Monday, January 30, 2006

STCGCC: Hold'em Tournament #2

St. Catharines G&CC held its second No-Limit Hold'em Tournament on Saturday afternoon.

It looked as if we'd have a slightly better turnout than the first event but two players flaked out at the last minute. Unfortunately, both of those players were recruited by yours truly: Dr. Gary and Harris.

Last time I ask 'em! Harris didn't even call to say he wasn't coming...

So, once again we had twelve players vying for $600.00 in prize money. This time, the top four players would be paid out under a 50%/25%/15%/10% structure.

We drew cards for a table and we were off. Initially, I loved the table I was at. I had a bunch of the guys who got knocked out early last week sitting with me and they didn't look all that intimidating.

Looks can be deceiving...

Overall, there weren't too many notable hands for me during event two. I really was card dead for most of the tournament but did a good job picking my spots. I was up to about $1600 from the original $1000 after profiting from hands like JJ and AQ. I slowly started getting blinded away when the cards went quiet but survived until we merged tables when we were down to eight total players remaining.

Unfortunately for my buddy Toast, he was the last victim before the merge, losing to the tournament maniac Dave. Toast had Dave dominated with his KT over Dave's K4...

Of course, Dave hit his four on the flop and knocked the Toastman out early again.

I only had about $750 when we were down to the final eight so I was way behind the average chip stack at that point. However, the blinds were still managable at this point so I could afford to see a few hands before making a move.

I had picked up a few bucks when I raised UTG (under the gun aka: first position) with ATs and everyone folded. I was playing pretty tight and I was getting a bit too much respect overall, likely because I won event one.

I may have to play a bit looser next time...maybe showdown bad hole cards to get some future action.

A few hands later, I was in the BB with A7o. The chip leader at the table was playing super aggressive with his big stack and min-raised to $600. With $300 already committed and only about $700 left I felt this was likely my best chance to double up so I went all in.

I didn't want the guy to call but he did. He had something like QTo.

Of course, the flop came down with a queen, pairing him. However, the flop was all diamonds and my 7 shared that suit. Neither of his cards were diamonds so I had a chance to hit a flush or win with an ace.

I didn't have to wait long, as the fourth consecutive diamond came on the turn to give me the pot!

Little fist pump there and some 'ooohs and ahhhs' from the people gathered around the table watching. I was still in it and in really good shape now too with over $2000 in chips!

I was able to make it past the 'bubble' (when there are five players remaining and only four players get paid) and slip into the money. We were down to three players: 'Killer' was the chip leader for most of the event, 'Brooksie', who could also have been called 'Tipsie' for all the beer he was drinking, and myself.

Tipsie kept fumbling the cards, dropping them on the floor on multiple occasions. Funniest/scariest moment came with him dropping the cards for the upteenth time and saying to the guy to his left without looking down, "Better pick up those aces for me!"

Seriously, the cards that hit the floor were two black aces!

Lots of nervous laughter ensued...

There was also a tense moment when Killer tried to pull off a string bet on me. I could see the tournament director in the distance looking exasperated with all the crap going down and to be honest, I was frustrated as well. More because of Tipsie's antics (putting his sunglasses on to be funny, dropping the cards, taking FOREVER to make decisions).

In the end, I was forced to put all my chips in with the awful hand of 93s (suited clubs) and Tipsie went all-in beside me. Killer, who had us both easily covered, called with his A8. I hit my 3 on the flop but Killer hit the ace. I was drawing dead when another ace hit the turn and the river changed nothing for Tipsie, so the Killer is the winner of event #2.

I won $90.00 for my third place finish and lead the overall point standings with my first and third place finishes.

Event three will take place on the Saturday after the Super Bowl.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Day

You either love politics or hate them.

Okay, maybe there is some middle ground there. Personally, I'm pretty ambivalent about the whole deal; I try to keep up with everything going on with the government but I keep my thoughts, for the most part, to myself.

I don't care enough to fight people about the issues because every side has a compelling argument, especially here in Canada.

Today, our country held a federal election after the incumbent Liberal government, led by Prime Minister Paul Martin, was given a vote of 'no confidence' back in November. The three opposition parties (the right wing Conservatives, the left of centre New Democrats, and the separatist Bloc Quebecois) teamed up to force the Liberals out of power when the 'Sponsorship Scandal' rocked the nation.

