Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why yes, I did read through 2+2 today. How did you guess?

So Neteller has now decided to stop doing business in Canada as well as the U.S., and no one seems to know exactly why. This is pure speculation, but maybe Neteller agreed to this condition as part of a forthcoming agreement with U.S. authorities. If that's the case, then perhaps we'll hear some good news about money being released sometime soon. I only have $9 tied up there, but I know many other people have much more significant amounts that they can't get it.

Neteller's behavior -- as well as many other ewallets and poker sites -- has always seemed baffling at first glance. But I've come to believe the generally accepted wisdom that businesses are tremendously risk-averse even if they're founded on gambling. Just because poker players should usually opt for the highest-value play without regard to risk doesn't mean poker sites will subscribe to the same belief. And who knows, maybe we will get a poker exemption to the UIGEA someday.

I also found it interesting to hear that Planet Poker, the first online poker room that offered real money games in 1998, is ceasing operations because of the impacts of the UIGEA. As Grinder suggested, Planet Poker didn't upgrade or change with the times. Sure, they may have been first. But I never played there, and I only ever read about it in nostalgic Roy Cooke columns in CardPlayer. Even so, it's sad to see a poker site bite it.

Finally, Lee Jones is leaving his job as poker room manager for PokerStars. I always liked making fun of Jones for no good reason. Maybe it's because he's the face of a bad beat -- a goofy smiling dude who doesn't give a shit because all of your money are belong to PokerStars anyway. That said, he seemed like a great ambassador for the game, and I enjoyed his small stakes limit book when I read it in Santiago.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Betting the turn

Some good discussion on turn bet sizing came out of a strategy post by Hoyazo last week. Read it.

The question was about whether turn bets should be a smaller proportion of the pot because you want to encourage your opponents to call when they don't have the odds to see the river with most draws.

I believe turn bets need to be significant in size most of the time. I recommend this CardPlayer article by Bob Ciaffone: "No-Limit Hold 'em Turn Betting: If you bet the turn, bet big."

The main reason I like bets between 1/2 pot and full pot bets on the turn is that they put your opponents in tough situations. Sure, if you bet 1/3 pot and your opponent calls with a flush draw, he's making an error because he'll only hit about one in five times. But it's not a very large error, especially since you may occasionally have to pay off a river bet when the flush card comes. Why not bet larger amounts, so that your opponents are making even bigger mistakes when they chase their draws?

Yes, sometimes you will fold out weak drawing hands that would have paid a smallish amount to see the river. But I think that money is made up for with the times that those weak hands will also call a larger amount. In addition, people do strange things sometimes with flush draws when facing significant bets on the turn -- like going all in, which is ideal if you can make the call.

Smaller turn bets look weak, they give implied odds and I'm not convinced that they have a greater expected value. For example, if an opponent will call a 1/3 pot bet of $100 half the time but a full pot bet of $300 a quarter of the time, you're better off betting full pot ($50 vs. $75).

A final argument is that it would be all well and good to make a smaller turn bet if you knew exactly that your opponent had a naked flush draw. But what about the times he has a flush draw and a pair? What if you're facing multiple opponents whose combined draws cut into your equity? For those situations, larger bets are necessary.

Here are a few more comments that I made in the comments section of Hoy's post:

On the turn, I disagree with the general advice that smaller bets are better. I like to bet more on the turn, usually between 3/4 pot and full pot. That's because the turn is where the big bets start coming out and where your opponents will be paying the highest price for a foolish call to see the river. It's also a better opportunity to get value for your made hands than on the flop.
The way I see it, the purpose of flop bets is to build large pots, take down small pots and find out where you stand.
Turn bets are used to pressure your opponents to make tough and incorrect decisions. Larger turn bets have more value when your opponents try to suck out. These big bets have a greater chance of taking down the pot against top pair. They reduce the chances of seeing what could be an expensive river. They more clearly define your opponent's hand.

This post also started a mini-debate about the merits of not folding flush draws on the flop when faced with a full pot bet. I want to do some PokerTracker research and write more about it soon. Another point to consider is that tournament vs. cash game considerations may alter strategy. For purposes of this post, assume that all players have 100 BB stacks.


