Tuesday, August 30, 2005

and another lightbulb goes off

You're familiar with the GAP concept, and you know what a LAG is, but do you know what you get when you COMBINE the two? A way to work through being card dead.

I always assumed that when pundits squawked about the early level exception to the GAP rules, I understood why. But I really did not until now. If you recall, Skalansky recommends in his advanced tournament book, "Do an awful lot of limping in the early rounds". I assumed that this was because stacks were so deep and you did not want to get involved in a big pot early. But that is not quite it. It's more about pressure and GAP respect.

No one is going to respect a 3xBB raise in level 1. So basically, you are unable to play solid poker and have an edge. You are much better off playing very low risk and speculative poker until the blinds catch up with the stacks. Why? Well, look at it this way. Early levels you are looking for BIG hands post flop. Two pair minimum vs. what is a probably a multi-way pot. There is lots of action and you need to showdown winning hands. Some pros play very tight in this situation. But others play loose and try to accumulate lots of chips. Either way, no one is trying to beat the game pre-flop at level 2.

Fast forward to level 8. Blinds are getting bigger and there may even be an ante. TJ says, “when the antes start, poker starts”. Why? Because NOW you have to play very solid to survive and advance. And you need to do both.

Now, if you build the following perceptions:
1. I have solid starting requirements
2. I understand the GAP and will lay down even AK in the right situation.
3. If I get a hand, I will punish limpers or unraised pots.
4. I will make you throw away your hand if you come in with junk and I have a good hand.
5. I am not afraid to raise you, even when every chip is valuable.

Once that is established, you can make a well timed First To Act raise with lower requirements such as JTo. If you get called, you still have a chance to win based on the flop. If someone puts in a big reraise, they probably not only have you beat, they have you clobbered. They have overplayed their dominate hand and allowed you to escape.

But to circle around to the original premise… When you are card dead, you can use the GAP to raise in early position with any suited 1 gap or better connector, and Kx or Qx (caution) or even a unsuited connector and win enough small pots to survive until either you get caught “changing gears” or you actually hit a flop hard and really hurt someone.

And this is why changing gears is so important. Because you can also artificially create this situation in circumstances where others would tighten up, such as the bubble. You don’t have to win all the hands. Heck, you don’t even have to win a majority of the hands. You simply have to do this profitably. And the measurement is that over the course of the entire tournament, this results in gaining more chips than losing them.

Can it be this simple? Can this be the understanding I needed to click in my head? (That and to stop overplaying made hands.) Combine this with "pressure" (see the DoubleAs blog, and we have a Whirling Dirvish.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Making good decisions...

Friday MTT

10k starting chips, 100/200 blinds. 32 players, pays 6. first two levels 30 minutes.
There is EITHER a single rebuy OR a single add on of 10k at the end of level 2.

Strange, but it seems obvious to me that I want to play Über tight and just take the add on to 20k. To that end, I start in the SB with AJo and just fold it. So begins the reign of Tighty McTight. We are 10 handed.

Or does it. The next hand, I am on the button with QJ and limp. I flop TP. He bets out on the flop and I CALL. (ugh). The turn makes his draw and leaves me with an inside draw. I pay off his JT and am already in the hole. So much for tight, eh?

Few hands later,
Limp with 97 and flopped an open ended straight draw. I bet out 2/3 pot and got a caller. The turn added a flush draw, which allowed me to push hard and apply pressure. I got the fold and was back to 10k.

I make some player notes. Someone is playing any suited connector to the flop, someone else is under raising middle pocket pairs…

A MP makes it 2xBB and I fold KTo thinking GAP, even though I think he is a LAG. Turns out he had AQ.

Fold KTs from UtG. Again, I based this on the add-on strategy. Lucky too, considering a LP made it 3.5xBB.

I watched a player bluff into a flush board. And get away with it.

Folded Q9o when the board came up 6d9dTs when the button bet even though I suspect I had the best hand. Turns out he had A9.

Two players limp into a pot. From LP I raise to 4.5xBB with AK and they all fold. I pick up 700 free chips.

Board is 333Q and a player goes all-in with the Q. Hmmm.

More observations. Guy on my left is chasing, guy across the table is an “open book better”. Another players makes big laydowns.

Folded K7o even though the board was 456 rainbow. My lead bet (I was in the BB) was called and then raised. A third player called the raise and then its to me. I thought I was going to get beat here and folded. Very tight, eh? Weak? Maybe, but one player had QQ and the other 2 pair. When a Q came on the turn, the set took the two pair for his entire stack.

Won a big hand when I was in the SB and raised 3 limpers to 5xBB. I got a single caller. I had to work from out of position, so I am obligated here to the continuation bet. The flop was 883 and I make the ½ pot bet. Player folds.

I am on the button and everyone folds to me. I look down at 92o and think about a steal here. I decide not to since the player in the BB has a short stack.

BREAK and ADD on. I have 23.5k after the addon. Goal achieved. M is 25, Q is 1.
300/600, 9 handed.

