Friday, March 31, 2006


Heh. I went to look in my spreadsheet, and it turns out that March has been a profitable month after all. I'm amazed sometimes at how much I seem to lose but still come out ahead. I'll take it.

So now I'm back in relaxed bonus-hunting mode. Why wouldn't I be? Bonuses have made me tons of money throughout my poker career. If not for bonuses, I would have busted out a long time ago.

Here are the ones I'm hitting up:

_Empire Poker is offering a 40 percent to $200 bonus with a 7X workthru. Pretty good deal if you ask me. The deadline for this one is midnight on April 1, and you only have three days to clear it.

_Casino-on-Net has a 20 percent to $50 bonus on blackjack if you use Moneybookers as your deposit method. Thanks to Daniel for alerting me to this one. What's amazing about this bonus is that it only has a 2X bonus workthru! It took me about 15 minutes to clear. If you've never played at Casino-on-Net before, be sure to also take advantage of their initial deposit bonus.

_Betfred is offering 100 percent to $250. This one comes courtesy of Scurvydog.

It's nice to be bonus whoring again -- it takes less concentration, but it's still rewarding to be making money.

I'm glad I stopped playing when I did yesterday. I was grouchy/surly when I started playing, and near the end I was getting pretty angry.

The bad cards continued today, but I was playing in easier games (read: lower limit/no limit), so I was able to make a little money.

It's strange how runs of cards feel like they have some individuality to them. I know that's just the human tendency to try to make order out of randomness, but I can't help it if that's the way my mind works.

For example, this run of cards is not filled with too many bad beats. It's more like my premium hands are running into other premium hands, I'm missing the flop, I can't bluff successfully, I'm losing coin flips and any hand better than one pair is a rare occurrence. When I lose, it's happening slowly rather than in too many gut-wrenching disasters. The same goes for my winning sessions.

I'm not complaining about it. More like I'm just babbling about it. This kind of streak feels less swingy and more steady. I wonder how much of that is a function of randomness, and how much is caused by my tight betting? I think randomness is more likely.

The next WSOP qualifier tournament for bloggers will be held Monday. I wish I could play in this one (the first one is where I finished in 2nd place), but I'll be at work when this one starts. For the rest of you, sign yourself up so you can win a bracelet!

Blogger WSOP Satellite Tourney
PokerStars - Private Tab
April 3rd - MONDAY
$30 +3
No Limit
Password: socoshot

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bad Timing

I picked a fine time to run bad -- right when I was starting to feel like I could settle in to 15/30.

It pisses me off because I feel like I was playing well. I think I was playing better limit poker than I ever have. My reads were good, I was making strong calldowns as well as prompt folds when I knew I was beat.

But what can you do. I can't control when I get good cards and when I get bad ones.

Fortunately, my bankroll is still in pretty good shape. I think March will probably turn out to be a slight losing month, but whatever. And I don't feel like I'm stuck or anything, or that I have a big hill to climb to get back to where I was a few days ago.

I just need to take it easy and do the things I know that you're supposed to do when you aren't running well.

Stop playing the game that's beating you. Play a game that has always made you money. Relax. Don't push it.

Really, what it comes down to is that I lost a few big pots. If I had won those pots, I'd be writing about how well I've been running recently.

It's just annoying.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Who to believe?

For starters, check out cc's recent posts about relationships and poker.


When it comes to poker advice, trust no one. Don't trust me, don't trust Ed Miller, don't trust 2+2. You never know who knows what they're talking about, and who is just some assclown with a mistaken opinion. At worst, some people have been known to give bad advice on purpose to mislead people into bad play.

Read whatever you can about poker, but don't take anything anyone says as the truth until you decide on its validity for yourself. When I talk about poker, I feel like it's important to be honest and informative.

In that spirit, let's rip apart an article in a recent edition of Card Player magazine!

This piece is titled "Misplaying A-K," by Mark Gregorich. In my opinion, you'll be misplaying A-K if you follow what he says.

First of all, Gregorich recommends cold calling if a solid player raises UTG and you hold AK. He says a three-bet will drive out the rest of the field and likely leave the hand between you and the UTG player.

