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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Something important to remember...

Many of us have purchased some or all the notable poker manuals out there to glean every nugget of advice we can about this game. From Super/System to the Little Green Book of Poker, we find some useful knowledge to help sharpen up one aspect of our poker or another. You play, practice, read and then practice some more. You feel like your starting to get the hang of things and then it happens.

You're sitting at a $1/2 No Limit game which you bought into for $200 and you raise to $15 from middle position after two people limp in early position, including under the gun. You get called by one other late position player, the small blind and then both the early limpers. Yes, you raised 7.5 times the big blind and got called in four places. Aren't people supposed to be respecting a raise like that? Don't they know that you're only supposed to raise 3 to 4 times the big blind in standard situations, so if you're making it $15, you really mean business?

You're holding pocket jacks and now the flop comes down 7 3 2, with two spades. The small blind and both early position players check to you and, confident from your studies you lead out to shut down any possible draws and overcards, firing $45 into the $77 pot. You get called by the small blind and under the gun chuckles to himself and throws in his $45 as well.

Inside your head you're screaming for "no spade! no spade!" and the turn brings the 10 of hearts. Okay, a deep breath. You dodged a bullet, if anyone had had Aces, Kings or Queens or flopped a set, they would have had to play stronger before the flop or on the flop, right? Jacks are probably the best hand here. Small blind and under the gun both check to you again. What in the bloody hell could they possible have here? Now the pot is a juicy $212 and you have $140 left in front of you. At this point there aren't many betting options available to you but to move it all in. You could bet $75 or $100, but if you get called, even if a spade or overcard falls on the river, there's no way you aren't moving your last $60 or so into a pot that's now over $400. 7-1 odds dictate the money goes in on the river, so now you push your stack in, figuring any kind of draw has to lay down their hand only getting 2.5-1 on their money.

The small blind goes in the tank for two minutes, hemming and hawing and finally pitches his cards into the muck. Then the under the gun player chuckles again, looks at you and smiles and asks if you've got a big pair. You shrug your shoulders still unsure on whether or not you want this guy in your pot, what in the hell is this guy holding, anyways!? He perks up, says to the table, "well, it's almost time to go home anyways," and calls your all-in, having you barely covered. Before you can turn over your jacks the dealer puts out the river card, a beautiful 6 of diamonds.

You're confidently ready to gather in your pot when the other player throws the 8 9 of diamonds out onto the felt, having just completed his open ended straight draw, and starts stacking up your chips in front of him. As one last kick to the groin he throws out a final nugget as he's towering his chips up, "I knew it, I never lose with that hand."

So this is why guns aren't allowed in poker rooms. See, you can do everything correctly, or semi-correctly but there's no accounting for what other players know or don't know about the game, or what ever "feeling" that they might be having. So is the most important thing about poker the nuts and bolts of the game? Which hands to play before the flop, how to price out draws or getting the right value for a made hand on the river? All important certainly, but maybe most important of all is realizing that individual sessions are just that, an individual session in a game that just keeps going and going. So long as you're making the right decisions, the cards and the opponents work themselves out in the end.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dredging up an old discussion...

So right about the time the clowns over at Oddjack decided to label me a horrible player and scourge of the blogging community, I had posted an analysis of overall play after returning from AC for the first time. In that post I asserted that 99% of the people playing poker generally have no idea what they are doing. Then an anonymous poster had something to say about me being too arrogant in my assessment, but after three more months and another AC trip I have come to the conclusion that I was 100% correct. 98% of the people I see playing poker have no idea what they are doing.

Good, bad, indifferent... they just don't know what they are doing. They don't have a concept about paying attention to hands limped from under the gun, or being re-raised by someone from that position. Or the proper way to price out draws, or taking the lead on drawing hands or that top pair with top kicker is still a very vulnerable hand. Which, as I said a few months ago, is all very good for those people that are looking to actually make money playing poker.

This also has a counter effect on players that are average to very good, your game has to change to match up against poor play. Analyzing the differences in my two trips to AC, I think the real difference in my success was being more cognizant of the type of player I was up against during each hand. There were plays I was able to pull off because I knew the player I was in the hand with was good enough to understand what hands I was representing. And there were bigger hands I was able to get paid off on by simply letting a less experienced player bet into me the entire way with this TPTK.

That combined with the fact that I think I am a 100% better player than I was even three months ago definitely helped things along. A lot of things kept me from playing as much poker recently as I had been, but I still did a lot of reading, logged a lot of practice hands and discussed a lot of situations with friends. When I finally got back to playing regularly, I felt entirely more comfortable and aware at the tables than I had been before. There were hands and positions I put myself in before without realizing it that I was able to remove from my game that alleviated a lot of unprofitable situations I was getting in. I think branching out and playing some of the other games also helped my hold'em game overall.

