Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Added money, small buy-in, big prizes

Chance to win big for a small entry fee

$22 buy-in, $350 added to the prize pool.

Whats more if you sign up via reading this blog, you can get your buy-in back.

1) Download Pokerstars via any of the special links on Poker Verdict.
2) Open your account and deposit. Use the deposit bonus code "First2007" for a 100% bonus up to $50.
3) Email stating your new Pokerstars username and that you came via this blog. Customer service will give you the password to enter the tournament and will credit back your buy-in after the tournament is completed.

This only applies to new Pokerstars players

David aka "thekid08"

17 Jan 2007


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Non poker stuff

I've been pretty much taking a break from poker in recent weeks. Truth is my results suffered badly in the second half of last year and I lost focus. I went into overdrive, stopped listening to my own advice and crossed a few bankroll boundaries I knew I shouldn't have. Worse than that I was pretty burnt out - working hard in the day and then grinding away at the poker in the evening. I wasn't winning and my health and the things I hold dear like time with my family and friends were suffering.

So I started to ease up in mid Dec and on 24th I travelled to Eilat for a week's holiday with a group of 170 other 20-30 somethings. The laptop stayed in my case, I forgot about poker and work for a week, a met a whole bunch of new people and I partied and had a great time.

Re-invigorated, I have continued to go easy on the poker since my return in early Jan. I have played a few Sunday MTTs. I haven't had any joy, but thats no big shakes. The stakes are smaller, the game is fun, I'm playing good and my life is back in perspective.

Altogether I'm a much happier bunny. I'm sure the poker results will return as and when the time is right but I'm quite content with life right now :-)

For those of you wanting to read a more poker-centric blog, have a read of my recenlty posted verdict on playing internet winning machine Annette_15

Until next time,

David aka "thekid08"

15 Jan 2007


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


Playing Annette_15

This is a recent blog of mine, first published on Poker Verdict about playing against young internet phenom Annette Orberstad aka Annette_15:


Playing as dg8888 in the weekly $1K satellite on UltimateBet, there were 25 runners meaning two people would win a $12K package to a WPT event of choice and the 3rd place finisher would get his/her $1k buy-in back. No prizes for guessing who finished 4th then.

However along the way, I had the chance to log my first real playing session against one of internet poker's rising stars - Annette Obrestad, aka Annette_15.

By way of a background, since we profiled Annette on Poker Verdict, she and I have struck up some dialogue off the tables. As a result, I think she knows I am better than the average 'tournadonk' and she also knows that I know she is a top player and hold her game in high regard. I don't know if this background was relevant to how things played out - but I thought I 'd let you know so you could judge for yourself.

Annette first joined my table when we were down to 10. The average chips were 6,250. I had around 7,800 and she also had a decent stack of over 7,000 chips. As with all UltimateBet tournaments, the structure was excellent and blinds were still at a level that allowed for some play. Annette was sat two to my left.

With blinds at 100-200 I raised to 600 from the button with Jh-9h. Annette smooth called in the big blind. The flop came down 9-2-4 with two diamonds and Annette led out for 900. With this flop, against any strong opponent, I knew that this bet could mean anything. She could have a 9 with a better kicker or a flush draw or a straight draw, or very possibly nothing as this looked like a good flop for the big blind and a bad flop for a button raiser. I thought that the latter situation was most likely, but wanting to keep the pot managable, I decided to call (rather than raise) and to keep her guessing I decided to call very quickly.

The turn now came down a 6 and Annette quickly checked. Wanting to take control but continue to manage the pot size, I led out for 800. Quick as a flash Annette moved all in for another 5,000 odd chips.

Dazed and confused, I struggled to decide what to do. I had played my hand very deceptively and I thought there was every chance that she put me on a much weaker hand - probably 2 overs or a flush draw or both. At the same time, she acted so quickly and decisively, it seemed possible that she may have turned a set or 2 pair (less likely) or a huge draw.

Had I trapped her or had she trapped me?

Crucially, having just joined her table, I had no previous hand analysis to compare this move with. This fact was playing on my mind. My instinct told me I had trapped her, but I also knew that if I committed and was wrong (or got outdrawn) I was pretty much out whereas if I folded I would still have a very decent stack and could try to pick some better spots later on.

With a very limited amount of thinking time, my hand was eventually folded after I timed out.

Once the tournament was over, she told me she was playing 10-8 - nothing but a gutshot straight draw.

With more thinking time I may well have made the call. Granted another minute or two I think I would have had sufficient time to go through the whole range of possible genuine hands she might be holding and analyse each one against her actions. But even with more time, I don't think a fold would have been a bad play as the fact was that I was acting on very limited information due to a lack of history against the player in question.

Either way you have to credit Annette for a gutsy, strong play. I think she probably misread my hand, and she too was making this play slightly in the dark (having no real histroy of my play) but she read the tournament situation perfectly knowing that anyone with my chip stack would be likely to lay down anything but a very strong hand.

In the following two hours prior to her eventual elimination in 5th and mine in 4th, she gave plenty more examples of the reasons why she is so successful at such a young age.

Her situational awareness was outstanding. Her play was aggressive and fearless but always calculated and never reckless. Much to my chagrin, her player analysis was also spot on. She soon spotted my reversion to tight aggressive poker and she targeted me for special bullying.

While it is never great to have a strong player like Annette to your immediate left (as she soon became), the one benefit tends to be that they are first to speak when it's your big blind and unlikely to attack it as a result. Not a bit of it with Annette. Having pegged me as the tightest player left, six- and seven-handed, from UTG, she open raised over 50% of the pots on my big blind!

I was more than aware of her tactics and I chose two opportune moments to come back over the top. She duly passed and I managed to hold my own without getting any strong cards. But she made life very uncomfortable for me, far more so than any other player left in.

In the end she made one move too many and got caught, and while it was a move she did not need to make, it is clear that it is this type of fearlessness that allows her to dominate and conquer even when she is card dead (as she was here) for the vast majority of the game.

As for me, its been a dreadful couple of months in poker terms. I have been multi-tabling on Sit+Gos and coming out the worst of it. Granted I have suffered some bad beats (last night I played just two and got my Aces cracked by 9-9 and K-4 respectively) but if I am brutally honest, I am playing against the toughest opponents on the net and I am losing because I am aware my strategic play is below the game average.

I continue to play well in the MTTs (although below my peak) but I have had at least five really disappointing finishes when close to a really big pay-day.

All this means that the year since I won the Pokerstars Million is threatening to end with a net loss despite my $34K win in April.

Time for a break I think. At the very least I'm going to re-read and try to follow my own advice on running bad.

Until next time,

David aka "thekid08"

15 Dec 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


Friday, December 01, 2006


It feels like it has been forever since I won a big MTT. Given that I only play a maximum of a handful each week I am probably being impatient but I won 2 biggies in December and another in April and I have barely had a sniff of a top 3 finish since.

Success breeds hunger (and greed) I guess.

Last weekend was typical. I played 3 MTTs. The Pokerstars Million was a no-go from pretty early on but the $200K on Ultimate Bet and another $200 on Full Tilt were going well. To cut a long story short I cut through a field on 970 on UB to get down to the last 30 only to see my top pair get busted by a flush draw come good on the river. $800 didn't really comapre to the $45K first prize. Worse was to come on Full Tilt. A 450 runner affair with a $22K first prize and handsome 5 figure bounties for 2nd and 3rd too, I was a clear chip leader with 18 left. Sadly I played too agressively and lost 3 conflips to finish a very disappointing 12th.

The guy sitting on my right had read me up on Poker Verdict and had been complimentary all night until I got busted at which point he remarked "I guess end-game is not your strong point the" - Nice :(

On the plus side, I arrived to work on Monday to find an email from UB, saying that I had knocked one of their pros out of the $200K comp and so had a free ticket to their UBOC $500 main event on 10th December.

