Monday, February 28, 2005

Plugging a Leak - Heads Up Play

I'm putting this up near the top of my poker "To Tweek" list. I'm not sure how disappointed I should be in my heads-up play, or what the acceptable ratio of second-to-first place finishes is. I think mine is about 75% second / 25% first, and I'd like to move in the direction of more wins (duuuh). One hypothesis/excuse I have is that my tight play doesn't loosen up enough (and get more aggressive) as it gets shorthanded, so I go into the heads-up battle severely outchipped too often. And I'm not strong enough to consistently overcome >2:1 disadvantages.

Several other bloggers have pointed out the cool guys over at Ship It Poker, and I ran across this. How timely. Recently, I've worked on getting looser/more aggressive at the right times, and it's improved my game so far. Those articles will help me think about my own game, and give me some strategic insights to combat others.

[Cartman voice] Sweeeeet. [/Cartman]

Tuesday edit: Paul Phillips also has a blog entry where his readers discuss heads-up strategy. I have much to learn.

The rest of the poker weekend

Saturday stunk. I should've taken a (poker) day off and read a book or something. I had a short stint at UB. Four sit 'n goes: ninth, tied for tenth, sixth, seventh place finishes. Add to that a quick knockout in a freeroll, and a $2 in/$0 out at pot-limit Omaha. Second-best hands and pushing at the wrong times are frustrating.

Sunday was much more interesting. After having full apartment after full apartment as a poker host, it was odd to have only four others show up for the $10 tourney. Esther, Daniel (who sounds way too much like Mike Tyson), Woody, Paul, and me.

I busted out first, in record time for me, less than a half hour after the add-on. After raising preflop, I check-raised Daniel as a semi-bluff, and he tenaciously hung on to his T8 offsuit. His top pair held up, and my flush draw and overcards were no good after the blanks on the turn and river. I hadn't played Daniel much before, though he busted out several times on Thursday before running up his stack to more than $50. From what I can tell, he's loose, he'll draw to flushes, and he doesn't like to fold. His luck should run dry if he keeps it up when my table is full.

In restrospect, if I'm going to push my semi-bluff, I need to go all-in on the flop, instead of checkraising.

Daniel busted out next, followed by Paul. We decided at the add-on break to pay out the top two, $65 and $30. I was pleased to see Esther get into the money. She and Woody had no rebuys, unlike the rest of us.

My theory on Esther is that she's a much better player when she's been drinking. I now have to add "when she's already in the money" to the theory. Once it got to heads-up, she got much more aggressive pre- and post-flop. When I mentioned this, she explained that she cares less because she's already guaranteed some money.

I dealt for the two, and they went back and forth. Esther made another preflop raise. Woody, who had about a 60/40 chip lead at the time, went all-in over the top of her. She thought about it (entirely too long), and called to flip over pocket kings. Kings? How can you think about that for even a second when heads-up? Woody had J3 offsuit, hit a three on the flop and a jack on the turn. Suckout city. The river didn't help Esther, but she didn't mind much. She was happy with her second place money.

I did snag a first place in the only $5 sng I played on Sunday. My play to get into the money was solid, but my win was pure suckout. While heads-up, Number2 held 33, I had 76 offsuit. The flop was 377. The turn was a 2, and the river was a 2. I think we were slowplaying each other and all the money didn't go in until the showdown, but I was a huge 'dog the whole way. That crippled him, and I finished him off in another underdog hand, A8 offsuit vs his pocket 7's, with all the money in preflop and an ace on the river. I'll take it!

Last ten $5 sng's: 8, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, T10, 6, 7, 1. $55 in, $90 out. I should definitely keep at these things. I'm considering a mix of $5 and $10 sng's when my bankroll hits $500. Yeah, and that tie for tenth is me getting pimpslapped on the first hand with AK vs AQ vs A9, flop of AQx, and I couldn't get away from it.

UB update: $436.05 real, $276.14 bonus, 4405.40 points.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Good day, part 2: Adapt & Conquer

After my Happiest Phone Call Ever, they got the computers fixed and I was able to take off for the PCS tournament. Into southern California's rush hour. But I took some surface streets to avoid the 5/605 intersection.. the scenic route. Whaddaya know, a pleasant drive during rush hour.

After a nice hour power nap, I was at the outside table due my late rsvp, with the two Rays, Jorge, Dave Armen, and that sneaky guy Moss. Kida had rsvp'ed, and was supposed to be at the outside table, but he never showed. Wimp. By the end of the rebuy phase, I had doubled my $25 stack to $51 (plus the extra $25 from the add-on made $76), though I did play my pocket kings weakly after the flop came with an ace. Wimp.

We consolidated to two tables after a few knockouts, and I drew the seat directly on John's left. John is a strong, aggressive, smart player and I wasn't sure if I like this or not.

One of the first hands that put me at ease was when I was in the big blind with K9 offsuit, and the blinds at $1/$2. A few limpers, and John calls in the small blind. The flop came out 973 with two spades, and John bet $8 at a $10 pot. I raised him to $20 total (strong like ox on the flop!!). Everybody got out of the way, and the talking started. Stream of consciousness from John about what I could be up to. I winked at Eddie and said "Hey, I'm the big blind, I could have any two cards."

John decided to reraise me, bumping it to $60. After his monologue, I figured two scenarios. Either he had a nine with a decent kicker, or he had a set and his talk was a ruse to get me to commit all of my chips with top pair, good kicker. I had a hunch his talk was honest (and really a huge tell as to his hand), so I went all-in. John was priced into a call, and doubled me up when his T9 didn't improve. John later admitted that he pushed because he knew I was tweeking my game to get more aggressive, and thought I might be making a play on him. I think my comment to Eddie may have tipped the scales that way, too.

With this cushion and with my newfound emphasis on aggression in the middle part of the tournament, I decided to make a few more plays.

With the blinds at $3/$6, I decided to get aggressive with A9 offsuit on the button. That meant I was raising Fast Eddie's big blind, and we both had medium-large stacks. The flop missed me, 8-high. Eddie checked and then called my flop bet. And then again on my turn bet (a J). It was a huge relief to see an ace on the river - I bet and Eddie folded (probably KQ, based on his comments after the hand), and I raked a huge pot. The shortstacks made a few jealous comments about the size of the pot - I stacked more chips from that hand than many of them had in total.

Let's forget for a second that I probably had Eddie beat the whole way. I was pleased that I played strongly enough that he was unwilling to try and bet me off the hand. In weeks past, I would not have been so bold betting after the flop with just ace-high-bad-kicker. (And I know I was insanely lucky to be up against only KQ.) Eddie's crafty and unpredictably aggressive - he can bet, raise, or checkraise without having any hand at all. But he didn't try it that time.

Basking in the warm glow of successful aggression, I discover my very next hand is a suited Hammer. The action is passed to me in the cutoff, and I raise it up to $18. The button folds, Eddie folds, and then Ray V, who's stack was on the small side, shows his cards to Eddie. Ray shows the rest of us 72 of hearts, and I flip over my 72 of spades and smile like the cat who just ate the canary. I am clearly on a roll and keeping everyone off-balance. I have just over $200 in chips, and life is good.

The next key hand was one where I avoided making a mistake. With the blinds at $4/$8, some pressure was starting to build on the shortstacks. John was under the gun, and limped in. This set off warning signals in my head. I looked at pocket 7's, and I thought Ok, I should probably fold this, but if I limp in, that might induce others not to raise John and I, and if I catch a set on the flop, I can carve a huge chunk out of John's chips, because I think he's got kings or aces. I call, and the action is passed to Jorge, who proved himself to be rather loose at the outside table, insanely so during the rebuy phase (called a raise with 93 suited, and got busted with a second-best full house). He raised to $30, and the action was back to John.

