Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Too funny

This is one of those stories I'd find it hard to believe it weren't in the paper...
See the flop...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mrs. SoxLover's Fun with Hiltons

I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but my wife is a budding poker player herself. Sunday night while I was asleep she experienced a most brutal bad beat with Hilton Sisters leaving her out 166th in a 1350+ player 3$ tourney on stars (31 short of the cash). She tried to recall the hand but probably was too scarred to get it just right, so I pulled up the history for her:

PokerStars Game #1981173776: Tournament #9111725, Hold'em No Limit - Level IX (300/600) - 2005/06/27 - 00:10:17 (ET)
Table '9111725 80' Seat #6 is the button
Seat 1: n3xus2 (11245 in chips)
Seat 2: chowmein (8358 in chips)
Seat 3: VTepes (12279 in chips)
Seat 4: conkys kid (26898 in chips)
Seat 5: MrSnirdly (14320 in chips)
Seat 6: 5odGooch (14673 in chips)
Seat 7: EbbetsField (5500 in chips)
Seat 8: smirnoff_86 (14895 in chips)
Seat 9: semloh (5919 in chips)
n3xus2: posts the ante 50
chowmein: posts the ante 50
VTepes: posts the ante 50
conkys kid: posts the ante 50
MrSnirdly: posts the ante 50
5odGooch: posts the ante 50
EbbetsField: posts the ante 50
smirnoff_86: posts the ante 50
semloh: posts the ante 50
EbbetsField: posts small blind 300
smirnoff_86: posts big blind 600
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to VTepes [Qd Qc]
semloh: folds
n3xus2: folds
chowmein: folds
VTepes: raises 1200 to 1800
conkys kid: folds
MrSnirdly: folds
5odGooch: folds
EbbetsField: folds
smirnoff_86: calls 1200
*** FLOP *** [Qh Kc Jd]
smirnoff_86: bets 13045 and is all-in
VTepes: calls 10429 and is all-in
*** TURN *** [Qh Kc Jd] [Jh]
*** RIVER *** [Qh Kc Jd Jh] [Js]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
smirnoff_86: shows [Ad Jc] (four of a kind, Jacks)
VTepes: shows [Qd Qc] (a full house, Queens full of Jacks)
n3xus2 said, "oh jesus"
smirnoff_86 collected 25208 from pot
MrSnirdly said, "ouch"

Ouch is right MrSnirdly!

Mrs. SoxLover: "I'll never look at queens the same way again."


In my less interesting saga, polar opposites in two 50+5 9 player sit and goes on Stars this evening. First one, I was out in hand #1 bluffing into a rivered full house.

Second tourney lasted 49 hands down to the bubble, and then in what I think was a personal record, a grueling 87 hands 4-handed, with both the chip lead and the short stack rotating at least once through each player. Three handed was another 24 hands. Heads up only lasted 2 hands with my short stack doubling up once against a massive leader (11.5k to 2k) but not twice when my K6o fell to 89o rivering a straight. Good, tight players on that table.
See the flop...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Surviving the Desert

The ways to have a bad night are legion.

With soulcrushing glory, you can get your money in with best of it and sucked out by a donkey with a 3-outer.

You can "win" the reverse lottery when the euhporia of hitting your set turns into to the utter despair of wathcing all your chips slide over to the higher set.

You can pick just that moment to bluff the tight player when he turns his nuts.

You can pig-headedly refuse to lay down that beautiful premium pair.

Some of these you can control and some of these you can't. Like any player who has played for any significant amount of time, I've experienced or caused myself to experience each of them once or several times. They all suck in a little different way. Last night, I went through another one of these gems that is perhaps my least favorite: I went utterly card dead.

In a 7 hour session at the near-Chinatown club, including a 45 minute interlude for a 50 each heads-up freeze out the ever-oblidging host Bill spread for me and another player for shits and giggles (it was my first live heads-up tourney so I peevishly insisted on those stakes rather than 100 each--to my regret as I won it), I was dealt a pocket pair above 10s exactly twice. Each time they were aces, normally not much to complain about. The first time came when Bill sat down at our heads-up session to deal a few quick hands and immediately gave me black ones. My opponent in the small blind folded before I could act (nice try Bill). The second was a few hours later back at the 1-2NL where I got them on the button (yay!) and watched the action fold around to the cutoff on my right, who limped. I may not be a pro, but I'm not letting four people including two effectively random blinds into an unraised pot with aces. I didn't want to chase out all the action, but apparently my pop to 12 was a monster overbet as that's just what happened.

My hands were really dead. I was not getting suited connectors, and I was not hitting those few hands I managed to get in the pot with. The one exception proved the rule very early in the session when I snuck into a 6-way unraised pot in the small blind with A5o, flopped 234 with two diamonds. I bet out the pot and got one customer. Flush on the turn (this could have been worse I admit, at least the order of the board saved me another large bet).

I played on and on over the hours, enjoying only the plasma view of the Bombers' continuing example of how not to spend 200 million and the Red Sox's ascension to first place (I know, it's only June but I'll still take it). Also, the Rooster did pop in to say hello, but unfortunately never made it into the game.

Anyway, I managed to slow the descent, using the tight image brought on by my awful cards to steal a few pots and hang on, watching my 500 buy in softly slide down to around 400, then 300. The night wore on and the table grew more aggressive. My steal attempts suddenly got met with pops. This is something I usually like in the long run as it sets me up and encourages action into me when I eventually do make my hand. But of course, that was not happening so instead it just chipped away. I was get hammerred down, finally to about 150 when the 5-5 table also spread broke up, bringing Skippy the action junky to squeeze in at our table, four seats to my left.

I was worried about Skippy at first as he was forced to pocket a few hundred to fit under our 500 table maximum. I did manage to put this in context however as I knew the 5-5 max was 2000, so even coming over with his dregs could easily have left him over 500.

Watching Skippy gave me some relief as he bet and called in every which way that he shouldn't. The action at the table perked up. All of a sudden, 60-100 was in the pot nearly every hand pre-flop with 4-6 customers. I knew I just needed a hand, but the procession of J4's, K8's and other excrement continued. I bled down to 106 on the button when finally I got something. Not just something, my personal nuts: two thirds of the antichrist or--with a bit less melodrama--pocket sixes.