I still fall in the slightly better than average group but I think after another couple of months I may actually consider myself in the 'better than average' echelon. For now life is going to be about building the bankroll up, and taking a few shots at the WSOP Circuit and WPT events that are rolling into AC during the next few months.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Anatomy of an 80 Hour Heater

Remember that post I made a few days ago about being burned out on hold'em? It appears I found part of the cure. It's called an 80 hour winning session, which I stretched out from about 1am on Sunday morning to 8am on Wednesday morning. It all started out on Saturday night when I had been debating whether or not I would go with my friends up to AC the next day. I just haven't been running well in cash games lately, confidence was a little down, as was the bankroll. I decided to go out to the local Vollmer game where I have had a lot of success and see what I could make of things. I'm not entirely sure why I haven't played there regularly as I have posted two huge wins and one mini-loss the three times I've gone out and played there, but I think going forward I'll pretty much be a regular there.

I took $140 out there and arrived around 10:30pm, two people were on the list in front of me so I thought about bagging it and then I saw the money on the table. The game was ten handed and there was about $5000 on the table in a max $300 buy-in game. Someone was hemmoraging money and I needed to stick around. I had to wait two and a half hours and salivate over the thousand dollar pots that seemed to be happening every other hand before I finally got a seat. Of course the seat that opened was between Willy and Todd, the two most aggressive and loose players in the game, so I was going to have to drastically alter the way I played. Nothing really happened for me for the first hour or so and I was down to $100 when I got A4 spades in the small blind. Four people had already come in the pot for $10 so I pitched in my chips and Todd called as well. The flop came down 2s 5c 8s and Todd fired out $25. Everyone folded around to Willy and he reraised to $75. I thought for a minute and figuring I was probably not going to get a better chance to make a move and pushed my $90 into the pot. I was surprised when Todd pitched his cards but even more surprised when Willy, who was now stuck in the pot with only $15 more to call, turned over K6 offsuit and I was actually ahead. Todd had pitched pocket Jacks and I spiked a spade on the turn to lock it up.

I managed to take down a few more big pots after basically just staying out of the way of trouble all night. I left Vollmer at 5:30 am and I had a thousand dollars, so Atlantic City was definitely on my horizon. The three of us got up to AC at about 1am on Monday morning, and I sat at my first $1-2 NL table in the Borgata about 24 hours after I had sat in at Vollmer. Omen? First hand I see is queens in the big blind and the guy in front of me raises to $20, I reraise to $70 and he calls. The flop comes down rags and he checks to me, I fire out $50 and he folds. The very next orbit in the same position I pick up Kings. Same guy raises to $20, I reraise to $70 and he calls. Flop comes rags and he checks, I fire out $50 and he folds. The table by far was like the 'Golden Goose' and unfortunately for Don and I, we had sat in on the tail end of most of these players' sessions. About three hours later Don and I were both up $500 when the table broke.

The next table I sat at was a little tighter and I got in good situations but unfortunately on one hand, someone had Kings to my Jacks on a rag flop and he took about half of my profit from the other table. By the time the three of us got up from the tables at around 10am, I had built my stack back up and session number one was a $500 winner. We got some breakfast and managed to get into our room early, we were all pretty exhausted so we crashed and got up around 5pm and went back downstairs. I played pretty well and scratched out $80 over about ninety minutes before the evening tournament started. It was a $60 rebuy tourney, with unlimited rebuys for the first three levels and an add-on. You started with 1500 in chips. I had really wanted to play a tournament up there, but I'm not usually a fan of rebuy tournaments. I took the plunge anyways and over the next five hours I may have played the best poker I've ever played.

I was in the big blind for the first hand and three people limped in the pot, small blind completes and I look down at pocket kings. Omen? I raise and take down the pot. I then proceed to get a combination of great cards and tight players who let me take down a lot of pots as I'm playing pretty aggressively. I made one mistake when I called a guy's all-in preflop about 5 minutes before the end of the rebuy levels and he had Kings to my Jacks, but he had been playing real loose so I felt pretty good about my hand. That took me down just below 1500, so I rebought and on the last hand of the level I picked up AK on the button and a guy makes a move on the pot from the small blind, I call and he has KJ. So I almost double up there and after the add-on I have about 9000 in chips which is right around third highest on my table.

