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Get Value Out of Your Life: Part 2


For Part 1 of this two-part article about getting value in poker and in life, click here. Now, it’s onto Part 2.

Get Value Out of Your Life: Part 1


If you are exactly 25 years old today, you have 16,425 days until you’re 70, the average age on Earth where most people die. If you are 30, you have 14,600 days. If you are 35, you have 12,775 days. If you’re 40, you have 10,950 days. If you’re 45, you have 9,125 days. If you’re 50, you have 7,300 days.

Putting it All Together


One of the more satisfying feelings in poker is when you work out every possibility in a hand. Anticipating and preparing for when an opponent errs is almost a high for me and certainly entertaining enough to examine for a strategy article here on PocketFives. In this piece, I thought we’d peer into a hand I played in a $109 tournament on PokerStars.

Poker Hand Analysis with Assassinato and andressoprano


What follows is a unique conversation between PocketFives Traininginstructor Alex AssassinatoFitzgerald (pictured) and Andres andressopranoPereyra about a hand that came up at a No Limit Hold’em tournament table. You can learn from pros like Fitzgerald by visiting PocketFives Training. Top-level MTT training starts at just $30 per month.

The 2010 WSOP – A Time to Shine

It takes this time of year to remind me why I play poker.

I, of course, am talking about the World Series of Poker. You'd be hard pressed to find many articles now that aren't about the WSOP. For sheer numbers of donkeys galloping through fields of poker chips, you can't beat America. The month-long event pits players from all over the world against each other in every poker game imaginable. The largest NLHE tournament in the world is held at the end. First place in this tournament is a ticket to eight figures between prize money and endorsements; not to mention having your name etched into poker history forever.

I want to make my mark as much as anyone. I see poker in 20 years being studied far more thoroughly. There will be many books and training materials available that will put into exact wording and mathematical expression concepts we're only abstractedly describing today. I see leagues on every continent. You're already seeing the first steps now. I want to be one of the original kids who came into this industry in it's stone age and took huge checks out. I want kids to study my hand histories and say, “damn, he played for the win.” I'm excited because I'll be making my yearly pilgrimage to the poker Mecca, where all of this can happen. I'm also determined to make things happen for me at the Series this year, because everyone is getting more educated, and it's getting harder every day. That, and because my first WSOP was a disaster, where I felt like I never got a chance to play my best.

My first house didn't have air conditioning working for a while. My backer ran into financial problems, which while I was sympathetic toward, they were pretty damned annoying when I'd flown from Malta to be there. My grandfather passed away pretty suddenly halfway through. There were other family problems. I whiffed the whole series. I made a lot of money online but that's because I never left my house.
This year, I'm not making those same mistakes. That, and I've lost a lot of my roll since last year (<3 you MTT backing!) so I can't really afford to screw around. I need to be free of distractions and able to play my best, and also be in a social environment with good people . The first part of securing that was making sure my house this year was comfortable. You need air conditioning, good people, and good music to grind. Being around my friends who I've grinded with before allows me to know I'm going to be around positive people that motivate me. So when my friend Mcmatto offered me a spot in his house I quickly accepted, knowing a bunch of my friends would be there.

Other than being one of the best No Limit Hold'em tournament players I know, Matt's also a good organizer. He's the one you want picking your Vegas house. With him you know you're going to get a good master bedroom, a living room with a huge entertainment center, a nice grind area, and a pool.

Matt's also the kind of guy you want to bounce hands off of. We started off in poker talking hands over burgers in the U District of Seattle. I met him because his frat house was ten blocks away from my apartment. He always asked great questions, and I thought he had a ton of potential. In a couple years, he went from $6.50 SNGs and $.50/$1 NL to winning SCOOP and FTOPS events. It will be nice discussing poker with someone who I haven't talked hands with in a long time. It's always interesting to see the new lines that buddies advocate and discoveries they've come across. A guy as bright as Matt will have tons to teach anyone who listens.

The other Seattle guy in my house I haven't seen in a while is Tyler, or Sexuelity. He's grinded hard online before, but where I really saw him shine was in the bigger side games in Seattle, which he basically took over. He's a very unorthodox player who frequently has a different take on situations. His thoughts on hands have caused me to change lines I've taken for years. At the end of EPTs versus the most airtight solid MTT pros, Tyler's lines are still working. He'll be another interesting guy to catch up with.

I'll likely be playing whatever No Limit Hold'em event is going on during the day. I'm expecting the early $1k and $2k events to have as many ridiculously awful players as they had last year, because many tourists take their one shot in those events. As the series goes on, I expect to see the same drying up effect I saw last year, where the higher buy-ins got much tougher and the lower buy-ins tightened up a bit. As the Main Event approaches, the money is loose again as so many new players fly in.

My daily schedule will probably consist of me waking up, making a pitiful attempt to jog in the Vegas heat, and then eating a healthy breakfast. I'm going to try and bring Gatorade and energy bars to the tournaments most days, and keep up on my vitamins that up my immunity. I'm looking to stay away from tons of caffeine and Vegas food. When I bust out of tournaments, I'll head home to grind, where I can cook my own meals. At least once a week, I want to do something non-poker related. Hopefully near the end I can take my girl to a Vegas show or club.

