I'll start things off today with a little classic Simpsons humour:

(That monkey is not related to Yours Truly. )

So apparently, there is something called the "World Blogger Championship of Online Poker" (WBCOOP) coming up on March 1-11.  I just heard about it this week, and apparently, since I have a blog (this one you're reading!) and have been blogging for more than a month now, I may be eligible to participate!  All I need to do is write and submit a blog post describing my best moment while playing at PokerStars.  (If you have a blog, you should do it too!)

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.  The literalist in me wants to find my absolute best moment, but I've just come back from a 5.5 year break from playing poker, and had been playing for 3.5 years before that.  Looking back through 9-year-old memories could make this tough…

Of course, a less literal mind might be willing to pick out a few clear highlights without worrying about the literal best moment.  I think today, I shall aspire to be that less literal mind!

Here are a few moments from my time at the tables that I think qualify:

Paid off with a Royal Flush

in the Hijack seat, playing $0.25/$0.50 fixed-limit Hold'em on October 6, 2004.  It's a full-ring table, but we're 8-handed at the moment.  Action is folded to me, and I raise.  The cut-off and button fold, and the blinds both call.  The flop comes .  Yes, I have just flopped a royal flush.  The blinds both check to me, and I check as well, hoping to get some action on the turn and river when the bets are bigger.  (For some reason, I'm not worried about being outdrawn here!)

The turn is the , and to my great joy, the small blind bets out!  The big blind folds, and I raise.  The small blind calls, and we get to see the   on the river.  The small blind checks, and I bet again.  The small blind calls, and I actually get to see a showdown with my flopped royal flush!  The small blind was holding , which is actually a pretty reasonable hand under the circumstances--the only cards in the deck that beat him are the and the  (just his bad luck that I have both of them!)  His  gives him the 3rd-nut flush and blocks all straight flushes (with the exception, of course, of the royal!)  And so I take down a 14 big blind pot at the showdown with my royal flush.  Not huge, but still feels great considering how terrifying the board must have been for my opponents!

Biggest Pot I've Won

in the big blind, playing $0.01/$0.02 no-limit Hold'em on January 11, 2013.  I'm at a full-ring table with eight players dealt in.  The action is folded around to the hijack, who limps.  The cut-off raises to 4 big blinds, and the button and small blind fold.  Following the advice I've picked up from the PSO, I check the stacks of the raiser and myself; I have 97.5 big blinds and the raiser has 243 big blinds, so there's plenty there to make it worth my while to go set mining.  The limper also has 127 big blinds left behind if he wants to play.  I flat-call, as does the limper, and we see the flop 3-handed.

The flop comes .  I've hit my set, but there's a possible spade flush draw out there and an unlikely (but possible in microstakes!) straight draw, so this is no time for messing around.  I make a pot-sized bet, and the hijack calls, while the cut-off (the pre-flop raiser) folds.  The turn is the , which is almost the best card I could hope for right now; I'm really hoping that the hijack is holding something like  and feels good about this turn card.  Of course, I don't have much data on this guy, and it is possible that he could have limp-called or pre-flop, but if so, I will take my losses like a man (i.e. crying myself to sleep for a week).

I lead out with another pot-sized bet, and the villain raises all-in.  He's got me covered, so I only have to call another 47.5 big blinds to win a 186.5 big blind pot, and there's no way I'm passing up the opportunity.  I call, and the villain flips up for bottom set.  The river is the , so the villain didn't catch his one-outer, and after the rake I haul in a 194.5 big blind pot, my biggest cash game win ever!

Biggest Tournament ROI

Back in the days of yore, I used to play the occasional 9-man Sit & Go.  I won some of those, and my biggest wins were several first place finishes in the $11 9-man, with a $45 prize.

Those are good, but on they don't have the same thrill as taking down a tournament with more entrants.  Since I've started playing again, I've learned more about NLHE strategy, and I've started playing a the $0.25 45-man NLHE SnGs.  On February 16, 2013, I claimed my first ever 1st-place finish in one of these.

It was quite a rush, mostly because I'd been paying close attention to what I learned at the PSO courses and was doing well at applying my learnings.  Not only that, but it was working!

My big run into the lead started with me shoving with from the big blind against an UTG raise when we were six-handed.  The raiser called with , I hit my set on the flop, and I doubled up.  That hand put me into the chip lead, and I never looked back.

