Wednesday, April 26, 2006

SCP Spring Freeroll

Ok, so almost the promised domination: 2nd place, again. Now I shouldn't really complain about a $61 second place the day after a $300 first place (and both technically freerolls!), but I might. I wanted the sweep dammit.

These leagues (one some friends and I started, and the other was patterned after ours) can be a good way to establish a regular tourney game... and I've seen and heard about a lot of different systems that can be used. We use a 10% "league fee", which goes into the league pot for the end-of-season freeroll, and makes a player eligible to earn points based on tournament finish. Then, for the freeroll (open to anyone who has earned points), players' stacks are based on points earned. It's a very fair system in the end, as even players who have earned few points (perhaps because they missed some tourneys) have a shot at the pot. Granted, they have a weaker stack to start, but they've also contributed less to the pot, and have less at stake.

We've had a lot of talk about using an optional add-on (buying more chips, in this case at the start of the tourney) to boost the freeroll pot higher. The problem with a flat add on however, is that it reduces the advantage that the higher points earners would have. For instance, the point leader is to start with T1000, and someone who came out to play once is to start with T200... if you do a flat $x buys you 500 more chips, the leader is getting a 50% add on, while the other player is getting a 250% add on! Worse yet, is that the leader's advantage is now chopped down to 53% instead of 80%.

Yesterday I came up with the "50/50 add on", which we used last night: for 50% of the $ contributed to the league pot, a player can buy 50% more chips than he/she would have started with. The main idea here is that the relative stack sizes and advantages are maintained, while boosting the pot by 50% (if everyone buys the add on ). Another positive, is that the people who earned more points per dollar contributed during the season (i.e. finished well), do have some financial advantage, as they end up paying relatively less per added chip.

At any rate, I'm very content with my play again last night... I was very patient through the deeper than usual stacks and slower structure, accumulating a minor amount of chips for the first hour or two, but most importantly giving very few away. The table was playing generally very tight preflop as far as I could tell, and in certain spots I was looking for any excuse to make some pressure plays, and overall this worked well: reraising with tens, reraising with Ace-x, and reraising once or twice with small pairs and suited connectors, all with immediate success. I did suffer somewhat by the seating, as I had some selectively aggressive players to my right (often raising before me on hands where I would have raised) and some players who like to call to my left, one in particular who you can never tell if he's slowplaying or chasing as he will rarely raise except on the river (and even then it's almost always all-in).

With heavy blinds and an increasingly tight table, I got stuck in a hand when we were 6-7 handed and I raised KQs under the gun... and was reraised nearly all-in by the BB (someone who is certainly capable of making pressure plays with less than premium hands). I thought this one out for a long time, assuming that I was a dog, but guessing (correctly) that I just wasn't that bad off. Putting the BB on a middle pair, I called, and found myself essentially racing 55%/45% against AJo, and nearly doubled up with a river Q.

Two later raises in unopened pots from late position or the SB were met with all-in reraises from the player to my left, and both times I made good laydowns (he showed 99 and AK), but with standard raises being 1/5 to 1/4 of my stack, and some horrible cards for a few more rounds, I found myself crippled down to something like T1100 with blinds of 150/300, ugh. I tripled up with AJo, and then several hands later caught AA and KK back to back, reraising with the AA and taking a nice pot right there, and losing with KK: player to my left went all-in after my raise, I called, and the A9x flop had me crushed.

At any rate, I got to heads up with something like a 3:2 lead, and we traded large amounts of chips back and forth for a while... I had my opponent all-in at one point A9 vs A5, and the ugly 5 came. We sat with even stacks for a little while, and faced with his frequent all-ins, I never had the cards to fight with at the right time... any pair, any ace, two broadway cards... just a bunch of J6 and the like. Final hand, he just calls from the SB, and fearing that this is possibly a sign of strength, I check my K8... I'll gladly see a flop. The flop comes 875, I lead out with a decent bet, and he goes all in and has me covered. I call, he shows 67 for middle pair and the straight draw, and makes the straight on the turn.

You can't win 'em all.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


...Took home a nice win and ~$300 in the spring championship freeroll of one of my leagues last night. Of the live tourneys I play, this was probably one of the deepest stacked and slowest structure tourneys I've played... and that played no small role in my being able to manage the win.

I won't bore you with more than the minimum details... but the slower structure and deep stacks allowed me to wait out a long run of horrible starting hands and several big aces that managed to completely miss the flop. I made the final table with an average stack, and lost an interesting pot:

Player to my right has an Ace exposed on the deal... normally an exposed card results in a misdeal or replacement, but for whatever reason this player was allowed to opt to keep the card, which was fine by me as I now have some key information about his hand. He raises. I look down to find AKo, and I reraise enough to set him just about all in. I know he has an Ace, and it's likely I have him dominated. He reraises all in, I auto-call, and he flips AA. Pretty big hit, and very unlikely outcome.

