Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tournament vs. Cash

I believe I am so much better at tournament vs. cash because tournaments employ strategy where a cash game is mostly tactics. My tactics are average, following the fundemental theory of poker mostly. Bet when ahead, raise when vulnerable, fold when behind, donkeys always draw. The last one being the Hellmuth fundemental theory of poker.

But I noticed recently that in playing triple draw and HORSE, my cash game results are pretty good. I expect because I know triple draw pretty well and can switch into limit mode in HORSE.

When it comes to cash games, especially live, I need to avoid what I call, "wishful thinking". You have been playing for hours and you are up maybe 20BB/hour. You are playing well, but are card dead and bored, while other bust players for entire table bankrolls in one hand. Then, I solid starting hand comes your way, you hit the flop, and you go broke. You lost 100BB in one hand. If I can learn to get away from the big hand, I think my next B&M trip will be much better.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Feast or Famine

Since the local big game I took down about a month ago, it’s been feast of famine. (It also told me I am still a lousy cash game player.) Then I took down the Luxor nightly tournament, the Hoy on Monday, and last night took down the big game again. But in the WWdN, the Mookie and the $25k, went out very early.

The $25k was very disappointing as there were 1500 players and at the end of level 1 I had yet to really play a hand. You can’t play solid tight in these giant fields. So when I flopped top two with KQ on a board of KQJ, I figured I was going to the wall. When I made a pot size bet on the turn when a 2 fell, I was committed. Someone called and I figured I was against AK or JT. But it was the nuts with AT. If the stacks were bigger, I might escape. But not here… I just cant fathom playing passive when after 1 rotation, the chip leader already has double up twice and you have not played a hand. You can quickly become irrelevant in these big fields without chips.

But the big game is my favorite kind of game, live and 5 tables or less.
Start with a 10k stack, and after 2 hours I have… 10k ugh. I am the king of hands with a 4 in them. When I finally get 44, I figure it’s an omen. Yeah, that 44 is going to lose.

The AK hand. UtG limper, Raise from UtG+1 to 4xBB. I can’t decide from LP to call or fold. I SHOULD raise to drive out the limper and blinds and isolate, but something is bothering me about this. It will cost me 30% of my stack to call… I decide to call. The limper goes all in and the raiser calls. I yell at myself and fold. JJ for the raiser, AQ for the limper. JJ leads the whole way and sets on the river.

Stealing short handed. I have to “get to work” now and as the players dwindle, I make a nice living stealing and making big bets. I work back to 9k, then take down a hand and I have 14k. I wanted it to stay short handed, but alas it was final table time… I bleed and I go to the final table with only a starting stack size of 10k. The average is like 35k.

I make a couple of steals to keep up with the blinds. Just keep plugging away. Don’t give up. Never say die, never surrender…

Then, the turning point. I am moving all in whenever I have anything and can be first to act. But this hand plays out differently. The UtG limps. The button raises to 4xBB or half my stack. I look down in the Big Blind at 88. Well, I already have 10% of my stack in the blind, so I pause to think. I figure the Original Gangster (what I call an UtG raiser) for Ax and the button for AK. I figure if I move in here, the Ax folds and I race with AK. Since I am the short stack, this seems like a good time to get my money in… IF I AM CORRECT. Well, I was correct on the holdings… But strangely the limper had been quite a charmed man all night. Twice he had come from WAY BEHIND to win big pots and seemed like he played “level 1” cards. (He never really knew when he was behind and just played his holdings). So, I should NOT have been surprised when he called me. The button calls and they both still have chips.
The flop is like AKT. I don’t even know what they have, but I know with that flop my 40/30/30 edge went down to 5%. I get up and grab my coat as all their money goes in. As I pick up my drink and push in my chair, the river is an 8. AK rakes the side pot, but I TRIPLE up to 30k. And everyone looks at me like I am a luckbox. It was really hard for me to feel bad here though. The AT should NOT have been in the hand, and I was a favorite going in vs. and Ax hand.

A few hands later, an LP player picks up the 88 and tries to do the same thing. But I wake up with my only premium hand of the entire night, QQ. It holds up and suddenly, for the first time ALL NIGHT, I cross into positive Q territory.

Then came my Hellmuthian moment. (I invented a word!). With 5 left (and in the money), Scott raises it up from EP. It’s folded around to me and I look at ATo. I think about it for a while, wanting to fold. But it’s Scott and I know his range of hands is the biggest at the table. For that reason, and having position, I call.

The flop is Axx with 2 spades and Scott says all in. In a split second, I say loudly and firmly “I CALL” and flip over the Top Pair. Scott is a big shocked that I make such a quick call with only TP vs. an all-in. The flush draw I KNOW he is on does not get there and I double up (he had me covered). -When you are the short stack ALL night, and a player notorious for playing suited cards tries to push you off a Top Pair, and you just KNOW it’s a semi-bluff, you call before you can talk yourself out of it. It’s 2-1 for you and the best odds/flop you have gotten all night. Emotion takes control and I could not even conceive that there was another move for me here. In retrospect, I wish I would have had the control to think before this act, but I still would have made the call. Scott continued to question my call here, but I was so sure I was ahead.

Now, the table is Tight Aggressive and I change gears. I am looking to see flops and pick people off. I slow play KQ when I King hits and pop a better. I take down the pot. The player on my left is constantly re-raising me and I am biding my time… I sneak in with Ax suited and the flop is ATx. I know he can’t put me on an Ace, so I check. I expect him to push me out, but he surprises me with an all-in. But he did this to me so many times, I only gave him credit for a lesser pair. I call and he shows middle pair. My hand holds up and he is out. He is mad at himself, but I set this up so well AND he flopped middle pair when he could not put me on an ace, with only 4 left and he was the shortest stack at the table. I don’t think he should beat himself up here. BUT he could have made a smaller bet that would have gotten he job done (pot size) without putting his tournament at risk.

I am very aggressive now, but I don’t knock out 3rd. The player on my right does. We make a deal for $ then decide to play it out. It took 2 hands. I decide I am going to raise every hand and out Aggression him. He folds the first one and calls the second one, where I have AT. I win the hand and the tournament.

I really played up the luck factor at the final table, but I think I played pretty good.
* Despite being short stacked all night, I did not do anything stupid. Never paniced
* I may have gotten “lucky” on the 88 hand, but I was the favorite.
* I may have been “lucky” that Scott did not hit his flush draw, but I was a 2-1 favorite.
* I may have gotten “lucky” that I woke up with QQ when 88 went all in, but it was my only premium hand all night (with the exception of a couple of AK hands).

Put yourself in a position to win, and let the mistress variance have her way with you…

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Poser, Know Thyself

I miss the Ramones. Growing up in the suburbs, I was a big poser. I loved punk music, but watched the scene from a safe distance. Sure, I went to see bands, but usually only the ones I just could not bear to miss. DKs, Buzzcocks, and the Ramones. The Ramones were especially interesting in that their albums never sounded like their live shows. They were like two bands in one.

I never wanted to be a real punk. A kid with a nihilist view of the world bent on non-conformity and personal destruction? Not for me. I wanted to enjoy the music, then upon turning 18, go to college. Well, sorta. I wasn't ready for college, and well, umm. never mind, that is not the point.

fast forward 20+ years...

I played in the "Monday's at the Hoy" last night and only 13 players participated. But for a player like me, that is a best case scenario. You see, I play poker based soley on the "fundamental theorem of poker", aka MATH. I don’t "read people" (although I dabble in pattern recognition). I rarely bluff (but I'll steal like a motha), and I HATE getting my money in behind unless I am certain it will look to my opponent that I am instead getting my money in ahead. When you play this conservative style, field size is your #1 strategic opponent. Tactics are even different, as with a big field you need to accept more volatility. Something I accept as readily as a high school reading assignment of Anna Karenina.

Short story long, last night was the longest bubble in freaking history. We were down to 4 player (pays 3) at like level 5. So we had deep stacks and were trying to maneuver appropriately. I had twice the chips of everyone else, and was determined not to do anything stupid. But one player (Tommy2Tone) was freaking Napoleon. Nappy was making CJ the Luckbox look like Bad Luck Schlep-rock (Flintstones reference). It reminded me of the old RISK commercial from our childhood when the Napoleon dressed guy exclaims "Can nothing stop this man?!" as some geeky kid rolls 3 sixes.

But here is game where hand histories tell no real tales. It was the strategm of "dodge and weave" that took me to head up with Nappy, and a change of strategy that secured the come from behind victory. After the longest 2 table MTT I have ever played online, I actually went to watch an episode of "ROME" and fall asleep in the early morning hours... Hail Ceasar!

oh, yes and... save the cheerleader, save the damn internet! http://savetheinternet.com/

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hear ye, Hear Ye

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

2007 WPBT Season coming soon

That's right, another fine year of the WPBT World Poker Blogger Tour is coming your way! And if you are not a blogger, you can still watch the results of your favorite blog author on the big leader board!!!!!

Biggestron is passing the paton to me as the tour admin for 2007. Here is the planned schedule:

Stars and Full Tilt only. Bloggers only.
Results tracked on a WPBT portal to be linked up.

FEB - PLO (cap bet)
APRIL - Limit HE
SEPT - NLHE DS* (unless PS or FT deal Budagi by then)
OCT - 5 card DRAW (stars)

I am going to be soliciting comments on what night and what time works best as soon as I get my ducks in a row...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Community Chest

Take a ride on the Reading Railroad. If you suck out, collect $200.

I have been playing alot of triple draw and HORSE lately and I have a frustrating observation. I lose most of my money in Hold 'em.

I played the WWdN last night and played to a perfect early exit.

I have worked from 1500 to 2200 without doing anything stupid. I get QQ in MP and pop it up (there was a limper) to 5xBB. I get a RAISER out of position.
STOP: What does this mean?
Well, it typically means AK. Someone who wants to make the pot big and scary and see all 5 cards.
WEAK PLAY: Throw all your chips in and pray when he calls.
BEST PLAY: Take the flop and make the read. If you have to get away, you only lose HALF your stack and not all of it.
Oh yes, and remember its a tournament
I make my continuation bet and he comes over the top. 72o? Not likely. Its the big AK and I escape.
2 hands later
I flop a set of 2s on an all heart board. My read, which is correct, is he has an overpair and a heart redraw. Do you get all your money in here? Your Q is maybe .5, does that make a difference to you?
Well, I have to dodge 9 hearts (i dont have one) at the most, plus his other 2 pair cards for 11 outs twice. 25% at best. I am a 3-1 favorite. And when the turn is a blank, 6-1. So, with a Q<1, my money is going in... It did not work out that time.