I played in the $400K Guaranteed tourney on Full Tilt today and went out short of the money. I played pretty well early but then got distracted by a fantasy baseball draft, which caused me to tighten up.

Anyway, I eventually got to the point where I pushed with AK when my M was 4.59. Don't worry -- this isn't just a bad beat story:

FullTiltPoker $400,000 Guarantee (14978671), Table 189 - 140/280 Ante 25
Seat 1: GB2005 (8,440)
Seat 4: smizmiatch (2,985)
Dealt to smizmiatch [Ac Kh]
GB2005 raises to 840
smizmiatch raises to 2,960, and is all in
GB2005 calls 2,120
smizmiatch shows [Ac Kh]
GB2005 shows [Ad Td]
fraentsch: flop call
*** FLOP *** [Qs 5s 5d]
*** TURN *** [Qs 5s 5d] [2d]
*** RIVER *** [Qs 5s 5d 2d] [Jd]
smizmiatch shows a pair of Fives
GB2005 shows a flush, Ace high
GB2005 wins the pot (6,565) with a flush, Ace high

Now, my tournament game certainly needs work. I'd like to hear comments on whether there's any merit to using a stop-and-go play on a hand like this.

If I had smooth called preflop and then pushed the flop, I maybe would have won the hand right there. Is that a viable option? When should it be used? Thanks for the feedback.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bad Beat of the Week

I'm thinking about posting a weekly bad beat hand. Yeah, yeah, I know nobody cares. But it might be a fun opportunity to rant a little bit.

And hopefully it can also show people that the games are still good when people are making these kinds of horrible plays. On to the hand!

I was having a rough session when the following situation came up. The villain in this hand was a loose-passive nimwit with stats of 43/5/3. I folded to his check-raises the first couple of times, but you have to draw a line. Sometimes, fish start to smell like bullshit.

$10/$20 - No Limit Hold'em
Villain is BB ($853)
Hero ($2,000)
Dealt to Hero [As Kc] (woohoo, I've got a hand!)
Hero raises to $70
Villain calls $50
*** FLOP *** [4h Ks 5s]
Villain checks
Hero bets $125 (And my hand hit!)
Villain raises to $783, and is all in (But wtf!!! What is this idiot doing? #@&%! Well, he has less than half a stack, and I'm not folding against this donk)
Hero calls $658
Villain shows [6c 4s] (Wtf again! 6...4...offsuit)
Hero shows [As Kc]
*** TURN *** [4h Ks 5s] [6s] (Of course he hits)
*** RIVER *** [4h Ks 5s 6s] [3c]
Villain shows two pair, Sixes and Fours
Hero shows a pair of Kings
Villain wins the pot ($1,713) with two pair, Sixes and Fours

I don't know exactly what happened here. I guess I had a tight image at this table, and the donk bastard thought he could get me to fold yet again. It's just not going to happen in that situation.

Oh well... I was only a 78 percent favorite anyway.
pokenum -h as kc - 6c 4s -- 4h ks 5s
Holdem Hi: 990 enumerated boards containing Ks 5s 4h
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
As Kc 771 77.88 219 22.12 0 0.00 0.779
4s 6c 219 22.12 771 77.88 0 0.00 0.221
Fish will pay me back. They always do.


Edit: I almost forgot to pimp this weekend's tourneys. I'll be playing in the WPBT Razz event on Sunday, as well as the $400K Guaranteed, which kuro satellited into earlier this week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I almost never post before sitting down at the tables for the evening, but perhaps it will put me in the right mindset before I play.

I played pretty damn poorly last night and went on tilt. Don't laugh too hard about the following hand. It was a terrible play:

Dealt to Hero 2h, 2s
Hero raises $35
CO calls $35
Villain/button raises to $180
Hero calls $145
CO folds.
*** Dealing Flop *** 5c, 3s, 9c
Hero checks.
Villain bets $250
Hero is all-In.
Villain calls $673.21
*** Dealing Turn *** Qc
*** Dealing River *** Jh
Villain shows Ac, Ah a pair of Aces.
Villain wins $2254.42 from the main pot with a pair of Aces.

