Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Optimism

I feel very optimistic about my short and medium term poker prospects. I feel close to the top of my game (both cash games and tournaments) in many regards - game selection, psychological conditioning, hand reading, opponent profiling, playing endurance, etc. Each time I play, while there are still moderate numbers of missteps, I feel that I'm identifying and decreasing the frequency with which I repeat these errors.

I'm a much stronger player now than I was 6 months ago. I'm very proud of the work I have put into my game and the progress I have made. I sincerely hope that my future results can match my current enthusiasm.

I depart on Thursday for an 11 day trip to the Pot of Gold series in Reno. I likely won't be making any blogging updates until I return....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pay off wizard

Yes, the title describes me. I have to play better than this if I want to keep playing in the big game.

hand #1
live $100/$200 LHE, 10 handed
preflop: Hero raises UTG w KsKd, loose player (LP) calls, relative-newbie (RN) calls, muck, tight but tricky player (TP) calls, muck, muck, solid button calls, loose and bad SB calls, BB mucks (6 players, pot size 13 small bets)
flop: Qs9h6s, check, Hero bets, muck, RN calls, TP calls, muck, muck (3 players, pot size 16 small bets)
turn: Qs9h6s7c, Hero checks, RN bets, TP raises, Hero 3 bets, RN calls, TP calls (3 players, pot size 17 big bets)
river: Qs9h6s7c4s, Hero bets, RN calls, TP raises, Hero throws up and calls, RN mucks. TP tables As8s

The moment that TP raised the river, I immediately recognized what had happened on the turn. TP semi-bluff raised his A high to buy 2 outs in a big pot against my apparent AK. Despite "knowing" this I paid off to see the hand anyways.

When the spade came, I was supremely confident that RN was not on the flush draw, and I fell into the trap that TP had a top pair type hand. I really didn't think the hand through since TP will not call on the turn with a top pair/no redraw type hand in the face of such a strong turn 3 bet check raise from the preflop/flop leader.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The big game

My LHE session today spanned a solid nine hours of play. It started in the $20/$40 game, transitioned to the $40/$80, and finished in the $100/$200 game (which is the highest stakes game in the room and city). I was able to play close to my A game for the majority of the session, although I found I was having difficultly concentrating (most easily detected by how my mind would often wander after I mucked and didn't follow the action of others) by the time I reached the main game in the $100. This made for a very easy decision to call it a day.

This was my first foray into the $100 game. I have been monitoring the $100 lineup closely over the last few days, and I have put my name up on the waiting list a couple of times when I thought the lineup looked favorable. The good lineup didn't pan out by the time I reached the head of the queue, on those occasions.

There is a moderate overlap of the player pool between the $100 and $40 games, and to an even smaller extent, into the $20 game as well. I am certainly aware that there are a number of soft spots in the $100 game, but I haven't done enough "data mining" to be able to identify more than a handful of these. However, this afternoon I clearly saw 3 very weak spots in the game with an additional 2 juicy call-ins on the board and quickly seized the opportunity to get into that game at a time when I had, relatively speaking, great table conditions and my maximum amount of opponent knowledge (meaning I had moderate amounts of prior table time with some of both the good and bad players at the table in lower stakes games, roughly about 3/4 of the players at the table).

The $100 feeder game was great until 2 really bad players went broke, 1 left after sucking out in a monster pot, and another left for dinner. The game actually became short handed, going down to as few as 3 players. After about half an hour of short handed play, I was moved to the main game. Hence, in my roughly 2.5 hours of $100 play, I was able to span the whole gamut of full ring loose play, short handed play with very strong players, short handed play with loose players, and the main game which had a majority of decent to very strong players. A fairly comprehensive experience all around; I really couldn't have asked for much more.

I did butcher a few hands, and shamefully, here they are:

hand #1 - Passive journey to Zero-valuetown
live $100/$200 LHE, 8 handed
preflop: Hero raises UTG w AsAd, loose player (LP1) cold calls, tight player (TP1) cold calls, mucked to loose player (LP2) in CO, button mucks, solid SB calls, strong player (SP1) calls in the BB (6 players, pot size 12 small bets)
flop: 7h7sTh, check, SP1 bets, Hero calls, LP1 calls, TP1 mucks, LP2 calls, SB mucks (4 players, pot size 16 small bets)
turn: 7h7sThJh, SP1 bets, Hero sees LP1 ready to muck, Hero calls, LP2 calls (3 players, pot size 11 big bets)
river: 7h7sThJh3d, SP1 bets, Hero raises, LP2 mucks, SP1 tanks and calls. SP1's 6 high flush is good

Hero calls on the flop to hopefully preserve the ability to have the field face 2 big bets cold on the turn (assuming a turn brick). On the actual turn, Hero is way behind the majority of SP1's turn betting range and calls to improve his pot odds by having callers behind. On the river, Hero loses his mind and makes a zero value raise despite being behind on the majority of SP's holdings (at least comfortable in the knowledge that SP1 will never 3 bet a worse hand). Not only is this a zero value bet, but additionally it typically means that Hero will have to reveal his hand to the table. What a bonehead move!!!

hand #2 - doubt on the river
live $40/$80 LHE, 8 handed
Villain is a strong semi-LAG who is a winning player in the $40 and $100 game, his open ranging range is fairly wide given his style and also the way the game has been playing for the last few orbits. Suited hands like K6s, Q8s, etc are easily in his range. He seems more aggressive preflop and on the flop, but less so on the later streets.
preflop: muck, Villain raises, mucked to loose CO who calls, muck, loose SB calls, Hero calls in BB w 7d7h (4 players, pot size 8 small bets)
flop: JdTs4d, check, check, Villain bets, CO mucks, SB mucks, Hero calls (2 players, pot size 10 small bets)
turn: JdTs4d5h, Hero bets, Villain calls (2 players, pot size 7 big bets)
river: JdTs4d5hQh, Hero checks, Villain bets, Hero tanks and mucks

On the flop, Hero's hand stands to be ahead of Villain's range. However, there are abundant draws on board. Hero calls and hopes to see a blank on the turn before making further commitment in the hand.

Turn is a blank, and Hero fires. Villain will never muck a worse hand here, and would always raise a better made hand (many of which would just be for a free showdown), but may also raise here as a total bluff. A call almost certainly means a worse hand with some type of draw. Straight draw, flush draw, perhaps a small pair and a flush draw. In retrospect, given this hand range, I believe the Villain will bet 100% of the time on the river regardless of the card when checked to.

The river brings a moderately scary card. However, it still really only improves the straight draw type combinations. Given the 8:1 pot odds, this should be an easy call down for Hero.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More two pair hands

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Two pair hands are the bane of my LHE existence.

Here are 3 more from my session today.

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
preflop: muck, loose player (LP1) limps, muck, semi-lag limps, average player (AP) limps, button raises, loose player calls in SB, Hero calls in BB w KhJc, all call (6 players, pot size 12 small bets)
flop: Kd6h3d, blinds check, LP1 bets, muck, AP raises, button mucks, SB mucks, Hero cold calls, LP1 calls (3 players, pot size 18 small bets)
turn: Kd6h3dJs, check, check, AP bets, Hero raises, LP1 calls after a couple of seconds, AP immediately calls (3 players, pot size 15 big bets)
river: Kd6h3dJs4d, check, LP1 immediately bets, AP immediately calls, Hero mucks.

I keep telling myself not to muck hands as good as top two pair in big pots on the river closing the action. That is especially true since, given the action, AP's call means nothing other than giving Hero even better odds to make a crying call. At any rate, I lay the 17:1 that LP1 plays completely straight up, and fortunately LP1's flush is good.

I still don't like my laydown, and I'm going to give myself gray hairs or a receding hairline if I keep doing this.

hand #2
live $40/$80 LHE, 7 handed
button is an excellent player who's regular game is the $100/$200 game, but he is waiting for a seat in the $100 game. He has been at the table for about an hour, and has open raised from the hijack or better on 100% of the opportunities. Villain has been quite successful thus far in blind stealing (and in most cases was given some modest action without going past the turn too often) Hero has perhaps under-defended (although the specific number of incidents where Hero was BB was probably only 2. One which SB called and Hero mucked, and one in which both blinds called, but Hero check folded flop)
preflop: mucked to button, button raises, loose SB mucks, Hero calls in BB w AhKc (2 players, pot size 4.5 small bets)
flop: QcJd6h, Hero checks, button bets, Hero raises, button calls (2 players, pot size 8.5 small bets)
turn: QcJd6hAs, Hero checks, button bets, Hero raises, button calls (2 players, pot size 8.25 big bets)
river: QcJd6hAsKd, Hero bets, button raises, Hero calls. button's QdTc scoops.

Hero's preflop 3 betting range is going to be fairly wide. I would definitely 3 bet hands like AJo, ATs, 88-JJ. More premium hands, such as AKo, I had already pre-decided I would only call with to hide the strength of my hand.

Postflop, I planned to check/call the flop and turn if I flopped top pair as my pot equity against his range would be huge. Instead I flopped a gutshot and 2 overcards, and decided to check raise the flop given that my pot equity is probably more in the 60/40 range, and I'd prefer to end the hand on the flop or turn. Given that Villain calls the flop, I put his range on at least 1 pair or a draw.

