Saturday, October 04, 2008

Saturdays with Dr. Pauly Recap

I don't usually get to play Saturdays with Dr. Pauly because I'm always working somewhere tutoring or proctoring. But today, I had a clear schedule, so I actually got to play! Not sure if I'll get to defend the title next week... probably not, honestly, because my son's birthday party is next Saturday.

Anyway, I'll walk you through the win because... well, just for the hell of it. Overall, I'd say I had much better than average luck and, more importantly, never really got hit by a cold deck. My general strategy was aggression and not letting my opponents make the deciding bet (I'd rather make the all-in or committing raise than call it). I also had aces a huge number of times :)

Also, I generally don't know the mapping between Stars names and blogs. If you want me to link you up, leave a comment and let me know.

To start it out, I actually showed up a few minutes late. While I didn't miss any hands, I was really confused that Trane420 had already tripled his stack. I assume he knocked out the first player and crippled ResdentEvil to less than 10% of his starting stack. That dude has 9 lives, let me tell you -- he ended up making the money.

I raised my first hand Ah Jh 7 7 and won it. Turned the nuts on my third hand (a straight) and got zero action.

On the fourth hand, I had Td Ts 8d 8s and limped, then called ResdentEvil's min-raise for half of his stack along with BamBamCan. Flop comes Kd 8x 4d and I'm tricky, so I check after BamBamCan. ResdentEvil pushes (for 40), BamBam folds (dammit!), and I call. ResdentEvil shows Kc Qc Jd 9s and I've got him slaughtered. You already know he made the money, so I'll let you figure out how he won that one... The next hand, he flops a set and wins with a straight... Nine lives, man.

After that I fiddled around and missed a few flops, semi-bluffed a ten-high flush and got there on the river (nobody paid me off), folded a bit, and... oh yeah, played the hand I most regretted in the tournament. It was one of those "what could have been" hands more than anything else. I had 9c 9s 8s 5c in the big blind, and I called Trane420's raise to 90 (BB is 20). The flop comes Jc 8d 5h and I check. Trane420 bets 200 (pot was 360) and I... folded. I had him solidly on an overpair, but I didn't want to play a big pot with bottom two. After I folded and thought it over, I realized that I can't really have a better flop than that. Not only that, but if I raise to 500-600, he'll likely fold an overpair or at least just call and I can push the rest on the turn. It was pretty much a golded opportunity and I chickened out...

Then, more folding, lost a small pot with third nut flush (paired board), won a minimal pot with top two, folded top pair to ResdentEvil's set (9 lives!), and generally played relatively tightly. I wasn't raising much, but neither was anyone else. Overall, I felt like the table was playing a bit tighter than they should. I started raising a bit more, aided by pretty decent cards, and chipped up to T1695. Then, with Kx Qh Th 8x I flopped a huge wrap with Ah Js 9c but bricked twice and had to fold. In the hand, I raised BamBamCan from 50 to 200 on the flop, but he lead the turn for 150 and I just called although I was really considering raising again. On the river, I couldn't beat a bluff, so I folded. It was a strange pattern, and BamBam was pretty aggressive, but I just felt like he had some strength.

That hand knocked me down to T1295. But a few hands later, I won it back with two pair. Although I didn't get a river bet called -- the whole tournament, I felt like I wasn't getting paid off that much when I hit. It was around this time that Wil Wheaton got moved to the table. I will admit that his blog is now no longer in my bloglines, but I read him for over a year a while ago. So I expected him to play pretty tight, not get too out of line, and make witty comments. Oh, and not get upset about bad beats (foreshadowing!). I wasn't disappointed in any of those categories.

By this time, blinds were up to 50/100. I got Ad Qh Jd 6h and raised it to 300 from early position and was called by Trane420 and Slithey. The flop came 6c Td Kc and it checked around. The turn was the Ks, Trane420 checked, and I semi-bluffed (I felt pretty secure that nobody had a hand). No one called, and I added 600 more to my stack. I'm pretty proud of this play, actually, although it is probably pretty primitive. I'd often chicken out in this spot before, but it really is free money with the betting (and lack of betting) patterns.

After that, I increased my frequency of raising because the rest of the table wasn't stealing and defending as much as they probably should. I picked up three of the next four on steals and lost 200 defending to BamBam (who was the only other player really stealing as much as they should). I had almost T2500...

Then, I limped into the pot UTG with Ad Th Td 4h and got two other players to the flop, the big blind and ResdentEvil. Long story short, I got ResdentEvil all-in after turning a ten high flush, and he had a king high flush (9 lives!). Only cost me 380 on top of my limp, but I did consider laying it down (I check-raised him all-in on the turn).

The next hand, I defended my big blind with Qc Qd Jc 8h to BamBamCan's raise and flopped a flush draw on a dry king-high board. I checked intending to check-raise, BamBamCan bets the minimum, and I executed, taking it down.

Then I stole the blinds and defended my blind.... Bah... this is getting boring. I'll try to speed it up...

I raised limpers often, even with hands like a single suited AKT8... Five handed I stole a lot and took small shots on the flop. I got distracted by Wheaton talking about the rain. I called with a 6-high flush draw on a KK2 board and bluffed the turn to take it. Four small pots in a row chipped me up to T3990. I three-bet Wheaton with aces and he said "I only have a pair of tens. i can't call that. JEEZE!" and "GOSH WHATEVER MR. I RAISE WITH MY ACES BECAUSE I'M SMART." Wil Wheaton did a chat in my general direction!

After I turned a straight against HermWarfare (Derek) I was up to T5,490. Oh, and we made it to the final table, too. Then, stuff really started happening.

It started when I doubled up HermWarfare on a steal with AK85 with one suit. Actually, when the cards flipped, I wasn't too worried because he had a decent hand for me: Qs Qh 7d 4d. That is, it was a decent hand until the flop came Qd 6d 3d and I was basically drawing dead. To add insult to injury he hit the full house on the turn and the flush on the river.

The next hand, I had Jc Tc 6d 9s and limped UTG for 300 (a little tilty, but mostly I wanted to see a flop out of position and keep the pot smaller). Wheaton has the gall to raise it to T1,350 and I speechify ("I'm tilty right now... bad time to make that raise.") which is usually a sign someone will fold. But I was getting 2:1 from the pot, and I figured I'd push any two pair or decent draw, and I could get Wheaton to fold some hands that might have me beat with a push. So I called. The flop comes Kd Qh 6h which is good enough for me to ship it in. After a little pause, Wheaton calls. I didn't realize he had only 1350 left (I thought he had a little more). He also had top pair, a nut flush draw, and a straight draw with Ah Kh Jh 9c -- yikes! That left me with only 6 outs, but a jack came on the river to save me. Wil took it well though.

In hindsight, I think calling the raise pre-flop was a bad idea given that he'd be playing big cards too and he didn't quite have enough chips for me to put pressure on him on the flop. But you have to get lucky to win poker tournaments, and that was definitely a spot for me to get lucky.

Knocking Wil Wheaton out bumped me to second place with 7.4K in chips. Defending my big blind to a min-raise and flopping two pair got me up to almost 9K and the chip lead on the next hand.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, steal some pots, flop a set of threes, and I've got 9.5K with 8 players left. Then in the small blind I run into HermWarfare's aces with flush draw in the big blind. I led into the pot on the turn and river though (for small amounts) so I think I lost the minimum, considering I thought I had the best hand and had a nut flush draw to go with it. Derek gets aces on the next hand too and knocks out Trane420 to take the chip lead with over 13K. I'm down to 7K. No, make that 5K -- the next hand my pair of 8s runs into kicker trouble (king no good) and I double niktak up.

A little more time goes by (steal a pot or two) and I get lucky and knock DoubleDave and his jacks out with a rivered straight (gotta get lucky to win tournaments...) -- back up to 9K with six left. More pot stealing... Double ResdentEvil again with a failed steal (9 lives!).

More stealing and suddenly I have the chiplead again at 10K, still six left. I picked up a lot of pots on the whole final table in general, and it was critical to me just being around. Maybe I'm finally learning hand stealing values in PLO? At this stage I really started to try to put some pressure on the smaller and more timid stacks.

Finally, HermWarfare and MyLuckyGirls were knocked out one after the other, and we were on the bubble. I was second with about 10K, but we were all tightly grouped and a little talk of a chop came up. But nothing really came of it. (side note: glad we didn't chop!)

Four-handed we got into a pattern with niktak monopolizing first, I had second with about 10K, and ResdentEvil and holdin-ragz trading third and fourth. I pretty much targeted Res and ragz because they were playing quite tightly, but sadly I had to play quite timidly against niktak. When we finally left the bubble, niktak had 25K (!), I had 7K, and ResdentEvil had almost 6K.

Three-handed went rapidly and I was able to build my stack to 11K or so. Res was finally knocked out by both niktak and I when we both had two pair (aces and kings).

Now, I'm going to not go into too much detail about heads-up because it is very late as I write this. But I felt zero pressure heads-up since niktak had a 2.5:1 chiplead and I knew I just needed to get my money in and hope to double up. I was happy with second and willing to play the free-roll for more money. Nik had played the bubble time to perfection and did a great job with his big stack, so I knew he'd be pushing me around heads-up but would release to aggression if he had nothing.

One critical hand was when the flop came queen high with all spades and I raised nik's bet with second pair and a gutshot. He called, which made me believe he had a weak flush, but I improved to kings-up on the turn. We managed to check both the turn and river and he won with a ten-high flush, and I was very fortunate he didn't extract any value on the river. That knocked me down to 7K to his 32K.

