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UFC 158 Analysis – Diaz vs St-Pierre

March 15, 2013 | 11:40 am | JCarver

by David Williams


Hey everyone – I’m pleased to announce that my friend David Williams, a stats wizard and fellow UFC enthusiast, is going to be working with me on an upcoming project
.  This article is sort of a sneak preview of the type of analytical UFC content he’ll be writing.  Hope you guys enjoy – and don’t forget to tweet @dwilliamsmma and let him know what you thought! – Jason


The last time Georges St-Pierre fought, the UFC pulled out all the stops to promote a potential fight between St-Pierre and UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. In the later rounds of the fight, Silva was shown watching as St-Pierre was fighting Carlos Condit. As soon as the fight was over, Joe Rogan asked St-Pierre about the prospect of facing Silva. The fans wanted to see the fight, the UFC wanted to see the fight, and presumably Anderson Silva wanted to see the fight.

Unfortunately for all of those parties, the one man who seemed least interested in the fight was St-Pierre. With St-Pierre instead electing to defend his welterweight title, it was assumed that St-Pierre’s opponent would be Johny Hendricks, who had defeated Martin Kampmann by knockout in the co-main event of the last UFC show to feature St-Pierre. Instead, St-Pierre and the UFC threw fans a curveball by giving the next title shot to Nick Diaz, a fighter who not only lost to Condit in his last fight, but was also suspended for the previous year by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for testing positive for marijuana metabolites.

At first glance, it seems that not only does Diaz not deserve a title shot, but that Diaz matches up very poorly with St-Pierre. Diaz has had a reputation of struggling against wrestlers, dating back to his three-fight losing streak against Diego Sanchez, Joe Riggs, and Sean Sherk in 2005 and 2006. In St-Pierre, Diaz will be fighting arguably the best wrestler in MMA history, a fighter who seems well-equipped to shut down Diaz’s offense. But contrary to what you might expect, I feel that Diaz is a more dangerous challenger than people are giving him credit for.

Diaz has the most dangerous guard St-Pierre has ever faced

One thing that makes Diaz a unique opponent is his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Diaz is a black belt under Cesar Gracie, and while he typically wins fights by breaking down his opponents with striking volume, Diaz is also a constant threat to win with slick submission attacks on the ground. Along with having very good BJJ, Diaz has a great deal of flexibility. This flexibility makes Diaz very dangerous off his back, as he doesn’t need a lot of space to pivot and attempt an armbar or triangle choke. Against Takanori Gomi in particular, Diaz showcased this flexibility by immediately locking up a gogoplata a moment after Gomi took him down. If you’ve never seen the Diaz-Gomi fight before, I highly recommend watching it:

It’s not just flexibility that makes Diaz dangerous on the ground – it’s flexibility paired with high-level technique. A good example of Diaz’s strength in BJJ can be found analyzing his armbar. When he executes an armbar off his back, Diaz almost always does a good job of locking up one of his opponent’s arms while controlling his posture. Diaz then hooks one arm around his opponent’s leg while swiveling to attempt the armbar. By hooking his opponent’s leg, Diaz restricts his opponent from being able to turn into, and thus negate, the submission attempt. This type of high-level technique increases the effectiveness of Diaz’s submissions and is a big part of why Diaz is a threat to St-Pierre off his back.

This is an important detail that Carlos Condit simply neglected in his fight against St-Pierre. In that fight, Condit showcased an active guard, and often looked to attempt an armbar on St-Pierre. However, Condit never was able to control one of St-Pierre’s legs, and so when he swiveled his hips for an armbar attempt, St-Pierre simply turned into Condit to thwart the attempt. When Diaz is on his back against St-Pierre, I anticipate that he’ll look for submissions, particularly the armbar. When he does, watch for Diaz to control one of St-Pierre’s legs first, and perhaps come much closer than Condit did to actually locking up the arm.

In my opinion, Diaz has a more dangerous guard than any St-Pierre has faced. B.J. Penn might have better pure Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu than Diaz, but Penn is not known for having an aggressive guard game in MMA. Condit was active in looking for submissions, but lacked the technical wizardry to ever truly threaten to finish St-Pierre with a submission hold. With his aggression, flexibility, and technical proficiency, Diaz can threaten St-Pierre on the ground in ways no fighter has been able to before.

With that having been said, St-Pierre has excellent fundamentals on the ground, and should be able to stay out of danger overall. St-Pierre rarely leaves his arms on the mat, and is very good at advancing from full guard to half guard. While Diaz will certainly be looking for submissions, St-Pierre will be landing strikes, and as long as St-Pierre maintains his top position, he’s a virtual lock to win rounds on the judges’s scorecards. Diaz isn’t going to be the favorite if he’s taken down – not even close – but Diaz has a better chance of submitting St-Pierre off his back than anyone St-Pierre has ever fought.

Is St-Pierre in decline?

The biggest aspect of this fight I feel people haven’t been talking enough about with regards to St-Pierre is that he may be at a declining stage of his career. Don’t get me wrong – St-Pierre can decline as a fighter and still be the best welterweight in the world. The problem is that, in St-Pierre’s two most recent performances, he simply was not nearly as dominant as he’d been in the past. Against Condit, at UFC154, St-Pierre was the clear winner, but Condit produced a lot of offense of his own. Besides the third-round head kick that knocked down and threatened St-Pierre, Condit was able to land a number of strikes standing while maintaining an active guard on the ground. St-Pierre still won the fight with his takedowns, top control, and some nice standing strikes of his own, but it wasn’t a blowout by any means.

At UFC 129, in his fight with Jake Shields, St-Pierre absorbed an alarming number of strikes by his standards. According to Fight Metric’s statistics, St-Pierre was able to out-strike Shields, but only by a margin of 85 significant strikes to 78 for Shields.
Fight Metric’s Effectiveness Score, a proprietary measure that scores each fighter’s performance based on every action in a fight, is kinder to St-Pierre, scoring the fight 311-161 in his favor. Still, the fact remains that a non-striker in Shields was able to score quite a few points against the UFC welterweight champion.

Of course, it’s important to consider the fact that St-Pierre suffered a nasty eye poke against Shields, and was coming back from a long injury layoff against Condit. Those are very valid and legitimate excuses to be made for St-Pierre’s relatively lackluster performances in those fights. Presumably, St-Pierre will be able to compete at full strength against Diaz, as he would have likely been able to rid his “cage rust” in his match against Condit. However, if St-Pierre again performs at a level below expectations, it may be a signal that the eye poke and cage rust were merely incidents that masked an overarching decline in St-Pierre’s fighting ability.

The harmony of St-Pierre’s straight punches and takedowns

The most clear and obvious advantage either man has in this fight is St-Pierre’s ability to land takedowns, and Diaz’s relative inability to defend them. While St-Pierre is an exceptional athlete with a tremendous ability to explode into takedown attempts, he is also excellent at using strikes to set up these attempts. With a 76-inch reach, St-Pierre has a long wingspan for a welterweight, and he takes advantage of this by throwing a lot of jabs and straight punches at his opponents. Often, when St-Pierre shoots in for a double-leg takedown attempt, his opponent is covering up, focused on defending a strike that may never come.

To make matters worse for St-Pierre’s opponents, he has an excellent sense of distancing. St-Pierre is able to keep his opponent right at the end of his jab. When his opponent gets frustrated and decides to aggressively move into punching range, that’s when St-Pierre frequently executes a well-timed takedown. This relatively simple approach is one of the most efficient in MMA, as St-Pierre simply does not allow his opponent to place himself in a favorable position. It’s a game of “pick your poison” – either stay at the end of the jab, or find yourself working with your back on the canvas.

Diaz won’t stay on his feet for long

St-Pierre is usually able to control the center of the cage, as a natural result of his ability to land sudden takedowns on his opponents. Where St-Pierre has been most vulnerable is when his opponent is able to move forward into punching range, and attack with combinations. St-Pierre’s defensive striking is hardly a weakness, but he doesn’t have outstanding head movement and can be hit with power strikes on occasion. Such occasions are usually fleeting since St-Pierre will often go straight to the takedown when his opponent moves into range.

One of the things that makes Diaz a unique opponent is his aggression on the feet. Diaz very rarely moves backwards, instead pressing his opponent with a very high volume of strikes to both the head and the body. Diaz’s opponent typically responds in one of two ways – by changing levels and attempting a takedown, or by moving backwards and engaging in a striking war. The former option has generally proven to be more effective, although Condit in particular was able to out-point Diaz by moving backwards and landing well-timed strikes.

In this fight, the most frequent result of Diaz’s aggression is that St-Pierre is going to quickly dump him on the canvas with a takedown. Diaz’s fighting style implies that he’s unafraid of being taken down – because he’s in such close range, he often is simply unable to react in time to even attempt to defend an opponent’s takedown. That’s against wrestlers who aren’t nearly as quick as St-Pierre is. I expect Diaz to do what he normally does, moving forward and looking to land punches early and often. St-Pierre is almost certain to take him down in response, and is unlikely to have much of a struggle in the process.

Diaz wins fights with conditioning

A unique MMA striker, Diaz is extremely effective with his prolific offense. Diaz is well known for moving forward very aggressively, throwing rapid combinations at his opponents. Diaz likes to take the fight to his opponent, going as far at times as to actually shove his opponent against the fence, where he will throw an onslaught of punches at his opponent’s head and body. Diaz also has very fast hands, and is often able to throw straight punches quickly enough that his opponent is unable to effectively defend them, especially in the later stages of the fight.

Diaz has holes in his striking defense. He generally does a good job of keeping his hands up, but seldom showcases effective head movement. Since Diaz is usually the one moving forward, he’s often in range for his opponent to throw powerful counters at him. Diaz also doesn’t defend leg kicks very well – Condit threw dozens of leg kicks at Diaz, and Diaz only bothered to check a couple of them. While Diaz has never shown obvious damage from taking leg kicks, they score points and can be used to help win a decision [as long as you’re not being judged by Cecil PeoplesJason].

Diaz is at his best when his opponent is exhausted, simply because he won’t be. Diaz is a fighter who is in such good shape that he participates in triathlons in his spare time. As a result, Diaz can maintain his constant barrage of strikes, while his opponent eventually wilts under the pressure. Diaz has often been maligned for not hitting very hard, but even lighter strikes can do serious damage on an exhausted opponent, especially in the barrage form he throws them in. He has 13 career wins by KO/TKO in 34 fights, and at least a couple of Diaz’s eight submission wins can be attributed to his relentless striking and pace as well. If Jake Shields gave St-Pierre a few problems on the feet, it is possible that Diaz will find success there as well, especially as the fight goes on. This is the reason I believe St-Pierre will have little patience for the striking game of Diaz.


Georges St-Pierre is a very cerebral fighter who forces his opponents through his wrestling dominance to fight where they are weak. When St-Pierre faces a striker, such as Condit, Dan Hardy, and Thiago Alves, he repeatedly takes the fight to the ground. When he faces a grappler, like Shields and Josh Koscheck, he decides to keep the fight standing. This is a big part of why St-Pierre is a 5:1 favorite to win this fight – not only does he have arguably the best wrestling in MMA, he uses his wrestling to consistently force his opponent to fight at a disadvantage.

