shipitfish: (Default)

[ [ profile] swolfe recently complained that I hadn't finished my Texas trip posts. So, four months late, I pick up continuing story of my Dallas poker week. I wrote previous posts about Monday night and Tuesday, Club 1 and Tuesday, Club 2. Here's the post about Tuesday, Club 3. ]

After leaving the gimmicky club that I previously described, we headed to what I considered the best club we visited that week. It was run by the same fellow (F.J.) who ran the club we'd visited Monday night, but in a different location.

Steve indicated a few reasons that some club owners run in multiple locations. First, it keeps the clubs small and irregular, which helps avoid busts. A club that runs eight hours every single night is much more likely to get busted than one that is only open twice a week. Second, there are a lot of luck-oriented players around the Dallas poker scene. If they are running bad at a particular club, they won't go there anymore, but are willing to come to another.

Indeed, there wasn't a lot of overlap in clientele at this new club. It was bigger than F.J.'s other single-table place; there were two full tables going when we arrived. We got a seat on the back table by the windows.

The game was extremely loose, with two or three calling stations taking almost any hand they played to the river if they hit anything. A few aggressive players were in the game; Steve pointed one out to me as a fellow who'd done well in some WSoP satellite events, but was actually a pretty horrible player. Steve said something like a big chunk of my bankroll is from that guy. I started calling him “Bankroll Builder” in my head at that point.

As it turned out, however, my largest confrontation was with someone Steve identified as one of the better players at the table. This fellow had raised UTG to $25 — relatively standard in this $2/$5 game — and gotten a small reraise the aggressive Bankroll Builder, and a cold call in between. In the small blind, I found AA. I didn't really want to play this hand out of position on the flop with much money behind, so I made it $300 to go, hoping to get reraised for my last $200 somehow. I felt I was basically announcing my hand to the field, but thought the aggressive reraiser might have a hand like QQ and go with it, and if the strong UTG player had KK, he might not be able to fold it — giving me QQ instead.

After a short speech about how he has to have the best hand, this “good” player went all in, and Bankroll Builder went into the tank, and eventually folded what he says was a pair — frankly I think it was just 88 or something. I called immediately found myself up against AKo.

Business was quickly offered. This was a tough spot for me. Of course, the odds don't change if you run six full boards from the whole remaining deck, but I'm not really used to playing $1,000+ pots. I told the fellow I'd do any sort of business he decided — he could name what he wanted. I am used to leaving it all up to luck once the decisions are made, so this seemed to be a way to do that.

He wanted to run it twice, and then asked: two boards or two turn/rivers?. I told him it was up to him again. I just wanted the whole moment over with. He decided on two full boards, which he felt gave him the best chance (probably true), and I was glad to see the first board left me “freerolling”. The second board came with four spades, and that gave his Ks a flush, and the As was sadly the only ace not in play.

I, of course, wish I'd refused business, but besides wanting to leave it up to someone else what happened after I made the actual poker decisions, I also didn't want to hurt the morays of the Dallas poker scene, either. We did chop up the reraise and the cold-call, so it wasn't a loss against the rake, but I still felt like I made a bad decision and that I should have, for example, offered two turn/rivers instead of two full boards.

That was basically the only major hand I played, although I got paid off with turned trips by one of the calling stations, and I played a big draw meekly and won (and was admonished by Steve and a friend of his, a strong player who was dealing for the evening for not potting it all the way to the river). But, as for the poker, those were the only notable occurrences.

I really liked the club. Like the others in Dallas, the space was wide and open. The dealers were friendly but not distracting; the staff was attentive. The whole story at these places was service — it's so different than the abysmal places here in NYC. Heck, these places were even nicer and more accommodating to players than some casinos I've visited.

Steve wasn't a fan of the plaid-ish felt at this place, as it was admittedly a bit too textured and certainly not great to look at. But, given that I was only playing there for a night, I found it to be rather nice.

Finally, the thing I can't stop talking about these places is how nice the players are. There was virtually no dealer abuse. The bankroll builder guy was a bit rude at one point, and but F. J. pulled him aside quite quickly and got him back on track. I suppose I might be able to stand playing poker for a lot longer in an environment like this. I admit to some biases about the so-called “red states”, being the east-coast hyper-liberal that I am, but as long as I avoided discussing politics, I found the whole environment incredibly friendly.

As we left, F.J. even came by and shook my hand and asked if I was enjoying my visit to Dallas. I can't imagine any owner of a NYC club even noticing that a new player had come and wanting to make them feel welcome. Club owners around here could certainly learn a lot from these guys.

Steve dropped me back at my hotel, and I was glad to have had a small winning session, but was still down a lot for the trip. I wished I could have spent more time at F.J.'s club, as I felt that game was the softest and easiest for me to beat of the ones we'd seen. F.J.'s other club was running the next night, so I'd get one more visit there to finish up the Dallas nights. For the weekend, it was off to a nearby casino!

shipitfish: (Default)

Here's another one of these. I am only even considering I made a mistake because the player in question was extremely tight.

In a $1/$2 NL HE $200 Max online, 10 players, the hijack seat limps, cutoff raises all-in for $8.50. I reraise to $25-to-go (having started the hand with $250) from the SB with Ks Kh. An Ultra-Tight player in the BB (who has me covered) smooth-calls and the limper folds. I have Ultra-Tight on QQ or AA, maybe AKs, but he probably folds even the latter 90% of the time in that spot.

The flop is Ad Kc Qd. I check with the intention of raising, since I know he probably flopped a set. He bets $20, I raise to $100, and he goes all in and I call immediately, expecting to either see a set of queens or of aces. It's aces.

I should never, ever consider just betting out and being done with the hand if he stays in the pot, right? I should try to get the money in, right?

Man, playing poker this many hours yields set-over-set too often. :)

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

I mentioned recently that my lack of entries in January was caused in part by an experiment I was conducting. The experiment actually continues, as I decided to extend it, but I will give a brief report for the standings right now.

The crux of the experiment was to see if I could make enough money to keep my current lifestyle should I play poker professionally full-time rather than merely part-time. An analysis I did last year, showed that playing only 16 hours a week, I was earning at a rate of around $10-$14/hour. Obviously, in my non-poker life, I make more than that, so this part-time job couldn't replace my full-time one at this rate.

So, I began to think about how I could increase the earn rate substantially. One thought was to move up in stakes from my usual $1/$2 and $2/$5 NL/PL (or $5/$10 and $10/$20 limit) to something much bigger. This is a dangerous move, especially if I were to play full-time hours, because I have no history (other than a few short sessions) in bigger games, even if I am adequately bankrolled.

I decided to do some more poker reading and thinking about the game. I looked for a few leaks. But, as I started my month of full-time hours, I still found myself winning around $12/hour in the $1/$2 NL HE games I was playing. It's clear to me that against reasonably strong opponents (i.e., the type who don't often stack off with one pair, and can read situations reasonably well), that's about the best I'm going to get.

So, it leaves two basic choices: move up in stakes, or find better games. I'd eliminated the former, so I was left with the latter.

I had done the first 14 days of the month playing the usual online sites. But, Full Tilt had been inundated with the Party Poker refugee sharks, and the games that were awesome in December ($1/$2, $200 max NL HE 6-max) had become, by mid-January, a constant battle to take money from the occasional weak player. Even Ultimate Bet, the once tight-weak-but-overplay-one-pair paradise has increased in its occurrence of multi-tabling pros. Other than the heads up games there — an extremely high variance form of poker — there wasn't much dead money to collect.

This brought me to around the 14th of January. I thought about focusing to live play. But, the costs are heavy. I could rent a cars (I've vowed to never use Greyhound again) to visit AC regularly, but I couldn't get away from work that easily. (I have a lot going on at my other job right now, too.) The NYC clubs are profitable, but nowhere near as good at the AC games. They are also hyper-aggressive, which leads to more variance.

So, I decided I had to become a online poker game selection specialist. I bought into every site I ever heard of. I sweated games. I found out when and where the really horrible players show up. And, my results improved. From the 14th to the 31st, I earned $79/hour multi-tabling $1/$2 ($200 max), $.5/$1 ($100 max), and occasionally $2/$4 ($400 max) NL HE. Plus, I made an additional $1,850 in online bonuses and promotions. These are results one could live on.

Of course, I don't think these will be typical by any means. I don't seem to have gotten amazingly lucky, it's really that I have found fields with opponents whose knowledge of the game is so abysmal that they cannot help but lose large amounts of money. Such fields are a rare find, and online poker moves and changes so fast (especially given the financial unraveling occurring in the USA), that there is absolutely no certainty that any good games will be available in just a few months.

However, my live sessions in Atlantic City and other casinos show that it's likely that I could probably earn a reasonable living as a full-time pro. Let's assume my results are highly anomalous (one month can't really show you a long term thing), and that if my game selection skills stay excellent, I'll earn somewhere at the halfway point between my historical results and these recent ones. That's certainly being optimistic, but it gives a good “best case” scenario of full-time pro life. If this estimate is accurate, I'd make my hourly rate somewhere $35-$45/hour. That's $75,000 to $90,000 each year, assuming normal work weeks and two weeks of vacation. That's completely without other benefits, of course.

However, even in the best case, when online poker ends, I'd doubt I'll be able to make much more than $50,000 or so a year at it unless my skill improves substantially or the games stay as easy as they are. (I think the latter is highly unlikely, and the former would be a substantial investment on my part). Even if the games stay good, much of the great EV comes from the multi-tabling and fast dealing online. Even $50k/year might be optimistic for live play unless I get much better and move way up in stakes.

I suppose I'm not giving too much about my personal finances away when I say that $50,000/year without benefits and only two weeks of vacation/sick days is not really close to my current lifestyle.

That said, I'm thinking of continuing with the experiment a while longer. I'm curious to see how long I can keep up the win rate. While it leads to very little free time between the two full-time jobs, I'd like to have a go for one more month and see how it works out. I'll keep you all posted, but it'll be sporadic.

shipitfish: (cincinnati-kid-betting)

Usually, people spend the most time talking about hands where the situation is very close. I think this situation is a close one, but I'd appreciate comments if people think I'm overlooking something.

This is in 6 handed $200 maximum buy in $1/$2 NL HE game online. The button is a new player, having just posted his first blind this round. I sat down a few orbits before and I have only a little over $200. The button has $197, and raises to $7 when the action folds to him.

I called $7 in the SB with 9c 9h, and the big blind folded. The pot stands at $16 with a flop of 2d 3c 5s.

