Saturday, July 16, 2005

Random musings

Money? I don't think about the damn money!
Below is an excerpt from Barry Greenstein's new book, Ace on the River. It seems like a very accurate statement. I remember watching interviews with Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth who both made statements to the same effect.

Knowing the value of money is negatively correlated to being a good poker player. I have
never heard anyone say, "He is not afraid to bluff for his last dollar, but he is a careful shopper."

I definitely play better poker when I make no consideration for what actual money is being wagered. Sometimes, it is hard to put it out of mind. The key point is to utilize the correct strategy for whatever type of game you are in, and ignore the stakes. It is not uncommon for there to be looser action at higher limit tables. I think the only consideration for stakes is whether or not playing at a particular limit introduces significant risk of going broke (i.e. is your bankroll sufficient large to prevent a minor bad run from wiping you out?)


Sticky chips
The chips that are in use at my local poker room are coated with a surface that gives the chips a tendency to sometimes stick together. This can often lead to minor difficulties when counting off chips to make a bet or raise.

Typically whenever I bet or raise, I have been taking a stack of twenty chips and then breaking off groups of 3 or 4 chips in a pile (depending on if I am making a 3, 4, 6, or 8 chip bet or raise). For example, when I am making an 8 chip raise I make 4 piles of 4 chips. However, when I am making the 4 piles, often a pile will only have have 3 chips because the 4th chip is still stuck on the bottom of the stack in my hand. I will jiggle the stack in my hand so the 4th chip falls off.

Related to this is the well known tell that when a player making a bet or raise has a very powerful hand, he/she will often have a trembling or shaking hand.

I have played enough hands of Hold'em to have seen essentially every possible situation (~150,000 hands of no limit, and 50,000 hands of limit). I generally think I should be able to contain my joy when I make a monster hand. However, I've only played about 8,000 hands of live poker.

I have a small worry related to the tell. In a live game when I have a monster hand, my concern is that my hand may still have a slight tendency to shake (perhaps if I was being not focused enough on the situation) and having to jiggle with the chips might magnify the tell.

One technique that I have noticed that many of the experience players use is to count out chips in advance (e.g. while the dealer is in the process of dealing) so they can just fire off the appropriate number of chips in one quick motion. This is probably the best solution to my minor concern when playing limit hold'em at my local poker room.


Running well

Things continue to go well in the live $20/$40 game. I am generally happy with my micro and macro decisions.

For example, when I started my most recent session I sat down in the only $20/$40 table running. It was actually quite a tough table. Of the 2 bad players who were at the table when I sat down, 1 busted in the first 5 hands, and the other spent a substantial amount of time away from the table on his cell phone. During the 1st hour, I was involved in ~zero~ showdowns. I was playing no different than I have been recently. Showdowns were not happening because no one was ever calling. Raise or fold in every instance. It was really tough. I was actually down over 13BB at one point during the first hour. I never picked up any good hands in good situations, and had to make a number of tough decisions with marginal hands.

At any rate, by about the 1 hour mark, 2 more $20/$40 games had started. One game was a must move, and the other was a main game, like my current one. I asked the floor for a table change which happened within a few minutes. You could argue that I should have left the table within about 30 minutes. However, I am satisfied I did move before taking any more punishment. Another alternative that is probably more optimal bankroll-wise would have been to drop to easier lower limit games until there were sufficient $20/$40 games to make a good table selection. On the flip side, playing in a tougher game is actually quite interesting, challenging and educational.

The move to the other main game coinicided with my first ever real rush in a $20/$40 game. It was a rush that was on and off for about 2 hours. My stack increased by roughly 35 big bets during that time period. It was no where near as good as rushes I have seen other players go on, but it was the best one I have experienced thus far. (I have seen rushes in the +75-80BB range within 2 hour periods) I only list it now to help me remember in the future that occasionally rushes can happen to me too. In the past, my winning sessions were much more of a grind.

