Monday, January 28, 2008

Let's talk flop OUU

It's poker's equivalent of the Bermuda Trianlge in terms of knowing "where your at". Its the middling pair on a flop of OVERCARD - UNDERCARD UNDERCARD.

example: 88 on a flop of J75 rainbow.

To me its the hardest, best test of post flop play. If more than 2 players see the flop, I assume I am behind and proceed with escape on my mind. But if I am heads-up, I intent to fight for this pot.

Would you rather be the aggressor, trying to pressure your opponent into folding? Or would you rather keep the pot small in the hopes of a showdown?

If I have position, the choices are a tad easier, but not by much. I want to apply pressure on the flop, but if he sticks around to the turn I have a real tough choice. I would rather not invest more at this point, but if I give the appearance that I've given up, I am going to get blown off the hand.

To me, this is one of those giant "read" situations where I press based on the table images now. If I a viewed as tight, and he'll make a big laydown, rest assured I'll fire that second barrel. All things being unknown, I will have to give it up because I cant call 2 more streets.

In the off chance I hit my set on the turn or the river, its a miracle and I got lucky.

If my opponent makes a considerable continuation bet on the flop, however, is there anything to go on other than intuition?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I've lost my mojo baby

I could be any number of factors contributing to my recent bad performances, but I chalk it up to one over-riding factor. I've been unable to do what I do best. When people watch my game, they usually don't notice anything special. But if you look under the hood, I do two things exceedingly well. I allow strategy to trump tactics, and I am freaking Houdini when it comes to escaping from "second best hands".

But in the last two weeks, that second part of my game has vanished. I have lost the last 4 tournaments with TP vs. SET. If you go broke every time you run into a set, you're not a good poker player. Bold statement I know, don't get offended. But I believe that. You cant just resign yourself to just not running TP into a set for all your chips. But that is exactly what I have done 4 tournaments in a row. But I am examining why...

Its because I want chips. I have been a little envious of people who build enormous chip stacks and I have been trying to emulate that, despite it not playing to my strengths. Why? Because I know when I enter a WSOP event, I wont have the luxury of it being a 100 or less MTT. Not even close. I have to assume at least 1000 players, even if I play 6 handed. (This is, of course, the lone remaining argument for the shootout format).

Just one problem with the above explanation. I lost 50 Big Bets playing cash last week. The loss what mostly on 2 very big hands. Guess what they were? Yup, TP vs. SET against a shorter stack.

I am not sure what to do...

Speaking of not knowing what to do, I am expecting a couple of career offers next week. Both will help me escape this downhill city. But one is in San Fran, which is incredibly expensive. I await the offers... But leaving your home of 30 years isn't easy, even if its downtrodden.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I started the day with a feeling of trepidation. My angels had the day off from school yesterday and so when I spent the day passing the time on frivolous activities, I felt no guilt. But today, I awoke with a lack of desire. Although my job search had gone better then the previous instance 5 years ago, I still had an uncertain future. Feelings, but especially questions, are dismissed by my conscious regularly throughout the day. I have spent many hours talking with recruiters,, some competent, some just trolled the internet and attempt to play matchmaker in an attempt to generate brokerage like gains through relentless internet browsing. But tomorrow was going to be different…

I spent the morning returning emails, acknowledging and acting on “ticklers”, and eventually exhausting my course of action before mid-day. Even the errands I concocted to flit away the time under the guise of necessary upkeep of the household, took far fewer minutes than even the shortest estimates.

I spent the after noon coming close to completing an semi-valueless task, namely Super Paper Mario on the Wii. After the kids came home, I again took another pointless phone call. At dinner, I made each of the girls something for dinner and preceded it with reviewing their homework and initiating their attention to it. After a while, the evening had passed with no more pomp and circumstance than putting the plates in the sink.

I ask my eldest to take a mid week shower. She is now 11 and the effects of gym class today were uncharacteristically noticeable. I asked my younger daughter what she wanted to do. She surprised me. She also wanted to finish the quest laid forth in the video game. So we scampered down to the basement, both of us grateful for the avoidance of boredom.