I bet out $9 into $16, figuring for a fold if he has overcards and a raise if he has an overpair. I'm not going all the way with this hand if he raises; I'll give him credit for TT or something and fold. He just calls. I figure he's capable of doing this with just overcards with an ace for a gutshot. He also could be slow-playing a monster, but I didn't get the sense he could have an overpair, because unless it's aces, he can't really let a card come off.

The turn is the 9s and I led $15 into $34. My hope is that now he continues to call if he just has overcards, and perhaps decides to pounce now if he does have aces or some such. Again he just calls.

At this point, I admit to being confused about his holding. He could have flopped a set, which he continues to slowplay. A4 is possibility, but it seems strange he'd slowplay that now with a two flush on board.

The river is the Qd. I led $50 into $64. At this point, if he has AQ and has been ripping with overcards and a gutshot, I figure he'll just call. I was a bit surprised when he moved all-in for $116 more. I didn't really think he'd slow-played QQ all the way down, and that was about as likely as a pure bluff with a missed straight draw — probably together they make up 5% of the time at most and cancel each other out. I decide that he either has A4, or one of the flopped sets, and decide to call, getting nearly 1-to-1.5. He actually held the stone cold, 46o.

It seems to me that I just have to get stacked here, and I'm not terribly unhappy about the play. But, I've been running badly enough that I am in that mood of questioning these sorts of situations and wanting to be really sure I didn't screw up.

I thought a bit about betting less on the river, which would have made it much easier to fold to an all-in. But I felt that there were some hands that would pay off that amount, and given that I didn't know anything about the player, he could easily have misplayed aces or a flopped set.

The other post mortem thought I had was to bet much more on the turn, something an overbet of around $40. The problem is, he might still just call with a flopped set, so the overbet doesn't actually tell me whether he has a flopped straight or not.

Did I royally screw up here, and if so, how should have I played it to lose less? Is this really a close situation, or did I just totally miss the obvious?

shipitfish: (Default)

W.D. and I decided to go to Atlantic City on Saturday 30 December 2006. I believe that it had been over two years since my last to Atlantic City. It just usually ends up that I go to Foxwoods, since I know so many people from the Boston poker world.

We were pretty frustrated to learn that the Borgata no longer has a poker room rate like the old days — at least for anyone who plays lower than $40/$80 limit. I checked in with a few staffers, and they said that they, in fact, have very little control of room rates anymore. According to a brush and two floor people, the room rates are controlled completely by the casino hosts, and they chose whether or not to make offers of rates against someone's player account.

I had been curious about what NL HE in Atlantic City had become. I heard rumors that a lot of mediocre players were beating these games regularly for large amounts of money. I quickly found out why. The players are so bad that a well-trained child could beat the game, if they had enough bankroll to survive the variance. The action is just amazing.

It's this weird scenario of the clueless leading the clueless. The “strong, sharky players” at the table are these overplay one-pair types who think they should get every dime in the pot with an overpair. They are trivial to read because they play almost no hands and they turn up their nose at players who take flops in multiway pots with oddball hands: They must be donkeys if they play hands not in Sklanksy's list. These people would probably do ok at limit, but because they get so many chips in with one pair, they are actually helpless at NL HE and don't really realize it.

But that's only 2-3 players each table. The rest of the players are just completely lost. I mean that almost literally. We had a guy at our table who had never played poker at a casino before. He was actually a pretty nice guy (which nicely offset the constant whining of the “good players” ranting about how many times they posted on 2+2 or somesuch). This older gentleman was nice and trying his best to post his blinds, stop himself from splashing the pot, and otherwise avoid breaking every last poker casino protocol. But, unlike some others at the table who just flagrantly ignored poker etiquette no matter what anyone said, he asked us to tell him when he made a mistake so he could learn.

The variance was brutal, as I kept getting nice situations to put in my stack in as somewhere between a 60%-80% favorite and losing. I won't violate my journal's “no bad beat story” rule and tell details, but I was quite sure I had positive EV enough that I need not post these hands to ask if I played them right.

The only truly questionable hand that I played was actually a hand against that kind older gentleman. To set it up, I should note that he was clearly a limit stud home game player (he noted he'd been playing for years but never in a casino), and he got easily confused about how and when to bet. He would bet (what we believed was) top pair by overbetting the pot 6-to-1 or so, and would never get called (hence the “we believed” part). When he had a reasonably strong hand — two pair or better — he'd often call down the whole way, so it was difficult to tell his true strength. W.D. lost a bunch betting two pair into his flopped flush this way; W.D. thought the fellow was drawing. I got caught by something similar, but I think maybe I didn't make a mistake given his wide range. Here's the hand:

I raised to $10 from middle position with QJs, which I'm typically doing in this game. I actually do get called by weaker Q-highs and J-highs (people will play basically any face card with a kicker above an 8 in this game for a small raise). It folded to our older friend on the button, and he just called. We saw a flop of QQ3 heads up, with two suits. I bet $20 into $23 and he just called. I figure his mostly likely holdings are a flush draw, or the case Q.

The turn was an offsuit K, and I led for $50 into $63, and he called again. Of course, he would play the entire range of 33, AQ, KQ, QJ, QT, Q9, and Q8 this way. (I actually do think he would have reraised preflop with KK.) So, I felt there was basically no way I can eliminate any of these hands unless he raised; I kept reminding myself throughout the hand to instantly fold if he raised and looked strong. Baring that, I wanted him to keep calling with a weaker Q. I knew from other hands that bets sizes around $75 or so actually caused him to pause when he had a draw, so I tried to keep him drawing if he was.

The river was an offsuit 2, and I decide ultimately to give him one of the queens I was beating, and bet $75. This assured a call from everything but the flush draw, and if he did raise, I was surely beat. He just called.

This is where things got confusing for everyone. I tabled my hand as quickly as the calling chips went into the pot, as I always do when I am last aggressor on the river. The dealer looked at my hand, and collected the pot into a pile. A second or so went buy; our friend flipped his hand, and I saw a black trey flash. Before I could see his whole hand, the dealer was shipping the pot to me. I looked up and saw three threes laying out in front board (our friend was in the five seat near the board). My hypothalamus pot scooping reflexes kicked in to collect the pot headed my just as I realized what was happening. Yet, the pot had already hit a small stack of red chips out in front of my main stack.

By the time I looked up at the dealer and opened my mouth, the whole table was in an uproar. The dealer had misawarded the pot. The 2+2-obsessed guy to my right said: just give him the pot, you know which chips are yours and which were in the pot. I actually didn't. A red chip or two definitely got confused, and I certainly recall touching some of the pot's chips as they came toward me, so I couldn't be sure that I hadn't absent-mindedly stacked them while the treys were swirling and the dealer was misreading the board.

Floor came over and didn't know what to do. I immediately conceded that the other player had won the pot, but before his hand had been properly read by the dealer, the dealer had misawarded the pot. Meanwhile, 2+2 guy yelled in my ear louder than usual, saying I should give him the money and move on. The floor guy did not, unfortunately, take control of the situation.

After another five seconds went by, I said: Look, I saw treys full of Qs. I know the pot is his. I remember the action. Let's take my chips, and reconstruct it street by street together.

We did so, going backwards from the $75 on the river, and we rebuilt the pot by putting chips from my stack in front of me and the older gentlemen to represent each bet that was made. Then, just as I finished, saying: And three whites for the blinds who folded and tossed those in, the dealer grabbed the pot and started shipping it.

I said, Wait, that's the action, now I'm owed $4 for the rake. The entire table erupted in rabble-rabble-rabble. The dealer and the floor person argued that since the rake had already been taken, I wasn't owed anything from the pot. But we've already dropped the rake, they kept saying.

I gave them two full go-rounds of: That's exactly my point. The rake was taken by the house, from the original pot. We've reconstructed every bet made, including the blinds, and therefore the pot out there that constructed from my stack is the pre-rake pot. Since every chip came from my stack, and you've already dropped $4 from the old pot, $4 in the newly reconstructed pot goes to me. Then, they finally agreed, looking more like they were appeasing than believing me. This whole damn table was a tribute to the cluelessness of the human race — me included with my distracted ill-gotten pot stacking.

Frankly, the floor shouldn't have let me take charge. I did because it seemed the only way to keep the game moving, because I'd heard the word “camera” mentioned, and I didn't want the game held while they went to see if the dealer really did misread the board, etc. I saw the treys-full distinctly after the pot was already in front of me, and was happy to just do what needed to be done to get the guy his money and get to the next hand.

It was, however, a bit humiliating to be the only one who remembered every last bet of the action, and then to be in charge of reconstructing it so I could give $155 over to a guy who had no clue what was going on. And, of course the dealer made a completely rookie mistake, and the floor guy didn't do his job, either. I sure hope the guy forgot, as he kept doing all night anyway, to tip the dealer that time.

Anyway, I still think I couldn't have played the hand differently. That's a tough thing about someone who is completely new. It's actually more challenging to read them than the “good players” because their range is so big. I was ready to fold, basically on ever street, if he raised. (Unless, of course, the dude tried a bluff, because he actually was the first person I ever saw who had every single Caro bluffing tell at once, so I surely would have known.) But given that he just called every street, how can I not lose the amount that I did?

I should note this exact same thing happened to me in the 2/5 game at Foxwoods early in 2006, where I held AT on TT5 heads-up against a player who was brand new — never having played poker at all before. That fellow actually had trouble reading the board over and over, called everyone all the way to the river and asking the dealer to read his hand for him. I mean, I've learned how to fold open trips since my previous disasters, but, in the future, should I just check them down, particularly against players this clueless? ;)

Regarding the Borgata's amenities: I like the new poker room, but I wish people would get used to the smoking ban and stop wandering in drunk with lit cigarettes like idiots. The salad place at the food court below is nowhere near as good as the fast food at Foxwoods, but also isn't bad at all.

Finally, I don't think the 2/5 game is worth it there. I sweated one for a while, the players are much better than at 1/2. It's probably somewhat beatable and has substantially less variance, but with a buy-in of only $500, you can pick up easier (and likely more) money playing the $300 buy-in 1/2 game.

