Monday, March 29, 2004

Weekly PJK Tournament at Planet Poker

Well it was my first time to play with other fellow poker bloggers at the PJK weekly no limit tourney on Planet Poker Sunday nite. I was hoping to just last down to the top half with twenty something other fellow poker bloggers. I wasn't sure what to expect and was kind of nervous. But with only 20+ people I kinda planned to play like it was a big Sit and Go. That gave me some confidence because I know that I'm a profitable SnG player.

I was playing under the name: gpoker - and I think alot of people mistook me for another blogger, Boy Genius. But that's ok - I think they might remember me next week...

On the first hand that I can remember - I got dealt AA!! I raised 2xBB - which was small at the time and Felicia Lee - the organizer of the PJK tournament and blogger extraordinaire - moved all in on me...
Well I didn't have much choice (and I guess this is exactly what I was hoping for) - in the back of my mind I was kinda thinking maybe we both had AA - but she showed QQ. Still I got ready for that dreaded Q to fall and content myself to watching the rest of the way - but no - AA held up and I was sitting with double my chips.

Didn't catch too many hands after that until I was moved to another table - and limped with a pair of fours. Tripped up on the flop and made a full house on the river when deuces paired on the board. Took a pretty decent sized pot down with this. Woo hoo!

On my new table we had Roy Cooke from Cardplayer magazine on our table as a guest pro. I saw him move all-in quite a few times and win an all-in call with AQ against AK..
I kind of felt a little guilty though because we spent a great deal of time complaining about the Planet Poker interface. It is kind of primitive - one of the other bloggers was calling it Atari Poker because the graphics were kind of crude (lol)... But if they take in the feedback from the players and some of the good things on UB or Party's interface they should be fine.
If there was one issue I had - it was that when the 2 players went all in before the flop - the software machine gunned the 5 card board and then showed the winning hand immediately - while the losing hand remained hidden and then mucked... Talk about killing the suspense - that's half the fun of no-limit is rooting for or against cards...

I found myself heads up with Roy when again I raised 2xBB with AK off suit. He pushed all-in on me with a smaller stack (about 2000 to my 6000) and I had to call. Luckily I won that hand when a K came on the board and no help for him (can't remember what he had - AQ?). Woo hoo! (and whew!)

Pretty soon we got down to the final ten and I entered the final table among the chip leaders tpfelt and Mean Gene.

I was playing tighter than I usually do with a big stack - but I was seeing so much aggressive betting at times that I thought it best to stay pretty conservative and wait for the action to whittle down the field. It worked - although perhaps my tight play may have cost me a big chip lead when I got dealt AA twice in a row!! The first time I caught a caller but they folded on the turn to a pot sized bet...
The second time - everyone folded to my little 2xBB raise...

My meek play probably cost me a second time when I tried to limp with 99 and it was raised all-in and another player called the all-in. I read two bigger pairs and got the hell out of Dodge. But then the flop came 9-8-7!!! And the all-ins showed down hands like K-Q and K-J... I could of taken both stacks out if I'd stayed in that hand...

Finally we got down to the end - with me, Mean Gene, and a British player - EOS (Eye of Sauron) who posts on www.goallin.com. They were definitely much more aggressive than me - and bullied me out of pots with their preflop betting. I was content to let them go at it heads up - hoping that one would knock the other out. This didn't happen although they passed chips back and forth along with all my blind money...

We hit the break and I had about 10000 in chips in third place to EOS and Gene who had 20something each. As soon as we returned I saw JJ on BB. EOS bet out pretty strong - and I re-raised him to make sure it wasn't a blind steal. He called and the flop came J-9-7 (or something like that).

I checked the flop and he moved all in on me on the turn. I called hoping to duck a flush or straight if he was on a draw - and doubled up when he didn't make it.. Now I was back in the hunt.

Eventually, EOS knocked out Mean Gene on a pre flop all-in race. And we got heads up with EOS back in the lead. Once again EOS started eating away at my stack with constant raises. I figured I'd catch a hand eventually and reminded myself to stay patient and hopefully he'd walk into me when I was holding. Hell, trapping with big hands is what had got me this far...

I caught a break when I got to see a flop cheap with Q-5 hearts and the flop came 7-7-5. Did he have a 7? I didn't think so and bet it out strong. When he predictably moved all-in I thought I was dead but it was 2 overcards and he didn't hit and I doubled through.

Now we were on equal footing and did the blind steal dance for a while until I called a preflop raise with K-4 diamonds. The flop came 2 diamonds and I bet it.. He called and the turn came the third diamond. All-in and EOS called. He showed the Q-7 diamonds and that was all she wrote.

I couldn't believe my luck! And surely there is a lot of luck involved in any poker tournament win. And even if I didn't come away with the victory it would still have been great to play with fellow poker bloggers. It's just more fun without the morons and other idiots you sometimes encounter in the bigger site tournaments. Plus the chat was pretty funny and entertaining the whole way through.

Thanks to Felicia Lee for taking on the selfless task of organizing it - I'll be there every week I can. And next week - I have a title to defend...


Sunday, March 28, 2004

But it was suited...

Played some short-handed home tournament action on Friday nite. While there were some better games going on - had some friends in town so we took them out to dinner and then talked them into some late nite no limit holdem tourneys. Playing live is a much different experience from online poker - doesn't matter if it's a game with friends or a casino tournament. The advantage to playing with friends is that you know the other players - but the disadvantage is that they know you...

Also there is the trap of being thought of as a 'good' player... I don't consider myself exceptionally skilled at poker - but it's certainly something I'm trying to become. But while my friends enjoy the game - none of them currently have invested the kind of time and money I have in practicing and playing online.
Sometimes the expectations or even perhaps a tinge of overconfidence can lead you into some bad play.
For example last nite... In the first tournament in the FIRST hand - I get dealt 2-3 spades in the BB. It's raised by one of my friends in early position, an aggressive player who uses a few well timed bluffs to induce people to pay him off when he's holding the nuts.

It's the first hand so - what the hell I call the raise. Flop comes Js-7h-5s. I flop the SMALLEST flush draw. I think about it for a minute - and read that this flop missed the raiser - and bet it out. I'm called by the raiser and the turn comes 9s. Bingo! Now I'm not sure why exactly - but I do not put the raiser on 2 spades. I check hoping for a bet - but no - he checks. The river is a Ks. Hmmm.. I realize this fourth spade devalues my flush considerably- but it is conceivable that my opponent has no spades. In fact I don't think he does.
I bet the pot. He comes over the top.
Now for some strange reason - and not the first time this has happened to me - while my mind screams fold - I find myself unable to just let this pot go. All in! I wave my hand over my chips. He calls almost instantly and flips up the A-6 of spades. I was drawing dead from the start...
Well I certainly taught them all how NOT to play no-limit.

In subsequent tournaments - having learned my lesson I tighten up and play solid poker. Take third place in the next one. In the third one I'm doing well - but one player who we may have mistakenly all labeled as a weak player is wiping up the table. He calls down all-in bluffs with second or third pair and WINS. He hits every flop and wins many many consecutive pots - even though he is not betting his hands - or even slow playing them to pop us on the end. In short - to my mind - this player is so bad that he's dangerous.

Of course the way to play a calling station is to have a hand when you bet into them. I wait patiently with my small stack for a hand to come my way - and when they finally do - I start chipping away at his lead and building a stack of my own. When a flop misses me instead of "testing the waters" with an exploratory bet/bluff - I check - sure in the knowledge that a bet back at me from this player is almost definitely a hand.
But frustratingly - as I start to adjust my game play against him - he starts folding from ridiculously small raises when I bet at him. And I have pretty good hands each time. After the third or fourth time he ducks out of paying off on a pot I start to get frustrated.
Time to readjust my strategy - I take a flop heads up with him and while it misses me - it's a pretty ragged flop. I bet out a pot sized bet. He thinks about it for a minute and calls me. I still have king-high on the turn - but like Matt Damon in Rounders - I decide I'm going to outplay him right HERE. I move all in on the turn. I know he hasn't hit this board - he has to fold. But he thinks again for a while and shrugs as he calls. He has Ace-high and the river brings me no help...

I take third place again as my other friend happily scoops up second place because of my stupidity and obstinance.
OK - I think to myself - this means war.

In the next tournament I'm running along pretty good - when we get down to the last 3 again and lo and behold - the same player has built another big stack with a fortuitous run of cards. He's on my left in the BB - when we go heads up and I look down at a 6-3 off suit. Again I decide to make a play at him just to show him who's the boss. (ain't ego a damn thing?) I move all in with my 6-3off preparing to show him with a smile what I bluffed him out of his blind with when he folds and hopefully putting him a little on tilt.

He thinks about it again and says with another shrug "I call". Damn! I scream inside my head. I'm embarassed to turn up my 6-3 off, and when I do the table laughs. The BB then turns up his hand to screams of amazement from the table - he has 5-2 suited!!!