We swapped pots back and forth for a while, until we finally got it in on a QT4 board with two clubs. He had top two and I had a flush draw and second pair. The flush hit the river giving me 17K to his 21K. I was able to take the chip lead a few hands later with an overpair (actually, rivered top pair) on a raggy board.

After that, the momentum shifted. Nik had been very aggressive before, but once we got even, he seemed to tighten it up a bit and do more call/folding. I was able to take a few pots with continuation bets (I hit nothing) and chip up to a 2.5:1 chip lead. I got it in with Ah Qd Jh 9h against tak's 4d 2d 8c 9c but he flopped a deuce and I never improved even after turning a flush draw. That gave him a 22K to 16K chip lead.

A couple of hands later I'd taken the lead back with a raise and a bet, when the final hand occurred. I had 7s As Qh Js in the 2K big blind and checked after he limped. Once the flop came Qs 8s 3c I was plotting how to get all the money in the pot and I started by checking. The turn was the 6d and I checked again, hoping Nik would take the bait. And he did, although he only bet the minimum. I went ahead and bet the pot and was happy when he made a 'Screw it' push. No, seriously, he actually typed "Screw it" and pushed an open-ended straight draw 4c 5h 2d Tc. My hand held up to his 6 outs and I took my first Saturdays with Dr. Pauly title!

Anyway, this is a long post likely riddled with grammar, hand history, and spelling errors. I don't care though!

I do want to thank Pauly for hosting such a great tournament, and I hope I don't win it again so I can avoid the two hours I spent writing this recap post!

But it was PLO...

Believe it or not, I won Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. Yes, I am just as shocked as you are, especially because it was PLO.

Here's the proof:

I'll post a tourney recap tonight...

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Poker IQ...

My NLHE poker IQ is 134, according to

What can I say, I've always been a good test-taker. There's a reason I tutor the SAT. Although, I think I probably took too much time on it though (about an hour).

I was actually quite surprised by the results -- let's face it, I'm definitely not ready for online $1K NLHE. But, the test really does test more theoretical (mathy) stuff, which I've always been better at, instead of at the table stuff like heart and guts (which I've always been crappy at).

I honestly don't even consider myself a winner at $100 NL :)

But at least I've got a solid test score to fall back on when I apply to poker college!


Here's an interesting hand from a 10c/20c $20 NLHE cash game I played last weekend. It was the first time I played there although I'm playing there again tonight. Six-handed and I knew two of the guys. Rules were a little lax, since we didn't even have a dealer button.

In the hand in question, I limped with T8o or something like that on the button after another limper and four total saw the flop including the blinds. The flop came out JJ5 and it checked around. The turn was an 8, I thought my hand might be good, but the big blind bet out maybe 40c into a 80c pot. Knowing he could be betting a draw or an 8, I called behind, as did the small blind. The river was a second 8, and I thought there was a decent chance I had at least a chop with the big blind.

Anyway, small blind checks, big blind bets $1.50 into the $2 pot and I called quickly. During this time, others not in the hand are speculating about a possible flush draw because a third diamond hit the river. This surprised me, because I didn't remember a flush draw on the flop (but I also didn't have suited cards). Especially since the only two red cards on the flop were jacks. Pretty much simultaneously, everyone realized that both jacks on the flop had diamonds on them!

Well, suddenly, we didn't know what to do. Ok, I was 90% sure a fouled deck nullifies any action and all bets should be returned to players.1 But it was my first time at the game and I didn't want to be a stickler for the rules and/or piss anybody off. After all, the host (not in the hand) immediately suggested we play it out and both the small blind and big blind said that's what should happen. So we played it out.

Once action resumed, the SB made a smallish raise. The BB re-raised, and I insta-mucked. The SB pushed and the BB called relatively quickly. The hands?

Jacks full for the big blind and quad jacks for the small blind!

After that, the big blind took off and there was a bit of a cloud over the game. On the bright side, the big blind definitely wanted to continue playing the hand, so he knew the risks. And, of course, we counted down the cards (one of those retired casino decks) and found an extra jack of diamonds in place of the king of diamonds.

The moral -- always check a new deck of cards, especially those recycled decks!

I've heard other stories of similar strangeness (like another local host that told me he found one of the aces on the floor about half-way through the game!) but what are the odds of quads vs a full house even with the extra jack?

1. From Robert's Rules:

...If two cards of the same rank and suit are found, all action is void, and all chips in the pot are returned to the players who wagered them ...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On A Break

I'm still on my self-imposed poker break. Oh, I'm still playing poker, but just dropped down in stakes significantly.

The 25c/50c NL game didn't go that well. I had a post typed up about how I was planning to play aggressively, raising and re-raising with the increased stack sizes, but it didn't work out that way. For one thing, the rest of the table was pretty aggressive and with 9-10 players, playing tight is more necessary. For another, I once again got in a hole pretty early and that sucked away my resolve to play aggressively.

Did I mention that I think I built up some long term tilt this last month?

The pinnacle was when I had pocket aces and re-raised to $14 pre-flop. The flop came all low cards and my opponent lead into me for $30 on an all low card flop and I had $60 left. I put him on a lower overpair that I or possibly top pair, so I instantly pushed, forcing him into the tank. While he was thinking and debating, I silently flipped over my cards.

I figured he was getting close to the right odds to call and wanted to just pick up the pot. He pretty much instantly folded jacks and I won the pot. The table went crazy.

A few minutes later I did the analysis and realized I gave up about $15 of equity. That's a hell of a lot of equity. But, I was on my last buy-in and if I had lost, I'd have to stop playing. I won't lie though; much of it was tilt induced too. If I was up on the night, I would never have done that.

I have started to play a little more online though and I'm actually winning a little (think $10). I think UB is bad for me; I've been playing more on Stars lately. Too bad PokerTracker 2 doesn't work for Stars anymore. Oh well.

Oh, and don't forget; the very rare Stars reload bonus ends tonight! Use bonus code 2X and your checking account!

Oh yeah, forgot something else. I was playing heads-up last night and experimented with a new strategy. On EVERY button, either fold or raise 2.5x. Those small raises are really effective, because I effectively give up no information on my hand but put my opponent to a bit of a decision, risk very little if they come over the top, and take control of the hand. I would hate to play against that strategy.

As a counter-strategy, I guess you have to raise more liberally... But, honestly, I've never really had to counter the strategy much.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Probably Time for a Break

Well, I lost $200 on Saturday night, putting my bankroll at a little under $1900. I think it's time to take a break from the $1/2 game for a little bit, since I'm not enjoying the game much any more and I'm definitely not winning much at it.

Although, surprisingly, I'm still ahead about $160 for a $4/hr win-rate. For this year at least (let's not talk about last year).

I'm considering taking a larger break from poker. I still enjoy it, but not the bigger buy-in games right now (Garden City's 6/12, the $1/2 NLHE game). If I don't enjoy it, I'm not winning anything to speak of, and it's sucking up a bunch of time, why play? Maybe a break is what I need to get my desire back.

Plus, there's this pesky thing of needing to graduate in the next year that would probably benefit from more time.

Don't get me wrong though, I'd still play home games and the occasional tournament here and there. Just not two-three nights a week like I currently am.

We'll see, in a week I might feel totally differently.

But back to Saturday's game. Here are some notes I took about some of the bigger winning and losing hands:


  • AQs +80 Q85 x x vs AJo big bet -- maybe should have made smaller one or check-raised?
  • JTo +15 J83 J (lost him on the turn, maybe should have checked or bet smaller?)
  • AA +110 vs KK 9 8 6 flop, I bet, he pushed, I called (he didn't seem happy when I bet)
  • 63s +50 933 K K raise flop, check turn, bet river

  • Kd6d -90 9d 8 5d Td 7d (got money in on turn, check-raise $5 to $25, he pushes for $60 more, I called) Maybe could have gotten away from it, but had second nuts and needed to be ahead about 33% of the time. I call this one a cold deck.
  • QQ -15 I'm in the big blind, he raises big after just raising, three others call, and I think it likely he has a monster. An all small flop, he starts to bet before I check, so I stop him, think it through, and check. He bets $100 into 5 people, one caller, I muck (his large bet was a decent tell from him). He had AA, but I would have rivered a Q for winner. If only I played worse. Monster pot at over $300.
  • 55 -30 I raised pf to $10 in late position, got two callers, CB $20 on KQ7 board, he pushes, I muck. He shows 77 for the set. I told him he only needed a queen to beat me there. Could have bet a little smaller on the CB, but generally good.
  • AK -35 Directly after hand above and I only had $35 left. Got it in pre-flop but lost vs JJ.
  • 98o -75 on button, flop is Ks 9s 8s 3x turn. Player bet $10 on the flop, I called with two others. Turn is blank, checks to me, I bet $25. Guy pushes for $40ish more, and I call. I think of this as my main mistake on the night. I tend to disregard flopped flushes too much and I played a big pot with a susceptible hand.
  • Omaha H/L. -2 I had K8xx on a A88 board in SB. Checks to button, he bets, and I muck. I didn't like that I could be drawing dead there. Turns out three others called him, he slowed down on the turn K, and I would have scooped. I think I need to take a card off there getting 3:1 or better.
  • Omaha H/L. -72 The next hand. I have AcKc8xXx. $20 pot, $10 bets. Flop comes 2c3cQc. Someone bets, I raise, three total callers. Turn is a 4c and raiser on flop bets, one caller, a raise, I three-bet, bettor caps, and we all call. I'm praying that the river doesn't pair the board, and it doesn't. Original bettor goes all-in for $6, guy to his left completes, and I suddenly realize a straight flush is possible. I just call, and this new guy 3/4s the other bare nut low with a straight flush. Oops. I could have saved a bet or two on the turn.
I have to wonder, given the above, how I lost the extra $100. Definitely, my luck wasn't that good: I never flopped a set, straight, or flush and won. I also barely bluffed so I didn't pick up any pots. It is also worth looking into the lines I take because I'm still getting too much money into the pot in bad spots (two pair vs flush) and I'm probably not getting max value a lot of the time.