I've decided to devote the whole month to playing poker, because I'm not sure of how much I'm going to play when I come back home. I'd like to spend more time writing and studying Spanish, and if I'm grinding 24/7 the way I have been for years, then that is not going to happen. The WSOP is my time to completely focus and remember why I started playing poker. It's also my time to make the money to set up my future for the goals I'd like to achieve. It's my Super Bowl as a professional player. I don't plan on slouching.

I can't wait to meet a bunch of you guys this year. It's fun at WSOP time to match all the names with faces finally. I also of course look forward to playing you guys deep in a donkament.

Good luck to all of you,

Assassinato Alex Fitzgerald

*Alex Fitzgerald is an instructor at PokerPwnagewho specializes in Multi-Table Tournament (MTT) play.

Recent Online Scores for Assassinato

$200 buy-in, $750,000 Guarantee on FullTiltPoker. 03/14/2010, 3 place for 55,580.00
$1000 buy-in, $1K Monday on FullTiltPoker. 05/24/2010, 2 place for 48,000.00
$109 buy-in, $109 NL Hold'em [$40,000 guaranteed] on PokerStars. 02/21/2010, 1 place for 38,437.00

Game Selection and Your Lifestyle (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

You see this all the time in tournament poker players. There will be a kid who at 19 or 18, a lot of the time even younger, decides to stop playing his home game so much and just throw fifty dollars onto a poker site. He's typically a male, typically a kid who has always known he was smart but maybe didn't get the opportunities he felt he deserved in life because of his intelligence, which always seemed unfair to him. Maybe he had some glory in high school playing sports, but hasn't felt a competitive thrill afterward, and is wondering where his place is as he sleepwalks through college or a real job.

After he burns through a few deposits he starts understanding a few things. He will start reading poker websites and looking up to some of the bigger tournament players, and keep learning from them. Soon, he gets beyond competent. In fact he'll start doing really well in his smaller tournaments. He wants more though. He's not just out to play poker and make a living, and keep from working at McDonald's. He wants to be one of the guys he's watched for years. The only problem being he doesn't have the bankroll to play with the big boys in the 1ks and 100rs.

So he convinces a backer to take him on, or better yet he just jumps into the big tournaments head first with his own money, even though he doesn't know enough to play and beat the biggest tournaments. He might have some results, but it becomes apparent soon that while he knew enough to beat mid-limit games he is playing with people who know all his tricks now, and have a few more of their own he's never seen. Some guys grow in this environment. A large number of them do not. They get in makeup, and instead of moving down to games they can beat they start taking larger and larger shots hoping to grab a tournament score, which often just runs their debt up even more. The backer, often a young guy himself who never had experience with leadership or management before, lets him continue to play sky high instead of forcing him to go back to his smaller games. So now, the kid who was making a good living at mid-limits is playing every day in the hopes he'll get out of makeup, but really doesn't care as much deep down because if he wins this particular tournament he will not see a cent. He doesn't learn. He doesn't progress. He just plays because he doesn't know what to do anymore.

If the kid in our example had stayed at his own games though, and not shot for the stars so quickly, he might have gotten there on his own accord, or learned to beat the biggest limits for much cheaper. If he took small shots whenever his bankroll was a little plump and he had been running well he'd have approached the bigger games with more excitement and focus, instead of getting into a pattern of "please get me out of debt."

That is not to say you shouldn't play tournaments. They are easier to learn than cash games, and give you the chance to turn a little money into a lot much faster, but you have to be intelligent about it. You have to evaluate what you want out of the game and balance it with what will make you a stable income, which may require you to continue playing games you might be a little bored with. You need to ask yourself, why do you play poker? Is it for the glory, is it for the lifestyle, is it for the money, is it for the intellectual stimulation, or is it for the rush of gambling?

If you want the glory then tournaments are more for you. There are very few feelings in poker that rival the feeling of winning a tournament. Seeing yourself on the top of tournament lobby after all is said and done is very satisfying. There is a price to pay though. Tournaments will not provide you as much freedom as other poker games. If you want to make serious money from them you will have to buckle down and play a large volume, which will require you being at your computer a large majority of the time. Most games you will play will end up with you losing. To win one hand where you're an 80% favorite is very likely, but to win 10 in a row is much more unlikely, and you will have to do just that often to win a tournament. That's if you're running great too and you always have a pair-over-pair situation when your chips get in the middle. Add in a few coolers and coin flips and it’s even more unlikely. Most of your tournaments will end with you playing your absolute best and just not succeeding, which is unbearable to many people and their ego.

You will also go through long downswings, which affects many people emotionally. Two of my friends in poker, both of which could be considered among the elite online tournament players, have told me they have gone through $100,000+ downswings. These are not average guys either, they are both phenomenal players. They have won some of the biggest tournaments online and have some of the largest profit margins. Many people simply cannot stomach those kinds of swings. Your family might notice a difference in you. A number of people who were very positive individuals become very bitter and cynical after becoming tournament players.

