Monday, April 11, 2016

The unbearable pain of coming close

I'll just post the hands I played over the weekend that contributed to me coming close, but being unable to really cash...

Hero UtG with AA in level 100/200. Effective Stack is about $9k
Open for 525.
folds to the blinds, who both flat.
pot if $1575
Flop is 2d5s6s.
The blinds both check and I make a C-bet of $700
SB folds, BB check raises to $3k

I thought this was a easy fold this early. Villain later claims to have had air and did it because he put me in AK. I guess I find that hard to believe, but it doesnt change my mind on his check-raise range here this deep. I expect it to be a set pretty close to 100% of the time. I don't expect to see Axs,but perhaps he overplayed As3/4s. Still think set most likely this deep.

In retrospect, happy with the fold here...

Level 300/600?
Player opens ($1500?) and I call from blind with AJs. Mine is the effective stack of 22BB.
flop 4d2dJd
I check, he bets $1500, I call.
Turn is the 4s and he fires again for $1500.
I fold. I cant quite put my finger on why I played the hand like this. I was suspicious the whole way, but especially when he fired that turn.

(He had QQ)

Prior to hand 3, I check raised two hands at the table. Both were big pots, both times I had air but was rep'g QQ. Both times the villain folded.
After the first big bluff, the VERY NEXT HAND. I call an all-in from a short stack that had about the amount I just won left. TT vs. AJ race and I lost. So back to the drawing board.
Second big bluff, the flop was J55 and I check raised all-in. Villain claims he laid down a J so I told him I had QQ. But I really had a ton of air.

Then hand 3 comes up...


Late stages. 20 BB 1k/2k/100
open Raise QJ to 5500, BB calls.
Flop is 9TJ and he leads for 8k.
Do you raise or flat here and why?

I raised to $21k and he folded, but not really happy with the result. I think I should flat here and let him bet the turn?


very late stages. effective (me) is 14BB at 3k/6k/500 (about $85k in chips).
I open with QJs for to steal the blinds, blinds both call.
flop is 544. all check
turn is a Q.
SB fires out for $45k into a pot of $45k. (BB folds)

I am kicking myself all day here. He had somewhat advertised earlier (not sure he knows that) about his bet sizing tell. He get greedy (over bets) with his big hands.
When he bets pot here, I should smell the 4... (he had 34s). But because of the late stages and how I dont put the 4 in his range (or did I just glaze over), I go broke here.

So stupid? I think so. I missed a signal that I just could not afford to miss.

91 runners, paid 10 places, finished 20th.

Monday, January 11, 2016

repping a range

Got into an "argument" with a player on the "correct" way to play a hand over the weekend. I had exactly 10 BB in a 4 table MTT with 2 tables left. We are 6 handed. Fold to me in the cutoff and I have ATo. I decide to raise instead of shove. The Button reshoves and knowing what I believe his range is, I call. He shows A9s.

Now, after getting "free advice" which I actually did appreciate. I dont take it personally and I like to discuss hands. I said 10 BB was on the line for me, normally I would shove. But I felt that I wanted a less polarized range at 10BB. I am not shoving AA or KK here. (although I was again in disagreement with others on that) and I believe that ATo with 3 to act folds out most holdings. Yes, I pick up the antes and blinds taking me to 12.5BB, but there just are not as many opportunities live as there are online (where I agree that I would shove this 90+% of the time). So I opted to trade variance for upside.

Perhaps I am trying to justify my thinking, but I wonder what range I want to have to open with 10 BB or its shove only?

on another topic:

I am experimenting with playing my hand with an "alternate holding" to try and balance ranges. So if I have KQs, I pretend I also have like 66 and try to play the hand so that the line makes sense for both. I dont know if I am making things easier, harder, or stupid-er, but that's why its an experiment!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Ok, I'll admit it. I've been tied up with life. (And fallout) but I've always been a fan of the X's and O's of the NFL. I was reading a rather large and complex article breaking down a SINGLE PLAY and it dawns on me that poker is getting close to this. You cant "solve" and MTT (although there are claims of SnGs being solved), but you can put together a master playbook based on the NFL equivalent of "package plays". As a matter of fact, these decision trees are already what most pros use when explaining poker to students. But the student has to absorb it through playing hours. Video and other article studying help, but that is much slower than a playbook.

I think my new goal needs to be playbook oriented if I want to make that final leap forward.

