Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Future of Internet Poker

I have a lot to catch up on since I've been avoiding updates, including:

  • Victim of fraud through Pacific/888
  • Internet poker burnout
  • A new local live game I've been playing
  • Sportsbook bonuses
  • A new computer
For now, I'll just post an e-mail I wrote which summarizes my opinions of the new internet poker legislation. The usual disclaimer (this is the opinion of someone with no legal knowledge) applies. In response to a cardplayer article "What's NOT Included in Anti-Gaming Legislation" by Allyn Jaffrey Shulman:
Tons of rumors around, we'll see how it shakes out.

Honestly, I think that cardplayer article is trying to put a positive spin on things. Yes, some online sites will still survive. But yes, this is going to change the poker landscape significantly.

For one thing, Ms Shulman does not address the fact that employees of companies could be arrested on entering the US. Could that extend to Hellmuth and Duke? Possibly. So most sponsorships may be out the window. Furthermore, advertising for TV shows will certainly decline.

Personally, I'll probably still keep playing if it isn't too difficult (since the bill really can't touch me, just the people who move my money). But probably not nearly as much, because the games are going to get much harder. Realistically, the main people who will stop playing are the random kids and dad's around the country who make up the fish supply. The vaste majority of players who were thinking of giving real-money play a shot will probably avoid it now too. That leaves only the true hard-core degenerates for the fish supply, and I expect the number of fish will be a fraction of what it is now (and the primarily european sites will be locking us out). Think about it -- cut the fish population in 1/3, and suddenly beating the rake isn't that easy.

For the record, I'm trying to be realistic, not be a pessimist. I've got approx $3K spread around maybe 10 sites (half of those are sportsbooks) and I haven't withdrawn anything before I normally would. That's not including $1K in Neteller. The only thing I've don't differently is burned a Party bonus last night (instead of taking a week to do it) and depositing in some sportsbooks to make sure I got my bonuses locked in before the legislation. Beyond that, I'm just not going to open any new accounts, focusing on Stars until it is clear they are locking us out, then maybe moving to UB.

Oh, yeah, I probably ought to remove the few links in my so-called blog just in case.

FYI, I saw somewhere that Party is encouraging people to keep money on their site because they are working on something else US players can spend their money on. Maybe it is fantasy horse and dog racing poker? The flop comes greyhound, doberman, bulldog, so I'll raise you two thoroughbreds.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I'm burned out on poker...

... which will probably last until tomorrow.

Things have been running really, really well for me the past few months since I switched back to concentrating on NL again. Just finished a bonus on Party attempting to multi-table $50 NL 6-max for the first time. It went well and I cleared ~$250 with the bonus. I may consider multi-tabling $100 NL 6-max on Stars to clear the reload bonus I have over there. In general I think I need a few more hours on $100 NL (maybe I'll finish off the Full Tilt bonus) and then I plan to take some shots at $200NL.

Oh, yeah, my bankroll is now a little over $4.1K. NL is treating me really well, and I'm only now starting to suffer some bad beats which I am honestly way overdue for. Here's a nice little graph:

I signed up for Full Tilt through Poker Source Online (leave a comment if you want a referral for there, and we can work a little something out in return if you like). I'm pretty happy with PSO -- I'm planning on doing Bodog next through them and a few others to augment the weaker sign-up bonuses. In general, I'm just trying to make sure I always play with a bonus since I don't really pull that many hours and I might as well get a large portion of the rake back through bonuses.

I also tried out the $200+25 Lucky Chances Sunday tournament -- I final tabled it, but busted out the first hand when my 55 couldn't beat the chip leader's A5o. Still, 10th place of 124 paid $500, so I'm not too upset. I definitely have the money to play it occasionally.

In general, I felt quite comfortable and was actually picking up some tells on the other players. Only once was I behind when the money went in (and in my defense, I had the best hand pre-flop, and was pretty much pot-committed). I was not very aggressive though, even when I lucked into a big stack.

I can't say enough about the tournament staff at Lucky Chances. I thought it was a very well-run tournament, much better than Artichoke Joe's. This is what I wrote about it to a friend who inquired:

It was a pretty good tournament, actually -- I liked it a lot better
than Artichoke Joe's (the other local tourney I've played). I'd
definitely recommend it.

Buy-in was $200+25, so that's a little high, but players were
generally decent but not too good until you get later in the tourney.
The structure is fast but not nearly as fast as AJs or Garden City
tournaments -- 20 minute rounds, usually blinds/antes don't double
except for rounds 4-5. Not having a rebuy helps too -- tends to thin
out the tables in a more natural way giving a bit more play. They did
have 24 alternates (+ 124 players total, top prize $9K, top ten pay).

The main thing I noticed is they really went out of their way to let
the players know what was going on with announcements, plasmas showing
the current level/blinds, and quick floor people when there was a
dispute. I found the tournament staff very good and responsive and
the dealers were pretty good too.

I ended up busting the first hand of the final table to take 10th and
$500. Can't really complain because I didn't really suffer any bad
luck the whole time to that point.

The buy-in is a bit much for me, but since I won that time I will
definitely be playing it again in the next month or two.

That's it for now. I've played poker 90% of the days for the past three weeks or so, so I think it is time to slow down and take a few days off or cut down on hours. I can really feel the tilt and fatigue building, so I might as well quit while I'm ahead.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Win Streak Over

16 winning days over three weeks. +$540.

Good riddance. Now I can get back to playing without trying to 'pull out a win'.

No complaints though -- in the last two months I've made over $2K, nearly doubling my bankroll with a bit to spare for the family. Here's hoping I can keep the run going.

The run directly correllates with the refocusing on NL and not chasing bonuses as much. It pays to play your best game.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Tables!

Gotta love Stars' new beta. It is obvious they realized that allowing tables to be resized would make Stars more popular with the multi-tablers and get more business. And they've really implemented a good system (although configuration is still a little clunky).

For me, being able to shrink the tables lets me 4-table on my laptop very nicely (I realized a while ago that it was -EV for me to lay tables on top of each other -- between the blinking and the mis-clicks, I make a lot of mistakes).

So, first order of business was to play a Stars $20+2 180 while I played the blogger tournament. That was a dumb idea :) I wasn't really in big tournament mode and busted out pretty quick in the 180 (somehow 80 other donkeys busted before me though). I went relatively deep in the blogger tournament (317th) but was short-stacked and probably playing too weak-tight.

After that, I wanted to take one more shot at keeping the winning streak alive (one reason I should probably just take a loss so I stop trying to force wins). At first, I was thinking 6-max 100 NL, but then I remembered I could 4-table some SnGs. So that's what I did -- I fired up 3 $20+2 SnGs (having a quadrant of my screen available is handy) and ended up getting 3rd, 1st, and 1st. Mostly I was playing pure aggression (raise, raise, raise -- oh, someone called me pre-flop? bet out and see what happens). It was hella fun :) I think I had the upside of variance in general (although the third place table I had KK cracked by AJ, built back up again, and lost a coinflip).

So, maybe I should take a break from 6-max and do some sets of SnGs until I get bored with it. I think it would be pretty profitable (I'd say players are generally too tight and passive when it gets down to the bubble time). At $2 of bonus per tourney, it'd probably burn through my Stars bonus pretty quick too.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Brief update...

My (almost) three-year old just said "I want a snack like Back-yarnnn-i-gans." And so I get to post a quick update before my son's last day fair at school.

Consider yourself warned. It is amazing how the songs in these kids shows get stuck in your head. Like waking up in the middle of the night wanting to sing kind of stuck.

Anyway, a few random poker comments.

First, I've been on a heater since my last losing streak. As in running off 13 winning days in a row for +$400 and over $16/hr + bonuses. I won't lie, I've been playing pretty low (especially burning off the latest party bonus 4-tabling $25NL) and adjusting the types of games I play to see how long I can make the winning streak go. That's probably not good. But I am very satisfied with breaking out of the losing streak and maintaining a balanced schedule and a positive outlook.

I played at Lucky Chances Monday for a $63 win. I played like a nit, super tight, but it will bring home (small amounts) of money in that game. The structure was ok, $200 max buy, 1-1-2 blinds ($1 on the button) but you need to bring it in for $4. Rake/jackpot takes $5 from every pot with a flop. Maybe it was just my table, but it seems like the players are better than the $100 spread Garden City game. I'd really like to work towards having the bankroll and confidence to open it up in live $100-$200 NL games.

One comment on Speaker's recent entry. Never get down about bad starting hands. In NL, preflop hands really don't matter that much. Things like position, first in with a raise vig, and hitting the flop matter a lot more. Focusing on the cards only makes you tighten up and miss profitable situations in NL, even late in tournaments. Raising with a large pocket pair scares me a hell of a lot more than raising with a stealing hand because I'm never sure if I'll need to let the pair go, but I know I can drop a stealing or drawing hand easily if I miss.

Monday, June 05, 2006

3K! **fizzle**

I limped through the bankroll milestone of $3,000 tonight. Limped in that I made a quick win in $100 NL (feeling pretty comfortable there now) and then got third in an 18 player 6-max $12+1 on Stars. Lately I just haven't been able to close out any tourneys, although my ITM is very high over the past month (69% which is mostly 10+ player tourneys). Maybe I should re-read the short-handed part of Harrington. I expect I'm folding too much once I get lots of chips in the pot.

