Friday, September 30, 2005

Value Betting on the River In NL

I am not the first person to post on this topic by a long shot but I've been thinking about a hand that I played this Tuesday.

Playing in a 1-2 NL game with about 500 behind, I restraddled a relatively tight-weak straddler with 300 behind (ok, most people that straddle aren't tight weak, but I think he was).

[Note for those of my readers who believe it or not don't usually play a lot of poker and yet somehow still read this blog (hi Dad): a straddle bet is an additional blind bet voluntarily made by the player first to act after the big blind, typically set in most card rooms at twice the size of the big blind. If you make this bet, you get the benefit of an additional option to bet after the original big blind. A restraddle is when the person who follows a straddle bet puts in another blind bet, this time for twice the size of the of the straddle. In theory, you can have restraddle bets all the way around to the button, but in practice, the first restraddle is rare and the second and third are signs of a pretty crazy game. Straddles are quite common in New York card rooms but not allowed in many casino card rooms where they are treated as simple blind bets with no option.]

I don't often restraddle, but tables at this club are generally tighter than most in New York and I have cultivated a bit of a loose aggressive image that fits me there.

Anyway, four players limped around to the original straddle, who called. Finding 5-3 offsuit, I was happy to see a flop with a decent $49 pot (small blind folded).

2-4-7 was the flop, with two hearts (I had one in my hand). The big blind checked to the first straddler, who made 25 to go. I was pretty sure that flop was likely to have missed anyone except perhaps the first straddler (stronger hands tend to raise more sharply against straddled and restraddled pots because there is more worth protecting and a greater chance you will face a wide array of unpeggable hands if you don't) so I thought if I called, it was unlikely we would see a reraise after us. I also thought that raising here would be imprudent. Calling 24 to win 74 with 6 solid outs and 2 tricky outs (A and 6 of hearts would make my straight but also would make a flush) seemed pretty good odds. So I called.

The table folded after me--while I was happy not to get any more callers (my draw wanted a multiway pot), I was happy with no raises either since I think I would have had had to lay down.
The turn came an offsuit ten, and I was very happy when the first straddler checked to me. I suspected a possible check-raise and so was quite happy to take the free card rather than make a move. I was rewarded when an offsuit six hit on the river.

The straddler led out for 25 more and alarm bells started going off. I had made my hand and yet he was betting into me. I think the first reaction for most players would be to reraise, either a little or a lot, to make the most of their successful draw. I wasn't so sure.

Let's review the facts. A tight-weak straddler had declined to raise preflop with 3 players in before him and only me after. This made it unlikely he had big cards or a big pair.

A ragged flop ensured, and then he bet with 3 callers behind. Okay, I think he has to have something. What? Hard to narrow it down too much: a pair, two-pair or a good draw I think are in the realm of possibility. Again, overpair pretty unlikely as I think even 88 he probably would have raised with preflop.

He's called and declines to bet the turn. Two scenarios here, either his flop hadn't hit that strongly--top pair, weak kicker or perhaps middle pair, or a draw that is still drawing--or it was quite strong, a small set or two-pair and he is check-raising me.

When I check behind, he's got to put me on a draw.

Then the river comes, filling several obvious straight draws (in addition to my 3-5, the six would have made better straights out of 5-8 and 8-9). Now he bets 25. Okay, what the heck can he have. It's not a big enough bet to push me off the pot. In fact, it looks like a value bet that wants to be called. The question is, what exactly wants to be called?

Scenario 1: it's fives or sevens, he's hoping I'm going to look him up with something like A2 or KJ of hearts, or maybe he's just hoping I'll fold a worse hand but at least he won't have to show his. Based on the pattern of betting and the probability of starting hands, I think this is the most likely scenario.

Scenario 2: It's a set or two pair and he's looking for me to call with a pair or a worse two. I think this is less likely given the check on the turn, but it's also possible he was check raising or hit his second pair on the river.

Scenario 3: It's a straight and he's fishing for any call and any reraise. This is statistically unlikely but consistent with the betting. It definitely cannot be ruled out.

Okay, so what do I do?

Folding is clearly out, so it's between calling and raising.

If I call, well, we're done and winner will take down a decent 121 pot.

If I raise:

Against 1: He may call a small bet, but against anything above a minimum raise of 25 he is likely to fold.

Against 2: He will call any moderate bet, and may possibly call a large bet. With a set, he may reraise a small bet.

Against 3: He will reraise, possibly all in, and I will have a tough decision that should probably lead to a laydown.

I called.

He turned over 54 offsuit pair of fives and could not believe I had not raised the river.

With the actual cards, I think it made no difference since I can't see him even calling a minimum raise here, though I suppose if he was bad enough to make the bet, he was bad enough to call that raise. In any case, the real tension I think lies in the value lost in not taking advantage of 2 versus the risk of running into 3. I think I am happy with my thought process and my decision, but I'd welcome thoughts on this situation.
See the flop...

PokerStars Blogger Freeroll

Poker Championship

I have registered to play in the
Online Poker Blogger Championship!

This event is powered by PokerStars.

Registration code: 6463211

It's pretty cool of PokerStars to run a freeroll for bloggers. I hope the publicity pays them back nicely.
See the flop...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Across the Pond

The blessed plot was jolly good fun. Good eggs over there.

