Saturday, May 22, 2010

Goals For .5/1 Cash Tonight...

  1. Straight from SSNLHE: Don't overcommit in small pots...
  2. Raise my button often...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cash Game Tonight

Playing a new cash game tonight with some players that I know.  I believe it is .5/1 NLHE, but we'll see when I get there.  I've started reading SSNLHE and finding some good ideas in it, but I'm purposely going slowly, especially since I haven't had much time to play lately, especially cash.  So my goal is to start playing online occasionally, and choosing one or two things to work on each time.

For tonight, I'm going to make some specific goals:

  • Play more deep stacked.  I think I'll bring $200, leaving me money for two $80 buy-ins and one half-rebuy (if I get low).  The goal will be to keep my stack about $80, and leave if it drops well below (i.e. if I'm into the game for $200 and I've only got $40 in front of me, I should leave rather than gamble with that $40).
  • Don't enter pots where I don't have strong card equity or strong bluff equity.  This will likely tighten me up in early position which is not a bad thing in a loose-aggressive game.  Notably, I'll probably be letting suited weak aces go in early position along with suited connectors.
  • Play position.  Specifically, this means raising limpers.  While I'll be tighter in early position, I think I should raise more in position and aim to take the pot with a continuation bet or two on the flop.
  • Don't play scared; it is ok to get stacked.  I think this is my big issue.  It also follows along with Ed Miller's recent post about loose players that don't fold.  Often, it is ok to get in with a single pair against a loose opponent -- and it is ok to make a pot-sized bet if I believe my opponent is drawing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tourney Today (deep-stack)

Got a deep-stack tournament tonight, I believe a $60 buy-in, although $10 of that goes toward bounties.

Based on recent tournaments, I think I'm feeling pretty comfortable.  I do have some specific goals:

  1. Early on, play small ball.  With no rebuy, I don't want to get a large portion of my stack committed with a weak hand or do a large coin flip.  On the other hand, there is a lot of value early on so I don't want to play extremely tight.  Just small jabs, try to steal pots, and build slowly.
  2. Later on, towards the money bubble, get much more aggressive.  This generally hasn't be a problem.  I do need to avoid playing scared when it could cost me my stack yet I believe I have the best hand.
  3. Short-handed (if it gets that far) make more three-bets/resteals in addition to opening a lot of pots.  This was a big issue last time, and I let myself play too many hands OOP with large blinds.  I'm pretty good at pre-flop play, so I shouldn't be afraid to put in a three-bet if I'm playing against an opponent that will lay down a lot of hands.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em

Given my recent troubles in NLHE cash games, and the fact that I've had my eye on Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em for a while, I think I will probably take advantage of the current deal for 40% off SSNLHE.

After all, if they happen to mention in the book that I shouldn't shove 60BB with AKo over a 5BB bet, I'll make the cost of the book back right there!

More seriously, I think it is time to get some external input into my overall strategy so I feel less like a ship without a compass.  Given the stakes I play, I should be able to easily make back the price of the book in a month or two.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I'm doing something I don't usually do: immediately recording my stats and blogging after a loss.

Admittedly, I'm getting pretty frustrated. I lost two buy-ins ($120 total in a .5/1 game) tonight. And the worst part is that I'm pretty sure I played poorly in a number of spots; as much as I'm trying to make my NLHE cash game better, it does not seem to be working.  I never really felt comfortable tonight.  I just felt like I was playing too tight, too aggressive, to impulsively.  I feel that I should be able to beat small local live NLHE cash games by now, but realistically I'm not a winner.

First, I'll list the main hands I can remember playing, then I'll post some general thoughts about my overall strategy. Feel free to comment on anything and everything...

Cast of Characters (in their respective seats):

  1. Me
  2. Tim.  Pretty tight guy, known for limping his big pairs.  Was distracted tonight with his laptop or IPhone.  Often calls raises pre-flop, but can fold a hand.
  3. Ryan.  New guy -- if you looked up 'rock' in a dictionary, this guy's picture would be in there.
  4. Melanie.  New girl, a Russian.  Seems to have played a decent amount, but pretty loose and passive.  Called down with second/third pair in some cases.
  5. Toby. Older guy, retired, plays a LOT of poker. Tends to be loose preflop, fine with calling raises, rarely raises himself, does not seem to bluff much. Can make good lay downs.
  6. Mickey. Experienced Asian guy. Pretty tight/aggressive, can mix it up with Andy (below), aggressive. Always buys in for $100, not afraid to bluff or call big bets if he believes he is ahead.
  7. Wayne. Loose Asian guy who usually buys in for the minimum ($40) and often rebuys.
  8. Andy.  The host.  Super loose, super aggressive.  Raises most of his buttons if it limps to him, and often raises in middle position or early position.  Pretty loose post flop but good at putting pressure on you.  His main weakness is bluffing a little too much, and sometimes calling all-in with weak odds.  Doesn't like to play out of position.  Usually folds when I put in a bet.
  9. Nate.  Indian guy, pretty solid player.  Always seems to have a hand when he hits showdown, but seems to be playing quite a few hands.  Likes to call raises, both in and out of position.  Bluffs occasionally.  He was the winner of the last tournament I mentioned.

Hands that I can remember (both good and bad):
  1. Early on, I added about $10 to my stack by raising AQ and taking it down on the flop with a CB.   
  2. Tim and Mickey limp, Andy raises to $3.50, Nate calls, I call in the big blind with 98o, Tim and Mickey call.  Flop comes A52 with two spades, and it checks to Andy and he bets $8 into $16 or so.  Nate folds, and I decide to make a move, since Andy will bet almost any hand in that spot.  I raise to $22, and Tim cold calls with only $9 behind.  Andy hems and haws but folds.  At this point, I'm in full abort mode, and will fold unless it somehow gets to the river and I think putting him in might get him to fold.  Until the 8s hits the turn.  Now I have a pair.  So I check, and he pushes.  I start thinking out loud about the hand and he says, "I have a flush."  He then shows me 6s 3s.  Well, now I have to call, with a pot of $60...  I miss.
  3. I forget the exact action, but I think I limped into a hand with Ac3c UTG.  A bunch of other limpers, and we see a flop of 8c6c4d.  I lead for half the pot, Toby and Wayne call.  Turn comes a club, I check, Toby checks, and Wayne shoves for $26.  I try to hollywood it, but I call and Toby folds (saying he is folding a straight).  That one I won and got up to about $100.
  4. I'm on the button with 8d5d and about $100.  Folds to Nate, he raises to $3.50, I call, Tim calls.  Flop comes As4s2.  Tim checks, Nate bets about $7.  I feel a little weakness in the bet, so I raise to $18.  Nate thinks for a while (and I realize he has at least an ace) and then he makes it $40.  I fold, and he admits he had AKo.  I realize that shoving on him would probably have taken it!
  5. Jacks UTG + 1.  I have about $32 at this point, and I make it $7 hoping to get one or two callers with and easy shove on the flop.  Four players call me (Tim, Mickey, Wayne, and Nate) and see a flop of K72 rainbow.  Wayne and Nate check, and I just shove my $25.  It seemed very possible I'd have the best hand, but I know it was a risky play.  I didn't expect so many callers.  It folded to Nate, and he called with two pair (K7s).  I miss and rebuy.
  6. Mickey raises to $6.50 UTG.  Wayne calls, Andy calls, Nate calls, I call with KcQc, Toby calls.  Flop comes K72 or something like that, no suits, checks to Mickey, and he bets $20 into the $30 out there.  It folds to me, I think for a while, then muck.  Mickey would usually slow down against so many opponents, so AK and AA are a big part of his range.  He could have bet JJ, QQ though, but it is very hard for me to call $20 in that spot when I only have another $20 behind.  Should I be making this call?
  7. I raise AJs to $7 after some limpers, only Melanie calls, flop is Axx, I bet and win.
  8. In the big blind with 5s3s.  Flop comes AK3 rainbow, Tim bets $3 into $5, Toby, Mickey, and I call.  Turn is a blank, checks around.  River is another 3, and I lead out for $7 (about half the pot).  Everyone folds.
  9. Final hand: I was in the SB, and Tim (the big blind) accidently folded.  Mickey limped, Andy raised to $5 right after Tim noticed he folded.  I was talking at the time, and said something about I was likely to fold unless I had a monster, and I looked down at AKo.  Without thinking about it, I just pushed my $65 into the middle.  Mickey folded, Andy called instantly, and he had KK.  We ran it three times, I bricked them all...  This was a huge mistake -- I'll pretty much only get called by QQ+, AK here since it is a big raise.  I was afraid to raise because if he re-raised me I'd probably still call anyway, but realistically he respects my raises and I doubt he'd reraise without KK+ if I made it $15.  Dumb, dumb move.
I now remember why I don't usually blog after the game -- it takes too long and I'm tired!

