Monday, July 26, 2004

More SnG Talk...

Well if nothing else - UB's SnG Heaven month has upped the amount of discussion on SnGs on the various poker blogs.  I've been following quite a few of them and let me mention a few of them in case you've missed some of the better stuff out there.

First up - the Poker Nerd (Missives from a Degenerate Underacheiver) has a great post on SnG strategy.  This is must-read stuff.  I don't know if I agreed with everything in the post - but I do KNOW I picked up a couple of ideas that I think are really good.

Another blog with a good SnG focus is Crazy Game of Poker.  Besides posting a running total of his SnG results - check out his July 7th post for links to some very good threads on 2+2 on SnGs.

A new blog - recently mentioned in another uber-post by Iggy - is Maximuspoker's Journal.  Lots of SnG discussion already and only 6 posts old!

Finally an interesting article on the recent CardPlayer from Lee Jones.    I'm not sure I agree with this 7% of a stack with pocket pair rule - it's an interesting concept, but one I'm definitely not endorsing.

Only 6 more days left in UB's SnG promotion.  I hate to feel like I'm plugging for them - but it's been a pretty fun month for me.  (cuz I've been winning!)
Of course they stopped handing out the bonus dollars on a weekly basis and now are promising to credit you after the month is over...  We'll see.  I kind of wish I had kept better track of my play - just to make sure I get credited for all the SnGs I've played.

In some ways I'll be glad to see it end.  I can spend some more time on Party and Stars - and go back to working on my NL and Limit ring game. 

Well - back to the grind. 


Monday, July 19, 2004

On a Roll.. 
Well it's probably nothing to be too proud of - but I've been beating $10 UB SnGs like crazy over the past week.  The most profitable structure I've found is the 6 handed SnGs at UB. 
Which is pretty surprising to me - I've always disliked short-handed play - but that was mostly in limit.  My tendencies are to play tight, so I've always kind of felt at a disadvantage playing less than a full ring where this becomes less than optimal.
However I've found a new home in the 6 handed NL SnGs at UB.  Basically the games seem go one of two ways. 
One - a hyper aggressive/all-in better sits down along with the usual assortment of calling stations - and a couple of players get knocked out early in the action.  This gets us down to 3 or 4 handed (with 2 places paying), with the blinds still relatively low. 
Usually I'm able to wait for hands to slowplay and double up or push hands that play well heads up (small pairs, big cards) to steal pots.  My early tight play usually allows me to steal hands pre flop or on the flop later in the tourney with just about any bet.  This allows me to USUALLY chip up pretty steadily as the blinds move up.
The only issue with this case is if the aggressive player is the one who wins the early coin flip.  If he's out there pushing bets at the table before I can get mine in - he can take the initiative away and sometimes build a nice stack.  In this case - it's a bit of a toss up as I'm pretty much forced to wait for a hand to attack him. 
An aggressive player - whose willing to reraise (the pot) with a weak hand when he feels the first bet is a bluff - is a very difficult opponent.  Fortunately - they are few and far between - and when I find one (I think I've seen 2) - I note this fact and file away their screen name for future reference.
Two - The table is passive - with a mixture of tight and loose passive players - but with many, many unraised pots and usually 3 to 4 people seeing a flop.  I don't mind this too much either - early on - I will limp with big hands again and hope to catch someone a little too eager with top or a pocket pair.  Sure I run the risk of being caught - but I'm pretty cautious with QQ on a flop with an A or K for example.  Most of the time - the flop is safe enough.
Other than that I stay pretty tight - and again later on in the structure - can usually steal pots when I need to chip up with a steady diet of preflop pot raises. 
On flops that I hit with any two cards - again I'll slow play them - looking to milk a few bets off of someone until the river when I reveal the strength of my hand.  Position helps greatly in these situations. 
It takes a bit longer than the first type of table but I regularly pick up a decent size stack and as soon as the blinds reach 30/60, 40/80 I change gears and start really leaning on the small stacks.
When we get down to 3 and especially 2 - it becomes a dance of sorts with aggression being the key.  In situation two I am almost a lock to chip up as I steal blinds - and almost never allow someone to limp in on my BB.  With a passive player - they'll start folding the SB to me regularly which is nice. 
Usually someone gets knocked out and we get heads up before someone has the chance to figure this out and set a trap.
Heads up?  I know it's only a $10 level but I really have a lot of confidence in my heads up play.  I have taken second at times - if I'm hugely outchipped it's pretty difficult to come back - but given a relatively even split (60/40 or closer)  at the start of heads up play - I've been pretty tough.  I don't raise every time from the SB, but almost every time. 
Again - the no limping on my BB rule applies usually, as I'll greet just about any limped hand with a pot raise.