I win two hands using position. One time my cards were 93o.

I am on the button and its folded around to me. I raise it up with 93o and the BB calls. We both check the flop of 3 spades. I push him off with a turn bet when he checks the turn card.

I fold QJ when a MP comes in for a raise. Flop of KQ8 all hearts. There was a second K on the river. No showdown.

In the BB with J9 and the flop is JJx (2 clubs). I check and “open book” bets. I smooth call here. The turn is a 3rd club and I miss my chance to slow play. I bet 2k and he folds. I think/suspect he had KK.

Here is a big laydown. LP player bets $3k! (5xBB). The cutoff player, who has played 4 hands all night, re-raises all-in. I am on the button with AKo!! I FOLD. The original better does also. Weak? Maybe.

I have ATs from LP and raise it to 2k. BB calls. The flop is 3 rags and after the other player checks, I bet 2k (1/2 pot). I get called?! The turn card is an Ace and I am feeling much better against the BB. Player checks and I bet $6k into the $8k pot. I get RE-RAISED $6k. Oh my god! What to do?! There is no flush draw or straight draw out there.

I process this hand pretty quickly (for me) and decide that the pot is now $20k and its $6k to call. The odds are just too good to pass up. But I have a sinking feeling. The river is a blank and since the other player now checks, I decide to check behind. The other player turns over A6 and I take a big pot.

I have about 47.5K I make a VERY loose call from LP with 85s and see a flop. I missed by a mile and fold.

I get JJ UtG and make it 4xBB. Everyone folds. I show the JJ and the dealer rabbits the flop… AA9. phew.

I have A6s in LP and with it folded to me, I notice that the two blinds are not “defenders”. I decide to steal the blinds. I raise it up to $3k and the BB goes all in for $7k. Oops. I did not consider $7k a short stack so I did not expect that. I guess I should have. I stupidly call and meekly stare as AQ clobbers me. Without vigorish, he all-in here is at least AQ if not a pocket pair.

So, I am out $7k. But, I ended up taking that players ENTIRE stack a few hands later. In the meantime, I get QTo and raise it up from LP. (tilt?). The flop gives me an open ended straight draw and I call a pot sized bet. The turn MAKES my straight and he bets the same amount. WARNING: When you bet the same amount on the turn that you did on the flop, you are weak. I come over the top for a total pot size raise and he folds. I MAY have raised too much here, but I am back at 48k.

500/1000/100 ante
The player that took my $7k goes all in. In the SB, I look down at JJ and call. I beat him.

The table breaks and I move to table 1. As if by magic, I am now cold decked. I bleed off 20 hands of antes. A player goes all-in on my blind and even though its only 7.5k, I decline to defend with 69o.

1000/2000/200 ante
Players start busting and other players start accumulating stacks. I am still card dead. I literally bleed to a Q of .9 and get itchy. I limp with 89s and miss everything. Rare to get away with a limp at this table.

I get KTo and decide to play it strong. I make it 3xBB and the flop is all rags. I bet and the player calls. I bet on the flop and the player calls. I have nothing and check the river. He bets and I have to fold.

I have not won a single hand since moving to table 1. And I already told you what happened at the end… Decision wise, I thought I played well. Just some tiny adjustments to make.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What's your point?

I played in a local game last night, the write up of which I'll do a bit later. But there was a big hand and the two players were really brain locked thinking through the moves and deciding what to do. It was very exciting. Then, someone says, "why are you playing this like its the world series?". I was aghast. After the hand, I said to him, "If you're not going to play like it is, why play at all? I play every game like its $10000 buy in". Another player says "he does you know". But this player did not agree.

You might think this is an easy choice to agree with me. But its actually not. When I finally got knocked out on the most heinous of misreads, I know that it is not that simple.

There are 12 left of the original 32 and I have bled since the antes started. I WAS above average, but have not won a hand since sitting at my new table. There have been very few unraised pots. I am in the BB. The UtG limps?! A MP calls, the SB FOLDS! And I call with… the hammer! (I should have raised here, but gez). The flop is 875 rainbow. I bet out about ½ pot and the UtG calls. MP folds. I put him on a 2 high card 3 gap like AT or a nice suited connector such as JTs or QJs. Many of you are thinking, what about a baby pocket pair? Did not think so, just to exposed to limp with that UtG. He would make SOME sort of raise.

The turn is a 4 and I think I am in great shape. I can represent a straight or two pair, he probably has to let the hand go if I make a big bet here. Since the pot is now about $18k and I have $25k left, I go all in and expect him to fold. He QUICKLY calls. He flips over A6s. (the river was a 2 so I ended up with 2 pair).

Now, let me ask the million dollar question. If this WAS the WSOP, would you expect someone to play A6s UtG? I certainly did not.

oh, and the other player that made the comment about the WSOP? He was still in.

Am I "living a life of ilusion"?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

mini-step merciful end

Finished 3rd in level 3 and had to recycle. I got kicked back to level 1 when I got beaten by a straight. But man, here is the best. I lost level 1 when my trips Tens lost to a ROYAL FLUSH ON THE RIVER.