Over the past month I've mostly been chopping out a series of small $10-$30 wins with the one big tourney score. I shouldn't complain though, I'm winning, and I feel like I'm playing well.

This must be the 'grinding' phase. When is the 'money growing on trees' phase?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Heads-up Poker

I just made the money in a heads-up tourney on Stars (128 players, $22+2). I gotta say, these are a lot of fun and the field is relatively soft. I expect they aren't fun if you lose the first round. I know they would be a lot of NOT fun if you lost the third round (getting you no money after two hours).

I'm not willing to test the hypothesis, but I bet a good heads-up player (I consider myself pretty good, as in better than average) could make a lot of money on these tourneys. Contrary to what I expected, there actually is a good bit of skill involved as long as your opponent isn't over aggressive and pot sizes stay relatively small. Lets just say, winning my first three rounds, I wasn't all-in very much (including a comeback from a 2:1 chip deficit). Kudos to Stars for putting a lot of play into the tourney's.

One downside (or upside, depending) is the delay between rounds as other tables finish up. It is kind of nice to get some down-time between tourney's to eat, surf the web, and write blogger entries :) On the other hand, if you don't have 4-5 hours free, don't even fire the thing up. Do a 4-player tourney instead (which are also pretty soft).

We'll see what happens. I'm guaranteed $50 now, and winning my next round will get me $50 more. After that the money jumps are ~$100 to $200ish.

Stamina is a bit of an issue (these are stressful sometimes!) but I think I'll be ok. Did I mention 1st gets $750+?

(a bit later...)

Wow, I got worked. Didn't really have the chip lead at all that game and couldn't really get anything going. Probably my biggest mistake was a large bluff that didn't work out. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't look a poker player in the mouth.

Last Wednesday I had my usual dental checkup and pretty much everything was fine, except this:

My hygenist: "Do you grind your teeth at night?"
Me: "No, I don't think so. Sometimes I clench my teeth, but I'm still wearing my retainer at night so I don't think they grind." (sad but true about the retainer)
Hygenist: "Hmmm... Well, you have evidence that your teeth are grinding. Your molars are starting to get flatter, and there's <unintelligible dentist speak> at the base of your molars. Usually this means you are grinding your teeth and you may want to think protecting your teeth."
Me: "I doubt it is at night since I wear the retainer."


Hygenist: The other thing I wanted you to look at was this wear on his molars. I think he may be grinding his teeth.
Dentist: Yeah, although I think it is more clenching than grinding.
Me: ?...
Dentist: Do you ever find yourself clenching your teeth during the day? Maybe when you are concentrating hard?
Me: Kind of. Maybe, but I'm not really sure when.
Dentist: Well, bring in your retainer at your next appointment and I'll take a look at it.
Me: Ok.

Thursday night when I'm losing pots at $50 NL ...

Me: Darn it... %$&*$%... #$!@...

So, basically, I'm clenching when I lose pots or I'm frustrated... Which is a lot of the time that I play :)

Since then, I've been consciously trying to relax my jaw when I play. We'll see if I can unlearn this clenching thing.

I have to wonder if I'll pay more in dental bills than I'll win at $50 NL tables :)

Addendum: Turns out I managed to chip off a shallow filling between my appointment Wednesday and today. So another visit to the dentist is in my future -- at least she uses a cool laser and has VR goggles to watch movies on.

I blame the guy who caught a jack on the turn to hit his three-outer.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

World Records and Coincidences

So I was flipping through the 2000 Guinness World Records book we have in the bathroom (an excellent bathroom book BTW) and I noticed something in the Longest Leapfrog record:

"The greatest distance covered by leapfroggers was 996 miles 292 yd. by 14 students from Stanford University, California, who started leapfrogging on May 16th, 1991, and stopped 244 hr. 43 min. later on May 26th."
Great, so 14 crazy Stanford students leapfrogged for 10 days straight and completed their record-breaking hopping the day before my 14th birthday. Hey, I guess they accomplished their goal and set a record (which sadly isn't indexed online).

Out of curiosity, I looked up Stanford in the index and found only one other entry: Smallest Web Server. Coincidently, early in my graduate career I worked for the start-up spun off of that research.

About an hour later my family presented me my birthday gifts, and among them was the 2006 Edition. Funny.

Needless to say, it will soon take it's rightful place in the bathroom. Sadly, both of the records referenced above aren't mentioned.

Nip it in the bud...

My previous post is definitely on the conservative side and to be honest, I immediately regretted some of it right after I wrote it. Whining about a $28 loss is pretty lame. That being said, I continued my losing streak by dropping a whopping $11 (plus a $6 tilt-tourney) last night. I'm definitely becoming a problem gambler :)

Seriously, though, I've been pretty tilted the past two days. This issue is not the amount of money I lost, but how I lost it. To be honest, I feel like I really have a handle on low-stakes NL tables online and it is my strongest game. I definitely am not suprised when I get drawn out on. But, when I make basic mistakes that I know I shouldn't do (calling down with top pair, for instance), that tilts me to no end. It is one thing to lose to bad luck. It is another when I play poorly in an easy game.

Case in point:

$50 NL on Stars last night, $18 effective stacks. I limp in EP w/ Ah Ac, just me and the blinds ($1.50 pot) see a flop of 8h 6s 4s. SB and BB check, I bet $1. SB raises to $2, BB drop, and I need to decide what to do. He had $13 more behind, and I seriously thought about pushing, but instead I just called. Turn was 3s, he bets $2, I raise to $5, and he pushes for $13 total. Again, debate, then call, to see myself drawing dead to his Qs 8s.

Again, my problem with this hand is not that my aces got cracked -- that happens. My problem is I made a number of bad mistakes throughout the hand that caused me to lose the maximum. I probably would have gotten all-in with him on the flop if I played it right (he was loose and called a lot of raises), but what bugs me is I made many fundamental mistakes.

Limping with aces on any table that isn't super aggressive.

Just calling the flop with an overpair on a draw-heavy board.

Not bailing when his betting showed he had me beat and I had improper odds to call.

What bothers me most is that I was creating my own bad luck and playing in a tilted fashion. As a result, I decided to take my own advice and I took today off of poker (boy, it's hard not to play). Tomorrow I'll be running in the 500 fpp free-roll on Stars, so hopefully I'll have a good tourney. I don't have plans to play any cash games tomorrow though.

I can't help but think this is the down streak I usually have after a long period of running well. It will be a big deal if I can break out of the pattern.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

NL Strategy Rule #1

My NL Strategy Rule #1 is don't overvalue top pair.

Sadly, I violated that many times tonight and dropped half a buy-in over 2.5 hours of $50 NL 6-max (one table). In all honesty, I tilted a bit too. While $23 is only a tiny amount, if I want to break into higher NL I need to get rid of this simple leaks. I lost $24 with one pair hands according to poker tracker. Just following rule #1 would have made me winner.

Probably the majority of the money was succombing to calling bets on the river with a weak top pair. Of course, many times the mistake was on the flop, and it just put me in a bad river spot. For instance (all hands at $50 NL on Stars):

Hand 1: After raising pre-flop I end up out of position with QJo, flop is T52 rainbow, and my continuation bet is called. At the turn the pot has ~$9 with effective stacks of $30. The turn comes J (two clubs) and I check-call a $4.50 bet. River is offsuit A, and I check call $6.50 into an $18 pot to see a set of tens. I was very close to a fold on the river -- but I didn't.

There was very little I could beat -- any two broadway cards had me beat (except QT and KT, but I doubt they'd value bet). Plus, my turn play is suspect -- why didn't I lead out w/ top pair? At least then I have a better idea of where I am. Moral: Fold weak pairs to turn and river bets behind me that look like they're meant to be called. One pair is rarely good especially with a dangerous board. Bonus Moral: if I can't reasonably beat anything that would value bet, just fold even if the odds are better than 3 to 1.

Hand 2: Three players see a flop of Kd 8s 6s and a pot of $6. I'm on the pre-flop raiser on the button w/ KQo. Effective stack was $13. Action goes check, bet $1.50, and I raise to $5. UTG insta-pushes, initial raiser folds, and I insta-call. UTG had a set of 6s.

At the time I was in tournament mode -- I have to call the short stack's all-in because I was committed. But, although I was getting better than 3 to 1, what is going to check-raise in that spot? Flush draw? Doubt it. KJ? No way, they'd lead out. I was most likely against a set or two pair. Even against 8s over 6s, I may barely be getting 3 to 1 -- so actually I didn't have the odds to call. Plus, my read on the guy was very tight -- next to 0% that he would even semi-bluff. Moral: Take time to consider my read, my odds, and put the two together. If in doubt, fold.

Hand 3: This is a beauty in terms of my misplay. The big-blind and I see a flop of 6s 5h 9s. I'm in position with T9o, pot is $1.25, and effective stacks are $20. Big blind leads out for $1.50. I raise to $3, he calls. Turn is 3c, he bets $2, I call. River is 6h, he bets $4, I call after much debate.

The really interesting thing about this hand is I believe my best course of action was to fold on the flop. The flop is really dangerous, he overbet the pot, and I have nothing to fall back on and no real idea what hand he has (anything from a straight, two pair, to an uber-draw is possible). In other words, there are no real safe cards to fall, and a better TP than mine is a real possibility (many guys don't raise A9o like him, K9, Q9, J9 are also real possibilities). With so little involved in the pot and no redraws I think it is a fold, even with position. Just too much risk and horrible pot odds.

