Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What the Dickens is Going On Here?

[Sorry for the very long hiatus--week in the Caribbean, busy work, and the desire not to pull in too much traffic when saddled with Venino's evil banner all conspired to suppress my January posting.]

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity . . .

An apt description of my live versus online results as of late. An even more apt description is made possible with the help of an awesome little web-based utility provided without cost: PokerDominator. I was able to massage the data from my own custom database with several hundred records into its format (with a little MS Access work and the very cooperative and accessible PokerDominator administrator) and for the first time really break down my session data across the live/online, hold'em/non-hold'em, tourney/ring spectrums. Here is the big picture from September:

As you can see, the trends are clear (particularly online) and inverse. The relatively smooth line for online is clearly the result of the much higher frequency of play.

My preliminary conclusion is that online play is rigged: September 1, someone kicked the doom switch on me.

Okay, that's not my preliminary conclusion. But what is?

I decided to slice up the data a little more. Was I playing more tourneys online than live (or vice versa)? More non-hold'em online (definitely). Any other explanations that would lead me to action?

Tourney versus ring:

Live, I'm a bigger tourney winner than a cash winner, largely because of my four cashes in the 250+25 my old club used to (and hopefully will again hold). Nevertheless, albeit with a significantly lower hourly rate I have profited in ring games as well notwithstanding one devastating November morning at the Taj--ask the Rooster about it, he knows it well enough to tell it himself--and notwithstanding the low limit Blogger games in Vegas where I heed and I hawed. Online during the period, I pretty much lost in each with the same curve roughly.

Hold 'em versus not hold'em:

One of my favorite things about playing online is the wider variety of games. I enjoy Razz now and then (masochist that I am). Triple draw is a refreshing change of pace. Stud I never liked that much, but occasionally gave it a ride, particularly when sitting with Weak Player, who back last fall made it one of his mainstays. OPL I definitely like and O8 I scored my first ever limit tourney final table with.

But apparently, I'm better at hold'em. Well, no limit hold'em. My losses in the other games (with the exception of O8, explainable with that final table cash in a 50+5), particularly in a two brutal razz sessions, one very brutal triple draw session and one abysmally bad stud 8 session (which I had no business playing at 10-20) outweighed a number of sizable razz wins, small triple draw wins, and water treading at OPL and O8.

Still, my online hold'em and my live hold'em don't seem well correlated, if less inversely so than other games.

Large stakes versus small stakes

Here is where I found the most interesting results, and I had not really noticed them so I'm glad I've gone through the exercise. In general, big tourney versus small tourney buy-in, I've done substantially better live in (relatively) big buy-in rather than small, where I've basically broken even. Online, I've done roughly equally poorly.

However, my online ring game results diverge radically in low stakes (relatively defined by me as less that 1-2 200 buy-in) versus 1-2 and 2-4 (I've avoided taking shots online at bigger games). In live ring games, I've had no opportunity to play less than 1-2, though the max buy-in at that level has varied from as low as 100 (IP, Turning Stone and Windsor with the Bracelet, the last Canadian!) to as high as no max (my old club, with average buy-ins however only around 3-500). Generally, I have played mostly 1-2 500 max or thereabouts in NY clubs, or 2-5 500 max in various casino card rooms. Interestingly, albeit without sufficient sample size online in the period, my "big" stakes online play results have roughly followed my general live ring play results, i.e., generally profitable.


1) I need to improve my non-hold'em play in those games I really want to keep playing (Razz, Triple Draw and the Omahas). I need to stop playing entirely those that I don't particularly enjoy nor do well at, i.e., stud and stud 8 (I realize this conclusion is not particularly profound).

2) I need adjust examine my low stakes online low stakes NL and general tournament play. There are two dimensions I see here.

