Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Brutal Truth

What if it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and after the 10,000 hours you still have not mastered it? I've had this happen with numerous things in my life, where I am swimming upstream. I did quite a few hours (close to 10,000?) hours of improv and public speaking (stand-up), but "mastering" it really translated to "competence". Perhaps I am setting the bar too high, but I expected to be a grand-master poker player by now, and Sunday I played the sloppiest poker in years (ever?).

Hand review was crucial in this determination and I realize I have not done nearly enough of that in-depth review over the years. But more importantly, I had 3 leaks that accounted to 80% of my lost pots. Just Wow. Poker is brutal in that results are immediate and quantified. But it is forgiving in that each session is an opportunity to close leaks.

1. Don't open pots just to lose them. This is something DannyN13 told me yesterday that made such a good sound bite it might actually stick. If you open a pot, determine your plan and execute on it. Looks for viable options, like double barreling when the flop looks like it is trying to tell you that it will most likely work. Really, take the line that will most likely work is the best way to say it.

2. Use a players stack size (# of blinds) to help determine their ranges. That is the advantage you have in an MTT environment vs. cash. Don't play your hand like it is a cash game, if it isn't. You are omitting an important piece of information. Further stated, don't act on each street until you range your opponent. NEVER go into auto-pilot mode which is what I did Sunday.

3. Understand what you are trying to accomplish with your bet. This dictates Bet Sizing, Whether or not to bet at all, how you will react to your opponents reaction, and what you want to accomplish on the next street. This USED TO BE simple "lines", but in today's poker realm, it isn't enough.

and just as a bonus statement, and there has been much written about this, but it's brutally true.
A-Game or FAIL. No A-Game = No results.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Foley MTT

The Hands:

Level 1, I have AA in the blind. Limper, then a raise to 200 (4x). I make it 600 and just raiser calls. Flop is T68 (2 diamonds). check/check. Turn is 5d. He checks, I make it 800, he check raises to 2250 and I call. I put him on QQ here with a diamond draw. River is 4c and it goes check/check. He shows a set of Tens with Td. I lose $2850 of my $20k.

I call raise with 66 (3 to the flop) and flop a set. all checks I recall. Turn is a K and I bet and get called twice. River is a King and I make a big bet and get called twice! back over $20k

100/200 level and I call a larger than usual 750 bet because another player called and I had a small pair. Fold when someone leads out $1500.

Fold second nut flush draw to what seems like (and is) a flopped flush leading out. he had 75s. did not want to chase.

Lagish guy really playing a good amount of hands now. Obvious deep stack cash player, willing to see flops (even a 3 bet pre hand) with ANY suited connector, 1 gapper suited, or pair. Flopped a couple of sets and is over $50k. BUT, I start 3 betting him pre-flop and when he misses, taking down nice easy pots.

called bet of 1100 again after a raise and a caller. 3 ways and I flop set again. But when I bet out $2k into the $4k pot, they both fold?

2 limper and I have 24o in SB. I make it 1100 and pick up 900 in chips unchallenged.

Lag raises from MP to 1000, I look at AA in SB and make it 2200. He calls. Flop is very dry 834 rainbow. He checks and I assume if I bet he folds so I check. I hope to get turn and river value. Turn is a K and he checks. I bet out 2k (just under 1/2) and he check raises to $6k. I now figure him for AK, so I call. River is a J and he bets out $8k (just about 1/2 pot). I make a crying call to see 34s (2 pair).

I never really recovered from this hand, working my 12k for an hour up to about $18k and with 21 BB shoved over an opener with 77 and ran into QQ.

Disappointing to say the least.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I know this is free advertising but...

This is one of the better articles I've read recently:

Whenever someone explains why a common practice is for the intermediate players (vs. those continually striving to get better), I listen. I have often thought about why I instinctively don't want to c-bet on some boards and I realize that I've been looking to quantify it as this article has.

