Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Watching The Big One (And the online players shall inherit the chips.)

A field of over 2400 players, ESPN cameras everywhere, and so many spectators that they had to close off Binions for a while. The 2004 WSOP sounds like a zoo.
They say they didn't anticipate the level of interest - but that doesn't make too much sense to me. I mean - this is the peak of the poker boom is it not? Next year I think they're going to have to change things somehow to accomodate the number of players and spectators...
I'm just glad I was able to see Binions at the start of the WSOP before things got crazy. I thought it was pretty crowded then - can't even imagine what it was like this past weekend.

Anyways - what's a poker fan to do if they want info on what's going on? Well there are a number of sources - most of them not updated nearly well enough, I think for the level of interest. ESPN coverage is a month or two away - so an addict looking for news has only a few sites to check out:

The Poker Professor at Las Vegas Vegas has been posting some pretty good updates and a chip count database.
CardPlayer and Pokerpages (see links on the left) are also posting updates. But they're about a day behind.
Although questionably accurate - perhaps the most timely source of info is rec.gambling.poker. You'll have to sift through quite a few posts but you can find out if Doyle is still hanging in there, and some decent posts on some of the crazy hands that have taken place.

Some of the best coverage I've found on the WSOP is on Gutshot, a UK poker site that has hand recounts, updates, and most interestingly video interviews from the players.

I watched the now infamous (on rgp) Annie Duke interview where she laments being knocked out after moving in on a 6-5-5-4 board (with KQ I think) for 28000 and was called by an Ace high.
Apparently she was flamed on rgp for calling the player who called her bluff a 'bad player' in an interview.
I can understand to a degree, her frustration - apparently she also caught a bad beat earlier when someone called a pot size bet on the turn with a J-high straight draw to her KK. And hit the draw, of course...
But I guess the thing that makes me sympathize with her rant is that - giving an interview right after being knocked out of the WSOP is not a good time to give an objective recount of your tourney.
I recall being knocked out of the Trop tourney months ago when a player called my QQ with 88 and caught a set on the flop... I was on tilt for hours...
Anyway Annie posted a long explanation on rgp. She's still getting flamed about this which I think is unfair. Apparently there's a lot of Annie-haters out there...

Phil Hellmuth has an interview too. Where he gives another arrogant if entertaining sound bite. I love his quote - Weird stuff going on - someone ACCIDENTALLY raises with 9-T when I have JJ and another player has AK. I'm SUPPOSED to win that hand but the 9-T catches 2 pair on the flop...
He continues to pat himself on the back for laying down QQ twice in a row - calling it historic that he was able to make these laydowns. (the other player had AK and 77)
To his credit he takes his loss better than Annie did - perhaps Phil is just a bit more astute in dealing w/the media now.

Dan Negreneau has a diary post about his first day bust out. And it's a much more mature and objective self analysis of how he ended up out of the WSOP. But to be fair, it's a written response - probably done some time after the emotions of busting out.

Anyways it's down to 83 and the only names (that I know) left are: Doyle, Jesus, Devilfish, Dan Harrington, and Julian Gardner (runnerup a few years ago).
On RGP they claim that 12 of the 83 are from PokerStars - and 9 of them in the top half chip count...

What this means to me is that as I read in Jesse May's great post a few weeks ago, the game HAS changed.

Just listen to the pro's bust out stories at the WSOP. They just can't understand what's going on. They're making moves - but many of the other players in the field just aren't responding.
A certain percentage are just playing their own cards, if they feel they have a strong enough hand - they call.

Another percentage is simply gambling it up.

And then there are some players weaned on poker TV that think every time a pro bets, he's bluffing a la Gus Hansen... Fear of being outplayed makes them call.

Whatever the case - it seems more true than ever that the pros have lost a great deal of their edge because of the unwillingness of many players to lay down hands in the face of their heat. They actually have to HAVE a hand to win a pot. And in many cases - it's pissing them off.

What can I say? Welcome to the new era of poker, guys!

That said - now that we're down to 4 or 5 tables - the players with more experience will surely have an edge (as long as they aren't short stacked).
I had an argument with a friend about whether it would be a pro or online player who won this year's WSOP. I felt strongly that one of the pros would win this year.
Well so far - I'm not looking too good.
But all things being equal - if Doyle or Jesus or Harrington make it down to the final table and get ahold of some chips, you gotta like their chances having been there before.
The pros ability to stay aggressive when the stakes raise and the heat turns up ought to give them a huge edge.