"You called me with 2-5 suited!" I exclaim. "What the hell did you think I had to call with this hand?"
He shrugs as we start the flop with me in the lead. The board comes as expected with five overcards and we chop up the pot. And now once again I find myself on the mother of all tilts... 2-5 suited!

When the night finally ends I find myself surprisingly up a few dollars thanks to a number of third place finishes which won me my entry fees back. But I never did get a chance to bust out my nemesis.

One thing I think I learned from the night. Although there didn't seem to be any sense to the way he played his cards, there certainly was alot of value in the unpredictability of his actions. At times he called all-in bets with hands that I wouldn't have dreamed of - and at others he seemed to make timely lay downs to small bets that disguised big hands.

As I shook his hand when we finally broke up the game in the pre-dawn hours I told him - "You're either the best player I've ever played against or the worst. But either way you kicked my ass tonight." He chuckled as he walked off home with all our money in his pocket.

The lesson for the night? Well I doubt that I could ever reproduce the 'strategy' that he used to play against me unless I bet without looking at my cards - but I rediscovered that an unpredictable player is a very dangerous animal.
Hopefully one day in addition to becoming the fundamentally sound poker player I strive to be - I will also figure out some way to at least cultivate the image of unpredictability. Because in no-limit, at least, being unpredictable is probably the most important asset of them all.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Sit and Go Hell

Had a day off from work but unfortunately spent the bulk of it hungover from the previous night's festivities. Went to the Knicks-Grizzlies game at the Garden where a friend and I witnessed perhaps the worst played professional basketball game ever. Luckily we had the foresight to leave early - but unluckily it took about a half a bottle of scotch for us to get rid of the bad taste in our mouths... (or did that put the bad taste in???)
Once the pounding subsided enough to think clearly - I proceeded to get back to the grindstone of building back my Party Poker bankroll through $6 Sit and Gos.
Took 3rd and 2nd in 4 tries - for some reason I find the SnG's at Party to be much tighter than on UB. We still lose about half the table in the first 30 minutes - but once the table gets down to the last five the game gets really tight. You'd think it'd play into the arms of a little aggressive play at the end - but even though blind-stealing is pretty successful at the end - I usually start losing my patience and make a bad mistake.
Part of the problem is playing more than one SnG at a time. While I'm good enough to get into position to finish in the money on auto pilot - by not paying attention to the behavior of the players earlier on in the game - I have less information about their betting patterns and styles.
It feels like it's going to be a long road to recovery - I may just lose patience and (shudder) make a redeposit.

On UB I had a better day - accidentally registered for a Limit Holdem SnG (yikes!). But then won it - when late in the game my Presto (55) set up on a flop of AK5. Caught a poor guy with AK capping the raises all the way to the river. He just never believed me...
Took some of the winnings and hit another $5 tourney at UB - I've been finishing from 60-90th place pretty consistently (and frustratingly) in these. Today was no different as I made it about 2 hours in - with about 1200 left (not much) and caught a pair of sixes. Raised it up in early position and got pushed all-in by AK. Of course a K flopped and I'm out in 91st.
Just can't seem to build up a decent size pile in any of these little tournaments to go on a run...

Got some friends coming into town - and we're probably going to organize a little home tourney action for them after dinner. Almost assuredly I will not win any of these. Whenever we have a new player of players in our games - I always end up the victim of some beginner's luck...
Like the time when I ran a bluff on a newbie - and he called successive raises on the flop and turn until I finally went all in on the river and he called with a J high... Of course I had 7 high... But what the hell was he calling for? I guess I just don't have an honest face...


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Am I a Maniac?

From the brother of the genius:

Am I a Maniac?
Question: Short-handed play...3 players left in a SnG. Do you raise with any ace? A7o, for example.

Got this question from my brother - who is having a pretty good run at the SnG's on UB and Stars. Last I heard he had turned his initial deposit (or rather my initial transfer) of $150 to over $600...

I think it's a pretty fair question - I'm sure Cardplayer or some other site has already tackled it in fact. But I'm going to take a look at this myself - and see what I come up with.

Suppose you are first to act with A7o - 3 players left - is it profitable to raise?

The way to approach this I think is to figure how A7o matches up with other hands the blinds could hold.

Against any 2 face cards (KJo) - A7o wins 57% of the time
Against A with a lower kicker (A5o) - A7o wins 61% of the time
Against A with bigger kicker (AJo) - A7o wins 28% of the time
Against small pocket pair (55) - A7o wins 44% of the time
Against big pocket pair (QQ) - A7o wins 28% of the time

Against suited connectors - (9Ts) - A7o wins 52% of the time

I think raising with any ace is a relatively good play. Short stacked - it's a hand that gives you a decent chance vs. any but the biggest of hands. And a big stack is likely to call you with a non premium hand.
With a big stack - you can always fold your Ace-trash hand if you get played back at preflop.
Of course if your opponent is the aggressive sort - and likes to play back at you liberally - you may want to be more selective with your pre flop raising hands.
Perhaps the most dangerous and difficult thing about playing/raising A-trash - is what to do if you get called? If an A flops you are in kicker trouble. Virtually any other flop - you have to wonder what you're opponent called with. An ace with a better kicker? Small pocket pair?

I think it's the right move - perhaps not every time (vary your play) - but a pretty decent hand to run a semi-bluff blind steal. I wouldn't want to get all in with this hand - but if you did - you have pretty decent odds to have the better half of a coin flip.

So - raising with any Ace short handed - is not a maniacal play.

Raising every time with the Hammer (72o) is maniacal!


Monday, March 22, 2004

Building the Bankroll?

Over that last four of five days - I've gotten an inordinate amount of time in at the tables on UB and Party. Inspired by my recent triumph in AC - I've tried to parlay that success into some profit building play on both sites. I played some SnG's on both sites - which in general I do pretty well in. And played hours and hours of 1/2 limit hold'em.
The weekend started off promisingly enough. Most of my NCAA picks had managed to survive to the round two - and I had a pretty free weekend to do whatever I wanted to. Which was in this case - play poker!
Started off with SnG wins on both Party and UB - only to unwisely waste some of the UB winnings on some $3 and $5 tournament action. I'm like an addict with these small buy in NLHE tournaments. I can't seem to say no. So far - although I've brushed up on my Cloutier - "Championship Pot Limit and No Limit Hold'em" - still have yet to see any tangible gains in my NL game.
It shocked me to read some of the advice he espouses. Basically TJ advocates a very tight and conservative approach to No Limit. Small Pairs? Throw 'em away. And if you do play them - "set it or forget it". And when he says small pairs - he means Tens on down...
This is one piece of advice I generally agree on. Small pairs are worth a limp in position - but perhaps a money losing hand in early to mid position. It's pretty difficult to call a pre-flop over the top raise with a small to mid pair...
AK? He also plays this hand much more conservatively than I've seen it played with online at least. Many times you'll see someone call an all-in preflop bet with AK - gambling that you have QQ to TT or even better a dominated ace. TJ doesn't feel that you can call an over the top raiser when someone comes over the top of you before the flop. I guess I agree - of course short stacked - is a different story - but I do notice that the pros don't really like to get into coin flip situations.
Even AA - there's a quote - "If you limp with Aces - you'll never get broke with Aces".
Talk about conservative play. But then I thought about it - and I think I've been too willing to get into these coin flip situations - and while sometimes you magically seem to win these hands - far too often I get broken on these hands.
Certainly there is a time to open up - he does talk about getting agressive when the table slows down - like when you're just out of the money - and everyone is trying to last into a money finish - or when you get shorthanded on the final table - and it's time to go for the win...
Even more enlightening was reading Harold Lederer's trip reports and article from his site. Just reading the way he thinks through a no-limit hand in some of his trip report recollections is awe inspiring. That's the level we all want to get to. Unfortunately - I'm not sure online poker is the best way to get there. People just don't seem to play rationally for the most part. So I'm not sure how beneficial it would be for an online tournament player to analyze or examine too closely what the meaning of each bet is.
Still it's something to strive for...
I have applied some of this advice to my play - tightening up significantly - and waiting for my big hands before committing my money to the pot. We'll have to see if it equals any improvement in the long run.