Slept on the redeye all the way over, stopped by the Dorchester, the best hotel that is on my firm's preferred list (i.e., the best hotel they'll pay for--don't be fooled by the published rates though, our negotiated rate is ridciolously low). Even though I was stuck in the relatively dumpy rooms set forth for mere businessmen, I can honestly say the place is awesome. I must stress the word "relatively", as there are no dumpy rooms in the Dorchester. Despite enjoying it thoroughly, I don't think I'll stay there again as it was so expensive I was embarrassed to order breakfast--25 pounds for standard fare (at almost 2 dollars to a pound) and even if my firm will reimburse it, I can't do it with a clear conscience. Five pounds fifty pence to have one shirt pressed; I considered getting an iron and setting up a competing business in the lobby. Not surprising given the parking lot--one morning I exited feeling sorry for the sad Mercedes parked between the a Rolls and a Lamborgini. This place is over the top.

Question: how do you serve English food that doesn't have all the charm of, well, English food? Answer: hire a French chef. When he came out to ask how my meal, the best roast beef I've had on this planet served with horseradish and strong English mustard, I mightily resisted the manic urge to request ketchup just to see the "you idiotic American" look on his face.

I spent most of my awake time at the hotel at the bar trading Eastern European anecdotes with the Polish bartender, with whom I had a lot more in common than the Kuwaiti businessmen (very pro-Bush), the scion of an American dynsasty not to be named here (very anti-Bush) and a full cart load of Birmingham Barristers (including a genuine Queen's Counsel). Okay, I had a bit in common with the Barristers and ended up introducing them to the bartender's recommended "Polish Martini", equal parts pepper, honey and apple infused vodka, delicious and quite lethal.

I also met a visibly wealthy (she had her bankers with her!) and visibly drunk middle aged English lady who, after being charmed with a few of my poker stories, offered to bank roll me 20,000 pounds with me keeping 25% of the profits. Perhaps insanely, I explained to her that I really was not that good yet; she took my card and insisted she'd call me nonetheless. I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, on Tuesday night, I did manage to hit the local poker club, not one of the casinos that by law requires 24 hours advance sign-up to become members, but rather the Gutshot. I got there and immediately signed up for the tourney they had on offer, a 5 pound rebuy "beginners tourney". Playing in the 50 pound buy-in pot limit hold'em game (very popular in Europe) while waiting for it to begin at 8, I started to regret registering as I heard they had 120 players and didn't quite see how jet lag from flying overnight, a potential 2:00 a.m. final table and a 7:00 a.m. wake up call for work the next day could fit together. I made my only winning move of the night after the tourney capped when some guy offerred me 15 pounds to by my card. 10 pounds profit for 5 minutes in line.

The pot limit game treated me worse as an early hand with 5 limpers found me with KJ hearts and a king high, two heart flop saw me all in (after a raise and re-raise) against what turned out to be trips and some moron with K8 wrong suit. My KJ, despite catching a jack on the river, was no good and I lost 50 pounds straight away. I played for 2 more hours without much in the way of cards, lost 25 more pounds and called it a night. English poker has laid its first beat on me. My second beat was when, after significant travel time, I showed up on Thursday night and found to my chagrin that the place had been rented out to a corporate event. This is generally not a danger with underground New York clubs.

Mrs. SoxLover joined me for the weekend and we had fun with old friends (no Dorchester on my dime and no poker), coming back on Sunday just in time to see the Pats wait until the 4th quarter to remember they were the Pats.

Since then, I've been back at the salt mine working through the jet lag but I decided to get some live play in earlier tonight (rest of the week booked up so have to do it now), despite having FTrain shrug me off--perhaps he was still hungover from what looks to have been a blast at the Boathouse:

It went well enough, after finding the club I went to the night I flew out nearly dead with only 2 players, I walked up to the club I've been to more recently and enjoyed a very juicy cash game for a few hours till I ran of steam and headed home to write this. It's good to be back.
See the flop...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Leaving on Jet Plane

Waiting in American Airlines Admiral Club for my redeye to London. One of the last U.S. carriers not to be in Chapter 11. Perhaps it's because they charge $8.25 for a day old ham sandwich.

Anyhoo, between work ending and taking off for JFK, I checked out a brand new club that the Korean ATM and FTrain clued me into that opened last Wednesday. Very nice place and dangerously close to my office.

The decor was as classy as anything I've seen in the city except for Aquarium. The tables are nicer, felt middle with teak chip area and built in drinkholders, seating 10 comfortably. The place is very well lit with the now obligatory plasmas in several locations. The smoking room is upstairs and genuinely sealed off in a loft area, a plus for smokers and non-smokers alike. The chips are awesome, metal inset and better than most casinos.

Pretty much the same faces as I've seen in other NY clubs as floor and dealers.

The owner surprised me in being someone who I've played with at Aquarium and identified as a major fish. Upon reflection, it's possible he plays that way at 1-2 because it's below his serious play level. Alternately, he may just be a really juicy fish.

Bad news is they charge 5 per push for 1-2-500, rather than the standard NY 4. Good news, at least for first shot, is the action is INSANE.

People only bought in with 2-3 hundred, and I figured I'd go with the flow with only a few hours to kill and got 200 myself.

We started out shorthanded with 6 and had two all-ins (one called) on the first orbit. I managed to duck and dodge up to about 250 as the table got up to 7 players when a very interesting hand occurred.

I was in the small blind and UTG, who had not displayed exceptional looseness, made it 15 to go. After 2nd UTG, owner, who had, called and by the time it got to me 3 other players had called before me. I looked down and saw 99--of course I called, but I had a premonition of doom as the big blind called behind me and we were heading for a massive pot.

