Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl

On this eve of the Super Bowl, let's pause to remember the best sports betting promotion ever.

At the beginning of the 2006 season, before the UIGEA, Mansion's sports book offered a free bet on the season-opening game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. If the Steelers won, you won your bet. If the Dolphins won, you'd get your money back.

Of course, the Steelers covered the 5-point spread and many lucky freerollers received an easy $1,000.

Those days of insane bonuses and free money have long since passed, but the Steelers keep right on winning.

Go Steelers!

Friday, January 30, 2009

HOTD: Snapcall!

I made some awful plays early in the week and then ran bad midweek, so it felt good to snap this guy off on the river.

He was pretty aggressive, and his failure to bet out or check-raise the turn really gave his hand away. It's rare to find a player who will check-call the turn in hopes of setting up a check-raise on the river, especially after the flop goes check-check.

Full Tilt Poker $5/$10 No Limit Hold'em - 4 players

The Official Hand History Converter

Hero (BTN): $1000.00
SB: $677.00
BB: $1000.00
CO: $1099.50

Pre Flop: ($15.00) Hero is BTN with TT of clubs AA of spades

CO raises to $35, Hero raises to $120, 2 folds, CO calls $85

Flop: ($255.00) QQ of clubs AA of diamonds JJ of spades (2 players)

CO checks, Hero checks

Turn: ($255.00) 66 of spades (2 players)

CO checks, Hero bets $180, CO calls $180

River: ($615.00) 33 of hearts (2 players)

CO checks, Hero requests TIME, Hero bets $300, CO raises to $799.50 all in, Hero calls $400 all in

Final Pot: $2015.00

Hero shows TT of clubs AA of spades (a pair of Aces)

CO shows KK of hearts QQ of spades (a pair of Queens)

Hero wins $2013.00

(Rake: $2.00)

I snapcalled. Before I bet the river, I had already decided I would call a check-raise because my read was that this was exactly the kind of opponent who might try it.

Fortunately for me, his line didn't make much sense.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Poker Nugs

Let's have a reporter's notebook style post, with a bunch of unrelated tidbits:

_ Bart Hanson is back on the podcast scene with his new show, Deuce Plays, which replaces Cash Plays. The third episode just came out Tuesday.

_ When in doubt, usually choose an aggressive line rather than a passive line, Krantz says in the first episode of Deuce Plays. It's simple yet solid advice.

_ Listening to Phil Galfond in this week's episode of the 2+2 Pokercast reminded me to refocus on hand ranges. It's too easy to make assumptions about opponents' hand ranges rather than slowing down and thinking hard about them. Galfond also recommends pondering how you would represent the opposite hand of what you have when deciding how deceptive you want to be.

_ When you want to bluff with a naked Ace of a flush draw's suit on a twotone flop, you need to be raising a bettor rather than being the initial bettor yourself, says Vanessa Selbst in Ms. PLO. If you keep betting out, it's too likely you'll be called down.

_ Selbst also suggests playing your opponent's hand first, before playing your own hand. This advice works for both no limit hold'em and PLO.

_ If you open under the gun and get 3-bet by an aggressive button, you can 4-bet lightly because your position represents so much strength, says Whitelime in the second episode of Deuce Plays.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Scam warning

A new scam attempt is going around in which an e-mail offers $25,000 up-front for a sponsorship to play 5/10 and higher on a new poker site.

Here's the e-mail:
Dear smizmiatch,

This is Larry Fry and i am the administrator of After a review of your player nickname "smizmiatch" in various poker sites, we decide that your eligible for a sponsorship deal here at

As you may already know, Alley Poker is a new poker room established in 2008. We have an average of 2.500 players online during the day, and about 4.500 during the night. We are trying to get more players to our card room by offering this kind of deals to the poker professionals.

What you get with my sponsorship offer:

* Your Alley Poker account will be credited with $25,000 and an extra $5,000 per month.

* One Hundred "100%" percent of the profits you generate while playing on our site will be yours.

* The first contract will be valid for 6 months.


* You will need to play at least 2 times per week and a minimum of 400 hands "1600 hands per month".

* Your allowed to play only the following stakes 5/10 , 10/20 , 25/50 Heads up games.

To accept this sponsorship deal please follow the instructions below:

1) Visit
2) Download the poker client and register an account under the username "smizmiatch".
4) After your registration is complete please reply back to so i can setup the contract and credit your account.

We will be glad to have you as a player in our poker room. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Larry Fry
Administrator -
I didn't see the angle at first.

But then I read this 2+2 thread about the scam and realized "Alley-poker" was trying to install a keylogger on my computer. That wouldn't be good.

