Thursday, June 30, 2005

Protect...protect...protect your hand

I'm posting the following very simple hand history because I made a crucial mistake that may have cost me a moderate size pot. If I make this mistake again this summer I will cash out my entire bankroll and buy something for my wife (my only poker funds will be when I receive my monthly rakeback payment). She has put up with so much from me. She certainly deserves it more than I do considering I make mistakes like this.

hand #1
9 seated live $6/$12 limit hold'em game.
UTG and UTG+1 play a lot of hands preflop (including any suited cards and any partially connected cards), button and BB are good, solid players.
- preflop: UTG limps, UTG+1 limps, folded to button who raises. I 3 bet in SB. BB folds, UTG and UTG+1 both call 2 more, button caps, everyone calls (4 players, 17 small bets)
- flop: Jc3c4h - I bet, UTG folds, everone else calls (3 players, 20 small bets)
- turn: Jc3c4hAc - I bet, both players call (3 players, 13 big bets)
- river: Jc3c4hAc5c - checked around. I show AsAd, UTG+1 shows Tc9s, button mucks his PP. UTG+1 wins a 13 big bet pot.

My betting the flop here is just plain retarded. Clearly the button will bet if it is checked to him. I estimate a 70% chance that UTG+1 will call 2 cold on the flop, so in fact, it would likely have been best to wait until the turn to check raise. However, my hand was so weak, I probably would have not been able to resist check raising the flop. I think the only high probability situation for me to have won the pot would be if I could have successfully check raised the turn. I'm not sure if the button will bet when the turn comes Ac. (I give him a less than 50% probabilty of betting the turn) So all things considered, I am likely to lose this pot no matter how it was played.
Why am I so unhappy about the hand then? The way I played the hand guaranteed that I would lose the pot.

If I had check called the flop, should I have bet out on the turn? I think that I should for 2 reasons. 1) it is extremely unlikely the button has an A, so he is more likely to take a free card, 2) he has a ~50% chance of having a club (between the 2 opponents, the odds are ~75% that there is a least one club out there) I think in this scenario, it would be best for me to bet the turn.
What about if the flop and turn were played the way it was actually played, is there any value in betting the river? I think I should be scared of the button having either Kc or Qc, but if that is the case, what do I do if I check and the button bets the river? I probably have to call. What should I do if UTG+1 bets the river and button calls? or button folds? I'm not sure if the pot was big enough for me to overcall. It was certainly big enough for me to call.
Probably my only clear fold on the river is if it is bet and raised to me.

Ironically, lately I have always been remembering to protect my much more vulnerable top pair or 2nd pair hands (where my pair is something between 6 and J) on the flop in the SB when expecting the bet from my immediate right.

The button later told me he was drawing dead to me on the turn, and wished he had folded. Ironically, I think his call on the turn saved me from having to make a crying call on the river.

Hmmm, there are certainly a number of different ways this hand could have played out.


As an aside, what can I assume if the button raises and caps the flop? If he raises, I think the range of hands should be JJ, QQ, KK, AA. There are 3 ways for him to have the nuts, 6 ways for me to have the best hand, and only 1 way for us to be tied.

I am curious about the button's actual hand. Since he capped it preflop, I would have guessed QQ or KK. However, I'm a little surprised that he would not have raised the flop with an overpair. TT or 99 seem way too weak to cap it preflop. If I had to guess, I would go with QQ since that seems strong enough to cap it preflop, but weak enough for him to only call the flop and turn (I guess fearing JJ, KK or AA).

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Long weekend in Vegas

Well, my wife agreed on spending the long weekend in Vegas. Thanks baby! It should be fun. Our last outing there was about a year and a half ago.

We'll be in town for less than 48 hours. We've seen quite a number of the shows and sights before. Hmmm, I wonder if it is worth the ticket price to see Lance Burton. The trip is short enough that I think we won't be bored if we don't see one of the big shows. Any of the big shows probably runs about $100 per ticket. In many cases, I suspect it is not good value. The only big show I've ever felt was worth it was Mystere.

I'll try to do some research on some good restaurants to try out. We'll probably go to one or two buffets (Paris and/or Aladdin), but no more than that. For one thing, we are not huge eaters anymore, and secondly we take a ~very~ long time to enjoy a buffet. I would like to find at least one very nice restaurant for us to go to. Food is the one thing we can definitely both enjoy together.

We'll definitely check out the Wynn, and I'd like to stop by the Rio to take a look. The events at the Rio this weekend are pretty lame though; probably to give the serious players a chance to take the weekend off.

Poker-wise, I think if I play for roughly 3 hours, it will be tolerable for my wife. I can get by with substantially less sleep than her, but since we are not staying on the strip this probably won't provide any increased opportunities to play. I really don't know how to allocate the time. Excitment-wise, I think the best choice for me would be to play in a supersat for the Main Event. Opportunity-wise and minimized-variance-wise, I think I should try mid-stakes limit cash games at either the Wynn and/or Bellagio poker rooms. (I have never played poker in Vegas)
At this point, I think the best choice for me is to play limit hold'em cash games. I am feeling very confident in my live limit game right now. I've made zero mistakes in the last 3 session hours, and the mistakes I made in the preceeding 3 session hours were very minor. My confidence is high, and that is quite important. I think if the 15/30 games look good, it is the correct choice. Hopefully there will be a lot of tourists playing, and hopefully more of the pros will be resting on the long weekend. :P (not likely!) Results from 3 hours could be all over the map, so I really have to remember to leave the table in a calm state of mind regardless of the outcome.

So long as we don't get stressed out on the trip, and take a few nice pictures (I hope we can get one of the xxyyxx exit sign this time!!), we'll be happy. If we can pick up a few things while shopping, that would be a big plus too.

Hopefully the heat won't be too bad The forecast calls for a high of 106 this weekend. Yikes! At least it is a dry heat.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Live vs. Online

Well, this is the inevitable post made by all bloggers that have played both Live and Online.

Is it "better" to play Live or Online?

I'll post my thoughts on this in terms of: What are the pros and cons ~for me~ to playing live and playing online? I'll also try to financially quantify items (that can be quantified) as they apply to me today. The major focus of this post will be centered on limit poker, not no-limit.

