Monday, October 31, 2005

happy in my losing

Never have I been sooo happy to lose. I played two tournaments. In the first, I got my money in when I caught TP with my over pair. On the turn, the board pairs and I have two pair. I Know he hit the Jack and has a lesser two pair. I get all his money in and the river is a Jack. I didn't need to see his cards. (He made jacks full)

In the latter tournament, I am average at about the halfway mark. UtG+1 I am dealt QQ and make it 4xBB (my usual here is 3xBB, but there were a couple of looser players and I didnt want their garbage in). The SB, new to the table THIS HAND calls.

The flop is KdJd3c. He checks and I make a 1/2 pot bet. He check-raises me all in. I pause and think about this. What could he have? Hmmm. He cant be sure I dont have AK. If he flopped a set, would he be all in here? I did not believe so. Then, it hits me... semi-bluff. He has 2 diamonds. My worst case scenario is that he has Ad3d and then I would be a coin flip. Anything else, and I am racing as a favorite to double up. I call. He shows Ad6d. I am about a 3-2 favorite here.

The turn is the 2h. The river is the Ac and I am out. But I was happy. This was a solid read by me and I was thrilled that I have started constructing scenarios in my head.

Not to mention I had run a bluff during the tournament also (just one). The table tightened up a tad and from position I created a plausible holding pre-flop and post flop, then on the turn, stole it away. I was giddy.

So, two exits on hands where I was a favorite and I could not be happier. Ok, winning would be better. But I am making better decisions!!!

Satellite runs

Started to see what I could do with satellite runs. You know, where you play the little buy in super sat tourney to get to the satellite or shootout that takes you to some big tournament where the winner gets a cruise or something fabulous. Lot of work. I should just pay for the dang cruise.

I am doing pretty good in the supers, cashing twice. In the second tier sats I do OK, but I have to be careful of winning a seat into a rebuy/add-on tournament. What is the point of that? If I pay $2 and win a $33 seat (which I did), then there is an ADD-ON for $33, what did I win? Nada. So, that is not such a good deal.

BUT, if I can win my way into a shootout, that would be ok. But the price of the super is higher. It cost me $5.50 to enter that, and I went out ONE out of the satellite entries, which paid $33. Was that number chance? Nope, they assume I'll enter the $33 sat with it. But not me, not if its rebuys and add-ons. Nope, I am going to take another swing at the $5. Sure the $5 is rebuy and add-on too, but I skip both. I figure the only difference between the add-on and not adding the 1500 chips, is one nice hand. So, just make good decisions and save the $5 for tomorrows chance.

What do I expect the end result of all this to be? Who knows, but I see alot of bad play out there, especially in the supers. I can't believe some of the marginal calls I am forced to make at level 2, only to find out I am WAY ahead. How does that happen? But its still a minefield and I am a wounded jogger on a pogo stick.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Back from Utah

Part of business ya know. So I fly in and do I relax? Nope, its off to play cards. I think you are going to like this short tale.

Now this game is a little different each time, and this time its NLHE 10k starting chips, with a rebuy or add-on. So, good strategy is to play Über tight until the add-on, right? Well, I decided to continue my run of play the Greg Raymer school of good decisions. But unlike him... I am at about 7500 in chips (blame a dark tunnel bet. I mis-identified the player's holding).

I raise from EP with QQ to about 3xBB. The button, who will call bets with Ax, indeed calls. As I watch the call and note his manner, I will even put him on a big Ax, Maybe even AK. But since he did not raise to isolate the blinds, I have to put him on AJ-A2s.

The flop comes 9c6s2d and I decide to lay a trap. I know this guy always will fire out on pots, but I am first to act. I figure if I underbet the pot I can get this guy to bluff me. I make a min bet at the pot. And sure enough, he thinks for a split second about raising and instead raises all in. I call so fast, everyone at the table knew a trap had sprung. BOINGggggg. He flips of A7o for a stone cold bluff. And he rivers and Ace. Got my money in as an 8+ to 1 favorite, but unlike Raymer, I cant win a race to save my life right now.

Side game SnG. Starting chips are shallow at $225. Blinds go out when someone gets knocked out. I have $140 left and a unique opportunity comes up. UtG raises to 30 and FOUR players call. I have AK suited in the BB. If I raise all-in for 80 more, I can really hurt all but one of the players (the DEEP stack who has hit almost every flop). I figure it this way... There is already $150 in the pot AND If I get everyone but a single player to fold I am getting 3-1 on a 2-1 race. It was a pro move, probably beyond me, but today it seemed crystal clear. The clincher was that the SnG only paid 1 place. So being patient as the short stack was ok, but I have to be waiting for a chance to TRIPLE up with odds of even money. And here it was.

I make the re-raise and sure enough. JJ folds (awesome), the deep stack calls (expected) and 44 gets out of the way since there is already a caller! The deep staack flips over QdJd. Now I cant blame him here. This is a small amount for him, plus he has YET to miss a flop. The flop has 2 diamonds, and the turn is a Queen.

Ok, so I end up the biggest loser for the night. But how can I be upset. I made GOOD decisions!!

On another note, props to Dr.Pauly (link on right) for mentioning my work on the CardClub poker podcast/radio show (link on right). He is very famous right now and doesn't need to acknowledge the wannabes. And yet he does. He is living the dream as a poker correspondent right now, and even if poker flames out in years to come, he'll have a great career on his hands since he is a very capable writer. Check out his stuff!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Monday night adventures

Normally, Monday is football and $1 tourneys. This Monday, I decided to try the Cruise lottery at PS. You play a $2 w/rebuy and Add-on against 3 or 4 hundred players and 65 get seats into the $30 qualifier. That actaully was not so bad. I rebought once, did the add-on and with 10 people left to go out, had enough chips. So, I just folded my way in.