A digression: So much poker information today is related and correlated to "wide ranges" and keeping bad hands in the pot. So much is on maximizing return and the notion of "survival" is far less emphasized. I continue to struggle with the notion that these are somewhat opposing views and that there is instead a time to look at any given situation as in one camp vs. the other instead of preaching/teaching one or the other. I have yet to nail down some of the dynamics, but I am contemplating this a ton.

Intuition tells me that there are times that its better to maximize value and there are times where its better to avoid a marginal edge, despite convention 2014 thinking that I have to take many many edges and just amortize it over a larger number of entries. If there was a way to draw that distinction, it stands to reason (although unproved) that you could get similar results with a smaller sample size.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Run Good? Run Bad? It's all the same

League nights were this weekend, and on Friday, I stuck with a hand (KK on J high board) to long and paid off a 1/3 of my lean stack to a flopped two pair. I never really recovered and eventually A8 on the button ran into QQ in the BB. old story... But on Saturday...

Worked up my stack and caught a player with an Ace on an Ace high flop in a terrible spot against my two pair. I made the proper bets to get him committed by the river, where he paired his second card. I could see the Ace if it came, but not the Ten. I work my punished stack up large enough that I could raise 5s6s from MP because the table was playing too passive. Two callers and the flop is 3 spades. I check, player bets, BB flats and I shove (because I think one of them must call with As). Turns out to be the BB who does call and the turn is a spade! I am not out, just disappointed until I make the two out straight flush on the river. Wow.

30 minutes later, I get a spot to call a raise with QdJd and FLOP my second straight flush. AND a player moves all in on the flop! Two in one night! Lots of chips now!

But in the end, I catch the remaining player on a draw with his overs no good and the run out gives him the flush to knock me out second.

After this night, I am not sure I can ever say that I run either Good or Bad on any given night. You can make two straight flushes and still lose as a 2:1 favorite at any time.

Moral of the story: "That's Poker"

Friday, August 01, 2014

Summer Winding down

So as summer winds down I have some updates to post. I have decided to get serious about poker again. Not too serious, but more serious. I am participating at TPE, I am hiring a poker coach for 10 hours or so of instruction to help me identify trouble spots. I am putting $ on sites where I can practice (yeah for bitcoins), and I am enjoying my spring/summer past-time of enjoying cigars out on the deck.

One of the guys at CigarsCity sent me over some Rocky Patel Connecticut cigars which I liked. I tend to like the lighter smokes. I also like those Boveda humidity pack they ship in, these things work well. The site has Macanudo and Arturo Fuente too, so quite a discovery for me.

I've really been trying to concentrate on playing my hand against ranges and not over-reacting to bad turn cards. The latter being a long time leak I am trying to get under control. The first of the 2015 leagues start Saturday, and I intend to crush this year. Concentrate, play well, run good. The latter only being controlled by positive energy not track record.

As I ramp up for the perhaps final push into becoming the poker player I want to be, I think I'll try to sneak some exercise and mind/body maintenance in there too. Every little bit helps. I cut 200 calories a day out of my daily consumption (a mere 10%) and I have lost nearly 20 lbs. The weird side effect is loss of muscle strength in may arms, which I now have to over compensate to correct. Still, if I plan to live forever, better get started.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Monster Stack Trip Report

The Monster Stack event was the 3rd largest field ever and played like a $1500 main event. Expect this event yearly now...
$15k starting stack, 25/25/0 start level.

Hand 1:where I like to keep up a tradition of playing my first hand poorly...
LP in seat 8 players raises to 75 and I call from the BB with 6c9c. Flops is AdTc3c. He bets $150 and I check raise to 300. He calls.
My "logic" here was that players often will fold to any raise post flop after c-betting if they hit nothing. So, ok. I tried this and failed.
The turn is a blank (non-club) and I fire a second barrel. This I dont like at all and I think it was just not thinking. LP calls. Check-check river to see AQ.
Very dumb turn bet as I dont see him folding any hand that calls the raise.

BUT, it is important that I dont waste this information and I replay the hand in my head and store the info.