If the player lets me, and they usually do - I steal my way into the lead and keep leaning on them.  From time to time they'll catch a big hand and chop a sizable chunk off my stack.  But I usually leave my self enough of a piece to continue pushing at them.
It's a push pull affair - but I find that I have generally better instincts than the competition as to when to push and when not to.
I'm waiting for some stats from UB on how many SnGs I've played - but here's this week's results:  10 - 1st place, 7 - 2nd place, 2 - 3rd place.  And this is 19 out of approximately 25-30 SnGs played I estimate.
Playing this way - I've doubled my bankroll on UB from $300 something to over $600 in the past 2 weeks.  And that's in addition to the bonus dollar promotion that UB is giving for every SnG you play in.
Of course I could just be on a lucky roll.  I certainly don't discount that possibility.  If my roll continues on into another week or two - I may just be on to something.
SnG Heaven continues at UB for the rest of July - see you all there...


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Sit and D'oh!

Well SnG month sort of slowed down for me - as I hit a rough stretch last Wednesday nite. Four SnG's and not a single place - not so bad really - except that in 2 of them I got a bit desperate and got knocked out on a bluff and a bad call.
What compounded it was getting on later that night for some limit - and getting my QQ dominated by AA right off the bat - and just continuing to get hammered for the better part of an hour in hands like this. Did I slow down? No frickin' way...
Almost blew off my whole $100 buy in though...
Was I on tilt? Well it's kind of hard to stay. That feeling where that little voice inside your head starts encouraging you to play more hands was definitely there. The question was - was I listening to the voice?
Well - I don't recall - remember - I was on tilt, dammit! All I know is my UB balance moved down for the first time in a while...
It's a good thing something good came on TV - and I was able to walk away.
When I came back to the tables this weekend - things hadn't gotten a whole lot better. I played pretty much break even - placing in a few - but not winning - and finishing on the bubble at least.
Certainly not enough to get me real excited about poker. This is what seems to happen to me - I run hot for a while and play like mad - until I can barely read the cards, in fact. Then a bad run invariably hits - which first induces me to play a little sub-optimally (tilt!) - and then I get disgusted and go on a short leave of absence from the game.

The only good thing about this, is that it gives me time to take a fresh start when I inevitably return to the tables...

And luckily enough the other night - it paid off big time. I went on a little SnG run, cashing 5 out of 6 and winning 3 outright. Sure there were some good cards involved in key hands - but for the most part I played pretty tight for the first few levels.

The main tactic that seemed to work for me, at least early on - when the blinds were small - was slowplaying/limping.
I've always found it frustrating when the blinds are small - like 20/40 and a pre flop pot raise with JJ or TT - garners 3 callers - and an overcard flops.

These are not good situations to be in - and it can be difficult in a full ring with all varieties of players still left to figure out what they're holding.

I've countered this situation by basically limping with many hands early on in the games. Sure I'm taking a risk of getting my big pairs cracked - but I'm also not commiting to a pot when the flop comes unfavorably/scary. If I have the slightest inkling that someone has made a pair of aces with me holding QQ for example - really, what have I lost by getting away from the hand?

And when I hit one of these hands - I can sit back and wait for someone to bet an inferior hand or take a stab at the pot.
In general - you'll always find a few players who will make a bet at an unraised pot on the flop - and even try a pot bet steal on the turn or river. It's like fishing when you hit your hand/feel the bite, just staying patient - checking and calling - until the fish tries to yank the bait off the hook - and you smack them down/reel them in with an all-in bet.

Either they fold and are scratching their head as to what exactly you were holding or they call and (usually) are sorry for it. Amazing how many times top pair will pay off your overpair. (actually not SO amazing - I've only done this a few hundred times before I learned my lesson)

Let me stress - that this is only early on in the blind structure that I use this.

Later - when short handed and the blinds are worth stealing - I'd rather disguise my big hands with raises on other playable (and non-playable) hands...

Another side benefit is limping with hands you'd usually raise with like AK and AQ. While you obviously are vulnerable to a lucky Ax two pair - for the most part - you induce hands that will almost always be dominated into the pot. And if they catch their ace - they will almost certainly bet it and be sorry for it later.