I'm not going to go into a lot of overall strategy talk right now, but I will make a few overall comments that will jumpstart a later post:
  • In 8 sessions, I'm down $288, or about 6 buy-ins.  I've only won twice.  I usually win or lose small, with a couple of two-buyin losses.
  • I'm a tight player.  I'm probably playing only 10% of my hands.  The word 'nit' comes to mind.
  • I am seen as a very tight player.  I have a hard time getting other players to commit their stacks against me when I have them beat.  They don't seem to have a problem getting their stack in when they have me beat :)
  • When I do play, I often overbluff or overplay hands.  For example, the AKo hand, possibly the JJ hand.
  • I'm afraid to play on the turn and river when the bets get big.
  • Most of the bluffs and moves I make are on the flop.  Most of the moves and bluffs I make are called.
  • I'm ok with the amount of money in play, but I will admit it makes me nervous.  That is why I usually only bring two $60 buy-ins.
  • My short stack game is usually pretty bad.  I'm quite uncomfortable in the no-mans land of 30 to 40 big blinds.
  • I tend to make big bets preflop (6-9x BB) in order to limit the field I play against.
  • Even raising to $7, I'll often get 3-4 callers.
  • I raise rarely in position, and almost never out of position.
  • I rarely float or make loose calls on the flop.
  • I don't think I am doing a good job of keeping pots small.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Goals For Tonight: Ditto

After a long break from cash games, the 0.5/1 NLHE cash game is tonight.

While I could write up a bunch of goals, realistically all my goals from last time still apply.  So I'll just use these goals for tonight.

* * * * *

When you win a tournament, you never have regrets. When you lose a tournament, all you have is regrets.

For last Friday's tournament, I had the chiplead for a lot of the time three-handed, but ended up in third. I tried to put pressure on them, but guy to my left called a lot of raises and I lost a substantial portion of my stack making clumsy bluffs into him. He also raised his button a ton (showing an ace 6-7 times in a row!) and I was never able to three-bet him. In hind-sight, he was pretty tight when it came to calling all-ins, so I should have re-stole from him when I had him 2:1 in chips to slow him down.

Ultimately, my demise came after I doubled up the shorty a few times in a dominated position when my pre-flop raise was too large to fold to his push.  I guess, in that situation, I shouldn't be raising, be he was folding so many of his hands that I couldn't forego hands like A2o.

Honestly, I could have chopped at multiple points and come out with more money than I ultimately did.  The host (already busted) was gently encouraging us to chop a few times but I gave him resistance.  On the other hand, though, I also could have taken the whole thing down with a good hand or two.  And the guy to my left did a great job of stealing and playing hands against me in position.  He was the ultimate winner.

Besides, to get to the money (three got paid) I got very lucky at least twice when I got caught stealing but hit some lucky cards.  In the middle play (6-7 handed), I was an extreme short stack but pushed aggressively and hit my hands when I needed to.  Needless to say, I tilted a few guys when I knocked them out with 76s.

My lesson for the day: do not play hands out of position in short-handed play.  Instead of calling the blind, re-steal liberally.

* * * * *

Thinking a bit more about my goals, I think I have one primary goal: do not play scared poker.  This means raising good hands, going for the semi-bluff when I think it is warranted, etc.

I hope that playing tournaments has increased my aggressiveness, but we'll see.  It is easy to say to be aggressive now, but when I'm at the table with $150 in front of me, it becomes less easy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prep for $50 Tourney Tonight

Just a list of goals for now:

  1. Consider stack sizes and bet bigger when I need to chase out draws.  Sometimes half pot is appropriate, but not all the time!
  2. Avoid playing too scared and inducing bluffs.
  3. Try to resteal at least once, either from the blinds or in position.

Play Along #1: Jacks Facing a River Bet (tournament)

I hope to make this a recurring type of post (I shamelessly stole the idea from The Poker Meister). I'll reveal results (or in the case of multi-step hands, the result of each action) in the comments.

This was in a $50 single table tournament a few weeks ago. I'm generally seen as a pretty tight and solid player, and this was early in the tournament. Overall, the table had been playing pretty loosely (4-5 players to most unraised flops, maybe half the hands raised pre-flop).

I'm CO - 1 with JJ and the blinds are 100/200. I raise to 550, CO calls, Button calls, everyone else folds. CO is somewhat loose preflop to limps, but not as loose to raises, and he usually shows up with a hand when he gets all-in. Not extremely aggressive, but he has bluffed in the past. Button is quite loose pre-flop, will call raises with a lot of hands, likes action, and is not afraid of betting. He believes I'm a strong player but is not afraid to bet into me (or bet in general).

Flop comes 6h6d3d, pot is about 2.1K, I bet 1.2K. CO calls quickly, button calls pretty quickly. At this point, I haven't put them on any specific hand, but both of their calls mean they have something. At this point, I have about 5K left and the pot is about 5.5K.

Turn is 3h. I think for a while, then check, CO checks, and button checks quickly behind. River is 2c. I think again for a while, assuming I have the best hand, but decide not to bet it. I feel that both the other players have draws or a weaker pair, and I think it is possible I'll get a free showdown. CO checks, but then the button bets 3K rather quickly.  He has me covered by 2-3K, I would have 2K left if I called and lost (we started with 5K).

What should I do?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tournaments, Tournaments, Tournaments...

Since I last posted I played two more tournaments, and I have another planned for tomorrow night.  I'm starting to feel much more comfortable in tournaments and remember many of the techniques I used to remember; for whatever reason, local games are usually tournaments now, while they were cash games before.

I'll summarize the last two tournaments now, then post some hands from the tournaments over the next few days.

* * * * *

The $50 NLHE tournament a week ago went pretty well, although I didn't make the money.  There was one hand that I made a pretty sizable mistake in, although I know why I took the action that I did, and I definitely learned from it.  Overall, the table was VERY tight compared to the last time I played, especially towards the end game.  11-handed to start and $50 buy-in with a single optional rebuy (I don't think anybody even used the rebuy!).  Maybe one of the reasons it played so tightly was because of the 11 players at the table; you really need to wait for a hand in that situation!

I started out slow, like I usually do, but ramped up the aggression when my stack started getting shorter and we were down to about 7 players.  Sadly, I had another aggressive/loose player directly to my left, and he ended up giving me a bit of trouble since he flat called me often and he had position on me.  On the other hand, I started shoving when I had 10 big blinds (as general strategy dictates) and the other players really were shocked with some of the hands I shoved.  I shoved 88 in EP with 9x BB, shoved A7s in late position after a limper (he folded A9o).  At one point, I shoved the button with 44 and the big blind thought forever before calling with 99 -- that might be notable, but he only had two big blinds behind after posting!  (I ended up winning that one with a flopped set)

It felt really good to be one of the more aggressive players at the table and to pick up a lot of dead money.  Ultimately, I had my kings cracked by JJ, but I was pretty optimistic about my chances until that jack flopped!

* * * * *

Sunday, I played a $40 satellite to a $360 single-table satellite to a WSOP $1500 event.  It is just a local guy that is running a sequence of ten tournaments; no rake involved.  He's got a cool set-up too, with Paulson chips and in-table card shufflers!  The short version is that I won it, so I'll be playing the $360 satellite for one of two seats (plus travel money) in a few weeks!

I can also play the same tournament again for a shot at starting with double the chips at the $360 satellite, and I think I'm going to try to play one of the three remaining tournaments since it'd be good experience playing against those guys even if I didn't win.

This tournament went really well though.  I wouldn't say it was mistake free, but I felt that I played pretty well.  I performed a resteal out of the big blind, something that I don't normally do, I made a good call to stack someone in a dicey situation, and I played very well from three handed on to take it down.

Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of luck, too.  I don't remember having any second best hands and all my big hands held up.  I was also lucky enough to catch aces and kings and get other players all-in while I was ahead.

The thing that I'm most proud of though is the end-game play when I managed a monster stack well.  While it seems like an easy thing to play a huge stack, there's a few non-obvious strategies involved that not everyone knows about.

By the time it got down to three-handed, I was a monster chip stack.  We started with 13 players at 7K apiece (no rebuys) and I had around 70% of the chips in play.   This sounds dominant, but if you aren't careful that other 30% of chips can double up and you'll suddenly be the short stack.  So my strategy was simple: gather chips but keep my opponents' stacks as even as possible and avoid knocking either of them out.  To see why I wanted to do this, you need to look at the payout...

The payout was the $360 seat for first and $160 for second.  Soon after we got to three handed, we agreed on $120 for second and $40 for third (as the chip leader this wasn't ideal for me, but I know I'd want to do something similar in a similar situation, so I didn't raise a stink).  With a big money jump from 3rd to 2nd and my huge chip stack, it was natural for my opponents to turtle up and try not to be the next one out.  As a result, they'd give up on a lot of little pots until they got a monster hand and took a stand.

And, in this situation, I was able to execute my strategy perfectly.  I started raising more than half of my hands and taking down a lot of pots uncontested.  This included raising out of my big blind often to encourage walks.  In those hands that went past pre-flop, I'd take cheap shots at the pot, but fold in the face of any resistance.  I also folded more liberally to the short stack because I did not want to knock him out.  I even folded top pair once or twice (granted, I thought I was beat based on the way the hand played out, but my constant betting made it obvious when I was beat).  I just continued to hammer on both of them and cut their stacks in half with very little risk.

Eventually, one guy got so short (about three big blinds) that I had to call him with any two cards.  I won that, although if I'd lost, I wouldn't have been too unhappy because I could have kept hammering on both of them.

When we got to heads-up, I believe I had about 80% of the chips in play.  The key for me in heads-up play was to come up with a plan (after my last failure to close out a tournament with the chip lead) and work on executing it.  In this case, my plan turned out to be easy to come up with, but time consuming to execute.  Other than one dumb mistake where I doubled him up with Q8 on a king high flop (he had the king, and I thought I had the king until I looked at my cards again!), I was able to take advantage of his leaks and whittle him down.

And his main leak was pretty simple: he was way too tight in heads-up play.  Oddly enough, he was pretty loose and aggressive when we had a full table of players, but once we got to the money he tightened up a lot.  When we started heads-up, the big blind was 1.2K and he had about 15K in front of him.  Yet, he was folding about half of the time on his (his small blind).  I'm sorry, but you cannot win a heads-up battle if you fold half the time you have the best position on the button.  So my plan was to just wear him down and keep stealing small pots until he made a stand and then gamble with him.

I ended up wearing him down and gambling with him three times (often with the worse hand), but I finally got lucky enough to take him out.  Heads up play probably took a bit over half an hour.  I'd say I was probably raising about half my hands on the button, a few from the small blind, and firing at a lot of pots on the flop or turn.  To mix it up, I'd sometimes check it through to the river when I had a semi-decent hand.

So, I'm very excited about the next tournament, since I'll have about a 20% chance of winning a WSOP entry and playing my first WSOP tournament.  Granted, I'll need to get pretty lucky to win it, but I'm going to go in and play my best.

I'll post again tomorrow with goals for the tournament tomorrow night.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

$50 Tourney again tonight...

In the past week, I've been swamped by work so I only played the $20 NLHE game on Friday.  I won half a buy-in but it was just basic play -- nothing special.  


I've got the $50 tournament again tonight.  I feel like I should write something, just because it is a decent amount of money involved and I promised myself that I would collect my thoughts before the big games on the blog.


I do have a few notes from the last $50 tourney...  Overall, I'd say the tourney played a lot more aggressively than I expected; it seems like many players tighten up in a tournament, but there were a number of players playing it more like a cash game.  I have a few hands that bothered me -- I'll post them in the next few days.

Early on, I played it a little too much like a cash game and did not threaten stacks as much as I could have.  I played quite a few pots (good), limping in most of the time (not as good), and didn't raise in a number of spots where raising would probably be good.

At one point there was a hand that went UTG limp, I limped with 77, another limp, then a raise 5x with 14x behind (about half my stack) from a short-stacked small blind who had been pretty active.  I read him for weak, thinking I might get a fold, but in hindsight, especially when it was still in the rebuy period, he would be calling in that spot a lot.  He ended up having something like QT and winning, but I don't think I was getting enough of an overlay to make that play profitable considering it would hurt my stack quite a bit if I lost.

Other than that, I did a lot of folding, pushed my good hands once the blinds got pretty big, and didn't play a lot of pots.  Not sure if that is the right thing to do, but I eventually ran AJ into JJ and was out.  I still believe a very good strategy for these kinds of SnGs is to play pretty tight until it gets to the money bubble and then start stealing at every opportunity.  That's what I'll do tonight, with the added intention of mixing it up a bit more early on during the rebuy period when stacks are decent size.  I have a few people in mind that I can three-bet with almost any two cards profitably because they probably won't call a raise with anything but QQ+, AK...

Edit: let me add a list of goals:

  1. Tight early
  2. A few spots of out of the ordinary aggression... like pushing on a bunch of limpers out of the blind (if I have 10-15x BB), three-betting tight players early.
  3. LAG near money bubble

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tournament Prep

I haven't played much lately; just the .10/.20 game last Friday (lost $1.20).  I also played some baby stakes online and won a few bucks.

Part of it is that I just haven't felt like doing the prep work -- like writing in this blog.  And if I'm not willing to do the prep, I'm not willing to put a decent amount of money at risk.

But, tomorrow night I have a one-table $50 tournament, so that is worth prepping for.  I'm going to play a couple of SnGs online in a few minutes, but I wanted to get down my notes from the last tournament I played.  I believe my points (primarily from not being aggressive enough at the final table) are valid for tomorrow night.

The result of the tournament was an overall win of $58 by finishing 5th.   I felt like I played a pretty good tournament (getting 5th out of 40 players is not bad at all).  Where I really felt like I made some mistakes was not enough aggression in spots where other players showed a lot of weakness.  For instance, when we were on the money bubble the SB limped, and I really should have shoved on him, since he was quite active and usually raising, so the limp really meant weakness. 

The other place I thought I might have made a mistake was against an UTG push for 4x.  I ended up folding A7o in the big blind.  I had about 8x the big blind.  Ultimately, though, the UTG was a pretty knowledgable player, and I was likely ahead of his range, even before the odds I was getting.  So I should have called there.

So, for Thursday night, these are my goals:

  1. Start small.  There is a rebuy, but I'd rather not, and stacks should be pretty large to start.  So play plenty of pots, but play tightly once a few bets go in.
  2. Open it up and attack weakness once the rebuy period is over and everyone else tightens up.  The goal is to pick up plenty of dead money and not worry about going out before the money.
  3. If I get short-handed, steal a ton.  

Friday, March 05, 2010

Prep For Tonight

Just doing a quick post to prepare for tonight, the 0.25/0.50 game I played last week.

First though, I should post my notes from Tuesday's game (0.5/1.00):

+$16 ($9 of that profit from Chinese poker before everyone showed up)

Early on, I raised in the CO w/ ATo to $4.  Called by 3.  Flop comes A53.  We all check.  Turn comes 3 (with a flush draw).  Host in the SB, very aggressive and loose, bets $6, one caller, I call.  River is another 5, and he leads out for $25.  The pot is about $30.  What to do?

I should mention that the host is generally very tight to my raises, especially out of position. In fact, before he looked, he said "I'm going to need a big hand to call this." but then he called pretty quickly once he looked.

I spent a lot of time on the decision for the call. With a large, almost pot-size bet, and he has made big bets into me for value in similar spots, but he has also made big bets on the river to bluff.

Anyway, he had 44 and was bluffing. I ended up folding, but I think a few things could have helped me with the call. First, he made a big value bet into me before when it was heads-up -- in that spot, I think he'd bet less with a full house to try to get a call. Plus, it was a good card for him to bluff. Ultimately, though, I made two mistakes: 1) not betting the flop and 2) not raising the turn. Either of those could have made my decision much easier on the river. I was VERY close to calling though.

