Sunday, September 19, 2004

Kenny Rogers Gets His Revenge...

Home game action out in VA last night, and plenty of it. Started just after 8:00 PM and didn't finish up until about 4 AM. Only one table this time, and a more limited/skilled field.

The Early Going
As usual, the game was $20 buy in no-limit hold 'em, 6 or 7 handed most of the way. Notable players included a guy who tends to get very, very unlucky, an asian guy who played too many hands, a complete newbie, and a highly annoying, nerdy-looking westerner whose ass I still have a small desire to kick. More on these characters later.

When I bought in, the game had already been going for about 30 minutes, with several players I had not met before sitting around the table. Those that did know me had seen me haul big wins from the game in the past, and half-jokingly objected to my presence at the table. I figured this was worth some kind of edge with the guys I didn't know, so I set my mind on running over the game (almost) no matter what cards I was holding. I showed down the hammer (for a loss) and a few other marginal hands in the first 30 minutes while losing 1/3 of my stack. I immediately switched gears and tightened up at this point.

The next two hours dragged my stack down to a ultra-short $4.50 at one point, as I hit zero draws, and didn't get paid off on KK or AA when I had them. The fact that blinds were set at .25 and .50 (or a combined 3.75% of the starting stack each orbit) didn't help much either. I think I was playing a little over-aggressive, but not by much considering the shortness of the table. Finally, I got in a decent raise of 4x the BB with AJs, and with two callers the flop came down JKx. I immediately moved in from EP, and got one caller (asian lawyer that played too many hands), who held K7. I lucked out on the turn when another J fell, and I was back in business.


Interlude...
All this time, annoying, nerdy-looking westerner was 1.) verbally announcing the presence of every K and A on the flop by saying "cowboy" or "bullet," as if someone wanted him to do this, 2.) disrespecting other players by insisting that HE count their chips out when they cashed, a complete departure from past precedent and an unnecessary slow down, 3.) yammering about his support for the NRA (I'm not a fan of their politics. Deal with it or ignore it), 4.) slow rolling absolutely EVERY showdown, intentionally, 4.) asking other players to show their cards when they called a river bet and lost, and 5.) shuffling the deck face up when it was his turn, leading me to believe he might be trying to gain an edge somehow as a result.

Add to this litany of subtly evil poker-violations the fact that he looked like an uber-geek, pointy nose and glasses and all, and I just couldn't take it. If you watched the WSOP on ESPN, this guy physically resembled the nerdy player who was acting all buddy-buddy with Mike Matusow. He was an ok poker player, but he has no business in this ethical, friendly game. I was glad that he lost a substantial all-in bet later in the night, virtually ensuring him a night in the red.


Back to the action
I remained relatively shortstacked until the big college football games of the night ended, when a few more players joined us, including the host (who does a great job putting these games on and itsn't a half bad player either). Bought in another $10 around this time. Made two pair kings and queens early and brought my stack up to a more respectable level. Hit a few other hands, a set, and a flopped flush to work my way up to about $50. I'd been commenting on how bad the rap re-mix of Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" was, when someone put it on the stereo.

To spite them, and Kenny for ruining a pretty good song ("you better count your bitches"? Kenny, Kenny, Kenny... please), I started counting my chips in bored defiance of his admonition to "never count your money, while you're sitting at the table." It way my small way of protesting the musical selection, I guess. Anyhow, I reaped the consequences in spades, as my stack never got back to that level again, and I actually left the game stuck a dollar or two. As a matter of context, this is a game I should not lose money in.

Last hand (pre-determined), I'm still in the black by a small margin, when I pick up Qc4h on the button. I would normally chuck this, but it was the last hand, it was readily apparent I'd be able to see a flop for one bet, and the Qc was my lucky card from last time in this game. Flop came down AcXcAs, and it checked around, though I suspected someone had an ace. Turn brought a low club or some kind, and a .75 bet in first position. Second seat makes it $5 to go, folded to me, and I'm faced with a decision: do I pay big (and go into the red) to take a 20% shot on busting his trip aces with a rivered flush? The Qc helped me win a monster pot on the last hand last time (flush over flush), I didn' sense a big club in first position, so I called. First to act thinks for a second and then moves in for $10 more -- not good for me. Second to act calls, and I ponder, then fold. Turns out first to act had Kx4c, and second had Ah5d. So if I had called, I'd have been on a 7-outer (the 8 clubs not seen minus the 5c, which would have made second to act a boat).