Short handed play, of course when the blinds get higher remains the key to winning/placing in SnGs. However this revision of my early SnG play has afforded me a low risk way to enter this stage with a big stack.

And short handed (5 or less) is all about betting. But it really isn't all that hard to go from the short stack to the big stack with a little luck. So I don't really mind making it to this point without a big stack. It makes it less likely that I'll win the SnG - but I still like my chances.

Anyway - more on shorthanded play in another post. Suffice it to say that last night - playing pretty much the same tactics - i placed in another 3 out of 4 SnGs and the damage wrought to my balance last week has been pretty much eradicated!

I did suffer a slightly emotional 2nd place finish in an SnG that was tough - albeit fun. There was one of those hyper-aggressive players on the table that usually bust out early in SnGs. This was a six handed table - and he started right off the bat with pre flop pot and occasionally even all-in bets.

This type of player takes away some of my edge - as he doesn't let me see a flop with some of the marginal hands I like to play like Ax suited and small to mid pockets...
Of course if I catch a big hand...

I thought I caught him stealing when he made a pot raise over my limped JJ. I simply called the raise and saw the flop come 3 low cards. When I went all-in - I was astonished to see him show a real hand - KK!

Thus represents the downside of early limping.

Still was able to double through a few times, rebuild my stack and take out another player who I outkicked with a pair of aces in another pot.

We got down to the two of us - and I shifted gears - coming over the top of him with anything when I felt my hand was better than average (any high card)..

I think I caused him some problems as I overcame a pretty big lead to pull even - when he didn't want to gamble when I came over the top of his steal attempts pre flop.

But I got dealt AK and raised him and found him coming over the top of me. Well - I had to push there heads up, and he held 99 and held up. Damn...

Well SnG month has 18 more days left in it. I know I'm neglecting my other accounts - and missing on lots of Party action - but I'm pretty much committed to staying on these until the end of the month.

Then I'll have to get back to my limit game to try to earn all these frickin' bonus dollars...


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

SnG Crazy (continued)

So I got home drunk last nite after taking some out of town colleagues out for dinner (shabu-shabu) and much sake and vodka... topped it off by cheating my diet, just couldn't resist Veniero's NY cheesecake...
When I get home the 2004 WSOP is on - and I watch the 7-stud event - which is pretty boring. Ted Forrest as Felicia has reported in the past is pretty cool at the table - letting Men Nguyen bust himself against the amateur - and then trapping him finally when he makes a full house to the other guys trips. Still, 7-stud just doesn't have the same appeal on TV as hold em.

And then the crazy NL event - where these guys play like a$$ for an hour and some British kid who called down many all-ins with 2nd or bottom pair ends up winning... I know that final table play gets frisky - but this was pretty ridiculous in my opinion. At least the kid - James Vogl - was a typically modest Brit, and seemed a pretty decent guy.

Meanwhile I'm firing up $10 SnGs left and right on UB. The first 2 - I get frisky and try playing lots of pots early. I'm unlucky and get chipped down quickly when none of my flops connect. It's only a matter of time since as soon as I get down to about 500 or so - I'm all in or not in... I don't make it through - and I'm trying to figure out if I'm on tilt before I fire up another pair...

Nahh - I'm ok. I fire up 2 more - one 6 handed and a full ring SnG. In the six handed - I keep playing like I have been - only I hit some cards early and double through someone when they catch top pair to my slow played trips. In the full game I play real tight and hold on to my stack, treading water as the blinds advance and the maniac players give their chips to some lucky sods.

I'm playing steady in the 6 handed game - when I flop another set. Slowplay it - and a shortstack decides to go all-in on the river - which I call. He's out and another shortstack busts out immediately in the next hand. Now, we're four handed and the blinds move to 50/100. I have a chip lead - and start shifting gears.
Now I know that a 2xBB raise is usually not enough of a committment for proper blind stealing. It usually collects lots of BB calls with a wide range of hands and partially commits you to a pot where you may be at a great disadvantage.
But 2xBB raises were winning me lots of blinds. So I stuck to them. In fact even when called - I found my opposition folding to minimum bets on the flop.
It was just too easy. I raised almost half the hands from that point on. Stealing blinds about half the time. Of the other half - I picked up the pot on the flop with a measly single bet.
Otherwise - the other player bet out and I folded unless I had hit pretty solid. Or I bet out and they raised me - letting me know I didn't belong in the pot.