Just like with "downs" and "to go" you have stack sizes that tell you what you need to accomplish with your next hand. Deep, 20 BB, or Shallow along with field size (not a universal consensus on this attribute) and position for the hand. I theory, I could construct ranges for these scenarios, then have route tree action denoted. For example only:

I have 20 BB and I am UtG+1 with a fold from UtG. I have KQs. This is a really tough spot. Many just throw it away, other say to play it (confident in their post play ability they will state). But you could have a "package play" for this scenario. I can min raise open, taking me to 18 BB. But if I am three bet to 4 BB and I call, I have 16 BB left and I am OOP. But let's say for the sake of the example I want KQs in my range here. Ok, what are my post flop options. Yes, there are close to an infinite flop combinations. BUT, not infinite TYPES of flops. There is an Ace board, hitting the K or Q coordinated or uncoordinated making top pair, 3 under cards, 0-3 diamonds, and paired combos like 55J. If you could construct actions for each of these, it seems easy to modify them for the majority of the remaining flops. If I have 16 BB left, I dont really want to go broke on a bluff, but if I open EP and get a 55J flop, should I be ready to go to the wall? (Yes, I know it depends on the opponent, but bear with me.) So my C-bet is 3BB (75%) and I get called. So the pot is 14 BB and I have 13 BB behind. I can check turn shove river, or I can shove turn, or I can check fold. In a package play, it would depend on the read of the defense, but in this case, you would be readying the turn card and the overall board/hand to date. Does a blank help me? What does the call mean? Really hard to know... You are repping some pocket pair if you bet a blank turn. You are repping getting lucky if the turn is a broadway card.

I think the more credible play is shoving the blank? And yes, if opponents stack size is 1000 BB, I get called. Sure. But MOST of the time, its going to be in a similar range size.

Monday, August 03, 2015

2015-2016 League starts

well, League A month 1 is in the books and I took 2nd out of 29 runners. I would love to say that this is a reflection of all the hard work I put in, but I am not going to fool myself.

A incomplete list of what I saw at the table:

5x preflop raises post ante
blatant OBV bets (betting 1.5-4x pot on the flop)
shoving 50 BB+ preflop or on the flop with TP.
CALLING a check-raise on the River with TOP PAIR (ok kicker).
Bluffing their first 5 pots (betting all 3 streets) in LEVEL 1.
Little concept of bet sizing, zero concept of Stack to Pot ratios.
and sloppy deep stack play.

All this was exacerbated by escalating emotions and even a bizarre "acting out of turn" angle shoot. Really one of the sloppiest MTTs I seen in recent years.

Ok, so I guess I get some credit for surviving a minefield. But there were just so many tells, that at times I was overwhelmed with input.

Instead of celebrating I was wondering how I finished like 15th last year??? Of course, about 5-6 others dropped out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Update

Just going on record to set down some thoughts and goals...

Did NOT go to the WSOP this year, mostly because I hadn't earned it. My play has been inconsistent, so I hired a pro to coach me. I am happy with the results, but I started too late to make an impact in the 2015 season. So now for 2016:

Goals: Making decisions based on ranges instead of just post flop flow. Playing closer to mistake free in terms of being exploitable. Getting more value when I am ahead.

These sound simple and generic, but I could write a long dissertation on each. and I may, just not today...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Constructing Ranges

For a while now, I've been looking for a concept or idea to help me determine actions when I dont have a read per say...

Ed Miller's 1% book is excellent at explaining this concept or constructing ranges to maximize opportunities.

The middle ranges of the MTT, what used to be called "chip accumulation levels" would get me in trouble sometimes and now I see why. I was trying to hard to make "correct reads". I see now there are much better (or at least more consistent) options for these levels. (Many pros do this without realizing it or without explaining it, opting instead to put it into a different context.)