But I am not mad about all that. That's hold'em. What I am frustrated with is that I have to play HE at all. I mean, the community card concept creates these suckout opportunities by its very nature. When I am playing HORSE now, I dread getting money in during the HE round. I actually like RAZZ far better, despite the junk kicks.

And how to end this tirade? Well, with a hypothesis of course:

Does the Fundemental Theorm of Poker apply to community card games?!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

stolen comments (mine)

I was reading Chris' blog and Ante-up! and saw where he was dissapointed in himself that he could not think through hands like he can while he is watching tv...

I posted this reply:

Here is my 2 cents on this subject. It's one that is VERY important to me...

When you are AT the table, you lack the prospective necessary to think out the hands like you do after the fact. When you are watching on TV, or watching 2 OTHER players at the table, the analysis is much easier because of the 3rd eye view.

As you become an intermediate player, you LEARN from these experiences in addition to your own and often times they will steer your behavior correctly.

Additionally, when you are not in a hand, you have no RISK and thus think very clearly. Much more clear than when you heart is pounding out the national anthem.

As you move from intermediate to pro, you are able to do what Lederer calls "being in the moment". Or what Daniel Negreanu does, which is perform it casually, like an actor playing a part. Its HARD. It comes with YEARS of experience, coupled with patience and an ability to filter out the noise. Every hand tells us something about someone. But its hard for our brains to categorize and store the information, much less use it.

That comes with time... or a raw talent for that sort of thing. Since I have zero raw talent for anything, I always have to go the experience route.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is there an emotional factor tied to performace?

I previously had read what now is affectionately called "the rant" of Hoyoza with guarded interest. (hammerplayer.blogspot.com) He ranted on the donkey draws he saw and people playing post flop with nothing but overs. That in itself is nothing special. We all need to steam once in a while.

As a matter of fact, in one of those Monday night games, I had an exchange go thusly:
Hold'em No Limit - Level II (15/30)

BB (2543 in chips)
Seat 3: (1248 in chips)
Seat 4: (1084 in chips)
Seat 5: (1290 in chips)
Seat 7: (2956 in chips)
Seat 9: Columbo777 (1379 in chips)
Columbo777: posts small blind 15

folded around to me

Dealt to Columbo777 [Ks Tc]
Columbo777: calls 15
BB: checks

could have raised here, but who cares about winning 30 chips?? keep the pot small right now.

*** FLOP *** [Th 5c 7h]
Columbo777: bets 60
BB: calls 60

Pot sized bet with TP, reasonable and "correct"

*** TURN *** [Th 5c 7h] [7c]
Columbo777: bets 180
BB: calls 180

Pot sized bet with two pair probably vs. draws, again "correct".
Pot is now 540

*** RIVER *** [Th 5c 7h 7c] [9d]
Columbo777: checks, assuming this card helped him
BB: bets 240 about 1/2 the pot
Columbo777: calls 240 crying call (3-1)

*** SHOW DOWN ***
BB: shows [Jc 8c] (a straight, Seven to Jack)
Columbo777: mucks hand
BB collected 1020 from pot

BB said, "silly rabbits"
BB said, "top pair is gold"

Columbo777 said, "yeah, i should have put you on the donkey draw"

Now, note the exchange at the end where the person raking the pot rubs-in the fact that I made, what he believes, to be a donkey move. which is to say, I rode top pair to the river.

Huh? What I did was BET when I was AHEAD, STOP betting when his hand got there, and decided to make a crying call when he bet less that 1/2 the pot. Can ANYONE explain to me how that can possibly be so bad it justified taunting?

And his comment DID tilt me. Thus my sarcastic response. Oh, maybe not in the "bet off all your chips in the next hand" way (I actually got my money in ahead later and got out-drawn). But certainly it upset me, which is saying a lot. 90%+ of my comments when people start mouthing is to constantly just respond with "?". This, for some undetermined reason, irritates people who use the chat box a lot. But this time, I thought it was just annoying.

Yet, the very next time I played, I finish 5th (squeaked in the money) in a tough field. Heck, I finally lost when my AKs ran into QQ pre-flop and he won the race. And Hoyazo has been on a tear since his rant.

Could it be that there is a benefit to being emotionally invested prior to playing? And if so, why?

oh, and his play was not THAT bad really...
Lets play the hand back from our opponents point of view.
First a Free Flop
A gut shot, pot is still small. mathmatically incorrect, but low investment.
Turn brings a flush draw
Again, calls a pot sized bet without odds, this time for 180 (which is still only 10% of his stack) Not great, as he is drawing to about 11 outs or a 3-1 dog getting only 2-1 to call here. The "donkey draw" as I put it, but really not so awful.
And the home-run. He bets half the pot, which is paid off. and he is pleased with himself. Not so much about his play, but probably getting me to call the value bet. He bet the right amount to be called.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Las Vegas Trip Report part 2 (where I give away money)

It’s my last day/night in Vegas. I attend my conference, make my phone calls, and generally make sure my house is in order. There was a “rush street” type reception afterwards where rooms were set up by the vendors, each with a different theme, where food and drinks were served. I passed on the drinks, but did have some sushi. I relaxed with a hand rolled cigar. And then I left the free-loaders gobbling up free "vendor branded" dollar store crap before meeting Poker Prof (www.lasvegasvegas.com) for dinner at the Wynn. Oh and just a note. No. 1 on list of things that you would think would be sexy but aren’t? A Woman smoking a hand rolled cigar.

I had never seen the Wynn before. Wow. Ostentatious. We ate at a restaurant that featured a $32 burger, which we both ordered. It was a stuffed-burger, full of unique flavors. Frois gras? Really? Tasty. But ask any waiter if they serve a Mojito, and they’ll answer “yes”. This is a lie. I think waiters must be trained to answer this question yes regardless of the theme of the restaurant. "Yes, sure. Chez Burger can get you a Mojito". They did serve something CALLED a Mojito, but let’s face facts… It’s going to be sugar water, rum and some mint leaves throw in at the last second. In my head, I bashed his skull in with prof's empty coffee mug.

The restaurant faced a water fall which, upon some random time lapse of nothing weird happening, will break into either an MTV video or an animatronics song that would make Walt Disney jealous. The later, in this case, being a giant frog singing “Low Rider”. And that's all I have to say about that.

I leave for the poker tables. I am currently, after tips juice and miscellaneous tables goofs, up $478.

Warning: The following contains graphic donkey content of a mature nature. Parental Discretion is advised.

The Wynn runs a 1-3 NLHE low end table. Here is the problem. Rich people play here. The table I get seated at has two tight guys to my left, a huge LAG with a ton of chips, more tight players, and a Frenchman on my right. The LAG loved seeing flops with position, in total disregard of the pre-flop raise. Well, more specifically, he would CALL a big raise if he had position and a thin field with ANY TWO. When a player moans with disappointment when a third club falls on one flop, he bets him off the pot and shows a K high bluff. We all saw that coming. The guy literally moaned. Donk-tacular!

But when I understand this guy's LAG mentality and still completely misplay a hand…

I have TT in Mid-position and make 18 (6xBB) to go. He calls from the button and we are heads up. The flop is J65 rainbow. I like this flop. Unless he has a jack, I am ahead. And even if he has a Jack, (in which case he is a JERK) he has put me on QQ-AA. Especially if I bet on both the flop and the turn. So, I make a flop bet of 2/3 the pot and anticipate a call. I( will then bet the turn if a blank falls and take down the pot.) He indeed calls and the turn is a 2. A great card if I am indeed ahead and maybe even if he has something like J9. I make another 2/3 pot size bet and he calls while getting a massage at the table. The river is a 3 and I expect I have won the pot. I bet off the rest of my chips (only about 1/3 of the pot) and he calls. He played J5 and led the whole way, hoping I had AA. “Nice flop” was all I could muster as I left the table.

Story Problem (10 points)
He called a 6xBB raise with J5 because:

1. He could (He had about 500 in front of him)
2. He likes to crack aces
3. He had isolation and position
4. He cared not about odds or the money, just the chance of flopping big and breaking someone.
5. All of the above

Obviously, 5 is the answer. But if everything played out as he scripted, his implied odds pre-flop were just over 4-1 (assuming he breaks me if he hits hard) and IF I had Aces, he is almost a 7-1 dog. (I only bought in for 100 to test the waters and had about 85 in front of me when this hand occurred).

I left not because I felt I was out-matched here, but because of the no-cap buy-in. There were just too many big stacks at the table. That and I did so well at MGM.

So, back to the MGM to grind out more money. After all, I am still up $378 for the trip, right? And its late, but I figure I’ll play an hour and leave.

Fast forward an hour and I am up about $75 bucks. I have just over $225 in front of me. Then, I would go insane.

The player on my left was a big fat guy who played like he was in the world series. He made fancy moves at small pots. There were some generic guys, the guy who kept feeding me chips from the night before, and a serious tattoo guy on my right. (I caught a glimpse of the tatoo and it was poker related. PLUS the word lucky was visible underneath the picture. um, welcome to the 1-2 table Mr. My Life is Poker)

I had taken a SMALL hand off tattoo guy about 30 minutes earlier. This was an exciting hand as he was the button and raised to 3x. I called with 44 in the SB and the BB folded. The flop was 34T. I bet out and it confuses him. Not only did I bet out, I made a pot size bet. He was sure if I had a set I would check the flop and says so out loud. Yet, he hesitates to call. He folds. Then as the dealer deals the next hand he says he thinks I had 99. I tell him he was right and he is noticeably upset. After calming down, he told me he had AT and he wanted to put me all in. pwned. Maybe next time he will.

So it’s the end of the night and big fat guy raises my limp to 3xBB. Tatoo guy calls and I call with AJ. The flop is JT5. TPTK and I bet out. Fat guy raises. He did this at times to win with second best hand, so when Tatoo guys calls, I put in a huge re-raise. Pot sized. Both players go all in. I am already pot committed and if I was way behind, I already made my mistake when I re-raised. Donk-Y. Even if I had AA, my odds were: “Drawing dead”. Set of tens vs. the OESD. The OESD got there on the turn and tattoo guys wins a ton of money and I am the vanquished donk-tacular victim. I get up and go, too tired to play on.

