Monday, March 02, 2015

Journal #1: March 1, two five.

I've been talking like I'm going to play at least one session of 5/10 NL when March Madness rolls around.  I'm not ready, and here's why.

Yesterday was a Sunday at Caesars, with the weekly drawing starting at 6pm.  I was seated at 1/2 at about 5pm, and wasn't loving my table draw - Hong, Frowny Guy, Cardplayer Cruise Mike, and some others.  2/5 looked interesting, so I jumped in that game instead.

The table had me in the nine seat, Jeremy in the eight, and a Young Aggro Kid (YAK) in the seven seat.  The dynamic between YAK and Jeremy was odd, both were getting a lot of chips in light in threebet pots, and I didn't know how to react initially.

Older guy opened, YAK threebet, I folded tens in the small blind.  The old guy checkeraised to $200 on a board of J73hh, leaving $135 behind, and folded after YAK jammed on him.  It remains to be seen if my tens were good there.  It felt like YAK was very strong - big overcard hearts at worst.

YAK opened the cutoff, Jeremy threebet the button, and I had decisions in the small blind.  I folded AQs, then watched YAK jam and Jeremy call off with 55 and A4s, respectively.  This was when I had about $450 and Jeremy had $250.  Chances were good that I was going to have to expand my range to play against their wide threebet range.

This session didn't go well for Jeremy, who was trying way too hard to get unstuck, or impress us.  I won my first nice hand when it was two limpers to me, and I made it 25 on the button with black aces.  One other caller and Jeremy called, and he checkraised me on Q72dd.  I jammed, he called, and the runout was kinda disturbing: Jd, 5d.  I tabled my hand, Jeremy sighed "Of course." and mucked.

It was nearly the end of the drawings, and therefore possibly the end of this cash game, when the older guy next to YAK opened, and YAK threebet to $55.  I have $740 in my stack and the old guy has $160.  I couldn't decide on a course of action, so I panic-folded jacks.

I folded jacks, preflop, at this table.

I need to have a plan, and a bet sizing if I'm going to fourbet.  I need to have some backbone.  I need to pull the trigger.

The old man just called pre, and then jammed the jack-high, two club board.  YAK called, and the runout was two small non-pairing clubs.  The old man tabled KJdd and won the hand.

I'm not entirely sure how the YAK would react to a fourbet from me, but like I've been told before "You're never gonna know until you try."  It's not a lock that he'd be willing to play a monster pot with pairs under jacks, or that he'd muck AK or AQ.  If he continues with the hand, I might see a very small fivebet.  I need to be ready for that.

I need to be mentally willing to cram 150 bigs in preflop with jacks if the situation warrants it... and it probably did, with this table dynamic.

I won another small pot from Jeremy, stacking him again when I threebet ATo to $55 on the button, he called with J9o, leaving himself $15 behind, then calling off on the queen high flop.

I ended the session racking out $808, but a couple of my decisions were far too conservative.

I'm a little concerned that I'm not ready for 5/10 NL.  I'm not even ready for a wild 2/5 NL game.  As I gain more experience, a session like this should become easier to deal with.  I had more than three buy-ins with me, but I played like I only had one.

Friday, January 16, 2015

So here we are.  I'm about ten years into this blog, and ten years into me playing poker.  That's nice and all.

I have a dream, and I'm scared because I'm chasing it.

I've been emotional all day, and it's because I've made a career change.  Today was my last day dealing poker in Las Vegas.  Tomorrow, I am a professional poker player.  This is me, jumping off the ledge and swimming in the deep end.

My bankroll is appropriate, my skillset is useful.  I can play cash or tournament, online or live.  It's not that interesting for me to tell you how I've beaten 1/2 NL live in Vegas, or how well I've done at online mtts intrastate.  Nobody cares.  At this point, you either swim, or you sink.

Nobody's going to help me swim, but a lot of people don't want to see my head dip below the waves.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Staying the course

With the WSOP approaching, I'm in an excellent place. I've gained experience playing for 8+ hours in a tournament setting, and been pleased with my early attempts at 2/5 NL. My online game feels solid, and has done wonders for my confidence and bankroll. I've gained valuable experience navigating and closing out final tables with deep runs and wins. My shorthanded game is less-bad now, and I've put in some work on my heads-up game.

I'm looking forward to the Employee Event in late May and at least one Aria summer event in late June, as well as the Arizona Championship in early August.

A part of me wants recognition. I want my “I have arrived” moment – an Employee Event final table, or shipping a Rio deepstack. Something like that.