Hand 2:
Raise with KJs from button, blinds both call. Flop is KT9 and the BB leads out for 1/2 pot. I call, SB folds. turn is an Ace and he leads again. I fold. Way to early to look him up here, as everything got there on turn.

Hand 3: Where I get lucky
Call an open from 7 seat with 66. The flop is K high is he is physically interested in the hand. I am beat. I am ready to fold when he bets just 1/3 pot? very strange and I call. Turn is a J and this time he bets 1/4 pot?! So I call. The river is a 6 and when he checks, I value bet 1/2 pot and get called. He is angry and starts talking about how lucky I am. I simple stack the chips, no reply necessary.

Hand 4: punish a poor kicker
An MP (seat 6?) opens and I decide to call from the button with KQo. I want KQo in my calling and raising range, but this deep I go the conservative route. The rest of the notes are missing, but my KQ took a pot from his KT.

Hand 5: so fold
Few notes, but a took a flop 3 way with AJ and flopped TPTK. (I think I raised and got calls from blind and limper.) Flop is JT9 and its lead and raised prior to getting to me. FOLD.

I stop here to make a note that seat 8 is playing very tight. He had the AQ vs. me and has since only showdown AK and KK...

Hand 6: Where I utilize the escape pod
Seat 7 limps and seat 8 raises. I flat with AKo. Since we are so deep, I briefly debated raise vs. call and went the call route. I have notes on both players now and button position, so I feel confident. Flop is AcJc7d. Seat 7 checks, Seat 8 leads out for 1/2 pot. I suspect AQ or clubs and because of seat 7 still hanging around, decide to raise here. (In retrospect, I am folding out the weak player and narrowing the range of the tight player, sort of the opposite of perhaps what I should be doing here.)
Seat 7 folds and seat 8 3 bets me without much thought. I think about this for a while and realize that there is not way I am good here and FOLD. After I fold, I start to think about what my image was (looser to seats 7 & 8) and that he could put me on clubs there and be raising with an Ace. But as I continue to think about it, AJ seemed very likely. [NOTE: Later our table will break and we briefly talk about this hand. He had JJ]

Table Break

Hand 7: where I shoot first
I briefly put KQo in my UtG range and open for 2.5x (antes now). I get two callers and as I debate the wisdom of KQo UtG the flop comes QQx. Since I want to build a pot, I make a standard C-bet and both players fold. I immediately start thinking I am being over anxious. I could easily check here first to act. This feeling will exacerbate itself as I am about to go card dead...

Hand 8: Where I really want to play a hand. By the times it gets to me with 66, I am already facing a 3 bet and fold.

Hand 8 redux: Same idea only 99 facing 3 bet in BB with original raiser left to act and looking very interested. FOLD and watch the fireworks and QQ gets it in with AK.

I have 29k

Spots go by where I am still too deep to get out of line with steals or garbage cards. Plus, there are two Euro players to my right with bigger stacks that keep calling raisers and paying off better hands. "My kingdom for some playable cards" cries go unnoticed by the gods and I grind down...

End of Day 1 (26k)

Day 2 and now blinds are 400/800/100 which is 2200 a round. (32 1/2 Bigs, M just under 12). I go into the day prepared to open my 3 bet range, but the level starts poorly with terrible cards. Even in the BB I have T2o and pass on calling a min raise at one point with 62o.
Stacks: 14k, me now at 24k, 10k, 69k, 21k (pro who I recognize but cant place the name), 80k, Kara Scott folding every hand with 17k, 17.5k, and a shorty on my right with 8k.

The Shorty to my right wakes up in a hand with KK and doubles up. He plays sloppy and will call or open and fold to any 3-bet. Important note.

Hand 10: Easy Call, but hard result.
A short stack who started the day at 10k, then after a couple of pots, doubles up to about 15k, shoves from MP. Folds to me in the BB with AKo and I just call and turn them over. He has TT and I get 5 bricks. Just like that, 25k becomes 9k.

Hands 11:
I make a couple of well times steals and get up to a 12k. I had targeted certain blinds as folding too much, which paid off here.