Turn, I like this card as I represented no strength preflop, and a relatively meaningless check raise (i.e. any pair) on the flop. The A looks like a great scare card for Villain to represent. Hence, I try and successfully get a CR in. Villain's call on the turn likely means he has a pair and a draw.

On the river, I definitely wanted to see a blank. However, I improve and have a choice between check/call and bet/call. check/fold and bet/fold are out of the question. I elect to take the higher volatility bet/call line. I don't know if this was best.

hand #3
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
preflop: muck, muck, bad player limps, muck, Hero raises w AsTs, muck, semi-tight button 3 bets, SB mucks, loose BB calls, both call (4 players, pot size 12.5 small bets)
flop: Th9c4s, check, check, Hero bets, button raises, BB mucks, bad player calls, Hero thinks for 2-3 seconds, Hero 3 bets, both call (3 players, pot size 21.5 small bets)
turn: Ts9c4s3d, check, Hero bets, button calls, bad player mucks (2 players, pot size 12.75 big bets)
river: Ts9c4s3dAc, Hero bets, button raises, Hero mutters "crap, was I drawing dead?" and makes a crying call. 3 players observing the hand all call out to button "AT is good!!!". button shows AQo, Hero straightens out his skirt and stacks the chips.

My hand reading skills are just awful on the river. Against this opponent, and the flop and turn action (including the existence of the bad player) I'm never getting less than half this pot. Clearly one big missed value bet.

One other observation about this particular hand. It occurred towards the 8-9 hour mark of the session (with essentially no breaks), so probably fatigue was a factor. Given that the $40 game is a must move setup, periodically switching games (including optionally taking breaks between this games) is typically not convenient (particularly when some juicy players are next up for the main game). Additionally, this poker room charges a $5 lobby charge per round if you sit out of the game. This factor causes me to take very few breaks when playing the $40 game.

I think I need to come up with a better plan for how to take sufficient breaks in a reasonably $ wise manner.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sleepy and the maniac

I played a lengthy 10.5 hour session today. It was actually not one continuous session because I initially started in the $40/$80 LHE game, and then dropped back to the $20/$40 game when the forward/reverse/current line severely declined. When the lineup improved, I moved back.

For the entirety of the day, I was in the black. Not substantially so...about a rack and a half. I usually don't talk about results like this, but I only mention it in this context to clarify that stuck-induced tilt was not a factor in the 2 hands I will describe below. (although perhaps tilt might be a factor in the 2nd hand).

In the first hand I make a few minor, but simple mistakes. In the 2nd, I make the granddaddy of LHE mistakes.

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 8 handed
SB is a strong winning player in the $40 game, who is very good at maximizing value from his hands. BB and CO are a loose players.
preflop: muck, Hero raises w KcQc, mucked to CO who calls, muck, blinds call (4 players, pot size 8 small bets)
flop: KdKh2c, blinds check, Hero bets, CO mucks, SB calls, BB mucks (2 players, pot size 10 small bets)
turn: KdKh2c4c, SB bets, Hero thinks for a couple of seconds, takes a tall enough stack for 2 bets but then only cuts out enough chips for a call (2 players, pot size 7 big bets)
river: KdKh2c4c8s, SB bets, Hero thinks for a few seconds, Hero raises, SB immediately 3 bets, Hero makes a crying call. SB's AKo is good.

SB's combined preflop and flop range is 22, Kxs, and KXo (where X is A or Q). Since SB's K rag holdings are always suited, there is no way he has K's full on the flop or turn.

It certainly makes more sense for Hero to raise the turn, I really can't justify not raising. At any rate, given the turn action, then consider the river. A river raise is definitely justified for value, however I think that Hero's river line must be raise/fold vs. this opponent. This Villain is never raising the river with a hand that does not beat KQ. (Interestingly, given the turn mistake by Hero, it should be possible for Hero to save 1 big bet on the river; i.e. if Hero raises turn, Villain will always 3 bet and bet the river; In that case, I think Hero has to call down since Villain may put Hero on a hand like AcQc)

The 2nd hand occurred right at the end of the session (10.5 hours). I left as soon as the big blind reached me, and I'm certain that this was the right metagame decision.

hand #2
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
UTG has a fairly loose limping range, UTG+1 just came to the table this orbit, is fairly LAGgy and has already stated her intention that this will be her only round at the table (but has been playing a lot of pots with the intention of winning as many pots as possible before she leaves)
preflop: UTG limps, UTG+1 raises, Hero 3 bets w AsTs, mucked back to UTG, both call (3 players, pot size 10.5 small bets)
flop: Tc7s5h, check, check, Hero bets, UTG calls, UTG+1 raises, Hero 3 bets, both call (3 players, pot size 19.5 small bets)
turn: Tc7s5hJs, check, check, Hero bets, both call (3 players, pot size 12.75 big bets)
river: Tc7s5hJsAd, check, UTG+1 bets, Hero thinks for 2 seconds, Hero raises, UTG mucks, UTG+1 thinks for 1 second and says "I don't think you 3 bet with 98", and then UTG+1 reraises, Hero immediately mucks. UTG+1 shows Ah7h and is 100% sure her hand was good.

During the duration of the hand, I was somewhat tired. I didn't keep a running track of the pot size (which I always do when I am alert). All of my actions in the hand were automatic, including my muck on the river to the 3 bet. I absolutely felt that UTG+1 was very confident about her hand. I didn't consider that she could feel comfortable reraising with a worse hand. I didn't even take a few seconds to agonize over whether or not to make a crying call.

** edit ** one other factor that I didn't mention is that about 1.5 hours earlier when I was in the same feeder game as the Villain (UTG+1) , Villain had rivered me 4-5 times, and I had paid off on each occasion. (by either calling when in position or check calling out of position). In other words, I had given this Villain no reason to suspect that I could be bluffed out of a pot.

Sigh... 17.75 big bets is not pocket change. This was a $40 game. That is some people's monthly nut.

I'm not sure how carefully the other regulars in the game were watching during this hand, but for those that were watching, I'm sure at least most of them would suspect, that given the action in the hand, that I mucked the winner on the river. This type of occurrence is a terrible metagame factor. In fact, I am definitely considering playing in another cardroom for at least a few days until this hand drops out of people's memory. I definitely don't want people taking a shot at me in big pots by pure bluff raising the river.

Getting paid off with tougher players

One problem that I am spending a lot of time worrying about lately is how to get paid off the maximum when playing in pots with particularly tough players. (The issue doesn't contradict with game selection issues as I've been doing a good job of this, but the good games still often feature a number of tough players.)

I have a pretty big tell on the later streets. Whenever I 3 bet the turn or raise the river, I have a very big hand. I honestly can't recall the last time I have done so without a hand at least as good as top two pair. Against all but the loosest players, I will have probably 5th nuts or better.

This behavior is hard to miss by my opponents. Even the weaker opponents will notice this, but the reason they pay off is just to see what I have. Tougher players simply don't do this.

It should be very easy to counter this: Simply balance more bluffs, semibluffs and slowplays.

This is an example of a hand that I wish I had taken a little differently on the turn:

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 8 handed
Villain is a very tough player who thinks at several levels.
preflop: mucked to Hero in MP, Hero raises w 6d6h, mucked to Villain in CO who calls, everyone else mucks (2 players, pot size 5.5 small bets)
flop: 6c4dQh, Hero bets, CO raises, Hero pauses for 1 second, Hero 3 bets (2 players, pot size 11.5 small bets)
turn: 6c4dQhQs, Hero bets, CO raises, Hero pauses for 1 second, Hero 3 bets, CO mucks

Preflop range for Villain is difficult to narrow down.

Flop action is pretty standard. Hero's 3 bet clearly indicates that Hero has at least a high pair (say 99+).

The turn is definitely the most interesting street. Villain's turn raise can be for one of 3 reasons: i) raising for value with a big, but worse hand, such as trips or 44 ii) raising for free showdown with some medium strength hand e.g. AA, KK, 88, iii) a complete bluff (the board is completely dry with no draws).
Note: Given the preflop action, Hero's hand will always be good here vs. Villain's range on this board.

For the first category (i), Villain will shut down, but will call down UI. For the 2nd (ii) and 3rd (iii) categories, Villain will immediately muck. The number of combinations for (ii) and (iii) compared to (i) is larger, but not substantially so. Perhaps 2:1 would be a good estimate.

A line that I think would work far better on the turn would be to only call the turn raise, and then lead the river. (In my mind, Hero's hand looks something like JJ, KK or AA.)

Very little value is lost with this line vs category (i), as Villain is still likely to raise/call the river (which gets more bets in the pot vs. 3 betting the turn, although this is somewhat balanced with the times that Villain only calls on the river and also the times he raise/folds making a great laydown with a hand like QJs and also the times Villain improves to a better hand).

With category (ii), Villain is often going to make a crying call, which increases the value although ~10% of the time Hero gets outdrawn (Villain improves to better full house) and absolutely must pay off given the way the hand is played.