Cue the theatrics. John looked pained, and started talking, which he oftens does when faced with a difficult decision. I wasn't buying it for a minute. He ended up saying something about "well, I guess I have to make a stand sometime", and pushed all-in, which wasn't a huge reraise. I folded immediately. John's kings held up against Jorge's A2 of hearts, and Jorge was out.

With the blinds at $5/$10, the action was passed to me on the button, and I thought a blind-steal was in order. 64 offsuit? Sure!! I bumped it to $30, and Fast Eddie folded his small blind, but Ray V was having none of it, and reraised me, all-in. He didn't have much more than the $30 I had already invested, and John was harping at me that I should be calling even before I got a total on what it's going to cost. I knew I was pot committed, I just wanted some time to think about it.

I called about $24 more, and flipped my monster hand over. Ray had KJ offsuit, so I wasn't too much of a 'dog. The flop hit me with a six, but the turn gave Ray a jack and a double-up. I wasn't upset with this steal, or losing the hand. I was trying to get chips and attack the weaker stacks with my big stack. But I knew that my table image needed a little repair, so I vowed not to raise preflop the next time unless I had something big.

In the next orbit, with the blinds still at $5/$10, I found two black queens on the button. It was folded to me, so I raised to $30, thinking, Oh my. This is going to look like another steal, and I've got the goods this time. Act natural. Ray O folded his small blind, and Fast Eddie reraised me all-in. I called in a heartbeat, and there were a few ooh's and aah's because the table figured they were going to see two big stacks fight it out with two big hands. They were half right. Eddie flipped over 93 of hearts. He needed a heart on the river, but was denied and bounced out of the tourney short of the money.

I won a nice hand when I held KK in the small blind, though I was shocked to see both John call my raise on the button after limping in, and Derek call from the big blind. The flop was a gorgeous KQ2 rainbow, and I checked. I don't think John's foolish enough to bet at this without a strong hand, but Derek might be. Nope, checks all around. The turn was the 9 of clubs, putting two clubs on the board. My bet of $80 into a $96 pot meant business. Derek folded quickly, and I could tell John was tempted to call before he folded. I showed my set of kings, and John admitted he had AJ of clubs. Good strong bet by me to take the pot down right there. Another free card could've been disastrous.

I busted somebody else with A8-diamonds when I raised their big blind and they decided to make a stand with K6-hearts. Normally I hate ace-trash suited, but I was in good position and had the chips to bully people, so I did. It was really nice to be on the other end of the short-stack/bully relationship for a change.

Moss had a crushing beat put on him when his kings got snapped against John's J8 offsuit, on an 8-high flop. With two clubs on board, John thought Moss's overbet all-in reeked of AK, so he called, and hit a jack on the turn to cripple Moss. He was bounced out in 5th right after that, and then Ray V's short stack was eaten up, leaving me, Carlos and John. Three-handed play, with small blinds relative to the stacks. Let's play some poker!

I was feeling it. I was well into the money (top 5 paid), and had a healthy stack, even if I was the low man. I picked up some nice pots - sometimes top pair top kicker, sometimes king-high. I even reraised John preflop, all-in, with AK suited. He folded, and I could tell he was a bit disturbed that Carlos and I were playing so aggressively against him. I think this is what led to his big mistake.

Carlos limped in the small blind, and John checked his pocket queens. The flop was K74 rainbow, Carlos min-bet, and John called. The turn was a 2, and Carlos again min-bet and John called. The river was a 9, and Carlos went all-in, a huge overbet. John went into the tank, and eventually called to see the bad news: Carlos had two pair, kings and twos.

That crippled John, and we ended up knocking him out on the next hand when he went all-in blind with 53 suited.

Down to heads-up, Carlos was not having any discussion of a chop. The idea was broached by the spectators, who wanted the game to end so they could have more company at IHOP. Carlos wanted to play it out, and his 3:1 chip advantage had something to do with his insistence.

I just couldn't make up any ground. I would take small pots, then Carlos would check-raise me all-in when I was holding junk. The hand in particular that did me in was T6-clubs. The flop had one club, the turn was another, and I was betting the whole way, mostly because I was the preflop raiser. The river was an ace, but not the club I really wanted, so I bet $100 at a $240 pot. And Carlos check-raised me, all-in. With queen high. I had to fold, having only ten-high myself. He read me correctly, and acted boldly, crippling me.

I busted out shortly thereafter with Q4 suited against his T8 suited, all-in preflop. I had a pair of fours on the flop, but he had two overcards, a gutshot and a flush draw on the river, and the gutshot hit.

Along the way, I learned quite a bit about Carlos. He will not bluff by betting into you, but some of his checkraises are bluffs. His betting pattern when short-handed is very disconcerting, too. Lots of checks, checkraises, and all-ins. Perhaps next time, I'll try an all-in bluff or two to throw him off. If I beat him to the center with all of my chips, he can't call with queen-high, can he?

Was I happy with second place? You bet your ass I am. Good plan, good reads on players and situations, timely cards that didn't get sucked out on, and my best finish to date at what is the toughest group of amateurs I've ever played with.

These players regularly beat NL games online and at Commerce. John says he's +EV at $30 and $50 Party SNG's. Tim has finished in the money (25 out of 799) at the $330 buy-in event at Commerce where he played against some players with WSOP bracelets (and Kathy Liebert). Jesus, who hasn't finished in the money in a PCS event, has finished in the money at least twice in low buy-in events at Hawaiian Gardens casino.

And being in for $35 and out for $217 was nice too. That's the best tourney win of my fledging poker career.

The last time I had a day this good, I lost my virginity

Friday started poorly. I woke up hungover and still a bit ticked off at the $80 loss the previous night. I had a lunch shift work. Hoo-fuckin-ray. I get there, and the computers are down. We're back in the stone age of restaurants - everything written by hand. Lucky for us, it was a very slow Friday lunch, or we would've had a lot of pissed off and impatient customers to deal with. To top it off, the boss wouldn't let any of us leave until the computers were fixed (the tech arrived at 2pm or so).

And then life starts to get better. I get my cell phone and a book to read while I waited. So I'm getting paid minimum wage to read. Just for kicks, I try to call the DMV's Mandatory Action Unit. AND THEY ANSWER!!!! This phone number had been busy every half hour for days, so I felt like I won the lottery. They take my information, and put me on hold. I rush to find my boss, tell him that I'm on the phone with the DMV, and will be out in my car to make sure my cell phone's battery doesn't die during the call.

They had me on hold for at least 7 minutes. Then, paydirt. "Mister <<>>, we've reviewed your case, and everything checks out. We have removed the suspension from your license. The Issuance Department will be able to tell you when you can expect your license in the mail. The number is... "

This past year has been as close as you can get to purgatory on earth. I'm treading water, doing nothing really important or advancing my life. Just taking care of what I need to, and living low-dollar while I'm at it.

It was just a phone call, but it meant that I can start to move on with my life. After I get that license in my hot little hand (in 10-14 business days!!), I will have nothing holding me back from interviewing for territory sales jobs. My friends have great timing. Shelly and Derek both called me with a different job lead for me. Awesome.

Friday, February 25, 2005

If anger is sexy, call me Brad Pitt

I'm not sure how it happened, but it did. I hosted my Thursday night cash game, as I normally do. This time, we had more people than ever - 17. That's ten at the big table, and seven at the kitchen table. I rent a 1050 sq ft apartment. Seventeen people is a lot.

Vodka, Coors Lite, Guinness. Cash everywhere. I knew I'd run out of chips, so I got Esther to bring her 300-count set. We burned through that, too. We had cash on the table, which we've done before.