Current Assumptions
i) Under normal circumstances my EV is +2BB/100 hands.
ii) Live stakes are $6/$12 (the nearest common online limit is $5/$10, but for simplicity I will assume 6/12 is available online)
iii) Online, full 10 seated table sees 60 hands per hour.
iv) Live full seated table with a shuffling machine sees 45 hands per hour. (combine this number with i) to get an hourly rate of 0.9BB playing live)
v) Avg live session: 3 hours, avg online session: anything
vi) Time to start an online session: 0.0 hours
vii) Roundtrip travel time to play live: 0.4 hours
viii) Avg time to be seated live: 0.1 hours
ix) Live poker is fully legal
x) 60 hours of play per month
xi) I'll assume at this point that given my lack of experience in picking up tells and my lack of experience in hiding my tells, the net benefits of tells approximately equals the benefits of using tools like PokerTracker/GT+/PV and hand histories. (Question: As my live play improves, how much effect will tells have on my BB/100 hands?)
xii) avg live player plays as well as the avg online player (the consensus I have read from other people is that the avg online player is better, but I do not have enough playing time to make this judgement, nor to quantify it)

pros of playing Online
1) more hands per hour: Assuming typical speed opponents, even with shuffling machines, you will see 1/3 more hands per hour per table. Assuming the table is always full, then this works out to online being about +0.3BB/hour better than live.
2) multitabling: Again, multitabling allows you to see more hands per hour. Additionally, multitabling can also allow you to reduce your variance by playing more tables at a lower limit. (e.g. instead of playing a single 20/40 table, you could play four 5/10 tables) The tradeoff of doing this will be a degredation in your BB/100 hands since you will not be able to pay 100% attention to the action. However, if you are capable of good, quick, +EV decisions and use tools like PokerTracker/GT+/PV, then BB/100 hands should not suffer too much.
With my current aptitude of multitasking (including the frequency of clicking the wrong button), I believe my BB/100 hand falls no more than 25% when playing small stakes limit, and falls no more than 15% when playing very small stakes no limit ($100NL).
Assuming quad tabling at the same stakes, the BB/hour is (4*0.75) = 3x the BB/hour single tabling. +2.7BB/hour better than live (when including the 1/3 more hands per hour).
Assuming quad tabling at 1/4th the stakes, the BB/hour is 0.75x the bb/hour single tabling. 0.0BB/hour same as live (when including the 1/3 more hands per hour per table).
Multitabling also permits you to play different games at the same time. e.g. playing some combination of ring games, SNGs (SitNGos), and MTTs (multitable tournaments). There is probably little $ value to this. The main benefit seems to be to alleviate monotony. I exclusively play no limit for SNGs and MTTs. To avoid confusion, I only play no limit ring games when mixing in SNGs and/or MTTs.
3) lower rake: I estimate that given the same limits, the difference in the cost of rake is ~$3/hour better than live.
4) rakeback: Rate of rakeback depends on #tables, avg # players per table, and limits. This probably ranges from $5/hour to $20/hour, I'll assume on average this is $15/hour when quad tabling.
5) deposit bonuses: I don't really bonus whore all that much anymore, so I'll estimate bonuses provide a net value of $300/month.
6) no tipping: Granted, tipping is not mandatory in live play, but I don't want to be despised. I estimate no tipping online saves ~$4/hour compared to live play. (I don't tip much, and my strategy is likely to win a below average number of pots)
7) cheap online MTTs (with huge fields) develops skills for making it through large fields. These skills could have a lot of value in large buy in tournaments. Cheap online SNGs provide great experience in playing the final table of an MTT. Difficult to quantify the value of these things.
8) never having to worry about dealer errors. Difficult to quantify.
9) microlimit games exist for a large variety of games - thus providing an extremely cheap way to learn how to play new games such as Triple Draw.
10) playing in your underwear (come on, did you really expect me to leave this one out?). Impossible to put a price on this.

cons of playing Online
1) minimal social interaction: no short term cost, long term cost unknown.
2) more frequent distractions from poker? (IM, TV, email, web surfing, telephone, chores such as laundry, paying bills, etc) Granted, many of these are a "self-discipline" issue. It is difficult to quantify the cost of these things in BB/hour. In theory, these distractions can be removed with discipline and would then have zero cost.
3) risk of loss of account balance if there are major problems with the site (e.g. site has financial problems, site arbitrarily decides to close your account and confiscate your funds, someone breaks into your account, etc)

pros of playing Live
1) No legality issues compared to playing online: no likely short term or long term value
2) Helps develop some skills that are needed to play in very large buy in tournaments (that only exist in live format).
3) ultra-high ring games (anything above $200/$400) currently only exist live; complete irrelevant to me now, but one can dream....

cons of playing Live
1) risks involved in carrying moderately large amounts of cash
2) risks involved in winning money from unstable/angry/drunk people
3) transportation costs: less than $5/session

Final comparison:

Live limit play vs. Quad tabling online at same limit
- more hands per hour/quad tabling: +2.7BB/hour
- lower rake/rakeback/no tipping: $22 per hour; assuming $6/$12 => +1.8BB/hour
- live play startup time estimated at 0.5 hours / 3 hour session => online BB/hour should be adjusted upward by 1/6th.

Final: Online should be approximately (2.7+1.8)*7/6 = 5.25BB/hour more profitable than live.
This final result is represented in BB/hour because I will likely play a mixture of live and online each month. (which is also why I didn't include deposit bonuses here because these would likely to always be cleared so long as I played any reasonable of online hours in a month)

I have read numerous people's opinions that online is significantly more profitable than live. It is still a little surprising for me to have computed a +5.25BB/hour difference for my situation. Prior to having done any analysis, I probably would have guessed a +2.0BB/hour (compared to my assumption of 0.9BB/hour live)

I think I need to periodically review my analysis because i) I may have made errors in my calcuations, ii) various assumptions may change (e.g. stakes, live BB/100 hand rate - particularly because of tells, avg session length, online BB/100 hand rate changing if GT+/PV can no longer be used, quality of the avg live opponent vs. avg online opponent, degree of multitabling changes - 8 tabling? 2 tabling?, etc.)

Nevertheless, I will certainly favor playing online limit ring games over live limit ring games for the purposes of increasing my bankroll.

In the future, I would like to investigate the potential returns from playing higher stakes no-limit games. My online no-limit experience has predominantly been at $100NL. (Live no-limit games are not readily available to me)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Eager to move up

I made a pledge a few weeks ago to drop down in limits in my live game play to 6/12 and 8/16 until I can play 10 consecutive session hours without making any mistakes. Once I accomplish this, I will move back to 20/40.

It has been quite a bit harder than I expected. My longest streak was a little over 5 session hours, and my current run is 2 hours.

I am being very tough on myself because I believe I must be. The most important mistakes that I want to avoid making in playing limit poker are missing value bets and folding too much in big pots (and maybe even in medium size pots if there is insufficient information).

However, anything that I deem incorrect is a mistake. Some examples of picky things I am categorizing as a mistake are: i) tipping the dealer if I steal the blinds without a fight, ii) forgetting the exact betting sequence on earlier rounds of a hand that I am not currently involved in.
The first example is part of a group that I would categorize as "Minor error in discipline". They are almost completely irrelevant actions, but I will penalize myself for not following the set of rules that I defined for myself. (Showing my cards when not necessary would also fit in the category of "discipline" errors, but this is a significantly more severe error)
The second example is in the category of "Memory lapses". My short term memory is something I have I been working on quite a bit lately. It has gotten noticibly better, but there is more room for improvement. However, these types of mistakes can also be influenced by fatigue or lack of discipline to pay attention with enough interest to the action.

