Sunday, August 31, 2008

HUJ2: Spewy

Well, that didn't go well.

I can't seem to catch a break in the heads-up games the last few days, and I find myself a little bit lost because I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I mean, obviously I'm getting my chips in bad, but that's only a reflection of an underlying judgment problem.

Maybe I should stick to one table at a time (rather than two)? Maybe I need to be more patient, even when it feels like overaggro players will run over me? Maybe I tilt more than I realize, especially in the couple of minutes immediately following a bad beat? Or maybe I'm just running bad, although I have at least five hand histories I could post where I spew off chips in moronic ways.

I'll post one of them, which is among the worst of the bunch.

I've been playing more 2/4 and 3/6 HU since this bad streak started. The downswing began in earnest when I tried to take a shot at 10/20 HU. I got it in good with QJ and a flush draw vs. 86 and a flush draw, but of course the villain rivered his 8. Then this hand came up, which just isn't good at all:

Full Tilt Poker, $10/$20 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

Hero (BB): $2,649.50

SB: $4,445.25

Pre-Flop: 7 8 dealt to Hero (BB)
SB raises to $60, Hero raises to $200, SB calls $140

Flop: ($400) J 4 4 (2 Players)
Hero bets $250, SB calls $250

Turn: ($900) 8 (2 Players)

Hero checks, SB bets $600, Hero raises to $2,199.50 and is All-In, SB calls $1,599.50

River: ($5,299) 4 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Results: $5,299 Pot ($0.50 Rake)
Hero showed 7 8 (a full house, Fours full of Eights) and LOST (-$2,649.50 NET)
SB showed J A (a full house, Fours full of Jacks) and WON $5,298.50 (+$2,649 NET)

My thinking was that only a strong Jack could call my turn check-raise, and Jacks made up a small portion of his range. I won't try to rationalize my play, but I would like to analyze it with PokerStove:

I'm guessing my opponent's 3-bet calling range looks something like this: JJ-22,AQs-ATs,KTs+,QTs+,J9s+,T9s,98s,87s,AQo-AJo,KQo,QJo,JTo

If we assume that he'll call my turn all-in check-raise with all his Jacks or better, he's calling with about 43 percent of his range and folding 57 percent of his range. I didn't know these numbers, but I thought a naked bluff may have enough equity to be profitable because I would win the pot slightly more than half the time. (.57)(1500) + (.43)(-2200)=-$91

I think it's safe to say I poorly estimated both his range and the value of my bluff.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Heads-up Journal

I'm going to try doing something a little different in this space by jotting down thoughts about my heads-up game without necessarily making a point.

The reason for this is simple: I need to do everything I can to improve my heads-up game, and one of the best ways I learn is through writing. I hope these posts are interesting to some readers, but they'll mostly deal with the minutia of my heads-up development.

I've been playing mostly 5/10 heads-up cash games since mid-July (about six weeks now). I dropped about 11 buy-ins when I started, but since then I've rebounded somewhat to win back 15 buy-ins. So I'm about +4 buy-ins overall since I started playing heads-up, which is disappointing to me.

I'm being a bit results-oriented on one hand, but on the other hand, there are many many spots where I've made mistakes, and I get frustrated knowing that I need to learn so much more if I'm going to continue advancing my game.

1. Coaching: I'm looking to hire a coach to help me improve my game. So far I haven't had any luck at all.

I have to call out DeucesCracked for failing to help me find a coach. They supposedly offer coaching, but I haven't gotten anywhere with them. In the two weeks since I first wrote them, they've told me they only have one coach available, ColmsUM, and he isn't answering my e-mails. They should feel ashamed for running their business so poorly. They should at least respond to my e-mails.

I also haven't found a coach through a request on the 2+2 Coaching forum.

So if anyone out there plays 5/10 HU games or higher and has coaching experience, please contact me through e-mail at smizmiatch AT

2. Videos watched:

WiltOnTilt (#1)
FoxwoodsFiend (#2) -$25k Heads Up Championship

The WiltOnTilt vid was especially good. His analysis was centered on hand ranges and reading situations, which are two of the most important skills in any form of poker.

Wilt talks about playing with a "fluid" 3-betting range rather than a "polarized" range, although I didn't understand all the nuances of his discussion. I asked for clarification in this post on the DeucesCracked forums.

I understand that a fluid 3-betting range reraises more for value with broadway cards, compared to a polarized 3-betting range, which reraises more with great hands and crappy hands, and less with medium-strength hands.