That's right -- I check-raised all-in with a pocket pair of 2s that missed. At the time, I was thinking there was a good chance my opponent had a hand like AK or AQ. Unfortunately, I was wrong and got stacked for $1,000 when I should have just folded the flop. If there's any silver lining to this hand, it's that I realized how stupid it is to try to represent a set by check-raising all in on the flop. No one is going to believe me, especially when they hold AA!

Let us never speak of that hand again.

So tonight, I'm doing things right. I'm watching a CardRunners video before I play. I'm making sure I'll only play in fishy games. Most of all, I'll tighten up a little until I get ahead.

One problem I've been having recently is dealing with aggressive three-betters out of the blinds. I've been losing every time they have a good hand. Even when they don't have a good hand, they've been hitting the flop. There's an easy solution to this problem. I can just fold preflop with some of my more marginal hands that may well be dominated, or I could reraise all in against the true maniacs.

Another difficulty is that when I try to resteal/squeeze play from the blinds, I seem to get called and lose. Out of position squeeze plays don't seem to be +EV recently against players who know I have an aggressive image. To fix this problem, I'll focus even more heavily on playing in position.

In general, my concentration has been spotty over the last couple of weeks, and it has shown in my results. I always plan on playing my best game when I start a session, but often halfway in I can tell that I'm not at my best. Sometimes I have the discipline to stop right then, but most of the time I'll wait until I've reached the two-hour mark before quitting. I'm such a dumbass.

But I keep telling myself that all that crap is in the past. It has no relevance to how I play tonight, except as a motivational tool.

One of the reasons for my big improvement last fall was that I realized I could win a ton more money if I could eliminate idiotic mistakes from my game. Those errors are starting to creep back in, and I want to choke them off right here and now.

Edit: I played OK and lost a small amount. Hey, you can't make cards come.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Big Game Win!


I figured out a well-known secret about how to win tournaments: Get great cards.

Twelve players showed up for MiamiDon's Big Game, which is always a fun tourney. I was able to build a huge chip lead and keep it all the way until the last hand, when I was dealt AA heads-up and rivered a needless set.

Check this out:

I played 242 hands. I was dealt AA twice, KK twice, QQ five (!) times, JJ twice and AK three times. Seriously, that's a sick run.

What's more, I only lost two hands the whole tournament that went to showdown. I got in with an open-ended straight draw in heads-up play against Smokee's top pair, and I lost one other hand vs. a shortstack with my 99 vs. his KQ. And that was it.

I made one straight, two sets and 10 two-pair hands.

I almost felt like my raises were getting too much respect, although I had the goods most of the time.

Even after all that, Smokee and third-place finisher BigPirate were never out of it. They played well, but my hands kept holding up.

So yeah, this tournament was fantastic! It's so much fun to wield a huge stack and not donk it away.

The Big Game win also accomplished several milestones for me: it's my first blogger tourney win, my first MTT win since I chopped a 56-player tourney at the Golden Nugget in 2004 and the first time I've ever busted Waffles.

If you don't already, check out the blogs of the players in this tournament. They're some of the best:

Dr. Pauly

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beating shorthanded limit HE

Wolverine No. 1, which I bought yesterday

I played a short session of $30/$60 6-max limit tonight and won a little bit. I think one of the best ways for me to win shorthanded limit games is to only play one table at a time.

At these limits, most players are loose and hyper-aggressive. Hand reading becomes more important than I realized previously.

I've enjoyed reading the following articles about keys to beating tough shorthanded limit games. I like the authors' advice about varying betting patterns and finding ways to weather the storm. I wish I had known some of these tips when I actually played limit regularly.

Q&A #14: Dealing with Tough Players in Short-Handed Limit Hold 'em, by Ed Miller
Q&A #60: Beating Hyper-Aggressive Limit Games, by Ed Miller
Book Exerpt: The Bet-Bet Line, from "Winning in Tough Hold 'em Games," by Nick "Stoxtrader" Grudzien and Geoff "Zobags" Herzog
Tips to Beat Online Tight-Aggressive but Still Popular Limit Hold 'em Games, by Peter Rus
Problem adjusting to aggression in SH games and very frustrated, from 2+2 forums

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Two all-ins and a fold

I thought these three hands were pretty challenging. I'd be interested to hear comments from anyone who cares to give them.