First, in both tourneys and ring games, my aggressive style may be overly so. My style, which isn't all about bluffing but certainly depends upon a certain level of fold equity in many of its elements, is much less effective where people don't fold as often. This clearly applies to low stakes on line ring and tourney, but I think also to a lesser degree to bigger buy-in tourneys. People just call where they wouldn't live--either because lack of shame, stupidity, too much experience in being bluffed at or simply the ability to buy into another tourney if you bust out. I need to adjust my style accordingly. I always think I am doing just that, but a certain point, the results are starting to persuade me that it may not be simple variance.

Second, in low stakes games, I need to play as focused as I do in high level games, or I need to stop playing them, or I need to accept steady losses as "entertainment value". Realistically, since I have never been good at enjoying a game if I'm losing at it, it's got to be be one or two.

Finally, I note here that the data provides some evidence of at least what I have often felt--that I play better against better players.

This is nothing to be proud of: it's not that I am playing so well against good players but rather that I am playing so badly against bad players. I should be able to exploit worse players and profit off them far greater than I do off of better players. How to do this? I suppose it's about going back to the fundamentals: tighten up (no need to mix it up if they're not paying attention), let the maniacs bet for me, reduce the fold equity factor in decisions (not just less bluffing, also less semi-bluffing, not to say none) and, particularly in tourneys, avoid pushing marginal edges when huge ones are likely to be waiting for me around the next corner.

Comments welcome.
See the flop...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Vacation Kickoff Treat

Long rambling post warning, but good results and some interesting hands I think.

This week I'm off to St. Lucia to hit the beach with Mrs. SoxLover as well as Mr. and Mrs. Weak Player. The last week at work was a bit busy, so I fell behind my posting a bit, but not as bad as Weak, who after an impressive first month of frequent posting has trailed off--I hope he comes back refreshed and puts some more well thought out posts.

My online travails (notwithstanding a 3rd place finish in the WWDN earlier this week) have generally continued as I've managed to get my chips in on several tourneys with best of it (most memorable TT v QT and AK v A6) and bust out.

And then there was Veneno. In our heads up stupid side bet number 2, which was a race to 5 hu, she sprinted out to a 4-0 lead on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I rallied, winning 2 in a row on the day after Christmas, closed in to making it a match with win 3 last week, and actually caught up on Friday night, then finally agreed to the rubber match on Saturday, just after the aforementioned QT cracked my TT in a 50+5 sit and go on Stars. I was on tilt I think, but it really didn't affect my play. I was up for awhile, then she caught some cards, played well and I found myself down 600 to 2400. Got them all in with K7, unfortunately she had A7 and that was it. My banner will be changing again for a week once I get back--I have partially renegged on the bet by declaring I'd rather shut down my blog than post anything pro-Yankee (Veneno's husband's cruel suggestion, I suspsect she'd only suggest it to get me--I'm fine with Angels though if I have to).

Side note: I also got Gracie to play me Friday, later claiming she was drunk but so was I, quick match 1 hand I won with KT versus QT on a ten high flop--she blamed the unfamiliar UTB buttons!

I did manage to have a decent day yesterday despite that start, rallying to win a 50+5 sit and go and 3rd in a 20+2 (should have been at least 2nd but managed to fail to bust out the same guy in two chances after getting him all in preflop dominated).

So I at least had a bit of momentum going back into the 250+25 Sunday night deep stack tourney at the club. This is the same tourney I had cashed 3 of 4 times, including one first place the first time I played it in September.

I got there at 5 and we started with 20 players, including Alfonse, a New York fixture who I used to play with at Playstation and who showed his special style (crazy motherfucker aggro freak crap talker). This guy is tv famous, a real character in Boston-New York NESN-YES poker challenge. Click here to see him suck out massively on Robin, a Boston pro. This guy historically has a had a talent for putting me on tilt, but this time I just cranked up the Led Zep on the MP3 player and waited for my shots (later, I even got a chance to reply to his bullshit "I can read you like a book" with, "Sorry, the sound of me stacking your chips is distracting me").