The $30 qualifier starts at 11:30 pm and this is late. Secondly, its a $30 REBUY qualifier, so even if you win your seat for $6 like I did, there is a $30 add-on after level 2. Not for me. At the break I had just above average, and did not want to add $30 to a $6 investment. I figure this meant I had to win one extra race for over 2000 chips. Since I had 6000+ chips, this is a single extra race. ok.

Fun thing about satellites... decisions are easier. Below average? Go all-in with and pocket pair. Either you win the chips or enter a race with Ax. NONE of these players could fold Ax.

Eventually, The average started to get away from me and even though my M was solid, the qualifier only paid SIX places, one only 1st got into the cruise tournament. The 3rd biggest stack was at our table, raising 4xBB any hand he entered (correctly I might add). So, I knew he would come in with 2 face or Ax. I had 44 UtG and raise 3xBB. If he has nothing, I'll pick up the blinds (tight table). If he has a little something something, I'll race him.

He calls and we see a flop of Qs7d2s. I figure this is a pretty good flop for me! He never played BLO (big little off) so I figure he missed the flop. I bet out a 1/2 pot bet and he raises pot. Now, I really dont believe he has a Q here. Not on that bet. I figure that he is semi-bluffing the spade draw. NOTE: In a satellite, players push a semi-draw like an overpair (again correctly, you need the folding equity). Expecting the see 2 spades, I come over the top all-in for the race. He is forced to call. He has AsKs. At first I am pleased as I got my money in while ahead. Then it hits me. 44. UGH. He has a spade draw AND TWO OVERS. I am not a favorite, this is a race. Plain and simple.

Turn - blank
River - spade.

I am out 80 something. Overall, I think the experience benefitted me. Best part? I played the Greg Raymer way. "Dont worry about anything except making good decisions." I thought I did that pretty well.


As for yesterday's post. I missed something important. Omaha might be easy, but PL Omaha 8OB short handed is tough. I got humbled there, not being able to properly value my hands. And I lost one or two big ones to cost me $9 at a $.10/.25 table. Yes, humbling. I look through my books and not one mention of this situation. A little help here?

Monday, October 24, 2005

How to win low limit omaha

I have constructed this as a classic "text adventure game" that you would play in the 1980s on some lame, text based computer (of which I had two).

You wake up (each adventure game started this way) and find yourself in a casino. There are tables all around you. You have the taste of stripper panties in your mouth.

You Have:
$100 dollars, chewing gum, room key card, voucher for a free lap dance.

That’s better.

I don’t understand.

There are tables all around you and a lit sign.

It’s a sign alright.

It says “Poker Room -North, Bathrooms -East, Table Games –West, Hotel Rooms – South”

Why would you do that? That would be –EV.

You spend time playing Blackjack, Roulette and Chinese offspring Gai-Pong Domino poker. Your bankroll is now $50. You return to the lobby.

You enter the casino poker room. You're lucky to have found it. It is a maze of twisty tables, all alike.

You find yourself at a Limit Table. The stakes are affordable (downright cheap).

You’ll need chips first.

You buy $50 in chips

You sit down at the limit table. 6 hours later you are up $2. But you got to play a lot of hands (as did everyone).

You collect your chips and get up from the table. Your legs feel num. Your bankroll is $52.

You arrive at a No Limit Hold ‘em table. There are various 20 somethings seated around the table drinking Bud. They all have various baseball caps and sunglasses on. One player explains to another how he missplayed his hand. The other player is less than receptive.

Are you sure? This is a very volatile game and you are sure to encounter wild swings of luck. As you decide, a player takes a big pot with J5o.

Ok, but the waiting list is 8000 minutes. You are 180th on the list.

You arrive at a Pot Limit Omaha Table. There is no waiting list. Seated at the table are lost Europeans and loud 30 somethings.

You sit down just as the dealer is explaining to a player that he ‘must use two cards’. He is noticeably upset.

A waitress asks if you wish something to drink… Just kidding, no waitress will come to this (or any other) poker table.

The dealer welcomes you and you sit in the BB. You are dealt 4 random cards.

This could take all day. After all, no one raises or folds yet.

I can’t do that… yet.

Smart. The dealer, deals three face up cards. Hey, you have two pair!!!

Are you sure?

You fold the cards. Someone takes down the pot with a straight.
You are dealt 4 more cards.

You are in the hand! The players call for something called a flop. The dealer deals 3 face up cards. Hey, you have a flush!

Why? You have a flush!

Since you insist. You have the King and Queen of spades.

There are three other spades on the table, face up. They are the 2 the 3 and the 8 of spades. A player makes a pot size bet.

Are you crazy?

You fold. An Ace high flush takes the pot. Are you psychic?

The dealer deals everyone 4 new cards.

The dealer flops KQJ all different suits.

You have JT98. Another player bets the pot.

You are crazy!

You fold. An Ace high straight takes down the pot.

The dealer deals everyone 4 more cards.

The dealer flops 7 of spades, Ten of spades, Ten of diamonds.

You have the Ace of spades, the Queen of spades, the Jack of diamonds, and the Ten of clubs. Hey, you have 3 tens.

Why not raise?


I do not understand. Please reform your command.

Ok, you get 5 callers.

The next card is the 2 of spades. Hey, you have a flush.

You get 3 callers.

The final card is the Jack of hearts. Hey, you have a full house!

Two players fold as if there cards did not pan out. One player stares at you and calls.

The dealer asks to see your cards and you show yours. The others throw their cards face down on the table. The dealer pushes many, many chips in your direction.

