Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I begin by thanking the Poker Grub for his word on the $150 + 12 $25K Guaranteed tourney at EmpirePoker. I saw him go down (his pocket pair was beat by another pocket pair, who made quads), and he went down guns blazing.

To continue paying it forward, I'll say at the start that the guaranteed events at Empire and Multipoker are, in general, offering prize pools that double the total buy-ins. MultiPoker seems to be geared towards a European audience (I gathered from the Norwegian (?) chat), so unfortunately their tourneys are scheduled at 2 and 4 PM East Coast time, but since I was forced to stay home from work as the Carolinas were slammed by ice Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I was able to take advantage of these tournaments. If you can take advantage of them too, go for it, but do it soon.

My wife was also out of town for the weekend, so I decided to buckle down on Sunday (as the snow fell) and drop the $162 for the $25K at Empire. I was heartened to see that it was a Limit Hold’Em tourney (I’d had just about enough of No Limit on Friday, when my early all-in with KK got called and beat by AK, leaving me hobbled for the rest of the super-loose tourney). Only 82 people registered, so Empire had to double the pool. Even though the buy-in was MUCH more than a novice like me is comfortable with, I thought I’d played enough limit hold-em (and learned enough lessons, the hard way) over the last month to be able to compete.

I played super-tight pre-flop, and made a few nice plays against players based on notes I had taken on their play (for $162, there was no way I was going to play another table at the same time—in fact, my notes saved me). After an hour I was up to T1500, after two hours (and one lucky hand), T1800. I held still there, with about 30 players left, until I caught the following three hands, in a row: KK, AK, QQ. After those three hands, I was at T6000, and could sit back again, and wait for premium hands.

Of course, the biggest stack (T12000) at the table was immediately on my left, so I couldn’t steal blinds for fear of getting smacked down. Cards went cold, and I got blinded down to under T3000, now with 12 folks left. I folded another orbit, and then another (now down under T2000).

And then, suddenly, I was sitting at the final table. Two people had busted out in one hand at the other table.

Granted, I was the shortest stack still, but I’ll say I was happy to be there. I actually finished 9th after the second shortest stack went out, and I collected $750 (which is more than I made playing poker last year). Thanks again, Poker Grub. I’ll buy you dinner if I come to D.C. (or if you come to NC).

Monday and Tuesday, I played in the NL $300 and $500 guarantees on MultiPoker. Neither were well-attended, so the site ended up doubling the buy-ins. On Monday, I placed 3rd of 14 in the $300 (for $60, the lowest prize), and on Tuesday, I placed 2nd of 24 in the $500 (for $150). The latter tourney hovered with 5 players for more than 30 minutes (at least 60 hands). Absolutely mind-numbing. With cold cards again, I dropped from 3rd to 5th and then finally caught AKd, and went all-in with T1800. Both big stacks called (this was the first all-in since we hit five players), and I made the flush on the turn to triple up to 2nd place. Everybody must have hated me.

Lessons learned or reinforced:
1. Nobody wins a tournament without getting lucky. Me especially.
2. Take notes on the maniacs or pattern-betters at early stages—you can play them to make your money early on so you can be in position later.
3. Play solid and tight. Do not chase. Early on, do not risk all your chips unless you want to be called.
4. Finish in the money. I feel like a scoundrel and a coward dying a thousand deaths as I fold, fold, fold when I’m close to the money, but I don’t have the chips to push anyone around. However, patience truly pays. Wait for a top, top hand or for someone else to make a play.

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Home now from the $50 NL tourney, which was attended by players who are used to a .50 max game. I expected weak, timid play; I was wrong. TV made these men insane. They were playing middle pair as if they had the nuts, and calling (at the beginning especially) with, quite literally, nothing. So how did your hero do? Well, about ten hands in (after winning one hand, with K high), I caught KK in early position. I raise the size of the pot, and get reraised on the other size of the table, so I re-raised all-in. I outstacked the other guy by T15 (we started with T50). He called all-in, and showed me AK, and he caught the A on the flop.