Also in this tourney was the same South Asian freak (utterly un-PC, I'll call him Abu) who in a 1-2 cash game a few months ago came over the top all in 160 more of my 50 raise of a 15 UTG bet (I had queens) with AJ--I knew he was a maniac so I called him--he turned a flush on me. Very fortunately, I had position on them both in the 3 seat with them being 8 and 9 respectively.

On my immediate right was Chris, a player I'd busted out before in the same tourney in September by setting him up to call my QQ with his 99 (he's the "Snapper"), who I've since played with at the club and another as well. He's someone capable of making moves.

Another player I knew from Playstation I hadn't seen since May, looks like a Franciscan monk so I'll call him Monk, a creative player, not insane but also willing and able to make moves, was two to my immediate right, and on my left, fortunatley, were 3 tight-solid players who I could trust that if they raised me, I was beat. Another nice thing about these tourneys at the club is that by now, I know most of the players when I sit down. All in all, it was a dangerous table starting, but one with opportunity and one at which I had a very good position with the maniacs and tricksters on my right and the solids on my left.

Most of the most interesting hands happened on my initial table (we had 20 players on 2 tables to start).

Hand 1, "the call":
Blinds at 50-100, in late position (1 before cutoff), Alfonse, Abu and Chris limp to me with my 9000, I look down to TT. I decide not to raise as I want to see a flop with these characters. Three more callers including the blinds and flop comes J75 two diamonds (I have none). 3 checks around to me, I think I might have the best hand so I bet out 400 as a probe to find out if there is a jack out there. They all fold, except, suprsingly enough, Chris (who started the hand with 8000) on my right who calls.

Ok, what does he have?

I just can't put him on a jack because he really had to bet it there, and he really can't put me on a bluff. So it's got to be a big flush draw, probably with an ace. Turn comes a 7 of clubs, making some straight draws but not completing the hand I'm worried about. Chris checks and I bet out 1,000. Chris thinks for a few moments and then calls.

Ok, crap, am I wrong?

How can he call that with a flush draw out of position? River comes a 4, making a 4 card straight. Chris bets out 2,500 and my head is spinning. Crap, what a fucking card. Did he hit it?

What to do?

Calling here risks dropping down to 5000, not super short but not where I want to be 45 minutes in after starting with 10,000. Folding leaves me with 7,500, not great but most aspects of poker still available. Then something seems familiar, not with Chris but something that's happened to me a few times in the last few months, someone calls my bet with a flush draw, misses, and bets big on the river. I, after some thought, fold, and fume like hell when the bluff is shown to me. Not this time. After all, would he really bet 2,500 with a jack, over pair or straight? The first two, aside from being inconsistent with his flop actions, he'd have to be afraid I hit my draw so I can't see him leading out--calling a river bet from me yes but probably not leading out, certainly not 2,500 which is far greater than a blocking bet. The straight, shit, he wants that to be called so he'd probably bet 1,000-1,500.

But he bet 2,500.

What does it mean?

It means a busted flush and I'm pretty sure of it. I call and he moans, flipping AT diamonds. The table is shocked I called. I got chips.

Hand 2: "the fold".

200-400 blinds, I have about 13,000. Alfonse, Abu and the Monk limp through to my small blind. I have 4-6 clubs, not bad for a 200 call. I make it and the big blinds lets a flop come. There it is 8-6-4, but 2 spades. I need this hand to end on the flop, and I am pretty damn sure Alfonse will bet out this flop, so a check raise is in order. Checks to Alfonse, who bets out 1,500 just as requested. Abu folds. Then the Monk makes it 4,500. Oh crap that's not in the plan. I know the Monk knows Alfonse could have jack shit here, so he doesn't need much of hand. I have two pair, it's got to be good? Maybe. But there are two spades out there and two players (albeit one a hyper aggressive mofo who will play any 2). Do I really want to get involved in this hand? It hurts, but I lay down bottom two. Alfonse makes some noise about having an 8 before finally folding. The Monk flips over 8-6 and I feel great.