If my timing is really good, I can bury the above memories by going real deep or even all the way in that

one can only dream ............

Finding MTTs

OK - its time for an unashamed plug of my favourite Poker Verdict tool.

Its a unique tournament search tool that allows you to find the game that suits you. Check it out - let me know what you think ..........

This is my blog and I am plugging my site - nothing wrong with that is there?????

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Licensed to play...high stakes holdem

This blog has just been put up on Poker Verdict too. I went to see the new James Bond film the night it came out and these are my thoughts on the poker content of the film:

The growth of poker never ceases to amaze me. First Late Night Poker, then the internet, mainstream TV success, models and actresses, a $12m WSOP winner and now the next new level - the Big Screen.

We're not talking a niche poker film and we're not talking small-time cheesy productions, we are talking Bond. Yes, that's right, in Casino Royale, everyone's favourite secret agent and womaniser, turns his hand to Texas holdem.

Daniel Craig's debut as Bond

I have always been a fan of the Bond films and have spent many an hour debating the merits of the various Bond actors with friends. Thus, I had been eagerly awaiting the release of Daniel Craig's debut and I was in a rush to see the new release of Casino Royale even before I knew that poker was to play a part.

In fact, my discovery of poker involvement led to mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was interested to see some big-time big screen holdem. But on the other hand, I was filled with dread that the resulting scenes would be a corny and unrealistic portrayal of the game I love. Either way though, it only heightened my resolve to see the film at the earliest opportunity - which turned out to be yesterday on opening night.

Before I get onto the poker, I think the movie is a cracker. Daniel Craig, blonde-haired, blue-eyed and bulky is incredibly different to previous Bonds. The effect though is fantastic as he really pulls off the role of the rugged, raw Bond making his bones as a new double-'O'. French actress Eva Green is also fantastic as the luscious and seductive Bond girl and the film has an interesting retro feel complete with twists and turns at every juncture.

Casino Royale - thumbs down for the poker though

Unfortunately, in the end, the same compliments can't be applied to the poker scenes. There are some positives. Daniel Craig looks convincing when sat at the table. Composed and sharp, he has a piercing glare and knows how to handle his chips. The same can be said of the baddie, Mads Mikkelsen (who plays "Le Chiffre"), who is apparently a bigtime poker afficionado off-screen. Also, a clear effort is made to portray the skilled elements of the game - the ability to read people, to pick up on their tells and to apply mathematical decision-making.

However, the level at which the poker is pitched waivers between 'real' poker and 'movie' poker. At first, the blind levels are realistic and the hand selections are interesting so 'real' poker is being played. But by the end, the hand selections are typically unrealistic (straight flush over full house over full house etc) and the blind levels are ridiculous. By this stage we are all watching 'movie' poker.

Novice poker audience

I understand the need to cater for a novice poker audience and I really don't mind 'movie' poker. But this is best achieved, when you still feel the intensity and the drama of the game. Poker classics like 'Rounders' and 'The Cincinatti Kid' are good examples of movies with unrealistic plays but with great dramatic intensity. Unfortunately, by going some way towards 'real' poker, Casino Royale doesn't do enough to convinve a regular player but it also sacrifices some dramatic pull. If anything, the poker scenes slow down what is otherwise a pulsating movie with a good rythm.

So overall, while others might feel differently, I for one was left cold by the poker scenes but impressed by the film in general.

It is not all that surprising: the skill and drama of poker are hard to capture within a fictional, big screen production. However, with poker so in vogue these days, there are plenty more poker-related movies in the pipeline. It will be interesting to see if anyone does it better.

Until next time,

David aka "thekid08"

17 November 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


Playing high stakes short-handed poker

This blog was first published on in August 2006:

In my last blog, I told you all about the ups and downs I have experienced playing online high stakes heads-up competitions. As promised, in this blog, I am going to give you some details of my exerience playing short-handed one-table competitions aka Sit 'n' Go's ('SNGs').

Short handed poker and creative play

In basic terms, the more players there are on a poker table, the more likely it is that at least one will have a strong hand. By implication, as the numbers reduce, the more the quality of the starting hands reduce. Thus, playing on a full table, it can be costly to play creatively as the odds are more likely that you will run into a big hand. Whereas with a short-handed table, weaker average starting hands encourage and often reward creative play. Thus, as a naturally creative player, I have always preferred playing short handed poker against 4-5 opponents.

Where to play

Several of the top featured sites on Poker Verdict offer short-handed tournaments. UltimateBet spread six-handed SNGs with a buy-in ranging from $1 to $500. Paradise Poker spread a very similar range of games except their SNGs are five-handed. This is also true on Pacific Poker who spread an excellent range of five-handed SNGs with buy-ins going up to $750. Like UltimateBet, PokerStars and PartyPoker both offer six-handed MTTs with a great volume of players but they are for lower stakes players with maximum buy-ins of $112 and $100 respectively.

Betfair Poker offers the highest limit short-handed MTTs with a £500 six-handed option. It also offers the most 'aggressive' prize structure with the winner taking 75% and just 25% for second. The chance to play at the highest stakes and the biggest reward for outright victory have made it my recent site of choice when playing short-handed MTTs.

A success story

Playing as 8dg8 over the last 12 months I have successfully shown a gross profit of over £17,500. This equates to a net profit after fees of over £12,000. In that time I have played 275 games. Based on an average of 1.5 tables concurrently and an average game time of 30 mins, this equates to 90 hours play, giving an hourly rate of £130. Not bad eh?

I am relatively happy with this return but feel it can be improved further with improved focus and refinement of strategy. I'll keep you posted!

Key factors

In order to help guide those of you who want to make a profit playing regular short-handed SNGs, I believe that the following are key factors.

Profit from the early levels. Many players are content to play tight in the early levels rather than take unnecessary risks. I advocate a more open game early on. By making small raises and applying pressure while others are passive you can often add 30-40% to your stack. While this may not win you the game it gives you the protection needed to lose a bigger pot later on (sometimes unavoidable) but stay alive.

Speed and structure. It is key to open up your game and start to play more and more aggressively as the blinds increase and the player numbers reduce. Your timing in this area will mainly improve through practise especially as each site has its own unique structure. It may be worthwhile to master your knowledge of the structure by playing a few games at lower levels

Player Notes and Analysis. Taking details notes on your opponents is worthwhile in all varieties of poker but particularly so in these games. For example, many opponents play several tables at the same time and those that do often use a set formula in the first couple of levels where they play tight and only come in raising with big hands. This is definitely worth noting!

The all-in raise. Once the blinds start to escalate, it is essential to keep up momentum through stealing blinds. This can often require you to raise, sometimes all-in with minimal holdings. As always you are better being the aggressor and raising all-in than calling all-in. Again, keep notes on your opponents and their end game strategy and adjust your calling hands accordingly. While Justin Bonomo was recently tainted by poker scandal, he is still undoubtedly a talented player and he has written a high level strategy piece on the all-in raise in this situtuation (called 'Dissecting a Hand 2'. It's well worth a read.

I hope you find these notes of some use. You can also read my guide on the best short-handed SNG players I have encountered.

Until next time...

David aka The Judge

12 August 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


High stakes heads-up poker

Something I love to do is play high stakes single-table tournaments (aka Sit 'n' Gos), especially heads-up tourneys ie me against one other player. I have had a degree of success in these games online and this blog, first published on Poker Verdict in September 2006, offers some guidance on how to play them:

Sit 'n' Go Tournaments (SNGs)

Almost exactly a year ago, following a close analysis of my results, I decided to stop playing cash games and focus on tournament play.

Most of my time since that decision has been focused on playing multi-table tournaments (MTTs), however I have also spent many sessions playing one table Sit n Go's ('SNGs'). When I refer to SNGs, I sub-categorise them in three areas: full table (usually 9 or 10 players), short-handed (usually 5 or 6 players) and heads-up (one opponent).

