Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A loss is a loss is a loss in poker and in football

The older I get, and the more I watch football the more I think it is much like poker. Some of what I'll say will probably get me in trouble with some LSU fans and some ardent Saints fans but I do think it's true, so sorry. It's kind of small point that I'm making but bare with me.

In the LSU game, Auburn beat them by but seven points but I'd argue LSU was beaten by the better team and should be less happy than the Saints. I know LSU lost by seven and the Saints lost by 13. I know Auburn is now the number one team in the BCS and Cleveland is still... well... Cleveland, but both games illustrate what a swing sport football is. I mean it's kind of like Omaha poker online.

In poker, one hand can cripple a chip leader and pump up a short stack. Doesn't matter if the chip leader has played brilliantly all day and the short-stack terrible. Hell, the chipleader can do everything right on the hand and the short stack get incredibly lucky and the short-stack can prevail.

I'd argue, LSU didn't do much at all against Auburn. They certainly didn't stop the quarterback or his running backs. Their best offense came in the form of a trick play and they were mostly stymied by a defense nobody thinks is all that good. Contrast that with the Saints. Drew Brees threw 4 interceptions, as he said afterward, he doesn't do that.

On that day he did. Two of them were for pick sixes meaning the Saints offense gave up 14 points, which turned out to be more than the margin of Cleveland's victory. Then, the Browns most effective plays were three trick plays. That's it.

You can boil that game down to that. I know that kicking and special teams are a facet of a team and a game. Yet, LSU dominated the kicking game by shoving Auburn on their goal line time and time again, but just like Cleveland's fake punt that isn't something you can build a season on. It might win you a game or two in the pros but it won't win you 10 games. It's kind of like being able to win all your races in poker, if you suck you are still going to lose those chips. Who cares if you've won a tournament you shouldn't have.

Long run, as angry as Saints fans are about the game on Sunday, it looked like a one off. Drew Brees isn’t giving too many opponents 14 points. Not too many opponents are going to get lucky enough to complete a batch of trick plays. Credit to Cleveland but that victory was down to a special blend of luck more than anything else.

I took the Saints in a survivor pool and I was fine to go out that way. Far better, than wrongly picking a team that got dominated on the field. Turnovers and trick plays were required to beat me? I’m good with that.

Still on the face of it, I have some LSU fans tell me they were a play away from winning the game against Auburn. Yes, just as Cleveland pulled off some doozies, LSU could have won, but the team (helped by home field advantage) that was the better team prevailed. The stats bare it out. Yes, it was a close game on the scoreboard but that’s really a tribute to the resolve of LSU. You could say the game winning touchdown was a swing play for Auburn, but even without it you got the feeling they were going to find a way to put points on the board.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Online Poker Empty Victory

Critics of online poker will tell you any victory in online poker games is an empty one. Okay, not going that route today, don’t want to get Nick Shulman on the World of Jenks on you but do want to express my frustrations again with cashing like Allen Kessler in big MTTs. Getting tired of doubling or tripling my buy-in at the lowly stakes I play at when there is so much more at the top of the payscale. I guess it’s better than losing.

Watched a bit of TK (TimKrank) win the Sunday Brawl--always can learn poker by watching it at a high level. He owned the final table and I saw he was the most willing to put his opponents to the test. The thing I got out it most was that it seemed like he was most willing to also put his toes in the water and withdraw them when his opponents showed strength, unless he had the hand to do battle. No matter how the previous hand went down he was always willing to apply more pressure.

Great to see that when he is playing for 20k and 30k pay jumps. I feel like when I’m running over a sit ‘n go it’s just that consistent, ruthless, and persistent aggression that wins the table. Course besides the buzz I get from winning, and hating to lose, the stakes couldn’t be more different. Still, it goes to show you what being successful requires.

I also saw how he minimized his bets when leaning on his opponents. Seemed like he better managed his stacks than all of them. I wouldn’t say I got a read on him, but I did start to get a sense of when he was going to fold or play back.

Not that it would be much help to me, as most of the reads were when action was back on him not before the pressure was applied. Maybe it was a timing tell but I did get a sense of his rythym. He battled back and forth in three way play and like I felt watching the beginning of the final table earlier it seemed like he was the only one risk losing the tournament right then to win it all later.

Congrats to him, that’s a nice score. Really impressive play too. I don't really know TK all that well but in the short interactions we've had he's been generous with his experience and counsel and I have a very high impression of him as a quality person. So great to see a score for him.

