Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The hand that will give me nightmares

Okay, sadly I think I am making far too many mistakes (all kinds, you name it, I made it). I decided to try and make an adjustment. I'm going to move down in limits (there is a big drop in limits below $20/$40 at my closest cardroom - namely $8/$16 and $6/$12 which are essentially the same, so I'll play whichever game looks better at the time) and try playing for 10 consecutive session hours without making any known mistakes. This should substantially take $ mood swings out of the equation.
The players on average are less sophisticated (but only slightly), but I'll worry about that when that is all I have to worry about.
I will only move back up in stakes when I meet my goal.

Some examples of the mistakes I have been making:
- Giving away the strength of my big hands through an obvious tell. E.g. Chatting away with a neighbor until it was my turn to act preflop, picking up pocket As in mid position, raising and then instantly stopping my conversation with my neighbor; everyone folded. Another example of this is conversing with someone else in a very open tone of voice after I had suddenly check raised 3 opponents on the turn on a somewhat coordinated board. 2 of the opponents were observant players and 1 was a donkey. Only the donkey paid my full house off on the river.
- failing to pay enough attention to the action, and not in a discrete way. I think that it is taking more hands than necessary to be able to classify the exact playing characteristics of my opponents. I don't make a quick enough classification on my opponents ranges of hands for limping, cold calling, and raising preflop (because of failing to pay attention at all times). To make matters worst, I often ask my neighbors questions like, "who raised preflop in the last hand?". This more easily makes my opponents know that I am playing seriously and not just for fun. This can lead to some very easy-to-play opponents requesting table changes or just leaving the table before they otherwise would have. Very few people who play for fun will actively choose to play againist a serious player that is always trying to win the maximum amount.
- showing my worse hand at the showdown when I wasn't required to
- missing value bets on the river in last position when it should be more obvious to me that I have a high probability of the best hand
- raising on a coordinated flop with a moderately strong, but vulnerable hand in situations where there is no chance of knocking out any draws
- paying off on the river when the pot is of only moderate size
- failing to get paid off on the river when I make my draw vs observant opponents (should I be bluffing a little more on the river then when a scare card comes? probably yes. Perhaps bluffing on the river when there is 3 to the flush, and I have just the A of that suit). At Party, it is rarely a problem to get paid off, but I need to adjust to the reality of live play.
- not stealing enough pots on the flop or turn when no one wants it
- making it too obvious that I am eager to move seats. I often change seats either to get on someone's left hand side, or to get off the immediate right of someone else. The best way to do this is just to call out for the seat, throw one of your chips into that position to save the seat, and then wait until you play the button before moving there. (vs. rushing to move over to that seat the very instant it is available). Again, this is somewhat in the "making my opponents think I am playing too seriously" category of behavior.

Since I made the decision to move down in limits I have played 3 sessions - 2.25 hours, 3 hours, and 7 hours. I did not achieve my goal of 10 consecutive session hours without errors.

In the first session (2.25 hours), I didn't notice making any old mistakes (at least from the point of view that I didn't repeat any recent mistakes). There were about a few occasions that I could have elected to gamble somewhat (e.g. in the BB preflop getting between 5:1 and 9:1 odds to call closing the betting with trash hands, or getting between 6:1 and 8:1 odds to call a single bet on the flop closing the betting with a hand like 2nd pair, mediocre kicker with backdoor flush and str draws) where I chose not to and would have won large pots when I would have made my hands on the flop or turn (very loose and unbluffable opponents in those particular hands which might have swayed me to see the flop or the turn). That's just the way things go in poker.
However, one problem I recognized by the middle of the session was: a few observant players at the table noticed how few hands I was playing, so I opened up my game to open raise with suited connectors a few times. This achieved the desired results.
Actually there probably was one major mistake I made in that session. About a quarter of the way through the session I noticed that 2 of the players were somewhat friendly with each other. It did seem possible on a few hands that they passively colluded. This should have instantly triggered me to switch tables.

In the second session (3 hours), I was fairly well rested and was sitting at a good table. It was fairly easy not to make any noticable mistakes.

The third session (7 hours), I was ~not~ well rested and the table fluctuated often between average and good. On avg: 3 donkeys, and between 2-4 solid players. I played well for the first 3 hours. I made an IMMENSELY BAD mistake around the 4-5 hour mark, and played fairly weak tight for the remainer of the session.

In general, in the first few hours I had a very good read on both the good and bad players. By the middle of the session, this had severely degraded.