If you really enjoy the rush of gambling I always found SNGs to be amazing in satisfying that particular appetite. Once you learn correct ICM they are just a degenerate's paradise. I used to love the feeling of blasting my music and just playing 20+ tables of turbos. It was so action-oriented and addicting I'd play hours and hours at times. In addition, the money was pretty stable, but after a while the edge wasn't as big as it was before. SNGs are not brain surgery. Many people are smart enough to work SNG Power Tools. For this reason they are also not very intellectually stimulating.

If you seek money, freedom, and intellectual stimulation I've found that cash games are the best route. With 200 BBs, like you can have on the newer deep stacked tables, poker hands can be analyzed on so many levels. Very rarely will you simply be able to Poker Stove something and be done with it. For that reason cash games have the steepest learning curve, but they can also be the most rewarding. You will find more points in which to exploit your opponent, and you will never stop learning. While in SNGs and tournaments there will certainly always be something to learn, the options are more finite given the limited stacks. The downside is that, unless you are one of those tools who feels the need to tell the paper boy every time you have a good cash session, there will be no recognition involved when you win.

The key is asking why do you play, and choosing the right game based on those motivators. Of course, the main reason you should always play, if you're pursuing poker as a profitable endeavor, is making money. At the end of the day it's about the bottom line.

That is not to say you cannot take shots, or that you shouldn't play tournaments. Many of the best online tournament players make a very good living and are happy individuals. When you are starting too it will be easier to learn how to beat a $20.00 tournament than it will be to learn how to beat a $1/$2 No Limit game. There are many though that still grind tough games only on the toughest sites who bitch to me and everyone who will listen about how hard it is for them. I don't care, and nobody else should. I do not keep those people around me in my life because their negativity gets me down as well. There are softer games and websites out there and there are training videos that will help you get ahead. They just do not bother to do the hard work.

If you are a true professional you should always be evaluating how profitable the game is that you're in now and what effect it is having on your life, because truly your outside life will always affect you as a player.

The reason I play poker is because I hate normal jobs and schedules. I hated how when I was younger I had no options but to work hard labor for 40+ hours a week to keep a roof over my head. I didn't have time to see my girlfriend, I didn't have energy at the end of the day to do anything, and I never had the money to do anything for myself. I love how poker is the most purely capitalistic game out there. It doesn't matter whether you're white, black, gay, straight, female, male…all that matters is how much work you put into it. To escape from the grind that was my former jobs, and to have the money I have today to do the things I truly enjoy in life is all I want. I never play higher than $5.00/$10.00 No Limit cash games, and often much lower. I play tournaments, but only the bigger ones, and I only have half of myself because I am backed. I don't put in the volume I once did, so I spend more time in makeup then I'd like, but I've accepted that as the price for having much less stress from poker. This might not be right for everyone but this is what works for me and my personality best.

Some of my friends have a much higher tolerance for pain than I do, and they love the feeling of beating a large group of people, so they continue to focus more on tournaments. They find a way to balance this with the other things they enjoy in their life, and be positive throughout the tribulations. They always put in a considerable volume too at the smaller tournaments they slaughter, so as to prepare themselves for the winter that can come with the biggest online tournaments.

The main point really is finding a way to understand what makes you tick as a player and incorporating it into your poker game decisions, and remembering the main goal is always to provide a living for yourself and to be happy. There is a lot of crap that surrounds the poker world, but you have to be true to yourself and not get caught up in any of it. There is a huge difference between being a good poker player and being a poker professional.

One of my favorite quotes about professional poker came from Chip Reese, when he was asked his thoughts on Stu Ungar, and how talented he was. "'Natural ability-wise, yes, he had the quickest mind. Stuey's problem is he doesn't understand the object of the game, which is to accumulate wealth, improve your lifestyle and provide for your family."

Good luck to you all.


* This is Part 2 of 2 of Assassinato's Game Selection and Your Lifestyle article. Read Part 1

Alex Assassinato Fitzgerald is a professional poker player, entertaining poker writer and MTT/Cash Games instructor at PokerPwnage, a top-rated poker training website. Our members can receive a free 6-month subscription to PokerPwnage by visiting our

Game Selection and Your Lifestyle (Part 1)

When I first walked into a poker room when I was eighteen years old I was fascinated by the difference in all the people there. I saw degenerate gamblers, drunks, really quiet types, people who couldn't shut up if their life depended on it, and everything in between. I would see older gentlemen who played a very tight game, yet would leisurely talk with everyone when they were out of the hand, thus providing them a social outlet and a small profit to pad their retirement each day. I saw people that came there every day who seemed to want to do nothing else but bitch about their bad luck. I met a lot of businessmen who just wanted to relax after a hard day's work, and didn't care how much they lost in order to feel some kind of relaxation. I would see young men who talked a great game, but never seemed to make any money when they sat down. Sure, they could talk strategy, but the truth was most of them had real jobs that they would never mention, and essentially all they had found in poker was a really expensive way to play pretend every day.