Monkey’s run in yet another event inspires confidence in me as well. I have a great respect for him as a live poker tournament player. He seems to know where he is in a hand, senses weakness extremely well, and knows when to dial it back down again if he gets his hand slapped at in the cookie jar. It amazes me how successful a player he can be and how until a couple of years ago he struggled with dialing it back down away from the felt. They seem to go hand in hand.

Though I guess you could argue, that they have gone hand in hand with him experiencing his greatest highs after some of his lowest lows and learning equilibrium away from the table and applying it on the table. Whatever he’s doing it’s working and I’m taking note of it too.

As the year draws toward a close with a busy local schedule ramping up I’ve reviewed some of my goals for the year and I feel a pressure to close it out strong. I’ve done some of the things I’ve set out to do but really have been away from the felt way too much. Course, I’ve busy in other areas of life and experienced new happinesses as a parent. Kind of hard to budget time with a new son into your goals for the year but I feel no qualm in taking time off from poker to be a solid parent. Though I don't want that to be a running excuse. So we'll see how the IP starts off this week for me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some Football over Poker... (Part 3 of 3) Auburn-LSU, Saints

So, I get back for the Auburn-Arkansas tussle, forgoing some Hold'em online and then watch an epic SEC clash. The highest scoring in league history. So much for firing up a Sit and go or two. All I could think about was the inevitable LSU-Auburn matchup.

Auburn has a guy who looks like what you’d get if you put Michael Vick, Vince Young, and Tim Tebow in a blender. The dude isn't human. He may be... heisman but not human. Yeah, no letters please I know that's atrocious. Can LSU shut him down?

It's strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness. In another irony, Auburn hired a defensive coach, the guy that recruited and steered the defense that former coach Tuberville leaned on during their national Championship* run, and yet the defenses under Chizik are among the worst the plains have seen in a long time. LSU quarterbacks might even be able to complete 15 passes against those slouches. Auburn-LSU always has thrilling end of games (with a weird stretch where the road team won more than the favored home team in vital matchups)... so I expect this doozy to be…. a doze-y. Yeah, double crossed you there, sounded like I was going to sell you on the game of the century but it won't be.

Nothing can live up to the hype this match-up should have. With the Mad Hatter end of game scenarios expired and Auburn's good fortune done… in reality they could have and maybe should have lost to Arkansas by 20+ points getting two huge replay calls to go their way that shouldn't have, they got the calls just as they've gotten the breaks all year, instead of an adrenaline filled heavy-weight bout, watch for one team to win by double digits but not break 21 and the game to be a stagnant snoozer.

LSU will take some of the polish off of Newton's heisman, and both teams will suffer a bit in the rankings after an ugly affair. Will look more like an SEC game than the ones Auburn has played so far this year.

I'll be a homer and take Auburn 20-9. That scoreline could easily could be reversed with LSU prevailing but I think the blue-orange Tigers ride another week while the Hatter’s luck runs out.
The next day, I ended up doing a family morning at the French Market in the quarter. Saw a cast-off Ohio State hat in the gutter. No surprise that some drunkard angrily tossed that after number 1 went down. Then when I got home, instead of playing poker I took in the double header that was the Saints-Bucs, and the Vikings-Cowboys.

In the NFL, the Saints seem to be back on track. I think people started to realize how important a player Reggie Bush is to the team, moreso off the ball than on, and will reevaluate the sentiment I heard before the season that he was a luxury. The Saints are banged up but tied for first in the division and likely to get healthy soon. I see them being playoff ready and with every single team in the NFC having at least two losses, I don’t see too many teams that are going to build into powerhouses.

Right now, as weird as it is to say, I feel pretty good about the Saints chances in returning to the Super Bowl. Once there, they’ll have to beat a very good AFC team but nobody seems to be separating from the Pack. The usual suspects look to be players at the end. The Colts seemed to have weathered the Super-Bowl loser’s jinx and the Patriots seem to be back on track.

The Steelers seem to be a threat to win it all every couple of years and it’s looking like one of those years. The Jets seem like they are a team not to trifle with but… none of those squads should strike fear into the Black and Gold. The Saints would be only a small underdog to only the best of those squads should everybody get healthy.