What now?


Why not just type “repeat”?

After about 5 minutes, the dealer pushes a stack of chips in your direction.

After about 5 minutes, the dealer pushes a stack of chips in your direction.

After about 5 minutes, the dealer pushes a stack of chips in your direction.
How long is this going to go on?

Ok, ok I get it. About 2 hours later you are tired and want to go to your room.

Stop that, you are exhausted. Your legs feel like needles.

That’s more like it. You head back to your room.

You Have:
$200 dollars, chewing gum, room key card, voucher for a free lap dance.

No one sleeps where there are cards to be played.

Where would you like to take it?

You quite while you are ahead. 3 goons mug you at the airport and you leave town broke. You did not even go to a strip club. Your score is 14.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Was ready, won a 3 table warm up event, and then sat down for the big blogger tournament. Had 92o more times than I could count. Card dead and a big stack bully at the table prevented us from playing anything marginal. I would have killed for marginal. I folded J9o once, but I remmeber noting I was throwing away a big hand based on cards so far. Both times I had KQ, others were all in for BIG pots. Some each time had AA. Played a couple of low pocket pairs for a flop, but nothing. Then, I get TT utg and after a raise, the bully puts me all in. I KNOW he has AK and so does he. But as he says, "today I am on fire". So he was taking all races. Sure enough, Ace on the flop. So dissapointing. I can not tell you. Playing in effect maybe 6-12 hands and hitting zero flops. Tough way to go out. I am devistated.

some off topic material for your perusal

Finished up the Road Rally season last night. That is where you drive from location to location solving clues and doing activities until you reach the destination point. We were so good in the spring, that we had to throw 2 rallies this fall. Well, they are finally done. Fun, but alot of prep work. And nothing goes 100%.

...sound familiar?

20 years ago (MAN), when I was doing stand up comedy (MAN!), I still remember this quote. "The better rehearsed you are, the more freedom you have to be creativë. You'll always know how to return where you left off too." It is true with your game also. Have a system. Not just to have, but to fall back to when you need to. I have almost completed mine, and I can always use it when I need it. I even wrote it down so every 2-3 months I can go back and see if I still believe it and if I still use it.

After all, advanced poker requires building a library of experiences and pattern recognitions. You need a framework to file them into.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Wow, I can not believe this one. I am in a tournament and I have played TWO hands in two levels. Neither went to showdown and I won them by betting out. Then I get a short stack all in when I have 77 and he had T7o. This is POST flop. He hits a Ten on the river. So, I have to get something going. I have 54o in the BB and get to see a free flop.

Game: No Limit Hold 'em
Level VIII: 50 Ante 200/400 Blinds (25 Minimum Chip)
Average Stack: 5,294.11 (3,000 starting chips)
Remaining Players: 17 (30 started)
Seat 1 : Big Bo starts with 2,025
Seat 2 : EBP Golfer starts with 1,450
Seat 3 : pokerchick46 starts with 12,875
Seat 4 : Pirates starts with 5,450
Seat 5 : cylehoss starts with 2,900
Seat 6 : greywolf82 starts with 14,175
Seat 8 : columbo starts with 2,725 <= note, despite solid play, I need to win a hand.
Seat 9 : JG1013 starts with 1,300
Seat 10 : codger starts with 4,125
Seat 5 : cylehoss has the dealer button
columbo dealt down 4s 5d
greywolf82 posts the small blind 200
columbo posts the big blind 400
JG1013 folds
codger folds
Big Bo calls 400 [note, he CALLS]
EBP Golfer folds
pokerchick46 folds
Pirates folds
cylehoss folds
greywolf82 folds
columbo checks <== he gives me a FREE flop??? great!
>>>DEALING FLOP<<< [ 8c 4d 6c ]

columbo bets 1,450 <== This is an easy bet here, since he can not call it. There is little chance he is ahead here and I am first to the pot.

Big Bo raises 125 to 1,575 and is all-in <<= in effect he calls.
columbo calls 125

Big Bo cards were Kh Qc <= HE CALLS ME WITH OVERS?!?!?!? for ALL his chips?!!?!?
columbo cards were 4s 5d
>>>DEALING TURN<<< [ 8d ]
>>>DEALING RIVER<<< [ Kc ]

Big Bo wins 4,600 with two pair, kings and eights
columbo: OMG

ok, bad beat. Big deal right. So now pokerchick46 actaully says, "what were you doing calling a raise with a pair of fours and a 5 kicker?"

WTF? The raise I called was 125 chips?! So when I mentioned that I knew he missed the board...

"you can know that".

Yes, actually after watching him play for an hour, I can...

and I LOVE this line
"I am not going to argue with you. I am only trying to help"

Argue with me? YOU brought it up... AND you have the facts wrong.

"aks anyone at the table if you should call a raise there"

WTF? again, I am flabergasted. The table breaks and that is that.

I played the hand perfectly, got a bad beat, and got LECTURED for calling my last 125 chips into a pot of 4500.

Want to hear my advice? Keep it to yourself.

eaten by the monster of the day

I am in a big lotto tournament. I have double the avg chip stack with 100 left. Pays $50. I have 67o and the board is 2s 4s5s6s. I have the 7s for a weak flush and a straight flush draw. I also have a very lame top pair. I have about 30% of my stack in on this hand and he pushes all in. After 2 minutes, I fold and he shows the 3s. He was playing 35o. I escape like a spy in a bond movie.

The I am playing JT and the flop if J63 rainbow. MP player pushes all in and another player calls. Easy lay down. All-in had JT, caller had A6. I watched this idiot lose the entire stack over the next 10 minutes. HOW did he get this deep?