And I still got fucked, somehow. When it came time to cash out the final three, we had $11. And I had $23 in chips in front me, with the other two having about twice that together. Basically, I refuse to believe I fucked up my own that badly. I'm pretty much out $80, and I don't know where the problem is.

The amount of chips fills up the case. My theory is that somebody found their way into the chip case for either chips or cash when I was in the bathroom. And to be fair, I was drinking beer the whole night, so I had plenty of bathroom breaks.

Next time, I commandeer Esther's chips early (and F.O.D.'s lavender and purple chips), and place all buy-in's in my pockets, rather than the chip case. I can't stand to see this mistake happen again.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

KK: The underdog wins and the favorite loses

The Sunday tourney at Dave & Kida's was an odd one. Similar cast of characters: Guitar Dave, Forty Ounce Dave, Kida, Tabletalk Tommy, Oklahoma Jeff, Esther, and Manny. The rebuy phase was an odd one for me. One hour long, and I won a grand total of zero hands. That's right, none. No blind steals (which are next to impossible with the small blinds and loose players knowing they can rebuy for half price), nothing.

My most annoying hand in the first hour was AJ offsuit. I called a small all-in preflop from Manny I think, who had gotten his chipstack decimated in the previous hand. I called, as did Kida. Flop was AA4 with two diamonds. I had this crafty gleam in my eye, figuring I was going to take Kida's chips too, as he'll play any ace. I bet about 200 into a dry side pot, with the main pot sitting at about 600. Kida called. The turn was another diamond. I threw out a test bet of 500. Kida responded just like you think he would - he pushed all-in. I knew I was beat, but I was too damn stubborn to throw away my set of aces with one card to come. Sure enough, he showed QJ-diamonds, and the river didn't help. I did pick up on the fact that Kida loves flush draws in the rebuy phase. He chased flush draws at least 4 more times that I saw.

I said a silent word of praise to the Poker Gods when I saw a flop of all hearts. Kida, who was the preflop raiser with AQ of hearts, took all of Guitar Dave's chips when Dave decided to call a raise with J2 of hearts. I love it when people call raises with trash, hit a hand, and still get destroyed. I think this makes me a bad person, wishing for bad things to happen, but I can't help it.

With 2500 as the buy-in amount of chips, I ended the rebuy phase with 2050. After my first and only rebuy, I saw very few flops, but won nothing, and lost little. I added on for another 2500, putting me at the low stack at the table starting the knockout phase. I believe Kida, with more than a little bit of swagger, was the chip leader with more than 14K.

After the rebuy phase, my cards started getting hot, and starting holding up. I also played some pretty good poker, though nothing stands out. Everybody was doing their best Paul Bunyon imitation, hacking chunk after chunk out of Kida's chip forest. He busted out on the bubble in 4th. (Cue the Nelson Muntz laugh. Ha ha!!)

Into the money and down to three, it was me, Tabletalk Tommy, and wild and unpredictable Manny. I think the blinds were at 300/600 by this time, and I had a hair over 2k. First hand, I'm dealt Dead Man's Hand. And I'm in the big blind, and so far behind Tommy and Manny that it seems like a brilliant move to push all-in after Tommy folds on the button and Manny just calls from the small blind. Oops, it doesn't look so smart after Manny calls and flips pocket 8's. I'm dominated, and not even suited.

The Poker Gods smiled on the turn. I'm usually on the bad end of suckouts, but this was my time to catch a three-outer with a beautiful ace. It is a wonderful thing to double up and get some breathing room. I stole a few blinds, and even made a move I almost never do when I went all-in against somebody that had me covered on a stonecold bluff. I felt like a chip magnet. Then it was Manny in trouble. He pushed with a blackjack hand into AQ, and the ace held up.

Down to Tommy and me. Tommy has never won the Dave & Kida tourney, despite having played in it, sporadically, for months. One of my two wins was against Tommy, and I felt confident going up against him, despite my 2:1 chip disadvantage. The first time we faced off, I outplayed Tommy - I had a feeling that I was making more moves and taking more pots than my cards would have on their own.

This time started in a very similar fashion. Chip, chip, chip as I slowly pull even with Tom. Then, the big hand. I'm dealt KK with the button. Kings look like a bazooka in heads up play. I min-raise (and with the blinds, that's enough to mean business), and Tommy calls. The flop is J, 6, 5, with two spades. I don't recall how the money got into the pot, but we were all-in. The stacks were very even - we don't know who has who covered, but the loser will be severely crippled if not finished.

I flip my kings, and Tommy proudly tosses his suited connectors, 65 of diamonds. Two pair. Henry the Fifth and Louis the Fourteenth are getting assassinated by two underlings. L'etat, c'est moi? Not this time, Louis. I remark, not calmly, that I need a king, a jack or the board to pair.

The turn is a 3, eliciting a shout of "Gimme a three!". And the river. Is. A. 3.

I bolt from my chair, and run a victory lap around the dining room. In hindsight, I believe I should've offered a small prayer of thanks to the Poker Gods, and behaved in a more gentlemanly manner. The Poker Gods weren't done with Henry and Louis.

The aftermath to this suckout carnage is that Tommy had me covered. Barely. He has 3x the BB, 6K. I put him all in, with my mountain of chips, 100K+ easy. This would be a recurring theme for the next few hands.

J9 offsuit (vs 85 suited). Q9 suited (vs 77). AJ suited (vs AK). None of these hands could put Tommy away. A comeback of epic proportions had begun. In the middle of this, Kida remarked, "Hey Mike, if you lose, this will be the worst loss ever." Thanks, Kida, that does wonders for my confidence.

The back-breaker, the hand when I knew I was once again in for a fight, I held pocket kings and a 2:1 chip lead on Tommy. Ah, nice. A big hand. Maybe I can end this. Tommy was the preflop raiser this time, and I didn't want to blow him off the hand, so I called. The flop was a pretty little T, 7, 3 rainbow. I bet into him, and he raised all-in. That's it man, game over, man, game over. He couldn't possibly have me beat again, could he? On the outside, I was stonefaced. But my insides were breathing a huge sigh of relief.

He flipped over Q7 of spades, drawing to running spades, three queens and two sevens. Not wanting any suspense to build, the Poker Gods saw fit to put Tommy's seven on the turn rather than the river. Thanks. Now I'm down 2:1.

And the cards rained hammer blows down on me. Tommy had me dominated several times, and I managed not to bust out. I'm considering calling him Big Slick Tommy, so many times did he get AK heads up against me. I fought back, nearly to even, then fell back.

With a large pile of chips in the middle and an ace on the river, I bet one last time into Tommy, holding nothing but jack-high. The last time I played a hand in similar fashion, the river-ace-bluff on the end got Tommy to fold. This time, Tommy had the ace, the pot, and a huge advantage.

The next hand was AJ of spades for me, and another AK for Tommy. Game over, indeed. Epic comeback completed. Tommy, welcome to your first tourney victory.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Slogging through the DMV

I called the "helpful" people of the Sacramento DMV today, and was given another little tidbit of information and another phone number. Drivers attempting to get their license back from a DUI must call and talk to the Mandatory Action Unit. I imagine them as the DMV version of the Superfriends. I know it would be funny only to me to finally get through to them and ask for Aquaman.

Getting through is the hard part. I think I'm up to five calls in two hours, and I get a pleasant, calming busy signal each time. (venting anger through sarcasm feels gooooood)

It makes me think that I'm at the end of my journey, and I just need to convince the Guardian of the Gate to let me in to see the Wizard of Oz. That bastard behind the curtain has my driver's license, and I'm about ready to kick an Oompa Loompa.

Monday, February 21, 2005

300BB Feedback and NL Stop-Loss

I'd like to thank all those who commented on my previous post.