Whilst I have played a few full table SNGs, most of my time has been focused on playing heads-up and short-handed games. In general, confident in my abilites, and with a bankroll swelled by my success in multi-table tournaments, I have played these SNGs for the highest limits I can find.

In this blog, I am going to share some of my experiences with you with regards to heads-up play. In my next blog, I will discuss my experiences playing short-handed SNGs.

Playing heads-up poker online

From among the top poker rooms featured on Poker Verdict, several offer heads-up tournaments. Pacific Poker has an excellent volume of heads up players with games ranging from $2.50 up to $200 per game. The same can be said of Paradise Poker who additionally give you the option of playing in a $500 game. But the two sites that stand out for high stakes players are UltimateBet and PokerStars, both of whom offer heads-up games for Omaha, as well as holdem and offer the option to play in games up to $5,000 buy-in.

My choice of game

I decided to focus my efforts on PokerStars where I play as thekid08. In March, with just over $7,000 already in my Pokerstars account I decided I would use this bankroll to focus on playing high stakes heads-up poker. The plan was to focus on $500 and $1,000 games, and assuming I was successful, to migrate to $2,000 games.

Off to a flyer

Frankly, for all the confidence I had going into this heads-up trial, I couldn't have dreamed that I would make the start I did. I played five $500 games and I won four of them. I moved up to $1,000 games, played seven games and won five of them. So, a little earlier than intended, I moved up to the $2,000 games. Quite unbelievably, I won the first nine games I played. In a little less than three weeks, I had played 21 games and had won 18 on them with a profit before fees of $22,500 and a total net profit after fees of $21,740!!

A brutal downswing

Sometimes when things seem too easy in life you take them for granted and this was no exception. I started to lose my focus and a lot of my discipline. When I started the experiment, every game meant something and I wanted to extend my winning run as long as I could. Once I made this great start, I started telling myself 'you are a great heads-up player, this is easy money, you have a big edge".

In reality, as you can imagine at these stakes, most of the players are very good, so this was far from the truth. It was even more removed from reality when I started taking liberties, playing two heads-up matches at the same time, or playing a heads-up game while also playing another tournament.

I also made the lethal mistake of playing at stakes beyond my means. I 'traded up' to the $5,000 game. I took a few very bad beats (which will always happen in poker, of course) and I consequently played out two losing sessions at these much larger stages. In just these two sessions, all my previous profits were wiped out.

My figures for May, June and July made ugly reading. In the period, I made a collective loss including fees of just over $38,000. I had gone from a high point of a $22k profit to a low of a $16k deficit.

Stopping the bleeding

I keep detailed records on all the poker I play. Over the period May/June/July, I managed to win money in other disciplines that initially hid the terrible downswing in my heads-up fortunes. But around the end of July, I started analysing my heads-up results and the full horror hit me. How had I let it get so bad? I resolved to put it right and started by trying to identify the areas that needed improvement. I have detailed some my thoughts below and hope that they may be a useful guide to anyone trying to make money playing heads-up games.

When and where you play. I had much more success when I played without any background noise or TV. Full concentration is needed to play top level players. Also no multi-tabling, no play when too tired and no short sessions. If you play a couple of games and lose - don't start trying to get even for the session. Unless conditions are right, call it a day - it is long-term not short-term profits that count! Similarly, if you win a couple of games you don't always have to go on a tear and try and win five in a row. Be content to call it a day and come back refocused and ready to add to your winning streak later on.

Who you play. Initially I was very cautious about playing new people or players I ear-marked as being strong heads-up specialists. When I was over-confident this went out the window. To maximise profits there is nothing wrong with being selective and either way you should always keep detailed notes on your opponent's playing style for future reference.

How you play. I noticed that I was playing a very creative and varied game and that this helped me regularly beat other creative players who I could tempt into bluffing. But there are many successful heads up players who play a relatively tight-solid game. Against these players, my creative play would only ever win me small pots whilst losing me bigger ones - a formula for losing poker! To play against the best you must be a chameleon, adapting your strategy according to opponent and situation. For me, this means, when the situation demands, I have to roll up my sleeves and slog it out with the rocks.

On the postive front...

Since this analysis I have lost a further $4,000 but feel I am playing much better and it is only a matter of time 'til I turn the corner. I have also put the knowledge gained to good use, compiling a guide for all Poker Verdict readers on some of the best heads-up players out there. Also I have earned a hell of a lot of Frequent Player Points at PokerStars (their equivalent to air miles). So far this has bought me $1,000 in free tournament buy-ins, some funky clothing, some top poker books and even a 24-inch LCD TV and monitor!

Lets hope the monitor displays a return to better form for thekid08. I'll keep you posted

Until next time...

David aka The Judge

1 September 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


My first ranking points

This blog first appeare on Poker Verdict in August 2006 and talks about notching up my first European poker ranking points:

For a busy full-time professional, internet tournaments offer speed and convenience. If you want to win a six-figure sum playing offline tournaments, you have to pony up big entrance fees and book some serious time off work. Online, the size of the fields and the pace of the deal, the play and the strucutres mean that you can win these sums in a few hours with a small buy-in and you can still be in work the next day (albeit probably a little later than normal)!

Poker developments

Due to these convenience factors, I have focused my recent poker development in this area and it has paid big dividends. In the last 12 months alone, I have cashed, final-tabled and won several major online events cashing for over $275,000 in the process. However, despite these stats, I actually prefer playing offline. I like the human contact, I like the increased pyschological battle and I think I have an increased edge over my online play. In offline poker, there is a large additional skill related to 'reading people' and I believe my skills are above average here, both in terms of reading other players and controlling my own tells.

As a result I have been playing offline tourneys for over 10 years and I have won or chopped at least 20 events, and have shown profits in this every year. However, due to work commitments and size of bankroll in previous years, my exposure in offline tournaments was always limited to one-day non-ranking events. Late last year, I decided this needed to change and I committed to start playing and proving myself in bigger offline ranking tournaments.

Ranking tournaments

I played in three London-based ranking touraments in late 2005/early 2006. I went deep in one but fell just short of the money, getting knocked out ten minutes before the end of day one. Then I went to WSOP in June and I played three of the early events. Again, I did not cash. But I am delighted to say that yesterday I broke my duck :)

Playing in the £300 one re-buy only NLHE at the UK Grovesnor Open, I managed third place in a field of 69. We did a deal three-handed, meaning I took home £6k. Obviously this was a nice prize, but more than anything it was great to get my first ranking result on the board. I enjoyed the experience of playing over two days (from which I will learn a lot) and I loved that special buzz that comes from bagging up your chips at the end of a satisfactory day's play. I hope to be doing it a lot more in the future!

Until next time...

David aka The Judge

10th August 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


Climbing back in to the poker ring

This blog first appeared on Poker Verdict in July 2006. It's about me sorting out my head and turning disaster at the WSOP into a sort of triumph at the Bellagio, still the best place to play poker in Vegas:

When you get knocked down you only have two options: the first is to go into hibernation and hang up your gloves but I have always preferred the second - to drag yourself off the floor and get back in the ring.

Inspired by The Executioner’s fantastic third place finish in the WSOP $1,500 Limit Hold'em event [read The Executioner's blog about it] I decided it was time to rid myself of my WSOP demons [see my previous blog]. So on Sunday, 9 July I got back in to the poker ring ready to scrap and fight my way to victory.

Comeback kid

The venue I chose for my comeback was the Bellagio card room and the daily $1,000 no limit holdem event. It kicked off at noon, and with a starting stack of 5,000 chips, a great structure and a field of 160 runners, I knew I’d have every chance.