I made a small prop bet with another player after folding that the river would be a club, knowing this to be a statistically stupid bet, but feeling I was right anyhow. Ilost, river was a blank, and I'm glad I didn't call the all-in bet. Ended the night -$3.50, which generally isn't awful for 8 hours of play without catching many big starters or completing many draws. Kenny Rogers got revenge for my blatant violation of his "no counting at the table" rule, the unlucky guy walked out of the room +$70, and all things considered, there was a degree of justice about both of these things.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

And just to prove its not all butter...

I just folded my 50th hand in a row in the $2 R&A on Paradise. I have a VP$IP of 0. I want to go find the electronic server dealing my cards, and kick it in the nuts. Thank the Lord this is online, where hands are fast and there's reading available, because B&M I'd have busted long ago out of sheer impatience.

That said, I'm fine with this arrangement: get screwed in the MTT's, win big and get lucky in the cash games. My bank account certainly won't complain.

WPT Making Stupid Decisions?

Check this out: WPT announces new, pro's only tour.

This cannot be good for poker. Fuck the professionals, particularly the whiny ones that complain about today's big tourney fields being hard to beat. Adapt or die, bitches.

People like WPT because they see guys like them moving all in over the top of Gus Hansen. They can identify, and there's always that (mostly unrealistic) glimmer of hope that they might be at the final table some day themselves. A pro's only tour erases that populist angle, making poker more like the PGA Tour.

I guess it isn't the end of the world that they're doing this, AS LONG AS the new pro's only events don't run the regular WPT "anyone can play" events into the ground. I also think that there's an element of over-confidence in the announcement linked to above. Announcing 3 years worth of schedules is arrogant... poker on TV, online, etc. may (and probably will) take some MAJOR turns in the next 3 years. How could they know where the state of the game will be in 2008?? Could we have known in 2001 where we'd be today? Heavens no.

I love watching the great players and all, but there's enough of that already on the regular WPT events. I don't see what the gain is here, other than the creation of a new, somewhat safer place for Hellmuth to ply his outmoded poker game.

--

Oh, and in other news I'm absolutely kicking the shit out of the 1/2 5-max on Paradise. There's simply no way I can continue to run this hot, but I'll take it while I can get it. Something like 13BB/100 over the past 2000 hands. INCREDIBLE!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Two sides to every coin...

You know those runs where every starting hand you pick up has an offsuit 4 in it? In the long run, of course, you're destined to catch a lot of these hands, but that's not usually much help when they're coming in droves and forcing you to fold, fold, fold. Catching tons of them in a row is a short run aberration, however, and an annoying one at that.

Well, when you're running hot, and catching pretty looking cards, a different sort of aberration tends to happen from time to time. Tonight, at a 5-max table, I had a 5 hand run that went like this: AcAs, Qc8d, AsKs, 8s6h, AsAd. Now THAT's one helluva aberration, sports fans. Adding glory to good fortune were the 5 flops associated with those hands: Qd 4c 8h, Qh Tc 3c, Js Tc 8c, Td 5c 4s, and Ah Ac Qc. This sh*t is so good I can't make it up, folks.

It gets better. Look at flop one... Queen high rainbow, and I get it HU against a guy with KQ. Big win. Next hand, I make top pair in the BB and win a decent pot against some draws and AT. After that, I folded the 8s6h, but if I had played, I'd have rivered a gutshot with the 7. Fourth hand the turn brought a Q to give me a broadway, beating out my opponent's flopped straight to the Queen -- huge pot. Finally, the immortal flopped quad aces. I almost fell out of my chair when this happened. Of course, I didn't get much action, but one guy (poor bastard that I beat with the broadway) did have a queen, so I got him to bet into me on the flop and turn, and he called my river bet.

That's 5 hands for in excess of 15BB's of profit (the total of the pots, was of course higher, but the profit equaled 18BB or so). At a 5-max table. Four-handed on one or two of the hands. I got up and left after the quad aces, figuring that you just gotta accept gifts from the poker gods sometimes and quit while you're on top. Nobody likes to see Emmitt Smith rush 12 times for 21 yards and 0 TDs, as an Arizona Cardinal, if you know what I mean.

