Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Poker Year's Resolutions

1. Play more online.

I don't play enough online. It's a great tool to see a lot of hands. It's a great way to play using the math and work on a lot of the skills I need to improve. Forget that it's so frustrating. Sometimes you can make huge folds because players broadcast the strength of their hands live, online not so much. Get over it.


Improve pattern recognition. Work on identifying betting patterns, timing patterns and pick up general online truisms. Develop my instincts similar to my live instincts.

Work on patience when playing online and eliminate distractions. Mute the cell phone and turn of the TV. Half of which I do already, sorry folks who call me and don't get an answer I might be on stars.

Don't register for a tournament I don't have time to complete or to devote my full attention to.

Get poker tracker. Or some sort of program.

Sweat friends more and have them sweat me.

Solicit advice.

Be open to advice.

Accept the swings of MTTs and single tables.

Play multiple cash tables or multiple tournaments. Do not mix cash and tournaments. Limit multi-tabling to four.

2. Play more live.

Negotiate with wife and family to get more live felt time, especially on those juicy days. Maintain balance of quality time with family and poker but treat playing poker as keeping office hours.

Play cash as patiently as I play live tournaments.

Be rigid with buy-ins per session and winnings per session.

Never play with time constraints.

Don't sit in a casino trying to "kill time" and not be there to "kill tables."

Do a better job tracking bets won and lost.

Use small poker notebook.

3. Win an event.

Not a weekly, not a nightly, I've done those. Not a second chance tournament. Win a minimum $300 buy-in tournament. Win another event. Break through. If I get my money in good and lose accept it. Leave my tilts with the session. Don't take them home and don't wake up the next day in one. Only play events when I'm on an even keel.


Set a personal record for cashes in a year.

Pillage more bubbles. Chip up when others are trying to maintain. Don't feel compelled to take out small stacks unless I have a hand.

4. Satellite into two major events.


Play more single-table satellites. Utilize table selection.

5. Coach more people.

I have a very good skill set. I've help a good player have the best run of his life and improve dramatically using tips that I've given him. Seek referrals and use him as a reference.


Poker school is good for everyone... exchange coaching sessions with peers. Discuss more hands asking how folks would play them.

6. Read more.


Read a new poker book a quarter. Get into it. Take notes. Act like I'm in school... okay, that would mean skipping class and flirting with teachers aides, I should say, act like I want my son to act in school. Study, study, study.

Read a nonfiction book a quarter. Focus on books that either stimulate the mind or translate well into people skills for developing empathy at the poker table.

Reread older poker books.

7. Play more Omaha

Start off micro-stakes online. Play some limit at the casinos even if it's half-half limit with 3-6 poker. Read up on Omaha.

8. Play other games.

Stud, Horse, Razz, Hi-Lo... enjoy being a fish again. Pay tuition cheerfully. Improve move onward and upward.

9. Engage new players

Make them feel welcome to poker and encourage them to play more.

10. Accept all the aholes that play this game. I'm probably one of them.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poker: Flop a Set... get away from it? Part IV

What are those ranges.

Flush draw... 109, 10j of spades? Backdoor straight draw maybe?

Hmmm. The guy is friends with a kid I played with all day. They've talked conspiratorially during breaks in the action as my former table mate was on the rail sweating the action. I don't know much about my opponent as the final table was the first table we shared. His friend was a different story. That guy was wild but in a good way. He had carefully cultivated the right image to get action and hammered his opponents for big pots, or he'd fold when our tight table would reveal the strength of their hands by playing back at him. Would they share the same poker strategy though?

He also knew how to get away from a hand and though he was aggressive he had different speeds for different opponents. After I found a spot to "value-check" on him he accorded me new respect and general avoided pots I got involved in. Value Check? Meaning, he wouldn't call a bet from me, but if I check 9 times out of 10 he bets. Most of those nine times he'd do so with air. So, with my top pair small ball was the way to go.

Anyway, I knew he was a good player so I rated the UTG player as also good. Players for the most part tend to run with players of similar abilities. Still, he didn't seem to play the same style as the other kid.

And being a bit of a nit. If I really can't decide I take the Steve Danamen Main Event approach and err on the side of caution. Folding can be a small mistake, calling can be a huge mistake. However... this was not a situation folding was too strong of an option.

Let's review, UTG limped. Okay... might make sense for him to limp a big hand and hope somebody comes over the top and then he shoves. KK, AA are in the range. Felt a little too early at this final table for a play like that, but I've seen people do it at the 25-25 level so who knows.

I look at him and he seems supremely confident. That makes the draw less likely. It also makes JJ, 1010 slightly less likely. Smallish pocket pairs might limp from early position so too suited connectors. Pocket 8s and pocket 5s enter the equation. In retrospect a lot of the few hands he could have crush me. The small blind might have got lucky and flop a straight.

Well, he's telegraphing a fold. Maybe he's trying to be tricky and get me to jump into the pot. Three people tried that move on me already in the last couple of tournaments and all it did was make me gun shy. I took the simple approach. I flopped a set I have a chance to basically double up. Guy could be on all kinds of draws.

I talked to a player I respect a lot after the tournament, when I was licking my wounds from a min cash and as I reviewed the hand in retrospect in my head everything told me he was beat. He didn't look like he was too worried when he put his stack in with the only two stacks bigger than his were at the table.

Hmm... like he had a double up hand. If he's a good player, he might be just a little concerned the flop connected with somebody and his over pair was in risk of getting snapped off. Ugh. He had the type of hand you protect. 8s or 5s.

The player with a ton of money to his name in tournament cashes, basically told me its an instacall absent a huge read. "I'm not looking for spots to lay down sets at a final table." He's right.

I think if in this spot again, I'll probably get snapped again, and only be upset about it because it sucks to go out that way.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Poker: Flop a Set... get away from it? Part III

In this similar vein of thought pertaining to luck, timing and critical junctures live poker players probably experience opportunities to make laydowns that have to take into account the game dynamics in front of them. Perhaps, the way to get around these moments is to not embrace them. Surely, there has to be some sort of metric to balance when to gamble when to not?

