The 2009 WSOP Circuit Season is underway, its 6th season, kicked off with the 13-Event schedule at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN.

Despite a so-called down economy, the Chicago market showed strong, featuring 1,412 entrants, breaking the previous WSOP Circuit attendance record.

Event #1 saw 23-year-old poker pro Josh Schmerl, or "Schmu" as he's know at the table, take down an approximately $60,000 first prize, after arranging a three-way chop with our own CJ "Seeej" Sullivan (okay, I call him that) taking 3rd, and Windy City Poker Championship final table-finisher Aaron Massey taking 2nd. (From left to right, Massey, Schmerl, Sullivan featured above.) Event #1 was $345 buy-in NLHE event.

Third-place finisher CJ Sullivan is a professional comic, co-host of The Visitor's Locker Room, and the 11th best player in my home game.

Schmerl finished 2nd in his first official WSOP cash, last February in Council Bluffs, IA, and finished one spot better this year to win this, his first WSOP Circuit ring. Schmu also finished 2nd in a Venetian Deep Stack event last year in Las Vegas.

Event #2 was a $555 event, featuring 550 entrants, and a total prize pool of $261,550. Marvin Thompson of Fowler, IN won the $60,156 first-prize and WSOP Circuit ring, featured below:

More results as we have them, and as time allows. WSOP official results are found here.

Special thanks to Nolan Dalla, media relations at WSOP/Harrah's for the results and photographs.
If you caught last night's Windy City Poker Championship, you heard me comment on a few hands of a recent televised final table. In one particular hand, we witnessed Kevin Thanonsinh make a big bluff with half of his chips out of the small blind, holding 9-4 off-suit. Brian White, in the big blind, wakes up with a big hand for this stage in the tournament an Ace-9 off-suit, having Kevin dominated. Kevin has committed half of his chips, and if Brian raises he'll either fold. getting 3:1 on his money, or will call completely dominated for his tournament life.

Brian Folded.

What happened here? How did Kevin make this bluff, and why did Brian fold?

The key to long-term success in poker is understanding your opponents' playing styles and tendencies, and looking for opportunities to exploit them.

If your opponent plays too loosely, making calls out of position with mediocre holdings, you need to punish him/her by making big raises with premium holdings. If you flop your hand, bet for value on every street. There's no sense getting tricky with an opponent if they'll call you all the way down with one pair and no kicker.

If your opponent is too tight, don't let them limp. Your tight opponent limps in middle position, you know he or she doesn't have a premium holding. If they can't call a raise, you'll pick up the extra chips, which add up quickly. If they do call the raise, they will fold to a continuation bet unless they flop a strong hand. Finding out which is which generally won't be too expensive.

In the prior hand, Brian demonstrated that he was playing the tournament for survival, and that he was playing extremely tight poker. When the players folded all the way around to Kevin in the small blind, he knew he only had one player to beat, and that player was playing way too tight. He exploited this flaw in Brian's game, and Brian demonstrated a tightness in excess of what Kevin likely suspected.

In the prior hand, Brian found himself in early position with a suited AQ. He made a minimum raise to 20k chips. Another player, David Marcus, sitting in middle position also found AQ suited, and decided to make the call. Getting almost 6:1 on his call, Kevin makes the call of one additional big blind to see a flop with two suited cards. He checks dark.

The flop comes Q-high (Qs 8d 7h), exactly what Brian had hoped for, and he leads out for a bet of 40k chips into a pot of 71k. David also hits his top-pair top-kicker, and reraises for the rest of his chips, an additional 36k in chips, ballooning the pot to 187k. Kevin quickly folds, and Brian goes into the tank, facing a reraise that will pay him over 5-to-1 on a call.

Brian did much of his thinking out loud, and was concerned that David might have flopped a set of 7s or 8s. This is certainly a possibility, as I commented on the show, but when you're 6-handed, late in a tournament, you raise with a premium hand, you're short on chips, and you hit your flop, you are going to commit yourself to the hand. If your opponent flopped a monster, like a set, you simply got unlucky, and you're going to go broke.

The rest of the table notices how slowly Brian acted in making the call, and how tightly he's playing. The good players at the table put this in their memory banks for future exploitation. The players at the table, and the viewers at home don't have to wait long, as Kevin takes advantage on the very next hand.

When Kevin bets 30k into Brian, Brian doesn't even think for more than 15-20 seconds before folding his relative monster. Kevin then turns his hand face up to show it (incidentally, I'm not a fan of this sort of advertising). Brian realizes that not only was he ahead, he had Kevin dominated, as they were sharing a 9. (Brian was better than a 3:1 favorite.) Brian comments to Kevin what he had, "I had an Ace Nine off".

Kevin's only response is "Wow." And so was mine.

Tune in to Windy City Poker Championship to see what happens next!

On tonight's Windy City Poker Championship, down to 6-handed, the two chip leaders get into a heads up hand in which the chip leader perceives weakness from his opponent, and takes advantage to take down a good pot without a fight.

Brent is in early position with a medium-strength A9 off. He looks at his cards, and then contemplates his action, showing his opponents his diffidence while considering his options. He engages in what WCPC-friend and interviewee Joe Navarro would refer to as "pacifying behavior", holding his torso, lowering his head, and rubbing his opposite shoulder with his palm.

He makes a small raise to 25,000 chips, and the action folds to Chris on the button, who has 88.

Normally, I believe Chris would probably just call here with 88, after some thought, but in this case I believe he has two strong indicators to make a raise.
  1. Brent's early position raise was smallish, and seemed tenuous. I believe Chris observed his behavior and did not read him for strength.
  2. Chris and Brent are the two big stacks at the table; Chris is the only player that can eliminate Brent from the tournament, and Brent has been playing survival.
Chris makes a small re-raise to 60,000 chips. At this point, there's 106,000 in the pot, and it would only cost Brent 35,000 to call. However, he started the hand with just 129,000 chips, so the call would reflect about half of that starting stack. Chris is effectively testing Brent's resolve by re-raising small, rather than pushing all-in. This move shows great strength, and is quietly putting Brent to the "All In" test.
Lately, some of the players I've talked to have discussed 'setting goals' in their play. Some examples include:
  • I'd like to increase my bankroll to $XXX by the end of the year,
  • I'd like to be able to move up from $2/5 NL to $5/10 NL by the holidays (very similar to the first),
  • I'd like to play 30 hours a week,
  • I'd like to increase my win rate to $XX per hour.
How do you set your goals? Personally, I'm always trying to eliminate leaks my game, including focus issues. I have a tendency to lose focus on the game, but to continue to play as though I have a good read on all of my opponents. This can be an expensive mistake!

I like to set mini in-session goals, things like making some sort of mental note each time a hand completes, who won, and what did they show (if they did). This exercise seems, and is, quite fundamental, but can be more difficult than you'd assume.

Another goal, update this blog more than once a month! :)

How about you? What are you poker goals?
A few of you have asked me when Windy City Poker Championship next airs on Comcast SportsNet. To the best of my knowledge, the next broadcast is next Sunday at 7pm. You can find their broadcast schedule here, though it is subject to change.

The next broadcast is a replay of the most recent episode (ep. 9), part 1 of the Chieff O'neills event. Part 2 will be broadcast near the end of the month, including my interview with Joe Navarro (teaser below), Kirk's interview with Annie Duke, and a hand analysis involving the lowly 7-2!

Find Comcast SportsNet on your local provider here.