As soon as we got shorthanded in the full game - I put the same basic strategy in play with about 4-5 people. It worked incredibly well when we were down to 4 (with 3 places paying out). The other guys hardly ever wanted to see a flop.
And since I was in so many pots - I was able to get lucky and catch a few unlikely hands that my opponent couldn't possibly put me on - and knock one of the bubble hangers out.

In both SnGs I was holding between 60-75% of the chips when we got down to the final 3. And the other players - were content to let me keep my lead - prefering not to mess with my stack as they fought for second place. It was unreal...

Now of course I ended up winning both SnGs - and I know this wasn't typical competition. However the $10 SnGs on UB - especially this month seem to be incredibly soft.
Check it out. or don't actually - I don't want to see any tough players in my SnGs this month.

The other night I played a bunch of SnGs - and the following humorous situation came up.

Cards had been running lukewarm. I slowplayed AA and got beat by some dude
he hit a J-J runner-runner. Then he typed "NEVER slowplay AA" to me. So
I told him - "you're right - I won't do THAT again..." (thinking... dick!)

I doubled up a few times with my short stack after making a few all-in blind steals
to get back to over 1000. Then I get AA again.
This time the guy that was giving poker lessons raises the pot.
I call and the BB calls.
The flop comes K high. Lesson boy bets the pot again. I call. BB folds.
The turn is blank - flush draw. He checks - I check. the river brings the
flush possibility. He bets the pot...

I type... "ooopps... I did it again."
Then I raise him all-in.

He calls and shows AK for a loser.

I type "NEVER overplay AK"

heh heh... of course I didn't cash - (lost JJ vs. AA) but it was worth it.

Meanwhile my brother a self proclaimed SnG expert's been going hog wild with UB's SnG Crazy month. He sent me the following e-mail:

"Well...I'm stuck at work today and it's really, really, really slow.
Since I can't play poker for money at work...and getting into the
freerolls is virtually impossible, (unless you sign up right when the
sign-up period begins); I decided to try some calculations. By checking
the UPC transaction history (ultimate points history), I calculated that
I played in 385$ worth of SnGs this weekend (thurs-sun). Including the
10% SNG rake; that works out to a total investment of 423.50.

My bonus dollars were only 60.00 this morning; but I think this is due
to the cutoff being Sat...so all my Sunday Sngs will be credited next
week (hopefully). Anyway...I also calculated all my tournament winnings
for this period; which equaled $746. This means I profited 322.50 on an
investment of 423.50 and should have another 122.50 on top of the 60.00
in bonus dollars comin my way. Here's a breakdown (not that you care,
but, since I went thru the trouble of computing it....I'm gonna tell

$5 SNG- total invested: 27.50 total won: 0.00 profit: -27.50
$10SNG- total invested: 176.00 total won: 250.00 profit: 74.00
$20 SNG- total invested: 220.00 total won: 496.00 profit: 276.00

Not sure if this has any meaning to it. I know that I play with more
caution and pay closer attention in the higher stakes games than the
lower...but I didn't really notice that much difference in the play or
players. I know Dad also has some statistical evidence that his
winning ratio in 10$ SNGs' has been much higher than in the $5 SNGs'."

Yeah - I think I agree - the $10 SnGs are better than the $5. I haven't played many $20 SnGs (but I plan to this month) - so I can't really comment on that yet.

We had a little debate on the worth of all these UB bonus dollars that we plan to earn. I basically see them as a rake rebate - but he views them more as free money...

Well since it's of particular interest to me now - I took a closer look at how UB awards bonus $$$.

For tournaments and SnGs you get 6 pts for every $1 house fee. So for a 10+1 SnG - you're getting 6 pts, at $0.10 a pt - that equates to a 60 cent discount on the house fee. Not great but something.

For ring games you get 1 pt for every $1 raked pot you play. Which equates to a 10 cent rake discount. You get half a point for a .50-.95 raked pot. and so on...

Really the bonus payout structure isn't all that great. But it's better than nothing...

I expect that after this month's SnG frenzy on UB - that the limit and no-limit ring games ought to be pretty stocked. And that's not a bad thing...

Well - it's back to the SnG grind. See you there...


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Sit N Go Heaven?

Yeah -it's been a long time since I've posted an update. Poker, I guess, has been on the wane in my life. Which is not to say that I haven't been playing...
However my online play has really dropped off. As my poker fever has begun to wear off - I find myself more apt to play carelessly. And playing carelessly is like giving money away.
Which doesn't mean I've missed a chance to play home games whenever I get the chance.