Thinking in terms of a pyramid of ranges is really helping me through these levels... More to come

Monday, April 27, 2015


Has anyone seen my game? results speaking, its lost in a voidless sky and I am looking for answers. Sure 99 will occasionally lose on a 843 flop to 84... but it cant all be bad luck

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Bad Beat

Ran Deep in the "poor man's" $10k last night on B. nearly 1300 runners. I had quite a stack early, but called off twice against players with 12-13 BB with 88 (ran into KK) and AJ (ran into AK). I was conflicted by my coaches insistence that I make more of these calls and the "feel" of where I was in what I call the "middle aged man" stage of the MTT where the 10-20BB stacks play too tight. I made both these calls and lost, then as a short stack won Ax vs. a big pair and AK vs. QQ to build back up from 7 BB to 36 BB. In the end, I caught a BB making a "stack size" decision to shove on me, thinking I couldn't call (I raised from the cutoff). Live I would have folded. Here, instead of folding I tanked for a while and decided that unless I really see something I need to call here with AJs. He shows 8c6c and immediately flops 2 pair. GG me. BUT, that is a GREAT WAY to go out 98th. Sure it was disappointing, but only as measured by the result. The play was correct.

There is much to digest in retrospect, but I recall watching those old WSOPs from the 20th century :) and they would always note the giant stacks spewing because they "could not change gears". I now realize what BS that was. It's not about changing "gears". It's about having a feel for the "leg" of the MTT at that moment at that table with that villain and knowing if its appropriate to call off light. What I have LEARNED is that the default should be YES, which can be modified to NO if you have a healthy stack and you get the feeling his range is narrow. This is the opposite of my previous thinking, where the default answer was NO unless I was 80% sure I was ahead. Big difference.

And how does the difference manifest itself? Less min-cashes. Ok, last night WAS a min cash. But I played to WIN.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A Tale of 3 tricky spots

Hand 1:
History with Villain. In level 1, I make a huge mistake. I raise with 87 and he calls. Flop is TT7. He fires two barrels and I fold the turn. He had 66.

Level 1 100/200/0 with $10k stacks. I make it $300 from MP with 88. SB calls.
Flop is T55. SB check, and I c-bet $400 into $700. SB calls.
POT is now $1500
Turn is a 4 and SB now leads out for $800.
What are you doing?

Hand 2:
Villain raises from the HJ to $1k (my stack is $14k). CO flats.
I am in the SB with 5s7s.
What are you doing?

Hand 3:
$300/$600/$50 (my stack is $14k)
EP limps
I make it $1800 with JJ from the button. Folds back to limper who thinks, then calls.
POT is $4700
Flop is Q78 with 2 hearts
he checks, I c-bet $3k and he thinks and calls
POT is now over $10k and I have about $8500 behind.
Turn is a black King. He now leads out $1200.
What are you doing?

Friday, March 06, 2015

Catching up on coaching notes

I could spend a boatload of time being more specific, but really the first half boils down to 2 thoughts:

* 3 Bet more pre-flop. "Fat, drunk and calling is no way to go through life son." -Dean Wermer.

* When you do open with a raise or 3-bet, after the flop CHOOSE A LINE that maximizes a chance to win the pot. (e.g. dont open a pot if you dont intend to fight for it.)

Sound simple, doesn't it?

and some words of wisdom I extracted from a podcast (talking about the flop decision to set up a line):
Look to bluff when you hand has very little show down value
Look to value bet when your hand is very strong
Look to check/call when you have a medium strength hand.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Brutal Truth

What if it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and after the 10,000 hours you still have not mastered it? I've had this happen with numerous things in my life, where I am swimming upstream. I did quite a few hours (close to 10,000?) hours of improv and public speaking (stand-up), but "mastering" it really translated to "competence". Perhaps I am setting the bar too high, but I expected to be a grand-master poker player by now, and Sunday I played the sloppiest poker in years (ever?).

Hand review was crucial in this determination and I realize I have not done nearly enough of that in-depth review over the years. But more importantly, I had 3 leaks that accounted to 80% of my lost pots. Just Wow. Poker is brutal in that results are immediate and quantified. But it is forgiving in that each session is an opportunity to close leaks.

1. Don't open pots just to lose them. This is something DannyN13 told me yesterday that made such a good sound bite it might actually stick. If you open a pot, determine your plan and execute on it. Looks for viable options, like double barreling when the flop looks like it is trying to tell you that it will most likely work. Really, take the line that will most likely work is the best way to say it.

2. Use a players stack size (# of blinds) to help determine their ranges. That is the advantage you have in an MTT environment vs. cash. Don't play your hand like it is a cash game, if it isn't. You are omitting an important piece of information. Further stated, don't act on each street until you range your opponent. NEVER go into auto-pilot mode which is what I did Sunday.