Analysis: in such a loose game, going all-in (even when I was a 3:1 favorite to win the hand) so early was a mistake, because I could have done so much more with my original chips. Given the competition, I shouldn't have risked hobbling myself so early on--I literally could have coasted to 3rd place by posting and folding. Even with good odds, I shouldn't have reraised until I saw no A on the flop. Lesson learned. Expensive damned lesson.

I will now try to make back my $50 buy-in at .50/1.00 tables on Empire, while I try to earn my $100 IGMPAY bonus (thanks Grubby, for the tip!). I'm up $9 so far; only $41 more to go ("and miles to go before I sleep").

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G' morning. A bit creaky as I type, being short on sleep. Ashamed to admit it, but I could not fall asleep last night, partly because I was excited about a NL Hold'em tourney tonight. That, and I made the mistake of having a cup of coffee at the end of a work function that ran late yesterday--excitement about poker would account for one sleepless hour; the introduction of caffeine into my system past the hour of noon would account for the next two. I'll be due a nap when I get home.

I should be a favorite for the tourney, as I'm sure I have the most NL experience, and the guys are used to a very loose, passive, low-stakes game (although they've voted for a $50 buy-in). So, I will play tight-aggressive and hope for a few good hands, which should get me close to the money.

On the bright side, the law of averages finally caught up with me in my online play. At low-limit games on UB last night, my big hands actually held up (most of the time), even against three or four callers. Nice, after so many losing sessions, to have the statistically expected event actually happen more often than not. And to walk away ahead.

I've also dived into the NL games at PartyPoker (at the $25 tables), and come away up about $20/hour (only after two sessions, though). I found some very loose players (the loosest gave away $100 in 2 orbits, calling and raising with very little, but I couldn't catch enough to play). These tables seem a goldmine, especially when players aren't doing much raising pre-flop, because you can see most openers with $.50.

My advice: Call with suited As and Ks, connectors, suited one-gaps, and any pairs. Try and get all-in heads-up with pocket rockets or kings (people will follow with lower pairs, AK, AQ, AJ). Then wait for the flop to hit you over the head, and hope for chasers or bluffers. Sure, you might play and hour and never get involved with anything past the flop, but you could play and wait very cheaply. While you can get burned more painfully than you can in low-limit, you can also call down short-stacks when you have the advantage (they will often make desperate all-in bets with middle pair, or draws). And when you get a big hand (like the top full house, and so on), and get some action, it can be huge.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Haven't had the time or inclination to play this week. After my record for the last few weeks (maybe one winning session out of ten?), I'm happy to let off the gas a bit. I might have time to finish my requisite hands on Empire tonight, so we'll see if I can't finish even (that is, $100 bonus vs. $ lost in 500 hands). This is embarressing, but if I'm going to have a string of bad cards and suck outs, then at least it's well-timed with my bonus seeking hands.

On Friday, I'll be playing in a local NL Hold'em tourney, with a $50 buy-in. Eight people, two places pay. The funny thing is, the crowd that's playing is normally a $.50 max crowd, so I'm assuming that the collective desire to play NL at a pretty high stake is the result of TV mania. I'm guessing that play will be pretty weak and tight, without much bluffing; the players who I've played with were mostly calling stations, except the host, who's a pretty solid player. Should be interesting. I'll say this: I'm going to give any raises a lot of credibility.

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Monday, January 19, 2004

Thanks to all you friendly bloggers out there who have welcomed me to the epistolary world of poker blogging. I hope my musings pay some dividends--I've certainly learned a lot from a number of you.

As the bad beats continue, I'll quote from the letters of PokerPenguin, whose advice is consistently clear. He wrote, "Bad beat stories should not be told for sympathy, they should be told as bragging... For a player to deliver a bad beat, he must, by definition, be an underdog."