I'm going to go with the Devilfish as my pick to win it all. I love his hilarious comment when asked how his WSOP was going - "It's a bit like picking up matches with your ass cheeks...".
Despite his shortstack (129000) going into today - I've just got this feeling...

Which means I've just jinxed any chance of the Devilfish winning...


Monday, May 24, 2004


Well it's Monday - that must mean it's time to update my blog. There's some interesting stuff to discuss from the past week.

I've found a regular home game to play in every week. It's full of a bunch of guys who just got interested in the game. A month or so ago - a bunch of them went down to the Taj and played in a no-limit event. From what I hear - 3 or 4 guys cashed - and 2 made the final table - and were able to cut a deal with the remaining other players...
And with that - a hardcore group of poker players and The Game was born.

One guy - who just recently moved into a new house - has an actual poker table in his basement. Now that's what I call serious...

Anyway - I was first introduced to the Game earlier this year by my buddy - and still online poker virgin - LT. It was fast and loose - with huge raises and re-raises before the flop - and people willing to call big bets on the flop w/second pair and less...

An ideal situation or so it seemed. The problem was - with so many all-ins - suckouts were commonplace - almost expected. And seeing them happen so often kinda gets you going. Well at least it get ME going. Next thing you know - you're putting all your chips in with a nut flush draw. (more on this later)

Since then the Game and it's players have matured and it's become quite a bit tighter as everyone (well - almost everyone) has improved their game. While pre-flop limping is not a commonplace occurrence - playing any two - and calling big bets w/virtually nothing has pretty much disappeared from the Game.

NOW - it's a very interesting challenge. And it's a good test every now and then for me to see how (and if) my NL game has progressed.

Last Friday, there were about 10 people at The Game - and we got in 3 NL tournaments.
All three were quite different experiences for me - as I played each tourney very differently. Let's call it Bad, Worse, and Worst.

In the first game - I played very tight conservative poker. I was able to last a decent while - but not able to pick up very many good hands to play - until I was short stacked in the final 4 and had to move all in on a draw - and got busted. Very frustrating - but with the cards I was dealt - the only way I could've done better would have been to make some moves. And I was unwilling to come out of my shell.

The second game - I got some better hands - and was able to open up my game once I got a hold of some chips.
That's when I made a mistake that almost killed me.
I called a small raise with a suited ace - with about 3 or four players. The flop came with two more of my suit with no card higher than a 10. EP moves all in with a small stack, a little more than half my chips.
The EP player is a volatile poker player, he is more than willing to get all in w/o the nuts - usually he'd slowplay a good hand - so he could have anything...
With that in mind the next player decides to call his all in - and he's got probably as many chips or more than I do.
It's folded around to me and while I know the correct move is to lay this hand down - I look at the pot and my draw - I'm getting about 2-1 on a call for a 3-1 or worse flush draw. But it IS a NUT flush draw... (the devil on my shoulder whispers in my ear)

For some reason I thought about it - and what I came up with was this:

The EP player I decided was on some kind of bluff. It's possible he has nothing - even my lone Ace could be better than what he was holding.

The all-in caller - also aware of the EP player could be weak - might have called with top pair. Certainly he HAS a hand better than mine. But if I move all-in - could he call my raise? It would be a pretty tough call - and with slowplaying such a common occurence in this game - he would have to put me on a slowplayed big pocket pair...

So I pushed all in with a flush draw.

The caller thought about it for a while - agonizing over what to do. Once I saw him hesitating - I figured I had made the right read on him at least.

He threw his hand away (T9o) for top pair poor kicker.

So now it was time to see what the all-in player had - he turned up (44). It was a semi bluff - but he had me beat with only a flush draw. When I turned over my cards - the player who had folded the T9 was perplexed to say the least. Maybe shocked and appalled would be a better wording.

I guess I would've been too. In retrospect I don't really know why I made this move. I had 12 outs (flush draw plus the 3 Aces) a 3-1 shot as expected - getting 2-1 from the pot. I guess I just felt that the flush was going to come in.

Of course - I missed all my outs and the semi-bluffer in EP was thrilled w/my move - as I had knocked out the winning hand from the pot w/my reraise. It put me on tilt for certain for quite a while.

However as fortune would have it - I caught another rush of cards - and was able to build back my stack. Most of the other better players in the game got busted out - and I was left 3 handed w/a new player to the game and another regular.