I'll give one example of an interesting hand where I have a good read on my opponent, and then I'll describe my huge mistake.

hand #1
9 handed $6/$12 game. 3 donkeys at the table, 3 fairly new players, 2 strong players, and myself. In the last couple of orbits, there have been many hands that have not been raised preflop and have been multiway. Donkey #1 almost always hangs around until the turn even without a draw, will always go to the river with a draw or pair, and otherwise fold on the turn; he will generally at least bet when it is checked to him and he has anything. Strong player #1 is agg but predictable (raises preflop with big pairs, big broadways, and big suited As; limps with small pairs, suited connectors, smaller suited As; raises on flop in last position to buy a free card, etc) slow plays very strong hands, but is particularly agg when he has shown agg preflop or on flop and is unimproved (will fire on every street).
- I limp UTG w A3s. folded to donkey #1 in MP + 1 who limps. folded to strong player #1 in CO who raises. folded to SB who calls, everyone else calls. (4 players see the flop, 8 small bets)
- flop comes 236 rainbow. checked to strong player #1 who bets, SB folds, I call, donkey #1 calls. (3 players, 11 small bets)
- turn comes 2368 completing the rainbow. checked to strong player #1 who bets, I check raise, donkey #1 folds, strong player 3 bets. I call. (2 players, 11.5 big bets)
- river comes 2368T, I check, strong player #1 bets, I call. He shows a single K, I say I have a pair, he mucks (actually another mistake on my part since I didn't have to show anything until I saw both of his cards). The dealer makes me show my hand before pushing me the pot.
I told strong player #1 that I put him on AK, he told me he had something better than that which is quite funny since he showed the K and couldn't beat any pair. He had no possible draws, so the only possibility seems to be KQ or KJs.
I could make an argument here for check raising for value on the river because I believe I'm 95% sure I have the best hand, and I think the likelihood my opponent will 3 bet bluff here is around 50%.
Preflop and on the flop, I put him on any big pair (Ts or better) and any big A (J kicker or better). Against any big pair I have 5 outs, and against a big A, he only has 3 outs. There are (6x5) - 3=27 ways for him to have a big pair, and 12x3=36 ways for him to have a big A. Thus I should play the hand all the way to the river with the only question being should I ever bet into him or check raise him or just call him all the way down.
I'm 95% sure I have the best hand because on the turn I can understand he does not have a big pocket pair. The reason? The only hands in his range that beat me are big pocket pairs. He is very likely to only call my check raise with any hand that beats me (and then check it down on the river) because with an overpair he will be concerned that I flopped or turned a set. With a weak hand like AK, he knows the only way he can win the hand is to be aggressive. Most importantly, I am confident in his tendencies in that situation. I did actually misread his hand though, since he would have shown an A if he had one. However, the point here was his aggressive bluffing nature when he knows he has the worse hand.

Now, from a good hand to a truly awful one.

hand #2 - my all time worst play in limit poker
9 handed $6/$12 game, 3 donkeys at the table, 2 observant players, 1 strong player, 2 avg players, and myself.
- UTG folds, UTG+1 folds, MP limps, MP + 1 limps, loose donkey chaser in MP+2 raises, CO calls, button calls, SB calls, in the BB I look down and find 89o. Based on the way they have been playing, I am 95% sure that none of the first 2 limpers will raise, so I make an easy call. (7 players, 14 small bets)
- Dream flop comes T76 rainbow giving me the nut straight. SB checks, I check, limper #1 bets, limper #2 calls, loose donkey chaser raises, CO calls, button calls, SB calls, I decide to only call here, limper #1 3 bets, everyone calls to me. I decide to only call since I want to be certain to get 2 bets in on the turn. (7 players, 35 small bets)
- Turn comes T763 with 2 hearts. SB checks, I check the nuts again, limper #1 bets, limper #2 calls, donkey only calls, CO and button call, SB folds, I check raise. limper #1 3 bets, limper #2 folds, donkey calls, CO and button fold, I cap it. limper #1 and donkey call. (3 players - 32.5 big bets - oh my god, was the pot really this big!!!!!???, I had actually lost track of the pot size during the hand - another mental lapse, but I surely should have know it was huge)
- River comes T7636 with 3 hearts. I check, limper #1 bets, donkey calls, I ........ FOLD!

Has anyone in the history of small stakes limit hold'em ever made this laydown? Okay, that is taking it a bit far, but obviously, I wouldn't be talking about this hand in the way that I am if I had made a good laydown. However, there is no such thing as a good laydown when you only have to call 1 bet for a 34.5 BB pot on the river when you are closing the action and you have the best possible straight when the board has a possible flush and possible full house.

