Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am not a hack!

Is it the economy? is it the frequency of events? whatever it is, I had to endure not one, but two tirades last night when I won a big pot from behind. And listen guys, calling players you play with EVERY DAY retards is not good form.

Look, I might not be Phil Helluth, but I THINK about what I do. I might not do what YOU would, but that is supposed to be ok. Isnt it?

I have $4k in chips and the avg is $5k. Let me emphasize this, my Q is less than 1 and shorty stack is less than .5 of my stack. If my Q is greater than 1 and his stack is greater than half my stack, I tend to fold here. But NEITHER is true. Now I find myself looking for the TIME button, but the lame interface doesnt have one. In the end, I figure that even though 66 is probably a simple race here, I'll take it. I DECIDED that. I do not and will not just push with 66 everyday. As a matter of fact, it is freakin rare. So, I call. And guess what? He had QQ. And guess what, I turned a 6. IT HAPPENS.

Much later on, I make a huge mistake. The blinds are high and I limp UtG with JsQs. This is a BAD play. I know this. As the the players fold I am actually talking to myself outloud, telling myself what a BAD play that was and I wish I could go back and fold. It was a bad play. The button calls. Now I make a decision. I will try to pretend I linped UtG with a monster like AA or KK. The flop comes Ten high with 2 spades! This is a good flop for me! I can represent my overpair and if I get called I have the flush draw. I make the big bet, he comes over the top and I am stuck getting over 3:1 on a 2:1 flush draw. I call and hit the flush on the river.

Was JsQs UtG a +EV play? No. But if I NEVER play non-premium hands from EP, I am predictable. Maybe that is just an excuse, but when that flop came, the value of my hand increases dramatically. If the flop was bad, I simply continue to yell at myself for being stupid and fold. That's poker. Stop yelling at me.

Dont get me wrong, I LIKE a good critique. A constructive comment that speaks to game improvement. Fuel used to rub me the wrong way, but I now really appreciate his comments for what they are worth. And if I ask a question about it, he will answer it. What more could we ask for? We are bloggers. We should be interested in helping ourselves as a collective group get better. Right?

Anyway, enough of being defensive. I took 5th last night, and I'll be the first to say that I didn't play good enough to win. Ironically, I went out when I flopped TP and he turned a set. Did I mention that "it happens"?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I need comments here people

so it turns out that Surflexus won the Mookie last night. I played at his table most of the night and I can say that his strategy was so counter to mine, I am still trying to adsorb it. Please help me.

1. Dont be afraid to play big pots, screw controlling pot size.
2. If a player moves all-in and you have him covered, you can call with ATC.

Now surflexus has won more Mookie events than any other player, so there must be something to this. Can someone please shed some light and put this in context for me before my freaking head explodes?!

Strong Start, weak finish

So I started the Mookie by taking a race. VERY RARE for me, but I got the impression that I was facing JJ,QQ and I had AK. Normally a fold for me at normal starting stacks, the $1500 starting stack in the Mookie made me take the volatility. I doubled up and went on to add even more chips to take an early chip lead.

As the tournament went on, I was doing fine. But with 2 tables left, I ended up in a very strange place. With 12 left, I was the short stack at my table despite having a bigger stack than every single player at the other table. I have never had that happen on the bubble before and it’s a difficult position to be in. If I push at my table, I am very likely to be called. If I fold at my table, I will not make the final table. In the end, 5 handed, I pushed with 66 from UtG+1 and the giant stack on my left woke up with JJ. C’est la vie.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mookie Pimpage

Since Mookie may be my new homeboy by September, I figure I need to pimp the Wednesday night mainstay, the Mookie. I play in it, shouldn't you?

Plus, where else do you get a live show with your poker game?


and no one is safe! Lock up the children. Turn off your phones. Its the event to end all poker events. Forget about your TV. Forget about your evenings. Say goodbye to your friends and family. Its just you, the computer, and god-willing, -beer.
No excuses. No Mercy. Hammers and Dead money everywhere. Oh the humanity.
Still think poker is a skill game? Well, get what's coming to you in the BBT3!!!!
side effects may include nausea, headaches, ranting, suckouts, hives, loss of hearing, loss of sanity, loss of bankroll. See a physician as necessary. erections lasting more than 24 hours are not human. beware bayne and astin. read the labels for full disclosures.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dude, I got Rock Band

Well, aa friend of mine brought over Rock Band for us to play in the big theater room. OMG. I can remember maybe 5 geek events where I was up past 4am.
  • Ali Baba and the 40 Theives on the Atari 800.
  • Carmageddon "Fox and Hound" multiplayer mode
  • Quake II running the "superhero" and "action quake" mods
  • An afternoon of Red Line and Giants
  • A long session of Unreal Tournament III

and now Rock Band. Who knew that Kareoke could be turned into a fun event?!