Most importantly, with category (iii), Villain will occasionally raise to "outplay" the Hero. No value is lost by only calling the turn raise, as Villain is drawing dead. I strongly suspect that the biggest gain in value in taking the turn call/river lead line comes from this scenario.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tough session

Today I played a moderate length (by my standards) $40/$80 LHE session of about 9 hours. It was challenging and draining.

In Limit Hold'em, there are often hands in which you raise preflop with a big pocket pair or big Ace and flop an overpair or TPTK and just bet all the way for value against one or even a few opponents and just get called down by worse hands (or until the river when they miss). No thinking required. In the 9 hour session, this scenario occurred exactly ~1~ lousy time.

I think I need to monitor more closely my emotional and psychological state, as these balances get drained more quickly when a session involves more thinking and tougher situations. The negative result that typically emerges as a consequence is that I play more hands preflop. This just ends up getting me in more and more difficult postflop situations when I do things like open raise UTG or UTG+1 with hands like AJo, KJo or be the 2nd or 3rd cold caller with a hand like K9s or T8s (when the hand only ends up being 4 or 5 handed to the flop)

When I get too drained, I need to end my session regardless of the players in the game. Instead of feeling compelled to stay in a "good" game, I should more broadly consider how to make decisions in the overall session to drain less of my mental and emotional energy. Also, in the overall picture, I should take steps to lead a healthy lifestyle (sufficient sleep, diet, exercise) to bolster my stamina.

Here are two hands from today's session that I wanted myself to review:

The first hand involved me forgetting some crucial piece of information from an earlier street. The second hand just relates to tilt, and how easily it causes me to make poor decisions (and not factor earlier "decisions" I made in the hand to the ones I have to make on later streets)

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 7 handed.
Hijack is probably a (28/20/1.5); SB is Hero, BB is probably (25/10/2.0); both opponents are sane and thinking opponents
preflop: mucked to Hijack, Hijack raises, muck, muck, Hero calls in SB w As8s, BB calls (3 players, pot size 6 small bets)
flop: Kd8h4c, check, check, Hijack bets, Hero raises, BB calls, Hijack calls (3 players, pot size 12 small bets)
turn: Kd8h4cKh, Hero bets, BB immediately raises, Hijack mucks, Hero tanks for ~2 seconds and calls (2 players, pot size 10 big bets)
river: Kd8h4cKhQs, check, check

Firstly, regarding the preflop decision. Hero should definitely be more inclined to 3 bet in this situation. However, semi-recently in the session, Hero had been caught 3 betting fairly light in the SB and BB so this is a small excuse for not 3 betting. (although perhaps this could just be an argument for mucking preflop and avoiding a complicated postflop situation)

On this flop, given the number of players at the table and the actual 3 players in the hand, BB will CR 3 bet close to 100% of the time with any K. Big hands that BB will slow play are a set (88 and 44) and top 2 pair. It is less clear with what frequency BB will raise with 2nd pair; it might depend on the kicker. With a PP between K and 8, BB will raise close to 100% of the time as well as with bottom 2 pair.

Given this flop range for BB, a substantial number of hands that BB will raise the turn with are worse than Hero's (the raise is positional and defensive, with the intention of knocking out Hijack and getting a free showdown). Given that the pot already has 9BB in it when Hero faces the turn raise and Villain's range, my thought (granted, this may be influenced by actual results, and this is a big part about why I am taking the time to write out the hand history) is that Hero should 3 bet the turn with the intention of folding to a 4 bet and also not putting in another bet on the river unless a K or 8 hits. This line doesn't cost any more than just calling down.

BB has to be as worried as Hero is about the K (if he is not already filled up). If BB has a worse 8, then calling gives BB a free card to hit his 3 out kicker and another 3 outs (8 or K) to chop (blending these together is essentially the same thing as saying the Villain has 4.5 outs). BB has to automatically fold to a 3 bet with only an 8. Assuming Villain has A8 (granted this is unlikely because Villain is extremely likely to 3 bet this holding on the flop), it is a big victory to win an extra half of the pot. It is a huge victory if he folds a better hand like 99.

It is also possible that BB will only call with 4s full, in which case Hero does not get punished and still can draw to 4 outs.

Anyway, the result of the hand was that BB held Q8o and scooped the pot. I'm actually surprised that BB didn't value bet the river. I think if Villain had been more alert, he would not have missed this bet. I guess he was just happy he got his free showdown and I didn't hold some K rag holding.

hand #2
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
Hero was on tilt prior to this hand, although opponents may or may not be aware of this.
preflop: semi-solid UTG limps, mucked to Hero in Hijack, Hero raises w AsAh, Loose CO 3 bets, button calls, SB mucks, UTG calls, Hero 4 bet caps, all call (5 players, pot size 20.5 small bets)
flop: Ad9d4c, check, UTG bets, Hero calls, CO calls, button raises, BB mucks, UTG 3 bets, Hero caps, CO mucks, button and UTG call (3 players, pot size 33.5 small bets)
turn: Ad9d4c6d, check, check, button bets, UTG mucks, Hero calls (2 players, pot size 18.75 big bets)
river: Ad9d4c6d3d, check, button bets, Hero mucks.

Yes, I mucked on the river getting 19.75:1 with a set (on a 4 flush board). I mucked because I was on tilt. My hand is probably good here considerably less than 10% of the time, but I think I need to make what is at least close to a 0EV call on the river for metagame reasons. Yes, my hand is so clearly defined. However, my preflop and flop 4 bets, which so strongly help to define my hand, extracted enough value to pay off here on this river. In other words, the decision I made on the early streets to extract value (at the cost of defining my hand) should determine my decision to call down despite the awful board.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why What How

"What I need is someone who will make me do what I can" Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don't know why it is, but this is me in a nutshell. I have always been this way. I suppose I always will....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Need a break

The quick version of this post is that today's result was not a happy ending. For the longer version, keep reading....

Going into today's final event (multiple rebuy), I was in 7th place in the points race. Mathematically, only 2nd place was possible. By the end of the 2nd break, only 2 other players are also capable of finishing 2nd (my partner, J, busted during the 2nd hour, so it was only on me at this point). By the 3rd break, only 1 other player was in the running.

With 23 players remaining (top 18 places pay $ and earn points; I need 4th place or better to earn enough points to get 2nd place in all around top player), I'm presented with the following scenario:

- Hero UTG
- Hero has 8% of the chips in play, but still only 13xbb
- Table is 7 handed, BB has 10xbb, UTG+1 has 10xbb, CO has 9xbb (and taken a bad beat 2 hands earlier), everyone else is 5xbb or less.
- Hero has been moderately active including open raising 2.75xbb on the immediately prior hand and successfully stealing the blinds.
- Hero and BB have a lot of history, and despite Hero's early position, BB is likely to have a substantially large range for re-raising all-in to a preflop raise from Hero. (probably 66+, ATs+, AJo+). i.e. it is perfectly believable to the BB that I would try to steal his BB even from UTG in the position of table chip leader because of all of our banter and interaction over the last few days.
- UTG+1 and Hero have little direct history (though I have carefully observed his play) except for 1 hand roughly 1 orbit ago when Hero open raised 2.7xbb from SB. Villain defended his BB, and Hero pushed on QJ8 flop to which Villain folded. UTG+1 is a very loose player - his preflop playing range is (22+, A2s+, A5o+, any two broadways, probably 87s+), his preflop reraising range is probably (88+, AQo+, ATs+, KJs+). He is capable of bluffing, and he doesn't like to get pushed around. He is not a sophisticated or knowledgeable player.

Surprisingly to me, I received substantial criticism for the way I played this key pot. I suspect that many of the commentors didn't really think that carefully about the hand and the situation, but at any rate, here is the hand:

hand #1
7 handed, NLHE MTT near the bubble, Hero has 13xbb, Villain has 10xbb
preflop: Hero raises 2.75xbb w AdAc, Villain thinks for 10-15 seconds and calls, everyone else mucks (2 players, pot size 7xbb)
flop: Jd4h3c, check, check (2 players, pot size 7xbb)
turn: Jd4h3c2h, Hero pushes, Villain insta calls.

I'm happy with how I played this hand, and J absolutely agreed with me. At any rate, Villain turned a straight with As5s and improves to a 6 high straight on the river.

Given our history and his tendencies, I don't mind giving a free card on this flop. On any more coordinated flop, I would have insta-pushed. Given that Villain checked the flop, I think I have to bet the turn.

During the rest of the tournament, I was lucky. I had exactly 4 coin flips in big pots, and I won all of them.

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I've been putting in substantial table hours for the last 10 days, probably averaging about 9 table hours per day. (which I'm happy to say that easily more than 7 hours per day I was playing my A game) I am somewhat exhausted, and probably need a day or so to recover. Reno's Pot of Gold series starts in 11 days, and I hope to be in good shape for that. In the meantime, I will continue to grind away at the cash games. Also there is a nice monthly $330 MTT at another local poker room (that I have never been to) coming up on Saturday that apparently draws a nice field, and it has a good structure. I intend to enroll in that one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thing that made me go hmmmm?

I'm always the first to laugh out loud when people spew conspiracy theories regarding the fairness of the dealt cards in public card rooms that utilize Shufflemaster machines. However, today I saw a hand that had me literally laughing out loud for the better part of an hour. It is a hand that I will long remember.

