Monday, August 30, 2004

Borgata Trip Report - Day 2

Woke up early on Wednesday morning – but decided to stay in bed for few extra hours – just lazing around in the comfort of the Borgata’s luxurious king size bed. The thought was that the action at 9am in the poker room wasn’t really worth hurrying downstairs – and the few extra hours of snoozing would probably come in handy towards the end of a hopefully long and prosperous night.

When I finally headed down to the poker room (around 11am) – I found a reasonable amount of tables going. Once again I decided to settle into a comfortable 6-12 seat – although the list for 1-2 NL was not very long – and there were open seats for 10-20.

Although it was my goal to move up and check these games out – I didn’t yet feel comfortable enough so I rationalized that I needed to ‘warm up’ first.

Well, early in the day poker tends to be pretty tight – with action only arising when two people happen to have big hands at the same time. Unlike evening poker – which depending on how many drunks and gamblers you have on your table, can get exciting regardless of whether decent hands are being held.

I settled into the table for a nice slow grind while I watched miscellaneous Olympic events on the poker room TVs.

That was my first mistake. Not paying attention to my table.

There was a lady to my left – about whom I wondered at first whether she really knew how to play or not. She was friendly enough – but she was one of those players who couldn’t stop talking about her losing hands. She would prattle on about pocket pairs never holding up for her after being chased down by a straight, flush or two pair…

I figured she was harmless enough – even though I did notice her playing quite a few hands – as well as playing them pretty aggressively (suspiciously raising it up pre-flop a few times too many).

As I didn’t play many hands early – we just happened not to really tangle much early on in the first hour. (lucky me)

Then I started getting bored with playing my usual tight collection of starting hands. I decided to loosen up especially in late position and see if I could hit some flops.

That was my second mistake.

Each time I decided to limp in with a marginally playable hand – (Ax offsuit, KTo, QTo etc…) I was punished by my new friend, the lady on my left with a preflop raise.
Of course I called – but when I missed the flops – I found that these loose hands were getting to be relatively expensive. At least – much more expensive than I had anticipated.

And worse yet – was finding out what this lady was raising it up with. As far as I could tell she was raising with any 2 face cards (suited or not), small pocket pairs, even suited connectors on up. She would even show me – after I mucked my overcards to a low flop – and she was still in the hand with Ax off suit and leading the betting… or a small pair on a board with two high cards….

That was really killing me!

This is obviously a wide range of raising hands in her ‘repetoire’. I do have to give her credit – other people were seeing this also – and giving her plenty of action even on her big hands.
The big leak I saw in her play is that she got too attached to what she considered to be good starting cards – and chased if any piece of the flop had hit her.

Unfortunately for me – as I started to play more pots – and eventually hit some flops – which I of course led out the betting with – I couldn’t shake her – and she started to get hot.

My top pair – best kicker vs. her bottom pair? She’d hit two pair on the river. Hit my straight draw on the turn? The high end of my straight fills in just right to give her the higher straight on the river. And so on and so on… (I can recall more details – but I’d prefer not to)

Even worse – with the read I made on her – I found myself focusing in on her preflop – limping sometimes with big cards to greedily make it 3 bets when she raised one of her ‘sub-standard’ hands. It also distracted my attention from other players who might quietly sneak into one of our flops with a big hand.

Suffice it to say – I was off of my game, way off. The lady swung up and down – taking chips down during a hot streak (mostly mine) and then generously giving them away to other people. Meanwhile, yours truly was stuck for my entire buy in of $320 – having to shamefully dig into my wallet to reload my stack.

When she finally left sometime in the afternoon – I was stuck and desperately trying to keep my game together. It’s pretty hard when you’re down – to keep from loosening up too much in an effort to get your money back. You have to be in it to win it after all…

Well – I can’t really comment as to whether I was successful with playing solid poker (err… probably not) but I can say that I went on a pretty decent rush. Hitting sets, flushes, and top pairs that held up. Before long – and without going into too much detail – I was back to even, and even up a little!

So intent was I on this rush of cards – that I completely ignored the line forming for the 7pm 80+20 tournament. I figured I’d jump on the line at the last second and get a seat, no problem. Wrong. By the time my good fortune had improved my mood – and I sauntered up to the now short sign up line – they were taking down a list for alternates…

What to do? Why – I guess play more poker!

After a not so quick dinner break. (don’t order room service at the Borgata – it takes FOREVER…) I headed back to the 6-12 game. (this time I had no choice - as I put myself on the dinner list and was able to come back first in line for the 6-12 game ONLY)

Even first on the list at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night (and the list was about 20+) – I had to wait a half an hour for a seat to open! When I got seated – I was put at the same table I had played all afternoon. And lo and behold – many of the same familiar faces were seated there as well. I guess a day and a half at the same poker room with other junkies and the faces start to become familiar…

Actually this table was the first ‘fun’ table I had all trip. There were a couple of younger guys – who I found at later to be staff at a certain NYC card room, were at the table and making things interesting with a decent amount of banter and action.

One guy in particular was playing all kinds of junk hands like 93o, and playing them with a raise. When he won some pots (with 2 pairs – and low straights) and showed this junk off to the table – his ‘friends’ started mercilessly making fun of his starting hand selection.

He was completely unfazed. “This is the way I like to play poker.” he shrugged.

Needless to say – almost every time he raised (which was relatively often) – someone, either one of his buddies, me or someone else made it three bets to go. And he called the reraise every time to take in the flop.

When small cards or weird cards came on the flop – it was quite an adventure. Actually – unlike the lady earlier in the day – I think he played his hands pretty smart after the flop. He didn’t chase hopeless hands – if he stayed in – he either had hit something decent or was on a good draw.

Even though he was usually a pre-flop underdog – he started to catch a few cards – and go on a nice run to the amazement of the table.