I lost this first hand last week. I flopped a set of Aces on a all-hearts board, and then I decided to jam the flop after the small blind check-raised. I figured I was ahead of his hand range, which could include a lot of straight draws, flush draws and two pair hands. Even if I was behind, I had seven outs on the turn and 10 on the river to make a boat.

The way I see it, I either push all in on this flop, or I call the flop raise and a turn bet, then somehow find a fold on the river. I don't like that line at all though. Does anyone have a better idea?

Texas Hold'em NL $10/$20
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero (button) Ac As
Hero raises $70
SB calls $60
BB calls $50
*** FLOP *** Ah, Kh, Qh
SB Checks
BB Checks
Hero Bets $175
SB Raises $350
BB Folds
Hero Raises $1,811 and is All in
SB Calls $1,636
*** TURN *** 3d
*** RIVER *** 2d
*** SUMMARY ***
SB had Jh 8h and wins $4,180 (Flush, ace high)


I really liked how this next hand turned out.

When the big river donkbet came out, I clicked on the guy's name and checked out his stats. It turns out that he was betting out every single river! He was also a pretty loose and aggressive player, and his actions in the hand simply didn't add up. He talked for a few minutes in the chat box about how I should have folded and just got lucky.

No-Limit Hold'em, $5/$10 BB (9 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com (Format: HTML)
Preflop: Hero is Button with Qh, Kd. SB posts a blind of $5.

5 folds, CO calls $10, Button raises to $45, 2 folds, CO calls $35.

Flop: ($105) Qc, 6d, 2s (2 players)

CO checks, Button bets $80, CO calls $80.

Turn: ($265) 3c (2 players)

CO checks, Button bets $200, CO calls $200.

River: ($665) 8d (2 players)

CO calls $788.50 (All-In), Hero calls $463.50.

Final Pot: $1917


CO has Td Th (one pair, tens).
Hero has Qh Kd (one pair, queens).
Outcome: Hero wins $1917

This hand threw me a little because I couldn't understand what my opponent would limp-call with UTG preflop. My read on him was that he was the kind of player who would have raised JTs first in, and he definitely would have raised hands like AK and KQ. But I figure he would limp-call with JTo. It's hard to put him on exactly that hand though, especially given his suspicious preflop play and turn donkbet. Maybe I got bluffed:

No-Limit Hold'em, $5/10 BB (6 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com (Format: HTML)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 9c, 9d. SB posts a blind of $5.

UTG calls $10, 1 fold, CO raises to $45, 3 folds, UTG calls $35.

Flop: ($105) Qs, Ks, Ac (2 players)

UTG checks, CO bets $80, UTG calls $80.

Turn: ($265) Kh (2 players)

UTG bets $250, Hero folds.

Final Pot: $515

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice"

There's a lot of good advice about controlling the pot size in "No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice," by David Sklansky and Ed Miller. It's a concept that's not well understood by many no limit players, and they're the ones who are most likely to overplay their stacks away.

That said, I have a few issues with some of the recommendations made in the book. Here are some examples:

_Don't be afraid to minimum raise, the authors write. They support their argument by saying that the minimum raise often effectively raises the table stakes because many players will treat it the same way as a limp.

"Often you should make this sort of raise with 'brave' hands -- pocket pairs, suited connectors, and suited aces -- hands that play well after the flop. The goal is to turn your $5-$10 game (or whatever limit you're playing) into a $10-$20 or $15-$30 game for for this hand only," the authors write.

Put simply, I completely disagree. When you make a minimum raise, this is exactly the kinds of hands your opponents will put you on. If your opponents can significantly narrow your hand range down, that cuts into your implied odds because it lessens the chance you will get paid off when you hit your hand.

_It's OK to overlimp with Aces, the book says.

Mathematically, I can see the value of limping with Aces occasionally, especially if you anticipate that one of your opponents will raise. That said, I do not believe that limping with Aces occasionally will make you more money than playing them strongly. Pocket Aces are the strongest hand in hold 'em, and you need to know when they're no good.