I got off to the perfect start. On the first level, I had worked my way up to 5,500 when a frequent raiser sat to my immediate right with opened for 300 in first position (blinds were 25-50). I found pocket nines and decided to call and see a flop. The dealer peeled off a beautiful 9-4-3 rainbow. He came out betting for 1,000 leaving him 3,000 behind. Putting him on an over-pair, I decided not to get too cute and raised it up to 2,000. After little thought, he moved in and sighed as he saw that that his pocket Queens had been out-flopped. The turn brought him no help and the river brought an unnecessary but gratifying fourth nine.

Just over an hour later, sitting with 13,000 chips behind, another frequent raiser sat two to my right raised my big blind up to 500 (blinds were now 75-150). His actions looked fishy to me and I was already contemplating raising him regardless of my holding as I peeked down at my hole cards. When I found A-A I almost pinched myself to check I wasn’t dreaming. Feigning disgust that he had the temerity to raise my BB, I now wanted him to think that I was playing back at him with a weak hand. So I over-aggressively tossed in an extra 750 chips. He quickly called.

The flop was A-J-4 with one spade. Now I continued my act, feebly tossing in a 500 chip, trying for all the world to make it look like a weak continuation bet. Again he quickly called. I was pretty sure he was weak, but had bought my act and was looking to make a play at a later stage. So when the turn came the 6 of spades, I timidly checked. Right on cue he pushed all of his remaining 4,500 into the middle. I wasted no time in calling.

Dangerous rags

“Oops”, he said as he flipped over the Ks-10s. I had read him right – he had been looking to make a play all along. However his rags had actually turned into a dangerous hand as the turn had given him 10 outs (any spade that didn’t pair the board and any Queen). Fortunately the river blanked and another one bit the dust as my stack increased to almost 20,000. m

My original table broke and I was seated at a much tougher table. Sat to my immediate left was a large stacked and aggressive Frenchman. He seemed like a nice guy and we got chatting. It turned out it was Fabrice Soullier, twice final tablist at the WSOP and twice also on the WPT. To Fabrice’s immediate left was an equally aggressive young American by the name of Michael Binger, also a recent WSOP final tablist (and later third in the 2006 WSOP main event, good for $4.1 million) – so no more easy chips for me.

Three late position raises all got re-raised forcing me to pass halting my momentum in the process. My table move also coincided with a serious downturn in cards. But I still had plenty of chips so I resolved to switch down a gear or two and pick my spots with greater caution. The plan worked alright but a couple of hours later (following the exit of Fabrice and Michael, and a couple more table moves), and down to 30 players, I had been reduced to a pretty small stack.

Down to 13,000, with blinds at 500-1,000 and a running ante of 100, I remained card dead. I managed to hang on and maintain my stack through some late position stealing as the field reduced. Down to 14, playing seven-handed we were now in the money but my stack was static, the blinds had just increase to 1,500-3,000 and the pressure was seriously mounting. Sitting to the right of two Englishman, we all marvelled at the coincidence. But while the banter was fresh and I am all for patriotism, I needed to double up and if it had to come from an Englishman then so be it!


So, when the friendly young Brummie (inhabitant of Birmingham, England) who had been pounding my big blind raised it once again and I found A-7, I knew it was time to make a stand. I called all-in for 15,000 and he flipped over 10d-8d. To my great relief and surprise my hand held up and shortly afterwards we reached the final table nine-handed.

The first 40 minutes would be played at 1,500-3,000. I had 35,000 in chips and although the average was over 80,000, I drew a favourable seat in late position and back to nine-handed the pressure was eased a little. Seemingly, my final table opponents were less willing to readjust from short-handed play and the chips started flying all over the place. Within one round we were down to seven. Then the following hand came up…

Blinds 1,500-3,000, a medium stack (100,000) in first position limps in for 3,000, the player two to his right, a big stack but a weak player (200,000) also limps in, I pass in the cut-off and the player on the button, another fairly big stack (150,000) also limps in. The small blind completes, the big blind checks and they take a flop five-handed. The flop comes down Ks-Js-10d. The blinds both check, the first position limper checks and the next limper leads out for 30,000. The button thinks for about five seconds and then pushes all-in for 150,000. The blinds pass and the first position limper dwells up, trying to feign weakness, before calling all-in. Then the original raiser flippantly says, “What the hell, why not”, and he moves all-in too. WHAT A HAND!

The button re-raiser flips over J-10 for two pair, the first position limper flips over a monster, As-Qs for the made straight and a straight flush draw, and the big stack flips over an improbable J-Q for second pair and a straight draw (see – I told you he was a weak player)!

The medium stack on the button proceeds to hit one of his three outs when a second Jack comes on the turn. The river blanks and the first position limper is cruelly eliminated.

Big stack

Now down to six, and with the big stack dented, the very next hand sees two big stacks clash again. Englishman Ian Woodley comes off the better and we are down to five. He now holds a stack of over 350,000 chips and all the while I have been sitting there witnessing the carnage sat behind a puppy-stack of just over 30,000!

We take a short break and I find a quiet corner to give myself a pep talk. There was one other short stack with around 60,000 chips. Unfortunately he was on my right. To my immediate left was ‘Mr J-10’ with 300,000 and to his left sat Ian Woodley with a monster stack of around 500,000. Throughout the tournament I had been aware that the first prize was a healthy $55,000 but I had deliberately avoided studying the other prizes as first was my goal. But just before the break I had taken a quick peek and noticed that the prizes were broken down as follows: $55,000, $33,000, $15,000, $8,500.

It was my big blind so I was in for 4,000 plus ante. With the other small stack in the small blind, the chip leader (Ian) pushed all in from the button. The SB quickly folded and I looked down at A-4. Ian seemed strong but I knew he could make that move with almost any two cards and certainly with a hand like K-Q or K-Js. I reasoned with myself that if I was playing to win, with such a short stack I needed to call and try to get lucky. On the other hand, I always prefer to raise all-in than to call all-in and, if my goal was to outlast the other short-stack, I should probably fold.

Thinking it through, I believe it was a marginal situation. Deal-making in poker and the playing strategy around it is an art form in itself, and it is one I am a long way from mastering. It wasn’t a clear error to call with A-4 but given the relative chip sizes and table positions, I think it called for a change in strategy to tailor my plan towards locking up a 3rd place finish.

Still, I welcomed my timely return to the final table, and for the first time since 4 July I slept a bit easier.

Bye for now,

David aka 'The Judge'

12 July 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


From hero to zero at the WSOP

This is one of my favourite blogs (although it chronchles a terrible performance at the World Series of Poker) and was first published on Poker Verdict in July 2006:

I had dreamt of playing in the WSOP for over 10 years but work commitments and other issues had always prevented me from making it. But with a reduced work schedule and a boosted bankroll thanks to my win on PokerStars (read my blog about it) I gleefully decided 2006 would be the year. Unable to take sufficient time off to play the main event, I booked off 10 days during the earlier stages of the series and I timed the trip specifically around the $5,000 NLHE event on 4 July.

I arrived two days before, bought straight into the event, and relaxed, playing just a couple of hours a day while relaxing and adjusting to local time in the luxurious surroundings of the Wynn resort. I was joined in Vegas by my poker caddy, Siccy, my parents, my aunt Lissete from Paris and good friends Ben and Liz who journeyed over from New York. But despite the relaxing environment and the great company, when the day of the event arrived I was nervous as hell.

Having lost my appetite, I forcibly breakfasted on some fruit at the Wynn with the crew. Just before 11:30 I left them to finish their food while I went to prepare my things and journey over to the Rio. I arrived bang on the dot of 12 noon (when the event was due to start) and hurried over to my designated seat. As I received my stack and settled into seat two, I looked up to find 2004 World Champion Greg Raymer in seat eight and 1999 runner up (and WPT champion) Alan Goehring in the 10 seat. Rather than increasing my nerves, the presence of these legends of the game actually served to relax me. After all, this was what I had been waiting for all these years – a chance to sit down with the best in the world. As soon as the cards were in the air and the first hand was dealt the nerves fully dissipated and I settled into my rhythm.