That much said, let me, harumpf, clear my throat and continue the bragging. if the bad beats continue, as they have, despite very tight play, one does tend to lose one's taste for the game. Without bragging too much, I can now (when the cards run cold) lower my goals from profit to simply survival as I try to make my $100 Empire bonus. With 50 hands left to play, I'm down $95 playing at the two lowest table stakes. Can I finish my five hundred hands down only the amount of my bonus? Small drama, for sure, but we'll soon see.

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Thursday, January 15, 2004

I've enabled my humble blog for comments, so that I can actually hear from any people (um, person? patient?) who read(s) this. The Haloscan ads are a bit over-the-top, but I can pull those if need be.

I admit that my running theory--that ramming and jamming at $1/2 doesn't work as well as it might at $.50/1--sounds a bit biased, but the foundation for my bias continues to grow stronger. In an hour of play last night, I lost another $25 at the PartyPoker $1/2 (to calling station suck-outs, unlucky but undeniable).

At the same time, I was up about $10 playing a $.50/1 Kill table on UB, until the Kill came into effect (changing the table to a $1/2, spelling my doom). I raised with AK one off the button, got a number of callers. Flopped a K with no other trouble, bet and had one caller. Turn came rag (I bet, got called) and so did the river, a harmless 4 (I bet, got called). I lost to my opponent's K4; she made her second pair with the river card. So I finished down there too, which leads me to the following unscientific conclusion: $.5/1 good; $1/2 bad.

Obviously, this is all nonsense, but despite my sure knowledge that superstition is unfounded, at least in the blatantly variant world of cards, I find myself wanting to believe it. But in fact, I probably am simply playing my overcards too aggressively, and that is a far better thing to be aware of.

BTW, in keeping with the current thread concerning the notorious Hammer, check my January 7 entry below--I should have waited to play the cards (I was in the SB, so I don't think the hand would have counted.)

One last poker-related note: I finally opened and funded a Scottrade account to play with buying some stock (I'm not losing enough playing poker!). I'm considering buying LACO, the company that owns 80% of the WPT, as well as rights to develop and manage several reservation-based casinos. The stock has quadrupled in the last year (I of course own none), but I'd guess it would rise more with the current poker rage swelling, and the new WPT season kicking off in March. Any ideas?
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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Reaffirming my theory that ramming and jamming at .5/1 works and at $1/2 doesn't, I submit my play last night. On PartyPoker, I was up $20 at my .5/1 table, and down $20 at 1/2. Curses. But I'll keep trying.

I also played three fruitless, orbits on UB, and a few fruitless pot-limit orbits on RoyalVegasPoker (I never caught any cards, and if there's one thing I have, it's discipline to fold junk)--remind me to just quit that site. The games are slow as molasses, though they do have daily gaurenteed tourneys that I'd like to play in. Last year I did great on their pot-limit tables, but the action seems to have dried up. I guess this happens.

One explanation might be that folks just play tighter at the lowest limits (because they do care about the dough), so my bets might cause more folds at this level than they would at $1/2. Is there a tightness bell curve, with the tightest folks at the lower and higher levels, and the looser folk at the low-middle levels? Hmmm...

So, after a frustrating break-even session, I decided to try my luck again at $2/4, just for a couple orbits (this had paid off for me on UB the week earlier, when my trip 3s held up for a huge pot). This goes againsy my better judgement (after, if I can't be as agressive as I'd like at 1/2, I should certainly steer clear of 2/4). The table was pretty loose, and I folded all my garbage, playing tight until I caught AQo in late position. A couple new people had dropped in, and posted blinds, and there was one middle position caller. I came in for a raise, and everyone dropped, the SB, BB, and the two new blinds, except the one caller. The flop came 3 6 8 of Hearts (I of course held no hearts). Ram and jam, I thought, however--the pot was already big. He checked, I bet, he called. Turn came 9d. He checked, I bet, he called (again). Damn. He made both calls after about 20 seconds, either because of a delay on his part or as a purposeful mindfuck. The river was Ac, giving me top pair and a sudden hust of confidence; he checked, I bet, long delay, he called, showing 6 9H, giving him two pair. So, my AQo got beat by 69o, which sucks, but if you live by the sword, you die by it as well. Anyway, I'm done with the $2/4 until I'm really feeling confident in my game.