Let’s say you are at a Texas Hold 'Em poker final table and the other players are atrocious and you have reads on all of them . You have a healthy chip stack and the blinds are never going to put you in danger? Do you take chip stack coin flips or just wait for your spots. I’d argue if you are willing to flip coins you suffer from an inability to strategize. Poker strategy is often time simply picking your fights. Discretion is the better part of valor… is the clich├ęd response you should give anybody that challenges your “gamble” in those situations. It doesn't matter if it is online poker or live poker you make more money folding in key spots by not losing money than you do by simply dragging pots.

Recently, I’ve blogged about spots to avoid in mega satellite style events (like the Seniors Poker Event where they chopped eight ways) for their own rationale. And while, bigger tournaments and cash games aren’t as obvious there are situations that arise where getting your money in where you may be a big favorite isn’t necessarily the right choice.

Finally, I’m getting to the part about laying down sets. It’s been in the title for three entries and I’m only now getting to it, so I suppose it’s overdue. In that min-cash tournament I found myself at the final table 2nd in chips, when I looked down at pocket fours. I’m of missed minds about playing this hand but the chipleader was in the small blind and had shown a willingness to complete and then try to steal.

There was already a limper from early position, and the player to my left was telegraphing his fold. My strategy was hit my set and mix it up with the small blind. If I missed just get out of the way.

Things went according to plan. Small blind completes and the big blind checks.

The flop comes out 458 two spades. The small blind leads out. So far so good. Big blind folds. Good. Suddenly 3rd in chips, Mr. UTG shoves over the top.

Ouch. There are a ton of variables at play here. Spade draw? Flopped straight? Hmm. Putting the small blind on a weak lead bet, and trying to chase away any draws and take it down. Flaws in all those ideas.

I find myself in a spot where I don’t know what to do (call, raise/reshove all possibilities). I had a good conversation after the fact with Captain Ron where he cited Chris Ferguson’s rule of three. In spots, where he’s flummoxed like “Jesus” he looks for three solid reasons to lay down. If he gets to three he folds. While, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to three to fold, I might have gotten to three to just call rather than reshove.

I like this concept because in these spots where I am unsure of my next poker action, I sometimes have a hard time deciding which element of partial information is more important than the other. Now, I can draw conclusions faster and act sooner. Hard to believe Chris Ferguson would be inspiration for reaching a decision faster. It slides easy into a mnemoic device What Would Jesus Do so I won't forget to utilize that criteria for making a decision.

Normally, in this spot, I immediately started putting the UTG player on a range of hands and trying to anticipate his actions based on those hands.

More to come…


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poker: Flop a Set... Get away from it? Part II

I’m sure you can track career arcs of players how hit their big hands at critical spots in tournaments and the ones that didn't. Some become poker super-stars some become also rans. I read on some poker forums where people talk about the biggest hands of their lives and I’ve seen how one suck-out can propel an individual into a career in the game and how one bad beat can cripple a man and end his profession.

This is where luck is undeniably an element of the game. What poker player wouldn’t put his roll on the table if he just had to sweat a one outer. Course one outers come, and when they do they make somebody really happy and they make somebody else really upset. I’ve never had to accept losing such a huge pot for a big piece of my bankroll, but I find I generally make bad decisions when too much of my roll is on the line with a lot of cards to come. There has to be better poker strategy than that? Surely, there is.

Everybody takes shots, but let’s say you move up to a table where you are under-rolled and you take a bad beat for half your roll but everybody is a fish, even better they are passive fish that are broadcasting the strength of their hands, that will fold to any riverbet if they haven’t improved. You can take from them when they don’t have it, and get away from them when they Linkdo. So why not play?

Then later let’s say with one poker card to come you have a straight flush 89 of hearts in the hole with 10jQ of hearts on the board. The turn is a meaningless 2 of clubs. Your opponent is pretty obviously sitting on the A high flush and puts his chips into the middle. Before you sits every dollar you own (ever seen the Cincinnati Kid—similar but different proposition), including all the money you’ve outplayed your table mates for.

This guy has made a HUGE overbet and the pot is relatively small. What’s worse is the bad beat jackpot was just hit twice in a row and is at the minimum so there is no backdoor insurance if he hits his one outer. (K of hearts gives him a better straight flush). Okay let’s make it even more extreme they don’t offer a bad beat jackpot at all. Now what do you do? Of course you put your roll in. Why wouldn’t you fade a one outer. Even if there was 2 dollars in the pot before he put all the money in front of him, which equal every cent that your were worth, you’d put it in.

Let’s throw some other factors into it. Your mortgage is due if you don’t pay it you lose your house, you lose your house you’ll lose your wife and kids also nobody will ever give you a loan again. So you can’t start a new poker bankroll tomorrow or ask a friend in the room for help to get back into the soft game. You are a busto as busto can get. What do you do?

Tough hypothetical. You probably still shove. Though the right move might just be to let the guy have the two dollars in the middle of the pot and go back to grinding him down, especially if you know for a fact he’ll play with you as long as you like.

In online poker, besides the rise of Isildur1 these situations don’t arise very much, though in live poker similar hands can and have happen.
With far less extremes Sammy Farha cited a similar rationale in laying down to Moneymaker’s epic bluff. He thought he’d wear down the youngster and it was only a matter of time for him to win. Why risk it all when he could win it all later. Didn’t work out so well for Sammy…

More to come...


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Flop a Set... Get away from it? Part 1

Finally scratched my name into the cashes at the Bayou Challenge in perhaps the least possible way. I min-cashed a min-tournament for the minimum amount against nearly the minimum amount of competitors. I’m making minimum wage or should I say I’m paying nearly maximum rake considering I had a “result.”

Of course that nightly Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament was the one event my aces held. That was fun. Had them twice and took me from a tiny short stack warrior to average in chips. Just in time to overtly attack the bubble, with the image of me folding for four hours fresh in my table mates heads.

I can't seem to get my decent hands to do anything for me in a meaningful tournament but they sure come fast and furious and act like the Incredible Hulk in the lesser buy-ins. ReidG and I have discussed this important aspect of poker, more importantly live poker, and luck isn’t about winning your big hands, it’s all about winning them in the proper context.

Let's take a lifetime of poker on average you'll win far more often with a hand like pocket aces than you'll lose with them. Let's say you play them pretty well and mitigate those huge pots where you lose a ton with them by extracting a lot out of those hands you win. So despite the maxim “Aces will either win you a small pot or lose you a big one,” you are a good enough poker player to be way up with the hand.

