Jun 082010
 

Since my last update my game is slowly improving. I’ve still got a long way to go though and as I have mentioned before a lack of patience has been my downfall.

It seems these days I play a solid game for 95% of my time at the tables grinding away a profit and then have a major brain fart and lose a buy-in pulling some sort of stupid low percentage move. I mean take this hand as example:

I’m in the BB with a 100BB stack and I’m dealt:

: :

It’s folded around to the small blind who raises 4x, the SB also has 100BB in front of him and has been stealing at every opportunity (his attempt to steal poker tracker stat is around 60%!) so I decide to defend and make it 3X his raise to go and he calls.

The flop comes:

: : :

He checks, I continuation bet around 3/4 pot and he insta-raises me. Before I even thought about it I shove the rest of my stack. He insta-calls and shows down:

: :

Why did I shove? Well at the time I thought I was being pushed around, but that logic doesn’t hold up when you think I’m risking in the order of 75BB to win only if I was right that he had complete rubbish that missed the flop and can fold it. It’s the kind of bet where if I’m called I’m crushed and if I win I risked way to much to do so profitably.

Truth is it was a complete lack of patience combined with a bit of stubbornness. It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this either, usually it’s not for 100BB but it’s costing me regardless.

Right now the main thing standing between me being a going from a break even (or even slightly losing) NLHE player to a winning one is controlling when I play the big pots… I know I can do it!

Mar 082008
 

EDIT: This post got big, apologies for the long hand histories but I think this is an interesting series of hands against some pretty crazy opponents. If reading hand histories doesn’t do it for you than you might want to skip this one.

Playing micro stakes full ring limit hold’em on PokerStars as part of my bankroll rebuilding process.

Preflop this table is typical loose/passive with many players seeing flops and not many raising preflop. Post flop there has been some strange and unpredictable play with some unusual holdings being shown down three or four ways.

I’m multi-tabling and have been playing fairly tight until I’m dealt the following five hands in succession:

Hand #1:

: :

In middle position at this stage (3 off the button) it’s raised in early position, I re-raise and the small blind who is playing 100% (I’m not joking) of his hands and seeing 66% of showdowns with what some would describe as manical aggression on all streets calls. Flop comes:

: : :

Small blind bets, early position calls and I raise. Small blind calls and early position folds. Turn comes:

:

Small blind bets again and I just call this time. Against most players the 8 of any suit is a crappy card for me and it may well be here but given that he’d play this same line with as little as a pair I believe I can call. Raising is also an option but I tend to get myself in trouble doing that against these maniacal players, too often taking a stand in the wrong spots. Nothing wrong with folding either but I can’t bring myself to give this guy credit for a real hand.

River is:

:

He bets again, I call. He shows:

: :

Nothing too exciting, gives us some information on the small blind player who we’ll call “Looney23″ for the rest of this post.

Hand #2:

I’m dealt:

: :

Now four off the button, an early position player calls. I raise for the second hand in a row which is unheard of at this table. Looney23 calls and the big blind calls. The flop comes:

: : :

I don’t love it but I don’t hate it. BB checks, early position checks, I bet, Looney23 folds(!) and the big blind check-raises. Early position folds and I have a decision to make.

Do I just fold? Is a check-raise from this player enough to put him on the flush. I’m not sure. If he has four to a flush I’m about a 60% favourite, if he has the flush I’m drawing nearly dead but on this table I wouldn’t rule out just a pair of kings. I decide to put him to the test and I three bet. He calls and when the turn comes:

:

He does something interesting and checks. To me this screams two things either “scared of full house” or “didn’t make my flush”. I bet intending to check the river if he calls. He calls, river is:

:

He checks, I check and I win the pot over his:

: :

Good result, not sure about how I played it though.

Hand #3:

: :

Unbelievable, three premium pairs in a row. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Earlier position this time UTG+2. Folded to me, I raise Looney23 calls, same player from the last hand who we’ll call “CrazyMan” raises and I cap it hoping in vein to get rid of Looney23. They both call we go to the flop three handed:

: : :

Good flop for me. CrazyMan bets, I raise, Looney23 re-raises, CrazyMan calls and I’m confused. Against normal players I’d be worried about sets, there’s also a chance CrazyMan has a bigger pair. I call.

The turn is the:

:

CrazyMan checks I bet, Looney23 calls (flush draw?) and then CrazyMan check-raises.

