Saturday, August 11, 2012

Small win

But the first time I've taken a first place in about three weeks.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

"Average" tournament chips

A few years ago I wrote about my observation that having an "average" stack in a poker tournament puts one ahead of more than half of the field, which, on first blush, is a counterintuitive proposition. See here and here for the full explanation, along with examples taken from chip counts at the World Series of Poker to illustrate the point.

I have continued to notice this phenomenon while playing online poker ever since writing those two posts. The tournament lobbies make it trivially easy to see where one stands relative to the current average and, at the same time, figure out where one's chip stack ranks relative to all of the other players.

Every time I have checked, without a single exception, has confirmed the rule that I discovered long ago: The mean chip stack size is always greater than the median chip stack size. If you have an average (mean) stack, you are ahead of more people than you are behind. If you are at the median (i.e., there are just as many players with bigger stacks than yours as there are players with smaller stacks than yours; this is usually impossible to know in a live tournament, but easy online), then you have a below-average stack.

Here are two recent examples that demonstrate the point:

In the shot above, you can see that I exactly define the median; 50 players have more chips than I do, and 50 have fewer. But my stack, at 3535 chips, is significantly below the average, shown as 3979.

Conversely, in this shot you can see that I have a chip stack that is almost exactly at the current tournament average, but I am ahead of more than half of the field. (The difference is small because it's such a small field.)

The point is this: When you see that you have a stack that is at or near the current average for the tournament, it doesn't imply what you would tend to think. It means that you are ahead of most of the field.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Black Chip Poker withdrawal, Step 2

Last night (August 7) I used BCP's document-submission web page to send them a scan of my license and a signed copy of their identity verification form. I did not include any credit card information, since the funds I used to start my recent balance build-up were not a card payment, but rather a transfer from another player, as explained here.

We shall see if taking this step speeds up the process any.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Black Chip Poker withdrawal, Step 1

Last night (August 6) I submitted a request for $700. This is the only withdrawal option, and they charge a $15 fee for it. No "one free per month" like other sites tend to do.

The instructions also said that it would go faster if I were to do photo verification in advance, but, of course, there was no explanation of exactly what that involved or how to do it. (Hint to BCP: That would be an excellent place for a link to a step-by-step explanation of what you would like a customer to do.)

It should be interesting to see what hoops I have to go through, and how long it all takes.

Monday, August 06, 2012


As the post below this one details blow by blow, I actually pulled it off. Last night I was highly pessimistic that I would be able to replicate yesterday's results and get myself to $1200 before the end of the night. I put my chance of success at under 10%.

When I got up today, I found this email from Josie, apparently in response to my closing comment last night that I was waiting for her to tell me which events to play:
Now I want you to win another token. And then play another tourney. Having a small party for evan's bday, which is actually tomorrow, so I won't be around until early evening my time. Like not before 7pm. Don't let that stop you from doing your thang though. It would be great if you had your token won by 7pm so I can watch you play a big tourney with sharks. I fully expect the bloodshed to be shark blood.

1.) Win the token
2.) Win big cash in a big tourney

Hop to it!
Well, I didn't do that. I wanted to play in the big Sunday $11 tourney with guaranteed prize money. When I busted out of that, there wasn't a token tourney soon, so I jumped into something else, then another something else, and another. Nothing to show for any of it.

So I decided I had better do as I had been told, lest I incur the wrath of a Sicilian. I entered an $11 token event, and pulled one out fairly easily. It was for a $109 tournament, which I was going to use to play the only $100 event left on today's schedule--the same one as I did last night. While waiting for that to start, I eked out two small cashes, one in a HORSE, one in a no-limit hold'em.

Then it was time for the sink-or-swim tourney. I did even better than last night! I finished in 4th, and likely could have gotten at least 3rd if not for an ugly beat on the last hand. That scored me $620 on my $11 initial investment. I spent quite a bit (well, maybe $70-80) during the afternoon on that bunch of tournaments that yielded nothing, but this one more than compensated for it.

Above is a screen shot of my end-of-day balance on Black Chip Poker. Josie had originally challenged me to double my balance, which was then (July 25) sitting at $660.72. She later amended that to a threshold of an even $1200 balance--but I did both! That $1485.98 you see above is about $286 over the second, lower goal, and about $164 over the original goal. Of course, I needed every last little bit of the extra five days that she tacked on to the original terms, but the past 15 days is still the fastest I've earned money with online poker. A body just needs to have a goal and sufficient motivation, I guess.