A great security program to guard against keyloggers is SnoopFree. Unfortunately, I haven't found a similar free program that works on Vista.

I felt a little foolish for thinking for a few minutes that this offer might be legit.

In general, if something is too good to be true, it probably is. On the other hand, the entire concept of making money playing Internet poker also seems too good to be true, but it's been profitable for me since 2004.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A fish's life

In the sea of pot limit Omaha, I'm a small confused guppy aimlessly trying to take down a pot.

I don't know when to check or bet, I can't read how big my wrap draw is and I can't count outs over 20 because that's just too high of a number.

I'm a PLO fish, and I kind of like it.

I get to discover a new game and play against unique opponents from across the world. I don't have many notes taken, and reading hands is a guessing game.

PLO is an adventure in learning that hold'em can no longer offer.

I've played too many hold'em hands, read too many books and watched too many videos for the two-card variety to hold the same mystique it once did. Playing PLO is still a puzzle to be put together, piece by piece.

I relish this time spent as a rookie, but I don't want it to last long. This fish needs to grow into a shark.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

PLO HOTD: Top set sucks

This may be one of those times I've heard about when folding top set could be correct.

That's going to get some getting used to compared to hold'em.

Full Tilt Poker $2/$4 Pot Limit Omaha Hi - 5 players - View hand 13671
The Official Hand History Converter

CO: $189.10
Hero (BTN): $402.30
SB: $164.50
BB: $108.90
UTG: $505.30

Pre Flop: ($6.00) Hero is BTN with 33 of hearts TT of clubs 33 of diamonds TT of diamonds

UTG calls $4, CO calls $4, Hero calls $4, SB calls $2, BB checks

Flop: ($20.00) 44 of clubs 33 of clubs TT of hearts (5 players)

SB bets $20, BB raises to $80, UTG folds, CO folds, Hero raises to $280, SB calls $140.50 all in, BB calls $24.90 all in

Turn: ($445.90) 22 of hearts (3 players - 2 are all in)

River: ($445.90) AA of clubs (3 players - 2 are all in)

Final Pot: $445.90

Hero shows 33 of hearts TT of clubs 33 of diamonds TT of diamonds (three of a kind, Tens)

SB shows 77 of clubs QQ of hearts 55 of clubs 66 of hearts (a flush, Ace high)

BB shows JJ of clubs 44 of spades 44 of hearts 99 of diamonds (three of a kind, Fours)

SB wins $111.20
SB wins $331.70
(Rake: $3.00)

My equity was pretty awful, even for a three-way pot:
pokenum -o 3h tc 3d td - qh 6h 5c 7c - jc 4s 4h 9d -- 4c 3c th
Omaha Hi: 666 enumerated boards containing 4c 3c Th
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
Tc Td 3d 3h 184 27.63 482 72.37 0 0.00 0.276
7c 5c Qh 6h 425 63.81 241 36.19 0 0.00 0.638
4s Jc 9d 4h 57 8.56 609 91.44 0 0.00 0.086

Monday, January 19, 2009

PLO Begins

As I start playing PLO, I find that I have the same difficulties I had when learning other forms of poker: valuing hands correctly, reading hands and worrying too much about table image.

Despite these flaws, I'm optimistic about my potential to get good at this game.

It plays more literally than hold'em. The hands players represent are closer to what they actually hold, which makes decisions easier. It also means playing my own hand correctly is more important.

There are also many loose-passive players. These are the donors. Some might argue that you can play looser in Omaha than in hold'em, but not this loose. I know I'm a PLO noob, but I can't see how 50 and 60 percent VP$IPs in 6-max games can be profitable.

Losing at Omaha yesterday reminded me of a poker truism I hadn't thought of in a while: sometimes you will be dealt crappy cards and setup hands, so maximizing value means losing the least amount possible.

I love the action though when I'm dealt winning hands instead of coolers.

My continuing education: Ms. PLO and "Pot-limit Omaha Poker" by Jeff Hwang.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


During those short-lived months in 2005 when I was unemployed and playing 15/30 limit, I obsessed over how to make decisions from the blinds.

If the button is stealing most of the time, how often should I be defending? When should I call? What hands should I 3-bet?

It took a long time, but those questions eventually drove me to better learn how to play from the button and blinds.

Fast forward one year, to the time when I first tried to make the jump from 2/4 NL to 5/10 NL. One of the first resolutions I made was that I would play extremely tightly when out of position. I decided I wouldn't care if I got run over by aggressive blind stealers; I didn't want to see many flops unless I had position.