And maybe I shouldn't want that. My focus over the last few years has been building my bankroll and my skillset. I focused on putting in hours, and using those hours effectively. I am pleased with that process, and I want to keep it going. Credit goes to Tarheel for the wisdom that the hours you spend on poker are the easiest thing to control. You can't control results. Do work, and the money will come. Win money, and recognition will come.

The way I finished runner-up in the Sunday 15K on wsopdotcom was a bit of an eyeopener. I had played the winner before, months before, at the $5 and $10 HU sng level. He had improved, and I had not. I didn't embarrass myself in that HU match, but I felt like he was polished and composed in comparison. So I went to work to improve in that area.

I don't know why I'm wired to crave recognition. “Look at how good I am!” Why can't I be quiet about my small-pond success? Why do I feel the need to prove something to others or to myself? I've always been a tryhard, driven to be the best I can be even when natural talent was lacking. Perhaps that's the other edge of the sword. I'm driven to excel, but I want people to notice. The effort and improvement should be its own reward.

I've been told by multiple people that I'm doing things the right way. I'm profitable at the levels where I spend the most time, and I'm not too timid or outclassed when I take shots a level above normal.

There doesn't seem to be any reason to change course now. It feels like continuing on this path is the way to go. I am a little apprehensive for the future when it comes to the balance of my poker dealing versus my poker play. Two days ago, I sent an email to our scheduling manager asking for less shifts during the WSOP, and I have not received a reply. I am also considering a move to a poker room where I would be working less than 5 days/week. Dealing two days a week and playing 4-5 would be interesting, and if I'm honest with myself, a little scary.

I've been preparing for this. I'm ready for the next chapter and the next level.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Sup, haters.

I see you, you who think you know me.  You doubters, you who are quick to scoff at how I spend my time. You who are shackled by the choices you've made.

You're not sure of my goals.  Whatever they are, you're quietly wishing I don't get there.  You hear of my (limited, low-level) success and can't figure out how I got there, while you languished in mediocrity and ultimately quit.  What's the difference between me and you?  It's easy to dismiss as the happy side of variance.  I'm just lucky, and I'll be crashing back to earth before too long.

You've seen me do well when we were both at the same table.  You can't explain what I'm doing well.  You doubt how good I am.  You're not sure how good I can BECOME.  Well, that makes two of us.

At one point, you pursued something you really wanted.  Maybe you gave up.  Maybe you realized, at some level, that you couldn't get there.  That it was too hard.  Maybe life got in the way of your dreams.

I'm sorry it didn't work out for you.  But when it comes to me and my poker goals, FUCK YOU.

I'm not going to sit here and promise you that I'm going to achieve all my goals.  That I'm going to keep rising.  That as the years go on, I'm going to move up levels, and outplay, out-think, and outwork my competition and collect cash as a result.

But fuck you if you think I'm going to let your attitude slow me down one iota from becoming the best poker player I can be.

I was never a dreamer.  I never spent much time thinking about being an astronaut, or a professional baseball player.  My head wasn't in the clouds, it was nose-deep in what interested me - studies, soccer, chess, video games.  My competitive streak was evident to anyone paying attention at a very early age.  My family taught me chess as a first grader.  After I beat my mom three straight times, I graduated to playing my dad.  After I beat him three straight, they let me play my grandfather.  Ahh... grandpa.  The best thing about my family was the fact that if they thought you deserved to play them, on their level, they would show you no mercy.  As a second grader, my grandfather played a patient and fundamental chess game.  I would get impatient, careless.  He would think ahead better than me, and he would stomp me.  Before the year was out, I earned a draw, and then a win against Grandpa.  I knew that he hadn't let me win.  Bragging rights sound nice on paper, but the satisfaction of overcoming a new challenge felt like something I wanted to bathe in.  When the family would get together, my grandfather would ask me if I wanted to play chess.  If I did, he'd oblige.  If I didn't, he didn't comment.  He realized I had an aptitude for the game, but I needed to push my boundaries as I saw fit.  My family has its flaws, but I love how they deal with talent.  It's at this point where I tell you that my older cousin is a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  We've experienced a similar upbringing.  Some of us just work harder and smarter than others.  He's probably the smartest and hardest worker I know.

It was a big day in my life when my family got together and they invited me to play the family card game, Oh Hell, with them.  Maybe I was 13 or so.  What I learned early on was that getting invited to the Big Kids game didn't mean that they were going to take it easy on you. I finished second to last.  It took me years to get on their level.

I learned that when you move to the next level, nobody takes it easy on you.  You are the fresh meat, the easy pickings... until you prove otherwise.  Respect isn't given, it's earned.