The flop came down 678 rainbow.

This hand was going to cost me or make me a mint.

UTG wasted no time with the 90 pot, raising it immediately to 190. It folded around to a very short stack two seats on my right, who called all in with 32. From there it was a math problem. I figured it was unlikely that I had the best hand, but reasonably likely that I had 10 good outs. I knew I was effectively risking my whole stack (or 125 of 150 as UTG was slightly smaller than me). It seemed a pretty good call of 100 to win 232, which is a good call for 10 outs with 2 cards to come, but upon reflection it was really 225 to win 357 since he was pretty sure to push on the turn come what may if he had the overpair he was representing, which was just about perfectly marginal given the likely odds. It was probably less than marginal when I factor in the all in player.

I called. Turn was a ten, and my straight beat UTG's AA and the short stack's flopped set of sixes. I was feeling triumphant but now think I may have made a slightly bad call. It was not a major error but I think math says I got lucky. Anyway, my bankroll for London appreciates it.

Flight will be boarding shortly.
See the flop...

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Not much to post about--I haven't had time for live poker since last week. We have been moving back into our place as our rennovations now provide for a functional kitchen and bathroom--functional not finished. Plus the other bathroom is only at the gutted hole stage so we have a good while to go. We also spent a whole day yesterday cleaning, packing and unpacking; it's amazing how much dust construction creates. It is starting to come together though.

Some more of that today, but I should be able to catch the whole Pats game.

Work is sending me to London this week, which is normally something I'd be stoked about. Well, I'm still stoked, but it would have been cool to go down to Philly with FTrain to meet some of the luminaries at the boathouse next weekend. At least Vegas is looking pretty good for December. Anyway, I hope at least one night to check out some poker at the Victoria or a London club I've read about, the Gutshot.

I continue my role as Sisyphus online as every time I climb toward zero for the year I fall back down a bit. Posts are likely to remain thin until next week.
See the flop...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Derailing the FTrain

So it's kind of an asshole move to title my post on busting my buddy. But read this and you may see it as just deserts.

Back at the club in the 250+25 tourney. Only 12 players as it seems all of New York is at the Borgata open today.

FTrain and I started on different, short handed tables.

Early on I got snapped off on a bluff for 2000 of my starting 10,000. Clearly looking like a fish myself, I wrote down the guy's license plate for future reference.

Got my chance in the big blind with 8,000 behind when I found myself 2rd UTG with Hilton Sisters and raised the 100-200 blind to 1,000. Around to the Snapper and he made it 3,000 to go. I just knew I was ahead. Not sure how I knew it, but I was sure. I raised all-in and stared at the guy openly. I really wanted to make him think I was bluffing. He went into the tank and then finally called me with 99. Scary moment when the turn brought him 4 to a flush, but the ladies held up and I was early chip leader on the table. He was very short stacked and I busted him out 2 orbits later when my A3 suited rivered a 3 on his AT suited.

The tables consolidated with a few bust outs on FTrain's table. I was not in the hand or even at the table, but heard of it quickly from FTrain where a tight player raised with KK and was called by JJ, and OVERCALLED with 84 suited played by a player that I will call Moby Dick. Of course 84 suited scooped with two pair and Moby Dick join the final table with the only stack bigger than mine--about 45k to my 32k. After dealing for place, he was in the 10 seat, I was in the 2 seat and sweet fate put FTrain in the 1 seat with about 9k.

FTrain and I observed the whale as a few players busted out. We noted he would call with almost anything but his raises usually meant he had something, at least a very good draw.

FTrain claims later he stole a few pots from me--including a stone cold all-in raise (I remember the hand but not what I had--I think I had top pair with an abysmal kicker and was certainly tempted to call, I'm sure he made a good move). I know I stole a few from him by calling his preflop bets and betting after his postflop checks (this comment will no doubt earn me a future check-raise). Finally, with 200-400 blinds, he made it 1500 to go (I think) and I looked down to see King Kong. I asked him how many chips he had--which I had previously done before folding to another raise of his--the answer was still just under 9k. I made it 4k to go, not wanting a cheap flop for an ace and hoping to drag down a high pair (obviously if I'm facing aces I've got a problem, but I did have him well covered). He thought for awhile and finally pushed. Insta-calling and insta-flipping found my cowboys up against his Hilton Sisters. They held up.

FTrain later said he should have folded to the 4k bet, but hell, he knows with that chip stack I'll make that move with JJ or TT as well, maybe even slick, and his stack really isn't big enough to wait around. Perhaps he can smooth call and fold if an ace hits, but really, I don't think it's at all a bad move, just bad luck.

With only 12 players, no deal made sense pre-bubble, so we played down. Soon I found myself in the money, with English Eddie's short 17k stack on my left and Moby Dick's about-my-sized stack on my right--each with just over 50k. Prize structure was 1800-750-450 and Moby Dick wanted a deal. I desperately wanted to get head's up with Moby Dick but was willing to consider a deal. Moby proposed 1200-1200-600. I thought this was fair but proposed to pay English Eddie 600 and play on heads-up; that was against house rules but it did not matter anyway as English Eddie, as was his right, demanded 700. I thought that was too much given the stack sizes and was really itching to take on Moby so I refused.

Then it happened.