I can’t be upset about getting out-flopped, or Top Pair not holding up. What I CAN be upset about is that the re-raise was nothing but stupidity. There was NO WAY that was the correct play against TWO players. They couldn’t BOTH be drawing. Plus, I made the pot huge, making sure the draw was going to stay. I felt EXTRA stupid as I was up for the night before that hand and managed to lose an ENTIRE STACK on TOP PAIR. I PREACH AGAINST THAT STUPIDITY!!!! I am Jack’s crushed ego.

I finish the trip up $178. Lame. Better than last time when the SAME thing happened (only one loss was a huge suckout by a runner/runner straight to beat my flopped top set) where I lost $220. Oh well, better a winner and disappointed, than a loser and miserable.

As I am checking out, I hear advice about getting to the airport earlier on an irrational level. 3 hours prior?! Are you kidding?

I stood in line for breakfast (at the airport's world famous whatever) and the girl behind me in line had a cliché’ Baby girl voice. You know, like in the cartoons? I thought it was a joke, but it was real. I listened to this latin Betty Boop as I munched my breakfast burrito. Those don’t go together well, especially where there is no salsa in there. Check please.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Las Vegas Trip report (Part 1 of 2)

Disclaimer: I hereby understand and disclose that this trip report is lame in all ways, known and unknown, in comparison to the events that will transpire next week at the WPBT. By reading this, you acknowledge and agree to not hold me in contempt for missing the WPBT blogger symposium in Vegas and admonish me and my lame schedule from further abuse regarding my inability to attend said event despite being in Vegas a week prior to B-day.

It’s a Monday night flight, and I got to the airport a tad early, so I sat down at the Japanese restaurant and got my fix of unagi. Mmmm, Eel. My film for the plane was “Bottle Rocket”. Eh. So-so. The Wilson brothers attempt to amuse you with dysfunctional characters in a ply reminiscent of the overly plotted crime films. Films like this rarely hit. I recently saw both “Rififi” and “Big Deal on Madonna Street” so this should be even funnier. It was not. Cést La Vie. (Hey, that’s French) I missed the Monday night NFL game.

I arrive at 10pm local time (1am for me). As I get out of my cab at the RIO, I see the Hooter’s cab-top ad and recognize the big guy with the big smile on his face. Really. I did SOMETHING with him. Was it stand up? Improv? It was something and it’s been haunting my brain for a week now… Like an itch you just can’t scratch. Even worse, you feel bad about it since you can’t remember. I STILL CAN REMEMBER HIS NAME. ARGH.

Oh, and it’s cold, very cold.

I amuse myself by catching up on a blog written by another Michigan blogger (with huge confirmed junk) who is suddenly posting again!

In the morning I attend a Convention, and stare bleakly at Starbucks Christmas ornaments while I wait entirely too long for coffee. How does Las Vegas not understand that every second I wait for something is a second that I am not gambooooling!. It was weird being where the WSOP was held and there are no poker tables! Just geeks. Lots of geeks. Hey, I run a top 12 percent IT organization according to the pundits and their metrics. Bully for me, off to eat and play poker. ANY time I get a chance to eat sausage and drink German beer, I take it! So it was a quick ride to the Hofbrauhaus (I recommend the veal sausage with kraut) and then a quick exit to one of the better run poker rooms, the MGM card room rodeo fishbowl. VERY long story short, I play tight aggressive and in 5 hours win 2 beers and 2 dollars. Zero sum poker @ MGM.

The next day, the cowboys have started rolling in for next week. Enjoy G-Rob! Some more convention (who cares), and then dinner. I had planned on going to the cool street food court in NY-NY, but alas I got free convention food. So, I decide to play a tournament. Using the ultra-scientific tournament listings page at lasvegasvegas.com (putting the Vegas in Vegas) I decide that my low risk donk-fest is at…..(drum roll) Luxor!!!!

Dicks Last Resort is coming to Vegas? It’s only a matter of time before Vegas has to turn the old downtown in to a world showcase ala Epcot Center to house all things from everywhere.


The Luxor was $47+$13 juice for 500 in chips. $3 for the dealers added 20% for a total of 600 chips. The blinds start at 25/25, so your effective starting M is 12. 24 players. The VERY first hand, a lady raises to 100 from UtG+1 and I have 77. She might have AK or she might have Ax? Who knows. I call and heads up we see a flop of 854 rainbow. I am excited until she bets 200. Am I willing to go out on hand #1? I should be, but I am not. My read is she has the 8 beat. Maybe JJ. I fold.

It was feast of famine with so few chips to play with. One guy gets all-in twice, wins both and each time knocks out another player. I see a couple of flops and surrender a blind and suddenly I am at $375. I have yet to win a hand. Heck, I have yet to see a turn card. The blinds are now 50/100 and soon to double. I decided that I would be all-in first chance I get and roll the dice. Why not? My M is 2 and change and I need to double up to even play. When I look down at A7 sooted, I push. The button, who is the same guy who has sent the two players to the rail, goes into think mode. What is there to think about? He calls with A9o. The Ace flops and I get up to leave. The river is a 7. My one big luckbox suckout for Vegas. I sat back down, determined not to waste it. And waste it I did not! From that hand forward I never got my money in behind the rest of the night. Normal, math correct and nothing fancy play, gets me to the final table.

I have about the 6th largest stack of the 10 (which says little). But what I have on my side is SnG experience and a strategic viewpoint. It seems my opponents had neither. I was like the flowing water, changing my shape to flow around the big stacks, but to come crashing down like a breaking wave on the short stacks. By using my head and knowing what battles to choose, I broke 3 other players. Fast forward to 3 players left. A Swede, a big guy wearing Raiders gear, and me. The Swede was smart but inexperienced. He fell to the Raiders guy. Now we are heads up. Its $500 for first, but only $225 for second. I have 60% of the chips, but offer a 50/50 deal. (sound familiar). But apparently some people are gamboolers. He says, “Nah. If I win I’ll buy a big screen TV”. And the moment he said it, I knew I was going to have the edge. It wasn’t about skill for him, nor the honing of his craft. He just like the idea of winning a lot of money. All I have to do is keep the pots small until I have a big hand. The first 2-3 hands confirmed my diagnosis as I watched him reluctant to spar with me. By hand 5, I broke him when I disguised my top pair flop and got him pot committed on the turn with bottom pair.

He thanked me for something and I thanked him for not taking the deal. He was not amused. Then the lady from hand 1 told me she had TT. It was that fold on hand 1, (yes, and a suckout), that won it for me.

I TRIED to play a bit at the castle, but they wanted me to WAIT for a seat. Their poker “room” is now so small, that when you walk in there all you expect to see is a copier and a coffee maker. "Columbo!" "Playing Poker" "Colum-ster" (etc, et al.). I said, “why should I wait when I can walk right up and sit down at MGM?” and with that cashed back out and left.

At the MGM (where I walked in and there was a seat open) I GRINDED out about $67 at the 1-2 table and finally had to sleep...

Tomorrow, the exciting conclusion where I attempt to LOSE money instead of win it!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Armchair psychology redux

Is it just me, is is there a tournament player mentality that is predictable?

Axiom: If a player's Q falls below 1, it is much harder for him to make a merginal fold (he'll more likely stack-off). When a Q is higher than 1 (especially when its much higher), it seems that its easier for you opponent to make a "big laydown".


Playing the Ponies, Vegas and WPBT

First of all, let me say that I just can't get enough of HORSE. (I like triple-draw too.) So, Poker Stars has been luring me back. Most of the low stakes HORSE Tables are loose like HE tables were 3 years ago.

I am in Vegas this week on business, should be at the MGM poker room Monday evening. Unless I am very lazy, in which case I'll be at the RIO poker "room" (alcove).

(by CJ )
It's on!

What: The World Poker Bloggers Tour Aladdin Casino Classic
When: Saturday, June 4th
Where: The Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas, NV
Following my last e-mail exchange with Edna, the Aladdin Poker Room manager, we are confirmed for our June event. Start making your plans now! I'm still working on getting a maximum number of entrants, so get your RSVP's to me immediately. Send me an email at cjhoyt !-@-! upforanything DOT net.

I believe the buy-in for this event will likely be $50+5, although I'm still finalizing those details. I also don't have the exact start time of the tournament in stone, but the date is final. Send whatever questions you have for me as soon as possible!

This is the same weekend as the start of the World Series of Poker so there should be a big poker crowd in town. Those interested in playing the $1500 NLHE event will likely be able to play in both that and our WPBT event. Although if you make the final table in the WSOP event, that might conflict. I'm sure that wouldn't be too disappointing!

I imagine this event will be bigger and better than the last! Remember, we're likely going to limit this to poker bloggers unless I can get a larger number of participants from the Aladdin. That means I'll need to know your blog when you RSVP. Questions? Send 'em my way!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mirror, Mirror

So, after my last post, aren’t you curious about how I did in my live game?

I like Scott’s game in that it has the environment that plays to my strengths: 45 people or less, tournament freeze-out, with a fair number of players who think they are good. I like tournament structures far better than cash games for two reasons. The first is that I feel that I am strategically sound, and that too many players concentrate on just tactics. The second is that in a tournament where there are 5 tables or less, you occasionally find yourselves short-handed and I feel that plays to more of my strengths. I enjoy the level of competition, so I look forward to Scott’s game. I had missed the last two months, and wondered how quickly I could get a read on players.

I drew table 2. To my left was a lady who was mechanically sound, but not good enough to get away from top pair. Next (left) was a guy who reminded me of all poker players two years ago. He knew the mechanics of the game, and could outplay a novice, but you could read his play like a book. Next was an older gentlemen who did not “get out of line”. He would occasionally stab at an uncontested pot. Next was an empty chair that would later be filled by Mr. Purple. He knew what he was doing, but… Next was a young woman who I knew nothing about. Over the course of the night, I tagged her as a “lady in waiting”. She would wait for hands that had the potential for big gains, and sometimes even make –EV calls to see if she could win a big pot. And when she hit, she invariably got paid off. Next was the Cobra, a good player and previous winner, but when I play a big pot with him, I try to act weak (like Columbo) so that I can disguise my intents. To my right was a guy who was me last year. A better player, who know his stuff. Odds, when to push, etc. But he did not read others particularly well, so I figured he would struggle in the later rounds.