Winning a tournament feels great.  Dominating a cashgame where there's an unspoken agreement that you're the best player at the table... that's very satisfying.  For me, there is no great feeling in the poker world than to step up to the challenge of a higher level and realize "I BELONG HERE."  After the 2012 WSOP, I made a small step up and started playing Aria $125 tourneys.  Before the summer was over, I cashed.  Before the year was over, I had chopped for better than 2nd place money... three times.  The advice I was given was absolutely spot-on.  (Hi, Derek!)  That fall, I started recording every single poker session I played.  I started examining my play and my numbers with a lot more scrutiny on a monthly basis.  I started using my profits to take shots at the level just above where I had just gotten to.  My results got me on Hendon Mob, twice.  Many of my poker friends viewed me as a good poker investment, and wanted to buy pieces of my action.  I found this incredibly flattering.  I'm not entirely certain what the haters thought.  I imagine they're still a little puzzled as to why I've done well.  To be perfectly honest, my haters underrate me, and my poker friends overrate me.  My current ability lies somewhere in the middle.

I belong at the next level.  My decisions will yield results that will yield profit.  I will step up, and will strive towards making that ascending cycle continue.

Maybe someday, someone who I consider a hater now will ask me how I got so good.  Maybe they never will - won't want to know to protect their egos - and will tell others "I remember him when he was nothing special."

They're not wrong, in a sense.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm nothing special.  I don't play to prove my worth to people, to carve a place in the poker world, to earn attention from poker media.  If you want to seek accolades, that's nice.  Hell, I'd love to rock a bracelet or tournament trophy in the poker room where I work.  But it's not my primary focus.  If it happens because I'm focused on improving, well, that's just gravy.

I'd like to acquire skills, experience, and a burgeoning bankroll.  Get on my team.  Let's get to the next level.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Hello, Hendon Mob!

June 25, 2013

And so it came to pass that I played in a $340 Aria Classic event in late June. My friend Derek had spoken of the value in these tournaments. He compared them to the Aria $125 I knew and loved. I threw up a post on our facebook group about the tourney, and the possibility selling some action. I didn't expect any takers, but two members quickly replied with requests for 15% and 20%. I had to wait on Derek to tell me what, if anything, was an appropriate markup.

I locked up both offers before the tourney started, and thought, “This is pretty cool. I'm getting staked for the very first time, and it's in a tourney where I probably won't embarrass myself.”

Julian Gallo was on my immediate left. I have no idea who that is, but he had left his registration copy at his seat, so I took the liberty of looking him up on Hendon Mob. He was there, with a couple of decent but not breath-taking results in small buy-in events.

As the tournament started, I recogized the 10 seat as a regular from the Aria cashgames, 2/5 and 5/10 I think. I didn't recognize anyone else, and was relieved that I was one of the younger players at the table.

Seat 1 was a grizzled Brit who looked and sounded a little like Sean Connery (I almost told him, “Sir, I *loved* you in Finding Forrester!”), Seat 2 was a Crafty Spaniard, and Seat 4 was a young Aggro Scando. I felt great about being in the 5 Seat, as I had the weaker players on my left, and the stronger, more aggro ones on my right.

I won two nice pots in the first orbit, getting good value in spots where more timid players might have checked. 15K starting stack ballooned to 21K. Great start. 108 runners, with $10.2K up top. Last June was my first four-figure tourney score... can't a guy dream about a five-figure score?

It quickly became apparent that this table was not as awesome as I had hoped. It started when the 3 Seat couldn't find a fold on a queen-high flop with kings against Sean Connery's limp-4bet aces. The new 3 Seat caused all the problems. He jumped all over limpers, and opened every pot from “the office” (hijack, cutoff, button) when folded to him. Aggro Scando was having none of it, 3-betting liberally. Soon, Connery and Spaniard were openlimping, in order to 4bet the two uberaggro kids. I was in the five seat with an explosion of action on my right. I was witness to my first “4bet, then fold to a min 5bet” at a table where I was playing. I had a feeling that any 3- or 4bets made by me would not be automatically respected.

I wondered if I could go a whole tournament never finding any good spots, when the 3 seat min-opened to 600 and the 4 seat smoothed. I 3bet to 1700 from the button with 77, hoping to take it down there, and thinking I would call or 5-bet if they reraised. The flop came AdQd6x, the 3 Seat checked, and the Aggro Scando bet into me. Normally, I raise donkbets, but this was a tough spot to be in if they can't find a fold, as I'm only ahead of a 6 or air, I'm mathematically behind something like T9-diamonds, and I have to account for Seat 3, who could be looking to checkraise.