There are some other teams threatening to get over the hump. Houston, KC, and maybe Philly could have an impact in January but those three all seem at least a year away from doing something. They could catch fire like Arizona did a couple of years back but I don’t see them riding it to a SuperBowl victory (like the Giants did the year before).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Football over Poker... (Part 2 of 3) Auburn

So, I planned on sitting down to play Texas Hold'em poker Saturday morning. Changed that up to go to a farm. Got back to the Auburn-Arkansas game and put dabbling in some Omaha til later in the weekend. I've told you that much. I left you hanging with an email from my mom who knows about as much about football as the kid that sports an ascot on Glee. Here's her email:

"How about that Auburn football game Saturday! Cameron Newton is great. He can throw, he can run, he can fly, he can leap over tall linemen with a single bound! Wow! What a player! Your daddy and I watched the 65-43 game Saturday in the family room. Almost everytime I went into the kitchen, when I returned to the family room, someone had made a touchdown!"

I think if I were to ask her the names of other Auburn football players she'd probably only say Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson. There is some significance to that for those of you with a casual knowledge of college football history.

I think she might know “Cadillac” too, but I'm not sure. I will double check. The only sports team she comes close to watching is Auburn football and usually that consists of watching the Iron Bowl if Auburn is competitive in the game. That's it.

She’s the woman that used to cheer for the opposite team when I was playing sports as a kid because she couldn’t follow the action accurately. I used to run by the sideline and say, “Not the right time to clap mom.” “We’re shooting on the other goal, mom.” That was a bit of a distraction, but then I'd look at the families of our star basketball player showing up to games in sweatshirts bedazzled with "I'm XXX's mom!" ... or sister... or cousin, and I'd think maybe a mom that didn't know what was going on wasn't that bad a thing.

If she's paying attention to an Arkanasas game this early in the season I can't imagine what the general population of Alabama is doing in terms of getting excited for the team and for Newton.

Apparently, the name thing is genetic. Her mother is a Duke basketball fan. She's a much bigger sports fan than my mom. She watches every Duke basketball game, having gone there, but she only knows the names of the white kids unless he's Jason Williams, and Shane Battier (is he not white?). She’s 90 something and grew up in a different time. She’s also over the last 10 years had quite a shift in her thinking due to new members of her family. She’s definitely a lot more open-minded about a lot of things including race.

But some habits die hard. Several great basketball players have never gotten past the "boy" moniker. Conversations often go like, "Did you see when that boy shot that ball to win the game?" Depending on the era I would go "You mean Johnny Dawkins?" knowing it wasn't Danny Ferry, or "You mean Elton Brand?, or "You mean Carlos Boozer?"

She's also a Braves fan. You better believe she can tell you more than you want to know about Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and others... but the likely NL Rookie of the Year, is still "that young boy." He hasn't quite made it yet... as my Grandmother doesn't admit to knowing his name.

It's fun being an Auburn fan this year. This team easily could have only two wins. Instead they are undefeated, in the top five, and playing another top 10 team for the SEC's inside track for the national championship (at least until Bama plays them both). The team they play also could have more losses than wins but is undefeated. The Mad Hatter has no offense and another defense stocked by future NFLers

... more on my LSU-Auburn analysis to come tomorrow...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some Football over Poker... (Part 1 of 3) Farmville

This weekend I made an appointment to sit down and play some Texas Hold em online poker . I didn't keep that appointment. First I made it for Saturday, then I made it for Sunday. Neither happened. Not to say, I had an empty weekend. In fact, it was just the opposite. I was very busy. Real life keeps intervening in my forays in the virtual world.

May have to just put the son in day care and grind a nine to five poker job as I can’t seem to carve out time in my free time to do it as side job. For now, I’ll just have to keep reading bwin poker blog to keep tabs on real online players, that find the time to play.

Instead, I went with the wife and kid to a pumpkin patch on the North Shore. Okay, it wasn't a pumpkin patch. It was advertised as that but it was really just a farm, with an okay farm tour and a petting zoo.

Red Bluff farm, ever heard of it? Must say I like the name. I don't want to bash the place, because it's a fun place to go, kid friendly, parent friendly, and a pretty decent value for your entertainment money. I will probably go there again when my son is older and I would recommend it for others to spend a good wholesome half day there. Just don't expect something other than a visit to the farm.

Now, the negatives, the guy leading the tour talked a little too much to keep a kid's interest. I've done the bit where you have to recycle a spiel and the jokes lose their pop and the presentation loses it's sizzle with each repetition. So I know that's tough but instead of stretching it out he should focus on editing it down.

Another thing he should remember is it's all right to laugh at the navitte of the city folks to his family and his staff but poking fun at the ignorance of your guests to your guests isn't exactly going to endear them to you. Even if you think the majority will share in the humor, I would avoid it.