The rest of the final table was rather fortunate for me, as I won two key races with small/middle pairs, once to knock out a smallish stack, and once to cripple a big stack doubling me up to become the chip leader. I find aces after another smallish but alive stack pushes with KQo and they hold up. I call from the SB with 98o, and flop a house, eliminating another smallish stack with a check-call on the flop and calling his straight-draw all-in on the turn. I then hesitantly called a raise with ATo out of position against another big stack... keeping in mind the whole time that I really want to avoid a big confrontation here... flop comes ten high, and for whatever reason at the time I check top pair, mostly fearing that I'm against an unlikely-but-potentially-devastating overpair. When he pushes all in, I immediately call almost certain that with an overpair I would have recieved a large value bet, and not an all in. Top pair holds up against pocket sixes, and I'm sitting on a dominating stack.

I even snuck in a blind steal from the button with The Hammer! (and showed)

Finally, we get to heads up, and both trade some chips swinging from 2:1, to 1:2, and back to 2:1 actually on two big stone-cold bluffs, one from each of us. In the end, ATo vs A9o all in preflop finished off the tourney.

Things definitely need to swing in your favor a few times to win a tourney like this, and as someone who used to feel like I could never win a race, doing so a few times was refreshing. It's also nice to have the stack to actually gamble with a few coin flips. Everyone looks brilliant when they win, but I'm also pretty comfortable and content with my live tourney play lately... I do what I have to do to survive early, and get more agressive/willing to gamble in decent spots as the tourney progresses.

There's a saying I used to prescribe to when I was hammering the SNG's, that I think I lost focus on for a period perhaps playing too tight too late into tourneys, but have recently been applying again:

Start a tournament like a rock, and end it like a kamikaze.

Properly applied, that's about right.


SCP championship freeroll tonight, expect tales of my domination tomorrow.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


What the &^%* have I done to deserve this crap ALL WEEK LONG:

me: TT
villian: 22

Flop T82
villian goes all in for ~$20

Turn: 8

River: 2

New motto: You never get sucked out on if you always get your money in with the worst hand.

Granted, I'm well aware how rare set over set should be, as well as how he could not have known he was drawing to ONE OUT, but this stuff is just killing me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Win-Loss Cycle Of Mediocrity

Still chugging along at dime/quarter... and trying hard to keep my little "1k by the end of July" goal out of my mind, but it's there. Poker isn't well suited for such things.

With nearing a year of data (and what ...half a million hands?), I'm starting to notice some patterns. I've got this little spreadsheet with stats and a graph, and the graph in particular has been a helpful thing to have. It's affirming to look at all the peaks and valleys and note the general upward trend. Two steps forward, one step back.

Also apparent is the way a run of negative sessions somehow always gets followed by a strong run up, and maybe more importantly, how a run of positive sessions gets followed often by a mini-disaster.

It doesn't take a genius to see what's going on here: bad luck, bad play, and bad beats, if they continue long enough, force me to tighten up and play solid no frills poker. Some of this is doubt... when things go wrong you begin to doubt your reads, doubt your ability to catch cards just like everyone else, and end up playing a conservative (and winning) style. Similarly, a burst of good luck, good play, and good reads, will have you feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof... reigning in this (over) confidence and riding out the rush to it's natural end just isn't that easy. What ends up happening is that your calls are looser, your bets are more agressive, and you start seeing implied odds around every gutshot. You've been hitting hard lately, and what you think is reality is dangerously far from it. Eleven to one is still eleven to one, no matter how big of a stack the LAG across from you has.

Larry Phillips in The Tao Of Poker (emphasis mine):
The feeling of a winning streak-- that wonderful heady feeling when it is happening, of being in that zone where you can do no wrong-- is familiar to most poker players. Things become almost laughably easy. The game becomes an exercise in giddy ease, frictionless euphoria, joyful light-headedness ... You can almost announce the cards before they appear ... The cards keep falling into your hands right out of heaven. Such sessions need to be maximized, and the profits protected by continued solid play.