Good part, I got $4 for 6th place. I played like 8 games and lost $2. And its freakin' over. Money I would have won just by playing the stupid SnG games instead?

Let's see
$20+$20-$50-$20+$20+$10+$50-$50+$5 = $4 (assumiing I paid for the level 3 entries)
funny, eh? yeah, me neither.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Tale of Tighty McTight

You’re playing solid poker at a 1-2 NL ring game. It’s a table of game publishers at an empty table of the Hyatt restaurant, which is closed. A couple of players, including the host, play a lot of poker. A few of the others are simply there to lose money. I figured I was in the former category (as I was the previous year), but this year I was in the later category.

Were these good players any better than I was? Well, no not really. So then why did I lose all that money. Oh yeah, I could ramble off the usual excuses:

1. I got rotten cards
2. There were a couple of bad beat
And the every popular...
3. Who the fuck are you?

Anyway, I have been running pretty poor in 1-2 NL ring play and I have been wracking my brains to figure out why. A friend of mine had told me, but I did not believe him. As if to prove his point, he busted the entire table and won $1200 bucks.

First off, let me review my losses. I have KT on the button and its folded to me. I pop the blinds for 3x and the BB calls. The flop is K65 and he bets out. I raise and he goes all-in. I was sure he had Kx, but figured him for a push. When I called, he flipped K6.

I had 99 on the button. UTG raised to $10 (as he was prone to do). I called and the flop was T62 rainbow. Pretty good for me. Or so I thought. Turns out to be very bad for me because now I think I am ahead. He has AT.

Again, the UTG (same guy) raises to $10. 2 others call, so I decide to call in position with TT and see what flops. The flop is J76. The UTG bets $20 and its folded to me. If I call here, I am a fish. So, I raise here to see where I am at. He reraises me $50 and after much deliberation realize he has AA. I fold. He flips the AA. I get accolades from the table for my escape. Yeah, great, a $40 escape.

I had QQ cracked too, and AK and all sorts of losses. But where were the wins. Sure I had a couple of similar wins, but I never won a huge hand. (I won one $60 hand when some idiot get calling my bets with a board of 99Q. I had A9.) But for the most part, I was folding. A lot. After all, it was a full ring and you are supposed to be Tighty-McTight, right? But it was Lucy-McCall that had all the chips. WHY?!

Then I realized what was going on. Lucy-McCall was not afraid to play any multi-way pot with any suited gap. Even 3 gaps. Especially with under cards. He would play 64s for $12 as long as he had or expected to have 3-4 players seeing a flop. He liked those odds and he was not afraid to INVEST money in those flops…

On the OTHER hand, I folded QTs from late position BECAUSE 3-4 players called a $12 raise. Foolish? He thought so.

I did not like playing in big raised pots. And there was my downfall. I was being a mouse. I never realized it before, because earlier in my poker journeys, I would build up a stack, then unleash it on the unsuspecting table. But now that players are better, I am not building up the stack that allows me to do this comfortably. So, I was Tighty-McTight and I lost 3-5 large hands. Other that the aforementioned 5 hands, I won about 9 medium hands and lost about 3 or 4.

At the end of the night, the very very end, I decide to play 89s from the button because there were already FOUR callers of the $10 raise (once again from UTG guy). I call and figure this to be a great opportunity. The flop was A-5s-3s. There is $60 in the pot, I have $65 left and he makes a roughly pot size bet of $50. I know many of you would make this call. Lucy-McCall certainly would. But I could not stop myself from thinking, “would I ever invest $65 in anything where I only win 1 in 2.2 times?” And even though I had the exact odds I needed, I folded. And he had AJ, just as I KNEW he did. The read was easy, the $65 on a draw was HARD.

I have been thinking long and hard about this and think that I just was playing for stakes I was not comfortable with. Sure, I play $5 SnGs all day (and night) long. And I do well with them. Very well. But I still don’t play $10 SnG. Why? Because the money gets in the way. I can’t stop thinking about the money. And that’s a problem. I certainly believe in that game I lost more by trying to conserve loses.

Sure, I could justify it. Thursday night we played about 100 hands and ALL 100 HANDS I had the worst hand. I am including the 85 hands I folded. They all would have lost. The last 15 hands I the night, I would show the dealer the cards before I mucked. She excused me from tipping.

But that is simply not it. That was a VERY bad night, and nothing would have changed that. But Friday and Saturday and previous weeks all point to the same thing. You CAN’T be afraid of raised multi-way pots in low blind no limit. If you are, you need to be playing limit. Period. So now I have a choice to make… I’ll keep you in the loop.

If you are not listening to the Card Club radio show (podcast), then you are a big loser. Hurry up and redeem yourself by going to http://lordadmiral.libsyn.com/ and getting show #40. I contributed a good audio piece about playing with the Hilton Sisters when you’re out of position. -Write your own joke here-

They liked it enough to ask me to do another one. I will, of course, oblige them. They take a good 3 hours to record, because I need the Columbo bits, but they sure are fun to listen to when they are done. Well, go there. Now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Get two Kings, and make them fight each other!