I folded, shaking off that bad situation. I was comforted by Seat 3, who checkraised and won the pot right there. Seat 3 went on a terrible run, losing just about every hand he played after that. He was out right before the break, and I was hopeful that the table dynamic would improve. My 21K stack had shrunk to just under starting size.

I turned out to be prophetic. Aggro Scando settled down noticeably, and I have no idea why. The table was much more manageable. I got myself all-in for the first time of the tourney, and scored a doubleup. Raised it up with AK, bet the K-high, two spade flop, bet the offsuit ace turn, and shipped the nonspade river for value. I have to assume ace-something of spades called, as the dealer mucked the losing hand. I wasn't about to insist on seeing that hand, as per rules of a tourney all-in. That put me at 26K with the blinds at 200/400/25, and probably middle of the road as far as table stack size.

By the second break, I had run that up to 37K thanks to my queens holding up to stack somebody holding KJs, and it could've been much larger. I had Julian Gallo ship with 87s and next to no fold equity, and I called with AKs. He had been discussing his thoughts on hand ranges, and I had silently disagreed with most of his assessments. This hand was no different, but I was content to have a relatively weak player on my left.

I brought that 37K back to 600/1200/100, while the average stack was 35K, and the chipleader had about 90K on another table. The 6/12 level is usually when things go either very wrong, or very right, for my tournament life. That day, I ran good.

Sean Connery openlimped, and the Aggro Scando folded his button. I was pleased to see that I could call from the SB with 65-clubs. Gallo checked, and we saw a helluva flop: KQ9, all clubs. With about 4K+ in the pot, I thought a checkraise was in order, as all sorts of hands should bet that flop. Sure enough, Connery led for 3500, and I raised to 9K. Surprisingly, Connery shipped it all-in! Obviously, I was up against a pretty strong hand, but you don't flop flush over flush in tourneys very often. There are plenty of strong hands that would take that line that I'm ahead of, but have to fade. Deep breath. “I call.”

He shows KdTc, for top pair with the gutterball straight flush draw. He bricked, and I got a gloriously tense doubleup. I was the table chipleader with 76K – sixty big blinds! - though the Aggro Scando was close behind with 65K.

I played assassin for the next half hour, winning two flips with AK to knock out Gallo and the Aria regular, stomping on their sevens and jacks, respectively. The Scando and I stayed out of each other's way, which let me pick on the table when he wasn't. I stepped up the aggression, but didn't overdo it, and didn't show a weak hand.

At one point, there were 30 left, and I was starting to get a little nervous. I had 157K at 1K/2K/300, while the average stack had 52K. The top 12 got paid, but I had my eye on making a deep run. I really wanted a friendly face on the rail, thinking Rick or Derek would provide some advice, or comfort if I fucked up. I posted on facebook at this point, asking for a spectator. After a little while, I realized nobody was coming to help, and I was on my own. I grew calm. I could do this.

I went on the dinner break with 170K (the table chiplead) and 19 players left. We came back to 2K/4K/500, and this level almost ended me.

I raised in MP with 55, got a lone caller from the BB, a very aggressive, thinking player with almost as many chips. The flop came out QdTd3x, and he smoothcalled my c-bet. The turn was another queen, and we checked it through. The river was an offsuit 4, and he led about 40% of the pot into me. I felt strong enough to bluff-catch, and called. He showed me... aces. “That could've been much worse,” I whispered to the guy next to me.

I made a bluffraise, got shipped on, and counted to 5 before I folded. I had cut my stack practically in half – 90K. The blinds increased to 2500/5K/500, and the same gent with the aces opened for 13K. I thought this an odd size, as the table had generally been opening for min, or min plus a chip. He had the clear chip lead, and was probably going to start running over the table with the bubble approaching.

I shipped my 90K with AQ diamonds... and got snap called by kings.

Oops. “Oh well, it's been a good experience for me. Clyne and Paul will appreciate that I played well and made a deep run, even if I fell short of the money.”

Turn. Ace. I am a phoenix, risen from my own ashes.

At 190K, I need to play smart for a bit. How about some snug, ABC poker for a while? I got whittled down for a bit, then personally busted the bubble. The chipleader opened, and a shorty shoved for 70K. I woke up with aces. I decided not to get cute and smooth. I shipped, and the chipleader folded. After the board ran out and didn't help the shorty's queens, I'm pretty sure I understood enough French to comprehend that he would've knocked us both out.

In the money, with a playable stack? This is happening? With 12 left, I want to play as aggro as I can against the medium stacks, preferrably with the other large stacks already folded.