I have a video of 4 guys over 4o "performing" Gimme Shelter. (just like the real band)

Anyway, I never though pretending to play instruments could be more fun that actually playing them. But I should have know that. After all, console Baseball is far superior to actually playing Baseball.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Harrington and AQ

I was readying Harrington Vol 3 today and I was particularly focused for an hour on 3 pages. The AQ hand. Now, I consider myself a Harrington disciple. If this was a chop-socky movie, I would address him as "master". So imagine my confusion when I read this scenario and disagreed with his take on it.

Its a field of 400 and the top 10% get paid. There are 50 players left, so its 10 to the bubble. The blinds are 400/800 and the stacks vary from $4800 to $18000. You the $4800 stack.

The UtG player raises to $1800 (3xBB) which is standard since the ante's have not started yet. Folds to you in the 7 hole with AQo. The player folds and Harrington chastises him for his "mistake".

Now I am not one to challange the masters at their own game, but it really bothered me. In the last few weeks, I am sure I would fold AQ here. Anicdotal evidence would show me going on to cash in all of those situations. What am I missing?

Here is my theory, and its important heading into our WSOP season. This may be a situation where its correct to fold online, but push at a table. Why?

Three reasons:
  1. There is far less respect at an online table. Player are more willing to make calls here online. Therefore, you have less fold equity on your push over the top of $3k.
  2. You play more hands / hour online and therefore can wait longer for a situation you like better, such as getting into the pot first.
  3. The ante has not started and the player has the biggest stack at the table, so I expect his range to be narrow here. Narrow enough that he knows he is calling my push when he bets here. I expect a pair or AK/AQ from the UtG here. I cant see AJ here with him expecting to have to fold to a reraise and 8 others to get past.

But at a big money brick and mortar tournament, coming over the top here for $3k more carries much more weight in my opinion. You have fewer hands so AQ goes up in value, aggression is far better in table play and is an established formula, and there is more folding respect at a table, especially in big money tournament where you are willing to re-raise on the button. At a table, I might see AJ or a 66 do this expecting to gte past 8 players or simply get called.

This remains a big debate for me in my head and I continue to argue for the fold here. But I certainly see some situations where shoving is correct.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

the mookie has my number

I have been thinking in terms of situations of late, and a common one is "big hands early, then card death". Last night in the Mookie, I flopped DQB Kings to add a chunk to my stack, then doubled up on a flopped straight. So I am at $3500 while the average is still $1800.

Fast forward an HOUR. I am at $3200 with the avergage stack at $3200. Y-ouch. When I did have hands strong enough to play, I was more often than not faced with a bad situation. either the stakes were too large pre-flop with EP raisers, or I would move with 77 in MP and an LP would "play it away from me". Now in my defense, when I had 44 and the UtG at a full table suddenly raises 4xBB, I can safely discard my 44 from MP. And when my 77 sees a flop of AKx (where x<>7), and I am out of position, I am going to have to give up this hand if he is betting. And he was.

Even after the blinds passed me by, the 88 hand remained the apex of my cards whose summary can be stated as 88,77,44, and KJo. In the end, I just could not overcome that. Force to make a move, my A6 from MP ran smack into JJ in the next seat. There were many hands where I was unable to play because of pre-flop action, and everytime someone had a big hand.

This is the toughest of situations, as there really is no answer for a bad run of cards for over an hour. Especially when stealing isn't attractive due to the big hands being shown. Nevertheless, the tournament continues to replay in my head. I keep looking for an angle...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

6max NLHE observations

6-max NLHE update
ok, here are my anecdotal observations. These are debatable factoids, and your milage may vary.

1. In 6-max, you are forced into defending your blinds more... Although, I don't seem to have adjusted my criteria for defense much...