Luckily for me – I had learned my lesson that even a loose player catches cards sometimes. You still want to have a hand (at least in limit) to play back at them….
When I came over the top – he tended to be less willing to take whatever strange draw he might have to the river.

Not so luckily – I was back down again – though not as much as earlier in the day. But at least I was having some fun. (I know, I know – winning money is FUN!) – but it’s also nice to be at a table with other friendly and even competitive players. They might have been a bit on the good side for my taste – and it was pretty tough – but it was friendly competition.

Still – I tried grinding it out even after this table broke with me stuck a hundred bucks or so with the rest of the late night stragglers. I went on a mini-rush in my new seat – but the other player who took the other seat at the new table (I had first choice) went on a huge rush – catching hands and flops like crazy.

Man – was I jealous!

I ended up making back a few big bets, but as the night got late (or early) the action tightened up again – and I decided to call it quits.

I headed back to my room around 4am, to catch about 5 hours of sleep only to return in time to register for the 11am tourney.


Sunday, August 29, 2004

19th Place

19th out of 77 in the Monty Memorial. The Monster (MonsterZ) was my nemesis - taking chips from me left and right in the early levels. Last hand was AQ in LT - pushed with my short stack of 2700+. The Monster in the big blind had AA.... and that was all she wrote.

Damn you Monster!

(good game)

good luck to the rest of them.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Borgata Trip – Day 1

Well it was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon here in NYC – even more so because I was skipping out of the office early to head down to AC for some fun, sun…. well, maybe not
any SUN, but most certainly, and most importantly, POKER!

I arrived at the Borgata around 3pm – took a quick look at the humongous line forming at the check in line – and immediately decided to check my bag at the bell desk – and head for the action straightaway!

When I got down to the poker room I was surprised to find the room almost filled to capacity on a Tuesday afternoon. I saw some open spots for 1-2 NL – which I had been jonesing to try – but I was a little too timid to sign up for my first play of the trip. So instead I opted for a more comfortable game – the 6-12 – which had a list but not more than a half dozen names.

While I waited I met up with my friends who were coming down to check on another buddy who had made it to the final 2 tables of the 11am 40+10 NL tournament. He eventually finished 17th or so and made about $170. They told me the tournament had sold out – with a huge line forming around 8:30AM with signups starting 2 hours before the start (11am).

I was just flabbergasted to find that so many people were here in AC – playing poker during the weekday. There was another tournament – a 40+10 sattelite at 7pm – so I figured I’d play until the signup around 5 and make sure I got on line to get a seat.

When I finally got seated at the 6-12 table – I found the usual collection of semi-serious players, a couple of rocks, a gambler or two, and a few complete fish who had no idea what they were doing. The good thing about the 6-12 level is that there are enough rational players to play real poker – and though you still see all KINDS of hands being played and shown down – for the most part it’s a thousand times better than what you’ll see on the typical 3-6 or 4-8 table.

In addition a good session of 6-12 can net a few hundred bucks, a really good one, perhaps about 500. And the buy in I’d recommend - about 3-400 (just to make sure you can weather a few storms) is an amount I can deal with losing should the cards run real bad.

At my first table – I got dealt AK like 3 or 4 times – winning a few good pots when I beat someone’s ragged kicker and losing some small ones when I raised it pre-flop, and didn’t hit the board – and of course got called down or pushed out by a measly pair.

There really weren’t any hands of interest – but one thing I found was a type of player you see at the poker tables quite a lot, a young hyper aggressive (internet?) player.
This kid was throwing moves left and right – raising junk and pushing it, sometimes hitting weird two-pairs and straights for some healthy pots. He was also trying check-raise bluffs on the turn which was really amusing once I figured out what he was doing.

The first time he did it – I was holding top pair and leading the betting. When he check raised me – I immediately went to check call mode on the river. But when I saw the reluctance to show his hand down at the end – I was scratching my head as I opened my top pair – medium kicker and he just mucked.
I could’ve demanded to see his cards – but I had a pretty good idea of what type of hand he was so unwilling to show down – so I let it go.

Admittedly – he did catch me on a draw once – and got me to lay down. But when I saw him make the same play on other players, to varying success - as he was called down a few times and just mucked his junk - I realized what he was doing – and made a mental not to wait for a hand to use it against him.

Things worked out perfectly when my JT hit two pair on the flop. I led the betting with only him calling – and when he check raised me on the turn I gave him the ol’ deer in headlights act. Clutching my cards as if to muck – I reached behind with the other hand and threw in a re-raise and smiled at him.

Probably not the most profitable thing to do – cause he mucked the hand, but I just wanted to let him know that he shouldn’t be trying moves like that on me! Pride – I guess. (which cometh before the fall)

I ended the session up a few big bets – and got ready for the 7pm tournament to start.

A note on the Borgata tourneys. Indeed they seem to be pretty popular – so if you’re planning to play, even on a weekday – make sure to get there 2 hours before the start to get in line to sign up. You start with 1000 in chips with unlimited rebuys in the first hour and an add-on of 2000 for the same price. The blinds stay pretty low for the first hour – but they move up rapidly along with antes in the second hour.
It’s a reasonably well run tournament – with pretty good dealers, decent cocktail service – and competent floorpeople. I’d recommend it – not that it’s all that much better than the Trop or Taj tourneys – but the Borgata room is by far the best poker room I have ever played in.

I settled in to play my tournament game – and watched with amazement at how few people seemed to know what they were doing. Raises were usually either the minimum or wildly over-bet. Pot raises were very uncommon – and if you could flop a draw – you could usually get a good price to see it through with so many people in, and passive betting. It really made me realize what a handicap that damn Bet Pot button on UB really is!