I think the key is not 300BB but how many buy-ins you've got in reserve. 40 buy-ins does sound like overkill, but if having that much allows someone to play comfortably at a higher level (and not play like scared money), it's the way to go.

Talking about the future is nice, but I still have some cash to add before I consider moving up. It's likely that $600 isn't enough cushion for a $50 buy-in game. We'll see how I feel when I get there. Hopefully, I'll revisit this topic when I move up (or up, then back down). What's the appropriate level for me to play? $500? $750? A grand? The answer to this will have something to do with how big a step it is between the $25 game and the $50 game, and how quickly I can adapt to the game and become +EV at that level.

Stop-loss for NL isn't a hard and fast rule for me, but it goes like this. In home games, I allow myself 3 buy-ins. If I bust out 3 times, I usually take a little walk and consider if I'm in the proper mental state to try and get my money back. Normally, the home games I play in are loose and wild, so getting busted is normally a case of getting outdrawn rather than outplayed. Playing smart poker is a winning proposition over the long term.

Action moves faster online, and it's a little tougher for me to sit out, walk away from the computer, and clear my head (though I have found that penny pot-limit Omaha is a nice way to do just that). It's also tougher for me to assess whether I've run into a tough game. I've quit online ring games on two different occasions, down 2x the buy-in, because it just felt smart to stop playing. Online, the point at which I seriously ask myself if I should continue is 2x the buy-in. If I buy in the third time, I really need to have a good read on the opponents who can double me up.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Newbie Question: The 300BB Rule

I'd like some of the smart kids out there to flesh out the 300BB rule for me. As I understand it, it's a guide to what level you should be playing, given the size of your bankroll.

$.10/.25 blinds means a big bet (BB) is $.50. 300BB = at least $150 in your bankroll.
$.25/.50 blinds, BB is $1, 300BB = $300
et cetera

My foremost question: I would imagine this 300BB rule is designed for limit poker. How is it modified for no-limit games, where you can lose dozens of BB's in one hand?

In my case, my online bankroll is now $400, and I've been feeling comfortable playing $.10/.25 blinds NL, where the buy-in is $25 max. According to the 300BB rule, I should consider moving up to $.25/$.50 NL, where the buy-in is $50. But $50 seems like an overly-large chunk of my $400 bankroll. I honestly don't think I should move up to a $50 buy-in ring game until I beef the 'roll up past $600 or so.

Have any of the brilliant poker minds written about the 300BB rule as it applies to no-limit ring games? I've googled "300BB rule poker" and skimmed some of the entries, but they've been discussing limit poker, and bankroll swings.

Hodge Podge

A few odds and ends: The Thursday night home game was fun and well-attended again. We had 10, and despite Esther telling me on Wednesday that she was "sort of seeing someone" when I asked her out, she still sat next to me on my right. There doesn't seem to be any awkwardness, which is nice. We shared a blender-full of my Double Tequila Margaritas, and I'm pretty sure the booze caused her to raise preflop with AQ-sooted (she was rather flushed and giggly at the time). Normally she is so tight and so passive preflop that any raise means AA or KK. In previous games, she has had AK, QQ, or JJ in late position with only limpers and didn't raise preflop.

And I love to have her on my right, and not just 'cuz she's easy on the eye. Any bet from her means business. In fact, early in the night, I saw a flop holding ATo in an unraised pot. Flop is A72 or something like that. Esther bet into me, and I called without thinking. As the turn produced a six, I thought "Hmm.. her kicker could be anything, really. I'm probably in big trouble." She checked to me on the turn, so I saw a free card - a ten, giving me top two pair. She called my bet and showed me AK.
I was feeling tired and not at all up for driving through SoCal's rainy highways on Friday night, so I cancelled my rsvp at the PCS tourney. John and Tim both finished in the money again. So far this season, both have started at the same table and both have monied each week. This is the same table that I've been assigned to. In the first tourney, I asked to be moved to the outside table (because I had a hat, and I wanted to sit at the table with two new guys that I got a read on in the previous season.) I know that Tim and John LOVE to play against me. They think I'm weak/tight post-flop (and I am. or was.) and can probably read me reasonably well.

I really wanted to go, too. I was feeling really well about my early play last week, and was looking forward to building on it. Oh, there's always next week. My PCS ranking languishes at 5.9 (5.5 is dead average, and smaller numbers are better), while Muto, John, and Tim head the leaderboard. The big surprises this season are Pistol Pete and Fast Eddie trailing even me.
And I've had another nice upswing at UB, so it's time to post an update. I've rocked the last five sng's to the tune of first, first, fifth, second and second. The two second's were in $5 sng's, which marked a nice contrast to the first few cash sng's I tried (and floundered out of). I have nothing to be scared of - the 200pt sng's are tougher on average than the $5 sng's. I've gotten to a point where I'm at least break even on the 200pt sng's, so I should make the $5 sng's a regular thing. So long as I'm smart and cautious in the early going. I do take great pride in some chump drawing out on me early, then coming back and moneying.

I think I should spend more time playing pot-limit Omaha. At my last $2 table and $25 table, I doubled up both times in roughly an hour, and I could've left the $2 table earlier with 3+x my buy-in. It's tougher to find a $25 table that will pay off your great hands, but if you can, it's gold. At the $25 table, I had some guy checkraise me with KKxx after the J62-rainbow flop with me holding JJQT-double suited. I'm a neophyte PLO player, so I know that flopping top set isn't bulletproof, but it is a really nice start, especially when the board isn't well-coordinated. It's probably also time I started using UB points to enter more tourneys, or sitting at the UB points ring games.

$403.06 real, $279.01 bonus, 5334.20 points. (Woo woo!! Over $400 cash and 5K points!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

My First NL Real-Money Final Table

In perhaps my fifteenth no-limit real-money tournament, I made my first ever final table. I'm more pleased than I was with the 102 person limit tourney. This late-night one had 207 entries, and a $5+.50 entry fee. I think first place clocked $300 or so. Would've been nice to just about double up the bankroll. As it is, my 7th place finish netted me $25.87.

Only a few hands stick out, and the first was very early in the tourney. It was three-handed, and I held pocket nines. I raised a moderate amount, somebody reraised, someone else coldcalled, and I decided a call was in order. The flop was a gorgeous 9, 8, 3-rainbow. I love top set. I wasn't the last to raise, and the board didn't look dangerous, so I thought I'd try to milk this one. I checked, Raiser bet small, Coldcaller called, and I called. The turn was another 8, putting two clubs on board. Jackpot! Still, plenty of time to let the other guys catch up a little. I checked, Raiser bet small, Coldcaller called. The river was a red queen. Once again, I checked (all the while thinking about how much I love how aggressive the monkeys are early in tourneys), Raiser bet, Coldcaller called, and I pushed all-in, about a pot-sized raise. Raiser called instantly, and Coldcaller reluctantly follows suit. Raiser had JT offsuit for a queen-high straight, Coldcaller had QT of clubs for a busted flush draw-turned-top-pair, and I had a glorious full house.

Real-money tournaments are slightly different than freerolls. Most importantly, fewer mistakes are made, costing people most or all of their stacks. When I jumped out to a very healthy stack, the rate at which others were catching and passing me was much slower than in freerolls. Basically, an early advantage in a real-money tourney means a lot more than it does in a freeroll. Having everybody at your table outchipped affords you some leniency about blind-stealing, and gets more folks to fold earlier in hands. Fewer people want to go to the river with somebody that can bust them easily, when that person is showing strength the whole time.

