Saturday, December 29, 2007

Accountability

When I wanted to tilt someone attacking my play, I used to type "poker is easy" into the chat box. It gave the illusion that I didn't know what I was doing and I was just there to have a good time.

But there's also some truth to it. The games seem as beatable now as they've ever been, despite the UIGEA, the spread of poker knowledge and cries that the boom is over. As far as I can tell, the most significant difference in the online poker landscape is the consolidation trend within the industry discussed by BillRini.

Some people say the games are tougher, and maybe they are. But I don't see it, based on my experience playing hundreds of hands every day. It seems like the players per flop figures displayed in the Full Tilt lobby have never been higher.

Are the games really more difficult? Or is this a case of weaker players faulting external events for their shortcomings rather than taking personal responsibility for improving their own games?

Perhaps it's both: the games are tougher, but the strong players adapt and thrive.

"(Dan) Harrington says he returned to the felt only after he started watching poker on TV in 2003. 'I said, I remember how to play that no-limit hold'em, and I know how to play it better than they know how to play it,' he recalled. 'That's what got me out of retirement and got me playing again,'" according to a CardPlayer interview.

Taylor Caby also has seen players try to take advantage of him after he spends time away from the tables. He says in a video that opponents attempt moves on him, but he simply adjusts his strategy to counter them.

There's little doubt these guys and plenty more like them are doing just fine.

For me, the fear of tougher games held me back this year more than it should have. I lacked confidence, and I doubted whether I would still be able to kill the games once the effects of the UIGEA were felt at the tables.

I remember sitting in an airport all night long playing 2/4 games on PokerStars, just trying to grind out a profit without thinking about it. I spewed a lot of money trying to rebuild my roll on Full Tilt on autopilot. I chased bonuses instead of profits. I focused on attaining goals rather than figuring out how to reach them.

Even when I ran white hot in fall 2006, I didn't feel like I was doing anything special to deserve this kind of success.

It's time for me to acknowledge my poker competence as a necessary step toward continued improvement.

Do the fish still donate their stacks? Are the games still good? Is the poker boom going strong? Yes, yes and yes.

But my victories aren't due to circumstances. I'm not going to "blame" poker society for giving me a free ride toward earning these profits. I'm a solid player who can beat most any game I play in, and my results directly reflect the effort I've put into my improvement.

Poker is easy.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Poker Boom Stats

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law Oct. 13, 2006.

Peak cash players at U.S.-facing sites on Oct. 7, 2006 (from It's Always an Off Deuce and billrini):

Party Poker: 10263
Poker Stars: 8128
iPoker: 5927
Ongame: 4804
Microgaming: 3561
Full Tilt Poker: 3334
Paradise: 2917
Crypto: 2286
UB: 2013
Pacific: 1992
Bodog: 1763
IPN: 1707
Absolute: 1241
World Poker Exchange: 635

Total: 50,571

Peak cash players at U.S.-facing sites on Dec. 27, 2007 (from PokerScout.com):

PokerStars: 20386
Full Tilt Poker: 8605
UB: 2986
Absolute: 2287
Bodog: 2013
Microgaming: 1861
Cake: 1319
Merge Gaming: 472
World Poker Exchange: 134

Total: 40,063

Total including sites listed above that have since closed to U.S. players (Party Poker, iPoker, Ongame, Microgaming, Crypto, Pacific, IPN): 73,089

Comparison of peak cash players on current top three sites (PokerStars, Full Tilt and Party Poker) before UIGEA and today:

Oct. 7, 2006: 21,725
Dec. 27, 2007: 38,435

Note: Paradise Poker joined IPN (Boss Media) in February.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

so sick for a donkey to be that bad

If you say so, dude. I thought I played it in the only way I'd get paid off in full.

2/4 NL
smizmiatch posts the small blind of $2
BB posts the big blind of $4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [Qd 9d]
1 fold
TakeUrCheese raises to $16
Button calls $16
smizmiatch calls $14
BB folds
*** FLOP *** [9s 9h 3d]
smizmiatch checks
TakeUrCheese has 15 seconds left to act
TakeUrCheese bets $42
Button folds
smizmiatch has 15 seconds left to act
smizmiatch calls $42
*** TURN *** [9s 9h 3d] [9c]
smizmiatch checks
TakeUrCheese has 15 seconds left to act
TakeUrCheese bets $70
smizmiatch has 15 seconds left to act
smizmiatch calls $70
*** RIVER *** [9s 9h 3d 9c] [3h]
smizmiatch has 15 seconds left to act
smizmiatch bets $313, and is all in
TakeUrCheese calls $313
*** SHOW DOWN ***
smizmiatch shows [Qd 9d] four of a kind, Nines
TakeUrCheese: sooooooooo sick
TakeUrCheese mucks
smizmiatch wins the pot ($899) with four of a kind, Nines
Seat 3: TakeUrCheese mucked [Jc Jd] - a full house, Nines full of Jacks
TakeUrCheese: so sick for a donkey to be that bad

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Heads-up Basics

The quest to improve my heads-up game is slowly progressing, as I continue to make mistakes and learn from them. I've been watching videos, reading forums and practicing as I try to get better.

I wanted to write down a few points about better heads-up play while they're still fresh and I won't forget them.

Above all, it's important to remember that heads-up poker is still poker, and the same guidelines apply despite the necessary additional aggression. Solid play beats fishy play every time. Analysis and logic trumps formulaic play. Observation is essential.

I jotted down a few simple phrases on my laptop's notepad so I won't forget them as I play:

Take your time -- The pace of heads-up games is faster than other forms of poker because you see and play many more hands per hour. Smart opponents will take advantage of you if you fall into a pattern.

Read hands -- People often ask, "How do you accurately narrow hand ranges down so you can figure out how to play correctly?" That's an important question; unfortunately, it's also difficult to answer. A better approach is to attempt to make reads every time rather than fear the unknown. In my experience, there's no secret about how to make accurate reads. It's more a matter of using deductive reasoning to go step-by-step through an opponent's likely holdings, consider which of those cards are most probable, and decide on the best action given what you think you know.

Use pot control -- Strong opponents make frequent bets with a wide range of hands. There's nothing wrong with calling down a weak top pair or middle pair, or folding in a small pot when a scare card comes. Trying to take a stand at the wrong time with few outs has cost me a lot of money. Instead, it's often less costly to give a free card than to raise for information.

I'm still getting used to assigning values to various hands relative to the board. All hands go up in value compared to shorthanded or full-ring games, meaning there are times when top pair is a good hand to go broke with or slowplay. I'm not used to slowplaying top pair, but it becomes a powerful hand against a wide range.

I'm also working on my continuation bet frequency. Different opponents show varying responses, from frequent check-raises to folds to cold calls. I've run into people who will drain my stack by calling my bets down with bottom pair, while against others I've been able to catch their bluff-raises. I want to keep making strong continuation bets, but I've spewed a lot of money away when I keep making them but never seem to get any folds. The key is to play the player and adjust appropriately for the circumstances at hand.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Picking on Ed Miller

I hope Ed Miller and his co-authors can consider themselves a success based on the amount of discussion and criticism they generate, because I can't resist pointing out their flaws.

Here's another passage from "Professional No-Limit Hold 'em" that didn't seem right to me:
Many players think experts win because they make these tough decisions well. They miss the point. Good players plan ahead to avoid tough decisions, and so should you.
It would be nice if poker were so easy to play that players could simply avoid all tough decisions by planning better. But that simply isn't the case.

Yes, it's true that avoiding tough decisions by planning your hands can help improve your game. But money isn't made by dodging difficult situations. Profits come from making correct decisions, whether they're simple or complicated. If you avoid all tricky circumstances, you'll forgo countless dollars that could be made when you have an edge.

Money is made by capitalizing on good values when you see them -- not by shying away from hands because they might be too hard to play. Solid poker players evaluate the circumstances and take the best action they can to maximize earnings.

Sacrificing EV to minimize risk makes little sense to me.

Here's another link to a post critical of the authors' claims about the benefits of buying in short: The availability error and short stack strategy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Expanding games

Wow, the 3/6 and 2/4 NL games on Full Tilt have been incredibly loose over the last few weeks.

I can't explain it. Maybe it's the holiday season, the cold weather keeping people inside or the ease of making deposits. Whatever the reason, I'm not complaining. I've said this many times before: anyone who tells you the online games are filled with rocks is wrong or lying.

Now is the time to play and make the most of this opportunity. I know the games won't be this good forever.