Of course – one aggressive player could ruin this for you if they’re in the hand – so I’d recommend you note these players – and not play drawing hands against them. But the others? Get in with your suited connectors, gapped connectors, ace-suited hands!

Unfortunately, while it’s great to know this in retrospect – I didn’t at the time. I was playing my usual early tournament strategy which was strictly tight-aggressive.

Luck was on my side though – as the first decent pot I won was when I just called a min raise on the SB with 99.

The flop gave me a set – and I bet about 100 to see where everyone else was at. 4 callers with no apparent draw, and no high cards!

The turn was a J, putting a two flush out there – checked to me – and I bet 250 to claim the pot right there. It didn’t really seem to work as 2 players still called me.

On the river the board paired 4’s giving me the boat – with no flush out there, alas!
I moved all-in anyway – thinking maybe someone might put me a bluff and call, but instead ended up taking the pot down. I wonder what they had?

In the only other hand of interest I caught QQ on the BB – watched a short stack move all-in – and the player to my right call it. It was about half my stack to call – I was getting ready to push – but decided – it would be smarter to see the flop and save some chips in case an A or K should flop.
No A or K – I move all-in, player to my right reluctantly calls – and both he and the SS show AK. (good read on my part) No help on the turn and river and I more than double through to about 5000 in chips!

I reach the second hour with about 8000, after the add-on – feeling confident and strong. But then my cards go completely dead - and I watch in frustration as short stack after short stack push – pleading to be called by any ace, pocket pair, or even high cards.
Alas – I get NOTHING to even consider mixing it up – and spend an hour watching my stack slowly whittle away to the blinds and antes – while others clean up – building their stacks as I watch mine diminish.

Basically, I stumble into the second break with an average stack of about 5000 or so – with the blinds moving to 500-1000 with an ante of a 100. Which didn’t leave me with a lot of room to maneuver in terms of betting. In fact – hardly anyone with the exception of a few big stacks had room to maneuver. It was all-in or fold time.

One of the big stacks I thought completely misplayed his stack by moving all-in pre-flop with a stack of 18000+ with about 2300 in the typical unraised pot.
Of course he took down a few blinds and antes – but he tried it two too many times – getting called by a mid stack with A3o when he was raising QT – and losing. And then getting called again on an all-in bluff and losing that hand to return to the pack.

I guess some people are addicted to the thrill of being all-in, getting it all on the line. And admittedly it’s a pretty heady feeling, until someone calls you down and shows you a better hand.

You have to admire his willingness to do it four-five times in a row though, and I did even though he did bust out not long after.

Meanwhile, I was lucky to steal some blinds and antes when I moved all in with pocket 5’s, and another time with AJo. I picked up a caller the third time I moved with pocket 8’s and doubled through his KQo? Even still – with the blinds and antes continuing to move up – I was basically treading water.

Things got interesting after the third break – though I was short stacked and barely surviving - other people were being eliminated left and right. I was moved to a new table and noticed we were down to the final two tables. I found out from a floorperson that 6 places were paying seats to the 1500+80 NL tournament at the Borgata Open. Doing a quick count, there were 11 people remaining – as soon as we lost one more – we could start the final table!

That’s when the BB (4000) finally came around to me which along with the ante of 1000 – forcing me to put half my meager stack in. It was all-in or fold time. A short stack pushed from early position, and the button pushed on top of the short stack. I looked down to see Q5 spades – and decided it was all or nothing time if I was going to make it to the final table with a chance and pushed as well.
The button showed AK – hit the ace on the flop and the K on the turn, no spades – and I was bounced out around 10th place…

A good showing, but nothing to show for it.

I went back to grinding at the 6-12 for the rest of the night – but luck was not with me and I just barely managed to break even. Knowing that it would be a long day on Wednesday – I headed back to the comfortable and spacious Borgata hotel room for a couple quick hours of sleep.

Tomorrow was another day.

Borgata Trip Report Coming...

Two days, one poker room, two NL tournaments, 30+ hours of play. And a happy ending?
For the half dozen of you that are interested - I'm working on it.... Hope to have Day 1 posted later today.


Monday, August 23, 2004

Off to the Borgata...

Well - yesterday's blogger tourney was a no-go. It was a disappointment - take a look over at Guinness and Poker for a complete rundown of the Pacific-flaming that went on.

I was upset, because I was really looking forward to the chat as well as the challenge of taking on what would be in my opinion probably the toughest competition you can find on the internet. And friendly competition at that... (well mostly friendly)

What I wasn't looking forward to, was dealing w/Pacific's interface - really don't give you much time to make your decisions - and showdowns are completely mishandled - with the board machine-gunning out, completely lacking in the drama that makes the game really fun.

To my surprise, Pacific seem to have done good by us poker-bloggers. Along with some other people, I was half hoping they wouldn't just to see how many more creative ways we could come up with to dis Pacific.

But crediting every registered account w/$25 and adding $500 to our next tourney?
That's much better than I ever expected...

I still hope we consider moving to another site with a better interface, (Stars, UB) - but I have to say I'm impressed how generously Pacific has responded to our situation...

Enough of that...

Tomorrow I'm off to Atlantic City!

It's a bit of a spur-of-the-moment trip. Some friends are going to be in AC having a family vacation of sorts. That was all the excuse I needed to decide to make a quick trip.
I'll be staying at the Borgata - which is a great little hotel, but more importantly - I'll be playing live poker for about 48 hours (errr, hopefully not straight).

While I'm there - since I can't resist the promise of a potential jackpot, even though I realize they're kinda crapshoots - I'll also be taking advantage of the many midweek tournaments hosted by the Borgata poker room.

There's a Tuesday night 40+10 at 7pm. A Wednesday night 80+20 also at 7pm. And a Thursday morning 40+10 at 11AM (right before I leave).

