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 :)