Hand 3: "the Call 2"

200-400 blinds. 4 Limpers to the Monk, who with 7,000 makes it 1,200 to go on the button. He either has a monster or nothing much. I, in the small blind, look down and see fishhooks. Crap, hardest hand in poker to play, big pot and out of position. Raise? I'm not sure. Fold? I can't stomach it. Call? Not usually my style, but it seems the best option under the circumstances. We're heads up.

Flop come T-7-3 rainbow, a very good flop for JJ but of course no good against a bigger pair. I check (aguably a mistake) and the Monk makes it 2000 to go. I go into the tank--I am either way behind or way ahead. If I have the best hand, I want the most chips in the pot, if I'm way behind, I want out of there. I'm just not sure.

If I raise, he'll call me with only hands that kill me and fold those that I want to play against.

On the other hand, if I call and check, I'll be seeing the other 4,000 in the pot. So if I decide I'm not going to lay this down, call-checking is the option.

I make it so with a deuce turn. He pushes and at this point I've already decide to call. He had an up and down straight draw and my jacks held up. Now I've got more chips.

Hand 4: "the Check Raise"

300-600 blinds. Folded to Alfonse in middle position, who makes it 1,800 to go. Abu thinks for awhile, and smooth calls. Fold to me in the big blind and I have 45 clubs. Alfonse makes many comments about how I like to "wait for aces" (hard to believe), but I have 20k+ and figure it's a good spec hand against animals. I call. Flop comes 854, two hearts. Very similar to hand above but the players are different. I decide to try it again and Aflonse like clockwork opens with 3,000. Abu calls again. Ok, I am 98% sure I have to best hand here--Abu loves to check raise himself, but he'd never not raise there, and Alfonse, well, he'd do that with a lot of hands and if he has a set, oh well. I'm not getting counterfeited for cheap here though so I push. Alfonse without much protest folds (later claiming QJ) and Abu folds, flipping over AK suited and bitches about being sucked out on. Yes, this dude actually whined after playing that hand that way. Alfonse jumped on him, telling him he was an ass for not raising--pointing out there was no way I was in there if he did (he's very right). It was great to see these two snipe at each other, both going on tilt, as I sat back and stacked my chips.

A few hands later, we busted another player and consolidated to the final table. I had direct position on Abu, with Alfonse short stacked 3 to my left, sandwiched by big stacks. I had rough parity with 3 others, a bit behind one guy with a bigger stack and well ahead of 6 short and very short stacks. Alfonse went out 9th and Abu 6th, both with the worst of it when the chips went in. We played for several more hours--I think I avoided any blunder, stole the amount I could get away with, saw some atrocious suckouts that prolonged the game quite a bit as eliminations were hard. When we got down to 4 (top 3 paid originally), we carved out a tiny 4th place, such that 3rd and 4th paid crap, 2nd paid decently and 1st paid handsomely. I had the 2nd biggest stack and the two little ones hung on for quite awhile until one busted out. I had a scary moment later when the big stack called my all-in post flop raise with JJ on a T high board--he had a T and turned a flush draw for 14 outs on the river--but I doubled up. We finally busted the 3rd stack and were heads up with he having a 4-1 lead. 1st paid 3800 and 2nd 1500, and I refused his offer of 1800. First hand we were all-in preflop, my KJ versus his 88 and the snowmen held up. Oh well.

Except for maybe that last hand (and I very much had odds when the chips went in), I was extremely happy with the way I played. In this tourney, over 5 1/2 hours, I never once had a starting hand better than JJ. But I made the best of it, with a few well timed bluffs, some manipulation of very aggressive players, and most of all a few very good (IMHO) situation-based reads leading to tough but lucrative calls.

That's a good tourney for me no doubt.

