Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Quick summary

No time to finish up a detailed trip report.

Work is quite busy, and at the end of the week, my wife and I are headed on a weeklong vacation to Canada. Lots to do between now and then, so I'll just summarize the things I want to remember.

- Played a total of about 5 hours combined at $30/$60 and $40/$80. The games are good, particularly the $30/$60. In both $30/$60 sessions I played, there were 2-3 complete donks (where do these guys get the money to play in the $30 game? They seemed to have endless wads of $100 bills coming out of their pockets. It was almost painful to watch one particular guy - he kept calling bet after bet when he was behind and then won the absolute tiniest pots when he had a hand. Even the most unobservant players could tell when he had a hand.), and a mixture of LAGs (small number), loose passives and weak tights. I played 1 afternoon session and 2 late night sessions. The afternoon session was just as good as the late night sessions.
- The sickest hand I witnessed during these sessions was when a 4 way pot got capped preflop by a LAG. The board came in this order: 76K rainbow, A, 5 no flush possible. The hole cards were: QQ, KK, AA and yes, the LAG had 34o. It's not just online poker that rigged.... The very ironic thing is that LAG did not play this hand too poorly. He 3 bet preflop againist a raiser who was capable of laying down a hand postflop, and I would argue that on a relative scale his cap was not the worst decision made in the hand - given the way preflop action developed, it was vastly apparent that none of his opponents had cards anywhere near his 34. By far, QQ played this hand the worst.
- I played well in my afternoon 30/60 session finishing down 6BB. During the late night 30/60 session, I did not play well, but got hit in the face with the deck (including my royal flush) finishing up close to 30BB in one hour, plus I probably made 4-5BB worth of mistakes. During my brief 40/80 session (from what I can vaguely remember about it), I played pretty awful finishing down 1/2 BB.
Sleep....sleep is important.

- I was very undisciplined with my time management. I slept for less than 3 hours of my 43 hours, I should have allocated more like 7-8. I played poker for less than 7 hours. Considering this was supposed to be a poker trip, this is ridiculous.

- I miscounted my results during the trip. I wasn't able to reconcile things correctly until I got home. It gets confusing when I don't write down the results after each session. The first night when I got back to the hotel room I had 6-7 different wads of cash, and I ended up getting mixed up between a craps session and a poker session.

- I had only 1 uncomped meal during the whole trip. However, this was at a nicer steakhouse with lots of wine being ordered by the alcy's. Being a non-drinker, this sucked. I don't think all the comped meals made up for it. Oh well...

- I spent almost 50% of my hours at table games. Quite embarassingly, I hit very hard at these games. Mathematically, I estimate my strategy should result in a ~$20/hour loss at these games. Well, the standard deviation is pretty large in craps. I think in the future, I'm not going to make poker trips to Vegas when I will be meeting up with friends who like to play table games. Poker trips will be poker trips first and foremost, and gambling trips will be primarily gambling trips.

I guess these are the only notable points.

My poker plans after my vacation are to rebalance my online vs live time allocation. For the last few months, it has been somewhere around 20:80 (online:live). I would like to reverse that for a couple of months. The primary reason is that I moved a large portion of my online funds into a live-only fund. I have a policy that (after making my initial online deposit last year) I will never deposit any more money online, only withdraw. It is a big waste of time (from many standpoints) to have an online bankroll that can only play at low limits.

I intend to rebuild my online bankroll while simultaneously moving back up in limits. I'll see if I can build up the funds in the Party accounts within 2 months to play $15/$30. I currently have an online bankroll spread out across all sites to play $10/$20, while the funds I have in the Party skins is only enough for $3/$6. To lighten up the monotony of online limit ring games, I will use money at non-Party sites to play in medium stakes $30-$200 tournaments and SNGs (mostly at Stars). I'm not sure how practical it will be to do this because I find it very difficult to multitable limit ring games with no-limit tournament games, since the thinking is very different. I will probably multitable limit ring games together only, and then multitable no-limit tournament/SNG games seperately. (perhaps, most nights playing ring games, and occasionally dedicating nights for tournaments/SNGs) Another alternative is to start taking a shot at no limit ring games, but that is not the current plan.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Vegas Trip report - August

This was again a short but eventful trip. From the time I got off the plane until the time I boarded the return flight, I was in the city of Las Vegas for a grand total of 43 hours.

Disappointingly, I think the theme of the weekend can be sumed up in 3 words - lack of discipline.

This was supposed to be an educational poker trip with a few small breaks mixed in with catching up with old friends and getting to know some new ones. I would give myself a grade of C- on all three categories.

Hmmm, now this has started off as probably the most boring trip report ever. Didn't I just say that this was an eventful trip?? Let's see if I can remember some of the good stuff....


How can I start off with mentioning anything other than that once-in-a-poker-lifetime event? Yes, I'm talking about that 19,600:1 miracle, the mother of all hands - flopping a Royal Flush in a live game (when dealt suited broadways). This coinicided with, at the time, the highest limit stakes I have ever played, namely $30/$60.