To sum that fiasco up, government money was used to pay advertising firms to shore up support for federal unity in Quebec, a province that has repeatedly stated it wants to separate from the rest of the country. However, audits of the spending proved that the money was wasted, with most of it just going to 'pay off' firms with Liberal connections.

The Liberals have been in control of the country for 13 years but that streak looks to have ended tonight.

Early returns are declaring that Stephen Harper's Conservatives will win a minority government, making him the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada.

What does this mean?

To be honest, not much. Here are some predictions from your humble reporter, Mr. NoSkillz:

1. The balanced budget will be a thing of the past, as the Conservatives will start spending on military, they'll likely cut taxes (starting with the federal GST) and start running deficits.
2. The Canadian dollar will drop because of point #1.
3. The drop in the Canadian dollar will HELP BUSINESSES in Canada, as people are forced to keep their money in the country and spend it here. Trade will be improved between Canadians and other countries, since they'll get 'more bang for their buck'.
4. Relations will improve with the U.S. George Dubya is a very happy man tonight! He had many battles with the Martin-led government.
5. In the end, the Conservatives' inability to gain a majority government will result in another Federal election within two years.

What do I think? Who did I vote for?

I'll let you try to figure that out for yourselves. I consider myself to be a social Liberal and a financial Conservative so it was not an easy decision for me to make.

I will say this though: I think having Harper and the Conservatives in power will be better for business owners and business in general in Canada.

If that's the case, I'm willing to give them a shot. The jury is still out on Harper as a leader though.

The guy just creeps me out!

Alright, no more politics, I swear!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

St. Catharines G&CC: Hold'em Poker Tournament #1

I'll still be writing up a "NoSkillz on Poker" post, as promised, but I thought I'd first talk about the first ever poker tournament at St. Catharines Golf & CC, held yesterday in the 19th Hole.

If you recall, a couple Fridays ago, my buddy Toast and I were asked for advice on how to properly run the tournament by the assistant GM of the club. We got a free lunch out of the deal and talked about blind structures, buy-ins, rules and many other important details. We thought it would be best to wait a couple weeks to gauge interest but the clubhouse manager intervened, saying he REALLY wanted to get the thing going right away.

So, they scheduled the tournament for Saturday at 11:30am, giving people a week to sign up. The club isn't exactly the picture of activity during the winter months so we only had 12 players for the opening tournament, myself and Toast included.

Ed, the assistant GM, had everything organized perfectly. He printed out a little card for all participants, which included a rundown of the blind structure for the entire tourney, chip values and a hand ranking chart. We would start with two tables of six players, randomly assigned by a card draw prior to the tournament's start. When it got down to eight players, we would condense into a single table to determine the winner.

The top three players would get paid in a 60%/30%/10% format. It was a $50.00 buy-in event, meaning $600.00 in the pot, $360.00 of which would go to the eventual winner.

I drew the same table as Toast, three chairs to his right. Ed then gave everyone $1000.00 in chips and we were off!

I won a small pot early and really just concentrated on the players at the table and their games. I quickly realized that most of the guys at the table were poker novices. There were a lot of loose calls and very little raising was taking place. I decided that I would play straightforward poker and not utilize bluffs unless necessary.

I was able to take down a pretty substantial pot in the third level of blinds ($20/$40). I was dealt K3 offsuit in the big blind and was able to see a flop for free when no one raised. Three guys to the flop, which came down 33T, giving me three of a kind. The small blind bet $100 into the pot and I just decided to call it, hoping to keep the other guy in the pot. Well, that didn't work, unfortunately.

So two to the turn, which came down with a non-scare card (no flush or straight possibilities really existed). Again, another $100.00 bet into the pot and a smooth call on my part. The glorious river came down with a king, giving me the full house. The SB bet $200 into the pot and I pounced, raising it another $500. I didn't expect a call but the guy obliged! I took down a virtual monster early in the tournament to take the chip lead at the table.