I may even - (if I'm conscious that early) run over to the boardwalk and stop by Sands (home of many a drunken poker memory for me) for a Wed 2pm tournament. (although I don't know if it's hold'em or stud...) Eh - who cares - it's poker, right?

In between throwing my money away on these midweek tourneys with various AC rocks - you'll find me sitting patiently waiting for the nuts at a Borgata 6-12 table.

Or after enough liquid courage (aka Jack and Coke) - at one of the NL ring games (probably the smallest one I can find).

And if things start off well - I'll be more than happy to blow my early profits on a 10/20 table. I hear that this game is pretty profitable at the Borgata. Although I believe my reports refer to the weekend crowd rather than the Tue/Wed nite set.

It's a mini-poker vacation - I only wish I was able to drag a friend along with me to exchange bad-beat stories, and take cigarette breaks with...

I may win, I may lose - but I guarantee you, I'll have fun...

if I win.

And I'll defintiely have something interesting to write about for a change. Nothing like live poker trip reports, is there?

I just wish I had received my free Party Poker hat and t-shirt. They would make such good camoflauge...

I'll just have to hope that they look at me as another one of those gambling asians, eh ToddCommish brah?

Instead of one of those "thinks too much about poker" / "wannabe grinder" players which I am.

Back on Thursday night - see you all here!


Friday, August 20, 2004

Genius vs. Maniac?

Last night I was preparing to play a number of multi tables in prep for the blogger tourney over at Pacific on sunday at 9pm EST. (75 bloggers/readers signed up)

This is gonna be a good but really tough tourney. My current NL game will work w/cards in the right situations (like who's wouldn't?) - but otherwise I guess I don't have much EV for this tourney. Should be fun though.

Anyways - there was nothing going on around 7pm so I fired up a bunch of other sites - and I realized I still had 50+ bucks at Planet - where I never play anymore. And I noticed they're holding these tournaments called double shootouts - where they have 10 single table tourneys at (5+.50) with the winners of the 10 playing a final table at 11pm for a prize pool of $500 ($200 to the winner).

What the hell - figured I'd warm up with a little NL SnG action.

Anyways - much to my surprise I sat watching the first few rounds of action with hardly ANY raising preflop at my table. Even the few raises I saw were only min raises - hardly anyone was betting the pot either preflop or even after the flop.
In fact - it appeared that no one at the table really understood the basic concepts of betting in no-limit.

I didn't get too many playable hands - but I did use one move - a BB steal tactic. Whenever 2 or 3 limpers tried to see a flop on my BB - I raised them the pot. Usually one called - and I half pot bet the flop and watched the caller run away...

This was enough to keep me afloat - and slightly ahead as the blinds started to become substantial an the field thinned out.

Then I almost made a big mistake. With QJ suited in EP - I decided to play the hand - and since the table was so passive - I figured I'd take a shot at stealing the blinds with a 4xBB raise.
Well - I picked up 4 callers, so that didn't really work.

But the flop brought me top pair with Q-x-4.
The pot was pretty big already - and I didn't want to commit my stack just yet. With as meek as the table was playing I figured I might get the right price to see another card and checked. Someone bet roughly 1/4 of the pot - 2 people called - and getting about 7-1 I decided to see another card.

The turn was a J.

Now I had two pair - I didn't have to be scared of hands like A-Q or K-Q anymore. In fact - I was pretty sure I was holding the best hand at the time. (duh) I definitely didn't want any of the above hands to catch an A or K on the river to crack me - so I bet the pot - (commiting more than half the rest of my stack) hoping to take the pot down right there.

The big stack to my left moved all-in raising me the rest of my chips. The next player folded and then another stack about the same size as mine called all-in for the rest of his chips.


There was no flush or straight possibility. Which left the only real possibilites - over pair, lower two pair, or worst of all (for me) TRIPS...

This game is pretty fishy though and so are these bets, plus I'm feeling pot-committed with four outs to the nuts should I be behind...

I close my eyes and push... (big mistake)

The big stack shows 44 for the trips. The other caller shows A-Q.

Damn... I think to myself.

The river is a J.

Planet's interface goes a little crazy - but I realize amidst the graphical confusion on the screen - that I've hit one of my miracle outs - chopping the big stack off at the knees and eliminating another player. I now hold almost half the chips available with only 5 people remaining.

I catch one short stack moving in with paint (face cards) when I'm holding A-x in the BB. I call and knock him out when no help comes on the board.

Then I proceed to push at pots at regular intervals. Tossing away junk - but raising 4xBB on any A, suited high card, and up... The table decides to lay low and concedes the bulk of the blinds to me.

It was actually kind of frustrating - I picked up KK one time - threw in my usual raise and no one had a hand to play. I was picking up blinds but not able to get any action.

Finally I picked up AA with 3 or us left - and in an obvious ploy (to good players) I suspiciously just called the BB. 2 other players called including the BB. A face card on the flop - I checked and the table checked behind me. Another face card on the turn, no flush or straight possibility though, and I check again. A half hearted min bet comes on the turn, it's called, and I call hoping for a harmless card.

The river does not bring a third suited card or a straight that I can see. So I'm hoping that no one has two pair or trips. I check again. This time - the bet is the pot and the next player calls.

With some hesititation as to whether I'm still good - I reraise about the pot.

The bettor moves all-in. The caller folds.

Well - his all-in is a min raise back to me - so I call, feeling that I'm probably beat.

He shows top pair and is out...

The remaining player starts commenting on my play. I'm expecting to be berated for slow playing Aces to the river. (not something I'd do normally) Instead he/she was complimenting me on my tricky move. Tricky, huh?

Well I might agree with that - but it was done mostly out of fear that I wouldn't get any action if I raised my AA... But if the other player wanted go give me respect - there are ways to use that...

