Saturday, December 27, 2008

Stop It!

This is a classic Bob Newhart sketch.

His advice rings true to me when I find myself falling into bad poker habits.

Stop it!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Attempting to plug a serious leak

No matter how many times I tell myself I won't check-call down anymore, I still find myself making this weak-passive move sometimes and losing money.

There are many reasons not to check-call down: it allows my opponent to extract more value with a better hand, it turns my hand face-up, it often extracts the minimum when I do actually have the best hand and it exacerbates my positional disadvantage.

Cally-cally don't fly in Vegas, nor does it fly at almost any poker table.

I know this, but I still try to justify situations where I want to call down.

Earlier today, I called a small 3-bet out of position with AQ, check-called an Axy flop, check-called an 8 on the turn, and check-called an all-in when a 9 fell on the river. The small 3-bet preflop indicated to me my opponent didn't have AK, but I had little information beyond that. I told myself that my opponent was so aggressive he would bluff off with any two cards, but that wasn't even true. And if it were true, I would probably be better off leading at some point to try and get the money in sooner. Of course, my opponent hit his set on the turn and had easy value bets the whole way.

Be it hereby resolved:

I will not check-call down unless I have the nuts and I'm inducing bluffs.

I know the problem, and I'm putting a stop to it right here and now.


There is nothing wrong with hitting and running by taking your profits without giving your opponent a chance to win his money back.

Some poker players have this notion that it's wrong to quickly leave after relieving someone of their money. But there is no rule against it, nor is it expected that you have an obligation to give anyone a chance to beat you.

These whiners who complain when you hit and run them claim it's bad etiquette to take their money and run. And they may even have a point: it is a little bit rude to defeat someone and get out of town without a word.

But poker isn't about being polite. Poker is about winning money.

On the other hand, I don't like it either when someone beats me and leaves before I have a chance to try to get even. Against many opponents, I will extend the courtesy of playing for a few minutes after stacking them.

However, I'll lock in the win given the slightest reason: if my opponent is an asshole in chat, if he's playing a high-variance style at higher stakes or if I feel he's at least as skilled as me.

The only reason I would feel committed to playing anyone is if we agree ahead of time to play for at least a certain length (this usually happens in heads-up matches). Otherwise, I may leave you hanging at a moment's notice.

See ya, sucker.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Forced Vacation

During one of my post-Thanksgiving illnesses in 2005, I didn't have the common sense to stop playing online poker at a time when I wasn't at my best.

I was unemployed and living in my parents' basement, having recently attained a bankroll I deemed sufficient to test the waters of the Party Poker 15/30 limit games. As I was sneezing, coughing and feeling terrible, I dropped about two-thirds of my roll over just a few days.

I learned the hard way that playing poker when sick is simply unprofitable.

With that experience in mind, I haven't sat at a table since I returned from Vegas on Sunday.

I still feel pretty crappy, but I like to imagine that I've saved thousands of dollars by making the smart choice. In the meantime, it's "Super Mario Galaxy" for me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sick beat

I had hoped to spend my Vegas trip staying up late, hanging out at casino bars and gambling. Instead, I stayed in my hotel room bed much of the time.

Las Vegas often seems like a test of endurance, and I couldn't hang.

I started shivering and feeling ill during a delicious meal at Michel Mina's Friday night. After the meal, I quickly got under the covers and watched "Seinfeld" and "Law & Order" rather than playing mixed games at the MGM.

With the help of NyQuil, I got a decent night's rest. I awoke Saturday determined to play well in the blogger tourney even though I knew I was far from my best.

Also, I was looking forward to hopping in a few cash games, which had considerably improved with the arrival of many weekend tourists.

I walked over to the Venetian and sat in a 5/10 NL game while most everyone else was either sleeping or eating. On my first hand, villain posted behind the button and I put up my big blind. I was dealt QQ. Villain raised to $40, I made it $150, he 4-bet to $400, and I shoved for my stack of $1,000. He called, showed AK and didn't improve. Woohoo!

The bloggament started shorty thereafter. Despite my efforts to play hard, I eventually faltered when my desire to rest overcame my determination to win. Down to 6,000 chips from a starting stack of 10,000, I decided to gamble. UTG raised, and I shoved with A7o to try to win the 2,000+ chip pot. UTG called and showed 88, and I got to go to bed.