Toast and I got into one little scrum during our time at the first table and it coincidently was during the same blind level. I had KJs on the button and raised to $100. Toast, who was in the big blind, surveyed the table and reraised me to $325. Everyone folded to me and after much deliberation, I called. The flop came down Axx, no help to me. Toast looked at me and quietly checked.

I REALLY thought of making a play here to represent the ace I didn't have but decided to check instead and take the free card. The turn was another brick and Toast bet out big, tossing a $500.00 chip into the pot. I swirled my two remaining $500.00 chips in my hand and tried to show that I might make a raise but decided to fold my rags, giving Toast the healthy pot and bringing him back into a healthy position. I would find out later that Toast had two aces in the hole!

Good fold Matt!

Eventually, four players bowed out and the final table was set. At that point, I had just under $3000.00 in chips and was the slight chip leader at the table.

Toast unfortunately couldn't find cards most of the day and was eliminated pretty early on at the final table. He pushed with QT and was called and defeated with a guy holding a naked ace (something like A7).

I had a huge moment when we were down to five players. It was back and forth between me and one other guy for chip lead at the table. He was an extremely loose player, seeing every flop regardless of whether it was raised or not, giving him a lot of unpredictability with respect to starting hands. I raised a hand with AJs at one point and saw him bet out of position into me when the flop came down 976. I was forced to fold a hand I wanted control of due to the fact those were likely live cards for him.

I had a slight chip lead when I looked down at AKo on the button and raised to $1000. We were at level nine in the tournament, so the blinds were at $200/$400. As usual, he called the big raise. The flop came down QT4 rainbow, giving me a gutshot straight draw. Once again, he bet into me, tossing a $500.00 chip into the pot. For whatever reason, I decided to make my play, pushing all-in and hoping he'd fold his likely top pair.

I bit my lip when he called. I stared in disbelief when he turned over K9. How in the blue hell could he call an all-in with that crap? He had the same gutshot draw as me but any Jack would give me the straight to the ace as opposed to his straight to the king. He needed a nine to fall on one of the last two streets but it wouldn't happen, and he was eliminated in fifth position.

I now had a pretty sizable chip lead.

I really played conservatively 'on the bubble', knowing that we were one spot from the money. Plus, I was leading and really wasn't going to mess around with garbage hands. There were two very small stacks at this point and they seemed to be committed to waiting until the big hand turned up. One of the short stacks soon pushed all-in and the other short stack to my right quickly pushed all his chips in as well (about $1200.00 in chips). I then looked down at ATo.

Boy did I want to call!

However, since one of these guys would soon be eliminated, I reluctantly folded. Unbelievably, the guy to my left also called so we had a three-way battle for a bunch of chips! They all turned their cards over and the best hand showing was an A9 (so my AT would have been best to start). My dismay quickly turned to relief when the flop put the guy to my left on top with a pair of Queens. He would end up taking out both players right there and we were now heads up!!!

I had about a $750 chip lead at that point and we pretty much just moved blinds back and forth for about five minutes. The final hand of the night came down like this:

I was dealt the seemingly pathetic hand of 23s in the small blind, suited hearts. Heads up, I decided to play the suited connectors aggressively and min-raised to $1600 (blinds were $400/$800). He quickly called and the flop came down A33, giving me a sweet set of threes.

I put on my best acting face, trying to looked as anguished as possible. After waiting about fifteen seconds, I just checked over to my opponent, who quickly said "I'll just make it easy on you", as he threw in the minimum bet of $800.

Keeping up with my acting, I rubbed the back of my head and just stared at the flop, trying to get across the impression I was looking for my odds at a draw. After shaking my head a couple times, I pushed all-in and he quickly called, showing A7, giving him two pairs to my set.

He needed an ace or a seven to beat me but neither came.

I am the first ever St. Catharines Golf and CC Hold'em Champion!!! Whoo!

Ed handed me the $360.00 first place prize and even gave Toast and I a complimentary Guinness for helping organize the event! It's usually customary for winners to 'tip the dealers' after winning a big event, as Toast reminded me, so I gave a little thank you tip to both Ed and the waitress who had to run around for all the players during the close to four hour event.

Much to my embarrassment, Ed decided that Toast's request to "get your digital camera and get a picture of Matt with all of the money and chips, just like the World Poker Tour" was a good idea.

