Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Florida Juice

I was down in Florida for the weekend visiting the maternal unit, who recently moved there from of all places California (to be closer to maternal unit's maternal unit). Knowing of my poker predliction, she kindly organized a trip with the slot slinging geriatric crew to the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe Casino in Ft. Lauderdale.

I remember from Gracie and her boyfriend that the Florida poker scene, due to some pretty crappy law, left a lot to be desired. With a very low betting limit, the game is divided into micro-bet, mega-rake or sit and goes. Also, there's lots of juice in Florida (triple pun that I have inflicted on several victiums TYVM).

So my expectations were real low. Then I got there and was temporarily happy to see that the Hard Rock had several levels of Sit and Goes, from 140 per through 1000. Notice however that I don't list the juice there. That's because they won't tell you--seriously, if you ask how much the house takes, the floor is compelled (he told me so) only to let you know the prize levels and you have to figure it out yourself. That's generally a bad sign.

So I figured it out for the 140s and the 250s. It's about 120+20 and 215+35. Not quite as bad as I expected given the clever subterfuge, but not up to NY card room standards either (or at least my club, which regularly spreads 100+10 and 250+25 MTTs). Still, it was a relatively pleasant surprise. OK you ask, what about the structure?

Here it is for the 140:

1500 chips, 50-100 blinds, doubling every 15 mintues.

Holy shit!

Starting M's of 10 and if after 15 minutes you haven't taken a few pots, you're in the red zone. That's the worst blind structure I've ever seen. McPoker.

The 250 structure was only slightly better, with 2000 in starting chips, otherwise the same.

In other words, craps was being spread.

For sad comparison, at my club for the 100+10, you get 2000 chips with starting 25-25 blinds and 20 minute graduated increases. 250+25 you get 10,000 chips, starting 25-50, 30 minute graduated increases. This confirms the pattern I've seen: legal card rooms will always rip you off more than underground card rooms. Why? Because they can get away with it.

Well, I was stuck there down with the Gerital Gang and certainly wasn't about to hit the slots (no success in channeling Grubby), so I figured I try the lowest level poker-like substance they spread, a/k/a the 120+20 push and pray.

First shot, despite having no cards, I managed to take down a few small pots to stay above average as the table captain on my immediate right knocked off three players, including one where he called an all-in 1.5 pot sized turn bet on a QhJhJxJx board with two hearts holding 8h7h and hit an 8 on the river to beat AxTx ("I had outs"). I had 1900 as the blinds moved up to 200-400 in the small blind when 4 of the 7 remaining players limped into me. I had AJ and figured I might as well push with a chance to triple or quadruple up with what seemed likely the best hand. Unfortunately, table captain in the BB had JJ ("you are so behind") and no ace came so that was it for push and pray 1.

Second shot, hand 1, someone's AQ runs into AK, all in preflop. Hand 2, UTG, I have black kings and raise 50-100 blinds to 400. It folds around to cutoff who cold calls, and blinds actually fold. Flop is jack hi and I check, hoping to cutoff will take a stab. He does for another 400. I push. He calls with aces. Live poker is rigged.

Third shot, no, there was no third shot. I had enough of push and pray, took the folks out to dinner, enjoyed some very good wings, and hung the Florida poker hat up.
See the flop...

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Bit Off the Snide

It has continued to be a rocky road for me lately, particularly online. I helped myself a bit on Friday night late: with Weak Player sweating me, I managed to finish 13th out of 421 in a 50+5 on Stars. I suffered a very nasty bad beat at the end--QQ losing to 55. I would have most likely made the final table with some very large cash prizes, but I can't really complain as I had enjoyed one major suckout to survive that far (KT cracking AT).

Bad beats in smaller tournaments on Saturday had me far down including an insane post-flop call of a check RE-raise: board 7-8-T two hearts, 1400 in pot (200-400 blinds), I checked, villain bet 800 with 20,000 behind, other victim with 25,000 behind raised to 3500, I went 11000 all-in, villain called, other victim put villain all in and villain called. I had flopped top straight with J9 off (big blind), other victim second straight (dead on main pot except 3 chop outs, very live in side pot) with 69c, villain top pair with a jack kicker and a 3-out gutshot (only to a chop on main pot) with JT off. Villain caught running eights, busting me and crippling the other victim with a boat.