So, for a lifetime of playing you're up significantly with that hand. Still, I could argue for certain players that hand could be an unlucky one. Let's say AA comes in those critical moments... a big money jump, two big stacks colliding head first on the money bubble, or sitting deep in your cash game colliding with two other HUGE stacks at the table and in every one of those pivotal hands you lose. Can AA be unlucky for you? Sure. Wouldn’t you rather trade all those blind stealing wins for those massive wins.

This is where I think there is an ignored element of luck. How many times will you find yourself in life changing money opportunities in poker? A limited amount, at best, even more limited when you hold a huge starting hand. So even, if your sample size for holding pocket Aces is gigantic (let’s say you are a career poker player), your sample size for those spots is tiny. Even if long run you win at an appropriate clip if you can't stand the heat in the short run you are screwed.

Let's look at the Phil Ivey vs. Darvin Moon hand. AQ v. AK with Ivey dominating the rookie logger, yet the Queen hits. Considering the amount of hands Ivey has played the AQ has probably come back to beat his AK almost at exactly the percentage a computer spits out at you when you have the odds to win that hand. However, how many times will Ivey slog through a field that gigantic to get his money in that good at the WSOP final table? Probably once, twice or thrice in a lifetime?

Now, I'm certainly not saying Phil Ivey is unlucky, but in that spot he was. Well, just to make it to that spot required incredible luck and skill. However, in that moment I’m sure Ivey would have traded all his skill for the luck of Joe Cada on that day.

More to come…


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Harrahs Poker Tournaments Part5

Now the guys eyeballing me again still not sure if he's going to call the "2k" raise."

"That's $500, $1500, that makes $3000, that makes the 35... that makes $4000. Right?'

She basically rolls her eyes not listening to me. Let's just say I was a little pissed.

She decides she'll count it down again, for me, the idiot in seat 9. "One thousa... oh..." and from this point she's genuinely apologetic. Oblivious to all the ways she's affected action prior to miscounting, but tuned into how gross a mistake her latest was, so at a minimum, her contrition bought her some sympathy from me. Not much but some.

"It's $4000!" She announces again aggressively.

Now Humberto Brenes wannabe who was wracking his brains trying to decide to call a $2k pot quickly picks up two thousand more. At this point, he went from probably deciding he could call 2 thousand, to immediately deciding he can call double the bet. He barely even considers how much of his stack it is.

He smiles at me, "I'm on a straight draw."

I nod, my interest in the hand waning with every passing moment of the fiasco, I'm just ready for resolution and my poker face is out the window at this point. I say, "I'm sure you are" and shrug. This is the type who views a poker tournament as any type of casino game and god bless him if wants to play online casino, or casino blackjack or casino roulette, but don't blow up somebody else's tournament.

At that moment maybe he saw something, weakness, defeat, whatever... he calls. The dealer again starts to sweep my chips...

My side of the table in unison, say the hands not over.

The crazy lady on the button is now thinking about joining her male counterpart. How her decision tree couldn't have resolved itself during Brenes' stewing, and the dealers three counts of my chips is beyond me. But she had to have attention to her as she thought (I guess). Okay, we get it you limped in late position with a real hand. No, not hollywooding she starts thinking.

I'm thinking what were you thinking about before. Here's her decision tree: Okay this guys is either going to 1. Fold. 2. Call. or 3. Reraise. If he does 1. I am going to a. Call or b. fold. If he does 2., I am going to A. Call, B. Fold, or C. Reraise. if he does three I am going to A. Call, B. Fold, C. Reraise. Arguably only it does 3 should she be unprepared on her decision. Not only that the guy basically telegraphed he was calling for half the deliberation so she should already have made up her mind.

Grrrrrrrrr.... Titlting all around.

Finally she folds.

Dealer who was just ready to sweep up the pot at any second just sits there. Umm... hand's right.

Humberto turns over the stellar holding of K3 of diamonds. I had A4 of diamonds. I got a 2/3 shot to win. Actually suprised. The lady folded A9. She actually had the chips to make that call. I think if Humberto had folded she probably would have too, but I don't know.

No need to say how the board ran out, other then to point out the only card of interest popped up on the river.

However, that one dealer... turned me into mr. f'ing anal. I couldn't stop myself from fixing dealer mistakes even when I wasn't in the hand. Which is a shame because for the most part the dealers are top drawer. They've kept the games moving and rarely made mistakes.

I like dealers we are discussing having a profile of a dealer of the month in the magazine. If you have any dealers you want to recommend please send us the suggestions and Gulf Coast Poker Magazine we will consider them for a future issue.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Harrahs Poker Tournaments Part4

What got me correcting dealers was this hand from a bust out in an earlier poker tournament. I had played snug all morning and never shown anything down but big cards. I got so short I called with a small pocket pair from the blinds and it held but that was the only borderline hand selection the table had seen.

Anyway, this crazy guy limps from under the gun, another two limpers including a crazy woman, neither of whom I wanted to play with for too big a pot. They'd play any draw and it was just a question of whether they'd hit or not. They certainly needed to brush up on their poker strategy.

I look at Arag suited. I know it's a bad hand but it's definitely the best hand here based on the players. I have ten times the limp ($400) in my stack. Which is about 1/3rd to 1/2 the cray guys stack.

He's mulling it over. He says I have a straight draw. At this point I figure I'm racing as a big favorite and am willing for him to come in and let the cards do the talking. Then the dealer grabs my chips and starts counting them out. I glare at her, and another guy who I'm friendly with and has made a few final tables catches on, and says "He didn't ask for a count."

The dealer gets confused and stops, she's kind of pissy about it.

The guy in the hand is confused not realizing someone else essentially told her to stop. "What, how much is it?"

"You have to ask for a count, I'm not supposed to just count them," pissy tone of voice and she kind of looks at me.

The guy eyes me like I was the one that told her to stop. He looked like a younger Umberto Brenes and acted that way too, except instead of annoying people by chomping a shark in people's faces he'd call on gutterball draws hit his hands and not reraise his opponents river-bets.

Looks like I'm getting a call.

"Count em!" He said enthusiastically.

She counts them wrong, off by about two thousand--or half my chips. It already appears I'm weak, I decide to wait for her to correct her mistake. She doesn't. None of the other players catch her either.

The guys still stews.