2nd UTG opened the betting for 15, with 3 callers including skippy. It was late, and I pretty much wanted to go home. Normally, what I do in that situation is I get up, bring the few chips I have in front of me, ask that they be exchanged for legal tender and go home. Some people that have bled down fail to remember that chips can still be redeemed in this manner and determine that "they might as well put in the rest of them". I usually don't, but this time, I was "going for broke". Shit, I knew I had the best hand.

I raised the pot up to 100, slamming down the only stack I had left in the middle of the table and leaving myself 6 behind (my later claim that I wanted to make sure I could get away from the hand was met with some skepticism ). Well golly be, the rest of the table, perhaps noting the force of my slam and the high frequency of pots I'd entered, folded around to Skippy. Skippy frowned, Skippy fretted and, I suspect, Skippy even thought. Skippy passed. Yes, that's right folks, he laid 'em down. I flipped over my two-thirds devil and Skippy steamed. If we can take Skippy at his word, he had two overs and "knew" he should have called me.

Sweeping up my hard won 45, I waited for the next hand in the cutoff. AQo. This hand is often trouble for me, but last night, it was a monster. 2nd UTG bet out the now standard 15, attracting 3 callers including Skippy. I went all in. OK , I know this is a little over-aggressive. But all I'm worried about is that one of the 15 "limpers" was slow playing a monster. Really, I'm only worried about 2nd UTG. If I can get past him, I know there is a very large chance that I'll get heads-up with Skippy (who already "knows" he should call me) and I'll take my chances. Unless there is AA, KK, or AK in there, I'm just not going to mind too much a caller. Any other calling hand I am probably a slight dog but not hopeless and certainly with reasonable pot odds.

Action folds around to Skippy, who jumps back in the tank. This time the outcome is different and I get my man.

The flop turned up a miserable king, but Mrs. Slick was good unimproved as Skippy paid off your narrator with AJs.

The night was still a loss--I was stuck 180--but I at least I'd survived the desert.
See the flop...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Back in the Saddle

Just so it doesn't sound like I only report victories, last night I dropped 335 in sit and go tourneys at Stars (a 50+5, a 55+5 turbo, and depressingly, 2 100+5 head's ups). I mitigated this a little bit with a 40 up session of razz at the 1-2 table (refuge for the wounded) at Full Tilt.

With that ugly lead-in out of the way, tonight I rebounded in a 105+9 turbo:

Here I was at the cash:

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Then in the key hand (I raised pre flop and then all in on the flop):

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It was done there, but I was compelled to call for 125 my oppo's pre-flop all in on the next hand. The flop came rather pro-Sox:

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See the flop...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

When does winning 250 feels like losing?

When you sit at the final table and it looks like this:

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And then this happens:

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Leaving you like this:

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Oh well. Still, it was a nicer way to end the weekend than bubbling I guess.

See the flop...

Bloggers Take the Bloom off the Rose

Only incrementally better than having your door kicked in by Bloomberg stormtroopers, our new near-Chinatown club suffered the embarrassment of being asked to spread for the very first time since it opened its classy doors a game that to deal is a novelty, to know is to hate and to play is to suffer.

Yes, that's right, we got a New York club to spread Razz.

Granted the place only opened a month ago, but I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that had 4 1/4 bloggers (FTrain, Bobby Bracelet, Derek and the Rooster--since I've only been blogging from since the beginning of the month, I'll count myself a quarter) plus FTrain's friend Ferrari not descended on the hapless location last night after downing a nice bottle of Barolo in Little Italy, they may well have avoided the indignity indefinitely.

The 3-6 Razz session was not the most profitable for yours truly, as I sunk $100 into as many bricks as the club had exposed on its walls (hint: they have a lot of wall space). Frankly, however, I was outgunned in those waters and escaped relatively unscathed only because I was fortunate enough to avoid the fate that befell one hapless fellow.

In perhaps the hand of the night, we saw the power of a move only known to top Razz players, known by the cognoscenti as "the Rooster" and by its victims as "the Cock". The trick is to wait until you're showing paint on 3rd street. The typical player in this situation would meekly fold or, holding decent unders, perhaps hope to sneak in the pot for the bring-in.

But that's not how you pull a Rooster. No, to pull a Rooster, you must bide your time till the betting gets around to you. Then, if any poor sap named after a sports car has completed, RAISE-EM UP!

Nicely hooked, now all you have to do is bet, raise and re-raise through 4th, 5th and 6th street, catching paint once more along the way. Finally, hit your 6,5,4,2,A on the river and sweep the capped pot on 7th street from Mr. Fishy who somehow thought his 6,5,4,3,A was good.

Super props to the club, not only did they spread Razz for us, they gave us a dealer for two hours, let us rotate through Razz, O8 and limit 4-8 without even charging time. Notwithstanding my genuine grieving over Playstation, this place rocks.

When the club looked like it was going to lose its other table, we offered to switch ours to 1-2NL and bring over the two last players. That did manage to save the night for me as I've refined my strategy for taking money from bloggers, or at least Yankee-fan bloggers. Basically, it involves turning quad 9s. It's a tricky play, but I do recommend giving it a shot now and then.

Finally, we determined that the computer hand, affectionately renamed "queen shit", is pretty damn good as it took 3 pots in 2 orbits.
See the flop...

AC Redux Recap

Second trip in two weekends went not quite as well as first trip. I took Friday off to get a head start and booked a room at the Trop. FTrain was coordinating with several bloggers to come down there on Saturday but for various reasons outlined in my previous post plus others, I ended up getting a call left on my voicemail late Friday letting me know the bloggers couldn't make it down, so I cut my trip short and returned Saturday afternoon, managing to have a blast with the crew in the city (see post immediately to follow).

While I was there:

Session 1, 100+20 tourney with 100 add-on at first break. Ran below average into the break after once again deciding to bluff into a straight. Add on brought me to 75% of average, and I rode a nice streak to 150% of average with a bit of bullying once I was moved to a tighter table. Got into serious trouble when one old man decided to take his stand with Mrs. Slick against my fishhooks and the board supplied an ace. Crippled, I hung on for two more orbits but rolled the dice and crapped out as the blinds and antes left me no other choice. Session 1: -220, 2.5 hours.