Taking on Raymer

We soon discovered that the starting field was some 622 players and the first prize would be $820,000. But first, I had a World Champion to see off. The action started quick and Raymer got it all in as a massive underdog after a flop of J-10-5 with A-A against a guy holding 10-10 only to turn an Ace. A few hands later I raised up front with A-K, got called in one spot and then re-raised by Raymer. I correctly laid down to what turned out to be Q-Q for the first caller and A-A for Raymer. I managed to pick up a few small pots and about an hour in I was sitting with 6,000 chips (we started with 5,000) and our table was broken.

Hoping the move would bring me a slightly easier table, I would have no such luck. As I stacked my chips in seat five, Londoner and WPT winner Roland de Wolfe greeted me from seat nine. To his immediate left was top tournament pro Isabelle Mercier and two to my right was seven-times WSOP bracelet winner Eric Seidel. The table was ‘on the rail’ and due to the prevalence of big names surrounding me there was a big crowd of spectators watching us play. They were shortly joined by my cheering brigade who had just arrived fresh from seeing Italy beat Germany in the soccer World Cup semi-final and were happy to have a clear view of my progress.

And progress I did…I had built my stack up to over 9,000 when I was dealt 10-10 in middle position. With blinds at 100-200 I made it 700 to go. The opponent to my left sitting with 6,500 called and we saw a flop of A-A-10. I checked and he checked right behind me. The turn was a 7 and I bet out a weak-looking 500 which he quickly called. The manner of his call seemed to indicate that he was calling because he thought I was weak not because he had an Ace, so when the river came down another blank I checked, hoping to induce a bet. Sure enough he fired out 1,000, I check-raised him to 3,000 and he quickly passed. I passed my hand without showing and he looked decidedly annoyed.

I thought my 8s were good

Two hands later I made it 800 to go with 8-8 and the same opponent quickly pushed all-in for 4,100 total. I was pretty sure that he this was an ‘anger bet’ and an attempt at a re-steal on the assumption I had weak cards (as I was regularly raising pre-flop). I was pretty sure that my 8s were good and I still had a healthy stack of chips back even if my read was wrong so I wasted little time in calling. Sure enough he flipped over K-4. Isabelle Mercier immediately revealed that she had folded a King meaning that my opponent had only two outs. So you can imagine my annoyance when the flop bought one of the remaining two Kings in the deck…starkly contrasted by the feeling of joy when the river bought a beautiful eight. “There is justice after all,” I declared as I raked in a big pot which increased my stack up to over 16,000.

For the next couple of hours I played my best poker, feeling totally at ease in this table of stars as I built my stack. I busted a short-stacked Roland (when my A-8 got lucky against his 10-10) and two other players. I saw off Seidel and three-time WSOP bracelet winner Alan Cunningham (who briefly joined our table with a short stack). Seidel was replaced by recent bracelet winner Mark Vos. Shortly after Mark’s arrival, with blinds at 200-400, I had 21,000 chips and I made it 1,000 to go in first position with As-Ks. Sitting two to my left, Matt Hawrilenko (twice WSOP final tablist) pushed all-in for 6,000 total. He had been on the table throughout and had seen me raise with a variety of holdings.

Twice already he had re-raised me and gotten me to pass. Given this history, the big over-raise did not necessarily signal a monster hand and instinctively I put him on A-Q or A-J. I had mentally committed to calling when Mark Vos started to dwell up in the Big Blind. He also had about 6,000 chips in total and I noticed that he was focussing on me, trying to get a read on my hand. About 30 seconds later he called all-in. I thought he would have acted more decisively and been less concerned about my hand if he had held K-K or A-A and I think the risk was too great to push with A-K so I thought it most likely that he held Q-Q or J-J. I had a quick think and realised that if both my reads were correct I would be calling 5,000 with a 35-40% chance of winning an 18,000 chip pot. Furthermore, given the size of my stack I could certainly ‘afford’ to call and take my chances at knocking out two dangerous opponents. So I called and was happy to see Matt flip over A-Q and Mark flip over Q-Q (happy with my read and happy that I was in good shape with a 40% chance to win the pot). I was even more delighted when the flop delivered the crucial Ace catapulting me up to 32,000 chips.

Stacks of chips

I had been waiting months to play in this specific event and throughout that time I had dreamt about locking horns with the best in the world and coming out top, sitting behind a stack of chips so big I could barely see over them. Now it was coming true. Also, the atmosphere at the Rio was beyond my dreams. Sitting on a table by the rail being watched on by hundreds of ‘poker fans’ made me feel like some kind of pro sportsman. I was totally relaxed enjoying the chance to joke and banter with Isabelle Mercier and other players I had long admired. As I soaked all of this in, the next two hours were an incredible high.

I continued to play aggressively looking for spots to build my stack and feeling totally at ease at the table. Approaching the dinner break I lost a small pot but I still had over 33,000 chips. The field had been reduced down to 190 making the average stack just over 16,000. As 7pm drew close the tournament director called last hand before dinner. In second position I looked down at 7c-5c. With blinds 300-600 (and a running 75 ante), I decided to make it 1,600 to go. With the rest of the table already standing getting ready for a well-earned break it seemed a good time to steal. Everyone passed round to the button who announced raise and but didn’t say the amount. He tossed in a bunch of chips but seemingly made a mistake as they only added up to 2,500. The dealer enforced a minimum raise. The raiser had been at the table for about an hour and had shown himself to be an extremely aggressive player. He was not someone I wanted to tangle with, especially as the signs were that he held a strong hand (maybe even A-A) but I felt compelled to call because of the size of the raise.

The flop came down Kc-4c-3s giving me a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw. I checked with the initial intention to check-raise. He led out for 3,100 and here is where it all went wrong. For the first time in the tournament I felt totally undecided on what move to make. He had another 13,000 back but I felt if I re-raised all-in he was likely to have a hand to call me with and he was not the type of player to put a big hand down. On the other hand I didn’t think I could pass with such strong drawing potential and somehow I convinced myself that a call was the best option of the three (despite in reality being the worst). Worse still throughout this thought process, I lost my composure, looking anguished and giving off all kinds of tells that I had a flush draw.

Passively checking

The turn was the 5h and I passively checked again. My opponent led out for 9,000 (leaving himself just 3,500 more). It was clear that he read me for a flush draw and was protecting his hand which I was now pretty sure was either A-K or A-A. The problem was that I didn’t just have a flush draw, I also had a straight draw and a pair meaning that I had 17 outs (almost a 40% chance of rivering the winning card). Having mulled it over I knew I would be calling 9,000 to win over 22,000 meaning I was getting very healthy pot odds. Much as I didn’t like risking such a large percentage of my hard-earned stack I decided to call. The river blanked, I checked and my opponent pushed in his last 3,500. Again holding just a pair of 5s, with it being such a large pot I felt obliged to call just in case my opponent was holding something like Ac-Qc. He flipped over 9-9 and I got up for the dinner break feeling physically sick.

While my entourage tried to calm me down over dinner, I was inconsolable. I have never been one to dwell on bad beats as I understand that they are a part of the game. By contrast I find it very hard to get over mistakes because they are in my control. I still had around 15,000 chips, not far off the average and I should have been focusing on how to recover the lost ground but all I could think about was how badly I played the hand. I misplayed it on every street! It was the biggest tournament of my life and I had played perfect poker to build up a big stack until the very hand before dinner when I had succeeded in ‘donking off’ over 50% of my stack with 7-5!