I played simple, by the book poker. I am up maybe 5% and I get dealt AA. A make a minor raise (the table was currently tight was rockets) and got two callers. I flopped a set, and Cobra was interested in the pot. To confuse him, I checked the flop behind him, knowing that he would bet out on the turn. He made a good sized bet on the turn card and my raise put him in the tank. He eventually folded.

The very next hand I decided to call a 3x pre-flop with 44 because I had enough chips that I felt I could take that chance. I hit the set and let the lady to my left with top pair bet off ALL her chips. She lamented her bad luck.

At the break, I had a Q of over 2. And I notice something too, I am playing detached and emotionless, almost like I didn’t care. But I did. I was just concentrating on being competent and waiting for opportunities.

Table breaks. I am now sitting down with slightly higher than average stack, and Cobra is now on my left. Table is tight aggressive and there are some familiar faces. To Cobra’s left, is an unknown. Next is the host, an aggressive player who can often get into kicker problems. Another unknown. Frank from my table earlier. Next a woman who is mechanically sound, but does not read players. And the three players to my right that I did not expect to be factors, but had no reads on them. I get involved in a hand when its folded around to me (9 handed) and I raise 3xBB with AJ. The SB calls and the BB goes all in. Well, it’s not that much more (another 2xBB) and I call. The SB now also goes all-in and I realize my mistake. I got caught in a squeeze. BUT, the SB could not make the bet because the BB could not make a complete raise. But I know the money is going in. The flop is 3 blanks and the SB throws in his 2xBB remaining. What am I going to do? Fold? Mathematically, I had to call this. The BB had A8s, and the SB Cobra? He had AK. We all missed the flop and its lotto time. The J on the turn and the 8 on the river results in me taking all those chips. Now, what I don’t know at this point is that one of the three players on my right is from Scott’s other monthly game and this guy has a ton of poker experience. He has seen this hand…

We are now at the final table and seats are changed.

Fast forward to 6 left. I have bled down to average after folding a lot and having one hand where I tangled with Jim, who would not lay down his pocket sixes. I had to throw away my AK after stabbing on the flop and Jim calling. We take a short break and I start my usual worrying about making it past the bubble (pays 4 places). Then, it dawns on me. THAT IS BULLSHIT. This is what I wanted. This is what I ENJOY. This is the time that separates the pretenders from the closers. I decide that I am not going to now ruin the entire evening by trying to do anything but play well. I sit back down and resume my detached and concentrated self. I have been listening to music this entire tournament also, not standard for me. I also took no notes, as I wanted to just concentrate on playing. Both seemed like good choices in retrospect.

On my left, a guy I know nothing about… yet. Next, the young lady from my first table. Then Jim, who I know to do a notorious “looker upper” (see above). The host, who can not seem to change gears as the field thins. Boone, a talkative player, who occasionally steps out of line and occasionally lectures people on their play. He talks during hands he is not in (not a good thing to do). He also is observant of what cards you play. I always make sure I pre-flop raise with a marginal hand at least once to remind him to watch out for me. The solid lady is on my right, but I am not too worried as she is the short stack.

Boone sees two limpers and makes it 3xBB to go from the button. The SB folds and I look down at AK. I am out of position and bleeding, this is a good time to push back at Boone. For all his aggression, he is what I call a viper. He strikes often and aggressively, but he often retreats when slapped back with a big re-raise. All this weighs into my thinking, and since my Q is about .8 and the pot already has enough chips to add 20% to my stack AND take me back to a Q of 1, I decide this opportunity is too good to waste. I go all in, knowing that I get to see all 5 if he calls. He goes into the tank and he is sure I have an upper pair like TT or JJ. Does he want to race with his Ax? After MUCH time, he folds (bad for me?) and I scoop the pot and confirm my TT. Then, he says he does not like the way I played the hand. He would have called with TT and played after the flop. I stated that I felt that was a mistake as most flops are danger cards for TT and the pot was already big enough that I felt the 10k in chips was worth taking down. He says it was foolish to risk 30k to win 10k. I said, I felt it was foolish to risk 10k when I could apply the pressure now and make him fold. Of course the entire conversation was actually theory, as I never had the TT.

Play is tight. I am not maneuvering a lot, but still awaiting good opportunities. I make a few well timed steals, but I am still bleeding more chips than I am accumulating. I have a slightly below average stack when its folded around to the Woman on right (on the button I think). She limps and I look down at my second big pair of the night. The big AA. I make a 2.5xBB raise, like I am trying to steal because she limped on the button. When the BB folds, she goes all in and I call so fast that I must have reminded everyone of Phil Helmuth. She had Ax and I take down a big hand. 5 left.

A few hands later, Boone is taking across the table with the young woman about favorite hands. Hers is T7s, his is J9. As he says this, he limps from the button. I look down at J9 on the button. I actually snicker out loud and call. The flop is KQT. I flopped the nuts. Boone stabs at the pot with JT and I raise but look weak. He puts me all in and I quickly call. Two blanks and I am the chip leader.

We are now three handed, well past the bubble. We push chips around the table for about 30 minutes and everyone is wondering why it’s not over. But I know. It’s because I have twice the chips as either of them, and I don’t intend to double them up. Plus, I have time as the blinds are not hurting me. But the guy is VERY aggressive and has re-raised me all-in at least twice when I entered the pot from the button for 3xBB. He feels very confident.

And here it gets REALLY interesting. The host suggests we make a deal. Now its about $745 for first, $400 for second and about $295 for third. A total of about $1400 (sic). The player on my left (who is the guy from Scott’s other game) suggests $450, $450, $500 and it doesn’t take me long to find the flaw with this math. I say, in a matter of factly, bored voice, “that doesn’t make any sense, as I have twice the chips you guys have”. His response was something to affect that I was not sure to win and that the $500 was a guarantee. I counted my chips and said, “I have a little over 120k”. (they had about $50-$60 each). And his response? “Well, what would you want?”. I say “ $600” (it was late and I thought it was enough.) HE SCOFFS. (WHY?) Then, he says this gem:

“Well, we can play it out if you guys want, but I feel like I am the best player here”.

I was very proud of what happened next. Nothing. I did not flinch, make a face, or say a word. I just watched with almost disinterest. Let’s go. But then the lady says something brilliant. Why not split it and give him the $600 and then we’ll put in $50 a piece and finish the tournament winner-take-all. I could not agree fast enough. This is a GREAT deal for me. First of all, I got the $600 at no further risk. Secondly, if I win it all, I win nearly the same amount I would have for first anyway. And third, this guy now wanted to back up his words, and this was a way to make sure he could.

We start playing again, and the guy continues his aggression. Its then I realize what is going on. He thinks he is FAR better than us. He thinks we were both gotten lucky to get here. He saw a couple of hands where he thought we came from behind or just got lucky and thought he could easily out play us. Wow. (I found out later, that he too took down one or two big pots from behind and had nothing on us). I decide that with the blinds they way they are and with my big stack, I needed to parry the aggression and not allow these guys to play post flop. I was going to wait for opportunity. And I wanted to knock the lady out first. A couple of times I folded good hands to raises, including a REALLY tight fold with TT. After 20 more minutes of this, I realize I need to take more stands. I get raised by the young lady and I figure she can do this is any two face cards. I call with A6s, only to see a better Ax. But I hit the 6 on the turn, and she is out.

I have a 3 to 1 chip lead and when my lone remaining opponent raises, I realize I no longer wish to play pre-flop for the chips. I want to change gears again, wanting to see flops. I call his raise with 64s. The flop is 763 and I flop middle pair, a belly buster straight draw and a back door flush draw. He makes a big bet and all the money goes in. I feel I am probably ahead here and that he has two big cards. Nope, he had a 7. But the turn is a 5 and its over. If he wins that hand, we are heads up with close to even stacks.

But, that’s the danger in poker. Chips are power, especially in a tournament. I can afford from a single hand to not go my way, your opponent cant. And in LARGE field tournaments, you have to take so many chances to get those big stacks that its often the suicide players that end up with the stacks. But when you play 5 tables or less, you can accumulate chips without getting your money in behind. Just one or two hands go your way, and you can out maneuver your opponents when they have marginal hands. It’s all the difference in the world.

There was no celebration. Not so much as a smile on my face. It was simply business. I finished the tournament the same way I started it, with little emotion or excitement. I went to work, did my best, and then I go home.

So, there it is. I go in and take home the bacon. Did I play amazingly great? No. Did I play the best poker ever? No. Did I play a good tournament, mixing tactics and strategy, taking chances at the right time, and make careful observations of my opponents? Yes, I did.

Friday, November 17, 2006

For goodness sakes, have a point!!!

Nope. Can't. Quite frankly I am surprised I am even posting as I type this...

First of all, let me state for the record, that Iggy retiring is a blow to the blogger community, the poker community, and to the WPBT stories bin. Some of my most memorable moments of Vegas revolve around the little guy. (and I don't mean little Elvis.)

Secondly, I think Biggestron made a great statement with his "boredom with reading poker blogs, especially strategy posts" comments. Which, of course, is horrible news for me as I rarely post anything else.

But I will have a trip report as I am in Vegas next week on business and will do nothing with my evenings that does not involve poker. Until then, what is worth writing?

I guess that... well, let me state it another way. I played a 20 table last night and lost interest when I had a Q of 2. Now I understand losing interest when you are constantly fighting at a Q of .95, but to loaf it at 2 ???? WTF!? I ended up 60th-ish (of 180). Mostly because I did not change gears at the right time. Actually, I did not change gears at all as I did not care enough to watch carefully. Lazy. And distracted by other things.

I am playing a live 3 table tonight and hopefully I can keep my interest on the table and not on other things. Hopefully I do well.

Is poker just becomming a tad boring? Is that it? With all the hype and "newness" gone, isn't this inevitable?

Who can say? But with the $ conduits being cut off, the poor ESPN WSOP coverage, and Harrah's talking about chocking off online qualifiers, what other conclusions can one come to?

WSOP main event field in 2007, 4500 players?