Now I am average and this gem comes up on the bubble (68 left).

the blinds are huge now 3000/6000 and I have about 45000. I am in the BB. An EP, who has not played alot of hands, puts in a bet of 15k. I have AQo in the BB, and could just toss it, but decide I want to call and see a flop. This is questionable since I am out of position with a drawing hand to an UTG bring in. We are both equal in chips. I did not have to defend here, nor did I have to play. But I have a top ten hand, and I want to see if I can accumulate chips on the bubble where players are quick to fold missed flops.

The flop is KJT rainbow. Holy nuts. I check and let him bet. He best 12k and I smooth call. We each have over half our chips invested now. The turn PAIRS THE TEN. Now I have to decide if there is reason to be afraid. I have him on AA right now, and I expect him to bet here. I check and he bets 6k and I call. We each have about 12k left. I decide I am safe.

The river is a blank and I check. He goes all-in for the last 12k and I call. He flips over TT for a case of tens and I am out.

So, was I wrong in not being afraid of a flopped set with TT, JJ, or KK? and even if I was, could I get away from the straight when the board pairs without a real indication of strength? Sure, in hindsight I could have shut down when the board pairs, but I am not going to call a MIN bet with a pot of 30k? Then I am going to try and save my last 12k and see if I can fold into the money?

p.s. this hand made mrs. columbo cry.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What advantage does B&M have to your NL game?

ok, bear with me as everyone has 1000 answers to this question... Some yell "tells", which by the way, is WAY over rated in today's day and age. Some yell, "more information" which is of course the same bloody thing. So, just to clear this up once and for all...

Here are the TWO big advantages to playing NLHE in a card room:

1. The game slows down. Players HATE this, which makes it doubly good. They make fast decisions when they dont need to. You have more time to make mental (or paper) notes on players and their play. Its easier to remember the action of the past as you have faces and actions to associate with them. etc, etc. Plus, there are alot of distractions for players to wade through.


2. You DONT see your hole cards.

"what?!?!?" You say. "so?!?!" you say? Listen up. The great Phil Ivey is not stupid.

When you are playing in a card room, you could play some hands without looking at your hand. You are situational. Watch Phil survey the action and decide his possible moves, then look at his cards. He does it everytime. Heck, try playing your BB without looking at your cards. (I did this last week). You will be surprised at what happens. You have to watch the flow of the betting and strength very carefully.

Contrast this with online where you look at your cards FIRST. FIRST. are you kidding me? This is why there are so many fish online. Because the sites TRAIN them that way. Look at your cards, check the box for your action before it gets to you. Keep it moving. BAH! Want to practice REAL cards, cover your hole cards with a sticky note. Decide what you could play, then peek. Or dont.

Think Phil Hellmuth can put you on AK vs AQ because he's psychic. Because he can look into your soul? Because you have this tell that only Phil can see? It's all bunk. Phil can replay the hand in his head and tell what you you probably have. Then his raise or laydown becomes easy. Why does Phil lose it sometimes? Because he can be right and still lose. No one likes that. BUT, as someone trying to improve at poker, and this is hard but listen... YOU WOULD RATHER BE RIGHT THAN WIN THE HAND. If this is not true, then you need to go look in the mirror.

On a final note, Mrs. Columbo is TEARING up the micro tables at party poker. She is relentless in her pursuit of being a player. She is now playing about 30 hours a week (more like 45).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A day without poker

Someone recently suggested that there needs to be SOME non-poker content in this blog that exposes some personal information about me. That and it can't be boring. Well, how do I do BOTH? Gez.

Last night, instead of playing poker, I had a conference call with my publisher. We are co-designing the new Pirates board-game, based on the Sid Meijer PC game. My game design firm is pretty competent and has a published title to its credit (see links). In the past, I also posted a blog entry about board games for poker players (see post from July 21st).

Anyway, the owner of Eagle Games is a long time poker player. We had a LONG discussion about ring play vs. tournament play. Interesting that he claims there is little difference in how you are successful. Yet, he is a successful ring player who rarely cashes in a tournament. To me, I am a much better tournament player than a cash player (a recent theme here). I can see the field in the context of the endgame. In a ring game, there is no closed context and thus harder to apply pressure in the same way.

A side conversation was interesting. I told him I cashed in my last 3 tournaments and I had stopped "my experiments". When he asked me to elaborate, I exlpained I have been trying to create situations and then experiment with what works in those situations. (it was a -EV bankroll experience).

What I learned:
1. It is not a good idea to play drawing hands at the very start because each chip is still too valuable in the context of stack size. I need to win a couple of hands first with pairs or better on the flop.

2. Once I get past step 1, I can limp with almost any two cards through level 2. So look out. This allows me to play cheap hands for a flop AND establishes a loose image that no one will witness again starting at level 3. But, in order to continue in these family pots, you need to hit the flop hard. 2 pair or better.

3. Once level 3 kicks in, I assess my stack size compared to my STARTING stack (not to avg). M and Q are not important to me yet. I start to take notes on players in my head and watch the "flow" of the table. Drawing hands are situational now. I am looking to identify players who will draw and/or overplay holdings.

4. At level 5, I start following M and Q. I am also watching for opportunities to take advantage of advertised weakness. My favorite is when a player bets the flop and then makes the same size bet on the turn. I usually interpret this as weakness and re-raise. ALso, I will no longer limp FTA into any hand. If I am coming in, I am raising 3xBB.