I feel a little down sometimes when I see a good 20/40 or 40/80 game, but I have only myself to answer to for why I can't sit down there.

I may chose to loosen my requirement to move up in limits to something like 1 mistake in 10 consecutive session hours, but probably only if I can get up to 7-8 consecutive hours without mistakes a few times. Probably a better system would be for me to give point weightings to the types of mistakes, and make the goal to beat a certain score over a certain number of session hours.

Am I too hung up on all this?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Litmus test for fatigue

I have noticed that if I start a live session at night (where I had no sleep of any kind for the last 12 hours) that initially my level of concentration may start off perfectly acceptably. However, I noticed various levels of degredation within a few hours. The first thing that I will notice is that sometimes on the turn or river I will have forgotten my exact hand that I mucked preflop. Additionally, I may have forgotten the exact sequence of play on earlier betting rounds (e.g. who raised or reraised preflop).

These types of things don't matter so much when playing online because of hand histories. In live play, I think they are a warning sign that my fatigue factor will soon exceed acceptable levels (unless the game is really good, meaning that the poor play of the opponents more than compensates for my diminished capacities). Once I start forgetting my hand while I am still involved in the hand, that is pretty much it for me.

When I'm considering whether or not to start an online session, I will sometimes ask my spouse to toss me a small object like a candy from across the room. I won't go nuts trying to catch it. I casually reach out for it, and if I can't make the catch, then it is no go on the session.

Live game small stakes professionals

In the few short weeks that I have been playing live games, I have run into a moderate number of professional live small stakes players. I would estimate that I have had table time with 500-600 individuals and that between 20-25 of these individuals (there was actually 1 female, so I have to be gender neutral) were pros. I'm not counting the pros that I have seen at tables other than mine (particularly the higher stakes tables), nor am I counting the props (of which there are quite a few). I did not count the dealers who play during their time off (a couple of the dealers are great players, most are average).

That works out to about 4% of my opponents that were pros. I will actually chop this number down to 3% because I believe that many of these are wannabe pros only. I will discuss these individuals later.

I realize that my sample set is quite small so far. Unfortunately I do not have enough free time to collect as much data as quickly as I would like. :P To give an idea of the context, the poker room has roughly 20 poker tables. It is one of the larger poker rooms in a city of ~1 million, and the municipalities in a radius of 50 miles have a population of maybe 4 million. There are probably a half dozen sizable poker rooms in that 50 mile radius where poker has been legal for years. My table time has actually been about 65% $6/$12, 15% $8/$16, 20% $20/$40.

3% is a misleadingly low number because you must realize that a sizable percentage of the opponents leave the table within 5-60 minutes because they bust out of their chips (and possibly multiple rebuys). The (real) pros virtually never leave because they are broke. The majority of the time they are accumulating chips, have plenty of cash to rebuy (with the primary assumption that their chips were only depleted due to bad beats), or move to other softer games.
The reason I say that 3% is misleading is because you might think that with only 3% pros, you will only be playing with a pro from time to time and very rarely with 2-3 pros. However, this is not the case because these players are present for such a large number of hours per day. Those players might actually represent closer to 10% of the players (in the 6/12 and above limits) that are in the poker room at any given time.
To be fair, there are also a moderate number of non-pros that put in significant table time (e.g. retired people). However, I still stick to my statement that pros represent much more than 3% of the players at any given time.

I wonder how accurate my estimations are, and I also wonder how these ratios compare at larger limits, say 40/80 -> 80/160. I have no data whatsoever on games lower than 6/12. I can't see how any pro could net enough at limits lower than 6/12 to cover their nut.

I do not yet have a good estimate on how many BB/hour a great player could make in the 6/12, 8/16 limit games. My very loose guess would be 5BB/hour. However, I imagine that any "great" player would be playing at the higher limits, and would only be present at these limits when the higher limit games are tough or unavailable.

In regards to the subject of wannabe pros: They have some knowledge of the game, but definitely have large holes in their knowledge (don't know their odds, can't count their outs correctly, etc). They are all invariably young, almost all wear sunglasses while playing all the time (compared to many people who carry sunglasses, but are not always wearing them). I expect these types of players to break even or lose about 1BB per hour until they give up or go broke.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Wake up!

Here is a hand that I want to remember.

hand #1
9 seated live limit ring game. Solid players are all on my right, loose non-agg players are all on my left, I'm seated in MP+2. I just sat down 4 hands earlier, so this was a very rough estimate at that time.
- Folded to MP who raises, MP+1 calls, I call with 3d3s, folded to blinds who both call (5 players, pot size 10 small bets)
- flop comes 2h3cQc. checked to the MP who bets, MP+1 folds, I call, SB folds, BB calls (3 players, pot size 13 small bets)
- turn comes 2h3cQc2c. BB checks, MP bets, I raise, MP mutters out loud, BB calls 2 cold, MP folds (2 players, pot size 11.5 big bets)
- river comes 2h3cQc2c2d. BB bets, I raise, BB says "hey, I thought you had a flush" and then reraises, I 4 bet, BB raises just a little less than 1 big bet all in. I am still asleep at the wheel and do not hestitate to call. (final pot size ~21.25 big bets)

It doesn't take a genius to see that BB has the nuts. As the regulars at this poker room like to say, "four doose never loose!".

My mind got locked on the idea that BB had a Q. I have actually played with BB before and in retrospect I strongly believe that BB will only call the raise on the river with a Q (since he won't put more chips in a pot headsup that he thinks he is chopping). My puny mind neglected to reconsider my hand analysis after I had any new data. I definitely should have remembered he was playing from the big blind and could have any 2 cards.

I was not tired at the time of this hand. I was just being closed minded.

Let's count the mistakes in just this one hand.
Possible mistake: cold calling preflop w a small pair - this is debatable because I expect some callers behind me to get the right odds to flop a set
Marginal mistake: not raising on the flop where there is a good chance to get some draws out. I decided not to because I felt it would be better to wait until the turn to really make the draws pay. I strongly suspect MP will bet again on turn if no one raises (and he is on my immediate right). If I raise on the flop, I thought a flush draw and possibly an open ended straight draw would come along, and that if I raised on the flop then MP would not bet the turn. Additionally, I may fill up on the turn, which I did.
Small Mistake: raising on the river. However, calling is a pretty conservative play.
Big Mistake: 4 betting the river
It would not have been a mistake to call his 3 bet on the river, nor was it a mistake to call his all in. (the pot was too big)

You could argue that the pot was already big enough on the flop for me to raise and protect my hand, and probably 9 times out of 10 this would have driven the BB out (given his actual hand). MP would likely have called the raise and folded on the turn. I'm not too concerned about my flop play.