So I decided to take the day off online poker on Sunday, but with my wife still buried in her academic paper, I figured I'd go play my club's weekly 250+25.

That's a bit big when I'm down on myself, but I think these larger buy-in live tourneys generally offer a lot of play value--this one in particular with deep 10,000 stacks, starting blinds of 25-50, 30 minuted blind levels (40 at the final table), and anywhere from 10-30 players.

Yesterday was my 4th time playing one of these, with a first place and a third place to my name. This time the field was my biggest, with 25 ponying up and a nice top heavy payout for the top 4, with 1 taking more than half and 4 basically getting a rebate. There were many familiar faces and the typical ratio of dead money, about half the field is my rough estimate, with the typical mode of deadness being tight weakness rather than mania (with one notable exception but he was not at my table).

We got started at 5 and I felt I had my A game through the first 2 1/2 hours. I avoided major confrontations, built my stack up to about 25k with some good post-flop situations, both timely hits and occasional bluffs.

Down to 11 players and about to consolidate to the final table, I made a massive blunder that probably earned me my cash. With me in the small blind (200-400), a medium stack (about 15k) on the button who clearly had been trying to go home (he even said so) with some aggressive bets that were not working out for his plans (he kept sucking out) bet 1200. I had fishhooks and figured I'd give him another chance--making it 5k to go. At this point, the big blind, who had me covered by about 5k, raised me to 15k. The button got out of the way, which is clearly what I should have done as well. But I didn't. Push or fold was my mentality. I pushed.

He insta-called and I knew I was in trouble--quickly confirmed when he flipped over American Airlines. Fortunately for me, he was hijacked on the flop. Get it? American Airlines? HiJACKed? I KeeL myself. Suck-out artist and punster supreme.

On the very next hand, the now cutoff raised me again and I looked down to King Kong. I pushed again, and the now crippled small blind called. It folded around to the cutoff, who agonized before calling with 99. The big blind with some irony had JJ, but was not able to return the favor as I knocked out two players and headed to the final table with the biggest stack.

I got a pretty good seating situation, with the other big stack, an older tournament only player with a white mane of hair, two to my right, a medium stack that I knew well way back from Playstation as a solid but very tight older female player on my immediate left and a very short stacked though very good English player two seats on my left--the same guy who took down the tourney with his micro stack the time I finished third in the tourney I played with FTrain in September. The table dropped the first three players off fairly quickly and passed the bubble in one fell swoop as the lady cracked TT and KQ in the same hand with her set of sixes, leaving us the final four.

I had about 80k, the maned guy about 85k, the woman about 65k and the English guy about 20k, with blinds at 1000-2000 with 100 antes. The English short stack proposed a deal but was shot down when he asked for a fairly outrageous amount. Plenty of deep stack play left, we spent an enourmous amount of time swapping blinds. The short stack had gotten chipped down when he started the Harrington push mode. I tried to pick him off on one UTG all-in, but his 88 held up against my A7d. Then someone else doubled him up, leaving us with 4 reasonable stacks with me in second. Still no deal as the chip leader demanded a very large proportion of the pool.

We played on and on without losing a player for another hour if you can believe it. I took a nasty hit when my blind steal with ducks was called and my move was raised all in by the lady on a A99 flop. I knew she had me beat and coudn't even call 17k on a 50k pot with 2 weak outs. I still had about 50k but I was smarting. I had the ominious feeling I was heading to the kissing cousin cash level at 4th, which was basically net 100 over the buyin, which would have been really, really disappointing. I tightened up, which is probably not the thing to do there given the overlarge 1st prize (3845 gross), but I really wanted to do better than 4th.

Finally, the English guy and the lady got into another confrontation and her AQ held up over his KT, busting him. The maned guy had about 120k, she had about 85k and I had about 45k. 1st paid 3845, 2nd 1375 and 3rd 810. Deal talk resume. The chip leader immediately demanded 2800, which I thought was a bit steep vis-a-vis 2nd since it wasn't that big of a lead. The blinds had just went up to 2000-4000 400 which made me quite short but not quite dead with an M of 6.5. Not exactly sure what the right distribution was here. I think we were fairly evenly matched as players, but it was 10 and I think we all really wanted to end there--each of us recognized that the chance element was becoming more and more important.