I steadily picked up chips for the next two levels until they broke my table, and on the second hand at my next table I picked up Aces and knocked out a player when I reraised him all-in and he called with eights. I chipped up here and there and then two interesting hands came up which I'm going to post about separately as part of a hand discussion. But I managed my way to the final table and had about T35,000 with 380,000 chips in play, just about dead on the 'average' chip stack. I stayed out of the way for a while as short stacks got busted and big stacks took away pots, and managed to pick up the blinds and antes here and there to keep myself above water. Before I sat at the final table one of my boys had given me a tip about an old guy he had been sitting with before he got knocked out, letting me know he was raising pots with weak and medium Aces and small pairs. I had watched him for a while at the final table and when he came in raising he either took the pot on the flop or he was giving up the pot to pressure from the other player(s). He made a raise from middle position while I was in the big blind and I called with K9 of spades. The blinds were at 2000/4000 with 1000 antes and I had about 28,000 left after calling his raise to 10,000. The flop came out rags and I fired 14,000 into the pot, which was around half of the pot. He thought for a minute and called. The turn card was another rag and moved my last 14,000 in the pot and he mucked right away. I think that was a pretty critical hand for the amount of chips it bought me just as blinds were really starting to pressure me. Then there were a couple of ridiculous hands where the player to my right sucked out to knock three players out and suddenly we got down to three handed play.

At that point I had about 65K in chips, the guy on my right had about 140K and the other player had 180K. I offered a chop right there which would have given each of us $2700 a piece but the player on my right said he wanted to play and after a little discussion the other player decided he wanted to play as well. Immediately the two of them tangled and And the palyer to my right took some chips from him, then I doubled up through him when I had Jacks to his Ace-King. Suddenly I'm the chip leader with about 260,000 to 100,000 and 20,000 for the other players. The very next hand the guy on my right moves all-in and I have Ace-King, I call and I'm up against Queen-Jack. He spiked a queen on the river to double up and then on the next hand he took out the other player. At that point he has 230,000 to my 150,000 in chips and I offer him a chop again. We work out the deal and I walked away a $3000 winner and a little peeved about that queen on the river. I did take some solace in the fact that the third guy got a little greedy and cost himself $1500 though.

Then it was right back to the tables and I had worked up another $200 in profit when the speed bump in my trip came up. I was playing at a pretty solid table and I pick up 10 8 suited in the small blind, a bunch of players limp in, I complete and the big blind pops the action up another $15. He hasn't played a hand in like forty minutes or so and I'm feeling like it's a monster, AA or KK. It folds around to me and I decide to take a shot at busting him, because if I hit the flop I know I can get all his money in the middle. I call and the flop comes down 10 8 7 with two hearts, about the second best flop I can hope for there. I lead out for $30 and he reraises me to $80, I pause for a second and then I move all-in for another $340. He doesn't even hesitate and moves it all in the middle and turns over Kings. When I turn up my hand I let out a sigh of relief and he tells me good hand, he thought I was trying to just bully him out of the pot. I know we have about the same amount of chips so I start counting mine down to get the final number and then the dealer pushes the chips at him. I had never seen the 7 hit the river and give him a better two pair. So after 20 hours in a row of poker, I think that beat knocked the wind out of my sails. I rebought and though I got good cards, I kept getting into bad situations and an hour or so later I had lost that buy-in as well. That took me up to the morning tournament and again I played pretty damn well. I just never caught the hand I needed in the middle levels to get comfortable and I got knocked out in 12th place, just missing another final table.

I decided to call it a day at that point and went upstairs and crashed for several hours. I knew I was in no shape to sit down in a cash game and play right, but it still had ended up being 26 hours in a row of very good poker. The guys came upstairs around 2 or 3 am, Don polishing off about a 30 hour session and an overall very good trip. I was rested enough to go back downstairs and try and cap off a good trip during my last five hours at the Borgata. The room was fairly dead as it usually is at 3am on a weekday night, but a few tables were going and I got seated at a 1/2 table that was actually fairly good. One guy in particular was who I wanted to get into a pot with as he clearly thought himself the table captain and was not nearly that good. I spent the better part of an hour setting up a play on him, showing him down some mediocre hands and bluffs. Then another guy at the table busted him and all my work was for naught as he decided to call it a night. That basically broke our game and we combined two tables and I got seated at the end of the table with the four token bad drunks from Paramus or wherever they usually come from. The lone bright spot was the stacks they had in front of them. Two of them got picked off before long and then I got a bit of good fortune. A fairly tight player raises from early position to $10, and four other people call including one of the drunks who definitely thought of himself as a badass. I called from the big blind with K 10 of diamonds trying to hit a good flop. Board came out Qd Jh 8d, and I fired out $30 into the $61 pot and as the raiser was getting ready to call, the drunk announces with a flip of his hand, "I'm all-in." The raiser decides to muck, everyone else folds and I call with the straight draw, flush draw and an overcard. He had about $200 sitting in front of him and I'm hoping he isn't holding anything too good, and then like a dream he turns over 56 of diamonds. The board bricks out and I take down the pot with King-high. I made a bunch of top flushes during the next couple hours and then after announcing my last hand I look down at pocket kings, raise from UTG and got no action, and I ended the session by booking another winner of $400.