Still, watching them shear a sheep, milk a cow, and do some of the other farm stuff was worthwhile. There just weren't many pumpkins or much of a hayride at all. I don't even know if they grew their own pumpkins. So, billing it as something it might turn away some people too. Focus should be more on Halloween and less on the virtures of farming, but hey who am I to criticize they have a pretty good thing going.

Can't believe I just reviewed a farm trip. That was probably as entertaining as the tourguides jokes about what color cow makes chocolate milk...

Okay, we made it back in time for the instant Classic Auburn-Arkansas game. Game was insane. Despite a 20something point win by Auburn it easily could have been that big of a loss. Some just brutal instant replay reviews went against Arkansas in huge swing moments in the game. I don't want to hear any Auburn fans bitching about bad luck after what I've seen the first few weeks of the season.

Cameron Newton is a big deal. I know most of Auburn Nation must be running around like an Oprah Winfrey audience after she gave them a free car, because my mother, (if ya'll know my mother you know this is crazy) sends me the following email:

... oh, I guess I dangled a carrot (a journalism phrase Monkey refreshed my memory with recently), you'll have to wait til next time to read mom's email...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Live Poker, Online Poker, Home Poker (5 of... 4?)

So, I never finished up my home game recap where we played some Texas Holdem games as well as some Omaha poker. I ended up down a bit. But back to the previous post. I was in the middle of a hand with Ray.

I held 24 and was stuck a little bit. He popped it preflop and I called from the small (?) blind. Flop was queen high. I checked he bet out. I raised it after he asked if the cash in front of me also played. Only hand that scared me was AQ and considering the earlier hand I thought I might even get him to lay that down as the two other cards on the board made sense for the blind. Ray shoved, and I smiled and folded.

He turned over KQ. I told him I had 4 deuce off suit. He and Sam didn’t believe me, so I bet them that I would turn that over to recapture a piece of my bluff. They took the bet. I cashed everybody out and was short when it was my turn.

Sam, Ray, and Lee all tipped me for the beers and chips I purchased, but only Ray and Sam were left when I discovered I was short. We counted out one chip stack and found I overpaid one player a small amount but that didn’t explain most of what we were short. Ray threw some more money my way and I didn’t have to eat too much of a loss with the tips, but lesson learned if I host the next game I’m going to recount everybody’s chips.

I trust everybody that played, but I guess trusting somebody and trusting their counting skills are two different things as it’s easy to make a mistake. Still, it was a good night and I’m looking forward to the next one, realizing I’m already progressing as a PLO player. The scary thing is how boring hold’em feels when switching back from PLO (especially Hi-Lo and all its permutations).

No wonder people get hooked on that game. No hand is ever really dead, and the opposition could be betting anything. I’ve heard time and again how a successful strategy in PLO Hi-Lo cash games was just to play the low. You hit the high enough to scoop but halves of the pot you are almost foolish to just go after the hi.

Guess, I’d be better off asking a PLO expert like Poker Immersion’s Brian Lusk if there is some value in chasing the high hands too especially if everybody is sticking to the lows. Right. Isn’t that half the pot being unscooped most times, and when a low doesn’t manifest, the entire pot?

Yeah, you know what they say about being stupid, if you keep your mouth shut nobody will know it. You start talking everybody will. Good advice for people at the poker table. It’s so easy to place a person’s ability just on the garbage he talks. I guess writing a blog, unless I’m leveling the reader, is just as dangerous or on some levels embarrassing even.

I think I’ll keep my PLO ruminations to myself for here on out. I’m confident enough to talk about Hold’em but not about the other games. Lord knows I’m apparently a terrible 5 card draw player if I can use 12 hands as a reliable metric. That’s got to be statistically relevant right?

Okay, I think in the next few posts, like in real life I’ll take a break from poker, so more poker thoughts in a week or so.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Live Poker, Online Poker, Home Poker (4 of... 5)... Call me a bad planner one more after this one...

The finale for me in that Texas Holdem game came when I shoved under the gun, after having a discussion with Joe B about shoving utg with large blinds and antes. I subscribe to the school of thought of almost any two cards rather than getting into BB and losing that extra money of the BB or having lesser hands getting pot-stuck while you wait it out in the blinds.

One hand I don’t like from early position shoves is A or K rag, truth be told I’d rather two littles that are likely live, then getting out kicked. Maybe that's not good math and I need to re-learn poker. Still, in that situation at that time, I was going to fire and hope nobody wakes up with A10 or better. I had A rag and said oh well.