I proposed to take 1375, equal to 2nd place. The woman scoffed at me at first, until I reminded her that we all had 3rd place guaranteed and my request for 565 of the 3500 or so we were still fighting for was not particularly overreaching. In fact, I really think I should have gotten a bit more given the skewed upside between 1st and the other two levels (one double up against the big stack and I would be chip leader), but after getting chipped down from chip leader didn't feel like I had the heart to push my cards like I would have needed to maximize my chances of finishing 1st and the other two were clearly not going to offer more. So the three of us quibbled for a few more minutes and we finally chopped at 2700-1930-1300.

This was really a maximin chop decision rather than true EV--if I were running really hot and thus willing to take the "loss" of cashing 3rd, I would have played on, but I just wanted to book a decent win. It at least influenced me that last time in this tourney when I turned down what I saw as a bad deal proposed by the English guy in third with a chip distribution of 50-50-10, I soon got into a massive confrontation with the other stack (a crazy moron if ever there were one), had my top two get administered a brutal suckout by a runner runner flush and finished a steaming 3rd.

So I'm happy with the 3rd+ finish.
See the flop...

Friday, December 16, 2005

A few hands from the WPBT Weekend

Hand 1. Thursday night, MGM grand 2-5 table:

Started out with full 500 buyin, whittled down to just over 300 on a table with occasional 50+ opening raises and multiple callers plus one French luckbox who a) bet 3 of 4 hands like he had the nuts, b) had the nuts 3 out of 4 hands (the same 3) and c) got paid off every freaking time (nastiest I saw was when his 47 boated up to beat the nut flush). He was up over 2k in less than an hour. I never got into a confrontation with him, but the table was definitely playing weird. So I hunkered down and waited through card deadness.

Finally, with bonne chance caisse folded UTG, I found AQ spades in middle position and made it 25 to go. The cutoff, who had me covered, called behind me. Flop was AK6 with 2 clubs and a spade. I bet out 30 and cutoff raised me to 80. What to do?

I pushed. He had AK. Could I have folded here? Could I have called? I didn't put him on slick with the call behind given that he had 3 players to act after him, but I certainly should have considered it when he popped me. I guess I have to lay down unless I put him on a bluff? Or can I put him on a weaker ace as I did? Result: AQ is in the doghouse once again.

AQs only good if you board quads with it like Kid Dynamite and win with the ace kicker against kings (well played sir).

Hand 2, Friday afternoon. Wynn, 2-5 no max:

800 dollar stack, Weak Player with 1600 on my left (after some fucktard doubled up his aces like a slot machine) and several other 500+ stacks at the table. 3rd to act and find 34 hearts. I open for table standard 20--I've not been playing too many hands. Weak and 2 calls behind and we're heads up. Flop is 2s 5d Js. I bet out 30. Weak pauses, and makes it 100. Am I going lay down my sneaky sneaky OESD? I probably should have, but that's no fun. What to do? Call and pray for an ace or a six on the turn?

Fuck that.

300 to go.

Into the tank Weak goes. "Do you want me to bust you?" he asks.

Response, natch: "Not particularly."

Old man on his left who has been watching us banter like old friends (we actually met face to face at this table for the first time, though we've played and chatted many hours together online) "This could be it for your friendship."

After of eternity of making me sweat (I know he's either going to push or fold here), Weak finally lays down his two spades with middle pair.

Why I like this bet (other than the fact that it worked) is the amount of pressure it puts versus the amount risked. With two spades on the board, all the money has to go in to get the two cards his draw needs to see. If he is facing an overpair or a bigger draw, he's essentially being asked to risk 680 to win 920 on one coin flip or the other, which he should want to call when speaking strictly math, though that's still quite a lot of variance for that much money (this play works better with relatively big stacks). If he's facing a set (probably jacks under the circumstances), he's not getting the right price as a more than 2:1 dog.

As it was, he was very far ahead, but only had a comfortable call if he can put me on an outright or semi-bluff. Others may have, but at least Weak hasn't found my big tell yet.

Of course, it would have worked less well if he had flopped a set...