Does anyone care to guess what hands limper #1 and donkey #1 had? I actually only know what limper #1 had because after he showed his hand, I immediately left the table for a while.

Okay, limper #1 showed 89o and raked in the largest pot of the day. As I said earlier, it is not a big deal $ wise at these lower limits, but I still played weak tight for the rest of the session.

My lame reasoning for folding was: My (incorrect) read on limper #1 was that he was a solid player that would not bet a medium strength hand on the river. My recent experience with with donkey #1 was that in the past few hours he had drawn out to a flush or straight multiple times. I incorrectly judged that it was 99% likely that at least one of them had a flush or better. Some hands I was distinctly afraid that Limper #1 had were 89 of hearts or TT.
Limper #1 later commented that he had thought I had made a low straight on the turn (and was drawing dead to him) because I only became active on the turn, and that was why he thought it was still okay to bet the river. I should have given absolutely no credit to the donkey's call on the river.
One reason why I had given limper #1 so much credit with his hand reading was because on an earlier hand he had called my preflop open raise when it was folded to him with small suited connectors specifically because he was very confident that if small rags came on the flop, they would not have helped my hand. This was a relatively sophisticated strategy, so I gave him much more credit than he deserved.
BTW, if I had not been closing the action on the river, there would be a small amount of additional justifciation for folding, since it could possibly cost as much as 4BB to see everyone's hand.

If I had go through a somewhat similar hand again, I will not fold on the river with a hand as weak as top 2 pair for 1 stinkin big bet in that big of a pot.

Please please, let me learn from this mistake!!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Very mediocre session from tilt?

I believe that describing actual results from a session serves little purpose. In the case of my last $20/$40 live session, I turned an acceptable session into a very mediocre session, mostly from tilt. I earned less than 1BB per hour in a moderately good, but not great game. I only list the result to try and help me understand why I played the way I played (and why I failed to play the way I would have online).

The bottom line is that I let the outcome of recent hands affect how I played the current hand. This is a mistake that is a high priority for me to fix.

After being drawn out on in 2 big pots, I paid off 3 solid players all the way to the river where it is obvious (in hindsight) that I had 2nd best hand. Getting drawn out on is a perfectly normal situation when you play against chasers, but my frustration from those hands led me to pay off the 3 solid players. Those 3 hands cost me 7 BB more than I should have paid. In a 4 hour session, pissing off 7BB is a huge long run leak. (I think) In this instance, it converted an acceptable session into an extremely mediocre session.

The game: 10 seated $20/$40 live limit ring game. It was a main table (there were 2 main tables, and 1 must move table. Must move tables feed players into a main table whenever there is a vacancy - I think I will make a separate post to describe all the rules/conventions of live ring games since there are a substantial number of points that do not exist in online play). For the majority of the session, the table was arrayed as follows:
Seat 1: Loose passive chaser
Seat 2: Loose passive chaser
Seat 3: Tight passive
Seat 4: Loose passive chaser
Seat 5: Tight Aggressive (prop player)
Seat 6: Tight Aggressive (consistently winning player)
Seat 7: Semi-loose Aggressive/Aggressive
Seat 8: Tight Aggressive (consistently winning player)
Seat 9: Myself
Seat 10: Tight passive
The good points of the game were the 3 loose chasers. They were all on my left. The bad points of the game were the 3 tight agg players, but fortunately they were all on my right. In all, I believe a very beatable game.

During the 2nd half of the session, I became involved in 2 very sizable pots when coming in from the BB in an unraised pot. (These type of hands are often referred to as a "big blind special" - 2 trash cards that flop a good or great hand) It is definitely debatable about how I played these two hands. Perhaps I could have played them better, but I didn't play them too badly I think.

Hand #1
Seat# 7 has the button.
- UTG calls, EP + 1 calls, EP + 2 calls, MP folds, MP + 1 calls, MP+2 folds, CO folds, button calls, SB completes, I check in the BB w 63o (pot: 7 small bets, 7 players)
- Flop comes 63T with 2 diamonds
- checked around to button who bets, SB calls, I check raise, UTG folds, EP + 1 cold calls 2, EP + 2 calls, MP + 1 calls, button folds (thanks for betting!), SB calls (pot: 18 small bets, 5 players)
- Turn come 63TK still only 1 flush draw. SB checks, I bet, everyone calls (pot: 14 big bets, 5 players)
- River completes the flush (I don't remember what rank the card was, it may also have completed some straight). I check, chaser #1 bets, chaser #2 calls, chaser #3 calls. SB folds. I fold getting 17:1 odds, but seriously I won't pay here even getting 30:1 odds. chaser #1 shows the nut flush and wins a 17 big bet pot