The reason the hand is so conspiratorial is that the Villain in this hand is the father of the owner of this public cardroom. I would estimate that this poker room is probably in the top 10 largest (definitely top 15) poker rooms in the USA, so it is no small mom and pop operation.

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
MP is quite LAGGY, MP+2 is a fairly solid player, but always makes adjustments for LAGs. BB is the Villain, and he is typically super solid.
preflop: muck, UTG+1 limps, MP raises, muck, MP+2 3 bets, mucked around to BB (Hero mucks some random hand in the SB), BB calls, UTG+1 calls, MP calls (4 players, pot size 12.5 small bets)
flop: Ad6c8h, BB checks, UTG+1 checks, MP bets, MP+2 raises, BB calls, UTG+1 mucks, MP calls (3 players, pot size 18.5 small bets)
turn: Ad6c8h4c, BB checks, MP checks, MP+2 bets, both call (3 players, pot size 12.25 big bets)
river: Ad6c8h4c7s, BB bets, MP mucks, MP+2 calls; BB's 5c2d is good.

nh sir!! flop 12 outs to a gutshot, 4 to an OESD, and 6 outs to a two pair or trips draw. Whee poker!

I consider myself very lucky to have been there to witness this hand. I would absolutely NEVER believe this if heard 2nd hand.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

In today's NLHE MTT, I busted late in the 3rd round in an unavoidable QQ vs AA situation. No points today, so just two events left. The weekend events are bound to be huge. Time to run good....

Late stage blowup

In yesterday's event, I cashed for the minimal amount in 10th place (10th-18th pay an identical nominal amount) for the final table bubble in a very poor spot. I've made this mistake plenty of times probably because the majority of the time, I don't get punished for it. This was a sobering reminder of poor risk reward decision making at very critical times.

- the table was 5 handed
- average stack was 8.5xbb
- Hero in CO has the table barely covered w 11.75xbb; SB 11xbb; BB 10xbb; UTG 7xbb; button 7xbb
- Hero has not been particularly active since the table redraw for the final 2 tables
- no players are playing particularly wild or crazy
- Hero open pushes in CO w 7s7c

I think I tend to do this to avoid having to make any decision when re-raised, but on this occasion the ugly scenario of SB (AKo) and BB (KK) both having big hands arose.

It is 5 handed, so I like my hand. Given the playing conditions a 2.5xbb raise gets the job done. I will very likely call a push from a single opponent, particularly the shorter stack button. The only beneficial scenarios for pushing vs a small raise is if the BB would call a small raise given the situation with 2 overs that he would have mucked to a push. I hadn't observed the BB to be playing this way; I would expect this particular player in the BB to have either mucked or pushed.

Anyway, with a small raise, if there is action from 2 or more opponents, I am done with the hand (unless I am just called and flop a set). Sigh, sloppy play gets punished...

From the points I received yesterday, I should be in about 5th place in the overall standings. 1st place is still mathematically in reach with 3 events to go, but realistically even catching up to 2nd place would a great result considering the overall leader's point count. (Top 5 places pay)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Points race

I lasted a whole 8 hands in today's event. I slept in and arrived a few minutes late, missing the first 4 hands. Yes, this is my blog, so I'll tell my bad beat story since I found it amusing.

4 hands later, I make a modest overbet reraise w QQ (to a limp/raise/call) from the BB putting in half my stack. Limper and original raiser muck, caller tanks for a while and asks "how many chips do you have left?". I say nothing but move my hands out of the way; my immediate neighbor comments "he has the original starting stack, he hasn't played a hand". Caller muses for a few more seconds "hmmm, raise, call, big reraise. Aces or kings?" then calls. Flop comes J high with 2 rags with 2 to the flush.
I pick up my stack and am just about to start moving it forward, Caller picks up his stack and starts moving it forward. I think he is doing one of those fake calls to dissuade me from pushing, so I push (which I was going to do anyways). He beats me in the pot. I'm sick to my stomach expecting him to turn up AA or JJ. I flip over my cards, but my hand slips and only one card turns over. Caller immediately and cheerfully remarks "Oh, Queens are good". T on the turn, and its over. With poker, sudden surprised joy can last a very short period of time.

Anyway, no points earned today, so I possibly dropped out of the top 10. 4 more events to go, and the current leader is intending to miss the next 2 events. I decided today to do a swap with another player who has only slightly less points than me. Hopefully, at least one of us can have a few good cashes in the last few events. I don't know why I care so much, but I certainly am emotionally invested in this.

2 more hands

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 7 handed
BB is young asian player with whom I have had no history other than 2-3 orbits.
preflop: mucked to Hero in CO, Hero raises w Jh9d, mucked to BB who calls (2 players, pot size 4.5 small bets)
flop: KcTs9h, check, check (2 players, pot size 4.5 small bets)
turn: KcTs9h7d, BB bets, Hero tanks and calls (2 players, pot size 4.25 big bets)
river: KcTs9h7dJs, BB checks, Hero bets, BB tanks forever and calls. Hero's 2 pair is good.

Open raising in the CO with J9o is outside of the recommended stealing range in Stox's book (although it is in the button's range), however that is a matter beyond the scope of this hand discussion.

At the time this hand was dealt, we are at the main game of a must move setup; hence the players ~may~ be in the game for extended periods of time; additionally the table is a little quiet because there are only 7 people where 1 person is lobbying and 1 person just left and the must move player has not yet arrived. The players at the table are, on average, paying more attention to the play than usual.

My line of play for this hand could certainly be questioned, however this was my thinking: On the flop, I elected to balance my play (such that I am cbetting the flop about 90% of the time in position; ). The intention was to check the flop, and raise a turn rag. The reasoning is that I expect that when cbetting the flop, I will be getting CR'd a very very substantial amount of the time on this board (80%+) with a blend of hands that are better and worse than my own.

Checking behind on the flop and raising the turn puts the same number of bets in the pot as bet/calling the flop and calling (or betting) the turn. However, it conveys more strength, and it may cause a better hand to fold the turn or river. (a T or a better 9 such as Q9 if the river is a brick). A safe turn card would be deuce through 6 (20 cards, or a little less than half the deck).

Additionally, an A turn card will frequently be more of a scare card.

The actual turn card presented an addition gutshot (now Hero has a double gutter), and this changes things. Hero now has more ways to improve, Villain may have improved. Hero calls the turn with the intention of calling or betting the river.

Finally, considering that Hero's hand is shown down, my future play has to be adjusted to compensate for adjustments that my opponents will be making in the short term. Essentially, tighten up preflop raising range.

hand #2
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
UTG is a semi-LAG, BB and button are absolutely terrible (with BB frequently making terrible raises or bluffs), the other players in the hand are reasonable and experienced, although somewhat loose.
preflop: UTG raises, Hero 3 bets w 8h8d, mucked to CO who calls, button calls, SB calls, BB caps its, everyone calls (6 players, pot size 24 small bets)
flop: KhQh8c, SB checks, BB bets, UTG calls, Hero raises, call, call, call, UTG 3 bets, everyone calls (6 players, 42 small bets)
turn: KhQh8c4s, check, check, UTG bets, Hero raises, muck, CO calls, muck, BB calls, UTG 3 bets, everyone calls (4 players, 33 big bets)
river: KhQh8c4s5d, check, UTG bets, Hero calls, muck, BB calls. UTG's KK is naturally good.

I suppose that preflop call or 3 bet are both reasonable decisions. At the time, I felt that UTG was a little frustrated and may be open raising considerably lighter than normal.

On the turn during the actual hand, I really considered that I can safely fold to UTG's 3 bet. UTG is LAGgy, but he is never 3 betting the turn after all the previous action with KQ.

I was actually getting a little tired when this hand was played, and lost track of the pot size (other than the fact that it was huge). Hero is looking at a 32:1 shot at a 1 outer. Hmmmm, given the action, the maximum implied odds is probably 40? (+8 bets on the river; UTG bet, Hero raise, BB calls, UTG 3 bet, Hero caps, both call) Wow, I didn't even realize until now the turn call was so close to 0EV.

Probably the strongest argument for calling down on the river is that mucking would have a substantial change in Hero's table image. There would be a substantially likelihood that there would be increased bluff raises and tough semi-bluffs in this session.

Weak late street play?

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
UTG semi-loose passive ~(22/5/0.5)
MP is loose semi aggressive player ~(30/15/0.8)
preflop: UTG raises, mucked to MP, MP 3 bets, mucked to Hero in SB, Hero 4 bet caps w QdQh, BB mucks, UTG and MP call (3 players, pot size 13 small bets)
flop: Ac5d4s, Hero bets, UTG mucks, MP calls (2 players, pot size 15 small bets)
turn: Ac5d4sJd, Hero checks, MP bets, Hero calls (2 players, pot size 9.5 big bets)
river: Ac5d4sJdTc, Hero checks, MP bets, Hero mucks

The flop line seems standard - continuation and value bet. UTG's preflop range is (99+, AQs+,AKo) and MP's preflop 3 bet range is probably something like (88+,AJs+,AQo+,KQs). If the turn and river bring rags, Hero should bet all the way.