Back in ye olden days, Kings ruled the land. And if you had two Kings, well, ye were in good shape. Until "he" came...

I had played a couple of SnG at Noble. (It's hard right now to resist the jackpot carrots they are waving around.) I had lost a good deal lately (see previous post), but despite what I considered a TERRIBLE streak, I lost about $8 + juice total. Today started in a similar fashion as I played another $5 SnG and actually got called out by a guy! I have ATo and raised it the standard 3xBB. I got two callers. The flop was KQ2 and I checked. The button caller bets UNDER 1/2 the pot, so I decide to call. This is NOT typical for me, but it seemed to me that the table was "fast" and I thought too many players were laying down hands too quickly. So I called. The turn is a blank and he makes the same bet. Now, normally I would come over the top whenever someone bets the turn the same size as the flop (strong indicator of a weak bet with middle pair). But I KNEW I was behind and the table was fast, so he would probably call. Plus, he could have a monster. The river is an Ace and when he bets, I just call. The Aces were good and I took the pot. (He indeed had a Queen, thus his hesitant betting). Then he calls me a lucky fish? Really? Why? I made a decision, not a mindless chase. Then, maybe 20 hands later, I flop top pair, he calls me down, makes a straight on the river with... wait for it... ATo. So why am *I* the fish? I end up 5th though, out of the money.

Then, I found these new "dirty dozen shootout" format tournaments. Basically, its a 2 table MTT where you are always playing shorthanded. (There are two tables of six, and the tables combine when there are 6 left.) I am doing exceedingly well at these, as I think I am better short handed. (I have won 2 out of 3 so far). Win 4 in a row, get a $2k jackpot. Hmmm... Worth a shot, especially at $2...

But, last night I wanted to play, but was sick of over thinking everything to death. I have been playing very tense, so I decided to try something new. I sat down in front of the TV, put on something from the TIVO box, and entered a ring game. $.25/.50 where I could work off more of my bonus.

It worked in some regards. I was relaxed and was making good decisions. I was up about $8, and then I started "pushing" again. It wasn't long before I was back down again and I realized I had stopped watching TV. I went back to the TV and my patience returned. Interesting huh? I need to relax more when I play. This was important to learn. I was not picking my spots well enough, or to say it better, I was picking too many spots. But now, back to the title of this post...

I pick up KK in MP. It was folded to me and I make it my standard 3xBB. I get 2 callers. Then "he" came. The Ace of "Fuck you Kings". Not one, but TWO of them, like a band of outlaws. AA9 flop. Hmmm. Wait a sec. It is very possible I am ahead here. When the FTA checks, I bet out. They both call. Hmmm. The turn is ANOTHER 9. Weird, but I am certainly concerned now. One of those guys had to have the 9 or why would they call? When they both called, I figured one for the Ace and one for the 9. But when a SECOND 9 comes, I decide to bet out and either fold to any action or I take it right here. I make a good sized bet and the button calls. The river is a blank and I check (I am done). The button makes a small value bet and I call just to see what he played. A9o. What the hell was the other guy in with?!

So, with KK I am out $8. I have $42. Upsetting after all that work, but its the big hands that win or lose most of the money. Fast forward about 20 hands. A new player sits down across the table with a full bankroll of $50. He posted a come in BB and folds the hand on the flop. It is now his SECOND hand at the table and from UTG he makes it 4xBB. Its folded to me in MP and I once again have KK. INSTEAD of re-raising, which is what I would normally always do, I call, figuring that I want to win more than $2 with my KK. The button calls also.

The flop is 778 (2 hearts). UtG makes a $4 bet into a $6 pot. I decide to lose the button and raise it to $8. The button folds and the original better calls. What do I think he has? Well, I think based on the pre-flop bet that he has JJ, QQ or AA. It is often the case that pairs come in pairs, and I am never surprised to see 2 pocket pairs. Do I think he flopped trips? Not really. It was too strong of a bet for 88 UTG and A7 seems out of the question. No one is trying to steal $.75 from UTG in a ring game. If he has AA I am in big trouble, but the lack of a re-raise here tells me JJ or QQ. It is also possible he has flopped a flush draw, but in that case he would have to be playing AQ suited based on the pre-flop bet and the fact that I have 2 kings (and the Kings of hearts).

