for Tim (zeroth) Lavalli who was covering the WSOP Circuit event across town for Tim said he would "prefer a real poker player to take his seat" but wished me luck nonetheless.

The media event was a freeroll and, of course, didn't have much in the way of cash prizes. But it sure had all of the other pomp and cameras filming the event, World Poker Tour jackets for the final table finishers, and the same $4,000+ gold and diamond Bracelet for the winner.

"Kaelaine" Minton, fresh off her PSO Live Tour win ($705 cash prize, $250 PSO Sponsorship Points & and a seat at the 2007 PSO Convention Final), had her eye on the bracelet from the moment the first card went in the air. She played solid poker, despite a paucity of good starting hands, and came one place short of the victory. Go to her blog on to read more.

I caught a flop of A77 early to marry my pocket sevens and was fortunate to get plenty of action on the hand. I nursed my stack well enough to get the final table in third chip position (Kaelaine was second). Amy also made the final table giving all 3 pokerschoolers a final table finish and one of those coveted World Poker Tour jackets.

I leaked the majority of my chips in a key hand where I foolishly chased a draw with an overcard in vain against the eventual winner. Right after the hand, I imagined Aaron (thehazyone), Stacey (RIEVRHATER2) and Paulina (leilelucas) standing behind watching, all taking turns slapping me accross the back of my head. It was painful enough to look across the table at Amy slowly shaking her head back and forth. I went out in 7th place. Amy was very impressive, as always, finishing 4th.

It was a privilege as well as great experience to play at the same live final table with oil doe and kaelaine. I will always cherish the memory.

I lost a lot of sleep after this hand, and I’m still not sure what might have been the best way to play it...

Level 9
Blinds 800/1,600 antes 200
9 players remaining
Cash prizes and jackets to the final table finishes; Gold and Diamond WPT Bracelet worth $4,000+ for the winner.
Average stack size = 12,400
My stack = 15,700

I was dealt As 3s
Amy folded under the gun
Kaelaine, third to act, folded
Everyone else folded to me in the small blind

I tossed another 800 into the 4,200 pot to complete the bet.
Big Blind (big stack who eventually won the tournament) raised 2,000. I called. 9,000 chips in the pot. My remaining stack: 14,100.

I thought about raising from the small blind. Certainly if I had something like TT I would've made a big raise. The problem was, as usual, table dynamics. The big blind had more chips than anyone at the table (about 30,000 to Kaelaine's 29,000....out of 112,000 in play). My instinct was to try to cut into his stack.

His pattern had been to call any raise and play his hand all the way to the river. With 800 to call into a pot of 4,200, folding A-rag was out of the question. I felt he would call my raise anyway so my strategy was to limp and get away cheaply after the flop if it missed me.

Flop was Kh 5s 4c

I made a continuation bet of 4,500. He called. 18,000 in the pot. Remaining stack: 9,600.
The continuation bet was probably a mistake because I got no information. He could have called it with any piece of the flop or an ace with a bigger kicker. I was out of position. I knew he was a calling station. In retrospect I believe I should have checked & folded. Check-raise was plausible but only if I was willing to call a reraise all-in. I wasn't.

But I was seduced by the draw. I counted seven outs and convinced myself that the pot was already worth chasing.

Turn brought Js

I checked. He bet 2,000. I called. 22,000 in the pot. Remaining stack: 7,600.
The second spade on the turn brought eight more outs. There's a good chance if an ace hit on the river I would have been outkicked. Therefore, I probably had 11 hard outs (maybe less if he was holding two pair).

So the 2,000 call into a pot of 20,000 was a no-brainer. I wasn't excited about it, but I had the proper odds. Absent an ace, deuce or spade on the river, I was done.

River was 7d

I checked. He bet 4,000. I folded.
I didn't find out what he had. I almost called so that Kaelaine and Amy could see his hand and benefit from the information but I didn't want to add any more chips to his big stack and his bet was more than half my remaining stack. There was a chance he was betting with no hand, but I didn't have the courage to find out.

A few hands later I went allin with a pocket pair. Big stack called me with two overcards and I busted out in 7th place.

Thanks for your help and your support.


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