The only really bad mistake was the 4 bet on the river. I was 1 outed at the river, but I put in 2 more big bets than necessary. However, I did feel quite sick at myself because of the pot size.

My running average on mistakes is 1.6 mistakes per hour. Hmmm, it seems like an an awful lot of the hands I am posting about involve me being a donkey....

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My thoughts on qualifying for the WSOP

Well, there is just a little over 3 weeks before the start of the $10,000 buy-in main event at the WSOP. I have still yet to qualify, and given the schedule in my personal life (pretty much all the weekend days and many weekday nights between now and then are otherwise committed) there are very few opportunities left.

I'd like to think out loud now to try and determine if it is worth it for me to continue to try and qualify.

The 2 main resources in my poker life are $ and time... there are other factors, but I choose to ignore those for now.

I have already invested ~$650 and between 25-30 hours directly in various levels of WSOP qualifiers. I have committed a comparable number of hours working on my live game. Finally, I have also been redirecting a substantial portion of my playing time to playing large field multitable online tournaments.

In order to be able to make it to the money at the WSOP (I will only bother to calculate my costs of just making it to the money, because if I could make it noticably farther, then my costs will be fairly insignificant), I would have to take a minimum of 4 days of vacation from my day job plus travel and accomodation expenses. I estimate these items collectively cost $2100. Let me be so bold as to estimate I could have a 20% probability to make it into the top 10%. If just making it to the money pays $12k, then I would estimate my EV to be $2400. $2400-$2100 = $300 net.

That means if I qualify tonight on a freeroll, then I'm at $2400-$2100-$650= -$350. Thus I need to quantify to myself how much it is worth to me to able to participate in the WSOP. Off the top of my head, let's say the experience is worth paying $1000.

Actually, I believe I do not need to include any $ or time already spent in qualification attempts because I am currently only trying to determine whether any ~additional~ $ or time is worth investing.

The next thing that must be considered is the probability of qualifying online for each $1 spent.

Let's use the $11k Stars WSOP package for the sake of discussion. Each $110 spent on qualifying represents 1% of the value of the package. For simplicity, let's assume that because of my immense talent (please hold the laughter) I am twice as likely as average to win a seat. ($650/$11000)*2 = 11.8%. The $11k package includes $1k cash for expenses.

Carrying on with my monkey math (earlier I calculated a net $300 if I did win a seat, plus the $1000 in worth that I value the experience), if I was willing to commit this $650, then financially I could expect to have an 11.8% chance to get $2300 of value (including the $1k cash from the package). That is a terrible financial decision!!

Reviewing some of my earlier assumptions, the one assumption that actually has a substantial impact is my weighted probability of finishing at various levels in the money. My assumption was that 80% of the time I would not make the money, and the other 20% I would just make it past the money bubble. I did not take into account any probability of finishing higher than that.
(BTW, some respectable people in the poker community estimate that for a good tournament pro, the EV of entering the $10k main event this year is between $40-60k)

I pretty much discount the possibility of finishing any higher than the 95th percentile because my past history has shown that my frequency of mistakes after long playing sessions is just too high. I think that mistakes made at that stage in the tournament will be greatly magnified since there will be higher likihood that many opponents at that stage are more capable of taking advantage of rookie mistakes.
I don't know how to model my probabilities of finishing at various levels between the 90th percentile and the 95th percentile.

Note: One obvious drawback to the online qualifying process is that I cannot sell the seat if I win just 1. I wonder if seats that are won in live qualifiers allow for the winner to sell his/her seat. My calculations would give totally different results if I could assume that I could sell the seat for $9k. However, if this is my line of thinking, then why wouldn't I just be playing cash tournaments instead of WSOP satellites?

My current Conclusion:
It has been a poor choice of $ and time investment to participate in these WSOP qualifiers. Until I can either adjust my assumptions or improve my various "skills" to increase various probabilities, it is an incorrect decision to spend any resources on the WSOP qualifiers.


I just re-read everything above. The thing that jumps out the most to me is that I did not take into account the time value of money.

When I play in my most reliable (and boring) and low variance online multitable ring games, I can expect an hourly rate (clock time) of $50 per hour including rakeback.

I already invested 25+ hours in qualifiers, and I had been considering spending approximately another 12-20 hours in additional qualification attempts. Time-value-of-money-wise, this works out to ~$2k.

It seems apparent that I should spending my efforts on building my bankroll to a sufficient size that I can directly buy-in to these large events. This is likely far in the future. I think my vanity has gotten the better of me the last couple of months.

I think I should give some thought to how to allocate my poker time between playing games that I can easily beat (to increase the bankroll) and moving to higher limit games. DoubleAs has a pretty strong opinion on this subject (see his June 13th entry).

Monday, June 13, 2005

What to think about while playing

I've been pretty absent minded lately in ring games. I have been alternating back and forth between small stakes No Limit Hold'em and small stakes Limit Hold'em, and also between live and online.

Thoughts on Limit Hold'em play
When switching from No Limit to Limit, I frequently find that I miss value bets on the river since I'm still in the mode of checking "good but not great" hands on the river in No Limit. I've got to stop missing these bets, especially againist non-tricky opponents.

There is a corollary to that scenario where you reach the river with the probable best hand, and you have 2 opponents. Based on the way the hand was played, only 1 of the opponents is likely to have made his/her draw. If that opponent only has enough chips for 1 bet (this can often be the case with poor players - good players usually have plenty of ammo), it is still okay to value bet on the river in any position unless you highly suspect you are beat. If that opponent is already all in, it is definitely correct to value bet on the river even if you are only likely to win the side pot.
Againist particularly poor players, you will often find that neither opponent had a draw and both were calling with some type of weak pair. It seems to me to be correct to bet in that scenario unless you are more than 67% sure the river has made your opponent's hand. (e.g. if there were 2 types of draws, and only one came in - particularly if a backdoor draw made it). I think less than 2/3 is the right ratio since you will likely win 2 bets if you are right, and lose only 1 if you are wrong (this is only true if you are sure the 2nd opponent is not capable of bluff raising you on the river which in my observation of live small stakes 6/12 play is quite rare, although much more common in online play). If you pay attention you will be able to figure out if your opponents will only chase with a draw, or if they will often chase weak pairs. If an opponent plays with weak pairs, it is also important to note what type of hands he/she shows down.