The turn is the 3 of clubs. Could not be better for me. If he WAS on the flush draw, he is now a 4-1 dog to make it. (note: when I suspect someone on a flush draw, I never go for their money until the blank turn comes. Too many players call with a flush draw on the flop bet, REGARDLESS of pot odds.) Now, if he somehow has an 8, he is in BIG trouble, but again this seems unlikely. Its his move and he suddenly makes a BIG bet. $9 I think. WTF? I mean this is $.25/$.50 and he is betting $9 bucks. The pot is so big already. He is fearless here and I briefly start worrying about AA. I mean, if he has AA and the Ace of hearts, I would have played it exactly like he did. (4xBB pre-flop, bet out and called a re-raise post flop.) It was then I had a decision to make. Was I going to finish the hand? I had recently learned that if you are going to finish a hand, you need to bet as soon as you realize this, in order to at least get some folding equity. I decided that yes, I was going to pay off if he had AA. I still think he had QQ. But the more I think about it, the more I start thinking he is WAY out of line. He has NO IDEA what cards I could be holding because HE JUST SAT DOWN. Who sits down and stacks-off on the SECOND hand he is dealt. He can't possibly assume I would not play A8s or A7s or ever 9Ts because he has NO information. He might even have put ME on a draw and has TT. I still think QQ of JJ is the most likely of hands because with AA he could of went for my chips on my flop-reraise. It just isn't likely that he would be SO comfotable with AA there that he would slow play. So, with all that racing through my head, I muster up my courage and push all-in. This is VERY RARE for me, but as usual, I am SO sure I know what he has. (despite my recent track record)

He calls.

Noble deals the final card, which is a non-heart blank. Then the software, as it OFTEN DOES, take a long pause for what seemed an eternity. He reveals AhJh and the shock prevents me from celebrating as $42 is pushed my way. In his SECOND HAND he lost $42 bucks ON A 4-1 FLUSH DRAW!!!! I mean, he could have folded on the turn and been out a mear $10. Not great, but WHY RAISE all in AS A 4-1 DOG?! Isn't that what sets Phil Helmuth off on his tirades? It’s reckless. Plus, he raised at a FULL TABLE to 4xBB with AJs from UtG. That is a hard hand to play, but especaily when you no NOTHING about the table and are UtG. For the first time in what seems an eternity, it paid off for the good guy. (I MAY have called the reraise on the flop with that, but certainly not pushed all in on the TURN. If I am going to semi-bluff, its going to be as a 2-1 dog, not a 4-1 dog.)

Summary: 2 hours of play. Only 2 big hands. Both KK. Lost $8, won $42. I played a few more hands and pushed people around with my big stack but never had any cards after that. But I did win about $8 pushing people off hands with my monster stack. When I was at $90, my battery was low and I took the cash and ran. Then I watched ye olde WSOP on ESPN.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

Now that I have calmed down, I am taking stock in my frustrations. Why are they there? Is the playing field not level with the deal of the cards? Why do I feel at a disadvantage. Then it hit me. Statistics. Let me explain.

You are sitting at a table of 10 players. A "rotation" is ten hands. How many hands should you WIN? Note that I said, "win" and not "play".

I always assume the answer is 1. I should win 1 hand in 10. The problem is that the curve just is not working that way. Because the odds of making a hand are against you on each hand, and sometimes you fold a hand that would hit the board, you often find yourself playing 1-2 hands per 10 (if you're loose enough) and winning NONE of them. That's right. Frekaing ZERO. ZED. NULL. So, we instinctively try to force it. And that's where we stay amateurs. I am starting to realize something (and yet another peice of the puzzle falls into place)... There are opportunities to play hands away from others based on this same model. The trick is to recognize the pattern.

For example, player A from MP raises to 3xBB. two callers. The flop is XXX. player A makes a bet of 1/2 the pot. The other guy folds. Now, as the sole remaining player, there are THREE scenarios.

1. He hit the board
2. He missed the board
3. Regardless of #1 and #2, he has a vulnerable hand.

Now, since 2 and 3 are far more common than #1 (66% vs 33% ish), many a LAG (loose agressive player) is successful in exploiting this and getting players to fold. If they get played back at, they can then decide what to do.

I find it hard to recognize the situation in all cases, but look at a hand. I raise it to 4xBB with JJ from MP. I get TWO callers. The flop is KQ2. I am forced to either bet out or check. Since I may be able to win without resistance, I am forced to bet out, about half the pot. One of the other two comes over the top all-in. There is no way I can call. So was it right to bet? well, before you answer, forget the books for a second and REALLY put some thought into it. IS IT RIGHT TO BET OUT THERE with shallow stacks in a one table SNG? Can I really think or even represent the best hand with this flop? I think my bet was a "dark tunnel" bet and I was throwing money away.

BUT, if the flop was 993. I HAVE to bet out. I may very well have the best hand, right? So, I bet out half the pot. And guess what? I will get called or raised by a 9. But this time its ok, since I needed to know that. In the previous hand, I did not need to know where I was because I ALREADY KNEW.

Summary: I am not treating my chips like ammunition, I am going through "progressions" or choices like a struggling 2nd string QB on the football field. When I fire at a pot, I need to have a SPECIFIC purpose in mind.

This is why the "young guns" who play this game well and never read a book can be good players. They instinctively know where they are at and fire their ammunition accordingly.

Now, my complaints of being card dead lately may still seem real, but its more likely that I am betting too much on hands where I am ahead, and wasting chips on information I do not need.