It's also been said you need a little luck to get to a final table, and this hand is my proof. I was UTG with pocket tens, and the SB started yapping about how it's time for him to go. (It was very late at night, even on the West Coast.) I had two callers to my 3x BB raise (450), and SB pushed all-in for another 1500. I had the two callers covered easily, and pushed all-in myself. They folded, and there's a huge pot I felt great about, until the crafty SB flipped over AQ-spades. Absolute nightmare of a flop, too: AQJ, two hearts. I needed a king, a ten, or running hearts to win. After a useless black three, the river saved my sorry butt with a fantastic king for the ace-high straight. Losing that hand wouldn't have busted me, but I would've been looking at a sub-average stack of 2000 with 75/150 blinds.

I also cut 'n paste two key hands that I considered "make or break" hands. I'll summarize the hand histories rather than paste them.

With the blinds at 200/400, with 50 antes, and me in the cutoff with A5-offsuit and a stack of 13K+, I raised it up to 1000 total when the action was passed to me. The BB, who has me slightly outchipped, was the only caller. The flop is 6, 6, 4 with two hearts. Hmph, there's a very good chance that my naked little ace high isn't the best hand here. But what I do know is that low, paired boards are great news if you've got an overpair, so long as you've come in with a raise. It's time to pretend I've got one of those. He bet the minimum at me, 400, which often means "flush draw". I raised to 2000, which I figured I'd do if I had a nice overpair. I was a bit concerned by his call, but then again, he's got more chips than I do, and is probably itching to bust me if he gets his heart. The turn is a black eight, and he checks. I bet another 2000, figuring he's got one card to come, and that eight didn't scare my pretend pocket tens. I figured that a flush draw will fold here, so if he does call, I'm shutting down and not putting any more money in the pot. I was tremendously relieved when he folded, as that hand meant the difference between me with less than 6K in chips and me with more than 17K.

Down to two tables, I decided to defend my big blind with average cards. I was in the BB with Q9 offsuit and a stack of 19K, faced off against a very aggressive blind-stealer who had my stack doubled. With the blinds at 600/1200 and antes at 125, he min-raised, and I called. The flop was a nice (or dangerous) 9, 7, 4-rainbow. I had top pair with a decent kicker. Is my hand the best? Judging by all the steal attempts he was making, he could have any two cards, and the chances of him having an overpair were lower than normal. So I checked. He bet the pot, more than 5K. I checkraised him, all-in, for an additional 10K+. And he thought about it. And thought some more. And used up all of his time before folding. Ooh, it felt good. Down to twelve people, I made a min-raise blind-steal from UTG with AT-suited. The shortstack expert on my immediate left pushed all-in, and one of the blinds called. I folded to watch Mr. SSE's pocket queens hold up against pocket nines, though that ace on the flop would've minted me. (yeah, I stole that from Tilt. Sue me.)

I hit the final table, got cold decked a bit, and made my stand from the BB with A8 sooooted, only to be busted by Mr. SSE, who no longer had a short stack, with his AT sooooted. Neither suit played, and he flopped two pair.

A Tale Of Two Halves

I finished 10th out of 24 in the PCS tourney this week, and I was damn proud of my play. During the rebuy phase, that is.

Normally it's in the rebuy phase that I make almost all of my bonehead decisions. This time, I was at a table with Chris D, John, Tim (oh, how he loves to heckle me), and Matt J (a new guy who plays more like an idiot than an idiot savant). Chris was on my immediate left, with Tim right next to him. Uh oh, two loose/aggressive guys. That can't be good. I was determined, though, not to let Chris and Tim take pots away from me, and to show John a thing or two that I was tweeking with my poker game. I played more pots in the rebuy phase than normal, but my raises, especially preflop, got the same amount of respect.

The Big Leak in my game, according to John, is that I am too tight/weak post-flop. I vowed above all else to work on this in this tourney, and I think I did very well. Case in point was when I raised in middle position with pocket 8's. The flop came with just one overcard, a queen. I bet almost the size of the pot into my two callers, who folded. The Old Me might have checked and folded like a pansy if somebody tried a position-steal on me.

I noticed that the weakest link at the table was John's little brother Justin. He wasn't playing many pots, and seemed a bit too tight/weak post-flop. Sounds like somebody I (used to) know. I was involved in a hand with him, holding Kd, Qs in middle position. Justin had the button, and called my preflop raise. Flop was A98 with two diamonds, and I'm not a fan of this flop. Justin had also shown that he's not the reraising type when holding ace-facecard preflop. We went check-check on the flop, much to my relief. The turn was the ace of diamonds. What to do, what to do? Hey, how about get aggressive? I bet just under the size of the pot, feeling that he couldn't call my bet without two diamonds, or an ace with a big diamond. Justin folded, much to my relief. I celebrated by showing my KQ, and Justin admitted that's exactly what he had, except without a diamond. Lucky for me, but my aggression paid off in a pot that I probably would've checked down the river last week for a split pot.

Shortly thereafter, I bet into Chris, Tim and John on a baby flop from the SB, and everybody folded. So I showed my king-four, no pair. It was at this point that Tim said "You're my hero!". And I think he was only half-joking.

The big hand was one I'll occasionally throw away because I'm tight and concerned about bad kickers. I held K8 offsuit in the SB, and nobody had raised. I completed the bet, and Chris checked. The flop was the beee-oooo-teeee-ful 886. I checked, as did Chris. John decided to bet his two pair, and I raised a moderate amount. Chris just about jumped out of his socks, raising all-in. John made some sort of mistake, pushing his chips as if to call. As the tourney director, he made himself keep all his chips in, and then I called. Chris showed 98 (phew!) and John kept his cards face down and mucked them after the river came. I raked in a disturbingly large pot for that stage of the tourney.

The rebuy phase ended two hands later, and I had $162 in front of me. It was generally decided that I was the chip leader at that point. Usually, I'm pleased if I have $60+ in front of me at the end of the rebuy phase. I don't think cockiness or too much self-satisfaction ticked off the poker gods. I do know that my cards were disturbingly dead for the next two hours. The blinds started to amp up, I didn't play more mediocre hands than I should have, but it was a loooong while before I picked up a pot that wasn't a blind-steal. It was so bad that the hands I saw in good position were so bad that I didn't dare steal with them. 82 offsuit? Queen-3 offsuit, four times? What?!? In retrospect, I still had the table image of someone who plays quality cards. Every other orbit, I should have been raising preflop with trash and bludgeoning people with my chipstack. Things started into a tailspin, and I refused to believe that stonecold bluffs could pull me out of it.

The big hit I took was calling in the SB with Q3-diamonds. On the "to-do" list at the PCS was chase with a flush draw, something John said I never do. Sure enough, the flop is two diamonds, with an ace. I checked and called on the flop and the turn. When the board paired nines on the river, still without a flush, I decided to bet $20 into Muto. Maybe that river nine and my reputation would be enough to get him to fold. He called very reluctantly, but his A8 was good enough to take the pot. John made some remark about respecting my actions in that hand - I think he was impressed that I was trying to get outside of my comfort zone a little. That hand was a $50+ hit to my stack, putting me at about $43. (Winning the hand would've put me back in commanding position with about $175. Stupid diamond draw.)

Right after, the 11th player busts out, so we're down to the final table, and the blinds go up to $5/$10 with $1 antes. And I get shafted with the BB. Cue internal swearing. I'm dealt A3-clubs, and big mean John decides to raise it to $30. Cue more swearing, and no thinking. I go all-in, and Muto calls that cold, much to John's consternation. Flop is 553, and I think I have a chance to triple up here. John bets big to shove Muto out, and flips over 77. After thinking about it, folding in the BB was the right thing to do. I'm in decent shape against KQ and 22, but every other hand John raises with has me in horrible shape. Folding the BB and the SB would put me on the button with $26. I'd need to double up soon, but I've snuck into the money in worse shape before.