The video made me realize I've been playing heads-up games with a polarized 3-betting range that generally looks like this: Axs+, AQo+, KTs+, 88+, suited connectors. I tend to cold call more with hands like AJ, AT, KQ, KJ, KT, Axo and 22-77.

Is my cold-calling range too transparent to my opponents?

It seems like offsuit Jacks and Tens may be overrepresented in my cold-caling range, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially since I like to check-raise Jack-high and Ten-high flops frequently.

Another point I got out of the video is FoxwoodsFiend's contention that you can increase your continuation bet size on dry flops. I don't fully understand the reasoning for this because it runs opposite of the way I normally play. I usually tend to continuation bet a larger amount on coordinated flops to protect my hand, or at least to represent that I'm protecting my hand and charging draws.

I suppose that bigger c-bets on dry flops may be effective because they get value when you're ahead from hands that have a less likely chance of improving on later streets.

He also talks about betting his small single-pair hands on the turn to protect them from rivered overcards. I like that idea.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

HOTD: Pretty slim

This hand came up in the middle of a very aggressive match. I'm happy with it.

Full Tilt Poker, $5/$10 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

BB: $1,919.50

Hero (SB): $1,439

Pre-Flop: 6 8 dealt to Hero (SB)
Hero raises to $30, BB calls $20

Flop: ($60) 4 8 J (2 Players)
BB bets $40, Hero calls $40

Turn: ($140) 2 (2 Players)
BB bets $140, Hero raises to $400, BB raises to $1,340, Hero calls $940

River: ($2,820) Q (2 Players)
BB bets $509.50 and is All-In, Hero calls $29 and is All-In

Results: $2,878 Pot ($0.50 Rake)
BB showed T 9 (a straight, Queen high) and WON $2,877.50 (+$1,438.50 NET)
Hero mucked 6 8 (a pair of Eights) and LOST (-$1,439 NET)

My opponent was the kind of player that would check-raise top pair Jacks nearly every time, so when he bet out the flop, I put him on a draw or a low pair.

Then my raise on the turn looked kind of weak because I also probably would have raised the flop if I actually had a Jack. None of the draws had come in, so I pushed the call button (I thought a call would put me all in, which is why I had $29 left on the river). I don't know if this call is profitable against my opponent's range, but I went with my read.
pokenum -h 8h 6h - td 9d -- 4c 8c js 2s
Holdem Hi: 44 enumerated boards containing Js 2s 8c 4c
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
8h 6h 30 68.18 14 31.82 0 0.00 0.682
Td 9d 14 31.82 30 68.18 0 0.00 0.318

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Picking good games

Game selection is so critical in online poker because it allows you to choose the skill level of your opponents. If you're in it to make money, you want to be playing against opponents who are worse than you.

There are several ways to evaluate what constitutes a good game.

One way is to look for games with a high percentage of players per flop, a stat that's available in the lobbies of many sites for anyone to see. Another way is to check out Both of these methods are OK, but they rely on data available to everyone, which means that you often end up on waiting lists for the best games rather than sitting in them.

A better way is to use a program like SpadeEye, which I recently wrote a review of for the recently launched site, Poker Tech Reviews. I'll leave it to my review to explain how SpadeEye works.

I've found that seat selection is more important than table selection. By that I mean a tight table doesn't matter as much as long as you're sitting directly to the left of the fish.

You also want the big stacks to your right, passive players to your left and tight players in the big blind when you're on the button.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Riverboat Gambling

That was a fantastic weekend vacation. I saw the Braves and Cardinals win one game each on Friday and Saturday, and then I drove to Kansas City to witness the home team beat the Tigers.

And I played in live casinos every day.

I met up with Kuro at Harrahs in St. Louis immediately after I arrived. It was cool to see signs at Harrahs supporting Dennis Phillips, who started his journey toward the World Series of Poker November Nine there in a $200 satellite.

I only had a little money on me, and I was looking to sit at a $1/2 NL table, but my name came up for a $2/5 table first. When I found my seat, it didn't take long to remember how juicy live poker can be: five players saw most flops, reraises were rare and people missed many obvious value bets on later streets.

I feel like it takes a little investment to beat these games sometimes. That's because you should be seeing many flops in position, and if you miss all the time, your stack is going to bleed away. The rake and jackpot fee don't help either. But I'm certain this kind of live game is overwhelmingly profitable over time. (I wish I could be dealt more than 30 hands an hour!)

Eventually, my stack dwindled to about $150, and I limp-raised all-in from under the gun with 77 after an MP player raised to $50 and four people called, putting more than $200 in the pot. I got called by the raiser, who wouldn't reveal his pocket 8s until after the river was dealt even after I turned over my hand immediately. Jackass grayhair.