I expect St-Pierre to win this fight more often than not. While Diaz has a very dangerous guard, St-Pierre is excellent at controlling his opponent and landing effective strikes on the ground. As long as St-Pierre does that, he’ll win rounds on the judges’ scorecards. In what I believe will be brief moments standing, St-Pierre should be able to land straight punches as Diaz moves forward and will likely avoid being caught up in the whirlwind of strikes Diaz wants to throw. As long as the St-Pierre sticks to his gameplan – and he usually does – he should consistently win rounds and ultimately win by decision.

Despite that, I believe Nick Diaz is a more dangerous opponent than he’s being given credit for, because unlike many of St-Pierre’s past opponents, Diaz is a threat no matter where the fight goes. Assuming near-prime St-Pierre shows up and does what we expect and consistently outwrestles Diaz, he’ll still have to deal with the very treacherous guard of the challenger and could be in danger of being submitted. If the threat of a submission deters St-Pierre from taking Diaz down, or if Diaz is otherwise able to stymy St-Pierre’s takedowns, the champion may have trouble dealing with such a unique, potent, aggressive striker. If St-Pierre gives any opportunity, Nick Diaz is more than well equipped to capitalize on weakness or mistakes and play spoiler come Saturday night.

Prediction: Georges St-Pierre by decision

the calm after the storm

November 16, 2012 | 12:51 pm | JCarver

It’s been a week now since I left Las Vegas.  Hurricane Sandy’s extensive wipeout of Long Island’s power grid made going home pretty pointless, and so I remained a guest of the Rio for 8 days longer than I had planned.  Luckily, myself and most of my friends and family suffered only minor damage from the storm, and life around here seems to have finally returned to normal…sort of.

I have been pretty much entirely responsibility-free for a week or two for the first time since May.  I played the entire WSOP, and the day after it ended mid-July, Russ immediately reached out to me to talk about coaching.  We started work soon after.  Despite now finally having the opportunity to relax and unwind, to tackle the pile of unplayed games I’ve yet to touch or to reconnect with the people I haven’t been able to keep up with, I find myself instead missing the nonstop action of October.  I absolutely loved being fully immersed in poker with a group of similarly passionate individuals, dealing with the logistics of coordinating a dozen people plus a production team for a month, and maybe most of all, I loved feeling the thrilling but sort of frightening constant pressure of being entrusted with the biggest day of my friend’s life.  When it was all said and done, it was the single most exhausting month of my life, but the most emotionally rewarding one as well.

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you probably know that I make a bunch of videos on my YouTube channel, most of them poker-related.   I love the creative freedom running my own YouTube channel brings me – in the past year, I made StarCraft videos with one of my pro-gamer friends, streamed a live poker session, experimented with some different types of production styles (webcam, the switch from Camtasia to XSplit), and most recently, I created and produced the project I’m most proud of so far, “The Final Table”.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the entire 40-minute documentary:

In the middle of September, as I was planning out the simulation phase of our coaching, it struck me how cool it could be to invite in a camera crew to film in October. A few days later, I pitched to Dan O’Brien the idea of shooting a show in the mold of a UFC Primetime or HBO’s 24/7 series, telling the story of who Russell Thomas is, how we are preparing to do battle for $8.5 million, document the emotional roller coaster he and I would be going through, and cover Russ’ journey through the end of the final table (the initial title actually was “Road to the Final Table”).  Dan liked the idea, and after the two of us refined the concept a little bit he connected me with his two former roommates, Jake Gabbay and Justin Tyrrell, the two wizards behind “The Final Table.”  They didn’t really know poker (which was exactly what I wanted) and after reassuring them that we wouldn’t be talking about the intricacies of check-raising dry flops or recording the simulations hand-for-hand, they were in.  I also promised them in the same conversation that at least some of their work days would be part-time.  Almost every one of their work days went overtime.  Whoops.

Two weeks later, we began shooting in New York.


We would film for a few days, edit for two or three long days, repeat.  Episode 5 was the toughest schedulewise, as we wrapped shooting Sunday evening and Jake and Justin then put in a marathon late-night session editing so it could be published Monday morning (the day of the actual final table).  We were extremely fortunate to have the support of both Poker Productions, ESPN’s WSOP production company, as well as Seth Palansky, the WSOP official in charge of media access for the final table.  Their assistance was really what allowed us to shoot so much of the cool footage you see in Episodes 5 and 6.

wsop russ

It’s unbelievably fulfilling to come up with an idea like this, put a team together, execute our vision, and have it exist in reality better than I had ever imagined.  I’ve never been a part of something like that to this extent, and as we put time in I discovered that I really enjoy this sort of production work.  Since the finale of “The Final Table,” even with all the other things I could be doing, I’ve happily spent the vast majority of my time starting the development of our next project.  I have plenty of ideas for what might lie ahead, and “The Final Table” has opened some very interesting doors that I can’t wait to explore.

Thanks for reading!  Check out more pictures from our training camp here, and let me know all your thoughts over on my freshly-verified twitter @JasonSomerville!

real talk

February 14, 2012 | 6:41 pm | JCarver

I’m a poker player. Above anything else that I could identify as, no single label could better describe my life, my personality, my outlook, my desires. In no community do I feel more at home, and I only have a handful of friends who don’t come from the poker world. Reality, and life in general is just…different with poker as your foundation. Our culture, our norms and our experiences as professional poker players are unique, and to various degrees, define us as individuals. I don’t shy away from that label of “poker player” at all – I love the game, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to play poker – a game! – for a living, and being able to compete on the highest levels in tournaments is something I’ve derived a ton of pleasure and pride from in my life.

One of the things that I think is universally liked about poker is that the game is open to anyone. If you’ve got the cash, we’ve got a seat open. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Christian, Jewish, a woman, physically disabled, a foreigner, a felon, or smell terrible, we’ll make room for you at the not-necessarily-proverbial table and let you play. Everyone comes in on an equal playing field, getting the same cards, the same chips, and left alone to make their own decisions. It’s a cutthroat world, but the waters are open to anyone who wants to swim. This universal acceptance/open invitation is sort of the centerpiece of poker – it’s a major reason we had a boom in 2003 after Moneymaker’s win at the WSOP ‘proved’ “anyone can do it, all you have to do is play.” Maybe it’s because of that cornerstone of acceptance, maybe it isn’t, but our community is pretty tolerant overall (maybe it’s more indifferent than tolerant). Bottom line, it really doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do; barring some truly awful behavior that usually has to do with a long-time abuse of the community’s trust, you’ll be accepted, or at worst, begrudgingly allowed in. It takes something pretty messed up to be truly ostracized from the poker community as a whole (the only person I can think of is Russ Hamilton of UB superuser fame, and the Full Tilt top guys will definitely make the list if players don’t get repaid).

Of all the diversity and variety that the poker world contains, though, there is a noticeable lack of openly gay poker professionals. Vanessa Selbst is a top tier player, a brilliant woman and an amazing person, but other than her, I’ve never met a single gay professional poker player, nevermind a high profile one. There’s plenty of speculation – Daniel Negreanu, Tom Dwan, and a few other big name players who are actually very straight have received plenty of attention from the gossip forums as being potentially gay for having a few mannerisms simply perceived that way.

They’re not gay, though, and no man who is a well-known pro in poker is open about it. I’m not quite sure why exactly that is, and of course everyone is entitled to be as open as they want to be about their personal lives, but for there to be zero high-profile openly not-straight men in poker seems…bad. Archaic. Reflective of a community that isn’t open to all, when we actually are one of the most open communities in existence. Maybe it’s not because of something unique to poker, and it’s just a relic of the old-school mentality when the world’s default mindset was at best “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but, come on, it’s 2012. Whatever the reason… zero??

I’ve struggled with how to discuss this, with how to balance my desire for privacy with the fact that I do want to be myself publicly – and the fact that I think it’s overdue for a guy to be open about it in poker. I’m no Daniel Negreanu, the royalty of real talk, but I do pride myself on saying what I think and simply being who I am; but I suppose you could say in the past being “truly myself” has come with a bit of an asterisk. Privately, amongst friends, I can say I’ve been doing that for some amount of time – but publicly, and in poker, that hasn’t completely been the case. I haven’t exactly always been where I am now, though, and haven’t really been ready to share my story publicly. Privacy reasons excepted, that won’t be the case any more.

2011 was an amazing year for me. Although I was fortunate enough to win an event at WSOP, 2011 was key for me because it was transformative. At 24, I finally came to embrace the seemingly basic concept that happiness should come before most other priorities, an idea it seems many of us poker players struggle with for some reason. Ever since I left college at 19 to pursue poker professionally, pretty much every morning (read : afternoon) I woke up and said “how can I make the most money possible today?” – and that’s what I did. When I felt lonely, or unhappy, or depressed, I did what I could to feel better; but for the most part, I made few actual changes and mostly just returned to the status quo of the grind. After Black Friday (my birthday, by the way) and the shutdown of online poker, I suddenly wasn’t able to do that any more. Being unable to tunnel-vision focus on making money, real-life things finally kind of caught up with me.

By the time WSOP 2011 came around, I had already begun to want real change, and once WSOP passed I had a few important heart-to-hearts with some very close friends and my mindset finally started to actually change. I decided I wasn’t going to focus on making decisions that were in my best financial interest, I was going to focus on making decisions based on how they’d impact my happiness – without making excuses. The obstacles that I had always created for myself – what if this, what if that – I put aside, and began making changes instead.

I had put it off for a long time. I always knew I wasn’t straight, but I never spoke a word of it for twenty two years, and nobody really ever knew otherwise. I dated women exclusively through my teens and early 20s, doing my best to convince myself that it wasn’t something I had to pursue, that maybe I’d grow out of it, that I’d be happier with women anyway, that I just should focus on other things. After a lot of struggling and a lot of anxiety, I eventually came out to one of my close friends when I was 22. That same year, the second and third people I came out to were my parents (probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done), from which I basically received the not-exactly-what-I-needed reaction of “keep it to yourself, don’t tell anyone.” I told very few people from then until I was 24 (by the way, my parents are way better now).

I was lucky enough to come out to a few close friends who were very encouraging. My closest friends are amazing people that I all love dearly and they were crucial in my growth from then til now. I remember, two years ago, accidentally verbalizing “that guy [on tv] is pretty cute” to one of my friends. Even though I had already come out to him, I was instantly petrified – it was the first time I had really said something like that out loud (at 22!) – and although I remember the anxiety very well I also clearly recall the flood of relief I felt when he simply laughed afterwards. Whether serious or lighthearted, that sort of positive encouragement from my friends over the past two years helped me greatly along my path to finding myself and “living my truth,” as a (slightly overly) philosophical friend likes to put it.