5. At the higher levels, I start really putting more weight on my OPPONENTS holdings in a hand. This is where the good stuff starts. My goal for each hand:
a. make good decisions
b. get your money in when you are ahead
c. Dont play AJo, 56s, or 99 in EP.
(this can be funny, if you think back to Steve Martin in the Jerk and repeat the list, replacing option c with 'see a doctor and get rid of it')

So, now back to board games. I have always been a pretty good board game player. Why? Because I could convince other players to take actions that help them alot but still help me a little. In poker, this skill has not been of much use to me. So, instead I am working on what makes a good trap. Its not about having a monster. Its about making smart bets when you know your ahead.

What makes a good trap? Getting a player to invest money in a losing hand. Nevermind all that TV stuff about "setting a trap". It's BS most of the time. The secret is identifying your opponents cards. Did you see day 1 of the WSOP when the veteran (?) raises 20xBB with AA. Farhah calls with 33. Why? This is VERY important. 1. He has won some chips, allowing him to play a drawing hand. 2. He KNOWS the other player has AA. There is NO OTHER holding he can have here. 3. He is getting 9-1 on his call.

"WHAT?" you say. "more like 1-1". No. Listen up. When you KNOW your opponents cards, all implied odds can be included explicitly. Sammy knows that if he hits the set (7.5 to 1) he will BREAK this guy (9-1 payoff). Get it? It ONLY works if you are SURE about your opponents cards and you can afford the flop stack wise. Most players would have folded the 33. Me too. Not anymore. I put it all together now. When you can put your opponents holding together, you take control of the hand. Period.

Ever notice when your watching on TV, where one player takes away the initiative from the other? That happens when the player has determined his opponents holding and now can control the action. He can do this, even if he is behind.

"Learn it, know it, live it" -Brad Hamilton (wearing his Captain Hook uniform) in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A quick Omaha session

I played about an hour of $.05/$.10 Omaha. That's right, NICKEL/DIME. So here is the funny part. I pocketed $21 bucks in PROFIT. Am I crazy? Nope, nothing special at all. No one seems to know how to fold in this game. Fold on the FLOP people, not the river GEEZ.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Monthly 2 Table Tournament last night

Right after the bloger tourney, I hosted my monthly tiki lounge 2 table tourney.


Player gets Aces THREE time in 8 hands, wins only the third one!

Three players all in and I am forced to call when WELL behind on pot odds. Painful.

Forced to go all-in with 5 players left because I have a poket pair, am out of position, and folded would leave me with an M of ONE. My 33 flop a set and beat pocket ACES.

I raised from Utg with the hammer, only to let it go to a re-raise. He had AK.

Once again, letting strategy guide me instead of tactics. I finished in first. I got a break on the set of 3s to avoid 5th, but still I feel good. I only had about 3 races all night. I was ahead in two of them and they held up. On the third I flopped my bottom card and that held up.

I continue to work on my instincts. I think about what Phil Ivey does before he acts. When it gets to him, his eyes dart around the table and check the stack sizes, replay the betting, and quickly calculate his option. THEN, he looks at his cards. I learned from that. I even played one hand without even looking at my cards. I lost it, but I played it perfectly.

Inflection point
I have an open ended straight draw with 6 players left. The big stack and I are the only 2 players. I go all-in on the Doyle semi-bluff. He thinks for a LONG time and call it with KING HIGH?! How do you make that call? I mean, he WAS technically ahead. But HOW do you make this call? I hit the straight and doubled up. This was the turning point as I had enough chips to coast to second place.

Blogger Tourney

Played in the WW blogger "call to arms" yesterday. I even snuck away from work early to do it! Thanks Wil!!! It was important for me to do well. Not because I wanted to prove myself a great players, nor because I am obsessed by my play (ok that's true), but rather that I am not really know by other bloggers and wanted to fit in. Yup, just a high schoolish desire to belong. With 2 tables left I am THIRD in chips. But alas, my KK ran into a well knows blogger who raised me big pre-flop and I called. An Ace on the flop and a HUGE bet, got me to fold half my stack. I grinded my way into the money, finishing 9th. Yup, 10 minutes at the final table. Mission Accomplished.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

So what’s the difference?

League Night season 4 (season 1-3 recap) and season 4 intro.
It’s league night. The start of league #4. They are 6 sessions long, one a month. League #1 I did just ok, League #2 I won the entire thing!, League #3 I finished very poorly ALL SIX SESSIONS. That was during the time I was tearing down my game. Now, I head into League 4 and I go in with my most recent mindset. Stop trying to play so much by the books and work on honing your instincts. Well, honing is what I am doing.

The setup
The league changes slightly with each season. This time it is 8 handed tables, starting chips 110 and blinds of 1 / 2. Tables are no longer balanced. Instead every time 8 people are eliminated, the smallest table is broken up and distributed. Flawed? Yes, as at one point our table was 4 handed.

Early old guy hand
I had won a hand and picked up about 40 chips. A few hands later…
An older gentleman who was aggressive almost to the point of recklessness is playing too many hands pre-flop. When he hits the board he bets, when he misses he folds. This guy loves middle pair as much as top pair. So, he raises from EP. I call with QJs and hit TP on the flop. I call him down to the river to see two pair. He had raised from EP with J5s and hit 2 pair on the flop. This would be the ONLY hand he wins for the rest of the night. He is quickly gone. (Imagine that). But I had lost my previous gain and finished level 1 at my starting stack size.

During level 2 and 3 I was down below average. Heck, I was down below starting stack size. In the last 6 sessions, I would panic here. The blinds are 4/8 and my M is low. But it is still early so there is lots of loose money at the tables. I decide to not fall into my old patterns. I fold almost all my drawing hands, unless in late positions or in the blinds.