There can be several categories of weak pairs (on the river):
1. An unimproved overpair on a either a very coordinated board or a hand which has had excessive action on the flop and/or turn. (usually you detect this if your opponent raised or reraised preflop, was still aggressive on the flop, but seemed to switch into a check-calling mode on the turn or river; note AK unimproved is often played the same way, but given the right conditions AK unimproved may also pay off one more bet on the river - typically heads up)
2. An unimproved big pair such as KK or QQ that pays off all the way when an A flops or turns (again, typical rookie opponent shows a lot of aggression before the A shows up, and then goes into check calling mode - good players will naturally keeping betting until they are raised unless perhaps a large number of opponents called preflop)
3. An unimproved mid pair that will call all the way when the board has 1 or more overcards. (typcially either limps or raises preflop, and then calls all the way when the overcards come)
4. Top pair with a weak kicker. (usually either a player in the blinds or a player who plays any suited cards)
5. An underpair, like 22->55, calling all the way heads up. (This kind of thing happens an amazing amount of the time in heads up situations)
6. A weak pair 2->7 with an overcard (especially A) kicker (usually a poor player who plays any A or any K and sometimes any Q, or a player who plays any suited A or K and even any suited Q or J, or a player in the blinds or a player who posted.)
7. Any pair on the board with any kicker. (most often a poor player playing from the blinds or posting, or a poor player that plays any suited cards)

It is important to always remember the size of your opponents' stacks, or at least double check their stack size at some point during the hand (the earlier the better). This is useful when figuring what implied odds you are giving or taking on the flop and turn (very true in no limit, but also true in limit if any of your opponents have short stacks), and also in the earlier discussion regarding value betting on the river vs possible made hands.

By the way, I suppose that many of these guidelines are more relevant to live play compared to multitabling online because it requires acquiring a fairly substantial amount of info on your opponents characteristics. In live play, you should have the time to pay close attention to all of your opponents.

Pay attention to which players are capable of bluffing and which players ~never~ bluff!

It doesn't matter what your opponent ACTUALLY has
In general, you can't always guess exactly what your opponent has. However, if you pay enough attention, you should be able to determine a range of hands that he/she has. At each point in time that you need to make a decision, you have to consider what that range of hands is for each opponent still involved in the hand. The most extreme (although in many ways the simplest) scenario of this is the all in preflop situation in a No Limit tournament.
If you have the ability to correctly narrow down your opponents range of hands where your hand can beat the weighted average (Baysian analysis) of your opponent's likely hands, you should be giving action. However, don't get upset if your opponent turns up a hand that beats you. Over the long run, you will get the best of it.

The key seems to be determining the range of hands that your opponent will call with on the river. There are opponents that will call with 9 high if they think the pot will be chopped.

For example, in my earlier listing of the types of weak pairs, you will encounter poor players that will be involved at the river with ~all~ of those types of pairs. It is definitely correct to value bet on the river in a limit game against such an opponent even when the river completes one or more draws (unless you pick up a tell) and your opponent checks to you.

Another scenario I have recently been erring in is when playing against a fairly loose, but non-tricky opponent at small stakes limit hold'em where:
- I have only A high on the turn, but it is probably the best hand
- we are heads up
- my opponent will call on the flop w any draw as weak as a gutshot or 2 non-A overcards
I think in that situation I have to bet the turn, so long as I can be reasonably certain he will not check raise bluff or semibluff. Far too often I have been checking behind my opponent even if I have no draw.

Finally, I'm still occasionally making the mistake of showing a losing hand at the showdown when it is unnecessary. It is not the worst mistake in the world, but there is no need to give out free info.

One other thing I want to make a note on is that of game selection. If you are given a choice between two tables (live games), always check out which table looks softer. Anytime you are in a less than ideal game (let's say 2 or less very bad players and 2 or more good or very good players), you must keep your eyes open for a better game. Consider asking the floorman for a table change if any of the other tables at the same limit look better, or take an available seat at a softer game (regardless of the limits), or add you name to the board for a different limit.
Given the right time of day, there will often be situations when the majority of the players at the terrible play very poorly, so it is ridiculous to sit in a tough game when there are easier ones to be had. There will be times when you can drop down multiple limits and still be able to have a better hourly rate than the game you are currently in. Do not be too proud to step down in limits.

I know that I have been very hung up on fixing mistakes (leaks), so I think I shall start keeping statistics - namely the number of mistakes per time period (number of hands?) and the category of mistake. I will keep rolling averages so that I can see if I am improving or not.

Short term goal
I highly desire to improve the number of times I can correctly determine when I can bet a medium strength hand into poor players on the river that will pay off with a worse hand.

An update on my other goal of playing 10 consecutive hours at low limits without making any mistakes: I have yet to exceed 5 session hours without a mistake. It is harder than I thought to maintain my full concentration.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The $500+50 NLHE live tourney

No love in the tournament today. I busted out in the late stages of level 9, interestingly, in my only coin flip of the entire day. This made for 46th/151 where the top 18 were paid. All I can say is yuck.

I made 1 known poker mistake today and no tournament strategy mistakes. The mistake was one I have made SO MANY TIMES, that I am really quite mad at myself about. It turns out that I earned an extra T$ 200 chips because of the mistake. That sure doesn't make it right....

hand #1 - ugly mistake
tournament level 2, 50/75 blinds, avg chips ~3000. all relevant player in hand have average chips.
- folded to me in middle position. I look down and find 2 black lovely ladies. I decide to limp because both button and SB have been aggressive preflop (including SB being agg from almost any position). I decide that if either of those 2 raise, I will do a simple reraise all in (overbet). If anyone else raises and it is folded to me, depending on their position I will likely call and see if any overcards flop. If anything else happens, I will decide when that happens. (Note, my limp in this situation is not what I consider to be my mistake. A much more conservative approach would have been to raise, but I believe I will just pick up 125 in the blinds, and I would like to get more mileage out of the hand)
Folded to Mr. Mustache in the CO who calls, folded to Mr. JohnnyChanWannaBe in SB, Mr. Dealer checks in BB. (pot size T$ 300, 4 players)
- flop comes 7c9cKh. It is checked around (pot size T$ 300, 4 players)
- turn comes an offsuit rag. SB checks, BB bets T$ 200. I think for 5 seconds before acting. I have all of my chips in a single stack ordered with small denomination chips on top including plenty of T$ 100 chips. I lift off all my smaller denomination chips off and quietly toss in a T$ 500 chip. Dealer instantly points out this is a call. I don't say a word, but it is clear to everyone at the table that I intended to raise to T$500.
CO folds, SB grumbles quite a bit and decides to call. (pot size T$900, 3 players)
- river comes non-flush J. It is checked around. SB waits for 2-3 seconds and mucks. BB turns over 88. I embarassingly turn over my queens. SB (Mr. JohnnyChanWannaBe) curses and said he should have check raised me all in on the turn. I drag in a T$ 900 pot from a poorly played hand.


Tournament strategy-wise I was fairly content with my execution. I played very conservatively for the first 6 levels. My preflop raises were given a lot of respect, mostly because I played so few hands and had only shown down good hands.