I never wanted to be any of those types though, because in my opinion they never made poker work for them. They instead always gave something to the game, and didn't force poker to give back to them. That is fine, everyone is entitled to their own form of recreation, but I always wanted to use poker to fund the things I wanted in life. I wanted to use poker as an endeavor that would provide me financial freedom and also financial security for myself and those I care about. Furthermore, I never wanted to lose any part of myself to the game, such as my optimism, work ethic, physical shape, or other hobbies.

As I've played poker longer and longer as my only means of income I've come to understand more clearly the difference between gamblers and true winners in this game, because I have played the role of both persons. When I was nineteen years old and I first seriously started playing poker tournaments, I found a way to become both a compulsive gambler and a winner. Poker was still something I had only been doing professionally for less than a half a year at that time, and my enthusiasm for the game was bewildering. When I took first in a tournament it still felt like catching the game winning pass, or hitting the winning home run. The money in my cashier's window and that little support email saying "you finished first place in…" gave me a sense of accomplishment and victory I felt very seldom being a geek growing up.

I would wake up every day excited to play. I found a friend who was also playing a large volume as well and together we took on poker tournaments as a project of sorts. Each day we would talk about what we tried, what worked, what didn't work, and the next day we would try to do things better. He introduced me to the re-steal before everyone and their mother was doing it, and together we used the little more knowledge we had in tournaments to move up from $20.00 180-mans to the biggest tournaments online.

I didn't at the time really think about the role poker played in my life, because the pieces had fallen together so easily. I never really had a large downswing in tournaments for a long time, and when I did start feeling pressure I'd just go back to grinding SNGs for a few days, and then eventually my luckbox would crank back up again. Randomly, I met a girlfriend in Seattle who was studying to be a doctor, and could understand my busy schedule because she had one as well. I found college classes in my area that were easier to fit in during mornings. Without trying I'd found a way to balance poker and life.

It was not until my girlfriend and I broke up because she moved away from Seattle, and I went on my first massive downswing that I really had problems balancing everything. I went to my first live tournament in Manila and finished 13th, after I assembled a huge chip stack and found a way to dust it off like it was nothing. I let the close call affect me negatively, and it started to show in my results. Day after day I put a minus next to my records. Instead of taking charge and re-evaluating things I simply kept playing; expecting things to change. Once my quarter ended at school I didn't sign up for new classes. I just played all day every day. My play became erratic. I was constantly angry, and instead of blaming myself I got into the pattern a degenerate gambler gets into, blaming my own misfortune on terrible luck instead of my own mistakes. I stopped exercising as much, started drinking more, and gained weight. I watched the money I had built up quickly disintegrate.

At some point something inside my head finally said, "You need to get a grip Alex or you're not going to be playing this game for much longer." I had burned through 50% of my bankroll in two months, a bankroll that took me eight months to put together. A good friend of mine who had mentored me previously on many aspects of professional gambling pointed out how tournaments were a very long-term investment, and that the variance could be quite high in them, and that if I wanted to rid myself of this bipolar existence I was going to have to find a more consistent bread-and-butter game.

I started learning about cash games after that, and soon I found a way to lead a more balanced life again, incorporating poker. Tournaments became fun again after I stopped playing them every day. I accepted the fact that after playing poker nonstop for years I couldn't play the volume I once did, and that in order to keep poker interesting and to keep making money I'd have to change things up once in a while. I decided to take a financial sponsor on when it came to tournaments, and split my time between a smaller online and live schedule. I also decided to make my main game No Limit Hold'em cash games, because while it didn't carry the prestige tournaments held it made me more money more consistently and allowed me to be more balanced emotionally in day-to-day life.

Now, looking back, I realized there was nothing really when I became a professional that really prepared me for the whole storm that was my first couple of years playing. There was very little written about shaping your life around being a professional player, as it still was a fairly new profession. While I am thankful for both the bad and good that came, as it taught me quite a bit about myself and who I am, there are many people who do not survive the serious trials they face in this game. A large part of the reason is just because they never considered the big picture, and what role their game selection plays in their life and overall success in poker.

If you're going to be a professional poker player, or approach it as a serious moneymaking venture in addition to a job you already have, you are going to have to evaluate the role poker plays in your life. Many people believe after a certain point they are untouchable in poker, but they do not realize that their worst downswing could be more than an expected standard deviation, which assumes you're playing your normal game. If you have been running bad for months it is likely frustration and doubt in your own abilities is seeping into your decision making process, which will do a great job of extending your bad run longer than you could have ever expected. There are players I play with every day who I know are not making money at poker and they have not been making money for months or years even, but they refuse to change their habits.

Why would anyone continue to play poker even if they are not making money, yet profess to be a professional? Well, the answer is obvious, they are not playing to make a profit. Sure, they may lie to themselves and say they are doing it to make money, but the games they are selecting are not the most profitable. They have other reasons they are not acknowledging.