The Big Blind told me I was good but had to call me because of his massive stack. He had K10 and hit his 10. I headed for the exit with only myself to blame.
This week I also hosted the home game, and I enjoyed seeing Big Smoove, Lee Mc, Joe C, Kyle L, Teddy O, and Sam Cappo. We are all trying to learn PLO and some of us are even trying to learn Hold’em so we kept the blinds at 0.50 – 0.50 and played pot limit for both games. We had a number of people decline at the last moment that sounded very interested so hopefully we can keep building the game and make it a regular monthly thing.

The plan was to end the evening with a SNG but after playing cash that long nobody really wanted to commit to a tournament and we just kept playing games. I decided that after a round of Hold’em and Omaha we’d also play dealers choice. We played pineapple and five card draw.

Hard to believe but the five card draw did the most damage. In holdem and plo unlike the previous time we kept having big hands butt into each other. Still, nobody got too out of line and the chips were mostly bouncing back and forth. On the five card draw, I dealt out the first hand. Ted, who is probably the least experienced player, liked what he saw and raised. Kyle reraised and when action got to me I looked at two small pairs.

I calculated they were overplaying big pairs and popped in another raise. Ted potted it putting himself all in and me virtually all in. Kyle wisely folded. Ted asked for two cards and I knew I was drawing way too slim. I asked for one.
Ted showed his trips, Kyle showed his folded two pair, and I squeezed out the final card which was a brick. I thought two pair was a good five card draw starting hand but it lost three out of the five hands we played. Nobody went back to draw but that did open up the game a little.

Joe C ended up the big winner with Ray coming in second. Early in the night, I repopped ray on the river with a straight flush wheel. I made a remark when I entered the Omaha hand preflop that I shouldn’t be there. I was talking and called out of distraction with four cards of the same suit (yes, I am terrible 91034). Flop had A2 of my suit. The turn gave me the five, and I think I hit the huge hand like a pro barely flinching. When we got to the river, the board paired and Ray bet. I repopped him and he stewed forever before calling. He had a full house. A baby full house but I was shocked he didn’t throw another bet on there. Anyway, with that in mind I decided on the last hand of the night I was going to make a move on Ray.

To be continued...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Live Poker, Online Poker, Home Poker (3 of 4)... Listen to your gut

The turn was a donut but gave a weird straight and flush draw. I bet again, knowing this guy didn’t have AK from playing with him before and thinking I could get him off a lot of hands. He stayed in the fray and I got a queasy feeling I get when I play online poker and have no idea where I am in the hand.

The river brought the flush and the straight to the table. He led out with a pot-sized bet. It screamed to me an overbet that didn’t want to get called. If he had hit, why not check and let me lead the action. Well in textbook Holdem poker maybe he figured I’d be scared and check behind. If that was the case why not value bet?

Well, I had shown strength so maybe he thought I could call a pot-sized bet. I counted my chips and the 3600 would halve my stack (as I was near 7k after the betting) and I realized 7k was a decent stack for the second of third level we were at. However 3400 wasn’t. The pot was so big though.

I did pick up a tell on him for later. I took out the chips to call and he reacted, at the time I didn’t know what it meant, but I’ll know next time. Then I went over every hand and with 4th pair to the board I couldn’t figure out a holding he could have calling me twice that didn’t beat me. There wasn’t one that didn’t hit.

That was the other big hand of the tournament. My gut told me I was right to throw the chips in, but this time I lacked the gumption to do so. I lacked the courage to value bet a set against a tight player earlier and the courage to call a bluffer (despite every thing hitting) and that would be my demise. If he is to be believed he confided he was on air and missed. As everything hit, it was a strange choice of words but I do believe he was on nada, and he said he had decided to represent the flush if the card hit.

I battled thoughout and we got to just about two tables. You look at the trickle down effect, had I played my set for value, I would have had the chips to more easily call that guys bet and then been sitting on a very large stack. Things would have gotten easier. Instead I had an above average stack when I took a mortal wound when I raised under the gun with 99 (think I bet 2k).
A solid older player I’m friendly with that I’ve final tabled a few of the donkleys with was sitting on the button with about a starting stack. He showed some indecision and then shoved. Folded to me. I don’t think the guys an actor so I thought I was in a coinflip and there was too much money in the pot even if he struggled with shoving 1010 or JJ (for the record I don't think he would have).

He told me nice call and turned over 44.