Man, I need to go out and buy a lotto ticket.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

In the Zone...

Looking in the mirror
Online poker players live their lives in dog years, I'm convinced. We either progress or go broke in very short cycles. I think for most of us in the poker writing community, the idea is to "grow up" quickly through diligent play, reading, and self-examination. HDouble has written a bit about this, I believe.

I don't know how long I'd say I've been playing online. I've had an account on Paradise since 2001, I believe. I branched out into Party Poker for the first time last fall after a long hiatus, and have been playing more than 100 hands a week since February or thereabouts. I'm a cautious guy, particularly with money, and I think this has helped foster a steady growth in the past 8 months. Evidence: I've only recently started playing consistently above .50/1 or $10NL and $5 SNGs. These were my bread and butter until at least mid-summer, and by the end I was absolutely destroying all three.

Well, those days have been over for about a month now, and barring a significant financial setback (either via poker or otherwise), I don't see myself playing any of the aforementioned games again. I like the decision-making environment of shorthanded play, and thus my current home is 1/2 short. Some may disagree with this, but I'm of the mind that 5-max is a different game from 6-max, particularly when one player is either missing or sitting out. So my money is holed up at Paradise for the time being, since they're the only ones that I know of that offer 5-max. Hell, if someone had 1/2 4-max, I'd play that instead if the games were ok.

I don't really play much cash NL right now, but I'm sure I'll return to it at some point. The NL MTT's, however, are something I'll continue to do for the sake of variety. I suppose when Party (or affiliates) offer me a reload I'll cruise over there to play 6-max and some multi-table 1/2. Having a poker bankroll to whore is so key...

As for HOW I play the 1/2 5-max, I can only summarize by saying "aggressive as hell." And I don't really tilt very much anymore online, something I owe to 4-tabling .50/1 for hours and hours prior to Vegas. Whatever the case, my approach been working. I've yet to see enough hands to really know for sure if its quality play or just good cards that are fueling this drive, but I'm not far off from a solid base to analyze. While I'm a bit leery of being results based in the short run, I do have to admit that the +30BB I racked up tonight over less than 300 hands helps my mindset a little, too.


So what's the damn point?
Well, nothing really, other than I thought I sensed something tonight that reminded me of one of the first poker posts I ever read. For those that read "The Cards Speak," you'll immediately notice how much things change, and how complex the journey is even for those that think they've mastered it. I'm feeling now much like Hank was when he wrote this, though much less eloquent of course. Without further adue, I offer you the following: "He's Heating Up!".


Other stuff
You must go and read Iggy's recent post about playing poker in Aruba against wealthy drunks and Hurricane Ivan. The picture he paints is something that really should become a lasting part of poker writing lore.

And for those with $1200 lying around, you have to respect Helixx's assessment of the 2/4 on Pacific. I don't have an account on there, but if I find myself with a few spare bucks lying around I just might give it a go.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

whoops...

For all that talk about the $100,000 tournament being my big chance, I sure didnt come through -- I saw ONE showdown the whole time. Oh well.

I busted just before the first break, moving my stack (T775) all in with ATo on a flop of rainbow 587. I had raised it to 2x the BB PF, and gotten two callers. I think I was steaming a little, but I did genuinely sense weakness, and I had position, so I thought it was a good time to steal. Fox and the farmer, right?

I hadn't played a hand to a showdown all tourney at this point. I had seen only three turn cards. I just wasn't catching any starters at all, stuff like Q5o, J2, was the rule -- which was fine. Then, with blinds 25 and 50, I got TcTs with T1265 and made it T150 to go. Two callers, and the flop came down Axx, all spades, no straights to my memory. I liked this flop, even with the Ace. I bet out T200, and get called by one guy, which I hated. Turn is a meaningless 5h, I bet small trying to keep myself in the hand while keeping the initiative, and figuring my opponent on an Ace or a large unpaired spade. Probably an Ace.

He moves all in, and I go into the tank. Hindsight is 40/40, but maybe this was a good place to call with 12 outs to a probable winner (unless he held AA, or had the K, Q, or Js, or paired cards bigger than TT that river a set). I just couldn't bring myself to move it all in in the first hour on that kind of draw. It was all so uncertain. So I folded, leaving myself T865.