The wrong mindset

I came back from dinner with the wrong mindset. Card dead and at an aggressive table (made all the more active by the arrival 1998 World Champion Scotty Nguyen), I started getting blinded down. With blinds at 400-800 and a running 100 ante, it was costing 2,200 a round. Down to just under 12,000, I found Kc-9c in the cut-off and decided to bring it in for 2,500. The opponent to my immediate left dwelled up for a while and seemed on the brink of passing when instead he decided to call. Instinctively I put him on a weak Ace and hoped that no further Aces would come out of the flop. The flop was Ac-10d-4c. I was unhappy to see the ace but I had still flopped the nut flush draw. Despite my fear he held an ace, the memories of the 7-5 hand and how my weakness had cost me, led me to announce “All-in” as I pushed my remaining 9,000 chips into the 7,000 chip pot. My opponent instantly called and flipped up A-4 (two pair). No club came and I was out.

I gathered my things and wished Isabelle good luck. I couldn’t quite believe it was over. In 30 minutes either side of the dinner break I had gone from Hero to Zero, from a top 10 chip position to elimination. I had only been all-in once in the entire seven hours of play and it had cost me my tournament life. From the high of bossing a world class table under the gaze of hundreds of rail-birds I was now back on the outside, just another onlooker.

The emotional swing was hard to take and for about 90 minutes I couldn’t talk. Siccy, Ben and Liz then did the honourable thing and got me so drunk that I almost forgot about the pain. The long and lengthy road to recovery had begun. After a few days the pain started to subside and I realised that some valuable experience had been gained. But I continued to anguish over the mistakes made on a regular basis.

I have since realised that full recovery will only be achieved when I ‘put it right’ by which I mean building up a big stack at a major event and instead of blowing it, going on to convert it into a big result.

Until next time…

David aka The Judge

20 July 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


A high risk strategy (but a successful one) on Paradise Poker

This blog first appeared on in April 2006

I was inspired to start playing tournaments by Tony Holden’s classic ‘Big Deal’. Nowadays, the younger players are typically inspired by another classic piece of poker media, namely the film ‘Rounders’ (click here to buy the DVD).

At the start of Rounders (you can see the first eight minutes on Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, starts the narration by explaining how he has built his bankroll by playing in games he knows he can beat, by taking minimal risk and by 'grinding' out a living. However, in explaining why he is about to risk that whole bankroll by playing in the biggest and most skilful game in town, Mike explains: “If you're too careful, your whole life can become a fuckin’ grind.”

While Mike applies this theory to playing in high limit cash games, I think that some parallel lessons can be learned in the arena of tournament poker.

In general, when it comes to the early stages of a final table I like to play a pretty tight, solid game and pick my spots to move, hoping like Mike that I can grind it out by adding to my stack via low-risk small pots. The added benefit of playing this way is that you create a tight image and when you do enter a pot the other players will give you respect for having a big hand (even if you don’t). In the later stages when we get short-handed I open up my game and hope that the respect earned earlier sticks!

Taking risks

The reason I open up is that unless the deck runs over you, however good you may be at grinding out small pots, the time comes (like for Mike) when you must start taking risks. Unlike Mike this is not for the adrenaline rush or the need to feel really alive, it is because to be a regular tournament winner you must ‘have gamble’.

A good example of a risky but ultimately profitable play came during the final table of my recent MTT victory on Paradise. With 740 people playing this $200 competition, first prize was a very handy $34,000 and that was always my target. But having started the final table with a very commanding chip lead, by the time we got down to five-handed I now tied in chips with two other strong players and I had the sensation that tournament victory may be slipping away when the following hand came up:

Blinds were 8,000-16,000 with a running ante of 800 and I had 446,000 chips. I was dealt 4-4 on the button and made it 45,000 to go. A strong player with 442,000 in chips made it 110,000 to go from the small blind. I decided to call the bet.

The flop came down 6-J-T. My opponent led out for 90,000 and I minimum raised up to 180,000. My opponent called. The turn card came a 3, my opponent checked and I pushed all in for my remaining 147,000. My opponent passed and I took down a huge pot without showing my cards. My opponent’s stack was severely dented and I had regained a big chip lead at a critical stage.

The Verdict

This was a very uncharacteristic and risky play. Ordinarily when re-raised pre flop I would either pass the pocket fours or push all-in. But based on previous plays I thought my opponent had a strong but not monster holding – strong enough to call an all-in but not so strong that I couldn’t outplay him after the flop – probably a big Ace or a middle pair. So I called to give myself a chance to hit a set and/or get more information after the flop.

The flop was not a great one - no four and three overcards. There was every chance my opponent could be holding a 10 or a Jack, but on the positive side no Ace had come down. When my opponent bet out 90,000 into the 225,000 chip pot I sensed weakness. Based on previous plays, I was pretty sure that if he held A-J or K-J he would have pushed all-in. I was equally confident that if he flopped a monster (like trip 10s) he would have trap-checked. Obviously I still had enough chips to pass but I sensed this was a big opportunity. Rather than pushing all in I decided on a minimum raise. My reasoning was that if he went ahead and reraised all-in I could pass (crippled but not out) and also that a minimum reraise would scream of strength on my part.

Obviously I was hoping he would pass but when he just flat-called, I was sure he did not have a Jack or a 10. With something like A-10, my minimum raise would have forced him to either pass or to commit to the hand there and then by reraising all-in. Thus I was very confident that he was either holding A-K or A-Q and he felt obliged to call the small raise to try and hit his straight or one of his overcards. So when the turn came blank I followed up by pushing all-in and he duly obliged by passing.

I was very pleased with this play. It gave me the chips and the momentum I needed to go on and win the tournament. It was risky or course, but you have to take risks to win poker tournaments and if you can combine a willingness to gamble with creativity and strong player/hand analysis, you will always have a chance.

Until next time…

All the best,

David aka The Judge

24 April 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


What to do when the chips are down

This blog first appeared on Poker Verdict in March 2006:

Life was so sweet last time I wrote. The joy of victory and the enjoyment of the spending spree and attention that had followed from winning the Big One on PokerStars (click here to see my blog about it) were still fresh in my mind. This year has started as 2005 ended with poker victories and profits flowing session in, session out.
With my bankroll swelling every week and confidence sky high, suddenly I found myself down to the last 20 in another big tournament with another decent chip count, a perceived edge over the opposition and a decent shot at another massive pay-day. As chronicled in my previous blog, things did not work out that day and my A-K got busted by J-10 all-in pre-flop for a huge pot. Still, I reasoned, it was another $7k in the bank, another decent performance and if I continued playing to the same level, the profits would keep rolling in. Simple logic, right…Well actually NO!

Less than four weeks later, I find myself on the end of a savage, sustained losing spree bought on by a run of cards the likes of which I have never witnessed before.

Those who know me and understand poker know that I am not one for bad beat stories. Similarly, when I lose, I do not typically bemoan my luck. Instead, I try to adopt a hyper-critical approach to seek out any small mistake I have made and learn from it. However, just to give you a picture, I am going to give a few examples of recent beats. Please note, I am NOT asking for sympathy, read on for your info/amusement only:

Multi-Table Tournaments

1) Early stages, I trick an opponent into getting all the chips in the pot on the turn with a board showing 4-4-3-7. I hold 10-10, he holds A-J. River card is an Ace. Odds: 6/1
2) Satellite for a big tournament, 35 runners, winner gets an $8.5k package. Down to last six. Raise from the small blind holding 7-7. Big blind makes a large re-raise all-in. 50% of all the chips in play are in the middle. I call, he holds 4-4 and flops a 4. Odds: 9/2
3) 200-runner freezeout. Top prize $21k. Down to 35. My aggressive image ‘pays off’ - I manage to get 90% of my chips in with A-K vs A-Q – first card to flop is a Queen. Odds: 10/3. Rebuild chip stack and get it all in with J-J vs A-6, opponent turns an Ace. Odds: 3/1

Single-Table Tournaments

These are normally my bread and butter and have bought me considerable riches over the last nine months. I tend to play two or sometimes three at a time. Over a typical post-work evening session this means playing around six games in the course of 2-3 hours. Prior to the start of this run, I had posted 16 out of 20 winning sessions.