With this in the back of my mind and a pretty big chip lead - I started hammering away at the other player. I picked up most of the blinds pre-flop - with the occassional play back - which I would call to see if I could hit a flop. We bounced back and forth until I caught AA again.

This time I raised it up and the other player called.

When the flop came A-K-J, I was pretty sure I had him/her.

I bet the pot - and the other player moved all-in.

Call - am shown K-J for two pair, no help - and just like that I win the first round of the double shootout!

At the final table at 11pm - I again am astonished as I witness very little preflop action. A little more than the first round - but many 2xBB preflop raises - and hardly any pot raises pre-flop.

I'm starting to believe that UB's convenient pot bet button may indeed be one of the worst things in internet poker...

The action post-flop was admittedly more aggressive. Again - I stayed out of the action for the first few levels - able to stay afloat when I hit a few flops and was able to take down some small to medium pots.

As we thin down to 7 people - I've got an average stack and get KK. For some reason the table started tightening up just before... not sure why - so instead of raising 3x or 4x - after the table folds to me in the CO - I throw in a 2xBB raise looking for action.

The BB calls and we see a flop of 3 low cards.

I bet half the pot - as I've been doing after my pre-flop raises relatively consistently.
The BB raises me back. Trips? A junky 2 pair off the BB thanks to my too-small pre-flop raise?

Not at Planet Poker, I'm thinking ... I move all in and am called.

The BB shows JJ and I double up.

I hit a few more flops and hold the chip lead as we get down to 3. One situation comes up in my BB - when the short stack goes all-in and I'm holding 95s. It's about 3xBB to me. I decide to wait for a better spot and fold.

This later proves to be a huge mistake.

The short stack proceeds to move all-in again and again - as my cards go dead - and the other player loses 2 - all-in races in a row against the now decent stack.

Still I'm still the chip lead - and now the other stacks are both about half of mine.

Then the once-shortstack (screenname: bOOn - I think) starts firing away. Apparently all this heady all-in gambling had loosened his game up considerably. Equally unfortunate is that I catch a terrible run of cards and can't find a hand to play back with.

Then bizarrely, the third player, sitting on my left disconnects and is unable to get back in. This becomes really terrible because of our positions. The other active player gets free shots at the disconnected player's BB (which is automatically folding).

Intelligently, he keeps raising it up from his button - forcing me to call huge bets from my SB. And I can't catch anything half-decent to even call with...

Realizing that with the third player disconnected - that simply outlasting him will cede me 2nd place - I also tighten up - feeling that I'll be able to take my share of pots as soon as the other player slows down.

He doesn't slow down - and my cards don't change. Next thing I know - I give up the chip lead and I'm freaking out. Talk about getting off my game...

The combination of the constant raising combined with a seemingly neverending string of hands like 95o, J2o, T3o, 73o... and uh... - I'm on TILT! (in retrospect)

As the lead swings ever more in the other players favor and the disconnected player slowly bleeding off - I'm forced to make a decision.

Am I playing for first or second???

(note - thanks to Planet's interface forcing decisions in about 20-30 seconds I don't have much time to think things through...)

I get dealt Q9o - the best hand I've seen in like forever. Of course it's pot bet my Mr. Raise-it-up - and I call. The flop comes 3 clubs with me holding the 9 of clubs. I'm first to act - and I bet the pot expecting to take it down and begin a swing of the momentum back to me.

He raises me back!

I look back at my stack - if I don't make this call - I'm left with a stack that would need to double through twice to get back in the lead. But if I lose this pot - I get third place with (shame) the disconnected player getting second!

Dammit! Without really much thought (remember - I'm on tilt - screaming at the avatar on my laptop at 12:30 AM) - I push all-in.

Called and shown top pair. But the fourth club comes on the turn! Flush - and I'm back in the chip lead.

Now we dance - that slowed him down - and without the lead the other player isn't looking to press every bet. The disconnected player finally bleeds out to the blinds as we get heads up about even.

Then suddenly - I miss a few flops - have to concede a few pot and I'm behind again. Almost as if on cue - bOOn starts pushing every pot pre-flop.
And of course - I find myself once again with a string of junk cards.

THIS time - I call and see quite a few flops - but hit none of them and all this succeeds in doing is shrinking my stack even faster.

As my stack shrinks - I gotta admit - I start losing it again. I call a pot raise with Q6o. I hit the 6 for bottom pair. Check - and of course it's pot raised.

Not this time! I move all-in.

How ya like me now! (I scream at bOOn's avatar)

He calls and flips up top pair.

Aaarrghhhh!!!! (projectile flies through the air in my living room)

And that's the story of how I took second place in last night's Planet Poker double shootout.

And how I was completely outplayed, outwitted, and put off my game by some maniac with a raising fetish.

Ok - maybe not a maniac - but then a very LUCKY, aggressive player.

Alright maybe not lucky - but definitely I was very UNLUCKY.


Genius vs. Maniac, heads up? err... I'll take the maniac and lay you 2-1 odds....


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Figuring the Odds

As I mentioned in my last post - August is Limit month over here at the GotP. Besides the $400+ in UB bonus (thanks to SnG Heaven month), I also have a bonus to clear over at PokerStars and some hot games to get back to on Party.

Of course I'm not going completely cold turkey on NL. But I've been keeping my NL play restricted to small buy in multis on UB/Party/Stars. Unfortunately, so far without any great success. I'm pretty good at steadily building the first hour - and usually I can trap someone as the blinds begin to move up to stealable amounts to double up once or twice.

But I've found some problems as we enter the real moving time in the multis, when the blinds become high in relation to the average stack - and a pot bet can represent a significant portion of your chips. I've been forced into some tough situations trying to steal the blinds with hands like: mid pocket pairs (77 - 99), AQ, AJ. In general with hands better than this - TT and up, AK - I'm getting all in unless I have solid evidence that my hand is not the best.