On a separate topic, I'm impressed with a CardRunners video by CTS that I watched last night. In the vid, he plays three guys in heads-up 5/10 NL games and just demolishes them for 3.5 buy-ins over 225 hands. Sure, he runs pretty good. But he also makes ballsy plays based on reads and experience that are almost always correct.

I like the math he uses to find that a bluff he makes with an open-ended straight draw into a large pot needs to only be successful 17 percent of the time to show a profit:



What really stood out to me was his commentary on the importance of learning to play heads-up. It reminded me a lot of when I heard similar suggestions years ago about switching from full ring to shorthanded games. I struggled with 6-max games for a long time, but now they're my most consistent moneymakers.

The skills acquired from playing shorthanded directly result in higher profits, better hourly winrates and practice playing in tough situations.

I've had mixed results in heads-up cash games and backed off them entirely since I lost several buy-ins last month. I now realize I was playing too tightly preflop and I failed to properly identify and respond to my opponents weaknesses. Most actions can be countered by varying your play appropriately. I need to improve HU to bring my game to where it needs to be.

Specifically, I want to learn more about narrowing my opponents' hand ranges, correctly playing middling hands that gain value in HU situations and effectively increasing my bluffing frequency. I'm excited about the challenge.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vegas never fails

Vegas rules, as always. It says something about the city that it's still a blast even when I can't seem to win anything.

The weekend was the usual whirlwind of late nights, cards, donks, Brits in town for the Hatton-Mayweather fight and cowboys ready for the annual rodeo. And of course about 100 bloggers from across the world.

"Next year, I should wear a cowboy hat," Kuro said as we got to the airport Monday morning to leave Vegas. I think it's a great idea -- bloggers could blend right in with these fishy cowboys and help relieve them of their money. It would be hilarious.

During a weekend where I couldn't win on my own, I relied on others to help mitigate my losses.

Some quick hits:

_ Kuro took down 3rd place in the WPBT Winter Classic Tourney at the Venetian in an impressive display of solid play, keen instinct and an ability to stay out of trouble. He played a great tourney and put himself in position to win. He even got it in ahead on the last hand and had the eventual winner on the ropes at one point. I'm thankful I got a piece of his action!

_ The tourney was a fantastic structure in a great poker room. Thanks to Falstaff for organizing it, and I commend the Venetian for putting on a 9+ hour tourney and listening to our requests. It really shows that a quality poker room can put on an excellent tourney, unlike our horrible experience at the Orleans over the summer.

_ I was saved $220 for my share of a delicious dinner at Prime at Bellagio when Kuro, Fuel and myself high-carded for our $660 portion of the tab. As I recall, Fuel drew a Jack, I pulled a King and Kuro got stuck with the bill when he drew a 6.

RecessRampage, Schaubs, LJ and CC also attended the dinner, but they were too chicken to gamb00l for it. They were great company nonetheless, and I had a lot of fun getting to know them.

_ I ran like shit in casino games and at the poker tables. One hand in particular put me in a tight spot, and I'm not sure if I played it correctly.

It was getting late Friday night at the 2/5 ($500 max buy-in) table at the MGM when I was dealt Q9s in the CO. The game was very good, with about two terrible players and most of the rest your typical loose-passive tourists. Preflop raises never got any respect, so I had been playing tight but jacking it up big when I did come into a pot. My thinking was that I could capitalize on my tighter play by getting more money into the middle with hands that were ahead of my opponents' range.

So after a couple of limpers (I don't recall exactly how many), I raised it to $50 with my Q9 of hearts. A loose player cold called from the button, and one of the limpers or the blinds came along as well. There was $150+ in the pot preflop.

I hit very well on a flop of Ah 9c 3h, giving me middle pair and the nut flush draw. I decided to bet as much as I could while I knew I was likely to be at least tied with almost any hand out there, so I bet $150 when it was checked around to me. That bet committed me to the pot, which is what I wanted to happen. The button called again, and the limper folded.

With about $450 in the pot and $300 left in my stack, I decided to push the turn no matter what card fell. I believed I was so far ahead of my opponent's range that I could feel comfortable with getting it all in.

The turn was the Ace of spades -- one of the worst cards I could see. But having no evidence that the button had an Ace, I followed through with my plan and pushed all in. He thought for a few seconds before calling with AJ, and the non-heart Queen on the river did me no good.

If I made a mistake in this hand, it was raising it too big preflop. I got myself committed on the flop when otherwise I could have saved some money with a smaller preflop raise. I don't know though. It leaves a bad taste.

_ Bloggers are the best. I had an awesome time chatting, drinking and playing poker with all of you. I also enjoyed the meals, toasts at the MGM, Dutch Boyd sightings in the mixed game and bowling with metsfan, April, penneriii, shane, biggestron and Kuro.

Hope to see you in the summer!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Presto not so gold when all-in preflop

Woh, AK really was ahead of his range.

FullTiltPoker Table Promenade (6 max) - $2/$4
Seat 2: RunItTrim ($447.80)
Seat 3: smizmiatch ($423)
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [Kh Ah]
2 folds
RunItTrim raises to $14 from CO
smizmiatch raises to $48 from Button
2 folds
RunItTrim raises to $160
smizmiatch raises to $423, and is all in
RunItTrim calls $263
smizmiatch shows [Kh Ah]
RunItTrim shows [5d 5s]
*** FLOP *** [As Kc 7s]
*** TURN *** [As Kc 7s] [Kd]
*** RIVER *** [As Kc 7s Kd] [Qd]
smizmiatch shows a full house, Kings full of Aces
RunItTrim shows two pair, Kings and Fives
smizmiatch wins the pot ($849) with a full house, Kings full of Aces

I had a hunch he was possibly 4-betting light. A note showed he had made a several 3-bets, and his 4-bet in this hand struck me as a strange amount. The 3.3 X raise felt awkward because it was less than pot-sized but more than a normal 3 X raise.

I like shoving AK in sometimes, but I don't feel confident about it unless I have a reason to believe my hand is live or if I'm against squeeze-happy players.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Relative position

It really irks me when I see bad advice passed off as the truth, especially when it comes from a so-called "Noted Poker Authority." I'll comment on an excerpt from the pretentiously titled of "Professional No-Limit Hold 'Em: Volume One." Volume two hasn't been written yet.
Relative position means being to the right of the likely bettor, so you get to see how everyone else responds before you act. Sometimes having relative position can be more useful than having absolute position. For instance:

A player in a 9-handed $1-$2 game with a $100 capped buy-in has been going all-in every other hand for the last 20 hands. No one is standing up to him without a premium hand. He now has $268. You are first on the list to get into the game, and you will buy in for $100. You decide you should call the frequent all-in player for all your chips with ace-ten or better, and any pair of sixes or better. Two seats open up, one on his immediate right and the other on his immediate left. Which seat do you take?

Consider your worst all-in hand, ace-ten offsuit. If you sit to this person's immediate left and call all-in, any of the other players could play as well. If one of them has AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK, AQ, or AJ, you take the worst of it. However, if you sit to the immediate right of the slider, you see what everyone else does before you commit. You can limp with ace-ten offsuit, then get all-in if no one else calls him. If instead someone plays, you can fold.

With relative position, you will often get to check to the likely bettor, then see how every other opponent reacts before committing your chips. That is why, contrary to conventional wisdom, it can sometimes be better to be on the right of a very aggressive player. Most of the time, however, absolute position is more important than relative position.
First of all, relative position does not mean being to the right of the likely bettor. Relative position is your position in relation to the preflop raiser. Whether you would rather have a relative position to the right or left of the likely bettor is debatable. I would prefer to be to the left of the likely bettor in most situations.

Then the book gives a contrived example of a situation in which it would be better to be sitting to the right of the likely bettor. The argument is that you can limp or check to the raiser to see how he and the remaining players act before deciding how to proceed with your hand. Presumably, you would check-raise with stronger hands and fold weaker hands.

This reasoning may work in the example, but how often are you going to be sitting to the right of a player who goes all in every hand? How often will you cold-call out of position preflop and then check when you hit your hand? How often will you make more money from a check-raise or a limp-raise than you would have made from playing your hand straightforwardly?

The example portrays a false reality that doesn't frequently occur in actual play. It's poor strategy to sacrifice absolute position, give up control of the hand and open yourself up to re-raises unless you have a premium hand. We all know how rarely the combination of being dealt a premium hand, getting action and having it hold up happens.

I would much rather be to the left of the maniac. I could frequently reraise him for isolation, bet for value when I hit my hand, bluff him with greater accuracy and get it all in with more information than I would have out of position. The exception comes in multiway pots where you gain more information by letting the maniac bet and waiting to see how others will react.