Since this terrible run started I have posted seven out of eight losing sessions. I have finished one off the money in almost 40% of the games played. Many have ended with me losing a big pot having had the odds in my favour when the chips went in. Of course, some have been 50/50s or 60/40. However, others have been much more brutal. My personal favourites just from last night were:

1) Flop of A-10-4. Get it all in with A-10 vs A-Q – Queen on the River. Odds: 11/2
2) Flop of A-J-8. Get it all in with A-K against A-3 – 3 on the River. Odds: 8/1
3) Flop of 9-7-5. Get it all in with 8-8 against 3-3 – 3 on the River. Odds: 13/1
4) Get it all in pre-flop with K-K vs Q-9 – lose to a straight. Odds: 6/1

I think you get the idea!!!

Of course, I am not the only player to experience this type of run. As in so many other ways, poker is a microcosm of life itself. Just as sure as night follows day, periods of fortune or even-handed ‘luck’ at the table will be followed by periods when you can’t catch a break. In fact, the chances are that if you play poker regularly, you too are likely to suffer a similar spell, and when you do, you are going to end up asking the same obvious question that I am now, namely, what the hell should I do?

Some tips

• Read journals written by top players. They too go through bad spells. This helps you feel better and it also allows you to read their pointers on how they turned the corner (Many of the tips below have been borrowed from these types of journal).

• Play your ‘A’ game. It is easy in these circumstances to lose focus and to let your game slip which only exacerbates the problem. If you play at the top of your ability then you will minimise the damage and you will turn the corner quicker.

• Work on your confidence. Do not suddenly think you have become a worse player. You don’t become a bad player just because of a temporary swing, as the old adage goes: “Form is temporary but class is permanent”.

• Play lower stakes. This may help you to play with a greater freedom in turn restoring confidence and reminding you of the strong elements of your game. This can also help you to resist the temptation to start upping the ante to chase your losses – a recipe for disaster.

• Keep things in perspective. Maybe you are down for the week or the month, but are you up for the year? Were you up last year? Poker is not gambling, it’s a skill-game, and this can only be borne out by long-term records not short-term ups and downs.

• Take a break – It is all too easy to become stale and negative if fortune has deserted you. This only makes matters worse. Take a break and let the bad beat scars heal. Do something totally different that makes you feel good about yourself – some extra quality time with friends/family, some additional exercise, some charity work – whatever refreshes you, raises your spirits and puts poker in proper perspective

I am trying my own unique combination of the above ideas – I’ll let you know how I fare in my next update.

Bye for now,

David aka The Judge

8 March 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


Another monster pay-day on PartyPoker...almost

This was first published on Poker Verdict in February 2006:

Life since ‘The Big One’ (where I won almost $150,000 by winning back-to-back online tournaments on 25/26 December) has been very pleasant. Among other things I have found time to buy a few presents for my family as well as a new car for myself. For those of you who are interested (please skip the next sentence if you’re not) after much postulating over buying some kind of flashy three-door (BMW Z4 being top of the list), I decided that my main priority was comfort not ‘wow-appeal’ and opted for the (still nice-looking but all-round solid) Mazda 3 Sport.

I have also been featured in the first edition of the new WPT magazine. It’s a great new magazine and I highly recommend you pick up a copy and see for yourself. From my perspective it was a good buzz being involved in the process as well as doing my first poker-related photo shoot.

From a poker-playing point of view, with bankroll boosted and cash in hand, I have been spending less time grinding out profits at the tables and instead hand-picking specific times and tournaments to play – less quantity more quality you might say.

The results have been good. January was highly profitable despite failing to cash in a couple of expensive tournaments. The biggest tournament I played was the $1,000 buy-in main event in Paradise Poker's Masters’ Week. With over 1,200 runners, first prize was $300k and I hoped to go three places better than The Executioner had in his brilliant performance the night before (read his blog of 14 January 2006).

Card dead

Despite being crippled early on and seeing my starting stack of 2,500 quickly reduced to just 200 chips, I battled on bravely and with 300 runners left I had rebuilt all the way up to 35,000 and was near the chip lead! But card dead for the next two hours, and playing at an exceptionally tough and aggressive table (which would eventually yield two of the final tablers), I eventually got knocked out in 130th just 20 short of the money, when my 7-7 got busted by a loose caller holding A-2 in the big blind.

Still playing well and with a profitable January behind me I entered February full of hope, targeting the $1m Guaranteed event on PartyPoker on 18 February as a must-play.

With a $600 buy-in and 1,820 runners the guarantee was exceeded meaning 180 prizes scoping from $800 all the way up to $230,000.

I made an exceedingly good start. Starting with 5,000 chips and blinds of 20-40, in the very first round I called a pre-flop raise of 250 with 9-9 and duly flopped top set. The unlucky original raiser with K-K couldn’t get away from his over-pair and I doubled up. Shortly after, having correctly read a couple of bluffs, my stack was further increased and I reached the first break in strong position with 17,000 chips.

The next two hours went even better, and using my big stack to strong effect I climbed into the chip lead of the whole tournament. With 500 runners left and an average stack of 18,000 I had over 100,000 in chips.

An hour later, despite having lost a big pot with A-K against J-J, I remained at the top of the tree until I picked up Q-Q and clashed with another fairly big stack holding A-K. Again, I lost the coin-flip only this time it seriously dented my stack. A few hands later and I came off worse in a coin-flip once more, this time holding J-J against A-K.

Selectively aggressive

Down to 250 runners and my stack was only just above average at 45,000. Undeterred, I resolved to up my game further. As the field dwindled we got into the prize money finishes. Whilst others tightened up fearing elimination, I was selectively aggressive and managed to make the best of a bad run of cards, preying on a fairly soft table to stay in the tournament nursing somewhere near an average stack.

With just under 30 runners left, blinds were now 10,000-20,000 with a running ante of 500. The average stack was 300,000 and I had around 280,000 when I picked up 6-6 on the button. A fairly loose player with a big stack (600,000) made it 70,000 to go from middle position. I had a bit of knowledge on this guy. He had made this raise a few times and would always lead out strong at the flop whether he hit or not. When he had a strong starting hand, he tended to raise bigger or trap-limp.

So instinctively I put him on two picture cards – K-Q, A-J, K-Js or similar. Having already lost several coin-flips I decided to call rather than raise. The flop came down 8-2-2. Instantly he fired out a random looking bet of 185,294. Effectively he was putting me to a decision for all my chips. Staying true to my initial read I moved in my remaining 210,000 chips – with just 25,000 more to play obviously he had to call. As suspected, he flipped over K-Q and I was well in front. This time my hand held up and now I was in good shape again with over 600,000 chips.

Tenth through to twentieth paid $7,700 but it was the top five I was now gunning for, all of whom received $50,000 or more (with the winner receiving over $230,000). Not only did I have a good chip position, but I also felt in strong command of the table. Unlike the Big One, I did not feel that the remaining opponents were all top quality players. There were some clear maniacs who I could see bluffing off their chips to me and other tight players who I knew I could bully.

Big Slick in the small blind

All in all, it was all looking good when I picked up Ad-Kd in the small blind. My stack stood at 580,000 and when everyone passed to me, with blinds at 15,000–30,000, I made it 80,000 to play. My opponent in the big blind also had a fairly big stack (460,000). After a couple of seconds he made it a random looking 233,426 to play. The raise was so big that calling with A-K was not an option – it was either fold or push all-in.