The small bet on the turn made me suspicious of a draw, but it is hard to raise in that spot. Again, dangerous board, etc, etc. The river bet seemed to be very much a value bet/blocking bet and there was little point in calling it. I just couldn't see that sequence with most drawing hands. Kind of a fold or push situation, although maybe, maybe he'd be betting a busted draw.

The point is that I had a lot of hard decisions in that hand which cost me money. I'm better off just mucking the flop and saving my money for better spots. Gambling and moves really aren't needed for low stakes NL. Moral: On a scary board, muck TPWK if I have no re-draws. Even a gutshot makes it worth seeing more cards.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Going to the show... (hopefully)

Poker Tournament

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7330476

Monday, May 22, 2006

That familiar feeling...

Remember a few months ago when I was on a win streak and I felt something bad coming out of the corner of my eye? Well, I've got that feeling again.

Let me backtrack a bit -- I finally listened to the advice "Play what you are good at." In other words, to burn the most recent bonus at Party, I put in one losing session at 1/2, then realized that I could four-table the $25NL tables with a $12+ clear rate. So I put in another four sessions, earned ~$90, and averaged about 20PTBB/100 (good is considered 10PTBB/100). Yes, it could just be a lucky winning streak (1000 hands is nowhere near enough to draw conclusions). But, unlike many of my limit sessions where I wonder if I know what I am doing, the NL grinding was pretty automatic and I was very comfortable. This is probably the first time I've come out ahead from the poker in the last couple of bonuses I've completed.

So, yeah, I've strung together 6 winning days. And I'm getting that feeling.

Thinking about it, I think the source of the feeling is getting a little too 'comfortable' at the table. In other words, less thinking, less drive, and more autopilot. Especially on the last hour session of four-tabling Party.

Lets be honest, I'm still playing micro tables, my bankroll is a very comfortable $2700, and I don't really have much to worry about. But I would like to ride this winstreak and avoid the 15-20% drop in my bankroll that has happened the other times I got this feeling. So I've got a plan:

  1. Slow down. Play less, don't burn out.
  2. Focus, don't grind. Play when I want to play, and have a goal. Currently, my goal is to better my HU LHE game (burning the Doyle's bonus is great for this) and break into the $100 NL.
As far as the $100 NL, I positively feel that I have the ability right now to thrash that game and I have well over the 20 buyins recommended. From what I have heard, it is one of the last levels where casual players mix it up on a regular basis.

To get there though, I need to become comfortable with the amount of money being pushed around and the possible losses. So I plan to play both $50 NL and $100 NL in the near future with a goal of playing pretty much only the $100 NL in a few weeks. I don't think it will end badly, but I'm not going to run the psychological risk of just jumping in and getting slammed in a few bad sessions, then tilting off more money.

And yes, I know I am being overly cautious, but that is my style (for bankroll at least).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Anatomy of a losing streak...

CC has been going through a losing streak lately and I decided to write him a quick e-mail about some of my thoughts. As usual, 'quick' turned into long, wordy, and a bit lecturing, but I think it is worthwhile to post here (honestly, I should probably go back and remind myself of some of these ideas too).

BTW, I've got to say that CC is probably the best example of a blogger creating a great following by working hard. Posting often, quality posts, and interactive content is the best way to build readers.

Here's the content of the e-mail:

I wanted to comment on your recent troubles -- I could have left this in a comment but it was easier to put in an e-mail. My goal is not to offend you but give you my thoughts as an outside observer:

I think you are on a very slippery slope right now and should be careful in the near future. The comment that really got to me was "I've had very negative thoughts during play, almost feeling destined to lose. This is self-pity combined with a feeling that is reinforced through bad outcomes." For me, my litmus test of whether I should play is an attitude like that -- if I find myself expecting the bad beat, expecting to lose money, and I can't get the feeling to go away, then I am not in the right place to play. After all, those thoughts are self-fulfilling prophecies. Put another way, those kind of thoughts go through my head when I am in that long-term tilt area.

I recommend you take a few days off until those thoughts go away.

Again, I'm not trying to tell you what to do -- but in my history, I've had a few nasty losing streaks and every single time I felt like you do now. In each case, I didn't recover until I had time off poker (at least a few days, sometimes a week). It just took me that long to shake the tilt and play because I enjoyed it.

That being said, I don't really have the ability to play my way out of a losing streak. I know some guys can, like Ted Forrest. But deep down, I know I can't, at least not now. Especially internet poker, it all moves too quickly, to easily accessed, and lets face it, we're probably all addicted to some degree. Who knows, maybe its the fact we're always sitting in the same place at the computer -- maybe we should be moving our desks to get out of losing streaks!

I think you have made some good steps to getting rid of the problem, although be careful with multi-tabling. While it does help tighten you up, remember you are giving up some reading ability (i.e. EV) and it can uber-tilt you in minutes when all your tables have bad things happen. The three seconds before each move is an excellent idea though -- when I'm losing I definitely take less time to think things through, and taking three seconds is a great way to break out of that pattern.

Ok, one last comment and then I'll go away. I wrote a lot more than I meant to, so maybe I'll post this on my blog and call it an 'entry'. I never was that good at short and sweet.

One of the biggest dangers of poker is the lack of control we have. For instance, back when I played organized sports (this labels me as a nerd, I played Ultimate Frisbee seriously for three years before I succombed to injury), if something bad happened, I'd usually try harder -- run harder, focus harder, get more aggressive. Essentially use my anger or frustration to channel energy into the endeavour. Win or lose, I was usually satisfied that I did my best.

With poker though, you can't do that. Poker really is a 'hurry up and wait' type of game and trying to take control and force a win usually makes matters worse. But, of course, when I'm losing, my natural tendancy is to kick it in and try harder (usually resulting in playing more hands more aggressively). That also results in playing longer and more frequent sessions (which doesn't help the EV).

I think many poker players are like that -- the type of person attracted to poker is usually relatively aggressive, has a background in sports and competitive games, and doesn't like to lose. I definitely see you as that type of person, based on your blog. And lately, it really seems like the lack of control is getting to you, and maybe the best way to regain control is to take a break from online poker, all poker, even blogs.

Obviously, I don't really know you, and this is just advice. But I wanted to speak up because I've been recognizing a familiar pattern in your recent posts.

Big Win!

I'm going to kill a little more of my precious work time and get this down because it is pretty important.

On Sunday, I won a bit over $1,088. Yes, that is four digits, my biggest win ever.

Thursday I got an e-mail from Poker Club Europe (a B2B site where I just finished burning a bonus). Turns out I had an entry to a 3,000 free-roll because of their Refer-a-Friend competition -- both the referrers and the referrees (?) got entries to the competition (plus the top three referrers split €1,750). Gotta love these new sites throwing around money. The best part was the message had a 'secret agent' feel to it with black text on a black background -- so you had to highlight it to see the info (this was a bug, not a feature).

The complication was that my parents were in town, but I managed to clear a few hours starting at noon on Sunday to play the tourney. After all, with 37 people entered, the entry was worth about $80 which is a decent amount for me, plus the structure really suited my style (decent stacks, long blinds, no antes). Well, when Sunday rolled around, it turned out only about 13-14 people were actually active in the tourney (they probably weren't able to decode the e-mail). I actually had a bit of a bad beat with three other active players on my table -- one lucky schmuck had no other active players at his table, so he just stole blinds with abandon for the first half-hour. By the time the missing people had their stacks picked up, he had chipped up from T2500 to something like T15000. He eventually got second.

As for me, I played my usual 'small satellite' strategy (which I'm hoping to detail in another post in the near future because I believe I have non-obvious information to share). If I remember correctly, I wasn't all-in with the worst hand until we were well into the money (and that was a coin-flip). In fact, although I dropped a decent amount early, I don't really recall being nervous at any one point. I just hammered away and mostly stayed above par (I was 3rd or fourth for most of the final table, 7 paid out).

By the time we got to the big money jump at 3rd place, I had a slight chip lead when I pushed from the BB over a raise by the other big stack with AKo. I thought for sure he would lay down, but he insta-called with JJ (what, you don't even think about it?), and I was fortunate enough to win the race and acquire a 2.5:1 lead in heads-up. I promptly lost it doubling up the other guy with KQs vs JTs (all-in pre-flop), but got a few lucky situations (like 88 vs 77) and pulled out the win.

Oddly enough, the win wasn't my most satisfying, probably because I only had to beat a small field and had a lot of things go right for me in the tourney. For instance, the earlier mentioned huge stack really hunkered down and didn't apply any pressure during the critical bubble period. He was on my immediate right, so I ended up getting a lot of walks in my BB. That alone accounted for a lot of my success (and helped me handle my losses to the aggressive guy on my left who kept schooling me with his position). Still though, I have to be happy winning over 50% of my bankroll in one free-roll tournament, and I felt like I played pretty well to get there.

It is nice to be a winner sometimes. Oh, and this makes me positive for online play in 2006 :)

In other news, I still suck at LHE. My first session four-tabling 1/2 at Party for the latest reload saw me lose 15BB over 45 minutes. I keep trying to remind myself that it might just be variance, but deep down I still believe my limit game is flawed. Even worse, now I have the bankroll for 5/10, but I'm nowhere near feeling comfortable playing that high. If I can't beat 1/2, how can I beat 5/10?