I took 275K to the final table, and then the blinds went up to 6K/12K/2K. I was 2nd or 3rd in chips, with about 3 pretty short stacks at the table. I was focused on every single hand, and I probably looked at the payout information way too often – first was $10.2K, second was $6700+, and 3rd was $4200+, while 7th was the first four-figure payout. I wanted to give myself easy decisions, avoid risk, move up the payout ladder... and maybe try to win this thing. As always, I wanted to have a decently sized reshove stack. My goal was a balance between risk and reward.

I wasn't faced with another decision the rest of the tourney. The pots I entered pretty much didn't see a turn card. At 7 players left, I had 315K of the 1.52M in play. We played some after the 7th player busted, and the chiplead changed hands, on what looked like a little spewy all-in preflop confrontation of AQ vs AJ. At some point around here, I texted Derek “If I suggest a chip chop, will that make me look like the weak amateur?” He told me to suggest getting chop numbers, and locking that shit up if the numbers looked good. Right before the dealer was about to pitch cards on my big blind, I asked her to stop, and broached the question. Everyone at the table said yes... eventually, like nobody wanted to seem too eager.

The numbers came back, and with 6th place at $1414, the shortest stack was looking at ending the tourney with $2800+. The chipleader was promised $7200, just 3K short of first place money. I was in 2nd when we stopped, though I was closer in chips to the fifth place guy than the leader, and my share was $5025. We couldn't talk the chipleader into playing a hand face-up for the trophy, so he took that home. I tipped $200 – I've heard 4% is standard, and I really like how the Aria runs things. That left $4825 – my share was $3136, which was a good bit better than my previous tourney best of $2200. It made me feel good that I could share my success with people who believed in me enough to put their money behind me. And it was a great feeling to step up a level, have instant success, and realize you can hang.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thought of the day

 Once you give yourself permission to be wrong, it's the most freeing thing you'll ever experience at the poker table.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

You don't remember me.. yet

When I started this blog, it was for me, and only me, really.  I put thought to MS word as therapy, and because I like sharing.  As an unemployed (or moderately underemployed) citizen of southern California, I wrote about my journey to Not-Terrible-Ness.

And I got there.  It was a pretty sweet journey, filled with characters, alcohol, and some soul-searching.  I chatted with a bunch of cool people, and met a cadre of other awesomes.

So I "got there".. and then I moved to Arizona.  Let's forget for a moment that "getting there" mean you can maybe beat subpar 1/2 NL games.  I had a girlfriend, who was the sweetest girl ever, and understood how my poker was important to me, and that it paid for our nice dinners out.

Poker southeast of Tucson can charitably be called soft.  Truth be told, I'll be looking out for a state of the union that plays crappier poker, on the whole, than the state of Arizona.  Seriously.  Fucking terrible.  I like to imagine that Arizona poker is Thunder Keller at the top, and thousands upon thousands of poker players who make decisions randomly based on the phase of the moon, or something.  Seriously.  Fucking terrible.

In March of 2009, Tarheel talked me into moving to Las Vegas, to play some poker and deal the WSOP.  He was half-right, that first summer.  I moved to Sin City in March, planning on getting settled, playing some poker in March and April, and slinging cards in May.  For the spring months, I can say I was a PROFESSIONAL POKER PLAYER.  This really only means that I played poker multiple hours a week, and I didn't have an actual job besides.  At the end of April, I ran the math, and with casino bonuses, I made something like $9/hr.  Hooray poker!  Upside: I was paying rent in Las Vegas.  Downside: I had a lot to learn.

During this time, the WSOP tightened up its requirements for dealers, and didn't have an open tryout.  Tarheel crushed his open tryout the previous year, where he walked in, pitched cards, and got hired.  When I arrived in Vegas, the WSOP decided that you needed 6 months of dealing experience, and asked that you apply online.  I thought I was money, having 18 months of (non-casino) dealing experience, and being familiar with non-holdem games.  I was playing Badugi in 2006.  Hire me!

The WSOP felt differently. So it was time for Plan B, only I didn't know that that was.  It seemed like a pretty dumb idea to keep grinding 1/2 NL at nine-ish dollars an hour.  Tarheel said, "Well, you've been playing at Harrah's, you should consider trying out there.  If you can their auditions, you can pass anywhere."

I was a good guy to deal to at Harrah's, and I had a dealer come up to me when he saw I was auditioning to wish me well.

I failed my first attempt, passed on the next, and was a Harrah's temp.  There were FIFTEEN of us at the start of that summer.  They told us that we had a seven week job, and at the end of the Series, the plan was keep two of us.  I wasn't Top 2 at the start, but I sure as fuck was gonna be top two by the end.  It's on!