In small blind with about 48k, 300-600, Moby limped and I looked down to see AK diamonds. I made it 2000 to go and English Eddie folded. Moby, as I expected and dreaded, called. Flop was A-K-x with one heart, no diamonds. I made it 5000 to go and was called. Turn came a second rag heart and I made it 15k. Moby thought for a short moment and raised me all in. OK, I knew he had something, but how can I lay this down? If I win, I am almost certainly getting 1st prize with a 7-1 chip lead. I called. He had A2 hearts and of course caught a heart on the river.

I really felt the blood rush up to my head with the suckout. I mean it was a memorable event that will be in my mental poker scrapbook for decades. Looking back, his play was not actually that bad compared to his early contretemps, but at the time I was fuming. I'll get over it.

Hot and tilted, I briefly thought about just going home, but it was 8, I had a friend at the table, and I had cashed for the second week in a row.

I stuck around and played the cash game. After a few orbits, I was stuck 100 but was enjoying the side show of the heads up match between Moby Dick and English Eddie. First of all, EE refused any deal Moby offered him, notwithstanding the 7-1 lead. Moby was pissed and quite dismissive of English Eddie's chances of doing better than his offer of 100 on top of the 750 guaranteed 2nd.

Oh but they played. And played. Every time we checked, it was better for English Eddie. First he doubled up. Then again. All of a sudden, they were even. Then Eddie had the lead. After an hour was the coup de grâce when Eddie improved his 7-deuce offsuit to a straight on the river and busted out the white whale. That's right, karma hit its apogee as the hammer busted out the ultimate suckout artist. The guy that had over-called all-in with 84 suited actually had the temerity to complain about it.


Even sweeter was when Moby came over to the cash game.

The knives were out quick and we carved him up.

My big hand at this table FTrain had shaking his head at but I'll stand behind it.

Big blind QT clubs, I called a 10 bet with 3 callers. Flop was 7 high with two clubs (I think, not 100% sure I have the exact cards right but substantively this is correct). I led out 10 and was called by the whale. Steve, a tight-aggressive, very solid player raised it to 30. I figured him for top pair or a small overpair and figured he could be pushed off with a good semi-bluff reraise. I made it 100 to go. Imagine my surprise when Moby raised me all in to 210. Steve looked befuddled by the situation (I know I was!) and finally folded. I felt like I probably had to be behind but had the odds to call the 110 raise. Imagine my surprise when he flipped over two small clubs with an open-ended straight flush draw.

Despite his massive draw, I was actually the 56:44 favorite. My hand held up (we both got a flush) and I got a bit of revenge. So did several other people as he gave up more than his net second place winnings, dropping at least 500 too several former victims.

Fun night all in all, though it would have been even better to post about back to back 1st place wins.
See the flop...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Warning: Bad Beat Stories

OK, this blog is not intended to be a bad beat log, but I want to quickly run through two awful beats I had yesterday as a kind of exorcism.

The first was in a 10+1 rebuy tourney, the cash pool for which had frozen out at 32k, with a 8k first prize. Before the beat, I think I was playing pretty well on a table with some giant stacks.

For example, one big hand had me 2nd UTG, with 32K behind and 200-400 blinds with 25 antes, I raised Kh Qc to 1200. The only the button, with 25k behind called.

The flop was Ts 3c Qs, and I led out 2800.

The button raised me 4000.

At this point I went into the tank. I thought about the hands he could have. I thought AA, QQ and KK were unlikely since I really doubted he would have smooth called behind a 3x preflop bet in the button, giving the blinds pretty favorable odds to call. The same logic applied to AK and AQ.

The hands outside of that might have hit that flop included KQ, QJ, QT, and any two spades, as well as 33 and TT (though TT certainly might have raised preflop). Q3 suited was a very distant possiblity because of the position. Spades were very consistent with the situation. 33 and to a lesser extent TT were also possibilities, especially if he were trying to protect against the spades, but since we were heads up, I would normally expect a smooth call here and a push on the turn.

Most of the range of hands I was facing were draws that I had to make pay, and of the others, only the sets and QT had me in trouble. After thinking it through, I pushed (in retrospect, perhaps I should have bet only half my stack here, enough to give a flush draw poor odds but not enough to price him in for 2 cards, with the second half going in on the turn if a spade did not hit).

My opponent called with Qh Jh that did not improve, putting me in the overall chip lead just before the second break with 250 left out of the original 800+.

Perhaps 20-30 minutes of play had me up a bit more, then down from a high of 57K to about
44K after having a couple of bluffs getting snapped off. I noted to my sweat partner Weak_Player that I had stopped getting any respect for my raises and needed to hunker down.

Three hands later it happened:

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em Tourney, Big Blind is t600 (9 handed) converter

MP1 (t24068)

MP2 (t32179)

MP3 (t18783)

CO (t40854)

SoxLover (t43646)

SB (t17025)

BB (t48560)

UTG (t10439)

UTG+1 (t12402)

Preflop: SoxLover is Button with 9h, 9s.

6 folds, SoxLover raises to t3200, 1 fold, BB raises to t20400, SoxLover raises to t43596, BB calls t23196.

Flop: (t87542) Tc, 3h, Kd (2 players)

Turn: (t87542) 6h (2 players)

River: (t87542) 5s (2 players)

Final Pot: t87542

That's right, he called an all-in re-raise with 10 6 off and sucked out on me--this where we each had several hundred dollars in tourney equity (not to mention 2 and half hours of time spent). OK, you could say arguably he's pot committed--but keep in mind if he folds he's still above average. And how insane was the first raise to get himself pot committed. Moreover, he's not pot committed unless he can put me on overs or an under pair.