Umm ... yeah. That's kind of the point. AK is a premium hand that plays well in many situations, but it plays especially well heads-up. Against a tough player raising UTG, what is his hand range? AK, KQs, AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AQ, AJs, ATs, maybe QJs or KJs. AK beats or is virtually tied with most of those hands, which directly contradicts Gregorich's claim that a three-bet will isolate your AK against a better hand. He also says that a three-bet will commit you to the pot, which is simply not true. If you can't let go of AK when you think there's a high probability you're beat based on your read and the board cards, then playing AK is the least of your worries.

Let's move on to turn play. Gregorich makes the sweeping generalization that you should keep betting with an AK that missed the flop on the turn if you bet it on the flop in a shorthanded situation. There are many times when this is the right move. There are also plenty of times when this is a waste of money. Especially in shorthanded games with a rag flop, players love to check-raise on the turn after you've shown strength both preflop and on the flop. Then you're screwed.

A bet may be right more often than not, especially if you get it heads-up on the turn, but the idea that "Many players will call the small flop bet out of principle" is not necessarily true.

Finally, on the river, Gregorich says that betting with A-high on the river is a mistake. Once again, this is an overgeneralization, especially in those occasional situations when you've committed to go to a showdown with your A-high hand.

If you know that you want to see a showdown and you're out of position, a bet is correct most of the time, depending on whether you think you have any fold equity. If you think your opponent might let go an underpair-type hand, you're sacrificing a lot of money by not betting in this situation. Of course, if you get raised, you must fold. But in those times when you would call one bet anyway on the river, it's more often better to be the better than the caller, because most players will bet the river if you check to them.

Gregorich is right when he says that AK is a tricky hand to play. It gets more tricky when you don't think about the situation you're in before acting.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I'm not going to say "mission accomplished," but I've broken in to $15/$30 limit!

It was kind of silly how I got my bankroll there. I had a 35 bet down day, followed by a 20 bet up day. Then I made a withdrawal to one of my online accounts, and I noticed that my overall bankroll column didn't add up to what it was before the withdrawal. My total bankroll wasn't including my Neteller, Firepay and Moneybookers money!

So that was $1,500 in "found" money, even though it was sitting there in a different column on my bankroll spreadsheet all along. The money wasn't missing, but it wasn't added up correctly.

That was enough to put me over the 300 bets I needed before I wanted to give $15/$30 a try for the first time since my November failure.

I kind of feel like I don't deserve to be here. I mean, I know that I do by virtue of the fact that I earned all this money and I'm following my plans.

But I only won a very small amount at $10/$20 limit, and now I'm moving up. Plus, for the first time in a while, I don't feel comfortable at a limit I'm playing.

The amounts of money I'm betting gets to me a little bit, even after all the thousands I've wagered.

It's an odd sensation. If I had a big losing day at any lower limit, I felt mad about losing but driven to recover. At this level, I don't feel the dollar amount as much. I just feel a little dizzy and out of touch. It doesn't feel like real money.

This has to be some form of tilt.

I just need to keep reminding myself of that anecdote I heard a long time ago:

A fishy player at a $10/$20 table asks an old-timer what the difference is between that game and much higher limits.

"The color of the chips," says the old-timer.

The fishy player takes offense, thinking that the old-timer is poking fun at him. No shit, the chips are different colors, he thinks. That wasn't the question.

But the old-timer insists that's the main difference between the games. The fishy player didn't understand.

The moral of the story is that the games play the same way regardless of the limit. Of course the players are tougher at higher limits. But the concepts of what it takes to win remain the same.

Lee Jones says that the magic of poker in the Internet age is that we've speeded up time. Hands come faster; swings come and go in days, not months.

I'm adjusting quickly to the $15/$30 landscape. But maybe I shouldn't push it now that I can.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I went to a lot of trouble to get that damn 25TO100MARCH bonus at Party Poker.

I figured it would be worth it for the potential $300 reward. It was a 25 percent bonus up to $100. If you cleared the first $100 over 1,000 hands in fewer than three days, you would get another $100 bonus to clear over 1,500 hands in the next three days. Then there would be a final $100 that would take 2,000 hands.