Hand 12: falling on my sword
Close to the end of the level and its 500/1000/200 next. with 12k, I am antsy.
Folds to the button on my right, and the player looks at his cards, starts to fold, realizes he is the button and min-raises. I kept my eye on the BB and know he did not look at his cards yet (so no interest read). Both are playing very tight despite being in shove territory and this looks like a perfect spot to just pick up the pot. I look at my cards (really just for effect) and shove. With the raise to 1600 and the player on my left with about 11k, anything else may open the door for him to see what I see and shove over me so I rip it. BB wakes up with KK. (turns out I had 54o)

I am now left to contemplate the wisdom of shoving 12+ bigs (15 since its technically still 400/800/100) with 54o based solely on the read that I had a good spot to steal. I have played this over and over again in my head, and I still think I should be doing this here with nearly ANY stack size. correct? (Those 3400 chips represented another 25% to my stack.)

- Same Time Next Year?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Stupid suck-out 1-2 Blues

I lost another bullet when the board ran out bad
couldn't figure out what the other guy had
when the secrets revealed I start to get mad
I am lost in the dots
fading bloated pots
I gots the 1-2 blues

why wont they just go away
you think they all had to stay
is there nothing to do but pray?
no matter how much I raise
they're like moths to the flame
I gots the 1-2 blues

Friday, May 30, 2014

Checking Top Pair

I've been reading and studying alot of player strategy and I saw an interesting trend that MTT PROs are checking TP on the FLOP so that the pot doesnt get big enough that they might have to release the best hand. I think its very interesting and a huge counter to what how everyone played a decade ago. This also means that when someone DOES bet the flop, they are often getting called and big draws still try for a check raise. As I think about this, and I think about how betting on turn/river are often value targeting, it seems that this all adds up to something. The current "wisdom" is that the flop bet is now based on Equity in the hand, vs. protection... I believe this stems from online play, where players could take advantage of small edges over a large number of tables and hands. Just exploiting the math.

But if this is all true, and at the WSOP tables I'll see a majority of regs playing this way, then shouldn't I also have some "against the grain" plays in my playbook?

I am spending time playing trying to get a feel for how I am viewed as I play hands. I was at the local charity room playing deep cash and despite not having showed down a bluff and not being spewy, when I did try to pretend my JT was TT and bet flop and turn, I could not get players off of TP (which was 8) or MP! On the river I made a gutshot and increased my 3rd barrel size so that if I got called and had to show how I got there bluffing, at least it paid off. And I did get called...

So now I have to spend time watching myself so to speak... trying to get on line on how my bets look and how they are being digested.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

deep stack practice

Here is a note to self. When you put someone on Top pair vs. your overpair and that card pairs on the river, DONT CALL. Especially when the bet size tell is that he is trying to get paid off. Gez Columbo, stop making hero calls when you know you are beat. It's a WISH call. I WISH I was still ahead.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Here we go again

I went to my league night knowing the bad news. I played too poorly at the start of the season to have wrapped up a top 6 spot. I was way down in the "yellow" band, not eliminated, but not favored to finish FTW. I dont know how many readers have read Elements of Poker , but the discussion about bringing your A game was particularly relevant. If there was one thing I could put my finger on that I did well that evening, it was focus. I tried not to be distracted and as the cliche' goes, "Keep my eye on the prize". That was good enough for 3rd place, which is where I needed to finish. With 3 left, I did call a pre-flop 3bet shove with JQs only to see KQ. A Jack on the flop sealed the improbable run, and I continued to hoover chips until the end, finishing in first. Despite all the work I did in the last 2 weeks on hand reading, that skill doesn't always play when you are not very deep. Most of my decisions were either simplified by stack or position, or were basic in nature.

I did make one HUGE mistake 3 handed though. I raised my button with air and the SB called. The flop was K63 and I have Q4o. He checks, and I c-bet which he calls. The turn is a 9 I think, and he checks, I barrel and he calls. Its at this point I am pretty sure he has a 6. So when the river is another 9, I feel like I can push him off this hand with a 3rd barrel. But I RUSH the river bet, which in my mind made it look very week. Despite a good sized bet, I was called down thin for the only time of the night. I was kicking myself not for the bluff, because I think that was a good spot for the 3rd barrel, but for giving off a pretty bad timing tell.