BONUS CODE <"insert nothing here"> DAMMIT!!! (sigh)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Irony of everyday life

So I go to vote today. And I find myself in a elementary school gymnasium standing in line with a sticker on my right index finger and a slip of paper in my left. It dawns on me that this is a complete waste of everyone's time because its the bloody 21st century and I should be able to vote from my computer or even cable set-top box in about 5 seconds. We are (debatably) the most technological nation on the planet for cripes sakes.

So when I get home, I figure I will fire up the olde (sic) blog to tell you all about it. And its then that I realize that it takes bloody 5 minutes for my blog to load and I have not been posting lately because the response time on blogspot has been so poor and sometimes I just plain cant get in to post.

So much for electronic voting...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

da mookie

The Scenario:

We are at level 6 or 7? and I have a Q of .95. I THINK my M is about 10-15, but I am 16th in chips right now (about mid field). (This is all from memory).

I get Jd3d in the BB and an MP min raised. The player to his right calls. I fold too many blinds as it is, so I always look at opportunities to see a flop in the BB. I decide to take this one. The flop is an Ace and two diamonds.

In a tournament, if you play tight, there are a few opportunities that are special. They are not just pots, they are lead changing pots. And you have a big impact decision to make...

I check and the MP bets BIG. Then, the player after him bets bigger (enough that I would be pot committed).

I am on FT and there is no time bank. I have to think fast.

1. What's my read on their hands?
Well, I am VERY sure they do NOT have flush draws. The way the betting went pre-flop and post flop, I am sure my flush draw is good.

2. What are my odds?
I always assume a flopped flush draw is 2-1 to get there. EVEN if the first MP folds (which I doubt), I am getting 2-1 plus the current pot size, so about 2.25 to 1

3. What can happen if I win/lose/FOLD.
Well, I am pot commited, so if I lose I am out. If I fold, I am only out the original pre-flop raises and my Q falls to .9 and I have to double up soon or except the distinct possibility that I will not cash. If I win, I will rocket to the top 5 in chips as I TRIPLE up and will actually have a solid chance to cash.

4. Am I about to do something stupid?
The previous hand, I folded the HAMMER UTG because I could not bring myself to play it based on the fact that the hadn before that, I raised 3xBB and stole the blinds from UTG+1. I felt I would have to see a flop with it and could not afford the chips. I thus invoked the CURSE OF THE HAMMER (not playing it when first to act) and would have had a BOAT by the river.

Because of that, I felt I had to justify that by accumulating chips. So, yes, maybe I was, but I could justify the odds.

So, I push my stack in and both players call. When the turn comes, the first MP checks and the second pushes. This is great for me as the first MP folds! (I already have his money in there). But alas, the river is a blank and he pulls down the pot with AJ. (my jack was not live in retrospect).

So, did I play smart, competently, or donk-ish?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Who's the U-boat commander?

Sarcasm. Its the only thing getting me by today. 4 tournaments, 4 times eliminated with my money in ahead. SnG where my straight caught a guy with two pair willing to call any size bet, including my monkey push. He caught the 4 outer.

Then in the 180, after a poorly timed bluff (I misread his holding), I was short stacked and managed to get my 88 all in vs. 44. Never got past the flop. My own fault for bluffing at the wrong time, but I should have been able to recover.

so now I ask you. I MUST be doing something wrong. Its just really hard to figure it out when you are getting your money in ahead. I must look DEEP.

Who ordered the burly beef?

Ya know, I would like to be angry today, but I guess I resign myself to the fates. I played a 180 and the 30k yesterday, both with similar results. I finished 45th in the 180k when I gave EVERYONE A FREE CARD after the flop, when after carefully sizing my bet with TPTK, I accidently clicked on CHECK. The bottom pair player hit his second card on the turn.

In the 30k, I managed to hang around average for 2.5 hours. There were about 300 of the original 1500 (yup) left and I realized on the turn that the other guy was pushing with a the nut flush draw because he was behind. I set him all in and needed to dodge a single club to double up and be sitting way above average. All my chips as a 3-1 favorite when I already have a good chunk of them in the pot? Everytime baby. Forget that survival stuff, I'll take 3-1 EVERY FRICKIN TIME.

But at the end of the night, all I could do is ask, "hey, who ordered the burly beef?"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Godfather 3

So just as I complain I can no longer play poker, I get dragged back in. A HORSE tournament hosted by the ANTE-UP podcast. Since my Columbo segments have moved over there, I have been trying to play all the events. Through 7 of them, the best I could muster was a 9th.

But HORSE requires a lot more than luck. Plus its all limit and its a value betting game. It requires minimizing risk and playing big pots with big cards. That's what I do to a fault.

36 players, I finished 1st. :) I guess the word of my demise (in my head) was a bit pre-mature. Plus, I have a business trip to Vegas in 3 weeks...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

ok buddy, where's the fire?

# of tournaments in the last 10 where I was in the top 10% of chips or the top 10% of players sometime in the tournament = 9.

# of those tournaments that I cashed in = 1.

Just what does THAT tell you? That I don't play tight when I need to. More to the point, I dont slow down until I LOSE a big hand.

I need to READ situations better. I wish FT had the time bank like PS. (although I think you should have to manally initiate it so that it does not kick in for diconnected players).

Monday, October 16, 2006

I am frickin Nostradamus (online poker is illegal thread)

If you read my blog for a while (yeah, right), remember this gem?

Point? well, let me digress a bit and make another one. Party Poker is going to ruin everything. When they took their poker site public, they added the pressure of growth revenues. That caused the company to look for more ways to generate growth (income). They introduced blackjack and side bets. And that's gambling. Its not game play based on skill, its plain gambling. And it marks the beginning of the end. Soon we will see the negative backlash that comes with gambling, then regulation based on the lost tax revenues, and then decline of ease of online play, then when the boom ends, the brick casinos start to offer less card room space.

These things swing like pendulums and if you don’t believe it, then you're simply too young to have seen it all before.

That was November 13th, 2005. It took 11 months for it to come true, but I still think that was the turning point. And its why Full Tilt lost its bid to have poker regulated as a separate entity from other gambling.

So, the landscape is changing and just as having poker as a hobby was beginning to wane for many. I already expected that the WSOP next year would NOT hit 10,000 players as many are saying. Now, it seems we start to find the ceiling. Just like the stand-up comedy boom in the 80s, or the MAGIC card playing in the 90s. Whatever it is, it peaks and then finds a regular audience. I would not be surprised if the WSOP is less than 8000 players next summer, would you?? Really?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Some hand (ante-up short handed tourney)

Played 6 handed and was in the top ten for a while. Then my KQ flopped TP and lost 2/3 of my stack to AK. I was crippled.

The new big stack, then gets sucked out on at he river and is back to an average stack.

This player now looks like he is tilting when he pushes all-in pre-flop on the very next hand to a EP 3x raiser. But what's this? I have AA.

I call, as does the EP player with JdQd. And watch the fireworks...

And as the cards come one street climax after another, all we can do is gape and read our fates.

I later lose another hand with TP KQ vs. AK but was still 10th overall at that point with 24 left at the break.

I ended up 12th when I decided to get cute. The player in the big blind loved to re-raise me. So on the button, I min raise with AK. both blinds call. the flop is 443 and I go all in. The SB had 45. And so it goes...

another WPBT banner

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fast Times at Ante-up High

"I always defended you Razz. When people used to say, 'Hey, there goes Razz the loser', I would say, 'You just dont know Razz'. Well you know something Razz? Maybe they did know you".

ARGH. I practically double up on the first hand and then go on a rock catching tear that could out score Terrell Owens. A23 turns into a BOAT. Over and over again my junk gets kicked as with the legendary scriptures of blogger junk kick receiving.

I went from first to second one out on all good start hands, mostly with a decent draw on 4th. And old story, told by a fool.


Fast Times at Ante-up High

"I always defended you Razz. When people used to say, 'Hey, there goes Razz the loser', I would say, 'You just dont know Razz'. Well you know something Razz? Maybe they did know you".

ARGH. I practically double up on the first hand and then go on a rock catching tear that could out score Terrell Owens. A23 turns into a BOAT. Over and over again my junk gets kicked as with the legendary scriptures of blogger junk kick receiving.

I went from first to second one out on all good start hands, mostly with a decent draw on 4th. And old story, told by a fool.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Twisting in the wind with Omaha

Played PLO on Saturday in the ante-up tournament. Was doing very well (top 10 the whoe way) until the blinds started forcing us to gamble more. As my stack dipped below average, I got my money in post-flop as a 2 to 1 favorite and the opponent hit his redraw when the board paired on the river. Ouch. PLO is hard.

I played in the WPBT O8B event which turned out to be about 20 players. I was doing well with 9 left and let is slip away, bubbling out in 5th. I lost a big hand to StaticKling but a more painful loss was losing a couple of big hands to the luckbox. He was on my left, and there was one hand that I actually had to freeze, go back to the hand histories and figure out where I blew it. Turns out I did not blow it so much as lady luck uses me as a scratching post. As does luckbox.

I was surprised over the last two weeks that I had this strange aversion to games other than hold em. I did not want to play a game where I was a rank beginner. Yet I played well in each of them, getting my money in ahead a majority of the time.

So, we'll see if I get to continue this hobby based on the internet gambling rider on the safe harbour act. We all know that shipping goods with contraband or lethal bombs in them is very similar to play $1/$2 internet poker and therefore I must respect the opinion of my government which, in its wisdom, knows what is best for me.

Of course, this is really an issue of TAX (or lack thereof).

Friday, September 29, 2006

Stud hand FROM HELL

I am not a GREAT stud player, but I understand the basic premise. EXTRACTION. This is a game of punishing players for thinking that they might be ahead, when in fact, they are behind. I am in a field of 72 and I am in the top 12 the entire tournament. But with 24 or so left, this happens.

I am dealt (KK)7. After I bet, I get a call from (xx)K. Now, I HAVE to think he has a pocket pair here and not the case K. But get this. On 4th street, he is dealt a seemingly dead 7. Another player FOLDED a 7 and there is only one left other than this.

So, I have (KK)79 and he has (xx)K7. I HAVE to assume that he has a pocket pair like QQ or JJ or TT here because he thinks he is ahead, but not recklessly like with AA.

On 5th street, my alarm goes off and I go to check-call mode. BUT HOW CAN I BE BEHIND? And am I an idiot for going into check-call when I think I should be ahead?

He turns over the case King AND the case 7 for Kings up. I never improved and he takes what I considered my pot.