In the time that followed, we completed our quest. It was so mesmerizing, that we had no concept of time. The girls hit their beds a full 90 minutes past bedtime, pleasant and content. Later, I reflected that it may have been the relief of completion, but then I realized how much I enjoyed playing with them around.

I picked up a book and headed upstairs, knowing that I had once again

As I read, I contemplated very briefly the next day. I would travel across the country for a job interview in an area that would cost twice as much as my current one. Sure, it would be a severe step up, most cities would be though. I lived in an old city, one that has seen its prime pass decades before. So long ago it was before I was born. And now the last vestiges of hope were bleeding out, and all that was left was either the desire to leave or the fear departing for unknown territory. In my case, both.

The next morning I head to the airport, being already packed and ready as I always am. My travel “kit” still ready to go from trips past. Just add clothes and go. Efficient and always carry-on luggage. Except today. Passenger bags the size of small children were the rage today and my bag was unable to find an overhead home. Normally, it would be relegated to “gate-check”, but not this time. Passed back to normal bag check and sent to my final destination. I had a brief thought of losing it, followed by a quick run-down of a back up plan. But then I let it go, content that I had been through that scenario before and had managed to show up at the meeting the next day fully attired and no one the wiser.

As I type this, the elderly couple next to me gawks with interest at my laptop. As if it was some sort of rare item that only the rich would carry. But there interest quickly turns to boredom and returns to soduku. Despite all I have going for me, and this subtle reminder that live has not passed me by, I begin to dwell on thoughts of the interview. Why did they fly me out on the cheapest flight possible, with 1 stop over 2 hours out of the way, when I am interviewing for a VP position? I say this without ego, but rather concern. I am a no frills guys for the most part, appreciating the functional over the flashy and the eclectic over the expensive. But all things are indicators of the thoughts behind them. I am paying for the hotel on my credit card, and then turning in a reimbursement form to be repaid. Same for the cabs to and from the airport. When I query friends that have interviewed out of town, they all tell the same tale. Everything was paid for in advance. I cant help but worry about what this tell me. The company is a high tech west coast company, that has enjoyed rapid growth and been a wall street darling as of late. Am I to arrive only to find that everyone is a VP and the title is meaningless?

I write the prose with more time and thought then I usually spend on a blog entry. Because I have the time to, I assume. But it does make me think how little respect I give the statement “If I only had more time.” A fools statement. Without the pressure of time to force us to prioritize what is important, our lives would be spent of frivolous time-wasters and pointless upkeep. Just look at the bored teenager or the retired person who has enough money to travel, but doesn’t. No, time is a commodity that forces us to make choices, even when it seems we arnt.

And so the search goes on. Maybe I will be blown away by this company. Maybe I will come away with that “cog in the machine” feeling. Maybe I will like the company, but hate the offer. But I can tell you this. Having a single offer is worse than none. Numerous offers give us choice. Carefully weighing each, we can choose the one that best suits us and our families. With zero choices, you simple continue the process, while remaining in your familiar territory and picking up spare dollars consulting or contracting. But to have a single choice? Oh how I dread that. How does one turn down a lone offer in the absence of others?

I know there is precious little poker strategy in this entry, but life mimics the tables as always. I have had time to work on my game, yet my recent sessions have been poor. I am sure the parallels are there. Starting at hands and seeing the “one correct action” can not be a good thing. No, it’s an indication of lack of substance. I realize why I play in tournaments and not cash games. I have found it difficult to make the better decision in a cash game because the final exit is not on the line. I got felted twice at stakes that were far below my expected skill level. Each time TPTK vs. a SET. Hard to get away from? Not in a tournament. Not for me. But in a cash game, against a shorter stack, TP was gold. I am almost ashamed.

Despite all my talk of not contemplating the upcoming change, I am sure my unconscious does not feel the same. Nor does the wife’s, who has had some bad dreams this past week. I know change is coming and I should feel grateful that it will kick me out of my complacent acceptance of the depressed city I live in and again light the fire that only change can bring. But its harder than it sounds. Like laying down TP against a short stack. Even when we think we are beat. Hard to do. Hard to do.