Hand 3. Sunday morning, Wynn, 2-5 no max:

Weirest hand I can remember in a long time. Game just formed, starting short with five players. I'm in seat 5 with 500, other stacks between 300-800, including the same old man from the last hand in 9.

Player in seat 1, with 800 behind, looks straight from central casting. Asian with spiky, blonde tipped hair, replica Jerry Rice 49ers jersey, massive gold chain and Versace sunglasses. Oh brother, I'm prepared for a rough ride from Mr. Bling.

Very first hand, me in small blind, it folds around to Mr. Bling in the cutoff, who makes it 20 to go. Button folds and I look down to 99. Crap, just the kind of in between hand you don't want to be shooting in the dark with. Certainly worth a call here. Make it so.

Heads up on the flop of 764 rainbow. Not a bad flop at all for my hand, I bet out 30, somewhat afraid I'm going to be forced into a tough decision. Call. Ok, I'm either way ahead against overs, or way behind against an overpair or worse. Against a solid player, I'm thinking way behind, but I'm just not sure with this guy, who could also be setting up a move.

Turn is a 3. Not able to put him on the straight, I'm taking one more shot. I bet out 50, with the intent of probably folding if raised right there or checking down if called (with another tough decision possibly ahead if a scare card comes up on the river). This is really not where I want to be for my first hand of a session, but that's poker.

He sees my bet and thinks for a few moments. Then he folds. Face up. Aces.

Yes you read that right. Aces.

I don't absolutely hate the fold there given the board and the stack sizes--not that you'd ever see this in a New York club in a million years. What I don't get are two things:

First, why not raise me on the flop? Greed I suppose. Second, why, and I really mean WHY fold this hand face up? Iggy thought this was the hand's biggest mistake and after further thought I'm inclined to agree. I mean his image sitting down was pretty well cultivated as aggro boy typecast and here he's bought 3 years of fold equity from the whole table (which he never used as he remained about that tight for the six hours I played with him).

Hand 4: Same session, in the afternoon toward the end, full table.
Built up to 800 behind, somewhat card dead, I have only played 2 hands in previous 3 orbits. Same old man, also with about 800, opens for 15 2nd UTG, solid player with Yankees cap (lived in Cali for many years, not interested in jawboning about Sox/Yanks despite my hat) who plays more hands than most but shows signficant discipline after the flop (he's avoided paying me off or betting into me twice where I really wanted it) with about 1,000 calls immediately behind. It folds around to me in the SB and I have AK off. Perhaps remembering my ugly hand at the MGM, I decide to do something I rarely do in this situation: I call.

Flop is KsJs6x with two spades. Ok, I've hit my hand and the fact shouldn't be clear. What to do? I don't think I want to see a turn, but I don't think betting out is the best way to avoid one. So I check with the full intention of check raising. The old man obliges me by betting out 40. But then the plan goes awry when YankeesLover makes it 80 to go. Crap. What to do?

Fold is the safe move and not a terrible one. I've only got 15 in the pot and I'm facing a reraise. Calling is clearly not an option. But what about raising? Nothing crazy like pushing, not with these stacks. I may have the best hand and if I don't, you pretty much have to put me on a set (hard to put me on slick) as I am represnting a monster with a check re-raise, so maybe I can get a better hand to fold? Also nice is that the escape hatch is still open--I can lay this down without tears if I'm raised or even smooth called and raised later (unless no spade falls and I decide to push, but that's another story).

The old man folds with a mutter of disgust, later claiming to have had AK. Then YankeesLover went into the tank for well over three minutes (I watched two series of downs of the football in the game on the Plasma behind him). I knew he really had a hand, very likely better than mine. He really really studied me, I stayed quiet, shades flipped down, watching the game. Finally, he folded, claiming to have flopped bottom two and to have been really concerned I had KJ. I would have thought a set more consistent with my betting, but then again, if he really had KJ, it's going to be really hard to put me on 3 sixes, jacks or kings. At any rate, I won the hand and did NOT show the cards.

These were the serious NL sessions I had in Vegas, and I am more or less happy with both my decisions and my results. The rest was low limit donk poker + booze with bloggers (somewhat -EV), low no-limit donk poker + booze with bloggers and others (very -EV and my main leak for the week), two tourneys I played (no cash) and the small craps session I tried for the first time with FTrain after his big win (minus 100 and +EV as it will also be my last time). All told, I was down a bit for the five days in Vegas, but I certainly got my money's worth.
See the flop...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

WPBT Winter Classic First Post

Recovering from overload.