I could be overplaying my hand (vs. possible sets), but my thinking at the time was that if a strong opponent (re)reraised me on the flop, then I would "know" I was up against a set and could get away from the hand cheaply.
An alternative strategy for me would have been to wait until the turn to check raise. Obviously, the chasers still would have chased (and hit), but theoretically I would have maximized my EV, and this is my primary goal. My check raise on the flop had very close to 0% probability to get the chasers out with any draws (even backdoor draws from these donkeys). The drawback to waiting for the turn is if the button or SB has a set, I won't discover it until the more expensive turn street. Button could have a set, but I think SB raises with a set on the flop.
Yup I think I made the wrong play here. The only justification I can make for the raise on the flop is to make any opponent with a single pair pay an additional small bet to try and 6 out me. This is definitely not worth it because ~all~ my opponents on the turn had the right pot odds to call on the turn. (My pot equity is probably no more than 33% and my opponents are getting between 10:1 and 13:1 on their calls)
If the flop had been a rainbow flop (3 different suits), then I definitely would have waited for the turn to check raise.

The second hand is remarkably similar to the first, with only a slight difference on the flop.

Hand #2
Seat# 7 has the button.
- UTG calls, EP + 1 calls, EP + 2 calls, MP folds, MP + 1 calls, MP+2 folds, CO calls, button calls, SB completes, I check in the BB w J2o (pot: 8 small bets, 8 players)
- Flop comes J26 with 2 spades
- checked around to button who bets, SB check raises, I 3 bet, UTG folds, EP + 1 cold calls 3, EP + 2 calls, MP + 1 calls, button calls, SB calls (pot: 29 small bets, 7 players)
- Turn comes J269 still only 1 flush draw. SB checks, I bet, everyone calls (pot: 21.5 big bets, 7 players)
- River comes J269Q, Q completes the flush. I check, chaser #1 checks, chaser #2 bets, chaser #3 calls, everyone else folds to chaser #1 who calls. Chaser #2 shows 7 high flush and wins a 24.5 big bet pot (UTG whispers to me that he would have made the T high flush)

Now, how was this hand different from hand #1? I had already been planning to only call on the flop and then check raise on the turn, but when SB check raised, I decided to 3 bet to see if I could get anybody out (and I did get the winning hand out from UTG).
I'm really curious as to whether or not SB had me beat. I believe that he did not have a set because he neither 4 bet the flop, nor bet or raised the turn. Would he have only called the 3-bet with top 2 pair on the flop? I very much admire the way SB plays because he ~never~ unnecessarily shows his hand. Would he have check raised on the flop with top pair top kicker (TPTK) with a backdoor nut flush draw?
At any rate, I believe he would have shown more aggression on the flop and/or turn if he had me beat.

I understand that in both hands that my pot equity was not terribly high (I would really need a set for that to be true), but I highly suspect I had the best hand on the turn in both hands. Perhaps I need to think and study more about how to protect my hand.

One question I have about these kind of hands. If I check raise the flop (or 3 bet cold), is there any likelihood that I will be able to perform a check raise on the turn? Nobody is folding to a single bet, but I understand it is an even worse mistake if no bets get put in on the turn.

I did not have the good fortune to make any monster hands vs the chasers. The hands where I flopped a set or better tended to be small or moderate pots. I wondered if I played those hands too fast, but no I think not. If the chasers had any draws, they would have come along for the ride. Luck has many forms.

After these two hands I paid off strong players 3 times in the last 2 orbits that I played:
i) I raised preflop w AKs, and my top pair top kicker (TPTK) ran into a flopped straight from a strong player in the BB, and I ended up paying the maximum because I tried to "protect" my hand vs 3 opponents (I raised after my opponent led out and bet the turn). The strong player would not have been giving me so much action without having me beat. Cost of mistake: 4BB
ii) A strong player open raised in mid pos and I was the only caller in the BB w T9s. I flopped 2nd pair on Q92 rainbow board. I bet and he raised me on the flop, and I called him all the way down. How on earth could I think my hand might good on the turn based on the information I had? He raised preflop from ~middle~ position, not late. He raised me on the flop. Cost of mistake: 2BB
iii) I open raise in mid pos w AQo, and get 3 way with the button and BB (BB being the strong player). I flop top pair As, BB flops top 2 pair. Long story short, I should not have paid off his river bet. Cost of mistake: 1BB (the reason why I should have folded the river is because of the recent 2 hands where it was obvious that I had been recently been calling down my opponents on the river, and the BB was an observant player. He would not have bet a hand that I could beat)

These 3 hands are kind of "cold deck" situations. However, I still feel that if I had been playing well, I could have saved those 7BB. It is funny because I want to be able to make reasonable laydowns, but I have to balance that between being too weak on the river and paying off too much. It is an interesting balance. I think that it matters most when I play against either very tricky and/or very observant opponents.

