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I'm on my first-ever extended poker vacation, including my first-ever entry into a WSOP tournament (I'll be playing event 3 and possibly 4). I'm happy, rested, and having fun - and I think it's already showing up in my play.

Last night, I entered Day 1B of the first event in the Bicycle Casino's Deepstack series, and made it to 240th place or so out of 727 entrants. No money, but I played really really well and was quite happy. I'm reading other players' hands really well, and thinking one level strategically higher than them, I think.

One example: a somewhat-more-active-than-usual player three to my left, who had a habit of raising his AK and AQ types hands to 8 or 9 big blinds, raised preflop to only 3 big blinds. He had even mentioned in the past that he raised huge when he "didn't want to see a flop". I had already limped under the gun, so his raise to 3 big blinds basically meant "please, please call me". I had pocket sixes, and when the button called his raise, I judiciously got out. It was going to be very expensive no matter what. The flop came 2 4 J, he checked, the button bet a pot-sized bet, and he checkraised all-in. The button player called, and the active player showed AA (the button showed AJ and failed to improve and busted out). I thought to myself that I had read his hand perfectly: he was begging for action, which to me meant only AA or KK, and I got out of the way with little pain (if I had had a much bigger stack I might have called to try to flop a set, but I only had 15 BB at that point).

Example 2: An extremely lucky but decent player had been doing something similar to the active player: he was just limp-calling with hands like AK, but shoving his 40BB stack all in with QQ. Once, he showed the QQ voluntarily and announced "I don't want to see an Ace or King on the flop!". So, about ten hands later, when he suddenly shoved all-in in middle position, I looked at him and realized he was doing it again: he had QQ or JJ and didn't want to see a flop. I had no cards to play against such a hand with, so I folded (no cost to me to do so), but when another player called, the first player did indeed show QQ. And won.

Still, it was hard to play without cards. I only made two real mistakes: first, I entered 90 minutes late, so I missed a lot of early maneuvering and play with which I could have increased my stack. And second, I didn't get into the "feel" of my first table in time to pay a hand which I should have done. It was a limpy sort of table where 6 people often saw a flop, and I had sort of seen that, but didn't feel confident in that table read, so I folded 6-8 suited under the gun. Five more people limped, the flop came great for me (5-7-J and two of my suit), and I would have been able to parlay that into a double or triple up since someone else made two pair when my straight came in. But I wasn't confident enough that it would be a 6-way multiway limped pot at the time, so I folded what was probably my one decent chance to multiply my stack.

One lesson I take away: it really helps to have luck in these huge field tourneys. One so-so player got super lucky after nearly losing his stack, and went from having two big blinds to having about 40 big blinds only fifteen minutes later, by tripling up, quadrupling up, then doubling up again. The quadruple up was particularly crazy: he shoved all in with K-Q and got called by A-Q and A-A, all preflop. The A-Q was the good player mentioned below. But the board ran out 5-5-J-K-K, giving him a full house and triple his bet plus the significant antes which matched his bet. And wham! He had a lot of chips.

There was also a very good player, who had been a bit card dead. While thinking about a hand, his opponent shoved all-in on a 9-5-2 flop. The good player thought for a while, thought for a while, and then up from behind him, his brother showed up and tapped him on the shoulder. "I'm in a hand," said the good player without turning around. "OK," said his brother, "but Dad and I are both out. You're the only one left in." You could see the good player's face change. He studied his cards a moment more, then said "OK, I call," and shoved all his chips in. the good player had J-9 for top pair, but the opponent had 10-10 for an overpair. The good player said "Oh, well, nice hand" and stood up. But as he reached for his coat, the turn card came a Jack, giving him two pair. The river was no help to the opponent, and just like that the good player had doubled up to a nice-sized stack. He then went on a rush, and doubled up again, and then won a number of pots in a row to become the monster chip leader at our tale. He was a good player, no mistake, but his "oh well" call, thinking he would join his family for a late dinner, instead led to his (probable) significant deep run and cash.

Well, anyway, I'm off to play my next Deepstack event, a bounty hold'em (I love bounty events online - I wonder how I'll like 'em live?). Tomrrow night is the Deepstack HORSE event (whee!), then it's off to Vegas for the WSOP. I feel great and am playing really well - I'm expecting a significant cash somewhere along this trip!