But most pots are contested heads-up, especially in games where there's lots of raising preflop. In heads-up hands, I want to control the action and pot size, which is much more easily accomplished from the maniac's left.

Limping and checking is usually weak poker. While there are extreme circumstances where a maniac is so aggressive and predictable that you want him to your left, those scenarios are rare.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Beginning

Don't tilt. Play good poker. Don't worry about variance. Concentrate on making good decisions. Be aggressive. Make strong reads.

These are some of the bedrock phrases poker players tell themselves over and over again as they try to cope with losses while maintaining the same focus needed to keep winning. Sure these sayings are cliched and overused, but that doesn't make them any less true.

The difficulty is that these words get old and lose their meaning, while improving my game is just as challenging as it always was. I'll never reach a point where I'll feel like I've plugged all my leaks. I'll always have to prove myself over and over again.

I must constantly rededicate myself to the principles of winning poker: don't be results oriented, avoid formulaic decision making, take advantage of every edge.

The tedium of discipline is tough to live with, but it's also a part of what makes this game great. Each day is a clean slate, each action a single data point among countless decisions that eventually add up to something.

I love the grind.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

No original content here

Check out cmitch's post on playing AK preflop in different scenarios.

I like lucko's suggestions and the EV calculations at the end of the post.

Just don't take it the wrong way and spew chips:

5/10
CO raises to $20
Button raises to $80
Gnome raises all-in for $1,000 from the BB with As Kd
CO folds.
Button calls all-in.
Flop: Qs 8d Td
Turn: 4c
River: 6s
Button wins $2,079 with Kc Ks

Friday, November 23, 2007

Top 10 Hold 'em Books



10. No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice: I just didn't get much out of it.









9. Little Blue Book: This book isn't revolutionary, but I enjoyed reading the hand histories. I agree with most of Gordon's analysis, which is more than I can say for plenty of other hold 'em books.







8. Theory of Poker: Everyone says this book is one of the very best, but it didn't stand out to me except for the Fundamental Theorem of Poker.










7. Super/System: Gotta give it up for the classics.











6. Hold 'em Poker for Advanced Players: These fundamentals of hold 'em gave me a solid foundation to learn from.










5. Harrington on Hold 'em (Vols. 1-3): Probably the most important book since the poker boom based on M alone.









4. Professional No-Limit Hold 'em: While this book has its flaws, it breaks some new ground on no limit. Its concepts on hand planning are useful and understandable.









3. Winning in Tough Hold 'em Games: Short-Handed and High-Stakes Concepts and Theory for Limit Hold 'em: This book is the real deal. It preaches aggressive tactics for difficult games. While this is a limit book, many of its ideas are applicable to other forms of poker as well.








2. Ace on the River: If you judge books by whether they help you make money, this one gets an A in my book. It's light on strategy but puts me in a winning mindset. I've read through it twice, and I went on crazy winning streaks both times afterward.








1. Small Stakes Hold 'em: No other poker book is so complete from start to finish, with page after page of practical ideas about how to analyze and execute hands. I didn't win the most money immediately after reading "Small Stakes Hold 'em," but it paid off in the long run.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Professional No-Limit Hold 'Em"

Ed Miller and company drive me crazy -- they come up with compelling new concepts and then ignore the reality of how today's no limit games play.

"Professional No-Limit Hold 'em"
by Matt Flynn, Sunny Mehta and Miller shows off the best and worst of 2+2 publishing. The book makes you think about pot commitment, bet sizing and stack adjustment ideas while misapplying them to practical situations. Many parts of the book come off as anything but professional, from the constant typos to the faulty hand examples and sometimes awful advice about preflop raising. It repeats some of the same problems that I pointed out about "No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice."

I'll start with the book's strengths.

It is focused throughout on the idea of quickly planning your hand and bets to avoid messy situations. I like this approach because the authors develop new terminology to more clearly define existing stratagems that experienced no limit players know from thousands of hands of practice. It's similar to when David Sklansky came up with the term "semibluffing" to clarify the existing term "bluffing with outs."

Here's a sampling of the book's vocabulary:

_ Commitment threshold: You reach the commitment threshold when you have invested more than 10 percent of your effective stack size. This means that one more largish bet will get you pot committed in many situations.

_ Commitment: Players are usually pot committed if they have invested more than one-third of their effective stack into the pot. At first, this appears to be a low proportion, but it makes sense because after betting a third of your stack, you're only one pot-sized bet away from being all-in.

_ The REM Process: REM stands for Range, Equity and Maximize -- three steps you should take when evaluating your place in a hand. No shit, Sherlock.

_ SPR: SPR stands for stack-to-pot ratio, which is a number used to plan your hand from the flop onward based on whether it's a top pair hand, overpair or drawing hand. The meat of the book is spent on SPR, which I believe to be a useful but inherently flawed metric.

I won't delve into the details of SPR here because the book does that well enough over about 150 pages. Suffice it to say that SPR fails to accurately account for multiway pots and adjust to differing playing styles. Above all, its chief shortcoming is that the authors use it to rationalize weak play that simply won't fly in many of the 2/5 and 5/10 games that are used in the hand examples.

This is where we get to the book's problems. Although it does a good job of introducing new ways of thinking about hand planning, it falls short when it comes to practical application. I think of it as the difference between a graduate student and a working professional. The graduate student might write a solid thesis, but there's often a reason he can't cut it in the real world.

I can see how thinking about SPR can be a useful practice, but it's more of a means to an end than the end itself. By that I mean that I will use SPR to observe and evaluate likely outcomes, but I won't tailor my preflop play to achieve a certain SPR number. My reasoning is that favorable SPRs only serve to make hands easier to play; they do not necessarily result in higher expected value.

For example, the book suggests limping or minraising with AA or KK for pot control purposes. That misses the point that strong raises with premium hands gets more money in the pot when you have the best of it.

Here's another example: The book recommends occasional raises with suited one-gappers if it will result in an unfavorable SPR for your opponent. But I don't think it really matters to most opponents whether they have an unfavorable SPR or not because they're going to play the hand in the best way they know how, even if their stack size might not be just right for that hand type.

A few of the hand examples in the book are a mess. They place too high of a value on pot control while ignoring that solid players will simply destroy you with overbets and river bluffs if you consistently play hands in a style that's afraid to commit too many chips.

It makes me wonder if the authors of this book are truly professionals. Do they really play in 2/4 and up NL games online? Do they win? Do they practice what they preach? I don't believe it for two reasons: their advice frequently won't stand up to aggression, and I've never seen even one winning player in any of the games I play effectively use this style.

I have a few other complaints. In one of the hand examples, the blinds are incorrectly listed at 50/100 instead of 2/5. Another hand example is from a hypothetical online 2/5 NL game, which isn't even spread at any of the sites open to U.S. players (that I know of). In one paragraph, the authors call a raise from $20 to $75 a "huge overbet," which is just plain wrong because the raise to $75 was exactly a pot-sized raise.

These kinds of things make me seriously question the book's credibility. It should have some peer review, or at least decent copy editing.

Despite all these problems, I would recommend "Professional No-Limit Hold 'em" (I guess no-limit is hyphenated these days?) for players who can separate its strengths from its weaknesses. I wouldn't suggest it for players who are looking to replicate the style advocated within because they'd get run over.

I measure poker books based on whether they make me a better player. By that standard, I have to admit this book is a winner. It introduced me to alternate playing styles and new ideas that give me additional perspective when playing hands. It forced me to think harder about commitment and planning of my plays.

I'll treat it more like a work of untested theory than a textbook based on fact.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blogger Big Game: Second Thoughts

I'm in Seattle on the second layover of my return trip from Detroit to Honolulu. Fortunately, long plane rides bring on a level of boredom where I'm able to run lengthy equity calculations because I have nothing better to do.

So I decided to try to answer a question left over from this morning's post about the Blogger Big Game: How much equity does emptyman gain from calling a reraise with 88 and calling a flop shove on any lowcard flop compared to simply pushing all-in preflop?

The answer: Very little, if any.

He's at a distinct disadvantage against my tight 3-betting raising range, although he gains value if I'm raising with a wider range.

Even against wider raising standards, there's little discernible difference in equity for emptyman between playing his hand the way he did and simply taking the coinflip preflop.

That said, he wasn't wrong to play 88 this way. While he doesn't gain value from his play, he does increase his chances of survival if he's willing to fold on any flop with an Ace, King or Queen. If the flop came with high cards, he would have lost only the 13,000 he invested preflop instead of his whole stack.