I was pleased overall, despite the disappointing exit-hand (Ace-rag suited? Bah) and the slightly disappointing cold feet I had to go with the cold cards.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Tilt - the jealous kind

As much as it pains me to write this, I saw "bad poker" stacking chips on Thursday night in the guise of Tabletalk Tommy, and it put me on tilt. I don't believe I will ever see one person play trash hands as often as he did, and have him hit something on the flop as much as he did.

K7 offsuit vs my pocket tens? Yup, your pair of kings is good. (This is the hand where I was the most tilted - I checkraised Tommy, thinking he'd dump his flush draw if that's what he was betting, and he put me all-in. In the midst of my tilt, I figured Tommy might consider himself bulletproof the way he was running, and push. I should've given him credit for a king.)

74 sooted? Two pair, drag another pot, Tom.

You were going to check your J3 offsuit out of the big blind, but then decided to reraise Paul when we reminded you that he had raised? Paul held AJ sooted, and you caught a three, Tommy, you lucky bastard.

Besides Tommy's horseshoe heroics, the hand of note between myself and Esther was 43. Esther was on my immediate right for the evening, and early in the night she was the SB and I was BB. We both folded to a preflop raise, and she showed me her 43 offsuit. I showed her my massive 82 offsuit, and told her that I'd prefer her hand because if it hits, it's deceptive, but if it doesn't, it's easy to fold. But I still wouldn't call a raise with it often. The flop was 432, and her two pair would've turned into the winning full house by the river. I hatched a devious plan to play the next 43 I was dealt, with the dual goals of taking my mind off of Tommy's play, and amusing Esther.

I had to wait several orbits, but sure enough, I was dealt 43 suited and showed Esther, who had folded preflop. The flop was an unremarkable 9, 7, 3-rainbow, and I felt bold enough to call a small bet to stay in the hand. The turn was another 3, and Esther remarked, "Hey, how about them threes?" to nobody in particular. It was all I could do not to elbow her. My raise was called on the river, yielding me a nice pot. The surprised looks on some faces made that win all the sweeter, as everybody assumes I play only premium starting hands.

I was dealt 43 only one other time, and I showed Esther as I folded it. I answered her raised eyebrows with a muttered "Sometimes you shouldn't press your luck." The flop this time was A, Q, 5, and it checked around. The turn was a 2. Doh!! There's my wheel straight, and some more checks. River was a ten, and now we get some betting. Two pair versus Paul's KJ, for the Broadway straight. It remains to be seen whether or not I could've taken that pot down on the turn.

This was also the wildest and most well-attended poker night at my place. Everybody who was on the "Maybe" list showed up. Usually I'll get half a dozen maybe's and one will show. We had 14 total when Colin brought his two friends, who looked like extras from a Good Charlotte video. I believe we had more than $250 in play, which is big for a $10 buy-in game. I ran out of chips, so I used the coins I got from Mardi Gras in San Luis Obispo last year as $5 chips.

And naturally, the big winner was Tommy, cashing out with $80. $30 in, $17 out for me. Two big mistakes, both against Tommy, cost me my first two buy-ins. Oh well, at least I played smart after he left.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Website tinkering

I finally figured out how to add the "Blogs I'm Reading" section on the sidebar. I am not html-savvy.

(Although a week later, I did figure out what size/type of font I want on this blog.)

2/22 Edit: Added/modified sidebar.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

UB Update

My first foray beyond penny pot-limit Omaha went well enough. $25 in, $30 out (+10 BB) at $.10/.25 blind PLO in two hours. Slightly better quality players - slightly tighter preflop, much tighter post-flop. I got in a little trouble when my bottom-flopped-set turned into a second-best full house, and I didn't enjoy being check-raised when I flopped the second-best flush.

I've been on a huge rush in UB-point SNG's. My last three have gone third, first, first, with one of those first place finishes in a 200-pt SNG. Coincidentally, the two first places finishes were at tables were I was the last one to sit down.

My last $25 NL holdem session kicked butt too. I had one of those Midas games, where everything I touched turned to gold. I think I even wielded the Hammer to pick up a nice pot when everybody folded to my post-flop bet. Two or three times, I had people try to check-raise me with top pair, bad kicker when I held TPTK or an overpair. They didn't pick good spots to attack me, and it felt great to stack their virtual chips. $25 in, $55.15 out, +60 BB.
I'm biased - I like writing about doing well more than doing poorly, unless there's a decent lesson in my losses. About a week ago, I bombed out of a $25 NL table, losing my buy-in checkraising the bigstacked table captain with K4-clubs. Yes, I called his preflop raise with trash out of the BB, hit top pair, KT9 two spades. Checkraised him all-in, he had QQ and hit his gutshot on the river. Maybe I was a little tired and a little tilted. So it's not all puppy dogs and ice cream in my online game.

I've cut back on my cash tourney entries and cash SNG's, even though I love tourneys and finally finished in the money in a cash SNG (third, and top dog cracked my aces to bust me). Gotta have goals, and I want to build my online bankroll up past $400. The $25 NL tables have given me the best +EV, so I'm focusing more on them. So far, so good I suppose. With continued buttkicking, I'll give double-tabling the $25 NL games a try.

UB Summary: $370.14 real, $293.93 bonus, 4148.80 pts

Grand Theft Auto - The Poker Game

In one of those "I'm not doing anything interesting tonight, so let's go play some poker" moments, I drove to downtown LA to get into USC Gabe's game. Gabe is quite a character - annoying laugh, very aggressive bettor/bluffer, and excellent in shorthanded games. Or I should say, not patience or tight enough at full tables. Gabe's cast of characters is why I made the drive. Last time I visited him, we had 9 players, and one guy was into the $20 buy-in game for $200. Seriously.

Maybe two or three people have a decent idea about what makes good poker play, but the game is wild and ripe. What I didn't know about this trip is the big donator from the last game, Eric, is the host. I hold Eric in extremely high regard. Not only did he get into this game for $160+ (he owns his own business, and business is good), but his place is high-class and wonderful. We played in the Library on the top floor, and the place is crawling with attractive 20 year old women matriculating at the nearby Fashion Institute. We had four or five stop by, chat with Eric, dance to music, and chase their whiskey with Beck's. Two of them played, one of them laying down a set of fives to John's big bet with two pair on the river. Also of note was the guy on my left, who said something about how he worked in porno, behind the cameras. Either photo or film. I missed that conversation, but I thought it was a riot. Music blasting, drunk girls dancing around, and I'm playing poker with porno producers, business leaders, lawyers, and college kids.

My very first hand dealt to me made an impression. I was in the BB with K9, the sawmill. I had Gabe on my right in the SB, and Host Eric on his right with the button. Six or seven people in the unraised pot, so I get a free look at the flop. I figure most of these people are a "bet when you've got it, bet sometimes when you don't" crowd. Flop comes K, 4, 3 with two spades. I check, worrying about my kicker. It's checked all the way around to Eric, who bets $12 or so at a $3 pot. This sets off a little alarm in my head. This bet from Eric usually says "I have something and I sense weakness, so fold now." I decide that my sawmill is good here, so I go all-in. Nice work, checkraising the host on the first hand for all of your buy-in. I get a few ooh's and aah's and Eric calls with pocket tens. I held my tongue, not mentioning a decent preflop raise would've gotten me to fold. My kings held up, and I've got $40+ in front of me. Lucky me, Eric is a gracious player even when he's losing money.

After that, I didn't play much. I didn't like the idea of calling a raise with KQ offsuit, 22, or 66 (which would've rivered the winning full house in a $100+ pot) with players still left to act. It took dozens of hands before we had another unraised pot, and a preflop reraise wasn't uncommon. Chips were flying, and I didn't want to enter the fray with a pellet gun. At one point, we were playing 11-handed after PCS Director John showed up. Raises were also overly big for 25/50 cent blinds. $3.50 to $6.50 was standard, so it's no wonder we had more rebuys than Gabe's chip set could accomodate. At one point, Porno Guy had $56 in cash in the center of his chipstack, and that cash was in play. All told, there was probably $500+ circulating.