This simple, tight strategy was far more successful than I thought it would be, but it got me thinking. If it's somewhat correct to play this rocky from the blinds, maybe I should start stealing more from the button as well.

Suddenly, suited hands and one gappers seemed almost as good as Aces against opponents who would fold their blinds anyway. And increasing my steal attempts came with a fruitful unintended consequence: my VP$IP rose, giving my opponents the impression that I was a LAG.

That was a while ago, and I still frequently run heists when I see that circular D in front of my name.

All this thievery made me wonder: with all the big pots moving back and forth across the felt, those predetermined preflop all-ins with AK vs. QQ and flop combo draws vs. sets, it's entirely possible that a large part of my winrate doesn't come from this crazy variance.

Maybe I'm simply stacking piles of blinds, one steal at a time, and adding to my bankroll in those multitude of pots in between the thrilling all-ins and devastating suckouts.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Face-up on the river

When your opponent's hand is face-up on the river, you often can make an easy bluff to take down the pot.

By "face-up," I mean situations in which your opponent has shown that he has a made hand but has also shown weakness. This combination gives you the advantage because any river bet you make looks like a value bet, usually forcing your opponent to fold.

Here are some examples:

Full Tilt Poker, $3/$6 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 7 Players - Hand History Converter

Hero (CO): $689.85
UTG+1: $600

Pre-Flop: 9 9 dealt to Hero (CO)

UTG folds, UTG+1 raises to $18, MP folds, Hero calls $18

Flop: ($45) 4 A 7 (2 Players)

UTG+1 checks, Hero bets $30, UTG+1 calls $30

Turn: ($105) 7 (2 Players)

UTG+1 bets $72, Hero calls $72

River: ($249) 4 (2 Players)

UTG+1 checks, Hero bets $249, UTG+1 folds

Results: $249 Pot ($3 Rake)

Hero mucked 9 9 and WON $246 (+$126 NET)

Villain gives away his hand when he fails to continuation bet the flop. That action says that he has a high pocket pair that's afraid of the Ace. I know I'm beaten, but I also feel confident I can effectively bluff later on.

The turn is an easy call when he donkbets because I already don't believe he has the Ace. In addition, a call is consistent with what I'm representing: Ax plus.

Then when he checks the river, this bet is automatic. Betting here is simply following through with my plan.

Full Tilt Poker, $2/$4 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

BB: $911.50
Hero (SB): $1,161

Pre-Flop: 8 5 dealt to Hero (SB)

Hero raises to $12, BB calls $8

Flop: ($24) A 2 K (2 Players)

BB checks, Hero bets $16, BB raises to $48, Hero calls $32

Turn: ($120) 7 (2 Players)

BB checks, Hero bets $80, BB calls $80

River: ($280) 7 (2 Players)

BB checks, Hero bets $250, BB folds

Results: $280 Pot ($0.50 Rake)

Hero mucked 8 5 and WON $279.50 (+$139.50 NET)

I can represent an incredibly strong range of hands on AKx flops that are cold-called preflop. For all villain knows, I could have AA, KK and AK. Especially against this check-raise happy opponent, I was happy to build a pot for my bluff, even though I had very low equity with my actual holding.

The key here is to play consistently on each street, and to not give up on the river. It's also important to make a sizeable bet on these rivers both when you have a hand and when you're bluffing because both you and your opponent know how much strength you've each shown, and you need your opponent to have to pay up when he's forced to play a guessing game as he decides whether to call.

Another point is that these are great situations for overbets for value. Opponents will call overbets at about the same frequency as they would a pot-sized bet, meaning you get more value when you do have a solid holding.

Full Tilt Poker, $3/$6 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players - Hand History Converter

Hero (BB): $1,306.05
SB: $1,012.90

Pre-Flop: Q T dealt to Hero (BB)

3 folds, SB calls $3, Hero raises to $24, SB calls $18

Flop: ($48) 8 6 4 (2 Players)

SB checks, Hero bets $30, SB calls $30

Turn: ($108) 7 (2 Players)

SB checks, Hero bets $75, SB calls $75

River: ($258) 3 (2 Players)

SB checks, Hero bets $258, SB calls $258

Results: $774 Pot ($3 Rake)

Hero showed Q T (Queen Ten high) and LOST (-$387 NET)

SB showed 7 8 (two pair, Eights and Sevens) and WON $771 (+$384 NET)

This one didn't work out as well, mostly because my opponent was a fish. He even typed into the chat, "Such a value bet," and then he timed down and hit call.

Most competent players are afraid of getting owned by the hand you're obviously representing, meaning they're more likely to fold to your bluff. Worse players are more likely to call because they can't lay down made hands, they're curious or they want to gamble.