Then, the next hand I get ATo, which I mentioned above. I moved in when I sensed weakness and was immediately called by the same guy I was up against last hand. Crap. He turns over 77, and I need runner-runner for a set or a straight to win. It doesn't come, and I'm dead. He needed a big hand to call my all-in bet there, and he had it. Life goes on.

I will say this, though: it was interesting, the whole process of playing into this big tourney. I think it was very valuable experience, and I'm glad I did it, even if I lose. My $9 investment ultimately got me a real shot (1 in 342 entrants) at a $20,000+ first prize and a $100,000 overall prize pool. The lessons: patience when you still have a workable number of chips (all in with ATo and 15x the BB and no pairs is a bad idea!), patience when you're not getting any cards, and don't tilt when you have to lay a decent hand down.

My final finish -- 250 of 342. Not very good, but then again, I wasn't out first, and I had a real shot at something completely out of my normal boundaries. It was worth it.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Dude, Where's My Cards...?

I've played a grand total of 69 hands in the past 48 hours. That's one NL $10+1 SnG on Paradise, that I finished godawful fourth in. Strange as it is to say this, two days with less than 100 hands between them is a major poker drought for me these days. I wonder if that's a good thing or a bad thing...

Thanks to everyone who hit me with a note after my last post. Running good feels great, even if you KNOW it won't last, and will invariably be offset at least partially by running bad at some point. I think being able to write about running good may help me with the "tilt-proofing" process JW talks about over at Outkicked so often, drawing on the immortal HDouble's writings.

If nothing else, the act of sitting down to write about your play forces you to scrutinize decisions and performance, rather than outcome. I can't count how many times I've been writing about a hand where I thought my play was great, only to see that I'd made some kind of significant mistake. Sometimes, there's this hidden desire to change the "facts" of the hand to make my play seem justified, but thankfully I haven't been caving in to that temptation.

Two examples of what I'm talking about: a flopped two pair, and a 3-flush board I've hit online in the past week.

The two pair I had was weak: 5's and T's with a 5QT board -- limit poker, shorthanded. Problem is, the pot was raised pre-flop, and the Q and the 5 were suited on the board (I didn't have any of that suit). What did I do? I flat-called the flop hoping to checkraise or re-raise the turn. Horrible play, in my view, particularly with about 8.5 SB's in the pot on the flop. I didn't realize I had exposed my bottom two to both straight and flush draws until I went to write about the hand.

As for the 3-flush board, its a little similar to my winning hand from the home game the other night, but with disasterous possibilities built into it. The game is $50 NLHE on InterTops (Party), and I'm holding Kc4h in the BB. I see the flop for free with several others, and it comes down 7c9cJc. Immediately, I'm thinking about making a flush, and with no PF raising, probably the best hand if I do hit. I forget the betting, but I don't think it was too substantial on the flop. Turn brings what I asked for, a club, in the form of the 5c. I decide to trap, and call a moderate bet, along with 2 others. The river, interestingly, is the 8c. The SB comes to life and bets the river instead of check/calling as he had been. Meanwhile, idiot me is thinking about taking stacks with my King high flush, and move in on him. Folds back to the SB, who ponders and then times out (intentionally?). His all-in protection kicks in, and he sees a showdown without having to call my all-in bet with... the 6c for a straight flush. I lose a small chunk of my stack, equal to the size of his initial river bet.

He reconnects quickly and asks about the hand, asking if I had the ten of clubs. First off, he's an uber-weakie for disconnecting, and for worrying about a higher SF. But moreover, the possibility of someone having that hand never even crossed my mind. I was too busy thinking about how huge MINE was, and how many chips I'd win with it. Fundamental mistake. Writing about it here helps me realize that and hopefully re-tune my game in the future.

Probably not much poker this weekend until the big tourney on Sunday. Real life sometimes has to take priority, for better or worse.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Ode to the Queen of Clubs...