Now, I'm seething on the inside.

I say, "How much do I have?"

Pissy dealer counts again and makes the same mistake. I don't even know how she's missing it. 1 1k chip, 1 $500 chip, $1500 in black chips (three stacks of five) grouped together that's 3k. Another stack of five black chips, plus $500 in green chips that's 1k, so 4k total.

The guy has them in his hand. Well, at this point the pot better be right. The funny thing is, there are still people left to act and she puts her hand down cupped as though she is about to sweep the chips into the middle--What? I have to stop her, he hasn't even called yet and they haven't even acted.

She waiting for him to fire 2k into the pot and it appears she's going to sweep my chips in the same motion when he does. I grab her hand.

Still pissy she turns and glares at me, I smile "I'm sorry how much do I have."

She's oblivious "$2000, you have $2000."

"Wait, I think... well, let's just count."


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Harrahs Poker Tournaments Part 3

However, after reading that post, this is not something I do without trying to determine if the poker dealer is quick or slow, and if they are the type to recognize it as being helpful. So, in essence I wait til they get into the routine and deal a couple of hands before starting. This girl thanked me and things picked up.

She finished and another girl sat down. They had the same body type but looked nothing alike. That girl promptly f'd things up. Me and the guy to my left had hundreds. She picked up the 25s from the two guys to our left and made change, then she switched to the other side of the table and then came back and asked the guy to my right for his 50.

He was in swell mood already and I think was talking to somebody. "I put it up."

Me and an older gentleman tried to explain that she had already made change with his ante.

Then the guy, turned to me angrily and said, "If you would stop screwing her up by making
change we wouldn't have this problem." Well this guy needed to go to etiquette school or poker school or something.

"It's a different dealer," I tried to whisper.

"No, it's not," he let it be known there would be no whispering.

"She just sat down," I whispered again.

"No, she's been here the entire time you've been making change."

"Well, first off, she made the change that time, I didn't..."

"Right but she wouldn't have been screwed up if you hadn't been making change..."

"It's a different dealer..."


"Dealer, did you just sit down?"

"It's my first hand."


"See, I don't make change for a new dealer."

"But you've been making change all day."

"What does that have to do with her."

"Dude, it's just a joke... It's a bad joke."

(What?) Okay... maybe it was a joke. We were playing around all day, but it sure didn't feel like a joke. I couldn't decide if this guy just didn't want to admit he was wrong about three different ways and didn't want to admit it, or was playfully joking with me as he was very dismissive about the competence of dealers anyway, or what.

When I sat down I woke up to a borderline shoving hand and pushed over some limpers. The dealer said "You came all the way over here to do that" and the same guy was stunned I wasn't pissed.

"You're not irate?"

"No, everybody was already in one big fold move so it didn't effect action."

"But it could have."

"Yeah, perhaps it could have induced folds."

"Dealers should the f up about the action."

Yeah, I had seen and heard a few dealers this week saying remarks that could influence decisions and that is a big pet peeve. And in tournaments where that has happened including the Harrahs weekly I've tipped less. That day felt a little different. I felt like it was fairly neutral but the guy did have a point.

If it can be interpreted either way and therefore can affect a decision, whether intentional or not, it has no place in the game. Similar to dealers that automatically count when a player is all in. I hate that. Unless, they have a rule saying that have to, and some dealers have told me that in the past, those chips should speak for themselves. I've even heard dealers automatically count without anybody asking and say, it's only 2000 more. The "only" pisses me off more than anything. Sometimes the stack could be a slew of small chips and look deceptively bigger than it really is and the player is ready to muck and the dealer offers his two cents.



Monday, December 14, 2009

Harrahs Poker Tournaments Part 2

With the poker table open for poaching I got to chip accumulating. One problem, the girl took most of the chips with her. Then I recognized Summer4All, a cagey online poker regular from Houma, was in seat two. Guy knows how to bob when you weave, and zag when you zig. So, I can't say the entire table was passive weak.

He mostly avoided me. He was quiet and locked in with his sunnies on, steadfast and determined. I doubt he even heard me say "What up," or "Nice Pot" or "Nice Hand," because he had such laser focus on the table that he wouldn't reply. I stopped trying because really when a conversation is that one sided you might as well have it in your head.

I did get some recognition from him when I called a guy down with second pair after the spade draw missed. I stewed, and put him on what he had. I called and he had ace high. When I showed the pair of 9s, Summer4All said "Now we are playing some poker." When I play online poker or live poker it's nice to get recognition from your peers. Even if the guy will mainly only play poker online I still respect his opinion of live players.

It felt good to hear him acknowledge my call. After that I didn't have much in the way in resistance. I squandered some chips trying to isolate the short-stack big blind's any two cards with A10 suited. He woke up to KoJack and made trips I believe. Several people complimented him on his set.

By the way folks, A SET is when you have a pair in your hand, Trips is when you catch two cards on the board to go with the one in your hand, though I think some people call a set trips as well. Meaning some believe Trips is both a set and normal trips. I think they are separate things, please for the love of Pete, Paul, and Mary stop calling trips sets.

Speaking of pet peeves I hate that annoying table captain that can't keep his mouth shut and corrects the dealer. Unfortunately, I was that guy no fewer than three times this week, where I was a step slow and slowed up things pointing out an error that wasn't there. WTF? How did I become that guy. I hate that guy.

No offense to the dealers, most were great, but a couple made serious errors against me earlier in the weak and I think predisposed me to not trust anything they did. I'll blog about one in a later post. However, after stopping action and then pointing out the mistake where I caught that I was the one making the mistake "He bet $600 and put out a $1k chip and $100 chip, and you gave him... five... $100 chips... never... mind, nevermind. My bad." I was being fairly peaceful and apologetic. Of course, the dealer wanted to explain if excruciating detail why I was mistaken even after I caught the error. Fair enough--probably deserved that mental anguish penalty.

I just read a dealer on 2+2 bitching about players making change for themselves. He can't believe the audacity. Slows up his pitching and his rythym. He doesn't even credit them for attempting to be helpful, it's like the very act bruised his pride a little bit. F'me for trying to make collecting the pot a little simpler. This is something I do and had no idea some regarded it as insulting and more a burden than a favor.