Notwithstanding the above somehow I did not punch through my monitor, I did not start spewing into the chat box and I did not even curse. When my wife came over and read the hand history, her only reaction was one of surprise that I had not exploded right there on the spot. I think it was a combination of 3 things: First, I had gone all in with 99 and expected a coinflip and had already begun preparing myself internally to lose. Second, the 10 came on the flop, I knew I was beat before I had time to process exactly what the moron had called me with. Third, it was actually funny.

I had hoped this reaction showed my steely new self, but a later tourney bad beat on Party did put me into a rage--for some reason the hand converter won't work for this, maybe it was too disgusted:

***** Hand History for Game 2691259597 *****
50/100 Tourney Texas Hold'em Game Table (NL) (Tournament 15631927) - Sun Sep 11 00:53:35 EDT 2005
Table Multi-Table(452388) Table 6 (Real Money) -- Seat 10 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 1: The__Huncher (1430)
Seat 2: Lakenheath73 (785)
Seat 3: FABIOB123 (3760)
Seat 4: mikechec12 (3425)
Seat 5: tris96 (15)
Seat 6: hoowudoing (2510)
Seat 7: BOOGIE (1295)
Seat 8: Hibbs08 (2535)
Seat 9: YankyH8r (1105)
Seat 10: lindaniels (1570)
The__Huncher posts small blind (25)
Lakenheath73 posts big blind (50)
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to YankyH8r [ Kh, Kc ]
FABIOB123 folds.
mikechec12 folds.
tris96 calls (15)
tris96 is all-In.
hoowudoing raises (275) to 275
BOOGIE folds.
Hibbs08 folds.
YankyH8r raises (1105) to 1105
YankyH8r is all-In.
lindaniels folds.
The__Huncher folds.
Lakenheath73 folds.
hoowudoing calls (830)
Creating Main Pot with $75 with tris96
Creating Side Pot 1 with $2225 with YankyH8r
** Dealing Flop ** : [ 8c, 4s, 5s ]
** Dealing Turn ** : [ 7h ]
** Dealing River ** : [ Qs ]
** Summary **
Main Pot: 75 | Side Pot 1: 2225 |
Board: [ 8c 4s 5s 7h Qs ]
The__Huncher balance 1405, lost 25 (folded)
Lakenheath73 balance 735, lost 50 (folded)
FABIOB123 balance 3760, didn't bet (folded)
mikechec12 balance 3425, didn't bet (folded)
tris96 balance 0, lost 15 [ 9c 9s ] [ a pair of nines -- Qs,9c,9s,8c,7h ]
hoowudoing balance 3705, bet 1105, collected 2300, net +1195 [ Ks Js ] [ a flush, king high -- Ks,Qs,Js,5s,4s ]
BOOGIE balance 1295, didn't bet (folded)
Hibbs08 balance 2535, didn't bet (folded)
YankyH8r balance 0, lost 1105 [ Kh Kc ] [ a pair of kings -- Kh,Kc,Qs,8c,7h ]
lindaniels balance 1570, didn't bet (folded)

I am playing the 250+25 live tourney that I won last week. It starts at 5:00. Drop me quick line today if you know me and I'll give you the details.
See the flop...

Monday, September 05, 2005


With the holiday tomorrow, I decided to take a shot at the deep stack tournament the new club I've been going to this week offers on Sundays. It's got a relatively large buyin--250+25--and features starting stacks of 10,000 chips with 25-50 blinds WSOP style. Unfortunately, the Labor day weekend that made it better for me to play seemed to have shipped out most of the players, as they only seated 18 when we began at 5, rather than the 45 they had last week (or so I am told).

I had been told not expect too much dead money at the tables, may 1/3 the field, and was hoping I was not in that third. I can't say I noticed even one really awful player at my table--we didn't have a bust-out until the first hour was up, though there may have been at the other table which lost 3 in that span. That's not to say there weren't some mediocre players.

For example, on one early I hand (still 25-50), the table folded around to me in the small blind. On a semi-steal, I had A4 of spades and made it 125 to go. The big blind called. The flop was king high with one spade. On a continuation bet, I made it 200. The big blind called. The turn was a low spade. On a semi-bluff, I made it 500 to go. The big blind called. The river was a spade. I checked and the big blind bet 500. With the nuts, I made it 2000 to go and was called. He turned over AK. I myself have misplayed slick before, but it always amazes me the new and creative ways people find to misplay
badly that hand. I mean really, what the hell was he waiting for?

Anyway, I gave that back a few orbits later when in late position I raised a limper with AJ suited to 400 (the blinds were by then 50-100) and flopped two jacks with two clubs. My one caller, the limper, checked to me and I made it 700 to go. The limper stuck around and the turn was a low club. The limper open 1100 and with a sick feeling I called. The river did not pair the board and I called an 1100 bet, with the limper flipping up Q9 of clubs. Okay, I guess there was some dead money at the table.

The table was pretty tight when I found myself with 12,000 behind and AQ UTG with 200-400 blinds. I made it 1500 to go and was raised to 2600 by a guy who had been raising a lot of pots (though he had been showing down some monster preflop hands). It came around to me and given the tightness of the table, I felt a raise was in order and made it 5000. Deckman went all in. He had me covered and I counted all my chips twice, taking a good long time before acting. Finally, seeing I'd still have 7,000 left if I passed (even with a nice juicy pot), I laid them down. Deckman pat the table and said "great laydown!", kindly flipping over his bullets to prove the point.