Emptyman's equity won't increase by waiting to see a flop, but he minimizes the chance of busting.

In cash games, value is king because the chance of losing your stack is irrelevant as long as you're making the correct play. MTTs are more about managing risk. Emptyman did well to plan his moves in advance and give himself an opportunity to get away from many hands that dominate him.

Blogger Big Game: No Cigar

I finished in 5th place of the Blogger Big Game last night for a $252 payout -- an OK result considering that it took a couple of suckouts to get there, but disappointing because I have myself to blame for busting.

My tourney came down to a crucial hand against emptyman. With blinds of 800/1600/200, I was in second place with an M of 19 at the start of the hand as we were playing five-handed.

Here's the hand:

FullTiltPoker Game #4224199836: Blogger Big Game (31592875), Table 5 - 800/1600 Ante 200 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:42:21 ET - 2007/11/19
Seat 2: OtisDart (16,034)
Seat 4: smizmiatch (66,342)
Seat 5: VinNay (90,886)
Seat 8: jeciimd (43,252)
Seat 9: emptyman (38,486)
OtisDart antes 200
smizmiatch antes 200
VinNay antes 200
jeciimd antes 200
emptyman antes 200
VinNay posts the small blind of 800
jeciimd posts the big blind of 1,600
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [Kc Ad]
emptyman raises to 4,800
OtisDart folds
smizmiatch raises to 13,000
VinNay folds
jeciimd folds
emptyman calls 8,200
*** FLOP *** [9d 3s 5d]
emptyman checks
smizmiatch bets 53,142, and is all in
emptyman calls 25,286, and is all in
smizmiatch shows [Kc Ad]
emptyman shows [8s 8d]
Uncalled bet of 27,856 returned to smizmiatch
*** TURN *** [9d 3s 5d] [2h]
*** RIVER *** [9d 3s 5d 2h] [2s]
smizmiatch shows a pair of Twos
emptyman shows two pair, Eights and Twos
emptyman wins the pot (79,972) with two pair, Eights and Twos
emptyman: woot!!!!
smizmiatch: nh
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 79,972 | Rake 0
Board: [9d 3s 5d 2h 2s]
Seat 2: OtisDart folded before the Flop
Seat 4: smizmiatch (button) showed [Kc Ad] and lost with a pair of Twos
Seat 5: VinNay (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 8: jeciimd (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 9: emptyman showed [8s 8d] and won (79,972) with two pair, Eights and Twos

Emptyman played this hand well.

With 88, he had to raise preflop, and his call of my raise was good as well. He could have pushed preflop, but I don't think you want to be putting all your chips in against a bigger stack who has reraised you unless you're shortstacked.

I imagine emptyman was thinking that he would call preflop and call any shove on a flop that did not contain an Ace, King or Queen.

I had a sense that he might have a middle pocket pair, but I couldn't resist betting 25,000 into a 25,000 pot when he checked it to me on the flop.

If I had been known better, I wouldn't have pushed all-in if I knew he was planning to call a push on most lowcard flops.

It's fun to think about, though: If he knew that I knew what he was doing, then I would only push with hands that could beat his 88. Then he would have had to fold. Instead, he correctly read that I would push most any flop if he checked it to me.

In the future, I will be able to maximize my equity if I read this situation correctly next time. I'll make more money with overpairs against instacallers with middle pocket pairs, while losing the least amount possible with AK.

I believe this is an important tactic for tourney play that I've screwed up quite a few times in the past as well. I'm starting to get it.

Congrats to VinNay for taking the tourney down! Once he got the big stack, he was hard to tangle with.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Layout

I had been using the layout below for a while. It had a plain dark background and yellow card backs. On the card fronts, this layout displayed solid four-colored cards, borrowed from the PokerStars Hyper-Simple Theme.





This table background and cards are taken from a very long Full Tilt mods thread on 2+2. The part of the thread linked here contains zip files for avatars, buttons, tables and elements -- more mods than most people will ever need.

But there were a few aesthetic changes that I needed to make.

I found that I preferred a lighter background, like the Stainless Steel used by Kaja. I wanted bigger cards (also included in the 2+2 link above) so I would be able to tell more easily who was in the hand. I decided I felt more comfortable with the traditional white-backed 4-color deck.

I ended up with this. The cards are huge.


Here's a look at the PokerAce layout I'm working with these days:



The left-hand column with white numbers is aggression frequency by street: flop, turn and river.

The green number is VP$IP, and the purple number is Folds to Continuation Bet percentage.

The red figure on the right-hand column is Preflop Raise, the yellow is Went to Showdown and the blue is number of hands.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spewage

Wow, I played some hands really poorly last week.

I just looked back at my hand histories over 6,742 hands played -- many more than I usually play. That's the first sign that I was asking for trouble, considering that the most obvious dropoff in my winrate comes in sessions of more than 2 hours.

Usually, when I look back at hand histories, I might find a few setup hands, a couple of hands that I could have played better, and one big mistake. This time, I found a lot of mistakes.

_ AK cold calling on a dangerous flop with only a gutshot, hitting the gutshot on the turn and losing to a flush. I never should have called that flop in the first place.

_ Going out of control with top pair in a few heads-up matches.

_ Getting in with QQ vs. AA preflop.

_ Making an incorrect read that I could make a solid player fold top pair, shit kicker to my top pair, shittier kicker heads-up.

_ Check-raising a dangerous turn card all-in with top pair. My opponent had hit his gutshot straight.

Sure, there was some bad luck in these hands. But they were all avoidable.

Notes to self: Remember to fold when beaten, and don't go bust with top pair.

They're kind of funny in retrospect.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Results Oriented

"Parcells believed that even in the NFL a lot of players were more concerned with seeming to want to win that with actually winning, and that many of them did not know the difference."
--"The Blind Side," by Michael Lewis


I set a goal, and I was going to stick to it.

I wanted to rebuild my Full Tilt bankroll from $3,000 to $10,000 before moving up in stakes on other sites where I keep most of my roll. There were several reasons for this challenge: I wanted to rejuvenate my Full Tilt account without making a deposit, experiment with new tactics at 2/4 and 3/6, and prove to myself that I could set a goal and reach it.

I planned to get there in three weeks.

I did well at first, slowly building up on Full Tilt until I got to $8,500. There was nothing spectacular about this run -- just steadily building up toward where I wanted to be. But then things started to go wrong.

I found the juiciest 50/100 shorthanded limit game I had ever seen, with a table average VP$IP of about 48 and a seat open next to a player who was seeing nearly every flop. I felt my overall bankroll could support sitting at this table, so I decided to take a shot.

First I put in a lot of bets with an underboat vs. an overboat. Then QQ got cracked. Then KK fell. Within a few minutes, I was down $4,500. Oh well, I told myself. I knew the risk going in.

When I woke up the next morning, I was determined to push hard toward my goal. Back at 2/4, I opened up my game with lots of 4-bets, steal attempts and efforts to push every little small edge I could perceive. I spewed chips at an alarming rate.

I tried to be the kind of loose-aggressive player who would get paid off because my holdings would be so unpredictable. Instead, I seemed to only get action when I didn't want it.

Down to about $1,500, I dug in. For the first time, I was worried about dropping to dangerously low levels. I played tight -- too tight. I played weak. In one hand against cmitch, I may have been able to take it down with a bet or check-raise on the turn when I made trips. Instead, I meekly called a bet and then paid off on the river when his flush got there.

I dropped down to .50/1 to build back up again. I told myself I could be like Chris Ferguson, and slowly get back to where I wanted to be one small step at a time.

After only two days of play, I lost patience. How could I waste this time playing .50/1 when I could be winning at 5/10 -- or even having a go at 10/20? What was I doing grinding out $2 and $4 pots when my yearly average is so much higher?

I was fully aware that these thoughts would only get me into trouble. The only two options were to stick with my plan for weeks or months of more frustration, or to take one more chance. I played a few topsy-turvy 2/4 heads-up matches, and my roll fell below $200 by the time I was through.

When I dropped this low, I realized what a fish I had been. But it also enabled me to accept failure. I try to treat poker like an investment. It was time to cut my losses.

I adopted a better plan: abandon my goal, transfer money to my Full Tilt account rather than try to rebuild on a short roll, play the limits I wanted to play and quit steaming over a useless challenge.

From the start, this effort was focused on trying to reach a number rather than improving my game. It had little to do with getting better or making smarter decisions.