I think it is time to pay my family some more winnings.

Monday, May 08, 2006

May update

I've delayed updating, but I think it'd be smart to get down some of the things that have happened lately without stealing too much time from work:

  1. Came close to a WSOP seat at Martinspoker (well, making it to 40th out of 160 where the top 10 get seats). Considering I got in for free (VIP points) and all three tournaments (two satellites) had significant overlays, I'm pretty happy with that. I'll probably take another shot in late May and maybe another shot in June -- the overlays are just too big to pass up.
  2. I'm continuing to have a huge hot streak at the Wednesday games -- 11 of the last 12 tourneys cashed, six 1sts, three 2nds. An unreal run, but I definitely feel like I've been 'dialed in' for the structure of the game. Done pretty well in the cash games, although one night I dropped $60 (mostly kings and littles) :)
  3. Burned a bonus on PokerClubEurope (B2B skin). Awesome signup and referral bonuses, but hard to make a buck at those tables. Dropped almost 60 euros over 6 hours. Ouch.
  4. Burned through two bonuses on Party. The first, a $35 reload, went really quick (too quick, I believe their software screwed up) and I came out ahead at NLHE by $16 or so. The second, a $100 reload, I experimented with 4-tabling 1/2 LHE and dropped about $45 due to a -$60 final session. Gotta love resizing the party tables. Oh well, I still came out ahead at least.
  5. Related to the previous two topics, I still suck at LHE. I think I'm just a bit better suited for big bet games. My latest theory is I've been stressing decisions on the flop instead of the turn (which is ideal for big bet games, but not small bet games). I threw some money back onto UB to try to do some three-tabling in the near future and test this hypothesis. I will try to avoid multitabling LHE on sites that I can't fit all screens up at the same time -- just too much effort switching back and forth.
  6. And, again, I've been noticing a disturbing trend in 2006 of losing money online. Granted, I'm still ahead overall with the bonuses, but I've lost a significant amount since the first of the year (when the slide started). To be specific, it is approx -$650 over 125 hours of play, or about -$5 /hour. It directly correllates to when I've been burning bonuses, so I'm sure I'm modifying my play, game selection (i.e. playing LHE), etc. to fit with the bonuses. Obviously, this is something I'd like to fix, but as yet I haven't truly identified what is wrong.
  7. Played the $100 NL at Garden City a few times and booked a few wins.
  8. My bankroll is scratching that $2,000 milestone. That's pretty cool.
Actually, maybe I should focus on this lost money online. It really is getting pretty bad -- if I had just played break-even poker over that time, I'd be up a ton of money. Looking at the stats and graphs, it really appears LHE is my achilles heel, losing -$460 during that time over 54 hours of play. I did lose ~$160 at tournaments, but that I attribute more to variance than anything else (I had few cashes).

Probably the biggest leak was playing larger limits at the end of a bonus session -- I think I push too much to finish the bonus and it hurts me. For instance, about $400 was lost at 2/4 in two sessions alone (with another $100 at 1/2). That, along with the fact I usually chase bonuses at smaller sites (less fish, more bonus whores) makes sense. I think it is time to strengthen my limit game some more, but depend on NLHE to grow my bankroll. I also think I need to leave the game (or at least switch tables) when I'm running bad, very few times have I been able to turn a bad session around.

Friday, March 31, 2006

A get rich slow scheme...

I've got a ton of stuff I want to post about, but not enough time. There was one thing I wanted to share now before I lost the thought.

Jason Bonace, in his most recent article in CardPlayer College (Temper Your Expectations) published some stats on SnG ROI in the long term. Good players make approximately 10-15% of the buy-in for each one they enter. Lately I've decided to start playing some $20+2s on Stars -- this means I'll earn about $2-$3 per SnG. Not much, huh.

What I've known for a while but am only now starting to understand is that making money at poker is really about volume -- variance more than dwarfs any edge you have (well, that and the rake takes a big chunk of your edge in the first place). The only people consistently and easily making money on poker are the casinos and online sites.

Yet, I can't do volume. Mentally, I don't think I have it in me to grind long term -- really making money at poker online requires establishing a good strategy with minimal decisions and executing it again and again (and again, and again...). Physically, I can't sit at the computer and just click away all day and night -- I already do that at work. And, honestly, I think I lose a pretty sizeable edge from my game with multi-tabling -- I believe one of my weaknesses is not being able to effectively context-switch rapidly and still get results.

So there goes my dream of being a poker professional :) Now I just need to focus on enjoying the time I spend playing.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ouch take two...

Holy crap. Just like the last session of Euro, the last session to clear the bonus on Martins was just horrendous. I dropped 150 euro in less than an hour at 2/4 tables. Yes, it is not even 40 big bets, but why don't I have any big wins > 15 BB to compensate for these big losses at limit? Grrr... Tilt much?

If I had to track the cause for the loss, it'd be bad beats. I kept on getting outdrawn on the turn and the river. But... I wasn't folding to raises on the turn or river, so I definitely didn't save any bets. And tilt played a huge part. I'm thinking I still have a big leak in my limit game and it manifests itself as a string of small wins and then a huge loss. And I believe that leak is on the later streets.

The good news is I still will come out ahead with the bonus (and by my count, clearing both bonuses was good for something like $18 /hr)... But... It'd be nice to keep my stake and my bonus sometimes. At least I'm still ahead at Doyle's Room.

For now.

Addendum: I logged back on this afternoon and spend an hour to win $1 on Stars 6-max 2/4. And then I just spent another 15 minutes doing a $40 hit-n-run at the same games. Yeah, I was definitely tilted before -- but what got me back online was that I was playing without thinking, and I wanted to prove that I could be patient and play a solid game. Well, the afternoon session I was up $50, then down $50, and then got even again.

And I wasn't. Playing. Patient. Poker.

I get into these bad habits of firing at pots no matter what part I hit, no matter what position I'm in. Yes, firing a bullet or two in late position to pick up orphans is good. Firing at second pair from early position against three opponents is suicide -- what do I do if they call? Well, usually fire again. What if I do a sketchy raise in early position w/ Q8s? Fire at the flop and turn no matter what I hit. Hmmm... It's almost like my default (when I'm tired, tilted, whatever) is just to click the bet or raise button. Yes, aggression is good, but not when people show they're willing to call with a better hand. A common flaw in 6-max is difficulty letting go of a hand -- I suffer the same problem, so why do I expect others to make big reads and lay down against my bluffs or thin value bets?

I'm guessing this tendancy of over-aggression has come from HU play -- or at least, it serves me well in HU play. But calling down in 6-max is generally a recipe for disaster. At low limits I'm realizing it really is still a matter of getting good hands (or draws) and having them hold up. Forcing things does not help matters.

The second part is I've been playing enough lately that I'm working off reflexes again -- I bet that is why I did better earlier in the month when I wasn't playing much. I do much better if I take a few seconds to think things through. Thinking it out lets me make the tough turn folds where I'm not sure where I am in the hand and I'm better off saving the bets.

Argh... Limit just isn't my thing. I'm getting better and I'm really determined to not let it beat me down, but its not my thing. Big bet poker definitely suits my style better.

At least the night session I felt like I was tossing my bad cards and staying out of trouble (for 15 minutes).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fear the Raise.

I forgot which blogger said it, but one big idea has bouncing around in my brain lately related to LHE:

"Fear the raise."
Essentially, you can tune out calls and bets much better than you can tune out raises. Raises usually tell you that the raiser has a good hand for the board -- usually two pair or better, often a flush or straight on dangerous boards. Folding is often the best option, especially at low-limit games, where the bluff-raise is uncommon.

If I had to point to any one leak during my losing limit play, that would be it. I need to fold to more raises.


Found the source (at least partially -- I believe another blogger pointed the page out initially): Izmet Fekali's Learning to Win. All of Izmet's stuff is really, really good, especially his Playing with the Fish series. A quote relating to fearing the raise:
"When raised, stop, think, reevaluate. A raise is an incoming message. ... Bets and calls are often automatic, not so with raises. When in doubt, fold."
This idea is probably most responsible for my current winning streak. It is also the first thing that goes when I am multi-tabling and tired.

Poker, butterflies, and ulcers...

During the summer of '99 I had a huge crush on a girl (lets call her Mary) on my summer league ultimate frisbee team which was all well and good until I realized that she was into me also. But the result was a pretty big shock to my system, like when you're looking in a store window at a mannequin and suddenly you realize that it's a real person and they're staring back at you. But the shock went on for weeks, and everytime I thought about Mary I'd get these huge butterflies in my stomach that bordered on an anxiety attack. It didn't help the fact that I was having difficulty clarifying my relationship with her.

About a week earlier I had injured my hamstring quite badly during a game (go to the ER and use crutches for a week badly) and was prescribed horse-sized doses of ibuprofin to keep the swelling down. Like any good college graduate, I dutifully downed my vitamin-I with my morning orange juice and throughout the day, often on an empty stomach. Well, it turned out that was a bad idea, and the combination of stomach-lining-eating pain killers and butterfly wings gave me a nice stomach-ache that lasted about a year, a.k.a. an ulcer.

