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Woodstied meets ChessSafari #4

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  • Woodstied meets ChessSafari #4


    ChessSafari and his friends have treated me extremely well since the minute I arrived in the Seattle area. My motel is directly across from a bowling alley that conveniently has a card room. There are no paid dealers. Local players who all seem to know each other pass the deal from one player to the next around the table. I sat down in what I thought was an Omaha-8 game, where I can usually hold my own. Two hands later the game changed to FARGO. Then the next player changed it to CRAZY PINEAPPLE.

    To me pineapple is something you garnish a ham with and Fargo is a city in North Dakota. After three hours of change-the-name-poker (called dealer’s choice flop games by the house), I was ahead by twenty bucks. To me, that was dinner so I cashed out. I learned later that I could’ve changed the game to limit hold’em on my own deal. Maybe next time.

    Frank likes to play every Saturday morning at a no limit hold’em tourney on the Suquamish Indian reservation in Kitsap County, Washington. As he did the previous time we went there, he offered me incentives to play my best poker: a $50 last longer bonus and $100 to knock him out. 32 players entered the $35 buy-in event and we both made it to the final table. I outlasted him to 5th place and took home the bonus as well as the bubble cash prize equal to the entry fee.

    It was the first time that I ever participated in a discussion of a final table deal. I found it quite interesting. The final table players agreed unanimously to modify the posted prize structure wherein players four and five would get their buy-in back and a ten percent tip would automatically go to the dealers from the first place money. Then we played on.

    ChessSafari busted in 10th place when he called a player’s all-in raise while holding A-K. It was a good call; the all-in player had A-Q. Unfortunately, a queen came on the river. My day ended when my last 3,000 chips went into the big blind and I had to try to survive against two opponents with 7-3 offsuit. No such luck.

    In general, I was happy about the way I played. Frank acknowledged that I made good decisions early from what he was able to observe. At one point he moved to my table where I was the big stack. That’s when I discovered that Frank Niro is the Bobby Knight of poker coaches. In other words, he gave me his honest views, sometimes in a loud voice.

    On one hand I flopped the nut straight on a rainbow board and over-bet my hand. Then I showed my cards after my opponents all folded. He was not happy that I chased everyone out of the pot and especially not happy that I gave free information about my play by showing the nuts in that situation. I understand now that I could’ve added to my stack by playing less aggressively there.

    Later, an opponent raised pre-flop from the small blind with pocket kings. I had limped with T :s: 9 :s: and called his raise. The flop came A :s: K :s: 2 :c: . He checked and I made a pot size semi-bluff bet with my flush draw. He called (for reasons that are obvious now). On the turn he checked again after a rag fell. Sensing weakness when I should’ve smelled a trap, I bluffed off half my remaining stack. He called.

    The river brought the deuce of spades, completing my flush and pairing the board. I had him covered so I moved him all-in. He called with his nut full house. The hand cost me three fourths of my stack and I went from big stack in the tourney to an average stack. Frank seemed to be holding his breath during the hand and practically turned purple by the river. You’d think it was his money I was betting with! Come to think of it…

    In retrospect it was a dumb mistake on my part. But hindsight is, as they say, 20-20. It amazes me that good players like ChessSafari are able to determine that the guy was holding pocket kings, or at least narrow down the range of probable holdings, so as to avoid this kind of trouble. I set myself up by pushing a bluff against resistance from a good player with a ten high flush draw, even with the ace and king already on the board. I can see that now. I was trying to be aggressive with a big stack. This is how we learn, I guess.

    Frank felt that I should have won this tournament, or at least made it to the final heads up match. It was expensive tuition but I did have a good learning experience. I’m pleased with a fifth place finish out of 32 in only my fourth live tourney. Like any good coach, Frank was very complimentary after the tournament, although still a bit edgy about the two hands mentioned above. He went out of his way to make me feel good about myself. He made it clear that he was criticizing the decisions at the table, not the person who made them. I appreciate that.

    By the way, while at the resort I participated in an energy healing session with Sunfire. It was very helpful. The strange thing is that my blood pressure went to 120 over 80 (normal) immediately afterwards. I have not been at that level for over two years. This has been a trip that I will never forget. Even though he laughs it off, I believe that Frank has saved my life…the life of a person he never met before, by deciding to help someone make needed changes.

    When we were in New York on Thanksgiving Day, ChessSafari gave me a bookmark that read: “Pray for a tough instructor to hear, act and stay with you.” I see that bookmark each time I open my copy of Killer Poker Online by John Vorhaus.

    For sure I have met a tough instructor in Frank Niro. He tells me he will help me make my poker (and other) dreams real but he will not tolerate me not helping myself. For the first time in a while, I believe my dreams are achievable…if I can be willing to do the required work. Poker is just one example, and there is a lot of work my coach is asking me to do.

    I don’t have words to say how I feel deep down inside as I think, and wipe tears of joy from my eyes. Not many people know that not very long ago I seriously considered walking in front of a rolling semi back in North Carolina. I thank God that I trusted that I would get a second chance at life itself.

    I still have a long way to go to get a job, an apartment, and all that goes with it. But now I feel the strength to get it done. I have said goodbye to North Carolina and am looking forward to a long life in the Seattle area and many wonderful new friendships.

    Anyway, that’s it for my trip so far.


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