What the?

Logically I should be thinking about hands like straights, two pair, sets but instead this just feels wrong. I can’t explain why but I don’t put either of them on a hand at this point. My gut and my mind can’t come to agreement so I call. For the record I hate this call.

The river is:

:

CrazyMan bets out and now I have to believe one of them has a straight or a flush. I fold fully expecting Looney23 to raise. He surprises me and calls, showdown.

CrazyMan:

: :

(king high)

Looney23:

: :

(rivered two pair)

My gut was right but my head didn’t let me punish them enough. I should have 3 bet the turn but really I had no chance of getting rid of Looney23, it is clear from his play that he considers top pair no kicker a monster hand.

This hand set the precedent for the big hand #5.

Hand #4:

I’m dealt:

: :

In early position.

I fold.

Hand #5 – The “big” hand:

UTG now I’m dealt:

: :

I raise, Looney23 calls, CrazyMan re-raises, small blind calls (nearly all-in) I cap without much thought and everyone calls.

Flop comes:

: : :

SB checks, I bet, Looney23 calls, CrazyMan raises, SB calls all-in, I re-raise, Looney23 calls, CrazyMan caps it and we both call. Phew.

Given the previous hands I don’t give either of them credit for a bigger hand than mine. Turn comes:

:

I bet, Looney23 calls, CrazyMan raises, I re-raise wanting to get heads up with CrazyMan but Looney23 calls, CrazyMan caps and we both call again.

The action on this street has me worried, no idea what they have but I decide in advance to just check/call the river. This pot is big enough, I only let the turn get capped because of the players I’m against but even against players this crazy surely KK can’t be good here too often.

River is the:

:

I check, Looney23 wakes up and bets now (damn straight, I think to myself) CrazyMan just calls this time (very odd) and I make a crying call into a pot that’s given me somewhere close to 30 to 1 in odds.

The all-in player shows:

: :

(nothing)

Looney23:

: :

(runner, runner straight)

CrazyMan:

: :

(pair of fours)

Ugh.

So tell me, in this last hand, given the previous play of these opponents do you lose big with these kings or did I get out of line here and build too big a pot?

In hindsight I think there were a couple of points in the 5 hands where I may have made the wrong decision but when you’re being hit over the head with premium pocket pairs pre-flop and then facing the kind of play I saw from CrazyMan and Looney23 it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment. Remember these hands happened in succession, the whole train wreck took no more than 5 or 6 minutes from start to finish. I also had 3 other tables open and playing. That’s a lot going on.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to log off now and get over this tilt ;) Thanks for reading!

 Posted by at 11:22 am
Jan 192008
 

It’s the old $4+$0.40 180 player no-limit hold’em SNG over on PokerStars. I have an above average stack of around 20K, blinds are 300/600 with a 50 chip ante.

It’s the bubble.

Now like most of these tournaments there’s no real money on offer until the final table and even then not until around 5th place. Places 10-18 pay only $8.64 which is hardly worth the time you invest into one of these. Given that information, when you’re dealt:

: :

In the big blind and the small blind player who’s just recently joined the table and has you covered with about 33K in chips raises it up to 3000 after one limper what do you do?

I went through the options:

  1. Fold. This seems weak but will almost guarantee me at least some money. My thinking though is this isn’t the kind of play that’s going to get me into that top 5 at the final table.
  2. Call. Nah, I don’t want to put myself into any tricky situations post flop this hand.
  3. Raise. Sounds logical, how much? Well, I want to get rid of that other caller (though the action so far has probably taken care of that). I’m thinking up to about 9000. That only leaves me with 11K behind though in what would be a 18K pot plus ante’s. I’m probably going to be all-in this hand if I do this. So…
  4. All-In? Sounds good, I can take down an already decent sized pot right here and if he calls he’s way behind.

So I push and am very surprised when he calls and then very happy when he shows:

: :

then very mad when the flop is:

: : :

I don’t improve and I go out in 19th.

So, tell me. Do you bubble here too? Even if I don’t push pre-flop I don’t see myself getting away from that pot with that hand on that flop. I don’t even think I’m supposed to be able to… Am I?