Three handed is pretty much a crap shoot - so I decided to pick on the new guy.
Dealt KQo - I raise his big blind. He reraises me all-in and had me covered. I felt pot committed with almost half my stack already in on the raise - so I called. He showed AQo much to my despair.

But a K came and I doubled through!

Now I could really push - so soon after I raised the same player all in with T4s. He called with a big pair - and while he made trips on the flop - runner runner hearts did him in as I made a flush.

I felt really sheepish about these two bad beats. This wasn't the way I wanted to win.
But I guess I'd take it. It just goes to show you - as Lancey "The Man" Howard said in the Cincinnati Kid:

Lancey Howard: Gets down to what it's all about, doesn't it? Making the wrong move at the right time.

Cincinnati Kid: Is that what it's all about?

Lancey Howard: Like life, I guess. You're good, kid, but as long as I'm around you're second best. You might as well learn to live with it.

Now that guy was pretty cool in poker's answer to the Hustler. If you haven't seen the movie I suggest you check it out. It's stud, and 5 card stud instead of hold'em - but it's still a very interesting if somewhat predictable story.

Now in the third tourney I caught a little suckout fever. I mean I played like an ass...
With and A9 suited I raised 3xBB early in the game. A short stack moved all in and everyone folded. I figured I was behind - but it was only a few hundred more to call - so I said - what the hell... To see him turn over KK - and no ace nor flush came.

Now short stacked, though early in the game, in the very next hand, a player before me makes a sizable raise (4xBB). It's half my stack and I look down at KJs. Now here's where I really don't know what's gotten into me. I call.
I can't really explain my call except to say that I was getting a little desperate. A player in late position called also.
Now the flop came down K-x-x. The first player makes another strong bet and calling it would pretty much set me all-in.
With top pair - moderate kicker and another player behind me - I'm out of this pot right?
Wrong - I move all-in. The next player moves all-in as well. And the original raiser beats us into the pot.
I know I'm doomed. The player behind me shows KQo, leaving me with 3 outs. The original raiser proudly shows off his AA. He didn't even slow play them - and he of course won the pot when no Q and no J came off...
What the hell was I thinking?

What did I learn from the Game last Friday?
My live poker NL game has a little too much gamble in it - and not nearly enough discipline. At least I feel that I'm somewhat unpredictable... Hell I can't even predict what I'm going to do half the time!

Anyway - the following day I spent some time playing limit on Pacific and Party while I played a small $5 UB tourney with 400+ players...
I went on a rush at the Party table - going from about -$25 to at one point +$40 on a 1/2 table. But some missed flops later - and ran it down to small profit.
On Pacific - which true to Maudie's posts are looser than average. I was goaded into playing some pretty borderline hands by all the calling going on. What can I say - I got a little greedy... My day was saved when dealt AA to someone's KK - I picked up a sizable pot. My previous losses playing like a fish turned into a small profit.

But I soon left those other games as the $5 NL UB tournament reached the second hour. For the first two hours I played pretty tight - nursing a stack that got smaller and smaller in relation to the growing stacks around me. Just as the blinds reached 100/200 I opened up and thanks to some fortuitous flops was able to chip up before the blinds turned me into a one-move(all-in) stack.
This is when I started playing better. I lost my share of chips - pushing at pots - but was able to get away from some big bets when I didn't have the best of it. One hand I had QQ in EP and was going to make a big raise - but decided to play it safe and raise only 2xBB. This was immediately jumped by a pot raise behind me - and then that was jumped by an all-in raise...
Earlier in the tournament - I may have called and taken my chances - but this time - it didn't feel right. So I folded - hoping not to see JJ and TT as the other hands. It was AA and KK - truly a disaster for me if I had called.
Patting myself on the back - I continued playing pretty solid - slowplaying a flopped flush to double through a big stack that made 2 pair on the river and overplayed.
Correctly calling a big river bet with a pair of Aces no kicker when another player tried to take the pot w/second pair.
Things were going good - I was one of the final 7 w/a medium stack when I picked up AJo in position. Folded to me - I made a pot raise. I did NOT want to get called. The SB thought for a while and then folded - then the BB took some time thinking and then raised me back.
For whatever reason this raise didn't make sense to me. Perhaps it was the time he took to decide to raise (although I have used this ploy in the past) - maybe it was the fact that he didn't reraise me all in. I wasn't buying it...
I moved all in.
After another agonizingly long wait - I guess the BB felt pot committed and called.
He showed down J-10 and I whooped as I pretty much had him dominated.
The flop came down - no T, no T... woohoo! no T came on the flop. But then UB flashed winner over the other player's name and I was speechless?
The board disappeared before I could read it - but apparently he had made a straight???
I busted out 8th or 7th - disappointingly...
And that's my bad beat story of the week.