Gleaning information from his previous betting actions, the size of his raise and the speed of his action, I instinctively felt I was a good deal ahead with my A-K and so I opted for all-in. I guess he must have felt he was pot committed as he instantly called for his last 230,000 and promptly turned over J-10!

Unfortunately, he flopped a Jack and turned another Jack rendering the King on the river useless. I was winded. Instead of taking a commanding chip lead with other 1 million chips, I suddenly had a depleted stack of just 120,000.

I struggled on and increased my stack marginally with a few all-ins, but the cards weren’t coming and when the end came it came quick. In late position and back down to 110,000 chips I had little choice but to push all-in with pocket 2s. I was quickly called by pocket 9s and it was all over – out in 18th place.

A couple of days later, I am satisfied with the payday and very happy with my overall performance. Obviously, I am a little gutted that luck deserted me at such a key stage and it’s pretty tough when I see that the player holding J-10 went on to finish 4th and enjoy a $65k payday! However, overall I have been blessed with some good fortune in recent times when it mattered more. I have also learned an important lesson from the key hand which I have shared with you in this week’s Hand of the Week.

I’ll be back with more soon. For now, happy playing, may fortune be with you, but try to keep smiling either way.

Ciao for now,

David aka The Judge

20 February 2006


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.


WOW! Today I won $150K

First published on Poker Verdict in December 2005, this one is my favourite ever blog so I hope you enjoy....

I think I have lived a full life for my tender (30) years. I’ve fallen in love, I’ve travelled to beautiful places, I have delighted in spiritually fulfilled moments and yet I think that, so far, 25/26 December 2005 has to go down as the best single day of my life so far. It is my pleasure to share some of the reasons why in this blog…

On Sunday 25 December, I met up with my close family for lunch. Having already lined up a couple of juicy online poker tournaments to play in, I decide to kick back and enjoy the afternoon playing at my parents’ house happy to have a few spectators for company.

The first of the tournaments was the Xmas special on Ladbrokes Poker. It cost $500 to enter and they added $5,000 to the prize pool. It attracted 45 runners and offered an $11,000 first prize.

Leading the way

With 14 runners left I was leading the way with over 19,000 chips. I limped in first position for 600 and the player on the button (one of the other chip leaders) pushed all in for 14,000. I called and he flipped over 9-9. The board came down 8-7-6-5-2 and my big stack was crippled. But I remained positive and determined and battled my way onto the final table, albeit as one of the shorter stacks. From there on in, I made some great reads and was fortunate to time any ‘moves’ just right.

I entered heads up play with a 60-40 chip advantage which soon became 80-20. Even after losing a big pot with A-9 vs K-Q, I continued to chip away and after an hour-long heads-up battle and a total of 5 hours play, at 8.30pm, I emerged victorious.

I was delighted with my performance and the juicy prize and was somewhat delirious from the incredible high that comes from winning any tournament outright. But I wasn’t ready to pack it in for the day because the second tournament I had picked out was starting just an hour later, a $500 freezeout on PokerStars with 1,876 runners and $100,000 added. Prizes were being paid down to 405 and the first prize was a huge $170,000.

Two hours in and I was almost out. Having taken a couple of beats and then waited patiently for a hand I was down to 800 (from a starting stack of 2,500). With blinds at 100-200 and a running ante of 25 I desperately needed to double up. An uncontested all-in bought me a few more chips. Finally I picked up a hand with J-J in first position. I moved in for 1,100 but was quickly called by Q-Q. The board bought me a miracle: K-10-9-7-8.

Moving in

About a round later I had progressed further and was up to almost 4,000. With three limpers, I decided not to raise with K-Q in the big blind. The flop came down Q-9-3, I checked and the first limper bet out 600 into the 1,000 pot. All passed to me. Whilst it was no certainty I was ahead, the player in question had played a lot of pots and he only had another 1,200 back so he could not knock me out. I moved in and he called with A-A. When the river bought a miracle Queen, I started to get quite excited. Not only was I back from the brink with a decent sized stack, but I was also enjoying the kind of fortune that is normally reserved for my opponents!

Two hours of solid poker later, just before 1.30am, I had made the money. The average stack size was 12,000 and I had around 15,000. There were still another 405 opponents to defeat but I was sensing that something special may be in the offing and had now been joined by a live audience consisting of my dad, my brother-in-law and one of my best friends, ‘Siccy’ (somewhat of a lucky charm – see previous blog).

At about 2am, with 20,000 in chips and the blinds at 500-1000, I picked up A-A for the first time. One of the short stacks moved in for 4,500 and I just called, hoping to trap one of the other players. Sure enough, the small blind called as well as the flop came down A-7-5. The small blind checked and so did I. The turn was a 9 and now he led out for 6,000, I raised to 12,000, he moved in and I called down his A-Q. With almost 50,000 chips in the middle both my opponents were drawing dead and for the first time in the tournament I had a dominating stack to play with.

Testing times

But the next two hours were to prove the most testing. At the worst possible time, with blind increases becoming increasingly penal I went card dead. Into the last 100 and my stack had become worryingly frail. I was down to 35,000 with blinds at 3000-6000 and antes at 300. On the positive side I was keeping a level head, and having been on the same table for several hours, I had built up a very solid table image and a very good knowledge of all my opponents.

To my right was a very aggressive player called Serb2127 and for the third time in five rounds, he raised from the button on my small blind. I found A-8 and thought I was probably in front and so I called all in. He exposed K-9 and my A-8 held up. A few rounds later though and still card dead, I was back down to 50,000 with the blinds now 4,000-8,000. Again, it was ‘Serb’ I clashed with but this time I was behind. He raised my button, I moved in with K-Q and he called with A-8, the flop came down J-10-4 and the turn card was a magic Ace.

With 110,000 I was back in business. Down to 30 players, I stepped up a gear, swiftly increasing my stack up to 150,000. Finally, I found a hand and with K-K in first position. I made it 40,000 to go. The button, with a similar sized stack to me, moved in and I called down his AK. My KK held up and now I was one of the chip leaders. Down to 20, and with enough chips to start opening up, I stepped up a couple of gears and for the next hour I dominated the table. By the time the final table started at around 4.30am, with a total of 4.7 million chips in play, I was marginal chip leader with 760,000.

I was in the zone, and the final table went smoothly. I played tight-aggressive and my chips were never at risk. Down to four, I won a big pot with 9-9 vs A-J and, down to three, I was chip leader with just over 2.2 million vs 1.7 million and 750,000. We stopped the game to discuss business and we agreed to do a deal based on chip count. I locked up $127,000, second in chips (serb2127 – see above) locked up $108,000 and third in chips secured $83,000. We played off for the remaining $10,000.

A huge pay-day

Right then and there, I knew that I was going to enjoy a huge pay-day and the hugs and the high-fives went up all around the room. Overjoyed, I managed to refocus on the task in hand, reminding myself that $10,000 is still a lot of money and that I needed to convert my chip-lead into a victory.

Three minutes and 10 hands later I knocked out the third-placed opponent to take a huge chip lead. After a further five minutes and 12 hands, at 6.05am (UK time), with 75% of the chips I called Serb2127 all in after the flop as a marginal favourite (56%) and won the remaining $10k. For more details of how the winning hand was played out see

A few days later, I am still in a state of euphoria. It is a life-changing win for me and I genuinely feel blessed by the experience and the fortune I enjoyed. I can only hope that 2006 brings more of the same…

Happy New Year!

Til next time


David Gross is the co-founder of Easyodds and the Managing Director of Poker Verdict. He is also a frequent online poker tournament player playing as thekid08.

Poker Verdict is a free service catering for the online poker community. It offers a unique and powerful tournament search tool as well as news and views from online poker experts.

Easyodds is a free service that compares odds from over 20 big name online betting companies (ladbrokes, betfair etc) to allow users to find the best price for any bet.