So, this girl dealer was being a little slow trading the change for the antes and I decided halfway through her shift, to throw out a hundred, collect the 50 from the guy beside me and then point to both us when she collected. She didn't seem to mind and it helped speed things up a bit.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Harrahs Poker Tournaments Part I.

So, I've had mixed results in the Bayou Poker Challenge. It's been a challenge. In one of the tournaments I played I thought my starting table was as tough as any starting table I've had in the last two years. Just seemed there were no weak spots at the table. Sure, I exploited a loose player's tendencies, to generate money without a hand, and knowing he'd recognize I was playing pretty snug early but other than that money was hard to come by.

We eviscerated two bad players early on and then dance around each other until the table broke. I played Kings pretty well, inducing the bad player to go all in with the right bet size. There was a bet and three calls including the bad player. I look at KK in the big blind. One of my favorite Texas Hold 'Em poker hands.

I bet about 1/3rd of the bad player's remaining stack. This guy had shown he would push if he thought there was any window to get a guy off a hand. I thought I was giving him that window. What surprised me was the loose player that open the hand tanked and folded--guess my bet size looked like a weakish steal to him and the pot was swelling. A steady player in middle position stewed way too long. Again, maybe he thought my bet was fishy considering the action. The guy on the button also pondered and then called. I didn't like that, his call closed the window a little bit.

The bad player ignored it and shoved. Phew! I put the rest of my chips in over the top, and the button had to lay down. He said he had tens. Damn, turns out I wanted the call

The bad player had complete suited garbage c-ya. Couldn't have gone better. The rest of the time at the table I was just learning like I was a poker school.

So, I felt good about that hand. Later I gave up some chips when I raised with QQ. The guy who had been the button before called from the blind. Flop came AKJ (of course). The guy said something that made me think he was really strong and then checked. I checked behind. Turn was a 10 (bingo was its name). He checked again. I laid out a large bet, he called. River was a J (bingo was not its name). He led out for a pot sized bet. I knew I was beat.

I envisioned quads. Or Kings full. Ugh. Wanted to lay down but AK made sense too. Eventually I called. He showed KoJack. Bad call.

I felt bad about it really all week. I didn't listen to my gut, and I noticed I got in situations where my gut told me to lay down even though my head said don't make hero folds, the odds of him having that hand are slim. I'd listen to my head and not my gut. Gut knows better at Harrahs it seems.

I got moved to another tough table, with raising wars going on with me in the middle. I immediately started to rate the field as one of the toughest I've played in. Made sense for a mid-week tournament only those that can play would be there. Then that table broke up after a pretty nondescript few rounds for me.

My new table was like Manna from the heavens. The only player was a girl with a lot of chips. The rest were passive weak. The short stacked guy to my right who could play thought different of the table. You can't steamroll this crowd he said. I thought otherwise. They were preflop calling stations, or if they caught a draw they'd suck out on you, but with a little pot control you could bully any of them off a hand on the river. Had to get your money in late if you wanted to steal.

Which I did. I donated money to the girl who I had to lay down to twice, think she had me pipped. Then they took her and her stack away. Then it was open game...


Friday, December 11, 2009

Squandered Opportunity in Multi-Table Poker Tournament Part 2

At some point Monkey got moved to my left. Perhaps, it's merely a consequence of going fairly deep a lot, recently, but I can't seem to play a tournament without some Monkey table time. The monkey dial was on charm today, and the rest of the table was enjoying the repartee. One guy folded twice saying he didn't want to bust him and become blog fodder for sucking out on him.

I've said it before, and Will claims it's not a tactic, so I'll call it a gift, but his table banter is dispersed with surgical precision and gets him pots unchallenged. Must make live vs. online Texas Hold 'Em a lot easier. Perhaps this is a big edge for him in live poker and a hurdle he has to clear with online poker where there is just as chatbox. I don't care what anybody says (anonymous bashers on his blog) the guy is as skilled as they come at navigating these types of live fields. There is certainly a talent to slither through danger, to apply pressure when necessary and to do it as successfully as he does. He looked really in the zone (saw on facebook he made the money).

I thought to myself at one point that our table really wasn't making many mistakes. The excitement would come when a couple of big hands would clang into each other and though we were 15 or 20 from the money it felt like we are already on the bubble with cautious preflop play. People were just waiting for a mistake.

I come back from dinner, Sparky and I thinking we had 10 minutes more only to discover seconds on the break clock and rush to my seat. I see an enchanting AQ suited from early/middle position. I fire out a bet, folded to the button, who brusquely announces raise and buts 5k on top.

It's folded back to me. Okay this is a straight forward fold. If I call I'm committing close to half my stack. If I shove he ain't folding and he could have me crushed. I stew. Perhaps, it was the dearth of big hands to see a flop with earlier in the day but something wouldn't let me fold. I freely admitted I had no idea what to do as I counted my chip stack. I sat there and thought about Howard Lederer's concept of leverage and how you can bet just enough to box a person in. Well, this guy had applied leverage and I didn't like being the box. I just didn't feel settled from dinner and knew I had to let go, but I wasn't. Then he kind of verbally challenged me a bit, and like the fish I was I bit.

For a weird reason I called to see the flop. Probably not the right option. I gave myself the opportunity to stop and go... or maybe check fold. Which is probably (excuse me IS) a bad use of my remaining stack. It came Queen high. I check, fully feeling beaten but knowing I'm boxed in a corner. He shoves. I call. I left feeling fairly embarrassed. The guy was new the table and I had no read or information to think my pedestrian AQ was good.

I had this thought that because of his big chip stack and antagonistic behavior he was looking to table bully (let's just say he leveled me and I bought it hook line and sinker), but really when you break it down it was quite simply an egregious mistake on my part just before the cusp of the bubble with a near average chip stack.

Yeah, when I hear my friends getting bad beated left and right, and I'm winning every coin-flip, I know I had a great chance to go deep on this day and donked out like a stooge.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Squandered Opportunity in Multi-Table Poker Tournament Part 1

Played in event 1 at harrahs. I think there were 212 runners or so. The format and structure, again, left plenty of room for ample play. I found myself second best a couple of times early and missed two mega draws where had I shoved my opponent would have had to call and busted me.

