Monday, May 16, 2005

Poorly Played On All Streets

Before we begin, this felt good. Moving right along:

Okay, so waaay more often than not people post about hands that were played well... maybe they played it well and won, or played it well and got a bad beat. But really you don't tend to see a lot of "holy crap did I $#!@ this hand up" posts on poker blogs: it's naturally, embarrassing to an extent. But in the interest of fairness, I've been looking for a bad hand to post about for a while now, and last weekend I found it (or it found me, however you look at it).

So I'm working off my 1000 raked hands for a bonus at Empire, and though I keep reminding myself that I'm just here to clear raked hands, that little voice in the back of my head keeps nagging at me: "Look how soft this game is!" ..."Come on man, you're in late position, play that draw!" ..."Jesus, did you just see those two guys both raising with nothing?!". And so I'd been getting involved a little more than I really should have, but had only lost money on one hand: when I dropped the entire $25 buy-in when my pocket kings were beaten by a flopped set of fours. I raised to $1 pre-flop, and had 5 callers = UGH. I rebought, and about 10 minutes later the kings struck again...

***** Hand History for Game 2046366236 *****
$25 NL Hold'em - Saturday, May 14, 02:22:47 EDT 2005
Table Table 37470 (Real Money)
Seat 7 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 4: myster_e ( $24.92 )
Seat 8: canoenorth ( $21.65 )
Seat 9: DannyBoy3331 ( $35.15 )
Seat 1: Opobi33 ( $27.25 )
Seat 5: travis8787 ( $7.4 )
Seat 3: alpo824 ( $5 )
Seat 7: jybsie ( $42.05 )
Seat 10: RPMPRGUY ( $7.3 )
Seat 6: dual567 ( $24 )
Seat 2: dw97vegas ( $27.15 )
canoenorth posts small blind [$0.1].
DannyBoy3331 posts big blind [$0.25].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to canoenorth [ Kh Ks ]

Oh here we go again. Pocket Kings in the SB.

Opobi33 folds.
dw97vegas folds.
alpo824 folds.
myster_e folds.
travis8787 calls [$0.25].
dual567 folds.
jybsie folds.

Okay, so I've got a middle position limper, and the BB yet to act. I figure raising to $1 is reasonable here.

canoenorth raises [$0.9].
DannyBoy3331 calls [$0.75].
travis8787 calls [$0.75].
** Dealing Flop ** [ Kd, Td, 6h ]

Two callers to the flop, and I nail top set. And here is where things really go bad... I decide to slowplay and check. But let's back up to the pre-flop action for a second.

It could have been worse, and technically speaking I did quadruple the big blind with my raise... but it could be said (especially in hindsight) that I should have raised more. My knowledge of the table texture should have been screaming at me to raise to something like $2 or more... these guys were calling a lot of pre-flop action with marginal hands, presumably relying on implied odds. Still, I don't think the $1 raise was nearly as bad a move as checking the flop.

I was the pre-flop raiser, so people would be expecting me to bet on the flop, even if it had missed me. But more importantly, there's two diamonds laying out there, and two broadway straight cards: I needed to defend my hand, and I didn't.

canoenorth checks.
DannyBoy3331 checks.
travis8787 bets [$1].

Well, good... somebody bet at least. Then, fearing that a check-raise will scare everyone away here, I just call. This hand is going downhill, and fast.

canoenorth calls [$1].
DannyBoy3331 calls [$1].
** Dealing Turn ** [ 2s ]

All three of us to the turn, which is a blank, thank you very much. There's a decent pot laying out there now, and I certainly have the best possible hand at the moment... these guys either have made hands that they really like (two pair?, a lower set?, the other king?), or draws (diamond flush or a straight). Either scenario should mean an automatic big bet by me here... something on the order of half-pot to pot-sized. I should be trying to get lesser made hands to commit more money to the pot, and betting enough to give the possible draws bad pot odds to call. With an open ended straight draw being close to 5 to 1, and a flush draw close to 4 to 1, a half- or 2/3-pot bet would easily give my opponents bad odds. So what do I do?

canoenorth checks.
DannyBoy3331 checks.
travis8787 bets [$2].