The point here... is that I've been worried lately about hitting some plateau as far as growth goes... I just feel it coming. But I've also been looking hard for leaks, because man, there surely are some big ones lurking around here... Otherwise I wouldn't be playing break-even poker lately. Not paying close enough attention to the cycle of play described above, is surely an easy one to locate. For starters, if playing a conservative style can net some strong bankroll growth after a bad run... it can surely do it during a good one... arguably, most of the time when I'm winning and not just being plain smacked in the face with the deck, this is what's going on. A key area here revolves around the nature of big bet poker: you grind out a nice hourly rate winning smallish pots for the first hour, and then bam, in one misplayed hand it gets obliterated or worse. I don't even want to tell you how many river curiousity calls I've made in the last week, when I knew I was beat. The old "surely he didn't call the turn with that", even though his big bet is screaming "oh yes I did and now you're going to pay me off", and then I do.

Another leak associated with this cycle business, is calling with speculative hands pre flop. There's a fine line here that I know I have to walk... it just fits my style at shorthanded NL... but I know I have a tendency to see implied odds behind every pre flop raise. You know what I'm talking about... you just think you know that your 75o is going to get paid off if you flop a joint. Nevermind that the odds are less than 1% (or about 8% for flopping an open-ender). When you're hitting good, these situations blur from long odds to something like coin flips in your mind.

Anyway, sometimes I can be such a donkey, but admitting is the first step. Good luck out there!

Awful tournament beat of the week:
Blinds 15/30
min raise to 60
player behind with T1150 re-raises to 160
fold around to me
reraise to 900 all in
AA vs JJ
Flop, J

Motto of the week:
"I can outplay a player but I can't outluck a donkey."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Good Stuff Elsewhere

I've never done a lot of typical link-blogging here, for whatever reason... but there's been some good stuff out there in the poker blog world lately. A couple of noteables:

Iggy writes about a slump:
It's not fun to write this post. I've always been good about losing in poker. It's a must if you wanna be successful.

I've always taken Steve Badger's words to heart:

"The problem is: you just can't will yourself to win -- be it a tournament, a single day's play, or even an individual hand. And then, unfortunately for some, not winning is something many players simply can't handle. And being able to not win well is a fundamental, key ingredient of being a winning player."

Heavy sigh. I haven't been truly Tilty in a long time, damnit.
Poker learning is cyclical. Pithy Truism.

Poker is such a fine line kind of thing. It's important for me to realize how easy is it to cross the line attempting to push thin edges, and begin to play in what are losing situations.

This "cyclical learning" in poker is a theme I've been focused on for a long time, and mentioned here recently... and I think every serious poker player who's been at it for a while knows all too well how hard finding that fine line, and then dancing on it consistently can be, especially when the anomalies of probability have you questioning reality.

Doubleas lays down the theory: Reverse Implied Odds compared to the value of inducing bluffs.:
Many players confuse inducing bluffs and reverse implied odds. The confusing issue is that inducing a bluff can quickly turn into a case of reverse implied odds. The best place to induce a bluff is on the river. The pot is often bigger than earlier betting rounds and players may have already missed their draw and need to bet to take a shot at the pot but they would not be willing to call a bet. Inducing bluffs on the flop with weak leads (small bets into big pots) or checking may win you some money, but bluffs on the flop are relatively small compared to the pots on the river. Besides, if you have a reputation of checking strong hands, smart players will tend to take more free cards when given the option no matter how aggressive they are. On the river, there are no more free cards.

There's more to his post than that (you might want to read through it a couple of times), but this issue of inducing bluffs on the river is one that hit home for me. Poker is so situational with a lot of variables, but inducing bluffs when out of position on the river is something I need to incorporate more into my arsenal. It's a trick that can certainly be overused, and against a solid player, literally worthless, as a check by you is probably only going to get bet at if you're beat.

I tend to lead out on the river with a smallish bet (sometimes even the minimum), hoping to make a little on a good hand, which combined with some other weird betting things I do has the advantage of making bluffs cheaper in later hands, sometimes. Other times, when you have a good read, for instance when your opponent obviously hit top pair on the flop and the turn was a scary overcard, and at the river you know you have him beat and he'll fold to any scary bet (anything over the minimum), and just check behind you and see if his pair is good... well there you've got to bet the minimum I think. Overall though, this little bet stuff on the river is probably poor play.

Also related to some other strategy in doubleas's post: I've built an overall style out of "keep the pots small without the nuts" and it works for me (especially at donk-infested micro limits), so I certainly don't want to be making any wholesale changes to my game, but I think overall I do far too much calling. I'm not talking "way behind and chasing draws with bad odds" calling, but calling and check-calling early in hands where I figure to be ahead. This *can* work, and often does, but I'm going to be paying closer attention to situations where more aggressive play will serve the dual purposes of earning more when I'm ahead, and helping me figure out better when I'm behind.