I was not quite crippled there but my M (for those that read Harrington) went from to 30 to about 16, from the "green zone" to the "yellow zone". Harrington was my shepherd tonight Per Danny boy, this meant I had to devalue small pairs and suited connectors. Easy enough as I went utterly card dead for almost an hour.

Finally, in the big blind (now 1000), one early limper and a folded table found me with A7 of hearts and 5,500 behind. I remember that the same guy had limped like that with queens, so I considered the chance he was trapping again. Screw it, I needed the chips or was going out with a whimper. I went all in and he quickly called me with AK. Sadly for him, a 7 came on the flop (easily avoidable with a preflop raise) and he doubled me up for almost half his stack. Interestingly, the next hand he busted out limping with AK yet again when he let a blind in cheap and bet without hitting the flop
when the BB had hit two pair (thus providing two more examples back to back on how not to play slick).

By this time, with 10 players left we consolidated down to the final table (cash began a 3rd).

AJ let me down again later when I made a play a the pot (500-1000 blinds) late position with a 5000 opener and was raised all in by the short stacked small blind who had 5700. The limper before me folded and with 700 to call, I had to. I faced 55 and never improved.

Later I was really crippled when my AT lost to KQ all-in pre-flop with kings on the flop and turn. I was down to 7000 chips with blinds up to 1000-2000 and 100 antes. This put me in Harrington's "Dead Zone", where you are supposed only to find yourself after an just covering an all-in raise loss situation as I just had--if you get to that place low from blinds alone, you are not following the book.

My desparate, down-to-the-felt moment came when a big stack raised my big blind enough to put me all in and all I had was Q7 off. I ran the numbers and realized I would be out in two orbits. I had the odds and I had to make a stand. I called, just hoping for two live ones. I was somewhat relieved to see he had A8 and far more relieved to flop a 7 and double up.

I then had a nice little run with AK suited in back-to-back hands, never seeing a flop but having the cards to justify all-in re-raises that took some big pots.

I then made somewhat of a blunder when a tight UTG, with about 45,000 behind, opened the 2,000 blind with 7,000 with me in the BB. It folded around to me and I saw I had JJ with 25,000 behind. I was really afraid this guy had an overpair but did not see laying down the hand so I called. The flop came 10 high and I figured check, hoping for a check or small bet that would let me know I was good. He went all in. I went into the tank and really stewed until laying it down. I should not have, but I flipped my cards up. It was clear I had laid down the best hand. As somebody put it, I had gotten my flop so what the hell else did I need?

Oh well. [Ed. Note: After a night of sleep and further thought, I think I played this hand correctly. Good poker is not about fixing someone on an exact hand or even type of hand; you put someone on a range of hands and optimize your play against that range, narrowing or changing the range as you get more information. Pre-flop, with a tight player UTG six-handed, I think that raise represents a pair of nines or better, AK or AQ. My jacks are about in the upper middle of that range, but clearly vulnerable. I could have raised preflop to further define his hand, but that would have cost me at least half my stack if I were behind. Better to see a flop. True, the flop missed all the overs he had, but QQ, KK, AA were still good and now TT and 99 (there was a 9 too) had me beat as well. My opponent was willing to risk more than half his stack on that flop, the only hands he could be sure I would lay down were AK and AQ or maybe eights. I was wrong on what he had, but I think my thought process was right, and again folding left me with enough chips that my all-in raises still meant something.]

We played down to 5 and the big stack
refused to make a deal (this abrasive yankees fan who took umbrage to my hat and actually had the balls to ask me when the Sox where going to have their annual choke this year and repeatedly criticized me for my play; he was also the guy I double up with A8 versus Q7). Then he took two or 3 beats and then he was the one asking for a deal, but the new big stack wasn't having it. YankeesLover busted out in 6th, just out of the money as it turned out as we carved out a 4th place payout to spare the last person the agony of bubbling. This seemed good for me at the time as I was 3rd fairly close to 4th with two big stacks.

In the money myself, I started to amass some chips as when a small stack about to blind out raised the 4000 blind to 5500. I called in the small blind with 55 and the big blind followed. We checked it down to the river with him until I hit another 5 when I felt I had to bet (after all, if my set was no good, checking down was not going to help anyway). The BB folded and I busted out the 5th player--incidentally, he had been ahead of both us from the flop until the river, proving the efficacy of the late tourny check-down.

One big stack then crippled the other, and we played with crazy 2000-4000 500 antes with one giant stack with about 100,000, my check-down partner and
the same older guy to whom I laid down JJ before, one small stack with 25,000, the temporary big stack with a Giants cap who had denied the humbled YankeeLover a deal, and your humble narrator with about 55,000.

After a few hands, the big stack took out the small one and we were heads up. He refused another deal, noting that he was often seeking more heads up tourney practice and didn't want to lose the opportunity. Strangely enough, though he was cleary a veteran, it really was the one area of my game that I am pretty sure I had more experience than he did what with my very regular heads-up freeze out on-line play--he mentioned that he never plays online.