The other wrinkle is that I lost my first buy-in a little after midnight. I rebought, even though I know I probably shouldn't, but I didn't feel like I was playing badly. And I don't think I was, but 20-minutes later I turned the second nut flush vs the nut flush and...

On top of it all, I'm hosting a 25c/50c deep-stack $100 NLHE game at my house Wednesday night.

I won't talk about strategy too much here now since I know at least one player reads my blog, but I will say I'll be using a different strategy than the $1/2 game (as I should). If I lose my two buy-ins at the Wednesday game, I'll definitely be taking a break for a while before I do any major damage to my bankroll.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Movie Ticket Escape Hatch

I guess I forgot to write about hands from last Sunday's session. Well I'll summarize it here:

  • I found some creative ways to lose with big hands (notably losing with 55 vs JJ on a K65 6 6 board). Yeah, that one tilted me a bit.
  • I ran into some trouble value-betting the river out of position when I should have been check-calling (i.e. if I get raised I should have folded). Read: getting to fancy... For example: I have Kd7d in the SB, flop comes Kc9c6c, I check (should have lead at the pot and folded to resistance), checks around. On the turn, I checked again, BB bets, I call. River is another K, and I lead out, get raised by the BB, and I call and lose. It was a path that lost me the max with minimal knowledge of my opponents hand.
Ok, that's out of the way.

With some time, I'm realizing that I'm making my major decisions about my opponent's range early in the hand and taken paths that tend to disguise the hand. Like the AA hand at the last game, if I had bet the turn, not even necessarily a big bet, that would have forced my opponent to raise me on the turn or raise me on the river. Check-calling doesn't tell me if I'm ahead or behind, making the river decision for a TON of chips harder.

I need to play less fancily in unknown situations and bet if I'm willing to call a bet.

One strength of my game is that I'm able to fold big hands if I'm given sufficient information to get away from the hand; so I need to start playing hands in a way to give me that opportunity.

So, tonight, I'm playing $1/2 NLHE. These are my goals:
  1. Play more hands in position with more raises, less out of position.
  2. Don't be afraid to bet out of position if I'm able to fold to a raise. Or, alternatively, don't play my big but non-nut hands in a passive way that makes me call a lot of bets with little information. Along with that though...
  3. Don't overvalue top pair! Think through my reads, and make the fold if I need to.
  4. Use the movie ticket escape hatch. More on that in a second.

Another realization I came to was that I've never failed to lose my third buy-in. Ok, maybe once, but I don't have an accurate record of it. Usually, once I've lost $200+, I just haven't won anything back. So, my max buy-in is $200 (maybe $250 if I need a partial reload to avoid short stack play). If I lose two buy-ins quickly, I'll just go to a movie. $10 for a movie ticket is a lot cheaper than another $100 buy-in. And I'll enjoy the movie more :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I bought a poker table...

... but I lost $283 at $6/$12 yesterday.

My reasoning is that if I spend $160 on a poker table and then play home games more often, I'll lose less overall!

Just kidding. But I am planning a homegame for Wednesday.

I'll post a little on yesterday in a day or two.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sweet, sweet 6/12...

I won $208 in a couple of hours of $6/12 last night, after losing $10 in 3/6.

Live low limit hold'em is deliciously loose and passive!

I'm playing again this afternoon since I have a tutoring session in the area. If I win a decent amount, I may go for that poker table after all, assuming they haven't all been sold yet.

Yesterday I played pretty well, although I know I made a few mistakes (only one of which I can remember right now, and I'll list the hand below). It was one of those good days where I had a number of decent hands pre-flop and they held up (mostly) but I didn't hit many draws. If I had hit a few of my long-shot draws... then I would have had a monster day!

At one point, the guy next to me asked me "Just how many times have you gotten trips?". I said four, off the top of my head, but after we counted them up, it had a set or trips at least six times (and only lost once with those).

The one hand that I know I played sub-optimally but learned a lot by pondering it:

5h3h in late position and I limp behind a bunch of other players. Limping 53s in position is probably marginally +EV. A guy to my left raises so we get six total players to the flop for two bets. The flop comes AK2 rainbow (there may have been one heart too) and a woman in MP leads out. I call, getting 12:1 or better, but original raiser raises, woman calls, and I call after another guy (10:1 on a gutshot is borderline odds, but reasonable given implied odds). Turn is a 5, putting two of not my suit on board. Checks to raiser, he bets, one call, and on me getting 12:1 again. I call. At this point, I have raiser on AA, KK, or AK. He's been pretty tight. The other player likely has a flush draw, but I'm not positive. I called, reasoning I may have extra outs beyond the gutshot. The river is an offsuit 5, checks to me, and I bet.

Let me stop the action here for some analysis. IMO, I could have folded at any point in the hand without giving up much (if any) EV. The turn was likely a bad call. PokerStove gives me 9% or more equity on the turn (worst case, giving the other player a flush draw), so I guess it was borderline, but not necessarily bad.

The real mistake was leading on the river. If I give him a range of AA, KK, or AK, then I'm going to be ahead of him on the river 60% of the time (according to pokerstove). BTW, that 60% is completely based on hand combinations. But, the key thing is, if he has any of those hands, he'll be betting 100% of the time. There's no need to lead out for fear he'd check a blank river. So the best option is to check.

In the hand, I bet, he raised, and I called. I'm not sure if I can fold there given the size of the pot, although I can't seem him raising anything I can beat unless he has a total mind-glitch. If I can't fold to a raise, I'm not sure I can bet. If I can fold to a raise (in this spot, I think I can do it -- I need to be about 94% sure he's got a full house, which is a safe bet given his range and my show of strength), then betting is fine. But if I'm going to bet for value, I might as well check-raise for value and fold to a three-bet!

So, I should be check-calling or check-raising on that (seemingly) blank river. Leading out was a mistake.

I think this might be a small leak in my game -- leading out when I hit/improve without thinking through ranges fully.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Phantom Crossroads

I'm at a bit of a phantom crossroads right now, a juncture that is just an artifact of my mental models. Just like $3.99 seems so much more reasonable than $4.00 for a gallon of gas, numbers in poker change greatly in emotional value for tiny changes in actual value.

You see, I've only got about $350 in my home bankroll. Sure, I deposited profits a few months ago, and my bankroll is a bit over $2,300, but just the idea of withdrawing at the ATM when my family has been short on cash for a while makes me annoyed. And it has put me at a crossroads in terms of poker, a phantom construction that is really only in my mind.

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to keep playing poker.

That was never up for debate.

But there's three options (really, two) open to me right now: I can drop down in stakes (not needed yet, IMO), focus on the Backwoods game ($1/2 NLHE), or focus on $6/12 at the local casinos. While just one decent win will put me in a better head space, I think I'm better off spending a few weeks focusing on one game or another until my bankroll has gone back up or I hit enough of a downswing that I re-adjust my mental limits.

After all, there's two ways away from a mental roadblock -- put it past you, or put it far enough ahead of you that you can't see it.

Well, how about some graphs.

On the left are my results in 6/12 for the past six months (note that 8/16 and even 3/6 don't look nearly as nice, but 6/12 is my sweet spot for live LHE) and on the right are my results for the Backwoods game. In 6/12 LHE, I've averaged around $18/hr over 80 hours, while in the $1/2 NLHE I've averaged $10/hr over 36 hours. Neither figure is statistically significant, although the LHE gives a better idea of my long-term earn, in my experience.

Personally, I think both games are pretty close to each other in terms of bankroll: 300 BB in 6/12 is $3.6K, but I think 200 BB is plenty for a loose, generally good, live game; 20 buy-ins is standard for NLHE ($2K) although I think that should get jacked up a bit because it is only a 50BB buy-in. I also think my earn rate is pretty similar in both (1-2 BB in 6/12, and $10-$20 for an unraked $100 NL game). But I think the variance in the 6/12 is significantly lower, at least by those graphs.

A major factor in determining variance is when I get up from the table: in 6/12, I get up when I've played my time, when the table gets worse (and, usually then only if I'm winning; a leak!), or when I've lost enough that I know I should stop playing (rarely). In 1/2 I get up either when the night is done or I've lost 2-3 buy-ins. I can't really get up early when I'm ahead in the Backwoods game because it'd be frowned upon since it is a home game.

The end result is I usually either log a big win or a big loss in the Backwoods game.

If it helps, look at the graphs again, compensating for number of sessions/$:

Now the variance in the $1/2 NL game doesn't look as (artificially) bad, but still; my biggest downswing in 6/12 was about $600 (only when just starting out), my biggest downswing in NLHE was $900... so far.

For now, I think the answer is clear:

Until I get a little more cushion in my bankroll, I think I should switch back to $6/$12 LHE and see what happens.
And I'll start with a 6/12 session tomorrow afternoon. If I lose big... well, I'll need to re-evaluate. If I win, I'll try to stick with it a few more sessions to build the bankroll a bit.

And, as is the custom, I need goals for tomorrow afternoon. How about these recycled goals:
  1. Play ABC tight-aggressive poker. Let hand rankings come back to me, bet second pair when I might be best, semi-bluff, but generally play a basic value-based game.
  2. Take extra time for my decisions. Don't play on autopilot.
  3. Play against bad players. This means move tables if my table is tight. I play best against loose players (either aggressive or passive) so I need to seek them out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Table for You!

Well, I didn't win a table last night. I lost one... and a third... of a table.