* This is Part 1 of 2 of Assassinato's Game Selection and Your Lifestyle article. Read Part 2

Alex Assassinato Fitzgerald is a professional poker player, entertaining poker writer and MTT/Cash Games instructor at PokerPwnage, a top-rated poker training website. Our members can receive a free 6-month subscription to PokerPwnage by visiting our Free Poker Trainingpage.


San Remo Trip Report: Part 4

(cont.) The next day Nathanael and I go out while our friend plays Day 1B. He ended up busting in the second level when his nut straight ran into runner-runner flush, but we're both in pretty good moods. I've gotten over my bust out. I'm happy if I am not cashing that I at least did it during day one so I have time to see Italia.

We walk up to conceirge and ask what we can see during a day trip. The man was very nice and ended up taking a map out and marking up a bunch of different cities. He shows us a couple cities we should stop by, and then tells us, "Do not take this road from the last city. Just go back the way you came."

We take the car we rented out and find a part of Italy that seems to be untouched, a city called Dolceaqua. The villa here stretches up a large hill, and atop it there is what seems to be a castle of some sorts. Before you enter the tiny village there are many cafes outside with Italians lazily chatting away the day. School age kids play tennis nearby. The narrow streets give out to a clearing, and we find a fountain in front of a very large Catholic church.

Nathanael and I climb up to the top of the villa, and come to the castle. It is closed, because apparently they only use it for special occasions, but being the safety-first geniuses we are we decide to hop a fence and crawl around the to the back, and hop another fence to get in.

The view from the top was truly breathtaking. You could see into mountains and hills miles away, a thin cloud over everything, and a bird's eye view of all of Dolceaqua. The castle looked like something out of movies or fantasy books. It truly was one of the more incredible things I'd seen while travelling the world.

Until I looked down and noticed a bunch of people pointing at us in the street. Uh oh. Time to ditch this place.

We took the car to another villa and walk around it too. This one seems even older than the last one where we were at. A few artiste-looking types lazily waffle down the roads. Take one turn and you come to a garden that is sheltered off from the rest of the world. Take another and you see an old-fashioned grocer, the kind who knows everybody's name and has to order his stock every morning still. Take another and you are in are in a old Italian restaurant, where all the vegetables and wines somehow taste a touch less diluted, an iota more earthly.

Coming back to San Remo my friend and I decide to take this lonely road through the mountains. It is not for a couple minutes that I remember the conceirage explicitly told us not to take this road. By that time though, for whatever reason, we decide to just keep going.

The further we go the more narrow it gets, till it gets to the point where there is no way we could pass another car coming toward us. The mountains of Italy stretch on forever, and seem to confine us as we keep going.

The guard rail runs out. Over the side of the road I can see hundreds of feet down. Every blind turn we comes to frays another nerve of mine.

Yet oddly, this is very fun to me. I feel lost in another world. Everything is so strange the further we get into the mountains. In a world where everything feels discovered travelling is the only thing that makes me feel somehow displaced. Instead of worrying though when I am out of sorts I am filled with a curious wonder. I want to see what's behind door number one. I want to see what is down the next road.

The sun goes down gradually, burning rivers of red and orange across the tips of mountains in the distance. We come to sleepy towns, with street lights that cast a shade between purple and orange on the empty streets. Dogs walk freely across the streets. The night croaks with sounds of animals I have never heard before in my life.

The street signs are few and our map doesn't help us. It gets darker, harder to see the roads. Headlights have never seemed so dim. We never see another car coming our direction. The locals are too smart to take this apparently abandoned road this late at night.

The lost feeling wells up in me. It as if we are being swallowed by the world around us. The road gets rougher. Yet Nathanael never budges. He seems to know exactly where we are, despite never having gone down this road before. He is kind of creepy yet reassuring when he is focused.

After hours of searching the roads finally start to become paved, guard rails pop up again, and we are greeted with a glorious view of San Remo.

* This is Part 4 of Assassinato's San Remo Trip Report. Part 1Part 2Part 3

Alex assassinato Fitzgerald is a professional poker player who specializes in multi-table tournaments. You can read more about Assassinato's adventures in the poker world by visiting his blog, www.assassinatopoker.blogspot.com. His online accomplishments include a win in thePokerStars $200 rebuy for $50k, along with a victory in theFull Tilt Poker $100 rebuy for another $22k. For more poker-related content from today's top online players, readers are encouraged to visit ourPoker Articles section here at PocketFives.

Sam Remo Trip Report: Part 3


Our few weak spots bust, and guys get put at my table that I do not recognize but handle themselves really well. I'm officially at the table from hell. All around me I can hear dealers declaring all-ins. Insanely terrible novices I played with earlier in the week are walking off. Damnit, who got their chips? Why couldn't I get put at their tables? Grrr…

Another hand develops between myself and weaker players at the end of my table. The weaker Italian player two to my right limps and so does the German fellow. I look down at my hand while the German guy gives me his best Terminator impression. I see 9-9. The blinds were 100/200, and I decided to make a larger than normal raise due to my being out of position and there already being limpers in the pot, to 1200. The big blind folds, the first limper folds, and sure enough the German guy comes with me. It's okay though, I feel comfortable playing a flop with him, even out of position.