The funny thing was, I knew that the anxiety that made my stomach cramp every single time I thought of Mary was completely crazy. So, like any good introvert, I tried to figure out what was causing it at fix it. But it was like a spot at the corner of my vision -- every time I tried to look at it, it'd slip away and I'd be left with thin air. Or maybe a better analogy would be my salmonella shrivelled veins when I landed in the hospital at the age of ten -- try to poke them with an IV needle and they'll just slip out of the way at the last minute. Talk about a human pin-cushion.

It seemed like there was a part of my psyche that I poked whenever I thought about Mary which immediately triggered a huge anxiety response. But whenever I actually tried to grab that piece of my mind and take a good hard look at it (or take it out back and beat it with a stick so it'd go away) I'd just be left with slippery fingers holding nothing.


So I've been on a hot streak lately -- something like 15 of the last 17 sessions following my big Garden City loss have been wins (and the two losses were PokerStars tournaments -- one Thursday WWdN blogger tournament, and a $3 rebuy where I managed to drop $36... oops). It really seems like I can do no wrong lately -- I've been having good luck and I know it.

Yet, the past few days I've felt a spot growing at the edge of my vision but I can't seem to pin it down. Granted, it's not an anxiety filled spot, but instead a spot filled with bankroll doom. I know that my play has been slowly decaying, and it is just a matter of time before variance catches up with me and kicks me in the groin.

Its funny how running badly really forces you to focus on your game but running poorly lets you focus on anything but your game. When I was at my low point early this year (which wasn't really that low, it just felt like it) I was extremely focused on squeezing out every value bet and saving bets when I was beat. Now I'm not -- I've hit a new high in my bankroll and I feel like I have enough money. That enough money feeling (TM) in poker will cause you to have less money. Usually quite rapidly.

So, I've made a conscious decision to track down that new slippery spot over the next few days and see if I can stab it, put it under the microscope, and take a good hard look at it. Riding this win streak would be really nice -- especially if I can keep up the good play that started it. The last thing I want to do is give a couple hundred back just because I've let bad habits creep back into my game. Luckily, examining my poker game is much easier for me than examining my anxieties about women.


So what happened to Mary and the ulcer?

Well, Mary ended up moving out to California about the same time I did, so we were able to see each other once or twice (including a memorable hike in Point Reyes that stretched into the night because we got a bit lost). It'd make a great story to say that I married her, but instead it is one of those stories of a friend you've lost track of.

The ulcer, on the other hand, has stuck with me pretty well. I have very fond memories of the driving trip out to CA and hiking in Yellowstone -- me living on a diet of Gatorade, Pepsid AC, and granola bars, and the ulcer being, well, a pain. Took me a year to get rid of it the first time, and it occasionally pops up but I've mostly adjusted my diet and stress to get rid of it.

One of the times it popped back up was when I started playing poker -- I wasn't sure if I'd be able to keep playing poker because higher stakes ($25 tournaments, LOL) were causing me enough anxiety to trigger it again. Once I got more used to the games and stakes, it went away.

It will be back though. Good friends like ulcers always come back.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Many moons ago...

Ok, ok, more like one moon. I can't believe I let a month go by. Well, actually, I can. I've cut down on a lot of the LHE grinding because I just haven't been enjoying it and it has been hurting my body too much (which also directly correllates with me doing more actual work at... work).

Instead, I've been playing only when I feel like playing (with the exception of forcing myself a bit to clear the bonus). And, I've been pretty solidly on an upswing, earning about $500 in that month in poker alone (and $400 in the last two weeks). Some highlights of the last 50 hours of poker:

  • Cashed in the last 6 Wednesday games, including three 1st place and two 2nd place in the last five games. Just good luck building on pretty good play on my part. Up something like $300 (counting cash game wins).
  • Came out $190 winner last night in the Garden City spread-limit game ($100 buy-in). Relatively soft opposition and good luck over the two hours I played. It also avenged my $140 loss in 3/6 a few weeks ago.
  • Played about 9-10 online tourneys with $11-22 buyins, only cashing in three of them right after the bubble burst (one of them was Omaha H/L). Down about $100.
  • Played 12 short sessions of cash games online (only 7 hours total). Booked small wins in pretty much every session for $180 in profit. Everything from LHE (full table, 6-max, and HU) to NLHE to PLO to Badugi. I won't lie, I've generally been lucky (or at least not unlucky) but I also feel like I've been playing pretty focused short sessions. I have a win rate over $25/hr -- not sustainable that's for sure :)
In other words, I've been playing less and doing better -- except online tourneys. I don't know what I'm doing wrong in them -- maybe it's variance, maybe I'm too tight. Not really sure.

Mostly I've just been jonesing for live cash-game play and obviously I've been enjoying my live tourney streak (I'll see if I can keep it alive this week). My bankroll hit a new high last night ($1800) but I yanked out $120 to buy a few toys that I didn't want to use family money for. Speaking of the family, I didn't give any money to the family last month because we got a lot of tax money back and I was near the gulp point for the bankroll (< $1200).

Not sure what I'll do this month (we're doing a bit better financially and I'm realizing how much it is hurting my bankroll to suck out $200 or so every month). The 200 euro MartinsPoker bonus should help things quite a bit though so I'll probably end up putting in another payment unless I hit a really bad run. In my mind, as long as I have about $1500-$1600 I'm in good shape for the chasing bonuses at the online limits I like and the occasional casino trip for 3/6 or $100 spread-limit.

Actually, here's something important to note: for cash games, I've been doing more single-tabling of shorthanded tables. I've really found that I don't learn or play nearly as effectively if I'm on any more than one table. On one table, I see the hand develop, and I can think through my options plus get much better reads on the players. Not to mention, after the hand is over, I have a chance to go back over the hand in my head instead of dealing with other tables popping up. For my goals (playing better poker) I think less is more: less hands, shorter sessions, less tables. I've really been pleased with my LHE play lately because I'm making plays and reads that never really occurred to me before. As I feel more comfortable, I've started to two-table in some situations again (mostly to clear the Martins bonus).

Finally, I'm considering putting a little money towards a WSOP seat, but to be realistic, its a long shot and I'm not going to waste too much money. Trying to win a seat into a tourney worth 6x my bankroll is a little crazy. The experience, if I pulled it off, would be well worth it. So I'll probably budget $50 to $100 to take some shots in satellites. If I get lucky, great. If not, chalk it up as experience. What's the point of a bankroll if you can't use it to play the kind of poker you like to play?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Folding big hands...

So I played in the $100K Party for Free tournament yesterday and didn't last nearly as long as I would have liked. As an aside, I really like the changes Party has made -- their tournament structures are now quite good, and I was surprised to see that the PFF tourney gave you 5K in chips to start with blinds of 20/40, antes later on, and 20 minute levels. Very nice structure.

Hand #1: 15 minutes in my table had been playing very tight and I had taken a few pots to chip up to 5.6K. Then I picked up KK in MP and raised to 120 (3xBB). It folded to a late position player who re-raised to 400ish and folded back to me. I didn't take much time and pushed, hoping to get a loose call from AK, JJ, or QQ -- instead, I got an instant call from AA. Now, if you know Party, you know how quickly the cards come out. I was quite numb as he rolled over his AA and almost simultaneously the flop came out with a king. But a second later he rivered an ace and the universe returned to normal. Surprisingly, I got very little tilt from the whole thing (maybe more after fighting with the 500 chips I had left only to be knocked out with AA when QQ turned a queen). But whining is not the point of this post...

Point #1 is that I actually could have gotten away from my kings. At the time, I didn't even consider it, but once I thought about it more I realized that not only was I capable of folding kings in that spot, I might have done it. That's a weird thing to say, because I've never, ever been in a situation where I could fold kings. Never. I know you're thinking: "You can't fold kings pre-flop in an online tournament against one player!" But hear me out...

If I had re-raised to about 1K and he raised again, that fourth raise is probably going to be 90% aces. Assuming both of our stacks would be in, I'd be putting in 4K to get 10K with 20% * 90% + 10% equity ~ 2.8K equity. Folding would give me 4K equity. Not really close, especially since I'd still have 90% of a starting stack after the fold and the structure is nice and slow. So, I believe if I had made a reasonable raised and then thought a bit after he raised, I could have folded kings in that spot. Usually I go by the assumption that you can't fold kings pre-flop online, but that has now changed. Of course, if it was the next blind level or the starting stacks were a bit lower, I wouldn't even consider it. You really have to have 100 BB to be able to consider it, unless you are live and have some sort of tell (3BB->10BB->25BB raises to only put in 1/4 of your stack).

Before I get to the second point, and I have two more bust-out hands from yesterday:

Hand #2: FCP $20/2 6-max. 3-4 limpers, and I checked my T20 big blind with 69o. Flop was 66T rainbow, and I checked it through for the slowplay. MP bets 25 into the T80 pot, everyone folds, and I smooth call. Turn was a 2, putting a two-flush on the board. I bet into him for T100 (pot was ~130). He called. At this point, I thought it likely he had a pocket-pair or a ten, with a slight possibility of a 6. River was another 2, and I overbet the pot (400 I think). He let his timer tick all the way down and pushed, and I insta-called. He rolled over 22 for quads...
Hand #3: FCP $5/.5. Later in the tourney, I had just tripled up and was about par with 3.5K. Blinds 100/200, I limped in MP with QJs. I actually got what I wanted though and 4-5 more people called to see a flop of 68T w/ two diamonds and one club (I had clubs). It checked around, and the turn came 9 (bingo) of diamonds (damn). Early position bet 500 into the 1.2K pot, and I raised to 1500. Guy to my immediate left cold-called and the rest folded. The river paired the 9, I pushed, and he called with 88 for a full boat.
In hand #2, I like my play until the overbet on the river. At the time, I was trying to make it look like I was stealing the pot and hope to get called by a 2 or a 10 or some pocket pair. But, honestly, that board is a tough call for any of those hands. After he ticked his timer down and pushed (huge tell that I ignored) I'm probably going to need to call. Only T6, TT, or 22 beat me and the way the hand was played ruled out TT pretty easily (most people put in a raise at 6-max in early position).