I like to learn from my mistakes:

1) I never want to play on a site when I'm underrolled. It's too difficult to play my best game when I'm scared to take chances.

2) I should remember that pushing too hard is often counterproductive. I thought I had learned long ago that I can only play my best game for about 2 hours at a time, and the probability of losing money greatly increases when I try to extend sessions beyond that.

3) It's OK to experiment with new strategies and take shots, but I should only try one at a time.

I'm a lucky bastard. As soon as I abandoned my quest, I started winning again. I'm back to playing a style I'm comfortable with -- my style -- and I've won $3,500 in the last three hours at the tables. That's a rate I can be happy with.

Monday, November 12, 2007

True or False?

A couple of recent Cardrunners videos bring up some counterintuitive tactics that I'm not sure I agree with. I'm not saying that Cole South and Brian Townsend are wrong, but a couple of their suggestions raise questions in my mind.

1) CTS 2 $1-2 NL: On the last hand of the video, CTS raises to $7 from the cutoff with AK, and the tight-aggressive button reraises to $24. CTS 4-bets to $61, the button raises all-in, and CTS calls the rest of his 125 BB stack -- another $218. The button naturally turns over AA, dominating CTS completely and costing him a buy-in.

CTS claims he played the hand correctly. "One hundred big blind stack, cutoff vs. the button, I'm certainly not going to play that any different," he says.

True or false? Is this really a good play? Why?

A commenter in the video thread asks the same question:
I dont understand the comment at that AK vs AA hand against the tightest player at the table. You said thats a cooler but I dont agree with that. The guy raised you just 2 or 3 times, he could have big hands, and that last hand he shoved after a 4-bet !! You still think that was a good play and a cooler ?
Someone else responds:
You have to understand that CTS was taking his image and their positions into consideration. Scarecrow was playing tight at first, but near the end he was beginning to 3bet CTS more, plus his stats were leveling off to raising 15%. This, combined with CTSs 4440 stats and the fact that they were CO vs button means AK is a favourite over scarecrows range.
2) Sbrugby 21 $5-10 NL: Sbrugby is the BB with JTs. The button raises, and the small blind calls. Sbrugby says calling from the big blind with a hand like JTs is wrong. True or false?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tagged

Jl514 and Gadzooks64 tagged me. I also did this when I was tagged in May:

A). Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog...
B). Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself...
C). Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs...
D). Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I've been to 19 MLB stadiums in my quest to see them all. Two of them have since been torn down, and several more new ones are being built, so by my count I have 16 to go.
2. I hate olives.
3. Bacon is life.
4. I was good at video games when I was a kid, but I've totally lost it except for Street Fighter II, Super Mario Bros and Zelda.
5. I changed the blog template because I got sick of that yellow background.
6. I'll never bet against my favorite teams, the Braves and UGA, and I don't like betting on them at all.
7. I've witnessed six executions by injection.

No more tags from me!

Monday, November 05, 2007

$1 Rebuy Donkament!


I had a great time at the $1 Rebuy Blogger Donkament on Friday, finishing in second place to IslandBum1 after rebuying about 15 times and sucking out repeatedly. I don't think any tourney has ever made me look like more of a donk, but I guess that's what it's supposed to do.

I want to review some of the more questionable plays I made that may have looked particularly fishy. I'll pick up with hands after the rebuy period ended because that's when actual "poker" was played:

Hand 1:

200/400 Ante 50
Seat 3: dino_burger (25,797)
Seat 5: smizmiatch (10,835)
Dealt to smizmiatch [Ac As]
smizmiatch raises to 1,200
Astin calls 1,200
BuddyDank calls 1,000
dino_burger calls 800
*** FLOP *** [9s 8h 7s]
BuddyDank checks
dino_burger bets 5,150
smizmiatch raises to 9,585, and is all in
Astin folds
BuddyDank folds
dino_burger calls 4,435
smizmiatch shows [Ac As]
dino_burger shows [9c Td]
*** TURN *** [9s 8h 7s] [4s]
*** RIVER *** [9s 8h 7s 4s] [Qc]
smizmiatch shows a pair of Aces
dino_burger shows a pair of Nines
smizmiatch wins the pot (24,320) with a pair of Aces

This is pretty standard, I think. I'm not going to fold what is likely to be the best hand when someone decides to bet out at the pot like that. It felt like exactly what it was -- a strong draw. I was fulling willing to take a coinflip in this situation.

Hand 2:

400/800 Ante 100 - No Limit Hold'em - 23:41:09 ET - 2007/11/02
Seat 1: DontKnow (9,970)
Seat 8: smizmiatch (19,732)
Dealt to smizmiatch [Kh Jh]
smizmiatch raises to 2,400
DontKnow raises to 9,870, and is all in

There was 2,100 in the pot preflop, putting DontKnow's M just under 5. After my raise, there was 4,500 in the pot. After his all-in bet, I had to call 7,470 to win 14,370 -- basically a 2:1 proposition.

Should I have folded here? I put DontKnow on any Ax, any pocket pair or any other playable hand. Against Ax, I'm about a 60:40 dog, against AK, AJ or KQ I'm a 70:30 dog, and against a lower pocket pair I'm in a race situation.

I decided there was too much money in the pot to fold, but I think it's close.

DontKnow showed JJ, but I sucked out a straight on the river, giving me a 34,000-chip stack and leaving me in great shape.

But only a few hands later, I got in trouble again.

Hand 3:

500/1000 Ante 125 - No Limit Hold'em - 23:49:19 ET - 2007/11/02
Seat 2: NumbBono (45,471)
Seat 8: smizmiatch (28,502)
Astin posts the small blind of 500
NumbBono posts the big blind of 1,000
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [7h 9c] on Button
smizmiatch raises to 3,000
Astin folds
NumbBono calls 2,000
*** FLOP *** [7s 6h Qh]
NumbBono bets 5,600

I thought he would bet out with a wide range, including straight and flush draws. I didn't think I was worse off than being up against a Queen. In retrospect, it's obvious that this raise was a mistake.

smizmiatch raises to 15,000
NumbBono raises to 42,346, and is all in
smizmiatch has 15 seconds left to act
smizmiatch has requested TIME
Astin: got awful quiet here
smizmiatch: crap,
smizmiatch: crappy way to go out

At this point, there was 47,752 in the pot, and I had to call 10,377 more. That's about 4:1 pot odds, and I believed that all of my five outs were live. According to PokerTracker, I had a 22 percent chance of winning the hand and I had to call 21 percent of the pot, so on its surface a call was correct.

I didn't have these exact numbers in front of me at the time, but I knew it was basically a toss-up between folding and calling. So I called.

I never know when it's a good situation to make this kind of call in a tourney and when I should try to survive. I always fall back on my cash game knowledge that say if the pot odds dictate a call, you'd be wrong to fold.

smizmiatch calls 10,377, and is all in
NumbBono shows [Qs 8c]
smizmiatch shows [7h 9c]
Uncalled bet of 16,969 returned to NumbBono
*** TURN *** [7s 6h Qh] [3c]
*** RIVER *** [7s 6h Qh 3c] [7d]
NumbBono shows two pair, Queens and Sevens
smizmiatch shows three of a kind, Sevens
smizmiatch wins the pot (58,129) with three of a kind, Sevens
Astin: BOOOOOOOOM!

I didn't stop there. I had many more people to suck out on.

Hand 4:

FullTiltPoker Game #4049972626: Friday Nite Blogger Donkament (30642602), Table 3 - 600/1200 Ante 150 - No Limit Hold'em - 23:56:50 ET - 2007/11/02
Seat 8: smizmiatch (44,854) Button
Seat 9: Astin (12,600) SB
Dealt to smizmiatch [Kc 2h]
smizmiatch raises to 3,600
Astin raises to 12,000 (leaving 450 behind)

I had to call 8,400 to win 6,450. This is a time where I should have folded. What was I hoping for?

I saw Astin's push as a desperation move, and I incorrectly made the call. I wasn't ahead of anything, but that didn't stop me from getting lucky again!

smizmiatch raises to 20,400
Astin calls 450, and is all in
smizmiatch shows [Kc 2h]
Astin shows [As Kd]
Uncalled bet of 7,950 returned to smizmiatch
*** FLOP *** [Tc Ah Qh]
*** TURN *** [Tc Ah Qh] [5h]
*** RIVER *** [Tc Ah Qh 5h] [9h]
smizmiatch shows a flush, Ace high
Astin shows a pair of Aces
smizmiatch wins the pot (27,150) with a flush, Ace high
Astin: oh wow

By this point, everyone at the table hates me. That's what I get for playing like a donk.