On the actual turn, Hero's hand still looks very much like JJ+. The conundrum is that Hero is usually far behind against Villain's range, yet weakness can be exploited by Villain's worse hands if Hero is not committed to showdown. A check on the turn is essentially conceding Hero's range to be QQ-KK (and Villain is not a frequent enough player that Hero can achieve balance by occasionally checking the turn OOP with a set here)

As played, Hero's river decision is to consider whether Villain will call the flop with 99 and/or 88 and is capable of firing 2 bullets on the turn and river.
vs. a range of (99+,AJs+,AQo+), a river muck costs Hero -0.78BB.
vs. a range of (88+,AJs+,AQo+), a river mucks costs Hero -1.99BB.
vs. a range of (TT+,AJs+,AQo+), a river mucks saves Hero 0.84BB.

Seemingly an easier line to take would be for Hero to bet/fold the turn and check/fold the river UI. (although against the wrong opponents, this will too frequently be exploited)

In the actual hand, I called on the turn with the intention of calling on the river to induce a bluff from worse hands in this standard way ahead/way behind scenario. The Tc is another scare card for me, and Villain did visually look comfortable when he bet. Hence the muck.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

overlay/underlay

I'm currently in the midst of a series of Hold'em tournaments at a local poker room (10 events total). I decided to play all of the events as there is a separate pool of allocated money for best all-around player. Points are awarded for the players at the last 2 tables. The points race makes for a wee bit more interest nearing the bubble and final table.

Winning the points race is about equivalent to a 2nd or 3rd place cashing in one of the daily events. There are still 5 more events, so I need to manage my sleep correctly as I'm also trying to get in a healthy amount of cash game table hours in.

In the case of this series, the points race money comes from a percentage of the prize pool buyins, so it is really an underlay for anyone playing just a few events.

At the end of the month, I intend to go to Reno for 10 days for the Pot of Gold series at the Grand Sierra. Again, there is a best all-around player race, so I'll play every event here as well (18 point-earning events) The prize pool for the points race is true overlay.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

oops

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
Hero has been at the table for about an hour and has not been caught getting out of line, and has only been moderately active. UTG and SB see a moderate number of flops, and often call very lightly on the flop to see how much of a fight their opponents put in contesting the pot. Both are capable of being tricky. Both players are winning players in the $40 game. BB is a very tight player.
preflop: UTG limps, mucked to Hero in CO, Hero raises w QhTh, button mucks, SB calls, BB mucks, UTG calls (3 players, pot size 7 small bets)
flop: AdKh5c, check, check, Hero bets, both call (3 players, pot size 10 small bets)
turn: AdKh5cAh, check, check, Hero bets, both call (3 players, pot size 8 big bets)
river: AdKh5dAh6c, check, check, Hero bets, SB calls, UTG check raises, Hero mucks, SB looks disgusted and calls with his KK, UTG's AA are, of course, good.

Against the majority of opponents, I check behind on the turn. However, vs. these opponents I think I have to bet here for metagame considerations. In general, I don't want to be contesting pots with only these types of opponents. However, the table line up had been varying throughout the day, and such hands and situations happen from time to time.

My river bet UI is a total spew with these 2 turn callers given the flop and turn texture and action, and may be a spew with even 1 turn caller.

The only decision in the hand that I dislike (when balancing both current hand and metagame considerations) is the river bet. It is a really, really bad bet. How did I get hypnotized into firing that 3rd hopeless bullet?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another tradeoff between check/crying call vs. bet/call in a big pot

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 9 handed
Hijack is an extremely clueless loose chaser (I have no history with Hijack, but in the 5 minutes since I sat down, the player on my right had twice exasperatedly remarked that Hijack calls with anything) with unknown bluffing tendencies, CO is a TAG, Button is unknown, BB is a very loose player who likes to play ATC.
preflop: mucked to Hijack who limps, CO raises, Button 3 bets, Hero caps w JhJs, BB tanks and grudgingly mucks, everyone else calls (4 players, pot size 17 small bets)
flop: 5c2h9s, Hero bets, all call (4 players, pot size 21 small bets)
turn: 5c2h9s3s, Hero bets, Hijack calls, CO calls, Button mucks (3 players, pot size 13.5 big bets)
river: 5c2h9s3s4d, checked around. Hero tables his JJ, Hijack and CO shake their heads, Button curses himself for mucking his A high (he didn't notice his gutshot on the turn; this was a great game!), other players at the table marvel that JJ held up. The dealer starts gathering together the pot. Hero drops a tip on the JJ and pushes it towards the dealer. Hijack finally tosses his hand, but face up, not face down. 5d6d. The dealer lets him know he won the pot.

Reason #195 to bet the river: Moron cannot read his own hand

I didn't bet the river because I know CO well. CO would never bluff the river here without an A, and I intended to check/fold if CO bet, but check/call if Hijack bet. A little while later, I did learn that Hijack was such a calling station that he may have called on the river anyways, although betting was still my only chance of winning.

Friday, August 31, 2007

That sinking feeling...

I played this hand extremely weakly (haha, because I had that funny feeling), and a player I greatly respect (who was at the table, but not involved in the hand) feels strongly that I cannot overcall the river. I don't know if I can agree with that, so here is the hand for future reflection:

hand #1
live $20/$40 LHE, 9 handed
UTG is a loose player, capable of firing multiple bluffs if he senses weakness, but will also make thin value bets
Poster and Button are unknown players;
preflop: Poster is posting between the Buttton and the SB; UTG limps, mucked to Button, Button raises, Poster calls, SB mucks, Hero calls in BB w KhJh, UTG calls (4 players, pot size 8.5 small bets)
flop: AsAdTs, checked around (4 players, pot size, 8.5 small bets)
turn: AsAdTsQd, Poster checks, Hero checks, UTG bets, button calls, Poster calls, Hero calls (4 players, pot size 8.25 big bets)
river: AsAdTsQd6d, Poster checks, Hero checks, UTG bets, button calls, Poster calls, Hero shakes his head dejectedly and calls; UTG says, "I have an A but there is no way I win". Button tables his QQ, Poster mucks without showing.

Personally, I like my turn and river lines just fine. All the value for my hand gets bet (as could readily be expected) by the opponent on my immediate left. I have a showdown hand, and I get to close the action. I really can't see how I can muck on the river with no history from Button and the Poster. From my perspective, the more questionable decision is am I losing much value by not CR the turn?

BTW, the commentor on the hand claims I should have been able to read that Button had QQ when he called the river? WTF?? (The commentor is often a far better hand reader than me, so maybe I'm missing some visual clue. I'll have to follow up with him...)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Weak and bad check/fold

hand #1
live $20/$40 LHE, 7 handed
UTG is a winning semi-TAG player, Hijack is the big fish in the game; consistently calls multiple bets all the way with his runner runner draws. A few times an hour, he makes outrageous river bluff bets (not raises).
preflop: UTG raises, muck, Hijack calls, CO calls, Button and SB muck, Hero calls in BB w 4h5h (4 players, pot size 8.5 small bets)
flop: 4cQsQh, Hero checks, UTG bets, Hijack calls, CO mucks, Hero calls (3 players, pot size 11.5 small bets)
turn: 4cQsQh8d, Hero bets, UTG mucks, Hijack calls (2 players, pot size 7.75 big bets)
river: 4cQsQh8d8s, Hero check/folds.

My friend sitting in Hijack + 1 seat told me he saw Hijack hand's as he mucked: 43o

The river situation is a hopeless one where Villain automatically calls with A high, possibly calls with K high, and calls with any pair (even counterfeited ones like PP smaller than 77, 4s, etc); also Villain will randomly call if he is interested in seeing my hand.

What is Hero's best river play? I just don't see how Hero can profitably put in any money on the river.

(btw, I really really have to get out of the habit of automatically mucking my hand when I feel very sure I am beaten when called on the river)

Final table blow up

During the last week and a half, the large poker room in my area has been holding a series of moderate size Hold'em tournaments ($340->$2080 buyins with field sizes between 100-200 runners). The room holds two large series of tournaments each year, one of which centers on a WPT event running during the beginning of the year and another series that runs in the late summer/early fall.

For whatever reason, the organizers scheduled this year's events at the same time as the running of the Bike's Legends of Poker. In my opinion, because of this, the fields were much softer because the majority of the quality mid-stakes live tournament pros (who will play in live MTTs with buyin's of $2k or less) in this region of the country gravitated to the Bike.

In this series, I finished with a respectable showing. Of the 8 events I entered, I made it to the last 2 tables on 7 occasions, and had a top ten showing in 4 (unfortunately with no wins). I feel that my style of play was strong vs. some targeted weak and/or conservative opponents near the bubble resulting in, among other things, an above average number of walks in my big blind which measurably helped in getting to the final table. Also, in the early/mid stages of the tournament, I think I took some prudent risks - slow plays vs. the right opponents, making borderline coin flip type calls where losing the coinflip would not cripple me, but winning the coin flip would give me enable me to have a wider range of options given my table conditions (along with the metagame influence that make conservative players more wary about getting involved in pots with me without a big hand - at which time, I can just muck; This is the classic scenario about "taking the initiative" -> make them worry about you, and not the other way around).