2/3 of my stack gone and the next hand I run my short stack QQx into what turns out to be AAx and just like that I went out.

BUT, I THINK I played well. ???

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The trouble with reading players

There are too many variables for me to be reading players with only 2 years experience. So, I have come up with a set of metrics that I am going to try in an attempt to reduce the amount of information I have to process prior to a final table.

Here is want I want to know about each player:

1. What does his preflop raise mean? Better than avg hand? First into pot? speculative hand pot builder? LAG?

2. Post-Flop, what does a weak lead mean from him? And If I am out of position, what does a smooth call typically mean from him? Is a weak lead weak, or does he play backwards? Does he smooth call to attempt to play pots away or is a smooth call a big hand?

3. What is his correlation between VP$IP and Showdown %??? When he bets, is he going to war?

Monday, September 25, 2006

fun with armchair psychology

Today's lessons is Stocastic Reasonance. This painful concept/theory postulates the idea that more noise does not disguise patterns, but rather makes them more identifiable.

In effect, if you sit at the poker table with little or no regard to how much you are moving, gesturing, talking, etc. the added noise makes it EASIER to pick up tells from you. This seems counterintuitive, as does the opposite postulate that no noise has the same effect.

In order to best disguise our tells, we should keep "noise" to a minimum, but not eliminate it altogether.

Now, go wash your brain out.

WPBT event

In case you don't read the WPBT calendar, the next event (PLO8) is at Full Tilt on October 1st at 9pm. $20+2. Password is, of course, known to you all. Bloggers only, please. (I am working on a banner right now)

The world is full of choices

I have recently made some very bad ones:

1. I missed "Bash at the Boathouse" because I was already committed to other plans. This "other plan" turned out to be spending 2 days in the pouring rain in the middle of friggin' nowhere with a bunch of people (most of which I do not know) being rustic and eating organic foods. WTF?! Chance of repeating said mistake: ZERO %
(The F-Train photos say it all http://www.flickr.com/photos/ftrain/sets/72157594298443046/ )
Cut me a small amount of slack here as we thought this "other plan" was a very kid friendly event. Pouring rain in October is rarely kid friendly.

2. I lost a buy-in last night when I lost control of my patience and on a ragged flop of 872, pushed a guy with TT. After a pause, he took all my money with KK. But HOW did it happen? Simple. I am not THINKING at the table, just playing. I am going to fix that once and for all. I have an idea I am going to try. I am going to call out (at my screen or write it down), everytime someone else does something, why I think they did it. It will force me to return to poker as a thinking game and not a game of mechanical choices.

3. Add one more thing to the list of things that drives me crazy: People who load napkins into napkin holders backwards. Are there really people that need to be TRAINED that one way the napkin comes out and one way it does not!?

4. I really want to throw some props to the crew that runs ABC's LOST. The summer clue hunt (or whatever they called it) did a nice job of letting some of the bigger fans (I am just a tag-along poser) learn the purpose of the number sequence and why the island and initiative exists. Add that to the knowledge that Abrams was a big fan of "The Prisoner" (available at netflix, you will not regret it) and you understand the last episode of season 2 in complete clarity. I like the moral question posed though. If you could save the world, but had to murder 1/3 of the people to do it, could you?

Friday, September 22, 2006

I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues

My game is painful to watch right now. Like Steve Martin in The Jerk trying to keep rhythm with a blues song painful. Why? Why oh Why?

Rhetorical really. I know the answer. I am playing MECHANICALLY. I am so emotionally detached during play, that I marginalize decisions.

Last night I played in the Ante-Up event and had TPTK on a board of like K622. Someone puts me all in and I am sure he did not play 32. But he did play K6. But there is some bad jojo coming my way too. With my remaining stack I push with 99 and on a board of Q32, somehow get called by TT. Good call? Sure, but it was my short stack that probably enticed it as much as someone reading me as “tilting”, which I did not.

After getting knocked out, instead of watching, I played a HORSE SnG and finished 2nd. I should stick to HORSE as I have a good understanding of where I am at in less volatile games. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how tight I play 7Stud, I get a caller when I do play a hand. Um, thanks?

Then I watched Phil Helmuth and Mike the Mouth get knocked out of day 1 of the WSOP and Daniel almost tilt in frustration. I guess it happens to everyone.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I want to eet sum frozen yogurt

Distractions in life = distractions in game. Too many things in my head when I sit down at the table. I notice that my results are shifting also. More of the "out early or in the money" type results. Not the usual for me. Why? I think its because I am simplifying my decisions because I am distracted. Not good.

I am watching cartoons (I LOVE cartoons, always have), football, reality TV (amazing race, survivor, heck even Gene Simmons), building a PC WHILE playing poker on it. Way too much at once.

Tonight, I am going to play in the Ante-up! game. I intend to CONCENTRATE. Like Paul Phillips on Ritalin concentration.

Still, you can't help but notice that momentum of poker is slowing (this is not a bad thing, dont yell at me!) as the sites are expanding game types. And the WCOOP at Stars (and each site has some sort of equivalent) just dont interest me. I like the challenge of the (20 table MTT). Who wants 100 tables? Not me.

One last scary comment: The more random the deck, the LESS realistic it is. When you play poker at a physical table with cards, they are shuffled in a way that is limited by the laws of physics and time. An electronic deck can be truly random. Like it or not, its DIFFERENT and thus behaves DIFFERENTLY. It's not "rigged", but it IS different.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Right or Wrong pre-flop

I don't care how many people lecture me or cry foul. There is no RIGHT or WRONG pre-flop, only CONSEQUENCES.

If I decide to play J8o from late position and crack KK, I did not make a RIGHT OR WRONG decision pre-flop. I simply decided to accept the consequences of seeing that flop. What I do from THAT POINT can be right or wrong, sure. If I miss the flop and don't let it go, again its my fault. But accepting the consequences and seeing a flop, there is nothing WRONG about it.

And for those players out there who don't understand this, let me make it even more clear. What kind of player pushes all in with KK on a board of QT98 and 3 hearts just because I could not possibly have J8 in LP??? The one busting out of the tournament...

What's worse is the guy at the same table who does this 20 hands later, despite watching it happen to this poor sod.

PokerStars Tournament No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $4.00/$0.40
180 players
Total Prize Pool: $720.00

Dear Columbo,

You finished the tournament in 3rd place.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Who Are You? (who who, who who)

Once in a great while, I lift the veil of the secrecy off my life and post something that is not poker related. Well, today is one of those far off days. Please forgive this glimpse into my personal psyche. Avert your eyes for your own safety.

The List of Things I currently can not remain silent about due to fact that I have had it up to here (holds hand above head) with them:

1. Bands that do "chill-out" versions of 80s songs. Electronic chill-out is for relaxing, not recycling Michael Jackson songs.

2. That left side door that is always locked despite the fact that it is a perfectly good door just like the one on the right! Is it too hard to unlock BOTH doors? What is it, a LATCH? How hard is that?

3. People who attend an event and bitch about how it was not as good as they would have liked it, despite their complete lack of experience in throwing any similar event. Applaud the effort for Pete's sake.

4. Digital Rights Management. Granted, this is a technology specific complaint, but how can ANY good come of this? A VCR is ok but a better VCR is not? WTF? And this "right to use" crap. I love that if I buy a DVD or piece of software and it becomes damaged, I am OBLIGATED to REPLACE IT through a second purchase of the SAME THING I ALREADY BOUGHT!!! Even this guy who wrote poker inspector is playing hardball with my license code because I lost 4 hard drives in 3 years (IS THAT REALLY THAT FAR FETCHED?!?!) so in his infinite wisdom has requested that I REPURCHASE the program. WTF? Like I crafted a story in order to rip the guy off for $30?! In the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld, "Who are these people"?

5. Foreign Call Centers. Not sure I can say anything here that is not obvious. But still, let me state it has to do with the remote location not the ethnicity. If your call center is not a part of your business, nor is it in close contact and proximity of your business, the customer service is GOING TO BE POOR. There is no way that people half way around the world can properly troubleshoot my DSL line, nor can they competently escalate due to the fact that they are by all indications and labels, a COST REDUCTION CENTER. AND, There are few things in life more annoying than those automated call avoidance systems that one needs to navigate through for NO APPARENT REASON. One of the few things that IS more annoying is having to navigate through a call center technician, who has access to a vast array of knowledge bases and FAQs, and have no actual chance in hell of actually helping me but has been trained to exhaust all possible (and apparently INPROBABLE) avenues before admitting that someone with a TECHNICAL UNDERSTANDING of the product they sell is necessary.

6. Purchasing something at Best Buy. I wait in line LONGER than at the grocer? How is that even possible? Could I even design a store that could properly lend itself further towards actually feeling like waiting for a ride at cedar point?

Well, I could go on all day, but then I would become #7...

could not lay a hand down

Despite it being early in the tournament, despite knowing that my opponent had pocket Kings, I just could not bring myself to lay my hand down. I had a dismal showing in my first "Mookie" tournament and I have to hang my head in shame going out on the first hand I played.

No matter how good I am, I can't read the future well enough to lay down AA pre-flop.
A King on the flop and its off to watch TV.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The proverbial drawing board

Here is one of the great tidbits I got from a book recently:

When stacks are shallow, play strong draws strong. Weaks draws are let go.
When stacks are DEEP, play strong draws weak and weak draws strong.

Let that last part sink in a second.

Now, why?

Well, Deep stack NL is about TRAPPING. Your strong draw implied odds go up with each caller who "hangs around". Even in a tournamnet where survival counts, this is a risk worth taking. When the draw is weak, (much like in situations where you have a hand unlikely to improve) you need to bet to win. And weak bets do not win pots, strong bets do.


And Daniel's analysis of the guy playing TT is a must listen. Its in this weeks edition of the Ante-Up! podcast.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

weekend recap

ok, so for once there is not much to report about poker. But after a 3 days weekend featuring camping with the family, here are some interesting tidbits:

1. Horseshoes may look stupid... and it is. Simply watching someone throw, emulating it, and adjusting to the weight, was enough to beat a guy who had his own horseshoe pit. I even hit a ringer. Gez, worse than darts.

2. Lord Admiral has signed off. Permanently. :(

3. The Columbo One Minute Mystery has moved. Here is the home page for ANTE-UP!: http://myspace.com/anteuppoker
and here is the podcast:

4. A successful fishing trip means your hands smell like fish for atleast 4 hours. It doesn't matter how long you wash them.