This table image allowed me to steal a fair number of pots once we reached the levels where antes started. My status through the first 6 levels was quite close to avg chips, so I didn't see too much reason to gamble (This is debatable since a big stack at that table would have been pretty powerful). After level 6, when antes began, I was able to steal enough blinds and antes to stay at avg chips until I got involved in my big hands.

I was only involved in 3 large pots in the entire tournament where I'm happy to say that I got my money all in preflop with the best hand each time. The first 2 hands involved Mr. Donkey (that I also mentioned in my previous post) where I had a dominating hand (pair over pair preflop). The last big hand was my last hand of the day; the aforementioned coin flip. (pocket pair vs. 2 overcards)
Mr. Donkey made quad 4s on the first hand to my KK, and my KK held up the 2nd time vs. his TT to bring me up to 35% above avg late in level 7.

Table image was just so helpful to me during rounds 7-8. However, near the end of level 8 my table was broken up, and I moved to a new table. I was actually about 30% over average chips when I sat down at that table. Unfortunately, I was presented with no opportunities to steal the blinds (either it was raised and sometimes reraised before it got to me or I was in early position) and was dealt no reasonable hands. This resulted in me playing 0 out of ~30 hands until the final hand.

hand #2 - not an interesting hand, but I'll at least document my thinking (from a tournament strategy point of view)
It was then late in level 9 where I was left with only ~55% of avg chips with 9x the BB. UTG player has just moved in from another table, so I do realize that he has not seen me fold the last 30 hands. I'm in the SB, and the only players' chip stacks that have any influence on my decision making are UTG who has me outchipped by ~20% and BB who has me outchipped by about 50%. Level 10 starts in about 3 minutes, and if I do not play a hand until then I will have ~6x the big blind.
Blinds are 300/600, w 100 ante.
- UTG opens for T$2000. folded to me in the SB. I look down and find TdTc. I ask for a chip count (learning that both UTG and BB have me covered), and I get no read on Mr. UTG. If I think Mr. UTG has an underpair, I would of course push all in. However, because of the stage in the tournament, I am also willing to push all in if he has 2 overcards. It is getting too late, and I am not willing to get any shorter than 9 BB. In other words, I am only willing to fold here if I think he has JJ, QQ, KK, AA (24 hand combinations). I put him on 88 or better PP, any AK, AQ, AJs, KQs (77 hand combinations). This works out to around 2:1 that I want to push. (As an aside, I would have been even more strongly inclined to push if UTG had seen me fold 30 hands because I could believe he may fold AQ and KQ combinations.) I'm not terribly concerned about BB, because I believe he will only call me w QQ or better, and if he has got that then so be it.
I spent 30 seconds thinking about it, including checking my cards once (which may have been a slight mistake because Mr. UTG interpretted this to mean I had something like 88, which is very close). I then pushed for T$3400 more. BB insta folds. UTG starts thinking, and I know immediately I am in good shape (although I still prefer that he folds). After 15 seconds, UTG calls showing KhQh. (pot size T$ 12400, 2 players) (avg chips ~9850)
- I see a Q in the doorcard, and I don't improve.

In a tournament, ya gotta win your races....

Funny lines at the poker table

Everyone who has played poker for a while has said or heard some very funny things at the table. Often times, when it is repeated to someone else it doesn't sound quite as funny. Anyway, someone said something today that I found totally hilarious, but it is one of those "you had to be there" to truly appreciate the humor.

I'm just going to record it here because I will have a good laugh any time I look back at this entry.

The comment was made by Mr. Cool after playing hand #2 with Mr. Donkey

hand #1 - no guts no glory?
It is early in a $500+50 NLHE live tournament - level 3 (50/100 blinds), avg chips is ~3100, 148/151 players remaining. Mr. Dealer is in SB w ~4500, Mr. Homeboy is in BB w avg chips, Mr. Donkey is in UTG+1 with ~5500 chips (accumulated, yes, by playing as a big donkey), Mr. Shortstack is in MP+1 w ~700 chips.
- Mr. Donkey open limps in UTG+1, folded to Mr. Shortstack in MP+1 who calls, folded to Mr. Dealer in SB who calls, Mr. Homeboy checks in BB. (pot size 400, 4 players)
- flops comes 5d6c7c. SB (Mr. Dealer) thinks for 8 seconds and pushes all in for ~4400 and says "it is too early to gamble". Mr. Homeboy thinks for 10 seconds and folds (what he later claimed to be KcTc). Mr. Donkey goes into the tank for 3 minutes. By this time, Mr. Dealer is muttering something about calling the clock on the guy, when Mr. Donkey calls the all in. Mr. Shortstack mutters that he now has no choice but to call as well. (main pot ~2500, side pot ~7400, 3 players)
Mr. Dealer turns over 8h9d for the nut straight
Mr. Donkey turns over 9h9s for an overpair and a gutshot
Mr. Shortstack turns over Ad8d for an open ended, 2 overcards and a backdoor flush draw.
- turn comes blank, and river comes a blank club. Mr. Dealer pulls down a ~10k pot.

hand #2
3 hands later.
- folded to the blinds. Mr. Donkey completes in the SB. Mr. Cool checks in the BB. (pot size 200, 2 players)
- flop comes 3c6cJc. Mr. Donkey checks, Mr. Cool bets 200. Mr. Donkey folds.

Mr. Cool says, "I decided to steal it because Mr. Donkey's got no heart."

I guess you had to be there....

Saturday, June 04, 2005

WSOP satellite blues

Well, I'm still taking regular shots in satellites for this year's WSOP main event. As everyone knows, the $10,000 buy-in main event of the WSOP is ~the~ event in poker. This will possibly be the largest WSOP main event ever. When I say ever, I mean that the popularity of poker may be at its peak now, so perhaps next year's event will not be larger. It will, of course, beat last year's record size. Only time will tell when poker reaches its peak, but I am trying to maintain a conservative perspective.

For a break (and some excitment) from limit and no limit ring games, I have been making steady attempts at cheap online WSOP qualifiers.

To date, I have spent a net of $550 on my attempts (with $334 at Party, and $216 at Stars), but a much much higher proportion of time (vs. the money). The amount of money is very low compared to the time spent because I have been playing a lot of the very low buy in subqualifers at Party.