Well, I sort of looked back on the very next hand.  I was in the small blind with and the hijack made a min-raise.  The action was folded to me and I pushed all-in (hoping to isolate the hijack).  To my surprise the big blind (same villain I beat in the last hand) called and the hijack folded.  The big blind flipped up , and in a total reversal of the previous hand, he hit his set on the flop and doubled up.  Fortunately for me, this didn't do enough damage to take me out of the chip lead.

I took advantage of my big stack, stealing blinds liberally and putting on the pressure whenever I thought it made sense.  I still played it smart, though; if someone pushed back, I thought carefully about my hand when deciding whether to continue.  A good example: still six-handed, I had in the hijack and made my usual 2.5 big blind opening raise.  The small blind pushed his 6.5 big blind stack, and I chose to fold.  After all, there were plenty of other blinds to steal, and I wasn't getting challenged very often.  Controlled aggression: it really works!

I also made good use of the check-raise on the flop to take control.  For example: down to five players, I get in the big blind.  Cut-off (who is now sitting on the second-largest stack at 24.5 big blinds) min-raises, and I smooth call after the button and small blind fold.  The flop comes and I check.  Villain bets, and I raise, and he folds.  I finish the hand with 39% of the remaining chips in play, a dominating lead.

I think my favorite bit was how it ended.  We went from four players to my final victory in only six hands!  First I busted a guy when I tried a steal with and got called by the small blind.  He checked the flop, so I bluffed with a half-pot bet to try and take it down, but he called again.  The turn was the , and we both checked.  The river was the  and the villain pushed all-in.  The way he had played it, I suspected he was bluffing, so I called with my bottom pair; he showed  and busted out, so we were now three-handed with me holding two-thirds of the remaining chips.

I was in the big blind next, and my two opponents folded to me.  I then attempted a steal with from the small blind, but the big blind pushed so I folded.  Next I got on the button and raised.  The small blind pushed again, but this time I called.  He flipped up and got no help from the board, so we were suddenly heads-up--and I had 88% of the chips!  Next hand, I got in the big blind, and my opponent folded his small blind.  I then got in the small blind and made my standard raise.  My opponent decided he had to make a stand some time and pushed the rest of his chips in with .  I gleefully called, won the hand, and took down my first multitable tournament win!

Away from the Tables

Even with some of the great times I have had playing poker and winning money, there have been some really good times away from the tables, too.  When I started playing again at the beginning of 2013, I discovered PokerSchoolOnline.  I registered on the first weekend of the year, and started devouring the material presented in the training courses.  It had an immediate impact on my play; I went from being a guy who flailed about in confusion when playing NLHE to being a guy who had a tight range of starting hands, a consistent tell-free bet-sizing system, and most importantly, some success at the tables.  (It's no coincidence that two of my three best experiences have been with NLHE in the last couple of months!)

I gradually got more and more involved with the community, and eventually learned about the 2013 Time Vault challenge, which led me to start this blog.  For many years now, I have thought that I should be blogging.  The only thing stopping me was that I didn't know what to write about.  Most of the things in which I have expertise are not of any interest to a broad audience.  Without any reason to believe that anyone would want to read my blog, I couldn't really see myself keeping up with posting regularly.  Here, finally, I had found my subject matter and my motivation.

The biggest thrill away from the tables came the day after I posted my first blog entry: that morning, I was looking at the PSO Community page, and I almost had a meltdown when I saw that my very first blog entry was listed front and center as the Featured Blog!  This was a great compliment and gave me a huge boost to my motivation (and my ego, but that's another story!)

PSO has given me a reason to finally start blogging, and then encouraged me to keep at it by praising my first efforts.  The community has taught me to play better poker, and continues to do so through a ton of great resources and some excellent feedback on individual hands I have struggled with.  It's been such a great experience--I can hardly believe that it hasn't even been two months yet!

So those are some of my greatest moments at PokerStars.  I hope you've enjoyed reading about them as much as I have enjoyed experiencing them!

Please check out my Time Vault thread in the Challenges forum for notes on my 2013 goal progress, some interesting hands I have come across, and miscellaneous commentary.

Until next time, good luck at the tables!

-- CanuckMonkey

P.S. For those who love to watch hand replays, I've compiled the ten hands mentioned in my tournament win into one replay.  Hands 7 and 8 are in the wrong order but I don't know how to fix it.  Enjoy!