But what to do when you pot raise in mid position with AJo and get called by the BB to a flop of A-T-2 (rainbow). I mean I'm as careful/tight as the next person - but I think my hand is good here. Well the BB in this situation checked - so I bet half the pot (maybe a mistake) and he moves all-in. It would take most of my stack to call his all in - and I've got almost half my stack already in the pot.

Well, there's only a few hands that I fear here - most likely being AK and AQ. I feel like AK, AA, TT would definitely have raised me pre-flop - so that leaves really AQ as the most likely possibility. He could also hold AJ - Ax (suited), or a mid pair (77-99), hell I didn't have a read on him - but for some players KQ - Q-J is even possible.

I felt like there were too many possible hands here that I had beat - and made the call.
He showed AQ. No miracle J and I'm out.
It didn't upset me, not really - but it virtually knocked me out of that multi.

Another interesting hand came up a while ago in a multi I was cruising along in on UB. I had about 5000+ in the middle of the tourney when the avg stack was about 2500 or so. I had doubled through a few times - and was proceeding to push my stack at the table and take blinds once or twice every round.
I get dealt KQs in mid position and pot raise for the steal.
The button calls the raise cold - and the SB and BB fold.

The flop comes Js Ts 2d (with me holding Ks Qs).
I've flopped the royal flush draw with 2 overcards. This gives me 15 outs to the nut straight and almost nut flush. In addition I have 2 more outs - non spade K's if my opponent is holding top pair. At the time I wasn't sure of the percentages - but I knew that except against a real strong holding like trips or 2 pair - I was a favorite.
Actually - I ran the odds on Cardplayers Odds Calculator later.
There were only 4 possibilities that had me beat. The three sets (JJ, TT, 22) and the nut flush draw (Axs). The trips were about a 58% favorite and the nut flush draw was about the same.
Any other possibility - even TWO PAIR (48%) - was an underdog against my hand.
I didn't have these figures at the time (although you can bet that I have them memorized now) - but I knew that my hand was pretty likely to be the favorite. I bet the pot.
He raised me back.
Now someone tell me if the numbers from Cardplayer are off - but at the time I figured - I had 15 outs that were good - since I didn't put him on raising me back with Axs. By my own poor math - I calculated - 47 cards left - 15 of them good for me = 32-15 - I'm about 50% to make this hand, with 2 cards to come.
Now what does he have? As I mentioned before - I don't think it's Axs - some players would call a pot raise with them preflop - but I don't think most would.
The sets are possible - with 22 a decent possibility - (since JJ and TT would in many cases reraise preflop).
But even more likely to me is a hand like AJ. In fact this is the hand I read him for.
I know how much people love JT - and it scares me at the time - since I thought I would be a dog to 2 pair at the time...
Well, even though I can just call and keep half my stack - I decide to go for the double up.
My rationale is that he's more likely to call an all-in here - than on the turn with another high card (A) or the third spade on the board.
And I have this gambling devil on my shoulder pushing my mouse hand over to the all in slider saying "let's double up!".

Well he called - and I lost the hand - when none of my 15 outs came in. I'll leave it to your speculation as to what he held and reveal it in my next post.
I'd like to offer a prize or something to the first one to guess right - but like I said - things ain't running so hot this month.

Anyways - thanks to Iggy's post - I've been spending inordinate amounts of time recently on the Party Poker's Bad Beat Beta Jackpot Tables. There is the annoying extra .25 rake but as advertised by Iggy the games are loose as all hell.
At first I made a tidy profit sitting there - seeing a few more flops than usual, and getting paid off when they hit me. It's pretty basic poker - I don't think you want to do anything fancy really - although I find I can't resist leading at pots when I have the chance and I know I'm going to stay in with a draw or middle pair...

All told I probably came away with about 25-50 BB on the 1/2 tables in the first 2 days I played at these tables.

The last 2 days have been an entirely different story.

For some reason - I decided to step down to the .50/1 tables and play 2 at a time - usually with an UB game in miniview format. I figured I could easily keep track of all 3 games and just play straightforward profitable poker with an outside shot at catching one of the bad beat jackpots...

Well that was the plan. I went on an incredible run of good starting hands from AA - TT and AK - AJ that all got busted. And sometimes I even caught the flop only to get run down on the river by a draw. I realize that at .50/1 that it's much harder to shake the draws - but this was ridiculous. People were catching gutshots, two pairs, even trips with junk and sucking me out. I'm serious - I don't know what I could've done except to have played really passively and MAYBE lost less money.

I don't want to get into limit bad beat stories. They're just a part of the game. But, suffice it to say - that I better hit a bad beat jackpot pretty soon if I'm going to show a profit on Party for this week.

Finally - last Saturday a bunch of friends got together for a little poker night during what was supposed to be a torrential downpour here in NYC as the remnants of Charley swept through. Well it was a mix of a few players who knew what they were doing vs. the rest who had almost no clue. As I expected it was a game which barely resembled poker as I know it. With limping galore, minimum raises, and out of nowhere all-in bets.
It could have been fun except that I couldn't catch a single hand to play in the first 2 games. My best playable hand for those 2 games was a QJs. Of course I limped and caught top pair - moved in with my short stack only to be called by AA and 66 that had caught the trips on the flop... Fun stuff.
The highlight of the night was a pot played by two of the rookie players. One player - a loose cannon, called the other's all-in bet with a flush only to be shown a higher flush by the bettor. As we began to reveal the pointless river - someone pointed out that a 5 of diamonds would give the caller a straight flush. Yeah - right... But sure enough - the 5 of diamonds came up on the last card giving him the one-outer bad beat. Incredible.
To sum up my night - in the last game I decided to limp with KK. Only the BB took the flop w/me. It came A-6-7. The BB checked - which meant to me that he didn't have the ace - so I moved in - hoping he'd caught the 6 or 7 and read me for a bluff.
Well he read the bluff alright - and called me with 45s. That's my fault for not raising him out of there I could see, right away. The case 8 knocked me out of any chance to even break even as I limped off to the loser's couch.
On a much smaller scale - I felt like the pros at the WSOP 2004 - I mean how the hell do you read anyone when they don't even know what or why they're doing anything. You just got to play your cards and hope for the best...