JJT hand
The blinds are now 5/10. I am on the button and some players limp. A LP player makes it 2X. Money was tight, so I expected the blinds may even fold. I decide to call on the button with J9o. The SB folds. The flop is JJT. It checks around to the LP player who bets 20. I call and the others fold. The turn is A and again he bets 20. The pot is now about 100 chips and I can’t afford to let it get away. I act as though I think he is on a stone cold bluff and I raise to get him off the pot. He quickly folds what I suspect is nothing. He probably put me on Ax. Good! I want players to think that.

K9 vs Kt hand
A few rotations later I pick up some hands with TP by betting aggressively and driving out the draws. This time I have K9 in LP and call a raise. The flop is KQ2 and I figure I might be best here. I raise after a bet and get called by the same guy from above. On the turn I shut down. He bets big and I fold. He says “you had a King, what was your kicker?”. I assume this means he had Kx also. Then, as I am thinking about my answer, he flashed my his T. I made good fold. Or so I assume. If he called that big flop re-raise, he was going to the showdown with KT for TP and best kicker.

4 handed
One of the concerns of the new rules is getting stuck very short. When the table dropped to 6, I felt this gave me an advantage. I pushed smaller margins and hit flops whereas other players still played as if the table was full. I did a nice job of grabbing some chips. But when we went down to FOUR handed, I told everyone to slow down. The blinds were getting big and we did not want a crap shoot. This also helped me by allowing me to play solid. A short time later, they broke the table.

Mr. Fabulous
What else can you call the guy who flops a full house, hits a 4 outer on the river to make his straight. Not once, but twice. Overall he was the luckiest player of the night. And he was the first to admit it. He saw no reason to hide the fact that this was his special night and I started calling him Mr. Fabulous (see Blues Brothers).

13 left – AQ suckers
We are down to 13 players. We are going to pay 9 places. Don’t forget this. I am played very solid. Since I am below average stack size, I am avoiding any drawing hands unless the circumstances are perfect. MP player from my earlier two paragraphs raises to enter the pot. The 2 MP players to his left both call. I fold. The button calls. The flop is QJ4. The aggressive FTA player makes a big bet of about ½ the pot. Both players on his left call and the button folds. The turn is a 6 and he bets again. Both call. The pot is got to be 1000 by now. The river pairs the 4. Now the aggressive better goes all-in with total confidence that he is going to triple up. The player to his right then thinks for a minute and calls. Now the 3rd player, he also CALLS?! WTF? They were all very close in stack size and all had avg. size stacks so there was no reason to panic. The first guy, who was pretending he had a case of fours, turns over Q7. TP. That’s it. The second guy turns over Q9. HOW DOES HE MAKE THE TURN CALL?! It was a HUGE raise and there was another player yet to act. But get this, the third guy turns over AQ for TPTK. HOW DO YOU CALL TWO ALL INS, FOR ALL THE CHIPS YOU HAVE, ON THE BUBBLE, WITH JUST TP. HOW? HOW? HOW do you do that? So he triples up and is now the clear leader. Me, I have a BIG smile on my face. Not only did two players go out, but the player who now has a large stack is DESTINED TO LOSE IT. Yup, very happy.

Semi-bluffs (KQ vs KQs)
Solid player raises UTG to 3xBB. I call from SB with KQo. The flop is AJ9. I have played few hands, and I know this guy thinks about his hands. When I see the flop, and I think about his possible holdings, I decide this is a perfect time to run a stop and go. I say “all in” and I can see it on his face. He says, “that was my move”. I know immediately what he has. Not an Ace. He can’t make the call, but is SERIOUSLY considering it. He even counts out the chips. Twice. In the end he lays down what would have been a split pot. KQ.

I semi-bluffed a total of TWO times the entire tournament to this point. Neither were called. I reserve this only for the best possible spots. I also played an open ender weakly hoping to hit and did not. I let it go to a river bet.

Mr. Fabulous strikes the final table
So we are down to 8 and Mr. Fabulous is the center of attention. Why? Because in the immortal words of Al Davis, he “just wins baby”. I had won some good hands at he last table and I was probably about 5th in stack size of the 8. So, I am not going after the big stacks, nor am I going to play marginal when 2 others are going to go out earlier. And go out they did. With marginal hands too. Busted by the big stacks.

One of them gets heads up with Mr. Fabulous who calls the all in with 2 random cards. He hits the overcard and its over for that guy.

“I’m playing for the win”
Can you believe with 6 players left, this guy was stupid enough to tell me that?! As soon as he said that, I changed gears and went into “watch mode”. I knew he would challenge small stacks with bets and in the end, and would either bust them or implode. Either way, it looked like an easy way to move from 6th to 4th or even 3rd. He managed to crush a small stack with a loose call and we are down to 3.

Masterful flush bluff
Here is my 3rd and final bluff of the night. I got stuck playing marginally decent cards that I raised with 3 players left. I was heads-up with Mr. Fabulous and I made a continuation bet which he called after looking at the board for a few seconds. It was the delay I picked up on and he either had marginal cards or he was worried about something. When the 3rd club came, I said “all in” without hesitation. He had hit the board (I did not) and was on a stone cold bluff. He folded. I laughed and said “there is no way you were going to outdraw me that time” like I had the made flush. It was an inside joke. He could not outdraw me, because he could not possibly be behind.

Star wars guy (I’m playing to win) goes up against Mr. Fabulous.
AJ for Mr. Fab and JJ for Star Wars guy. Mr. Fabulous hits the ace first card off the deck. It was over that quickly. Star Wars guy, aka “I’m playing for the win” guy, was upset. Yes, this guy outdrew him. But he really thought he was going to win it. YET, he was willing to get all his money in pre-flop. I can never understand this. Its all tactics, no strategy.