Later, I felt a bit refreshed and sat with some friends at the Imperial Palace's 1/2 NL game. It was fun, although I lost most of my stack making a pretty marginal shove with TT on a lowcard monochrome flop when I had the T of the suit. Villain had flopped the flush with QJs. After a few all-ins, it was time to sleep again before I had to get up at 5 a.m. for an early flight home.

I'm disappointed that this damned cough, scratchy throat and fever ruined much of my Vegas vacation. As I write this post in the early morning hours Monday, I still feel like shit.

At least I got to see friends and get my gamble on. I'm glad to be home though.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rock Garden

The poker games here in Vegas seem to be pretty terrible, with fewer tourists throwing their money around like it grows on trees.

In contrast to my trip to the Commerce Casino in L.A. two weeks ago, where every pot seemed to attract multiway action for many limps, the games here seem to be tight. Sure, the players aren't always very skilled, but many of them know how to fold top pair, which is unfortunate.

L.A. is filled with local players who will go to the casino to gamble because it's one of their hobbies. That's why the tables were filled and the action was as good as always.

But Vegas thrives on tourists, and when the economy is down, there are fewer donks to go around.

What this means is that I'll have to look a bit harder to find the good games. Or maybe it means I'll have more time to do other things instead of poker.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vegas: Roulette

I'm pretty sure roulette bad beat stories are even worse than poker bad beat stories. That won't stop me.

Vegas was like a ghost town when I arrived on the Strip at about 9:30 this morning. The Mirage had only two 3/6 limit HE tables, and there were no cash poker tables running at Caesars. I got on the list, knowing that I probably wouldn't wait around to take a seat.

Bored, I figured I would try to make some coin using the Martingale system at a roulette table at Caesar's. After all, I had never lost before using the Martingale system. They say an idle mind is the Devil's workshop, and the man spinning the roulette wheel may have been the Grim Reaper himself.

I kept betting black. The ball kept landing on red. I kept doubling my $10 minimum bet, and I kept losing.

"With the way you're betting, you should spend your money at the high limit roulette table," the Grim Reaper said. Ug. I wish he would shut up.

"You'll never win big that way. You should double your bets when you win, not when you lose," he said.

I didn't listen. I know the Martingale betting system is flawed, but it usually results in many small wins or one big loss. This was my loss. I recovered about $1,000 from my low point to get away with a $1,700 loss, and I got the hell out of there.

It didn't feel as bad as a suckout on the river. I didn't feel wronged, or that I was somehow karmicly responsible for starting my trip so poorly. I just wasn't lucky.

Later, I couldn't stop myself from trying again to mitigate some of my losses in another roulette session. I didn't win a single one of my six spins, and I was out another $500. I didn't have the stomach to double my bets any more. I need to save some money for the rest of the weekend!

Perhaps I learned my lesson.

Or maybe I want to win back some of my losses before I put a big bet on black to try to get even. I don't know though ... maybe I'll put it on red.

Vegas Bound

I'm in the airport waiting for my red eye flight to Las Vegas to leave. Finally!

My main goal for this trip is to see friends and stay up as long as I'm having fun. If I make a little money playing poker, roulette or blackjack, that would be alright too.

I'm looking forward to the IP, the bloggament, frolf with Kuro and Sham, some drinking and good times with many bloggers I haven't seen since the last Winter Classic.

When I play poker, it'll probably be 2/5 or 5/10 NL, or 15/30 limit.

See y'all there!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My parents' take on "60 Minutes"

My conservative parents and I talk about online poker every now and then, so I wasn't surprised when they asked me if I had seen the "60 Minutes" report on the Absolute/Ultimate Bet cheating scandals.

I was eager to hear their unsolicited impressions.

My parents, who are in their 60s and 70s, generally feel suspicious of online gambling, but they've become convinced by my results that poker is a game that can be beaten. They don't seem to have a moral problem with gambling, but they also recognize that some people can't control their gambling habits. They don't see the need for gambling in our society, but they believe the government shouldn't limit people's rights without good reason.

Their questions to me after viewing the "60 Minutes" piece were revealing:

What political party in Congress is opposing the regulation of online poker?

What's to stop another cheating problem like this from happening again?

Will they arrest Russ Hamilton?

How do you know online poker is safe?

My parents watched the "60 Minutes" segment, and they saw a problem that needs to be fixed. In their minds, it's obvious that something needs to be done.

P.S. 500th post!

HOTD: Yea, I call

Villain in this hand is Steve Yea, a Full Tilt red pro from Korea who multitables a lot.