The limit action is presumably pretty good still, but I didn't wander over my old $6/$12 grounds, since the NL HE games were so beatable-by-morons easy. Ted Forrest was there playing $1,000/$2,000 H.O.S.E. (Although with another semi-famous pro whose name came immediately to me when I saw his face, but whom I've now completely forgotten other than his first name begins with a “D”.) I kept taking the long route to the bathroom to gawk, including one time when they had called security to shoo rail birds away, and to set up a perimeter (why didn't they do the latter from the start?). Ted wasn't doing well, I don't think. I saw him with chips and a stack of cash on one pass and later with just cash, although it was admittedly hard to see, so I don't want to start false rumors of Forrest losing at the $1k/$2k game at the Borgata.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

This is an online hand that I played very poorly. (Maybe I should post the good hands once in a while, but what's the point of talking about the right things one does? Focus on the mistakes to get better, right?) There are so many mistakes in this hand, I'm not sure which one to focus on. I will just lay them all out to you.

In a six-handed NL HE $.50/$1 game. I am in the $.50 small blind with $218, Jagsmith84 (with $42) is is in middle position, followed by BigGross ($99), followed by rotncotn ($473).

Jagsmith84 limps, BigGross min-raises, rotncotn calls, and I call with Ad Ks . I usually call with AK out of position rather than raise, as I don't want to build a big pot preflop.

The flop was Th 9d Ah. Checked to BigGross, who bets $9, and everyone calls. Perhaps I should have bet out. I know there is a heart draw out, but I don't know where, and check-raising is going to built the pot too big if aces-up are out (people on this site generally overvalue weak aces). I decided to take a turn and see if it's a safe card. Probably a mistake.

The turn was Kc with a pot of $47. Something possessed me to check-raise. I figured that if I had one bettor into me, and only callers behind, a check-raise would clear the field of draws and isolate me with a weaker two pair most of the time. I'd learn quick if something better than that was out. Again, probably a mistake.

This time, BigGross gives up, rotncotn bets $24, and I make it $60 to go. Obviously, I have to put more in there, but rotcotn is deep, I think, so I figure even a small raise will put him off most hands. He calls relatively quickly. Ok, a flush draw is his most likely holding, right? Other possibilities are AT and T9, and he want to see the river too without committing too much more. The river falls 9h, pairing the board and getting the flush draw there. I bet $50 into $167, hoping that I can get called by AT. He check raises all-in (another $97 to me), and I fold.

I probably should have led for the pot size on the turn, but given that I didn't, I should have considered seriously check-folding the river. But, I probably made more mistakes too. I figure some will say reraising from SB with AK is correct, but I really don't like that play most of the time. Any other things I did wrong? (There have got to be tons; I am really unhappy with my play here.)

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

I realized for the last few months, I've been making awful EV decisions. I've actually be playing just fine, more than fine. I'm winning somewhere around 3-5 big blinds / 100 hands online, and 5-7 per hour live. But, the problem was I was playing well below my bankroll in games that were just so easy that I was passing up better EV games to play in them. Wasting time in such live games is bad enough, but even after stopping that, I was still doing it online!

Anyway, so two days ago, I started trying to figure out why. Online, it started because I didn't want to fully trust the online sites while UIGEA ticked towards full implementation. After cashing out during the frenzy, I decided a few weeks later to put $200 into each site and build it up. I've labored in the pathetically $40-$60 buy-in NL HE games, playing deep stack when I could find it, and I've got about a grand on each site now.

That's not too shabby for a few months of work at 10-15 hours a week at those limits. But I've been wasting my time.

These games are filled with Level 1 players, who who are still confused about what hand opponents are actually representing when they bet (of course, at these limits, those opponents nearly always have what they are representing, too). I can play six tables at once and keep the EV the same. It's just easy and mindless. It's so easy that it makes me question my assertions that bots can't be written to beat low-stakes NL HE games the way they can beat low limit games easily. I think I was that bot that past few months.

I finally got fed up two nights ago. I decided that I'm not going to do this prefect and correct bankroll management online. I certainly won't cash out until I get to $3,000 or so per site (just in case my deposit methods stop working as I suspect they might RSN), but I'm not going to try to eek my way back through the baby stakes again, respecting some sort of 20 buy-in rule on each site as I have been. If I get screwed by the UIGEA and can't buy-in again, I'll move on and start playing live a few nights a week again.

I did technically have +EV playing these games, but in a relative sense, it wasn't. I should have been in the $200 and $400 buy-in games. My skill level is completely adequate to beat those games. There are always a few totally clueless players floating around those limits, anyway (usually the pointless hyper-aggressive types online who have never folded QQ preflop in their life). The rest are mostly the would-be “good players”, who are my favorite to play against, anyway. They are so easy to read because they rarely deviate from the obvious starting hand selection, and they have won enough times that they don't realize that they have so much more to learn. (Every 1/2 game, live and online, I've ever seen is filled with these people, but online, you can get plenty of hands per hour and lots of rake back, and I don't have to listen to their incessant whining about how good they are.)

So, I'm done with the baby stakes, probably permanently. This whole multi-table volume play is a grind that doesn't seem to earn beyond theoretical maximums anyway. Plus, at the higher limits, I can actually use more of my skills. I can stay on Level 2 pretty much constantly, and often find myself in Level 3 territory. At 1/2 NL HE online, you can actually find some Level 2 players here and there, and it allows your full range of skills to take hold. At the baby stakes, it's just “do the obvious, rinse, repeat”. (For those of you that play live mostly, it turns out that online, the players are slightly better for the given stakes because the selection factor is higher on the player pool.)

I had, frankly, somehow totally forgotten you could earn money at poker by being actually smarter than other people, rather than just not being a total idiot. Let the sea of fad NL HE players that learned the bare minimum rake up the chips at the baby limits for me; I'll stick around low-to-medium and it'll still be relatively easy pickings. Now, if I could just get back the past few months...

Anyway, my point is, you can play perfectly and still be a donkey, because you might not actually be maximizing your skills by playing too low. That's the moral here, I think. Rory pointed this out to me in a comment years ago; I'll dig it up later and post an update.

shipitfish: (cincinnati-kid-betting)

I've been playing reasonably well lately, and been able to make pretty big laydowns. Here's a case where I failed to lay down the third nut full house when there was a reasonable chance my opponent held the nut full. However, I don't think that I made a mistake, but would like some input.

This hand is from a 10-handed tight online game, with $.25/$.50 blinds and no maximum buy in. This game was tight and passive, most flops were heads up if raised, but there was a good amount of limping. I started the hand with $213 and have the table covered. spcome, my heads-up opponent on the flop, had $59.90 behind.

UTG+2, I raised with 8h 8c. RoyRFlush called me, and spcome from the small blind made it $5.75 to go.

I've been raising lots with any pair, any suited connectors and two-gappers, and pretty much any hand I play, and I play tons against opponents this tight-weak. However, it's not common for someone to reraise from the blinds, so I actually gave him a tight range: JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AQ or AK. There is really no way he has something else.

I called for set value, since it's only 10% of his stack and most players on this site will stack off with any overpair. I flopped gin with 8 s 5d 5s. spcome bet out $9. I basically have him on an overpair or an AK continuation bet. I call with celerity, trying to represent a flush draw, and hoping it doesn't come if he has an overpair. The turn fell Kc.

spcome thought for a moment and bet out $7.50. This bet is basically narrows to three possible things: As Ks, KK, or a scared QQ, the last being unlikely.

I figure I should call to try to trap the As Ks.

The Ts brings any possible flush draw home on the river, and spcome led all-in for $37.65 into $45.25. I called immediately, figuring he's made a flush or he has kings full. My “muck or show” window popped up; he had Kh Ks.

I'm curious if others think this was just plain bad luck. I think the only other decisions I could have made were: (a) raise the flop against the obvious two-outer, (b) fold the river. It seems to me the spade falling on the river forces my auto-call because As Ks becomes as likely a holding at that moment as KK, given the action. I also don't mind my play on the turn, because I'm enticing him to keep coming at me if he does have AK. As for the flop, again, I think just calling is better in case it's just AK or AQ.

[ Update: for those who don't read comments, I'm convinced by [ profile] swolfe's arguments that I should fold the hand on the river if I chose not to move in on the turn. ]

shipitfish: (river-street-chips)

[ It's been quite a while since I posted a River Street retrospective, so I decided to write one last night before bed, since I got home from work too late to play any poker. ]

That's him, I'm telling you, I said to Nick. We were standing, waiting for a seat, at one of the tiny two-table poker clubs in Boston a few weeks ago. That's not him. It can't be him; he's not acting anything like him, Nick insisted. I retorted: But, his wedding ring; it looks just like the one he had, and I remember it from when he got married while we were still playing at River Street. Remember, that girlfriend of his that he married? Remember how he left her at home with the fire alarm running while we were playing poker. She couldn't even reach the thing with the step ladder to turn it off, and was calling every ten minutes for an hour to beg for him to come home to take care of it. Then, he'd hang up and say ‘just one more hand, then I'm leaving’?

Nick was still sure it wasn't the same guy. I offered to settle it the way all poker players do: Ok, I'll make a $50 even money prop bet with you that it's him. No? $10, then. C'mon, I know it's him. Nick's doubt eventually had me doubting myself. Could I have misremembered him that completely? After all, this guy seemed pretty calm, and hadn't been stacked the whole time we'd been watching the game.

I tried to think of what he looked like in those days, but the memory that came back was how I got his name wrong at first. A number of people at the River Street game knew him from outside the game; apparently he'd come from the same undergraduate program as some of the other MIT regulars. They had always called him by his last name, which my poor hearing had picked up as “Troy”. I remembered vividly referring to him that way one night in his absence, asking Where's Troy tonight?. No one seemed to know who I was talking about.

Someone finally realized what I was saying, and argued: You think a Chinese guy is named Troy?. Well, I answered, why couldn't he be? By his accent, this “Troy” sounded like he was born and raised somewhere on the east coast. He's as much Chinese culturally as I am Polish — at least a generation or so removed.

This was an academic consideration, of course. As it turned out, all along, they'd been calling Michael (which was his first name, I'd suddenly learned) by his last name — a common Chinese surname that rhymed with Troy. (As a footnote, another River Street regular eventually showed up a few months later carrying from Canada the actual name, Troy. But he's a profile for another time.) I decided that from that point on, I was avoiding the confusion and just calling this guy, “Michael”.

Michael was probably the most excitable player ever to visit River Street. There was no question, frankly, that poker was gambling to him. He played lots of pots; he moved in with nearly every draw. I distinctly remember the first time in NL HE that I ever got bottom set (222) all-in against the nut flush draw. It was heads-up against Michael in Greg's kitchen, sitting in one of the comfy kitchen chairs I'd arrived early to reserve. A good tenth of my bankroll at the time was in that pot. I learned the meaning of “action player”, “gamble”, “redraw” and “EV” in the seconds it took Greg to deal the turn (a flush-making heart) and the river (a board-pairing 8).