So like an idiot I check, and the flop bettor bets again, and instead of pounding him with a pot-sized raise...

canoenorth calls [$2].
DannyBoy3331 calls [$2].
** Dealing River ** [ 9c ]

So here we are, three to the river, which I am grateful is not a diamond. The only cards that can beat me at this point is someone holding QJ or 87 for the straight, so I go ahead and bet out, thinking that my very risky, pot-building, slowplaying strategy has paid off.

canoenorth bets [$3].
DannyBoy3331 raises [$6].
travis8787 folds.

I'm sure you see where this is going. At any rate, I figure that since I only displayed strength pre-flop, and have check-called since then, that my raiser is possibly on a failed-draw bluff. A draw is very likely, since he check-called the flop and the turn. I ignore the straight possibilities and guess that he missed his flush, and now he figures it is worth $3 to try and win this growing pot. I think my read here was just close enough to being correct to get me into trouble, but I should have just called and been content to win what was already in the pot, or lose only what was already in the pot.

canoenorth raises [$9].
DannyBoy3331 raises [$12].

Might as well just move all-in now.

canoenorth is all-In [$5.65]
DannyBoy3331 shows [ Qc, Js ] a straight, nine to king.
canoenorth doesn't show [ Kh, Ks ] three of a kind, kings.


And that is how not to play. I had opportunity after opportunity to take charge of the hand and at the least give my opponents an awful price to continue playing, but I just passively sat there waiting way too long to spring my trap... in fact, I was sitting right in someone else's trap when I finally sprang my own. And then, instead of realizing that something funny was going on around me, and just calling down the river, I jammed the pot.

Another important idea here, is that had things gone differently, I might be tempted to call my play here "good"... for instance, let's assume one of my opponents was on the diamond draw (perhaps the guy who folded on the river actually was), and the river had been the two of diamonds, giving someone a big flush, and me the big full house: I'd have likely walked away a pretty big winner from the hand. I think playing this hand the way I did was mostly a mistake no matter what the outcome might have been.

Mostly, it was a mistake because I was simply trying to clear raked hands and avoid big confrontations: it may sound counter-intuitive, but a big flop bet by me in this hand would have helped to avoid such a large confrontation. And if I had been called, and had lost to a straight on the river as I did, at least I would have put my opponent in a situation where he was getting the worst of it, and making a mistake, instead of giving him good pot odds street after street to hit his draw.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Truly Nice Hand

Every now and again, these dream hands actually do happen:

***** Hand History for Game 2023850028 *****
$25 NL Hold'em - Monday, May 09, 17:47:41 EDT 2005
Table Table 36605 (6 max) (Real Money)
Seat 1 is the button
Total number of players : 4
Seat 1: cantbluffme4 ( $22.9 )
Seat 2: SpearsAgain ( $74.48 )
Seat 6: Duo_Maxwell ( $95.5 )
Seat 5: canoeguide ( $22.55 )
SpearsAgain posts small blind [$0.1].
canoeguide posts big blind [$0.25].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to canoeguide [ 4d 5d ]

Not a bad holding for the big blind at a short-handed NL table...

Duo_Maxwell folds.
cantbluffme4 folds.
SpearsAgain calls [$0.15].
canoeguide checks.
** Dealing Flop ** [ 8d, 6d, 7d ]

I may or may not be exaggerating for comedic effect, but at this point I think I had an erection, not to mention a monster straight flush.

SpearsAgain checks.

Well, I want this hand to get to showdown, but I've got to hope to build the pot a little, so I'll bet the minimum. My table image at this point I would say wasn't very well defined, but I'd done some minimum betting on heads-up bluffs recently, both with success and getting caught.

canoeguide bets [$0.25].
SpearsAgain calls [$0.25].
** Dealing Turn ** [ As ]
SpearsAgain checks.

