A great PCA and improved online play, by Victor Ramdin

teampro-thumb.JPGThey say we can tell how many weeks of winter we have left by whether or not a groundhog sees his shadow. Well, I can always tell how well my poker year is going to go based on how well I do at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

Things went pretty well for me there, so I feel like this is going to be a big year. No, I didn't win the main event at the PCA. In fact, I only min cashed. But any other tournament pro can tell you: you can do a lot worse than starting off the year with a cash.

I did very well in some of the side action as well. Sure, there were the $1k Sit 'N' Goes, of which I won three, and cashed in three others, but I'm talking about the real side action.
ThePokerStars event in the Bahamas is held at the Atlantis Resort, and there's always plenty of fun and games going on off the felt as well. I went 0-2, in heads-up matches racing down the waterslides - losing to both Hevad Kahn and Joe Cada. We (Noah Boeken, Chad Brown, and myself) also narrowly lost the sandcastle-building competition when we were rivered by Vanessa Rousso and Gavin Griffin's last-minute addition of a two-car garage.

Overall, I was very happy with the way I played the event, and I was especially pleased with the cash considering I should have gone broke on day one: very early in the event, I raised under the gun with pocket queens. So much of poker is situational, and about paying attention to your opponents, and I had noticed that there was one fellow at the table who hadn't played very many hands at all. When he did, they were very strong hands. I also noticed he was wearing headphones.

When action came around to him, he tossed out some chips, and then seemed surprised when his action was declared a call. He had not noticed my raise! He also failed to announce "raise" on his end, so instead, he only called my bet. In poker, you have to use everything you can to your advantage, so I already had more information about this guy than I should have.

The flop came an ace with two rags, but also two spades. I already didn't like it, considering I knew he wanted to raise pre-flop. I didn't want to get raised, so I checked. At this point, he bet something very, very small, so I hung around to see if I could peel a queen off on the turn. Sure enough, I turned a set of queens. Now I check again, hoping to check-raise. Only this time, he does not bet small. He bets the entire pot. In any other situation, when I turn a set of queens, I'm going to use this as a way to get all of his chips in, right now. But now, I'm a little suspicious. Is it possible that he has a set of aces? Is he trying to protect his set from the spade flush coming out on the river? I can't raise, but I can't really bring myself to fold either.

Luckily for me, the river was an action killer - another spade. I check again, and "Headphones" makes another small bet on the river that I have to call. As I suspected, he had three aces. I lost about 50% of my stack on that hand, but I think a lot of other people go broke there. I was able to fade that big hit early on, and still cash in the event. I'm hoping I can continue making good, educated decisions for the rest of the year.

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After the PCA, I played in 2009 November Niner Steve Begleiter's charity event to benefit the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 aboard the USS Intrepid. The place was full of cutthroat, mathematical geniuses. No, not poker players. Stockbrokers. Some of the best in the world. The event was a blast, and we raised a lot for charity. A win-win. I was joined by friends Dennis Phillips, Kevin Schaffel, and Dan Frank (my agent).

And, even though it's February, I thought I would share with you my New Year's Resolution: play more online poker! I know, it sounds crazy, but I feel like I've finally figured out how to start winning a bit online, and I'm going to put it to the test. If you want a hint: I've already told you - play more. No, not necessarily more often, though practice makes perfect. I've just realized that I can't only play one game at a time. I get too bored. Now, I play at least 3-5 tournaments at a time, and I find that it keeps my adrenaline pumping enough that I can actually focus and not get bored.

I decided I'll be playing all the Sunday tournaments on PokerStars at least three out of the four weekends of every month. This means at least 36 Sunday Millions this year. PokerStars has such great structures, and if I can start winning without ever having to leave the house - fantastic!

I think I've finally broken through online. I'm still learning, but it's a great experience. For the first time in my life, I made it to the TLB for the month of February, and I've set a goal for myself that I'd like to be on there for at least six months out of the year. That means logging a LOT more hours online. Look for me, and say hello!

If you want to say hi in person, after playing the NAPT Venetian this week I'll be at the next NAPT stop at Mohegan Sun. I'm really excited for this new tour. "By poker players, for poker players" - sounds great to me.

Simon Young
@MrSimonYoung in Victor Ramdin