Quick impressions---

Some top moments:

- Witnessing the bucolic smile on F-Train's sallow face when he worked through the 99 player field at the Sunday night Sahara tourney to take first place and unstick himself for the weekend (cracking my kings with A5 off along the way, the bastard!).

- Making a nasty little reraise move to bluff Weak Player off a big pot--not a chink in his massive take for the weekend (or even that session) but I bet he would have paid a chunk to have that one back. Hand story for a later post, maybe.

- Watching Weak Player pull a full fledged Scotty Nyugen at the 2-5 at the Wynn ("Fold now and no one gets hurt") and actually getting a call.

- Having "just a splash more" SoCo with Mr. Can't Hang in the IP penthouse, a/k/a top of the flop.

- Getting direct hand analysis advice from the guy whose book I was in the middle of reading on the trip out (thank you Russell).

- Getting Barry's autograph on my brand new WPBT hat. Starfucker? Guilty as charged.

- Capping each round of a razz hand in 2-4 Mixed with Brendon Schaefer to 6th street, sheepishly agreeing to call down the river face up with KJT76 and having him flip over a boat.

- Nearly destacking Donkey Puncher with prop bets on the color of the flop--7 red in a row.

- Squeezing out several extra bets out of FTrain on my two pair at 2-6L at the Excalibur well past bedtime. "I don't think you have it."

- Actually winning a massive kill pot in 4-8 limit with a priced in draw.

- Connecting many faces to many icons. I will list no one because I am terrible with names but I loved meeting you all.

- Reading Michael Craig's book in one go on the flight back, nothwithstanding the absolute sleep deficit I'd built up.

Some bottom moments:

- First hand of the weekend: QQ running into Gracie's AA. "Oh, you're SoxLover?" Nice introduction for her.

- Third hand of the weekend: the Rooster picking my pocket with a cruel 4 card heart board check-raise bluff off of, yet again, QQ.

- A very bad moment at the Mandalay being made aware of a much worse moment I had had at the MGM the night before. Sorry again.

- Learning the lesson at the 2-5 table that AQ suited is really not that good of a hand, once again and hopefully for the last time.

- Getting a unexpected wake up call at 7:30 A.M. on Friday morning from my rarely heard from friend now living in Abu Dhabi. "HEY MAN!" "Hi....I'm in Vegas." "Oh shit, I woke you up." "No, no, I was awake really...uhhh."

- Going out with a whimper in 74th in the main event with Q8 suited in a small blind steal overbet against AJ off.

- Waking up to go to work this morning.
See the flop...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Same Old Story...With a Different Ending!

I went back at the old club for the first time since it reopened. The weekend they reopened, I was in AC getting tossed around like a locked-up 100 pound manboy with a tear drop tatooed on his face (stay away from that white collar crime KATM) and since then, but for playing KD's game the day before Thanksgiving, I've been licking my wounds.

To be perfectly honest, I've been playing with a feeling of dread as I have ridden through this downswing. I wanted to get a little mojo back before hitting Vegas next week, so my approach going into last night was to at least temporarily adjust my strategy, toning down my aggression, which as FTrain has pointed out to me, leads to high variance in my game. Over the long run, subject to some corrections, I believe this has been a good strategy for me--I do not play over my bankroll and therefore can take some hits--but over the short and medium term, it can leave me feeling like utter shit. I did not want to get off the plane for my first Vegas trip with several days of packed poker in front of me feeling that I had forgotten how to play.

So the plan was to lay back and tight for a least the first push, win some small pots and avoid the big showdowns so as to rebuild my confidence.

First orbit shorthanded 5 players, everyone has about 200 or 300 behind, in small blind UTG and button limp to me. I have red cowboys, I make it 12 to go, called by BB and other two. Flop is three small diamonds, 8 hi. The first casaulty of war is the battle plan.

I open for 25, BB folds, UTG, who I've played with before and don't have a particularly good impression of, comes over the top to 80. Button folds, what to do?

