shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

During the weeks leading up to the WSoP this year, I played lots of satellites with points and various other small amounts. This is a tourney hand from an online WSoP main event $600+35 satellite (which I'd super'ed into). Starting chips were 2,500 and starting blinds were 10/20. We were on the first blind level, at a 9-handed table. I had 2,800 in chips and was two from the button.

Action is folded to the person on my right, who made it 60. I called with 5d 5h. The big blind (with 2,959 chips) defended and we saw the flop of 5c 2h 6s three-handed with 190 in the pot.

It was checked to me, and I led for 100 chips. The big blind called and the preflop raiser folded. The pot stood at 390 chips. I knew nothing about the players, but I put the big blind on an overpair (probably around 77 or 88 that he was misplaying), 34, 66, 22, 78, 45, 47, or maybe overcards. The turn was the Qs and he led for 200 chips. I somewhat felt perhaps he did have something like AQ that he check-called with and added this to his range. I also though maybe at this point he had a gutshot or overcards on the flop and picked up a flush draw. The annoying part about his lead is that it actually increased my range for him (even if it did make it unlikely he held an overpair on the flop).

I made it 600 chips to go and he called quickly. We saw the river of Jc with 1,590 chips in the pot. He had only 1,699 chips remaining. I really felt he had a set of 2's at this point, but obviously 34 and a set of sixes were real possibilities. I consider that maybe some sort of Q was a possibility, as he may have been making some sort of delayed steal on the flop. I decided there were a number of hands he could pay off legitimately. I figured he'd call with everything in his range except busted-straights/turned-flush-draws. I led 800.

He check-raised all in. At that point, I narrowed his range to 34, 66, 22, and very rarely QJ. I called his last 899 with 1-to-3.54 odds, hoping for 22, and saw 3s 4s.

After calling the river, I felt strongly I shouldn't have tried that river value bet. I think I would have been more likely to check in a cash game, but in a tourney (at the time) I felt I had to collect the chips. Once I've value-bet, I clearly can't fold to the check-raise because I can't completely eliminate 22. Plus, if he had QJ even a little bit of the time I think the odds are clearly right.


shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

I only had time to skim this academic letter by Clément Sire entitled Universal Statistical Properties of Poker Tournaments. He primarily argues various types of observed natural phenomena in Physics and Biology evolve the same was as poker tournaments, particularly those where chips are not evenly distributed.

He does seem to make some indication that various “Kill Phil” strategies (i.e., tending to go all-in on the first betting round) have certain advantages in tournaments. However, I feel that he tends to ignore the evolution of hand play and the importance of opponents folding in certain situations. He does argue that individual hand outcomes are not particularly important in tournament play, but I am not particularly swayed by his arguments. I didn't follow every last piece of his math.

BTW, it's worlds colliding for me again: one of my undergraduate professors sent me a link to this academic article formatted in LaTeX (a free software document formatting system) about poker. I wonder how many people in the poker world have enough background knowledge to comment usefully on this article. I am sort of useless in disputing his arguments, since my math modeling and analysis skills have faded so much since my undergraduate days (and I didn't do any in graduate school, really, focusing more on Theory of Computation and other symbolic math).

Oh, and I do like how they call poker tournaments a “futile activity”. I rather like the sound of that. It reminds me that things you do only to make money are ultimately futile, and I think that's how anyone who does not love poker more than most other of life's endeavors will eventually feel about poker.

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: (wsop-2006)

[ I expect I'll have two weeks of posts about my trip to Las Vegas. Much of it will admittedly be boring to those who have been to the WSoP and/or just Vegas before, but it was all new to me, and it will probably be of interest to those who've never been. ]

W.D. and arrived on Monday in the early afternoon. We waited for my bag for far too long (I hate being that guy who brings too much carry-on luggage even though I could have gotten away with it). I walked outside, and my eyes felt surrounded. I felt that the entire surface area of my eyeballs were surrounded with heat. It was a surprising feeling, but not a bad one. It was unique, and I actually enjoyed it. It would be more or less the last time I liked Vegas outside.

We got in the cab line, and quickly were headed to the Wynn. W.D., like he always does so well with people, got the cab drive off and talking completely comfortably about all sorts of things. I'm always impressed about W.D's ability to make other people comfortable. It's going to be a huge poker skill for him when he finally gets to the level where he knows for sure what he needs the other player to do (and he's getting close).

We checked into the room, and it was everything that Greg and others had told me it was. It's a wonderful place and very comfortable: a huge bathroom, new beds, a large plasma TV and a smaller one in the bathroom. The poker room waiting list available right on those very screens. A wonderful large window with a full view of (in our case) the old strip. It did take us two tries to realize that there was a fully automated remote control to open and close the shades — a great feature even though it wasn't IOMCO.

Then, came the long arduous trip to the Rio and registration for the event. I've put the details behind this link. )

It was quite an ordeal just to get signed up for one tournament. The whole place is a mad house, and I'm sure it's only gotten worse as the main event rages through its many Day Ones and Day Twos. I know many of the pros don't like the riff-raff of all us amateurs showing up. But, the WSoP has become “the poker player's convention”. Walking around, it reminds me of many of the early Open Source and Free Software conferences. There is a sense that everyone there is just the second generation in something that is so very huge that the world is about to discover. Sure, I still think the poker boom won't last too much longer, but like Free Software, and comics, and Star Trek, and Harry Potter, and so many niche loves before it, poker will become a staple part of the mainstream, and the WSoP will for the years to come be the annual event that defines that world. I just hope I can win a main event seat for next year.