He also gave me the kiss of death by congratulating me on the hand before the dealer laid out the rest of our fate. We know what that means. 4 on the flop. He started apologizing about getting there and I told him not too considering how many sets I hit on the day I was due for one back. I meant it. Can’t have it both ways. Besides getting unlucky on that hand wasn’t the cause of my new short-stack it was the earlier hands. Likely, he doesn’t make that move if I have more chips. Even if he does, I can more easily absorb that blow.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Live Poker, Online Poker, Home Poker (2 of 4)

Ironically, as he was talking about it I was opening up my hand range and trying to hit big hands against big stacks. Yes, I was playing just the way we were condemning in our conversation. Of course, I bled off chips as people wouldn’t really protect their hands and I never hit my draws. The Texas Hold'em poker tournament that day went pretty well for me from a cards perspective though bad as a player.

I found myself in a lot of odd spots which I guess is always true if you play poker tournaments often. The previous week I had stolen a lot of pots with big raises from position with middle pairs when five or six people limped and they’d all fold. I tried the same this week with nothing or little pairs (nothing) and everybody would call. One time I hit my pocket fives and boated on the River against Clint Schafer who stuck around to the end with top pair top kicker (AQ) and I doubled through him.

Another time I had pocket fives against a steady regular tight player. This is the hand I butchered. I’m embarrassed to write it but oh well… He opened from under the gun. Usually, a big hand. Lose player to his left seeing every flop called. Another guy called, and from the button I looked at my pair and said let’s do this.

I hit my set on the flop.

The tight reg bet out a “milking you kind of bet” on a queen, jack, five board. The other two folded. Hmmm. I called. The turn didn’t brought a flush draw. He bet again, I raised him, he called. The river hit the flush draw with a King, he checked. I… checked (?). He told me good hand and showed top two (KQ).

That was about the least I thought he could have. My analysis at the time was AK, JJ, QQ, AQ, KK, AA. AK suited for the flush was eliminated when the King of hearts hit the board, but AQ wasn’t (as the Queen on the board wasn’t hearts). JJ, QQ, KK crush me. I kill AK and AA, and all but one AQ(s). In retrospect I gave the guy too much credit.

He hits top or middle set why not check the flop? He won’t do that every time as he bets his hands when they hit in this tournament knowing that’s the only way he’ll get paid, but with no draws on board I got to think most times he checks them. KK and AA might bet there with two to act behind. KK catches me on the river but why check when you know you probably just caught up against an opponent that reraised. AA might bet twice and check the river.

Anyway, I should have doubled up that hand and pressed the action. It’s obvious in looking back even if I didn’t see it at the time. I came to regret that hand.
Did I tell you pocket fives were running hot for me? Well, they were. In another hand I had a table of limpers and I popped it from late position. A middle position player who likes to bluff a lot in general but had just been showing down winners in amassing a stack on this day repopped me. He easily had me covered and I’ve seen him stick it in in similar spots so I didn’t want to shove, though the idea crossed my mind.

I took a flop with him, in position, and we might have had another player with us. It came out King high. He checked (the other guy checked), I bet. Loose guy called. Other player headed for the hills.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Live Poker, Online Poker, Home Poker (1 of 4)

Okay, lots to catch up with. Let's start with when I got time to play online poker, I went deep in another huge low buy-in tournament but didn't win the thing. Would be nice to stop hitting the teens, twenties, and thirties and start splashing around in the big payouts of first, second, and third. I can't even remember how I busted out. I must have run good though because even though I single tabled, I was doing a ton of other stuff I needed to do while playing.

It's weird I've been playing the bigger multi-table tournaments with a strategy of just being wild and loose and teaching myself how to learn poker from a new perspective and I found some success doing that. But the last couple, I got away from it and played my normal nitty game without giving it much thought. Fortunately, I've had the same type of results. Certainly, I picked some spots to make some plays that maybe I used not to, exploiting my image a little bit more, but it's like I forgot why I began playing these low buy-ins on the Internet. It's less about winning these things then getting used to situations and spots I'll encounter in live tournaments, and trying new things.

I know, sour grapes from a guy that's running good, what's worse? Still, sometimes it's easy to lose focus. As much as I am trying to earn money playing poker, I also get other benefits from the game. It's a stress release and an entertainment outlet still , and perhaps as my time has gotten more precious maybe that’s what I'm innately looking for and why I’m staying closer to lower stakes. Maybe I’m craving the relaxation poker offers at this point more than being as competitively invested as I used to be.

Maybe that’s also why the last couple of tournaments I’ve played I’ve been about maximizing the playing the time and not been ruthless enough to just focus on winning. I don’t know, getting introspective about online poker, while I worthwhile thought exercise, seems to only give me different answers on different days. It could be just the opposite, I’m intensely competitive so it could be I’m just falling back into what I know works to be successful on that particular day rather than making the sacrifices and adjustments to be more successful in the long run.