My deepest thanks to Josie for providing both the goal and the additional incentive, as well as for opening my eyes to how profitable the MTTs on the Merge network can be. As you can see, there isn't much that I won't do for brownies. Well, brownies and money.


(And please remember: No nuts.)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Live blogging updates (sort of)

OK, I'm about halfway through both tournaments that I started right after last post. In the $33 HORSE, 27 started, 14 left, I'm in 3rd place. Four spots pay, ranging from $105 to $324.

In a NLHE tournament, $15 buy-in, 103 started, 50 are left, I'm in 5th. 18 spots pay, ranging from $19 to $428.

Will post updates here as warranted.

8:57 pm

Ugh. Brutal HORSE level. Down to 9/9 left. One hand went bad in NLHE, enough to take me down to 12/35, but still a little above average. Not in danger there.

9:16 pm

Redemption in HORSE, now 2/7. Slippage in NLHE, now 23/25, push or fold mode.

9:25 pm

2/6 in HORSE. Major suckout in NLHE. Shoved with Q6, called by KK, made straight with the 6 to stay alive. 10/21.

9:27 pm

Now on both bubbles simultaneously!

9:33 pm

In the money in both.

9:36 pm

Lost an all-in race in NLHE, my 10-10 vs. A-Q. Out in 16th for another %^&*#@ min-cash! $19. That's about a $2 profit, and is only slightly less annoying than bubbling. Ugh.

I'm 2/3 left in HORSE.

9:43 pm

Out in 3rd place in HORSE. $154.

That puts balance up to $861, which is only $30 more than when I started playing almost nine hours ago. Ugh.

OK, one more tournament tonight. Do or die. Fortunately, it's already paid for. Starts at 10:00. Right now, only 13 are registered, but I'm sure lots more will come along. $6000 guaranteed prize pool, $2400 for 1st as things now stand, but that will change.


56 registered, 42 left, I'm in 5th with more than double starting stack already. Played A-K with far more daring than I usually do and forced folds both times. I think I was good, but I was not at all sure when I moved in either time. Turbo event, gotta ratchet up the courage factor.


Doubled up when a guy with stack just a hair shorter than mine got in raising war with me. I had QQ, he had JJ. The ladies held up. 57 started, 44 left, I'm in 2nd place.


First break. Late registration over. Final tally: 62 runners, 24 left, I'm in 7th. 9 places will pay, from $186 to $1984. I need to make at least $339 to reach the $1200 mark, which means getting to 6th place ($372) or better.


Caught a gutterball against the aggressive chip leader on my left, he shoved, I called with the nuts. Now 3/16.


Guy pushed with AJ, I called with AK, held. Then somebody tried to check-raise me off top/top. I smelled a rat and was having none of it, and shoved. He instafolded. Now in 1st place with 14 left:


Wow! My AK versus AJ, flop AKJ. I won, now massive chip leader.


9 left. We're in the money. Still way out in front with about 1/3 of all the chips.

11:34 pm

Down to 6, which means that even if I go out next (not likely, still chip leader by a large margin), I will make enough to break $1200. I have won Josie's brownies!

11:48 pm

4 left, still small chip lead.

11:56 pm

Break. Still 4 in. I'm down to 3rd place.

12:05 am

Out in 4th place. I shoved with suited AQ, called by slightly bigger stack with A-10. He flopped one 10, and rivered a third one just to rub it in.

Payout: $620.

End of live blog. I'll go do a wrap-up post.

Call Bob Costas

Cuz this one is coming down to the wire.

I just won another $109 tournament ticket:

Again it took just one try. The Mozart violin concertos were my secret weapon, and put me over the top with a miracle 3-outer at a crucial moment.

But I have entered five other tournaments today with not a penny to show for it, which has taken my balance down to $705. I'm registered already for a $33 HORSE tourney that starts in a few minutes, and may do one or two others, depending on how this goes.

But the only $109 tourney offered yet today is a repeat of the one I did last night, starting at 10 p.m. my time. (I assume that I have a grace period, and money won in a tournament starting before midnight still counts.) So unless I get ridiculously lucky and take first place in a lower buy-in event before then, that will be my last opportunity. Winning $500 in the next six or seven hours is a steep hurdle, but not unthinkable. I'll be giving it my best shot.