Later, I doubled with aces -- a pretty tight but aggressive guy makes it $7 after a limper.  I call since I have $40 behind, he'd likely fold to a raise with the majority of his hands, and my stack size will let me push over his continuation bet on the flop.  Of course, two others called, so I was regretting my decision until the limper makes it $20 more.  Pfr folds, I push, only the limp-raiser calls. We ran it three times (he had AK) and I won every one!

* * * * *

I have some thoughts on my overall strategies, but I'll save them.  For now, some goals for tonight:
  1. Take my time and range hands from pre-flop action.  There is a reason this is back to #1 -- I think it is the most important thing I can do.
  2. Look for openings to bluff the turn or river.  This is something I need to work on, and I could add a lot to this goal, but I'll just keep it simple.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Tonight's Goals

The 0.50/1.00 game is tonight.  Time to get my goals down...


  1. Too afraid, too tentative in this game.  
  2. Making bad plays late in hands (turn/river).  This includes both calling in bad spots (see the AJo hand in the last post, calling against odds, weak-ace hand for stacks a few games ago) and folding in bad spots (see the hand over the weekend).
  1. For issue #1 above, I need to get more aggressive in position.  Granted, I don't want to go overboard (I'm a tight player by nature, and playing too far outside of that in a big game will not be profitable), but I need to:
    • Float a bit more.  I'd like to have a gutshot, but sometimes do it with nothing.
    • Fire one bullet into flops with as little as a gutshot.  Not necessarily fire the second.
    • If checked to me in position, fire once on the flop, any two cards.
    • Re-raise loose raisers a little lighter than I generally do.  Re-raise tight raisers a little lighter than my inclination (for instance, re-raise JJ).
  2. Issue #2, and due to my first goal, think through the hand from the beginning and come up with a range.  My reading has been improving by focusing on this.  I'm also doing much better on taking my time.
  3. Leave at 11 pm. I'm especially tired tonight, so I need to leave by 11, and if I lose two buy-ins, sooner.

    Monday, March 01, 2010

    On a roll...

    Gotten a bit behind in updating the blog.  So I'll do a few updates all at once:

    * * * * * 

    Last Tuesday, .5/1 NLHE, $60 buy-in: +$55
    I don't really remember very many specific things from this game, although it is notable because it is my first win in the game in five (six?) tries...

    The most notable part of it was that I really didn't have any hard decisions or close situations where it wasn't clear what I should do.  Also, I didn't really have any second best hand situations, so that helped.

    I did play props for most of the night -- that was probably the most profitable decision of the night!  I started by playing $1 red/black with the host who plays about 50% of the hands yet sleeps his prop over 50% of the time.  I was probably up $10-$15 from his slept props alone, and I may have slept one prop the whole time.  On the other hand, I hit very few of my props, so I definitely would have lost in the props if he'd been paying attention.  I definitely plan to play the props again!

    One thing I realized coming out of the night is that I won no hands with the worst hand.  I believe that is an important long-term ingredient to winning.

    Let's be honest, I'm never going to be a very loose player.  That is just my natural style, and I need to work with it rather than against it.  On the other hand, I need to pick up pots when other people don't want them and it is something I should be working on.  Generally, that will mean firing at the flop more, and making a few bluffs late in hands each session.  

    * * * * *

    Friday night was pretty interesting.  I was planning on playing the 0.10/0.20 game but when I showed up at his door his first words were, "Did I forget to e-mail you?"  With that game cancelled, I was free to attend another game a few miles away with .25/.50 stakes.  Because I crashed the game, we were playing 11-handed, although a few people dropped off pretty quickly.

    I had a pretty rough go of it early with a few second best hands and set-over-set (granted, it could have been a lot worse, though).  I bought in for $40, added $20, and was down to a little under $20 when things swung the other way and I ended up with a profit of $96 on the night.  I doubled with AK (three-bet all-in vs AQ), won a strange hand (below), and had a number of other big hands.

    Here are a few hands I wanted to bring up from that night: 

    I limp in late position and see a flop four ways with AJo.  It was out of the ordinary that I didn't raise it -- I can't really remember why I didn't given limpers and my position (mistake #1).  Anyway, the flop comes A93 rainbow and it checks to the guy to my right who bets $1.5 into the $2 pot.  I think for a while about raising, then decide to take it slow and call (mistake #2).  Everybody else calls.  Turn comes 6 putting two flush cards on board, and the small blind, an experienced player but he was playing pretty tightly that night, pushes for about $8.  Everybody folds to me and now I've got a decision.  I was pretty sure I was good on the flop but the 6 doesn't seem to complete anything scary.  I was very, very close to folding, but I ended up calling and was shown A6o.  I feel like this was a larger mistake that night -- leading into a bettor on an ace high board typically means he can at least beat an ace.  Possibly AT would do that because he's committed anyway, or maybe a flush draw, but it was a very strange play if he didn't have a big hand.  Oops!

    Here's another crazy hand.  I raised 55 to $2 in CO and promptly got re-raised to $7.  With three callers though, it is a must-call for me.  The flop comes A65 rainbow, it checks to me, I check, and the pre-flop raiser checks (darn).  The turn was a 7 (flush draw now possible) and the BB bets big ($14 into $28... wait, maybe it wasn't as big as I thought at the time???), I raise to $30 w/ $12 behind, he calls.  On river a nasty card drops, an offsuit 4.  He instantly pushes me in...  I'm debating the call and start counting out my chips when he immediately says, "You have a set, right?  I have an ace"...  So I called :)  I'm not sure what I would have done in that spot otherwise -- I really did think I was beat by an 8.  But... with only $12 behind and a $90 pot, I doubt I would have folded.  But I'm glad he made it easier on me.

    The thing that really confused me was that I had him pegged as one of the better players and was really surprised by that push.  I guess my min-raise looked really weak on the turn.  My goal was to keep him from folding, and it worked, I just didn't expect the desperation push on the end.  Thank goodness I didn't have more chips or I could have made a big mistake!

    Final hand -- KK vs the host.  He was in pretty early position (maybe a limper?) and raised to $3.50.  I bumped it to $8 and he called pretty quickly.  It was late in the game, I was just about to leave (one more hand), and I was up quite a bit.  I didn't want to piss people off by running over the table at the last minute and I didn't want to get too committed and lose a big pot right before leaving (he had about $100 in front of him).  I know, these sorts of emotions aren't necessarily the right thing when in a hand, but I have to be honest.  That said, after he just called, I assumed I was ahead and I knew he was a pretty savvy player who would realized I had a pretty strong hand.  I had him on a pair, AK, AQ, etc.

    The flop came good for me, 6 4 3 rainbow. He checked, and I checked. The goal there was to get him on the hook for more and plant some doubt that I had a pair. He is the type of player that will immediately fold once I show decent strength after the strength pre-flop. The turn came a jack, which was a little scary, but he made a tiny bet -- $2.50. That told me he likely didn't have a jack but had a little something. Again, from similar hands, he made tiny bets and folded the instant I raised. So I called the turn, and the river came another small card. He led out $3.50, and again, I called. He ended up showing tens.

    I think I missed quite a bit of value on this hand.  I should have probably bet the flop, because he could at least call a decent bet with most overpairs, and there's really good value for me.  Yes, he could raise me and leave me with a decision, but I can handle it -- wimpy plays like this are costing me money in the long run.  I also could have made a smallish raise on the turn or river -- he may have called one or two small bets before he let it go.  But, probably the flop is where I lost most of my money.

    Anyway, enough for now, I'll post goals for tomorrow's game tomorrow sometime.  I also played a tournament over the weekend and I have a few comments on that too.

    Monday, February 22, 2010


    Boy, I never seem to do well online.  And it's usually the big pots that give me trouble.

    Tonight, for my 'training', I first played two tables of 0.02/0.05 full table.  I basically broke even over 25 minutes, and the tables were super-tight, so I decided to switch to a single table of 6-max to work on aggression.

    And I did work on aggression.  But I lost two big pots and never won a single big pot.