What a deal, I thought. I can work off that bonus in my sleep, especially if I play five or six no limit tables at a time.

But I ran into problems.

The first difficulty is that I didn't have any money in my Moneybookers account, which is my only available funding method for Party Poker for various reasons. I couldn't withdraw to Moneybookers and redeposit, because that would invalidate the bonus. I couldn't redeposit from my bank account, because the bonus deposit period would be over by the time my deposit cleared. I couldn't find anyone to make a direct transfer to my account either.

Eventually, an affiliate helped me out by making a deposit into my account with the bonus code. Great!

Except for that Party Poker didn't give me the bonus at first. They gave in after two e-mails.

OK, finally. I could get to work.

I played about 500 hands on the first day, but I thought I had played more. The next day I went out for a drink and watched "Syriana," and by the time I got home, I didn't feel like playing. The third day, I played out the hands I needed to clear the first level of the bonus.

I was getting very sleepy, though. I checked my bonus status, and it said I had cleared 24 hands toward the bonus.

"Oh, I guess that means I cleared the first level and have already started on the second level," I thought.

I woke up in the morning and checked again. It actually meant I had 24 hands left to go to clear the first bonus.

And I was way outkicked: the 3-day time limit to be eligible for the second and third $100 bonuses had elapsed while I was sleeping overnight.

If I had played 24 more hands, I would be $200 richer! So stupid! I went through all that effort and didn't even get the payoff. I was on major tilt, and I hadn't even played a hand.

So I sat down, opened up 10 tables of .10/.25 no limit poker and played the 24 remaining hands needed to clear the first $100 bonus. At least I got that much.

Stupid bonuses.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Shorthanded B.S.

Beware the people who say you should play shorthanded limit hold 'em! For most players, shorthanded limit isn't a good game choice.

Shorthanded play may be all the rage in online play, but in my experience, it's not an effective way to make money.

I write this because I see these games only growing in popularity. There are more shorthanded limit games available than full ring games at almost any site these days. For the record, I am a slight winner in shorthanded games, but I find they aren't as profitable for me as full ring.

Then I saw this recent 2+2 post advocating shorthanded games. I feel like the post is misleading.

First of all, let me acknowledge that the players in these games tend to be pretty bad. It's not unusual to find tables with several players with VP$IPs over 40 or more.

Secondly, these games are beatable.

Additionally, learning to play shorthanded limit hold 'em is an invaluable skill for full ring games. You get lots of experience in stealing and defending blinds, in playing hands out of position, and in contesting heads-up pots.

But consider this:

The variance is so high that recommended bankroll requirements range from 500 to 1,000 bets. Even good players have severe downswings in these games. If you think there are a lot of suckouts in full ring limit hold 'em, you won't be prepared for shorthanded play.

With these kinds of swings, you could go for months without showing a profit, even if you're a solid player. You could go bust.

Think about it: Do you really want to wait until you have a $10,000 bankroll (1,000 bets) before you play $5/$10? That means that you have to have $10,000 saved up, in hopes that you can make 2 bets/100 hands ($20) in the long run. Even if you only go with a 500 bet roll, you'll only get $40/100 hands playing $10/$20 on a $10,000 roll. Compared to full ring, you could be playing $15/$30 with that kind of bankroll, trying to average $60/100 hands. The typical recommended bankroll for full ring games is 300 bets.

And if you say, "Well, I don't need a 500-1,000 bet bankroll because I can beat the game," then you may be setting yourself up a downfall. Seriously.

I don't mind if you want to go broke, but don't think that you can beat the odds. Even the best players on earth are still subject to the whims of fortune. They have bad months or bad years, but I like to think that they're smart enough to bankroll themselves.

Still interested in shorthanded games?

How would you like to have nothing to show for your efforts after weeks or months of play? Would you still be able to believe in yourself and your game? Would you still have the guts to keep at it? How would you even know that you were playing well?

And consider this: the loose fish with high VP$IPs that we all love are playing closer to correctly in shorthanded games because the structure requires that you play more hands preflop. If you just wait for premium hands, you will be destroyed by the blinds, which come around much quicker in 5- or 6-max games than in full ring.