But the nut flush draw was just a mild gamble for Michael. He'd play bottom pair to the river in limit HE without thinking twice. In the right mood, he'd push in with just about any ace-high if he had less than half the buy-in. Sometimes, he'd even just have king-high; that is, if it was his favorite hand — his beloved “Ko-jack”. For a number of weeks in that winter and spring of 2004, he was the action of River Street.

Then, he'd go broke. Greg would let him deal, and we'd tip him well. After all, as soon as he'd put together $50 or so, he'd buy in short with his tips, and then go broke. He'd go to the ATM, come back, and go broke. He'd win on Tuesday, take a stake of $20 bills home, bring them back on Thursday and go broke.

That spring, Michael joined a big group of River Street players who went off to Foxwoods for a long weekend. The stories that returned that Tuesday were nearly unbelievable. Michael, so that Tuesday crew was told, had discovered craps. He'd went on an amazing run. He'd been tossing dealers green chips as tokes. He was betting blacks on the pass line on ever new shooter.

Not to disappoint, Michael showed up that Thursday with a pair of red dice. In between poker hands, he'd point at someone across the table and say: You be the house; I'm the new shooter. I don't recall that anyone actually took him up on his offer to bankroll his intra-poker-hand floating craps game, but his excitement for the gamble carried over into every aspect of both games. Invariably, as he'd receive his cards, he'd move those dice from the table to his face, wedging them between his glasses and his eyes. His eyes now closed and covered, he'd squint to hold the dice in place. His head now high, he'd look back across the table, and in a robotic voice, slowly chant: What number am I? … What number am I?

In these days, I had just started learning NL HE cash play and I would often forgo the $1/$2, no max buy-in NL game in the kitchen (particularly when the field seemed tough) and continue with the $3/$6 limit game in the living room after the NL HE game “broke out” from the kitchen's $5/$10 game. It was on one of these occasions that the most unforgettable Michael incident occurred.

It was an average River Street night. We were used to shouts from the kitchen during major all-ins or other surprises in large pots. The NL HE game had been going for a while when we heard an unusually loud screech — enough to freeze up the action in the limit game. Michael came storming down the hallway, caught somewhere between shouting and muttering.

As he approached the front door, which was directly adjacent to the living room, he started to stumble. He had stepped into the mass of removed shoes — a kindness to Greg's neighbors to avoid the noise of 20 people stomping around that top floor River Street apartment. Michael looked down at the piles of shoes, and the muttering continued. He was close enough that I could hear it now: King-Jack. It had to be King-Jack. It had to be my hand. Tears were beginning to swell in Michael's eyes. His gaze narrowed on a lone shoe, separated from the others; he picked it up — examining it, ostensibly to see if it was his. Establishing that it wasn't, he simply hurled it at the front door. King-Jack, King-Jack. Another shoe picked up and thrown. Another, and another. Shouting now: King-Jack; Why did he have my hand!?! Sidney, Greg's loyal canine, ran from the kitchen, barking quietly. The $3/$6 players ceased all movement, the current pot conceded to the confusion.

The situation was escalating quickly, and sitting in the three seat, I was the closest to Michael's current position. I approached, a bit fearful, and asked the rather pointless and already-answered question: What happened?, followed by a quick and almost as pointless Are you alright?, and finally with something marginally useful: Would you like me to help you find your shoes?

By then, the noise had roused Greg. Within seconds, mayhem had ensued. The $3/$6 players were moving about; the $1/$2 NL players were crowding in from the back. Greg quickly shuffled through the now disorganized mess of shoes to find Michael's, as the man himself had collapsed against the wall, his tantrum spent. Greg handed him his shoes, and Michael was out the door before they were on his feet. Michael lingered briefly in the hallway, banging slightly on the door; Greg opened the door briefly, shouting that he should go home. Michael eventually complied.

The details of the hand were never clear but hardly mattered: a sharp player named Josh had called Michael's bet on the flop with on a lark with a running straight draw while holding KJ. It got there and Josh stacked Michael on the river.

As I retell the story, I'm not all that surprised that Nick didn't recognize Michael. The man we saw last month was clearly a different poker player. Sure, when we saw him, he seemed like he was playing a little too loose, and I don't know how many times he rebought. But, he did cash out something, which is certainly better than the old days.

I was cleaning out my email drafts folder recently, as I switched MUAs from mutt to Gnus. I saw a message from mid-2004 drafted to Greg, which read: I am really worried about Michael. After what happened last night and from his behavior after the Foxwoods trip, I think that he might have a gambling problem. I was wondering if. It ended there. I never finished the message.

I hope that Michael has turned over a new leaf. He's not the last person — not even at River Street — whom I've watched descend into something truly ugly because of poker. Had I been a better poker player at the time, I probably would have won hundreds, rather than mere dozens, of dollars from Michael. Somehow, though, I am glad that I was still a pretty bad player back then. I wish you the best, Michael, and I hope you fold KJ preflop most of the time these days.

shipitfish: (Default)

[ I pick up continuing story of my Dallas poker week on the second club of Tuesday night. Previous installments: Earlier Tuesday night, and Monday night. ]

Steve eventually made the money in the tournament and cut a deal, and we were off for the next club of the night. Actually, I had already heard a few things about the next place. A few hours before, everyone in the tournament simultaneous got an SMS message ad from this other club. The SMS said, apparently: Tatas, Tacos, and poker at The Loft.

Dallas, during my visit, was at that moment in its local poker scene where NYC was right around late 2005. Here in NYC, just after the 72nd street and PlayStation busts in the summer, it became clear that the police weren't going to do any additional busts for a while. They surely knew about the additional clubs, but had decided to focus on the large ones, presumably hoping it would scare the smaller ones. The opposite happened: in late 2005, it was tough to throw a now-worthless 72nd street dollar chip on the island of Manhattan and fail to hit a poker club.

At the time of my visit, Dallas had been through some busts of larger clubs a while back, and like in the late-2005 NYC, the small 2-3 table clubs were competing heavily for business. (Although, there have been a number of small club busts now in Dallas, similar to what happened in NYC). The small clubs always look for gimmicks to market their places.

Dallas' The Loft (amusingly sharing a name with one of the better small clubs that ran on Manhattan's Lower East Side for much of 2005) had picked a rather odd gimmick — topless dealers. This wasn't the first I'd heard of this gimmick. Many strip clubs, particularly in Las Vegas, since the poker boom, have taken to having stripper-dealt poker tourneys, where an article of clothing is removed by the dealer at each blind level. However, this was a bit different because it was a cash game and an otherwise regular club, and the dealer started and stayed topless basically indefinitely.

It was certainly a bizarre site to see. We entered the club, with one $1/$2 table going, and, as advertised, a bare-chested woman was sitting dealing the game. I set aside the obvious incredibly sexist side of this, and began to view it as an interesting social anthropology experiment. What happens to a poker game, I asked myself, when there is a topless dealer?

Well, with this one data point, I discovered that it's not good for the game. I don't know if it was the particular mix of players, but this was the most tight-weak live $1/$2 game I'd ever played in. Were they all busy gawking and therefore folding everything but top ten starting hands? I couldn't really tell for sure, but at least a few of them were clearly disinterested in both the game and the topless dealer and downright bored (it was, after all, a boring game, with plenty of blind steals and few flops). Certainly not a profitable game, given the heavy rake.

Ultimately, I found it distracting to play in a game with a topless dealer, but not for the prurient reasons you might think. The problem is much more mundane than that. To use a horrendous pun, since they are almost impossible to avoid here anyway, there is simply too much flopping in this game. Obviously, naked female breasts tend to move around a lot anyway, and dealers do quite a bit of reaching and moving as it is. Now, I've never been distracted at all by a dressed female dealer, but I assume I've never been dealt for by a woman not wearing a bra. As it turns out, in this topless situation, as you try to focus on the actions and movements of your opponents to build reads, you see constant movement out of the corner of your eye. It's simply movement you don't expect to see, having spent hundreds of hours being used to how people move at the poker table. You see movement that is so out of place that it distracts you. Then, you quickly remember that this a club with topless dealers, and that you are actually much more interested in playing poker than watching this woman try to reach for the muck without a shirt on.

So, This gimmick is just a stupid idea. I think that even men who actually like going to strip clubs and somehow enjoy the experience of group-staring at naked breasts will find this sort of thing pointless. And, the discomfort of the dealer is not to be ignored. I twice saw her actually get her nipple slightly injured by getting it caught in the chip rack. (Ok, yet another awful pun there that I again can't find a way to avoid.) I mean, how far is this club willing to go for this stupid gimmick?

I might have been inclined to stay if I felt my opponents were actually being distracted or otherwise inspired to make mistakes because of this pathetic display. But, the game was not all that great; the players were the type you find online in tight-weak games where seeing lots of hands and making lots of raises help you win. But, doing that live at a ten-handed game with a heavy rake is somewhat hard to do. Steve and I left after only an hour or so. I was down about $80, mostly because I got pot-stuck with a flush draw against a short stack (and embarrassed myself by offering to do business at stakes where it is (apparently in Dallas) socially unacceptable to do so — poor Steve was mortified), and for misreading someone in a “has the nuts or nothing” situation, calling off about $40 over two streets.

We headed out to another $2/$5 game — F.J.'s second club. This was probably the best game we visited in Dallas, and I look forward to telling the story.

shipitfish: (Default)

I actually do have posts from the rest of the Texas trip mostly written, and will get them up this week. I have a few other trip reports coming as well; I just want to make sure they are reasonably well written before posting.

Anyway, I am posting a program note, as it were, that I'm probably going to be spending most of my time playing online until the full-on crackdown from the law comes. I've actually worked out with the cashier department of Full Tilt Poker to allow me to deposit via Visa Check Card and cashout via standard, paper check. However, I'm planning to do careful bankroll management so I don't need to buy-in again, because the Visa Check Card method will surely go away as soon as the banks start complying with the law, which they'll likely do a bit early of their deadline. I figure I'll probably be able to deposit cashout checks from Full Tilt right up until the deadline; implementation of anti-check depositing systems will probably be last on the list, since it's only semi-electronic.

