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.

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