I believe that the potential profitability of shorthanded games is probably close to equal that of full ring games. But the higher variance and the less pronounced preflop advantage of a tight player makes me question whether these games are worth the trouble.

To win in shorthanded games you have to play for the long run to withstand the swings, and I don't have that much patience.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Big Stack

I looked around at the final table to find that I had 105,000 in chips -- more than double the next-closest player. I was ahead. Way ahead.

I told myself, "Self, don't stop running over the table now. They're on the ropes."

I had been picking up blinds and knocking out shorter stacks for hours in the Sunday blogger tourney for a seat at the World Series of Poker.

The biggest hand of the night was when I had AA against Statikk's AK. I almost felt bad for him ... almost.

The other players kept dropping, one by one. They were in the danger zone. They had only a couple of choices: Fold or get pot committed.

I had a lot more freedom. I raised and called with AQ vs. KJ. I called an all in with A9 vs. 55. I knocked out Alan with AK vs. K5.

I won every coinflip. I won every hand at showdown. I stole the blinds successfully over and over again.

It wasn't always like that. Earlier in the tourney, I felt like I would just get slowly blinded down as I usually do, and then get involved in a hand and lose.

Early on, I had great hands but couldn't make any money from them. I flopped a set of Jacks on an AAJ flop. No callers. I smooth called with KK preflop and then got all in on the flop against Hdouble (I think that's who it was -- Paradise doesn't send tournament hand histories). He also had KK for a split pot. I raised with AA preflop and got no callers.

It felt like I was using up all my luck early on.

But then things started turning around.

In one hand, I got all in by flat calling with AA from the small blind, and then donk betting the Jack-high flop. I got called by JQ.

An important hand came when I was raised from the small blind with J8s and got called by S.t.B. The flop was J8x, giving me two pair. I bet, and he minimum raised. I didn't want to see the turn. I knew this could be all she wrote for me.

I pushed all in. He thought for a while and folded.

That's when I really started picking up steam.

I started stealing a lot. Not so much that I ruined my tight table image, but enough to gain about 1,000 chips a round when the blinds were something like 100/200.

I concentrated very hard on making relatively low-risk bluffs preflop and sometimes on the flop. The last thing I wanted to do was trap myself with a second-best hand. I wanted to pick up pots with as little resistance as possible.

More than playing the players, I played their stack sizes. Tournament poker is such a game of money management, and I tried to evaluate the likelihood that each of the remaining players remaining to act would push or fold.

Who wanted to get their chips in? Who recently won hands? Who was biding their time? Who was desperate? Who would feel committed even if they just called my bet? What would I do if I was called and it was checked to me?

Those steals were the driving force behind my climb from 6,000 to around 40,000. By that time, I was so far ahead of the rest of the field that I could pick my spots.

I wish I had a better memory of the big hands, but really it was just a matter of getting in with the best of it. I can't even remember how many people I busted. I must have dispensed with at least 10 or 15 players on my own. I wish I had that damn hand history!

It was bloody. I felt invincible. For all intents and purposes, I was. I kept getting in with an edge of a few percentage points, and my hands held up every time.

It takes a lot of luck to advance to the final table in any multitable tournament. I wasn't sucking out on anybody (except for once -- QT vs. AK all-in preflop, and I paired up), but I was very lucky to have my 55 percent to 60 percent hands hold up.

Suddenly, there were five players left. I thought, "Maybe I'll be like Doyle Brunson in that one World Poker Tour tournament where he just demolished the final table." It was going that well for me. The players kept going out in a puff of smoke, which is how Paradise illustrates when someone busts.

Suddenly I was heads-up against Gracie.

I had a commanding chip lead of about 105,000 to 45,000 or so. Maybe even a little more.

We played about 10 hands without the chip counts changing that much. I think I got my stack over 115,000 at one point (these are all rough estimates).

I was ready to put this match away.

I was dealt 99. I knew I wanted to commit with this hand preflop if I could.

I got my wish. Gracie flipped up KQo. The flop was safe. And the turn. And the river ... was a Queen! Damn!