Overall, I'd say I played pretty well, but I know I have a ton of leaks. I was able to lay down top pair, two pair, etc. a few times when I needed to. Actually, within the first ten minutes I had won a big pot with AA, a medium pot with KK, and a medium pot with 72o (I was in the small blind, ok!). I was up about $150 at that point.

Then, after a number of missed draws, folds, and generally good (if a little passive) play, I got down to about $75 in the hole before I added on. Well, that's a $200 swing, so obviously there were some bad plays in there, but I can't remember them; I never got all-in, and other than missed draws and a few lay downs when a tight player raised/bet into me, I can't think of anything specific.

Then I won a hand with 87s on a Ac7x3c 7 xc board (I thought I was screwed, but got big value from two big aces). I was up about $40 at that point, but then I lost a chunk value betting top pair top kicker into two pair, almost getting a fold on the end, but he made the crying call and I lost.

Finally, this hand came about when I had a stack of about $180. I had AA in MP and raised to $14 since there was a $4 straddle. One, loosish girl, called in LP, the big blind called, and the straddle called too. The flop came good for me, K88 rainbow. Two checks, I bet solidly ($30, I think), she called pretty quickly, and the straddler called pretty quickly. At this point, I thought there was a good chance someone had an 8, but also a good chance one of them held a king. The turn came a low card (6, or something like that). Straddler checks, I check, she bets $40. Straddler starts hemming and hawing (he knows her well). Finally, he folds, and I quickly call because I think I'm good. I just didn't figure her for an 8 since she called a big bet pre-flop. River comes a 7, I checks, and she starts playing with her chips. At first, I think she's going to check, but then I realize she's figuring out how to size her bet. Finally, she bets $80, and I'm pretty sick. I still think it is unlikely she's got an 8, and the bet is more of a 'get out of my pot' bet than a value bet. So I finally call, and she had 87s. This hand pretty much sucked the wind out of me, and although I made a valiant effort to win money after (I only had $30 left) after I lost my money I took off.

Deconstructing that hand, I think I made a number of mistakes. Pre-flop action was fine. On the flop, my bet, if anything, was a little too large. The pot is about $60, so a half-pot bet is fine, but I'm either way ahead or way behind. A smaller bet would allow me to control the pot a little better, like maybe $20. On the turn, I think the check was a mistake. At the time, I thought it likely the straddler had an 8, so I wanted to take a street of betting away from him. But, if I'm going to call a bet, I should be betting there. Doesn't have to be a big bet with the draw-heavy board out there (maybe $40 is good). The pot was about $150, BTW. But, then if either of them comes over top of me, I have to assume they have better than a king, and I must be beat. And the bet is small enough that a king will come along drawing to two outs. Given the check, calling was definitely called for since she could easily be value betting a king. On the river... well, I'm torn between calling or folding. The pot was about $220, and I was getting almost 4:1. But, I'm not sure if she would always bet a king so hard since I had to be calling with at least a king. Given the odds, it was a pretty close situation.

Overall, I just have to say that was kind of a bad spot, getting my aces cracked. More importantly, though, I tried to play a little tricky and it got me attached to the pot. Leading on the turn would have made things a lot simpler for me because she would have likely raised tipping me off to the fact I was screwed.

I think if there's any major leak that's creeped into my game, it is that I'm not betting when I should. Small-ball is fine, but playing small-ball does not mean don't bet, it just means think before you bet and keep the pot small. I really did neither in that pot. There was also a case where I didn't raise AQ pre-flop and lost a chunk of chips when someone outdrew me. I think I'm still playing a bit too timidly.

There's more to this story which I need to think more about: these losses are starting to cause more pain than they really should because my family is on such a tight budget. Not that I shouldn't be playing poker, but I maybe should look to something with less variance, like LHE at the casinos.

Again, though, it could just be me smarting from the loss last night, so I need to think more about it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Time to Win Me A Table

I'm back from my 'vacation' and the $1/2 NL game is running tonight. Actually, it needs a better name than that... I think I'll call it the 'Backwoods game' from now on.

A few things not in my favor tonight, namely that it'll be a full table (10+ players). And some of the more aggressive (read: better, or hard to play against) are playing. As I mentioned in my last few posts, I think I've been getting destroyed when I play decent players at a full table, because the game isn't as passive as I can't play as many hands... or can I?

In my small-ball post, I mentioned that I need to play more hands, but raise less when I'll likely be out of position. The days I've done well, I've raised very few hands, and they were all in position. The primary reason is to control the pot -- if I can't get my stack in on the flop with one bet (pretty much all the time), I'm better off keeping the pot small. Along with that, I can't call off my stack with top pair -- that's been a major leak.

So, tonight, I won't be raising as much or as large. I can raise a wide-range in position though, but not out of position. And if I am out of position, I should still raise reasonably small ($6-$7) to let me get away from hands on the flop.

As a corollary to this, I need to only limp with hands that I can stand a raise with. And I'm not talking about a weenie, sub-pot raise, I mean a pot raise. If I'm going to limp 55 in EP, I've got to call raises 90% of the time. In general, I need to be more willing to mix it up by calling raises with solid hands, and stay out of sticky spots with marginal hands.

Finally, I've got to avoid the temptation to tighten up (or loosen way up on getting involved in big pots with a single pair) when/if I get in a hole. I think that's a major leak too.

So, my goals for tonight:

  1. Play more hands in position, less out of position.
  2. Don't limp a hand I can't call a sizable raise with.
  3. Raise more in position but rarely out of position (slow-play big pairs in EP if I haven't been raising anything).
  4. Don't overvalue top pair! Think through my reads, and make the fold if I need to.
  5. Play my game no matter how much I've lost. That said, limit myself to $200 if I go past 10 pm, and $300 if I manage to lose my case before 10 pm.

Oh, and as for the title of the post.

There's a local dealer closing out a line of poker tables for $150 on Craigslist, so if I can win a couple of buy-ins tonight, I'm seriously going to consider getting one. Logistically, it might be a problem (it'll be hard to fit the table in my van), but I've wanted a table for home games for quite a while.

Hell, I might get a table even if I don't win tonight, but it'll be easier to rationalize it if I do win :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Garden City Tournament

Garden City has modified their tournament structure (above, click to see larger) and made it a lot better (no more rebuys, no more fifteen minute rounds). Granted, they've still got pretty big juice ($100+$20 Tues-Thurs) and a fast schedule (20-minute rounds and blinds doubling in some rounds) but there's a bit more play to them.

So, I'm going to go down and play the tourney tomorrow morning.

I've been reading up a bit on tournament strategy because my tournament game is horrible right now (time to crack Harrington on Hold'em again) and doing a little looking around online. Actually, a good resource is Bond18's blog series called "Things it took me a while to learn" (sorry, you've got to just flip through his whole blog to find them -- they started around Nov '07).

Anyway, I know these sorts of tournaments are really just entertainment due to the large rake, but I'm ok with that. I likely won't be able to play another B&M tournament on a weekday for the rest of the summer.

June 20th $1/2 Results

At first appearances, going back to small ball worked for me. I played a ton of hands (probably at least 50%), pretty much never raised except for a few times in position, made a lot of value bets and little bluffs, made a number of defensive bets, and won $315.

So, it appears that this small ball idea has some merit to it.

But, something tells me there is a greater factor at work than just going back to the small ball strategy.

For one thing, I didn't have any monster second best hands. Sure, I had to fold two pair once or twice and top pair a number of times, but my sets won and I didn't lose with a straight or flush ever. But no really nasty hands or suck-outs.

For another, looking back at my previous sessions, I realized there are some trends I didn't think about:

  1. I've won every time there were 6 or less players in the game. I've lost every single time there were 7 or more players. I'm playing better short-handed than at a full table.
  2. Possibly hidden in #1, I fare much better at a loose, passive table. That seems pretty standard, although a lot of it goes to play after the flop. It also may be that the core 4-5 players of the game aren't that good, but when other people come in, they tend to make everyone better.
  3. Every time I've won, the host has lost a bunch of money. Not that I'm getting all his cash, but I'm just saying.
  4. Every time I've lost, I've gotten stuck early in the session and never recovered. I definitely play much better when I'm ahead.
I think all these factors contribute to a weak-tight-overaggressive game bringing me down. At a larger table, I feel that I need to tighten up. Aggressive players get me to tighten up too. But then, I start raising more, even OOP. And I start making largish continuation bets which only get called if I'm beat.

The thing I don't have an answer for is how to play in a tighter, more aggressive game. I can't play as many pots because there will often be a raise behind me. I can't raise that much because I'll often be against a better hand. I think the key is to tighten up early in position, but raise any hand I'm willing to play in position to juice the pot. Anything I limp with early, I need to be willing to call a raise with it. And anything I play late, I should be willing to raise with it. I also can't be afraid of three-betting or raising the flop, which definitely has happened.

Obviously, this is a work in progress.

Other Comments:

One thing I realized on Saturday night was that I shouldn't raise most hands in early position because I don't want to play a larger pot with position and I can raise anything in late position I'm willing to play in the first place. Basically, position is king. Also, KQ, AQ, AJ, etc. really suck out of position because it is hard to flop really well and get any action.

Not raising in early position made me a decent amount of money, including just calling a raise with AKo. I flopped a king, and the host (relatively short stacked) got his money in bluffing on the flop and turn.

Also, I think I was missing a lot of value bets before.

I won a lot of money on the turn and river by making smallish value bets. Sometimes, I even though I was bluffing, but got called by a worse hand (my read was off). A number of players in the game like to look you up if the bets aren't huge.