Still, incorporate your mistakes into future plays... What I mean by that is remember what everyone perceives just happened so you can use it should the opportunity present itself.

With the victory, can a seat the in WSOP Event #51, the new "poor man's main event" $1500 Monster stack 4 day event. It's going to be a BRUTAL grind that favors cash game players on day 1 where stacks are very deep. My plan for the next month is to get some cash game practice in while concentrating on post flop hand reading and line recognition skills.

League #2 wraps up this coming Friday and once again I enter the last event in the "yellow zone". I do think I have played well enough to win in league #2, but in 3 of the 8 weeks, suffered severe blows (beats yo) when I got a hand/player EXACTLY where I wanted and some 4-6 outer sent me to the dealer pit. Perhaps I have variance on my side then as I enter the final week, looking to get my money in ahead and have my hands hold up.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

a quick review of paid nitcast

Over at, Andrew and Nate put up a solid 5 part WSOP primer/strategic review podcast and charged $19. So to add some color commentary to that statement, let me just say that part 4 is worth the $19 by itself. 5 hours of content for 4 sawbucks is a pretty good return, especially because the content is geared towards the modern day and the modern era poker player.

I sorta don't like the podcast, as I don't care about poker player's lives and ancillary activities. But their strategy discussion are second to none and the way they look at a poker scenario is the way one should learn to look at situations in the modern poker era.

so to spend $19 bucks for 5 hours of only the strategic parts of the podcast, and to have it based on modern day MTT strategy, well its just too good to pass up.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A statement so basic yet so complete, I had to record it

Your primary goal in a poker hand is not find out where you are at, it’s to VP$IP when you’re ahead and avoid money VP$IP when you’re behind.

Maybe stating it a funnier way, its more important to statistically use your money wisely, especially if that means not creating a scenario that gives you more information, but only when you are wrong.

Monday, March 03, 2014

League Night monkee off my back

Finally won a 3 table league night. Played very well and very straight forward until the final 5... Bill the LAG was on my right, which was a bad place to be on Saturday as he became my personal ATM And I his nemesis. We went back and forth all night. Then, finally with 4 left, I got lucky 3 times. The first time was when the flop was AQT with two hearts and all the money went in A8 vs. my A6 and we chopped. Then, Bill and I had to watch a board spill out when his A7s was all in Blind vs. Blind with my KQ calling it off. Flop was AxK, but the river brought a Q and then I was sitting pretty well. Not a few hands later, 3 handed I raise 2.5x with 65 from the button. Both blinds call and the flop is 668. The SM (short stack) shoves and the BB CALLS. Great for me as I shove over the top. Board runs out and I am way ahead in chips. So why is that 3rd hand lucky? Well, the BB held and 8 and the river would have been an 8. Now results and that run-out aside, I am not thrilled with my over-shove. Sure it worked out, but I let an opponent off the hook with 2 outs vs. my trips. I normally would call behind and try and get more chips out of the side pot. But here, probably because I liked my chances heads up with a chip lead, I got lucky. And I won 3 hands later in an anti-climactic hand where I had an overpair.

Sunday, February 09, 2014


Played cash for the first time in a long time and dropped over 2 buy-ins over a 4 hour period. Sure I ran KK into AA and a straight flush draw into top pair and lost, but still. I cant focus on that part of the variance. Even with 60 left, I raised with KJ and got a caller, flop is QTx and due to stack size the money gets in. He had a set of Tens. Bad luck? maybe...

But its days like these you have to force yourself to look inwards and realize you are not playing enough to not play the A game. Because your B game is now a D game. And I went specifically to relax and play B game. So I sort of get what I deserve. If you want to play B level poker, then go play on the xbox.

Consider this my poker "confession bear" of the week.