At least that is my latest theory. After all, no theory, no hope.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sit N Go hell

5 Sit N Gos, in the money ONCE. It got so bad, that I got a guy to bet all in with a flush when I had the nut flush and he hits a ONE outer on the river for the straight flush. WTF? I play hard, I don't get any chips. I play slow on one lousy hand and a guy hits a one outer?

What's worse, I am shying away from strong hands. I am the short stack with 5 left and I get dealt TT. I raise it 4xBB and steal the blinds. I am not willing to voluntarily see a flop because I have not hit one since Scott F'in Baio was on TV.

I really need therapy. "Somebody Help the Captain!!" -Actor William Shatner courtesy of a Star Trek blooper reel from the 1960s.

Seriously, I must have a leak now the size of the hole in the SS Minnow. I can't seem to get it right. I can no longer tell where I am. "Oh the pain. The pain" -Doctor Zachary Smith. I need help. Maybe some sort of shock therapy. Everything I make a mistake, I can shock myself. Yeah, that's it... I'll be right back!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A question to ANYONE who has insight

I play in a monthly MTT. 40 people. stacks start shallow at 100. The blinds start at 1/2 and go up through 5/10 for the first 5 levels. You get in a good 3-4 rotations and play 8 handed during this time. After that, the blinds start going up much faster.

It has always been my assumption that you need to double your chip stack by the end of level 5 or not really be able to maneuver.

So the last FIVE times I have played, I have been at LESS than 100 chips by level 5. It is near impossible to bluff. Players want to see cheap flops and if you raise it, you are going to get a caller. So, it seems that you would want to play tight aggressive.

But for the love of cards, I did not get a single premium hand. I mean, even at 1/2, am I supposed to play 82o? No, I am not. I went 50 hands and the best I saw was ATs while the guy across the table's first two hands were KK and QQ.

I am not complaining though. That's cards. What I need to ask is, WHAT the HECK do you do in these situations. If you run a bluff and miss with shallow stacks, its over. But if you play tight at get not a single starting hand, where do you go from there? What do you do when you put in a raise with 44, 5 people see a flop, and its AKJ? Can you even conceived of someone folding to your bet? Even if its all in? No way, because 2 pair will call, Ax will call, a draw will call, etc. You need to be ahead and get paid off. So if after 50 hands you were NEVER ahead on the flop, hwo to do cope/adjust?!

Help? Anyone?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I wish I was on medication

...So I could justify the worst play I made since I started playing.

JJ in LP and I raise it to 4xBB. 3 CALLERS!, 2 of which are the blinds.

The flop is QQ2 3 checks and I go ALL IN (they all checked to me). Can I do anything lamer? What a ig-nor-amous I can be...

Later on in the day, I have JJ again (differnt table). I get all in preflop in round 1 with JJ???? The other guy turns over JJ. We split the money from the guy who called the first two raises, then foled.

Man, where did all this "gambooool" come from?

Just to get back on track, I folded a flush draw to a 1/2 pot bet, hoping to get back on the Train riding the tight tracks.

Not my night in the barrel

Part 1
Played in a Sng (11 players) last night. 5 were noobz, so the blinds started non-aggressive. This gave me time to scope out the 5 other “real” players. Two I knew prior, one played slowly but was not afraid to move all-in when he hit a flop (later he would move in pre-flop anytime he was dealt two paint cards). One guy is a solid tight player. Then there was the killer.

I knew right away he would be trouble because he knew how to bet. Do not underestimate this skill. If he was in late position and there were limpers, he would pop them with a raise. And it was the right amount! This is rare, so I tried to watch what cards he would play.

He also busted one of the noobz on a big hand. Me, terrible cards. Had to be patient.

Later, Killer misreads a looser player and makes and all-in bet with 2 pair only to be shocked when the guy turns over the nut flush. Everyone, it seemed, over valued their holdings.

Fast forward again and there are 7 left. From MP I raise to 3xBB with AJs. Fold to the killer on the button. He makes is 5xBB from the button and I call.
The flop is AJ3 with two clubs. I check, thinking I will re-raise him when he bets. But he checks.
The turn is a King. I bet out 200 and he comes over the top all in. ??? I did not really stop to think about this here because I was so sure he was behind. He had over valued hands all night. I called way too quickly. He turned over QT, he had FLOPPED a straight draw and I GAVE him the free card. You could say it was a loose call with QTo to a tight raiser, but so what?

The bigger thing to see here was that he checked behind on the flop, yet was willing to go all in on the turn. At first, I thought it was because he decided his Ace was good and his kicker did not matter because I checked. (There was a lot of weak Ace play at the table). But still, why would anyone move all in with TP there?

No, the better read here was that he was IN POSITION, yet was willing to see a free card. That screams draw. I should have at least respected the KING as a scare card, and I did not.

Ironically (based on yesterday’s post), the river was a J and I made Jacks full.

I finished in second on this VERY interesting chain of events.