5. I read the new NO LIMIT book by Skalansky/Miller. Very late at night, with no one around, in the eerie quiet of the woods, Skalansky made some sense. Then the next morning, I again found the "contradictions" in the book he is famous for. Despite this, I found it a VERY informative read.

6. I think this article is geared towards intermediate players who are willing to concentrate for long periods of time at a table to get better. I have it bookmarked.

7. No matter how much I read, I still find no evidence that one should do anything in the first two levels of a tournament without 2 pair or better post-flop.

8. I played golf for the first time in YEARS. Amazingly, I borrowed a 5 Wood that was actually metal. It made a beautiful "ting" sound when I hit the ball. As a matter of fact, I hit better drives than I EVER did when I played regularly. What is in these metal clubs anyway, magic?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The “Sweat Spot” of Tournament Strategy

Forget the original Kobayashi Naru scenario of calling an all-in with pocket Kings in the first round of the WSOP. Let’s raise the bar on our scenario…

How is it that you can play a perfect tournament, only to eventually get hit with a beat that sends you home? Believe it or not, it is closely tied to why so many online players have been dominating tournaments in the last 3 years. There is a new Axiom of poker, “In order to survive being right, you must also have your opponent covered”.

Let’s say I play perfect poker and I only get my money in the pot when I am 4-1 or better to win. Sounds great doesn’t it? But, is it really? Let’s explore shall we?

TWENTY percent of the time, my opponent is going to get that King on the river and beat me with his “3 outs twice”. And with the blinds going up, you need to invest in pots where you are 4-1 to win. And 1 out of 5 times, you need to be able to survive losing a big pot. Which means having enough chips to survive it.

Now, how do you accumulate that type of insurance stack? Unfortunately, the only was is to take risks when you are NOT a big favorite. The new breed of internet players do this. And here is the funny thing, it works because of the QUANTITY of players, not quality. If 5 people act stupid, 1 of them is sure to benefit. And if 50 of them are stupid, and you are playing smart, as they bust out to other stupid players, you are not the one accumulating the chips. The guy getting all his money in behind with middle pair and getting lucky is.

So, you play a perfect game and make the bubble as the short stack. Or simply take a “bad beat” and lose your stack at a critical time where you got your money in way ahead.

So, can you compensate for this by playing a lot more hands in early rounds? Some players do this. The “accumulate chips or go home early” strategy. In effect, moving down to their level.

Here is what separates the good from the great. Being able to extract someone’s stack while being marginally ahead and taking them along for the ride (especially on a draw). Which, ironically, SMACKS IN THE FACE the old adage that you can’t do this in tournament games where survival is at the utmost. You need to take advantage of the edges that are presented to you post-flop. This is why in the “middle rounds” of the tournament, its important to bet (whenever you are ahead) the right amount. The amount that dictates that your opponent is wrong if he calls you, yet is not large enough to scare him off. You need to bet the “sweat spot”.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The big BIG draw

I am playing in an impromtu blogger cash game ($.01/$.02) and I see a flop from the blind with 2d5d. The flop is Ad4d and something else. I dont recall, but it was not a diamond. Somehow, while I am half paying attention, Drizz gets all his money into the pot. I go into the tank and type in the chat window, "I have a big draw". I pause and decide to call what amounts to 400 Big Bets. The turn is the 3d.

Donkey's always draw... and the payout is HUGE.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's Quiet around here for a REASON

I have not played poker in two weeks. Well, at least not MUCH. Last week, I finished 7th (outof 45) in my monthly game. This is ok, but considering my last 3 finishes, this was a welcome rebound. And, I played well. The next day, I went down to the casino. Despite being 30 minutes from one, I rarely go. Here is why.

I get on the list for the NL beginner table ($1/$2, $50 min, $100 max). TEN, yes TEN handed. I am seated to the left of the dealer. Seat two is a standard player.(more on him later). Seat three was INVISIBLE. Played ZERO hands. Seat 4&5 were weak/tight. Seat 6 was a call junkie who JUST doubled up his short stack after I sit down. I can tell he is going to exit first, despite just doubling up. Seat 7 is the token rotating seat of bad players. Seat 8 is a player who plays any two suited and looks for the flush. (more on this later). Seat 9 has a stack of about $500 in front of him. YET, he did not play a single hand past the turn then ENTIRE 2.5 hours I was there. (more on why this worked later). Seat 10 was a weak/ tight who like to see flops in position and then bet if everyone checked. Yes, that was his actual STRATEGY.

So, I watch these guys play and realize that to be profitable, that I would have to play vanilla TAG (tight aggreessive). I played TWO hands the first half hour, winning them both. The player to my left actually says,"I am not playing a hand with you. If you raise, I fold." Remeber this quote.

I also notice that the standard raise of 5xBB was NOT enough to get the "play any two flush" or other draw hands to fold. My sneaky mind comes up with a new plan.

I get JT and raise it not to 10, but to 15. I get TWO callers. The flop is JJx. I make a SMALL bet and I get a call from Mr. Short stack. The turn is a T and even my token bet folds him. I smile and realize how to just punish these guys at no risk.

With My AQ I make it $20 and get TWO callers (both the DRAW players at the far end of the table). I make a contiuation bet and they both fold. Why? They did not flop a straight or flush draw. You see, ALL FREAKING NIGHT, ever player at the table PAID these guys off when they hit. Well, all except me. I never fell for it. But the others did CONTINUOUSLY. So, they would call almost ANY preflop raise. And I could take their money 2/3 of the time. If they called the flop bet, I would just shut down.

30 minutes later, when I get KK on the BUTTON and the usual limpers are in. I make it $25 (yes, really $25) to go. The player on my left, KNOWING I play big hand and after SAYING he would not play hands with me, CALLS my $25. The others fold. When the flop comes, I immediatly bet out $75. Almost daring him to call. Nevermind I flopped a SET of Kings, I had a strategy and I was sticking to it. You see a flop with me, you pay me. He folded his...get this, 88. he called $25 cold with 88 figuring that he could break me if he flopped a set. In the meantime, I had now doubled my buy-in and left.

The bad part, took over 2 hours to do it. I only played 10 hands all night.

Last week I was in Utah and I dont play cards with my work laptop. So, that was that. Camping on the weekend and a new PC to assemble has kept me on the sideline. But, hope springs eternal and I think I may play in a local tourney tonight.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Snakes on a PLANE

Even before I could walk into the movie theater to see the most relevant movie since Tremors, I bought the T-Shirt. Now I own a total of TWO t-shirts. SOAP and the RAMONES (rip. I miss them.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

FT 25k recap

Entered with a peep sex token

1443 players

In levels 1&2 only played post flop with big hands. One was nice, flopped nut straight and he doubled me up...

Level 3, I am the chip leader

Level 4, I play 6d7d from MP and the flop is 3d8cTd. I have a gut shot and a flush draw for 11 outs (no overs). There is 1K in the POT and the other player goes all-in for another 1k. At this point I have 8.5k of my 9k left (500 invested). Do I call? No. SHOULD I call???? I got alot of opinions here, most of them yes.

I was about 40% to win the hand assuming my outs were pure. (If he was on a BIGGER flush draw, then I basically have 3 pure outs (9 if he has like AKs) and I am probably behind). If he is not on a draw, then I am 40% to win 3-1 and should call. I read him as Ad8d and therefore could not call, thus saving myself any embarrassment from responses to this post.

At the break I am 13th, my M is 47 and my Q is 2.6

I am folding alot through a card dead phase. At the 80/160 level I am 23/579 (135 pays).

Called a raise from the blind with T9o. Hit the T for top pair but its an ALL heart board. I bet pot though and he calls all-in with just the A of hearts. More chips for me.

Made a min raise with 89o and just the blinds call. Flop the ever loving nuts on a rainbow board. 567 rainbow. I make a min bet and the BB comes over the top for 1/2 his stack. I quickly go all-in remembering a trick I heard from a pro interview where he said he bet quickly before the guy had a chance to process the information. Sure enough, he calls and I am 4th out of 456 left.

Antes start

AKo raise preflop, continuation bet of 1/3 pot and he comes over the top BIG. I fold.

I watch as KK vs AA happen 3 times at my table. No hands with me though.

I get moved again. 150/300/25 and I am 28th/319

Second break. 16/230

I flop bottom pair on a AT7 board. I play WAY too passively and let 88 take it from me.

QQ 2 hands later and use my weak play indicating that if I bet I must have something
when KJx flops. I bet like I have the K and he folds.

156 left and I fold KJo pre-flop to a raise from my right.

UtG Ako (UGH)
I make a min raise of 2xBB (this was a mistake, I KNOW)
button and BB call.
flop is 334 and BB checks, I check and button OVERBETS the pot. FOLD.

Lose 2k to BB short stack when I try to steal his blind and it goes bad. He wakes up with AK.

We are at the bubble. MP short stack goes all in for 3k. Stack DIRECTLY to his right with 4k also goes all-in. I have AKo and decide to CALL. I should RAISE here, but I call. Then, the BUTTON calls.
The flop is 332. I check (with 2 all ins)
and HE BETS (as sure sign I am beat)
he flips up 66, and the two all-ins flip up QQ and AQ.
the 66 player apologized for betting after the hand. "he forgot not to".
(the ace or king did NOT fall on the turn or river).

But thanks to that hand, I am back to AVERAGE. Now, the old me would have NEVER played a hand with 2 all-ins in front of him. And I think I should not have played this one... BUT, I did have a 50/50 chance of winning 4 TIMES my investment. How can I be sorry I played the hand?

In the money. I am 49/130

Play 44 for a 2xBB raise (TOO SMALL AT THIS POINT) and get called by the BB. flop is 6QQ and I decide to bully him if he checks. When he checks, I push and he calls showing Q6. The CASE queen falls on the river to mock me.

running good?

played the FT 25k last night. 1433 players, I finished 106th. I was chip leader at one point and after the bubble, lost two hand where I was atleasdt 50/50 to double or even triple up. I'll post more on this later and how the game went in comparison to my rules-set.

but for now, I am Chore-Dad (tm) since the family is off camping. I have a week to clean the house (and throw stuff away without an arguement), repair the deck, prime my daughter's room, build a new play-set (those giant wooden ones) AND do some other minor maintenance items. I am tired. But my poker league is on Wed, so I get a break.