To be realistic, I don't expect to have many extended rushes given my playing strategy. I will be very content to not have any substantial bad streaks. (I'm talking about in $20/$40 and higher games. Lower limit games is a completely other matter. I have had +40BB rushes in 1 hour periods in $6/$12 and $8/$16 games using the same playing strategy but having sufficient terrible opponents to make those results possible)

I'll list a few hands from the rush:
- The first time I took the big blind, it was folded to the button who raised. BB folded, I called with 33 (planning to check raise if rags flopped). Flop came A37 rainbow. I check called the flop, and check raised the turn when a 2 flush came. Unfortunately, the button didn't have much of a hand because he folded. Pity, if he held an A, it would almost certainly have meant 2 more BB for me.
- I was dealt AA 4 times and it held up on each occasion ~~~unimproved!!~~~ (although 1 hand was when I was in the big blind, and it was folded to the blinds where we chopped). In each of the other 3 scenarios, I slow played the Aces until the turn. (I did have legitamate reasons for slow playing them though. In each of those 3 situations, the way the action occured, the hand was going to be played multiway no matter what I did preflop or on the flop. Tactically, I needed to wait until the turn to maximize my chances to knock out other players. Actually on 1 of the 3 hands I did raise preflop, but I check called the flop. I was very lucky not to have been outflopped or outturned. In those 3 hands, the river showdown ended up being headsup with the opponent's hand being top pair top kicker twice, and KK unimproved once. (In the hand vs. the KK opponent, I still believe I didn't lose any money by slow playing. The opponent was a very smart player, and I strongly believe the result would have been close to the same. When I check raised the turn, he called my hand as either Aces or a set; although he did pay the $80 to see my hand. Quite possibly some other one pair hands might have been able to reach the river if I had been more aggressive preflop or on the flop)
- I cracked Aces of a solid player. UTG+1 open raised, MP called, SB called, I call with 2c6c in the big blind. Flop comes 2h6h9h. I check, UTG+1 bets, MP and SB fold. I check raise to see where I am at. UTG+1 3 bets (which I interpret as most likely an overpair). I call. Turn comes offsuit T. I check raise again. UTG+1 calls. River comes offsuit 8, putting 4 to the straight on board. STUPIDLY I let it be checked down. My opponent almost certainly has a big pocket pair here, and I definitely missed a value bet there. The only reasonable hands that beat me are 99 and TT, and even then I don't expect to be raised even if my opponent holds those hands. Turns out my opponent had AhAx, so I dodged 14 outs on the flop and 17 outs on the turn! Yikes! When you are runnning good, no one can seem to catch up.
- I limp in MP with 55 and see a 4 way flop with me in the best position. Flop comes T73, 1 flush draw. Checked around. Turn T737, 2 flush draws. Checked to me, I bet, 2 callers. Board pairs on Ts on the river, and I'm stuck with a 5 kicker (TT775). My opponents check fold to my bet. Whew, this is how a rush feels!
- I raise one limper in MP with KhQh. Blinds and limpers call. Flop comes AhTh5c. Checked to me, I bet, everyone calls. blank comes on the turn. Checked to me, I bet, everyone calls. 6h comes on the river. BB bets, limper folds, I "think" for about 10 seconds, and notice that SB is going to fold (so there is ~zero~ point in only calling for an overcall or a check raise, besides even if SB might call only 1 bet, I should still raise with the nuts). I raise, SB folds, BB calls with his small flush. I show, Limper exclaims, "Damn!!!! My A was good."

The game actually got much better for the next 2-3 hours, with a VERY loose aggressive player, a total donkey, and a third somewhat loose player who sat down saying "I'm here to gamble". However, in this type of situation, the hands tend to be very multiway and almost certainly require having the best hand to win. I won very few pots in this period. That is just the way these situations go. The donkey put out some amazing suckouts during that time (runner runner, rivered gutshot when flop and turn was capped, etc), and paid off a very large number of river bets with truly ridiculous hands (e.g. bottom pair of 2s, 6 kicker when the board had 4 to the flush. The showdown was with the VERY loose player who had "bluffed" with 4th pair 3s, lousy kicker. Nice value bet.) Quite a sight to see. It was actually a pretty entertaining few hours, although pretty uneventful for me. I tried on every opportunity to see a flop with suited connectors, but missed every time. I was also "lucky" not to get any big pocket pairs during this time.

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