    First decent pot I lost:

    PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, $0.05 BB (6 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

    SB ($5.85)
    BB ($6.69)
    UTG ($6.15)
    Hero (MP) ($4.97)
    CO ($5)
    Button ($4.79)

    Preflop: Hero is MP with 4, A
    UTG calls $0.05, Hero calls $0.05, CO (poster) checks, 2 folds, BB checks

    Flop: ($0.22) 2, 3, Q (4 players)
    BB bets $0.15, 1 fold, Hero calls $0.15, 1 fold

    This was a thin call, but there's a decent chance he has a queen, I have position, and an ace works for me on the river.  The gutshot and over is the only case where I'll make this call.

    Turn: ($0.52) A (2 players)
    BB checks, Hero bets $0.35, BB calls $0.35

    Boom.  I hit it.  I put out a decent bet for value.

    River: ($1.22) 8 (2 players)
    BB bets $0.60, Hero ...

    This was surprising.  I had to put him on two pair at this point, but it is hard to lay down top pair.  He also may be trying to do a blocking bet to prevent my bet, although half-pot is a big blocking bet.  Should I lay this down here?  He was a medium range player (not tight, not loose).

    I ended up calling because I could beat a queen and I've seen players do stranger things. 

    PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, $0.05 BB (6 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

    SB ($5.68)
    BB ($7.84)
    UTG ($5.98)
    Hero (MP) ($6.09)
    CO ($5.17)
    Button ($4.59)

    Preflop: Hero is MP with 9, 9
    UTG calls $0.05, Hero bets $0.20, 2 folds, SB raises to $0.70, 2 folds, Hero calls $0.50

    This guy is the tightest player at the table, and always comes in raising, 18% VPIP, 13% PFR.  I called because I figured if I hit a 9 there was a good chance he'd stack off, and I was getting 2:1 plus another 10:1 implied odds.

    Flop: ($1.50) J, 10, 2 (2 players)
    SB bets $1, Hero calls $1

    Yikes, I think this is where I started going wrong.  I initially figured I'd just fold on this flop, but then I decided that I should float one.  Uh... yeah, I don't think I have the odds to float one against a tight player.  6AA, 6KK, 6QQ, 3JJ, 16AK, 16 AQ...  maybe I'm ahead of about half his range (the AQ seems less likely), but I'm depending on him checking the turn.  I shouldn't have called, and it got me into trouble...

    Turn: ($3.50) 8 (2 players)
    SB bets $1.75, Hero calls $1.75

    This was straight math, but bad math...  When he bet again, I figured he had the overpair... or worse. In that case, at best I have 8 outs, or just about the right odds.  But if he's got QQ, I only have 6 outs.  Actually, even with 8 outs I'm not getting the right price with implied odds.  But, for some reason, I did the math wrong and called.

    River: ($7) Q (2 players)
    SB bets $2.23 (All-In), Hero ...

    Nice, I hit it!  But why did he push?  Maybe he has AK...  call.

    Uh, yeah, he had AKo.  The river is pretty automatic though once I made the mistakes earlier in the hand. 

    Ok, so, now I need to regroup.  Not a great night for me, but there's got to be a lesson here for me.  Let's see...

    Recently, I've lost a number of large pots.  That could be bad luck.  The first was AQo where I hit top two but bet half my stack on the river when I didn't need to and lost to a set.  That was a hand-reading mistake plain and simple.  I lost a major pot by re-raising and calling a raise with a king high flush draw on the flop.  I lost a big pot with 99 when I floated against a super-tight player, called against odds on a draw, then hit my draw on the river but lost anyway.  I lost my stack at the $1 game when I overplayed a weak ace and attacked weakness.

    I seem to lose my big pots when I'm making/doing big bets with weakish hands (one pair).  Maybe I need to look at slowing down more?

    Well, I need to do goals for tomorrow night (the $.5/$1 game).  Here we go:

    1. Think through the hand from the beginning and come up with a range.  This is always on my list because I'm still not doing it.  Any time I'm presented with a bet over $10, make a plan!
    2. Do odds conservatively.  The 99 hand above was me clearly doing the odds wrong.  Try to convince myself that I don't have the odds instead of the other way around.
    3. Be aggressive from late position.  I feel like I've been doing better on this.
    4. Leave at 11 pm.  Seems silly, but this can save me a ton of money since I'll be up early in the morning and I know I play weak-tight-dumb when I'm tired.
    The #1 thing on my list, hand ranging, is still not clicking with me.  I take the time, but I seem to get lazy and not think through actual hands in a range and miss things.  Maybe I need to just watch some poker and try it?  I'll do it tonight on some HSP and maybe try some hands on 2+2 tomorrow.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010


    First, my notes from the little bit of online play I did:

    I won the first night, ~80BB (.01/.02).  This was single table, 6-max.  Lost the second, two-tabling 0.01/0.02, down about 250 BB.

    What I learned...

    1. When I'm aggressive and CB, I get a lot of folds on the flop and take down small pots
    2. When people fight back, they've usually got something.  Slowing down is a good thing.  Small pots should make up for the occasional larger pot that I give up on.
    3. Fault: sometimes I fire too much, and try a second or third barrel in bad spots on bad boards.
    4. Fault: sometimes I hit a big hand, bet river, then insta-call without reading.  This is side effect of two tables.
    5. I'm better playing one table at a time and concentrating
    6. Online is good for practicing control and patience.
    Tomorrow Night (last Tuesday's .5/1 game):
    1. Fire more first bets on the flop.  I'll get more folds than I expect, especially in the Tuesday game where I am considered quite tight.
    2. Raise in late position more with any hand that can be a favorite or could get some folds.  Vary the size of my raises to attack weakness.
    3. Don't play as tricky.  
    4. Floating = good.  But, on the turn and river, don't get too attached...
    5. Re-raise LAGs more to pick up pots.
    6. TAKE THE TIME every time I get bet/raised on the turn and river.  Hand range FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE HAND.
    * * * * *

    $1 game -- lost $18

    Very first hand on a 10-handed table, EP-MP.  I had Ah3h, limped, raise to $4, I called and guy to my left called.  On flop of AJ5 rainbow, check, check, pfr $5, I make it $18.  Next guy folds, and pfr thinks for a LONG time and calls.  I don't know much about him but he looks pretty solid and I know he is week.  I'm thinking his most likely hand is QQ or KK.  Turn come blank, and I push for $38 or something like that.  He again, thinks a long time (during which time I realize he has an ace) and finally calls.  Oops -- I rebuy after he shows A9o.

    In hindsight, I think this was a little reckless because I didn't know him and he didn't know me.  He just through that weak CB out there and I attacked it thinking I had the best hand.  Usually my table image is so tight that I get folds from mid-kicker aces in that spot all the time.  Also, I should have considered my stack a little longer and considered the size of the pot -- once he calls the flop, it makes it much more likely that he has an ace and is committed to calling the river too.  I don't mind my play too much, but it was a bit dangerous.

    I also regret not talking more to encourage the fold.  He was right on the fence and I might have been able to push him over (tough to say -- at first I thought he was likely to just fold).

    Later on, I tripled up with QQ three-way against two AJs...

    At one point, I think I made a bad play by folding AJo to a raise (reasonably tightish player raised, but I think a call was warranted there).  These might be some of the places that I've been playing a little too tight, especially if I've got position and should be able to read players pretty well after the flop.

    I basically never bluffed since hands were often 3+ way.  I played very few flops and hit even fewer.  Somewhere in there is my primary weakness in the game -- I think a combination of loose play and decent stakes makes me clam up and not fire as much as I should be.

    I need to work on playing against LAGs.  Improving though, and opened with some stranger hands...  I just need to fire more on the flop, float more, take a card off more, etc.  While watching that I don't get too aggressive.

    * * * * *

    Today, tried playing 10-handed .02/.05 on Stars.  The thought was that a single table would help me read better and avoid getting too hectic, and the long-handed table would be closer to the Tuesday game.

    I'd say the experience was similar, although the average player is MUCH tighter online.  I just don't think I can find the similar game.  I should probably play one table of similar stakes but short-handed to work on my aggression and reading ability.

    Overall, I was down about $8.50, but it all came to one hand.  I was in LP, MP raises to $0.20 (he'd be relatively active), I cold-called with AQo, big blind, a super-tight player, calls.  I considered the three-bet, but opted not to.