Turns out, that didn't matter.  They kept seven of us, and I was one of them.  I never mind somebody underpromising and overdelivering.  So, I'm a Vegas Poker Dealer.

And I dealt to games I could (and had previously) play in.  I had a few eyebrows raised by some the regulars that were moderately relieved to see me in the dealer's box, rather than on their left.

And so it came to pass that I dealt.  /deckardcainvoice

My first six weeks or so, I was pretty terrible as a dealer, from a coworker perspective.  I was pretty awesome when it came to the players - I knew how to run a game well, and my weaknesses were confined to keeping a tidy dealer rack, and some of the lesser known rules.

I watched 1/2 NL, and the $60 and $80 tournament level, as I dealt.  Being the observant and focused guy I am, I picked up on a lot of things as I went.  In short, people don't change their style nearly enough when the game changes.  If you're open-folding A7o in the cutoff at a six-handed tourney table, you're doing something wrong.  If you're a little shaky on decision-making on the flop, you're going to be moderately terrible on the turn, and you're going to be a fucking train-wreck on the river.

If you're open-limping, YOU ARE BAD AT POKER.

So the WSOP came around, and I hadn't been fired.  As easy as submitting a form, I got to deal the WSOP.  They figured that if I was a corporate dealer, I could transfer over and deal.  I even got my first choice of shifts.  I did three WSOP, dealing one feature table in the Main Event.  Hand me a beer and ask me about it, I'll tell you all about it.  My first one was illuminating... the WSOP is *not* where you want to learn about casino protocol when it comes to dealing.  I'm kinda glad I didn't get the WSOP job when I showed up in Vegas.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I needed that first summer as a temp.

As time passed, I learned from the pros I dealt to - William Thorson in the 2011 WSOP, and then Dwyte Pilgrim in the 2012 WSOP.  I dealt to each guy for 90 minutes.. and neither one was really famous, but I felt like I was a scout in minor league baseball, watching a "can't miss" prospect.  Thorson always had more information about what his opponents were up to, than they knew about him.  He didn't win every hand when I dealt at his table, but I felt like every time he folded, he nodded as if to say "I know what up.  You have the best hand.. for now."

Dealing ninety minutes to Dwyte Pilgrim changed my life.

Ok, fine, maybe not life, but poker style.  It was 2012, and longtime Tustin Rounder and "I've been on Hendon Mob for 2 years" crusher Derek started to open my eyes to the ways of FOLD EQUITY.

Things started to come together.  Nobody ever takes a huge step in a vacuum.  When somebody appears to get better all at once, often it's that person getting better at several different skills all at once - and putting all that information together.  Atttacking weakness.  Proper turn and river play.  Multiple street bluffs.  Floats to steal later.  C-bets which lead to semi-bluffs which lead to three barrel bluffs or river value bets which nobody sees coming.  I started asking myself the question, "If I raise my opponent, can they fold?" I don't care about "will"... I care about "can".  "If I raise my opponent, what do they think I have?  What will they think I have when I bet the next card, regardless of if it actually improves me?  What story does my betting pattern tell?  Is my range wide and dangerous?  Or small and obvious?"

Dealing three downs to Pilgrim taught me a couple of things.  First off, Dwyte is not yet a top-tier poker player.  He wants to be.   He wears his two WSOP circuit champion rings, but.. he's not there yet.  I've seen multiple head-scratching, did-you-really-think-that-was-going-to-work, hands from Pilgrim.  And yet, without a doubt, he is easily the most difficult poker player to play against in a tournament.

He is chaos incarnate.  If Dwyte comes to your table with table-chipleader chips... well, you'd best strap on a fucking helmet.  Because it is ON.  At some point... soon... Dwyte Pilgrim will threaten your whole tournament life.

Derek and Dwyte gave me the idea - when people put chips in the pot weakly, it is your duty as a poker player that doesn't suck, to take that pot away from them.  Raise them.  Allow them to fold.  Let them make comfortable decisions, later, against other players.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Inside The Heads of Donkeys

So, why not start posting again? Might as well jump right in...

I was playing in a Matrix SNG the other day when I had an interesting thought at the end of a match.

I started headsup against my Ironman opponent, who had a little better than a 2-1 chip lead on me. Blinds were medium-uncomfortable, and he was putting in small button raises often. After several of these, I decided to make a Kill Phil-type stand by shoving with 75clubs. Ironman instacalled with aces, only to see me flop a 7 and hit runners for a straight. Behold the power of cheese.

What followed was a chat-barrage of OMG DONKEY LOL. I proceeded with a smiley face in chat and some aggression with my new chip lead. I ground him down, and he lost.