Interesting thing about the league. I no longer play for points (in my mind). I play for the win and ignore the fact that I should in 3 of the 6 events just fold as long as possible.

Why are I running better right now? I am not playing scared. At all. More on that when I post the Hands-of-Interest (tm).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Armchair psychology and Tournament poker – wrap up

Final Thoughts:

1. How does one control aggression so that a player can be aggressive without getting into trouble?

Well, I think that is all about POT selection, not hand selection. You need to be opportunistic and keep up appearances.

2. You must have a goal for a hand (risk reward formula). And your goal should /should not be predictable depending on your holding.

I play TT from MP (3xBB raise) and flop a set on a SAFE board. I had 3 callers from LP, BUTTON and BB. Now what? Do I BET or CHECK? Assuming that your opponents do NOT expect you would check a big hand, then you check. If they have witnessed a pattern of you checking big hands, then you must play it backwards and bet. But you make this decision not on the fact that you have a set and are second to act (this is not limit), but rather which bet will extract the most money based on psychology.

3. A table develops a profile personality which should change your play in the final stages. Once you get to the end game, each player will make a decision to play certain hands. But overall the TABLE now develops a profile. You can gain an edge by playing the opposite of the table profile. i.e. playing against the grain.

4. If I do all this and do it correctly, what can I assume about an opponent’s raises?

Well, if you have the proper image, it can be weighed against the following 4 possibles:
a. They want to Take-it-down now because hey are worried, i.e. feel unsafe.
b. They raise a Pot size bet because they are ahead, but at risk.
c. They are attempting to ‘go for your stack’. (they are WAY ahead or have a BIG draw)
d. They are making a mistake or a bluff. And you have to read which one.

When d. occurs, you should think back to this question: “Based on how *I* played the hand, does he think he is ahead or behind.” This "level 3 thinking" will let you pick off a bluff.

Well, that's my brain dump. Now I have to implement...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Armchair psychology and Tournament poker – V

"Is it safe?!" - A well known dentist (marathon man)

Get your opponents in a very uncomfortable place and take advantage of them. Isolation increases odds and reduces volitility. Position allows us to pick our situations easier. And PRESSURE, when we have someone under diress, causes REACTIVE thinking instead of strategic adjustment. And THAT is what we want. This is why concentration is so important. This is why the game gets harder as we go on. This is why players talk about the 3rd level of thinking. Its all about being able to push a psychological edge in a hand, not a 55/45 edge.

When you have a conversation with someone, and it deteriorates into an argument, its because they moved to fight/flight because the conversation is no longer comfortable (or safe) for them. Stated another way, your opponent makes his final choice on a hand at the moment he no longer feels safe. (for those of you who think this is similar to doubleas theories on pressure poker, I agree. The man is a great card player, buy his book. But I want to take it one step further.) This is not about the pressure point (which is measured by doubleas in stacks and bet size) but the psychological equivalent of that measurement in that little mental treadmill in the opponents head. Has he chosen a path at the fork yet? No, they he feels safe. Did we push him to the fork? Then he must make a fight or flight choice. If you are pounding a guy to death, he might make the choice in ADVANCE of the cards being dealt that the next time you play a hand with him, he is going to try and slap you pack. This negates to some degree the ability to apply pressure with a bet or stack size. See?

The recipical is true also. It is easier for you to "risk" when you feel in control and harder when you feel "outflanked". This is a good reason why a pro often can smack around a new player even if he is a good player. It is also the reason so many young players are winning tournaments. We call them "fearless", but a longer winded person :) might say that they never REACT, they are always instead manipulating you to where you are making the fight/flight choices and they are creating the situations. (Because the dispense with subtely and baggage and emotion and even sometimes thinking. But to every strategy is a counter, and this one has its weakness too. The will be susceptable to distractions and attracked to big pots like a moth to a fire.)

You need to feel safe. You need you opponent to be uncomfortable everytime you play a hand with them and are not sure you have a lock on the pot. After years of this, you should be able to steer their choice. And then, suddenly, you are Phil Hellmuth.
Love him or hate him, Phil know this like he knows how to breathe.

Armchair psychology and Tournament poker – IV

The dicodomy of manipulation and innocence.

Discussion of strategy to this point has tended towards being tight because its the easiest way to accomplish the following:

Look unthreatening when not in a pot, look threatening when in a pot. There are, of course, many ways to achieve this edge. And I am realizing how important it is in the greater scheme of things.

I am watching Big Brother last night and watched a master at work. He never reacted. Not in the physically detectable sense (although he had that down pat too), but in the sense that he decided a new course of action each time someone through him a curve. He did not REACT to the change so much as he made ADJUSTMENTS. He was always executing a plan, even if it was a completely new one. The goal: survive. The tactics changed from day to day. But never did he react (a giving up of control). He maintained control of the situation (long term) through adjustment and subtle maniplulative changes. I was in awe. How does one manipulate while maintaining a veil of innocence (the LACK of threat). Just amazing.

And its what people worry about deep down more than anything else. Being outplayed. They start to react, abandon their plans, or as we like to say in poker-speak, they tilt.

Actions that induce this type of reaction in our opponent, while his attempt to do the same to us are dismissed with a small action or adjustment, create a psychological advantage for us. This is feel. This is concentration and being "in the zone". This is what can push us over the top in terms of success at the table.

What is the best way to do this? read on.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

status update and part III of Columbot

Entered two 20 table MTT last night at Party. I tried to be as true to the rules I posted thusfar in this thread.

In the first game, in level two I had 88 and
** Dealing Flop ** [ 6h, Ad, 2d ]

I like this. I put my opponent on an Ace, but how strong?
I bet 2/3rd the pot and he calls. I put him on Ace/weak kicker now.

When the turn comes, I make a weak lead expecting the push. It does not come. Now I am sure he has Ax (like 3 or 4).

When the turn comes a non-diamond, I push all in expecting the fold. He called with A4o. And I have no one to blame but myself. Why? Never try to pressure players at the "dawn" levels. You need to wait until "high noon".

The second 20 table MTT went much better:
Congratulations columbo,
You have finished first.

Indeed. I could have done a better job at KNOWING exactly the pressure points, and knowing I was applying them correctly, but I still played a fine game. I played the middle levels well, taking risks only where there was a huge upside. It was rare for me to do this, and I struggled with brief depression everytime I lost chips to a risk. Yet, as painful as a couple of them were, there were times they did pay off and the chips flowed my way. The side effect (and the real secret here) was that allowed me to continue to pressure while retaining a tight image. This is priceless. I also folded KT alot when I was not FTA and raised with it when I was. I caught myself once limping FTA and hit myself with a wire brush. I slow played zero hands. I did not get a trap situation save once, and I made the most of it. At the final table, I would repeat to myself over and over again, "know how to finish". (ABC. Always Be Closing). All my SnG practice clicked in at that point, and I out-strategized the table.

So with that, I should now post part 3, the final levels
* Steal when first to fire!
* Prey on shorter stacks, careful of the larger ones
* play every hand like it could be your last!
* play against the grain. (loose table, play tight and vice versa)
* All-Ins are now PRESSURE bets and you must read the player not your cards. Level 3 thinking time.
* you can CREATE a race, but you cant show up for one. (raise with AJ = good, CALL with AJ is bad)
* IGNORE Q and M at the final table. Strategy not tactics play now.
* ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Mind on the prize. Finish like a pro.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Armchair psychology and Tournament poker – Part II

There are times where “poker is a struggle for the blinds/antes” and “tournaments are a struggle for survival” are in direct conflict.

Long Game, Small ball and the middle stages.

If I wish to be brilliant, then I can say three things. I always get my money in ahead, I control the size of the pot based on my hand, and I never take an action (bet, call, raise) without having a plan and an intention for which that action accomplished something.

Duh. But this is linear thinking. Since I am usually a 4-1 favorite when I get my money in ahead, and that +EV. If I do it 5 times all in, statistically I will be eliminated. Interesting. This is a concept I will return to at the end of this process, but for now, lets again visit our columbo-bot*. (*NOTE: I am not building a bot. please do not prosecute me. This is for example purposes because I think this way.)

It seems easy to calculate when you think you are ahead and avoid marginal coin flips. But its still hard to control the pot size. After all, your opponent has goals also. Before I finish that thought, let me jump again.

There are times that not playing a hand, regardless of the holding, is +EV. There are other times to play hands just with 2 live cards.

There is a tendency to believe that poker is all about fighting for pots. (that and making good decisions). BUT, there are times where it is in your best interest to fold the best hand. (this assumes you are not 100% sure you are the best hand). Why? Because like wolves, there are times you wish to “show your neck”. To let the table know you are willing to lay down (an action a bot does not take). It shows you are human and also that you are dangerous. Yeah, a big laydown does have a psychological impact on your opponent. Remember that.

How do we reconcile all of this. Well, it is not trivial. But, we make a case to our columbo-bot that we want to get our money in ahead during the long middle stages and avoid building large pots before we know where we stand in the hand. In addition to that, we have to identify EXCEPTIONS to everything we just said NOT to be unpredicatble, but rather to try and dodge the inevitable 1 in 5 times where we lose depite being a big favorite. In order to do that we must task well planned and well timed risks which allow us to build up a "defense fund". This fund is like suck-out insurance. And as we all know, you're gonna need it.

The Middle (long) Levels
a. Prey on WEAK players (blind pressure). This is where we pick up some extra money.
b. Use pressure points (but not against push monkeys) to create folding equity to avoid the use of your "defense fund". Avoid a river, avoid the 20% risk.
c. Project a tight image. Players are less likely to "test" you.
d. Use M and Q to know your place in the tournament.
e. Take risks if they will give you an opportunity to be table chip leader or to double up. Otherwise, you must survive. Being a chip leader at the table is the best "defense fund".
f. Get rid of dominated hands (KT).
g. All-ins are often NOT bluffs now.
h. You can’t limp and be perceived as tight. If you are the first to the pot, you must raise your way in. Some players will raise whenever they can be first to the pot at a big table... (see part e. then)
i. Try to avoid slow playing* for two reasons:
. Survival (you are usually 80% to win a hand you are AHEAD on)
. It continues to project the tight image, which in turn increases folding equity.