But, an overbet on that board is probably not going to be called by much except a 2, and I can't figure him for a 2 with his position and it not being present on the flop. So my overbet didn't serve much purpose except to chase out hands that may pay off a smaller bet and overcommit me to the pot. If I had raised less and he didn't push I may have just called (probably not) and remained alive.

My play in Hand #3 is much worse. First, QJ is a nasty trap hand and I was out of position so I'd need to drop it to a raise. I'd be much better off coming in for a raise and getting it heads-up. Second, while the board was such that someone with a 7 for the straight would pay off my nut straight nicely, the presense of the flush possibility would kill a lot of action. Furthermore, I could be putting 40% of my stack in totally dead to a flush. So I probably would have been better off re-raising smaller on the turn or just calling to slow down. Not horrendous, but kinda bad. Finally, my push on the river was worthless. Often even the dominated straights will fold in that situation, and the pairs/flush draws will definitely fold, but a made flush or better will call. If I had checked and called a small bet I would have been better off. The raise on the turn also committed me more than I would have liked.

So, now we come to Point #2: I'm playing too aggressively in dangerous situations (this goes for all of the hand examples). On a dangerous board, unless I'm bluffing, I need to slow down. The side effects of playing too fast are:
  1. Most sentient players fold to big bets on nasty boards. I'm getting very little value for the bet, unless I am playing with huge idiots. So I win less when I win.
  2. The people who call me will likely have me beat. So I lose more when I lose. Usually my whole stack. Not good.
  3. I rob myself of further information. By betting big or moving in I deprive the other players of information, but I also deprive myself. If I make normal raises I can usually see another action or two from my opponent which can help my read A LOT. Not knowing what my opponents have is -EV.
So, the moral is I really need to slow down when I have a big but non-nut hand. Granted, I've run into some nasty situations lately, but nasty situations are where the good players excel. I'm fine with getting outdrawn, but beating myself is something I need to fix.

My theory as to where this tendancy has come from is my "Can't lose if everyone folds" mantra. It is also rooted in fear -- fear that I'll be outdrawn or that I'll put myself in a tough spot and make a bad decision. The problem is, by playing big second-nut hands so aggressively, I've committed to the bad situation instead of giving myself a decision. The end result is I bust more.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Just lost $210 at 2/4 on Euro over 1.5 hours. Ouch. I've heard of -50BB sessions, but this is the first I've experienced it at this level. That hurt. Gotta finish the bonus though, I'm only a few hours away.

Worst part is this is continuing a pretty bad run, and my overall bankroll is now a little over 1K. Not good for bonus chasing and playing 3/6 at the casino. Lets hope I can pull out of it. The worst part is I wasn't playing that poorly today -- I really just hit very little and every time I put money in the pot someone came over the top of me. Maybe I could have limited my losses to $100.


This after last night where I managed to lose $25 in a $10 freeze-out tourney. They let me rebuy after a bad beat, so I made it to the bubble seat, but it wasn't meant to be. That and I obviously lost my last-longer bet when I went out first.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bits and pieces...

Well, I'm going to do another post where I try to catch up on a weeks worth of entries that I wanted to write but don't have the time and desire to do it. Might as well just use a little list format:

  1. Online tournies have been going well lately. I was burning off my Party Points last weekend and generally was donking them off until I found myself in a 1,000 point qualifier for the $100K Party for Free tourney. Neglecting details, I made a conscious decision to focus on the tourney and do my best, and I ended up qualifying for the tourney (1 in 30 made it).
  2. Online ring is going ok. Part of it is I've really been focusing on keeping consistency and control -- avoiding large bluffs in situations where they probably won't work, and betting for value a bit more. It also helps I haven't been playing much. I wouldn't call it an upswing, but I haven't lost money...
  3. My body is starting to feel the effects of lots of coding at work and a lot of button clicking while I'm grinding. Specifically, my elbows of all things have been sore lately so I've been backing off the online grinding by quite a bit. It has also helped my mental sanity.
  4. The superbowl party yesterday really hurt my bankroll (more of a "OMG, I can't believe I lost every single bet I placed" rather than a "F___, where did my bankroll go"). Still, it was demoralizing and depressing and I felt it all last night and this morning. On top of that, I ended up running the big tourney and took a lot of grief from pretty much everyone. Yes, I realize that a single rebuy (only when you are out of chips) sucks and messes up the game a bit, and I realize that the ante structure I set up was fast, but I was attempting to get the tourney over before the game started (which failed miserably). By the end, I just wanted to say "F___ you" to pretty much everyone. You know, running a tourney with 18 players and rebuys is not easy, let alone trying to play in it too. Then to have everyone bitch at me because they disliked one thing or another (often contradicting bitching) is pretty annoying, especially since I get no benefit (financially or otherwise) for showing up early, setting up for an hour, jumping up out of my seat every five minutes, and all the other crap that goes along with running a tourney. Maybe I should locate another poker group in the area and just play a few tournies as an unknown player. That'd be cool.
  5. My live tournament game is officially in the toilet. Seriously, the past two months, I have not made the money once and lost over $120 (pretty hard to do with $10-$20 buy-ins). Furthermore, I know I am playing poorly. Part of it may be that I've been hosting about 50% of the games -- hosting really screws you up (I limped KK UTG the second hand yesterday because I wasn't thinking straight). But more than that, I've become super-duper weak-tight in my live game, afraid to play anything unless it is the near nuts, not bluffing, not raising. The end result is I call off most of my chips, many times with the worst hand. I've really got to go back to basics and adjust my game. Probably a bigger post is due on this in the near future (maybe before the Wednesday game).
  6. I'm eager to get some live 3-6 again. Hopefully I'll plan a trip pretty soon, but it is definitely a game that fits my style and that I can beat pretty easily.
  7. Six Feet Under is corrupting my mind. It is an excellent show (with many characters matching my family a little too well), but they use the F-word so much that its starting to creep into my mind and I keep finding myself wanting to use it in conversations throughout the day. I'm generally not one to swear much (long story behind that which involves Christianity and campgrounds) but the past week or so I've definitely noticed a change. It doesn't help that my wife and I have crammed three seasons into about two weeks. And one guess what I got at the library on my way in to work today...
Ok, that's it. F___ you all!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Playing Backwards

I'm writing this with half an hour until the FCP Protege Seat 1 semi starts. I'm very excited about competing but I don't have high hopes -- 25% chance of getting a jersey, 2.5% chance of winning (assuming I am equally as good as the other players). Yeah, I want the seat and I'm going to fight for it, but I have to be realistic -- even getting this far it is a long-shot. I've also made a conscious decision to NOT settle for a jersey and shoot for first place (unless I am in really bad shape when it comes time to eliminate 11th place).

Poker, in general, has been mediocre. January will be my first down month (about $80) since July. Granted, I made over $275 from Martins Poker bonuses (more if you count the ones I haven't finished yet there and at Eurobet). But, my last session at 6-max LHE I dropped 40BB -- ouch. It sucks to end up losing money after 30 hours of online limit play at $2/4 and less.

I was playing with my stats a bit to see if there was one area I was doing well in this month, and aside from HU LHE play and my live limit play nothing really stands out as something I excel at. I'm considering shifting back to more NL but it is so hard to clear bonuses.

I could blame variance, but I feel like I haven't been playing as well. Honestly, I feel like I've been succombing to fancy play syndrome (I'd give a link but I forgot who coined the phrase). In fact, I've been finding myself playing backwards. For instance, I'll bet to the river on a bluff but slow down when I hit top pair and try to get in check-raises. Or, in NL, I won't lead out with top pair decent kicker for... well... I don't know why. Ultimately, especially for limit, backwards play costs a lot of money because you don't get value for your good hands and you're pumping money into the pot with your really bad hands. Furthermore, I think I'm getting a loose table image causing bluffs to be that much less effective.

I think my backwards FPS is a result of tilt, so I need to retool my limit game yet again and go back to fundamentals. Lately, though, I haven't felt like it, so I've been burning some of my party points and playing a little crazy. Kind of fun, but probably not helping my fundamentals either.

Anyway, I should do the final prep for the tourney.

Update: Out 20th of 39. I was with the chip leaders for a while (got some great cards and flops) but I managed to bluff off a lot of money in bad situations.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Random Updates...

FCP Protege

First of all, I managed to squeak into the Seat 1 Semi-final for the FCP Protege contest. I got pretty lucky at least once, but I'm still pretty proud of myself. Managing to qualify while playing at home with the kids up is a pretty big deal :)

The way it breaks down is I'll play a 40 player tourney at 11 am PST on Sunday the 29th with the first place player getting the first seat at the protege final table. I'm not sure of the value of being at the final table (at least $4K in tournament entry equity, a trip to play it, possibly other perks). So I've got maybe $100 in equity -- really just being in the running for the big competition is priceless (1:400 chance!). The experience of being the Protege would be so cool -- I was telling my wife about it (she wasn't as excited because me winning would mean more travel and her getting stuck with the kids). She summed it up best when she said "... really it is just for you". Yeah, she's right. It is for me, damn it. Whatever, the chance of winning is slim, but at least I have that hope -- that is worth a lot to me.