I didn’t actually make a gay friend until June of 2011, when I was 24. That helped a lot with being able to understand/express myself and not quite feeling so…isolated. Before then, I never really tried to make any gay friends or relationships. I would consider taking action, but before anything actually happened, I’d find or fabricate excuses to not be open or aggressive about it. I told myself to be afraid of the poker world finding out somehow and outing me and having some “disaster” roll out because of it. I was worried that no matter what I ever accomplished or did, I’d be labeled “that gay poker player” above all else, and it would be a title of shame. I feared that I’d lose friendships that meant a lot to me, that I’d ring a bell that could never be unrung and I’d be miserable, somehow. It took me a long time to mostly get over all those somewhat irrational anxieties (fingers crossed!) and to truly start being myself, regardless of what that might mean or look like to others.

As 2011 continued on, and my mindset became more focused on being happy, I pushed myself to make the changes I wanted. I started being more and more open, telling more and more people, and eventually started dating. I became more empowered by the growing personal freedoms I felt as I increasingly was just myself by default, less and less often censoring my thoughts, desires, and feelings. The small personal ‘victories’ piled up, I gained a lot of forward momentum, and the positive changes started to snowball…and here we are now, writing this post. I’m totally open in my personal life, in an amazing relationship that means a great deal to me, and bottom line, I’m honestly happier now than I’ve ever been.

I’m not planning on being much different. If you’ve interacted with me before, you pretty much know who I am, and there probably won’t be many differences in the future. Like I said, I’m just a poker player, after all, and being attracted to guys doesn’t change that. Still, though, for myself and as a member of the poker community, I felt this was important to share – to both allow me to openly/completely be myself in the poker world and maybe to make it easier for others to be themselves, too, if they want to be. Real talk.

edited to add : a lot of people have been trying to get in touch with me in various ways, best way by a mile is on twitter @JasonSomerville.

2009-2011 : a retrospective photoblog

December 3, 2011 | 10:58 am | JCarver

The past three years I’ve been very lucky to have visited a ton of cool places with a lot of awesome people.  Browsing through some of my old folders, inspired by BJ Nemeth’s awesome photography work, I felt like it would be cool to share some of my personal photos and memories in a post. All these were taken by me with my iPhone.

Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure, Nassau, Bahamas, January 2009. My first time there, I went with some longtime friends prior to the actual tournament and had a great time. One of my favorite stops on the tour.

Monte Carlo, Monaco, May 2009. Absolutely the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been. Me and Eric “Sheets” Haber flew in to Nice, France, and then took a helicopter across the Mediterranean over to Monte Carlo. Ridiculously cool experience. The walk from the hotel to the casino itself was absolutely beautiful. The first picture is from the helicopter, the second one right off the helipad, the third from the room, the fourth from the walk to the tournament area. I had my biggest live cash to date in the main event here, a 19th for $67,600, losing AQ vs AT for a pile, ten in the window :(

E3 Expo, Los Angeles, California, June 2nd, 2009. During the WSOP, me, Andrew “wayrin” Hart, and Davis “StefanProdan” Bowen went to visit our friend Andres “evang” Odella, a developer for Naughty Dog of Uncharted fame. Although we were promised a hookup initially, getting in ended up costing $500 apiece to enter. Nice scam, evang.

Chipstack on Day 2 of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in the 5K NLHE event on June 9th, 2009 in Las Vegas, NV. I would go on to finish 45th in this event for my first 5-figure WSOP score, and later in this WSOP finish 2nd and 5th in two other events.

July 11th, 2009, Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV for UFC 100. An amazingly sick card and a super fun night with the freshly crowned WSOP HU Champion Leo Wolpert, the one and only Scott “mastrblastr” Seiver, and my good friend JC Alvarado. We all had tons of money on Brock, and upon his victory were probably the only ones within 25 feet really celebrating his win. At some point in the night, Scott got a brofist from Lyoto Machida and was insanely giddy for just about the next eleven months because of it.

October 24th, 2009, Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV. Pretty amazing view. It is here that I would finally be bold enough to win the Blue Diamond Almond Player of the day

…resulting in that, about a month later. One of my favorite blogs I’ve ever written was about the whole almonds thing. Check it out.

January 12th, 2010, back at PCA in Bahamas. The second picture is the view from Daniel’s balcony, who was kind enough to let me and my friend stay with him for the latter half of our trip.

April 6th, 2010, at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT. My good friend Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy would go on to get 7th here, that’s really all I remember about that trip.

June 12th, 2010, South Point Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Bowled with PumpyTudors. Best day of my life. That is all.

My chip stack on July 12th, 2010, at the Rio in Las Vegas in the WSOP Main Event. I had a good WSOP overall, getting a 3rd in the heads-up and a 4th in the 25K 6max. I made it on ESPN for busting Barry Greenstein in the main, but wasn’t able to make it past 300th or so.

August 7th, 2010 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California for Silva vs Sonnen, UFC 117. Front row seats to an awesome card. Also had the fun experience of being patted down rougher than I’ve ever been in my life, including being checked for an ankle holster. Stay classy, Oakland. I got a high five from the future heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos after his win which was pretty damn awesome.

November 2nd, 2010, Foxwoods, CT. My good friend Jeff Forrest shipped a WPT with me, his dad, and Joey Fatone of NSYNC fame cheering him on. Such an awesome day. There is I believe only just one short clip on the internet of me and Joey Fatone doing the flop-a-set-of-fours dance. Enjoy.

December 1st, 2010, Turning Stone Casino, Verona, NY. Went with some friends, got snowed in, lost a bunch online. Good times.

January 12th, 2011, Bahamas. Apparently that’s the most photogenic of places I visit.

April 1st, 2011, Dallas, Texas. Sweating my good friend Andre “Gretorp” Hengchua playing his match in a Major League Gaming Starcraft 2 tournament. Really crazy atmosphere, SC2 has such an awesome fanbase. I’m jealous.

May 12th, 2011, Aria Casino, Las Vegas, NV. Daniel was nice enough to let me sweat him as he played some mixed games in Ivey’s room.

May 26th, 2011, Aria Casino, Las Vegas, NV. This was my seat for the 25K WSOP Fantasy Draft. I’ve never been in room of such sick, sick action junkies before. Felt right at home :)

May 27th, 2011, north shore of Long Island, somewhere. Just thought it was a really nice view. If there was only a lighthouse in the distance it would pretty much be Long Island in a photograph.

Rio Hotel and Casino, June 15th, 2011, I won my first WSOP bracelet. Good times :)

Apparently I need to be taking more photos since this was pretty cool to go through. Hope you guys enjoyed!

a new take on some old favorites

July 27, 2011 | 4:55 am | JCarver

While at the WSOP, I had several opportunities to play in some rather interesting home games. Over the summer, I played holdem, plo, pineapple, three-card holdem, 5 and 6 card plo, pot limit badugi double draw, pot limit stud (starting with 4 cards), chinese, and a few other even stranger games for just an orbit here and there. Being that I surround myself with a group of truly sick gamblers, I feel it’s likely that I’ve played in some of the biggest games ever spread of the more rare variants listed (at one point in the summer I opened to $5000 utg with KxKs5s in pineapple, no joke). I’m absolutely not even close to rolled for games that big and never really have before.  I broke a few personal records over the summer in these games, including some bad ones like  playing my longest non-break session ever (only 20hrish), biggest losing day ever (first time I lost 6-figures in a day), almost following that up by almost losing almost the same amount a few days later before pulling back to even.

Of all the games we played, one game was played by far most frequently and it might not be one you are familiar with – Taiwanese poker.  Although many people on twitter have taken credit for creating it, these various claims are all so unconnected that I have no idea who to believe.  All I know is over the course of the summer we developed the game from the rough outline we had learned about into a pretty concrete format with a bunch of alternative deviations and things that I thought would be cool to share.

The basics of the game are easy. Everyone is dealt 7 cards, and from those cards, sets a 1-card (highcard), 2-card (holdem), and a 4-card omaha hand (similar to chinese in this way). You can either slowroll your opponents or table your hand pre-flop, but in any case, a board is run out.  Initially, we kept the scoring like chinese – everyone matching up to everyone else – but it really, really slows the game down, especially 4+handed, and eventually we decided to just let whatever hand that reigned supreme over the same-game hands would simply scoop. We also added a tiered payout base – 1unit for the front, 2units for the middle, 3units for the back hand, a 2unit scoop bonus (2 tier-2 holdem level points) and a royalty system (these are additional, not total payouts):

taiwanese royalties

A quick example hand:

taiwanese example

At this point, a board would be run out…

Js 5c 6c 2h 6s

For the front hand, the pair of jacks wins 1 point (let’s say the base unit is $100) so $100 apiece to player 2.
For the middle hand, the dueces full wins for player 3, and he also wins the FH bonus for an 2 points.  The holdem hand is worth a base of $200, with a 2unit bonus, netting that player $600 from each opponent.
For the back hand, the full house from player 1 wins ($300 base unit payout) and a 1-point bonus for $600 apiece paid to him.

We tested some other variants – doing it all even payouts (1unit for all 3) but that makes it too easy to play optimally, running multiple boards (fun, more action, we do 2x or 3x almost always), adding a 4th badugi hand that wasn’t affected by the board (to appease certain similarly-named-to-me :coolfish: ).  I think there’s potential for adding natural hands (7-straight, 5flush-2flush, maybe 3pair?) and the royalty system probably still needs more tweaks to be balanced, but even as is, I highly recommend it as it’s a lot of fun gambling game to add into a shorthanded home game.  Try it out and let me know if anyone develops any cool tweaks/variants!

P.S. thanks to Derk for the editing help!

sweating the end of the 25K

July 11, 2011 | 7:09 pm | JCarver

With my personal WSOP at its end, only one big sweat remains : the conclusion of the 25K fantasy draft (alternatively here, and official standings here).  I’ve never participated in any sort of draft before this one and was worried that I’d make a bunch of dumb mistakes so I tried my best to prepare by doing a lot of research on players before the draft began.  The best decision made may have been splitting the team with my rungood and name brother Jason Mercier as we successfully powered a red-hot freight train of 8 people (well, 7 people), taking a sizeable lead with just one tournament left.