So my opponent was mad at me, and belittled my poker play and skill. I don't mind that. I had my reasons for playing back at him. Generally the plan is that he folds his KTo (or whatever he's got) and is subsequently a little less aggro towards my big blind. Mission accomplished. This time, I ran into aces, but still prevailed. Hooray for luck.

The take-home point to all of this was that I was surprised that my opponent immediately focused on my cards. He didn't bother to consider what I was thinking, when I believed it was a good idea to reraise all-in with seven high. He instantly launched into a diatribe about my stupidity instead of trying to get inside the head of the donkey who he was still playing. "Ok, that was a bad move, one I wouldn't make. But why did he do it? What was he considering? Was he frustrated with my raises? Tired of playing headsup? Was he reacting to my play? How did he perceive me?"

Donkeys have reasons behind their play. They are often flawed reasons, but those reasons are valid to that donkey, at that time.

I have no time or energy to devote to getting mad at plays, or players, that I consider bad. I want players to make mistakes against me, to put their money in badly. There's also a chance that I can learn something from the donkey play. In this particular case, perhaps Ironman would see it's sometimes useful to reraise a button raiser with certain hands. If I can get into the head of the donkey, I can take advantage of the same mistake later. Being a 75% favorite can't always end in a suckout.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Who Doesn't Love A Good Prop Bet?

Me, actually. I'm generally a wimp when it comes to randomly wagering on stupid stuff where I don't think I have the best of it. Oh, you want the Bills and 15 points against the Pats for the Sunday night game? Ok, now I'm buying.

So when Skip talked me into a $5 HORSE sng the other day, his prop bet was just interesting enough to get me to buy in. "If one of us bubbles, and the other finishes in the money, the bubble boy pays the winner $5." Skip has a disease - he LOVES to watch me bubble.

As is normal for a $5 HORSE sng, the play was awful in the non-holdem games. Razz and Stud/8 are where Skip and I profit most, except this time it was me scooping chips from donkeys holding rough nines in razz and baby two pair in stud/8. Hello, chip lead.

On the bubble, Skip was about even in chips with the other low stack. We checked a three handed flop (with the #2 in chips sitting out), and I semibluffed my 43o wheel draw when the deuce paired on the turn. Skip raised, figuratively shouting, "Hey I have a two." I dgaf'ed, and called, hit my wheel, and got paid on the river, crippling poor Skip.

I have no idea how you calculate your odds when drawing to a gutshot against your friend when the chips mean nothing to you and drawing out will win you a prop bet the size of the entry fee... but it sure feels awesome.

Oh, and I went on to win the sng, too. Go, go donkey poker.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Donk 'n Goes

Skipper told me about the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure sng's running now on Stars. The satellite tree looked really interesting, so I sat down in a $7.50 Step 1 sng. I figured I could get a *lot* of play-time out of a few Step 1 entries.

A few hands in, Skip mentions that a player in the sng has won a WSOP bracelet. Sure enough, Jon "pokertrip" Friedberg is three seats on my right. I read his bio, and discovered that
he and I both have lived near Philly, and have both played live poker in southern Arizona.

I'm not sure which should surprise me more - that a live pro is sitting in a $7 sng with me, or that the two Stage 2 tickets went to the two of us. The sit 'n go ended when the third player busted out. I didn't get to play the pro heads up.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everything Matters

I've heard the following quote in the cash games at the Card Room a few times, and it's all I can do to keep quiet. "There's not enough in the pot to bet at."

I consider this attitude to be ignorant of pot odds and "the long term". If the pot is only $4, and I can win it half the time with a $2 bet, I should bet. If my opponent doesn't want the pot, that makes it even easier for me to add a few chips to my stack.

There's been a correlation so far between people espousing this disdain for small pots, and ignorance of pot odds in other situations. If I could just see the thought bubble, "It's only a $5 bet to draw to my gutshot. That's cheap. I call." Nevermind there's only $10 in the pot.

Every little bet you can save, and every tiny pot you can win that you normally wouldn't.. they all add up over time. It's not anything you're going to notice in one evening. "Oh look, I cashed out for $227 instead of $212 because I folded earlier in a few hands than a fish would." But if you play as much as much as the regulars do, it adds up.


I was reminded of this concept when I read a thread on Tucker Max's messageboard. The topic of the thread was Tucker shining a spotlight on another internet writer.

The question boiled down to this: You have potential. Are you going to seize it, and risk failure to be the best you can be? Or are you going to talk a good game, but do nothing?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Folding kings the weak-tight way

So I haven't quite painted the picture of the play at the Card Room. The most glaring mistakes are made in multi-way pots (and we almost never have a heads-up flop). If you flop bottom or middle pair in a 5- or 6-way pot, in first position, do you bet into the field?

