After final-tabling both the WSOP $40k NLHE and the WPT Bellagio Alec ‘traheho’ Torelli paints the town red, partying with Snoop Dogg, durrrr and some strippers
I earned good money this summer by playing well and having the stars align. Between the World Series of Poker and the WPT Bellagio event, I grossed more than $600,000. Then I played a session of Chinese Poker and won $65,000. It’s totally degenerate, but when you gamble for a living, that’s the sort of thing you want to do. It’s also the sort of thing you need to do.
Everybody’s got an ego, nobody wants to look like a nit, and nobody wants to play with a nit. It gets a little crazy sometimes, but I love it. There was one recent game where we were playing $400/$800 with a $500 ante. The craziness set in when guys started putting up $800, $1,600 and $3,200 straddles. Nobody wanted to be the one who didn’t straddle. It turned into a really sick badass contest. Even if you had $100,000 in front of you, you could be pretty sure that it would all go into the pot.
I didn’t instigate any of this, but you can be damned sure that I had no aversion to it either. I was there, in the moment, and not thinking about maximising profits. I was thinking about going for it and having a good time. Then, all of a sudden, I’d get in a hand and say to myself, ‘Oh, shit. We’re gambling for a ton of money. Time to get lucky.’
One of the nice things about playing high stakes poker is that you run into some really interesting people. Unfortunately, a lot of them live straight lives in the real world and would rather not be named in this column. So therefore, let’s refer to my real estate mogul friend as ‘Steve’.
Steve is insanely well connected around Las Vegas and he knows the guys who promoted Candy Land, a totally debauched party at the Palms. Imagine 1,000 girls dressed in sweets, and you’ll get a mental picture of what it was like. Steve, myself, and two others, paid $15,000 for a table loaded down with champagne, tequila and vodka. We got seated right next to Snoop Dogg and his posse.
Candy Land was naturally cool, but our after-party at Tom Dwan’s penthouse condo was truly baller. There were a bunch of girls from the strip club Sapphire, dressed in lingerie and just having the best time. We drank a magnum of Veuve Clicquot and hung out in the Jacuzzi on the balcony. It was all bras and underwear in that bubbling water. When the sun came up, everyone headed inside, we ordered food and shut the curtains. I woke up at noon. The party was over and the condo was messy – but nothing that the maid wouldn’t be able to handle.
Lately I’ve been playing some deep-stacked live games, where players are sitting with more than 200 big blinds. The game plays bigger because of the stack sizes, but I like to go the other way. Out of position, I call with hands that would normally warrant a raise. Even after the flop, when I am out of position, I keep the pot small. That way, if I flop a big hand, there’s a good chance that my opponents will not put me on it. Then, if I want to make a move at a later time with a deceptive hand, I can do it and get respect.
Here’s an example of some preflop action that came up recently at the Wynn. A pretty tight player raised under the gun. I didn’t think he was getting out of line. Sometimes he raises with 7-8 suited, but usually it’ll be A-J and up, or a decent pair. I had pocket Queens in the small blind. If I reraised out of position I would be signalling a big pair. Then, if the flop came, say, T-9 high, my opponent could have made a really big bet – believing that I had Aces or Kings – which would have made it very hard for me to call.
Instead I put him in a position where it would make perfect sense for him to value-bet with a smaller pair after the flop. He’d be putting me on a small pair or Ace-high. In the deep-stack games, this has worked well for me and prevented opponents from bullying me around. If you give them half a chance, you know they’re going to do it. But if you take away the opportunity, you can limit the weapons at their disposal.
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