I ended up losing more money at blackjack, but the real story of the trip is my roulette winnings at Casino Queen in Illinois and Isle of Capri in Kansas City.

I played a Martingale strategy, in which I placed near-break-even wagers on the outside, pocketing my winnings on small bets and doubling my bets when I lost.

In four sessions of roulette over four days this weekend, I walked away a solid winner every time.

The Martingale system isn't profitable over the long run, but it gives you the opportunity to book small wins and have fun at the table for several hours at a time. I'll play roulette this way all the time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Deuces Cracked

I've given in and signed up with DeucesCracked for poker training after staying loyal to CardRunners for a little too long.

So far, I'm impressed with DeucesCracked.

DeucesCracked has no sign-up fee, unlike CardRunners. They put out a ton of videos from higher-stakes pros who I respect. They seem to work at teaching concepts rather than throwing up TV-like videos where you just watch someone play. I like the idea of their series, where they emphasize everything from heads-up play to small-stakes leak-finder episodes. RSS feeds are available as well.

In addition, they offer personal coaching, something that I asked CardRunners for and they responded with a "we don't offer that yet." That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me.

I had also gotten frustrated with the shortage of videos from CR's top pros like Cole South and Brian Townsend. I've always liked Taylor Caby's videos, but even they seem stale, and his talk about quitting poker turns me off. Their negative winrates recently discourage me as well.

Like PokerTracker3, CardRunners isn't adapting nearly fast enough. The poker coaching market is very crowded, and you have to keep up with the latest technology to survive. DeucesCracked may be the next Holdem Manager.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cash stats has added many new features that allow you to search players' screennames to see how they have done in cash games on Full Tilt. (Thanks Bone Daddy for pointing it out).

This is an incredible tool cash players can use as they select the best games and the juiciest fish to play against. And even if you don't play cash games, it's fun to see how friends, poker bloggers and pros have been running.

As far as I can tell, the database is still young, dating back to March. Its data will grow more reliable in time. In addition, the site still has table selection tools to help you find the loosest and most passive games. It's still free for now, although I wonder if it will become a pay site in the future. The figures appear to fairly accurate, although some hands are missing.

Here's a sampling:

smizmiatch (me): $8,293 0.95 BB/100.
Phil Ivey: $416,863.50, 9.6 BB/100
Cole South: $-542,310.20, -2.35 BB/100
Brian Townsend: $-80,876.70, -6.93 BB/100
Mike Matusow: $-17,920.15, -1.4 BB/100

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Harrington on Cash Games: How to Win at No-Limit Hold 'em Money Games: Vol II

Like the first volume, Harrington's second cash game book was disappointing.

It avoided some of the flaws of the first book, such as overly emphasizing variation plays at the expense of value. But the book also relied too much on hand examples that didn't necessarily give me a deeper understanding of the game.

While reading the hand examples, it began to feel like I was looking over Harrington's shoulder as he played. It's useful to see how he would play a hand, but that doesn't mean I would play it the same way. The result of these exercises is that I see more hands from a different perspective, although I'm not gaining much knowledge about hand ranges, expectation and flop textures.

Instructional videos achieve much the same thing, often with deeper analysis and lessons that are easier to absorb.

Harrington breaks up the book into two parts: tight-aggressive play and loose-aggressive play. As before, it's helpful to observe the nuances of each style, but a more thorough hand analysis and decision-making techniques is lacking.

The miscellaneous chapters proved to be among the most educational: tells and observations, beating weak games and bankroll management.

The bankroll management chapter includes an argument for paying your taxes that I hadn't heard before: You can make more money in the long run if you pay your taxes because that enables you to invest it without fear of drawing government attention.

This book isn't a bad book, but it isn't what I want. I'm looking for books that get into playing against different opponents, exploiting weaknesses and using deductive reasoning to break down hands. 2+2 Publishing hasn't produced anything like that in a few years.

Friday, August 08, 2008


I was thinking about how I used to play no limit hold'em when I first started beating the .10/.25 games. I played a simple, tight style that managed to turn a profit.

1) I loved set mining. I would call a raise or open for a raise myself with any pocket pair from any position. Then I would bet strongly and watch the cash flow.

2) Only get all-in preflop with AA or KK. There were so many donks out there willing to go all-in with far less, and my equity advantage in those situations was enormous. They weren't paying attention to my range. They were thinking, "I've got QQ or AK. Push!"

3) Bet pot and only make high percentage bluffs. By betting large amounts and bluffing rarely, I got good value for my made hands while reducing the risk of being outplayed by opponents with more experience than me.