Aug 282007
 

Have you seen the new HellKat sit and go tournaments over at Party Poker? They are just like regular SNG’s only they have a maximum time which the game can last (5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes at this stage though the filters in the client hint that there may be longer games to come), at the end of which the prize pool is divided up amongst the top 3 chip stacks. As an added twist some of the games have a random finishing time (within 10% of the scheduled finishing time) that make it more difficult to predict how many hands you have remaining.

My initial thought on these games is “what a crap shoot” with most of the tournaments I’ve been watching quickly turning into all-in fests. However, it does seem there could be some interesting strategies to be tried. Especially in the later stages of the game. I’ve only played in one so I’ll reserve judgment on the idea as a whole until I’ve researched things a bit more, in the meantime consider this final hand from the HellKat tournament I just played in:

Let me set the scene, there are five players remaining:

SB has 670
BB has 5,160
I’m UTG with 3,720
UTG+1 has 7,730
and the button has 2,720

Blinds are 150/300 but that is almost completely irrelevant as the HellKat timer is at 14:45 and this is a fixed time tournament capped at 15 minutes. This is our last hand.

The cards are dealt and I find:

: :

What do you do here?

With my timer already beeping and all eyes on me I quickly consider the current state of the game, my options, my opponents likely moves and how this all affects me and my money chances. I do all this in the few scarce seconds you get to think in these things and then I fold. As the play moves around the table I double check the numbers in my head, I think I got this right…

  1. I’m third. The only way this can change is if the current first or second place player doubles up fourth place in this hand.
  2. First place will not play this hand as fourth place is going all-in regardless and if first loses he’s back to second.
  3. Second place will not call the all-in as a loss will put him out of the money.
  4. Since fourth has to push to have any chance of making the money and since I’m around 60/40 give or take against most random hands here it’s a big gamble to try and grab second place.

I’m convinced in this specific situation that folding is correct (and should have been done blind, though AK made it that much more interesting) however, if fourth and fifth place have more than 1860 in chips (half my stack) each here I have to play and in that case we would have been all-in preflop and I would have had a race on my hands for a chance at second place or nothing! That’s what these tournaments can come down to and while it’s interesting to try and run these scenarios in your head while under pressure at the table as the final minute ticks by on a clock it remains to be seen whether or not this type of game suits my style.

As far as a way to kill a quick 15 minutes goes though I can think of worse things to do.

Oh, by the way… the board after fourth and fifth place played the dead rubber of a final hand:

: : : : :

I’d have rivered the win and taken second. C’est la vie!

 Posted by at 2:57 am
Oct 092006
 

Want a quick way to calculate your bankroll requirements? Try this calculator I found during my virtual travels:

http://…/bankroll-requirements.html

You’ll need to know your win rate (big bets per hour or per hundred hands is the standard way to measure this) and your standard deviation over the same period which if you’re a poker tracker user can be found in your ring game statistics under the “More detail…” button on the “Session Notes” tab.

It should be noted that the more hands you have in your poker tracker database the more accurate this calculator will be. Personally I wouldn’t recommend bothering with anything less than 10,000 hands and many would argue that even this many is no where near enough (and technically they’d be right, so just nod your head and walk away slowly as believe me you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a lecture on statistics from a math geek ;)).

If you are interested though there’s a good thread over on 2+2 that covers the topic quite well.

At the end of the day, even if you’re not interested in the math behind it it’s nice to get a feel for what is statistically a correct bankroll to be playing with. While playing within your bankroll is no guarantee of success (tomorrow your playing style may change sending the current numbers out the window) nor should it ever even enter your thoughts once you’ve bought in and sat down at the table (if your bankroll is in your mind at the table it’s affecting your play and that’s a bad thing) it’s still nice to know that, all things being equal, we can determine if we’re playing within our means.

Good luck at the tables!

 Posted by at 7:24 pm
Sep 232006
 

Reading Opponents

One thing I’ve been working on recently is reading my on-line opponents. Obviously I’m not talking about shaky hands or how my opponents eat their Oreos, physical tells don’t exist on-line. I’m talking about things like how passive or aggressive my opponents are, their betting patterns and any other interesting bits of information I might get from seeing them play (e.g. do they slow play monster hands, do they bet their big draws).

Keeping track of all this inside your head can be tough, sure you’ll remember certain players and hands but there’s no way most players are going to be able to keep track of the thousands of players they face over the months or years of play. The good news is there are a range of tools at your disposal to help keep track of this information, here’s what I use:

Poker Tracker

This essential application will keep track of all your on-line ring and tournament game play. I’m not going to go into detail here (the benefits of tracking your game with apps like Poker Tracker (PT) are well documented across the ‘net) but I will say that if you’re serious about playing on-line and you’re not yet using any kind of tracking software you’re missing out on leaning a lot about your game.