There's also a pretty cool consolation prize -- an FCP hockey jersey with my username on it for the top 10. I've been debating if I should adjust my strategy to increase the chance of getting a jersey -- I don't think so. I think, since the trip is so cool, I should just go for broke and aim for #1.

Poker Reality

It is increasingly being pounded into my head that poker is great as a passtime, but it sucks if you do it for a living. The swings are so rough and it really is difficult to pull out a good winning rate after you leave the kiddy tables (which is $25 NL or .5/1 online). I've been putting in a decent number of hours trying to burn bonuses (which amounts to maybe 10-15 /wk with the family and such) and it is wearing on me. Obviously, I'll still keep doing it since we need the money (which I'm easily clearing from bonuses even though my bankroll has been stagnant). I don't think I'll be working towards a pro poker career though. I'm really realizing I have some major (personality) shortcomings for poker and I'm not sure if I can get past that ceiling that the limitations impose. More on that later...

At this point though, I think I should slowly work towards poker being a hobby I do 5-10 hours a week (or less). As long as I enjoy it, I'll keep doing it.

Another thing I'm trying to focus on is letting the losses and wins not get to me so much. I've gotten a lot better in this respect but I can still feel the tilt creeping in after a few losing sessions.

The Big Tourney

So Brian is organizing a satellite to the $2K Shooting Star event again this year with a $250 buy-in. While it's a huge chunk of my bankroll (something like 17%) I've decided to do it -- mostly, I think I'll regret it more if I don't. One of my goals back when I had a tiny bankroll was just to have the money to play things like this.

Assuming he can find a location for it, it's a great tourney to play with big stacks and long rounds. Last year I played it (as a stand-in for someone who couldn't make it) and got third. This year there should be a little money for second, plus all players get between 1-5% of the winner. I'm not expecting a lot from myself, but I will use it as a learning experience. The $2k event itself is awesome -- limited to 200 players, each table gets a 'star' (semi-well-known pro) with a $1000 bounty on their head. Last year a lot of the big name pros backed out, but Rob played it and we came down and watched a little bit. He even played at Dan Harrington's table before he busted.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Over the past few sessions (in which I won $50 at Euro, lost $50 at Euro, and won $50 at Martins) I've identified a few more leaks -- most of which can be linked to NL play.

The first leak, and probably the biggest, is attempting to represent a big hand from the blinds. An example:

Hand #1: I'm in the small blind w/ T3s, three limpers, I complete, and the big blind checks his option. Flop comes 443, no suits. I check, big blind bets out, folds to me, and I check-raise attempting to represent a 4. He calls, I fire on the turn and river after blanks appear to fall (J and 9 I think) and he pops me on the river, so I obviously fold.
I think I got this move in NL, and its not serving me well. Yes, I can easily represent trip 4s in that situation, and people will probably believe me... but they won't fold. Especially a looser site like Eurobet, most likely they'll be confused by the read they are getting and call me down to the river with any pair and two high cards on the flop.

The move necessitates betting the turn and river which is horrendous from an EV perspective. Lets say there are 3 big bets in the pot after the pre-flop action. If my hand is good, I'll win those bets and the turn check-raise, or 4 bets if I put in 2 bets (cr flop, bet turn). It is unlikely that someone will believe me 50% of the time and fold the turn. Secondly, I will only get called by hands that beat me, so I'm really just throwing money away. I'm better off just not doing the move unless conditions are just right: I'm up against minimal opposition and I have a draw to go with my hand.

In NL though, this move can be very powerful, especially if I am in the big blind. Many decent players would be hard-pressed to call a check-raise on a board like that without at least an overpair.

Another thing I've been trying to do is put in the turn bet if I'm willing to call a bet on the river:
Hand #2: Eurobet. UTG limper, I limp in MP, SB folds, and BB checks. Flop is KJ7 (two of some suit, I think). Checks to me, I bet (the bet is almost mandatory for the chance of everyone folding). BB folds, UTG calls. Turn is offsuit 4, check-check. River is offsuit 2, UTG bets, and I call because I can beat a bluff or busted draw (which I've essentially induced). He shows A7o to win.
In those situations (HU, he hasn't shown any strength) I generally am willing to put in another bet to see if my hand is good (but if he bets into me on the turn, I'm gone). So I usually check the turn and call a bet on the river -- which happens often since the move induces bluffs. In fact, Matt Lessinger in Book of Bluffs says this is one of the rare times where UTG should always bluff since I acted so weak.

Instead, I should put in the bet on the turn, but not put in any more money (fold to a turn raise, check-fold the river). Betting charges worst hands to draw and folds better hands (pocket pairs and a pair of jacks or sevens may fold). But it still costs me the same thing -- obviously a win-win situation (excluding a little bit of EV from inducing the river bluff).

This is another one I got from NL. With a weak hand like third pair, I'll bet the flop in last position to see if I can get everyone to fold. Then I'll check the turn to keep the pot small and induce a bluff, then call a bet on the river if it is small enough and made by a bluffer. Sometimes I'll even do the same thing with TP with a weak kicker. In NL, it is a great way to see the showdown for a cheap price without getting into too much trouble. In limit it is a recipe for trouble.

Another adjustment I've made is calling down with top pair decent kicker (usually in position). Mostly I do this in situations where it was heads-up at the flop and he could easily be bluffing (i.e. blind steals). I've already proved that I can't easily fold a flopped top pair in limit, so if I don't have much of a read, I'll just call the bets to the river if I don't improve. My thinking is this: if they have me beat, I'm saving the big bet it would cost to raise the flop and figure that out (since I'm not going to fold anyway). If they are bluffing then they can bet my hand for me -- they still have bad odds to draw, and their desperation bets (a leak I've been plugging) will just go in my pocket.

Unlike the other two leaks, calling down with top pair will kill you in NL. In fact, I love people that will call to the river with a single pair in NL -- they'll make you a lot of money. But in limit, it can be very profitable.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how different the approaches to NL and limit are -- and much of my losses in limit are linked to NL techniques.

Anyway, I'm a little burned on the grinding, plus there is a lot of TV on the next two nights (yes, 24 is back!). So I think I'm going to take a few days off from limit and if I do play, do a little NL to blow some steam.

By my count, I have about 8 hours left of grinding on Eurobet and 5 hours on MartinsPoker. Plus, 2.5 hours on William Hill (I'm planning on getting an account there before the end of the month for the ~$50 for 5 table hours thing), so that's 15 hours of limit I'd like to play by the end of the month to release $500 in bonuses (of course, only William Hill is time critical). So I need to average an hour a day from here on out -- that's a lot of grinding for me!

Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm a loser, baby...

Still feel like I'm beating a dead horse but darn it this horse needs a good beating.

Had another losing session, this time at a new place, MartinsPoker (see ScurvyDog's post about Martinspoker for a great description of their awesome bonuses). Granted, I only lost a little over 2 BB two-tabling 1/2 and 2/4 (euros) for an hour. But it is still a loss, and I made two big errors on the 2/4 table:

Hand #1: I had QQ and three-bet, only the raiser called (I had position). Flop J9x, he bets, I raise, he calls. Turn K. He bets, I call. River blank, bet, call. He had QTo.
My play was great until the turn -- when he bets into me, I have to know I'm a major underdog. In fact, remember thinking at the time: "Crap, he's got a king". I threw in those bets because I felt I had to... THAT IS A LEAK! What could he possibly bet into me with there? At minimum, he needs top pair kings, but he could have a lot of things -- they all have me beat though after the strength I showed in the hand so far. So, just muck the turn and save the two bets.

My absolute biggest leak is calling down the turn and river when I get outdrawn. I have no doubts about this. Usually I'm holding a single pair with no real way of improving (TP or better) but I really can't pay that off. The way I play those sort of hands (very fast) makes people reveal the strength of their hand -- I need to use that to my advantage. Instead, I've been tilting and throwing in the bets without thinking about it. Bad Sean.
Hand #2: I limp w/ ATs in EP, two more limpers, and a guy in late positions bumps it. Only the three limpers call. Flop J9x, checks around. Turn 8. I bet my open-ender, fold, fold, original raiser raises. River blank and I check fold.
A bunch of issues with this hand. First, I limped early position with ATs -- not a horrible play (especially since an EP limper will cause a bunch more limpers at these levels). But... With my difficulties playing marginal hands out of position, I probably should have sat the hand out. Not a big mistake though, just a little one.

Betting out on the turn was a big mistake. The board was pretty coordinated and one of the two limpers could easily have been holding a monster and missed the check-raise on the flop. Second, there were three other players WITH POSITION ON ME. Third, betting out means I'll be tempted to burn another bet on the river if/when I miss my draw. So I'm killing my odds (which were marginally in favor of drawing to the straight).

At the time, I was 90% sure he had JJ, and 99% sure I was beat. One of those reads where I just knew with the way he hadn't made a continuation bet in position on the flop. I suppose he may have had a gutshot draw, but I showed a reasonable amount of strength leading out into three players, so even though the other two folded it didn't seem like a good time for him to pull a move. He had me beat. A better tactic would be to check-call with my draw and avoid a sticky river situation.