But this weekend was about bankroll building so - I resolved to hit the trenches - and get a bunch of hours of 1/2 play in. I played UB and Party simultaneously - as UB's miniview (the best interface in my opinion) fits nicely on my screen above Party's full table view.
The results? On Friday night - I caught a rush of cards - and some loose players for a victory of $90 - bringing my Party balance from $100 to $190.. On UB - I lost about $25 - much tighter table - and while I was up most of the way - a bad stretch cost me - and I was unable to even claw back to even.
Then on Sat night - I caught a terribble stretch on Party and lost about $75 back - not sure how it happened but it seemed that none of my draws came in - and when I hit a flop - another player who stayed in seemed to always draw me out.
By Sunday afternoon - I think I was pokered out. On one hand - I made a terrible mistake - down another $50 - I get dealt AA. My chance to start making it back - I think. Raise a couple of limpers - get re-reraised - and cap the preflop betting. Flop comes 9-7-2 rainbow. bet it out and get raised - raise again - and we cap - four players all still in. Turn is a 5. We exchange raises again - cap to $8 - only one other player left. I'm hoping now for an Ace - wondering what my opponent has. River is a 4 no flush possibilty. Raise again - and when I'm reraised I'm thinking maybe he has 2 pair - and I call.
He shows 99 - for a set on the flop - and rakes in a $70 pot...
Of course this puts me on tilt - and my luck doesn't really change - and my Party balance is down to it's last $30...
Better luck on UB - as I was able to pocket some minor earnings to bring my balance up to $140.
There appears to be something wrong with my limit play. I think I'm playing a bit loose - and while I'm pretty good at reading when someone hits an obvious draw (flushes/straights) and not paying them off on the river - a few times I think I have been bet off a pot I should have pocketed...
Also - perhaps I am betting too aggressively on draws - and top pair - committing too much money to a pot that can easily be jeapardized by a bad turn of the cards.
That's all water under the bridge - as I had no profit to show for my weekend of play. And at Party I've pretty much relegated myself to $5 SnG hell - in an effort to build back my bankroll without making the dreaded re-deposit.

One month to go before Vegas - hopefully I can tighten my game up before heading out there for 4 sleepless nights of poker madness...


Thursday, March 18, 2004

The Rub

"Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker..."

UB Balance $100 Party Balance - $100

Nice round numbers, eh? Well I'd like to say that I've just opened accounts on both sites, but the truth is I've been playing UB since last year - and opened my Party account last year.
I've been up as much as $300 on UB and the same on Party - but somehow I always end up back at square one. The reason? Tournaments, no-limit to be specific.
I honestly believe that though I've learned quite a bit since I started playing poker - that I WAS a better player when I started than I am now...
And somehow I've managed to play off - not-insignificant profit, chasing the dream of a big tournament payoff.

The reason you ask? Because in no-limit, one mistake and you can be knocked out of a tournament. And somehow I seem to keep making that one mistake.

Before I learned all the concepts like position, stack size, starting hand strength, board reading and bet reading - the game was much more simple. Have a good hand? Bet it.
Now I find myself over thinking hands - and somehow still unable to overcome the tendency to not be able to give the bettor credit for his hand. Something continues to tickle my psyche, telling me that the other guy is bluffing. Sometimes this feeling is correct. But just as many times it's wrong.. dead wrong.

Take today as a good example. Playing a $3 TEC rebuy on UB - I built up a 5000 stack into the second hour. Unfortunately I lost a good bit of money on the BB - calling a raise I felt was a blind steal. Then when I caught part of the flop I played back at the bettor. Of course he had a hand - and chopped me off for half my stack...
I bled myself down to 1500 with a few more missed steals than successful ones when I caught an AQ hearts. Ok - a hand I can steal with or make a stand. Just be careful of too much action in front of me. A caller, and a pot raiser... Just the situation I was preparing to avoid. Do I fold as I had prepped myself beforehand? NO - ALL IN! The caller folds and the raiser flips up AA.
Inexcusably stupid...
I am doomed it seems to be ruled by my emotions rather than logic.

It was ok though because I was playing a $5 NL tournament at the same time tonight, and doing quite well. Down to the final 100 out of 440 starters with a decent stack at 3500. Enough to double up and be dangerous. Unfortunately, I am not getting action on my hands. Get AA? Raise 2xBB. Everyone folds. This happens frequently enough that I resolve to slow play the next big hand? Why? Because I'm an idiot..

Catch KK under the gun. Ok. Limp and wait to spring on a raiser. But NO! 4 callers and a checked BB! What the? flop comes 4-5-6. BB bets the pot. What do I do? Do I make the obvious read of a big blind special? You have to give him credit for at least 2 pair - and let this hand go, right? I watch myself click the All-in button in horror as the other players fold and the BB calls and flips up a 7-8. I am drawing almost dead to his flopped straight and finish 90th.. (50 places cash)

I'm not giving up - but I am realizing that I cannot continue to play tournament the way I have been and expect to win. I need to read the betting a little better and think through my own betting more logically.

Part of the problem I think can be attributed to rhythm. That's right, rhythm. I find myself caught in a dance of bet, call, bet, raise, call. check, bet, call, bet call, lose...
Although I hate players who take too long on each move - I have to admit - many of the mistakes I've made could've been prevented by a slight pause before I made my decision. I am certainly not good enough to play on auto-pilot. (ok - i can play limit on auto-pilot)
From now on when I decide to get involved in a no-limit pot - I will think my moves through. And not just think of all the hands that can beat me - but try to read the situation a little better and decide what to do.

Let's see if it has any effect - because I'm tired of throwing away all my profits on $3, $5, and $10 tournaments. So if you see me on your table - you may have to wait awhile before I make a decision. But once I do - think twice before you call me...

Atlantic City Trip Report Redux - Day 2 Night (Last Stand at the Borgata)

Well after that horrible mistake at the Trop, I'm back in my room at 5pm in the Borgata. Thinking about napping but all I can think about is watching my chips slide across the table to those Aces. I restlessly lie there for about 30 minutes - until I can take it no longer. I get up and march down to the poker room to exact some payback.
It's Sunday night - so the room is not nearly as active as it was during the weekend. I get a seat in a few minutes at the 6-12 table right near the front desk. It's a good table - I notice 5-6 callers on average and very little raising going on. The two guys on my left are chatting away - having pretty good poker conversation. I sit down, relax - and wait for a hand to come my way.
This patience pays off as I catch a couple of cowboys - raise pre-flop and get 4 or 5 people to come in with me. I bet consistently as thankfully no ace pops up - and 2 or 3 guys even pay me off on the river with smaller pairs...
I fall into a positive rhythm and I start to catch cards and hit flops. Do I slow play at all? No way - I bet out every pot - and the rest of the table just calls me. A few times I get rivered - but a few times I get the table to fold on some scary flops like A-A-10 - even though I have no piece of it...
As I settle in and get to know the table, the player to my left - a very talkative poker player starts chatting me up. Normally I try to avoid these compulsive talkers as a rule - they usually start off friendly enough but end up getting really annoying. But this guy's ok - and even though he is playing any 2 low cards that reach - and rivering straights on people - it's funny to me because it's not me getting rivered.
I get dragged into an alliance of sorts - our side of the table vs. their side. Not the first time I've seen this. When someone from the "other side" makes a bet - we wonder aloud what they have - if someone from "our side" or even two people decide to make the call - we root for them to hit their draws. Only on a poker table. In fact it gets so bad - that when seats on "our" side open up - players from the other side request seat changes to get into our "alliance"..

It's really pretty funny. The guy next to me even starts showing me his cards when he hits one of his submarine straights or sets up his pocket pair... It's like he needs someone to be in it with him. I don't really know whether sharing cards is frowned upon or not - and in truth I don't really like the practice. But if someone wants to show me... well - what can I do?

One crazy hand that I wasn't involved in (thank god) - preflop the betting was capped - and my neighbor shows me AcKs. The flop comes QdJdTd. Yikes. It's bet and raised and my new "friend" reraises. It's capped again on the flop and everyone is just going nuts. There are 5 people still in the pot. It's bet again by the early position and everyone starts to calm down and all call the first bet. The same thing on the river. (both cards are blanks) My neigbor turns over his AK for the straight. Another player turns over a flush - and another one flips over trips. But the SB player turns over AdKd. She had flopped a royal flush! Best hand I ever saw... This puts the whole table on tilt!

I'm having fun at least - and my stack starts growing as I only play pretty good hands - and only stay in with at least a pretty good draw to a nut hand. I'm up 300 by the 3rd hour, bleed some off and then hit a few more hands and get up about 500. Eight stacks of red... I occupy myself by reconfiguring my stack into different designs. The solid eight towers. Four stacks on top of four. Two giant towers that I quickly dismantle for fear of splashing my chips all over the table.. Hey - it's something to do while I wait for starting hands to come in...
It REALLY starts annoying the "other" side of the table too. They start making grumbling comments about "seeing the flop" and "putting some of that big stack in play". "Yeah - I'll put it in play." - I tell them. "If you want some of it - come chase me.."
Towards the end - my luck cools down - and I start thinking about locking in my profit. It gets late and I start misreading flops, forgetting my down cards - just playing stupid sleep deprived poker. By the time 5am rolls around (about 12 hours of play) I'm up about $490... Down from a high of about $700 - but a good night nonetheless. I get up to leave, much to the disappointment of a few of the other hard core players who've been there the whole time. They hate to see my chips get up and walk away... But I'd sure hate to see them walk away from me - so I call it a night.
Final AC Weekend tally - a positive 140 american dollars...

Post Borgata room rates? 0 profit. But a hell of a weekend and some good lessons learned...

I can't wait to get back in the action (live). And come April 21st I will - as I head down to Vegas for my brother's 30th birthday. Can you say WSOP sattelite?