The main turning point on this was when I got called down on a AsQhTs 5c Th board by a guy with A5o. He bet really small on the flop and I called with my 6s4s from the small blind. Since he bets small with weak hands (a decent hand would bet much more to protect his hand there) I knew he was weak and so I check-raised the turn from $6 to $21 (there was probably $30 in the pot when he bet). I bluffed again on the river ($25) and he called me down. It was at that point that I was much better off just keeping the pot small with my draw, but using a similar pattern (half-pot bets) to get value.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My New NLHE Strategy: Small Ball

Yeah, I know, I know. I know I said I wouldn't play NLHE before I leave for my trip. But I've changed my mind, because I think I finally figured out what I was doing wrong in the $1/2 NLHE game.

I wasn't playing small ball any more.

I was playing some sort of medium or big ball (large ball? excessively sized ball?) where I was raising out of position and committing myself to the pot with a continuation bet on the flop. With medium capped hold'em games (~50 BB stacks) that is a no-no, since you run out of stack on the flop or early on the turn, and it robs you of opportunities to read the other players. For example, every pot-sized bet pretty much triples the pot. If the pot starts out (assuming you play) as 2.5 BB, it takes three raises/bets to get committed (2.5, 7.5, ~20, ~60 BB). Betting half the pot will double the pot each time giving you one extra decision (2.5, 5, 10, 20, 40). But even four bets/raises doesn't leave a lot of room to work and read the players.

By betting relatively large pre-flop, then making a near-pot bet on the flop, I kept running out of stack, and had a lot of nasty decisions with top pair facing an all-in bet.

So, tonight I play small ball, try to keep the pot small with hands that aren't monsters, and work on reading players and taking pots with opportune bluffs and reads.

In line with this (or just in time) I got an e-mail about Negreanu's PokerVT. His sample videos cover two parts of small ball (bluff outs and defensive river bets) which should come in handy tonight if the right situation comes up. If you want to see, check out the links on the main page under Featured Training.

My goals for tonight:

  • Play more hands but raise less. This includes not raising big hands (AA, KK, QQ, AK) from early position.
  • Play small ball. Make smaller bets unless my read calls for it (don't make a small bet on the turn when I think my opponent has a draw, for example). Defensive river bets, probe bets, bluffing outs, etc.
  • Depend on my reads. I've lost touch with my reads, but if I play more hands with a small ball attitude, folding based on reads will be a lot easier.
  • Don't overvalue top pair!
  • Limit myself to two buy-ins. The only exception is if I feel that I am playing well but I lose my first two before 9:30 pm. If so, take a walk, THINK IT OVER, and rebuy if I feel it is appropriate.
Hopefully it will work out!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Limit Hold'em is Dead to Me

If I could knock NLHE down in a dark alley somewhere and kick it in the ribs a few times I would. It has definitely worked me over pretty well lately.

Going into tonight's $1/2 NLHE session, these were my goals:

  • Take time with decisions.
  • Consider ranges of hands when making a decision.
  • Raising is power (raise the flop when possible).
  • Loosen up in position.
  • Keep pot small out-of-position.
  • $250 cap (meaning don't buy in more than twice, but reload the second buy-in if I get below $50).
  • Use my tight image.
Overall, I think I failed at every single goal. And I forgot one huge goal:

Don't overvalue top pair.

Well, let me recap.

In the first fifteen minutes, I lost my stack with KK vs 96o. (hand breakdown later). It was at this point that I realized I was in the bottom half of the table in terms of experience at NLHE and was probably not a favorite in the game. But I was there, so I was going to play. Then I lost about $40 with missed flops and things (I can't exactly remember what). I do remember that the most aggressive player at the table got moved to my left. Then I got stacked for $60 when my AK had a flop of AT9 and lost to a set of 9s, (all-in on the turn). I only briefly considered leaving after losing two buy-ins (my original plan) but it was only 8:30pm and I drove all the way out there so I was going to play, damn it! Then, lots of folding and a few little pots won before I missed AKs (seeing all the cards) and lost to A7s for $25. Finally, I lost my stack with KQ on a Qc9c6 flop (up against both AQ and 96).

I'm not complaining saying I had horrible beats and luck out against me. While my luck wasn't great, I think it was my strategy and decisions that got me beat. I just couldn't fold a hand when I needed to.

Oh, and did I mention I even failed to respect my own stop-loss... again?

Needless to say, I'm done with that game for at least three weeks. I'm going out of town, so that will help, but I know I'm no longer a favorite in the game.

And I think my overall strategy is flawed. Losing big in a few sessions is bad luck. Losing big three sessions in a row (plus a number of sessions online) is a sign that my strategy sucks.

Along with that, I've been feeling very lost in terms of reads on other players, and I'm not really sure what that is. It could be tilt, it could... hell, I think it is probably mostly tilt creeping sneaking up on my confidence, hitting it in the back of the head with a brick, and then dragging it into the sewer with me attached.

So, for now, I'm just doing a brain dump of ideas and I'll revisit things in a month or so when I go to play again. Until then, I will only be playing limit if I play at all.

My hypothesis on how to beat the game:
  • Actual cards don't matter much. The game is tight enough that I shouldn't be so focused on my cards.
  • The big pots occur when two big hands run into each other. I want to have the better hand more often than not. Standard raising hands (AK, AQ, AJ, QQ, TT) rarely get substantial action from less than two pair.
  • One pair is not a good hand against someone who raises me. Period. My reputation/image is such that people will only raise me with big hands. No more 'everyone is bluffing me' leaks!
  • I have to play speculative hands (connectors, small pairs, etc.) but I also have to play them confidently. Just playing them straightforwardly is probably a losing proposition in that game, but the ability to semi-bluff raise or float with them pushes them into the profitable range.
  • I should not overvalue suited hands. They go down in value because it is obvious when they hit and most players will protect against the flush draw.
  • I am not managing the pot well. For most of the hands, I was to a decision for the rest of my chips instead of putting that decision to someone else. This may mean raising more pre-flop to cut down the number/type of hands that come after me.
Ok, I'll end the post with a few of the hands that did me in. I can say without a doubt that didn't win a single medium to large pot. Before I do that though, a few stats:
  • I played 27.5 hours in 7 sessions since April. Three winning sessions, four losing sessions.
  • Overall, I won $253 for $9.20 and hour (which isn't bad).
  • My current downswing is $839, or 8.5 buy-ins.

Some hands I'd like to learn from:
  1. KK in EP. I raise to $7, get two callers. Flop comes Q96, checks to me, I bet $17, and one guy calls from the blinds. He's widely known as one of the best players in the game and is very aggressive. The turn is a 6 with about $80 in the pot and he bets $25 (I have about $30 left if I call the $25). I think for a while, then push. He insta-calls and shows 96 for a boat. I feel like I should have folded in this spot (I'm a tight player, he is good at reading hands, and he has to figure I have a big pair more often than not so he wouldn't be trying to bluff me). Let's face it, even with the odds of my stack (2.5:1) he won't be bluffing enough is this spot to make the fold worthwhile.
  2. AKo in MP. I raise to $9 and only the host (in the BB) calls. The pot is $20 and my stack is about $40. The flop comes KsTs9, he checks, and I check behind. This is pretty much my way of inducing a bluff (he can be aggressive). Let's face it, it was a dumb move, even though it wouldn't change the outcome here. The turn is an offsuit 8, he bets $15 pretty rapidly, and I move in for a little over $20 more. He calls, a bit slowly, with a set of 9s. Not a heck of a lot I can do in this hand, other than staying away from the idiot slow play on the flop.
  3. TT in EP. I raise to $7 and the guy in the big blind (very loose, very aggressive) re-raises it to $17. I've got $90 left, and while I can't see this guy re-raising with less than AK or QQ+, I feel like I need to call for set potential. FYI, I've seen him raise light, but never re-raise lighter than AK. The flop comes 862 or something like that. He checks, I check. He's also shown that he likes to check-raise his big pairs on low flops. The turn comes another low card and he bets $20 into the $35 pot. I call. At this point, he could be stealing with AKo. The river comes another blank and he bets $20 again. Again, I think about it, but call because the odds are pretty darn good and he could be just trying to pick up the pot if I have a draw. He shows KK. My analysis: again, his re-raising range is so tight, especially with with me UTG, that I maybe cold have folded pre-flop. Although probably not, because I think I had good odds if I thought I'd stack him if I hit a set (which I think I would, given the stacks). On the flop, I think I needed to put out a probe bet to see if he's got AK or a big pair. If he raises, I fold easily. If he calls, I check the turn or make another small bet (planning to check the river). If I check the flop, I think I need to call the turn bet and, maybe, the river bet (although his pattern of check, bet, bet slaughters me given his re-raising range).
  4. KQo in EP. I raise to $6 (I don't have change to make it my usual $7) and get three callers. The flop comes Qc9c6x, it checks to me, and I bet $15 into the $25 pot with $40 behind. The next guy to my left asks how much I have left, thinks a bit, then puts me all-in. I'm pretty positive I have to call, even though the guy isn't excessively loose and aggressive, when the BB, a very loose guy, cold calls the $60. What? Now I go into the tank for a while, but finally decide to call because I'm getting good odds (4:1 with $160 in the pot) and I don't want to keep playing with a $40 stack (dumb reason, I know). I feel pretty strongly that BB is on a draw since he didn't raise and the guy to my left likely has top pair, so I call. Turns out the raiser had AQ and the BB had 96o. I think I could have folded in that spot, but it is pretty close with those odds. Mostly because I don't think the raiser would have cold-called my raise with QJ or QT and pushed on me with second or third kicker.
  5. AKo in the big blind. I've got $100 in my stack since I recently reloaded. The loose aggressive, good player, to my left raises to $7, the next guy (the raiser in the hand above, but this is when he was a short stack earlier) pushes for $23 total, and it fold to me. After some though, I just cold-call. It felt very weak, but pushing with the original raiser to my left would only get called if I was in bad shape. We ended up checking it down though, and the all-in guy won with A7s (had a 7 on the flop).
I really, really wish I had this night back. I'd love to change my plays on a few of these hands and stick around a little longer. And I hate to take a break, but it is needed. Even if I figure out what I need to do, I've built up enough long term tilt and lost enough confidence that I'll never be able to execute in the heat of the moment.

