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.