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

AC Trip Report - Day 2 (The Road to Redemption)

Wake up or should say am woken up at 10AM by my roomate LT. All I want to do is rollover and go back to sleep. I'm disturbed by LT's meticulous shower routine - as he goes through an elaborate process of getting ready. Around 10:30 the phone rings again - it's the Terminator and she wants to get rolling. Alright, alright - I roll out of bed - run into the bathroom, splash some water in my face, change clothes, throw a hat on - and I'm good to go...
We roll into the Trop at 11am - and sign up. This time one of the floorpeople running the tournament recognizes us and smiles. She asks if we'd like to sit at the same table - and we look at each other and simultaneously say "No way!"... We sure don't want to take each other's chips. We want other people's...
So the tournament starts and I play it the way I've been doing all weekend. Tight. Luckily or unluckily, (depends how you look at it) I didn't catch very many playable hands. I win a grand total of one pot when my queens hold up against a KQ offsuit. Double up and limp the rest of the rebuy period.
At the second hour we're all in it - and I decide to rebuy and add-on. I only had about 1500 or so - so i figure the extra thou will come in handy.
I wait it out - and a loose player comes in with a big raise in early position. I look down and see another pair of pocket QQ. I'm all in and the raiser calls me and flips over - Kh9h??? I double through him and coast into the third hour. That's it - 2 hours and basically 2 pots... I'm not a big stack but I have about 5000 in chips. I'm beginning to see the value in playing this way as the loose players who have collected big stacks early in the tournament seem to be in a hurry to give them away. I watch the ebb and flow as their stacks seem to melt away. It just seems like they can't switch gears and the weak aces and suited connectors that looked good during the rebuy period seem to still look to good to get away from.
Down to the last 4 tables and I'm moved to a table full of better players. I'm one of the smaller stacks with about 5000 and the blinds are 500-1000 with 100 antes. I take down one pot on an all-in bluff and then the blinds and antes start eating away.. An early position raiser bets out 2000 - I look down and see KsQs. I push all in. The caller has AK offsuit - and we race it off. Luckily a Q comes along with 4 lower cards and I double through. Whew! The old guy who loses this pot starts going into a rant about how he can't seem to win with AK.. Sorry I tell him with a shrug - didn't have a choice there. And you know - REALLY - I DID feel sort of bad about it - but that's poker, get over it...

Now I start going on a rush - a new player sits down at the table and goes all in . I look down at AQ and call him. He shows KQ - and I take his chips. Now at about 12000. Then I catch KK with a raise in front of me - push all in and double through a big stack with AJ. I'm at 26000 and a force to be reckoned with. I start playing more aggressively and it's working! (much to my surprise) The table tightens up as we reach the final 3 tables - and about 27 people left (18 pay).
I use this to my advantage - but I wonder if I'm getting carried away when the following hand comes up. I'm in early position and see 9c9s. Blinds are 1000-2000 and antes are 200. I raise to 6000. A player behind me raises it to 12000 and everyone folds. This is it. The hand of decision. I look over at the player but he's not giving any reads. I think to myself - bigger pair? If so, then I definitely fold. But what about AK or AQ... It's a coin flip if that's what he's holding. And if he's holding one of these hands he may not want to flip coins. I decide it's either fold or all-in. Fold or all-in.
Some spirit of aggression takes over my body and I'm an observer as I hear myself say "All-in".
The other player can hardly wait to push all his chips into the pot. He has AA.
Damn... But then as the dealer starts to put out the flop I hear another player say "I see a 9!"
Sure enough the flop comes J-9-7. I'm golden. I start apologizing to the guy with aces when the turn comes K. He get up in disgust when the river comes... you guessed it... A.
I'm out and I can't believe what a stupid play I made. I should have been able to let those damn 9's go when the raiser told me he had a hand. Besides which he had an equal chip stack and we were almost down to the money finishers. Clearly this was a big mistake.
Well chalk it up to nerves and getting carried away. It doesn't make me feel any better but I think this is a lesson that will sink in...
Perhaps the only good thing to come of this is that I feel like I validated a pretty tight strategy even for these crazy rebuy tournaments. As they say - the tournament doesn't start until the rebuy ends. We'll have to see how I play it when I get dealt a bunch of good hands in the first hour...
Each tournament I got a little farther and I got a little more comfortable. I'll be back - and hopefully I won't lay my whole tournament on the line with a pair of 9's next time!
The weekend deficit stands at -350 clams.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

AC Trip Report Day 1 Night - (more Bad Beat Blues)

So the total for Saturday's tournament experience is -225 dollars in entry fees and add-ons. Thankfully no rebuys were sacrificed to the poker gods...
We head back to the Borgata - and I head directly for the poker room. It's time to get my money back! The room is jammed at around 10pm - the list for 2-4 and 3-6 holdem is huge. Thankfully there are only a few names waiting for 6-12 - so I sign up and wait for my name to be called. It's only a half an hour - and I'm seated at a 6-12 table... I buy in for about $320, 3 stacks of red and one of white. I like to have change for this game - and I like to be able to go deep without digging into my wallet if I hit a bad streak. There's no worse feeling than having to go to pocket at the poker table.
I sit down - fold a few hands and BAM! - I get dealt QQ in early position. I raise to 12 and mysteriously 5 people call... hmmm... Flop comes 3-4-6 rainbow. Ok - I bet - and almost the whole table calls. The turn comes a J. Still no problems I bet 12 - and now only 2 callers. The river is a 10.. I bet again - and get raised by the BB. Alright - I think, 2 pair? I call and the BB shows me 2-5 off suit.
He stayed in with a 2-5 to my raise and flopped a straight on me???
Ok - it's that kind of day for me.
The next hand I get dealt a JJ and raise again - and pick up four callers... What do these guys have? The flop come 7-10-3. I bet again and get called by 2 people. The turn is a 5. I bet and get called. The river is a 9. I bet one more time and boom - raised. Call again to see what I got caught with and it's a 7-3 offsuit. I quickly check to see if the guy was on the blind - but no - he was in middle position. These guys stay in on anything!
The 6-12 game is a lot looser than I remembered and I'm pretty much ready to go on full scale tilt. Thankfully I don't even get a tilt starting hand for a while - and get a chance to cool off. It's a long fight but eventually I get back to even at 5am - and I'm happy to make it out alive.
Time to go to bed and get a few hours of sleep before the Sunday 12pm tournament at the Trop.
The deficit remains -225 semolians.

AC Trip Report Redux - Day 1 (or Bad Beat Blues)