Update: in this evenings Mookie, twice again TP no good against a set. Does everyone have a freakin set out there?!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Two very bad days of poker. Took my biggest loss of the year (and last year for that matter) as I lost 50 Big Bets Sunday. Then, to top it off, I suffered a BRUTAL suckout last night in the Hoy just as I was about to sit atop the board. I min raised with AA, only the BB called. When the flop was 67Q and he bet pot, I KNEW he hit the Queen. I raised it up to 2/3rds his stack. I did NOT want to wait for the turn where he might smell danger. No, I wanted him to think I had something like A7s or JJ. He makes a comment about thinking he is behind and yet, shoves his chips in. Turns out he was worried about being out-kicked, as he flipped over Q8. Then he turned the 8 and I was decimated.

But enough of that. That happens. My major concern was how I lost all those big bets. Well, as I look through the hands, it turns out that TWICE I flopped TPTK vs. a SET where I had the SET covered and thus had a hard time getting away. Here is a case of my own psychology working against me. I have always said that its harder to fold against a short stack, even after the flop. And its true. I am very worried that because of my obsession with tournament play, my cash game sucks donkeys. I need to play some more.

In other news, I have decided that the $1500 game for my at the WSOP is NLHE6. When you play NLHE and the field is 2500 players, you get the "donkey affect". This is where the donkey's clash and build up chips for other donkeys. At the end of level 1, you have added say 20% to you chip stack. But some donkeys have doubled up 3 times and you are suddenly WAY behind. It just doesn't play to my strengths. I thought about the "shoot-out" format, which would be better for me, but you have to take first (in your 1 table SnG) to advance. I am particularly good at getting first-third. But second happens much more often than first for me.

NLHE 6 handed, however, is a post flop game. Almost every hand is played post flop. Despite the similar fluctuations of suckouts as with NLHE, there are much fewer pre-flop race type hands where people shove with AK pre-flop. You spend more hands truly thinking about the action, again something I feel plays to my strengths.

Friday, January 18, 2008

(no) Fun with Razz

"I never thought it would happen to me." And this is not a Penthouse letter.

I sat down today to play razz while waiting for a late job interview call (very late). Never, in all my days of Razz, had I ever lost EVERY HAND I PLAYED. I had rolled up Aces 3 times, rolled up Kings 3 times, and only had 5 starting hands with 3 cards 8 or better the first 45 minutes.

In the immortal words of General McArthur, "Razz is hell!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Mookie-luau, Mookie-luau
Its the Mookie-luau, the Mookie-luau, the Mookie-luau

A little tiki ditty I wrote in my head as I sat down last night to play the Mookie. In a VERY uncharacteristic (but valid move), I pushed a flush draw with an over into a defending bet because my Q was about .6

I hit the flush and that took me back to very healthy. I was never quite that bold again. Except that once the bubble arrived (at about 12, paid 8), I became the "unchallenged stealer". Ironically, this dissapointed me to no end, as I watched AA, QQ, and AA again go unchallenged despite it looking like I was taking advantage.

Oh, well. I achievd half of a goal. I cashed deep in the mookie, taking 4th. I could have had a bit more patience and took third, but at the 4 mark I was looking for chips to challenge for the win and got way too frsiky with A-rag.

But I ask you, what is your range for Ax when there are 4 players left?!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Why did I miss the SKILLZ game last night? (and it was Razz, my favorite!)
Why did I put the kids to bed late?
Why did I stay up to 1am on a weeknight?

Super Paper Mario.

I am surprised by how much fun the Wii is. I was never a platform video guy, nor have I ever played a Mario game. Gez, no wonder kids love this stuff.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The idea around tournaments

I have not cashed in 2 weeks and its been weighing heavy on my mind. Now I realize I am playing with 50-100 others where atleast half the field are really, really good. But still. I am a bit "stuck in a rut".