An overlimp preflop gives you little information about the strength of your opponents' hands, nor does it put money into the pot when you are sure you have the nuts.

_If your preflop raise is called behind you, check a lot of flops, according to the authors.

This is just plain wrong. Against most opponents and on most flops, a continuation bet will take down the pot, especially when heads-up. You can't win if you don't bet or raise.

_Turn bets should be smaller fractions of the pot than flop bets, they write.

The authors argue that bets don't need to be as large on the turn to make draws unprofitable.

I don't believe it. Most players will call a single flop bet with a strong draw. The flop bet does little to force them out of the hand. It's when you bring that large bet on the turn that you give your opponents the greatest opportunity to put in more money when they have the worst of it.

I could go on. The more I review this book, the less I like about it.

It advocates limping first in on the button with hands like J9. It says that with a $700 stack in a $5/10 game, you should not raise with pocket 8s first in from middle position. Basically, it encourages a brand of poker that's simply not practical in reality.

Sure, these plays can be effective in the right situations against the right opponents on the right flops. But in general, I think you're more likely to damage your own game by attempting to execute questionable plays in rare situations.

To be fair, there are some parts of this book that I really like.

I've found that giving free cards can be quite effective for inducing bluffs and building medium-sized pots against players who interpret your action as weakness. I agree with the many suggestions about how to make the most of your position. I found the instruction on what kinds of hands work best for squeeze plays informative.

Overall, there's a single measure I use to evaluate poker strategy books: How much of a better player does this book make me? I would say it helped me a little bit, but some of the more marginal recommendations make me doubt the authors' credibility.

After this book, I'm done reading no limit books by people who don't play it as their main game. Their analysis may be solid in "theory," but in "practice" this playing style would come off as weak-tight.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Well, I finally hit a rough patch, which was bound to happen at the 10/20 NL games I've been playing. Thankfully, my bankroll is an adequate cushion for these inevitable swings.

It would be one thing if I lost just because of bad beats, but I made some marginal bluffs and all-in bets myself. I had been running so hot that I almost took for granted that I would hit my flush draws or always get folds to my big bets. I forgot a little bit that I'm playing against some solid players who will make pretty accurate reads and make me pay for -EV plays in the long run.

And the long run is what it's all about anyway. Sure, I lost a few buy-ins. But we all know that it happens, and these downswings are insignificant compared to the big picture. I had a bad few hundred hands in which I didn't play my best and ran into some tough situations.

That's in the past. I'll step down to 5/10 for a few days to recover some of the losses, and then pick up right where I left off in a few days (hopefully).

Now it's back to the grind! You gotta love the grind.


In other news, congrats to Slb for taking down cc's heads-up challenge! There were 10 runners. I beat cc in my first match after a tough battle. Then Slb took me down in the next round in another back-and-forth match.

Heads-up play is a lot of fun. Cc said he was going to organize this thing again sometime soon, and I hope to see more people show up! In addition, it's one of the few weekday blogger events I'm able to attend because normally I'm still at work (due to the time change) when they're scheduled. This one didn't start till 11 p.m. EST, so I was able to make it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More on preflop raising

Bob Tewksbury: What you are talking about here is what scouts and executives call “makeup.” High-achieving players play with confidence, have a short-term memory regarding past failures, keep their focus on the process of their actions rather than on the result, and minimize their achievements. Those players have the ideal baseball personality.
--Baseball Prospectus interview

I wanted to add a few notes to my previous post about preflop raising after Hoyazo linked me up. In general, I suggested re-raising a wide range of hands from late position with suited connectors, suited one-gappers, suited Aces, Broadway cards and some suited Kings.

But like any strategy in poker, this one is simply a general set of guidelines. There are exceptions to every rule, and if you do the same thing every time, your opponents will start to catch on.

Against tight calling stations, re-raising with some of those Axs, Kxs and lower offsuit broadway hands can turn into a mistake. You'll often be dominated, which can cost you a medium-size pot when you can't bet for value or successfully bluff.

Another situation when re-raising with marginal hands can be obviously wrong is against a short stack. By their nature, short stacks generally don't give good implied odds, meaning that your suited connectors and more marginal high card hands (those that contain a T or 9) can get you in trouble.