The flop comes A-6-4. Puke. A-baby is one of the most likely hands I think he could have here, since many novice players limp/call with those kinds of hands. Still, he could also have small pairs, unpaired big cards, suited connectors, and other holdings that missed this flop. I continuation bet for 2,000 and he calls me really quickly, and goes back to undressing me with his eyes.

The turn is a 7. I check and he checks behind. The river is a queen. I take my time, then check. He quickly puts a bet out there over the size of the pot. I tank a little, but really there really isn't any reason to. If he was floating me on the flop he would have fired the turn. His insta-check screamed an ace to me, possibly two pair. When I check the river again to him and he instantly fires out a bet I feel like that more often than not is a value bet. If he's bluffing me and my read is wrong well then good luck to him.

Steve Zolotow gets moved two to my left a little later. It's becoming a joke how tough this table is. Steve Zolotow plays a very good no limit game, very snug, and unfortunately isn't spewing his money like some name pros do in the first day. Unlike many of the name pros too Stevie Z is actually pretty nice to me and young players in general.

A few of us loosen up a bit, in an attempt to alleviate the monotony of being at such a nitty table. Schaeffer gives me some recommendations on what to see in Amsterdam. Daut tells a joke. Stevie Z discusses his upcoming plans. It's all pretty dull, but compared to the silence we had for several hours it's Tony-winning dinner theatre.

I continue to suck unfortunately. Another pot comes up where I raise from earlier position with K-Q suited. A fairly solid player from the cutoff re-raises me, but doesn't throw in as many chips as he meant to, barely min-raising me. I feel like he has a big hand, we're both pretty deep, and despite being out of position I'm hoping I can snap him off for a big amount if I flop gin.

The flop is A-Q-x. I check to him and he checks quickly behind. What could he re-raise me with that checks that board? K-K seems most obvious. A set of aces, a set of queens, A-Q, or perhaps J-J could just be giving up with two overs. I think A-K bets. A-Q might. This guy doesn't strike me as the slow-playing type. He seems to be an intelligent internet player and often you will see internet players lean towards playing their hands fast instead of slow-playing. The turn is another blank. I check here again, not really seeing what I'm getting value from if I bet and what I am getting to fold if I'm behind. I think if I bet K-K still calls me with position, and hopes I check river, and I'm really not prepared to double barrel the river.

He checks again. Now I safely can assume he's not slow-playing anything. It'd be very weird for many players to not try to get anything in the pot. The river is another blank. I check and he puts a really baby bet out there. The first thing that goes through my mind is K-K is getting thin value, but for some reason I stuck the call out there anyway. He shows me K-K, and I'm annoyed with myself.

Frustrated I try and relax. I open a pot a few hands later, only to get re-raised by Schaeffer, and decide to bring it in and play a more solid game. If I'd stuck to that plan too I probably would've avoided the hand I felt I played worst in this tournament, and probably the worst hand I'd played live in a couple months.

It got folded around to me and the German fellow again in the blinds, and he raised to 3x from the small blind. I felt at this point he was just raising any two because every time he had limped previously I had raised him. I looked down at 5h-7h and decided to flat call.

I think a good portion of the time I re-raise here and win the pot outright, probably enough to make it profitable since he's raising so much of his range, but I also think he'll call me OOP too and I will end up playing a large pot with 7-high. Even in position this guy's main error was he called too much, so if I'm going to launch a bigger bluff I have to be prepared to fire multiple shells. It's just like when you play a low stakes cash game online like $1.00/$2.00 No Limit. You will get many players who will call you on the flop with close to anything but will fold a lot to the second bet on the turn. You can bluff but you'll have to be prepared to invest more.

Given that I felt better just calling. I think I will be able to control pot size pretty well and get value if I really hit the flop hard. I also will still be able to probably bluff him off of a number of hands.

The board comes J-4-7. He leads out for 900 and, I wish I could tell you I had a plan for the entire hand, but I just raised him to 2200 automatically because I just felt he was so weak. People can say whatever they like about live and online being close to the same, it's not true. There are definitely times live if you've been paying attention you can know if a guy is weak or not, and I felt he was weak here.

The problem is many live players go off one single read and approach hands in a vacuum, and don't prepare for further streets. That's exactly what I did here. Before I raised him I should've considered that he is calling me with pretty much everything, out of position even. I only have about 8k behind, so if he bets the turn, which he will a large portion of the time just because he is a live donkey and he'll feel like it, I am going to be defending for my whole stack with second pair no kicker. Not to mention the fact no card on the turn is really a good one. I am just creating a large pot with no idea where I am at.

