Wednesday, March 30, 2005

WPBT Tournament Report

I've been meaning to participate in one of the WPBT tournaments for a while now, and after a good month, I finally got on PokerStars and threw down $22 for tonight's tourney.

It was fun, and I'll definitely be participating again, though the outcome (for me) was a little disappointing... but most of all I'm disappointed that I didn't get to sit with very many of the folks who literally have taught me everything I know. 109 players, $2180 divided amongst the top 18, T1500 to start.

The cards were pretty lackluster as well. Early on, I was getting nothing even remotely playable, which is a double-edged sword: it keeps you out of trouble, but even the small blinds in the early going start whittling away your stack pretty fast.

On the first hand which I voluntarily put money in the pot I held AJo, which I was hesitant to play, and when the flop came 234 rainbow, I bet half the pot and Chris folded. (I drop his name here, just because he was one of a very few opponents I recognized and who's site I read.)

Not long after I called down a short stack all-in with 99 on a K84 flop, while he held AK. I made a bad read and didn't believe his push when another player and I had checked to him. That put me down to about T750 or so.

Then just before the first break, I hit the wrong button and called an all-in raise to my right. I held KQo, against 55, and was ready to leave really pissed off until the river brought a King. I felt that I had just used up all my luck on that hand, and said so in the chat (though I guess KQ vs 55 wasn't the worst place to hit the wrong button in hindsight). At the break I was up to T1580, with the average stack being T2477... still a lot of work to do.

Glancing at the leaderboard during the break, I noticed that nearly all the familiar names were already out, which was kind of disappointing, but a little encouraging: I had at least outlasted some of the people I look up to. In a single tournament that's not worth much, and really means nothing, but it was encouraging none-the-less.

After the break, the blinds were hurting my dwindling stack pretty good, and the only really memorable hand was the one that knocked me out:

I found AQo with about T1250, and a middle-position raiser made it T600, and it was folded around to me. Now, there are better hands in better spots, but the blinds are 100/200 and doubling up here would really help the cause... and if I don't make a move soon, I'll be out anyway. So I push. "pumpkin1974" calls. He holds KJ of spades, and I feel good about my push at least. The flop is ragged, and helps neither of us, with just one spade. Turn: spade. River: spade. As I write this "pumpkin1974" is in second place with about 10k in chips. Good luck to whomever that may be.

I finished in 50th place of 109, at least outlasting over half the field, which was the general goal I had in the back of my mind at the start.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A General Update

I haven't posted much this month, and mostly that is due to my working hard to really hammer the SNGs and spend my time there, and the other half of that coin is that after hundreds of tourneys, not much that can happen seems new or post-worthy. As well, I'm saving my SNG insights and thoughts for my end-of-the-month stats post. Overall though, it's been a good month on that front: I think I'm falling into a tight/aggressive groove.

I've been avoiding the NL cash games in an effort to stabilize my bankroll, and this seems like a good idea at this time. I played a few quick sessions here and there... sometimes after a non-ITM finish in a SNG I'll decide to go sit at a $25NL table and make a quick score of $11 to make up for the SNG loss. You'd think this would be a bad idea, or some tilt-fueled, results-oriented, -EV proposition, but it works for me more often than not. Mentally, there's no pressure... I just sit and play conservative, and usually within a few orbits I either leave because I'm up the $11, or I leave because I just haven't got any cards and am becoming bored.

In other news, I ordered my first set of Copags after reading and hearing about them for a while now. The consensus seems to be that they're on par with or even better than Kems, and the Copags are selling on eBay for about $15 for 2 decks. We'll see when they get here.

I'm also still hashing out the details and getting ready to start seriously making poker tables. I've got a few interested buyers, a bunch of fabric, vinyl, and foam samples, and a basement full of tools. I don't want to get too excited about any of this, but if it all goes well, I should at least be able to pad my bankroll with a little profit from the venture, which was 75% of the point in the first place.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Worst Beat Ever

Just felt I needed to blog this. This was easily the worst beat I've ever taken.

Middle rounds of a SNG... I find AA and give it a 3x BB raise, with two callers. The flop hits me in the face: 55A. With a monster full house, and two diamonds on the board... I'm thinking I can probably double through someone on this hand. It's checked to me, and I check... and the guy behind me checks. Not a problem really.

The turn card is the king of diamonds, putting 3 diamonds on the board, a pair of fives, and AK. This hand surely has to have hit someone at least a little. It's checked to me again, and I bet about half the pot, and get one caller. Perfect. I'll get the rest of his chips on the river.