Sometimes in tournaments you just have a feeling it's going to be your day. This feeling hits you early in an online poker tournament. When you play poker tournaments online you can be hitting everything and chipping up and it's obvious... or you can just get in the groove and feel like you will steadily improve and outlast the competition. True running great when you play poker online or live is more fun, but being in the groove can almost be relaxing in a zen like way. In long live tournaments I find the groove more often leads to success. When you are comfortable with your table image in an online poker tournament and you have spots you can attack being settled down is the key to patience.

Then there are days you hit your coin flips. I won five straight, all in on four of them doubling up to a saftey zone with each. That doesn't happen very often to me. When it does it usually goes hand in hand with a deep cash. I was running so good, at one point I pushed with AK getting called by. JJ, I said King ball on the flop to myself and visualized it as the middle card. Splat King of Spades right in the middle of the flop.

When you are having one of those days the key I find is just not making any mistakes. The confidence you have and the repetitive image of you winning pots can help you accumulate chips as opponents opt for folding when they aren't sure.

I didn't get any big pairs today except for pocket queens. Didn't really need them with my coin flip success, and an underrated aspect of running good (or being lucky) stealing and not running into hands.

Early on, I noticed a little bit of a disturbing trend at the table, not disturbing for me but an openess of hand discussion by almost every player. People would analyze how they played a hand, question what everybody had, and then debate whether or not the player was lieing. Normally, there is a little bit of this but for a good solid level or two this was rampant. Sure, I gleaned some nuggets on how people play, but I found the entire conversation kind of boring.

We played those hands we are not trying to garner a consensus here, yeah that was the right play, you thought correctly, pats on the back for everybody, we can sing some campfire songs later, and tease the dealers en masse. We are a happy nine. Not surprisingly there were little in the way of fireworks at the table and we lost people at a snail's pace.

So, on one of those days, those rare days where I'm hitting the hands I need to hit, and I feel I'm going to cruise rather comfortably to a deep finish, we have a dinner break. I dined with Craig Gullung or "Sparky", a friend of Gene's, and we compared notes. I think we share a very similar style and similar strengths. I brought up a tell of one of our table mates and he had spotted it and noticed a subltety that I hadn't picked up--it was the way he casually splashed his chips out with a strong hand--but on his vulnerable ones there was a noticeable hitch.

Sparky has faced some challenges recently and I'm glad that the results have been coming for him in poker. After playing with him for hours... he was the guy that short-stacked me when my draws didn't come, and a perfect river bet to chase off my chasing ways. He seems like a very cerebral player with a knack for knowing where he is in the hand.

So, during action, I participated in the table game of hand analysis, and I was as guilty as the rest of the table as we'd discuss hands with asides and try to put all in players on hands. He caught some hands early, but even after taking a hit or two, seemed to also be on cruise control for the final table.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dead Money Poker Satellite Table

We played our local dead money satellite poker table in Houma and in Lafayette, LA this past weekend. This satellite puts a player in the World Series of Poker Main Event, and while it isn't wrapped up or resolved as quickly as an online qualifer to something like the Aussie Millions, it's a fun thing to be able to sweat a representative of all of us.

We've had a couple of winners already qualify for the final table, with a Table Captain David Anderson performing his magic again coming into heads up play with huge chip disadvantage and going all the way to the title at the Lafayette table and a good player taking it down in NYC.

In Houma last night GeneD and Dinger got the action started and we had a good game. The Houma table was a battle as The Pool and HotTub King of Houma Robert Dinger dished out the bad beats like they were jacuzzis during a cold snap. 6-4 o/s got him in and out of trouble a few times.

John Price "is Right" and Tim Thompson also battled throughout the night. Yours truly rode a wave of good luck and an ample helping of good cards to navigate the table. I got to heads up action with Shane after Gene and Tim were eliminated in third and fourth place. Both those guys played really well but seemed to be pretty card dead. Twice I watched Gene make the right decision and get punished for it. Sucks when you are having that kind of night.

At heads up everything was still at stake. We had a small cash prize for second, and by small I mean $25, so most of the glory was in first as it tends to be in tournament and sit 'n go poker. Shane was a tricky and smart player. It was hard to put him on hands and his aggression was just the right amount to take down pots without creating a target on his back.

I knew to fear him a little bit when in a battle of the blinds earlier in the night I had JJ and he had QQ. Flop brought an ace and we both put the other on an underpair. He did the betting and I did the calling. He value bet the river and I mulled over an over the top move but lacked the conviction about him not having an ace. The bet was small enough to be weak.

In heads up play, I knew I was fortunate to have position on him because I was on his left. Unfortunately, that only seemed to apply half the time. Wish I could say I got my money in good and it held but quite the opposite was true. Some back story... Earlier I pulled off a bluff by completing from the small blind, him raising me, and then me firing back like I had a monster. He didn't like it.

The critical hand occurred after he took a small chip lead. This time I was in the big blind with A5 o/s a hand I'm not looking to go crazy with and he led out. I stewed and looked at the chips and figured the only way I could win this hand was to shove (yeah that's no crazy Texas Hold 'Em strategy... or as my friend says right before we do something stupid, it'd be stupid not, it'd be crazy not shove). His bet was suspicious because it was bigger than most he had made. Sometimes this is weakness and sometimes it's strength, for some reason, I thought weakness.

In my head I thought he had two face cards. If he called I'd be slightly ahead, if he folded I be happier. I shoved. He thought forever and came to the right conclusion with A9 and called for most of his stack. Neither of us paired our kickers and at the river he was pysched and I was in the midst of congratulating him, then I noticed the board was all red. Then the dealer said, "Don't you have a flush?"

Poker is brutal. I did hold the Ace of diamonds with four diamonds on board. I was so keyed into hitting my kicker I didn't even look at the suits. Sucks for Shane. Also, I've come in second in so many of these things I was just prepared for his hand to hold. This time the karma was on my side. Feel like Drew Brees and the Saints, I've been on the other side of it so much I'm not apologizing.

Later I got QQ and he had to shove on me and they held. Looks like he'll be doing a table in Thibodeaux so I wouldn't be surprised to see him again at the final table.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Addressing my own leaks in poker part 2

I scanned the board. There were some bad straight draws but with the action they didn't make sense . Did he have an overpair the entire time and was stringing me along? I couldn't figure out how I was beat, but I felt beat. Such is poker sometimes. He looked very confident and then he started jabbering... he foolishly said, "I didn't think you had a jack, if you had a jack you would have paid me off by now." Paid... me... off... by... now...