Here's how it went down (and yes, I did enter this hand like a big fat donkey)

hand #1
I'm in an 8 seated live $30/$60 limit hold'em game at the Bellagio having joined the table ~30 minutes earlier. The game has been loose and relatively passive. There was quite a bit of junk being shown down on the river. Only one player (currently in the CO seat) has been showing a high degree of aggression - mostly in 2 or 3 way situations. Most hands so far have been 4-5 ways to the flop with about 2/3 of them without a raise. I'm currently UTG. I believe there were 3 locals seated on my immediate left, though none of them bothered me. The first two had been playing loose semi-passive and the third was weak passive. I hadn't seen too much from the button player, but he had cold called at least a couple of pfr's. The blinds were friends and both very extremely loose and would call all the way to the river with any pair and chase all the way with any draw or overcards. I'm not 100% certain, but this may be the first hand that I have voluntarily entered.
- preflop: I find KhJh UTG and I limp with absolutely no plan, I guess out of boredom. Surprisingly everyone folds to the blinds. SB completes. BB raises. I suddenly become worried about a possible collusion situation, and I call expecting and getting 5:1 (3 players, 6 small bets)
- flop: AhQhTh - bingo bingo. Both blinds ~instantly~ check their hole cards. Sorry boys, neither of you have a big heart. SB bets, BB raises. Woo hoo! Please, please be colluding!!! I elect to call. SB slows down and only calls. Damn! (3 players, 12 small bets)
At this point, I'm praying for the board to pair or at least for no more hearts to come. I think that any broadway card will be very good for me, and there should be at least 11 more of those.
- turn: AhQhTh9c - SB checks, BB bets, I decide to be "conservative" and raise here. I mean conservative because I know that both players will call me all the way given the strength of the hands that both have represented, and I was concerned that SB will only call the turn. I believe that my thinking was that a heart on the river would kill the action, but that if either opponent did improve there was a decent chance for there to be 2 or more bets going in on the end anyway. (3 players, 12 big bets)
- river: I don't remember, but the river card was a brick. Both blinds quickly checked and then quickly called my last bet. I flip over the royal. BB flips over his AJ. SB just stares at his hand for a pretty long time before mucking. At the time, I somehow thought he might have 2 pair, but the more I think about it, he probably just had something like top pair with a medium heart.
Eric was sitting at the next $30/$60 table, so I called him over to be the "official" witness. His first word was "Wow!", and he second thing he said was "So you play KJ UTG, huh?". :) Yes, yes, I play bad.


Hmmm, I'm pooped. I'll finish this trip report off some other time. Time to get some much needed sleep.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Upcoming weekend

My next trip to Vegas is this weekend. Woohoo!

I've put some thought into how I will allocate my time.

My first thoughts had been that the best games should be in the midnight to 6am time frame. However, even if this is the case, given my immediate circumstances, this still may not be the best time for me to play.

Based on reviewing my live results for the last few months in terms of the time-of-day, my results from best to worst are: mid day, morning, mid afternoon, early evening, late night. I actually don't have a lot of data for the evening/late night sessions. Even for the other time periods, my sample sizes are not large. Results may not be meaningful. I also track "known mistakes", and the only clear thing that seems to pop out is that I make very few mistakes during mid day and mid afternoon sessions.

My internal clock seems to be having a significant influence. I've tried resting before late night sessions, but my mind is still not very sharp. Short term memory is not as good. My attention wanders.

I see that pro players that can shift back their clocks effectively by 6-12 hours have a tremendous advantage since they can play at a time they are at their best and their avg opponent is at his worst.

I do not know quite what to expect for day games. During my late July trip, the day time games were packed with locals.

I've decided that I will play 30/60 or 40/80 at the Bellagio or Mirage on Saturday afternoon (depending on wait lists, game quality, time constraints - like where and when we are meeting up for dinner; for these reasons I may end up playing in 15/30 or 20/40 games). After dinner, I think my friends will want to play craps before heading to the various types of clubs, and since this is the only chance I'll have to join them, table games it will be then. After this, I think I will head to Mirage to play 20/40 for a few more hours.

Unless I am quite wrong about the number of locals playing in the daytime games, Sunday I plan on playing in the daily $500+40 NL tourney at the Bellagio. I really don't know if I should bother with playing a satellite, however my default plan will be to do so. The reason is that I am feeling quite good about my single table SNG skills at the moment. The tourney starts at 2pm, and if I last a very long time, I'm likely only going to play 8/16 or 10/20 for a few hours after dinner. If I make a very quick exit, I will give 30/60 another shot.

I had better get good rest for the next couple of nights. During my last Vegas trip, my sleep schedule was totally messed up. I don't want to go through that again.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bubble Boy

I just got knocked out of a 2 table $50+5 Party SNG right on the bubble. Smallish stakes I know, but an interesting hand came up about 5 minutes before I got knocked out. Now for today's edition of "How would ~you~ play it?"

5 players remaining, avg stack 4000, blinds are 100/200, 10 minute levels, 3-4 minutes left in this level. "Phil give us a chip count."
UTG: 2700 chips
CO: 5100 chips
Hero on button: 6100 chips
SB: 2900 chips
BB: 3200 chips

hand #1
- preflop: UTG folds, CO limps, Hero looks down and finds QcQh.

What do you do?

SB has truly been playing survival poker; I have come over the top of his raises before while on the bubble as chip leader and he insta folded. BB is playing about average, but not going out of his way to survive - he would probably call an all in w JJ or better and AK, AQs.
CO is fairly loose. He is also a "trapper". He could limp reraise big with any pocket pair as low as 77, any A down to a T, and probably A9s. He will also call a lot of raises if he already limped with a wide range of hands including the above plus any big K, smaller As, QJs, etc.

The cardinal sin when chip leader is to get involved with 2nd chip leader in marginal situations. What is the best way to avoid that here?

He has a huge range of hands that I'm a big favorite over. I really don't want him to call a sizeable raise with an A, K or a suited connector. An A or K is going to flop more between 33-41% of the time (depending on if he has zero, one or both), and some kind of draw is going to flop the majority of the time (not that the draw connects with his hand, but it will worry me - since it will be very hard for me to get away from the hand with an overpair).

In the actual hand, I decided to push all in strongly preferring not to see a flop (and naturally hoping CO hadn't been trapping with AA or KK, although his hand range is so large, I would argue this is a very minor risk. Even if the blinds wake up with AA or KK, I won't be hurt too much)

The blinds insta folded, and CO insta called with AKo. 3 blanks come on the flop, but the dreaded A comes on the turn. I'm crippled.