One idea I failed to make clear previously is what I meant when I wrote "3 betting." The terminology makes more sense in limit poker, where a limp/call is the first bet, a raise is the 2 bet, and a re-raise is the 3 bet. The same goes for no limit, although it takes a little more thought. Just remember that the first raise is the 2 bet and the second raise is the 3 bet. I wasn't advocating re-re-raising with suited connectors or low pocket pairs -- that's just crazy (much of the time).

The main point I want to make is that your reads on your opponents should dictate whether you re-raise or not. More often than not, raising or folding preflop is solid poker. But calling has its place, and it's important to look for those situations so that you don't trap yourself into playing a large pot with poor chances of winning.

Folding is also perfectly OK preflop, even sometimes when you think you have a playable hand. It costs very little to fold, and no one will ever know what you let go.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I'm a donkey. Just look at the numbers!

I went to Donkeytest.com a couple of months ago when I first heard about it, and I didn't do too well.

So I thought, "Well, maybe if I give it another try, I'll do better."

Nope. After taking the 52-question test a second time, my poker IQ came in at a pathetic 109. My first response was to blame the test for my poor score, but then I decided it would be better if I could find out what I did wrong and try to learn from it.

I went out searching and found a 2+2 thread that provides an answer key! Just what I wanted, although the test has been changed a little bit from the time when the key was made. Needless to say, it was very easy to improve my score once I knew the correct answers. :)

Here are a couple of the questions I got wrong the first time I took the test:

18. Tournament. Blinds are 100-200. A novice call station raises UTG to $500. Unknown player flat calls in middle. You all have about 20,000 chips.

You are in the cutoff seat with:
Ah Ad

What should you do?

a) Call
b) Raise to $1,000
c) Raise to $1,600
d) Raise to $800
e) Raise to $2,300.

Initially I chose "raise to $1,600," but upon review I agree that the correct answer is "raise to $2,300." I fell into the common trap of trying to milk AA a little too much when a large raise will help define your hand and reduce your opponents' implied odds.

43. Tournament. Blinds are 300-600 with 75 antes. 9 handed.

SB is a well known tourney pro and has 60,000 chips. A weak tight player UTG with 100,000 chips limps and SB completes. Big blind with 12,000 chips checks.

Flop: 8s 6s 3d

Blinds fold to UTG who bets 3,000. SB calls and the BB min check raises to 6,000. UTG min re-raises to 12,000. After long consideration SB calls, and the big blind calls all-in.

Turn: Kh

SB checks. UTG checks.

River: 3s

SB bets 10,000 into the 40,000 chip pot. UTG quickly calls. What did all three players hold?

a) SB had AA, UTG has a flush draw, and BB holds a set.
b) SB had a draw, BB had two pair on the flop, and UTG has AA
c) SB had a set, BB has 99+, and UTG has a flush draw
d) SB had two pair on the flop, BB has a draw, UTG has A8.

The correct answer is b, which I failed to get right because I just couldn't see the UTG player limping with AA. I mean, I know it happens all the time, but it's still pretty rare, in large part because it's usually a bad move.

Then all that minraising breaks out, and I don't know what to think about this hand anymore. When I found out the answer, it was easy to understand the rationale. But so many times, minraises are a sign of weakness rather than strength.

Many of the other questions I missed involved folding strong hands or making read-based decisions, which are hard to judge when seen on a Web site rather than at the table.

In general, the test is OK. I dispute a few of the answers, and I try hard to avoid tricky out of position situations where I would be forced to make a tough fold or call. The test would be more effective if it were longer, but I still don't think it would be an accurate measure of a poker player.

Like all IQ tests, I wonder: What is this thing supposed to be evaluating again? If it's supposed to test poker aptitude, I don't think it does a good job. For me and I'm sure many other players, the toughest situations used in the test come up rarely and can be such close calls that their answers don't necessarily reflect on the test-taker's underlying skills. That said, I understand the correlation between high scores and solid players. At least I feel like I learned something.


I've been wanting to post a couple of links from recent editions of Card Player magazine. Despite its flaws, I still enjoy reading it. Both of these columns come from Matt Matros:

_ Can I get away from this?

_ It's bad to be a space alien