From a time management perspective, given that I'm relying on $1k/month coming out of poker for expenses, online play is the most rational. The games in NYC are still full of amazingly bad players. However, even though the profitability of the games outweigh the time charges and tokes, it's really a question of time investment. If you can get only 20-30 hands an hour, against annoying people (most of the NYC player fare), and still need to commute to the club, why bother? There's no point when instead you can get 200 hands an hour, against players who make (fewer but) enough mistakes to be highly profitable, and you can instead talk with your wife in-between hands. Is this even a hard choice?

Poker is about maximizing EV, and NL HE is a predatory game. Being a predator is a tiresome business, and meanwhile, I have a real job that is focused on making the world a better place. That job requires substantial time investment, and is actually worth it. It's not worth staying up far too late watching a bunch of insufferable people give you their money, when the same type of folks will instead click buttons and give you just as much money, and you can still get to bed at a decent hour, and go into your day job that you actually like.

Finally, there's the factor that online poker may be gone soon for US Citizens. I may find myself left with only the annoying NYC club scene at some point, and it's clear if it survived the last round of major busts, it will continue to be there indefinitely once online poker is really gone. I can always reevaluate based on new information as the poker world continues to change.

Oh, and on the home game front, I've made a deal with my wife, since it's better for her, to host them once a month but for much longer (1PM-midnight). The setup and cleanup costs are pretty high, so she's convinced me it's a better model to run longer games less frequently. I realized too that this fits a mixed game setup better anyway.

shipitfish: (Default)

Tuesday was a full day at my conference in Dallas, but I kept going back and forth in email with Steve (aka [ profile] swolfe; poker journal at [ profile] swolfe_poker) planning our poker night. I was able to get away relatively early because the full contingent of conference attendees hadn't yet arrived, and I got some key negotiations done during a lunch meeting, so by 15:05, I was sure that I could get away by 17:15. This worked well, because Steve had a tournament all lined up.

Steve plays twice a week as a sort of prop player in a tournament at one of the more fledgling clubs in Dallas. He didn't want to miss it, and nor did I want him to on my account. I went with him still unsure if I wanted to buy into the thing. I don't regularly play $100 tournaments, simply because my tournament game is quite weak and I find that variance is actually greater in tournaments because you have to play so many to make a score. I usual play tournaments to relax and avoid the constant grind of the cash games, and it's usually baby-stakes buy-ins of a $30+3 or $50+5 online tournament. This $100+20 was thus roughly twice my usually tournament stakes. I decided at the worst I'd not play and sweat Steve while learning a thing or two about playing small buy-in tourneys to improve my game, so I was ready to go.

We arrived at an yet another amazing, beautiful and spacious apartment building. Granted, you can't hop on a subway car and get out three blocks from a poker club, but the idea of a 15 minute drive to a nice, comfortable, spacious place to play is enough to make one question whether NYC really is the capital of all known activities in the world as our local hype maintains. The Mayfair club is long gone, folks, and Dallas has some things on us.

In truth, this club was a bit of a fledgling one. Like most fledgling clubs, they use a tournament to draw in players so they can make the real rake and tip money in the cash games that follow. We arrived before anyone, save the dealers and few seemingly retired folks. A Chinese poker game was going, as Steve had mentioned in email earlier that day.

I was prepared to be a 100% Chinese poker fish to learn the game, as Steve said at the stakes they usually play, $20 would be a big loss even for 100% donkey play. But, we strangely agreed to make a Chinese poker game around play money only. And, boy, was this good for me. I quickly confused the rules and fouled three hands.

Before I explain that, I should explain what Chinese poker is, since I know some of my readers don't know how to play it. There are a number of variations, but generally you get 13-15 cards and set three poker hands, of escalating value, and try to beat your opponents on each of three hands (sometimes the top hand is less than five cards, forbidding straights and flushes). Opponents must pay you a certain amount if they beat you on each level, and you get a bonus for scooping. You can also chose not to set hands, instead folding and paying a fixed amount less than what getting beat down by everyone would cost you. It's a cute game; but much different from what we all know of as “poker”. My gut feeling about it is that it plays more like gin rummy or other round-based card games.

Now, the classic beginner mistake of Chinese poker is fouling your hand. You are required by the rules to have the hands escalate in value (unless you are playing some variation where you put the lowest hand in the middle, or something like that). No less than three times did I excitedly get two full houses, but put the biggest one in the middle. I went broke from my preassigned play chips, and given that I was totally confused and there were really only two other players interested, the game broke. I felt bad for making the game basically unplayable due to my utter cluelessness and inability to learn it quickly enough, but it was getting time to get the club moving for the evening, and one of our Chinese poker players was also a dealer.

I wandered into the huge kitchen (which was adjacent to a second living room with a television and a second bathroom), and found a Boston Market food spread. Being a vegetarian, there wasn't much to choose, but the mashed potatoes weren't bad, the corn was edible, and the macaroni and cheese was pretty good. I had my free dinner, and wouldn't be billing it to my employer, which made me feel better for ducking out for poker while on a business trip.

As I ate, the club owner asked me again if I'd play the tourney. He said he felt there would be a full two tables, and I decided that such a prize pool, given that rebuys for the first three blind levels were permitted, was probably worth the equity. Steve had watched the players arrive and indicated to me that despite my weak tourney skills, I had a huge edge over the field. I bought in and took my seat.

I was somewhat amazed to find my table to be primarily tight-weak. I guess I'm just so used to NYC tournaments, where the childish hyper-aggression requires that you make pretty good reads and reraise a good amount lest you get eaten alive by blinds that go up way too fast. Here, a bunch of middle-aged players more interested in the football game than the poker game were planning to fold their way to the bubble. I tried my best to disappoint them, and won enough blinds for an hour to get a shot at the money. I took only one hand (QQ, as an overpair) to the river, and my opponent fortunately missed his somewhat obvious straight draw and didn't pay off the river. Mostly, I was trying to take blinds, and usually continuation betting when I didn't succeed. I kept pace this way with those winning big pots, and had a medium-to-small stack when the tables combined.

I decided at that point that I wanted to make the money more than I wanted to win. I don't play enough tournaments at this level to make risk-taking for a high showing a good goal, since such strategy increases your cashing variance a great deal. Still, I didn't have enough chips to fold my way to the money, and the blinds escalated quickly enough that all but the monster stacks were playing preflop poker.

Of course, I wasn't going to move in with the 7- and 8-high hands I was getting, because everyone seemed ready to gamble with hands as a weak as queen high if it was for less than 25% of their stack. It seemed no all-in had fold equity unless I waited a bit, and I might as well wait for a hand. I moved in with an Ace high three rounds after the tables consolidated and picked up two limps and the blinds. I waited another three rounds, and got folded to with J9s with three non-blind players behind me, and decided not to push. Results-wise, I should have, because a weak Ace-high behind me got it in with a King-high in the blinds and the board contained a winning J9. Still, I probably made the right decision despite the fact that I was down to only five times the big blind.

I moved in a few hands later with K5s, got called and lost to A4o in the big blind. I still feel these quick-blind single-evening tournaments are ultimately a waste of time because it doesn't feel like poker; it feels more of a card-catching contest. However, my view may simply be over influenced by my weak tournament skills.

A cash game was going, and I sat in it while I waited for Steve. I was worried when they said it was $5/$5, and I walked over thinking I'd see players sitting on $1,000 each or more, but the big stack was a mere $500 and most had $200. This, too, was a preflop game, but I was fortunate to see a flop with TT for $20 against AK with $250 behind. I thus won my buy-in back quickly by check-raising his continuation bet all-in. I had hoped he played his cash games like tournaments, because I expected a pot sized continuation bet based on playing him in the tournament, and figured the stacks were short enough he'd call on the T23 board with any overpair if I made it look like a heart-draw semi-bluff. He showed AK and folded, though, so I probably won the maximum, although I might have gambled against a possible flush draw and tried to get more bluff money in on the turn and/or let him catch up to a pair. Anyway, I was happy to be net-even for this club.

Steve eventually made the money in the tournament and cut a deal, and we were off for the next club of the night. Actually, I had already heard a few things about the next place, as a few hours before, everyone in the tournament simultaneous got an SMS message ad from the club we were headed to. This next club wouldn't be the best game, but it would be the most unique of the Dallas scene. That story will appear in my next entry.

shipitfish: (Default)

Last week, I was fortunate to end up on a business trip to Dallas, Texas. For most people, this isn't a major destination. But, I fortunately have been reading the poker journal of [ profile] swolfe (which is kept at [ profile] swolfe_poker these days) for about six months. There are not many strong poker players who keep online journals. It's sort of a tendency of strong players that they tend to keep journals early in their play, and taper off as they become particularly strong. However, Steve has kept his journal up quite a bit even as he's become, frankly, an extremely excellent player.

It was a rather funny thing to meet Steve in person. It was actually my first “Internet meetup” — a situation where I had met someone solely online and was going to meet them in person. I have to admit that I had some trepidation about this, but once I jumped into Steve's car in the parking lot of my hotel, and our conversation turned to poker, I was quite comfortable and not worried. He wasn't going to drive me to a ditch and kill me. :)

As we drove, Steve gave me the run-down of the Dallas poker scene. As it stands, they basically have more clubs than NYC, they just don't run every night, and are often one or two table affairs. In one case, two clubs are run by the same person, a fellow named F.J., and he has different clubs going on different nights.

Steve's primary game is $2/$5 NL HE, and the games usually have no maximum buy-in. I primarily play $1/$2, because the games are so easily beaten, but I occasionally take shots at $2/$5. Plus, given that the games Steve knew best were $2/$5, I was happy to take a shot with a somewhat short stack in a game that was a bit big for me.

So, less than an hour from pulling up in the Super Shuttle to my hotel (Steve ended up pulling into the parking lot right behind it), I was walking into the smaller of F.J.'s clubs.

The first thing that struck me was how large apartments are in Dallas. Most of the games are run out of upscale apartment space — but these places are so spacious and well-equipped, they would go easily for at least $10,000/month here in NYC. They've got full, open kitchens, with spacious living rooms and bedrooms and giant bathrooms. It may be cliché that things are bigger in Texas, but when it comes to apartments rented for the purpose of hosting underground poker clubs, there's some truth to it.

I had actually been preparing myself for something that it turns out I need not have worried about — I figured that all the clubs were very smokey. This is an annoyance that you just have to deal with as a non-smoking poker player; a lot of poker players smoke and clubs tend to have an indoor smoking room far too close to the tables. I actually had assumed that there was smoking at the tables in Dallas based on some of Steve's old posts, so I was delightfully surprised to find that there was no smoking anywhere near the table. Indeed, everyone was kind enough to go outside, and, not a club I visited in Dallas was any smokier than any of the NYC clubs I've been to.