So there I was, grinning with a stack of chips in front of me, $360.00 cash on top of the chips, and the hideous 2 and 3 of hearts in my hands! Ed's going to post it up in the 19th hole with results of the tournament to help recruit players for our next event!

Ah well, it's for a good cause as the club, while not profiting from the tournament itself, obviously makes out by selling drinks and food to the members in attendance.

In the end, it was a REALLY well-run tournament and I think that all of the players enjoyed their day immensely. After talking with everyone, it's expected that the next event in a couple weeks time will have at least twice as many people playing due to the positive word of mouth.

Fun stuff!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Global Warming has its Positives...

Well, it's lunch time and for whatever reason, I am compelled to spend it blogging. It must be the beautiful weather we're getting right now. It's January 12th in the Great White North yet there is no 'white' to be found.

Temperature today is about 9 degrees Celsius (or about 48 degrees for my American friends) and there isn't snow to be found anywhere. Absolute craziness!

This blog was initially intended as a way to get my thoughts about golf and my game into written words. I really believe the process helped improve my game last year and will once again rely on it to pursue my new goals for 2006.

We'll save that for a post closer to the start of golf season.

However, I certainly need something to write about during the dark winter months when the clubs are in the closet.

I've had the chance to write about the Sabres lately and will continue to do so as the season moves forward.

You can also look forward to a post on poker later tonight. I haven't really talked about my game much lately, mostly due to the fact I wasn't actually PLAYING for a long period of time. I've had the opportunity to play quite a bit while Jacky's been out of the country and I've been winning at a pretty impressive rate. I'll talk a bit about that success, the tools I've used to become a better player and so on. I'm not in the same league as my buddy Toast, who has become a pretty prolific player, but I might be able to enlighten some with my comments. We'll see I guess.

I'll also talk a bit more about things that interest me in future posts to shed a little more light on what makes me tick...heck, there may even be some things that my girlfriend didn't know about me! I'll talk about favourite books, movies, music, TV shows, websites, etc.

Also, I plan on doing an elaborate list of my favourite golf courses that I've played over the course of my life. Now THAT will be a fun list to prepare!

Monday, January 09, 2006

For Jacky

I promised the girlfriend that I'd post a picture of myself and little Tyler, my Godson, while she was away in Colorado.

See you soon, babe!

Friday, January 06, 2006

It's a Boy!

Jacky's sister Andrea finally gave birth to a bouncing baby boy on Wednesday!

Beckham Matthew was 8 pounds, 6 ounces (I think) and both mother and child are doing extremely well. Somehow, Andrea came up with the name Beckham having never heard of world renowned soccer superstar David Beckham!!! I kid you not!

Andrea and Beckham are due to head home on Friday, which is wonderful news. Congratulations to Andrea and Todd!

I've talked to Jacky almost everyday since she's been gone but I didn't get the chance to talk to her tonight because I was at a Sabres game. I miss her a bunch. I've had no ball hockey for well over a week and the Sabres hadn't played since Sunday, so I've literally been twiddling my thumbs for four days with pretty much nothing to do. Very strange for me.

I have had the chance to play a few hours of online poker over the past few days and have been lucky enough to profit about $200.00. Not too shabby for a guy who has barely played in three months. Speaking of which, I received an intriguing email from the assistant general manager of our golf club today. It looks as though the club is looking to put together a No-Limit Texas Hold'em Tournament at the club next Saturday and the gentleman is looking for advice on how best to run the event. He decided to enlist the services of me and my buddy Toast, who you all know from the Golf+Poker blog.

We've been bribed with a free lunch at the club in exchange for our thoughts on the buy-ins, blind structures, rebuys, etc. We will cash in on the lunch tomorrow afternoon, most likely. Interesting indeed! The event is completely rake free, with the club profiting nothing (but expecting the big gamblers to drink plenty of expensive booze!). Haha. Well, if I decide to play, I certainly won't drink a drop of alcohol, as I have VERY important plans for Saturday evening. Jacky returns from Colorado that night and I'll be off to pick her up from the airport!

I'll report back on the important 'business meeting' at the club sometime soon!