3. Understand what you are trying to accomplish with your bet. This dictates Bet Sizing, Whether or not to bet at all, how you will react to your opponents reaction, and what you want to accomplish on the next street. This USED TO BE simple "lines", but in today's poker realm, it isn't enough.

and just as a bonus statement, and there has been much written about this, but it's brutally true.
A-Game or FAIL. No A-Game = No results.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Foley MTT

The Hands:

Level 1, I have AA in the blind. Limper, then a raise to 200 (4x). I make it 600 and just raiser calls. Flop is T68 (2 diamonds). check/check. Turn is 5d. He checks, I make it 800, he check raises to 2250 and I call. I put him on QQ here with a diamond draw. River is 4c and it goes check/check. He shows a set of Tens with Td. I lose $2850 of my $20k.

I call raise with 66 (3 to the flop) and flop a set. all checks I recall. Turn is a K and I bet and get called twice. River is a King and I make a big bet and get called twice! back over $20k

100/200 level and I call a larger than usual 750 bet because another player called and I had a small pair. Fold when someone leads out $1500.

Fold second nut flush draw to what seems like (and is) a flopped flush leading out. he had 75s. did not want to chase.

Lagish guy really playing a good amount of hands now. Obvious deep stack cash player, willing to see flops (even a 3 bet pre hand) with ANY suited connector, 1 gapper suited, or pair. Flopped a couple of sets and is over $50k. BUT, I start 3 betting him pre-flop and when he misses, taking down nice easy pots.

called bet of 1100 again after a raise and a caller. 3 ways and I flop set again. But when I bet out $2k into the $4k pot, they both fold?

2 limper and I have 24o in SB. I make it 1100 and pick up 900 in chips unchallenged.

Lag raises from MP to 1000, I look at AA in SB and make it 2200. He calls. Flop is very dry 834 rainbow. He checks and I assume if I bet he folds so I check. I hope to get turn and river value. Turn is a K and he checks. I bet out 2k (just under 1/2) and he check raises to $6k. I now figure him for AK, so I call. River is a J and he bets out $8k (just about 1/2 pot). I make a crying call to see 34s (2 pair).

I never really recovered from this hand, working my 12k for an hour up to about $18k and with 21 BB shoved over an opener with 77 and ran into QQ.

Disappointing to say the least.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I know this is free advertising but...

This is one of the better articles I've read recently:

Whenever someone explains why a common practice is for the intermediate players (vs. those continually striving to get better), I listen. I have often thought about why I instinctively don't want to c-bet on some boards and I realize that I've been looking to quantify it as this article has.

A digression: So much poker information today is related and correlated to "wide ranges" and keeping bad hands in the pot. So much is on maximizing return and the notion of "survival" is far less emphasized. I continue to struggle with the notion that these are somewhat opposing views and that there is instead a time to look at any given situation as in one camp vs. the other instead of preaching/teaching one or the other. I have yet to nail down some of the dynamics, but I am contemplating this a ton.

Intuition tells me that there are times that its better to maximize value and there are times where its better to avoid a marginal edge, despite convention 2014 thinking that I have to take many many edges and just amortize it over a larger number of entries. If there was a way to draw that distinction, it stands to reason (although unproved) that you could get similar results with a smaller sample size.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Run Good? Run Bad? It's all the same

League nights were this weekend, and on Friday, I stuck with a hand (KK on J high board) to long and paid off a 1/3 of my lean stack to a flopped two pair. I never really recovered and eventually A8 on the button ran into QQ in the BB. old story... But on Saturday...

Worked up my stack and caught a player with an Ace on an Ace high flop in a terrible spot against my two pair. I made the proper bets to get him committed by the river, where he paired his second card. I could see the Ace if it came, but not the Ten. I work my punished stack up large enough that I could raise 5s6s from MP because the table was playing too passive. Two callers and the flop is 3 spades. I check, player bets, BB flats and I shove (because I think one of them must call with As). Turns out to be the BB who does call and the turn is a spade! I am not out, just disappointed until I make the two out straight flush on the river. Wow.

30 minutes later, I get a spot to call a raise with QdJd and FLOP my second straight flush. AND a player moves all in on the flop! Two in one night! Lots of chips now!

But in the end, I catch the remaining player on a draw with his overs no good and the run out gives him the flush to knock me out second.

After this night, I am not sure I can ever say that I run either Good or Bad on any given night. You can make two straight flushes and still lose as a 2:1 favorite at any time.

Moral of the story: "That's Poker"