So, I stood at our first stop, somewhat shocked when I saw the beautiful apartment and friendly people. In fact, that's what I'll never forget about Dallas poker — the people are so friendly, polite, and respectful. Sure, there was an occasional coffee-houser and table-chatterer, but there was a noticeable difference in demeanor when comparing the NYC players (actually, east coast players in general) to Dallas ones. I have never seen a table full of people take bad beats better, and the camaraderie and goodwill at the table was palpable. I go to NYC games and can't wait to get away from those jerks and take a shower. For example, I was a table the week before I left for Dallas and someone shouted at a dealer: You ass-ramming faggot, why did you put that queen up on the turn?. I couldn't even imagine any Dallas player I met during my week there acting this way toward a dealer or another player. Dallas poker is, in a phrase, classy all the way.

As for the games, they were amazing. I hope to make a post about each night's games, so for this post, I'll focus on the Monday game. This was at F.J.'s smaller club, which had only one table. We arrived at nearly 22:30, and the game was already in full swing with a few very large (over than $1,500) stacks.

I was somewhat nervous; flashing through my mind was the rule of thumb that you should actually always player lower than your regular stakes when you travel. I decided to buy in for $400 (after almost accidentally buying in for $500) and try to get doubled up. Steve had this look on his face worrying that he was leading me to my poker demise.

As it turned out, I was actually somewhat happy with the bad cards I got dealt — a constant series of 92, Q3, 83, and the like. The game was primarily loose-passive, and usually three or six players saw a flop, even for a small raise. I didn't see any point in playing these cards at stakes I was barely comfortable with against players I didn't know well. I got a chance to sit, relax, and see what Dallas NL HE is like.

While I did, I sat in awe of Steve's ability to drag every chip on the table his way. Now, Steve is an amazing player, but he did also get amazingly lucky this evening. I can't remember the count, but I actually believe he flopped six sets that night, and stacked someone on nearly every one! Part of this, I gather, was Steve cashing in on a very aggressive historical table image, but he was assisted in that nearly everyone the game thought any two pair holding was worth the backing their whole stack. Also, most of the players rarely folded top pair with some sort of reasonable kicker, unless the board got particularly complicated.

Every few rounds, there'd be some crazy three-way all-in where someone would decided to take a stand on a medium stack with some suited ace or middle pair and another two would come along for the ride. I kept hoping I'd get some sort of hand at these moments, but when I saw 94 for the sixth time, I figured I should toss it and wait for a better spot.

I played only one serious hand that night, where I flopped a nut flush draw with Ah 6h from the unraised big blind on Qh 3s 5h. I semi-bluffed two streets, hoping to cash in on my tight image and get a pot. Sadly, C.S., a loose-passive regular, decided to call me down on both streets for pot-sized bets and I decided he either had a flush draw I had beat or he wasn't giving up some queen. (He wasn't really the type to bluff at the river when he missed, but would call if he made any pair most of the time, I figured I'd check and hope I was good in that case.) He showed Qd 2d and I realized maybe I should have fired the last barrel when I missed the river, but I am not sure I could have gotten him off it.

We finally headed out around 02:00 and, as the valet brought his car, I asked Steve, wide-eyed, are the games always that loose? and he answered in his matter-of-fact way, Sure. I had work email to answer ,and then I was going to get only four hours of sleep before I had to go to a conference meeting the next day, but I was already figuring out a way I could get out again on Tuesday night to see some more clubs.

Oh, and of course I chuckled to myself a dozen times realizing that I had, for the first time in my life, played Texas Hold'em in the actual, real life Texas. Sure it's cheezy, but it's still darn cool. Maybe the next night, I would mess a bit with Texas. :)

shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

Ok, I have to come clean on something. I think that, albeit temporarily, NL HE bores me. I need a long break from it. At least a month, I think.

I think there are three factors relating to my current boredom. First, NL HE is my primary poker money-maker, and I'm using poker income for some expenses now. Therefore, NL HE has warped in my mind to “work”. And, for most people, and certainly for me, there is a slight piece of passion that leaves you when something you love becomes work.

Second, it's all most people want to play. I attend a a wonderful home game regularly with great people, but the host has given up on the idea of mixed games. We tried it, but many of the guests weren't comfortable learning new games. Of course, I'm going anyway to see everyone, but I have this odd feeling akin to that feeling you get when someone has asked you to help them move. Sure, you always help your friends move when they get a new apartment, but you do it to be helpful and to be social, but not because you can hardly wait to lift up heavy boxes and carry them on and off a U-Haul truck. I'd really want to shake this feeling, but I can't.

Third, I think that I have become somewhat rigid in my thinking about winning at NL HE. I have a set of strategies that work in most of the games I encounter. I am particularly careful about game selection, so I am usually selecting games that I can approach with the few different gears that are most comfortable for me. I lately usually book big winning sessions, or small loss sessions, still plodding along at 5-7 big blinds per hour (or hundred hands). I haven't really been experiencing much wild variance, indeed, almost none at all since I quit playing limit HE for serious stakes back in December.

But, this is clearly a recipe for disaster. Complacency and boredom are the big enemies of one's poker game. I must assiduously combat this. Here are some strategies that I'm considering, some of which I've already begun to implement:

  • When you say, Doctor, it hurts when I stand on my head!, the doctor says Then, don't stand on your head!. Simple enough: it's boring when I play NL HE and I feel I'm getting complacent about my game, so I just shouldn't play it! However, it's tough, because I keep having this thought that somehow not playing NL HE is an affront to the poker boom. In other words, that I am failing to cash in on the free fall of funds from bad players. I think that this thinking is at least somewhat wrong-headed; I can't live my life around cashing in on the boom. Positive EV isn't just about external factors, it relates to your internal approaches to the game. Yet, I struggle.
  • Find ways to enjoy NL HE again. I think attending low stakes NL HE home games is probably a good way to do this. There's basically no pressure to win because the entire session variance is more or less what I'm used to in one hand. I can relax, not feel like I have to extract every penny by absolute perfect observation and situational advantage, and just play. It will help, of course, if the rest of the attendees aren't in a hyper-poker-obsessed mood, but most of the usual crowd at the home games I attend are pretty good about this.
  • Get really into another poker game. The past two weeks, I've played a substantial amount of Stud High, and PLO/8 (and even NL O/8 — odd game), and a little bit of tournament NL HE (the last of which with amazing and statically surprising results). I strangely find that NL HE tournament poker is actually different enough that it doesn't give me entirely the same feeling as cash games do, although there is a bit of a twinge. I've never much liked tournament poker, other than the nice return on investment it can bring, but perhaps that, or some other game, should be a place to focus. Another option is bouncing around a lot in different games, but that is what I had been doing for the last two weeks and it doesn't seem to be helping. Anyone who has suggestions on where some juicy games are of the non-NL HE variety (either online or NYC), I'd be very grateful to hear about them. There is a $15/$30 limit O/8 game in NYC that I've heard about, and I'm thinking of giving a whirl, but I probably need some additional O/8 practice for lower stakes before I do.
  • Find mixed games. For those who are interested, C.H.'s game is getting going again soon, which is a $4/$8 limit mixed home game. I'm going to go there if he gets enough players. (If you are in NYC and want to play, feel free to email me for an introduction.) I've also been giving serious consideration to running a mixed home game at my place, but I am a bit concerned that it'll be difficult to find a pool of players who want to play mixed games at stakes I'd want to run. I'll probably post a poll about it later this week.

I am curious to hear from others about any “ruts of disinterest” you've had in your best game. This is my first experience of this. At the time when limit HE was my preferred game, I ended up switching to NL HE because of frustration at the high variance in limit HE, not temporary disinterest. Have you ever been playing a game profitably, successfully, and enjoyably and then gotten bored with it for a while? If so, what game was it and how did you get over your boredom? (This could also go beyond poker to things like bridge, scrabble, and chess, I would think.)

shipitfish: (l-club-stack-2006-02)

Having been at a home game recently where we tried to play NL and PL games with a cap and it just confused everyone, I was somewhat glad to see that Full Tilt Poker is now offering capped NL and PL games. Perhaps it will increase the general knowledge and understanding in the poker world about what a cap is.

I haven't totally thought through the implications of this, but I wonder if I could use this feature to play in somewhat higher games than I normally do. It seems their $1/$2 NL HE games have a $60 cap, which means I could feel quite comfortable as high as $3/$6 NL HE game with a $180 cap. I also wonder what types of players these cap games will attract. Will the real fish stay at the regular games, or will they like the idea of a cap which will allow them to overplay things like top pair and overpairs? I am really curious to find out; I guess I'll have to get bought back into Full Tilt and see what the deal is.

Finally, I am pretty sure that cap games are really important for the future of poker. Limit poker was invented, in part, because people went broke too fast playing real table-stakes NL and PL poker games. The money and interest in NL HE, for example, dried up completely in the late 1980s and by the mid-1990s, limit poker was all everyone played.

I'd hate to see this happen again as people start to go seriously broke playing NL HE. Cap games may be the way to compromise between the two so we aren't all left with limit poker as the only option for juice games in a few years. History does, sometimes, repeat itself.

shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2006-01)

I have talked a lot about the NL game at Foxwoods. I have gone back and forth about whether or not their NL games are run well enough to be worth playing. I once claimed that I would never play in the $1/$2 NL game again. Although I can't seem to find the post in my archives (perhaps it was said in a comment), I have also seen bizarre rebuy rules enforced at the $2/$5 game, where a floor person told me I could not top off to a $500 (maximum buy-in) stack until I was below the $200 minimum. I've since gotten around the rule by being a bit more sly about it, but as far as I know, it's still in place.

I went yesterday with two NYC Players (Dawn of I Had Outs) and Alceste) to Foxwoods. I warned them about everything I knew and felt about the NL HE games at Foxwoods, but they wanted to see the place for themselves, and I looked forward to showing what was once my home poker room to some fellow NY players.

I mostly played limit for the day, but I spent a good amount of time taking breaks and looking at what was going on at the NL HE tables. I kept a close eye on the $2/$5 tables and didn't really see any particular reason that I should be jumping to them. Sure, the games seemed generally beatable, but I didn't see anything to indicate that a good score could be made. Most of the players seemed somewhat tight, so I could imagine a strategy of trying to run over the table would be profitable, but not greatly so.