GameTime+

This little utility interfaces with your PT database to provide information on your opponents while you are playing in the form of stats overlayed on the table. You can configure GameTime+ (GT+) to display any of the wide range of stats that PT tracks, here’s my configuration:

  • Voluntarily Put Money In The Pot % (VP$IP)
  • Pre-Flop Raise % (PFR)
  • Post-Flop Aggression Factor (PFA)
  • Went To Showdown % (WSD)

Along with the icon assigned by PT and the players name. There’s a great article on how these numbers should be interpreted here:

http://www.bet-the-pot.com/poker-tracker-part3-page37.html

Well worth a read if you’ve never examined these statistics in the past.

Player Notes

Player notes are a feature provided by most on-line poker rooms and are a great way to keep track of:

  1. The overall rating of the player based on stats (e.g. Loose-Aggressive/Passive for someone who is loose and aggressive pre-flop but passive post-flop). This allows me to pick good seats at tables before I sit down and fire up GT+.
  2. Anything I feel sets this player apart from others in that category (e.g. “May slowplay top pair heads up” or “Willing to cap flop betting on a strong draw”).

I always make sure that I’m continually updating player notes as I learn new information or something that I had inferred from an opponents previous play is contradicted by something new (in this case I may make a note that a player is smarter and less predictable than average which would alert me to watch closely how they are playing that day).

Putting It All Together

So, you’ve been tracking players with PT, can see their stats in GT+ and you have all your player notes up to date. How should all this affect your game? The unfortunate answer to this question is that (like most things in poker) “it depends”. It depends on the hand, the stats and your general feel for a situation. I like to use these tools to verify something that I’m already thinking, if I’m getting bet into post-flop by a player who is usually extremely passive post flop then I can more easily throw my marginal hands away. If in this same situation my opponent is ultra aggressive post flop (indicating a lot of bluffs or continuation bets) I might decide to re-raise and see where I’m really at.

I’ve played a couple of hands recently where the information I’ve had on my opponents has directly influenced the decisions I made making me do things that I would not usually do against random opponents.

The first hand was at low stakes 6 handed limit hold’em table, I was on the button and had been dealt:

: :

A player with stats of 60% VP$IP and 33% PFR raised from middle position and it was folded to me. I re-raised, which is standard play with queens on the button so nothing interesting so far.

Then, to my surprise, the player in the big blind (a player I had flagged as Loose-Passive/Passive with stats of VP$IP 41% but only a PFR of 1.6%) capped the betting. Alarm bells started going off in my head, here was a player who practically never raises pre-flop capping the betting. I couldn’t help feeling my queens might be in trouble.

The original raiser calls and I call since I’m getting great odds. We see the flop:

: : :

Now, usually I would like this flop for queens (as much as you can like a flop with an over card on it) but with that cap on the flop I’m not so sure they’re good. What can you put a player that passive on when he caps pre-flop? AA, AK, KK and maybe QQ are what came to my mind at that point.

I was surprised however when the action was checked to me. Of course I bet, maybe all that pre-flop action was just an anomaly? Well both players call and at that point I feel so sure that the BB is beating me. The third player in the pot doesn’t concern me much, he’s usually aggressive and would have bet any made hand. He might have hearts but ace high is more likely. So we see the turn:

:

Totally irrelevant, except for some crazy straight and the action is checked to me again. This is where the stats and my feel changed my normal play, I’m normally betting again here but I really think I’m beat. Given the unusual pre-flop aggression from the BB I feel I might be being trapped here and elect to just check and see the river:

:

Another straight card but I’ve all but discounted that possibility (the maniac could play A5 but since I thought I was already beat on the turn it’s irrelevant). The BB player now bet causing the maniac to fold and leaving me getting 8.5 to 1 on a call where I really felt I was beat. The odds coupled with the fact that I decided he had to bet even if I was wrong about the hand (there’s a difference between you’re beat and knowing it) made me call and he turned over:

: :

For a set of kings on the flop. I happily mucked my queens knowing I’d lost (nearly) the minimum. Sure, slowing down with queens after a lot of action and an overcard is no super poker move, but the truth is that if I was up against any other style of player I would have lost more on this hand by betting the turn and likely at least calling the inevitable raise setting myself up for more pain on the river.