Tonight I went over to a friend of a friend's place in Virginia (a 10 minute drive from my home in NW DC), and took in a little home game action. Now this isn't any old home game -- this is a home game on steroids. Decent chips, and enough of them that eveyrone has a nice looking stack in front of them, even if they're low dollar wise. Felt covered tables. Cards from the Mirage. Two televisions hooked up to separate cable feeds. And plenty of players AND money. What's not to love? They're starting to take very modest bad beat drops, partially at my suggestion. Completely worth it, believe me.

Its worth noting that last time I played this game -- the first time I did so -- I walked out with an $80 profit just before going to Vegas. I caught huge cards that night, and was afraid I might not be invited back. Well, they were very cool about it... not even a whiff of resentment. Good people, and sensible card players.

For the second time, the game had two tables running for at least 5 hours. Most of the time we were 6 or 7 handed, though later on we were 5 handed at each table. Game was No Limit Hold 'Em, with a capped $20 buy-in, and unlimited re-buys/replinishments. I think about 16 players or so cycled through the game throughout the night, and all told about $475 or so was in play. I finished with nearly a quarter of it.

Players were competent for the most part, the host being one of the better players in the room. Most players in the game have some B&M experience, and about 1/4 play online to varying degrees. Nobody in the game (to my knowledge) sees anywhere near as many hands per week as I do, online or otherwise. Two or three guys were clearly less skilled than others, drinking more heavily and treating the game as a social affair. Fine with me. I genuinely feared the play of only one or two people in the game, and even these two were not unbeatable by any means. One guy, who I'll discuss later, really made playing worthwhile, as he was either very drunk or careless.

Hands worth mentioning: lost a large pot for about 1/2 my stack early when I turned two pair aces and sevens in a pot I raised to 2x the BB. The SB called flop (AKx) and turn, and checked the river (??), which I checked as well, to see her AKs. This kind of play was the extreme exception, and not the rule, and I bought an additional $10 in chips to keep my stack healthy. Pick up a few pots, including one with AA, and I'm near even when I get highcarded over to the other table as part of the regular rotation. This was a welcome change, as my table was stronger skill-wise.

Second table, 7 handed, and I switch gears from frequently raising PF to frequently limping with straight or flush cards (e.g 6d5h, 7s9s, etc.). This pays off when I make a few draws, and steal a few pots, moving me back just above even on the night. I also caught a few big starters here, and that helped keep people off my back when I did limp in. I get highcarded back to the other table an hour later, where its 6 handed and a little looser than before. Play stumbles along for a little while as people are distracted with WSOP coverage, etc., and I fold 90% of my hands for about an hour, hovering around even. Finally, my table breaks around midnight, and we consolidate to one 7 handed table.

The final table made my night. I stayed despite the late(r) hour because I had a decent stack, and believed the game was still good. That I was having a decent time sure played into it too. I made another limp-draw with 7cTc for a straight, and I was up to about $35. Then, the wild man came to play (the one I mentioned above). This guy was perfectly likeable, relatively soft spoken, but man did he have a propensity to gamboool. Of course, I didn't know this when he sat, but I figured it out quickly.

UTG I pick up AsKs, make it $1.25 to go (2.5x the BB) and see a raise two seats to my left by Gambooler, then two cold callers. I call, and the flop comes down KcQh8s. I lead out for $2, figuring I'll call a medium raise, and potentially re-raise a small raise. Gambooler raises to $4, one caller in LP, and I ask him some dumb question about having AA or KK or something. He doesn't give me any feedback of use. Turn comes Ad, giving me top two. Having no read on Gambooler, I have to worry about AA and KK, given his PF action and flop raise. I decide I want to show my hand down more or less no matter what, and bet $3 hoping to get my money in either right away or on 5th against a raise from Gambool. He makes it $6, LP folds, and I call with the intention of moving in next card, which is the beautiful Kh. Only AA can beat me now, and I don't think he has it. I check, he bets, I raise all in, and he calls. I table my boat, and he mucks... got his whole stack the first hand.

So what does a gambooler do when he busts right away? He re-buys. Two hands later, I pick up Jd8d in the BB, and call a one-BB raise to see the flop, which is 5dKhKd. The pair of kings concerns me, but I don't see anyone as a probable holder of K5. I value bet $1, which gets plenty of callers. Turn is a blank, maybe an offsuit 7, and I bet a measely quarter, hoping the passivity caused by the board KK would keep raises at bay... I wanted to see 5th street, and on the cheap. Called around again, and the river rolls off some random diamond, maybe the 3 or the 8. I bet $3, and to my surprise, Gambooler moves all in over the top. I'm not sure if my Jack flush is best or not, but figure I'm calling him with his money, so why not. I table my hand, he turns over 9d7s and says "flush," but clearly misread the board, or was too drunk to notice. I take down the large pot, and bust him for the second time.