Headed out for Denver on Wednesday night and the fishiest poker room I've ever been in - the Lodge in Blackhawk where I am currently about +$1100 in my last 3 trips at the crazy 5-5 game there.

Surely a story or two is on it's way.


Monday, May 17, 2004

8th Place - Pacific Poker Blogger Tourney

Yesterday was the 1st Blogger Tourney on Pacific organized by Iggy at Guinness and Poker.
Kudos to Iggy for getting this tourney together. All told we had 30 participants.
Congrats to Up For Poker for winning the tournament.
I put in a decent effort - but was never really able to gain enough chips to be able to rest easy at any point in the tourney. For the first hour I was hanging on by a thread. Everytime I advanced my chip stack - I would promptly throw it away on vain attempts to grab at pots.
And the few times I was dealt hands it seemed like no one else wanted any of my action...
In any case - I survived barely the first hour - especially with the Boy Genius at my table for the latter half - stealing blinds like crazy.
If I could have bet on the winner after the first hour - I would've bet on Boy Genius. He was really applying the pressure - cards or not - and a few times I was faced with all-in calls of his flop (and even pre-flop) raises - which I declined to take.
I did manage to make some progress after the break - getting up to about 1500 (started with 800) but I was still the short stack when we got down to the final 8.
Bad Blood called from early position and with K2 suited in the BB I checked after everyone else folded.
A King came on the flop and for whatever reason I decided not to put Badblood on a K. I checked in anticipation of a steal bet. Sure enough he bet it out - and I moved all-in hoping to take down the pot.
Unfortunately he was holding KJ and called - a J even came on the turn - knocking me soundly out of the tournament.
At the time I was really upset w/myself. But after further consideration and deliberation I guess I'm just not yet good enough to make a top pair laydown in that situation.
The only thing I think I could've done - is bet out my top pair - and perhaps read a reraise from my opponent as an indication to get out of the pot...

It hasn't been a good week for the ol' Genius.

On Saturday got together w/a few friends for a couple of short handed hold'em knockout tourneys. The first game - I couldn't catch any cards until I was forced into a corner and dealt A6 suited on the BB. Two callers - and I checked. The flop was Q-9-6. Both players checked - and thinking the coast was clear I moved all-in w/my meager stack. Of course someone was holding Q-T - and knocked me out.
The second game - again not much action but made it down to 4 handed when I was dealt 88. With a big raise in front of me - I moved all in hoping for a coin flip win. The raiser called and showed J9 offsuit??? Of course a J and 9 came on the flop and another J on the turn just to rub it in.

This is the way things have been going for me recently.

I've been playing SnG's on Pacific which actually was an advantage in the Blogger tourney because the structure was identical to their SnG structure. The blinds move pretty fast - you only get 800 chips to start and the interface at Pacific while better than Planet is a little frustrating. You also - don't get much time to make your decisions...
The SnG's at Pacific (at least in the $5-$10 range) are crazy. Half the table goes out in the first 15-20 minutes usually. Which is great - but since I haven't caught a hand early - it's made other people big stacks - which isn't so great. Long story short - with the blind structure as fast as it is - it's difficult to overcome the chip advantage. I've placed 3rd in the last 4 or 5 SnG's I've played. Which is profitable - but a little frustrating. I'm going to tweak my game a bit to the aggressive side and see what happens.


Friday, May 07, 2004

Playing it Blind

Sorry for the hiatus. The Vegas trip reports (as well as the trip itself) pretty much left me drained of all things poker for a while. Which didn't prevent me from playing home games, both days this past weekend of course. Nor did it keep me off the online poker sites this week.
But the thing is - now that I've gotten some live poker experience - there seems to be something missing from the online poker experience. But more on this later.

This past weekend, though I was Vegas-lagged (a much more severe condition than jet lag) all week, I found myself invited to some home poker games on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday was my regular game - hosted by my good friends at their apartment. Fresh off the Vegas trip I could hardly wait to show them what I'd learned in 50+ hours of live play. Unfortunately - what I'd learned made me a worse, not better player for this game.