Based on my limited observations, what I believe has happened in the $2/$5 NL game is that it has become much like the $10/$20 limit games at Foxwoods. All the Foxwoods limit regulars have known for years that the $10/$20 limit HE game is the toughest game at Foxwoods. Sure, it's beatable, but it's where you run into the best players. This is because there is little reason for the small stakes gambler to jump up from the $5/$10, because with the kill it plays almost as $10/$20 in an action game. Meanwhile, the bigger gamblers go for $20/$40, because it has the draw of being the biggest regularly running limit HE game. Everyone I know who plays serious limit HE (such as [ profile] roryk, [ profile] reddogace, and good old F.D. who started at the $2/$4 tables with me, play almost exclusively that game when at Foxwoods).

What I see at $2/$5 is the people who have learned some things about NL HE but haven't built their bankroll up for the $5/$10 or $10/$20 game. I'm about in that category, so I'm likely to find settling in at $2/$5 players about at my skill level. So, with a huge time charge, I'm going to rate to lose in that game because I'm sitting with relatively evenly matched players; the low stakes gamblers will prefer to make ten rebuys and goof off at $1/$2 and the serious ones are going to try the $5/$10 or $10/20 blind game.

I was actually one of the first six people who were dealt the first hand ever of the $1/$2 NL game at Foxwoods, which was on Saturday 1 May 2004, as I sat in the game the first time they called (with the goal of learning more NL). Foxwoods realized the popularity of this game quickly and it grew. Their goal, however, has always been not to design a game that the regulars would like, but rather build one that would draw the maximum number of people from other parts of the casino. In other words, their goal (not surprisingly) is to maximize the number of people in the casino they could get to pay exorbitant time charges.

Now, I realized and posted a long time ago that the math of the NL game doesn't work out well. An entire buy-in leaves the table every hour, so you have to move chips early to build a stack that can be used to get people's chips before they are lost to the house. One of the tools you can use is the $40/$100 rebuy trick, whereby you pay a blind from a minimum $40 buy-in, and then rebuy to make your stack $138. This helps a little, as long as you can double up quickly.

The other system I use in this (and all capped buy-in games) is to always pay the time charge and dealer gratuities out of my pocket. This is very important, because if you waste your stack of a limited buy-in with time charges, that $10 in the first hour you pay is actually $20 of from your stack, because you can't use it for a double up. Over a few hours, you've paid $30 or $40 in time charges, and imagine how much double-up and redouble-up money you've lost! Thus, I have tipped and payed time out of chips in my pocket for years at the Foxwoods NL HE games. At times, some people at the table asked if this was allowed, and the floor people always said it was no problem.

However, sometime in the last six months, they have made yet another bad rule change. In addition to not being able to rebuy in an NL game until you are below the minimum buy-in, players at Foxwoods NL HE games can no longer pay time out of their pocket. I spoke with a floor person at length about this, and he was completely unable to come up with a good argument. At first he said they didn't want the confusion of people taking chips in and out of pockets, making it more difficult to watch if money was taken south. But, I asked him, are you still allowed to tip dealers from your pocket?, and he said yes. I therefore maintained that his argument was flawed, because if one can take a chip from the pocket to the table in that case, how is taking time the same way any different?

His next piece of sophistry was even more bizarre. He claimed that since some players might not have adequate bankroll to take time from their pocket (i.e., their case money is on the table), that players taking time payments from their pockets was a violation of table stakes rules, because the player that pays time from his pocket is gaining the advantage of keeping that amount of money in his stack. Of course, this is patently silly. The idea that one can take incidental expenses from the pocket or from the stack has been a long-standing rule in poker, and the time charge should be treated no different than any other incidental expense. In addition, how is this any different from my ability to buy into a game for the maximum while someone else can buy in only for the minimum? That gives me an advantage, of course, but that's just poker.

Both his arguments twist a long-standing permission for players and turn it strangely into a requirement. It's always been the case that if some players choose to pay their incidental expenses (time charges and gratuities) from their stack, that's a prerogative that they are granted by the “incidental expenses during a poker game may leave the table” rule. Making that prerogative into mandate is completely silly.

Foxwoods could make a consistent argument here, saying that the confusion of people going into pockets for chips is too likely to allow people to hide that they've “gone south” (a poker slang term for taking money that is in play in a game from the table). If they wished to make this argument, they would have to mandate that a player may not be possession of any Foxwoods chips except those that are on the table, and that they may not pull gratuities from their pocket under any circumstances. Even more, they could remove the (already annoying) “cash plays as chips” rule of Foxwoods, and they could even say that you can tip in cash but not chips.

But, the truth is that Foxwoods has no interest in making the rules consistent. Indeed, they have no interest in making rules that help regular players. They have no interest in making it so someone can take full advantage in a NL HE game. The truth is, they are a limit club, and they know their regulars are only going to play limit anyway. If they keep the limit players happy, they will have their regular daily client base. Meanwhile, they know that the tourists will want to find NL HE games that don't scare them. At each stakes level, they don't want the tourist intimidated by the big stack. They tolerate the players who stay and build a stack, but that's not really the clientele they want or care about. They want the games to play small to keep people buying in one-buy-in-at-a-time and losing it, all the while throwing their time right from that stack into Foxwoods coffers. They want them lose a moderate amount on the trip, and come back six months later and do it again.

In other words, they don't care about the poker community, or running games that serve that community. What they care about is their own internal competition with the blackjack pits, the craps pits, and the roulette wheels. It's well-known that the Foxwoods poker room has long been treated with contempt by dealers and floor people from other parts of the casino. They don't make as much money, and because of the requirement that all dealers throughout the casino pool all tips, everyone feels that the poker room free-rides on the huge tips received at the high-limit gambling games elsewhere in the facility.

Foxwoods is just a poorly run poker room. They are the poker monopoly of New England, and therefore have no reason to change their terrible policies. I still enjoy the place, because it has special meaning to me. My weekly bus trips there taught me how to win at poker beyond pennies on a dining room table. But, tradition can only hold one for so long when a place is run so poorly.

It's not to say that the games aren't beatable. It's not to say they aren't relaxing. I enjoy going there for the limit games from time to time, because the resort as a whole is nice and when going with a group who aren't poker players, there are opportunities for everyone to do something they enjoy. But, I think my Foxwoods days are done beyond that. I'm going to write a letter to the poker room manager and explain my reasoning, and perhaps there might be some hope of getting a reasonable response.

Anyway, thanks, Foxwoods, for helping me build my bankroll so I'm well beyond the $2/$4 limit games where I started, but I think you don't have much to offer a poker player anymore. Especially if your goal is to make up silly rules that help you only in the short run. I gave you more chances to improve than I really should have. Shame on me for actually thinking you were trying to make the place better.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

[ I'm continuing to post about my Vegas trip. Much of this may be boring to those who have been to the WSoP and/or Vegas before, but it was all new to me, and it will certainly be of interest to those who've never been, and perhaps some interest to those who have. ]

W.D. and I were now headed on that Monday night back to the Wynn. The walk back wasn't too hard, but “off-strip” really does mean “far away”. The Rio to the Wynn walk in the Vegas fall or winter might be a brisk, nice walk. But, this time of year, it seemed to tax the body. Once we made it to the Wynn, I couldn't help but pop back up to the room for a shower.

This actually became a habit of mine; I was taking showers basically every time we returned to the Wynn after being outside; one of the days I took three (including my usual morning one). I suppose it's somewhat decadent to respond to this scorching anti-environmentalist monstrosity that is Vegas by wasting the precious desert water supply, but I couldn't help myself. I suppose my version of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is I took a lot of showers, abusing a limited water supply. I'm such a liberal goodie-two-shoes — ooh, I didn't recycle one time, aren't I evil? :)

Before my shower, I called down to add myself to the $1/$3 and $2/$5 NL HE lists, and was literally able to watch the names move during my shower via the LCD screen in the bathroom. As I got dressed, I was three from the top on $2/$5, and headed down.

This game was tight. People were making preflop plays; continuation bets were winning three-way pots uncontested. I started to feel like “wow, Vegas games are tough”. When my name rolled to the top of the $1/$3 list, I was ready to switch.

I joined a friendly table of about three confused tourists, one semi-pro from Reno, two annoying locals, and the rest WSoP fans/satellite winners. I was slightly nervous — not that the stakes were that high — but I was still not fully comfortable with the idea that I was in the center of the poker mecca at the most popular room. Even though there were some real ($10/$20, and $20/$40 blind) games at the adjacent tables, I felt like my small stakes game was a big challenge.

I quickly realized that the locals were highly experienced players who sat in these smaller games for the easy money. The Wynn is somewhat unique in that their NL games have no cap buy-in at any stakes. The game plays very big, and one of the locals had a wad of $5,000 sitting on the table ready to throw if he got a tourist in a bad spot.

His buddy, a dour-faced portly Lebanese man, who went only by the moniker, “the Doctor”, couldn't have been more unlike the people I call “doctor” (such as Tom Baker or Christopher Eccleston). He was sarcastic, rude, mean, nasty, and demeaning to the other players. He didn't care if he scared fish away; he knew more were on the list and was there for the duration. Even worse, his buddy with the wad thought the Doctor was the funniest guy on the planet, and, as W.D. eloquently put it, laughed like a hyena at the Doctor's lame jokes. These two, and the Doctor in particular, would figure prominently into our Vegas sessions; he was part of the Wynn's furniture.

I played reasonably tight for a while, and decided to take a flop with one of my favorite NL HE hands, 5c 3c. I was in the big blind with four other people seeing a $9 preflop raise from the UTG+1 tourist to my left.

I checked the flop of 3s 7d Kh, and we saw the turn of 5h at no charge.

The Reno semi-pro seated two to my right was on the button, and had usually bet at pots that were checked to him twice, so I went for a check-raise. Reno didn't disappoint and bet $18, and I made it $45 to go. The action seemed to fly around to him and he folded quickly. I flashed my hand toward him, in hopes to show how loose I was playing. As I moved to land it down face up on the felt (I always show one, show all without being asked), I realized that someone had called the $45 cold in between. He was one of the tourists, who, fumbling with the chips, hadn't put his chips fully forward and his call was slightly obscured. This was no excuse; I've never done this before, but perhaps the excitement of playing in Vegas had gotten the better of me and kept me off my usual observance.