Hand 5:

I finally paid for it when I thought the eventual winner was running a bluff. This looked like a good flop for me to rebluff at, but it didn't turn out that way. And who would fold to me at this point anyway?

My only defense is that my PT stats showed IslandBum1's flop aggression at 80 percent, and I figured he would frequently bet at an uncoordinated flop like this with air.

800/1600 Ante 200 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:10:44 ET - 2007/11/03
Seat 7: IslandBum1 (36,336) BB
Seat 8: smizmiatch (64,954) UTG
Dealt to smizmiatch [Qd Js]
smizmiatch raises to 4,500
IslandBum1 calls 2,900
*** FLOP *** [Kc 6s 3h]
IslandBum1 bets 8,000
smizmiatch raises to 35,000
IslandBum1 calls 23,636, and is all in
smizmiatch shows [Qd Js]
IslandBum1 shows [Jd Kd]
Uncalled bet of 3,364 returned to smizmiatch
*** TURN *** [Kc 6s 3h] [Ad]
*** RIVER *** [Kc 6s 3h Ad] [Qc]
smizmiatch shows a pair of Queens
IslandBum1 shows a pair of Kings
IslandBum1 wins the pot (74,272) with a pair of Kings

Wait, how did I not suck out???

Those are the major hands that got me in a position to finish highly. I also doubled up with KK.

Then with four players left, I got lucky again with KQ on a J-high flop when I misread my hand. I thought I had a Jack, but I hit a Queen on the river to luckbox my way to the final three.

In the end, I went out pushing A7o into K8o. IslandBum1's suited 8 was higher than my suited 7 to make a higher flush and take home the title. Congrats!



Anyway, I'd like to hear criticism of my plays and analysis. In particular, should I have made those calls in Hands 1-3 when I felt like I was being offered correct pot odds? When should players back off from a potentially +EV situation for the sake of survival in a tourney?

Having a hard time with all these 4bets

I've been playing a lot of hands at 2/4 and 3/6 on Full Tilt as I try to rebuild there. During this challenge, I've been experimenting a lot with 4-betting preflop, both as a bluff and not.

For example, with a hand like 76s, I could raise from the cutoff to $14, get reraised from the button by an aggressive player to $52, and then I could 4-bet them to $152 in an attempt to take it down preflop. This play needs to work two-thirds of the time to show a profit, so it seems like it makes sense.

But I haven't been seeing good results from it. I would have been much better off sticking to my usual style of either pushing as a 4-bet or folding when out of position. I find myself in so many sticky situations where I hold a hand like QQ against a player who has seen me 4-bet before, and then he pushes on me. Or perhaps he'll be the one making the 4-bet, and I'll make the push. Either way, too often I'm finding myself completely dominated by AA or KK.

QQ should be good more often than not against LAGgy players' 3-betting range, but I keep finding that their 5-bet all-ins almost always have me beaten. I fall into the trap of telling myself that there's too much money in the pot to fold to a potential hand like AK, since there are so many players who like to get it all in preflop with AK these days.

So I have no one to blame but myself, and yet I'm still making the same mistake over and over again. I've got to change it up.

I plan to follow some classic advice that I've linked to before and stop making so many 3X 4-bets. They just aren't working for me often enough for them to be my default restealing strategy.

Instead, I want to go back to (occasionally) making 4-bet all-ins with AA, KK and Ax and see what happens. I'll also mix in some more flat calling out of position and floating in position with premium hands for deception purposes.

I hate to think of the money I've wasted in the last couple of weeks with these 4-bet bluffs that keep getting caught, but I'll tell myself it's all part of the learning curve.

Recommended reading (especially the links within):
let's talk about flat calling 3bets preflop

Thursday, October 25, 2007

HOTD-Outs 'n' rags

This hand of the day played out well.

http://www.pokerhand.org/?1625641

FullTiltPoker $3/$6 - 4 handed
Dealt to smizmiatch [6c 5d]
CO folds
smizmiatch raises to $21 from Button
SB folds
Villain calls $15 from BB <-- He's very loose from the blinds.
*** FLOP *** [4c 2d 8d] <-- I flop great with a double belly buster
Villain bets $25
smizmiatch calls $25 <-- I call rather than raise because my hand is well-disguised and I figure my opponent caught a piece of the flop
*** TURN *** [4c 2d 8d] [6s]
Villain bets $60 <-- I don't know what to put him on. Some kind of draw? Some weird BB two pair hand? Why would he bet it out on two streets?
smizmiatch raises to $180 <-- I'm going to try to put an end to this right now with about 5 trillion outs
Villain raises to $300 <-- Wtf is up with the minraise?
smizmiatch has requested TIME

Here is where I go into the tank. I think about going all in, but the villain has shown nothing but strength. I'd hate to call drawing dead to a 7. But really, I think I'm up against some random two pair at this point, in which case I also don't want to go all in.

If I'm not going to push, I guess I have to do the math. I fumbled around on my keyboard for a second before finding the Windows calculator.

My pot odds were better than I thought they'd be at 21 percent (120/575)! With as many as 13 outs, I'm calling here for sure.


outs Click for enlarged view

smizmiatch calls $120
*** RIVER *** [4c 2d 8d 6s] [8h] <-- Actually, a great card because it would counterfeit a hand like 64 or 55. But my read is fuzzy.
Villain bets $256, and is all in <-- Is he doing this just because I took so much time on the turn?
smizmiatch has requested TIME
smizmiatch calls $254, and is all in <-- The pot is offering 3:1 odds. I think I'm good more than a quarter of the time. For some reason, my spider sense is telling me he doesn't have an 8.
Uncalled bet of $2 returned to Villain
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Villain shows [7h 3h] a pair of Eights <-- Missed his gutshot draw
smizmiatch shows [6c 5d] two pair, Eights and Sixes
smizmiatch wins the pot ($1,201) with two pair, Eights and Sixes <-- El doble!
Villain is sitting out

I don't know how to feel about this hand. I sensed weakness somewhere, but my read was wrong.

It must have been the minraise on the turn that seemed weak, even though it was meant to look strong.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Damn Shortstacks

Ed Miller claims The Biggest No-Limit Myth is that "big stacks can 'bully' the table, and short stacks have to sit and take it."

He tries to make the point that "big stacks don’t hold any inherent advantage over small stacks," but I believe his conclusion that you should "go ahead and buy in for whatever you want to buy in for" is bad advice for many players.

There's a simple reason why I like to buy in as much as possible in a no limit game: it maximizes my winrate.

Because I have a skill advantage over my opposition, I want to be able to go all in and get paid off for the highest amount possible when I have the best hand. Sure, I could play as mathematically as well with a shortstack, but why would I want to do that when I could get be getting paid off bigger?

If I only have 50 BB in front of me, that means I can only win up to 50 BB of a big-stacked fish's money at a time. What's the sense in that when my goal is to bust the idiot calling station for all his money when I hold the nuts?

Most winning cash game players should buy in the highest amount they can to make the most of their edge. I can't understand why solid, well-bankrolled players would want to confine themselves to a shortstack strategy.

---

Here's a hand against a shortstacker I wanted to look at:

From the cutoff in a 5/10 game, I raised first in with QJs to $35. The BB, with only $200 in front of him, makes a mini-raise to $80, leaving him with $120 behind. This screams of a premium hand, either AA or KK.

But with $120 already in the pot, I called another $55 to see a flop. This may be a small leak on my part: the most I can win is $240, and I'm paying $55 more preflop with about a 19 percent chance of winning. This is bad because 55/240=23 percent > 19 percent.

I hate shortstacks. I just want to bust them. Fortunately, that's what I did. I bet $120 on an excellent flop to put the shortstack guy's AA all in:
http://twodimes.net/h/?z=3829685
pokenum -h ah ad - qh jh -- jd 8h th
Holdem Hi: 990 enumerated boards containing Jd Th 8h
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
Ad Ah 458 46.26 523 52.83 9 0.91 0.467
Qh Jh 523 52.83 458 46.26 9 0.91 0.533
The river brought a 9 to make my straight and it was all over for Mr. Too Scared To Buy In Full.

I guess I should have folded preflop though if I trusted my read. But it's a closer call if I expand the shortstack's range of hands.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Absolute cheating

This Absolute Poker scandal is a real mess, huh?

I don't have much to add to the discussion, but I feel like I should mention it after previously highlighting Absolute's interest-bearing accounts.