    Flop comes Q83 rainbow, and I like my hand.  BB checks, PFR bets .45 into 0.65ish, I re-raise to 1.20 to define my hand.  BB cold calls(?), PFR calls.  Turn is an offsuit ace giving me top two.  Checks to me, I bet 2.50, and only BB calls.  That's really odd to me because he is super tight (never raising pre-flop, playing < 10% of hands).  River is a blank and he checks to me.  Now, the question is, do I shove my last $6 in for value, or check?  Well, I shoved.  Think for a second -- was that a good play?

    My mistake here was not ranging back to the beginning of the hand.  I shoved because I thought he could have two pair.  But, a really tight player calling a huge bet cold on a Q83 flop is not two pair.  There's no two pair he could logically hold!  No, he had a set of 3s (of course).  These are exactly the hands I need to improve on!!!

    So, I'll play another session tomorrow, short-handed.  I may also try two-tabling the 10-handed tables, but I think short-handed is the priority.  I'll work on my aggression, and I WILL RANGE FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE HAND!  Yes, in that hand I probably was going to lose half my stack, but the river bet is a pretty huge mistake.

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    A win!

    So, the .25/.25 game went pretty well,  I bought in for $40 and left with $102.

    It was one of those nights when (almost) everything was going right, I hit a lot of big hands, and only had a few second bets hands.  I also had a least three decent-sized bluffs, so that helped the bottom line quite a bit too.

    I don't have too many hands that I feel I made a large mistake on, but I do have a few I'll bring up because I thought they were interesting.  The one sizable pot I remember losing was really just bad luck (two jacks on the flop with no action, I hit the full house with a set of deuces on the turn, but my opponent resucked out on the river and I paid very little to see the showdown).  So, these are both pots I won.

    First hand: I have AA in MP and I raise it to $1.25.  The host, two spots to my left, re-raises to $2.50, one caller on the button, and it gets back to me.  I thought a while, and popped it to $7.50 (I think).  The host calls, the other guy folds...

    Flop came out all low cards, something like 852.  Based on the action pre-flop, I thought it likely the host had a big pair or AK.  Knowing he was definitely good enough to fold even an overpair, I checked to him, he bet $7, and I thought a while and called.  My goal was to get him more attached with an overpair, and make him think I had AK.  Of course, this plan backfired when a K came on the turn.  I checked to him, and he made a very weak bet, something like $6.50.  On the flop and turn he'd urged me to push, so I finally obliged him on the turn -- and he instantly folded QQ face up.

    I think I may have left some value on the table there.  If I led out on the flop, I think he would have called at least one bet... but I'm not sure.  If his range was TT+, AQ+, there's a lot of unpaired hands that he might bet but would fold to my bet...  Although, KK he'd definitely come...  I wonder if I should have played it a little faster to try to sucker him in.  Either way, I made a good chunk of change in that pot.

    Second Hand.  This one I'm pretty proud of, but I'm not presenting it just to toot my own horn.  I believe these are the types of plays I need to make more often.

    I had something like 76o in MP and a bunch of people called a raise to $1...  I honestly don't remember the exact action, and it may have been a straddled pot.  Either way, the flop came out 9d8x2d or something like that.  S-, to my right, lead for about half the pot (I believe it was $3).  Since I had an open-ended draw, I called, hoping another player or two would come in.  This is a little loose, but his lead was also a bit weak and I'd noticed earlier that he'd often fire into a pot out of position in weakness.  He'd also fired three barrels then folded to a small re-raise, so I thought there was a decent chance I could make some money.

    The turn came an overcard (blank to my hand and the flush), and he fired $3 again.  I knew he was pretty weak at this point, but was content to get the discounted card.  I also started setting up a bluff in my head if I missed.  And I did miss, although the flush hit on the river.  And, he once again fired $3.  So, I thought a little bit, then popped it to $12.  He took quite a while, but finally folded his hand because he was afraid of the flush, and I told him that I had had the flush (I never showed).  This is a pretty bread and butter bluff that I have been too chicken to do lately.  The reason it worked was:

    1. My opponent could... nay... liked to make lay downs.
    2. The turn and river came out nasty to many hands on the flop allowing me to represent a big hand.
    3. He exhibited a lot of weakness.
    4. I made a big bet.
    The last point, making a big bet, is something I've struggled with in the past, but it worked out this time.  I honestly could/should have made it a bit larger to ensure he would fold (he was really close to calling!).

     * * * * *

    Ok, my next game will likely be Tuesday night in the $.50/$1 game.  Carrying over from my previous post, my goals will be:
    1. Open up my starting hands and aggression with position.  I need to practice opening in position, and raises/re-raises designed to win the pot out-right.
    2. Hard 11 pm stop time.  
    3. Hand ranging when I get faced with big decisions.
    4. Practice online!  I hope to log-on to Stars tomorrow afternoon to get some practice in, with a focus on #1.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Pre-game Warm Up...

    I'm back-dating this post for Friday because that is when I wrote it.  The next post will detail my results Friday night...


    Played last Friday in the .10/.20 game and lost $19.50.  Considering the loss, I wasn't that disappointed in my play.  I lost a $40 pot to a two outer (actually, the back door straight draw) so that obviously makes a winning night hard.  I did make two larger mistakes though:

    I had 62s on the button and somehow got into a hand with the small/big blind.  I believe I limped from the button (probably a mistake), and bet the A x 2 flop to represent the ace.  I got one caller in the SB, so I fired again on the turn on the off chance he had middle pair and he might drop it.  When he called, I was done with the hand unless I hit a 5.  Well, a five came on the river, I value bet, he called, and I was surprised when I flipped over the 6.  I should have checked my hand before betting, or at least on the turn...  Other than the value bet on the end, I don't think I would have played the hand very differently.

    Mistakes: probably too loose in the first place (62s?), might have held back on the turn bet since he has a weak ace there a decent amount of the time, or I need to at least make a bigger bet to get him off the hand (it was about 1/3-1/2 the pot on the turn, and a bad bet).  On the river, that's just a brain fart...

    Second hand: 96s in MP and a limped pot.  The flop came 643 rainbow and a tightish player in the big blind leads for .50.  I raise to $1.70, and he made it $5.70. I called (mistake!), got a flush draw on the river and called $5 or so, then called $5 on the river because the pot was huge.  He had two pair

    Mistake: That flop 3-bet was the decision point, and I should have just folded.  After that, the play was pretty standard because he does have three barrel bluffs in his range...

    Tonight, I'm playing an alternate $20-$50 buy-in game (either .25/.25 or .25/.50) and I'm going to keep my goals simple:
    1. Be active and aggressive with the first act of aggression.  Especially in opening and in position.
    2. Focus on ranging hands, going back to the pre-flop action (something that I keep forgetting to do, but am getting better at)
    3. Be a little more conservative when it is likely I'm beat.  I.e. take the second or third act of aggression seriously, and in fringe spots (like the 96s hand) just fold it.

    In other news, the .5/1 game didn't go this week, but I wasn't planning to play it anyway since I hadn't practiced online.  Mostly, I was just not feeling like I wanted to play, and I learned a while ago that I should hold off on playing if I'm not really wanting to play.

    I want to play this Tuesday though, so I'll get some practice in this weekend.

    Friday, February 05, 2010

    Will I ever learn?

    Tuesday night was, in a word, disappointing.  I had some specific notes, but I'm not sure it is worth keeping all that written down.  I will give you the Cliffs Notes version though:

    In the first hour, I got up a bit over a buy-in (.5/$1 game, $60 buy-in). Then, I lost a big hand (me: flush draw, top pair, and gutshot draw on turn, him: two pair) and my cards got really, really dry. Fluctuated around the buy-in, dropping to $30, then back to $60, and then I just kind of imploded after 11 pm. I lost half my stack with JJ played too passively, then I lost a chunk re-raising a LAG (and not getting it all in) to be called and pushed on by another player, and finally I tilted off my last $18 in a pot I really shouldn't have even been in.

    I'm realizing something though -- in the $.5/1 game, I'm playing too tightly and passively, probably because the players are pretty aggressive and it is for more money.  In the .10/.20 $20 buy-in games, I'm playing too aggressively and much looser (but probably not too loose).  I seem to flip-flop back and forth -- trying to apply what I learned in one game to the other game when it really doesn't apply that much.

    So my goal is to come up with a strategy for each game.  I'm playing the $20NL game tonight, btw.