That pretty much reversed our positions. It put Gracie at near 100,000 and me around 50,000. For the first time of the tournament, I lost a hand at showdown.

Gracie adjusted quickly to the chip lead. She took over with the aggressive moves where I had left off. I felt like my stack might just fade away if I couldn't get back in the game.

Not every flop was contested, so I knew that I could pick up some blinds if I played my cards right. I raised with Q2o from the button, hoping that she would fold.

She called.

The flop came Q-high, all diamonds. I had the 2 of diamonds for a crappy flush draw to go with my top pair.

I was all in. She called with an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw as well.

For a moment, I thought the offsuit Ace on the river would save me. But no, it completed her straight.

It was over, and I was surprisingly happy.

No, I didn't win the $1,500 prize to go to Vegas and play in the World Series of Poker.

But I did much better than I thought I would, since tournaments are far from my specialty.

I'm OK with finishing second. My heart was pounding, I was nervous and superstitious. I was worried. I was in suspense. I was thrilled to be doing well in a tournament.

I had more fun in a poker game than I have in a while -- more fun even than those days when I book huge wins. Those victories are a product of decision-making and grinding. Tournaments are more like a roller-coaster ride.

I felt like a champ.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Becoming a Better Poker Player

The definition of irrational behavior is to know one thing but to do the opposite. For me, poker is a constant struggle to come up with the rational move, and then have the guts to do it.

Often that means the difference between making a crying call or folding. Between making the big laydown or calling down. Sometimes a player is lucky enough to have large enough pot odds to justify calling with a hand that isn't likely to be best. Many times, the decision isn't that obvious without practice.

Which brings me to my point.

I know how to become a better poker player, so why haven't I done so?

I should find a mentor. I should post on 2+2 daily. I should become a mentor. I should read more books. I should do more hand analysis.

Is that so hard? Apparently, it is. I know these are the things I need to do to advance my play. Now I need to man up and do them.

I'm an OK poker player. But I'm not going to get much better without manning up and seeking help.

Poker is a funny game. All it takes is a few small losses to make me re-analyze my game. Each time, losing gets easier to deal with, but I still get very frustrated.

This swing isn't even that bad -- about 125 bets. It still sucks though.

I'll always hate losing. I don't want to stop hating losing.

I do want to get better at learning from it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dead Man's Hand

First of all, check out Kuro's interview with Jeff Williams, who recently won the EPT Grand Final. It's good stuff.


I still don't know whether it's easier to play poker now that I have a real job to support myself. I mean, there's certainly less pressure to make money, but then on the other hand, maybe that pressure was a good thing. Maybe I played better because I had to play better. Perhaps I pushed myself harder because the consequences were more serious if I didn't.

Sure, it's harder to play when you feel like you have to win. But maybe that handicap made me a better player.

Now, I sit down for my two-hour sessions every night and just play out the clock. Time's up! Now I'll watch TV!

Overall, though, I'm much happier playing poker separate from real life. I couldn't stand it that my bankroll was always shrinking. And living off of poker wasn't sustainable for me -- I'm lucky I lasted those eight months or so.

Playing poker all the time is exactly the kind of existence that online pros explain it as: unfulfilling. The satisfaction of dragging in big pots only lasts for a short time.

On the other hand, it's one hell of a lifestyle. I had more free time than I knew what to do with, and I had a lot of fun. The only downside (besides the prospect of going broke) was that I felt like I wasn't accomplishing anything at all.

I always think of Wild Bill Hickock in "Deadwood." He arrives in Deadwood wanting to retire. All he wants to do is play cards.

"Won't you just let me die in my own way?" he says.

Playing cards doesn't seem like much of a way to go out, but it's certainly more fun than a lot of other ways to waste your life.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bad habits, and Microsoft wins again

If I were a better poker player, I wouldn't make the same mistakes over and over again.

I think that's the most annoying thing about my game: when I lose, I feel bad about the decisions I've made. Sure, you can't control bad cards from falling. But you can control how you play them.

Running bad happens. Playing poorly doesn't have to.

