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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wow, it's been a year...

I didn't even realize it until I sat down to knock out a post this morning and saw the date, but it's been a little over a year that I've been making my living as a poker player. Looking back with the knowledge I have now, the success that I have had was realized in spite of making this just about as hard as possible on myself.

I was never properly bankrolled to start with, the only thing I had going for me in the beginning was an innate aggressiveness at the tables and I live about 250 miles from the nearest casino. How could I not succeed? (Please note the sarcasm here.) I had a few goals that I had set last year, some I accomplished, most I did not. But I don't consider not acheiving them to be a failure so much as realizing that they were unrealistic goals for my situation. They just need to be set for a time period a little further down the road. In one year I went from playing $10 and $20 tournaments and sit n' go's to a number of $250-$650 tournaments, and playing $.25-.50 PL hold 'em cash games to $2-5 NL Hold 'em, $5-10 limit Hold'em and Omaha. All in all, not bad for about nine and a half months of work, due to that little hiatus I had to take from August to October.

Long nights every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in a smoky room at the Warehouse where I started cutting my teeth will definitely be missed, but in all of it so much was gained. The experience, the friends made and the poker discussions that really accelerated my understanding of this game are priceless assets earned. When you first start seeing poker on TV you think how easy it all must be and then you dip your toe in the water and see how much there is to learn. Now after hundreds and hundreds of hours and thousands upon thousands of hands, the expanse of things left to learn seems even bigger but a challenge so worth undertaking.

Which is not to say that poker isn't extraordinarily boring most of the time. Who knows how long before the hours in front of a computer no longer seem worth it? But I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a chance to explore that possibility.

Now I only hope that I can make as much progress with writing in this blog as I have in playing poker.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I suck...

At keeping up with this blog lately. :)

In any event, my cash game hiatus continues. After a less than successful trip to AC at the end of January and the subsequent closing of the local cash games due to some legal issues in February, there just isn't anything going on anywhere near here to make some money. The end of February saw a horrible run at the 3/6 tables online and thus was born a short break from cash games that has now stretched to over a month.

I'm still getting plenty of tournament action in around here with the usual suspects, around 2-3 per week. I've been getting my tournament mojo back lately insofar as my comfort level with reading other players and taking down pots with nothing when I need to. The only time I haven't played optimally in the last two months was when I went card dead for about 4 levels about 3 hours into one of our tourneys, got tired and just gave up, getting myself busted when I moved in with middle pair when I was 100% certain I was beat.

Last night, after being the beneficiary of a super spectacular runner runner straight in a 3 way all-in pot, I was off and running to a nice win. I'm gonna put some money back online and try and satellite into the Pokerroom Grand tournament at the end of April. And I may not play a cash game until after that. I've really enjoyed the break and feel like it strengthened my overall poker thinking but I'll have to wait until I get back on the felt to determine if that's actually the case or not.

Had an interesting hand come up when I was heads up with PokerDon at the end of our shorthanded tourney on Sunday night. I had a very slight chip lead, maybe 650-550, at the start of the hand with blinds at 6-12. Don raised to 36, I peeked down at AQ, reraised to 100 and Don smooth called. At that point, I felt 95% certain that I had the best hand. The flop came down Jh10d10d. I fired out 80 into the 200 pot and Don thought for a moment before reraising me to 210. Now I started to consider all his hand possibilities, I didn't think that he had a 10, I thought he would have played it differently. It was possible that the he had a hand like AJ or KJ, but again for some reason I just wasn't feeling like he had hit the board. So if he hadn't hit the board what were the most likely hands that he had? KQ, K9, Q9, 44-99 and AK or AQ. I felt like those were the hands he'd most likely raise with, call a reraise with and then reraise on the flop. If he had an underpair then we were 50-50 and I was likely to pick up more outs on the turn if I didn't make my hand there, everything else I was ahead of with the exception of AK, and I was willing to chance that. In any event, within 20 seconds or so I had decided I was most likely ahead or at worst a coin flip so I moved in.

It surprised Don, but he had likely come to the same conclusion I had, as he called me he said, "I think you have an underpair, so I can't fold this hand." He turned over K9, and the board bricked out and my Ace high was good. He wasn't particularly enthralled with my call, feeling like I should have laid down to his reraise, but I'm curious what other people think they may have done there.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A few interesting hands...

Didn't play much this week, just a couple live tournies around here with the guys. Monday night we had 18 people play and I got pretty much smacked in the face with cards. Starting stacks are 200, with 20 minute blinds and levels start at 1-2. By midway through level three I had ~T750. PokerDon managed to slip through my grasp the first time when he pushed his shortstack with Ac2c and run into my two black queens. He flopped A2x and I was drawing dead when he boated on the turn... that always makes you feel good. But our interesting hand came when we got down to 5 handed play. He and I have talked volumes on poker and our play and have gotten to know each other's game pretty well. I picked up pocket eights and made a standard raise and it got back to Don in the big blind. I could tell as soon as it got to him he was gonna put me to the test if he did anything in this hand.