I think part of the reason I paid off the solid players on these 3 hands was because I was playing only at a single table. Good hands come so infrequently, I overplayed them against solid players. (I know I know, T9s in hand #ii is not a good hand and is definitely one of my worst played hands in the session)
If I had been quad-tabling online, I believe I could have gotten away from those hands very cheaply because I would be seeing 5-6x the number of hands, and would have waiting for better situations against poorer players.
Additionally, I could have gotten away from these hands if I was having more confidence in my hand reading skills. I think I have more confidence in my hand reading skills when I am doing well in a session though, and I need to figure out how to be more consistent regardless of results. This has very little to do with live vs online play, except that there is more information to read hands in a live game. (including knowing when your opponents are paying attention to you)

A final point. I wonder if I had my hand had held up in the 2 big pots, whether or not I would have spent any time analyzing these later 3 hands. As I said earlier, I probably would not have gotten too involved in those pots vs strong opponents, but my point is that maybe I wouldn't have cared as much. I should care about making the correct play on ~every~ hand, regardless of how I am doing in the session.

Raising w 2nd best hand on the river

I won an interesting pot today that was a clear example to me about how it is sometimes correct to bet or raise on the river if you think you have 2nd best hand. This idea is described in books like Small Stakes Hold'em or Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players. The situation itself was not unique in any way compared to common examples given in SSHE or HEPFAP, but it is very helpful in the learning process to go through the actual situation yourself to help learn the concept. It really makes it easier to remember when learning from first hand experience.

The general idea is: In a hand where you strongly believe you have second best hand, you should bet or raise if you think that you can get the best hand to fold and worse hands to call.

In this hand, I had the best hand all the way, and I would have folded to the 2nd best hand if he had bet or raised on the turn or river. I made at least 1 mistake in this hand. Please point out any other mistakes that I made.

Hand #1
9 handed $20/$40 live limit hold'em game. All relevent players have plenty of chips. SB has played a moderate number of pots, BB hasn't shown down anything less than a pair on the river and has not made any bad plays so far, LoosePlayer has played very many pots and has cold called very freq w any 2 cards. I have not played many pots and have shown down several very strong hands.
- I open raise in MP+1 w 8h8c (a questionable play but it was folded to me, and the button had a tendency to be agg whenever he sensed weakness and had position. I think my only play is to raise or fold)
- LoosePlayer in MP+2 calls
- folded to blinds who both call
- flop comes 743 with 2 clubs, checked to me and I bet. everyone calls
- turn comes 7433, still only 1 flush draw. everyone checks (my mistake here - I probably should have bet even with the possibility of being trapped - because it was a multiway pot w several draws, pot size 6BB. At least I think so. A clever player might try to bluff or semibluff check raise me, but against non-tricky opponents, I think it is correct to keep betting)
- river comes 74332 no flush. It is checked to the Loose Player who bets. SB calls. BB calls. I make a crying call w my overpair.
- loose player shows 55. SB mucks, BB shows 79 (top pair, 9 kicker) but says he knows he can't beat my hand since I called, and the pot is mine.

BB is actually a reasonable hand reader (he demonstrated this in other hands from the same session). He knows he very likely has LoosePlayer beat, but he simply should have raised. From BB's point of view, my hand is very likely to be an overpair. (I think he should guess my hand to be 75% overpair, <25% 2 overcards, and tiny % chance of a full house)

The best play for BB, given he had already checked the river, is to check raise the LoosePlayer. In this case, he is risking 2BB to win a 8BB pot. Again I can't call 2 cold here, unless I had a full house (which is extremely unlikely on a 7 high board that I had raised preflop) and in which case I would reraise and BB could understand he must fold. Additionally, he is actually value betting the Loose Player. LoosePlayer does not have a 3 because he would have bet the turn, nor does he have a better 7 because he would have raised the flop. By only calling LoosePlayer's bet, it lets me call getting 9:1 odds where I am closing the action.