For example, when I am particularly bored, I will play 4 simultaneous $9+1 sub qualifiers WSOP SitNGo's (SNG). (Party's WSOP qualifying system) The $9+1 subqualifer is a single table (10 person) SNG where the top 2 finishers win a seat to a $36+3 WSOP qualifier. The 3rd place finisher gets back $12 cash.
The $36+3 qualifier is also a single table (10 person) SNG where the top finisher wins a seat in the $300+28 WSOP direct entry satellite. 2nd place gets $32 cash.
The $300+28 WSOP satellites award $13.5k WSOP main event prize packages for every 45 entrants (typically there will be around 200 entrants for each of these nightly tournaments, so ~4-5 packages per night)

By the way, the amount of money that Party is making from this whole WSOP satellite system is astounding. First of all they are charging ~10% entry fee at each level, and it works out to substantially more than 10% by the time you actually reach the direct entry level because the fees are charged ~at each level~ (depending on the ratio of players that buy in directly at the $300+28 and $36+3 vs the $9+1).
In addition to all the money collected from entry fees, the prize package itself is overvalued (they are getting blocks of hotel rooms at hugely discounted prices). On top of this, prize winners are asked to wear Party logo clothing with no compensation (compared to Stars that essentially pays you $1k to wear their logos). I estimate that Party makes $3k+ for each prize package awarded (when additionally you take into account that some winners will, for various reasons, not be able to use their package and forfeit the $13k back to Party).

What a great business model! It makes me laugh to hear people have conspiracy theories that sites like Party are "rigged". There is absolute no reason to risk rigging the game when the business model is so ridiculously profitable when running as a honest poker site. Basically, Party is able to charge fairly high fees for a well marketed product. Party's pending IPO should be quite successful.

Back to the WSOP stuff: Through just starting from the $9+1 subqualifiers (my net $334 investment), I have had made 3 entries into the $300+28 events where I managed to finish in the 90th percentile twice and 80th percentile once. Naturally, if you aren't going to finish in the money, you might as well bust out on the first hand, and save the time and grief.... :P None the less, I was satisfied with my tournament strategy in those events. I did not manage to amass a large chip stack in any of these 3 tourneys, so I was only utilizing and practicing medium stack and short stack play.
Despite the ridiculous fees that Party can charge for this system, I'm was quite content to pay the fees because of the even more ridiculous poor quality of play of the participants. To very roughly compare, I'd estimate that Party is charging me ~30% tax to win a seat, but my opponents' awful play gives me a discount of well over 50%. In theoretical poker terms, this is positive EV (expected value), and isn't that what being successful at poker is all about?


At Stars, I have collectively made two attempts at the $30+3 rebuy super satellites. These daily tourneys pay 1 WSOP prize package for each 367 buyins/rebuys/addons. Typically, there are close to 2 prize packages awarded for each of these tourneys that are run. Stars, on average, has better players than Party, although sometimes better players make for more predictable players (since I can at least understand their thinking).

Tonight was my 2nd attempt at the Stars $30+3 super, and it was my most promising run thus far. There was only 1 seat being awarded and 16 places paying out $650 cash because there were just slightly less than 2x times the prize package in entry fees (306 entrants). I say that this was my most promising attempt because I was able to build a big stack of chips in the middle stages of the tourney. My high water mark for the tourney was 2nd in chips with about 80 people left. (At that point, I made a big effort to remove any possible distractions from the room, in particular turning off the TV. My spouse was very helpful regarding this.)

Slightly after this stage, I ran into the following PIVOTAL hand that was my inflection point of the tournament.

hand #1
9 seated, level 7 of the tournament. The two chip leaders at the table with virutally identical stacks are myself (hero) in the BB and villain in the SB (we were both in the top 5 chip leaders, 80 people remaining) each with somewhere around 30k in chips (all top 8 chip leaders have very similar chips stacks ~30k). Avg chip stack ~13k. Blinds were 100/200 w 25 ante.
- folded all the way to the blinds, SB completes, I check in the BB w Tc9s. (pot size T$ 525, 2 players)
- flop comes KdQsJs. Villain in SB bets 400. I decide to trap with 2nd nuts by smooth calling. (I am willing ignore the ugly possibilty he has the nut straight) (pot size T$ 1325, 2 players)
- turn comes KdQsJsTs. This is a awful card for me for 2 reasons, it either gives my opponent the best hand if he has an A or it scares the heck out of him (which would prevent him from putting too many chips in the pot). SB bets 2000. I know full well that my opponent is perfectly capable of limping with an A in this situation. I'm discounting that he has a flush, and I still have an open ended straight flush draw. I call. (pot size T$ 5325, 2 players)
- river comes KdQsJsTs7s giving me 3rd high flush (missed the straight flush by 1 lousy pip). Only As or Ks (or both) beats me. SB bets 4000. I call since I believe I will only be called (or raised) by a better hand.
- SB shows As5h and wins a $T13325 pot.

I still have $~24k chips which is still double the average stack. I only lost T$6625k in the hand, but the main reason this hand was pivotal to me was the lost opportunity to double up from another big stack. Put a 8s up on the river and me thinks that SB goes broke in that hand. (Ks coming on the river would probably have given the same results as the 7s because I would have made the same decision to call only. ----- easy for me to say that now, but try only calling on the river with a straight flush in this tournament situation where 1st place is worth so much more than any other place.... :P)

The only way I win this hand would have been to make a substantial raise on the flop. I believe I made the correct play to attempt to trap (and then subsequently lost the minimum that I could expect to lose based on the turn and river cards) to take the chance to try and double up in the hand from a big stack. My opponent is semi bluffing the flop, and I believe he keeps it up if a blank comes on the turn. However, he hits his 3 outer, and he has the one card in the deck that was truly dangerous to me on the turn (meaning that I only had 1 out on the turn instead of 9; again assuming my opponent does not have AxKs or even AsKs - would he have only limped with those hands?) Does anyone have a differing opinion?

I think my assumptions during the hand that he did not flop the nut straigh nor make a flush on the turn (particularly with AsKs) are reasonable to make in a tournament situation. (especially in a "battle of the blinds" type hand)

There were a total of ~T$ 1 million chips, and potentially doubling up to 60k chips is far from comfortable. However, it is much easier to win a tournament if you are the chip leader and playing reasonably. With the structure of the payout, I think maximizing the chance of winning should be a higher priority than trying to finish in the money.

At any rate, I couldn't get anything going after this point. During the next round, I dropped my stack to around 20k. This worked out to 5th largest stack at the table, and from that point on, my timing was awful. e.g. I'd open raise in mid position w a hand like 99 or AQo, and a big stack would come over the top of me all in (perhaps I should have taken a stand sooner??). After I was ground down to 15x the big blind 3 levels later (exactly 1 minute before the next round where my stack would be 12x the big blind), I raised 2 limpers all in w TT and a solid player with a big stack reraised all in behind me immediately telling me I was in big trouble. Yes, he had A's and they did hold up. So I busted out around 40th place for quite an unspectacular showing.