This Sunday is the Monty Memorial Blogger Tournament at Pacific Poker. Since it's been a while since the last blogger tourney (at Pacific also) - I noticed that I had only left a little less than $20 in my account. Rather than be bothered with a redeposit - I figured I'd just make the difference up on the tables. So I went and slummed on the .25/.50 tables for a few hours.
Yikes - the difference in play is astounding - although I must say I wasn't exactly playing close attention. I had run my balance down to a paltry $10 before I knew it - but a few big hands brought me back and a flopped straight with J9 vs. trips put me over the top.
Of course if I don't win anything in the blogger tourney, my Pacific account will be tapped. But I can't say I really like anything about Pacific, except that the competition is generally pretty loose.

I don't have great expectations for this Sunday's tourney. Although I have won one of these events - (Felicia's PJK-I at Planet Poker), that was a 20 person event and I think I benefited from the fact that every thought I was the Boy Genius and maybe gave me a little too much respect.
This event may have up to 50 or more bloggers and readers. And from the last few events - many of them are pretty aggressive (good) NL players. There certainly won't be any fish in this tournament - and to do well, it seems to me you'll have to make it through quite a few coin flip situations.

Wish I was playing a little better of a NL game. What I should probably do is let my brother - the family poker maniac, play for me. That'd put them all on tilt...

I saw Iggy suggest that BG (the real genius) and I have a last longer bet. Well - I don't know if I like my chances on that bet - but I'll see if BG has a creative wager he'd like to make and maybe I'll do something like that just for the fun of it.

We'll see how it works out.

Next week - if I can get out of work - I'm headed down to AC for a quick Borgata trip from Tues night to Thurs afternoon. Don't know if there will be any real hot action - but I plan to hit some of the weekday tournaments at least. I'm just fiending for some live poker action.

The following week - with the Republican National Convention rolling into town - I'll probably fly out to Denver to visit the folks, and head out a couple of days to the loose games in Central City/Blackhawk - home of 5/5 limit games with up to 5 raises. I got cleaned out my last trip - but I'm still up overall playing out there and will be looking for vengeance.

And finally - I've got my flight booked for a Vegas trip - September 23 - 27. Meeting my family out there - and hoping to drag a couple of friends along for the ride.
But basically - this September trip will be my very own little poker journey. We'll see how far I've come when I get to the Bellagio 10/20 game and maybe even the $250 max buy-in NL ring game...


Monday, August 09, 2004

For the Sake of a Hat...

Well, this past week finally saw an end to July 2004 - and my month of Sit and Go madness. Unfortunately the ridiculous win rate that I had been running for July in 10 and 20 dollar (mostly 10) SnGs on UB, finally and sadly, came to an end. I don't know if I was getting hit in the head with the deck for a while - but I do know I was getting enough cards to succeed during my run in mid July.
As for the last week - well, for sure the cards I saw were tougher - and on top of that, I guess I was still playing like a man on a rush. Some bad pushes in the wrong spots - dominated hands that hit, bad beats. A combination of all 3 led me to bleed off a portion of my profits.
My half pot raises weren't scaring anyone - and because more times than not - I wasn't holding - I was finding myself in serious trouble on missed boards in situations where I had to try to either push someone out of the pot with a big bet - or say goodbye to a decent portion of my stack.

You can imagine the results of being in this spot a few too many times.

But anyway the month ended and after a scary week or two with UB not crediting any of us with our bonus dollars (see Poker Chronicles for a rant on this) I ended up with over $600 in UB bonus dollars. Now I'm sure that some UB players who play every day or even higher stakes made thousands of dollars - but $600 bonus dollars and a profit of +$300 or so for the month of July devoted solely to UB SnGs. Well - let's just say it's my best month online ever.

I AM a little burnt out on SnGs though. Who wouldn't be? For a while there it was like work - trying to get in 4-6 SnGs before bed...

But one thing I did like - was the focus that chasing this bonus gave me for a month. Instead of playing a mix of limit and no-limit ring, multi tournaments, different games, and SnGs, for a whole month I played nothing but NL Hold'em SnGs.
If I didn't get better - I would've had to seriously consider quitting.

Anyways - as August rolled around I decided to head back to Party - where unsurprisingly I hadn't played in a month. They ran a promotion there - free Party hat and shirt if you play 300 raked hands in a week or two. Well - I was planning to play anyway - not that I think I'll be caught dead in either the hat or shirt in public - but hey - it IS free!

So I thought I'd just play some .50/1 and 1/2 limit on Party - collect my 300 raked hands for the free stuff and make a tidy profit along the way.


To say the games were loose would be an understatement. I played pretty tight - and maybe a little too aggressive. But during the course of playing 300 raked hands over 3 or 4 different sessions - I never once held a profit.
Each session started poorly - and I found myself grinding each time just to get back to even. A raise to a $1 on a .50/$1 limit table apparently does not keep suited cards, any connectors, or even lone aces, kings, queens from playing.
A .50 cent bet on the flop certainly doesn't keep them from folding on the flop either.
At $1 you might get completely dead hands to drop - but that doesn't really help. And on the river - we all show down our hands and the best one wins.