I can always go play $6/12 LHE, although I need to hit the ATM first...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Roller Coaster

Definitely on a roller coaster now.

On Thursday, I pretty much erased my downswing by winning $180 in 6/12 and another hundred in our home game (which is pretty impressive, actually). In 6/12, I started pretty hot, quickly getting up $300 with quads and a few other good hands. Near the end, I had a number of second-best hands... In the home game, especially PLO8, I scooped a few large pots which pretty much made my night.

Then, tonight, Saturday night, I played the $1/2 NLHE game again. I lost $339, which is pretty impressive, considering my stop-loss is $300... Half of it was really bad luck, but the other half was mistakes. I won't talk too much about the bad luck, but I need to think more about my mistakes. These can be broken down into strategy-type mistakes and mistakes dealing with the play of a hand.

Strategy Mistakes:

  • The first one is easy: if I set a stop-loss, stick to it. I lost my third buy-in around 10 pm, and I considered leaving, but it felt too early. So I bought back in, but left at 11 when I realized I was just waiting for good hands. After I lose $300 (three buy-ins), I need to quit. No matter what time it is. Because $300 is just too daunting of a hole to dig out of and even if I feel like I'm doing well, I won't be playing optimally. Thank goodness I left before losing the rest of the fourth buy-in though!
  • The second thing is a biggy: I'm just not picking up enough pots with aggression. Yes, I'm still calling raises with suited connectors and, in the beginning, raising with some non-premium hands (after the second buy-in, I tightened up my raises too). It is plain and simple: if I'm going to play speculative hands, I need to be ready to semi-bluff and float, when appropriate. I can go overboard on this too (and have in the past) but I definitely tightened up tonight. Hell, a guy folded a set to my one-third raise tonight! My bluffs should get plenty of respect!
  • In particular, I need to play pots where I have position and bet/raise the turn when scare cards come, especially flushes or obvious straights. Obviously, it depends on the player, but at least half of the players can make decent lay downs. Also, semi-bluff raising (even with just a gutshot) is something that should work too.
  • I also need to manage the pot better. In one situation, I led into the raiser with a 3/4 pot bet with a flush draw. If I'm going to lead into the raiser on a semi-bluff, at least bet on the smaller side to save me money. This was doubly bad because he tended to make continuation bets, but usually they were on the small side. So I essentially charged myself extra (he made a small raise on the turn too).
So, overall, I need to tighten up a bit on limping/calling raises, but raise a wider range and especially with position. My raises should annoy people, then I know I can back down.

Hand Mistakes:
  1. KJs in EP. I limp and so do a bunch of others (maybe 5 others). $12 in the pot. Flop comes KT5 with two spades (not my suit). I bet $7 and get three callers. $40 in the pot. Turn comes offsuit J. Sam, an older guy to my right, leads for $28 and I go into the tank. Sam is quite loose, but he'll bet big when he has a big hand, so this means the J definitely hit him (or he is protecting a set). He would never bet a draw like this or one pair; he never leads into the raiser without at least two pair. Yet, I don't think he'd be calling $7 with a gutshot, so I eventually call, a few others fold (odd, because one had a monster draw). A lot of my decision there was I thought he might bet a worse two pair like that. We've got about the same size stack ($150+). The river is a blank, Sam bets $25, I call. He has Q9o. My big mistake here is that I assumed that Sam takes pot-odds into consideration. Hell, he actually had the pot odds to chase there. But he's known for chasing flushes and straights, especially on the flop. He's also known for never bluffing when he makes a big bet: big bet = big hand. In that spot, since I know I will easily face another big bet on the river if he has the straight, and he's only 10-20% to have less than a straight, I should just fold and stay out of trouble. The pot is still relatively small. Total cost: $55 In the future: respect Sam's large bets and raises. Fold to him!
  2. 22 in LP. I limp with another player, button raises to $7, four of us call. Pot is around $30. Flop is 8d7d3s. It checks around. Turn is the 2c, and I think 'Bingo!'. Larry in the big blind (or was it UTG?) leads into the pot for $10. I raise to $30. The others fold, and Larry near instantly pushes in (making it $35 to me for the rest of my stack into a pot of $125). Larry is pretty loose and likes to bluff, but pretty much never in this sort of situation (after being raised). With a draw he'd pretty much call here -- the push means a big hand. But I call pretty quickly because I've got a set and I'm getting 4:1 and I think he'd play two pair like this... maybe. At the time, I hated it, and really expected to be shown what I was shown: a set of 3s. If I was getting 3:1 or less, I maybe fold here (it'd have to be just the right situation though). But given the odds, I don't really count this as a mistake.
  3. 66 in MP. I limp, button raises to $10, and I'm the only caller. Pot now $23. Flop comes AhQs6s. Perfect! I check, he bets $10 (which seemed a little small to me) and I call (pot now $43). I figure I'll let him bet the turn and then I'll put in a raise. Turn comes Kd, which worries me a little, but not much. I check, he bets $15, I think and raise it to $45 (leaving myself with $21 left, which, when I saw it, I said 'oops'). And he starts doing math. That's a bad sign, because I figured him for a pair or two pair, not a draw. Well, he eventually calls, and the river comes a nasty card, like the Ts. Darn. I check, he bets, I call all-in. He had AsJs. My biggest mistake on this hand was not pushing when I check-raised. That increased his odds to about $100:30, or over 3:1 (while he was getting pretty much exactly 3:1). It also obligated me to a crying call on the end, because I was getting at least 8:1 and I might not get paid off if he didn't hit. Total cost: the pot (hard to quantify, but at least $70, probably more). In the future: If I commit myself, put all my chips in! And don't be afraid to raise the flop instead of slow-playing until the turn. I could be raising with an ace, which, if he hits two pair, will tie him to the pot. It also protects my hand. Finally, if he has AA or QQ in that spot, so be it -- I'm supposed to get stacked there.
I'm pretty beat down, and I know I've got more than a little tilt creeping in. But, you know, I'm actually feeling much better getting this down on paper and out of my system. I can't control the cards, but I can control my strategy and how I react to the cards.

Financially, I only lost a little over 10% of my bankroll and it's really nothing to worry about. Plus, since I started playing the $1/2 game again, I'm still averaging $20 /hr. So my hot streak in the beginning is paying for this... learning.

Maybe I'll play Wednesday night and try to win some money back! It'd probably be worth playing online a bit first to get my new (old) strategy down again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Downswing, Tilt, and Confidence

I'm in a downswing.

Not monetarily, so much (I've lost less than $300 total, or 10% of my bankroll). But I'm definitely feeling that low-level frustration (tilt) creeping in.

The good news is that one winning session will probably erase a good bit of it and alleviate the oncoming tilt. The bad news is I know I could easily make worse decisions at the table. I've had some decent downswings when I've been feeling like this.

Most bloggers seem to avoid talking about their downswings and tilt. Actually, moreso, they are loath to admit that they screwed up a decision... or hand... or session... I'll admit it, I don't like to admit when I make a monster mistake as much as I can beat myself up about it internally. There's a scary number of bloggers out there who don't talk much about mistakes (only mentioning bad beats) yet never seem to earn any money. For the record, I sometimes wonder if I'm in that category.

Of course, there are those bloggers who do admit their mistakes, most notably CC and Grubby. Hell, Grubby admits he has a gambling problem, even though he is mostly powerless to stop it. And reading CC's early posts about tilting off significant portions of his bankroll is a great way to recognize (and avoid) dangerous behaviors like that in yourself.

But the first step in avoiding bad decisions is admitting you make them.

My problem right now is that I feel like I'm not really sure what is a good decision and what isn't. Particularly in reference to poker tournaments.

Maybe it all just boils down to confidence.

When I take a series of beatings (or fail make money in four tournaments and two cash games like I did today -- online, of course), I'm lacking confidence. And lack of confidence makes the game much harder to play.

So maybe I just need to get my confidence back?

I'm hoping some of the $6/12 players at Garden City tomorrow afternoon have some confidence in their back pocket.

Because I wouldn't mind going home with some of it.


Oh, and as a side note, I'm looking forward to our crazy wild card cash game (home game) tomorrow night after my GC session. It's so handy that the host's place is only a few miles from Garden City.


Deep down, I knew it was a dumb idea, but I did it anyway. And in the end, it was bad luck that hurt me more than my decisions. At least, I think so...

Last Saturday, there was a $25 tournament at 2 pm (which turned into a $50 tournament when you consider my rebuy -- I ran KK into AA). Then, at 7 pm, I had my usual $1/2 NLHE game. Yes, that's back to back, unless I went deep in the tourney (and was too tired to play the cash game) or busted quickly in the tournament (and had time to recover in between).

Of course, I lasted exactly until 7 pm in the tournament (going out 20-something -- the tourney has a great structure), then headed straight to the cash game, getting a little food on the way.

Thanks to four years of poker, I know a few things to protect myself in situations like this. For instance, in this case, I decided I'd limit myself to two $100 buy-ins and 11 pm as an end time (more like midnight, since I always leave later than I want). The biggest danger of a marathon session is playing tired and going off for a big number.