I'm thinking this is a moderate-deep stack NL situation, and I severely misplayed the hand. CO still has 24.5 bb behind. I think I should have raised to something like 1500 (enough to let the blinds know they are being pot committed), and then pushed on a safe flop.

However, in practice, I think the result of the hand would have been the same. If I raise to 1500, I believe CO comes over the top all in anyways with a "monster" like AKo. However, if CO had a hand like AJ or ATs, he would have flat called and I can push him out on the flop.

Party pays out these 2 table SNGs in a 40%, 30%, 20%, 10% format.

Any different thoughts on how to play this hand?

I can just hear him thinking, "~Finally~, AK holds up!"


In yesterday's $100+$25 rebuy live tourney, I finished 20th out of 150 where the top 10 were paid. I liked the way I was playing until there were about 30 remaining. During those first 3 hours, my best starting hand was 44, but I believe I chose my spots well, and I never let myself get too short stacked.

When we got to 30 I was an average stack, but I believe I didn't put enough pressure on those who were trying to survive and importantly had a smaller chip stack. I should have stuck with what had been working so well.

I might have made a questionable play on my last hand.

I had 5x the big bind UTG at a 6 seated table when overall avg stack size is ~8.5bb. BB has only 2 bb total. I find KdJd and I push. CO has ~18 bb stack and very little respect for my raises. In this case, even that doesn't matter too much because he finds AKo and pushes all in behind me. I don't suck out.

I would say my defense for making this play was it was my first opportunity in 2 orbits to play a hand (someone had pushed in front of me or I'd have somelike like 24o), and I am playing to finish very high in the money, not just squeek into 10th. I don't want to go into my blind with only 4.5BB when I've picked up a reasonable starting hand. I have played often with BB, and I believe that even with 1/2 his stack already in the pot, he won't call an UTG push without a PP, any A, a K with 7 or better kicker, 2 broadways or 2 suited semi-connected cards higher than 7. I believe both button and SB's standards are substantially higher than this - 99 or better, AK or AQ.

However, I did know that CO would quickly call with any reasonable hand with his 18bb chip stack. We had some history. At about the 1.5 hour mark, I was down to only 5.5 bb when I was moved to his full table. 3 hands later, I open pushed w 58s in MP (yes quite loose aggressive, I know), and the CO (same guy, coincidentally in the same relative position) called after about 30 seconds with AJo. I flop a 5 and it holds up. First they have to call ya, then they have to beat ya. He has never see me play before. Personally, I don't like his call, but that's just me... everyone else at the table was praising him for his "great read". He was seriously upset about that "unbelievable beat". Uh huh, 60:40, what a suckout!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Unfortunate color change

I've had three straight losing sessions at $20/$40 live. The last session has the dubious honor of changing my net results for the last month and a half of $20/$40 from black to red. I'm down exactly 1.2 big bets from my last 70 session hours; that's -$48 for those of you who aren't math majors.

The true test of poker players is not how they play when running well, but how they handle things when running poorly.

Again I am having doubts on whether or not I am paying off too much on the river.

There are 3 hands from my last session that I've at least had some second thoughts about whether or not I should have called the last bet on the river. A simpler way for me to have handled these hands would not to have gotten involved at all, but how the heck am I going to learn anything if I never put myself in questionable situations?

Perhaps paying off on the river is not the main issue. Perhaps, I am just not paying enough attention to my opponents' tells. I'm allowing myself to get check raised far too often on the turn when I have just fallen behind on the last card. I could sure save a lot of money if I could spot tells of strength more often.

All of the following hands are 9 handed live $20/$40 limit hold'em. They are all very simple hands that occured within the span of 25 minutes with at most 1 new player at the table during that time.

hand #1
MP is an average player, MP+1, and the blinds are loose passive. MP+2 is aggressive when he has a legit hand, but is otherwise loose passive while drawing
- preflop: fold, fold, MP raises, MP+1 cold calls, MP+2 cold calls, I cold call in the CO w QhJh, button folds, blinds both call. (6 players, 12 small bets)
- flop: KhTc6d MP bets, MP+1 calls, MP+2 calls, I raise, all fold to MP+2 who calls (2 players, 18 small bets)
- turn: KhTc6dJd, MP+2 checks, I bet, MP+2 check raises, I call (2 players, 13 big bets)
- river: KhTc6dJc2s, MP+2 bets, I call, MP+2 shows Qd9d.

Preflop, I know that QJ is a frequently dominated hand, but as I'm sure you could tell from my frequent posts about wanting to fold, I won't get too married to top pair (or even 2 pair) if there is a lot of raising and reraising postflop. I expect multiway action for just 2 bets, and that is what I get.

Originally, I had only raised the flop to get a free card on the turn. However, I was able to get heads up. MP+2 plays some real trash hands and is quite the chaser. 78, 79, 89 suited and unsuited are well within the range. AT or in fact ~any~ A is quite possible. I didn't notice any tell from him, so I keep firing on the turn.