In other news, I've decided to enter a $500+50 No Limit tourney at a local cardroom. My reasons?
- it is a moderate buyin tourney with a somewhat reasonable structure (reasonable, but not great - 30 minute levels with 3000 starting chips). It shouldn't be a total luck-fest like ~$100 buy in type live NL tournaments that I have often entered.
- the tournament is run locally and on a weekend. This means that I have essentially no travel expenses and I do not have to take any time off from my day job
- I really want more experience in playing live no limit tournaments with at least some decent players
Hopefully I can keep my head on straight for this event. I will be very content if I can make good poker and tournament decisions. Finishing in the money will be a big plus. Otherwise, it will be more hours of ring games to "make back" the cost of tournament entry. (I don't really think about tournament entry fees this way, but I still to try to keep in mind good bankroll management practices.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Differences between online and live play

Well my last 2.5 session hours have gone according to plan, so I'll use this opportunity to try and list some of the differences between online and live play. These are some things that I noticed or picked up on over the last few weeks. I'll add to this list as I encounter more things.

Actions that occur during a hand
string bet: A string bet is an illegal type of bet/raise. It occurs when a player starts putting chips in the pot (without saying the word raise) and then reaches back to his/her stack for more chips. The rationale behind this rule is that a player might be observing an opponent's reaction before actually committing chips to the pot. (e.g. if the opponent looks like he/she wants the raise, then the player would not raise, and vice versa) If you say the word raise, you can go back and forth to your chips as often as you like.

moving your chips over the line: Some players have a habit of holding chips in their hand. When it is their turn to act they may reach out with their hand and tap the table with the intention of checking. In some (perhaps many) cardrooms, this will actually be called a bet (if the chips cross over a line on the table, or in some cases if the chips pass in front of the players hole cards cards). The rationale for the rule is much the same as for the string bet.

throwing out an oversized chip preflop: If you throw out a single oversized chip preflop without making any verbal announcement, it will be classified as a call only. I've been burned by this before in a NL tournament when I picked up pocket As in the SB when the blinds were 25/50. 4-5 people had limped in, and I exchanged my 25 T$ chip for a 500 T$ chip without saying anything. The dealer immediately declared it as a call, and I lost a fairly sizable pot when the BB flopped 2 raggedy pair. (he instantly knew my hand because everyone at the table understood that I intended to raise, but I had no idea what he had)

verbal actions are binding: self explanatory

A common theme I have found is that you are generally better off to verbally call out your intentions. In fact, whenever you want to make a raise, I think you should always say "raise". There have been occasions in limit hold'em when I have tried to be fancy and say things like "3-bet" or "cap it", and the result was not optimal.
I have 2 examples of this: In the first hand I was on the button preflop w KK, and it had been raised in early position, and I somehow managed to miss that another player in between had reraised. When the action reached me, I said "3 bet" and ended up basically only calling the reraise. The hand ended up very multiway when I had intended to shut more people out by reraising.
In another limit ring game hand, I was in a situation where I was trapping a trapper, and, by not saying raise, I believe I cost myself at least 2 bets. I had been playing very tight for a long period of time, and just started changing gears. I raised UTG w J9s. It was folded to a tricky opponent in the BB who reraised me w KK. I am positive my opponent put me on a big PP or AK. We took the flop headsup which came KQ3 rainbow. He checked, and I checked behind him. The turn came KQ3T rainbow. He bet and I smooth called with 2nd nuts. (probably another mistake on my part, but that is not the point of this example) The river came KQ3T8. He bet, I said "2 bet", he said "3 bet", and then I stupidly said "cap it" which he just called. We were heads up so there are no limits on the number of raises. With the top set, I believe my opponent would have continued the raising. I strongly believe that when I said "cap it", it psychologically stopped him from raising. In fact I believe it cost me 4 bets or more...

acting out of turn: Most players are considerate enough not to fold out of turn. This is desirable because it does not give away free information to the player that is currently acting. However, when playing against untricky players, you can often look at the people on your left out of the corner of your eye and see that they are getting ready to fold. Against tricky players, this doesn't mean anything because they may be pretending they will fold when they will actually raise. ("weak means strong")

chopping the blinds: in a ring game, if everyone folds to the blinds a common thing that is done is called "chopping the blinds". In that case, the hand is not played, and the each of the blind players take back their chips. This is regardless of their hands. It is generally considered a friendly thing to do. I always chop the blinds simply because I want to keep the appearance of the game to be friendly (and for the same reason, I often chat with my neighbors between or during hands) even though I just want to take every single chip from every single player at the table.

showing or mucking your hand at the showdown: One of the most common mistakes I have made since starting to play live is that I will sometimes show my losing hand on the river when it is unnecessary. This is a category of mistake that I consider very stupid. I don't believe in giving away information for free. Keep in mind though that if the hand goes to the showdown, any player that was dealt in the hand can request to see the hole cards of any player involved in the showdown. However, this is not commonly done, and may be considered rude. I have seen it done less than 20 times in the first ~1000 hands I have played.

coloring up in a limit ring game: Good players that have accumulated a large number of chips will often exchange a large portion of their small denomination chips for a few large denomination chips. This is called coloring up (this kind of thing is also always done at certain stages of tournaments). In the case of ring games, one motivation for coloring up is to partially hide how well you are doing. For example, some new inexperienced player may join the table and become very intimidated to see immense chip stacks at the table. By coloring up, you can appear to have a very moderate size chip stack, when it is actually huge. (you are not allowed to remove chips from the table while remaining in the game)

live straddle: this is a strange decision that I haven't really figured out the relative merits of yet. The idea is this: The UTG player can choose to put in a blind bet that is twice the size of the BB. By doing so, the UTG player gets to act last preflop (after the BB acts), but acts normally after the flop. I have seen players elect to make this choice maybe 3 times out of probably 1000 hands that I have played. On all of those occasions, the player was on tilt. Perhaps in some cardrooms, it may be a more regular common choice..... It definitely induces more action and bigger pots.

chop: a pseudo karate chop to the table is the univeral symbol for chop. For example, you might use this action when tipping the dealer. If you toss a $2 chip at the dealer and make the chopping motion, the dealer will understand that you are tipping $1, and toss you back a $1 chip.

When to play your first hand?: When you first sit down in a ring game, you can either choose to wait until it is your turn to take the BB (which could be right away) or wait to post a blind bet equal in size to the BB in any other position (except the SB and the button). The 2 most common positions people will post in is in a special temporary position in between the button and the SB or in the CO position. You can often identify that a person has come to gamble if they will sit down UTG and post right away (instead of waiting for 1 more hand to take the BB).
It is not 100% clear in my mind what is the best decision to make if I am faced with the choice of taking the BB or posting in between the button and SB. Very many players elect to choose to post in between instead of taking the BB. However, in games where you only have to post 1/3 of the BB in the SB position, I think it is much better to take the BB than to post in between. The reason is that it only costs you 1/3 of a BB to receive 2 more hands. It is less clear to me when the SB is 1/2 of the BB. I will sometime decide to post in between with the rationale that I will observe my opponents for 2 more hands before I start playing against them (additional information on their tendencies).