The second hand was in the same type of game, against different opponents. The unique thing about this hand is that the player in the small blind had the following stats:

  • VP$IP = 80%
  • PFR% = 55%
  • PFA > 7
  • WTSD = 70%

In general a maniac.

The action is folded around to me where in the cut off I have been dealt:

::

Perhaps not the best hand to play against this type of player, but I felt I wanted to see the flop. Since I didn’t really want the player on the button to hang around I felt a raise was in order, so I raised and just to be annoying the button called anyway (he had a VP$IP of 55% also so it shouldn’t have surprised me too much). Our maniac in the SB re-raised (this was not at all surprising or scary and didn’t narrow down his holdings too much – he probably has at least one high card or a pocket pair) and the big blind folded. I called and we saw the flop:

: : :

I like this flop. I want to play this flop aggressively. The SB maniac bets – which he does on every flop – and I re-raise. The button called (unexpected, he’s hit something I’m just hoping it’s not a better flush draw). The SB re-re-raises which makes me think he’s at least got a pair (he’s crazy but not crazy enough to think he’s going to bluff out two opponents especially when I’ve been playing the hand so aggressively so far) and I decide to cap in a last ditch effort to get the button out. The button calls and we see the turn:

:

And once again the turn is where my play differs from normal. The 4s is a great card and usually I’d expect my opponents to slow down when it comes but in this case the SB bet, I raised, button called, SB re-raised, I capped and they both called.

I would never play the non-nut flush this way against any opponent I respected. At this point I have no doubt the SB has an ace and at the time I was thinking A8 or A3. The button on the other hand is a bit of a mystery, I was now thinking that he might have a set of 3′s or 8′s. Of course spades were possible but unless he had the king I felt he would have re-raised the turn. Maybe he’s just sticking around in because the pot is so large, either that or he’s making a very smart play by letting the SB bet for him. I decide I can’t be scared of a higher flush and my plan is only to slow down if a fourth spade drops. The river:

:

And the SB and I cap it again (with the button coming along for the ride). The button turned over A6o and earnt himself a player note “can’t fold a pair of aces” ;) and the maniac SB turned over AJo for a better than expected holding but still a crazy play.

So there you have it, two examples of changing play based on opponent stats and reads. The first where I played a hand very passively that I would usually play aggressively and the second where I played hyper-agressively with a non-nut hand that I would usually slow down with against similar action from any other style of player.

If you don’t already, get hold of the programs I’ve mentioned here (or their equivalents) and start tracking your opponents. You’ll be surprised at just how useful this information can really be!

 Posted by at 12:36 am
Aug 142006
 

Talk about your roller coaster ride, this past weekend of poker has been one of the strangest I’ve played in a long time.

I don’t know if maybe there’s been a sudden influx of new fishy players that heard the news of James Gold winning $12 Million at the World Series of Poker or what, but something sure was different about these tables.

Between Friday night and Sunday night I played a little over 1000 hands of $0.50/$1.00 6-Max limit hold’em and managed to earn a nice little rate of 5.56 BB/100.

By itself this statistic is not really very interesting, 1000 hands is a small sample and I could just have easily made -5.56 BB/100 over this period. What makes it interesting is the type of players I was up against, I admit I always look for a loose/fishy kind of table, but these were ridiculous. I was repeatedly sitting down at tables where 3-4 players would cap the betting preflop with any imaginable cards, raising and re-raising when they were drawing dead and generally just playing crazy.

These types of players mean big money but also big variance, even with my high win rate for the weekend I was felted more times this than I have been my entire on-line poker career.

So how does one adjust to these kinds of players? Here’s my tips:

  1. Pay attention, if you usually play at multiple tables think about dropping one or two to allow you to really concentrate on these players. I found by playing only one good table I was able to make some plays that I never would have had I been multi-tabling and not paying proper attention to the players.
  2. Loosen the hands that you will call a raise with pre-flop, these players are raising with anything and everything better to try and outplay them after the flop.
  3. Draw more, you’ll often have the implied odds you need to see another card.
  4. In a similar vein, don’t be afraid to re-raise with your strong draws. In many cases this is correct limit hold’em play anyhow, against these players it’s even more correct as more often than not they’ll be paying you off big when you hit.
  5. Don’t bluff. Ever*.
  6. Don’t go too crazy, you still need to play premium hands. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming too loose or drawing to likely loosing hands.
  7. Don’t tilt. You’re going to get bad beats at these tables, it comes with the territory.
  8. Pick your players. You’re still going to get the odd Tight/Aggressive player joining you, just stay out of their way whenever you can.