And now for our daily Sabres update! Jacky may be reading my blog while in Colorado and was hoping for little recaps of the action on the ice.

I went to the game with my buddy Deron, who claims that the Sabres HAVE NEVER LOST when he's attended one of their games! Wow. Well, the streak........continues!

Our boys won 3-1 over defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Buffalo absolutely dominated play in the first period, outshooting the Lightning by a 14-3 margin. However, the Sabres were only able to capitalize with one goal, a tip-in of a Soupy Campbell point shot by Jochen Hecht for the 1-0 lead at the intermission.

Tampa came out more determined in the second period but Buffalo would add to its lead, as Chris Drury wristed home a Hecht pass for Buffalo's second powerplay goal and a 2-0 lead. 2003/04 MVP Martin St. Louis put Tampa on the board a couple minutes later, swatting in a puck from midair to make things close at 2-1 heading into the third.

Buffalo would control play for most of the final frame and were rewarded with their third goal. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder continued his fine recent play (4 goals in 6 games, incredible for a guy who now has only 9 CAREER GOALS!) by putting in a Paul Gaustad pass to seal the victory. Ryan Miller was again terrific in Buffalo's cage, stopping two breakaways in the third period alone.

Coupled with a very rare Ottawa loss tonight, the Sabres are now only 3 points back of the Senators for top spot in the Northeast Division. Buffalo is now officially at the halfway point of the season and sit with a 27-12-2 record, good for 56 points. Their current pace translates to 54 wins and 112 points over the 82 game season, which would set a franchise high in wins and fall one point short of the Sabres total from the 1974/75 season, which happens to be the year the team first went to the Stanley Cup Finals!

It's an exciting time to be a fan of this team!

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Great Night at the Arena

Not the result I was hoping for to start 2006 but it was a fantastic night at HSBC Arena.

The Sabres lost their first game of the new year, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Florida Panthers on Sunday night. Florida opened the scoring only 30 seconds into the game, when Joe Nieuwendyk flew in on his off wing and wristed a weak shot past goaltender Ryan Miller. Not a good start for Millsy.

Buffalo looked very sluggish for the first ten minutes and finally started to come to life late in the period. However, Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo was up to the task and the score ended up 1-0 at the first intermission.

The Sabres would tie things up midway through the second period. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder scored his third goal in four games off a nice feed from Maxim Afinogenov to knot the score at 1.

However, it was just not meant to be on this night. Another former Maple Leaf, Gary Roberts, tipped home a wrist shot on a powerplay to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead. The Sabres at one point had three straight powerplays but couldn't convert on any of them, meaning the 2-1 score would hold up for the Panthers.

Florida has defeated Buffalo in all three meetings this year.

The Sabres organization held a big autograph session about an hour after the game. There are 10'x10' photographs of all the players spread throughout the building and we were told that the players would be stationed by their portraits. I brought my panoramic poster that I purchased a couple weeks ago in hopes of getting some players to sign it. However, I was dismayed to see that the lines to get the signatures were HUGE!

My buddy and I contemplated leaving but I decided at the last minute that I'd tough it out and see how things went. We went into the smallest line around, which happened to be for defenseman Brian Campbell, nicknamed 'Soupy' for obvious reasons.

The players started arriving to their stations to cheers from the fans and started signing. We only had to wait about four minutes before getting to the front of Campbell's line. Campbell is having a phenomenal year for Buffalo thus far, eclipsing career highs in every offensive category. Everyone in line seemed like a robot, not really saying anything to the poor guy.

Well, I'm not shy!

Matt: "Hi Brian. How are you?"
Campbell: "Pretty good, but I wish we could find a way to beat those guys."
Matt (laughing): "Yeah I hear you!"
Campbell: "Black or silver?" (sharpie colour)
Matt: "Black is fine. Keep up the great play, Brian!"
Campbell: "Thanks a lot."
Matt: "Thank you very much."

We then took a chance and hopped in the biggest line you can imagine, hoping to get highly touted rookie Thomas Vanek's autograph. Thankfully, the line moved pretty briskly and within 15 minutes, I was face to face with the future superstar.