Session 2, 1-2 NL, 300 max, bought in for 300. This was a hospital ward table with 6-7 limpers in nearly every pot. Quick aside for best exchange of the trip: river comes 3rd spade and fills out player 1's Broadway. Player 2 bets 50. Player 1 pauses, asks "Did you hit your flush?" Player 2 says "no". Player 1, without pause but with 250 behind, says "all-in". Player 2, with Player 1 covered, calls and shows 2nd nut.

Hand of note #1: Dicking around for several hours, I'd managed to inch up to 340 when I flopped two 9s to go with my J9s. I figured out with some back and forth with the big blind (about 240 behind when the hand started) and another player whom we lost along the way that the big blind had another 9. His hesitance, including a very nervous string raise all in on the turn that the dealer made him retract, the fact that he was in the big blind in an unraised pot, and a king on the turn making a boat less likely led me to believe that pushing on the river was plus EV. I was right as he called and showed an 8 kicker.

Hand of note #2: I felt pretty good with about 600 in front when the first unfortunate event occurred. Much to my surprise, my 20 bet got called by a calling station with 280 behind in the BB when I bet Mrs. Slick from the SB. The rest of the table folded out. I hit the flop with a sledge hammer as AQ6 rainbow came out. I checked and he bet 20. Although he called everything pre-flop, he had been pretty aggressive post-flop, with crazy all in overbets from time to time. Hoping to induce another one of these, I just called. The turn was a king, and I checked again. He bet 50. I was pretty sure he had an ace, and decided to play it differently than my first plan. After thinking it through, I am sure I made a mistake here, although I am equally sure the result would have been the same as the train had already left the station and there was no getting off. He already had 90 in the pot, and I figured I had a reasonable chance of getting the rest in so I pushed. Strangely enough, this almost worked in way I didn't realize I was looking for when he thought long and hard before calling. He had Slick and there was no miracle on 5th Street.

Hand of note #3: Pissed away a bit longer to just under 300. Limped in on the button with ducks with 5 others, flopped 3 uncoordinated overs and watched the table check around for a free turn, which was my deuce. SB, with 175 behind, led out with 30. One caller in, it came around to me and I made it 90 to go. SB pushed and, with a sinking feeling, I called. SB turned over the trip 5s he'd flopped. 3 a.m., tired and demoralized, I decided to hit the sack.

Session 2: -180, 5.75 hours.

I got back to the room and received the cell phone message from FTrain. Note: T-Mobile seems to be the only freaking service that does not work in the Trop poker room. I decided that I would probably leave on Saturday rather than stay the extra night, so, 7 hours of sleep later, I checked out in the morning. I also decided that the only thing to do when stuck for $400 is to keep on letting it ride. It can only get better, right? So I left my bag at the bell hop, had breakfast and hopped into a newly formed 2-5. When attempting to get back to zero, it always helps to raise the stakes.

All kidding aside, with two weekends' vast experience, I think I've pretty much decided at casinos to always play 2-5 rather than 1-2 if I have a choice. I am sure that theremust be a way to kill the 1-2 easier than the 2-5 since on the whole, there is much more terrible play in the 1-2, but I think that as long as there are at least 2 or 3 poor players or 1 terrible player at the table, it is actually easier to win steadily with 4 or 5 reasonably solid people sitting with you. Decent players generally are able to identify each other and as long as there is easier money to be had and, at least at the margin, will avoid unnecessary confrontations. It's simply easier to steer the action.

In a 4.5 hour session, I really only had 1 hand of note, and stunningly simple though it was, it achieved my purpose. No more than 20 minutes into the session and 2nd UTG, I faced a raise of the blinds to 15 from UTG. Peeping down, I saw cowboys. With 8 to act after me, this was no time to get cute so I raised it up to 60. It folded around to the small blind, who even in this short period had marked himself off as a calling station, shrinking his stack already from 500 to about 350. What could be a better time to call 58 than facing a 45 2nd UTG raise over a 15 UTG bet? Bingo. UTG folded leaving me heads up with a homer.

Flop was a very nice 10 high rainbow unconnected board, and I led out with another 50. SB called. Turn comes another low blank and I led out 100. SB called, leaving himself with 140. River was yet another blank. Looking deeply troubled, he apparently decided his hand was good and went all in. I cannot say I was happy, but I could not figure out what hand he could be holding that the river could have helped. If he had landed trips after that sorry call, so be it, but I'm not laying down that hand with a 580 pot for another 140 unless I'm playing Phil Ivey. I am not shitting you, the man turned over JT off suit. I mean, in almost 13 hours of hard play, I win the lion's share of my weekend on that ridiculous hand. No complaints, but it is a strange game we play.

I played for several mores, building up to a high water mark of 1080 before slipping back down to 980 and decided to head out when two players that knew the dealer on a first name basis and seemed to know how to bet sat down on transfer, one of them putting $500 in greens in his pocket to slip under the table limit. I did think about it anyway since I had them both on my immediate right and the whale who paid me off had stuck around for 3 buy-ins, but if I hadn't left, I'd have missed the blogger night out in New York.

Session 3: +480, 4.5 hours. Weekend, +80 (less 170 hotel room + 15 comp crappy caesar salad).

Ironic observation: the Tropicana has the worst orange juice of any casino I have ever been to.
See the flop...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Pre AC Prep

I'm back down to AC this weekend, hopefully meeting up with FTrain and some other bloggers. If this comes off, this will be my first intro to any blogger I didn't know in law school--and that sample size = 1.

Plan has been to clean the place a bit: wife's still out of town but friend of wife will be feeding the cats and it really got kind of bad in two weeks of temporary wifelessness, hit the road in the early afternoon before the Jersey Shore traffic. Booked room at the Trop on the Friday night rate, Saturday is still in the air, meet up with said bloggers if they don't cancel.

I understand there was a death somewhere in a blogger family that will significantly cut attendence. This is in addition to Iggy's awful post, which sadly reminds me of a distant 21 year-old cousin of mine who died in a car crash five years ago with his girfriend 2 weeks after graduating college, an entire branch of my family remains devasted (he was an only child). This stuff really, really sucks and I offer my condolences for what they're worth since none of the involved know me.