It's by far the best run I've had in as short a period of time since the third week of March when I went on a tear in tournaments on Full Tilt. I was really happy with how I played, and but for a couple of river cards I might have left New Jersey with about $2000 more in my pocket, but such is poker. I never got all my money in the middle as an underdog, and in the tournament I chopped, I may have played the best poker that I ever have. Aside from the usual breaks you have to catch in tournament poker, I just played really well. So hopefully that was an omen of things to come with my poker game.

I'll have another post soon on some of the more interesting hands I saw in tournament and ring game play for some discussion.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Well, I was privy to just about the funniest thing I've seen in poker on Wednesday night. The usual group of us decided to get together and have a little birthday sit-n-go for our buddy Richard. We bought him in and then put a $50 bounty on his head for the evening. As has been the case lately, I was mostly cold-decked for the night. I finally got a spot to make a move on someone and he turned over his one good hand for the night, Aces versus my Ace-Queen, and I was crippled and out the next hand. Not surprisingly, I got knocked out holding Ace-Queen. I'm beginning to see what Negreanu and Doyle mean about that hand.

In any event, we get down to four handed play with JT, Matt, Richard and his brother Jack. Approximate chip counts are: JT with 1000, Richard with 600, Jack with 300 and Matt with 100. Richard picks up Presto (55) under the gun limps in with blinds at 15/30. Jack pitches his hand and JT goes in the tank for a minute. There had been a little glitch in Richard's routine before he bet which I guess made JT suspicious. He raises it to 90 and Richard immediately goes over the top all-in. Jack folds and JT has Richard count it down, after thinking for about twenty or thirty more seconds he calls.

I'll give you a second to determine what hand you think JT might hold in this situation.

And now I'll confirm that there is no earthly way you'll guess that he turned over J 8 of diamonds.

Jd8d versus 5h5s.

Flop comes 10c 7c 2s, turn is the 9s and Richard is now drawing dead.

The look on Richard's face when the 9 fell is something I will forever regret not having on videotape.

Beers: $12
Buy-in: $50
Calling your friend's all-in with J8 suited and busting him: Priceless

Richard stared at the board for about three minutes while the rest of us laughed our ass off, he got up, walked away and then came right back to look at the board again. Matt is dancing in his seat because he just made the money on some bullshit and JT cleaned up the two of them in about five minutes and Richard was still in shock as we cleaned up the place before leaving.

All I could think about as I watched this transpire was reading in BadBlood's blog the other day about a G-Vegas joke about the fictional character Bitch Suckleton. Richard sat down and got it broken off in him by Bitch Suckleton on Wednesday night.

We've got about five hours of talking about that hand ahead of us on the way up to AC on Sunday night.

My prediction: Richard is still on tilt, and if he sees J8 of diamonds while we're up in AC, he'll break out in hives.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hold'em Burn Out

It's been building for a while but last week I came down with a full blown case of hold'emitis. There's only so many calling stations, bad plays and lost races a man can sit through before he needs to shake things up and start playing other games for a while.

Been playing a lot of Omaha and Stud lately, even sneaking in a few heads-up HORSE matches with a buddy of mine. Trying to do just about anything to shake out of the poker doldrums before a possible AC trip next week. I've generally been happy with the way I've been playing hold'em lately, but the focus just hasn't been consistently there. One thing I am starting to notice is that I'm at least making a transition toward better play. There are definitely still a few glitches in my game but at the same time I'm pretty aware of what they are, the test is just breaking those habits hours into a session. As one of the common adages goes, anyone can play well for the first hour, yadda yadda yadda.

Anyhow, Uncle Rob has been clamoring for a shout-out and as I finally made it back to the Warehouse last week, I'll give him the dap he's searching for.

Rob has Q 10 in the big blind, $1/2 NL Hold'em with a ten handed table. There is an EP raise to $10 and two callers before it gets back to Rob. Rob calls and the flop comes down A J 5, he checks, raiser checks and the two others check as well. Turn is a K and Rob checks the nuts, the raiser fires out $25, the first caller reraises to $60, a fold and then Rob moves all-in for another $40 over the re-raise. The raiser calls as does the MP player and the river is a brick. Raiser mucks his cards and the other guy turns over AJ, tripling up Rob.

As usual Uncle Rob finds a way to salvage a down night at the 'Wood.

I really enjoyed Double As series of "How would you play it?" and am currently stockpiling hands to steal his idea and do the same thing here. Check it out if you get a chance, it was definitely good stuff.

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