3 players left. $5k, $2k and $1k. I have $2k and am in the SB. Blinds are 200/400. The button calls and I can see he is itching to double up (he has had great success with this).
The BB (also the big stack) would now go all in anytime he had two face cards pre-flop. I had a good feeling that one of them was about to get in trouble, so I folded my J5o even though it was only $200 more to me. The BB to my surprise, checks. (No two face cards this time!)

Sure enough, they clash when they both flop middle pair and the big stack has the better kicker. Funny part was, a Jack flopped also which would have given me TP. But I stand by the tight fold there. I just knew he was headed for trouble… I think it was A8o vs. T8s.

After that, two hands later, the big stack (now with a dominate chip leads and huge blinds relative to my stack) once again moves all in pre-flop and I know he has two face cards. I look down and A6 and with my M of 5, this was an easy call. Sure enough, he had KJ and my decision and read were correct. Still lost, but that isn’t what mattered. I made the right decision there.

What more can I ask for?

Played a near perfect game decision wise, and the one bad read I made, I got lucky. If there is ONE thing I always remember out the old SnG. When you get lucky and double up, NEVER look back. Chances are you are going to finish in the money.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why holdém will be the death of poker

That's right, I said it. This poker bubble has to burst. Why? Because eventually, everyone gets competent enough to play the game and understand what they are doing. And that's going to make them mad. Let's face it, the learning curve is the shortest of all the poker games. You don't have to memorize cards like in stud or razz, and it lacks the complexity of Omaha. Anyway, what's my point? just this. Eventually everyone will get sick of the suckouts. I mean, last night I am playing in a tournament in ROUND 1 with DEEP stacks. Now, there is a player in seat 7 who likes to steal pots when they get big by making a huge raise. He has done it TWICE already and its LEVEL 1. So, I get AQs in late position. He is UtG and limps as do 3 others. With 4 limpers, I push up my typical raise from 3xBB to 4xBB. He pauses and comes over the top for $1800. (I made it $240 to go just so you have an idea). I can almost see this guys cards...

Either he has AJ/AT or he has put me on JJ/TT and he is willing to race with his AQ. Now, since I HAVE AQ, I figure he must have the AJs here (or TT, but I really believe he is bullying with marginal cards). He would not limp with TT or AK. But this guy might with Ax. So, if my read is right, I have him stone cold. (by the way, NEVER limp with AJ. NEVER. Its such a hard hand to play, you need to thin the field or see if you are dominated right away.)

I raise to $3600 and he goes all in for $12k. ITS LEVEL FREAKING ONE. But I am firm that my read is right and I call. He flips over AJ and everyone at the table expells a sign of relief that he'll be taken out.

Until he hits his 5-1 dog.

Eventually, players will have had enough and just stop playing. That's the way it is with recreational booms. People play until they get sick of it, and then its just over. And people are going to get sick of it. Because they remember the big suckouts.

ok, so only the recreational player is going away... What's wrong with that? Well, then the domino effect kicks in. Watch the card rooms shrink again...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

nuts to you

Played in the weekly online tournament with the Detroit poker club on Sunday night. If you recall, last week I was bubble boy. Well, I was more confident this week as the game was Omaha 8OB. I dont consider myself great at this game, but I am competent and that puts me ahead of many players. I went out in the money in 5th place, but was still dissapointed. I felt I should have finished better. But as I look over my decisions, I can say I played a decent game. And that is what counts. Always draw to the nuts in Omaha 8OB.

I won double my buy-in...

More poker this week as I have two local rounders games on Tuesday and Wednesday. I am sure you'll get the details ;)

Anyway, I recorded a segemnt for the poker podcast. If you're not familiar with this fine weekly radio show, then you had better get over there.


Friday, August 05, 2005

Hey, there's a casino here!

"Greektown... Greekotwn? Greek-block!" - Tim Allen

Yes, Greektown. The one block area of Detroit with its own name. A dozen or so greek restaurants and an indoor pedestrian zone, which with much pomp and circumstance, was converted to the Greektown Casino. I had only ever been there once, despite being 20 minutes away.

I went down there with someone from work and we found a great table:
$1/$2 $50min/$100max $6/dealer rake NLHE.

Good stuff. We sat down to a very tight table. It was funny, but I actually calculated the optimal bets. $6 if you wanted many callers, $7-$9 if you wanted 1 or possible 2 callers, $10-$12 if you wanted no callers. Knowing this information is helpful.

My strategy is to typically pick up a few pots here and there, and aftrer taking down a big pot, use my chips to start stabbing at the tight players. The problem? I never got the big hands. AA was dealt 4 times and KK twice, none to me. As a matter of fact, I did get QQ one towards the end of the night. A player 2 to my right (who I was playing with for 2 hours now), made it $15. The game had loosened up at the very end and I knew he had a hand. I looked at my QQ and made it $30. He put me all in and when I looked at him, I knew he had it. I laid down the QQ and he
flashed me the rockets. TOUGH laydown.

Todd played about 10 hands in 2.5 hours and ended up $40 bucks. He got paid off on aces TWICE!