He calls me very quickly, the turn comes a 9 and he fires 3k, and I tank. I'm pissed at myself for how I've played the whole hand. Calling down would've been much better. I get value out of a lot of bluffs and I avoid this spot. Now I can't call here and leave myself 5k behind. I've created a large pot with third pair no kicker, with no idea where I am. I feel like I still have the best hand, but for whatever reason I fold, bitterly mentioning if I had 20k I would shove so fast on him, blaming other people for my own stupidity. The statement is dumb because I didn't have that much to start the hand, and I shouldn't have played it like I did.

He turns over 5-6 and greedily grabs at the pot. If I'd just gone with my initial read (even though he probably plays a J or 9 with the same line I just felt he didn't have it here) and stacked off on the turn I'd be fading eight outs. If I'd just called down I win a large portion of the time. If I'd folded pre-flop I don't lose much. If I re-raise pre-flop I win. I have found the absolute worst way I could've played this hand. I made a hand with showdown value and turned it into a bluff against a guy who is not folding.

The blinds go up and I am barely above 15 big blinds. It's a good thing too because apparently I can't play a deep stack worth a shit and I'm still a tourney donk, and I should feel more comfortable in re-steal stack territory.

I begin shipping it in on the opens of the players to my right with my decent hands, and chip up a little, stay afloat. On one occasion, I found it interesting. The weaker Italian gentleman two to my right opened the cutoff. I felt he wasn't calling hardly at all, so I shoved 13 BBs on him with Q-J from the big blind. He folded right away, and told me 6-6. Obviously, online this is a call against me a lot, but I don't expect a live player to really understand re-steal ranges as well as guys who play 30 tournaments a day.

What I found interesting was, less than a couple orbits later, a very solid player opened from early position and this same guy 3-bet him. Schaeffer, out of the blinds, 4-bets. Schaeffer has not played a big pot like this at all today – you have to give him a big hand here. The initial raiser folded and then the Italian gentleman shoved on Schaeffer. Schaeffer calls and turns over A-A (real shock there) and the Italian turns over…6-6. Apparently 6-6 was good for a 5-bet shove against Schaeffer but not for calling a re-steal. Not that calling me with 6-6 in that spot is correct every time, but it just seems odd to me how live players tend to freak out at the end of a long tournament day.

Another orbit goes by and I can't really open without the intention of stacking off. I'm playing with too many good players who will make me defend for my stack. The German gentlemen then opens from the hijack to 3x. I have about 15ish big blinds. He has a bunch of chips now from a big pot he won earlier and seems to be opening more frequently. I decide 6-6+, A-J+ are what I am reshipping on him with. I look down at 6-6 and put it in, he calls me with K-K, I bust with maybe twenty minutes left in the day.

I'm not really that angry. Disappointed? Yes, but I'm more unhappy with how I played. That 5-7 hand was atrocious, I'm not positive the range I'm sending it in with on the final hand is correct, and while I played well otherwise those were the two biggest pots really. I just never felt in the zone. I'm mad I even went out the night before. It probably would've been better to have a quiet night and insure a good night's sleep.

* This is Part 3 of Assassinato's San Remo Trip Report. Part 1Part 2Part 4 The next part will talk about Alex's post-tournament activities.

Alex assassinato Fitzgerald is a professional poker player who specializes in multi-table tournaments. You can read more about Assassinato's adventures in the poker world by visiting his blog, www.assassinatopoker.blogspot.com. His online accomplishments include a win in thePokerStars $200 rebuy for $50k, along with a victory in theFull Tilt Poker $100 rebuy for another $22k. For more poker-related content from today's top online players, readers are encouraged to visit ourPoker Articles section here at PocketFives.

San Remo Trip Report: Part 2

I have trouble sleeping the night before day one, like I often do for some reason. It's not really stress or excitement, but more an odd seeping of adrenaline in my veins that seems to make me restless. When I finally come to, I feel a little shaken from an extremely vivid and weird dream I had, populated by people in my past. I curse myself for drinking before I took a sleep aid the night before.

I steal my German friend’s swimsuit because I can't find mine (and because I'm an asshole) and go for a swim, then I go for a long jog on the waterfront.

My friends and I grab a good Italian meal and make our way to the poker room. The usual buzz that surrounds the starting of a tournament whirs about the room. Pros catch up with each other, younger guys stare at some of the bigger name players, and a few hopefuls are still trying to win a seat. Since the event was capped here, many players came and did not get a seat to buy, and are desperately offering huge amounts to buy anyone else's. Antonio Esfandiari bear hugs his girlfriend out of nowhere as I walk by.

I get to my table and see Ryan Daut and Brandon Schaeffer. Wonderful! All week I have been playing with novice Italians who do not even know hand rankings and my starting table is populated with a WPT winner and an EPT winner. The few others that sit down do not seem to be there for fun. They seem ready to play. I turn my iPod on to my chill trance mix. It's going to be a long day for sure.

Early on, play is very tentative as usual, but with a little less limping than you usually see in live events. Both Schaeffer and Daut mimic Buddha; patiently awaiting their time to strike. I see some flops with more speculative hands, raise small pairs and such to get it folded around, but nothing of note happens. I find it peculiar that despite having two big names at my table, there is zero press coverage for us. Probably because both of them are such professionals – quiet yet confident – not drawing attention.