Matt: "Hi Thomas. How are you?"
Vanek: "Doing great. How about yourself?"
Matt: "Really good, thanks. Keep up the great work!"
Vanek: "Thanks, I'll try!"
Matt: "Thank you very much."

Another nice, quiet and polite kid. We then took off, as I tried to find the Sabres leading points scorer, Tim Connolly to no avail. So we took off upstairs and got signatures from rookie Jason Pominville and defenseman Toni Lydman. Next came the funniest exchange of the night for yours truly, as we stumbled upon the leading goal scorer for Buffalo, Ales Kotalik.

Matt: "Hi Ales. How are you?"
Kotalik: "Not bad, yourself?"
Matt: "Good. You know, you were robbed when you didn't get selected for the Czech Olympic team."
Kotalik: (shrugs and shakes head) "Yeah, the damn powers that be..."

My buddy Brandon and I were laughing for two straight minutes after that comment! Great stuff and a great sense of humour from Kotalik. We went on to get a signature from injured defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, another guy I had a nice exchange with and ended the night by getting stalwart defenseman Jay McKee's signature.

Matt: "Hi Jay. I sure hope Darcy (Regier, Sabres general manager) gets you signed to a long-term deal soon!"
McKee: (smiling and laughing) "Yeah, you and me both!"

We came THIS close to getting Ryan Miller and Daniel Briere's autograph too, but just missed out when their sections were shut down.

Man, I'm 32 years old and had a smile on my face a mile long after the one hour session. The players were all extremely cordial and polite and very talkative. Both Brandon and I had a blast. I wish Jacky could have been there, as I'm sure she would have got a kick out of it.

My only regret, and it's a big one, is that I didn't bring my digital camera for the event. EVERYONE was getting pictures with the players. I won't make that mistake again next year!

Anyways, I've scanned a couple portions of the panoramic photograph for your viewing pleasure. My hope is to get this sucker mounted so I can eventually hang it on my wall.

What a great night!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Wow...2006 is here.

I'm able to reflect on a fantastic 2005 very early on the first day of the new year. I just got back from driving my girlfriend to the Buffalo airport. She is flying down to Colorado to visit her sister, who will be having baby #2 in the next couple days. Jacky will be gone for two weeks.

So, I'll be updating this site on a very regular basis for awhile in order to keep her updated on things here in St. Catharines, Ontario.

It was a pretty uneventful new years for us due to the fact we had to be on the road to the airport by 4:30am. We ended up going out with a couple of my friends for a steak dinner and then Jacky and I spent the rest of 2005 back at her place watching a couple episodes from season one of '24'. If you've never had the pleasure of seeing '24', go out and rent the DVD of the first four episodes from season one and you'll be hooked for life, I promise. Highest recommendation!

Thankfully, the weather cooperated for the drive to Buffalo. It was pretty messy earlier in the evening, with wet snow and slick road conditions. By 4:30am, the roads were clear and the temperatures were slightly above freezing (1 degree Celsius).

Recapping things from the last couple of weeks, I can say that Christmas was nice this year, as Jacky spent the holidays with my family. Lots of socks and underwear!

I'm pretty damn easy to please!

Our ball hockey team won its fifth championship, prevailing in the final game by a 6-1 score.

I even got to play about an hour of online poker during the holidays! It had been quite awhile for me but thankfully, I ended up on the plus side, winning about $50.00 during the short session. Gosh, I remember a time when I was a better poker player than my buddy Toast...that's certainly not the case now. He's been able to devote a lot of time to the game over the past six months and has improved at a much faster clip than I have. In fact, I've regressed quite a bit due to lack of practice. Maybe I'll get a chance to play a bit over the next couple of weeks...

Now on the Tee's favourite hockey club, the Buffalo Sabres, continue to win at a fantastic clip, and have improved their record to 26-11-2 on the season. My buddy Brandon and I will be heading down to HSBC Arena in Buffalo later today to catch some new year's hockey action, as the Florida Panthers roll into town. I'm pretty pumped because the team is holding a big autograph session after the game for all ticket holders. I just received a great panoramic photo of the entire team that I'm looking to get signed and eventually framed for my currently non-existent home office. Looking forward to the game too!

Anyway, I'm off to get a couple hours of sleep. Hope everyone had a safe new years!