Let me confess my sins:

_I get overaggressive when there's no need to. I fall back on the destructive philosophy of relentless aggression until met with resistance. Against calling stations, this is just plain bad poker if you don't have at least something to back it up with. Aggression is all well and good, but it's only a means to an end.

_I get impatient from the blinds and try to force pots come to me, rather than guiding them in my direction.

_I try steal raises from middle position with late position hands.

_I try steal raises with low pocket pairs. Low pocket pairs truly are the suckzor.

_I write lists of things that I'm doing wrong, but really it's over-analysis of small mistakes that could potentially lead to an overcorrection.


Microsoft wins again! Bastards!

My computer, MarkNet, had these weird problems since I bought it, and I could never figure out what the problem was. Files would disappear, the file system would eventually become corrupt, and the hard drives would deteriorate until they couldn't function anymore.

I was using a pirated version of Windows XP Pro because Windows XP Home doesn't support dual-processor systems, which is a huge rip. It made me really mad, and I wasn't about to give my money to those bastards.

But it turns out, it appears there was something wrong with the pirated copy of Windows that somehow threatened system integrity. The most damning evidence was that any time I ran Disk Defragmenter, the system became unstable. Disk Defragmenter should not do that!

So I went out and bought a full, legitimate copy of Windows XP Pro. Damn you, Microsoft.

I'm installing Linux soon. That'll teach 'em.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Love the Grind

Just a little hand discussion ...

The last couple of days have been OK, but they've been slow. I haven't been getting many playable hands at all, so I've been pushing the fold button a lot preflop. Which is OK, because I'd rather fold ahead of time than get killed by bad beats. It's much less expensive.

The hands I have played have generally been about average. I only missed two bets (that I know of) tonight. Against one fish who had position on me and saw about 65 percent of all flops, I capped it preflop from middle position with JJ. The flop came 866 with two suited cards, and we capped it again. On the turn, I checked and he bet. Then on the river, we both checked, and he showed down T9o for a busted gutshot straight draw. I think I should have bet the river, which was a blank, or check-raised the turn. But looking back, it's tough to make that kind of move out of position against a player who is trying to tell me I was beat. His aggression factor was 3. I don't think I can check-raise the turn, so that leaves betting out on the river. The more I think about it, the more I think maybe I played it OK. It's hard to say.

On another hand, I had KQo and position on a loose-passive player who saw about 30 percent of flops. He raised, I three bet, he capped and I called preflop. J high came on the flop. He bet and I called. The turn brought a rag, and we both checked. The river was a King. He bet, and I thought about it for a second before raising. I thought his hand range included just about any pocket pair, any paired Jack with a weak kicker, or a premium King hand. He called and showed down AK, and my hand is no good. Again, though, I kind of like my play now that I write about it.

I've been thinking about hands like suited QJ and KJ from early position. I know I want to play these hands because they have three way potential (top pair, straight or flush) from any position, but you need to see the flop to know if they're going to be worth the bother. Also, since these hands thrive on implied odds, I want to get into the hand as cheaply as possible.

What troubles me, though, is that limping from early position gives away that I have a marginal hand. I'm eliminating any chance of winning outright or with a bet on the flop where a high card falls. Maybe if I limp-raised sometimes with AA or AK it could be a good play to also do so with these lesser hands, but I don't limp-raise. I'm not a believer that that play has any value at the limits I play.

So maybe I should raise preflop? I feel like a raise fits my style better.

Of course, it's more likely that the correct answer is the same answer that you get to most poker questions: It depends. Perhaps I'll raise at tighter tables and try to win the hand preflop or on the flop. Maybe with looser players to act behind me, I'll limp in hopes they'll limp right along with me.

Let's leave off with an old Card Player article dealing with an important concept: Way Ahead or Way Behind.

Don't worry -- I plan on being more interesting in my next post!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Scattered Thoughts

I'd like to shout out to some of the quality blogs I've been reading lately. I haven't done this in a while, and there's plenty of content out there that's worth reading.

Human Head Thinks Big: He's been dying to get out of middle-America purgatory, and now his wish has been granted with a new job in Phoenix. Congratulations! This blog is always a good read.