Well, I'm back from another weekend in Atlantic City. It seems like it was such a short time - and yet the days seem to go by in a a blur of cards, drinks, and bets. Had a great time again - so you probably know how the story ends.
But let's start at the beginning. Woke up early Saturday morning, raring to go. Headed off to meet the crew in the the city. Set out around 8am and by 10am we were pulling into the Trop parking lot. We head over to the poker room for our first stop - the 50+15 NL Holdem tournament. It starts at 12pm - but we're there early to register. Good thing too - apparently you have to go get a photo Trop Poker Club id before you can register for their tournament. While waiting on line to get our pictures taken for an id - we ran into two characters who seem to be stereotypes in the world of poker.
The first guy is the one who immediately smiles at you as you approach him on the line. He then proceeds to start nervously chatting about things - it seems nice enough - until you realize about 15 minutes later that he does not intend to stop... EVER. Now you've made a new best friend - and that's the bad news.
The other guy is the guy behind you in line who's getting impatient. He showed up early to register for the tournament and they're already announcing that it may be filling up. He starts complaining about how long this is taking, pacing back and forth, cursing under his breath for every extra second he's being delayed. Just a negative person who won't shut up. He's lucky none of us are in a feisty mood or drunk. Especially since he's been pushing up in the line into the back of one of my buddys, LC, who isn't exactly someone you want to piss off. He comes close though and we decide to get him at the table.
In any case, we finally get our ids and got signed up for the tournament. Exciting stuff. I'm sitting at the same table as one of my friends - "The Terminator" so named because when she's in a pot - you're dead.
So we start up with 1000 chips - the blinds at 25-50 - and 11 people at our table, 161 in the tourney.
We both play real tight at the beginning - you have so few starting chips - I think it's the right strategy to simply wait for premium hands to get involved. And to only continue when those hands have favorable flops. I'm ok with rebuying if I get cracked - but I'm not interested in gambling it up.
Which is definitely not the same philosophy as the field. All weekend we see players rebuying as many as five or six times - and almost every player rebuying at least once (and these were $50 rebuys!). They fire at a pot - get caught, lose - rebuy and repeat cycle. If only I could've caught a few hands to crack these guys a couple of times - I'd be in great position. Unfortunately I don't catch a single premium hand during the rebuy.
I do have one fun hand though. I get dealt Kh9h on the BB - and the pushy guy from the poker id line is in the pot with me! The flop comes Kc9d5d. Two pair for me. I think about slow playing but - then think better of it and fire 50 at the pot. Everyone folds except for the pushy guy from the line who raises me 200! Yikes!
Alarms go off in my head - what does this guy have. We've already tagged him as a loose player - getting involved in too many pots. Could he have pocket 5's?
Well two pairs too good to let go - I decide to take another card and call. The Turn comes Js. No help seemingly to either of us... (although QT makes a straight) I check and he comes firing 200 at me again. Now I'm sitting there faced with the same thoughts as before. But somehow - I don't think it's trips - and I don't think it's the straight either. I think it's top pair with a good kicker (but not as good as mine).
I push all in. And now he's the one with a decision to make...
After considering for a while he mucks his hand with a muttered curse - and I have half his chips sitting in my stack. Sweet. He pushed a little too far and got caught. "Rebuy!" I hear him yell and I smile in satisfaction.
But that's the extent of the first hour action for me - I get blinded off back to even and head into the second hour with 3000 or so chips after the add-on of 2000. They break our table and I sit down with a whole new bunch of characters. These guys are swinging at pots - and taking them down more often than not - a pretty active, aggressive table. Perfect. I wait a round or so - with the blinds now at 100-200 and antes of 25. With about 2600 left in chips I get dealt UTG - QQ. I raise it to 1000 - hoping to take the blinds. I don't want to gamble - and I'm praying that no one has KK or AA. A guy two seats down pushes all in with about the same amount of chips as me. Everyone else folds...
I take another peek at the QQ and say ok, you got me, I call. He turns up 88. Whoopee! I'm doubling up - and the chant is "No 8! No 8! No 8!" - I get my wish - no 8 flops. But a 467 flop hits a 5 on the river and the fish catches a straight. Damn! For a sec I understand Hellmuth - as I shake this idiot's hand for pushing all in on his 88s when my bet is telling him he's a coin flip at best... But it was probably the best hand he's seen all tournament... I'm still not happy - but as I keep saying to myself: "That's poker".
The rest of my friends don't make it much farther but we all have fun and the tournament's run pretty well at the Trop. We leave a little dazed but determined to do better the next time.
Fast forward a few hours and we're at the Sands for the 7pm 50+15 NL Holdem with rebuys and add-on. The Sands is a smaller tourney with a much more motley assortment of players. In addition to the gamblers and other loose aggressive types - are newbies and home game players. They know a little poker but have no idea how to play no-limit. This makes them relatively dangerous in my book - because they are completely unpredictable.
At the Sands we start with only 500 in chips, a mere pittance - and the blinds start at 25-25...
Once again tight is my mantra - and I stay away from the action until I am dealt AcQc. I raise it up to 100 - and everyone folds except for one of these novices - a kid who has rebought twice already. The flop comes 3 low cards. I quickly spread out a bet of 200, half my stack in the pot... I want him to fold - really bad! He looks over the boards and stares me down for a minute or so. I avoid his gaze for a while and then after a while it becomes annoying - I stare back at him. As soon as we make eye contact, he reaches for his cards and mucks them. Whew...
I make the add on about even - and start with 1500 or so in the second hour. I win a coin flip with one player with another AQ that comes in and beats his 77s. So I double up to about 3000. I'm all the way up to about 4000 and we're about to the 3rd hour break when I get dealt AsQs (again!) and push all in on the button trying to take the blinds. An old guy on the BB looks down at this cards, squints, and shrugs his shoulders as he says "Call.". "Uh oh" I'm think to myself. He flips over Ad7d - and I'm elated.
"No diamonds!" I yell as the flop comes out. Of course 2 diamonds flop. So now I'm repeating my mantra as the turn comes... blank. And the river - no diamond! "Yes!" I say as I pump my fist. But as I get ready to sweep in the pot - someone calls out "Straight!". "What the.." I mutter in surprise. And then I look down and sure enough the flop reads 6-9-5-10-8.
I'm out. And I'm upset. As the old guy sits back down and sweeps in my chips I get up numbly and wish everyone good luck in a monotone voice.
This is much worse than getting busted out of an online tournament. I'm flush with adrenaline - but I'm out of the running. I root on one of my friends, LT, who made it to one of the final 3 tables - but he's a short stack and gets called down on an all-in gambit and busted out.
I look around and none of us are left playing. Well I guess it's time to go. Like they say - misery loves company. We exchange new bad beat stories as we leave, grumbling about our luck or the lack thereof. And we're off to the Borgata - for a quick nap and then a foray back into limit poker action where we can make the suckers bleed... Until then.


Friday, March 12, 2004

Pre-AC Jitters

Well it's T-10 hours before I hit the road for a weekend in Atlantic City. One good thing about becoming a poker player - you don't have to worry about busting out too early. When I used to play blackjack - there was always the worry that a bad run would bust my bankroll too early in the weekend. Which is why many of my trips were one night forays.
With poker I can depend on playing a solid 12 hours on the first night without worry of endangering my loss limit (unless something really bad happens). In fact I find myself feeling pretty confident about coming home with a profit, even though I broke even last month (see AC Trip Report earlier this month).
Anyways - the plan is to hit the NL tournaments at the Trop and Sands on Saturday - and one more at either place on Sunday. In between - there'll be plenty of limit action - 5-10 or 6-12. And if things start going badly I can always move down to 4-8... (crossing fingers)
Going to be staying at the Borgata - a bit pricey, but that's probably where I'll play the most - and the rooms and casino are beautiful... Too bad they've been pretty tight with the comps.

In preparation for the weekend played some tournaments on UB. Started with a little $10 SnG action where I've been doing pretty well. Played tight - and stayed away from hands until there were only five left and I still had around 1000 in chips. Caught AQ on the BB. Early position raised 2xBB - I sensed weakness (don't ask how) and pot raised on top. He thought about it - had about an equal stack and pushed all-in. I called - and he showed AJo. Great! Too bad the board came all low cards with a J on the river! Damn!
Ok - I thought, that happens sometimes - so I quickly joined a $3 TEC rebuy. Made it past the rebuy period with about 3000 after the rebuy, about average. Waited to catch a hand - and got one about a half an hour into the 2nd hour with AKs. Caught a K-Q-2 rainbow flop - and pot raised to bring it down. A big stack moved all-in on me - I was worried about 2 pair - but had a feeling I was good, pushed all-in - he showed QTo! Of course the turn comes another Q and the river comes A to add insult to injury. I'm out of the tournament even though I should've doubled up!
Alright, I thought - that's 2 bad beats - let me try one more time. This time it's small $5 NL tournament. I was sure I wasn't tilted, but then I caught KcJc on the SB. Got to see the flop w/a limp - and it came Jh -10c- 7c. So I had top pair with a flush draw. Pushed all in - and got called by QQ...
Of course - none of my outs came in - and I was out early... God - I hate slow played pocket pairs!
Finally I hit the .50/1 tables to get some limit warm up - but I was so off tilt that I ended up playing a little to aggressive. I was able to stay away from bad starting hands - but bet any hand I played pretty strong. I built some drawers some big pots which they happily took from me. Was able to recover when a few hands of mine came in - and ended up even.
Ended the day with a loss of both tournament buy-ins about -$12... And I'm sure not feeling as enthusiastic about the weekend.
Well, we'll see if my luck turns around this weekend. I'll post the first of my trip report as soon as I get back on Monday.
Thanks to Felicia Lee and Up for Poker for posting links to my blog today. Hopefully there is someone out there (who isn't related to me) reading my poker ramblings finally. Welcome if you are!


Played in my friends home game tourney - was supposed to have 12
but only 8 showed up - and me and my friends were 4 of the 8. $50
tournaments - start with 10,000 and blinds start at 100-200 - go up
incrementally every round the table...

On the first tourney, was cruising when I picked up Jh 7c on the BB.
Unraised to I take in the flop. It comes 7s 7h Qh. hmmm... I figure
I'm taking this pot down - but maybe I can string someone along. I check and
then I raise 1000 - figuring that's enough to get a flush draw out -
only a 7 can call me. I get one caller. The turn comes the 3rd heart (9h)...
So I have three 7s - a flush draw, and 3 Js that fill me up - plus 3 Qs and 3 9s
to full out too and a 7 that gives me 4ofakind. I count 14 outs even
assuming that my oppenent has the flush. (unless it's the nut flush in
which case I have 10). Plus the caller was a loose player - pretty much
the whole table was making loose calls. So I couldn't rule out the
possibility of 2 pair (Qand7).
So I checked and he bet 3000. I stopped and went through all this above
and decided that I didn't think he had called me with 2 hearts. I put him
on a Q and one heart possibly lower than my J... I went all in. he called.
He had the 2-3 of hearts! The river came blank - and i was first out of
the tourney. Damn!

Took a nap - and woke up for the 2nd tourney. I ended up winning the
2nd and 3rd tourney - and felt bad by the fourth one - and tried an all-in
bluff at the river and got called by a hand..
Basically I won with aggressiver raising - when in position I would bump
pre-flop - get 1 or 2 callers and blow them out of the pot (with an astute bet) on the
flop more often than not. Caught some good hands too - and showed them down
just to keep the respectful of my raises.