2. In 6-max, trap hands such as AJ become must-play hands.

3. Just because you are short handed, that is no excuse to play "loose". You still need to make solid decisions.

4. controlling the pot size is MORE important than in a full ring because players are more willing to "make a move" on you and if the pot size is wrong, you might make a bigger mistake than you normally would.

Comments from the 6-max gallery?

MTT news
I again finished 2nd last night in a MTT. That's back to back second places. I am the KING of second place, dog. yo. How proudly can you beat your chest saying, "I can finish second in anything you got"? But it does make me a more consistent casher, because I play to the money FIRST, then to win. But even that is not 100% true. Last night, 9 in the money, but scewed to the top 5. There are 6 left and I have AQ on the button. UtG makes a raise, and at this point could be a steal as likely as a hand. And if it is a hand, any Ace-rag is likely. So, what do I do with AQ in the situation? I fold it. Yup. I had already taken one race with AK vs. 77 and lost and I considered that my lost opportunity to race to the finish. So I went into McMighty-Tighty mode and watched the others self distruct all into the same stack of chips. At the end I was almost and 8-1 dog, but was one of the last 2 standing. This style is obviously not for everyone!

Personal news
It looks more and more likely that I am off to Austin. Who are the austin bloggers?! Shout-outs please!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

what is success?

In the words of the shoalin monks, "learning something means applying it". In their world, you did not learn kung fu just to learn it. You learned it to use it. Even if that was sparing over actual conflict. Poker is the same in that regard. If you read poker books and don’t play, that is obviously silly. But if you play the same stakes the same way over and over again, you are not really applying your experience, are you?

I have been playing 6max-NLHE cash lately and its killing me. My results are in the tank, and my bankroll is hurting, despite playing decently. What does my suffering teach me, Grasshopper? Suffering is life? Hardly. Many people skate through life avoiding suffering. No, I like to think that I am carving new patterns into my brain to be used in the pattern recognition exercise we call poker.

As human beings and not machines, we need to create the concept of the "finite" for our brains to comprehend something. So we think in terms of our experiences. There is nothing wrong with this until we run into people who exploit this, and then the circle of life starts anew. Are you following any of this? Me neither. But I think it illustrates another point. Things can be as complex or as simple as we wish.

For me, Tournaments are simpler than cash games. Why? Simply because there is a set of constraints around a tournament that do not exist in a cash game. (escalating blinds change the phase of the game, while going broke adds a finale to an otherwise singular transaction.) And its the constraints of a tournament I have learned to exploit. It is VERY rare for me to have to resort to 3 levels of thinking in a tournament, as motivations are harder to disguise. Plus, I have added a series of criteria that I use to evaluate the truth of a players actions. The biggest is "pot size".

Controlling the size of the pot is paramount in tournament play. (its probably important in cash too, but I am still working that out.) When a player is willing to play a big pot, he is committing to a course of action. (This does NOT mean he isn't bluffing!!) And because of stack sizes, blinds/antes, and the finality of going broke, the context of this behavior has larger significance.

In creating a big pot, we are signaling to the other player that we are willing to clash. maybe its because we have a strong hand, maybe a strong draw, maybe we are willing to put our opponent on a hand and believe we can force him out. Whatever the case, we are gearing up for battle. And when the war can be won or lost in a single battle, this is significant. We create pressure, cause for concern, and a fight or flight scenario for our opponent. And because of this, you would be surprised the number of times last night I folded AQ to a raise, but stole with 53o.

And even though I am still forming the theories that will help me be a better cash game player, I will stop worrying that I am destroying my MTT game. Last night, I took second in the Hoy. I played decent heads up, but just could not get any traction. I think the head up lasted a good 30 minutes. I started with a 2-1 chip deficit, and after a long battle, escaped alive when my TP ran into 2pair. But that left me with a 5-1 chip deficit and despite getting a good chunk back, eventually ran into the dreaded AA.

So I am now trying to compartmentalize 3 years of poker into a few months of preperation for the 6max NLHE WSOP event. Step 1 is to stop the bleeding. I continue to stare at the screen in disbelieve at times... As for yesterday's post, I simply walked away until the following day. And had a bad session anyways.

But if there is one thing I have going for me, its persistence. I have stopped acting like a moron (and took the doctors advice to "stop doing that!") I have played the OUU scenario much better. But most of all, my Houdini skills are coming back to me and I am able to escape from TPTK or AQ pre-flop.