Poker With WillWonka: Wonka's blog is interesting because he talks some strategy and gets inside the poker mind a little bit, which I like. He also talks about limit poker, which is what I'm most interested in. Now if only he'd stop using ellipses so much...

Poker Sweet Home: PSH is taking on his limit challenge to climb the ladder, starting near the bottom and slowly building a bankroll till he can play higher levels. His poker talk is good, but I also really like it when Mrs. PSH peeks in and writes a post. She gives some solid perspective on poker from her standpoint.

Quest of a Closet Poker Player: CC is kickin it online and at his Atlanta home games with his racetrack-style poker table, which is quickly becoming the envy of the blogosphere. He recently started experimenting with stud poker, which is good to hear about. Stud is like the neglected older sibling of poker.


For those of you familiar with Atlanta traffic, this Georgia State University video is pretty funny. Check it out.


Computer stuff:

I've been playing with the demo of a program called MaxiVista, which allows me to use my laptop as a second monitor for my desktop without having to buy any hardware. It's pretty sweet. I think I'm going to have to buy the full version.

It's so nice to have poker tables on one screen, and all my other crap on the second screen. It really makes a lot of room that I needed for multitasking, chat, etc.

I also seem to have finally isolated the problem with my desktop computer, which is a badass dual processor system that I built with money that I won from my first Las Vegas poker tournament. For some reason, Windows' disk defragmenter wreaks all kinds of havok on the hard disks. I have no idea why -- maybe it has something to do with the RAID controllers, although that doesn't make much sense. Whatever. I just won't defragment. Since I figured that out (it took for-ever), I haven't defragged, and the system is running like a dream.


That's all I've got. Play good poker.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Don't Spew

After one week of three-tabling 10/20 limit as my main game, I'm doing alright. My results aren't spectacular, but I have made a small profit.

More importantly, I feel like I'm playing pretty well. I'm not making many mistakes, I'm catching a few bluffs and I'm learning to fold when I know with a high degree of certainty that I'm beat.

One thing that I've always struggled with is balancing aggression with reason. When I first got into limit poker and PokerTracker, I quickly learned that I wasn't playing aggressively enough. That was easy enough to remedy -- razu!

Then, after several stints of experimenting with shorthanded play, the mantra of aggression became even more important. You need to hammer at your opponents with your made hands, while also bluffing at a frequency high enough to steal pots when you can.

But at some point, the aggression is too much. Eventually, you're just throwing money away with little expectation of winning either by having the best hand or by everyone else folding. At that point, the aggressive play is no better than the loose-passive fish who goes to showdown with any hand that has a chance of winning. The calling stations just soak up that fruitless aggression.

So there's a balance to be struck. But how do you know what that balance is?

There are a few rules of thumb that I try to obey:

1) If you have raised preflop from late position, and you miss the flop but it's checked to you, go ahead and bet most of the time if you have a reasonable hope that you can get the pot heads-up or win it outright. At best, everyone will fold. At worst, you'll get re-raised, sending a strong signal that your hand isn't best.

2) If your bet on the flop narrows the field to one other opponent, strongly consider betting again on the turn if you think there's a chance your bluff will work.

3) If it's bet out in front of you in a raised pot and all you hold are overcards, strongly consider folding if the pot is still small. Reading this 2+2 post convinced me that it's OK to fold in that situation. If all you have are overcards with no draws, then you have six outs at best to improve to a top-pair hand. You're only getting about 6.7:1 odds to make a hand that might not be good, so the pot has to contain at least seven bets in it if you want to consider calling or raising. If you do stay in and have no secondary draw, calling is the right play -- not raising.

4) If a passive player bets in front of you, or if you're check-raised by a passive player, don't feel bad about folding top-pair hands.

5) If you're check-raised on the turn, fold most of the time unless you have a strong hand or a good read on your opponent. A check-raise on the turn is a trap far more often than it is a bluff.

6) When check-raised on the river, fold almost always. A check-raise on the river is only a bluff about 1 percent or 2 percent of the time.

7) Avoid raising wars on the turn and river unless you have a very strong holding. It's easy to get carried away with your best hands, but that hidden set or gutshot straight will become very expensive if you keep reraising. The fish are trying to tell you that they hit their hand.