This wasn't some complicated level, I thought it was just an unfiltered genuine sentiment. Everything said I was beat. I flashed the jack to the players next to me and folded. He turned over a rivered set of 8s. I groaned. He told me again I didn't fold a jack. Impossible to fold a jack there. I said, "a lot players would have folded it faster than I did."

And with that fold, I promptly went on tilt. It was the sixth or seventh such lay down. It was exacerbated because in trying to build the pot I got the guy to come along to the river... where he made his hand. Of course, then I started to try to protect my hands and just scoop a pot, but now to them I smelled like bleeding meat in the ocean, and I would get called by players who ignored the fact i was pricing them out and they started hitting.

My final hand was embarrassing with KJ, again, in late position I threw out a raise in a limped pot.

Button called and big blind called. Flop was king high. Big blind led out for a pot sized bet. I called. Turn a brick. He fired out most of my stack. Here was the laydown I was too frustrated to make and why it was an excellent bet by him if he was reading that frustration.

Obviously, I was beat. I mumbled K8 to myself (top two flopped). I shook my head and fired in the rest of my chips with second best against an opponent who had been nitting it up. It was practically impossible for this guy not to have the best hand in that spot. Sure enough K8.

So, now I'm going to figure out a way to plug this frustration leak. A walk around the casino? Online, I guess there are so many hands being dealt that it is easier to fold time after time when you get into bad spots whereas live if feels like you have less opportunities. This is one of the reasons I’m almost afraid to play Omaha.

Dan Walsh and others have tried to get me to add that to my options. The selling point is there are a lot more bad players playing Omaha these days then No Limit Hold ‘Em poker. However, if laying down second best hand is tilt inducing, and watching made hands get caught up to, I’d imagine that would make Omaha really difficult for me.

I suppose I should talk to Brandon Jarrett who excels at that game and consider getting some coaching if ever make the jump. Obviously, I’ve played half and half with fixed limits for Omaha. One night, my first night ever playing it at Boomtown when Harrahs was shut down after Katrina, I crushed it without even knowing what I was doing.

I still remember the huge hand I won dumbly. I had a pocket pair of aces. That must be good. It got capped on every street with almost the entire table playing… and I’m guessing chasing two different straight draws and two different flush draws. And they all missed. I scooped with just my pair of aces. At the time the biggest pot I ever won. Obviously, I had no clue what I was doing. Such is poker sometimes.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Addressing my own leaks in poker part I

Online poker perhaps because of the speed of it, is maybe a better crucible to self-examine your leaks. In live poker some of them manifest in different ways but when I see some of my online poker weaknesses extend to the real felt I need to take stock again of my game.

After going over some of my hands, I was surprised to see a facet of my game I do better on the Internet than I do live. I thought it'd be just the opposite, but I think this is a little bit of anamoly, albeit true for a lot of Texas Hold 'Em players. However, I also think when the leak exposes itself when I'm playing poker online it's more dangerous. I'm being kind of vague sorry...

The leak is making good folds after good folds. I think all of us wannabe players have a limit on how many times we can lay down good hands. And I think this seperates the truly great players from the rest of us. They don't have a limit on making the correct play. I think that limit, at least for me, differs on a live table vs. an online table.

Perhaps there are some contributing factors, like it's easier in live play to know you are beat, so often times you might make the crying call online and lose the hand, which is a bit of pressure release for your frustrations than folding time after time and not seeing the better hand (to know for sure). Which can maybe save you money later on a bigger hand where you might think I can't be beat again and get your money in bad.

This weird cap on my capacity to make lay-down after lay-down almost suggests that I'd be better off making some bad calls for small pots. It's like getting rivered and figuring it out, or knowing when you I'm beat even if I started ahead can only save me a finite amount of money in live play. I don't know if it's six or seven hands live but around hand seven or eight I'll make a frustration call and get my money in bad even though I know it.

Then I won't be able to stem the flow.

Take a recent cash game. In LP I raised with KJ o/s, a guy on the small button called, an EP limper shove for twice my raise, and though I didn't like it I called. The button called again. Flop game jack high. I put out a tricky smallish bet in relation to the pot. For a couple of reasons. One, maybe to induce a play from him, or two to build something in the sidepot in case the EP limper had shoved with a high pocket pair.

The button confused took the bait and called. I figured I only had to sweat an A or Q but I really thought he had an underpair instead of overs so even if one of them came I was planning on betting. The turn was a brick. Now, I put in a half the pot bet and got a call which I was fine with.

The river was an 8 and the guy kind of flinched. I had planned on check calling him, as I thought I had value to catch a hand like 1010s making a play at the pot (or attempting an incorrect value bet), and three barreling might get him off the hand. The flinch made the check all the more reasonable.

He pulled out a stack (100) and his hand was shaking. What?


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Question and some poker strategy advice...

This is an email from another friend of mine... when did I become principal of poker school.? I'd welcome some differing insight, as I'm sure there are probably other ways to look at this

So another hand I was going to tell you about from my last cash session and one I felt like I was playing well and playing poorly within the hand, street by street. Guy in the 8 seat just won a few nice pots and is racking his chips but he's still technically at the table, even though he is standing up. He gets two cards from early position, maybe even UTG and raises to 12 after barely looking at them.

From the 2 seat, I look at AJ off and make the call. The BB shoves all in for roughly 35 total. 8 seat calls, I call. Nice little pot developing and we're now heads up for a side pot. Flop comes out A high and 8 seat leads out with a pretty big bet, maybe 50 or 55. I stew and come to the conclusion that he has hit the ace and is trying to push me out of the pot and get heads up with the short stack. I call.

Turn is a blank. I forget what the action was here but I think he led for a very small, very suspicious amount. Either that or he might have check-raised me all in. I don't remember exactly, but it was here that I all of the sudden felt like I had misplayed my hand or was being severely outplayed. At some point, he set me all in and I folded. He had flopped a set of 6s and was basically stringing me along with my ace, perfect scenario for a set with the ace on board. Do you think I should have gotten out of dodge on the flop, figuring along the lines of why would he bet into a dry side pot if he was bluffing or had a bad ace?