The river card is another King! Great! I now hold Aces full of Kings, and put my lone opponent all in. He calls and wins holding:


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Polaris Open

Last weekend I had the opportunity to be invited to what was to be a rather large tournament (compared the one-table affairs I normally find myself in), held in the shop of a Polaris dealership (you know, quads and sleds and the like). I drug along a few regulars from my home game, and found myself amidst a field of ~20 players, half of which I had played against before. Whether or not this will become a recurring tournament remains to be seen, but the mood seemed like a "yes" for a semi-monthly or quarterly.

Now, as I was worried about before hand, the people running the tourney weren't really completely on the ball about things. The buy in was to be $50, with $10 being taken for food (pizza and snacks) and beer, which was pretty reasonable... there was a lot of food, and an ample amount of Busch Light, which was indeed both 1) wet and 2) semi-alcoholic. $40 per person into a prize pool makes for a decent tourney.

The blinds and starting chips, were determined from someone's pamphlet that came with the "Howard Lederer's Secrets of No Limit Hold 'Em" video. T1000 to start, blinds at 25/25, then 25/50, and climbing rather exponentially from there. That's cool, but what I'm not such a fan of was the 12 minute blind levels... the entire tournament, including breaks was about 2 hours. I would have preferred at least 15 minute levels, considering we were dealing our own hands, there was frequent conversation which interrupted or otherwise slowed play, and we were at short-handed tables to start. The tables could only really accommodate 8 players comfortably, and large portions of the tourney saw 5-6 players at a table.

I did a lot of prep for this tourney, hitting the SNGs all week hard, reviewing the odds of all drawing hands on the drive to Pittsburgh, and really thinking about tells and playing styles a lot. Weak = strong and strong = weak and slow calls vs fast calls and the like. I was ready.

I got lucky early with JTo in the BB against a well-known maniac. He bet the flop the minimum, which had missed me pretty wide, but I felt strongly he was simply trying to pick it up, and I called. The turn brought 3 spades on board (I was holding the J), and an OESD for me. He bet the minimum again, and now I felt really strongly that he was either drawing, or held nothing. I pushed, praying for a fold, and he called. One of us was about to be the dreaded "first out". He held the Ace of spades, and a rag. My flush outs disappeared, and I realized I needed to hit a Jack, a Ten, or a Queen or Seven to complete my straight. 14 outs (Edit: minus the possible spade outs).

The river completed my straight, and I was now the big stack. The rest of the tournament was rather mundane, though I did make a few good laydowns, and a few good reads... pushing with nothing when I was certain an opponent was weak and would fold. I made an error when I pushed on a short stack (T350) really thinking he would fold and was on a draw, and lost, doubling him up. This would come back to haunt me.

Final table... I got hot. Real hot. AKs. KK. The blinds reaching half of everyone's stack... I push from the button stealing a huge pile of chips that were the blinds. Finally, I make the top three, which was all this tourney was to pay. And here's what really chaps my ass: a 70%/20%/10% prize distribution. I hate front-loaded prize structures, especially when the blinds are so ridiculous that you just know this thing will be over in 2 orbits or less. Welcome to luckfest 2005!

One thing's for sure, I'm not going to sit around and get blinded out. Any Ace = go time. Heck, damn near anything higher than a ten = go time. I find A9s on the button (also first to act at this point), and push all-in. SB, folds. BB (who almost has to call considering half his stack is already in the middle), or course, calls. QTo! I breathe a sigh of relief and take a long swig of Busch (come to the mountains baby!) knowing I at least got my money in as the favorite. Until the board throws up two Queens. Out in 3rd. BB (who was once on the respirator with T350 until I doubled him) goes on to win it all.

I've never been so disappointed with an ITM finish. I think a lot of my disappointment comes from the amount of prep I felt like I put into this tournament... I was ready to destroy it... and mostly, that's what I did. The other half of my disappointment comes from the front-loaded prize structure... 2 hands later, someone walked away with over $500. And that's all I really have to say about that.

...another multi-table tourney tonight at a co-workers (but this time using my own comfortable, familiar home game blind/payout structure).

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Party Changes $25NL Blinds?

So I'm doing my level best to avoid the NL cash games on Party for a bit... but I've also got a 20% reload bonus to work off. Bonus whoring has definitley been an under-used tool for me. I've worked off a few initial deposit bonuses, and made sure to get accounts on both Party and Empire so I can flop money back and forth when they decide to offer reload bonuses, but I've really not done much of this.