He doesn't seem to be able to represent any flush despite four flush cards on the board, given his suspicious line:

Full Tilt Poker, $5/$10 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players - Hand History Converter

Hero (CO): $1,000

BB: $1,082

Pre-Flop: T J dealt to Hero (CO)

2 folds, Hero raises to $30, 2 folds, BB calls $20

Flop: ($65) 3 J 8 (2 Players)

BB checks, Hero bets $40, BB calls $40

Here, it's pretty safe to reduce the likelihood Yea has a flush draw when he cold calls a continuation bet out of the blinds. Most players are more likely to check-raise when they have the diamonds.

Turn: ($145) 5 (2 Players)

BB bets $90, Hero calls $90

I go with my read and call. As noted, I don't believe he has the flush, and I really don't know what Yea is trying to represent with this bet. I think he thinks I have a flush draw, and he's value betting/protecting his second pair.

River: ($325) T (2 Players)

BB bets $180, Hero calls $180

I took my time, but I talked myself into calling this slightly more than half-pot bet. The only hands he can reasonably value bet are strong flushes, and I already know he doesn't have those. Smaller flushes would be more likely to check-call. I call bullshit.

Results: $685 Pot ($3 Rake)

Hero showed T J (two pair, Jacks and Tens) and WON $682 (+$342 NET)

BB showed A 8 (a pair of Eights) and LOST (-$340 NET)

I think Yea was a little lost in this hand. It felt like he was going for value on the turn, but then he turned his hand into a bluff on the river.

I'd like to think I would call the river even if I hadn't improved to two pair.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

HU21: At every opportunity

A marked improvement in my heads-up game came when I recently decided to open raise every single button at the beginning of a match.

Most players don't know how to respond. They aren't comfortable calling or 3-betting much more often than they do normally.

Attempting to steal every blind from the button is an aggressive move that automatically puts many villains on the defensive. It's a direct application of the advice that you should run over your opponent at every opportunity until you're given reason not to.

Sometimes, I know my villain and don't open every button. Sometimes, I'll get 3-bet a lot and have to scale back. Sometimes, the flow of the match dictates that T4o and 95o are just too crappy to attempt to play.

But there are many times when opponents will play too tight and hand over their blinds until they have a strongish hand. Then when they raise, it's easy to fold and resume stealing next hand.

I've been picking up a lot of HU tips, and they're truly making a difference in my game:

_ Watching videos on a regular basis is the best way to improve. I've been watching several DeucesCracked series and dedicating a lot of time to study. In order of my opinion of these series, here are the videos I'm currently watching: DogIsHeads UP, Parallels, Hand Readers, Movin' on Up: HU NL.

_ Two-barrel bluffing works pretty well in 3-bet pots.

_ AJs is a terrible 5-bet shoving hand.

_ Against frequent 3-bettors, floating and bluffraising the flop are fantastic options.

_ When there's a draw-heavy board on the turn, check-calling is not a good option most of the time. I should usually check-raise or fold.

_ No one ever believes the double check-raise. Nor should they, because it's usually a bluff (at least when I've tried to pull it off).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Live Games

If anyone wanted to claim that the economy is doing just fine, they could point to the bustling Commerce Casino with its loose-passive games. Same as it ever was.

Over the weekend, I played two of the Commerce's 5/10 NL varieties -- the $400 max buy-in and the $1,500 max buy-in games. Both were similar, with multiple limpers on most hands and at least four people seeing most flops.

I found that with so many limpers, stealing blinds was nearly impossible. Preflop raises were counter-productive unless I had a premium hand that I could raise for value. Otherwise, it made more sense to limp around with the crowd and try to hit a big hand. We all know how often big hands flop.

My impression is that position counted for even more in these games. I needed to have a positional advantage to get the most value from my hands when they did hit. Raising utg with JTs was foolish in retrospect because I had little expectation I could win the hand without hitting the board.

With so many people in each hand who wouldn't fold if they caught any piece of the flop, the best way to make money was to value bet constantly and rarely bluff. Unfortunately, you need to make hands in order to value bet, which can get pretty damn tedious when you see 30 hands per hour.

I know these loose-passive games are profitable, but I hate having to adjust my style to the point where I'm simply trying to hit and get paid off. I'm more comfortable 3-betting, 4-betting, blind stealing, continuation betting, bluffing and playing heads-up on the flop.