My first mistake - was to loosen up my starting hands. I figured (foolishly), maybe I'd hit a few flops - and if not - maybe I could bet my way out of any bad/tough situations. But in a game where it's nigh impossible to get someone off a hand - this proved an unprofitable strategy.
Oh - I flopped some open ended straight draws - and some four flushes - and bet the hell out of them. But the problem is - someone was always willing to call. And when these hands didn't come in - I found myself short-stacked early in the first few games.

One time playing an A-5 suited - and flopping a pair of aces - I moved all in heads up with one of my friends. (I was trying to bully)
Nodding at me - and telling me "You probably have me beat..." he called and flipped up his Ace with unsurprisingly, a better kicker. I realized as I was knocked out yet again - that I needed to get back to playing my usual solid game.

I did end up winning the final tournament of the night to break even. But what I learned from that night - was that in a tight - passive (but not weak) game - where people generally pay off the best hand, the best way to play it - is to have the cards...

The next day, chagrined - I was ready to spend the day getting back on track sleepwise, when my friend LT called up. There was a Sunday afternoon game going on, and did I want to play? Did I? Yawn... Let's go!

Now this game was much more aggressive - with a bunch of guys who are willing to put you to the test at any time. It was a really interesting game as I had to make a lot of tough decisions. But if you could get your big bet out there first - in this game - the other players were less likely to call you without a strong holding. I fired quite a bit - and took down quite a few pots with nothing.

One hand in the first tourney almost got me in some serious trouble. I had a strong player to my left - and whenever we were the blinds, I had been raising him up and taking his BB. I told him "you know, I don't care what I have - if it gets folded to us - I'll raise you blind". He laughed and nodded at this, sort of believing me but not really.

But sure enough a few hands later we found ourselves in this exact situation. I hadn't looked at my cards and this was obvious as they still lay where they were dealt. It was folded around to us - (only 4 players left) and I put in a healthy raise. This time the BB called me, asking me "Did you look at your cards?"

"Nope, don't need to." I told him confidently.

The flop came A-K-7. I bet again blind. And this time he came over the top of me.

Ok - time to look and see what I'm holding, I thought. I looked down to see Q-2 offsuit. I had nothing.

Now I started thinking - he had called my preflop raise - but considering I could have anything - he may have called with just about anything. I really couldn't put him on a particular hand.
Also, he came over the top of my flop raise - he's certainly representing an A or a K.
BUT he's an agressive player too - it could be he has nothing and is using my "blind raise" technique against me...
I couldn't take the heat and mucked my cards...

He flipped up a 2-8 offsuit and smiled at me. Mother$%^!, I thought to myself.
"Good bet" I told him.

He had outplayed me. Took a small risk that I didn't have an Ace - which I may have called or raised him with (or even a K). I don't know if I would've had the balls to make this play. But I guess he was tired of me pushing him around on his BB. Lesson learned.

After we had come to this unspoken agreement on how we would play from the blinds - we knocked everyone else out and ended up the last two players left. In our newfound spirit of cooperation we made a deal to split the money.

Anyway - this hand got me to thinking about my no-limit play. I know that my current game is a little too tight and predictable. I'm also aware that there are tons of Super/System disciples out there who play the game hyper-aggressive and sucessfully. But I don't think this style really suits my poker personality.
But I'd like to become better at reading those situations where a pot can potentially be won by a big bet.

So here's my plan. The next time I play in a live home game - I'm going to do what Doyle Brunson was purported to have done. That is - in certain situations - pretend to look at my hole cards - and raise. No one else needs to know that I'm playing blind.
Then based on the situation after the flop - see if I can win that pot through pure aggression.

I read a story, I forget where, about someone watching Doyle play no-limit like this. From time to time he would simply tuck his cards under his elbow and raise the pot. He'd bet the flop too - and if anyone was left standing - he'd take a discreet peek to see what he had. Now is that poker chutzpah or what?

I'm sure it's not going to be a very profitable strategy. But by limiting myself to only being able to win the pot with a bet and not cards - it should force me to pay more attention (well actually ALL my attention) to these situations.
I'm going to look for preflop pots with not too many players, in position (or on the blinds) to try this.
Hopefully it'll be a good learning experience.

Let's see what happens...


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