Obviously, I won't be putting money in there after someone apparently called down a big bet with Ten-high to win a tournament because he could see hole cards.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tweaking preflop play

For most of this year, I've been pushing all in with premium hands preflop rather than putting in the third raise. For example, if I raised first in with AA and the button reraised, I would go all in rather than reraising him a smaller amount.

This strategy is effective because few people believed I would make such an all-in raise with a premium hand. Opponents immediately thought this was a typical move to make with AK preflop, so many lesser hands -- from TT to QQ -- would call a push.

I only made this move with AA, KK and sometimes AK (if I felt confident I wasn't against a monster), so I got by far the best of it over time. With lesser hands (QQ and below), I would either call or fold.

The problem is that playing this way is way too limiting. Because I would only make this move with premium hands, I couldn't effective 4-bet bluff with lesser hands because an observant opponent might grasp that I was only overbetting my very best holdings. Worse, I felt like I was missing out on value those frequent times when opponents folded their lesser hands to an all-in bet preflop.

In addition, 3-betting with a lot of hands is the trendy thing to do these days in the games I play. Solid loose-aggressive players are taking the initiative with a very wide range preflop, and the only way to make them pay is to reraise them.

The obvious answer is to put in that extra raise with a much wider range of hands, both as a bluff and with top-tier hands:

2/4
Dealt to smizmiatch [Ah 3c]
5 folds
smizmiatch raises to $14 from the button
SB folds
chislodc raises to $48 from BB. <-- chislodc is an aggressive player known to 3-bet lightly
smizmiatch raises to $148
chislodc folds
Uncalled bet of $100 returned to smizmiatch
smizmiatch wins the pot ($98)

This works even better when you actually have a good hand and get action:

3/6
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [Ac Ad]
3 folds
Button calls $6
smizmiatch raises to $34 from SB
sohigh247 raises to $108 from BB
Button folds
smizmiatch raises to $275
sohigh247 raises to $617.10, and is all in
smizmiatch calls $319, and is all in
sohigh247 shows [Qd Qs]
smizmiatch shows [Ac Ad]
*** FLOP *** [6c 8c 6s]
*** TURN *** [6c 8c 6s] [9c]
*** RIVER *** [6c 8c 6s 9c] [2c]
sohigh247 shows two pair, Queens and Sixes
smizmiatch shows a flush, Ace high
smizmiatch wins the pot ($1,191) with a flush, Ace high

Most players know the rule of thumb that the fourth bet/third raise usually means Aces. This kind of reraising can exploit that belief.

---

Sometimes though, things get wacky.

I don't have the hand history in front of me, but I was playing a 5/10 game a few days ago in which I found KK in the small blind of a shorthanded game.

The UTG player raised, the loose/wild button reraised, and I reraised again. The small blind, playing with a $500 stack, went all in. The utg player folded, and then the button went all in too!

I can only recall one or two other times when I folded KK preflop, but this seemed like a clear decision. If the fourth bet usually means Aces, then surely the sixth bet always means Aces. So I laid it down, feeling confident that this was one of those times where KK was just no good preflop.

I was wrong. The BB turned up 33, and the Button had 99, which held up to take down the pot.

I didn't make money from them this time, but some of these players are just giving it away.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Housekeeping

I found Kick Ass Poker Blog's breakdown of the UIGEA regulations to be informative.

Check it out here (don't let the multipart format scare you):

Inside the UIGEA Regulations, Part I: Introduction and Background
Part 2: Implementation
Part 3: Deputizing the Banks
Part 4: Comments and Timing

So what we have here is a law that doesn't specifically mention poker, explicitly permits paper checks to be used, relies on banks for enforcement and is still many months away from going into effect, more than a year after it was originally passed as part of a port security bill. Great.

---

I realized the other day that I've been overestimating the probability that two unpaired cards will flop a pair. I think the math should look like this: 1 - (44/50 * 43/49 * 42/48) = 32.4 percent.

Or it's easier just to look it up on the Internet at a site like Planet Stacked that has all kinds of odds listed.

---

Lee Jones says he'll bet $10,000 with Daniel Negreanu that you shouldn't be able to show one card to an opponent when two people are in a tournament hand heads up.

But he doesn't explain his reasoning. I don't get it. Why shouldn't you be allowed to show a card? Someone fill me in please.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

PokerStars Blogger Freeroll

Poker Tournament

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 6452402





Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Coinflips

I love coinflips.

In a cash game, I'll take them any chance I can get, especially if I'm the one able to put the pressure on.

Only good things can happen when you put your chips in with a 50 percent shot at winning the hand. Your opponent could fold, giving you the existing pot. At worst, your opponent calls, which isn't the end of the world because of pot odds.

When there's decent money in the pot already and you have an even chance at winning, you want to fight for that money. Sometimes, even when slightly behind, the money in the pot is enough to make a big bet worthwhile.

Hands with a pair and a flush draw are the classic example. These hands have about 14 outs and they're not dominated by much except for sets and higher flush draws. Even then, there's a significant chance of sucking out.

There's also some utility preflop in betting big with AK because it's a coinflip at worst against anything except AA or KK. Even if QQ or JJ makes a read and calls your preflop all-in, you're in fine shape to win the pot half the time. I'm not advocating pushing all-in with AK frequently, but there's some value in making a move when you think you can pick up a growing pot preflop.

Just don't do it when your opponents have you dominated!

I hear people all the time say they'd rather "wait for a better spot" than get it all-in on a coinflip. While this may be correct at times in tournaments, it's rarely right in cash games.

While you're waiting for a better spot, your aggressive opponents are picking up lots of small and medium-sized pots uncontested.

---

Here's a hand of the day:

In a full ring 5/10 NL game, everyone is playing normally except for one maniac. He general strategy is to raise and then push all-in against anyone's reraise. His stats are about 45/38/5.

At first, everyone respects his all-in raises, but it doesn't take long for people to figure out that he has hands worth less than trash.

That became abundantly clear when he raised from middle position to $40, and I re-raised to $120 from the button with AA. He pushed all-in, and I had an easy call to make. He flipped over T5s and somehow didn't suck out, giving me a $2,084 pot.

After that hand, everyone at the table wanted a piece of this guy's money before it ran out.

A few hands later, an early position player limps, and I make it $45 to go with KQs from MP. The cutoff player calls the $45, and then the maniac on the button goes all in for nearly $700. It folds around to me.

What should I do with KQs? It's behind any Ace and dominated by AK or AQ.

But I figure I'm ahead of this crazy guy's incredibly wide range. I'm a tiny bit worried about the player behind me, but I only had one move. I raised all-in to isolate the maniac and try to bust him with what I figure to be a decent enough hand. I don't think I had ever raised all-in preflop with KQs, but the time was right against this guy.

As I hoped, the cutoff player folds. What does the maniac turn up?

Jh. 5c. Just as I suspected.

Flop comes 26J. Turn is a J, and I had doubled the maniac up.

But that's OK. I still netted about a $500 profit because of the AA hand, and I got it in with KQ against J5, which I'll take any day of the week.

My only regret is that I couldn't get the rest of the maniac's money. He busted out soon afterward with his AK vs. QQ.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

PokerWorks

It's unfortunate that several bloggers had to leave PokerWorks for various reasons, including the UIGEA and problems with Google. It sounds like it was a difficult business decision.

I liked having all these engaging writers and poker players together at one site. But at least they will keep writing at their original homes, where they may feel more comfortable and able to write with a stronger voice.

I wrote a dumb post questioning what was going on with PokerWorks yesterday, but I deleted it shortly afterward when I saw Linda had posted an explanation.

I look forward to reading Change100, Amy, Maudie and Joe Speaker at their original blogs. And I'll still enjoy reading CC and Grubby on PokerWorks. Keep it up!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A failed bluff at an AAX flop

I got a bit bluff-happy with this hand. It's similar to the one I posted the other day, but this time I may not have left myself enough of a stack on the turn for the bluff to be big enough. Or maybe my opponent just made a good read.

I don't know...this is another situation where I felt strongly that he didn't have the Ace, and I didn't believe he would be able to call a river bet without it. This time, it didn't work out.