Only other hand of interest - had AKs - did my usual bump of twice the
BB and got a caller. Flop came Q-J-J. Bet it out strong - got called.
Turn was an 8. Checked and the caller only bet a 1000 - so I called (perhaps
this was a loose call). River came the 10. I checked again - the other player bet
2000 - I moved all in.
This other player starts staring at the board - talking himself along my
betting patterns trying to get a read. He shows me a Q as he's thinking
hoping to get a reaction from me. I pull my cap down and flip the hood of my
sweatshirt over my face and sit there (unabomber style). He correctly reads out
loud that I don't have the J. And even more correctly decides that only AK is going
to beat him. I sit there in silence sucking on a beer. He takes FIVE MINUTES
to decide what to do!

Finally he calls my all-in - I flip up the AK and rake the pot... What
an idiot! Anyways - made a couple of hundred dollars - not bad - so far
am doing pretty good in these live games.

This weekend I'm heading down to AC for the weekend to try my hand in a few
more no-limit tournaments and 5-10/6-12 limit hold em.


Monday, March 08, 2004

Tournament Advice

This weekend I got this e-mail from my brother about a situation he ran into on a UB tournament

First off, I know by now your sick of hearing my poker stories...bad
beats, gloating, etc. But I aint got any one else except Dad to talk
about this with...so suck it up.

Anyhow, played a 10+1 tourney last nite. 260something players. End up
making it to the final table ($700+ for ist place). blinds are
1000-2000, ante like 125 or 150 a person. I have 19000 in chips (probly
in 6th or 7th, leader has about 60g).

2nd hand at the final table I get pocket 10s. From middle position I
raise to 15000, hoping to steal blinds. I figured this is a big enuff
raise to knock out hands like A10, AJ, KQ, KJ, and what not (which I
don't really want drawing against me). Well, this seemingly worked out
well, until it got to the big blind, who re-raises me so that I have to
go all-in. I'm praying he's got a smaller pair or overcards, but it
really doesn't matter at this point. I've only got 4,000 left and
folding is not an option with the amount of the blinds and ante.
Anyways, I call, show my 10's, and Mfers' got AA. Needless to say I'm
the first one out after playing 2 hands on the final table. Won like
$30something...which blows; cuz I had my eye set on at least a top
three finish. Bankroll at $430.

Dad was like "You went all-in on 10s'?". And I had folded pocket 10s
pre-flop earlier in the game, but that was from the big blind; with a
raise and a re-raise in front of me that I respected. Not sure I
could've gotten away from this one tho. The flop, river, and turn were
undercards, so I think I was destined to lose big; unless I folded
pre-flop. Maybe I should've raised less initally and then folded after
being re-reaised? But, I think if I did a min raise and got re-raised
I'd be suspicious that someone was sensing weakness by my small raise
and trying to steal. I think I made the right play and was just
unfortunate. I dunno, what are your thoughts?

And here was my response:

Well - first off, one thing I've learned is that my optimal style is
two things.
1 - A style in which you are comfortable playing. If you are naturally
aggressive - it's very hard to lie in wait for big hands - or stay out
of too many pots in a row. If you're passive - it's difficult to pull off a
hyper-aggressive strategy. You have to be committed to whatever way or
method you have decided to play.

2 - The other players should dictate to you what the best way to play it is.
Aggressive table? Slow down and play it passive. Small raises with big hands
are bound to be jumped - jump back at them and sometimes they'll just
run right into you. A passive table can be bullied with pre-flop raises and you can give
credit to re-raisers when you aren't holding a top hand and let it go...

I'm naturally more passive - but the SnG's are teaching me some value in
aggression. Also - I'm learning the appropriate times to switch gears - and
how to do it.

With regards to your situation - in general I like to keep my pre-flop
raises consistently to 2XBB. So whether it's AA or a semibluff on JTo -
I raise the same amount. When the antes (which are new) late in a
tourney - I saw that this was not enough - and I might adjust to a pot
raise.. which is about 3or4XBB. That's big enough to protect your hand in
my opinion.

The problem with an early position raise that's too big is that you're
pot-committed and basically the only rational person that will come over the
top of you is the NUTS. (AA, KK, AK) Raise too little of course and you cut
down your win% on a hand.

But in my opinion you 15000 is way too big with the blinds at 2000, and you
only have 4000 more. First off - you may as well have gone all-in (what's
the difference?) A raise of 5-6000 would have been good enough - you still would have
been faced with a guess when the BB moved all in on you - but you wouldn't be
pot-committed - and at the final table - you need to stay alive first - and
chip up second. A smaller raise gives you the option. If someone has the balls to come
over the top of you with less than a bigger pair - more power to them.
You'll catch them eventually...


Friday, March 05, 2004

No Limit Hold'em Advice

The other day I was getting ready for a live tournament at a friends house. A few of my friends who just started playing asked for some advice. Now I'm certainly no expert on no-limit hold-em, but there were a few basic things that I think any player figures out. We were getting ready for a 2 table - (six per table) home tournament. Here's what I told them:

1 - Starting Hands
in a short handed game (6 or less) - even mid/small pocket pairs become really powerful hands. Play them one of two ways - raise them preflop and bet them aggressively (keep betting until the other player folds or plays back (raises) you).
Watch out for calling stations when betting aggressive. If they call too fast - they may have caught a bigger pair and just aren't smart enough to be scared by your betting...
You don't want alot of callers when you play a small/mid pocket pair. When too many people call - you either set it or forget it...
The othe play is to slowplay them and look for trips - and surprise them on the river.

Any Ace becomes playable shorthanded - still be careful when playing A with a 10 or less off suit. I would play weak aces (ace with smaller kicker) with a raise preflop to make sure that anyone else in had a hand. This way I can let go of the ace when big cards (KQJ) come on the board and I don't have an Ace... (cuz I'm pretty sure they paired up) And if I catch an Ace - I can read whether someone else has me outkicked by how they bet/call/raise me after the flop. In general you flop an Ace with one in your hand - and you bet it - I think it's a pretty good bet that any caller also holds an ace...

Suited Connectors and other ilk are not good shorthanded starting hands. When shorthanded - you're looking for two big cards - there's not enough people taking in a flop to give you good pot odds draw for ONLY a straight or small flush.

2 - NEVER DRAW. This is for your Le! Don't draw in No-Limit as a rule of thumb. Four cards to a flush - and a big raise at you - Fold. Open ended straight - fold. Two over cards to a small card flop - fold.
No-limit to some extent is a game of initiative. You want to be the one making the bets - not calling them. So if someone puts in a big bet to you - and you don't have a hand yet - Let it go!

Yes - there are exceptions to this. If you're small stacked and making a stand - go for it. If the betttor is all in - and you have a big stack - take a shot. Otherwise - GET OUT.

3 - Bet Your Draws - Let's say you flop a four-flush or an open ended straight draw.. BET IT. You'll be surprised how many pots you pick up this way. And if someone calls - you can kill them - they may not read the flush even when it comes BECAUSE you bet BEFORE the flush came.

If they raise you - feel free to let it go - you're probably beat - and Rule 2 is: NEVER DRAW. The other advantage to betting your draw - is you may induce a check on the turn - giving you a FREE card to make
your flush/straight...


Thursday, March 04, 2004


It's a blog I decided to start - imitating the many others who've been generous enough to share their poker experiences with the rest of us... What's different about this one? Well - hopefully nothing - if the other blogs you've been reading are enjoyable and interesting...
About me - I started playing poker as soon as I was old enough to have my own money with my family. About a year ago - I saw along with everyone else an episode of the WPT on the Travel Channel. And what can I say I was hooked...
A few months later I had accounts on all the major poker sites - and at a poker room in Kansas City I got my first real live experience.
Since then I've been playing occasionally - and I've managed to spread the gospel of poker-obsession to all those around me, including friends and family.
Hopefully I can convince them to post here if anyone ever actually reads this...

As for the name of this blog? Well - it's a long story - and an amusing one. We'll get to it in a later post.

In the meantime - enjoy the trip reports - it's been my experience that these are like crack to a poker player.


Ok - last e-mail, I promise. We're back at the Sands - it's 5am - and the poker room is sparse. (where else would we go at 5am?) LT apparently did not have as much luck as me at the Borgata - and we have a few more hours left on this poker rampage - so what the hell. We sit 3-6 for a while - and we break up the game. I make another $150 - and LT knocks a guy out with a hand until only 3 players are left and they have to break up the table.
The dealer recommends I sit 5-10. "It's a nice game, very professional players." she tells me. "Yeah?" I respond "That's nice. But I want a game w/really bad poker players. Not pros." I tell her. She just laughs and tells me I should go check it out. I look at LT - but he's off at the 2-4 table already. Guess he's thinking "soft seat" and 2-4 IS a ridiculous game - that only barely resembles poker. Everyone calls pre flop - and then gets their money in the pot and the person w/the best hand at the end wins all the money. Yay for them!

So I take my 3-6 winnings and Borgata winnings and sit 5-10. Hey I'm up about $450 - maybe I can double it up. I sit down in the seat closest to the flop so I can see the damn cards - order a drink and settle in. Wait for the BB to get to me - and I notice - hey - it is a pretty friendly game. And 5-10 is much more comfortable after 6-12 - so I should be ok there. Let's play some poker!