Online heads up is not exactly the same as live play of course, but if you do it enough you certainly realize heads up live and heads up online are a lot, and I mean a lot, closer to each other than shorthanded live versus heads up live. Though he had more than a 2-1 advantage on me, I still had 55k vs 2-4k blinds with 500 antes, and was able to push him off a few early spots as he failed to loosen adequately his standards.

Pretty soon we were about even with 90,000 each when I raised his BB from the button to 10,000. He called and I lucked into a jack high flop. He bet 15,000 and I went over the top all-in. He called with, if you can believe it, AQ off. My hand held up and after a long count, the dealer determined I had him covered by one measly 500 chip.

It was a small tournament to be sure, but it was my first live play 1st. Moreover, the buy-ins were big enough that I cleared two grand after my entry and tips. As I said in my very last post, it was a long downturn. One night does not a turn around make, but I feel this was a great milestone for me. I only once had a pair higher than jacks (KK, which took down the admittedly high blinds when we were 6 handed), and although I may have made one bad lay down, I made a couple of very good ones. I also stayed aggressive and played with acute awareness of my stack size relative to the blinds at all times (seriously, if you play any kind of tournaments and have not read Harrington; both books, especially the second, you must do so immediately), and when it came down to short-handed play, I knew what to do (thank you Stars Sit and Goes!).

I need to savor this one.
See the flop...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Taking Stock

As often occurs with hubris, since I wrote this post lauding my hot streak, I've been well out of one. I took some big hits at the end of July and several midsized ones through the middle of August. Online, I had a similar downspell.

On my road trip, I staunched the flow live, with moderate losses and small wins. Most of the wins felt like losses with the typical pattern being well up and then giving much of it back. (I did have some significant recoveries online during this period).

My final session in August was representative with my idiot misread lighting 280 dollars on fire.

Although much of this downswing I think is explainable in terms of variance (KK and QQ running into AA, KK getting cracked by QQ), there are still large pieces with no better justification other than tilt, overplay or blunder.

I am still up for the year live, but my hourly rate has dropped again to just over the minimum wage. Online, I am still slightly down.

Notwithstanding, I think I might be turning another corner in my play. By painful trial and error, I am learning to keep my "creative" play in reserve for when it makes sense: rarely, on the edges and against big stacks. Not for pushing around tight-weak medium stacks that can't pay you off when they get tricked, and not for punishing loose aggressive nut jobs. I also feel that I am starting to at least come to grips with the tilt demons. They are still there, but the suckout nerves have gotten less sensitive as the scar tissue grows around them. I still need to get better at slowing down at critical moments (if nothing else to check my cards against before calling an all-in bet), and I continue to see my place on the poker curve near the bottom of the slope.

As Iggy advised me in Indiana, right now playing for me is as it should be, a hobby at which I am learning. I need to be sponging up the experience for the long haul. When looked at from that perspective, treading water while I slowly build my poker game and my poker psyche is a postive result regardless of the short term results. I think.

I did play a short session on Friday back at the club where I misread my hand. It was fairly succussful, and when I realized I had time to make it home to play the FT Katrina tournament, I decided to book a reasonable winner. I of course misremembered the starting time as 9:15 rather than 9:30 (who schedules at 9:15??) so I missed it anyway.

Interesting at this new club (new for me at least) is that in two session at least the players seem generally much more on the tight-weak side rather than the loose-aggressive side as compared to other clubs I frequent. I think this actually suits me. In Friday's game, it was really only me and another player that showed any significant aggression at the table. He and I did butt heads a few times, with me getting the better end of it mostly but not necessarily for any reason of skill, but most of the play was taking moderate pots from the others. No insane double-ups, and no crazy moves.

Two back-to-back hands against the aggessor that were fun was when I picked up JJ twice in a row.

First hand I was SB with a little more than 3 behind. The aggressor in third position made it 15 to go and, with one caller between us, I made 45. He called and lost the third. The flop came with an ace and I checked. To my relief, he did too. The turn came another ace and I liked my hand better. I suppose I should have raised here, but I thought my best chance of getting money here was to let him bet, so I checked, and so did he. The river was a third ace, and I was by this time pretty certain that I was good. He seemed a pretty strong player though so I didn't think an attempt at a value bet was worth losing the pot. We both checked and I took down the pot. He was surprised and noted my tightness.

The second hand the aggressor led out from 2nd UTG with 30, a big bet but consistent with other plays he had made with suited connectors and the like. It came around to me and I made it 100 to, with 400 more behind me and his stack bigger than mine. Action folded around to him and he thought for a bit and called me. At this point I had trouble putting him on a hand. AA, KK, QQ where possible, but so was TT, AK, and KQs. Given how "tight" I had just played, however, I figured he was more likely than normal to have raised back with AA or KK since the range of hands my strong reraise suggested would pay him off (unless he thought I was only so tight as to have AA and he had KK). I thus weighted AK, QQ and TT a bit higher.

Flop came three small cards with two hearts (I had none) and he checked to me. Since this was pretty much the flop I wanted (other than a jack), I felt the compelling need to find out where I was. I bet 200. This was half my stack, and was intended to remove the bluff from his arsenal. I figured he could not bluff me because I was pot committed and he could not call me with less than a hand to beat me. I also thought there was a chance he would fold QQ. If he raised me all-in, I would have had a tough choice, but I think I would have folded.

He said out loud "this is the kind of hand I am supposed to call with". I knew it had to be queens, but the tone of his voice sounded reserved and really leaning toward folding so I had hope all was not lost. After some time, he finally asked the dealer to let him rabbit hunt, declared a fold, and flipped up the other two jacks. I flipped my cards, noting the dealer was unlikely to improve his hand.