My first buy-in was dissolved when my AA got cracked by TT. No, I know you are thinking this is going to be an overpair vs set story, but actually, I got it all-in pre-flop. In the past few hands I'd raised twice with semi-trashy hands, so when I picked up aces I raised to the same amount ($9) hoping someone would come after me. The host of the game bumped it to $32, it folded to me, and I pushed for about $110 total. He tanked and took a long time with the decision, saying that he had his favorite hand. I suggested it was AQ, and he laughed at me: that's his least favorite hand. Oops...

During this time I seriously considered just flipping my cards up to get him to fold; not because I wanted to avoid a bad beat, but because I wanted to avoid tilting the host. Ultimately, though, I couldn't do it in a situation where his call is so +EV (if the odds were closer to 3:1, I might have done it). He finally called (which is why he's been losing money in the game) and flipped TT and I showed my aces. A ten was the first card off the deck.

After that, I was feeling pretty tired and tightened up a decent bit. Partially because I had taken the beat and didn't want to tilt, but mostly because we were playing 11-handed and I was getting crap for cards. Full table live no-limit is so boring! And the table was pretty active too, so my few limps invariably got punished.

Ultimately, over the next two hours, I lost a second buy-in. I don't have a lot of regrets except for two hands. Oddly enough, the one I regret the most didn't cost me much, but it is such a common occurrence that I feel like I should know better.

A reasonably tight/passive guy opened in middle position for $7 and I called in late position with suited connectors. The flop was all below a 9, giving me a flush draw with a gutshot. He bet $10, and I bumped it to $25, expecting to take the pot there. But he surprised me and called after a bit of thought. Originally, I had him on a big ace with the length of thought but didn't expect him to call there with overcards because I wouldn't have called there. One of my classic mistakes...

Turn came a queen, he checked, and I checked after considering firing another bullet. I felt like he was weak, but I couldn't rule out some sort of pair, possibly even TT or JJ. The river was a blank, it went check-check, and I told him he won. He showed AKo.

My disappointment in this hand was that I knew he was weak, but I got a little confused and froze up. He wasn't a calling station, so I should have fired again. I was just blind to the fact that he might be taking one off on the flop with AK. Alternatively, a slightly larger raise on the flop would have ended the hand too. That's one of my biggest weaknesses; if I'm going to bet, I need to really bet near the pot, not lean toward the half-pot side like I usually do.

The second hand is kind of the opposite mistake as the above hand. Although, actually, I'm still debating if it was a mistake.

There's one limper UTG and I raise to $8 with AJo in middle position. BB calls and limper calls. Flop comes QQ8 with two spades, it checks to me, and I bet $15 into the $25 pot. BB folds and limper calls. The limper is not a fish, but he's lost a decent amount of money in the game and tends to be very loose preflop, pretty loose on the flop, but can let go of hands in the face of obvious strength. In other words, he doesn't just play his cards, but tends to call. At this point, I figure he could have a flush draw, a pair 99 or lower (TT+ he'd raise UTG, I think), or a queen or full house. The queen is less likely because I'd think he'd check-raise the flop.

The turn comes an offsuit king, and he checks quickly. At this point, I think a little bit, and decide to bet out to get him off of a small pair. And I can't bet a little, because he could have a flush draw, so I decide on about $40 or so (into the $55 pot) but realize I only have about $65 left, so I push it. He asks me: "Why so much?" I tell him, "Because a smaller bet would commit me anyway." He still called near instantly, though, so I don't think he cared about my response to the comment.

Turns out, he had K5 of spades, for top pair and the flush draw and I don't catch my three outs to a gutshot or 2 (or 3?) outs to a better pair.

At first, I immediately started lamenting my overaggressive play. Often, in that spot, I'd just take the free card on the turn after he calls. But since then, I've thought about it more, and I think it is a nice solid bet against that kind of opponent. Obviously, if he's got a queen, I'm toast (to four outs, which soften the blow quite a bit). But a lot of the time he'll have a small pair there, and I think the king is a great scare card to knock him off. And unless he has exactly the king of spades, the big bet should price him out of the flush draw (he might still call, but at least he'd be doing it with bad odds).

The hard part is putting numbers on the outcomes and the chance of each outcome. I tried running it through poker stove, but it doesn't really take into consideration the frequencies and fold equity.

So, anybody have any thoughts?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Another Bit of Genius

I've been pondering how to write a long post about cannibalistic polar bears and wounded sharks, but I think I'll summarize the idea in a single sentence. The following is my litmus test for when I'm too tilted to continue playing -- it applies primarily to no limit games, but also applies to limit hold'em to a large degree.

If I find myself waiting around for a premium hand to beat my opponents, it is time to get up from the table.

Read, ponder, and comment. There's a lot of wisdom in this idea and it's taken me years (and many tilted nights) to figure it out.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I guess I haven't worn the game out yet...

"Wow, Sean has chips in front of him. That doesn't happen too often!"

That was what the host of my local $1/2 NL game said last Saturday night.

In the past four sessions I've pulled almost $1100 out of the game (one small loss). That's an average of $60/hr. FYI, this isn't a brag (ok, maybe it is), because I've been very lucky at least two or three of the sessions I played. I suspect my real win rate is closer to $10-20/hr.

I was a little concerned that my good fortune would be noticed and get me uninvited but I guess my image is pretty safe!

As a side note, the host has lost over $1K by my count during those same four sessions. He's not playing tonight although he's letting everyone else play anyway and I half expect he'll sit in. Personally, I want to see him snap out of his Tilty McTiltipants funk, because his cloud of gloom spreads over the table, but I know profit will be harder to come by if he gets back on his game again.

Oh, and I'm not playing tonight, but I hope to play more in the next few weeks.

On Staking and Backing

Pauly mentioned this excellent staking thread on 2+2 and that has gotten me on the topic of staking and backing.

As you probably know, I was backed for the first few months of this year in $6/12 and $8/16 limit hold'em at the local casinos. Actually, it wasn't really a backing arrangement, it was more of him taking a piece of my action. Our deal was basic -- he puts in 50% of the cash, and takes 50% of any win or loss.

In a way, this deal was non-standard and screwed me a bit, since the 'standard' deal is the backer puts in 100% of the cash and takes 50-60% of the profit, assuming I make up any losses before I pocket any profit. The important thing was: we suspected I'd be profitable, but no one, especially me, was confident that I would. Plus, not having to worry about make up gave me a nice exit strategy (if I decided LHE wasn't for me, I didn't want to stick him with a big loss).

In the end, I spent 3 months with the deal in $6/12 (and 3/6) and earned my backer $562. Then, for April, we did a one-month deal where only my 8/16 was part of the deal, and I lost him $204. The deal pretty much worked out well for both of us; I turned 6/12 into a 3/6 game so I could afford it, and he made almost $400 by giving me about $500 in cash.

Would I do it again?

I'd prefer not to, but in certain cases (larger tournaments) I feel that my ability outdistances my bankroll. For cash games, though, I don't think that is the case. My cash game wheelhouse based on my BR is $6/12 and $100NL, and that's where I think I should stay for a while. And, of course, if my bankroll dropped too low for $6/12, I'd consider it. Honestly, though, I'd rather keep my +EV for myself whenever possible :)

As for staking other players... well, let's just say I'm not exactly rolling in money right now so it isn't an option. Well, let me restate that; I'd have no trouble staking someone pocket change ($20) if I trusted them.

In the future, if I had a ton of left-over money, I might consider it, but not for large amounts (more than around $1K) unless I suddenly became rich. There's just too many ways for the deal to turn out bad and/or add stress to my life.

The absurd thing is that this 18yo guy, Timex, is staking players and getting down $100K+ to other players. I'd bet that he probably has a million or two tied up in staking arrangements... What the hell kind of parents let a kid loan out that kind of money, even if he did make it gambling online at 16?

Staking arrangements do explain why I see so many players in monster events (like Poker After Dark or $100K tournaments) who don't seem like they should be able to afford the event.

BTW, this post isn't an invitation to ask me to stake you. Not even $5 online. Find someone else...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dealerless Poker Tables

One of the things on my list on my LA trip was to try a Lightning electronic poker table (or a PokerTek). But I noticed an odd thing: both the Bike and Commerce (some of the largest poker rooms anywhere) had the tables, but NOBODY WAS USING THEM.

In both casinos, the Lighting tables were set up for $34 + 6 SnGs. There was no list, and other than people randomly resting and chatting near them, nobody was even interested in them.

I don't think this is a problem with the operation of the tables.

I think it is a tactile issue. Handling chips and cards is just part of the game.

For example, imagine one of your best days ever at poker. You had a mound of chips in front of you, right? For me, I think of the day I won almost $700 in the Garden City 6/12 and had over 400 $2 chips stacked in front of me.

I made the 25-chip stack arrow with a second floor.

It was a great day.

Now, imagine all those chips are just a number on a screen in front of you... It's a little bit less fun, huh.

Of course, it's all about economics. If there are enough financial reasons to play at an electronic table (games not offered live, significantly less rake, etc.) people will do it, but I suspect the rake will need to be near-free for it to happen.

The tactile aspect of poker is just too important to most players.

Hmmm... I wonder what it'd take for the Bellagio 'Big Game' to be played at an electronic table. I suspect PokerTek would have to pay Doyle, Patrik, and Jennifer over $100 an hour to do it...

Although I'd love to have a heads-up table at my house for little heads-up matches after my home game is over. Dealing heads-up is just so tedious. It wouldn't even have to keep track of bets, just deal the cards, the turn, the flop, and the river.

In a previous life (A.K.A. bachelorhood) I was an arcade game collector. I had my collection up to one (a Neo-Geo one-slot MVS rig with a number of games) before I got married and shipped it to Washington state. But there's a lot of cocktail tables out there, and they'd be perfect for a little heads-up console if I added a cheap monitor and an old computer. Hmmm...