Ryan Daut soon busts one of the only weak players that was at our table when the weaker player got it in with an overpair of K-K on a J-10-9-7 board, Daut holding the 8-8. Schaeffer manages to chip up too. I continue to just bide my time as the two of them begin opening more pots.

Both really impressed me as far as their play. I really did not know much about Schaeffer other than his results and the few satellites I had played with him on Stars, but he really picked his spots well and controlled pot size effectively. Daut of course did the Daut thing, being very quiet and appearing to be like a librarian but really taking more pots down than anyone at the table.

An interesting dynamic starts to come into play as the blinds go up. The re-stealing between the three of us starts going in a clockwise motion. Though I do not do it as much as I should, I begin re-raising Daut's frequent opens. Schaeffer begins re-raising my opens with position on me. Daut continues to apply pressure on Schaeffer…and round and round we go.

My chips do not come from them though, but more from the weaker players to my right. One is a shorter Italian man and another is German, and both appear to be inexperienced. The German man limps too much from the small blind when I am in the big blind, and I continue the harassment in position like I do all day in cash games online. I raise in position a bit… chip up a little, but not much.

Despite the fact I am getting little for cards I am feeling comfortable. I am experienced enough to know how to handle myself. As long as I remain patient I am confident things will be okay.

The German to my right seems to be getting testy with my constantly raising him. He starts staring me down in every single pot, which really gets on my nerves for some reason. Perhaps its just because of my lack of sleep, but the idea that giving me the death stare is going to change anything is pretty stupid to me. If anything he is only telling me that he is ready to rumble, and that if I want to play with him I should be prepared – which only helps me and hurts him. I will know to call him lighter now in certain spots.

This has been something that has always interested me about live poker. For whatever reason, be it my personality, my age, or whatever, I feel like people go out of their way to bluff me more. Maybe it is because too many poker broadcasters have worn out the idea that young internet players are so crazy, but it does feel like I get less respect than many players.

I think back to my Irish Poker Open Day Two. Though I came into the day fifth in chips, I quickly lost half of them because seemingly every time I opened somebody who hadn't touched a chip otherwise was jamming on me, and then giving me that stupid stare-down like it was going to intimidate me.

In every event I have ever played live, be it in Manila or Dublin or Seoul or a home game when I was in high school, people have constantly made comments as to how loose I am, when I never really feel like I am getting too out of line. I have folded after I 3-bet someone and someone behind me 4-bet, and constantly the comment I get is "I would've called you…I knew you didn't have shit." In Seoul Joe Hachem actually stood up and yelled at me, "we're going to war kid!" Every time though I am just listening to my music and playing what I find to be a sound game.

Sure enough, a spot develops that puzzles me, and might have something to do with my image. Two people limp in on my big blind and I check my option with J-3o. The flop comes J-4-4 and I check behind the small blind. The two limpers check. The turn comes an off-suit 7, and I lead out for 300, approximately 3/4th of the pot. The first limper folds and then a balder gentleman announces CALL… loudly and proudly. Right away I feel like he doesn't have shit. If he has a 4 here, why is he calling me so quickly? Why would he not raise for value, or hollywood a bit hoping for me to bet the river? If he has a jack why would he not bet the flop?

The small blind folds and the river is a queen. I check and have absolutely zero intention of folding. I check quickly hoping to look weak because I am positive I am ahead here. Sure enough, my opponent quickly calls out "400". I call. He raps the table and nods his head, but doesn't turn over his hand. I show J-3, because I don't really feel like being a dick and making him show his hand when he's obviously admitting defeat. I would normally just show my bluff here in his spot, but I don't feel like rubbing the guy's nose in it.

The thing I found interesting about this pot was, even though I couldn't see his hand, what in the world could this guy have had? What draw could he have with a rainbow board of J-4-4-7, really, other than 5-6? Could this guy just not accept a young guy taking down a pot, or did he really have something like a small pair with some showdown value? If he did have something like 5-5 or 6-6 though, why wouldn't he check it on the river? What hands of mine is he really getting value from that he has beat? Furthermore, why wouldn't he bet the flop with one of those hands if it was checked around to him on the flop? If he has a seven, perhaps A-7, the same thing applies. Why would he beat the river there with two overs when his hand has showdown value?

* This is Part 2 of Assassinato's San Remo Trip Report. Part 1Part 3Part 4 The next part will provide more hand analysis from the San Remo event.

Alex assassinato Fitzgerald is a professional poker player who specializes in multi-table tournaments. You can read more about Assassinato's adventures in the poker world by visiting his blog, www.assassinatopoker.blogspot.com. His online accomplishments include a win in thePokerStars $200 rebuy for $50k, along with a victory in theFull Tilt Poker $100 rebuy for another $22k. For more poker-related content from today's top online players, readers are encouraged to visit ourPoker Articles section here at PocketFives.

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