Continue to spar...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How do I go on?

I am playing well today and have doubled my buy in despite getting stubborn one hand with 66 and seeing KK at the showdown. As I am reviewing the hand for mistakes, I get AA and make a raise. The limper shoves and I call to see his monumental QTs. I lose that hand and the very next hand I get JJ. This time the button shoves and I call to see his AJ. I lose that hand and just like that I am felted. Now here is my question:

I am playing well today, but I dont feel I can continue. Not because I am afraid of bad luck, but rather I dont see how I can not be tilted at this point.

Is anyone out there good enough to play past this? is so, can you explain how you manage?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Doctor, Doctor. It hurts when I do this.

Well, I figured out why I cant finish a tournament in the last few weeks. And its not mind blowing knowledge. Here's this thing about how I play NLHE. I like to control the pot size above all else. When I make a port size re-raise and a player then comes over the top, and I call with TPTK, I lose. 90% of the time. So why am I calling 90% of the time instead of 10%?

Me: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

Doc: "Well stop doing that!"

I have driven myself to the edge of oblivian with TPTK calls. This must be the intermediate poker player's equivalent of the moron test. And I spent the last 3 weeks failing. Not jsut failing, but last night, TALKING MYSELF into calling! If that don't beat all!

In my mind, getting away from second best hand IS the key to MTTs that are 5 tables or less.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

This makes OUU look like a joke

I've been mulling over the OUU (over under under) dilema for weeks now. How do you play TT when the flop is Q63? Ok, now let's talk about our worst nightmare. Far worse than OUU.

Its TP vs. a push.

No, really.

Think about how many times players go broke in a tournament. There are two major scenarios.
  1. Player is willing to push on a draw/ play against the draw
  2. Player is caught with second best hand.

Number 1 we all know like the back of our hands. Let's skip that for now.

Number 2, however, is another matter. Take this scenario:

You're moving right along in a tournament and you have an above average stack. But the field is large and you still need to accumulate chips. You call an EP raise with AKs and watch the flop come down with an Ace. Your opponent now bets pot. You re-raise, 3x his raise. Calling this would be half his stack now. He comes over the top all-in.

So, how do you as a thinking player, deal with this situation? How many times will you go broke here if you called every time? Would you be better off folding everytime?

What is the most profitable play here?

Why is this important?!??! Listen. The WSOP is coming up. If you are going to play in a big field event, you have to expect that you are going to be in situations where you are challenged for all your chips and you have Top Pair. And you have to assume in SOME of those cases you are behind. What process are you going to go through?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

When its ok to play like a wuss-bag

Last night, I finished 5th in my WSOP home game league. This pretty much wraps up a seat in a $1500 event in June. In order to place 5th, I had to do the following multiple times:
  • Fold hands with equity to avoid a race for all my chipe (AK vs. pairs, AJ vs. AJ, etc)
  • Listen to people chastize me for my last OMM where I recommend folding QQ to guarantee second place.
  • Fold every hand from early position
  • Steal only when necessary
  • fold the best hand to a tilting over the top all-in which ruined a chance to eliminate a player stuck in the hand.

At one juncture, with about 14 left, I correctly identified a KOD moment, when a button all-in from a short stack (about half my stack), figured to be a small pair of Ax. I had AQ and in a larger field would have insta-called. But because my goal was 7th or better, I folded my blind and watched him flash AJ. UGH. But that is my game. I want to have some edge when I play a big pot. I hate pre-flop all-ins, especially races.

Despite my seemingly tenderfooting around, I really was only eliminated when a fake-steal with AK and a shorter stack, created a mandatory call from a large stack with 44. This is what I wanted as it was my best way to accumulate chips with the blinds at 20% of my stack. But alas, AK gets no help and I had to settle for 5th.

In cash game news, I continue to play exclusively 6maxNLHE. My results are more eratic than an EKG on a monkey trying to open a plastic banana. But I still think its my best chance for a cash in a $1500 event. Anyone disagree? I do think that the $1500 HORSE would be the most FUN event to play, but I cant fool myself into thinking that Limit-HE and Stud8 would not eventually sink me. When it comes to HORSE, I find I just plain fold to much. Not a problem in 6NLHE.