With just the main event remaining, here is the potential scoring to be won per finisher (tiny caveat: I’ve been wrong before, and remember, the draft pays out points based on the chips at the final table, not on the actual November Nine finishes):

1st: 236pts
2nd: 226pts
3rd: 216pts
4th: 206pts
5th: 196pts
6th: 186pts
7th: 176pts
8th: (15+68)*2 = 166pts
9th: (10pts+68pts)*2 = 156pts
10th-18th : (5pts+68pts (field bonus)) *2 = 146pts
19th-693rd : 2 pts

Huge, 144 point bubble here between 19th and 18th (the average team right now has 324.5 points total).  Taking a look at the current leaderboard (courtesy of www.25Kfantasy.com),

Jason Somerville, Jason Mercier 675
Erick Lindgren 476
Todd Brunson 464
James Bord, Toby Lewis 443
Justin Bonomo, Eric Froehlich, Scott Seiver 412
Eugene Katchalov, Daniel Alaei 378
Joe Cassidy, Huck Seed 377
Cary Katz 325
Daniel Negreanu 324
Justin Smith, Ashton Griffin 251
Robert Mizrachi, Jared Bleznick, Greg Mueller, “Crazy Mike” 218
Barry Greenstein 206
Mori Eskandani 137
Frank Kassela, Shaun Deeb 93
Vladimir Shchemelev 89

Theoretically, nobody is out, as even Shchemelev could win with enough multiple final table finishes from his team, but more reasonably, let’s look at what it would take for a single enemy draft member to push us from the lead (assuming our team bricks).  Erick’s team is 199 points behind and needs a 4th or better, Todd’s is 211 points behind, needing a 3rd or better, and Bord’s is 232 behind and would need a 1st to win.  All other teams would need at least two top 18 finishes, which would net a minimum of 292 points (although two 10th-18ths alone would only be enough to push mastr/ZJ’s team into 1st).  There are a ton of sidebets, and with a total of 4 spots officially paying ($225k/$93.75k/$37.5k/$18.75k), plenty of the other teams might have a sweat if someone in the middle of the pack starts a deep run.

Being that I don’t have much else to do these days and with no online poker on the horizon I have very little gambling to look forward to for awhile, so I’ll be enjoying my last decent-sized sweat by keeping a close eye on this.  I’ll update this again with chip standings and a clearer picture of any potential close calls as the WSOP main event progresses.

dallas trip report and some news

April 6, 2011 | 2:40 am | JCarver

The last few months have been pretty unusual.  Typically, I fill my time with poker, both online cash and live tournaments – but this hasn’t been the case at all in 2011.  Since PCA, I haven’t played much poker or traveled, staying outside the whole poker scene in general.  I needed a break after the super grind of late 2010 and this blog was a neglected victim of that break.  I’m happy I finally finished the origins post and I’m glad it seems to have turned out pretty well as a whole project.

In 2011, I’ve turned my attention towards a few different new projects outside of poker, one of which is taking up a heavy focus on UFC sportsbetting.  I really enjoy it and feel like I have a pretty big edge (an important part of the equation, I hear).  I have finally got the equipment here that I can do videoblogs with fight breakdowns a day or so before events with my picks, which would be great if not for the fact that there’s only one UFC event in the next 6 weeks.  March was a great month for sportsbets -  I broke a bunch of personal records for how much action I had on both single events and single fights and was lucky enough to scoop many of them, going 17-5 and winning 13.5u overall, putting me at 49-19 and +29.2u since I started keeping track at UFC 117 in August.  Not enough to have a significant sample, but a good start.

In addition to UFC sportsbetting, my other new project that I’ve been gladly pouring time into is my first venture into e-sports.  I’ve been a longtime fan of Starcraft and have been active in Starcraft 2 since beta, spending many nights in the past year watching GSLs and such enjoying the skills and talents displayed by the top-end players.  In trying to learn to be a better player myself, I found the lack of comprehensive resources somewhat frustrating and realized how awesome it would be to gather not just the best players in the game but also the best instructors in a one-stop top of the line site for Starcraft training, a la Cardrunners or PokerVT.  From this idea, Six Pool Gaming (SPG) was born.  The plans took flight as I was quickly able to put together an amazing team of administrators and players who shared in this vision which is rapidly approaching reality.

Between conception to now, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting a variety of players and leaders in the e-sports industry.  I’m lucky to have a few of these people onboard or in a partnership with Team SPG, dedicating their time and energy to a project that we are working hard on to produce the best possible product for the ultimate benefit and enjoyment of the community and hopefully the entire e-sports scene.  The staff and instructors are intelligent, well-spoken and motivated individuals and I’m honored to work beside them and beyond that to call a few of them friends.  It’s definitely surreal to go from a fanboy on the internet to being in partnership with some of my SC2 heroes, and seeing the SPG patches and hats out and about at MLG came with a pretty strong feeling of pride and accomplishment – it’s pretty atypical in my line of work to be able to find such a neat project that you actually have a passion for and building it has been amazing.

MLG Dallas was my first chance to meet many of the people I’d been working with for months now online.  After being shocked at how few flights flew from New York to Dallas nonstop (and it was like 2k, admittedly last minute but still), I ended up on a mediocre airtran flight and got in early Thursday morning.  That evening, I met up with some of the SPG team for our second photoshoot.  Some of the SPG team members there included Team Dignitas’ Sjow, Select, and Zaccubus, Team Fnatic’s Gretorp and Xeris, and Team Liquid’s Ret.  Here’s a video and some photos from the shoot:




The photoshoot went great, it took awhile but in the end we had something north of 1000 photos taken.  After we finished, everyone was pretty exhausted and called it a night to rest for MLG day 1 on Friday.

This was my first MLG and I wasn’t really sure how it would be.  Once I got to the convention center, the best way I can describe it is like a mix between a poker tournament and E3, with all the organization of neither.  I’m pretty sure nobody knew exactly how the brackets worked, people just played their matches and waited to hear their name get called hopefully at some point not too far in the future.  Also at MLG were Halo and Call of Duty matches which really only influenced the event as far as I was concerned by lowering the average age to high teens instead of the 20something crowd that the Starcraft field most consisted of.  It also felt very strange to be on the business side of a tournament for once and not a player.  Pretty major role reversal for me.

One thing that struck me as odd were how many spectators there were, even on day 1.  It was a pretty impressive turnout all in all.   Another surprise was that in all my years being friends and all with Daniel Negreanu and watching him get approached by fans every so often did not come close to the amount of fan interaction that I witnessed some of the SC pros experience.  It was pretty cool to see the fanbase so passionate and that the pros were almost all down-to-earth people who had no problem engaging with the fans.

I met a ton of awesome people over the days at MLG.  I quickly realized I had to switch from my 7-year long default greeting in poker of “Hey I’m Jason/JCarver,” to “Hey I’m Jason Somerville from Six Pool Gaming,” which felt admittedly uncomfortably professional for a little while.

Our team pro Select ended up getting 3rd, a great finish, and there were several other impressive runs and great games played by our pros.

Here are a few photos from MLG :






It was definitely a unique trip and it was a ton of fun.  It felt like I was visiting a cousin’s house or something, like some sort of bizarro poker world – same sort of age range, same sort of fluent specific-to-the-game language, same super competitive game and personalities, and I was a businessman almost nobody knew instead of a player, haha.  I had a great time and wish all my SC2 friends weren’t so far flung across the world since a lot of them are pretty awesome people (another unfortunate similarity with poker).  Anyway, I’ll have the chance to see everyone again soon enough – I’m going to be next on the road again for a few poker tournaments but there is some cool real-life SPG business to be done soon enough :)

P.S.  If you want to follow SPG for updates and stuff :

Six Pool Gaming



and to complete my whoredom, my own twitter is http://twitter.com/#!/JasonSomerville

jcarver : origins, the finale

April 5, 2011 | 10:15 pm | JCarver

Well, it’s obviously been more than a few weeks to finish this.  Sorry for the wait!  I’ve wanted to get this finally revised, updated, and published and just got around to it today.  If you’re just joining me, these origin posts are a slightly updated series of posts I wrote originally for SomethingAwful chronicling my first two years starting out in poker back in 2006 when I was 19.

Hope you guys enjoy…

Parts 1-3
Parts 4 and 5
Parts 6 and 7

Part VIII : In Sickness…

September 2005 through the middle of October was relatively boring and not very memorable. My tournament dry spell continued, losing a total of a few grand there.  I did manage to win nearly $8000 playing 3/6 NLHE during this period though, so it wasn’t all bad. My first WCOOP came and went with no success. Tournaments didn’t really go well for me for a decent amount of my early career [honestly, not until after I wrote this originally in 2006].  Also in September of ‘05 I started my first semester at a second college which distracted me from playing too much poker.

Chuck and I divorced our roll completely in the beginning of September when he moved to Cornell. There was absolutely no ill will towards eachother, but I remember feeling like we had sort of different priorities and he wasn’t really working as much as I was on his game [in the past years, I've stayed friendly with Chuck as he has pursued his academic career - but he never really returned to poker].  Between the split of the bankroll and the lack of winning in the summer my roll was under 10k for the first time since the spring.

When I got back from Turning Stone, I checked out Bodog’s games. The shorthanded games looked soft, but I had no idea how to play shorthanded at the time – and they were mostly $5/$10 games. I didn’t have the roll at that point to play $5/$10 [but I did apparently have some bankroll management, surprise surprise].  I decided to wait on Bodog for the time being.

My pokerhands from the period (and before, as I skipped it last time) are pretty much just large pots I won as ridiculous favorites or got sucked out on in dramatic fashion and don’t really contain much in the way of strategy.

Hand 1

This hand is pretty standard, looking back, but was probably the beginning of me consciously realizing that one of the biggest ways to make money in NL cash games was to crack big pairs when people couldn’t fold them [being that I never folded them either, I'm pretty sure reciprocality had the last laugh here]. Preflop hand strength just wouldn’t matter if you flopped two pair and took the guy on the busto trolley to frown town when he couldn’t lay it down.

Hand 2

Coolers are awesome. I remember this hand specifically [still do, but holy hell how bad is that hand played], and I especially recall how bothered I was by losing this hand at the time for some reason.  I remember there was a railbird asking me for five dollars who I was for some reason chatting with even though I surely had no intention of giving money to.  “Her” affections immediately swung to the KK guy after I lost the hand OH HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN INDEED.

The other oh so earthshattering event to happen between 9/1 and 10/30 is that I started writing the “legendary” Spicy System ( http://archives.somethingawful.com/…hreadid=1687006 ) which can now be found on http://spicebox.badbeatscrew.com/ although that only has the REDUX version from months later.  [I moved the link from thespicebox.net to the newer one, but I'm sure if the file is up it is probably only good for laughs at this point]

In the middle of October, I came down with a very bad illness which the doctor only referred to as a “highly contagious bacterial infection” in my throat.  Great. I couldn’t eat, drink, swallow, or breathe, without my throat hurting so bad it was similar to swallowing razor blades.   Cool, right?!  I came down with this on a Monday and with the doctor’s promise that I wouldn’t be contagious with quick antibiotics decided that it was still worth driving 6+ hours (in the pouring rain, even!) to go to Turning Stone for the East Coast Championships on a Wednesday.   I bet my parents wished back then I had that sort of dedication to anything “constructive”.  I went to TS, picking up my one and only live cash there to date (other than the 2k satellite win in the summer), putting me in the LIVE AWESOME INTERNET DATABASE OF HUGE WINNERS ! [I only have one live cash for $451 in a $200 event until Nov of 06.  this link is obviously more a brag than a beat at this point :) ]

While I was at Turning Stone, going through literally shot glasses of Tylenol, 20+ lozenges per 3 hours of tournament play, and only eating hot dogs, my throat slowly got better. The antibiotic I was on was extremely powerful and did a good job, maybe even too good of a job, and I was better within a few weeks.