In summary, the leaks are:
  1. Calling down with a single pair when I get (obviously) outdrawn.
  2. Bluffing too much out of position.
I think I may have a single solution that will help me immensely:
  • Take 5 extra seconds on the turn or river to think through my options before I act.
If I don't give myself a chance to break my bad habits, I'm going to continue being a losing player.

Yeah, I said it, I'm a losing player at $2/$4 LHE online.

I'm pretty convinced of that now, even though I've been playing, reading, thinking, and breathing poker for a solid year now. As good as I think I am, limit hold'em is not my strength. I don't think it fits with my personality and playing style that well. Avoiding LHE is not an option since I want to keep a steady stream of bonuses coming in to help our finances and 2/4 is the quickest way to clear most bonuses.

I still have over 300BB so I'm not going to drop down. Instead, I'm going to keep working hard, take my lumps, and become a winning player through sheer effort. I may not be a winner, but I don't think I'm a huge loser. I've also been playing harder sites lately, so that should help my development a lot (it'd be difficult to identify and plug leaks on Party, for instance). I've got thoughts on other ways to improve my game, but I absolutely need to plug the two leaks above before I move on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Missing the flop out of position

So I was doing my morning ritual before sitting down at work and I noticed a lever on my chair marked "Tilt". Damn. I wish I knew that was there -- that explains a lot. And to make matters worse, there is a lever right next to it marked "Up/Down". C'mon man, I play poker in that chair!

(there's another lever marked "Back" but that's a little less funny)

Anyway, 2/4 over at Eurobet is really teaching me some lessons. Over the past three sessions (four hours of two-tabling) I've lost 40 BB. Before that I pretty much broke even (well, lost a little). A 40 BB downswing doesn't seem like a big deal (in fact, most people would probably say they are quite common). But the thing is, I know that at least half of that is from mistakes I've made. So I'm not feeling really good about my game right now. That, coupled with the fact I've lost $160 and 10% of my bankroll, is something I'm definitely not used to. So, I'm going to take a few days off from LHE.

Looking at PokerTracker, I still feel that I'm losing a lot of money being the aggressor with the worst hand on the turn and river. Often this is coupled with being out of position -- I think I'm trying to force a fold by betting my second best hands down, a sure situation for losing money at 2/4.

One symptom is that my showdown win % is quite low (45% I believe?) and the hands I've lost the most money with are AQ, AT, 99, etc. I e-mailed my friends Rob and Brian with a hypothetical situation (having AK out of position on a QJ3 flop) and they both responded with good advice. They both said to bet the flop no matter what (because it builds a pot and should reduce the field). Rob said "probably check/fold or RARELY make a read based check/call the turn and/or river" which is not what I've been doing. Brian, in two long e-mails discussing play in position and out of position (which I have yet to fully digest) basically said a similar thing with a lot more details and situational considerations. A few nuggets from Brian's e-mail:

"It's MUCH harder to win pots out of position, remember that. Not
just a little bit harder, a LOT harder."

"The biggest mistake to avoid is betting the river without the best
hand. You should be winning the VAST majority of your showdowns. A
solid way to find a leak is to see how many showdowns you are losing."

"You can save the most bets OUT of position on the river. The converse
is you can MAXIMIZE the most bets on the river IN POSITION. For
instance, I've even bet very marginal situations in position on the
river because it's clear my opponent is weaker than what I have based
on his play."

"And yes, you'll be dumping unpaired, weak drawing boards out of
position FAR more than in position. Keeping and taking the lead is
priority #1 in limit hold'em. The funny thing is, priority #2 is
knowing when to let it go."

Let me illustrate my problem with a few hands (going from memory because I don't have the hand histories here):

Hand #1. I raise UTG+1 w/ AKs. Cold called by one in late position, blind calls. Flop is T93 two of another suit. I bet, LP calls. Turn Q, bet, call. River blank, I bet, he calls, and shows KT to take down the pot.

Hand #2. I raise UTG w/ AQs. Cold called by the button, both blinds fold. Flop is J92, no real suits. I bet and he calls. Turn is a 5. I bet again, he calls. River is blank. Check-check. He wins w/ AKo.

Hand #3. One EP limper (by far the loosest guy on the table, somewhat aggressive), SB completes, and I raise KQs from BB. Flop is A92 (two of a suit, not mine). Check, I bet, call, SB folds. Turn T, I bet, call. River 4 (still no suits). I bet, he calls. I win, he mucks.

Hand #4. I raise from EP w/ 99, one cold caller (MP), BB calls. Flop KQ3, no suits, check, I bet, MP calls, BB folds. Turn blank, I bet, he calls. River blank, I bet, he calls and wins w/ QJ.

My point with listing these hands is not the details of how I played each hand but the general play at 2/4 and how my play interacts with the other players. Hands 1, 2, & 4 show my favorite way to lose money -- firing the whole way at a pot when my good pre-flop hand misses. Hands 1, 3, & 4 demonstrate bad cold calls by my opponents with me going in with the best hand. Hands 2 and 3 show my opponents calling me down with position with just unpaired high cards -- on Hand 3, I was shocked that I won -- what did he call with, KJ?

The big take-home point here is that 2/4 players are bad. That seems like a good thing, but not when I play my hands this way. Yes, they are much tighter than lower limits, but post-flop they make a lot of mistakes. They call turn and river bets with no pair and bad drawing odds or call you down with second pair. This should be a good thing, right? Not when I'm betting with a worse hand.

Put another way, why push my worst possible situations (out of position with a hand that missed the flop) when 2/4 players will make many mistakes over time and call me down when I have a hand? Good question. I think it all goes back to my patience, or lack there-of. Yes, it hurts to constantly miss the flop, but I've got to wait until I have an edge. This means that I occasionally will be bluffed off a pot and it will be frustrating. On the other hand, 80-90% of the time they'll have the goods, and putting in 2BB to win 3-4 BB 80% of the time isn't good odds. By the turn, I've seen 6/7 of my final hand but only put in about 1/3 of the money to see the showdown -- I need to make more decisions based on the strength of that 6 card hand, not my 2 card starting hand.

The past few sessions, once I get down early, I start to feel like I really don't know how to play poker. This has to be tilt, but a different emotion than I've dealt with before. I 'know with my mind' that I shouldn't chase or bet down hands that miss the flop, but I don't 'know it with my poker mind'. This next week or two I need to retrain my 'poker mind' how to save bets in LHE. Hopefully that will turn my results around, but I need to remember that I may not see immediate wins. I think I'm ok with that.

So, this means a new cheat sheet (a new and improved more specific one):
  1. Don't call a turn bet or raise unless I have at least two pair or odds to draw.
  2. Don't bet a hand I raised pre-flop that didn't improve by the turn unless I have both (a) a strong read (b) one opponent.
There's a hell of a lot more I can put down on the cheat sheet, but I'm going to keep it simple to avoid confusing myself. #1 may seem to be too tight, but 2/4 players aren't that tricky and bluff-raises are very rare. I made it two-pair in that situation because usually I'll have bet top pair up to that point and a bet into me or a raise means more than TPTK.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Artichoke Joe's 3/6

Wednesday night I went to AJs with Thuan and had a really good night at the tables, netting $134 over 3 hours of 3/6. It was quite a feeling to go to the cashier with 2 1/2 racks of chips.

AJs is a lot better than Bay 101 because the lowest limit they spread is 3/6 and the $4 they take out of the pot includes a $1 drop for the jackpot, so in a sense you are getting some of that back. That, along with no 2/4 tables (resulting in worse play at 3/6) and a warmer ambiance makes it more enjoyable.

To be completely honest, I played like a chunk of granite but had one of those nights where the few flops I did see hit me hard and I was rarely outdrawn. I flopped the nut flush twice, flopped the nut full-house once, hit two pair two-three times, and nobody was able to catch up even though I was slowplaying like mad (well, the times I had the nuts at least). Basically a night where a monkey could have made lots of money. I know that I actually could have pulled out more profit with a few well-timed bluffs (I attempted zero bluffs the whole night) and a few cases of slowplaying too much.

Oh well, I'm still happy with a solid win, and I'm that much happier to go back there once a month. My live limit game is still quite rough. I'm honestly still a bit overwhelmed with everything going on and give out a lot of information. I never realized it, but playing so much online causes you to ignore live tells since you are not used to having that extra information. Eventually I'll want to move up to a higher limit, but before that happens I need more table time.

The funniest thing is when I was unlocking my bike last night in the dark, I looked up and recognized a guy that had been sitting across the felt from me for most of the night sitting in an office maybe five doors down from mine. Crazy. He had looked a little familiar but I would never have guessed he worked in the same building as me. If I didn't have the fishbowl effect of looking from outside in after dark, I probably would have never realized it. I'm going to see if I can track him down and introduce myself -- maybe he is interested in the Wednesday night games.

In other news, it looks like I've finally convinced Wade and Thuan to try a few new sites (they use Party and UB respectively). I'm really pushing PokerStars on them -- you can definitely feel the online poker world shifting over to Stars with the way they treat their customers. In fact, both Stars and UB keep a large player base without offering large bonuses -- a true testament to the quality of the software, customer service, and rake structure. I believe Stars will pass Party very soon.