A problem that I have had throughout my entire poker tournament career is my failure to get consistent and adequate sleep prior to big tournaments or over a prolonged series of tournaments. Despite this being a local tournament in which I would be sleeping in the comfort of my own home, this problem again reared its ugly head. My nightly average of actual sleep was somewhere in the range of 4.5 hours for the last 10 days. (playing too much cash games after busting out of the daily MTT was a definite factor here as well)

Perhaps fatigue was a factor contributing to my unimaginable semibluff decision from my bustout hand of today's final event - $550 Shorthanded (6 max) NLHE:

hand #1
live shorthanded (6 max) NLHE MTT
9 players remain at 2 tables (5 handed at Hero's table, and 4 handed at the other)
blinds: T$2k/T$3k
Hero's stack T$94k (31.3xbb), SB(Villain)'s stack ~T$100k(33.3xbb)
Average stack: T$65k
Hero and Villain have been at the same table for ~3 out of the 7 hours of the tournament.
preflop: Hero raises to T$10k w 4c4d, muck, muck, SB fairly quickly calls, BB mucks (2 players, pot size T$23k)
flop: Th5c3d Villain leads for T$10k, Hero pauses for 3-4 seconds and calls (2 players, pot size T$43k)
turn: Th5c3dAh Villain leads for T$15k, Hero pauses for ~15 seconds, Hero quietly pushes all in for T$59k more.

During the ~3 hours of play, I never witnessed Villain slow play any big hand preflop (big hand in this 6 max game included hands like AJo which he had made large reraises with vs possible steals).

During the actual bustout hand, I put Villain's preflop range at a small/medium PP, medium A, suited connector and two broadways. When Villain donks the flop, I put him on a small/medium PP, a set, or a medium A (where Villain was hoping to put pressure on Hero's better A).
Hero floats the flop, and it was unknown what range this represented to the Villain, but my intention was to represent a hand like AQ.

An ace hits on the turn and Villain leads again with a modest bet into a fairly substantial pot. At this point, I feel I am clearly beaten by Villain's entire flop range. Despite the fact that I can muck with still an above average chip stack (T$74k), I fairly quickly decide that I am going to win this hand vs all hands in Villain's range except for the monster hands by semibluffing all in with my gutshot (and set draw).

Villain tanks for about 30 seconds, but eventually calls with his A9. No deuce or 4 on the river, and I'm out.

Even ignoring the ridiculously unnecessary risk (of not mucking on the turn), I'm pretty unhappy about the physical aspect of how I represented this hand. I think I should have tanked much longer - say 20-25 seconds, asked him if he really had an A; then tanked another 30 seconds before moving in with the classic shoulder shrug.

Monday, August 27, 2007

T high good?

** OOPS typo in my original post. River was 9c. Hero has T high on river ***

I can't for the life of me figure out if this was a call bluff or a good call. During the actual hand I considered both as a substantial possibility, and hence tanked for an extra few seconds before making the call.

hand #1

live $20/$40 LHE 8 handed
Hijack is new player to game and is posting. He does not know me, but I know he is a thrill seeking action player who plays in the $100/$200 game. He loves to makes moves. Money means nothing to this guy; he drives a Lamborghini.
preflop: mucked to Hijack who checks his option, mucked to Hero in SB who completes with Th7c, BB checks (3 players, pot size 3 small bets)
flop: KcKs4c, check, check, Hijack bets, Hero quickly smooth calls, BB mucks (2 players, pot size 5 small bets)
turn: KcKs4c6s, Hero bets, Hijack tanks for less than 1 second and calls (2 players, pot size 4.5 big bets)
river: KcKs4c6s9c, Hero checks, Hijack bets, Hero tanks for 10 seconds and calls, Hijack mucks.

Who said limit hold'em isn't a fun game?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bubble decision

live $2,000+$80 NLHE MTT

14 players remaining, 12 places pay. Average chip stack is $155k. Hero is the big stack at this table with $197k. Villain is UTG with 2nd biggest stack of $141k.
Blinds are $6k/$12k. Hero is BB.

Villain has not gotten out of line at any time. I actually know Villain fairly well, he is a very honest guy.

Villain pushes for $141k. First player mucks, 2nd player tanks. Villain says very seriously "I have the best hand, just fold". When it is folded around to me, I look down and find QQ. I almost insta call, but immediately stop myself and take a moment to appraise the situation. I tell Villain that I have a very good hand, and he says then "fine, then call". I very strongly feel that Villain is very comfortable with his hand. He very openly has no fear about his hand. Given his behavior thus far in the hand and my previous experience with him, I can comfortably rule out AA. I just do not see him physically behaving the way he did with a hand like JJ, TT or a worse A. I put his range given all the factors available to me as KK, QQ, and AK.

Hero mucks.

Comments?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Turn: To buy (outs) or not to buy?

hand #1
8 handed live $20/$40 LHE
The table has been seeing moderately high percentage of multiway single raised pots to the flop
L1 is a weak tighty
Hero has been playing tight ABC poker for the last hour
CC1 is unknown
CC2 is a semi-maniac
CC3 is a weak tighty
BB is semi-loose passive
preflop: muck, L1 open limps, Hero raises w Ts8s, CC1 CC2 CC3 cold call, SB mucks, BB calls, L1 calls (6 players, pot size 12 small bets)
flop: 9c7h4c, L1 checks, Hero bets, CC1 raises, CC2 and CC3 cold call, BB calls, L1 mucks, Hero calls (5 players, pot size 22 small bets)
turn: 9c7h4cAs, BB checks, Hero?

Hero's preflop raise was merely for hand deception purposes in a likely multiway 2 bet preflop hand despite my poor position. Whether or not this is a good or bad idea is ignored for now. I definitely try to minimize my frequency of this line.

On the turn, given the preflop and flop action, there is a decent chance that there is an A out there, including AcXc. However, in a larger pot, should Hero represent the A to buy 3 outs from hands like QT, KT?

Given the player tendencies, and the preflop/flop action the only player who may be holding such a hand (that is ~not~ a flush draw) is CC2, and CC2 will not muck for 1 bet on the turn here. Given the likelihood that an A is out there, how large does the pot need to be for it to be worthwhile for Hero to represent the A?

Friday, August 24, 2007

LHE postflop headsup lines

I'm getting more comfortable in playing in the $40/$80 game in which the lineup consists of 1-2 very bad players and 6-7 good-very good players. I used to be more reluctant to join such a line up because I didn't think there was enough value from the very bad players to overcome playing against very good players (particularly with the higher variance associated with playing against their aggression, and particularly if I am unlikely to get a desirable seat at that table).

Nowadays, if I see such a lineup, along with a few bad or weaker players in the feeder game, I will readily play this game (both for value and for learning experience) unless there are multiple good or one very good $20/$40 game(s) going.

Anyways, the reason I started this post was to comment on one interesting pattern I've been noticing in the above described $40/$80 lineup. I am growing more experienced in dealing with headsup blind defense situations (both from practical experience and also from WITHG) depending on the nature of the opponent.

For example, with weaker flopped made hands like 2nd or 3rd pair vs. a selectively aggressive opponent that I suspect may consider me a tighter/weaker player, I now prefer the check/raise, bet/call, check/call line. This line tends to maximize my value vs. semi bluffing and pure bluffing, and costing only 1 extra big bet vs. big hands. I have been finding that such opponents are tending to check behind on the turn with draws and 1 overcard type hands if I try the check/raise, check/call, check/call line. (yet seem to start drooling if I make a weak looking turn bet...)
In order for me to take that line, I really have to suspect that the Villain may consider me to be weak-tight. (either because of specific history I have had in the past with that Villain, or some recent laydown(s) I have made during that session, or even some comments I may have made during the session, and Villain hasn't recently seen me make some thin call down)
Against more simplistic aggressive Villains, I continue to prefer using the check/raise, check/call, check/call line. There is simply much less risk of Villain checking behind with a worse hand on the turn.

As an aside, I would be quick to leave the game if it degenerates into one where there are frequently only headsup blind stealing/blind defense situations. However, in games where there are only 1-2 very bad players, there will be times when those fish are lobbying away from the table (e.g. conducting their business on their cell phone - these guys have to make money from somewhere other than poker!, smoking, etc...), and such shorthanded type situations can frequently (but just temporarily) arise (and the better players ~immediately~ adjust to the changing game conditions).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Theoretical vs. Actual Pot Equity

Here's my I-hate-myself hand of the month:
(In the same breath I ask myself how people can play so much "better" than me?, and also how can people spew so much????)

hand #1
9 handed $20/$40 LHE
Limper1 is unknown
Limper2 is a loose tricky player who slow plays big hands, but is also capable of making moves
Limper3 is unknown
Limper4 is a LAG
Limper5 is a semi-LAG
Hero is in SB
BB is a TAG
preflop: 5 limpers and a couple of muckers, Hero completes with Ah9d in SB, BB checks (7 players, pot size 7 small bets)
flop: 9c5h3d, checked to L4, L4 bets, L5 raises, Hero 3 bets, BB mucks, L1 cold calls, L2 cold calls, L3 mucks, L4 and L5 call (5 players, pot size 22 small bets)
turn: 9c5h3d2d, Hero bets, L1 calls, L2 raises, L4 and L5 muck, Hero tanks and folds, L1 calls (2 players, pot size 16 big bets)
river: 9c5h3d2d8h, check, check, L1 tables 6h3h, L2 tables 5d4d and scoops.