The last hand of the night was also against Eric. We were four-handed, and I'm the BB with AJo. Eric goes all-in for his last $12 or so, and I was the only caller. He's got KJ of diamonds, and I have the ace of diamonds. Two diamonds by the turn, but the river was a brick and my pair of aces takes it. In for $20, out for $48. Thanks, Eric!!

In a side note interesting only to me, I got a phone number. Late in the evening, Mandy and her friends were enjoying the festivities. Mean-ol' Eric wouldn't give Mandy his Von Dutch hat, so I loaned her my UNC hat. "Oooh, you're bald. And your head's bigger than mine. I love that!!" After a little bit of flirting (I'm pretty sure she was intentionally making boob-to-bald-dome contact), Mandy's drunk friend thought it was time to go back to their room. On her way out the door, Mandy starts reciting her phone number, then yells "Don't any of you want my number?" She repeats it, and I punch it into my cell, and dial her number after the door closes. She answers, I tell her I'm the bald guy with the Carolina hat, and wave at her through the glass. The other guys are agape, and one or two asked me for her number. I might be a little slow, but you dorks are worse. Carpe d-cup. At the time, she was digging me. I'll give her a call and see if she remembers. She's another reason I'd love for Eric to host again.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Non-poker Rant

Fuck the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"We know you were told you'd get your license sent to you in 6 weeks, and it's been 8... But that was for people who had nothing wrong with their license. Your case is still under review."

"That's nice. How long does this process take? When can I expect my license? Any sort of time table you can give me?"

"Nope. You should have a temporary permit."

"I do. And it expires today."

"Oh. You can go to your local DMV and get an extension. You can also call next week and see if anything has changed." (Cue internal profanity and the rabid desire to break something.)

"Thank you." CLICK

Never have I said "thank you" and meant it less. And I wait tables for a living.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


There are certain things I do well, in my not-always-humble opinion. I think my preflop play is usually excellent. I don't get in trouble with slop or danger hands. I'm selective, and I'm aggressive. I also try to be a little deceptive now and then. Cue the criticism...

First hand in question at the PCS's tourney 1 of Season 4 - we are down to 20, so we've consolidated to two tables. I join John and Tim at the black table. Also joining the black table is Ray V, who played with me at the outside table. He seemed solid, neither loose nor tight. Fold. Fold. Fold. And all the while Tim is yapping about how tight I am. I should just get a tattoo on my forehead. In early position, I get the Hellmuth hand, two black nines. I raise the 300/600 blinds to 1500. It's folded to Ray, who pushes all-in, a huge reraise. Actually, it's me that would be all-in, or I'd have 4000+ if I fold. If it was one of the other slobs at the outside table that tried this, I'd call, and expect ace-big, or ace-suited. Not Ray. I knew he wouldn't reraise for all of his stack if he didn't have queens, kings, or aces. I folded, John and Tim exploded at my apparent cowardice, and I defended myself by reminding those two that I saw his play in the first 90 minutes, not them. Ray later admitted he had kings.

On the very next hand, I play the hand that heaped the abuse on me. I'm dealt aces in early position (UTG+1 I think), and I get a brain cramp. I decide to limp in. Ray limps, SB completes, BB checks - 4 players in the hand, and no raise as I would've hoped. Probably because the second I limp in, Tim starts with the chatter about how I have to have aces. John's in concurrence - he wasn't going to play anything short of KK, AA, or AK. With that in mind, I can probably use this to my advantage later - limp in with a decent drawing hand, T9 suited for instance.

Flop was QT4, rainbow. The blinds checked to me, and I couldn't see any reason not to go all-in. Ray called me, and Tim cackled when I showed my aces. Ray had KJo, so he was on an open-ended straight draw, but I had two of his outs. The turn was an ace, and I've never been more disappointed to catch a set of aces. The river didn't pair the board, so I was bounced out in 18th place (24 players). Naturally, Tim and John felt this was a horrible play on my part. Someone called me who had to catch a 6-outer or double me up to a very-comfortable 10000+. Perhaps the play was a bad one, but when the money went in, I was a huge favorite. I'll take that every time.

Later in the tourney, I was rooting for Jesus to get into the money. He's bubbled three times now (including tonight, the poor bastard), and I was whispering some advice for him. I gave him a few ideas to consider, and warned him away from limping in with QTo in middle position with one limper in front of him. He busted out when Moss limped in UTG, then called Jesus's 3x BB raise from the SB. Flop came A62 - check, check. Turn was a blank, Jesus went all-in, Moss called in a heartbeat with his set of aces. Oops.

John and I stuck around with Jesus after the tourney was over, and talked poker. Part of the talk was how he could've handled his last hand without losing all of his chips. Instead of all-in, which was a big overbet of the pot, a 2/3 pot-sized bet on the flop or turn would've been a better way to test the waters.

Then it was my turn to be criticized. John offered that my play is verging on tight-weak, the horrible hell that any self-respecting poker player wants to avoid. His point was that my play after the flop was too weak - I allowed opponents to steal pots from me way too often. I asked him to point out a specific hand where I was too weak. He couldn't (or wouldn't, more likely) pick one out for me to consider. It didn't take me long to think of two. My blog-post on the PCS championship tourney discussed three hands, and the first two were instances where I played too weakly after the flop. My JJ vs Dallion and Jesus, and my 99 UTG vs Tim's steal-raise.

It hurt a little bit to be chastised so sharply. I really would've preferred a specific example or two. I appreciate that they want me to improve, and my post-flop play can definitely use some beefing up.

In honor of that, I propose the following at the next PCS:

1) Chase/raise with a flush draw. (John mentioned "we know you never call with flush draws")
2) Check-raise the crafty bastards, preferably with junk.
3) Raise, bet, bet the first time I'm dealt The Hammer. And show it.
4) Reraise somebody preflop with something mediocre, like JT suited.
5) Take a little longer to consider things I think are a little odd. My spidey-sense is getting better at detecting when things aren't what they seem. A little time and a little more reflection will help me make better reads.

If I want to alter my table image, I'll have to show a lot of cards when I fold/win hands. I just hope I'm at a table with a lot of the regulars. I set the O/U on my rebuys at 2.5.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Spite wins a $20 hand

My home game was a fun one. Present and accounted for: Oklahoma Jeff, Jerry "The Hitman", Woody, Brandon, 40 Ounce Dave, Francesca, Esther, and Albert.

Overall, the quality of my cards were subpar. A few highlights:

I got tired of folding junk early on, so I raised in late position with 87 suited with a few limpers in the pot already. Three callers (eep!) and a flop of T, 8, 5. It was checked to me, I bet the pot, and The Hitman was the only one that thought about calling. He thought a long time, making me think that he might have a JT or something like that. He folded, and I was pleased. Respect. Hands like this make me think I should make plays more often.

Not much to play in the middle of the evening. Any hand I played, I lost. My stack whittled down. Francesca busted out for $15, halting her streak of kicking butt at my poker night.

At the end of the evening, Oklahoma Jeff taunted me into busting Forty Ounce Dave. I was getting a beer, or something, and it was my turn to act. We were 4-handed, and I was the BB. Dave had raised 3x BB while UTG. Jeff chastised me as I returned to the table, saying "Aw, he'll never call. He's gonna fold."