The $20 lesson learned, however, is that playing the delay in the online games could be an effective (if nasty) way to irk your opponents into betting into you (and get them on tilt). After all, if you wait for twenty seconds for someone to act after your bet, you're expecting them to fold--they're just hemming and hawing, it would seem. You get ready mentally for the chips to be scooped your way, and then, suddenly, when your opponent finally calls, they're not. Instead you get another card. So you get a little antsy, and you bet at him again--well, you get the point. (Or the guy was just a passive calling station, afraid of the flush, but not willing to let his one, and then two, pair go. Or his connection sucked. Or he was busy with another table.)
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Monday, January 12, 2004

I made the Empire switch this week-end and used Iggy's bonus code as a "thank you" for his blog, which I've really enjoyed reading. I don't remember who suggested signing up as a female character, but I did that too--we'll see if I can take advantage of any gender bias out there. I like this idea--it's cross-dressing without having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Anyway, having read more about ramming and jamming last week, I decided to adopt this method of play (which is more aggressive than what Lee Jones recommends), and it certainly paid off. The strategy, which says that when you have the best of it, or even if you don't (but have the chance to get there), you should bet and raise as much as possible. If you have no position or cards, or if you have calls and raises before you, you can obviously forget about this, but the theory is that you'll be increasing your winnings in the long run (because you'll win more hands without going to showdowns, and there will be more in the pot when you do win), even if you also increase your variance (because you're putting more of your chips in the pot, sometimes when you're not getting the best of it).

Unfortunately, right now, I'm only comfortable ramming and jamming at the .50/1.00 level, but I've had fantastic results with it, especially when I combine the approach with some decent cards. On UltimateBet, for example, I was up $30 in about 1 hour at the .5/1 level. The style of play intimidates others at the table, so that I was even able to play overcards superaggresiovely, winning pots with nothing. Seeing my opponent lay down AK (and show me the cards) as I continued to bet my AQ (with a board of all rags) was damned fun.

I adopted the same strategy on Empire at .5/1.00 at was up $20 in half an hour. Again, I didn't necessarily need the best cards every time, but I needed to start with some good hands, and to win one or more at showdown, in order to develop the table image (and confidence) to keep hammering at the pots that I played in, whether I had the cards post-flop or not. I also made a few hands into winners on the river playing with this kind of aggressiveness (making second pair or back door flushes). You can't do this if you fold anything but top pair or justifiable draws after the flop.

When I try to step up to $1/2 and ram and jam, I always (it seems) get burned, with my lone caller sucking out to win on the river; I'm just not as comfortable raising at this level, so I don't have the same aggression available. I'll keep at it, but I will try to follow my own advice and wait until I've got a win under my belt to really turn aggressive.

A side note: While playing on UB, I decided to try to step up to a $2/4 game that was running about 50% pre-flop (pretty loose, by UB standards). I had been losing at $1/2, and while I try to never compound my losses, I broke my own rule and jumped up a level. After one orbit, I was down $10 after calling a few flops, plus my blinds. Then I got 33 in late position; I was the third caller, and then the button raised (damn!), and everyone called, including me. The flop came A Q 3 rainbow, and it was two bets to me, which I made three bets (ram and jam, I was thinking, especially with this advantage), and the button made four (so we had three callers for four bets). So I put the other players on AK, AQ, AJ; if they had AA or QQ I was just going to have to eat my hat (after I got sick in it). The turn came a J (making a straight possible, but unlikely for a KT to call four bets; besides, everyone who was in right now had raised the pot once, and nobody would have raised with a gutshot draw). The betting was capped again (this time at $4 a bet, making for $16 on this card alone--that's a lot to a punk like me), with one of my two opponents going all-in. The river was another rag, and my remaining opponent with chips checked to me and then called my bet. I won about $80, my biggest limit hold-em hand ever. Pretty cool. Wouldn't have been so cool if I'd lost.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I wrote yesterday that I can beat low-limit games in the long run--the short run of course is another matter entirely. I'm going to do the Empire switch recommended by Iggy et al, but haven't yet done it. Instead, I'm trying to earn my devestatingly slow 50% bonus on UltimateBet. I'm not doing much earning, though, as I'm down three sessions in a row (and I usually earn about $2 per session--not much).