By the way, I think if LoosePlayer was going to make a play, he should have semibluffed the turn and bet the river. I think SB has to fold on the turn, and it is not easy for BB or I to call both the turn and the river. As long as LoosePlayer is capable of folding to a check raise from SB or BB (which LoosePlayer is not....hehe), betting the turn is the correct play for LoosePlayer.
However, I am certain LoosePlayer believes he has the best hand on the river since from his point of view, the turn and river were checked. Betting in last position on the river with a medium strength hand... donkey!!

In this hand, I think it should have helped the hand reading that it was a live game, but there is enough information available in an online setting as well.

I was very lucky to win this pot. I believe SB has A high and possibly 2 overcards, so there were ~17 outs to beat me on the river. Then I was even more lucky that BB didn't bet or raise the river. Whew, some hands you can just dodge a lot of bullets and still get paid off.

One last thing: Given the information I had in the hand, and the tendencies of my opponents, did I miss a value bet (raise) on the river? (when both SB and BB only call on the river, does this tell me I have the best hand?) I'm positive LoosePlayer pays me off, and given the situation I believe BB pays me off too.
In previous hands, BB had called preflop raises with pocket pairs bigger than 88, but then he always played it aggresively on the flop.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Miscalling your hand on the river

I am a complete newbie when it comes to live ring game limit holdem play.

Here is a situation that happened to me yesterday that cost me 4BB in a $20/$40 limit game. I am somewhat lucky it did not cost me 8BB. This kinda thing doesn't happen online. Sigh....

Hand #1 - overcalling your hand
10 seated $20/$40 limit ring game. Chip stacks of relevant participants: TazmanianDevil (TD) ~7BB, SB ~20BB, myself in BB w ~20BB. TD has only been at the table for less than 2 orbits, and has already rebought once for a small amount, and has been playing very loose and sometimes, but not always, very aggressively.
- Folded to TD in MP+2 who limps. Folded to SB who completes. I check in BB w AsTc
- Flop comes AdTd5d. SB checks, I check, TD bets, SB calls, I check raise. TD calls, SB folds
- turn comes offsuit J, I bet, TD calls
- river comes offsuit Q, I check, TD bets, I think for 10 seconds and call.

Now at this point in the story, I should give just a little bit more background about the situation. I am sitting in seat #2, TD is in seat #8. The cardroom has recently installed larger than normal tables (I guess to squeeze in more cattle, and give all the dealers major back problems...), and the distance between us is almost the maximum. Lighting is fair, and my eyesight is avg to slightly below avg.
- TD turns over 2 black cards that are actually Ts9c just in front of him (he didn't throw them any closer to me). He announces straight. The dealer moves up the TJQ on the board and calls out straight. I toss my cards slightly forward landing about 1/2 way between me and the muck. My cards did not hit the muck. I squint because I'm thinking I see a Ts on the table. I reach forward for my cards, but the dealer beat me to them and pushed them in the muck.

At this point everyone on the other side of the table is calling out the mistake. The floorman is called, and the story is recounted. TD makes a huge stink over the situation insisting the pot is his. I'm actually not too familiar with the exact rules, so I don't say much of anything except respond to any direct questions from the floorman. This was no big deal since there are multiple players at the table that are very quick and very vocal to describe the same sequence of events I listed. The floorman takes the pot and goes upstairs to review the tapes while the game continues. After reviewing the tapes, the floorman summarized that TD has overcalled his hand, the dealer had miscalled the hand, and that he saw on the tape that I was reaching for my cards when the dealer pushed them in the muck. He decreed a chopped pot.

The expensive lessons are the ones easiest to remember. I guess it was "only" 4BB, and it is up to me to be certain I had the losing hand before mucking. I had mentally prepared myself for the floorman to give TD the entire pot. Still it was annoying to watch TD piss off his stack in less than another 1.5 orbits. I've really got to stop caring about those kind of things, and just not make any mistakes.

Value betting and Losing the minimum

There are two very important abilities that distinguish an average limit hold'em player from a good one. 1) value betting medium strength hands, 2) losing the minimum with 2nd best hand

Here are a few hands from my $20/$40 live limit hold game tonight that make it painfully obvious to me that I need a lot more practice and experience at developing these 2 skills. In the first case, my mistake made no difference on the $ result (but I just hate making mistakes), and in the 2nd case, I probably lost an extra 2 big bets.