I know I am behind when he check raises the turn, and when I don't improve on the river, I don't have much choice but to pay him off. The pot is too big.

hand #2
button and BB are loose preflop, and chase reasonable draws post flop.
- preflop: fold, fold, MP (villian from previous hand) calls, I raise with KsQs, fold, fold, button calls, SB folds, BB and MP call (4 players, 8.5 small bets)
- flop: Kh7sTd, checked to me, I bet, everyone calls (4 players, 12.5 small bets)
- turn: Kh7sTd8d, checked to me, I bet, button and BB fold, MP check raises, I call (2 players, 10 big bets)
- river: Kh7sTd8dJd, MP bets, I call, MP shows 8s7d

This looks like another ABC hand to me. Does anyone play it any differently? (with the same information, i.e. I, yet again, have no tells on my opponent(s))

Okay, come to think of it, I don't have any doubts about whether or not to call on the river for these first 2 hands. In both hands I hesitated for 3-5 seconds before calling. Given the way these hands played, could I have saved a bet on this hand which happened only a few minutes later?

hand #3
MP, MP+1, BB are loose, passive with med str hands and draws, raises have always been with legit hands, no semibluffs yet; button is a solid player
- preflop: fold, fold, MP calls, MP+1 calls, MP+2 calls (villian from previous 2 hands), I call in CO w Kh9h, button raises, SB folds, everyone else calls (6 players, 12.5 small bets)
- flop: Ks6c8h, checked to button who bets, BB folds, MP, MP+1, MP+2 call, I check raise to see where I am at, button folds, MP and MP+1 call, MP+2 folds. (3 players, 20.5 small bets)
- turn: Ks6c8h7c, checked to me, I bet, MP folds, MP+1 check raises, I call (2 players, 14 big bets)
- river: Ks6c8h7cAh, MP+1 bets, I call, MP+1 shows Kd7d.

MP+1 is a loose player, but he does pay attention to the action since he loves to talk about hands later. I've played with him for well over 15 session hours. I have no doubt in my mind that he had remembered that I had been paying off on the river 100% of the time thus far. Even getting 15:1, I think I can fold here, but I pay him off anyway.

I didn't see him doing the "looking quickly at his chips" tell or the "looking away from the action" tell. I was looking right at him when the turn card was dealt, but I extracted nada from it. Gosh, it is really frustrating that I'm not learning to read opponents better.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Paying off on the river

Table image matters in a live mid stakes game. There seems to be a fine line between calling on the river too much when a scare card comes, and calling often enough to discourage observant players to bluff when a scare card hits. In regards to this dimension, I don't know where I stand with this hand.

I certainly played this hand incorrectly on the river.

hand #1
Live 9 seated $20/$40 limit hold'em game. UTG+1 is an unknown middle age man.
- preflop: fold, UTG+1 raises, folded to hero in the BB with AcQs. BB calls. (2 players, 4.5 small bets)
- flop: QcJs6c, hero checks, UTG+1 bets, hero check raises, UTG+1 calls (2 players, 8.5 small bets)
- turn: QcJs6cQh, hero bets, UTG+1 calls (2 players, 6 big bets)
- river: QcJs6cQhTc, hero checks, UTG+1 bets, hero calls. UTG+1 shows ThTd and wins a 8 big bet pot.

My river play was truly awful. I don't mind check folding the river. However, if I was going to call on the river, I should have bet instead and folded to a raise. The gentleman did not strike me as one who would raise on the river without a hand that had me crushed. However, I do believe he would have paid me off on the river with any pocket pair (although the only pocket pair he could reasonably have on the river that I could beat is 99, maybe 88. There are a small number of players who might have played the flop the same way w KK or AA, but not many). This range of hands is too small for me to value bet.
The way the hand played, I actually thought he had hit a gutshot with big slick, so in retrospect I made the call merely for advertising value to discourage others from bluffing me on the river. It's like taking $40 and lighting it on fire..... With the Ac in my hand, I'd at least know that he wasn't bluffing with a four flush with the Ac in his hand.
I'm actually really lucky I did not have AcJc because I would have a really hard time believing he had JJ,QQ or QJ since he didn't raise the turn, and an equally hard time believing he called all the way with TT. I think I would have at least called a 4 bet on the river with an A high flush here. Geez, I play bad.

Grinding away

I'm continuing to split my focus between improving my live game play and also building up the bankroll. Most days I play 2 sessions, a short live session and a slightly longer online session. (The day job really gets in the way!!! :P)

My net results from yesterday were my 2nd best ever for ring games. The live game was very average but I was fortunate to win a couple of sizable pots where my big hands held up, but just as importantly get in quite a few value bets on the marginal hands. The big pots really stand out in people's minds, but those marginal hands where you win (or save) 2-3 extra big bets per hour make a gigantic difference. The online session was the standard donk-fest. My Euro account still only has around $2k, so I'm still quad tabling at $3/$6. My online funds are spread out among too many accounts, and I should repatriate a decent amount at least to neteller so that I can at least feel comfortable playing $5/$10 6 max at Euro.

Today, I gave back about a third of yesterday's wins. The $20/$40 live game today was truly amazing. There was one player who cold called 2 or 3 bets cold preflop > 25 times in one hour. Even if this was not enough action, he then proceeded to go on tilt when he got 14 outed on the turn after flopping middle pair headsup. He simply was furious that some "horrible" player could suck out on him "like that". He is probably the 4th worse player I have ever seen play at $20/$40, but he was at the same table as 2 more in the top ten. This made for quite a game.

I ended up finishing the session down 11BB after roughly 75 hands, but that doesn't change the fact that this was a great game.

There were at least 2 occasions where I had top pair top kicker or better on the flop 3 way where I bet and was raised and 3 bet cold by 2 worse hands. I have to remember when I'm in games like this not to slow down when getting this kind of action from wild players.
It has been quite some time since I have been in a live game like this. Actually because of my scheduling, I'm often playing in moderately tough games with 1-3 props and 1-3 winning pros. This is a completely different beast. It is actually a lot more interesting, though I'd have to say my personal favorite is when there is a big diversity in skills and playing styles at the table.

At this point in my poker playing lifetime it is a bit of a toss up. The really good, or even moderately good games are usually not that mentally interesting. The tough but educational games have extremely poor financial returns.

Anyway, in the near future I will try to schedule my time better so that I can play in some more action based live games.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Good times, part deux

Well, today I took yet another shot at the small buy in ($100+$25) live no limit tournament at the local poker room. It was identical in structure and organization to last week's tourney. The prize pool (after rebuy's and addon's) was virtually identical to last week, roughly $36k. They paid the top 10 finishers (out of 150 entrants), with the top 4 finishers additionally getting an entry into a $1500+$80 tournament in October.