My first hand on the BB I get 2-5 offsuit. Yech! I get ready to fold - but no one raises - so I check my option. flop comes Q-3-4. Open ended straight draw - and no way anyone's putting me on this - so I call a $5 bet. Turn comes 10. What the hey - I call $10. And the river comes Ace! I have a straight! Bells start ringing in my head and I'm salivating as I check and am raised by the button. Reraise I say and throw a $100 black chip in the pot. Reraise to 30 says the raiser. I point at my black chip and say $40 *(by the way - it's too easy to point at a big chip and call or raise then it is to manually get the bet and throw it in - I recommend always having change) He raises to $50. I raise to $60! Finally he stops and looks at me - "I guess it's a split pot" he tells me... "Split pot?" I think to myself. He played 2-5 too? No frickin' way! He calls and throws up K-J off suit and says "Straight!". I look at it in surprise as I throw up my 2-5 and say "straight"... but then it hits me -A Higher Straight... you dumb mother... Frantically I look back at the board... and it's too late - there goes my $100 chip - and another older asian guy at the table is admonishing me - "you reraise with wheel?" he says in his vietnamese accent... "what you thinking?" he continues.
I decide I really don't like this other guy and resolve to make a couple of bluffs at him.

It takes a long time to recover from this. Luckily I don't receive too many starting hands - and so I fold until the red feeling leaves my face. I recover and win a pot, then another and soon I'm on a rush. I make it back to even and then I'm even up another few hundred. It's 9am - and I should call it a night. But no - there's plenty of chips at this table - and I'm not gonna quit till I'm up a cool grand. Besides one of the players has been raising every flop and showing us a five at the end - and winning! He says fives have been lucky for him - so when he sees one in his hand he raises. How stupid is that! I get heads up with him and there is 5-5 on the board. I have two higher pair - and I look at him and say - "THIS TIME you ain't got it!" I raise him - and he raises me back. We keep going at it until I flinch - maybe he does have it. OK - I pay you off I say as I call.
He didn't have a five after all. He had TWO FIVES for FOUR FIVES!
For the rest of the night I had to hear quips every time the board paired or a five came up...

After this hand naturally I go on the Mother of all Tilts. 10-8? Let's play? High card? - I call a raise. Ace? I raise and reraise. Is that a five I see? - works for him - I call. But the clincher is - of course no one folds - and everyone out-draws me. I don't catch a hand or win a pot from 10am to 12pm. And every single dollar I had at the table goes into other people's stacks...

It was a nice enough table - and the poker host came over and offered me buffet comps and told me to ask him if I wanted or needed anything. But when I stumbled back to the room at noon for my one hour nap - I had played off all of my profit except for about $100... Just enough to pay for the room and the bus fare.
Or in other words - I was a big winner this weekend.

Things heard too many times over 30 hours at a poker table:

Dealer- Pointing at the ignoramus left of the button "You're small, sir"
Player (drunkenly) - "Whadidja talk to my wife?"

Dealer - Pointing at the ignoramus 2 left of the button "You're big, sir"
Player (drunkenly) "Wha?... how'd you know that? We just met..."

Player - Pointing at the flop "Look - 4-5... get it four five?"
Me - "Yeah - HA!, four FIVE, I get it!" "a$$hole" mumbling under my breath...

LT - tossing in chips "Raise!"
Me - looking down at my full house grumbling "Call!"

Me - tossing in chips "Raise!"
LT - looking down at his 4 Aces grumbling "Call!"


On the way to the Taj on the boardwalk we run into a tearful girl who come up to us and mumbles something about coming up here for her 21st birthday and... And then she stops and turns away as LT says "I'm sorry, honey". I'm surprised when she walks away - I was waiting to hear the rest of the hustle - but Lloyd was having none of it. He gave her the signal and she went off in search of a good samaritan or a naive mark (you can never be sure which).
We get to the Taj - which is just an enormous poker room. A sea of tables and a mobbed front desk where the poker room host is using a grease pen to write down initials for the poker lists and people are waiting in clusters for their names to be called. We sign up for 5-10 and I think about playing some Omaha 8/b (the list is short) but I chicken out.
While waiting I start getting impatient and making noises about going to the Borgata. After about a 15 minutes of standing around - I've had enough. I'm paying for the cab - let's go dammit.

We walk into the Borgata - and remember why we like this place so much. The walk over to the poker room escalator is delayed by LT stopping and snapping his head around as another hottie walks by. I've forgotten my glasses - and been squinting at flops all weekend - so I can only react when I see Lloyd stop and catch the view from behind. "The Borgata!" I say to him with a smile. "Aww yeah!" he replies as we bump fists. But I digress...

The scene at the Borgata is much the same as the Taj - mobbed. But the room is beautiful - from the brand new swivel chair seats bereft of cigarette burns, to the leather rail on the tables, to the built in cupholder in the rail for every seat, to the electronic waiting list that shows every name for every game on the list.
We sign up for 3-6 and 6-12 hold'em. There are tons of 3-6 games spread so we figure to sit there until a 6-12 seat opens up. And 20 minutes later the last wave of drunk college age kids clear out of the low limit games and I'm sitting at a 3-6 game.
For an hour I sit there looking at hands like 2-6offsuit or K-4off. Wisely I don't get frustrated - I just fold and order another beer. Even when I get a hand like J-10 - the flop misses entirely and I have to fold. I'm getting impatient and hands like J-7 and Q-8 are starting to look really good. To make matters worse - I'm in a corner seat farthest from the flop and I can't tell the difference between a J a K or a Q. I can read the low cards by counting spots - but spades and clubs are giving me trouble. I look around at all the kids at the table - and suddenly it hits me. I'm old and blind.

As I start reaching the depths of depression I hear Lloyd get called for the 6-12 game. That means I'm up next! I perk up and look around and sure enough they're calling my name. I'm about $60 worse for the wear when I get up and wish the kiddies at the 3-6 good luck - I'm headed for a better game with the adults...
The 6-12 game is a revelation. Last time I sat at it - I got my clock cleaned. $400 down the drain - it sent me upstairs with my last $200 desperately looking to play some $100 blackjack. I sit down with my $140 in chips and a c-note to look around and see a bunch of 20-something poker players with big stacks of red. Most of them must have about $500 sitting in front of them. And the game is aggressive as all hell. Not crazy - but aggressive. Most flops were raised - and the raiser would keep firing at the pot until someone played back. Check-raise bluffs were plentiful (a bold play) - I'm sure that some of these kids knocked me off the best hand on the turn a few times with one of these.
I stayed tight and ducked when someone fired at me and I didn't hold a good nut draw or close to the top hand. Still it took an hour and almost all my chips before I won my first pot. I made one of my few raises at the turn - and everyone fell over themselves trying to get out of my way.
I started getting comfortable with the bets - and the players - and figured that this ought to play into my slow-playing style just fine. So I sat back - waited for good cards - let someone else raise the pots - and slow played my hands until the river. Sure enough the aggressive/bluff players made all my pots for me - and by calling - I kept more people in the pots for longer. And when I check-raised the river - sometimes the bluffers even tried to make one more play at me... I chuckled and tossed another raise at them - which they had to call (to be a man) - and pay me off on.
I was back to even and then up - when I hit a big pot with a lucky river. I was holding Ace of clubs-Q of spades. It was raised in front of me, I called, and then raised behind me. The flop came 6c-9c-4s. Bet and raised at the flop - I called. Turn came 4c. It's bet and raised and reraised - I call.
I figure - an A or Q or club and this pot is mine. The river is the Jc. I have the nut flush in a raised pot with only two low cards that can beat me. It's bet - and I raise - and am reraised. The first bettor folds and I reraise again. The kid on my left, some Princeton yuppy progeny, nice enough but overanalyzing everyone's play says "you didn't! there's no way.." as he looks at me incredulously. He calls me and shows K-10 clubs. He made a flush at the turn - but I rivered him with the fourth club and my Ace. He can't believe it. "How could you call the turn!" he tells me. "A gut feeling." I say amusedly as I rake the pot into two huge towers of red. The kid goes on tilt muttering about this hand for the next half an hour. Finally he leaves after tossing another $100 or so away in disgust.
I was about 16% to make that last club - 7 outs(if i minus the other guys 2 clubs in the hole) out of 46 cards or about 6-1. I'm not sure - but I think the pot odds were pretty close. But when I point this out to the kid - whose been analyzing these odds post mortem on every hand - he only goes on another diatribe. F'em I decide - I'm good at tuning out arguers who lose their point. I am friends with lots of lawyers after all...
His buddy at the table insists on telling me later he folded the 6-4 that would have broke us both before the flop because of the raise. "wow, that's tough, dude." I tell him. "You would have killed us on the river. Too bad you didn't". But he won't shut up - can't I get away from this hand?