Hand #1 - missing a value bet
10 seated table, there are at least 3 loose players at the table. I am in seat #1 and have been at this table for less than 3 orbits. I have played 1 pot with the player in seat #10 who in that hand bluff bet the river w A high when a scare card hit on a coordinated board, and I called w a set. He seems to be a fairly loose player.
- Folded to CO (avg player) who limps. Button folds, SB (seat #10) completes, I check in the BB w A3o.
- flop comes 236 rainbow, SB checks, I bet, CO folds, SB calls.
- turn comes 2367 with a 2nd suited card. SB check calls my bet
- river comes 2367A, no flush possible. SB bets, I call. SB cries out "You always call me", and shows K2o.
The question I have is, did I miss a value bet here? I think that I would have not won any money given his hand, but the correct play would still be to raise. I don't think he can call my raise w bottom pair, but you never know how loose or curious he is. This is only a small part of the reason why it was correct to raise. The main reason why I said I should raise here is because there is a reasonable range of hands that he will call me with - any A other than A6, A7, especially A2, A4 or A5. I simply would not give him credit for a straight or a set or a better 2 pair since he did not raise the turn, nor did he bet or raise the flop.
This is simply one of those situations that my opponent is representing a hand (i.e. that he made top pair on the river), that hand is a hand I can beat, and it is a hand that will call a raise. I should have raised and hoped that my opponent had what he was representing.

Hand #2 - not losing the minimum
10 seated table where all players have a minimum of 10 big bets in their stack (many have 40+ BB), all players have been at the table for at least 1 hour, and half have been at the table for 3+ hours. Table is fairly tough; several loose players have come and gone in the past few hours after being busted (or in 1 case performing a hit and run after a series of suck outs in big pots) and it just so happens that the table happens to be particularly tough during this period (I should have already left this table - game selection, a topic for another time. Online I definitely would have already moved. There was one other $20/$40 game running, and I had a mental lapse not to at least consider moving.) I had shown down very few hands in the past 3 hours, most of which were strong hands that I had played aggressively. BB is an experienced player.
- It is folded to me in MP+1, and I open raise with KdKc.
- Folded to the BB, who calls.
- Flop comes 5s7s7h, BB checks calls my bet.
- Turn comes 5s7s7h4h. BB checks. I really hate this board. There is "only" 3.25BB in the pot, and I'm trying to decide whether or not to defend my hand. This is kind of a classic situation where if my opponent has a draw, I do not want to give a free card, but if my opponent is ahead at this point I am drawing either dead or to only 2 outs.
- I choose to bet, and BB check raises. The problem here is that my opponent is capable of check raise bluffing, and now I'm stuck in the situation where I will obviously have to call 2 BB to see his hand.
- I call the check raise.
- River is an offsuit J. I call the bet. BB shows A7.

Sklansky says that in marginal situations where there are 2 choices that are very close, you should just randomly pick one and not spend too much time thinking about it. (Otherwise it will make bad players play better against you, and good players play even more "tricky" against you). I think that was what I was thinking when making my initial decision on the turn. So I fairly quickly (after about 2 seconds) decided to bet the turn. Perhaps this was not one of the 50/50 situations though. The pot had exactly 3.25BB in it, so possibly check/calling it down would be the correct play. However, that definitely does against the MO of a tight aggressive player.
There are 4 possibilities:
1. my opponent has a far superior hand to mine - a set, a full house, a straight [I only have 2 outs]
2. my opponent has a very good draw - str and flush draw [he has 12-15 outs]
3. my opponent has a decent draw - str or flush draw, and possibly 2 pair [he has 9-10 outs]
4. my opponent has any other hand [he has 3 outs or less]
I think I have 5 possible choices (there are more than 5 actual choices, but only 5 within reason) on the turn when it is checked to me:
1. bet and fold to check raise (kind of weak)
2. bet and call check raise
-----a. fold if scare card comes on river
-----b. call or check whatever comes on the river
3. check and fold on river if BB bets (unbelievably weak!)
4. check and call on the river if a no scare card comes
5. check and call on the river whatever comes

Forget about what he actually had, in the same situation I think I would now go with #5. There is only 3.25BB in the pot, and I'm risking an additional 2BB to "protect" my hand. The hand is not multiway, so there is less of a need to protect my hand. If the pot size had been larger or the hand was multiway, then I would revert back to my original action #2b.
#5 is a passive play, but another reason to do it would be to mix up my play. I had raised preflop in MP+1, so it is very easy for anyone to put me on a vulnerable overpair. It is usually correct to protect that particular hand, so it was very easy for him to trap me.

Comments are welcome...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Hello World

I've started this blog to keep a journal of my quest in becoming a succesful high stakes poker player.