I've been picking the loosest .5/1 or 1/2 games (they're not too loose), playing tight preflop (too tight, maybe, folding A 10 off in early position), dropping hands if the flop misses me totally, and betting fairly aggressively with top pair. But, sometimes the cards go against you, so what can you do? I must say I do think UB has the best visual environment (a first person view, as opposed to the standard bird's-eye), but if I don't finish one session in positive territory soon, I'll abandon them for a while.

I also started back up on Royal Vegas Poker (one of the Prima sites). This was where I recouped my extensive losses last year as I made my fumbling start playing low-limit. Last year, anyway, the pot-limit tables at RVP were very loose, and I was able to clear more than $300 over pretty sporadic sessions by just playing smart, waiting for good flops. Last night, though, I lost a big hand ($60, big to me) with KK on a board full of rags; I was called all the way (and raised once) by an opponent with (you guessed it) AA. Ouch, yes, but them's the breaks. I got some of it back with a full house (sevens over twos) when, on tilt a bit, I said to myself, Sure, just call the rest of the small blind bet with your 7 2. Everyone else is calling with garbarge. Of course, I slow-played the pair of 7s that came on the flop, then made my boat on the river.

I haven't read much on ring game PL/NL strategy, so I'm probably reinventing the wheel, but watching one of the most successful players at the table, I noticed she would call small raises, even relatively short-handed, with low cards, especially connectors. (I usually folded such hands against a raise or two.) Assuming the raiser has two high cards or a high pair, she stands to improve if he doesn't. And, if he does make trips or slow plays his cards, she gets cheap draws at whatever she's going for. I'll give this a try.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Hardly a poker expert, I humbly offer this first entry in a Poker blog that will surely venture off into other areas, as do all the other blogs I've read. In fact, I'm starting this blog at the suggestion of the very gracious Mr. Poker-and-Guiness (who in days to come will likely regret his encouragement). And I only began communicating with him to argue for some of the positives of vegetarianism.

In a truly un-pokeresque move, I'll lay my relevant cards on the table (normally, you'd have to pay to see them). Joining in the current conversation, I argued that:

"I'm saying that you can't equate vegetarians with Hitler because he was one any more than you can equate painters with Hitler because he was one.
On moral grounds, I think it's tough to argue eating meat is immoral per se (killing 8,000,000 Jews, yes, of course); humans have eaten meat forever. But what about the systematic and widespread animal cruelty that makes up the big factory farms (which have crushed small family farms across the country), or feeding cow meat to other cows (which goes against "nature", to put it simply)? These issues seem clearly on the 'wrong' side of the coin.
That much said, I'll drop this, and say thanks for the blog and for the conversation."

Returning to the matter at hand, namely poker, I'm interested in the game, both its practice and its theory, and there are some questions we could ask. One that leaps to mind is whether a political liberal, a softie as it were, can even be a good player. Poker after all is intensely capitalistic (to paraphrase Jack Lemmon [I think], "Poker is all the terrible things that made America great"); and it is a capitalism that thrives at it utmost when it's unregulated (pot-limit, and even more so no-limit). So can a liberal play with anything more than mediocre skill?

My experience as a poker player is basic--almost of my play has been in home games or, in the last few months, online. A la Lee Jones, Abdul, I've learned to beat low-limit games (in the long run). I'm more a fan of pot-limit games (maybe I'm not such a softie), but have some trouble laying down the big bucks at times. blah blah blah, this is the same as many others have written, so I'll try to keep the tedium to a minimum.

Until next time,

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