I didn't want my hand to be necessarily dead; I asked the dealer if my exposed hand was dead as I landed it back face-down in front of me. (The whole movement ended up being one basic motion: lift, flash to right, see caller to left, land cards face down.) I didn't know at this point who all had seen it; I was sure the full right side (1,2,3,4 seats) had seen, but I simply didn't know if the caller had!

The dealer told me my hand was absolutely live, and I said: well, half the table's seen my hand, so I'll check it dark. The river fell 5s, and most of the people to my right gasped and started laughing a bit.

Strangely, my clandestinely calling tourist bet $150 into the pot! I had no clue what was happening! Had he seen my hand? Did he and the people around him think I'd shown Reno a bluff, and therefore my blind check induced this bet? And, why the size of the pot? If he'd seen my hand, and was making a value bet, wouldn't it be less? I guessed maybe not, since he would know I was full and would likely pay off a large value bet. I asked him if he'd seen my hand, and he shrugged.

I was actually starting to put the pieces together. Just barely, I was starting to realize that he must have me beat. But, instead, I just acted too fast. Before I was even done going through the facts, I heard myself saying all in and my whole stack was moving forward! Wait a second, I haven't thought this through, what am I doing?; the thought flashed across my brain as I heard: call and saw, through my now confusion-fogged vision the Kd 5d, and I heard, Yeah, I'd seen your hand and knew you couldn't get away from it.. What had I done?

So, this marks the largest technical mistake I've ever made, compounded by the pure silliness of a bad move. Fortunately, he didn't have many chips left behind, and I was left with about $240 of my original $600 buy-in.

It was clear I made an insane mistake (one can argue that I have to call his river bet, just in case he hadn't actually seen my holding, but going all-in is a luxury that I couldn't afford at that point). The funniest thing was that, had I not exposed my hand, I would have had to put him on a naked 5 like A5s on the river and would have been forced to call. In other words, my exposed hand actually made it possible to avoid being fully stacked, and I missed the opportunity.

I quickly decided what I had to do. The truth was that I couldn't have gotten away from the situation had I not exposed my hand. Sure, I'd made a huge error, having actually given myself an advantage exposing my hand. But, I decided to put the technical mistake in the back of my mind for later analysis (which is below), and consider the fact that I'd have paid off anyway. It was not easily discernible that he'd failed to bet out and reraise with a better two-pair on the turn, and I'd never have made that huge laydown on the river.

So, why dwell on it? It was a beat that I only had the possibility of avoiding because of the exposed hand mistake anyway (or by being a much better card-reader than I am), so I let it be and restored my stack with a $400 rebuy. I pretended like it hadn't happened and started playing again. In my next Vegas Retrospective post, I'll talk about how I evened up just one orbit later holding — you probably almost guessed it — a 5d 2d.

I've now had enough time to think about the technical mistake I mentioned above. My feeling is that there were two factors at play that caused my problem. First, there was the obvious excitement I had of playing in Vegas for the first time. My head was not completely clear; it was muddled a bit with the exuberance of playing there for the first time. I should be more careful in the future when I am a little too excited to be playing poker and calm myself down.

Second, looking back over my whole live poker career, I very rarely sit in the four and five seats; I basically only sit there when it's the only open seat or I am trying to get relative position on someone. I do, upon review, have the hardest time seeing the action from those seats. So, in the future, I need to be extra careful when in those seats that I understand the action that has happened.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

I mentioned a few months ago that I suffered some a lot of losses one weekend in March. This is another post about some bad play I made in one of those hands. This hand took place at 02:00 on Sunday 12 March 2006.

I was hanging out with W.D. on Full Tilt, playing nine-handed NL HE as that's what he prefered at the time. I don't usually play nine-handed online; I am primarily a six-handed player. But, regardless of how many hands were dealt, I played this hand terribly.

The game was $1/$2 blind, $200 maximum buy-in NL HE. I was on the button with $152. (I was stupidly playing short stacked because I didn't have more money on the site at the moment.) Ahead of me in middle position, a somewhat agressive player with $252 limped. A passive player (with $150) limped. W.D. (with $325) limped behind them. I had Kh Th and decided to limp as well. The small blind, a very tight player called Silly Sally (with $143) completed. The big blind checked. We saw a flop of 6c Ac 5h with $11 in the pot (post-rake).

The flop checked around. I can't fault my play here. I had nothing, but in a field like that, I am likely to be called by hands like 78.

The turn was the Ah. Silly Sally in the SB checked again, and our aggressive player bets $2. I read this as a typical online probe bet. Many aggressive online players bluff the minimum. They seem to hope multi-tablers won't see that the bet is that small and fold things like middle pair.

Behind him, the passive player called (likely with a 6 or some draw), and W.D. called. With $16 in the pot, I am probably up against a six and some draws. I have the nut flush draw, and decide that a semi-bluff is warranted, and make it $15 to go.

Months later, I still don't think the semi-bluff is wrong there. I have major weakness in front of me, and even if the draws call, they may be flush draws, against which I have the best hand and huge implied odds. A six would be hard pressed to call.

Silly Sally, in the SB, is my only caller. If I'd been playing my best game, this should have easily shut me down no matter what came on the river. Sally, a conservative player, has checked twice, and now called a large bet. She has played the hand cagily, but the most obvious hand she could have is 66. Conservative players usually go for a check-raise with a set (a bad play, in my opinion), and when she filled up, there is even more reason to slow play because it is unlikely someone has an Ace.

I hit my “worst“ card, a 9h. Making the flush here is awful, but Sally even gave me an out; she checked it to me. I “value-bet” $25, and she immediately check-raised all-in for $100 more. I thought for my full time allotment, but it did me no good. I ignored the point that a conservative player would not call me on the turn with merely a flush draw on a paired board (she wouldn't), and decided she had made a weaker flush and called.

She didn't have the hand she represented throughout the hand — 66 — but rather Ad 5s. Her play seems wrong to me on the flop (check-raising two pair in that spot is something I'd only do if a truly hyper-aggressive player is in the pot), but there is no question that my play was just abysmal. I should have had my wits about me and just checked the river. It would have been annoying to see a smaller made flush in her hand, but I really have to give her credit for a monster on the turn. I hadn't once seen her call with a draw without odds, especially out of position, so there is no way she calls on the turn without at least trip aces. Even if I give her a naked Ace on the turn, I have to give her credit for A9 on the river and fold.

Well, Sally, you earned that $100 bucks with your patient play. Please enjoy a fine meal on me and my donkey play.

shipitfish: (Default)

In a low-limit satellite tournament, I recently had a player berate me for betting into a dry-ish side pot. I had raised from the button when the action folded to me and the big blind was all-in for 350 chips, less than the value of the blind (400). The antes had started, so there were 775 chips out there. The small blind was tight and even in chips with me (about 9,000). He was pretty tight and I felt he'd fold most of the time, assuming I had a hand to show down with the all-in player.

I held 23s, which (I believe) is only around 30% to win against two random cards, so the odds were about 15% against me, even if my instincts were right and the SB folded. But, I was also hoping to use the play to set something up later, as the blinds would be going up soon. Against loose players, I noticed tighter players were calling a lot of all-in bets with bad hands in this tournament, and they seemed to only need a small reason to call big preflop raises for all their chips. I was hoping to give them a reason in my case — by risking less than a BB, with some small equity to win a pot full of blinds and antes, and be “forced” to show that I'd raised with a terrible hand. I hoped it would induce action later, and the blinds were going up fast so getting called by dominated aces to double up in the next round would be a big help.

I was not too happy when the SB called the 775 bet, making the main pot 1,475 and the side pot 850. The flop was QJ2 with a two-flush and the SB checked. I really felt I had the best hand at this point. Given what I'd seen of this player, he would have bet out with either a Q or J; he had not check-raised once since we'd started the tournament. I decided to make a feeler bet of 500. If he called, I was wrong on my read and he had likely a J. I would then have five outs on the turn to win, and I might get a free river card, too. Betting 500 to win 2,325 therefore seemed right to me here.

My 2 was good, he folded, and it beat the all-in player. His anger was focused in the argument was that it helped me more to check it down than it did to bet, because it was the best shot to “eliminate a player”. I thought a lot about this argument and I don't buy it. We were still seven seats from the money, and one more player with an emergency stack wasn't going to change much. I theorize that the player was more angry that he would have hit a pair on the turn or river (although he never said specifically what he had).

I know my preflop raise was very questionable, and that its primary value was to have the better players at the table see me as a “loose raiser” and get action as a favorite (with weak King-highs, for example) when I would inevitably move all-in within the next 20 minutes. But, was it so questionable that I should have just folded and let the SB call and show down with the all-in player? And, was my bet on the flop a suicide bet? Is he right, is checking down right? (If he was right, it was for the wrong reason, of course.)

I've read a lot lately that seems to indicate that game theoretically, bluffing into a dry(-ish) side pot can often be a correct play. Am I taking that too far, though?

As it turned out the ploy seems to have worked. I got called all-in preflop holding QQ about 20 minutes later by a very tight player (who had earlier joined the discussion of my “bad play”). However, he knocked me out when he flopped an ace.

But, being careful not to assume I'd done the right thing, I should ask the question if I did. What do you think?

shipitfish: (wsop-2006)

I finished 300-something in the blogger freeroll. I wasn't paying as much attention to the thing as I should have been early on, as the final table of the WSoP $1,500 satellite overlapped for about 40 minutes or so.

It was fun chatting with the bloggers. It seems generally, poker bloggers are nicer people than your run-of-the-mill online poker player.

I played ok, flopped one set and bet out (my preferred set-playing method), but got no action as no one had top pair. I held onto a short stack as the blinds got up. I bet all my money in on the upside of a 60/40 (A7o vs KTo).

Fine with me, although it would have been cool to get a second $1,500 entry for the week before, and play two of them. (Prizes 3-9 or somesuch were $1,500 entries in the blogger tourney.)

I know a ton of people have won main event seats out there, and are probably reading “so what” to all my excitement about this $1,500 secondary event seat. But, for me, it means more because making the money seems actually attainable in a secondary event. Also, I probably would never have gotten around to visiting Las Vegas if I didn't have something like this to compel me to get out there.

Strangely, I'm used to coming out of a weekend up a couple of hundred in cash games, but I've been doing all this tourney stuff and I am actually down a bit in cash games for the weekend. But, I see why people love tourneys. It's so different than the cash game grind and a win like this feels so much more exciting than even a big cash score.


shipitfish: (Default)

November 2016

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