Again I employed a very aggressive strategy when we started getting close to the bubble. I stole repeatedly from players trying to make it to the money. I've got a much better feeling for how much of my focus should be on identifying weak players or players who are just trying to survive. Some very weak players will fold in the blinds to as little as a miniraise from a late position raiser, and it is critical to not miss these golden opportunities (small risk for decent reward..) in such a fast structure tournament. Basically, it is important to identify what is the minimum amount you need to raise to steal someone's blinds.

I believe I was the one who was all in on only 3 occasions. Once with QQ preflop with 16 players remaining and got called by both blinds (they both checked it down but the board was all rags), second with 5 players remaining with KTo when I open pushed from the SB with 5x BB when BB woke up with QQ (the door card was Q, but the flop also contained AJ, yowza!), and third when I pushed on the flop with 2 overcards and a flush draw with 4 players remaining.

I faced a tough decision when there were roughly 20 players remaining, and 2 very desperate short stacks (of roughly the same size) went all in preflop and it came to me in the big blind where I was getting 4:1 to call with T6o. So long as neither opponent had a pocket pair bigger than Ts, I believe I was getting the right price to call. Neither opponent looked comfortable with their hand. I made the call, facing pretty much the best situation I could hope for - one opponent had an underpair 55, and the other had 1 overcard K8o. I did not win this hand, but I do not regret this call. (I ran the numbers at home, and I had a 33% pot equity)
I think the risk reward was worth it, although my immediate neighbours were shocked with the call. Again, an additional benefit is that no one tried to steal my blind without a strong hand after this.
Come to think of it, the T6o hand was the only hand in the entire tournament that I called any one's all in. Even more generally, it was the only raise I called. Hmmm... Fold equity is pretty darn significant.

In the end, I finished in the top 3. At that point, we agreed on an even chop. I'm pretty happy with the deal because I think I was the short stack with somewhere around 25-27% of the chips. The chip leader had roughly low 40's% of the total chips. I believe I am a moderately better no limit tournament player than the chip leader (who is quite the gambler), however with avg chips being 210k and blinds at 10k/15k and rising in a 2 minutes, I was more than content with making an even three way split.

Since I already won a seat in last week's tournament, I was able to take the cash value of the seat. Good times...


Some uncomfortable situations came up immediately following the tournament. A complete stranger came up to me out of the blue and asked me for a small "loan". I hadn't even counted my prize money yet. There had been a moderate number of railbirds - perhaps 3 dozen, watching the final action, so it was no secret how much money each person won.

I politely refused, and got the hell out of there. Just as I was getting in my car, yet another person did the same thing. Again I politely told him no, and immediately drove off. I felt so uncomfortable that I kept my eyes open on the drive home to see if anyone followed me. I admit this is excessively paranoid, but I didn't like that situation at all.

I can only imagine how much of this kind of thing the big tournament winners go through.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Playing sets in big pots

I'm feeling rather unconfident about how to play bottom set in a "big" pot against a mixed group of opponents. I'll post a hand history, and I would appreciate any comments or suggestions.

hand #1
Live $20/$40 9 seated limit hold'em game. Players:
UTG - solid player
MP+1 - loose player, usually passive, generally only aggressive with monsters. very very freq cold caller preflop
MP+2 - fairly aggressive player, neither tight nor loose - somewhere in between
CO - aggressive but fairly intelligent player, makes "nice" laydowns
SB - hero
BB - loose chaser
- preflop: UTG open raises, fold, fold, MP+1 cold calls, MP+2 cold calls, CO cold calls, fold, SB calls with 4d4s, BB calls. (6 players, 12 small bets)
- flop: Jc7d4h, checked to MP+2 who bets, everyone calls. (6 players, 18 small bets)
- turn: Jc7d4h9c, checked to MP+2 who bets, CO calls, SB check raises, BB calls, UTG folds, MP+1 3 bets cold, MP+2 folds, CO folds, SB calls, BB calls. (3 players, 20 big bets)
- river: Jc7d4h9c5c, BB bets out, MP+1 calls in a very agitated state, SB folds. BB shows Qc7c, MP+1 frustratingly shows Ts8h. (BB wins 22 big bet pot)

I'm going to start off by saying that no matter how I play this hand, given which actual opponents had drawing hands, I will not make it to the river with the best hand. However, that is irrelevant. I just want to understand how I should optimally play this hand.

The 2+2 books preach that when a pot is big, you must do whatever it takes to maximize your chance of winning the pot. This 12 small bet pot on the flop fits their description of a big pot.

At what point in the hand should I reveal my strength? On the flop, the board is a rainbow and I generally suspect that players that called with suited connectors would tend to have hands that are higher than 7, so I'm much less worried about the 2 gapper between the 7c and the 4h. There is a 3 gapper between the Jd and 7c so in terms of draws there are only gutshots and overpairs drawing to a set. (unless I am already way behind in set over set) 2 pair is not a likely possibility on this board except for BB. Actually, since BB can have any 2 cards, he may also have the low straight draw on the flop.

With 5 opponents on the flop, I have 2 choices: i) check raise to try and knock out the runner runner draws, ii) slow play the flop hoping for a good turn card - the best cards obviously giving me quads or a full house (7 cards), but I also like a 2, Q, K, A (especially when they don't put a flush draw on board). 3 or 5 are somewhat okay, but I will be somewhat conservative if someone shows a lot of strength when they hit.

Given what I actually did on the flop, I'm comfortable with how I played the turn. The only thing I reconsidered was whether or not to cap it after MP+1 3 bets cold. The only reason to do this is to make BB pay more for his obvious draw - but he will always call 2 more here. Capping can't be right on the turn given my read on MP+1's style - I don't believe he makes this move without a better hand than mine.