When I got back from Turning Stone, memories of my August trip resurfaced and I went back and checked out Bodog one more time. I threw a few thousand there on a whim and within 15 days of playing there, ran my balance up to over $10000 thanks to cash games. I didn’t play shorthanded, really – I stuck with the full games.  Eventually, though, as the full games broke into shorter games, I started staying.  I began to gain experience playing 2-4 handed, something I never got at Pacific or Party, and found myself enjoying the ability to be a little more creative and put more pressure on opponents.  I won nearly $10,000 in the last 15 days of October (compared to a the $4.5k from the 45 days before that) and had started pulling out of my summer stagnation. I began to settle into Bodog as the new home of most of my play.

Some graphs from the period (9/1-10/30):
Total Earnings
ETD thru 103005

Earnings By Location
earnings by location 090105-103005

Total Earnings to Date – August 04 – Oct 05

total earn 090105-103005

I had not, in fact, forgotten about my $100k goal by the end of the year.   At this point, quite honestly, I thought it was pretty unattainable, especially with the volume I’d been playing.  I thought there was a better chance of me reaching my goal by my birthday in April, which honestly probably was still fairly unreasonable.  But with Bodog quickly working out so well for me, maybe there would be a shot for the last 2 months…

Part IX : …and In More Sickness…

I continued playing primarily Bodog cash games in November.   I moved up to playing $5-$10 NL games as much as I could – even during my breaks at school, and eventually, in class. I earned all my profit for this segment of my career on Bodog. The first half of November was pretty good – I was winning money, enjoying life, and happy all around.

I went shopping with a friend of mine and his younger brother in early-mid November.  This is the first day I remember feeling gastrointestinal problems. I’m going to glaze over most of the details here. If you’re a close friend of mine, you probably know already, or had the opportunity to know, all the details.  If you’re not a close friend of mine, trust me, you don’t want to know anyway.   As November moved on, I rapidly developed moderate gastrointestinal issues, rendering me unable to eat normally, sleep, or do anything really but deal with awful digestive system problems.

After I first got sick and realized that it wasn’t simple food poisoning, I go back to see the general doctor. This doctor told me that my symptoms that had developed were simply a reaction to the strong antibiotics from my infection in October.   I took anti-antibiotics for a week or so which did me no good.  My condition worsened. Thanksgiving passed with me eating a bagel up in my bed – that’s just all I could digest without massive pain.  With all the scheduling issues because of the holiday, I was forced to wait a decent while to see the specialist doctor.  Not a fun time.

I finally end up seeing the second doctor, a coldhearted bastard with no sense of sympathy or passion about him (but an effective gastroenterologist).  He saw me for maybe ten minutes before telling me I’d have to get a colonoscopy.  Awesome. I began to prep for the colonoscopy that weekend (the worst part of the whole procedure, by far.   Imagine having to drink shots of the most foul saline solution ever on a stomach that can’t digest anything. I spent two days miserable) and eventually, the day of the colonoscopy came – the Monday after in early December.

I am leaving out most of the gory details, but I don’t want to understate just how sick I was in November and December.  It’s not like I was at death’s door or anything – maybe just the front lawn, if I was trying to be really dramatic.  Even so, I felt extremely awful, and really, truly appreciate everyone who showed me support during the time I was sick. It’s funny how your priorities change when you feel unsure when or if you’ll be able to live a normal life again. The smallest gestures of kindness, compassion, and concern were amplified a hundredfold in my eyes while I was sick.   It still means a lot to me, looking back.

Poker was the last thing on my mind. I played, very rarely (I couldn’t sit – or sleep – for more than an hour without having to go to the bathroom), but I played poker more than I went to school, that’s for sure. I had very understanding teachers who somehow helped me still get a ridiculously good grade for the semester (one of the teachers even had UC – talk about understanding).

The day of the colonoscopy I was feverish, hallucinating, unable to stand on my own two feet for more than 10 seconds, famished (I was 130 pounds at the time of the procedure, down from 155, in under a month of sickness), and extremely worried that something would go wrong.  Fast forward a few hours and I was positively diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Ulcers had developed in my colon that were causing fairly major bleeding and irregular digestion. There’s no known cause for UC, unless it’s hereditary (mine isn’t).  I was prescribed Prednizone, 8 of them (40mg), a day. It’s some sort of anti-inflammatory steroid that I stopped taking as soon as the active symptoms stopped.  Eventually, by mid-December, I had mostly recovered.  The doctor added a second drug, Asacol, which is basically time-delayed aspirin, meant to preserve remission. They’re 500mg pills and I take 12 of them a day. I still do – and will for a long time, or so says the new doctor (who is a gambler!). [I end up getting sick again a year after this, but really not since then.  I'm only on a few pills a day now of a different drug and feel fine 99% of the year, thankfully.]

Having not played much poker, there’s not a ton to say about this period. I lost a nice $4,000 in two hours 3-tabling on Bodog before I got sick, one of my most ego-crushing defeats ever – and my biggest loss to date. After I got better, or at least during recovery, I had a session where I won $3,171.50 at $5-$10 on Bodog, one of my biggest non-tournament wins ever. That win was helpful in repairing my somewhat rusty confidence/ego.   I played very few tournaments during this period as I there was just no way I’d be capable of a lengthy, scheduled game at that point.  I did make my first small deposits into Fortune in the middle of December – and even though I ended up losing that money quickly, the games were amazing and I was definitely interested in playing there more often.

By December 17th I was pretty much recovered.  In my sick haze, I had been so overdramatically sure that I’d be sick the rest of my life, nevermind for Christmas, that being healthy felt like an amazing miracle.  I had been resigned to my fate that I wouldn’t make $100,000 by the end of the year. I didn’t even care. I had survived a pretty awful bout of sickness and felt a renewed sense of direction and purpose in the time after.  I was happy to just be able to live a normal life and to be able to choose exactly how I wanted to spend my days, a perspective that poker synergizes with very nicely.

Some graphs from the period of 11/1/05 through 12/17/05:

Earnings by Date. I don’t play for awhile at the height of my sickness.
EBD 110105-121705

Earnings by Location. Bodog is the only place I show a profit at during this period.
EBL 1105-1205

Total Earnings for this period.
TE 110105-121705

Career Earnings. My bankroll is probably around $20,000-$25,000 by the end of the period.
ETD thru 121705
Hmmm, you say? Why would JCarver end this segment on such a strange date as 12/17? Why not just go to the new year? THERE SURELY MUST BE A REASON!

A reason exists indeed!

Part X : …and in HEALTH! (finally!)

Being sick sucks. Being really sick really sucks. Thrilled to be done with school, healthy enough to consistently gamble, and slightly pissed I wasn’t closer to $100,000, I started gambling with a fury. Once I found out that I wasn’t going to die from the colitis, my mind began focusing a lot more on poker.

December 18th was my first big tournament that I’d played in awhile. I believe it was a $600 buyin $300k guarantee on Interpoker. I finished 7th for a $7,841 profit, my biggest win to date, and I was happy with the finish as I was shortstacked for a long time. Soon after, on the 22nd, I won a tournament on Bodog for a smooth $4500.

As this was all happening, I finally redeposited into Fortune. Fortune had lots of bad players, or so I had heard, but I had never really explored the site on my own.  Scotsman kept pushing me to deposit, teasing me with tales of crazy europeans, and eventually my deposit stuck – I finally started winning. I never looked back, and Fortune became a goldmine for me. I began the biggest heater I’d ever been on and started simultaneously crushing the games at Bodog and Fortune. By Christmas of 2005, in little over a week, I won $14,600.  I was thrilled.   I was healthy, winning, and felt like I was back in a big way, loving every second of it. My career earnings exploded to over $50,000 with 6 days left in the year.

Even though I was winning tons and feeling great, I was still pretty sure it was extremely unlikely that I’d win 50k by the end of the year. I was just happy I had been winning any money at all, and honestly being healthy was all that really mattered at the time.   At that point, I didn’t think I’d get close to my 100k mark by the end of the year and planned to fill early 2006 with as much poker as I could to try to reach my goal.  Lady Luckbox, though, had other plans in mind.  I started pillaging the $5-$10 games on Fortune, Party, and Bodog – in unison. I was playing awesome poker and getting lucky when I needed to on top of that. In the final 6 days of December 2005, I won slightly under $25,000 without any tournament play whatsoever.

By the end of the year, I didn’t hit $100k. I was pretty fucking close, though. My career earnings totaled $75,000 by the close of 2005. I moved up to $10-$20 NL on Party and Fortune. I ran good there too, and so my heater continued. I was going to post pokerhands from before the new year, but mostly its “JCarver flops a set vs an overpair, clicks ‘call all in’, and what a shocker, wins $5k.” I was determined to win $100k as close to 1/1/06 as possible, even after technically missing the goal by the New Year.

The night of New Year’s Day, I was playing some €10-€20 game on Fortune, heads-up.

I pick up A 9, 3-handed. I have €2500 and the villain has just slightly less than that. He raises to €60, and I call.

The flop comes A Q 2. He bets €120 and I call.

The turn is a 6. No help. He again bets €400. I see no reason to fold and call.

The river is a 7. No obvious help other than the backdoor flush draw just hit. He pushes all-in for €1,825.46. I think..and think… and think. I went through my whole history with the guy, his prior betting patterns, everything, in my mind.  I took a deep breath, went with my read, and called.

He flipped 8 5 over and I won a €4800 pot, the biggest of my life at the time (pokerhand is here).  Winning this pot felt like the culmination of so many things, that finally everything came together in one huge, high stakes moment – trusting my instincts, using the available math, the reads I had gathered, and focusing it all into making the right decision.  I began to trust my instincts more and more, working on sharpening my skills and trying to become a LAG force at the tables.

I was dominating the cash games everywhere I played, and getting lucky when I got my money in behind. My favorite example from the period :

$10-$20 game on Party. BB is extremely lag and aggressive.

Button ($2417)
Hero ($2796)
BB ($4480.55)

I limp the SB with Q Q behind the button’s fold. I expect the villain to raise, as he always does. He does raise to $66 here and I just call. [lol.  lol.]

Flop: ($132) 6, 9, 3 (2 players)

I check. The BB bets $126, and I think a second before I raise to $326. He quickly reraises to $800. I think for a long time and determine his range here is a lot greater than a set – very likely air, A9, JJ, etc. I’m beating a ton here vs this guy, I think. I push all in for $2404, and he instantly calls the $1930.  [this is unmodified.  lol.]

Turn: ($5592) 8 (2 players)

River: ($5592) Q (2 players)

Final Pot: $5592

I did actually give an uncharacteristic little fistpump when the Q hit, as I wasn’t too sure I was ahead after his instacall. He flips KK and I take down a pretty huge pot. I can defend plays like this as +EV (villain here is ridiculously over-aggro and tilting at the time), but I got lucky in spots like this consistently in January and December.

In January, I keep on playing nonstop, making the most of my first real high stakes heater.   School was out since late December and thus my focus was totally on poker. I take some of the money I’ve earned and upgrade my gamble factory, adding new monitors and a big TV for the wall [I cannot find this picture :( ].