* “Ever” might be a bit strong, bit bluffing is generally -EV at these tables. Make sure you have a really good reason when you do it.

Truthfully, most reasonably solid players should have no trouble beating the kinds of players I’m talking about in this post by just playing their natural game. Theoretically you can just sit back, fold, wait for good cards and get paid off but in my opinion there’s so much extra money to be made at these tables by getting a little creative and jumping in and playing. Sure it can be damn frustrating when you get drawn out on again and again and again but as long as you’re able to see past the bad beats you’ll be nicely rewarded.

 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Jun 072006
 

I’ve been so sidetracked with limit hold’em ring games lately that I’ve been neglecting my sit and go’s (SNGs) which is a shame because single table no-limit hold’em SNGs are my favourite kind of poker. I enjoy them because they give you a chance to play with and study ten opponents from the start of a tournament until the end, they really give you the opportunity to play the players much more than you get to in a ring game.

The other thing I love about them is that each one is different and you need to be able to adjust your game accordingly, there’s no getting up and finding another table or seat. You’re stuck there until the end and it’s adapt or bust… fantastic!

Since it had been over a month since my last one I decided to jump into one this evening over at Party Poker. I expected that since I hadn’t played one in a while I would be a bit rusty, this combined with the fact that this was my first time playing in a tournament on Party made me want to start out small so I signed up for a $6 game and waited for my opponents to arrive.

Arrive they did and we got started, first hand of the game went to the player to my directly to my left who took around 500 chips off the player directly to my right who was chasing a gut shot draw (against a big raise) vs a set of tens. I knew I was in for some fireworks!

Second hand in and I’m dealt in late position (one off the button):

::

Blinds are at the starting 20/40 and the under the gun player min raises to 80 and two players before me call. I don’t like these callers and raise it up to 200 in an attempt to isolate. The player on the button calls as does the small blind and one other player, we’re four handed to the flop:

:::

Raggedy flop, no help to me at all but the action is checked to me and I decide to try a continuation bet. Half the pot feels right here so I make it 500, the player on the button smooth calls and the other two players fold. We see the turn:

:

The pot is 2080, I’m out of position against a player I have only seen play one hand in my life where he chased an unlikely gut shot against the odds. I have no idea what he would have smooth called with on the flop, but I like my chances that I’m now winning with my TPTK. I have 1300 in chips and he has 820, given the size of the pot I decide to put him all-in. He calls and shows:

::

Nice! Until, the river:

:

Giving him two pair and leaving me as the new table short stack with 480 in chips. Ouch, not the position I wanted to be in at this early stage. However, instead of tilting and blowing of the last of my chips on some crappy holding I decide to grin, bear it and do everything I can to make a comeback. So I start folding… and folding… players start dropping out but due to the blinds my stack has shrunk down to 390 and the blinds have already jumped up to 50/100. Things were looking grim when under the gun I was dealt:

::

But how to play them? An all-in bet probably would have sufficed here as my stack wasn’t really going to intimidate anyone but that would have been the obvious short stack move. I decide to min raise with the idea that I’ll either call a re-raise or push all-in on the flop. So, I raise. My old friend on the left (let’s call him lefty) calls, the short stack on the button re-raises all-in for another 64 the blinds fold and I call as does lefty. We see a flop:

:::

I move all-in for another 127 and lefty calls. We turn them over:

Lefty:

::

Button:

::

The turn is the last ace and my opponents are drawing dead. I (almost) triple up to 1200 in chips but am still the short stack but at least now I have something to play with and it seems I’ve gained a little respect as the next hand I steal the blinds with a 3X raise holding JJ. I go back into fold mode and just as the blinds go up to 100/200 in the big blind I’m dealt:

::

Four players call around to me (including my good mate lefty) and with a stack of only 900 left in front of me I’m left with a decision. With four players AQo is vulnerable, I have to raise which pretty much commits me for the rest of the pot but I decide not to push all-in just yet. I make it 600 to go which lefty calls (I should mention he’s the chip leader right now – somehow!) as does one other player. My raise sucessfully knocked out one of the limpers and I’ve still got 500 up my sleeve to make a play on the flop:

:::

The pot is 2000, I have 500 and the second nut flush draw. I’m 90% sure lefty will call me with anything and I run the risk of either of my opponents holding at least a king but I’m pot committed, I have to push and hope no one has the ace of spades. Sure enough, lefty calls, the other player folds and lefty shows:

::

For a pair of nines (a typical lefty holding ;)) which is excellent news me as it gives me 5 more outs (any non spade ace or a queen – the ace of spades was already an out) We see a turn:

:

The river is a jack and I take down a pot worth almost 3000 to move from short stack to second position. I then hit some nice cards and lefty doubled me up again my KK vs his 99 and I was the chip leader into the final four.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, this post is already way too long but to cut a long story short I came second (and more importantly I beat lefty – he went out in third). I would have loved first but lefty near doubled up my heads up opponent leaving me out stacked around 10 to 1 (I’d lost a few chips by this point due to the large blinds – 600/1200).

At the end of the day though it was a great feeling to come back from down and out with ten players remaining to take second. Just shows that the old saying “All you need is a chip and chair” is true – if you’re calm and patient enough.

Thanks for reading, if you got this far I’m impressed!

As a side note, if you don’t already have an account over at Party Poker use the code “SIMONPOKER” when you sign-up to let them know I sent you and get an extra $25 on your first deposit. If you use this code I get a bit of cash too which helps me keep this site on-line (might also help buy me a beer which is always appreciated!).

 Posted by at 11:41 pm
Jun 042006
 

Multi-table tournaments are, without a doubt, the game I suck the most at. I play cash games I win. I play single table sit and go’s and I win. I play a MTT and I end up donking off all my chips in some stupid situation, usually after I’ve gotten myself into what should be a good position.

Granted, the fact I suck at MTT’s is probably due to the fact that I don’t play enough and I don’t study them enough, it might also be due to the fact that I play very high variance, low buy-in games. I have to consider though, that if I can’t beat the fishy games, I’ll never beat the real ones. Anyway, I’m rambling – let’s consider tonight’s effort:

It’s about 10 minutes after the break in a $1+$0.10 tournament on Poker Stars, I have just over 5700 in chips and the blinds are 100/200 I’m in middle position and the action has been folded around to me. I look down at:Poker Stars

::

Which is an attractive holding so I raise it up to 600, the player to my immediate left (who I have a read on and would describe as a loose calling station – having called large raises earlier with next to nothing) calls leaving himself with a stack of about 3100. Everyone else folds and we’re heads up to the flop:

:::

Which is an excellent flop for me, I have an open-ended straight draw, a spade flush draw and two over-cards which may or may not be live. This a good flop regardless of what my opponent has and I have to bet, the pot is 1500 and I bet 1000 which my opponent considers, then smooth calls.

A call like this is strange, but we have to remember we are dealing with a loose player – a gambler. His call though makes me rule out holdings like JJ or TT and I’m 95% sure he doesn’t have Jx as he would surely re-raise such a large bet. There is no doubt in my mind he’s drawing, but to what? He may have spades, but I can’t be scared of the ace of spades here so what about the straight? What cards would he have called my preflop raise with? AK and AQ come to mind, but surely he’s not drawing to the gut shot? Oh yeah, this guy is loose, very loose. He’s not thinking about odds. So we see the turn:

:

A very interesting card, if my read is correct he doesn’t have a jack and since I bet on the flop I can bluff that I’ve got one. Even if he calls I still have all those outs to beat him. The pot is 3500 and I have 4100 left and he has 2180, only one thing for it. All in!

Which he calls! I’m devastated, he must have had a jack right? So much for my reads… well, we see the river:

:

I’m stuck with a pair of jacks, king kicker and he turns over:

::

He was on a gut shot straight draw the whole way, he was calling whether I had a jack or not. Heck, he would have called if I had two! He takes down the pot, leaving me with under 2K and out a few orbits later when my pocket threes didn’t hold up heads up against KQ.

So did I play this hand badly? Well if bad is losing most of your chips to a player with ace high then yes. But if you consider that I read his hand nearly perfectly after his flop call and put him all-in on the turn when he only had ace high then I played correctly.