Or do you think my call on the flop was technically correct, even though it turned out to be off? Plus, remember that this guy has basically already checked out of the table before getting involved in this pot on his way out the door. That is what made me finally come to my senses and realize that I was in no way good and led to my fold, after donking off about a hundo plus to him. I think the short stack had a bad ace, fyi.

As for calling the flop? That's the problem with AJ, you probably have to call there every time.

But let's go back a step, UTG or UTG +1 raised? Your mistake was calling preflop.

AJ o/s from UTG or early position is a losing poker hand, AJ from mid position facing a raise is a losing hand too. Oddly, you got into a coin-flip with position and hit your hand. Let's ignore the particulars for now, let's just focus on hand selection.

What's wrong with the hand? Most of the time somebody after you is going to call as well and you will be oop the whole time. Do you even want to hit your ace? Be careful what you wish for you might get it. If you do ou might be outkicked or you might have him outkicked but you'll never know where you are in the hand. Even if you do have him outkicked preflop he could easily pair his second card and have you crushed, plus he'll be acting after you on every street. Plus, most people raising under the gun have hands that have you beat to start.

To make it even more of a loser, since you can fold AJ to the type of betting you faced, you'll also be able to fold it to worse hands like A9 or A8 thus you'll also lose pots you should win too.

It's a mistake I make, but long run it's a loser for both of us. I can tell you why I'd make it. In live poker you have the information that this guy is leaving, and when I think the guy is leaving I think he might play any adequate to marginal hand before the blinds hit him. In online poker you wouldn't have that information and you'd be better off because of it.

So, you have a lot of those weak exploratory aces crushed. You are crushed by AQ, AK, KK, AA, QQ, JJ. You are coinflip with almost anything else and if he's a bad player and KJ is in his range or worse QJ from UTG you crush those holdings. It's a tantalizing situation because he's leaving the poker table but we need better discipline to lay that down.

Here's why I'd probably get out of the hand (and this is important for you in the tournament too), stack size. In a Texas Hold 'Em cash game, if I'm mulling over the AJ from mid position and I see the BB with 1/3rd more than the pot if I call (maybe see if he's going to play or not... if he's an obvious read) in his stack, I have to conclude this a good spot for him to shove with almost any two cards. Do I want to play a hand for 35 against two players holding AJ o/s and the betting isn't closed? No. There's 105 already in the pot and I start getting married to a lot of holdings that could be losers.

Now if I'm in a tournament, sometimes I might reraise it for exactly the reason of the BB's stack size (I'd bet more than the short stack in the BB) putting the squeeze on the ep raiser. I win a couple of ways. Take down the pot right there. Much harder to call off your chips than shove them for the BB. Or the BB shoves and first position might fold. Then I'm playing a weaker BB hand with the bonus of the EP's raise.

A raise also might deter any marginal hands from gettting into a multi-way pot, or from them trying this squeeze play themself when my passive chips as added motivation. The table dynamic would be really important for me to make a play like that and it's probably not one I'd often make but if I did it and got called, I'd probably try and pot control from there. Another motivation to do it, is I get to mislead the table into thinking I'm 3betting with hands like AJ (when in reality my 3bet range is actually really thin).


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Coaching Update and more

The gentleman I've been working with has been very kind in his praise of what we've worked with. He's also told me about some huge pots he's won where he's applied some little things we've discussed. And he's been running great. You want to feel like a successful poker teacher when starting a poker school have students that run great after your coaching sessions.

He had an over 2k day yesterday on 1-2 and scooped a giant $1100 pot and later a $600 pot off a guy he got a read on using one of my strategies. Wow, that makes me feel really good. That's a great day for 1 -2 especially considering without the donkley poker tournament yesterday there were mostly just your daily nits. The biggest thing was he trusted his read, believed in it, and let the other guy dig his own hole. Early on he picked up some information on the guy--when he had a big hand and when he didn't.

On one hand he looked down at aces (poker is easy) but picked off a tell of strength from the wild loose player at the table. The guy made his standard 14x raise (yes, one of those maniacs we all hope to look down at Aces against when he is driving the action), and my man smooth called.

One other player rode shot gun. Flop came Jack high. The other guy pushed out $125. My Man raised and the target called. Third wheel saw he was overmatched and begrudingly got out of the way. Turn was another ace (poker is really easy). A check by my guy, maniac puts out a big bet. Hollywood by my man and a call. River was another Jack. Another savvy check by my guy, as he knew the maniac would bet and bet he does, maniac shoves for the rest of his 900 stack. Snapped off.

He knew the other guy had a hand like Kings or Queens (it was queens) and he didn't scare the guy away. Granted the turn and river made it a lot easier for him, but he extracted maximum value. He knew where he was in the hand and knew the opponent would put his chips in for him. He showed the appropriate fear of a scare card which might motivate Kings or Queens to think their hand was good and checked twice to induce the action.

That being said he deserves a lot of the credit for this hand (okay the dealer gets a lot of credit too). However, if he didn't know the opponent was strong he might have fired out some small bets and minimized his earnings. I'd much rather have a 2000 day myself but hearing about it really made me feel good. So weird, but when I hear about my friends poker success I get a gentle buzz from it, I love to hear about big pots they dragged. I know sometimes when people are running bad they might resent someone else's momentary monetary success but I guess I'm lucky because in those situations when I hear the stories retold I almost feel like I'm also winning.

BTW, I got a ton of respect for my man's overall playing ability and I'm impressed how quickly he's digest the little tricks I use and incorporated them into big returns.

What I'm a little scared about is he's also running good or should I say he's running really good. What happens when he makes the right play because of a read and then gets sucked out on three or four times in a row. It's so frustrating to figure out where you are in the hand time and again, and then get punished for making the correct razor thin call.

We have another session scheduled for this weekend and I'm going to bring to the table a few more tricks. He's also gearing up for the tournaments next week and I think he'll have a good showing. He's really tuned in, has a lot of confidence, and can handle the buy-ins without a thought. Our big area of focus will be bubble and early money play. He's found himself in those situations quite a bit (I told you he was good) and believes the difference will be reading his opponents. He sees others getting away from hands and exploiting weakness. I think he's added a lot to his arsenal and will feel more comfortable in that stage of the tournament.

Oh yeah, in the second pot he knew the guy had nothing and called him down for 600 with just an ordinary hand, I forget the details but how fun is it to dominate somebody like that?