Once again, my primary question is when do I show strength in this hand?

If there were 7 or 8 opponents in the hand, how does this affect my decision? I think I would be more inclined to check raise the flop since there are likely to be more runner runner draws.
At what number (and types) of opponents is it safe to slow play this flop?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Good intentions, but bad behavior?

I've got another Vegas trip coming up in about 2 weeks, and I feel the need to pad up my bankroll a little more. A substantial percentage of my poker time lately has been focused on live play, and while that is interesting/enlightening/fun/educational/etc.., it is very inefficient timewise at making money from a risk/reward point of view.

I decided to multitable $3/$6 at Party and Euro simultaneously to clear the latest Party bonus and also get more rakeback in my Euro account. This is so much more efficient and reliable than playing live $20/$40. I actually have very little money in my online accounts, so it would actually be unwise to play multitable $5/$10, let alone $10/$20 or $15/$30.

My online bankroll is very borderline now. If I can put in a few good sessions at $3/$6 this week, I'll have a reasonable online bankroll for $5/$10 for next week. I'd like to set a goal for earning $1800 from online ring games before going to Vegas. That will give my overall poker bankroll another 30 big bets of cushion to play $30/$60 at the Bellagio.

Results-wise, tonight's $3/$6 session was reasonable. 3 hours with +5BB/100 hands, plus the bonus and rakeback.

However, my big mistake was to start this session while not well rested/mentally prepared. When multitabling to that degree, you take a lot of ridiculous beats. Without thinking, I started getting upset. Over time I started muttering and swearing under my breath. My wife was in the same room working on her laptop, and this is just the kind of thing that really disheartens her to see.

There was absolutely no reason for me to get upset while playing online limit ring games. It serves no useful purpose. Whenever this kind of thing happens, I always apologize to my wife later. However, I'm sure from her point of view, my bad behavior just seems to happen over and over and over again. I say I'm sorry, but practically the next time she sees me playing online, I'm back at it again - groaning, moaning, tsking, shaking my head...

My wife grants me a wide degree of freedom to pursue my poker hobby, and I simply must do better. I owe that much to the both of us.

Driving to the bricks and mortar poker room gives me a few minutes to get into the right mindset. I have to make it a habit to spend a minute or two getting ready before jumping into any online session.....

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Hello brain, is anyone home?"

I'm finding that I am making a lot less obvious mistakes in my live limit game these days. Realistically, I'm surely making numerous mistakes in every session, but my opponents are not so kind as to give free feedback!

My main concern is that my learning curve is slowing down rapidly. I found that during my first 20 session hours at $20/$40, I would be picking up many new things from every session. The next 20, probably I would have one discovery or insight per session. Lately, I've been playing mostly on autopilot.

I'd like to keep learning, and I'm unsure of the best way to do this. I always try to discuss interesting hands with other players that I respect.

I think this might also be a good time to go back and re-read some books. Perhaps The Psychology of Poker, Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players, The Theory of Poker, Caro's Book of Poker Tells, etc...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Good times

I am extremely pleased with the way I have been running in the small buy in live hold'em tournaments at the local poker room.

Today I finished 4th/149 in the $100+25 no limit rebuy tournament which paid $1900 + a $1500+80 seat into another no limit tournament in a couple of months. 1st was $10k + the seat, and while I'm disappointed not to go all the way, I'm still pleased with 4th.

I believe that I was involved in 3 coin flips in this tournament where I had the pocket pair all 3 times. I was lucky enough to win all 3 (although I was the one who was all in only on 1 occasion)

A while back I commented to my wife how effective some players are by just being very aggressive in NL tournaments, forcing other players to back down. She asked me, "Why can't everyone just do that?"

A funny thing happened during the tournament that had an effect on how I played. At roughly the 1.5 hour mark into the tournament, I received a cell phone call from my VP. He told me there was some incident at work, and that he needed me to come in and help with the investigation. He did say that currently things were stable, and mostly just an explaination needed to be generated. I told him, I would try to get to the office in around an hour and a half.
He said that one or two hours wasn't a big deal, but he finished with saying that he would be in the office for the next 6-7 hours, so he would be there when I got in. (Great...)

I based this estimation on my expected median finish time. I had been assuming, as in previous weeks, that the top 18 players would be getting paid. I figured that the 3 hour mark would be very close to the bubble. Thus, if I reached the money, then I would be a little late to get to the office. The higher I placed in the money, the later I would be.
There was a change in the payout structure this time though where only the top 10 were being paid out, and the top 4 finishers also received seats into a $1500+80 NL tournament. This made the payout considerably more top heavy than usual.

This had a moderate effect on my strategy. I had no fear on going broke, and I was able to push a lot harder. I would guesstimate that I was more aggressive on 8-10 hands during the remainder of the tournament than I normally would have, and from these hands I took in around 20-25 big blinds. It was mostly from stealing blinds, but also from a couple of all in calls from loose or very desperate players.

Interestingly, during the 5 hours or roughly 180 hands that I played, I never showed down a hand where I was not the favorite. When I was pure bluffing, I never got called. This has got to be mostly luck. However, I certainly did take advantage of people near the bubble. I made it quite clear to the people at my table that I was not afraid to get involved. I would open push from MP+1 or later, with my 6-8BB slightly above average stack and players with similar or slightly larger stacks would grumble and throw away hands like 88, AQ since we were close to the bubble.
Stealing the blinds with a 6-8BB slightly above average stack is huge. And as a additional benefit, my opponents were afraid to attack my blind. Twice in one 20 minute level, everyone folded to my big blind. I was thrilled with my table image.

During the entire tournament I was only all in twice.