My family planned a cruise to the Caribbean for mid-January.  I was excited about maybe getting a chance to play live poker in the casino on the ship, but it ends up not having poker tables.  I didn’t let that stop me – all I wanted to do was play.  I end up spending a large percentage of my time on the cruise ship on my laptop paying $.35/minute for me to play poker on the internet.  Cool.  Somewhere in the waters off Mexico, on January 20th, 2006, I break $100,000 in earnings, thanks to this hand pushing me from $99,000 to $100,000.

By the end of January, I’ve earned over $120,000 from my initial $5. My bankroll is just slightly under $100,000 at this point as I haven’t spent much of it on anything but school, insurance, and the plasma + surround setup. I was just 20 days shy of making my goal.  I felt incredible, invincible, and so excited about what the future could bring.

All told, I won over $80,000 in that 45 day period from 12/17 to 1/31. I put in nearly 550 table hours during that time. And yes, I know, I was on a pretty awesome heater.  Party, Interpoker, Bodog and Fortune were the major contributors of money earned during this period.  I even won money at Pokerstars, a sure sign of the rapture.   While on the cruise in January, I wrote what would become the very first Spicebox file, my Heads-up Report vs Bubbles at [long gone :( ] and launch the original Spicebox with Addict, my own free-for-SomethingAwful poker training site.

Once I hit $100k, feeling like I could do anything [heaters are pretty good for that] my next goal was to hit $250k by the end of this year. Fairly easy considering the proportional difficulty of the $10k and $100k goals, right???

Some graphs from the period of 12/17/05 – 1/31/06:

Life Earnings til January 31
ETD thru 13106

Period Earnings

TE 121705-013106

Part XI :  Coolers and Heaters

In February, I finally slowed down the amount of play I had been putting in.  I diversified my interests a little, focusing on school and spending time with my friends more than I had in prior months.   I also started training in martial arts more seriously than I had been, even occasionally working out at the gym.  I pretty much broke even for February – it was a dull, boring, unmemorable month pokerwise.

Except for one night.

I start playing a guy at $10-$20 NL on fortune. We joust back and forth for a bit before he says “come to ₤10-₤20.” The guy seemed like a donkey, so away I went, playing higher than I ever had before.

The guy had a very interesting strategy for a heads up game. He raised every hand, preflop, without exception [I don't know if I meant this to be notable or not, but funny to read anyway]. He’d also call any reraise under a quarter of his stack.

The game was playing VERY big.  I quickly got stuck $6,000.  I gritted my teeth, determined to beat this guy, when the following hand came up.

I worked my stack back up to ₤3000. He has me covered.

I pick up J J. He raises, like he always does, to ₤60. I make it ₤200, and he calls.

Flop is 7 6 4. He checks, I bet ₤300, and he calls. His range here is huge. A-5, 7-K, a flush draw, a four, anything.

Turn is a T. He checks, I perhaps stupidly bet ₤600 here, and he pushes. I compound this stupidity by putting in the remaining ~₤2000.

The river is a 5 and he tables 7-7.  I had just lost a pot worth $10,700. The first $10k pot I had ever lost.  I remember thinking about how much money that was.  As far as the hand itself goes, I don’t know what I was doing in that hand.   I just wanted to beat this guy so bad I talked myself into ignoring logic and decided to go with the hand even though I was likely beaten.

Fortune had an insanely dumb $10k loss-nanny, so after that hand I was forcibly done with Fortune for the night. Being stuck a smooth $10k and not realizing that I was probably tilted and maybe trying to get unstuck was a bad idea, I headed over to party and fired up two NL2000 tables.

In typical JCarver fashion, I ran AWESOME. I had two stacks of $4000 very quickly. I repeatedly flopped top set vs overpairs and ended up busting people left and right.  In about an hour of play, I had $12,000 at two tables. I had rebought once or twice on each, but still, it was amazing. This hand showcases my night best :

I have $10,000 and the villain has $2,500.

Villain minraises to $40, and I call with A 4.

The flop is 2 3 5.  He bets $40 and I “debate” before making it $140. He calls.

The turn is a 5. He checks, I bet $250, and he calls.

The river is a 9. The action speaks for itself:

BET Lovedayr, $800
ALL-IN JCarver1 [ $9562.50 ]

Lovedayr: dude go fuc k yourself
FOLD Lovedayr
JCarver1 does not show cards.
JCarver1 wins $11221.50
Lovedayr has left the table.

All told that night I won $16,000 on party, making me actually up $6,000 or so for the 6 hour session.  Not a bad way to recover.

The next morning, I wake up to see an email from James, manager of Fortune poker:


Hi Jason,

Hope that you are well. I know that you suffered at the tables on the weekend
and I really feel bad cause you are my player so I have a special connection
with you versus others in the network.
You are a very solid player and it can sometimes happen even to the best.
But do not let that shake your confidence in case it might have which is a
natural reaction.
Play as you were playing, if there is some lesson that you picked up, remember
it but I think your game play is solid.

Let me know if you need anything.

“PLZ DONT KILL YOURSELF SONNY, SCOTSMAN FEEDS HIS CHILDREN WITH YOUR RAKE!” It was our first correspondance (only a welcoming letter was before this), so its not like I had any contact from him consistently.  Ahhh, James.  What an amazingly nice guy back in the day :)

The only other exciting poker thing that happened in February was that I won a Bodog tournament for a few thousand dollars. Nothing too dramatic. I lost a few thousand overall for the month, reasonable considering I didn’t play that many hours.

March was a rough month, but not in poker.  The short story is my girlfriend and I broke up and then she immediately hooked up with my best friend. Awesome, right?  Poker was pretty much the last thing on my mind for a few weeks while I immersed myself in drama.

To make myself feel better [read: engaging the spite machine], I decided to go buy a new car. Previously, I was driving my sweet sweet 2000 Sable LUXURY SEDAN, and decided the time had come to upgrade. I planned on only spending a total of $20,000 on the car but ended up blowing about double that on a [fairly obnoxious] 2005 350z convertible. Yes, it’s a manual, and yes, I learned how to drive stick on this car.


I lost $1000 or so in March over even less hours than what I put in in February. However, the most awesome achievement of my life occured when I met Unamuno in Turning Stone. I still haven’t bathed since.

Feb and March ‘06

ETD 020106-040106

Barely playing poker is cool and all, just so long you’re not hemorrhaging money when you do put in the few hours you play.

That was not the case in April.

In the first fifteen days of April, I lost $22,000, playing NL2k and 1k sporadically. I barely put any time in at the tables, but when I did, hoo boy, the money spewed out. Including the prior two months, I lost $30,000 or so at poker, $20,000 for the down payment for the car, and some tens of thousands on taxes. That’s a pretty nasty downswing for what was a ~$95,000 bankroll at its peak.

My confidence crashed. Between my two broken relationships, losing every time I touched a poker table, and the sheer amount of money that I had lost (I’m pretty much immune to “OH GOD -$XX,XXX!” but for some reason everything piled together amplified it so that it may as well have been a million that I lost), I was mentally very beaten down. My mother was thrilled. “THIS IS WHY YOU CANT DEPEND ON POKER, DONT YOU SEE! YOU NEED A SOLID JOB AND TO GO TO COLLEGE (which I do, if you haven’t read every update [ha gotem])”

This whole downswing thing hurt because not only was I not thinking rationally from the other drama, but because I had started thinking that I could really depend on poker for an income for the rest of my life. Those dreams were [temporarily] shattered in March-April.   I really didn’t know what I was going to do.

The other lesson I learned in this time is to not play poker when you’re already emotionally unstable. I was playing my B or C game, probably, AND when I lost, I wasn’t ready to deal with the natural swings of the game.  Bad mix.

I had no plans to play poker on my birthday. I had had enough of poker and made other plans far from a computer.  That morning, I woke up to the pleasant sound of my phone ringing.  It was a friend from karate wishing me a happy birthday. “Hah,” my drama-soaked depressed mind thought afterwards, “at least one person likes you. Lucky you.” My best friend was the next person to call me, and as the day went on, I heard from a surprising amount of people. It sounds silly to point to this as a reason for getting back on the horse, but all the birthday wishes were something of a shock to my system which ended up helping me feel like I was ready to start climbing up out of the hole that I had dug. That stubbornness to accept losses won out again and, like so many times before it, I was mentally pushing myself to play again – and hopefully, this time, win.

April 1-15
TE 040106-041506

Part XII : The Future

At my low point, I had no more than $20,000 or so online, and had even moved down to NL600. Once school started winding down, though, I started really focusing on poker again. After my birthday, things just started to click. When I was playing good and running good, money started pouring from the sky.

I started destroying the 5-10 NL game, mostly on Fortune. I won tens of thousands of dollars from that game alone in May and June. As my bankroll steadily climbed from the $20k low point to $30k, $40k, $60k, I resumed taking shots at NL2000. My experiences in the downswing made me stronger, and I started killing the higher games. Fortune Poker becomes my, well, bitch/ATM, and I earn what is scientifically referred to as a “fuckton” of money between the end of April and July.

I start taking shots at NL5000 by early July. Within a week or so, I’m playing the game pretty regularly and doing well.

The villain from the $10k JJ/777 hand sits down in my $5K game one night. He’s actually a good player, and not the donkey I believed back in February. He’s definitely a maniac, though.

I pick up 8 8. The game is four handed and is very aggressive. The villain makes it $200 and I call.

The flop is 6 8 Q. The villain c-bets for $350. I fake debate for a moment before making it $850 straight.  Villain waits just a moment before pushing all-in for $3,500 more or so. I instacall.

The turn is a 2 and the river is a 2. He tables Q-J and I take down a pot worth $10,070.  Ah, sweet vengeance.  That was my first $10,000 hand that I won (I actually had lost another 10k pot at nl2k right around the first one, so I was 0-2 for $10k pots til this hand).

Over a 10-week period (4/15-7/01), I won almost $100,000. I didn’t have any big tournament wins, didn’t hit a lucky jackpot – I earned every dollar, ‘grinding’ it out at short handed NLHE cash games.

It’s amazing how far I’ve come since the days of playing $.05-$.10 on pacific.  At this point, [June-July of 06] I’ve been lucky enough to turn that $5 into $200,000+ in earnings.   I shrug off five figure downswings like they’re nothing now.  What’d I earn today? $26,000. What’d I earn two weeks ago? I lost $35,000.  Shrug. That’s poker.   I love the game, though, just like I always have. Every day is something different and poker has opened doors to me that no job ever could offer a 19 year old. I plan on traveling for the European Poker Tour this fall, buying my own house, and who knows what else beyond that.

I plan on keeping my future trials and successes recorded on my blog at http://jcarver.thespicebox.net [I think I moved here about a year or two after that now-gone blog].  Writing this thread was a ridiculously awesome trip down memory lane for me. It would have been impossible (and far less believable) without pokercharts and pokerhand.org.  While I’m thanking people/groups, without PITR, I wouldn’t be where I am, either. You guys supported me when I was losing and pushed me to be better and work harder when I was winning.  I like to think the Spicebox is my small way of giving back to such a great community.