Now I have a big stack though - and I start playing back at people. I recognize the rest of the aggressive players and when they play at me - sometimes I play back at them with bottom pair. I am surprised when I call them down on the river and they have nothing. These kids apparently think this game is all about bluffing... I will say this - bluffing is fun. It's nerve-racking as hell - and one other thing I noticed is that it's also macho as all hell - so when some dude raises and suspiciously looks you down long and hard - I'd think twice about whether they had the hand or not.

I'm up at one point about $600 plus - but I bleed it down shorthanded (six players - damn shorthanded play!) to $300 up and it's 4am - and I get up to leave. The few original players are unhappy I'm leaving with their money - to which I wish them luck as I fill my chip rack and leave them with only the smile on my face.


So it's the second day - thought I would have trouble getting up early after the marathon session on Friday - but it's no problem. I wake at 5pm and LT is already showered and raring to go. Jump in the shower, change clothes and off to the poker room we go. We're headed there to sign up for the $50 no-limit Sat night tournament at 7pm. You have to get there early we heard so early we are getting there...
About 60 people sign up for the $50+10 (entry fee) with rebuys the first hour. You get $500 in chips and the blinds start at 25-25. "That's it?" I think as the dealer gives me 2 black $100 chips and $300 in green $25 chips. My table has 4 solid players on my left - and two girls who don't know what they're doing. I catch K-J suited after folding for a round or two and play it with a raise - 50. One of the girls calls my raise. The flop gives me top pair - J w/2 low cards. I bet 50 more, she calls. The turn is an undercard - I bet 100 - she thinks then calls. River comes another under card. Now I start thinking and correctly so I believe... 2 low pair? better kicker? straight? I check... she checks and shows me a five. She has a pair of fives??? Why didn't I go all in?
Next hand of signifigance - in late position with AJ suited. Early position raises it to 200! I have about 6-700 in chips, do I call? I decide at the last minute not to. Why risk it - at best I'm a coin flip - at worst he has AA and I'm dead. He shows me tens and thanks me not for calling him. I was right - a coin flip - with me at about 46%. Later on - I am really pissed that I didn't make this call.

Something funny that happened that you never would see online is one player getting pissed at another and making a play purely out of spite. We were down to the river when the board made 2-pair - AA and JJ. The first player raised and the second one (one of the girls) called. She showed a pair of tens for A-A-J-J-T? What the hell? The other guy started looking at his cards and looking at the flop - and the guy next to him gets impatient. "she has 10 high! can you beat it?" he says to the guy holding his cards. "never mind what I have." says the guy looking at his cards annoyed. He then takes an extra minute looking at his hand before he mucks it. "10 is good" he says to the girl - who cluelessly has called out his bluff.
Well the next hand - the player who bluffed made a big pre-flop raise. So the guy who he made wait yells "All-in!" with a big stack and then proceeds to stare the other guy down. He smiles and says "ok." and shows AQoffsuit. The all-in guy on tilt shows down 10-9o. "I did that cuz this guy's an a$$hole!" he says to no one in particular. They start yapping at eachother as the dealer starts rolling the flop... nothing - and then a nine on the turn. The all-in guy stands up with his hands in the air... and the river - an Ace. And now the first guy is sitting down and the second guy is raking in his chips. I try to keep a straight face - but I can't help it I'm laughing my a$$ off. Both players stare at me - trying to figure out who I'm laughing at so they can get mad at me. But it doesn't work the rest of the table and even the dealer starts cracking up too.. Now I can't get one of these guys to make a play at me... Bastages.

Blinds move to 25-50 and I've lost all my profit and back to about 500. I get dealt KJ offsuit on the button. I think twice about it - but I call. Flop comes J-9-2. It's checked around but the dealer skips me - he doesn't see my cards in Seat 1 (to the left of the dealer) he opens the turn card an 8. Woah! I yell. I didn't check! What can I do - to no surprise everyone checks and I bet the turn - 150 I say expecting everyone to fold now. But one player calls. River card another undercard. I look at him - "do you have me out-kicked?" I ask him? (why the f did I say that??) He stares at me stonily. "All-in" I smile at him. He can't wait to call me. Pocket 8's for trips! Damn that dealer! "Rebuy!" I yell at the floor guy disgusted at my bad luck and stupidity for not respecting his turn call.
Now I'm no tilt with a brand new 500 in chips - 50-75 blinds - and I notice 16 minutes left on the clock in the rebuy period. I need to double up before the rebuy. I get pocket 77s and decide to take a shot with 400 left. "All in" I say again. They should change the name of the game to "all in-poker" instead of no-limit...
The big blind calls me with a big stack and a 10-9 offsuit. At least I have the good side of the coin flip - I'm about 52%. Of course an 9 comes on the turn and no 7 for me... I'm out of the tournament and tilted so bad that investing another $100 for a rebuy and add-on would be just wasting money. I get up - shake hands with the winner and wish everybody luck. Then stumble out to the poker room floor, hands shaking as I light a cigarette. There is nothing worse than having to watch the smile of a person as they rake in all your chips - and then having to fake a smile as you shake the very same hand that did the raking. It's so much more personal than online poker -and way more emotional.
Thank god there is no seat open - cuz I'd just be throwing money away. I sit down and wait for Lloyd to make the break. He gets to the final hour with about 1300 or so. I'm happy for him - but at the same time insanely jealous. He's going to win this damn thing and I got knocked out on two stupid hands...

An hour later LT walks back - "on break?" I ask. But no - he's out - much to my surprise - and we head out the door in search of a better game. "Let's go play some real poker dammit" - I say to him. And it's off to the Taj we go...


I'm writing this down for my own record as well as to tell a story or two from the 30+ hours of poker I played this weekend in AC. That's right, 30+ hours - LT and I were in AC from Friday nite 11pm until Sunday 2pm - about 39 hours - I slept for 5 hours on Saturday afternoon - and one hour on Sunday before we left. Had one meal on Sat evening - and perhaps spent an hour traveling on Sat nite from the Sands to the Taj to the Borgata.

The rest was poker time, where $1 drinks are delivered to you by scantily clad waitresses (very distracting at the Borgata), the same faces come and go, and your chip stack ebbs and flows like the tide.

You can tell the mood of a poker player by how many chips he has in front of him. Don't joke w/a short stack - but you can repeat the same stupid quip to a big stack and he'll fall out of his seat laughing... Unfortunately not even I am immune to this stack-mood affliction. When I am down to my last few chips - I am silent and brooding - and when I have five towers of red sitting in front of me - I'm cracking jokes left and right, calling the dealers by name and playing fast and loose.

Anyways - the weekend starts at the Sands - home of the Poker Million - and a few tables in a dingy little poker room on the fourth floor. They spread 2-4, 3-6, and 5-10 hold'em. And a few tables of 1-5 stud - which I refuse to play haughtily when Lloyd suggests we check it out. I tell myself - I'm not here to play no stud - I'm here to play POKER... (whatever the hell that means)

So we sit down at the 3-6 hold'em game - everyone knows we're friends but no one seems to mind. Right off the bat - LT catches pocket beotches - and the flop comes A-Q-A. He rapes the fellows at the table holding trip Aces - almost doubling his stack. Me I slowly bleed the first hour or two not catching a single pot until the second hour of play - then I swim with my last $100 of chips for while missing, hitting, but mostly folding. LT sits there with a few hundred in red piled in front of him - playing his usual game - firing away at the table - keeping the initiative w/aggression.

As we planned - we play until Sat afternoon - when we can check into our room. From now on whether Vegas or AC - I'm not booking a room until my second day of the trip. Why bother when you know you have a good 12 hours of play in you. The room is for sleeping - and there's little enough of that on a gambling junket. And Sleeping is for losers.

Anyways - near the end of our 12 hours at the Sands we get down to 4 and 5 handed tables. Playing short handed with calling stations. There is no art to this poker - we should dominate - but the other players keep calling and catching. We bleed away both of our profits - and walk away with perhaps $100 in profit... for 12 hours? in a loose/passive game? What the hell happened?

One highlight of the first night - I have pocket sixes - and the board comes J-6-9-5-5. At the river I reveal my hand - (made a boat) with a check-raise. Everyone folds but one player who reraises me. I quickly raise him back and the dealer announces that heads up raises are unlimited.
The player looks at me, then looks at his cards and says "there's only one hand that can beat me - and I don't think you got it..." and then confidently re-raises me. I have about $150 in chips in front of me - but I start thinking - the nuts is pocket 5's - and pocket J or 9 beats me. What else could he reraise me with? I hesitantly reraise one more time to see if he's really confident. He reraises again. Finally I give in - and simply call. I don't want to get crazy here and all of a sudden my boat doesn't seem so good.
Nines and Fives he announces throwing his cards up. A waitress brushes my shoulder with my coffee request as I throw my cards up in disgust - "sixes"... As I reach for my coffee feeling disgusted another player shouts out - "he has sixes over!".. As if I didn't know - but as I look back at the table the other player has a 9 and a 5 - he made fives full of nines... I win!
The rest of the table makes fun of me for not knowing I had the winner. But I thought he had pocket nines - and at that moment I really needed that coffee... I felt like a coward for not continuing to reraise the guy - but I didn't have the nuts. What would you have done?


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