I think many former athletes are drawn to poker because of the competition, and many driven players will invest the time to improve. I’m definitely recognizing the value of coming to the game early. Had I been playing in college, right after giving up sports, perhaps online poker is where I would have poured in that energy. From Doyle Brunson (that's him pictured getting his George Mikan on) to Jason Mercier there is a long history of guys giving up sports and finding poker.

It’s a bit of a young man’s game because as you get older, with a wife and kid, you can’t just grind for 20 hours straight. You have to make appointments to play almost and it can be tedious. After, the last tournament at Harrahs (which I’ll get to even though I never finished up writing about the one I chipped) I talked to notable local cash game legend and enthusiast Joe B, and we discussed some live players mindsets.

He’s observed how players who get pulled away from the game by life will come into Harrahs trying to have that $1000 day in 1-2 every time. They’ll push edges and perceived edges they shouldn't and just make confetti out of their limited bankrolls. He’s seen it in mutual friends and it was a good warning for me.

To be continued...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Smart Kids...

Ummm. How do you do this? I got 11 months to turn my boy into this brainiac...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Link Dumps, Funny Video, and Online Poker

Played some online poker last night and only found a single Multi-Table Texas Holdem poker tournament that I wanted to play. As usual, one tabling online leads to a little bit of boredom. For whatever reason I didn't feel like playing Online Sit and go poker tournaments in conjunction like I normally do. So I surfed the net. Below are some of the more interesting places I visited.

First a video:

The greates Fail videos of the year. Some good ones, some seen a ton ones, and a few new ones sprinkled in there. Might need to fast forward but not a bad way to kill time waiting for a playable hand or guys nursing the time clock on the bubble. BTW, people are saying that's an angle in a debate on 2+2. What? You got a timebank to use any way you want it. I don't like it but it's a part of the game.

-I'm not big on the whole concept that we are a secretly evil country and deserve international hatred. Too much of a patriot, I guess, but sometimes you gotta wonder if the quacks aren't all that off, for example, we gave syphillis and gonnerehea (sorry, I'm not up on the spelling of STDs) to Guatemala. That was nice of us.

-I like Nutella but not this much.

-How not to spell congratulations on a cake.

-Les is less than stable. What a weird explanation just for the pattern of his speech and the strange emphasis on syllables. No wonder confusion reigns at LSU in late game situations. You have to love how the Mad Hatter just starts yelling at weird times and laughing at others. He's like Christopher Walken without the funny or the cowbell.

-Tiger Woods' roster of marriage breakers for a while had a lot in common with all the women coming out of Bill Clinton's bedroom. Every new one was met with a one word question... her? Speaking of Clinton every once in a while you'd see an old picture of Gennifer Flowers in her prime or Hillary in her... well of Hillary anytime... and you go, alright, I kind of get it.

But for Tiger whose ex-wife is light years hotter than any of the trash he swapped fluids with you never really understood it (except for that old maxim... show me a hottie and I can find you a guy who is tired of her). Course this Italian reality star (NSFW link) at least kind of gives you pause and upgrades Tigers indescretions a little bit.

-Okay, staying on the theme of pretty girls, I also visited a site with the top cheerleading squads in the NFL. Predictably Dallas made the list but so too did Tampa Bay and Miami from some what local places. The sole cold weather site to make the top 5 was Denver. San Diego was the other one on the list. Maybe they just have the best outfits. Go here to do some research.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Harrahs Weekly Poker Donkley 9.29 part 2

Anytime you play Texas Hold'em poker you got to make big calls if you are going to be a winner in the session or go deep in the tournament. In the previous post, I was deliberating whether or not to make one.

The worst is where you make a great call and then it turns into poker bad beat with a bad follow-up card but here there were no more cards to come.

His 1500 bet didn’t make sense. I knew he had watched me find folds before so this screamed steal. I looked for tells (that’s too specific really as I more accurately tried to get a feel for his confidence as it’s not like there is a checklist I go through... even if maybe there should be).

There is a less than reliable tell where the player tries to appear casual under pressure. It’s a subtle thing, but it's tricky because it’s one a lot of players will actually honestly display, or not hide, when they do have a hand. It’s not the easiest thing to look for. So you have to decide are they acting or are they really comfortable? Another tell on display is when a player looks away from the table as you are in thought, which is usually a sign of strength. It’s as though they don’t want to scare you out of calling by making eye contact or doing anything confrontational.