I hope you guys enjoyed my story and took something from it, even if it’s only that I could be a writer for :twentyfour: . Will I make $250,000 this year? Will my online success translate into live cashes? Will I buy a golden rocket ship that says “THE ADJUTOR EXPRESS” [havent heard that name in forever!] on the side that only runs 30 seconds at a time before petering out?   You’ll have to stay tuned to the blog to find out.

[it was pretty fun to reread this.  Eventually, after a lot of swings, I did end up making my goal for life-to-date earnings by the end of 2006.  It's crazy to think this was written almost 5 years ago, and crazier to think the subject is the 2 years before that. I tried not to change a lot but man I shook my head at so much that my 19-year old writing voice thought was acceptable and just couldn't leave some things if it was going to be enshrined forever in this blog.  Sorry again it took so long to get done, thanks for reading!]

jcarver : origins, continued II

January 5, 2011 | 12:12 am | JCarver

parts 1-3 can be found here
parts 4 and 5 can be found here

Well I’m not really shocked that I didn’t stick to my once a day promise.  Sorry about that!  There should be about 2 more updates to post, give or take, which’ll come over the next week or so.  This update is the first one where I didn’t have graphs anymore and had to re-add them, which is going to hold true for all future posts so it’ll be a little slower going.  The feedback I’ve gotten has all been real positive so I’ll try to get them out asap.

Part VI : The Big Climb

After my switch to No-Limit cash games I pretty much stopped playing anything else.  I played primarily $1-$2 NL on Pacific during this time, with shots as high as $3-$6 on Party between April 15th and June 1st. I did a good amount of winning, taking down nearly $8400 in cash games for that 45 day period.

NL ring 041605-060105

No Limit Ring games – 4/16/05 – 6/1/05

During this time, I had a forgettable short love affair with Pot Limit Holdem.  In addition to winning $8400 at NL cash games, I won an additional $4300 at PL cash games, making my total for big-bet games over that 45 day period slightly over $12,000. My best session for the period happened in a $2-$4 PL game on Party where I played for 2 hours and 30 minutes and won a little over $2400 in profit.

total earn 041605-060105
Total Earnings – 4/16 – 6/1/05

ETD thru 060105
Total Earnings til 6/1/05

Part VII : The House Always Wins…

By the start of June 2005, I had earned over $20,000 and played over 2,000 hours of poker. I had started primarily playing $3/$6 NL on Party (the highest Pacific had was $1-$2) and was looking to expand my game further.  I started playing on Bodog, Eurobet (a Party skin, but I had rakeback there), SunPoker (crypto skin), and started to take stabs at $5/$10.

The biggest change for you readers during this time period is that I started in June recording some of my big hands – both wins and losses – at http://www.pokerhand.org. Very few of these have any actual true strategic content, but I’ll include a few from now on in these posts.

I am scooping the whole summer of ‘05 into one big segment because, quite frankly, it was three months of break-even frustration. I played $10-$20 NL once [this has to be the biggest game online at the time], because Moquel wanted to watch me (and I wanted to be a big shot!), and won $3000 when my AK sucked out on A9 on a 9-6-2-K-4. I left right after that hand and didn’t go back for the remainder of 2005.

The pattern in the summer for me was : run good, then run twice as bad – recover back to even, then suffer the same loss as before, putting me back in the hole. This happened time and time again over the summer. My MTT game started to suffer as I attempted to gain a big stack early rather than “bust out to bad beats later on” through gambling in what were, retrospectively, badly -EV spots. I got frustrated. My parents and other adults constantly pounded me with helpful advice such as “QUIT WHILE YOU’RE AHEAD!” and “YOU GOT LUCKY, BUT YOU KNOW, KID, THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS!”

CGP 060105-090105
Cash game winnings, Summer 05 (6/1-9/1)

total earn 060105-090105
Summer “Earnings”

Over the summer I also expanded my play away from Pacific more and more. I played pretty much every major site on the internet, in fact, so many that the pie graph can’t accurately display all the colors. The most played location is at the bottom of the list on the key to the right, and then listed in ascending order from there by most played:

timeplayed summer05

The best part of my summer was my two trips to Turning Stone. The first time I went and played a few MTTs and $2-$5 NL. I won a few hundred at cash games and didn’t cash in any tournaments.  I loved playing live, though.  I went on that trip with Chuck and it was a pretty awesome time overall.  I went back for the Empire State Championships in August.  After that summer, I would try to take every opportunity to play live that I could.

Little did I know that as well as an inspiration to play live I’d pick up another gem from my time at Turning Stone. I went downstairs one night to the poker room, late – maybe 2am. It was surprisingly packed, and there were a lot of games going. I went over to the game I wanted to play (the $5-$5) and started watching the action. Nothing exciting was happening, so I decided to go play a satellite to something. I busted quick, but I met this guy up there who was pretty bad. Young kid, maybe 23.  He informs me that he is staying in the same room as his “superstar friend” named Peter, but who is legally changing his name to Ace (truly a perfect tribute to one’s cardplaying skills).  I hold back an incredulous laugh, not helped by my realization that I only knew one famous Ace before then:


Before I bust, this other guy comes upstairs (Ace and my tablemate’s mutual friend) to tell my tablemate here that Ace got challenged to a $1000 heads up match [WHOA]. After I bust out, I go downstairs with the mutual friend to investigate, and Ace is at the $5-$5 game I was watching before.  Ace was a young, slick kid, cocksure, slightly arrogant, and definitely very stubborn.

Across the table from Ace sat a huge man.  The two players are impossible to miss as their dramatic blowup is currently the focus of the entire room.  The two are engaged in a yelling contest that I’ll never forget.   Let’s call the huge antagonist something clever, like Fatty McGee. I’m standing in the line of fire behind Ace during this whole exchange. Fatty never lets Ace finish a point without interrupting [sounds like he'd fit in with my family].  I’m summarizing the whole thing, as there was a lot of plain boring swearing at eachother. Yes, hands were being played during this whole rated-R dramabomb at the table.

Fatty McGee: Fucking kids these days, fucking think they know everything.

Ace: I don’t think I know everything…

Fatty McGee: …just more than me, right, moron? Fucking loser kid thinks he can bully the whole god damn table!

Ace: I didn’t say that.

Fatty McGee: I hate fucking punk kids like you.

Ace: What, just because I won your money and you can’t win a pot?

Fatty McGee: Fucking kid! I’ve won pots so fucking big! SO FUCKING BIG! (wildly gestures) You want to play me for $1k?!

Ace: Sure!

Fatty McGee, growling, somewhat rising from his seat: YOU FUCKING KID! YOU THINK YOU GOT BALLS? YOU WANT TO PLAY ME FOR TEN FUCKING GRAND YOU LITTLE SHIT? ILL FUCKING CRUSH YOUR FUCKING BALLS (he now dramatically slowly gestures like he’s crushing grapes with his hand, I swear to god) LIKE THEY WERE NOTHING! [it wasn't Mike Matusow]

Ace: But…but…I don’t have 10k to play you.

Fatty McGee over there starts to grin in triumph. I am honestly fucking LOVING this. The drama, the drama! Just when I think it can’t get any better, deus ex machina, some random kid who has been silent this whole time, says firmly, but quietly to our villain (loud enough for all to hear):

“I’ll give him $10,000 to play you.”

Fatty McGee shuts up and never says a word to Ace the rest of the session.  A little while later, we started talking to Ace and the $10k kid [I have a feeling this guy is a current well-known name in online poker].  Both were very nice guys – even Ace did seem (surprisingly) knowledgeable, much more so than his idiot buddy who I met in the satellite room.  We talked for 15 minutes or so, discussing lots of poker-related things. He eventually told me about this secret place he had been crushing – “Bodog” .  He said that the games there were enormously juicy, especially the shorthanded ones, and he had won a TON of money there.  I hadn’t played on Bodog before talking to Ace and made a note to check this place out.

While I was in TS, I decided to play in a $20 rebuy multitable satellite to the $2,000 main event. I had never played in a tournament with that big of a buyin and had no intentions of buying in if I didn’t successfully satellite. Somehow, my magic luckbox powers held up, and I was one of the 5 seat winners to the main event [this turns out to be the only live satellite I've ever won, and one of max 3 I've ever played].

The main event of the tournament itself was pretty awesome. I love playing live tournaments – it provides a thrill that for some reason most cash games don’t give me [apparently later on I felt the way the rectify this was to play cash games I wasn't remotely rolled for]. In the smaller events, I had felt comfortable, talking up a storm and owning each successive table until some unfortunate circumstance came about putting an abortive bullet into my dreams of glory. I went into the $2,000 event determined not to let my game plan differ from prior events.

Unfortunately, my plan didn’t work. At all.

I sit down, one of the first in the room at the bright and early 9am start time [Turning Stone start times are the worst]. First guy to sit with me at my table is Pete “thebeat” Giordano, a talkative mid-50s guy who is friendly but very good, made a WPT final table and is a very well known internet player.


Pete “thebeat” Giordano, an online MTT legend

OK, whatever. I can handle one pro with me, I thought.  Next guy who sits is wearing an “Ultimate Poker Challenge” bracelet [lol on like 4 levels] which probably qualifies him as being decent (even though I don’t usually automatically equate MTT success to  “decent at poker” [probably the wisest thing I've ever thought]).  A few unknowns sit (who I find out later are regulars in the NL2K game on stars) and then an older guy sits who has decent results. His name is Al Krux [!].  He’s sitting two to my left. Great, I remember thinking. At least I’ll have a good story to tell when it’s all over. [this is an amazing paragraph]

There’s one idiot fucker sitting directly across the table from me, obviously a qualifier or rich fish. The guy to my right isn’t too wonderful either. I play conservatively for a few hours, watching Pete Giordano bust Al Krux on a Q-4-Q board with AQ vs Krux’ JJ (Krux was surprisingly passive, limping UTG and such quite frequently). Pete built up a nice stack and was very intimidating (he yelled “PAIR THE BOARD!” every time a flop, turn, or river was dealt that he was in) and bullied the table quite effectively. I lost a nice pot vs him at some point with 6-4 on what must have been a 7-5-9-J-8, or something, because I remember rivering the “not best” straight versus his “best” straight.

I get my chips in versus the one idiot across the table preflop [somehow] with my AK vs his J7 and he sucks out to a 7 on the river to bust me just a few hours in.   I, in classic JCarver style, immediately begin the long drive home, but felt pretty thrilled overall with how awesome the trip was and was really motivated to play some more poker.

All in all, I won my seat to the $2000 main event, got to play with superstars Al Krux, Pete Giordano, and some other mildly famous people, made a lot of new friends, and for the first time, felt like a member of a tangible poker community.  I was way outclassed in the tournament [I doubt it], but even though I busted early, I was intrigued and hooked by live play.  I left TS in August totally psyched to play poker, inspired by the stories I had heard from my new friends about check-raising Doyle at the WSOP and bluffing guys for $20,000 pots on Ultimate Bet.