In the Friday night game - which I've learned to appreciate as the best home game I'm likely to ever find. It's not great EV for me - but a poker table, real chips, Kem cards, and above all - good aggressive competition make it as close to a real game as you'll likely find.
The reason it's not a great game for me is I keep losing! I can't put my finger on it - I've had some success playing tight - lasting to the bubble - and then making it through to place - where we usually split the pot to get the next game started.
But although the play is solid - it's aggressive, and underlying it all - it's a gambler's game more than a poker player's game.
KQ? That might as well be AK in this game the way most of the guys play. There's a few players who are real fond of the all-in move - and willing to do it with small pockets and naked aces on up...
I've correctly pushed all-in with AQ vs. KQ, AJ vs. KT, 66 vs AQ, etc... all hands with decent advantages - and lost ALL of them.
I guess I could write it off to bad luck - but I'm not one to blindly shrug off losses as misfortune without at least examining my play.
I'm certainly one of the tighter players of the bunch - for one thing - my raises tend to be smaller than typical in the game. I've experimented a bit with increasing the size of my preflop raises - but mostly what this accomplishes is either winning the blinds - or getting pot committed against another strong hand - and because of the unpredictability of the typical loose caller - unable to put the other player on a hand.
So if the flop misses me - I'm stuck in a quandary of what to do. Do I commit the rest of my stack to a bluff? Or do I let the hand go if the other player leads into the pot?
Another nuance is that there's a lot of trapping going on in the game. It's not unusual for someone to limp with AA or AK - and check the flop, especially when they hit. Usually they'll bet the turn if there's no action - but slow playing is a pretty common tactic. This moves me away from stealing - as a checked flop does not necessarily mean the first person in the pot will win the turn.
I've found myself much more passive when I enter a pot and miss the flop. This takes away my ability to pick up small uncontested pots for ammo later on.

Also because of the prevalence of action - which I'm usually not involved in, I generally don't find myself in favorable chip position when the game gets down to the end. This puts enormous pressure on me to double through someone - and it gives the loose big stacks lots of leeway to call my all-ins without risk of busting out.
Inevitably - it leaves me much fewer options on how to play my hands - it's either - all-in or fold...

And finally - and this is a problem for me, I get caught up in the action, and come off my game. After seeing KQ go all in so many times and even win, hands that I KNOW aren't that great start looking better and better. I can't help myself. It worked for them - why shouldn't it work for me?
That's how I find myself busting out calling an all in bet on AJo vs 33. Or losing with KJ vs KK. Normally I would never call with these hands - but I get a bit of 'gamble fever' - and I just say "what the hell?" and go...
It never feels good afterward.

Overall, I feel I play pretty solid in the game. Certainly more solid than the bulk of the players. But in an aggressive loose no-limit game like this - I guess the variance is pretty high. Credit is due to the cast of opponents - you won't find many weak players in the Friday night game.

I'll just have to try to keep my patience, the cards should turn, and I should find myself on the winning side more often when they finally do.

Anyways on the online front - played some crazy Party 1/2 the other night. I had read in Killer Poker as well as in some other poker anecdote about a guy entering a game and raising up a couple of pots right off the bat. Well - it was my intention to do so - but when the very first I hand I came across was 44, I figured what the hell...
Of course this didn't end up pretty, but on the next hand I was dealt KQs. So I popped again - and this time caught a Q high flop. My hand held up with 3 callers all the way..
The next hand I got AK and popped again. By now the table was thinking - either he's really lucky or really loose... I got action again but this time - the K I caught on the flop hurt me - as one of the preflop callers trapped me with KK...
Three raised pots - down a few $$$ - but I had definitely established a good table image. These guys couldn't wait to mix it up with me.
Well I swung up at one point 20+BB then down to +5BB and back up to +15BB before ending up about +5BB for the session...
I guess I maybe got a little out of hand with the aggressive play. It was fun, though. It's just not that easy to downshift your game once you start playing fast.

In any case - I think I've found the thing that will get me back on the tables for July at least. Sit N Go Heaven at UB! I play lots of these anyways - and now UB will give you half your buy in in bonus dollars at the end of every week...
That's a pretty good deal. A great marketing idea for UB - I expect the SnG's will be pretty busy - and the limit tables too - as all the SnG guys try to earn their bonuses.

That's where you'll find me all month...


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