    * * * * *

    First, the $1/2, $60 NLHE game:

    I'm depending too much on my cards and missing some great spots to pick up pots. Playing tightly is fine, but I'm getting into so few pots that I can't win money. Furthermore, sometimes I felt like a bet or raise would take down the pot, but my cards were garbage, so I didn't do it.  But, it is easier to bluff if you have no draws -- then you don't lose more money!

    It is almost like folding is a reflex.

    Overall, I play WAY too tightly and I need to work on situational aggression.  In a more aggressive, but tighter, game, cards have a value beyond just what they'd win if I ended up getting all in and seeing a showdown.  Any two cards have some value simply because I can get other people to fold, something I don't get as much in the looser $20 NL game.  Furthermore, any two cards in position have more inherent value because of the position and the possibilities for bluffs.

    Of course, I shouldn't play garbage hands in position if I'm not willing to bluff with them.  That's something I need to work on.

    Action Items for $0.5/$1 $60NL game:
    1. Open up my starting hands and aggression with position.  Button, LP raises, re-raise LAGs.  Big raises pre-flop to steal pots and increase the chances I'll get called later -- like the call, call, call, $10 bets...  Bets on the flop to steal pots.  Doesn't matter my cards -- if the situation feels right, do it.
    2. Hard 11 pm stop time.  After 11 pm, I start getting too tight with fits of idiocy.  There is a reason I busted at 11:30 Tuesday night.  I plan to pack up at 11 pm, no matter what.
    3. Do not play short stacked (below $40).  I play worse when short and I can't put proper pressure on other players.  Leave if I'm not comfortable rebuying.  Limit myself to $150ish total buy-in.
    4. Hand ranging when I get faced with big decisions.
    5. Practice online!  This is something I should be doing, but haven't.  I plan to practice this strategy at some very low stakes tables online this weekend.  That should get me used to the adjustments and fix my folding reflex.

      * * * * *

      Second, the $.10/$.20 $20 NLHE game I'll play tonight:

      I'm already getting into a lot of pots although I'm not raising as much as I would in the $60 game, but I'm not sure that's the correct thing to do with loose-passive players.  If I raise too much or bluff too much, I'll inflate the pot when I have the worst hand. So, for this game, I'm going to focus on continuing the aggression, but reading hands better and not making wimpy bets.

      The last part is because most of my bets are around the half-pot range.  I think I'd be better served to protect my hands and extract value by varying the bets based on the situation.  So that is something I'll work on tonight.

      Action items for the $.10/$.20 $20 NLHE game:
      1. Focus on hand ranging using the pre-flop action too.  The ideas below will get me into a lot of pots and a lot of tough decisions.  So the main focus is hand-ranging.  Items 3 and 4 in this list will fall into place if I hand range correctly.  The main thing I need to do is go back to the beginning of the hand when I hand range -- I think that is something I'm taking a shortcut on.
      2. Continue to open and limp into a lot of pots, especially in position.  This has been working so far, and I believe I need to play more pots to exploit my edge.
      3. Avoid over bluffing.  These are not the guys to bluff as much.  Try to bluff with outs and think through the hand ranges before I fire multiple barrels.
      4. Vary my bets more.  Mostly, this is betting the full pot when appropriate, but I should also look for spots where a smaller bet or raise is more appropriate for what I want to do.
      Ok, this is a good list.  I'm excited about tonight!

      Tuesday, February 02, 2010

      NLHE tonight

      I have the $1/2 ~$60 buy-in NLHE game tonight.

      The table is generally pretty loose and aggressive, and there are a number of good players (and some bad ones).  In the past, I've been too passive and it got me into some sticky situations.

      I haven't played NLHE in a while, but I know my issues are... passivity... multi-barrel bluffing in bad spots / for small amounts... making big mistakes on the turn and river (missing value, call-downs, etc).

      So, my goals for tonight are, in order:
      1. Range hands.  Any decision in big pots on the turn or river, think through my opponents' hand range. Then consider my options.
      2. Really, range hands.  I talk about it, but I get lazy -- this is my main focus tonight!  If I lose, but I think I thought through each hand, I'll be happy.
      3. Bluff intelligently.  This means, if I'm going to put in a bluff, think it through, and select a bet size that will not be too weak.  It is better to not bluff at all than to bluff an amount that can be called pretty easily.

      Sunday, January 31, 2010

      HORSE Results: 2nd

      Well, I got second, but I'm pretty disappointed in how I played heads up.  HU started during the 500/1000 blinds, 1K/2K round (500 ante -- yes, I know, kind of odd).  Going into it I probably had 26K in chips to his 10K.  But, I tried to run him over and played pretty fast and he called me down in three or four hands and quickly got me down to very few chips.

      I really wish I had taken a few minutes about how to play my opponent.  I think I would have realized that a slower pace would have worked better.  I still might have lost, at minimum his run would have evened up the chips, but it sucks feeling like I might have left $150 on the table.

      Aside from heads-up play, I thought I did very well in the HORSE tournament.  Going into the money (top three) I had a tiny stack, maybe 4K when there was 36K in play.  Yet, I had some luck, grinded it out, and got up to a commanding chip          lead.  I really felt in good control, even in the stud levels -- it was nice.

      Anyway, lesson learned -- if I get to HU in a tournament, take a minute to formulate a strategy for my opponent -- even if I have most of the chips in play.

      Now, time to get back to NLHE cash games.

      Saturday, January 30, 2010

      HORSE pep talk

      Well, after 6 HORSE tournaments, an hour of HORSE cash, and one second place to show for all that, I'm down $12.31.  Gotta love microstakes online poker as a learning tool!

      Hopefully, I can make that up in equity in the tournament tomorrow.  Considering good tournament edge is about 30% ROI ($15) that is unlikely, because I doubt I'm that much better than the average players.  But at least I've given myself a fighting chance for some bigger money!

      These are the main lessons I've learned for my HORSE tournament strategy:

      1. Early on, play tightly.  There is no need getting into big hands with a possible second-best hand.  Early on, everybody calls everything and anything, plus they bet a wide range of hands, so it is harder to know where you are without the nuts.  So, play tightly pre-flop/on 3rd, but play your good hands hard to build a pot.
      2. In the middle rounds (~5-10 big bets), start limping more.  Yes, really.  Most people have big enough stacks that they don't mind calling a raise with a pretty wide range, especially if they've already put in a bet.  On the other hand, if they wiff the flop (or 4th/5th) they'll often let it go to one bet.  Furthermore, they'll play passively, and you can often see a number of cards for cheap.  But, if you raise, you could commit yourself before you know it.
      3. In the later rounds (<5 big bets), start stealing a lot... play the odds!  For instance, in Razz, you can often just steal with a nice looking board card.  In stud, well timed bets when a large card hits your board can often get a fold if people played passively.  At this stage, many people are just trying to stay on, and a single raise (one big bet) can take a pot down.
      4. Play looser early in the hand, tighter later.  Trying to play a limit tournament like a NLHE tournament (always coming in for a raise and firing a CB) is a recipe for disaster in limit.  This isn't to say you can't bluff, but bluff like a ninja (with one well-placed blow) rather than like the Incredible Hulk (hulk smash!).  With a 3-5 big bet stack, as they often will be later on, you just can't risk multi-barrel bluffs because those chips are valuable to stay alive to see more hands.
      5. Don't forget to count odds.  This is limit, after all! 

      Comments by Game:
      • Hold'em: The main thing I had to remember is that it is ok to limp in late position.
      • Omaha: Stealing doesn't work well here.
      • Razz: Stealing here works really well -- always look at the upcards before you muck your hand!
      • Stud: Stealing can work in late game -- harder in mid-game though. 
      • Stud8: Near the end, just play it for high -- usually you won't have enough odds for playing it for the low.

      Friday, January 29, 2010

      HORSE Notes

      I've lost three tournaments online but I think I've identified some of my weaknesses and some basic strategy. Luckily, I lost only about $8 so far!

      The first step is to know what games I'm good at and what games I'm... not good at.  