Now off to the islands.
See the flop...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year

I hope everyone had a good one.

Yesterday was a clean start, a new session if you will. Believe it or not, I decided to start out with triple draw.

I found a juicy 3-6 table with Weak Player (not that it was juicy because of Weak Player) and several 3 card draw 3 betting small blind maniacs. The end of the previous sentence might not make sense to the bulk of the world with no experience (or interest) in playing triple draw, but trust me when I tell you, someone who is willing to three-bet preflop from the small blind and then draw 3 cards on the first draw is someone with whom you want to play.

I went a little card dead and unfortunately was unable to profit from the table. That is pretty cold prose, let me try again: it sucked ass. But I did have this dealt to me for the ages:

That's right, I had a pat straight flush dealt to me in triple draw deuce-seven, where the goal of the hand is to get the lowest possible hand and straights and straight flushes DO count against you. It's actually a thought to play this, as I could drop the 9 and draw for a very rough 8 (need a 2 or 3 no heart but not a 4) but it's a very marginal move to draw to six outs to catch a hand that has a good chance of being second best, particularly out of position and facing a raise.

So I laid down the monster, but not before taking the screen shot (obviously).

We followed this up with a 20+2 180 Sit and Go at stars without success, then on to a $50 NL cash ring game on Full Tilt. No dice as my JJ didn't hold up against AK and my AJ fell victim to a jack high flop and smooth called aces.

Frustration mounted a bit, so I did what all frustration-avoiding people should do--I switched to over to Razz, another fun kick in the junk low game. Contrary to form, I did manage to make some decent scratch there at an early session, almost getting back to black for the day.

So lets relax, have a drink, and play something stupid. How about a 2500 player 10+1 at Party? That's got to fit the bill. Weak and I fired it up, and off we went. Had a few hands early and managed to take down a decent pot to get my stack in a reasonable space. Then I noticed that it was pretty difficult to protect hands preflop. Shall I say impossible?

Betting out didn't seem to work so I figured I'd give the old limp-all in reraise a shot. 2nd UTG, folds to my aces, I check. 4 callers of the 30 blind to the small blind--oh crap am I going to have to play this 7 ways? Nope, small blind, makes it 150 to go. Bingo! Folds to me and I push with 1500. Man on my immediate right had me covered and actually calls (was he limp raising too???) as does the small blind with exactly 39 chips less than me. Caller had AK off and SB had 77.

Oh brother. No need to tell you which card higher than six and less than eight hit the flop, but let's just say I was a bit short stacked.

No problem. I doubled up, tripled up, doubled up, tripled up plus (set of 4s called by two players with top pair (Jack) middle kicker), until I actually had 1400 chips again, this time just under the tourney average. Oh what a story was this going to make, coming back from the felt to take down the massive field.

But then I got aces again.

Middle position raises the 50 blind to 250 and it folds around to me in the big blind. I push. He calls with the relative monster of Hilton Sisters. Queen on the flop and I'm done, aces no good twice. Everyone has this story, but I felt particularly like Sisyphus.

So back to Razz. Started a new 5-10 session and got the crap kicked out of me for the first hour, down almost 200. But I felt the table was good and I kept in there, eventually building to a profit before slipping back to a small loss. But not before opening a second 3-6 table with Weak Player. This table was the single juiciest razz table ever in the history of mankind. Okay, maybe not that good but it was a good table. So good I actually climbed back into the black on the day, notwithstanding one last 18 player Sit and Go I second-bubbled on: up $9 American.

Oh while all this was going on Mrs. SoxLover and Mrs. Weak Player each cashed in a 2000+ Stars 2+0.20, with Mrs. Weak Player (following my sage advice to the short stack that she should "shove in the damn chips" and cracking aces with sooooooted King-six along the way--vicarious revenge) outlasting more than 2000 players to rake in her own $9 American.

Happy New Year indeed.
See the flop...