Everybody at the Card Room does.

Oh, and maybe 20% of the room understands the concepts of pot odds. It's all I can do not to laugh when somebody min-raises out of the big blind after 5 people have limped in. Another interesting thing about playing at the Card Room is that while I'm dealing there, I learn a lot of tendencies, without people learning my habit at the same time.

So when I'm not at a table with Tarheel, there are few people in the game that I actually respect. Cliff, who says next to nothing, is one of them. He was UTG for this hand, and had about the same stack I did, $200 or so. He raised the $2 big blind to $10. I was right next to him, and repopped it to $25 holding kings, mentioning something about clearing the riffraff out.

Scummy Guy at the end of the table, on the button perhaps, calls my $25 cold. So much for clearing the riffraff out. When it got back to Cliff, he made it $75 total.

"Cliff's good, and he's tight, and he knows I'm the same. Can he make that raise with queens? I don't think he can. Him having the other two kings is a mathematical improbability. I'm sure enough that he's got aces that I'm going to fold now."

And show my coworker, Brandon, who's playing right next to me.

Scummy Guy got all in with Cliff, and the flop was paired with two diamonds. 755 or something like that. The turn and river were running diamonds, with the river being the ace of diamonds. At this point, I thought I might look like an ass... that Cliff has queens, or the other two kings. It sure looks like he hates that river ace, or the diamonds.

It turns out that Cliff actually had the aces. He was slow to show his hand because he didn't see the board pair, and thought that any diamond had him beat. Scummy Guy did have red sixes, but Cliff's aces-full boat was the winner.

And then I did something that is indicative of my poker personality. I showed the rest of the table my kings that I folded. (They were away from the muck.) I also told Cliff that my current stack would be his if I respected his game less.

I'm not sure what it is about me, but when it comes to poker, I have a pathological need to be right, or to show everybody else that I was right. Early in my poker playing, I was insanely weak - any raise would get me to fold a medium-strength hand. I hated being wrong, showing down a loser. I've slowly overcome that tendency, and I'm much less adverse to making a mistake or to being wrong.

This hand also reminds me of my infamous "I flopped a straight flush, and folded on the turn, correctly" post. Not only because I folded a strong hand to an even stronger one, but because I just had to know. And I had to be right.

I was a math nerd growing up. The answers were always absolute. When I figured out that x = y + 3, that was the answer. There was a lot more certainty involved when I used to say "I aced that math test", than when I thought I did well on an English composition. Perhaps that's what I lovc about poker - you never have all the information when you make your decisions.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Da Champ

So, I did something in less than a month at Burning Rock College that I couldn't do in five years at UNC - I won an Intramural Champion t-shirt. That's right, I loved Carolina so much I went for the extra-credit year.

I had to overcome a massive ten player field in the billiards. It was single elimination, and I only pocketed the eight-ball once, to seal it in the finals. I'm not good, and I'm lucky. The two best players scratched on the eight-ball before facing me.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


You know, it's about time I wrote in this thing.

I have gone through my long, dark tunnel, and come out the other side. Maybe not in a better place, but definitely in a more interesting one.

I'm not even sure where to start back up.

A long period of joyous unemployment is over. Some people feel out of sorts when they aren't working for any length of time. I love it, so long as my bank account is a non-zero number. I find it amusing that I went from zero jobs to two. I am now a dealer and floor manager of a poker card room in southern Arizona. I am also the Second Assistant Coach of a women's soccer team at the local junior college. For the coaching position, I am "paid" no actual dollars. My compensation is room 'n board on campus. I have a suite all to myself - two rooms with a bathroom that connects them. I have no cable, internet, power, or water bills. But I have no paychecks.

My other job provides the cash. The cardroom is open Thursday to Sunday, in the evenings. I get no paycheck from that one either, just cash money. Tips when I'm a dealer, and half of the house's take when I'm the floor man. Pretty decent deal. Floor man is a combo job, because I can deal while I'm flooring.

There will be more posts when I describe the card room's players (horrifically bad).. and the card room's legality (good and gray).

I have also settled on changing the name of the junior college, so that nobody finds my blog by searching on google for the JC. I have decided to call the women's soccer team the "Burning Rock Lady Destroyers". It's hot in southern Arizona. So, for the purposes of this blog, I'm employed by "Burning Rock College".

So I'm doing two things I really like, and I could possibly contribute to the poker community again. Oh, and now that I'm away from all the guys I played with on a very regular basis, I can talk about poker strategy and not feel like I'm giving away the farm.

Good luck out there.

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