I was going to write about some hands I played this morning as a warm up but realize I really can't seguay from these tragedies back to poker. Another time.
See the flop...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

In Memory of Playstation

Having spent well over 200 intense hours of my life at Playstation, I’d like to say something about the short but memorable chapter of my life experienced at its tables. Apologies to my vast reader base if this post is very long, but I have been thinking a lot about the club, particularly after running into so many of its displaced regulars down in Atlantic City this weekend.

Love at First Cash

My first visit to Playstation, around a year ago, was for all intents and purposes my introduction to serious live play. I had been logging many limit hold’em hours online at stakes ranging from 2-4 to 10-20, but aside from a few less than memorable sessions at the 3-6 table in Harrah’s New Orleans, I had yet to experience serious live play when I received an eVite from an infamous law school character.

This guy, whom I’ll call Ty after my favorite former Patriot cornerback, merits a post all to himself. I’ll just give him a paragraph. Ty is a minor prodigy that graduated UC Berkeley when he was 20, purportedly without opening a book, and who introduced himself to Columbia law school one memorable afternoon in our orientation course in a 150-person classroom straight out of The Paper Chase. The eminent Professor Kent Greenwalt, a man over 70 fairly high in the pantheon of legal philosophy and not known for having a particularly casual manner, looked down at his seating chart and read off Ty’s name. Ty’s response: “Whazzup man!”

That’s Ty.

At any rate, Ty often spoke (i.e. bragged) of his regular jaunts to the underground New York poker scene. In 1999, this evoked thoughts of Rounders, and certainly when he and a friend he brought in to one of our weekly small stakes games crushed it (as well as their chances of being invited back), I was intrigued. Without any source of income other than student loans, however, I declined to pursue the lead at the time. Fast forward to late last spring when I received the eVite from Ty with the details of a Saturday NLHE tourney, 30+10 with unlimited first hour rebuys and as well the location of the venue, Playstation. I called up the Korean ATM and we decided we were ready for our first taste of the poker underground. We met up in the street, sidling glances and nerves like teenagers heading to the dark side of town for fake IDs. The door right on 14th Street (a major street for those unfamiliar) by the corner of 5th Avenue had the club’s name for anyone to see on the doorbell. Apparently not scaring off eye on the other end of the video camera pointed at us, we were buzzed in.

First impression was this place was more dumpy than sinister. There were 8 felt worn tables in the large front room, which faced the street but featured solid black drapes with no window showing. It looked like it should have been smoked filled but it wasn’t because they had created a separately vented 5x10 interior windowed smoking lounge (which was pretty foul but served its purpose). The back room, which I did not see immediately, had three more tables was substantially nicer (just before the bust they crammed in a fourth table and installed a cool system where dealers could flick a switch to summon a chip runner from the front room), with hardwood floors and some natural light from the back side of the building, but still no transparent glass.

It was only 12:30 in the afternoon, but the club rapidly filled, mostly with Ty’s friends. The majority of this particular crowd were not regular players but rather like me, Ty’s friend’s curious to give it ago. We filled out membership forms and even had our IDs copied.

When the tourney began, it became apparent that there were in fact some ringers in the field, although most of them seemed to forget that inexperienced players have a tendency to call big bets from time to time. Furthermore, although the bulk of the field were new to serious live poker, many like myself had logged significant time online—this alone of course is no substitute for the real thing, but it does provide pattern recognition and leaves for the possibility that we were not quite sitting ducks for the club rounders. At any rate, undoubtedly through luck more than skill, Korean ATM and I both managed to cash a few hundred dollars after two and half hours when the final table (from 70+ players) agreed to chop on a per chip basis rather than play down to the set four places.

I was hooked.

Pardon me sir, may I have some more?

I did not become a regular immediately. First was the follow up tournament a month later, where I busted out with fewer than 20 when my Hilton sisters lost a 3-way all in pot against AQo and KJo when the river completed a straight to the jack. A guy with Kojack preflop overcalled nearly all his chips an all-in bet and a call for 80% of the UTG stack and sucked out—it still pisses me off. One for two, my next visit was not there but to Playstation’s affiliate Skylight, which closed down of its own accord last fall. Skylight spread pretty much only 1-2NL, which was not really my game at the time (I preferred limit), but since it was much closer to my new place of work, I started giving it a shot. I never played particularly well or particularly poorly during my Skylight phase, but I survived until Skylight shut down and I switched back to Playstation.

At first I’d go two or three times a month, with a few very good nights and a few very bad nights. Actually, there was a string of very bad nights. In December, although I was still up a net $200 (with somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 hours, this was a kingly wage in Bangladesh and does not include -$400 in NL sessions I had at the Korean ATM’s bachelor party at the Borgata in July), I did not feel like I was on the right track and I demoted myself to the 4-8L table.

After spending the New Year in Tahoe with my wife and other family (and logging some hours at the 3-6 and 5-10 tables at Harvey’s amidst a blizzard), I decided to get much more scientific, logging the times of my sessions and my exact winnings and working on my game systematically. Back in New York, I made sure to sit down at least one each week for a long 4-8 session. This coincided with my reading pretty much every book I could get my hands on. 4-8 was steadily profitable (1.6BB/hour), but soon became mind numbing. I figured I was ready to move up to 10-20, the next level that Playstation spread (I really wish they had spread something in between). I had been somewhat successful without approaching a representative sample in micro-sessions while waiting for the slow moving 4-8 to open but the night I decided to sit 10-20 for a real session, I got stuck for 35BB in 3 agonizing hours. This sent me limping back to 4-8 with my tail between my legs.

Once I recovered psychologically, I had to decide what my next move was. My game was not going to get better at 4-8 and the hourly rate plus entertainment value simply was not high enough for that to be my final destination. I decided that I wanted to venture back into the NL game. Ironically, sitting around the 1-2 NL table with your whole stack theoretically at risk every hand is less nerve-wracking that mixing it up in a middle level game where the swings are less under your control.

Perhaps the time spent at the lowly 4-8 served to center me—when I returned to the NL table in mid February, my nerves only bothered me for the first session, which fortunately was an up one, and thereafter I continued my practice of at least weekly play.