Hero is getting 15:1 immediate pot odds, not closing the turn action, and is out of position with little chance to measurably improve.

I had no history with L1, but at this point in the hand I can put L2's made hand range as: 33, 55, A4s, 46s, 53s, 95s. His semibluff hands are going to be straight/flush/pair combinations.

Assuming a range for L1 of A5,A3,87s,76s, 64s; Hero's blended pot equity on the turn is less than 5% or less than 0.75 big bets. How can I call in this spot? (Hero's actual equity on the turn is 54.75% or 8+ big bets; GEEZ! What a huge divergence between "theoretical" equity and actual equity!!!)

Questionable LHE hands of the day

Below are a couple of hands from yesterday's $20/$40 LHE game. I posted the first one at 2+2 and got a variety of different responses. I guess that is a good thing in that the decisions must be pretty close if no one can agree??

hand #1
live $20/$40 LHE, 9 handed
- Hijack+1 is a bad player (~70/12/0.5)
- Hero is in hijack and probably has a relatively solid ABC image
- Villain (~20/15/1.5) is in CO and has a fairly wide preflop 3 betting range (probable range QJs+,88+,AQo+; although I'm not sure about AJo), will slow plays monsters, but not good vulnerable made hands. Villain is unlikely to raise with 2nd nut flush on a 4 flush board. Villain is likely to check behind with 4th-5th nut flush on a 4 flush board, but will call heads up.
- SB is a very loose very bad player (70/5/0.8)
- button and BB are tight players

preflop: mucked to hijack+1 who calls, Hero raises with Ks9s, Villain 3 bets, button mucks, SB calls, BB mucks, limper calls, Hero calls (4 players, pot size 13 small bets)
flop: Kd6d2d, checked to Hero, Hero bets, Villain calls, others muck (2 players, pot size 15 small bets)
turn: Kd6d2d9d, Hero bets, Villain calls (2 players, pot size 9.5 big bets)
river: Kd6d2d9d9c, Hero bets, Villain calls

I bet the turn under the assumption that close to half of Villain's flop range includes no diamond (and hence bet to protect my equity with the most preferred result being that Villain mucks). I will call a turn raise getting 10.5:1. When I am called (drat!) I know I need to improve to win.

The decision that I felt the most unsure about was whether or not to bet or CR the river. My initial post-hand reaction was that I should have CR'd. However, (and this line of thinking is emphasized in Stox's book "Winning in Tough Hold'em Games" WITHG) betting provides the opportunity to bet/3 bet if Villain holds the Ad (and of course, prevents the undesirable outcome of the Villain checking behind with a medium diamond).

Another commenter questioned the value of raising preflop with such a loose 3 bettor behind me. I'm unsure about what my range should be in this situation. My thinking was dominated by the players in hijack+1 and SB, and also the tightness of the BB. During the actual hand, I had given CO very little thought before my preflop raise.

hand #2 - "FPS from boredom?" or "Miss my 29 outer?"
live $20/$40 LHE, 8 handed
preflop: UTG limps, mucked to Hero in SB who completes with JsTc, BB checks (3 players, pot size 3 small bets)
flop: Qh9h9c, Hero checks, BB checks, UTG bets, Hero tanks for 3 seconds and calls, BB mucks (2 players, pot size 5 small bets)
turn: Qh9h9c7s, Hero bets, UTG tanks and calls (2 players, pot size 4.5 big bets)
river: Qh9h9c7s8c, Hero bets, UTG immediately raises, Hero tanks and calls. UTG's JhTh chops the pot.

The instant I saw the flop, I decided to represent the 9. The pot was small (yeah, so why the heck am I taking such risks??) so I felt that check/call/lead was very believable to these thinking opponents. (also, UTG is the type that automatically would bet this flop if the blinds check).

Monday, August 20, 2007

BIG Missed river raises

I'm continuing to play a substantial amount of live midstakes LHE.

Within the last few days, there is one particular mistake I've made that really sticks in my mind:
"Calling on the river in a big multiway pot with a hand that is very likely to be better than or equal
to the bettor's but possibly not better than one or more of the opponents behind me (for whom which calling 2 bets would be a tough decision)."

I have 2 examples of this: (granted some of my earlier street decisions in these hands are poor or at least debatable; I will comment on those as well)
hand #1
live $20/$40 LHE, 8 handed; Hero is posting $20 in the CO; SP1 is a solid and smart player, Button is unknown player, SB semi-solid player, BB is a very solid player, LWP1 and LWP2 are both loose and intermittently wild players. LWP1 tends to be more wild preflop and on the flop; LWP2 can be wild on any street, and also has a very frequent tendency to bluff (or bet, depending on your point of view) very weak hands on the river
preflop: muck, SP1 open raises, LWP1 and LWP2 both cold call, Hero calls $20 more with 8h8c (I would have 3 bet with no cold callers even with SP1 range given few loose players behind me), button mucks, SB calls, BB calls (6 players, pot size 12 small bets)
flop: 2h3d5h, checked to SP1, SP1 bets, LWP1 and LWP2 call, Hero raises, SB mucks, BB immediately 3 bets, SP1 immediately caps it, LWP1 and LWP2 call 3 more, Hero tanks and calls (I don't like this call getting only 15:1 vs BB and SP1's ranges on this board with this hand; one modest consolation is that Hero holds 8h, I definitely muck here without the 8h) (5 players, 32 small bets)
turn: 2h3d5h6h, checked around (5 players, 16 big bets)
river: 2h3d5h6h4c, checked to LWP2, LWP2 bets, Hero calls, everyone else calls. Pot is chopped 5 ways; (BB tables 64o, SP1 tables QcQs; amusingly Hero holds the ~only~ heart)

The river situation should be an easy raise for Hero (and calling a 3 bet from LWP2 is mandatory, while folding to any other 3 bet). During the actual hand, I was too busy cursing myself for calling on the flop and reflecting how far behind I was in the hand to be mentally preparing myself for a situation where I could steal the pot (some or all of it). This type of situation is a frequent one - namely that in order to be successful in poker, you can't dwell on the past; you must focus on the present and the future.

hand #2
live $20/$40 LHE, 9 handed; Hero is posting $20 in the CO; SP1 is a semi-solid and smart player, Hijack is an action player (and is well known for how much action he brings to the table), Button is a tight player, SB is unknown, BB is semi-loose passive. For the players that Hero has history with, Hero has a tight table image.
preflop: muck, SP1 open raises, mucked to Hijack, Hijack 3 bets, Hero calls 2 more with 9h7h (semi-loose call getting somewhere between 5-6:1 without closing the action), button mucks, blinds and SP1 call (5 players, pot size 15 small bets)
flop: TcTs8d, checked to Hero, Hero bets, all call (5 players, 20 small bets)
turn: TcTs8dTd, checked around (5 players, 10 big bets)
river: TcTs8dTd6h, checked to Hijack, Hijack bets, Hero calls, SB calls. Hijack tables A high, SB wins with 4's full.

Sigh...
I'm going to be paying particularly close attention for these types of situations/opportunities in the future...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What's good for the goose, good for the gander...

Lately, I've been giving out a lot of advice to someone who is very near and dear to me. I've come to realize that many of the things I am being critical of and/or making suggestions about are just as applicable to myself (albeit in different ways).

I'm re-committed to self-improvement, and I will endeavor to do as I say.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

donk hand of the week

Writing about all those big pair hands in my last post leaves me feeling a little sick about playing big pairs.

However, I just remembered an AWFUL beat I gave today. Here it is with absolutely lousy decision making on every post flop street:

hand #1
9 handed live $40/$80, CO is a very tight, and only modestly aggressive ABC player who is posting, BB is a middle age Caucasian whom I have played with before but don't remember how he plays, so I assumed pretty standard for the demographic (since he was not memorable enough for me to recall)
preflop: mucked to CO who checks, Hero raises w 8s7s, SB mucks, BB calls, CO tanks for 5 seconds and calls (very weak! yum yum) (3 players, pot size 6 small bets)
flop: JsJc3c, BB donk bets, CO turbo mucks, Hero tanks and calls (my line of thinking is that BB is donking a very small PP, and that the likelihood that BB will check the turn is fairly high - e.g. a big card comes, or just general conservativeness of my perceived classification for this player. I put my outs at somewhere near 8; 6 for my pair possibilities, >1 for my runner runner flush, and a little less than 1 for counterfeit possibilities against PP 66 or smaller (2 players, pot size 8 small bets)
turn: JsJc3cAs, BB bets, (yikes he is STILL betting?!!?) Hero tanks and calls (a pretty darn loose call with probably no more than 7 outs getting 5:1) (2 players, pot size 6 big bets)
river: JsJc3cAs2s, BB bets, (wow, STILL betting??) Hero chickens out and calls saying "I have to see what you have". BB tables two red K's and table goes berserk when Hero tables the runner runner suckout.

Everyone in this hand plays so goot...