So I started watching him, and after about 30 seconds I had figured he was gonna move all-in, but I only had him covered by about 100 or so chips. But then he started going through all these machinations of counting down his chips over and over again. Now, I know that sometimes when he's doing this he's merely stalling and has a monster hand, and is only counting down from 20 to make it look like he's thinking about moving in. But he knows that I know that he does this. So when he takes longer than usual to make his move I have to transition to the next level of thinking. Is he doing this now because he knows that I know he does this? And if so, is he doing this to mask the fact that he really does have a monster hand? Don's "been in the tank" for about two minutes at this point and I still haven't made up my mind what I'm going to do when he moves in, because I still haven't decided what he's got. My gut is screaming at me that he has two overs, something like AK, AQ or KQ. But do I really want to get all my money in on the coin flip here? Another 20 seconds go by and I decide that no matter what I calling an all-in, and if he has a monster so be it, but I'm 95% certain that I have the best hand.

So another 30 seconds go by and he does end up moving all-in. I have that Negreanu-like moment from the Borgata Open in 2004 when he's up against David Williams and he tells him that he knew he was gonna do that but he isn't sure what he's going to do yet. I had decided to call but now I have a moment of hesistation. Then I decide to go with my gut and call and he turns over KcQc. I ask the dealer to kindly put an 8 on board and just end it. He flips up the flop and the 8 is the door card. He spreads 856 of hearts. Double check Don's hand just to make sure it's no hearts, and then the turn is a 7 of spades. Goddammit. 4 on the river and it's a split pot. All that great poker for nothing. Don later admitted he was doing exactly what I thought he was doing. That was pretty much my favorite hand in a long time. I feel like I actually played poker there.


I ended up coming in third there and then we played a 10 man tourney on Thursday night. I was in the big blind at 6-12 blind level and I was second in chips with around T415 behind my blind. Footloose, the chipleader with around T600, made it 3x the BB and got called by Dave and Uncle Rob moved in his remaining 32. The small blind folds and I look down at Qh6h and I thought for a while about making the call. It wasn't a great hand, but with slightly better than 5-1 odds to call it just didn't make any sense to fold it in my opinion. So with my call we had created a T12 sidepot. The flop came down Qd 7h 3h. I checked it willing to check down and just try and knock Rob out. But Footloose opened with a T125 bet and then Dave smoothcalled, leaving himself another T150 or so behind it. I'm not sure I can voice strongly enough how little I like Dave's play but I'm still unclear as to what I'd do if I were in Foot's position. But with T400 in the middle now I feel I've got no choice but to move my stack in given my hand. So I move in which means another T280 for Foot to call, which he does, and Dave at this point is stuck and moves in his remaining 150 or so. Foot has AA, Dave his KQc and Uncle Rob has 89c. The turn was an 8 of spades and the river was the King of spades and Dave made two pair to take most of the pot, with Foot losing about T100 overall by taking the sidepot between the two of us. I've got no problem going bust there as I'm actually a slight favorite in the hand on the flop:

AsAd 42% KcQc 8.5% Qh6h 45% 8c9c 4%

Dave's play is overall horrendous, which is no departure from his usual play as I have heard it. There's simply no reason to flat call with KQ on the flop and leave 150 behind. As for Foot, he's in kind of an interesting predicament. He's now 4 ways on a horrible flop. Don and I talked about the hand and Don thinks he should just move his stack in to isolate which is one thing I considered I might do in his position. Opening up for a pot size bet also seems good. Dave's smooth call throws me. It certainly could have been a heart draw or another queen, neither of which is great for my hand, but with either if he's going to do anything he should just move in. I put him on the queen, but I still don't think moving in is an awful play for me. But this hand is the one I'm most curious to get feedback on.


Then during the afternoon on Friday I was watching JT play on a 1-1 PL Omaha table, quite possibly one of the sexiest tables I've seen for PLO in a long while. I'm not sure there was anyone sitting at that table that really had any idea what they were doing. Then this hand came up where I thought JT made a huge mistake on the turn.

He picks up KcQcKdJd and makes a pot raise to $5. He gets called in two places and the flop came down 10c 4c 5s. He bets $10 into the $18 pot and gets raised to $25 by the guy right next to him, then the other guy in the pot check-calls. The turn was a Q of hearts and it checks through. River was a Ten of diamonds and it checks through again, and JT's Kings up win the pot. I felt like he made a monster mistake by checking through on the turn.

Just observing the table and comments the guy who raised JT was making, I felt like he was just looking to get involved in a pot with JT since they both had the most money on the table. I figured his raise was just trying to take the pot down, but it was a horrible raise, and he was a bad player, so it all kind of fit together. The other guy check-calling kind of threw me off a bit. But as I dissected it I put the raiser on a decent double draw with something like 67 of clubs and a pair and the check call was either two pair or a decent flush draw.

So trying to give them decent hands to be making plays with, I'll give the raiser Ac7c6x and the check-caller Jh5hJc4c. Even given those hands, JT is 36% to win over 30% and 33%. And that's giving out some very generous hand selections. It actually turns out that the raiser had A2Jx and the check-caller had A226.

With $93 in the pot on the turn, and having the second nut flush draw, nut straight draw and an overpair, I feel like I would have bet about $50 on the turn. I would have no problem getting all my money in there.

But I'm also curious to hear some other approaches from the few Omaha players that lurk out there.

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