I continued along this path and by this time was able to recognize and remember other regular players, sorting out the sharks from the fish and generating my own table image, no longer inviting bluff re-raises just for saying hello and occasionally getting my monsters paid off by good players. My swings moderated, with winning nights becoming bigger and my losing streaks becoming shorter. Moreover, the long series of live hands began to allow me to put lost pots in perspective, more easily separating losses due to mistakes (bet too small, bluffed too much, failed to lay down) versus bad luck (set over set, 3 out suck-outs).

Wandering Eye

In April, FTain took me along to review another club, my first visit to a club outside of the Playstation/Skylight constellation—ironically, it was NYPC (I hope I’m not the jinx). Although I logged a $100 loss, this was my first inkling that Playstation had been featuring some very tough games. I mean, the difference in play in the 1-2 NL at NYPC versus Playstation was astounding. One huge difference may have been that the max buy-in was 125x instead of 250x. There were undoubtedly dorsal fins skimming along the surface in that place, but compared to Playstation, NYPC was an all-you-can-eat sushi bar. The main shift in gears is the same one you always need when you find yourself suddenly no longer facing solid players: stop trying lie to people who are not listening. Against donkeys, straight up wins, tricky tricks itself.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’ll probably already know there are only a few more weeks in the story. The day before the music died, I joined FTrain for his review of a new club, which I now almost guiltily recall seemed such a vast step up from Playstation. Clean, crisp new chips with a 3-shark design, dealers in tuxedo shirts (at least they were in the P.B. era), a 250x 1-2 NL and seemingly the player quality (or lack thereof) of NYPC. (I think this last item is rapidly changing however as the exiled Playstation crowd seems to have discovered this new hunting ground.) I started to think I’d found a new place to haunt.

The Day of Reckoning

Well, for me it was really the day after. The Friday before Memorial Day weekend, the early market close yielded an early release from work. Fickle tramp that I am, I headed immediately to the new club and found it closed. At the time, since it was only 4:00, I figured it was because with their still miniscule player base, they had not opened yet. That may have been the case anyway, but I now know they had shut down indefinitely in response the events of the previous evening at their uptown brethren. Still looking for a game, I headed up to Playstation.

When I got to the door with my MP3 player on full blast, I pushed on the door a few seconds after ringing the bell rather than listening for the buzz. It opened directly, I later realized not because I had been cleared for entry, but because it was no longer locked. Up the stairs I shuffled, hand on the inner door waiting for the second buzz, when all of a sudden a woman—a freelance reporter on a Newsday beat—who had been lurking on the landing came down and broke the news. And there on the door was the sign confirming the action of the police state.

The agony.

My time at Playstation featured some very high highs and some very low lows (I may memorialize some of these in a follow up post) and for better or for worse, whatever I become as a poker player will owe that place a large debt (queue clarinet).

Playstation, you had your chips in with the best of it.
See the flop...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

First AC Thoughts

FTrain, a non-poker playing friend and I went to Atlantic City this weekend and just got back. Brief of summary before the first of what may be several detailed posts below is that I had a quite good weekend, with wins in every session except for one short 10 minute 2-5 session at the Borgata where I was slightly nicked for $45--this table was quite shark infested and I am glad that FTrain suggested the very plus EV move to the 1-2s once we finally got to the top of the list (even at 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning, the Borgata poker room was packed). You might think the move from 2-5 to 1-2 at the Borgata would be a huge change with only a 300 versus 500 max buyin, but at least in our particular case it was like we jumped three or four spots up the food chain. I'm not sure how low we were at that 2-5 table since we didn't even get a full orbit in, but we were picking plankton off our baleen at the 1-2s: it is really hard to describe, but one hand we saw had an all in reraise of an all-in raise where the board was showing all sorts of straights and the last raiser acted with his J4 making top pair on the river. Opener had a straight, raiser had a lower straight and re-raiser had a reach into his pocket.

Anyway, one very lucky hand I had this afternoon at the Taj 2-5 I think was quite interesting from the perspective of figuring out whether my benefactor really made a mistake in pushing against my flopped nut straight.

Hand went like this:

2nd UTG opens by limping, one before cuttoff (we'll call him Bubba) also limps, folds around to yours truly in the big blind with 6h 3h. I declined the option.

Flop comes kaboom 2s 4s 5c, giving me that sweetest of big blind specials, the flopped nuts on top of crap. Well, only 17 in the pot and nothing likely to have hit anyone else (so it seemed in retrospect), I just wanted to extort some value and make an flush draw pay for cards. I opened for 10, small but still over 50% of the pot, and got called by 2nd UTG (who later claims to have flopped two pair, though if he did he had no excuse for not raising there even if it caused him to save his sorry ass from what should have been a two stack killing hand; he was otherwise passive enough not to be lying about calling there). Anyway, Bubba quickly raised up to 30.

Pause for me, obviously I know I'm ahead but what could I be facing? Best case here is an overpair, though it would seem to have to have been a low one since there was no pre flop raise. Trips? Could be trips if he put me on a semi-bluff and wanted to make me pay for a card, though it would have been a strange semi-bluff from me in first position. Most likely I thought was the hand I had to make pay, a two spade semi bluff, perhaps with a pair. So I made it 100 to go. 2nd, if he had his hand, made a great laydown, and Bubba then proceeded to turn several colors as he thought and thought. I'm thinking, he is going to call with his frucking spades and suck me out. Boy was I surprised when he finally RAISED all in, earning a world record insta-call from your humble narrator. Bubba said he was really quite concerned I had my hand, but with As 3s, the ignorant straight and the nut flush draw, he had no choice.

Obviously, he had to at least call me there, but FTrain and I spent some time in the car ride back to the city discussing whether the raise made sense from his perspective. The result would have been the same as with no spade on the turn, I would have pushed the 190 remaining behind me and he would have had to call with his bigger stack, but I am interested in thinking through the numbers to understand what I should have done had I found myself in Bubba's unfortunate shoes.