Friday, July 27, 2007

recent big pairs in LHE

I have been playing a substantial amount of live LHE, primarily full ring $40/$80. Recently I played a KK hand that was criticized by someone who's play I respect. I don't think I agree with him, and perhaps I respect his game less so because of this. I'm not really sure, so I thought it best I post this hand so that I can re-read it later and possibly reconsider.

While on the subject of KK hands, I'll also post another one that was a little interesting and perhaps played questionably.

hand #1
9 handed, live $40/$80 LHE
preflop: Hero open raises UTG w KsKc, cold called by a slightly tilting experienced player UTG+1, loose player cold calls, mucked to maniac in SB who calls, BB calls (5 players, pot size 10 small bets)
flop: 3h4h5c, maniac bets, BB mucks, Hero immediately raises, UTG+1 immediately 3 bets, muck, muck, maniac calls, Hero caps, both call (3 players, 22 small bets)
turn: 3h4h5c9s, maniac checks, Hero bets, UTG+1 raises, maniac calls, Hero?

as played:
turn: 3h4h5c9s, maniac checks, Hero bets, UTG+1 raises, maniac calls, Hero tanks and calls (3 players, 17 big bets)
river: 3h4h5c9sKh, maniac checks, Hero?.

as played:
river: 3h4h5c9sKh, maniac checks, Hero bets, UTG+1 raises, maniac mucks, Hero tanks and calls.

UTG+1 tables the flopped nut straight.

- I was criticized for calling on the turn. I absolutely concede that my hand is not good on the turn, but getting 16:1 I think it is reasonable to call vs. what I perceive to be a hand range of {AA, KK, 2 pair, a set, a straight} for UTG+1 and {some pair, and/or str/flush draw} for maniac.
- I capped the flop and led the turn because I was very confident that UTG+1 would raise on the come for a free card and take the free card UI, and also because of the value from putting in the extra bet with the maniac in the hand. I was pretty confident that I had defined my hand well enough for UTG+1 to understand and that he was not tilting so much that he would continue to raise the turn on the come.
- I was planning to muck the river UI (and I'm sure many would disagree with mucking an overpair with this pot size, but that was my plan).


on to the next hand...

hand #2
9 handed, live $40/$80 LHE, Hero and J have a "solid" table image that the majority of the table is aware of. S is a clever and sometimes tricky player (though you could very much question that from this hand - S was stuck at least 15 big bets prior to this hand, so that may influence his behavior).
preflop: Hero open raises UTG w KsKc, muck, muck, J 3 bets, mucks, S caps it cold, button and blinds muck, Hero and J call (3 players, pot size 13 small bets)
flop: 9c8h3c, Hero donk bets, J calls, S calls (3 players, pot size 16 small bets)
turn: 9c8h3c4s, Hero checks, J checks, S bets, Hero calls, J check raises, S calls, Hero 3 bets, J looks sick and calls, S laughs and calls (3 players, pot size 17 big bets)
river: 9c8h3c4sJh, Hero (throws up in his mouth and) bets, J calls, S mucks AcQc faceup. J's AA is good.

oh yeah, another fun big pair hand. This time not KK, but QQ. I think I'm okay with the way I played the hand, but was just "unlucky"???

hand #3
9 handed, live $40/$80 LHE, Mary has a fairly solid raising range, but considerably looser calling down/chasing range. Chris is a semi-solid player whom I have played a large number of hours with.
preflop: Mary open raises UTG, Hero 3 bets UTG+1 w QhQd, Chris caps it cold UTG+2, mucked back to UTG and both call (3 players, pot size 13 small bets)
flop: Ts6s5c, Mary checks, Hero checks, Chris bets, both call (3 players, pot size 16 small bets)
turn: Ts6s5c9c, Mary checks, Hero bets after a very brief hesitation, Chris instantly raises, Mary calls, Hero tanks and mucks (2 players, pot size 13 big bets)
river: Ts6s5c9cQc, Hero pukes, Mary check calls, Chris's AA are good.

Is this a bad turn muck by hero? My intention of betting the turn was to get some kind of read from Chris with the intention of mucking if I feel I am beaten to save a bet from a scenario where I am unlikely to improve (vs the check/call check/call line).

Many players in UTG+2's will automatically raise the turn with JJ or QQ, but I really felt given my previous playing experiences with Chris that he would have stopped to think (for even a brief moment) before raising on the turn with a hand worse than KK+. Perhaps my thinking is just too biased based on my actual hand. Hard to say...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

3 moments from Vegas

i) In the lobby of Caesar's Palace, a young lady dressed in her bridal gown is conversing with a Caesar's employee. The employee is clearly telling her that she cannot do something. The bridezilla cries out to get her message through to the oblivious employee, "But you don't understand! We are here for THE WEDDING!!!!".

ii) At the Total Rewards desk at the Rio, a gentleman and his wife push up to the front of the line. The clerk asks "Sir are you a diamond member, this line is for diamond members only." The man replies extremely proudly, "No but my son is. He is a ~poker player~!"

iii) At a $2/$5NL game at the Wynn, there are a couple of mid-high stakes young european players donking it up. Elky wanders into the room and is chatting and laughing it up with them. I had been friendly chatting with my neighbor for the past hour, and I mention to him who Elky is (none of the players at the table know any of these online players). I get Elky's attention and start, in a VERY roundabout way, asking him if he wants to buy my seat (as there is a modest wait). My neighbor more decisively just stands up, says "sell ya my seat for 100 bucks", and pushes Elky into the chair. I snooze I lose... (I also didn't do a particularly effective job of capitalizing on the game conditions for the next couple of hours, so that missed free $100 was particularly annoying...)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Playing bad, getting lucky...

These are two dopey hands from a $5/$10NL session at the Rio.

hand #1
9 handed live $5/$10NLHE
- Villain is a vegas local who plays about 20/10/0.8. He likes to slow play to the river. About 10 minutes ago, we were discussing a different player at the table who Villain had commented was playing weak tight (he said so in a mocking way). Last of all, Villain is steaming a little bit just prior to this hand.
- Hero has not been very active in this session with a VPIP < 10%
preflop: muck, Villain limps, Hero raises to 5xbb w AdKh, mucked around to Villain who calls (2 players, pot size 11.5bb)
flop: AhKd4h, Villain checks, Hero makes a weak c-bet of 5xbb, Villain immediately CR to 15xbb, Hero tanks and calls (2 players, pot size 41.5bb)
turn: AhKd4h5c, Villain bets 20xbb, Hero tanks and calls (2 players, pot size 81.5bb)
river: AhKd4h5c2s, Villain instabets 40xbb, and Hero instacalls. Villain shows 8c8s, presumably to see what Hero called him down with. Hero shows, and Villain goes ballistic.

On the flop, I made a weak bet on a coordinated A high board to allow a thinking player, like the Villain, to take the pot away from me. Villain's flop action is consistent with this line (and, of course, with a better hand like 44, but also worse made hands like Ax/A4)

On the turn, I put Villain on 44 or nothing, and call to keep the pot small (and in small part for rope-a-dope reasons)

On the river, Villain fires a THIRD bullet. Granted, I know that Villain is steaming a little bit, and also that Villain knows that I am capable of folding top pair type hands, but I still don't think these Vegas locals are making these multistreet bluffs often enough to call getting 3:1. I don't like my call.

At any rate, in the actual hand: on the river, I would have tanked and possibly mucked if any of 3 things happened:
i) heart comes
ii) significantly bigger bet, say 40bb
iii) any pause before Villain bets the river

--------------------------------------------

On to the next hand....

My postflop actions in this hand related to bet sizing and building a pot are poor. I really hate this hand.

hand #2
9 handed live $5/$10NLHE
- different Villain who is new to the game this orbit (no prior history)
- effective stacks ~120bb
preflop: donkey limps UTG, mucked to Villain in MP+1 who limps, mucked to button who limps, Hero complete in SB w 5h5s, another donkey in the BB checks (5 players, pot size 5bb)
flop: 2s5dJs, checked to Villain who overbets 8xbb, button mucks, Hero calls fairly quickly, everyone else folds (2 players, pot size 21bb)
turn: 2s5dJsAh, Hero checks, Villain bets 15xbb, Hero CR to 40xbb, Villain tanks for ~8 seconds and calls (2 players, pot size 101bb)
river: 2s5dJsAh8s, Hero bets 40xbb, Villain insta calls, Hero shows set, Villain shows smaller set.

I was quite astonished to see his hand give that he didn't push on the turn.

Anyway, this should have been a very simple hand. If I lead on the flop, all the money goes in on either the flop or the turn. Boo me!
This is the most significant notable point of the hand. *** Namely, Hero took a very simple situation and unnecessarily created a potentially difficult situation to handle. ****

Villain commented that he wished I had moved in on the river so he could have mucked. I replied that I had to bet some amount that he could call.

I don't know what I would have done (other than throw up in my mouth) if Villain moves in on the river for ~30bb more. It is a very bad sign in NLHE if you don't know how to respond to a raise.

Hero was very lucky that Villain had just the right hand to call the river bet. I would imagine that for a more standard range for a Villain with this board and the earlier action, the Villain will either muck or raise.