Perhaps Bodog would be the site where I would dig myself out of my downswing and back into profit land? Could this August trip to Turning Stone be the turnaround on my summertime journey towards the abyss of Frowntown?  WOULD I EVER WIN A POT OF POKER AGAIN?

jcarver : origins, continued

December 28, 2010 | 2:33 pm | JCarver

parts 1-3 can be found here

Part IV : Rising Action

Early January Pacific introduced no-limit and pot-limit cash games. I had never played NL/PL cash games before online [I still remember their "Ring in the New Year with our No-Limit cash games banner/promo]. I sat at a $.50-$1 NL table one night with very little understanding of the game (with 100 BB, as opposed to the shortstack home games / mtts).  Upon informing my friend Chuck of my plans, he remarked to me (in his usual hilariously sour tone) “Fantastic, now you can blow your money ten times as fast, clown.”

I blew at least three buyins over the next few days of NL heads up cash game play. I liked it, but I distinctly remember having no clue how much to bet in so many spots. I felt that there was money to be made but I just had no idea how to do it. I recommitted to playing Limit Holdem.

My bankroll kept growing. I planned on moving up to $10-$20 when my bankroll hit $4000, and got there a few times in January. I suffered my worst losing night (not in BB, in dollars) thus far by losing $600 at $10-$20 in two hours in mid January. For the most part, though, in January I did a pretty good job smashing Limit Hold’em, taking down $1130.20 over 160 hours of play.

Additionally in January, I had several big tournament cashes, the biggest being my first outright win in a $33.  The tournament had 188 runners, making first place good for my first four-figure score of $1692.  I also managed to get 2nd in a $5.50 with a seven-hundred strong field for $513.20.

January was reasonably quiet otherwise. I kept reading books, made my first withdrawal on Pacific (and promptly put a small amount of that money into Party), but was a month of relatively strong growth. Some graphs from the period :

Career Earnings Til 1-31-05

Career Earnings Til 1-31-05, by date

Amount of Time played by Location

January Earnings

Earlier I said that I had graduated high school early and that I felt this was key to me doing so well. 17 year old kids tend to have a lot of time on their hands and not a lot of bills to pay. Once I graduated high school, I found that college had a lot less “busy work” and I had a lot more available time to work on my game. Like most kids that age, I had really no bills (car insurance, that was about it) and so was able to dedicate 99% of my bankroll back into poker.

By the end of January, I had earned $5448.51 over my career which had amounted to 858 table hours. My lifetime hourly rate is very low as I tracked most of the freerolls I played along with all the microlimit games.  I was only a few thousand dollars away from reaching my goals in April with months to spare.

Everything didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had hoped it would in January, but compared to February, January would feel like paradise.

Part V : Falling Action

Let me preface February with my graph from $5-$10 limit.

Wow! Must have been a great month, right!


February was my first recorded month where I actually LOST money. Over the month I lost a total of $-155.76. I lost money in my very few hours of NL cash games, my tournaments, my sit and gos, and most stakes of limit poker. In fact, only $5-$10 brought me any positive income for the month. I spent all month fighting to get something going, and by the middle of the month, I felt like I had recovered nicely.

February Earnings til 2-21-05

Every one of those huge downspikes, for the most part, is from $10-$20 Limit Holdem. I was getting pretty frustrated, and in fact, February was the first month I really started to dislike limit for more than just a moment. It seemed so frustrating, so restrictive. I read Middle-Limit Hold’em by Bob Ciaffone (I think) but it did me little good. Everything seemed to make sense in theory but just totally fell apart in practice at the tables.

Once I had recovered, and things had started going well again, I was happy. I [thought I] knew by then the huge variance in poker but limit just…frustrated me, greatly, at times – as I’m sure it does to everyone. For some reason, even now, I prefer losing thousands and thousands of dollars to one-hand coolers than hours and hours of prolonged lesser bad beats [now I don't have any feelings at all so not a problem].

But anyway, my recovery in February was short lived. On the afternoon of the 21st, I once again started a new $10-$20 session. Things immediately started going badly. Before I knew it, I had lost $2,000 and was very unhappy. I spent over ten hours in that game (far, far longer than I should have, but I felt I was playing well at the time – even though I now doubt I was) before leaving down $1562.50.  Another nail in the limit poker escape canoe that I would eventually ride off on [what a sentence this is].

I don’t really have a lot more to say about February. I wasn’t as disillusioned as I was when I had lost in December. I knew this was going to happen sometimes and that it didn’t mean I was a horrible player. By now, though, I had started to dislike limit poker itself and would be looking to start expanding my cash game beyond just Limit Holdem in the coming weeks.

Some graphs from February :

February Earnings

February Limit Holdem Earnings

February MTT “Earnings”

February $ Win by Location

Total Career Earnings Til February vs Total Hours Played

I was no closer to my April goal by the end of February than I was at the end of January. I was hoping for a solid March and had already started planning on how I was going to go from $5k and change to $10k in a month and a half.  The answer fell into my lap.  Pacific Poker was advertising a $1,000,000 guaranteed tournament for the middle of March.  I told everyone in my very limited poker world, “that’s going to be the game that gets me to $10,000.”  I don’t think anyone believed me [not that I blame them].  Little did even I know that I was going to prove them all wrong come March 26th.

Part V – The Start of Something

February was fairly rough but I still felt like I was on track to meet my goal to reach $10,000 by April 15th.

The beginning of March was pretty good to me. I was winning at limit again, mostly playing $10-$20. I of course in my [still] unending quest to play games I am not ready for blew over $1300 taking shots at $15-$30. However, I also started putting a good amount of time into No-Limit cash games, winning over $1500 at $1-$2 NL. I barely played any tournaments and cashed in none of the few I played.

March 26th was the 1M guarantee on Pacific. I was pretty psyched.  It was the biggest game I had ever played [I believe it was a $400]. I was hoping things ran well, as I had a problem in a 75k guarantee on Pacific that I didn’t share with you guys in February that made me question the software’s strength.

The 75k [a major guarantee at the time] was totally ruined by a bug in Pacific’s software that was exploited by certain players. In short, out of the three tables that were left, some players were able to effectively max timebank, then skip their own action, making hands take forever.   With several people exploiting this, two tables were playing about 2 hands per hour and mine was quickly 5 handed (can’t balance tables until the hands finish at the other tables) with our table’s massive chip leader playing normally. Pacific’s support did nothing about it during or after even with the huge uproar that I know several of us gave them. I was in the top five going into 3 tables and busted 22nd as I couldn’t outlast two near-frozen tables while playing a normal shorthanded game. If you guys want to hear more details I still have all the emails saved that I sent them and the responses I got back [I don't know if this is true], but it’s definitely one of the big reasons I eventually left Pacific.

Still, though, I was assured the bug was fixed (even though it obviously wasn’t, as I saw in later tournaments) and would not be an issue in the 1M. I won my seat on March 24th and was ready to play on the 26th.

I was planning on going away the weekend of the tournament even before I heard of the 1M.  I rebuilt my weekend around the tournament that Sunday.  I relaxed the day before in Florida, reading tournament books and other things (like losing thousands at $15-$30 [not literally...I don't think]) preparing for the big day.

Chuck called me while I was in Florida. He told me that he wanted to play the 1M too, and I told him no way – I had got my seat already. We settled on him sort of “coaching” me through the game as I needed it, even though I was in Florida. He’d end up being on the phone with me for the entire duration of the game [nobody knew what ghosting was 6 years ago].

The game ran with 1600 people.  There was almost $400,000 in overlay, and a lot of people weren’t there that actually did enter. I steadily built a stack hour after hour, even though I was card dead. I never got anything better than two pair throughout the entire course of the game and rarely got any big hands [amazing that I still remember going through the hand history and realizing this]. The ones I did get I made count, though.

After many hours, we were down to 14 people.  I was in 5th place. I pick up 8 5 in the big blind. UTG limps as does one other person. I check. Flop is 8 5 2. I check, UTG bets, and it gets back to me. I shove. He instantly calls with AA.

Turn is a jack.

River is a duece.

I was devastated. Obviously, this is just a bad beat, but first place paid nearly $210,000, while 14th paid only $7,500 (which I shared with Chuck in our bankroll). It hurt pretty bad for several weeks, but in the end, I was happy with my play.

The rest of the month went relatively smoothly. By the end of the month, I won $6,789 (counting half the 1M score as profit) and $2232 from NL cash games in March alone. I broke my $10,000 goal slightly after the big tournament (even counting it for half). Here’s a random screenshot where I doubled up in a coinflip that a goon took during the 1M :

I was thrilled.  I reached my goal and had started learning the ways of no-limit cash games. I felt like I was so…free, compared to limit poker.   I started getting a better ability to feel the pulse of the games, a better grip on players, and started realizing that my chip stack in no-limit could be used as a weapon. Things started to click in my no-limit game while my frustrations just compounded further and further in limit. I considered my goal having been met (as I wasn’t sure if the goal I set was to hit $10k by 4/15 or 4/1), but I had won enough in mid-March to put me well over that $10k level (and I’ve never been below it since then).

The first 15 days of April were extremely rough on me. I won $2000, then lost $4000, all by April 14th. Stuck $2,000 thus far for the month, but still with a healthy $10k+ bankroll, my birthday came at midnight of the 15th. I had made my $10k dream into a reality.

Early that morning I decided to play $30-$60. I hadn’t been winning at $ 30-$60 when I took stabs earlier but that didn’t stop me that morning. I played 5 hours, til 6 am, and lost $2043.40 in a hugely upsetting fest of suckouts and bad play. It was that very day, on my birthday, that I finally boiled over. I swore off limit holdem for good. I had had enough with the beats, the suckouts, the lack of control, and the losing (for some reason I believed NL to be less filled with those things [lol.  I do pretty much never come back to limit poker until very recently]). I would stick to $1-$2 NL (the highest Pacific had, at the time). Turning 18 would also mean access to Neteller [an e-wallet to help move money around...sad I have to explain that] and the rest of the internet poker scene.

That’s what I remember my 18th birthday for, for some reason. The $30-$60 $2k hit that I took. I have no clue what else I did that day.  What can I say?  It’s not in PokerCharts.  Seriously, though, without PC to remind me this story wouldn’t be nearly as detailed.  That night helped show me how bad things could get, at times, but I would soon see just how good it could get. I pledged on my birthday to earn $75,000 before the year was out, which was ridiculously ambitious on my part (like $2500 and $10k goals weren’t ambitious at all!).

And so on one day the limit player within me was dead. I’ve never returned to limit HE other than in short bursts for “fun”. On the same day the new me was born – the NLHE cash specialist with more dreams than knowledge. But hell, that’s what I started this journey with, and it worked out ok so far, right?

Career Earnings til Mid-April (this doesn’t include my -2k at the end, that’s the next half)

Earnings 3/1/05-4/14/05

Part V – Birthdays, Resurrections, and Rebirths