Assuming Bubba thought there was no chance I was bluffing or semi-bluff reraising (which is probably too conservative; as as fellow sox lover Harrington says, there is always some chance even the tighest player is bluffing, and I'm not quite the tightest player), and very little chance I am playing an over pair here with my pre-flop decline of the option, there are only 4 hands Bubba can put me on making the bets that I did. Here they are, as well as the EV of his hand against it according to the free poker odds calculator at two dimes:

(1) 3-6 (12 combinations since he has a 3) 0.398
(2) a set (9 combinations) 0.691
(3) A3 with no backdoor flush possibility (8 combinations) 0.682
(4) A3 with a backdoor flush draw (1 combiantion) 0.659

I believe the way the EV stat works is that if you multiply by the number of callers plus one, you get the amount you would get back if you bet a dollar. Thus, the weighted average of Bubba's As 3s versus these hands heads-up is $1.14 per dollar in the pot (if you include bluffs and mistakes, this number can only go up). Thus, the more money Bubba can get in the pot, the better, as subsequent cards really are unlikely to help his situation:

(1) if a spade hits on the turn, he may lose his only customer
(2) if a blank hits, it helps marginally if he's ahead, but simply delays the moment of truth
(3) if I have 2, 3 or 4 above, he really has no upside in giving me free cards
(4) Most of all, if I have one of the above hands, I have to call his raise and as we've established, every dollar he gets called nets him $0.14.

In the two minutes he took, I somehow don't think he broke it down quite this far, but I think my opponent absolutely made the right move in raising me all in rather than just calling or folding, even if in the real, hard case he had the worst of it and his spades never hit the board (thank you poker gods).
See the flop...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Return to Live Play

As a tune up for our upcoming trip to AC, FTrain and I went to a new NYC club reopening for the first time after the sad events two weeks ago. I'll leave the club details to Mr. Asshat who I believe has been working on a review, I just want to describe quickly my hand of the night.

After having been there for about 2 hours a 1-2 table with a mix of players including a succession of two terrible fish who unfortunately had busted out and not reloaded (well, one reloaded and moved to the other table once he returned from the ATM, doh!), several reasonably tight but weak players who seemed like they were looking for a nice limit game, one prototypical Asian shark, complete with headphones, aggression and a big stack (but no shades), FTrain and your humble narrator (with shades), Teddy KGB sat down immediately to my right with $200. Well not Teddy KGB, but an older Russian dude with a an accent much more convincing than John Malkovich's.

The table at this time was short handed with 7. I had been playing tight aggressive and for the previous half hour after the second fish departed just aggressive aggressive, having built up from 300 to 400 and back down to 330 or so, without any major confrontations. Hand in question, I get dealt 66 UTG and limped in, FTrain on my left passed on the hand, and we get 3 other limpers including the SB to Teddy. Teddy pauses, thinks, and bumps it to 17.

Here was his first hand, no idea who is at the table, and he's put a significant raise into several limpers way out of position. I don't what it was, but I was not convinced and elected to call. The table folded around leaving Mikey McMe heads-up.

Flop comes K53 rainbow. Teddy comes out firing 20. After a few seconds, I think I probably can push him off this hand and may likely have the best hand, and raise him up to 70. Here's where it gets interesting. Teddy makes a small motion that looks like he's ready to fold, but then hits the brakes, looks up at me, and announces a call. Now I've never been particularly or consciously successful at reading physical tells, generally relying more a betting patterns, but this really struck me (and FTrain too according to him our post mortem). I was not sure he was setting up a bluff, but whereas my first prediction might have been 20-30% bluff, I now jumped to 50-70% bluff. Turn came a 10 with the 4th suit, figuring to improve no one. Teddy checked, and I, in retrospect probably wrongly, checked also. River was an 8. Long pause and Teddy starts to slide his chips in. Before he really initiates the action, I say "Call". Teddy pauses and looks up, angry and glaring at me like I spit in his borscht, and says "Whaaattt?!" FTrain says I almost lost $100 here, but frankly I wanted to check down since I was afraid even if he had been bluffing, he could have hit the bottom end of an ace with that 8 or 10. At any rate, my ploy failed as he pushed in nonetheless. I called and in the heat of the moment, flipped my cards rather than making him show. He mucked, but after seeing that I had called his all in with a measly 4th pair, quickly reached out to see his cards again—FTrain and I think he probably had A7 or A9, what else would he be double-checking? He was pissed, yelling out in Russian for more chips, this time $500 the table max and almost what I now had in front of me.

This was the most questionable and best call of my live poker life. Scary but immensely rewarding (at least in the psychological sense), finally using a visual read to win cash money. FTrain, who had managed to take a few pots from one of his tight weak jagweeds (I can't believe you raised preflop with 10-8 you psycho, you're not a very good player), and I got up the next push for a few beers to celebrate our triumphant return and imminent decent on the City of Atlantic. The steam continued to rise off the table.

See the flop...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Go To" game?

Double As had a typically good post today, this time reflecting on his experiences and how he thought about maintaining a bankroll and moving up limits. One part in particular got me thinking:

"If you're past the beginner stage and think you know the game and can beat the avg newbie, then I think its time to put your money where your mouth is. I'd play more than I studied and put in the time to build a roll. You'll continue to learn just by playing and you'll learn things that only come with experience. Move up the limits as fast as you can without putting yourself at risk to lose more than you're willing to put back into your account. Find a go-to game. It could be $10 SNGs, $20 HU matches, or $25NL. Find a table that is your ATM. You're comfortable there and you think you can always go back when running bad. It'll give you confidence and help maintain the roll."

Anyway, what I started thinking was, what's my “go to” game? I've have some moderate success at large MTTs in the past six months, but nothing huge, a 2nd place and 3rd place, most recently (as sweated by F-Train) a 4th place, half a dozen cashes clearly not worth the hourly opportunity cost, a sizeable number of thankfully early bust outs, and the occasionally painful bubble or near-bubble popping. All in all, marginally plus EV but not hugely so and hardly steady enough to be a bankroll backstop.

Another candidate for me has been 50 PL Omaha, which is a reliable winner that unfortunately becomes surprisingly mind-numbing the way I play it: very tight opening requirements, basically nothing that doesn’t have a reasonable chance of getting to the nuts, trying to play those hands for no more than one moderate raise pre-flop, followed by a quick retreat after the flop unless the nuts or at least a draw to the nuts is there, and relying on a very high frequency of idiot calls at the 50 level--it works but I don't think it makes me a better player.