So We are heads up.
Me against Mr. Fabulous with at lesat a 4-1 chip lead. I crawl my way up to about a 3-1 chip dog and then… He raises pre-flop to 3xBB. I look down at JT and figure to be a race against anything he holds here. But best of all, I figure this a good psychological ploy. I raise all-in with the JT hand. He calls and flips over 44. PERFECT. Why? I needed to win a race against this guy so he no longer felt invulnerable. I hit a T on the flop and now we are EQUAL in chips. I tell him, “I broke the curse, now you are mortal”.

Final hand
We shuffle a few chips back and forth for 10 minutes and I have maybe 2% more than him. He raises to 2x and I call with J5. The flop is QJ4 rainbow. He bets and I raise. He calls. The warning bells go off, but the way this guy has been playing, he thinks he can’t lose. I figure I may be ahead here. There are few draws, but he has played AK and KT this way (open ended draw) all night. The turn is a blank and I bet. This time he raises. I come over the top for everything figuring he can only call with Q and a non-lousy kicker. I figure this to be a good move. Ironically, after 4 hours, habits never change. He calls me with Q2. Surprised? Not really. He had TP and even though he thought I had two pair, he called. Still, I can’t fault my decision here (can I?).

So I finish 2nd despite only have 3 hands better than TP (2 pair twice, trips once) and never having an above average stack for the ENTIRE tournament.

Conclusions (so what’s the difference?)
I played a great strategic game and I am no longer going to second guess the value in that. One can play tactically sound and not finish in the money. But from where I am sitting, few players play strategically in tournaments. So I am going to use that skill to guide my tactical decisions like I used to (when I was winning). But now, I have 6 months of new mechanics practice behind it. Strategic play has to be the strongest part of my game and explains why I do poorly in ring games. --So what? Just like table selection is important, I say game selection and strategy is important. Would I like to be a better ring player? Sure. But I have years to work on that. Right now, I want to work on improving. And it’s best to start with your strengths and let the rest follow.

Say it loud and say it proud, “My name is Columbo, and I am a tournament specialist”.

Monday, October 10, 2005

so, what happened?

"You told us this tale of woe and how you were going to change how you play. What happened?"

I played a couple of lotto tournaments. In the $1 tournament, I went out early when my pair ran into a bigger pair in level 1... But in the $2 tournament...

PokerStars Tournament No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $2.00
1289 players

Dear Columbo,
You finished the tournament in 85th place.
You earned 52.66 tournament leader points in this tournament.

I made one mistake during the tournament, and that was overplaying an AT and running into AK. I pushed because he was a stack 1/3 of my size. But I was behind and that was incorrect. Other than that, I made no other visible mistakes. In the end, I fell down to about a Q of .5 and decided to run my flush draw all in vs. TP as a 2 to 1 dog. He was a bigger stack and could double me up and advertised he had TP. Turns out he had an over-pair, but that did not matter. Had I hit the flush, I would have had a Q of 1.1 with 85 players left. Instead I went out. But I can be happy with that decision.

By the way, that was my best finish ever in a field of 1000+ players.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cry me a river

Sit down, pull up a chair, and get ready for a tale of introspection, failure, remorse, hope, and a 3 hours tour all rolled into one. It’s time for me to bear my soul. It helps if you play Julie London's version of "Cry me a river" while you read.

The wife and I had a sitter, so we went down to the Greentown casino. It was only the third time I had been there. The wife wanted to try real money 3/6 limit and I decided I would play too, just so we would have similar experiences to show. We went to dinner first and had a wonderful time, treating it like a date. After some wonderful food, we walked over to the casino.

I sit down to a table of players who had been playing quite some time. They were very experienced at playing 3/6. Me? I just plain was not paying attention. I bought in for $60 and lost $30 when my KK lost on a flop to 3 under cards. Sound confusing? It was to me too until I noticed that the eight was actually a second 7 on the board. I simply was betting into trips. How stupid is that? Not as stupid as REPEATING a mistake of betting 2 pair into a flush. How can I be so stupid? Well, I have 3 lame excuses.
1. Pauly is right, you need to play live or you are out of place.
2. You can’t play limit like you play no limit.
3. You have to be ready to play.
It was #3 that killed me. I was not ready to play. I bought in for a second $60 stack and played for two hours on it. I lost $11, mostly to players just getting hot cards. I never made a bad decision with this stack, but this was a table of flops and chasing and I rarely had good cards. The lady across the table would hit 2 pair with J2. Eh, what can you do? Mrs. Columbo? Won $50 DESPITE losing a big hand with mid-set to top set. She rules. I was embarrassed.

So, why the big intro to a seemingly simple story? Read on…

Just a short interruption to plug cardclub and my Columbo segments. Cardclub is a great card show and I am thrilled that they deem my humble contributions worthy. But I actually bring it up because it’s relevant to where I am going with this. So hold that thought.

I am a VP at a software company. I would say I am pretty darn good at what I do. After all, it’s what I have worked on becoming for my entire career. But what’s interesting about it is that I went on a business trip recently. I had to visit a staff member that was previously a peer and now reported to me. He just isn’t that great of a leader in terms of leading an entire department. He lacks the vision for it. I am sitting in his office and I notice his book shelf. Close to 50 books on leadership and management. It dawned on me that he was not ineffective for lack of studying, it was he just did not put the pieces together that same way I do. I have a knack for it, and in that respect I AM LUCKY. Sure, I read the books too, but I find things I am already doing in there and just use the ideas to compare to my own and fill holes.

All these thoughts formed in my head in a 2 second time lapse, and then the inevitable comparison came to my shelf of poker books. I am studying the game, but I have not developed the instinct for the game. It took me years to develop my management instinct, it took me years of stand-up (in my youth) to develop the “feel” for the stage. And now I need to develop table instincts. I simply have not accomplished this yet.