What could he have here to bet that way? In ascending order of what I'd like to play against here:

1. Worst case: ace-rag diamonds, seems unlikely because a smooth call on flop seems much more likely. I am really screwed if I play against this hand, need runner runner. 24:1 behind.

2. Almost as bad: AA with diamond. I really don't see this being his holding. If it's there however, I've got two outs and he's got 8 redraws. 13:1 behind.

3. Next worse: two other diamonds. Could be, and bet would be consistent with protecting against more diamonds. I'm still pretty screwed against this hand with 7 outs plus runner runner, slightly worse than 2:1 down.

4. Still pretty bleak: A set. Could be, bet also reflects the need to protect against the diamonds. But again, I would expect a bet preflop. If he has it, I have 9 outs and he's got 10 redraws, slightly better than 2:1 down.

5. Pure coin-flips: pair with diamond ace and two pair. Both hands are quite possible.

6. Good coin-flip: naked diamond ace. This would be a very aggressive play, but not unheard of from this player. 11:9 ahead.

7. Now we're talking: Pair with or without lower diamond. Over 5:1 ahead. I can see this play for sure, particularly if top pair with diamond kicker.

8. Ecstatic: Underpair with diamond, pocket pair at 13:1.

OK, add donk bluff and then figure out what to do.

Preference scale in retrospect I think should be fold>push>call. Folding is really painful here because this is a pretty excellent flop for red kings. But given the possibilities discussed above, it's not too expensive to get away from. I might even show my cards to induce later plays against me, or not if I don't want them. Pushing seems like a better option if I want to play this hand. If I'm behind, I need to see two cards and will probably be facing a bet on the turn if I don't improve. If I'm ahead, I can't be giving free cards to an ace of diamonds. Comments welcome.

So I pushed, he had 9d 7d, and I did not improve. Stuck 300 and "here we go again" flushing through my system as steam rose off my bald head. Rebuy!

Breath deeply. Calm down. Tell the dealer what you think of him (before anyone gets alarmed, this wiseass dealer and I go back two years and actually quite like each other; barbs are part of any loving relationship with me).

I battled. I dinked. I doinked. I noted that there were some seriously questionable players at the table. In for 600, I was soon back up to 440, down to 400, then up to 550, then down to 500 then, yippee, in the black at 650, then 750, the 900 and finally went home at 1020, up 420 for the night. Everyone knows this who has experienced this, but whether it's logical or not, it is a much better feeling to go from down 300 to up 420 than it is to go up to 800 and down to 420 or even just up to 420. It felt great.

One more badly played hand I think I could have gotten more money, comments as always welcome:

AA in third position on a 8 player table, 700 behind, second biggest stack at least 2:1 over all other stacks, I opened for 15. 3 Callers behind and the flop is 999 (rainbow--that's a joke). This is one of those flops absent massive information (e.g., call, reraise, reraise) you are going to the mat with. So I bet out 25 and the table folds around, the last player showing me his ace. I think I should have given someone a chance to catch up. On the other hand, it is consistent with continuation bets that I have been known to make.

Two funny donks-paid-me-off hands:

Hand 1: Loose UTG opens for 12. Folds around to me in the button, I have offsuit slick. I make it 50 to go and have a caller. Flop is JT rag rainbow. Small blind checks to me, I check behind (I don't always make a continuation bet). Turn is rag. Check check. River is queen. Check to me I bet 50, he thinks for a minute, then calls. I show the nuts, he mucks. WTF could he have had there? AQ?

Hand 2: Loose 2nd UTG opens for 12. Very very aggressive player who has bluffed off his 600 stack down to 55 over 2 hours calls behind in cutoff. Folds to my SB, I have AQ clubs and make it 60. 2nd UTG calls behind with 175 more, and bluffer calls, declaring he needs to tripple up or go the ATM.

Flop is Q23 rainbow. I open for 100 and 2nd UTG goes into the tank. I mean really. For like 3 minutes. This is a hard decision. He come out suddenly and pushes all in. I'm just not putting him on a better hand here. Maybe KQ. I call. He had 99. All for me. Wow.

If you've made it all the way down here, check out this post from Weak Player, who is setting out I think fairly well specified goals in a path toward improving his game. Very much the engineer.

See the flop...