Following F-Train's track, I've also tried the 2-4 through 5-10 razz tables at Full Tilt. This I think can also be a positive EV forum , but in Mr. Asshats' terminology, requires great tolerance for building brick houses against "jagweeds". Perhaps I could play it better, but over time my frustration, while never leading to huge losses, has lead to occasionally very high variance. In any case, the tables in this game are frequently lacking players, so it would be a hard bankroll sustainer even if I had the discipline and masochism to play it right.

On the other end of the spectrum is my cash no limit game. My live play is reasonable at this--I'm no Daniel Negreanu, but I made a fairly steady but by no means quit-your-day-job income against some tough and frequently hyper aggressive competition at Playstation before the NY's finest determined it to be a threat to society (I'm the "Wallstreet Lawyer" quoted in the this story--my celebrities quote was a paraphrase encompassing a few well known pros plus a certain extremely highly paid New York Yankee known to cheat at his own sport (not with steroids, but rather with the old karate chop), whom I know once played the 5-5 no maximum NL there with some success, and the reporter (or her editor) apparently did not find the analysis of the NYC poker club scene I gave in her in a 30 minute chat worthy additional words, though I’ll likely post some thoughts on this here for those interested or uninterested, electrons are free). Online, unfortunately, results are pushing me to think I've got to stay away. Although I've gone on 1500+ swings in 3 day periods on Full Tilt's 1-2 and 2-4 tables and had a few other good runs on other sites, being brutally honest requires me to report online no limit play is on the balance a large lodestone on my bankroll. After awhile, I must conclude it's not always bad luck--I've lost a buy in or two too often and not always against a suck-out artist. The game I like the most apparently does not like me very much.

That leads me to what I suppose is my "Go To" game: $50-200 sit and gos (I'm leaning toward the 100s). For some reason, the stakes are just high enough to keep me disciplined and tight, but low enough to allow my long sought after aggression not only to come out, but become rewarding. I've only gone up to this level since April, and only started systematically (i.e. Pokertracker) tracking it for the past week, but clearly something has been sustaining my bankroll and this has got to be it. The sample size for Pokertracker is very low, but recent results from 100s are very encouraging, in 9 tourney's fully logged in Pokertracker in the past week, I've spent 981 to win 1710 (which includes one 1-2 chop discussed in my last post), yielding a return on income of 74.3%, finishing in the money 7 times with an average place of 3.6 (weighting the chops as 1.5, plus 3 2nd places and 3rd places).

In the two months preceding that, I had not thought my results were quite that strong, but in writing this post, I've gone back and parsed my e-mails for win notifications cross-reference against the last 100 tourney's I'd played on Stars (which ended up being less than that going back through my account history, even including the wife's recent $2 habit). Although I can't figure out the average place, in 25 $50-200 9-player sit and gos on Stars (only 2 of the latter, with a few 55+5 and 105+9 turbos mixed in though I've stopped those since I don't like the blind progression), I spent $2087 to win $3528, with a ROI of 69%. I did however also play a few 10-player sit and gos on Party and UTG with net losses (I’d guess about $350 total), plus 3 of 4 successes on Pacific with 5 and 6-player sit and gos (about $300, including 1st in one 5-player $200).

Given that notwithstanding the above, my overall online play in this period is only up about 1500, I'm wondering if I should play nothing but these sit and gos. They require patience, but not 4-5 hours patience. They offer full table and short-handed play. They mix in some very strong players against gamboolers who apparently don't mind tossing in the benjamins now and then. In short, they offer interesting play, a continuing learning environment and consistent winnings.

Why then do I continue to insist on blowing my wad at the cash no limit tables???

See the flop...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Let's make a deal

A few weeks ago, I was playing a 100+9 double shootout on stars and had my first online deal experience. If you don't know the format, you start with 9 9 person tables, and rather than consolidate tables, you play until someone has won all the chips on a first table, and the winners of each table join together on a final table with equal chip stacks. You might then have 1 prize for that final table (e.g. a WSOP seat) or, as was the case in our tourney, standard payouts escalating from 9th to 1st. With the latter, it's an interesting combination of first trying to secure aggressively a single spot followed by standard seat by seat incremental value with the typical balance between going for the big money versus trying to hang on to move up a few seats.

At any rate, I had worked hard for quite awhile on the first table till we were down to three roughly equal stacks when one of the players, who seemed pretty solid, chatted out a proposal that if any of us 3 won the final table would pay the other two 200, which I think would have been less than 10% of the final prize had one gotten that far. I said sure, figuring that the risk of a renege was somewhat mitigated by the relative unlikelihood of me making that final spot. The 3rd player, as was his right, demurred. We played on with a 2 way agreement, moving up and down in stacks until I ended up all in with demurrer, my 55 against his AJo. He flopped his jack, but I was born again on the river with a miracle 4 flush, and not long after, demurrer was busted out with me heads up with the deal proposer. I have only recently moved up to 100 level tourneys (sit and go and mtt's), and frankly was a little less than confident. It being a weekday and me being tired, I was also not looking forward to busting out for no money on a 9 player table I'd worked down to 2, so I immediately upped the offer to winner pays loser half his winnings on the final table. We ended up agreeing 1/3 made more sense since otherwise our heads up match was pretty silly. Now I was facing substantially more risk if I lost and my counterpart did not pay out, but for some reason I wasn't worried, particularly after he sent me his e-mail.

We played on for awhile and I began to regret the deal as I managed to get a 2-1 lead on him. But the hedge proved quite valuable as he came from behind, finally busting me out on my AT being caught out by AK. My fate was in his hands. I decided to sweat him, since I had a third of his action and in what turned out to be a very plus EV move I e-mailed him my phone number. Since I'm not sure if he wants to be mentioned by his Stars alias on this blog, I'll just call him Oregon, after his home state.

Oregon, it turns out, is a very good player in his fifties, who's had long experience in Vegas with the big boys, as well as what sounds to be a great retirement life with a ranch and a few NYSE seats to stand behind his online tournament hobby. At any rate, I played along with him on the phone, learning a lot about a number of the players that haunt Stars tourneys at that level, and have since found that you definitely do find a few of the usual suspects in that realm playing again and again. Finally, Oregon busted out 6th, not only paying me my 1/3 but kindly enough rounding it up to the nearest hundred. Since then, Oregon has sweated me on a few tourneys, and I often look him up.