So its time to put the books back on the shelf. It’s time to stop shaking my head at players winning hands with J2o. It’s time to stop trying to play “technically perfect”. I have always been a very good board game player, but can’t seem to translate that to poker. Why? Well, I am not sure. But I am going to start playing poker like a board game instead of like a math exercise. I would rather make a good decision with J2o than a bad decision with KK. And that is my new focus. Play and develop the necessary “patterns” in my brain that start to awaken the instincts I already have. After all, how can management, board games, and comedy be that much different from a simple game of cards?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

$2 woes

Both myself and Mrs. columbo went out late in a 2500 player tourney after being trapped. She mistakenly did not give a player credit for a flush. My transgression was much worse. Avg stack is $4K and I have $6k, so I am doing alright. The table had tightened up considerably, so I changed gears, raising just 2XBB with QJs. Only the cutoff calls! He is one of two players that have me covered at the table. The flop is AJQ rainbow and I feel pretty good about this. I have 2 pair against a probably pair. He would have raised with AA? and its is unlikely he had JJ or QQ with me having QJ. The only hand that kills me here is KT. He min bets, I min raise, he calls. Turn is a 2 and again he min bets, I min raise, he calls. The turn is a 3 (no flush) and he goes all-in. This morning it seems obvious he believes he is ahead here. He is not going to try this as a bluff when he is ahead of average and I can bust him if he bluffs. No, when he goes all-in, he is hoping for a call. And in a huge moment of wishful thinking, I gave him that call and exited the tournament.

On cardclub this week ( one of the guys referenced a quote from skalansky that I did not know about. You have to play every situation so you are ready for it when it happens. Well, this time I played it live. I'll be ready next time... to fold.

Monday, October 03, 2005

right move, wrong time

I seem to have a knack lately of running a great bluff at the perfect time, only to run into TPTK. AGAIN. What are the odds?

A better question may be, "why run such elaborate moves in early levels?"

why indeed. Stop it columbo!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

It was the best of times, it was the Blurst of times

ok, so its an obscure joke. But here are some obscure hands, even for a wannabe...

Last night 3 table MTT. I have a fun table. I have not had fun playing in a LONG time. It was the best of times, playing and talking and winking. Ballgame was at my table, as was Big E and the Dentist. I know how they play and they know how I play. (it wasn't going to matter tonight for me though).

I notice that Sox plays 55 like it was AA, both pre and post flop. I make a rare note on that.

UtG limps and I get in cheap utg+1 with JTs. As a matter of fact, I raise it 3xBB. The flop is KQQ and I am open ended. UTG checks, I bet, he calls. Turn is an ACE and I have the st8. UtG looks nervous and checks. I bet and he calls. His hand is shaking. He has a big hand. But so do I. The river is a blank 3 and he finally bets $500. This was his first pro-active action and his hand is shaking even more. I KNOW he has what he thinks is a big hand. But this is his first tournament, I figure him for a Q (trips). I re-raise while saying "I know you have a big hand, but I am going to raise here." and he calls. I show him the straight and he flips over AA for a boat. I picked my jaw off the table and moved on. I lost 35% of my stack.

100/200 now and MP makes a min raise. I lament my A7s in the BB. "I hate this hand", but call. The flop is KQQ (2 spades) again. He checks and I check. The turn is a 7. He checks and I bet. he calls. The river is a spade and he checks. I bet and he calls with 67 spades and takes it. He picked up the 7s on the turn like I did (but I was ahead) and hit the 4-1 river card. I am down to 50% of my start chips. Did I play that hand great? No. Did I make a major mistake there? I don't really think so. I had a marginal hand, thought I was ahead, and I was. I made the bet and he called because he hit the board and had a redraw. Would a bigger bet have chased him out? I doubt it.

I get 88 in LP and anguish over my bet. There are already 2 limpers and I dont want to raise that many players with such a marginal holding. I decide to limp also and look for the set. The flop is T64 with 2 clubs. Big E puts out a good size bet after 2 checks. I know he will be the semi bluff. But the guy to my left is ready to call it. I think he might have hit the T. I reluctantly fold and he calls. The turn was the 8 of clubs, which would have made my set, but obviously made Big E his flush. He started extracting cash from the T. So, why do I remember this hand? The river was my case eight.

I am bleeding here and my M is barely above 5. I decide I can use my tight image to make a move here. Instead of a 3xBB raise, I min raise 2x. The 3 last players to act made my decision. Ballgame would think it suspicious, dentist is tight enough that 2x is enough, and the new guy would not know the dif. All fold to ballgame who actually asks me about the min raise. He did notice. He calls on the button and we are heads up. I had decided to run the stop n go no matter what. When the flop comes out I miss completely, but bet half the pot. I know ballgame would probably fold anything but TP against my tight agression, but he did in this instance that is exactly what happened. He worried about the overpair only. He even considered that I might have QQ, but I did not have enough chips to scare him. I decide he will call me down if I committ and I had no re-draws. It doesn't matter, as he puts me all in (the right move here). I am forced to fold and I am on life support. The ONLY move I make all night, in a perfect situation, and I run into TP. It was the worst of times.

My last had was exactly what you would expect it to be. I get a great starting hand with AK, but I do not have first in vigorish. I can't go another rotation so I call what I know is a pair. Sox turns over TT and we race. Not much of a race actually, sine the board came all undercards to his TT. I am out very early.

I said I played like a "bot" perfect losing poker. I made the right decisions, the moves at the right times, and it never worked out. I wasn't mad, or frustrated, but rather dissapointed.