Oh boy, I can only hope that Ace paired him. At this point I clicked off the auto-muck so I could show if I won, and bet the minimum again praying for a call.

canoeguide bets [$0.25].
SpearsAgain raises [$1].

Any raise here, let alone a check-raise is exactly what I'm looking for. He has a hand of some sort. I take my time, but not too much time, and just call, because I think a raise here would be very foolish... there's virtually no scare cards that can come on the river, and he may get further help and like his hand even more. I'm hoping to represent a drawing hand, or a failed semi-bluff... something weak.

canoeguide calls [$0.75].
** Dealing River ** [ Kd ]
SpearsAgain bets [$4].

OH YES. There's a few things he could be holding here, but it doesn't take an expert to see what's most likely... he probably had a pair of Aces on the turn... and now with 4 diamonds on the board, and his big bet, it seems that he's holding the Ace of diamonds and the nut flush. If he isn't holding that (or another high diamond), he may have flopped a straight, or caught two pair... a set seems unlikely based on his actions, and really I doubt someone would lead out with such a big river bet with only two pair or a straight with a four-flush on the board: he must have a high flush. I pause just for a second or two before raising...

canoeguide raises [$8].
SpearsAgain raises [$12].

Bingo. This hand is why we play poker.

canoeguide is all-In [$13.05]
SpearsAgain calls [$5.05].
SpearsAgain shows [ Ad, Tc ] a flush, ace high.
canoeguide shows [ 4d, 5d ] a straight flush, eight high.
canoeguide wins $43.1 from the main pot with a straight flush, eight high.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Bonus Whoring

Lately I've been racking up the bonuses from Party and Empire, and they just keep making it easier. I just heard about the following reload bonus at EmpirePoker:

50% Reload BONUS!

All you need to do is use deposit code
Tuesday100 on your next real money deposit
and get 50% up to $100* bonus.
This promotion will be valid only during May 10th,
from 00:01am EST until 11:59pm EST.

Just a few days ago I conveniently moved a bunch of cash over to Party, to take advantage of this month's 15% reload bonus there, which I should be able to clear in time to pull at least $200 back to Empire to get the full $100 in bonus. They're giving you 10 days to clear the usual 10 times the bonus amount in raked hands.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Big Hand First Hand, Rushes, and Big Stack Play

I was contemplating blogging some early tournament strategy, and how to exploit some weaknesses I've been taking note of in the local league games, but thankfully something else came along... besides, I don't really want to help the other guys in the league who read this blog.

So I suppose this would apply to tournaments as well, but primarily I'm going to be talking about the online NL cash games. I've seen this play time after time, and it nearly always works well: you sit down and are graced with a big pocket pair on the first hand... what should you do?

Of course you're probably going to raise, but I advocate overplaying the hand. More often than not, someone at the table will make the mistake of assuming you're a pot-jamming idiot and overplay right back at you... it's your first hand, and few people will believe your aggressive play is actually backed with a big hand. There is a point where you can probably overplay it too much, but I think a big raise pre-flop will give you the information you'll need to decide how to play the flop.

Similarly, is when you're getting a rush of big hands... people don't believe you... they just tend to believe that you can't have a big hand again, or that you're trying to capitalize on your table image to buy pots.

These situations don't come up that often, and when they do, you want to do everything you can to maximize the profit of them. Today, I ran into both of the above scenarios at the same time!

I sat down to pocket kings, and nearly doubled on the hand right off the bat. Then AQo hit me with top two pair. Then I raped some guy when I held pocket aces! Then 54s flopped a straight. In 4 hands I'd more than tripled my $25 buy in... and every hand I had overplayed, and every hand I got callers or even raisers.

Then it became a me vs. the table battle... it was apparent from the play and the chat that the table wanted a piece of me. I appropriately tightened right up, being careful not to assume that hands were being overplayed against me... respecting their raises, and getting in good limps with my big stack when I could.