      Here is my ordering of the games:

      1. HE
      2. Razz
      3. O8
      4. Stud8
      5. Stud

      (although, I'm starting to wonder if my lack of late-tournament strategy for LHE is hurting me too, since it is apparently very important to be aware of the transition from Stud8 to HE)

      My Big Problems:
      1)  Big problem is not folding when it is clear I'm beat -- people aren't bluffing that much!  Always folding if I can't beat what they represent isn't that bad at all.  Especially in stud games with when I have 2-pair...
      2)  Too loose early in hands, early in the tournament -- it gets me in bad spots later...
      3)  Too aggressive early in the tourney... bluffing doesn't work!  Only raise/re-raise if I have a concrete plan of why I am doing it (usually beyond just the hope that they might fold)
      4)  Too much chasing -- Count up my outs before I call!

      Where I can make money (have an edge):
      1)  Folding when I've got a weak two pair and there is a lot of action, or if I am drawing for half the pot.
      2)  Later in the tourney, stealing antes in stud games.  One guy was raising every single time it checked to him in Razz, Stud, and Stud8 and he was picking up 80% of pots.

      Stud Tips (from here, paraphrased): 
      1) If I have a small two pair and an opponent has a higher pair on their board on 4th, 5th, or 6th (w/ action), fold.
      2) 3-flush on fourth, fold without any backup (high cards, straight draw, etc)
      3) Don't call with the second-best drawing hand.

      I hope to get in one more practice tournament tomorrow at some point.   The Sunday tourney is only a $50 buy-in, but if I concentrate on it and get some of these things down, I think I can achieve a decent edge on many of the players there.


      Had a cold this week, so I didn't make the Tuesday game, and tonight's game didn't run.  So no NLHE cash for me.

      Sunday I have a $50 HORSE tournament, and I'm looking forward to it, but also doing my homework. 

      Which means losing money in HORSE tournaments online.  I did figure some things out about my HORSE game though, and I'll post them separately.  For now, I want to wind up my thoughts from last week's Friday game since I might play a little NLHE cash on Sunday.  These are mostly from what I wrote down after I played.

      * * * * *

      I won a little less than half a buy-in on the night, but it kind of feels like a loss.  I do believe that I have an issue with barreling bluffing, especially in smaller games (this was a $20 NLHE game, 10c/20c blinds).  It seems like once I raise a hand, I start bluffing on multiple streets even when I hit nothing at all and my opponent is likely to have improved.  Furthermore, sometimes I know an opponent is weak, but I don't follow through with a bet that will get them off their hand.  If I'm going to bluff, commit to the bluff!

      For example:

      I straddle for 2BB, two callers, and the big blind raises to 15x ($3).  I have 99, and I briefly thought of raising (BB is relatively tight, but losing and he overplays hands sometimes) but called along since I had 150 BB in my stack and the other two guys were stacked also. 

      Flop comes Js Ts 4s.  SB, BB, me, and LP guy all check.  I think there is a decent chance I have the best hand.  Turn Jc, check, check, and I decide that I should protect my hand and avoid getting bluffed off it.  So I bet $5 into $12.  LP calls, others fold.  I'm 99% sure he doesn't have a jack, but believe he has either a flush draw or a weak pair.  River comes a blank, and I decide to bet smallish to make sure I see a showdown and avoid him firing a big bet with a busted flush draw (which he is very capable of).  I bet $7 into $22, and he hems and haws for a long time, and eventually calls.

      Take a second and think about what he has -- I'll let you know later.

      What I did well in this hand was bet with a plan and read my opponent.  What I did very poorly was a clumsy bet that was essentially a bluff because it would only be called by a better hand.  If I know he's weak, why not just push?  His range on the river is any hand with a big spade, medium pair, pair of tens, and the very unlikely jack, flush or nothing (float).  Against his range, a large bet ($20ish, pretty much a push) will beat out everything but the unlikely monsters.  Smaller bets would get called by hands that beat me (have you figured out he held a 10 yet?).  Checking is also a very good option, especially since he'd be unlikely to value bet a ten in that spot, and I can bluff catch against most other things depending on my read.  Or even better, bluff-raise...

      It just seems like I'm making a lot of senseless bluffy bets late in hands, and it is causing money.  Like betting on the river with nothing into a guy that had called me all the way there after raising pre-flop.  And he'd let got overcards by the turn!

      Sometimes, if I feel that I'm beat, there's nothing I can do.  They'll call a bet, and bet if I check.  So just be ready to fold!

      Another example:  Early on...  forget exact action, but I think I raise, bunch of callers.  Flop is two clubs.  I bet middle pair or something like that, two callers (LP of previous hand and SB).  Turn is third club.  Checks around.  River is blank.  LP thinks for a while, looks like he's considering a bet, then checks.  SB checks and I'm sure he doesn't have much.  I think, then bet $5 (about 2/3 pot, I think).  LP calls, SB mucks -- LP had two clubs.  Why bet there?  I'll only get called by a hand that beats mine and fold hands that I beat!  Just because they are weak doesn't mean I need to fire!

      This weeks goals (going into the $100 NLHE game, $1/2 blinds):
      1) Continue to open a lot of pots and fire CBs at them.  The game is pretty tight and a lot of money can be made by opening light in position.  But cut it down after the flop unless there's a great chance I can get them off a hand.  (hint: probably not!)
      2) Range hands, every time I'm in a hand on the turn and the river.  There's lots of money to be made in value bets and bluffs, but I need to range hands to see them.  If it makes me think longer, that's ok!
      3) If I bluff, make it a bigger bluff.  2/3 pot or more.

      Thursday, January 21, 2010

      Back in the Saddle

      Hi, my name is Sean, and I am a break-even poker player.

      Over 5 years, I've won about $1000 in cash games, or about $1 an hour...  That's over 1000 hours of play (not much for those online guys, I know, but still significant). 

      And, since the year started, I'm down about 7 buy-ins in no-limit hold'em cash games, although luckily that is only about $300.  I should be beating local, unraked low-stakes NLHE games at a pretty decent clip, but I'm actually down overall in all the local games I play.

      So, I'm dusting off the old poker blog and buckling down to start actually thinking about my poker game in addition to playing my local games.  I figure that if I really focus on fixing my leaks, my game will turn around eventually.

      In NLHE cash games, I think my main leaks fall into two main areas:

      1. Playing too weak-tight.
      2. Not taking the time to read players and put them on ranges of hands, especially for large bets late in hands.
      On the first, I'll admit it, I'm a tight player.  But I think I've been overly tight, and not getting into profitable situations as much as I could.  For instance, I rarely get it all-in without the best hand, but then again, I rarely get it all in since everyone knows that I usually have the goods when I make big bets.  The end result is that I have a decent number of small wins, and some small losses, and a few big losses (when I get tilty).  I would like to play a looser style to get more action and get more profitable situations.

      The second thing, and probably more important (especially as I've opened up my game in the last month as pertains to the first point), is that I'm not doing a good job of reading other players late in the hand.  This translates into losing a lot of big bets with very few redraws.  For instance, the other day I put in a buy-in against a tight player with KQ on a TJJQ board.  After he called my pre-flop raise, after he called my flop bet, and after he raised my turn bet.

      But I have a solution, or my goal #1:

      Goal 1.  Go through a full range of hands for my opponent before I call or raise large bets on the turn or river.

      The key is the range of hands.  Take the hand above -- a tight player (and also relatively passive) calls a pre-flop raise, calls a flop bet on a pretty nasty board (JJT), and then raises me on the turn.  He could have big cards or any pair pre-flop, but the flop call and turn raise knocks out pretty much any hand that is weaker than a pair of queens.  Yes, he could be bluffing or betting KQ, but the range of hands he could have is not favorable for me... at all. 

      That's the kind of thinking I need to go through at the table, not just the "I'll have outs if I'm wrong" and "I have a good hand". 

      The second goal follows on from the first issue I talked about and will combine with the first goal to hopefully make me some money:

      Goal 2.  If in doubt, take the aggressive action.

      I like this goal because it covers a lot of areas that I can improve.  Maybe it isn't concrete enough, but I'll work on that.  Basically, anytime I feel like I should raise, do it.  Any time I think it is about even odds whether I should call or raise (or fold or raise), do the raise.  While it seems silly, since I always play on the tight side, this single rule should generally put me into more profitable spots.

      * * * * *

      I'm going to keep posting until I feel like I get my poker game turned around.  And hopefully longer.  But just the act of writing this stuff out will force me to think through it, and so it can only be good for my game!