Most recently, tonight I chopped 1st+2nd in a 9 person 100+9 where I had a 75-60 chip advantage but my wife had just put dinner on the table. We haggled for a bit, with me finally offering 50-50 notwithstanding the differential and agreed to go all in the next hands until someone won, with the winner transferring the differential to the loser. It worked out as I won, avoiding settlement risk.

What I wonder is whether or not the sites should build in a binding chopping mechanic. I see no reason for this not to work provided all players still in a tournament must agree. I only wonder if the existence of such a built in system would lead some players to be wary of the site. I don't think it should since this would only allow players to make a deal at the end, and players can look after themselves by not agreeing. The only fear I suppose is that deal making players would tend to cooperate to pare down the field, but I cannot think that not having a site supported feature decreases the risk of actually collusive behavior. If anyone is reading this, I would appreciate thoughts. Also, has anyone heard of someone actually reneging on a chop online?
See the flop...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Now I have him right where I want him...

10 handed 1-2 NL. 175 behind him, 3rd UTG, Hero has opened for 10 the last 2 hands in a row and softened up the table with a few tripe showdowns. Looking down seeing to see J9s, a hand rife with possibilities if ever there were one, Hero opens again for 10 and is called by Caller 4th UTG. Action folds around to Rock in the cutoff, who with 170 behind him upsets his streak of not playing a hand in almost two orbits by upping the bet to 50 straight. Hero, sensing the opportunity to make a move, calls. Caller, perhaps sensing the menace of Hero's smooth call, folds. Flop comes AQQ rainbow. Hero pauses and checks, further drawing Rock in. Rock, timid as ever, also checks. Turn comes a blank. Hero, still waiting to pounce on his unwitting prey, checks again. Rock, after a pause to readjust his panties, also checks again. River comes a blank. Hero, setting up the last steps of his diabolical plan, checks again. Rock, predictable as ever, finally bets 50. Hero, sensing that Rock with only 160 in the pot and a stack of 70 left behind him is ready to be plucked like a ripe fruit from a tight weak tree, pushes, all the while smiling to himself with the knowledge that Rock will never call off his whole stack all in.

Is this what the world really looks like to idiots like Hero? I'm not complaining, but sometimes I just don't get it. Rock, a/k/a your ever-humble narrator, held AQ (soooted!) and somehow managed to avoid being pushed off his hand. It ain't no fun when the rabbit got the gun. You might have thought that this stuff tapers off with 200 buy-ins, but apparently not on Pacific. It really is worth fighting through their awful software.
See the flop...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Inspired by random act of (drunken?) charity

After spending much time reading my friend FTrain's poker blog (and the blogs I've come to automatically check from his blog list, particularly the blogfather's (PartyPoker Bonus Code IGGY) and BadBlood's (I dream of someday having a child who will checkraise his own mother--well, I've done that but I was 31) I'd been toying with the idea of starting my own narcissistic shout out to the world. I was specifically encouraged to do so by another friend (we'll call him after his well earned poker moniker, the Korean ATM) who looked forward for the opportunity of mocking my self-promotion on a public forum, rather than being limited to one-on-one phone cracks. Well, I'd been hemming and hawing about the time it might take, and whether anyone would really care to read what I cared to spew.

Well something happened tonight that inspired me to make that first post.

First a brief poker background. I've been playing online for about 6 years, starting on Paradise while in law school without much of a clue--limited to 1-2 and 2-4 limit, never winning over the long term, typically going on the expected winning streaks and even more expected losing streaks of the novice who thinks he's rather good, always playing up, and usually busting out and taking a few months off, estimated losses from 1999-to early 2004 (adding Party in 2003), total about 500-1000 online (though I know I won 400 in 2001 as I actually declared the winnings for my taxes) mitigated somewhat by fairly regular winnings in my small stakes law school/post-law school game I played in with FTrain until his LA interlude (you haven't played anything until you've played Mexican Goldfarb).

Fast forward to the last 18 months of which I have been taking my game increasingly seriously, having discovered B&M play in New York (Playstation, which I can name since it's recently been raided, shut down and outed in the several New York newspaper articles). From last Christmas, read and read and read. Got better, started branching out to UTB, Stars and Pacific (the only thing worse than the software are the players) and most recently Full Tilt. I'm not ready to go pro (real time prospects decent enough to make that a very minus EV time value, plus, as one Irish player (the "Crippler") once told me at Playstation, "you're really not that good"). So here I am, playing poker at mid levels, typically 1-2, 2-4 no limit hold-em, MTTs and Sit and gos, plus occasionally razz, Omaha PL and, for shits and giggles, triple draw. I even played some WBT tourney's under the name "SoxLover". Yeah's that's right Dr. Pauly, I'm the bastard that cracked your hilton sisters with my jacks--I suppose it must have felt a bit like winning three games in a row before flopping four straight losses.

Anyway, that's more than enough.

Here's my inspiration (I've got to get some sleep):

100+9 sit and go on Stars. I've got 3.5k on button with 3 players left, KJs. LAG, UTG (with 8k and a penchant for playing many, many hands) raises 3x 300BB, I go all in. VTA, SB (with balance of 2k) folds. LAG calls with 78s and sucks out.

I sit around railbirding, chatting with the other two players. VTA builds up to even, LAG asks how one chops--I explain how transfer money works on Stars and they almost agree but don't quite make it. I randomly whine 15 hands later about the suckout. LAG says he feels really bad about making that call and says he was just tired and wanted to end it, didn't mean to suckout, how much would it take to make me feel better. I, having already netted 71 with 3rd, say $1 American. He says how about $30. I say sure, why not? VTA player says how much was buyin, I say 109.

LAG, immediately after being busted in 2nd (250, net 141) actually sends me 109! I'm officially flabbergasted. I actually netted more than I would have had I come in 2nd (by 39). I'm inclined to send him back all or at least 39 of his money, what do you think? I suppose he was either drunk or rich (or likely both).

Moral of story: it pays to be friendly even when sucked out.

More to come on many boring topics...

See the flop...