This final point is one that I've been working to incorporate more into my game, both cash and tournaments... when you're a big stack, and against opponents who have stacks large enough to pay you well if you hit, but small enough not to be a major threat to you, many hands are worth limping. I'm talking medium off-suit two-gappers... suited kings and queens... sometimes even baby aces. You've got to play them very smart post flop... but when your opponent has about 1/3 to 1/2 your chips, and a limp costs you less than 5% (there's that 5-10 rule again) of your stack, calling the blind is a no-brainer.

I think a lot of people start out playing poker focusing on how to play the big hands... how to play when things are going good. Then the natural progression tends to push people toward how to play when they're in the grind... when they're losing... when little is working. A big early lesson for everyone is the "got to fold to win" epiphany... learning to endure the long hours of boredom accompanied by moments of sheer terror. There's a lifetime of strategy to study and implement here down in the trenches. But at some point I think you've got to come back to those big moments and big hands and big rushes, and think about how to better maximize profit.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

April Wrap-Up

Whew... it's been another crazy month on all streets.

We'll start with the bad first. April just never got off the ground for me on the SNG front. The numbers are pretty terrifying:

ITM: 17.14%
ROI: -41.92%
SNGs Played: 35
Profit: -$166.00
1st Place: 3
2nd Place: 2
3rd Place: 1

I'm not going to even try and dissect this too much... it was a bad run, that's for sure. I know my game still has leaks, and in a lot of ways I feel that I should have settled more into a groove by now. March was so solid, and I felt that I played largely the same for a good portion of April, but with opposite results. I think a big key that I'm not putting into practice well enough, is adapting to table conditions... and often playing too tight, too late into the game... or playing too loose in the wrong spots. ...And I fell quite short of my 50 SNG/month goal... it's tough to want to put in the hours when things are going bad.

However, despite my horrible SNG results, I still logged a positive month, cashing in on two Empire bonuses, and scoring some good NL wins in the bonus-clearing process. This is a theory that I've long felt strongly about, but until recently haven't put into practice very well:

Just like any investment, when playing poker it pays to diversify your investments and have an overall strategy.

When one game is going bad, or doesn't interest you, you'll have another to fall back on. Having an overall strategy for managing your bankroll can only benefit you. For myself, I want to really become a small tournament specialist, so I set the goal of trying to play 50 SNGs per month, but I also watch for the bonuses and move my money around to take advantage of that, which allows me to play a very tight/aggressive style in NL cash games to clear the raked hands. I also do generally well in the local home tourneys, and am planning on further padding my bankroll with any profit I can manage making and selling custom poker tables. I think having something on the side like this (poker related or not), which will allow you to toss a little money at your bankroll now and again, is a really underrated and not-often-talked about strategy for the serious intermediate poker player. Having many opportunities for profit just makes good business sense, allows you to stay interested, and should significantly dampen or even offset potential overall losses.

In other news, the local league I've started with a few others in my town is set to kick off on Tuesday night, and we held a little pre-season warm-up/ new table inauguration on Saturday at my place. We ended up with a good group of 12 players, and even a new face or two. I ran into pocket Queens in each of the two tournaments that we played, but managed to rake a few monster pots in the side cash NL game to put me "up" on the evening.

The table was a hit, and fared well through 7 hours of play. I was excited and surprised at how easily we sat 10 players around the 7'x4' table... I had figured it would be a little tighter than it actually was, and we even had a few big guys. My new Copags remained as good as new after a whole night of play, as opposed to the traditional paper decks used on the second table, of which one deck had to be tossed at the end of the evening, and the other has few hours left.

The league excitement is growing and our message boards are seeing good daily activity... and I just have a feeling that eventually our small one-or-two table affairs are going to grow beyond the scope of what someone's basement or apartment can handle. I have mixed feelings about this possibility... I'm excited to finally have a regular local game, and the bigger the group of people that can attend = the more that will attend, which is good. But I also am hearing stories from poker friends of mine who started leagues with 6 people and have grown to 40 or so attending every event... one guy brings his friend... and that friend becomes a regular, and then he invites someone... and pretty soon it's like the classic college party that starts small and ends with people you don't even know having an orgy on your bed.

Well see what happens!