Gambooler busts again a short while later, and buys $20 of my chips (ha!).

Of course, he re-buys, this time from my stack (again). He wins a pot, loses a pot, and plays pretty much every flop. With about $18 in chips he comes into the following hand (my stack was well in excess of $50 at this point, with $20 behind in the wallet). I look down in EP and find the black KK, and quickly make it 4x the BB to go. A few folds, raise from gambooler to 6x, I call, and we're heads up to the flop, which is Q36 rainbow. I bet $3, and he moves all in. I don't have a clue what he's thinking, but AA and QQ are a longshot possibility given his play pre-flop. I banter about AA and QQ, basically advertising to the world that I have KK. I push my stack in for a re-raise, and he calls. I was worried about AQ at least when he did this... only to find that he has A4o. Nice. Turn is a 7, and I notice he has a gutshot plus the ace draw for 7 outs. Of course, the river brings a 5 to give him the runner-runner straight. I pay him off and actually feel ok about it, knowing that if the game keeps going, I'd have a crack at getting those chips back.

A few hands go by, and we drop down to 4 handed, with one player busting. Bust guy moves in on a 995x board with KK, and JJ calls. River brings a J, and the place erupts momentarily. Gambooler wins a fortunate two pair vs. higher two pair hand, giving him a healthy stack of $40 or so, and we get to the final hand of the night. This was announced as the final hand before it was dealt, and I was going to see the flop for just about any prize, particularly since the hand before I had folded 74o pre-flop for $1, only to see 568 come down. The implied odds on most hands were huge given the game texture, etc.

Final hand, I get QcJd UTG, and call. One extra bet around, and all 4 see the flop, which is 5c9cAc. I call a modest bet from Gambooler, as does the host. Turn is the 2 of something, and I call another smallish bet looking to make my flush or hit a Q or J. I do not give Gambooler credit for the Ace. Heads up at the river, the Tc comes down. I got what I asked for, and amazingly enough, Gambooler starts counting off a bet, at first $3, then $5, then $9, and I say "just tell me what it is when you figure it out," he asks how much we can do, and I say "we're about equal, so you can move all in if you want." He complies, and I'm left with a binary decision: does he have the Kc? Its the only card in the deck that can beat me. I conclude that I got what I wanted, and I'd be a fool not to push/call (stacks were close to even, but it wasn't clear who was bigger), so I did.

He announces "I've got the flush," and rolls the JcTh. I erupt with joy, and let out a loud "YES" with fist pump that was a bit inappropriate for an apartment complex at 1:30AM. Turn over my QcJd, and those left in the room go nuts. Gambooler is gracious in defeat, and says it was fun playing with us -- out probably $100 or so, $60+ of which went to me. Had I lost that pot, my evening would have been slightly in the red, rather than seriously in the black. So consider this post my "Ode to the Queen of Clubs."

I ended up with $40 in cash (people buying my chips), and $66 in chips for a total of $106, or a $76 profit. Not bad for 5 and 1/2 hours of poker. It was an AMAZING feeling to finish the night on a big all-in victory. After reading HDouble's soul-searching post about running bad despite solid play, I couldn't help but think that its these moments -- the ones I'm experiencing right now -- that make it all worthwhile. I know I'm a better poker player than I was a few months (weeks!) ago, and I'm doing my best to store these memories away in the hope that they might save me when inevitably the reaper that is variance comes my way for a while.

Add to the mix my satellite success yesterday, and my confidence/enjoyment associated with poker is going through the roof. I only hope I can sustain the good side of this equation while avoiding the hubris and fall that come with unrealistic expectations and notions of invincibility.

VA home game: 2 nights, +$156, or 78BB's per visit. If I can maintain even 50% of this rate in the future, I'll be on cloud nine.

Content and reports on fellow bloggers later in the week. Its way past my bedtime.