I looked down to see 84-hearts, a hand that I don't think twice about folding to any raise. Just for kicks, just to spite Jeff, I decided to play that hand. The flop came T32, with two hearts. Cool. I checked to Dave, who bet $1, almost a pot-sized bet. I called, and the turn was a 9 of hearts. Bingo. I checked, and Dave pushed all-in, for the rest of his $12+ stack, a huge overbet. I paused to think that he might actually have a bigger flush, or perhaps a big heart. But I had to call, and Dave showed me K7-diamonds, a stone cold bluff. I thanked Jeff for taunting me into playing that hand.

On the very next hand, I spy the Hilton Sisters, and raise it up. Oklahoma Jeff calls, and we see a JT4 rainbow flop. Jeff checks, I bet roughly the pot, and he goes all-in. He could have JT, but he's shown this evening especially that he is not bashful about raising "to see where he's at". I call, and where he's at is looking at middle pair with a T8. The turn is another jack, so he is drawing to only a ten on the river, which doesn't come. Bang, bang, and two drop. Albert and I decide to call it a night, and for the first time in ages, I'm the big winner in my own cash game. $10 in, $35 out.

My First Real-Money Final Table

On a lark, I decided to enter a $1 UB tourney, at limit holdem. I am not good at limit. In fact, I'm pretty much a break even player at the micro-limits on UB. I have spent maybe 5% of my poker time playing limit holdem. I also haven't played many real-money tourneys, since I didn't seem to be in the money often enough. I have played in perhaps a dozen or so.

102 entrants generated a massive $102 prize pool, where the top 20 would get paid. At my first table, I quickly realized that my opponents were playing any two cards, and betting when they had roughly king-high or better. That's all it took. I played tight, and I won each of the first half dozen hands I played, with at least one player calling me down to the river. Good times. It wasn't until about the 50/100 blind mark that I started thinking, "Hey, the absolute morons are gone, and I'm still above average in chips. Maybe I can do something here."

I kept my play pretty tight, bet smart, and showed one bluff late when the blinds were getting high and everybody else was showing AK soooted and the like after others folded. I laid down pocket jacks to an ace-high flop when the other guy capped it pre-flop (showing Big Slick afterwards). Got myself into the money, then the final table. Frankly, I was amazed. The tight guys made it into the final 30 or so, and I had a healthy stack, so I bluffed and was aggressive a bit more than I normally would have. Picking up those chips along the way helped a lot. In fact, I took a huge hit when #11 busted out, when I called a river bet I shouldn't have, holding TT with overcards, when my flush/straight draws didn't come. I went from third place with 11 left, to 6th at the final table.

I busted out in 8th, for a smooth-daddy prize of $2.55 with the following hand (I know I could've folded into 6th place, but where's the fun in that? And I think I should've folded earlier in the hand, but there was just too much in the pot and it was too tempting):

Hand #4268545-21 at Thu5amA-Final (1500/3000 tournament Hold'em)
Powered by UltimateBet Started at 03/Feb/05 07:55:53
ericthegreat1 is at seat 0 with 13990.
Swishahouse is at seat 1 with 1660.
Feltonzap is at seat 2 with 51260.
elfdog21 is at seat 3 with 21065.
Lucky 7s is at seat 4 with 11430.
Plaxus22 is at seat 5 with 8755.
High Plains Drifter is at seat 7 with 9120.
slpndntz is at seat 8 with 35720.
The button is at seat 0. Swishahouse posts the small blind of 750. Feltonzap posts the big blind of 1500.
High Plains Drifter: Ah Jh
Pre-flop: elfdog21 folds. Lucky 7s folds. Plaxus22 folds. High Plains Drifter raises to 3000. slpndntz folds. ericthegreat1 folds. Swishahouse folds. Feltonzap calls.

Flop (board: 6c Ts Kc): Feltonzap checks. High Plains Drifter bets 1500. Feltonzap raises to 3000. High Plains Drifter calls.

Turn (board: 6c Ts Kc Kd): Feltonzap bets 3000. High Plains Drifter calls.

River (board: 6c Ts Kc Kd Qd): Feltonzap bets 3000. High Plains Drifter goes all-in for 120. Feltonzap is returned 2880 (uncalled).

Tournament all-in showdown -- players show: Feltonzap shows Qc Qs.
Showdown: Feltonzap has Qc Qs Kc Kd Qd: full house, queens full of kings.
High Plains Drifter has Ah Jh Ts Kc Qd: straight, ace high.

I think I might enter a slightly higher limit tourney to see if the competition is crummy enough for me to do well. And I've read and heard good things about UB's limit Omaha-high games. I've had consistent success at the penny pot-limit games, so I think I'll give the $.10/.25 limit game a try soon.

UB Summary: $330.05 real, $299.37 bonus, 3193.40 pts.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Rockets and Fishhooks at Commerce Casino

John talked me into meeting him, Chris and Tim at Commerce last Monday night. Ok, so it didn't take much. There's been much talk of how loose the $100 NL tables are, and I wanted to get back in there. I had played some at the $200 NL tables, but a nightmare session caused me to swear off Commerce for a while. Witness the return...

I folded everything for the first 3+ orbits. My cards were that bad. My blind was raised every time, and I'm not going to defend a J3 suited. My first playable hand was pocket aces. I raised, got two callers and a 872 flop, two diamonds. I go all-in, and get a caller who is holding... wait for it... J9, no diamonds. I have never in my life gotten such a thin call holding aces. As I was stacking those chips, I announced, "Now I don't want everyone thinking all I play is aces. It just happened to be the first playable hand I saw."

I also had the table captain on my left scare me out of entering a pot. As I was reaching to call with my QT of clubs, he said "You call, I raise blind!" with his cute little accent. I was startled, and I folded. Apparently when you throw me out of my poker comfort zone, I respond by folding decent holdings. The flop was J, 8, 3, all clubs. Cue internal swear words. Turn was a 9, river was another J. And Chris took down a huge pot with J9. So Table Captain actually saved me a large chunk of change. (Chris doesn't like folding top pair, and he would've improved as the hand progressed.)

Play progressed, and two of the huge donators left the table (one of which was the guy that called my aces with a gutshot straight draw). I dropped down below $50, so I rebought another $100. I have the button and Jc, Jh. Two stoners limp in for $3 each, and the raise-happy bastard (RHB from here on) on my immediate right raises to $23. I give him credit for AQo, and prefer a call to a reraise - perhaps due to the pocket tens I had to muck when the flop hit AKQ five minutes before. To my surprise, Stoner1 and Stoner2 both call.

The flop comes 8c, 6c, 4h. Pretty darn good flop for fishhooks. The stoners have roughly $60 left each, and go all-in into a $80+ pot. Pair with a straight draw? Sure, and probably a flush draw to go with it. RHB goes into the tank and thinks... and thinks.. and thinks. Giving me the idea that he's weak as hell. He calls, and I go over the top of him for all of my money, an additional $50 or so. He hates it, but he's priced into a call, and he has me covered. Main pot + 2 sides pots > $400.

I didn't know it at the time, but I had the table in bad shape. With the help of the odd-calculator at, this is where we stood:
High Plains Drifter: Jc, Jh
Stoner1: 7d, 7h
Stoner2: 5s, 5c
RHB: Ad, 5d

Preflop: High Plains Drifter 49.7%, Stoner1 16.5%, Stoner2 8.6%, RHB 25.2%
Postflop: 71.3%, 7.6%, 5.4%, 15.7%

On the drive home, I realized at this point that I am in the lead, and worried about a collective 6 outs (one five, three aces, two sevens), and I've got the best backdoor flush draw if the turn is a club. Can you guess which card came to turn my best hand into the worst?
That's right, the seven of spades. I went from 71% to win, drawing dead on the river (ok, the case 5 would've put a straight on the board and quartered the pot) - two 8-high straights, and a set of 7's. But I'm not gonna fret. 71% of the time, I'm gonna be the one raking in that huge mf'ing pot.