3/6 6-max
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [Qs Td]
1 fold
smizmiatch raises to $21
2 folds
gmauction calls $15 from BB
*** FLOP *** [Ac 6h Ah]
gmauction bets $30
smizmiatch calls $30 (Maybe this was the biggest mistake of the hand. I wanted to look like I was slowplaying, but a raise may have given myself more credibility. However, I wouldn't have had enough chips left to make a move on the river if I had raised here.)
*** TURN *** [Ac 6h Ah] [Jd]
gmauction bets $102
smizmiatch raises to $250 (Too small?)
gmauction calls $148
*** RIVER *** [Ac 6h Ah Jd] [3s]
gmauction checks
smizmiatch bets $343, and is all in
gmauction calls $343 (I'm surprised he called with just a J ... what can he beat except a bluff?)
*** SHOW DOWN ***
smizmiatch shows [Qs Td] a pair of Aces
gmauction shows [Qc Js] two pair, Aces and Jacks
gmauction wins the pot ($1,288) with two pair, Aces and Jacks

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I won a tourney!



I took down the monthly WPBT event today. It was a pretty solid field. I only really got lucky on the last hand, when I hit a set of Queens on the flop against AA. The rest of the tourney I just tried to play my game and take all the chips I could. I guess tourneys don't have to always be donkfests.

I enjoyed playing with Mattazuma, Schaubs, stevenwe, Patchmaster, StatikKling, Kameelah, bdidde and columbo. (Screenshot linked from Mattazuma's site -- please let me know if you that's uncool.)

---

I got an interesting comment from Ryan to a post I wrote about Casino Arizona recently:
I need help. I play daily at Casino AZ. I recently left medical school and a 100K per year job so i could move out west to be with my sick father. I am readig/studying/playing poker non stop when i am not with my mom and dad so that i can spend more time with them later as opposed to the rigid schedule of a 9 to 5 job( or Dr.) I'm doing well... but could be doing alot better. I havent been able to find any postings or books on the particularly unique type of poker they play there. 5/150 is a semi spread limit/no limit game. I have a good undertstanding of it but i would really like some help/tips from all of you pros on how I could improve my game at this level. I could go to vagas and play true no limit but that would defeat the fact that i need to be close to my family right now in this very tuff time. I work hard and dont quit, and really feel poker is my calling. SO any tips would be greatly apprecated. Thanks for you help in advance.
The Casino Arizona 5/150 games come in two varieties -- one with a $350 buy-in and another with a $1,000 buy-in. The $350 buy-in game has 3/5 blinds and a $150 maximum per betting
action. The $1,000 buy-in game has 5/10 blinds and the same betting maximum.

The cap doesn't isn't very relevant in the $350 buy-in game because one max bet and another max raise will get players essentially all in unless they've built up a deep stack. I didn't play the $1,000 buy-in game while I was there, but I imagine the cap plays a bigger role, making me think the game would need to be played with more of a pot limit-type strategy. That means players will more often have pot odds to call with their draws and there will be more suckouts. But the cap also minimizes losses when those suckouts occur, so it goes both ways.

The real difficulty in trying to play this game full time will be making significant money off of it. Yes, it plays loose, on par with almost every live game I've ever sat in. That's a good thing, and I believe these games are beatable.

But the problem is the slow rate of play, the rake and the jackpot drop. I'm not sure what the rake is (probably 10 percent of the pot with a $5 max per hand -- please correct me in comments if I'm wrong). The $1 jackpot drop is taken out of the blinds, so even if everyone folds around and the blinds chop, they still lose $1 from a pot that no one even played. That's pretty ridiculous.

So if you anticipate playing 30 hands an hour and winning three of them, you'll probably pay somewhere between $12 and $18 an hour in rake and jackpot drop. If you're beating the $350 buy-in game for 10 bets an hour, that's up to $18 taken out of your $50 winrate, which is significant. The rake wouldn't appear to be as damaging in the $1,000 buy-in game if you're a solid winning player -- $18 or so out of a $100/hour rate. Even these figures are optimistic however; I'm not sure how feasible a 10 bet per hour winrate is. Five bets per hour may be more realistic, which means the rake's cut of your winnings would be much more damaging to your profitability.

Ed Miller wrote about this topic in a recent post.

My primary advice would be to supplement live poker with online poker. Live poker is a tough grind, and you can play so many more hands online, thus improving your hourly earnings. I wouldn't want to try to make a living at live tables at the stakes Casino Arizona spreads.

I'm sure Ryan would appreciate any other advice commenters could contribute.

---

Here's a fun hand I (mis)played at 2/4 today where I won a nice 400-bet pot with a mere pair of 5s. I put my opponent on an overpair, so I gave myself up to 18 outs -- nine for the flush, two for trips, three for two pair and three for the gutshot.

The problem is that I miscalculated the pot odds. The pot was $604, and I had to call $480 on the turn, which means that even 18 outs weren't enough. I should have folded, given my read.

Fortunately, I'm a lucksack. My flush outs were no good, but my little pair of 5s held up!

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [4c 5c]
3 folds
smizmiatch raises to $14 from the button
1 fold
JustCuts raises to $46 from the big blind
smizmiatch calls $32
*** FLOP *** [6c 9c 2d]
JustCuts bets $65
smizmiatch calls $65
*** TURN *** [6c 9c 2d] [5s]
JustCuts checks
smizmiatch bets $190
JustCuts raises to $743, and is all in
smizmiatch has 15 seconds left to act
smizmiatch has requested TIME
smizmiatch calls $480.90, and is all in
JustCuts shows [Ac Kc]
smizmiatch shows [4c 5c]
Uncalled bet of $72.10 returned to JustCuts
*** RIVER *** [6c 9c 2d 5s] [Td]
JustCuts shows Ace King high
smizmiatch shows a pair of Fives
smizmiatch wins the pot ($1,562.80) with a pair of Fives

Friday, September 21, 2007

HOTD

Sometimes it takes a three-street bluff to take down a pot.

I liked this hand because it was so easy for me to represent a monster, and I felt confident my opponent couldn't call without the nuts. He was in the big blind, and he seemed weak.

I wonder what he had?

5/10
Dealt to smizmiatch [6h 6d]
smizmiatch raises to $35
BB calls $25
*** FLOP *** [4c Kd Ad]
BB checks
smizmiatch bets $60
BB calls $60
*** TURN *** [4c Kd Ad] [9c]
BB bets $110
smizmiatch raises to $330
BB calls $220
*** RIVER *** [4c Kd Ad 9c] [Qh]
BB checks
smizmiatch bets $602, and is all in
Gensuru folds
smizmiatch wins the pot ($852)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Status report

"I don't believe in luck. It's all mathematics. Everybody runs the same. I believe in taking personal responsibility for my play. I see too many posts in which people say they run bad or are unlucky, and so on. I believe that you make your own results, and that everything comes down to your decisions. No one else is in control but yourself. People think that the cards have a role in the results, and they do in the short run, but in the long run, it'll all even out. If your results aren't good, it's most likely because you're not playing well."
--Brian Townsend, CardPlayer Magazine

I've been playing and running well for the last couple of months. I'm learning more and my reads are steadily getting better. This game is all incremental -- the path to victory comes one step at a time.

My career winnings are approaching $100,000, although it will take a bit longer before my bankroll gets to that point, probably not until next year. That's OK. I'll get my vacation before too long.

I'm closing in on being able to take another shot at the 10/20 games. I'll move up when I near 30 buy-ins for that game, which is tougher than 5/10.

There are so many people who are terrible at 5/10, and only a few who I respect. Those are the regulars who are very aggressive and still pull down a profit. Anyone can be a maniac, but that doesn't mean they'll make money.

I fell short of my goal of reaching a $100K bankroll by March, but that's just a small setback. In the big picture, I'm still on track toward the broader goal of moving up as high as my ability and bankroll allows. Even if I don't immediately succeed at 10/20 this time, I will next time. And then I'll repeat the process for the next limit.

Or perhaps I'll find a ceiling to my abilities and will have to be at peace with whatever limit I can beat.

That would be OK too, because I'm not going anywhere. I'll never let myself go busto. I might whine about bad beats sometimes, but those are temporary. I'll still be playing.

---

Here's a hand of the day. The table chat got pretty lively afterward. My opponent said I made a "donkey call," and I told him it was easy to call such a donkey bluff. My read was that this opponent would fire two bullets at any large pot, and I figured I was ahead as long as a scare card didn't fall. Both the turn and river were safe cards, so I had to call down.

5/10
4 calls
Hero raises to $70 from the button with Kc Td
Two calls
Pot is $245
*** Dealing Flop *** [ 9s, 8d, Ts ]
3 checks
*** Dealing Turn *** [ 9d ]
MP checks.
Villain bets $170
Hero calls $170
MP folds.
*** Dealing River *** [ 5c ]
Villain bets $380
Hero calls $380
Villain shows Js, Ad for a pair of Nines.
Hero shows Kc, Td for two pair, Tens and Nines.
Hero wins $1,342