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 got this email this morning that explains the details of the WSoP entry from Full Tilt:

Congratulations on your finish in our “Race For Bracelets” tournament. We are pleased to tell you that $500 has been placed in your account, and that you can collect your $1500 in World Series of Poker tournament chips at Full Tilt Poker's hospitality suite at Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. These tournament chips can be put toward the entry fee for any of the WSOP's tournaments, including the Main Event.

Please note, you are responsible for your own travel arrangements and expenses. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Also make sure that you are aware of the identification requirements that need to be met to receive your prize. You can find all of the information at the link below:

You can pick up the chips in our hospitality suite. The suite will be across from the main tournament area in the convention center space of the Rio.

[ Details of how to find the suite and when it is open. ]

Also please note, that Full Tilt Poker will not be pre-registering players for any of the preliminary events.

A few interesting things to note here:

  • will not be pre-registering players: This is somewhat annoying, although the events are highly unlikely to sell out, I assume. There is, in fact, no indication that there are entrant number caps on any of the events. And, hey, if they are setup to have 8,000 or more in the main event, they surely have room and staff to accommodate the smaller events.
  • can be put toward the entry fee for any of the WSOP's tournaments, including the Main Event: this is really interesting. You could actually just win seven of these little ones and get a main event seat instead. However, I was playing this specifically because I wanted to be in a smaller event, so I am not going to chase more of these little ones to try and do that. Besides, winning seven would be tough.
  • These tournament chips: cute. I guess I didn't realize that there was WSoP “funny money”. It makes sense, though — it's an easy to pay out satellite winners of all sorts. However, if they are as good as cash when it comes to entry in WSoP events, it contradicts this part from the rules and regulations page: any WSOP entry ... won at Full Tilt Poker is non-transferable. If you cannot use your entry, it cannot be given away. Once I have the tourney chips, couldn't I give them away? Or, are they just using term loosely?
  • Also from rules page, The name you registered with Full Tilt Poker is the same as the name on your license or passport: Phew, I'm glad that I registered under my real name on Full Tilt.

I am strongly leaning toward playing event 37, which is a three-day NL HE tournament starting on Tuesday 25 July 2006. Here are my reasons:

  • NL HE is currently by far my best game. I used to be much better at limit HE, but I am so out of practice, and I don't think I could get up to speed quickly enough to make my limit HE skills match my NL HE skills.
  • According to last years' entrant count, Event 37 had only 863 entrants. This was the smallest $1,500 NL HE field by at least 150 at the 2005 WSoP. My feeling is that I have more of a shot to cash in a smaller field. (And, I must be realistic that my goal is to cash, not make a final table.) While the scores are bigger with larger fields, when you only have one shot, you have better odds with a smaller field.
  • I theorize that Event 37 attracts fewer pros. 37's final table is the day before Day 1A of the main event. The pros have been playing events of this magnitude all month. If they're going to sit one out, it's probably going to be this one, to give themselves a rest before playing the Big One. I wish I could confirm this theory, but I haven't been able to find lists of registrants' names to the 2005 WSoP events online; I presume it's not published.
  • I have decided, given my excitement of this win, to play some main event satellites now. If I do get very lucky and win a main event seat too, it will be easy to extend my trip if my plan is to be there just before it.

This whole thing just has me so excited. I know that I'll be a underdog to the field; tournament poker is generally not my thing. But, it's just so much fun. I feel like I used to when I first started going to my first computer conferences as a young undergraduate. It's just so much fun to go see a “convention” of something that really interests you.

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: (wsop-2006)

To be clear: I do not have a seat in the “main event”, the $10,000 buy-in NL HE tournament that most people think of when they first hear about the World Series of Poker. The WSoP is actually a month-long series of different tournaments, each with different buy-ins and prize pools. I am excited to announce that on Full Tilt Poker, I won a $4+.40 satellite, which got me into a $24+2 satellite. I won that (first place), which gives me a $2,000 prize package to go to Las Vegas for any of the $1,500 buy-in events (the extra $500 is for expenses).

I have no details as of yet, because I'm actually still playing right now in two different main event satellite freerolls. I'll post more later when I have more information. The news as of now: I'm making my first trip to Las Vegas as a WSoP tournament entrant!

113 of 141

Sunday, 26 February 2006 22:32
shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

Busted out 113 of 141 in the H.O.R.S.E. tourney. It's that second HE round, when it hits 100/200 blinds, that always gets me when I'm against strong players. I loosen up a bit too much, and one bad hand cripples an average stack at that moment. Oh well, a fun time taking a shot at $7,000 for $8.80, anyway. It helps that I won $600 at the NL HE tables a few hours before the tourney started.

shipitfish: (Default)

As regular readers know, I love mixed games. I have recently redeposited into Full Tilt due to a new reload bonus. In between taking stacks over at the $1/$2 NL tables (I've recovered my losses from the set over set situation), I like to wander over to the H.O.R.S.E. tournaments (if only they offered it as a cash game). I played an $8+.8 satellite, and won out of a field of about 60 or so! That gets me a buy-in to the weekly $200+16 H.O.R.S.E. tourney, which generates a really big prize pool!

It's not often I play "big" buy in tournaments (my limit is $30+3 events; the variance is just too high otherwise). I am looking forward to trying to see if I can make the money playing mixed games tomorrow night!

shipitfish: (Default)

Last night, I played a small limit tournament at a local NYC club. This small club was seeking to generate additional interest (they are a small three-table club) by filling the niche of limit games; there are few in the city. Most players seems to want only NL, thanks to television, I presume.

I have written a rather rambling description of that tournament, as it was a fun time and surprisingly exciting for me despite the low stakes. )

I'm going to another tournament tonight. In an effort to get an O/8 games going, a sister club is running a $50 O/8 tourney tonight. I doubt I'll have enough luck to place two nights in a row, but it's worth a try.


shipitfish: (Default)

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