There was an old 2+2 post from Ed Miller (I can't find it right now) where he said that many players' biggest leak is that they fold too much in large pots.

That's good advice, but it's an overgeneralization. You're not trying to avoid folding too much; you're trying to make the best move considering the odds. Folding at exactly the right frequency is the ideal.

I was leaking money because I was calling down too much. Now I have a note on my computer that says, "Don't be afraid to fold." This doesn't mean I will play weak-tight, but I am trying to make the best possible play -- the one that makes me the most money or loses the least.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Cold, hard, cash

"Call this if you don't like money."

I don't know what it is, but I think a fair amount of people don't like money.

If they did, why wouldn't they play within their bankrolls? Why wouldn't they take advantage of monthly blackjack bonuses that add up to an easy $400 or so? Why do they make bad calls when they know they're beaten? Why do they have to see the showdown?

Sure, a lot of players suck at poker. But even they could go out and take advantage of the obvious free bucks floating around out there. Hell, anybody could use the blackjack bonuses -- you don't even know how to play, you just need to follow the instructions.

Here's my theory: People are more attracted to the competition than they are to the earning potential.

Many times, those two interests coincide. It only makes sense -- the whole point of poker is to win the most money.

But I believe that people get too involved in themselves, and they lose sight of the larger objective.

People (myself included at some point almost every session) get tied up with the less important aspects of gambling: Is that guy trying to bluff me? Am I playing too tight? Am I spewing chips? Can I live with myself if I fold this hand and it hits on the river? Are these people messing with me?

Those thoughts lead to a defensive mindset that interferes with making the correct play in a certain situation.

They say poker is a people game -- that you need to read your opponents, play the players and pick up on tendencies.

But more than that, poker is a card game with only one way of winning. It isn't about proving yourself a better player than your opponents; it's about collecting the most chips.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Poker is a game of such margins, as Daniel pointed out recently.

I win slightly more than half of the time at showdown. I win slightly more than half of the days I play. I win slightly more than half of the tables I play. You get the picture.

The big wins are often balanced out by the little wins, and the scraps left on the table are what make up your win rate.

I like that. The expected value of any one play vs. any other play is relatively small, but over time those decisions add up into something meaningful. If you make a one-bet mistake in a session, that isn't significant. But if you make that same mistake in every session you play, then that does quickly add up. (And most mistakes are more expensive than 1 BB.)

In that way, playing poker against other players is a lot like playing blackjack if you have a bonus included. Your expected return is profitable, but not by a whole lot.

Really, any time you play you're grinding out the hands. I'm lucky that I like the minutiae, the little things, about the game that make it fascinating to me.

It's these little things that make me question concepts of what constitutes a good play. When does something have a positive expected value?

I think I really need to do more of the kind of study described in this article from last month's 2+2 magazine.

I've been trying to do more of this myself, but it's hard to put people on hand ranges on the fly. I guess I need to work on that.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Magical Limit Land

February was good, but I'm eager to get this show on the road.

March will be a month of 10/20 (and some 5/$0) full ring limit games! I'm so ready to get back to limit.

It seems like it's been forever since I played full ring limit seriously. It's been since November, really.

Most of December was spent at 0.5/1 no limit, January was dedicated to 5/10 shorthanded and February was entirely 1/2 no limit. Each of those months was pretty good, but this is a quest to find the most profitable games and move up as quickly as possible. You don't do that by sitting around at the same limit or in the same game all the time.

The goal is to make 2 BB/100 hands, but that will largely depend on how good the cards run. I'll definitely have my game ready.

If I can sustain that level, or something close to it, I estimate winnings should be around $2,400 (by multitabling to 100 hands/hour, $40/hr, 60 hours of play) for the month, excluding bonuses and rakeback, and assuming two hours of poker a day, give or take. Once bonuses are accounted for, I should have the bankroll to step up to 15/30 limit by April.

It will be a challenge, but that's what goals are for. I may not be successful, but I'm pretty optimistic that I will be.

So yeah ... bring on the March Madness.