Where the skill comes into play in a game like this, well other than playing tight - I don't really see it. Especially after playing so much no-limit, it sometimes seems like a crapshoot. Of course, if I'd been getting cards and hitting flops - well then my profit from these loose-erratic Party players would almost certainly be due to skill.

Well at least maybe I can use the Party hat and shirt one day in a casino as a fish disguise. I know if I saw someone in a getup like that - I'd be thinking mmm... Party sushi.

I also got a chance this friday to get back to the regular home game that I mentioned earlier. This past friday 14 people showed up. As I've mentioned in the past - the game is loose - but makes up for it in aggression. Although I hadn't been there for a while - the past few sessions I'd been shut out of the money - and wondering whether I was making mistakes or just unlucky.

Well in the first game - although I'm planning to show off some of the NL SnG tricks I'd been practicing all month, the cards just wouldn't cooperate. I catch one hand, a pair of 8s, and raise the pot. I pick up one caller and the flop comes A-A-2. I bet the pot again and the caller thinks about if for a while, squeezing his cards again (as if he wouldn't know if he hand a A?) and decides to call. The turn is a 7.
Now normally I'd let this pot go - a pot raise call on the flop is strong enough indication to me that the caller is holding an A. But this game is different. The caller could almost certainly have put me on a bluff - and might be holding as little as 2 high cards like K-Q or even a 2 for the 2 pair.
In fact - I was pretty certain that this was the case - so I moved all in, mentally closing my eyes - praying that I wouldn't get a quick call.
As soon as he began deliberating - I knew I was ahead. He ended up folding - grumbling about the 'lucky aces'... As I hadn't had a hand to play before this one - I flashed my 8's and from the non-chalant look on his face - I think he layed down a winner. (hee hee)

But the cards never really turned around. As we got down to the final 5 (with 3 places) - I stole some blinds, which in and of itself was AMAZING - the game had really tightened up since I last played in it. Feeling emboldened - I pot raised in EP with K9o - only to have a short stack come over the top. Since the raise was less than my raise - I called it - and he showed A5o. No help on the flop - and I'm the short stack now...
A few hands later I get a suited Qx and move in. But a big stack picks up AJo and knocks me out on the bubble.

The next game started up immediately as the 3 remaining players struck a deal. We split into 2 tables of 7 - and unfortunately I end up on the tougher table with a mix of tight-aggressive, and loose-aggressive players and all the fish downstairs...

After getting pushed out of a bunch of early pots because I'm unwilling to tangle early on with the sometimes wild overbets (it wasn't unusual to see somewhat bet 500 or more on a pot that only had 100 in chips), I pick up AKo - UTG. I raise it up to 4xBB - I'm partially hoping to take the blinds or get called by a hand like Ax or Kx...
I get called by 4 players!
And the flop comes A-K-9! (rainbow)
As I'm first to act - my first instinct is to check. But that's too suspicious - so instead I make the same 4xBB bet as I did pre-flop - hoping to give someone the impression I'm a little wishy-washy about commiting to many chips to a bluff. One player calls - and the next one puts on his poker face looks down at his cards and quietly mutters "All-in" with a wave of his hand...
It folds to me - and I consider the possibility the all-in player is holding 9-9. It's possible - but so are a lot of hands that I'd have dominated. I'm reading A-Q or even if he thinks I'm bluffing, K-x...
I count out the chips to cover him - deliberate for a while (to increase the chances of the other player calling) and make the call.
The other player folds - and the all-in bettor shows K-9 for the WRONG 2-pair.
And just like that I'm off to the races.
I survive to the final table amidst grumbling from my table that I'm guarding my stack too closely. (I had folded my BB a few times to raises) Well - what the hell was I supposed to do with the blinds still low?
At the final 7 I try loosening up - raising one time preflop with JT0 - but someone comes over the top and I have to fold. Another time an EP player makes a huge preflop bet (big enough that it's peculiar). I have AJo - and I think about it for a while. But I read small pocket pair and don't want to coinflip from the wrong side. I tell the table I'm folding a hand they wouldn't and muck. Jeers of derision are showered down on me - but I remain stolid that I'm doing the right thing. That is until the table folds and the raiser shows - Q3o for a stone cold bluff.
Ouch... had me fooled.
But I throw some blind steals of my own - and take a couple of called pots down with big bets to build my stack back up to one of the top 2 when I'm dealt AA in the BB.
Another big stack raises it up to 2xBB. I make a show of deliberation and reluctantly call (trying not to over-act). The flop comes A-K-2 all HEARTS.
And of course - there's no way I can have a heart...
Still - I have the trips and outs to the full house. I can't possibly check this flop. I have to make it look like I'm trying to make a play in case he's not holding - so I bet the pot.
He looks over at the bet - asks for the amount, hesitates a second and quickly says "I'm all-in".
I immediately reply "I call!" and flip over my aces as if they're the case QJ hearts - which they're not. I expect to see at least a heart and prepare to root against the fourth heart when he flips up KTo and more importantly - no heart!.
I rake in a massive pot - as the other player shakes their head. We discuss this pot later as he wonders if there was any way he could have bet it that would get me to lay down my hand. As I think about it - not really. But I do mention that the way he went all-in seemed to make it pretty clear to me that he did NOT have the flush.

I wave my big stack around a bit - taking blinds with a flick of the wrist - when the small stacks get involved in a big pot. Only one player remains and we're heads up with me about a 2-1 chip lead. We mix it up a little - trading pots - when the small stack offers to make a deal. I add $20 to the 2nd place money and he'll take it.
I'm tempted to decline it and just put him all-in the next few hands - but I've seen some weird things happen heads up in live play.

So I cut the deal and just like that my losing streak was over!

Now to go back to work on my limit poker game...


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