So to my point, 25NL is a decent place for me to clear my raked hands. It's perhaps the only place, considering my aversion to the low limit tables at this time. Today, it seems Party decided to change the blinds from .25/.50 to .10/.25, which seems to definitely change the texture of the game a bit.

For starters, less pots are raked, although this isn't terribly significant. It's also a lot cheaper to clear a bonus... assuming you're not getting premium hands that you want to play, you're looking at a 35 cent investment per orbit, as opposed to the previous 75. You can see twice as many raked pots (in theory) for the same assumed loss per orbit. Of course, you'll win a hand now and again too.

I'm still on the fence about this change... it's nice to be able to see flops for as little as 25 cents... but often that means that opponents will be seeing a lot more flops as well. I think this demands a little more care, for instance when you're in the BB with something half-decent (but not raise-worthy) and you catch a small piece of the flop: god only knows what your opponents might be holding.

Anyone know why they decided to drop the stakes?

February SNG Stats

February saw a change in strategy for me on the SNG front. Previously, I had been playing what I'll term "smart" in the early levels... not loose pre-flop, but taking a chance on almost any 2 paints that I could limp with. When I was raised or saw raises, I played tight. When the flop missed or caught me only slightly, I folded. My theory was this: People finishing in 7-10 place in levels 1-3 are often dead money fools who think that aggression will make someone lay down their full house. Following that logic... if you're sitting out waiting on premium starting hands, most of the time you're going to be heading into level 4 as a medium stack at best, and against the opponents who are probably the better players at the table. You want to be scooping some pots from the fish to give you a nice stack heading into the high blinds.

In February, I tried to play with essentially the opposite strategy: In early and middle position in levels 1-3, only play pocket pairs and AKs or AKo. Low pairs, hoping for sets... big pairs, hoping for undercards... and AK, hoping to out-kick the dopes playing any ace in small pots. I like this strategy a lot. (We'll get to its effect in a minute.) Obviously, playing this way early should have some positive angles:

1. You're hardly ever going to finish in 7-10 place.

The obvious point here is that essentially when you start you have a 3 in 10 chance of finishing in the money... if you can make it to 6th place with any fair stack, you're looking at a 1 in 2 chance of making the money. Survival is key, and playing only premium hands should help you survive.

2. When you enter a hand, you're probably going to win a lot, or only lose a little.

A story from a multi-table tournament held at my bachelor party last summer is appropriate here. I was doing well... down to just several players, and my cousin was sweating me. Of family members, he's easily the best player of the group. I don't recall the exact hand I held... but I think it was something like T5o in the SB. For whatever reason (let's blame alcohol), I just called the BB and an early position caller. My cousin silently expressed dismay at my call. I caught a ten on the flop, but there was an overcard, and early action to my right, so I folded.

My cousin later asked, "Without decent cards, what were you hoping for?" His point hit home: even though I caught a card I wanted, I couldn't continue the hand. There were very few flops against multiple opponents where I could have felt at all confident about a trash hand like T5o.

Back to the point: if you're only playing pairs and AK, you're giving yourself a major advantage going into the flop. Sometimes, you'll flop the nuts or near-nuts, hidden sets, and the like. Other times, when you're facing a tough call or decision, your tight play pre-flop will come to your aid. Sometimes you'll feel you're beat and fold. But when you make a crying call on the river, you'll be surprised how your hands may hold up. To use a war analogy: Your marksmanship might not always be on target, but at least you're using the best ammunition.

3. You may benefit from a tight table image later on.

Assuming your opponents are paying attention, and at least the best of them probably are, you're going to gain the image of a rock which will likely aid your later steal attempts and late-level bluffs.


So in February I put this new plan into action, and the results weren't stellar:

SNG's Played: 37
ITM: 37.84%
ROI: -3.63%
Profit: -$16.00

I've still yet to crack 40% ITM for a month, and that's a goal that's important to me. I'm happy with the new early-level strategy I'm employing, and I'm sure it helped me to post as decent an ITM% as I did, but of 37 tournaments, and 14 ITM, I only landed two 1sts, and that killed my chances at a positive ROI.

One final observation: I need to start dedicating a little more of my poker time to SNGs, and try to play at least 50 every month. Given the decidedly undesirable and gut-wrenching swings of short-handed $25 NL variance, this is the smart option for my bankroll at this point in time.

We'll see how this tight SNG play works out in March with a hopefully larger sample size.