Maybe this playing style was weakish. I'm not even sure if it would still work in today's lower-limit games. But it was a reliable way to make money, learn patience and get the most money in with the widest equity edge.

Mad Hammer Skillz

This isn't the best move I've ever made, but I can't help but be proud when the Hammer wins a big pot.

Full Tilt Poker, $5/$10 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

SB: $1,433.50

Hero (BB): $1,332.75

Pre-Flop: 2 7 dealt to Hero (BB)
SB raises to $30, Hero raises to $100, SB calls $70

Flop: ($200) 5 3 4 (2 Players)
Hero bets $150, SB raises to $375, Hero raises to $1,232.75 and is All-In, SB calls $857.75

Turn: ($2,665.50) K (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

River: ($2,665.50) 6 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Results: $2,665.50 Pot ($0.50 Rake)
SB showed 3 3 (three of a kind, Threes) and LOST (-$1,332.75 NET)
Hero showed 2 7 (a straight, Seven high) and WON $2,665 (+$1,332.25 NET)

EV(push)=.75(-1,083) + .25(1583)


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Preflop Minigame

Preflop raising and reraising is like a minigame within the larger cash game.

In heads-up poker, this is especially true. Against some opponents, preflop decisions can be more important than postflop plays.

This game is pretty simple:

Against someone who is opening for a raise too often, you need to 3-bet them more, both as a resteal and to discourage them from being too aggressive.

Then the initial raiser has a choice about whether he wants to take this minigame to the next level with a 4-bet. Some aggressive players will do this with a wide range.

Against a crazy 4-better, the final recourse is to 5-bet all-in (assuming 100BB stacks). Hopefully you have a premium hand, but when you get to this level of raising and reraising, you'll see pros making moves even with hands like suited Qx and suited connectors. Obviously these hands have limited value beyond their bluffing potential.

The preflop game is fun because if you find an opponent who refuses to take it to the next level, you'll make a lot of money. For example, if you find someone who 3-bets frequently but always folds to a 4-bet, you're picking up a mid-sized pot without having to even see a flop. But then you can get into trouble if he 5-bets and you have to fold, usually leaving about a quarter of your 100BB stack on the table.

The counter to the frequent 5-bettor is to call his 3-bets more often rather than 4-betting. Then you can play postflop, hoping to hit your hand and looking for favorable flops to bluff at. Many times by this point, there's so much money in the middle that it's worthwhile to push all-in with a flush draw or top pair on the flop, depending on its texture and your read.

Another fun move is to start 4-betting the maniac all-in preflop, although you don't want to do this without a decent hand most of the time. I played a fun hand the other night where I 4-bet all-in preflop with JJ and got snapcalled by 88. Easy money.

One interesting facet of this preflop battle in heads-up cash games is that the out of position player has the advantage. He is the one who can choose to 3-bet and 5-bet, while the player on the button can only 2-bet and 4-bet. Of course, against a player who will only 5-bet with a premium hand, you can 4-bet more liberally, which somewhat restores your positional advantage.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

HOTD: wtf is a wheel?

I had been playing this villain heads-up, and he had already sucked out on me twice for my stack.

The first time, I got him in with higher two pair, and he hit his two-out kicker for a boat. The second hand, I got him to put his stack in with top pair Jacks (King kicker) against my Aces, and of course he rivered trips.

Finally, I doubled up when I turned top pair to go with a flush draw, and he called all-in with overcards and a different flush draw.

Then this beauty of hand came up, where I made things right in a 520-bet pot:

Full Tilt Poker, $5/$10 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

BB: $3,312.50

Hero (SB): $2,598

Pre-Flop: 5 4 dealt to Hero (SB)
Hero raises to $30, BB raises to $112, Hero calls $82

Flop: ($224) 3 T 9 (2 Players)

BB checks, Hero checks

Turn: ($224) A (2 Players)
BB bets $165, Hero calls $165

River: ($554) 2 (2 Players)
BB bets $425, Hero raises to $2,321 and is All-In, BB calls $1,896

Results: $5,196 Pot ($0.50 Rake)
BB mucked A K (a pair of Aces) and LOST (-$2,598 NET)
Hero showed 5 4 (a straight, Five high) and WON $5,195.50 (+$2,597.50 NET)

Villain timed down to 1 second left before hitting call. Gotta love it when he calls off his stack with top pair there. Ship it!

I've been playing 5/10 heads-up games daily for three weeks now. The first half of that time, I dropped about 10 buy-ins while I got my bearings and learned which players to avoid. Since then, I've won back those 10 buy-ins, and I feel confident in my game.

These heads-up games will be very profitable.