At the 2 hour mark, I had the following hand:
- preflop: an early position player who always makes his bets proportional to the strength of his hand limps, a very very weak player to my immediate right limps in MP+1, I have a slightly below average stack of 18 big blinds and find 5c5s and I push. Button calls my all in with AQo and everyone else folds. My hand holds up.
Certainly I was gambling with this hand, but my reasons for pushing were:
- I really do want to have an above average stack, and I will not pass on any opportunity to push when I'm likely to have the best hand.
- EP limp is dead money
- weak player is capable of laying down very good hands preflop. In this case, weak player laid down AKo.
- 3 of the 4 people behind me are experienced tournament players who would won't get involved without a big hand.
- the weak player has only shown down monster hands like KK or QQ, and in some ways weak player protected my hand. Weak player was on my immediate right, and while I was willing to gamble that WP wouldn't call, everyone else at the table had to worry that either I or WP had a big hand.
Button was a inexperienced gambler who did pick up a hand, but I was lucky enough to survive the coin flip.
A few months ago, I never would have made this play.

The only other time I was all in was on my last hand. Avg chips was ~160k. I had 70k in the BB and was the short stack. 2nd short stack was UTG with about 90k. Button and SB had roughly the same chips. Blinds are 10k, 15k. UTG is a loose gambler.
- preflop: UTG pushes, folded to me, I find KQo. I'd prefer that the 3rd chip stack get involved with someone else, but I'm getting 1.7:1 on my money. UTG is fairly loose, and will likely push fairly often, but I need to consider if my stack can outlast his gambling it up. If I fold here and also on in my SB, I will be down to 4.5BB which is very likely to be called when I do push, so I think this is the place to take a stand. I call. UTG shows K9o.
- postflop: K9424
This hand cost me roughly $2000. Uggg.

I later find out that UTG finishes in 3rd. Big surprise... Waah, waah! That's all you can do....

(I ended up arriving at work 3.5 hours after my VP called me, but the work stuff got resolved in a reasonable period of time after arriving so no damage done, I guess.)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Poker is gambling

It is funny when I hear a "good" poker player saying "Poker isn't gambling". The speaker is implying that since there is skill involved in poker, then it is not gambling.

I would certainly agree that there are skills that people can use to significantly improve their results to maximize their wins and minimize their loses. However, the outcome of any given hand has a great deal of uncertainty that is substantially impacted by factors that are out of control of the players (e.g. the distribution of cards, the suit and rank of the next card to come off the deck, etc).


I'll post a couple of hands that I played today in a live $20/$40 limit hold'em game. I know I was gambling in these hands. In the first hand I gambled to win a bigger pot, and in the second hand I gambled to maximize my chance of winning the pot. My decisions in these hands are debatable at best and perhaps quite poor. I want to write about them to generate some thoughts about them.

Hand #1 was my 2nd hand at this table, and Hand #2 was less than 30 minutes later. It is a 9 seated $20/$40 limit hold'em game.

hand #1
MP+1 is an unknown, but looks like a loose gambling player from his presentation. BB is a semi-loose semi-aggressive player who just folded a gutshot draw on the turn of the previous hand which hit on the river (His pot odds had been ~4.5:1 on the turn, and the draw was a draw to the nuts.) He had agonized for 15 seconds before folding and was a tad steamed when the card hit.
- preflop: folded to MP+1 who raises, folded to me in the SB, I look down and find AhAd, and I call only, BB calls. (3 players, 6 small bets)
- flop: QdThTs, blinds check. MP+1 bets, I check raise, BB smooth calls, MP+1 calls (3 players, 12 small bets)
- turn: QdThTs4d, I check, BB bets, MP+1 calls, I insta fold (2 players, 8 big bets)
- river: QdThTs4d6c, BB bets, MP+1 calls, BB shows QsTc, MP+1 folds. (final pot: 10 big bets)

In hand #1, I was right in the borderline position where it is debatable for me whether or not to 3 bet preflop. If I was heads up in the big blind I will almost always call only. If I was on the button or earlier I would always reraise. Definitely the safe play is to reraise. If the BB folds preflop, then I will likely win 4.5 big bets in the hand vs. losing 2 big bets. If the BB calls the reraise, I will likely lose 5 big bets.
Based on my later chats with BB and observing his play, I believe he folds QTo about 70% of the time to a reraise, but this folding % might be less than 25% if he was on tilt from missing out on the river suckout on his immediately preceeding hand.
I was very worried when I saw the flop, and specifically check raised to test both players for a T. To be fair, despite the unlucky flop, I was actually very lucky that it was so apparent that I was outflopped. If the flop had come 2cQdTh, I would likely have lost 4.5-5.5 big bets.

hand #2
UTG is a semi-loose semi-aggressive player, MP and MP+1 are passive, CO is semi-loose aggressive, Button and SB are loose aggressive,
- UTG calls, fold, MP calls, MP+1 calls, fold, CO calls, button calls, SB completes, I find KhKd in the BB and I check (7 players, 7 small bets)
- flop: 3c7h9h, checked around to the button who bets, SB folds, I call, UTG folds, MP calls, MP+1 calls, CO folds (4 players, 11 small bets)
- turn: 3c7h9hQs, checked around to the button who bets, I check raise, MP says I have 39 and folds, MP+1 folds, button flashes a 7 and folds. (final pot: 8.5 big bets)

In hand #2, I'm 99% sure I should have raised preflop to get those extra small bets from my 3-5 opponents who will likely completely miss the flop. The only 2 advantages I can see from me checking preflop is 1) to keep the pot small and 2) make the minimum investment if an A flops
For 1) it appears that the flop at least partially hit 3 of my opponents, and all 3 (or perhaps more) opponents would likely have seen the river with me if I had raised preflop (probably unless I was to again check/call the flop and check/raise the turn, but this is much, much less likely to happen if I had raised preflop) My guess is that my pot equity is 65-75% on the turn. Based on the situation, I'm certain that neither opponent had an A high flush draw (I don't mention the K because I have it). One thing I wonder is what percentage of opponents would fold a T high or lower flush draw on the turn getting 4.1:1? What percentage would fold a T high or lower flush draw and a pair?
For 2) If an A flops and there is a bet and call, can I continue in the hand? Typically in a very multiway hand, I will fold KK to a bet on an A high flop especially if there are multiple draws on the board. I might call one bet if I have a back door nut flush draw since 11 cards would improve my hand)
My flop play is somewhat debatable, but I would almost always make the same play again. I think that a flop check raise does not protect my hand on the flop and gives me no protection on the turn.