Only time will tell if I have the requiste abilities to do this.

Why I play poker?: i) Poker is a mentally stimulating game. I derive great satisfaction from making good decisions from a complex set of variables and conditions. ii) Results (good or bad) of decisions are often available almost immediately and are generally very quantifiable. Normal life is often ~so~ different in this regard. iii) opportunity to make money. Interestingly, this is actually not so easy to quantify yet. I'll discuss this more later.

What are my personal strengths that aid me in poker?: i) self discipline, ii) pattern recognition skills, iii) willingness to invest time in the study of the game, iv) competitive nature, v) willingness to repeat simple actions and situations over and over again.

What are my personal weaknesses that hinder me?: (can I do anything about these things?) i) questionable short term memory (I need to write everything down, or I will just forget), ii) my fear of losing a large amount of money, iii) sleeping problems - that results in general fatigue when attempting to engage in long playing sessions, iv) becoming emotional (in either positive or negative ways) based on short term results (i.e. a particularly good or bad session or result from a large pot) v) I am generally a very honest person, so this probably makes me much more "readable" than I care for. (I really need to work on this! not much of an issue for online, but a substantial factor in live play), vi) I can become too hung up on mistakes that I make. This can often lead to additional mistakes because I am spending too much thought and energy dwelling on previous mistakes... vii) too compassionate - e.g. I've particularly noticed during live play that many of the biggest losers in the game (and hence the most profitable opponents) appear, at least to me, the people that could least afford to be consistently losing poker players. It actually hasn't been a problem yet in live play, because I have too many new things to think about at that time. However, it sometimes does come to my mind when I am doing "post-game" analysis later. I do think to be a successful player, I need to be more cold hearted. It is very obvious that fish will lose their money, and if their money doesn't come to me, it will go to someone else.

Which personal characteristics about myself are fairly neutral in the context of poker? i) I'm neither very young, nor very old. I have noticably less physical and mental stamina compared to 5 years ago, but still quite reasonable ii) comfortable financial status; we are definitely not wealthy, but our lifestyle would have absolute zero impact if I lost my entire poker bankroll (other than the psychological effects on me)

What other factors in my life have an impact on my poker skill development? i) a very understanding spouse (this one can't be overstated. I really do understand why so many very successful players I have met are either single or also have understanding spouses/partners) ii) extremely available live games. The number of cardrooms in the area where I live is tremendous, and they are very conveniently close. iii) lack of involvement of my family - my parents don't particularly approve of my poker playing, but that haven't gone so far as to try and forcibly tell me to stop playing. I suspect that if I was a very successful player, then they would be supportive. and vice versa if the opposite was the case. (I know it sounds ludicrous to say this, but objectively I believe this accurately describes the situation)

Financial aspects: I believe that given the current popularity of poker, I can have a very respectable financial return on the investment of my time and energy. Naturally, conditions could change, and the popularity of the game in mainstream culture could wain. This could cause the huge number of fish to substantially decrease and leave me in a situation where, given my skill level, the games that I could beat would be of insufficiently high stakes to make it only worthwhile to play as a pure hobby. (I simply cannot believe the ~thousands~ of hours I invested in learning to play RTS games like Warcraft 3.... as only a pure hobby. I can only fantisize the situation I would be in today had I invested that time in poker.....)
I am unable to estimate at this point what stakes I am capable of rising to and what rate of hourly expectation ($) I could achieve. I believe I understand a lower bound to be approximately 1x times my day job salary having spent several months growing my bankroll at small stakes NL Party tables. (as an aside, I think other than building my bankroll this was a big waste of time since I learned very litte during that time - since the optimal strategy seemed to be merely to multitable, wait for very strong hands (nuts or semi-nuts) and then sucker 1 or more donkeys to go all in)
Given the game conditions of today, I believe I could easily reach a rate of hourly expectation 3 times that of my day job. (Although I do not know the number of hours per week, for whatever reason, the hourly rate would be available. - i.e. how many hours per day or week are the games juicy enough, and how many of those hours would I actually be available to play?)
Okay I'll admit it, even though I'm loath to say it out loud. If I could reach an hourly expectation of 5 times my day job salary (with a comparable number of available work hours), I would quit and become a professional poker player. There, I actually said it.

Hmmm, this turned out to be a very wordy first post. Oh well, in future posts I'll write about less high level type topics. Those are the things that I really want to work on and write about. Still, it is important to reflect on the big picture from time to time, and I'm glad I did that tonight. I also need to make sure I spend enough time thinking about other high level topics in my life unrelated to poker.