Strange, that this third time (to my knowledge) I have face an identical big pair in live play, each time it has been jacks against jacks, and each time I have taken down the pot with an aggressive bet. One of these times I'm going to get it.
See the flop...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Flopping the Nots

Quick night out after work with FTrain and the Korean ATM, who looked snazzy and just over 12 in his Fisher Price® My First Suit©--I wish I had come up with that line but in normal self-deprecating mode, the ATM was kind enough to pass on his neighbor's wit.

We went for a quick dumpling infusion in Korea town and then off to one of FTrain's old clubs that neither ATM nor I had visited. Nice place, much smaller than Playstation, Aquarium or the other club that ATM and I have been frequenting.

With two 1-2 NL tables spread (first time I've seen 1-2 no max), for a brief interval, the floor was forced to split up the three stooges musketeers and I was sent to the "main" table (no must move so I don't quite get what main means). After one orbit a winning 1 dollar, I was able to move to the other table with the guys. I was at the far end across from and two seats to the right of one of the owners whose name I don't know but who is French. In completely inapposite, degrading shorthand, I'll call him LeBeau.

The table was really quite tight and only 7 handed, so I straddled UTG with just below my buy-in of 300. LeBeau, who had me slightly covered, limped as did two others. I looked down, saw a nice straddle hand, Q♦J♦, and raised it to 24 to go. LeBeau called and the table folded. I declared, "I need some help from this flop".

Flop came AKJ rainbow and help had arrived.

With the nuts, I wanted some more money in the pot so I checked to LeBeau. Imagine my surprise when he went all in. Not wanting to slow roll, I insta-called, creating serious doubt in LeBeau's mind that his AQ off was good. Imagine my greater surprise when I realized that I had not actually flopped the nuts.

This brainfart cost me 280 and some degree of dignity as neither a jack nor a ten fell.

I did leave on something of a high note however as was able to climb halfway out of the hole and only booked a 140 loss in our 2 hour session, which is not that bad after subtracting my donation to the greater glory of France.

Side note, I really wonder what Lebeau was thinking with an all-in raise there. Not a terrible flop for AQ, worthy of a value generating, hand protecting raise for sure, but certainly one rife with some possibilities of being quite far behind. Even if he puts me on a random hand, assuming he's not playing against an idiot (I realize that's not a trivial assumption in this case), the only hands from which he can expect a call of 280 all-in raise of a 50 pot are AA, KK, JJ, AK, AJ, KJ (and maybe not), QT against each of which he would have been drawing mighty slim. The only positive aspect of the all-in raise that I see is that it removes the possibility that I will make a move on the pot if he bets a moderate amount, but I think he could have probably accomplished that with a 100 or certainly a 150 bet.

Interesting conversation with FTrain while drinking the post-mortem beer.

Assume the following (numbers are loose):

You are playing 1-2 NL in a NYC club, 2nd UTG with 400 raises to 12 (standard table raise), you, with 212 behind) call with 8♦7♦ and big blind with 112 calls.

Flop is T♦9♦8♣. BB leads out 30, 2nd UTG raises to 100. Assume both opponents are solid players. What do you do?

It's true that you have to put BB on a good hand that's probably not a draw (too short stacked for a tricky play, early-position does not favor semi-bluff, and he has to think he's going to get called here), and 2nd UTG on an even better hand (he knows the former and has to expect the BB to call and he's clearly betting to force out any draws you might have).

You almost certainly don't have the best hand, but you have a fantastic draw with in theory up to 20 outs (2 straight flush outs, 7 flush outs, 6 straight outs, 2 trips outs and 3 two-pair outs). Of course, it's very likely that many of these outs are not good: extremely likely that your straight flush draws are good, quite likely that your flush draw is good, fairly likely that your bottom straight draw is good and possible that your top straight draw is good, and at least possible that your trip and two pair draws are good. It's true that against certain hands you are all but dead in the water, but I'd guess against the weighted combinations you have about 13-14 outs, basically a coin flip to win.

You've got two pot committed opponents and can thus expect that you're betting 200 to win 337--even if the BB folds, this drops to 267, still slightly plus EV, and your drawing hand really needs to see both the turn and the river.

FTrain ran one iteration that I believe actually happened to a friend of his that presented him the hand (BB has top and bottom and 2nd UTG a set of 99s) and came up with the number that an all-in raise was about plus 20 EV, but still questions whether an all-in move is the right play. Certainly there are iterations where the EV is a little less, and a few where it has got to be negative (God help you if you are facing J♦ Q♦), but assume conservatively for the sake of argument that an all-in raise not knowing exactly the hands you face is a plus 10 EV move.

FTrain says that since you are playing generally against bad players in NYC clubs (notwithstanding you face two decent ones in the hand in question), you are better off waiting for clearer plus EV situations for such a large investment. I must disagree--this is not a tourney and unless you are playing with too small of a bankroll, you have to push those edges every damn time. Assuming your roll can take a few 200 hits now and then, folding here is giving money away. Indeed, you want to have money for those higher plus EV times, but the answer for that is (a) rebuy and (b) push those hands too.

In addition to fact that by definition not making a plus EV move when available is minus EV, you should further consider that at least with observant opponents, if you only push with massive leads, you are going to get paid off less often than you should.

Anyway, thoughts as always are welcome.

See the flop...