The last thing I need is another project to be left unfinished and ultimately abandoned...

Monday, June 02, 2008

May Update

From my post frequency, you can probably tell my focus has shifted from poker a bit.

Actually, my shift has focused from blogging about poker more than anything else...

Let's just say that I just don't have as much time idle at a computer as I used to.

So, let me catch you up on the past month or so in my poker life.

(anybody reminded of Robert's style of writing right now? What is wrong with me?)


The first few days of May I played a lot (meaning 3 hours) on UB. Apparently there's a lot of cheaters on UB. I suspect my stakes ($2 NL, 50c limit) are pretty safe though.

Let's be honest, internet poker just isn't as fun as it used to be.


I played one night at Garden City this month. I ended up playing 8/16 to start to get on a table, winning $21, then losing $50 once I got to a 6/12 table. I can't remember much about it, although I wasn't playing horribly, but wasn't that well either.


When I was in LA I played on night at Commerce. OHMYGOD that is a huge casino. I played 4/8 limit with a kill and then normal 4/8 a little later. When I was there, there were at least 15 tables of 4/8 running plus another seven of the 4/8 kill game running. I really wish I lived closer to that casino.

BTW, I lost $200 in the kill game with a few bad plays (cold calling a raise with KJo in a multi-way kill pot and getting all-in with a flopped king) but won $112 back in the non-kill game. I found the kill game much harder than the non-kill game; I think a lot of bad players are scared by the kill.

Oh, and I saw a guy in the high-limit section that looked familiar, and then I realized it was Ted Forrest. Later I saw Greenstein sitting at his table too.


A couple of nights before I played the $50+10 + rebuys Deep Stack tournament at the Bike. Again, another huge casino. The comedy came when at 6:55 when I was waiting in the main room for the tournament to start and I asked one of the six dealers loitering around how I locate my table. He said it was in the ballroom. Apparently, my feeble mind just couldn't consider that there were even more poker tables elsewhere, even without evidence of the other 300 players in the tourney.

The tourney structure was great with essentially a $200+10 buy-in, half-hour levels at first, and a slow structure. If I get a chance I'll scan and upload the structure sheet (info that I searched everywhere on the net for before I left).

My tournament: well, I doubled early when I raised with 42s, turned a flush, and had a guy push into my turn bet with a straight draw, no club. Apparently he couldn't read the board that well.

I took a big hit later when my AKo ran into AA a little after the rebuy period ended. Pretty normal stuff, except when you consider I had like 70 big blinds in my stack and I four-bet all-in with a ton left over. It was a big mistake, and I wasn't thinking straight when I did it. That said, 90 minutes in if you have a 70BB stack with near the average in chips, that's a good tournament. I wish I was closer so I could play some of the 20/30 events.


Played a few homegames and won a little and lost a little more. No big deal. Although I did have top pair runner-runner my set which hurt a lot... until I realized I was only a 17:1 favorite (I thought it was more like 50:1).


Won $444 at the 1/2 NL game on Saturday night. I've almost covered all my losses in that game which feels really good. I played well, but not perfectly -- I overbet a value bet, missed a few small bluffs, and bluffed in a bad spot once or twice. Mostly, I just never had a substantial second-best hand (top pair is not a substantial second best hand -- that's easy to lay down).

The nice thing about the win was it erased my losses from the month (my LA trip and a few other things). So my bankroll is scratching $3K again and near a few year high.


What next? Well, my next few weeks are pretty busy, but after that I hope to get some more live poker at GC and play the 1/2 NL game more often as long as the host doesn't shut the game down since he's been losing $300 a night.

And in this spot, I'm going to lean more towards the short and sweet posts instead of long summaries like this.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Bit of Genius

I know this idea has been around, but it bears repeating:

If you win without a showdown, it doesn't matter what cards you held.

Seriously, think about that a little while, and you'll realize the secret to winning in tight no limit games.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Returning to LHE

It has been a while since I've played poker live (over two weeks; I played the 1/2 NL game and won $250) but I'm returning to Garden City tonight.

My goal is simply to not screw up.

Shouldn't be too hard :)


April was a good month for me and I got my bankroll up a little over $3K and finally feel pretty secure playing $6/12 and $1/2 NL. It's odd, but when I'm winning, I actually don't want to play that much. When I'm losing, then I have the urge to play and make the money back. I suspect that's the opposite of many players (and yet the same as many others).

Oh, and I'll be going to LA for a conference, so I'm hoping to play an event in the Bike's Deep Stack tournament (what a lame name!). I'm hoping for the $50 rebuy tournament on Wednesday night, but we'll see. Mostly, I just want to see the Bike, and hopefully I'll get to stop by Commerce too.


Anyway, in the hopes of not screwing up, I'm going to borrow my goals from this post:

  1. Play ABC poker. Again, tighten up a little bit pre-flop (not to say play tight, but don't call ATo in EP on an aggressive table). And continue doing things like raising in position for free cards.
  2. Take extra time for my decisions. Don't play on autopilot. Think through my options. Trust myself (not necessarily physical tells, but the sum total of patterns, reads, and tells).
  3. Play against bad players. This means move tables if my table is tight. I play best against loose players (either aggressive or passive) so I need to seek them out.
Sometime in the next hour I need to locate my 'poker pad'.

After all, I might have an interesting hand or two tonight.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Bet You

A quicky for now...

I'm really enjoying Laak and Esfandiari's I Bet You on MOJO. Of course, I don't get MOJO, but I do get YouTube...

It appears most if not all episodes are up, and episode 4 (the first part linked above) is the best once I've seen out of the first 4. There's a little gem of a bet in the middle of episode 4 that even made Laak cringe and stay out of it. And giving a sound guy a free-roll on a run in the dessert... hilarious!

In other news, I closed out a profitable April (up almost a grand total, mostly do to two winning sessions in the 1/2 NL game) and I'm super busy so I won't be playing much poker in the near future. May includes a lot of tutoring work, my parents visiting starting tomorrow, and a trip to LA for a conference (but I will play some poker in LA).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Now, about that live NL game I was talking about...

I came out ahead $470 after 4 hours!

We were playing five-handed and it seemed like everything was going in slow motion. I was very at ease, felt like I had good control, and never really got unlucky. I mean, a drunken lemur could have made a profit with my cards. But really, the hundred hours I've played in casinos has definitely helped my NLHE game a ton.

I think everything I talked about in the last post helped me succeed, but the biggest thing was just being comfortable with being stacked. Before, I was always afraid of losing money, making me shy away from the right play which would put my stack at risk (but also put pressure on the other players). Winning and losing $400+ at Garden City has definitely made me more comfortable with losing a few buy-ins, which let me play the game right.

Other major items were playing the player, thinking through my actions, and something I didn't mention the first time through: managing the pot. You see, in a $100 buy-in game with $3 blinds (30 big bets), you are pretty much committed if you flop a pair. In a $100 buy-in game with $2 blinds (and no rake!) you can actually avoid getting pot committed if you size your bets correctly. Before, I played the game very aggressively, raising big pre-flop and getting myself committed with hands that missed. This time, I wasn't afraid to raise to $5 or $6 pre-flop, I never committed myself pre-flop (except for AA once), and I didn't bet the flop or turn sometimes if I only had top pair to keep the pot small.

I was also reading players pretty well. I never really had to depend on a read for a big lay down, but a few times I clocked other players based on tells. I was also able to push people off hands with semi-bluffs and raises.

A few hands:

77 UTG, five-handed, $100 effective stacks. I raised to $6, folds to the blinds, and the game host calls in the BB. $13 pot. The flop is AAT, he checks, and I check. The host is a pretty good player, but bluffs a lot yet is way too quick to fold against me if I show strength. He's had a losing night, so that makes him even more timid when I show strength.

On the flop, he checks, then I check. In this spot, I wanted to keep the pot small if he hit, yet the check should scare the hell out of him. The turn is an 8. He leads out for $7, and I call. At this point, I think it is still likely I have the best hand (i.e. he's taking a shot at it), but again, no point in raising and building a big pot.

The river is a T, and my hand is crap now. He checks, and I know he doesn't have an ace. In fact, it is very unlikely he has a T also, but he most likely has me beat. So I bet $12 or so (into $27) and he insta-mucks. That is not necessarily a bet I would have made before because I was scared of monsters, but it is obviously a profitable bet.

Ts7s in the BB. I get a free flop, with four players in total. $8 pot. Flop is J9s7, I check (the game is relatively passive, I don't mind my hand, but again, keep the pot small out of position). The guy to my left (aggressive, takes a lot of shots at pots, but probably the best player at the table and a good hand-reader) bets $7. Folds to me, and I think a while. Obviously, I've got a backdoor flush, gutshot, and a pair. Against his range, I'm not in too bad shape. So I call. We're talking back and forth, and it is clear he thinks I have a draw of some sort.

The turn comes 3s with $22 in the pot. Now I've got a flush draw with my gutshot. I check and he bets $15. Normally I'd call here, but he didn't seem that strong (just a general feeling and the betting patterns). He's got about another $100 behind and I have him covered. So, I thought, then check-raised to $40. He starts thinking out loud, then folds his top pair saying I had two pair. I take the pot and agree with him.

Again, this is a great example of the difference between now and then. Before, I'd chicken out because $40 seems like a lot of money. But, this time around, I was willing to put my money at risk and got rewarded for it. And the threat of a bet on the river forced him to fold his two pair also.

One of the secrets of my success was that my opponents were not making such semi-bluffs against me, probably due to my stack. That helps a lot.

In poker, chips are not money. Chips are ammunition.