How is it possible that The Brownie Challenge is not an Olympic event?

"Show pool"

Bob Ciaffone is a columnist for Card Player magazine. In his column for the July 25 issue, he is describing a cash game in which he played recently:

About an hour later, I got all-in onA-K again (this time unsuited) in a three-way pot against Q-Q and 2-2. Trip deuces won this pot and I "won" the show pool.
I've never heard this phrase before, and can't figure out its meaning from the context.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

From now on, Josie is in charge of my career

I had another min-cash in a Black Chip Poker tournament this afternoon. It was an especially frustrating one because when we got into the money, I had the biggest stack. But then I misplayed a couple of hands and got unlucky in a third, and I was the first one out after the bubble. GAAAAAAAAAAAA!

I griped a bit about it to Josie via email, since I considered it her fault that I've been on this flurry of online tournament play lately. She quickly wrote back, telling me to enter a coupon tournament. That's where the top finishers don't win cash, but pick up a prepaid entry into a more expensive tournament. Given the frequency with which I've been min-cashing, her logic was unassailable: "I'd like you to play for a token. That way when you min cash again it'll be for substantially more money. Size of token is up to u. $33 - $100. Go do it."

my way sure hasn't been working to get me any significant progress towards that elusive $1200 and batch of brownies, with the deadline looming tomorrow. So I might as well try it her way.

I looked at the tournament lobby, and one such event was starting just a few minutes later. It was an $11 buy-in, and the top eight finishers would all win a ticket to get into any $100 + $9 tournament. So I did it.

And whaddya know? I won one on my first try!

So now what to do with it? Josie had apparently gone to bed (what with the east coast time and all) and wasn't responding to emails, so I was on my own. There were basically two choices: I could hang up the pokerz for the night and tomorrow enter the Merge network's version of a Sunday major. This is a big deal with a guaranteed prize pool of $125,000. That obviously gives potential for an enormous win, but it's also a tournament that attracts all the sharks. It would be a much tougher field than I usually have to face on BCP. It would also likely take many hours to complete, and I might well be left empty-handed after investing that time.

The other choice: In about ten minutes, they were going to start a $6000 guaranteed deep stack turbo event. (If anybody can explain to me the logic of having a tourney be simultaneously deep stack and turbo, please do. It has always seemed to me to be an illogical structure, trying to simultaneously achieve two mutually inconsistent goals.) Only 24 people had registered, which meant that there might be a huge overlay. (There wasn't in the end; a bunch of late registrations put us just past the threshold, at 61 runners.) I was still feeling reasonably fresh, and had been playing smart and carefully through the coupon event. So even though I don't like turbo structures, I decided to jump in. I was willing to take the higher probability of a cash rather than try to gamble on the big one tomorrow.

I put on some Mozart (scientific fact: Mozart is only slightly less powerful than Elvis Presley at bringing the poker run-good) and dug in. I was determined to concentrate, rather than play with the divided attention that I admittedly do most of the time. That nearly $2K first prize was singing its sweet siren song to me, and I wanted it. So I turned off the Olympics, checked Twitter only during breaks, stopped taking my turns in Words With Friends games, and studied what my opponents were doing.I got a rush of big hands right at the beginning, had a double-up within the first orbit, and was on my way.

And it worked! I didn't win, but I made it into the money--and not even a min-cash this time:

You know what that is? That's a $488 payback on my $11 investment. It's also my biggest online tournament score since Black Friday, more than a year ago. For somebody like me who has invested essentially no time and effort in studying contemporary concepts of online tournament strategy, that's not too shabby.

There were a bunch of hands that I took snapshots of, but, really, I don't think they're particularly interesting, and right now I'm that weird combination of too tired and too excited to talk about them. Suffice it to say that I both took and inflicted my share of ugly beats along the way. I was consciously being more aggressive than my usual style because of the turbo structure, and that increased my variance. Ah, hell, why soft-pedal it? It was a freakin' roller coaster! I swung between chip leader and being on the verge of elimination more times than I could count. But it worked out well enough. Not a complete takedown, but still quite satisfying.

It also moved my marker a long way toward the goalposts: My BCP balance now sits at $831. Hitting $1200 by 24 hours from now is still problematic. It basically means repeating today's performance, which is demonstrably an outlier. But it's not impossible.

I'll give it a fair try anyway--as soon as Josie tells me what events to enter.