I hit only two flops hard. K3 from the BB hit 2 pair and very late in the evening I called a $10 bet with 33, but only because 5 others did. I was in the SB and figured anything but a set and I am done. (I was SO card dead, that I had not been able to play a hand in a half hour. Even if I got a marginal hand, one of the two players on my right came in raising, and they usually had decent hands.) So, I played the 33 and the flop was 245. Hey, not bad. But I am out of position and feel I have to check with so may players. It checks around and the turn is a 4. Now I check again, worried about trips re-raising any semi-bluff. I call a $5 bet. The river is the lovely 6 and I bet too much and do not get a caller. After the bet, I realized my body language had changed... I was that "reverse tilt" guy, throwing in his chips. Who was going to call $25 on that board? Gez. Missed out on a value bet there!

Other than that, I made one other mistake. I gave a new player at the table a free card on a turn with TPTK because I thought he had middle pair or less. He made a straight.

I played tighter than I wanted, but without ever being able to build a lead, I found it hard to stab or steal. I remember trying a steal from the button after it was folded around, with J5o. I ran right into AJ and JT. And a Jack flopped. Not good fonz. But I got away fast. I was doing a good job reading hands until the very end.

Good things:
Did not play nervous. Did not do anything majorly stoopud. Made mostly solid decisions.

Bad things:
That $25 bet on the straight. The missed read on the player drawing to a straight.

Overall I paid $30 in table fees and ended up down $24. I played "scratch poker".

BUT, I will go downtown again. Now that I know they are spreading a game I can enjoy.

Also of note was a "rounders" table where they played one rotation of NLHE and one rotation of OMAHA. I would have LOVED to have played that, but it was $20/$40. Way out of my wannabe league.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tilt revisited

I am going to return to a phrase I coined earlier this year, "reverse tilt". I consider this a "psychological leak" as apposed to a technical leak in my game. It happens after I win a hand and I set my mind on being the table captain. When I do this, I play horribly until, ironically, I lose a hand. Then the tilt stops (assuming I am still in).

It's strange that I never tilt after a bad beat, I just tighten up and concentrate on crawling my way back. But when I win a big hand, I over value the victory.

I also seem to do this when I have won a big hand to get above average and then over time, you slide back to average. Not because you are playing bad, but because that is the way the cards come. So I try to force something to happen, a sort of frustration tilt.

I need to work on this leak if I am going to be successful with my "small ball" strategy of tournament play...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Got Tilt?

Man, did I play lousy last night. Dropped $10 at low limit ring holdém and another 2 bucks playing omaha 8OB. I love omaha 8OB, mostly because I know what NOT to do. But for some reason, last night especially, I did it. I even called river bets in limit knowing I was probably 2nd best hand.

Poor play, poor patience, poor concentration. Good bankroll mgt though as I was smart enough to walk away quickly before I cut myself deeply. I have got to get back to the discipline of SnGs. They force you to committ and concentrate.

Concentration seems to be the key and if you can concentrate, walk away. Quickly.

I am STILL a much better SnG player than ring player. I am working on some things:

1. better opponent observations
2. never limping first to act
3. when a player bets the same amount of 4th street than they did on the flop (or less), coming over the top (popping them).
4. Folding AQ and AJ when its raised in front of me at a full table.
5. stop over valuing big pocket pairs after the flop. I went brok twice last week with an overpair.
6. When a player bets 1/2 pot on the flop and again on the turn, and then a scare card comes on the river and he checks... always check behind him without the nuts. Many people will try to induce a bluff when they hit their draw, pretending to be worried that YOU hit the draw. Ha.
7. Practice more Omaha 8ob. Here are the only hands I want to play in 8OB. 2suited with and ace and 2 other cards less than 8, preferrable a 2. Am I playing too tight? or is everyone else too loose? (this assumes a full table)
8. Fold on the flop in Omaha instead of on the turn, unless I have two pair, a set, or a nut draw. (I want to make a boat or a nut flush by the showdown.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

the boy on the plastic bubble

3 table MTT last night. Pays 6 places, I am in 6th with 8 left. The two shorter stacks both double up. Then someone makes a fatal blunder. There are now 7 left and I am the short stack.

I fold AJo with two players in before me. I fold AQs when a player gets re-raised in front of me. I even muck AQo when a player goes all in on my BB. I double up when A8o calls my AK in the BB. He tried a steal and I went all in. He called.

So now it should be easy to get into the money. Then, something inexplicable happens. I develop A.D.D. I start playing with songs on winamp and paying less attention than I should. I get dealt AQs and I stop playing with winamp. A player in LP goes all in (he has me covered). It looks like an easy fold, but suddenly I call?!!?!? What in the world? I am a dog against AK, AA, KK, QQ and a race against any other pair. Am I hoping he did this with AJ? Did I even put that much thought into it? no, I GAMBLED. Why? I played so well until this point.

I think I experienced what "madasow" calls a "blow up". I just left my game and reacted haphazardly. a classic choke. Man, I hope I learn from this one. Do you know how hard I worked to get out of 7th just to end up in 7th?