Lets take an assessment of my strengths real quick:
  • I dont get invovled with trap hands, especially early
  • I am relatively good at grinding up my stack in the early levels
  • I accept the "necessary evils" of tournaments, namely that the ratio of your stack size to the blinds dictates what starting hands you can play, and I adhere to it.
  • I am a competent HORSE player. (not great mind you, but competent)
  • I am an astute strategist, know when to be tactical and when to be in the meta-game.

Let's now take a look down trouble lane. What I can't seem to get a handle on:

  • Building a big stack in the middle levels of a tournament (a serious problem)
  • Finishing 1st, instead of just in the money. A non-critical issue that I have posted about often.
  • ???

And these could go either way:

  • Try to keep the pot small when drawing, even at the risk of giving away the draw. i.e., I hate semi-bluffing in online tournaments. I save it for table play.
  • When someone makes their miracle card on the TURN, chances are I am going to be fooled.

I am most worried about the "???". I really like my final table/1 table SnG play. Let's leave that for now. And when your in levels 1-2, really, how much can you say about those levels? You play anything from position, hope to get a huge one. Fold the rest.

But that big middle level range. We have all written and read posts about it. Play tight. Look for opportunities to break someone. Don't play trap hands. The articles go on and on. The issue I am struggling with is tight vs. chipping up.

I don't have any insight today. I am just talking outloud in the hopes that I have correctly identified the issue.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Is Something Wrong???

I accomplished my "donkey challenge goals" for 2007. Work my bankroll on PS to 3x and cash in a run of 7 out of 10 SnG (I made a run of 10 straight).

I have but 2 goals for 2008:

1. Play in a WSOP event without paying full buy-in
2. Win a blogger game each night of the week. This means win at least once, The Hoy, Skillz, Mookie, and Riverchasers.

After a strong finish in my local WSOP league (well on my way to #1 already being done), I expected to have a healthier bankroll on FT. But I really dont. I am about where I was this time last year. And this week, I had lame results in the blogger games. I bubbled out of the money in the Hoy, Bled to death in Omaha Tuesday, Had my usual lame results in the Mookie, and with AQ on the button, vs the BB, flopped an Ace. Only to see the BB had AK. So there goes $50 right out the window.

I wonder if I am just not playing that great. I seem to be overly patient and when I do make a move, it seems poorly timed. I guess I can't judge on only a week, but I have an inkling that I my brain may be only partially engaged due to the large amount of folding in NLHE.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

starting 2008 with a POP

Not a bang... I popped the bubble for my fellow hoy players last night, going out 5th and not cashing. I made a FATAL mistake. I was 4th in chips and got into an unnecessary battle with Astin. Why? I couldn't fold AK. 'nuff said?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

to each his own

I was playing in my WSOP league last night, and about a 1/3 of the way through a frustrated player said "Tournaments are all luck, cash games are skill". I couldn't let it go. I ribbed him about it all night. (I hope he is not too mad). But, here I am, a tournament specialist. The two point leaders myself and another are neck in neck, making 5 of the 6 final tables each.

I recently crushed "Donkey Challenge #2" (CASH in 7 of 10 Sit N Gos), by cashing in my last TEN Sit N Goes.

I was the money leader for all of 2007 on Monday nights (Mondays at the Hoy).

Luck? LUCK?!

Here is the thing. I am not a good cash game player. Why? Because my game style is geared towards tournaments (of 100 or less). And the fewer players the better. Its emphaiszes strategy over tactics, and the 3Ds (see previous post) vs. aggression. I can hold my own at the 1-2 tables, grinding out profits, but its not what I do best.

I am took a rare stance and defended my preference. Normally, I wouldn't care.

I finished 3rd last night. With 3 left, both players were LAGs who had accumulated big stacks. They both had me 2-1 in chips. If we would have quick and had a good night's sleep and resumed in the morning, I think I could have beaten them. Instead, a very tired columbo bet his TP poor kicker, and LAG #1 made a big reraise. LAGs only do this with big hands. I should have at least put him on K-better kicker, but instead just called to see AA. I went home very tired and went to bed.