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