However, if you consider that he was going to call any bet no matter what the cards and that technically he was beating me on the turn (about 70/30 actually) as was any ace, jack, ten or six then you’d have to say I played it badly.

At the end of the day my chips were in when I was behind and whenever this happens I’m disappointed. This was a MTT tournament though and you don’t win these things playing passively, problem I have is working out where to draw the line between aggressive play and stupidity. I guess I’ve just got to keep practicing!

 Posted by at 11:46 pm
May 292006
 

I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before but myself along with a few friends have started up a small poker league where we get together at least once a month to play a low stakes game (usually a sit and go style no-limit hold’em tournament) and keep track of the results.

I’ve generally had reasonable success at home games and although I don’t track my results as closely as I do on-line (I see them as more a way to have some fun rather than a way to win money) I believe I’m “up” overall. However, all of this was irrelevant at yesterdays game where I screwed up royally!

It’s the second round, blinds are 20/40 and I’m in early position. I haven’t really played any hands up until now and I still have most of my starting 1500 in chips. There are seven players in the game and it has been folded around to me, I look down at:

::

An instant fold right? Well, I’m not so sure. See at this point I’d been doing a lot of folding, I’d probably only seen one or two flops the whole game. Also, there hadn’t been a lot of raising at the table so far so I liked my chances of seeing a cheap flop. If I hit no one at the table would expect me to hold cards like this, if I didn’t these are easy cards to get away from. It’s not something I would do often, nor would I necessarily recommend it but the time felt right to play so I limped and with three other players (including the blinds) I saw a cheap flop:

:::

Giving me top two pair and a back door flush draw. Just about the nicest flop I could have hoped for apart from the two clubs. Now here’s where I make my first major mistake (ignoring preflop which I’ll analyse a little more later), in a pot of $160 I only bet $50. My defence here is that I was hoping to be raised, but in hindsight the table was quite passive at that point so I really should have expected callers not to mention my bet of $50 gives anyone on a club draw nice odds to call with even if they don’t realise it. Anyway, two players call and we see the turn:

:

Which (ignoring the fact that any over card is potentially dangerous) looks like a nice card for me as I now have four to a spade flush. After the callers on the flop I decide I need to bet bigger this time around and make it $200 to go. One player folds, the other smooth calls which is extremely suspicious as $200 would be considered a large bet into almost any size pot given how the game has played so far.

The river is a rag and I bet out again, this time $400 which my opponent considers and then calls turning over:

:: (suits may vary)

For a higher two pair. This leaves me as the short stack at the table and although I definitely should have done a better job at surviving I was out soon after in 7th place (out of 7). Not my best day at the poker table and all because of one hand – 94s! What was I thinking? I never play 94 even if it is suited! Let’s consider where I went wrong…

Preflop:

  • It’s good to be creative and occasionally play cards that your opponents wouldn’t expect, however, 94s in early position is maybe taking that a little bit to the extreme.
  • Why call preflop? I should definitely have raised here, if I’m going to to try and be a little deceptive then I should represent a big hand. A standard 3 X BB raise here would likely have caused T9o to fold.
  • There was no real need to try this move here at all, the blinds are low and I have plenty of chips. I should wait for a better opportunity to win some chips.

Flop:

  • Preflop mistakes don’t matter now, I hit top two pair but there is a flush draw and I am also vulnerable to pretty much any other 9. In this situation you have to bet big, $50 is not enough. Make it at least the pot, maybe a little more. $200 has a nice ring to it. 

Turn and River:

  • I think I played these streets correctly, out of position I was giving chips away here regardless. With no raise on my turn bet I had no reason to consider T9 and when no flush came on the river I was fairly confident I had the best hand, however, due to my mistakes on other streets (preflop especially) my opponent could have had absolutely anything.

So there you go, sometimes when the cards aren’t running well for you and you feel you’ve got a tight table image you’ll be tempted to play “any two cards”. This is good. Just make sure when you do that you learn from my mistakes and pick your moments based on table position, table feel and your opponents and please, when you hit that flop hard always make your opponents pay to outdraw you. You’ll have a much better idea of where you’re at and just maybe you’ll avoid donking off a lot of your chips like I did.

Of course, you’ll do much better if you just have a little more patience than I did and wait for that big hand to come along… no need to force these things, especially early in the tournament.

 Posted by at 6:43 pm