This guy was doing a little of both. He talked to the waitress but wasn’t ordering. Spider sense tingling…

I only had a pair of 8s and the river was another overcard so I didn’t love this spot. However, I thought even AK might be good here too, as I gave him nohting. Then he engaged in a brief conversation with a player to his side and my gut knew it even if my brain didn’t. He was feigning casualness and I thought him on a two-overcard bluff. The lookaway wasn’t an attempt to avoid a locking of the eyes or scare away an opponent it was an attempt to look disinterested (ie be casual) and the two conversations were also attempts at the same.

I called, knowing that I was putting a big piece of my stack into the pot with a measley pair of eights, against an opponent who had called me twice earlier in the hand. I had checked hoping for a showdown or a bluff catching call, but this was a bigger bluff than I wanted. Still the knowledge that he had watched me find folds to similar, but smaller, bets gave me some optimism my chips were coming back to me. Plus, he was a wise enough older player who might look for nits like myself to exploit.

He stewed for a little bit, and told me good call. He tried to induce me to turn over my cards (was not going to happen). He shuffled them and the dealer urged him to show them. He didn’t want to, but I figured he might have had something more than I gave him credit for like maybe second pair on the turn. Now, I found myself wanting him to muck so much for thinking I was Kenny "sick call" Tran.

At last he did, saying “I can’t win.” I weighed my options. Do I show my bluff-catcher or do I continue to let the table think they can come at me and conceal it. When I was sure his hand was fully in the muck and as I was collecting the pot, I shot the 8 out face up. I could have shown the 4 to really get his goat if he also had an eight, but I didn’t feel it necessary and I didn’t want him to scramble toward the muck or think that I had shown him up.

He didn’t react much one way or the other. So maybe the 8 was enough. I got an accolade from another player who told me good call (and maybe that was all I really wanted by showing... as we all like an ego boost here and there especially in tournaments where most times you aren’t going to find the money).

... to be continued...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Harrahs Weekly Poker Donkley 9.29 part 1

Alright, so I’m going to go into a little bit about my chop in the weekly Wednesday Texas Hold'em poker tournament over at Harrahs. As previously, mentioned I rode a little bit of luck, I exploited my table image, and had the right timing to not bang into a hand whenever I made a move.

I also found folds where sometimes I wouldn’t and had the courage to shove in places I hadn’t before. I’ve previously written that I think this tournament requires a bit of a different poker strategy because of the way they’ve set it up. In fact, it’s more like a Mega satellite poker strategy than you standard poker tournament strategy.

I think the blind structure is carefully crafted to induce a chop about four hours into the tournament and to get the poker dealers, floor people, and poker players elsewhere as quick as possible. So in some ways, when you approach the endgame you have to understand that eventually the blinds will overwhelm you and rational players will have to chop.

At some point there reaches a time where you shift gears away from amassing chips to win (or more vitally to influence the chop break-down) to making sure you survive to the chop and you have enough chips to merit a big portion of it. Of course, if you see the other players adopting that strategy exploit it.

More on that as it applies to this particular tournament later, as there were some funny variables that arose out of our discussions for a split of the cash.

Early on I didn’t enter many pots and never really put my chips at risk. I slowly chipped up and found myself folding to bigger river bets. In short succession, there were two hands where I had that feeling that my opponent was just stealing by throwing out a big bet to steal the pot. In the first one and maybe the second I eyed the pot and decided it wasn’t worth the size of the bet they made to call. I waited for tells and I didn’t get a good read on either.

The second one of course felt like salt being poured a bit on the wounds. I watched a third player study me intently in that hand as I folded probably second pair with some consternation. Hmmm, I filed that away.

Sure enough we got into a hand. I was in the blind with garbage in a multi-way pot. Flop came out 866. I had 8-4 I believe. There were a couple of tight regulars that were involved and I was pretty sure they missed but a hand like 99 was a possibility for the one in early position, so I wanted to thin the field and see where I stood.

I led into the pot. The early postion tight regular hemmed and hawed and looked down at the players after him to act. He didn’t want to fold but he did. His position and the fact, I could easily have a six in the big blind there got him out. The guy that eyeballed me before chucked his chips in and we were heads up. The turn gave me a flush draw but put a higher straight draw out there two. I think it was the nine of hearts. I bet again and he called.

River was a non heart 10. I checked hoping to get to showdown. He fired a 1500 bet. You start with 5k in chips, and it was early so the pot might have only been 700 total. I went deep into the tank.

... to be continued...