Part of what influenced me to maximize my chance to win hand #2 (instead of trying to win a big pot) that over the preceeding 2 session hours of $20/$40 play I had won very few pots, perhaps 3, plus the loss of hand #1 (although ironically in one hand raising preflop increases my chance of winning the pot while in the other hand raising preflop decreases my chances.). I should never let the immediate history affect my play like this.
If I had to do it over again, I would play hand #2 for a big pot, and see if my hand can hold up. Poker IS gambling.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lotsa loose games

Lately in my live play, I have been playing in a lot of very loose games. This is mostly at $6/$12 and $8/$16 (which lately have been even looser than my past experience), but even at $20/$40. In fact all games in my last 15-20 session hours have been noticeably loose.

If you play in loose games, you have to be prepared to take bad beats. Pots will be large to gigantic, and expect to take very large swings in your chip stack. In these types of games, you will also be able to "correctly" put a bad beat on your opponents, though likely not as often as you will receive bad beats.
Also expect to see some ridiculous calls on the river where the bettor shows a hand like Q high or J high, or bottom pair of deuces and wins a pot larger than 10BB.

The hands that I had a lot of trouble with lately are the high mid pairs 99, TT and the low premium pairs JJ, QQ.

The problem that I have with the high mid pairs usually comes from the following slightly unusual situation of a loose game:
- It is folded to me in MP+1, MP+2, or the CO and I find 99 or TT (the unusual part is that so many people folded in front of me, but it has been happening about once every session on average), I raise and everyone behind me calls. I prefer to limp with anything less than a premium pair in a loose game, but since there are only 3-5 people behind me, I almost always tend to raise to cut down the field. However, in these loose games a single raise has very little impact; the players only consider their starting cards before deciding whether or not they want to see a flop.
- Flop: 1 overcard, 2 lower connected cards and a flush draw is a very frequent flop to get in this situation. This is a very difficult hand to win without improving to a set. I will still often put in a bet on this flop. Depending on the bettor, I may raise this flop, but will not put any more into the pot unless I improve (which pretty much means hitting a 2 outer) (unless I can get it headsup with a rare weak or incredibly loose opponent ). I will often fold to a single bet, and almost always to a flop raise in front of me.

The problem with the low premium pair typical comes from the following type of situation.
- I raise preflop with JJ or QQ, and see the flop with 5 or 6 opponents. The difficult situation typically seems to be when I flop an overpair, but the 3 board cards are fairly coordinated, and despite whatever action happens on the flop, the turn will often be seen by 4-5 people. When an A or K comes on the turn with 2 flush draws, I really start to hate my hand. On the river, if there is 1 overcard, a 3 flush and/or 3 to a straight, it is not a welcome sight to see one of my opponents betting out for the first time in the hand. I will usually still call if I don't expect anyone else to. If there is already a caller, I will usually fold unless the caller is ridiculously loose and/or the bettor is very loose or a very frequent bluffer. I probably would not cold call a raise without stupendous pot odds. (fortunately I haven't had to make this decision lately)

From these two types of scenarios, I will typically lose 2.5-3.5 big bets. It is quite common to ~not~ flop a set a dozen times in a row, so some sessions feel truly awful if you don't win any big pots from other situations. Even if this only happens a couple of times in an hour, if you don't win any pots during that time, it is easy to be down 10-15BB (after taking and/or defending your blinds)

These loose games that have 5-7 people seeing a flop for 1 or 2 bets seems to favor suited connectors (0 or 1 gappers) and any pocket pair. Then give up on the flop without improvement.
I find these types of games are only fun because the people tend to be cheerful, chatty and/or excited, and it is actually exciting to see monster pots. Strategy is very simple, and it doesn't take much thought to play.

Big unsuited A's like ATo, AJo and often even AQo are not very good hands. You must hit the flop, and often you must hit it very hard or improve on the later streets to win. AJo is a particularly lousy hand to raise with in these games. I almost always throw it away in early position in a loose game where I expect to see the flop with 5-6 players no matter what the preflop action is.

In a loose game I much rather have 78s than AJo. (in games where there will often be 3-5 people that see the river)

Over long session hours, these are easy games to beat. When you make a few monster hands and win huge pots, the game seems incredibly easy. Other times, it seems like an eternity since the last time you won a pot. It is important to maintain good starting hand selection, and not go on tilt (and start raising with hands like ATo when you know you will, at least, be called 4-5 ways to the flop).

Monday, August 01, 2005

Don't play tired

I decided to take a shot at a midnight live no limit tourney. My major mistake was to enter this tournament while I was rather tired.

I made numerous questionable decisions that I chalk up to fatigue. I folded the best hand against a player that I believe would only have been bluffing in a particular situation, I gave free cards, I pushed all in vs a late position limper (trapper), etc...

However, I managed to double up 4 or 5 times (there is an incredible degree of luck in this very fast structure tournament). In the end, I finished a little short of the money in a situation where I called an all-in reraise against the chip leader. My chip stack would have been only a little below average if I had folded to his reraise, and I should have picked a better spot to take a stand.

This is just a reminder to myself not to play tired. Silly silly silly.